|Wednesday, 17 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 12 February 2009 Issue No: 3120
 FinMin: Gov't focused on cutting deficitLONDON (ANA-MPA)
Ôhe Greek government' s economic policy remains absolutely focused on controlling and further reducing the fiscal deficit and this policy is not only the result of the country' s obligations -- in the framework of an EU Stability and Growth Pact -- but also reflects the deep conviction that reducing deficits and achieving balanced budgets will benefit the economy and ensure sustainable growth, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said here on Wednesday.
Papathanassiou said the government has adopted more conservative and realistic predictions over budget revenues this year, because of the effects of the crisis. Budget revenues are projected to be 2.5 billion euros lower compared with initial forecasts and underlined that the government was determined to intervene dynamically to contain spending and to save money.
These measures included a 10-pct cut in spending on labour contracts in the public sector, setting a ceiling on public sector and the wider public sector executive salaries and reducing the number of board members to nine.
The minister said that despite the fact that in 2008 and early this year, state bond issuance was affected by the global financial crisis, Greece managed to successfully overcome adverse market conditions.
"Unfortunately, the Greek economy suffers from the burden of increased spreads. I want to stress that this development is not linked only with the fundamentals of the economy, or its rating by international firms. It is the result of market psychology, burdened by unjustified rumours related with the viability of the euro currency, the Greek economy's course, or Greece's and other countries' staying in the Eurozone," said.
"The fact that the market imposes higher spreads on Greek bonds compared with bonds issued by countries outside the Eurozone, has not justification. Eurozone is not in danger. The euro currency remains strong offering protection shield to its economies. Its positive role during this crisis is highlighted by the fact that other EU countries, like Denmark, are discussing entering the Eurozone. Of course, there is no case of Greece, or other countries, exiting the Eurozone," he stressed.
 EU extraordinary summit set for March 1An extraordinary EU summit to discuss confrontation of the global financial crisis has been set for March 1 in Brussels, it was announced on Wednesday by Czech prime minister and current president of the European Council Mirek Topolanek announced during a joint press conference with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.
Barroso also announced that another extraordinary summit will be convened in May to discuss the employment situation in the EU.
 Gov't spokesman on economy"The global economic crisis is unfolding rapidly and countries have to adjust to new data," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Wednesday, during his regular press briefing. He added that an EU leaders' summit meeting on the economy is imminent.
Antonaros stressed that initiatives are being undertaken to "soften" the consequences of the crisis, pointing out that the growth rate in Greece will be 1.1 percent in the current year, despite the European Commission forecasts of 0.2 percent.
"Very few countries will have positive growth like us, even by the Commission's pessimistic forecast," he underlined, adding that all efforts made by the government focus on the Greek people, mainly those in greater need.
Referring to the excessive deficit procedure, he said this process is in progress for all euro zone members, and stressed that all countries are placed under the microscope. He also reminded that two months ago the European Commission's official forecasts spoke of 2.5 percent growth rate whereas now they have dropped to 0.2 percent, pointing out that an adjustment is necessary.
Economy and Finance Minister Yannis Papathanasiou attended the Euro-zone and ECOFIN summits that discussed the global crisis and Greece's updated programme and presented the way the country handles the problems that have been created, Antonaros said, adding that consultations with the EU partners are continuous.
The government spokesman stressed that the deficit from 7.5 percent was sliced in half as a result of the policy implemented, while unemployment rate dropped to 8 percent from 11 percent and the economy itself displayed notable resilience.
As regards the 28-billion-euro bank liquidity plan for Greek banks and for strengthening the Greek economy amid the international credit crisis, Antonaros said it needs time to generate results as it was only implemented just 10 days ago.
 Gov't again dismisses early election speculationThe government spokesman on Wednesday was again called on to answer press questions dealing with early election speculation, amid continuing media reports and scenarios aiming to pinpoint when the next general elections will be held, an ever-present topic in political analyses.
"The government has clearly commented on the issue, and doesn't respond to fictional scenarios," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters at his regular daily briefing.
The spokesman also reminded that the government is in the process of tabling a draft bill giving certain categories of expatriate Greek citizens the right to vote from their place of residence.
Moreover, he sharply criticised main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou for "continuous efforts to create an artificial tension", as he said, noting: "we won't follow him down that path".
"...What the prime minister said was self-evident, namely, that social peace is necessary. That doesn't mean that citizens shouldn't press for the satisfaction of their demands. This, however, cannot come by disrupting the entire operation of cities or, as in the case with the tractor blockades, disrupting the unhindered transport of people and goods," he said.
 PASOK on early elections scenarioMain opposition PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Wednesday reiterated his party's readiness for early elections, pointing out that what's most important is that the Greek people are also ready.
Responding to a question on whether PASOK is prepared to tackle the ongoing economic crisis, Papaconstantinou said a stimulus programme for Greek economy will get underway immediately, while key moves will be made to bring immediate relief to weaker-income strata and to appease international markets.
 Country unprotected against crisis, PASOK claimsMain opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Wednesday battered the government with criticism on all fronts, claiming that it had left the country unprotected against the economic crisis as it devoted its energies to rescuing its warring members.
