|Thursday, 22 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-11-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 13 November 2008 Issue No: 3045
 PM chairs Inner Cabinet, KYSEA meetingsThe Inner Cabinet, chaired by prime minister Costas Karamanlis, on Wednesday unanimously approved environment, town planning and public works minister George Souflias' recommendation for spatial planing for renewable energy sources.
Souflias told reporters after the meeting that the lack of developmental planning, coupled by bureaucracy and the downgrading of the environment, have been causing problems in investments, while the plan proposed would introduce the necessary structural interventions.
With the new plan, Greece will meet its obligations, and will have attained the EU target of 20 percent of energy coming from renewable sources earlier than the EU deadline of 2020.
To a question on rumors of early general elections, Souflias said that he did not see such a prospect.
Defence minister Evangelos Meimarakis, speaking about an earlier meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA), said that it had unanimously approved Greece's participation in the international force that will go to Somalia, under the relevant UN resolutions.
Greece, he said, would participate with a frigate and its helicopter, as well as with high-ranking staff, adding that Greece will hold the command of the operation for as long as required and agreed, and noted that there could be an alternation in the command of the international force.
Meimarakis said that the Inner Cabinet was also briefed on the planning of the country's 15-year armaments program, although decisions were not made, while the restructuring of the Armed Forces was also discussed. He added that he would brief parliament's standing committee on foreign affairs and defence on those matters, as the ministry leadership's aim was the broadest possible consensus on such issues.
Agricultural development minister Alexandros Kontos, in turn, announced measures for the reinforcement of grains producers.
 PASOK defence rapporteur on KYSEA meetingMain opposition PASOK party defence issues rapporteur Vasso Papandreou, referring to Wednesday's session of the Government Council of Foreign and Defence Affairs (KYSEA), said that the new structure of the armed forces (the second after 2005) for which the briefing at KYSEA took place "is in the wrong direction."
She said that "the New Democracy (ND) party government is continuing to open new units and staffs to satisfy political favour purposes, resulting in a decrease in the effectiveness of the armed forces and the exhausting of staff. The 15-year armaments programme presented is based on a mistaken structure of forces and objectives that lead to excessive armaments, huge defence expenditures and extravagance. At the present economic conjuncture in particular, this is unacceptable," Papandreou added.
The rapporteur added that "our country's defence cannot be based on armaments alone. A change in structure is necessary with operational criteria, the training of staff and the improvement of living conditions, the strengthening of inter-service cooperation and overall planning. Steps had been taken in this direction by PASOK but, unfortunately, the ND governent, with its 'reformist' programme, has led the armed forces and the country's defence years back."
 Greece prepares for assumption of OSCE presidency in '09Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met on Wednesday with Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, in the framework of preparations for Greece's assumption of the organisation's presidency next January.
The assumption by Greece of the OSCE presidency in the present international situation is a "challenge" for the foreign ministry, which "we are determined to meet," Bakoyannis told reporters after the meeting.
The Greek foreign minister added that she looked forward to cooperating with all 56 OSCE member-states and the organisation's secretariat, and it was in this spirit she held talks with her European Union (EU) counterparts, while on Wednesday she had a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Contacts with the Russian foreign minister are of particular importance in view of the upcoming EU-Russia summit on Nov. 14 in Nice, France, and given the fact that Russia is involved in the Georgia crisis, which will be at the top of the agenda of the Greek OSCE presidency. de Brichambaut referred, on his part, to the open issues OSCE is facing, such as Georgia, SE Europe, the situation in Afghanistan and European security.
The assumption of the one-year OSCE presidency implies "a great political responsibility", de Brichambaut said, promising the greatest of support in organisational issues.
"We believe in the OSCE's role and mission, which in any case forms the solid base that will guide the presidency's actions," the Greek foreign minister said.
Bakoyannis will be the main speaker at an 'Ambassadors Forum' event organised by the ministry on Thursday, focusing on the issue of "Priorities and Challenges of the OSCE Greek Presidency".
Earlier in the day the head of the press department at the OSCE, Martin Nesirki, briefing reporters, said that the priorities are decided exclusively by the organisation's presidency.
