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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-11

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 11 February 2009 Issue No: 3119


  • [01] Greece faces no risks, FinMin says
  • [02] Cabinet approves bill for expatriate vote
  • [03] PASOK leader on Foreign policy, Defence programmes
  • [04] Papandreou addresses Green Development-Environment party group
  • [05] Alavanos meets with ADEDY
  • [06] Development minister unveils focal points of ministry policy
  • [07] Transport Minister Stylianidis visits Civil Aviation Authority
  • [08] PM sends letter of condolence to Australia's Rudd
  • [09] Gov't begins talks with MIG over sale of Olympic Airlines
  • [10] Gov't briefed on OA privatisation process
  • [11] FinMin on investments plans for SMEs
  • [12] Minister unveils drive to boost research
  • [13] PASOK on interest rates, high cost of living, energy
  • [14] GNTO poster exhibition in London's Harrods (ADDS - Markopoulos meets Al Fayed)
  • [15] Employment minister meets merchant representatives
  • [16] Macedonia-Thrace minister pledges action to resolve problems in Thessaloniki markets
  • [17] Greek banks willing to support international activities
  • [18] Greek stocks end 0.29 pct lower
  • [19] ADEX closing report
  • [20] Greek bond market closing report
  • [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [22] Papoulias receives high school IT team
  • [23] Education minister receives technical institute presidents
  • [24] Court acquits driver in school bus accident
  • [25] Appeal to save childhood home of author Loudemis
  • [26] 'Sweet fashion' on show in Thessaloniki
  • [27] Canadair makes forces landing, crew safe
  • [28] Drug arrests in Thessaloniki
  • [29] Man arrested for sexually abusing young girl
  • [30] Armed bank robbery in Thessaloniki
  • [31] S. Kapralos elected new Greek Olympic Committee president
  • [32] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday
  • [33] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [34] Britain believes real progress has been achieved in Cyprus peace effort
  • [35] House President: Turkey must respect international law Politics

  • [01] Greece faces no risks, FinMin says


    Greece faces no risk from a global financial crisis, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters, after an Ecofin meeting in Brussels, the Greek minister said the meeting focused on efforts to restoring the operation of the banking system in Europe and implementing an updated Stability and Growth Pact.

    Papathanasiou said the 27 finance ministers agreed on a series of measures aiming at coordinating actions and adhering to existing rules on competition and transparency, while he noted that the Economic and Fiscal Policy Commission would examine specific recommendations on the issue. Responding to a question over the need of revising a 28-bln-euro plan to boost liquidity in the Greek banking system, Papathanasiou said that Greek banks have minimum exposure to so-called "toxic" investments.

    The minister underlined the need to respect the credibility of rules of a Stability and Growth Pact and said that the Greek updated stability program -submitted to the European Commission- pledged to reduce the country's fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct of GDP by 2011. "That is a demand for the benefit of the country and the demand of the markets," Papathanasiou said, adding that government policies to reducing the fiscal deficit was drafted based on social interests.

    The Greek minister said Greek and community agencies had different views over economic projections in the country this year. Papathanasiou reiterated that the Greek economy would grow by 1.1 pct this year instead of a 0.2 pct growth projection made by the Commission, and stressed that: "Our plan is realistic and the projected economic growth feasible".

    He expressed his satisfaction over the fact that a Greek state three-year bond sale raised 7.0 billion euros with a yield spread at 190 basis points. "Greece faces no risks despite rumors presented in international press over a credibility problem of the country," he said.

    Papathanasiou said he discussed Greece's borrowing needs with the president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, along with the issue of high bond spreads. He noted that both in the Eurogroup and the European Commission, the problem of the Greek economy was the country's large debt and the large spreads paid for its borrowing needs.

    [02] Cabinet approves bill for expatriate vote

    The inner cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft bill executing the Constitution, which allows Greeks resident abroad to vote in Greek elections from their place of residence, during a session chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Presenting the proposed legislation, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos urged the political parties to cooperate in passing the bill into law.

    "We cannot deprive expatriates of their right to participate in the political life of the country. It is dictated by the Constitution but is also our obligation towards them when we know how much we owe them and how much they can renew the political life of the country through their participation and their ideas," he underlined.

    The minister explained that the government and political parties, in a discussion also initiated via the foreign ministry, had arrived at certain general guidelines that were included in the present draft legislation to be tabled in Parliament.

    This gives the right to vote to Greeks that are permanently resident abroad and those that are stationed abroad, either working for Greek foreign services or as employees of international organisations. These will be included in special electoral rolls to be compiled and regularly updated by Greek consulates.

    Unlike the draft legislation originally proposed by the government, however, they will not be able to vote for candidates standing for election in Greece but for candidates running specifically as representatives of Greeks abroad, who will be included each party's list of state. Every party can name up to three such candidates in its state deputies list, while they must all be permanently resident abroad for at least 10 years.

