|Monday, 14 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-01-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 11 January 2008 Issue No: 2791
 FinMin sees limited impact on economy from int'l turmoilThe impact on the Greek economy from turmoil in international financial markets and rising oil prices, which affect purchasing power throughout the world, will be limited because reforms taken by the government in previous years are now maturing, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters to present the country's updated Stability and Growth Programme 2007-2010, Alogoskoufis said the impact on the economy will be limited because of the existence of a wide-ranging Public Investments Programme (worth 9.3 billion euros), high private investments totalling 8.0 billion euros, the launch of a 4th Community Support Framework package (worth 24.3 billion euros) and the launch of a series of private/public joint ventures worth three billion euros.
The Greek minister underlined that strong growth in south-eastern Europe will boost demand and noted that 2008 will be a year of implementing reforms aimed at reducing deficits and combating tax evasion.
The government aims to reduce its fiscal deficit from an estimated 1.6 pct of GDP In 2008 to 0.8 pct in 2009 and to presenting a balanced budget in 2010. Economic growth is also expected to be around 4.0 pct in the next three years, while unemployment is projected to drop to 6.0 pct of the workforce by 2010.
Greek economic growth was based mainly on exports and private investments in the past years. "The Greek economy has strong foundations," the minister said.
Finance Deputy Minister Nikos Legas said the fiscal deficit will remain below 3 percent in 2007, while Economy Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said the government's aim was not to lose even one euro from a 3rd Community Support Framework package.
Finance Deputy Minister Antonis Bezas said the ministry was launching a third phase of a tax reform programme aimed to combat tax evasion in the country.
Greece's updated Stability and Growth Program 2007-2010 is based on the scenario that global oil prices will stabilize and that the impact from a turmoil in financial markets won't be widely spread.
The country's real Gross Domestic Product is projected to grow by 4.0 pct annually during the three-year period, despite high oil prices and a strong euro currency rate.
Private consumption is expected to continue its strong advance (an average 3.4 pct during the three-year period), while real wages are expected to grow by an average of 2.4 pct over the same period. Employment is expected to grow by an average of 1.8 pct and the unemployment rate to fall to 6.0 pct in 2010.
The program also projects strong Greek exports and a slight reduction of the country's current accounts deficit, while inflation is expected to remain under control.
 Karamanlis arrives in India for 3-day official visitNEW DELHI (ANA-MPA - S. Goutzanis)
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis arrived in New Delhi on Thursday afternoon for the start of a three-day official visit to India. The prime minister was accompanied by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, the head of his press office Yiannis Andrianou and Greek Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos.
The aim of Karamanlis' visit is to further expand economic relations between Greece and India, which is considered a country with strong growth prospects in the region. Greece seeks to further improve cooperation in trade but also in the high technology sector.
The official reception ceremony for the Greek premier will take place on Friday, after which there will be a series of official meetings between Karamanlis and India's state and political leadership.
The Greek premier is scheduled to meet Indian President Pratibha Patil, the country's vice-president Hamid Ansari, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the head of the main opposition party Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The agenda for Karamanlis' visit includes the laying of a wreath at the Gandhi Monument and a trip to Aggra and the Taj Mahal, after which the prime minister's party will spend the night in Jaipur.
 Gov't again queried by press over Zachopoulos affairAlternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros reiterated on Thursday that the government has answered all questions related to the Zachopoulos blackmail affair, in reply to press questions citing political responsibilities in the case.
Referring to main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou's statements on alleged collusion between a "certain" judges and the government, he merely noted that, as opposed to Papandreou, the current government fully respects the independence of the judiciary.
Antonaros also said that ruling New Democracy was handed a renewed mandate to govern the country during last September's general elections.
On whether Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will appear in a Parliament hearing, as he held the culture ministry portfolio after 2004, Antonaros said he was unaware of such a summons.
 Papandreou chairs PASOK's Political Coordinating Body meetingMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thursday chaired a meeting of the party's Political Coordinating Committee and said that "the political system is going through a crisis and PASOK is obliged to expose the New Democracy (ND) government, which, through corruption, partner mentality, anti-popular policies and the country's anti-development course, has only one target, to serve partners and selfish interests, provoking the Greek people."