Bakoyannis later briefed Greek deputies who are participating in the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE.
 Greek, Russian FMs hold telephone conversationMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
The Foreign Ministers of Greece and Russia, Dora Bakoyannis and Sergey Lavrov, held a telephone conversation on Wednesday, according to an announcement by the Russian foreign ministry's press service.
"Certain issues concerning bilateral Russo-Greek relations were discussed, as well as current issues regarding cooperation between the two countries at the OSCE, also in the framework of Greece's impending presidency of this Organisation in 2009," the Russian foreign ministry's announcment said, adding that the conversation was held at the Greek side's initiative.
 Athens again details positions on FYROM 'name issue'A foreign ministry spokesman on Wednesday was asked about recent comments by the US ambassador in Greece concerning the still unresolved FYROM "name issue", primarily the quote about Athens and Skopje themselves solving the dispute instead of waiting for a new US administration.
Queried over the recent comments during a regular press briefing in Athens, spokesman George Koumoutsakos merely responded that the dispute "obviously affects the United Nations, within whose framework negotiations are being held, as well as the European Union".
The spokesman said the statement, by US envoy Daniel Speckhard, was a "limited interpretation".
Koumoutsakos also cited specific EU Council texts on the "name issue" and the "very clear language (in the text) adopted at the heads of state and government level by NATO."
Moreover, he said the Greek side has never declined auxiliary interest and support of the negotiation process "from those who believe and have a sincere interest in helping, with their views and stance."
Furthermore, Koumoutsakos repeated that Greece is neither delaying nor in a hurry to find a solution to finally resolve the only remaining difference between the two neighbours.
"The time element isn't the deciding factor, the content of the solution is," he stressed.
He again echoed a standing view of Greek diplomacy and the government that the FYROM side is employing obstructionist and delaying tactics, something he said has been recognised by the president of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Branko Crvenkovski.
Koumoutsakos said "certain adjustments will have to be made to the text of the Nimetz proposal in order to form a basis for a solution," responding to a question on whether the package of ideas presented by the UN mediator constitutes a basis for negotiations.
"That was the position conveyed by Amb. (Adamantios) Vassilakis to the UN mediator in a meeting they had in London," Koumoutsakos said, reminding that "the negotiations have a clearly defined subject, which is the name issue."
Referring to Nimetz's proposals, Koumoutsakos stated that "certain fundamental aspects of Greek positions have been taken under consideration but, at the same time, there are certain points that need clarification and change, in addition to other points that are unacceptable to the Greek side."
Finally, in regards to FYROM's stance, Koumoutsakos said the other side must also display clear positions and a well-defined stance vis-à-vis the proposal text in order for negotiations to proceed.
 Athens points to Turkish DM's commentsÁ foreign ministry spokesman on Wednesday underlined that "the statements made by the Turkish defense minister are unfortunate, to say the least, in reference to eyebrow-raising comments reportedly expressed by minister Mehmet Vecdi Gonul, namely, that the eradication of Greek and Armenian communities in Turkey was imperative in the process of the establishment of a modern Turkish nation-state.
"Such statements are characterised by an unacceptable and dangerous reasoning that should have been left back in the dark past, where it belongs," he added, stressing that clarifications made "a posteriori" are not enough to change the initial negative impressions and the emotions they caused."
On whether he shares the optimism expressed by UN special envoy for Cyprus Alexander Downer, who spoke of a "steady progress" in the course of the negotiations, Koumoutsakos responded that the essence of the negotiations is what counts and what will determine the outcome of the process.
"Based on the developments so far, it is proved that the Greek Cypriot side and Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias have contributed in a substantive manner toward finding a solution ... we are expecting tangible indications of a constructive stance on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot side."
 Gov't: Papandreou appeared oblivious to int'l credit crisisGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday charged that main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou "has for too long acted or feigned that he did not know of an ongoing international financial crisis, and now he is gasping to express his positions, without being persuasive, however."
Antonaros added that 80 percent of Papandreou's proposals in a plan he presented on Sunday are initiatives and measures that the government has already announced, with some already passed and implemented.
