|Tuesday, 2 June 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-01-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 24 January 2008 Issue No: 2802
 Karamanlis begins long-awaited visit to Ankara, talks with ErdoganANKARA (ANA-MPA/A. Panagopoulos)
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis began a milestone official three-day visit in Ankara on Wednesday, as private talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan dominated his first day in the Turkish capital.
In statements to reporters, Karamanlis stressed that 2008 will be important for strengthening relations between the two countries and will be a "window of opportunity" to boost ties in all sectors.
Erdogan welcomed Karamanlis and pointed out that it is the first visit by a Greek prime minister to Ankara in 49 years.
On his part, Karamanlis thanked his Turkish counterpart for the warm welcome extended to him and said that the problems of the past must be overcome and the two countries must seize the opportunity of the future.
The Greek prime minister said that bilateral and international issues were discussed and stressed that there has been considerable progress in certain sectors, compared to the past, as he mentioned economic relations as an example, as well as cooperation in the energy sector.
Karamanlis reiterated Greece's support for Turkey's European prospects, noting that the European adjustment of each candidate country, as well as of Turkey, is a difficult process, requiring great effort, determination and commitment.
He also reiterated that Greece supports the principle of "full adjustment, full accession" and stressed that this means that Turkey must proceed along the path of reforms, fulfilling the criteria and the prerequisites set by the European Union and then the EU must accept it in the big European family - Athens' leitmotif regarding possible EU accession for Turkey.
Speaking after their talks, which lasted for an hour more than had been initially been scheduled, Erdogan emphasised that leaders attract greater attention when they dare to "reject taboos", while stressing that an intensive dialogue has begun between the two countries since 1999, and particularly over the last five years.
The Turkish prime minister further said that 2008 will also be important for the Cyprus issue, noting that talks must be resumed, and that the guarantor powers and "homelands" (i.e. Greece and Turkey) must encourage.
Both prime ministers, Erdogan said, believe that the Aegean Sea must be a "sea of peace".
"We believe it expedient for a period of cooperation and solidarity to begin between the two sides of the Aegean. A case where the countries are a threat for each other cannot help world peace. Whatever effort is not aimed at peace offers no service to the world," Erdogan added.
He further said that efforts must be speeded up in sectors where no problems exist. And on the other hand, efforts to decrease the distance in sectors where problems do exist must be continued.
Erdogan said that the two prime ministers agreed on accelerating preliminary talks that will also be given a content and importance.
He referred to cooperation in all sectors, particularly in energy, and thanked Greece for supporting Turkey's European prospects.
Erdogan stressed that minorities constitute a bridge between the two countries, noting that there is understanding to a great degree between the two countries on resolving the problems "faced by our minorities." He added that the foreign ministers of the two countries must resolve these problems at a speedy pace.
"The more we try to resolve both the problems existing in western Thrace, and the problems existing here, the more the bridge of friendship between the two countries will be strengthened," Erdogan said.
 Ecumenical Patriarchate, continental shelf, CyprusOn his part, Karamanlis underlined that the issues of the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the closed Halki School of Theology are included in this European framework, while stressing at the same time that protection of minority rights is one of the most fundamental of European criteria.
The Greek prime minister went on to say that a full normalization of Greek-Turkish relations remains the primary goal. He said that this is the sole path for substantive progress that will "allow us to utilise the opportunities presented in the European framework."
"And for our relations to be able to move substantively, he pointed out that the sole criterion is international law and international treaties. It is self-evident that for two countries participating in the same alliance and that aspire to cooperate in the future, in the framework of the same European family, there is no other path than the peaceful resolving of whatever issue in the framework of international legality," the Greek prime minister stressed.
Karamanlis added that both prime ministers agree that investigatory contacts should be intensified and continued.
Lastly, regarding the thorny issue of Cyprus, Karamanlis referred to the process agreed on July 8, 2006, whose full implementation will lead, as he said, to a concerted effort to resolve the problem and spoke of a just, viable and workable solution.
Replying to a question on the issue of the continental shelf, Karamanlis said that "indeed there is a pending issue in bilateral relations that conerns the delineation of the continental shelf and international law and international treaties are the tools to resolve it."
Karamanlis added that Greece has declared its readiness for resorting to the International Court at the Hague and that a solution to this issue will create a great momentum for improving relations between the two countries.
The prime minister pointed out that the full normalization of Greek-Turkish relations is the main aim and in this context, he stressed, relations of good neighborliness are an undeviating precondition.
He underlined at the same time that "it is inconceivable for countries aspiring to cooperate in a European framework for tensions, provocations or the threat of the use of force to continue remaining."
