|Tuesday, 24 October 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-01-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 20 January 2009 Issue No: 3100
 Gov't on economy, farm issues, natgas crisisEconomy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou will make a statement as soon as all official figures are made public, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said in response to a press question regarding measures the government intends to take vis-à-vis the latest European Commission forecasts.
He stressed that the government has proved during its five years in power that it meets its commitments to the EU with a measure of responsibility, while displaying social sensitivity and seeking the best possible solution to the problems of the financially weak.
Antonaros commented that the momentum and breadth of the global financial crisis, the worst experienced in post-war period, is not understood by some, pointing out that it is characterised by constantly varying parameters, thereby preventing accurate forecasts.
He also mentioned that based on official figures, Greece will be one of the few EU countries which can expect a small but positive growth rate. In addition, he reminded that the government was handed over a deficit higher than 7 percent but was able to cut it in half while unemployment rate which was higher than 11 percent was reduced close to 7 percent.
Referring to farmers' issues, he cited a statement by Rural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis and called on main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou to base the "sketchy announcements" he made on Sunday -- as the government spokesman called them -- on specific figures for relief of the farm sector.
Asked to comment if there will be a re-negotiation with Russia on the natural gas issue, Antonaros said important negotiations are being held at European level to deal with the problems that have arisen.
 PASOK raps gov't over economy, comments on univ. asylum"The Greek economy's development prospects evaporated in the five years that ruling New Democracy (ND) party has been in power," main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou said on Monday, in reference to European Commission forecasts on the Greek economy.
In disputing the government's position that "Greece shares the same position with other countries", Papaconstantinou said that in 2007 Greece was the only country with a deficit above 3 percent, proving that the situation had deteriorated before the global economic crisis surfaced.
He also accused the government of lacking credibility, adding that the people want a new government with a different economic policy and that early elections will help get the country exit the impasse it is facing.
Regarding various economic proposals, both immediate and long-term, cited on Sunday by PASOK leader George Papandreou, he said necessary funds can be derived through spending cuts, curbing tax evasion, better utilisation of state property, redistribution of wealth and development.
On debate in Parliament as regards a PASOK proposal to set up a preliminary examination committee for a criminal inquiry into the Vatopedi Monastery land swaps affair, Papaconstantinou called on all MPs to support the proposal.
Referring to the university asylum issue, he stated that the asylum principle guaranteeing the free expression of ideas is an indisputable conquest and unrelated to criminal acts committed on campuses.
 Prime Minister Karamanlis confers with FM BakoyannisPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Monday with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, with the focus on developments in the Middle East and the Greek OSCE Chairmanship officially launched last Thursday.
As regards developments in Gaza, Bakoyannis spoke of an "extremely fragile ceasefire", pointing out that it allows the opening of humanitarian aid corridors. She also stated that later at noon she will be in the Port of Piraeus from where a ship with humanitarian aid is expected to set sail.
Bakoyannis stated that a coordinated move will be made with all interested agencies to be able to increase the humanitarian aid to Gaza, while an EU discussion is being launched on its participation in the effort to reach a lasting solution to the major problem with the establishment of a Palestinian state that will exist safely side-by-side with Israel.
On the OSCE Greek Chairmanship, Bakoyannis referred to the initiatives undertaken aimed at allowing the organization's representatives to remain in Georgia and South Ossetia, pointing out that the issue will be discussed with the Russian foreign minister on Wednesday.
Responding to a question on the economy, Bakoyannis stated that the issue concerns the entire Europe which is experiencing a major crisis and is faced with a recession after a very long time.
The government's goal, Bakoyannis said, is to get the Greek people out of the crisis, meeting the objectives of growth, productivity and social justice.
Responding to a question on the new US President and if there will be a change in the Greek-Turkish relations, Bakoyannis pointed out that the new President of the United States starts his term in office with very high expectations on behalf of the global community and not just Greece.
"We are looking forward to good cooperation between the EU and the US," she said, expressing the wish that meetings with the new US leadership, which is aware of the region's problems, will be held soon for initial talks and consultations.
