|Monday, 27 May 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-07-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 26 July 2007 Issue No: 2654
 PM confers with development minister on underwater natural gas pipelineThe signing of an interstate agreement for the construction and operation of a Greece-Italy natural gas pipeline during development minister Dimitris Sioufas' upcoming visit to Italy was discussed on Wednesday in a meeting between prime minister Costas Karamanlis and Sioufas.
Sioufas told reporters after the meeting that he briefed the premier, ahead of the minister's trip to Italy where, together with his Italian counterpart, he will sign the interstate agreement for the construction and operation of the undersea pipeline.
"This will be the completion of the bilateral agreements between Greece and Italy and Greece and Turkey for the transmission of natural gas from the Caspian and the Middle East, via Greece and Italy, to the markets of Europe," Sioufas said, noting the strategic importance of the project, which would render Greece a strategic energy transmission hub from the East to Europe.
The pipeline, officially called the "Interconnector Greece-Italy (IGI) comprises a supplement to the Interconnector Greece-Turkey (IGT) natural gas pipeline -- which is currently under construction. The land-based section of the IGI will have a length of 590 kilometres stretching from Komotini to Thesprotia, while the underwater section, running from Thesprotia to the Italian port city of Otranto, will stretch over 217 kilometres in length. The overland section is budgeted at more than 600 million euro while the undersea section is budgeted at more than 300 million euro, with the total investment to exceed one billion euro, part of which will be funded under the EU's 4th Commnity Support Framework (CSF). The relevant Protocol of Intents was signed in Athens by Sioufas and Italian minister of productive activities Pierluigi Bersani in early 2007. Construction of the IGI is due to begin in June 2008, with completion slated for 2011, and an annual natural gas transmission capacity of 8-8.8 billion cubic metres.
Sioufas further briefed the prime minister on a memorandum of cooperation with Italy on small and medium size enterprises (SMEs).
"The two agreements, and chiefly the first agreement, are proof of the aggressive multi-lateral and extrovert energy policy our country is following," Sioufas said.
Asked to comment on the recent power blackouts, Sioufas attributed them to the collapse of the electricity system in Montenegro, Kosovo and FYROM, which he said had also affected Greece. He added, however, that the automatic mechanisms Greece has "protected our system". He explained that three Public Power Corporation (PPC) electricity units that had been out of operation had been restored as of Tuesday night, and appealed to citizens to refrain from using power-guzzling electrical appliances during the peak hours (11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.), noting that "we asked for understanding on the part of the citizens...Only with their cooperation can we face the unprecedented, for decades, extreme weather conditions in our country".
 President briefed on energy issuesDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Wednesday visited President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias and briefed him on the ministry's work, particularly for the energy sector.
In statements after the meeting, Sioufas said that he informed the president about the signature in Rome on Thursday of a trilateral agreement between Italy, Greece and Turkey for a southern European natural gas corridor that will transport natural gas from the region of the Caspian Sea and the Middle East via Turkey and Greece to Italy. From there, the natural gas will be transported to all European markets.
According to the minister, this was yet another very important agreement that laid the foundations for carrying out the work of linking the pipelines of Greece and Italy, continuing the project that is to be completed in the next few weeks for linking the natural gas pipelines between Greece and Turkey, which is to be inaugurated by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in August.
The briefing of the President also covered other international projects linked to international agreements signed by Greece, such as the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, or the southern natgas corridor that will transport natural gas from Russia via the Black Sea to Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and from there to Europe.
The minister stressed that all these agreements were important, as was the linking of the Greek and Turkish power grids.
The Greece-Italy natural gas pipeline, officially called the "Interconnector Greece-Italy (IGI) comprises a supplement to the Interconnector Greece-Turkey (IGT) natural gas pipeline -- which is currently under construction.
The land-based section of the IGI will have a length of 590 kilometres stretching from Komotini to Thesprotia, while the underwater section, running from Thesprotia to the Italian port city of Otranto, will stretch over 217 kilometres in length. The overland section is budgeted at more than 600 million euro while the undersea section is budgeted at more than 300 million euro, with the total investment to exceed one billion euro, part of which will be funded under the EU's 4th Commnity Support Framework (CSF).
The relevant Protocol of Intents was signed in Athens by Sioufas and Italian minister of productive activities Pierluigi Bersani in early 2007. Construction of the IGI is due to begin in June 2008, with completion slated for 2011, and an annual natural gas transmission capacity of 8-8.8 billion cubic metres.
 PM Karamanlis inaugurates Praxiteles exhibitionPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis inaugurated on Wednesday evening an exhibition of works by famous ancient Athenian sculptor Praxiteles, at the Athens Archeological Museum.
The exhibition, which showcases 75 works by the 4th century BC sculptor, was previously held at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Karamanlis said in a breaf speech that culture "is the unbreakable link between the past and the present and future, and is the only compass which society disposes in its effort to shape its course in history."
Referring to the exhibition, the prime minister said that it "has a particular importance for all those who consider the Hellenic classical civilisation as a fundamental component of their identity."
"Modern Greece," Karamanlis added, " as a natural guardian of the vast legacy of the Hellenic civilisation, understands the duty of protecting, conserving and projecting the cultural monuments as a duty towards humanity. In parallel, in a time when world society is seeking new solid balances, the Hellenic ecumenical idea of humanism can and must be put at the forefront of a common concern. And this is so because the answer to the great challenges of our times of war, poverty, deseases, terrorism and ecological crisis, mainly passes through acknowledging the dignity of the human being as a measure of every political action."
