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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-05

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

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

Thursday, 5 February 2009 Issue No: 3114

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't actions in farm sector within EU norms
  • [02] Farmers return to Crete, demand Markoyannakis' resignation
  • [03] Gov't sternly defends decision to prevent tractors from Athens' centre
  • [04] FM addresses Athens con'f on nat'l image, power of communications, media'
  • [05] CoE report calls for major improvements in Greek asylum policy; Turkish inaction criticised
  • [06] PASOK sees problems with functioning of police
  • [07] Clash between farmers, riot police
  • [08] DM briefs PASOK representatives
  • [09] Papandreou to give press conference on Thursday
  • [10] KKE leader addresses party rally in Drapetsona
  • [11] Private guard outside US envoy's residence shot by policeman
  • [12] No indication shooting outside U.S. ambassador's residence related to terrorist attack, U.S. State Department says
  • [13] Trial over Vatopedi case postponed
  • [14] Palestinian Authority representative visits Rethymno
  • [15] Greece at 91% absorption of 3rd CSF funds
  • [16] Emporiki Bank unveils 850-mln-euro share capital increase plan
  • [17] Bids for Olympic Airlines unsatisfactory, minister says
  • [18] Market authorities fine Sea Star Capital Plc with 3.742 mln euros
  • [19] PASOK women host economic crisis con'f
  • [20] Greece top destination for Australian tourists
  • [21] National Bank announces share buy-back program
  • [22] Azeri President to attend EBEA event
  • [23] Greek sheep dog show at TIF this Sunday
  • [24] Market watchdog fines Hellenic Telecoms with 2.0 mln euros
  • [25] Greek stocks end 0.76% up
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Greek bond market closing report
  • [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [29] Group claims attack on police station
  • [30] Parliament memorial service of 1950s-era PM Plastiras
  • [31] 'History Lost' expo at Europarliament in Brussels
  • [32] Arsonists target police station in Kozani
  • [33] Cloudy on Thursday
  • [34] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [35] Cyprus President: We continue discussions as usual Politics

  • [01] Gov't actions in farm sector within EU norms

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis said on Wednesday, following his meeting with Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, that all the government's actions, regarding farmers, lay within the framework of European Union regulations and that money provided is compensation "due to bad weather conditions that will be given in accordance with the regulation of the ELGA fund, that the EU has approved."

    The minister further said that "the Greek farmers will be paid normally and as soon as possible."

    Hatzigakis stressed that he had constructive cooperation with the Danish Commissioner, whom he briefed analytically on the real amount of damage caused to Greece's agricultural production in 2008.

    "For reasons of full transparency, the government will continue to cooperate closely with the Commission, giving more information," the minister said and added that he and Boel also discussed issues preoccupying the Greek farming sector in general.

    Commission representative Michael Mann said that the meeting between the minister and the Commissioner was "constructive."

    Mann said that "today, the Commission received detailed information from the Greek minister on the support package for Greek farmers" and stressed that "the Commission is expecting supplementary data from the Greek authorities, that it will be examining and will be deciding on the type of the subsidies."

    Lastly, Mann said that Commissioner Boel informed the Greek minister of the Commission's intention to send a group of experts to Greece on Febrary 23 that "will examine the workability of Greece''s integrated agricultural controls system."

    [02] Farmers return to Crete, demand Markoyannakis' resignation

    Protesting Cretan farmers returned to the island on Wednesday from Piraeus, and were applauded at Heraklion port by colleagues and officials.

    After their disembarkation, they went to the Crete Periphery offices where they submitted a resolution demanding the resignatio of Alternate Interior Minister for Public Order Christos Markoyannakis.

    The protesting farmers symbolically threw a small quantity of fruit and produce before leaving.

    Meanwhile, farmers from Chania and Rethymno remained Wednesday at their blockade of the national highway between the two Cretan cities, and traffic was being detoured to provincial roads.

    [03] Gov't sternly defends decision to prevent tractors from Athens' centre

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed that police did not use tear gas during the presence of main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou at the port of Piraeus on Tuesday, pointing out that according to the PASOK party spokesman there was no advance notification as regards Papandreou's itinerary.

    He also stated that Deputy Interior Minister responsible for public order Christos Markoyiannakis has the government's support.

    Responding to a question on the decision not to allow Cretan farmers to protest with their tractors in the centre of Athens, Antonaros said the decision was based on common sense, keeping the general public's best interests in mind.

