|Monday, 19 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-09-05
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 5 September 2008 Issue No: 2988
 FM chairs National Council on Foreign Policy meetingThe developments in the Cyprus issue, the crisis in the Caucasus and the ongoing UN-brokered FYROM name talks were at the focus of a meeting of the National Council on Foreign Policy chaired on Thursday by foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Bakoyannis said that Greece was sending a unanimous and exceptionally strong message of support to Cyprus President Demetris Christofias.
She said that the Council had discussed in detail three substantial issues, namely the crisis in the Caucasus, Balkan issues and, chiefly, the Cyprus issue.
Bakoyannis said that, as usual, the Council had a 'good discussion', and that the main mesage was one of support to President Christofias and the UN-mediated direct talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, which opened on Wednesday in Nocisia, "in this new effort for resolving the Cyprus issue", adding that the message was unanimous and an exceptionally strong one.
 Party reps on foreign policy issuesRepresentatives of political parties that attended Thursday's national council for foreign policy made comments after the meeting, with main opposition PASOK's Andreas Loverdos initially expressing his party's support for commenced direct talks in Cyprus leading to a fair and viable solution to the long-standing problem on the island republic.
Regarding the FYROM 'name issue', Loverdos merely said certain aspects of Greece's policy need to be examined, without going into details, while he underlined that a condemnation of Georgia's attack on South Ossetia should come to the forefront.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MP Yiannis Banias charged that the US and NATO have for some time attempted to "encircle" Russia, something that caused Russia's reaction. "Whether it reacted excessively or how excessively is a secondary matter."
Nevertheless, the echoed the leftist party's position of opposing any violation of international law, regardless of where it comes from.
The representative of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS), Euro-MP George Georgiou, also referred to the Caucasus crisis, laying the blame directly on Georgian leadership, especially Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Moreover, he reiterated the party's opposition to any "name solution" that includes the term "Macedonia" for the neighbouring country.
 PM Karamanlis at 73rd TIF on FridayPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis will begin his visit to Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on the occasion of the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), with visits to the National Research and Technological Development Centre's new building complex and work at the city's METRO project on Friday morning.
The TIF's inauguration will be taking place at 09:30 on Saturday and immediately afterwards the prime minister will visit the TIF-HELEXPO's administration and exhibition premises, while at 8 in the evening he will be addressing the representatives of producer classes at the Vellidio Convention Centre.
The prime minister's visit to Thessaloniki will be concluded at noon on Sunday with the traditional press conference at the Vellidio.
 PASOK spokesman on PM's visit to ThessalonikiMain opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou, referring to the visit that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be making to Thessaloniki over the weekend on the occasion of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), said on Thursday that the Greek people "will have the opportunity of listening to explanations."
"We are particularly pleased for two reasons, that Mr. Costas Karamanlis will be at the TIF: We are pleased because the Greek people will have the opportunity of listening to explanations, of listening to Mr. Costas Karamanlis giving an account, for what they are experiencing every day. We are also pleased, however, because the prime minister will be appearing at last," the spokesman said.
Papaconstantinou added that "due to his institutional obligations he will be in Thessaloniki on Saturday where he will be speaking, while on Sunday he will be replying to at least some questions" by journalists.
 SYRIZA meeting focuses on allegations about ministersAllegations concerning inappropriate business activity by government ministers, including suspect real estate deals involving the semi-autonomous monastic community on Mount Athos, were discussed by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) MPs meeting on Thursday.
"We are all impressed by the business activities of members of the government, that have exceeded all bounds of audacity, contempt for and provocation of society," noted SYRIZA Parliamentary Group leader Alekos Alavanos.
"The logic of pursuing riches and real estate has pervaded everything. Even the gates of the Holy Mountain, which has become a house for trading in land, where women are banned but transactions with offshore companies are permitted," Alavanos said.
According to Alavanos, it was now a common sentiment even among supporters of ruling New Democracy that the current situation could not continue, that elections were needed, and that society had to make radical changes in a new direction.
He also referred to the new draft tax bill presented by the government, saying that this was an attack on small and middle-sized businesses and several thousands of young people forced to work in a nominally freelance capacity.
 Anti-doping amendment tabled in ParliamentAn amendment designed to discourage the use of doping in sports was tabled in Parliament by the government on Thursday, to be appended to a bill on combatting sports violence.
