|Monday, 19 August 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-07-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 12 July 2007 Issue No: 2642
 PM and merchant marine minister discuss ferry, seaplane servicesProjects currently underway for the development of Greece's more important sea ports and plans to introduce a charter of rights for ferry and seaplane passengers were the topics discussed during a meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Merchant Marine minister Manolis Kefaloyannis on Wednesday.
After the meeting, Kefaloyiannis announced that the draft law on the rights of ferryboat and seaplane passengers will be tabled in parliament soon.
Kefaloyannis also briefed the prime minister on issues concerning ferry services.
The minister said that the three seaports in the Attica prefecture are ready for the estimated 7 million tourists, Greek and foreigners, expected during the summer months, adding that 2.5 million passengers have already used 10,000 ferryboat routes.
He also noted that the port of Piraeus has been upgraded, reflecting Greece's high level tourist product.
Commenting on their meeting, main opposition PASOK MP Christos Papoutsis stressed that passengers had already felt the results of New Democracy's policies on domestic ferry shipping, which had resulted in delays and greatly increased fares.
"Three and a half years of New Democracy government have had a very clear result: ferry shipping companies are doing whatever they like in the Aegean. The government has completely lost control. Shipping companies are putting their ships where they want, charging whatever they want and using ferry routes when they want and when it's in their interest," he said.
 Merchant marine ministry replies to PASOKThe merchant marine ministry replied on Wednesday to statements made on coastal shipping by main opposition PASOK party shipping sector coordinator, Christos Papoutsis, speaking of "PASOK's lost 20-year period for insular Greece."
"The main opposition party and its cadres, who led our coastal shipping communications to disdain during PASOK's lost 20-year period for insular Greece, are trying to counter-attack," an announcement by the ministry said.
The announcement said, among other things, that "those who set up the monopolies and the stock exchange games in coastal shipping, those who led to collapse every modernising effort in coastal shipping must be very careful and modest."
 Government comments on tampered exam resultsIn comments on an emerging scandal concerning the nationwide university entrance examinations or 'Panellinies', alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday stressed that delinquent behaviour, in spite of strict sanctions under the law, was something that might occur at any time.
"The important thing is that the State deal with such phenomena with conditions of transparency, directness and efficiency, for the benefit of the social whole," he said.
Antonaros was replying to press comments, according to which the government "appeared unable to guarantee" that the exam system could not be compromised.
The spokesman pointed out that the reaction of the education ministry had been immediate, with an initial announcement by the ministry general secretary and one on Tuesday by the ministry.
He also criticised what he called attempts by main opposition PASOK to exploit the affair for "petty party-political ends", stressing that this would not benefit the main opposition party nor undermine the prestige of the examinations.
Asked to comment on PASOK claims of an attempted cover up, the spokesman stressed that the announcement issued by education ministry general secretary Andreas Karamanos "indisputably demonstrates how quickly and effectively the education ministry dealt with this issue".
Regarding the possibility that similar incidents may have occurred at other times but gone unreported, Antonaros replied that the case was now being investigated by judicial authorities and stressed that no other similar case had ever been reported.
"This was an isolated incident that concerned just one subject and one examining unit," he added.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the ministry general secretary stressed that the incident was confined to the 33 exam papers in question, which would be marked from scratch, while he disagreed with calls to remark all 528 papers that had been sent back for remarking under the examination process.
"The phenomenon is isolated. It concerns 33 papers and no others. The procedures followed by the education ministry are in accordance with the law. The papers will be marked from scratch by examiners that were not involved in the previous procedure," Karamanos said.
He accused those calling for the remarking of all 528 papers of undermining the prestige of the examinations.
"We all know that when there is a difference between the first and second examiner that is greater than a certain range, then these are remarked. This is in every way according to the law," he said, adding that not all the cases could be treated in the same way.
He also stressed that the suspect cases concerned those where the papers themselves had been tampered with.
"They were papers where the marks of all three examiners were open and, in a very few cases, where the names of the candidates had also been uncovered. This was the violation for the specific 33 papers," he said.
Regarding differences of opinion by Constitutional experts on the process that should be followed, Karamanos said the ministry had been guided by its own legal advisors.
"Any constitutional expert can have an opinion 'a', others constitutional experts might have an opinion 'b' and any court can then have an opinion 'c'. That a constitutional expert has an opinion a or b means nothing to the education ministry, which took the right steps based on the advice from its legal service," he said.
He also stressed that the nationwide examinations as an institution were not at risk, and that speculation about widespread problems in other exams were not based in fact, pointing out that the charges pressed by the public prosecutor in the case were based on evidence provided by the ministry that had emerged from its internal inquiry into the affair.
Karamanos also predicted that there results for the English exam would be out very soon and that an extension for submission of university applications forms might be given if necessary.
A Thessaloniki public prosecutor on Tuesday pressed charges against eight examiners, a school advisor and the head of a Thessaloniki marking centre after a sworn internal inquiry revealed that the results in 33 exam papers submitted by students for English had been tampered with by examiners acting on orders to give the specific students higher marks.
