|Saturday, 20 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 14 February 2009 Issue No: 3122
 Separate MIG, Swissport bids for OAThe Greek government on Friday said it has received two binding offers for the sale of Olympic Airways' assets, totaling 177.2 million euros.
Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, the government's "point man" for the closely watched privatisation of the ailing national carrier, told reporters that the government's investment advisors received a binding offer from Athens-based Marfin Investment Group (MIG) for the purchase of Olympic Airlines' flight operations (valued at 45.7 million euros) and for its technical base assets (valued at 16.7 million euros), while there was another binding offer by Swissport for the purchase of OA's ground handling services (valued at 44.8 million euros).
These two offers, combined with the purchase of Pantheon Airways' capital, a new technical base company and a new ground handling service company raise the value of the offers to 177.2 million euros, according to the government.
The Greek state's proceeds from the sale would be raised from additional assets, such as airplanes, ground handling equipment and technical base equipment, which were separately evaluated by auditors.
The ministry announcement said the government, after taking into account the two bids, as well as requests exclusive negotiations, positive recommendations by its investment and legal advisors and the positive recommendation by a commissioner (jointly appointed by the Greek government and the European Commission), has decided that talks, currently underway, will continue exclusively for a period of three weeks. During this period, other offers can be examined according to the process of negotiations with the two bidders.
"The government expresses satisfaction over MIG's positive response to a public invitation by the government and Swissport's decision to raise its initial offer. The government's goal is a healthy privatisation of Olympic Airlines".
Meanwhile, hours later, PASOK party leader George Papandreou met with Andreas Vgenopoulos, MIG's chief executive, following a request by the latter to brief Papandreou over MIG's offer to purchase Olympic.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Vgenopoulos said the meeting "went well, as Mr. Papandreou presented PASOK's programme for Olympic Airlines and other companies in the sector, envisaging a joint scheme".
He added that "in our proposal we offer this possibility, if there is a PASOK government to transform Olympic Airlines into an enterprise based on their wishes".
He underlined that MIG's offer aimed to solve the national carrier problems and to continue operating as part of the country's history.
"We want new planes, good service and an Olympic Airlines that will make us all proud, and we will achieve this if the tender is complete," Vgenopoulos said.
Commenting on the future of OA's employees, he said it was an issue and obligation of the government, adding that a new airline would create numerous job positions, including ones for new and existing employees.
 PM confers with culture minister, New Acropolis Museum inaugurated in JunePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Friday with Culture Minister Antonis Samaras, in their first meeting since the latter's assumption of the ministry portfolio after the Jan. 7 government reshuffle.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Samaras said he had a "substantive and fruitful" discussion with the prime minister.
"Greek culture is a source of wealth for the country," Samaras said, adding that, in the present difficult and critical hours for the economy, it was necessary to further highlight this aspect.
Furthermore, Samaras also announced that the New Acropolis Museum will be inaugurated on June 20.
Asked about funding for the culture sector, Samaras said the ministry was naturally making the necessary cutbacks wherever necessary, although the basic needs would be fully met.
 Gov't dismisses PASOK fears over Turkey's activity in ThraceGreece has a modern, European policy for minorities, which was leading the Greek Muslims of Thrace to full integration in the region's social, political and productive fabric and was not vulnerable to interference by Turkish consular authorities, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis stressed in Parliament on Friday. The minister was replying to a question raised by main opposition PASOK MP Andreas Loverdos regarding the activities of the Turkish consulate in the region.
"The Greek Muslims have neither asked for, nor do they need self-appointed advocates," Valinakis underlined, noting that the Thrace minority was "progressing economically and socially with full equality, as citizens of a European country and at the same time enjoying the significant and tangible benefits of their European passport."
Loverdos had claimed that Turkish consular authorities in Thrace were exhibited inappropriate behaviour, to the point of obstructing the country's developmental programmes in order to keep certain members of the minority living in unfavourable conditions that would allow the consulate to "act as a good conduit for things that are outside every sense of legality". He also proposed dialogue in Parliament to discuss the behaviour of the Greek State toward the minorities in the region.
Valinakis countered that any activity by the Turkish consulate in Thrace that diverged from what was accepted international practice and the provisions of international law was not accepted by the Greek side, which took the necessary and appropriate action.
He stressed that the country's modern policy toward the minority, a policy "designed and carried out boldly with democratic vision and without the phobic syndromes of the past," was the best remedy and one which daily cancelled any attempts to depart from international norms.