The measures envisioned by the amendment require all substances given to athletes to be recorded in their health book, the removal of sports federation board members where it was proved that federation athletes took banned substances based on a deliberate plan, jail terms, stiff fines and subsequent professional restrictions for anyone supplying athletes with banned substances, jail terms up to two years and fines for athletes caught in possession of banned or undeclared substances or those obstructing anti-doping inspections.
Even tougher sentences of up to 10 years are envisioned for those giving banned substances to minors and there is provision for the inspection of school championships in all categories by the National Council Against Doping.
Another proposal is to restrict the privileges accorded to top-level athletes under current laws, such as cash prizes for athletes finishing in top positions in Olympic, world and European meets - henceforth to be restricted only to medal winners and those that break or equal world and European records. The right to a job in the public sector will only be given to those winning an Olympic medal and there will also be changes to the system of bonus marks for champion athletes for entry into higher education.
 Bill on special training and education of disabled persons passedThe bill for the special training and education of individuals with disabilities or with special training needs, has now become law of the state.
The Education and Religious Affairs Ministry adopted for its composition, 90% of the 1,200 proposals which had been submitted during the public consultation by agencies, the disabled movement, the parental movement and scientists.
From the articles of the bill, nine were unanimously passed and in many others, there was consent by most of the political parties.
 Coast guard says Turkish patrol boat attempted to land illegal migrantsGreece's coast guard on Thursday charged that a Turkish patrol boat attempted to disembark roughly 20 suspected illegal immigrants on a remote beach in the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, an unprecedented incident that comes amid a wave of illegal migrants attempting to reach Greek islands and territories from neighbouring Turkey over the recent period.
According to an official report, the clearly identified Turkish coast guard vessel was spotted in Greek territorial waters early Thursday morning northeast of the "Palios" region of Lesvos. When the crew of the Turkish vessel became aware of an approaching Greek coast guard patrol boat it reversed course and sped away towards the Turkish coast.
The incident marks the first time that coast guard authorities have directly cited involvement by Turkish vessel in the ferrying of mostly Third World migrants onto Greek and EU territory, although Athens has repeatedly and actively called on the neighbouring country to exercise a tighter control of its sea lanes and to especially honour a bilateral agreement for the re-admittance of illegal migrants passing from Turkey to Greece and vice versa.
 Vessel which broke the Gaza blockade arrives in PiraeusThe vessel Aghios Nikolaos (Liberty), one of the two Greek vessels which broke the Gaza blockade, arrived at the port of Piraeus on Thursday, carrying 44 volunteers from 17 countries and members of the international press.
Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy Sophia Sakorafa stated that "the sea blockade of Gaza has been broken. The drama of the bombardments, occupation and of the hideous wall, does not afford the luxury for us to go separately, but necessitates the philosophy for us to go all together."
On his part, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) deputy and member of the mission Tassos Kourakis, said "more than 11,000 Palestinians, of whom 40 deputies and the Parliament president, are being held in prisons in Israel. I appeal to all humanity to deal with the Palestinians."
PASOK leader George Papandreou hailed the breaking of the blockade.
 FinMin Alogoskoufis on tax billFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday that the tax bill was ratified by the relevant Parliamentary Committee after two improving amendments were made.
According to the first amendment, the tax-free ceiling amounting to 10,500 euros is maintained for large families with three or more children, with additional increases for each child.
The second amendment maintains for young self-employed professionals, having a contract with one employer, or contracts with successive employers, the tax-free ceiling for three additional years, provided that the young self-employed professionals have not yet reached the age of 30.
Lastly, Alogoskoufis referred to inert deposit accounts and said that changes being considered do not harm the rights of depositors and stressed that it is a question of modernising legislation existing since 1942 and that concerns the assessment of interest and the practice applied by banks.
PASOK party economic affairs rapporteur Louka Katseli on Thursday accused the government of "offhandedness" in exercising its economic policy.
"The amendments produced by Mr. Alogoskoufis, regarding the tax bill, prove the offhandedness and the lack of preparation and seriousness in the exercising of the government's economic policy," she said.
"The last-minute arrangements do not remove from the backs of thousands of young people employed with receipts the great burden being created with the abolition of the tax-free ceiling," Katseli added.
The rapporteur further said that "the amendment that maintains for three more years the tax-free ceiling for self-employed professionals under the age of 30 favours the unacceptable perpetuation of a hostage status for young working people, who have a contract with one or with successive employers and who, while in essence providing salaried employment, are being employed with receipts to the benefit of businesses and the state sector."
