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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-24

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Tuesday, 24 February 2009 Issue No: 3130


  • [01] Pilot, prison guards to face charges over repeat helicopter 'prison break'
  • [02] Bakoyannis begins visit to Washington
  • [03] FM Bakoyannis addresses Brookings Institution in Washington
  • [04] EU council of foreign ministers convenes
  • [05] PM, ministers meet with civil servants' reps
  • [06] SYRIZA leader deplores 'tragi-comic' prison escape
  • [07] Alavanos meets OTOE, urges banks to 'stop provoking'
  • [08] Foreign ministry and Attica municipalities sign humanitarian aid agreement
  • [09] Hubner expresses satisfaction over Greece's absorption rate of EU funds
  • [10] Greek retail sector pledges not to raise prices in 2009
  • [11] Millennium Bank reports lower 2008 results
  • [12] SYN-SYRIZA criticise lay-offs by Cosmote
  • [13] Hellenic Exchanges says net profits down 29% in '08
  • [14] Athens' real estate prospects improved, report
  • [15] Greek stocks end 3.26 pct down
  • [16] ADEX closing report
  • [17] Greek bond market closing report
  • [18] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [19] Greece's leading role in the fight against piracy at sea
  • [20] Robotics Conference opens in Athens
  • [21] City considers pilot vehicle access plan for Psyrri district
  • [22] Markopoulos CD 'Liturgy of Orpheus' released
  • [23] Drug arrests in Corinth
  • [24] New HOC president received by IOC's Rogge
  • [25] Cloudy, low temperatures on Tuesday
  • [26] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [27] Cyprus supports Serbia's EU accession route, says President Christofias
  • [28] President of the EU CoR supports solution of the Cyprus problem
  • [29] Cuban Communist Party delegation expresses support to people of Cyprus Politics

  • [01] Pilot, prison guards to face charges over repeat helicopter 'prison break'

    ┴ criminal investigation against a helicopter pilot and several prison guards was opened on Monday, a day after Sunday's repeat helicopter escape by convicted felon Vassilis Paleokostas and Albanian convict Alket Rizaj from Korydallos prison near the port of Piraeus.

    Expectedly, the "deja vu" escape generated front-page banner headlines in the Athens press and reverberations across political fault lines on Monday, with the government on announcing a series of measures designed to tighten security in the country's correctional facilities. The measures were taken after an emergency Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to discuss Sunday's sensational repeat escape.

    In statements after the meeting, Justice Minister Nikos Dendias, whose portfolio includes the correctional system, underlined the government's belief "that this attempt could not have succeeded without participation from the inside".

    Dendias said one perimeter guard, two other guards, the head guard of Korydallos prison and the pilot of the helicopter used in the escape have been arrested and charged. Three top officials, two justice ministry secretaries and the penitentiary's warden, were cashiered on Sunday evening.

    The same duo of convicts, Paleokostas and Rizaj, had escaped from the same facility in 2006 in the same exact manner, i.e. aboard a helicopter.

    The justice ministry has further sought from the relevant authority the opening of bank accounts of the prison employees of Korydallos' third wing, where the two escapees were incarcerated.

    Paleokostas and Rizaj again became Greece's most wanted fugitives on Sunday after escaping with the helicopter in an unprecedented repeat of their Hollywood-style escape from the same prison on June 4, 2006, during which they were spirited away from the courtyard of Korydallos' prison in an operation allegedly planned by Paleokostas' brother, Nikos, then a fugitive from justice.

    Vassilis Paleokostas was re-captured on Aug. 2 in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, and was named by police as the mastermind of the abduction two months earlier of Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) president and Alumil aluminium industry CEO George Mylonas outside Thessaloniki, who was later released after his family paid a hefty ransom.

    Rizaj was captured three months after his escape in the coastal village of Prodromos in Viotia prefecture, while fugitive Nikos Paleokostas was arrested a few weeks later near Livadia, also in Viotia prefecture, after years of eluding police capture.

    Authorities investigating the case believe this second escape was organised by Rizaj, with money supplied by Vassilis Paleokostas.

    They are also considering the role was played by an unidentified woman who chartered the helicopter from a private air charter company. The woman, and her male accomplice, are both believed to be foreign nationals, possibly Albanian. The woman, posing as a businesswoman, approached the firm twice, chartering a helicopter twice on Feb. 13 and 15, with which she flew to the western coastal hamlet of Itea.

    On Sunday, the same woman telephoned the company and asked for a helicopter to pick her up from Itea with, as she said, her two children. When the helicopter arrived in Itea and set down at the pre-designated spot, the woman appeared with a man in a Toyota Corolla car. When the helicopter pilot asked where the children were, the woman replied that the man accompanying her would be boarding instead of the children. When the pilot asked for the man's name, he muttered something incomprehensible, and finally gave a name that sounded like "Tsigas".