On his part, Culture Minister George Voulgarakis said that the exhibition was a suite of the one organised last March at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
 PM briefed by education minister on pending draft lawsEducation minister Marietta Yannakou on Wednesday briefed prime minister Costas Karamanlis on matters concerning Higher Education, during a meeting at the government headquarters at Maximos Mansion.
Yannakou told reporters after the meeting that the briefing chiefly focused on two new bills being prepared by her ministry, with which the reforms in the Education sector would be completed.
The two draft laws concern the sectors of research and post-graduate studies, respectively.
She said the first draft law would enable her ministry and the country's universities to assume more authorities in the research sector, adding that it would be tabled in parliament jointly with development minister Dimitris Sioufas.
She also said that the second draft law, on post-graduate studies, has already been forwarded to the National Council on Education, the rectors of the universities throughout the country and the universities for appraisal and comment. After this procedure was completed, the finalised draft would be tabled in parliament.
Yannakou said the two bills would complete a reforms process in the education sector that commenced with the recognition of foreign degrees, and the introduction of life-long learning, evaluation of the universities, and the new institutional framework on higher education.
 Bakoyannis meets new Cyprus counterpart in AthensForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday met her new Cyprus counterpart Erato Kozakou-Markoullis, who is in Athens for her first trip abroad since becoming Cyprus' foreign minister. Markoullis was also received by President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias.
During the meeting, the two women confirmed the strong ties between Greece and the Cyprus Republic and carried out an overview of pending issues that concern both countries.
In statements afterwards, Bakoyannis said they had reviewed the situation arising after the results of the recent general elections in Turkey.
Expanding on this, she said it was positive to begin with that a "stable government with a large democratic legitimisation" had emerged from the polls, while adding that this initial impression was borne up by the first statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had underlined Turkey's desire to remain steadfastly oriented toward joining Europe and carrying out the reforms that this required.
At the same time, she underlined that Greece would require "tangible examples and actions" on Ankara's part that confirmed this.
This would also apply to the Cyprus issue and the implementation of the agreement of July 8, 2006 for the process laid out by UN envoy for Cyprus Ibrahim Gambari, which was currently at a standstill because of obstacles and delays put up by the Turkish-Cypriot side, she said.
"This extends to the lack of response by [Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali] Talat to a recent invitation by the Cyprus President for a meeting with the Turkish-Cypriot leader, precisely to discuss a way out of the current unproductive standstill," she added.
The Greek minister said that her talks with Markoullis had covered Turkey's European course, with emphasis on those aspects that concerned its obligations as a candidate for EU accession to normalise its relations with the Cyprus Republic, which is an EU member-state.
They also confirmed the "standing and close cooperation and the coordination of Athens and Nicosia in the common effort, whose unchanging and strategic goal is to achieve a just, viable and functional solution for the reunification of Cyprus, in which both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will be able to enjoy the benefits of their membership of the European Union without the presence of occupation forces," she added.
Markoullis said the visit had been an opportunity to exchange views and discuss issues important for Greece, Cyprus and Europe in general. She also agreed that the result of the Turkish elections was encouraging, especially the fact that Erdogan's party had the largest majority in Parliament and had increased its percentage, which she said was a very important development in Turkey and for ensuring that it continued reforms and its EU accession progress.
"What will count, however, is to what extent the prime minister of Turkey will succeed in the difficult struggle to reduce the role of the armed forces in the overall political process in Turkey," she added.
With respect to the Cyprus issue, the Cypriot foreign minister noted the intransigency so far shown by the Turkish side, in which she said a leading role was played by the Turkish government and Turkey as a whole.
She expressed hope that Erdogan's re-election will give rise to "second thoughts and a more constructive stance by the Turkish government and the Turkish Cypriot leader, so that we will at last begin the Gambari process, which is the only process now on the table and which, if carried out as it should be carried out, will lead to the preparation of a new negotiating process that we hope will lead to a just solution of the Cyprus problem, based on the decisions of the United Nations, of European and international law and on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation."
 Health Minister announces implementation of crisis management plan "Perseus"Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday referred to the emergency measures that have been taken to deal with problems arising due to the extremely high temperatures recorded over the past few days across Greece.
The crisis management plan "Perseus", designed to enable the state mechanism to handle immediately and effectively any heat wave-related emergency, has been put into effect, said
Avramopoulos. He stressed that all incidents are being dealt with successfully and thanked the healthcare personnel for their extraordinary efforts on a 24-hour basis.
Avramopoulos also announced the establishment of an Urban Healthcare Clinic serving the residents of the municipalities of Hymettus, Dafni and Ilioupolis in Athens.
The minister made the announcement during his visit to the Hymettus City Hall on Wednesday. A draft law on primary healthcare will be introduced to parliament soon, said Avramopoulos, adding that all relative initiatives are being supported, referring to the establishment of a Primary Healthcare Inter-Municipal Network formed by a total of 32 municipalities.
 Government incapable of tackling ecological crisis, Papandreou saysThe government was incapable of tackling the "national and ecological crisis" that Greece was currently undergoing, main opposition PASOK's leader George Papandreou claimed on Wednesday after his meeting with President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias.
