|Saturday, 11 July 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-01-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 19 January 2008 Issue No: 2798
 PM: Gradual improvement of Greek-Turkish relations, with ultimate goal of full normalisationThe government is implementing policies that aim at the gradual improvement and, ultimately, the full normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations, prime minister Costas Karamanlis underlined on Friday in parliament, during the Hour of the Prime Minister, in reply to a question tabled by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis concerning the premier's upcoming visit to Turkey.
"We are following a strategy that is oriented towards the future, and not a hostage of the past," he said.
"We are seeking the gradual restoration of mutual trust. We are working for the full normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations, which, of course, also presupposes a resolution of the Cyprus issue," the premier said, adding that his return visit to Ankara and Istanbul was being "planned in accordance with these clear-cut positions".
"There is neither excessive optimism nor pessimism. There is realism, and a sense of responsibility," he said.
Karamanlis noted that the two countries have not reached the stage of full normalisation of their relations, and that there were issues that "must be discussed, without discounts, without concessions, with affirmation of the national positions and national just demands, on the basis of international law, the international treaties, the European Union texts, but they must be under discussion".
Otherwise, he said, "if everything was fine and all issues were solved, then what would be the nature of the visit? Symbolic? Courtesy visit?"
Karatzaferis, on his part, noted that Karamanlis was the first prime minister to "dare" to visit Turkey in half a century.
He added, however, that Turkey maintained its 'casus belli' threat in the event that Greece decided to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean to 12 nautical miles, and occupied 40 percent of the territory of an EU member state (Cyprus).
Karatzaferis also said that, as a matter of protocol, Karamanlis will be obliged to lay a wreath at the monument of Kemal Ataturk "who was the biggest slaughterer of the previous century".
"It would be like the President of Israel laying a wreath for Hitler," Karatzaferis said.
In a counter-reply, Karamanlis said that the citizens demanded responsible, serious and decisive positions.
"There is no benefit in populism. Irresponsible populism on national issues is detrimental," the prime minister said, adding that "we are discussing with our neighbours, looking forward. We are discussing without phobias, but with confidence in our positions, without moves to create temporary impressions, but with steadfastness in our strategy".
Karamanlis explained that Turkeys stance was being judged, appraised and, when necessary, confronted diplomatically or operationally, without Greece being dragged into manufactured escalation.
On the matter of minorities, Karamanlis said that his government was following a policy of equality before the law and the state, and that this policy "is our free choice, a choice that is not made either in correlation with, or in comparison to, anyone else's policies", and it was a policy that was structured and and applied on the basis of the country's principles and the international treaties.
On Turkey's practice in corresponding issues, Karamanlis noted that Turkey was bound, following a series of EU decisions, to implement policies of equality before the law and the state, and reminded that "the European Commission, in its latest Progress Report on Turkey, as well as in the document on its Strategic Enlargement, returns to the issues concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to the Greek minority in the neighbouring country".
Today, he continued, the resolution of those problems constituted a fundamental prerequisite for Turkey's European prospect.
"Today, these issues cannot be ignored, or circumvented, by Turkey. And this, I stress, is for the first time," Karamanlis said.
 PM: The government cannot be coerced, has nothing to fearThe government can neither be coerced, nor does it engage in coercion, prime minister Costas Karamanlis stressed on Friday, speaking in parliament during the Hour of the Prime Minister, in response to a question tabled by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos regarding recent events involving the culture ministry.
Karamanlis stressed that he has never made concessions or 'discounts', nor would he make concessions or 'discounts', on matters of legality, principles and values.
The premier strongly criticised those who "opt for the path of pillorying, of generalised belittlement, stressing that no one has the right to "sow the seed of fear and resignation" among the citizens, nor to adopt unfounded claims. "This is unfair, dangerous, and deeply undemocratic," Karamanlis said.
Elaborating his question, Alavanos, whose Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party heads the SYRIZA group, said that there was a climate of decay and morbidity in the country, and asked the prime minister point-blank whether he had faced a coercion attempt.
Recalling the Koskotas banking scandal and the referral of the then prime minister over the matter, Alavanos asked why the New Democracy government rejected the proposal for setting up a parliamentary fact-finding commission over the "major scandal" that has emerged.
Alavanos also called on the prime minister to dismiss the chief of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE), given rampant rumours of his involvement in the case.
He further referred to rumours implicating an ND deputy in the affair "who was found in a procedure of collusion, with good or bad intentions", adding that it was not possible that the prime minister should not demand information from those making the accusations, and not defend or charge the MP who, Alavanos said, was "crucial to the government's existence".
Replying, Karamanlis said that the government does not conceal or cover-up anything, fears nothing, has never spared and will not spare anyone.
Regarding the 'morbid climate', the premier said he was determined to do everything needed to rid the country of that climate.
He stressed that every wrongdoing that was uncovered was referred to justice "which we have faith in and whose work we support", and expressed his certainty that "Justice is in a position to find and uncover what is behind this affair".
 KKE statement on the PM's speech in parliamentThe Greek Communist Party (KKE) accused the prime minister trying to avoid assuming political responsibility for scandal by referring all issues to justice.
