|Saturday, 19 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-01-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 10 January 2008 Issue No: 2790
 PM confers with health ministerPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis met Wednesday with Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and discussed issues involving the health ministry.
Avramopoulos commented after the meeting that the govern-ment's work in the health sector is making rapid progress and that the draft law on primary healthcare will soon be tabled for discussion by the appropriate parliamentary committee.
The minister announced that preparations for establishing a procurement committee will be completed soon. Based on the existing timetable, the programmes for the modernization of health sector infrastructure and the construction of new modern hospitals and health clinics nationwide will materialize in two to three months at the latest, he added.
 Roussopoulos on PM's India trip, Zachopoulos articleGovernment spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced on Wednesday that Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, the head of the prime minister's press office Yiannis Andrianos and himself will be accompanying Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on a three-day trip to India.
The spokesman was also questioned about an article on the culture ministry's former general secretary Christos Zachopoulos published by 'The Times' in the UK, and asked whether the government was concerned over the international coverage given to the sex scandal and the attempts to link this with Greece's efforts for the return of the Parthenon Marbles. Roussopoulos replied that he was not yet been informed of the article and promised to come back with a reply on this issue, if it was necessary.
In a piece entitled "Sex, lies and DVDs shake culture ministry in Greece", the Times reporter claims the scandal involving sex, blackmail, attempted suicides and emerging suspicions of an attempt to declassify archaeologically listed land has "called into question the moral authority of the Culture Ministry as it presses its case for the return of the ancient masterpieces".
 Zachopoulos' grants to NGOs under scrutinyThe head of the Appeals Court Public Prosecutors' office George Koliokostas on Wednesday asked for an extension of an investigation into the activities of former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos so as to include the grants he approved for non-governmental organisations.
Koliokostas has asked the public prosecutor in charge of the case, Panagiotis Athanassiou, to investigate allegations of suspect funding given by the culture ministry to certain non-profit organisations after 2004.
 Parliamentary committee debates election draft lawThe debate on the government sponsored election draft law was launched Tuesday in Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Administration, Public Order and Justice.
Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos defended the proposed draft law and rejected arguments that includes unconstitutional regulations, stressing that the government has brought up the election law amendment issue in the beginning of its renewed term in office because it does not wish to cause any upset.
The main opposition PASOK party rapporteurs maintained that the proposed draft law is unconstitutional because it rules out any collaboration between political parties and called on the government to withdraw it and launch a new debate based on PASOK's counter-proposal.
On their part, Greek Communist Party (KKE) and Coalition of Radical Left (SYRIZA) categorically stated their opposition to the proposals put forth by the ruling New Democracy and opposition PASOK parites, pointing out that both election laws they proposed infringe on the people's free will.
The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) also rejected both proposals, stressing that the election draft laws backed by the two major parties are designed to suit their own interests.
 Papandreou says gov't wants to sell-off OTE, PPCMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday accused the government of "looking for accomplices over its downfall, although it will not find them in PASOK," speaking in Parliament during debate over the establishment of a National Social Cohesion Fund, which was ultimately passed by the legislature.
Referring specifically to a rider included in the draft legislation regarding protection of public utilities from aggressive buyouts, Papandreou charged that government policy has made the Hellenic Telecommunication Organization (OTE), Greece's largest telephony and telecoms company, vulnerable to aggressive buyouts.
"This amendment is nothing but a desperate attempt to gain time - in search of strategic investors (for OTE)," Papandreou told the Parliament plenary session.
He also charged that the government has turned state-run Public Power Corp. (PPC), the listed power utility in the country, into a loss-maker, while eying its eventual sell-off.
Referring to the ongoing Zachopoulos affair still reverberating on the country's political scene, Papandreou said "the government is not in a position to investigate an affair of which it is a party to".
 Alogoskoufis responseIn a reply, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis underlined that "PASOK's leader is still arguing without evidence he (Papandreou) has even criticised the Greek justice system of partisanship," while adding that the current government is determined to refer any wrongdoing to the courts.
 PASOK leader holds meeting with senior party membersPASOK party leader George Papandreou chaired a meeting of senior party members in his office in Parliament on Wednesday, to discuss the party's next moves in Parliament concerning the issue of former culture ministry secretary general Christos Zachopoulos.