In the meeting, which was requested by Papandreou, PASOK's leader outlined his proposal for a meeting of the leaders of the political parties in Parliament chaired by Papoulias in order to discuss the fires and destruction of Greece's forests.
Afterwards, Papandreou expressed disappointment that his proposal to jointly tackle the problem had been rejected by the government, while referring extensively to the losses to human lives, property and the natural environment brought by the fires.
Following this rejection, the government "remained alone with its responsibilities," he added.
He also accused the government of allowing state services, including the fire brigade, to be fully infiltrated by party politics and political patronage.
On his arrival to meet Papoulias, PASOK's leader congratulated the president on his reference to the environment on Tuesday, saying that his intervention had been timely, while they also discussed the funerals of the two fallen Canadair pilots that died while fighting a fire on Evia, both of which were attended by PASOK's president.
Gov't spokesman responds
Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday evening responded to statements made earlier in the day by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou about the forest fires.
"The so-called consensus turn by Mr. Papandreou lasted for only two 24 hours. Today, he returned to the familiar road of tension and polarization. At the time when fire-fighters, soldiers, people of local government authorities, active citizens and volunteers are giving a tough battle against the unprecedented number of fires throughout the country, Mr. Papandreou is confronting the tragedy as an opportunity for petty party exploitation. All these are nothing more than proof of unreliability and irresponsibility," Roussopoulos said.
 Papariga meets judiciary's union, comments on Euro-ConstitutionIn a meeting with representatives of the Union of Judges and Public Prosecutors on Wednesday, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said her party would support their just demands for improved infrastructure and work conditions.
She noted that there was a huge workload for Greece's judiciary, who had to work long hours, and that this acted at the expense of the speed and administration of justice.
Responding to a question on the European Constitutional Treaty, meanwhile, Papariga said that KKE objected to the European Commission's proposal to bring back the Constitutional Treaty that had been condemned in referendums in the guise of a "Reform Treaty", while pointing out that this decision had been made with the participation of the Greek government.
She noted that this was the same treaty with a different name and a few, limited changes and was being imposed "behind the backs" of the people and without any commitment to consult their opinion in a referendum, even where the Constitution demanded this.
Papariga ended by calling for a universal referendum on the new treaty throughout Europe, stressing that the people's verdict on this should be a resounding 'no' to a treaty that "completed the reactionary changes and militarised Europe"
 SYN leader meets with contract firefightersCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) leader Alekos Alavanos met Wednesday with the presidium of the Panhellenic Federation of Contract Firefighters.
Alavanos said that the situation regarding prevention in the sector of forest fires "is at point zero", and endorsed the presidium's demand for the establishment of a special corps of firefighters with intervention in matters of containment, reforestation and prevention, with full 12-month employment rather than the present four-month contracts with unemployment fund benefits.
He also accused the New Democracy government of 'party interventions' in the staffing of the Fire Brigade, calling it a 'shame', adding that the government "must account for all that it has done".
Alavanos further described as "unacceptable" the gear issued to the contract firefighters, citing as an example their masks, glasses and gloves, which he said "are appropriate only for gardening".
He also charged that many of the Public Power Corporation's (PPC) networks "frequently cause fires", adding that the "abandonment" of the PPC and its "handover to large private interests" were leading the PPC to collapse.
"The PPC must be supported by the state, and serve as a lever of development of our country," Alavanos said.
The Federation's president, Constantine Papantonis, thanked the SYN leader for his party's backing of the Federation's standing demand for permanent employment, and expressed hope that it would be supported also by the State "in order to ensure the country's public interest".
 G. Zorbas says press reports inaccurateThe president of the National Authority for the Combating of the Legalisation of Income from Criminal Activities, George Zorbas, on Wednesday made the following statement:
"Due to reports in the press on July 25, 2007 which refer to refusal on my part to appear before the Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee, I'm obliged to state that the published information is inaccurate. The correct is, that I was informed by Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee that I was to be called on to appear before it. Beyond this, however, there was no invitation by the Committee to me to appear at a specific session of it, to which, and for reasons of deontology, of course I will respond," Zorbas said.
 FYROM to allow Greeks entry by displaying ID cardSKOPJE (ANA-MPA - N. Fragopoulos)
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has decided to allow Greek citizens to enter the country using only their police-issued identity cards instead of a passport. This was announced in Brussels on Tuesday by FYROM's foreign minister Antonio Milososki after the EU-FYROM Association and Stability Council.
According to Milososki this was a "goodwill gesture" expressing his country's desire for good neighbourly relations with Greece.
Local media reported that the decision will go into effect within the next few days and attribute the move to a sharp drop in the number of Greeks visiting FYROM, which dropped by half in the first months of the year and dealt a severe blow to the country's tourism industry, since Greeks were previously the most numerous among those visiting the country.
Hoteliers and local merchants attribute the drop in traffic from Greece to the fact that many people have not had time to acquire the new Greek passports and instead opt to travel to nearby Bulgaria, which they can enter by simply showing their ID cards since it joined the European Union.
 Secret Turkish organisation planned Ecumenical Patriarch's assassinationISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A.Kourkoulas)
A network of retired Turkish officers was planning the assassination of Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, an inquiry by Turkish judicial authorities in the activities of a network dismantled last month, revealed.
