|Friday, 13 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-07-27
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 27 July 2007 Issue No: 2655
 Natgas agreement signed in Rome a 'historic event', PM saysA trilateral agreement for a natural gas pipeline signed by Greece, Italy and Turkey in Rome on Thursday was a historic event for all concerned, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed later the same day.
"The signature of the trilateral Italy-Greece-Turkey Intergovernmental Agreement for the construction of the Southern European Natural Gas Corridor is a historic event, not just for the three countries but also for the countries of the Caspian Sea and the Middle East. It is an equally important project for Europe, since it ensures via Turkey and Greece the transport of natural gas from Asia to the major European markets," Karamanlis said.
He also pointed out that Greece was improving its position even further in Europe and the wider region with the signature of Thursday's agreement, in addition to those for the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, the completion of a Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline and a proclamation for the construction of the South Stream natural gas pipeline,.
"With strategy and planning, our country is being converted into a major and powerful international conduit for oil, natural gas and electricity and is upgrading its geopolitical position and its international standing," the prime minister stressed.
 Greece, Italy and Turkey sign natural gas pipeline agreementGreece, Italy and Turkey on Thursday signed a tri-party agreement ensuring a project of creating a European Natural Gas Southern Corridor to transport natural gas from East to the West.
The agreement was signed in Rome by Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Italy's Economic Development Minister Pierluigi Bersani and Turkey's Energy and Natural Resources Minister Mehmet Hilmi Guler.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said it was a significant day for all countries in the Caspian Sea and the Middle East and of course for Europe and noted that "the project linked Asia with Europe for the first time and this is a development with pan-European and global dimension".
The ground section of the Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline will be built by DESFA, while the underwater pipeline by DEPA and Edison. The Greek-Turkish section of the pipeline, which is almost ready, will be inaugurated by the prime ministers of Greece and Turkey by the end of August.
"It is a deal with large and significant benefits for us all, for the three countries and their people," the Greek minister said, adding that Greece has already proposed a draft agreement with the government of Azerbaijan for the supply of natural gas and said he had discussed the issue with Italy and Turkey.
Sioufas said Italy and Turkey were "strategic energy partners" and noted that the project was another starting point to further enhance economic, development and energy relations between the three countries.
Greece, Italy, Turkey natural gas pipeline agreement -Chronology-
The three-party agreement between Greece, Italy and Turkey is a continuation of bilateral agreements signed between Greece-Turkey and Greece-Italy. Its aim is to commit the three countries in building the natural gas pipeline and to maintain a unified management of the project. The pipeline, known as South European Natural Gas Corridor, is characterized as top priority by the European Commission and the project will become the first significant energy infrastructure in the wider South European region.
The two bilateral agreements signed by the Greek government, although promoted the project, did not ensure the supply of natural gas throughout the pipeline. The tri-party agreement introduces the term Interconnection Turkey Greece Italy (ITGI).
In April 20, 2007, Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, during an official visit to Ankara, proposed the signing of a tri-party agreement. A draft plan was prepared by the Greek delegation and sent to the governments of Italy and Turkey. A first meeting between representations of the three parties was held in May 22 in Ankara and a second one in Athens May 31, finalizing many articles of the treaty.
The final agreement was reached during the Greek minister's visit to Ankara, in July 18.
Under the agreement, DEPA has a 50 percent share in the underwater pipeline, called Poseidon. Greece has secured its needs of natural gas from a Greek-Turkish section of the pipeline which has an annual capacity of 11.5 billion cubic metres, of which 8.8 billion will be distributed to Italy and 2 billion to Greece.
 US pleased over agreement for Turkey-Greece-Italy pipelineWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
Washington has expressed satisfaction over the signing of the inter-state agreement for the construction of the Turkey-Greece-Italy natural gas pipeline.
In a written statement, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "the United States congratulates the prime ministers of Turkey, Greece and Italy for today's signing in Rome of the inter-state agreement for the construction of the Turkey-Greece-Italy (TGI) pipeline. The agreement defines the commercial and legal framework of the transport of natural gas from Caspia through the pipeline, opening the road for the speeding up of the construction.
"The agreement constitutes the culmination of the joint efforts of the three countries, with the strong support of the USA and the European Union, to thus contribute so that Europe diversifies the sources of the supply of natural gas from the Caspian Sea, and to promote the economic growth of the region of Caspia."
McCormack concluded by underling that "these efforts build on the strong cooperation which existed these past decades between the USA, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, for the creation of the natural gas pipeline of the southern Caucasus, as well as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the extension of our cooperation so as to comprise important European Union partners."
 PM: Protection of forests and natural environment an absolute priority of the governmentProtection of the forests and the country's natural environment are the absolute priority of the government, prime minister Costas Karamanlis stressed on Thursday, in a brief address to the graduates of the Fire Brigade Academy in Villia, near Athens, on Thursday.
Karamanlis, who presented the new Fire Brigade officers with their diplomas, assured that the state services had orders from the government to do everything possible for protection of the environment and the forests, and the immediate restoration of all areas ravaged by the recent wildfires.
"Protection of the forests and the natural environment are an absolute priority of our government, because they are directly connected with our survival," he said.
Karamanlis described the Fire Corps' work as being of exceptional importance, and paid tribute to the sacrifices made by firefighters in their struggle to protect the country's forests and environment and the properties of the Greek citizens.
"We express our confidence in the Fire Corps, and the state, on its part, will do everything possible to support its work," the premier said.
After his greeting, Karamanlis symbolically presented diplomas to the first 20 graduates of the Academy.
Also present at the ceremony were public order minister Vyron Polydoras and Fire Brigade chief Andreas Kois.
