|Monday, 19 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-10-23
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>‘hursday, 23 October 2008 Issue No: 3027
 House adopts ruling party's proposal on Vatopedi affairParliament unanimously adopted in the early morning hours on Thursday a ruling New Democracy (ND) proposal to set up a Parliamentary fact-finding committee on the politically charged Vatopedi Monastery land exchanges with the state. Following a debate, the House adopted the proposal without resorting to a roll-call vote since no party had expressed opposition to the proposal.
A discussion on the proposal tabled by the ruling New Democracy (ND) party for the creation of a Factfinding Committee to probe the Vatopedi affair began in Parliament on Wednesday evening with addresses by party rappor-teurs and with ND rapporteur Christos Markoyiannakis accusing of "hypocrisy and amoralism" the main opposition PASOK party, which in turn clarified that it will support its own proposal for the creation of an Investigatory Committee, an issue which will be examined in Parliament on Friday.
"The Vistonida lake was delivered to the Vatopedi Monastery by PASOK's deputy ministers Drys and Fotiadis in 2003, at the expense of hundreds of familes in the region that lacked property and who were ignored despite their protests," Markoyiannakis said, while tabling in Parliament the relevant delivery protocol.
He further called on the main opposition party "not to try to smear the honour and reputation of ministers, when it does not possess evidence that constitutes a penal offence."
Markoyiannakis went on to say that "you are saying that Mr. (Minister of State Theodoros) Roussopoulos is the moral accomplice because he had social contacts with the prior Efrem. If I bring out photographs of Mr. (former PASOK minister Costas) Laliotis with Mr. Efrem, with embraces, pleasantries and pious prayers does it mean that he is the moral accomplice for the actions of Drys and Fotiadis?"
Lastly, he rejected PASOK's protests on the return of the file of proceedings by a public prosecutor, saying that it had not acted similarly "when the superior of Mr. (prosecutor) Asprogerakas, in 2002, had returned his written report on numerous penal offences by ministers" and asked the deputies of the main opposition party "where were you at the time, 'supporters' and 'protectors' of Justice?"
PASOK rapporteur Dinos Rovlias said that "PASOK supports its party's proposal for an Investigatory Committee because it desires ample light to be shed on the issue for the period before 2004 as well. We seek control which will silence the supporters of offsetting so that the selfish myth which is being created will be downed. We are not giving an alibi to anyone," he said.
Rovlias clarified that PASOK's Deputy Finance Minister Apostolos Fotiadis had initially accepted the proposal by the Advisory Public Real Estate Council which had urged that the state should not seek rights on the Vistonida lake.
"If the PASOK government had recognised the Monastery as the owner of the lake, the Monastery would not have resorted to the law courts in November, 2003. The political will, therefore, of the last PASOK government had been expressed explicitly: The lake belongs to the state," Rovlias said.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) rapporteur Antonis Skyllakos said that the way with which Parliament is investigating the Vatopedi issue leaves no hope that "an end will be found."
Skyllakos added that the conclusion drawn from the handling of the "scandal" is "covering up and offsetting," which is becoming evident for the ruling party.
He clarified, however, that KKE will vote in favour of all the proposals "so that its name is not linked to whatever possibility of a writeoff."
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) rapporteur Yiannis Dragasakis, addressing the government, said that "for us it is right what ND is saying: When it came to power, the Vistonida lake had been delivered with a delivery protocol in 2003. This, however, is a fig leaf. Why did you not abolish the decisions of PASOK and on the rock of PASOK you built an acropolis of scandals?"
Dragasakis stressed that the Monastery's lawsuit had been submitted long before PASOK's delivery protocol. "Why did Mr. Fotiadis give a written order for a delivery protocol to be prepared while the trial was pending?" he wondered, adding that "since then we had tabled a question, but we had received no reply."
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party rapporteur Athanassios Plevris said that the risk of a writeoff exists with the creation of a Factfinding Committee and for this reason his party called for the creation of an Investigatory Committee, claiming that responsibiltiy also lies with PASOK but the greatest responsibility lies with ND.
Plevris also termed "a shame the law of 2003 on the responsibility of ministers," stressing that "it is not possible for there to be a different time for a writeoff for the offences of citizens and a different one for ministers, as the law anticipates, and in this way their offences are written off after the passing of the two first sessions of Parliament."
Minister of state attacks PASOK leader
In his address, Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, accused the main opposition PASOK party leader of being responsible for the "illicit", "wretched" and "immoral" orchestration against his person.
Roussopoulos noted that never since 1847, when the law on the responsibility of ministers had been implemented for the first time "had there ever been a request for an indictment with the 'surrounding atmosphere' being the only evidence."
The minister further said that PASOK is basing charges again him on slander and that the only real fact is his longstanding acquaintance and his spiritual relation with the prior of the Vatopedi Monastery and added that he "talks and will continue to talk with representatives of monasteries and agencies" and that "it is not important what they tell me in these meetings, what is important is what I reply."
Roussopoulos called on PASOK's deputies to say how many have gone to the Vatopedi Monastery and how many ministers of theirs have been proclaimed its benefactors.
