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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-07-11

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 11 July 2007 Issue No: 2641


  • [01] Greece commited in presenting balanced budgets by 2010, FinMin says
  • [02] Spokesman on budget balancing, PM's Paris visit
  • [03] PM Karamanlis confers with FM Bakoyannis
  • [04] Bakoyannis presents International Developmental Cooperation Service book
  • [05] Foreign minister meets Archbishop Demetrius, Donohue
  • [06] PM meets with interior minister
  • [07] Gov't reiterates 'no change of electoral law'
  • [08] Inner Cabinet to discuss foreign policy, justice issues on Thursday
  • [09] Liaison office head in FYROM will return to Skopje to hand over service, FM spokesman says
  • [10] U.S. Secretary of State Rice holds talks with FYROM counterpart
  • [11] Media bill 'unenforceable', Papandreou charges
  • [12] Greek, Romanian defence ministries dicuss regional issues
  • [13] Roussopoulos on the restoration of the burned Parnitha National Park
  • [14] Fire risk alert issued
  • [15] Local government authorities are notified to be in heightened readiness in case of a fire.
  • [16] Fire-detection camera installed in Samaria Gorge
  • [17] KKE leader to visit Corinth on Wednesday
  • [18] Alavanos calls for speedy completion of sewage sludge drying on Psyttalia
  • [19] DEKA trial adjourned until Monday
  • [20] Charges pressed over tampered exam results
  • [21] Greek industrial production index up 0.3 pct in May, yr/yr
  • [22] Greek exports up 14.2 pct in Jan-April
  • [23] Greek exports up 3.5 pct in May, yr/yr
  • [24] EU FinMins reach agreement on candidacy for IMF leadership
  • [25] European Parliament ratifies health programme based on compromise proposed by Greek Eurodeputy
  • [26] Arrivals of foreign nationals on the rise
  • [27] Athens hotels report improved occupancy rates in May
  • [28] Tourist arrivals up 8.44 pct in 2006
  • [29] Merchant marine minister on upgrading of Lagos port
  • [30] Inauguration of Greek tourist poster exhibition
  • [31] Business mission visits Santiago, Chile
  • [32] Greece raises 500 mln euros from the sale of 20 pct in Postal Savings Bank
  • [33] PASOK criticises decision to sell 20% of Post Office Savings Fund
  • [34] Greek banks attractive takeover targets, survey says
  • [35] Greek car sales up 6.3 pct in June, yr/yr
  • [36] EP plenum ratifies regulation based on report by Greek Eurodeputy Vakalis
  • [37] Mesolakkia Bridge construction contract signed
  • [38] Study on creation of metropolitan park to be publicised in coming days
  • [39] Greek stocks end 1.29 pct down on profit taking
  • [40] Greek bond market closing report
  • [41] Foreign Exchange Rates - Wednesday
  • [42] Mobilizations at Kozani power plant suspended
  • [43] Suspect for Mytilinies fire arrested on Samos
  • [44] Orthodox Youth Conference in Istanbul
  • [45] Guns found in car, three arrested
  • [46] Security van robbed on Crete
  • [47] Hotter on Wednesday
  • [48] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [49] Papadopoulos: Talat's response very encouraging
  • [50] President to run for reelection against former coalition partner
  • [51] President Papadopoulos regrets the dissolution of the tri-party coalition
  • [52] Finance Minister describes locking of pound to euro as ''historic''

  • [01] Greece commited in presenting balanced budgets by 2010, FinMin says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Spinthourakis)

    Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday reiterated the country's commitment to present balanced budgets by 2010.

    Speaking to reporters, after an ECOFIN meeting in Brussels, at the presence of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Greek minister said it was a common position to seek ways to boost the pre-emptive nature of the Stability and Growth Pact. Alogoskoufis stressed that all Eurozone member-states have acknowledged the need to exploit the current positive economic conjucture in order to drastically cut their fiscal deficits.

    Commenting on France's problem, Alogoskoufis said the Council did not offer any special treatment nor any concessions to the country and underlined the French President's pledge to draft a new economic stability program by September, while he noted that both economic stability and high growth rates were feasible as was evident in the case of Greece.

    Greek economic growth rates were remarkable, Alogoskoufis said, noting that this situation was conjectural but the result of implementing a carefully planned economic program based on cutting tax factors and improving cooperation between the public and private sectors. This combination led to higher investments and lower unemployment, while Greece managed to achieve the most significant fiscal adjustments in the Eurozone.

    "We have cut the fiscal deficit from 7.9 pct of GDP in 2004 to 2.4 pct this year," the Greek minister said, adding that "Greece still has a high public debt with a cost of around 10 billion euros in interest spending". He noted that more steps were needed to cut the debt.

    Social transfers were expected to reach 18 percent of GDP this year and to 18.4 pct in 2008 in a period when public spending by Eurozone member-states were reduced, he said.

    "We have three main priorities in our economic policy. To continue fiscal consolidation, to further boost growth and to strengthen social cohesion," Alogoskoufis said.

    [02] Spokesman on budget balancing, PM's Paris visit

    The government on Tuesday reiterated that Greece, as has been agreed by the EU member states, will make the necessary adjustments so as to achieve zero budget deficits by 2010.

    "The government has stated that Greece, as has been agreed by the member states, will proceed with the necessary adaptation so that by 2010 the deficit of the budgets will be zero," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said in reply to press questions during a regular briefing, which were prompted by the Greek reaction to France's stance regarding its self-exemption from the obligation of balancing budgets by 2010.

    Regarding the agenda of the meeting that prime minister Costas Karamanlis will have with new French president Nicolas Sarkozy during a visit to Paris at the end of July, Roussopoulos said that it was still "early" to announce anything more concrete, adding however that the talks would definitely include "issues of bilateral interest, the European agenda, and issues of wider interest, such as Kosovo".

    [03] PM Karamanlis confers with FM Bakoyannis

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis met Tuesday with foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, to discuss the upcoming visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Athens and Karamanlis' planned visit to Paris in late July, where he will meet with new French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

    Replying to press questions after the meeting on whether she will be a candidate for the ruling New Democracy (ND) party's parliamentary council in the relevant elections to take place on Friday at the first meeting of the new ND Central Committee that arose from the weekend's ND Congress, Bakoyannis said she did not discuss the issue with the prime minister during their meeting, adding that she has not yet decided whether to submit candidacy for the parliamentary council.