The network was discovered following the finding of arms and explosives in Istanbul's Umraniye district.
According to information provided by investigation authorities and published in the Aksam newpaper, in the personal computer data of the President of the "Association of National Forces" Bekir Ozturk, were found data from preparations of the Patriarch's assassination.
The assassinations of Armenian Patriarch Mesrop Mutafian and businessman Isaak Alaton were also planned by the same organisation. Alaton's partner was murdered some time ago in the Istanbul district of Eyioup.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has been the target of many attacks by grenades in the past. An organisation named IBDA has assumed responsibility for the attacks.
 President presents diplomas to Diplomatic Academy graduates at foreign ministryA swearing-in for the graduates of the Diplomatic Academy was held Wednesday at the foreign ministry, attended by foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, while President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias presented the diplomas to the new diplomats.
Addressing the 21 graduates of the 16th Class of Embassy Attache candidates, Bakoyannis stressed that a diplomatic career "is not simply a profession, but a service", adding that they were now called on "to perform a very important work".
"You are in the service of Greece. You represent the country internationally. You have a responsibility, and we rely on you," she said.
Turning to the modern-day role of diplomacy, Bakoyannis said:
"The world is changing at a rapid pace. The traditional factors of power of the states are declining in importance and others, such as their economy dynamic or cultural influence, are becoming increasingly more important. The modern role of diplomacy as become more complex, extending now into many and more difficult fields, in the economic, commercial, energy, cultural, and tourism sectors, into the sector of developmental cooperation."
Regarding Greece's role in the international scene, Bakoyannis noted that "Greece today is a dynamic and active country, with national self-confidence. A reliable rapporteur in all the major international issues. An extrovert country that is gradually evolving into an economic, commerical and energy hub. A country that has evolved from a Balkan country in Europe into a European country in the Balkans".
She stressed that the foreign minisry "cannot and will not remain static" but, "on the contrary, it mus meet and respond" to the challenges of the times. "The ministry's strength is its people. The ministry's success is a direct resultant of the quality of its human potential," she said.
Turning to the ministry's and country's expectations from its dipomats, Bakoyannis said: "We expect alot from you. Integrity of character, vision, a broad and critical spirit, poise, consistency and creativity.
"A steadfast parametre in your career must be the flexible service of firm and specific goals. We are a country that is medium in size, but large in values, principles and history. We are exercising a foreign policy that is founded on the principles and respect of international law. We aspire to peace, security and growth. We invest in friendship and cooperation with all the countries of the world. I ask of you to respect these values, to enhance and enrich them and, above all, to cultivate them. You are our picture abroad. See to it that you do us honour. In 10, 20 or 30 years, keep your eagerness for work intact and your enthusiasm for contribution to the people and the country undiminished." she said.
Bakoyannis also noted the absence of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece from this year's graduation ceremony, who officiated over the blessing the previous year, and wished him a speedy recovery.
Metropolitan Hieronymos of Thebes and Livadia performed the blessing at Wednesday's ceremony, standing in for Christodoulos who was recently released from hospital and was preparing to leave for the US next month for a kidney transplant.
 Deputy FM Stylianidis receives Greek American studentsDeputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Wednesday received Greek American students from major American universities.
The deputy minister termed the students "a model for modern Greeks."
The 10 Greek American university students are visiting Greece at the invitation of the Communications General Secretariat-Information General Secretariat through the initiative of the American non-profit agency "The next Generation Initiative".
"Ecumenical Hellenism and particularly its new generation is the strongest advantage of modern Greece," said Stylianidis, who expounded on the modern role of Greece, on the part of economic diplomacy and developmental cooperation.
The students were also briefed by Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos.
 Surgeon examines Archbishop ChristodoulosSurgeon Andreas Tzakis on Wednesday made a house call on Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, the head of the Autocephalous Church of Greece, with a team of doctors for the Aretaion Hospital where the archbishop had undergone surgery.
Emerging after his examination of the Archbishop, about two hours later, Tzakis said that the Christodoulos' condition was much better than he expected but was unable to say when a planned liver transplant will be carried out.
Asked when the transplant should ideally take place, however, the surgeon answered "yesterday" - indicating that the sooner the procedure is carried out the better it will be.
The Archbishop is to depart on a trip to the United States, where the transplant is scheduled to take place, on August 17 and all sides hope that a transplant can be found soon so that the surgery can take place as soon as possible.
 2007 Social Budget tabled in parliamentEmployment and Social Protection minister Vassilis Magginas on Wednesday tabled the 2007 social budget in parliament.
Presenting the budget to parliament president Anna Psarouda-Benaki, the minister said that the new social budget's triptych of goals were increased employment, reduction of unemployment, and the reinforcement of social cohesion, while the budget expenditures presented a 10 percent increase with respect to that of the preceding year.
This year, he said, overall spending for social protection were budgeted at 47.4 billion euro against 43.3 billion in 2006, adding that "the big difference with the past is that the Actions (contained in the budget) were targetted, in order to ensure a larger social yield".
Benaki, in turn, stressed that "it is a budget of particular interest to parliament, as it is directly related with the life of the citizens and their everday problems".