 KKE's Papariga comments on tampered exam resultsArriving at Thessaloniki's Macedonia International Airport on Wednesday, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga commented on revelations that examiners in Thessaloniki may have tampered with the results of Greece's nationwide university entrance examinations, which had led to the re-grading of 33 examination papers.
Papariga characterized the re-grading as a "sad event" and stressed that the overall examination system was unacceptable.
Regarding elections, she stated that the two major political parties support the same measures while labor relations will suffer new upsets after the elections in addition to privatizations, austerity measures and new hikes in the cost of health services and education.
The two major political parties have accepted the restructuring and updating demanded by the European Union, stressed Papariga.
During her stay in Thessaloniki, the KKE general secretary is scheduled to visit the Hellenic Vehicle Industry SA (ELVO) plant and the Amstel bottling plant to hold meetings with management and personnel.
 Three fire-fighters killed, one injured in Rethymno, CreteThree seasonal fire-fighters died and a fourth suffered serious burns when their vehicle was surrounded by flames while they were taking part in efforts to put out a forest fire that broke out at 14:15 on Wednesday within the Kouloukonas municipality in Rethymno on Crete.
The tragic accident occurred shortly before 17:00, apparently due to very strong winds that were blowing in the area that rapidly drove the flames in their direction.
A force of 40 fire-fighters in 13 vehicles, a further 14 fire-fighters on foot and a helicopter are currently attempting to put out the fire, which continues to blaze in an inaccessible location in the area.
 President, minister, parties on Rethimno fire tragedyPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday expressed grief over the deaths of three firemen during a forest fire in Rethimno, on the island of Crete, on Wednesday afternoon.
"The thought of all of us is with their beloved ones and their colleague who is fighting against his burns," the President said in a message of condolences.
Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras expressed his sadness over the deaths of the three firemen.
"Our grief is unbearable. We have always stressed the priority of security for the life of firefighters and citizens during training and operations," Polydoras said, adding that "we honour their sacrifice and the fallen as true heroes. We condole and stand by their families," Polydoras said.
Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Petros Efthymiou said on his part that "I wish to express the most profound sadness and grief that is gripping all of us over the loss of the lives of the three firemen in the fire in Rethimno and the injury of other colleagues of theirs."
He went on to say that "we express our warmest condolences to their relatives, their families and their colleagues and we wish to assure that the Greek people in their entirety honour the men and women who, as it is being proved, protect public goods by sacrificing their life. We shall always stand by, in every way all those protecting all of us with such sacrifice and the goods that we and our children want to have."
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) and the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) also expressed their "profound sadness" in relevant statements, asking at the same time the adoption of extra measures to protect the lives of firemen and to increase the firebrigade's capabilities.
 Administrative investigation ordered on Rethimno fire tragedyAn administrative investigation has been ordered on the deaths of three firemen who lost their lives while trying to extinguish a forest fire in Rethimno, on the island of Crete, on Wednesday afternoon.
Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras and Fire Brigade Chief Andreas Kois left for Rethimno by helicopter immediately after the tragedy occurred.
According to a relevant announcement, the fire broke out in a forested area at 1:20 in the afternoon and 30 firemen, 11 vehicles, a helicopter, two firefighting aircraft and two eight-member groups of the special disaster EMAK unit were sent to the scene.
Meanwhile, Fire Brigade spokesman Yiannis Stamoulis publicised the identity of the three seasonal firemen who lost their lives in the fire in Rethimno and of their fourth colleague who sustained serious burns.
The names of the dead are Nikitas Koromilas, 34, Stylianos Markakis, 37, and Iraklis Tzanakis, 40.
The injured fireman is Emmanuel Manolitsakis, 37, who is being treated at a hospital in the city of Iraklio with burns covering 40 percent of his body, 25 percent of which are second degree burns.
 FM spokesman addresses Information and Public Diplomacy Service eventThe tour of the Ancient Agora of Athens by Greek and foreign journalists and diplomats, with their "guide" being the Greater Hellenism Foundation's modern technology, was the first event held by the foreign ministry's Information and Public Diplomacy Service, as it was renamed after Parliament endorsed the new Organisation.
Foreign ministry spokesman, George Koumoutsakos, speaking before the event got under way, said that the Information and Public Diplomacy Service had a double mission.
"First of all, we want to highlight the foreign policy of Greece, a policy that is condensed in the triptych Stability, Security and Cooperation," he said, adding that "the strategic aim of our policy is to produce stability and security in a region including the Balkans, the Black Sea and the Middle East."
The second aim, Koumoutsakos went on to say to the representatives of the foreign press and of diplomatic missions, is "for us to get to know your countries better as well."
 Stylianidis holds talks on proposed Regional Development Centre in ThessalonikiDeputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Wednesday discussed a Greek proposal for creating a Regional Development Centre in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki with the Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe Erhard Busek and Croatia's Deputy Foreign Minister Hido Biscevic, who will head up the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) that is set to replace the Stability Pact.