    The pilot allowed the two to board, and took off in the direction of Athens. Upon reaching the outskirts of Attica prefecture, the man took out a hand grenade and held it under the pilot's neck, threatening him also with a knife, and told him to head to the Korydallos penitentiary.

    When the pilot replied that he could not do so because there the flight plan did not include that destination, the two passengers told him that if he didn't take them to Korydallos all three of them would die. The pilot thus flew the helicopter over the Korydallos facility, lowered the craft to roof height from where the two inmates were thrown a rope ladder.

    According to reports, as the two inmates were climbing up the rope ladder to the helicopter, the woman suspect aimed what was described as an automatic sub machine gun at a nearby guard, who in turn, merely sought cover and did not fire his weapon.

    The helicopter then headed for the Kapandriti township in extreme northern Attica prefecture, where it landed in a field near the Afidnes toll post. The perpetrators tied up the pilot and placed a hood over his head, abandoning him there before taking off in two cars, believed to be high-end jeeps.

    Police said the couple that hijacked the helicopter received orders from Rizaj, who spoke to them via a wristwatch cell phone from inside the prison.

    Justice ministry: Helicopter hit by police gunshots

    According to a justice ministry announcement late Sunday night, the helicopter landed on the roof of the Korydallos prison's special holding facility at 3:47 p.m.

    During the process of landing and take-off, three of the four outside guards on outside perimeter duty at the time, and who had visual contact with the chopper, fired shots at the helicopter from a distance of 80-100 metres with their service weapons. The fourth guard, who was 15 meters away from the spot where the helicopter landed failed to react, later claiming he felt threatened by the gun-toting woman aiming at him from the helicopter.

    Shots were also fired against the helicopter by a member of a Greek Police detachment stationed in the outside the prison compound.

    Earlier in the morning, two prosecutors visited prison administrators to be briefed on the measures taken to guard the two convicts.

    The helicopter pilot and the prison guards who did not open fire had not appeared before a prosecutor by noon time.

    Meanwhile, the trial of the 13 defendants accused of being involved in the first helicopter escape of Paleokostas and Rizaj continued with the testimony of convict Vassilis Stefanakos, who denied any involvement.

    Gov't measures

    In terms of the measures announced by the government, they include: a special legislative measure abolishing the anonymity of prepaid mobile phones; the placing of electronic tracking devices in mobile phones used in prisons; changes in the method of recruiting prison guards and perimeter guards in prisons and correctional facilities; setting up a continual training and exercises regime for prison guards and perimeter guards; new legislation requiring special qualifications, in addition to those required at present, for prison wardens; rapid completion of three new prisons; the hiring of a security consultant through an international tender; the hiring a body of inspectors for prisons; legislation extending statements of means and assets to prison staff as well as tougher disciplinary proceedings for prison staff.

    Police appeal to public for information on escaped convicts

    The Hellenic Police (ELAS) on Monday appealed to the public for any information on escaped convicts Vassilis Paleokostas and Alket Rizai, following their sensational (repeat) escape from Greece's high-security prison Korydallos in a helicopter on Sunday. Authorities have released photographs of the two fugitives and asked anyone that sees the two men or has any information on their whereabouts to contact the number 210 6411111 at Attica Security headquarters.

    Staff from Korydallos prison suspended from duties

    Eight members of the staff of the Korydallos prison were suspended from duties on Monday night by order of Justice Minister Nikos Dendias.

    The suspensions, concerning two chief guards, one assistant chief guard, three employees and two perimeter guards, followed the announcement of measures after an emergency cabinet meeting earlier in the day.

    [02] Bakoyannis begins visit to Washington


    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Monday began a three-day visit to Washington that is her first since U.S. President Barack Obama came into office.

    Bakoyannis arrived in the U.S. capital on Sunday and on Monday spoke at one of Washington's oldest think-tanks, the Brookings Institution, which has a high degree of influence on the foreign policy exercised by the Democrats.

    The Greek foreign minister is also scheduled to meet the Greek-American former senator Paul Sarbanes and attend a reception given by the Greek Ambassador to Washington Alexandros Mallias.

    On Tuesday, Bakoyannis is scheduled to meet the chairman and members of the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), also known as the Helsinki Commission, in her capacity as head of the Greek chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for 2009.

    The minister's other engagements on the same day include a meeting with the chairman and members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, while she will be received at the White House by Obama's national security adviser General James Jones.

    On Wednesday, Bakoyannis is to meet U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for talks that are expected to focus on bilateral relations, OSCE issues, the situation in the Middle East and the Caucasus, developments in the Balkans, relations with Turkey and the Cyprus issue.

    Toward the end of the week, the foreign minister will visit New York for about two days.

    [03] FM Bakoyannis addresses Brookings Institution in Washington


    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Monday termed 2009 a year-challenge for all during a speech delivered at the Brookings Institution on "Collective Security in the 21st century; Building new bridges".

