|Sunday, 20 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 13 February 2009 Issue No: 3121
 PM: Responsibility by all needed amid int'l crisisPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis called on all of the country's political forces, professional associations and social partners to act responsibly in order to face repercussions of the ongoing global financial crisis, speaking in Parliament during an off-the-agenda discussion held at his own initiative.
Karamanlis explained that agreement was not required on everything, but a "no to everything" stance was detrimental to tackling the challenges faced by the country.
"The future of our society, the future of our country relies on the clash between responsibility and irresponsibility," he said, adding that his New Democracy (ND) government's choice was a given fact and unchanging: "It is the policies that prove responsibility in action; the policies that mitigate the repercussions of the global storm; the policies that serve the security of all the citizens."
The premier also predicted that "the global economic crisis will not be easily or speedily overcome".
Everyone, he continued, was obliged to "adapt our actions in accordance with developments".
"It is our duty to join forces to limit, as much as possible, the adverse repercussions. It is our duty to contain our demands, but also to check the ways of going after those demands. It is our duty to think about the future as well. Incidents such as last December's vandalisms or the closure of roads last month seriously harm the economy, society in general. They hurt our country's image. The pressure of the international environment is intensifying, difficulties are multiplying," the premier said.
Karamanlis noted that the government understood the concerns, worries and the hardships of social groups, adding that "the government adopts every fruitful and realistic proposal, wherever it originates from. We aspire to a synthesis of views, far removed from one-sided viewpoints. We do not choose our actions on the basis of extreme statist perceptions, nor on the basis of neo-liberal obsessions. Words are useless unless they are turned into specific measures and actions," Karamanlis added.
He reiterated that there was no such thing as a 'plan without a cost' or 'magic, cost-free solutions', nor did the proposals of those -- businesses or trade unions -- who do nothing other than indicate "what the others should do for them" comprise a solution.
The critical nature of the circumstances required of the credit system to actively contribute towards boosting the liquidity of the economy by extending credit and reducing interest, of the business community to take advantage of the programs being implemented in order to maintain its personnel, of the trade unions to comprehend the real problems faced by the working people and to refrain from actions that aggravate the problems and increase unemployment, of the public functionaries to stand beside the citizens and investors and, especially of all the political forces to act responsibly.
Addressing himself to the opposition, the prime minister stressed that the country could not withstand head-on collisions and arbitrariness, or a competition in promises of benefits, which he said would constitute mockery of the citizens.
At a time when the entire world was in a "state of emergency", "emergency decisions" were required, with the government seeking the best possible balance among growth, fiscal streamlining and fortifying the financially weaker strata, Karamanlis said, noting that, in that context, the banks were obliged to comply with their obligations. He warned that the government would exercise close, constant and strict control. The liquidity enhancement program "does not give away anything to anyone, not one single euro".
Those who have opted for distorting the truth "are making a mistake", and those who have chosen the path of irresponsibility and arbitrariness in these critical circumstances are hurting the real economy, Karamanlis warned.
Particularly regarding the containment of public expenditures, the premier said that cutbacks were being made in all the "flexible expenses", with expenses for trips, public relations, overtime, and participation on committees at the top of the list.
"I am absolute on all this," Karamanlis said, stressing that the government's program would be fully implemented, and all those responsible for its implementation "are required to completely adhere to the relevant policies".
"I will not allow divergences. All that we have said will be done. All that we have committed ourselves to will be fully applied," the prime minister concluded.
Speaking during a second time at Parliament's podium and after addresses by other political party leaders, Karamanlis said:
"We are not concerned with elections, our priority is the struggle with the country's problems," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stated, in response to a relevant demand by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou.
Karamanlis accused Papandreou of consciously opting for a strategy of petty politicking, and referring to his proposal for general elections with a consensus as regards the election of the new President of the Republic, he stressed that ruling ND does not play with the institution of the presidency.
"You are the ones who directly or indirectly declare that you will bring about elections in 2010," he charged.
"You ask for elections but you don't really want them. You did the same thing after 2004 and you are well-aware of the results. Be careful of what you are asking," Karamanlis added.
"What the country needs more than ever before is a responsible behavior by all and no head-on political and social collisions," he stated, adding that when facing a crisis of such a magnitude the government's will and efforts are not enough and will have to be coupled with understanding, moderation, calm and consensus at least on fundamental issues.
Karamanlis accused the leader of the main opposition party of resorting to "gross inaccuracies" as regards the economic situation, stressing that it is not the government's fault that the growth rate is on the decline due to the global crisis.
Referring to the public debt, the premier stated that the previous governments are to blame, pointing out that the current government pays an interest of 12 billion euros depriving the sectors of development, education, health and the social state of essential funding.
Regarding PASOK's economic plan, he stressed that it copies the headlines of the ND economic plan, stressing that it includes no measures, specific policies or actions.
"I am determined to make everything in my power for the country to suffer the least possible repercussions from this unprecedented global storm," the prime minister said, adding that developments in economy both globally and in Europe are rapid, pressing and unpredictable. "This is my concern and my priority," he said.
As regards PASOK itself, he stated that it is a huge mistake to have as a priority petty political or personal expediencies, pointing out that irresponsibility can prove to be very dangerous both for the economy and society.
"Before us we have two paths, one is the path of truth, responsibility and national consensus; the other is the path of demagoguery, irresponsibility and national division," Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said during his address in Parliament.
Papathanassiou, who assumed the top ministerial portfolio following last month's government reshuffle, called on the opposition to stand by the government during this crucial period, noting that our "decisions today will decide the country's future".
