|Tuesday, 20 August 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-07-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 20 July 2007 Issue No: 2649
 PM and local authority unions discuss planned local government reformsPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday had successive meetings with the leadership of Greece's main local authority unions, the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) and the Union of Prefecture Authorities of Greece (ENAE), in order to discuss legislation for reforming the administrative structure of local government in the country, as well as upcoming bills outlining incentives for voluntary mergers and metropolitan cooperation between municipalities.
The meeting was also attended by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who afterwards stressed that the new framework would not be imposed on municipalities.
"We want voluntary mergers through the incentives that have been introduced and will be made more specific with the new laws," Pavlopoulos said. He clarified that the bill, which would more exactly specify incentives for mergers and metropolitan cooperation that were already foreseen under the new municipalities and communities code, would be tabled in Parliament in December this year.
Also due for completion by the end of the year was a new code for prefectures, Pavlopoulos added.
Pavlopoulos said that the prime minister's meetings with KEDKE and ENAE on Thursday were a continuation of the dialogue initiated by Karamanlis over a year ago and repeated that the government's goal was to create stronger local government that would receive more funding, in line with the changes also taking place within the European Union.
Under the plan, which has been dubbed 'Kapodistrias 2', local authorities are expected to join together and redraw their administrative boundaries - which will also increase the funds at their disposal - along the lines of the original and controversial 'Kapodistrias' plan passed by PASOK in 1998, which forced smaller municipalities and communities to merge with larger ones.
The minister clarified that reforms to the administrative structure of local government for both municipalities and prefectures would only be passed by Parliament after the next elections and that the proposals would first be run by local authorities themselves.
"It has always been the government's position, that such great reforms must be set before the judgement of the Greek people," Pavlopoulos stressed.
He explained that the bill giving incentives for mergers and metropolitan cooperation would be passed by the end of 2007, while deeper reforms to the administrative structure of local authorities would be outlined in the programme with which the government would seek to be re-elected for a second term, again following consultation with KEDKE and ENAE.
"They will be approved by the Greek people and we will then progress so that the next municipal and prefecture elections in 2010 will be held on the basis of the new institutional framework," he added.
According to ENAE President Manolis Drakos, the "countdown" for local government administrative reform had already begun and the "prime minister's commitment for more democracy in local government was a guarantee".
 PM Karamanlis confers with KEDKE on local gov't reform, financesThe meeting between Karamanlis and KEDKE's presidium preceded that with ENAE and was again attended by Pavlopoulos and deputy Interior minister Athanassios Nakos.
KEDKE president and Athens mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis told reporters after the meeting that there was identity of views with the prime minister regarding the "Kapodistrias-2" plan for the administrative reform of the country, which is being advanced by the government, adding that the deadline for voluntary mergers ('unifications' of municipalities and communities) expired in end-2008, and noting that strong incentives for such mergers were provided in a relevant draft law by the interior ministry.
Kaklamanis said that the prime minister pledged that a draft law on collaborations among metropolitan centres would be tabled in parliament by the end of the year.
One of the biggest issues for local government, he continued, was that of the withheld taxes, adding that a solution would be forthcoming by 2008 for the gradual rebate of those taxes to the municipalities.
Asked to comment on the various views seeing the light of day regarding the recent barrage of forest fires throughout the country, Kaklamanis said that "extreme statements do not express us, regardless of where they come from...We demand, from the political forces of the country, more projects and less talk".
KEDKE former president Paris Koukoulopoulos said that the discussion with Karamanlis was at "the level of understanding" but added that, without wishing to doubt the prime minister's intentions "the same dialogue took place a year and ten days ago", which, he said, indicated the lack of a clear-cut government plan regarding local government.
 Premier Karamanlis receives EU Commissioner KyprianouPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis received on Thursday European Union Health Commissioner Marcos Kyprianou. No statements were made after the meeting.
 Stylianidis to accompany PM on trip to SarajevoDeputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis will accompany Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on a visit to Sarajevo, where the Greek premier will inaugurate the Greece - Bosnia Herzegovina Friendship Building with his Bosnian counterpart on Monday, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Thursday.
It is the first big project completed using funds from the Greek Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans.
The budget for the project was 16.8 million euros, of which 13.5 million euros (80 percent) were contributed by Greece.
The building is in the centre of Sarajevo and will be used to house government services.
During the visit, Stylianidis will sign an agreement for economic and technological cooperation and one for the avoidance of double taxation.