    "I think we all agree that 2009 is a critical year. It could be the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of an incredibly challenging time," Bakoyannis, who is on three-day visit to the U.S. capital, told her audience.

    "The global financial and economic crisis casts a shadow over all of our efforts. And no doubt it concerns people not just numbers. The massive economic downturn we are witnessing is dramatically changing the political landscape thus presenting a security concern all in itself.

    "In the wider European region alone, just a few weeks ago, the gas crisis reminded us of the vulnerability of our energy supplies. The after-effects of the Georgia conflict last August have not given way to long-term stability. In Kosovo, the year that has passed since its unilateral declaration of independence has brought us no closer to a consensus on its status. In Transdniestria and Nagorno-Karabakh, longstanding protracted conflicts continue to defy resolution." she said.

    "One thing is clear. In our multi-polar world, security depends on more than just power. It depends on building relationships and forging ties. It depends on building bridges over troubled waters. Global problems require global solutions. The need for global governance, the need for collective action and an international order based on common rules, has never been greater," Bakoyannis emphasised.

    "We in Greece have developed through the ages the art of building bridges.Therefore, I am proud to say that over the years Greece has forged strong ties and built solid relationships with peoples close and afar that have withstood the test of time. Greece is present in the efforts made by the international community for peace and security in regions as far apart,as Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia, Western Sahara, Abkhazia, Eritrea & Ethiopia and Sudan.

    "In the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean, Greece helps combat international terrorism. In Somalia we are assisting in the combat of piracy. In the Middle East we have been active amongst others in assisting the women of the region on their road to empowerment. And in Afghanistan our force there is assisting in the reconstruction of the country.

    "With this in mind, I would like to describe three bridges we see as very significant.

    First, the bridge over the Atlantic that brings Europe and the US together. Second, the bridge across Eurasia that brings Russia closer to the US and Europe. Third, the bridge over the European heartlands that brings the Balkans to the European family," the Greek foreign minister noted.

    "Now, there is a saying that goes "great winds blow upon high hills". The European Union has guaranteed peace and prosperity for each of its 27 members. But we must not forget that our era asks for greater engagement with the rest of the world. I strongly believe that the US would benefit from a strong Europe that stands as an equal and solid partner. Now is the opportunity to do so, with a new Administration that has generated such popularity and enthusiasm around the world. Now is the time to think of ways to further deepen this relationship, including, but by no means limiting it to, the NATO framework," Bakoyannis added.

    "We need to formulate the most expedient power-sharing possible with each side undertaking the responsibilities it is most fit to bear. In this context, European soft power is a desired corollary to US military might. Still, Europe must develop, as it has already started to do slowly, its own military capability, which is crucial, particularly in regions, where only Europe is an acceptable mediator by all. To be totally candid however there are certain issues that the European Union must resolve in order to keep our side of the bargain. We have shown leadership, as in the crisis in Georgia, but we still have some way to go," she said.

    Turning to problems in the Balkan region and which are of particular interest to Greece, the Greek foreign minister said:

    "In Bosnia-Herzegovina, fourteen years after the Dayton Accords, much remains to be done, especially when it comes to streamlining decision-making. A change in the mindset, the active participation of all its citizens and a certain degree of political consensus is needed. After some slow progress in 2008, 2009 is a crucial year in the European integration of the country in order to match this of its neighbors.

    "It is significant that countless prophesies of doom never materialized.

    "As it is equally significant that the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, irrespective of religious and ethnic background, are looking forward towards a Euro-Atlantic future for their region. Yet, the state remains extremely fragile and the international community must re-engage.

    "Turning to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In the past couple of years a number of worrying signals have been coming from Skopje. The Government of Nicolas Gruefski appears to have chosen the road of nationalism, awakening Balkan ghosts. The forthcoming Presidential elections this March will be another key test.

    "Particularly since last June's parliamentary elections were mired with violence and voting irregularities. As you probably know, Greece has been in negotiations, under the auspices of the UN, for years with the FYROM over its name. Despite our good will and our sincere efforts, these negotiations have not been successful so far. We hope that the Government of Skopje will meet us half-way and agree on a win-win solution.

    "Last but not least, Turkey. I think many of us agree that Turkey's accession to the European Union is key. Greece is very much in support, and has proved it over the years.

    "Our support for Turkey is naturally offered under the same rules and principles which apply to each and every EU candidate. This is the same process for everyone - the one for example that Greece had to go through. Hence, our support can not be unconditional. It relies upon Turkey honoring her commitments and promises.

    "Turkey has taken certain steps forward, in the reform process. We were all happy to note that there was some progress with the amendment of infamous Article 301 of the penal code. This was long overdue.