The spokesman said the PASOK leader is trying to create impressions without persuading anyone.
Referring to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' statements, after his meeting with domestic bankers, Antonaros underlined that Karamanlis reiterated that banks have not done enough and must try harder.
"Society is waiting from those who manage money to exhibit the necessary social sensitivity," underlining that the plan has not yet been ratified by Parliament and when this happens, parties will be called on to prove if they have this sensitivity.
 ND Central Committee secretary addresses prefectural conferenceNew Democracy party Central Committee secretary Lefteris Zagoritis attacked main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Wednesday, accusing him of "irresponsibility" and "populism" in the handling of the economic crisis.
Addressing the conference of ND's prefectural organisation in the Athens first constituency, Zagoritis said that PASOK and Papandreou "have a populist attitude and are fishing in murky waters. They are underestimating the citizens who, however, are not misled by general, vague and inapplicable announcements. They are not changing in PASOK. They remain insolvent and unreliable."
He also referred to the role played by banks, saying that "the attitude of banks must be in line with the requirements of the times. In this difficult period in particular, the fortunately few big bankers must leave aside arrogance, inflexibility and the trend for excess profits. They must realise that they do not have the right to transfer the cost of their own problems to the citizens and the Greek consumers."
 Gov't on reshuffle speculation"The government has the majority in Parliament and will continue its reforms successfully and constructively," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Wednesday in response to ubiquitous press questions regarding the possibility of a Cabinet reshuffle, while again pointing out that such decisions are taken solely by the prime minister.
Antonaros also said that a handful of important draft laws have been passed over the past 14 months, including legislation to reform social security.
 President briefed by justice ministerPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received justice minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Wednesday.
Greeting the minister on arrival at the Presidential Mansion, Papoulias said that the resolution of the problems of the correctional system was a matter of quality of democracy, while Hatzigakis replied that the government has confronted in the best possible way the problems that had accumulated in the correctional system over many years.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Hatzigakis said that his ministry was ready to table in parliament two packages of measures for the solution of those problems. The first package, which he said would have no financial burden, was due to be tabled next week and would contribute to decongestion of the country's prisons, while the second package, which Hatzigakis said was more drastic, and concerned such issues as drugs and creating new prison facilities, was expected to be tabled near the Christmas holidays.
Hatzigakis said that the inmates in the country's prisons were displaying admirable quality in their manifestations.
He also said that the ministry was treating an existing problem with seriousness, "we are trying to release a large number of inmates", adding that the number to be released with the first measures was estimated at 1,500.
The minister said that a new inroad was being opened up in the state's, government's and justice ministry's relations with inmates, adding that "we are determined to take revolutionary measures that will humanize and confront the harsh world of narcotics with a humane face".
Hatzigakis further said that he intended to have a series of contacts with and visits to prisons, noting that an inter-party committee has been set up in parliament that will regularly visit correctional facilities, while the Ombudsman will soon be enabled to visit prisons as well.
 Push for jail reforms continuesThe outcome of the meeting between Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis and representatives of the Initiative for the Rights of Prisoners scheduled for Wednesday will determine if the hunger strike mobilization launched earlier this month with the participation of the majority of inmates currently incarcerated in prisons across the country will continue.
The mobilization that began last week in 21 prisons with the hunger strikers demanding improved conditions in jails gains momentum on a daily basis and the number of inmates participating has increased from 3,311 on November 8 to 5,251 on November 10.
Meanwhile, the proposals suggested by the Central Scientific Council of Prisons to the justice minister during a meeting on Tuesday have already been characterized as unsatisfactory by the Initiative representatives.
The Central Scientific Council of Prisons made a number of recommendations to the justice minister in order to improve conditions and relieve overcrowding in Greek jails. These included a reduction in the maximum period for detaining a prisoner on remand from 18 months to one year, an increase of annual prison leave from 36 days to 48 days, giving prisoners the option to buy off prison sentences of up to five years and allowing greater leeway for releasing prisoners suffering from serious health problems.
According to a justice ministry announcement, improvements to prison conditions are being considered for some time, as well as a series of favourable measures for certain categories of inmates, following a round of meetings and cooperation with the appropriate social bodies and officials in the justice sector.