 Papandreou chairs PASOK political council meetingMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said that the issue at hand was not who would manage the present crisis, but who would pay the cost of the crisis and who would gain from it, addressing a meeting on Friday of his party's political council, adding that PASOK did not want the financially weaker strata and the middle class to be the ones to pay.
He also said that the foundations should be laid, in the midst of the crisis, for the Greek society to exist the crisis stronger, and expressed concern over the risk of extreme forms of marginalization, poverty and violence would arise.
Papandreou questioned the reasons why the prime minister had instigated Thursday's off-the-agenda discussion in parliament on the economy, adding that premier Costas Karamanlis was constantly seeking "co-culprits" for the failure of his government's policy, but also consensus in order to remain in power, instead of for the country.
The opposition leader charged that the premier had failed again, in Thursday's discussion, to present a plan for the economy, adding that, conversely, PASOK has submitted guideline proposals, which would be made more specific, for fortification of the financially weaker, rebuilding of the social state, a new developmental model which aimed at green growth, and for the existence and function of a just state.
During a special event next Sunday, PASOK is scheduled to unveil its plan for the country, while similar events will be held to present the party's positions on green development and the resctructuring of the social state.
Also, within the next few days, PASOK will announce the establishhment of an electoral campaign committee for the June 7 European Parliament elections.
Friday's meeting was the last to be held at the party's historic building at 50 Harilaou Trikoupi street in central Athens since 1977, as the PASOK headquarters are relocating to a new premise on nearby Ippokratous street.
The move, Papandreou told the political council earler, also marked the party's renewal, but would always be a point of reference of PASOK's principles and values which the party 'honors today as the opposition, and tomorrow as the government", noting that the Harilaou Trikoupi building was filled with memories of the struggles and great changes in the country.
 PASOK to set up Euro-elections committee within daysMain opposition PASOK will be announcing its Central Elections Committee for the upcoming European elections on June 7 in the next few days, PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou said on Friday. The committee's secretariat will be chaired by PASOK President George Papandreou, he added.
"The reorganisation of our forces is necessary because, apart from the European elections and given the present conjuncture, general elections might take place at any time," the spokesman said.
He also noted that, in the same way that the crisis had an "ideological sign" before it, so would the exit from the crisis have either a conservative or progressive direction.
PASOK had submitted specific proposals for emerging from the crisis in a progressive direction, while at the same time "seeking the terms for creating true progressive consensus," he said.
When asked why PASOK believed that elections might take place at any time, Papaconstantinou stressed that at no time during Thursday's debate in Parliament had Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said that his government would use up its entire four years. Even if such a statement had been made, he added, the events of the last few days and the resignation of ND MP Yiannis Manolis, which was first given then taken back, made it clear that the country was not being governed.
"We say expressly and clearly that we consider that elections will take place and must take place before the election of the president of the Republic," he underlined, noting that the ball was now in the government's court and that PASOK both appreciated the work done by Karolos Papoulias as president and wanted him to be a candidate.
 Interview by PASOK spokesperson on education issues Diamantopoulou"Main opposition PASOK party will win the general elections with a strong majority, which will become even stronger if the government and the rest of the opposition insist on too much talk and no work," PASOK spokesperson on education issues Anna Diamantopoulou stressed in an interview with ANA-MPA on Friday.
The likelihood of cooperation between PASOK and ruling New Democracy (ND) party was ruled out by Diamantopoulou, who pointed out that such collaboration will not produce solutions for the country's problems.
She also accused the government of fostering speculation about early elections and said that the prime minister was the one who left the issue of early polls "open".
As regards the economic crisis, Diamantopoulou stressed that while substantive measures are being implemented in other countries, the Greek government is occupied with measures aimed at improving its performance in opinion polls.
Regarding the proposed dialogue on education, she pointed out the need for a major reform spanning all levels, from the kindergarten to the post graduate level, adding that only in this way can the objective of "high quality, free public education for all" be attained.
Diamantopoulou also reiterated her positions on university asylum, underlining that "destruction and closed doors have nothing to do with the free propagation of ideas," and that "we have a duty to protect public property which belongs to all of us."
 Synaspismos leader addresses party con'fCoalition of the Left (Synaspismos) president Alexis Tsipras on Friday called for a "vote of confidence to a programme by leftist forces; programme of change, which offers a way out of the crisis, for a solution of the Left, which the country needs."
Inaugurating the proceedings of the Standing Conference of his party, Tsipras also said that in the past year "the hegemony of the two party system has been overturned and new hopes were born among working people and the youth for a radical change in political affairs and their life."
Referring to the present world economic crisis, the Synaspismos leader said: "We are experiencing the end of an era as we observe today a new international reality, the collapse of the neo-liberal model of economic growth, which was based on greediness and over-accumulation of profit."