He then presented the following list of PASOK ministers who had approved subsidies for the Monastery: 1997: Costas Laliotis, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister, had approved 50 million (drachmas), 1999: Costas Vrettos, Deputy Agriculture Minister, a subsidy for 441 million (drachmas), 1999: Ioannis Mangriotis, Minister of Macedonia and Thrace, subsidies for 20 and 70 million drachmas, 2001: George Paschalidis, Minister of Macedonia and Thrace, 30 million drachmas, 1994: Costas Triaridis, Minister of Macedonia and Thrace, 1 million and 1999: Christos Pachtas, Deputy Finance Minister, approved a subsidy for 996 million drachmas.
As regards the charge that he was the moral accomplice in the issue, Roussopoulos said that it was "unfounded and absurd and was not substantiated by either the order by the Supreme Court prosecutor or by the resignations of the two deputy prosecutors or by the file of proceedings".
"I call on you to say clearly, from where is it deduced that there is any action that supports your accusations," he said.
Roussopoulos then turned personally to the PASOK leader, saying that the only thing which interests him "is the smearing of political opponents in every way" with the target not being himself but the government, the ND party and in the end the prime minister "because he is the only authentic expressor of a policy of changes and of reforms."
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, avoided replying to Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos and preferred to link the Vatopedi affair to the "overall crisis which is governing Greek political, social and economic life," as he said.
"We are not calling on you to betray your party but not to betray the principles and values that must unite us in this hall," he said.
Papandreou called on the New Democracy party's deputies to vote in favour of his party's proposal for the creation of an Investigatory Committee (the proposal will be discussed independently on Friday) and to agree to the creation of at least three more Factfinding Committees that will conclude investigations on the phonetapping, structured bonds and Siemens cases.
Referring to the prime minister's role, Papandreou observed that "becoming prime minister is not enough, the question is to become a good prime minister. To have your hands free to serve the people and not to be the plaything of every interest. I fear that your government is a captive and it is weak to be able to change the disastrous course."
Referring to the case of the Vatopedi Monastery, the main opposition party leader spoke of a "scandal that developed on the basis of a central political plan, as was precisely the case of the bonds, a scandal of illegally granting public wealth."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said that her party was obliged to support both proposals (as well as that made by the main opposition PASOK party on the creation of an Investigatory Committee).
"It is our obligation to support both proposals because evidence exists both for the attribution of political responsibilities and the probing of penal ones," she said, but added that "the hopes are few since the political responsibilities will be discussed superficially by the Factfinding Committee."
Papariga said that the KKE will not give grace to any party and criticised those who spoke of its pereplexity in stating its position clearly "because it wants to benefit New Democracy" and added that "politically perplexed are those who have someone to hide."
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis criticised Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, attributing responsibilities to him in the Vatopedi Monastery affair and claiming that he had said half truths in his address.
Karatzaferis spoke of "a Roussopoulos system that is poisoning", as he said, the country and claimed that according to opinion polls 91 percent of the Greek people disapprove of the minister of State and called on the New Democracy deputies to vote in favour of the creation of an Investigatory Committee.
On his part, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary leader Alekos Alavanos criticised both ND and the main opposition PASOK party of having responsibilities, considering that both parties avoided checking each other for its handling of the Vatopedi case.
"Vatopedi is Greece. It is the Holy Siemens. Whatever case is revealed in Greece, wherever the magnifying glass goes, either to the Stock Exchange, or to the cartels, or to the Church, there is everywhere profiteering, rings, ravens, vested interests," Alavanos said.
 Vatopedi probe file to ParliamentA copy of the investigation file into the politically charged Vatopedi monastery land exchange furor was sent on Wednesday to Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas, a necessary prerequisite for opening any Parliamentary procedure into whether or not criminal acts were committed by MPs holding immunity, i.e. Cabinet ministers.
A judicial inquiry into the affair will continue, however.
On his part, a main opposition PASOK spokesman said the development was "vindication" for the party, while he called on all deputies in the 300-MP legislature to vote in favor of establishing a preliminary committee to investigate any wrongdoing.
Spokesman George Papaconstantinou also claimed that the development comes after pressure by PASOK and lawsuits against a pair of high-ranking Supreme Court prosecutors.
The government and PASOK have traded charges and counter-charges over the affair, which involves a series of reportedly questionable land exchanges between the Mount Athos monastery and the state.
Meanwhile, in a related development and hours later, in a letter by chief Supreme Court prosecutor George Sanidas to the head of the first instance courts' prosecutor, Kyriakos Karoutsos, the former emphasises that "no evidence has so far been collected to point to criminal liability on the part of ministers."
Conversely, Karoutsos' document to Sioufas includes a letter by appellate prosecutor Efstathia Spyropoulou towards her superiors, in which she reaches an opposing conclusion.
 Minister slams PASOK 'interference' in justiceJustice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis roundly criticised main opposition PASOK on Thursday, in response to comments by its members concerning the handling of the Vatopedi land deals investigation, accusing it of "interfering with" and sacrificing the prestige of Greece's justice system for petty political gain.
"PASOK in its political downhill slide continues to deliberately and maliciously link the institutional functions of government and justice," he said in a statement, adding that the government had repeatedly stated and also proved in practice its desire for transparency and a full clearing up of the Vatopedi land deals case.
