|Sunday, 15 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-11-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 16 November 2007 Issue No: 2750
 PM Karamanlis briefed by culture ministerPrime minister Costas Karamanlis met Thursday with culture minister Michalis Liapis, who briefed him on progress in the ongoing transfer of antiquities to the New Acropolis Museum from the old museum at the foot of the Acropolis some 400 metres away, and on a ministry bill aimed at combatting antiquities smuggling that was near completion.
Liapis told reporters after the one-hour meeting that Karamanlis will visit the new Museum in mid-December.
He said he also briefed the premier on a ministry bill on combating violence in football fields, which would shore up the State's "institutional arsenal" against such violence.
Liapis also broached the issue of the culture ministry's financial resources. "Culture is not possible without money," the minister said, adding that Karamanlis had assured him that he considered culture a top priority, as wel as the effort for its further financial reinforcement.
The prime minister assured him that every effort would be made to find resources for culture, Liapis said, adding that culture was an exportable product from which the country had many benefits to gain.
Liapis said that he also briefed national economy and finance minister, during their recent meeting, on the need for financially reinforcing the culture ministry, adding that he had no complaints over the finance ministry, with which he has excellent relations and acknowledges the difficulties faced by the Greek economy.
 Prime Minister Karamanlis confers with rural development and foods ministerPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis conferred on Wednesday with Rural Development and Foods Minister Alexandros Kontos at the Maximos Mansion government headquarters in Athens.
The minister told reporters after the meeting that he briefed the prime minister on agricultural sector issues, focusing on the completion of the study for the reconstruction and rural development of regions devastated by the wildfires this past summer.
The study was prepared by 150 experts, supervised by Thessaloniki's Aristotle University and the Agricultural University of Athens, and also includes recommendations for budgeted cost actions on all agricultural activities in all the fire-ravaged prefectures.
The rural development minister also stressed that the study will be a tool in the effort to support rural development in the prefectures that suffered the most damages by the recent fires, adding that consultations for its implementation will get underway immediately with local government authorities.
Kontos also referred to the decision by deputy rural development minister Costas Kiltidis on the resumption of the hunting season, stating that this practice is allowed only in regions that were not burned.
Kiltidis last month announced an immediate ban on hunting in all forests surrounding burnt areas, also instructing regional authorities to declare all burnt forest land reserved for reforestation and ordering the immediate creation of tree nurseries to provide seedlings for reforestation projects.
The prime minister is also scheduled to meet with Culture Minister Michalis Liapis.
 PM meets honorary ND president MitsotakisRuling New Democracy's honorary president and former premier Constantine Mitsotakis was received by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday for talks that focused on planned changes to Greece's election laws.
After the meeting, Mitsotakis said he was in favor of changes that would strengthen the party with the most votes in order to ensure stability in government, as well as a proposal to divide the large 2nd Athens constituency into three smaller electoral districts.
Commenting on the negotiations underway to resolve the name issue with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Mitsotakis said that Greece had "already gone half the distance" and it was now up to Skopje to meet Athens halfway. He also stressed that there would be no cost to Greece from this affair, that it would continue to have relations with Skopje, but that Skopje would know that they could not join the European Union and NATO.
 FM Bakoyannis meets with French counterpart in ParisPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday attended a dinner in her honour hosted by her French counterpart Bernard Kouchner in Paris.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Kouchner expressed particular pleasure over the meeting "with my good friend, Dora", adding that this expression was not a "diplomatic courtesy" but "reality".
Kouchner said they discussed Greek-French frienship during the dinner, as well as other issues, such as that of FYROM.
"We support our Greek friends," he said, and expressed that the latest Greek initiative on the FYROM issue "is one step forward, and an additional reason for backing the Greek position.
Other issues discussed included Kosovo, Iran and Lebanon, from where Kouchner had just returned.
Bakoyannis, in turn, said that it had been a particularly interesting dinner and discussion on a number of issues.
She said that Greece and France had very close views on many issues, and a very close cooperation.
Bakoyannis further expressed gratitude to France for the assistance it provided in the difficult moments this past summer during the devastating wildfires that ravaged several parts of the country.
Earlier, Bakoyannis was the official guest of French Farm and Fisheries Minister Michel Barnier at an event he organised on Wednesday on the theme of "Europe and its borders." A group of deputies of the ruling UMP party participated in the event.
 Bakoyannis on use of veto against FYROMThe need for a mutually acceptable solution to a dispute between Greece and the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the so-called "name issue" -- the only difference separating the two countries -- was once again stressed by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday.
Bakoyannis was replying to questions concerning a statement made the previous day by US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, a former US ambassador to Greece.
"Nobody wants to be put in the position of having to use a veto, that is why mutually acceptable solutions are needed," Bakoyannis said.