    "It is unacceptable for the few to bring the city to a standstill by use of disproportionate means," he stated, adding that the majority of the people support the government moves.

    Responding to a relative question, he stated that the government had condemned roadblocks on national motorways, which was not done in an equally clear manner by the main opposition party.

    Meanwhile, farmers in Hania, Crete decided to suspend mobilisations and end their protests at various public sites in the city and a major highway on the island.

    [04] FM addresses Athens con'f on nat'l image, power of communications, media'

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis outlined the factors that impact a country's international image, in an opening address to a two-day international conference in Athens on the issue of "Images of Nations: Strategic Communication, Soft Power and the Media", reflecting on images of nations in an internationalised environment with a focus on possibilities and prospects for Greece.

    Bakoyannis, speaking to the Greek Politics Specialist Group (GPSG), referred to the case of Athens' image, comparing the city's international image during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games with that presented during last December's urban rioting in the city's centre.

    "I remember very well - I was mayor of Athens at the time - the endless efforts we made for 2004. Twenty-four interviews in a single day in the United States, presenting a clean, safe, beautiful and hospitable Athens. As a result of the public image of the Olympic Games, tourism to Athens rose. For the first time, tourists were going not only to the islands, but also to Athens; Athens for Christmas; Athens, the city that was presented with and had the image we desired, the result was positive," she said, before adding:

    "December 2008: An Athens in flames, problematic, the banner on the Acropolis. I had said in Parliament at the time that the people who raised the banner on the Acropolis should have thought of the magnitude of the damage they were causing the country. No matter how much one invests in and fights for the country's public image, such a banner can destroy you entire effort," Bakoyannis noted, and rejected conspiracy theories that "certain circles" wanted to damage a country's image.

    "There are no journalists who live and work for damaging the international image of a country. In Greece, we have full democracy, with institutions that function, which allow freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and we have the fortune of capitalizing on the efforts and struggles of the many people who fought before us," the foreign minister said.

    Greece, she continued, was an equal member of NATO and the European Union, "but its public image has gone through good and bad moments".

    "Who created the good and bad moments? We did; we, alone. We are the ones who must back our country, who must promote our country internationally. It is we who must protect our country from pictures that do an injustice to the essence because, indeed, those 20 days in December are not characteristic of Athens. Athens is not like that every day. There was a specific period during which we faced a problem. But it will require time to change that image that was created internationally, while the financial cost is being paid by Athens today. Perhaps, in realizing how important our country's image is, we may better protect it," Bakoyannis said.

    Turning to the mass media, the foreign minister noted that the rapid technological developments of the past two centuries have "drastically changed the mode of communication and information and have brought new, advanced means into our daily lives that have managed to be less resistant to the speed of thought, enabling speedy and immediate externalization of our ideas. With the advent of the Internet, we entered the era of individual information," she said.

    She further added that, since the end of the Cold War "the political world as well as the communications environment has changed dramatically, while in the area of international relations, the old certainties have been replaced by new uncertainties".

    "New conflicts lead to new balances and new alliances of balances. Under those conditions, the mass media are considered to play an important role in the foreign policy of the member nations of the international community and substantially impact the image the world has of a foreign country, since most people cannot have a personal experience or direct contact with the countries. The image of a country is the result of its geographical position, its history, its culture, its famous personalities, but chiefly of its formal positions and views that it systematically expresses and maintains in its relations with the other countries and other agencies," Bakoyannis explained. She noted as an example the coverage of the election of the new US president, Barack Obama, which se said had proved the power of the image in our age. "The image promoted by the international mass media in all the countries of the world was so powerful that it was able, albeit during that specific period of time, to alter the way in which many societies perceived and approached the US," she noted.

    Bakoyannis clarified, however, that a country's image was not an instantaneous result. "It is not a measurable index that can be easily changed from one day to the next. The image of a country has both duration and continuity. The countries accrue an aggregate of specific qualities, advantages and disadvantages that, when they become entrenched in the collective memory, are difficult to change," the foreign minister concluded.

    The Greek Politics Specialist Group (GPSG), part of the UK's Political Studies Association (PSA), was founded in 2004. It is an international, non-profit network of leading experts on Greek politics.

