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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-03-13

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 13 March 2009 Issue No: 3144


  • [01] PM, political leaders debate foreign policy issues
  • [02] EU Parliament adopts report on FYROM
  • [03] EU DMs convene in Prague
  • [04] Papandreou meets with former PM Simitis
  • [05] PASOK's Loverdos on foreign policy issues
  • [06] SAE positive on expatriate vote
  • [07] U.S. President Barack Obama to attend March 25 national anniversary event
  • [08] MIG head unveils plans for OA
  • [09] President briefed by BoG gov.
  • [10] Greece 'cheaper than ever' for tourists in '09, minister
  • [11] Greek unemployment at 8.9% in Dec.
  • [12] Gov't on illegally enclosed balconies, land registry fines
  • [13] Greece, Bulgaria sign rail transport pact
  • [14] Turkish business group in Thessaloniki
  • [15] Elinoil completes 76.4 pct of share capital increase plan
  • [16] Creta Farm signs agreement with ARGAL Alimentario
  • [17] Greek stocks end moderately higher
  • [18] ADEX closing report
  • [19] Greek bond market closing report
  • [20] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [21] Con'f on women, media
  • [22] ESIEA president addresses con'f on women, mass media
  • [23] Acropolis open for visitors
  • [24] Russian website devoted entirely to Greece
  • [25] 'Revolutionary Struggle' claims Citibank attacks
  • [26] Jail sentence against far-right militant upheld
  • [27] Woman shot in robbery dies
  • [28] Abbot accused of sexual assault remanded in custody
  • [29] Latest Sithonia mayor resigns
  • [30] Cloudy, rainy on Friday
  • [31] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM, political leaders debate foreign policy issues

    A steadfast course of responsibility and insight is necessary, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis reiterated on Thursday in Parliament during an off-the-agenda debate on foreign policy, held at party leader level. Karamanlis added that there were inviolable 'red lines' that are unalterable and non-negotiable, while he reiterated his call for a rallying of all political forces to confront the impact of the global economic crisis.

    "We are in a period of serious global risks in energy sufficiency, the environment, poverty, but chiefly the global economic crisis. The international community finds itself in its most difficult position in post-war history, facing a crisis that is not showing any signs of letting up. In such an international environment, the only solution comes through global interventions," Karamanlis said.

    The prime minister also called on everyone interested in a resolution of the Cyprus issue to use their influence on the (Turkish) occupation force, while regarding the fYRoM "name issue" he reiterated that Athens has for some time completed its own share of the path towards a mutually acceptable solution.

    He stressed that Greece would not back down a single inch on what he called "inviolable red lines", noting inter-alia, that the government placed priority on the country's energy security and was applying a policy of two-way diversification of energy sources and routes: "A tangible result was the fact that we were able to face the recent complication in the flow of natural gas without the problems faced by other countries".

    On the development of Greece's foreign relations, Karamanlis cited a "well-planned overture to Asia, with an emphasis on our relations with China, which has already produced tangible results".

    On enhancing Athens' bonds with Greeks abroad, the prime minister pointed directly to a draft bill for absentee voting by eligible Greek citizens abroad for national elections, and took the opportunity to call on the opposition parties to support the landmark legislation.

    The prime minister further noted Athens' backing of its neighbouring countries' Euro-Atlantic courses.

    He made specific mention of the substantial Greek economic activity in neighbouring fYRoM, which he said "confirms a strong volition for cooperation and friendship", but he added that "unfortunately" the name issue, along with a "historically ungrounded and provocative stance of the fYRoM leadership towards an EU and NATO member ... nationalism cultivated internally in fYRoM and the serious problems and dysfunctions in fundamental areas of state activity, such as justice, the just state and institutions" still remain unresolved and continue to block fYRoM's path to the Euro-Atlantic institutions.

    Karamanlis warned that, with such practices, the former Yugoslav republic could not pass through door of the Euro-Atlantic family.

    This message, he said, a message from the entire Alliance, was made crystal clear last April following the NATO summit in Bucharest: An invitation to fYRoM for accession to the Euro-Atlantic family presupposes a solution to the "name issue".

    "Good neighbourhood relations are of fundamental importance in every alliance, in every community of states. Consequently, Skopje is obliged to make the necessary steps for a mutually acceptable solution to be found on the basis of a composite name with a geographical qualification for all purposes and uses," he said.