The spokesman said that the visit will coincide with the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council that will take place in Brussels on Monday, where Greece will be represented by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis.
 Foreign ministry comments on EU joint position on FYROMThe joint position of the 27 European Union member-states regarding the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was "a text of special importance" that incorporated Athens' positions, Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Thursday. The joint position will be officially presented next Tuesday, during the 4th meeting of the EU-FYROM Stabilisation and Association Council that will take place in Brussels.
"It is a text of special importance because it has been adopted by the 27 governments," Koumoutsakos said, adding that it represented the position of the EU and that such texts were "fundamental reference points" for relations between candidate countries and the EU.
Referring to individual points in the text, he pointed to a request to FYROM to implement the priorities outlined in the European joint position, among which is an obligation that Greece's neighbour step up efforts to achieve a solution to the issue of the name.
The spokesman pointed out that this was the first time that there was a reference in such an EU text encouraging FYROM to maintain good neighbourly relations and continual commitments for cooperation with all its neighbours and to avoid actions that might have a deleterious effect on such good neighbourly relations.
Koumoutsakos also noted an appeal in the same paragraph to FYROM's government to renew efforts with a positive approach for finding a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the name under the auspices of the United Nations, contribution to regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.
Asked whether the joint position "counterbalances" the previous resolution of the European Parliament on FYROM, the foreign ministry spokesman underlined that the two texts were completely different, since the EuroParliament resolution was a text that was not legal or binding while the EU joint position was adopted at Council level, which was an EU decision-making organ.
 FM to meet with new Cypriot counterpart next weekForeign minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet with her new Cypriot counterpart, Erato Markoulli, at noon on Wednesday, ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos announced on Thursday.
Koumoutsakis said that this would be a getting-acquainted meeting, in the framework of Markoulli's working visit to Athens, and would give the two foreign ministers an opportunity to review the Cyprus issue and discuss the anticipated developments, with emphasis on the course of the Cyprus problem, Koumoutsakos said.
He also said that deputy foreign minister Yannis Valinakis met Thursday with the political direction of the Cyprus foreign ministry E. Evryviades.
 FM spokesman on Ecumenical PatriarchateForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis has addressed a letter to EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn to brief him on the problems faced by the Ecumenical Patriarchate with regard to its operation and the challenging of its Ecumenical nature, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told a regular briefing on Thursday.
Referring to Greece's initiatives on the Ecumenical Patriarchate issue, Koumoutsakos said that Bakoyannis will also brief her EU counterparts during the Council of Foreign Ministers/ General Affairs meeting in Brussels on Monday.
In addition, the Greek diplomats abroad have been assigned to brief the state governments in the countries to which they are accredited, he said.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate is not just a Greek-Turkish issue but it concerns Europe and the international community as well, said Koumoutsakos, adding that Greece's initiatives are being undertaken on this basis, while reiterating that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is undoubtedly an issue of major Greek interest.
 German Chancellor Merkel due in Athens on FridayGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to arrive in Athens on Friday for talks with prime minister Costas Karamanlis on bilateral and international issues, it was announced on Thursday.
Merkel, who arrives at noon on Friday, will also meet later with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
 EU Commission activates community civil protection mechanism to help GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
The European Union Commission has activated the union's civil protection mechanism to assist Greece in fighting the extensive fires raging in the country.
The Commission's decision was taken after Greece's request for granting help in fire-fighting planes and helicopters. The mechanism was activated at 19:11 Greek time Wednesday, and according to a statement by the Commission on Thursday, France is sending to Greece 2 Canadair planes while talks are on track with relevant German authorities for the granting of one helicopter.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said that European aid to Greece has been put on track and the EU member-states' contribution through the civil protection mechanism proves yet another time that this community instrument functions effectively.
 Call for parties to support firefighters in their effortsPublic order minister Vyron Polydoras on Thursday called on all the political parties to support and rally around the firefighters who were "carrying out their duty beyond the human limits during these difficult hours of the battle to tackle the fires".
Replying to a question tabled in parliament by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Antonis Skyllakos, Polydoras opined that some of the fires were due to arson, and assured that if any legal gaps existed regarding protection of the country's forest expanses, such as anti-flooding or reforestation works, they would be shored up, adding that this was the path that should be followed with respect to all the burned expanses.