    [04] Bakoyannis presents International Developmental Cooperation Service book

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday officially presented an illustrated book prepared by the International Development Cooperation Service (YDAS) regarding its work, alongside Deputy Development Minister Evripidis Stylianidis and the general secretary for International Economic Relations and of Development Cooperation, Theodoros Skylakakis.

    In statements at the event, she noted that the foreign ministry's twin aims in this area were to increase developmental aid to 0.51 percent of Greek GDP by 2010 and to administrate this with efficiency and transparency.

    She expressed her personal satisfaction at the fact that "the Greek colours are found in a very large part of our planet", noting that it was an indescribable sensation for a Greek foreign minister "to see Greek ships arrive first on the scene of a great crisis, to see Greek doctors and rescuers where there was pain and fear for survival".

    Bakoyannis also underlined that it was very important for the country to earn the recognition of the people and governments that benefited as result.

    As examples of such Greek presence, the minister referred to the crisis in Southeast Asia following the earthquakes and tsunamis, that of Lebanon and in Africa, while she stressed the need to reduce the gap between the rich and poor.

    "This decision is the only way for a more peaceful, just, prosperous and safe world," she added.

    Stylianidis stressed the role of Hellenic Aid as the "vehicle bringing Greek humanity to all the world," and noted that Greece had in the past year provided aid to 90 countries, of which 22 were at the forefront of Athens' developmental policy, and carried out 145 programmes.

    [05] Foreign minister meets Archbishop Demetrius, Donohue

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday had a meeting with the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America Demetrius.

    No joint statements were made after the meeting, while the Archbishop confined his statements to the remark that "when the archbishop talks with the foreign minister, the discussion is always substantive and important and concerns Hellenism".

    Archbishop Demetrius is next due to visit Istanbul in order to take part in the 2nd International Conference of Orthodox Youth, where he will also have the opportunity to meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and discuss matters concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    Immediately after her meeting with the Archbishop, Bakoyannis received the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Thomas Donohue.

    [06] PM meets with interior minister

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Tuesday and discussed the continuation of the dialogue with the Central Union of Municipalities and

    Communities (KEDKE) and the Greek National Union of Prefectural Local Authorities (ENAE) on administrative reform in view of the meeting their boards will have with the prime minister next week.

    The issue concerning the continuation of the political party dialogue on the draft law on the absentee voting rights of overseas Greeks was discussed, with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis also in attendance. Pavlopoulos commented that the draft law in question will be introduced to parliament after the summer recess.

    Political parties will have to reach a consensus allowing parliament to pass legislation regulating voting rights issues for overseas Greeks, said Pavlopoulos, underlining that it is important for the Greek expatriates to have a say in political developments in Greece.

    [07] Gov't reiterates 'no change of electoral law'

    There is no issue of change of the electoral law, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos reiterated on Tuesday, in response to a press question.

    Asked whether the government was mulling a change of the electoral law, to be effective in the general elections after the next polls, Roussopoulos replied that "there is no issue of change of the electoral law".

    [08] Inner Cabinet to discuss foreign policy, justice issues on Thursday

    The Inner Cabinet, chaired by prime inister Costas karamanlis, will meet on Thursday to discuss foreign policy and justice sector issues, it was announced on Tuesday.

    [09] Liaison office head in FYROM will return to Skopje to hand over service, FM spokesman says

    Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, replying on Tuesday to a question by the press on the head of the Greek Liaison Office in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), said that she will be returning to Skopje to hand over the service.

    "Ambassador Mrs. Th. Grosomanidou, who is staying in Athens for reasons concerning service, will be going to Skopje during the 3rd 10-day period in July to hand over the service," he said.

    "The assumption of duties by a new head of the Liaison Office of Greece in Skopje has been scheduled for the first 10 days in the month of August," he added.

    [10] U.S. Secretary of State Rice holds talks with FYROM counterpart


    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held half-hour talks with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki at the State Department on Tuesday, while issues they discussed included the difference between Athens and Skopje on FYROM's name and the need to find a solution for it.

    "They had a good meeting. They discussed a wide spectrum of issues. They spoke of the neighbourhood, Kosovo, bilateral relations between 'Macedonia'-Greece. And one of the issues stressed by the minister is the importance of 'Macedonia' working in the process of the UN to solve the issue of the name," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

    The American official said that on his part the FYROM foreign minister mentioned that his country is working for a solution to the issue of the name. He also noted that the fact that troops from FYROM are participating in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan was also discussed during the meeting.

    Lastly, replying to a relevant question, McCormack assessed that, although there was no specific invitation to Rice to visit Skopje, the American Secretary of State is looking forward to a visit to FYROM.

    [11] Media bill 'unenforceable', Papandreou charges

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Tuesday underlined his complete opposition to the government's bill on concentration of the media and charged that the bill was unenforceable, while addressing the party's Parliamentary Council.

    He stressed that PASOK would modify the law as soon as it came to power and said that the clash with the government over this and other policies was an "issue of democracy".

    According to Papandreou, ruling New Democracy did not truly want positive and transparent measures. In terms of the media concentration bill, he said the government had two aims: one to cover up the fiasco over the 'major shareholder' issue under pressure from the European Union and secondly to be able to manipulate the media.

    He stressed that PASOK was completely opposed to this way of thinking and wanted the media to be independent and uninfluenced, as well as protecting the political autonomy of the parties from every form of influence so that they could authentically express the needs and hopes of society.

    Papandreou also strongly criticised ND's plans to privatise the state broadcasting organisation ERT, stressing that state television should have a central role.

    During the discussion PASOK MP Dinos Rovlias, in charge of transport issues on the Council, said the government's goal to control and manipulate the media was laid bare by its chief argument, which was a dearth of frequencies. He pointed out that the number of frequencies could be quadrupled, while some countries were employing technical methods that increased frequencies six-fold.

    [12] Greek, Romanian defence ministries dicuss regional issues

    Deputy Defence Minister Vassilis Mihaloliakos held talks with his Romanian counterpart Corneliu Dobritoiu in Bucharest on Tuesday that focused on regional security in the Balkans and Black Sea, European Union defence and security policy, NATO enlargement and bilateral affairs.

    Mihaloliakos reiterated Greece's support for the accession prospects of Balkan and Black Sea countries to EuroAtlantic structures, provided they met the accession criteria.

    On the prospect of NATO enlargement, Mihaloliakos stressed that the requirement was a "constant effort by the candidate-states for accession to meet entry criteria, as well as their genuine desire to prove that they are interested in multilateral cooperation and not in usurping the history of their neighbours or establishing unfounded elements of problematic national identity, as is the case with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)."