Also discussed was the issue of matters that are still pending at the Parliamentary Institutions and Transparency Committee and for which the activation of procedures to settle them could be called for.
Two meetings were also held at the party's offices on Wednesday afternoon at which the "course towards the Congress" was discussed and which, according to a relevant announcement by the Press Office, is "entering its final phase."
The announcement further added that the recommendation has been finalized on political pre-congress planning, that will be discussed during Thursday's meeting of the Political Coordinating Body.
 KKE leader bashes media on post-electoral treatment of party, popular movementCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga accused the mass media of an "ideological attack" on her party, during a press conference on Wednesday following an announcement issued by the KKE polical burea on the media's post-electoral treatment of the KKE and the popular movement.
She also accused media owners of 'doctoring' the political developments, aimed at manipulating the developments and obstructing developments detrimental to the two mainstream parties, ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK.
She said the situation that has been created in the private and state media at the KKE's expense, particularly after the last general elections, was "blatantly provocative".
She said the real time allotted on news programs for the KKE barely exceeded 2 percent, and accused the Radio-Television Council of being a 'simple observer' to this phenomenon, adding that it was the choice of the electronic and print media owners, noting that they use public frequencies, and charged that the declarations on polyphony and equality had proved to be hypocritical.
Another indication of the KKE's unequal treatment was that a large number of programs on state channels did not invite representatives of the KKE, although they did invite people who had left the party decades ago and now belong to other parties to speak, even about the KKE's 90-year history.
Papariga further charged that the majority of mass media ridiculed and slandered demonstrations and take-overs decided collectively by workers and the youth because they were counter to the choices of capital, while the only mobilizations they project are those that aid the two-party alternation in power.
She said all the mechanisms were being used to obstruct and cancel the growth of the popular movement, and to protect the two-party alternation, aimed at formulating bi-partisan solutions when the margins for single-party governments were depleted. The media interventions to influence the election of party leaders, as shown in the recent developments and leadership election in PASOK, and the ongoing developments in the Coalition of the Left (SYN), were in that direction,.
"The KKE's electoral rise and the increase in its influence worries them," she said.
Papariga termed the situation prevailing in the field of information as unacceptable, and criticized the government which, she said, has forgotten its older declarations against the collusion of business and publishing interests, adding that, with the new law, the concentration of media in the hands of capital was being strengthened.
 SYRIZA leader begins three-day visit to IraklioRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos began a three-day visit to the city of Iraklio, on the island of Crete, on Wednesday with contacts with Civil Aviation Service officials.
Referring to the issue of the new airport at Kasteli, Alavanos said that the project is not even going ahead slowly and spoke of interests related to the Spata airport.
Alavanos will be contacting the Union of Iraklio Hoteliers and the Development Organization of Eastern Crete on Thursday, while on Friday he will be visiting the mayor and the prefect of Iraklio.
 Exclusive interview with Court of Auditors president Kourtis"We monitor the public revenues, audit (State) expenditures," Court of Auditors president George Kourtis said in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA.
He also said that the new authorities of the Court of Auditors, which is a supreme administrative court as well as an administrative organ, included audit of the programs financed by the European Union, as well as auditing of the state subsidies to Sports Clubs.
Kourtis explained that the differences resolved by the Court of Auditors are clearly set out in Article 98 of the Constitution, a major category of which concerned differences arising from the audit of accountable entities, namely entities who are liable to render accounts, that manage public revenues, as to whether the public revenues were channeled in accordance with their destination.
Other issues handled by the Court of Auditors concerned disputes over the veracity of the "source of wealth" statements submitted by MPs and other public officials, and disputes arising from audits of public contracts of large financial value, elaborating that the cases all had to do with the public sector.
He said the Court of Auditors also monitors some 10,700 legal entities, namely approximately 1,400 Public Law Legal Entities, in addition to the Local Government Organizations and about 8,200 legal entitites dependent on the Local Government Organizations.
Kourtis said that the Court of Auditors further provides consultory rulings on all draft laws which regulate the bestowal of pensions by the State, adding that, if the ruling is not taken into account, this creates invalidity of the law.