 Marfin Popular Bank completes acquisition of Russia's RosprombankMarfin Popular Bank announced the completion of its acquisition of controlling interest in the OOO Rossisysky Promyishlenny Bank (Rosprombank), the first such acquisition in Russia by a Greek bank, after receiving the necessary approvals by the regulatory authorities of Russia and Cyprus.
The acquisition was completed with the transfer of a majority package of 50.04 percent of the equity interest of the Russian CJSC RPB Holding, Rosprombank's parent company, to MPB for 83 million euros.
With the completion of the transaction, MPB has acquired controlling interest of the Russian bank, rendering it the first bank in Cyprus and Greece to acquire a Russian bank.
The acquisition is part of MPG's plans for evolving into a key player in Southeast Europe, and is anticipated to have a positive impact on the Marfin Popular Bank Group's results.
Following the addition of Rosprombank, the MPB Group's international network will number 478 branches in Cyprus, Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, the UK, Malta, Esthonia and Australia.
Rosprombank was established in 1997 and has a dynamic presence through its network of 32 branches and points of service inmajor Russian cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg and their surrounding areas.
As per the audited financial statements for 2007, Rosprombank had net profits of 6.3 million euros, with shareholder interest reaching 53.7 illion euros, total assets of 297.5 million euros, and overall deposits of 177.6 million euros.
Rosprombank is a fast growing bank in Russia with considerable involvement in financing small-to-medium size businesses, while it will also promote retail banking through its speedily developing network.
 PASOK: price hikes have reduced Greek incomesThe available income of the average Greek family has been significantly restricted by price hikes in basic goods and services over the last four years, particularly for those with low incomes, according to the findings of a survey released by main opposition PASOK on Thursday.
The effects were compounded by government policies for income, energy, public utilities, education and taxation, PASOK officials said during a press conference.
The survey was conducted by the party's Development sector and presented by PASOK spokesman on development issues Mihalis Chrysohoidis.
According to the results unveiled, the combined increase in nominal income for a couple working in salaried employment for the past 15 years, one in the public and one in the private sector, came to 436 euros (19 percent increase) between 2004 and 2008. This was estimated according to the wage increases agreed for public sector staff and in the general collective labour agreements for 2008.
During the same period, according to Chrysohoidis, the average Greek family with two children that spent its income on purchases of essential goods and services only, without calculating spending on education and health, needed a monthly income of 2,295 euros in March 2004 and one of 3,108 euros at present, representing an increase of 813 euros or 35 percent.
PASOK officials also claimed a sharp rise in the tax burden on the average family income. They said the tax burden for a family of four with two children and one working adult had increased from 22.5 percent of the average income in 2003 to 26.5 percent of the average income in 2007.
An estimate of the tax burden as a percentage of labour costs, meanwhile, showed that for a family of four with two children and one working adult, receiving the average wage, the tax burden increased to 42.6 percent of the labour cost in 2007 from 39.5 percent in 2003.
Chrysohoidis noted that this put Greece among the countries with the highest tax burdens in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), after Hungary and Turkey.
The survey also included detailed breakdowns of the increased cost in different areas of household spending.
 Papandreou holds talks with SETE, ESEEMain opposition PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou referred on Thursday to meetings between party leader George Papandreou and representatives of producer classes in light of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
On the question of Papandreou's meeting with the Federation of Greek Tourist Businesses (SETE), Papaconstantinou said that the problems facing tourism were dicussed as well as PASOK's proposals.
"It was a bad summer for Greek tourism that was marred by the known incidents in Mykonos and Santorini, it was a summer where it appeared that the attractiveness of our country decreased with the policies of the New Democracy party," the spokesman said, pointing to failure to utilise Olympic Games infrastructures as an example, "policies that led to a decrease in visits to museums and policies that turned tourists away due to high prices on the islands."
In his meeting with the National Confederation of Greek Trade (ESEE), the PASOK leader referred to the recent tax measures and said that "when the economy is sinking, you do not let it sink even more, you help it" and discussed with ESEE the "correct functioning of competition, on a decrease in prices and support for low and medium-level incomes."
Papaconstantinou concluded by saying that "what the merchant needs today is a market that functions competitively and a contract of trust with the country."
