|Sunday, 25 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-10-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 24 October 2008 Issue No: 3028
 ND to abstain from Vatopedi inquiry debateRuling New Democracy (ND) will not take part in Friday's debate for a Parlia-mentary inquiry to investigate the involvement of government ministers in the Vatopedi land swap scandal, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos announced on Thursday. The minister made the announcement after a meeting of the Inner Cabinet and urged main opposition PASOK to withdraw its proposal.
"We call on PASOK not to insist on this proposal, which leads mathematically to a cover-up of the affair," he said, while strenuously denying that the ruling party was afraid of 'defections' during Friday's secret ballots.
PASOK's proposal levels accusations against three current and former ministers. These include Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, whom PASOK wants investigated as the "moral instigator" of the land swap deals, and the two members of government that signed off on the edicts allowing the deals to go ahead, former deputy finance minister and current Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas and former agriculture minister Evangelos Bassiakos.
The majority party's absence from the chamber would essentially rule out any chance of PASOK's proposal being passed, since the formation of a preliminary examination committee to investigate ministerial responsibility requires an absolute majority of 151+ votes in the 300-seat Parliament. If the proposal is not passed, meanwhile, no new proposal for a preliminary examination based on the same events can be submitted.
The main opposition has justified its decision to seek an inquiry targeting specific persons on the grounds that an investigation committee will take too long and there is a high chance that the offences being investigated will be automatically written off when the current Parliament breaks up in the summer of 2009.
The ruling party's decision to pull out of the debate is not entirely unexpected, coming after days of media speculation and rumours predicting such a move in the wake of vocal opposition by 'rebels' within its ranks that included calls for the removal of Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, especially given its slim majority of 152 in Parliament.
Explaining the government's decision, Pavlopoulos pointed out that MPs on Wednesday voted unanimously in favour of an investigation committee to look into the affair, which was expected to reach its conclusion by mid-December.
"According to Parliament rules, the investigation committee has the powers of examining magistrates and a Misdemeanours court prosecutor. In other words, the same powers in terms of carrying out an inquiry with those of the Preliminary Examination Committee," he said.
Once the investigation committee had completed its work, with justice continuing its own investigation at the same time, it would then be possible to submit a proposal for a Preliminary Examination by Parliament targeting specific persons, based on substantiated evidence of real criminal liability if this had arisen during the probe, the minister added.
"At this time, as soon as we proposed an investigation committee, PASOK tabled a proposal for a Preliminary Examination that was vague and groundless, based on the surrounding atmosphere and seeking to criminalise political life and to politicise justice. PASOK's proposal strikes directly, as was shown during Wednesday's debate, at the institutions themselves," Pavlopoulos claimed.
He also underlined that the majority could never support the proposal under the circumstances and would lay itself open to accusations of covering up the affair by voting against it.
PASOK party President George Papandreou, reacting to the ruling party's decision while speaking in Parliament on Thursday afternoon, referred to "widespread public demand for change".
He took the podium after ND announced its decision.
"New Democracy cannot stand the truth, and chose to flee, thus injuring Parliament institutions, the dignity of its deputies and voters and the need for a law-abiding state," he stressed.
Parliament decides against delay of PASOK proposal
Earlier on Thursday, Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas announced that the debate on PASOK's proposal would take place on Friday as planned and not be postponed, as requested by the smaller opposition parties. He made the announcement after a meeting of Parliament's presidency, which decided against postponing the debate.
Sioufas announced that the debate is set to begin at 10:00 in the morning and will end at around 18:00 in the evening with three secret ballots, in which the three ministers being charged will not be allowed to vote.
The question of postponing the vote was raised on Wednesday by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), after prosecuting authorities sent the file of witness testimony and evidence concerning the case to Parliament, so that MPs would have time to study the file before voting.
Sioufas also announced that the investigation committee on Vatopedi that Parliament voted to form on Wednesday will include 12 members from ruling New Democracy, eight from main opposition PASOK, one from KKE, one from SYRIZA and one from LAOS.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the Vatopedi affair by Appeals prosecutor Efstathia Spyropoulou has been put on hold until the outcome of Friday's vote on a preliminary examination committee is known.
The prosecutor has so far completed a round of witness examinations and is waiting to see whether Parliament will take over the inquiry or reject the call for a Parliamentary investigation before she decides her next moves.
If Parliament decides not to investigate, she will then be free to summon suspects that are not political figures to answer to charges of defrauding the public sector. If Parliament votes in favour of an inquiry, however, the prosecutor will then await the reasoning of its decision and whether Parliament will take over the inquiry in full or whether she can continue her investigation into the involvement of non-MPs in the case, in which case the suspects will be charged with breach of faith.
PASOK spokesman on ND abstention from Parliamentary discussion
Main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou said on Thursday the announcement by the government that the ruling New Democracy (ND) party will be abstaining from the discussion in Parliament on a PASOK proposal for the creation of an Investigatory Committee to probe the Vatopedi issue was "an admission of guilt, a failure to control the Parliamentary group and a loss of the majority in Parliament."
Papaconstantinou said that the Vatopedi issue was a "reality show" and added that "they (the government) are irresponsible, fatal and dangerous," while speaking of an "institutional deviation with which the ND is annuling Parliament in practice in order to achieve a writeoff."