He also accused the New Democracy government of "hiding behind the EU Stability Pact and the threat of EU supervision in order to rescue its fundamental options, while at the same time it is collapsing under the burden of popular discontent, major scandals and poor management."
As regards main opposition PASOK party, Tsipras charged that it had "nothing different to propose."
He also referred to existing differences between his party and PASOK, terming proposals for cooperation as "demands to support the two-party system, by helping PASOK return to power."
Finally, he referred to June's Euro-elections, saying they had a "tremendous significance, because political options that are being shaped on a European level act as a "framework" in which national policies must move."
 President receives Chile parliament speakerPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Friday received the president of Chile's House of Representatives, Francisco Encina Moriamez, who is visiting Greece at the invitation of the Hellenic Parliament.
Greeting Moriamez on arrival at the Presidential Mansion, Papoulias referred to the struggles of the peoples of Greece and Chile against the colonels' junta and Pinochet dictatorship in the two countries, respectively.
"Both our peoples fought dictatorships. You paid a heavier toll for the return of democracy, with thousdands of dead and missing persons. We, with fewer sacrifices, but nevertheless it was a struggle that lasted many years and made us wiser," Papoulias noted.
Moriamez referred to the ties of friendship between the peoples of Greece and Chile. "We have many schools and squares in Chile with the name 'Greece', and this is in tribute to all that your country has given global clulture, and even more so because we very much love the Greeks who came to Chile," he said, and expressed appreciation for the Greek people's solidarity during the difficult moment's in Chile's history.
Moriamez was accompanied by parliament president Dimitris Sioufas and Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos, who is also chairman of the parliament's Greece-Chile Friendship Group.
 Chile House of Reps leader visits parliamentThe president of Chile's House of Representatives, Francisco Encina Moriamez, who is visiting Greece at the invitation of the Hellenic Parliament, on Friday attended a plenary discussion on a bill on amendments to the investment laws.
Moriamez was greeted on arrival by parliament president Dimitris Sioufas, who noted that the Chile House of Representatives supported the Greek positions on the Cyprus issue as well as on Greek-Turkish relations.
He also noted that more than 5,000 citizens of Greek descent were living in Chile, while three cultural centers were also in operation in that country, at which the Greek language was being taught.
 New Greek ambassador in BelgradeBELGRADE (ANA-MPA/N.Pelpas)
New Greek Ambassador to Serbia Dimosthenis Stoidis presented his credentials on Friday to Serbian President Boris Tadic.
Stoidis termed relations between the two countries "excellent", adding that he would work for their further development. He also reiterated Greece's full support to Serbia's European integration.
 Greek economy grew by 3% in '08The Greek economy grew by 3.0 pct in 2008, down from 4.0 pct in 2007, according to provisional figures published by the National Statistics Service on Friday.
The statistics service, in a report, said the economic growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2008 was 2.6 pct, down from 2.9 pct in the previous quarter, while on a quarterly base, economic growth rate in the October-December period was 0.3 pct, slightly from 0.5 pct in the third quarter.
The statistical service attributed the slowdown in the growth rate to a significant decline in investments, mainly because of a major decrease in building activity in the country, while consumption fell strongly as a result of limited credit expansion to households.
Greece's finance ministry, in an updated Stability and Growth programme submitted with the European Union, envisages a growth rate of 1.1 pct this year.
Eurostat also said on Friday that the Greek economy grew by 2.6 pct in the fourth quarter of 2008. The EU executive's statistics agency said that Greece (3.0 pct), Slovakia (2.7 pct), Czech Republic (1.0 pct) and Austria (0.5 pct) were the only EU member-states with positive growth rates.
In the Eurozone, the economy shrank by 1.2 pct, while in the EU-27 GDP was -1.1 pct, compared with a 0.2 pct decline in the US.
 Greek state to maintain 51 pct in PPCThe Greek state will maintain a majority 51 pct stake in Public Power Corporation while the government is not seeking any changes in the labor status in the Corporation, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said on Friday.
Addressing the 32nd Congerss of GENOP, PPC's trade union, the Greek minister urged workers to a constant dialogue without prejudice, while the president of the electricity utility P. Athanasopoulos said his main goal was to maintain a 10 pct rate of employed capital return in order that PPC could continue its investment program. He stressed that no lay-offs or salary reductions were included in a draft plan to restructuring PPC's spending.
 Adriatic-Ionian Initiative conference held on CorfuThe International Conference for an "Adriatic-Ionian Development Strategy" began on the island of Corfu on Friday, organised by the Greek chair of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (AII). Greece assumed the AII's one-year chair on June 1, 2008.