 PAME rally in central Athens, march to ParliamentThe PAME trade unionist movement, which is affiliated to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), on Thursday held a rally in Omonia, central Athens, followed by a march to the Social Security Ministry and Parliament.
The demonstrators are against "the generalized anti-labor consequences which will be brought about by the reformed list of heavy and unhygienic professions (BAE)."
The protestors shouted slogans such as "the crime of the abolition of BAE must not pass" and "we have had enough with the anti-labor reforms."
The trade unionists with messages and speeches described as "a guillotine" the report on BAE and the social insurance rights of thousands of working people, which was delivered to the employment minister.
 Agricultural development minister holds talks with Cypriot counterpartGreece will be selling maize to Cyprus, while the two countries will be cooperating closely over the handling of the water shortage problem and promoting a joint policy in the farming sector, as regards relevant decisions taken by the European Union.
These issues were discussed during a working meeting between Agricultural Development and Food Minister Alexandros Kontos and his Cypriot counterpart Mihalis Polynikis on Thursday.
Polynikis said that the issue of aid for the wildfire-stricken regions of Artemida, in the Peloponnese, was also discussed. Cyprus has undertaken the construction of a village and considerable reforestation work.
 Neorion wins contract to build 3 fire-fighting shipsNeorion Shipbuilding and Industrial Enterprises, SA, a subsidiary of Neorion Holdings SA, on Thursday announced the signing of a contract with the Greek state, worth 14.550 million euros, for the building of three fire-fighting vessels for the fire brigade.
The three vessels, with a length of 28.6 metres, will be capable of travelling at a maximum speed of 26 knots and will be equipped with the latest equipment. The vessels will be built at Neorion's shipyards on the island of Syros and will be delivered to the fire brigade by Dec. 31, 2009.
 Greek participation at IFE-INDIA exhibitionThe Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Thessaloniki (EBETH), in cooperation with the Greek Exports Organization (OPE), is organizing the participation of Greek businesses at the International Food and Beverages IFE-INDIA exhibition (in New Delhi from December 2-4).
An EBETH announcement on Thursday said that the exhibition is of particular importance for the food and beverages sector and every year attracts specialized trade visitors.
For India's market, trade interest over the past few years has registered a particular increase and during 2006-2007, the country's economy showed a growth impetus of 9.4%, establishing in the past four years an average growth rate of 8.6%.
 Greek mutual funds' assets down 0.9% in Aug.Greek mutual funds' assets totaled 18.59 billion euros at the end of August, down 0.9 pct from the same month last year, although the number of mutual funds under management in the Greek market rose to 346 from 329 early in the year.
A monthly report by the Association of Insitutional Investors said that foreign bond funds and domestic money market funds were the only categories to record increases in August, while all other categories recorded small declines, with the exception of the foreign combined fund which recorded a 23.2 pct decline in assets.
The Greek mutual funds market recorded net capital outflows totaling 98 million euros. The performance of 67 mutual funds surpassed the performance of the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange by 1.53 to 15.15 percentage points, so far this year, with foreign equity funds recorded satisfactory returns despite a negative climate in international markets.
 Capital Markets Con'f in Halkidiki next weekHellenic Exchanges Group on Thursday announced that it will hold an International Capital Markets Conference at the Porto Carras resort in Halkidiki, on Sept. 11-12. The fifth International Capital Markets Conference aims to highlight investment opportunities in the stock markets of the region.
In this framework, listed companies and institutional investors will meet during the conference and exchange views.
The conference will bring together around 200 representatives from 12 countries, such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey, while 20 listed companies will present their strategic and investment plans.
 Price hike 'vigilantes' strike again, in ThessalonikiA supermarket in Ano Poli, in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, was the latest target for a group of self-proclaimed "vigilantes" against high prices on Thursday, who steal food and other essential consumer goods that they then distribute for free to passers-by.
A group of masked individuals entered the supermarket at 13:00, loaded up supermarket trolleys with various goods, and left without paying. On their way out, they threw flyers containing slogans against price hikes, in which they identified themselves as the "Initiative against high prices".
They then headed for a nearby street market where they distributed the food and other items to the public without charge.
There has been a spate of such robberies in Greece over the past year or so but this is the first such time such an incident has taken place in Thessaloniki.
