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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-12-18

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Thursday, 18 December 2008 Issue No: 3075

CONTENTS

  • [01] Five-day discussion on 2009 state budget begins in Parliament
  • [02] PASOK: budget based on fake figures
  • [03] ISTAME criticised ruling party budget
  • [04] PASOK on PM's stance on Vatopedi case
  • [05] PASOK notes 'crisis' in police force
  • [06] Political reactions to youth protest on Acropolis
  • [07] Information sec.gen article on recent violence appears in HuffPo website
  • [08] Archbishop of Cyprus meets with Greek state and political leadership
  • [09] Government on economy, public deficit
  • [10] Gov't on compensation to shop owners affected by rioting
  • [11] SEV's Daskalopoulos: changes to bankrupt system
  • [12] Inflation in Greece decreases to 3 pc in November
  • [13] Employment minister on vindication of Greek positions
  • [14] Athens is a safe tourist destination, minister says
  • [15] IKA-ETAM to get 3.66 bln euros from state coffers
  • [16] Imported pigs fed with dioxin-tainted feed quarantined
  • [17] Aegean cancels four flights on Thursday
  • [18] Greek stocks hold ground
  • [19] ADEX closing report
  • [20] Greek bond market closing report
  • [21] Foreign Exchange rates: Thursday
  • [22] Transport minister announces new tram line to Piraeus
  • [23] State television unveils digital TV programming
  • [24] Papoulias meets ActionAid board; commends Kenyan teacher
  • [25] Greek Herald celebrates 80th anniversary
  • [26] Rainy on Thursday
  • [27] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Five-day discussion on 2009 state budget begins in Parliament

    The five-day discussion on the 2009 state budget, that will come to an end at midnight on Sunday with a rollcall vote which constitutes a vote of confidence for the government, began in Parliament on Wednesday in the presence of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou and with reference to the recent events prvoked by the killing of a 15-year old student.

    The first general rapporteur to take the floor, ruling New Democracy (ND) party Larissa Deputy Costas Agorastos, expressed his sadness over the youth's death and, on the occasion of the "unacceptable events that followed", said that "in crucial times there is no place for seeking petty partisan gains."

    Agorastos referred to the "multilevel struggle" being waged by the ND government to tackle the big economic and social problems "left behind by yesterday", criticising PASOK that "instead of realising its responsibilities it is applying itself to exercises of deadlocked populism, exercises of wellwishing and to vague talk."

    According to the rapporteur, the policy being applied by the government with the 2009 budget as well is the best possible response in the framework of the difficult international situation that has been shaped.

    He stressed that the government has two options: to continue necessary reforms, sidestepping the temporary cost, so as to consolidate a more secure perspective for all citizens, or to leave problems untouched, to worsen and to be led to deadlocks in the face of which no one will be able to choose solutions.

    FinMin

    Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis said in an address during the discussion that "tax conscience is social conscience" and called on all sides not to waste strength in domestic disputes in the middle of an international economic crisis.

    "PASOK created the huge debt that currently constitutes a great burden for the Greek economy, PASOK led the economy to low competitiveness, PASOK led Greek society to the biggest percentage of unemployment after the transition to democracy," Alogoskoufis stressed and pointed out that in the days of ND unemployment dropped to 7.4 percent from 11.3 percent in 2004.

    The minister also noted that the international economic crisis is highlighting the steadfast structural weaknesses of the Greek economy, while adding that the 2009 budget is difficult "because the conjuncture is very difficult as well."

    Main opposition PASOK party general rapporteur Christos Papoutsis spoke on his part of a budget that "is bringing desperation and hopelessness for citizens" and predicted that "the government is counting days" and that "the people will be speaking soon."

    Papoutsis said that the government is using the international crisis "as an alibi for the country's tragic deadlocks" and disputed the New Democracy party's possibility of convincing that it will guarantee incomes and investments since for five years "they have been bowing with 'Mount Athos respect' to neo-liberal doctrines."

    The rapporteur further said that there is a great lag in budget revenues, that the risk of supervision is returning and that the only shield for the economy is the country's participation in the EMU which is "an achievement of the governments of PASOK."