He said that the Court of Auditors also has another privilege emanating from the Constitution, which was to provide consultory responses on financially-related questions submitted by ministers, adding that no other court in Greece had such an authority.
 Gov't: Coast guard intercepted more than 9,000 illegals in 2007The merchant marine and island policy ministry on Wednesday released figures on illegal immigrant arrests and drug interdiction for 2007, noting that the Greek coast guard recorded 652 separate incidents of human trafficking throughout the year, along with the arrests of 9,240 illegal immigrants and 196 suspects charged with migrant trafficking.
Port authorities also confiscated 161 vessels of all types used in migrant smuggling operations in 2007 year, the ministry added.
 President Papoulias cuts New Year Cake at presidential mansionPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday conducted the ceremony for the traditional cutting of a New Year Cake (Vasilopita) for staff at the presidential mansion. He wished all present a good year in 2008 and greeted each of the staff, took photographs with them and exchanged wishes for the New Year.
For the first time this year, the cake-cutting ceremony also included journalists accredited to the president. The hidden coin, believed to confer good luck on the person who finds it in their slice, was found by the head of the ANA-MPA photography department Vangelis Vardoulakis.
 Greek banks strong, unaffected by int'l turmoil, Arapoglou saysGreek banks are robust with healthy portfolios and have expanded in dynamically developing markets, therefore, they will not be affected by international turmoil caused by the US subprime mortgage market crisis, Takis Arapoglou, National Bank's chairman and chief executive said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek banker said that by contrast, large international financial groups will continue reporting losses due to the crisis through mid-2008, when the situation is expected to begin stabilising.
Arapoglou said international turmoil has led to a higher cost of money, a development hitting consumer borrowers in Europe and in Greece.
Commenting on National Bank's course, Arapoglou said the goal was to strictly adhere to the bank's business plan, while he noted that it was examining its activities in foreign markets where it has an established presence and where the bank has no presence at all.
National Bank aims to offer value to its shareholders, Arapoglou said, noting the NBG ranked 21st among Europe's largest banks, with a capitalisation of 22.5 billion euros.
The Greek banker said foreign investors' participation in the bank's equity capital totalled 56 percent and noted that all large international investment firms published buy recommendations for the bank's share.
 Draft law for setting up National Social Cohesion Fund passed in ParliamentThe draft law for the setting up of the National Social Cohesion Fund was passed in Parliament on Wednesday, which includes the amendment for the protection of businesses of "national importance by aggressive buyouts."
The inclusion of the amendment constituted an excuse for the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) to vote in principle against the draft law.
PASOK, in its arguments, complained about specific provisions of the draft law which it described as "photographic."
Eventually, the opposition parties voted in favor of the provisions for the setting up of the National Social Cohesion Fund.
 Greek economy grew by 3.8 pct in Q3, EurostatThe Greek economy grew by 3.8 percent in the third quarter of 2007, compared with the same period in 2006, according the Eurostat's revised figures, released in Brussels on Wednesday.
Eurostat initially forecast a 3.6 percent growth rate in the June-September period in 2007.
GDP growth was 2.7 pct in the Eurozone (unchanged from earlier estimates), while in the EU-27, GDP growth rose to 3.0 pct from a 2.9 pct early forecast. Lithuania (11.6 pct), Latvia (10.9 pct) recorded the biggest GDP percentage growth rates, while Malta (0.1 pct) and Denmark (1.7 pct) the lowest growth rates.
GDP growth in the US was 2.8 pct in the third quarter, while in Japan economic growth was 2.0 pct.
 DE.PA says interruption of Turkey natgas flow won't affect Greek consumers; power exports to Turkey citedISTANBUL (ANA-MPA)
Press reports in the local media here on Wednesday reported that regular natural gas shipments from Iran to Turkey will resume next week, possibly on Monday, following a same-day confirmation that gas shipments to Greece, via Turkey, from Azerbaijan have ceased as well, a negative development two months after a Turkey-Greece natgas pipeline was inaugurated in November 2006.
Reports here cited statements by Iranian officials claiming that weather conditions in Iran caused a decrease in gas shipments to Turkey and not a total interruption.
Meanwhile, other reports said Turkey will import electrical power from Greece, given that the shortage in natural gas was reportedly straining power output in the neighbouring country. According to reports, 50 percent of power generation in Turkey is fuelled by natural gas. A figure of 185 MW of imported electricity for January and February was cited.
