|Sunday, 15 September 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-01-17
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 17 January 2008 Issue No: 2796
 PM confers with merchant marine minister on concession of port activitiesPrime minister Costas Karamanlis met Wednesday with Merchant Marine minister George Voulgarakis, who briefed him on the approval of the Piraeus and Thessaloniki Port Authorities' proclamations setting in motion an international tender for concession of their activities to private concerns, aimed at enabling the country to become an international transports hub.
Voulgarakis told reporters afterwards that this was a reform of exceptional importance that would put Greece at the centre, adding that results from the tender could be expected in approximately 50 days, and stressing that the rights of the employees were consolidated.
The minister elaborated that the employees had absolutely nothing to lose, neither jobs nor labor rights.
On the contrary, he continued, "we are talking about transfers, and voluntary exodus (early retirement), and participation of the workers in the added value through the concession of some stocks" to them.
Voulgarakis said that "we are speaking of full insurance of the workers, and at the same time of Greece's participation in the huge capital of international sea-borne transports".
He said a decisive step has been taken so that Greece could finally structure a serious port industry and play the decisive role it deserved.
 PM briefed on agricultural sector infrastructures programPrime minister Costas Karamanlis met Wednesday with Agricultural Development minister Alexandros Kontos, who briefed the premier on the program for the development of infrastructures in the agricultural sector.
Kontos told reporters after the meeting that this pertained to the second such program, budgeted at 6 billion euros, which is approved by the EU, by all the member countries.
It's main targets are protection of the environment, exploitation of water resources, land redistribution, enhancement of the country's forests, and boosting the competitiveness of Greece's agricultural sector.
Kontos said he further briefed Karamanlis on the recent policy decision in the EU for reform of the viticulture sector, which he added was deemed as "very positive" by representatives of the sector.
He explained that the reform, which lays different foundations for the substantive development of the viticulture sector in Greece, would be the basis on which the government would draft a policy for supporting the Greek grape growers and wine-makers that would render the Greek wines much more competitive.
 Government on continuing Zachopoulos affairGreek government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos once again fielded questions on Wednesday regarding the ramifications and complications of the scandal surrounding former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos, who is still recovering from a suicide attempt following his resignation and implication in an illicit sexual affair.
After the furore surrounding the identity of the journalist that provided the notorious DVD of intimate bedroom scenes of Zachopoulos and a woman formerly employed at the culture ministry, press questions focused on the latest twist in the affair concerning journalist and newspaper publisher Themos Anastassiades and the latest round of allegations against him and the government made by his fellow journalist and partner in the newspaper "Proto Thema", Makis Triantafyllopoulos.
Roussopoulos was asked whether the government had sought to learn the name of the ruling New Democracy MP that Triantafyllopoulos claimed informed him about an alleged deal between the government and Anastassiades. The spokesman refused to comment, saying that he would wait to hear the "completed allegation" in which the MP allegedly involved was named.
Replying to further questions on the same issue, meanwhile, Roussopoulos urged reporters to address their questions to their "colleague that made the incomplete accusation" and noted that the government had "not cast any shadows on anyone".
Questioned about the head of the prime minister's Press Office Yiannis Andrianos - who had initially refused to name the source of the DVD he had given to justice as evidence claiming his right as a journalist to protect his sources - Roussopoulos did not clarify whether Andrianos had photographs that could prove the identity of the journalist who met him at the Hilton Hotel to pick up the DVD in question.
The spokesman again stressed that Andrianos had answered the questions of the examining magistrate and had sent the DVD to a public prosecutor in December, the day after Zachopoulos' attempted suicide.
He also dismissed questions about why Andrianos had agreed to accept the DVD, claiming that it was standard practice for governments and journalists throughout the world to exchange information, without this implying any wrongdoing or suspicious transaction.
He strenuously denied any form of give-and-take, stressing that the government did not enter into transactions with anyone and this had been proved over the past four years and would also be proved by justice's investigation into this case.
The spokesman further denied press reports that the government had learned of the DVD's existence before it was given to Andrianos:
"I heard on television that [the DVD] was circulating in journalists' offices. We didn't happen to hear about that at all. No journalist had told us earlier," Roussopoulos said.