In a statement issued after the prime minister's speech in parliament, the party stressed that both the prime minister's stance and the debate were characterized by hypocrisy and attempts to disorientate public opinion.
The statement mentions that the prime minister does not have to turn into a court judge but the cover up of the government's political responsibility, using as an excuse that all pending issues will be brought to justice, is unacceptable.
The repeated comments on transparency and control are meaningless aimed at disorienting the people, the KKE statement concludes.
 Papandreou and President discuss corruption; government replyWidespread phenomena of corruption evident in public life dominated talks held on Friday by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou and President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
The meeting was requested by Papandreou, who stressed that these were difficult times and that the Greek people were shocked by developments, with corruption being an undermining factor targeting democratic institutions, the credibility of the political system and the self-confidence of the Greek people.
Papandreou underlined the need for solutions, pointing out that this was the reason for his meeting with the President, in order to seek his advice and contribution.
On his part, President Papoulias told Papandreou that his request for a meeting was a well-thought-out decision.
During the meeting, Papandreou delivered a memorandum in which he outlined his proposed plan for combatting corruption. Papandreou called on the President to convene a meeting of the political party leaders in order to adopt these proposals or even formulate additional ones.
In statements he made after the meeting that lasted over an hour, Papandreou stressed that his proposals are designed to combat the generalized crisis in values, moral degradation and corruption. He stressed that the government is part of the crisis producing scandals and corruption.
Papandreou stated that a Constitutional revision is not necessary in order to deal with corruption issues, stressing that political will is imperative in such cases and accusing Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of lacking the same.
The leader of PASOK stated that his proposals include the establishment of a mandatory phase of public dialogue on all draft laws before being tabled in parliament, monitoring of budget implementation by a special parliamentary committee and reinforcement of the Supreme Staff Selection Council (ASEP) procedures in the appointment of public employees. Also, all transactions and decisions by state officials concerning supplies, tenders and funding should be made public on the internet, while all government ministry special accounts should be abolished.
Papandreou called for the establishment of a parliamentary special permanent committee on armaments' programmes, strict control on political funds, mass media transparency, establishment of a national transparency council and corruption prevention institutions at a local level, as well as adoption of an election system based on the German model to safeguard the autonomy of the political system.
Government's reply to Papandreou
Responding to the main opposition leader's statements, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros dismissed them as "play-acting and hypocrisy" and stressed that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had stated his position in such a way as to leave no doubt about the government's stance or intentions.
Regarding Papandreou's proposal for a meeting of the party leaders' under the president, meanwhile, Antonaros said that the prime minister was at the disposal of any political party leader that wanted to present proposals on any issue.
"On issues of transparency, the government has steadily and unswervingly for about four years reinforced transparency in the public sector with proposals, initiatives and laws," the spokesman said.
In addition, during the process begun by the government for revising the Constitution that was now in its final stages, specific proposals for protecting transparency had been made, he added and urged PASOK to take part in the revision process.
Antonaros also underlined his faith that justice would uncover the truth about the latest scandal involving the former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos, in response to a question noting that justice had failed to find the culprits in similar high-profile cases of the past.
"We support [justice] and let it do its work. Justice works and must work independently in our country," he noted.
 PASOK leader Papandreou addresses Central Organising CommitteeMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou addressed his party's Central Organising Committee on Friday, criticising the government, calling for unity in the party and stressing that November 11 (the day on which elections were held for the party's leadership) belongs to the past and should be dealt with in such a way by all.
Papandreou referred at length to the phenomena of corruption, claiming that "the government holds the unique record worldwide of not having solved even one big case."
Focusing on Friday's presence in Parliament of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, the PASOK leader said that "he has chosen as a usual tactic to wash his hands and to place the burden of the scandals produced by his government on justice."
Papandreou further rejected the prime minister's proposal for PASOK's participation in the process of revising the constitution and the ensuing discussion on a new electoral system, terming the proposal "hypocritical" since the government has already tabled an electoral law in Parliament.
Lastly, Papandreou said that change is now a national necessity and called on all members to follow a common course for a new beginning because, as he said, PASOK "is the hope for tomorrow and the alternative and reliable solution in the face of what one can see happening around us."
 Deputy FM Valynakis participates in informal Mediterranean FMs meetingIllegal immigration, the issue of Kosovo and European cooperation in tackling natural disasters were the main topics of discussion during the second day on Friday of the Informal Meeting of Foreign Ministers from the European Union's Mediteranean Meember-States, the so-called 'Olive Group' which took place in Cyprus with the participation of Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis.
"Illegal immigration constitutes one of the most important problems in the Mediterranean. Immigration flows have increased a great deal and the pressure we are experiencing is great. As far as Greece is concerned it is now imperative that the EU proceeds even more boldly and in a more coordinated manner with policies and actions that will secure the best cooperation possible at political, but mainly at operational level with the cooperation of the coast guard of all the European countries," Valynakis said.
On the issue of Kosovo, Valynakis said that "what is crucial for our country is the day after. A day after on which stability in the region, the greatest possible legalisation and the clear European prospect of Serbia must be safeguarded at the greatest degree. The role of Europe is vital in all this. For this reason, the cohesion and the EU's unity of action must be safeguarded."