    The two ministers expressed their desire to further deepen and expand existing bilateral military cooperation.

    On Tuesday afternoon, Mihaloliakos will visit Romania's Orthodox Patriarchate.

    [13] Roussopoulos on the restoration of the burned Parnitha National Park

    Government spokesman Thodoros Roussopoulos on Tuesday referred to the restoration of Mt. Parnitha after the recent wildfire that destroyed thousands of acres of forestland.

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias took over the role of the coordinator in the restoration of the Parnitha National Park based on an inner cabinet decision and that was the purpose of the press conference given on Monday, said Roussopoulos, stressing that nobody downgrades other regions also destroyed by fire where similar measures are also taken.

    [14] Fire risk alert issued

    The General Secretariat for Civil Protection on Tuesday issued a fire risk alert effective July 11, 2007 for the regions of Athens-Piraeus (the island of Kythera included), Eastern Attiki, Western Attiki, Viotia, Magnisia, Larisa, Corinth, Achaia, Messinia, Lakonia, Corfu, Lefkada, Kefallonia, Zakynthos and Chania.

    [15] Local government authorities are notified to be in heightened readiness in case of a fire.

    The public should avoid all outdoors activities or the use of machinery that could cause a fire.

    People should avoid lighting a fire outdoors while in the case of a fire should call the 199 emergency number and leave the area if they cannot assist in the firefighting effort.

    [16] Fire-detection camera installed in Samaria Gorge

    The Hania Prefecture on Tuesday announced that it will is install a camera for fire detection in the landmark Samaria Gorge, a major tourist attraction on Crete.

    The initiative is a pilot programme initiated by the Crete Polytechnic General Secretariat for research in technology.

    The camera will transmit image and sound in real time and its installation is a first step to creating a fire-detection shield for the National Park. Initially, the camera will cover only one part of the Samaria Gorge.

    [17] KKE leader to visit Corinth on Wednesday

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary general Aleka Papariga will visit to town of Corinth on Wednesday.

    The KKE leader will give a press conference later in the day while, In the evening, she will address an open party gathering at Eliopoulou Square

    [18] Alavanos calls for speedy completion of sewage sludge drying on Psyttalia

    Coalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader Alekos Alavanos on Tuesday visited the wastewater treatment plant on the island of Psyttalia at the head of a SYRIZA delegation and called for the speedy completion of the drying of sewage sludge on the island.

    Alavanos noted that his party had for years made proposals on methods for drying the sewage sludge currently being produced by the plant and its use as a fuel, when the government had occupied itself with groundless discussions on exporting the waste to other European countries.

    Noting that some work on calcification and drying had begun and said these had to be concluded as quickly as possible, because the stench was intolerable for districts lying opposite the island when the wind blew from the southeast.

    He also called for the diversion of cleaned water from the treatment process, which was currently being dumped into the Saronic Sea, for use in irrigation and the reforestation of Mount Aigaleo, and linking the wastewater treatment in Psyttalia with energy production, either through biogas or photovoltaics.

    [19] DEKA trial adjourned until Monday

    A three-member criminal appeals court on Tuesday adjourned the trial of the seven former board members of the Public Securities Company (DEKA) until the following Monday.

    The court adjourned in order to deliberate on objections raised by the defence, calling for the cessation of the prosecution against the seven defendants and a call to reject this by the prosecutor on the bench.

    An interruption of a few days was deemed necessary in order to prepare and notify the defence counsel in writing of the court's decision on the objections already considered, so that they might be informed of the appeals' judges reasoning in their decision.

    The seven defendants face a repeat trial on charges of breach of faith compounded by laws on embezzlement of public funds.

    The seven are accused of using DEKA funds from March until April 2000 to purchase large quantities of blue-chip stocks in largely state-controlled enterprises, such as the National Bank of Greece (NBG), Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) and others, in order to drive up the Athens stock market in the run-up to the 2000 general elections, incurring significant losses for DEKA when share prices on the Greek bourse later slumped.

    An appeals court ruling one year ago had allowed the accused to walk away from the charges by converting them to misdemeanours, for which the statute of limitations had expired, on the grounds that DEKA was a societe anonyme company with legal autonomy from the state.

    This decision was later reversed by the Supreme Court, however, which found it was based on a misinterpretation and wrongly applied statutes concerning embezzlement of state assets, since DEKA's property was simultaneously the property of the Greek State.

    The initial indictment referred to losses of millions of euros in DEKA assets due to transactions carried out ahead of the April 2000 elections.

    Main opposition PASOK had narrowly defeated New Democracy in that election, forming another government under Costas Simitis.

    [20] Charges pressed over tampered exam results

    The head of the Thessaloniki first-instance court public prosecutors Vassilis Floridis on Tuesday pressed charges in connection with the alleged fiddling of results in the latest nationwide university-entrance exams or 'Panellinies'.

    The charges are against eight examiners, who are accused of forgery and repeated counts of using fake documents, while the school advisor and the president of the Thessaloniki marking centre are being prosecuted for moral instigation of the above offences.

    According to the findings of an sworn internal inquiry, 33 exam papers submitted by students had been tampered with by examiners, while the school advisor apparently ordered that the papers in question be given higher marks.

    The case has been assigned to a police court magistrate for investigation.

    Financial News

    [21] Greek industrial production index up 0.3 pct in May, yr/yr

    Greece's industrial production composite index rose 0.3 percent in May, from the same period last year, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.

    The statistics service said industrial production in the five-month period from January to May 2007 was up 1.7 pct from the same period lastyear.

    NSS attributed the 0.3 pct increase in the industrial production index to an 1.5 percent rise in manufacturing, an 1.5 percent increase in electricity-natural gas-water production and a 17.7 pct decline in mining production in May.

    [22] Greek exports up 14.2 pct in Jan-April

    Greek exports grew by 14.2 percent in the first four months of 2007 to 5.798 billion euros, from 5.077 billion euros in the same period last year, figures released by the Hellenic Export Promotion Organisation said on Tuesday.

    HEPO said the value of exports grew 13.7 pct in April to 1.366 billion euros, from 1.202 billion euros last year.

    Greek exports to the EU grew by 38 percent in the first four months of 2007 to 3.695 billion euros, with Germany the biggest market, particularly for telecoms equipment (+164 pct), pharmaceuticals (+43.6 pct), food and beverage (+49 pct), fresh and frozen fish (+24.8 pct) and alcohol (+14.6 pct).

    Greek exports soared towards Slovenia (167.7 pct), Slovakia (106 pct), Finland (84.9 pct) and Poland (53.2 pct).

