|Wednesday, 12 August 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-11-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 15 November 2008 Issue No: 3047
 PM: Gov't wants reduction in defence spending, but not at expense of peace, securityThe government was the first to want a reduction in defence expenditures, but not at the expense of security and peace, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis emphasised on Friday, replying in Parliament to a question tabled by a leftist opposition party leader.
During his address, the Greek premier added that spending for armaments has been curtailed, nevertheless, by 15 percent in the 2009 state budget.
"We are proving our determination for a reduction of (defence) expenditures in action," Karamanlis said, given that his government had opted for transparency, as opposed to "secret slushfunds and double ledgers" dating from the period of PASOK governance.
Moreover, Karamanlis told MPs that defence expenditures now amounted to less than 3 percentage points of GDP, while at the same time ensuring the alertness and readiness of Greece's armed forces; that an increase in the defence ministry's budget for 2009 was the smallest in relation to all the other ministries and that spending for weapons in 2009 was reduced by 15 percent in relation to 2008.
Karamanlis warned that there was "no room for populism in such matters", adding that the government was implementing the Greek people's desire for a secure and proud nation into a policy of peace and cooperation with all neighbours.
Such a policy, he explained, mandated a strong deterrent force amid a specific geo-strategic environment.
Karamanlis further underlined that "for all those who feign ignorance of the fact that our neighbouring countries maintain defence expenditures approaching 5 percentage points of GDP, this cannot be disregarded".
"Antagonism is not our choice. Involvement in recognising and intercepting aircraft -- warplanes violating Greek airspace and/or infringing on Athens FIR regulations -- is not our choice. But we will not abandon the required vigilance against such practices, which attempt to dispute of our country's sovereign rights ... Let that be clear. There is no room for second thoughts on this matter. Populism on such matters of vital importance is unthinkable," the prime minister stressed.
Regarding Athens' participation in an international military mission to Somalia, he stressed that Greece, which holds a pre-eminent position in world shipping, cannot be absent from international missions against the escalating dangers of piracy.
The premier further criticised those who, in the present critical economic conjuncture, "appear with 'packages' of promises of uncalculated cost and inapplicable", a direct swipe at a main opposition PASOK plan.
He added that "some quarters" pretend that they are providing "recommendations" and engage in wishful talk, while others claim that they have "magical solutions".
"They are chiefly (although not only) those who claim that the (global) financial crisis is supposedly nothing but an alibi for the government ... They are those who are not interested in solutions, but only in the impressions of the moment. They are the eternal demagogues, the expressers of reaction and stagnancy," the prime minister said.
He added that the government fully understood citizens who have troubles in making ends meet, and "we are going through this difficult period together with the citizens, step by step, but at the same time holding the helm of the country's course firmly ... We are forging ahead in a way that guarantees the maximum possible result, without, however, mortgaging the future".
In his response, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parlia-mentary leader Alekos Alavanos said that, instead of arma-ments, the government should proceed with a strong public investments programme, adding that it was not possible that Greece should be the fourth-ranked country in the world in terms of armaments acquisitions, in absolute figures, and the top country in the euro zone with respect to armaments spending, "yet the last country in the euro zone in social protection spending."
He said that every Greek will contribute 432.8 euros for the purchase of weaponry, based on the 2009 budget, and estimated that for every F-16 jetfighter acquired, to the tune of 45 million euros, the state could give a monthly unemployment benefit to 100,000 unemployed citizens and a low-pension benefit to 200,000 pensioners.
Alavanos proposed that half the money earmarked for armaments expenditures be channelled back to the economy.
PM on guarantees for funds' assets
In an unrelated matter, the prime minister said the assets of the social security funds are guaranteed by the Greek state, as are all pensions. He added that there was absolutely no reason for worry by any pensioner or insured party.
Karamanlis spoke in Parliament in reply to a question tabled by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga, who proposed that the state cover losses suffered by funds from their stock market investments.
