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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-06

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 6 February 2009 Issue No: 3115


  • [01] Government has clear plan, steadfast will to handle international economic crisis, PM says
  • [02] Inter-ministerial committee on economic policy convenes
  • [03] Gov't: Growth will deflect int'l crisis
  • [04] PASOK economy rapporteur on measures announced by FinMin
  • [05] EBEA President Mihalos on measures announced by FinMin
  • [06] FM to chair European security panel at Munich int'l conference
  • [07] Foreign ministry: policy on Turkey unchanged
  • [08] Papandreou calls for early elections
  • [09] Education minister meets with ND honorary president
  • [10] Bakoyannis meets SAE board
  • [11] MIG announces interest in OA acquisition
  • [12] Gov't seeking to close 'field to shelf' gap in food prices, ministers say
  • [13] Farmers open border crossing
  • [14] Briefing on national tourism plan
  • [15] OKE Committee on government announcements on tax issues
  • [16] Greek commercial sectors feels impact from int'l crisis, survey
  • [17] Hoteliers urge measures avoid crisis in tourism sector
  • [18] Greek stocks end 1.63 pct lower
  • [19] ADEX closing report
  • [20] Greek bond market closing report
  • [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [22] Police officer charged with attempted homicide for shooting U.S. embassy guard
  • [23] Arson attack against Markoyiannakis' office, minor damage caused
  • [24] Inquiry into Thessaloniki metro accident
  • [25] Bill eyes physician, nursing staff hirings
  • [26] Veteran journalist Papageorgiou passes away
  • [27] KEDKE meeting with PASOK delegation
  • [28] Parliament holds blood drive on Thursday
  • [29] New Radio-Television Museum in Liosia
  • [30] Drug-resistant infections at Thessaloniki hospital
  • [31] Cloudy, rainy on Friday
  • [32] The Thursday edition of Athens dailies at a glance
  • [33] President: Common views with Turkish Cypriots but differences with Turkey Politics

  • [01] Government has clear plan, steadfast will to handle international economic crisis, PM says

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a statement on Thursday night that the government has a clear plan and a steadfast will to handle the international economic crisis which, as he stressed, is more intense now than in the past and has knocked at the country's door.

    Karamanlis, who was speaking at the Maximos Mansion following the presentation of the stability and growth programme by Finance and Economy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, pointed out that there are two paths, that of responsibility and that of irresponsibility. He added that there are some who are promising easy and deadlocked solutions, but such solutions do not exist, while these paths lead to deadlock.

    The prime minister noted that the government's responsible and stable policy guarantees a better future for all citizens. He said that government policy is based on three axes, in maintaining growth, even with lower rates this year, but with higher rates in the years to come.

    Karamanlis also referred to the economy's fluidity programme, to supporting businesses, to boosting public investments and to promoting necessary reforms.

    Karamanlis said that social cohesion is the base of government policy and that nothing is easy and nor can it be done from one day to the next and added that everyone must help to overcome this crisis.

    "There can be no growth without the support of entrepreneurship, without the restriction of deficits there can be no essential funds to support the socially weaker and without monetary restructuring the reliability of the economy cannot be backed", he said.

    The prime minister further said that the economy cannot forge ahead without targeted actions and pointed out that no economic policy can move ahead by itself and a political and social environment that favours consensus is necessary.

    It is necessary, he added, that social groups jointly consider society in its entirety and frontal clashes should be avoided since "no to everything" cannot be applied.

    Karamanlis underlined that with the new stability and growth programme, following the revision of evaluations of all the international organisations as well, "the government is taking all factors into consideration with a new mixture of policy. No country and no society can handle the international crisis by itself. However, we can, with a specific programme, prevent the grave repercussions with realism and with a stable policy."

    [02] Inter-ministerial committee on economic policy convenes

    The inter-ministerial committee on economic policy convened Thursday chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Finance and Economy Minister Yannis Papathanassiou said afterwards that the meeting focused on the specialization of the updated stability programme already submitted to the EU which he will outline in a press conference to be held at his office during the day.

    Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis referring to the Olympic Airlines (OA) national carrier issue and the proposal submitted earlier in the day by the MIG Group commented that the relative tender has entered a new phase and an invitation has been directed to the business community mainly in Greece.

    Hatzidakis also stated that a Greek business group has already submitted a proposal in principal which will be examined with the appropriate seriousness, as in the case of any other proposal that may be forthcoming.

    [03] Gov't: Growth will deflect int'l crisis

    Supporting growth and employment, reducing state over-spending and supporting lower-income groups are the main principles of an updated Stability and Growth Programme for 2008-2011, presented by the economy and finance ministry on Thursday.