Referring to Wednesday's discussion in Parliament, the spokesman said that the "citizens judged in listening to the president and the cadres of PASOK speaking of the need for us to turn to the problems of the citizen and for us to leave the scandals without, however, anybody remaining unpunished for actions he has committed."
 Parliament vote on Vatopedi case to determine prosecutor's course of actionAn appellate court prosecutor assigned the controversial Vatopedi Monastery land exchange case is now waiting the outcome of Friday's vote in Parliament before deciding her next course of action.
If Parliament rejects an opposition proposal to set up a preliminary criminal investigation committee on the Vatopedi case, then prosecutor Efstathia Spyropoulou is expected to subpoena all civil servants involved with the exchanges to testify as suspects accused of defrauding the state.
On the other hand, if a Parliamentary investigation committee is approved, then Spyropoulou is obliged to examine the committee's jurisdiction to determine if she will continue her probe or the parliamentary committee itself will undertake to investigate the liability of anyone not holding Parliamentary immunity, i.e. deputies and ministers.
A rival proposal by ruling ND party to establish a parliamentary fact-finding committee was unanimously approved by Parliament MPs late Wednesday evening.
 Roussopoulos resigns as minister, government spokesmanMinister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Thursday resigned from the government with a letter sent to the prime minister. His resignation was accepted by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who decided to appoint Evangelos Antonaros to replace him as government spokesman, according to an announcement issued by the premier's press office.
This said that the minister sent a letter of resignation to the prime minister on Thursday afternoon, while the contents of the letter itself were released in an earlier announcement issued by the Ministry of State.
In this, Roussopoulos claimed he was led to his decision by considerations concerning the interests of "our great democratic party that is being attacked by sordid machinations".
He added that as an MP, without the additional burdens imposed by the position of government spokesman, "I will be able to defend myself from this devious and wholly unfounded attack recently launched against my person".
Accepting Roussopoulos' resignation, Karamanlis thanked him for the "close and productive cooperation" between them and his contribution over the past eight years, adding that he understood the reasons that led to Roussopoulos' decision and that these revealed self-respect and political moral fibre.
According to the premier's press office, Karamanlis also decided to place Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos in charge of supervising the general secretariats for information and communication that were previously part of Roussopoulos' portfolio.
 Papandreou: government unable to restore confidenceThe present government was incapable of restoring a climate of confidence and actually hoped to take advantage of the upheaval to organise further "favours" for the interests affiliated to it, main opposition PASOK leader said in Parliament on Thursday.
"The government has long ago lost the trust of the Greek people," Papandreou stressed during a debate of a draft bill on protecting loan holders, during which he also presented PASOK's proposals for supporting the banking sector.
He stressed that the main opposition would not allow the international credit crisis to be used as an excuse for further heavy taxation of wage earners and the surrender of strategic areas of the economy, social resources and goods to private interests and a ruthless, untrammelled market.
"I am not here referring just to the 28 billion euros assigned to support the banking system but also the reserves of the social insurance funds, which we have a right to talk about because we first revealed the scandal of the notorious structured bonds, these toxic products. We will not allow a new round of looting," Papandreou underlined.
Among issues stressed by PASOK's leader was the need for full transparency and accountability regarding how the 28 billion euros package was being spent, that the Greek state should only support those banks having genuine need and after they raised their own share of funds by a share capital increase, a tighter supervisory framework for the Greek financial sector in general, and linking this support of bank liquidity with the development of the real economy.
Other measures demanded by PASOK's leader were the adoption of his party's proposal for supporting borrowers, a withdrawal of the draft budget and restoration of the tax-free allowance for the self-employed, as well as other benefits for lower-income groups and farmers.
 Papariga on KKE positionsThe Communist Party of Greece's (KKE) positions on socialism were outlined by KKE leader Aleka Papariga in view of the Parliament-represented party's 18th congress.
Papariga stated during a press conference in Athens on Thursday that the party congress will focus on "subjective and domestic factors that led to the capitalist rise in the former Soviet Union", stressing that the party continues to support the position that socialism is a necessity.
Among the "subjective factors" cited by Papariga was what she referred to as the "idealisation of socialism", stressing that "the mistakes made were left unnoticed, while the dialogue between communist parties was not facilitated."
"Deviation begins when solutions are not given on time or are the wrong solutions and mistakes become idealised, turned into ideologies," she stated.
On the likelihood of cooperation with the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), Papariga said her party cannot collaborate with those who applauded the overturn of socialism.
 Greece and Cyprus sign memorandum of cooperationThe ministries of foreign affairs of Greece and Cyprus on Thursday signed a memorandum of cooperation to coordinate their moves as far as overseas Hellenism is concerned.
The memorandum was signed here by Director General of the General Secretariat for Overseas Hellenism at the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kyparissidis and Director of the Directorate for the Overseas and Repatriated at the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs Stavros Epaminondas, in the presence of Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis.
Kassimis said that with the memorandum ''we have implemented the agreement we made at the end of August with Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Markos Kyprianou regarding cooperation on matters relating to Greeks and Cypriots overseas.''
He explained that there are Cypriots and Greeks living in countries across the world and that programmes in many cases are similar, which is why the two governments agreed to join forces towards being more effective in their actions.
