|Saturday, 17 August 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-07-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 13 July 2007 Issue No: 2643
 Fires a 'consequence of climate change,' PM says; grief for dead fire-fightersPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday expressed his deep sorrow for the tragic deaths of three seasonal fire-fighters killed on Wednesday in the line of duty, while noting that the destructive fires of the current summer were a result of global warming.
"The weather phenomena this year favoured as never before the outbreak of destructive fires, peaking with that of Parnitha. We are already living with the consequences of climate change," the prime minister said.
The prime minister made the statements while addressing a meeting of the full Cabinet that took place on Thursday.
Noting that the country would henceforth have to deal with with new conditions that demanded even greater alertness and efficiency, he underlined that Greece had no choice but to rise to the challenge.
"It is a difficult, uneven battle but we have only one choice: to constantly wage this battle with all our strength," he said.
The prime minister stressed that the government is rapidly carrying out all measures needed to restore the forest that was burnt. For Parnitha, especially, he said that the government, with Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias as coordinator, "is proceeding very rapidly with reforestation, so that wherever there was forest there will be forest again".
Karamanlis also underlined that the government remained steadfast and unswerving in its commitment to initiate and complete reforms:
"This is the commitment we have undertaken toward the citizens; this is the demand of society and the central principle of our action," he said, noting that much had already been achieved but much still remained to be done.
"We are in the midst of a hard and uphill journey. We continue with seriousness and responsibility," the prime minister said, stressing that the government "will allow no siren to deflect us from this path".
"In reply to all those who have chosen to become the political representatives of reaction, conservatism, nihilism and denial we present the truth of our work, the effectiveness of our actions," he emphasized.
At the same time, the prime minister also stressed the need to solve the day-to-day problems of ordinary people, in addition to looking at the big political picture, noting that the government was judged on these also.
Following the prime minister's address, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis carried out a presentation of foreign policy, while other government members also addressed the meeting on this issue.
 Parliament observes minute's silence for dead firemenA minute's silence was observed by the Greek Parliament on Thursday in honour of the three firemen that lost their lives in the line of duty while fighting a forest fire on the island of Crete the previous day. A fourth fire-fighter is currently in hospital after sustaining life-threatening burns.
The gesture was made at the suggestion of main opposition PASOK MP Angelos Manolakis, during a question on the Parnitha fire that he put to Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras.
In a reply to Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Nikos Gatzis, meanwhile, Polydoras stressed that "no one sent fire-fighters unarmed and unprotected to the fire" and that the state would stand by the families of the victims, as well as that of the injured man who was being transferred to Athens on Thursday.
The minister announced that he had asked for a Supreme Court prosecutor to supervise the inquiry into the tragic accident while stressing that the Fire Department "needs everyone's moral support at this hour".
A sudden shift in wind direction proved fatal for the unlucky and inexperienced crew of seasonal fire fighters on Wednesday, who found themselves surrounded by flames in a narrow gorge while fighting a forest fire on Crete and were unable to escape. Funerals for the three dead men will be held on the island at the state's expense on Thursday.
In his replies to MPs, meanwhile, Polydoras reiterated that the failure of the fire-fighting effort to save Parnitha's forest and National Park - where 1,000 out of its total surface of 3,800 hectares were lost to the flames - was due to the extremely high temperatures.
"During the battle for Parnitha everything was in place. The officers were the same as in 2003, the operational plan was the same and updated each year; all the forces on the ground - about 750 regular and seasonal fire-fighters - were in operation, the forces in the air were in operation all day and maintained at night with zero down due to mechanical failures," he stressed.
The minister also pointed to Greece's "impressive last position" among its EU neighbours Spain, Portugal, France and Italy for the number of fires and the surface area of burnt expanses.
MPs countered that the fire department was 4,000 fire-fighters short, that plans were updated after the fact and that there had been disagreements between the head of the fire department and of the Civil Protection agency on the course of action.
 Funeral of the firemen killed in Crete fire to be held at state's expensePublic Order Minister Vyron Polydoras visited Iraklion on the island of Crete accompanied by Fire Brigade Commander Andreas Kois in the aftermath of the tragic deaths of three seasonal firemen who were burned alive and the serious injury of a fourth, who is hospitalized with serious burns fighting for his life.
The public order minister visited the hospital where the injured fireman is being treated to be briefed by his attending doctors on his condition, and expressed his sympathy to his family. He also met with local authorities and visited the Iraklion Fire Brigade command to further assess the situation.
The funerals of the three firemen, characterized as tragic heroes by the Fire Brigade, will be held on Thursday at the state's expense and all four families will have the state's full support.
The tragic victims, members of a firefighting force that was combating a fire in a gorge in the region of Doxaro, near the city of Rethymno on the island of Crete on Wednesday, were trapped by the blaze after a sudden change in the wind direction.
 EU hopes for Turkey, western Balkans must remain, Bakoyannis tells cabinetAddressing a cabinet meeting on foreign policy and justice issues chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said Athens was against any binding decisions on EU enlargement that would bar the EU perspectives of Turkey or the western Balkans.
"We do not agree to taking binding decisions today that would deprive countries with ambitions to one day become members of the EU of the vision and the motives to adapt to the European status quo," she stressed.
The foreign minister clarified that European 'enlargement-fatigue' and the discussion underway regarding Europe's outer borders could not affect enlargement policies that had already been agreed, as in the case of Turkey and Croatia, and neither could nor should concern the countries of the western Balkans.
She particularly emphasised Greece's support for Turkey's European course, noting that this was a fundamental element of the country's overall policy for Greek-Turkish bilateral relations, since nearly all Greek-Turkish differences had now been converted to Euro-Turkish issues.
