|Sunday, 8 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-01-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 16 January 2008 Issue No: 2795
 PM chairs Inner Cabinet on education issues, confers with development ministerIssues pertaining to the education ministry were discussed on Tuesday during an Inner Cabinet meeting chaired by prime minister Costas Karamanlis.
After the meeting, education minister Evrypides Stylianidis told reporters that he briefed the Inner Cabinet on the strategy in the education sector, in which the top priority was a comprehensive plan for the construction of a "smart school" in the period 2008-2012.
He said the funds for the construction of 1,233 school units throughout the country have already been planned and secured, while priority was also on completing or upgrading the existing school buildings and their equipment.
Stylianidies announced that he presented to the Inner Cabient an innovative policy platform titled "The Greek, a citizen of Europe - The Greek, a citizen of the world".
He explained that the policy was founded on five unities of measures for human-centred, environmental education, multilingualism, knowledge of the Greek language, digital convergence, education, culture and sports.
Each one of those actions was accompanied by a comprehensive study carried out by relevant institutions, and contained specific targets, the minister said and, referring to human-centred education as an example, explained that it contained interventions for persons with special needs and the socially sensitive groups, while environmental education aimed at sustainable development and instilling an environmental conscience in the young generation.
Stylianidis further said that the advancement of the Greek language, and multilingualism among Greeks, was the third target area, while the fourth concerned digital convergence, which aimed at eliminating "digital illiteracy", and the use of new technologies in the education system.
He also said that culture and sports were elements intertwined with the identity of the modern-day Greek and needed to be cultivated by the education system.
Development minister Christos Folias said, in turn, that he discussed progress regarding the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project with the prime minister, adding that the agreement on establishing the international company for the project would possibly be signed by the end of the week in Sofia, so that the project could begin.
All the procedures have been completed, and the road was opening up for the project, Folias said.
 Next round of Greece-FYROM direct negotiations on name issue to be held in Ochrid on Jan. 21NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue, Matthew Nimetz, announced in New York that the next round of bilateral negotiations on the name issue will take place on January 21 in Ochrid, FYROM.
According to an announcement by Nimetz, the talks will focus on "the name issue and related matters", and will be opened by FYROM foreign minister Antonio Milososki.
The Ochrid session will be first in a series of meetings announced by Nimetz during his visit to the region last month.
If progress is achieved in Ochrid, the following round of talks will take place in Greece, the announcement said.
It said that the Ochrid session will be the first time that direct negotiations will be held in the region, given that they usually take place at the UN headquarters in New York.
 President meets with TI chairwomanPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias met Tuesday with visiting chairwoman of Transparency International (TI) Huguette Labelle.
Greeting Labelle, Papoulias said he had been shaken by the information on corruption he had read in the newspapers.
Papoulias said that combating corruption was the democratic duty of all the citizens, adding that corruption was the biggest threat to democracy, as it dissolved the relations of confidence with the citizens.
"Everyone must mobilize, because this is a harmful ailment," the President said, and expressed regret over the breadth of corruption in Greece but also in Europe and the world in general.
Papoulias also called corruption as the "illness of the era", for which a cure must be found.
Labelle, in turn, said that corruption was a crime against humanity, and was directly linked with poverty, violence and terrorism.
She further noted that the TI Congress will be held in Greece next autumn.
Labelle was accompanied by the director of the Greek National Chapter of TI, Costas Bakouris, and the members of the administrative council.
 Parliament President receives TI's Huguette LabelleParliament President Dimitris Sioufas met Tuesday with visiting chairwoman of Transparency International (TI) Huguette Labelle accompanied by the director of the Greek National Chapter of TI, Costas Bakouris and the members of the administrative council.
Greeting Labelle, Sioufas said that "combating corruption and consolidating transparency is our common target. We fight the same battle. It is a struggle in defence of development, of quality of life and of quality of democracy".
Sioufas laid emphasis on the work performed by the Parliamentary Committee for Institutions and Transparency and expressed his intention to enhance further the collaboration between Greek Parliament and the Greek National Chapter of TI.
Labelle, in turn, said that she was particularly happy with the progress marked in Greece concerning social justice and the close cooperation with TI.
 Deputy FM at 1st Alliance of Civilizations forum in MadridMADRID (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
Deputy foreign minister Yannis Valinakis is representing Greece at the first international forum on the Alliance of Civilizations, which opened on Tuesday in Madrid.
At the start of the two-day conference, the initiators of the initiative, Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, stressed their dedication to the mission and prospects of the Alliance of Civilizations.