Papandreou also said that "every crisis also constitutes an opportunity and it is a great obligation of PASOK to bring back the credibility of the political system." He added that "we have the political will to achieve it and to change the political system."
He also said that "we will struggle along with the people, also helping in the organization of the popular movement against the unacceptable government policies."
Concluding, the PASOK leader referred to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' pending visit to Turkey, stressing that "there is no substantial preparation of it," adding that "the aim of this trip is not comprehensible."
On his part, PASOK spokesman Yiannis Ragoussis launched a two-pronged attack against the prime minister "and all those who probably are planning scenarios for a rift in PASOK."
He called on the prime minister "to put an end to every further effort to cover up the Zachopoulos scandal."
Ragoussis also stressed that "for PASOK, there is only one opponent, the government's anti-popular policies."
He further referred to various scenarios of an alleged rift in PASOK, stressing that "it is a shame, at a time when the government is being tried, when its hypocrisy on political ethics is revealed, when its policies are failing, at a time when the Movement's opposition policy is unfolded, certain people are attempting to create internal problems in PASOK."
 Justice minister responds to PASOK leader's allegationsJustice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Thursday responded to allegations by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou that "Greek justice is being manipulated".
Speaking during the debate in Parliament of the draft law concerning the retirement of judicial functionaries, Hatzigakis said that "when PASOK cannot prove the scandals which it 'discovers', it throws the blame on Justice."
"Yesterday (Wednesday), your leader (Papandreou) spoke of planted judicial functionaries. I find it a disgrace. Where are you leading at? What games are you playing? To tear down what exists, so as to gain certain petty political expediencies? To give excuses to all those who hate Democracy," Hatzigakis said, directing himself to the main opposition party.
 KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga visits BerlinCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga will address the 13th International Meeting in memory of Rosa Luxemburg, a pioneer activist of the international Communist movement, to take place in Berlin on Saturday at the initiative of the Junge Welt daily newspaper.
Papariga will also address an event hosted by the German Communist Party on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and on January 13 she will attend the annual event held in Berlin each January in memory of German Communists, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, who became symbols of the democratic socialists and Marxists after being killed in the unsuccessful Berlin revolution of January 1919.
In the evening of the same day, Papariga will address an event in Berlin hosted by local KKE party organizations.
 Minister visits Air Force unit on CreteDeputy Defence Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis on Thursday paid a visit to the Greek Air Force's 126th combat group on Crete, accompanied by the head of the Greek Air Force General Staff Lt Gen. Ioannis Giagkos.
In statements afterward, the minister said he had been impressed by the facilities and advanced readiness of the personnel on the site, which also houses the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.
"I had the opportunity to view at close range the S-300s, whose ownership, under the latest agreement signed by Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and his Cypriot counterpart Christodoulos Pashiardes, has now been transferred to the Greek Armed Forces," he said in statements after the visit.
Asked whether the change in ownership would also signal a change in the way the missile system was being used, Plakiotakis underlined that the joint defence doctrine with Cyprus remained in place.
"By their inclusion through ownership in our country's defense, the S-300s will also contribute to reinforcing the security and stability of the wider region," he added.
 MP seeking to slash electoral constituenciesRuling New Democracy MP Miltiades Varvitsiotis on Thursday tabled an amendment to a draft bill for election system reform proposed by the government, seeking to slash the number of constituencies currently existing by law to less than half.
Varvitsiotis calls for mergers of single-seat and two-seat constituencies so as to reduce their total number from 56 at present to just 26. According to the MP, the amendment seeks to improve the operation of the political system.
Discussion of the draft bill modifying the previous election law of 2004, prepared by the interior ministry, will begin before Parliament next Tuesday.
 Interview with LA.OS leader KaratzaferisPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) founder and leader George Karatzaferis referred to the current political climate in the country as morbid, speaking during an interview with the ANA-MPA.
Referring to the Zachopoulos blackmailing affair, he blamed the government for its actions, while he also commented on two deputies of his party, recipients of a letter delivered to them by a lawyer allegedly involved in the affair, who attempted to commit suicide on Jan. 4.
Karatzaferis said he regards the formation of coalition governments as most likely, while he does not rule out his party's participation in such cooperation.