Commenting on main opposition PASOK's proposal for a Parliamentary inquiry into the affair, he noted that it was the government's standing practice not to set up such inquiries into cases being investigated by justice.
"Afterwards, we are open to all ideas," he added.
Asked if the government had been subjected to political blackmail, meanwhile, Roussopoulos replied that the government "is not blackmailed by anyone" and added that he was unaware of any such attempt.
Fielding other questions concerning the testimony given by the prime minister's aide Yiannis Aggelou in the affair, he replied that this information was confidential while the investigation was underway.
Finally, in comments on rampant media speculation that Zachopoulos had been guilty of widespread financial malfeasance during his time at the culture ministry that had also figured prominently in a Tuesday night broadcast on Alpha TV, Roussopoulos said that any wrongdoing would be discovered by the examining magistrate.
"If there is anything blameworthy, something I have been hearing about for about a month now but have yet failed to see, the examining magistrate will find it, given that the government had nothing to hide and has given all the evidence to the public prosecutor," he stressed, while adding that the government's programme had not been affected by the Zachopoulos furore.
 Journalist Triantafyllopoulos testifies in Zachopoulos caseTV journalist and co-publisher of the newspaper "Proto Thema" Makis Triantafyllopoulos was called before the examining magistrate investigating the alleged blackmail against former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos on Wednesday to give evidence related to the case.
After a three-hour session with the magistrate, Triantafyllopoulos said he had been summoned to give evidence on the affair "in which people at the newspaper 'Proto Thema' are unfortunately involved."
In a surprising twist in the scandal, Triantafyllopoulos on Monday said that his fellow journalist and business partner at "Proto Thema" Themos Anastassiades may have cut a deal with circles within the government concerning the revealing DVD of Zachopoulos engaged in sexual activity with a female former employee of the culture ministry. He confirmed that he had been asked about the DVD by the examining magistrate.
"I only gave the evidence that I have. I don't express opinions. And since everyone wants a clean up the time has come for this to happen and for the authorities to do it. We have given our evidence and we are waiting to see if there are political con-artists that cover up stories or whether the truth is revealed to people the way it is. Raw," Triantafyllopoulos stated.
Asked if he planned to pull out of Proto Thema following his clash with Anastassiades, Triantafyllopoulos indicated that he did not and also confirmed that he had given evidence concerning the five million euros that allegedly went to the hands of the reporter supplying the Zachopoulos DVD.
"I heard that the three million were in a black plastic bag. The 1.5 million and the 500,000 were made out in cheques to an offshore company. Themos [Anastassiades] said they were his. And the sky is mine," the TV investigative journalist said.
Regarding the mystery New Democracy MP that visited him and apparently put him onto the possibility that the head of the Special Audits Service Spiros Kladas may be involved in the affair, Triantafyllopoulos said that he had not given the MP's name because he was a confidential source and in order to protect him.
He said the MP had come in good faith to collect evidence concerning the affair to give to his party and that it was the "obligation of the prime minister and ND and the rest of those anxious for a clean up to hear for themselves the transaction that was going to happen."
According to the journalist, the deal was to shelve an investigation into Anastassiades' finances in exchange for him burying his own investigation into the involvement of the woman who is accused of black mailing Zachopoulos with high-ranking officials.
 PASOK deputies on Zachopoulos caseThree deputies of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) requested in Parliament on Wednesday for associates of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis "who are involved" in the issue of former culture ministry secretary general Christsos Zachopoulos "to appear before Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee."
 SYRIZA leader, former minister on Zachopoulos affairCoalition of Radical Left (SYRIZA) MPs and the party's political secretariat intend to ask for a parliamentary fact-finding commission to shed light on the shortcomings in the governance and public administration system, brought to l light by blackmail case involving former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos, SYRIZA leader Alekos Alavanos said on Wednesday.
Alavanos spoke of alleged corruption involving economic interests, media publishers and politicians and reminded that SYRIZA had raised two major issues since former Prime Minister Costas Simitis was in office, referring to the so-called special accounts and their abolition and the regulations concerning the appointment of public employees.
Meanwhile, former deputy culture minister Petros Tatoulis has testified before the prosecutor in charge of the preliminary investigation focusing on the cases that were handled by former culture ministry general secretary Zachopoulos.