Referring to the issue of the continental shelf, the Turkish prime minister said that 37 probing contacts have taken place so far and the 38th meeting will be taking place soon.
"The fact that the talks are lasting for so long is due to the seriousness of the issue. It is our intention that a solution is found to this issue, which is one of the main ones, so that such issues will not affect relations between the two countries," Erdogan said.
On the question of Cyprus, Karamanlis mentioned that the political problem on the island must be resolved and, at last, there should be a reunification of the island for the benefit of all the inhabitants of Cyprus.
Karamanlis underlined that the issue of Cyprus is an international problem but its solution will surely help a great deal the atmosphere in Greek-Turkish relations.
The Greek prime minister said that the framework is set by international law, by Security Council resolutions, by the principles of the EU, as well as by the agreement reached on July 8, 2006, stressing that "we must seize the opportunity so that the last wall still standing in Europe will be removed."
"We are ready to help with all our strength the effort to find a solution based on these principles, that will be viable and workable," Karamanlis said.
The Greek prime minister further said that "a solution to the problem of Cyprus is of crucial importance for Turkey's path to the EU and the normalization of Turkey's relations with Cyprus is necessary in every case."
The Turkish prime minister said that he places great importance on the timetable until the elections in Cyprus, as well as after the election process on the island, stressing that he is expecting Karamanlis to provide an impetus for the resumption of talks.
Erdogan referred to the Annan plan and to its rejection, saying, however, that its spirit and essence can be maintained, while reiterating that the guarantor countries must provide encouragement so that this issue can be resolved with talks.
On the question of the Patriarchate, Karamanlis said that the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has its seat here is a great benefit for Turkey and it is a great "European passport" and criterion.
Erdogan said that Turkey's interest in the Patriarchate is well-known, noting that his country has made every effort and has taken many steps, while mentioning that the characterization ecumenical is of interest to the Christian Orthodox world.
As regards the Halki Schol of Theology, he said that it had operated until 1972 and then it stopped operating, adding that "we are working on this issue, we are evaluating it and then we shall decide."
Lastly, the prime minister said that 49 years will not be necessary for a visit to Turkey by a Greek prime minister to take place again, while the press conference came to an end with the Turkish prime minister saying in Greek "thank you very much." The two delegations then attended an official dinner.
 KKE negative on PM's visit to TurkeyThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said Wednesday that the Greek and Turkish people should have no delusions that something good would arise for them and for peace and stability in the region from Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis' official visit to Ankara, which begins Wednesday afternoon.
On the contrary, a KKE announcement said, "they should be worried, because the meeting (between the Greek and Turkish prime ministers) may contribute to the development of cooperation between business groups of the two countries, and between the governments for their more active participation in the dangerous imperialistic planning in our region".
The KKE said that it was not incidental that absent from the itinerary of the meeting were the major issues concerning the relations between the two countries, such as Turkey's dispute of the status quo in the region and Greece's sovereign rights, such as the "gray zones", the violations of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) and Greece's national airspace of 10 nautical miles, Turkey's threat of casus belli in the event that Greece made use of its right to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean to 12 nautical miles, and the exemptions of islands in NATO manoeuvres, etc.
The KKE called on both the Greek and Turkish peoples to strengthen their anti-imperialism cooperation and fight, saying this was the only way to confront the aggressive policy of the imperialistic organizations, their antagonism and interventions that divide the peoples in order to take advantage of them.
 Cyprus President on Greek PM's visit to TurkeyNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)
Every action and initiative that improves relations between Greece and Turkey definitely have beneficial effects on the Cyprus issue, Cyprus president Tassos Papadopoulos said Wednesday, asked to comment on Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis' official visit to Ankara, where the Greek premier was due to arrive later in the day for talks with the Turkish government.
Papadopoulos confirmed that he had spoken by phone with Karamanlis and that, in full cooperation, the Greek prime minister was advancing the well-known positions of the Greek side.
Asked whether the groundwork was conducive for taking advantage of any gesture by Karamanlis towards his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Papadopoulos said that, in order for there to be a conducive atmosphere, the desire of both sides was necessary.
"Our position is simple and clear, namely that every action, every initiative that improves Greece-Turkey relations certainly has beneficial effects on the Cyprus issue as well," Papadopoulos said.
 U.S. hails Greek PM's visit to TurkeyWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
The United States on Wednesday hailed Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' visit to Turkey.
State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said "we have always believed it's very important for our two good friends and NATO allies, Greece and Turkey, to be able to work with one another and to be able to work through some of the differences, historical and otherwise, that they've had.
"Certainly we welcome any and all diplomatic contacts and certainly view this visit as an opportunity for our two good friends to be able to get together and continue their dialogue and discussions."