Skyllakos stressed the need for setting up a uniform forest-protection agency, spoke of "grounded suspicion of arsons", and called on the government to introduce a Constitutional regulation so that "no one, based on papers dating back to the Ottoman rule, can make a forest his own".
Polydoras placed particular emphasis on the struggle being waged by the firefighters, expressing the gratitude of both the prime minister and himself, and stressed that the government has gone ahead with the best possible solution for their problems, adding that the issue of overtime and that of night-time work were also being resolved.
"It is the State's intention, and decision, to consolidate both legislatively and institutionally, equality before the state and the law regarding the injury or death of a firefighter," Polydoras said.
He said he had instructed the ministry's services to examine administrative and legislative Acts so as to ensure equality before the state and the law for such victims or their families, particularly with respect to welfare and work.
Regarding the causes of the fires, Polydoras attributed them both to the extreme climatic conditions and to arson.
"The climatic phenomena are a challenge for everyone. Would that we could, with legislative arrangements, neutralise the land grabbers. Naturally, there are also arsons," he said, citing as an example the forest fire in Nafpaktos, "where the temperature, at 3:00 a.m., was below 30 degrees C, whereas in Parnitha it reached 47 C".
Commenting on the proposal for establishing a single forest-protection agency, Polydoras said that this was open for discussion, adding that for the time being there existed the Coordinating agency.
 PASOK leader makes statement on firesMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thursday attributed responsibilities to the government for the fires raging in the country.
"Today, the environmental destruction in our country is again tremendous. Huge expanses all over Greece are burning. The heroism of firemen and the contribution of volunteers are really great, but are not enough. The government has enormous responsibilities. It is greatly responsible for the dissolution of state services, of services charged to handle fires, through partisanship and lack of planning," he said in a statement issued by the party's presse office.
"What is important today is for the government to understand that we are still in mid-summer still having in front of us important threats. That it (the government) must set up the necessary forces, it must coordinate the necessary services and it must, at long last, handle present phenomena and possible future threats, until the end of summer, with a plan and determination," the main opposition leader concluded.
 PASOK spokesman on incidents in central AthensMain opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) spokesman Petros Efthymiou on Thursday referred to incidents that occurred in central Athens ealrier in the day.
"The hooded individuals acted unhindered in the centre of Athens at 10:30 a.m., with an attack in banks and public and private property. There's a repetitive phenomenon of their impunity. For some time now, there is political and police inertia. The government, through its options, is intensifying the feeling of the citizen's insecurity in the city and the countryside and has established this phenomenon with the known negative images in the heart of Athens and responsibilities must be assumed," Efthymiou said.
The PASOK spokesman also referred to statements made by Deputy Employment and Social Protection Minister Gerassimos Yiakoumatos.
"We call on (Prime Minister Costas) Mr. Karamanlis to hear the statements made by Mr. Yiakoumatos yesterday and openly take a stand whether he adopts or condemns this political position. We ask of him to adopte a position, to condemn and suspend Mr. Yiakoumatos, otherwise the prime minister himself is morally and politically exposed," the PASOK spokesman added.
"We categoreically declare that PASOK will not enter Parliament as long as Yiakoumatos is there. On Employment Ministry issues, his position should be taken by (Employment Minister Vassilis) Mr. Magginas, because PASOK will not be there to legalise insults, slander, mud-slinging and division," Efthymiou concluded.
 Gov't spokesman responds to PASOK leader's statements on firesMinister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Thursday evening responded to statements made earlier in the day by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandrou about the forest fires in the country.
"At a time when fire-fighters, soldiers, local government people, volunteers, under particularly adverse conditions, even placing their lives in danger, are giving a tough battle at the front of the forest fires, Mr. Papandreou systematically attempts to rekindle tension and division. We deliver him to the judgment of the citizens," Roussopoulos said.
 PASOK leader speaks at Symi SymposiumMain opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou on Thursday addressed the opening sessions of the joint meeting of the members of the Symi Sympo-sium and representatives of non government environmental organisations.
"The environment is an issue of top priority in PASOK's programme but also in Socialist International (SI)," he said.
"The environment is incorporated by PASOK in an integrated plan which has as one of its aims for Greece to become an international centre for the production of products and services linked with the green economy," Papandreou added.
He reiterated that "as government, PASOK will set up a separate Environment Ministry" and committed himself by saying that 10% of energy production by 2012 will come by renewable sources of energy.
He spoke of the gradual detachment of electricity production dependency by lignite, at the same time with the strengthening of ecological industry, which will offer many jobs. A national council for integrated environmental handling will also be set up, he said.
