|Wednesday, 29 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-11-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 19 November 2008 Issue No: 3050
 PM briefed on restoration of fire-stricken areasPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday chaired a meeting of the Inner Cabinet, which discussed the developmental plan for the areas that were devastated by wildfires in the summer of 2007.
Economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, who briefed the Inner Cabinet, told reporters after the meeting that the plan provides for more than one billion euros, while another one billion euros has been already withdrawn for short-term measures already carried out.
Alogoskoufis said that the target was to improve infrastructures and generate growth in those areas on the basis of their comparative advantages.
The minister further said that the local residents' standard of living would also improve, adding that materialisation of the program will have been completed by end-2009 or early 2010.
Pavlopoulos also said that the plan would be put to deliberation at decentralized level, in other words at the side of the citizens and the societies and with the participation of the local governments.
This, he added, was the substantial difference with the measures announced by main opposition PASOK, which he accused of creating additional bureaucratic structures with the plan it presented, which could cause hindrances, while they also did not have a budget.
The plan that the New Democracy government was advancing was specific up to the very last detail and the very last euro, Pavlopoulos concluded.
 FM: Appeal to ICJ a ruse by Gruevski gov't to avoid negotiationGreece on Tuesday again underlined that the latest gambit by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is a continuation of efforts by the Gruevski government in Skopje to avoid negotiations over the still unresolved "name issue".
Speaking in Athens, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis referred directly to the previous day's announcement by FYROM's foreign ministry, namely, that it has initiated proceedings against Greece at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague in order to force Athens to lift its objections to FYROM's NATO membership.
"This is merely another maneuver by Mr. N. Gruevski in his substantial effort to avoid negotiations over a solution to the 'name issue'," Bakoyannis underlined.
She added that the Greek foreign ministry had begun examining the possibility of FYROM seeking recourse to The Hague several months ago.
"Greece, of course, will arrive at the ICJ with strong and numerous arguments, especially over the failure (by Skopje) to adhere to the interim agreement," she said, while clarifying that her telephone conversation with US Vice-President-elect Joe Biden touched only on other regional issues and issues that will dominate the upcoming Greek OSCE chairmanship in 2009.
"Skopje's recourse to The Hague was not on the conversation's agenda," she told reporters.
 ICJ confirms FYROM actionThe ICJ confirmed that the one-time Yugoslav republic requested that the trans-national judicial body "order" Greece to stop objecting to its NATO membership or of any "other ... organisations", a clear reference to Skopje's prospects for European Union accession.
On its website, the ICJ notes that "... The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia today (Monday) instituted proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Greece for what it describes as 'a flagrant violation of its obligations under Article 11' of the Interim Accord signed by the Parties on 13 September 1995."
Speaking from New York City on Tuesday, the UN special envoy for the "name issue" Matthew Nimetz said he was informed on Monday by FYROM's foreign ministry of the development. He added that the FYROM side reiterated its commitment to remain in the UN-sponsored process for finding a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute and promised to quickly name a new envoy in the negotiations, according to an ANA-MPA dispatch.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for EU Commissioner Olli Rehn, when asked about the development, merely noted the need for progress in negotiations held under the auspices of the United Nations and Nimetz.
She also said the Commission has cited the publicly stated volition of the two sides to reach a solution within the framework of UNSC Resolutions 817 and 845, stressing that the EU encourages both sides to work towards this direction.
FYROM failed to receive a date for the commencement of EU accession talks in early November, as detained in a final version of the Union's annual report on applicant countries.
At the time, Rehn said that whatever good results were "overshadowed by shortcomings in the political criteria, which are fundamental to the start of accession negotiations."
Back in Athens, a spokesman for the main opposition PASOK party referred to a failure of the Skopje government's leadership, "which forces it to seek recourse to The Hague in order to promote its position."
Spokesman George Papaconstantinou also referred to a distinct "failure in negotiations", while criticising the Karamanlis government for leaving open the possibility of FYROM's recourse to the ICJ when it alluded to the possibility of the country's entry into the Alliance with its provisional name.
"More than 13 years have passed since the interim agreement; negotiations are now on a completely different basis, and Skopje has violated the interim agreement for several different reasons, therefore, this (interim agreement) cannot comprise a basis for a final resolution," Papaconstantinou said.
A day earlier, an announcement released by the cabinet of FYROM President Branko Crvenkovski charged that the "(Skopje) government has brought a decision without any prior consultation with the (FYROM) president ... thus violating the constitution and the law on foreign affairs."