The prisoners' demands were presented to Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis last Thursday by the Initiative for the Rights of Prisoners and are also supported by the coordinating committee of Greek Bar Association presidents, the Hellenic Union for Human Rights and other bodies.
 Justice minister meets detainees rights representativesJustice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis held talks on Wednesday with the representatives of the coordinating committee of the "Initiative for the Rights of Detainees."
It was the second time that representatives of the Initiative met with the Justice Minister since detainees in the country's 21 prisons began a hunger strike.
The representatives told the minister that the proposals of the Central Scientific Prisons Council (KESF) do not satisfy the detainees' basic demands. They also called on Hatzigakis to meet as soon as possible with a group of detainees having multinational representation.
The minister told them in turn that he intends to implement immediately the proposals made by KESF which, among other things, anticipate the turning of prison terms of up to five years into financial convictions, the reduction of the custody ceiling from the present 18 months to 12 and an increase in days of leave provided for detainees.
 Top Israeli diplomat Gal ends 2-day visit in AthensThe Israeli foreign ministry's director general of political affairs, Yossi Gal, concluded a two-day visit to Athens on Wednesday following contacts with high-ranking Greek diplomats and officials, and in the wake of his meetings in Washington and Paris.
In a press briefing at the Israeli embassy in Athens, Gal said talks focused on a continued emphasis on upgrading already close EU-Israeli relations, bilateral ties between Greece and Israel as well as mutual exchanges on regional issues.
Gal emphasised that Israel and Greece are "practically two neighbouring countries", echoing Israeli leadership's standing volition to increase and deepen bilateral economic ties and trade, which he put at 570 million US dollars.
Expectedly, the high-ranking Israeli diplomat said he outlined the Jewish state's positions on the Mideast problem, Iran's nuclear programme, relations with Syria and Lebanon as well as Israel's standing vilification of Hamas in Gaza.
Gal said he also discussed the issue of manifestations of anti-Semitism around the world with his Greek interlocutors, later noting, in response to a press question, that the "Greek government has done a number of things in the judicial sector and in the area of education".
Asked about the situation in densely populated Gaza, Gal said the Israeli side does not want to punish the Palestinian people but Hamas' leadership, adding that the militant movement continues to hold an Israeli soldier captive since June 2006.
 PASOK leader visits Children's Creative Occupation CentreMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou stated his undivided support for the unimpeded operation of Children's Creative Occupation Centres, during his visit to a centre in the Athens district of Daphne on Wednesday afternoon.
Papandreou was given a briefing "on the successful 10-year functioning of the institution and of the centre, as well as on the threatened risk of its restriction."
The PASOK leader talked to children, parents and employees, he was briefed on problems they are facing and stressed the need for backing the institution and all that is related to family protection.
Papandreou was informed by children and parents of the activities and possibilities that are provided by the centres and pointed out that the continuation of the institution is a matter of political will.
He promised that PASOK will promote and back the effort with the purpose of having it extended to include junior and senior high school children as well.
Papandreou added that his party's criteria for the child is for him to grow up, to create and to promote his talents in the home, in the family and in the neighbourhood and for this reason these structures of social and family protection must be strengthened.
 Greek Coast Guard denies Turkish claimsThe Greek Coast Guard categorically denied on Wednesday night claims by a Turkish TV channel that one of his boats opened fire against a Turkish fishing boat in the sea region of the eastern Aegean island of Hios.
 Commission satisfied with Greek handling of OA privatizationBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
European Commission vice-president and Transport Commis-sioner Antonio Tajani expressed satisfaction over the "good cooperation" between the Greek government and the European Commission on the issue of Greece's ailing national carrier Olympic Airways (OA), in a statement in Brussels on Wednesday.
Tajani, who presented on Wednesday the Commission's go-ahead for the privatization of Italian carrier Alitalia, said in reply to a press question on OA that he was absolutely satisfied with the way in which the Greek government was handling the matter of OA's privatization, and stressed the exceptional cooperation between himself and Greek transport minister Costis Hatzidakis.