Spinning off a catalogue of woes, Papaconstantinou referred to massive state borrowing, which he said had already reached half the amount budgeted for the entire year, galloping unemployment, closure of businesses and inflation that, even when it had nominally fallen, did not lead to lower prices for consumers. At the same time, he added, "absolutely nothing was happening" in the sectors of public health and state education.
He asserted also that the 2007 budget, which had served as the pretext for holding elections, had been a sham that had been essentially thrown out in 2008 by the updated Stability and Development Programme, which was now itself coming under scrutiny from the European Commission as possibly unenforceable.
The spokesman repeated his party's demand for immediate elections and a simultaneous commitment to elect a new president of the republic through a consensus election in 2010, so that any new government elected would have the time it needed to "unfold" its programme.
He predicted that Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou will have trouble persuading foreign investors to buy Greek State debts, adding that Greece was now under a sort of "double supervision" by both international markets and the European Commission as a result of its twin deficits in competitiveness and the public budget.
In addition, Papaconstantinou accused the government of failing to record true levels of unemployment, citing figures presented the previous day by PASOK's spokesman for employment issues Evi Christofilopoulou.
Commenting on a draft bill approved by the government on Tuesday that will give Greeks permanently resident abroad the right to vote in Greek elections from where they live, Papaconstantinou said that PASOK will not agree to the government's proposal, which requires a two-thirds majority in order to be passed.
"PASOK cannot agree to a law that makes no provision for the true representation of expatriates and does not include a postal vote," the spokesman underlined, accusing the government of treating the issue of the expatriate vote as a communications exercise.
 KKE's Papariga on the 18th party congressCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said Wednesday that the preparation process in view of the party's 18th Congress scheduled for Feb. 18-22 was the liveliest and most substantive in recent years.
In a press conference, Papariga announced that representatives of 90 communist and labor parties from 72 countries will attend the proceedings, the largest attendance recorded over the past few years.
Responding to questions on the global financial crisis and political developments, Papariga stated that the crisis in Greece is more deeply rooted and lingering, adding that the position of the workers will deteriorate further "because no measures are being taken for them".
The KKE General Secretary stated that elections will not bring a solution rejecting, however, the argument that early elections amidst the crisis could make the economic situation even worse.
 Transport minister outlines main policy frameworkTransport and Communications Minister Evripides Stylianidis on Wednesday held a press conference outlining the main guidelines of the policy he intends to follow at the ministry in the coming months, after completing a round of visits to 21 public services under the ministry's supervision, where he talked with management and 18 staff unions and professional groups.
Stylianidis said that the ministry's policy could be divided into roughly five main areas, each with a different focus.
The first area he described as "national" and said its goal was to turn Greece into an international goods transit and telecommunications centre for the surrounding region of Southeastern Europe. The second line of action by the ministry he termed "institutional and financial" and said it would focus on completing privatisations, reforms to inefficient public-sector enterprises and organisations and harmonising Greek legislation with EU requirements.
The other two areas of policy outlined by the minister were oriented more toward society, including a developmental focus seeking to end the isolation of remote rural regions and poorer districts with the promotion of combined transport and a social policy seeking to improve daily life for the public by improving road safety, the quality of services, provide support for vulnerable groups like the disabled and students but also by ensuring better training for professional motorists, such as taxi drivers.
Finally, the fifth area of policy to be pursued by the ministry will focus on the environment and reducing CO2 emissions by promoting green transport, such as use of bicycles.
Replying to reporters' questions, Stylianidis said that he was sanguine about the privatisation process begun for Olympic Airways, noting that there was activity but without giving more details. He said that the process was open and fully compatible with the EU, adding that Greece had already submitted a request to the European Commission asking for the process to be extended and is expecting a reply.
 European Parliament on Turkish accession courseBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee ratified on Wednesday with 65 votes in favour, 4 against and one abstention the report prepared by Dutch Eurodeputy Ria Oomen Ruijten (European People's Party) concerning Turkey's accession course.
As regards issues of Greek interest, the resolution accompanying the report underlines the continuing efforts of the Greek and Turkish governments to improve bilateral relations and notes that the lifting of the casus belli proclaimed by the Turkish National Assembly in 1995 will provide a considerable impetus for further improving these relations.
The resolution also reminds that Turkey has committed itself for relations of good neighbourliness and calls on the Turkish government to make serious and intensive efforts on solving every pending difference with peaceful means and in accordance with the UN Charter, other similar international treaties and bilateral agreements and commitments. The appeal is also repeated for the immediate reopening of the Halki School of Theology and the public use of the ecclesiastical title of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The Turkish government is also called on to seek solutions for the preservation of the bicultural character of the islands of Imbros and Tenedos and to resolve problems facing the members of the Greek minority in relation to education and property rights.
On the question of Cyprus, the resolution stresses the need for an overall settlement of the issue based on UN Security Council resolutions and the principles on which the European Union is based.
Moreover, it welcomes the renewed commitment of the two leaders for a solution through negotiations, supporting the direct negotiations that are underway between the leaders of the two communities.