    Presenting the programme, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said the government's priorities are a gradual reduction of public debt and the fiscal deficit, adding that the Stability and Growth Programme was the government's plan to deal with the consequences of an international economic crisis.

    "Our strongest weapon against the crisis is the dynamic growth of the Greek economy. There will be a positive growth rate, despite adverse international financial conditions, because of increased investments, the implementation of the 4th Community Support Framework package and joint venture projects between public and private sector," Papathanassiou said.

    The Greek minister made particular mention for the need to reduce public spending and said the program was not one of austerity or of "social handouts", but it was drafted to ensure growth and support the weaker classes.

    Spending will be drastically reduced in the public and wider public sector, while revenues will grow. The government will also specify measures aimed at improving business environment in the country.

    Papathanassiou said new hirings in the public sector will be less than the number of retirements or attrition and noted that the incomes policy would cover inflation.

    "Our message is that cutbacks must begin from the state. We cannot ask citizens to cut their incomes, if the state did not respond first to reducing spending. The programme's provisions for the period 2008-2011 are realistic and feasible," he said.

    Finally, the minister said the government will raise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products.

    [04] PASOK economy rapporteur on measures announced by FinMin

    Main opposition PASOK party economic affairs rapporteur Louka Katseli, commenting on Thursday on measures announced by Finance and Economy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, said that the government "announces fragmentary measures at times, attempting to correct its very negative repercussions on the social groups that it has got in its sights over the past five years: medium-level and low incomes, medium-level and small businesses and self-employed professionals."

    "Last year, it imposed the ETAK in an absolute and arrogant manner and abolished the tax-free ceiling of 10,500 euros and indeed proclaimed all the self-employed professionals tax evaders. Mr. (Prime Minister Costas) Karamanlis strongly defended both measures at the time and indeed he termed them 'measures of responsibility' in the midst of the international crisis," she said.

    Lastly, Katseli said that "now, under the weight of the popular outcry and with a gaze fixed on opinion polls, it is obliged to back down but it is placing the burdens again, through indirect taxation, on the citizens," adding that "it is managing the crisis in an irresponsible and fragmentary way."

    [05] EBEA President Mihalos on measures announced by FinMin

    Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) President Costas Mihalos, commenting on Thursday on interventions in tax policy announced by Finance and Economy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, said that they "are in the right direction since they will contribute to supporting small and medium-size enterprises, while they will not be creating problems for an increase in public revenues, that can be provided for social benefits."

    He further said that EBEA agrees with the reinstatement of the tax-free level at 10,500 euros for self-employed professionals and businessmen, while the increase in taxation for alcoholic drinks and cigarettes to boost revenues had been a proposal made by EBEA.

    [06] FM to chair European security panel at Munich int'l conference

    Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis will on Saturday chair a panel discussion on European security, with the focus mainly on its energy aspect, during the two-day 45th international conference on security that opens Friday in Munich, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Thursday during a regular press briefing.

    Scheduled to take part in the panel are British foreign secretary David Miliband, Ukraine prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, US senator John McCain and Russian deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov, Koumoutsakos added.

    He also said that, on the sidelines of the conference, Bakoyannis would have bilateral meetings with her Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts, and with US president Barack Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, clarifying that the meeting with Holbrooke was taking place at the US official's request.

    Replying to press questions, Koumoutsakos elaborated that the topics to be discussed by the panel chaired by Bakoyannis were NATO, Russia, oil, natural gas, the Middle East, and the future of European security.

    [07] Foreign ministry: policy on Turkey unchanged

    There has been no change to the basic elements of Greek foreign policy on relations with Turkey, which all Greek governments have followed in the last 35 years, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos stressed on Thursday. He was responding to a question regarding a recent sharp rise in Turkish provocations in the Aegean.

    "This [policy] calls for steadfastly supporting the provisions of international law, international rules and international agreements; and replying to illegal behaviour by Turkey both operationally and through diplomatic policy," he added.

    Turkey's policy of disputing and making claims beyond those foreseen under international law had also remained essentially unchanged over the same period, Koumoutsakos added, regardless of any fluctuation in tensions that might occur.

    "We know what Turkish policy consists of all these years. What it projects regarding air space and what it projects from time to time with the unacceptable rationale of "grey zones". We all know the interpretation that Turkey gives to international conventions, treaties on areas of responsibility (such as the Flight Information Region). All these features, regardless of periods when Turkey's tactics might increase or fall away, remain unchanged," he stressed.