Kassimis noted that the two departments have already begun work on programmes and the exchange of information.
Epaminondas pointed out that ''the memorandum is to the benefit of Greeks all over the world, since it will help them save human resources, as well as financial means.''
He furthermore assured that ''we will try through this memorandum to offer even better services to Greeks overseas.''
The two departments have agreed to cooperate in support of various networks and organisations, education, culture and art, the promotion of national issues, repatriation matters, the use of EU programmes for overseas EU citizens and communication policies.
The memorandum makes special reference to the use of overseas Hellenism and especially the academia, the media, organisations and various personalities.
It furthermore aims at coordinating the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus and the World Council of Hellenes.
 European Court rules that Greece's non-recognition of franchise colleges' diplomas is contrary to EU legislationBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The European Court of Justice on Thursday ruled, following action brought before the Court by the European Commission, that Greece's rules on recognition of diplomas are contrary to EU legislation, in reference to the non-recognition of diplomas issued by the relevant authorities of other member states following studies conducted in Greece in franchise colleges, noting that "only the member state where a diploma was awarded may verify its basis".
The ruling rejected Greece's approach of applying its own rules -- as the member state in which the education and training were received -- "since that would have the effect of treating persons who received education and training of an equivalent quality differently, that is to say, depending on the Member State in which they undertook their education and training". The Court also notes that the education and training need not necessarily have been received in a university or in a higher-education establishment.
A European Court press release noted that "Community law has established a general system for the recognition of higher-education diplomas awarded on completion of professional education and training of at least three years' duration", adding that, following complaints from 37 individuals, "the Commission brought an action against Greece before the Court of Justice for non-compliance with the Community Directive of various aspects of its national legislation".
"The Commission complains first that Greece systematically refuses to recognise diplomas obtained following education and training provided within the framework of 'homologation agreements' (also referred to as 'franchise agreements'), pursuant to which education and training provided by a private body in Greece is homologated by an authority of another Member State which awards the diploma on the basis of a prior agreement between the two establishments.
"In this respect, the Court recalls that the general system for the recognition of higher-education diplomas is based on the mutual trust that Member States have in the professional qualifications that they award. That system does not involve recognition of a diploma for its intrinsic value, but establishes a presumption that the qualifications of a person entitled to pursue a regulated profession in one Member State are sufficient for the pursuit of that profession in the other Member States. It is for the competent authorities awarding the diplomas alone to verify, in the light of the rules applicable in their professional education and training systems, the conditions necessary for their award and the nature of the establishment in which the holder received his education and training. By contrast, the host Member State cannot examine the basis on which the diplomas have been awarded.
"The Court rejects Greece's approach - which is to apply its own rules (as the Member State in which the education and training were received) - since that would have the effect of treating persons who received education and training of an equivalent quality differently, that is to say, depending on the Member State in which they undertook their education and training. The Court also notes that the education and training must not necessarily have been received in a university or in a higher-education establishment.
"The Court therefore declares that, by failing to recognise the diplomas awarded by the competent authorities of another Member State following education and training provided in Greece within the framework of a homologation agreement, Greece has infringed the Community rules on recognition of diplomas.
"As regards 'compensatory measures', the directive - far from obliging the Member States to recognise diplomas automatically and unconditionally - enables the host State in certain cases to require an adaptation period or an aptitude test, the choice of which is in principle left to the person applying for recognition of the diploma. The directive provides for derogations from that principle, but the Court states that Greece's suppression of the choice of compensatory measure in more cases than those allowed by the Directive infringes that directive.
"The national provisions moreover entrust a specific body (SAEITTE, the Council Responsible for Recognizing Professional Equivalence of Higher-Education Qualifications) with the power to verify, first, whether the establishment which provides the education and training is a higher-education establishment and, second, whether the applicant has the necessary professional experience, in a case where the duration of the education and training falls short by at least one year of that required in Greece in order to pursue that profession. The Court holds that that provision is incompatible with the Directive. The matters which that body is called upon to verify are already definitively established by certificates and documents issued by the competent authorities of the Member State of origin.
"Lastly, the Court finds that there has been an infringement of the Directive in that, in the public sector, there is no possibility of hierarchical and/or salary reclassification of persons recruited - as holders of a diploma awarded in another Member State - at a grade lower than that to which they would have been entitled if their diplomas had been recognised in accordance with that directive."
 Education minister on EU ruling, use of Community fundsNational Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Thursday stressed that a European Court ruling regarding franchise colleges was "no surprise" and promised measures to settle the issue after the new year.
Speaking at an event organised by the ministry's agency for the Operational Programme for Education and Initial Vocational Training, he also announced that Greek university libraries and laboratories will receive the first injection of funds from the European Community Support Framework (CSF).
He said the education ministry currently had the highest absorption rate of all government ministries, with more than 90 percent of 3rd CSF funding absorbed at present, which was expected to reach 100 percent by the end of the year.
It had also successfully negotiated a 29 percent increase of spending on education from the 4th CSF package, with 3.37 billion euros earmarked for education in 2007-2013.
He stressed that the funding programme for university universities and laboratories was of vital importance for those working in the sector, as well as for students and teachers, because they were tools for carrying out original research and promoting truly high quality knowledge.