Taking part in the conference are representatives of the governments of more than 80 countries, international personalities, and representatives of NGOs and Churches.
The Alliance of Civilizations was founded in 2004 following an initiative by Zapatero, who shortly after the terrorist attack on a railway in Madrid presented the idea to the UN General Assembly as a vehicle for understanding between the West and the Muslim and Arab world, aimed at confronting terrorism.
In 2006, Erdogan adopted the initiative, which was later placed under the aegis of the United Nations.
 Government on Zachopoulos probeAnswering questions about the ongoing investigation into former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos on Tuesday, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos reiterated that the government has adopted a clear stance on this issue. He stated that the head of the prime minister's press office Yiannis Andrianos had been called to give supplementary evidence of vital signficance to the examining magistrate in charge of the case the previous day.
Previously, Andrianos had refused to reveal the identity of a journalist that gave him a DVD containing recordings of Zachopoulos engaged in sexual activity with a female colleague employed at the culture ministry by citing his right as a journalist to protect confidential sources.
Roussopoulos also strenuously denied suggestions that the DVD in question had been tampered with before it was handed over to justice and disagreed that Andrianos had "backed down" from his arguments regarding journalist-source confidentiality, noting that the head of the prime minister's press office had always declared that he was at the disposal of the courts on any issue considered of vital significance to the investigation.
The spokesman additionally refused to say whether Andrianos revealed the identity of the DVD's source to him.
On a related issue regarding the allegations made by TV journalist Makis Triantafyllopoulos on Monday night claiming some kind of suspect transaction between the head of the Special Audits Service (formerly economic crimes unit) Spyros Kladas and a New Democracy MP, the spokesman referred reporters to the announcement issued by the special audits service and refused to make any further comment, save to stress that the government was not involved in any clandestine transactions of any kind.
 Zachopoulos probe given top prioritySupreme Court Prosecutor Georgios Sanidas on Tuesday instructed an examining magistrate investigating the activities of former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos to give the case top priority. The case has now been forwarded to 2nd special examining magistrate Dimitris Economou, who has the job of collecting evidence related to the case.
Meanwhile, Zachopoulos' wife and son have issued a statement pleading for a more sensitive handling of the case by the media, after photographs allegedly taken from the evidence file and showed Zachopoulos engaged in sexual activity with an unidentified woman were published in Athens dailies.
Zachopoulos is currently hospitalized and in a serious condition after an attempted suicide over Christmas, the day after his resignation. It is believed he was being blackmailed by a female former associate depicted in the photographs, with whom he was having an affair.
His wife and son called on the media to "stop casting stones at a man unable to defend himself" and stressed that even though "he had chosen death it appears that God has spared him".
In another development, the finance ministry's Special Audit Service begun to investigate the origins of a large cash deposit made in the account of a well-known journalist. According to an official statement issued by the agency, the investigation was launched on Nov. 2, 2007 and the journalist in question has been summoned twice to provide explanations on December 28 and 31 last year.
Meanwhile, a culture ministry employee and journalist Angeliki Rizou from the private TV station "Alter" testified before Magistrate Economou on Tuesday in connection with the alleged extortion of Zachopoulos.
The journalist was called in for questioning after investigators were given clearance to examine the phone records of the 35-year-old woman that is implicated in the case. These showed that the journalists had spoken with the former culture ministry employee and close associate of Zachopoulos while investigating Zachopoulos' resignation.
Meanwhile, the suspect in the case has filed for a temporary court order banning the papers from publishing photographs of her and Zachopoulos, specifically targeting the company the publishes the newspaper "Proto Thema". The petition notes that the photographs form part of the evidence in the case and are also an affront to her personality.
She is also suing the paper's editorial team, with the exception of co-owner and TV journalist Makis Triantafyllopoulos.
The hearing for the temporary order has been set for 15:00 on Tuesday. A similar petition has also been made by lawyer Alexandros Lykourezos, who is representing Zachopoulos' family in the case.
 Zachopoulos scandal political, PASOK insistsMain opposition PASOK on Tuesday insisted that the revelations concerning former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos had a strongly political hue and could not be dismissed as a sex scandal.
"PASOK told the Greek people frankly from the first that the Zachopoulos affair was a deeply political affair, a [New Democracy] affair and not a [sex scandal]. From the first moment we have asked the prime minister and the government to tell the whole truth," PASOK spokesman Yiannis Ragoussis said.
He also stressed that the latest round of, as yet unconfirmed, revelations concerning the head of the Special Audit Service (former economic crimes unit SDOE) Spyros Kladas and a ruling party MP demanded that the government state its position. Pointing out that Kladas had so far failed to make an official denial of the allegations, Ragoussis added that these would be a "foremost issue" if proved true.