    The issues to be examined at the conference, which is being held under the aegis of the Greek foreign ministry, include:

    Internet as a tool of public diplomacy and foreign policy

    The image of nations as projected in TV news casts and in newspapers

    Soft power as a part of the high-level strategy of states

    The role of strategic communication in managing the image of a nation, with emphasis on approaches to international relations, public diplomacy, cultural diplomacy and nation branding

    Institutional dimensions of shaping policies regarding a state's image

    [05] CoE report calls for major improvements in Greek asylum policy; Turkish inaction criticised

    STRASBOURG (ANA-MPA)

    The Council of Europe's (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday issued his report, headlined as "the situation of asylum seekers in Greece is critical", outlining the situation with prospective asylum-seekers, refugees and would-be migrants -- practically all hailing from Third World countries -- vis-a-vis the Greek state.

    "The authorities must urgently improve the asylum system, guaranteeing the full respect of international human rights standards. The problems in Greece also call for further efforts to coordinate European policies on mixed migration," Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights stated in his report.

    Hammarberg toured various sites in Greece between Dec. 8 and Dec. 10 late last year.

    According to a CoE press release, the report makes an overview of the main features of the Greek asylum system, identifies shortcomings and set concrete recommendations to improve the protection of asylum-seekers' human rights.

    "While commending the recent legislation aimed at providing a comprehensive protection regime for asylum seekers, the Commissioner stresses the need to improve refugee protection and access to the asylum procedure, especially in border areas such as the Evros department. 'There are grave and systemic deficiencies in the Greek asylum practice' ... 'This situation puts at risk the fundamental right to seek asylum'." Hammarberg, who met with Greek officials, including Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and then Deputy Minister Panayiotis Hinofotis, called on Greek authorities to "effectively incorporate into asylum practice the international standards on foreign nationals' detention and forced return and to revisit the existing readmission agreement with Turkey."

    He also cited insufficient reception capacity for refugee applicants, including minors, and pointed to the fact that minefields still exist in Evros prefecture, a threat for the safety of illegal immigrants entering Greece in an "irregular" manner.

    Criticism of Ankara

    Additionally, the CoE Commissioner's report was detailed EU candidate Turkey's utter failure to fulfil a migrants' readmission protocol it signed with Greece in 2001.

    "This Protocol was signed on 08-11-2001 in the framework of Police Cooperation. It was ratified by Law 3030/2002. From the data listed below, it results that the Turkish side does not fulfils its obligations." the report states, adding:

    "...Until today 3,936 requests were submitted regarding the readmission of 56,730 illegal immigrants of various nationalities. The Turkish Authorities accepted the return of 7.442 aliens, from whom only 2.170 were transferred.

    "Unfortunately, the Turkish side neither complies with the obligations deriving from the Protocol nor cooperates in readmission issues.

    "Specifically: Their answers are usually rejective, despite the submission of strong evidence (i.e. arrest of Turkish smugglers, passport Visas, Turkish currency and transportation tickets, photographs in Turkish sites etc.).

    They choose to reply a long after the deadlines without any justification, the(y) deny receiving illegal aliens, when these persons state on purpose different nationality, with obvious scope (being) the annulment of the readmission," article 10 of the report concluded.

    [06] PASOK sees problems with functioning of police

    Main opposition PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Wednesday deplored a shooting incident involving a police special guard outside the U.S. ambassador's residence earlier the same day, saying that it "threw the problems in the functioning of the police force into sharp relief".

    He stressed that the shooting was "unfortunate and at the same time very serious," while expressing hope that the private security firm employee who was fired upon would recover fully from the heavy injuries that he sustained.

    PASOK was waiting for a full briefing regarding the event, Papaconstantinou added, and called on the government to take action regarding the police, stressing that "these dangerous things took place at the time when the U.S. Ambassador was having a dinner with officials".

    At 11:45 am on Wednesday, under as yet unspecified circumstances, the 38-year-old police sergeant on duty fired two shots from his service revolver at the 31-year-old private security guard, hitting him in the throat.

    The injured man was rushed to the nearby Navy Hospital, where he was reported to be in serious condition, while the police officer was arrested and is being questioned by the Attica Security Police.

    [07] Clash between farmers, riot police

    Commenting on the way police handled protesting farmers from Crete in Piraeus port the previous day, Papaconstantinou insisted that they had used tear gas while PASOK leader George Papandreou was visiting the farmers in the port and accused the government of attempting to "turn black into white".