 PM receives pensioners' repsPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday met with representatives of pensioners, who had held a rally and a march in downtown Athens hours earlier, protesting against the high cost of living.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, a delegation of pensioners said the prime minister listened to their demands and pointed out that they should be studied in detail by the ministers of finance and employment, while at the same time taking under consideration the state of the economy.
 Tourist development minister holds talks with London mayorLONDON (ANA-MPA/C. Halkiadakis)
Tourist Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos held talks on Wednesday with London Mayor Boris Johnson, in the framework of his visit to the British capital, with the purpose of boosting the tourist wave from Britain to Greece.
Speaking after the meeting, the minister said that London is an attraction for many Greeks and, respectively, it sends many visitors to Greece and to Athens. It was agreed in this respect that this tourist connection should become as close as possible, focusing on green tourism.
The minister further said that the mayor of London will visit Greece for a close-up examination of fields of cooperation between the two sides. Johnson showed special interest in the ministry's "green" initiatives that focus, among other things, on the ecological conscience of Greek citizens. The minister also revealed that the mayor uses a bicycle to go to work.
In the framework of his visit to London for the "World Travel Market" exhibition, Spiliotopoulos also met with members of the "Hellenic Bankers Association" and called for their contribution in promoting the Greek tourist product as much as possible in the British market that is important for Greece.
 Merchant marine minister addresses maritime conferenceMerchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy Minister Anastasis Papaligouras inaugurated the 8th Maritime Conference titled "Navigator 2008" on Wednesday, stressing that the crisis will not be an obstructive factor for efforts to maintain Greek shipping's competitive advantage in the global economic arena.
Papaligouras referred during his address to the great importance for the country's merchant shipping, apart from the business fervour of the Greek shipowner, of his successful cooperation with the merchant shipping's potential as well, Greek seamen.
He said that his ministry's policy focuses on the human factor, while also pointing to the problem existing already in global shipping, that of the inadequacy of the labour market in seamen potential.
The minister referred, lastly, to the ministry's policies to attract young people to the shipping profession, to improve training standards and to upgrade the image of shipping.
 Transport minister announces Electric Railways projectsTransport and Communications Minister Kostis Hatzidakis visited the new electric trains washing facility at the Irini station on Wednesday and announced a series of new projects aimed at modernising and extending the Electric Railways (HSAP) network.
The washing facility, budgeted at 3.34 million euros, operates automatically with recycled water and has the ability to serve 18 trains a day.
The other projects include the Piraeus-Faliro section going underground and the section will include the new Kaminia station. The project's cost will total 65 million euros and it is expected to be completed in 2011.
A new repairs base will be created in Piraeus. The project is budgeted at 120 million euros with the state sector's participation amounting to 25 million euros and that of the private sector to 95 million euros. It will be completed in two years.
 Simitis addresses event on economic crisisFormer prime minister Costas Simitis has proposed an "economic governance of the European Union", which should be combined with "a stronger political cooperation".
Addressing an event on Wednesday evening on the theme "the course of economy in Greece, Europe and the World", the former premier and main opposition PASOK leader said that "because the aim is a Europe with more economic and social development, high rate of employment, fairer distribution of the wealth which is being produced and a strong social state," an economic governance is required "which must have a coordinating body and a binding policy that could promote infrastructure works in the sectors of energy, protection of the environment, education and support of small and medium businesses."
Referring to the global credit crisis, Simitis said that "syste-matic deregulation in the U.S.A. - with the lifting of restrictions on investment banks and the abolition of controls on derivatives - as well as the adoption of high risk practices, led to the crisis."
The event was organised by the Society for Social Reform (OPEK) and was attended among others by Parliament president Dimitris Sioufas and former president of the republic Costis Stephanopoulos.
According to Simitis, normalisation will come about "when balance sheets will be giving an exact picture of businesses and will not be concealing damages any more."
Referring to Greece, the former premier charged that the present New Democracy (ND) government "has been implementing an economic policy that minimised our capabilities in handling the world crisis."
 Unemployment rate decreases in August 2008The unemployment rate decreased to 7.1 percent in August 2008, compared to 7.6 percent in August 2007.