As an example, she pointed to an EU decision last December to freeze eight chapters of the accession negotiations with Turkey, while the rest of the chapters would open but not close until Turkey fully implemented the Ankara Protocol, requiring it to open its ports and airports to traffic from EU-member Cyprus, among other new EU members.
"We have sent Turkey a clear-cut message that we support its accession to the EU, when and if it fulfills all the requirements and provided it meets the commitments it has made," Bakoyannis stressed.
At the same time, she conceded that the climate in Europe was becoming increasingly hostile to Turkey's bid and said that the Greek foreign ministry was examining contingency plans to prepare for the event of a EU-Turkey "special relationship", while noting that this could not be decided with Greece's agreement since it would require unanimity.
"I don't have to say, of course, that if we can we will try to avert the conversion of the present process to the special relationship, because we consider that the present process is much more complete, with greater possibilities," she added.
Regarding the latest developments concerning the Euro-Constitution and the compromise reached with the EU Reform Treaty, Bakoyannis said this was a positive step though it did not fully satisfy Greek goals but stressed that the agreements had to be upheld both in substance and with respect to timing. The Greek minister welcomed moves by the Portuguese EU presidency to speed up the process, so that the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) might complete its work by the end of October, noting that Greece would support this effort.
"We are doomed to, sooner or later, move on to the formation of reinforced partnerships. And in this case, the wager for Greece will be to remain in the inner core of European integration," she stressed.
Regarding the country's international position and image overall, she said that this was strong and constantly improving, while Greece was being dealt with by all as a serious, reliable country with strong prospects.
"We are carrying out a truly multi-dimensional foreign policy with many levels, which we have enriched with new fields of action, such as the economic, developmental and public diplomacy," she said.
In spite of this, she added, the country continued to face serious foreign policy problems that were still outstanding and did not allow light-hearted manoeuvres and petty party political sparring of the kind that main opposition PASOK "has lately appeared to be sliding toward".
In a reference to the Cyprus problem, Bakoyannis said that no particular activity surrounding this issue was expected in 2007 but that "a window of opportunity" was expected to arise in 2008 for its solution. Stressing Greece's steadfast support and cooperation with the Cyprus government, she blamed the Turkish-Cypriot side for the lack of anticipated results from the preparation process that was currently underway.
The Greek foreign minister also referred to the dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), where she reiterated that there was absolutely no possibility that the neighbouring country might join NATO with the name of 'Republic of Macedonia'.
"The message is strong and clear and known to our partners and allies," she stressed.
She said that Athens was following a "determined and realistic policy for achieving a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the name," pointing out that such a solution would normalise and strengthen bilateral relations, establish cooperation and stability in the region and ensure that FYROM's unobstructed course toward fulfilling its ambitions to join the EU and NATO.
Bakoyannis underlined that Greece will serve this policy without being deprived of any of its options as an EU and NATO member-state and that Athens would not agree to a selective implementation of the interim agreement between Athens and Skopje, nor to violations of its letter or its spirit.
Greece objects to FYROM's use of the name 'Macedonia' on the grounds that it is shared by a northern Greek province that has a common border with the tiny republic and might give rise to future territorial claims and disputes.
The Greek foreign minister's address also covered the latest developments in Kosovo, noting that the situation was extremely difficult since Pristina and Belgrade seemed to have entirely different aims and starting positions. She stressed that a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo would be a negative development since it might trigger unilateral recognitions, lead to division among EU member-states and unpredictable reactions by Kosovo's Serbs.
A balancing factor in this environment of uncertainty and flux was the progress that had been made after intense Greek mobilisation regarding Serbia's European course, she added.
Justice minister Papaligouras' statement
In a statement after the Cabinet meeting, Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras said the ministers had approved his proposals for the new leadership of Greece's higher courts and justice system, stressing that the choices were based on "merit, respect for the seniority list and with the aim of continuing the work of cleaning up, modernising and improving Justice".
 European Parliament ratifies progress report on FYROMPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
The European Parliament on Thursday ratified with an overwhelming majority of 558 votes in favour, 47 against and 8 abstentions the progress report on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that was proposed by Dutch Eurodeputy Erik Meijer.
Speaking before the vote was held, the rapporteur explained that "following an agreement between all the political groups it was decided that from now on the whole name of 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' will be used in all documents and not various abbreviations in various languages."
As regards the Greek Eurodeputies, the report was endorsed by the Eurodeputies of the ruling New Democracy party, with the exception of Antonis Samaras who voted against it.
The report was also voted against by all deputies of the main opposition PASOK party, with the exception of Ms. Tzambazi who was absent.
Negative votes were also cast by two Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Eurodeputies and George Karatzaferis (Popular Orthodox Rally), while Dimitris Papadimoulis (Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology) voted for abstention.
The New Democracy (ND) party's Parliamentary Group stressed in a press release that "the result of the vote is absolutely satisfactory."
ND Eurodeputy Dimitrakopoulos, who had tabled amendments on behalf of the European People's Party, said that "the Parliamentary Group of ND had tabled quite a few key amendments in the entire report and it had decided that even if one was not accepted it would vote against the report. However, as it appears from the result of the vote, all the key points were accepted. This fact makes us consider the result satisfactory."
One of the key points of interest to ND's Eurodeputies was the fact that all national adjectival definitions such as "Macedonian" government, "Macedonian" passports were removed and that the mentioning of full recognition of "Macedonian" passports from all member-states was written off.