    "It is clear that chemicals were used in the area at the time of Papandreou's visit," he told reporters, while pointing out that the main opposition leader had no obligation to inform police of his whereabouts and who he was meeting.

    "The police, on the contrary, are obliged to protect official figures, along with every other citizen," he added.

    The spokesman further criticized the government for failing to personally apologise to Papandreou for the incident or to order any kind of inquiry.

    "This means that there is either complete insensitivity or unprecedented dangerousness in the way this government perceives the safety of each citizen," he stressed.

    On the protests and mobilisation by farmers in general, in light of Wednesday's meeting between Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis and European Commissioner for agriculture Mariann Fischer Boel in Brussels, Papaconstantinou said the government had "made a mess of things"

    He warned the government not to attempt to get out of the promises that it has made, stressing that farmers would not accept this.

    The spokesman also stressed the need for a long-term plan for rural development, in addition to immediate measures.

    [08] DM briefs PASOK representatives

    Defence minister Evangelos Meimarakis met on Wednesday with the main opposition PASOK party policy representatives in the sectors of national defence and foreign affairs, Vasso Papandreou and Andreas Loverdos respectively, and PASOK's foreign policy and defence division member Michalis Karchimakis.

    The meeting, which was also attended by deputy defence ministers Constantine Tassoulas and Yiannis Plakiotakis and chief of the National Defence General Staff (GEETHA) Gen. Dimitris Grapsis, was held to brief the PASOK representatives on defence ministry issues, according to a ministry announcement.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Loverdos noted that, during the December 18 and 20 meetings of parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs and defence, he had requested briefings by the foreign and defence ministries on the tension in the Aegean, anticipating that the tension would be aggravated by the Turkish side in 2009.

    Loverdos added that the defence minister had complied with this request, adding that the briefing was useful for PASOK's assessment of Greece's foreign policy

    [09] Papandreou to give press conference on Thursday

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou will be giving a press conference for the representatives of the mass media at the Zappion Mansion at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 5. The press conference will be broadcast live by the ET1 television channel.

    [10] KKE leader addresses party rally in Drapetsona

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, addressing a party rally in the Piraeus district of Drapetsona on Wednesday evening, predicted that "the economic crisis will be a longterm and tense one."

    Papariga criticised the government and the other opposition parties over their positions on the economy, while stressing that "(ruling) New Democracy and (main opposition) PASOK have no substantive differences, just like there are no substantive differences between PASOK and SYRIZA (Radical Left Coalition) as well."

    She also stressed the need for the regrouping of the labour popular movement and the strengthening of the party, while underlining at the same time that "in no way does KKE fear an election."

    [11] Private guard outside US envoy's residence shot by policeman

    A private security guard on duty outside the official residence of the US ambassador in Athens was seriously injured shortly before noon on Wednesday when a police sentry fired two shots at him under still undetermined circumstances.

    Hours later, Greek Police (EL.AS) announced that two top police commanders were suspended in relation to the unprecedented incident, while a third was transferred to another post. The apparent shooter, who remained in custody, was also suspended. Specifically, a deputy commander in Athens' police headquarters along with the senior officer in charge of the Ambelokipi precinct were suspended.

    Earlier, police spokesman Panagiotis Stathis said the 38-year-old police sergeant on duty outside the US ambassador's residence fired his service revolver and wounded the 31-year-old private security firm employee in the throat.

    The injured man was rushed to the nearby Hellenic Navy Hospital, where he was reported in serious condition. The US ambassador's residence is roughly two blocks away from the US embassy in Athens, with the hospital another block away.

    Describing the incident according to information gathered by the early afternoon, Stathis said the policeman was at the entrance of a guard post when the security employee exited the diplomatic compound and turned in the opposite direction, at which time the police sergeant fired one round. When the security guard turned around to see what had happened, the alleged perpetrator fired a second shot, which hit the former in the throat.

    Stathis added that the policeman had not, up until the afternoon, provided clear answers as to the reason he opened fire.

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros described the incident as "unfortunate", adding that a preliminary examination would be held.

    The arrested officer joined the police force in 1995 and was stationed at the Ambelokipi police precinct in central Athens, whose jurisdiction apparently encompasses the area where the embassy is located.

    US ambassador

    In a later statement regarding the incident, US ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard expressed his sympathy for the guard and his family, and wished him a speedy recovery.