 Bakoyannis says 2009 will need 'hard work' at ministryAddressing staff at the foreign ministry on Monday, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed that 2009 would be a year requiring hard work and effort so that Greece might successfully meet the challenges of ongoing foreign policy issues and its presidency of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which was taking place in difficult conditions.
"I am absolutely certain that with the same energy and determination that you showed until today we will also work in 2009," she said during the ceremony for cutting the traditional New Year cake at the ministry. She also referred to the "permanently open issues of Greek foreign policy, such as our relations with Turkey, the issues with Skopje, Greece's role in the European Union and Greece's strong humanitarian and mediating role in the Middle East problem."
Praising the quality of the ministry's staff, she stressed her awareness of the problems they faced both at home and abroad and promised that "we will continue the effort we are making to support Greek diplomats, in spite of the difficult conditions in the economy".
 FM spokesman outlines Greek foreign policy priorities, positionsGreece's foreign policy goals for 2009, especially priorities of the Greek OSCE chairmanship in 2009 for a better and safer environment in the Caucasus and the launch of a new European security strategy, were outlined by Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Monday during an to the Foreign Press Association in Athens.
Koumoutsakos announced that Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will be in Moscow on Wednesday to meet with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for talks, among others, on a proposal tabled by the Greek OSCE chairmanship as regards the presence of the organisation in Georgia.
"Dialogue on a new European security strategy will proceed with caution," Koumoutsakos said, adding that the Greek chairmanship is determined to help in its launch.
Outlining the environment that will affect international relations and subsequently Greek positions, he referred to the new US president, who is expected to announce certain key-points of the US foreign policy during the inauguration ceremony on Tuesday in Washington D.C.
"Another factor that will influence international relations is the economic situation and how recession will be reflected in individual state economies affecting national foreign policies," he added.
Greece supports closer relations between the EU and SE Europe, Koumoutsakos said, referring to the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) recently ratified by the Greek Parliament.
Regarding the thorny FYROM "name issue", he reminded that the new round of negotiations will take place in New York on Feb. 11 and referring to the neighboring country's appeal to the International Court of Justice, he said Greece will be there, while cautioning that a ruling will take at least two years to be issued.
Moreover, he termed recent decisions by FYROM's leadership as "lacking seriousness, only provocative and unproductive".
Koumoutsakos referred to the renaming of European Corridor X road axis into "Alexander of Macedon" by the former Yugoslav republic's government and a Greek government's response by PM Costas Karamanlis, namely, that so long as the landlocked country's leadership continues to cultivate an atmosphere of provocations, nationalism and intolerance, not a single euro would be forthcoming from Greece to finance the project, for which 50 million euros have been earmarked in the Hellenic Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans (HiPERB).
Regarding relations with Turkey, he stated that they were characterised as stagnant in 2008, pointing out that Greece is not to blame. He underlined that Greece's efforts to improve bilateral relations will continue within the framework of international law.
Referring to the long-standing Cyprus issue, he stated that contacts between the leaderships of the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot community have become more frequent, noting that this is a positive development.
Moreover, he stated that evaluation of the Ankara Protocol will take place at the end of 2009, being decisive for Turkey's EU course.
As regards the Middle East, he underlined that facing the tragic humanitarian situation is a priority while ensuring that the negotiation process will continue.
 Gov't: Ankara should fulfil obligations to EUAthens on Friday reiterated that an incident involving the harassment of a civilian airliner by Turkish warplanes in the eastern Aegean is under investigation by the national defence ministry.
Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, nevertheless, continued to reiterate Greece's standing position on relations with the neighbouring country, namely, that EU candidate-state Turkey cannot continuously find excuses to justify its failure to meet commitments towards the European Union.
"Turkey must end behavior that has no relation to its European orientation or to relations between allies, which it wants to maintain with us," Antonaros said during a regular press briefing in the Greek capital.
The spokesman said the excellent manner in which Athens conducts its relations with Ankara should be reciprocated by the latter.