    According to Pavlopoulos, this avoids problems involving the removal of seats from regions in Greece while ensuring representation of Greeks living outside the country.

    The minister clarified that the proposed bill will be transitional, since this would be the first time that the Greeks abroad would vote in elections. Once it had been tested in practice, the government would then examine the possibility of representation for specific regions abroad and ways in which the Constitutional provision for a postal vote might be implemented in practice.

    He also explained that the votes of expatriates participating in the elections would be added to the total of those voting throughout the country and in this way, their percentage would also be taken into account when calculating the allocation of seats in Parliament to each party.

    By tabling the draft bill in Parliament, the government was fulfilling the pledge it had originally made in 2004 to bring a draft law executing the Constitution and thus give Greeks abroad the chance to vote, Pavlopoulos stressed.

    Pointing out that the first attempt presented in 2006 had been blocked by the opposition parties - since the bill requires a two-thirds majority in order to be passed by Parliament - he stressed that everyone in Parliament must now be held responsible for their actions.

    [03] PASOK leader on Foreign policy, Defence programmes

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou told a meeting of his party's committee on foreign policy turnover that " we have a government that is incessantly torn apart by internal strife, leaving the country without a compass -- a government that is a captive of interests and petty party expediencies".

    Papandreou underlined that PASOK's demand for change, with a mandate from the people, is more imperative than ever.

    On foreign policy issues, Papandreou said that "Greece needs an active and effective foreign policy and powerful Armed Forces" in order to serve the national interests, and accused the government of inertia in its foreign policy and of lacking a presence and positions.

    On national defence issues he said that the Armed Forces today lacked meritocracy, while there was also a 'leakage' of 6 billion euros in the armaments' programmes without the transparency framework and which of those programmes were really necessary being defined.

    The government had not negotiating credibility abroad, Papandreou said, giving as an example that, while the ECOFIN minisers were discussing how to exit the crisis, in Greece "lists of disgrace" were being revealed, coordinated by the government.

    There was an immediate need for the country to recover its credibility abroad, and for the establishment of relations of confidence with the Greek citizens, Papandreou concluded.

    [04] Papandreou addresses Green Development-Environment party group

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, addressing a session of the party's Green Developmnent-Environment group on Tuesday, said that the government "is wasting the country's reserves without any development plan, since it is moving on the horizon of elections."

    Papandreou clarified that green development does not exclusively mean protection of the environment, but it is related to the restructuring of the country's production model, with green technology and future conditions being the spearhead.

    Green development, he added, means investments and jobs in the farming and food sector, construction, tourism, energy and transportation.

    The PASOK leader further said that it is a basic direction in the rest of Europe as well, it is linked directly to public investments, social policy, employment and to the exit from the crisis currently being experienced.

    Issues were also discussed during the session that concern the farming sector, the environment, energy, town planning, public works, tourism, transportation, shipping and island policy.

    [05] Alavanos meets with ADEDY

    "Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) is a vibrant political power, society needs a radical progressive movement and the party will be on its side," SYRIZA Parliamentary Group leader Alekos Alavanos stated on Tuesday. He was commenting on a proposal by an MP from the largest party within SYRIZA, Fotis Kouvelis of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN), who suggested giving a vote of confidence to main opposition PASOK party in case it has no majority in the national elections.

    Earlier, Alavanos had a meeting with the board of the public employees' trade union ADEDY and supported the sector demands calling for pay hikes and greater support to their pension fund through the state budget.

    [06] Development minister unveils focal points of ministry policy

    Development minister Kostis Hatzidakis outlined the four focal points of the policy his ministry will follow to the end of the year, in a press conference on Tuesday, noting that by the end of April most of the legislation and actions will have been completed and set in motion.

    The four focal points are spurring the market and boosting liquidity and entrepreneurship, consumer protection and supervision of the market, investments in energy with the emphasis on 'green' energy, and enhancing research and technology.

    The minister stressed that particular importance was placed on supervision of the market and protection of the consumer from unjustified price hikes and abusive business attitudes, noting that "regardless of how many sucesses we may have with the measures that we will be taking in the immediate future, if we fail in the area of market supervision and consumer protection it will be as if we have failed in our entire endeavor".

    He added, however, that the government does not have "magical recipes" in the battle against the "many-headed monster" of high prices, and the cooperation was needed of all the market players, especially the consumers, to defeat it.

    Questioned on the prospect of a consumer boycott to punish the 'bad companies', Hatzidakis opined that it was just a matter of time that such practices, which he said are effective, will be organized by consumer organizations.