The minister also commented on a European Court ruling on Thursday that found Greece in violation of Community legislation by not recognising degrees issued by private educational institutions operating as franchises of EU universities abroad.
Stylianidis stressed that the ruling was not a surprise to the government but something expected, adding that the past commitments he had made on this issue still applied.
"We will study the ruling, there will be the necessary consultation, and then we will issue a presidential decree that brings the Greek system in line with that of Europe while ensuring the quality of education," he said, adding that a legislative measure dealing with this issue should be expected after the start of the new year.
 Roundtable discussion on public diplomacy"Greece is an advocate of a mild foreign policy with public diplomacy being its most valuable tool," foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Thursday, addressing a roundtable discussion in Athens attended by NATO Sec-Gen Assistant for Public Diplomacy Stephanie Babst.
"Public diplomacy combines openness, by facilitating public opinion in the diplomatic arena, and traditional diplomacy, which is characterised by covertness," Koumoutsakos stressed, clarifying that it should not be confused with propaganda, which limits the available options and manipulates thought in a specific direction.
"Propaganda is a one-way street, meaning that a message is sent without taking under consideration the recipient's reaction, whereas public diplomacy is shaped within the framework of a two-way, open and democratic process," he said, adding: "Propaganda often distorts truth while public diplomacy has no other option than telling the truth to avoid losing its credibility."
The difficulty in defining the term was acknowledged by the top NATO official, who pointed out that public diplomacy is mostly and foremost a form a communication.
Referring to the public diplomacy exercised by NATO, Babst stated that it incorporates "information" aspects, stressing that it provides the support needed by the alliance.
 Gov't tables bank support planThe Finance ministry on Thursday tabled a draft bill in Parliament aimed at strengthening the domestic economy, particularly the banking sector, from the impact of the on-going international crisis.
Under the draft bill, the Greek state will participate in the equity capital of commercial banks through the purchase of preferred stock, up to five billion euros, while it would also offer guarantees for banks to raise liquidity from international capital markets, worth 23 billion euros.
Speaking to reporters later in the afternoon, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis again stressed that the domestic banking system is safe and credible, "but in view of an unprecedented financial turmoil, government initiatives are necessary to ensure that the economy continued its growth course in the next months and the coming years."
Speaking after an Inner Cabinet meeting to discuss the draft law, the Alogoskoufis said:
"Our aim is to ensure that there will be adequate liquidity in the economy over the next few months to maintain funding to small- and medium-sized enterprises, consumers, households and everyone needing money".
 Employers' group calls for urgent, effective application of bank support measuresGovernment measures to support the domestic banking system must be related with the needs of the real economy, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, president of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB), Greece's largest employers' union, stressed in a letter sent to Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis.
In the letter, sent on Wednesday, Daskalopoulos opined that a global credit financial crisis was deep and was expected to last for long time, while he underlined that coordinated actions to strengthen the banking system from systemic risks and a breakdown of depositors' confidence was rightly a top priority for governments around the world.
He noted, however, that restoring capital adequacy of financial institutions and a reopening of an interbank market was just a necessary intermediate step to restart credit activities to the thousands of enterprises already suffering from lack of liquidity.
Daskalopoulos said SEB recommended that measures must be urgently implemented, since the market already showed signs of fatigue and noted it was necessary a timely preparation of mechanisms by the Bank of Greece and Finance ministry to effectively supervise the implementation of measures. The Federation also urged that money offered the banks would be distributed to the real economy and that the cost that the state charged the banking system should be rational to avoid creating new inflationary pressures in the economy.
Meanwhile, the association of retail enterprises, SELPE, in a statement to the press on Thursday, stressed that the government must guarantee savings deposits of up to 100,000 euros only for banking groups included in a restructuring programme sponsored by the government.
 Parliament ratifies bill on loan holder protectionThe Parliament plenum ratified on Thursday the bill prepared by the Finance and Economy ministry for the protection of loan holders, that includes an amendment on an increase in the legal guaranteeing of deposits from 20,000 euros to 100,000 euros.
On the occasion of the tabling of the bill on "the strengthening of the fluidity of the economy to handle the repercussions of the international monetary crisis," Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis said that with the government's plan "the participation of the Greek state in bank capital with privileged shares is anticipated for up to five billion, that will have a guaranteed 10 percent yield."
Alogoskoufis said that these privileged shares will be valid for five years and will give the Greek state the right to appoint a member of the Administrative Council at the boards of the banks that will be participating in this programme.
He also said that it will give the Greek state the right to appoint a representative at its Administrative Council, who will have the right to veto with regard to the distribution of their profits, while he should also have to agree with the policy concerning remuneration for the senior members of banks.
 Parliamentary Committee rejects proposal on Church tax exemptions abolitionThe Parliamentary Economic Affairs Committee on Thursday rejected a draft law proposed by the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on the abolition of tax exemptions for the Church. Voting against the proposal were the ruling New Democracy (ND) party, the main opposition PASOK party and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, while the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) reserved its judgement for the discussion at the Plenum.
Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas stressed that it is the constitution that consolidates the tax exemptions of the Church, while a similar status is applied in many other European countries, regardless of the status governing relations between the state and the Church.