Explaining in a press release his decision to vote for abstention, Papadimoulis said that "the historic opportunity for a satisfactory compromise with FYROM, with a composite name of mutual acceptance, was lost for good in 1992. Unfortunately, the ND government at the time, with alignment from PASOK and under pressure from the known chauvinistic and nationalistic circles, rejected the proposal by the Portuguese Presidency, known as the 'Pinheiro package', that the Coalition had supported with insight and boldness."
 Croatian PM Ivo Sanander due in Athens on working visitCroatia's Prime Minister Ivo Sanader is due in Athens next Monday on a one-day working visit, during which he will be received by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at around midday.
During a press briefing on Sanader's upcoming visit at the Croatian Embassy in Athens on Thursday, Croatia's envoy Neven Madey emphasized that this was the fourth high-level meeting between the two sides since the start of this year, following visits to Croatia by Karamanlis in January, Papoulias in March and most recently by Greek Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki in April.
According to Madey, this reflected the excellent level of Greek-Croatian relations and also a new quality in these relations, with Athens viewing Croatia more as a future new partner within the European Union and NATO.
He said that Dr. Sanader's visit on Monday would largely focus on bilateral relations and Croatia's bid to join EuroAtlantic structures, while he underlined the importance of Athens' support in this effort. Croatia hopes to make rapid progress in accession negotiations and finalise its EU accession in 2009, while it expects an invitation to join NATO in April next year.
The ambassador said Sanader's visit on Monday was also an important opportunity to confirm the strategic partnership between Greece and Croatia - including their support for the accession of other SE European countries to the EU and NATO, providing they met the necessary criteria - and would lead to further intense meetings at all levels.
Concerning the form that such a strategic partnership might take once Croatia joined the EU, Madey said that Athens and Zagreb both supported the EU prospects of countries in the region as a way of ensuring its stability and emphasized that Greece and Croatia were both very involved in discussions on regional cooperation, both through the South Eastern European Cooperation Process (SEECP) that is soon due to evolve into the Regional Cooperation Council under the leadership of Croatia's Deputy Foreign Minister Hido Biscevic and through the EU's Mediterranean bloc.
In the meantime, the Croatian side hopes that the good political relations with Athens will help boost rather less robust relations on an economic level, especially in establishing direct air and sea links between the two countries and in tourism.
Embassy staff noted jokingly that one of Croatia's first cities, on the island of Hvar, was first established as a Greek colony by the Aegean island of Paros roughly 2,500 years ago - and that maritime communications between the two countries at that time were possibly better than they are today.
Accompanying Sanader on his visit is a large delegation that includes the Croatian ministers for culture, economy and tourism and communications and a number of Croatian business people that are to attend a Greek-Croatian business forum next week.
Among items the Croatian side hopes to discuss are the prospects for strategic cooperation between their respective tourism industries that will further enhance the comparative advantages of each, with Croatia like Greece sporting a long and attractive Mediterranean coastline dotted with islands on the Adriatic, and possibly some new ship-building contracts for Croatia's extensive shipyard industry.
Bilateral trade between Greece and Croatia reached the US$ 123-million mark for 2006, with the balance of trade favoring the former, $89 million to $34 million.
 PASOK convenes Political CouncilMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, speaking after a session of the party's Political Council on Thursday, expressed his grave concern over the situation being shaped in the country, that includes forest fires, the derailment of trains, problems in the Panhellenic examinations, etc.
Papandreou stressed at the same time that "the time has come for a new government, a new change, a government that will make the state effective again and will bring back the feeling of confidence and reliability in society."
The PASOK party leader said that what is taking place over the past few days "is regrettable and unprecedented", reiterating the phrase "enough is enough," which, as he said, even characterises the voters of the New Democracy party today.
"All that is taking place today, harms Greece, it does not suit us and we don't deserve it," he said and referred to the forest fires in Parnitha, Crete and Skiathos, the dead in these fires, the "lack of coordination and planning in the Fire Brigade, Political Protection and the Police, that are emerging injured from the partisanship of (rulin) New Democracy."
Papandreou also referred to the 15 derailments of trains in nine months, "without anyone assuming responsibility". He also made special mention of the problems of the Panhellenic examinatioins, stressing that the "undoubtedly reliable institution of the state is being led to disdain."
Lastly, Papandreou attributed responsibilities to the education minister and to the ministry and underlined that the prime minister "has a serious political and moral responsibility as well, who is absent again at a crucial turning point that the institution is experiencing." The Panhellenic examinations, he added, cannot be the object and victim of partisan games and of petty interests.
While addressing the party's Political Council meeting, which unanimously endorsed his proposition, Papandreou accused the government of "political panic with dangerous dimensions".
Papandreou spoke of a "downhill course" that New Democracy has entered and pointed out that it must not take the country with it along this downhill course.
The PASOK leader further criticised Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, speaking of a "theatrical performance in Parliament with attacks against members of PASOK". He predicted new attacks of the same kind which, as he said, "are already being announced in advance as underground extortion".
"We do not fear anything. We want everything on everyone to come to light and for this reason we proposed the creation of a Parliamentary facfinding committee that will be open for all issues," he said.
Referring to the time of the next elections (normally due in the country in March 2008), Papandreou said that "we are not determined by election scenarios and we are not interested if the elections take place in September, November or March. We are ready for elections at any moment and we have built our own strategy."
The party's National Council will convene again on July 29, that will approve the lists of Parliamentary deputy candidates and all candidates will be summoned to a joint meeting on August 2 that will be addressed by the party's leader.