    He further said that he has "very specific thoughts" on how the fight against profiteering will be continued, reiterated that the names of companies proceeding with unjustified price increases will be made public, in order to inform the consumers, and warned that the iisue of price increases in fuel "has gone too far", noting that he has already contacted his authoritative fellow ministers, in writing, on advancing the materialization of the Competition Commission's recommendations for the oil market. "We have no room for failure with respect to oil products," Hatzidakis commented.

    Enhancing competition and confronting the problem of the cartels are among the first priorities of his ministry, in conjunction with boosting a consumer consciousness, he said. In that context, the new law on upgrading the Competition Commission being prepared by his ministry was expected to be passed in parliament by March. "The Competition Commission is doing, and will continue to do, its work because it is a key weapon of society against the cartels. It has significant cases currently in motion, and our aim is to enhance it institutionally and increase its staffing for its more effective operation," the minister said.

    Also, a process of transfers and future hirings for the staffing of the Market Supervision Service (YPEA) was being advanced.

    Further, the process of introduction of a new Price Monitoring system was being accelerated, with the installation of electronic instruments in various regions of Athens for price comparisons, he continued, and estimated that the bill on collection companies will have been passed in parliament by March and a four-digit telephone line for information on bank products will bee installed in April, while a variety of other actions were being planned for the Consumer Week observed on March 9-13.

    [07] Transport Minister Stylianidis visits Civil Aviation Authority

    Transport and Communications Minister Evripidis Stylianidis appeared optimistic about the course of negotiations launched Tuesday on the privatization of the Olympic Airlines (OA) national carrier.

    Stylianidis visited the Civil Aviation Authority, CAA, Control Center at Hellinikon in Athens within the framework of scheduled visits to organizations, agencies and companies supervised by the ministry of transport and communications.

    The purpose of the visits, according to the minister, is to be briefed on operational readiness and personnel related issues.

    [08] PM sends letter of condolence to Australia's Rudd

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday sent a letter of condolences to Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for the victims of the fires raging in the state of Victoria.

    In the letter, the prime minister notes that Greece has recently suffered a similar experience and wholeheartedly supports Australia's citizens during these difficult hours, especially the families of those smitten by this disaster.

    Financial News

    [09] Gov't begins talks with MIG over sale of Olympic Airlines

    The Greek government and Marfin Investment Group (MIG) on Tuesday officially launched negotiations over the sale of Olympic Airlines. The first phase of the talks included the state's advisors in the sale and MIG's representatives and mainly cover technical issues related with MIG's interest in a procedure to buy the national carrier.

    Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, responsible for the privatization of Olympic Airlines, recently commented that an invitation to participate in the privatization procedure was open to any investor. Transport and Communications Minister Euripides Stylianides speaking to reporters, on Tuesday, expressed his optimism over the outcome of the negotiations.

    Marfin Investment Group, in its statement expressing its interest in buying the national carrier has said that if negotiations were successfully completed it would offer an option to the Greek state to repurchase Olympic Airlines within three months after the next general elections in the country and has stressed it was open to cooperate with any other investor interested in the sale, or even withdraw from the procedure if another serious candidate were to appear.

    [10] Gov't briefed on OA privatisation process

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday said that the inner cabinet was given a quick briefing by Development Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on the efforts to privatise Olympic Airlines and the offer made by MIG during its meeting that day.

    "We are interested in a healthy, efficient privatisation of OA and this is sought through the process now underway," Antonaros said, in response to comment made by main opposition PASOK MP Theodoros Pangalos.

    [11] FinMin on investments plans for SMEs

    The Finance and Economy ministry has issued instructions for additional funding amounting to 68 million euros for Investments plans for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises that have been approved in the framework of the 13 Regional Business Programmes of the 3rd Community Support Framework for the 2000-2006 period. On January 23, 352 million euros were disbursed for this purpose.

    Finance and Economy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said on his part that "supporting Small and Medium-Size Enterprises, to enable them to stand up to the pressures of the international crisis, is a priority for the government. A priority that is shown in every way possible. For this reason, the payment of subsidies of the 3rd Community Support Framework, that will provide additional fluidity for thousands of Small and Medium-Size Enterprises, is continuing with even speedier rates."

    [12] Minister unveils drive to boost research

    Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis on Tuesday said that boosting and rewarding domestic research institutes, while at the same time linking the development of research and technology with production, was a key aim of the development ministry.

    "Through the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) a new idea is being promoted, the innovation coupons for small and medium-sized enterprises," he revealed during a press conference Tuesday. He said these coupons would provide SMEs with grants of 7,000 euros to promote activity in research and technology, in a programme that was likely to begin in March.

    The minister also unveiled plans for an evaluation of research centres, with a special survey that would be commissioned from one of the larger international firms. The aim of this would be to restrict the number of such centres in order to produce specific work, scrapping those that were less efficient.

    Hatzidakis said that Crete Polytechnic would act as a model in this respect, which had a total budget of programmes handled by the Research Committee that came to 14 million euros a year. This sum represented 46 percent of the institute's annual sources of funding, in addition to salaries.