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general rapporteur Nikos Karathanasopoulos spoke of an "antipopular, class-oriented, tax-imposing budget at the expense of workers" and claimed that the international economic crisis "is a capitalist crisis which is aggravating workers' problems and it is that which is leading social groups, and young people in particular, to mass demonstrations."

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) general rapporteur Panayiotis Lafazanis said the budget is imposing a "tax tsounami" exceeding 7 billion euros which, instead of tackling the crisis, will ignite it even more, just as it will ignite great social outbursts and stressed that "Greece needs a new progressive development course with a new socialism as a horizon, distant from the failed authoritarian doctrines of real socialism."

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) general rapporteur Costas Aivaliotis spoke of a "ghost budget" that is charecterised by extremities and noted as an "extremity" that "7.1 billion euros are being sought in new taxes in conditions of a stormy crisis, while at the same time state extravagance is not being curbed, public investments are decreasing and tens of thousands of new employees are being hired."

    [02] PASOK: budget based on fake figures

    Main opposition PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Wednesday criticised the budget tabled by the ruling party as "unreliable" and "dangerous", claiming that it was based on fake figures and would further burden the Greek economy.

    "The Greek economy's developmental potential has been lost in the last five years," he said.

    PASOK's spokesman also criticised the draft budget for increasing social and economic inequality and for an unfair division of the tax burden and the 'repercussions' of the financial crisis, as well as for restricting developmental incentives and making the consequences of the crisis deeper and longer.

    [03] ISTAME criticised ruling party budget

    The Andreas Papandreou Institute of Strategic and Deve-lopment Studies (ISTAME) on Wednesday criticised the budget tabled by the government for 2009, describing it as "unreliable and unfortunate".

    The institute said several targets and forecasts included in the draft budget were completely unrealistic and almost impossible to meet, especially a forecast increase in revenues by 12 percent relative to 2008, which translated into an additional 6.8 billion euros. Concerning a forecast increase in state spending by 9.1 percent, or 4.5 billion euros, ISTAME said that this target would also be hard to meet.

    It pointed to a shortfall in public revenue, adding that the government's taxation policies and tax inspection policies helped magnify the unfairness of the tax system. It also pointed out that this revenue was not based on sustainable economic growth but new tax measures, without which public revenue would have diverged significantly from the targets.

    ISTAME claimed that state spending was directed mainly toward non-developmental activities and that public debt had risen sharply in absolute terms, while remaining at a virtual standstill as a percentage of GDP.

    [04] PASOK on PM's stance on Vatopedi case

    Main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papa-constantinou on Wednesday accused the prime minister of "shunning battle by not attending Tuesday's discussion in parliament on the findings of the government-proposed investigation committee concerning the land swaps between the state and Vatopedi Monastery."

    "Assuming political responsibility should be accompanied by actions such as the resignations of the government ministers implicated and setting up a preliminary examination committee," Papaconstantinou said. He also maintained that "from the onset the government's intention was to cover up the case."

    PASOK's spokesman also stated that his party will say 'yes' to a preliminary examination committee.

    [05] PASOK notes 'crisis' in police force

    Greece's police force was undergoing a major crisis that made it unable to function adequately, main opposition PASOK's shadow interior minister Haris Kastanidis said on Wednesday.

    In addition to a crisis of leadership and its command and organisational problems, it also suffered from poor training structures and human resources management, Kastanidis said.

    He particularly stressed the fact that police officers were sent out on the street after just three months training.

    [06] Political reactions to youth protest on Acropolis

    The government and main opposition PASOK on Wednesday both criticised the latest forms of protest adopted by young people. They were particularly critical of a group that hung two huge banners from the side of the Athens Acropolis, one with the word 'Resistance' in four languages and a second urging participation in European-wide demonstrations on Thursday.

    According to government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros this move was "completely unjustifiable" and unacceptable, "in the sense that it besmirches the country's image abroad".

    Regarding the protestors that broke into the ERT state television studios on Tuesday during a live news broadcast, Antonaros said the incident was being investigated. He also questioned the failure of the opposition parties, especially PASOK, to condemn "actions like these that are dangerous for the smooth operation of democratic institutions."

    He stressed that there was no question of ERT President Christos Panagopoulos resigning over the incident.