"By this act, as well as the attitude toward the process of negotiations with Greece over the name dispute, PM Gruevski and the government take all responsibility for resolving the dispute, which implies the country's success or failure in the process of integration with EU and NATO," the Crvenkovski cabinet statement reads.
Saudi Arabian FM meets with Greek leadership
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met on Tuesday with her Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal, who is currently on an official visit to Greece.
Bakoyannis praised the Saudi foreign minister as distinguished figure internationally, who has worked consistently to strengthen the friendship shared by the two countries, while noting that Saudi Arabia is one of the "key pillars of global economy".
Earlier, the Saudi Arabian FM was received by Greek President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
The two ministers discussed the international economic crisis, considering that Saudi Arabia is participating in the so-called G-20 group of countries, which convened in Washington to deal with the global crisis.
Bakoyannis also referred to Saudi Arabia's special standing in the international financial environment, whereas Athens' standing interest in the Middle East peace process was reaffirmed.
On the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, she stated that she had the "opportunity to be briefed first hand on developments" within the framework of a Saudi Arabian initiative, "which Greece has supported from the very outset".
Prince al-Faisal expressed appreciation for Athens' stance in favour of justice and equality before the law in the Middle East, a policy based on international law, and manifested both in international fora and within the EU framework.
The head of the Saudi Arabian diplomacy arrived in Athens from New York, where a high-level meeting on religious dialogue and peace culture was held at the UN Headquarters following an initiative by his country. A similar event on Orthodoxy and Islam will be held in Athens in 2009.
The Saudi Arabian head of diplomacy referred to Greece's extensive experience on tourist issues and the progress made in the country motivated by the hosting of the 2004 Olympic Games.
Regarding a piracy reported on board a Saudi Arabian oil tanker, he commented that such practices and terrorism are "illnesses" that affect everybody and demand cooperation and joint action.
On her part, Bakoyannis underlined that "such incidents attest to the correctness of Greece's decision to participate in the joint effort against piracy with a navy frigate and a helicopter and by taking over the naval command of the operation."
 FM to meet OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly PresidentForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet in Athens on Wednesday, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly President Joao Soares, within the framework of the upcoming assumption by Greece in January, 2009, of the OSCE Presidency.
 Greek, Slovak presidents meetGreek President Karolos Papoulias received his Slovak counterpart Ivan Gasparovic at the presidential mansion on Tuesday, as the latter is on a three-day visit to Greece.
After the meeting, Papoulias stated that they discussed bilateral and European issues, underlining that the EU has an obligation to its principles and history to contribute to the creation of a new global economic system that will guarantee transparency and development.
Papoulias also stated that he briefed his Slovak counterpart on the latest developments on the Cyprus issue, pointing out that it is time for the wall dividing Nicosia, the last dividing wall in Europe, to fall. He also said that he accepted an invitation to visit Slovakia.
On his part, Slovak President Gasparovic pointed out that they share the same views on a number of issues, stressing that bilateral contacts should become more frequent. He added that there is still room for cooperation in the sectors of economy, commerce, culture and education, noting that Greece is gradually becoming the most popular vacation destination for Slovak tourists.
Gasparovic also said that they discussed the potential for more Greek investments in Slovakia, mainly in the sector of services and the exploitation of his country's mineral springs, while pointing out that they shared the same views on EU enlargement issues. On Turkey and Kosovo, he commented that "these are issues that have to be resolved."
Cooperation with Russia, both at bilateral and EU level, was also discussed and they agreed that it should be further strengthened.
Present in the meeting were Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and his Slovak counterpart Jaroslav Baska.
The two ministers signed Memoranda of Understanding for Cooperation in the sectors of armaments and defence industries, as well as for cooperation with the Athens Multinational Sealift Coordination Centre (AMSCC).
 President Karolos Papoulias addresses dinner for visiting Slovak counterpartPresident Karolos Papoulias, addressing an official dinner he hosted in honour of visiting Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic on Tuesday night, said that cooperation between Greece and Slovakia is based on the will of both countries for the consolidation of peace and the creation of a unified Europe of friendship, democracy and prosperity.
President Papoulias referred to the global economic crisis, saying that "over the past year the real economy and society, in almost the entire developed world, is experiencing in a dramatic way the consequences of the failure of the global monetary system, as it has been shaped on the logic of uncontrolled deregulated markets."
The President also focused on the situation in the Balkans and on the issue of Cyprus.
"The Balkans have now passed into a new era and an impetus must be given to the European perspective of the Western Balkans. We hope that the preconditions for its realisation will be fulfilled soon," he said.