    Specifically, its sources of funding in 2007 were: European Union, 42 percent; General Secretariat for Research and Technology, 10 percent; Education Ministry, 5 percent; Crete regional authority, 2 percent; and private bodies/local authorities, 34 percent.

    "We want research centres that are open to local government, to local communities, to businesses. We will support such research centres in every way. We will boost their activities. We want research that is done for society and the economy," Hatzidakis underlined, urging all research bodies to move in this direction.

    The minister announced that there will be an event on April 1 organised by the General Secretariat for Research and Technology to award innovative activities, in collaboration with Greek universities, to highlight the work done by Greek research centres that was largely unknown to the broader public.

    He said the Secretariat also planned to make use of European funding for investments in research and technology, with emphasis on the environment, shipping and biotechnology.

    [13] PASOK on interest rates, high cost of living, energy

    Main opposition PASOK party spokesman on development sector issues Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Tuesday strongly criticized the government policy as regards interest rates, market prices and energy issues.

    Speaking in a press conference, Chrysohoidis pointed out that while the cost of money is on the decline in the rest of Europe, this is not the case in Greece and pointed out the unfair practices followed by banks concerning credit cards.

    On the country's energy planning, he commented that the development minister himself has admitted after 5 years in power that the energy policy has failed and that the country has no future planning in the specific sector.

    Referring to the price hikes in foodstuffs, Chrysohoidis accused domestic food industry firms of price gouging, in spite of the unprecedented economic crisis.

    [14] GNTO poster exhibition in London's Harrods (ADDS - Markopoulos meets Al Fayed)

    Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) posters dating back to 1929 will be exhibited in London's Harrods department store until the end of February.

    Posters will be on display in 10 out of the 72 windows of the world famous department store while video screenings will also be part of the tourism promotion campaign, in addition to printed material that will be distributed to shoppers.

    Greece's promotion logo will feature on the back side of all Harrods receipts as well as a brief informative text, while visitors will have the opportunity to taste the Greek cuisine at the store's restaurant.

    The exhibition was inaugurated on Monday by Tourism Development Minister Costas Markopoulos and according to officials a total of 1 million people are expected to visit Harrods in the duration of the Greek tourist promotion campaign.

    Markopoulos stated that this is a first for such a promotion campaign in the specific department store and, referring to the global economic crisis, he stressed that this is not an easy year for tourism. He also pointed out, however, that "tourism is a force that unites peoples and makes any conflict -- political, religious or social -- disappear".

    "The time that Greece was visited by tourists only for its antiquities and history is long gone," stressed Markopoulos, adding that the country is an attractive tourist destination both during winter and summer.

    Harrods' owner Mohamed Al Fayed made positive comments about the potential of Greek tourism during a meeting with the tourism development minister on Tuesday and stated that he wishes to take part in its promotion, expressing his intention to put on his store's shelves Greek wines and clothing.

    He also accepted an invitation by Markopoulos to visit Greece with his family as the guest of the tourism development ministry.

    The minister had a number of meetings with leading British tour operators, aimed at attracting tourists throughout the duration of the current tourist season, pointing out to them that the goal is to establish Greece as an all-year-round tourist destination.

    [15] Employment minister meets merchant representatives

    Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia held talks on Tuesday with merchants' representatives, who said later that the merchants will be submitting their proposasls to the ministry on the preparation of a business plan which, in the midst of a crisis, will help preserve jobs.

    "We are facing the issue of employment with special sensitivity, we do not want even one job to be lost. In this framework, we also reached an understanding with the National Confederation of Merchants of Greece (ESEE) that particular emphasis must be placed on the big programme for human resources covering the 2007-2013 period that 'Katartisi SA' is promoting and that concerns small and very small businesses," the minister said on her part.

    ESEE President Dimitris Armenakis made the assessment that the crisis will not deal a serious blow at employment in Greece due to the small scale of businesses. However, he added that they agreed to submit a proposal on the preparation of a business programme that will help in keeping jobs in the commercial sector.

    The representatives also proposed, among other things, the subsidisation of social insurance contributions, at some level and as far as possible, as well as tax breaks, particularly through the creation of a tax-free reserve that will serve employment exclusively.

    [16] Macedonia-Thrace minister pledges action to resolve problems in Thessaloniki markets

    Macedonia-Thrace Minister Stavros Kalafatis on Tuesday assured the city's traders, business people and professionals that his ministry will take action to smooth over vital problems in the daily operation of the city's markets, promising that it would intervene with a "specific role" to speed up the necessary procedures.

    "The times demand immediate, drastic and specific solutions to the specific problems faced by the market," Kalafatis stressed.

