|Friday, 18 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-01-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 22 January 2008 Issue No: 2800
 Talks on 'name issue' end without breakthroughsOCHRID (ANA-MPA - N. Fragopoulos)
The UN-sponsored talks that began here between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Monday ended after three hours with no progress to report.
Greek envoy Adamantios Vassilakis and his FYROM counterpart Nikola Dimitrov had met under the auspices of UN mediator Matthew Nimetz but, as expected, failed to achieve any new breakthroughs in the long-mired dispute that has marred the two countries' otherwise friendly relations.
Nimetz described the meeting as "useful and open" and told reporters that the two sides had been more direct in stating their positions and arguments than in previous meetings. At the same time, he admitted that serious differences remained regarding the name issue and pointed out that a solution would upgrade relations between Greece and FYROM in all areas.
The mediator said that some ideas and thoughts had been presented and examined during Monday's meeting but that there was no new proposal for the name issue. He added that a new meeting will be held in Greece in a few weeks.
Vassilakis said that Greece had made a giant leap in accepting a composite name for its tiny northern neighbour. He also stressed that the dispute over the name was not just a bilateral issue but one linked to the security and stability of the region, as well as one that is being discussed within the framework of the United Nations.
The Greek envoy said that finding a solution to the name issue would contribute to further developing cooperation and friendship between the two countries.
Dimitrov said that FYROM had submitted a proposal for a joint committee to look at history textbooks, as well as proposing meetings at a higher level with Greece, the opening of a new border crossing and the signature of an agreement for avoiding double taxation.
He noted that FYROM Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, who kicked off Monday's meeting in the picturesque lake-side town in FYROM's southwest, had submitted a "declaration of friendship and cooperation" to the Greek side. If Greece accepted this, Milososki proposed that it be signed by the foreign ministers of both countries before the end of February, he added.
Regarding Greece's proposal for a composite name, Dimitrov said that Skopje did not see this as a major step. "We consider that the temporary name for our country is a composite name," he added.
"Our position is that the country's entry into international organizations must not be obstructed since this is something mentioned in the Interim Agreement of 1995," Dimitrov said.
He also insisted on Skopje's position that the name dispute was a bilateral issue, claiming that only Greece had a problem with his country's adopted name "Republic of Macedonia".
FM Bakoyannis warns
Replying to press questions regarding the Ochrid talks from Athens, particularly Skopje's attempt to present the problem as 'bilateral', Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis warned that "constantly and insistently challenge to the decisions of the UN Security Council is a very slippery road for regional stability and security".
She stressed that Greece had always taken the negotiating process taking place under UN auspices very seriously, without tactical moves or artificial delays and without questioning either the content, object and purpose of the negotiations.
"This negotiation is taking place in order to find a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the name that so greatly affects good neighbor relations between FYROM and Greece, a member-state of NATO and the EU. In other words, two organizations that FYROM hopes to join," she underlined.
The Greek foreign minister also cited Security Council resolution 817, which calls for the issue to be resolved for the benefit of peaceful relations and good neighbor relations in the region.
"This phrase alone of the Security Council makes absolutely clear the regional and international dimension and importance of the issue, which is clearly not exclusively bilateral as the governments in Skopje are attempting to portray it," she added.
Bakoyannis also emphasized that the Security Council would not have for the past 15 years arranged for negotiations under the auspices of a special envoy of the UN Secretary-General just to decide how Greece would call a country in their bilateral transactions.
"That could have been done unilaterally and without negotiations. So let us finish with these so-called arguments about an exclusively bilateral issue. These are arguments challenging the decisions of the United Nations and the other agreed texts and are essentially unfounded and without basis. We are continuing to work in the direction of a real resolution of the issue, which is a mutually acceptable name in the issue with Skopje," she concluded.
Greece objects to FYROM using the name 'Macedonia' on historical grounds and because it is also the name of a northern Greek province that shares a border with FYROM, claiming that it could give rise to future expansionist claims on its territory. In neighboring FYROM, the country's Slav majority see the name as an issue of identity and stability.
Nimetz is expected to have a similar meeting with the two negotiators, Amb. Adamantios Vassilakis and Amb. Nikola Dimitrov, in Athens next month.
The UN envoy said the Ochrid meeting is the first outside the United Nations' headquarters.
Nimetz is expected to meet with FYROM's leadership later on Monday in Skopje.
 Greece reiterates support for Serbia's 'fast track' EU prospectsGreece on Monday reiterated its support for "fastest possible" approach by Serbia towards the European Union, with the Greek foreign minister noting, in fact, that this is a "strategic choice" for Athens.
FM Dora Bakoyannis made the statement after her meeting here with Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, who arrived for an official visit to the Greek capital a day after the first round of presidential elections in Serbia.
A closed-door half-hour meeting between the two foreign ministers was followed with a session that included participation of delegations from both sides.
"I reiterated that Greece supports Serbia's course towards European and Euro-Atlantic institutions We believe that a European Serbia will offer its people prosperity, so they (people) can look to the future with optimism," Bakoyannis told reporters after the meeting.