"The country can no longer wallow in this mire, which for Greece's poor fortune is linked to the inner core of the prime minister's [circle]," he said, adding that PASOK MPs intended to table a question in Parliament on this issue later on Tuesday.
Asked if PASOK agreed with the allegations made by TV journalist Makis Triantafyllopoulos about Kladas, Ragoussis said the main opposition demanded that the government state its own position first and would then unveil its position depending on developments.
Responding to PASOK's spokesman, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos denied suggestions that the government had engaged in suspect deals.
"Contrary to the practice of PASOK governments, the present government does not enter into transactions with anyone. The laws are upheld and no one is above the law," he stressed.
 SYRIZA leader on Zachopoulos case, Asopos RiverCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party leader Alekos Alavanos on Tuesday met representatives of the Association of Cultural Authorities of the wider Athens area in Oropos to discuss pollution in the Asopos River.
In comments he made after the meeting concerning the Zachopoulos blackmail scandal, Alavanos accused the prime minister and his close associates of implementing an "omerta type" code of silence involving blackmail, back stabbings, secret accounts, suicides, public property sellouts and mismanagement of public funds, adding that the country is experiencing the swan song of two-party politics. Alavanos commented that the political system is decomposing and the country is being immersed in the underworld, calling on the people to resist the moral collapse.
Referring to the state of Asopos River, Alavanos characterized it as a major environmental and human crime going unpunished and called for immediate measures against polluting industries.
 Themos Anastassiades denies allegations in mediaTV journalist Themos Anastassiades, a co-owner of the newspaper "Proto Thema" that has figured prominently in the unfolding scandal surrounding former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos, on Tuesday strenuously denied allegations that he was engaged in suspect financial dealings and of cutting a deal with the government via the Special Audits Service.
In an announcement, Anastassiades described the allegations as "false, malicious and slanderous" and said that the investigation into his financial affairs begun in July by the Special Audits Service - especially regarding deposits in one his bank accounts - was known to himself and several other staff members at the newspaper "Proto Thema", among them fellow-owner and investigative TV journalist Makis Triantafyllopoulos.
Claiming that this had given rise to articles and related blogs of a "clearly extortionary nature", the journalist said that he had informed the authorities he was being blackmailed and filed a complaint with the Electronic Crime squad in November that had since been sent to a public prosecutor.
"In my suit I mention the sum and the reasons why I think the blackmail is being attempted. It is therefore obvious that I have nothing to hide and there has, of course, been no transaction issue," Anastassides said.
He also clarified that the amount deposited in the bank account involved was about 2.5 times smaller than the sum he had declared in the "means and assets" statements that he submitted to the Supreme Court annually and that he had been called by the Special Audits Service to provide explanations on December 31.
Underlining that the case had absolutely no relation to money laundering and the other scenarios seen in the media since July, he said he had responded to the summons in good time.
"Let the readers-citizens decide whether the summons from the Special Audits Service on New Year's eve and just five days after I had testified before an examining magistrate regarding the Zachopoulos affair can be part of some sort of transaction between myself and the government a few days earlier!" he adds.
Anastassiades also denied being acquainted of having met the head of the Special Audits Service Spyros Kladas and refused to elaborate on why Triantafyllopoulos chose to implicate him of involvement in tax-evasion and other financial crimes during a television broadcast on Monday.
 ESHEA announces meeting over Zachopoulos affairThe Athens journalists' union ESHEA on Tuesday announced an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the emerging ramifications of the Zachopoulos scandal and the way that this has been handled both by the government and the media.
The union's announcement said the affair had featured the "shredding of human dignity, corruption of consciences, public humiliation and an abolition of the assumption of innocence, alongside unprecedented government and other intrigues that are now being completed by clashes between publishers' interests."
Claiming that there was an obvious intent to shift responsibility onto journalism as a sector, ESHEA said the topic of Wednesday's meeting would "Dangerous developments in the sector of the media, with immediate unfavourable repercussions on the sector". It added that the elected representative of staff at the "Proto Thema" newspaper had also been summoned to attend.
 Liapis presents new culture ministry general secretaryCulture Minister Michalis Liapis on Tuesday formally presented the ministry's new general secretary Theodoros Dravillas, who replaces the former secretary Christos Zachopoulos that resigned under the cloud of scandal, stressing that the crisis that has erupted may signal better days for culture.