It is stressed that the EU will accept whatever agreement is reached, on condition that it will be compatible with the principles of the EU, including the four fundamental freedoms, an agreement that will be accepted though a referendum.
The resolution calls on Turkey to facilitate the creation of a suitable climate for negotiations, withdrawing the Turkish occupation forces and providing the two leaders with the possibility of negotiating the future of their country freely.
 Zagoritis on vote for overseas GreeksThe ruling New Democracy party's Organising Body discussed the party's action programming on Wednesday in light of the upcoming Euroelections and the initiatives that it will be assuming in Greece and in other European Union countries.
Central Committee secretary Lefteris Zagoritis said in a statement that the extremely important issue of voting for overseas Greeks was also discussed during the meeting.
"The possibility will be provided for Greeks living abroad to vote in the countries where they live and work as of 2011," Zagoritis said, adding that "the government will raise the issue in Parliament and let everyone assume his responsibilities."
 Agriculture ministry launches dialogue on farm issuesThe agriculture ministry on Wednesday announced the launch of "national dialogue" to discuss the large-scale and structural problems faced by Greek agriculture, with Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis holding the first of a round of meetings with farmers on a local and regional level this Friday, when he meets the farmers of Central Greece at Kammena Vourla.
On Thursday, meanwhile, he will meet with representatives of the farmers of Crete.
Those present at Thursday's meeting with include the heads of Crete's agricultural cooperatives and associations, as well as some of the island's elected MPs and local government officials.
Further meetings will follow next week in Thessaloniki, with farmers of central Macedonia, while the minister intends to carry out a round of such meetings in the following weeks, eventually covering all farming regions of the country.
Earlier this month, Greek farmers turned out onto the country's national highways and blocked roads and border crossings with their tractors, demanding solutions to mainly financial problems faced by farmers and agriculture.
 Agro-environmental projects to get 170 mln in state fundingThe Greek agriculture ministry on Wednesday announced that it is allocating the sum of 170 million euros to be spent on environmental projects involving agriculture.
According to a decision signed by Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis, the money will be spent on projects concerned with preserving and protecting the soil, preserving traditional agricultural practices, promoting organic farming and livestock breeding and promoting water conservation measures.
 FinMin on bank mergers in GreeceLONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)
Finance and Economy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, asked about cases of bank mergers in Greece during a meeting with British financial reporters on Wednesday, said that it would be a development that could be beneficial.
"With free negotiations between banks without state intervention, this would be a development that could be beneficial in a small market such as that of Greece," the minister said.
 Athens Chamber calls for subsidised shorter work weekThe head of the Athens Chamber for Commerce and Industry, Constantinos Mihalos, on Wednesday asked the government to re-examine a Chamber proposal for state subsidisation of employees' work hours in private businesses, as part of an effort to avoid lay offs or redundancies, as he said.
Speaking to reporters, Mihalos said the proposal calls on the government to subsidise employees' social security contributions and a portion of their wages. He noted that the measure would be temporary and cover only enterprises facing extremely serious problems.
 GSEE: Banks and business should pay for crisis, not workersThe General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation representing a substantial section of the country's private-sector workforce, on Wednesday stated its categoric opposition to proposals and "ideas" seeking to impose conditions of what it called "half work, half pay and half life" on Europe's workforce.
The trade union group said these sought to shift the cost of the oncoming crisis exclusively onto the shoulders of working people.
"Unrepentant, they are continuing to approach the exit from the crisis with the bankrupt recipe of rampant liberalism that created the crisis. When the economy was in recovery and the profits of banks and businesses were soaring, know one talked about distributing a part of the profits to the workforce! Now that the European Union is being led to a recession, the workers are not prepared to let their work be converted to unemployment, part-time employment or occasional employment, to suspensions and forced leave without pay or insurance," a GSEE announcement stressed.
GSEE also demanded the financial support of the economy and support of employment throughout the crisis and noted that this can be achieved if the necessary political will is present, through special funds that can be obtained through a redistribution of income, from the haves to the have-nots.
Working people should on no account accept such reasoning and politics, the trade union federation added, stressing that the cost of the crisis should burden banks and businesses and not private citizens.
 Development minister holds talks with Greek Bank UnionDevelopment Minister Kostis Hadzidakis held talks on Wednesday with the directorate of the Greek Bank Union (EET), focusing on a bill on debt collection companies.
"The government is almost ready to table the bill on debt collection companies in Parliament. From now on the debt collection companies will not be able to collect. They will have a clear and specific legal framework before them and, mainly, the Greek citizens-consumers will now stop being handled in an unacceptable and offensive way by these companies," the minister said after the meeting.
Also discussed during the meeting was the issue of banks' abusive terms and the relevant pending issue existing at the Council of State.
"The government insists on its position. It believes that irrevocable court decisions must subsequently, with ministerial decisions, have the validity of a law. On this we stand opposed to the banks and remain opposed. We have a different position, we are waiting for the final ruling by the Council of State to enable us to see the further developments, but the position of the government is steadfast and will not change," Hatzidakis added.
On the question of TEMPME (state agency for supporting small and very businesses), Hatzidakis said that the programme is improving with every day that goes by.