On the question of Cyprus, President Papoulias said that "I consider it unacceptable that the military occupation by Turkey of a third of the territory of Cyprus should be continuing, of an independent country that is a member of the United Nations and of the European Union. It is unacceptable that there should still be a European capital, Nicosia, that is divided by walls. I always believe in a just, viable and workable solution to the problem of Cyprus."
 Gasparovic honored by City of AthensSlovak President Ivan Gaparovi
on Tuesday was awarded the City of Athens' Gold Medal of Merit. The Slovak leader is on an official visit to Greece.
It is a great honour and pleasure for me to welcome today to the city of Athens the President of the friendly Slovak Republic," Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis said during a ceremony at Town Hall.
 Blackmail DVD screened in Vatopedi probe; gov't on Psomiadis lettersA DVD depicting the blackmail of Greek businessman Athanassios Papistas by the lawyer Michalis Koukovinos was screened before a Parliamentary fact-finding committee investigating the Vatopedi monastery land swaps scandal, during a tension-filled session on Tuesday. Papistas' company had purchased real estate given to the Vatopedi Monastery in the land exchanges with the state.
Also screened before the Parliamentary Investigation Committee was a version of the DVD that was broadcast by the Greek television channel Antenna containing additional material.
In the DVD, Koukovinos is seen talking with Papistas' friend and associate Markos Karaberis and threatening legal action on behalf of Nea Raidestou farmers contesting the monastery's ownership that might scupper the land exchange contract, unless he was given certain pieces of land and money to ensure that their case was dropped.
The discussion between the two men also appears to confirm that the lawyer had been given money by Karaberis in the past to buy him off.
Controversy surrounding the DVD included the fact that Papistas had originally stated that he had a 13-minute DVD in his possession showing the exchange whereas the one finally submitted was about eight minutes long and did not include pieces of dialogue on the DVD aired by Antenna.
MPs on the committee also disagreed about whether there should be a public screening that included the press, with reservations concerning legal provisions concerning the admission of illegally obtained audiovisual material as evidence, eventually deciding on a public screening by 20 votes to three.
Koukovinos, who was admitted to hospital over the weekend suffering from angina and high blood pressure, was the partner of the lawyer representing the Nea Raidestou farmers in their suit, Stamatia Sotiropoulou.
The Committee had asked for a copy of the DVD after hearing Sotiropoulou's deposition on Monday, in which she also referred to her meeting with Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis in the presence of ruling New Democracy party member Constantina Kannou.
Sotiropoulou claimed that Kannou was there when Psomiadis allegedly told the lawyer that "this case comes from very high up -- you can't get higher ... who am I to take on Karamanlis."
The Committee on Tuesday heard testimony from the directors of the Building Inspectorate and the State Properties Company (KED) in Thessaloniki and has issued a summons to Kannou and Psomiadis, as well as the protagonists of the DVD, Koukovinos and Karaberis. Also due to appear before it later in the day is the lawyer Dimitris Pelekis, brother to the notary that handled the land swap contracts Aikaterini Peleki, the wife of former minister George Voulgarakis.
Government on DVD, Psomiades letters
Replying to questions regarding the latest developments in the affair on Tuesday and whether the government "questioned the credibility of the Parliamentary investigation committee", government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said that "nothing could be further from the truth".
This was a claim "shamelessly" made by main opposition PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou that had nothing to do with reality, he added.
On the contrary, the government believed that an in-depth investigation was being carried out by justice and the Investigation Committee, Antonaros stressed. He also reminded reporters that the committee had been proposed by the government and accepted by all parties in Parliament.
He added that PASOK's claims were a smokescreen to hide the fact that the party had rushed to triumph over "groundless claims included in the statements of certain witnesses with suspicious activity and a dubious past".
Referring to the letters sent by Psomiadis to the premier in 2005, in which the prefect apparently warns Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis about the damaging impact of the proposed land swaps on the government's image, the spokesman said that he could not speculate how this came into PASOK's possession.
PASOK: ND trying to sidetrack discussion
According to PASOK's spokesman, meanwhile, ND was attempting to sidetrack the discussion on the affair.
"Blackmailers and blackmailed are moving within ND's sphere, which opened the door for them by its withdrawal from the court case against the Vatopedi monastery and the scandalous exchanges".
He repeated the party's position that the affair involved someone high up that masterminded and provided protection to those involved.
Papaconstantinou pointed out that Sotiropoulou had been summoned to testify by another party, not PASOK, while both she and her husband had links to ND. Her reliability as a witness would be judged by the investigation committee, he added, noting that her testimony had been cast into doubt by the DVD screened on Tuesday.