She also noted that the thorny issue involving the Kosovo province's final status is at a crucial juncture.
"We continue to regard the possibility of unilateral actions with great apprehension," Bakoyannis said, adding: "We believe that diplomatic margins (for a mutually acceptable solution for Kosovo) have not been exhausted".
On his part, Jeremic repeated that Belgrade is ready and wants to continue dialogue, while he thanked Greece for its backing of his country's European prospect, along with specific actions to ease Schengen-mandated visa burdens for Serbian nationals and Athens' funding of development projects in the country.
"Greece backs us in Europe, that is the message of today's meeting," Jeremic said, adding that the next step is the signing of a Stability and Association agreement with the Union at an upcoming General Affairs Council.
Asked by reporters if UNSC Resolution 1244 covers the prospect of sending European forces to Kosovo, Jeremic said Belgrade welcomes the EU's greater involvement, "but we must be careful as far as the legal framework is concerned" -- clarifying that a new UNSC Resolution will be necessary if the international presence and engagement is modified vis-à-vis 1244.
Bakoyannis added that Athens will encourage Serbia to apply for EU membership "as soon as possible thus contributing to the country's accession into the European family, where it rightfully belongs."
Finally, the Greek FM said Athens supports easier visa issuance procedures for Serbian citizens, noting that the Greek government has already broached the issue with relevant EU Commissioner and Vice-President Franco Frattini.
Bakoyannis later hosted a reception in honor of the visiting high-ranking diplomat, who was also received by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
 PASOK leader meets with visiting Serbian FMMain opposition PASOK leader and Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou met here on Monday afternoon with visiting Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic.
The Serbian minister briefed Papandreou on the first round of presidential elections held in his country on Sunday, but primarily on developments regarding Kosovo and Serbia's European prospect.
The two men also discussed the upcoming signing of an EU-Serbia Stability and Association agreement.
 'We are in constant conflict with corruption, lawlessness,' PM Karamanlis saysPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis, speaking during the cutting of the New Year's cake of the ruling New Democracy party's Women's Secretariat, said on Monday that "we are in constant conflict with corruption and lawlessness."
The prime minister stressed that "we are frontally opposed to selfish expediencies that harm our Democracy, the reliability of the political system and the dignity of politics."
Karamanlis began his address by referring to the climate currently prevailing, terming it morbid.
"Real events have been mixed with rumors, hearsay, exaggerations, generalizations, aphorisms. The major issues on the course of the country have been removed from public dialogue. An effort has been made to replace the real political agenda. Crude attacks have been launched against institutions, particularly against Justice. It is evident that some are making a mistake. A huge mistake. A dangerous mistake," he said.
Karamanlis also criticised the main opposition PASOK party, saying that despite the steps that have been taken, the country is still carrying the great economic burdens of the past and society is facing deeply-rooted problems.
"We are well aware of reality. We are aware of the difficulties that the citizens are facing. We have not concealed and we are not concealing the problems that exist. We are not denying the difficulties. We are not beautifying situations," the prime minister said.
"Greece is not the grey image that some are wanting to impose on it. These are not the images that some are trying to generalize. Greece is a modern and proud country. A country of security, of confidence, of stability, having considerable geopolitical advantages. It is a country of great potential," he added.
Karamanlis went on to say that the country has taken great steps in past years, clarifying that reforms will be continued in all sectors, stressing that "an end has been put to covering up and tolerance that characterised the past. Bold changes and new measures to consolidate transparency are already being implemented. Checks are being intensified everywhere. All illegal behaviour that harms public interest is revealed and brought before Justice."
Lastly, the prime minister pointed out that "Greece will not be delivered to stagnation. It will not compromise. It will not return to yesterday. Greece can, Greece is claiming and Greece is gaining a better prospect."
 PM confers with development ministerPrime minister Costas Karamanlis met Monday with development minister Christos Folias.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Folias said that the first chapter in the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project had closed with the signing in Sofia on Friday of the agreement for setting up the international company for the project.
The minister said it was a "visionary project", the inception of which began 15 years ago, as an idea, and was adopted by the present government with the prime minister's strategic choice and its implementatin by his predecessor at the ministry.
"Today, we have reached the closing of the first chapter, as the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline now has a company that will materialize it. We are proceeding to the second stage, which is the construction of the pipeline," Folias said, adding that the government's strategic choice for Greece's evolution into a major energy hub in Southeastern Europe was becoming reality.
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.
On his part, Parliament President and former development minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Monday that "the international energy agreements which were achieved these past few years in the sectors of oil, natural gas and electricity upgrade our country's position in the broader region and Europe."
Sioufas said "this signing constitutes the second step for this energy project of great national importance. It was preceded by the first important step, with the signing of the inter-state agreement by representatives of the governments of Russia, Bulgaria and Greece in Athens on March 15, 2007, while follows the third step, that of the signing of the Transit Agreements, which will open the way for the beginning of the project's construction and completion."
 PM briefed on application of new education lawPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis conferred on Monday with Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, who stated that he briefed the prime minister on the progress made in implementing the framework law on education.