She emphasised that the goal - on the basis of UN Security Council decisions and an Interim Agreement signed by Greece and FYROM in 1995 - was to find a mutually acceptable name that would allow Skopje's unobstructed progress toward joining the European Union and NATO, with respect for good neighbour relations. Bakoyannis also pointed out that good neighbour relations were among the fundamental criteria for all relations of partnership and alliance. "This is Greece's goal, we are going to move in this direction on condition - I repeat - that we find a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the name," the minister said. Bakoyannis made the statements on the sidelines of a reception she hosted on Thursday for the ambassadors and envoys of Arab countries stationed in Greece, specifically those of Syria, Algeria, Iraq, Egypt, Kuwait, Tunisia, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Talks at the reception focused on developments in the SE Mediterranean region, with an emphasis on the Middle East problem.
 Burns: Greece a 'crucial strategic ally' of the USWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns called Greece a "strategic ally" of the United States, and outlined the common values and historical bonds between the two countries, while also lauding the role of the Greek American community, during a hearing on "US-Greece Relations and Regional Issues" in the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee's subcommittee on Europe in the US Congress on Wednesday.
Burns, a former US ambassador to Greece and the number three man in the US State Department, referred also to the FYROM name issue and US-Greece cooperation on such matters as nuclear arms non-proliferation, trafficking in persons, and environmental protection, with a special reference to the recent devastating wildfires in Greece and in the state of California.
On Kosovo, Burns said that the US was working towards a definitive settlement of the final status of the region, and backed the Ahtisaari plan, which he said provides for supervised independence for Kosovo, adding that in the event that an agreement was not achieved in the next two rounds of negotiations, which end on December 10, the US and other countries would not back further continuation of the talks and would "take their decisions" on the matter.
He also noted the progress in the procedures for including Greece in the US's visa waiver program, stressing that the relations between the two countries were the best they have been in decades. "We have excellent relations with the prime minister Mr. (Costas) Karamanlis and the foreign minister Ms. (Dora) Bakoyannis, and we are grateful to both for their strong support for a closer US-Greek alliance," he said.
Burns added that the two countries were working together to promote peace and stability in Greece's neighborhood, as well as in the wider Middle East "and beyond".
"We know that we can count on our Greek friends and allies, we know that we can face these challenges and that Greece can rely on us," he added.
Replying to questions by members of the subcommittee, Burns said that Greece was a "crucial strategic ally, with which the US fought together in all the major wars of the 20th century".
"Greece is a partner of the US in the front against global terrorism and contributes to the NATO effort in Afghanistan", while "it is also a key country, with strategic importance and deep knowledge of the developments in the Balkans, and a main investor" in Albania, FYROM and Serbia.
To a question on terrorism, Burns said that this was one of the issues that had been of concern in Greek-American relations. He stressed that Greece's efforts had produced a "dramatic improvement", referring the Greek authorities' disbanding of the 'November 17' and 'ELA' terrorist groups which, he noted, had killed members of the US (diplomatic) mission, while most of the victims of those organisations had been Greek citizens, among them the husband of the current foreign minister Bakoyannis (then ruling New Democracy party MP Pavlos Bakoyannis).
The two countries, he continued, are partners in Afghanistan, adding, however, that Greece should examine the prospect of stepping up the efforts in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan against the Taliban, with additional forces.
On the Cyprus issue, Burns reaffirmed that the US supported the efforts of the UN for a solution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
On FYROM, Burns said that it should not be "refused an invitation for NATO membership on any grounds save that of failure to fulfill the fundamental entry criteria".
He said that certain quarters in Greece were raising the prospect of a veto regarding an invitation to 'Macedonia' if the name issue is not resolved.
"Although the US agrees on the importance of resolving the name issue, it does not believe that only the difference over the name constitutes a reason for obstructing 'Macedonia's' accession to international organizations," he said, adding that the US supports the UN-brokered process under the UN secretary general's special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz, and implementation of the 1995 Interim Agreement between the two countries which he said allowed 'Macedonia's' membership in regional and international organizations with the name of FYROM.
Burns also called on Skopje to display the necessary flexibility, noting Greece's sensitivities, which he said FYROM should take into consideration.
He further referred to what he called the "visionary policy" of Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis regarding Greek-Turkish relations, noting that there was no need for any US mediation between Athens and Ankara whatsoever, since relations between the two countries were steadily improving.
Burns also expressed his support for the re-opening of the Halki School of Theology and the need forf the Ecumenical Patriarch to freely exercise his duties, noting that the US governments of George Bush and his predecessor Bill Clinton have repeatedly called on the Turkish governments in recent years in that respect.
 Gov't comments on top US diplomat's statements regarding FYROM issueAthens on Thursday was asked to comment on the most recent statement by a top US State Department official regarding the possibility of a Greek veto vis-à-vis the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) NATO prospects, due to the long-standing difference between Greece and the Skopje government over the FYROM "name issue".
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the Greek government's position is well known and has been clearly stated by the prime minister and the foreign minister on numerous occasions. He added that negotiations underway are at a very sensitive stage, while refraining from making further comments.
Regarding the government's assessment of the position, expressed by US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, he noted that Greece's stance is known, with the country's arguments made plainly clear to all interested parties, "and there is nothing else left to be said."