"What is not in doubt, because it is a document, is the letter by Thessaloniki Prefect P. Psomiadis to the prime minister in 2005," the spokesman stressed.
Quoting an excerpt from this letter in which Psomiadis warns the premier that "insistence on carrying out this secretly arranged and gratuitous exchange, apart from the grievous image that it will create for the government, will also raise a storm of protest," Papaconstantinou challenged the government and Psomiadis himself to respond.
He also strongly criticised what he called efforts by Antonaros and Pavlopoulos to accuse PASOK of trying to instruct witnesses and claimed that all the evidence at PASOK's disposal pointed to people linked to ND.
 Gov't announces new measures for prisonsAbout two thirds of people convicted of drug-related offences will benefit from a draft bill projected to improve the country's correctional system, according to the justice ministry.
The draft bill will be presented on Wednesday by Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis and includes arrangements meeting 14 out of the 16 demands made by inmates, as well as "new beneficial terms that the justice ministry has been preparing and examining for some time for users and people convicted in drug cases, people awaiting trial, financially weak detainees, etc."
At the same time, as a result of "inaccurate allegations by certain circles" regarding the new arrangements, the Justice ministry clarified that on account of the new measures:
-- All detainees and people convicted in general, for perpetrating misdemeanours, are released or pardoned from serving a sentence, provided that they have served a fifth of the sentence for a two-year conviction and a third of the sentence for a conviction of over two years. In such cases of release from prison, the payment of an amount of money to buy off the sentence is not anticipated.
-- The possibility is anticipated for a prison sentence of up to five years for misdemeanours or felonies to be turned into a financial conviction (with a lumpsum implementation of the measure). The change takes place automatically. The same applies for cases of dealing in and selling drugs in which people have been convicted to sentences of up to five years. In cases where the defendant obiuously is unable to buy off his sentence, and in which case the price of release of release from prison has been set at three euros for every day of the outstanding sentence, the court may decrease the buyoff price to one euro a day.
-- People convicted in drug-related cases in general are also subject to terms applying to all detainees, provided that they serve three fifths of their sentence instead of the current four fifths. An exception will only apply for those convicted of drug dealing by profession, particularly those dealing in a large quantity of drugs.
 PASOK to vote against 28-bln package for banksThe main opposition PASOK party will vote against the government's draft bill for a 28-billion-euro package to shore up bank liquidity, on the grounds that this was sloppy and ill-conceived, said party spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday.
"We still do not have the final approval of the EU, it is not transparent and it does not ensure that the extra liquidity will be channelled into the real economy in the form of better lending terms for businesses and households," Papaconstantinou said in criticism of the draft bill.
The spokesman claimed that ruling New Democracy was attempting to undermine the value of the proposals made by PASOK, while the government's stance was giving Greek banks an excuse to continue charging extremely high interest on loans and credit cards.
 President Papoulias met with SYN President TsiprasHellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias received on Tuesday Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) President Alexis Tsipras who expressed concern over the conditions in the Greek prisons.
Tsipras handed over to the President figures as regards the Greek jails gathered by the Initiative for the Rights of Prisoners and pointed out that most of the inmates' demands can be met based on the existing legislation while others have already been incorporated into proposals put forth by institutions, such as the Athens Bar Association.
Responding to a question on the State Budget, Tsipras stated that it will not last beyond February adding that the government needs to change course.
He also underlined that changes and reforms in support of the workers are necessary and unavoidable.
 Deputy health and social solidarity minister visits CairoCAIRO (ANA-MPA / N. Katsikas)
Deputy Health and Social Solidarity Minister George Konstantopoulos, representing Greece at the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Health issues in Cairo, referred to the Greek initiatives on health issues highlighting the benefits stemming from the Mediterranean diet in preventing cardiovascular disease and contributing to longevity.
His proposal for the establishment of epidemiological networks to monitor AIDS, hemorrhagic fever and zoonoses won the support of the 43 health ministers from the EU and Mediterranean countries participating in the conference. The deputy health minister also briefed participants on Greece's efforts as regards the anti-smoking campaign and supported the establishment of a Mediterranean health zone.
Konstantopoulos visited the Greek Hospital in the Egyptian capital and met with the few remaining elderly Greeks at the Old People's Home operated by the ethnic Greek Community in Cairo, pledging the Greek State's support.
 Bulgarian delegation visits Macedonia-Thrace ministryBulgaria's Deputy Minister for Regional Development and Public Works Dimtcho Mikhalevski on Tuesday paid a visit to the Macedonia-Thrace ministry in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, where he met with minister Margaritis Tzimas.