 ASE approves listing of Performance Technologies in Alternative MarketA board meeting of the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday approved the listing of Performance Technologies SA Information in the Alternative Market of the Greek market. Under the plan, the company will list 3,908,990 common nominal shares in the market, of which 1,400 were offered through a private placement at a price of 4.0 euros per share. Trading price was set at 3.0 euros per share. Trading will begin in September 17, 2008.
 Greek stocks end 2.17 pct downGreek stocks ended sharply lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, following a similar trend in other European markets. The composite index dropped 2.17 pct to end at 3,222.59 points with turnover a moderate 219.5 million euros, of which 14.8 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower with the Utilities (3.93 pct), Banks (3.20 pct), Financial Services (3.17 pct) and Technology (2.41 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Insurance (0.86 pct), Telecommunications (0.55 pct0 and Healthcare (0.24 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index fell 2.56 pct, the FTSE 40 index dropped 0.63 pct and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.93 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 185 to 46 with another 49 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.24%
Personal & Household: -0.02%
Raw Materials: -1.27%
Travel & Leisure: -0.55%
Food & Beverages: -0.77%
Financial Services: -3.17%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Alpha Bank, National Bank, OTE and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 16.30
Public Power Corp (PPC): 16.30
HBC Coca Cola: 16.62
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.30
National Bank of Greece: 30.66
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 13.68
Piraeus Bank: 17.02
Titan Cement Company: 24.00
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 121.571 million euros. The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a premium of 0.16 percent and the September contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 1.94 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 11,676 contracts worth 104.699 million euros, with 33,438 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was one contract with 11 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,137 contracts worth 16.226 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (2,569), followed by Marfin Investment Group (1,087), OTE (1,162), PPC (405), Hellenic Exchanges (497), National Bank (1,548), Intracom (1,860), Marfin Popular Bank (1,012) and ATEbank (428).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 722 million euros on Thursday, of which 310 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 412 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (August 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 332 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year benchmark Greek and German bonds eased to 0.68 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.82 percent and the German Bund 4.13 percent.
In money markets, interest rates moved higher. The 12-month Euribor rate was 5.33 pct, the six-month rate 5.17 pct, the three-month rate 4.96 pct and the one-month rate 4.51 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates: FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.460
Pound sterling 0.819
Danish kroner 7.515
Swedish kroner 9.559
Japanese yen 158.1
Swiss franc 1.616
Norwegian kroner 8.086
Canadian dollar 1.546
Australian dollar 1.746
 PM Karamanlis addresses Geoastrophysics Museum inaugurationPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed the inauguration of the Athens National Observatory's Geoastrophysics Museum on Thursday, announcing the more than doubling of the Foundation's funds by the year 2013, as well as a new institutional framework for research and technology.
Karamanlis also said that there was encouragement for the attraction of competitive research funds which, together with the hard work and the volunteerism shown by the Foundation's leadership and staff, the Observatory can and must continue to constitute a bright example for the country.
The example of the Athens National Observatory "is yet another resounding proof that Greece has people with talent, capabilities and an inclination for creative work and for the production and dissemination of new knowledge in our society."
Karamanlis also said that today we are honouring all the spiritual people who worked and toiled at this foundation for over 160 years, implementing the vision of benefactor Sinas for the development of research in our country.
The event was attended by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos and people from the sectors of science and politics.
 Government notes good progress in digital technologyAlternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday noted that Greece was making good progress in adopting digital technologies in the past 4.5 years, with the country meeting or exceeding strategic targets, and announced plans to create a nationwide optic-fibre network in the next decade.
"Today we are exceeding the targets that we had set," he told reporters, noting that digital technology strategies for 2006 had contained references to specific actions and goals that were now a reality, such as fast Internet access for 12 out of every 100 Greeks when only one in 1,000 had such access in 2004.
Greece ranked 6th worldwide and 1st in the European Union for the annual growth of broadband in 2007, Antonaros pointed out, and had ranked 1st worldwide in 2006.
"These are positive results that are, however, not enough. We need greater persistence and intensity of effort," the spokesman added.
He then announced that the finance and transport ministries were cooperating in a new programme for the development of optic fibre infrastructure serving next-generation networks, adding that this project would not be limited by the availability of European funding but would also make use of public-private joint ventures.
Once complete, the optic fibre networks would allow simultaneous high-definition television channels, videophone services, tele-education, tele-medicine and other services, while it would be an open-access network that could be used by all telecommunications and content providers.