 Greek Tourism Minister meets Bucharest MayorBUCHAREST (ANA-MPA/I. Rantou)
Greek Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos met here on Thursday with the Mayor of the Romanian capital, Sorin Oprescu, with whom he discussed the strengthening of cooperation between Athens and Bucharest in the tourism sector.
Spiliotopoulos and Oprescu stressed that it is necessary for there to be a strategy so as to make feasible a closer cooperation between the two countries in the tourism sector.
Spiliotopoulos, who on Wednesday inaugurated the Office of Greek Tourism (National Tourism Organisation of Greece), thanked Oprescu for his support and expressed his admiration for the historic buildings in the city's centre.
The Greek minister also showed interest for the growth plans of the Romanian capital which is being promoted by Oprescu.
 Merchant Marine Minister meets Chinese AmbassadorMerchant Marine & Island Policy Minister Anastasis Papaligouras on Thursday had a courtesy meeting with Chinese Ambassador to Greece, Luo Linquan, and they discussed issues concerning the two countries' cooperation in the sector of shipping and culture. After the meeting, the minister stated:
"We received with joy the Ambassador of China at the Merchant Marine Ministry, so as to also discuss the programme of the Chinese President, who will soon arrive in Greece. It is always a joy to cooperate with the great friend, China, with which we really have the possibility of further developing closer relations and particularly in the shipping sector."
On his part, the Chinese Ambassador stated:
"We made a courtesy visit to the Merchant Marine Minister, to whom I officially expressed my congratulations for the undertaking of his new post. I thank him for his cordial welcome as well as for his presence at our reception at the Embassy for our national celebration. We discussed about our cooperation in shipping, culture and other sectors. We shall continue our cooperation in shipping, particularly at the port (Piraeus) and particularly for the pier II and III of Piraeus Port. I believe that we shall have great prospects for our cooperation"
 Emporiki Bank declines use of state assistanceEmporiki Bank, a member of the Credit Agricole Group, said in an announcement on Thursday that it would not make use of the state assistance measures recently announced by the Greek government for amelioration of the repercussions of the global credit crisis.
"Emporiki will not need to make use of the Greek government's measures," an announcement by the bank said, "given that it already enjoys, and will continue to enjoy, the backing of Credit Agricole", adding that "the Credit Agricole Group has already opted to make partial use of the French government's plan, which has been formulated on the basis of the guidelines set out by the European Commission".
Emporiki noted, however, that it viewed the plan for state support of the credit system and financing of the economy that was recently presented by the economy and finance minister and the governor of the Bank of Greece, the country's central bank, as "particularly positive" and would "further ensure the smooth operation of the Greek banking system and trouble-free financing of the Greek economy in the present, adverse conditions".
The announcement also stressed that Emporiki Bank would continue to work closely with the Greek authorities and the other Greek banks for ensuring the effectiveness of the measures announced and will be placed in effect by the Greek government.
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.
 Piraeus Bank acquisition of Proton Bank stake cancelledPiraeus Bank on Thursday announced the cancellation of an agreement for its acquisition of a 26.98 percent stake in Proton Bank's share capital.
The two banks had announced on October 13 an agreement under which Piraeus Bank would acquire a 26.98 percent stake in Proton Bank's equity capital through a stock swap deal.
An announcement by the Piraeus Bank administration on Thursday said it had agreed to a relevant request by Proton Bank and its shareholders, and has signed an agreement cancelling the acquisition deal.
Consequently, all legal procedures and financial audits for the acquisition were terminated on Thursday morning, Piraeus Bank concluded.
 Subsidies for young farmersSubsidies provided for young farmers -up to the age of 40- will be doubled for their initial facility and all the relevant procedures for the accession of those interested to the corresponding programme will be simplified.
Agricultural Development and Food Minister Alexandros Kontos signed the relevant ministerial decision which establishes the new procedures. Funds amounting to 305 million euros have been earmarked from the "Alexandros Baltatzis" operational programme and 10,000 young farmers will be able to join the relevant programme with this amount.
The arrangements decided for young farmers by the minister, in cooperation with the representatives of the young farmers, include subsidies for the initial facility to increase to 20-40,000 euros, whose payment will be carried out in three instalments, while the applications of those interested will be submitted throughout the entire year and approval will be granted within a period of four months.
 Papathanasiou on the Agrotiki Insurance SA stock saleThe sale of a large number of Agrotiki Insurance SA shares, one of the largest insurance companies in Greece, will proceed only if the company's positions are safeguarded, Deputy Finance and Economy Minister Yannis Papathanasiou stated in Parliament on Thursday, responding to a current question tabled by main opposition PASOK party MP Louka Katseli.
Katseli accused the government of systematically selling off the most profitable public sector companies, citing a recent statement by Deputy Finance and Economy Minister Nikos Legas that the Agrotiki Insurance SA partner will not be cooperating with Greek banks.
 European commissioner Meglena Kuneva in ThessalonikiThessaloniki, northern Greece, mayor Vassilis Papageorgo-poulos met on Thursday with European Union consumer protection commissioner Meglena Kuneva .
After the meeting, Papageorgopoulos noted that Kuneva held a responsible position in the European Union, and given the global financial crisis in recent months, it was necessary to display particular sensitivity towards the citizens' problems, adding that Kuneva has, in fact, published a book on how Europe must support its citizens.