 Russia to send fire-fighting aircraft as reinforcements, at PM's requestThe Russian government will be sending Greece firefighting aircraft as reinforcements on Friday, following a request made by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
According to an announcement by the prime minister's office, Karamanlis called Russian President Vladimir Putin on the telephone at 11:30 on Thursday morning and requested Russia's assistance, asking him to send additional firefighting aircraft to reinforce Greek fire-fighting means.
Putin contacted the Greek prime minister after a few minutes and informed him that the Russian government will sent operationally available firefighting aircraft on Friday.
The Greek premier thanked Putin for his rapid response and his country's assistance during a very difficult situation for Greece, due to the large number of forest fires that have started and the unprecedented weather conditions, the announcement said.
 Public Order minister visits fire-ravaged regions near EgioPublic Order Minister Vyron Polydoras on Thursday visited the fire-ravaged villages near Egio, bearing a message of support from the government and the prime minister.
"I came to Egio and Diakopto at the orders of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in order to convey the feelings of grief and anguish for the human victims and for the destruction the area has suffered," he said.
Polydoras arrived with the head of the Fire Brigade Andreas Kois, saying that they sought to organised the task of assessments and compensations.
"We have clear orders for the prime minister to do whatever we can, as the State, to heal the wounds, to mend the hurts, both in terms of the property and in terms of compensation as quickly as possible," the minister added.
Polydoras said that the top priority were now the last fire fronts and reignitions and providing care for the people that needed help, such as the homeless or those with health problems.
He announced that Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos will be visiting the area in a few days at the head of a team of experts and would announce the measures to be taken for those that suffered losses in the disaster.
Polydoras chaired a meeting at the Egio Town Hall, where he was briefed by the mayor Apostolos Karafotias, the Western Greece Region General Secretary Spyros Spyridonas and Achaia Prefect Dimitris Katsikopoulos on the events and the extent of the damage and the fires still underway.
The minister also flew over the fire-stricken areas in a helicopter and visited the Diakopto Town Hall.
 Nearly 10 pct increase in tourist arrivals anticipatedPrime minister Costas Karamanlis met Thursday with tourism development minister Fani Palli-Petralia, who told reporters afterwards that she anticipated that this year's tourism season would end with a nearly 10 percent increase in tourist arrivals.
Petralia, who briefed the prime minister on current issues in the tourism sector, said that a total of 15.5 million tourists had arrived in Greece last year, while visitors this year were expected to exceed the 16 million mark by far.
The increase in tourist arrivals was also accompanied by a 9 percent increase in foreign exchange inflows from tourism, the minister added.
To a question on whether the recent spate of wildfires throughout the country had influenced the tourism flow, Petralias said that there had been no cancellations of reservations thus far, nor was a reduction in arrivals indicated.
Petralia also briefed Karamanlis in detail on the interministerial committee's decisions regarding exploitation of the state tourism infrastructures with respect to the Afantos and Anavyssos properties, the Corfu Casino and the two Xenia hotels in Vytina and on Skiathos.
She added that international tenders for the above infrastructures would be announced next week.
 FM to meet with French counterpart in ParisForeign minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet with her French counterpart Bernard Kouchner on July 29 in Paris, where she will be accompanying prime minister Costas Karamanlis on a trip to the French capital.
Foreign minister spokesman George Koumoutsakos told a press briefing on Thursday that bilateral relations, economic relations, Gallophony, European affairs, including EU enlargement and reforms, Mediterranean cooperation, and developments in the Balkans and the Middle East were on the agenda of the talks between the two foreign ministers.
 FM spokesman on Turkish General Staff website allegationsForeign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Thursday stressed that "recently, frequent references are made on the Turkish General Staff's website to ungrounded events", adding that these are events that are "absolutely untrue and are belied by the Greek side, as occured with this specific case".
He was replying to a question prompted by a reference on the Turkish General Staff website alleging a violation of Turkish territorial waters by Greek ships, and noted the categoric denial by the Greek Navy General Staff (GEN).
 Koumoutsakos on Bahceli, Turkish electionsForeign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Thursday warned that to the strengthening of extreme viewpoints in Turkey cannot be regarded as positive.
Koumoutsakos stated that the strengthening of extreme view-points, which remain captive of the past and cannot distinguish the potential for a better future, is not regarded as positive development.
He made the comment responding to the question on whether the Greek foreign ministry shares the concern expressed by new Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Markoullis regarding the high vote percentage received by the nationalist party of Devlet Bahceli in Turkey in the recent parliamentary elections.
Koumoutsakos reminded that the Greek government has commented on the Turkish elections and the general results, characterizing as positive development the fact that they led to the formation of a strong and stable government that enjoys broad democratic support.
 FM spokesman on assassination plan against Ecumenical PatriarchGreece on Thursday described as "positive" the fact that the Turkish authorities had succeeded in disbanding an extremist organisation.
"The fact that the Turkish authorities had a success with respect to the disbanding of extremist organisations, whose existence and action are exceptionally dangerous, is positive," foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said, replying to a question regarding press reports concerning an assassination plan against the Ecumenical Patriarch.
"We are monitoring and assessing every development and all information concerning the smooth fulfillment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's mission, its status, and above all the safety of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarch, and are taking all the necessary actions to confront negative developments in the implementation of a declared position that the issue is an international one, but at the same time one of special interest to Greece," he said.
Koumoutsakos said that the safety of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in particular, is an issue that is being put forward continuously both by the Greek government and by the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself
He was referring to a press report that investigations by the Turkish authorities on the actions of a network set up by retired military officers, which was disbanded last month, had uncovered a plan to assassinate Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos.
 Koumoutsakos on the new foreign ministry websiteForeign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Thursday referred to the emphasis given on friendly interaction with visitors in the new foreign ministry website.