According to an announcement by the Greek National Statistical Service (ESYE), the unemployment rate was 11 percent for women in August 2008 and 4.5 percent for men, as against 11.8 percent unemployment for women and 4.6 percent for men in August 2007.
Unemployment mainly affects age groups between 15-24 (amounting to 19.2 percent and the 25-34 age groups by up to 10.6 percent).
As regards the unemployment rate in each region of the country, ESYE announced that the highest rate is recorded in Western Macedonia with 15.3 percent, Western Greece 11.6 percent and Central Macedonia 8.8 percent.
 Greek Petroleum company's financial resultsTh Greek Petroleum company's profit-making was affected negatively during the third quarter of 2008, according to a relevant announcement, from the impact of reserves due to the great decrease in crude oil prices at the end of September.
At the level of accumulated profits before monetary expenditures, taxes and depreciation (EBITDA), losses in the third quarter amounted to 18 million euros, compared to profits totalling 135 million euros over the corresponding period last year.
Losses after taxes amounted to 74 million euros as against net profits totalling 81 million euros in the third quarter of 2007.
 Stocks fall 1.94 on WednesdayGreek stocks continued a downward slide at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, again affected by negative trends on international markets. The composite index plunged 1.94 pct to end at 2,010.52 points, with turnover a low 198.6 million euros, of which only 1.1 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with Utilities (5.60 pct), Banks (4.99 pct), and Constructions (3.10 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index plunged 2.43 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.09 pct down and the FTSE 80 index dropped 0.07 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 153 to 72 with another 49 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.86%
Personal & Household: -2.32%
Raw Materials: -2.16%
Travel & Leisure: +1.66%
Food & Beverages: +0.81%
Financial Services: +6.72%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and Public Power Corp (PPC).
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 9.90
Public Power Corp (PPC): 8.82
HBC Coca Cola: 11.18
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.00
National Bank of Greece: 16.26
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.60
Bank of Piraeus: 9.24
Titan Cement Company: 11.98
 Foreign Exchange Rates: ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.263
Pound sterling 0.829
Danish kroner 7.505
Swedish kroner 10.187
Japanese yen 122.78
Swiss franc 1.498
Norwegian kroner 8.852
Canadian dollar 1.531
Australian dollar 1.914
 Volanakis painting sets record in Sotheby's 'Greek' auctionLONDON (ANA-MPA/L Tsirigotakis)
A work by Greek painter Constantine Volanakis, titled "The Arrival of Karaiskakis at Faliron", was sold for a record 1.97 million euros on Tuesday at a Sotheby's auction house "Greek Sale".
Volanakis' oil on canvas depicting 1821 Greek Revolution hero George Karaiskakis sailing with is fleet into Faliron for the liberation of Athens from the Turkish seige brought in a record price for a painting by a Greek artist.
The record was previously held by a painting by Nikiforos Lytras titled "Festival in Megara", which was sold for 1,138,396 euros by Sotheby's in its November 22, 2006 session.
Volanakis' painting was bought by a Greek international art collector who wishes to remain anonymous, but a Sotheby's spokesperson said that the work would remain in Greece.
Tuesday's "Greek Sale" brought in a total 7.429 million euros.
Other paintings sold at Tuesday's session included Theodoros Rallis' "Marionettes in the Harem", which brought in 589,000 euros, Nicholas Gyzis' "The Neighbors" (The Gossips) for 442,000 euros, an untitled Yannis Moralis work for 229,000 euros, Georgios Jakobides' "Grandpa's Favorite" for 221,000 euros, and another Volanakis painting titled "Mending the Nets" for 221,000 euros.
 Thessaloniki mayor to participate in Balcinet meeting in SarajevoThessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos will depart on Thursday for Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, as the head of a municipal delegation expected to participate at the 9th International Friendship and Cooperation meeting amongst major Balkan cities' mayors.
The meeting is organised within the framework of the Balkan cities network (BALCINET). The inter-balkan municipalities' cooperation, EU prospects of the western Balkan states, developing children-friendly cities, minorities rights, migrant policy and environment issues, will be discussed at the meeting.
Papageorgopoulos said the next BALCINET meeting will take place in Thessaloniki.