The project is expected to take seven years to complete with a tentative budget of 2.1 billion euros, with revenue generated through fees charged by telecoms and content providers for the supply and use of network equipment. It is envisaged to reach two million homes in Athens, Thessaloniki and 50 other large towns and cities, while preparation is underway to develop high-tech networks for all regional areas.
 Transport minister visits Larisa using only public transportTransport and Communications Minister Kostis Hatzidakis visited the city of Larissa in central Greece on Thursday to inaugurate three important new works in the city, using only public transport to get from one place to the other.
The three new projects included the electrically-powered rail line between Litohoro and Larissa on the Thessaloniki-Larissa route, a split-level junction for the railway line going through the city constructed by ERGOSE and the telematics system on the Larissa KTEL urban buses.
The minister arrived in the city from Thessaloniki on the new train and said that the electrically-powered line will have been extended up to Domokos by the end of November. Noting that the Greek Railways Organisation (OSE) was the most problematic public-sector company, he said the government had a plan for its support that it would stick to.
He then left the train station and went to the inauguration ceremony for the split-level junction on Ehekratida street using the bus and from there, again on a bus and using a 'smart' ticket, Hatzigakis travelled to the city's central square where the telematics machine is installed.
He congratulated the president of Larisa's KTEL buses Mihalis Sakellariou, noting that the system installed in Larissa is innovative and would be a model for using the same system in Athens.
The minister then departed from Larissa using the train, heading toward Katerini.
 Green Design Festival to open in AthensThe first 'Green Design Festival' - a cultural eco-festival taking place held under the aegis the City of Athens municipality - will be held in Athens between September 10 and October 1.
The festival is organised by the non-profit agency BrainLab and will be held at Syntagma Square and other central Athens locations.
It is a unique, outdoor, free cultural initiative through which citizens will have the opportunity to view environment-themed creations by 70 architects, industrial designers and graphic, fashion and street artists.
Utilising new technology, image and design, the Festival aims to raise public awareness of environmental issues through ideas and proposals on how to make our life and city greener and more pleasant.
High-heeled shoes made out of sacking, tops made out of rags, rubbish dumps converted into gardens and "green maps" of the city are some of the innovative 'green' proposals presented by artists taking part and that will be displayed in parks, squares and metro stations around the city centre.
One entry shows how a rubbish tip or an empty lot can be turned into a greenspace simply by sowing some seeds.
"Using three animation videos, we will show, surrealistically, how we can plant trees in the city," said Yiannis Constantinidis from Nomint, who was in charge of preparing a video on "guerrilla gardening" that was also posted on the Festival's site on the Internet.
At another event, street artists are invited to paint on a 10 panels in the shape of gigantic trees, with grass underneath so that passers-by can stop and watch. The trees will be set up in central squares and will be donated to schools and areas destroyed by fires after they are finished.
Other features include the 'Ecomuseum' - an open "anti-museum" set up in Syntagma Square out of wooden pallets and containers that is designed around the principle of recycling and re-use, an Eco-Chic fashion show, photography exhibitions and a "green" library.
 Efforts to preserve Lake KastoriaLocal authorities in the northwest city of Kastoria on Thursday referred to efforts to preserve the city's eponymous lake from water loss and pesticide contamination.
According to local officials, urban sewage was dumped into the lake up until 1990, the year that a modern sewage treatment plant was built.
At present, the lake's reduced depth as a result of sedimentation in the lake's basin is another worrying prospect.
Agricultural run-off from the surrounding regions has also contributed to water pollution, particularly pesticides and fertilizers.
On his part, the mayor of Kastoria, Ioannis Tsamisis, highlighted the need for awareness in order to provide an integrated strategy for the salvation of the lake.
The municipality has requested the creation of a single management entity to provide a comprehensive strategy to rehabilitate the lake's condition.
 KKE concert in memory of composer HadjidakisThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) celebrates this year the 90th anniversary of its foundation and in this framework it organises a concert in honour of late Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis at the Roman Forum, to the north of the Acropolis, on Monday.
According to a party press release, President Karolos Papoulias and the President of the Cyprus Republic Demetris Christofias will attend the concert.
 Jewish community's documents returnedDocuments of the pre-2nd World War archive of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, which were looted by the Nazi occupation forces in 1943 and were scattered through the devastation of the war, were returned to the Community by Holland's Archives Service head Elwin Hendrix.
