|Sunday, 17 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-12-17
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 17 December 2008 Issue No: 3074
 PM Karamanlis: There are no easy solutionsPrime minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday reiterated his unwavering devotion to the duty mandated by the international financial crisis, warning that there were no easy solutions or recipes, addressing a meeting of his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's parliamentary group on "the global financial crisis and its repercussions".
Uncertainty was prevailing throughout Europe, and intense worry over the explosion in unemployment, as well as a fear of recession, Karamanlis said, adding that the repercussions inevitably affected Greece as well. "Greece is not outside or beyond the world," he said, adding that there are no easy recipes and solutions.
Turning to the recent incidents, Karamanlis stressed: "No social cover for violence".
He added that cooperation among all the political forces and agencies, and society, was necessary, warning that what was at stake today was not the government, but the future of the country, of each and every citizen, and of the young generation.
At another point in his address, Karamanlis noted that the weaknesses of the Greek economy "are due to the imbalances we have inherited, to the heavy inheritance of the public debt that exceeds 19 percent of the overall net revenues" of the state and was nearly 5 percentage points of the country's GDP.
"It is an immense burden that restricts both the developmental and the economic capabilities," Karamanlis said, warning that this could result in borrowing difficulty and an "explosion" of the public debt, "sweeping everything in its wake".
The premier said that his government has reduced the public debt as a percentage of GDP, but warned that the country's debt was an "immense weight that reduced our flexibility in this critical period", adding that the problem with the debt concerned the cost of borrowing.
The global crisis requires responsibility on everyone's part, the prime minister said, adding that the coming year would be a difficult one.
"It is our duty to contain our demands and to not undermine our future, to ensure the conditions for better days," Karamanlis said, adding that "I am determined to not hazard our future".
"The times demand a responsible position. The Greek economy has manifested great resiliency. We can turn the international financial crisis into a national opportunity. I am here, and I will fight with all my strength. The Greek people, with unity and unanimity, can win the challenges of the international conjuncture," the prime minister stressed.
Global financial crisis
Karamanlis made extensive reference to the effects of the global financial crisis, warning that "the rumors that there is a problem in the re-financing of the public debt are tendentious, irresponsible and dangerous".
The international crisis was hitting the economies of Europe harder than had been anticipated, he said, adding that there was uncertainty, worry of an explosion in unemployment, and fear of recession, with all sectors being affected.
These developments inevitably affect Greece as well, he said, warning that there were "no ready recipes and easy solutions".
"Our duty is to tell the truth to the citizens. What is at stake is not the government or only one political party, but the course of the country, the future of the young generation," Karamanlis stressed.
He spoke of the advantages of the Greek economy, namely its developmental dynamic, but also of its weaknesses, the biggest of which was the "heavy inheritance of the public debt", the servicing of which in 2009 would require 12 billion euros, which translated into 19 percent of the state revenues and 5 percentage points of GDP.
The cost of borrowing was rising, Karamanlis said, and warned that if the public debt was ignored it could sweep everything in its wake.
He noted that the public debt had jumped from 29.7 percentage points of GDP in 1981 to 99 percentage points of GDP in 2004, when ND took over the government, adding that in the years that followed his government has reduced both the deficits and the public devt as a percentage of GDP.
"Our target is to ensure the conditions for a better 'morning after'. We are determined to fulfill our role. We took measures from the outset to reinforce the Greek economy and limit the effects of the crisis on the society," the premier said.
He strongly criticised the PASOK leadership of "resorting to populism" and of "falsifying and distorting the truth" regarding the repercussions of the financial crisis.
The premier said it was "demogogy" on the part of PASOK when the main opposition party says that the government is "giving away" the money to the banks, referring to the 28 billion euros bank fortification package, and stressed that "not one single euro is being given away, and they know it".
PASOK was resorting to populism and disorienting society, Karamanlis continued, adding that PASOK was speaking of inertia when the main opposition party itself reacted against every action. "They're belying themselves and cancelling themselves out. They don't want to, and cannot, contribute possibly to that which the country needs," Karamanlis said, warning that the effects of the crisis could not be faced with such attitudes, when what was necessary was cooperation and consensus.
"They (PASOK) are causing confusion, disinformation and social tension. We, on the other hand, will continue on the road of responsibility and reforms. The government's immediate priority is the fortification of the sectors that are hardest-hit. The agricultural sector, tourism, the SMEs," the premier stressed, and assured that no new tax would be imposed in 2009 while, on the contrary, his government would take all the measures necessary to protect the society.