    The minister made the statements during a meeting with the chairpersons of Thessaloniki's chamber of commerce and industry, the commerce associations and its professional chamber, during which they discussed the repercussions of the economic crisis on the markets of northern Greece, the growing black market, reduction in turnover and other problems faced by businesses, as well as unemployment.

    The head of the Thessaloniki chamber of commerce and industry Dimitris Bakatselos urged the ministry to continue action to assuage the problem of the "two-speed, North-South gap" by taking measures similar to those employed in Attica and Athens.

    [17] Greek banks willing to support international activities

    The Hellenic Bank Association on Tuesday said it would be a big strategic error if Greek banks abandoned their customers, Greek and local, in the wider Balkan region, some of them members of the European Union, considering the intense competition in the region.

    The Association, in a statement, said that failure to support the economies of the region would also hurt the Greek economy and business activity in the country.

    "Most Greek banks have developed significant activity in the wider Balkan region in the last few years, aiming to boost Greek business activity regionally, taking advantage of investment opportunities in these countries and boosting the export-orientation of the Greek economy," the statement said, adding that Greek banks' assets were 53.3 billion euros last year in the region, or 14 pct of total assets of the Greek banking system, with a branch network of more than 3,500 units, employing around 40,000 workers.

    "In this current difficult conjucture, it is reasonable that supporting Greek economy should be a priority. But Greek banks have adequate capital and other sources of funding available -such as local savings, international capital markets, international organizations and the European Central Bank- to supporting their activities abroad," the Hellenic Bank Association said.

    [18] Greek stocks end 0.29 pct lower

    Greek stocks ended moderately lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, with the composite index of the market easing 0.29 pct to end at 1,763.08 points. Turnover shrank further to 78.9 million euros, of which 4.2 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower, with the Insurance (4.33 pct), Media (2.35 pct) and Technology (1.35 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Constructions (2.45 pct), Commerce (2.16 pct) and Chemicals (2.12 pct) scored gains.

    The FTSE 20 index eased 0.43 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.05 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.09 pct up. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 97 to 91 with another 64 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -4.33%

    Industrials: +1.43%

    Commercial: +2.16%

    Construction: +2.45%

    Media: -2.35%

    Oil & Gas: -1.06%

    Personal & Household: +0.57%

    Raw Materials: +0.37%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.44%

    Technology: -1.35%

    Telecoms: -1.20%

    Banks: -0.84%

    Food & Beverages: +0.99%

    Health: +1.46%

    Utilities: +0.31%

    Chemicals: +2.12%

    Financial Services: -0.88%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, EFG Eurobank Ergasias and Alpha Bank.

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

    Alpha Bank: 5.68

    ATEbank: 1.20

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.00

    HBC Coca Cola: 11.32

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.66

    National Bank of Greece: 13.06

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.94

    Intralot: 3.26

    OPAP: 21.98

    OTE: 11.56

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.02

    Titan Cement Company: 13.78

    [19] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.52 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover falling to a record-low of 18.721 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,299 contracts worth 3,299 contracts worth 14.580 million euros.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 5,678 contracts worth 3.952 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (1,151), followed by Eurobank (1,105), National Bank (478), OPAP (409) and Cyprus Bank (454).

    [20] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 359 million euros on Tuesday, of which 55 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 304 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 60 million euros.

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds fell to 232 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.64 pct and the German Bund 3.32 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued falling. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.17 pct, the six-month rate was 2.06 pct, the three-month rate was 1.98 pct and the one-month rate 1.66 pct.

    [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.307

    Pound sterling 0.884

    Danish kroner 7.512

    Swedish kroner 10.604

    Japanese yen 119.34

    Swiss franc 1.518

    Norwegian kroner 8.710

    Canadian dollar 1.599

    Australian dollar 1.955

    General News

    [22] Papoulias receives high school IT team

    President of Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received high school pupils who are also members of the National Team Informatics.

    Papoulias welcomed the pupils at the presidential mansion and expressed his satisfaction and respect, adding that their success is the result of the good work done in the public education sector.

    [23] Education minister receives technical institute presidents

    Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos held talks on Tuesday with the presidents of technical institutes and termed the meeting fruitful and useful, since he listened to the presidents' problems and evaluations on them and stated that the ministry will handle many issues positively.

    The technical institute presidents said that they will participate in the dialogue on education and also termed the discussion with the minister creative and who, as they said, "listened to us very carefully as we outlined our problems to him."

    [24] Court acquits driver in school bus accident

    A court in Larissa, central Greece, on Tuesday acquitted the driver of a coach that was involved in a tragic collision with a truck on the Athens-Thessaloniki motorway at Tempi while carrying high school students on April 13, 2003. As a result of the accident, 21 teenagers were killed and 33 were injured.

    The court handed down sentences of 4 years, 11 months and 15 days each to the chairman and manager of the company that had hired the truck to transport plywood sheets, which had been improperly loaded and secured and resulted in the large number of deaths.