Leaving the prosecutor's office after being questioned on the case for over three hours, Tatoulis commented that during the two years he was in office he did not hesitate to fight for legality and transparency adding that the purpose of his appearance before the prosecutor is to help shed ample light on the case that came as a shock to the Greek political system and society.
 ESHEA announcement on Zachopoulos caseThe Athens Journalists Union (ESHEA) in an announcement on Wednesday referred to the issue of former culture ministry secretary general Christos Zachopoulos.
The ESHEA board convened on the theme "Dangerous developments in the information sector with direct unfavorable repercussions in the branch".
In view of developments in the Zachopoulos case and "the DVD of disorientation," ESHEA denounced the "tactic of cover-up, the government's handlings, the systematic disinformation and the active participation in this major political issue of 'contractors' of information."
The ESHEA board called on the government "to position itself with clarity in the entire Zachopoulos case, adopting the fundamental principles of the operation of the democratic system, that is, sincerity and transparency."
 PM to visit the health ministry crisis management centerPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis will visit at 9:00 am on Thursday the crisis management National Centre of Operations in the new Health Ministry building in Marousi, Athens.
 Parliament Foundation holds annual meetingThe Hellenic Parliament Foundation on Wednesday held its annual meeting in the office of Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas, with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the leaders of the four opposition parties in Parliament attending.
The foundation's board unanimously approved the financial reports for the previous years and the budget for 2008, as well as planning the foundation's future activities for 2008-2011 and discussing new ideas and proposals.
Afterwards, Sioufas said that these would "open a new era in the Foundation's activities for Parliamentarianism and Democracy."
Those attending the meeting included Sioufas, Karamanlis, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis, former prime ministers Costas Simitis and Constantine Mitsotakis, former parliament presidents Anna Psarouda-Benaki and Apostolos Kaklamanis, professors George Kasimatis, Constantine Svolopoulos and Evangelos Chrysos, who is also the foundation's general secretary, as well as Parliament General Secretary Nikos Stefanou.
 National Council of Foreign Policy to convene on ThursdayThe National Council of Foreign Policy (ESEP) will meet on Thursday morning and will be chaired by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.
The council, comprised of representatives of all parties in Parliament, will focus on developments in the Western Balkans, Greek-Turkish relations and other issues of international interest.
 National Committee for School Athletics and Olympic EducationNational Education and Religious Affairs Minister Euripidis Stylianidis, Education Deputy Minister Andreas Lykourentzos and Sports Deputy Minister Yiannis Ioannidis held on Wednesday the first meeting of the National Committee for School Athletics and Olympic Education.
"This committee will become a liaison of collaboration between the two ministries and a link between School and Association Athletics" said Stylianidis. "The committee will note down all the flaws and the problems and then the respective ministries will proceed towards their solution" he added.
Ioannidis, in turn, said that new physical education programs will be created so that students could exercise after class at the schoolyards under the supervision of specialists.
 Employment minister holds talks with labour confederationEmployment Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia held talks on Wednesday with the board of the General Confederation of Merchants and Light Industry (GSEBEE), terming the meeting constructive and useful. The talks focused on the issue of tackling the financial problems of the Self-Employed Professionals Social Security Organization (OAEE).
Petralia reassured that there will be no problem with the payment of pensions by OAEE and stressed that the government's aim is for social security reform to lead pensions and benefits to an upward equation.
The employment minister left open the issue of greater financing for the Organization, but also called for a crackdown on waste, contribution evasion and mismanagement.
To this end, it was agreed that a working group should be created, that will be composed of representatives of GSEBEE and the ministry, that must prepare proposals over the next two months regarding OAEE's financial problems.
GSEBEE President Dimitris Asimakopoulos said that the Organization, which serves about 2.5 million Greeks, "is at the edge of the cliff" and spoke of a "failed unification model that is an example worth avoiding."
In another development, an announcement by the main opposition PASOK party said that "the truth is that the government, with the pretext of the mismanagement of Social Security Funds, is evasive on the financing of the social security system, leading it to collapse. Self-employed merchants and handicraftsmen are well aware that the deficit of their Social Security Fund, OAEE, has soared from 35 million euros to 370 million euros in just four years."