Asked on U.S.-Greek relations the spokesman said:
"The relationship between our two countries is the best it's been in decades. And we have excellent relations with the prime minister and foreign minister, and are grateful to both for their strong support of a closer U.S.-Greece alliance during their time in office."
 Greece on FYROM minister's statements over name issueGreece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) are in the midst of a negotiation process taking place under the aegis of the United Nations to find a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of FYROM's name, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Wednesday.
He had been asked to respond to statements by FYROM's Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, who said his country would "terminate" the 1995 interim agreement with Greece if Athens decided to veto FYROM's accession to NATO.
Regarding other statements by Milososki on this issue, particularly his assertion that the Greek government was using the name issue to divert attention from domestic scandals, Antonaros said that this had been replied by the Greek foreign ministry, which had urged Skopje's state and political leadership to declare whether they backed the "tone and manner" of Milososki's statements.
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 neighbouring FYROM, the country's Slav majority see the name as an issue of identity and stability.
 New electoral law passedThe Interior Ministry's bill on the amendment of electoral law 3231/2004 was passed by Parliament's plenum on Wednesday.
The government majority was in favour while the opposition parties voted against it.
Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos defended the bill, stressing the need "for political and governmental stability with the maintenance of the proportional representation system," while he noted that the government "does not proceed in opportunistic changes of the electoral law and this is why it brings it to the start of its tenure."
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos criticised the government terming it "hostage and subservient of big foreign and local interests."
Alavanos claimed that "we live at the end of the era of bipartisanship," adding that "there is an alignment and identity of views between the two big parties in order for this system to be kept, and on this basis, the electoral laws of the (ruling) New Democracy party and (the main opposition) PASOK are being introduced."
In his reply, Pavlopoulos said, "Don't be sure Mr. Alavanos that what helps a party is the electoral law. It's not the electoral law which helps, but life itself."
Pavlopoulos also criticised PASOK, charging it that "it escaped from the revised process, invoking a coup vote, because those days PASOK was rattled domestically over Article 16."
New Democracy (ND) party rapporteur Constantine Gioulekas noted that the government, "brings at the beginning of its tenure an electoral law which makes clear the terms of the political game, thus overturning practices of the past with petty party logic."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) rapporteur Spyros Halvatzis noted that his party "categorically rejects the theories regarding stable governments because their final target is for the European Union's policy in favour of big interests to continue at length."
 PASOK leader crosses swords with interior minister in parliamentMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou and interior minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos crossed swords in parliament on Tuesday night, during a debate on amendment of the electoral law.
Papandreou called the Constitutional revision process "dead", and proposed the commencement, with the agreement of all the political parties, of a new revisionary procedure focusing mainly on a national plan to combat corruption and aiming at the autonomy of the country's political life.
Responding to Papandreou's statements, Pavlopoulos rejected his proposal as "barren and unconvincing", and accused PASOK of being at a loss and sacrificing "this top parliamentary procedure" on the altar of its internal problems because "it lacks positions and also because it fears the voting".
Ruling New Democracy (ND) party Panos Panagiotopoulos also accused PASOK of "opting for the easy, barren and dangerous path in order to cover its internal problems, which have relapsed recently".
Replying to Papandreou's proposal for a new revisionary process, parliament president Dimitris Sioufas said that, although he would not comment on the content of the proposal, he nevertheless bore the responsibility, as president of Parliament, to point out that the present parliament was a Revisionary Parliament based on the vote of the Greek people (in the last general elections, which re-elected the ND government, with Constitutional revision being one of the main objectives in its platform).
He explained that the Constitution contained provisions in the event of inability of the revisionary, according to which a new revisionary process may be commenced after completion, with the revant voting, of the current revisionary procedure.
Papandreou replied that his proposal aimed at Greece's exit from the political impasse, which he said downgraded the institutions and Parliament.
On the Zachopoulos affair, Papandreou launched a personal attack against prime minister Costas Karamanlis, calling him "weak, dependent, and a hostage", and earned that the government was slipping onto a danger road of corruption and decadence.
Pavlopoulos replied that the prime minister was not a hostage, but was powerful and supported by the people. "He is the prime minister who introduced a new ethos in the political life of the country, and is neither coerced, nor coerces".
The PASOK leader also accused the prime minister and the government of being incapable of tackling the dangerous crisis in moral values and disdain of the institutions, at a time when the Greek citizens felt insecure and unprotected from the 'opportunists of authority'.
Papandreou further attacked the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) over their criticism that the two mainstream parties (ND and PASOK) were "one and the same thing", noting that "historically, populism never benefited the Left but, rather, the ultra Right".