Officials with Greece's state-run natural gas utility (DE.PA) on Wednesday noted that the development will not affect the country's production, as supplies from other providers (i.e. Russia) are uninterrupted, while reserves of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are also available from the utility's Revythoussa isle site.
In an announcement, DE.PA said it is in direct contact with its Turkish partner, BOTAS, to ensure the fastest possible resumption of natural gas supplies from Turkey.
Finally, according to an ANA-MPA dispatch from Moscow, energy giant Gazprom on Wednesday said it increased natural gas shipments to Greece by up to 1.5 million cubic metres a day, beginning in late December, and following a request by Athens.
In the same announcement, Gazprom said it also increased supplies to Turkey last December by roughly eight million cubic metres a day.
 New law will detect suspect fuel guzzlers, MPs toldThe new law introduced by the government to regulate the fuel market for home heating will be able to detect suspicious level of consumption that mask fuel scams and tax-dodges taking advantage of the lower price of heating oil, Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas told Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
During a discussion of the draft bill by the committee, Bezas said the new system would be able to check actual consumption and compare this with expected consumption levels by using a database developed by the Public Power Corporation (PPC).
"We know the area of each home, we can create consumption norms and we can detect cases of excessive consumption," Bezas told MPs. Instances where expected and actual consumption diverged significantly would be referred to inspection agencies for further investigation, he added.
The minister explained that by making the special tax the same at all stages between customs and consumers, the system could be controlled by focusing only on final consumption. Fuel vendors would be obliged to send records of their sales to computerised centres in order to apply for the refunds due to them, while the new electronic system was capable of cross-checking and weeding out fake or factitious data. He also emphasised that all invoices for the supply of heating oil must be linked exclusively with consumption by a building.
 Greek economic sentiment index down in DecemberGreece's economic sentiment index fell for the third month in a row in December 2007 to 105.1 points, down from 107.6 in November 2007, the Institute for Industrial and Economic Research (IOBE) said on Wednesday.
In a monthly report, the institute said the index lagged behind the EU's average, but surpassed the Eurozone average and noted that the economic sentiment index fell in December as a reflection of a decline in the manufacturing and constructions sectors, while the retail, services and consumer confidence indexes were largely unchanged.
Business expectations in the manufacturing sector worsened in December, reflecting gloomier forecasts over new orders and higher inventories. In the services sector, the index was almost unchanged at November's levels, with business expectations improving for demand in the next three months.
In the retail sector, business expectations improved in December, while in the construction sector, business expectations worsened.
The consumers' confidence index was unchanged at November's levels in December to - 29 points. IOBE said that although this level lagged behind the levels prevailing in the EU and the Eurozone, Greece's consumers' confidence index followed a rising trend in the European Union.
Consumers' expectations over their households' financial situation in the next 12 months improved in December, although fractionally. Consumers' expectations over the financial situation in the country in the next 12 months were unchanged from the previous month, remaining below the respective levels in the EU and the Eurozone. Greece ranked fourth in consumers' pessimism over economic developments in the country, among EU member-states.
Greek consumers were also pessimistic over developments in the unemployment sector.
 Greek exports up 0.7 pct in Nov., yr/yrThe value of import-arrivals in Greece rose by 4.7 percent in November to 4.613 billion euros, up from 4.407 billion euros in November 2006, the National Statistical Service said on Wednesday.
The service said that the value of export-deliveries rose by 0.7 percent in the same month to 1.520 billion euros, from 1.510 billion euros in November 2006.
 Foreign investors' participation in ASE stable at 52.0%Foreign investors maintained their leading share in the Athens Stock Exchange in December 2007, with their participation easing slightly to 51.8 percent, compared with 52.0 percent in November 2007, official figures showed on Wednesday.
A monthly report by Hellenic Exchanges, the operator of ASE, ADEX and Alternative Market, said that foreign investors' participation in the FTSE 20 index of blue chip stocks eased to 60.1 pct in December from 60.3 pct in November, while their participation in the FTSE 40 index of medium capitalizations stocks fell to 47.9 pct from 49.3 pct and their participation in the FTSE 80 index of small capitalization stocks jumped to 40.2 pct from 27.4 pct.