    "Much remains to be done however. Overall progress is assessed by the EU as quite modest. A number of outstanding issues remain to be addressed. These issues concern among others, the consolidation of the democratic system, as well as the respect of minority rights, of the freedom of religion and of the freedom of expression. In the same spirit, good neighbourly relations and adherence to International Law are also of capital importance.

    "No doubt Turkey has a long and winding road ahead. Nevertheless, it is clear that it is a road well worth travelling because it would benefit both Turkey and Europe.

    "Linked with Turkey's prospects for accession to the EU is its continued occupation of Cyprus. A just, lasting, and functional solution for the reunification of the island after 35 years of Turkish occupation is long overdue.

    "In 2008 we welcomed the beginning of a new effort, within the UN framework, with direct talks between the two sides. We hope that this new effort will achieve an agreed settlement, which will at last reunify the island and allow the two communities to live side by side and prosper."

    [04] EU council of foreign ministers convenes


    The European Union Council of Foreign Ministers convened here on Monday, focusing on the preparation of the Spring EU Summit for dealing with the present world economic crisis, energy issues, climate change and the Union's relations with eastern Europe. Greece was represented at the meeting by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis.

    Regarding a recovery plan for the Union's economy, a proposal for the funding of a series of energy projects, tabled by the Commission, has not been approved by the council of ministers. It will be further debated at a working groups' level.

    Valinakis told his counterparts that the catalogue of proposed projects, which would be eventually chosen, must correspond to the principle of geographic balance within the Union, adding that the Commission must take into consideration the need for strengthening the economic and social cohesion of the EU.

    Valinakis also said inclusion of the Turkey-Greece-Italy (TGI) natural gas pipeline into the catalogue was absolutely necessary.

    Concerning the upcoming EU Summits of March 1 and March 19-20, Valinakis emphasised the need for keeping up with the Union's coordinated action aimed at the strengthening of the European economy, thus avoiding phenomena of protectionism and securing the necessary stability of the internal market.

    On the Middle East problem, the Greek minister highlighted the need for reinforcing the Union's presence in the region, securing the unimpeded arrival of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and supporting the reconciliation of Palestinians.

    On the Western Balkans' European prospects, Valinakis reiterated Greece's support to these prospects.

    [05] PM, ministers meet with civil servants' reps

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Monday with the board of ADEDY, the civil servants' union, in the presence of Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou.

    After the meeting, ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyrou stated that a request was made to the prime minister for a comprehensive, well-targeted and focused policy that will guarantee, protect and preserve social cohesion by boosting employment and the purchasing power of workers while strengthening the social security and pension system.

    "A political programme is necessary to prevent any problems from becoming permanent," the president of ADEDY stated, adding that a strike mobilisation has been called for Wednesday. He also underlined that such forms of protest will become more frequent to ensure that the economic burden will not be laid exclusively on wage earners, the unemployed and pensioners while those responsible for the crisis remain unaffected.

    Interior Minister Pavlopoulos said that ADEDY will have an active participation in the establishment of an institutional framework to ensure public administration productivity, efforts to reduce red tape and to increase transparency.

    Referring to ailing pension funds, Economy and Finance Minister Papathanassiou stated that the government is doing everything to help, and added that the issue will be discussed in detail in next Tuesday's meeting with ADEDY.

    [06] SYRIZA leader deplores 'tragi-comic' prison escape

    The head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group Alekos Alavanos on Monday deplored Sunday's repeat escape by notorious criminals Vassilis Paleokostas and Alket Rizai from Greece's highest security prison Korydallos as "a tragi-comic situation".

    "The political staff of New Democracy is unable to play a leading role in political life and needlessly creates 'Robin Hoods' for us," he said.

    Alavanos added that this latest daring helicopter escape - almost identical in its execution to one carried out by the same two prisoners in 2006 - revived SYRIZA's demand for a comprehensive review of the entire system for ensuring law and order within the country, via a cross-party committee for the police as recommended by the police union federation.

    [07] Alavanos meets OTOE, urges banks to 'stop provoking'

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos on Monday called on banks to "stop provoking," stressing that they bore responsibility for the current crisis and had to adjust to the new conditions. He was speaking after a meeting with a delegation from the bank workers' union federation OTOE.

    Alavanos also urged the government to demand that the European Union guarantee borrowing by Greece via bonds or a special fund, and not "wait for charity".

    SYRIZA's leader further criticised the Bank of Greece for being "provocative" over its demands that the deficit remain below 3 percent, even during the crisis year of 2009, called for the nationalisation of the National Bank of Greece (NBG) and a full account of how the 28 billion euros support package for banks was being used.

    [08] Foreign ministry and Attica municipalities sign humanitarian aid agreement

    Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis on Monday signed a cooperation memorandum with the Local Union of Municipalities and Communities of Attica (TEDKNA), designed to enhance cooperation between the ministry and local authorities in gathering and sending humanitarian aid around the world and thus help better promote Greece's image abroad as a "caring power".