In closing, Antonaros said it has been acknowledged from the beginning that resolution of this issue is a long, tough and complex procedure before reminding reporters that Greek-US relations are close and friendly.
 EU Education Ministers Council convenes in BrusselsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)
The European Union's Council of Education Ministers convened here on Thursday and focused on the protection of multilinguism in Europe, the importance of vocational training for joining the labour market and the modernization and competitiveness of higher education establishments. Greece was represented at the Council by Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis.
Addressing the Council, the Greek minister said that "the red line existing between issues concerning competitiveness and issues affecting the educational sector entirely must be protected."
According to Stylianidis, the fact that education in the EU constitutes national policy protects the EU's comparative advantage that is none other than multiformity, multilinguism and multiculturalism.
"When we protect multiformity from the possible cloning of cultures then, as a matter of fact, we allow every member-state to develop a circle of particular relations with corresponding cultures and the friends of every member-state become friends of the entire European family," Stylianidis said.
 Papandreou unveils priorities for PASOK after his re-election to party helmMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thursday outlined what he called the organizational changes he will promote within the party, days after he was re-elected to the party's helm in a nationwide poll amongst three candidates.
Speaking to PASOK's parliamentary group, Papandreou referred to the Nov. 11 party election - in which he garnered nearly 56 percent of the vote to MP Evangelos Venizelos' 38.18 percent - saying that "politics won out and that expectations for PASOK have been rekindled", while again referring to a victory of "politics' autonomy vis-à-vis major interests and out-of-party centers (of power)."
Moreover, the former foreign minister again referred to what he called a "mediacracy" prevailing amongst the country's major mass media. He further charged that after his election a handful of media outlets attempted to discredit the election process followed by PASOK, while he even cited the firings of journalists expressing a different opinion that those of their employers.
In citing "five points" he said emerged from Sunday's party election, Papandreou pointed to a right for all to have a role and voice in the party; respect of collective decisions and public policy statements; defense of past PASOK governments' accomplishments; a willingness to change views and practices, as well as a "clear, radical and modern expression".
He also announced that the party's national council will convene on Friday to focus on the party's charter.
In turning to non-party issues and PASOK's opposition strategy, Papandreou first touched on a timely foreign policy issue, namely, the FYROM "name issue", reiterating and echoing standing Greek policy that the neighboring country cannot join Euro-Atlantic alliance without Athens' approval.
Turning to domestic issues, Papandreou criticized the government for avoiding substance and concentrating on "PR tricks" with the goal of out-maneuvering PASOK, with constitutional revision and changing the election law as just two examples.
He again ruled out any participation by PASOK in constitutional revision debate, demanding instead a "dialogue from scratch".
Regarding potential changes to the election law, an initiative all but guaranteed by the government, Papandreou said PASOK's proposal was for changes along the lines of a so-called "German model" version.
 KKE Parliamentary spokesman says party adamant over proportional representation demandThe Communist Party of Greece's (KKE) firm support of absolute proportional representation in the election system was reiterated by its parliamentary spokesman Spyros Halvatzis in an interview with the ANA-MPA, where he categorically stated his party's opposition to any other proposal.
He said simple proportionality is the only fair voting system, reflecting exactly the vote percentage garnered by each political party, while adding that KKE will vote down any effort by the government to change the existing election law.
Halvatzis stated that the policy followed by main opposition party PASOK serves major economic interests and that no policy change was presented during the campaign for the election of a new party leader with the rivals focusing on how they will defeat New Democracy in the next general elections. He added that PASOK and New Democracy represent the "major economic interests" and share the same policy towards the EU and NATO.
On the party leader election model followed by PASOK, he said that inviting people who do not belong to a political party to vote for its leader does not constitute a political procedure and the result merely leads to a "super leader" who is virtually uncontrollable.
 KKE leader touring Kozani prefectureCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga continued her tour of the northern prefecture of Kozani for the second consecutive day on Thursday, referring to the unification of social security funds and the issue of the electoral law.
"With the unification of the social security funds they want to demolish whatever gains the working people had and that had been preserved in past years. It concerns equating working people downwards and not equating the gains and rights of working people upwards," she said.
Papariga also referred to the issue of the electoral law, reiterating her party's steadfast position in favour of proportional representation, but added that proportional representation is not enough and that "it is also necessary for working people to abandon the two mainstream parties."
 Alavanos visits marine research centre on CreteCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos on Thursday visited the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research and met with staff working at the centre's institutes and the CretAquarium.
Alavanos was given a brief summary of the center's work and problems by the head of the Marine Biology and Genetics Institute Dr. Antonios Magoulas, the director of the Aquaculture Institute Dr. Pascal Divanach and the director of the CretAquarium Michalis Papadakis, as well as a representatives of the researchers.
There followed a meeting between Alavanos and representatives of the employees' association at the centre, who outlined their positions on work-related and other issues, after which SYRIZA's leader address a meeting of the centre staff and outlined the importance of the research being carried out there.
 Events commemorating November 17 anniversary beginEvents commemorating the 34th anniversary of the student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic in 1973 began on Thursday. The gates of the Polytechnic (National Technical University of Athens) were opened and dozens came to deposit a flower on the memorial in the front courtyard.