Lastly, in relation to the handling of natural disasters, the deputy foreign minister referred to the considerable initiatives taken by Greece with the aim of strengthening the European Civil Protection Mechanism.
"What is required is strengthening cooperation and improving coordination at operational level between the European Member-States. Meaning that we should pass from the political proclamation to action and to implementation," he said.
 Kladas testifies in Zachopoulos caseThe head of Special Audits Service Spyros Kladas on Friday testified before First Instance Court prosecutor Panagiotis Athanasiou, who is in charge of a preliminary inquiry into the cases handled by former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos.
The witness was summoned to testify on a specific case concerning the period during which he was not holding a public office. He also responded to questions concerning the period during which he served as head of the General Secretariat for the Olympic Utilization, an agency under the jurisdiction of the culture ministry.
Kladas' testimony lasted roughly two hours and while leaving the prosecutor's office he refused to make any comments.'
 Culture Minister replies on Zachopoulos case"The case is being investigated by judicial authorities. The probe is being extended. The truth will out. We condone no one. No one can extort us," Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis said on Friday in reply to questions asked by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) opposition MPs concerning the actions of former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos and the government's policy at the Culture ministry.
"We are making every possible effort to assist and facilitate Justice in doing its job. We are making all the figures public, the financial figures of the culture ministry, its grants, its contracts, everything. Whoever is accountable for wrongdoing will be indicted for it," Liapis added.
 Women MPs table gender quota system amendmentTwenty nine women MPs from across the political spectrum on Friday signed a proposed amendment to existing election law concerning the gender quota system for party ballots in general elections.
They suggested that the 1/3 percentage for female candidates should be calculated in relation to the number of political party candidates per electoral district and not based on the nationwide number of candidates.
 Deputy Foreign Minister Kassimis meets visiting young expatriatesDeputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis on Friday met with 125 young Greek expatriates, aged 18 to 25, who are the guests of the Foreign Ministry General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad. They hail from Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, South Africa and Australia and their visit is in an effort to reinforce ties with the Greek Diaspora.
They have been in Greece since January 6 within the framework of this year's general secretariat Greek Language and Culture Programme scheduled to last until the end of the month and have the opportunity to attend Greek language courses, learn more about the Greek culture, visit archaeological sites and museums and meet with government agency officials and youth associations, forging links of communication and strong friendship.
The programme is directed to young expatriates who live abroad permanently and at least one of their parents is of Greek descent.
Kassimis stated that he was impressed with how quickly they learn Greek folk songs and dances, pointing out that their knowledge of the Greek language is very good and commended the work done in this area by the Greek schools abroad.
The deputy foreign minister was very surprised and happy to discover distant relatives among the young expatriates, two siblings from Chile that have the same last name as him and whose ancestors originally came from Mani, where Kassimis' family traces its roots.
 Agreement for Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline signedSOFIA (ANA-MPA - M. Borisov)
Greek Development Minister Christos Folias on Friday signed a Shareholders' Agreement for the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project on behalf of the Greek government in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Other signatories of the agreement were the chief executives of the Greek, Bulgarian and Russian enterprises making up the international consortium in charge of the project, while it was signed in the presence of Bulgarian President George Parvanov and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The agreement was initially signed by the shareholders of the project on January 10, 2008 in Athens, while a protocol of the agreement was signed in Moscow on December 18, 2007 during an official visit by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to Russia.
In a message read out by Folias, the Greek prime minister stressed his "deep satisfaction" at the signature of the charter that will govern the international consortium that will now undertake the construction and operation of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.
"We have thus reached the happy end of a long road that also marks a new era in energy cooperation between our countries," Karamanlis added.
"We are investing in the common effort with vision, responsibility and decisiveness, responding to the challenges of the times. The Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, apart from its self-evident energy importance, is also highlighted as a pipeline of development, converging interests, stability and security. It is a positive example, on which we can continue to build further energy cooperation between our countries with mutual, multiplying benefits for our economies and our peoples," he said.
The signing ceremony for the agreement was held at Bulgaria's presidential mansion.
Ministers had first signed an agreement for the pipeline between Greece, Russia and Bulgaria on March 15, 2007 in Athens, while the Greek Parliament ratified the contract in April 17, 2007.
The shareholders of the project are: Russia, owner of 51 pct, Bulgaria, owner of 24.5 pct and Greece, owner of 24.5 pct.
The international company will be based in Holland. The project will be funded with a project finance form, based on the guaranteed supply of oil. The oil pipeline will have an annual capacity of at least 35 million tons and will extend over 303 km. Burgas storage facilities will have a total capacity of around 500,000 cubic meters, while in Alexandroupolis, storage facilities will have a capacity of 700,000 cubic meters.
Greece and Bulgaria will invest around one billion euros, creating hundreds of new jobs in both countries.
 Development minister on Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipelineThe signing of a Shareholders' Agreement of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project signals "the end of chapter that lasted 14 years and the beginning of a new chapter of progress, cooperation, mutual interests for the peoples of Greece and Bulgaria and for the local communities in Burgas and Alexandroupolis, our Thrace in general," Greek Development Minister Christos Folias said in Sofia during the signing ceremony of the agreement.
