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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-01-08

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Tuesday, 8 January 2008 Issue No: 2788


  • [01] PM calls for off-the-agenda parliamentary debate on Social Security reform
  • [02] PM confers with development minister on 2008 planning
  • [03] Inner cabinet meets on Tuesday
  • [04] New culture ministry general secretary
  • [05] PASOK wants PM to testify in Zachopoulos affair
  • [06] PASOK outlines proposals for election system reform
  • [07] Ragoussis on criticism from left-wing parties
  • [08] Deputy FM Kassimis meets Libyan Alternate FM
  • [09] Greece donates 200,000 euros to IMO for Lebanon
  • [10] Exclusive interview with Areios Pagos President Nikopoulos
  • [11] Synaspismos leader Alavanos meets with Culture Minstry employees federation
  • [12] Parliament president calls for curbing of prices
  • [13] Escalation of strike action at commercial ports
  • [14] More strikes at Thessaloniki port
  • [15] Marivent to build aeolian park in Bulgaria
  • [16] Fifty pct discount for new natgas consumers
  • [17] New car registrations up 4.5 pct in 2007
  • [18] Greek stocks end flat on Monday
  • [19] ADEX closing report
  • [20] Greek bond market closing report
  • [21] Foreign Exchange Rates - Tuesday
  • [22] Mt Kissavos (Ossa) candidacy for Landscape of the Year Award
  • [23] Forest protection work in three regions
  • [24] Inspections to houses launched in Leonidio after strong quake
  • [25] Epiphany celebration held in Vienna
  • [26] Folk Art and Artifacts Exhibition opens Wednesday
  • [27] Court accepts release plea by Costas Agapiou
  • [28] Illegal migrants intercepted on Samos
  • [29] Partly cloudy on Tuesday
  • [30] Almunia: adoption of euro in Cyprus-Malta proceeding very swiftly
  • [31] Informal meeting of EU Mediterranean FM to be held in Cyprus Politics

  • [01] PM calls for off-the-agenda parliamentary debate on Social Security reform

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis called for an off-the-agenda debate in parliament on the topic "Reform for a modern, socially just and viable Social Security System", in a letter submitted on Monday to parliament president Dimitris Sioufas in which the premier noted that reform of the social security system was "imperative" and a matter of responsibility for all the political and social bodies.

    In his letter, Karamanlis noted that his government, in its preceding term in office, had committed itself, immediately after the general elections, to setting in motion a broad political and social dialogue for a moderate and just reform that would rid the social security system of the distortions, inequalities and injustices of the past. "Reform for a modern, socially just and viable social security system, without increasing the general retirement ages, without increasing contributions, without reducing pensions. Reform, over a period of time, that will guarantee social security benefits and pensions for everyone."

    Karamanlis, in the letter, said that his government had succinctly developed the fundamental axes of its positions and targets, both before the elections and in the government's Policy Statement afterwards, adding that it had inaugurated, and was continuing with, a broad parliamentary and public dialogue, in that context, precisely in line with its commitment.

    "We aspired to, and continue to aspire to dialogue of substance with all the political forces and all the social partners, without conditions and prerequisites, without dogmatisms, without previously taken decisions. We are discussing frankly and responsibly, without fixations, excesses and rigidness. We were and are open to every fruitful proposal, view and idea, aiming at their synthesix and the formulation of the largest common denominator," the letter continued.

    It said that this process was a democratic and progressive process of political and social responsibility, and was being carried on, consistent with the commitments and devotion to the targets that have been agreed with the citizens. "It is, furthermore, the common conviction that the reform of the social security system is exigently necessary and socially imperative. It is an obligation to the many, to the financially weaker, to our youth, to the present and the coming generations."

    "Given the above, and because the reform of the social security system is a matter of responsibility of all the political and social bodies, the government seeks the holding of an off-the-agenda discussion on the topic 'Reform for a modern, socially just and vialbe Social Security System', in accordance with Article 143 of the Rules of Parliament," the prime minister's letter concluded.

    [02] PM confers with development minister on 2008 planning

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis met Monday with development minister Christos Folias for a routine exchange of views and planning for the new year that has commenced. Folias told reporters after the meeting that they also reviewed the developments of the year that passed.

    Replying to a question on spiralling prices, Folias noted that the international conditions were conducive to high prices, with oil, cereals and milk prices creating appreciating trends, and adding that the government was monitoring the situation, intervening where necessary, and making inspections.