 PASOK's Damanaki on gov't social budgetMain opposition PASOK employment and social security section head Maria Damanaki said on Wednesday that her party would oppose the 2007 social budget tabled in Parliament earlier in the day by Employment and Social Protection Minister Vassilis Magginas.
"The social budget, just as last year's account provided by the government, not only fails to give solutions to the most serious social problems of employment and social security but, on the contrary, makes them worse. More specifically, the state of the social security scheme has worsened dramatically and has gone out of control," Damanaki claimed.
 Development ministry bill on S.A.s voted in ParliamentA Development Ministry bill was passed in Parliament on Wednesday which incorporates the European Union directive on the shaping of the code regarding S.A. companies.
The bill was voted by ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputies, while the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) voted against it.
The leadership of the Development Ministry, taking into account the relevant reservations by deputies from all the political parties regarding the abolition of the compulsory signing of the audits of companies with capital up to 1.5 million euros, reduced the limit to one million euros.
Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou stressed that the bill constitutes a real reform in the economy sector, while he described as extremely positive that there was consensus on the part of the main opposition party.
 Government announces long-term lease of tourist facilitiesAn Interministerial Privatisations Commission on Wednesday agreed on a long-term leasing of tourist facilities around the country, an agreement of strategic importance for the tourism sector and the economy in general.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said the decisions, such as a long-term lease of a Rhodes golf course (including the upgrading and expansion of existing facilities) and a business unit at Alykes in Anavissos, were of great importance for the country's economic development.
The Commission also agreed to a long-term lease of the Xenia hotels in Vytina and Skiathos and the sale of Corfu casino. The meeting discussed a plan for the long-term lease of the Phaliro marina and other smaller projects. Alogoskoufis said all procedures were progressing very fast.
Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia said that Tourism Development Enterprise emerged as one of the most significant mechanisms of economic growth in the country, while she noted that tenders were currently underway for the lease of Xenia hotels in Tsangarada and Skiathos. Petralia said a total of 15.7 million tourists visited Greece last year, while tourism foreign exchange inflows totaled 14.5 billion euros and predicted that Greek tourism will lift off this year, with tourist arrivals projected to rise by 10 percent and tourism fx inflows by 9.0 percent.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said the decisions taken by the Commission were of strategic importance for the country's economic growth and that tourism was the country's heavy industry.
Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas said the decisions would boost employment and social cohesion while they will effectively combat unemployment.
 Merchant marine minister inspects measures at Piraeus portMerchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis on Wednesday visited the port of Piraeus so as to inspect the implementation of measures which have been taken for the smooth movement of passengers in view of the peak summer exodus.
The minister visited the medical quarters on the ship "Festos Palas" where he ascertained its excellent organisation.
In statements, the minister said the institution of a doctor on ships "will this summer serve more than 7.5 million Greek citizens and foreign passengers. It is a pioneering institution which delayed to be implemented for 20 years and is now fully implemented."
 New pedestrian bridge to be constructed in port of PiraeusMerchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyannis and Piraeus Mayor Panagiotis Fasoulas discussed the construction of a second pedestrian bridge in the Port of Piraeus, during a meeting they had on Wednesday.
The construction of the project, estimated to cost more than 3 million euros, will be undertaken by the Piraeus Port Authority SA and will serve the roughly 12 million passengers that use the biggest commercial port in the country on an annual basis.
The new pedestrian overpass will link the port of Piraeus facilities with the Watch Tower Square and is expected to upgrade the region both economically and aesthetically, contributing to its further development.
 Bank of Greece imposes penalties worth 33.5 mln euros on financial institutionsThe Bank of Greece on Wednesday announced it was imposing penalties to commercial banks and other institutions for breaching regulation over transactions transparency and money laundering.
The central bank imposed a penalty of 33.4 million euros on 20 financial institutions in the form of non-interest deposit and a penalty of 130,000 euros on six financial institutions and one money transfer company.
 Broadband access at 6.84 pct in Greece, reportBroadband penetration in Greece totaled 6.84 percent on July 1, 2007, a report by the Observatory for the Information Society said on Wednesday, confirming forecasts made early in the year, while the figure was very close a 7.0 percent target set for the period by the end of 2008.
A total of 760,698 broadband lines were operating in the country, up 156.39 percent compared with the same period last year and up 56 percent compared with the six-month period from August 2006 to January 2007. The report said an average of 45,470 new broadband connections were reported every month in the first half of 2007, or 2,000 new connections daily.
Broadband costs fell, although at a slow pace, the report said with price cuts depending on the speed of broadband connection (3.2 pct for 768 Kbps connections, 6.3 pct for 1Mbps and 16.2 pct for 2 Mbps).
The report, however, noted the frustration caused to many customers from the delay in subscription procedures and divergence between nominal and real access speed.
The Observatory presented three scenarios for the growth of broadband services in Greece: the conservative scenario calling for a growth rate of 8.6-8.8 pct, a moderate scenario calling for a growth rate of 9.2-9.6 pct and an optimistic scenario calling for a growth rate of 9.9-10.3 pct.
All three scenarios ensured that Greece was moving steadily towards convergence with the EU-25 in broadband services growth.
 Tellas gets 9.5-mln-euro subsidy on broadband infrastructure projectGreek Economy and Finance Minister on Wednesday approved a 9.5-mln-euro subsidy to Tellas to finance a broadband infrastructure and services project as part of a new Development law in the country.