"Today, we shall probably approach 5,500 approvals. The applications are ranging today between 20,000 and 25,000. Consequently, the programme is not doing badly, initial assessments appear to be disproved. In spite of this, we are not dogmatic and, for this reason, we told banks during the discussion we had that we are also taking into consideration the demands being made on the part of SMEs and we shall make a small amendment in the framework governing the relevant regulation of TEMPME," Hadzidakis said.
The question of better cooperation with banks on a series of issues concerning consumer protection and loaning was also discussed at the meeting, as well as the creation of a joint committee with ministry and bank representatives to examine topical issues to help find specific and practical solutions benefitting consumers.
 Deputy interior minister signs decision on energy conservation in wider public sectorDeputy interior minister Christos Zois on Wednesday signed a decision aimed at energy conservation in the wider public sector, calling on the various Services to submit, detailed reports concerning implementation of the relevant measures to the Directorate for Renewable Energy Sources and Energy Conservation, for evaluation.
The Services are required to immediate designate an officer responsible for energy issues, and to draft and apply an organized action program containing specific actions and their timetables.
Further, given that the issue of energy yield and conservation is very technical and exceptionally important, the interior ministry services' collaboration with the National Center for Public Administration and Local Government is deemed necessary for organizing informational seminars for the energy officers but also the employees of the services involved.
According to the decision, the measures concern designation of an energy officer for the services' building or buildings and the actions and measures that have been taken in implementation of the decision.
It is recalled that the measures for enhancement of energy yield and conservation in the public and wider public sector were recently introduced in a joint ministerial decision of the interior, economy and finance, and development ministries.
 Credit Agricole proposes new CEO, chairman for Emporiki BankCredit Agricole will recommend Alain Strub as a new chief executive for Athens-based Emporiki Bank, with Antonis Krontiras taking over as chairman of the bank's board of directors, replacing Jean-Frederic de Leusse, who has taken new responsibilities with the French banking giant.
Emporiki Bank recently approved a plan aimed to boost and accelerate the transformation of the bank, along with a share capital increase plan, worth 850 million euros. It is within this plan that Credit Agricole SA will recommend changes in Emporiki Bank's board.
 ASE index for Alternative MarketThe Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday announced the launch of the first index in the Alternative Market, starting on Monday Feb. 16, with a starting price of 5,000 points.
In a statement, ASE said it remained by the side of listed companies in the market.
The new index aims to promote companies listed on the Alternative Market, along with aspiring to become a reliable medium for recording trends in the market. The index will be comprised of at least 10 shares, with a ceiling of 20 shares. The index will be calculated in real time on a daily basis and will be revised twice a year (April and October).
The Alternative Market currently has 10 companies listed: Epsilonet, Mediterra, Envitec, Doppler, Euroxx, Entersoft, Alpha Trust, Performance Technologies, Optoelectronic Technologies, Criton Artos.
 Greek stocks 1.06% downGreek stocks ended lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The composite index of the market fell 1.06 pct to end at 1,744.46 points, with turnover rising slightly to 112.5 million euros, of which 1.8 million were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Travel (3.25 pct), Raw Materials (2.56 pct) and Industrial Products (2.32 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Personal/Home Products (2.16 pct), Food/Beverage (1.20 pct), Insurance (1.04 pct) and Utilities (0.96 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index fell 1.47 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.40 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.83 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 144 to 69 with another 36 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.80%
Personal & Household: +2.16%
Raw Materials: -2.56%
Travel & Leisure: -3.25%
Food & Beverages: +1.20%
Financial Services: +0.96%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Public Power Corp (PPC), EFG Eurobank Ergasias, National Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.50
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.20
HBC Coca Cola: 11.48
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.60
National Bank of Greece: 12.84
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.78
Bank of Piraeus: 4.92
Titan Cement Company: 13.96
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 33.187 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.67 pct, with volume of 5,866 contracts worth 25.387 million euros.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 8,311 contracts worth 7.800 million euros, with investment interest focusing on PPC's contracts (2,108), followed by Eurobank (986), OTE (727), Piraeus Bank (711), National Bank (1,145), Alpha Bank (734) and Cyprus Bank (465).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 770 million euros on Wednesday, of which 265 million were buy orders and the remaining 505 million euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 275 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds widened to 246 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.71 pct and the German Bund 3.25 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.16 pct, the six-month rate 2.05 pct, the three-month rate 1.97 pct and the one-month rate 1.65 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.304
Pound sterling 0.907
Danish kroner 7.511
Swedish kroner 10.904
Japanese yen 117.43
Swiss franc 1.509
Norwegian kroner 8.759
Canadian dollar 1.626
Australian dollar 1.990
 Wildfire relief fund exceeds 205 mln eurosA complete picture of the work done by a special emergency Fund for relief of wildfire victims and affected areas in the Peloponnese, southern Greece, since the summer of 2007 was presented in a press conference on Wednesday by Fund president Petros Molyviatis.
Donations by roughly 92,000 people surpassed 205 million euros, in addition to interest of 7.5 million euros.