The countries participating showed strong interest in further cementing the ties between them, with joint activity in specific areas and especially that of tourism.
Through the conference, Greece is attempting to upgrade the AII into a basic instrument for broader collaboration and promoting common targets that are economically beneficial for all the countries within it.
"Our aim is to set the foundations for a broader multi-lateral cooperation between the countries of our region," said Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis in his address at the conference. He said the Greek chair's focus was on developing the Adriatic-Ionian as a single tourist destination, protection of the environment, especially the marine environment, and developing a transport and energy network.
The minister underlined Greece's huge experience in the tourism sector, which it was prepared to share in order to promote the development of the region in a mutually beneficial way, as well as the country's recent heavy investment in the transport and energy sectors, which sought to turn Greece into a transit station for Southeastern Europe.
During his speech, he also underlined Greece's strong support for the accession of all other AII member-states to the EU and NATO.
Others addressing the conference were Greek Justice Minister Nikos Dendias, who referred to Corfu's strategic position as a "meeting point of cultures" and Italian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Alfredo Mantica, who applauded Greece's effort to upgrade the AII and said that it would continue under the Italian presidency.
Albanian Minister of Culture, Tourism, Youth and Sports, Professor Ylli Pango stressed the importance of deeper understanding and closer cooperation between the peoples of the Adriatic for his country, stressing that Albania placed great weight on developing its tourism sector through a programme meeting European standards and able to attract foreign investors.
The conference was addressed by officials from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, in addition to a number of local organisations and authorities.
Afterwards, Varvitsiotis said that the Greek chair was very satisfied with the high-level representation of participating countries.
The Adriatic-Ionian Initiative was set up in 2000, with the participation of Greece, Italy, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, aimed at the collaboration of the participating states in the fields of economy, tourism, transport, sustainable development, environmental protection, education, culture and combating organized crime. A priority of the Greek Chairmanship is to promote regional tourism in the participating countries.
The conference was held in association with the Region of Ionian Islands, the prefecture, the city and the Chamber of Commerce of Corfu, as well as the Ionian University. It was attended by ministers of the participating countries, representatives of Chambers of Commerce, local authorities, universities, business delegates from the fields of tourism, banking, transport, and telecommunications, as well as unions of hoteliers and travel agents.
 Transport Minister Stylianidis visits ETHEL officesTransport and Communications Minister Evripidis Stylianidis visited Friday the central offices and repair station of Thermal Buses S.A. (ETHEL), on the occasion of the arrival of the first 47 advanced technology, EURO-V specification buses ordered by the company.
Stylianidis stressed that the new buses are markedly more friendly to the environment than the ones used until now.
They are fitted with the advanced technology EURO-V engine that minimizes emission of pollutants into the atmosphere, to the extent that 20 green technology buses pollute as much as one conventional bus.
A total of 320 environmentally-friendly buses will be delivered within the next 9 months, 100 of which will be 18m long with a capacity to carry 140 passengers and the remaining 220 will be MIDI type buses that can transport up to 40 passengers. The first EURO-V bus will be in operation on Friday, Feb.14, serving the new "X6" bus route between Ethniki Amyna and Doukissa Plakentias metro stations.
 Nestle Hellas denies accussations of breaching competition rulesNestle Hellas on Friday said a 30-mln-euro sanction imposed by Greece's Competition Commission was an unfair decision and said it would seek legal action to protect its rights.
In a statement, Nestle Hellas denied the accussations made against it of breaching competition rules in the instant coffee market and stressed that in its presence in the Greece for more than 100 year, it operates four production units and employs more than 1,000 workers. "We fully respect national and international law and operate always for teh benefit of our consumers," the company said.
 Hygeia Group buys 50 pct in Turkey's SAFAK GroupHygeia Group, a Greek-listed clinic group, will hold a news conference in Istanbul on Saturday 14, February, to officially present the purchase of a 50 pct stake in SAFAK Group. Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Hygeia Group will also take over the management of the Turkish company.
The presentation to journalists, doctors and medical staff of SAFAK Group will be attended by Andreas Vgenopoulos, vice-chairman in Marfin Investment Group and Hygeia, Greek Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Turkey's European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis.
SAFAK Group operates four fully equipped hospitals in the wider Istanbul region, with a capacity of 470 beds.