"What PASOK terms the 'scandal of justice within the scandal of Vatopedi' is precisely this systematic effort by PASOK itself to undermine justice and glean party-political gains by denigrating our legal culture. The culmination of which is its tactic of levelling very serious charges of criminal liability against government ministers without having even a superficial knowledge of the file of the preliminary judicial investigation," Hatzigakis said.
He was particularly scathing about PASOK's comments earlier on Wednesday that the party felt vindicated in its decision to demand a Parliamentary preliminary examination committee to look into the case after judicial authorities sent copies of the prosecutors' file to Parliament in view of the upcoming votes for inquiries into the case, noting that the party "had already reached a verdict, before they have even read the judicial file on the case."
 Thessaloniki Metropolitan refers to abbot's 'mistake' in Vatopedi affairMetropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki on Wednesday referred to a "mistake" by Vatopedi Monastery Abbot Ephraim over a series of controversial land exchanges with the state, adding however, that a "single individual and an isolated incident cannot supersede what the monastic community of Mt. Athos stands for."
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a press conference on a Byzantine Culture Museum exhibition, Anthimos stressed that Mt. Athos has a 1,100-year-long history.
 Inner cabinet focuses on immigration issuesImmigration issues dominated a meeting of the inner cabinet held on Wednesday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Briefing reporters afterwards, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that he had outlined the details of the immigration pact agreed by EU leaders on October 16 and stressed that the handling of migration was probably one of the most serious problems facing the world today, along with the global credit crisis.
"We believe that by implementing this Pact, Europe finally acquires the migration policy that becomes it and is in accordance with the humanistic values that define Europe and its culture. It does not turn Europe into a 'fortress', as some have claimed, but acts as an example of a migration policy that is fitting for a modern world and culture and a modern level of democracy," he said.
According to Pavlopoulos, the immigration pact took the double approach of encouraging legal migration on the one hand while improving management of illegal migration and boosting protection of the EU's external borders on the other. It also addressed issues of asylum and those concerned with promoting migration as a factor of development.
The prime minister had already acted on the pact signed last week, taking the initiative for its implementation in terms of closer contact between member-states for the protection of the EU's external borders, the minister added.
Pavlopoulos reminded reporters that Greece will host the 3rd global forum on migration and development in about a year's time, organised by the United Nations in collaboration with the EU.
The second global forum on migration will take place in Manila next week will tackle the issue of migration in the area of development but not from the point of view of destination countries but from the view of the countries of origin of migrants.
The minister stressed that other countries in the region had to do their share in the effort to combat illegal migration and he referred specifically to Turkey, which he said was failing to meet its obligations in this area.
"We are doing whatever we can, also through the EU, so that Turkey assumes its responsibilities and the situation that often exists with immigrant-trafficking is dealt with," Pavlopoulos underlined.
 Greek, British PMs discuss impact of global crisis, bilateral relationsLONDON (ANA-MPA/S. Goutzanis)
The impact of the global financial crisis on Europe and the European economies were at the focus of talks between Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis and his British counterpart Gordon Brown in London.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, held on Tuesday, Karamanlis praised Brown's contribution to the common effort for amelioration of the crisis. He said the primary target of the efforts was to minimize the consequences of the international financial crisis on the lives of the citizens and on the real economy, and particularly on the financially weaker brackets.
"We agreed that the efforts of all of us are and must continue to be concerted, at both European and global level, so as to restore confidence in the credit system and a climate of calm on the markets," Karamanlis said.
The two prime ministers further discussed bilateral relations, the prospects of the Lisbon Treaty, the situation in the Balkans, and developments in the Cyprus issue.
Karamanlis also took the opportunity to set before Brown Greece's standing demand for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, the campaign for which will acquire a new momentum with the completion of the state-of=the art New Acropolis Museum.
The Greek prime minister also delivered an address on the international crisis and the Greek economy at a Traveler's Club event on Tuesday, to an audience comprising UK financial and university officials.
Following a brief analysis of the causes of the international crisis, Karamanlis highlighted the initiatives taken initially by the eurozone leaders and afterwards by the European Council, and the action framework for protection of the banking system, adding that those decisions have already had positive impact on the money markets.
He stressed that the security of the credit system was only a "functional target", with the underlying ultimate goal being protection of the real economy, boosting of investments and jobs, the growth rate, and incomes levels.
In an extensive reference to the Greek "reality", Karamanlis stressed that "the Greek credit system is absolutely healthy and credit-worthy, with nearly the entire total of loans covered by the deposits".
The Greek government, he explained, has entered into effect a structured plan of action that includes guarantees of up to 15 billion euros for those banks (operating in Greece) that may require it.
Karamanlis reiterated the political commitment for state guarantee of all deposits in all the banks operating in Greece.
He said that the recent crisis had proved the importance of the structural reforms that have taken place in Greece in recent years since, due to those reforms, the Greek economy manifested strong resilience and flexibility.
The premier also spoke of the performance of the Greek economy and its prospects, stressing that the growth rate had been running at 3.5 percent in the first half of the year and tourism was continuing its upward course, while unemployment was posting a consistent decline.
