|Saturday, 24 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 28 February 2009 Issue No: 3134
 Bakoyannis outlines OSCE priorities to UN Security CouncilNEW YORK (ANA-MPA - P. Panagiotou)
Outlining Greece's priorities as the 2009 chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Friday, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed in her address to the UN Security Council that these centred on promoting peace, respect for human life and the principles of international law.
She urged a greater OSCE role and action in crisis management, involving closer cooperation with other international agencies, such as the United Nations. In terms of tackling the global economic crisis, especially, Bakoyannis underlined the need to "further enhance the partnership relationship between the OSCE and the UN".
Referring to areas of OSCE activity, Bakoyannis pointed to the events in the Caucasus in 2008 and highlighted efforts being made by the Greek OSCE chair to ensure that a peace-keeping mission remained in the area and that the OSCE had a "more rounded" presence in the region.
She also marked the progress made in terms of mechanisms to manage the crisis through an agreement achieved in Geneva the previous week, saying that this was "a vital first step toward building confidence and a possible resolution of the dispute".
The OSCE contribution to bringing humanitarian aid to the region, including its assistance in overcoming problems with the supply of natural gas, was also highlighted by the minister.
While a large part of the OSCE's attention was fixed on the situation in Georgia, "this is not the only challenge we face in common," Bakoyannis added, who noted that restructuring the international presence in Kosovo was also high on the OSCE agenda.
The minister welcomed the Security Council's adoption of the UN Secretary-General's report on Kosovo of 24th November 2008, in which he underlined the "important role" of the OSCE in reconstruction and efforts for the peaceful coexistence of the communities in Kosovo.
The Greek OSCE chair will also seek to boost the organisation's action in terms of border security and policing, so that Afghanistan will continue to be a priority in 2009, Bakoyannis said and emphasised the importance of "preventative diplomacy" in dealing with crises in central Asia.
Finally, she referred to the OSCE's role in combating terrorism, tackling climate change and the various aspects of migration, as well as efforts to boost the struggle to protect human rights and the rule of law, promote gender equality, religious freedom and the defend the right to education.
 FM Bakoyannis statements at UNNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The Greek Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) 2009 presidency occurs in "a difficult year" and it will actively work for handling crises as "an honest neogotiator", Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said on Friday.
In stetements after her address to the UN Security Council on Greece's priorities as the 2009 chair of the OSCE, the foreign minister reiterated that there was "a progress, even not very big" at the Geneva talks on Georgia. "We have agreed on the mechanisms for preventing escalation and this is an important step of progress. We will continue trying to reach a consensus for the presence of the OSCE mission in Georgia. It is an important mission, necessary in the region. There are some proposals by the Greek presidency and I hope that we will succeed in having an agreement on that," she added.
On the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, Bakoyannis noted that "discussions are underway", and expressed hope "reaching an agreement before the end of 2009".
 State Department on Clinton-Bakoyannis talksWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)
The U.S. State Department commented here Friday on Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis's talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Wedmesday, saying that Clinton "was glad meeting her Greek counterpart and there will certainly be further talks between them."
Responding to a question, spokesman for the State Department Robert Wood said: "They (Clinton and Bakoyannis) had a very good and friendly discussion. They talked on a number of issues. They focused particularly on the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Greek-Turkish relations and the Balkans. It was a very good discussion. The Secretary was glad meeting her Greek counterpart and there will certainly be further talks between them. It was a very good meeting and we look forward to cooperation with Greece on a series of foreign policy issues."
Greece is the 2009 chair of the OSCE.
 FM meets in NY with Nimetz, US rep to UN RiceNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis met with the UN secretary general's special envoy on the FYROM name issue, Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, and with the US representative to the UN, Ambassador Susan Rice, in New York on Thursday, in the context of her official visit to the US.
Bakoyannis met at midnight Thursday (Greek time) with Nimetz, and told reporters after the half-hour talks that the exchanged views on where the issue stood at the present time.
_From the Greek side's point of view, she said, the meeting served as a review, adding that the issue in the present period was stationary.
It was also noted that the FYROM name talks would be resumed at a time to be designated by Nimetz.
With Rice, Bakoyannis discussed issues concerning Greece as well as the current Greek chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) during their meeting on Friday morning (Greek time).
No statements were made after the Bakoyannis-Rice meeting.