The premier stressed that the social security funds today are operating in a "guarded environment", and had no reason to liquidate or sell-off assets, while he reiterated that "in every eventuality, the state totally guarantees all the pensions".
Papariga called on the state to purchase the shares held by pension funds, not at their current price but at their original purchase price. She reiterated KKE's disagreement with the 'placement' of funds' reserves on the stock market, "which we call gambling".
Karamanlis, in turn, asked: "If we hastened at this time to a book-value restoration of the funds, what would we gain?"
"Is it beneficial to convert an accounting difference into a real difference? Is it beneficial at this time to put an additional burden on the budget and restrict its margins for social and developmental policies?" the premier asked rhetorically, before continuing: "Definitely not. If we were to adopt KKE's recommendation, we would not achieve anything but transferring to the taxpayers a cost without any benefit."
In a later response after the Parliament sessions, main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou lashed out at the prime minister, accusing him of selective and misleading use of figures as regards the public debt, during the latter's statements in Parliament.
Referring to public deficit, the PASOK spokesman accused the government of inability to manage its choices appropriately, while commenting on the utilisation of pension fund assets, he referred to the "structured bonds scandal", as he called it, pointing out that if was not brought to light by PASOK all social security funds would have collapsed by now.
Papaconstantinou also accused the prime minister of being unreliable citing the unfulfilled announcement on the establishment of an "anti-poverty fund".
The PASOK spokesman characterised a government plan, announced in support of the Greek banks, as "obsolete" and "lacking transparency", pointing out that his party will vote against it next week in Parliament.
Referring to labour relations in view of the international financial crisis, he said that they should be adjusted to the new conditions but in such a way that will give new opportunities to workers and not take away guaranteed rights.
 Papandreou to make address in New York on economic crisisNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou was scheduled to make an address late on Friday night (Greek time) at a conference on the economic crisis, international security and prospects appearing at global level.
The conference was to be held in a hall of New York's New School university and would be qattended by important personalities and distinguished economists.
At the end of his brief stay in New York, the PASOK leader and Socialist International (SI) president would be leaving for Mexico on Sunday morning to preside over a session of the Socialist International's Council, that will be taking place in the city of Nuevo Vallarta on November 17-18.
 Uruguayan delegation of deputies visits ParliamentA visiting Uruguayan parliamentary delegation, headed by Chamber of Representatives Speaker Alberto Perdomo Gamarra, attended the "Hour of the Prime Minister" session in the Greek Parliament.
Welcoming the Uruguayan delegation Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas stressed that he is "honoured and happy" to receive Speaker Gamarra and Representatives Anibal Pereyra, Juan Andres Roballo, Federico Casaretto, and Daniel Bianchi.
"The city where democracy was born and the first Parliament was established, is welcoming the president of the chamber of deputies of one of the oldest republics on the American continent," stated Sioufas.
 Papoulias receives BoG Gov.President of Republic Karolos Papoulias on Friday received Bank of Greece (BoG) Gov. George Provopoulos, following an invitation by the former.
In greeting Provopoulos and in reference to the timely international credit crisis, Papoulias emphasised that banks must exercise their social sensitivity, citing the G-20 meeting in Washington.
On his part, the BoG head warned against expecting too much from the closely watched meeting. "I am afraid that we must not expect too many things from G-20 members, although discussion is always helpful..."
 Justice ministry meets most demands of hunger striking inmatesA number of measures that meet most of the demands made by protesting prison inmates were announced by Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Friday. He said these would be carried out by sending out specific circulars, through administrative initiatives or by legislation added to a draft law that would soon go through Parliament.
"A total of 14 out of the 16 demands put forth by the striking inmates will be met either partly or in full," the justice ministry announced.
Thousands of inmates on Friday were still participating in an ongoing hunger strike launched last week in 21 prisons across the country to demand improved conditions in Greek jails.
Among their demands is a reduction in the length of disciplinary penalties from one year to six months, with six-month penalties abolished entirely. In addition, those serving a prison term of up to two years for committing a misdemeanour will be released after serving 1/5 of the sentence, while inmates serving longer prison terms will be released after doing 1/3 of their time. Furthermore, those receiving a sentence of up to five years will be given the option to buy off their prison term.