Stylianidis also said that the draft law on postgraduate education will be ready soon, meeting a longstanding demand by universities and technological educational institutes, TEI. A four-year plan has been drawn up allowing universities to operate more effectively with improved absorption rates of EU funds.
Referring to the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) absorption rate, Stylianidis pointed out that it increased 10 percent during the past two months corresponding to 80 percent of the available funds, while an effort is to increased this even further, so that not a single euro that could aid education and young people would be lost.
The minister announced that he is scheduled to meet Monday with representatives of the high school teachers' federation (OLME) followed by a meeting with the primary school teachers' Federation (DOE) representatives on Tuesday to brief them on developments concerning their demands.
Stylianidis also stated that a dialogue is underway regarding the professional rights of colleges and the recognition of degrees and educational qualifications earned at colleges in Greece operating in cooperation with European universities.
 Government on main parties' poor showing in opinion pollsCommenting on a recent opinion poll reflecting a widespread disillusionment and discontent with both main parties among voters, especially as regards the handling of corruption, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Monday noted only that the government's view on opinion polls was well known.
Asked whether the government was troubled by the citizens' disappointment, Roussopoulos replied that any government that respected itself was obliged to seriously consider the views expressed by the citizens through public opinion surveys, stressing that the only response possible was that of consistency, truth, changes and reforms.
"This is the road chosen by New Democracy as government and the one it now follows. There are difficulties, of course, and there will be on all issues, but consistency and persevering toward the goal are the things is what leads to vindication," he said.
Questioned about the survey's findings that the public felt "shame and anger over corruption" four years after ND was elected into government, Roussopoulos said it was natural to feel angry about issues of corruption and that the feeling was shared by members of the government, who had for this reason carried out a series of reforms to heighten transparency.
The questions referred to an MRB poll published on Sunday which showed the popularity of both main parties and that of the prime minister severely dented by the recent avalanche of revelations surrounding the now resigned former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos, whose attempted suicide set in motion a blackmail investigation that has so far embroiled both highly prominent journalists and members of the prime minister's personal staff.
 Defence Minister Meimarakis visits Bosnia-HerzegovinaNational Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis on Monday visited Bosnia-Herzegovina at the invitation of his counterpart Selmo Cikotic and met with the Greek contingent taking part in the European Union's "Althea" operation.
At the same time, Meimarakis was briefed by the commander of EUFOR Spanish major-general Ignacio Martin Villalain, on the presence and prospects of the European force.
Having expressed the need for the continuity of EUFOR's "important achievements," Meimarakis assured anew Greece's keen interest for the improvement of the situation of security in the broader region of the western Balkans.
Meimarakis and Cikotic will sign on Tuesday the first military cooperation agreement between Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
 Deputy FM Kassimis meets South African counterpart MerwePRETORIA (ANA-MPA/S. Aravopoulou)
Closer cooperation in the business and shiiping sector and the further strengthening of bilateral relations are being advanced by Greece and South Africa.
Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis, in the context of his tour of South Africa, through his meeting on Monday with his counterpart Sue van der Merwe, ratified the will of the two sides, opening the road for stronger bonds between the two countries which can operate also as a bridge between the European Union and the African Union.
The talks between the two deputy foreign ministers also expanded on matters such as the situation in the Balkans and Kosovo, the situation on the African continent and the intervention of South African President Thabo Mbeki in the political problems of Zimbabwe and the recent EU-African Union summit in Lisbon. Efforts which are important for the political stability and prosperity in the region, as stressed in a joint press conference given by the two deputy ministers, expressing their particular joy for Monday's meeting.
Kassimis noted Greece's satisfaction for "the important role" South Africa is playing in the effort for the growth and stability in the region, stressing that patience and persistence on the basis of the principles of democracy, "are these which bring good results.
On her part, Merwe underlined that Greece and South Africa can do more things for stronger bilateral relations. In this prospect, as announced by Kassimis, the country will soon be visited by Deputy Foreign Minister responsible for economic diplomacy affairs Petros Doukas, along with a team of entrepreneurs who are interested in investments in South Africa, so that cooperation develop with the relevant agencies in various sectors of the economy.
Regarding the Greek community in South Africa, which numbers, 60,000 and is very active in society, Kassimis stressed that Greece's objective is for greater cultural intervention in the future but also the support for the learning of the Greek language.
 Greek, Israeli party reps meet in AthensThe latest developments in the Middle East were discussed on Monday at a meeting in Athens between delegations of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Israeli Communist Party.
According to a KKE announcement, "cordial relations of cooperation and solidarity between the two parties were confirmed during the meeting", which also focused on developments regarding the Palestinian issue and the outcome of US President George W. Bush's recent visit to the Middle East.
The two sides underlined that a substantive solution to the Palestinian issue meant the creation of a truly independent and sovereign Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, next to Israel, and resolution of the refugee issue based on relevant UN resolutions, the KKE announcement read.
The KKE delegation was briefed on the domestic situation in Israel, as well as what was referred to as the "attack against the social rights of the workers, and particularly the Arabs of Israel", as well as on the recent mobilizations and initiatives of the Israeli communist party against the policy of the Olmert government.