    The memorandum provides for links between the ministry and every municipality in Attica, so that procedures for collecting and sending aid are in compliance with the rules of international aid organisations like the FAO, in this way meeting specific needs and saving both time and human lives.

    During the signing ceremony, ministry general secretary for international economic relations and developmental cooperation Antonis Skylakakis referred to the latest crisis in Gaza and said that Greece will participate in a meeting on the Middle East crisis being held at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, where it would announce plans to exclusively finance the building of a hospital, a health centre and a school using funds from the foreign ministry and private sources, such a telethon taking place on Monday.

    Financial News

    [09] Hubner expresses satisfaction over Greece's absorption rate of EU funds

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)

    EU Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hubner on Monday expressed her satisfaction over absorption rates of a Third Community Support Framework program (2000-2006) by Greece.

    Speaking to Greek reporters in Brussels, ahead of an official three-day visit to Greece, starting on Wednesday, Hubner said the absorption rate reached 93 pct and stressed that "Greece has won the battle of absorption" while she expressed her confidence that the country would be able to absorb the total of available EU funds by June 30.

    During her stay in Greece, the Commissioner will meet with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Economy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, while she will visit the regions of Epirus and Ionian Islands. Hubner said community support to Epirus in the period 2007-2013 would total 799 million euros, while another 430 million euros were earmarked for the Ionian Islands.

    The Commissioner said she would ask for an acceleration of projects included in the Fourth Community Support Framework program (2007-2013) and noted that advance payments to Greece so far totaled 1.5 billion euros, with the aim of approving another 408 million euros by early May.

    [10] Greek retail sector pledges not to raise prices in 2009

    Greek retail businesses on Monday pledged not to raise prices in their product and services this year, amid an international financial crisis. The pledge was made by representatives of the Association of Retail Businesses (SELPE) during a meeting with Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis. Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Hatzidakis said he asked the retail sector to show self-restraint this year, adding that representatives of the sector pledged not to proceed with price increases in 2009. The two sides also discussed ways to boost liquidity in the market and raising the retail sector's participation in Community Support Framework programs. They also discussed a government plan for the withdrawal of energy-consuming electrical appliances. The Greek minister said the state's participation in the program would be a result of consultations and would cover mostly medium- and lower incomes.

    Th. Vardas, president of SELPE, told reporters that there was no plan to expanding retail shop working hours this year and "maybe for 2010" and noted that the issue was not discussed with Development minister. Vardas rejected a call by the president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry to reducing working hours in the country, saying it was not the right time for changes in labour relations. "Employers and employees are on the same boat," he said.

    [11] Millennium Bank reports lower 2008 results

    Millennium Bank on Monday reported lower 2008 results, with pre-tax profits totaling 24.8 million euros (from 29.6 million euros in 2007) and after tax profits of 15.1 million euros (22.1 million in 2007).

    The bank's customer base surpassed 500,000 last year, attracting 67,000 new customers in 2008, while its branch network rose to 150 retail banking units, with the opening of 13 new units in 2008. The bank also operates 25 Business Banking units and three Private Banking units in the country.

    Saving deposits surpassed 3.2 billion euros, with deposits rising 26 pct while borrowing grew by 21 pct last year. Millennium Bank said assets totaled 6.1 billion euros, up 14 pct form 2007. The bank participated in the third part of a government-sponsored plan to boost liquidity in the economy, with the borrowing of Greek state securities worth 98 million euros in January 2009.

    George Taniskidis, chairman and chief executive, said the bank's aim for 2009 was the further expand activities.

    [12] SYN-SYRIZA criticise lay-offs by Cosmote

    The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party on Monday roundly criticised plans by the mobile phone service provider Cosmote to lay off staff, in spite of what it called "its oversize profits".

    SYN MP Dimitris Stratoulis stressed in an announcement that the party's Parliamentary group SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) would fully support strike action planned by Cosmote's workforce on February 27 against two "completely unjustified and abusive lay-offs of workers and a threat by management of more lay-offs to come."

    He stressed that it was "politically unacceptable and provocative for such a profitable and strong business, especially during a time of economic crisis and rising unemployment, to proceed with lay-offs," especially when the state was supposed to have retained a sizeable presence within the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) group and should be giving a good example to the private shareholders.

    [13] Hellenic Exchanges says net profits down 29% in '08

    Hellenic Exchanges SA on Monday reported a 29-pct decline in its net after-tax profits to 65 million euros last year, down from 91 million euros in 2007. The added that its turnover dropped 33 pct to 108.4 million euros, down from 161.2 million euros over the same years, respectively.

    The board of the operator of Athens Stock Exchange, the Athens Derivatives Exchange and Alternative Market, said it would seek shareholders' approval for a plan to pay a 0.35-euro per share dividend to shareholders and a 0.25-euro per share capital return.