 Working group on revenues resulting from criminal activitiesA working group will be created by order of Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis that will focus on the final processing of the draft law on the incorporation of directive 2005/60/EK, regarding the prevention and suppression of the legalization of revenues resulting from criminal activities and the financing of terrorism.
The working group, which will have to complete its work in a month's time, will be composed of five officials.
 Greece in Vienna International Tourism FairVIENNA-(ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Greece participates with an impressive stall of the Greek Tourism Organization (EOT) and various regional tourism organizations at the Vienna International Tourism Fair, which opens on Thursday until Sunday and is expected to attract more than 150,000 visitors.
A series of activities are scheduled at the Greek stall, which include a press conference by Panagiotis Skordas, the new head of EOT's office in Austria to local media, Greek music concerts, wine tasting, and display of Greek cuisine.
Greece is the most popular holiday destination of Austrians - more than 600.000 visited Greece in 2007- and the same number or slightly higher is expected to visit it in 2008. According to Bank Austria, the relation between price and services provided in Greece is reasonable, thus rendering Greece the most advantageous holiday destination among the Euro zone countries.
 Greek inflation unchanged at 3.9 pct in December, EurostatGreek annual inflation was unchanged at 3.9 pct in December, compared with the previous month, Eurostat said on Wednesday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in its monthly report also said that inflation was unchanged in the Eurozone during the same month.
Greek inflation was 3.9 pct in December, Eurostat said, noting that the inflation rate was 3.2 pct in December 2006.
The inflation rate in the Eurozone was 3.2 pct in December, up from 1.9 pct in December 2006, while in the EU-27 the inflation rate rose to 3.2 pct in December, from 3.1 pct in November and up from 2.2 percent in December 2006.
Eurostat said Finland (1.9 pct), UK (2.1 pct), Sweden and Slovakia (2.5 pct each) recorded the lowest inflation rates in December, while Latvia (14 pct), Bulgaria (11.6 pct) and Lithuania (8.2 pct) recorded the highest inflation rates. The inflation rate rose in 16 EU member-states in December, it fell in six countries and was unchanged in Greece, Slovenia and the UK.
 Parliament ratifies financial agreement with OASTHThe financial agreement with the Greek State guaranteeing that the Organization of Urban Transportation of Thessaloniki (OASTH) will continue to provide city bus services in the wider Thessaloniki region was submitted to Parliament for ratification bearing the signatures of Transport and Communications Minister Kostis Hatzidakis and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis.
The new agreement is a follow-up of the 2001 contract and extends the execution of urban commuting by OASTH for two years after the completion of the construction of the Thessaloniki metro project.
A total of 64 new buses will be added to the OASTH fleet following an international tender.
 Alpha Bank says int'l turmoil raises cost of money in capital marketsLONDON (ANA-MPA/A.Lidorikis)
An international financial turmoil is expected to have an impact on the pricing of -mostly mortgage loans- in the Greek market, George Aronis, Alpha Bank's senior official said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in London, during the presentation of Alpha Bank's revised business plan for the period 2008-2010 to foreign institutional investors and analysts, the Greek banker said the crisis was limiting the ability of financial institutions for aggressive moves in the housing credit market because of the pressure by an increased cost of money on banks' profitability.
Alpha Bank's officials said the Greek bank was among the financial groups with ample liquidity to cover its annual capital needs of around 4-4.5 billion euros. They said that Alpha Bank recorded a surplus of 2.5 billion euros last summer and has not needed to use any other form of funding, such as securitization of bonds. Alpha Bank's executives said they expected the cost of money to rise by 20-25 basis points.
D. Matzounis, Alpha Bank's chief executive, said the in the current conditions two large Greek banks did not need to join forces since they enjoyed high profitability.
 Inter-ministerial committee convenes on public utilitiesThe Inter-Ministerial Committee on Public Businesses and Organizations convened on Wednesday and discussed the course of the implementaion of Law 3429/2005, as well as further initiatives for the improvement of the operation of public utilities (DEKO).
Taking part in the meeting were Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Development Minister Christos Folias, Employment and Social Protection Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia and Transport and Communications Minister Costas Hatzidakis.
Regarding the implementation of the law so far, presented was the progress which has been achieved for the preparation of the 2008-2010 operational plans.
According to a ministry announcement, it was ascertained that the response by businesses is positive and the procedure for their assessment will have been concluded in the first two months of 2008. The approval of these plans by the DEKO Inter-Ministerial Committee will follow.