By decision of the party's leader, an Election Campaign Committee has been set up that includes, among others, Tonia Antoniou, Evangelos Venizelos, Fofi Yennimata, Maria Damanaki, Theodoros Pangalos, Vasso Papandreou, Christos Papoutsis, Costas Skandalidis, Dimitris Reppas, Telemahos Hytiris and Costas Laliotis.
 Papariga wraps up two-day visit to Thessaloniki with press conferenceThe New Democracy-PASOK "one-way street" should be challenged at the next elections, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said in a press conference in Thessaloniki on Thursday, wrapping up her two-day visit to the city.
During her visit to the Hellenic Vehicle Industry SA, ELVO, and the Thessaloniki Water Supply and Sewerage Company SA, EYATH, Papariga reiterated that KKE is flatly opposed to privatizations maintaining that they favour private investors allowing for even more profits.
Papariga clarified that KKE will not participate in any alliance or political coalition, stressing that the people should be concerned with the imminent new anti-popular measures and not with election time.
Referring to the deaths of the three firemen on Crete, she stated that it is a crime and blamed it on the forestland legislation that favors real estate transactions, the lack of preventive policy and the absence of a forestland protection authority.
Earlier in the morning, Papariga met with the EYATH management and personnel and criticized the absence of a national policy on water management.
Addressing a political rally in Thessaloniki on Wednesday night, Papariga had called on the people to cause a rift in bipartisanism and back her party in the next general elections.
Papariga strongly criticized the two mainstream parties - ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition PASOK -- although she did not spare the two smaller parties, the Coalition of the Left and LAOS, accusing them of misleading the people's movement.
The KKE secretary general stressed that her party is ready for the elections, "which are very close, regardless of the fact that no date has been set yet", while she also cited opinion poll results based on which over 40 percent of the voters are not satisfied with the performance of the two mainstream parties.
She stressed that these shared the same views on structural changes, education, health and local government, with the objective to have more privatizations and abolish labour and social insurance rights, while at the same time they accept the praises of the United States and the European Union for their stance.
On the practice concerning the formation of alliances in view of elections, she stated that KKE is very cautious regarding alliances, and the criterion on which they are based is whether they serve the country and strengthen the people's movement.
 Coalition party leader addresses Environment CommitteeCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alekos Alavanos addressed an event organised by the Agios Stefanos Environment Committee on Thursday evening, saying that the education minister following the "prime minister's school", does not appear in Parliament to provide explanations on an issue preoccupying tens of thousands of candidates and their families.
Alavanos said that the "ND government appoints presidents of grading Centres or School Advisers with partisan and not merit criteria in order to have apparatuses at its disposal for all "tasks."
The Coalition party leader also referred to the issue of fires, noting that the dramatic events in Rethimno, as well as on Parnitha, show that the forest protection policy in Greece is not only "a complete failure but it is very dangerous as well."
He said that what is necessary is coordination, a Unified Centre for Forest Protection, equipment, training, funds, the filling of vacancies in human potential and the granting of permanent status for special forest firemen.
 Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos to undergo liver transplantArchbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos was examined by the famous doctor of Greek origin, Andreas Tzakis, on Thursday who said that he and the attending doctors unanimously agreed that the Archbishop should undergo liver transplant as soon as possible.
Tzakis is a professor of surgery and trasplants at Miami University and a specialist surgeon at the Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital USA.
Speaking at a press conference at noon, Tzakis said that it is the Archbishop's desire that the plan to be followed should be announced in a direct manner.
"We decided unanimously to proceed with a liver transplant as soon as possible and, more specifically, in the next six weeks, but as soon as he recovers from the operation he has undergone," he said.
The same doctor pointed out that positive elements exist as well, since he appeared almost certain that the one malignancy, namely that of the intestine, has been eradicated. Hepatitis is not active, while diabetes is a problem that is being kept under control with insulin and the Archbishop's age is not a counter-indication. The major problem is cirrhosis and the tumor in the liver.
The doctor further said that he will not be doing any form of chemeotherapy, since it could aggravate the condition of the liver and the patient's condition in general.
Local treatment of the tumor is also ruled out, since it is quite big. Consequently, Tzakis believes that it is better that a transplant should take place before the tumor spreads.
The doctor termed treatment provided for the Archbishop so far as being "perfect" and said that after the transplant a few weeks will be necessary for his recovery, while full recuperation is expected after a few months.
Lastly, Tzakis said that if all goes well and the new liver is provided, the Archbishop will be in a much better condition than he had been for years.
 Moldovan PM holds talks with Ecumenical PatriarchISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A.Kourkoulas)
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos received on Thursday Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, who is currently visiting Istanbul.
The Patriarch and the Moldovan premier held long talks on issues relating to the intra-religion dialogue and relations between Orthodox Churches.
 Business activity grew strongly in 2006, reportBusiness activity grew strongly for the second consecutive year in 2006, with new business start-ups rising by 10.7 pct last year, while initial capital totaled 433.7 million euros, up 30.5 percent from 2005, a survey by ICAP said on Thursday.
The survey said that a total of 4,581 enterprises (societe anonyms and limited) were founded last year, of which 69.8 pct in the manufacturing, energy, commerce, financial and business services sectors. The strong growth in new business activity reflected mainly a significant expansion of real estate enterprises, in constructions and other activities such as consulting, advertisement, architectural and engineering offices.
The opening of several new large hotels, also played a significant role particularly in boosting the initial capital of the new enterprises. The survey said that 64 percent of new enterprises were based in the Attica region, while Thessaloniki lagged far behind with a 10.8 pct rate. The increase in business activity and capital covered almost all regions in Greece, with the exception of 11 prefectures where a decline was recorded. Deelopments in Attica reflected mainly the start-up of enterprises in real estate management and other business activities, while in the rest of the country mainly construction and hotels.