The KKE delegation underlined that the efforts made by the Israeli Communist Party are being appreciated by Greek communists. It also reiterated its solidarity to the people of Israel who are "suffering the implications of imperialist policies..."
Both delegations also condemned the ongoing blockade of Gaza by Israeli forces.
 Themos Anastassiades before magistrate againTV journalist and newspaper publisher Themos Anastassiades on Monday appeared a second time before the examining magistrate investigating the alleged blackmail of former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos. The journalist had been recalled to give additional testimony after new revelations cast his involvement in a new light.
Anastassiades arrived at 9:00 in the morning accompanied by his lawyers Dimitris Tsovolas and Alexandros Katsantonis and was kept by magistrate Dimitris Economou for more than five hours, emerging visibly tired from the marathon session.
In statements outside the magistrate's office, the journalist denied being the mystery journalist that supplied the prime minister's office with a DVD of Zachopoulos' sexual encounters with culture ministry employee Evi Tsekou or that a sum of some five million euros deposited in his bank account was the result of deal linked to this DVD.
"I only have three things that I want and am permitted to say: the first is that Tsekou herself said that she had sent the material to [the prime minister's office] via a friend that worked at the culture ministry, in the prime minister's office.
Secondly, I gathered this money from my own means so that Makis Triantafyllopoulos would not be able to sell 51 percent of the paper to a right-wing ship owner, a friend of Karamanlis.
Thirdly, I possess and have presented evidence that Mega [TV channel] saw the video and have been lying this whole time," he said.
After his initial testimony before the magistrate concerning the attempted suicide and alleged blackmail case involving Zachopoulos, Anastassiades was recalled when his partner and co-owner in the Proto Thema newspaper Makis Triantafyllopoulos revealed the existence of the five million euros, an outstanding investigation into Anastassiades financial affairs and suggested a deal was cut with high-ranking officials in order to suppress publication of the embarrassing DVD.
According to media reports, Tsekou has not confirmed Anastassiades' claim that she sent the DVD to the prime minister's office, while Triantafyllopoulos has angrily denied the statements made about him.
The government also indirectly discredited Anastassiades' version of events on Monday by insisting that the initial testimony given by the head of the prime minister's press office Yiannis Andrianos concerning the case. While not revealing the name of the individual involved, Andrianos has told both the press and the magistrate that he was given the DVD by a journalist during a meeting at the Hilton Hotel before the Christmas holidays.
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos refused to answer directly whether Andrianos was given the DVD by Anastassiades, stating only that both he and Andrianos had answered the question repeatedly and in official testimony before the magistrate.
Asked whether "Andrianos insists on the view that he received the DVD from the journalist," the spokesman replied: "It is not a point of view. It is the truth."
 Employment Minister, Federation of Hellenic Industries discuss pension reformEmployment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Monday met with the president of the Federation of Hellenic Industries Dimitris Daskalopoulos and members of the presidency, as part of a round of meetings with social partners, and discussed plans to reform the country's pension system.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, the Greek minister said that "securing workers' rights was a priority of government policy, not only in the pension system, but in employment and economic growth". Petralia added that the ministry will continue its cooperation with the Federation of Hellenic Industries.
The Greek minister welcomed a series of proposals made by the Federation, saying they were constructive and with a prospect, while he categorically dismissed talk that the government was examining plans to cut pension payments.
Daskalopoulos, speaking to reporters, said the business community was open to a debate over reforming the pension system and noted that the large problems of the society needed concrete answers.
 KKE on meeting between Petralia-SEBThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in an announcement on Monday that statements by Employment Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia that she will "cooperate and move with the industrialists on the safeguarding of the working people's social security and labor rights, although expected, constitute a provocation."
KKE was referring to the meeting between the employment minister and the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) and called for mass participation in rallies being organised by the PAME labor group on January 22.
KKE added that working people must continue with greater determination along the path of coordinated struggle and counter-attack for their modern-day rights against plutocracy, the government and the parties that are serving the "euro one-way path."
In another development, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Deputy and Coalition (Synaspismos) economic and social policy rapporteur Panayiotis Lafazanis said in an announcement that "today's 'black Monday' for international Stock Exchanges is only one of the visible aspects of the ongoing international capitalist economic crisis, that has as its epicenter the looming recession in the American economy and as its main cause the excessive accumulation of capital in a few hands and unbridled profiteering in the international markets."
 Gov't earmarks 2.4 bln euros for small and medium-sized enterprisesMore than 31,460 small- and medium-sized enterprises have applied with the Economy and Finance Ministry for participation in a program offering financial support to Greek enterprises.
A ministry statement said the budget of the program totals 2.4 billion euros and noted that commercial banks have already began evaluating applications. The ministry said that procedures were expected to be completed in the first fourth months of 2008.
Economy Finance Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said a new development policy aimed at creating a critical mass of modern and innovative enterprises which will give a new boost to the country's economy to the benefit of all citizens, employment and social cohesion.