 Decisions on future of Greek Railways OrganisationThe interministerial Public Corporations and Organizations Committee convened on Wednesday and took decisions on the course and future of the Greek Railways Organization (OSE).
The Committee convened with the participation of Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, Development Minister Christos Folias, Employment Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia and Transport and Communications Minister Kostis Hatzidakis.
The issues examined during the meeting were related to the continuation of the railways sector's progressive harmonization with European Union directives, the more effective functioning of the Group based on international technical and organizing experience in the sector of European railways and relevant consultations with the Panhellenic Railways Federation (POS).
 AB Vasilopoulos reports 14.04 pct increase in 2007 salesAB Vasilopoulos on reported a 15.41 percent increase in its fourth quarter consolidated sales to 336.3 million euros, from 291.4 million euros in the corresponding period in 2006 and said consolidated sales in 2007 totaled 1.175 billion euros, from 1.030 billion euros in 2006, for an increase of 14.04 pct.
The super market company said it opened five new stores and six franchise stores in the year, raising its corporate branch network to 113 stores and its franchising network to 36 around the country.
AB Vasilopoulos plans to add another 16 new stores this year, raising its total network to 175. The company recently announced the signing of a contract to buy Plus Hellas' 33 supermarket stores.
 Alapis buys generic pharmaceutical company for 475,000 eurosAlapis ABEE on Wednesday announced the takeover of Lamda Applied Pharmaceutical Laboratories for 475,000 euros. Lamda Applied was founded in 2002 and focuses on generic pharmaceutical products. The company employs 20 specialized scientists and has developed and approved more than 100 products in Greece and other European countries in the last five years.
Alapis said the purchase was made using money from a share capital increase plan recently completed.
 ASE enjoyed record year in 2007Turnover in the Athens Stock Exchange totaled 121.3 billion euros in 2007, an increase of 42.1 percent compared with the previous year, the highest figure in the last eight years and the second highest in the Greek capital market's history.
Average daily turnover for 2007 was 480.7 million euros, while capital raised by enterprises in the market totaled 10.883 billion euros last year, up 155 pct from 2006, the second highest amount in the history of the Athens Stock Exchange.
Figures released by ASE on Wednesday showed that the Greek market's capitalization totaled 196.39 billion euros, up 24.3 pct from 2006 (158.01 billion euros). The composite index of the market rose 17.9 pct in 2007, reaching its highest closing level in the last eight years.
A total of 433,588 investors participated in market transactions in 2007, up 5.6 pct from 2006, with active investors codes rising by 30 percent over the same period.
Foreign investment capital inflows totaled 5.1 billion euros last year, while Greek investors were net sellers in the market, selling assets totaling 5.8 billion euros.
 Greek stocks end sharply lower on WednesdayGreek stocks remained under heavy pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index of the market near the 4,500 level. The index lost 2.65 pct to end at 4,523.76 points in record turnover for the year (778.6 million euros of which 122.04 million were block trades). The index has lost 12.3 percent so far this year.
All sectors moved lower with the exception of the Travel sector which ended 0.47 pct higher. Commerce (4.86 pct), Banks (3.82 pct), Chemicals (3.39 pct), Raw Materials (3.31 pct), Oil (3.26 pct) and Personal/Home Products (3.18 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Big Cap index fell 3.0 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.74 pct lower and the Small Cap index ended 1.70 pct down. Allatini Ceramics (6.02 pct), Vell Group (5.0 pct) and Moda Bagno (4.63 pct) were top gainers, while Kreka (19.83 pct), Sprider (10.58 pct) and Vis (9.51 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 230 to 36 with another 26 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -3.26%
Personal & Household: -3.18%
Raw Materials: -3.31%
Travel & Leisure: +0.47%
Food & Beverages: -2.13%
Financial Services: -3.08%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 22.00
Public Power Corp (PPC): 32.98
HBC Coca Cola: 26.74
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.56
National Bank of Greece: 41.50
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 19.58
Titan Cement Company: 30.20
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover jumping to 343.814 million euros ahead of the expiring of the January contracts on Friday.