    Hellenic Exchanges said its 2008 results were positively affected by the sale of real estate property (7.0 million euros) and attributed its decline in turnover to a 36 pct fall in the value of clearing and settlement, a 35-pct drop in proceeds from stock transactions and 67-pct fall in income from listed companies.

    In the derivatives market, income from trading and settlement rose 10 pct to 11 million euros last year.

    [14] Athens' real estate prospects improved, report

    ┼urope' s real estate market is shrinking, with the market facing an extremely difficult year as demand falls throughout the °ontinent, but Athens improved its position in terms of prospects of investment and development, a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers stated on Monday.

    The report, on real estate trends in Europe in 2009, said new capital for real estate assets would be limited, both in the capital market and in bank loans, while it remained unclear whether prices would improve or this declining trend would be reversed.

    The survey noted that an existing crisis in real estate capital market could evolve into a permanent crisis, as Europe entered deeper into recession. Even rapidly growing countries would suffer a decline in production, while the leasing market was also expected to be negatively affected.

    Haris Kyriazis, partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers in Greece, said 2009 would be a difficult year for many investors but stressed that Athens moved up four positions based on investment prospects (21st) and climbed even higher on development prospects (12th).

    [15] Greek stocks end 3.26 pct down

    Greek stocks suffered heavy losses in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, unable to find support from a positive trend in other European markets. The composite index dropped 3.26 pct to end at 1,548.99 points, with turnover at 103.6 million euros, of which 3.8 million euros were block trades.

    All sectors moved lower, with the exception of the Media index which ended 0.74 pct higher. Banks (5.89 pct), Financial Services (5.76 pct), Food/Beverage (4.63 pct) and Telecommunications (3.72 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The FTSE 20 index dropped 4.19 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.96 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.92 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 139 to 50 with another 58 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.91%

    Industrials: -0.79%

    Commercial: -0.32%

    Construction: -1.92%

    Media: +0.74%

    Oil & Gas: -0.85%

    Personal & Household: -1.23%

    Raw Materials: -3.12%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.11%

    Technology: -2.02%

    Telecoms: -3.72%

    Banks: -5.89%

    Food & Beverages: -4.63%

    Health: -2.40%

    Utilities: -2.40%

    Chemicals: -1.46%

    Financial Services: -5.76%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.54

    ATEbank: 1.05

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.42

    HBC Coca Cola: 9.76

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.48

    National Bank of Greece: 9.84

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.16

    Intralot: 3.50

    OPAP: 20.14

    OTE: 10.36

    Bank of Piraeus: 4.14

    Titan Cement Company: 13.50

    [16] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a widened discount (2.97 pct) in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover remaining a low 43.183 million euros. Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 8,314 contracts worth 32.335 million euros with 3,917 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 17,575 contracts worth 10.848 million euros, with investment interest focusing on MIG's contracts (3,882), followed by Eurobank (1,592), OTE (1,231), PPC (1,324), Piraeus Bank (1,118), National Bank (3,789), Alpha Bank (968) and Cyprus Bank (798).

    [17] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German state bonds shrank further to 241 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday, with turnover jumping to 1.082 billion euros, of which 415 million were buy orders and the remaining 667 million euros were sell orders.

    The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 180 million euros, with the Greek bond yielding 5.42 pct and the German Bund 3.01 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.07 pct, the six-month rate 1.97 pct, the three-month rate 1.86 pct and the one-month rate 1.57 pct.

    [18] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.29

    Pound sterling 0.885

    Danish kroner 7.51

    Swedish kroner 11.224

    Japanese yen 122.06

    Swiss franc 1.502

    Norwegian kroner 8.788

    Canadian dollar 1.612

    Australian dollar 1.995

    General News

    [19] Greece's leading role in the fight against piracy at sea

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)

    As the world's leading maritime power, Greece has faced the resurgence of piracy since its onset, spearheaded initiatives within international organizations and now heads the military command of the multinational force combating this new form of security threat, Deputy Minister of Merchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy Panos Kammenos stated in an interview with ANA-MPA released on Monday.

    He underlined that piracy has reached explosive dimensions after 1991, when it first appeared in Somalia and the Straits of Aden. He noted that 293 incidents were recorded globally in 2008 alone, 49 involving the taking of hostages and that, of the 889 sailors taken hostage, 32 were injured, 11 were killed and 21 went missing.

    Kammenos pointed out that Greece undertook an initiative within the framework of the International Maritime Organization, IMO, and a request was made to the UN for an intervention in Somalia. Six UN resolutions led to measures aimed at ensuring the safe passage of ships through the establishment of EU, NATO and UN groups as well as through naval operations.

    However, he pointed out that despite the presence of a multinational naval force only a quantitative reduction of piracy has been recorded and not a qualitative one, adding that there is no specific evidence proving that there is a link between piracy and terrorism.