 Good prospects for Austrian tourist arrivals in GreeceVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Good prospects are appearing this year for tourist travel from Austria to Greece, which is expected to be maintained or slightly exceed the levels reached in 2007, with a total of 600,000 arrivals of Austrian visitors, particularly after the successful participation of Greece in the four-day International Tourism Exhibition, that came to an end here on Sunday night.
The Greek Tourist Organization's (EOT) pavilion and its 35 joint exhibitors from various parts of Greece garnered most of the 153,000 visitors of this year's exhibition, who showed great interest in vacations and in similar bookings in Greece.
Speaking to the ANA-MPA in Vienna, the new director of EOT's office in Austria, Panayiotis Skordas, said that with his initial contacts, since assuming his duties on January 7, with Austrian travel agency and business officials he ascertained their great interest in Greece, being a very popular destination for Austrian tourists, as well as their intention to have direct cooperation with EOT to promote the Greek tourist product.
Skordas added that the arrivals of Austrians in Greece this year will remain at last year's levels, with the prospect of a small increase in the region of 2-3 percent.
 Merchant marine minister on creation of port industryMerchant Marine Minister George Voulgarakis said on Monday that the completion of the effort to create a port industry will be one of the biggest reforms.
Replying to a question by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Deputy Elpida Pantelaki on the proclamation for international tendering for assigning the Containers Terminals of the Piraeus and Thessaloniki Harbor Authorities, Voulgarakis said that "it is not a question of selling, but of assigning the ports of the country" that will "continue to have a public character."
The minister assured that the rights of the workers will not be harmed and with whom he will be having meetings in the coming days.
Voulgarakis further stressed that the aim of the government is the modernization of the country's ports and the creation of a port industry to enable it to take advantage of its geostrategic position, adding that the evaluation of tenders will begin in about 52 days.
 Agriculture Minister Kontos attends Brussels meetingBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Agriculture Minister Alexandros Kontos on Monday expounded on the Greek positions on the Commission's announcement regarding the control of health.
Kontos, addressing the EU's Council of Agriculture Ministers, referred to the "important changes which the Greek farmers live with the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)," and rejected the Commission's proposals for a cut-back through differentiation of the support and transfer of the funds in question "in Cap's pillar II."
The Greek agriculture minister also rejected the Commission's proposals for the exclusion of support to small farm units.
 Deputy agriculture minister on official visit to FinlandDeputy Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Costas Kiltidis is currently on an official visit to Finland.
As announced on Monday, he will have meetings with his Finnish counterpart and visit this country's forest regions.
 Exclusive interview with EBEA presidentGreek exports were negatively affected by the ongoing mobilizations by dockworkers, Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) president Constantine Michalos, in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA.
Michalos also said the liberalization of labor relations and ensurance of the viablility of the social security system must take the priority this year in the government's planned reforms.
To a question on what should be the priority reforms for the government in 2008, given that the business community in Greece has repeatedly called for speed in the reforms, Michalos said that the liberalization of labor relations and ensurance of the viability of the social security system were the two important points.
He said that flexible forms of work needed to be legislated, so as to render more flexible the system of hiring and dismissal.
Self-employment also needed to be boosted through the elimination of beaurocratic counter-incentives and the provision of tax incentives, as well as the encouragement of employee mobility.
On the social security system, he said it was commonly agreed that the anti-economy operation of the national system downgraded Greece's credibility, and the growth potential of the Greek economy.
EBEA, Michalos continued, believed that the reform of the social security system must be carried on on the basis of the existing structure of the current system, and along the rationale of modest reform from within a social dialogue.
Asked what the business community considered to be the most significant problems regarding the function of the markets and entrepreneurship, Michalos stressed that the number one problem was bureaucracy.
A radical change of the structures, and of course change of mentality, not only on the part of the political system but more so on the part of the business community, was mandatory, he said, adding that liberalization of the markets and the 'opening' of the 'closed' professions was a priority that the government needed to forge ahead with, in the framework of the reforms, as well as further reduction of the taxation rates on businesses.
Questioned what would be EBEA's stance on a prospective new increase in VAT rates in the future, Michalos said that a VAT increase in the coming months, as has been rumored on occasion, would spark a series of price hikes in goods and services, which in turn would burden inflation and be rolled over to the consumer.
Asked to elaborate on a recent statement he made that the increase in the prices of goods and services in Greece, influenced by negative international trends, requires immediate interventions on the market so as to alleviate the side-effects to both economic growth and social cohesion, Michalos said that, in the framework of the Chamber's role as an advisory institution to the government at each given time on matters of economy and growth, and given that high prices in recent months due to the international state of affairs, EBEA has made specific, practical proposals in two basic branches of the economy, those of foods, particularly agricultural products, and that of fuels.
Regarding fuels, EBEA's proposal concerns a decision/survey by the Competition Committee, on the basis of which hypermarkets and supermarkets should be eligible for licenses to petrol stations, Michalos said.
However, continued, this should be done in combination with another series of measures, with subsidies from the finance and development ministries, so as to achieve an "automation" of the existing fuel stations (the so-called self-service stations) and flexible working hours for those stations, in order to compress their operational cost and, by expansion, compress the end prices paid by the consumer.