    Speckhard also spoke by phone with Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos over the phone regarding the incident.

    US embassy operations were not affected.

    [12] No indication shooting outside U.S. ambassador's residence related to terrorist attack, U.S. State Department says

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)

    U.S. State Department alternate spokesman Robert Wood, commenting on the incident involving the shooting and serious injury of a private policeman outside the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Daniel Speckhard on Wednesday, said there is no indication that the shooting is related to a terrorist attack.

    "At approximately 11:50 local time, a Greek special police officer assigned to the ambassador's residence discharged his weapon, hitting an embassy contract local guard member in the neck. The incident took place at the rear entrance of the ambassador's residence. No other injuries were reported from the incident. The local guard is currently undergoing emergency surgery to remove a round lodged near the spinal cord in his neck. Greek police and the regional security office are currently investigating the incident... There is no indication that the shooting is related to a terrorist attack," Wood said, adding that there has been no other disruption to embassy operations.

    [13] Trial over Vatopedi case postponed

    The trial of Archmandrite Ephraim, formerly abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, the monk Arsenios and Rodopi first-instance court judge Maria Psalti, which began in Komotini on Wednesday, was postponed until March 31.

    The Komotini appeals court agreed to postpone the hearing after Psalti's defence lawyers claimed she was unwell, while it judged the summons served on the two monks on January 28 to have exceeded the deadline.

    Earlier, the prosecutor on the bench had asked to be recused because of her close relations with the accused Maria Psalti.

    Psalti is accused of breach of duty and the former abbot and monk are accused of morally instigating breach of duty, in connection with her handling of the case concerning the suit brought by the Vatopedi Monastery against the Greek State to contest ownership of Vistonida Lake.

    [14] Palestinian Authority representative visits Rethymno

    Palestinian Authority charges d' affaires in Athens Ismat Sabri met on Wednesday with Rethymno local authorities during a brief visit to the southern Aegean island of Crete.

    The Palestinian diplomat referred to the situation in Gaza after the recent hostilities and the tough living conditions the Palestinian people are called to cope with.

    In an expression of sincere support, the prefectural authorities announced that medical and pharmaceutical supplies collected by the people of Rethymno will be sent to the Palestinian Authority next week.

    Financial News

    [15] Greece at 91% absorption of 3rd CSF funds

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)

    Greece's absorption of structural funds from 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) in 2000-2006 stands at 91 percent, European Commissioner for regional policy Danuta Hubner announced on Wednesday.

    The Commissioner clarified that Greece applied for payments reaching 20.9 billion euros from the 23 billion euros available, or 91 percent of the total.

    Presenting absorption figures for the 3rd CSF for all member-states, Hubner said that the Community average also stood at 91 percent. She expressed hope that the total available funds will have been absorbed by 30 June, when the deadline for completing projects using Community funding expires.

    The original deadline ended on December 31, 2008 but this was extended by six months during the last EU summit due to the financial crisis, in order to give member-states a chance to improve their absorption rates further.

    Greece's absorption of money available in the structural funds and the EU Cohesion Fund comes to 88 percent, marginally above the EU average of 87 percent.

    Absorption of money exclusively derived from the Cohesion Fund by Greece is 61 percent, four percentage points below the EU average of 65 percent. The deadline for completing projects financed by the Cohesion Fund is the end of 2010.

    For the various structural funds, Greece's absorption rates are as follows:

    European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) - Greece 90 pct, EU average 91 pct.

    European Social Fund (ESF) - Greece 93 pct, EU average 91 pct

    European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) - Greece 92 pct, EU average 92 pct.

    Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) - Greece 83 pct, EU average 89 pct.

    [16] Emporiki Bank unveils 850-mln-euro share capital increase plan

    Emporiki Bank on Wednesday said an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting, scheduled for Feb. 26, will discuss a board plan for a share capital increase scheme worth 850 million euros.

    A board meeting on Wednesday also elected Bernard Mary as a member of the board.

    Under the share capital increase plan, Credit Agricole SA will cover its equity participation and any additional part if asked by the board.

    Emporiki Bank aims to raise its capital adequacy rate to above 10 pct by June 30.

    The bank said provisions for its lending portfolio will total 500 million euros for 2008, of which 300 million euros will cover the fourth quarter of the year, while write downs in the fourth quarter totaled 100 million euros.