    "In no instance will we allow illicit profiteering to take the upper hand," he said, adding that the government was also drafting additional measures "which will help in the direction of containing any appreciation tendencies".

    [03] Inner cabinet meets on Tuesday

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is scheduled to meet Defence Minister Vangelis Meimarakis at 10:00 on Tuesday morning, after which he is to chair a meeting of the inner cabinet at 11:00 on current economic developments and international affairs.

    Government spokesman Theodoros Rousopoulos, responding to a question on whether the prime minister's trip to Turkey will still go ahead after recent provocative statements made by the Turkish side, commented that the foreign ministry's position on the issue is known and that procedures are underway for the prime minister's visit to Ankara.

    He pointed out that a date has not been finalized yet and concluded that as soon as a decision is reached it will be simultaneously announced in Athens and Ankara.

    [04] New culture ministry general secretary

    The Greek culture ministry on Monday announced the appointment of Theodoros Dravillas as its new general secretary, replacing Christos Zachopoulos. Dravillas has a degree in electrical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and has been a member of the technical chamber of Greece since 1991. He is also the holder of an MBA from the University of London specialising in project management and has a Master's degree in digital communications.

    [05] PASOK wants PM to testify in Zachopoulos affair

    Main opposition PASOK on Monday said it would insist that the prime minister appear before the Parliamentary committee looking into the Zachopoulos affair. This was announced by PASOK Secretary Nikos Athanassakis, the party's spokesman Yiannis Raggoussis and its political planning head Miltiades Papaioannou.

    They also noted that PASOK had no objections to a proposal by ruling New Democracy MPs, who called for the inquiry by Parliament's Educational Affairs Committee to extend its scope beyond the term of the former culture ministry general secretary and call on the culture ministers serving between 1996 and 2004 to also give evidence regarding the ministry's actions.

    The three senior PASOK officials questioned the extent to which Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis wanted the truth concerning the former culture ministry secretary's actions to come out. They also stressed that the head of the prime minister's press office, Yiannis Andrianos, should provide full answers regarding the origins of a controversial DVD used to blackmail Zachopoulos.

    Andrianos has refused to name the source of a DVD, citing an obligation to protect confidential sources arising from his twin capacity as a journalist. Earlier, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos confirmed that the current charter of the journalists' union ESHEA allowed Andrianos to retain his capacity as a journalist while working in the prime minister's press office.

    According to Athanassakis, Andrianos' refusal was a "serious political issue" and his claim to journalist-source confidentiality unfounded because the prime minister's office was not a mass media enterprise and his involvement had been as the head of that office. Papaioannou claimed that Andrianou was guilty of perjury and that the prime minister did not want the whole truth to come out because it would be more than a sex scandal.

    The three speakers also dismissed Karamanlis' call for an off-the-agenda debate on the issue as an attempted diversion that would not have any effect.

    [06] PASOK outlines proposals for election system reform

    Main opposition PASOK on Monday presented counterproposals for changing the election system and the overall political system in view of a discussion of proposed government measures to be discussed on Tuesday by a Parliamentary committee.

    PASOK Secretary Nikos Athanassakis, the head of the party's political planning office Miltiades Papaioannou and its press spokesman Yiannis Ragoussis presented a detailed outline of the main opposition party's proposals in a press conference, noting that PASOK had for a long time noted the need for a major change in the political system, combined with a change in election law, that aimed at greater autonomy in politics.

    They criticized the government's proposals for changing election rules as "incidental, fake and opportunist" and said that PASOK's proposals would retain the current system's high level of proportional representation of 87 percent, whereas the government's proposals reduced this to 83 percent.

    Papaioannou also noted that a number of points in its proposals had been left open to discussion with the other political forces of the country to achieve the greatest possible political and social agreement regarding election law, which would go into effect in the next elections after it was passed.

    [07] Ragoussis on criticism from left-wing parties

    PASOK's press spokesman replied to questions regarding the attacks against PASOK from the smaller left-wing parties, saying that the main opposition party was up against an unfair attack in which it was being equated with the Right regardless of its actions and positions.

    He said this comparison was unfair and only served to preserve the hold of the current prime minister Costas Karamanlis on power.

    "There is a game being played at PASOK's expense that we will not allow to unfold any further," he added.