Finally, the spokesman said he had no information on a possible upcoming visit by the Greek prime minister to Washington for contacts with the new US administration.
 Athens confirms first meeting over FYROM's ICJ appealForeign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Monday noted that the first meeting between representatives of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), on determining precedural issues concerning FYROM's recourse against Greece, took place at The Hague earlier in the day.
Koumoutsakos said the proceedings took place in the presence of the president of the International Court of Justice, Judge Rosalyn Higgins.
 Government rules out further Parliamentary inquiry into VatopediGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Monday repeated that the government did not intend to consider main opposition PASOK's request for a preliminary examination committee in Parliament to carry out an inquiry into the Vatopedi Monastery land swaps with the state.
"We will not go along with the petty party-political effort by the main opposition to criminalise the political life of the country," he stressed.
Antonaros pointed out that the issue had already been discussed by a Parliamentary investigation committee set up following a proposal by the ruling party New Democracy. He added that a decision on the affair was given in the conclusions of the investigation committee and that the inquiry into the truth, in terms of Parliament's jurisdiction under the Constitution, was thus completed in full transparency.
"For the rest, it is now Justice that must speak," he stressed.
Replying to comments by PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou that justice had no powers to prosecute those in political office, Antonaros accused PASOK's spokesman of refusing to understand what was recorded in the conclusions of the investigation committee on the affair.
"No indications or evidence of criminal actions by political figures arise," he noted, adding that the tabling of such a request for the second time by PASOK demonstrated that it was not interested in the problems of the country but was solely concerned with furthering its petty party-political goals.
 Parliament discusses proposal on Vatopedi issueThe discussion on the proposal made by the main opposition PASOK party on the creation of an Investigatory Committee to probe the issue of the Vatopedi Monastery and Lake Vistonida began at the Parliament Plenum on Monday with a heated confrontation over procedural matters.
The procedural issues overshadowed from the very beginning the Plenum's meeting, since the ruling New Democracy party had clarified that it will not participate in Monday's session, believing that the question of the issue's political probe has closed with the preparation of the Factfinding Committee's report.
According to Parliament's Regulation, 151 votes are required for the proposal to be ratified, while in the case that the necessary figure is not achieved the proposal is rejected and it cannot be resubmitted unless new evidence is produced in the future against the ministers accused.
PASOK's Parliamentary representative Evangelos Venizelos said that "Mr. Karamanlis is shunning a fight and his supposedly reshuffled government is absent. He is accepting in reality that he does not possess the established majority in Parliament," adding that "we want the procedure to be continued for a few more hours to enable the government to realise how crudely it is offending the procedure and Parliament."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga called for the delivery of Church and monastery property to the public sector, the separation of the Church from the state and a change in the institutional framework concerning ministers' responsibility, adding that they are the major issues that must result from the discussion on the Vatopedi issue.
Papariga further said that these are the issues that have "overmatured" in society and if something could be achieved, even if the issue does not reach the point of responsibilities being attributed, it would be their promoting, while stressing that the preparation of a new institutional framework on property issues would be a desirable solution.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis said "if New Democracy does not show up, let the five accused ministers come" and stressed that "it is not possible that they should not have the possibility to explain their position in Parliament. The New Democracy party is condemning them to a life-long blemish with its decision."
 Greece to name legal rep in Switzerland for Siemens caseJustice Minister Nikolaos Dendias has requested the immediate appointment of a legal representative for the Greek state to liaise with Swiss authorities in matters related to the Siemens slush funds investigation, in accordance with a demand by Greek judicial authorities.
A ministry announcement on Monday said the representative's job would be to further requests for judicial assistance made by Greek courts and requests for the opening of bank accounts, following the case closely and alerting Greek authorities to any problems that arose in order to speed up the investigation underway.
The issue was discussed by Dendias and Supreme Court Public Prosecutor George Sanidas during a meeting at the ministry on Monday.
 Spiliotopoulos receives former minister YiannakouThe government's intentions will be outlined by the prime minister in Parliament on Friday, new Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos stated after meeting on Monday with former education minister Marietta Yiannakou.