    Jean-Frederic de Leusse, the bank's chairman and deputy CEO in Credit Agricole, said Emporiki Bank enjoyed the full support of Credit Agricole.

    "Our aim is to ensure Emporiki Bank's ability to respond to future challenges and to benefit from any opportunities arose when a financial environment stabilises. With this share capital increase plan, the bank will acquire a strong capital base," he said.

    [17] Bids for Olympic Airlines unsatisfactory, minister says

    Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said on Wednesday, at the end of the meeting of the Interministerial Privatisations Committee on the Olympic Airlines company, that the bids given for Olympic were not sastisfactory in relation to demands, adding that the efforts are being continued on a new basis and calling on the big business groups to show interest.

    The minister also said that "the invitation to candidate investors is open, explicit and clear," while stating previously that "the government's steadfast goal is the privatisation of Olympic Airlines and this is so, because it is the only way to handle a longstanding problem."

    [18] Market authorities fine Sea Star Capital Plc with 3.742 mln euros

    Greece's Competition Commission on Wednesday announced sactions totaling 3.742 million euros and 75,000 euros to Sea Star Capital and J.Vardinoyiannis, respectively for failing to timely offer full information over changes in equity participations in ANEK Shipping Lines.

    A statement by the market watchdog said Sea Star Capital Plc acquired 36.5 pct in HSW in 2007 and a 15.90 pct in ANEK and buying another 16.6 pct equity stake in ANEK, but failed to inform market authorities over theses transactions

    [19] PASOK women host economic crisis con'f

    Proposals aimed at upgrading women's place were outlined during a one-day conference titled "Facing the Economic Crisis - Supporting Women" hosted by main opposition PASOK women's sector.

    Louka Katseli, PASOK's spokesperson on economic issues, maintained that "the government's economic policies lack of credibility and brought widespread insecurity, putting women in the eye of the storm."

    Women over the age of 65 are currently in the most difficult spot, while one in three lives in conditions below poverty line, she claimed.

    Socialist International Women, SIW, president Pia Locatelli underlined the need to strengthen the presence of women in executive positions, underlining that research in France has showed that in major companies and organizations ran by women the economic losses attributed to the ongoing global financial crisis were comparatively smaller.

    [20] Greece top destination for Australian tourists

    Melbourne (ANA-MPA / S. Hatzimanolis)

    Greece is among the top tourist destinations of Australian travelers for 2009 despite fears that Greek tourism would be faced with problems stemming from the global economic crisis.

    Tourists looking for an endless summer, an alternative stop-over city, or wishing to get acquainted with the European civilization will choose one of the popular destinations such as Greece, according to Australian tour operators Flight Centre.

    Greece offers simple pleasures and affordable holidays to visitors, such as sailing activities in reasonable prices, locally produced wine, beautiful beaches and romantic sunsets, traditional villages and small islands where nature's surprises are abundant, the Australian tour operator underlines.

    The top tourist destinations for 2009 also include Brunei, Croatia, Vietnam, New Caledonia, Bali, Mexico, the Czech Republic, the United Arab Emirates and Spain.

    [21] National Bank announces share buy-back program

    National Bank plans a share buy-back program of 20 million shares at a price range between 5 and 60 euros per share in the period from February 9 to May 24, 2009. The share buy-back plan was approved by the bank's regular general shareholders' meeting held in April 17, 2008, covering up to 10 pct of its outstanding equity. The bank, in a statement, noted that share buy-back programs were optional and that their implementation was not to be discounted.

    [22] Azeri President to attend EBEA event

    Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev will attend an informational event hosted by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) on February 17 in the Greek capital, titled "Greece-Azerbaijan: Prospects for Business Cooperation". it was announced on Wednesday.

    During the event, which begins at 2:30 p.m., a brief presentation will be made of the Greek economy and prospects for cooperation between Greek and Azeri businessmen, followed by one-on-one business contacts.

    According to an EBEA announcement, the focus of interest of Azeri companies is in the following sectors: financial services, tourism, heating-refrigeration and water supply systems, constructions (public works, hotel complexes, homes and parking facilities), foods, pharmaceutical products, furniture manufacture, marble imports and trade, wine production, textiles, pipe construction, solid waste management and school equipment.