The Stability Pact of South Eastern Europe will be succeeded by the RCC in 2008 and will allow SE European countries to take over management of cases that concern them.
The Greek proposal for a regional development centre that will operate within the framework of the RCC was first put forward at the 10th South Eastern European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit, where Biscevic was named as the RCC Secretary General and Sarajevo was chosen as its seat.
 Stylianidis meets new French ambassador to AthensDeputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Wednesday met the new French Ambassador to Athens Christophe Farnaud for talks on Greece's role and France's prospects in energy diplomacy and cooperation in developmental aid issues. They also referred to efforts to strengthen bilateral economic relations.
 Roussopoulos refers to media bill at Panteion University awardsMinister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday referred to the issue of mass media licensing and concentration while addressing an event at the General Secretariat of Communication held to award prizes to Panteion University Mass Media Communication and Culture Department students attending the Communication Crisis Management Simulation Exercise programme.
"The law should be implemented. It is very important to establish a regulatory authority in a field that began operating 20 years ago," he said.
He was referring to legislation recently passed in Parliament concerning mass media licensing and concentration.
Roussopoulos noted that there had been other laws in the past, some of which had very important clauses supported by more than one political party in Parliament, but that these had not implemented.
 Privatisations part of government programme, spokesman stressesAlternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday underlined that privatisations of state enterprises had been part of New Democracy's programme from the start and that carrying them out fulfilled its pre-election pledges. He was responding to press criticism over the sale of 20 percent of the Greek Postal Savings Bank on Tuesday, which had reduced the state's share in the bank to less than 50 percent.
"The government has specific positions that refer to privatisations and proceeded to carry out its commitments. Yesterday's privatisation was carried out with particularly great success," Antonaros stressed.
In response to other questions - which noted that ND had objected to privatisations carried out by the previous PASOK government - the spokesman said that the present government was carrying out pledges within a timeframe it had itself set, whereas its predecessor had been forced into them under the pressure of what later proved to be "creative accounting" and a rush to raise cash that would cover huge deficits created by its own reckless spending policies.
 Antonaros on areas protected by environment ministryAlternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday referred to steps already taken to reinforce measures in protected areas based on the briefing he had by the ministry of environment, stressing that the responsible managing authorities are being boosted both in financial and institutional terms.
Responding to a question on the protection of other regions aside from the announced restoration of the burned section of the Mt. Parnitha forest, Antonaros stated that only nine regulations for the operation of the responsible authorities were approved until March 2004 whereas since then a total of 94 such regulations have been adopted by the current government.
In addition, 9 protected areas have been marked among them, Lake Karla, Mesolongi Lagoon, the Evros River Delta and the Amvrakikos wetlands, stated Antonaros, pointing out that 180-million-euro investments have been scheduled for the period 2007-2013.
 Antonaros on the "Sea Diamond" shipwreckAlternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday referred to measures taken by the Greek State through the merchant marine ministry for the effective pumping out of fuel and other hazardous material from the "Sea Diamond" shipwreck near the coast of the central Aegean island of Santorini.
Those responsible have been fined with up to 2 million euros, a sum unprecedented in Greece, while 8,000 to 17,000-euro fines a day are being imposed until the sunken cruise ship's fuel is completely pumped out and the ship itself is pulled up from the bottom of the sea, he said.
A relative study is being co-funded by the ministries of merchant marine and environment to ensure that the specific salvage procedure will be promoted, stated Antonaros, while all necessary moves are being made to ensure that the shipowner and insurance companies will cover all shipwreck-related expenses.
Antonaros added that lawsuits will also be filed while all consequences suffered by the local community on Santorini as a result of the sea accident will be recorded in the effort to make sure that any damage inflicted on the environment will be repaired.
The alternate government spokesman also commented that the current merchant marine ministry leadership acted immediately, systematically and effectively in the case of the "Sea Diamond" accident as opposed to the previous government's reaction in the case of the tragic "Samina" shipwreck off the island of Paros a few years ago.
 PASOK party spokesman on party agenda, electionsMain opposition PASOK party spokesman Petros Efthymiou, replying to a question on Wednesday on a possible change in the party's agenda, said that "PASOK's agenda is crystal-clear, lucid and scheduled in a pure way vis-a-vis the Greek people, to whom it is coming with its programme and its positions on the economy, society, the institutions and the foreign policy of the country."
Efthymiou further said that "at the same time, PASOK is exercising responsible opposition, as is also necessitated by its constitutional duty, as well as the nature of the policies of the (ruling) New Democracy (ND) party which are profoundly negative for the country and the Greek citizen."
Lastly, Efthymiou said that this is the "steadfast sailing course" of PASOK from which it will not deviate "until the Greek people give their own solution which will be the elections."