Spiliotopoulos reiterated that the dialogue in the sector of education will be held without preconditions and that all ideas will be on the table.
He also stated that he intends to meet with his predecessors, and referring to the dialogue, he stressed that all good proposals will be accepted.
On her part, Yiannakou stated that she will offer her assistance if and when requested.
 KKE against NATO HQ in ThessalonikiOpposition to a NATO command with the III Army Corps facilities in northern port city of Thessaloniki was expressed on Monday by a Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy, Liana Kanelli, and city councilors affiliated with KKE.
A relative agreement has been ratified by Parliament by the two major political parties, ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition PASOK.
 Tsipras addresses indoor rallyCoalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party President Alexis Tsipras addressed an indoor rally at an indoor arena in Athens on Monday night, stressing the party's affiliated Radical Left Coalition's (SYRIZA) "unyielding stance" of defending young people's rights, as he said.
Tsipras said SYRIZA owes no one assurances of law-abidingness and added that the left was, is and will always be where there are mass and dynamic social struggles.
Tsipras further stressed that the party will not step back from the right of young people to assemble for forceful and peaceful protests, or from the right of young people to seek a future that will not be uninsured and insecure labour, defence of democracy and social rights from arbitrariness and suppression.
The Synaspismos leader criticised the main opposition PASOK party for its overall policy and pointed out that SYRIZA will be with the people of PASOK more frequently, those who are inspired by the ideals of socialism and who want a different course.
He also criticised the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), expressing his regret because "a historic party has a leadership that is below expectations at a historic juncture."
 New 'Democrats' party founded in GreeceA new Greek party called the 'Democrats' was officially founded in Athens over the weekend, with school teacher Meletis Meletopoulos as its president and fellow teacher Giannis Sakiotis as vice-president. The two announced the new party's formation during a press conference on Monday and said its emblem will be an olive branch.
They also presented the party's platform and charter, as well as its elected leadership, saying that ideologically it belonged to the "radical centre" and that its goal was the "peaceful and democratic reversal of the vicious circle into which our political system has fallen with the sole responsibility of today's dominant political forces".
Meletopoulos stressed that it was a "party of citizens not politicians" that was open to Greeks of all ages, adding that his immediate goal was to create an election ticket and take part in the upcoming European Parliament elections.
 Athens mayor receives Palestinian envoyAthens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Monday voiced his condemnation of the bloodshed in Gaza during a meeting with the head of the Palestinian authority's diplomatic mission in Athens, Amb. Samir Abu Ghazaleh.
The meeting at city hall took place at the initiative of the Athens mayor, who assured Ghazaleh that the municipality supports the Palestinian people's longstanding demand for an independent Palestinian state, where democracy and peace exist.
He also briefed the Palestinian envoy on the humanitarian aid -- chiefly medical and paramedical items -- already sent to the area and asked Ghazaleh to inform him on whatever else may be required. Kaklamanis also announced that the City of Athens will host children from Gaza at the municipality's campsite this summer.
 New humanitarian aid shipment for GazaA new shipment of Greek humanitarian aid departed for Gaza from the port of Piraeus at noon on Monday, in the presence of Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos.
"Together with the Church of Greece, this is the third shipment that we are sending to Gaza. Two shipments have already left by air. We shall continue, and now in particular, with much greater fervour, because the humanitarian corridors are open now and, therefore, aid can arrive quickly. No matter how much we send, of course, more is always needed. Therefore, all the agencies coordinated in Greece and the government, of course, and the Church of Greece will combine our strength to enable us to have the best possible results," Bakoyannis said.
 Archbishop of America addresses AHEPA eventWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
Archbishop of America Demetrius, in a brief address made during an event organised by the American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) at the National Press Club here on Monday, on the occasion of Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, underlined his hope and optimism that the new U.S. government will show greater understanding for issues of Greek concern.
Demetrius added that in the framework of the promotion of national issues, the Archdiocese of America and AHEPA will continue to cooperate effectively.