He emphasised that the updated Stability and Development Plan recently unveiled by the government cites clear goals and the manner in which they are to be achieved.
Papathanassiou clarified that the goal is a fiscal deficit of 3.7 percent in 2009 and 32. percent for 2010, whereas he pointed to expected benefits from proposed cuts in public spending.
In turning to criticism of PASOK leader Papandreou, Papathanassiou referred to untrustworthiness and irresponsibility, as "citizens did not expect to hear from Mr. Papandreou that the economy in 2004 was strong and based on meritocracy during PASOK's tenure in government. Citizens knew then enough to vote against PASOK in two national elections (since then)."
He also charged that PASOK's September 2007 pre-election promises would have cost an additional 10 billion euros, including seven billion euros annually.
 Papandreou: government has 'failed everywhere'Calling early elections was the sole and best service that the New Democracy government could now do for the country, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou stated in Parliament on Thursday, during an off-the-agenda debate on the economy. The government had failed in all sectors and was unable to Greece out of the crisis, Papandreou stressed.
He called for the holding of general elections before or simultaneously with the elections for the European Parliament, combined with an agreement for a consensus on the election of a new President of the Republic.
Outlining the basic differences between PASOK and ND policies, Papandreou said that an exit from the crisis was feasible, through "policies that embrace the whole of society and secure its consent".
The government had "failed everywhere" and the five years of ND's governance had led to a reduction of the growth rate by half, even before the current crisis began, Papandreou said. At the same time, per capita income remained unchanged, putting an end to the real convergence of the economy, public debt had jumped by 43 percent and burdened the Greek economy by 80 billion euros, Athens had climbed 40 positions in the list of the most expensive cities in Europe and the country had failed to absorb a single euro of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), two years after it commenced.
"Everything touched by the ND government has become an object of mismanagement, exploitation, and of a divisive policy, a prey of 'political cronyism' and Mr. Karamanlis now asks for our consent for his national plan. What national plan?," Papandreou asked.
"You don't have a national plan. I'm not the one saying this, but your own ministers and top party officials," he stressed in reply to his own question, accusing the government of having only a "petty party plan" based on jobbery and political favours "in order to buy the consciences of young people for a crust of bread".
According to Papandreou, a way out of the crisis does exist, by making use of national wealth, with investments in education, human resources and green growth. Fiscal deficits arising from such investments were legitimate, he argued, "but not for the financial accommodation of 'political friends'," and consensus could be achieved on a programme "that doesn't embrace the strong and powerful but, rather, the entire society".
"There is no time to lose. Greece cannot wait. The government cannot take us out of the crisis by rehashing its failed policies of the last five years. You have failed. You have failed everywhere. The worst solution for the country for you to remain in power," Papandreou said, addressing the government.
"Move aside and let Greece move ahead. A Greece with volition, credibility and reliability," Papandreou said.
In his response to the premier's reply, after the first round of speeches by party leaders, PASOK's leader asserted that the government was not opposed to holding elections early, as it claimed, but actually preparing for them and simply seeking the best time to hold them.
"You are searching a time when you can go to elections with the most citizens depending on your jobbery," he stressed, adding that the election speculation was born of the mixed messages from the government's own ministers.
Papandreou also slammed the government for inconsistency, saying that it carried out several policy u-turns in the space of a few weeks.
"When elections were declared, Parnitha was in flames - I don't know, of course, what you could see of it from Rafina. The government asserted that the country was armoured as it entered the economic crisis, but then you changed the minister that armoured it; on December 21 it said that there would be no new taxes, to be followed by taxes on cigarettes and alcohol," Papandreou said.
PASOK's leader stressed that the government was unable to convince anyone that it had a plan for dealing with the crisis when, just 10 days after the prime minister declaring that he would rather be 'useful than pleasant', the government was indulging in what he called "an orgy of fragmentary half-measures, while essentially passing on their own pre-election costs to the next government".
"We should go to the people and let them decide what path they want the country to take," he added, renewing his call for early elections.
 Papariga bashes mainstream parties, SYRIZAOf course all the political parties should have a proposal for exiting the crisis in the economy, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga said on Thursday, adding that her party's proposal constituted a recovery of the labor movement, which should be expressed with the deploration of the two mainstream parties -- ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK -- which have governed the country.
Speaking during an off-the-agenda discussion in parliament, Papariga criticized the two mainstream parties, as well as the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) on their proposals for exiting the crisis, charging that their philosophy was "provided that capital is salvaged".
The present situation was "a deep crisis of the capitalist system" which "will not pass with the state intervention recently discovered by PASOK, nor with the involvement of the state, as a progressive element, as SYRIZA says," Papariga continued.
The KKE, she said, insists that the progressive, radical solution for every country was to give momentum to the development of all the productive abilities of the country, in order to achieve self-sufficiency, while she also called for a "clash with the monopolies".
Outlining the KKE proposals, Papariga placed emphasis on "generous increases in salaries and pensions, abolition of the special taxes and VAT, raising the tax-free ceiling per person, taxation of indirect capital, a people's housing program", adding that her party "rejects the poverty funds and charity".
 Alavanos: The crisis is a failure of the systemCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos said Thursday that the present global financial crisis was the result of the accumulation of the policies that have been applied internationally and in Greece, adding that it was not only the New Democracy government that has failed, but the entire system.
"I heard the government saying it wants consensus. The people, too, want it because they don't want to keep looking at a fruitless and sterile game. However, it is not only ND that has failed, by the system itself. And there can be no plan without change," Alavanos said in parliament during an off-the-agenda discussion on the economy.