Commenting on the occasion of the completion of six months since the new website was constructed, Koumoutsakos stated that the number of visitors has increased 35 percent. The daily visitors are 5,700, while the website will be further upgraded with the incorporation of high tech programmes, he stressed, adding that the goal is to ensure speedy, complete and reliable information directed to the press and the public.
 Greek, Romanian interior ministers sign cooperation memorandumInterior, Public Administration and Decentralisation minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday expressed pleasure that Romania, "a country that is a good friend and also a neighbour of Greece", was now in the large European family, after a meeting in Athens with Romania's Minister of Administrative Reform and Interior Cristian David.
The two ministers signed a Memorandum of Cooperation, while they also discussed cooperation at central administration level, and particularly regarding electronic governance and the training of civil servants, as well as such matters as decentralisation and the absorption of EU funds via the Regional Operational Programmes. They further examined Civil Protection matters.
Referring to the problems currently faced by Greece, and southern Europe in general, from wildfires, Pavlopoulos said that close cooperation was needed with respect to Civil Protection in confronting crises, and expressed sympathy with the problems faced also by the neighbouring country due to fires.
David thanked Pavlopoulos for Greece's willingness to help Romania. He said that "Romania will follow Greece's plans regarding Civil Protection for confronting floods and fires, since Romania is not used to high temperatures, and therefore my country has a lot to learn".
The meeting was also attended by Romanian deputy interior minister Liviu Radu, Greece's ambassador in Bucharest Athanasios Dendoulis, and Romanian ambassador in Athens George Ciamba
 Greece welcomes release of Bulgarian nurses, Palestian doctor in LibyaGreece welcomes the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor after several years' imprisonment in Libya, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Thursday.
He added that Greece, consistent with its steadfast opposition to the death sentence, had also offered its contribution in that direction, and expressed the country's deep appreciation for all those who contributed to the positive outcome of this humanitarian issue.
 Conference of Greek ambassadors to open on MondayA two-day conference of Greek ambassadors stationed abroad opens in Athens on July 30, aimed at a "fuller briefing and better coordination of the diplomatic service and the country's foreign policy", foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos announced on Thursday.
He said deputy foreign minister Yannis Valinakis would open the conference, while addresses were also expected by national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, development minister Dimitris Sioufas, national defence minister Evangelos Meimarakis, deputy foreign minister Evrypides
Stylianidis, and the foreign ministry's secretaries general Katsoudas and Skylakakis, while presentations would also be delivered by representatives of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB), the Institute for Economic and Industrial Studies (IOBE) and the Hellenic Centre for Investments (ELKE).
The conference will close with an address by foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis.
The themes to be discussed by the Greek ambassadors include EU issues, energy policy and diplomacy, international organisations, Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue, Greece's policy in Southeastern Europe, international economic relations and developmental cooperation, and the development of public diplomacy.
 Appeals Judges Council rules in favour of fugitive Mokbel's extradition to AustraliaThe Council of Appeals Judges on Thursday ruled in favour of the extradition of wanted Australian fugitive Tony Mokbel to the Australian authorities, as per an extradition request submitted by the Australian Federal Police.
Antonio Sajih Mokbel, 41, a prominent figure in the Australian underworld known as "The Octopus" and "Fat Tony" and one of Australia's most wanted criminals with outstanding warrants and convictions in serious drugs and homicide cases, was arrested in the Athens seaside suburb of Glyfada on June 5 on charges of holding fake documents. He was remanded in custody at the Korydallos penitentiary near Piraeus on the fake documents charges and pending decision by the Greek courts on the Australian extradition request.
The Kuwait-born Mokbel was wanted under an international arrest warrant issued by Interpol, as he was sought by Australian authorities for at least two murders and a drugs-related conviction. The Victoria State Police had also offered a reward of one million Australian dollars for information leading to the capture of the fugitive, who has been wanted since March 19, 2006, when he skipped bail just before being sentenced -- in absentia -- by a Melbourne court for cocaine trafficking. He also faces trial in Australia for the killing of a promnent member of the Australian underworld and at least one more murder, and is also being investigated in connection several more killings during a gang war that left 30 people dead. He also faces charges in Australia in at least 18 drug cases.
Mokbel further faces charges brought against him by Greek authorities for the use of fake documents -- a forged passport and driver's licence -- and the trial is pending before an Athens Misdemeanours Court.
The Appeals Judges Council rejected claims put forward by Mokbel's lawyer in Greece that the fugitive was wanted for political reasons and that the Australian extradition request was invalid because it had not been signed by a prosecutor.
Mokbel was not present at Thursday's proceedings due to health reasons.
 Opinion polls bill passed 'in principle'A draft bill governing matters related to the way that opinion polls and surveys are conducted was passed by Parliament in principle on Thursday, with the agreement of the two main parties, ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK.
Under the bill, a political opinion poll will have to use a sample of not less than 1,000 people and the firm carrying out will be obliged to provide information on the sample, the way the data was collected and the way that those responding recorded their intention to vote.
According to Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, whose ministry drafted the bill, the aim was not to create insuperable obstacles to businesses but to ensure that opinion polls were reliable and to prevent companies that could not ensure this from entering the field.
"Only those listed in the register will have the right to carry out opinion polls. Our aim is to establish the will of the citizens for the benefit of democracy with absolute transparency and without creating distortions," Roussopoulos said.
PASOK MP Anna Diamantopoulou described the draft bill as an important measure that would prevent misleading opinion polls but she described the timing of the bill and the nearness of elections as "strange".
"I have to point out that it comes very near to speculated elections. The Minister of State may claim that it comes at a time 10 months before the elections. But the reality is different, since members of the government have created a climate that elections are very likely in September. We, therefore, are discussing the bill just one month before anticipated elections and this makes the process less reliable," she said.
The debate and final vote on the bill is expected to be concluded by the first summer session of Parliament next Wednesday.