 KKE SG on Parnitha fireCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary Aleka Papariga on Thursday termed as "consciously inadequate" the measures announced the previous day by Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias regarding the reforestation of Partnitha which fell victim of a massive fire earlier this month.
"The measures announced by Mr. Souflias do not concern the whole of Attica, but a small part of Parnitha and are restricted to reforestation, while they leave untouched the issue of the ownership of forest expanses," which, as she said, should belong to the public and not to companies or the church.
 Education Minister Yiannakou in CyprusNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A.Viketos-CNA)
Cyprus and Greece should change the negative situation created by the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island, Marietta Yiannakou, Greek Minister of National Education and Religious Affairs said on Thursday.
Yiannakou will represent the Greek government at events marking 33 years since the Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of Cyprus' northern third.
''The invasion has had negative repercussions, in spite of the fact that Cyprus is today a member of the EU. We want to change these results, both governments are working together in collaboration,'' she said.
Yiannakou said that she has ''a lot to discuss'' with her Cypriot counterpart Minister of Education and Culture Akis Kleanthous.
''We live in an era of constant changes, affected by knowledge, technology and globalisation,'' she said, adding that ''our interest lies in cooperation.''
Welcoming Yiannakou, Kleanthous said that the concerns and challenges of contemporary times in Cyprus' and Greece's educational systems are common.
He expressed hope that he will have a good cooperation with Giannakou and that ''we will be able to draft a plan of action for the two ministries for the coming years to maximize the results.''
The Greek minister was received later in the day by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos.
 Greece offers donation for water supply studyWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/ L. Papantoniou)
At a brief ceremony held at the offices of the World Bank in the presence of senior officials, Greek Ambassador to the U.S. Alexandros Mallias presented to the Bank's vice-president for the Middle East and Norhern Africa a contribution by Greece of one million dollars for the study and environmenatl utilisation of water supply from the Red to the Dead Sea.
Greece constitutes one of the five donor countries, along with France, Japan, Holland and the U.S. who have expressed their active support to the specific study, a characteristic fact of Greece's interest to the callenges faced by the Middle East and to the strengthening of the region's stability.
 SAE president on 33rd anniversary of Turkish invasion of CyprusWorld Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Stefanos Tamvakis on Thursday issued a message on the occasion of the 33rd anniversary of the Turkish invasion in Cyprus.
He noted that Hellenism participates with all the force it possesses at the side if Cypriot people.
"We steadfastly believe that we have a sacred obligation not only to continue the struggle but also to intensify our efforts in all directions for our vision to become feasible and for the whole of Hellenism to celebrate together in the free, united Cyprus," Tamvakis said.
Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974.
 US Embassy consular section to remain closed on WednesdayThe US Embassy's Consular Section in Athens will remain closed to the public on Wednesday, July 25, for internal reasons. This includes the non-immigrant visa section, immigrant visa section, pension section, US passports and naturalisation services, and services for US citizens section. and US passports section
In the event of an emergency on that day, please call 210-7212951 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and 210-7202490/1 after 5:00 p.m.
 Greece, Turkey sign electricity power exchange protocolGreece and Turkey on Thursday signed a protocol of exchanging electricity power. The protocol was signed in Ankara between Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Turkey's Energy and Natural Resources Minister Mehmet Hilmi Guler.
The protocol, to be put immediately into effect, marks the first step towards closer bilateral cooperation in electricity. The two countries aim to complete all interconnection projects of their electricity grids by January 2008 (using the Philippi-Babaeski 400 KV line).
During the meeting, the two ministers also discussed bilateral energy issues, focusing on the Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline and preparations of a tri-party agreement to complete a Turkey-Greece-Italy natural gas pipeline).
After the meeting, the Turkish minister said "works have been completed over the exchange of electricity with Greece, all preparations have been made and we are here today to announce our cooperation. The line expands in 268 km carrying electricity power of 137 KV to Greece by the end of July or early August. Our relations with Greece are very good with new projects constantly emerging. We will be able to receive electricity power from Greece as well".
The Turkish minister added that this kind of cooperation will offer more results and wished that the agreement would become a model for other countries in the region.
The Greek minister noted that the protocol was "another significant energy agreement between the two countries and a significant step towards strengthening bilateral relations".