The present crisis, he said, was brought on by the example of Ireland, the toxic bonds and toxic policies that led to the collapse of the credit system in the US, "all the things that you admired and worshipped".
The crisis, he continued, was brought about by the policy that put self-interest above collectivity, opted for shrinking of the public sector and abolition of the social state and, addressing the government said that "you should have realized this and have stepped down with dignity, seriousness and self-criticism, instead of toying with the people, with the tolerence of Mr. Barroso (European Commission president) and Mr. Trichet (European Central Bank president), who controlled every shepherd but not UBS or the Royal Bank of Scotland".
The policy counter-proposed by SYRIZA demanded a "return to the public sector" as a tool of growth, and a clash with the developmental model imposed by the European Union, Alavanos said.
Relief from the crisis could be achieved only with a "different" banking system with a public, national, renationalized bank at the core, with a return to the public sector as a value, tool, control and means, he said, adding that Greece should take advantage of the situation and enter the field of technology and communications, which meant re-acquisition of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) and university research, a turn-around in education beginnning with its funding with 5 percent of GDP, and public universities instead of profiteering.
He further said that a different stance was also required towards the EU, noting: "Armaments are necessary for our national defence, but not for NATO armaments, money for Afghanistan, bills for the prime minister's trips in order to achieve a friendly stance on one or another issue".
What was needed was a boosting of demand and redistribution of the wealth, Alavanos said.
 LAOS opposed to early elections, Karatzaferis tells ParliamentThe apparent crisis within the ruling New Democracy party dominated the address made in Parliament on Thursday by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis, during an off-the-agenda debate on the economy. Underlining that his party was opposed to early elections, he urged Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to restore order within his party and resolve problems that have arisen with ND MP Yiannis Manolis.
"The entire country is now occupied with whether Manolis is upset or whether he will be able to keep his temper. You have a crisis within your party," Karatzaferis said, stressing that it was not right for the country, at such a crucial time, to be wondering whether the government was going to fall.
The demand for early elections was a "frivolous" one, the LAOS party leader continued, since it would divert money that could be spent on supporting vulnerable social groups.
"The problem we have in the country is not economic - it is a problem of the political system," he added.
In terms of the economy, Karatzaferis proposed a overall revision of the 117 forms of tax relief in the present system, using the criteria of social sensitivity and what was best for society as a whole.
 Bakoyannis-Clinton meeting in D.C. on Feb. 25Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, the chairperson of the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), will meet with new US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the US State Department in Washington D.C. on Feb. 25.
Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said Bakoyannis will visit Washington both as the foreign minister of Greece and the OSCE chairperson.
Meanwhile, US Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the "No. 2" Democrat in the US Senate, will visit Athens next Wednesday for talks with Bakoyannis. He will be accompanied by Illinois State Treasurer Alexis Giannoulias.
The talks are expected to focus on Cyprus, the situation in the Balkans, Greece's OSCE chairmanship and international issues, such as Middle East, Koumoutsakos stated.
"The visit is interesting and important, and takes place shortly after the inauguration of the new US President," Koumoutsakos said.
The US delegation will also visit Nicosia, Ankara and Istanbul.
 U.S. President Barack Obama sends letter to PM KaramanlisUnited States President Barack Obama has sent a letter to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, in reply to the message of congratulations that the prime minister had sent on his election.
President Obama thanked Karamanlis for his cordial message and stressed that "we have before us a range of challenges for which I believe that the best way of handling is joint action. However, we also have excellent opportunities in which, if we respond with effectiveness, we can promote the targets of our alliance. As our cooperation begins, I bear in mind the fundamental significance of our relation."
The U.S. President further stressed that "I have the conviction that we can cooperate with a spirit of peace and friendship towards the building of a more safe world during the next four years. I look forward to our cooperation in this direction and to the promotion of good relations between our countries."
 U.S. ambassador delivers letter from U.S. President Obama to PapandreouUnited States Ambassador to Athens Daniel Speckhard delivered a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama to main opposition PASOK party leader and Socialist International President George Papandreou on Thursday.
In his letter, the U.S. President thanks Papandreou for his congratulations and best wishes which the latter addressed to him on his election and the assumption of his duties, stressing that he looks forward to close cooperation with Greece on the region's problems and the tackling of global challenges.
During the meeting, the U.S. ambassador had the opportunity of outlining U.S. foreign policy's new approach, focusing on dialogue, as it was set out by U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden in Munich last weekend.
The discussion between the two men also included the issues of the international economic crisis, as well as problems in this part of the world and of the Middle East, while the U.S. ambassador showed particular interest in the initiatives of Papandreou, in his capacity as Socialist International President and his role in the Middle East and mediation with Iran, as well as his initiatives in Pakistan and India on handling terrorism.
Papandreou then met with Australian Ambassador Jeremy Newman. During the meeting, held at Papandreou's initiative, the PASOK leader expressed his condolences for the victims of the disastrous wildfires and his solidarity for Australia.
Papandreou delivered two letters: one addressed to the prime minister of Australia and the other to the prime minister of Victoria state, that is being harmed in particular.
The PASOK leader pointed out to the Australian ambassador that Greece is aware of what Australia is going through, since it has also had the bitter experience of wildfires, while stating his willingness to offer every possible help to Australia, both as Greece and as the Socialist International.
 MP Manolis' resignation not acceptedThe ruling New Democracy party has refused to accept the resignation of ND MP for Argolida Yiannis Manolis, according to an announcement issued by the party late on Thursday.
This followed a meeting at ND headquarters between Manolis, ND Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis and the general secretary of the party's Parliamentary group Yiannis Tragakis.