    The government was concerned by a spate of high school sit-ins but the problem was not as big as it was being presented, he added in response to other questions.

    He stressed that those organising the sit-ins were a minority and did not have the right to exclude others from learning.

    The protest on the Acropolis was also criticised by the main opposition, which described it as excessive.

    "I do not consider that the country is in a time of revolution, nor are we living under some regime that requires that we give the image of a country - an image that has surely gone all around the world - in overall resistance," said PASOK shadow minister for education Anna Diamantopoulou.

    PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou, on his part, said Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had fully backed the political leadership of all the ministries responsible for the youth demonstrations and rioting of the past 10 days, including the education minister and the deputy interior minister who had "continued partying at a nightclub after hearing of the events in Exarchia".

    He also linked the outbreak of violence with issues related to education, saying that one of PASOK's first steps as a government would be to increase funding for education.

    Regarding the Acropolis protest, Papaconstantinou said that "he condemned the fact that our country was embarrassed worldwide at this time and the government is responsible".

    He also criticised the arrests of teenagers indicted for felonies under terrorism "when I don't see the arrests of those truly responsible".

    On Tuesday's incident at ERT and the protest on the Acropolis, however, the spokesman noted that "there are better ways for someone to make their opinions known".

    In a sarcastic comment on the verdict handed down by a Thessaloniki court on officers found guilty of beating up a Cypriot student at a march, Papaconstantinou said that "it is impressive that in this country the cost of a beating is five euros a day".

    [07] Information sec.gen article on recent violence appears in HuffPo website

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    The Greek government is determined to safeguard law and order and not leave criminal elements unpunished, Information secretary general Panos Livadas stressed in an article titled "Hijacking Democracy" appearing in the popular Huffington Post (known on the internet as HuffPo) news website and aggregated blog on Wednesday.

    Livadas' full article appears below:

    "Over the past week, Greece has been at the center of interna-tional media attention following the incidents of violence that occurred in parallel with demonstrations in Athens and other cities in Greece.

    People ask: What lies behind the recent unrest? Will it last? Has the Greek police been ineffective? Can the Greek government guarantee law, order and safety for its citizens and visitors alike?

    Let me answer some of these questions.

    The riots were prompted by the killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 15-year old student, by a police officer on December 6th. In one voice, the entire country of Greece, the government, the opposition and the Greek people, expressed their condemnation, deep sorrow and outrage at this tragic incident. Due process was followed. The two police officers responsible for this horrible act have been brought to justice. One of them was charged with premeditated manslaughter and the other with complicity.

    At the same time, unfortunately, a small, marginal group of a few hundred extremists, self-styled anarchists, hijacked this outpouring of grief and used violence to push their agenda, which aims at undermining the rule of law and democracy in Greece. All Greek political parties unanimously condemning the killing of the young student, also condemned the violent acts of the extremists, in the strongest possible terms, calling for their isolation and punishment.

    The Greek police was faced with a difficult task: on the one hand safeguard the democratic right of free expression and demonstration, while on the other, protect life and property. The decision not to risk further loss of life by adopting defensive tactics was compelled by the fact that a huge number of the demonstrators were teenagers expressing in peaceful manner their frustration over the killing of their fellow student. We did not want a repetition of the 1992 Los Angeles situation, with tens of deaths and hundreds of injuries. I should note at this point that police tactics will be revaluated when the dust settles.

    What is certain is that the Greek Government is determined to protect law and order, and will not allow these criminal elements to go unpunished (at least 350 of them have been arrested). It guarantees safety just as it guaranteed security for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. The Government also made the decision to compensate all those whose property was damaged and provide immediate financial relief and support for businesses and their employees.

    We are fully aware of the pressures young people face regarding their future, education and jobs, at a time of an unprecedented global financial crisis. All these years, our efforts to strengthen our economy and implement reforms aim precisely at providing answers to these uncertainties through economic growth and new jobs. Actually, this successful effort over the recent years has made Greece more resistant to the negative consequences of the recent economic crisis by:

    decreasing unemployment from 10.5% in 2004 to 7.4% in 2008 and creating 250.000 new jobs, primarily in the private sector; maintaining one of the highest growth rates in the Euro zone, 3.6% for 2008, double the Euro zone average. Furthermore, the most international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, forecast a 2% growth rate for Greece in 2009; decreasing the budget deficit from 7.4 % in 2004 to less than 3% of GDP in 2008, releasing more funds for social welfare.