The value of transactions reached 7.878 billion euros in December, down 46.3 pct from November but up 18.2 pct from December 2006 (6.666 billion euros). Average daily turnover reached 414.6 million euros (on a monthly basis) and 481.27 million euros (on an annual basis), up from 342.73 million euros in 2006. The value of transactions in the fourth quarter of 2007 rose 7.1 pct to 34.397 billion euros, compared with the third quarter, and up 56.8 pct from the fourth quarter of 2006.
Active investors' codes totalled 70,316 in December 2007, while foreign capital inflows 398.06 million euros in December. Greek investors were net sellers in the month, while private non-financial enterprises were net buyers.
The Athens Stock Exchange's capitalisation was 196.390 billion euros at the end of 2007, up 2.5 pct from November and up 24.3 pct from December 2006.
 Greek industrial production index up 4.2% in Nov., yr/yrGreece's industrial production composite index rose 4.2 pct in November 2007, compared with the same month in 2006, after a 2.5-pct-decline over the November 2006-November 2005 period, the National Statistical Service said on Wednesday.
The statistics said the average industrial production index, in the 11-month period from January to November 2007, rose by 2.1 pct compared with the corresponding period in 2006.
The 4.2 pct increase of the composite index in November reflected a 4.7-pct rise in manufacturing production, a 5.1-pct increase in electricity-natural gas-water production and a 5.0-percent decline in mining production in the month.
 Tourist arrivals up 5.7%, forex inflows up 1% in Jan-Oct, yr/yrForeign tourist arrivals rose by 5.7 percent in Greece over the 10-month period from January to October 2007, compared with the corresponding period in 2006, the Institute for Touristic Research and Forecasts (ITEP) announced on Wednesday.
ITEP added that tourism foreign exchange inflows grew by a mere 1.0 percent.
In its report, ITEP said the country's tourism performance, based on foreign exchange inflows, was disappointing compared with other competitor countries, European or not.
The Institute noted that a slowdown in tourism performance in the Ionian islands was followed by slower figures for Crete and the Dodecanese (up 1.1 pct and 3.9 pct, respectively, in the January-October period) and underlined that tourist arrival figures were down by 5.1 pct (Dodecanese) to 50 pct (Peloponnese) in the October-November period.
ITEP said Turkey recorded an 18.2-pct increase in tourist arrivals in the 11-month period from January to November, followed by Croatia and Portugal (8.5 pct each), Italy (6.6 pct) and Egypt (8.9 pct).
 Hotel Chamber of Greece holds New Year receptionIn the presence of Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos, the Hotel Chamber of Greece held its New Year reception in Athens on Wednesday evening.
In his, address, the chamber's president, Gerasimos L. Fokas, noted that in 2008, Greek tourism is expected to follow the same high level of arrivals as last year, "a fact which allows for optimism in the tourism and hotel sector."
 Athens Chamber of Arts and Crafts holds New Year receptionIn the presence of Development Minister Christos Folias, the Athens Chamber of Arts and Crafts held its New Year reception on Wednesday evening.
"With specific decisions, the country's business world henceforth clearly sees a new awareness and places strong bases for the support and portrayal of the role of small and medium-sized businesses in the strengthening of development, but at the same time the handling of the major problem of the Greek economy, which is competitiveness," Folias said in his address.
 1.4 million euros earmarked for fire-ravaged IliaThe agriculture ministry plans to spend 1.4 million euros on projects to restore the fire-ravaged forests of Ilia in the western Peloponnese, Deputy Agriculture and Foods Minister Costas Kiltidis said on Wednesday. Under ministerial decree signed by Kiltidis the same day, 1.1 million euros will be spent on works to combat soil erosion and 300,000 euros on restoring the landscape at the north entrance of ancient Olympia.