NTUA Rector Kostis Mountzouris said that the community at the university had made the necessary preparations to guard the campus from intrusion both on Patission Street and elsewhere during three-day celebrations that will culminate on Saturday with the annual march to the U.S. Embassy in Athens. He stressed that the Polytechnic community were ready and able to defend the university's asylum.
The anniversary is held each year in tribute to a student uprising against the military dictatorship ruling Greece at that time, that was violently put down on November 17, 1973 when the army and tanks were brought in to disperse the students that had taken over the Athens Polytechnic building.
 Roussopoulos congratulates ND Euro-MPMinister of State and government spokesman Thodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday congratulated ruling New Democracy Euro-MP Rodi Kratsa, who was awarded the Anna Lindh Prize.
 Gov't on abolition of religious affiliation on ID cardsDeputy Interior Minister Panagiotis Hinofotis, whose portfolio includes the former public order ministry's jurisdiction, on Thursday clarified that the Council of State has ratified a Hellenic Data Protection Authority decision ruling that an individual's religion affiliation constitutes sensitive personal data, therefore, this information cannot be listed on police-issued IDs because it will conflict with Article 13 of the Constitution guarantying religious freedom.
Hinofotis made the statement from Parliament's podium in response to a tabled question by freshman Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party MP Costis Aivaliotis.
The latter emphasized that the prime minister and several ruling New Democracy cadres had signed a Church of Greece petition in favor of listing religion on ID cards.
Aivaliotis also referred to statements by European Commission Vice-President Franco Frattini, who denied that the European Union had called on Greece to remove the religion listing from ID cards.
The LA.OS deputy requested that an individual be allowed to list his or her religious faith a voluntary basis.
Referring to Frattini, Hinofotis reminded that the issuance of the EU-wide ID cards is still pending, and therefore, if the issue arises in the future it will be dealt with in accordance to EU and national guidelines.
 New U.S. Ambassador Daniel Speckhard arrives in AthensNewly-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Athens Daniel Speckhard arrived in Greece on Thursday evening and expressed satisfaction over assuming his duties as U.S. ambassador to Athens.
Speckhard said he "is impatient to meet the Greek people and to learn more about the culture of Greece and see a wonderful and beautiful country from close up."
Speaking in Greek he said "I am pleased that we are in Greece."
Speckhard has served as Alternate Head of Mission in Iraq, U.S. ambassador to Belarus and NATO's Alternate Assistant Secretary General for Political Relations, whose duties concerned the region of Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean.
 NATO armada of minesweepers arrives in ThessalonikiA NATO armada sailed into the port of Thessaloniki on Thursday morning, comprising five ships from the standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2.
The five vessels, minehunters and minesweepers -- two from Spain, one each from Turkey and Italy, and the Greek minehunter 'Callisto' with 45 sailors on board -- headed by squadron leader Captain Antonio Martorell Lacave of the Spanish Navy, will remain in the port of Thesaloniki until Monday, November 19.
Shortly after the armada's arrival, Captain Martorell met with Thessaloniki prefect Panayotis Psomiadis.
 FinMin Alogoskoufis comments on new state budget preparation frameworkFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis addressed an event organized on Thursday by the IOBE institute on the theme of "Preparing and implementing the state budget: Weaknesses of the present system and proposals for reform," where the conclusions contained in a relevant report were presented.
"The handling of problems related to the existing budget preparation system requires careful preliminary work and implementation. We are taking specific steps that are necessary for the reforming of the way with which the budget is prepared and implemented. We shall be continuing on this basis in the years to come as well so that we can achieve our goals," the minister said.
Alogoskoufis further pointed out that the change in the process of preparing state budgets cannot take place either automatically or with only one step, because it is not only the change in the legal framework that can take place easily. The question is that relevant services must organize themselves to be able to respond to new developments and for this reason specialization is necessary for their staff.
 FinMin briefs President on Greek, int'l economiesNational economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday briefed President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on the course of the Greek and international economy, following the minister's recent visit to New York where he attended a major international investment conference and on his meetings in Brussels on the sidelines of the Ecofin and Eurogroup sessions.
Alogoskoufis told reporters afterwards that he explained to the President that the uncertainties in the international economy, which emanated chiefly from the fiscal sector in the US, would have very small impact on the European and Greek economies.
Turning to the Greek economy in particular, Alogoskoufis noted a series of initiatives taken, including the continuation of the major public works projects, the commencement of the EU's Fourth Community Support Framework (CSF), the public and private sector collaborations, and private investments, which he said would contribute to maintaining the country's high growth rates over the coming years.
Alogoskoufis further said that the fiscal adjustment that has been achieved so far is substantial and will be continued, adding that the first priority now was streamlining of the wider public sector (DEKO public utilities and organizations, social insurance sector reforms, hospitals, etc.), which he noted would contribute to improvement of the economy.
The minister also said that the finalized text of the 2008 State Budget, which is slated to be tabled in parliament on Tuesday would have very few deviations from the draft budget.