Moreover, he referred to repeated "poor choices" by government officials, accusing it of mishandling the blackmail affair against former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos. He stressed that "childish mistakes" have been made, causing irreparable damage to state's dignity and credibility.
Karatzaferis said two party deputies, Adonis Georgiadis and Athanassios Plevris, were the recipients of a letter delivered to them by lawyer Iraklis Koutelidas, whom he identified "as a main opposition PASOK official" represented by a former inner cabinet secretary during a previous PASOK government.
Koutelidas, himself, was injured last week when he threw himsef at the wheels of a truck a few days ago charging that he was being used as a scapegoat in the Zachopoulos case. The LA.OS president added that the day after the suicide attempt, the two MPs had given a press conference on the incident and were advised by him to abstain from any populist exploitation of the issue.
He referred to the "redistribution of wealth" and the reconsideration of the country's foreign policy as his party's priorities.
Karatzaferis stated that he backs the redistribution of income and wealth to tackle existing inequalities and commented that the government has rejected a proposal according to which, part of the GDP should be reserved for wealth redistribution purposes and be given to the financially weaker.
The LA.OS president said that the current foreign policy has to be reconsidered based on the expressed interests in the wider region. He characterized the foreign policy, which is being followed blindly by certain important political figures across the political spectrum, as infertile and warned that it could cause irreparable national damage in the future.
On the likelihood of coalition governments in Greece, Karatzaferis stated that they will have to be broad-based to avoid identifying a party with its leader following the example of France, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Italy and other European states. He added that he is not against coalition governments and referring to the new election law, he commented that it is undemocratic to reserve a 50 seat bonus for the "first past the post" party that can easily be raised to a 60 or 100 seat bonus in the future.
 Bush greeted by Patriarch Theophilos IIIJERUSALEM (ANA-MPA)
Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III greeted visiting US President George W. Bush during the latter's visit to Bethlehem on Thursday, welcoming him as a pilgrim to the Holy Land and as a messenger of peace and justice in a land "afflicted with hardships and pain", as he said.
The Patriarch also wished the US President a successful visit in his efforts to further justice, reconciliation and true lasting peace in the Middle East.
"We assure you of our prayers for the success of your peace mission," Theophilos added.
 US embassy reminder: Reward for info on grenade attack still standsThe US Embassy in Athens on Thursday reminded that a reward it had announced last year following a rocket-propelled grenade at the embassy, which caused minor damage to the building's facade, is still being offered.
One year ago, on January 12, 2007, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the US Embassy in Athens, resulting in minor damage to the building. A reward of up to one million dollars announced shortly afterwards is still being offered for information leading to the successful resolution of this attack through the State Department's "Rewards for Justice" program, an embassy press release said on Thursday.
"A group calling itself Revolutionary Struggle claimed responsibility shortly after last year's attack. There have been no arrests in connection with the on-going investigation, despite the efforts of the Greek government," the press release said.
Since the inception of "Rewards for Justice" in 1984, the US government has paid over 77 million dollars to over 50 people who provided actionable information that put terrorists in prison or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide, the release added.
More information on the program is available at www.rewardsforjustice.net or through the US Embassy in Athens.
 Harbour Policy secretary general on container terminalsHarbor Policy Secretary General George Vlachos said on Thursday that procedures to deliver to private individuals the container terminals at the ports of Thessaloniki and Piraeus will forge ahead without any turning back.
He added that the proclamations on relevant tendering will be publicised by Tuesday, with the prospect of the contracts being signed with investors by June. He further revealed that Merchant Marine Minister George Voulgarakis is expected to visit Thessaloniki next week.
Speaking to the ANA-MP in Thessaloniki, Vlachos clarified that salaries, jobs and the rights of port employees will not be harmed. He announced that the Merchant Marine ministry's two bills on voluntary withdrawal and the transfer of port employees to services in the wider public sector are expected to be submitted in February.
"Those employees of the (port) Organization who will not choose voluntary withdrawal or transfer will secure their hiring by the contractor, maintaining their labor rights," he stressed.
As regards the container terminal in Thessaloniki, the investor will thrust his hand "deep into his pocket," since 250 million euros are expected to be invested so as to triple the port's capacity to 1.6 million TEUs (the unit for measuring containers).