Mikhalevski arrived at the head of a delegation of Bulgarian local government officials who are carrying out a visit to northern Greece.
In statements after their meeting, Tzimas said they discussed cross-border cooperation issues, such as border crossings and water management, noting the excellent level of cooperation between the Greek and Bulgarian foreign ministries and the speedy resolution of any bilateral issues that arose.
"In terms of European funds that can be exploited by the two sides, in correlation with the international financial crisis, it is certain that there has been no discussion to date of any reduction of funds destined for the two countries. There is no change in the funds that we will handle in the framework of the 2007-2013 programme," Tzimas said, expressing hope that the economic crisis would not strike Greece and Bulgaria with the same intensity as other countries.
Mikhalevski, on his part, thanked Tzimas for his warm welcome and said their talks had focused chiefly on issues concerning northern Greece and southern Bulgaria, as well as the prospects to further develop cross-border contact and issues related to water management and road infrastructure linking the two countries.
 Parliament President Sioufas congratulates Austria's Barbara PrammerParliament President Dimitris Sioufas on Tuesday sent a congratulatory letter to the President of the National Council of Austria, Barbara Prammer, for her re-election.
In his letter, Sioufas expressed the conviction that during the course of Prammer's tenure, the possibility will be given for joint action for the development of cooperation between the two countries' Legislative Corps, aimed at the promotion of issues of mutual interest.
 Development ministry warns banks with sanctions over abusive termsGreek Development Minister Christos Folias on Tuesday said the ministry intended to impose sanctions against banks which maintained abusive terms in their contracts with consumers.
Speaking to reporters, on the sidelines of an event organised by the Development ministry over the benefits of the EU Single Market for consumers, Folias said that the ministry was intervening where it was needed and stressed that that the ministry was intensively trying to control the market. The Greek minister also underlined that there would be no price increases in Public Power Corporation's bills next year beyond a fuel clause imposed by the ministry.
The ministry's secretary-general Yiannis Economou, in his address, said the Greek market suffered from problems undermining competition and noted that the consumers' movement was still not strong enough.
 FinMin Alogoskoufis on bank bilFinance Minister George Alogoskoufis carried out limited changes in the bill on supporting the economy's liquidity, to enable it to tackle the consequences of the global monetary crisis, the discussion on which began at the Parliament Plenum on Tuesday.
Alogoskoufis said that the changes were made so that the bill can become more compatible with the European Commission's general directions and so that there will be no illicit competition between the banks of different countries.
The ceiling for public guarantees will be three years instead of five, while public sector bonds will be for three years instead of five.
Alogoskoufis stressed that the limited changes were a response to danger talk that has developed recently, that the bill had been rejected by the European Commission and that great changes had been requested.
 Greek banks healthy, association head saysGreek banks have not been exposed to the causes of an international financial crisis thanks to a strict supervisory and regulatory framework and their prudent policy in risk management, Christos Gortsos, secretary-general of Hellenic Bank Association, said on Tuesday.
Addressing a seminar in Athens, Gortsos said the domestic banking system was healthy and that no bank was found to be facing any solvency problems. He stressed, however, that the Greek banking system was indirectly hit by the serious negative repercussions related to the interbank market, which is practically frozen, particularly in long-term borrowing.
Gortsos said banks' borrowing costs have risen significantly over the last few months despite a cut in base interest rates by the European Central Bank, although he noted that lower rates in the Eurozone could signal a gradual decline in interbank interest rates.
 EET secretary general addresses conference on monetary crisisGreek Bank Union (EET) Secretary General Christos Gortsos, addressing an EET conference on the theme of "The international monetary crisis and Greece" on Tuesday, mentioned that the monetary system is subject to a strict regulatory framework and that it is wrong to say that banks are not subject to a supervisory and regulatory framework.
Gortsos stressed that strengthening the institutional governance of the monetary system's international architecture, that is being discussed with the aim of tackling the causes that have led to the crisis, will not start from the beginning, pointing out that the agencies and the rules exist but that the institutions and the agencies mut be helped to obtain a more substantive role.
EET's secretary general also focused on the ongoing discussion on strengthening the role of the European Central Bank to enable it to have both supervisory and regulatory duties, underlining that it is a complex political and economic issue at European Union level.
 Greek fish farming industry's prospects positive, report saysThe Greek fish farming industry faces a rosy outlook with production expected to grow by an annual rate of 5.0 percent in the coming years, a survey by Hellastat said on Tuesday.