 EU Commissioner Kuneva on electricity prices in EuropeEuropean Union Commissioner Meglena Kuneva revealed in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Thursday that the European Commission was determined to decrease electric power prices in Europe, adding however that the undertaking would be difficult due to the existence of many monopolies.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a conference held in Thessaloniki by the European Commission's Greek Representation in Greece, the European Parliament Office and Cedefop, the Commissioner responsible for consumer protection issues said that "we want to bring prices down and we shall succeed, if there is competition. Our aim is for the bond between the network owner and the electric power distributor to be cut so that the consumer will be able to choose better suppliers. The tool for this is the 3rd legislative package for energy."
Among other things, the Commission will be placing "under a microscope" electricity markets in the EU and taking measures if big differences in prices are ascertained between neighbouring countries, following close observation.
"If energy is much more expensive or much more cheaper in a certain country we must find out how and why this is taking place," she clarified.
The EU will also aim at, from this year already, putting the consumers themselves in the "game" of claiming better prices, activating the complaints and reports apparatus to enable pressures to be exerted on supplier companies.
The beginning for the consumers' more systematic activation will be taking place in London on October 27-28, where the Citizens' Energy Forum will be convening. The aim is to have the Forum participating actively in the shaping of legislation in the sector.
 Lyberis to set up publishing company in BulgariaLyberis Publications SA on Thursday announced the signing of a non-binding contract for the set up of a new company in Bulgaria, focusing on the publication of magazines in the neighbouring country. In an announcement of the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), Lyberis Publications said the new company will have an equity capital of 300,000 euros and that its stake in the company will total 75 percent.
 Motor Oil repurchases stake in Corinth Power from IberdrolaMotor Oil (Hellas) on Thursday announced the formal completion of a transfer of Iberdrola's participation in Corinth Power S.A.'s equity capital.
In an announcement to the press, Motor Oil said it has repurchased Iberdrola's equity participation in Corinth Power SA, the owner of a power production licence in Greece.
 Titan Group says turnover up, profits down in Jan-SeptTitan Cement on Thursday reported a 15.6 pct decline in its consolidated net, after tax and minorities, profits to 163 million euros in the nine-month period from January to September 2008, and said revenues grew 3.5 pct to 1.184 billion euros over the same period.
Operating pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) fell 15.4 pct to 289 million euros in the January-September period, compared with the same period last year.
The Group attributed its improved turnover to the integration of recent acquisitions in Egypt and Turkey and the decline in profits to a worsening of a crisis in the US home market and high fuel prices.
In Greece, operating earnings totaled 134 million euros, down 12 pct. Parent turnover grew 4.4 pct to 418 million euros, while EBITDA fell 10.9 pct to 115 million euros and net profits fell 8.0 pct to 84 million euros.
Titan Group said it repurchased a total of 2,075,929 of its shares, worth 56 million euros, during the January-September period.
 Swiss Baboo airline company to link Athens with Geneva, NiceAnother regional but rapidly developing airline company is being added to the long list of companies operating from Athens international airport. It is the Swiss airline company Baboo which will be linking Athens with Geneva and Nice as of Sunday, October 26, 2008.
According to an announcement, the company will be carrying out direct flights between Athens and Geneva every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and one flight with a stopover in Nice every Saturday. Nice will also be served, apart from the direct flight every Saturday, with a stopover in Geneva every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday as well.
Baboo was founded in Geneva in 2003, it currently serves 18 destinations, employs about 190 people and its fleet is composed of 2 Dash 8-Q400 aircraft and 3 Embraer 190 aircraft.
 Greek stocks plunge to new five-year lowsGreek stocks remained in a free-fall course for one more session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index to new five-year lows. The index ended 5.51 pct down at 1,914.37 points, with turnover rising to 351.9 million euros, of which 37.8 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower with the exception of Insurance and Travel (up 2.70 pct and 0.54 pct, respectively). Financial Services (9.72 pct), Banks (8.25 pct), Food/Beverage (7.51 pct), Technology (6.07 pct) and Industrial Products (5.59 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index plunged 6.11 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 4.66 pct down and the FTSE 80 index fell 5.94 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 242 to 15 with another 21 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -3.65%
Personal & Household: -3.76%
Raw Materials: -5.27%
Travel & Leisure: +0.54%
Food & Beverages: -7.51%
Financial Services: -9.72%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, HBC Coca Cola and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 10.08
Public Power Corp (PPC): 9.70
HBC Coca Cola: 9.40
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.78
National Bank of Greece: 14.16
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.74
Bank of Piraeus: 8.72
Titan Cement Company: 14.74
ADEX closing report
Greek futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover easing to 80.325 million euros. The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.58 pct, with volume of 12,961 contracts worth 66.074 million euros, while open positions totaled 27,263.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 22,318 contracts worth 13.740 million euros, with investment interest focusing on MIG's contracts (4,890), followed by National Bank (4,436), OTE (815), Alpha Bank (1,656), Intracom (1,533), Marfin Popular Bank (4,085), Intralot (714) and Cyprus Bank (779).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds soared to 112 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with turnover shrinking to 730 million euros, of which 175 million were buy orders and the remaining 555 million euros were sell orders.
The 10-year Greek benchmark bond (August 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 279 million euros, with the Greek bond yielding 4.86 pct and the German Bund 3.74 pct.