    Greece's policy in relations with Turkey had always been "two-fold," Koumoutsakos went on to say:

    "On the one hand, to give an immediate and effective reply to Turkey's behaviour of disputing international law. On the other hand, to make constant and consistent efforts to create the conditions that will lead to an improvement, with a view to the full normalisation, of Greek and Turkish relations - something that, of course, passes through a solution of the Cyprus problem."

    This goal was strategic and common to all parties and all governments that had handled these issues in Greece over the past 35 years, Koumoutsakos stressed.

    [08] Papandreou calls for early elections

    Main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou on Thursday again called for early elections to avert what he called the "worst", proposing an agreement for immediate elections within the period until European Parliament elections or concurrently. Additionally, he proposed a consensus in the election of the President of the Republic.

    Speaking in a press conference in downtown Athens, the former foreign minister expressed deep concern for the country's course, saying that its causes are traced to the government policies followed in the last five years.

    He underlined that the country is "defenceless" in the ongoing global economic crisis and said there is no plan designed to deal with the domestic and the international crisis. He also stated that the country needs a new course and a new government and outlined several points he said would reverse this course.

    Among others, Papandreou proposed "collectiveness and unity" based on a "production sector alliance" that will support the economically weaker strata as well as greater meritocracy and transparency in the public sector.

    He stated that the measures aimed at pulling the country out of the crisis will focus on a "market revival and fair redistribution of wealth", highlighting the importance of a new developmental model based on "green development" and the importance of a government with a strong presence in the EU and globally.

    Papandreou underlined that nothing will be easy the day after the elections, pointing out that the country's reconstruction demands collective work.

    Papandreou, also called on the prime minister to accept a clear agreement on elections, either before or together with the Euroelections. The agreement proposed by Papandreou also includes a part concerning the consensual election of the President of the Republic.

    As regards the issue of the President of the Republic, Papandreou said that the country has a successful President who will be supported by PASOK if he wishes to have a second tenure.

    Papandreou added that when the time for the election of the president comes, the present main opposition party will assess the country's interest as to what PASOK's choice will be in the event that its proposal is rejected by the prime minister and elections are not held until March 2010. In any case, he added, PASOK respects the institution of President and supports President Karolos Papoulias.

    The PASOK leader also said that the party is seeking a majority government and advised those who are doubtful to be patient and, replying to a question on whether PASOK is ready to rule, said that it is even more ready than in 1981 to rule because it has both experience and wisdom and is aware where the country must head to.

    Parliament debate

    Meanwhile, Deputy Education Minister Andreas Lykourentzos on Thursday accused PASOK of serving internal party expediencies by engaging in what he called election-mongering, responding to main opposition party parliamentary spokesman Evangelos Venizelos, who spoke of a "new progressive majority that seeks to be expressed in the polls and in Parliament."

    Lykourentzos stressed the holding of elections is clearly defined in the Constitution and pointed out that election-mongering will not cure the needs of society.

    Government spokesman replies to Papandreou press conference

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, commenting on the press conference held by main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Thursday afternoon, said that "the talk of elections that the PASOK leader applied himself to once again, as he was doing monotonously recently, did not concern the government at all."

    "One would expect, today, from the main opposition party leader to formulate specific positions and proposals on handling the consequences caused by the international economic crisis. To say clearly and without half-words the solutions that he proposes for all that is really preoccupying citizens. None of this happened. On the contrary, we all became, once again, witnesses of uncontrolled void talk, of petty party populism, of unrestrained talk of grants. However, problems cannot be solved with words," Antonaros said.

    "The government is steadfastly oriented on its work and its mission. On processing and implementing specific solutions for the issues arising from the international crisis for our country as well. On finding ways of substantively limiting the consequences of the crisis for all. And, mainly, for those who are in greater need. With a programme, with a plan, with social sensitivity. With a feeling of responsibility towards the country and its citizens. This is our main concern," the spokesman added.

    [09] Education minister meets with ND honorary president

    Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos on Thursday met with former prime minister and honorary New Democracy (ND) president Constantine Mitsotakis at the latter's office in Parliament.

    Spiliotopoulos stated that the meeting was held at his request in order to benefit from the former premier's experience on education issues, in view of a dialogue eying reforms.

    The minister added that he will continue the contacts because his goal is to listen to different viewpoints, requesting assistance of individuals with experience in the sector and within the framework of the dialogue.

    [10] Bakoyannis meets SAE board

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday met the presiding board of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) in order to discuss a plan that will allow expatriate Greeks to vote in general elections from their country of residence.

    The meeting also focused on registering and founding the "Friends of Hellenism" Network, which will seek to better marshal the support of Greeks and philhellenes around the world.

    Among those attending were Deputy Foreign Minister for expatriate affairs Theodoros Kassimis and the chair of Parliament's Special Standing Committee for Greeks abroad.