Karamanlis added that he will not sacrifice the youngh generation's future for the sake of temporary impressions.
The prime minister also categorically stressed that "I am here" and that he was fighting, and would continue to fight, for the interests of the country, responding to the 'succession' rumors of recent days.
On the Vatopedi Monastery-State land transactions affair, the prime minister said: "I straightforwardly assume our share of the responsibility".
"I underestimated the issue, I did not see its dimensions early on, I did not have the full picture," Karamanlis conceded, stressing that "the mistake is mine, and I am not passing it on to anyone", and adding that the issue was a "sorry affair" that has been unfolding for a decade.
Karamanlis further said that certain individuals "acted beyond their spiritual mission, at the expense of the public interest, taking advantage of the chronic weaknesses, and implicated agencies and services".
"Justice will attribute the responsibilities," the premier stressed.
Acknowledging that "the government has an objective political responsibility", Karamanlis criticised main opposition PASOK of treading a "dangerous path" in "pretending" that it does not know how and when the affair began, and accused the PASOK leadership of attempting to penalize the country's political life. He futher charged that "even perjurers" were enlisted during the proceedings of the parliamentary fact-finding commission into the Vatopedi affair in order to implicate the prime minister himself.
Turning to the recent violence in Athens and other cities throughout the country following the shooting death of a 15-year-old teen by a special guard in the Exarhia district of the capital, Karamanlis said they were a "blow" to the economy and the country's image, adding that they had a cost for all the citizens.
"We condemn with abhorrence the tragic incident, decry attitudes that are beyond every boundary of official duty," Karamanlis said, referring to the death of young Alexis Grigoropoulos.
He stressed, however, that the acts of violence, vandalism, looting and destrtuction "must be unequivocally condemned by everyone. Those who resort to such actions are enemies of social peace, they are enemies of democracy".
In a more general reference to the youths' movements in the past days, Karamanlis said that they were an "explosive phenomenon", multi-faceted, that requires "cool-headed analysis".
He also referred to the government's actions during the days of the crisis, stressing that level-headed confrontation had been required, with priority on protection of human life, adding that the operational aspect was being assessed and decisions would be taken in due course.
Violence for the sake of projection of positions was an "affront to democracy", the premier said, and called for the "social and political isolation" of "those elements that resort to violence". Any linking of the problems concerning the youth with the lootings and destruction was unthinkable, he warned, adding that "noting of all these should be confused with the concerns of the young generation".
 PASOK spokesman criticizes PM's addressMain opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papa-constantinou warned on Tuesday that when a prime minister and government find themselves in a difficult spot, don't comprehend what is going on around them and have lost the citizens' confidence, the solution is given by the people, in a comment on prime minister Costas Karamanlis' address earlier in the day to his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's parliamentary group.
Papaconstantinou said that "after the msled ministers, we also have a misled prime minister" who "did not have a full picture of the Vatopedi scandal", and criticized the prime minister of not speaking clearly on the scanal but instead of a "scandalous affair".
He further criticized the prime minister that it had taken four months of revelations in order for him to acknowledge the weight of those revelations and the fact that political accountability existed, adding that Karamanlis did not have the courage to do what the assumption of the responsibilities mandated, in other words to seek the resignation of the implicated ministers.
The only outlet was the establishment of a parliamentary preliminary investigation committee into the Vatopedi scandal and the government's resignation.
Regarding the premier's references to the international financial crisis, Papaconstantinou said that, in Karamanlis' view, everyone else, except himself, was to blame, adding that it was the government's policies, and not the opposition, that were undermining the Greek economy.
Replying to press questions, Papaconstantinou said that PASOK would table in parliament a motion for the establishment of a preliminary investigation committee on the Vatopedi affair.
 Government spokesman Antonaros replies to PASOKGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, replying to main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday, said that "one could never expect introspection and a feeling of political responsibility from such a party as PASOK, that has longlastingly been the expressor of political irresponsibility."
Antonaros added that "the leadership of PASOK is proving, once again, that it does not realise and cannot realise how crucial the international conjuncture is. It is proving that it does not care. It does not care about the economy or about the real, the pressing problems of citizems. It does not care about today. It is indifferent about the country's future. It is proving that it does not want, and mainly that it cannot offer anything."
Lastly, Antonaros said that "in such times, such irresponsibility is a unique phenomenon. The hunger for power that characterises the present leadership group of PASOK has no precedent in the post-junta period. We shall not follow them."