 Parliamentary committees discuss social security fundingThe Parliamentary Economic and Social Affairs Committees, that are conducting the dialogue on the social security issue, discussed the funding of the social security system during Thursday's session.
Called on to provide clarifications on the amendment concerning the compulsory inclusion of Alpha Bank's employees in the United Bank Employees Social Security Fund, Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis said that the report prepared by a private company on behalf of the economy ministry used the same facts and predictions that had been taken into consideration in the corresponding reports concerning the Emporiki Bank and the Piraeus Bank, facts that were also ratified, together with the relevant law, by the European Commission's Competition Department.
On the contrary, the minister added, the report prepared by order of the Bank's staff union was based on "different acknowledgements that had nothing to do with reality."
 Development minister on Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipelineDevelopment Minister Christos Folias on Thursday referred to the eventuality of an in principle agreement for the setting up of an international company to carry out the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project.
"The Russian representatives came to Athens yesterday and the Bulgarian representatives are coming today, so that they reach an in principle agreement today or tomorrow regarding the company which will be set up," Folias said.
 Greece seeks to promote combined transports cargo hubs"Development of the logistics sector is an opportunity for Greece and for this reason the government has set a priority to highlighting the country's geographical position and to become the main logistics centre in the wider Balkans and SE European region," Transport and Communications Minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Thursday.
Addressing the 11th Panhellenic (national) Logistics Conference in Athens, the minister said the government planned amendments to an existing law over the operation of logistics centres, to create a logistics hub in the Thriassio district, an industrial zone west of Athens, and completing a new railway terminal at the Neo Ikonio dock.
Hatzidakis said a tender to build a logistics centre was currently underway, while he stressed that the government was examining the creation of a logistics hub in Thessaloniki with the aim to become a trans-Balkan cargo centre of combined transports. A similar plan is examined for the extreme northeast city of Alexandroupolis.
The government's next plan focuses on the region of Igoumenitsa, in extreme northwest Greece, while procedures are expected to begin soon for the construction of a new airport in Kasteli, on Crete - one of the biggest projects in Europe with a budget of 1.2 billion euros.
 Exclusive interview with Transport and Communications Minister Costas HatzidakisThe government's objective is to keep the national carrier Olympic Airways operational, allowing for its privatization after the problems with the EU are solved, Transport and Communications Minister Costas Hatzidakis said in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA.
Reiterating a statement by National Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, he said that further privatization is not being considered for the state telephone utility, OTEtelecoms, at least in the near future, and announced that the railways sector will be open to competition after the separation of infrastructure from route operation as stipulated by the EU.
Hatzidakis stated that in a highly deregulated and dynamic telecommunications market such as in Greece, there is room for more quality alternative providers aside from OTEtelecoms which, however, will have to carry on with its developmental course at a faster pace, always in accordance with the national and EU law.
Referring to Hellenic Railways (OSE), he said that it is in need of modernization, being a group of companies with many and big problems. As stipulated by the EU, the sector of railway infrastructure will become state-run and will have to be separated from the service sector, which will be undertaken by private investors. He added that the objective is to have modern and safe infrastructures, modernize the OSE network for faster transportation and provide quality services to the public.
On the recent spate of the bus fires in the Thermal Buses SA (ETHEL) fleet, he assured that all measures are being taken to bolster safety for commuters opting for mass transportation.
Commenting on the recent incident involving an ETHEL bus that caught fire with passengers on board and was completely destroyed, fortunately with no injuries, Hatzidakis stated that an inquiry is underway on the conditions of the accident, stressing that this incident should not affect the public's confidence in mass transportation.
 Aspis Bank seeks expansion in BalkansAspis Bank plans to expand in the Balkan market and to emphasize higher growth of its domestic activities in consumer credit, the bank's chairman and chief executive Constantinos Karatzas said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters during a presentation of the bank's outlook, Karatzas said he supported consolidation of Greek banks through mergers and takeovers in order to ensure a "national identity" in the domestic banking system.
He stressed that a plan to merge two large Greek banks should be examined if a risk arose that could undermine the independent course of large domestic banks by a takeover bid from a foreign financial institution.
Karatzas said Aspis Bank's strategy was to expand in Romania and Bulgaria, while he noted that the bank was examining all prospects.
He noted that Aspis Bank would also seek to strengthen its consumer credit activities in the domestic market using the comparative advantage of its large customer base in the mortgage credit market.
Karatzas said Aspis Bank was examining a plan to reduce the main shareholder's stake, Aspis Insurance Group, to below 60 percent, while he did not exclude the possibility of a strategic partnership with a large European banking group.
 Greek annual inflation rises to 3% in Oct., EurostatGreece's annual inflation rose to 3.0 percent in October, up from 2.9 pct in September, Eurostat said on Thursday.
The EU executive's statistics agency, in its monthly report, said the inflation rate in Eurozone rose to 2.6 percent in October from 2.1 pct in September and 1.6 percent in October 2006.