    Referring to the entry of illegal migrants into Greece -- over 10,000 last year alone with 14 pct of them from Somalia -- he underlined that Greece continues to give a battle in the UN, EU, NATO and OSCE to combat piracy and illegal migration. Kammenos stated that he invited the OSCE president to visit the Eastern Aegean and watch the Greek Coast Guard operations with the participation of vessels from EU member-states within the framework of October's OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Athens.

    The deputy minister also added, referring to the illegal migration issue, that Turkey should be persuaded that international and bilateral treaties should be implemented.

    Kammenos addressed the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly plenary session on Feb. 19-20 at the organization's seat in Vienna delivering a speech on "Piracy, the new global threat" responding to an invitation by Joao Soares, President of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

    [20] Robotics Conference opens in Athens

    The 1st Robotics Conference in Greece hosted by the Technical Chamber of Greece, TCG, was launched in Athens on Monday with the participation of engineers, academics and students.

    A total of 35 experimental robotics projects are being presented in the three-day conference allowing for collaboration of robotics' scientists in Greece, while presenting the latest developments in the sector.

    [21] City considers pilot vehicle access plan for Psyrri district

    The City of Athens over the weekend launched an information campaign, entitled "Facilitating Athenians' Access to Psyrri", on plans for a controlled vehicle access pilot programme in the central Psyrri neighbourhood, the increasingly bohemian district adjacent to the city's major archaeological sites and the Plaka district.

    The plan, which will be implemented as a pilot scheme as of Feb. 27, and every Friday and Saturday from 21.00 to 03.00, concerns the area bounded by Evripidou, Athinas, Ermou, Leokoriou, Sarri and Aristofanous streets.

    [22] Markopoulos CD 'Liturgy of Orpheus' released

    Composer Yannis Markopoulos on Monday presented the new CD of his oratorio "The Liturgy of Orpheus", which is now available in worldwide release under the classical music label Naxos.

    Markopoulos's 'Orpheus' was first performed a few years ago at the Herod Atticus Odeon in Athens with Belgian bass-baritone Jose Van Dam in the lead role. The newly released recording is again interpreted by Van Dam, assisted by soprano Elena Kelesidi and the Flanders Opera Choir and Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edwig Abrath.

    It sets to music the ancient Orphic poems, with bridging lyrics by Panos Theodoridis.

    The composer said that two more symphonic works by him are due to be released this spring, a concerto for lyre and orchestra and a piano concerto inspired by the Pythagorean theory on the movement of the planets.

    [23] Drug arrests in Corinth

    Two Albanian nationals were arrested shortly after midnight on Monday after Corinth Police in southern Greece, acting on a tip-off, found in their possession 300 grams of cannabis intended for sale and a precision scale.

    One of the suspects resisted arrest and assaulted one of the officers.

    An investigation is underway to determine if the two were involved in other criminal acts.

    In a separate incident on Spathovouni toll road in Corinth, three locals, an Albanian and a Russian national were arrested after a police search in their car revealed an undetermined quantity of cannabis.

    Olympic Games

    [24] New HOC president received by IOC's Rogge

    The newly elected president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) Spyros Kapralos met with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge on Monday

    The meeting took place at the inauguration of the new headquarters of the association of European Olympic Committees (EOC) in Brussels.

    Weather forecast

    [25] Cloudy, low temperatures on Tuesday

    Cloudy weather with light rains, sleet and snow are forecast throughout the country on Tuesday, possible becoming stormy at night, with slightly higher temperatures. Moderate and mainly northeasterly winds, between 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between -8C - 8C in the north, -4C-12C in central and southern parts of the country. Cloudy and wet in Athens, temperatures ranging from 0C - 10C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures between -3C - 7C.

    [26] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Convicted felon Vassilis Paleokostas' carbon copy escape with Albanian convict Alket Rizaj by helicopter from Korydallos prison, repeating their June 2006 jail break, dominated the front pages of Athens' newspapers on Monday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Paleokostas and Rizaj escaped again by helicopter from Korydallos - Even as a farce it would be unbelievable".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Enough is enough - The two convicts humiliated the state authorities by escaping again by helicopter from Korydallos".

    AVRIANI: "Paleokostas ridiculed and humiliated the incompetent and corrupt state - For second time helicopter landed at Korydallos prison and he a gentleman".

    CHORA: "Helipad Korydallos - Paleokostas-Rijaz second Oscar-winning jail break".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Second airborne escape from Korydallos by Paleokostas and Rizaj, repeat of their first escape, only with a different helicopter and pilot".

    ELEFTHEROS: "The state wanted - It escaped by helicopter together with Paleokostas from Korydallos".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Humiliation - Carbon copy escape from Korydallos".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Carbon copy escape by Paleokostas, Rizaj and...the state".

    ESTIA: "Extreme populism over the economy by all the political parties".

    ETHNOS: "Government from a different anecdote - International fiasco: Carbon copy escape by ...'Batman' Paleokostas".