 Tsipras on PM's addressCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alexis Tsipras, referring to the address made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to the ruling New Democracy party's Parliamentary Group on Tuesday, said that "after four months of silence the prime minister spoke at last about the Vatopedi scandal."
"However, he avoided explaining to us how is it possible for him to present his government as a victim of the issue, at a time when the scandal concerns leading ministers, close associates of his and, ultimately, himself personally," he said.
Tsipras further said that the prime minister "also avoided explaining where did the sacrifices go to which the Greek people have been subjected for five years now with the aim of decreasing the public debt, when this is doubling and the economy is on the verge of collapse."
 Parliamentary debate on Vatopedi report issueInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, addressing Parliament on Tuesday on the Vatopedi report issue, accused the main opposition PASOK party of political irresponsibility and stressed that PASOK has proved that "it is travelling with convenience flags, seeking a governance port, but in politics ships travelling with convenience flags run aground permanently on the reefs of political irresponsibility."
Pavlopoulos said that the main opposition PASOK party had reached its conclusions in advance, while its sole goal was the penalisation of political life, the distortion of reality, the dragging of the Vatopedi issue and then going to elections without it having to propose anything concerning the problems of the Greek people.
Referring as well to the stance of PASOK leader George Papandreou, the interior minister pointed out that if the Greek economy had more endurance than more developed countries at this time of global economic crisis it was due to the policy of the (Prime Minister Costas) Karamanlis government.
On his part ustice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis, said that the address by main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou did not rise to the occasion.
The minister added that what the people want from their leaders is courage, frankness and sincerity and stressed that "Costas Karamanlis and the New Democracy party will be in the leadership again, in power again, whenever elections will be taking place."
Referring to the issue in question, Hatzigakis said that "all that has been said today had been said even before the Factfinding Committee had been decided and now, just as then, the colleagues of PASOK spoke of an Investigatory Committee."
He further said "with what evidence are you shaping this maneating against colleagues of yours, without any support, without any specific argument, without any tangible proof and you are leading people to degradation and to a state that should sadden you and avoid."
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, accused the prime minister of "voiding the substantive assumption of his political responsibilities" in the case.
Papandrerou also called on the ruling New Democracy party to even request the creation of an Investigatory Committee for PASOK's former deputy ministers Drys and Fotiadis, so that it will not abstain from the discussion on the opposition's proposal on probing the penal responsibilities of government ministers.
"When ministers coordinate their action to poduce a scandal, then the political responsibilities are led to the level of prime minister and those who acted instead of him," he added.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said on her part that "we do not accept what Mr. Karamanlis said that he underestimated the issue. He might be sincere, and no prime minister can know everything in detail. The case of the Vatopedi Monastery, however, is an issue of general political orientation in relation to ecclesiastical land. And for this reason, neither Mr. Karamanlis nor Mr. Papandreoui were unsuspecting."
In this framework, Papariga proposed that all the laws that allow the Church and monasteries to possess land, which has not been given to them by private citizens voluntarily, to be abolished.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) President Alekos Alavanos expressed support for the creation of an Investigatory Committee to examine the possible penal responsibilities of ministers of both ND and PASOK.
Alavanos said that his party's view is that "two members of the PASOK government should be examined by an investigatory committee for their participation in possible penal responsibilities that have been written off, unfortunately, as well as for 5 ministers from ND, for this reason we are in favour of an Investigatory Committee."
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis said the Factfinding Committee was ineffective, stressing that the process closed in "express" time, at the responsibility of both mainstream parties, and that "the case is not bound," there is no evidence pointing in one direction but only indications.
 Papandreou: riots the 'tip of the iceberg'The recent rioting and demonstrations seen in Greece were just "the tip of the iceberg" according to main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, who said the shooting of the 15-year-old that sparked the incidents was a trigger but not their underlying cause.
Papandreou made the claims in an interview given to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday, that was also carried on the Deutsche Welle website.
According to Greece's main opposition leader, the root of the riots lay in feelings of injustice and social inequality and the lack of prospects for many young people.
He stressed, however, that the images that did the rounds in the world media over the past week were not a true reflection of Greece.
Replying to a comment by the reporter conducting the interview - who said that many Greeks had nothing to gain from early elections because 'the corruption of New Democracy will be succeeded by that of PASOK' - Papandreou said that the present government had become "identified" with graft.
"It is one thing for scandals to occur during the term of a government and another for a government to have become identified with corruption. And the present government cannot control the continuous scandals because it is itself a part of them," he said.