Commenting on a Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline project, the Greek minister said "it is a pipeline of friendship, cooperation and development between the two countries and their people, but also the first base to continue with a Greek-Italian pipeline. Turkey and Greece are emerging as energy hubs between East and West. I hope we will be able to complete talks over the next few days to signing a tri-party agreement between Italy-Greece and Turkey, laying the foundations for a South European natural gas corridor".
 Sioufas inaugurates waste-fuelled power plant at Attica landfillDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Thursday inaugurated a new power plant that uses waste byproducts to produce electricity and thermal energy at the Ano Liossia landfill.
At the inauguration ceremony, Soufias said the unit would act doubly to help protect the environment, since it would promote ecological waste management in addition to producing energy in an environmentally friendly way.
He congratulated the bodies involved in the project, such as the Unified Association of Municipalities and Communities of Attica Prefectures and the company Ilektor SA. The project includes an expanded network for collecting biogas produced at the landfill and the construction of a new plant for producing both electricity and thermal energy that is linked to this network.
The total budget for the project, which has been inducted into the Operational Programme for Competitiveness, is more than 15.5 million euros and the state's share is 6.25 million euros.
The power plant has a capacity of 9.7MW and consists of four biogas generator sets, while total electricity production at the plant is expected to reach 72,000 MWh a year, which means that the atmosphere will be relieved of a CO2 burden amounting to 61,200 tonnes a year.
The electricity generated will be sold the Hellenic Transmission System Operator (HTSO) S.A. and the heat given off during the process will be used to heat water used by a leachate processing unit run at the landfill by the Unified Association of Municipalities and Communities of the Attica Prefecture.
The heat energy produced will be the equivalent of 2,500 tonnes of diesel oil and represents a saving of 1.75 million euros a year.
The plant began pilot operation last October and went into commercial operation last June.
 Investments in the Greek industrial sector up 3.7 pct in 2006, reportInvestments in the Greek industrial sector grew by 3.7 percent last year, significantly lower compared with an 8.3 percent initial forecast for the year, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.
An IOBE report noted, however, that despite the lower investment figures, investment activity was steadily growing in the country reversing a declining trend that prevailed since 2002. The report stressed that investment climate showed differences between the private and public sector, with investments in the private sector down 1.6 percent in 2006 (in contrast with a forecast for an 11 percent increase for the year), while investments in the public sector grew by 29.1 percent -reflecting a large investment project by an oil company.
The oil refinery sector positively affected the investment climate in the industrial sector, along with the clothing-footwear sector where investment forecasts called for an 80 percent increase, up from a 45 percent previous forecast. The non-metal minerals sector showed a 9.9 percent growth forecast, while the Chemicals and Food/Beverage sectors showed negative prospects. The Textiles sector's investment prospects were also largely negative (-38.5 percent).
 Greek govt presents draft bill to combat tax evasionTax evasion is the most anti-social behaviour, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, presenting a draft law on combatting tax evasion in the country, the Greek minister said the new draft legislation will be tabled to Parliament next week. "Combatting tax evasion was one of the top priorities of the government," Alogoskoufis said adding that it remained a top priority. He noted that the plan was based on: changing people's minds over tax evasion, more effective tax inspections and offering incentives to taxpayers.
The Greek minister said the draft law included 18 articles over the set up and operation of a National Council against tax evasion, incentives on the voluntary compliance of taxpayers, favourable terms for new enterprises, closer cooperation between taxpayers and tax agencies and offering of generous discounts on income tax.
Alogoskoufis said the government has introduced several new legislation aimed to combat tax evasion in the country, such upgrading a Taxis information system, modernizing a customs code, introducing VAT on new buildings, cross-inspections, etc.
 PASOK's V. Papandreou on bill against tax evasionMain opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy Vasso Papandreou on Thursday referred to the bill for combating tax evasion.
"The government, after 3.5 years reveals the necessity for combating tax evasion, so as to find, supposedly, funds for social purposes. (Economy and Finance Minister George) Mr. Alogoskoufis is mocking the tax payers and underestimates the intelligence of the citizens. The new government created a more unjust social taxation system, proceeded to an unprecedented redistribution of income by the many to the few, reinforced non-transparency and promoted tax evasion," Vasso Papandreou, who is the head of the Economy and Finance Department of PASOK's Political Council, said.
On his part, Panagiotis Lafazanis, member of the Political Bureau of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) said that "tax evasion cannot be dealt with in a spaspodic way, with communication tricks and an unjust taxation system."