Vlachos reminded that in 2006 56 percent of the global capacity of TEUs belonged to international managers, while stressing that the government's proposal on the ports is not a new one and does not take those involved by surprise since two years of consultations have passed.
In another development, the Professional Chamber of Piraeus declared its disagreement with any delivery and cutback regarding the business activities of the city's port and called for a reconsideration, if not the withdrawal, of the issue on the part of the government and the leadership of the relevant Merchant Marine ministry.
The chamber mentioned in an announcement that it agrees with the views of Piraeus Prefect Yiannis Mihas, as they were expressed after his recent meeting with Merchant Marine Minister George Voulgarakis and reiterated that all the agencies in the city have reached the conclusion that there should be cooperation with the administration of the Piraeus Harbour Organisation on a unified and modern plan with prospects and with the parallel development of both the city and the port.
 Employment minister, GSEE trade union discuss pension reformEmployment and Social Insurances Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia on Thursday met with the leadership of GSEE - Greece's largest trade union umbrella - for talks on the all-important pension reform issue.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, she forecast that political will for reforms will finally prevail, aimed at ensuring the interests of the majority in the social insurance system.
Petralia also noted that the government will pursue cooperation and a dialogue with social partners with the aim to reach an agreement guaranteeing social insurance for all citizens.
GSEE's president Yiannis Panagopoulos, speaking to reporters, said the minister presented a very general outline of steps to be followed and noted that these steps were a continuation of government policy in the framework of proposals presented to Parliamentary commissions.
Panagopoulos said trade unionists presented as priorities the issues of funding the system along with operational issues related with mergers of pension funds. He reiterated that trade unions would not accept a solution leading to lower pensions, higher contributions, or raising retirement ages in the country.
The Greek minister will continue a round of meetings with trade unions next week.
 Government-Microsoft agreement tabled in parliamentNational economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis tabled in parliament on Thursday a draft law on a strategic cooperation agreement between the Greek government and Microsoft software company.
The draft law foresees the foundation of a Microsoft innovative center in Greece that will support the Academic community, the Greek software companies and the growing enterprises. Moreover, the centre will provide the opportunity to citizens to attend educational programs on digital technology.
Microsoft will also support the Greek public sector's drive to develop digital services on electronic administration.
The agreement was signed by Alogoskoufis and Microsoft president Bill Gates in 2006.
 President signs decree for defence manufacturers' registerPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday signed a presidential decree proposed by Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis for the creation of a defence equipment manufacturers' register.
This fulfills a government pledge to increase the share of the domestic defence industry in armed forces programs for defense equipment and general procurements and to further protect the process from corruption.
The register will ascertain and make detailed records of the capabilities of Greek companies active in the defense industry.
According to a defense ministry announcement, there will be strict and objective criteria for including companies in the register and this will be regularly updated, so as to give an accurate picture of the state of the domestic defense industry and the companies included in the register at any given time.
In addition, its existence is expected to protect against corruption and graft and to create ways of resolving differences.
"Also created is the industrial framework for carrying out defense ministry procurement programs, given that the inclusion of a defense equipment manufacturing company in the Register will be a precondition for its participation in tenders and the assignment of contracts for the construction, repair or modernization of the ministry's defense equipment," the ministry announcement said.
 Development Minister Folias attends event at Public Power CorporationDevelopment Minister Christos Folias on Thursday attended the event for the cutting of the Public Power Corporation's (DEH) New Year's cake, underlining the competitive environment it is finding itself in.
"DEH is now functioning in a demanding and extremely competitive global environment and from today it must begin to build the strong foundations that are necessary for it to consolidate its position in the coming years as well. A position that is translated into a leading role for the development of the country and providing high level services for the Greek people," he said.
"We can, therefore, all of us together, do our best and signal a course that will be more dynamic, more modern, more competitive and that will allow DEH itself to meet the ever-increasing energy needs," the minister added.
 PASOK official replies to FinMin on OTE issueMain opposition PASOK party economy rapporteur Louka Katseli on Thursday termed "despicable" a point stressed in statements made by Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis where, as she said, "the minister said that it is regrettable that the main opposition party sided, supposedly, with the private investors in the issue of OTE (the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization), who attempted to obtain increased rights in corporations of strategic importance."