 PASOK leader tours fire-ravaged AchaiaMain opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou on Thursday toured fire-ravaged Achaia, Peloponnese.
He visited Achaia's Egion and Diakofto municipalities where he was briefed on the situation prevailing in the region.
Papandreou criticised the government "for the lack of coordination, lack of precaution, lack of proper organisation and the lack of meritocracy in the staffing of the Fire-brigade."
"It is not the time to analyse the enormous responsibilities, with a government absent and a prime minister as a spectator," Papandreou said.
The PASOK leader reiterated his proposal for a meeting of political party leaders under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic.
"I also insist today on the ned for broader understanding of all the social and political forces. Our recruitment for this new ecological national crisis. I insist for there to be understanding between the parties under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic, for a campaign to deal with this major matter," the PASOK leader added.
 Papandreou visits KAPI facilities in IlioupolisMain opposition PASOK party president George Papandreou visited the senior citizens' activity and support centre, KAPI, in Ilioupolis, Athens on Thursday.
Addressing the centre's members, he stressed that although they were workforce veterans, they were still active members of society, adding that PASOK as the country's next government will be on their side supporting and promoting new actions and initiatives for them.
He referred to the climate change and pointed out that everybody in the country was experiencing difficult days because of the heat wave, particularly the elderly. He also expressed grief over the disaster of biblical proportions suffered by the country's forestlands and heritage.
Papandreou was briefed on the senior citizens' activities and pledged every possible support consistent with PASOK's overall stance toward sensitive social groups.
 KKE SG Papariga says 'Greece needs a national research programme'Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Thursday visited the "Dimokritos" General Research and Development complex.
"I foresee the downgrading of Dimokritos even further, given that with the new draft law for research, it will join the laws of the market and in combination with the European Union programmes, what kind of research will be determined," Papariga told the personnel of the research and development installation.
Referring to the draft law on research, she said that "it is moving in the philosophy of the previous one (2001) and is making an effort to shape a more concentrated regime of control in research, with an upgraded and more safeguarded role of the entrepreneurs."
She noted that "basic research is orientated to the needs of the market, informatics, telecommunications and energy, under-estimating sectors such as health, hygiene, safety professional diseases, anti-earthquake protection, water as well as issues of a social and humanitarian nature."
She said that the philosophy of the new draft law "is for researchers to operate as businessmen, to find the income and to become managers." Papariga expressed her party's "complete opposition," claiming that "what the country needs is a national research programme which is based on needs and which is financed."
 SYN leader meets judges and prosecutors' unionCoalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN) leader Alekos Alavanos on Thursday had a meeting with representatives of the Union of Judges and Public Prosecutors of Greece, after which he underlined SYN's "appreciation of the responsible and heavy work of judges, who often work under terrible conditions".
He said that the "negative phenomena" at times seen within the judicial body should not lead to scorn for the officials of justice but neither to excessive severity on their part.
It was necessary for the state to intervene in order to improve working conditions, infrastructure and the adequacy of the human resources, and to reduce the huge legal workload facing the courts, he added.
Commenting on the fires throughout Greece and particularly the human victims of the past few days, Alavanos raised the issue of pilot training, stressing that fire-fighting pilots should be trained in flight simulators as their squadron had requested many years ago.
 Justice minister lays foundation stone for new Arta courthouseJustice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras on Thursday laid the foundation stone for a new court building that will house the Arta First-instance courts, which is due to be completed by October.
The building will be a durable prefabricated structure and the total budget for its construction is expected to reach 1,142,000 euros. Once complete, it will be able to provide a single roof for Arta court services that are now spread throughout the city after damage suffered by the older building because of its age.
A new, permanent courthouse will be built for Arta as soon as a suitable lot is found, Papaligouras said.
 Liapis visits ISAP facilities in PiraeusTransport and Communications minister Michalis Liapis said Thursday he was totally satisfied with the services and facilitation provided to passengers by the public transport means, following a visit to the ISAP electric railway's terminal in Piraeus and an inspection of the renovation works underway there.
Liapis said the urban transport system was "efficient", and noted the upgrading of the services provided by ISAP, given that 85 percent of its trains were now air-conditioned, while the remaining trains would also be equipped with air conditioning over the next month.
He also added that his ministry was in constant contact with the environment, town planning and public works ministry in order to find the most appropriate technical solution for equipping the Athens Metro trains with air conditioning as well.
Liapis also toured the ISAP headquarters' facilities, located at the Piraeus terminal, which were constructed in 1938 and also included a maintenance facility and train parking facility.
The facilities had been abandoned in recent decades, but their renovation commenced last year.
He called the HQ building a characteristic example of mid-war industrial architecture, adding that its renovation not only highlighted the country's cultural heritage, but also linked ISAP's history with its future.
The buidling, covering 1,600 square metres, will also house offices, storage spaces, and personnel facilities.
 FinMin satisfied with course of investmentsGreek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday expressed his satisfaction over the course of investments made in Greece.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said a total of 3,661 investment plans budgeted at 8.2 billion euros have been submited with Greek authorities. These plans envisage the creation of 21,281 direct new jobs and a lot more indirect job positions, he said. He added that many investment plans included projects in the energy and tourism sectors.
Alogoskoufis noted that the Greek government submitted with the European Commission the business plans by government ministries and all five regional programmes based on the National Strategic Reference Framework Programme (2007-2013).
Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy Vasso Papandreou on Thursday evening responded to the satisfaction which Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis expressed earlier in the over the course of investments made in Greece.
"Mr. Alogoskoufis yet again, on purpose, is misinforming the citizens and congratulates himself on the fictional reality which he is projecting," said Vasso Papandreou, who is head of the Economy Department of the party's Parliamentary Council.
Papandreou spoke of "inadequate and distorted information when he refers only to the approval of investment plans and says nothing on how many have been implemented."