    Compensation already paid by the company amounts to 8.5 million euros.

    The coach carrying 49 teenagers, aged 15 to 16, was an hour from home after a three-day school trip as an oncoming truck swerved out of control on the winding narrow roads near Tempi, spilling its load of plywood onto the side of the coach, virtually slicing off the roof and killing many of its passengers. As plywood sheets scattered over the road, three more cars smashed into the wreckage and burst into flames, setting the coach on fire.

    The accident -- the worst on the roads in post-war Greece - plunged the municipalities of Apostolos Pavlos and Antigonidon into mourning, as all the pupils on the bus were from the 1st Lyceum (high school) of Makryhori, attended by children from some six surrounding villages.

    [25] Appeal to save childhood home of author Loudemis

    An appeal to save the childhood home of popular 20th-century Greek author Menelaos Loudemis, whose novels were staple reading in thousands of Greek homes, was made on Tuesday by the late author's daughter, Myrto Loudemi-Iliopoulou. In statements to the ANA-MPA, she complained that local authorities in the village Exaplatano in Pellas had allowed the house, a listed building for the past 24 years, to fall into ruin, even though they had received funding as far back as 1988 to carry out necessary repairs.

    According to the author's daughter, the house had originally been declared a listed building in 1985, about eight years after Loudemis (whose real name was Dimitris Valasiadis) passed away. Three years later, in 1988, the then culture minister Melina Mercouri had given local authorities in Pellas six million drachmas in order to begin repairs.

    "Of course, nothing was done. I never found out what became of that money," his daughter told the ANA-MPA.

    Recounting a story in which responsibility for the building was shifted from one public service to another, Loudemi-Iliopoulou said she began to finally hope for a resolution when the Pellas Prefecture was put in charge of the project in 1999 and the various owners reached an agreement to swap the building with another plot of land. She had even made posters of old photographs and copies of some of his documents and handed them to the village teacher so that they could be displayed in the building.

    "I looked for these later but no one knew what had become of them," she said, expressing relief that she had not handed over the original photographs and documents.

    Ten years later on, and with the foundations of the house now seriously compromised, she hopes to find some private individual interested in honouring her father's memory.

    The issue of Loudemis' house was originally raised by ANA-MPA in an earlier report in May 1988, which led to the tabling of a question in Parliament by the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) and a reply from then culture minister Mihalis Liapis that the house was a listed building under the protection of the Macedonia-Thrace ministry.

    The collection of part-owners that inherited the house recently submitted a proposal that they donate the property to the municipality provided that the work on repairing it is completed within a set deadline, after which it returns to the ownership of its legal inheritors.

    They warned that if the state continued to take no action, they may even resort to legal action through the courts.

    Meanwhile, Exaplatanos Mayor Stavros Toufeggopoulos said the municipality has no reason not to accept the donation and that he has requested a meeting with the Macedonia-Thrace Minister Stavros Kalafatis about the repair work on the building.

    [26] 'Sweet fashion' on show in Thessaloniki

    Everyone's heard of street fashion. Well, the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki is back with the brand new concept of 'sweet fashion' that will be presented at the hotel Makedonia Palace on Wednesday evening by chef Virginia Anastasiadou Levi.

    Among a collection of 18 garments for men, women and children that are made of sugar and spice and all things nice (including chocolate), there is also one shaped into little hearts that is dedicated to Valentine's day.

    The fashion show is being organised as part of Levi's annual show of her new collection of sweets, which includes chocolates made with real ants, salt, tequila, lemons and lollipops whose ingredients include caterpillars and tarantula spiders!

    The proceeds of the entire event will go to the charity "Association of Friends of Children with Cancer - Storgi".

    Levi first presented clothing made of sweets to Greek audiences back in 1997, in the first ever presentation of 'sweet fashion' worldwide at the Asteras resort in Vouliagmenis. Her next surprise were the chocolate clothes she designed for the inauguration of her shop in Thessaloniki last year.

    "I get the inspiration for my creations by travelling and seeing things. I walk, I see images, I imprint them in my mind and I combine them," she said, when asked about her innovative sartorial ideas.

    According to Levi, she had not set out to do anything different when she first became involved in making sweets and pastries 22 years ago but arrived at this over the years:

    "If we 'dress' cakes, why can we not dress people, I thought, and that was how I created clothes of chocolate and candy in 1997, the first time this was done worldwide."

    She also holds a collection for her new sweets and chocolates annually, adding that the idea for her insect chocolates this year was born when she tasted foods using insects while travelling abroad.

    Though some of them taste unusual, most of her creations are in great demand and their price ranges from between 50 and 60 euros a kilo.

    As for her chocolate clothing, they may be sweet but are not likely to make it out onto the street. A few days after Wednesday's exhibition, they will be put on display in the 'Alexandros' gallery, next to the Thessaloniki Officers' Club.