 Greek stocks end 1.39% down on Wed.Greek stocks lost substantial ground on Wednesday, hit by losses in other international markets. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange fell by 1.39 percent to end at 5,072.65 points, with turnover a moderate 442.4 million euros, of which 47.6 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors ended lower with the exception of Food/Beverage (0.29 pct) which ended up. Raw Materials (3.83 pct), Commerce (3.29 pct), Industrial Products (2.83 pct) and Technology (2.19 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Big Cap index fell 1.41 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.48 percent down and the Small Cap index fell 1.50 percent. ANEK (29.77 pct), Plias (5.13 pct) and Vell Group (4.65 pct) were top gainers, while Athens Electronic (25.86 pct), Dromeas (9.65 pct) and Diekat (9.21 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 229 to 45 with another 22 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.16%
Personal & Household: -1.45%
Raw Materials: -3.83%
Travel & Leisure: -1.19%
Food & Beverages: +0.29%
Financial Services: -1.61%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, DEH and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 24.90
Public Power Corp (PPC): 35.98
HBC Coca Cola: 26.06
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.74
National Bank of Greece: 46.64
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 22.34
Titan Cement Company: 30.56
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.437 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 893 million were buy orders and the remaining 1.544 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was again the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 725 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds rose to 0.365 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.45 pct and the German Bund 4.07 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 4.20 pct from 4.16 pct on Tuesday, the two-day rate also rose to 4.20 pct from 4.19 pct, the one-month rate was 4.22 pct and the 12-month rate 4.68 pct.
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended Wednesday's session with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange, with turnover an improved 184.558 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.37 pct and the January contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.67 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 10,698 contracts worth 143.297 million euros, with 25,233 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 380 contracts worth 11.711 million euros, with 675 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,724 contracts worth 16.090 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (2,082), followed by Eurobank (792), Marfin Investment Group (1,330), National Bank (1,185) and ATEbank (1,467).
 Foreign Exchange Rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.479
Pound sterling 0.754
Danish kroner 7.507
Swedish kroner 9.478
Japanese yen 161.8
Swiss franc 1.649
Norwegian kroner 7.954
Canadian dollar 1.485
Australian dollar 1.674
 Over 19 million euros for research into earthquakesThe head of the development ministry's general secretariat for research and technology Ioannis Tsoukalas on Wednesday announced that his department is currently funding 81 projects conducting research into earthquakes with a total budget of 19,253,454 euros.
He said the ministry's aim was to encourage and disseminate research into seismic activity in order to add to the body of knowledge on minimizing their dangers.
 Consumer Ombudsman targets illegal billboardsThe Consumer Ombudsman's office called for the imposition of penalties as provided by law in an effort to tackle the problem of illegally erected billboards along the road network of the wider Athens region, a practice which it said poses a threat to public safety.
Following an investigation of a complaint lodged by a citizen, the Consumer Ombudsman concluded that a total of 154 lawsuits have already been filed by the responsible police authorities against companies that erect billboards in violation of standing legislation.
Alternate Consumer Ombudsman George Diellas, who dealt with the issue, has called on all responsible authorities (the ministry of environment, land planning and public works, the Attica Periphery, the Attica Police and Traffic Police, the Ombudsman and local municipalities) to tackle red tape and instances of overlapping jurisdiction.
He also called on the development ministry general secretariat for consumer affairs to take all necessary measures for the protection of consumers and to proceed with the imposition of penalties on violators as provided by law.
 Baltsa benefit concert in AthensInternationally-renowned Greek soprano Agni Baltsa is to give a benefit concert at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron Mousikis) next Monday, accompanied by the Athens State Orchestra conducted by Nikos Athinaios.
The concert will raise funds for the construction and equipping of the 'Kallipatira' Diagnostic and Prevention Centre for Young Athletes that is to be set up within the grounds of the Sotiria Hospital in the Greek capital. The project was begun by the 'Kallipatira' Panhellenic Association of Women Athletes and the Institute of Immigration Policy.
 Veteran reporter Ilias Dimitrakopoulos honored in USWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA / T. Ellis)
Veteran journalist Ilias Dimitrakopoulos was honored here this week by the Greek state for his efforts against a military dictatorship ruling the country between 1967-1974.
In a special ceremony at the Greek embassy in Washington D.C., Greek ambassador Alexandros Mallias awarded Dimitrakopoulos the medal of the Phoenix Order on behalf of the Greek President Karolos Papoulias.
The ceremony was attended by former senator and one-time US presidential candidate George McGovern.