Bakoyannis is scheduled to address the UN Security Council on Friday on the priorities of Greece's OSCE chairmanship.
Before her address, the Greek foreign minister will also meet with Japan's permanent representative to the UN Ambassador Yukio Takasu, who holds the Security Council presidency for the month of February, and with Russian permanent representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin.
 Gov't spokesman on EU Summit"Greece will defend its national interests through Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stated on Friday, announcing that the premier will be in Brussels on Sunday to attend the extraordinary EU Summit meeting which will focus on the global economic crisis and its repercussions for European Union countries.
Responding to criticism from main opposition PASOK, Antonaros commented that it would be advisable to abandon the populist practices it systematically follows.
 PASOK on PM's presence at EU summitThe main opposition PASOK party believes that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis "will be essentially absent" from the European Union's special summit in Brussels on Sunday, according to statements by spokesman George Papaconstantinou made on Friday.
"And this, because Mr. Karamanlis will arrive at the summit with no proposals and positions for the country's problems, contrary to what was done by other prime ministers through letters addressed to their counterparts," Papaconstantinou added.
He added that the Greek premier will be a "spactator" at the summit, "since Greece does not have a national plan for the economy's recovery."
Referring to data released by the Central Bank, Papconstantinou said that his party has not referred to a slackening of fiscal policies but "to a developmental element in economic policy."
 Gov't spokesman on public-sector salary capsGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros underlined on Friday that measures announced by the prime minister to impose a ceiling on the salaries of top executives in the broader public sector were "absolutely clear and leave no ground for misinterpretation,". citing statements made by National Economy and Finance Minister Yannis Papathanasiou on the issue after an inter-ministerial committee meeting a few weeks ago.
As regards the executives who have signed contracts, he stated that the announcements made are binding and everything said by the government is put into practice.
 Gov't comdemns attack on "Apogevmatini""Journalists and the mass media in Greece operate on the principles of freedom of the press, freedom of expression and democratic rules that we all have a duty to protect," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed on Friday, commenting on the previous night's attack against the offices of "Apogevmatini" newspaper in Athens.
A group of demonstrators broke off from a rally protesting against a hand grenade attack on a human rights group and immigrant support network in Exarchia last Tuesday and attacked "Apogevmatini" using sledgehammers, iron bars, sticks and stones to smash up the facade, while they also torched several parked cars. They were quickly dispersed by police using stun grenades.
"Such actions target Democracy itself and not just the freedom of the press and expression," Antonaros stated, adding that those responsible are only a few and are condemned to isolation by the overwhelming majority of the Greek people, who know what freedom and Democracy means to the country.
"Violent incidents and threats of violence are absolutely condemnable acts in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of the Greek people and express only those who resort to such actions," Antonaros underlined.
 LAOS query on US State Department reportPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis on Friday tabled a question directed to the prime minister on the "very negative for Greece's image annual US State Department Report on Human Rights".
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is asked whether the government adopts the views in the report and if any moves were made to keep out inaccurate references on the issue of minorities.
 Sioufas addresses conference of EU heads of ParliamentPARIS (ANA-MPA - O. Tsipira)
Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas on Friday underlined the urgent need for action by EU national Parliaments, through a common framework of cooperation and exchange of experience that will allow them to meet international challenges, during his address to the Conference of Speakers of European Union Parliaments in Paris.
Speaking during the conference proceedings on the institutional future of the EU and the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty regulations by national parliaments, Sioufas pointed out that the international community is faced with the challenge of an unprecedented economic crisis.
He noted that the national parliaments in the EU are called to meet the challenge of implementing Lisbon decisions as June's European Parliament elections approach.
Sioufas applauded the initiative undertaken by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to promote cooperation with national parliaments, even though the Lisbon Treaty ratification has not been completed yet, and referred in detail to cooperation mechanisms between national parliaments and with the European Commission.
As regards the ipex data base (www.ipex.eu <http://www.ipex.eu>) created in 2006 by the European Commission to inform national parliaments on the European Commission legislative texts, Sioufas stated that it constitutes an important step of communication and cooperation, facilitating the exchange of best practices between parliaments while allowing the observation of parliamentary procedures.
Such cooperation prepares national parliaments for the implementation of the new regulations introduced by the Lisbon Treaty that will affect all stages of the European legislative procedure, Sioufas stressed.