    [08] Deputy FM Kassimis meets Libyan Alternate FM

    Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis met on Monday with visiting Libyan Alternate Foreign Minister Ali Elreshe, the ministry announced in a press release.

    The two officials ascertained, during their talks, the "very good level of bilateral relations and the common volition for their further development," the press release said.

    "Mr. Kassimis underlined the need for a speedy settlement of the age-long issue of Libyan debts to Greek companies and the possibilities of developing bilateral cooperation in the fields of investments, culture and tourism," the ministry announcement added.

    Ali Elreshe, on his part, "requested help for handling the problem of illegal immigration, a request to which Mr. Kassimis responded positively."

    [09] Greece donates 200,000 euros to IMO for Lebanon


    In the context of its broader effort to support the people and restoration of the state of Lebanon, the Permanent Representation of Greece in Geneva has granted the sum of 200,000 euros to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which offers psychological and social support to the Lebanese and to the other population of the country which has suffered from the clashes of July 2006 in southern Lebanon.

    Greece also responded immediately to the appeal by the UNRWA during the start of the crisis in the refugee settlement Nahr el Bared in June 2007, donating the sum of 500,000 euros in aid of the Palestinian refugees which live in the settlement.

    [10] Exclusive interview with Areios Pagos President Nikopoulos

    Only the justice sector, of all the public sectors, had the strength and the courage to proceed with such deep reform, stated Areios Pagos (Greek supreme court) President Vasilis Nikopoulos in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA.

    Referring to the trial-fixing ring affair, he stated characteristically that no judge in Greece wants the judiciary to be made up of officials who violate their oath of office, and everybody demands their expulsion, adding that the constitutionally guaranteed Judicial Councils operate as independent mechanisms dealing with corruption incidents.

    Referring to disputed court decisions on Crete linked with the Zoniana village "drug lords", he stated that an internal investigation is underway to determine if there were irregularities in the administration of justice.

    The Areios Pagos president stated that, since he took over the post, he has demanded that sessions be attended by the Supreme Court plenum to avoid instances of absent judges who vote on a case by phone. However, he pointed out that it is very difficult to hold a Supreme Court plenary session when the body comprises 40 to 57 members, and thus called for an amendment to the relative regulation.

    On his request to have a chapel built in the Areios Pagos courtyard, he stated that it was a majority decision and the chapel will be dedicated to St Dionysios Areopagitis, the patron Saint of Justice in Greece. He pointed out that the construction of the chapel will not harm minority rights, stressing that nobody is forced to observe their religious duties at the chapel in question.

    [11] Synaspismos leader Alavanos meets with Culture Minstry employees federation

    The leader of the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) Alekos Alavanos will meet on Monday with the federation of culture ministry employees' unions.

    Meanwhile, the Synaspismos MP responsible of the economic and social policy, Panagiotis Lafazanis, on Monday referred to a high-cost of living "tsunami" sweeping across most markets in the first days of the new year, "increasing the price of oil, heating oil and household goods to maximum limits."

    He also called on the government to take drastic measures in checking prices.

    Financial News

    [12] Parliament president calls for curbing of prices

    Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas on Monday attended an event organized by the Piraeus Commerce Association which awarded him for his contribution to Greek trade during his tenure as development minister.

    Sioufas in his address appealed to traders to contain their prices in this difficult international situation.

    "Problems do not have color and options for the future cannot pass through party expediencies," Sioufas said.

    "Keep the prices low and improve quality," Sioufas told the traders.

    [13] Escalation of strike action at commercial ports

    The escalation of strike action at the country's commercial ports was decided on Monday by the Federation of Permanent Staff at Ports of Greece (OMYLE) and the Union of Permanent and Apprentice Dockers.

    OMYLE demands from the administrations of the Piraeus Port Authority and the Thessaloniki Port Authority not to go ahead with the "selling out of the two containers terminals," while ports must "maintain their public character."

    Renewed strike action will begin with a 48-hour strike on January 15-16, while dockers will abstain from any overtime work, as well as from work over weekends, until January 31.

    Exporters' reaction

    In a related development, the Panhellenic Exporters Federation has addressed a letter to Merchant Marine Minister George Voulgarakis, Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis and Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas, as well as to other relevant officials, stressing that "the exports world of the country is unable to stand any more a repetition of last year's strike action by dockers which, as it is known, not only dealt a severe blow at the economic results of a large community of firms, but at the exports performances of our country as well, as it appears from the detailed analysis of data provided by the Greek National Statistical Service for the 10-month period in 2007."