Liapis requested that the new general secretary, who held his first meeting with the 17-member Central Archaeological Council, should not make use of his right for a dual vote, while he also suggested that decisions should be reached with a strong majority vote, warning that in a different case he will be forced to refer them back.
The culture minister expressed confidence in the council, stressing that it protects cultural heritage while serving the people and added that all its decisions will be made public via the internet.
 SYRIZA leader on 'crisis' in Culture MinistryRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos tabled in Parliament on Tuesday a question to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, calling on him "to assume his responsibilities, asking for the charges to be examined regarding the privileged financings, but also the illegal employments by the Culture Ministry."
Alavanos said that "developments in the Culture Ministry portray elements of deep political crisis which harms public administration," which he describes as "dependent on each governing party."
 Sponsorship Council meets"Our priority is to ensure sponsorships to finance the activities programmed for the Greek Cultural Year in China" said Culture Minister Michalis Liapis after the first meeting of the Sponsorship Council held on Tuesday at the ministry.
This advisory body aims at attracting funds from the private sector in order to effectively promote cultural activities, the minister added.
 KKE on corruptionThe Greek Communist Party (KKE) in a statement issued on Tuesday and entitled "Popular counter-attack on corruption and anti popular measures" said that the country "is sliding into the mire due to the political struggle between corporations and centers of power aiming at sharing the wealth, exerting control over political developments at the cost of the people".
The Communist Party accused the government of "promoting measures against workers" and underlined that "no one trusts the pronouncements on transparency and clean up made by plutocracy, the parties representing it and the media which control them."
"Bribery has become a constant characteristic in economic deals due to the inexorable competition for profit" the statement said and prompted citizens to "resist and range with the Greek Communist Party".
 European citizens can vote in Greek municipal electionsThe State Council ruled on Tuesday that the clauses in the Treaty of Maastricht giving the right to all European citizens to vote in the municipal elections of the country they reside are in force.
 FinMin optimistic over growth of Greek economyFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis appeared optimistic in Parliament on Tuesday regarding the Greek economy by the year 2010, while briefing the Finance Committee on the updated Stability and Growth Program covering the 2007-2010 period.
According to the minister, what will be taking place by the year 2010 will be an increase in real incomes, an increase in employment by 1.8 percent (and a decrease in unemployment to 6 percent), a decrease in inflation and in tax burdens.
The widening of the tax base and the crackdown on tax evasion is expected to more than cover the losses from the decrease in tax rates for private individuals, resulting in general governance revenues increasing by 2.4 percent, while a decrease in state expenditures will also be taking place, with the exception of those concerning social policy, where there will be an increase of 2 percent of GDP.
The above, combined with an increase in exports, will create the preconditions for enabling the growth rate to reach 4 percent by the year 2010, the minister said.
"The inflow of investments, either direct, or through portfolio, has a permant character in our country for a number of reasons (business climate, international developments, great development in shipping). It is not possible for us to have a big surplus in the capital balance and it be a short-term and profiteering one," the minister further said.
 FinMin on Postal Savings Bank and CitigroupFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis said in Parliament on Tuesday, after being called on by main opposition PASOK party Deputy Louka Katseli to comment on the feud between the Postal Savings Bank and Citigroup, that the Postal Savings Bank is a bank and it has its own administration.
"The Post Office Savings Bank is a bank and it has its own administration. The public maintains a minority share package. If some investments adviser misled the administration, this is a private matter between the two foundations, which they will solve wherever necessary, and it is not something which the Finance and Economy minister should deal with," the minister said.
In another development, the administration of the Post Office Savings Bank announced on Tuesday, with regard to a relevant report, that "on 31/12/2007 an extrajudicial statement was sent to Citigroup Global Markets Limited in Athens concerning the sale of a product to the Post Office Savings Bank in 2005. The sending of the statement took place in the framework of an effort to achieve an extrajudicial settlement for the difference."
 PASOK delegation meets with Competition Committee chiefA delegation of the main oppositiion PASOK party, headed by MP and former minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, met on Tuesday with the president of the Competition Committee, S. Zissimopoulos, to discuss the high cost of living in Greece and the Committee's smooth operation as the supervising authority on competition on the Greek market.
The meeting took place at the headquarters of the independent authority.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Chrysochoidis said that "competition does not exist on the Greek market", charging that business cartels were operating without control on the market, fixing the prices of stable goods through concerted pricing.
He said that the Competiton Committee's efforts were not enough to tackle the problem because "the government does not want to clash with the foods, fuel sectors and supermarket cartels".