    Exports to third countries totaled 2.104 billion euros, down 12.3 percent, reflecting the fact that Bulgaria and Romania entered the EU on January 1, 2007.

    Exports to 18 country-targets set by the Economy and Finance ministry were up 8.64 percent in the January-April period. Exports to China totaled 35.2 million euros, up 32.8 percent, while exports to Japan soared 104.7 pct.

    Greek exports to the US and the UK rose significantly, reflecting exports of pharmaceuticals, pipes and equipment.

    [23] Greek exports up 3.5 pct in May, yr/yr

    The value of import-arrivals in Greece rose 5.0 pct in May compared with the same month last year, while the value of export-deliveries grew by 3.5 pct over the same month, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.

    The statistics service said imports totaled 4.801 billion euros in May from 4.571 billion euros in May 2006, while exports totaled 1.578 billion euros from 1.524 billion over the same period, respectively.

    The value of imports in the 12-month period from June 2006 to May 2007 rose by 13 percent, compared with the previous 12-month period, while the value of exports grew by 14.6 percent over the same period.

    [24] EU FinMins reach agreement on candidacy for IMF leadership

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    European Union finance ministers convened here on Tuesday and reached a political decision to support the candidacy of Former French finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn for the leadership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

    Referring to the discussion that took place, Greek Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis said that the spirit prevailing was that Europe should propose a candidate of mutual acceptance.

    He reminded that a long tradition exists according to which Europe has the first say regarding the proposal for the post of the IMF managing director and the United States for the president of the World Bank.

    Alogoskoufis said that France tabled a proposal on support for Strauss-Kahn, that met with overall acceptance, as well as with support by Greece.

    [25] European Parliament ratifies health programme based on compromise proposed by Greek Eurodeputy

    PARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)

    The European Parliament plenum on Tuesday ratified, during a second reading and with a budget amounting to 365.5 million euros, the "2nd European Union action Programme in the health sector," based on a compromise proposed by Greek New Democracy (ND) party Eurodeputy Antonis Trakatellis, on behalf of the Environment, Public Health and Food Protection Committee.

    The programme concerns the 2008-2013 period and will be implemented in January 2008, without any time vacuum from the end of the first public health Programme.

    "The 2nd Programme in the Public Health sector in the EU for 2008-2013 is characterised by an integrated concept, both for health and the means, the apparatuses and the practices for handling its problems," Trakatellis said.

    [26] Arrivals of foreign nationals on the rise

    Arrivals of foreign nationals to Greece rose 8.44 percent in 2006 compared to 2005, according to the National Statistical Service of Greece (ESYE).

    European arrivals rose 8.1 percent in 2006 compared to 2005, with EU citizen arrivals recording an increase of 5.4 percent based on ESYE figures released on Tuesday.

    Most EU citizens visiting Greece come from the UK (16.3 percent), Germany (14.2 percent) and Italy (7.4 percent).

    The airports receiving the bulk of arrivals are Athens' "Eleftherios Venizelos" International Airport (23.1 percent), Iraklion Airport on Crete (12.9 percent), Rhodes Airport (8.1 percent) and Corfu Airport (5.2 percent).

    The number of passengers arriving on chartered flights rose 6.3 percent in 2006 compared to 2005.

    [27] Athens hotels report improved occupancy rates in May

    Athens hotels reported improved room occupancy rates in May, although revenues per available room remained low compared with other European cities.

    A monthly report by the Association of Attica Hoteliers said Athens hotels' occupancy rates rose 5.9 percent in May to 66.8 from 63.7 in May last year, while revenues per available room grew by 12.4 percent in the same month to 75.56 from 67.22 in May 2006.

    [28] Tourist arrivals up 8.44 pct in 2006

    Tourist arrivals to Greece increased by 8.44 percent in 2006, compared with the previous year, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.

    Arrivals from Europe grew by 8.1 percent, with visitors from the European Union up 5.4 pct in the year. Tourists from the UK (16.3 pct), Germany (14.2 pct) and Italy (7.4) topped the list of foreign visitors to Greece.

    The Athens airport (23.1 pct), Heraclion (12.9 pct), Rhodes (8.1 pct) and Corfu (5.2 pct) were the airports with the biggest passenger traffic in 2006, while charter flight passengers grew by 6.3 percent last year from 2005.

    [29] Merchant marine minister on upgrading of Lagos port

    Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis held talks on Tuesday, on the issue of upgrading the port of Lagos, with deputies of the northern prefecture of Xanthi and the prefect and the mayor of the city, as well as other local officials.

    Kefaloyiannis referred during the meeting to the upgrading of the port of Porto Lagos, given that it has been included among ports of national importance, satisfying in this way a longstanding request by the prefecture's inhabitants and agencies.

    The minister assured the prefecture's deputies, representatives and agencies that the merchant marine ministry is preparing a plan on turning the Port Fund of the port of Porto Lagos into a Port Organisation in the form of an SA company.

    [30] Inauguration of Greek tourist poster exhibition

    Tourist Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Tuesday inaugurated the exhibition titled "Greek Tourist Poster:A Voyage in Time through Art" at the Zappion Mansion in central Athens.

    The exhibition, being carried out by the tourist development ministry and the Greek Tourist Organisation, presents the long historical course of the tourist poster from the founding of the Greek Tourist Organisation, in 1929, until today.

    The exhibition will be open to the public from July 11-17 and from 10 in the morning to 10 at night.

    [31] Business mission visits Santiago, Chile

    A business mission jointly organised by the Federation of Greek Industries and Enterprises (SEB), the Greece-Latin America Business Council and the Exports Promotion Organisation (OPE) visited Santiago, Chile, for the fist time on July 6-7.

    The mission, that follows a visit to Brazil, included representatives of 11 companies and agencies from the sectors of the iron industry, informatics, energy, electronics, food and beverages and shipping, who held over 30 meetings with Chilean companies.

    During the visit to Chile, SEB had contacts and signed cooperation protocols with two main agencies, the Production and Trade Federation and the Santiago Chamber of Commerce, laying the foundations enabling Greek companies to join the network of the Chilean market and contributing to the finding of important local businesses.

    As contacts have revealed and given that the trend exists for importing European products, certain Greek foods can acquire a share of the local market, while good prospects for cooperation exist in the sectors of energy, cables, new technologies, informatics, know-how and in tourist infrastructures and services.

    [32] Greece raises 500 mln euros from the sale of 20 pct in Postal Savings Bank

    The Greek government on Tuesday announced it has raised more than 500 million euros from the placement of 20 percent of shares in Postal Savings Bank.