The climate became even more heated when Papandreou questioned the timing of Karamanlis' official visit to Turkey, which begins on Wednesday, saying he had big reservations, although expressing the hope that it would go well, drawing accusations from Pavlopoulos that the PASOK leader, with regard to such a crucial visit, had half-heartedly wished the prime minister a good trip, only to retract it with insults.
 Government rejects PASOK proposal for ConstitutionAlternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday signalled the government's rejection of a proposal by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou to stop the process of revising the Greek Constitution and start again from scratch. According to Antonaros, the proposal was yet another attempt by Papandreou to create a political hubbub that would help him deal with the party's internal problems.
"If PASOK and its leader really want to contribute to dealing with the real problems, then they must come to Parliament and collaborate with the revision and not be absent," Antonaros said.
The spokesman noted that Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos had outlined in detail what needed to be done in terms of revising the Constitution and stressed that it was essential for the revision to go ahead. The main opposition's absence proved that it did not desire change, he added.
 Interior minister rejects ND MPs criticism on election lawInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Wednesday defended an article in a draft election law bill that excluded party coalitions from a 10-seat bonus reserved for single parties.
"It is one thing when people set up a party and say this is true convergence and I will govern the country and another to coalesce an opportunist convergence in order to take over power. Shouldn't the first be treated differently from a purely opportunist convergence that says, on the eve of the election, I'll simply run joint tickets. Is power a trophy?" Pavlopoulos said.
He also clarified that what he called "true coalitions" where the parties involved produced a single, converged program that clearly stated what they intended to do once in power would be treated as a single party under the new law.
The particular point of the bill had been criticized by ruling New Democracy MP and former minister Petros Tatoulis, who claimed that it was sacrificing the Constitutional principle of the equality of each vote in the name of governmental and political stability.
Tatoulis made it clear, however, that he would go along with his party's choices while not giving up his right to freely express his views.
 LAOS leader calls for 'government of personalities'Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis on Wednesday called for the creation of a "government of personalities" to coincide with the EuroParliament elections and attacked the government, indirectly calling for its resignation.
Karatzaferis made the statements during a press conference in which he said the country was "passing through a time of corruption that has also pervaded justice".
"It is not healthy for one to see the associates of the prime minister coming in and out of the examining magistrate's office at strange hours. If [the head of the prime minister's press office Yiannis] Andrianos acted on his own initiative when he took the DVD then he should be booted out. If the government is not being blackmailed, as the prime minister said, then why did Andrianos take the DVD," Karatzaferis said.
 Felony charges pending in Zachopoulos caseA first instance court prosecutor on Wednesday brought felony charges against all persons responsible in the case of the attempted blackmail of former culture ministry secretary general Christos Zachopoulos, based on evidence collected by a special examining magistrate.
The felony charges concern the alleged blackmailing attempt against Zachopoulos and the violation of personal data protection laws.
Zachopoulos attempted to commit suicide late last month after being allegedly blackmailed with a DVD reportedly containing footage of a sexual encounter with former ministry contract employee Evi Tsekou. The attempted suicide prompted an avalanche of accusations and revelations allegedly involving journalists and politicians and their role in the case.
Meanwhile, Greece's most prominent television investigative reporter, Makis Triantafyllopoulos, was the latest journalist to answer a magistrate's questions on Wednesday regarding the simmering and now maze-like Zachopoulos blackmailing case, an affair that has aroused political, judicial and heightened media interest in the country.
Triantafyllopoulos, who is also listed as the co-publisher of the Sunday weekly "Proto Thema", appeared to answer questions over the alleged involvement of an unnamed ruling ND deputy in efforts to "mediate" a dispute over roughly five million euros later found in a bank account belonging to Triantafyllopoulos' partner, controversial TV host and erstwhile newspaper columnist Themos Anastasiadis.
 Parliamentary Transparency and Institutions CommitteeThe President of the non-governmental organization 'Transparency International-Greek Section', Costas Bakouris, met on Wednesday with praise, scepticism and reactions for its activities at the Parliamentary Transparency and Institutions Committee.
Invited by the Committee to present his organization's report on corruption in Greece, Bakouris noted that "the institutions are in doubt", "Parliament must regain its credibility" and "society considers the parties as being the most corrupt institutions."
He invoked evidence contained in a survey by the organization according to which, in relation to corruption, parties receive 4.1 out of 5, while Parliament receives 3.4.
The president of Transparency International proposed the creation of a "national and social alliance of integrity and transparency," a revision of the constitution in the direction of widening social accountability, special lessons at schools, the creation of a code of conduct for the public sector, the members of Parliament and of the government, a Greek index for corruption and the enactment of a relevant annual report.