Most new enterprises (59.4 pct) opted for the legal form of limited company.
Icap said a significant recovery of initial capital last year reversed a trend prevailing in the previous years when new start-ups were mainly small enterprises. New start-ups in 2006 were mainly medium or larger enterprises.
 Greek GDP growth rate second highest in the EU in Q1BRUSSELS ANA-MPA/V.Demiris
Greece's Gross Domestic Product growth rate was the second highest rates in the European Union after Ireland in the first quarter of 2007, compared with the fourth quarter last year, Eurostat said on Thursday.
The EU executive's statistics agency said the Greek economy grew by 3.2 percent in the January-March period, with Ireland taking the lead with a 4.7 pct growth rate. Latvia (2.6 pct) and Slovakia (2.4 pct) also recorded high growth rates.
Eurozone's GDP grew by 0.7 percent in the first quarter as in the EU-27. GDP growth was 0.2 pct in the US and 0.8 pct in Japan.
Eurostat also said Greece's annual economic growth rate was 4.6 pct in the first three months of 2007, compared with the same period last year. Annual GDP growth rates were 3.1 pct in the Eurozone, 3.3 pct in the EU-27, 1.9 pct in the US and 2.7 pct in Japan.
Latvia (11.2 pct), Estonia (9.8 pct), Slovakia (9.0 pct) and Lithuania (8.0 pct) recorded the highest GDP growth rates, while France (1.9 pct), Portugal (2.0 pct), Denmark and Italy (2.3 pct each) the lowest rates.
 Greek import price index up 1.3 pct in May, yr/yrThe import price index in the manufacturing sector rose by 1.3 percent in May compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in its monthly report, also said the index was up 0.6 percent in May form April. NSS attributed the 1.3 pct increase in the import price index to a 3.7 pct increase in import prices from the Eurozone and an 1.9 pct decline in import prices from other countries.
The capital goods index rose 1.2 pct, the durable goods index was up 0.2 pct, the intermediate goods index jumped 7.3 pct and the energy goods index fell by 5.6 percent.
 Parliament ratifies Central Greece motorway contractThe Parliament plenum ratified the contract on the construction of the Central Greece motorway (E65) on Thursday, with lesser substantive objections on behalf of the main opposition PASOK party and with positive votes from the two mainstream New Democracy and PASOK parties.
Deputy Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Themistoklis Xanthopoulos submitted an analysis by the National Bank of Greece (a fiscal adviser of the state for the project in question), according to which the contribution of the state to the construction of the motorway will not exceed 32.6 percent in present value and in the best of cases it will be limited to 15.8 percent, "when for the Rio-Antirrio bridge, or the Attiki Motorway, etc, we had exceeded 40 percent in state contribution," Xanthopoulos said.
 Greek financial market welcomes draft bill on MiFIDBank of Greece governor Nicholas Garganas, the president of Greece's Capital Markets Commission Alexis Pilavios and the secretary of Hellenic Bank Association Christos Gortsos, on Thursday expressed their satisfaction over a draft legislation aimed to embody community directives on the capital adequacy of Greek banks.
During a debate in parliament, the central banker stressed that under new regulations consumers unable to present the necessary guarantees would have to pay higher interest for securing a loan. "This is the right thing to do because we want to protect weaker economic classes from not taking too much debt," he said.
Garganas also pointed that a new method of calculating capital adequacy standards would offer more favourable credit terms to small- and medium-sized enterprises and consumers, compared with credit terms offered to large enterprises.
The head of the Greek market watchdog, Alexis Pilavios said the introduction of the community directive would result to benefits for banks and investment funds, but also for their customers and the economy in general, although he noted that benefits would be seen gradually and not overnight.
A representative of bank workers union OTOE said a new regulatory framework will lead to mergers and takeovers between banks resulting to less favourable borrowing terms for financially weaker borrowers.
 Greek state cuts equity stake in Postal Savings Bank to 34.43 pctGreece's Postal Savings Bank on Thursday announced the successful completion of a sale of 28,173,354 common shares, through an accelerated procedure bookbuilding private placement to institutional investors in Greece and abroad. The placement was part of the government's privatization programe. The offer price was set at 18.10 euros per share, at a small premium compared with the bank's share closing price of Monday 9. The placement was around three times oversubscribed, while the Greek state raised around 510 million euros from the sale.
The Postal Savings Bank said the Greek state's direct stake in the bank fell to 34.43 percent, while the state's indirect stake was unchanged at 10 percent.
 Development minister inaugurates installations of 'Thermi SA' business incubatorDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas inaugurated the installations of the Thermi SA business incubator in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Thursday afternoon, stressing that this undertaking is probably one of the most successful examples of cooperation between the public and private sectors, since it was completed in two years.
Speaking during the inauguration ceremony, Sioufas said that Thermi SA, which is located in the heart of the Innovation Zone that is becoming a reality, is a project that cost 17 million euros and the building houses 31 high technology businesses that employ about 250 people and in which the incubator has invested 6.3 million euros.
He aso said that eight incubators in all have been created through the 3rd Community Support Framework, budgeted at 52 million euros, three of which are located in Thessaloniki.
In another development, Sioufas laid the foundation stone in the "Technopolis" of Thessaloniki, in the "Silicon Valley" of northern Greece on Thursday, an investment which is expected to exceed 50 million euros, stressing that Greece's first High Technology Business Park will be a catalyst for the development of innovation in the city, also giving it the lead in southeastern Europe.