 EU council of justice ministers convenesJustice Minister Nikolaos Dendias participated in the European Union council of justice and interior ministers in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
According to a ministry announcement, the council decided, among others, to instruct the EU's presidency to start talks with Japan on a treaty for mutual judicial assistance in criminal cases.
The council also proceeded to review the work accomplished in the sector of e-justice.
 New Greek ambassador presents credentials to Russian PresidentMOSCOW(ANA-MPA / Th. Avgerinos)
Russia values highly the lasting and reliable partnership relation with Greece and counts on the continuation of constructive dialogue in all sectors, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev underlined in the Kremlin, while receiving the credentials of Greece's new Ambassador to Russia Michalis Spinellis.
The Russian president wished success to Greece's 2009 OSCE Chairmanship pointing out that the coordinated approach to major international problems will undoubtedly contribute to stability in Europe.
Ambassador Spinellis repeated the Greek President's invitation extended to the Russian President for a formal visit to Greece.
 New British Ambassasor presents credentialsNew British Ambassasor to Greece David Landsman on Friday presented his credentials to President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias.
Ambassador Landsman, who was until recently director of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Balkan issues, succeeds Simon Gass. The new ambassador served at the British embassy in Athens between 1991 and 1994 in the position of secretary responsible for bilateral economic relations and is fluent in modern Greek, which was the subject of his PhD thesis at Cambridge University on the 'Greek language question' or the controversy over demotic Greek versus 'Katharevousa'.
Speaking to the press, Dr Landsman said he felt honoured to assume ambassadorial duties in Greece.
"Greece and Britain enjoy historical ties of cooperation and are today allies and partners in NATO and the European Union. Moreover, our two countries are linked with strong personal, commercial and cultural ties...I look foraward to contributing towards the deepening of relations between the two countries for our common interest," Ambassador Landsman added.
 Greek ambassador walks out of Skopje conference in protestSKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Frangopoulos)
The head of Greece's Liaison Office in FYROM Ambassador Alexandra Papadopoulou walked out of a large conference on culture held here on Friday in a show of protest. She strongly objected to the use by the organizers of the name "Republic of Macedonia" when referring to FYROM and their failure to adhere to the customary practice of using only national flags and the names of participants in similar events.
The conference "Culture and Audio-Visual Communications - Vector of Peace and European Future in SEE Countries" was held with the participation of countries in the region and representatives of the EU and UNESCO and was organized by the FYROM Ministry of Culture in cooperation with a private university.
Ambassador Papadopoulou, who was Greece's representative at the conference, accused the organizers of acting in bad faith and in complete violation of the obligations undertaken by FYROM within the framework of the Interim Agreement signed with Greece in 1995, expressing discontent for the FYROM Culture Ministry attempt to take advantage of the conference to promote political goals.
 Greek inflation slows to 2 pct in January, Eurostat reportsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
Greek annual inflation slowed to 2.0 pct in January, from 2.2 pct in December 2008, Eurostat said on Friday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in a monthly report, said the inflation rate in the Eurozone fell to 1.1 pct in January, from 1.6 pct in December, sharply down from a 3.2 pct figure in January 2008, while in the EU-27, the inflation rate eased to 1.7 pct from 2.2 pct in December and 3.4 pct in January 2008.
Luxembourg (0.0 pct), Portugal (0.1 pct), Spain and France (0.8 pct each) recorded the lowest inflation rates in January, while Latvia (9.7 pct), Lithuania (9.5 pct) and Romania (6.8 pct) the highest rates. Eurostat said the inflation rate fell in 24 EU member-states, it was unchanged in Holland (1.7 pct) and rose in Lithuania and Romania.
 2008 state budget incomes increase by 5.1%Net incomes of the 2008 state budget increased by 5.1 per cent, compared to 2007, according to data released by the State's Accounts Office on Friday, regarding the execution of the budget.
 Cash aid to farmers from March 15, minister promisesAgricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Friday promised that procedures for paying compensation to farmers under the 500-million-euro emergency package announced by the government will be completed by March 15.
He made the statement after a meeting with representatives of Thessaly farmers that had joined protest roadblocks on national highways, which brought the country to a standstill in January.
The minister said that procedures for completing subsidy and other payments would also be completed in the next fortnight, which the farmers' more general demands will be discussed during the national dialogue on farm issues that is now underway.
 EU commissioner praises growth achievements in EpirusRegional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hübner ended her two-day visit to the north-western region of Epirus on Friday, declaring herself "fascinated" by what has been done for the region's development.