    TA NEA: "Tragicomic - Carbon copy escape by Paleokostas".

    VRADYNI: "Korydallos turns into Vassilis Paleokostas' helipad".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [27] Cyprus supports Serbia's EU accession route, says President Christofias


    The Republic of Cyprus supports Serbia's EU accession course, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias has assured his Serbian counterpart Boris Tadic. President Christofias, held a meeting Monday with the President of Serbia, on the first day of his official visit to Belgrade.

    Speaking after the meeting, Christofias pointed out that "Serbia, as a European country, should become a member of the European Union, if its people and Government wish to, regardless of the issue of Kosovo". He also clarified that the issue of Kosovo is a matter of justice, of defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty, and has nothing to do with the obligations and the criteria that an EU candidate state should fulfill.

    In addition, President Christofias underlined that Kosovo's Unilateral Declaration of Independence will never be recognized by the Republic of Cyprus. "This is the firm and consistent position of the Republic of Cyprus and the Government, and is the position that we follow within the European Union", he added.

    Christofias also expressed support to the Serbian Government's efforts for a solution to the issue of Kosovo that will be based on principles.

    "Our opinion is that the EU has to support the Helsinki Final Act, the International Law and the UN Charter, instead of recognizing the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo. And even if we become a minority within the EU, we will continue consistently to support this policy", he added.

    President Christofias finally praised the support of the Former Yugoslavia towards Cyprus, during the years after the Turkish invasion in 1974.

    In his statements, the Serbian President stressed that his country supports President Christofias' efforts for a solution of the Cyprus problem that will be consistent with the International Law. "Serbia supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus", he added.

    Tadic reiterated his country's readiness to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), as well as his country's commitment towards its European integration.

    He also stressed that the issue of Kosovo is not part of the Copenhagen Criteria for an EU accession.

    Both Presidents praised the long standing relations, based on principles, between Cyprus and Serbia.

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are meeting in the framework of the UN-led direct negotiations, which began last September with a view to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem and reunify the island, divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974.

    [28] President of the EU CoR supports solution of the Cyprus problem


    President of the EU Committee of Regions (CoR), Luc Van den Brande, wished here Monday that a solution will be achieved in the Cyprus problem the soonest possible and the reunification of the island and its people will become a reality.

    Van den Brande who is paying a visit to Cyprus at the invitation of Nicosia Mayor Eleni Mavrou, was received Monday by President of the House of Representatives Marios Garoyian who informed him on the latest developments in the Cyprus issue.

    According to an official announcement, Garoyian said the basic goal of the Greek-Cypriot side is a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem according to the relative resolutions of United Nations, based on the principles and values of the international law and the EU, protecting the human rights of all Cypriots.

    House President expressed pessimism about the progress of the ongoing negotiations between the leaders of the two communities, adding that

    Turkey submits intransigent and maximalist positions regarding the Cyprus issue.

    [29] Cuban Communist Party delegation expresses support to people of Cyprus


    Member of the Secretariat and Head of International Relations of the Communist Party of Cuba Fernando Remirez expressed the support of Cuba to the people of Cyprus, and noted that the visit of a party delegation to Cyprus would help find new ways to enhance the relations between the two countries, as well as his party with ruling leftwing AKEL.

    Speaking after a meeting in Nicosia with the Cuban delegation, AKEL General Secretary Andros Kyprianou said the relations between the two parties have always been excellent and are based on principles, adding that ''Cyprus and Cuba are two countries which have traditionally had very good relations.''

    ''We expressed to the delegation of the Communist Party of Cuba our solidarity with and our support to their struggle,'' he said.

    Kyprianou noted that ''we support the right of every country, every people to choose their path towards development and their leadership, and at the same time we fully respect its sovereign rights.''

    He also wished every success to the Communist Party of Cuba in its struggle to serve the best interests of the people of Cuba, as well as all the best to the people of Cuba for a future that will allow them to live in conditions of peace, stability, security and prosperity.

    Remirez said ''the Cuban people and the people of Cyprus have a very long friendship. From the very beginning, from the independence of Cyprus, a few years after the triumph of the Cuban revolution, we established very strong links between our two peoples and between our two governments.''

    ''From the very beginning we always expressed our solidarity, our support to the people of Cyprus and we always had and still have that position,'' Remirez said.

    ''We live in a world with many problems and many conflicts,'' he said, adding that ''the solution of all these conflicts that the world faces is through international cooperation and through the common work of all nations, all political factors, in a way to find a new world without injustice, without the inequalities that is what characterises the world today.''

    Remirez noted that ''we share many positions with AKEL and we are sure that with this visit we will strengthen the relations between our two parties and between Cuba and Cyprus as well''.

    The Cuban delegation also includes Head of European Affairs at the Department of International Relations of the Communist Party of Cuba.

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS

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