As regards bi-monthly inmate furloughs, these will be increased by one day (from 5 to 6 days and from 8 to 9 days). Also, the length of time that authorities can remand a suspect in custody pending trial will be reduced from 18 to 12 months, while inmate hospitals and other justice ministry institutions will be incorporated into the National Health System (ESY).
Among the new clauses to be tabled in parliament is the establishment of a screening procedure in drug-related arrests in order to separate drug users from dealers.
 Deputy FM Kassimis addresses high-level meeting on the Culture of PeaceNEW YORK (ANA-MPA / P. Panagiotou)
Greece feels vindicated because it was among the first countries in the West which, in adopting specific policies, contributed to the opening of new channels of communication and dialogue with the Muslim World even before WWII, Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis stressed on Thursday, addressing a high-level UN General Assembly meeting on the Culture of Peace, proposed by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.
Kassimis stated that Greece shares the stance outlined by the French EU Presidency on the issue of interreligious dialogue, and referred to the country's positions and participation in international organizations contributing to the promotion and consolidation of "understanding and cooperation" among cultures, aimed at strengthening peace. He also referred to the fundamental importance of dialogue for the Greek culture.
The deputy FM, speaking at a two-day high level meeting held within the framework of the 63rd UN General Assembly, also referred to the historical and timeless role of Greece as the crossroads of interaction and coexistence of cultural and religious trends. He also pointed out that a wide-range campaign on religious education will have to be launched allowing the peoples of the world to become fully aware of the true message of religions.
Kassimis stressed that "these are materialistic times and an effort is being made by certain circles to uproot the timeless and universal values of our societies," adding that "no religion preaches hatred among people."
The deputy FM also referred to the important Greek initiative "Building the future" launched 18 months ago in an effort to build "bridges of peace and cooperation in the region." A summer camp organized within its framework is being directed to children from Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Greece aged 12-14.
 Deputy FM Kassimis attends dinner by Turkish PMNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis participated on Thursday night (local time) in a dinner given by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a restaurant in Manhattan on the election of his country as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council over the 2009-2010 period.
Kassimis had the opportunity of talking with the Turkish prime minister, as well as with senior officials of other countries participating in the dinner and who had arrived in New York for the High Level Meeting on the theme of "The Culture of Peace." The participants included UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Kassimis, who was due to conclude his visit to New York on Friday, represented Greece at the High Level Meeting that took place between November 12-13.
 Greece set to rejoin Kyoto carbon-trading mechanismsGreece is set to rejoin the Kyoto Protocol's carbon-trading mechanisms after a unanimous decision of the United Nations Compliance Committee, the Greek environment ministry announced on Friday. According to the announcement, the country was found to meet all requirements for participating in emissions trading during a meeting of the committee on Thursday.
Specifically, the committee found that Greece had established the necessary institutional, legal and procedural measures that would ensure the national system for measuring carbon dioxide emissions was fully functional and would continue to function efficiently in the future, while the country also had the necessary procedures for planning, preparing and handling inventories and submitting them promptly to the UN environment secretariat.
"This decision by the UN fully vindicates the positions expressed by the environment ministry ever since the issue of the UN's decision first arose in April 2008," the ministry said, referring to Greece's temporary suspension from Kyoto mechanisms at that time over problems with the accuracy of emissions estimates it had supplied for the base year of 1990.
It once again slammed critics who had treated the development as Greece's "expulsion" from the Protocol, saying that the claim had been untrue and damaging for the country's image.
 US embassy on talks with Athens over visa waiver programA wire service story on Friday quoting a top US official in Brussels as saying Washington wants to include more countries in the US visa waiver program before the upcoming Jan. 20 administration changeover generated increased scrutiny in Athens, given that Greece was prominently left out of the recent batch of inductees.