"You have achieved a lot of things and the solid foundations have been created for Epirus's future, which was the poorest region in Europe some years ago. The European Union will support the vision for growth and the targets set for the coming years, because we ascertain that in Epirus community funds bare fruits," Hübner said, before departing for the Ionian island of Corfu.
The commissioner was accompanied by Deputy Environment and Public Works Minister Savros Kaloyannis.
 Markopoulos highlights role of tourism within EUTourism Minister Costas Markopoulos on Friday addressed an event on "Greece and Britain facing the challenges" organised by the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in London. Referring to the economic crisis, he underlined the importance of tourism within the European Union as a means of promoting the Community's unification and boosting the EU economy as a whole, urging action to support tourist traffic.
On the crisis now affecting tourism on a global scale, Markopoulos said there was a high chance that the trend for a reduction of tourist traffic seen in the first quarter of 2009 would be fully reversed in the second.
He added that this trend was a clear message regarding the need to modify economic planning and give greater price reductions for all services provided, both by the state and the market, in order to satisfy tourists.
"The final tourist product must be cheaper and more attractive in relation to previous tourist seasons," he stressed.
Markopoulos also underlined that Greece was a much more competitive tourist destination than last year, with better prices for all services, while the state was also setting up a four-digit tourist helpline in four different languages.
 Greece theme country at Hungarian tourism exhibitionBUDAPEST (ANA-MPA/D.Dimitrakoudis)
Budapest's "Utazas 2009" International Tourism Exhibition, in which Greece features as a theme country, was inaugurated on Thursday evening.
Addressing the event, Hungarian Local Government Minister István Gyenesei, Special Secretary at the Greek Tourism Ministry Emmanuel Alexandrakis, the President of Hungary's Tourism Organisation Istyan Rona and the Director General of Hungexpo Miklos Gyorky, highlighted the excellent level of Greek-Hungarian relations in general and of cooperation in the tourism sector in particular.
The common intention to further enhance tourism relations through capitalising on all possibilities presented by both countries, was also underlined.
The speakers further noted the intention of both sides to maintain activities in the tourism sector at last year's levels at least, given the difficulties from the present world economic crisis.
The Greek presence at the exhibition, which ends Sunday, is also enriched by cultural events with the participation of Greek expatriates and groups from Greece.
An exhibition of photos prepared by the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) has opened at the Budapest's Town Hall square and will last for four weeks.
 9th Thessaloniki wine competition on March 2-4The 9th Thessaloniki International Wine Competition will take place in the city on March 2-4 as part of the twin international trade fairs Detrop-Oenos held at the Helexpo trade fair facilities. It will stretch over three days, with 42 distinguished wine tasters sampling 809 different wines entered in the competition.
According to Wine-makers Union of Ambelona, northern Greece who are organising the event, it is the only international wine competition held in Greece that meets the specifications of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) as well as laws instituted by the agricultural development and foods ministry.
Wines have been entered from Brazil, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia. These will be sampled and scored by 21 judges from abroad and 21 from Greece, who will in turn be checked by two boards and the organising committee of the competition. The official results and awards will be announced on Friday, March 6, and the public will be given an opportunity to become acquainted with the prize-winning wines at the trade fair's pavilion 15 on Sunday, at 12:00-15:00.
 Greek retail sales volume index down 7.1 pct in Dec 2008Greece's retail sales turnover index fell by 4.0 pct in December, compared with the same month in 2007, after an increase of 3.2 pct in December 2007, the National Statistical Service said on Friday.
The statistics agency attributed the 4.0 pct drop in the retail sales turnover index to a 2.2 pct fall in the foodstore index and a 5.4 pct drop in the other stores index.
The retail sales volume index (turnover in fixed prices) fell 7.1 pct in December 2008, after recording a zero change in December 2007. The fall reflected a 5.9 pct decline in the foodstore index and a 7.8 pct fall in the other store index.
 Piraeus Bank says 2008 net profits rose to 530 million eurosPiraeus Bank on Friday said its net profits -excluding additional provisions of 215 million euros- totalled 530 million euros in 2008, up from 503 million euros in 2007, while its net pre-tax and provisions profits rose to 774 million euros from 742 million euros in 2007.