    Financial News

    [11] MIG announces interest in OA acquisition

    Athens-listed Marfin Investment Group (MIG) on Thursday announced interest in the acquisition of Greek national air carrier Olympic Airways (OA) so that the carrier would remain in Greek hands, at the same time offering to the Greek state the option of renationalization.

    A MIG announcement said that the Group will "participate in the direct negotiation process for the acquisition of Olympic", adding that "we offer voluntarily to the State the option of renationalization", and expressed the wish "that our initiative will be embraced by all political parties and the Greek people".

    "In the critical and challenging economic environment that we are currently experiencing, the continuation of OLYMPIC's operations is of vital importance to the Greek tourism industry, employment, national sentiment and Greece's status in the international investment community. OLYMPIC is an inseparable part of our history, identity and everyday life and we all desire its continuing existence in order to, among other, bolster our national pride once again," a MIG announcement said.

    "In light of the above, MIG has decided today (Thursday, February 5) to respond favourably to the invitation by the Interministerial Privatisation Committee and is ready to proceed to direct negotiations with the State so that OLYMPIC will continue to operate within the realms of Greek entrepreneurship. Should our negotiations reach fruition, we intend to voluntarily offer to the Greek Government the option to renationalise OLYMPIC at any point in time up until 3 months following the next general elections," the announcement said.

    "We hope that our initiative will be treated in line with our true intentions and beyond any political considerations or agendas. We are prepared to jointly participate in this process with any other robust and sound business or investment group that may wish to do so. Furthermore, we would even contemplate to withdraw from the process should another sound business entity be able to secure the successful outcome of this process and does not desire our involvement," the MIG announcement continued.

    "We would like to highlight that following completion of the negotiations, the ultimate decision for the acquisition of OLYMPIC will be made by the Board of Directors of MIG taking into account, inter alia, whether our initiative for the future of our national air carrier has achieved the desired political consensus and social acceptance," the announcement added.

    The announcement further noted that Athens-headquartered MIG "numbers in excess of 50,000 employees and associates and has a presence spanning over 40 countries" and is listed on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), with 58 percent of its share capital held directly or indirectly by Greek strategic, institutional and retail investors and 24 percent held by international institutional investors, while "Dubai Group owns an approximately 18 percent stake in the company and is represented on the Board of Directors by three non-executive members and has no involvement in the management of the company".

    [12] Gov't seeking to close 'field to shelf' gap in food prices, ministers say

    The government is determined to narrow the gap between prices paid to farmers for their products and the retail prices paid by consumers, eliminating exorbitant profits by middle-men, the two deputy ministers for agriculture George Kiltidis and Mihalis Papadopoulos said on Thursday.

    Speaking on the sidelines of the Zootechnia trade fair taking place in Thessaloniki, Papadopoulos said that the investigation had launched an investigation the previous week, in collaboration with the development ministry, in order to determine exactly why there was such a large discrepancy between prices paid to producers and prices on the shelf in Greece.

    "We will soon have the results," he added, adding that the government also intended to step up inspections related to competition issues.

    [13] Farmers open border crossing

    Tractors blocking access to the border crossing of Promahonas, in Serres prefecture of northeastern Greece, were removed on Thursday afternoon by farmers, thus allowing passage to trucks and private cars into and from Bulgaria.

    Most of the demonstrators had left the blockade earlier, stating that this particular form of mobilisation is over.

    A farmers' delegation from Promahonas is scheduled to meet on Friday with Rural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis and an Agricultural Insurance Organization, ELGA, officials.

    [14] Briefing on national tourism plan

    Tourist Development Minister Costas Markopoulos intends to brief the members of the relevant Parliamentary Committee on the National Tourism Plan, according to an announcement by the ministry, stressing that a national strategy for the country's biggest industry was absolutely necessary.

    The Tourist Development ministry, it was added, has already prepared the new strategy that is required to tackle issues concerning Greek tourism immediately, with new targeted actions and with a new communications approach at all levels.

    In another development, the 29th Madrid International Tourism exhibition Fitur came to an end on Sunday February 1, which was visited this year by over 225,000 people, according to a report by El Mundo. Despite the fact that the exhibition was smaller this year in square metres the number of visitors is considered satisfactory, although 10 percent less than in 2008, that had been a record year, however.

    The President of the organising company Ifema, Luis Eduardo Cortes, spoke of a "triumph" and stated that professionals from abroad who visited the exhibition only decreased by 5 percent, while people visiting Fitur on Saturday reached 65,000, meaning 5 percent more than last year.