The Greek Ambassador in Washington, Alexandros Mallias, said on his part that AHEPA and the other Greek American organisations are now being called on to brief the relevant officials of the Obama government, as well as the new members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who were elected last November, on Greece's positions.
 European Commission report: Marginal growth, rise in fiscal deficit in 2009 for GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The European Commission on Monday released its updated forecasts on European economies for up to 2010, anticipating recession in the Union with an increase in deficits, but also a reduction in inflation, while specifically for Greece it projects a marginal growth and gradual recovery as of 2010.
At the same time, it projects negative growth rates for 11 of the 16 eurozone members and for 18 of the 27 EU member states.
The Commission predicted a gradual recovery in Greece as of 2010, with a marginally positive growth rate of 0.2 percent in 2009 compared with a -1.9 growth rate average in the eurozone and -1.8 percent growth rate average in the EU '27'. Moreover, it predicts a 0.7-percent growth rate in Greece in 2010 against a 0.4-percent growth rate in the eurozone and 0.5-growth rate in the EU '27'.
Negative growth rates are forecast in 2009 for 11 of the 16 eurozone member states: Belgium (-1.9 percent), Germany (-2.3 percent), Ireland (-5 percent), Spain (-2 percent), France (-1.8 percent), Italy (-2 percent), Luxembourg (-0.9 percent), the Netherlands (-2 percent), Austria (-1.2 percent), Portugal (-1.6 percent) and Finland (-1.2 percent).
Also, according to the Commission's forecasts, Greece's fiscal deficit, from 3.4 percentage points of GDP in 2008, will climb to 3.7 percent in 2009 and 4.2 percent in 2010, taking into consideration, however, that the basic guidelines of the draft 2010 state budget have not yet been released.
The Commission noted that deficits above the 3.0 percentage points of GDP reference rate is anticipated this year in 9 of the 16 eurozone members and 15 of the 27 EU member states. In addition to Greece, fiscal deficits of over 3 percent of GDP among the eurozone members are predicted in Ireland (11 percent in 2009, 13 percent in 2010), France (5.4 percent in 2009, 5 percent in 2010), Belgium (3 percent in 2009, 4.3 percent in 2010), Spain (6.2 percent in 2009, 5.7 percent in 2010), Italy (3.8 percent in 2009, 3.7 percent in 2010), Austria (3 percent in 2009, 3.6 percent in 2010), Portugal (4.6 percent in 2009, 4.4 percent in 2010), and Slovenia (3.2 percent in 2009, 2.8 percent in 2010).
Furthermore, the Commission forecasts an increase in the Greek state debt from 94 percent in 2008 to 96.2 percent in 2009, and 98.4 percent in 2010.
Italy records a higher state debt than Greece, with 105.7 percent in 2008, while it is expected to climb to 109.3 percent in 2009 and 110.3 percent in 2010. The average state debt in the eurozone will rise from 68.7 percent in 2008 to 72.7 percent in 2009 and 75.8 percent in 2010, according to the Commission's forecasts.
Regarding unemployment, the rate stood at 8.3 percent in 2008 (compared with a eurozone average of 7.5 percent and EU average of 7 percent), while it is expected to rise to 9 percent in 2009 (against 9.3 percent in the eurozone and 8.7 percent in the EU) and to 9.4 percent in 2010 (against 10.2 percent in the eurozone and 9.5 percent in the EU).
Finally, the Commission predicts that the inflation rate in Greece will fall from 4.2 percent in 2008 (compared with 3.3 percent in the eurozone and 3.7 percent in the EU) to 2.5 percent in 2009 (against 1 percent in the eurozone and 1.2 percent in the EU), and rise to 2.7 percent in 2010 (against 1.8 percent in the eurozone and 1.9 percent in the EU).
According to the Commission, economic activity continued to grow in Greece at nearly 3 percent in 2008, at a rate above the eurozone average, although it did not a slowdown in 2008, particularly in the second half of the year, mainly due to a decline in domestic demand, while export services, and particularly the transports sector, posted a large decline.