 Emperors' Conference monument in Petronell-CarnuntumVIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)
Foundations were laid on Tuesday for the Emperors' Conference Monument in the Austrian city of Petronell where the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Carnuntum are located, the site of the meeting of Diocletian, Galerius and Maximian on November 11 in 308 AD, when Constantine the Great became "caesar" and later the first Christian emperor.
The ceremony attended representatives of the Austrian state and political leadership, the ambassadors of 11 European countries and Church representatives among them Metropolitan Michael of Austria Exarch of Hungary and Mid-Europe.
The foundations of the Christian European civilisation were laid in 308 AD, stressed Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in his message, read out by the Metropolitan of Austria, underlining the Eastern and Orthodox dimension of European civilisation "that cannot be only western, Catholic or Protestant."
The founder and director of the ancient Greek theater in Carnumtum, Piero Bordin, announced that a number of events have been planned in different countries marking the Emperors' Conference and the formal recognition of the Christian religion.
The first of those events is planned to be held in Thessaloniki on April 30, 2011 marking the 1,700th anniversary of the Nicomedia Edict for tolerance toward Christians, issued by Emperor Galerius.
Carnuntum is located in northern Pannonia on the Danube River and was an important Roman post from the time of Tiberius. It was used as a base by Marcus Aurelius in his campaign against the Marcomanni (AD 172 - 174) and there he wrote the second book of his Meditations.
 Institute cites figure on number of illegal migrants in GreeceThe president of the Athens-based Hellenic Migration Policy Institute (IMEPO) on Wednesday estimated the number of illegal immigrants in the country at between 172,000 to roughly 209,000, speaking at a press conference in the Greek capital.
IMEPO chief Alexandros Zavos said a relevant study is based on various state sources, including the interior ministry, education ministry, police precincts, local government entities as well as questionnaires supplied by migrants' groups.
 Prosecutor calls for manslaughter convictions in football-related violenceAn Athens court prosecutor called for the conviction of 27 defendants charged in the violent street clashes in March 2007 between supporters of the football clubs Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, which resulted to the death of a 25-year-old man.
According to the prosecutor, the "rumble" was not random, pointing out that the defendants "were actually going to war".
He also stated that based on the evidence gathered, the Panathinaikos supporters were the ones who started the fight. The trial is set to continue on Friday.
 Overnight arson attacks in AthensA wave of arson attacks took place on Tuesday night in Athens targeting private companies and a car belonging to a former PASOK government minister.
Limited damage was caused to the offices of two private security companies in the districts of Kolonos and Nea Ionia that became the target of attacks by unidentified arsonists using homemade incendiary devices made of propane canisters.
A total of four torch attacks were recorded a few hours later over a period of two minutes. The targets were, a Bank of Cyprus branch in Nea Smyrni, the car of main opposition PASOK former minister Sifis Valyrakis in Holargos, a supermarket chain truck in Kypseli and a state agency car in Ambelokipi.
 Wildfire on Mt.Athos containedThe wildfire that broke out on Monday on Mt. Athos was fully contained on Wednesday morning, Northern Greece Fire Brigade chief Dimitris Fafoutis told ANA-MPA.
A strong team of 70 firefighters and 80 fire engines remained in the area in the event of rekindlings.
Monasteries and other settlements were not endagered by the the fire, which burned an estimated 100 acres of forestland.
 PCs, Net use rises steadilyA 10-percent rise in the use of personal computers and a 14-percent rise in internet access were registered for 2008, compared to 2007, according to figures released on Wednesday by the National Statistical Service (NSS).
Research on the use of IT and communication technology in 2008 was conducted on a sample of 5,045 households nationwide.
Also, in the first quarter of 2008, 13.7 percent of internet users in Greece purchased PCs, recording a 5-percent rise compared to the same period last year.
 Fair on ThursdayFair weather with light and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 21C. Fair in Athens, with light winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 21C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 6C to 17C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis' new warning to banks to contain the interest rates in the midst of the global financial crisis dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "1,599 prisoners set free - New package of measures for correctional institutions".
APOGEVMATINI: "14,948 hirings in public sector".