Assets totalled 55 billion euros, up 8.5 billion euros from the previous year, while saving deposits grew 31 pct (7.4 billion euros) and loans grew 27 pct (8.0 billion euros). Piraeus Bank Group said its cash flow was further boosted after the successful completion of two loan securitizations (2.5 billion euros) and the bank's participation in a government-sponsored program to boost liquidity in the economy (750 million euros). The bank said its bad debt rate was 3.56 pct last year, while its provision coverage rate was 51 pct.
Piraeus Bank said its targets for 2009 focus on portfolio high quality, ensuring cash flow and a drastic cut in operating costs. The bank said its credit expansion growth rate was expected to be 5-10 pct this year.
Commenting on the results, Piraeus Bank's chairman Mihalis Sallas, said 2008 was a difficult year for the economy and the banking sector globally. "Unprecedented conditions prevailing in the last few months dictated an adjustment of our policy to new standards with the aim to strengthen the group and its balance sheet. For this reason we have made an additional provision of 215 million euros in the last quarter of 2008".
The 2009-2010 period will not be easy, Sallas said, adding that the bank was prepared to take advantage of every opportunity arose and to deal with new challenges. "Greece continues to contribute more than 80 pct of our operations, while our international presence expands in nine countries, of which four are EU member-states," the Greek banker said.
 Bank of Greece fines commercial banks with 1.5 mln eurosThe Bank of Greece on Friday imposed fines totaling 1.5 million euros on a number of credit and financial institutions in the country for failure to implementing transparency rules and information to investors, in transactions made in the period from 2006 to 2008.
The central bank fined Alpha Bank with 195,000 euros, Attica bank with 105,000, National bank with 70,000, Emporiki Bank with 185,000, EFG Eurobank-Ergasias with 250,000, Millennium bank with 140,000 euros, Marfin Egnatia Bank 160,000, Citibank with 20,000 and Probank with 30,000.
 Greek PPI down 4.0 pct in JanuaryGreece's Producer's Price Index (measuring both the domestic and foreign markets) fell 4.0 pct in January, compared with the same month in 2008, the National Statistical Service said on Friday. The index was up 0.4 pct in January from December 2008.
 Greek stocks end lowerGreek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday, following a negative trend in other European markets. The composite index eased 0.36 pct to end at 1,535.82 points, off the day's lows. Turnover was an improved 126.6 million euros, of which 5.2 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Financial Services (6.07 pct), Food/Beverage (3.0 pct) and Banks (2.95 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Commerce (6.34 pct), Telecoms (4.46 pct) and Oil (3.86 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index fell 1.11 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.10 pct up and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.32 pct. Broadly, decliners to advancers by 134 to 66 with another 52 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +3.85%
Personal & Household: -1.37%
Raw Materials: -1.33%
Travel & Leisure: +2.67%
Food & Beverages: -3.00%
Financial Services: -6.07%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, National Bank, OTE and Marfin Popular Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.20
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.98
HBC Coca Cola: 9.60
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.80
National Bank of Greece: 9.82
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.06
Bank of Piraeus: 3.86
Titan Cement Company: 14.00
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.88 percent in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover remaining a low 33.010 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 7,067 contracts, worth 26.027 million euros and 31,911 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,774 contracts worth 6.983 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,442), followed by Eurobank (535), MIG (639), OTE (710), PPC (658), OPAP (548), Alpha Bank (478), Marfin Popular Bank (1,482) and Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (466).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 255 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Friday, with turnover remaining a low 590 million euros, of which 245 million were buy orders and the remaining 345 million were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security of the day, with a turnover of 115 million euros. The Greek bond yielded 5.62 pct and the German Bund 3.07 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.03 pct, the six-month rate 1.93 pct, the three-month rate 1.82 pct and the one-month rate 1.53 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.274
Pound sterling 0.900
Danish kroner 7.51
Swedish kroner 11.544
Japanese yen 124.22
Swiss franc 1.496
Norwegian kroner 8.957
Canadian dollar 1.611
Australian dollar 2.005
 Transport minister stresses road safety in Afidnes visitTransport and Communications Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Friday visited the national highway toll posts at Afidnes, where he inspected the handing out of a ministry leaflet called "A Practical Guide to the Traffic Code: Red light to violations" to drivers heading out of Athens for the long weekend and 'Clean Monday' holiday.
Stylianidis also wished several motorists a good weekend and urged them to keep road safety foremost.