He also stressed the government's energy policy and the conversion of the country into an international energy hub, while also underlining the dynamism and potential of the Greek tourism industry.
Karamanlis further made special reference to Greek merchant shipping, "for which our country is proud".
The premier ended by saying that Greece was constantly enhancing its attraction and extroversion, adding that, in the framework of that effort, the opportunities opening up for dynamic investments were significant, and concerned everyone.
While in the British capital, Karamanlis also inaugurated a groundbreaking exhibition at the London Royal Academy of Arts, titled "Byzantium 330-1453" incorporating over 300 objects, many of which have never before been displayed in public before. The exhibition, co-sponsored by the JF Costopulos Foundation, the AG Leventis Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, was organized in collaboration with the Benaki Museum of Athens, and includes icons, detached wall paintings, micro-mosaics, ivories, enamels and gold and silver metalwork.
 UN envoy Nimetz on FYROM 'name issue' talksNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The UN Secretary General's special envoy on the "name issue" of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Matthew Nimetz, in a written statement on Wednesday claimed that "he does not take orders from anyone," clarifying the type of his cooperation with third parties.
A UN secretariat spokesman said that "with regard the recent claims expressed in Greek mass media concerning the neutrality and methods of cooperation by Matthew Nimetz, Mr. Nimetz has decided to give himself the following answer:
"In reply to various demands for clarifications concerning my role, allow me to answer by stating that I have followed the same protocol since 1999.
"I am preparing the material which I present to the sides exclusively by myself and I do not send copies, neither do I discuss the content with anyone else. Normally, I prepare my documents on my own computer and I print and deliver the documents personally to the representatives.
"Regarding the discussions with third parties, I am always ready to discuss the general issue of the negotiations with representatives of member-states. The issue of the "name" has broader international interest and influences all the governments which are related with the region, as well as their relations with the two sides," Nimetz said.
 Gov't on closing of Thessaloniki prefectural officesGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday reiterated the government's support towards local administrations, when asked to comment on the decision by the Thessaloniki Prefect to shutdown the prefecture's offices.
Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis said he proceeded with the symbolic move in demand of more state funds for school buildings.
 FM to receive new Iranian envoy on ThursdayForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will receive the new Iranian ambassador to Greece, Mehdi Honardoost, at noon on Thursday, the ministry said in a press release on Wednesday.
The courtesy meeting is taking place on the occasion of Amb. Honardoost's assumption of his post in Athens.
 Greek fiscal deficit at 3.5 pct of GDP in 2007, EurostatGreece's fiscal deficit was revised upwards to 3.5 pct of GDP in 2007, while the country's public debt was 94.8 pct of GDP during the same year, Eurostat said on Wednesday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in its report on the fiscal condition of the EU-27, said Hungary (5.0 pct), Greece (3.5 pct), UK (2.8 pct), France (2.7 pct), Portugal (2.6 pct) and Romania (2.6 pct) recorded the highest fiscal deficits.
Eurostat also announced it has withdrawn the reservation on the data reported by Greece in the April 2008 notification on the provision of data for the excessive deficit procedure. Issues clarified since April 2008 concerned the recording of EU grants (in 2006 and 2007), statistical discrepancies (for 2007 data) and the coverage of source data for extra-budgetary funds, local government and social security funds. The Greek authorities have agreed with Eurostat a list of medium-term actions to be implemented.
Eurostat also said that the increase in the deficit for 2006 and 2007 is due to updated data for taxes, hospitals, social security, changes in the balance of Treasury Accounts at the Central Bank, changes in the recording of the transactions with the EU budget and improved coverage of extra-budgetary bodies.
The EU's statistics agency said 12 member states recorded fiscal surplus in 2007, Finland (5.3 pct), Denmark (4.9 pct), Sweden (3.6 pct), Cyprus (3.5 pct), Luxembourg (3.2 pct), Estonia (2.7 pct), Spain (2.2 pct), Slovenia (0.5 pct), Holland (0.3 pct), Ireland (0.2 pct), Bulgaria (0.1 pct) and Latvia (0.1 pct).
Estonia (3.5 pct), Luxembourg (7.0 pct), Latvia (9.5 pct) and Romania (12.9 pct) recorded the lowest public debts in 2007, while Italy (104.1 pct), Greece (94.8 pct), Belgium (83.9 pct), Hungary (65.8 pct), Germany (65.1 pct), France (63.9 pct), Portugal (63.6 pct) and Malta (62.2 pct) the highest public debt rates.
 PASOK economic affairs rapporteur on Eurostat dataMain opposition PASOK party economic affairs rapporteur Louka Katseli, referring on Wednesday to the publication by Eurostat of data concerning the fiscal deficit for 2007, said that the "government and its economic staff have been left exposed once again."
"The publication by Eurostat that the fiscal deficit for 2007 has passed the 3 percent red line and has reached, as we had predicted, 3.5 percent of the GDP, even above what the government had announced in the Draft Budget, leaves the government and its economic staff exposed once again," she said.
According to Katseli, the "continuous changes of data and the addition and removal of asterisks in the country's fiscal data shake the credibility of Greece, with the exclusive responsibility of the Karamanlis government."