The Commission report said that economic activity was expected to be impacted by the global financial crisis and, despite the positive indicators, economic growth would be slow in 2009 and would rely on domestic demand. In an environment of uncertainty on the international markets, a worsening of the credit conditions was expected to curb private consumption, while investments would be further limited.
 Ministers discuss transfer of EFET to agriculture ministryAgricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Monday had a meeting with Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis.
After the meeting, the development minister announced that the government was pressing ahead with a pre-election pledge to transfer responsibility for the Hellenic Food Authority to the agriculture ministry. He also announced that a bill restructuring the Competition Commission would soon be tabled in Parliament.
The agriculture minister said that a draft bill for all issues concerning inspections of food from production to final sale to consumers was being prepared and would eliminate overlapping responsibilities by state inspection mechanisms. This was due to be tabled in Parliament in the next few days, he added.
Staff at EFET have issued an announcement opposing the decision, however, on the grounds that the authority's role in being undermined.
 Hatzigakis: government not against farmer mobilisationsAgricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Monday expressed his support of farmer mobilisations after a meeting with the head of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group Alekos Alavanos.
Hatzigakis said the government did not oppose mobilisation by farmers while appealing to them to not go to extremes - such as blocking roads. He said the government was preparing action to boost farmer incomes and called on farmers to work with the government in dealing with the present crisis.
Alavanos proposed five lines of action to relieve farmers, including a one-off programme to support farmer incomes using Community funds, relaxing CAP and competition rules, reviving the special role of ATEBank and interventions in the inflows sector (production costs) and provision of income support.
 Farmers set up roadblocks, in spite of minister's pledged supportProtesting farmers went ahead with road blocks on national highways on Monday afternoon, ignoring statements of support made earlier by Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis.
Following a meeting the same day with with the head of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group Alekos Alavanos, Hatzigakis had expressed his support of farmer mobilisations and said the government was not opposed to them, while appealing to farmers to avoid extremes such as blocking roads. He also revealed that the government was preparing action to boost farmer incomes and called on farmers to work with the government in dealing with the present crisis.
Alavanos proposed five lines of action to relieve farmers, including a one-off programme to support farmer incomes using Community funds, relaxing CAP and competition rules, reviving the special role of ATEBank and interventions in the inflows sector (production costs) and provision of income support.
In spite of the minister's plea, protesting farmers later formed a road block on the national road between Thessaloniki and Athens in Larisa at around 15:00, forcing traffic to use the old national road between Larisa and Volos.
A representative of farmers associations stressed the need for "immediate solutions, prospects for farmers and decisive support for farming incomes" in statements to the ANA-MPA.
In the north, farmers in Kavala also set up a one-hour road block between noon and 13:00 on the Kavala-Xanthi national highway, while other groups had symbolic meetings and parked tractors along the length of national highways.
Among their demands are minimum guaranteed prices for their products, reduction of refundable VAT and an increase in pensions.
 Development minister on competition bill, market supervisionDevelopment Minister Costis Hadzidakis said on Monday that a bill regarding the more effective functioning of the Competition Committee will be submitted in Parliament soon for ratification.
Hadzidakis also said that the manning of the Special Secretariat on market supervision is going ahead at a speedy rate and it will also be responsible for cost checks, while also indicating that more specific measures will be taken that will be announced in the near future.
"I do not wish to be the minister of big words and of proclamations. I want us to go ahead step-by-step. We are aware of the problem and for this reason we are determined to see all these issues with very specific measures," Hadzidakis concluded.
 Athens hotels' occupancy rates down 26% in Dec.Athens' hotels were drastically affected by a wave of street protests that erupted in the city's centre last month, prior to the Christmas holidays, the Association of Athens-Attica Hoteliers announced on Monday.
In a monthly report, the Association said average room occupancy rates fell by 25.90 pct in December and warned that developments were dramatically worsening.
The warned of a very poor winter season that could undermine the viability of their enterprises.