Questioned about the efficacy of fines in deterring traffic violations, Stylianidis said that they did play a deterrent role but that cultivating the right attitudes among drivers, especially the younger and active members of society, was more important.
The ministry's guide also includes a table of the fines and penalties imposed for violating traffic rules and will be handed out to drivers at the toll posts in Afidnes, Elefsina, Rio and Malgara on Friday and Saturday.
Holiday weekends such as the one coming up, in which large numbers of people quit Greek cities and head for the countryside, traditionally lead to a substantial spike in traffic accidents on Greek roads, where the average accident rate and resulting death toll are among the highest in Europe.
 Interior Minister Pavlopoulos opens e-governance conferenceThe initiatives and measures adopted by the government to utilize and strengthen e-governance, support transparency, tackle mismanagement and reinforce democracy, were underlined by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Friday, while opening a conference on e-governance for transparency and democracy hosted by the Technical Chamber of Greece in Athens.
Pavlopoulos underlined that e-governance facilitates the public's access to public information and knowledge, while giving Public Administration a more open, transparent and friendly character, promoting public dialogue, reducing red tape and lifting administrative obstacles.
He also referred to the 631-million-euro Special Operational Programme on "Administrative Reform 2007-2013" implemented by the interior ministry, pointing out that the main goals are to cut red tape cost for businesses by 25 pct (currently exceeding 4 billion euros) and combat corruption.
 Culture minister at French Institute in AthensCulture Minister Antonis Samaras on Friday paid a visit to the French Institute of Athens, where he was shown around the reception areas that were renovated after damage inflicted during last December's rioting in Athens by the French Ambassador to Athens Christophe Farnaud.
Following the renovation, the French Institute will launch a two-month tribute to Mediterranean culture and Greek-French relations entitled "Mediterranee a la carte", with events beginning on March 4 and continuing throughout March and April.
The programme includes performances of music and theatre, photography exhibitions at the Museum of Cycladic Art, documentaries and a conference on spatial planning and sustainable development in Mediterranean countries.
 Drug arrests in Sparta, CorinthPolice on Friday announced that they had information leading to two suspects for the cannabis plantation discovered last October in the region of Ligopsinos in Arcadia prefecture in southern Greece and were now looking for two Albanian nationals. Police had discovered and seized a total of 532 cannabis plants as well as 78 kilos of semi-processed cannabis.
In Corinth, also in the south of the country, police arrested a man Thursday riding a stolen motorcycle and found in his possession tools used in break-ins as well as a small quantity of cannabis.
In a separate incident in Corinth, a man was arrested after police found 60 grams of heroin on him while a search in his house revealed 120 narcotic pills.
 Hania prison guard charged with homicideA 23-year-old perimeter guard at Hania prisons was on Friday charged with intentional homicide, attempted homicide, illegally carrying a weapon and illegal weapons use by a Hania public prosecutor, after he shot and killed 50-year-old Eftychis Zabiakis with a hunting rifle on Wednesday afternoon.
In addition to killing Zabiakis, he had also shot and seriously injured the victim's 45-year-old brother-in-law, Manolis Pyrovolakis, and fired shots against a taxi driver.
After appearing before the public prosecutor, the 23-year-old requested and received until Tuesday in order to prepare his statement to the examining magistrate.
In the meantime, the public prosecutor has also appointed a psychiatrist to assess the mental health of the accused, while a specialist consultant has been appointed by his family.
On Thursday night, while the suspect was being examined by the public prosecutor, a group of 150 protestors belonging to the anti-establishment movement marched on the prison and threw stones at a guard box, after which they marked to the square outside the city's courts, where they again vandalised shop windows and a cash machine.
 Intermittent rain on SaturdayIntermittent rain and some snow at higher altitudes are forecast in most part of the country on Saturday, with clear skies in the northwest. Winds northwesterly, 3-7 Beauforts. Temperatures ranging from -2C to 15C. Scattered cloud in Athens, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 13 C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures between 1C and 11C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceSMEs' protests over banks refusal to extend loans, the extaordinary EU summit and heavy weaponry found in a trash dump Evros were the main front-page items in Friday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Heavy weaponry found in dump site in Evros - The weapons had been stolen from a military unit on November 27".
APOGEVMATINI: "Rage over attack by hooded individuals against Apogevmatini's offices - The prime minister, parliament president, government, PASOK and LAOS condemned the cowardly terrorist act against our newspaper".