She further said that "the comparison of the number of the approvals on the new development law with the previous one which existed under PASOK is misleading, because they concern unsimilar things."
 Greece and Italy sign joint declaration on industry and SMEsGreek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Italy's Economic Development Minister Pierluigi Bersani signed in Rome on Thursday a memorandum of cooperation in the sectors of industry and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Sioufas told reporters that it concerned the signing of a common declaration aiming at the reinforcement of the two countries' cooperation in the sectors of industry and Small and Medium Enterprises.
"SMEs in Greece and Italy make up the overwhelming majority of enterprises and constitute the foundations of the economic and social development of the two countries. Our common objectif is the liberation of the immense possibilities and potential disposed by the SMEs for growth and employment," Sioufas noted.
A Joint Work Group will be established for the implementation of the Greek-Italian declaration.
 Russian agricultural development minister visits KomotiniThe co-president of the Greek-Russian Joint Ministerial Committee and Russian Agricultural Development Minister Alexey Gordeev visited Komotini, northern Greece, on Thursday at the invitation of Deputy Foreign Minister and Rodopi deputy Evripidis Stylianidis.
During a press conference, Stylianidis hailed the contribution of Gordeev in the major projects concerning Russia and Greece and which were jointly agreed on by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Russian President Vladimir Putin, such as the Burgas-Aleandroupolis oil pipeline. Stylianidis also said that Gordeev helped in particular in the promotion of Greek agricultural products in the Russian market.
Gordeev termed as a unuque opportunity the new awareness which exists in Greek-Russian relations regarding cooperation in the economy sector.
"We are not meeting with Mr. Stylianidis only as politicians, but as people who want with determination and prospects for our countries' cooperation to advance."
The Russian minister said that the Joint Ministerial Committee meeting which will be held in Athens in Autumn "will give the opportunity for us to discuss substantially for the development of investments in Greece in the research and high technology sectors."
 PPC says still in talks with Sawiris over TellasGreece's Public Power Corporation on Thursday confirmed it was still in talks with Egyptian enterpreuner Naguib Sawiris over the same of its 50 percent stake in Tellas Communications.
In a letter to the Athens Stock Exchange, Greece's electricity utility said "it has not stoped negotiations with Mr. Sawiris and was currently examining his really improved proposals".
 Greek trade deficit up 7.4 pct in May, yr/yrThe Greek trade deficit widened by 7.4 percent in May to 3.0 billion euros from 2.793 billion euros in the corresponding month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said the value of import-arrivals totaled 4.383 billion euros in May 2007, up 1.5 percent from May 2006, while the value of export-deliveries totaled 1.383 billion euros (down 9.3 pct) from the same month last year.
 Eurobarometer poll finds Greeks prepared to pay for cleaner transportBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
The average Greek tends to be a car owner and desires better road infrastructures but is also beginning to realise the need for administrative measures to restrict the use of cars in urban centres and states willingness to pay more for less polluting transport and better environmental protection. These were the findings of a Eurobarometer survey on attitudes to transport policy in the EU member-states that was released on Thursday.
According to the survey, 86 percent of Greek families has at least one car and 6.5 percent of Greeks own a motorbike. Of these, 49 percent of Greeks say they are the primary driver of their car while 35 percent say there is a car in their family of which they are not the primary driver.
Regarding their preferred mode of transport, 48 percent of Greeks say that they drive their own car, 26 percent prefer public transport and 23 percent prefer non-motorised transport, such as walking or cycling.
In order to increase use of public transport, 42 percent in Greece say that it would require better schedule and stricter observance of the schedule. Another 22 percent of Greeks said they would like better and more frequent connections between urban centres and various stations, 12 percent would like stations closer to their place of residence and 8 percent call for greater security on public transport.
In terms of restricting air pollution from cars, 28 percent of Greeks is in favour of providing tax incentives for the purchase of less polluting vehicles. Another 32 percent is in favour of less taxation on biofuels to encourage their use.
As a measure for reducing traffic in urban centres, 41 percent called for an improvement to public transport, 33 percent for a restriction of parking spaces in urban centres, 13 percent called for greater restrictions on speed limits and 5 percent would agree to establishing tolls for those using their car in the city centre.
About 68 percent of Greeks said they would be prepared to pay more for less polluting modes of transport, one of the highest percentages in the EU after Slovenia. The EU average for this response was 54 percent in favour of paying more.
Finally, on the use of public funds in the transport sector, 62 percent of Greeks believe that it should be spent primarily on improving road infrastructure and only 25 percent on improving public transport.
 Emporiki Bank says pre-tax profits down 54.7 pct in 1st halfEmporiki Bank on Thursday said its pre-tax profits fell 54.7 percent in the first half of the year to 53.7 million euros, while operating profits were down 16.2 pct to 161.3 million euros and net income rose 1.0 pct to 488.2 million euros.
The bank said its housing loans portfolio rose 32.5 pct in the first six months of the year to 6.277 billion euros, while new loans grew 44 pct to 1.169 billion euros, raising the bank's market share to 9.95 pct.
Consumer credit grew by 10.9 pct to a total of 2.255 billion euros, while Credicom's loan portfolio grew to 769 million euros.
 Loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises rose by 2.5 percent to 4.828 billion euros.Saving deposits grew 10.5 pct to 16.707 billion euros, while time deposits grew by 34 percent and option deposits fell by 9.9 percent.
Non-performing loans totaled 6.6 pct of the bank's loan portfolio with provisions reach 1.158 billion euros. Emporiki Bank said its equity capital totaled 886.2 million euros.
 Bank of Piraeus buys Avis' operations in Greece for 25.5 mln eurosBank of Piraeus on Thursday announced the completion of the purchase of Olympic Commerce and Tourist Enterprises SA, a subsidiary of Avis Europe Group Holdings BV in Greece for 25.5 million euros.