The Greek minister stressed the agreement also signaled the beginning of a new era to the benefit of the European Union's big family. "It is an historic moment. I think that we stand on the height of the challenges. It is a justification of the strategic policy of our Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and I believe we will be more successful in meeting energy challenges in the future".
Folias met with Bulgarian Minister for Regional Growth and Public Works, A. Gagauzov, and discussed issues of common interest.
 SYRIZA deputy on Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipelineRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Deputy and Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party Economic and Social Policy rapporteur Panayiotis Lafazanis, commenting on Friday on the signing of the shareholders agreement concerning the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline, stressed that Greece's participation "has been delivered to private companies".
"The signing in Sofia of the Shareholders Agreement on the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline cannot conceal the unacceptable fact that Greek participation in the international company for the project has been delivered to private companies," he said, adding that "this means that the Greek public sector has been sidelined."
"The easy 'celebrations' of the government cannot overshadow neither the privatisation of Greek participation, which can easily be sold to American interests as well at a second stage, nor alleviate environmental concerns stemming from the profiteering exploitation of the project, particularly for our marine environment," Lafazanis concluded.
 New orders down, turnover up in Greek industrial sectorThe industrial sector turnover composite index jumped by 12.5 percent in November 2007, compared with the same month in 2006, the National Statistics Service said on Friday. The statistics service, in its monthly report, said the index was up 2.8 pct in November 2006.
NSS attributed the 12.5 percent increase in the turnover index to a 5.7 pct rise in the mining turnover index and a 12.6 pct increase in the manufacturing turnover index. The composite index reflected 6.5 pct rise in the domestic market and a 33.6 pct jump in the foreign market.
The statistics service also announced that the new orders index in the industrial sector (measuring both the domestic and foreign markets) rose by 1.1 pct in November 2007, compared with the same month in 2006, after an increase of 9.9 pct in November 2006.
 Postal Savings Bank to unveil new strategy soonGreece's Postal Savings Bank will remain a "different bank" since it is the only way to remain competitive and the challenge facing was to gain significant profits and market shares without losing its social character, the bank's chairman Aggelos Philippidis said on Friday.
Commenting on an out-of-court dispute with Citigroup, Philippidis said Postal Savings Bank was obliged to claim money when such a possibility arose. He noted that a new strategy of the board will be unveiled soon. Postal Savings Bank enjoys and saving deposit base of around 11 billion euros (based on 2007 nine-month results), with loans to savings ratio at 60 pct and a customer base of around 1.5 million depositors. Philippidis said he expected the landscape in an international financial crisis to be clear in about six months.
 Airbus delivers first A320 aircraft to Aegean AirlinesAegean Airlines on Friday announced it has received its first Airbus A320 aircraft as part of a contract to buy 10 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft this year.
The Greek airline company said Airbus will deliver the second aircraft in February and one aircraft every month until June. The two last aircrafts will be delivered in November and December 2008.
 Greek stocks end 1.19 pct higherGreek stocks ended higher for the second session in a row in the Athens Stock Exchange, following a rebound in other international markets. The composite index rose 1.19 pct to end at 4,587.09 points with turnover a strong 515.98 million euros, of which 47.18 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher with the Food/Beverage (4.31 pct), Constructions (2.29 pct), Media (2.25 pct), Raw Materials (2.07 pct) and Banks (1.97 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Chemicals (3.32 pct), Telecommunications (2.49 pct) and Utilities (1.49 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index ended 1.32 pct higher, the Mid Cap index rose 0.29 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.52 pct higher. ANEK (29.73 pct), Informer (13.02 pct) and Sprider (10.23 pct) were top gainers, while SAOS (7.19 pct), Proton (7.10 pct) and Atlantic (5.91 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 148 to 88 with another 54 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.60%
Personal & Household: +1.42%
Raw Materials: +2.07%
Travel & Leisure: -0.09%
Food & Beverages: +4.31%
Financial Services: -0.12%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, DEH, Bank of Cyprus and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 22.80
Public Power Corp (PPC): 31.00
HBC Coca Cola: 28.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.92
National Bank of Greece: 43.20
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 20.20
Titan Cement Company: 31.48
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover a strong 224.739 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.92 pct and the February contract on the FTSE 40 index at a premium of 0.33 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 14,841 contracts worth 179.273 million euros, with 29,778 open positions in the market, while in the Mid Cap index volume was 299 contracts worth 8.120 million euros with 598 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 16,096 contracts worth 28.012 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (2,307), followed by Marfin Investment Group, Hellenic Telecoms (1,624), Piraeus Bank (735), National Bank (1,513), Alpha Bank (1,363), Intracom (747), Marfin Popular Bank (1,279) and Postal Savings Bank (1,118).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.458 billion euros on Friday, of which 1.141 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.316 billion were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was again the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 646 million euros, followed by the 33-year bond (318 million euros). The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds rose to 0.39 pct with the Greek bond yielding 4.33 pct and the German Bund 3.94 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.02 pct, the two-day rate 4.05 pct, the one-month rate 4.21 pct and the 12-month rate 4.44 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.479
Pound sterling 0.754
Danish kroner 7.513
Swedish kroner 9.503
Japanese yen 158.96
Swiss franc 1.627
Norwegian kroner 8.055
Canadian dollar 1.514
Australian dollar 1.683
 Environment minister 'surprised' at Commissioner's criticismEnvironment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Friday expressed surprise at criticism leveled against the Greek government by European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas, who questioned the accuracy of past figures supplied by Greece for carbon emission levels.