Katseli further said that the government "is continuing the same tactic that has led the Greek economy to a deadlock: a tax raid with additional taxes amounting to 7.4 billion euros, a decrease in public investments almost by one billion euros during a period of economic crisis, a cutback in social expenditures, the swelling of extravagance in the public sector and no measure to crack down on tax evasion. This deadlocked policy must be reversed. This, however, cannot be done by a New Democracy party government."
 Draft bill to raise banks' supervisory capital levelEconomy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Wednesday announced that the Greek government will table a draft law in Parliament over the next few days raising the level of supervisory capital of Greek banks. Speaking in Parliament during a debate over a draft legislation envisaging additional protection for domestic borrowers, Alogoskoufis said the bill will help banks to better resist any new turmoil in the European and international banking system, as well as to facilitate their access to new liquidity.
 Gov't: Tax collection top priorityDeputy Economy Minister Antonis Bezas on Wednesday said the government's priority was to collect all outstanding tax debts and finish tax inspections for past fiscal statements.
The minister, in a meeting with the directors of regional tax bureaus, urged stepped up efforts to effectively complete a programme for collecting greater tax revenues, "We do not have the luxury of deviating from a fiscal discipline programme. Fiscal discipline and high growth rates are strongholds to protect citizens from a current credit crisis".
 Tourism minister inaugurates EOT office in BucharestBUCHAREST (ANA-MPA - I. Randou)
Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos on Wednesday attended the official opening of the new Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) office in Bucharest during his visit to Romania's capital.
In an address at the opening, he referred to Greece's extroverted strategy for tourism and the "identity" of the Greek tourist product:
"Greek tourism offers quality and a variety of choices. It is equally interesting at all times of year. It respects the natural and cultural environment. It offers visitors real, authentic experiences and warm hospitality," he said.
He forecast that the emerging global economic crisis would have a limited impact on Greece's tourism sector, which was in any case turning to new markets such as Russia, the Ukraine, eastern Europe, China, India, Africa and South America. To demonstrate his point, he noted that revenue from tourism increased by 8.5 percent relative to the same period in the previous year during the first eight months of 2008, in spite of the global economic crisis.
Referring to relations between Greece and Romania in terms of tourism, Spiliotopoulos said that Romania was a key market for Greece's attempted opening to mature and emerging markets in the Balkan region, Russia and the Ukraine. He said Greece's aim was to further develop tourist ties, with emphasis on cultural, religious and agricultural tourism.
He also cited figures showing that Greece was the first choice of destination for 72 percent of Romanians considering a trip abroad and that 45.1 percent of Romanians visiting Greece spent an average of 500-1,200 euros during their stay in the country.
Before leaving Romania, Spiliotopoulos will meet Small & Medium-Sized Enterprises, Trade, Tourism, & Freelance Professions Minister Ovidiu Silaghi on Thursday and inaugurate the Greek stand at the Bucharest Tourism Fair, after which he is scheduled to meet Bucharest's Mayor Sorin Oprescu.
 Greece elected UN ECOSOC memberNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Greece, being a member of the Western European countries, was elected on Wednesday among the 18 members of the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The other candidate countries were Portugal, Germany, Lichtenstein and France.
Greece garnered 177 votes and was ranked third in the line of preference among its fellow candidates. The country's new tenure, serving for the third consecutive year, will begin on January 1, 2009.
ECOSOC functions as a main forum for debating international economic and social issues and shapes policy proposals for the UN's members.
 General strike staged on TuesdayA 24-hour general strike staged jointly by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) paralyzed public transport, airlines and the civil service on Tuesday, while also causing a news blackout as media workers joined the strike action.
The main protest rally held at the Pedion tou Areos Park in central Athens was addressed by GSEE president Yannis Panagopoulos, who acknowledged the problems caused by the international financial crisis but also placed blame on the government's policies, particularly those on privatization of the DEKO (public utilities and organizations) and the cutbacks in social expenditures contained in the draft 2009 budget recently tabled in parliament.
Panagopoulos warned that the budget cutbacks would give rise to "unprecedented social reactions".
A separate protest rally was held simultaneously by PAME.
Two similar rallies were also staged in Thessaloniki, organized by PAME and by the Thessaloniki Labor Center, respectively.
 Tradesmen protest against social security and taxation policyTradesmen and small industry professionals in Thessaloniki held a protest march on taxation and social security issues Wednesday within the framework of the nationwide mobilizations called by the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Trades (GSEBEE).
The demonstrators marched to the ministry of Macedonia-Thrace and a delegation handed over a petition to the minister.
Meanwhile, stores across the Peloponnese in southern Greece remained closed after a decision reached by local trade unions in protest to the government-sponsored social security reform and taxation policy.
 Greek business mission in EgyptCAIRO (ANA-MPA/N. Katsikas)
Seventeen Greek entrepreneurs are in Cairo since last Sunday and will stay there until Thursday.
The visit is within the framework of the entrepreneurial mission which is organised by the Foreign Trade Organisation (OPE) and is headed by OPE's International Business Missions director, Maria Rapti.
The Greek entrepreneurs who represent a total of 13 companies, mostly come from Epirus, northwestern Greece, but also from other regions of Greece. They are engaged in the production of furniture, food-stuff, herbs, machinery and pumps.