Also commenting further on the issue of elections, Efthymiou said that "as it is known, those who have no political position resort to oracles. It is evident that (Prime Minister Costas) Mr. Karamanlis has been a feather in the wind of political conjuncture over the past six months. Mr. Karamanlis has left the role of prime minister to his ministers. For this reason, every minister expresses in public sometimes the one and sometimes the other position on elections in such a way that Mr. Karamanlis has been replaced in a role that corresponds institutionally only to himelf. Mr. Karamanlis fears elections and for this reason he is talking of elections" and concluded by saying that "the only healthy solution is for us to go to the polls."
 Papariga calls on voters to 'weaken two-party system'Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Wednesday asked voters to "weaken the two-party system" at the next elections, whenever these might take place.
Speaking in Thessaloniki, where she had just begun a two-day tour, she also expressed her party's complete opposition to privatisations.
Papariga met the leadership of the staff union at a Hellenic Vehicle Industry SA (ELVO) plant, who briefed her on the company's prospects and expressed concern at the reduced production and shrinking numbers of workers. They asked for KKE's support in getting state to guarantee - as the company's main customer and strategic partner - the plant's turnover through contracts for both civilian and military vehicles for the country.
Papariga next visited the Amstel brewery, where she spoke with staff and asked them to support KKE in the next elections, even as a protest vote.
"The policies of New Democracy and PASOK are the same, the difference between them lies only in their political speech. The two parties must suffer losses because they bear grave responsibility for the problems of society. The counter-weight must be the KKE, without this meaning that those voting for us must necessarily completely agree with us," she said.
KKE's general secretary is due to speak at Aghios Therapontas in Toumba on Wednesday evening at 21:00, while on Thursday she is to meet the management and workers of the Thessaloniki water and drainage company EYATh and the mayor and municipal council of Polychni.
 Alavanos criticised government over ParnithaCoalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader Alekos Alavanos on Wednesday held a press conference regarding the destruction of the forest and National Park on Mount Parnitha during a devastating fire, proposing measures for its restoration.
"The president of the republic said the destruction of the Parnitha National Park was an occasion of national mourning. If so, then we can say that the New Democracy government is acting like a merry widow," Alavanos said in an attack on the government's stance.
He also strongly criticised Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, saying he had failed to incorporate forests in his activities and was "absent from Parliament and absent for forests".
According to Alavanos, the government's policies were laying the foundations for the destruction of forests, either through attempts to scrap article 24 of the Constitution or a 2003 law that it inherited from the previous government of main opposition PASOK, which had placed all forest maps under dispute.
The party also expressed lack of confidence in government announcements, given past experiences with the rest of Attica's mountains after destructive fires and called for the creation of an independent environment ministry, as was the case in other European countries.
 West Attica prefect blames Parnitha fire on negligence, lack of fundsNegligence, lack of coordination, an inability to promptly intervene, shortages of fire-fighting staff, vehicles and airplanes but also the government's refusal to fund his prefecture were responsible for the disastrous outcome of the fire on Parnitha, West Attica Prefect Aristidis Arkoudaris said on Wednesday.
The prefect, who was elected on a ticket backed by main opposition PASOK, said the prefecture had done "everything humanly possible" to avert the disaster while addressing a meeting of the prefecture coordinating body.
"The prefecture did not get any money for fire protection measures in the area, despite the fact that in March it had pointed out the high risk for this year's summer and had initially asked for 810,000 euros and then, in April and May, a further 300,000 euros. On April 23 we were informed by the interior ministry that the prefecture is excluded from funding, while the municipalities of the area would finally be funded with 365,000 euros, a sum less than half what we asked for," he said.
He also outlined a series of measures that he said were necessary in order to protect the areas on the mountain from further attrition and to prevent soil erosion and flooding.
Proposals for fully restoring, protecting and promoting Parnitha, as well as other mountainous and forested regions in Attica, were also put forward by the Local Union of Municipalities and Communities of Attica (TEDKNA) on Wednesday in a letter to Environment Minister George Souflias and Attica Region chief Haralambos Maniatis.
TEDKNA's president Dimitris Kalogeroupoulos, mayor of Egaleo, proposed the signing of an agreement between the ministry, the regional authority and TEDKNA for the implementation of specific actions and measures, which included the reforestation of Mount Parnitha, Mount Penteli, Mount Poikilos and Mount Egaleo, fire protection measures and improved access for the public.
 Greece to adhere to EU budget agreement, FinMin saysAn EU decision to present balanced budgets is a political decision and Greece will seek to adhere strictly to this agreement, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister added that the government needed to remain alerted to execute this year's budget and announced further measures to cut spending this year.
Alogoskoufis hailed a Eurogroup and ECOFIN decisions to accept Cyprus and Malta in the Eurozone, saying it was a very significant development since Eurozone was expanding in the Mediterranean region.