Hotel room occupancy rates fell significantly in December 2008, with five-star hotels' occupancy rates falling by 27.5 pct in December, for a decline of 41.50 pct in the period 11-31 December 2008. Four-star hotels' occupancy rates fell by 25 pct in December, while three-star hotels reported a 26-pct decline in December and a 51-pct drop in the 11-31 December period. Two-star hotels reported a 31-pct decline in December and 54-pct drop in the 11-31/12 period.
The report forecast that January and February would mark a 50-70 pct decline in room occupancy rates, while it noted that pre-reservations for the spring period so far did not guarantee a substantial recovery.
 Plaisio Computers to boost activities in BulgariaPlaisio Computers AEBE on Monday announced that its subsidiary in Bulgaria, Plaisio Computers JSC, will proceed with a share capital increase plan, worth 2,165,000 euros through cash and the issuance of new shares. The share capital increase plan would be fully covered by the parent company Plaisio Computers AEBE and aims to boost business activity in the Bulgarian market.
 Industrial index down 15.4% in Nov.Greece's turnover index in the industrial sector dropped 15.4 pct in November 2008, compared with the same month in 2007, the National Statistics Service announced on Monday.
The statistics service attributed the 15.4 pct drop to a 19.3-pct fall in the mining sector and a 15.3-pct decline in the manufacturing sector. The domestic market turnover index fell 13.6 pct, while the external market index dropped 20.8 pct.
The new orders index in the industrial sector fell by 13.4 pct in November, compared with the corresponding period in 2007. The statistics service said the domestic market orders' index fell 14.1 pct, while the external market orders' index fell by 13.5 pct.
 Greek stocks tumble 5.14% on Mon.Greek stocks plunged at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday under pressure from a very negative climate prevailing in other European markets.
The composite index dropped 5.14 pct to end at 1,660.04 points, with turnover at 121.2 million euros, of which 9.3 million euros were block trades.
All sectors moved lower with the Banks (7.80 pct), Healthcare (6.69 pct), Financial Services (6.53 pct) and Telecommunications (6.29 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index fell 6.08 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 3.96 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index fell 2.34 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 190 to 33 with another 20 issues unchanged.
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended with a widened discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover remaining a low 54.597 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 2.90 pct, with volume of 10,200 contracts worth 43.915 million euros.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 21,441 contracts worth 10.160 million euros, with investment interest focusing on GEK's contracts (8,801), followed by Eurobank (755), OTE (857), PPC (928), Piraeus Bank (654), National Bank (3,442), Alpha Bank (1,207) and Marfin Popular Bank (847).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 412 million euros on Monday, of which 115 million were buy orders and the remaining 297 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (September 20, 2037) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 160 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 252 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 5.54 pct and the German Bund 3.02 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates fell further. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.57 pct, the six-month rate 2.48 pct, the three-month rate 2.41 pct and the one-month rate 2.06 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates: TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.328
Pound sterling 0.911
Danish kroner 7.510
Swedish kroner 10.873
Japanese yen 120.11
Swiss franc 1.493
Norwegian kroner 9.193
Canadian dollar 1.662
Australian dollar 1.978
 Special committee to examine the voting rights of overseas GreeksInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos pledged that he will undertake an initiative within a month to set up a special committee to continue the debate on the Greeks abroad voting rights issue.
World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Stefanos Tamvakis had a meeting on the weekend with Pavlopoulos requesting the establishment of a special committee comprising representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs and interior, the parliamentary special permanent committee on Greeks abroad, parliamentary political parties and SAE to discuss the right of the Greeks abroad to vote in Greek national elections from their countries of residence.
 Interior ministry simplifies issue of residence permitsThe interior ministry on Monday announced a number of changes to processes for issuing and renewing residence and work permits for foreign nationals living and working in Greece, designed to make them simpler, quicker and easier.
The decision signed by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos also sets up new pilot centres that will serve immigrants as 'one-stop shops' to process all the above procedures.
Among others, the new rules waive previous requirements for foreign nationals to provide health certificates, photocopies of their social insurance health books, or a copy of their employment contract.
The ministry has also slightly relaxed rules for granting residence permits in extraordinary or special circumstances - such as for humanitarian reasons, for victims of human trafficking, for the reunification of families etc.
