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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-03-19

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Wednesday, 19 March 2008 Issue No: 2847

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM chairs Inner Cabinet meeting on transport, communications issues
  • [02] FM briefs Énner Cabinet on FYROM issue
  • [03] PM briefed on latest economic developments
  • [04] Gov't on FYROM talks
  • [05] Foreign ministry spokesman on statements by FYROM FM
  • [06] Employment Minister addresses Parliament on social security bill
  • [07] Papandreou attacks government over social security bill
  • [08] KKE parliamentary spokesman on social security bill
  • [09] KKE leader invites students to join workers' mobilisations
  • [10] SYRIZA parliamentary group on social security reform proposals
  • [11] VPRC surveys public opinion on pension system reforms
  • [12] Military helicopter crashes, 3-member crew killed
  • [13] President Papoulias expresses sorrow at deaths of helicopter crew
  • [14] Gov't on helicopter crash
  • [15] Two-day mourning in the Armed Forces
  • [16] Meeting on preparation of 2008 fire protection period
  • [17] Parliament President Sioufas given Legion of Honour medal
  • [18] Nationwide general labor strike on Wednesday in protest of social security reforms - Media also taking part
  • [19] Greece, Azerbaijan agree to promote energy relations
  • [20] Greek-Israeli conference on sustainable development
  • [21] Greece, Australia agreement on pensions
  • [22] Article 3 of port's bill voted in Parliament
  • [23] Greek export farm price index up 15.5% in Jan.
  • [24] Special interbank holiday on March 21, 24
  • [25] National Bank to pay 1.40 euros per share dividend to shareholders
  • [26] Rocas Group reports lower 2007 results
  • [27] Consumer Secretary General meets Chinese delegation
  • [28] Petropoulos Group reports improved 2007 results
  • [29] Greek stocks end 2.28 pct higher
  • [30] ADEX closing report
  • [31] Greek bond market closing report
  • [32] Resolution for Parthenon Marbles return proposed at UNESCO conference
  • [33] US Congressional resolutions cite Greek Independence Day
  • [34] 6th WACAP Forum in Athens on March 26-28
  • [35] AHI presents 33rd anniversary awards
  • [36] Venetian lighthouse monument in Chania vandalized
  • [37] Police officer attacked in central Athens; arrest reported
  • [38] Cloudy on Wed.
  • [39] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [40] P5 committed to UN effort on Cyprus
  • [41] House President cautious about Christofias-Talat meeting Politics

  • [01] PM chairs Inner Cabinet meeting on transport, communications issues

    The Inner Cabinet, chaired by prime minister Costas Karamanlis, convened on Tuesday to discuss issues falling under the authority of the transport and communications ministry.

    After the meeting, transport and communications minister Costis Hatzidakis told reporters that the discussion focused on the changes and reforms being advanced in the sector.

    He said the Inner Cabinet had decided that the government should proceed in finding a strategic ally in the Hellenic Posts' (ELTA) courier services, adding that the government's investment consultants would proceed soon in the direction of that target, so that results would be forthcoming in 2008.

    Hatzidakis also said that a new governmental program on the country's airports was discussed, and that public and private sector collaborations (SDIT) were being advanced regarding the provincial airports.

    "We don't want our airports to be just landing runways, but also hubs of local development, with activities surrounding the airports," he said, adding that the hiring of consultants to deal with the matter would be announced soon.

    Also discussed was the issue of the Hellenic Railway Organisation (OSE), which Hatzidakis said was chronically facing major financial problems, and added that the new OSE management would be announced shortly, with efforts focused on tackling the organisation's deficits "in a manner compatible with EU law".

    He explained that the effort would focus on OSE's real estate holdings, and on shoring up TrenoOSE (trainOSE), the organisation's company that carries out the transport activities, to prevent it from running into the same problems as Olympic Airways (OA), given that as of this year OSE was open to competition.

    Regarding OA, which was also discussed by the Inner Cabinet, Hatzidakis stressed "both to those who urgently want a solution and to those who may be complacent with the present situation", that a solution would be given by the end of the year.

    "We want the solution that we are seeking to be legally secure for the investor, and at the same time, regarding its financial aspect, to be attractive, and we are working systematically in that direction both with the European Commission and with our investment advisors," the minister said.

    The Inner Cabinet was further briefed on the Hellenic Telecommunications (OTE) developments by Hatzidakis and by economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, following Marfin Investment Group's (MIG) announced on Monday of an agreement to sell its 19 percent equity stake in OTE to Deutsche Telekom AG.

    "We believe that this is a welcome development, and so does the entire market," Hatzidakis said.

    Asked whether the OTE management would also be turned over to the new strategic investor, Hatzidakis said that it was too early to discuss such a matter, particularly given that the MIG-Deutsche Telekom agreement was subject to approval by various competent bodies, adding that in order for such a possibility to be discussed, relevant requests would have to be submitted. "Everything will be discussed in its time, and following the submission of relevant requests, taking all the parameters into consideration.We cannot enter into such discussions at this time," he said.

    Asked whether he agreed that toll booths should be placed in the center of Athens, Hatzidakis said that the transport ministry and the environment ministry had sent its relevant replies to the European Commission, which replies stipulated that "this is something that cannot be rejected, as a thought". But before we reach that point, study and boosting and modernisation of the "fixed rail" transportation fleet will be required, he added.