    [27] Canadair makes forces landing, crew safe

    A civil aviation Canadair amphibious aircraft made a forced landing at sea off the Halkidiki peninsula on Tuesday morning, under conditions as yet unclarified.

    The Candair, which was taking part in a firefighting drill, made the forced landing off Aghios Mamas at 10:30 a.m., while the crew was reported safe and well.

    The commander of the Central Macedonia firefighting service, Constantine Kesapidis, told ANA-MPA that a second Canadair has lifted off from Thessaloniki to provide assistance to the distressed aircraft.

    [28] Drug arrests in Thessaloniki

    A 54-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday on the Thessaloniki-Kavala old national motorway in the region of Aghios Vasilios when police found in his possession roughly 30 kilos of hashish.

    The arrest was made after a police officer posing as a buyer met with the suspect. A subsequent search of the man's house revealed another 391 grams of hashish.

    In a separate incident in the municipality of Kalamaria, a 29-year-old man was arrested when a search of his house by police revealed roughly 2 kilos of hashish and a small number of narcotic pills.

    [29] Man arrested for sexually abusing young girl

    A 42-year-old family man was arrested on Monday by Athens police accused of sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl on several occasions, it was announced on Tuesday.

    The suspect had taken the young girl, the child of a family of friends, to his house to allegedly play with his own small children who, however, were not at home at the time. The 42-year-old sexually abused the child and according to evidence this had been repeatedly done in the past.

    Following a search in his house, conducted in the presence of a prosecutor, police confiscated his mobile phone and two personal computers allegedly used to store pornographic material.

    [30] Armed bank robbery in Thessaloniki

    Armed robbers got away with 50,515 euros after holding up an Agricultural Bank branch in the district of Toumpa, Thessaloniki on Tuesday morning.

    The two robbers were wearing sunglasses and hoods over their heads and made off with the money riding a motorcycle after threatening both bank employees and customers at gunpoint.

    A police investigation is underway for their arrest.


    [31] S. Kapralos elected new Greek Olympic Committee president

    Spyros Kapralos was elected president of the Greek Olympic Committee on Tuesday.

    The president of the Athens Stock Exchange beat the incumbent president, Minoas Kyriakou, by 18-11 votes in the elections. Participating in the voting were 28 federation representatives and Lambis Nikolaou as the International Olympic Committee's representative in the Greek Olympic Committee.

    Speaking immediately after his election, Kapralos said "I wish to thank you for the honour you bestowed on me in electing me president of the Greek Olympic Committee (EOE). Honouring your trust, I would like to reassure you that I will try with all my strength to live up to this high post of sport. In parallel, I request form you to work with us all together with consensus and unanimity, pushing aside whatever differences of the past, far from party blinkers and political expediencies, to enable us to make the Greek Olympic Committee the reality that we are dreaming of and that suits it."

    He added that "our mission is difficult. Greek Sport has been experiencing a crisis over the past years. I believe, however, that with methodical and collective work we shall be led to the positive results that we are all seeking."

    Outgoing president Kyriakou said on his part that "I do not wish to make any comment on the result. I want to wish every success to Mr. Kapralos... In life there is victory and defeat. I experienced both the one and the other. I am looking ahead. Greek sport is living and will live whether it is Kyriakou or anybody else. I am leaving satisfied with a very good tenure, from an Olympic Committee that also has a dowry at this moment. Almost 9 million. When I took over I found 126,000 euros. I wish all the best to all."

    Asked what he will remember, Kyriakou replied "many things, but I must say that Greece was also saved from many situations in Beijing. I serve my country and not policies."

    Weather Forecast

    [32] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 3C and 18C. Cloudy in Athens with local showers in the afternoon, with southwesterly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 7C to 18C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 14C.

    [33] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The extraordinary EU summit and European Commission efforts on the crisis, employment minister Petralia's assurances against dismissals and early election speculations were the main front-page items in Tuesday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "War against high prices - List of companies that made unjustified hikes in prices".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Stop talking and get to work".

    AVGHI: "Recession nightmare - The worst-case scenario for the economy being confirmed".

    AVRIANI: "Orgy of illicit price increases in FAGE (major dairy company) products - Development minister calls the price hikes unjustified".

    CHORA: "Shield against dismissals and for pensions - 'Window' for subsidized work from Petralia".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Spectre of excessive deficit proceedings over Ireland, Spain, France and Greece - Red Alert from Commission - Extroardinary EU summit within the month".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The crisis is here - Excessive deficit proceedings on the horizon - Nightmarish data for Greece".

    ESTIA: "The economy between two evils - Politicians and media to blame".

    ETHNOS: "Appeals for grace period - Critical contacts in Brussels in light of the threat of excessive deficit proceedings".