    [23] Greek sheep dog show at TIF this Sunday

    An exhibition of purebred Greek sheep dogs will take place next Sunday at pavilions 5 and 6 of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) facilities, during the Zootechnia Exhibition that begins this week. The exhibition is jointly organised by the animal conservation group "Arcturos" and the Friends of the Greek Sheep Dog Association.

    According to Arcturos, the aim of the dog show is to alert the public to the need to maintain the breed and keep it pure:

    "The reasons are not aesthetic. Purebred sheep dogs are simply more efficient at guarding flocks from attack by bears and wolves. Also, by increasing their number, we hope to get international recognition of the breed," said the organisation's communications officer Vasso Petridou.

    Among its other activities, Arcturos has for the past decade run a programme to breed purebred Greek sheep dogs and once again make them popular. The puppies are given free of charge to stockbreeders on request, with 320 handed out so far in mainly northern Greece.

    "Our action is preventative, both toward stock breeders and toward bears and wolves. The stock breeders acquire an effective guard that protects them from attacks by wild animals. As a result, the hostility of local residents to wild animals is reduced," members of the group explained.

    The attributes of the breed are to be strongly independent but loyal to the herd, strong and big-bodied, with sturdy legs and a powerful bite, as well as resilient to the bad weather of mountainous regions and the lack of food.

    [24] Market watchdog fines Hellenic Telecoms with 2.0 mln euros

    Greek telecoms market watchdog on Wednesday imposed a 2.0 million euros fine on Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation for breaching telecommunications regulations. In a statement, the National Commission for Telecommunications and Post said the fine was imposed because Hellenic Telecoms failed to offer financial data as part of a pricing control for the year 2008.

    [25] Greek stocks end 0.76% up

    Greek stocks ended moderately higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, in line with a strong advance of prices in other European markets. The composite index rose 0.76 pct to 1,744.05 points, with turnover at 128.2 million euros, of which 10.2 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved higher, with the Healthcare (4.36 pct), Media (3.28 pct) and Telecommunications (1.72 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains, while Chemicals (1.24 pct), Utilities (0.92 pct) and Industrial Products (0.84 pct) suffered losses.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 0.92 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.93 pct up and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.09 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 102 to 79 with another 60 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.51%

    Industrials: -0.84%

    Commercial: +0.01%

    Construction: -0.47%

    Media: +3.28%

    Oil & Gas: +0.33%

    Personal & Household: +0.97%

    Raw Materials: +0.38%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.28%

    Technology: -0.20%

    Telecoms: +1.72%

    Banks: +1.35%

    Food & Beverages: -0.79%

    Health: +4.36%

    Utilities: -0.92%

    Chemicals: -1.24%

    Financial Services: +1.56%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, National Bank, Intralot and Alpha Bank.

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

    Alpha Bank: 6.00

    ATEbank: 1.20

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.92

    HBC Coca Cola: 10.40

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.56

    National Bank of Greece: 13.00

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.10

    Intralot: 3.14

    OPAP: 21.50

    OTE: 11.82

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.18

    Titan Cement Company: 12.60

    [26] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices saw their discount widen sharply in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover a low 36.945 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 2.47 pct, with volume of 6,241 contracts worth 27.310 million euros and 31,621 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,280 contracts worth 9.457 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Intralot's contracts (2,249), followed by Eurobank (1,014), OPAP (2,060), National Bank (1,253), Alpha Bank (1,276) and GEK (1,309).

    [27] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds shrank to 232 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market, with turnover at 645 million euros, of which 505 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 140 million were sell orders.

    The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 165 million euros. The Greek bond yielded 5.70 pct and the German Bund 3.88 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continue falling. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.23 pct, the six-month rate 2.14 pct, the three-month rate 2.05 pct and the one-month rate 1.71 pct.

    [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.292

    Pound sterling 0.897

    Danish kroner 7.511

    Swedish kroner 0.754

    Japanese yen 115.19

    Swiss franc 1.501

    Norwegian kroner 8.963

    Canadian dollar 1.605

    Australian dollar 2.016

    General News

    [29] Group claims attack on police station

    A hitherto unknown urban terror cell called "revolutionaries sect" (secta epanastaton) claimed responsibility for the shooting and grenade attack on a police precinct in the working-class Piraeus district of Korydallos early Tuesday morning.

    According to an announcement by police on Wednesday, a CD was found that contained the terror group's voluminous proclamation claiming responsibility for the attack, following a telephone call made to an Athens daily.