In the EU, the inflation rate jumped to 2.7 pct in October, from 2.2 pct in September and 1.8 pct in October last year.
Malta and the Netherlands (1.6 pct each), Denmark and Finland (1.8 pct each) recorded the lowest inflation rates in October, while Latvia (13.2 pct), Bulgaria (10.6 pct) and Estonia (8.7 pct) the highest inflation rates in the month. The inflation rate rose in 25 EU member-states, it fell in Bulgaria and was unchanged in Germany.
 Greek unemployment falls to 7.6% in Aug.Greek unemployment fell to 7.6 percent in August, down from 8.6 pct in the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in its monthly report, said the number of unemployed people fell by 53,175 in August to 372,090, down from 425.265 in August 2006, and noted that the number of unemployed people fell steadily on a year-on-year basis.
The number of employed people rose by around 60,000 in August to 4,549,954, from 4,499,486 in August 2006.
The unemployment rate was 10.2 pct in August 2004, 9.9 pct in August 2007 and 8.6 pct in August 2006.
 OTOE bank federation calls three-hour work stoppage on November 22The Federation of Bank Organizations of Greece (OTOE) on Thursday reacted to the amendment including the employees' Auxiliary Fund at Alpha Bank in the United Bank Employees Social Security Fund (ETAT) by calling a three-hour work stoppage on Thursday, November 22, from 12:15 noon until closing time.
The employees at Alpha Bank have already called a 48-hour strike on November 21-22.
OTOE held meetings on Thursday with PASOK party leader George Papandreou and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis to brief the parties on its positions, while in the coming days it will be meeting with the leaders or with officials of the other parties represented in Parliament.
OTOE wants the immediate withdrawal of the controversial amendment and the beginning of a dialogue that will also be based on the orientation of the international labour organisation, that believes that rights and gains of bank employees are being violated in this way and that have been consolidated with bilateral negotiations and with collective labour agreements.
 Business meeting to be held in Ipiros from Nov. 21-23The Hellenic Investments Centre (ELKE), within the framework of its strategy of portraying the investment potential of the regions, is organizing a business meeting in Ipiros, northern Greece, with the participation of 30 economic and trade attaches of foreign embassies in Greece.
The visit to Ioannina will be held during the period from November 21-23. ELKE's initiative is supported by the Ipiros Region and the region's agencies.
 S&B reports improved nine-month resultsS&B Industrial Minerals SA on Thursday said it planned to invest around 25-30 million euros on organic growth next year, focusing more on boxite activities in Greece. The Group said consolidated sales rose 16.6 pct in the January-September period, compared with the same period last year, to 402.62 million euros, operating earnings rose 16.7 pct to 38.47 million euros and net profits jumped 21.9 pct to 23.72 million euros.
Industrial mineral activities (accounting for 78 pct of total turnover) reported a 17.8 pct increase in consolidated sales in the nine-month period to 312.58 million euros, with operating earnings rising 17.6 pct to 32.99 million euros.
Commercial activities, through its subsidiaries Motodynamic and Ergotrak reported a 12.6 pct increase in sales and a 10.4 pct rise in operating earnings to 90.3 million euros and 5.02 million euros, respectively.
Efthimios Vidalis, S&B's chief executive said the nine-month results confirmed the management's expectations for a stable profitability this year.
 Kleemann Hellas issues 10-mln-euro bond loanKleemann Hellas on Thursday announced the signing of an agreement with Piraeus Bank to issue a 10-mln-euro bond loan.
Proceeds of the five-year bond issue, will be used to restructure the company's existing debt to banks and to fund its growth programme.
 Greek stocks end 1.15 pct lowerGreek stocks lost substantial ground on Thursday, with the composite index at the Athens Stock Exchange ending at 5,117.42 points, off 1.15 percent. Turnover was a strong 533.4 million euros, of which 155.88 million were block trades.
Most sectors ended lower with the Raw Materials (3.14 pct), Utilities (2.57 pct), Technology (2.24 pct), Industrial Products (2.04 pct), Constructions (1.95 pct) and Chemicals (1.95 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Food/Beverage (0.03 pct) and Telecoms (0.02 pct) scored gains.