    Hatzidakis noted that, according to transport exports, in Europe there are approximately 150 fixed rail transport stations in cities such as Athens, while in the Greek capital there were currently 58 such stations, and consequently extensive study and discussion among the authoritative ministries would be needed but, first of all, it was necessary to modernise and boost the fixed rail and mass transport means.

    [02] FM briefs Énner Cabinet on FYROM issue

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday briefed the Énner Cabinet on the course of negotiations over the thorny FYROM "name issue".

    Responding to a question after the meeting on whether the name "New Macedonia" is up for consideration, Bakoyannis said negotiations are underway and that Greece has a clear-cut position.

    "Negotiating efforts will most likely intensify in the remaining 15 days before the NATO Summit in Bucharest," she added, pointing out that Athens' positions are known inside the country, but more importantly, outside the country as well.

    [03] PM briefed on latest economic developments

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met separately on Tuesday with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis following the conclusion of an Inner Cabinet meeting at the premier's Maximos Mansion office (government's head-quarters).

    Alogoskoufis, in answer to a question on the state of the economy amid the turbulence in the global markets, said "there is international concern, especially in United States, but hopefully things are better for the European economy, and we believe that repercussions will be less."

    The FinMin added that what worries Europe is the onslaught of international inflation, "this is something that affects all of us on an everyday basis."

    [04] Gov't on FYROM talks

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Tuesday declined to comment on press speculation regarding whatever proposals suggested by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz in ongoing FYROM "name issue" negotiations.

    "The government, through the prime minister and the foreign minister, has repeatedly presented its positions, most recently in Brussels," Roussopoulos said, stressing that it is not advisable to comment further at a point when negotiations are still in progress.

    [05] Foreign ministry spokesman on statements by FYROM FM

    Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, replying on Tuesday to a question by the press on statements made earlier in the day by Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki on the essence of efforts being made by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz said, according to a foreign ministry press release, that "our country is participating constructively and in good faith in the negotiating process under Mr. Nimetz for the finding of a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue."

    Koumoutsakos further said that "today's statements by Mr. Milososki confirm the absolute intransigence of the other side."

    [06] Employment Minister addresses Parliament on social security bill

    Employment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli Petralia addressed Parliament on Tuesday on the bill concerning "Administrative and organising reform of the social security system and other social security terms", reiterating that "the government has taken the big step, we hope you shall follow."

    Underlining her determination to handle the social security issue, Petralia said that the government "is not placing any political cost in the balance, it is not selling out its commitments for which it received a strong popular mandate and it is solving the problem now that it is not too late, and we can proceed with mild and effective changes, having the necessary transitional period that is necessary so that nobody is taken by surprise."

    The employment minister further said that the bill does not deal with the way of assessing and the amount of pensions or with contributions anywhere and in no way and at no point, it does not refer to and does not touch pensioning ages in general and what currently applies for the terms and preconditions, and the charters of social security funds for the insured does not change. Nobody is excluded from the mergers and the incorporations."

    Concluding her address, Petralia said that "we have a well-planned solution before us, a substantiated option of progress and security for all the insured on shielding the rights of the present and future generations through a Social Security System that is socially fair, viable and workable."

    "There shall be a multiple benefit if this great reform, apart from the social security issue, also means the beginning of a mentality of consensus and responsibility. The government has taken the big step. We hope you shall follow," she added.

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos spoke on his part of a "bill that contaminates the hopes of people for a better life," adding that the bill is "inapplicable".

    He said that it is a bill "which attacks all, those who are approaching the pensioning age, working mothers, young people who are the flowers of working people, which reduces achievements, reduces all denominators and paves the way for the privatisation of the social security system."

    Alavanos also accused the government of being an "accomplice" in the "crime of tax evasion", as well as a "moral accomplice" since "it is doing nothing in the direction of reducing it".

    The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party withdrew from the discussion on the bill after its leader George Karatzaferis addressed the Parliamentary plenum.

    Karatzaferis accused the government of "charging against the poor and the underprivileged" with the bill on the social security issue. He charged that auxiliary pensions "are being reduced, the government is legislating secretly since the possibility is being provided for at least 50 cases to be determined by ministerial decisions, while the bill deals a blow at mothers with the terms on the pensioning of women."

    [07] Papandreou attacks government over social security bill

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during the ongoing debate on the social security bill, criticised the government and accused it "of trying to terrorise working people and penalise their strikes."

    "Enough is enough, all the working people are shouting take back your bill. They are shouting take it back, enough of tragedy, but you are deaf. You are leaving a country unfortified with garbage, without electricity and you are barrickading yourselves behind your authoritarianism, judicial prosecutions and the effort to penalise strikes," the PASOK leader said.

    "The government, without having made any substantive and serious dialogue on the social security issue, is coming hurriedly to submit in a coup d'etat fashion and to ratifiy the social security bill with an offhand, authoritarian and dangerous logic," he added.

    Lastly, Papandreou said, addressing the government: "it is not the establishment that is reacting to your options. It supports you and it is the only one. Those who are reacting are the Greek people and you must listen to them because they are telling you to withdraw it."