    The placement was around three times oversubscribed by high-quality institutional funds. The offering price was set at 18.1 euros per share, at the up end of the range, reflecting a 0.56 percent premium of the bank's closing share price on Monday.

    Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis commenting on the sale said: "The successful placement of 20 percent in Postal Savings Bank is a significant step in the government privatization program. The placement procedure was fully transparent and was very successful. The Postal Savings Bank will become a private multi-shareholding bank, better servicing its role as the bank of small deposits and small investors and contributing in boosting competition in the banking system".

    [33] PASOK criticises decision to sell 20% of Post Office Savings Fund

    Main opposition PASOK on Tuesday criticised the government's decision to sell a further 20 percent of the Post Office Savings Fund on the stock market, saying the decision was "consistent with its fundamental choice of selling off state property" and brought the Post Office Savings Fund "one step closer to full privatisation, which is the secret agenda for the Economy and Finance ministry".

    According to PASOK MP Vasso Papandreou, in charge of economic issues on PASOK's Parliamentary Council, the results of the ruling New Democracy government's management of the Post Office Savings Fund were "well known".

    "The Fund, with its large base of depositors, could have been a lever of pressure for greater competition and better lending conditions for households and small businesses. Instead, the management of Mr. Tsoupidis decided to burden the Fund, the chief bank of pensioners and the people, with low-yield and high-risk investments in order to serve and enrich Mr. Papamarkakis of North Asset Management and other 'select' privileged interlocutors of government officials," she said.

    Speaking for the Coalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN), meanwhile, Parliamentary deputy Panagiotis Lafazanis referred to the "sale-surrender" of the Post Office Savings Fund to domestic and foreign profit-seeking capital "with express procedures and with utmost secrecy" and said that it was "tantamount to a major national crime".

    "In this way, the country and the Greek people are being handed over even more to greed and to plundering by private banking capital," he added, stressing that the government was moving further down the road taken by main opposition PASOK in "selling, privatising and mortgaging the future of the Greek people".

    [34] Greek banks attractive takeover targets, survey says

    A survey by Kantor Business Consultants SA on Tuesday said it expected a current trend of mergers and acquisitions to continue as long as the consolidation level in the Greek banking system remained lower compared with other European economies.

    The survey said that Postal Savings Bank was the most attractive takeover target for large banks, while it noted that mergers between large banking groups did not seem to offer additional value. The survey stressed that small banks could offer value to other small banks, while any takeovers of large Greek banking groups by international banks would be based only on plans to expand their business in general and not on strengthening their position in the Greek market.

    Kantor said the capitalization of banks embodies significant prospects of growth and profitability, making them more expensive than other banks in Europe, while high capitalization offered protection of aggressive takeovers and facilitated mergers made on stock and not in cash. However, the expansion of Greek banks in the Balkans makes them more attractive takeover targets for foreign banks. Kantor underlined that deals based on the exchange of shares were more likely in the Greek banking market.

    The eight largest banks in Greece accounted for 293 billion euros of the market's total 320 billion euros in assets.

    [35] Greek car sales up 6.3 pct in June, yr/yr

    Greek car sales grew by 6.3 percent in June from the same month last year to a total of 28,326 units, although the June figure was 3.0 pct down from May 2007.

    Car sales in the first half of the year grew 4.5 pct to 159,527 units, a rather dissapointing development for the domestic car market.

    Toyota maintained its leading position in the market with 2,590 sales, followed by VW (2,532) and Opel (2,504). Toyota was top in the first half with 16,265 sales, followed by Opel (13,477) and VW (13,166).

    [36] EP plenum ratifies regulation based on report by Greek Eurodeputy Vakalis


    The European Parliament plenum on Tuesday ratified a regulation proposal based on a report by Greek ruling New Democracy (ND) party Eurodeputy Nikos Vakalis, on behalf of the Industry, Research and Technology Committee, aimed at saving more energy for office equipment, particularly in the public sector.

    As a result of the ratification, the Eurodeputies approve a five-year extension of the Agreement concluded with the United States in 2000 on the "Energy Star" programme, that was renewed in December 2006.

    The "Energy Star" is a programme and a brand that should be recognisable by consumers for certified products that live up to high specifications for saving energy, Vakalis explains in the report accompanying his proposals.

    [37] Mesolakkia Bridge construction contract signed

    A 1-million-euro contract for the construction of the Mesolakkia Bridge project was signed on Tuesday.

    Construction works are scheduled to be completed in one year, considerably improving the road network in the northern prefectures of Serres and Drama, and particularly the hazardous sections of the Thessaloniki-Amfipolis-Mesorrachi-Serres national highway.

    [38] Study on creation of metropolitan park to be publicised in coming days

    The government will be publicising in the coming days the study prepared on the creation of a metropolitan park on the location of the former Hellenikon airport and will bring it to the attention of public and local administration agencies to enable the final issuing of the presidential decree that will determine land uses and whatever building activity.

    This was stated in Parliament on Tuesday by Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias in reply to a question by Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alekos Alavanos.

    Souflias insisted on the prospect of the creation of a park by a private agency with self-financing in exchange for building on 150 acres out of a total of 1,500, stressing that the "cost of creating and preserving the park is huge, hundreds of millions of euros, and is impossible to be funded by the state budget."

    "At the moment, 75 acres at the location of the former airport are being used for various installations. We shall build on another 75 acres, a total of 10 percent of the total space. If you deduct them, 1,375 acres of real park remain. It is more than enough, it will be the biggest park in Europe. The problem is for us to be able to do it. If we shall wish not to do anything, if we do not proceed with self-financing we shall be discussing it for many years," he said.

    [39] Greek stocks end 1.29 pct down on profit taking

    Greek stocks ended significantly lower on Tuesday as investors took profits following a trend in other European markets. The composite index fell 1.29 pct to end at 4,971.61 points with turnover of strong 578.8 million euros.

    All sector indices ended lower with the Insurance (2.58 pct), Healthcare (2.40 pct), Technology (2.15 pct) and Telecommunications (1.91 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The Big Cap index eased 1.35 percent, the Mid Cap index was 1.06 pct lower and the Small Cap index dropped 2.37 pct.