Speaking in the Greek capital, a US embassy spokesperson pointed to comments made this week by US envoy Daniel Speckhard, namely, that bilateral negotiations are continuing and that the process is proceeding.
The spokesperson said US diplomats again met with Greek foreign ministries officials this week on the specific matter -- EU member-state Greece's inclusion in the programme for visa-free travel to the United States.
According to the US side, three documents are still under discussion: a memorandum of understanding; an agreement on information-sharing regarding terrorists, and a similar text on information-sharing on convicted criminals.
"Talks are progressing, and substantial progress has been made," the spokesperson said in echoing previous embassy comments.
According to a Reuters dispatch from Brussels on Friday, US Dept. of Homeland Security official Jackie Bednarz said "...it is our objective to admit additional countries before the change in the US administration."
Beginning on Monday, citizens of six former eastern bloc countries and previous Soviet republics -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia -- along with long-time US ally South Korea, will be able to travel to the United States without a visa, provided they fill-out an electronic form via the Internet.
Asked about a "time frame" for completing talks with the Greek government, the US embassy spokesperson merely noted that a completion "cannot be ruled out before the end of the year, if not, then in 2009."
 Education minister on Polytechnic anniversaryEducation Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said in a message on Friday on the anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic uprising against the military dictatorship on November 17, 1973, that the ideals which inspired the students in their struggle against totalitarianism and for freedom and democracy, undoubtedly constitute longlasting values that were born in the country and are bound with the mentality of the Greek people.
"The Polytechnic reflected the opposition of all the Greek people to every effort aimed at their subjugation and manipulation and their unshakeable devotion to democratic ideals," the minister said in his message.
 FinMin Alogoskoufis on monetary crisisLONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)
Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Friday that the economic crisis began in the heart of the monetary system and can only be tackled at global level.
"The basic issue that the entire world is facing today is the monetary crisis, a crisis that has brought to the forefront the significance and the dangers from globalisation and a crisis that began from the heart of the monetary system and that can only be tackled at global level," the minister said.
Speaking to Greek reporters at a press conference he gave at the London School of Economics, Alogoskoufis referred at length to the crisis of the global economy.
Asked whether the measures being taken by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, that anticipate an increase in public expenditures and a decrease in taxation, could have a positive implementation in Greece, the minister said "this recipe will only be effective if it is implemented at international level. If it is applied only in Britain or in Greece or in some other country, this is not enough for us to have results. Because, to a certain degree, it will create problems in the country that is assuming this initiative if it is not followed by the other countries. For this reason, the existence of coordination in whatever effort for fiscal backing is of great importance, and it must take place at national and European level."
 Greek economy grew by 3.1 pct in Q3The Greek economy grew by 3.1 percent in the third quarter of 2008, the National Statistics Service said on Friday.
The statistics service, in a report, said economic activity in the July-September period was characterised by a decline in investments and mainly by a drop in building activity. Consumer spending growth also eased, while imports fell also.
NSS said the Greek Gross Domestic Product (in fixed 2,000 prices) grew by 3.1 pct in the third quarter compared with the same period last year, after a 3.6 pct growth rate in the second quarter and a 3.2 pct growth rate in the first quarter of the year.
Meanwhile, Eurostat in a report published on Friday said the Greek economy grew by 3.1 pct in the third quarter. GDP growth in the Eurozone was 0.7 pct, while in the EU-27 growth was 0.8 pct and in the US GDP growth was 0.8 pct. Slovakia (7.1 pct), Czech Republic (4.7 pct) and Cyprus (3.5 pct) recorded the highest growth rates, while Latvia (-4.2 pct), Estonia (-3.3 pct) and Italy (-0.9 pct) recorded negative growth rates.
Economic growth in Greece was up 0.5 pct in the third quarter, compared with the second quarter, while in the Eurozone and the EU-27 growth rates fell by 0.2 pct, respectively.