A Tellas statement said the subsidy will boost its broadband services in the prefects of Attica and Thessaloniki and noted that it has submitted a plan -budgeted at 38.5 million euros- for broadband investments as part of the Development legislation.
The company said the investment will be completed in the next two years.
 Intracom says Teledome deal agreed at 24 million eurosIntracom Holdings on Wednesday said it had agreed on principle to pay 24 million euros for the acquisition of Teledome Telecommunications-Information and Telematics AEBE.
In a letter to the Capital Markets Commission, Intracom said the final value of the purchase will depend on a series of factors, such as the results of a financial and legal controls on the acquired company and guarantees over its borrowing and other liabilities.
 ELVAL to build aluminium unit in Abu DhabiELVAL SA on Wednesday announced the signing of a memorandum of cooperation with Mubadala PJSC from Abu Dhabi and Ahmad H.Algosaibi & Bros from Saudi Arabia, to build an aluminium factory in Abu Dhabi.
The unit will have a minimum production capacity of 350,000 tons annually and will be located at the industrial zone of the Khalifa port in Abu Dhabi.
 Greek stocks end 0.44 percent higherGreek stocks resumed their upward trend on Wednesday, after Tuesday's decline. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange rose 0.44 pct to end at 5,067.77 points with turnover a strong 495.55 million euros.
Sector indices moved higher, with the Utilities (2.44 pct), Banks (1.03 pct) and Travel (0.62 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Healthcare (1.64 pct), Financial Services (1.51 pct) and Industrial Products (1.26 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index rose 0.84 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.73 pct lower and the Small Cap index fell 0.64 percent.
PC Systems (415.56 pct), Unibrain (13.43 pct) and Tria Alpha (9.92 pct) were top gainers, while Ippotour (7.87 pct), Microland Computers (7.16 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers narrowly led decliners by 126 to 125 with another 54 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.62%
Personal & Household: -0.81%
Raw Materials: -0.62%
Travel & Leisure: +0.62%
Food & Beverages: -0.81%
Financial Services: -1.51%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Marfin, National Bank, Alpha Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 24.90
Public Power Corp (PPC): 23.30
HBC Coca Cola: 33.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.76
Emporiki Bank: 20.80
National Bank of Greece: 46.12
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 27.00
Titan Cement Company: 41.24
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.332 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.16 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.172 billion were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was again the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.205 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was unchanged at 0.22 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.69 pct and the German Bund 4.46 percent.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.08 pct, the two-day rate was 4.08 pct, the one-month rate was 4.10 pct and the 12-month rate 4.56 pct.
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices remained mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover a moderate 143.337 million euros.
The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.44 pct, while the August contract on the FTSE 40 index at a premium of 0.39 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 8,199 contracts worth 109.395 million euros, with 41,681 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 613 contracts worth 20.878 million euros with 1,482 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 6,384 contracts worth 13.062 million euros with investment interest focusing on Intracom's contracts (885), followed by PPC (401), Piraeus Bank (688), National Bank (723), Alpha Bank (376), Marfin Popular
Bank (609), Mytilineos (361), Postal Bank (243) and ATEbank (316).
 Foreign Exchange Rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.385
Pound sterling 0.674
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 9.284
Japanese yen 166.87
Swiss franc 1.679
Norwegian kroner 8.014
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.439
Australian dollar 1.566
 Fires still in progress across GreeceWildfires continued to rage across Greece on Wednesday, many of which have been burning unchecked for several days. These included a fire on the island of Hydra, famous for its traditional architecture and a former haunt of the jet set, and near Ancient Epidaurus in the northeast Peloponnese that have been burning since Tuesday afternoon.
The fire that began in a rubbish dump on Hydra was still burning by late on Wednesday afternoon, in spite of the efforts of two fire-fighting aircraft and two helicopters to put it out.
The General Secretariat for Civil Protection on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in the municipalities of Eleios-Pronnon on the island of Kefallonia and at the municipalities of Egio, Kalavryta, Sympolitia, Diakoptos and the community of Leontios in the prefecture of Achaia, in the Peloponnese.
Near the coastal town of Egio, a fire in the Kounina area was still blazing out of control on Wednesday afternoon and had reached the village of Pyrgaki, where a children's summer camp had earlier been evacuated. Eight people were also temporarily trapped within the Taxiarchon monastery, among them the head of Civil Protection for Western Greece Ioannis Loupis, but were later removed with safety by the fire brigade.
Authorities have also ordered the evacuation of the villages of Kounina, Melissia and Pteri, which are threatened by the fire, while at least one house in the area was reported to have burnt.
A strong fire-fighting force on the ground was deployed to tackle the fire, as well as two fire-fighting aircraft and one helicopter from the air, while additional reinforcements of 35 firement, 13 fire-engines and 15-strong fire-fighting force on foot are expected, as well as additional aircraft.
Another major fire was reported in progress on the Ionian island of Kefallonia, where houses had caught fire in the villages of Pastra and Aghios Georgios and several settlements were surrounded by flames, including the villages of Eleios, Kapitsa, Xenopoulos, Markopoulos and Kremydi, while all of Mount Ainos is being threatened.
The fire-fighting force is made up of two aircraft, two helicopters, 30 firemen and 10 fire-engines.