Under the deal, Bank of Piraeus will have the exclusive rights of using the brand name Avis in the short- and long-term lease of cars.
A bank statement said the purchase will significantly strengthen its position in the domestic long-term leasing market. Bank of Piraeus has a long standing activity in the leasing market through its subsidiary Best Leasing. Following the purchase the group's car fleet will total 26,000 vehicles. Avis turnover in Greece totaled 81.3 million euros and pre-tax profits were 5.4 million euros last year.
 Titan Group to build cement factory in AlbaniaTitan Cement SA on Thursday announced the signing of an agreement between its subsidiary in Albania Antea Cement Sh.A and China's CBMI Construction Co Ltd for a turn key contract of a new cement production factory in Boka e Kuqe in Albania.
Titan Group has secured the rights of land use and raw material mining for a period of 99 years with an agreement ratified by the Albanian government. The new factory, expected to begin operations in December 2009, will fully meet all environmental standards and will have a production capacity of 1.5 tons annually. The production will be distributed in the Albanian market and to exports.
Titan Cement said the project is budgetted at 170 million euros, with part of the project expected to be funded by IFC and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Titan Group operates 11 cement factors in six countries. Its sales totaled more than 16 tons last year.
 Titan Group says 1st half net profits up 4.0 pctTitan Group on Thursday reported an 1.0 percent decline in its first half sales to 757.3 million euros, compared with the same period last year, while EBITDA rose 3.0 pct to 221.8 million euros over the same period.
Net profits, after minorities and tax provisions totaled 124.6 million euros, up 4.0 percent from the first half 2006, reflecting the negative impact of foreign exchange fluctuations, mainly the US dollar's slide against the euro.
US activities' contributions to the group's operating results was 27 percent lower compared with last year, despite a positive impact of recent acquisitions in the US market. A significant drop in the housing market affected sales volumes in the US market, mainly in Florida.
In the Greece, demand was slightly down compared with record levels last year, mainly in Athens and Thessaloniki.
 Sprider Stores reports spectacular six-month resultsSprider Stores Group on Thursday said its six-month consolidated turnover rose 37.2 percent to 53.2 million euros, from 38.8 million euros in the same period last year.
Gross profits totaled 30.5 million euros, up 57.7 pct from 2006, while the group's gross profit margin rose by 7.5 points to 57.3 percent.
Pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) jumped to 23.4 million euros in the January-June period this year, from 6.3 million euros in 2006, while pre-tax and interest earnings soared to 20.8 million euros form 4.4 million over the same period, respectively.
Pre-tax profits jumped to 19.6 million euros in the first six months of 2007, from 3.4 million euros in 2006, while consolidated after tax and minorities profits soared to 13.6 million euros from 2.2 million euros.
Sprider Stores operates an retail network of 54 shops, of which 49 in Greece and five abroad (Skopje, Sofia, Bucarest, Limassol and Timisoara).
 Greek stocks drop 1.78 pct on ThursdayGreek stocks lost significant ground on Thursday hit by heavy losses in other European stock markets. The composite index ended 1.78 percent lower at 4,977.50 points, with turnover a massive 757 million euros, of which 316 million euros were block trades.
All sectors ended lower with the Media (5.76 pct), Technology (4.04 pct) and Industrial Products (3.86 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Big Cap index dropped 1.78 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.42 percent lower and the Small Cap index fell 2.61 pct.
Unibrain (19.74 pct), Tsoukaridis (10 pct) and European Credit (9.97 pct) were top gainers, while PC Systems (13.79 pct), Elviemek (9.92 pct) and Tria Alpha (9.61 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 241 to 41 with another 20 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -3.60%
Personal & Household: -1.79%
Raw Materials: -3.32%
Travel & Leisure: -1.64%
Food & Beverages: +0.19%
Financial Services: -2.96%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Marfin, National Bank, Marfin Investment Group and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 24.58
Public Power Corp (PPC): 22.80
HBC Coca Cola: 33.86
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.22
Emporiki Bank: 21.04
National Bank of Greece: 45.14
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 26.90
Titan Cement Company: 40.50
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 3.351 billion euros on Thursday, of which 1.431 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.29 billion euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was again the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.27 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds rose to 0.26 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.66 pct and the German Bund 4.40 percent.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate fell to 4.07 pct from 4.08 pct on Wednesday, the two-day rate was 4.08 pct, the one-month rate was 4.10 pct and the 12-month rate 4.57 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe Greek derivatives market followed a sharp fall in the Athens Stock Exchange, although turnover rose to 173.745 million euros on Thursday.
The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.63 pct, while the August contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.14 percent.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 8,922 contracts worth 118.586 million euros, with 41,709 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 1,054 contracts worth 35.283 million euros, with 1,576 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,414 contracts worth 19.875 million euros, with investment interest focusing on ATEbank's contracts (2,501), followed by OTE (289), PPC (299), Piraeus Bank (544), National Bank (1,330), Alpha Bank (686), Intracom (2,185), GEK (394) and Postal Bank (532).
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.383
Pound sterling 0.676
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 9.300
Japanese yen 165.84
Swiss franc 1.674
Norwegian kroner 8.039
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.451
Australian dollar 1.568
 Greece ravaged by deadly firesThree elderly people lost their lives in the fires that have engulfed the prefecture of Achaia in the Peloponnese, southwest Greece and were continuing to burn on Thursday. The charred remains of a 75-year-old man were found in the village of Mamousia, Egio while two elderly women were burned alive in Ano Diakopto..A total of 13 people were taken to hospitals in Patras and Egio with respiratory problems while a young person was hospitalized with injuries.