 Greek inflation down to 4.0 pct in October, EurostatGreek inflation slowed to 4.0 pct in October from 4.7 pct in September, Eurostat said on Friday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in a monthly report, said the inflation rate fell to 3.2 pct in October from 3.6 pct in September in the Eurozone, but up from 2.6 pct in October 2007, while in the EU-27, the inflation rate fell to 3.7 pct in October from 4.2 pct in September and 2.7 pct in October 2007.
Holland, Germany and Portugal (2.5 pct) recorded the lowest inflation rates, while Latvia (13.7 pct), Bulgaria (11.2 pct) and Lithuania (10.7 pct) the highest percentage rates. The inflation rate rose in 24 member states, it rose in Malta and Romania, while they were no figures for the UK.
 Greek budget revenues up 8.2 pct in OctoberGreek budget revenues grew by 8.2 pct in October, compared with the corresponding period last year, recovering signifi-cantly after the previous months' disappointing results, the finance ministry said on Friday.
Budget revenues grew 6.0 pct in the January-October period, compared with the same period last year, after recording a 5.7 pct growth rate in the nine-month period from January to September. Revenues in tax agencies grew by 2.7 pct and in customs revenues were up 11.2 pct in October.
 Ionian Hotels reports lower 9-month resultsIonian Hotel Enterprises on Friday reported net profits totaling 900,000 euros in the nine-month period from January to September 2008, after profits of 3.7 million euros in the corresponding period last year. The company said its pre-tax, interest and amortisation earnings eased to 8.3 million euros in the nine-month period, from 10.4 million euros in 2007, while turnover rose slightly to 31.4 million euros, from 31.0 million euros in 2007.
 Greek stocks end 1.38 pct higherGreek stocks rebounded on Friday following a similar trend in other European markets. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange rose 1.38 pct to end at 2,007.09 points, with turnover remaining a low 166.6 million euros, of which 5.1 million were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with the Healthcare (6.40 pct), Constructions (3.94 pct), Personal/Home Products (2.87 pct) and Industrial Products (2.65 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Technology (0.92 pct) and Travel (0.26 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 1.28 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.86 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index was up 0.16 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 139 to 74 with another 60 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.16%
Personal & Household: +2.87%
Raw Materials: +0.56%
Travel & Leisure: -0.26%
Food & Beverages: +1.35%
Financial Services: +1.95%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE, and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 9.32
Public Power Corp (PPC): 8.98
HBC Coca Cola: 10.82
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.60
National Bank of Greece: 15.72
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.60
Bank of Piraeus: 8.90
Titan Cement Company: 12.78
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover falling further to 62.210 million euros. The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.78 pct. Volume on the Big Cap index was 9,793 contracts worth 52.171 million euros, with 28,378 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,226 contracts worth 9.742 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,067), followed by Marfin Investment Group (745), OTE (624), GEK (870), Alpha Bank (665), Marfin Popular Bank (735) and PPC (583).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market remained a low 477 million euros on Friday, of which 280 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 197 million were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond (August 20, 2013) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 110 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds shrank to 140 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 5.10 pct and the German Bund 3.70 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 4.35 pct, the six-month rate 4.29 pct, the three-month rate 4.22 pct and the one-month rate 3.82 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates: Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.277
Pound sterling 0.866
Danish kroner 7.507
Swedish kroner 10.074
Japanese yen 123.15
Swiss franc 1.522
Norwegian kroner 8.822
Canadian dollar 1.562
Australian dollar 1.945
 Thessaloniki mayor at Balkan Mayors' assembly in SarajevoThe environmental problems facing Balkan cities and their efforts to combat climate change dominated talks on Friday by mayors of the region meeting in Sarajevo.
The Bosnian Foreign Minister, Sven Alkalaj, inaugurated the 2008 conference, while the host, Sarajevo Mayor Semiha Borovac and Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos addressed greetings.
Papageorgopoulos referred to inter-governmental findings on climate change, presented a year ago in Valencia, and reiterated that directed policies and technology that can reduce emissions.
"Local governments are called on to contribute with the urban planning and the understanding of the sustainable development," Papageorgopoulos said, outlining the Thessa-loniki municipality's actions in sanitation sector, garbage disposal and monitoring emissions.