The first buildings of the "Technopolis", that will be located in an area of about 25 acres in eastern Thessaloniki, are expected to start being built in 2008 since initial agreements have already been signed for the purchase of building sites with about 20 Greek businesses that are interested in obtaining installations in the "Park."
Fully developed, the "Park" has been planned to host over 150 Greek and foreign businesses.
 Greece to promote "Accessible Tourism" programsGreek Tourism Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Thursday announced measures to promote "accessible tourism" in the country, including the offering of incentives to hotels for offering specialized services to people with special needs.
Addressing a seminar on "Accessible Tourism", the Greek minister said tourism was the right of every citizen and noted that Greek hoteliers were increasingly focusing on offering such services. She underlined that ministry agencies offered special classes on services to people with special needs.
 Greek stocks rebounded strongly on ThursdayGreek stocks rebounded strongly in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday with the composite index rising 1.14 pct to end at 5,020.73 points. Turnover was a heavy 575.18 million euros.
Most sectors moved higher with the Utilities (3.62 pct), Media (2.56 pct) and Technology (2.41 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Food/Beverage (0.16 pct) and Insurance (0.14 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index jumped 1.37 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.92 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.94 pct.
Euroline (15.58 pct), ANEK (9.44 pct) and Boutaris (8.57 pct) were top gainers, while Ideal (9.87 pct), Ippotour (8.25 pct) and Desmos (7.89 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 203 to 72 with another 33 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.29%
Personal & Household: +1.13%
Raw Materials: +0.86%
Travel & Leisure: +0.96%
Food & Beverages: -0.16%
Financial Services: +2.10%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, National Bank, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 24.48
Public Power Corp (PPC): 22.32
HBC Coca Cola: 33.20
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.70
Emporiki Bank: 21.30
National Bank of Greece: 44.30
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 26.70
Titan Cement Company: 44.02
 ADEX closing reportTurnover in the Athens Derivatives Exchange jumped to 204.213 million euros on Thursday. The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.47 pct while the July contract on the FTSE 40 index at a premium of 0.27 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 12,948 contracts worth 171.119 million euros, with 41,316 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 419 contracts worth 13.692 million euros with 1,449 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,543 contracts worth 19.401 million euros, with investment interest focusing on ATEbank's contracts (1,713), followed by PPC (404), OPAP (617), Piraeus Bank (293), National Bank (1,421), Alpha Bank (1,364), Intracom (1,615), GEK (487), Postal Savings Bank (410) and Marfin Popular Bank (1,177).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.994 billion euros, of which 1.645 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.299 billion were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 647 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was steady at 0.22 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.87 pct and the German Bund 4.65 percent.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.08 pct, the two-day rate was 4.08 pct, the one-month rata 4.10 pct and the 12-month rate eased to 4.53 pct from 4.56 pct on Wednesday.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.389
Pound sterling 0.683
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 9.218
Japanese yen 169.74
Swiss franc 1.670
Norwegian kroner 7.996
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.46
Australian dollar 1.609
 53 injured as suburban train rams into engine carA total of 53 people were slightly injured Thursday morning when a Suburban (Proastiakos) Railway train rammed into a Hellenic Railways (OSE) cargo train engine car at Treis Gefyres.
According to early reports, the suburban train was heading to Piraeus when it suddenly came upon the cargo train engine car, which was heading towards Lamia, coming towards it on the same track. The driver was unable to halt the suburban train in time, and it rammed into the OSE engine car, but fortunately there was no derailment.
OSE was investigating the circumstances of the accident.
So far, 13 of the injured passengers have been taken to hospital, while others were still trapped inside the train.
According to later reports, the accident is most likely attributed to human error.
According to an OSE announcement: "At 7:30 a.m., at the 13+200 kilometric distance (Treis Gefyres area), the local cargo train 54304 carrying out the Rentis-Refineries route, collided head-on with a Proastiakos train (4003) carrying out the Nerantziotissa-Athens-Piraeus route. 53 people were lightly injured, and taken immediately to hospitals, which were placed on alert, for first aid. The causes of the accident will be immediately investigated by the relevant OSE committee. According to the first estimates, the incident is highly likely due to human error".
OSE further said that its relevant services were immediately mobilised to provide all possible assistance and care to the passengers, adding that all train routes were being carried out normally.
Liapis visits train accident victims
Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis later visited some of the 53 people who had to remain hospitalized after being injured in the train collision at Evangelismos Hospital and the Red Cross Hospital in Athens.
 Wildfire on Skiathos; hotels evacuated, one in flamesA forest fire that broke out at 7.30 am on Thursday on the central Aegean island of Skiathos had spread to a hotel unit near the Troulos region by midday, part of which was in flames. Another two large hotels in the regions of Troulos and Aghia Paraskevi that are also at risk were evacuated as a precaution.
According to fire-fighters, who earlier reported that the fire was under partial control, strong and changeable winds were greatly hampering their efforts against the blaze.
The fire started out in the region of Panagia Kounistra and, fanned by the strong winds blowing in the region, burned its way to the village of Aghia Paraskevi threatening a number of houses.
Firemen are making every possible effort to keep the blaze away from populated regions, assisted by a large number of fire-fighting aircraft and helicopters dropping water from above.
A firefighting force of 28 firemen operating 7 fire engines and 17 firemen on foot were initially sent out to tackle the fire, assisted by two helicopters and three firefighting aircraft from above.
Their numbers have been reinforced by an additional 50 members of the fire department's Special Disaster Response Unit has been dispatched from Larisa, central Greece in an army C-130 transport plane.
According to the National Defence General Staff, meanwhile, 40 marines from Volos are expected to land on the island at around 19:00 to help the fire-fighting effort.