    [08] KKE parliamentary spokesman on social security bill

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Parliamentary spokesman Spyros Halvatzis on Tuesday called for the withdrawal of the government's social security bill.

    In his address during a Parliament debate on the bill, Halvatzis spoke of "a great shrinking of the social security rights," adding that it was "an attack which does not only concerns pensions but also social grants and health."

    He accused former PASOK governments and current New Democracy government "for the situation in the country's social security system which is clearly a political matter, because the long-term policies led it there."

    [09] KKE leader invites students to join workers' mobilisations

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Tuesday called on students and young people generally to take part in mobilisations opposing a government draft social insurance reform bill currently being debated in Parliament.

    Addressing students at the Athens University, Papariga invited them to "join the workers' trade union movement, to join their parents because it concerns them as well."

    She said that the bill introduced a "barbarous modernisation, a modernisation based on barbarous labour relations."

    The Communist leader also expressed her sorrow over the loss of three servicemen, aged 33, 28 and 28, that were killed in the Huey helicopter crash on Tuesday morning in the region of Vasiloudi, Thessaloniki during a routine training flight.

    [10] SYRIZA parliamentary group on social security reform proposals

    The redistribution of accumulated wealth and the implementation of a new type of development focusing on fulltime employment is the way toward a meaningful social security system reform, according to Coalition of the Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos.

    Speaking Tuesday at a special meeting between SYRIZA and social partners on a "different solution to the social security issue", Alavanos suggested the establishment of three social security funds, for salary earners, farmers, and the self-employed, following a worker-approved merger of existing funds.

    The preparation of actuarial analyses, the settlement of pension fund deficits, a maximum common denominator in the merger procedure and the workers' consensus are regarded by SYRIZA as fundamental preconditions before proceeding with the mergers.

    SYRIZA also backs retirement after 35 years on the job with no age limits, social security for women, farmer social security independent from farm production insurance, a drastic increase in the minimum pensions, and improvement of administrative and operational procedures in social insurance organizations.

    Criticizing the government's social security reform plan, the SYRIZA parliamentary group leader pointed out that the adoption of flexible and part-time employment overturns the fundamental labor relationship on which the social security system was based until now.

    [11] VPRC surveys public opinion on pension system reforms

    Up to 71 percent of the public disagree with the government proposals for reforming Greece's pension and social security system, according to a survey carried out by the opinion poll firm VPRC and commissioned by the Hellenic Federation of Bank Employee Unions (OTOE). The results of the survey were released on Tuesday in a press conference.

    More specifically, 71 percent of those asked disagreed with the government reforms against 23 percent who were in favour, while the level of opposition was even higher among wage earners and the unemployed, where 80 percent disagreed with the draft bill.

    Social insurance reform, meanwhile, was ranked as the most important problem faced by the country by 27 percent of those asked, followed by high prices (according to 20 percent), unemployment (according to 17 percent) and poverty, in the sense of low wages and pensions (according to 13 percent).

    The proposed reforms are seen as having a negative impact on young employees by 44 percent of public opinion, on women by 19 percent, on those in the midst of their working life by 16 percent, on all categories of employee by 15 percent and on pensioners by 4 percent.

    Those benefiting most as a result of the proposed measures are seen to be the government, according to 42 percent, employers (according to 31 percent), workers (according to 7 percent) and pensioners (4 percent).

    With respect to the planned mergers of social insurance funds, 63 percent of those asked said that this would equalise employee social insurance rights downwards.

    Another 69 percent consider that the strikes to protest against the pension system reforms measures are justified, while 29 percent considers them unjustified. About three quarters of those asked, or 74 percent, considers that the draft bill for social insurance reform should be withdrawn and that jointly acceptable solutions should be sought with employees and unions. The opposite view - that the government should insist on passing the draft bill - is held by 18 percent.

    Regarding the best strategy for trade unions, 51 percent said that these should seek changes and adjustments to the draft bill, 27 percent said trade unions should insist that the draft bill be thrown out and 11 percent believes it should be accepted as it stands.

    In presenting the survey's findings, OTOE stressed that the government proposals had failed to convince Greek society, especially workers and pensioners, and that the struggle against the bill by bank workers was objectively linked to that of other social groups defending their social insurance and pension rights. They stressed that the struggle would continue as long as necessary, taking different forms, until the government's policy was overturned.

    [12] Military helicopter crashes, 3-member crew killed

    A military helicopter crashed near the village of Vassiloudi, Thessaloniki, on Tuesday morning, and its three-member crew were killed.

    Eyewitnesses said they saw the helicopter flying low and heard an explosion.

    One of the eyewitnesses, Koronia deputy mayor Pavlos Papageridis, said he saw flames erupting where the helicopter crashed, and that firefighters and police were alerted and immediately rushed to the area.

    According to initial reports, the helicopter, a Huey, crashed just before 10:38 a.m.. and had taken off earlier from the military helicopter base in Alexandria, Imathia prefecture, for Redina, where it was to take party in an Army training exercise.

    The causes of the accident were unknown.

    The bodies of the three crew members were recovered, and taken to the 424 Military Hospital in Thessaloniki.

    Koronia deputy mayor Papageridis, one of the first people to arrive at the site of the crash, told ANA-MPA that the scene was "shocking", with heavy smoke covering the area.