Chrysochoidis also accused the government of understaffing of the independent authority, unacceptable delays in the issue of decisions, provocative inertia in reinforcing anti-oligopoly legislation, and non-existent effect of sanctions in the operation of the market and protection of the consumer.
The phenomenon of high prices is out of control, and the government does not want, and cannot, confront this situation, Chrysochoidis said, adding that Greece has acquired the role of "negative champion" in Europe in recent years, with spiraling prices, reduced buying strength, and increased business profits.
PASOK, he added, committed itself to institutionally reinforce the anti-monopoly and anti-oligopoly legislation and monitoring mechanists against monopolies and oligopolies, and to wage war on the high cost of living.
 Thessaloniki Port ratifies container terminal privatisation planThe board of Thessaloniki Port Organization on Tuesday approved a plan to privatize the port's container terminal facilities, amidst tension and minor incidents which broke out during a rally at the entract of the main gate of the port by protesting workers.
The Port Organization's board ratified a tender on the exploitation rights of the container terminal, following a similar decision taken by the Piraeus Port Organization last week.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, Lazaros Kanavouras, chairman of Thessaloniki Port Organization expressed the confidence that the board has made an excellent job in drafting the privatization tender and noted that the full text of the tender will be uploaded on the Internet on Wednesday.
Kanavouras said the privatization of the container terminal will be to the benefit of workers and noted that the management was willing to satisfy workers' demands as much as possible. He noted that the board's decision highlighted the state's determination to proceed with the ports privatization.
Meanwhile, port workers said they planned to annul both decisions and announced mobilization actions from January 31.
The Federation of Greek Chemical Industries on Tuesday expressed its concern over problems likely to emerge from strike actions in the country's two largest ports, saying this action could negatively affect the operation of the sector. Speaking to reporters, Armodios Giannidis, president of the Federation, said the sector suffered huge cost and operation problems since its activities focused more on exports.
 Protest rally at Thessaloniki PortTension and minor incidents broke out during a rally on Tuesday at the entrance of the main gate of the Thessaloniki Port in protest of the planned privatization of the port's container terminal facilities.
Police made limited use of chemicals to break up the demonstrators, who had managed to break down the gate in their effort to enter the port facilities
The incidents broke out after a delegation of MPs and representatives of various groups asked to meet with the Port Authority's board of directors. The MPs and other delegation members were later allowed entry into the port facility to meet with the board, and the tension dissipated.
The demonstration took place with the participation of port employees, trade union leaders, opposition MPs and representatives of local government, to coincide with the Thessaloniki Port Authority board meeting to ratify a tender on the exploitation rights of the container terminal fashioned after a similar development in the Port of Piraeus last Friday.
Demonstrators later marched through the city center, passing in front of the Macedonia-Thrace ministry and ending up at the port, while representatives handed a protest resolution to ministry secretary general Loukas Ananikas.
 Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline being promotedThe tender will start in the coming days for the study of the Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline, with the objective for the chapters of the tender to be ready within 2009 for construction work, senior staff of the Management of the National Natural Gas System (DESFA) announced on Tuesday.
It concerns the land section of the pipeline, from Komotini up to Thesprotia, of a length of 600 kilometers and assessed cost of 650 million euros, which DESFA will build.
The under water section from Thesprotia up to the straits of Otrado, will be constructed by the Public Gas Supply Corporation (DEPA) and the Italian Edison.
The Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline is expected to operate in 2012. It will have a transport capacity of 11.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, of which 8.8 billion are destined for the Italian market and the remainder for the Greek one.
 Trade unions eyeing new general strike on Feb. 13Greece's two largest trade unions, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union ADEDY, on Tuesday said they were considering another nationwide general strike on February 13.
The decisions came shortly after the ADEDY leadership's meeting with Employment and Social Protection Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia, who had earlier described the meeting as "useful and constructive".
The minister stated that the government will go ahead with reforms to Greece's social insurance system "responsibly, sensitively and decisively" and aimed at a "social just but also viable social insurance system".
On his part, ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros said that the unions would wait for a statement of the government's specific positions from Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis during the scheduled off-the-agenda debate in Parliament.
He predicted that the government would not insist on its initial positions but warned that the "answer would be given on the streets" if this was the case.
Listing his union's main demands, Papaspyrou said they included pensions based on 80 percent of salary, calculation of pension based on the last salary and a new wage scale in the civil service that would also positively affect pensions.
Meanwhile, GSEE's executive committee on Tuesday decided to recommend a nationwide general strike on February 13 with ADEDY during a January 23 meeting of the union's full leadership. For GSEE, one of their main demands concern a revision of the status of heavy and hazardous labour categories and they warn that they would pull out of a committee handling this issue if the government insists on plans to break this up into four sub-categories.