Thessaloniki will host the next Balkan Mayors' assembly in 2009.
 Education minister tours Evros prefectureEducation Minister Evripidis Stylianidis announced in Nea Orestiada, northern Greece, on Friday the construction of 15 new buildings that will house nursery schools throughout the Evros prefecture.
He told the members of the parents society of the 6th ele-mentary school and the nursery school of Orestiada that five million euros have been budgeted for this purpose.
"An operational programme is under way that will be concluded in 2012 and for Evros we have budgeted 35 million euros," the minister said.
Stylianidis continued his tour with visits to the towns of Didimotiho, Soufli and Tychero and participated in a conference held in the city of Alexandroupoli late on Friday afternoon, that included the Prefect and Mayors of Evros.
 Suspects in self-styled anarchist torchings surrender to policeThree self-styled anarchists, a woman and two men, accused of taking part in a string of arson attacks last year, surrendered to police in Thessaloniki on Friday morning.
The trio is allegedly involved in three torchings of private cars and bank ATMs.
A case file has been put together since last November following the arrest of a 27-year-old, charged as an accessory in the attacks.
 Several foreign nationals arrested in drug turf power struggleNearly two dozen Albanian nationals were arrested by police this week in connection with an unprecedented, by Greek standards, drug turf war in central downtown Athens, blamed for at least 11 murders and 13 attempted homicides.
Exactly 20 Albanians are charged with involvement in a drug trafficking racket that subsequently split into two opposing gangs, resulting in the string of killings and assassination attempts, police said.
One of the surviving suspects was arrested last June, while another four, aged 35, 27 and 26, were arrested Thursday and one foreign national is still wanted.
A search in seven residences revealed weapons and narcotics.
 New coast guard command in ThessalonikiMerchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy Minister Anastasis Papaligouras on Friday inaugurated the 7th Regional Coast Guard Command in the northern Greek coastal city of Thessaloniki. This will be responsible for coordinating and promoting the work of the Coast Guard in the prefectures of Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Imathia and Pieria.
In statements at the event, Papaligouras said the new regional command formed part of a strategy of creating a greater number of regional commands that would each be responsible for a smaller geographical areas, so as to assist the work and improve the efficiency of the coast guard.
 Interior minister addresses event on public access infoThe utilisation of new information and communication technologies by the interior ministry offers citizens immediate and free access to electronic information regarding enacted legislation, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said on Friday, speaking in the presentation of a relevant project.
Referring to the "E-Themis" project, Pavlopoulos stated that a new website has been constructed to guarantee better access to state legislation, clarifying that presenting legislation under thematic categories and fields of interest constitutes a basic ingredient of good lawmaking.
The "E-Themis" project is a systematic codification of legislation in a serious and reliable attempt to correct any dysfunctions in terms of law accessibility and comprehension, he stressed.
 Citizens Service phone line changed to 1500, made multilingualThe number for the Citizens Service Phone Line has been changed to 1500 and will operate on a 24-hour basis offering multilingual advice, information and selected transactions in English, French, Albanian, Russian, Arabic and Bulgarian, the interior ministry announced on Friday.
Deputy Interior Minister Christos Zois said that the interior ministry would carry out an advertising campaign to inform the general public of the revamped phone line and stressed that the ministry would continue efforts to provide modern and reliable transactions with the state sector that were fast, transparent, of high quality and accessible to all.
The decision to change the number, which was previously 1564, was made after a survey showed that 42 percent of the general public that knew of the phone line's existence could not remember the number, which was only known by 6 percent of those asked in total.
The survey also found that 88 percent of people that had used the phone line had been satisfied with the level of service they received.
Users of the new 1500 line, which will be charged at local rates, will have access to the following:
A voice portal where they can ask for information and advice on all public administration issues.
Processing of 95 certified state transactions also available at Citizens Service Centres.
Information on issues concerning the Public Administration Inspectors and Controllers Corps.