    [13] President Papoulias expresses sorrow at deaths of helicopter crew

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday expressed his deepest sorrow and anguish at the "tragic loss of our three boys that died in the call of duty" in response to the deaths of three young armed forces service men earlier the same day in a helicopter crash.

    "Our heartfelt condolences go to their families. We share their pain," the president added.

    [14] Gov't on helicopter crash

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos expressed the government's regret for the loss of three servicemen in a helicopter crash earlier on Tuesday in northern Greece.

    He added that the accident occurred shortly before an Inner Cabinet meeting, leading to Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis' departure.

    [15] Two-day mourning in the Armed Forces

    A two-day mourning was declared in the Armed Forces by Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis for the three servicemen, aged 33, 28 and 28, that were killed in the Huey helicopter crash on Tuesday morning in the region of Vasiloudi, Thessaloniki during a routine training flight.

    An investigation is underway by Air Force experts on the causes of the accident.

    [16] Meeting on preparation of 2008 fire protection period

    Deputy Interior Minister Panayiotis Hinofotis chaired a meeting at the Fire Brigade's headquarters on Tuesday, focusing on the preparation of the 2008 fire protection period.

    According to an announcement by the Fire Brigade, discussed during the meeting, that was attended by representatives of all agencies involved in forest fire prevention, were issues concerning operational planning for confronting forest fires, the strategies and the new means that will be used and training and strengthening personnel, while measures taken by the jointly responsible bodies were analysed, as well as the specific duties that they will be having if and when forest fires break out.

    [17] Parliament President Sioufas given Legion of Honour medal

    Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas was given the French medal of the Legion of Honour on Tuesday, following a relevant decision by French President Nikolas Sarkozy.

    The bestowing of the medal was made by the Grand Chancellor of the French Legion of Honour Jean-Pierre Kelche, who said that Sioufas constitutes the "personification of the motto 'Greece-France-Alliance'."

    "You have stated your determination to promote good relations with the French Parliament. I am aware of the importance this dialogue between national Parliaments has for you and I am aware of the significance you attribute to the Greece-France Parliamentary Friendship Group. You have tried to consolidate this relation with France," Kelche said.

    On his part, Sioufas referred at length to the contacts he had with officials of the French political and social life during his Parliamentary course and to the close relations between the two countries in general.

    Financial News

    [18] Nationwide general labor strike on Wednesday in protest of social security reforms - Media also taking part

    Strike action against the government's social security reforms draft law, discussion of which opened in parliament on Monday afternoon, will reach a climax on Wednesday, with a 24-hour nationwide labor strike called by the country's two largest umbrella unions representing the private and public sectors, the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) respectively.

    The strike will cripple commuter services, while also joining GSEE and ADEDY in the strike will be engineers, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, teachers and journalists.

    No news services will be transmitted by ANA-MPA from 6:00 a.m. Wednesday to 6:00 a.m. Thursday.

    Banks remained closed on Tuesday as employees continued their ongoing strike, and will also participate in Wednesday's general nationwide strike, while courts remained closed with lawyers and judicial employees continuing their strike up until Friday.

    Municipal sanitation employees and employees at the Public Power Corporation (PPC) will also continue their ongoing strikes on Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, the Athens Metro and ISAP electricity-powered trains were holding a 24-hour strike on Tuesday, while the two transport organisations would operate only from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday during the general strike, but the Metro will not be operating services to Athens' 'Eleftherios Venizelos' International Airport (AIA). Employees at the Proastiako suburban train will be holding repetitive two-hour strikes throughout Tuesday to Thursday, with only one Piraeus-Kiato route running at 11:38 and the return Kiato-Piraeus route at 7:14 p.m. on all three days. The urban ('blue') buses and tram services will also be on strike Wednesday, while the trolley buses will hold a work-stoppage from 10:20 am. to 3:00 p.m. Further, the Express bus lines to and from the AIA will be on strike from 4:25 a.m. to midnight Wednesday. The OSE railway will not be running Tuesday to Thursday, due to participation in Wednesday's strike and two additional 24-hour strikes called by its employees for Tuesday and Thursday.

    Further, no flights to and from Greek airports will take place from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, due to a four-hour work stoppage called by Air Traffic controllers, causing cancellations and rescheduling of flights by national carrier Olympic Airlines and Aegean throughout the rest of the day.

    Also, all schools (public and private), in all levels of education, will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday, due to a 48-hour strike called by teachers' federations.

    Hospitals will also be closed, with only an emergency staff on hand.

    Petrol stations, too, will be closed on Wednesday throughout the country, while port employees will hold a five-hour work stoppage.

    Debate of the bill on the "Administrative and Organisational Reform of the Social Security System" began in the parliament plenary on Monday afternoon, and will culminate with a vote on Thursday.

    [19] Greece, Azerbaijan agree to promote energy relations

    Greece and Azerbaijan on Tuesday agreed to sign a four-party agreement on natural gas supplies with Italy and Turkey aimed to ensure the successful completion of a Turkish-Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline project.

    Greek Development Minister Christos Folias, currently on an official visit to Baku aimed to promote energy cooperation between the two countries, recommended that Greece would undertake a coordinating role towards this goal by hosting a meeting in Athens to finalize details of the agreement.