The observations made by Bakouris drew strong reaction from the Communist Party of Greece's (KKE) representative at the Committee, Liana Kanelli, who claimed that the specific non-governmental organization participates in conferences with the World Bank and the U.S. State Department, its president has made statements in favour of "international governance". She also referred to reports appearing in the German press and in German websites on extensive pressure exerted by the organization on a website criticizing it.
 Gov't on Dimas's criticism of environment ministryAsked to comment on a barrage of statements exchanged by European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas and Greek Environment Minister George Souflias over Greece's track record on climate change and other environmental measures, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday said that the government "respects the work of the European Commission and the Commissioners".
Regarding Dimas' criticism of the environment ministry, Antonaros said that Souflias had "answered in detail and fully adequately" and that the environment ministry was making a massive effort to deal with the accumulated environmental problems.
"It is well known and there have also been references by myself to specific issues that have been dealt with and continue to be dealt with through continual actions in which the country is lagging far behind," Antonaros noted, adding that the environment ministry's measures were making up for lost time.
 Alogoskoufis comments at ECOFIN meetingLikely repercussions on the European economy as a result of heightened turbulence in international money markets, high-risk housing loans woes in the United States and worries over the price of oil and raw materials were examined by EU finance ministers at the ECOFIN meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said Stability and Development Pact issues as well as revision of state quotas in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as the Slovenian EU Presidency's priorities were among the topics discussed.
Alogoskoufis stated that the European economy is strong due to reforms promoted in previous years and because of the successful implementation of the Revised Stability and Development Pact. He added, however, that despite indications in Europe that this is the peak of the more recent upward trend of the economic circle "it does not mean that a change in the direction of the economic policy is necessary."
"Fiscal Reform has to continue," Alogoskoufis said, adding that it was agreed in ECOFIN that goals of a revised Stability and Development Programme should be fully observed.
"Europe has the advantage of a concrete and known in advance set of rules on the implementation of the macroeconomic policy," he said.
Alogoskoufis stated that the first round of reforms, launched in 2005, closes with the European Council meeting in March and the new 2008-2010 round of reforms will get underway.
He underlined the risk of imported inflation, brought on by oil, raw materials and foodstuffs prices, pointing out that it could evolve into a problem for Europe through a spiraling increase of wages and prices.
Alogoskoufis also stated that the state revenue policy will be announced by the end of February.
 PM Karamanlis confers with FinMin ahead of departure for TurkeyPrime minister Costas Karamanlis met Wednesday morning with economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, who told reporters afterwards that he briefed the permier on the recent Eurogroup and EU economy and finance ministers' (ECOFIN) meetings he attended, as well as on international economic developments.
Alogoskoufis said that although there were hazards for the US economy, the European economy was doing very well due to the reforms being made, and also due to the Stability Pact and the Lisbon Strategy.
 Greek-Turkish Business forum in Istanbul on Fri.ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA)
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be present on Friday for a convening of the Greek-Turkish Business Forum here, on the sidelines of the Greek leader's visit to the neighbouring country.
The forum is being jointly hosted by the Federations of Greek Industries (SEB) and its Turkish counterparts, DEIK and TUSIAD.
 Greece-China product standardization agreementGreece and China are to sign a cooperation agreement dealing with the standardization of packaged goods in Athens on Thursday at the development ministry. The agreement will be signed by Deputy Development Minister Stavros Kalafatis on behalf of the Greek government and Development Minister Christos Folias.
Representing the Chinese side will be Liu Pingjun, who runs the Standardization Administration of the Peoples' Republic of China (SAC) and is a senior official within the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China (AQSIQ).
The body that will be responsible for carrying out the agreement will be the Hellenic Organization for Standardization (ELOT) and the SAC.
 Dialogue on upgrading public transport in AtticaTransport and Communication Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Wednesday reiterated the government's decision to rapidly upgrade the public transport system in the wider Athens region, where the number of private cars has more than doubled over the past decade to reach 2.2 million. He was addressing the first Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA) meeting for dialogue on the Attica General Transport Plan.
The minister stated that the main goals of the policy on public transport are traffic decongestion in urban centers, easy access to the city, safe transportation and a cleaner environment.
Hatzidakis added that appropriate planning and systematic moves through honest and substantive dialogue are necessary to implement the goals mentioned. He also referred to the initiatives and actions undertaken by the ministry in this direction, such as establishing a "green transport" committee, promotion of telematics technology, the "smart" card that will gradually replace conventional tickets, further extension of bus lanes and tram and electric train (HSAP) services, to Piraeus and Aghios Stefanos respectively, and bus fleet renewal.
 British Airways celebrates 3rd anniversary of direct Thessaloniki-London flightBritish Airways, celebrating the third anniversary of its direct Thessaloniki-London flight, is offering its passengers on the route a discounted rate of 69 euros for a one-way ticket, airport taxes included.