    KATHIMERINI: "The Europeans seeking common plan on the crisis - Extraordinary summit to be called end-February".

    LOGOS: "Subsidization without dismissals - Petralia sought commitments on the part of the small enterprises".

    NIKI: "New borrowing, urgently - The government putting the Greek people further into debt".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The needs and rights of the working classes in the 'guillotine' of the crisis".

    TA NEA: " 'Hunger' benefit for the unemployed - Lack of welfare, as dismissals increase".

    TO VIMA: "Political 'bridges', with the focus on the 'morning after', in anticipation of early elections".

    VRADYNI: "Black list on the excessive price hikes".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [34] Britain believes real progress has been achieved in Cyprus peace effort


    Britain believes that real progress has been achieved in the ongoing peace effort in Cyprus, which must maintain its momentum to bring about a solution that will yield benefits not only to the island itself but also to the EU, to Turkey as well as the wider international community.

    Speaking to the press here Tuesday, British Minister for Europe Caroline Flint said she had "useful" talks with the leaders of the two communities, praised their commitment to the peace effort, and added that a reunited Cyprus would be in the interest of Cypriots of both communities and would bring security, stability and prosperity.

    Progress, she said, has inevitably not been easy, but real progress has been made, noting that moving from power sharing chapter in the talks to the property issue was an important step.

    She acknowledged that given the complexity, the duration and the sensitivities of the problem finding a solution would be difficult, adding that the progress made is "a tribute to the two leaders".

    In her opening remarks to the press, she said that there is still a lot to be done, and pointed out that this opportunity is not infinite, and it is important that it is not allowed to drag on.

    Britain, she stressed, remains committed to supporting the UN efforts to achieve a settlement based on a bizonal bicommunal federation, with political equality.

    She said Britain has no place "to interfere in the process because it has to be resolved by Cypriots and for Cypriots" and said that one of the ways London is trying to be helpful is by supporting bicommunal activities such as the environmental forum.

    Questioned on the timetable of the talks, she welcomed the regularity of meetings and referred to confidence building measures that might be achieved, as well as a debate in civil society about the benefits of a solution, economic, social and environmental benefit.

    Asked if Britain could press on with Ankara the need to be helpful towards a solution, she said "it is important that Turkey does demonstrate how it does support a settlement" and expressed hope that in 2009 they can demonstrate that even more.

    On the EU demand on Turkey to open its ports and airport to Cypriot flagged ships and aircraft, she said "Turkey has been asked to address a number of issues, friends of Turkey will press them to engage and I think they are engaging but at the same time we want to see progress between the two leaders and their talks".

    Replying to other questions, she said "the process is not easy, this is not an easy situation but the leaders are showing leadership to take this on and try and find a solution, I hope in the coming months more progress can be made and countries supporting this process, including Turkey, will do whatever we can to make sure it is a success."

    The British minister started her last day in Cyprus with a visit to one of the minefields being cleared by the Mine Action Centre, where she handed over a cheque for 50,000 euros, noting that ''this is important work vital to the normalisation of the situation on the island'' and that ''it is essential that it receives the funding to continue.''

    On her meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, Flint referred to the huge benefits for both sides, noting that a solution would allow Turkish Cypriots to take their rightful place as full EU citizens.

    Flint noted that ''at a time of global economic uncertainty, it will provide a major boost to the economy on both sides through increased trade, tourism and foreign investment.''

    She added that ''a solution will require flexibility, mutual understanding and political courage,'' and noted she was ''confident that these two leaders have the political courage and skill to achieve their aim.''

    ''This is the best opportunity there may ever be to solve the Cyprus problem. You cannot afford to miss it,'' she pointed out.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    [35] House President: Turkey must respect international law


    President of the House of Representatives Marios Garoyian has said that Turkey must respect international law, thus allowing the achievement of a viable, just and functional solution of the Cyprus problem.

    Garoyian, who received Tuesday a delegation of Egyptian journalists, currently visiting Cyprus, said that the Greek Cypriot side pursues a solution of the Cyprus problem based on the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the values and principles of the EU.

    He also noted that Ankara has the key for the solution of the Cyprus problem, stressing that Turkey ''must respect international law, thus allowing, through direct negotiations, the achievement of a viable, just and functional solution of the Cyprus problem that would reunify Cyprus, its people, its institutions and its economy''.

    The House president expressed his appreciation for Egypt's stance regarding the Cyprus issue emphasizing on the positions held by his Egyptian counterpart.

    According to an official press release, Garoyian discussed with the Egyptian journalists various issues, such as the Cyprus-Egypt bilateral relations and he underlined the excellent relations between the two countries.

    Answering to questions by the Egyptian journalists, the Cypriot House President said that Cyprus can be a bridge between the EU and the Middle East, especially for Arab countries.

    Direct negotiations began early September 2008 between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat with a view to find a political settlement in Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974.

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