    Greece, the premier added, remains steadfast on the UN-brokered negotiation, but has for some time completed its own part of the road to a mutually acceptable solution.

    On Turkey

    Regarding Turkey's EU course, Karamanlis said some reforms have been made in the country, "but fundamental and necessary steps, dictated by its obligations to the EU, have not been made to date", specifically citing Ankara's "unwillingness to cooperate constructively on the problem of illegal migration", adding that this did not concern only Greece but Europe as a whole, and affected its accession negotiations with the EU.

    Reiterating that Greece "firmly maintains that full implementation also means full accession" for Turkey, Karamanlis noted that only increased compliance with its European obligations could deflect the views already being voiced throughout Europe for a 'special relationship' between the EU and Turkey, rather than the latter's accession to the Union.

    Conversely, he warned, a continuation of the current situation would serve as an advocate for a "special relationship", and noted that time was working against Turkey's European prospect.

    The prime minister further underlined that Turkey's path to Europe, as well as to the full normalisation of relations with Greece, presupposed a solution of the Cyprus issue, adding that everyone who honestly cared about a solution was obliged to look at the real dimension of the problem and address their recommendations to the occupation force, "in other words, to the predators, not the victims". He stressed that occupation forces and settlers could not remain on European territory, while the outdated rationale of 'guarantees' and 'intervention rights' had no room against an equal EU member (Cyprus), warning that any attempt to bring back the Annan plan, "a plan that belongs in the past", would simply indicate that some quarters have not learned from history.

    Noting that he would visit Cyprus at a later date, Karamanlis said Greece, without second thoughts, encouraged continuation of the inter-communal dialogue under the auspices of the UN, without stifling timetables and arbitration, so that a permanent solution could be reached by the Cypriots themselves.

    To that effect, the prime minister said, the government was in constant contact and cooperation with the Cyprus president and political leadership and supported the people of Cyprus.

    Economic crisis

    Turning to the "unprecedented crisis", he said it was everyone's duty to focus on the effort to limit its impact, warning that there were many difficulties, but expressing confidence that the country could succeed in transforming the global crisis into a national opportunity, with Greece and the Greek society emerging stronger and more powerful from the crisis.

    "I will continue to fight, ignoring adversities or personal cost, to ensure that better days will come for the country," Karamanlis stressed in closing the off-the-agenda foreign policy debate in parliament.

    He clarified that he does not have the "early election option" in mind and pointed out that he does not seek a "carte blanche" or any kind of shared governance.

    The prime minister also pointed out that the government implements a policy characterized by political maturity and responsibility vis-à-vis the global economic crisis while its firm goals are growth, fiscal reform and offering support to the financially weak.

    "We are well-aware of the difficulties. We will do our best to support those in greater need and we will do everything possible to limit the impact of the crisis. We do and will continue to do all we can to ensure that better days will come," he concluded.


    On his part, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou accused the government of having "exhausted" the Greek family and economy, and of "remaining true to the dogma of a small and powerless Greece", and abandoning the country's biggest success in the EU, namely the Helsinki decisions.

    During his address in Parliament, he also rejected what he called "the myth being cultivated by the right that there is convergence between the mainstream parties (ND and PASOK) on major issues of foreign policy".

    Papandreou said the government's foreign policy had led to distinct "diplomatic defeats".

    He said not only had VAT on farm products not been reduced, as the government had promised, but Greece now faced the prospect of EU excessive debt procedures for a second time, whereas Cyprus and Portugal had succeed in VAT reductions.

    Further, Papandreou said, the EU had shifted to a rationale of "petting Turkey with gifts at the expense of Greece and Cyprus", while the Balkans did not feel that Greece was on their side in their effort for EU accession. Moreover, he aired his view that the Muslim minority in Thrace had ceased to be seen as an internal issue and was now seen as a Greek-Turkish bilateral issue.

    PASOK, he said, believed in the "creative abilities" of the Greek people, whereas the government has adopted a credo of "a non-position is a position".

    "So long as Greece lacked an integrated national strategy, it would have no say in the Balkans, it would not open up new growth paths with green development, and so long as it was not at the forefront of disarmament, so would it be passed over "as the US government is passing us over", Papandreou warned, adding that this tactic had allowed Turkey room to consider itself necessary, while preference of Turkey "is a crime of our own strategy".


    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga expectedly bashed both two mainstream parties, accusing them having the same political direction, while their only difference was better in handling it, speaking in Parliament.