"It was with surprise that I was informed by [Deputy Environment Minister Stavros] Kalogiannis and the press that Commissioner Dimas yesterday questioned during a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for the Environment not just the figures of the Greek government but also those of European Commission services concerning pollutant emissions by our country," Souflias said.
Referring to Dimas' claim that the 16.6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions projected by Greece was incorrect and that the true reduction would be more like 6 percent, Souflias said he was "truly nonplussed" about the Commissioner's motives.
Clarifying the issue surrounding the incorrect figures given to the United Nations, Souflias pointed out that the incorrect figures were not given by the present government but were sent to the UN in 1995.
"Mr. Dimas should not ignore this, especially when his agencies approved the country's national plans based on these figures," he added.
He also noted that the environment ministry had replied to the UN's objections when it was informed of them in April 2007.
"We asked the Athens Observatory to justify the measurements that it carried out in 1995, which it was unable to do. We therefore accepted the UN's observations and informed the UN both verbally and in writing in December 2007 that we did so. We also informed the UN that substantial improvements were being carried out on the monitoring system, with additional scientific personnel attached to the relevant agency with the collaboration of the NTUA's chemical engineering school," the minister explained.
 Foundation of new wing of Patras HospitalDeputy Health Minister Giorgos Papageorgiou laid on Friday the foundation for a new wing of Patras General Hospital "Agios Andreas" and for the Physical Rehabilitation Center of the Patras University Hospital. The construction cost of the Rehabilitation Center will be covered by the donation made by the Dimitris Sfikas family.
Before getting to Patras, Papageorgiou visited Aigio Hospital where he inspected the progress of the repair works carried out at the operating theater damaged by last summer wildfires.
 Thessaloniki prefect receives Russian cosmonautRussian cosmonaut Fyodor Nikolayevich Yurchikhin, of Pontian Greek descent, was received Friday by Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis.
Yurchikhin was a crewmember in the 6-month "Soyuz" spacecraft mission that ended in October and is currently visiting Thessaloniki.
Prefect Psomiadis presented him with a bust of Alexander the Great, a book on Macedonia, a Greek flag and a Pontian banner.
The cosmonaut thanked the prefect and presented him with photographs of Greece he took from space, from a distance of 400 kilometers, stating that he is putting together a photo album with such photographs that will be published in Russia.
 First Chinese book on contemporary Greece publishedThe first book on contemporary Greece ever published in China was presented in Beijing on Friday. The 428-page book was written by assistant professor and researcher at the Institute of European Studies Song Xiaomin, who has had a long and fruitful collaboration with the Press and Communication Office of the Greek Embassy. The book, published by China's most prestigious and influential think tank, the Institute of European Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Chinese Journal of European Studies is written in Chinese and depicts various aspects of contemporary Greece such as its history, its political system, economy, culture and tourism.
The book is prefaced by Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, and contains a message by Greek Ambassador to Beijing Michalis Kambanis.
In his preface Roussopoulos stresses that the book comes at a very exciting time, just before the Beijing Olympics and after the Athens 2004 Games, thus strengthening the bonds between the two countries, inviting the two peoples to learn more about each other. "My country offers brand new reasons why it should be rediscovered, loved, and respected" Roussopoulos writes.
 Youth Parliament session beginsThe 12th Youth Parliament session kicked off on Friday with Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas welcoming the 330 pupil-deputies from schools in Greece, Cyprus and abroad, wishing them that this experience will be a challenge for the participation of more in public affairs and for participation in the institution.
Sioufas congratulated the pupils for their participation, saying that this shows their concern for public affairs and wished them all the best in their work and in their lives.
The Youth Parliament Plenum will convene at 10 a.m. on Sunday in the presence of President Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, party leaders and members of the government.
 Education minister visits Youth Secretariat and Life Long Learning Secretariat"We have tried to set a new strategy for the promotion of new ideas and at the same time to resolve the problems the new generation faces" stated on Friday, Education and Religious Affairs Minister Evripidis Stilianidis, while visiting the Youth Secretariat.
"The Youth Secretariat aims at advancing far ahead of the rest of public administration, by proposing daring innovations for the youth" Stilianidis added. "We expect Greek youth to play a leading role and for that we decided to reconstitute the Youth Institute, which would be the beehive of new ideas" the minister said.
Stilianidis on his visit to Life Long Learning Secretariat, underlined the systematic work been done over the past years, which gave a new dynamic to the Secretariat. "At this very moment there 250,000 fellow citizens being trained and will be prepared to re-enter labor market," Stilianidis said.