    Alter (7.69 pct), Kreka (5.63 pct) and Boutaris (4.35 pct) were top gainers, while Ideal (19.79 pct), Varvaressos (8.77 pct) and Varagis (7.14 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 228 to 46 with another 31 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -2.58%

    Industrials: -1.80%

    Commercial: -0.72%

    Construction: -1.28%

    Media: -0.70%

    Oil & Gas: -0.99%

    Personal & Household: -1.64%

    Raw Materials: -0.70%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.24%

    Technology: -2.15%

    Telecoms: -1.91%

    Banks: -1.22%

    Food & Beverages: -0.76%

    Health: -2.40%

    Utilities: -1.56%

    Chemicals: -0.92%

    Financial Services: -1.73%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, National Bank, Marfin Popular Bank and OPAP.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 23.90

    ATEbank: 3.96

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 21.50

    HBC Coca Cola: 33.40

    Hellenic Petroleum: 11.96

    Emporiki Bank: 21.00

    National Bank of Greece: 43.56

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 26.70

    Intralot: 24.16

    Cosmote: 22.78

    OPAP: 26.60

    OTE: 22.60

    Titan Cement Company: 43.04

    [40] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 3.355 billion euros on Tuesday, of which 1.645 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.71 billion sell orders.

    The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.33 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was steady at 0.22 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.85 pct and the German Bund 4.63 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 4.08 pct from 4.06 pct on Monday, the two-day rate also rose to 4.08 pct from 4.07 pct, the one-month rate was 4.10 pct and the 12-month rate eased to 4.56 pct from 4.58 pct.

    [41] Foreign Exchange Rates - Wednesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.377

    Pound sterling 0.682

    Danish kroner 7.499

    Swedish kroner 9.260

    Japanese yen 169.2

    Swiss franc 1.668

    Norwegian kroner 8.029

    Cyprus pound 0.588

    Canadian dollar 1.444

    Australian dollar 1.600

    General News

    [42] Mobilizations at Kozani power plant suspended

    The general assembly of a local association against unemployment in the regions of Aghios Dimitrios and Riakio in Kozani Prefecture, northwestern Greece, decided on Tuesday to suspend mobilizations blocking the northern gate of the Public Power Corporation SA (DEH) steam-electric power plant SES Aghios Dimitrios in Kozani.

    Mobilizations were launched last Saturday demanding the hiring of local people for the DEH installations.

    The suspension of mobilizations was decided in view of the meeting the association members will have with the development ministry general secretary on July 20.

    [43] Suspect for Mytilinies fire arrested on Samos

    A resident of Pythagorio has been arrested by police on Samos as the suspected arsonist responsible for setting fire to the forest in Rogia, Mytilinies. Police said they picked up the man on July 8, the same day as the fire broke out and that he was led before a public prosecutor on Tuesday.

    [44] Orthodox Youth Conference in Istanbul

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will inaugurate the five-day 2nd Orthodox Youth Conference "Members of the Church - Citizens of the World" that opens in Istanbul on Wednesday. Participants will address contemporary problems faced by the Church and society.

    The conference aims at facilitating communication among Christian Orthodox youth, and will be held with the participation of young men and women from all Holy Metropolitanates of the Ecumenical Sea, sister Orthodox Churches, various Monastic Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods, Christian Churches and Confessions, Orthodox Theological Faculties, Academies, Institutes and Seminaries, International Ecclesiastical Organizations, Youth Associations and Cultural Institutions, as well local Christian Churches.

    The conference will end with a music concert by singer George Dalaras and the Estoudiantina Orchestra.

    [45] Guns found in car, three arrested

    A Kalashnikov assault rifle, a handgun and a number of bullets were seized while three individuals, a Greek and two Albanian nationals, were arrested after a police car chase in the Thessaloniki Old City district in the early morning hours on Tuesday.

    The chase was triggered by the car driver's refusal to stop for a regular police check. The police officers were obliged to open fire in order to stop the car and arrest three of its passengers, while a fourth managed to flee.

    Athens Newspaper Headlines

    [46] Security van robbed on Crete

    A security van was robbed in the Sfakia municipality in Hania, Crete on Tuesday morning by a group of armed robbers using two cars, which they used to ram the van and force it off the road as it was turning a tight corner.

    Three men forced the driver and a guard to get out of the vehicle, firing shots into the air, and one of them hit one of the two security guards with a rifle butt before removing a sack of cash that was destined to replenish a cashpoint machine in Hora, Sfakia.

    They then set fire to the security van and one of the cars that was blocking the road, which they stolen from the Cretan town of Rethymno, and fled in the second car toward Hania.

    Police have launched a manhunt to find and arrest the armed robbers, with checkpoints on roads throughout Hania and Rethymno, while the fire brigade sped to the scene to put out the fire in the two burning vehicles before it spread to the surrounding countryside.

    The two guards have been taken to Hania hospital as a precaution.

    Weather forecast

    [47] Hotter on Wednesday

    Temperatures are expected to increase in the east and south of the country, reaching as much as 39C, while strong northwesterly winds will gradually prevail in the west and north. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 25C and 39C and in Thessaloniki from 22C to 37C.

    [48] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The Mt. Parnitha reforestation measures, charges filed against those responsible for the falsification of student exams, the New Democracy Congress aftermath and main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou's criticism on government policy were the main front-page items in Tuesday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "(Main opposition) PASOK party leader George Papandreou lashes out at the government for refusing to accept the tilting submarine - He rallied in favour of the Germans in Skaramangas Shipyards".

    APOGEVMATINI: "One party, one leader - Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis' exclusive interview".

    AVGHI: "The government turns a deaf ear to thousands of people - Big participation in the spontaneous SMS organized protest".

    AVRIANI: "(Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George) Souflias protects Parnitha - Measures against squatting, reforestation and anti-flood measures".

    CHORA: "New faces, new momentum in the New Democracy Central Committee - New election day oracle".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Elections turned Delphi oracle".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Defeat means decapitations".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Student exam fraud charges filed - Written tests re-evaluated in the presence of a prosecutor".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Parnitha should not become a new Penteli - Online mobilization for its protection".

    ESTIA: "The second four-year term will be more productive - The four priorities set out by the prime minister".

    ETHNOS: "Prosecutor files charges both against the culprits and the accusers in the nationwide student exam falsification".

    KATHIMERINI: "Parnitha is protected after the disaster - Thirty million euros to heal the wounds".

    LOGOS: "Immediate measures in Parnitha - Announcements by Souflias with an emphasis on anti-flooding measures".

    NIKI: "The New Democracy cadres are isolated in their own partisan micro-world away from society".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "New Democracy and PASOK are annoyed by the clear cut positions adopted by (Communist Party of Greece) KKE - The true reason behind the mud-slinging".