Roughly 60 million euros were used so far, Molyviatis said, 45 million of which went to finance a public works ministry rebuilding or repair programme, while an additional 15 million euros were used to deal with various emergencies and contingencies.
According to the ministry, a total of 1,425 applications were filed for participation in the programme, with 1,139 approved. A total of 788 residences are currently in the process of being rebuilt or repaired, Molyviatis stated.
In addition, special relief measures for private enterprises in the wildfire-ravaged regions reached 1.2 billion euros.
 WWF lauds Environment minister's commitments on green energyWWF-Hellas, the Greek branch of the environmental organization WWF, on Wednesday welcomed a public commitment by development minister Costis Hatzidakis the previous day for permanently ending investments in coal-powered energy production units, calling the move a "major victory for the environment and the national economy".
According to a WWF-Hellas announcement, the organization also considered "very positive" the minister's statement putting an end to talk about the use of nuclear energy in Greece.
"We must laud Mr. Hatzidakis' stance, which puts a definitive end to the coal drama and the rumors of introducing nuclear energy. With his statements, Mr. Hatzidakis proved that he shares the view of WWF Hellas and the entire society of the citizens, which consider that coal would be a blow to the public health and the environment and would perpetuate today's polluting and dead-end model of development and energy production," said WWF Hellas director Dimitris Karavellas.
WWF Hellas last November published a report titled "Solutions for climate change: vision of viability for Greece in 2050", in effect a low carbon energy vision for the country, proposing reduction of CO2 emissions of close to 70 percent by 2050, outlining specific ways to achieve the reduction.
The report recommended an energy combination and measures that need to be taken in electricity production over the next 40 years so that the country may meet its needs in electricity while at the same time limiting its energy dependence and adequately reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the energy model proposed by WWF Hellas, electricity demand in Greece could be contained to just 69,000 GWh by 2020, with Renewable Energy Sources (RES) covering 35 percent of that demand, 29 percent coming from lignite and 32 percent from natural gas, without requiring the use of coal or nuclear energy.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Hatzidakis said that a new dialogue would begin with the country's Energy Strategy Council in light of the fact that the use of coal in the country's energy combination would be terminated, adding that the political parties and environmental organizations would also be invited to take part in the dialogue.
 Kaklamanis sharply criticises left opposition; calls for local referendumsAthens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Wednesday called for a presidential decree to allow the holding of local referendums, as the head of the Greek capital's municipal government launched into a scathing counter-attack against opponents of a controversial twin land development project and recent efforts to build an underground parking garage in Athens' most congested districts.
During a press conference at city hall, Kaklamanis said the prospect of local referendums would free the municipality -- Greece's largest and most significant -- "from the stranglehold of the minority and the bureaucracy-bound procedures that systematically hinder the implementation of decisions related to the solving of critical problems and the improvement of citizens' quality of life."
The Athens mayor, a former health minister, made extensive reference to the planned construction of an underground parking garage in the Kypseli district, a project scheduled for more than 25 years whose construction generated protests and heated reactions by the leftist opposition on city council, including Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) President Alexis Tsipras, a city councillor.
Kaklamanis charged that Tsipras' municipal ticket has vehemently opposed the implementation of the twin urban regeneration project, which includes the construction of the new Panathinaikos football club's new stadium in the rundown Votanikos district and the creation of two large metropolitan parks.
Synaspismos and its affiliated Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) have criticised and opposed the land development plan, charging that the construction of a large department store mall in Votanikos violates environmental and town planning codes. They also object to the transfer of municipal land to the developer.
A Council of State (CoS) plenum is expected to decide early next month on a lawsuit filed by opponents of the twin urban regeneration project.
The Athens mayor 12 trees that were cut in Kypseli for construction of an underground car park, while protesters failed to mention the 8,500 trees that were planted in the past two years.
"They speak of 37 trees and 21 bushes on the corner of Kyprou and Patission streets, which were supposedly destroyed, but not the park comprising 157 trees, 124 large bushes and 189 small bushes and plants that will be created there ... They speak of the absorption of carbon dioxide by the trees that were cut but not of the great reduction in carbon dioxide that results from the operation of a parking garage.
"... They shed crocodile tears for the 12 trees that were cut but ignore the fact that 150 trees were needed to produce the 2.5 tons of paper used to produce the posters through which they insulted the mayor (of Athens)," he said.
 Tourism Minister inaugurates painting exhibition in LondonLONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)
Tourism Development Minister Costas Markopoulos inaugurated on Tuesday night the Exhibition "Greek Color" at Sotheby's auction house in London
The exhibition showcases the works of 16 noted Greek painters and aims to promote Greek tourism and Modern Greece.
"Though this exhibition you will meet modern Greece and become acquainted with works by modern Greek painters. I call on all of you to combine these pictures of art with your knowledge of Ancient Greece and democracy. That's the message of this exhibition," stressed Markopoulos.
 Changes to Proastiakos services from SaturdayThe Proastiakos railway on Wednesday announced changes to its train services starting on Saturday, when the electrically-powered lines will extend to the Ano Liosia station.
From that day, the electric line Airport-Neratziotissa-Airport will be replaced by the line Airport-Ano Liossia-Airport, with four services per hour in each direction.