 Greek stocks ease 0.08 pctGreek stocks extended their losing streak for the fourth consecutive session this week. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange eased 0.08 pct to end at 1,727.98 points, with turnover a low 93.9 million euros, of which 7.4 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with the Raw Materials (2.33 pct), Insurance (1.73 pct) and Industrial Products (1.71 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Travel (2.19 pct), Telecoms (1.73 pct) and Healthcare (0.44 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index eased 0.36 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.55 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index rose 0.39 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 103 to 89 with another 62 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.55%
Personal & Household: +0.75%
Raw Materials: +2.33%
Travel & Leisure: -2.19%
Food & Beverages: +1.62%
Financial Services: unchanged
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, National Bank, OPAP and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.40
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.10
HBC Coca Cola: 11.40
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.70
National Bank of Greece: 12.84
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.78
Bank of Piraeus: 4.90
Titan Cement Company: 13.96
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices maintained their discounts in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with the March contract trading at a discount of 1.83 pct. Turnover was a very low 23.512 million euros, in volume of 4,060 contracts worth 17.638 million euros.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 6,755 contracts, worth 5.769 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (1,534), followed by Marfin Investment Group (577), PPC (528), OPAP (345), National Bank (1,088), Alpha Bank (878) and Piraeus Bank (209).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German state bonds widened further to 277 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Friday. Turnover in the market totaled 505 million euros, of which 165 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 340 million were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 90 million euros. The Greek bond yielded 5.89 pct and the German Bund 3.12 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates continue falling. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.13 pct, the six-month rate 2.02 pct, the three-month rate 1.94 pct and the one-month rate 1.63 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.292
Pound sterling 0.891
Danish kroner 7.512
Swedish kroner 10.831
Japanese yen 118.53
Swiss franc 1.505
Norwegian kroner 8.788
Canadian dollar 1.596
Australian dollar 1.955
 Greece submits 2007 CO2 emission figures to EUThe environment ministry on Friday submitted a technical report and data recording greenhouse gas emissions by Greece to the European Union, in accordance with the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. The report, which each country submits annually, concerns the emissions of the year before last, or 2007.
The data shows that emissions by Greece were lower than the targets for the country and lower than the previous year.
They represent a 22.46 percent increase relative to emissions during the base year (1990), while Greece's target is a 25 percent increase for 2008-2012 relative to 1990. The previous annual increase was 24.6 percent.
In absolute terms, total greenhouse gas emissions by Greece in 2007 came to 131.99 megatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.
"The data proves in the most incontrovertible way the results of the work being done by the environment ministry to tackle climate change," an announcement put out by the ministry said.
It also pointed to a European Environment Agency (EEA) annual report, in which Greece is one of only four countries that are already within Kyoto Protocol targets and one of the only four that are set to meet their Kyoto Protocol targets by 2012 with their existing programme and without taking additional measures, along with Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
 Presentation of book on "NATO in the 21st century"The need for the creation of a "new security architecture" and enhancement of NATO on the basis of strategic planning for confronting modern-day "asymmetrical threats and challenges", narco-terrorism and electronic crime was underlined by speakers at the presentation of a book by University of Crete professor of political sciences Marios-Panagiotis Efthymiopoulos titled "NATO in the 21st century: The need for a new strategic plan and expansion of NATO-Russia relations", held Thursday night in Thesslaoniki.
If NATO did not exist, we would need to discover it, US Consul General in Thessaloniki Hoty Brian Yee said, addressing the event, adding that Europe and the Us rely on NATO for security and stability. "There is no other organization doing what NATO does," Yee said.
In a review of the purposes of the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the achievement of the targets which it has contributed to, Yee noted the "collapse of the communist dictatorships" and the "development of democratic institutions and financial markets" in Europe.
The NATO alliance has evolved from 16 members in 1990, without any peacekeeping missions conducted, to 26 members and collaborations with 31 more countries in 2006, with six simultaneous operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, the Mediterranean, Darfur, humanitarian aid during the earthquakes in Pakistan, training Iraqi police, and combatting piracy in W. Africa, Yee said.
He also said that NATO wiped out the dividing lines, inviting Russia to formal cooperation by way of the NATO-Russia Council, where issues such as missile defense and the friction in the Middle East and the Caucasus are discussed, adding that NATO was still evolving today and facing new challenges.
In two months' time, the NATO leaders will meet in France and Germany to celebrate the Alliance's 60th anniversary -- 60 years of peace, affluence and conciliation -- and to plan its future, Yee, said, adding: "For those of you who are still not convinced that NATO has a future, I would like to paraphrase John Lennon and urge you to 'give NATO a chance'. Study the data, not only the propaganda".