    TA NEA: "Prosecutor takes over in the exams case - Written tests with altered grades are seized".

    TO VIMA: "Souflias' measures are only for Parnitha".

    VRADYNI: "New Democracy wind of change - The Central Committee is over 30 percent renewed".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [49] Papadopoulos: Talat's response very encouraging


    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Tuesday described as "encouraging" the response of the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community to his invitation for a meeting with a view to rekindle interest in the implementation of a UN-brokered agreement.

    "What Mr (Mehmet Ali) Talat has said is very encouraging, at least what I have read. I hope this does not mean an attempt to abandon the procedure agreed with the UN," the president said, responding to questions.

    He explained that he sent the letter to Talat because he insists that the procedure agreed with Talat and the UN must not be relinquished.

    Papadopoulos said there may be more than one meetings with Talat.

    The president sent earlier this month a letter to Talat inviting him to a meeting to review the situation with regard to an agreement, clinched by the UN in July last year, to help resume substantive negotiations towards a Cyprus settlement.

    "After about 50 meetings between our aides (Talat's and Papadopoulos') since the agreement and with no apparent move forward, I decided to send the letter for a meeting," he explained, dismissing claims that this is a pre-election move, ahead of his anticipated announcement to seek re-election in February's presidential elections.

    As reported earlier on Tuesday, from the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus, Talat told a press conference that he accepted Papadopoulos' invitation for a meeting, describing the proposal as a "positive step".

    The Turkish Cypriot leader expressed the view that the meetings between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities should take place periodically.

    President Papadopoulos had sent two letters to Talat, one on the issue of the missing persons and another on a UN-brokered agreement a year ago.

    Papadopoulos and Talat agreed on 8 July 2006 in Nicosia, in the presence of UN Assistant Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari, to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day-to-day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.

    [50] President to run for reelection against former coalition partner


    President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos will be seeking reelection in the February 2008 presidential elections, with the confirmed support of the Democratic Party (DIKO) and the Social Democrats Movement EDEK, while left-wing AKEL will be running in the elections with its own candidate, its General Secretary Demetris Christofias.

    AKEL, DIKO and EDEK formed a coalition which voted Papadopoulos into power in 2003. The coalition government was formally dissolved on Tuesday in the wake of developments on the pre-election front.

    The dissolution of the coalition was hailed by the main opposition Democratic Rally party (DISY) as a ''step forward.''

    Speaking after a meeting at the Presidential Palace between President Papadopoulos and the leaders of the three parties, Government Spokesman Vassilis Palmas said the tripartite cooperation was successful and left a substantive mark on the political and social scene on the island.

    Palmas pointed out that AKEL's decision to run in the elections with Christofias was respected and created a new political arena, which had an ''interesting significance.''

    He added that he expected the ministers from AKEL to resign from the government during Wednesday's Cabinet meeting and that President Papadopoulos would be announcing his decisions publicly ''very soon.''

    Palmas dismissed suggestions from right-wing Democratic Rally (DISY) that the president should appoint ''acting ministers'' in the place of those who would be resigning, in view of the elections, noting that this was an ''anachronistic approach.''

    Asked if there was any possibility of the coalition coming together again for the second round of elections, Palmas said there was plenty of time until then to measure developments and ''of course in politics there are never any dead-ends, in a democracy there are never any deadlocks.''

    In remarks after Tuesday's meeting of the three parties with President Papadopoulos, AKEL General Secretary Demetris Christofias said he regretted the decision of DIKO and EDEK not to support his candidacy in the 2008 presidential elections and continue the tripartite cooperation.

    He said, however, that he respected the decision of the parties and President Papadopoulos and called for respect of AKEL's decision.

    ''We will not organise a war campaign against the President of the Republic or the parties participating in the government,'' he added, noting that things may have been different if the parties had agreed on a common programme before deciding which candidate to support.

    Replying to questions, Christofias said AKEL had not regretted participating in the tripartite cooperation and pointed out that it was for this reason the party was proposing its continuation with himself as a candidate for the presidency. ''So, it is not us dissolving the cooperation,'' he said.

    Asked what would happen with the ministers from AKEL, Christofias said they would be resigning.

    DIKO President Marios Karoyan said supporting Tassos Papadopoulos in the 2008 elections was an act of consistency and that ''DIKO will vote for Tassos Papadopoulos in the first and the second round'' of the elections.

    ''We disagree with the General Secretary of AKEL, who on one hand wants the cooperation of the three parties to continue and on the other wants to change it,'' he said, adding that since President Papadopoulos was faithful to the agreed programme, it would not be politically wise or acceptable to say that he was not suitable.

    To a remark that Christofias had differences with President Papadopoulos on the handling of the Cyprus problem, Karoyan said ''in politics hindsight is not advisable'' and noted that Christofias was being ''unfair'' regarding certain actions of the president.

    Regarding the possibility of reforming the tripartite cooperation in the second round of the elections, Karoyan said a pre-election campaign unavoidably creates bitterness and there will be recriminations and antagonism.

    ''In the end, this cooperation will be hurt and certainly in the second round it will be difficult to stick back all the pieces and repeat this process,'' he added.

    EDEK President Yiannakis Omirou said he was sorry the tripartite cooperation had collapsed, since it had been functional and fruitful for the past few years.

    Omirou said he was certain President Papadopoulos would be reelected and that the outcome of the elections would be an expression of the determination of the people to defend their national interests, which were a democratic, viable and European specification solution to the Cyprus problem, and at the same time would expand the welfare state.

    He said the decision to support Tassos Papadopoulos' candidacy was ''a natural decision,'' since he had a successful term in office and had handled the Cyprus problem in a nationally dignified manner.

    Asked if he believed Tassos Papadopoulos could win the elections even without the support of AKEL, Omirou said the president had announced to the three parties his decision to run in the forthcoming elections and ''of course he will be reelected,'' adding that EDEK would not support a candidate from right-wing Democratic Rally.

    Replying to questions, Omirou wondered why AKEL had waited so long before expressing its disagreement with President Papadopoulos' handling of the Cyprus problem.

    Commenting on the dissolution of the coalition, DISY President Nicos Anastasiades said it was a ''step forward'' that parties calling themselves ''contiguous'' were finally not describing themselves as such, since ''they never were.''

    ''There is at last an effort, and this is positive, to submit proposals, either concerning the national issue or internal governance, from powers who possibly have different views,'' he added.

    Anastasiades pointed out that the three-party coalition had continuously faced problems ''due to the diverse ideological and political views of the so-called contiguous forces.''