The Consumer General Secretariat
Services for the protection of abused women
Services for economic migrants
Information on unleaded petrol prices for the day
Information on Greek National Tourism Organisation tourism programmes
Results of nationwide university entrance examination
Progress of official complaints and cases.
 Drug arrests reported in ThessalonikiA 27-year-old Greek man was arrested in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki as a suspected drug dealer after police half a kilo of heroin in his possession, authorities said on Friday. The suspect was also carrying 12 narcotic pills and a small quantity of cannabis.
In a separate drug arrest, Thessaloniki police have also detained three men aged 27, 28 and 35 for cultivating cannabis and for possession and use of narcotic substances. The three were found in possession of 895.8 grammes of cannabis, eight grammes of methadone and six tablets of drugs.
 Cloudy on SaturdayCloudy weather with possible local showers and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 22C. Cloudy in Athens with possibility of local showers, with northeasterly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 20C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 10C to 16C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe international credit crisis and the government-bankers head-on clash over the financial crisis dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "New revelations atparliament's fact finding commission on the Vatopedi monastery affair".
APOGEVMATINI: "10,000 children in Greece under 5 years old have been abused".
AVGHI: " The bank interest rates are not falling and the bank loans are not being frozen".
AVRIANI: "The pimps (of the country's political life) and the crooks are having a field day - They dream of apostasy and toppling of the government".
CHORA: "Zero hour for society - Banks' atmosphere reeks of fire and gunpowder".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "The first deaths in the jails, as the Justice Ministry prepares to table draft law in parliament for the improvement of prison conditions".
ELEFTHEROS: "Public Power Corporation (PPC) president Takis Athanassopoulos counter-attacks, 'burns' the government".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Madhouse - As the recession approaches, the government is talking about 'benefits'".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Rockets lauched against Karamanlis in parliament's fact finding commission".
ESTIA: "Early general elections scenarios - Ahead of the 2010 presidential election".
ETHNOS: "State Properties Company's (KED) legal advisor sent letter to KED president stating 'I was acting on orders from above' n Vatopedi monastery land transactions with the state".
KATHIMERINI: "Reversal of the political landscape - Public Issue opinion poll indicates that main opposition PASOK leads by 3.5 percent in popularity, but Karamanlis remains 'most suitable for prime minister'."
LOGOS: "Government-PASOK clash toughens, prompted by the financial crisis".
NIKI: "Witness in Vatopedi case states that monks were threatening him that if he spoke they were going to kill his children".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The struggle must be organised to protect the people from paying for the crisis".
TA NEA: "Burning testimony on Vatopedi case: Who am I to say no to Karamanlis, attorney says to the fact finding commission".
TO VIMA: "Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis plans to implement a 'social-mania' recipe - The financial crisis leads the government to seek solutions from the past".
VRADYNI: "The banks are taking things to the extremes - Head-on collision with the government continues, as the market is drying up".
 President reaffirms commitment to work hard for Cyprus solutionNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic Demetris Christofias said on Friday that, ''along with the condemnation of all facts of the occupation, we reaffirm our commitment to work hard for the salvation of Cyprus, for the reunification of our country and our people.''
''We extend a hand of friendship and cooperation to the Turkish Cypriot leadership and our Turkish Cypriot compatriots. We express our conviction that, if we all place the interests of Cyprus above everything else, we can achieve a solution of the Cyprus problem that will make Cyprus a land of peace, a land of freedom, a land of democracy, a land of security for all its children, a country of prosperity and progress. We will continue to struggle so that this vision becomes reality,'' he said.
Speaking at the anti-occupation event organised in Nicosia by rulimg leftwing AKEL party to deplore the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) of the puppet regime in the Turkish occupied areas of the island, on 15 November 1983, President Christofias called on
''everyone, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites and Latins, to join forces'' in the effort to reunite the island.
''We demonstrate our refusal to compromise with division, because division means destruction. We demonstrate our determination to continue to struggle and work towards a solution of the Cyprus problem that will reunite our Cyprus, reunite our people,'' he said.