The aim of the mission was to explore the Egyptian market and the conclusion of new contracts in the meetings they held on Wednesday with Egyptian entrepreneurs in Cairo.
It is the second mission which OPE organises in Cairo in 2008.
 New tram strike announced for ThursdayAthens tram workers on Wednesday announced further strike action for Thursday, with work stoppages in the morning and evening.
The strikes will be held between 8:00-10:00 am on Thursday morning and 8:00-10:00 p.m. on Thursday night but effectively, there will be no trams running between 6:30-11:00 am and from 18:00-23:00 as a result.
Tram employees have been striking on and off for about a month now, to press management to agree to financial and other demands raised by their union.
 EIB to offer low interest rate loans to SMEsThe European Investment Bank (EIB) will offer cheap money to small- and medium-sized enterprises in Greece, in the middle of an unfavourable international financial conjucture because of an on-going credit crisis, the bank's vice-president Plutarhos Sakellaris said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, during a news conference, Sakellaris said EIB supported the European economy and the financial system by offering loans totaling 30 billion euros to European small- and medium-sized enterprises, of which 15 billion euros will be offered in the period 2008-2009. He stressed that EIB's funding to SMEs will be made through partnership agreements with commercial banks, carrying an interest rate below the interbank rate. Sakellaris said EIB has already signed loan contracts with four Greek banks, Emporiki Bank, Eurobank, Piraeus Bank and PanCretan Cooperative Bank, totaling 650 million euros, in the framework of the program.
 Marfin banks say 'no need' to make use of state assistanceMarfin Popular Bank, Marfin Egnatia Bank and the Investment Bank of Greece, in an announcement, said on Wednesday that they were not in need of, and would not make use of, any state assistance of any kind.
It is noted that governments through the world, including Greece, have announced measures to fortify banks due to the impact of the international credit crisis and the liquidity problems arising in the global banking system.
 Plaisio Computers says sales up 12.1 pct in Jan-SeptPlaisio Computers on Wednesday reported a 12.1 pct increase in its consolidated nine-month sales to 295.851 million euros, from 264.009 million in the corresponding period last year and said after tax profits totaled 3.8 million euros, down 28.3 pct over the same period.
Parent sales grew 11.9 pct to 293.466 million euros, from 262.205 million euros last year, while after tax profits fell 31.4 pct to 3.846 million euros.
The company attributed its reduced profits to higher investments focusing on the expansion of activities.
 ASE invites shipping companies to list in the marketAthens Stock Exchange's president Spyros Kapralos on Wednesday called on Greek shipping companies to list their shares in the Greek market, saying the Greek stock market has done everything necessary to be attractive for shipping companies.
Addressing a lunch in Piraeus on "The Greek shipping and its prospects in the Greek stock market", Kapralos said it was now up to the shipping companies, underwriters and investors to support ASE's initiatives and to boost the development of Greek shipping industry by raising funds from the Greek capital market.
Kapralos said a financial crisis and an expected recession in real economy did not leave unaffected the shipping industry, a sector highly dependent on capital flows. The Baltic Dry index was lost more than 90 pct of its value since May, while shipping fares dropped significantly due to lower cargo demand. Banks have stopped funding in an effort to consolidate their portfolios, seeking a larger profit margin. Finding new money is the biggest problem facing shipping companies because of the crisis, Kapralos said, noting that the listing in a stock market could raise new money at a lower cost.
He presented a package of measures introduced by the Athens Stock Exchange to facilitate the listing of shipping companies, such as listing shipping companies regardless of size and business sector, listing of offshore companies and selection of three different markets to listing new shares (Big Cap for companies with a capitalization of more than 150 million euros, small- and medium-size cap (three million euros) and Alterna-tive Market for companies with a capitalization of up to one million euros.
 Greek stocks dropped 5.28 pct on WednesdayGreek stocks suffered another heavy blow in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, in line with other international markets. The composite index dropped 5.28 pct to end at 2,025.93 points, with turnover a low 247.7 million euros, of which 11.1 million euros were block trades.
All sectors moved lower, with the exception of the Healthcare sector which ended 0.26 pct higher. Insurance (9.51 pct), Banks (7.88 pct), Financial Services (7.54 pct), Industrial Products (5.57 pct) and Constructions (5.50 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index ended 6.41 pct down, the FTSE 40 index dropped 3.50 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 5.14 pct lower. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 225 to 25 with another 30 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.60%
Personal & Household: -4.06%
Raw Materials: -3.91%
Travel & Leisure: -4.96%
Food & Beverages: -3.86%
Financial Services: -7.54%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, EFG Eurobank Ergasias, Bank of Cyprus and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 10.20
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.00
HBC Coca Cola: 10.18
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.00
National Bank of Greece: 16.20
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.50
Bank of Piraeus: 9.30
Titan Cement Company: 15.18
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 104.424 million euros. The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 2.25 percent. Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 17,030 contracts worth 92.988 million euros, with 26,515 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,339 contracts worth 10.478 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,848), followed by Marfin Investment Group (775), PPC (582), Alpha Bank (1,302), Marfin Popular Bank (1,583), and OPAP (333).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds jumped to 1.01 percent in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with turnover at 938 million euros, of which 320 million were buy orders and the remaining 618 million euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (August 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 385 million euros. The Greek bond yielded 4.83 pct and the German Bund 3.82 pct.