The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a premium of 0.80 percent and the January contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.15 percent. Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 23,121 contracts worth 279.279 million euros, with 27,749 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 653 contracts worth 17.658 million euros, with 606 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 19,699 contracts worth 27.294 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Postal Savings Bank's contracts (3,294), followed by Eurobank (1,134), Marfin Investment Group (2,105), Piraeus Bank (937), National Bank (1,472), Alpha Bank (1,303), Intracom (1,664), Marfin Popular Bank (1,715) and ATEbank (1,419).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.275 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.135 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.140 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. The Greek bond yielded 4.37 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.05 pct, the two-day rate was 4.09 pct, the one-week 4.15 pct, the one-month 4.22 pct, the three-month 4.52 pct, the six-month 4.50 pct and the 12-month 4.49 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.491
Pound sterling 0.760
Danish kroner 7.505
Swedish kroner 9.494
Japanese yen 158.55
Swiss franc 1.627
Norwegian kroner 8.005
Canadian dollar 1.524
Australian dollar 1.694
 Deputy FM Valynakis addresses Cultures Alliance ForumMADRID (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis, addressing the first international Cultures Alliance Forum here late on Tuesday night, underlined Greece's adherrence to the effort of consolidating a spirit of cooperation and understanding between cultures and religions.
Valinakis reassured the members of the Group of Friends of the Cultures Alliance, in which Greece is participating, that Greece "will make every effort to ensure that its national agenda will be full of realistic goals that could contribute decisively to the sectors of cultural diversity and tolerance and promoting and respecting human rights."
Referring to "the need to strengthen relations between different cultures and peoples," the deputy foreign minister highlighted the fact that Greece is both a European and Mediterranean country in which "due to constant contact and coexistence with other cultures, mainly the result of commercial and maritime activities in which the Greeks have distinguished themselves through time, there is a deep understanding for other cultures."
Valinakis also placed great emphasis on the relationship between Christians and Moslems, proposing for its improvement the activation of "religious leaders who are present both in the region and internationally" and mentioned that this is, among other things, the purpose of the meeting between the culture ministers of Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation countries that will be hosted in Greece in spring.
 GfK survey rates public's trust in professions, organizationsThe fire brigade is the professional organisation that Greeks trust the most, according to the GfK Trust Index Fall 2007 survey of 19 countries (20.000 survey subjects) carried out by GfK Custom Research.
According to the results, 85% of Greek survey subjects said they had confidence in the fire brigade, 77% in the postal service, 52% in environmental organizations, 45% in national charities, 44% in the police, 44% in bank employees, 41% in judges, 27% in trade unions-organizations and 23% in civil servants.
This is broadly in line with the results in all 19 countries of the survey, where the fire brigade is seen as by far the most trustworthy professional group with an average of 3.6 points.
At the other end of the scale, union members are rated as less trustworthy, and in many West European countries and the USA these organizations are ranked last on the Trust Index.
Worldwide, the fire brigade is followed by the postal service and the police as the most trusted organisations, with 2.9 and 2.8 points respectively. Next are environmental organizations, judges and national charities. According to the results of GfK Custom Research, civil servants, bank employees and trade unions occupy the last three places on the Trust Index.
Trusted by 53% of those in Western Europe and even 63% in the USA, civil servants enjoy the confidence of most of the population. This figure drops to 48% in Central and Eastern Europe while in Western Europe, a negative view of civil servants is only replicated in Greece and Italy.
 Turkish National Assembly approves law on vakoufsISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A.Kourkoulas)
The Turkish National Assembly approved on Wednesday the law over vakoufs, which had been rejected by previous president of the republic Ahmet Necdet Sezer.
The bill was approved without any amendments by the justice committee of the National Assembly and sent to President Abdullah Gull for ratification.
The law improves the administrative conditions of community and public benefit foundations and concerns mainly the non Muslim minorities, which had suffered a strong blow in the 60s and 70s due to the attitude on part of the Turkish State and Courts towards ethnic minorities.
Nevertheless, the new law does not resolve some important problems concerning particularly the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Many Greek Orthodox monasteries and properties under the Patriarchate's ecclesiasticaly authority have been confiscated by the Turkish State. The new law does not derequisition these confiscations, so the Patriarchate is examining the possibility of seeking satisfaction for the injustice it suffered.
The law is expected to be ratified before Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' visit to Turkey next week.