Five blazes were in progress in western and northwestern Greece, in the prefectures of Thesprotia and Ioannina, where a house and two stables in the Filiates region were caught fire and large expanses of olive trees were burned.
In Amarantos, in the northwestern prefecture of Ioannina, a wildfire continued its catastrophic course that began July 22. Local spa facilities and hotels were evacuated as a precaution . Fifty five firemen, 13 fire engines, 18 firemen on foot and a helicopter were taking part in the firefighting efforts. Two other fire fronts that reached the regions of Kotsika and Tsamanta from Albania have subsided but a third that passed into Greece from Albania is still in progress at Asimochori in Konitsa and has so far consumed 10 hectares of forest and open grass land.
Fires were also in progress at Palia Sagiada, Plesio, Asprokklisi and Korytiani in Thesprotia, while fires in Perdika, Thesprotia and Fanari in the prefecture of Preveza, western Greece were now under control.
The fire that broke out on Tuesday afternoon in a forest region in Velventos, in the northern Greek prefecture of Kozani, was also still in progress and had reached Katafygi on the Pierian mountains. Twenty fire engines, 60 firemen, 20 fire-fighters on foot and two helicopters were participating in the efforts to put out the fire, which were hampered by the existence of minefields.
A second fire also began in Kozani on Wednesday in an area of grassland and low vegetation at Imera in the Serbion municipality, which two fire-engines and eight firemen were attempting to put out.
Meanwhile, three fire fronts are in progress in Kotili, Kalivia-Katsara and Mt. Grammos in the prefecture of Kastoria, in northwest Greece.
Several fires were also underway in the Peloponnese, in addition to that at Ancient Epidaurus, including one at the village of Dimitropoulo, near the coastal town of Egio. Under partial control on Wednesday afternoon were fires at Avlona in the prefecture of Messinia and at the Hiliomodi ravine, Patima-Magoula and Mapsos in the prefecture of Corinth, while a fire in Mani, on the borders between the prefectures of Messinia and Laconia, another at the village of Polovitsa on Mount Taygetos in southern Greece and one at Chrysokelaria in Messinia were now under control.
More fires were reported in the region of Lake Plastira and in Farsala, central Greece.
Also, a small fire that broke out at dawn in Thessaloniki's Sheik Shu urban forest was quickly extinguished by 20 firemen with 7 fire engines. A fire that broke out at Kolymbari in the prefecture of Hania on the island of Crete on Wednesday morning was still not out, according to reports on Wednesday evening.
The fire in Hania had started in an illegal rubbish dump near the side of a provincial road and quickly blazed out of control, setting fire to nearby bushes and heading toward a region of olive groves.
Other wildfires were reported on the Aegean island of Chios in the regons of Potamia and Pipilounda in the Amani municipality, which was being tackled by 24 firemen, eight fire-engines, two fire-fighting aircraft and one helicopter, and one at the village Teichos in Drama, northern Greece.
 Woman's death attributed to heat waveThe death of an 82-year-old woman in Edessa, northern Greece on Wednesday was attributed to a blistering heat wave that is currently pushing temperatures throughout the country above 40C. In statements to the ANA-MPA, the head of the Edessa Hospital Medical Services Anastasios Koukos said the woman was brought in on Tuesday afternoon in a comatose state with symptoms of heat stroke and died in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
 Local PASOK party offices torchedA homemade incendiary device caused limited damage to the facade of the main opposition PASOK party's local offices in Kesariani, Athens, early Wednesday
The incendiary device, consisting of three small gas canisters, was planted by unidentified individuals outside the party offices in the early morning hours on Wednesday.
 Hand grenade attack targeting a dry cleaner's in Ano LiosiaUnidentified individuals threw a hand grenade at a closed dry cleaner's shop in Ano Liosia, Athens, early Wednesday.
The store windows were smashed by the early morning explosion, while a private truck parked nearby was also damaged.
 Yacht carrying 31 illegal immigrants locatedA yacht which was carrying 31 illegal immigrants was located by port authorities three nautical miles southeast of the cape of Trikeri, in Lakonia, southern Peloponnese, on Wednesday.
Along with the illegal immigrants who had boarded the vessel from the coast of Egypt, the three foreigners who were vessel's crew, were also arrested.
Port officials also arrested another 12 illegal immigrants, among them two children, on the islands of Lesvos and Agathonisi.
 Illegal migrants intercepted in northeastern GreeceTwenty-six illegal migrants and one of their two smugglers were intercepted by Border Guards at a gas station on the Xanthi-Kavala national motorway, northeastern Greece, on Wednesday.
Border Guards initially arrested 6 of the illegal migrants (3 Afghans, 2 Iraqis, 1 Pakistani) crowded inside the car of a 51-year-old smuggler, who was also taken into custody. Shortly afterwards, 14 Iraqis and 6 Afghans were found inside a truck but their smuggler managed to flee and is wanted by police.
 Music and theatre festival on SamosThe 11th "Manolis Kalomiris" Festival, held under the auspices of the ministry of culture, opens at the ancient theatre of Pithagorio on the eastern Aegean island of Samos on Wednesday.
The festival, dedicated to the promotion of the work of music composer Manolis Kalomiris, will last until August 19 and will feature music and theatre performances by distinguished Greek artists.