    [15] OKE Committee on government announcements on tax issues

    The Economic and Social Committee of Greece (OKE) said in a statement on Thursday that the announcements made by the government on tax issues "confirm the need for the joint view of social partners to be heard in time, so that measures that are either unfair or ineffective are not taken, while frequently they are both, resulting in their being revoked within a few months."

    On the occasion of the government's announcement regarding the reshaping of the Unified Real Estate Duty (ETAK) and the reinstatement of the tax-free ceiling of 10,500 euros for self-employed professionals and businessmen, OKE reminds that it had requested in opinions that it has issued, when the arrangements that are being abolished now were being ratified, as well as in the intervention by its President Christos Polyzogopoulos at the relevant Parliamentary Committee, the withdrawal of the arrangements.

    OKE points out that "if its view, as well as the views of other social agencies had been heeded, the previous tax intervention that had taken place would have been avoided and the state of the economy, from the point of view of the investing environment alone, would be entirely different and to the benefit of the country's production activity."

    [16] Greek commercial sectors feels impact from int'l crisis, survey

    Greece's commercial sector has already begun feeling the psychological impact from an international financial crisis, according to the annual report on Greek Commerce 2008 published by ICAP and the National Confederation of Greek Commerce on Thursday.

    The survey, based on a sample of 199 societe anonyme companies and 1,020 smaller firms, showed that S.A. and Ltd. companies' turnover grew 11.2 pct in 2007, while gross profit growth was 20.5 pct over the same year. The majority of those companies said they expected sales to remain flat in 2008 and results to worsen in 2009. Companies in the commerce sector also see flat employment rates, with the number of enterprises eyeing job cuts surpassing those seeking to hire.

    The survey showed that the commerce sector accounted for 18.2 pct of employment in the Greek economy, with 28.3 pct of new jobs created in the last 15 years resulting from the development of commerce.

    [17] Hoteliers urge measures avoid crisis in tourism sector

    The Hoteliers Association of Athens-Attica on Thursday urged for the immediate implementation of 14 measures to support the tourism sector, announced by the Prime Minister and approved by the government, and called for the introduction of a stable long-term tourism policy, which will not be dependent on individuals or political parties in power.

    The Association said the measures were absolutely necessary to strengthen tourism enterprises in the country and noted that a crisis - already hitting the sector - was expected to intensify in 2009 and 2010.

    Hoteliers also stressed that the crisis in the Greek tourism sector has deeper roots and is not a local problem.

    Meanwhile, a survey by the Academy of Touristic Research and Studies (ATEM) said that Greek tourism was entering a very difficult period this year, with tourist arrivals expected to fall between 4-11 pct this year, compared with 2008.

    [18] Greek stocks end 1.63 pct lower

    Greek stocks lost substantial ground in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, in line with a decline in other European markets. The composite index fell 1.63 pct to end at 1,715.57 points, with turnover remaining a low 103.2 million euros, of which 12.2 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower, with the Oil (3.11 pct), Commerce (3.03 pct) and Telecommunications (2.88 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Food/Beverage (1.82 pct), Technology (1.57 pct) and Insurance (1.19 pct) scored gains.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 2.24 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.03 pct up and the FTSE 80 index eased 1.07 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 116 to 80 with another 54 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.19%

    Industrials: +0.16%

    Commercial: -3.03%

    Construction: -1.61%

    Media: -0.19%

    Oil & Gas: -3.11%

    Personal & Household: +0.92%

    Raw Materials: -0.11%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.25%

    Technology: +1.57%

    Telecoms: -2.88%

    Banks: -2.32%

    Food & Beverages: +1.82%

    Health: -0.06%

    Utilities: -2.09%

    Chemicals: -0.03%

    Financial Services: -2.09%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 5.76

    ATEbank: 1.19

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.62

    HBC Coca Cola: 10.60

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.36

    National Bank of Greece: 12.68

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.18

    Intralot: 3.26

    OPAP: 20.90

    OTE: 11.48

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.06

    Titan Cement Company: 12.14

    [19] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 32.490 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.80 pct, with volume of 5,455 contracts worth 23.683 million euros.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,538 contracts worth 8.622 million euros, with investment interest focusing on GEK's contracts (2,128), followed by Eurobank (602), OPAP (681), National Bank (1,372), Alpha Bank (1,209), Intralot (1,016) and Piraeus Bank (255).

    [20] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 445 million euros on Thursday, of which 125 million were buy orders and the remaining 320 million were sell orders.

    The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 120 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 238 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 5.70 pct and the German Bund 3.38 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.22 pct, the six-month rate was 2.13 pct, the three-month rate 2.03 pct and the one-month rate 1.69 pct.