These documents constitute a small part of the Community's pre-war archive, which were found at the end of the war in the hands of the Soviet forces. The material which was returned to the Jeewish Community of Thessaloniki was found in Holland in 2003, with the return by Russia of the Dutch archives which were impounded by the Nazis.
 Gas cylinders explode outside offices of industrialist MylonasGas cylinders placed outside the entrance to offices of the company owned by industrialist George Mylonas in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Thursday afternoon caused limited material damage.
Firemen rushing to the scene extinguished the ensuing fire immediately, while the Fire Brigade announced that the offices were empty at the time of the incident.
Mylonas had been kidnapped earlier in the year and had been released after his family had paid ransom money to the kidnappers, who were later detected and arrested by the police.
 Authorities intercept 50 illegal immigrants on SamosSamos Coast Guard officers reported the arrest of 50 illegal immigrants in the Karavopetra region on the island on Thursday morning.
The illegal immigrants were first led to the Samos General Hospital for a medical examination and then transferred to the reception centre for illegal immigrants on the island.
 Fair on FridayFair weather with northwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 15C and 34C. Fair in Athens, with 3-4 beaufort northerly winds and temperatures ranging from 20C to 34C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 20C to 32C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceRecent opinion polls indicating public discontent with the two mainstream parties (ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK) and internal disagreements in ND ahead of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), where the guidelines of economic policy for the following year are traditioinally unveiled by the prime minister, were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The 'frozen' bank accounts to the poor - Government positively examining proposal by (ND deputy for Argolida Yannis) Manolis" that bank accounts that have been inactive for 20 years should be disseized and given to the newly-established fund for combatting poverty.
APOGEVMATINI: "Swimming pool a grave for father and two children - Family tragedy in villa in Vari".
AVGHI: "Authority, businesses, rising to wealth - ND ministers and MPs in the grips of accusations".
AVRIANI: "They're setting the stage for apostasy, as Tatoulis (ND deputy who is frequently vocal in his dissent of party cadres and policies) itching to be expelled - Strong centers of authority linked with the US agonizingly seeking rebels in order to topple Karamanlis".
CHORA: "Government 'cutting and pasting' the (list of) 'heavy and hazardous' professions - What the experts' report submitted to Petralia (employment minister) recommends".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The extreme political acrimony draws attention away from the issues of substance - Scandals and clashes portend rapid developments".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Tatoulis casts down the gauntlet at Karamanlis".
ESTIA: "New injustices with the taxes - Blatant violation of the Constitution".
ETHNOS: "Rockets in the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) court - Grumbling behind-the-scenes and uneasy reactions among ND's 152 MPs".
KATHIMERINI: "Government at its limitis, PASOK at the extremes".
LOGOS: "Four-speed (four categories of) 'heavy and hazardous' professions - Experts' report submitted to government".
NIKI: "We are prepared to govern - Papandreou (PASOK leader) commitment to bring the country out of the crisis".
PONTIKI (weekly): "Metron Analysis opinion poll: Economy, corruption, disappointment the final blow for Karamanlis and government - Is anyone listening?"
RIZOSPASTIS: "The people must take the step of ridding themselves of the prevailing policy".
TA NEA: "Blue (color associated with ruling ND) 'tsunami' drowning the ministers - Government in vortex of scandals".
TO VIMA: "The 221 professions being removed from the 'heavy and hazardous' category".
VRADYNI: "Five open fronts ahead of TIF - Society awaiting Karamanlis' moves for exist from the crisis".
 President Christofias discusses Cyprus question with Swedish officialsSTOCKHOLM (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, who is paying a two-day visit in Sweden, discussed here on Thursday with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt the Cyprus question, Sweden's role in efforts to reach a Cyprus settlement and the enhancement of bilateral relations between Cyprus and Sweden.
In statements after the meeting, which lasted for about an hour, President Christofias said that they had a friendly and comprehensive discussion.
"We have reviewed the Cyprus question in detail and the role of the talks that we have started and that will be of decisive importance, and also the role which Sweden can play as an EU member state, which has very friendly relations with Turkey," he noted.
He added that "we have come to the conclusion that this role can be exercised and be effective toward the Turkish leadership, so that some issues of principle regarding security, ownership and other aspects of the Cyprus question will be understood and accepted."
As regards the discussion on the two countries bilateral relations, President Christofias noted the satisfaction expressed during the meeting about the level of these relations.
"We also acknowledged the broad spectrum of the relations and the ample room there is for the further development of these relations," he added.