Main opposition PASOK MP Yiannis Magriotis spoke of the need for NATO dedication to the common principles and values that associate it with the UN, stressing that "the global security system can no longer be monopolar or dipolar, but multipolar".
"If NATO wants to be a credible force, it must build a new relationship of balance with Russia as well. A relationship of mutuality, frankness and constructive cooperation," he added.
Ruling New Democracy (ND) MP Apostolos Tzitzikostas spoke on the change of "agenda" ollowing the collapse of dipolarism, commenting on the book author's views, "for a substantive re-adaptation" of NATO's mission, taking into consideration human rights, good cooperatin with the UN, the OSCE and the EU, in the framework of the dictates of the Lisbon Treaty, for the creation of a Euro-force.
Greece, he said, was contributing to NATO's mission, but always "in the framework of the principles and values of good cooperation, mutual respect and understanding among the member countries".
 Journalism awards bestowedGreek and foreign journalists distinguished for their knowledge, ethics and European orientation were honored with the Konstantinos Kalligas Award in a special ceremony at the National Bank of Greece's main auditorium.
The honorees are Penelope Gavras, Giorgos Syriopoulos, Iraklis Galanakis, Pavlos Tsimas, Christos Panagiotopoulos and Jean Quatremer, the European Affairs Desk Editor of the French daily "Liberation". A special award was received by Spanish journalist Miguel Angel Aguilar from the newspaper "El Pais".
The awards were presented by President and CEO of the National Bank of Greece Takis Arapoglou.
The Konstantinos Kalligas Awards were established in 1996 by the Greek section of the Association of European Journalists in honor of the late Konstantinos Kalligas.
 Snowfall in ski resortsSnow was falling on Friday over the mountainous areas of the country and cities of northern Greece. Snowchains were needed for vehicles heading towards the ski resorts of Kaimaktsalan, Pella perfecture, and Vassilitsa, Grevena perfecture.
Heavy snowfall has also reported in Karpenissi, central Greece, and the nearby ski resort of Velouchi.
According to the National Meterological Service, the snow will continue to fall throughout the weekend in most parts of the north and the mainland. The forecast for the rest of the country is storms and rain, while the temperatures will drop sharply.
 Mt. Taygettus reforestation gets underwayThe goal of local authorities in Messinia Prefecture, in the southern Peloponnese, is to plant some 600,000 trees planted on the slopes of Mt. Taygettus, one of the regions ravaged by the devastating wildfires the region in the summer of 2007.
A total of 40,000 trees will be planted during the February-March season, while 300,000 more will be used for reforestation efforts in September and October.
The reforestation activities aim to upgrade the scorched regions on Mt. Taygettus and will be completed during the next winter planting season.
 Series of arson attacks in ThessalonikiUnidentified individuals used firebombs and set garbage dumpsters ablaze in the early morning hours of Friday in Thessaloniki.
Firebombs were used at Aghios Dimitrios Street, in the old city section and across the street from the Aristotle University Dental Schoo,l where five garbage dumpsters were set on fire.
Also, a firebomb attack targeting a nightclub in the municipality of Polichni that was closed at the time caused only minor damages.
 Two suspected arson attacks reported on CreteYet another government vehicle fell victim to a spate of arson attacks that have occupied authorities in the past few days, according to the Hania fire brigade. This is currently investigating the torching in the early hours of Friday of an Antiquities Service vehicle on the island of Crete.
The passenger car caught fire at around 2:45 in the morning and spread to the interior before it was put out.
According to the fire department, the evidence points to an act of deliberate arson, since the side window was smashed and their were traces of fuel around the car.
About 20 minutes earlier, a fire also broke out in a travel agency at Kato Stalo on the island, causing material damage before it was put out, and is again believed to be the result of arson.
 Man arrested for sexually abusing his nieceA 57-year-old man was arrested in the district of Markopoulo in Athens after being caught molesting his 10-year-old niece.
The man, who is accused of sexually abusing the young girl repeatedly, was arrested following a complaint filed by her parents. According to them, their daughter was being sexually abused since 2006 in their house, when they were absent, and in the suspect's car.
The 57-year-old was arrested in the act by police when he and his wife visited the house of his brother-in-law.
 Suspected child molestor remanded in custodyA man accused of sexually molesting an eight-year-old girl that was friends with his daughter was on Friday remanded in custody after appearing before the 12th examining magistrate.
The 42-year-old man from Menidi denied charges of sexually abusing a minor and repeated counts of possessing pornographic material, claiming that he had been at home with his wife at the time and on the day when the event was supposed to have occurred.
His wife was with him at the courts throughout his testimony.