In money markets, interbank rates fell slightly. The 12-month Euribor rate was 5.06 pct, the six-month rate was 4.99 pct, the three-month rate 4.92 pct and the one-month rate 4.60 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates: FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.291
Pound sterling 0.798
Danish kroner 7.517
Swedish kroner 10.142
Japanese yen 125.41
Swiss franc 1.504
Norwegian kroner 9.228
Canadian dollar 1.641
Australian dollar 1.952
 President Papoulias receives Beijing Paralympic MissionPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, addressing the members of the Greek Paralympic Mission in Beijing during their reception ceremony at the Presidential Palace at noon on Thursday, stressed that the Paralympic Games were a celebration having a special importance and a great opportunity to turn into practice the universal demand for respect to the value of the human image and the safeguarding of the participation of all in the enjoyment of the goods of social coexistence.
"I watched the Paralympic Games and I confess to you that it was an amazing, an exceptional experience. Human will was revealed before me in all its splendour. I once again felt the real significance of sport. As a force that can change the world, inspire and unite people as few things can. As a creator of hope," the President said.
As regards Thursday's meeting, he noted that he wished it to have the character of recognition of the athletes' difficulties.
"A recognition due to you for your continuous struggle and your daily life which is far more difficult for you. It is imperative that both society and the state are sensitised all the more in handling your problems, because the principle of solidarity is also the most important value of our society," President Papoulias added.
 Memorandum of cultural cooperation with Eton CollegeLONDON (ANA-MPA / L. Tsirigotakis)
A memorandum of cultural cooperation was signed between the Greek ministry of culture and the historical Eton College in London on Wednesday in the presence of Culture Minister Michalis Liapis and the institution's president.
The agreement provides for the establishment of a lasting forum and a centre for the promotion of ancient and contemporary Greek culture through special events such as seminars, symposiums, lectures, and student exchange programmes. Within the framework of the same agreement Greece will participate in the financing of an ancient and Modern Greek language centre.
"Foundations were laid for Greece's cooperation with one of the most significant and historical education institutions in the world," Liapis stressed, adding that an agreement was signed to create a centre of culture, while pointing out that culture is a bridge of communication between that allows for mutual understanding.
Minister Liapis toured the college campus and its famous library where rare books and manuscripts are being kept among them a copy of Odyssey published in 1442.
Eton College was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI.
 Cypriot bishop received by PapouliasPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received visiting Cypriot Orthodox Bishop of Kykkos-Tilliria Nikiforos.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Nikiforos said his talks with the Greek president focused on the Cyprus issue and the on-going direct talks between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat for finding of a viable and functional solution to the long-standing problem.
"I was particularly impressed by the love President Papoulias has for Cyprus," Nikiforos added.
The Cypriot ecclesiastical leader was due to be proclaimed an honorary professor of the Department of Social Theology of the Athens University Thursday evening.
 Event for the Ombudsman of SerbiaSerbian Ombudsman Sasa Yankovic, the newest European mediator of the broader region of Southeast Europe, as he undertook his new post just a few months ago, is currently visiting Athens and on Thursday met his Greek counterpart George Kaminis.
An event which is incorporated in the programme "Fair Governance" (the aim of the programme is to contribute to the creation and to support the operation of newly set up mediatory institutions in Southeast Europe) was held on Thursday at the offices of the Ombudsman, on the theme "Prospects and challenges for the Ombudsman of the Republic of Serbia". Yankovic referred in particular to the useful cooperation with his Greek counterpart Kaminis.
Kaminis and Yankovic said that both sides gain from this cooperation, given that both countries have more or less similar problems of poor administration. At the same time, the Serbian Ombudsman is supplied with technical know-how and experiences by the Greek independent authority, which, on its part, learns from the queries and problems of such a new institution, as of that of Serbia.
The cooperation between the two sides, as the two Ombudsmen noted, will be close and continuous.
 'Overseas Greeks and the EU'Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis on Thursday evening addressed an event organised by the Trade and Industrial Chamber of Athens (EBEA) on the theme "European Integration and European Parliament - The Imortance of Developments and the European Citizen".
"The prospects and opportunities which the European Union gives to Greece, a country with many overseas Greeks in every corner of the earth are enormous and we must learn to utilise them," Kassimis said.
The undersecretary explained that for all the overseas Greeks, "to be Greeks with a Greek passport multiplies the potentials for growth in all sectors. Potentials which should be broader known."
 Ladino Congress in ThessalonikiThe 4th International Congress on Ladino (Judeo-Spanish, the language of the Sephardic Jews), titled "Judeo-Spanish satyrical texts written by Thessaloniki Jews" will be held in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, from 26 to 28 October.
The congress will focus on the language and the traditions that were brought to Thessaloniki in the 15th century by the Sephardic Jews after their expulsion from Spain, which evolved into an inalienable part of the identity of the Jews of Thessaloniki and of the city itself.
The event is organised by Jewish community of Thessaloniki and is sponsored by the Cervantes Institute of Athens and Madrid-based Casa Sefarad-Israel organisation.
 Patriarch of All Africa visits LibyaCAIRO (ANA-MPA / N. Katsikas)
Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa, accompanied by a Patriarchate delegation, are on a visit to Libya as of Thursday.