 Kalamata Book Fair this monthThe 16th Book Fair opened on Tuesday at the Kalamata waterfront, in Peloponnese southern Greece, organized by local bookstore owners.
The book fair will last until August 20.
 Rock Festival in Tripolis, southern GreeceThe 4th Tripolis Rock Festival will take place on July 28 and 29 at the Aghios Georgios Park in Tripolis, Peloponnese southern Greece, organized by the municipality and the local municipal radio station.
A number of rock music groups will perform in the free admission festival, among them, "Bullets", "Ducky Boys", "Velvoids", "J. Allen", "The Flow", "Pink Inside".
 Hot on ThursdayHot weather and moderate to strong northerly, northeasterly winds are forecast throughout the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 6-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 23C and 40C. Sunny weather in Athens, with winds reaching 4-5 beaufort and temperatures ranging from 24C to 39C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 23C to 36C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe heatwave throughout the country and problems in electricity supply due to record consumption, the wildfires and the measures decided by the Inner Cabinet, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou's call for the convening of the political council of party leaders under President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, and Papoulias' address on the Restoration of Democracy in Greece during the annual anniversary reception hosted by the President, were the main front-page items in Wednesday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "64,100 new jobs via the OAED (Manpower Employment Organisation) as of August 1".
APOGEVMATINI: "9,311 job opportunities - All the positions by specialisation and agency".
AVGHI: "The government burning the (prospect of reaching an) understanding for the salvation of the forests - Papandreou (PASOK leader) and Alavanos (SYN leader) persist on the proposal for the meeting (of the political council of party leaders)".
AVRIANI: "Emergency measures on fires and electricity - The entire state machine on alert".
CHORA: "Greece 'burning', DEH (Public Power Corporation-PPC) on the defensive - Temperatures and consumption of electricity and water hit record heights".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "A national mourning should have been declared and yesterday's (Tuesday's) celebration of the Restoration of Democracy should have been cancelled, but...What are two pilots for Democracy?", referring to the death of the two pilots of a Canadair firefighting aircraft that crashed in Styra, Evia, while battling a forest fire.
ELEFTHEROS: "Anniversary in the shadow of the tragedy - Papoulias, tough but fair, criticised the responsibilities of the State".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Red Alert - Heatwave and smog - Army enters the battle - Political clash".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "How they burned the Fire Brigade - Promotions with 'blue' orders, dismissal of capable officers".
ESTIA: "Fear PASOK with respect to taxes - The lies have continued over three decades".
ETHNOS: "They want to come out on top over the tragedy - The government says 'no' to consensus, and attacks PASOK".
KATHIMERINI: "Heatwave, smog and electricity failures - Today will also be a tough day".
LOGOS: "Hope of cooling off as of tomorrow - In the grips of the heatwave again today".
RIZOSPASTIS: "We say NO TO THE EURO-TREATY, let the people decide - Appeal by 21 communist and labour parties from the EU member states".
TA NEA: "Mini (ower) blackout with domino of power cuts - Millions of consumers without electricity".
TO VIMA: "Heatwave, ozone, fires and blackouts - The country at the limits of its endurance".
VRADYNI: "4,678 hirings via ASEP (public sector hiring examinations board) in hospitals - Government gives substantial 'breather' to National Health System (ESY)".
 Cyprus' representative elected vice chairman of UN bodyUNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus' Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis was elected on Tuesday, after hearings at the plenary of the UN General Assembly, as one of the 21 Vice Chairmen of the 62nd Session of the UN General Assembly.
In the current Session of the General Assembly, Mavroyiannis was one of the six members of the Contact Group appointed by the Chairman of the General Assembly to study the restructuring of the Security Council.
The General Assembly has a wide range of important issues on its agenda, such as peace and security issues, among which the Cyprus problem. Other issues include the restructuring of the Security Council and challenges, such as climate changes, globalisation, terrorism, immigration and sustainable development.
The aim is to achieve an effective multilateral diplomacy and to tackle the substance and real issues faced by humanity.
 Grand Imam to help prevent further destruction of occupied churchesNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Egypt's most senior Moslem cleric has said he would help his Christian counterpart from Cyprus to protect churches in the areas of the Republic occupied by Turkey since 1974.
The Grand Imam of Egypt Mohamed Sayed Tantawi has promised Archbishop Chrysostomos II that he would support a call from the primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus to help prevent further destruction of religious sites in the Turkish-occupied areas.
According to the Archbishop's press spokesman Andreas Demetriou, the pledge was given at a meeting in Cairo between the two, during which the Archbishop outlined the situation on the island, saying it remains divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion, and referred to attempts to afford recognition to the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus.
The Archbishop told the Grand Imam that more than 500 churches in occupied Cyprus need to be restored urgently, otherwise they will collapse and sought support from him to prevent this destruction.
During the one-hour long meeting, Chrysostomos explained that the Church of Cyprus had always respected Moslem places of worship on the island.
He presented the Grand Imam with a photo album depicting pillages Christian churches.
The Grand Imam said he would work for peace and love in Cyprus and promised to communicate the Archbishop's concerns to everybody and to support his call with all his might.
The meeting, Demetriou told CNA, took place in a particularly friendly atmosphere.
On Thursday the Archbishop will meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
On Wednesday he was due to address the faithful, who will gather to hear the Patriarch of the Coptic Church Shenuda.
He returns home on Friday.
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