    The Greek Government has also instituted educational reforms in order to modernize the Greek educational system, adjust it to European requirements and make it more competitive in a changing world.

    I am confident that very soon the de-escalation of tension, which we are already witnessing, will lead to the return of complete normality. I am also confident that the Greek youth will restore its trust in us, as a partner who listens to their concerns, who will try harder to address their needs, who cares about their future and will work harder to create more and better jobs, better education and more opportunities."

    [08] Archbishop of Cyprus meets with Greek state and political leadership

    Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus, currently on a visit to Athens, had meetings on Wednesday with Greece's state and political leadership.

    Following a meeting with Alekos Alavanos, the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group leader commended the 'insightfulness' of the Cypriot Archbishop and referred to the principle-based stance he adopted as regards the land swap scandal between the Vatopedi Monastery and the Greek state. Alavanos also expressed appreciation concerning the briefing he was given by the Archbishop on the Cyprus issue.

    On his part, Archbishop Chrysostomos wished for better days in Greece and Cyprus, underlining that the political forces should be united when handling the Cyprus issue, stressing that "the island of Cyprus was first inhabited by Greeks 3,500 years ago and we do not wish to be the last generation."

    Earlier, the Archbishop of Cyprus had meetings with President Karolos Papoulias and main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou.

    Financial News

    [09] Government on economy, public deficit

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday underlined that the government was trying to address a pathogenic past legacy for the Greek economy through a policy of mild adjustment and a reduction of the public deficit.

    He was replying to a question citing pessimistic forecasts by international credit-rating agencies on an anticipated deterioration of Greek fiscal indices, including a rising public deficit.

    Antonaros claimed that the government's targets had been achieved and that the world was now at a difficult global conjunction, when reform efforts for a stable economy had to be continuous.

    "We will not deviate from this path of wisdom, for the benefit of all Greek citizens, our society and our country," he said.

    The spokesman also strongly urged reporters "to stop circulating rumours that have no basis and are dangerous," concerning Greece's ability to meet its debt repayments, stressing that the country has always serviced its debts after democracy was restored in 1974.

    [10] Gov't on compensation to shop owners affected by rioting

    Owners of private businesses that have sustained damages during the recent rioting in Greece and employ up to 50 people will be receiving compensation of up to 10,000 euros starting on Thursday. A special account was opened for this purpose at the Agricultural Bank of Greece, ATEbank, by the ministry of finance.

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros clarified that those eligible will receive compensation after presenting formal documentation confirming the damage sustained.

    [11] SEV's Daskalopoulos: changes to bankrupt system

    Current conditions made it imperative that the country have a strong, reliable and modern governance, Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) President Dimitris Daskalopoulos said on Wednesday, in a comment on the demonstrations and riots that have rocked Greece over the past 10 days.

    "We need a united will, able to finally carry out a long-term programme of necessary changes to the functioning of institutions, to education, to public administration and the developmental structure," he said.

    No Greek could deny their share of collective responsibility for creating a bankrupt system that Greece's young people felt compelled to throw stones at, Daskalopoulos added.

    According SEV's president, the events that followed the death of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos at the hands of police in Exarhia on December 6 had revealed a non-existent state and bankrupt institutions, while the social uprising was intensified by the financial crisis that would get worse in the coming months.

    He called for a new approach and the "investment of political capital" to deal with the crisis.

    [12] Inflation in Greece decreases to 3 pc in November

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Inflation in Greece decreased from 4 percent to 3 percent in November, compared to October, according to data by the Eurostat statistical service publicised here on Wednesday.

    As regards the eurozone, inflation dropped from 3.2 percent in October to 2.1 percent in November, while a year ago it had been 3.1 percent. In the European Union, inflation decreased from 3.7 percent to 2.8 percent and a year ago it was 3.1 percent.

    In November, the lowest inflation rates were recorded in Germany and Portugal (1.4 percent each) and the highest in Latvia (11.6 percent), Lithuania (9.2 percent) and Bulgaria (8.8 percent).