 CoS upholds ruling against state in airliner crashA Council of State (CoS) appellate court on Friday upheld a Thessaloniki appeals court's earlier ruling against the Greek state and a monetary award of 150,000 euros to the relatives of a woman who died in an airplane crash in 1997.
The court decision ruled that the Greek state -- through its affiliated Civil Aviation Authority and air traffic contollers -- was partly responsible for the transport accident to a degree of 30 percent.
The compenstation was sought by the relatives of a woman aboard the Ukrainian airliner that crashed into the mountains of Pieria prefecture, north-central Greece, after failing to land in Thessaloniki, its final destination. All 73 people aboard the Aerosweet passenger jet -- a Yakovlev-42 plane -- were killed in December 1997.
 Man arrested on illicit trade in antiquities chargesA 47-year-old man was arrested in Polygyros, Halkidiki Prefecture in northern Greece, accused of illicit trade in antiquities.
Police, after searching his house, workplace and car, seized 1,520 coins dating back to the 4th century BC as well as Roman coins and 682 objects, among them fragments and parts of statuettes, vases, arrowheads and bronze belt buckles. They also found a handgun, a metal detector and various tools used in excavations.
According to archaeologists, the confiscated objects are of major archaeological and commercial value.
 Thessaloniki prefect found guilty of breach of duty chargeA Thessaloniki instance court has sentenced Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis to one-year suspended prison sentence after finding him guilty of breach of duty.
The case concerned the prefect's decision to arbitrarily reduce a fine imposed by a predecessor against a gas station owner. The court ruled against Psomiadis despite a prosecutor's recommendation for acquittal.
 Gov't on support for new AEK sports complexDeputy Culture Minister responsible for sports issues Yiannis Ioannidis on Friday said the government is open to suggestions on how to assist the historic AEK sports club in acquiring a new sports complex.
Ioannidis, Greece's best known basketball coach before entering politics, made the statement in Parliament in response to a tabled question by Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) deputy Costas Aivaliotis.
Ioannidis said he favors a new football stadium and sports complex "near AEK's fan base", an indirect nod for the Nea Philadelphia district of northwest Athens, where the popular Greek club was headquartered since its founding in 1924.
He added, however, that there has been no official request as yet from either the professional football team, AEK FC, or the amateur club, which owns the property where AEK's Nikos Goumas stadium once stood. The entire stadium was demolished in 2003 by the amateur club's then management on the basis of an ill-fated scheme to build a massive retail and sports complex, a plan that was eventually stalled by legal challenges.
"We need to know, therefore, which side (pro team or amateur club) will ask, and what they will ask for in order to see how we can help the team," he said, adding that when a specific request is made, state services will be instructed to look for property near Nea Philadelphia.
On his part, the LA.OS deputy called on the government and Ioannidis to act as a mediator in order to bridge whatever differences so that construction can begin within a year.
 Rain and snow on SaturdayCloudy weather with rain, snow and a drop in temperatures are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with mainly northwesterly winds between 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 14C. Cloud and showers in Athens, with northwesterly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures from 2C to 10C. Cloud in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 0C to 6C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThursday's off-the-agenda discussion in parliament on the economy at party leaders' level, US president Barack Obama's letters to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and main opposition leader George Papandreou and reactions in ruling New Democracy party to statements by MP Yannis Manolis dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Parliament: The prime minister once again put a full stop to the speculation on early elections".
APOGEVMATINI: "Karamanlis asked for consensus from Papandreou, who refused".
AVGHI: "Synaspismos party Standing Congress begins on a policy platform that will be an answer to the crisis".
AVRIANI: "Early elections would be suicide for Karamanlis and country because whoever wins will lead the country to a tragic impasse and bancruptcy".
CHORA: "Who want Karamanlis out".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Agriculture Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis and Alternate Interior Minister for Public Order Christos Markoyannakis infuriate the Cretan farmers".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Karamanlis to Papandreou: Consensus to overcome the crisis, or else you will be to blame".
ESTIA: "Some MPs' attitude is deplorable - They are pressing and threatening systematically".
ETHNOS: "Historic compromise in ND - After a 3-hour meeting in the premier's office".
KATHIMERINI: "Collision, and...elections on the horizon - Karamanlis prophecy for elections".
LOGOS: "PM called on everyone to deal with the crisis responsibly".
NIKI: "The bull turns into a lamb - Manolis, with his tail between his legs, remained in the pen".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The way out from the crisis is the developmental path that the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) is fighting for".
TA NEA: "Karamanlis acknowledged his incompetence in the face of the crisis".
TO VIMA: "Blind course.... The conclusions after the showdown on Thursday in parliament - Minced words on early elections scenarios".