 Greek tourism revenues total 8.6 bln euros in 2005, EurostatGreek tourism's net revenues totalled 8.591 billion euros in 2005, Eurostat announced on Thursday.
In its annual report for tourism revenues in the European Union, the EU executive's statistical agency said revenues 11.037 billion euros in 2005 for Greece, while spending totalled 2.446 billion euros over the same year.
Net tourism revenues totalled 26.37 billion euros in Spain; 10.44 billion euros in Italy and 8.91 billion euros in France. Greek tourism revenues in 2005 accounted for 40 percent of total exports in services, while in Spain and Portugal accounted for more than 50 percent, and in Luxembourg and Ireland less than 10 percent over the same year.
In a related development, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) on Thursday said tourist arrivals rose by 6.0 percent in the first six months of 2007.
SETE president Stavros Andreadis, commenting on the figures, said they offered proof that the tourism industry in Greece would post an increase for the third consecutive year, although he noted that tourist arrivals were not evenly distributed among the country's regions.
Andreadis said this year's rise was particularly welcome, as the country's major competitors were reporting double-digit increases in arrival in the January-June period
 Inter-Balkan Forum of Banking Associations to be held on HydraThe two-day 8th Inter-Balkan Forum of Banking Associations, IFBA, will take place on the island of Hydra on September 15, chaired by Hellenic Bank Association (HBA) Secretary General Christos Gortsos.
The Forum was founded in 2004 at the initiative of HBA to encourage information exchange among banking associations in SE Europe, promote cooperation on issues of financial interest, and support training on banking issues.
Among the Forum's initiatives is the publication of an English-language comparative presentation of the banking systems of all participating countries, while the Forum's website is currently under construction.
 Greek stocks end 0.62 pct higher on ThursdayGreek stocks ended higher on Thursday pushing the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange above the 5,100 level again. The index ended 0.62 pct up at 5,118.51 points, while turnover was a strong 530.669 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 0.58 percent, the Mid Cap index was 1.16 percent higher and the Small Cap index jumped 1.11 pct.
Boradly, advancers led decliners by 190 to 79 with another 34 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.61%
Personal & Household: +0.68%
Raw Materials: +0.47%
Travel & Leisure: +0.74%
Food & Beverages: +0.12%
Financial Services: +1.86%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Vivartia, Marfin Investment Group and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 25.12
Public Power Corp (PPC): 23.40
HBC Coca Cola: 34.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.76
Emporiki Bank: 21.26
National Bank of Greece: 45.70
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 27.00
Titan Cement Company: 41.90
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover an improved 158.424 million euros.
The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.13 percent while the July contract on the FTSE 40 index at a premium of 0.42 percent.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 7,751 contracts worth 105.309 million euros, with 41,729 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 1,101 contracts worth 37.593 million euros, with 1,748 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,795 contracts worth 15.521 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Intracom's contracts (4,417), followed by OTE (110), PPC (307), OPAP (489), National Bank (361), Alpha Bank (595), Titan
(300), Marfin Popular Bank (310), Viohalco (506), Intralot (318) and Postal Bank (499).
 Greek bond market closingTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.89 billion euros on Thursday, of which 1.495 billion were buy orders and the remaiing 1.395 billion euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was again the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 840 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was unchanged at 0.22 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.83 percent and the German Bund 4.61 percent.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.08 pct, the two-day rate 4.08 pct, the one-month rate 4.10 percent and the 12-month rate 4.58 percent.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.393
Pound sterling 0.679
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 9.249
Japanese yen 170.01
Swiss franc 1.671
Norwegian kroner 7.966
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.453
Australian dollar 1.584
 Fire raging out of control in Corinth, farmhouses burntA fire that has been began three days near Ancient Corinth was still raging out of control on Thursday and had laid waste to hundreds of hectares of forest and farmland. A state of emergency was declared in three municipalities in the area, while farmhouses around the villages of Mampsos and Hiliomodi have caught fire.
A strong fire-fighting force was unleashed against the fire, with reinforcements arriving from as far away as Thessaly, and was trying to put out the blaze from the air and on the ground.
Authorities have also evacuated a summer camp for children and houses near Hiliomodi as a precaution.
The fire brigade's top priority is to protect inhabited areas, while the head of the Peloponnese Regional Authority Angela Avouri has been in the area since Thursday morning to coordinate the fire-fighting effort, cancelling other meetings and engagements.