    The Greek Minister and Azeri Industry and Energy Minister Natiq Aliyev signed a joint declaration, expanding a bilateral agreement signed in August 2007, confirming energy partnership between the two countries. Greece and Azerbaijan agreed to intensify efforts aimed to creating a safe energy corridor for the supply of natural gas.

    The two sides also agreed to promote an agreement between SOCAR, the Azeri natural gas and oil company, and Greece's DEPA for the supply of Azeri natural gas in the Greek market. They also agreed to cooperate more closely in renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and energy saving projects.

    The Greek minister also met with the Azeri Economic Development Minister Heydar Babayev and signed a protocol of cooperation to forge closer relations in the fields of research and technology, standardization, food safety and consumer protection. The Greek minister also met with the country's President Heydar Aliyev and the Prime Minister Artur Rasizabeh. Both meetings reaffirmed the friendship and cooperation between the two countries and underlined the significance of further promoting bilateral relations.

    [20] Greek-Israeli conference on sustainable development

    A conference titled "Sustainable development and clean energy, opportunities for the Israeli and Greek market" was held at a downtown hotel in Athens on Tuesday, focusing on the experience of both Greece and Israel, as well as on prospects of cooperation between Greek and Israeli companies in the clean energy technology sector.

    The conference was jointly organised by the University of Tel Aviv and the Israeli-Greek Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the Greek embassy in Israel, the Israeli Exports Institute, the Israeli Innovations Centre and the Greek-Israeli Chamber of Commerce.

    The issues that were examined during the conference were the energy market in Greece and Israel, the needs and opportunities concerning tourism and the industrial and construction sector, as well as the incorporation of clean energy technologies in the electric power market.

    [21] Greece, Australia agreement on pensions

    MELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)

    The agreement on pensions between Australia and Greece will be valid as of October, the new Australian Ambassador to Greece, Jeremy Newman, declared on Tuesday.

    The Australian diplomat, who departs for Athens on April 1, explained that "the text of the agreement is being examined by the relevant bodies of the national parliament and if there are no obstacles, the governments of Athens and Canberra will sign the agreement towards the end of July, in order for it to be activated early October."

    The Greek Parliament approved some months ago the text of the agreement and the Greek government is awaiting the completion of the lengthy process for the ratification of the text by the Australian Parliament.

    [22] Article 3 of port's bill voted in Parliament

    Article 3 of the bill regarding the contract on ceeding the exploitation of the containers' terminals in the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, was voted in Parliament during a roll call on Tuesday evening. The 152 deputies of the ruling New Democracy party voted for while 144 opposition deputies voted against.

    [23] Greek export farm price index up 15.5% in Jan.

    Greece's export farm price index jumped 15.5 percent in January, compared with the same month last year, while the country's import farm price index rose by 15 percent, the National Statistics Service announced on Tuesday.

    The statistical service said the export price index grew 1.4 pct in January 2008 from December 2007, while the import price index was up 1.7 pct over the same period.

    [24] Special interbank holiday on March 21, 24

    The Greek financial system will hold a special holiday in interbank transactions on March 21 and 24, following public holidays in the inter-European automated rapid capital transfer on line system (TARGET) because of the Catholic/Protestant Easter holidays, the Hellenic Bank Association said on Tuesday.

    The Association said Greek banks will remain open but they will offer only limited services since the public holiday in the TARGET system will not allow services on certain electronic interbank transactions.

    The interbank transactions holiday covers the Bank of Greece, the Athens Stock Exchange, the Securities Depository, the Athens Derivatives Exchange, the Derivatives Clearing and the Interbank Systems SA.

    The Association said that all payment obligations on both days will be completed on the next fully working day, March 26, since March 25 is a national holiday in Greece.

    [25] National Bank to pay 1.40 euros per share dividend to shareholders

    National Bank of Greece on Tuesday said it planned to pay an 1.40 euros per share dividend to its shareholders, up 40 percent from the previous year. Greece' s largest financial institution said dividend return was around 4.3 percent based on the bank' s current share price. The bank's board also agreed to recommend to a general shareholders' meeting the possibility of re-investing part of the dividend to the bank's shares.

    [26] Rocas Group reports lower 2007 results

    Rocas group on Tuesday reported an 11-percent decline in 2007 turnover to 44.7 million euros, down from 50.2 million euros in the previous year. The group attributed its lower results to a 3.7-pct drop in net energy sales last year.

    Pre-tax, interest and amortisation earnings (EBITDA) fell 27.9 pct to 23 million euros in 2007, down from 31.8 million euros in 2006, while pre-tax and interest earnings dropped 39.1 pct to 14.2 million euros from 23.3 million euros, over the same period, respectively. Net profits, after tax and minorities dropped 27.6 pct to 11.6 million euros last year from 16 million euros in 2006.

    [27] Consumer Secretary General meets Chinese delegation

    Consumer Secretary General Ioannis Iconomou met at the Development Ministry on Tuesday with a Chinese delegation from Beijing's price control office and of the municipal authority for the growth and reconstruction of Beijing.

    The Chinese mission was briefed by the Consumer Secretary General on the organization of the system for the protection of consumers in Greece and the operation of the Consumer General Secretariat.