    [14] More strikes at Thessaloniki port

    Trade union officials representing staff at the Thessaloniki Port Authority on Monday said their members were determined to prevent the privatisation of the port's profitable container terminal and were prepared to escalate strike action begun that morning.

    During a press conference explaining their decision for the 24-hour strike, unions representing some 400 dock workers and 200 administrative staff at the port authority said there would be another one-day strike on January 11, while their members would also refuse to work overtime and weekends.

    The head of the Handlers' Union George Spanopoulos reported that a backlog of freight waiting to be unloaded had already formed.

    [15] Marivent to build aeolian park in Bulgaria

    The Greek Marivent Ltd company will build an Aeolian Park of renewable energy sources in Pernik, Bulgaria, having a capacity of 800 Mw/h.

    The company revealed in an announcement that it has signed a contract for the building of an Aeolian Park with the prefecture of Pernik (40 kilometres southeast of Sofia), having a capacity of 800Mw/h and with the right to sell power to the Public Power Corporation of Bulgaria for 20 years. The project is considered one of the biggest to be announced in the European Union.

    The project will be completed in less than 30 months, while the cost of its construction will amount to over 500 million euros.

    [16] Fifty pct discount for new natgas consumers

    The Attiki Gas Supply Co. SA has offered a 50 percent discount in natural gas network connection rates for holders of contracts signed between January 7 and February 29. The offer of the natural gas distributor in the wider Athens region translates into a gain of 375 euros for apartment buildings and 262 euros for private homes, or individual apartments.

    Those interested can contact the client service phone number 1133 for further information.

    Currently, roughly 150,000 households in the wider Athens region use natural gas.

    [17] New car registrations up 4.5 pct in 2007

    New car registrations rose by 4.5 percent in 2007, compared with the previous year, recording the biggest percentage increase in the last three years. Total sales reached 279,794 units, up from 267,706 units in 2006, despite a 17 percent decline in December.

    Toyota maintained its leading position in the Greek market, recording an 8.6 pct increase in 2007 to 27,701 registrations, followed by Opel (+28.5 pct, 23,325 sales) and VW with a 3.8 pct increase to 22,056 registrations. Ford and Hyundai followed with 19,059 and 17,282 sales, respectively.

    Daihatsu and Mini recorded the biggest percentage increases last year (+56 pct) and (+62.5 pct) respectively, while Renault recorded the biggest annual percentage decline (-43.5 pct).

    Opel Corsa was the most popular car model in the Greek market with 9,687 sales with a market share of 12.05 pct.

    [18] Greek stocks end flat on Monday

    Greek stocks ended flat in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, with the composite index easing 0.08 percent to end at 5,108.04 points. Turnover was an improved 523.5 million euros, of which 219.5 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower with the Financial Services (1.82 pct), Commerce (1.33 pct) and Raw Materials (0.88 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Food/Beverage (1.39 pct), Healthcare (0.36 pct) and Travel (0.24 pct) scored gains.

    The Big Cap index eased 0.03 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.59 pct lower and the Small Cap index fell 0.24 pct. Evrofarma (19.87 pct), Nexans (9.96 pct) and Klonatex (8.70 pct) were top gainers, while Viosol (10.81 pct), Tsoukaridis (10.0 pct) and Informer (7.86 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 165 to 73 with another 56 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.42%

    Industrials: -0.73%

    Commercial: -1.33%

    Construction: -0.65%

    Media: -0.63%

    Oil & Gas: -0.18%

    Personal & Household: -0.09%

    Raw Materials: -0.88%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.24%

    Technology: -0.64%

    Telecoms: -0.16%

    Banks: +0.05%

    Food & Beverages: +1.39%

    Health: +0.36%

    Utilities: -0.42%

    Chemicals: -0.64%

    Financial Services: -1.82%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, National Bank, Alpha Bank and DEH.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 24.88

    ATEbank: 3.94

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 35.80

    HBC Coca Cola: 31.50

    Hellenic Petroleum: 11.50

    National Bank of Greece: 46.40

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 22.84

    Intralot: 13.50

    OPAP: 27.20

    OTE: 24.96

    Titan Cement Company: 31.76

    [19] ADEX closing report

    Futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, while turnover rose to 137.430 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.24 percent, while the January contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.83 percent.

    Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 7,890 contracts worth 105.719 million euros, with 25,416 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 331 contracts worth 10.108 million euros with 663 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 6,839 contracts worth 10.934 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank contracts (1,335), followed by Marfin Investment Group (1,058), National Bank (478), Alpha Bank (448), Marfin Popular Bank (486), Postal Savings Bank (570) and ATEbank (654).

    [20] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 1.849 billion euros on Monday, of which 660 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.189 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 430 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds rose to 0.345 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.48 pct and the German Bund 4.13 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.14 pct, the two-day rate was 4.14 pct, the one-month rate 4.22 pct and the 12-month rate 4.66 pct.

    [21] Foreign Exchange Rates - Tuesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.484

    Pound sterling 0.752

    Danish kroner 7.509

    Swedish kroner 9.437

    Japanese yen 161.94

    Swiss franc 1.652

    Norwegian kroner 7.931

    Canadian dollar 1.483

    Australian dollar 1.699

    General News

    [22] Mt Kissavos (Ossa) candidacy for Landscape of the Year Award

    Mount Kissavos (Ossa) in Thessaly, central Greece, a mountain of unique natural beauty, is a candidate for the international award "Landscape of the Year".

    Local municipalities and environmentalist groups decided to participate in the competition, which will be held within the framework of a major European conference scheduled to be held in Vienna in May 2008.

    The contest is being funded by the EU's 11th Directorate for the Environment, and a total of 160 candidacies have been submitted for the award, which is accompanied by a monetary prize of 100,000-300,000 euro.

    The Mt Kissavos bid is aimed at blocking harmful human intervention, given that the prize money will be used exclusively for interventions for upgrading and protecting the winning region.

    [23] Forest protection work in three regions

    Forest protection work will be carried out in three regions in the country, according to contracts signed by Deputy Agricultural Development and Food Minister Constantine Kiltidis.

    The work will be carried out in the municipality of Maronia in the prefecture of Rodopi, the municipality of Tamyneon in the prefecture of Evia and on the islands of Egina, Salamina and Angistri, in the Saronic Gulf.

    [24] Inspections to houses launched in Leonidio after strong quake

    Following orders by Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias, crews of engineers are since Sunday in the broader region of Leonidio, Peloponnese, to inspect damages caused to buildings by the 6.5 Richer scale earthquake which occurred at 7:14 a.m on Sunday.

    The inspections show that minor damage was caused only to old buildings of the region.

    The inspections are continuing and it is expected that they will be concluded by Tuesday, when the ministry will be in the position to give analytical data on the complete registration of the damage.

    [25] Epiphany celebration held in Vienna

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    The immersement of the Holy Cross and the consecration of the waters was held at the River Danube in Vienna on Sunday for the second consecutive year in the almost 300-year history of Orthodoxy in Austria.

    The event was given special publicity by state-run Austrian Television on Sunday night and by a section of the Austrian press on Monday, being original for Austrian and Roman Catholic eyes.

    The ceremony, officiated by the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Austria Michael, was attended by the Greek and Cypriot consular authorities and was held at the Danube Canal and at the bridge close to the historic neighbourhood of the Greeks in the centre of Vienna.

    Speaking during the celebration, the Metropolitan stressed the significance of the Epiphany Holiday for Orthodoxy, as well as the fact of the second immersement of the Holy Cross and the consecration of the waters in the Danube and the promotion of the event by the Press and Communication Office of the Greek embassy in Austria.

    [26] Folk Art and Artifacts Exhibition opens Wednesday

    The Folk Art and Artifacts exhibition will be formally inaugurated by Deputy Development Minister Stavros Kalafatis on Wednesday, January 9.

    Roughly 600 exhibitors representing the craftwork sector will participate in the exhibition held at the former Eastern Airport in Athens.

    The exhibition will be open for trade visitors until January 13.

    [27] Court accepts release plea by Costas Agapiou

    An Athens court on Monday accepted a plea to be released from prison made by Costas Agapiou, who had been convicted in relation to the case of the ELA group.

    The court decided to release Agapiou from prison with the payment of 3,000 euros as bail and on condition that he presents himself twice a moth at a police station.

    Agapiou had been handed down a 25-year jail sentence for being a member of the "Revolutionary Popular Struggle" (ELA) group.

    [28] Illegal migrants intercepted on Samos

    A 23-year-old Turkish national was arrested on illegal migrant smuggling charges in the sea region off the southeastern Aegean island of Samos.