 Arson attacks target parked cars in Athens overnightA number of arson attacks targeting private cars occurred in the early morning hours on Wednesday in different parts of Athens.
Unidentified individuals doused two parked cars with flammable liquid and set them ablaze in the Haidari forest vicinity, while two other cars were torched near the Larissa Rail Station.
Also, two covered parked cars were set on fire in Pangrati and Vironas. This was the second such attack over the past few days leading police to the conclusion that the perpetrator is a local resident.
 Man arrested for possession and trafficking of weapons and explosivesAttica Police on Tuesday afternoon arrested a 38-year-old martial arts teacher for possession and trafficking of weapons and explosives, it was announced on Wednesday.
The police kept a month-long close watch on the man who has a martial arts school at Athens' northern suburb of Maroussi.
It was reported that police were tipped off that he was trafficking weapons and explosives and offered "protection" to night clubs in northeastern Attica.
Police discovered in the basement of the apartment block where he lived seven hand grenades, two rifles, a shotgun, cartridges, eight swords, six mobile phones, passports, clubs and other objects.
The man was led on Wednesday before the public prosecutor on charges of possession and trafficking of weapons and explosives.
 "Alarm signal" for excessive Internet use by teenagersBoth the director of the Teenage Health Unit of the 2nd Paediatric Clinic of Children's Hospital Dimitris Kafetzis and the scientific in charge Artemis Tsitsika expressed their concern over the excessive use of Internet by adolescents.
Briefing the Parliamentary Committee for Research and Technology on Wednesday, on the issue "nursing adolescents addicted to computers" the two professors of Athens University, presented the findings of a survey conducted in a number of schools in Attica.
According to the results 1% of teenagers are addicted to the web while 20% belong to a highly risk group for potential excessive use of the Internet. 4% of teenagers have been harassed through the Internet. Boys prefer violent games while girls prefer e-shopping and chat rooms.
"Parents should not allow their children to use the Internet more than two hours daily and offer them alternative activities" the professors added.
 Children's Art Museum in XanthiThe 4th World Biennale of Children's Painting, organized by the Academy of Children's Art, will be held for a fourth time in the city of Xanthi, northeastern Greece, next October. Already, roughly 350,000 children from 140 countries have taken part in the event launched in 2002 with tens of thousands of paintings, while the "Bridges of Love", another initiative undertaken by the Academy that focuses on doll construction by children, also met with an enthusiastic response.
The heart and soul of the endeavor is Academy Chairwoman Lita Mavrogenis, a painter and member of UNESCO.
The establishment of the Children's Art Museum "Ecumeni", temporarily housed in the old elementary school building in Sidini, 14 kilometers from Xanthi, was the result of her consistent efforts. Prize-winning paintings and handmade dolls created by children are on display in the museum that opened to the public in October, greeted with rave reviews. The museum also features painting and handicraft training programmes for children.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation has undertaken the construction of a new museum in the Petinos region to meet the rising needs, considering the large number of artworks on display.
 US Embassy to be closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Birthday holidayThe US Embassy in Athens and its Consular Section, the US Consulate General in Thessalonii, and all US government offices in Greece will be closed on Monday, January 21, in observance of Martin Luther King's Birthday, a US national holiday.
 Olympiakos beats Panathinaikos 4-0 in Greek Cup soccer matchOlympiakos beat Panathinakos 4-0 in a Greek Cup knock-out soccer match played in Piraeus on Wednesday and qualified for the Cup's quarter-finals.
Olympiakos' goals were scored by Lua Lua in the 6th minute, by Vassilis Torosidis in the 63rd, by Darko Kovacevic in the 66th and by Leonel Nuniez in the 80th.
The match was played at Piraeus' Karaiskaki Stadium.
It was the second match played between the two arch-rivals in a space of four days. Last Sunday, Olympiakos Piraeus and Panathinaikos Athens drew 1-1 in Piraeus for the Greek Super League championship.
 Cloudy, scattered showers on ThursdayCloudy weather and scattered showers with southerly, southeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 5-6 beaufort. Snowfall in the mountainous regions of western Greece. Temperatures will range between -1C and 16C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 14C. Overcast in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 9C.