 New format driving licences unveiledTransport and Communications Minister Evripidis Stylianidis presented the new driving licences that will gradually replace the old type currently in use during a press conference on Monday, in the presence of Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Athens Prefect Giannis Sgouros.
He said the new licences would start to be issued on Monday for those applying for a driving licence for the first time and those wishing to replace a driving licence that had been lost or damaged. He clarified also that it was not mandatory to replace old-style driving licences, which were in any case valid until 2033, but that those wishing to do so could apply for the new type from April 2009, in order to avoid a rush on prefecture transport services and give them time to adjust to the new system.
The new driving licences, which will have the same format throughout the European Union, will be about the same size as a credit card. Stylianidis said the new licences would be more practical to use and safer, since it would be much harder to issue fakes, while they will be easier to use throughout the EU since the holder's details will be written in latin script.
There are also plans for driving licences to be 'smart' cards in the future, with a microchip containing additional information like points for traffic code violations.
The minister said the process for acquiring a new licence would be faster and simpler than in the past, taking about a week instead of the previous 40 days. It will be printed by the police passport office and the cost will be 30 euros.
The front of the licence will have a photograph of the holder and his personal details and the back will record the category of licence, the date of issue and expiry and the holder's blood type. The Greek driving licence will bear a hologram of the Rio-Antirrio bridge.
 Reforestation drive on Mount Pentelis on SundayA drive to plant 40,000 trees on the many-times scorched slopes of Mount Pentelis, organised by 22 local authorities with financial support from Cosmote and the assistance of the Skai media network, will take place on Sunday.
The voluntary tree-planting will take place over an expanse of 200 hectares under the guidance of the Association for the Protection and Development of the Pentelikon (SPAP) and in collaboration with the agricultural developments and foods ministry, as well as the Attica region reforestation service.
Cosmote will not only provide funds for reforestation but also to water, fertilise and maintain the saplings once they are planted.
 Firearms, cartridges found in stolen carPolice on Monday found firearms and thousands of cartridges in a stolen car in the area of Polichni, Thessaloniki.
They found two Kalashnikovs, a Chinese-made machine gun and 34,180 cartridges in the car, which had been reported stolen in June 2008.
Thessaloniki security police were investigating the incident, and a search was launched for the perpetrtors.
 Cloudy on TuesdayCloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 0C and 18C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 8C to 18C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 14C.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEconomy and Finance Minister Yannis Papathanassiou's meeting with EU Commissioner Almunia on the Greek economy, farmers' mobilisations and the ongoing thriller of shipowner Pericles Panagopoulos' abduction dominated the the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Marginally positive growth in Greece in 2009 -While most eurozone countries are in worse economic condition".
APOGEVMATINI: "New university entry system - Nationwide exams to be abolished - Free students' accession to Universities"
AVRIANI: "Sweep operation for 250 "dons" of organised crime - Greek secret service has spotted the gangs and has established files on Albanians, Bulgarians, Romanians and Russians who have created 'crime syndicates' with dangerous Greek gangsters".
CHORA: "Change of guard on Tuesday in the White House".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Agriculture Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis attempts to mislead the farmers, but they are aware of his attitude and will proceed with their mobilisations".
ELEFTHEROS: "The new opinion polls set fire in Maximos mansion (government headquarters) - Ruling New Democracy's (ND's) supporters didn't rally around the party even after the government reshuffle".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Upsurge in credit cardsand loans debts to banks -Monthly 'grip' for 10,000 households".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Recession knocking on our door - Commission predictions are gloomy for the Greek economy".
ESTIA: "The 'Cassandras' (doom-sayers) of the economy - With the right policy they will be proven false".
ETHNOS: "The cartels are looting farmers and consumers - Up to 944 percent surcharge in food products ".
TA NEA: "Austerity in salaries and tax safari following European Commission's burning report".
VRADYNI: "Europe in a recession - Commisioner Joaqin Almounia announces on Monday the EU Commission's forecasts for the crisis".
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