    Compared to October, inflation decreased in November in all 27 EU member-states.

    [13] Employment minister on vindication of Greek positions

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    Employment Minister Fani Petralia reiterated Greece's clear position that it does not accept "any upset in labour terms and no violation of 48-hour work," speaking shortly after the European Union's Council of Employment Ministers on Wednesday.

    "Tody's vote at the European Parliament on organising working time, with which the Eurodeputies are calling for the preservation of 48-hour work, as the maximum weekly duration of work in the EU, constitutes a vindication of Greek positions," she said.

    The minister reminded that last June Greece, together with another four countries (Cyprus, Belgium, Spain and Hungary) had opposed the political agreement of the EU's Council of Employment Ministers that anticipated the possibility of opting for additional work time, that can reach as much as 60 hours a week.

    [14] Athens is a safe tourist destination, minister says

    "Athens is a safe city, a safe tourist destination," Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos stressed on Wednesday, adding that the violent incidents were only "a small and sad parenthesis".

    Addressing the ministry's Crisis Management Committee working meeting, Spiliotopoulos suggested calm and called on the 'tourist product' sector to contribute toward this direction.

    "All necessary measures will be taken to restore Greece's picture abroad," he said, adding that a joint effort is being made by the tourism ministry and the foreign ministry through the Greek diplomatic missions to soften the negative consequences of the recent sad events.

    [15] IKA-ETAM to get 3.66 bln euros from state coffers

    Greece's largest social insurance and pension fund, IKA-ETAM, is to receive the sum of 3.662 billion euros from the state budget according to joint minister orders signed on Wednesday by Employment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli-Petralia and Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Legas.

    A ministry announcement said that the two orders signed on Wednesday fulfill a government pledge to give financial support to IKA-ETAM equal to 1 percent of GDP on an annual basis.

    The first ministerial order establishes the sum of 2.450 billion euros to be given to IKA-ETAM from the state budget for the year 2008. The second gives IKA-ETAM the sum of 1.172 billion euros through the issue of special bonds.

    The second sum covers the shortfall in the money given to IKA-ETAM in 2003-2007, which was less than the agreed sum of 1 percent of GDP.

    [16] Imported pigs fed with dioxin-tainted feed quarantined

    A total of 155 pigs imported into Greece from 5 breeding units throughout Greece were placed in quarantine on Wednesday after the discovery that they had been fed with dioxin-contaminated feed.

    The agriculture and food safety ministry, in a urgent document, order the local veterinary services in the regions to place the pigs in quarantine.

    According to authorities, the pigs had been imported live from Ireland on October 23 by a company that is headquartered in Evia. Of those, 35 pigs were shipped to a breeding unit in Laconia prefecture, 70 to three units in Ileia prefecture, 30 to a unit in Karditsa prefecture, and 20 to a breeding unit in Fthiotis prefecture.

    The Veterinary Directorate of Fthiotis said on Wednesday that all 20 pigs shipped to a breeding unit in the prefecture have already been quarantined, and the procedures have been set in motion for their slaughter and incineration.

    [17] Aegean cancels four flights on Thursday

    Aegean Airlines on Wednesday announced the cancellation of four return domestic flights on Thursday, as a result of a three-hour work stoppage by air traffic controllers between noon and 15:00 on that day.

    The flights cancelled include:

    Flight A3 114/115 Athens-Thessaloniki-Athens

    Flight A3 108117 Athens-Thessaloniki-Athens

    Flight A3 114/115 Athens-Thessaloniki-Athens

    Flight A3 314/315 Athens-Iraklio - Athens

    Flight A3 154/155 Athens- Kavala -Athens

    The airline said that it would also have to change the departure time for 23 of its scheduled flights on that day, adding that it would try to contact passengers to inform them of the changes.

    Passengers seeking additional information can contact the airline at the numbers 801 11 200000 (from a land line) and 210 626 1000 (from a mobile phone).

    [18] Greek stocks hold ground

    Greek stocks held their ground on the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, ending marginally up by 0.29 pct at the end of the day's trading. The composite index of the market ended at 1,746.58 points, with turnover a medium-to-low 155.7 million euros, of which 9.8 million euros were block trades.