Katseli added that "Mr. Alogoskoufis, with this statement, is trying to cover up his own responsibilities with lies. It is obvious for whoever reads the amendment which we submitted, that PASOK is trying even at this moment to reverse the course to which the government has led OTE, it is trying to stop the sellout of OTE shares from the hands of the public sector."
 Greek-Bulgarian cross-border cooperation meeting in AlexandroupolisThe 2nd Greek-Bulgarian working meeting regarding three cross-border health sector projects under construction on the frontiers of the eastern Macedonia-Thrace region and southern Bulgaria will be launched in Alexandroupolis on Jan. 14.
The meeting is held within the framework of the Community Initiative INTERREG IIIA/PHARE CBC Greece-Bulgaria, in cooperation with the Plovdiv Medical School.
 Parliament passes 'protection against aggressive buy-out' amendmentThe parliament plenary passed on Thursday an amendment to protect the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) and other state enterprises of national importance from aggressive buy-outs.
The bill was passed with 151 votes for and 137 against, in a roll-call vote as requested by the main opposition PASOK deputies.
The PASOK deputies and MPs of the other opposition parties all voted against the amendment.
 Greek inflation rose to 3.9 pct in December, yr/yrGreece's annual inflation rate rose to 3.9 percent in December, compared with the same month in 2006, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a monthly report, said that the inflation rate -measured by the consumer's price index- rose 0.4 pct in December from November 2007.
NSS attributed the 3.9 pct increase of the inflation rate to a 4.8 pct increase in food and beverage prices index, a 3.1 pct rise in clothing and footwear, an 8.7 pct increase in housing prices, a 4.7 pct rise in transportation prices, a 4.6 pct increase in education prices, a 4.4 pct rise in coffee-restaurant prices and a 2.5 pct increase in other goods and services.
Greece's harmonised inflation rate also rose to 3.9 pct in December. Manolis Kontopyrakis, NSS's secretary-general, said any forecast over the course of the inflation rate in 2008 would be groundless because of a volatility in international oil prices.
 MIG to acquire controlling interest in Radio Korasidis, Elephant chainsAthens-listed Marfin Investment Group (MIG) Holdings S.A. has announced an agreement to acquire 55.9 percent of the share capital of the "Radio Korasidis" chain and 58.78 percent of the "Elephant" chain, both consumer electronic goods retailers, which are in the process of merger, for 22.2 million euro from the company V-NET, the strategic investor in the recent restructuring of the two Groups under the provisions of Article 44 of the Greek bankruptcy legislation.
Radio Korasidis today has a chain of 54 stores throughout Greece, including 8 stores of "Vasilakis S.A." in Northern Greece, which are currently being integrated into the Group's network, while its dynamic business plan provides for the establishment of 29 new branches in the period 2008-2009, 25 of which will be of medium size while 4 will be mega-stores. Revenues are expected to exceed 200 million euro in 2008, and estimated to rise to 350 million euros in 2009. The company further intends to exploit significant growth opportunities resulting from the recent strengthening of its capital structure, and expand its products and services, and MIG announcement said.
The prospect of its listing on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) will also be considered at a later stage.
Commenting on the acquisition, MIG vice-chairman Andreas Vgenopoulos said that "we are thrilled with the prospect of this historic consumer electronics retailer to re-establish itself and return to profitable growth".
"We believe that, apart from the opportunities for development in the Greek market, there is also tremendous potential for further expansion of the chain into the region of Southeastern Europe," he said.
Radio Korasidis and Elephant chairman and CEO Ioannis Evangelatos said that the participation of MIG, "a group with significant international presence", in Radio Korasidis and Elephant "ensures that our successful development will go forward".
"We are now ideally positioned to become an important player in the consumer electronics market, both in Greece and in the wider region, not only as a seller of products but also as a provider of services," he added.
 Greek budget revenues up 8.0 pct in DecemberGreece's regular budget revenues rose by 8.0 percent in December 2007, surpassing a forecast for an annual growth rate of 6.4 pct, the Finance ministry said on Thursday.
The minister, in a report, said that budget revenues totaled 5.489 billion euros in December, up from 5.082 billion euros in December 2006, for an increase of 407 million euros or 8.0 percent.
Customs revenues rose 7.8 percent in December, while tax agencies' revenues rose by 10.3 percent in the month. VAT proceeds rose by 8.7 pt to 869 million euros in December.