The offer is good for tickets that will be issued between January 22 and February 4 via the airline's website www.ba.com <http://www.ba.com> and applies to flights that will take place until March 31, 2008.
The British Airways direct flight linking Thessaloniki with London is scheduled five times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday). Departure time from Thessaloniki's Macedonia Airport is set at 15:25 and arrival at London's Gatwick Airport at 17:00.
 National General Collective Labour AgreementThe Federation of Greek Industries and Enterprises (SEB), in a document of principles sent to the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the GSEBEE and ESEE labor unions, highlights the need for widening and deepening the agenda of the upcoming talks on the National General Collective Labor Agreement to enable it to contain all aspects composing the modern-day labor market.
The document stresses that SEB "will discuss all the issues raised by GSEE in good faith, appearing at the negotiations with a feeling of responsibility and with the aim of achieving their successful outcome."
However, according to the Federation, the agenda must be expanded to enable the foundations to be laid for an integrated approach to the labor market, with the purpose of reducing unemployment, financial inequalities and phenomena of social exclusion.
Lastly, SEB stressed that restricting the talks to narrow union levels "does not provide solutions and a substantive exit from the modern-day problems of the forces of labor."
 GSEE to declare 24-hour strike on February 13The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), the largest umbrella trade union group representing private sector workers in the country, on Wednesday decided to declare a 24-hour general strike on February 13.
A GSEE general meeting also sanctioned the union's executive committee to declare a further 24-hour general strike on a day of its choosing, depending on developments concerning the demands of the workforce and especially if the government unveils its draft bill for social insurance and pension system reforms.
On this issue, the trade union group warned that "hardline, anti-insurance reversals" to the system were being prepared.
The meeting also agreed to an immediate start of negotiations for a national general collective agreement in order to demand real and substantial wage increases that would cover an "explosion of high prices and inflation that will have serious repercussions on the buying power of wage earners and pensioners".
 Alpha Bank to launch first Exchange Traded Fund on ASEThe Alpha Bank Group has announced the listing on Thursday of the first Exchange Traded Fund on the Athens Stock Exchange, the Alpha ETF FTSE Athex 20. This will be the first ETF on the Athens Exchange, and will track the FTSE Athex 20 Index, composed of 20 large capitalisation stocks.
ETFs are index-tracking mutual funds that trade like stocks and track the return of a specific index. ETFs are essentially portfolios of securities that allow investors easy access to a particular market. At present, there are ETFs that track a significant number of stock indices globally, but also ETFs that track bond indices and other listed securities. ETFs have expanded globally on the interest of retail and institutional investors alike, and are used as a long-term investment vehicle just as well as for short-term trading.
 Intrakat lands contracts worth 2.4 million eurosIntrakat on Wednesday announced the signature of contracts with the municipalities of Volos, Livadia and Argos to set up and operate three metropolitan fiber-optic networks budgeted at 2.4 million euros in total (1.33 million euros, 0.57 million euros and 0.49 million euros, respectively).
The projects, which envisage fiber-optic networks with a total combined length of 32.53 kilometers, are scheduled to be complete before the end of the year and are part of the Information Society Program.
 Metka-GE JV lowest bidders in Romanian power station tenderThe Metka-General Electric joint venture were the lowest bidders in an international tender for the construction of a 850MW power station in Petrobrazi, Romania, the Greek construction company announced on Wednesday.
The tender was held by the company Petrom SA, a subsidiary of the multinational OMV-Austria.
Negotiations to finalize the terms of the contract begin in Vienna on Thursday and are expected to be concluded in three weeks. Metka clarified that while the negotiations are underway, the company will not be in a position to disclose any further details regarding its offer or the contract.
 Athens Medical inaugurates new clinic in PeristeriThe Athens Medical S.A. group on Wednesday announced the inauguration of its eighth clinic in Attica, the Athens Medical Peristeri Clinic, by Health and Social Solidarity Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
The group said that the clinic was the most modern hospital unit in western Attica and CEO Vassilis Apostolopoulos told reporters that the 10-million-euro investment completed the group's five year business plan.
The new business plan to be announced in the first trimester of 2008 will outline the group's further expansion in Greece and abroad, he added.
 Greek stocks down 3.63% on Wed.Greek stocks ended Wednesday's session dramatically down for a second straight day, following pressure on most international markets, with the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) losing 3.63 percent during trading.
The composite index ended at 4,098.75 points with turnover a heavy 603.9 million euros, of which 33.8 million were block trades.