In money markets, interbank interest rates fell further. The 12-month Euribor rate was 5.07 pct, the six-month rate was 5.06 pct, the three-month rate 4.93 pct and the one-month rate 4.61 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates: ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.294
Pound sterling 0.794
Danish kroner 7.513
Swedish kroner 10.203
Japanese yen 127.9
Swiss franc 1.511
Norwegian kroner 9.085
Canadian dollar 1.621
Australian dollar 1.922
 Antikythera mechanism exhibitionThe first specialized exhibition focusing on the controversial Antikythera Mechanism opens Wednesday at the Ionian Centre for Scientific Studies in Plaka, downtown Athens, in cooperation with the team of scientists studying the device.
The visitors of the exhibition, that will run until December 14, 2008, will learn about unknown applications of the Mechanism in ancient Greek calendars, the study of the movement of the Sun and the Moon, and eclipse prediction.
The exhibition is held under the auspices of the ministry of culture and in cooperation with the National Archaeological Museum of Athens where the Antikythera Mechanism is housed.
The Antikythera mechanism is believed to be an ancient mechanical calculator (also described as a "mechanical computer") designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was discovered in the Antikythera wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete, and has been dated to about 150-100 BC. Technological artifacts of similar complexity appeared a thousand years later.
Sometime before Easter 1900, Elias Stadiatis, a Greek sponge diver, discovered the wreck of an ancient cargo ship off Antikythera Island at a depth of 42 m (138 ft). Sponge divers retrieved several statues and other artifacts from the site. The mechanism itself was discovered on May 17, 1901, when archaeologist Valerios Stais noticed that a piece of rock recovered from the site had a gear wheel embedded in it. Examination revealed that the "rock" was in fact a heavily encrusted and corroded mechanism that had survived the shipwreck in three main parts and dozens of smaller fragments. The device itself was surprisingly thin, about 33 cm (13 in) high, 17 cm (6.7 in) wide, and 9 cm (3.5 in) thick, made of bronze and originally mounted in a wooden frame. It was inscribed with a text of over 2,000 characters, many of which have only just recently been deciphered.
 NCHSR to be replaced by Research Centre for Contemporary Greek StudiesMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA / S. Hatzimanolis)
The National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research (NCHSR), La Trobe University, Melbourne, among the most important research centers for Hellenism, is shutting down after 10 years of operation.
The university will proceed to replace NCHSR with a Research Centre for Contemporary Greek Studies to be incorporated into the Australian institution's School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
A public discussion will be held at the NCHRS facilities on October 30 at the initiative of the university to discuss the decision made and ways to support the Greek studies and research division.
 Archbishop Ieronymos announces construction of care centresArchbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos announced on Wednesday that the Holy Synod has decided to begin the construction of four socially beneficial fundations. They are the Care Centre for Children with a mobility handicap (1,500,000 euros), the Care Centre for Autistic Children (1,500,000 euros), the Care Centre for the Rehabilitation of Young People from drugs (1,500,000 euros) and a Care Centre for Bedridden and Abandoned People (3,500,000 euros).
Addressing a press conference at the end of a Holy Synod meeting, the Archbishop revealed that the money that will be provided for the commencement of these foundations' construction comes from the amount of 2,700,000,000 drachmas that the Greek state had made available several years ago for Church projects and is currently in banks.
On the question of the segregation of the Church and the state, Archbishop Ieronymos said that "for me personally, segregation is not a problem. The distinct roles already exist, a calm discussion is necessary and personally I am not preoccupied with this issue. On the contrary, I think that it will give more possibilities for the Church to develop provided, however, that we do not look at it with 'narrow eyes'. We, however, will never raise a segregation issue, because we know that it will be at the expense of the nation. If, however, the state raises it we shall accept the discussion. We shall not do it, but if the state wishes, whatever government, we have nothing to fear."
 Patriarch of Alexandria receives BabiniotisCAIRO (ANA-MPA/N. Katsikas)
Hellenic Foundation for Culture (HFC) President George Babiniotis was received here on Tuesday by Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa, a meeting that focused on closer cooperation through the Patriarchic Library of Alexandria.
Prof. Babiniotis, a noted linguist and academic, expressed admiration for the library, characterising it as a spiritual and cultural treasure. He also stressed that scholars and students could be dispatched from Greece to contribute to its further upgrading.
On his part, the Patriarch stressed that the HFC and the Patriarchate share common goals for Greece, the Greek language, culture and Orthodoxy.
 ELIAMEP event marking 20th anniversary since its foundationThe Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) celebrated on Wednesday the 20th anniversary since its foundation during an event held at the Benaki Museum.
Present at the event were former presidents of Greece and Cyprus Kostis Stephanopoulos and George Vassilou respectively, former prime minister Costas Simitis, diplomats and academics.
ELIAMEP president professor Loukas Tsoukalis noted the value of the Foundation as "a step of dialogue, a centre of research and education, a work-shop of ideas with an independent pluralistic character."