 Greek unemployment at 7.9 pct in OctoberGreek unemployment rose slightly to 7.9 pct of the workforce in October 2007, from 7.7 pct in the same month in 2006, but remained significantly lower compared with figures of 9.8 pct and 9.5 pct in October 2004 and October 2005, respectively, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.
The statistics service, in a monthly report, said the number of employed people totaled 4,544,534 in October, while the number of unemployed people totaled 387,743 and the number of financially non-active population totaled 4,282,192.
Epirus (12.8 pct), Central Greece (11.5 pct) and Western Macedonia (10.1 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates in October, while Crete (4.0 pct), Northern Aegean (4.7 pct) recorded the lowest unemployment rates. The unemployment rate in Attica was 7.3 pct in October.
Unemployment among men totaled 4.7 pct while among women in 12.4 pct.
 Second Working Meeting on crossborder health projects endsThe Second two-day Working Meeting on three crossborder health projects which are being implemented by the 4th Administration of the Macedonia and Thrace Health Region in the region of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace and Southern Bulgaria, in the framework of the INTERREG III European Union Initiative, in cooperation with the Medical University of Plovdiv, and with scientific coordination and the implementation of activities by the Evrosymvouli SA company, came to an end on Tuesday afternoon.
The governor of the 4th Macedonia and Thrace Health Region Administration said in a statement that "the permanent concern of the Health and Social Solidarity Ministry and of the 4th Administration is the implementation of European policies of protection for public health, not only in the region of our responsibility but in Europe as well, always within the framework of our duties."
He further spoke of cooperation with colleagues from neighbouring countries, and from Bulgaria in this case, with multiple benefits not only for the citizens of the two countries but for relations in the sensitive sector of health as well.
 Ionian Hotels sells Hilton Rhodes for 35.5 mln eurosIonian Hotel Enterprises SA on Tuesday announced the sale of its Hilton Rhodes Resort hotel to a consortium of Greek hotel enterprises for 35.5 million euros. In a statement to the press, Ionian Hotels said it sold 100 percent of Touristika Theretra SA, owner of Hilton Rhodes Resort, to Lampsa Hotels and Plaka SA (owned by Sbokos family). The two companies will hold 50 percent of the hotel each.
 Work begins for construction of dam on Naxos islandThe Agricultural Development and Foods Ministry convened on Tuesday and decided, under the presidency of Minister Alexandros Kontos, for the start of the construction of the Tsikalario dam on the Cycladic island of Naxos and the region's irrigation network.
The project is budgeted at 25 million euros. Through the Tsikalario dam, water will be supplied to nearly 1,200 acres, while the tiny islands of Schinousa, Donousa, Iraklia and Koufonisia will also be supplied.
 Greek stocks plunged 4.11 pct on TuesdayGreek stocks plunged on Tuesday hit by a negative domestic investment climate and fears over economic developments and corporate profitability in international markets. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange dropped 4.11 pct to end at 4,647.11 points with turnover a heavy 637.9 million euros, of which 116.7 million were block trades.
All sectors moved lower with the Food/Beverage (7.57 pct), Raw Materials (5.25 pct), Personal/Home Products (5.23 pct), Insurance (4.92 pct), Banks (4.48 pct) and Utilities (3.61 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Big Cap index fell 4.10 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.41 pct lower and the Small Cap index ended 1.52 pct lower. Blue Star (6.90 pct), Ippotour (5.26 pct) and Info-Quest (4.64 pct) were top gainers, while Lannet (13.95 pct), Olympic Technical (11.34 pct) and Klonatex (11.11 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 239 to 34 with another 24 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -3.13%
Personal & Household: -5.23%
Raw Materials: -5.25%
Travel & Leisure: -2.80%
Food & Beverages: -7.57%
Financial Services: -1.51%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, National Bank, Alpha Bank and DEH.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: -5.97
Public Power Corp (PPC): 33.00
HBC Coca Cola: 27.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.94
National Bank of Greece: 42.80
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 20.12
Titan Cement Company: 30.30
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended Tuesday's session with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange, with turnover rising to 277.834 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.10 percent, while the January contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.09 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 16,778 contracts worth 210.595 million euros, with 25,742 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 831 contracts worth 23.379 million euros with 773 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 13,748 contracts worth 19.214 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (2,047), followed by Eurobank (969), Marfin Investment Group (2,003), National Bank (938), Alpha Bank (1,198), Intracom (843), Postal Savings Bank (1,343) and ATEbank (1,010).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.222 billion euros on Tuesday, of which 1.151 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.071 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was again the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 900 million euros, followed by the 17-year bond with 246 million euros. The Greek 10-year bond yielded 4.38 percent.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.12 pct, the two-day rate 4.07 pct, the one-week rate 4.16 pct, the one-month rate 4.22 pct, the three-month rate 4.55 pct, the six-month rate 4.56 pct and the 12-month rate 4.56 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.500
Pound sterling 0.762
Danish kroner 7.504
Swedish kroner 9.471
Japanese yen 161.3
Swiss franc 1.634
Norwegian kroner 7.895
Canadian dollar 1.521
Australian dollar 1.666
 Athens joins C40 global climate change initiativeAthens is from now on a member of the International movement of forty large cities of the world, C40, against climate change.