 Three charged with murder of Olympiakos fanThree young men were led before a public prosecutor on Friday and charged with the murder of 24-year-old Theofilos Stavrakis, as well as seriously injuring 26-year-old Constantinos Bakandritsos, in the seaside town of Artemida in Attica. Both victims were fans of the Piraeus football club Olympiakos, which had earlier defeated arch-rivals Panathinaikos 4-0 in a knockout match for the Greek cup.
The three men accused are a 24-year-old man who allegedly stabbed the two victims with Swiss Army-type pen knife and inflicted their injuries, as well as two 22-year-olds.
One of the two younger suspects admitted under questioning that their differences with their victims were linked to their support of rival teams and that they had gone out after their team's defeat to beat up Olympiakos supporters and exact revenge. He said the bad result for Panathinaikos had helped stir up old personal differences with the two victims.
These past differences, according to the young man's testimony, concerned an unrelated incident that occurred between his father and a third man, who had filed a lawsuit. The 22-year-old believed that the victim Bakandritsos had given his father's name in that incident.
The story is not, however, confirmed by the other two men accused, who strongly deny that they knew the victims beforehand. Their story is that they went to the cafeteria where the stabbings occurred to have a drink but were provoked by the two victims, resulting in the fray.
The incident occurred shortly after midnight on Thursday morning, after the match between the two teams had ended.
 80 kilos of cannabis seized near Kastoria, Northern GreeceBorder guards seized more than 80 kilos of cannabis in Nestorio (Kastoria) on Friday. The haul hidden in two travel bags along with a Kalashnikov fire gun and 60 cartridges, apparently brought in from Albania, were detected by the border guards, who trailed the footprints of five people and of a mule. Police authorities are searching for the culprits.
 Two arrests on counterfeit money charges in ThessalonikiTwo Bulgarian nationals, aged 38 and 39, were arrested in the Thessaloniki municipality of Neapolis on counterfeit banknote possession charges, authorities announced on Friday.
A police search of their car revealed a total of 29 counterfeit 100-euro banknotes and one 200-euro.
Police are investigating the likelihood of more people being involved in the case.
 Cloud, scattered showers on SaturdayCloudy weather and scattered showers are forecast in most parts of the country, particularly in eastern and southern Greece, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 7C and 15C, and in Thessaloniki from 4C to 11C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime Minister's office director Yiannis Angelou's additional testimony before the examining magistrate on the Zachopoulos affair and PM Karamanlis' response on Friday in parliament to questions on the issue tabled by Synaspismos party leader Alekos Alavanos dominated headlines on Friday in the Athens newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Pimps (of public life) prepare change of political scene".
APOGEVMATINI: "Karamanlis on Zachopoulos affair - Prime Minister took everyone by surprise and will speak in parliament on the burning issue".
AVGHI: "Major cover up - Phone-tapping phone case shelved".
AVRIANI: "Politicians and journalists fooling the people and feeding them sex tapes to forget their problems".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "....The system is left without shock absorbers".
ELEFTHEROS: "Shocking accusations by (Popular Orthodox Rally-LAOS leader George) Karatzaferis draw strong reaction by Justice Minister".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "(Prime Minister's press office director Yiannis) Adrianos face to face with ("Proto Thema" co-publisher) Themos (Anastasiadis) - -Government points finger at Anastasiadis (as being the Zachopoulos DVD courier)".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Byzantine intrigues - Adrianos' new testimony over a 'forgotten' phone call".
ESTIA: "Hour of decisions for Government - Change of policy is mandatory".
ETHNOS: "They're trapping the courier in stages - Angelou's new testimony key to the Zachopoulos affair".
KATHIMERINI: "Karamanlis,Papandreou intervene on crisis - Angelou's new testimony".
LOGOS: "Answers on Zachopoulos affair.....from Karamanlis to Alavanos question - Karamanlis' first public intervention".
NIKI: "Parade of depositions before the examining magistrate - Karamanlis' associates in never-ending questioning".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Working class must be the protagonist of developments against anti-popular scenarios".
TA NEA: "Admission of the secret meeting- Contradictions over the DVD".
TO VIMA: "Karamanlis-Alavanos showdown on Zachopoulos affair will take place on Friday in parliament"
VRADYNI: "Karamanlis intervenes - He will state his positions in parliament on Zachopoulos affair".
 ECB President in euro celebrations in CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus has made significant progress in both nominal and real convergence, owing to a successful policy mix "namely, well managed monetary and exchange rate policies combined with a range of structural reforms, the President of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet said here Friday.
The ECB president was addressing an audience at the official celebrations under the title "Welcoming Cyprus to the euro area", taking place in Nicosia.
Trichet congratulated all parties involved in the successful cash changeover that took place at the beginning of the year and stressed that the changeover has been going smoothly, adding that none of this would have been possible without the excellent performance of the Cypriot economy during the convergence process.
"Today's euro celebrations are the result of the successful macroeconomic policies that the Cypriot authorities have pursued in recent years", the President of the European Central Bank said.
Trichet made special reference to HICP inflation, which has been contained, averaging 2.2% in 2007 and to interest rates that have followed a declining trend in recent years, stressing, "this suggests that market participants have confidence in Cyprus' macroeconomic and fiscal developments as well as in its monetary and exchange rate policies."