The announcement noted that Manolis had offered his resignation and "after explanations given by the MP, his resignation was not accepted since, in any case, he had never been asked for it."
The deputy himself, in statements after the meeting, said that "it is self-evident that I never intended to cause problems to the party and the government."
Earlier on Thursday, the MP had sent letters to Tragakis and Zagoritis, offering to resign from both the party and the Parliamentary group if they considered his statements or positions to be damaging to ND.
Manolis has been at the centre of controversy within ND in the past few days, and speculation about what he will finally do has dominated domestic headlines, given the ruling party's slim majority of just one seat in Parliament.
 UN-sponsored 'name issue' talks between Athens, fYRoM restartNEW YORK CITY (ANA-MPA)
The UN mediator for the "name issue" between Greece and FYROM, Matthew Nimetz, met here on Wednesday with the two neighbouring countries' representatives in the long-standing negotiating process.
Nimetz later told reporters that no new proposal was tabled during the one-and-a-half-hour meeting. He also referred to a need for "positive steps" to create a "positive atmosphere", while adding that the outstanding difference between Athens and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) is of the highest priority.
The next meeting will be held in the coming months.
On his part, Greece's envoy, Amb. Adamantios Vassilakis, noted that "the meeting was calm; it was a first contact and we exchanged different thoughts. I believe that our new colleague (the newly appointed FYROM envoy) has begun to comprehend the problems at hand. From there on, I do not know what will occur and how we'll reach a result. As Mr. Nimetz told you, (presidential) elections will take place in Skopje; elections will also take place (in Greece) for the European Parliament, while the new president in Skopje is not expected to assume his post before May 15."
Meanwhile, the newly appointed envoy by the fYRoM government, Amb. Zoran Jolevski, reiterated that Skopje wants to find a solution, something that will benefit stability in the region, as he said.
The official United Nations' statement reads:
"Representatives of Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia held talks today (Wednesday) on the name of the latter country in what a United Nations envoy called a 'good, solid discussion.'
Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis of Greece and Ambassador Zoran Jolevski of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia met at the initiative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Personal Envoy Matthew Nimetz.
Today's encounter was considered an exploratory meeting as it was the first with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's new negotiator. The parties spoke about major issues and how progress could be made. Mr. Nimetz stressed the need to create a positive atmosphere and to avoid creating irritations between the parties. The two sides decided to meet again on a date yet to be agreed. No new proposals were aired during today's meeting.
The meeting was the first since the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia instituted proceedings against Greece in November at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, alleging that Greece blocked its application to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in violation of an agreement between the two countries.
When their representatives last met in New York in October, Mr. Nimetz presented a new set of ideas to both sides for their consideration. In the past, the Special Envoy has proposed several compromise names but the two sides remain far apart on what they consider to be a satisfactory name for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The Interim Accord of 13 September 1995, which was brokered by the UN, details the difference between the two countries on the issue. It also obliges the two sides to continue negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General to try to reach agreement."
 FM spokesman on OSCE presence in GeorgiaThe Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in a decision of the 56 member-states in Vienna on Thursday, has opted to extend the presence of its unarmed military observers in Georgia.
Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said during the diplomatic press briefing that Foreign Minister and Chairperson of the OSCE Dora Bakoyannis expressed satisfaction over the decision, pointing out that it demonstrates that "all members agree that the organization constitutes an important part of international efforts aimed at ensuring lasting stability in the region".
Bakoyannis also stressed that this consensus can form the basis for more action, proving that the OSCE is in a position to continue its important work for all peoples in the region and help deal with urgent humanitarian challenges.
Koumoutsakos clarified that the decision is not related with the OSCE mission in Georgia, whose mandate ended on Dec. 31, 2008.
 Four new AEW&C aircraft acquired by air forceThe Hellenic Air Force (HAF) on Thursday marked its acquisition of four new Erieye/EMB-145H Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft, that were added to the forces of the 380 AEW&C Squadron, during a special ceremony held at the facilities of the 112th Combat Wing in Elefsina.
In a brief address, the chief of the HAF General Staff Lieutenant General Ioannis Giagkos said that the ceremony marked the culmination of a "major and technologically very demanding project for the HAF, which led to the addition to its arsenal of the AEW&C aircraft, which belong to the class of force multipliers".
During the ceremony, one of the AEW&C flew over the VIP stand, accompanied by two Mirage 2000 aircraft and two F-16s.
Present at the ceremony were the military leadership of the Armed Forces, representatives of the the ambassadors of Sweden and Brazil, Hakan Malmqvist and Alfonso Massot.
The contract for the aircraft was signed on July 1, 1999, between the national defence ministry arms procurement directorate and the Swedish firm Ericsson (now SAAB), and was worth 510 million euros.
Work for the development, production and certification of the four aircraft, before they passed into ownership of the HAF, were carried out in Brazil, Sweden, France, Italy and finally in Greece, at the 380 AEW&C Squadron.
The four aircraft were delivered in stages, with the first arriving on October 29, 2004 and the fourth on May 5, 2005 at Elefsina Airport. They were then subjected to test flights to certify the operation of their systems, with the contractor's responsibility and with support from HAF.
Ownership of the four aircraft passed to the HAF in stages as well, the first on August 25, 2008 and the last two on 29 October 2008.
Since their delivery was officially accepted, the four AEW&C aircraft had participated in a number of training flights and in national and alliance exercises (Parmenion 2008, Trojan Horse 2008, Noble Midas 2008 and others).
 Measures for Crete's farmers announcedAgricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Thursday announced a package of measures specifically for the farmers of Crete, after a meeting MPs and local government officials of the island.