During a press conference on Tuesday at the Town Hall, the Mayor of Athens Nikitas Kaklamanis announced the cooperation, while C40 director Simon Reedy spoke on behalf of the Mayor of London Ken Livingston.
Kaklamanis stressed that Athens' participation in C40 targets the exchange of information, know-how and the best practice of action in energy conservation and the reduction of gas emission in the city, and added that the municipality is already drafting an action plan for the environment under the supervision and help of C40.
The program is due to be ready in the next months.
The C40 director welcomed Athens to the first international effort of cities against climate change, adding that Athens will play a serious part in the C40 movement.
 Ombudsman intervenes over indefinite residence permitsThe Aliens and Immigration Directorate accepted on Tuesday the Greek Ombudsman's opinion on the correct application of laws for calculating the time a foreigner has been resident in the country and thus qualifies for a permanent residence permit of indefinite duration.
This happened after an immigrant appealed to the Ombudsman's Office when his applications for a permanent residence permit were turned down by the Attica Region Bureau.
The Bureau had originally refused to take into account the time of the applicant's stay in the country while the issue of a "green card" was pending, even though he had been issued a certification of having applied, wrongly considering this period illegal residence. The Ombudsman asked for the case to be reexamined on the grounds that an immigrant holding such a certification of his application is considered to be residing and working legally in the country until he is granted a "green card".
 President Papoulias receives student national science teamsHellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received the members of the 2007 National Teams of Computer Science, Astronomy and Astrophysics at the presidential mansion.
Addressing the students making up the national teams and their escorts, President Papoulias commented that their performance is a breath of optimism proving that the country has a great potential and future. He also stressed that the young generation honors Greece with the achievements made in the sector of science, adding that he is deeply moved by their success in international competitions.
 Transport minister meets persons with disabilityTransport and Communications Minister Costas Hatzidakis on Tuesday met with the board of the National Confederation of Persons with Disability.
During the meeting the problems faced by persons with disability was discussed, particularly regarding accessibility in public transports.
The board requested from Hatzidakis for there to be national legislation for accessibility, a law which must settle overall the issue, as occurs in other countries.
 Minister of State cuts Foreign Press Association New Year's cakeMinister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos cut the Foreign Press Association's New Year's cake at the Association's offices on Tuesday, in the presence of members of the government, Parliamentary deputies from all parties, journalists and photographers.
Also present were Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, New Democracy party honorary president and former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, members of the Athens Journalists Union's (ESHEA) board and ANA-MPA Director General George Tambakopoulos.
 Six killed in tragic car crash near KiatoThe members of two families were killed in a car crash in the early morning hours of Tuesday on the Athens-Patras motorway near Kiato, southern Greece.
A total of six people, two couples under 40 and two children, a 2-year-old boy and a 5 year-old girl, all Albanian nationals, were killed when their car collided successively with two trucks and caught fire en route to Athens from the border crossing of Kakavia, on the frontier with Albania.
According to local Traffic Police, the accident was probably the result of slippery road conditions due to earlier rainfall combined with the driver's fatigue from being at the wheel for too many hours.
The car veered into the opposite traffic lane and was cut in half after colliding head-on with a refrigerator truck carrying fish to Patras. One part of the car was dragged by the truck for a distance of 150 meters, while the second part hit the protective barriers of the motorway and was struck by another truck, also on its way to Patras.
The two truck drivers involved in the accident were not hurt and an investigation is underway to determine the exact circumstances of the tragedy.
 Albanian police stop illegal migrants from entering GreeceAlbanian police in cooperation with their Greek colleagues have arrested roughly 67 Albanian nationals during the past three days in the process of attempting to illegally cross the border into Greece.