The fire in Corinth is being treated as the most serious by the fire brigade, which has ranged the strongest force against it, while a fire in Mani in the extreme southwest of Greece continues to burn for the second day and has now reached an area of forest on the peak of a mountain, which fire-fighting aircraft are trying to put out.
Also still blazing is a fire in Koroni, which has also spread alarmingly but is not threatening any inhabited regions at this time.
 Special funding for Corinth prefecture announcedInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos issued an order on Thursday for the allocation of 400,000 euros as a special financial support to the Corinth prefecture for the handling of urgent needs due to persisting fires in the region.
Also on Thursday, by decision of Civil Protection secretary general Panayiotis Fourlas, the prefecture of Corinth was declared in a state of emergency.
 Huge fire in woodstuff warehouse in PeristeriA huge fire that broke out at dawn Thursday in a storage house full of wooden planks and materials was partially contained four hours later, firefighters said at 9:30 a.m.
The fire, which broke out at 5:40 a.m., caused panic in the area, given that it is located only a short distance from residential buildings.
A strong force of 50 firefighters with 17 fire engines quickly surrounded the blazing building and prevented it from spreading to other buildings, but firefighting efforts were being hampered by the flammable material stored in the warehouse.
The warehouse has been completely destroyed, while the wooden boards inside were still ablaze.
 Several forest fires blazing throughout the countryTwo forest fires were blazing in Corinth prefecture Thursday morning, ravaging forested expanses in Mampsos and Spathovouni. The two fires broke out Wednesday night, shortly after another large blaze in nearby Acrocorinth, approximately 1.5 kilometres away, was partially contained by firefighters.
A strong force of 140 firefighters with 40 fire engines and a 60-strong team on foot, were battling the two blazes, assisted by 7 firefighting planes and two helicopters.
Also burning on Thursday morning was a fire that broke out at 2:45 a.m. in Paleopanagia, Nafpaktos, in an expanse of forest and brush, which endangered homes in the Ano Platanitis village.
A force of 70 firefighters with 23 fire engines and a 10-strong team on foot were battling the blaze, aided by two helicopters.
Further, a fire that broke out Tuesday at Aghios Nikonas in Mani was still blazing on Thursday, burning an expanse of olive trees and shrubs. A force of 30 firefighters with 10 fire engines and a 7-strong team on foot were battling the fire, assisted by a helicopter.
Finally, three fires were also burning on the island of Cephalonia. One of the fires, at Karavades, has been blazing since Tuesday, while late Wednesday night two new fires broke out almost simultaniously at Razakli and Poros.
Meanwhile, the fire at Laganas on Zakynthos island and two fires in Achaia prefecture, in Kallithea and Ano Kallithea, were reported as receding on Thursday morning.
 4.3R earthquake jolts GrevenaAn earthquake measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale jolted Grevena prefecture on Thursday morning.
The quake was recorded at 7:25 a.m., with its epicentre 20 kilometres northwest of Grevena between the prefectures of Grevena and Kozani.
 Thessaloniki prefect hosts reception for foreign teachers of Modern GreekThessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis hosted a reception at the prefectural mansion gardens on Wednesday evening in honor of 30 Greek language teachers from Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and the Czech Republic.
The prefect's guests, who teach the Greek language in Black Sea and eastern European countries, are attending a training seminar at Thessaloniki's Aristotle University Modern Greek Language School.
 Ethnic Festival opens in KavalaThe "Cosmopolis" 7th Ethnic Festival organized by the municipality of Kavala, northeastern Greece, opened on Wednesday at the Old City of Kavala and the Panagia Peninsula, with the participation of folklore music and dance groups from Greece, Armenia, Israel, China, New Zealand, Senegal, Slovakia and Chile.
Each participating country will have its own pavilion to display handmade articles, souvenirs and photographic material while folklore dance and music groups will present traditional dances and local customs. The festival visitors will also have the opportunity to taste local cuisines.
 Two bank branches, ATMs vandalisedA group of some 15 hooded vandals damaged two Emporiki Bank ATM machines on central Panepistimou street in downtown Athens, near Omonia Square, on Thursday morning.
The vandals broke the screens of the bank's two ATMs, using wooden sticks and crowbards, and also broke the glass panes of the inside entrance of the bank.
As they fled the scene, the vandals threw leaflets containing slogans in support of Yannis Dimitrakis, a self-styled anarchish who was convicted on Wednesday by an Athens court and sentenced to 25 years in prison for a botched bank robbery and a shootout with police in the centre of Athens.