The package concerns compensation payments for products such as olives and olive oil, fuel tax rebates for greenhouses and a one-off subsidy amounting to 5 percent of the total value of other products like cereals, raisins and others.
He also promised immediate payment of money due to farmers from Community funds and other sources.
Commenting on the walk-out from the meeting of the representatives of Cretan farmers, he expressed regret and stressed that there could be no dialogue with terms and conditions and especially not with the exclusion of MPs.
 Greek unemployment at 7.8 pct in November 2008Greek unemployment rose slightly to 7.8 pct of the workforce in November 2008, from 7.6 pct in November 2007, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said the number of employed people totaled 4,553,911 in November, while the number of unemployed people was 384,988. Western Macedonia (14.5 pct), Western Greece (11.2 pct) and Thessaly (9.9 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates, while Southeran Aegean (5.4 pct) the lowest rates.
Unemployment among men was 5.2 pct, while among women was 11.6 pct. The rate of unemployment among youths, aged 15-24, totaled 22.4 pct.
 Greek inflation to fall further, reportAlpha Bank expects a further decline in the inflation rate in the next few months until July, but a gradual increase in the last three months of the year.
A report by the bank's analysts said the inflation rate was expected to fall to 1.3 pct in July 2009, while the average inflation rate in 2009 was projected at 1.8 pct, sharply down from a 4.2 pct figure in 2008.
The bank's analysts also noted an accelerating decline in the industrial production index in December, with manufacturing production falling by 4.2 pct in the last month of 2008, after an increase of 1.8 pct in 2007. A global financial crisis is negatively affecting the manufacturing sector in Greece, adding to the negative impact of a strong euro currency exchange rate (until July 2008) and a large increase of labor cost per product unit in the country. The country's industrial production is negatively affected by a 25-pct drop in building activity last year.
 Greek telecoms market watchdog presents annual reportGreece's National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) on Thursday presented its annual report for 2008 and its action plan for the telecoms market watchdog for the current year, a "Year of Telecommunications and Media Broadband Convergence".
Presenting the report, EETT's president, professor Nikitas Alexandridis, said the market watchdog introduced a cord of ethics for electronic communications services, presenting the quality indexes and measures aimed at facilitating the expansion of broadband services, particularly in regional Greece.
Alexandridis underlined the rapid growth of broadband, a steady decline in prices and a sharp increase of nominal speed access to the Internet. Another positive development was the fact that consumers' complaints were also down.
For the current year, EETT aims to encourage competition in services, in infrastructure, improving and ensuring innovative services to consumers and more transparency in information.
The strategic goal, Alexandridis said, was the creation of the necessary regulatory framework to promoting telecoms and media convergence and its contribution to the transition towards digital television.
Commenting on the relations between EETT and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation -burdened because of recent sactions imposed by the market watchdog- Alexandridis said the Commission's aim was the ensure that Hellenic Telecoms would not become a monopoly in the market and that competition would operate smoothly to the benefit of consumers.
 EBEA organising Business Conference on February 17The Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) will be organising a Business Conference on February 17, focusing on a presentation of the economy of Azerbaidjan and the possibilities of cooperation between Greek and Azeri businessmen, while business contacts will follow.
The Conference will be attended by President Karolos Papoulias and the President of the Republic of Azerbaidjan Ilham Aliyev.
The items of interest to Azeri companies are: monetary services, tourism, services for petroleum products industries, systems for freezing, heating and water supply, construction, food, pharmaceutical products, furniture, marble imports, wine production, textiles, pipe manufacturing, solid refuse management, educational equipment and clothing.
 PPC and Halyvourgiki in energy project joint venturePublic Power Corporation (PPC) and Halyvourgiki SA on Thursday signed an agreement to set up a joint venture company which will build and operate two energy power units.
The two power units, of combined cycle, will have a total power capacity of 880 MW and will use natural gas as fuel. It will be build within Halyvourgiki's facilities. Under the agreement, Halyvourgiki will control 51 pct of the joint venture company which will have an initial equity capital of 10 million euros.
 Mutual funds' assets down 5.22% in 2009Greek mutual funds' assets are down 5.22 percent so far this year, totaling 9.8 billion euros, a report by the Association of Institutional Investors said on Thursday.
National Bank Asset Management (with a market share of 25.59 pct) topped the list of mutual funds in the domestic market, followed by EFG Mutual Funds (23.12 pct), Alpha Asset Management (17.46 pct), Pension Funds (8.31 pct) and HSBC Mutual Funds (4.05 pct). The report noted that 14 out of a total 22 companies in the sector held an accumulative 14 pct of total assets in the market, evidence of intense consolidation in the Greek market.
 Stocks down for 3rd straight sessionGreek stocks continued moving lower for the third consecutive session at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index falling 0.86 pct to end at 1,729.41 points. Turnover was disappointing 105.5 million euros, of which 3.9 million were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Raw Materials (2.32 pct), Food/Beverage (2.31 pct), Healthcare (1.82 pct) and Utilities (1.39 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Technology (2.83 pct), Chemicals (1.21 pct) and Media (0.76 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index eased 0.89 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.55 pct down and the FTSE 80 index rose 0.78 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 104 to 90 with another 64 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.05%
Personal & Household: -0.16%
Raw Materials: -2.32%
Travel & Leisure: -1.32%
Food & Beverages: -2.31%
Financial Services: -0.88%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Public Power Corp (PPC) and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.44
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.00
HBC Coca Cola: 11.20
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.64
National Bank of Greece: 12.80
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.80
Bank of Piraeus: 4.92
Titan Cement Company: 13.86
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices were traded at a widened discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with the March contract trading at a discount of 2.07 pct. Turnover remained a low 31.162 million euros.
Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,683 contracts worth 24.548 million euros. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 8,893 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,897), followed by OTE (1,084), Eurobank (421), PPC (384), OPAP (299), Piraeus Bank (907), Alpha Bank (506), Marfin Popular Bank (414) and Cyprus Bank (589).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market jumped to 1.040 billion euros on Thursday, of which 501 million were buy orders and the remaining 539 million euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 286 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds widened to 265 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.74 pct and the German Bund 3.09 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued falling. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.14 pct, the six-month rate 2.03 pct, the three-month rate 1.95 pct and the one-month rate 1.64 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.293
Pound sterling 0.910
Danish kroner 7.512
Swedish kroner 10.880
Japanese yen 116.38
Swiss franc 1.500
Norwegian kroner 8.886
Canadian dollar 1.612
Australian dollar 2.000
 Merchant marine minister on desalination projects, disciplinary inquiriesMerchant Marine and Island Policy Minister Anastasis Papaligouras on Thursday announced plans to use desalination plants to supply dry islands of the Aegean with water.
During a press conference, Papaligouras said that the high cost of transporting water to these islands made desalination a cheaper and more permanent solution.
Candidates for the programme are 13 islands, while the ministry carries out desalination on another six and some smaller islands will receive water from larger islands nearby. The plants and facilities will be self-funded on plots of land granted for the purpose by municipalities.
The minister also commented on two disciplinary inquiries underway at the ministry regarding allegations of wrongdoing involving the coast guard.
He said the first regarding the involvement of coast guard officers in Patras in a human trafficking ring had been shown to warrant clear disciplinary action but also penalties such as dismissal or dishonourable discharge, while the file had been forwarded to the Navy court prosecutor in Piraeus.
In the second case, where a Aghan national claimed to have lost a finger as a result of a blow from a man of the Patras coast guard, the minister said the inquiry did not find evidence supporting the involvement of the coast guard in this case.
 Author Louis de Bernieres visits Greece, speaks to ANA-MPAIn Greece to promote his new novel "A Partisan's Daughter", British author Louis de Bernières visited the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki and spoke with the ANA-MPA about his work, his plans but also his love of Greek music, poetry and literature, as well as the country's food and wine.
Most famous for the best-selling novel "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" that was set on the Greek island of Cephallonia and later made into a film, de Bernières declared himself a fan of Greek composers Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hatzidakis and of the "amazing poems" of Greek authors that they set to music - such as Cavafy, Seferis, Elytis, Anagnostakis, Gatsos and Ritsos. He even offered the opinion that Greece produced the best poets of the 20th century.
"One of the strange but attractive elements of Greek poetry is that it translates very easily into English and remains excellent poetry even after its translation," he said.
On the work that made him famous, "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" and the film that followed, he said that he would have liked the film to have been more "European" and compared it to "losing one's virginity".
"It may not have been a big success [as a film] but it opened the way for me to try again," he added, revealing that he was now working on the script for the transfer to film of his book "Birds "Without Wings" by a Turkish production company.
He also confided that the success of 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' had in some way blocked his later writing:
"It was hard for me to write again. I felt that the audience was expecting a second, similar book from me and I felt that everyone was looking over my shoulder to see what I was working on. It was, also, the first time I had acquired a fair amount of money and I was beginning to concern myself with how I should spend it and not with writing."
He said that he has been working on his latest novel, "A Partisan's Daughter", for the past 30 years, beginning at the age of 25.
"Since then, I have rewritten it about seven times," he noted, explaining that it was based on stories told to him by a Yugoslav room-mate with a passion for story-telling.
"I believed all that she told me about her life but today I am not sure whether she was telling me the truth or inventing imaginary stories. I therefore put these stories on paper and let the reader decide whether they are real or not," he said.
The author said that he is now working on a new novel that will be ready around October, this time based on the British countryside, and also intends to publish his first collection of poems.
 Series of arson attacks in AthensA series of arson attacks targeting, among others, members of the judiciary were recorded in Athens through Wednesday night and until noon on Thursday.
The apartment of prosecutor Vasilis Foukas, appointed to the "17 November" terrorist group court trial, was the target of an arson attack by unidentified individuals. The device was planted outside the door of the 7th floor apartment in Ilioupolis causing minor damage.
A homemade incendiary device was placed outside the Ilioupolis home of prosecutor Papaggelopoulos, who holds the portfolio on terrorism issues. The device exploded at dawn causing no injuries or damage.
The office of lawyer Stavros Georgiou in Patissia was also the target of an arson attack. A homemade device made of gas canisters exploded at dawn causing panic among the building's residents. No injuries and only minor material damage was reported.
Another five such attacks were recorded between 2am and 2.10am on Thursday, targeting a luxury jeep in Holargos, two National Bank of Greece ATMs in Petralona, the Hellenic Postbank in Aghios Dimitrios and an employment agency office in Aghia Paraskevi.
An unidentified individual planted an incendiary device outside the Hellenic Postbank branch in Aghios Panteleimonas but he was prevented from igniting it and fled when he was spotted by a guard.
The device is being examined by police in search of evidence that will lead to the arrest of the suspects.
 Three new arson attacks in Athens on Thursday afternoonThree new arson attacks involving gas cannisters occurred in downtown Athens between 16:07 and 16:32 on Thursday.
The makeshift explosive devices were placed on the 2nd floor of a building located in Pireos Street outside the political office of main opposition PASOK party Deputy and former minister Theodoros Pangalos, in a corridor of the 2nd floor of a building in Patriarchou Fotiou Street, where Pangalos's daughter lives, and in Solonos Street, outside the accounting office of the newspaper "Rizospastis."