In the 12-month period from January to December, revenues totaled 51.749 billion euros, from 48.684 billion euros in the previous year, for an increase of 3.065 billion or 6.3 pct, surpassing a forecast for a 5.5 pct growth rate.
 Athens hotels present mixed occupancy rates for NovemberAthens' hotels reported mixed figures over their occupancy rates in November, with middle category hotels recording slight increases while high and low category hotels recorded declines in the month.
A monthly report by the Association of Athens Hoteliers on Thursday said the four and three-star hotels reported increases of 3.60 pct and 2.10 pct, respectively, in November, while five and two-star hotels reported declines of 1.60 pct and 4.60 pct, respectively.
The Association, in a statement, said that the tourist product of Athens showed signs of fatigue and stressed actions were needed to enrich and better promote the city's image abroad.
 Attica Holdings sells two ships for 34.7 million eurosAttica Holdings, a listed shipping company, on Thursday announced the sale of two Ro-Ro vessels, "Shield" and "Challenge", for 34,775,000 euros in cash. The two vessels, built in 1998 and 1999, respectively, are currently operating under a lease contract in Nothern Europe. The transaction is expected to be completed in February along with the delivery of the two ships.
Attica Holdings said the expected accounting profit from the transaction will reach 3.8 million euros and will be included in its first quarter results.
 Building activity down 5.8 pct in Jan-Oct, yr/yrBuilding activity (both private and public) fell by 4.1 pct in permits and 5.8 pct in volume in the 10-month period from January to October 2007, compared with the corresponding period in 2006, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in its monthly report, said that Central Macedonia (16.3 pct), Ionian islands (7.6 pct) and Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (6.5 pct) recorded the biggest percentage declines in permits, while only Epirus recorded an 1.6 percent increase during the January-October period.
 Delivery hours for Athens retailers curtailedThe central government on Thursday officially altered delivery hours for supermarkets, department stores and other retailers located in central Athens as part of yet another bid to relieve congestion on the Greek capital's congested roadways.
Specifically, deliveries for supermarkets, department stores and chain stores in downtown Athens, conducted by vehicles of more than 1.5 tons of useful load, are now banned between 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. -- usually "rush hour" in the Greek capital. The central meat and produce markets of Athens are excluded from the measure.
The decision, taken also to reduce air pollution levels, was taken by the environment and town planning meeting.
 Greek stocks plunge 2.17 pctGreek stocks suffered heavy losses on Thursday, affected by a negative climate on international markets. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange ended at 4,962.53 points, off 2.17 percent with turnover a heavy 640.96 million euros, of which 105.9 million euros were block trades.
All sector indices ended lower, with Raw Materials (6.55 pct), Technology (4.52 pct), Financial Services (4.23 pct), Insurance (4.03 pct), Industrial Products (3.80 pct), Media (3.76 pct) and Healthcare (3.13 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Big Cap index dropped 2.19 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.87 pct down and the Small Cap index fell 2.07 pct. Athens Electronic (27.91 pct), ANEK (11.86 pct) and Karamolegos (6.76 pct) were top gainers, while Eurobrokers (10.57 pct), Kyriakoulis (9.85 pct) and Vell Group (9.63 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 228 to 38 with another 31 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.06%
Personal & Household: -2.75%
Raw Materials: -6.55%
Travel & Leisure: -2.58%
Food & Beverages: -2.30%
Financial Services: -4.23%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Eurobank, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 24.90
Public Power Corp (PPC): 36.00
HBC Coca Cola: 31.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.86
National Bank of Greece: 45.88
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 21.40
Titan Cement Company: 30.90
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover jumping to 261.157 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.02 pct and the January contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.87 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 14,245 contracts worth 188.573 million euros, with 25,017 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 821 contracts worth 24.324 million euros with 675 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,591 contracts worth 22.765 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (2,031), followed by Eurobank (1,024), National Bank (1,676), Alpha Bank (1,654), Intracom (1,824), Postal Savings Bank (642) and ATEbank (1,353).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 1.888 billion euros on Thursday, of which 897 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.009 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was again the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 568 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year benchmark Greek and German bonds rose further to 0.38 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.45 pct and the German Bund 4.07 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved lower. National Bank's overnight rates eased to 4.07 pct from 4.20 pct on Wednesday, the two-day rate also fell to 4.07 pct from 4.20 pct, the one-month rate was 4.22 pct and the 12-month rate eased to 4.665 pct from 4.68 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.477
Pound sterling 0.755
Danish kroner 7.507
Swedish kroner 9.484
Japanese yen 162.37
Swiss franc 1.642
Norwegian kroner 7.901
Canadian dollar 1.490
Australian dollar 1.674
 President Papoulias tours new Acropolis MuseumPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday paid a visit to the new Acropolis Museum, accompanied by Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis.