    Individual sector indices mostly moved higher, with Health (10.36 pct), Financial Services (3.83 pct) and Oil & Gas (1.88 pct) posting the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Personal & Household (-6.64 pct), Mass Media (-4.07pct) and Commercial (-4.05 pct) posted the biggest losses.

    The FTSE 20 index gained 0.77 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.78 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index ended down 0.65 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 139 to 75 with another 45 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.90%

    Industrials: +0.44%

    Commercial: -4.05%

    Construction: +0.93

    Media: -4.07%

    Oil & Gas: +1.88%

    Personal & Household: -6.64%

    Raw Materials: -1.62%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.05%

    Technology: +0.32%

    Telecoms: +0.96

    Banks: +0.02%

    Food & Beverages: -1.80%

    Health: +10.36%

    Utilities: +0.93%

    Chemicals: -0.61%

    Financial Services: +3.83%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, OTE and OPAP.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 5.60

    ATEbank: 1.42

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.14

    HBC Coca Cola: 10.70

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.68

    National Bank of Greece: 12.24

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.44

    Intralot: 2.91

    OPAP: 19.94

    OTE: 12.58

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.76

    Titan Cement Company: 13.46

    [19] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover amounting to 102.853 million euros. The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.24 per cent, while the volume was 18,921 contracts worth 83.562 million euros, with 30,771 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 32,591 contracts worth 18.926 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (4,324), followed by Marfin Investment Group (4,288), National Bank (4,062), Alpha Bank (3,410), Ellaktor (2,305) and Intracom (1,968).

    [20] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market eased to 185 million euros on Wednesday, of which 65 million were buy orders and the remaining 120 million euros were sell orders.

    The 20-year benchmark bond (August 20, 2023) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 30 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 2,3 per cent, with the Greek bond yielding 5.28 pct and the German Bund 2.98 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 3.33 pct, the six-month rate 3.24 pct, the three-month rate 3.15 pct and the one-month rate 2.87 pct.

    [21] Foreign Exchange rates: Thursday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.417

    Pound sterling 0.925

    Danish kroner 7.509

    Swedish kroner 11.095

    Japanese yen 125.34

    Swiss franc 1.576

    Norwegian kroner 9.591

    Canadian dollar 1.714

    Australian dollar 2.063

    General News

    [22] Transport minister announces new tram line to Piraeus

    The extension of tram routes to Piraeus will soon become a reality through the joint efforts of the ministry of transport and communications, the Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA), TRAM SA, Athens Piraeus Electric Railways (ISAP) and the Athens Polytechnic, NTUA.

    "Trams are a modern and environmentally-friendly means of public transport and make life more humane," Transport Minister Kostis Hatzidakis stressed in a press conference Wednesday, held in the presence of local administration authorities and TRAM S.A. management.

    "The government's intention is that the needs of commuters are met in the most adequate way," Hatzidakis said, adding that tram services will be complementary to the subway network.

    The 50km network, including 25km of the network that already exist, will cost 442 million euros and served roughly 200,000 passengers a day (an additional 135,000 passengers to the 65,000 passengers currently served) with a fleet of 100 tram vehicles.

    The first phase of the project will get underway in July 2009 and will be completed in October 2010, linking Neo Faliro with Akti Posidonos. The second phase linking Akti Posidonos with Hatzikiriakio and Freatida will be completed by 2013. Phase three will link Akti Posidonos with Karaiskakis Square, Keratsini, downtown Piraeus and Kaminia and phase four will extend the tram network from Keratsini to Perama.

    [23] State television unveils digital TV programming

    The state broadcaster ERT on Wednesday presented the programme of its new digital TV channel INFO+ during a press conference at the Zappion building in central Athens.

    ERT president Christos Panagopoulos said the aim was to utilise digital television's interactive capabilities with viewers, who would be able to get information on all issues simply by pressing a button.

    He added that procedures had been agreed for the production of 44 programmes for the digital channel 'Prisma' targeting disabled persons, using grants from the Society of Information.

    [24] Papoulias meets ActionAid board; commends Kenyan teacher

    Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias received the board members of ActionAid on Wednesday and commended Kenyan teacher Tobias Nyabola for his humanitarian action.