    The two sides also exchanged views in light of the holding of the Olympic Games in Beijing in the summer.

    [28] Petropoulos Group reports improved 2007 results

    Petropoulos Group on Tuesday reported a 24 percent increase in its 2007 sales to 120 million euros, from 96.8 million in the previous year. After tax profits jumped 79 pct to 5.7 million euros, while pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings jumped to 10.6 million euros, from 6.6 million in 2006. Earnings per share totaled 0.82 euros, while the Group's share price/net position was 1.1 last year.

    Petropoulos Group said net position as a percentage of assets rose to 45 pct in 2007 from 41 pct in 2006. The Group plans to pay a 0.50 euros per share dividend to its shareholders, up from 0.35 euros in 2006.

    [29] Greek stocks end 2.28 pct higher

    Greek stocks rebounded strongly on Tuesday, following a spectacular recovery in international markets as investors discounted a new cut in US interest rates. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange jumped 2.28 pct to end at 3,869.56 points with turnover a moderate 386.8 million euros, of which 30.4 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved higher, with the Banks (4.21 pct), Personal/Home Products (3.48 pct) and Constructions (2.68 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Telecommunications (2.18 pct), Technology (0.72 pct) and Industrial Products (0.42 pct) suffered losses.

    The Big Cap index jumped 2.60 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.65 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.96 pct. ANEK (28.98 pct), AEGEK (10.53 pct) and Kego (8.0 pct) were top gainers, while United Textiles (20.0 pct), Livanis Publications (15.13 pct) and Klonatex (11.11 pct) were top losers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 179 to 87 with another 29 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.17%

    Industrials: -0.42%

    Commercial: +0.96%

    Construction: +2.68%

    Media: +2.21%

    Oil & Gas: +2.18%

    Personal & Household: +3.48%

    Raw Materials: -0.37%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.64%

    Technology: -0.72%

    Telecoms: -2.18%

    Banks: +4.21%

    Food & Beverages: +0.68%

    Health: +1.18%

    Utilities: +1.74%

    Chemicals: +1.27%

    Financial Services: -0.17%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Piraeus Bank and Alpha Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 19.64

    ATEbank: 2.83

    VIOHALCO: 7.04

    ELTEX: 7.60

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 24.54

    HBC Coca Cola: 28.48

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.94

    National Bank of Greece: 33.66

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 18.18

    Bank of Cyprus: 7.80

    Intralot: 11.10

    OPAP: 18.50

    OTE: 19.76

    Piraeus Bank: 17.46

    Titan Cement Company: 26.48

    [30] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with a turnover of 447.394 million euros ahead of the end of the March contracts on Thursday.

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.68 pct, while the March contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.22 pct. Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 37,218 contracts worth 362.279 million euros, with 29,197 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 483 contracts worth 11.354 million euros with 506 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 119,674 contracts worth 60.965 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Hellenic Postbank's contracts (46,992) followed by Marfin Popular Bank (26,066), GEK (7.017), Marfin Investment Group's contracts (5,290), National Bank (3,043), Hellenic Telecoms (2,831), Titan (2,765) and ELTEX (2,189).

    [31] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 958 million euros on Tuesday, of which 640 million were buy orders and the remaining 318 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 145 million euros. The yield spread between the Greek and German bonds was 0.70 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.43 pct and the German Bund 3.73 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 4.20 pct from 4.05 pct on Monday, the two-day rate jumped to 4.25 pct from 4.06 pct, the one-month rate rose to 4.36 pct from 4.33 pct and the 12-month rate was 4.65 pct.

    General News

    [32] Resolution for Parthenon Marbles return proposed at UNESCO conference

    The second day of an international conference on the "Return of Cultural Property to its Country of Origin" on Tuesday was dominated by discussion of a proposal to end the two-day conference with a resolution for the return of the Parthenon Marbles currently being held at the British Museum to Greece.

    The proposal was made by one of the speakers, cultural expert Professor Louis Godart who is also an adviser to Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano on cultural issues.

    Other speakers at the conference noted that 70 percent of antiquities now being traded worldwide were of unknown origin, which meant that they lost both in importance and value.

    Powerful arguments in favour of returning antiquities were also voiced by Colonel Matthew Bogdanos of the U.S. Army, who headed the search for the antiquities looted from the Iraq National Museum when the war in Iraq broke out.

    Among others, Bogdanos noted that "an act of theft of cultural treasures 200 years ago is equally reprehensible as the same act today" and said that there were parallels between the looting of the Iraqi treasures and the removal of the Parthenon Marbles, though there were also differences.

    He said that the search for the Iraqi antiquities was an adventure that has lasted five years and that only half of the treasures stolen had been returned to Iraq so far.

    Bogdanos also referred to the case of a specific statue, who journey was traced from Baghdad to Damascus, Beirut and Geneva before it was tracked down to New York and confiscated by U.S. authorities, who handed it over to the Iraqi ambassador.

    "Can you imaged what would happen if the United States refused to return the specific statue to Iraq after 25 years?" he added.

    The two-day conference began at the New Acropolis Museum of Athens on Monday, opened by Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis. Delegates to the conference included attorneys, museum curators, archaeologists, academics and art experts, while it was organised by the Greek culture ministry in cooperation with UNESCO.