VRADYNI: "One lie and three truths about the health system - What happens when the mission is subjugated to petty politics".
 Unique chance to reunite Cyprus in 2009 should not be missed, says RehnNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn pointed out on Friday that there is a unique chance to reunite Cyprus in 2009 and that this chance should not be missed.
Rehn said the EU is fully supportive of the process of direct talks for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, adding that the two sides on the island are ready to put aside the past and work together to reunify the island and the two communities, which gives him great hope for the future of a reunified Cyprus, as a normal member state of the EU.
Speaking at a press conference in Nicosia after meetings with the leaders of the two communities, namely President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, Rehn said ''there is a unique chance this year to reunite Cyprus and bring to an end this longstanding conflict on European soil,'' adding that ''this chance must be taken and not missed.''
He also assured that ''the EU and the European Commission are fully supportive of this process of negotiations for a comprehensive settlement.''
Referring to his meetings on the island with the leaders of the two communities and UN representatives, Rehn said he welcomed ''their strong commitment to a successful reunification,'' adding that ''the Commission is providing all political support for their efforts and we are also ready to offer our legal and technical advice on matters relating to the EU.''
''Once the leaders agree on a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue, the EU will then accommodate the terms of a settlement. We will do our utmost to accommodate the terms of a settlement, in line with the fundamental principles on which the EU is founded,'' he pointed out.
Rehn explained that ''this means, for instance, that of course a settlement should be in line with the principles and the acquis communautaire of the EU, and it is essential that the reunified Cyprus will be able to speak with one single voice in the decision-making structures of the EU.''
''That is essential for Cyprus and that is absolutely essential for the EU, and that means that we are in favour of a bizonal bicommunal federation, with political equality, as defined in the resolutions of the UN,'' he added.
He also said that he walked down Ledra Street and had the opportunity to speak with people from both communities, noting that ''the two sides of the island are ready to put aside the past and work together to reunify the island and the two communities.''
''This gives me great hope for the future of Cyprus, of a reunified Cyprus, as a normal member state of the EU,'' he said.
Rehn noted that he discussed with the leaders of the two communities ''mostly the negotiation process related to the comprehensive solution, but in that context we discussed the importance of further confidence building measures.''
''In this context I welcomed their decision to set up an expert commission or advisory body to deal with the preservation and restoration of immovable cultural heritage. That is again one step forward,'' he pointed out.
He thanked the leaders ''for their support to the demining of the buffer zone,'' noting that ''since 2004, the EU has provided some nine million euros for this and we are open to provide further funding since I believe it is one of the factors that would facilitate a comprehensive solution.''
Rehn added that ''the EU stands ready to support a Cypriot solution to the Cyprus problem for the sake of Cyprus and for the sake of Europe, and we rely on the two leaders' skills and determination to reach that solution and we are supporting their work in order to achieve this common objective.''
Replying to questions about possible deadlines for achieving a settlement, Rehn said that ''it is better to avoid delving into this discussion, which has deep roots in the two communities as a culture.''
''In my view it is essential that there is mutual trust between the two leaders, as there is, and that the two communities support their efforts, they support the solution and, in the case of the Turkish Cypriot community, they support a pro-solution and pro-European orientation. That is what counts and that will bring results, I am sure,'' he added.
Asked what the EU could do to bridge the approach of the two communities and the approach of Turkey to a solution, Rehn said ''the two leaders have found common ground on the basis, on the foundations of a settlement concerning governance, and that is certainly welcome, even if some issues are perhaps still open as regards that chapter.''
''As regards Turkey, I have had meetings recently with leaders of Turkey. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has met Prime Minister Erdogan some weeks ago, and in all our meetings we underlined the importance of proactive support by Turkey for a comprehensive settlement, along the lines that the two leaders and the two communities can agree. It is indeed important that Turkey contributes to a favourable political atmosphere to facilitate a comprehensive settlement on Cyprus,'' he added.
Rehn noted that ''what counts is that the two leaders have been able to agree on the political foundations of a unified Cyprus, even if there are still some open issues.''
''We express our views to Turkey to encourage political support and create a favourable climate. What counts is that Turkey supports the process along the lines that the two leaders have agreed and will continue to work in order to agree on other issues,'' Rehn added.
Asked if a solution of the Cyprus problem should take into account the EU principle on the free movement of citizens, Rehn said ''the free movement of people is one of the core freedoms of the single market of the EU.''
''I find it only natural that this will be also the result of a comprehensive solution in Cyprus. I do not see any reason why it should not be so,'' he concluded.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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