In all three cases limited material damage was caused, while the ensuing fires were extinguished promptly by the Fire Brigade.
 Man accused of raping young girl surrenders to policeA 32-year-old man accused of sexually abusing a 7-year-old girl a week ago surrendered to police in Kilkis, northern Greece, on Wednesday night.
A Kilkis magistrate had issued an arrest warrant against him accusing him of raping and molesting a child.
 Aircraft faces undercarriage trouble at Iraklio airportAn aircraft belonging to the Sky Express company, flying to Iraklio in Crete from the island of Rhodes with 15 passengers and three crew, managed to land safely on Thursday although facing a serious problem with the section of the undercarriage linking the right wheel with the fuselage.
The problem appeared in the final stage of the landing process and while the aircraft was turning off the runway to stop it skidded for a few metres before the pilot, without losing his calm, succeeded in stopping it.
As a result of the accident at Iraklio airport, flights were not carried out for over two hours since the aircraft had to be removed from the point where it stopped to free the runway.
 Taxi driver ran over by car trying to escape arrestA 38-year-old taxi driver was injured when he was run over by a passing car early Thursday while trying to avoid arrest for unethical customer selection practices in the KTEL intercity bus terminal in Kifissos, Athens.
An undercover police officer spotted four taxi drivers who were engaged in customer selection and called on two of his colleagues to arrest them. Two of the cab drivers did not resist but the third sped off and the fourth one ran on foot toward the Kifissos Avenue exit.
The 38-year-old crossed the road barriers on Kifissos Avenue and while trying to get across he was run over and injured by a passing car. He was rushed to a hospital where it was established by police that his license was taken away 10 days ago for unethical customer selection.
The taxi driver who avoided arrest by speeding away in his car was also apprehended shortly afterwards.
 Ferryboat crashes into pier in rough seasThe ferryboat "Daliana" with 32 passengers on board and 52 crew members serving the subsidized sea route in the Dodecanesse Islands, southern Aegean, crashed into a pier in the port of the island of Leros due to adverse weather conditions while attempting to dock on Thursday morning.
Only minor damage was caused to the vessel, which will leave port after an inspection.
 Man arrested for forcing mentally disabled woman to prostitutionA 58-year-old man was arrested in Karditsa, central Greece, accused of forcing a 24-year-old mentally disabled girl to prostitution during the last six months.
He used intimidation methods to persuade her prostitute herself and when she refused he assaulted her and threatened both her and her family.
 US embassy closed Monday for Presidents' Day holidayThe US Embassy and Consular Section in Athens, the Consulate General in Thessaloniki and all US government offices in Greece will be closed on Monday, February 16, in observance of Presidents' Day, a US national holiday.
Presidents Day marks the birthdays of the 1st and 16th US presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
 Cloudy, rainy on FridayCloudy and rainy weather and northwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 0C and 16C. Cloudy in Athens with local showers, with westerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 5C to 12C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 1C to 7C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe economy and the measures to combat the financial crisis, the condition in public hospitals and speculation of a pending resignation by ND deputy Yiannis Manolis were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The iDoser will mark the 21st century", referring to electronic 'breats', some of which are designed to induce drug-like effects and are also referred to as 'digital drugs', that are available on the internet.
APOGEVMATINI: "Housewives and women farmers are victims of spousal abuse, indicates survey of thousands of Greek women living in the provinces".
AVGHI: "Nervous breakdown in ruling party New Democracy and main opposition PASOK".
AVRIANI: "Shut up and govern or pack up and leave - At a time when the country is on the verge of sinking in poverty and despair, we cannot occupy ourselves with MPs' and ministers' cockfighting".
CHORA: "Unemployment becomes a nightmare - Storm of dismissals in Europe and USA".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Manolis one step before his exit from New Democracy (resignation from his MP seat and from the party itself)".
ELEFTHEROS: "ND a volcano ready to erupt - Karamanlis remains impassive - Ministers and MPs are at each others' throats".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "All night long thriller with Manolis' resignation".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Ringl around the rosies and...Karamanlis in the middle - ND a tower of Babel - Manolis poised to hand in his resignation from parliament".
ESTIA: "Inexplicable attack against private initiative".
ETHNOS: "Vendetta between Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and New Democracy MP Yannis Manolis".
KATHIMERINI: "TV show 'ballots' - In the midst of the crisis, the country is becoming hostage to the 'democracy of TV'."
LOGOS: "Manolis threatens with resignation ".
NIKI: "They are chasing after Manolis".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The proceedings of Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 18th Congress are a major event".
TA NEA: "A man died unaided for 100 euros - The shortage of medical supplies in hospitals are fatal".
TO VIMA: "Knives unsheathed over succession - Speculation spree of early elections in April".
VRADYNI: "New salary scale for doctors working in national health system".
 We will continue the negotiations, President Christofias saysNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias, excluded the possibility that either the Greek Cypriot or the Turkish Cypriot side will leave negotiations.
President Christofias was speaking to the press at the Presidential Palace after the 19th meeting he had Thursday with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in the framework of the UN-led direct negotiations, which began last September with a view to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem.
"Neither Talat nor Christofias will leave the direct talks," President Christofias said.
Furthermore, President Chirstofias stressed that "the sooner a solution could be found; the better would be for the entire Cypriot people. However, we cannot press the situation based on what anyone has on his mind or at the back of his mind. Let leave things work", he pointed out. Christofias was commenting on statements by Talat's spokesman Hasan Ercakica that an agreement can be reached by fall.