President Christofias pointed out that the UDI is illegal and that the UN have deplored this secessionist action.
Referring to the direct negotiations he is engaged in with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, under UN auspices, to reach a settlement, President Christofias said ''we hope that soon we will conclude the discussion on the issue of governance,'' adding that ''we are still at the beginning of a process which, as we had predicted, will be difficult.''
President Christofias pointed out that ''collectedness, caution, patience, insistence on fundamental principles, determination and flexibility'' are necessary to reach a settlement, and assured that ''we will exhaust every possibility for this current effort to succeed.'' He noted that the UN and the EU were continuously briefed on the course of the negotiations, adding that the Government ''points out the necessity for them to exert their influence on Ankara.''
''We neither entertain pessimism nor of course allow ourselves any illusions,'' he said, adding that in order to reach a solution, the political will of the Greek Cypriot side was not enough and that the Turkish Cypriot side had to respond.
President Christofias pointed out that ''we are going through a critical stage in the Cyprus problem, which may prove to be the most decisive in its long course,'' adding that this called for unity among Greek Cypriots in order ''to strengthen our negotiating position.''
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Cypriot FM: No derogations from acquis during a solutionNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The European Union has the capability to offer guarantees to its member states therefore there is no reason for guarantees from third countries, stated here Friday Cyprus Minister of Foreign Affairs Markos Kyprianou.
The minister made the statement when invited to comment on an interview which UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander
Downer gave to CyBC where he talked about the issue of guarantees and derogations from the acquis communautaire in case of a solution to the Cyprus issue.
Speaking after a meeting with Israeli Minister of the Interior Meir Sheetrit, Kyprianou said he did not want to comment Downer's interview but wanted to repeat the government's position.
Kyprianou said the positions of our side are known and on the issue of guarantees "we believe that the EU has the capability to offer the guarantees to all its member states and even provides guarantees to third countries therefore I do not see a reason for guarantees from third countries".
Regarding the acquis, Kyprianou said it has to be implemented in Cyprus.
Derogations, he added, will not be of use, adding that "we might ask for some short transitional periods, but in order for a united Cyprus to operate effectively as an EU member state, it must implement the acquis".
He reminded that the EU talks about a solution that not only is based on UN Security Council resolutions but also on the principles which the Union is based on.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the islandÔs northern third.
 Leaders' aides decide to bypass issue of executive powerNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The aides of the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, George Iacovou and Ozdil Nami, decided on Friday to bypass the issue of executive power and begin discussions on the legislative power.
Speaking after a meeting with Nami, Iacovou said the positions of the two sides regarding the issue of governance are being recorded.
The meeting lasted over two hours and was held in the presence of the UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on Cyprus Alexander Downer and the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Taye Brook Zerihoun.
Iacovou said many meetings have been held and the process is well known. ''We have three baskets containing what has been agreed, the issues on which there is good progress towards an agreement, and the tough issues,'' he noted.
He added that ''we are trying to explain to each other how we see the authorities of the central government,'' noting that there is still a gap to be bridged.
Iacovou said they decided to pass on to the third issue, which is the legislative power, bypassing the executive power, which they will go back to.
''From time to time, in connection with the issues, we will return to the issue of the authorities of the federal government. So it will be in the fridge for a while but not in the freezer,'' he said, explaining that issues depending on other matters will be processed.
Iacovou pointed out that there was a significant number of issues agreed on, noting however that there were also thorny issues.
Regarding Downer's remarks about being optimistic, Iacovou said Downer was in a job that called for optimism, adding that ''it is not bad to be optimistic.''
Asked when the chapter of properties would be opened, Iacovou said he could not guess but noted that there was a good chance discussions might begin before the end of the year.
Referring to the issue of Limnitis village, Iacovou said a meeting would be held to discuss the opening of the specific crossing point.
''Our position is that the opening of the Limnitis crossing point had been agreed on at the same time as the opening of Ledra Street and any terms cannot be accepted,'' he added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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