    [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.293

    Pound sterling 0.885

    Danish kroner 7.510

    Swedish kroner 10.711

    Japanese yen 115.96

    Swiss franc 1.503

    Norwegian kroner 8.849

    Canadian dollar 1.593

    Australian dollar 1.993

    General News

    [22] Police officer charged with attempted homicide for shooting U.S. embassy guard

    A public prosecutor on Thursday press charges of attempted homicide and illegal weapons use against the police officer that shot and injured a security guard at the U.S. Ambassador's residence the previous day.

    The evidence regarding the case will now be forwarded to the 16th examining magistrate, who has been asked to order a psychiatric evaluation of the accused.

    The officer requested and received an extension to prepare his testimony, which he will give on Friday.

    Speaking to reporters afterwards, a defence lawyer for the accused apologised to the injured man on behalf of his client's family and conveyed their wishes for a speedy recovery. He claimed that his client had failed to provide a convincing explanation about what had prompted him to shoot.

    "He told us that after the attacks that have been taking place recently, he became frightened when he saw the man coming towards him armed," defence lawyer George Panagopoulos said, referring to a shooting incident against the Korydallos police station a few days before, where armed terrorists opened fire against a police guard stationed outside the station.

    He said the defence intends to claim that the accused was suffering from psychological problems that had not been apparent beforehand, noting that the officer had recently been examined by a psychiatrist at his parents' suggestion and may have been given medication.

    [23] Arson attack against Markoyiannakis' office, minor damage caused

    An arson attack against Alternate Interior Minister for Public Order Christos Markoyiannakis' political office in Athens was reported at dawn Thursday.

    Unknown individuals planted a homemade incendiary device, consisting of propane canisters, at the entrance of the Minister's office. The blast at 5:25 a.m. and ensuing fire caused minor material damage.

    [24] Inquiry into Thessaloniki metro accident

    Macedonia-Thrace Minister Stavros Kalafatis on Thursday ordered an in-depth inquiry into an accident at a Thessaloniki metro system worksite that led to the death of a 50-year-old labourer.

    Receiving a delegation of workers from Thessaloniki's metro protesting over slipshod safety regulations that led to the incident, the minister expressed deep sorrow and his support for the family of the unlucky man. He urged the workers to submit a memorandum with their proposals and promised to do whatever was in his power to examine and deal with safety issues in the workplace.

    The delegation included Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Yiannis Ziogas, the Thessaloniki Labour Centre general secretary Sotiris Zargianopoulos and the head of the Thessaloniki construction workers' union Vassilis Revas.

    The metro construction workers had earlier carried out a protest march to the Macedonia-Thrace ministry, while they plan to hold a work stoppage on Friday morning, from 8:00 until 13:00, with their union calling them to take part in a rally at the metro worksite at 9:00.

    The Thessaloniki Labour Centre and local branches of left-wing political parties have issued announcements urging prosecuting authorities to intervene in order to investigate the accident, which they charge was the result of deficient safety precautions on the site and "criminal indifference by the management".

    The accident occurred on Thursday morning at Thessaloniki's New Railway Station when the arm of a piece of machinery came loose and fell on the man standing beneath. There are more than 650 people currently working on the construction of the Thessaloniki metro, while the first tunnel-boring machine named 'Kostikas' went into action a few days ago and started digging from the New Railway Station at a rate of 10 metres a day.

    [25] Bill eyes physician, nursing staff hirings

    The health and social solidarity ministry on Thursday a draft bill in Parliament including provisions for the hiring of 2,000 physicians and 5,500 nursing staff for the country's public health system. Additionally, the draft bill includes pay raises for medical staff and a hike in the hospital bonus allocated to specialist physicians.

    [26] Veteran journalist Papageorgiou passes away

    Veteran journalist-economist Efthimios Papageorgiou died Wednesday in Athens and his funeral will be held Friday at the Zografou Cemetery.

    He was born in 1924 in Athens, studied Law at the University of Athens and received a degree in Economics from the London School of Economics.

    His career as a journalist was launched in 1944 at the newspaper "Kathimerina Nea". As a political and diplomatic editor he collaborated with the newspapers "Eleftheria", "Imerisia", "Eleftheros Kosmos", "Ta Simerina", "Athens News", "Acropolis" and "Ta Nea", while he also worked at ERT public-run television, the General Secretariat for Information, and at the Athens News Agency (ANA-MPA). He was a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Voice of America, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and the BBC Greek Service.

    He further served as an adviser to Prime Minister Georgios Rallis and was honored with a high distinction by the French State for his contribution to the strengthening of the Greek-French relations.

    [27] KEDKE meeting with PASOK delegation

    The head of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities (KEDKE), Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, on Thursday met a main opposition PASOK delegation to discuss cooperation with KEDKE over the culture ministry programme contracts.