    [33] US Congressional resolutions cite Greek Independence Day

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)

    Both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives again unanimously adopted resolutions regarding the anniversary of Greek independence -- as the 187th anniversary will be celebrated on March 25 -- with references to Greece's role in the Balkans.

    Resolutions point out several historical bonds that linking Greece and the United States, as well as Athens' consolidating role in Southeastern Europe, its contribution in the Balkans and its role as an energy hub.

    According to Robert Wexler, chairman of the subcommittee on Europe as well as the House Judiciary Committee and the House committee on financial services, "Greece is one of the most important US ally", while he also referred to the need for a reciprocal accepted name for Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). He also referred to Cyprus problem and outlined the need to its resolution.

    US Senate Resolution 476 is termed "Designating March 25, 2008 as Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy".

    According to the H.Res.1024 the House of Representatives extends warm congratulations and best wishes to the people of Greece as they celebrate the 187th anniversary of the independence of Greece; expresses support for the principles of democratic governance to which the people of Greece are committed; and notes the important role that Greece has played in the wider European region and in the community of nations since gaining its independence 187 years ago.

    [34] 6th WACAP Forum in Athens on March 26-28

    The 6th Forum of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP) will take place in Athens this month, on March 26-28, with about 1,000 delegates from 100 countries on all five continents attending.

    In a press conference held on Tuesday in Athens, the WACAP coordinator for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Mohand Cherifi presented figures showing that 50 percent of the world's population live in cities, and that many of these people in Africa, Asia and Latin America live in shanty towns and slums. In Latin America, in particular, up to 20 percent of the population lives in favelas.

    Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis stressed the need for funds to fight poverty and pointed out that the Lisbon Agreement for boosting social cohesion and employment had not yet gone into effect, seven years after it was established, because the European Commission and the Council of Europe had not released the funds needed to carry out the proposals.

    Other speakers at the press conference said that one in five people was now dying of hunger, down from one in three 15 years ago, but that local authorities remained the "weakest link" in fighting world poverty.

    The World Alliance of Cities against Poverty (WACAP) unites cities that have decided to take a public stand and mobilise all sectors of society, from individuals to governments, to do everything in their power to eliminate poverty both at home and abroad. The Athens' Forum is themed 'local democracy to fight poverty'.

    The World Alliance is a contribution made by cities from all continents to the International Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006) proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly. WACAP was initiated during the first quarter of 1996, International Year for the Eradication of Poverty, and officially launched on October 17, 1997 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

    [35] AHI presents 33rd anniversary awards

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)

    Archbishop Demetrios of America, Greek-American actress Melina Kanakaredes, "Alexander S. Onassis" Public Benefit Foundation President Anthony Papadimitriou, Greek-American Congressman Zack Space (D-Ohio, 18th Congressional District) and Society for the Preservation of the Greek Heritage (SPGH) President Anna Lea were honored at the American Hellenic Institute's (AHI) 33rd annual Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner held in a Washington hotel.

    The event, attended by roughly 400 guests, was organized by AHI executive director Nick Larigakis and institute founder Eugene Rosidis, while the master of ceremonies was Greek-American former financial news presenter on CNN John C. Metaxas.

    Archbishop Demetrios, who was presented with the first AHI Religious Freedom Award, referred to the important role played by AHI in the past 34 years since it was founded following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

    Critically acclaimed award-winning actress Melina Kanakaredes stated that she is proud to be a Greek and tries to project this through her movies and television series.

    Papadimitriou referred to the role of the "Alexander S. Onassis" Foundation and its contribution to the promotion of the Greek culture. Within this framework, an exhibition on the Minoan civilization was recently inaugurated at the foundation's exhibition space in Manhattan.

    SPGH President Anna Lea referred to the need to protect and preserve the Greek historical and cultural heritage, an effort she undertook decades ago.

    Congressman Space, who was unable to attend, stressed in a message the importance of the Greek-American presence in the US Congress.

    [36] Venetian lighthouse monument in Chania vandalized

    Unidentified individuals cut the electrical wiring used to light the Venetian lighthouse monument at the old port of the city of Chania on the island of Crete, southern Greece, while light projectors were also damaged.

    Five months ago the monument's light installation was again the target of unidentified vandals.

    Similar attacks have been recorded recently in several parts of the Chania waterfront, while schools and public property have been spray-painted.

    [37] Police officer attacked in central Athens; arrest reported

    Police launched a manhunt around the central Athens district of Omonia after an off-duty police officer was reportedly attacked by a gang of foreign nationals who also took his service pistol.

    The police officer was on his motorcycle when he was attacked.

    A Sudanese man was injured in the leg by gunfire and remained hospitalised under guard, police said.

    Weather Forecast

    [38] Cloudy on Wed.

    Clouds and local showers are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-4 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 20C on the mainland. Partly cloudy in Athens, 10C to 20C. Cloudy with T-storms in Thessaloniki, 7C to 16C.

    [39] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The reforms foreseen by the new social security draft law, debate on which began in the parliament plenary on Monday afternoon, and the labour unions' and professionals' severe reactions, the Church's opposition to the introduction of co-habitation agreements in Greece, and MIG's (Marfin Investment Group) decision to sell its OTE shares to Deutsche Telekom dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia interview with the newspaper: "We are solving the social security problem for the next decades".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Church says 'no' to the co-habitation agreement - Clash in the Holy Synod between conservative and moderate hierarchs".