The head of the Orthodox Church of Africa was formally received at the Tripoli airport on Wednesday by Metropolitan Theophylaktos, diplomatic officials and local Greek community representatives.
 Suspect charged in Net surfing caseA 39-year-old radio producer was arrested in Athens on Thursday following a complaint by an individuall who accidentally stumbled on to a sexually charged conversation in an Internet chat room between the suspect and a 12-year-old girl.
The suspect, under an assumed identity, was allegedly urging the minor to meet with him and engage in sexual activities for a fee, while he was also allegedly emailing her nude photos of other young girls.
According to reports, police with the special electronic crimes department contacted the 39-year-old posing as the underage girl and arrested him after setting up a meeting.
Authorities also seized child porn material found in the suspect's residence.
 Fair on FridayFair weather with northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 8C and 24C. Fair in Athens, with 4-6 beaufort northerly winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 21C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 20C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceA closely watched vote, taken unanimously, just after midnight Thursday morning in Parliament to establish a fact-finding committee on the Vatopedi Monastery land exchange case expectedly dominated the headlines in Athens' dailies on Thursday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Fact-finding commission together with prosecutors' brief".
APOGEVMATINI: "Main opposition PASOK donated 1.6 billion euros to Vatopedi abbot Ephraim".
AVGHI: "Ruling New Democracy and PASOK insincere over Vatopedi scandal - Parliament unanimously votes for fact-finding committee".
AVRIANI: "Prosecutor's findings on Vatopedi a slap for slanderers".
CHORA: "Quicksand - Period of political instability begins - Parliament boiling after decision for establishment of a fact-finding commission".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Theodoros Roussopoulos instead of speaking on alleged responsibilities on Vatopedi case attacks PASOK leader George Papandreou".
ELEFTHEROS: "Prosecutors quarrel over ministers' responsibilities on Vatopedi case - All prosecutors confirm felonies except for Supreme Court's prosecutor. "
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Roussopoulos makes heroic exit - He's determined to facilitate prime minister ".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Who points at prosecutor's brief".
ESTIA: "Political world sliding - Unprecedented tension prevails yesterday in parliament".
ETHNOS: "State Minister Theodoros Roussopoulos spoke in Parliament for Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who was absent - Arrogance by Roussopoulos".
KATHIMERINI: "Vatopedi propels developments - Roussopoulos attacks Papandreou in prime minister's absence - Climate in ND grave".
LOGOS : "Roussopoulos' confession on Vatopedi - He spoke of 'firestorm of slander' against him".
NIKI: "Three prosecutors and witnesses accuse government".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Forests, mountains and lakes must be public estates".
TA NEA: "Probe file 'bomb' points to ministers".
TO VIMA: "Government being stripped - Ministers dissent and acceleration of developments".
VRADYNI: "Everything comes to light - Prosecutor's brief in parliament - Nobody can keep on disininforming".
 President Christofias arrives in Beijing for ASEM summitNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias arrived in Beijing on Thursday to attend the ASEM Summit (Asia-Europe forum) 24-25 October.
During his stay in the Chinese capital, Christofias is expected to have meetings with heads of states and governments and other officials of countries attending the Summit.
On the sidelines of the summit, President Christofias will hold bilateral meetings with the Sultan of Brunei, the Malaysian Prime Minister and China's Vice President.
On Friday, the president will address the discussion on the world financial crisis and in the evening he will attend a working dinner. On Saturday he will address delegates on the issue of promoting dialogue among cultures.
The overarching theme of ASEM7 is 'Vision and Action: Towards a Win-Win Solution'. At the summit ASEM leaders will focus their discussions on political, economic and social and cultural issues, including issues related to sustainable development.
Launched in 1996 as an informal dialogue mechanism, the ASEM now includes 45 members, representing more than 50 percent of the world's gross domestic product.
The European side is represented by the 27 nations of the European Union and the European Commission. The Asian members count 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India, Pakistan, Mongolia and the ASEAN Secretariat.
President Christofias returns home on October 26.
 Greek Cypriot side focused on a Cyprus solution, says House PresidentNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus House President Marios Garoyian reiterated on Thursday that the Greek Cypriot side is firmly focused on a Cyprus settlement.
Garoyian received Thursday the President and members of the Cyprus-Germany friendship group in the Bundestag, the German Federal Parliament, which is visiting Cyprus.
An official press release issued here notes that Garoyian briefed the delegation on the latest developments on the Cyprus problem.
He assured that the Greek Cypriot side is firmly focused on a solution to the Cyprus problem in the framework of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality as described by the UN relevant resolutions.
The solution, he added, must be functional and viable and should be based on a single sovereignty, single international personality and a single citizenship.
According to the House President, the solution should safeguard the rights of the Cypriot people, should be based on the values and principles of the European Union and comply with the international law and the EU acquis communautaire.
Referring to the Turkish EU bid, Garoyian recalled that Cyprus supports Turkish accession to the EU, provided that Turkey fulfills its obligations and commitments assumed towards the Union and towards Cyprus.
Dietmar Bartsch, head of group said he is in favour of a just settlement of the Cyprus problem, the immediate withdrawal of Turkish occupying forces and the implementation of the UN relevant resolutions on Cyprus.
Cyprus, an EU member-state, has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
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