The president was given a tour of the museum by the head of the Organisation for the Building of the New Museum of the Acropolis Dimitris Pantermalis and Acropolis curator Alexandros Mantis. Afterward, he said that the new museum for Greece's most famous archaeological landmark was a symbol of Greece's culture and history. In a clear reference to Greece's bid for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, Papoulias also stressed that the museum was "a sign for some people that do not wish to understand that some things must return to their historic base".
The museum's management presented the president with two symbolic gifts, a small jar of olives harvested from the trees on the slopes below the Acropolis, which are not normally culled, and a copy of one of the sculptures from the Acropolis frieze that are currently at the British Museum in London.
The transfer by crane-relay of the remaining antiquities at the old Acropolis museum is expected to be completed by the end of this month, when the sixth and final caryatid will take up its position in the interior balcony on the new museum's first level. Once in place, all six caryatids - one of which is a copy - will be cleaned of the residues of atmospheric pollution and humidity using laser beam treatment.
Asked to comment on the recent scandal that has rocked the culture ministry after the attempted suicide of its former general secretary Christos Zachopoulos and the revelations about his illicit love affair, the culture minister said the ministry was "gradually returning to its normal rhythm".
"We are continuing our work as usual and we have a lot to do, particularly in order to bring culture closer to the daily life of citizens," he added.
 Attica municipalities' union visits Patriarch in IstanbulISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
A delegation from the Local Union of Municipalities and Communities of Attica Prefecture (TEDKNA), accompanied by representatives of the Network of Twinned Cities of the Mediterranean 'Amphictyoniae', on Thursday paid a visit to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at his seat in Istanbul.
Bartholomew congratulated the mayors for their contribution to promoting trust and cooperation between Greece and Turkey. The delegation also paid a visit to the Greek Consul in Istanbul Alexandros Dimitrakopoulos and several of the region's local government officials.
 French ambassador to inaugurate photo exhibition in NafplioFrench ambassador to Greece Christophe Farnaud will visit the Peloponnese cities of Corinth and Nafplio on Friday, where he will meet with local authorities.
The French envoy will lay a wreath at a monument to French philhellenes before inaugurating a photo exhibition entitled "Castles of Greece", by artists Vaggelis and Angelos Rassias, sponsored by the French embassy.
 Burn victims taken to Athens in military transport planeA 39-year-old mother and her two-year-old daughter from Crete that suffered severe burns in a house fire were transported to Athens for treatment in a C-130 military transport plane on Thursday.
The fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon, spreading from the fireplace in the victims' home in Tympaki, in the prefecture of Iraklio on Crete. Lighter burns were also suffered by the woman's 20-year-old son, who ran in to save his mother and sister.
The two burn victims were picked up at the airport of the 126th Battle Squadron on the island and were accompanied by a team of specialist doctors on their trip to Athens. The mother is to be admitted to Thriasio Hospital and the little girl to the children's hospital in central Athens.
 ECHR: Turkey guilty of human rights violation in case of missing in CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday found Turkey guilty of violating the human rights of Greek Cypriots, missing since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
In its judgment the Court said Turkey is guilt of "the continuing violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of failure of the authorities of the respondent state (Turkey) to conduct an effective investigation into the whereabouts and fate of the nine first applicants who disappeared in life threatening circumstances".
The decision, in the case of "Varnava and Others v. Turkey", was taken by six votes in favour and one against, that of judge Gonu Eronen, representing Turkey.
The Court also announced that there was violation of Article 3 which prohibits inhuman treatment and Article 5 (right to liberty and security).