    Kaklamanis stressed that the problems with the contracts between the state and local authorities in issues concerning culture and sports were real, substantial and long term, affecting nearly all municipalities.

    [28] Parliament holds blood drive on Thursday

    The Greek Parliament on Thursday held its regular six-monthly blood drive, collecting a total of 117 units (up from 93 last June) that were mostly donated by Parliament staff. Also among the 131 donors were former Parliament president Apostolos Kaklamanis, main opposition PASOK MP Athanassios Alevras and several reporters covering Parliament.

    The area of the blood drive was visited by Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas and his predecessor, Anna Psarouda-Benaki.

    [29] New Radio-Television Museum in Liosia

    The new Radio and Television Museum in Liossia, Athens, scheduled to be ready in just over a year, and statistical data on the exhibition "70 Years of Greek Radio" currently underway in the Zappeion Mansion, were outlined Thursday by public-run radio and television ERT S.A. executives headed by President/CEO Christos Panagopoulos.

    On display will be material from the Gazi Exhibition "Athens in the 20th Century" and the ongoing Zappeion exhibition which, according to official figures presented by Panagopoulos, has already been visited by 111,818 people over a period of roughly two months, since its opening in mid December 2008.

    [30] Drug-resistant infections at Thessaloniki hospital

    The two patients that contracted an antibiotic-resistant Klebsiella infection while in hospital are currently in stable condition, doctors at the Ippokration Hospital intensive care unit in Thessaloniki reported on Thursday.

    Treatment of the two patients, aged 55 and 74 years old, respectively, will continue in another area, while the other four patients in the ICU that have not contracted Klebsiella will probably be transferred to a separate ward on Friday.

    The regional health service authority said that the two Klebsiella infections appeared to be "isolated incidents" and that no other case has been reported in hospitals within the region.

    Weather Forecast

    [31] Cloudy, rainy on Friday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 2C and 20C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens, with southerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 4C to 14C.

    [32] The Thursday edition of Athens dailies at a glance

    The results of the tender for the privatization of national aircarrier Olympic Airways, the shooting injury of a private security company employee by a police guard outside the US ambassador's residence in Athens and the proclamation by a new urban guerrilla group calling itself the "Rebels Secta" that claimed the recent shooting attack on a police station in Korydallos dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou's eyes were affected by teargas? Half the government must resign! - Melodramatic opposition by PASOK".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Primary school pupils are enrolled in (private) tutorial classes" claims survey conducted by the newspaper".

    AVGHI: "Upsurge in poverty's upsurge before the global financial crisis actually hits Greece, according to VPRC opinion poll company's annual report for 2008".

    AVRIANI: "Government on general elections course - Signal for ballots after the conclusion of benefits to major social group".

    CHORA: "US embassy guards play Russian roulette - Bullet from officer's revolver hit a security guard in the throat".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos: We do not have a national plan to confront the crisis".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The 'twilight' of poverty for 530,000 Greeks - The number of the financially weaker sky-rocketed in 2008".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: " 'Psycho scenes' outside US ambassador's residence - A police officer shot and seriously injured an embassy private guard".

    ESTIA: "Teargas and cockroaches - All are a part of the (TV) battle of impressions".

    ETHNOS: "Unbelievable incident: A police officer shot a private security guard".

    KATHIMERINI: "New case of police incompence - A policeman shot a guard outside the US envoy's residence".

    LOGOS: "Greek Police placed on .....suspension - New injury to the police's image".

    NIKI: "This is Karamanlis' Greece: The Greeks are the poorest EU citizens".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "United counter-attack movement of the poor farmers, workers, self-employed".

    TA NEA: "New Democracy in shambles - Everyone against everyone else in the government".

    TO VIMA: "Just one month after the reshuffle, the government is falling apart - Strife between Ministers and ruling New Democracy (ND) MPs".

    VRADYNI: "Wild bullets - Unprecedented incident outside US envoy's residence in Athens".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [33] President: Common views with Turkish Cypriots but differences with Turkey


    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias said on Thursday that the Greek Cypriot side shares common views with the Turkish Cypriot side but has serious differences with Turkey regarding the interpretation of a federal solution of the Cyprus problem.

    The president stressed that Turkey cannot expect to join the EU as long as the Cyprus problem remains unsolved.

    In his opening statement at a lunch hosted by CNA for foreign correspondents in Cyprus, President Christofias said Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat has shifted his stance compared to the shared views they had as leaders of political parties, noting that Turkey has a serious role to play in a Cyprus settlement.