He noted that the ECOFIN council agreed that in the best economic case scenario member-states' fiscal deficits should be cut by more than 0.5 percent annually and said that EU member-states reaffirmed their commitment to present balanced budgets by 2010. The Greek minister also referred to the significant progress made by Greece in reducing its fiscal deficit, adding that the country still had a very big public debt with interest payment totaling 10 billion euros annually. "It is a very big problem and a top priority for the government," he said.
Alogoskoufis noted that social transfers, as a percentage of GDP, reached 18 percent in Greece, from 16.2 pct in the Eurozone, and that they expected to reach 18.4 pct in 2008. "We have the highest rate of social transfers but very low efficiency," he added.
Commenting on the placement of a 20 percent equity stake in Postal Savings Bank, Alogoskoufis said it was successful. "It is a significant step for privatizations, with the offering price reaching 18.10 euros per share, at the top range, while the placement was three times oversubscribed and the state will raise more than 500 million euros," he said.
The Greek minister stressed that the government's privatization program envisaged proceeds totaling 1.7 billion euros and noted that the program so far has fetched 1.632 billion euros.
The sale of an equity stake in Postal Savings Bank will help the bank and will bring more competition in the domestic banking system, while proceeds from the sale will help reducing the country's public debt. Alogoskoufis stressed that there will be no more privatizations this year.
The Greek minister dismissed talk of imposing higher taxes in the country.
 PASOK, Coalition parties comment on FinMin's statementsMain opposition PASOK party spokesman Petros Efthymiou and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party Political Bureau member and economic and social policy rapporteur, Panayiotis Lafazanis, on Wednesday commented on statements made by Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis on the outcome of the ECOFIN Council and on balanced budgets.
Referring to the remark made by Alogoskoufis that "the consistency of the policy of the New Democracy party is not identified with tax surprises, which belong to PASOK," Efthymiou termed what the minister said "political slander."
Efthymiou said that Alogoskoufis increased VAT from 18 percent to 19 percent and pointed out that "every time that the budget was not going well, Mr. Alogoskoufis increased and increases indirect taxes."
Lafazanis said on his part that "at a time when even the 'ultraconservative' President of France, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, doubted successfully for his country the decisions of ECOFIN on balanced budgets by 2010 in the eurozone member-states, Mr. George Alogoskoufis appeared 'more loyal than the loyal' in seeking the precise observation of the decisions of ECOFIN and their implementation in full for our country."
 Bank of Greece governor satisfied with strength of Greek banksBank of Greece governor Nicholas Garganas on Wednesday expressed his satisfaction over the strength of the Greek banking system, saying that both the performance and the capital adequacy of Greek banks were steadily at high levels, while he noted a decline in non-servicing loans.
Addressing an event organized by the Hellenic-British Chamber on "International Credit System, Challenges and Prospects", the Greek central banker said that Greek banks' capital base ensured the stability of the system. This fact combined with a more effective risk management by commercial banks also ensured the sustainability of the strength of the banking system and the confidence of both investors and depositors.
Garganas said the Capital Adequacy Rate of Greek banks was satisfactory and significantly higher compared with minimum requirements of 8.0 percent, both in bank (13.3 pct) and banking groups (11.4 pct).
The central banker also noted positive developments in non-performing loans saying their rate was gradually reduced to 5.4 pct in the first quarter of 2007, from 5.4 pct in December. He noted, however, that the rate continued to be significantly higher compared with the EU-25 rate of 2.9 percent.
 Value of unpaid bills and cheques fell by 40 pct in Jan-May, yr/yrThe value of bounced cheques in the market of Macedonia and Thrace fell by more than 40 percent in the first five months of 2007, compared with the corresponding period last year, although the value of unpaid bills rose slightly over the same period, according to figures by the Bank of Greece.
The value of bounced cheques in the January-May period fell to 77.14 million euros, from 131.42 million euros last year, while the value of unpaid bills rose to 22.27 million euros from 21.52 million euros.
In May, the value of bounced cheques in Macedonia and Thrace fell by 46.7 percent to 13.07 million euros, although the biggest percentage decline was recorded in March (55.1 pct), followed by April (35.9 pct), February (34.9 pct) and January (29.1 pct).
 Over 3,500 overseas Greeks coming this summer in framework of hospitality programmesOver 3,500 overseas Greeks of all ages and from all continents will be coming to Greece this summer in the framework of hospitality programmes organised by the foreign ministry in cooperation with the interior, public administration and decentralisation ministry and with the participation of local administration unions.
More than 700 children of overseas Greeks, aged between 8 and 12, will be staying at camps of the foreign ministry's General Overseas Hellenism Secretariat in Malesina (in the prefecture of Fthiotida) and in Epanomi in Thessaloniki.
The programmes, that combine the children's recreation with Greek language lessons, traditional dances and songs and visits to archaeological and other sites, have already begun and the first arrivals of children started on Tuesday, to stay until July 31, while a second camping period will follow between August 1-20.
 European Commission approves participation of state funding in Thessaloniki undersea tunnel constructionBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The European Commission has approved the participation of Greek state funding in the construction of the undersea tunnel in Thessaloniki, Macedonia.