"The process of nominal convergence has been accompanied by robust economic growth", he said, making special reference to real GDP growth which in Cyprus has been well above that in the euro area in recent years.
Furhtermore, Trichet noted that in spite of its remarkable progress towards nominal and real convergence, Cyprus has not experienced major imbalances: price and cost competitiveness developments have been favourable since 2004. The fiscal balance has been improving since 2004 and stood at -1.2% of GDP in 2006. "Looking at the financial side, Cyprus is experiencing substantial financial deepening, which has been reflected in robust credit activity. Although this process accompanies and supports economic development, it should be carefully monitored, particularly because it is taking place at a very rapid pace," he added.
Commenting on the sustainability of convergence as a euro area country, the ECB president underscored that in order to fully reap the advantages of the euro and to ensure sustainable convergence, additional efforts with structural reform should be undertaken and appropriate policies implemented.
"The Cypriot economy needs to continue on a sustainable and credible path of fiscal consolidation based on structural measures, to improve its fiscal performance by reducing its debt ratios and to comply with the medium term objective quantified in the convergence programme," he said.
Additionally, Trichet said that Cyprus needs to ensure public finances secure sufficient room for manoeuvre in order to better cope with the expected substantial increase in age-related public expenditure. Moreover, he added, wage settlements need to remain moderate, taking into account labour productivity growth, labour market conditions and developments in competitor countries.
In line with this, he mentioned the indexation mechanism for wages and for some social benefits should be reviewed.
The ECB president made special reference to the cooperation between the Central Bank of Cyprus and the European Central Bank, expressing the belief that the excellent rapport between CBC and ECB will grow even stronger.
The Governor of Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC) Athanasios Orphanides stressed, "The integration of Cyprus into the euro area is undoubtedly a defining event in our island's economic history. Cyprus is now part of the select group of European Union member states with a strong common currency".
Additionally, Orphanides pointed out that "by completing integration in the common European market, the introduction of the euro in our country offers tremendous opportunities for further development and growth", adding that with these opportunities come new important challenges, however, "and it is up to us to face up to these challenges and fully exploit the opportunities presented to further the welfare of our citizens."
Jean- Claude Trichet awarded CBC's Governor the 15th commemorative Euro Star, which is presented to every new member state of euro zone.
 Cypriot President: euro brings hope for better lifeWhile Europe is being unified, Cyprus cannot remain divided through the force of arms, President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos stressed here Friday, adding that for the people of Cyprus "reunification means reunification of the territory, the society, the institutions and the economy".
In his address at the celebration at the Nicosia Municipal Theatre for the introduction of the euro in Cyprus, President Papadopoulos said that "we have been struggling for the reunification of our people and our country for thirty three years now, demanding the safeguarding of the european values and universal principles as solid foundations in support of a just, functional and viable solution to the Cyprus problem."
Welcoming to the official celebrations for the adoption of the euro Prime Minister of Slovenia and President of the European Council, Janez Jansa, President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, the first Vice President of the European Parliament, Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, the President of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, Ministers of Finance and Governors of Central Banks from the European Union as well as Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, the Cypriot President noted that the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the euro area was the auspicious outcome of an arduous collective course.
"We have followed this course with responsibility, consistency and prudent economic policy, firm goals and above all with faith in the correctness of our choices", Papadopoulos stressed, adding "we met to a satisfactory degree the preconditions and criteria for accession to the euro zone and eventually we succeeded in taking the great quality leap with the adoption of the euro."
Referring to the single currency, "a symbol of unity, a symbol of our common European identity", he said that this sovereign symbol is from the very first day of 2008 the official currency of the Republic of Cyprus and that for the Cypriot citizen, it is the beginning of a new, promising era.
"The introduction of the euro as our new official currency has brought about many well-founded hopes for a better way of life, a better society, a better future. Our people believe in the vindication of these hopes because they trust the euro, they trust the binding character and the significance of the messages associated with the introduction of the euro in an EU member state", he said.
Referring to the history of Cyprus, the president further noted that after the declaration of the Republic of Cyprus as an independent state in 1960 and our accession to the European Union in 2004, the introduction of the euro in 2008 constitutes the "third historic landmark in the modern life and the course of our state and our country".
"Our government and our people justifiably take pride in our achievement to enter the euro zone and to adopt the euro. We are also entitled to take pride in the fact that our people have adjusted to and have familiarized themselves with the new currency, without problematic delays, without particular difficulties or worrisome frictions", he added.
Concluding, the president said that by celebrating Friday the great achievement of the adoption of the euro by the Republic of Cyprus "we also celebrate yet another important step towards the economic integration and unification of Europe. The Europe of the historic past, the dynamic present and the hopeful future".
 Slovenian FM satisfied with outcome of Informal MeetingPAPHOS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Foreign Minister of Slovenia and President of the European General Affairs and External Relations Council Dimitrij Rupel said Friday he was satisfied with the outcome of the 5th Informal EU Foreign Ministers of the Mediterranean, noting that participating ministers discussed serious foreign policy issues.