PASOK's leader also rejected a suggestion that Greece had falsified its fiscal data in order to get into the Eurozone, saying that the present government had created this impression, which was highly damaging for Greece, for petty party-political reasons.
He pointed out that the discrepancy in the figures came about because there were two legitimate methods for recording military spending, which was either when ordering or when equipment was delivered. The previous PASOK government's had chosen the latter method, while he blamed the Karamanlis government for "changing the system with the result that the deficit increased and the country was shown up."
All this created the impression that Greece had been playing games and trying to hoodwink the EU, Papandreou asserted, whereas "in reality it was the Karamanlis government that was playing nasty games."
On the prospect of early elections, Papandreou noted that the present crisis might blow over in a few days but the government had irretrievably lost the confidence of the electorate, adding that "what we have seen is just the tip of the iceberg".
 French President Sarkozy deplores incidents in GreeceSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/O.Tsipira)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Tuesday that Greece was a democratic country and any change of government should come through elections.
During a press conference at the European Parliament wrapping up France's six-month presidency of the EU and in a response to an ANA-MPA question, Sarkozy said: "Greece is a democratic country and in a democracy there are democratic institutions, elections and a legal government. In a democracy, when the people want a change this goes through ballot boxes. In a democracy, it is not the street that decides."
"I love Greece very much, as you know very well. I know the country and I was really very sad when I saw the scenes we all saw in the streets of Athens. For all Europeans, Greece is the image of civilisation, culture, and when we see such kind of violent clashes, looting, in a country such as Greece this really touches and disturbs the whole world," the French president added, while referring to his relations with Greece and his feelings.
 Valinakis at "Olive Group" meeting in SicilyROME (ANA-MPA/Th. Andreadis-Singelakis)
Deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Valinakis on Tuesday underlined the need for more effective EU policies in the Mediterranean region, pointing out that it was equally important to convey the Mediterranean dimension in European integration problems.
Valinakis, who represented Greece in the 6th Informal Meeting of the EU Mediterranean countries "Olive Group" underway in Taormina, Sicily, also stated that the meeting focused on migration issues in the western Balkans and EU enlargement. The meeting was held with the participation of Italy, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Slovenia.
During the meeting it was made clear that illegal migration is a problem that concerns the European Union as a whole and it was concluded that it can be faced effectively only through broad consensus and solidarity.
He underlined that the Mediterranean countries in Europe should form a "Mediterranean neighbourhood" to face the problems together and join forces to create opportunities that "will protect us during the crisis and at the same time produce long-term benefits".
 Alavanos on Grete visitRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alekos Alavanos, speaking to reporters on the island of Crete on Tuesday, said that the Factfinding Committee provided the possibility for the Vatopedi scandal to be presented in all its extent, although many points are still obscure.
Alavanos expressed regret that a "united report did not appear" and claimed that "this shows that this situation must stop, of there being privileged handling for ministers who have perpetrated penal offences."
He further said that "SYRIZA believes that there is evidence which raise questions for penal responsibilities of specific ministers of PASOK as well, but which have been written off and we can do nothing about it, and of New Democracy, that have not been written off, and I think that they must be resolved. This is the citizens' demand."
 President leaves hospital after pacemaker implantPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias was discharged from an Athens hospital on Tuesday, following a pacemaker implant procedure.
Exiting the hospital the President, in fine spirits, thanked the medical and nursing staff of the Attiko state hospital, adding that he would return to his duties on Wednesday.
Papoulias had the pacemaker procedure on Tuesday, after which his attending physicians said the President's condition was "excellent".
 Protestors interrupt live state TV news broadcastThe regular programme of the state television network NET was briefly interrupted at 15:10 on Tuesday when a group of unknown young people broke into the studio while the afternoon news programme was being broadcast, bearing a banner reading "Stop watching, get out onto the street".
The president of the state broadcasting organisation ERT Christos Panagopoulos apologised for the interruption and condemned it on behalf of ERT and the workforce as "an pre-planned act that went beyond all social tolerance and all aspects of protest".
He said he took full responsibility for what had occurred, with all that this might entail, adding that it had been an "organised invasion" by a group that did not represent anyone.
"There was no sit-in but an incursion by a small group of unknown people, that started entering the buildings of ERT from the morning as visitors," Panagopoulos explained, noting that those involved were not high school students but people in their mid-20s "without a face or identity" that claimed to be people of the arts and letters.