In relation to Thursday's discussion on the properties issue, President Christofias, said that there were some differences in the meeting.
"Today (Thursday) we discussed in a friendly atmosphere and we will continue our discussion next week", he noted.
Asked whether he thinks that the meeting gave the message that the debate on the issue of properties will continue until the end, President Christofias said: "You will hear the result soon and whether we will continue or not until the end".
President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since early September last year, aiming at reunifying the island, divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
Cyprus leaders outline criteria for property issue
The leaders of the two communities of Cyprus, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot, presented on Thursday their positions on the criteria for a settlement of the issue of properties they discuss in the framework of their direct talks, aiming to reach a settlement of the Cyprus question, UN Secretary General's Special Adviser for Cyprus Alexander Downer has said.
In statements after the 19th meeting between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, in the framework of the UN-led direct negotiations, Downer added that the discussion on the property issue will continue next Thursday.
Asked if there was any agreement on the criteria, he said that this is a very early stage of the discussions. "They have a way to go, of course, not surprisingly. As I have always said these are difficult issues and they are not going to be resolved in one meeting like that," he added.
President: Messages from the discussion on property not optimistic
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias on Thursday said that the first messages from the discussions on the issue of properties, held in the framework of direct talks on the Cyprus question, are not optimistic.
In statements at the Presidential Palace before leaving for the UN protected area of the old now defunct Nicosia airport Nicosia airport where his meetings with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are taking place, Christofias said that during this meeting the two communities would submit the criteria on which the discussions must continue or even the issue of properties would be solved.
Asked whether it was expected that a number of meetings would be required for the discussion of this issue, Christofias said: "If we go until the end yes, many meetings. The first impressions or the first messages are not optimistic. We have serious differences in our views," he added.
 Cyprus FM: Russia has reaffirmed its support to a just Cyprus settlementMOSCOW (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Russian diplomacy has reassured its firm and longstanding support for a just and viable settlement of the Cyprus question, Cyprus Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou said after a meeting he had in Moscow on Thursday with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
Kyprianou expressed his satisfaction over the Russian stance, especially during the current crucial phase of the process of direct negotiations between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, aiming to reach a settlement of the question of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion in 1974.
Lavrov accepted Kyprianou's invitation to visit Cyprus and said he will support the Cypriot initiative to establish three new General Consulates in Russia.
Speaking during a press conference, Kyprianou said that he informed his Russian counterpart about the course of the negotiations, which are aiming to achieve a just and viable settlement of the Cyprus question, based on the relevant high level agreements, the UN Security Council resolutions, the international law and the European principles and values, a settlement providing for a bicommunal, bizonal federation.
He thanked the Russian federation for its firm and long standing support, noting that Russia's solidarity is valuable at all levels.
Referring to the situation in the Middle East, Kyprianou said that Cyprus supports the Egyptian initiative on this issue and will attend the Cairo conference on the issue of Gaza, to be held at the beginning of March.
On his part, Lavrov said they discussed the ways to further establish the cooperation between the two countries, adding that Russia is in favour of a stable, just and viable settlement of the Cyprus question, on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions and the agreement of the two communities.
The Russian foreign minister said that his country will continue to participate in international efforts aiming at the settlement of the Cyprus question, and expressed satisfaction over the results of his talks with Kyprianou, during which they reaffirmed the sincere and mutual goal of developing the Russian-Cypriot partnership relations in all directions.
Referring to the prospects of bilateral of economic cooperation, Lavrov noted that "its importance is growing under the conditions of the current world economic crisis", as "Cyprus is one of the first countries as regards the value of investments in the Russian economy."
He also expressed full support to the plans of the Republic of Cyprus to open three new General Consulates in Krasnodar, Yekaterinburg and Samara.
Asked about the issue of Cypriot-flagged ship Monchegorsk, which is anchored near Limassol port, Kyprianou said that he briefed his Russian counterpart, in his capacity as a member state of the Security Council. He said the Republic of Cyprus would take its decisions regarding the management of the cargo according to its potentials.
On his part, Lavrov expressed full support to the actions taken by the Cypriot authorities on this issue, noting that the whole issue is being handled in line with the rules of the international community that is represented by the UN Security Council.
"There is a special committee of the Security Council which examines such cases and the Cypriot side has acted in full compliance with those provided by the competent Security Council committee," he added.
 Government to act on Olgac's confessionNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The government will continue to inform the international community on the issue that has arisen from the self-confession of Turkish actor Attila Olgac that he killed ten Greek Cypriots during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou has said.
Replying to questions on Wednesday after a Cabinet meeting, Stephanou said that the government has decided to act on two fronts. "Firstly, to raise the issue at the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which is the watchdog for the implementation of ECHR decisions", he said.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the Republic of Cyprus' fourth interstate application has asked Turkey to cooperate fully in the investigation into the fate of missing persons in Cyprus.
Secondly, the government is considering a second appeal to the ECHR, the spokesman added. "It is a decision which the Law Office of the Republic is examining, because it requires specific action and procedures", he explained.
Stephanou pointed out that there is the political aspect to the confession as well. The government and the House of Representatives have decided to raise the issue to several international fora, in order not only to inform the international community about the confession, but also to explain "what this confession means and what it proves", he stressed.
"We are talking about crimes committed during the Turkish invasion to Cyprus in 1974", he added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Hundreds of Greek Cypriots have been missing since 1974, many of whom were last seen alive in the hands of the Turkish military. Nearly 500 Turkish Cypriots are also listed as missing since the intercommunal fighting in the early 1960s and during 1974.
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