As a result, the separate Ano Liosia-Neratziotissa-Ano Liosia line will be scrapped, saving passengers one train change when travelling from Kiato to the airport.
In addition, the first morning train 4300 that carried out the Piraeaus-Magoulas route will from Saturday be extended to Kiato.
 Recycling of lighting goods and bulbsThe Environment, Town Planning and Public Works ministry approves the collective recycling system for Lighting Goods and Bulbs "FOTOKYKLOSI SA."
Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias said that the quadrupling of recycling has already been achieved, raising the rate of recycled refuse to 25 percent in 2008 from 6 percent that it had been in 2004.
The aim of the "FOTOKYKLOSI SA" system is the nationwide organising of the recycling of Lighting Goods and Bulbs.
Participating in the "FOTOKYKLOSI SA" system are 48 administrators who represent 54 companies, most of which are companies producing and importing lighting goods and some of which are importers of bulbs.
The total quantity of Lighting Goods and Bulbs provided in the market by the participants in "FOTOKYKLOSI SA" amounts to 6,454 tons per year (6,309 tons of lighting goods and 145 tons of bulbs).
On the question of organising collection locations, what is anticipated is the placing of cans at lighting goods and bulbs retail stores, the placing of cans or containers on big users premises and cooperating with municipalities on developing collection at municipal locations as well.
 Government spokesman visits ESHEA officesGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros and the director of the prime minister's press office Ioannis Andrianos visited the offices of the Athens Journalists Union (ESHEA) on Wednesday and were presented with the final formulation of the amendment on the safeguarding of all jobs in municipal radio stations and the preservation of their current image.
Antonaros said on his part that the government of Costas Karamanlis is providing all the possible facilities for the operation of the mass media and reassured ESHEA that he will convey the special demands discussed during the meeting to the relevant ministries.
 Presentation of Parliamentary Foundation's new publicationsA special event was held in Parliament's Eleftherios Venizelos Hall on Wednesday, focusing on the presentation of the Parliamentary Foundation's new publications in the near future, its activities and work over the first five years of its operation and its targets for the years to come.
The presentation was accompanied by the showing of a videofilm, as well as by a display of material from exhibitions, educational programmes and other publications of the Parliamentary Foundation, that can be visited by the public until the end of February.
Inaugurating the event, Parliament President and President of the Foundation on Parliamentary Rule and Democracy Dimitris Sioufas termed as "suitable" all the praise being heard and that will be heard on the founding, operation and contribution of the Parliamentary Foundation on Parliamentary Rule and Democracy.
 Former PM donates libel settlement's compensationA settlement paid by high-profile PASOK cadre and minister Costas Laliotis to former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, following adjudication of a lawsuit by the latter against the former for slander, will be donated to the quake- and wildfire-ravaged prefectures of Ilia and Arcadia in the Peloponnese.
According to a press release issued by the former premier's political office, the sum of 137,308 euros paid to Mitsotakis in damages will be donated to the Metropolis of Ilia towards the financial support of churches damaged in the June 8, 2008 earthquake or from wildfires in the summer of 2007 (46,000 euros).
In addition, the Association of Parents and Guardians of People with Disabilities -- "Ilis" -- in the prefecture of Ilia will receive 46,000 euros for the completion of a gymnasium, while the Asseates Association will receive 46,000 euros to renovate the village of Assea's (Arcadia prefecture).
 Greek-Australian couple among the bushfire victims in VictoriaMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA / S. Hatzimanolis)
A Greek-Australian couple is among the 181 confirmed victims of the bushfires that have been blazing through the State of Victoria for days.
The charred bodies of Tania Tsimikli, 39, and her husband Dimitris, 35, were recovered by police. Apparently they were trapped by the flames while leaving their house in the region of Kinglake, 65km north of Melbourne.
The number of Greek-Australians lost in the inferno is likely to rise as 80 people are still unaccounted for.
At least 20 fire fronts of unprecedented intensity continued burning out of control on Tuesday for a fifth day, fanned by the strong winds still blowing in the region. Roughly 900 houses have been burned to the ground and over 400,000 hectares of forest and cultivated land have been reduced to ashes.
 Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa visits NairobiPatriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa made a brief visit to Nairobi on Tuesday on his way to Cameroon where he will stay until February 24.
Patriarch Theodoros visited the "Makarios III" Orthodox Patriarchal School and its 55 students on the occasion of its 28th anniversary, as well as the Pedagogical Academy with a student body of 400 and the "Klimis of Alexandria" Elementary School with 150 pupils.
The Patriarch congratulated Metropolitan Makarios of Kenya for his work and announced that he will make a formal visit to the country next May to deliver the diplomas to graduates.
Roughly 5,000 people have graduated from all three schools mentioned and many of them have been appointed in schools and churches across Africa.
The Orthodox Metropolis of Kenya has roughly 300 priests and the largest percentage of Christian Orthodox Africans than any other country on the continent with roughly 1 million faithful.
 Greece to host MIRA 2011 int'l congressThe 6th Annual Minimally Invasive Robotic Association (MIRA) Meeting will be held in Athens, it was announced at the 4th international congress that took place in Quebec City, Canada, on Jan. 28 - Feb. 1, 2009.