    Commenting on the fact that President Papadopoulos had dismissed DISY's suggestion for ''acting ministers'', Anastasiades said he had no doubt that he would.

    Six months before the February elections, there are three presidential hopefuls: Christofias, who is also House President, former foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides, backed by DISY and Costas Themistocleous, former minister of agriculture.

    [51] President Papadopoulos regrets the dissolution of the tri-party coalition

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has expressed regret over the dissolution of the tri-party coalition which brought him to power in 2003, noting that he informed Tuesday the leaders of the three coalition parties that he will be seeking re-election in February's elections.

    ''I am sorry for the dissolution of the coalition. I think that the Cypriot people should also be sorry, but the latest developments, the decisions of the parties and AKEL's decisions rendered the continuation of the coalition impossible,'' Papadopoulos said replying to questions, adding that the coalition has done a lot of significant work both regarding the Cyprus problem as well as on the domestic front.

    Replying to a question that AKEL's General Secretary spoke of important disagreements on the Cyprus problem, Papadopoulos said that it was natural for disagreements to exist, noting that whether they were important or not is a matter of interpretation.

    ''I don't believe they were important and the proof was that none of the three parties believed that these were of such importance and magnitude to dissolve the coalition,'' he added.

    Asked when he will officially announce his candidacy, Papadopoulos said that he informed the leaders of the three parties earlier Tuesday that he will seek re-election, adding that the matter when he will officially announce his candidacy is a formality.

    Replying to a comment that AKEL asked that its ministers should stay at their post for a month to complete some pending issues, Papadopoulos said there was no issue of sacking his ministers ''whom I respect a lot.''

    He noted however that the Ministers themselves said that they will resign.

    [52] Finance Minister describes locking of pound to euro as ''historic''


    European Union Finance Ministers (ECOFIN) set on Tuesday the permanent conversion rates of the Cyprus pound against the euro. Cypriot Minister of Finance Michalis Sarris said this was ''an historic day for Cyprus.''

    ECOFIN gave both Cyprus and Malta the go-ahead to adopt the European single currency at a meeting in Brussels, setting the permanent conversion rates, under which one euro will be worth 0.585274 Cyprus pounds and 0.4293 Maltese lire. The two countries will be joining the Eurozone on 1 January 2008, bringing the participating states up to 15.

    It also adopted regulations setting permanent conversion rates for the Cypriot pound and the Maltese lira against the euro and adjusting certain technical provisions on introduction of the euro.

    Cyprus and Malta will issue euro notes and coins at the same time as adopting the euro. The conversion rates are set at 0.585274 Cyprus pounds to the euro and 0.4293 Maltese lira to the euro, which correspond to the current central rates of both currencies within the EU's Exchange Rate Mechanism II.

    The Council encouraged Cyprus and Malta to continue with appropriate policies to ensure that they can make the most of the benefits of joining the euro, in particular as regards budgetary rigour, structural reform and maintaining the competitiveness of their economies.

    The European Commission welcomed the final and formal decision by the ECOFIN Council, noting that in the coming five-and-a-half months Cyprus and Malta will have to complete and finalise their crucial practical preparations to ensure that the changeover to the euro takes place smoothly.

    Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia said he was ''happy that Cyprus and Malta will adopt the euro, bringing to 15 countries and nearly 320 million the number of people who share the currency that has the vocation to be, one day, the sole currency of the European Union.''

    ''Thanks to economic and monetary union, the euro area has now enjoyed an unprecedented period of price stability and low interest rates. But being part of a monetary union also implies an added responsibility vis a vis the other members, a responsibility to run sound public finances and to coordinate economic policies for the benefit of more growth and better jobs for all,'' he added.

    According to the Commission, inflation and interest rates have never been so low, in so many EU countries and for so long than since the introduction of the euro in 1999. Euro area average inflation has remained well-anchored around 2% since the mid 90s and mortgage rates have converged from double-digit levels in some countries in the early 90s to around 5%, it added.

    ''Cyprus and Malta will enjoy those same benefits provided that they continue to pursue sound public finances, stable macroeconomic policies and structural policies. This applies primarily to budgetary, wage and further reforms in the areas of pensions and health care in order to improve the long-term sustainability of their public finances as well as structural reforms to improve the functioning of product and labour markets,'' the Commission pointed out.

    The Commission furthermore noted that Cyprus and Malta are also well advised to devote great attention to the practical preparations that need to be carried out in the next five-and-a-half months to ensure a smooth changeover.

    ''Production of the coins will start shortly after today's (Tuesday) ECOFIN decision at the Mint of Finland, for the Cyprus coins, and the French Mint (Maltese coins) as a result of public tenders. Euro coins bear a common and national side,'' the Commission added.

    Next week the Commission is expected to update the state of the practical preparations for the euro in the EU countries that have not yet adopted it and do not have a legal opt-out. The fifth report on the state of practical preparations for the enlargement of the euro area will focus on Cyprus and Malta given the proximity of the changeover date for the two countries

    In remarks after the meeting, Sarris said the decision ''is a reward for the correct policy we have followed for many years and reflects the very good fiscal situation of the Cypriot economy,'' adding that it was ''the capstone of a course for which we must all be proud, as everyone in Cyprus has contributed to it, the workers, the trade unions, the political parties, the businesspeople and in general all the citizens.''

    In his speech at the meeting, Sarris said ''the forthcoming introduction of the euro is a milestone in the short history of the Republic of Cyprus,'' noting that ''it will lead to further integration of Cyprus into the EU and will make our small country part of the large euro area.''

    ''Our efforts to fulfill the commitments to the Union and our desire to adopt the euro as soon as possible after our entry in the EU show the commitment that the Republic of Cyprus has to the principles and the ideas that the European Union represents,'' he pointed out.

    Sarris added that ''the adoption of the euro will bring concrete and tangible benefits to the Cypriot citizens'' and that ''Cypriot businesses will also benefit significantly.''

    ''We remain alert and stand ready to address any challenges that may arise. We take seriously the concerns of our people that the euro adoption may lead to unjustified price increases. However, we are convinced that the effects of the changeover on the general price level will be negligible. Nevertheless, we have prepared and are implementing a comprehensive policy framework, aiming at addressing people's concerns,'' he said.

    Cyprus joined the EU in 2004. Thirteen out of the EU's 27 member states currently use the euro as their currency, namely

    Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Austria, Slovenia and Finland. Euro notes and coins were introduced in 12 of those countries on 1 January 2002 and in Slovenia on 1 January 2007.

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS

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