With its decision, the European Commission has decided not to raise objections regarding the awarding contract concluded by the Greek authorities on the construction of the undersea tunnel in Thessaloniki.
The contract includes state funding amounting to 96 million euros and the aim of the project is to decrease traffic congestion in the city's historic centre, by linking the densely populated southeastern metropolitan region with the financially robust northwestern region.
According to the Commission, the funding of this infrastructure with state resources is not subject to rules concerning state subsidies, provided that the project in question is a public commodity and is open to all users without discrimination.
 Greece's 13 research centres join forces in joint ForumGreece's 13 research centres are joining forces for the first time, establishing the Greek Research Centres Forum, an initiative by their scientists to render Greece a research pioneer in Southeastern Europe, and not only, it was announced on Wednesday.
Officials of the 13 research centres recently sat together at the same table, for the first time, with the purpose of putting together in a single, lengthy study, the proposed research and technology priorities of the country. The proposals are contained in a lengthy volume titled "National Technological and Scientific Priorities (ETEP)", published at the initiative of the Conference of Presidents of the Research Centres of Greece, and was submitted a few days ago to development minister Dimitris Sioufas and Research and Technology secretary general Yannis Tsoukalas.
The study contains the proposals of all the research centres of Greece on the priorities that country must place in the research and science sector, in view of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) 2007-2013, while it also proposed the creation of national networks for the proposed ETEP.
Centre for Research and Technology Hellas-CERTH (in Greek, the EKETA National Research and Technological Development Centre) president Constantine Kyparissidis told ANA-MPA that the the study will soon be posted on a new website developed by the Forum (at www.researchcenters.gr) for public debate, and the target is that the study will serve as the basis for drafting the national strategy and agenda on research and development.
The public debate will run up to at least September, when the Forum plans to hold a major event on the issue that will aslo be attended by representatives of the Greek state.
Comprising the Forum are the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH), the "Athena" Research and Innovation Centre, the Athens National Observatory, the Greek Atomic Energy Commission, the National Hellenic Research Foundation (NHRC), the Hellenic National Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), the National Centre for Social Research (EKKE), the "Demokritos" National Centre for Scientific Research (NCSR), the "Alexander Fleming" Biomedical Sciences Research Centre (BSRC), the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas (FORTH), the Pasteur Institute, the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources (CRES), and the Thessaly Research, Technology and Development Centre.
The study covers 12 research and development fields: health and biology sciences, biotechnology-foods-agriculture-fisheries-aquaculture, information and communications technologies, nanotechnologies-operational materials-production methods, energy, environment-climate changes-ecosystems, transports-aircraft engineering, socio-economic sciences, technology-cultural heritage-tourism, safety, space, and life-long learning technologies.
 Minister, local authorities discuss railway extension to LavrioTransport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Wednesday had a meeting with representatives of local government in east Attica to discuss plans to extend the suburban railway Proastiakos to the coastal town of Lavrio on Attica's southeastern coast.
Those attending the meeting included the East Attica Prefect and the mayors of Lavrio, Markopoulo, Kalyvia, Keratea and Kouvaras.
Afterwards, Liapis said the initial studies regarding the project were now complete and a final study would be commissioned within the year with a view to holding a tender for the project within 2008. He said the extension was due to be completed by 2012, while funding had already been secured from the 4th Community Support Framework (CSF).
The new extension is planned to be 31km long, starting from the Koropi junction and largely following the route of the historical Lavrio railway line. Trains will be able to travel at a maximum speed of 120km per hour and journey times to Athens are expected to be 55 minutes. When complete, the Proastiakos railway will directly link the two largest ports in Attica - Lavrio and Piraeus - as well as Athens airport and the city centre.
Stations along its route are planned at Markopoulos, Kalyvia, Kouvaras, Keratea, Amphitropi and Paleokamariza, Thorikos. There will also be two stations within Lavrio, one near a future university campus and a second in the town centre, and a final stop at Lavrio port leading directly onto the passenger wharfs.
 Greek newspapers and magazines raised their share in domestic ad revenue market in 2006Greek newspapers and magazines raised their share in the advertising revenues market last year, with magazines' ad revenues rising 10.4 pct to 978.14 million euros accounting for 41.7 percent of the total market, emerging as the most popular advertisement medium, a report by Hellastat said on Wednesday.
Newspaper, however, recorded the biggest percentage gains last year with an increase of 19.3 percent in advertising revenues to 452.38 million euros, reflecting more competitive pricing policies and the public sector's focus to newspapers last year.
The renewed dynamism of newspapers and magazines is steadily shrinking advertising revenues for television stations, whose share fell to 33.9 pct of the market in 2006 from 56.5 percent in 1996. TV ad revenues rose by 1.1 percent to 793.55 million euros. Radio stations' advertizing revenues rose 4.8 pct last year to 119.36 million euros accounting of 5.1 percent of the market.