 OPEC SG: increase in oil production possibleNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Secretary General of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Abdalla Salem El-Badri has not ruled out an increase in the production of oil, if the market justifies this.
Replying to questions after a meeting here Wednesday with President Tassos Papadopoulos, he said, "There is no low inventory. The inventory, the stock in OECD countries are within the five-year average, is not low as you said."
On possible plans to increase oil production, the SG of OPEC said reports would be prepared ahead of February's OPEC meeting and added: "of course we will examine the supply and demand and the stocks, we will take into account the world growth and we will prepare our report and give it to the ministers. I am sure that the ministers, in the conference, will not be hesitant to increase the production, if fundamentals justify that".
Commenting on calls by the US President to increase oil production in Saudi Arabia, he said "when the market justifies an increase in production, every country will contribute to that increase" but he also recalled that since 2002 OPEC has increased production by about 5 mln barrels a day because OPEC believed that the market justified that increase.
"OPEC, as I said, will not be hesitant to increase production, if the market justifies that increase," he pointed out.
Asked if the current oil price is justified by fundamentals, he said there was "a disconnect between oil prices of today, disconnect between prices and fundamentals."
"The market is really influenced by other factors. I have said that many times and I will say it one more time: this is because the US dollar value, the sub-prime mortgage problems, the geopolitical situation and above all speculators."
On his meeting with President Papadopoulos, he said, "I found him very knowledgeable about the oil activities in the world. So we talked about the oil situation in the world, we talked about supply and demand, stocks and future prospects. It was very fruitful meeting," he said.
Asked if the President sought his advice regarding oil exploration by Cyprus, El Bandri said the President had not asked for any advice on oil activities.
"I am informed about any country that wants to have new activities but we did not speak about Cyprus' activities in particular," he added.
This is the first time OPEC Secretary General is visiting Cyprus. He is here at the invitation of the Nicosia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and he was due to address a dinner, hosted in his honour on Wednesday night.
 5th Informal EU Foreign Ministers Meeting to take place in PaphosNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The peace process in the Middle East, illegal immigration, the Natural Disaster Response Mechanism, Kosovo and the establishment of a Mediterranean Union will be among the issues to be discussed during the 5th Informal Meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers of Mediterranean countries to take place 17 and 18 January in the coastal town of Paphos.
According to an official press release, President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos will welcome the Foreign Ministers and their delegations at a reception on Thursday night, followed by a working dinner during which the ministers will discuss the Peace Process in the Middle East.
The 5th Informal Meeting will be chaired by the Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis. On the sidelines of the Meeting, Marcoullis will have bilateral meetings with her counterparts.
On Thursday, Marcoullis will hold two separate meetings with her Italian counterpart Massimo D' Alema and Foreign Minister of Romania Adrian Cioroianu.
This Informal Meeting is convened twice a year, at the beginning of each EU Presidency. The purpose is to coordinate and strengthen cooperation among the Mediterranean countries, members of the EU.
 Cypriot FM: EP's Petition Committee draft on Famagusta unacceptableNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis has described as "unacceptable" a draft report by the European Parliament Petition Committee, adding that the Ministry has made representations to the European Parliament (EP).
A Committee delegation visited Cyprus in November 2007 on a fact finding mission following efforts by the Famagusta Refugees Movement for the return of the city, occupied by the Turkish army since the 1974 invasion, to its lawful inhabitants.
The text refers to Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat as "the counterpart of the President of the Republic of Cyprus'' and as ''the President of the Turkish Cypriot Authorities'', while it states that Famagusta cannot be returned to its lawful inhabitants before a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem.
''We have read the unacceptable contents of this report and we immediately made representations demanding its withdrawal,'' Marcoullis said, pointing out that the current text is ''by no means'' the final text and explaining that ''it was entirely drafted by a member of the Committee's Secretariat.''
Marcoullis said that both the Cypriot government and the Cypriot MEPs are making representations not only to the Committee members who visited Cyprus but also to the other Committee members.
Meanwhile Famagusta Mayor, Alexis Galanos expressed regret over the content of the draft report.
''Instead of dealing with the illegal presence of the Turkish occupation forces on European territory, instead of examining the rights of Famagusta's European citizens, it deals with matters relating to the solution of the Cyprus problem, a matter that, with all due respect, does not fall within the competencies of the Committee,'' he said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
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