The survey said it based its positive forecasts for the industry on expectations of declining fishing -because of regulatory and environmental factors- increased emphasis on hygiene food, greater familiarity of consumers with fish-farming products, intensified marketing, updated know-how and penetration into new markets abroad.
The survey also said it expected a consolidation of the sector to continue in the future with larger enterprises seeking to boost their production capacity and enhancing their positions in the international markets.
Hellastat said although domestic production has stabilised, over-production continued to affect the industry, while the sector needed to redesign its strategic planning. The five larger enterprises in the sector accounted for 56.5 pct of total sales, while companies in the sector suffered from low liquidity rates and they were highly dependent from foreign capital.
 Marfin Egnatia Bank issues 1.0-bln-euro bond loanMarfin Egnatia Bank on Tuesday issued the first series of secured bonds, worth 1.0 billion euros, with a two-year duration and the option of one more year extension. The Greek bank said the bonds have been rated AAA/Aaa by international credit rating agencies Fitch Ratings and Moody's Investors.
 Athens hotels' occupancy rates down 5.9% in Sept.Average occupancy rates in hotels located in Athens and the greater Athens area (Attica prefecture) fell by 5.9 percent in September, with all hotel categories reporting declines, official figures showed on Tuesday.
A report by the Athens Hoteliers Association said that three-star hotels reported a 9.1 pct decline in occupancy rates in September to 69.9 pct, five-star and two-star hotels reported a 6.0 pct drop, while four-star hotels' occupancy rates eased 4.4 pct in the month.
Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos, addressing a general assembly of the Athens Hoteliers Association, stressed that hard work still needed from the state, the central government, local authorities and tourism enterprises to establish Athens into an international metropolitan centre.
Spiliotopoulos focused on the significance of promoting Athens as a city break destination and to develop as a final destination for travelers around the world. Athens offered a series of advantages, such as an upgraded and competitive hotel industry, creation of a large number of shopping centres, unification of archaeological sites, direct access to beaches, rich gastronomy, a hot night scene and important cultural events.
The minister said hotel prices were competitive, facilitating efforts to promote Athens as a final destination for tourists.
The Athens Hoteliers Association presented a survey showing that average occupancy rates in Athens hotels jumped from 62.2 pct in 2005 to 70.6 pct in 2007, reaching the European average rate, while average hotel prices in Attica rose from 105 euros in 2005 to 117 euros in 2007, compared with 117 and 130 euros in Europe, respectively.
 Greek stocks end mixed on Tues.Greek stocks ended mixed at the Athens Stock Exchange as bargain-hunting activity counterbalanced renewed selling pressure in bank shares on Tuesday.
The composite index of the market rose 0.17 pct to end at 1,925.20 points with turnover improving slightly to 192.4 million euros, of which 10.1 million were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with the Food/Beverage (4.99 pct), Utilities (4.90 pct) and Healthcare (4.72 pct) scoring the biggest percentage points while Banks (3.39 pct), Raw Materials (0.76 pct) and Insurance (0.72 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index fell 0.58 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 0.88 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 1.02 pct down. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 126 to 101 with another 41 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.55%
Personal & Household: -0.63%
Raw Materials: -0.76%
Travel & Leisure: +3.85%
Food & Beverages: +4.99%
Financial Services: +1.80%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Bank of Piraeus, OTE and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 8.34
Public Power Corp (PPC): 9.66
HBC Coca Cola: 11.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.50
National Bank of Greece: 14.12
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.00
Titan Cement Company: 12.48
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended with a reduced discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover easing to 64.814 million euros. The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.92 pct, with volume of 11,215 contracts worth 54.392 million euros and 28,732 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,982 contracts worth 10.319 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,615), followed by Marfin Investment Group (558), PPC (1,349), Piraeus Bank (764), Alpha Bank (609), Marfin Popular Bank (407), Intralot (445) and OPAP (437).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 785 million euros on Tuesday, helped by the auction of a three-year bond by the Greek state, of which 505 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 280 million euros were sell orders.
The three-year benchmark bond (March 20, 2011) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 425 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 143 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.07 pct and the German Bund 3.64 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates fell further. The 12-month Euribor rate was 4.27 pct, the six-month rate 4.21 pct, the three-month rate 4.15 pct and the one-month rate 3.72 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates: WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.266
Pound sterling 0.842
Danish kroner 7.453
Swedish kroner 10.191
Japanese yen 122.01
Swiss franc 1.517
Norwegian kroner 8.906
Canadian dollar 1.556
Australian dollar 1.952
 Major upgrade of public bus fleet announcedAthens is set to acquire one of the most modern public transport bus fleets in Europe, according to an announcement on Tuesday by Transport Minister Kostis Hatzidakis.