Advertizing revenues grew by 6.9 percent to 2.34 billion euros last year, slightly slower compared with a 7.4 pct growth rate in 2005 and around 14 percent in 2004 during the Athens Olympic Games.
Higher ad revenues for magazines and newspapers reflected the strategic policy by publishers to publish internationa titles in the Greek market. Based on a sample of 171 groups of newspaper, magazine and special magazine publishers showed that turnover rose 15.6 percent to 1.62 million euros last year, while EBITDA fell by 19 percent to 58 million euros with average EBITDA margin easing to 0.8 percent in 2006. Net results showed a loss of 5.8 million euros last year after profits of 43.4 percent in 2005.
 Citibank expands branch network in GreeceCitibank added six new branches in its network in the first six months of the year, raising its network to 74 units around the country.
Stelios Pirpinias, Citibank's branch network director said the bank's business plan envisaged the opening of 17 branches this raising its branch network to 85.
Citibank began operations in Greece in 1964. It currently owns 74 branches and 236 ATMs around the country, employing more than 1,500 people.
 9th Annual 'Marine Money' Greek Ship Finance Forum in OctoberThe 9th Annual Marine Money Greek Ship Finance Forum will be held in Athens on October 18, hosted by Marine Money Greece.
The Greek Marine Money conference will provide attendants with up-to-the-minute insight into where the best deals can be done, and introduce them to the right people, according to the organisers.
The fact that shipping is still a "buzz word" in the capital markets was reaffirmed last month at the Marine Money Week in New York, which was attended by close to 800 delegates, with all the global players and finance providers represented, including most of the Greek listed shippig companies, the organisers said.
 Greek stocks continued losing groundGreek stocks continued losing ground on Wednesday following a similar trend in other European markets. The composite index ended at 4,963.97 points, off 0.15 percent, with turnover a massive 1.39 billion euros boosted by the transaction of a 20 percent equity stake of Postal Savings Bank sold by the Greek state on Tuesday.
Most sectors suffered losses with the Chemicals (2.10 pct), Media (2.03 pct) and Oil (1.60 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while the Insurance (1.35 pct), Telecoms (0.66 pct) and Financial Services (0.55 pct) scored gains.
The Big Cap index eased 0.02 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.66 pct lower and the Small Cap index fell 0.01 pct.
Aegean Airlines (22.37 pct on its debut in the market), Boutaris (10.53 pct) and Vis (9.93 pct) were top gainers, while Alapis (11.93 pct), Zampa (8.04 pct) and Autohellas (6.94 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 172 to 95 with another 41 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.60%
Personal & Household: -1.00%
Raw Materials: -0.74%
Travel & Leisure: -0.67%
Food & Beverages: -0.74%
Financial Services: +0.55%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Greek Postal Savings Bank, Aegean Airlines, National Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 24.16
Public Power Corp (PPC): 21.48
HBC Coca Cola: 33.10
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.72
Emporiki Bank: 20.82
National Bank of Greece: 43.78
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 26.40
Titan Cement Company: 43.40
 ADEX closing reportTurnover in the Athens Derivatives Exchange rose to 157.250 million euros on Wednesday, with futures contract prices maintaining their discount.
The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.66 pct and the July contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.14 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 9,196 contracts worth 119.486 million euros, with 41,626 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 563 contracts worth 18.220 million euros, with 1,376 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,788 contracts worth 19.543 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (2,025), followed by OTE (251), PPC (483), Piraeus Bank (661), National Bank (1,265), Alpha Bank (928), Intracom (801), Postal Savings Bank (704) and ATEbank (467).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 3.042 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.5 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.54 billion were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was again the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 796 million euros.
The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.22 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.82 pct and the German Bund 4.60 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.08 pct, the two-day rate was 4.08 pct, the one-month rate 4.10 pct and the 12-month rate eased to 4.53 pct from 4.56 pct on Tuesday.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.386
Pound sterling 0.682
Danish kroner 7.499
Swedish kroner 9.239
Japanese yen 168.73
Swiss franc 1.667
Norwegian kroner 8.029
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.468
Australian dollar 1.609
 Electronic system failure blamed for bus accident in AthensSeven people were slightly injured when a city bus driver lost control of his vehicle and collided with three parked and two moving cars in downtown Athens on Wednesday morning.
The driver was unable to stop the bus when its electronic system apparently failed. The bus's uncontrollable course ended when it crashed into a fence at a nearby park.
 Two forest fires reported west of LamiaTwo forest fires were reported to the west of the city of Lamia, central Greece, on Wednesday afternoon and firemen were battling the flames with the assistance of seven firefighting aircraft and a helicopter.
The first fire broke out shortly before 5 in the afternoon to the west of the village of Ladikou, near Ipati. According to initial reports, the fire spread quickly, fanned by strong westerly winds, and created a front of about two killometres in length in dense forestland.
While the fire was still raging in Ipati, a new front broke out six kilometres to the north, near the village of Styrfaka, and spread quickly in an easterly direction. It also spread into a gorge where sheepfolds were located and which were threatened by the fire for some time.
Reports at about 8 in the evening revealed that the fire in Ipati had been restricted to two smaller fronts, while the fire in Styrfaka was still raging out of control.
 Escape vehicle used in Hania robbery found abandonedA jeep used as an escape vehicle by a gang of security van robbers who got away with a loot of 70,000 euros was found abandoned in a field by Hania police on Wednesday, in the environs of Patsianou in the Sfakia municipality on the island of Crete.
During the robbery carried out on Tuesday, the group of armed robbers had used two cars to ram the security van and force it off the road in Sfakia and, after taking a sack of money destined to replenish a cashpoint machine, had set fire to the security van and one of the cars while escaping in the jeep.
Police acting on a tip-off by an anonymous caller found the abandoned jeep damaged by fire as the robbers apparently had also set it alight so as to destroy any evidence that might lead to their capture.
 Cannabis grower arrested in KilkisA 33-year-old man was arrested in rural Kilkis, northern Greece, accused of growing a total of 18 cannabis plants. The plantation was spotted by police in early July and the area was kept under surveillance.
The man was arrested after being caught watering the plants, which were later destroyed.
 Cooler on ThursdayCooler weather is expected throughout the country, while strong northwesterly winds will prevail. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 24C and 34C and in Thessaloniki from 21C to 30C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe voting rights of overseas Greeks, the assessment of the consequences of the recent devastating fire on Mt. Parnitha, and the charges filed against those involved in the tampering case of the university entrance exam results (in the special subject of English, at one Thessaloniki examinations centre) were the main front-page items in Wednesday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Overseas Greeks to vote in the elections after the next ones if the two/thirds of parliament MPs consent, based on article 51 of the Constitution".
APOGEVMATINI: "9,269 hirings - The job openings, qualifications and deadlines".
AVGHI: "The exam re-grading decision is groundless - Government attempt for a speedy closure to the English exam case".
AVRIANI: "New torpedo by (PASOK MP Theodoros) Pangalos with revelations on companies involved in illegitimate political dealings".
CHORA: "170-million-euro programme for 20,000 unemployed - Eligible are the 18-64 age group".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis annoyed by the statements of the Greek ambassador in Skopje".
ELEFTHEROS: "Coalition of the Left and LAOS will not be represented in the next parliament - They will be unable to get more than 3 percent of the vote (required for winning a seat in the 300-member unicameral House)".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The forgery of the written exams - Penal charges filed".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The written exam scandal step-by-step - Revelation: the re-grading confession".
ESTIA: "The government's big success - The reform work in the economy".
ETHNOS: "The findings were also tampered with - The ministry of education covers up the university entrance exam scandal".
KATHIMERINI: "Scientists issue warning after the fires in Parnitha - The effects of the disaster on the average temperature rise".
LOGOS: "New turn to the elections scenarios - The draft law on the voting rights of overseas Greeks to be tabled in parliament in the fall".
NIKI: "Penal charges in the exam tampering case".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The colpo grosso of the ND and PASOK governments - Burned forestlands named building grounds".
TA NEA: "Thermal bomb equalling 2.2 million private cars - Considerable temperature rise in the burned areas ".
TO VIMA: "Dye bomb in food - The EU to ban E128".
VRADYNI: "Initiative of national importance - The government calls for political party consensus on the absentee voting rights of overseas Greeks".
 The date of Papadopoulos-Talat encounter to be decided ThursdayNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The representatives of the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities, Tasos Tzionis and Rasit Pertev, will set Thursday the date of the leaders' meeting.
Tzionis and Pertev will meet on Thursday in the presence of UN Secretary General's special representative in Cyprus Michael Moller.
Government Spokesman Vasilis Palmas told reporters on Wednesday that the July 8, 2006 agreement provides for meetings between Tassos
Papadopoulos and Mehmet Ali Talat, but also that the ground should be prepared and the leaders to promote the issue.
"This is what will be discussed at tomorrow's (Thursday) meeting", Palmas said.
Palmas pledged the government will continue its efforts on the Cyprus problem until the end of its term and called on reporters not to associate the pre-election campaign with the Cyprus issue.
The spokesman added it is the president's duty and obligation to continue efforts until the very last day.
To a question that the government was stating that the key to the solution of the Cyprus problem is Ankara, Palmas repeated the same position, adding that Turkish Cypriots alone cannot take decisions.
"We say that the two leaders can make a contribution to the procedural part which is provided by the July 8 agreement", Palmas explained.
Papadopoulos and Talat had agreed to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day-to-day life of the people and those that concern substantive issues.
Following the agreement, the representatives of the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities, began meetings in the UN-controlled buffer zone to work out the modalities for the implementation of the July agreement.
Talat has accepted an invitation from Cyprus President Papadopoulos to meet each other and discuss ways for a breakthrough in efforts for a solution to the long-standing Cyprus problem.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
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