 The 'Coronation of the Virgin' bought at auctionThe "Coronation of the Virgin", which is unanimously regarded by experts as the work of Dominikos Theotokopoulos - El Greco, was bought in the summer at an auction by the Onassis Foundation and is destined for the "Shelter of Letters and Arts" at Syngrou Avenue, which the Foundation will inaugurate in 2010.
The painting which depicts the Coronation of the Virgin, belongs to the "last creative period of Theotokopoulos (1603-1605) and is in excellent condition. It was never exhibited in Europe, but only in 1999, in Madrid, within the framework of the 'El Greco' exhibition," National Gallery Director Marina Lampraki-Plaka said in press conference on Wednesday.
The painting will be exhibited at the National Gallery as a lasting loan, next to other three paintings by Theotokopoulos which belong to the Gallery's collections.
 Exhibition of paintings about Mt. AthosFifty paintings by noted architect, professor and painter Efthymios Varlamis will be on display in an exhibition at the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki.
Visitors will have the opportunity to admire the beauty of Mt. Athos and glimpse the daily life of monks through the eyes of the artist.
 Foreign national arrested as murder suspectA 36-year-old Syrian man has been arrested as a suspect in the murder of 31-year-old Greek woman found dead in the west Athens district of Peristeri on August 20, authorities reported on Wednesday.
The Syrian was located by police in the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis and arrested on the basis of a warrant issued by the Athens 5th examining magistrate.
Police said the Syrian had been having an affair with the woman, who had also loaned him 7,000 euros to start a business importing goods from Arab countries with the understanding that he would return twice that amount on August 20.
It is believed that the couple got into an argument over this money and the suspect drugged the women by putting three sleeping pills in her coffee. When she passed out, he then smothered her by placing a pillow over her head until she died.
The woman's death had originally been attributed to natural causes because there were no signs of a struggle but when police investigated more closely they found that her bag, her purse, her identity card and other of her personal items were missing, while the door to the apartment had been locked twice from the outside, proving that there had been another person in the house.
A toxicology exam conducted after the autopsy also revealed the presence of the sleeping pills in her blood, while the culprit also used the woman's credit card to withdraw 1500 euros a few days after her death.
The above evidence led police to conclude that the woman was the victim of foul play and draw up charges against her former boy-friend, who appeared before a public prosecutor on Wednesday.
 Bust of first army airborne school commander unveiledA ceremony unveiling a bust of Lt.-Gen. Pericles S. Papathanassiou, the first commander of the Hellenic Army's airborne and special forces school, took place on Wednesday at an army training base in Aspropyrgos, west of Athens. A memorial service was held before the unveiling ceremony.
 Turn back clocks on Sun.Daylight Saving Time in Greece and the rest of the EU ends on Sunday, Oct. 26, meaning that at 4 a.m. clocks should be reset to 3 a.m.
The Daylight Saving Time or "summer time" measure is based on the 2000/84 European Parliament directive and the 10/1/2001 Council decision.
 Panathinaikos draws 2-2 with Werder Bremen in Champions League matchPanathinaikos Athens drew with Werder Bremen (Germany) 2-2 (halftime 1-1) in a Champions League Group B soccer match played at the Olympic Stadium in Athens on Wednesday night.
Bremen went into the lead with a goal by Per Mertesacker in the 29th minute.
Both Panathinaikos' goals were scored by Vangelis Mantzios in the 36th and 68th.
Bremen replied with Hugo Almeida in the 83rd.
 Fair on ThursdayFair weather with northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 9C and 24C. Fair in Athens, with 4-6 beaufort northerly winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 23C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 13C to 20C.
 Christofias-Talat continue discussion on the executiveNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat continued here Wednesday their discussions on the federal executive, in the framework of direct negotiations on the Cyprus question.
In statements after the meeting, UN Secretary General Special Representative in Cyprus Taye Brook Zerihoun said that the leaders began the meeting with about an hour and half of tete-a-tete, and then continued their discussions on the federal executive.
"They heard from the two representatives on the follow up meeting that they had on the 16th of October, to help explain and clarify positions on the issue," he added, noting that the leaders then took up the issue themselves, and had a constructive exchange of views, and then directed the representatives to carry these discussions next Thursday.
Following that, the leaders had a preliminary discussion on the legislature, and these discussions will continue when the two leaders will meet again on the 3rd of November, Zerihoun noted.
As he said the two leaders are still dealing with power-sharing and governance and they have now moved to the discussion on the legislation.
To a remark that it seems that discussions on power-sharing are going on for a long time, Zerihoun said that "essentially there are the competencies which we discussed first, and then they discussed the federal executive. Now they are moving to the legislature," he added.
Asked if there is any convergence, the UN diplomat noted that definitely there is on some issues but, as he pointed out, "there are some issues which cannot be discussed in isolation from other issues. So, they have some of these issues aside, and they have asked the representatives to look at some issues to find bridging ideas. So this is a process that will continue, and I think it is going well," he said.
President Christofias asked about the meeting, he said that it was a good, friendly meeting.
Talat said "I wish that it (the process) will be easy both for us and for you".
President Christofias and Talat began talks in early September with a view to find a negotiated settlement that will reunite Cyprus, which has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
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