The fires continue to burn out of control in Egialia, Achaia where many private houses were destroyed and hundreds of people were evacuated with the help of military helicopters.
Meanwhile, a forest fire broke out at noon on Thursday in Porto Rafti, Athens close to residential areas and 45 firemen with 15 fire engines are battling the flames.
A state of emergency is in effect in municipalities and communities in the prefectures of Achaia, Kefallonia and Kastoria.
Eight fire fronts are in progress on the Ionian Sea island of Kefallonia, where many villages have been evacuated. Livestock and private houses were burned, while a firefighting aircraft landed safely at the Andravida airfield after suffering power loss in one of its engines.
A state of emergency is in effect in the municipalities of Nestorio and Akrites and the communities of Arenon, Grammos and Kastrakio in the northwestern prefecture of Kastoria.
Firefighting efforts in central and western Macedonia, north Greece, continued overnight.
The wildfire in Dorkada, Serres prefecture continues to burn, while the fire in Langadi, Nigrita that broke out at dawn has been placed under partial control. Another fire in Kastanousa, Serres that also broke out at dawn has been extinguished after destroying a few acres of farmland.
In the prefecture of Kilkis, a fire that crossed the Greek borders from FYROM on Wednesday is in progress in the region of Idomeni-Hamilou.
In the prefecture of Pieria, the fire that burned its way to the region from Velventos, Kozani Prefecture is destroying the Flabouro mountaintop and threatens a small village.
In Florina Prefecture, a fire is burning out of control in the Kristalopigi region, while the same situation is being recorded in the Lake Prespa region in the Varba-Sfika location.
In Assiros, Thessaloniki, the firefighting effort continues with 23 fire engines and 58 firemen battling the flames in a region with low vegetation.
The Thessaloniki forests will be patrolled by the army for precautionary reasons within the framework of the fire prevention measures to be put into effect in the following days. In addition, Thessaloniki's Sheik Shu urban forest will be closed for the public from 9pm until 6am and will be guarded by police, firefighters and volunteers.
In progress are the fires on the island of Chios, in Velventos-Kozani Prefecture, Saniada-Thesprotia Prefecture, Amaranto-Ioannina Prefecture and in the boroughs of Zoni and Psari in Megalopolis, southern Greece.
New fires break out across Greece
A state of emergency was declared in the municipality of Prespes and the community of Kristalopigi on Thursday because of the fires in the prefecture of Florina, northwestern Greece.
The firefighting efforts are being hampered by the fact that the wildfire is raging in a remote region, but fortunately no populated areas are being threatened by the flames.
Meanwhile, a number of wildfires are in progress in Peloponnese, southern Greece.
A fire broke out before noon on Thursday in Mt. Aderes in the region of Trizina. In the firefighting efforts participate, 3 fire engines and aircraft.
A fire at the village of Avramio, Messinia Prefecture has spread out of control while 6 fire engines and 2 aircraft are battling the flames. Five fire engines and 2 aircraft participate in the efforts to put out a major fire that broke out in the region of Kranidi.
In progress are the fires that broke out a few days ago in Metaxada and Gargaliani in Messinia prefecture which have already destroyed many acres of forestland and farmland. Wildfires continue to burn in Palamari, Megalopolis and on the island of Hydra.
A new fire broke out in early afternoon in Halki, in the Corinth prefecture and 3 fire engines are on their way to the region, while the fires in Polovitsa-Mt. Taigetos, Aghios Nikonas-Mani, in Old Pridavros, Chrisokelaria-Koroni and Hiliomodi are under control.
New fire passes into Thesprotia from Albanian border
Yet another fire from the Albanian side of the border crossed into Greece at Sagiada in the prefecture of Thesprotia on Thursday at 16:00, where a forest fire extending about 100 metres in length is now burning.
Still underway are fires that have been burning in Thesprotia since Wednesday, at Vavouri, Korytiani and Goumeni.
A forest fire at Asimochori near Konitsa, in the prefecture of Ioannina, has also entered its second day after passing across the border from Albania.
In Amaranto in Konitsa, meanwhile, a major forest fire has been burning for four days and is destroying a dense forest of black pine.
 "Arcturos" warns of the wildfire effects on wildlife in Mt. GrammosThe "Arcturos" non-profit society for the protection of wildlife and the environment expressed concern on Thursday over the future of wildlife in Mt. Grammos, northwestern Greece, where major wildfires are in progress. The fires will reduce and change the vital space used by local wildlife and as a result animals will be forced to visit populated regions more often in search of food, says "Arcturos".
The habitats of important species like the brown bear and other large carnivores are being destroyed by the fires, warns "Arcturos", pointing out that Mt. Grammos and the Triklario in Lake Prespes are major habitats and corridors of communication for bear and other wildlife populations at national level (Grammos-Triklario- Varnounta) and Balkan level (Grammos-Morava in Albania and Triklario-Varnounta-Pelister in FYROM).
"Arcturos" personnel and volunteers are participating in the firefighting efforts on Mt. Grammos.
 Cullture Minister Voulgarakis inaugurates 'Athens-Sparta' exhibitionCulture Minister George Voulgarakis on Thursday evening inaugurated the "Athens-Sparta" exhibition, in the presence of Monemvasia and Sparta Metropolitan Efstathios, former deputy foreign minister Panagiotis Skandalakis and local government officials.
The exhibition is on show at the Olive and Olive Oil Museum.
The exhibition was previously on show in New York, which was presented by the Onassis Foundation.
Voulgarakis said that Sparta "deserves a museum because its own history imposes it," adding that "the exhibition is a necessity to project the history of Sparta."
 Light earthquake recorded near IoanninaA light earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale was recorded at 12:03 in the prefecture of Ioannina. The epicentre of the quake, which was felt in the city of Ioannina, was 25 kilometres northeast of the city near Kalpaki. No damage has been reported so far.