MIRA represents a growing worldwide fraternity of minimally invasive surgeons using the surgical robot in their respective fields.
 Drug arrests in ChaniaThe four members of a family of Albanian nationals were arrested when police found in their possession a total of 1.5 kg of heroin, it was announced on Wednesday.
Police were led to the major bust after arresting a young Albanian for driving his father's car without a license. A search inside the car revealed 105 grams of heroin and a subsequent search in his parents' house brought to light a total of 1,395 grams of heroin, a precision scale, 10grams of cannabis and drug packaging paraphernalia.
 Cloudy, rainy on ThursdayCloudy and rainy weather and southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 0C and 16C. Cloudy in Athens with possible local showers, with southwesterly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 14C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 9C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceTuesday's ECOFIN Council, the Greek economy's stability program and the negotiations with Marfin Investment Group (MIG) on the acquisition of national aircarrier Olympic Airways dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Green energy all over Greece - Alternative energy sources from the sun, wind and natural gas".
APOGEVMATINI: "16,780 hirings in public sector - Permanent and temporary positions".
AVGHI: "Unemployment or unsecured employment is the European citizens' new dilemma - What the EU Economy Ministers' council decided on Tuesday".
AVRIANI: "Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis charges unjustified price hikes by oil cartel and is determined to impose heavy fines".
CHORA: "MIG -Olympic Airways 'betrothal', the wedding will take place in 20 days".
ELEFTHEROS : "Illegal pensions to thousands of foreign nationals - The biggest swindle at the expense of the ailing social security funds".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "US President Barack Obama's message to Karamanlis and Turkish prime minister Tayip Erdogan - Obama sending special delegates on Monday to Athens - Washington opens Greek-Turkish relations and Cyprus issue agenda".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Government killing Public Health system - Attempts to recruit doctors for duty shifts".
ESTIA: " Cockfighting over the elections - The situation is ludicrous".
ETHNOS: "Brussels directorate recomnends: Forced vacation without pay".
KATHIMERINI: "Five university School have been evaluated - That's good news".
LOGOS: "Economy in the freezer - Brussels disputes Stability Program's targets and forecasts".
NIKI: "They're getting rid of Karamanlis - Even his ruling party MPs are talking about his succession".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Fierce attack against the people with new anti-social measures".
TA NEA: "Hard bargaining on the new austerity period - 'Yellow card' to Stability program".
TO VIMA: "Brussels points to the ballot (early general elections) - Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' manouevring period closes".
VRADYNI: "Hot cash in the battle against the crisis, aiming at fortification of small and medium sized enterprises, which will eventually raise the consumption rate".
 Cyprus President: Talat must be left alone to negotiateNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias believes that Turkey's role in the Cyprus question cannot just be confined to giving assurances and that Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat must be left alone to negotiate for a political settlement for the Cypriots.
Speaking Wednesday at a ceremony during which he received the credentials of the new Greek Ambassador Vassilis Papaioannou, President Christofias underlined that it is inconceivable to have obsolete systems of guarantees and unilateral interventions that used to be implemented in the past.
"Cyprus must not become a hostage to intransigent policies and strategies, or domestic developments and political balances of Turkey", he said, adding that Cyprus has the right and obligation to act as an independent state on the international scene and shape its future with autonomy within the EU, without the presence of occupation troops and settlers.
President Christofias noted that the Cyprus question is at a crucial juncture and assured that the government is and will continue to be committed to the search of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with a single personality, a single sovereignty and a single citizenship, as provided by relevant UN resolutions.
"We are fully aware of the difficulties but we will continue to work firmly to reach a settlement that will derive from the Cypriots for the Cypriots and not for a settlement that will be the result of arbitration or other foreign intervention," he added.
Christofias said that "we have a vision for a settlement that will safeguard the welfare and the progress of citizens, the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right of refugees to return to their ancestral homes and properties. A settlement that will be compatible with international law, UN resolutions and EU principles and values."
The president said that it is in the EUÔs benefit for a reunited Cyprus to be able to participate unobstructed in the decision making process, noting that "our partners must realize that the EU has a very important role to play with regard to exerting substantive influence on Ankara. The contribution of Greece to this effort of ours remains valuable," he added.
Underlying that the key for a Cyprus settlement lies in Ankara, he noted that Turkey, as a state that wishes to join the EU, must respect above all its principles and values, as well as the acquis communautaire.
"Cyprus supports Turkey's European prospect but does not give her a blank cheque. We expect from Turkey to show good will, maturity and a spirit of cooperation, abiding by the obligations and commitments it has undertaken towards the EU as a whole. Unfortunately Turkey has not so far made any movement of good will. On the contrary acting through blackmailing, it seems to be trying to secure and gain exchanges from the EU."
Referring to initiatives taken by the Cyprus government, the president underlined that "our side has taken courageous initiatives and we have shown in an explicit way our firm will to work towards this direction, along with our Turkish Cypriot compatriots. A divided Cyprus," he added, "has no future. It is indispensable then to create conditions for a viable settlement, to move methodically, build bridges of understanding and dialogue and envisage jointly a common vision - as a heritage for the generations that will come."