 MIET mounts exhibition on Mount Athos in Greek artAn exhibition organised by the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation (MIET) entitled "The Holy Mount in Greek art" is to open on January 24 at the Eynard Mansion (Aghiou Constantinou 20).
The exhibition was set up in collaboration with the art gallery of the semi-autonomous monastic community of Mount Athos in northern Greece and focuses mainly on works produced in the early decades of the 20th century.
About 180 paintings, etchings and books by 43 artists will be on display. Some of these belong to MIET's collection, others are from the Mount Athos Gallery and others are on loan from a number of public and private collections in Greece.
 Illegals intercepted on Xanthi-Kavala motorwayBorder guards intercepted a truck carrying 13 illegal immigrants of Iranian and Iraqi nationality on the Xanthi-Kavala motorway, in northern Greece, at dawn on Wednesday and arrested a 44-year-old man who was driving a car in front of the truck to warn the truckdriver of the existence of police roadblocks.
The truckdriver managed to escape and is being sought by police, while the two vehicles and the amount of 575 euros found in the possession of the 44-year-old man were confiscated.
 Partly cloudy on ThursdayPartly cloudy weather with northerly, northeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 6-7 beaufort. Fog in the morning. Temperatures will range between -2C and 16C. Overcast in Athens, with northeasterly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 8C to 14C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 1C to 10C.
 Cyprus in Security Council's 2007 round-upNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/CNA)
Cyprus and the Security Council's two meetings for the renewal of UN Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) mandate, from the 15 June to 15 December 2007 and from December 15, 2007 until June 15, 2008, are included in a 2007 Security Council round-up.
''The Council held two meetings to extend the mandate of the 43-year-old United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) by adopting resolutions 1758 (2007) and 1789 (2007),'' a press release issued by the Security Council on January 4 says.
The press release also recalls that ''in the first of the two texts, the Council noted with concern the lack of progress on the July 8, 2006 Agreement -- a set of principles and decisions signed by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders, which recognized the status quo as unacceptable and a comprehensive settlement as both desirable and possible.''
''The two sides had agreed to immediately begin a two-track process involving technical discussions of issues affecting the day-to-day life of the Cypriot people and, concurrently, consideration by working groups of substantive issues, leading to a comprehensive settlement,'' it adds, noting that "the first draft resolution reaffirmed that talks on a final political solution to the Cyprus problem had been at an impasse for too long.''
Regarding its efforts on international peace and security, the Security Council notes that it ''focused intensive efforts on resolving, monitoring and managing a daunting range of complex situations already on its agenda, in concert with the new Secretary-General, developing groundbreaking peacekeeping arrangements and other innovative strategies aimed at strengthening global security.''
''The suffering in Sudan's Darfur region and elsewhere in Africa, the tragic volatility of the Middle East, final status arrangements in Kosovo and other post-conflict areas, non-proliferation, terrorism, protection of human rights and a host of other difficult issues were the items Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described as priorities when he addressed the 15-member body for the first time on January 8,'' the press release adds.
As a whole, the Security Council convened 170 public meetings during the year, issuing 50 presidential statements and adopting 56 resolutions, 32 of which concerned Africa.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory. The July 8, 2006 agreement was signed by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in the presence of the then UN Undersecretary for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari.
 Eurostat: Cyprus' GDP rose by 4.6% in Q3 2007NICOSIA (ANA-MPA/CNA)
Cyprus Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rose by 4.6% in the third quarter of 2007, according to the second estimates released on Wednesday by Eurostat.
Wednesday's figures surpass earlier Eurostat forecasts released in November for a 4.3% GDP growth.
According to Eurostat, Euro area GDP in the third quarter of 2007, as compared with the corresponding period in 2006, grew by 2.7% in the Euro area and by 3.0% in the EU 27.
On a quarterly basis, the GDP in the Euro area grew by 0.7% and by 0.8% in the EU27. Cyprus' GDP growth on a quarterly basis was 1.2%.
The biggest GDP growth in relation with the third quarter of 2006 in the Euro area belongs to Slovenia, which recorded a 6.3% GDP growth, followed by the Netherlands with 4.2%.
In the EU 27 the biggest GDP growths were recorded in Lithuania with 11.6%, Latvia with 10.9% and Slovakia with 9.4%.
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