With respect to foods, and particularly farm products, EBEA's proposal is that the government should licence, in the country's 13 Peripheries, an equal number of auction marts that would operate under stockmarket rules, given that the middlemen, as everyone knows, played the primary role at this time in the marketing of agricultural products, Michalos said.
The objective, he added, was to circumvent the middlemen, who benefit no one at this time, and enable the farmer, with his own means of transport to be issued to him based on the size of his farm expanse, to daily transport his production to the local auction mart and electronically, in accordance with the demand ans supply of the day, formulate the price.
Asked if he believed that the developments in the international economy will bring harder days to Greek entrepreneurship, Michalos said that the negative international situation has already resulted in record high petrol prices, and not only that, citing also a 110 percent increase in grain prices in the past year.
He said all these aspects influence the Greek industry and the products sold on the Greek market. EBEA, he continued, believed that these phenomena were conjunctural and that, in the second half of the year, things will have returned to more rational levels.
To a question on whether the continuing employee strikes at the Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports will influence exports and the smooth supply of the market with the necessary goods, Michalos said that Greek entrepreneurship was already being negatively affected.
He said that EBEA had met with representatives of the dockworkers, with their Federation, and made it clear that all the sides involved were steadfast against the mobilizations, despite the initial reservations of the business world to the first privatization plan tabled by the preceding Merchant Marine ministry leadership, adding that there was no justification today.
EBEA, he continued, believed that there was no reason today for the strike actions to continue, and warned that, if the labor action continued past this current week, many problems would be created in the exports and imports sector.
 "Kosmima" jewelry exhibition opens in AthensThe Kosmima Exclusive Athens 2008: International Exhibition of Jewelry, Clocks, Watches, Precious Stones, Machinery and Equipment opens Friday at the HELEXPO Palace exhibition grounds in Marousi with the participation of 169 exhibitors from Greece and another 18 countries.
"Hosted Buyers" and "Partenariat" programmes will also materialize within the framework of the HELEXPO-organized exhibition that comes as a follow up to the annual "Kosmima" exhibition in Thessaloniki.
Exhibitors are from Australia, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, United States, India, Spain, Italy, Canada, Cyprus, Lebanon, Lithuania, Netherlands, Russia, Turkey and Hong Kong.
The exhibition will be open until January 28.
 Athens eyes elimination of plastic supermarket bagsThe city of Athens on Monday announced that it will sign a memorandum of cooperation with supermarket chains next month aiming to eliminate plastic bags within municipal boundaries, an environment-friendly initiative similar to efforts in other major metropolises around the world.
The decision was taken on Monday at a working meeting chaired by Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis.
The development ministry's general secretary for commerce, Dimitrios Skiadas, as well as representatives of the supermarket chains A-B Vassilopoulos, Carrefour, Veropoulos, Sklavenitis, Dia, Metro, Atlantic, Galaxias and Bazaar attended the meeting.
A pilot scheme, which entails the gradual replacement of plastic bags with bags fabricated from environmentally friendly materials, will begin within the first two weeks of April. The aim is to totally eliminate the use of plastic supermarket bags within the upcoming summer.
The City of Athens is the largest and most populous municipality in the greater Athens-Piraeus area, which hosts roughly half of the country's population of 11 million residents and generates nearly two-thirds of the country's economic output.
 Black Sea Bank approves US$7.6-mln loan to Armenian retailerThe Black Sea Bank of Commerce and Development on Monday announced it has approved a 7.6 million US dollars loan to Armenian supermarket chain "SAS Group LLC". The money will be used to fund the company's expansion plan with the opening of three new supermarkets in Yerevan.
The Thessaloniki-based bank said the funding will contribute to the development of Armenia's food distribution sector, supporting farming, creating job positions and promoting bilateral financial and trade cooperation in the Black Sea region.
The Black Sea Bank was founded by Greece, Turkey, Russia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.
 Attica Bank expects sharp increase in 2008 resultsAttica Bank's business plan for the period 2007-2009 was progressing normally, Tryfon Kollintzas, the bank's chief executive announced on Monday, noting that Attica Bank surpassed targets set for 2007.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek banker noted that pre-tax profits for 2008 were expected to reach 35 million euros, up from 23 million in 2007, while another 10 bank branches were expected to open, bringing the total to 81 this year and 90 branches in 2009.
Kollintzas said the bank was examining plans to raise its equity capital, in a move aimed to deal with the rising cost of money amid an international credit crisis.
Commenting on a government decision to privatise the bank, Kollintzas said Attica Bank has largely completed its restructuring programme and that the decision and timetables were determined by its shareholders (the Postal Savings Bank and the Loans Fund).
 Government confirms looking into purchase of new VIP planeGovernment spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Monday said that the inner cabinet has ordered a feasibility study into the possible purchase of a new VIP plane for the prime minister. He had been asked to comment on press reports that the government intends to buy a huge new luxury plane costing 100 million euros without holding an international tender.