Earlier, Christofias met the Speaker and members of the Parliament of Sweden.
Christofias described the meeting as friendly, noting that the Swedish parliamentarians were interested very much in the beginning of the talks and the prospects for their success.
"That gave me the opportunity to develop the views, the positions and our assessment regarding the progress so far, and the possible problems that we will face," he added.
President Christofias stressed that he was cautiously optimistic as several aspects of the Cyprus question have become due to the passing of time and the positions of the Turkish side on the Cyprus question complicated and complex.
"That is why seriousness, good will and change of the stance of the Turkish side on core issues of the Cyprus are needed," he added.
President Christofias and the other members of the Cypriot delegation also visited SymbioCity which promotes holistic and sustainable urban development, finding potential synergies in urban functions and unlocking their efficiency and profitability.
SymbioCity promotes holistic and sustainable urban development - finding and sustainable urban development - finding potential synergies in urban.
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat began on Wednesday direct negotiations with a view to reunite the country, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. The two leaders will meet again next week.
 Cypriot FM:solution must conform to European and UN principlesLARNACA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou stressed here Thursday that there can be no solution in Cyprus which does not conform to European principles and UN resolutions.
The minister advocated a "wait and see" approach as far as the positions the Turkish Cypriot side outlined at Wednesday's launch of direct negotiations for a solution, which reiterate long-standing Turkish positions for two states in Cyprus and the maintenance of Turkey's role as a guarantor power.
"It is incomprehensible to agree to a solution of the Cyprus issue which will not conform to European principles or which is not based on UN resolutions", Kyprianou said, in statements before departing for talks in Madrid with his Spanish counterpart.
Commenting on Wednesday's start of direct talks between President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, Kyprianou said Cyprus and the international community believe that problems can be resolved through dialogue.
Kyprianou said that actual substantive negotiations will begin next week, under UN auspices, noting that this is when the international community and EU have to contribute towards the peace process, especially at experts' level, to encourage and even exert pressure on Turkey to maintain a positive and constructive approach.
Referring to statements by Talat about a new partnership of two states through "virgin birth", Kyprianou pointed out these positions are not new "and we should not be alarmed that they were repeated yesterday." Such comments reconfirm once again the great difference of views that exist, he added.
He urged reporters to wait and see what the Turkish Cypriot side's final stance at the negotiating table will be.
On Turkey's attitude, Kyprianou said that before the start of the talks, Turkey had stated its support to the process. "We have repeatedly said that we want support on the substance of the issue and this is what we expect from Ankara and especially Talat, who is the negotiator; they have to comply with the form of a solution as prescribed by UN resolutions and EU principles", he added.
He said it was an oxymoron to hear on the one hand Talat talk about a continuation of the 1960 treaties and on the other hand see him proposing the creation of a new state.
"The messages that we get from the other side are not encouraging but we were expecting this. We know that the Turkish side always hardens its position prior to entering a negotiating procedure", Kyprianou added.
Kyprianou said President Christofias will insist on the positions of the Greek Cypriot side, adding that the president was clear in his additional remarks during Wednesday's talks. "He made it clear that a bizonal, bicommunal federation was a major concession by the Greek Cypriot side in order to achieve a solution. We cannot go beyond this", he stressed.
Talks, which began yesterday, aim at reuniting Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion and continuing occupation of the island's northern part.
 US Senator Biden calls for full withdrawal of Turkish troops from CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
US Senator Joe Biden, running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and an experienced diplomat, has called for the "full withdrawal" of Turkish troops from northern Cyprus in an interview posted on''Kathimerini'' on- line edition.
According to a press release, Biden, chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, who has referred to the Cyprus occupation as an "anomaly", told Kathimerini that Washington's relations with Ankara "will be influenced by how the Cyprus problem is solved, namely by the full withdrawal of Turkey, and from how Greek and Turkish differences in the Aegean are settled."
Biden said the stance of Cyprus leaders - Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat - made him "more optimistic than ever" that a settlement will be agreed upon.
Obama's running mate pledged Washington's "constant and active support" for peace talks. "We have the opportunity, with the cooperation of Greece, to find a logical solution to Cyprus and end the occupation," he said.
As for tactics for breaking the deadlock, Biden said negotiators should focus on existing common ground and build from there. "Part of diplomacy is determining which issues serve common interests and focusing on these to find a solution," he noted.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
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