AVGHI: "One out of two citizen fears that he will lose his job, indicates survey ".
AVRIANI: "Karamanlis has sounded (early) elections alarm".
CHORA: "The apostasy and (early) general elections scenarios rekindle".
ELEFTHEROS: "Households run out of cash - People cannot pay utility bills, loans and credit cards".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Development Minister Christos Folias blocks the provocative increases in Public Power Corporation rates".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The bankers predict a 'black' 2009 - They did not open their cards on the conditions of their access to the 28 billion euros government plan".
ESTIA: "A government reshuffle is mandatory - Today's political scene is detrimental".
ETHNOS: "Endless Calvary for Karamanlis - Karamanlis and his ministers agonise over the party's marginal majority in parliament".
KATHIMERINI: "Takis Athanassopoulos, PPC president with an expiration date ".
LOGOS: "The government pulls the rug out from under the feet of Athanassopoulos, who asks for increases in PPC rates".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition PASOK compete over the antisocial measures against the financial crisis - They are mocking the people and fortifying the enterpeneurs".
TA NEA: "The surcharges on credit cards are illegal, indicates the Bank of Greece".
TO VIMA: "The bankers turn, now, to main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou - He had a succession of meetings at the party's headquarters on Tuesday".
VRADYNI: "Karamanlis warns bankers: Reduce the interest rates".
 President Christofias reiterates Greek Cypriot side's good will for a solutionNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said here Wednesday that the Greek Cypriot side's good will for a solution of the Cyprus issue is declared and understood by the international community, expressing his belief that the other side will approach these positions so as to reach a settlement.
Speaking on the sidelines of the inauguration of the Historic Labour Museum of PEO, and invited to comment on the optimism expressed by UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alexander Downer about the outcome of the direct negotiations, President Christofias said:
''The United Nations always express optimism. If they expressed pessimism the story should have ended''.
President Christofias reiterated that the negotiation's process is difficult.
''We are at the beginning," he said and added that self-control and self-restraint instead of rushed positioning and decisions are requested. "We entered this process aiming to solve the Cyprus problem and will do our outmost," he stressed underlining that this will happen "if of course, the other side wants too."
Asked about a statement he made that sometimes there is a difference of philosophy between the two sides, President Christofias said that sometimes positions might be expressed, which show a difference in philosophy.
''This does not means that we should rush to draw the conclusion that the one side wishes for one thing and the other wants the opposite'', he said.
 Cypriot FM: Desired progress in negotiations not achieved so farNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Greek Cypriot side considers that the desired progress in direct negotiations for the settlement of the Cyprus question has not been achieved so far, Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou has said.
Kyprianou who met here Wednesday with UN Secretary General's Special Adviser for Cyprus Alexander Downer said that he conveyed to Downer his personal opinions as well as that of the Government on the negotiating process that has started early in September.
Invited to comment on a statement by Downer, after the meeting on Tuesday between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, for a steady progress in the negotiations, Kyprianou said that Downer's statement gives a positive message.
"He knows the positions of our side. We consider that for the moment desired progress has not yet been achieved," Kyprianou underlined. He noted however that there is convergence in some issues, but we would like to see even more, and of course, if there is a more constructive stance by the other side, talks will move forward in a more rapid way, he said.
Invited to comment a statement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a NATO conference in Berlin that "we have to do certain things with regard to Turkey and Cyprus", as regards the problem created due to Turkey's stance in EU-NATO meetings as it does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, Kyprianou said that this issue was discussed during a meeting he had with Javier Solara, the EU High Representative For Common Foreign and Security Policy.
"This problem derives from Turkey and Turkey's stance towards Cyprus, and is due to Turkey's stance not to accept the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus and that the Republic of Cyprus is an EU member state," he added.
He noted that his issue does not only concern Cyprus, "because Turkey wants to have a say in EU decision-making with regard to civil defence issues, without being an EU member."
"We consider that it is among Turkey's obligations to normalize its relations with the Republic of Cyprus and respond to its obligations towards the EU and stop posing obstacles in the EU-NATO cooperation, but this is an issue we are discussing with the EU relevant instruments," he added.
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