 Fire in Melissochori, Thessaloniki extinguishedThe fire that broke out around noon on Thursday in a rural region in Melissochori, Thessaloniki was extinguished after burning a few acres of farmland, it was announced on Thursday evening.
A firefighting force of 25 firemen operating 11 fire engines battled the flames, which had reached the yards of a number of private houses.
 Large quantities of cocaine seizedTens of kilos of cocaine were found aboard a Bahamas flagged cargo ship by men of the Greek Coast Guard at Aigio port in northern Peloponnese on Thursday.
The ship is carrying a cargo of bananas while the cocaine was hidden in boxes. Port officials and a prosecutor were interrogating the 24 crew members.
 WFUCA conference opens in AthensThe World Congress of the World Federation of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Clubs, Centres and Associations (WFUCA) is taking place in Athens, with the participation of 250 UNESCO clubs and centres from 73 countries, which will set out the targets of the world federation for the coming five years, while a new president of the World Federation will be elected.
Opening the Congress on Wednesday night, Greece's deputy foreign minister Theodoros Kassimis stressed the importance of the important and multi-dimensional work being carried out by UNESCO, and outlined Greece's substantial contribution and presence in the UN's organisation.
"In our age, the age of globalisation, rapid developments but also multi-cultural convergences and particularities, the Organisation is called on to play a crucial role as an international centre of communication for the advancement of dialogue and consolidation of peace, on the basis of mutual respect and the viable development of the peoples, combatting poverty and strengthening the educaitonal process," Kassimis said, noting the contribution of the UNESCO Clubs and Groups in advancing the Organisation's targets through voluntary action.
UNESCO assistant director general for external relations and cooperation, Ahmed Sayyad, said that the discussions among the representatives of the UNESCO clubs and centres indicated that the Organisation was headed in the right direction for the achievement of its targets. He also referred to the UNESCO symbol which, he explained, was inspired from ancient Greece and the goddess of wisdom, Athena, adding that the present year was dedicated by the Organisation to Greece, which would chair the next general conference during which the targets and strategies of the Organisation for the next six years would be set out.
The opening session was also addressed by development deputy minister Anastasios Nerantzis and deputy culture minister for sports, George Orfanos. Nerantzis welcomed the delegates and wished Congress every success, while Orfanos stressed that at the heart of UNESCO were the human being and volunteerism, "which aims at strengthening the role and intervention of the society of the citizens".
Orfanos also referred to the anti-doping agreement and Greece's contribution to its achievement, as well as to the operation of the International Observatory on Women, Sports and Physical agogi , which will be headquartered in Greece.
The president of the International Council of UNESCO Centres and Clubs noted the direct participation of citizens in the Organisation, stressing that "we want a UNESCO of the peoples, which will work closely with the UNESCO of the governments, aimed at spreading the message of hope throughout the entire world".
President of the Greek National Committee for UNESCO, Kaiti Tzitzikosta, stressed that the target of the Organisation's volunteers was to strengthen the common effort for a better world.
 Transfer of exhibits to new Acropolis Museum beginsThe old Acropolis Museum built almost next to the Parthenon on the summit of the Sacred Rock in Athens was permanently closed in early July after being in operation for 133 years and work has begun on preparing all its exhibits for transfer to the new Acropolis Museum designed by architect Bernard Tschumi by mid September.
Crews of expert conservators and restorers have undertaken to prepare the roughly 330 huge Parthenon exhibits for the transfer by replacing their brass parts with ones made from titanium and cleaning the surface of the statues and bas-reliefs using laser techniques.
The transfer is expected to be completed in roughly 2 months with 4 transfers daily namely, a container every 2.5 hours.
Hundreds of statues and priceless artifacts currently kept in warehouses will also be exhibited for the first time ever in the new museum.
A demonstration of the technique used to package the artifacts was made on Thursday to Culture Minister George Voulgarakis who visited the old museum of the Acropolis.
 Turkish tourist boat runs aground off Patmos, passengers all safeA Turkish tourist boat, en route from Bodrum in Turkey to the Greek island of Patmos, ran aground Thursday morning east of Patmos in high winds, but all 15 people on board were well.
The Greek authorities mobilised immediately, and a Hellenic Army helicopter, as well as Coastguard vessels and nearby boats, rushed to the assistance of the "Diana for Ever".
The tourist boat's 12 passengers, all French nationals, were safely transferred to another ship, while its 3-member crew remained on board.
 Fire on hydrofoil 'Venus' outside Aegina harbourA fire broke out in the engine room of the hydrofoil "Venus" on Thursday just outside the island of Aegina in the Saronic Gulf, with 79 passengers on board. The fire was put out by the crew with the ship's own fire-fighting equipment and it was towed into the harbour, where the passengers disembarked safely.
 Kalamata International Dance Festival opens on FridayThe 13th Kalamata International Dance Festival will take place on July 13-22, organized by the Kalamata International Dance Centre and funded by the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Kalamata.
The Kalamata International Dance Festival, held in the city of Kalamata, Peloponnese southern Greece, features ten days of performances by local and international artists, along with workshops for aspiring dancers.
Performances take place at the Kalamata Dance Centre, the Kalamata Castle Amphitheatre, the Municipal Cultural Centre and the Municipal Regional Theatre.
This year's dance festival is dedicated to Belgium.
 'Stop the War' alliance holds anti-war rally in AthensThe "Stop the War" alliance held an anti-war rally in Athens on Thursday on the occasion of the first anniversary of Israel's invasion of Lebanon and the establishment, in Cairo, of July 12 as the day of action against war. The event was held in parallel to corresponding events in Thessaloniki, Ioannina and Iraklio.