The Big Cap index fell 1.31 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.39 pct down and the Small Cap index plunged 1.85 pct. Desmos (7.41 pct), Athina ATE (7.10 pct) and Informer (6.84 pct) were top gainers, while Praxitelio (16.79 pct) and Elval (9.50 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 242 to 32 with another 30 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.54%
Personal & Household: -1.93%
Raw Materials: -3.14%
Travel & Leisure: -1.03%
Food & Beverages: +0.03%
Financial Services: -0.69%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Cosmote, Marfin Popular Bank, National Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 25.20
Public Power Corp (PPC): 25.80
HBC Coca Cola: 27.80
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.84
Emporiki Bank: 20.96
National Bank of Greece: 45.20
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 24.70
Titan Cement Company: 31.94
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover a strong 195.118 million euros. The December contract on the Big Cap index was traded at a discount of 1.24 pct and the November contract on the Mid Cap index at a discount of 02.2 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 9,354 contracts worth 126.189 million euros, with 36,735 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 1,062 contracts worth 34.085 million euros, with 1,197 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 10,235 contracts worth 18.661 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (2,010), followed by Marfin Investment Group (966), PPC (991), Piraeus Bank (367), National Bank (951), Alpha Bank (433), Intracom (661), Mytilineos (697) and ATEbank (949).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totalled 1.891 billion euros on Thursday, of which 920 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 971 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 720 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German state bonds was 0.31 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.43 pct and the German Bund 4.12 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.07 pct, the two-day rate was also 4.07 pct, the one-month rate 4.16 pct and the 12-month rate eased to 4.58 pct from 4.59 pct on Wednesday.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.475
Pound sterling 0.720
Danish kroner 7.512
Swedish kroner 9.322
Japanese yen 163.28
Swiss franc 1.658
Norwegian kroner 8.057
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.438
Australian dollar 1.655
 President Papoulias meets head of personal data protection authorityPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received the head of the Authority for the Protection of Personal Data Dimitrios Gourgourakis and requested a briefing on its work.
Stressing that the authority worked fully independently, Gourgourakis also noted that the broad public was generally not aware of all the laws governing its operation and this often created the impression that some of its decisions excessive.
"However, the Authority protects personal, individual rights. It must therefore examine and protect even the smallest minorities. Otherwise it has no reason to exist," he noted.
 Papoulias to visit KalamataGreek President Karolos Papoulias will be declared honorary citizen of Kalamata, extreme southwest Greece, and receive the city's golden key after a decision by the Kalamata city council.
A ceremony will take place on Nov. 20 within the framework of the president's visit to Messinia Prefecture, on the occasion of events held in honor of Greek War of Independence hero Thoedoros Kolokotronis.
 DM Meimarakis attends new officers' swearing in ceremonyDefence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis on Thursday attended the swearing in ceremony for 68 new officers of the Officers Corps Military Academy of Thessaloniki, Macedonia.
The minister delivered swords to the new officers and stressed in his address that the national defense ministry's policy is focused on man. He said that the government is doing all in its power to secure even better training for the members of the Armed Forces and to improve the quality of their lives, adding that investments in national defense are investments in man and in peace.
 Archbishop Christodoulos receives Warsaw and All Poland Metropolitan SavvasArchbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos received a visit by the Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland Savvas at his residence in the Athens suburb of Psychiko on Thursday afternoon.
Archbishop Christodoulos, who was diagnosed with liver cancer in the summer, expressed his gratitude for the visit, that lasted for about half an hour, while Metropolitan Savvas wished him a speedy recovery and conveyed to him the warm wishes of the Orthodox faithful of Poland.
Speaking to reporters after his visit, the Metropolitan of Warsaw said "we respect his Grace and we love the Greek people. For this reason we considered it expedient and a great blessing to visit him and to be with him not only when he is well, but when he is suffering from an illness as well," adding that "we deeply believe that this illness will pass, we shall come again and we shall officiate with him."
 Archbishop Christodoulos briefly hospitalised on Thurs.Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece was briefly admitted to the Areteio Hospital in Athens on Thursday morning following suggestions by his doctors, in order to decide on his future treatment.
The ailing Archbishop, who has been diagnosed with liver cancer, returned to his residence soon after undergoing a number of medical tests.
 WWF website game calculates home CO2 'footprint'A new game posted on the website of the Greek branch of the environmental organization WWF at www.wwf.gr/climate allows people to calculate how much energy they use in their homes and gives ideas on how to cut back energy consumption, helping both the planet and their wallets.
The game has been designed specially for the Greek website after official figures found that households were the main culprits in the overconsumption of power in Greece.
According to these, the percentage participation of Greek households in the country's electricity consumption reached 94 percent (17.7 terrawatt hours) in 2006, compared with just 9.1 percent in 1990.
The game's designers clarified that the consumption calculations are based on average consumption rates for each type of appliance and the CO2 footprint included only direct emissions.
"Through very small changes to our daily habits we can reduce power consumption. For example, it has been estimated that if all Greeks did not leave their electric appliances on standby, we would save enough electricity to supply power to a large island like Lesvos," WWF staff member Dora Petroula noted.
 Foul-up in swimming pool's chemical mix sends children to hospitalPoor maintenance of a public swimming pool in the northwest city Ioannina resulted in the initial hospitalization of 75 children for precautionary reasons.
According to reports, fumes created by a chemical reaction in the pool -- after a small amount of hydrochloric acid and chlorine were accidentally mixed into the water -- caused respiratory problems and fainting among the small children using the facility.
The swimming pool remained closed on Thursday and an investigation is underway.
The pool was identified as being operated by the National Athletic Nautical Centre in Ioannina.
 'Smart Eyes' navigator device given to 50 sight-impairedFifty "Smart Eyes" navigation system devices developed to assist the blind were presented to as many sight-impaired persons on Thursday in a special ceremony at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall.