The applicants are 18 Cypriot nationals, nine of whom have been considered missing since they were taken into captivity by the Turkish army during military action in Cyprus in 1974. They have not been accounted for since.
The other nine applicants are the parents or wives of the missing applicants and based their application on Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), 4 (prohibition of forced labour), 5 (right to liberty and security), 6 (right to a fair trial), 8 (right to respect for private and family life), 10 (freedom of expression), 12 (right to marry), 13 (right to an effective remedy) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention.
 Cyprus government: ECHR judgment satisfactoryThe Cyprus government expressed Thursday satisfaction with the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights.
In statements to the press, Government Spokesman Vasilis Palmas said that "this is a positive development and the government expresses its satisfaction".
Palmas described the issue of missing persons as "sensitive and humanitarian", adding that "the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is an autonomous European instrument which takes its decisions independently".
Asked weather the government intends to apply the ruling in the political arena, Palmas noted that Court judgments are of great significance.
Responding to questions, the spokesman said that all indications are that other similar cases could be brought up before the Court, in which similar decisions could be taken.
On the absence of any call by the Court to Turkey to pay damages, Palmas said that every case requires a special approach and has a different content.
 Cyprus Church to take Turkey to ECHRThe Cyprus Church intends to take Turkey to the European Court of Human Rights for preventing the restoration of looted Orthodox churches in the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus and for its continuing refusal to allow access to the Christian Orthodox pilgrims for worship.
The Primate of the Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos B', has said that he will raise the issue to the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, during his visit to Cyprus next week and then continue the efforts through the Church of Cyprus office, which will open soon in Brussels.
The Church will subsequently set up a team of legal experts to help prepare its case before the Court.
In an interview with the Radio Station of the Church of Greece, the Archbishop noted that "there are churches in the occupied areas, which are half destroyed, some have collapsed, others were demolished and most recently a church in the Karpass peninsula was razed to the ground".
He expressed fears that "if restoration is not allowed to start soon the churches will begin to collapse one after the other."
"We have reached a very dangerous point, we are not asking for anything more than the restoration of our human rights and we will fight for them", the Archbishop said, adding that the occupation authorities do not allow the Church to send priests to the Monastery of Apostolos Andreas, situated on the rocky coast in the easternmost point of the Karpas peninsula. It was built in 1867.
"The Turks want to uproot everything Greek and Christian in the occupied areas, we will fight with all our strength to prevent this from happening", Archbishop Chrysostomos said.
In 1974 Turkey launched a military invasion of Cyprus. In the immediate aftermath until today what has been taking place is large scale damage to churches, historic churches have been seized, stripped and whitewashed and converted into mosques. In most of the Orthodox graveyards not a single tombstone has remained standing.
There are about 500 Greek Orthodox churches in the northern Turkish occupied part of Cyprus.
 Excellent relations between Cyprus and Palestine reaffirmedNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The excellent relations of Cyprus with the Palestinian people were once again reaffirmed during meetings Cyprus
Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Marcoullis has had in Ramala with the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayiad.
An official press release issued here notes that Abbas made a specific reference to ties between Cyprus and the Palestinian people since the establishment of the Republic in 1960 and even before, adding that the two peoples share the same principles and face similar problems.
Marcoullis briefed the Palestinian President on the situation in Cyprus, noting that the main reason for the perpetuation of the problem is the Turkish occupation and its repercussions, such as the refugees, the illegal settlements in the occupied areas and the exploitation of Greek Cypriot properties.
Abbas extended the thanks of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people for the unwavering support and financial and other aid the Cypriot authorities are offering to the Palestinians.
Referring to developments in the Palestinian question, the President of the Palestinian Authority said that a positive climate is being created, despite the fact that substantial negotiations have not yet started.
He added that if there is no substantive result in the talks during 2008, then a good opportunity will have been lost and years will pass before a new initiative is undertaken.
Abbas elaborated on the current process for the Palestinian issue, indicating the obstacles posed in its course.
Marcoullis congratulated the Palestinian leader on his vision, courage and determination to reach a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question and noted that Cyprus will continue to give its support to the Palestinians within the EU as well, until the goal of the international community is achieved and an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state is established that will exist side by side with Israel in conditions of peace and security.
Marcoullis and Fayiad also discussed practical ways of utilizing the help provided by Cyprus to the Palestinians.
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