AVGHI: "Bank vise on businesses - Only 4.5 percent of business loan applications approved by the TEMPE (Small and Micro Size Businesses Guarantee Fund)".
AVRIANI: "Following the Sarcozy-Berlusconi agreement for the construction of four nuclear plants in Italy...We should build our own nuclear energy plant".
CHORA: "Alert over new instance of stolen military weaponry - Alert in police counter-terrorism unit".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Three in 50 police officers a public threat - Shock in ELAS (Greek Police) after the first psychometric tests".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Forecasts and layoffs cause fear - Bank of Greece governor sees everything 'black'."
ESTIA: "Blatant demogogy by PASOK, causing immense damage to the economy".
ETHNOS: "Mystery over terror-rockets - The government concealed the looting of high-security military depot".
KATHIMERINI: "Stifling conditions on the market - SMEs against banks".
LOGOS: "Second liquidity package for banks not required, Bank of Greece governor Provopoulos maintains".
NIKI: "Storm of layoffs - Record 4,136 people lost their jobs in February alone".
RIZOSPASTIS: "ND and PASOK plans for the crisis bringing new tribulations for the people".
TA NEA: "War breaks out over the 'golden boys'."
TO VIMA: "Merchants, professionals 'attack' banks - Protests over non-extension of loans and the credit asphyxiation".
VRADYNI: "Reform of ESY (national health system) with consensus - Avramopoulos' (health minister) bill passed in parliament (with consent of opposition parties on several articles)".
 President Christofias briefs National CouncilNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic Demetris Christofias briefed fully the National Council on Friday on the course of the direct talks he is engaged in with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, aiming at a solution of the Cyprus problem.
According to a statement read out to reporters by Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou, "during today's (Friday) session, President Christofias briefed in depth the members of the National Council on the course of the negotiations on the chapter of governance, and he submitted a document with his positions. He also informed them about the course of the negotiations on the chapter of properties", he added.
Stephanou said the members of the National Council will give their positions on the document at the next Council meeting on March 10.
The National Council is the top advisory body to the President on the handling of the Cyprus problem and comprises the leaders of parliamentary parties.
Replying to a question, Stephanou stressed that the government's efforts aim at exerting pressure on the European Union to play a decisive role towards Turkey, in order for Ankara to meet the obligations deriving from its EU accession course and to cooperate for a just, viable and functional solution of the Cyprus problem.
"I would like to remind you that, after the first meeting President Christofias had with the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso last March, in which the role of the EU towards Turkey was discussed, Mr. Barroso went to Turkey and raised the issue before the Turkish Grand National Assembly", Stephanou pointed out.
Asked about the need for a plan B on the Cyprus issue, spokesman referred to President Christofias' statements that at the current stage of the negotiations, the best plan is to proceed with the negotiations with positions that are fully in line with what has been discussed between the two communities, as regards the basis and the aim of the solution.
"Whether the position of the Turkish side is consistent with that basis or not, is a completely different issue. However, the solution we would like to find does not depend on the Turkish side position. It depends on our position and on the agreed basis, which has already been clarified", he concluded.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Christofias and Talat have been engaged in talks, under UN auspices, since last September with a view to fining a mutually agreed settlement that will reunite the country.
 Cyprus FM to attend International Conference on GazaNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus Minister of Foreign Affairs Markos Kyprianou departs Monday, March 2 for Egypt to attend the International Conference to support the Palestinian economy for the reconstruction of Gaza.
Kyprianou will announce, on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus, financial aid for the reconstruction of Gaza and for tackling humanitarian aspects of the issue.
According to an official announcement issued here Friday, the Conference will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh. Norway and Egypt will co-chair Monday's international conference aimed at rebuilding the Gaza Strip. Kyprianou will return to Cyprus on the same day.
 Garoyian re-elected DIKO leader unopposedNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Marios Garoyian has been re-elected unopposed Democratic Party (DIKO) leader for a further four-year term.
Garoyian, who has been President of DIKO since 2006, will be officially declared President of DIKO at the Pancyprian Electoral Congress which will take place 15th of March.
Candidacies were also submitted Friday for the post of Deputy President, the Vice President, the General Secretary, the 15-member Executive Bureau and the 120-member Central Committee.
DIKO MP Phytos Constantinou was re-elected unopposed General Organiser.
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