The system was developed roughly three years ago by the Telecommunications Laboratory at the Thessaloniki University Electrical Engineers and Computer Engineers department and in 2004 won the first prize in an international "Imagine Cup" contest held in Brazil.
The same system will be presented to another 100 recipients in Athens in early December.
It consists of a hand-held computer equipped with Bluetooth connections and earphones that can hook up to a GPS receiver and a voice communication system. It is also supplied with a digital map that is able to collect data from the GPS, process it and provide the user necessary information.
The system issues audio signals warning the user when he or she is approaching a selected destination, such as a bus stop, traffic lights or specific buildings.
In its present form, the device has information for four municipalities in Thessaloniki and will eventually cover the entire extent of the city but can be adapted for use in other cities as well.
The navigation system was sponsored by the companies Cosmote, Microsoft Hellas and Geomatics.
 Scattered showers on FridayScattered showers and storms with southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 6-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 04C and 22C. Cloudy in Athens, with light, southerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 21C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 08C to 14C.
 Government certain Turkish Cypriot illegal regime cannot gain recognitionNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/CNA)
The government is certain that the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime, in northern Turkish occupied Cyprus, cannot and will not be recognised as it is the outcome of expansion, violence and illegality.
Speaking on the 24th anniversary since the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by the Turkish Cypriots, Government Spokesman Vasilis Palmas on Thursday also said that the absence of a political settlement in Cyprus would not lead the leadership to an unacceptable solution.
Condemning the UDI, which the UN has described as "legally invalid", he stressed the government adherence to a bicommunal bizonal federal solution, indicating that the US federal system could be one such solution that would ensure the viability and the functionality of the state.
"The illegal UDI by the Turkish Cypriots is the culmination of a long series of illegal secessionist moves, condemned by all nations except Turkey, which has since the 1950 encouraged partition in Cyprus," he said, in statements to the press at the House of Representatives.
He pointed out that the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus imposed and consolidated partition but has not legalised the illegal subordinate local administration to Turkey.
"This regime functions as Ankara's protectorate, which maintains it; it is legally invalid and has no political foundation. No power on earth can legalise Turkey's theft and occupation of our territory.
Nobody can ever recognize the product of expansion, violence and illegality as a legal state, unless we allow that to happen," he stressed.
Responding to questions, he said that intensive efforts are underway by some members of the international community to upgrade the status of the regime but not to give it international recognition however.
The government, he went on to add, is fighting a continuous battle to avert such moves and to convince that the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots will cease to exist once there is a political settlement.
"It is true that the lapse of time without a solution creates difficulties and complexities but this situation is not a pressure lever on us to close the question of Cyprus," he said.
Palmas reiterated the government objective to achieve a bizonal bicommunal federal solution, in line with a decision by the National Council, the top advisory body to the President on the handling of the Cyprus issue.
"If we had a proposed federal solution, similar to the US system, would we say that it does not secure the viability and functionality of the state? If however we had a solution, similar to the Anna plan, then we shall certainly say no to it," he concluded.
The Annan plan, a UN proposed solution, was turned down by the overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriots and approved by the Turkish Cypriots. Greek Cypriots considered it imbalanced and unfair, saying it would not lead to the reunification of the country.
 Britain reiterates opposition to Cyprus' partitionNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/CNA)
British High Commissioner Peter Millett reiterated on Thursday London's opposition to partition in Cyprus, stressing that the perception that "we are in some sort of upgrading the north is completely wrong."
Speaking at a reception at the High Commission, Millett also reiterated "yet again our firm commitment, our determination to work with Cyprus as one of your best friends within the European Union."
Correcting some misperceptions, as he said, the High Commissioner expressed commitment to implementing a UN-brokered agreement in July last year, aiming to prepare the ground for substantive negotiations leading to a solution that would reunite the country.
"There are no ifs or buts or caveats to that. I hope it will be done in the next few weeks but at the very least we are looking to 2008 as a significant year we want to see real progress on real issues of substance we will support the UN efforts towards that direction," Millett said.
As regards the perception that Britain tries to upgrade the illegal regime in northern Turkish occupied Cyprus, he noted that "contact with the Turkish Cypriot community does not mean recognition."
"We will also continue our efforts to persuade Turkey to implement its EU obligations both towards the EU and of course within that the important obligations which are clear towards Cyprus and this is an important role which we can play, and it is a joint strategic objective after all for both London and Nicosia and we will continue to play our role in that," he said.
The High Commissioner, who had meetings in London on Monday "with Ministers and key people who have a close interest in Cyprus," concluded by saying that Britain wishes to continue the programme of bilateral assistance which is working very well in many areas.
"Just as an example, some weeks ago, I wrote to the Minister of Agriculture saying that we are the country that unfortunately has the best or most detailed experience for Food and Mouth Disease (FMD).
Let's share our experience, this is something we have learnt from our own mistakes, we are very happy to share them. We have an awful lot to celebrate and awful lot to share we want to continue working in a constructive environment," High Commissioner Peter Millett told reporters.
The reception was hosted to bid farewell to the High Commission's spokesman Nigel Boud and to welcome his successor Paul Lakin.
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