    No injuries were reported during the incident.

    [30] Parliament memorial service of 1950s-era PM Plastiras

    A memorial service for former Greek premier Nikolaos Plastiras was held in Parliament Tuesday.

    "The Parliament honors an important Greek, a leading statesman and a unique human being," Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas stressed in his address and cited writings by Plastiras, according to which "It is human to make mistakes. But admitting it points to higher civilisation and bravery. Only a people that can think that way can ward off misfortune caused by mistakes, and thus prosper."

    Plastiras (Nov. 4, 1883 - Jul. 26, 1953) was a general in the Greek army, serving in the Asia Minor front in 1919 and later returning to Athens in 1922 after the Asia Minor Catastrophe to lead a coup against the monarchy.

    He was one of the leaders of Greek resistance during the Axis occupation and after the war served as a centrist prime minister three times.

    [31] 'History Lost' expo at Europarliament in Brussels

    The "History Lost" multimedia exhibition on illicit antiquities trade and its impact on society and culture will officially open at the European Parliament in Brussels on Feb. 10, hosted by the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, with the support of the chairperson of the Europarliament's committee on culture and education, Katerina Batzeli.

    The exhibition, to be held at the EP's Yehudi Menuhin Hall on Feb. 9-13, will feature copies of finds that have been returned recently to Greece and Cyprus, following relevant requests and has already been presented in Trieste, Lisbon and Dublin.

    [32] Arsonists target police station in Kozani

    Unidentified arsonists targeted the parking area of the police station in Kozani, northwestern Greece, at dawn Wednesday.

    The assailants used three firebombs with one of them exploding next to a patrol car. The ensuing fire was quickly extinguished by police officers without causing material damage to the vehicle.

    Weather Forecast

    [33] Cloudy on Thursday

    Cloudy weather and southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 20C. Cloudy in Athens, with southwesterly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 7C to 14C.

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

    The armed attack against a police station, and scuffles between riot police and protesting farmers at Pireaus port mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "New murderous attack against police officers - The evidence poinst at 'Revolutionary Struggle' terrorist group".

    APOGEVMATINI: "10,964 hirings in public sector - Permanent and seasonal positions".

    AVGHI: "Coalition of the Left (SYRIZA) leader states at his visit at Promachonas blockade: A new farmers' movement is necessary".

    AVRIANI: "Justice Minister Nikos Dendias with a new regulation puts an end to citizens' detention for up to 150,000 euros in debts to the state".

    CHORA: "19 bullets with Revolutionary Struggle's signature - Fires shot at a police station in Korydallos".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Individuals, possibly terrorists, shot repeatedly against a police station".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Government in shambles - The moratorium in ruling New Democracy party lasted only for a short period".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Scuffles between riot police and protesting farmers from Crete at Pireaus port".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Pathetic government - Riot police launched teargas in the presence of George Papandreou (main opposition PASOK leader)".

    ESTIA: "The crisis is being re-fueled - Psychology is of great importance".

    ETHNOS: "Government of flashes and bangs - Riot police greeted Papandreou with teargas".

    KATHIMERINI: "10,500 euros tax-free ceiling reinstated - Friction in government over the prevailing speculation on early general elections".

    LOGOS: "Riot police used teargas and chemicals during George Papandreou's arrival at Pireaus port".

    NIKI: "Bullying at the Port - Riot police threw chemicals at Papandreou".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Working class unity and counterattack against plutocracy".

    TA NEA: "Government and riot police's preposterous actions".

    TO VIMA: "Tears and rage......Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou was also a victim of the teargas used by riot police against farmers from Crete in Pireaus".

    VRADYNI: "Justice Ministry amendment to abolish detention of citizens for debts to the state of up to 150,000 euros".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [35] Cyprus President: We continue discussions as usual

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said here Wednesday that during his meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in the framework of direct negotiations on the Cyprus question they had a tete a tete meeting, which lasted more than usual.

    Asked what they discussed during the tete a tete meeting, Christofias said "various issues".

    "We continued our discussions as usual,a' the president replied when asked how Wednesday's meeting went.

    Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Taye Brook Zerihoun described as substantive the discussions Christofias and Talat had.

    The leaders of the island's two communities have been engaged in talks since September last year with a view to finding a mutually agreed settlement that will reunite the country, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS


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