Unveiling details of a major upgrade in the fleet of buses operated by the Athens Public Transport Organisation OASA, he said these would meet stricter environmental specifications and generate much lower levels of atmospheric emissions.
Speaking at a special event in the Zappion Building, the minister announced that OASA's subsidiary Thermal Buses SA (ETHEL) would begin accepting delivery in January of 320 diesel-powered buses using the latest and cleanest diesel technology available.
Hatzidakis added that the process for ordering 200 new buses powered by natural gas ended the previous week and that these would bring ETHEL's fleet of nat-gas buses to 614 and make it the largest nat-gas fleet in Europe.
The new diesel-powered buses will begin arriving in January and their delivery is expected to be completed by the first half of 2009. They will use euro IV and euro V diesel technology that reduces emissions of atmospheric pollutants to nearly zero.
Regarding the nat-gas buses, Hatzidakis said that these required the construction of more refuelling stations beyond the districts of Anthousa and Ano Liosia in order to allow natgas buses to be used in other areas of Attica. These new buses will start to be delivered next summer and their delivery is expected to be completed with the year 2010.
 Eurostat: 86,700 migrants settled in Greece in 2006BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
Figures released by the European Union's statistics agency Eurostat on Tuesday indicated that 86,700 migrants settled in Greece for a period of at least 12 months during the year 2006.
Of these, 36,841 were Albanians, 13,210 were Bulgarians, 5,034 were Romanians, 4,843 were Egyptians and 3,290 were Ukrainians.
According to Eurostat, 79 percent of immigrants arriving in Greece during that year came from non-EU countries and 21 percent came from countries within the EU.
In the 27 EU member-states as a whole, about 60 percent of immigrants arriving in 2006 came from non-EU countries and 40 percent from countries within the EU.
For the EU as a whole, the number of migrants arriving in the EU in 2006 came to roughly three million people, with the EU countries receiving the highest number of immigrants being Spain (803,000), Germany (558,500) and the United Kingdom (451,700).
The largest migration waves into the 27 EU member-states came from Poland (290,000), Romania (230,000) and Morocco (140,000).
 Author Theodor Kallifatides receives Swedish Academy awardGreek expatriate Theodor Kallifatides is the recipient of the Swedish Academy 2008 Singe Ekblad-Eldhs award which is accompanied by a money prize of 12,500 euros.
Kallifatides was born in 1938 in Molai, Laconia Prefecture in Peloponnesus, southern Greece and studied acting in Athens. He moved to Sweden after serving his mandatory military service in Greece and studied philosophy in the University of Stockholm. He was the director of the literary magazine Bonniers Literara Magasin for four years.
He published novels, poem collections, travel essays and theatre play scripts and screenplays, while he has also directed a big screen film.
He has received significant international awards for many of his works and most of his novels have been translated into 13 languages.
 KKE memorabilia on display in ThessalonikiAn exhibition of photographs and documents held on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) will open in Thessaloniki on Wednesday. The exhibition will be inaugurated on Sunday and run until Dec. 19.
 Tobacco producers block national highway outside LamiaTobacco producers from Fthiotis prefecture closed off the Athens-Lamia national highway at the 210th kilometer, outside Lamia on Tuesday, forcing traffic to use bypasses.
Farmers set up a road block with more than 100 tractors in demand of subsidies for tobacco production.
Another 300 farm vehicles were currently gathered at the Atalanti exit.
 Bank robbery in LangadasTwo gunmen robbed a branch office of Eurobank in the town of Langadas, in northern Greece, of 11,290 euros on Tuesday. The robbers made their getaway on a motorcycle, that they later abandoned, and are still being sought by police.
 Drug arrest in ThessalonikiA 52-year-old man was arrested in Xirochori, Thessaloniki on Tuesday after police found in his possession 24 kilos and 126 grams of hashish and a small quantity of methadone he intended to sell.
The detainee is accused of growing cannabis plants in a specially modified area in his yard.
 SoccerAEK Athens, coach Dusan Bajevic in talks
The AEK Athens soccer club and well-known coach Dusan Bajevic reached an agreement, in principle, during talks on Tuesday. Negotiations between the two sides are continuing to settle details of a possible assumption of the coaching spot by Bajevic, a controversial and "love-hate" icon for many AEK fans.
Bajevic, a noted Serbian striker during his playing days, became a naturalised Greek citizen and coached AEK on two previous occasions. He also played for AEK between 1979-1981.
In the event of a final agreement between the two sides, Bajevic will succeed George Donis, who agreed to step down from his post earlier this week following AEK's disappointing performance in the Super League so far.