He also accused the group of deliberately creating a diversion so that they could carry out their 'coup', turning up at his office and asking to express their objections to the way that the recent incidents had been covered by private television channels.
While talking to those in his office, Panagopoulos said, he was then informed that another group had broken into the studio and forced the directors and cameramen to depart, cut off the sound and turning the cameras onto themselves.
"They were people that knew how to use the control room, the machinery, the cameras. It was planned," Panagopoulos repeated.
He revealed that ERT had been alerted to the fact that a protest was being planned and had stepped up security at its Agia Paraskevi and Katehaki sites.
"The guarding continued until 14:00 in the afternoon. What happened was, however, organised from the morning," he stressed.
Government, parties comment
Referring to the incident at ERT, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros strongly condemned what he called "an attempt by some extremist elements to damage the smooth and independent operation of a mass media organisation, and what's more, one with a public character".
The actions indicated the contempt in which such elements held the rules by which Greece's democracy functioned, he added.
"For this reason, every such action on the part of those that plan it, carry it out or even simply support it, is a conscious attempt to abolish democracy," Antonaros said.
According to main opposition PASOK's spokesman for media issues Tilemachos Hytiris, the incidents at ERT were "inevitable" given that the government had "converted the state television into a mechanism for propaganda and wasting public money".
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), on the same issue, said that the particular move "could not be ruled out" as one of many possible forms of action.
"Our own objection lies with the anonymity of the action, and the fact that the messages and the slogans should have been related to the problems in education and others that concern the youth of the working class, the children of the working class family".
 Group raid Riot Police buildingA group of some 40 people raided a MAT riot police building in the district of Kessariani shortly after noon on Tuesday.
The perpetrators, divided into two teams, attacked the building entrance and parking lot with fire-bombs, stones and other projectiles, causing damage to 10 vehicles.
The police responded with noise grenades and limited use of chemicals, but in the meantime, the culprits had fled the scene.
According to eye-witnesses, some of the offenders were wearing gas masks and made off towards the university campus installations in the area.
 Draft law on fund guaranteeing savings deposits and investmentsThe national economy and finance ministry-sponsored draft law on the Hellenic Deposit and Investment Guarantee Fund, including the incorporation of directives 2005/14/EC on mandatory motor insurance and 2005/68/EC on reinsurance and other clauses, was tabled in parliament on Tuesday.
The Hellenic Deposit Guarantee Fund (HDGF) is the body responsible for the implementation and management of the Greek Deposit Guarantee Scheme, whose aim is to guarantee bank deposits. The fund will undertake to compensate depositors and investors that are clients of credit institutions unable to meet their obligations toward them.
 Farmers meet Jan. 16 to discuss new actionFarmers' unions across the country have decided to meet on Jan. 16 in Larissa, central Greece, in order to discuss and coordinate further protests.
In the meantime, union representatives claim they have requested a meeting with Agriculture Minister Alexandros Kontos.
Farmers on Tuesday proceeded with two warning blockades, one in the border town of Promahonas, in the Serres Prefecture, and one in Tempi, central Greece, disrupting traffic.
 GSEE-ADEDY to hold protest on state budget on FridayGeneral Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) President Yiannis Panagopoulos called on all working people on Tuesday "to participate massively in the mobilisations of youth and of trade unions and provide a dynamic and democratic response to anti-labour policies."
Panagopoulos announced that GSEE will be participating in the education rally on problems facing education, that will be held outside the Athens University's main building at 12 noon on Thursday, while GSEE and the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) will be holding their own protest rally on the state budget outside the Parliament building at 3 p.m. on Friday.
He added that in the past days "youth and society in general are in a state of unrest at the main and exclusive responsibility of the government and of policies that are being applied, that are fuelling and reproducing political and social deadlocks in the country."
 Greek stocks continue downward slide, lose 1.84%Greek stocks continued their downward slide unchecked on the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, losing another 1.84 pct by the end of the day's trading. The composite index of the market ended at 1,741.57 points, with turnover a high 214.3 million euros, of which 4.5 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with Public Utilities (2.41 pct), Insurance (1.90 pct) and Foods-Beverages (1.45 pct) posting the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Health (-16.18 pct), Banks (-3.63 pct) and Mass Media (-3.09 pct) posted the biggest losses.
The FTSE 20 index fell 1.64 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 5.49 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index ended up1.62 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 140 to 67 with another 48 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.23%
Personal & Household: -1.74%
Raw Materials: -1.16%
Travel & Leisure: -1.47%
Food & Beverages: +1.45%
Financial Services: +1.11%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Alapis, National Bank, OPAP and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.74
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.96
HBC Coca Cola: 10.90
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.48
National Bank of Greece: 12.30
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.58
Bank of Piraeus: 5.76
Titan Cement Company: 12.88
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended around their fair price in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover increasing to 103.795 million euros. The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a fair price, while the volume was 20,278 contracts worth 91.359 million euros, with 30,119 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 19,601 contracts worth 103.795 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,882), followed by Marfin Popular Bank (2,664), Intrakom (1,843), Atebank (1,530), Marfin Investment Group (1,279), OPAP (1,295) and Bank of Cyprus (1,157).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market eased to 385 million euros on Tuesday, of which 245 million were buy orders and the remaining 140 million euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 110 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 2,2 per cent, with the Greek bond yielding 5.32 pct and the German Bund 3.10 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 3.39 pct, the six-month rate 3.29 pct, the three-month rate 3.20 pct and the one-month rate 2.91 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates: WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.38
Pound sterling 0.900
Danish kroner 7.510
Swedish kroner 11.132
Japanese yen 124.19
Swiss franc 1.594
Norwegian kroner 9.591
Canadian dollar 1.696
Australian dollar 2.053
 Athens mayor lights Christmas tree for second timeAthens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis lit the Christmas tree in downtown Syntagma Square in Athens on Tuesday evening, inaugurating celebrations that had been disrupted as of last Saturday with the death of the 15-year-old pupil.
"We are here all of us who love this city. Its history and its culture. All of us who are against violence," Kaklamanis said adding that the aim is to have the city's commercial centre come to life and smiles to come again to the lips of children.
After the tree was lit and the fireworks set off in the square, both the municipal band and the children's choir sang Christmas carrols.
 Greece to organise 2009 Global Forum for Migration and DevelopmentGreece on Tuesday officially took over the presidency of the 3rd Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD) from the Philippines, during a ceremony attended by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos. The 3rd GFMD is scheduled to take place in Athens on November 2-5, 2009.
"We are taking over the presidency at a crucial time globally. We must join our forces with the aim of drastically restricting the negative repercussions of this crisis," Pavlopoulos said.
He said the Greek presidency would try to emphasise the link between migration and development in light of the economic crisis.
 Laconia celebrates 100th anniversary of Ritsos' birthThe 100th anniversary of the birth of Yiannis Ritsos (1909-1990), considered one of the greatest Greek poets of the 20th century, will be celebrated by Laconia prefecture in southern Greece, where the castle town of Monemvasia where Ritsos was born is located.
Following the culture ministry decision to proclaim 2009 Yiannis Ritsos Year, the Laconia Prefectural Council decided to hold cultural events as a tribute to take place between May 1 and September 15, 2009.
Yiannis Ritsos (born May 1, 1909) together with Kostis Palamas, Giorgos Seferis, and Odysseus Elytis have marked contemporary Greek poetry. He was unsuccessfully proposed nine times for the Nobel Prize for Literature and among his notable works are Tractor (1934), Pyramids (1935), Epitaph (1936), and Vigil (1941-1953).
Ritsos mainly wrote poems with political content and one of his few works that differ is the "Moonlight Sonata".
 Eight police officers found guilty of beating up Cypriot studentA Thessaloniki Court of Appeals on Tuesday handed down suspended prison sentences ranging from 15 to 39 months on eight police officers found guilty of severely beating up 26-year-old Cypriot student Avgoustinos Dimitriou two years ago.
The bloody incident was recorded during a march in Thessaloniki commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the Polytechnic School uprising against the junta of the colonels. Police maintained that Dimitriou sustained his injuries when he tripped and fell against a scooter and a large flower pot. However, footage showed that officers had hit and kicked the student when he was on the ground.
Tens of young protesters demonstrated outside the court building and chanted slogans against police as soon as the court ruling was out. They were dispersed by riot police.
 "Demokritos" heads the ENAROMaTIC research consortium combating the spread of malariaIn a new effort to constrain malaria, the European Union is supporting the endeavors of the research consortium ENAROMaTIC (European Network for Advanced Research on Olfaction for Malaria Transmitting Insect Control) to the tune of 2.5 million euros. Ten institutions from 7 European countries, one from USA and one from a sub-Saharan African country participate in this consortium, which aims to reduce malaria transmission rates by interfering with the capacity of the female mosquito to detect the presence of odors of human origin in its environment.
The research effort is directed and coordinated by Prof. Kostas Iatrou, Research Director and Head of the "Insect Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology Group" at the Institute of Biology, National Centre for Scientific Research "Demokritos".
In the project also participate, National Hellenic Research Foundation (Greece), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France), University of Hohenheim (Germany), NeuroProof GmbH (Germany), Universita di Pisa (Italy), Universita degli Study di Firenze (Italy), Rothamsted Research Center (UK), Biological Research Centre, National Academy of Sciences (Hungary), University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (Nigeria), Inscent, Inc. (USA).
Over a million children under the age of five die due to malaria infection in countries of the developing world every year. Responsible for this plague of the Third World is a parasite, which is transmitted by female mosquitoes sucking blood from human hosts.
Female mosquitoes locate their human hosts by sensing certain volatile compounds emitted by humans. Specialized biological molecules in their antennae, the main organs for odor sensing, regulate how mosquitoes perceive the various odors in their environment through a complex procedure. If we could succeed in disrupting this procedure, then female mosquitoes would lose their ability to orient themselves towards their human hosts, obtain a blood meal from them and transmit the malaria parasite in the process. Consequently, the rate of transmission of the malaria parasite would be curtailed.
In the framework of the ENAROMaTIC project, the way that Anopheles gambiae (the mosquito disease vector) detects various volatile compounds in its environment will be investigated. Newly identified bioactive compounds of natural and synthetic origin that are capable of acting as effective disruptors of normal olfactory and host seeking mosquito behavior under laboratory conditions and are safe for humans and the environment will be tested for their effectiveness under field conditions in model sites in Africa where A. gambiae and malaria are endemic.
The identification of multiple disruptors of host seeking behavior of female mosquitoes will provide new and effective tools to be employed in the effort to reduce the incidence of contact between the human host and the insect vector carrying the malaria parasite. Formulated versions of such biologically active compounds could be used for the protection from mosquito bites of individuals (via bednet treatment and/or dermal application) as well as larger groups of people (via perimetric positioning of odor-based disorienting, repellent or attractant baits in villages where malaria is endemic). Last but not least, the approaches, methodologies and results of the ENAROMaTIC research effort should serve as a paradigm for analogous efforts aimed at a reduction in disease transmission by other disease-carrying insect vectors.
 Samothrace strengthens cooperation with municipalities in BulgariaThe municipality of Samothrace (northern Aegean island) participated in the restoration of the Momchil Castle, near the southern Bulgarian city of Smolyan, through the European Union's INTERREG programme. Its involvement in the project was placed within the framework of efforts aimed at strengthening relations with neighboring Bulgarian munici-palities.
According to the local authorities in Samothrace, the closer cooperation with Bulgaria has already yielded fruit noting that tourist arrivals from the neighboring country have increased notably over the past few years.
 'Liberty' class ship returning to GreeceNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The last American ship of the "Liberty" class, named "Arthur M. Hantel", set out for Greece on December 6 and is expected to arrive at the port of Piraeus in mid-January and will be turned into a floating museum which will be named "Eleftheria" (Freedom).
It concerns an initiative by the Merchant Marine Ministry and the Greek shipping community that began in February 2005 and achieved success with the ratification by the U.S. Congress, in June 2006, of a special law on granting the ship to Greece in the form of a donation.
A considerable role in the ratification of the law was played by Greek American Rhode Island Senator Leonidas Raptakis.
Ships of the "Liberty" class had been the main source for carrying supplies from America to Europe during the Second World War.
 Museum of Byzantine Culture calendarThe "adventures" and successive uses of objects now part of the Museum of Byzantine Culture collections or on display in other museums in the northern port city of Thessaloniki are being presented in a special calendar for the year 2009.
The publication, prepared by the Museum of Byzantine Culture and its friends, sheds light on different phases of the objects' usage over a period spanning from the Paleo-Christian to the post-Byzantine era.
 Cloudy on WednesdayCloudy and showery weather and southeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 22C. Cloudy in Athens with possibility of local showers, with southeasterly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 20C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 15C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe parliamentary fact-finding commission's report on the Vatopedi Monastery land exchanges affair and the annexed individual reports of the opposition parties, reshuffle rumors, the ongoing mobilizations by pupils and students, and the economy were the main front-page items in Tuesday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "ND: Yes, there is political accountability - Fact-finding commission: five different versions (of the conclusions of the commission's proceedings) were submitted (to parliament president Dimitris Sioufas)".
APOGEVMATINI: "Reshuffle after the (2009 state) budget - The premier determined for major changes".
AVGHI: "Coup de grace with the ballistics report - Leaks that the murder was due to...ricocheting bullet".
AVRIANI: "Each party with a separate report (of the fact-finding commission's conclusions) - IF the law on accountability of ministers is not changed, the politicians will be permanently 'out of the line of fire' (untouchable)".
CHORA: "No cash circulating on the market - Turnover plunged 80 percent in the last 10 days".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Five reports, as many as the parliamentary parties, from the fact-finding commission on the Vatopedi affair, but as for accountability...."
ELEFTHEROS: "Wild bargaining in ND for the cover-up - The MPs on the fact-finding commission for the Vatopedi affair divided into three camps".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: " 'Blessing' sought after the report - The ND deputies pressing for bold initiatives".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Blue (color representing the ruling ND party) report a mockery - Vatopedi: 'Trick' with the political accountability".
ESTIA: "Blatant partisanism - Five parties, five reports".
ETHNOS: " 'Hood' on the ministers' accountability - Vatopedi scandal: Blue (ND) absolution for 'guileless' ministers".
KATHIMERINI: "One scandal, five reports - The parliamentary parties proved to be beneath the circumstances on the Vatopedi affair".
LOGOS: "One report, five viewpoints".
NIKI: "They found them all to be blameless - ND refuses to attribute accountability over the Vatopedi affair".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Everyone take part in the rallies by workers, pupils, students - Week of multi-faced action by the class movement", referring to the demonstrations called by the KKE-affiliated PAME throughout the country on Wednesday afternoon, with the central rally to take place at 6:00 p.m in central Omonia Square.
TA NEA: "Absolution over the Vatopedi affair - ND found only three 'negligent' ministers - Full speed ahead to government reshuffle".
TO VIMA: "The scandal...buried - ND accepts only faceless political accountability - The five reports to be discussed by the parliament plenary on Tuesday afternoon".
VRADYNI: "Revolution in chemotherapy - Hope for cancer sufferers from announcements at scientific seminar".
 Christofias: Thorny issues remain during direct negotiationsNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said there are thorny issues during the ongoing direct talks between himself and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, aiming to reach a settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Christofias and Talat had here Tuesday their 12th meeting, during which they discussed issues regarding external relations.
Invited to say if the discussion on these issues has been completed, President Christofias replied negatively adding that they will continue during their next meeting.
To a remark that UN Secretary General Special Advisor on Cyprus Alexander Downer spoke about thorny issues in his statements after the meeting, Cyprus President said that "there are thorny issues."
He added that he does not want to enter into details, revealing what is being discussed, what the one side and what the other is saying, noting that this would be unproductive.
To a remark that according to Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou the issues discussed at the talks end up in two baskets, the one containing what has been agreed and the other the issues on which there is disagreement, President Christofias said that "this was expected and this was the procedure that we had decided from the beginning, that at the end of the discussion of every aspect of the Cyprus question we will classify the issues on which we agree and the issues on which we disagree to be able to move forward to the rest aspects of the Cyprus question."
Asked if the positions of the two sides are crystal clear, so that they can reach to an outcome even on the issues they disagree, the president said: "Not yet. We are now discussing the external relations. There is the hierarchy of the laws. We will again touch upon the issues of deadlock resolving mechanisms. There are also issues we need to discuss before we begin discussions on another aspect of the Cyprus question," he added.
President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since early September this year, aiming at reuniting the island, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
Leaders to continue discussion on external relations on Monday
The leaders of the two communities of Cyprus held Tuesday their 12th meeting in the framework of the direct negotiations which began in September with a view to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem.
UN Secretary General's Special Adviser for Cyprus, Alexander Downer, who was present at the meeting, said that the leaders, Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat discussed "the external relations, powers of a federal government".
He added that discussion on that issue will continue during the next meeting, which will take place 22nd of December.
The next issue on the agenda, he said, "is the relationship between the laws of the constituent states and the federal government".
Asked how the negotiations are proceeding so far, the former Australian Foreign Minister said "it is good that they continue the discussions on these issues" and described the issues as "very big issues for any community to work through".
The meeting, which was scheduled to take place on the 29th of December will not take place due to the December holiday season, Downer said.
The UNSG's Special Adviser, who held a meeting Monday with the Turkish Cypriot leader, said they held "a very good discussion about where the negotiations are and how they are proceeding".
He added he would discuss the same issue during the meeting he was to hold later on Tuesday with President Christofias.
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