    President Papoulias underlined that the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR 60) coincides with the 10th anniversary of ActionAid in Greece, an international organization focusing on people's right to life without fear, destitution, poverty and illnesses.

    Referring to Nyabola, the president stressed that his work in the small Kenyan community of Bama was commendable, pointing out that if his example was followed then famine and poverty could be defeated, allowing people to have a dignified life. He also praised the ActionAid contribution and the work done by its honorary president Alexandra Mitsotakis, daughter of Constantine Mitsotakis, a former Greek premier and now honorary president of ruling New Democracy Party (ND). A special reference was made by President Papoulias to the "Zagori" bottled spring water company for its humanitarian assistance to Africa.

    On his part, Nyabola thanked President Papoulias for recognizing his work, stressing that no one in his country believed that his efforts could attract the interest of a State president.

    [25] Greek Herald celebrates 80th anniversary

    MELBOURNE (ANA-MPA / S. Hatzimanolis)

    The "Greek Herald" (Ellinikos Kirikas) Greek-Australian newspaper celebrates its 80th anniversary with an impressive 212-page issue.

    The messages by the prime ministers of Greece and Australia, Costas Karamanlis and Kevin Rudd, published in the newspaper, underline its long and successful course as well as the contribution of the 500,000-strong Greek expatriate community to the Australian society. Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou and many Greek and Australian politicians have also signed messages recognizing the important role played by "Greek Herald" over the past 80 years.

    "Australia" was the first Greek newspaper published in the country in 1913 when the Greek community in Melbourne numbered 500 people while across Australia the Greeks were roughly 2,000. Over 110 newspapers have been published in Australia since then. Now only 6 are in circulation, the "Greek Herald", "Vima", "Neos Kosmos" (last year celebrated its 50th anniversary), "Nea Ellada", "O Kosmos" and "Ta Nea".

    Weather Forecast

    [26] Rainy on Thursday

    Cloudy and showery weather and southeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 5-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 20C. Cloudy and showery in Athens, with southeasterly 6-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 17C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 14C.

    [27] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Prime Minster Costas Karamanlis' address on Tuesday to his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's parliamentary group and discusssions in parliament on the Vatopedi report, pupils' mobilisations and the developments in the economy dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "PM states: I take full responsibility on Vatopedi affair".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Mea culpa - Karamanlis courageously shouldered the government's responsibilities on the Vatopedi scandal".

    AVGHI: "Cover-up for Vatopedi - Karamanlis makes late self-criticism in an attempt to avoid the establishment of a parliamentary preliminary investigation committee on the Vatopedi affair".

    AVRIANI: "Karamanlis' brave stance on Vatopedi case unites ND MP's, cadres and the party's grass roots".

    CHORA: "Karamanlis apologises for whatever happened in Vatopedi: They did not inform me".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Democracy is not in danger.....ND is in danger".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Karamanlis: I am the victim of a deception - He discoverd that his associates misled him on the Vatopedi case".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Mea Culpa and full speed ahead for government reshuffle".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "So, what?....Karamanlis: I take full responsibility".

    ESTIA: "Karamanlis' brave stance - He personally took full responsibility".

    ETHNOS: "He didn't know and....he didn't learn - Karamanlis' outdated Mea Culpa at ND's parliamentary group".

    KATHIMERINI: "Karamanlis' counter-attack aiming to reverse the political climate".

    LOGOS: "My mistake.....Karamanlis makes self-criticism "I directly take our share of the responsibility on the Vatopedi case".

    NIKI: "Karamanlis woke up late - He apologised 'after the fact' for the Vatopedi scandal".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "We demonstrate on Wednesday in 51 cities - Organised, with aggression and determination against the anti-popular attack".

    TA NEA: " He didn't know...why didn't he ask? Karamanlis' mea culpa on Vatopedi affair".

    TO VIMA: "My mistake! Karamanlis personally took full responsibility on the Vatopedi affair and gave absolution to his ministers - Government reshuffle in January".

    VRADYNI: "Karamanlis counterattacks - Full of confidence, he took on all the responsibility for the Vatopedi affair".

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