    He said his vision was the reunification of Cyprus and its people, and for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to determine their fate, adding that the interpretation Turkey is giving for a new partnership of two equal states is unacceptable.

    Regarding the direct negotiations he has been engaged in with Talat since early September 2008 for a settlement, President Christofias said they share views on the deadlock solving mechanism regarding the legislative authority and the judicial authority, with the issue of the deadlock solving mechanism for the executive authority remaining open, since there is a serious gap in views on how it will function.

    Referring to the issue of properties, he said Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots have created faits accomplis on the ground, noting that the main difference between the two sides is that the Turkish Cypriot side, while recognising the right of choice, gives priority to compensation and exchange of property.

    In his opening statement, President Christofias said the Cyprus problem is one of invasion and occupation, a problem of violation of international law over the past 35 years, a problem of restoring the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a state which is a member of the UN and the EU.

    President Christofias made a short review of the history of the Cyprus problem, noting that his vision was ''to see this country truly independent, free'' and to see Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots living and working together in their common homeland.

    He referred to the agreement between the first President of the Republic Archbishop Makarios III and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for a bizonal bicommunal federation, noting that each side interprets it differently.

    ''From the beginning there was a very different interpretation of the bicommunal bizonal federation from the two communities. The Greek

    Cypriot side considers to date that the state must be governed by a central government with strong powers, and be a result of an agreement between the leaders of the two communities.''

    The interpretation of the Turkish side for ''a new partnership of two equal states is unacceptable,'' he added.

    He also noted that with Talat ''we have agreed to talk as leaders of the two communities for a bizonal bicommunal federation solution, with political equality, as described in UN resolutions, for a united state with a single sovereignty, undivided, a single citizenship and a single international personality.''

    ''We share views with Mr. Talat in these issues and we have a serious difference with Turkey, which interprets in a totally different manner and of course in an unacceptable way the meaning of the federation we will reach,'' he pointed out.

    Referring to the issues being discussed at the talks, President Christofias said that on governance ''our opinion is that the presidential system is tried and tested,'' adding that ''in order to secure the unity of the state and people, the President and Vice-President should be elected by both communities together'' on a common ballot for a six-year term. Furthermore, the Greek Cypriot will be President and the Turkish Cypriot Vice-President for the first four years and then they will swap for the remaining two years, with a Council of Ministers from both communities.

    Regarding the legislative authority, there will be a Senate and a House, with an equal number of senators and a proportional number of members of the House.

    ''In the legislative authority we are very close, although there are still some divergences,'' he pointed out, adding that ''there is agreement in the judicial authority, there is agreement in the deadlock solving mechanism for the legislative authority and the judicial authority but the issue of the deadlock solving mechanism for the executive authority remains open'' since the Turkish Cypriots believe the President and Vice-President should be elected by the Senate and there should be a Presidential Council, with four Greek Cypriots and three Turkish Cypriots.

    He added that ''there is a serious difference in views on the issue of how it will work and there is agreement on other aspects of the governance issue.''

    Regarding the issue of properties, President Christofias said it was a complex aspect of the Cyprus problem. ''We base our view on principles,'' he noted, adding that ''we acknowledge that unfortunately Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots have created a fait accompli on the ground, have exploited Greek Cypriot properties they had no right to exploit, while the Republic of Cyprus placed the Turkish Cypriot properties under the protection of a guardian, in order to return them to the Turkish Cypriots.''

    He explained that the owners of the properties should have the first word, with options including the return of the property to the owner, compensation, leasing or exchange of property, while the Turkish Cypriot side gives priority to compensation and exchange of property.

    President Christofias noted that Talat ''has shifted greatly from our common positions as leaders of parties,'' adding that ''Turkey is the occupying force, unfortunately with the presence of thousands of troops illegally, and of course unfortunately there is the financial dependence of the Turkish Cypriots on Turkey.''

    ''Turkey has a serious role to play, if it wants to play a positive role for a Cyprus settlement. We want to compel Turkey to play this positive role,'' President Christofias said, adding that ''we support Turkey's accession to the EU, I want to make this clear, but not unconditionally'' and that ''the EU itself does not support Turkey's accession without any conditions.''

    He noted that it was ''a paradox for a country that wants to join the EU not to recognise a member state and not to open airports and ports to airplanes and ships of the EU member state.''

    ''We do not accept any terms from Turkey to meet its obligations towards the EU and Cyprus. So, Turkey itself holds the key to its EU accession, not Cyprus,'' he added.

    Regarding relations with Greece, President Christofias said they are based on friendship and cooperation, without any intervention in Cyprus' home affairs or the handling of the Cyprus problem. ''Greece does not draft policies for us. Greece fully respects us,'' he pointed out.

    Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

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