 Rain, storms on WednesdayRainy and stormy weather and snowfall in some mountainous areas and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 1C and 19C. Rain and local storms in Athens, with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 17C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 12C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceA video tape allegedly implicating Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in the Vatopedi monastery scandal dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "PASOK exercises opposition with the help of underworld figures and through blackmail".
APOGEVMATINI: "Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos states: Perjurers testified before parliament's fact finding commission on the Vatopedi case".
AVGHI: "Despair prevails in jails - Third inmate found dead, he hung himself".
AVRIANI: "The attorney-blackmailer in the Vatopedi case has five irreversible convictions against him and five trials still pending".
CHORA: "MIG group vice president and Marfin Bank president Andreas Vgenopoulos attacks FinMin George Alogoskoufis for his support to bankers: The money will go into their pockets".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Shock - Prisoners in ICU with handcuffs".
ELEFTHEROS: "Maximos mansion (government headquarters) woke up late - In a state of panic, the government is examining several scenarios to reverse the political climate".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Hospitals left without supplies - The suppliers refuse to provide medical supplies due to excessive debts".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Revelations on Vatopedi: A company was set up for the 'sacred looting'".
ESTIA: "Government's policy is inexplicable: The proporition of taxes in the GDP is increased".
ETHNOS: "The Devil's Triangle: Vatopedi-Thessaloniki- Cyprus".
KATHIMERINI: "Greek enterprises suffocating - Increase in bounced checks and professionals unable to pay taxes".
LOGOS: "Parliament fact finding commission (into Vatopedi affair) asks for the controversial video tape".
NIKI: "Government on the decline".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Government's and enterpreneurs' interests are sinking the social security funds".
TA NEA: "Blackmail, lies and videotapes - Civil war among ruling New Democracy members over Vatopedi case".
TO VIMA : "Karamnalis' government's last attempts - Act One in the fortification of the banks will be played on Tuesday in parliament".
VRADYNI: "The conspiracy collapsed -Storm of developments and revelations following the shameful video tape".
 Cyprus President leaves for official visit to MoscowLARNACA (ANA-MPA/CNA)
Both the Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation as a permanent member of the UN Security Council offered the most important support to Cyprus, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias has said.
He added that during his official visit to Moscow he will express the gratitude of the Cyprus people for the fact that the position of the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation has been of great importance in very crucial times for Cyprus.
In statements at Larnaca airport before leaving for Moscow for an official visit at the invitation of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev, Christofias described his trip to Russia as very important, noting that he will have a private meeting with Medvedev.
Christofias said that he and Medvedev will sign for the first time in the history of the relations between Russia and Cyprus a political declaration on bilateral relations between the two countries, international relations and the Cyprus question, on the basis of positions of principle on all of these issues.
As Christofias noted, eight agreements and protocols will be signed during his visit. "I want to express my great satisfaction," he noted.
Christofias expressed certainty that this visit will constitute an important milestone for the relations between the Republic of Cyprus and the Russian Federation and will contribute to the further enhancement and deepening of the already traditional and friendly relations of solidarity between the two countries and the two peoples.
Christofias noted that there are close ties between the people of Cyprus and the people of Russia and traditions which were developed even before the declaration of the Republic of Cyprus.
 Christofias hopes Turkey has decided the time has come for a Cyprus solutionLARNACA (ANA-MPA/CNA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias expressed the hope here Tuesday that Turkey has decided now is the time to solve the Cyprus issue, otherwise it will not be resolved.
In statements before departing to Moscow for an official visit at the invitation of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev, President Christofias called on Turkey to understand that a viable, functional and fair solution is to its interest.
Commenting on statements made by UN envoy Alexander Downer to a Turkish TV station where he expressed optimism that the Cyprus problem could be solved by June next year, President Christofias said that the UN express optimism as the talks are taking place under their auspices. "If they express pessimism, then I believe they would be conveying the message that we should not proceed," he said.
President Christofias expressed reserved optimism, remarking that "if we achieve a solution before summer that would be to the interest of the people of Cyprus," adding that "things are not simple, they are complex and difficult and we will either overcome or try to overcome the many obstacles."
"I wish and hope Turkey has decided that the time has come to solve the Cyprus issue, otherwise, it will not be resolved," said President Christofias. "I call on Turkey to realize that a fair, viable and functional solution is to her interest; a solution that will free the people of Cyprus from occupation, that is a key issue and will restore the human rights of the people of Cyprus."
He also said that these principles have been guiding us throughout the talks.
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS