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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-27

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 27 February 2009 Issue No: 3133


  • [01] PM chairs ministerial com't focusing on econ policy
  • [02] FM Bakoyannis to meet Nimetz
  • [03] Deputy FM meets Chinese counterpart
  • [04] Gov't: All healthcare hirings to be conducted via ASEP
  • [05] Gov't on latest State Dept. human rights report
  • [06] President to pay state visit to Denmark
  • [07] Deputy FM Kassimis to address expatriate conference in Germany
  • [08] Gov't on expatriates' voting rights
  • [09] Sioufas in Paris for EU Parliament speakers' con'f
  • [10] Venizelos interview to ANA-MPA
  • [11] Alavanos renews proposal for inter-party com't on police
  • [12] Hubner briefed by Greek leadership; addresses R&D seminar in Athens
  • [13] Address at one-day seminar on R&D, innovation
  • [14] EU Commissioner Hubner begins Epirus tour
  • [15] Gov't appoints state representatives to banks' boards
  • [16] No need for second package for Greek banks, BoG governor says
  • [17] Gov't seeks strategic investor for Larco
  • [18] PASOK reiterates OA proposal
  • [19] PASOK leader to present "Green Development"
  • [20] Deputy FM Varvitsiotis holds London talks
  • [21] Emporiki Bank approves 849.5 mln-euro share capital increase plan
  • [22] Emporiki Bank reports 492 mln euros loss in 2008
  • [23] Excavation file for PAO complex forwarded to public works ministry
  • [24] Autopromotec event in Athens
  • [25] Greek stocks end 1.31% higher
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Greek bond market closing report
  • [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [29] Greek MPs visit Operation "Atalanta" Northwood headquarters
  • [30] Debate on 'European integration with or without Turkey'
  • [31] Ecumenical Patriarch arrives in Lesvos
  • [32] Chief Warden found guilty in Paleokostas-Rizaj jail break case
  • [33] Attack against newspaper condemned
  • [34] Greek-Australian receives best science teacher award
  • [35] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [36] Spokesman: The basis of the negotiations is crystal clear
  • [37] British Minister urges Turkey to support ongoing Cyprus talks
  • [38] Helios plane crash trial adjourned on first hearing Politics

  • [01] PM chairs ministerial com't focusing on econ policy

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis chaired a meeting of the inter-ministerial committee on economic policy on Thursday.

    Speaking to reporters afterwards, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said the global economic situation was reviewed, as well as the country's situation, noting that the government placed an emphasis on strict adherence to the updated stability and growth programme, recently submitted to the EU.

    Discussions further covered the extraordinary EU summit on the economy, which opens Sunday, and the upcoming ECOFIN meeting, Papathanassiou said, adding that no specific decisions were taken.

    In later comments, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros merely reiterated that the inter-ministerial committee focused directly on international developments and how they affect the local economy.

    The spokesman also dismissed press criticism citing difficulties by SMEs in participating in a 28-billion-euro government-sponsored plan to boost and guarantee liquidity by domestic lenders, saying 8,500 SMEs have so far taken credit lines under the plan.

    Additionally, in answer to a press question related to an ongoing visit to Greece by EU Commissioner for regional development Danuta Hubner, Antonaros said the government is confident it will post a 100-percent absorption rate of Community funds following a recent extension of deadlines.

    PASOK reax

    In reaction to the inter-ministerial meeting, PASOK MP and economy sector head Louka Katseli charged that the government is following a plan that is unable to formulate "even the basic conditions for fiscal reform, and which does not include measures for supporting the real economy ahead of a coming (economic) crisis."

    [02] FM Bakoyannis to meet Nimetz

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P.Panagiotou)

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was espected to meet Thursday midnight (Greek time) with UN secretary general's special mediator on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FyRoM) name dispute Matthew Nimetz.

    Following her meeting with Nimetz, the Greek foreign minister will hold talks with U.S. UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

    On Friday afternoon (Greek time), Bakoyannis will be addressing the UN's Security Council. She is expected to refer to the 2009 Greek chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) priorities.

    Before her speech, the foreign minister will meet Security Council President, Japan's UN Ambassador Yukio Takasu.

    [03] Deputy FM meets Chinese counterpart

    Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis held talks in Athens on Thursday with his visiting Chinese counterpart Wu Hongbo, as the two reviewed the course of Greek-Sino relations, especially after the reciprocal visits of the two countries' presidents last year.

    As it was ascertained, relations between Greece and China have been enhanced in all sectors, political, economic and cultural, following the signing of a Strategic Partnership Relationship by the prime ministers of the two countries in 2006.

    Greece-China cooperation, according to a foreign ministry announcement, is based on "respect of steadfast principles and values, such as International Law and treaties, UN resolutions and support for world peace."

    [04] Gov't: All healthcare hirings to be conducted via ASEP

    Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos announced in Parliament on Thursday that all hirings of much-needed healthcare staff in public facilities will be made via the Supreme Staff Selection Council (ASEP).

    Avramopoulos underlined that he has received assurances by the ASEP leadership that all hirings in the health sector will be finalised within a six-month period, pointing out that this provision will be included in a draft law amendment. In addition, the hiring of a total of 5,500 hospital nurses will be completed within the next three years, while a special clause places university doctors under the same work regime with the rest hospital doctors as requested by main opposition PASOK.

    Avramopoulos recently stated that he would have to proceed with a series of mass hirings of urgently needed healthcare staff (mostly nurses) outside the prescribed state hiring practice, which mandates increased transparency for state job appointments but is time-consuming. His stance was reversed following opposition reaction.

    [05] Gov't on latest State Dept. human rights report

    The Greek government on Thursday was queried by local reporters on the annual US State Department's global human rights report -- published this week -- that gauges the quality and existence of various rights in practically every country and territory in the world, sans one.

    "What is noted is the reading and evaluations of the authors of these reports. This rendering does not change the reality that is well-known to all of us, especially to us here (in Greece), but also to those familiar with Greece from abroad. Greece is an absolutely democratic and European country, one that fully respects human rights and works tirelessly for the reinforcement of the regime for their protection," government spokesman Evangelos said, in reply to press questions, during a regular briefing.

    [06] President to pay state visit to Denmark

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias will pay a state visit to Denmark in May, it was announced on Thursday.

    Papoulias and his wife May will be in Denmark from May 18 to 20 at the invitation of Queen Margrethe II and her husband Prince Henrik.

    [07] Deputy FM Kassimis to address expatriate conference in Germany

    Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis will be the keynote speaker at a conference in Dusseldorf on March 1 hosted by the Federation of Greek Communities in Germany (OEK).

    The funding of activities undertaken by organized Greek communities in Germany, preparations for the European Parliament elections and the participation of Greeks living in EU countries as well as the draft law on the Greek expatriates' right to vote in Greek general elections from their country of residence tabled in parliament on Feb. 19 will be the main topics of discussion.

    [08] Gov't on expatriates' voting rights

    "We believe that the suggested solution is the best possible at the present time, and that everyone should contribute towards it being accepted," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stated on Thursday vis-à-vis objections by the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) to a draft law granting voting rights in Greek national elections to eligible expatriates.

    Antonaros characterised the solution as transitional, pointing out that all necessary changes will be made along the way after the law is implemented, while he called on SAE to reconsider.

    "Reaching a consensus does not necessarily mean that it is the government that always has to back down," Antonaros said during his regular press briefing, while he underlined that the specific draft law is very important, as it allows Greek citizens living abroad to vote from their country of residence, thus avoiding trouble and expense of returning to Greece to cast one's vote.

    "I will not enter into an argument with an institutional body that expresses its opinions," Antonaros added.

    [09] Sioufas in Paris for EU Parliament speakers' con'f

    Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas will attend a conference of the Speakers of European Union Parliaments in Paris this week, accompanied by Parliament vice-president Elsa Papadimitriou.

    The meeting is held amidst the global economic crisis and participants will exchange views on the national parliaments' role in the crisis management, the institutional future of the EU and the future of Europe until 2030.

    [10] Venizelos interview to ANA-MPA

    The government's handling of the Paleokostas jail break served as a "less than brave" way-out in its effort to avoid political responsibility, main opposition PASOK parliamentary spokesman Evangelos Venizelos charged in an interview with ANA-MPA on Thursday.

    He underlined that Justice Minister Nikos Dendias should have tendered his resignation, adding that the prime minister would then have the option not to accept it and to point the finger at those responsible, namely, the current justice minister's predecessors.

    As regards the consensus requested by the government, Venizelos said political change through a reliable new government is a precondition.

    "The European Parliament elections will have strong political characteristics, in case they are not preceded by general elections," Venizelos stressed, without ruling out the likelihood of simultaneous elections.

    Moreover, he suggested the establishment of a judicial body elected by Parliament to investigate criminal responsibilities of political figures, and pointed out that there is a void in bank regulation mechanisms concerning management of government-sponsored 28-billion-euro bank liquidity support package.

    [11] Alavanos renews proposal for inter-party com't on police

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos reiterated an earlier proposal made by his party calling for the establishment of an inter-party committee to study issues pertaining to the operation of police and other public security-related agencies, including correctional facilities.

    Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Alavanos called on the government to consider the proposal, pointing out that it has the support of police officers' trade unions.

    Financial News

    [12] Hubner briefed by Greek leadership; addresses R&D seminar in Athens

    EU funds earmarked for "green" energy projects in Greece through the 4th Community Support Framework programme will be increased by 4 pct, Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hübner told reporters here on Wednesday, following a meeting with Greek Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis.

    Hübner said a 3rd Community Support Framework programme will end in June this year, giving Greece enough time to fully absorb EU funds, while she stressed that the Union was focusing on the "green economy" and supporting small-to-medium-sized enterprises amid the ongoing severe international economic crisis.

    The EU Commissioner urged Greek enterprises to invest on innovation and expressed her satisfaction over progress of a government-sponsored programme to offer financial support to SMEs.

    Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said the government would not spare "one single euro" from EU funds and underlined the significance of efforts made by Greek SMEs to use technology and to adopt innovation.

    Earlier, Hübner expressed her satisfaction over Greece's high absorption rates of European funds during a meeting with Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

    The EU Commissioner, who was also received by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, was due in the northwest lake-side city of Ioannina on Thursday afternoon to tour an EU-financed project.

    [13] Address at one-day seminar on R&D, innovation

    Hübner was also the keynote speaker at a one-day seminar entitled "Innovation, Research & Development in the Framework of European Regional Policy", which took place at the Zappeion Hall in the Greek capital's centre.

    Hatzidakis also addressed the seminar on the theme of "R&D in Greece: Developments and Prospects".

    The seminar was organised in Athens by Greek MEP Emmanouil Angelakas, under the auspices of European Parliament.

    In his address, on the subject of "Eco-innovation", the ND and EPP deputy outlined the Union's ambitious initiatives in the wider sector, i.e. Intelligent Energy Europe, Enterprise Europe Network, the Marco Polo Programme and Eco-Innovation.

    He also reiterated a definition of eco-innovation as best described by the phrase "good for business, good for the environment", noting that the term can also be linked with the development of innovative products and methods that reduce environmental costs, and in commercial applications that contribute to ecological improvements and assist in sustainable growth.

    Among others, Angelakas gave two specific instances where "eco-innovation" could be applied immediately in Greece, namely in the establishment of a comprehensive system for recycling agriculture plastics, and in the management of wine-making industry waste and by-products.

    [14] EU Commissioner Hubner begins Epirus tour

    EU Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hübner began on Thursday afternoon a two-day tour of the Greek north-western region of Epirus by visiting Ioannina.

    The commissioner visited earlier the Egnatia Highay at the region of Driskos and was briefed on the process of works at this international motorway.

    Hübner visited next the Ioannina University and was given information about the construction of a second student residence at the campus, before travelling to the Ioannina Scientific and Technological Park.

    On Friday morning, the commissioner will visit the ancient site of Dodoni. 1.8 million Euros have been allocated by the EU for the restoration of the ancient theatre. In the afternoon, she will be travelling to Corfu.

    [15] Gov't appoints state representatives to banks' boards

    A government-sponsored programe to boost liquidity in the economy was in full swing, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said on Thursday. Presenting the names of state representatives to the board of commercial banks participating in the programe, the Greek minister added that the government was determine to ensure the efficient implementation of the programe in order to have the maximum benefit for the market, enterprises and households.

    The state's representataives to banks' boards are: Alexandros Makridis, economist, in National Bank, Euripides Abatzis, economist, ATEbank, George Rizos, economist, Attica Bank, Aggelos Androulidakis, lawyer, Hellenic Postbank, George Mergos, University professor, Alpha Bank, George Hiotis University professor (ret), Piraeus Bank, Damianos Damianos, cheminal engineer-economist, Eurobank, Vasilis Panagiotopoulos, lawyer, Panhellenic Bank and Stamatis Mavros, economist, Proton Bank.

    All representatives have the right to veto any decision regarding dividend payment or bonuses to board members and executives, while they have unlimited access to banks' books.

    [16] No need for second package for Greek banks, BoG governor says

    Bank of Greece's governor George Provopoulos on Thursday predicted that there will not be a second package of financial support to Greek banks. Speaking in Parliament, during a testimony over the central bank's monetary policy report, Provopoulos said: "According to what we know at this moment, there is no need for a second package".

    Commenting on Greek banks' investments in Southeastern Europe, the central banker said it would a "criminal mistake" for Greece to say it did not care about them and stressed that Greek banks have other ways of financing their investments abroad.

    Provopoulos said banks could use savings from one country and to transfer them to another country. "No one can prohibit such an action," he said, while he added that the European Central Bank and the Eurosystem was filling in for a liquidity gap created by a freezing of international capital markets.

    The central banker underlined that the country simply cannot sacrifice what it has invested over the last few years in the region, because of the current difficult situation. "We will live with these hardships, we will survive. But we must be prudent and to reap the rewards at the end." Provopoulos said that Greek investments in the region was more than just a financial presence.

    He stressed the consequences from a mistake to characterize Greek banks' provisions as toxic. "Debt provisions will grow in a worsening environment. When an economic growth slows from 4.0 pct to 0.5 pct, if not worse, this obviously means a violent worsening of conditions and of course a larger number of bad debts will surface. This is expected. But not be haste of talking about toxic because we harm Greek banks as well," Provopoulos said, adding that "Greek banks have an adequate, strong capital position, capable of absorbing shocks".

    [17] Gov't seeks strategic investor for Larco

    The Greek government seeks a strategic investor for Larco SA as part of a plan to ensure the viability of the company, Finance Deputy Minister Athanasios Bouras told Parliament on Thursday.

    Responding to a question by ND deputy Simos Kedikoglou, Bouras said the government's wish and aim was the continuation of the company's operations and stressed that to achieve this goal certain measures were needed, such as: a share capital increase plan with the participation of the Greek state, Public Power Corporation and National Bank, urgent funding of the company with 30-50 million euros and finding a strategic investor.

    The Greek minister said a precondition was the submission of a detailed restructuring and reorganisation plan of the company and stressed that all restructuring plans should be compatible with community rules on state support.

    "The company urgently needs significant capital for investments and a modern business plan to come out of its current dead-end," the minister said.

    [18] PASOK reiterates OA proposal

    Main opposition PASOK's proposal for the establishment of a mixed scheme for the ailing national carrier Olympic Airways (OA) was reiterated on Wednesday by party spokesman for transport and communications issues Nikos Sifounakis, during a press conference.

    Sifounakis noted that PASOK proposed the establishment of a mixed scheme with private and state capital in a strategic alliance, to create a reliable international air carrier.

    He said that any solution that does not guarantee state participation was a 'red line' for PASOK, adding that state participating would ensure the labor regulations and would avert the establishment of oligopolies.

    Sifounakis further said that the government must take a clear-cut position on the PASOK proposal and announce whether there was any other investment scheme interested in OA.

    He accused the government of segmental sell-off of the airline, instead of adopting a viable solution, adding that the process of direct negotiations being followed by the government was not at all similar with the Alitalia solution, since the government has not set up a consortium of investors.

    Sifounakis also said that PASOK proposes that the 290 million euros won by OA in court be used to cover, with state participation, the new mixed scheme, while the management should be a politically neutral one.

    [19] PASOK leader to present "Green Development"

    Main opposition opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou will present the party's programme on "Green Development", during an event in Athens next Thursday.

    Invited speakers at the event include EU Greek Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and Christos Zerefos, President of the European Committee for the Renewable Energy Sources.

    PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou, meanwhile, did not confirm a visit by Papandreou to Germany, adding however that the main opposition party leader continued his contacts and meetings for the promotion of his proposals for the handling of the present economic crisis.

    [20] Deputy FM Varvitsiotis holds London talks

    Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis met in London on Thursday with British ministers of Trade and Investment Mervyn Davies and International Development Gareth Thomas.

    Varvitsiotis is in London taking part in a conference organised by the Greek-British Chamber of Commerce.

    According to a foreign ministry press release, Varvitsiotis briefed the British minister of trade and investment on the course of the Greek economy, the stability of the Greek credit system as well as the impacts of the world economic crisis on the Balkan countries.

    In talks British International Development Minister Thomas, Varvitsiotis referred to the priorities of the Greek development aid for the year 2009, with special emphasis on development aid to Afghanistan and the Sub-Saharan African countries.

    [21] Emporiki Bank approves 849.5 mln-euro share capital increase plan

    An Emporiki Bank's extraordinary general shareholders' meeting on Thursday approved a board recommendation for a share capital increase plan, worth 849.5 million euros through the issuance of 154,456,708 new common nominal voting shares at a nominal value of 5.50 euros each and at an offering price of 5.50 euros each.

    The shareholders' meeting also approved the bank's new 20-member board with a four-year term. Alain Strub was appointed chief executive, while Jean-Frederic de Leusse will remain as chairman.

    [22] Emporiki Bank reports 492 mln euros loss in 2008

    Emporiki Bank on Thursday reported a loss of 491.8 million euros for 2008, after profits of 73.4 million euros in the previous year and said interest revenues fell 13.6 pct to 648.7 million euros from 751 million euros in 2007.

    Operating expenses remained under strict control (up 0.9 pct to 666 million euros) while its loan portfolio grew by more than 21 pct annually to 24 billion euros.

    Net banking operations' revenues totaled 757 million euros, affected by a decline in interest margins in the Greek market and increased liquidity costs because of an international financial crisis.

    Emporiki Bank said mortgage loans grew 6.2 pct to 7.871 billion euros last year, while consumer credit grew an annual 11.4 percent to 3.588 billion euros. Credicom continued recording significant growth rates, with outstanding loans totaling 1.117 billion euros, up 19 pct last year. Lending to small- and medium-sized enterprises grew 24 pct to 6.164 billion euros. Saving deposits grew 1.2 pct to 17.775 billion euros, while the bank's equity capital totaled 247 million euros.

    [23] Excavation file for PAO complex forwarded to public works ministry

    A file for the issuance of a construction permit allowing the excavation works and installation of supports for Panathinaikos' new football stadium and the Panathinaikos sports club's amateur division facilities was forwarded on Thursday to the public works ministry by Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis.

    The development follows a unanimous opinion issued by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS), which was incorporated in the file, allowing for construction on the site.

    [24] Autopromotec event in Athens

    The Italian Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE) on Wednesday evening hosted a presentation of the international exhibition "Autopromotec" in Athens, in cooperation with the Italian Automotive Service Equipment Manufacturers Association (AICA).

    Italian ambassador to Greece Gianpaolo Scarante inaugurated the event, noting that the slowdown in new car sales -- due to the global economic crisis -- is creating a significant increase in the demand for spare parts and maintenance/repair services for the roughly 7.8 million cars in Greece.

    According to the event's organisers, some 20 percent of the equipment used in car repair and maintenance shops in Greece is imported from Italy.

    [25] Greek stocks end 1.31% higher

    Greek stocks ended higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, following a rebound in other European markets. The composite index rose 1.31 pct to end at 1,541.43 points, with turnover at 113.9 million euros, of which 5.9 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved higher, with the Healthcare (3.84 pct), Personal/Home Products (3.78 pct) and Raw Materials (2.15 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Commerce (1.59 pct), Insurance (1.13 pct) and Chemicals (0.87 pct) suffered losses.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 1.19 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.37 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index rose 0.83 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 97 to 93 with another 61 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.13%

    Industrials: +0.14%

    Commercial: -1.59%

    Construction: +1.96%

    Media: +1.37%

    Oil & Gas: +0.71%

    Personal & Household: +3.78%

    Raw Materials: +2.15%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.82%

    Technology: -0.06%

    Telecoms: +0.20%

    Banks: +2.15%

    Food & Beverages: +0.88%

    Health: +3.84%

    Utilities: -0.19%

    Chemicals: -0.87%

    Financial Services: -0.09%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Bank of Cyprus, OPAP and OTE.

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.42

    ATEbank: 1.03

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.32

    HBC Coca Cola: 9.90

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.54

    National Bank of Greece: 9.96

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.12

    Intralot: 3.48

    OPAP: 19.90

    OTE: 9.86

    Bank of Piraeus: 3.98

    Titan Cement Company: 14.28

    [26] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.72 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover a low 32.359 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 6,702 contracts worth 25.029 million euros, with 31,911 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,030 contracts worth 7.370 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,719), followed by OTE (1,040), PPC (621), GEK (1,089), Alpha Bank (389), OPAP (220) and Piraeus Bank (281).

    [27] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 580 million euros on Thursday, of which 300 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 280 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security of the day, with a turnover of 100 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 245 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.57 pct and the German Bund 3.12 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.04 pct, the six-month rate 1.94 pct, the three-month 1.83 pct and the one-month rate 1.54 pct.

    [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.288

    Pound sterling 0.898

    Danish kroner 7.509

    Swedish kroner 11.408

    Japanese yen 126.33

    Swiss franc 1.496

    Norwegian kroner 8.848

    Canadian dollar 1.601

    Australian dollar 1.974

    General News

    [29] Greek MPs visit Operation "Atalanta" Northwood headquarters

    LONDON (ANA-MPA / L. Tsirigotakis)

    The effective deterrence of piracy in the sea region of Somalia was the main issue discussed in meetings held in London by Greek MPs Aristotelis Pavlidis, Michalis Kefaloyannis and George Voulgarakis, as members of the Western European Union (WEU) Defense Committee.

    During their visit to Northwood, the EU operational headquarters of the Operation "Atalanta" (code-name for the EU NAVFOR Somalia operation) they were briefed on its progress while they also had an additional briefing from International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos.

    MP Pavlidis, who has been assigned to draw up a report on the piracy situation in the region of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, stressed that "the main objective of the operation is the protection of vessels of the World Food Programme delivering food aid to displaced persons in Somalia, as well as the protection of vulnerable vessels cruising off the Somali coast carrying goods and oil to Europe and the safety of their crews."

    A total of eight countries are participating in the operation, among them,Greece with the Navy frigate "Psara".

    [30] Debate on 'European integration with or without Turkey'

    A handful of noted professors and former diplomats, in the presence of former Greek premier Costas Simitis, who has openly expressed his position in favor of a special relation between Turkey and the European Union, touched on the issue of Turkey's European prospects, during an event held in Athens on Thursday.

    The debate focused on two more-or-less dominant viewpoints: one that favors Turkey's full membership, suggesting that the Greek-Turkish relations can dramatically and permanently improve as a result, as opposed to another view, according to which, Turkey has not shown signs of adjustment to the European acquis, expressing a fear that Europe's character might change following the accession of a large and predominately Muslim country.

    [31] Ecumenical Patriarch arrives in Lesvos

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew arrived in the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos on Thursday afternoon with the inaugural flight of the "Athens Airways" company.

    The Patriarch, who was welcomed at the island's airport by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, wished the special flight Istanbul-Lesvos that carried him be a symbolic bridge between the two neighbouring peoples.

    The Patriarch's three-day visit to the island ends Saturday afternoon.

    [32] Chief Warden found guilty in Paleokostas-Rizaj jail break case

    A Korydallos Prison chief warden implicated in Sunday's Hollywood-style repeat helicopter escape of convicts Vassilis Paleokostas and Alket Rizaj was found guilty as charged and was handed down a three-year suspended sentence by a court in the port city of Piraeus on Wednesday.

    The helicopter pilot and two prison guards were acquitted, while a third guard received a 6-month suspended sentence for illegally possessing a gun that was discovered in his house during a police search.

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

    [33] Attack against newspaper condemned

    Unknown youngsters attacked on Thursday evening the offices of the daily Apogevmatini newspaper, in central Athens.

    The attack occurred during a demonstration protesting a bomb attack, on Tuesday night, against an immigrants centre in the central Athens district of Exarchia.

    Government Spokesman Evangelos Antonaros condemned the attack saying that "today's (Thursday) attack against Apogevmatini, any attack against any mass media is an attack against free expression, against Democracy itself."

    The attack was also condemned by main opposition PASOK party. Spokesman George Papaconstantinou said that "similar attacks are attacks against free expression. Everyday that passes, the feeling of insecurity of Greeks is increasing."

    [34] Greek-Australian receives best science teacher award

    MELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)

    Greek-Australian Soula Bennett (Panagiotidi) received the prestigious BHP Billiton award for best science teacher in Australia, a much coveted award by physics and chemistry teachers in the country.

    She has been teaching at Melbourne's Northcote High for the past 20 years and is a fervent supporter of public education.

    A year ago she traveled with her students to NASA to "give them the opportunity to experience the tangible manifestation of science."

    Since 2001 when she became Science Coordinator at Northcote High the number of students attending science courses has doubled.

    [35] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Prime minister Karamanlis' orders to his Cabinet for cutbacks in state spending in light of the global financial crisis was the main front-page item in Thursday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Contain the wasteful state spending - 12 clear orders given by the prime minister at Wednesday's Cabinet meeting".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Government tightening the belts - Strict orders by Karamanlis to his ministers".

    AVGHI: "18 trillion toxic euros in European banks (intransparent transactions and assets) - Panic-stricken European Commission asks for disclosure of assets".

    AVRIANI: "The cutbacks in public expenditure should begin with the salaries of the MPs and ministers - This is the only way that the people will comprehend the need for sacrifices".

    CHORA: "Attention returns to the economy - After Paleokostas'...take-off, landing into reality".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Prime asked his ministers to tighten the belt and bigger cutbacks in expenditures".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Karamanlis: Whoever doesn't agree should go home - Deep cuts in the salaries of the 'golden boys' announced at the Cabinet meeting".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Deep cuts in privileges - Drastic cuts in the salaries of the public sector's 'golden boys'."

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Ministerial escape from (political) responsibilities - Justice minister comes under fire".

    ESTIA: "Negative climate being created - The government's tactics are incomprehensible".

    ETHNOS: "Extraordinary taxes also on the table - Prime minister trying to gain political time".

    KATHIMERINI: "PM Karamanlis: Messages to ministers and Brussels (EU)".

    LOGOS: "Belts tightening in the ministres - The repercussions of the crisis - Twelve guidelines".

    NIKI: "They're putting us in deep freeze - Karamanlis preparing to take new tough measures".

    PONTIKI (weekly): "Urban guerrilla war on the horizon - Economic and political crisis inflating THE worry".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The people should not let themselves be fooled, the weight of the crisis should be paid by the plutocracy".

    TA NEA: "ELAS (Greek Police) Chief: SOS, they're stealing our weapons (11 policemen's service revolvers stolen by burglars in space of one month)".

    TO VIMA: Two 'formulas' for the crisis - Crash test for the political leaders in the shadow of the financial nightmare".

    VRADYNI: "Ultimatum to government officials - Karamanlis: Assume your responsibilities".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [36] Spokesman: The basis of the negotiations is crystal clear


    Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said Thursday that the basis on which direct negotiations between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are held is crystal clear and provides for a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with political equality, as provided by the UN relevant resolutions, and a state with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality.

    Stephanou also noted that decisions concerning the negotiations and the way they move on are taken by the leaders of the two communities of Cyprus, Christofias and Talat, reiterating that the process belongs to the Cypriots.

    He said that Christofias has taken initiatives that have terminated immobility in the Cyprus question, adding that immobility and deadlocks favour the division of the island and Turkey's goals for the establishment of a second separate state on the island.

    Stephanou also noted that the basis of the negotiations has been adopted by the UN and that the positions outlined by the Greek Cypriot side are based on UN resolutions and international and European law principles.

    The spokesman said that during their next meeting, on the 5th of March, Christofias and Talat will continue the discussion of the property issue and that the two leaders will decide further steps.

    Invited to comment a statement by Talat on agreed criteria regarding the property issue, the spokesman recalled that President Christofias has submitted Greek Cypriot side's framework of principles concerning the property issue.

    Christofias and Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September last year with a view to solve the question of Cyprus, divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.

    [37] British Minister urges Turkey to support ongoing Cyprus talks


    British Minister for Europe Caroline Flint called upon Turkey to practically support ongoing direct negotiations which began last September between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus with a view to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem.

    Flint, who gave a lecture on British-Cypriot Relations at the London School of Economics said that the UK is ready to contribute to the successful outcome of the negotiations.

    "I am certain that Turkey wants to see progress for its EU accession negotiations and this can not be done without normalising its relations with Cyprus", she underlined.

    A lasting solution, she added, "would generate a sense of security, leading to the withdrawal of Turkish troops and the development of a new relationship with Turkey based on peace and common interest".

    Asked about the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus, which occupy 37% of Cyprus' territory since the Turkish invasion of 1974, Flint said that in the framework of a future agreement, the withdrawal of troops, including the UN, should constitute an element of peace and stability on the island.

    But she said that security concerns of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, should be taken into consideration.

    She said that those are important and difficult issues which will be dealt with later, stressing that the feeling is that, despite difficulties, negotiations will yield results.

    "And the best result would be Cyprus' reunification, since it would offer a basis for a secure future", she said.

    Flint expressed the view that negotiations towards a settlement are moving forward "and I believe much has already been achieved".

    "Important steps have been taken, such as opening Ledra Street, cancelling military exercises, and co-operating on cultural heritage and the environment. These steps show what can be done when the political will exists", she noted.

    The British minister for Europe noted that it is also clear that significant challenges still lie ahead, "challenges that will require the continued willingness and courage of both communities if they are to find the compromises needed".

    "And while it is up to the leaders to agree a timescale for action, I urge both sides to keep up momentum, to take the bold and imaginative steps needed to turn the expectation of success - into the reality of success", she continued.

    In her speech, the British minister reiterated her personal commitment to do whatever possible to support the ongoing negotiations, noting that this pursue serves British national interests as well.

    "With over 300,000 Greek and Turkish Cypriots living in the UK, a long history of trade and increasing numbers of British people choosing to retire in on the island, the UK and Cyprus have much in common. But, with a solution, this relationship will be even stronger and a resolution in Cyprus is strongly in the UK's national interest", she said.

    Apart from the above, the main reason for supporting a settlement, is that a united Cyprus within the EU, will be the best guarantee for long-term stability, peace and security for its people, she continued.

    Replying to a question regarding the property issue, Flint said that the UK, the EU and international organizations should think about the implementation of a future agreement on the property issue, adding that the UK is ready to offer practical support.

    The event was organized by the Association for Cypriot, Greek and Turkish Affairs and the Greek Observatory of the London School of Economics.

    [38] Helios plane crash trial adjourned on first hearing


    Nicosia District Court adjourned on Thursday a trial over Helios plane crash in August 2005 in Greece, which killed all 121 passengers and crew on board.

    Nicosia District judge Stavros Stavrou adjourned the trial for April 30, due to the absence of one of the five accused over the crash, namely George Kikkides, former Helios Flight operations Director, who is in Britain receiving hospital treatment for esophagus cancer.

    Apart form Kikkides, the other four accused are the Helios chief executive Andreas Drakos, managing director Demetris Pantazis, chief pilot Janko Stoimenov and Helios Airways as a legal entity. They face charges of manslaughter, carrying life sentence and causing of death by reckless, thoughtless or dangerous act which carries a maximum four-year term.

    The three defendants were freed on bail of 75,000 euros each. However the adjournment provoked disappointment among the relatives of the victims.

    Noting that the relatives hope that this will be the last adjournment, Nicolas Yasoumis, President of the committee of the relatives said the relatives ''demand from the Court to advance the trial and the exemplary punishment of those responsible for the killing of 121 people in mid air.''

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