Christofias reaffirmed the Cyprus government's policy to continue to show will for dialogue and work constructively to lay the grounds for reunification.
"Once again I state by engagement to work jointly with our Turkish Cypriot compatriots so that the expectations of the people of Cyprus are met. We owe it, anyone, to the future generations that must grow up in conditions of unity, cooperation, and peace in their common homeland."
Christofias welcomed the new Ambassador, noting that he looks forward to the further deepening of the already excellent and fraternal relations between the Republic of Cyprus and the Hellenic Republic.
Christofias stressed Greece's support to the struggle of the Cyprus people and expressed appreciation for the long-standing and invaluable contribution of the Greek government.
The Greek Ambassador assured that the termination of the Turkish occupation and the illegal settling of the island's northern Turkish occupied areas, in the framework of a comprehensive and mutually accepted settlement of the Cyprus question, remains a high priority of the Greek foreign policy.
"Respect of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus, continuous cooperation and coordination between our governments constitute the corner stone of our policy on the Cyprus question," he added.
He praised President Christofias for his initiatives which resulted in the beginning of the negotiating process, without any tight deadlines or arbitration. He also noted that the UN Security Council decisions on the Cyprus question provide the framework of the settlement that will be in line with Cyprus' capacity as an EU member state that implements the acquis communautaire and has joined the Eurozone.
The Greek Ambassador said that the key of the Cyprus settlement remains in Turkey, from which messages are not so far optimistic.
Papaioannou said that the Greek government, political parties and the Hellenic parliament support the efforts of the Cyprus government and agree that despite difficulties, negotiations must continue until a comprehensive settlement is reached.
Furthermore he said that the Greek people, government and political parties are always on the side of the people of Cyprus and that the support of all Greek people is and will continue to be whole hearted, substantial and selfless.
Christofias and Talat have been engaged in direct talks since September last year with a view to find a settlement to the problem of Cyprus divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Cypriot FM praises Russia's principled position on CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Markos Kyprianou praised on Wednesday the principled position the Russian Federation maintains on the Cyprus problem.
''The positions of Russia on Cyprus are firm, they are positions of principle and the support of the Russian Federation is granted,'' Kyprianou said in statements before his departure for Moscow where he will meet with Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart, to discuss the ongoing UN-led negotiations between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat for a political solution.
Kyprianou said that his visit falls within the framework of consultations the two governments and the two Foreign Ministries have.
''The support of the Russian Federation is granted but it is important to have a direct briefing on the various stages of the progress recorded in certain areas (in the Cyprus talks) and the problems where they arise,'' the Cypriot FM added.
He said that during Thursday's meeting, he will discuss with Lavrov the Middle East issue as well as issues concerning the Russian Federation and the European Union.
''Russia is a strategic partner of the EU but it is well-known that on certain issues there are different views,'' Kyprianou added, noting that he believes that it is useful to discuss these issues with Russian officials.
Replying to questions, he said he is not concerned at all by the fact that a day after his own visit the President of Turkey Abdullah Gull will visit Moscow.
''Mr Gull will go (to Moscow) the next day. We are not worried,'' he said, adding ''the Russian positions are firm, they are positions of principle.''
''I believe that it is useful to convey our own messages, which can be applied during Gull's visit,'' Kyprianou said.
Invited to comment on the fact that Turkey and Russia are developing closer ties, Kyprianou said these relations are not new in the economic field.
''But we see that the political position of Russia remains steadfast because it is premised on principles and on international law,'' he said, recalling the joint declaration, signed by Cyprus and Russia during President Christofias' visit to Moscow in November last year, ''containing all the basic aspects and all the basic principles for the solution of the Cyprus problem.''
 FM: Political equality is described in UNSC resolutionsLARNACA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou has said that political equality between the two communities in Cyprus, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot, is described by UN Security Council resolutions.
He added that Britain, as a member of the Security Council, is committed to this definition and this description of political equality.
In statements at Larnaca airport, before leaving for Moscow, the minister was invited to comment on statements by British Minister for Europe Caroline Flint who referred to the issue of political equality, as part of a settlement.
Kyprianou said that "our position is explicit and the United Kingdom is committed to it, political equality is defined and described by Security Council resolutions."
Asked if the sovereignty of the two British Bases in Cyprus was raised during the meetings with the British minister, in the wake of air military manoeuvres at one of the bases Akrotiri, on the south, Kyprianou said that "this is not in her competency. But we have raised the issue with the Britons," he said, adding that "we want the manoeuvres which are conducted on the basis of the rights London has according to the various treaties, to take place in conditions of safety."
His comments come two days after a RAF Harrier, in training exercises, crashed at Akrotiri. Nobody was injured in the incident.
Britain has retained two military bases in Cyprus after the country gained its independence in 1960 from British colonial rule.
"This is our firm position and we have asked other services to find out if these manoeuvres follow air traffic regulations and other safety rules," he added.
UN resolutions say that political equality between the two communities does not mean numerical representation but effective participation in governance.
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