    AVGHI: "Two million workers in the vise of the new social security bill - Up to 40% reduction in pensions".

    AVRIANI: " German sweep on OTE - Deutsche Telekom becomes strategic partner in OTE and very soon it will overtake the management".

    CHORA: "The Balkans on fire - All fronts are open".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Karamanlis crosses the Rubicon - The government must cross the strike avalanche to pass the social security draft law".

    ELEFTHEROS: "According to the new social security draft law the new pensioners will lose up to 500 euros (per month)".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "PPC's (Public Power Corporation) strange decision in Siemens' favour - The PPC Board will discuss on Tuesday a recommendation that has been submitted to it for the PPC waive its rights, under delay clauses, to 3.3 million euros for breach of contract (by Siemens)" over contracted upgrades to two power stations.

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "10% - 40% deductions in early retirement pensionss - The social security reforms 'put a hand' in the pockets of 1.2 million workers".

    ESTIA: "Main opposition PASOK takes extreme positions - Adopts Marxist slogans".

    ETHNOS: "Gravestone to early retirements - The social security draft law brings reductions of up to 40% in pensions".

    KATHIMERINI: "Deutsche Telekom gains entry to OTE via MIG - The German company acquired the 20% (share package in OTE held by MIG) and rumors claim that it will acquire another 8% from the state".

    LOGOS: "The state of the global economy worsens - International Monetary Fund (IMF) sounds warning bell".

    NIKI: "Greece in a coma - Clash over social security peaks".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Production must come to a stand-still on Wednesday - Everyone together in Wednesday's nationwide strike against the anti-social security draft law".

    TA NEA: "498 euros reduction in pensions in 10 large social security/pension funds - Government's trick with pensions".

    TO VIMA: "Bankers in a panic - Global alarm over the markets' crisis".

    VRADYNI: "Mobilisations cyclone- The strike wave over social security reforms peaks on Wednesday".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [40] P5 committed to UN effort on Cyprus

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The US, the UK, Russia, China and France remain committed to supporting UN efforts towards a negotiated settlement in Cyprus, the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council said here Tuesday.

    On Tuesday, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias received the ambassadors at the Presidential Palace, two days before his scheduled meeting on Friday with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.

    After the meeting, Peter Millett, British High Commission, said that "we had a very useful meeting with President Christofias and we are very grateful to him for taking the initiative to brief us. We listened with great interest to the President's expectations and explanations prior to the important meeting with Mr. Talat on the 21st of March and beyond."

    "We reiterated", Millett continued, "the commitment of the P5 to supporting the UN's effort to achieve a solution. We also reaffirmed the support of the Security Council for the implementation of the agreement that the two leaders signed on the 8th of July."

    "We look forward", the British diplomat added, "to seeing a progress in this area, a momentum to be built from Friday and beyond, and we look forward to further such meetings with President Christofias in the future".

    Replying to questions, Millett said they had nothing confirmed regarding a meeting with Talat.

    Friday's meeting will be the first such encounter between newly elected Christofias and Talat. Christofias was elected to the presidency last month and since then he reaffirmed on several occasions his determination to work for a settlement.

    He also said he would honour the signature of his predecessor on the July 8th agreement of 2006, which provides for discussions at committee level to prepare the ground for substantive negotiations, leading to a comprehensive settlement.

    [41] House President cautious about Christofias-Talat meeting

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The House President appeared cautious on Tuesday with regard to Friday's meeting between the President of the Republic and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, saying that one should not have high expectations.

    "Taking into consideration statements by the Turkish side, it would be wrong to have great expectations for the forthcoming meeting between President Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader," the House President Marios Karoyian said after a meeting with President Demetris Christofias.

    Karoyian said it was up to the Turkish side to see whether the window of opportunity which has opened will create the conditions for the reunification of Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    The House President, who met with President Christofias in view of the latter's meeting on Friday with Mehmet Ali Talat, said he was briefed by the president on the positions he will outline at his meeting with Talat.

    "I fully agree with the tactics and the positions that President Christofias will outline during the meeting," Karoyian said, adding that he himself expressed some thoughts and some suggestions that may be useful for Christofias.

    Karoyian also said that President Christofias will go to the meeting with good will and a constructive attitude with a view to promote the July agreement of 2006, which the UN had brokered between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities.

    The agreement, signed by the leaders of the two communities, provides for discussions at committee level to prepare the ground for substantive negotiations leading to a political settlement.

    "If the Turkish side shows tangible proof of a different approach and wants really to work towards the implementation of the July agreement, then the window which is opening may create the preconditions for the reunification of our country, which is something we, more than anybody else, pursue and want," he concluded.

    Christofias has had separate meetings with political party leaders in view of his meeting with Talat. On Wednesday he will also meet former President Tassos Papadopoulos.

    We wish to inform the readers of the English Daily News Bulletin that the bulletin will not be published on Thursday, March 20, following a 24-hour strike declared by the Athens Journalists' Union (ESHEA) on Wednesday, in protest over the government's social security draft law. The next edition of the bulletin will appear on Friday, March 21.

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS


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