Immediately afterwards, the vandals went to a Eurobank branch on a nearby pedestrian walk and caused damage there as well, before fleeing towards Kaniggos Square when they sighted police heading towards the scene, abandoning their hoods and sticks as they fled.
An Athens appeals court on Tuesday handed down a concurrent 25-year prison sentence against a high-profile defendant apprehended during a botched bank robbery in downtown Athens in January 2006, as the man is reputably part of a self-styled anarchist cell blamed for a string other armed robberies.
Yannis Dimitrakis was convicted for the National Bank robbery that took place on the day he was apprehended following a midday shoot-out with police through the streets of Athens. He was also found guilty of two counts of attempted manslaughter, participation in a criminal gang and illegal possession and use of a firearm, among others.
 Hot on FridayHot weather and moderate notherly, northeasterly winds are forecast throughout the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 5-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 21C and 40C. Sunny weather in Athens, with winds reaching 4-5 beaufort and temperatures ranging from 24C to 38C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 22C to 39C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe current wildfires, statements by Deputy Employment Minister Gerasimos Yakoumatos, the measures for Mt. Parnitha which was recently devastated by a forest fire that were announced by the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister, and the increase in objective real estate values were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "New objective real estate values in 90 regions nationwide - Taxation on transferred real estate property".
APOGEVMATINI: "Green transplant operation in Athens - Two-hundred stremma Cultural Park in the Old Racetrack to house the National Library and Opera House".
AVGHI: "Parnitha: Protection measures after the disaster - Major fires continued in many areas on Wednesday".
AVRIANI: "Cynical confession of guilt by (Hellenic Authority for Information and Communication Security and Privacy) ADAE president".
CHORA: "The regions with decreasing real estate value - The new finance ministry decision".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Everything is being destroyed by fire and nobody cares about it - Greece mourns for its children, its forests are being burned down, private properties are threatened".
ELEFTHEROS: "Burning truth - (Deputy Employment Minister Gerasimos) Yakoumatos sees political destabilization plan".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Penteli SA - Holy War of real estate property claims targeting burned land and the most sought after Penteli Monastery real estate - Twenty four building cooperatives own building plots overlooking the forest".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Prevention measures did not pay off - Record-breaking wildfires and inefficiency".
ESTIA: "Jobs are lost - Need to change labour legislation".
ETHNOS: "Wildfire-linked mud-slinging".
KATHIMERINI: "Impunity for arsonists and corrupt mayors - The Parnitha disaster toll: 56,000 stremma of forestland burned down".
LOGOS: "Stricter building conditions - The National Park to be extended to three-times its original size - The Parnitha protection plan".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Open invitation to the (labour grouping) PAME demonstrations against the incendiary ND-PASOK policy - Forest-killing legislation burns down forests".
TA NEA: "Yakoumatos, an arsonist with a plan - Unprecedented political mud-slinging".
TO VIMA: "1,452 wildfires in 17 days - What is happening? - Devastation in Corinth and Achaia".
VRADYNI: "Objective values: New prices in 90 regions - Thousands of real estate property owners in Attiki and the regions benefit from the rising real estate values".
 Palmas: UNSG urged Talat to accept meeting with PapadopoulosNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to accept an invitation from Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos for a meeting, in their capacity as leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, Government Spokesman Vassilis Palmas said on Thursday.
Ban Ki-moon, Palmas said, has urged Talat to contribute to the creation of those preconditions that would help open new crossing points to and from the Turkish occupied areas of the country.
Answering questions during his daily briefing, Palmas said that the government is aware of the fact that UNSG and Talat had a telephone conversation last week.
"We are not in a position to know the exact contents of the telephone conversation. We do know that the UN SG has called on Mehmet Ali Talat to accept President Papadopoulos' invitation for a meeting and of course to make every effort to create those circumstances and preconditions that would lead to the opening of crossing points, to and from the occupied areas," he added.
He also said that he is not in a position to know Talat's reaction, adding that so far no date for a meeting between the two leaders has been set, "nor has there been any contact with the other side".
Asked whether President Papadopoulos has already contacted UN Secretary General, Palmas said that the two have communicated through correspondence.
''President Papadopoulos has sent him a letter congratulating him on his appointment. In that letter he expressed some of our positions", he concluded.
Cyprus, an EU member state since May 2004, has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
Papadopoulos and Talat agreed in July last year 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.
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