 Greek stocks plunge 6.17 %Greek stocks crashed at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, in line with a sharp fall in other European markets of worries regarding an economic slowdown in Europe amidst an international credit crisis.
The composite index dropped 6.17 pct to end at 4,304.25 points with turnover a strong 561.5 million euros, of which 63.6 million were block trades.
All sectors ended lower, with Raw Materials (11.79 pct), Utilities (9.76 pct), Industrial Products (9.70 pct), Technology (8.28 pct), Chemicals (8.11 pct), Media (7.08 pct) and Banks (6.33 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Big Cap index plunged 6.0 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 6.48 pct down and the Small Cap index dropped 5.50 pct. Informer (9.22 pct), Boutaris (9.0 pct) and Perseus (8.57 pct) were top gainers, while Rilken (19.64 pct), Kreka (19.62 pct) and Rainbow (18.92 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 276 to 10 with another 10 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -6.02%
Personal & Household: -5.97%
Raw Materials: -11.79%
Travel & Leisure: -4.25%
Food & Beverages: -4.22%
Financial Services: -4.80%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 21.54
Public Power Corp (PPC): 28.00
HBC Coca Cola: 27.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.24
National Bank of Greece: 40.80
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 18.80
Titan Cement Company: 30.60
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover an improved 263.898 million euros. Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 19,714 contracts worth 228.456 million euros, with 29,033 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 178 contracts worth 4.564 million euros, with 430 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 20,104 contracts worth 25.544 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Investment Bank's contracts (2,919), followed by Eurobank (1,751), National Bank (1,572), Alpha Bank (1,181), Intracom (2,397), Marfin Popular Bank (2,394), Mytilineos (727), Postal Savings Ban (771) and ATEbank (1,641).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 1.925 billion euros on Monday, of which 882 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.0434 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 553 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.38 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.28 pct and the German Bund 3.90 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved lower. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.02 pct, the two-day rate 4.02 pct, the one-month rate 4.21 pct and the 12-month rate 4.39 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.459
Pound sterling 0.749
Danish kroner 7.511
Swedish kroner 9.551
Japanese yen 155.08
Swiss franc 1.611
Norwegian kroner 8.090
Canadian dollar 1.504
Australian dollar 1.686
 International conference on public administration opens in AthensInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos was the keynote speaker on the opening day of an international conference on Training and Education in Contemporary Public Administration, organized in Athens by the National Centre of Public Administration and Local Government. The centre falls under the supervision of the interior ministry and was established in 1986 to undertake the modernization of the Greek public administration based on the European community standards.
Pavlopoulos stated that public administration reform can be achieved with the contribution of public administration officials that are being called to play a leading role in combating red tape through the simplification of administrative procedures to best serve the people.
The key points in public administration personnel training and education is the upgrading of studies at the National School of Public Administration and the Local Government School, e-governance and decentralization.
 Archbishop Christodoulos honoredMOSCOW ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos is among this year's honored by the annual award of the Foundation of the Unity of Orthodox Peoples, it was announced on Monday.
Moscow and All Russia Patriarch Alexios II, who on Monday bestowed the prizes to the honored, wished Archbishop Christodoulos "to overcome the adventure of his health and receive in the future in person the award."
 Murder trial of 'balcony leap' dad begins on CreteThe trial of a 34-year-old British man accused of killing his six-year-old son and injuring his infant daughter by leaping off a Cretan resort hotel's fourth-floor balcony in August 2006 began in the port city of Hania on Monday amid heightened coverage by mostly British media.
John Hogan tearfully answered questions put forth by a panel of four justices and three jurors, at one point asking for forgiveness and repeating that he was unaware of his actions at the time.
Hogan, who is charged with homicide and attempted homicide, told the court he was infuriated that his wife announced she wanted a divorce. Natasha Steel, now Hogan's ex-wife, was present in court during the first day's deliberations.
His counsel, local attorney Dimitris Xyritakis, said his client takes responsibility for his actions, although he said the defendant was "not of sound mind" during the incident.
Steel testified for two hours with the help of a translator, saying at one point that she did not love her ex-husband and wanted to separate.
Repeating her comments in several press reports published by British papers over recent months, Steel, a nurse by training, said a vicious row between the couple erupted just prior to Hogan leaping off the 12.7-metre drop with his two children in his arms.
Based on the report of two psychiatrists that examined Hogan by prosecutor's order, a judge had ordered his incarceration in the Korydallos (Athens) penitentiary's psychiatric ward until the time of his trial. Hogan attempted to take his own life once again in Korydallos and his attorney, in fact, said his client attempted to commit suicide on four different occasions.
The packed courtroom also heard testimony that Hogan's two brothers committed suicide and that he quit taking his prescribed anti-depressant medications just prior to the holiday.
Another four prosecution witnesses followed on Monday.
 Bank robber killed in hold-upAn armed man was killed by a special guard on Monday morning as he and an accomplice attempted to make a getaway after a hold-up at a Postal Bank branch at Attikis Square in Athens. The accomplice managed to escape, with an unknown amount of money.
According to police, the two armed men rushed into the Postal Bank and, at gunpoint, grabbed an as yet unknown amount of money.