 Missing Polish tourist rescued from Samaria gorgeA 37-year-old Polish tourist who went missing at Samaria Gorge in Crete last Saturday, was finally located in the region of Trypiti Sfakia, by a member of the Hania Mountain Climbing Association on Thursday evening.
He went to Samaria gorge last Saturday along with his 40-year-old sister who is still missing.
Efforts were being made on Thursday afternoon to transfer the Polish tourist to Hania hospital for treatment given that he suffers from epilepsy.
The rescue team express the hope that the Polish tourist will be able to give valuable information for the location also of his 40-year-old sister.
 Fairly hot on FridayFairly hot weather and northerly, northeasterly winds are forecast throughout the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 6-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 17C and 37C. Sunny weather in Athens, with winds reaching 4-5 beaufort and temperatures ranging from 23C to 36C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 20C to 35C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe numerous fires that continue to burn across Greece, the two wildfire deaths in Egialia, the extensive damages, the meeting of main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou with Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias, the revelations of an assassination plan targeting Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos and the heat wave, were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "People and villages devoured by fires - Achaia-Cephallonia in flames - 70km-long fire front".
APOGEVMATINI: "George Papandreou puts the President on the spot - His initiative for a political party leaders' council meeting chaired by President Papoulias causes problems in the operation of institutions".
AVGHI: "Greece in flames, government in hiding - Three people dead and thousands of acres of forestland turned to ashes".
AVRIANI: "Remove the entire Fire Brigade command before the whole country turns to ashes".
CHORA: "Held hostage by the fires - Achaia-Cephallonia burned - Many villages evacuated - Human lives at risk - Property loss".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "(Civil Protection Secretary Panagiotis) Fourlas and (Fire Brigade Chief Andreas) Kois, the odd couple".
ELEFTHEROS: "George Papandreou shuts the door to modernizers and old PASOK party cadres".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Out of control - The country is engulfed by fires".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Continuing tragedy - Inferno - Uncontrollable disaster in Achaia-Cephallonia-Kastoria".
ESTIA: "Inferno and human desperation - Egio, Cephallonia, Kastoria and other regions in flames".
ETHNOS: "Barefoot in the battle with the flames - Greeks are enraged over the disaster of biblical proportions - One dead in Achaia".
KATHIMERINI: "One dead, villages destroyed - 197 fire fronts broke out on Wednesday alone - The biggest fronts recorded in Egio, Cephallonia, Kastoria".
LOGOS: "Tragedy in Egio - Helicopters evacuated local residents".
NIKI: "Crime - One dead in the fire in Egio - Biblical disaster in the country".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Forests and private house burned by the anti-popular policy followed - The fire crime has taken up huge dimensions".
TA NEA: "Holocaust - Tens of villages in flames - State mechanism in dissolution".
TO VIMA: "Market feast with buyouts and rumours - The summer of the deals - Three moves expected by Marfin group within the following days - Banks are targeted by equity funds".
VRADYNI: "Unending tragedy - Tens of villages evacuated in Achaia-Cephallonia are left at the mercy of the flames".
 Spokesman: July agreement the only substantive move after referendumNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
A UN-brokered agreement between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities, to help resume substantive negotiations leading to a political settlement in Cyprus, is the only significant and practical move made, in the past three years, the Government believes.
Speaking Thursday at his daily press briefing, Government Spokesman Vasilis Palmas also said that provisions of the UN-proposed solution plan (the Annan plan), which was rejected by most Greek Cypriots in a referendum in April 2004 and approved by the Turkish Cypriots, will reappear in any future talks.
"We have before us an agreement relating to procedures and the only substantive and practical step since the April 2004 referendum is the July 8th agreement," Palmas said.
Replying to questions, he said that if and when something substantive emerges from this procedure in relation to the resumption of negotiations with a view to make progress or to reach a comprehensive settlement, this shall be dealt with accordingly.
He noted that circumstances were different in 2004 or 2005 and now the situation is different and should be handled in an appropriate manner.
The July 2006 agreement was reached between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, under UN auspices. It provides for technical teams and working groups to be set up to discuss concurrently issues that affect the day to day life of the people and substantive issues.
Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion and the latest UN effort to find a political settlement, through the Annan plan, failed. Greek Cypriots say that the plan did not lead to the reunification of the country, nor did it serve the interests of the people of Cyprus, in addition to giving Turkey the right to maintain troops on the island and a say in the affairs of the country, hence they rejected the proposed solution.
 European Party decides to support Papadopoulos' candidacyNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus centre European Party decided here Wednesday to support the candidacy of Cyprus President Tassos
Papadopoulos who will run for reelection at the presidential elections that will take place in February 2008.
European Party's Central Council approved Wednesday a proposal of the party's Political Bureau to support Papadopoulos' candidacy with 169 votes in favour, two against and one abstention.
Speaking before the Central Council, the President of the party Demetris Syllouris said the elections of 2008 are the most important elections ever for Cyprus, noting that they will be the first presidential elections after the country's accession to the EU and the first elections after the referenda on a UN plan for a settlement in Cyprus. The Annan plan was rejected by Greek Cypriots and approved by the Turkish Cypriots, during April 24 2004 simultaneous referenda.
Syllouris stressed that the settlement of the Cyprus question must respect the Greek Cypriot's rights.
Centre-right Democratic Party (DIKO), which Papadopoulos led until recently and the Social Democratic Movement EDEK have also decided to back Papadopoulos.
Apart from Papadopoulos, House President and General Secretary of left-wing AKEL Demetris Christofias, former Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, backed by the main opposition party Democratic Rally and former Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous have up to now announced their decision to run for the presidency in February.
The European Party secured three seats of the House of Representatives during the parliamentary elections of 2006, with a percentage of 5.73%.
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