All sector moved lower. Utilities (7.18 pct), Financial Services (6.24 pct), Oil&Gas (5.82 pct) and Technology (5.02 pct) and Raw Materials (4.84 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Big Cap index fell 4.09 pct, the Mid Cap index dropped 1.65 pct and the Small Cap index ended 2.58 pct lower.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 224 to 47 with another 24 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -5.82%
Personal & Household: -1.15%
Raw Materials: -4.72%
Travel & Leisure: -3.37%
Food & Beverages: -0.95%
Financial Services: -6.24%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Cyprus and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 20.50
Public Power Corp (PPC): 26.60
HBC Coca Cola: 26.86
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.36
National Bank of Greece: 37.80
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 18.00
Titan Cement Company: 30.20
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a strong 268.004 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a premium of 1.07 pct and the February contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.46 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 19,769 contracts worth 222.969 million euros, with 27,907 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 284 contracts worth 6.950 million euros with 439 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 23.408 contracts worth 30.611 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,340) followed by Marfin Investment Group (3,195), Marfin Popular Bank (2,937), Intracom (2,575), ATEbank (1,993), Eurobank (1,212) and Postal Savings Bank (1,026).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market amounted 1.054 billion euros on Wednesday, amidst a mini-crash in international capital markets, of which 414 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 640 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 309 million euros, followed by the 5-year bond (115 million euros). The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds stood at 0.39 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.27 pct and the German Bund 3.88 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.02 pct, the two-day rate 4.052 pct, the one-month rate 4.20 pct and the 12-month rate 4.32 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.469
Pound sterling 0.753
Danish kroner 7.510
Swedish kroner 9.586
Japanese yen 154.73
Swiss franc 1.600
Norwegian kroner 8.127
Canadian dollar 1.510
Australian dollar 1.701
 Pope invites Alexandria Patriarch to VaticanPope Benedict has invited Patriarch Theodoros of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria and All Africa to visit the Vatican, in a letter delivered by the Roman Catholic Church's Nuncio in Cairo, Bishop Michael Fitzgerald.
In the same letter, the Pope describes the meeting he will have with Theodoros as "important and significant".
During the visit, the Patriarch will also meet with the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper.
The date of the visit will be determined in the near future.
 Results of DIRERAF programme presented in BrusselsBRUSSELS ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
The National and the Kapodistrias University of Athens and specifically Dr. Athina Linou, assistant professor at the university's medical school, presented here on Wednesday the results of the DIRERAF program which concerns the indexes of public health in Europe and the registration of the environmental and labor dangers in agriculture and fishing.
The DIRERAF program is a European effort which was promoted after a Greek initiative, regarding the growth of a harmonised system of reference to the labour and environmental dangers in the sector of agriculture, stockbreeding and fisheries.
As stated by Linou, who is responsible for the programme, the major problem in Europe and more so in Greece, is the underestimation of the problem, due to the lack of data, the multiple social insurance coverage and part time employment which is observed in the specific sectors.
The DIRERAF programme proposes a European system of observance with harmonised statistical data which will be based on a common collection with the assurance of the quality of the data.
The programme is financed by the European Commission's General Directorate for Public Health and the Protection of Consumers and by the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation.
 Manolis Glezos proclaimed honorary professorResistance fighter Manolis Glezos on Wednesday evening was proclaimed honorary professor of the Philology Faculty of the Philosophical School of the National and Kapodistrias University of Athens.
In his address, rector Christos Kittas referred to "the living legend of the history of modern Hellenism".
 Man sentenced to life imprisonment for death of companionA court in Thessaloniki, central Macedonia, on Wednesday sentenced a 47-year-old German national to life imprisonment after being found guilty for the death of his 54-year-old German companion, whose body he had kept for about two months in an apartment in the district of Asprovalta in Thessaloniki.
The couple had been living together since 2001 and had been staying in Greece since April 2006. They had often consumed large quantities of alcohol, while the state of the woman's health had been bad due to a liver condition she had been experiencing as a result of the frequent consumption of alcohol.
In early December 2006, the couple, being under the influence of alcohol, had quarreled and the man had assaulted the woman, resulting in multiple fractures. Her death had probably occurred two days later, while her body was discovered in February in the apartment where they had been staying in Aprovalta.
During this time, the man had been placing flowers and dolls next to her body and had been pouring chlorine and perfume on the floor to cover the stench from her body.
According to police investigations, during the period that his companion had been dead, the man had been withdrawing small amounts of money from the account in which her pension was being deposited.
Speaking in court, the man said that he is facing psychological problems and admitted pushing the woman during a quarrel, resulting in her injury.