Participating in the rally in Athens were the "Genoa 2001" initiative, the Moslem Union of Greece and the Pakistani Community, while various labour unions expressed their solidarity.
The event began at Freedom Square in Athens at 19:30, where the demonstrators shouted anti-war slogans such as "Freedom for Palestine" and "Hands off Gaza and Lebanon" before marching to the the Israeli embassy where they delivered a resolution.
 Temperatures lower on FridayLower temperatures are expected throughout the country, particularly in the east, while strong northerly winds will prevail. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 22C and 31C and in Thessaloniki from 19C to 29C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe tragic deaths of three seasonal firemen in a forest fire in Rethymno (Crete), the tampering of the university entrance written exams (at one examinations centre in Thessaloniki, in the subject of English), today's Inner Cabinet meeting under prime minister Costas Karamanlis, and the plan promoted by the government for the upgrading of the Greek merchant marine were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The prosecutor opens beaches to public - Aghios Kosmas beach followed by Varkiza".
APOGEVMATINI: "Full steam ahead for merchant marine - Travellers' rights charter ready - Physician mandatory on ships - Free tickets to permanent residents of the less popular sea routes".
AVGHI: "Mt. Parnitha to be declared in state of emergency - SYN: new policy on forests and green spaces in cities".
AVRIANI: "Three unfortunate seasonal firemen were burned alive - The Fire Brigade leadership is criminally responsible".
CHORA: "Three firemen dead - Lost lives while fighting a fire in Rethymno, Crete".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Archbishop Christodoulos in the hands of his friend - Andreas Tzakis (who flew in from the US) visited him at Areteio Hospital, new course of treatment decided".
ELEFTHEROS: "Vacations and statements on early elections curbed - PM Karamanlis presents guidelines to government ministers at Inner Cabinet meeting".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Untrained in combating fires - Three heroic seasonal firemen were burned alive in a small fire on Crete - One in critical condition".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Human sacrifice to disarray - Three firemen burned alive in brush fire".
ESTIA: "Partisanship till the end - The country cannot withstand such confrontation".
ETHNOS: "Education ministry-ordered tampering - The testimony of the scandal center chairwoman".
KATHIMERINI: "Three dead in the name of sloppiness - Human losses during a routine operation raise questions".
LOGOS: "Tragedy on Crete - The political leadership in grief - Three firemen dead".
NIKI: "Tragedy in a fire - Three firemen were the victims of the state mechanism break-down".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Grief and rage over the needless loss - Tragic deaths of three firemen, one injured, in Rethymno".
TA NEA: "Tampering initiated by shocking order - The Thessaloniki grading center director testimony burns the (education) ministry - Fears for grade tampering in Athens too".
TO VIMA: "Real estate unified ownership tax announced by (Finance Minister George) Alogoskoufis".
VRADYNI: "Tragedy in fire - Three seasonal firemen burned alive in Rethymno, one in critical condition".
 Cyprus government confirms T/C side decides to cancel Papadopoulos-Talat meetingNICOSIA (CAN/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus Government Spokesman Vassilis Palmas has said that Rasit Pertev, adviser to the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, said Thursday that due to the postponement of an illegal football match between Turkish Cypriot team Centikaya and British Luton, which was due to take place Wednesday in Cyprus Turkish occupied areas, a meeting between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Talat should not take place.
Pertev announced the Turkish Cypriot side's decision for the cancellation of the meeting between Papadopoulos and Talat during a meeting held here Thursday between him, the Director of Cyprus President's Diplomatic Office Tasos Tzionis and the UNSG Special Representative to Cyprus, Michael Moller.
''We hope that Talat will make second thoughts so that the meeting will take place and the 8 July agreement will begin,'' Palmas said.
President Papadopoulos sent recently 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 senior official 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.
UN stands by the 8th July agreement
A UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) Spokesman told CNA ''we continue to stand by the 8th July agreement having warmly welcomed the agreement between Mr Papadopoulos and Talat to meet''.
''We remain ready to facilitate the process and the two sides and hope it will still be possible to hold the meeting in the near future in order to get the necessary impetus to move the overall process forward'', the spokesman noted.
 G/C and T/C identified remains buriedNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Fifteen Greek Cypriots listed as missing since the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in 1974, whose remains have been exhumed and identified recently in Cyprus, are being buried during solemn ceremonies in the government controlled areas of Cyprus.
The first burial, that of Pieris Adamou from occupied Gialousa, was held Sunday in Derynia, while Savvas Kallis Hadjipanteli also from Gialousa will be buried this Saturday. Other funerals will take place later on.
Meanwhile the remains of 13 Turkish Cypriots were buried Thursday in the occupied areas during a military ceremony.
Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus has so far notified the families of 28 persons, 15 Greek Cypriots and 13 Turkish Cypriots, listed as missing, whose remains have been exhumed recently in Cyprus.
CNA has learned that remains of approximately 270 persons have been exhumed so far and that 50-60 of these persons are Turkish Cypriots.
Remains of missing persons in Cyprus from the mid '70s (when Turkish troops invaded Cyprus) and the early 60s (when intercommunal fighting took place) have been exhumed in recent exhumations in both the southern government controlled part of Cyprus and the northern Turkish occupied areas by a team of forensic experts. Identification of remains was made possible through the DNA method.
CMP, a tripartite committee comprising representatives of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities and a UN appointed representative, is involved in a process of exhumation and identification of remains of missing persons in Cyprus. It was set up in the early 1980s and in the recent past it has stepped up its work to help resolve this humanitarian issue.
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