    The arrest was made on Sunday when the Greek Coastguard responded to reports of a fisherman sighted in distress in the Kourountere region off Samos. The man was rescued and during questioning he admitted that he had earlier smuggled 13 illegal migrants onto the northern coasts of the island.

    All migrants were intercepted and after undergoing precautionary medical examinations were taken to the Migrant Reception Center operating on the island, where 117 people are currently being held.

    Weather Forecast

    [29] Partly cloudy on Tuesday

    Partly cloudy weather with northerly, northeasterly winds are forecast in all parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 5-6 beaufort. Fog in the morning and possibility of scattered showers. Temperatures will range between -2C and 16C. Overcast in Athens, with northerly, northeasterly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 4C to 14C. Possibility of rain in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 8C.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [30] Almunia: adoption of euro in Cyprus-Malta proceeding very swiftly


    The adoption of the euro in Cyprus and Malta is proceeding very swiftly and this is testimony to the good preparations beforehand for which all involved in the two countries, starting with their respective governments, must be congratulated, European Union Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia has said, according to a European Commission press release.

    The press release said the euro changeover has proved to be a success in Cyprus and Malta in the first week of January. The changeover of all cash and non-cash transactions to the euro appears to be going swiftly and without noteworthy problems.

    After only a few days, the euro had already largely replaced the Cyprus pound and the Maltese lira in people's wallets and purses. On 5 January, almost three out of four cash payments in shops were made in euro. While there were some queues in banks and shops on the first days of the new year and after a busy first week which also included the start of the winter sales in Malta, the situation seems to be progressively getting back to normal.

    Almunia noted that ''it is now crucial that both countries continue to implement sound fiscal and budgetary policies so that they can fully benefit from economic and monetary union''.

    Since 1 January, the euro is Cyprus' and Malta's currency and euro banknotes and coins are officially in circulation on both islands.

    According to the European Commission press release the ratio of euro cash payments in shops increased quickly during the first week: on 5 January (the first Saturday of the year), about three quarters of all cash payments in shops were already made in euro only (72% in Cyprus and 73% in Malta), according to a survey carried out among the Cypriot and Maltese population for the Commission. Retailers gave change exclusively in euro in virtually all cash transactions where change was given (97% in Cyprus and 99% in Malta).

    On 5 January, at least three out of four citizens in both countries were carrying only or mostly euro cash in their wallets and purses (for banknotes: 74% in Cyprus, 76% in Malta; for coins 81% in Cyprus, 84% in Malta). In Malta, a majority of citizens had exclusively euro banknotes (58%) and euro coins (62%) in their wallets, though the respective figures in Cyprus were slightly lower at 32% and 40%.

    As people appeared to be eager to exchange their national cash holdings into euro and to withdraw euro cash, there were still some queues at banks on Saturday, particularly in Malta, where the winter sales have already started. But the situation seems to be getting back to normal now.

    In Cyprus, some 179 000 over-the-counter exchanges and withdrawals were made between 1 and 4 January, involving some 253 million euros. In Malta, approximately 132 000 over-the-counter withdrawals took place between 1 and 5 January, for a total amount of around 88 million euros. Some 105 000 ATM withdrawals had been made in Cyprus by 4 January, and 202 000 in Malta up to and including 6 January.

    With respect to the conversion of prices into euro, so far only a few incidents of undue price increases have been reported in both countries, for example for parking fees, cinema tickets and doctors' fees. The authorities are investigating all these cases and are asking those responsible to revert to the former prices where necessary.

    Consumers are encouraged to remain vigilant and to report any cases of unfair pricing to the authorities or consumer associations, the press release concluded.

    [31] Informal meeting of EU Mediterranean FM to be held in Cyprus


    EU Mediterranean Foreign Ministers will gather in the western coastal town of Paphos from 17-18 January for their 5th informal meeting.

    The agenda of the foreign ministers of Greece, Spain, Cyprus, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania includes the Middle East peace process, the Mediterranean Union, Kosovo, Migration and Natural Disaster Response Mechanism.

    The ministers will be welcomed on Thursday, 17 January by President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos who will host a reception in their honour while the discussion of the agenda items will begin during a working dinner of the ministers later that evening.

    On Friday, the EU Mediterranean Foreign Ministers will continue their deliberations during the plenary session and a press conference will follow by Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis on the results of the meeting.

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS

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