In a press conference he gave together with Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Marcoullis, Rupel said "I am very happy that we discussed practically the most important foreign policy challenges, Middle East, Lebanon, Mediterranean, Kosovo, migration."
Asked about Kosovo and whether the EU has second thoughts on Kosovo because of considerations of possible impact on other parts of Europe, he said "some of our thoughts are first thoughts, some are second thoughts and some are third thoughts. I don't see any change of our position."
Speaking on behalf of Slovenia, he said that his country would like the Yugoslav crisis to end as soon as possible.
Asked about a statement he made that "the position of Cyprus and Greece on Kosovo is well known but it might change", he said there is always hope that things might change.
"Now you can understand that most of the EU members would like Cyprus, Greece, maybe some other countries, to assume a position that would enable us to move forward. Now, this may come, this may not come, this meeting was not meant as a pressure, it is more or less my hope I have expressed in that statement. We have separated in our discussion the issue of sending an ESDP mission from the issue of any declaration that might come out of Kosovo," he added.
The Cypriot foreign minister was asked about illegal immigration.
"Our exchange today about illegal immigration was broader. And there are several discussions regarding all aspects of illegal immigration. One possible area we discussed as well is signing the readmission agreements with third countries," she said.
Referring to the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus and the influx of illegal immigrants through those areas to the government controlled areas of Cyprus, Marcoullis said that this is an issue she brought to the attention of the Group.
She described it as a serious problem which is increasing. Concluding, Rupel thanked Cyprus for its hospitality saying that it has been "fantastic".
The Cypriot Foreign Minister read out the concluding remarks of the meeting in which it is stated that the Foreign Ministers of the "Olive Group" met in Cyprus and had an open and fruitful exchange of ideas on various issues that are of high importance for the Mediterranean region and the EU in general.
The text is as follows:
"We, the Foreign Ministers of the Mediterranean EU Member States ("Olive Group"), gathered for the 5th Informal Meeting in Paphos, Cyprus, on the 17-18 January 2008. We had an open and fruitful exchange of ideas on various issues that are of high importance for the Mediterranean region and the EU in general.
We discussed the recent developments in the Middle East Peace Process in the post-Annapolis period and following the Paris Conference of 17 December 2007, which led to the announcement of contributions of up to $67.4Bn. We acknowledged that the insecurity on the ground and the humanitarian crisis continue to have a negative and destabilizing impact on the political process. Building upon the commitment of the USA to push forward the Peace Process, the EU, and the Quartet more broadly, have a constructive role to play. We have also discussed tangible projects of the "Olive Group" members to this effect.
On Lebanon, we pledged our full support to the Arab League initiative to resolve the current political impasse. More broadly, we underlined the positive impact that the cooperation of the EU with the Arab League can have on the region. We also acknowledged the importance of the role played by Syria. Consequently, the EU should define a consistent policy towards Syria.
We reaffirmed our support to all efforts which have as an objective the strengthening of the cooperation between European and Mediterranean countries and reiterated the importance of the Mediterranean region for the security, stability and prosperity of the European Union.
In this context, we expressed our support for reflection on the creation of a Union for the Mediterranean. We envisaged this Union as a project-based mechanism, founded on the principle of equality of States.
Moreover, we agreed that the Union would be complementary to the existing cooperation frameworks, particularly the Barcelona process, and that it would, in no way, interfere or substitute the accession prospects of the candidate countries. All Member States of the EU should be involved in this initiative. We decided to further discuss this proposal, in order to take it forward, ahead of the Heads of State meeting to be held in Paris, on 13-14 July 2008.
On Kosovo we reiterated the leading role of the EU and the need to maintain an EU unified position. We also discussed the deployment of the ESDP Mission, on the basis of the December 2007 European Council Conclusions. In addition, we reconfirmed Serbia's European perspective, exchanged views on how to accelerate it, supporting the early signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement.
On Migration we agreed for a coherent, coordinated, balanced and comprehensive approach. Regarding legal migration, emphasis was placed on cooperation, dialogue and development assistance to third countries of origin, in particular through pilot projects. In this framework we consider mobility partnerships very important for economic and social development.
On illegal immigration, we stressed that the Mediterranean is a region most affected and vulnerable from this phenomenon and therefore solidarity and cooperation between all member states is indispensable for the protection of the Union and its citizens. The role of FRONTEX and the need to enhance its operational capacity were highlighted in this regard and it was agreed that the issue of a risk analysis sub unit dedicated to sensitive strategic regions, such as the Mediterranean, would need to be assessed in terms of potential added value.
We also stressed the need for early conclusion and faithful implementation of readmission agreements with third countries. We finally note that the current Slovenian and the following French EU Presidency will accord the issue of migration top priority.
We welcomed the initiative for the enhancement of the European cooperation for the prevention and response to natural disasters and emergencies. To that end we reiterated the October 2007 GAERC conclusions for the substantial improvement of the Natural Disasters Response Mechanism.
We, the ten participating EU Mediterranean Member States stress the usefulness of the "Olive Group" Meetings and decided to hold our next meeting in Italy in the second half of 2008."
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