A special guard, who was at the teller booth making a transaction at the time, raced after the two armed men as they exited the bank, and shouted at them to surrender. The culprits turned around and threatened the guard, who fired at them, resulting in the death of one of the armed men, while the second robber escaped.
Athens Security Police officers were investigating the incident.
 Captured fugitive Stefanakos led before a prosecutorThe most wanted criminal in Greece, 47-year-old Vasilis Stefanakos, was led before a prosecutor Sunday following his arrest on Saturday during a police raid on a house in western Athens.
Stefanakos was arrested by police acting on a tip-off after being on the run since December 14, 2006 when he was sentenced to 14 years and 6 months in prison after being found guilty of forming a criminal organization and a number of other offenses.
Police found in Stefanakos' hideout an entire arsenal and seized three Kalashnikov assault riffles, a Mauser military riffle, an unidentified military riffle, a hunting carbine, 360 rounds of ammunition, a handgun silencer and two flare guns.
When officers arrested Stefanakos, he was armed with two fully loaded handguns and a stun grenade. Police said they also found a small amount of drugs on him, possibly cocaine, as well as six mobile phones and a forged identity card.
Stefanakos' 64-year-old uncle was also arrested after a police search in his house revealed a handgun he possessed illegally.
Stefanakos topped the West Attica Region most wanted list with 44 outstanding arrest warrants. He was accused of moral instigation in the murder of Themis Kalapotharakos on July 2000 in Nea Makri, oil and tobacco smuggling, blackmail, attacks resulting in bodily harm and other crimes.
In December 2006, he was convicted in absentia and two police officers were charged last year for helping Stefanakos obtain a new identity card in someone else's name.
Stefanakos was also one of the organizers of the spectacular helicopter escape of infamous Greek outlaw Vassilis Paleokostas and Albanian Alket Rijai in June 2006 from the Korydallos Prison compound.
Stefanakos is further being investigated on charges of moral instigation in a series of underworld killings in the past year in an ongoing gang war in Western Attica.
 A total of 238 illegal immigrants arrested in Ipiros in past three daysA total of 238 illegal immigrants crossing the Greek-Albanian border have been arrested in the northern region of Ipiros over the past three days.
Border guards spotted a truck in the area of Loutro, in Etoloakarnania, which they thought to be suspicious and tried to check it. The truckdriver ignored their signal to stop and sped away. He then rammed the border guards' vehicle with the truck, damaging it and fled the scene on foot.
However, he was arrested in the city of Agrinio later on, being a passenger in another truck whose driver used to warn of the presence of police roadblocks, who was also arrested.
The first truck was found carrying 25 Albanian illegal immigrants, who were being taken to Athens for a fee. Police ascertained that the truck had been stolen in the region of Stavroupoli, in the city of Thessaloniki, on January 14.
Border guards arrested a Greek in Konitsa, in the prefecture of Ioannina, for carrying three Albania illegal immigrants in his car for a fee. Another Greek was also arrested who was driving another car to warn him of possible roadblocks ahead.
In Nea Selefkia in Thesprotia, border guards arrested a Greek for carrying in his car three Albanian women who were illegal immigrants, one of whom had her child with her, and who were heading to Athens in return for a fee. Another Albanian woman was also arrested who was riding in another watchout car.
Another Greek was also caught carrying nine Albanian illegal immigrants in his truck from the Greek-Albanian border. They were intercepted at Asproklisi and arrested, as well as two other Greeks riding in a watchout car.
Lastly, an Albanian was arrested at Bourazani in Konitsa for carrying a couple of Albanian illegal immigrants and their two children in his car for a fee.
 Series of overnight arson attacks in Athens and ThessalonikiA series of arson attacks took part in different parts of the wider Athens region over a period of 15 minutes between 00:55am and 01:10am on Monday morning targeting car dealerships, banks and a Public Power Corporation (PPC) crane lorry.
Unidentified individuals used homemade incendiary devices made of propane canisters to torch three car dealerships in Halandri, Nea Erythrea and Argyroupolis destroying a total of 22 luxury cars.
Homemade incendiary devices targeted the cash machines, ATM, of a CitiBank and a Piraeus Bank, in Patisia and Daphni respectively, while three Eurobank "Open 24" branches were also torched in Daphni, Nea Philadelphia and Egaleo.
A homemade device caused minor damage to a PPC crane lorry parked in Omonia Square.
Meanwhile, a homemade incendiary device made of propane canisters, planted at a National Bank of Greece entrance in Peristeri, failed to explode and was picked up by bomb specialists to have it examined for fingerprints or other evidence that could lead to the culprits' arrest.
The northern Greek city of Thessaloniki was also the scene of an overnight torch attack.
A Millennium Bank cash machine, ATM, was torched at 1:00am. The fire that broke out was quickly put out by firefighters after causing minor damage.
 Mostly fair on TuesdayMostly fair weather with southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 5-6 beaufort. Fog in the morning. Temperatures will range between -1C and 20C. Fair in Athens, with southwesterly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 19C. Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 14C.
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