 'Balcony leap' dad acquitted due to temporary insanity; committed to wardA court in Hania on Wednesday unanimously found a 34-year-old British man not guilty by reason of temporary insanity in the death of his 6-year-old son, during the former's failed suicide attempt in August 2006. However, the court ordered that he be committed to a psychiatric ward, after ruling that Hogan remains a threat to society.
The first instance felony court, comprised of three judges and four jurors, accepted an earlier recommendation by the case's prosecutor.
John Hogan stood accused of killing his six-year-old son and injuring his infant daughter when he leapt off a Cretan resort hotel's fourth-floor balcony near the eastern resort town of Ierapetra.
Hogan's ex-wife told the court on Monday that 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 initial report of two state-appointed 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 reportedly 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.
 Drug arrests in ThessalonikiFive people were arrested in Thessaloniki on drug possession charges.
According to police, two people, aged 29 and 39, were arrested in the municipality of Neapolis following a search in their car that revealed small amounts of cocaine and heroin.
Police also found 3,706 grams of heroin, a small quantity of cocaine and a loaded handgun after searching an apartment shared by three Albanian nationals, two 22-year-olds and a 31-year-old who were taken into custody.
 Illegal hoard of antiquities discoveredPolice in Karditsa on Wednesday announced the discovery of an illegal hoard of antiquities that a 54-year-old resident of the area had stored in his house. The find consisted of a treasure trove of Hellenistic-era, Roman and Byzantine coins, ancient pottery, various copper and silver objects and jewelry of various eras that archaeologists said were covered by protection of antiquities laws.
The coins included 458 copper coins of the Hellenistic-Roman era, two silver coins from the Hellenistic-Roman period, 153 copper coins of Byzantine extraction and 151 silver coins from Europe as well as four silver coins dating from the Ottoman Empire and six copper coins from the Ottoman Empire. There were also 114 ancient artifacts made of copper and three of silver.
The police search also uncovered five undeclared metal detectors and bags for storing coins.
 Vandalism attacks in ThessalonikiUnidentified individuals attacked with stones the offices of ruling New Democracy (ND) party and ND youth organization, ONNED, in Thessaloniki causing material damage.
According to police, the front glass door of the apartment building in the Old City district, where the ONNED offices are housed, was smashed in an overnight attack. A second similar incident was recorded ten minutes later in the municipality of Triandria targeting the local ND offices.
Meanwhile, an incendiary device made of propane canisters caused minor damage to the main entrance of the Triandria City Hall building in the early morning hours Wednesday.
 Fire engines, funds donated by South Africa's Greeks to fire-stricken areasThe Federation of South African Greeks has donated two firefighting vehicles and 162,000 euros as humanitarian aid for areas of the Peloponnese devastated by wildfires last August 2007.
The announcement was made by the Federation President Manolis Rodakanakis during an event held in honor of visiting Greek Foreign Deputy Minister Theodoros Kassimis.
Rodakanakis said that entrepreneurs and private individuals responded to fire-ravaged villages' call for assistance.
Kassimis expressed his thanks for the surprise announcement, stressing that "we Greeks are always together in bad times and that's the power of our nation."
The firefighting vehicles will be delivered to Greece in early March, with a handover to come during a special ceremony held in the central Peloponnese city of Tripolis (Arcadia prefecture), in the presence of the Federation's presidium.
 US Embassy consular section closed on last Wednesday each monthThe US Embassy's Consular Section in Athens will remain closed to the public on every last Wednesday of each month for internal reasons, according to an embassy press release.
In that context, the US Embassy's Consular Section in Athens will remain closed to the public on Wednesday, January 30.
This includes the non-immigrant visa section, immigrant visa section, pension section, US passports and naturalization services, and services for US citizens section. and US passports section
In the event of an emergency on that day, please call 210-7212951 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and 210-7202490/1 after 5:00 p.m.
 President Papadopoulos says SBA status under reconsiderationNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has said that after the signing of the strategic partnership agreement between the UK and Turkey, the Cypriot government conveyed the message to London that the status of the Sovereign British Bases (SBA) in Cyprus was under reconsideration.
Replying to questions regarding the problems for the funding of businesses within the SBA areas, President Papadopoulos said there was a problem with the introduction of the euro in the Bases, since the UK has not entered the Eurozone, adding that efforts for the acquis communautaire to apply to the Bases were continuing.
''We recently had the negative development regarding the signing of the strategic agreement between England and Turkey, and we have notified the English that the whole pattern of the relations of the Bases, the status of the Bases, the status of Cypriot citizens and the treaties are, on our side, under reconsideration,'' he said.
Cyprus gained its independence from British colonial rule in 1960. Britain, Greece and Turkey were the guarantors of Cyprus' independence under the 1960 Treaty and since then Britain has retained two military bases on the island.
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