The arrests were made within the framework of the "Green Net 2" police operation conducted by the Border and Immigration Office in Gjirokaster in cooperation with Vlore police in Albania, and police in Ioannina, northwestern Greece.
 Female illegal migrant drowns in Evros RiverA female illegal migrant drowned while attempting to cross Evros River, northeastern Greece, along the borders with Turkey, on board a rowboat together with another five migrant women and an unidentified migrant smuggler.
The victim fell into the frozen river waters when the boat capsized after hitting a floating tree trunk.
The smuggler swam to the Turkish side of the river while the illegal migrants crossed over to the Greek side where they were spotted by Boarder Guards and were taken to the Alexandroupolis Hospital to receive first aid.
The woman's body was found later in the region of Petra when her sister, who was among the boat passengers, informed the authorities of the accident.
According to the testimonies of the illegal migrants, they paid the smuggler 500 euros each to ferry them across to Greece.
 Illegal migrants intercepted on SamosAuthorities on Tuesday reported that a 34-year-old migrant smuggler was arrested after his dinghy was intercepted in the Prasso Cape sea region of the eastern Aegean island of Samos, following a chase involving a Coast Guard patrol boat.
Earlier, he had ferried 8 illegal migrants onto Greek territory coming from the Turkish coasts.
Another 13 illegal migrants were located Monday morning by Samos Coast Guard officers in the region of Livadaki.
All of them were taken to the Samos General Hospital for precautionary medical tests before being led to the Illegal Migrant Reception Centre operating on the island.
 Foreigner arrested at El. Venizelos airport for possessing narcotic khatPolice in Athens arrested on Monday a 43-year-old British national at Athens airport after finding 13 kilos and 53 gr. of khat in his possession - one of the biggest drug hauls until now.
Another Briton, a 45-year-old, is being sought by the police. The two men, who had flown in from Britain, were allegedly planning to sell the drug to other British citizens living in Greece.
Khat, known also as Abyssinian tea, is a bush grown in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen where its consumption is legal.
 Cloudy, scattered showers on WednesdayCloudy weather and scattered showers with southerly, southeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 4-5 beaufort. Snowfall in the mountainous region of Ipiros. Fog in the morning. Temperatures will range between 3C and 16C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 15C. Possibility of rain in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 9C.
 OPEC Secretary General arrives in CyprusLARNACA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Secretary General of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Abdalla Salem El-Badri will discuss oil prices, demand and supply, during his brief visit to Cyprus.
Speaking on arrival, Tuesday, for his first visit to the country, he expressed hope that Cyprus will find oil in its exclusive economic zone, saying he should not exclude anything.
In his brief statement to the press, he said he would like to cooperate both with big as well as with small countries, adding that two months ago he was in China for talks.
Noting the invitation was extended to him a year ago by the Nicosia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he said he would be pleased to meet President Tassos Papadopoulos on Wednesday and talk to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Commerce.
Responding to questions, he said he is visiting "to know the people and the authorities here in Cyprus and of course to discuss the oil activities, prices, supply and demand."
"Also Cyprus is part of the European Union and I am sure they would like to know what is going on on the petroleum activities," he added.
Asked if Cyprus would become an OPEC member, he replied: "I hope that you will have some activities and you will discover oil," and referred to the discovery of oil in his native country, Libya, saying that some 50 years ago people did not think there was oil in Libya.
"After a few years, Libya was one of the bigger producers in OPEC. So nothing is excluded," he pointed out.
The President of the Nicosia Chamber Christodoulos Agastiniotis welcomed OPEC Secretary General and said on Wednesday he will be the key note speaker at a dinner.
In the past several months, Cyprus has been engaged in talks with its neighbours to delineate its exclusive economic zone. It has already signed an agreement with Egypt on the matter.
 US opposes militarization of CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The US Government opposes the militarization of Cyprus, and remains committed to the reunification of the island, a statement by the US Embassy said on Tuesday.
The American embassy was reacting to a recent Turkish Cypriot press article, which claimed, according to the Embassy, 'that the U.S., through NATO, intends to establish a base in the Karpass peninsula".
Noting "there is simply no truth to this report", the embassy said the "U.S. Government has a long standing policy of opposing the militarization of Cyprus, and remains committed to the reunification of the island through a bi-zonal, bicommunal federation, established by a negotiated agreement supported by majorities on both sides".
Turkish Cypriot newspaper reports had said that the US and Britain attach great significance to the Karpass peninsula (which is under Turkish occupation) because it neighbours the rich oil reserves which are located off the Karpass shores.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third.
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