    She charged that the mainstream parties were waging a battle for the big capital's investments abroad, warning that such a policy increased poverty and intensified exploitation of poor countries.

    Papariga opposed any Greek peacekeeping mission abroad, not only military but also humanitarian, in any foreign country, claiming that this, in essence, contributes to occupation and serves as a "smokescreen".

    On the issue of consensus on national issues, the KKE leader said her party could not provide consent because, even if the disposition existed, "the goal is not the same".

    On Turkey's violations in the Aegean, Papariga said they needed to be confronted in the framework of NATO, and not with Turkish leadership.

    "We hear of grey zones in the Aegean, that it is in Turkey's DNA to demand and in Greece's DNA to compromise. The truth, however, is that there exists a major American strategy, and under those conditions Turkey has raised its head, because it has a bigger role in America's games," she charged.

    On the Cyprus issue, she said it was "in good hands" with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias.

    Regarding the outstanding problem with "fYRoM", she said her party was not concerned with the "name issue" but in securing guarantees that a "Macedonian nationality" issue would not be raised.

    SYRIZA's Alavanos

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) president Alekos Alavanos, meanwhile, said the country is experiencing an era of great fluidity and of great upheavals, while it is difficult for one to foresee the depth of the economic crisis and its future social consequences.

    Alavanos called on Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis to organise a major discussion on foreign policy, focusing on the issue of weaknesses and prospects existing under global crisis conditions.

    He also repeated his call for cutbacks in defence spending, stressing that "we are not ignoring threats but there can be options enabling expenditures to be greatly reduced," and adding, as an example, that "even the US president announced cutbacks amounting to 40 billion dollars."

    Alavanos went on to say that "what is necessary is a re-determination of options with active policies. We must make an opening to Russia, China, to developing countries, as well as a substantive utilisation of the OSCE. We must say that we have the possibilities to enable the creation of a security system for the European Union."

    He also criticised "Greece's absence from the Gaza case" and noted that "when we were closing our eyes the Turkish prime minister was in conflict with primary options of the EU and of the United States."

    Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, the SYRIZA leader stressed the need for utilising all the means of pressure available, such as Turkey's EU candidacy and recording its responsibilities in the Aegean.

    As regards the problem with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), he said that caution is necessary, because the country is dealing with an extremely nationalistic government that must receive the necessary responses without us "peddling cheap patriotism".

    Lastly, on the question of Cyprus, Alavanos said it was important that Cyprus President Christofias has provided a new impetus and added that no solution can pass without a referendum.


    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis, on his part, strongly criticised main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou and FM Bakoyannis on Thursday during the debate on foreign policy, held at his initiative.

    Commenting on criticism of his party for responding to the prime minister's call for consensus in the face of the global crisis, Karatzaferis clarified that his party's response was an act of assistance in this time of crisis, and nothing more.

    On US president Barack Obama's upcoming trip to Turkey, Karatzaferis noted that this would be the first time an American president visiting the region would be going only to Turkey and not coming to Greece as well.

    "This is not an achievement, but the outcome of a foreign policy of stagnant waters," Karatzaferis charged. Moreover, Karatzaferis once again voiced opposition to Greece's support of Turkey's EU accession course.

    FM Bakoyannis

    The two major parties in Greece have essentially the same strategy in important foreign policy issues, FM Bakoyannis insisted during the same off-the-agenda debate, contradicting claims to the contrary by PASOK leader and former foreign minister Papandreou.

    She also stressed that this similrity was for a matter of pride for her party, while she accused Papandreou of trying to artificially create differences through vague generalities.

    "The people expect from us to chart the same course," the foreign minister underlined. "The convergence of the two parties is not a myth but the truth - a title of honour for my faction, which believes that the two main parties have truly coincided in their fundamental goals and have made it clear that they are in the EU and NATO. Those older than I will remember other eras."

    She also replied to criticism directed toward her by Karatzaferis, noting that LA.OS' president "for three minutes tried to convince us that he is not a man of extremism and spent another 27 minutes proving that he is".

    Bakoyannis also did not hide her displeasure over what she termed Papandreou's attempt to present Greece's unbending stance toward Skopje at the NATO summit in Bucharest as essentially his own idea, noting that Papandreou had more-or-less agreed that Greece's northern landlocked neighbour could join the EU under the provisional former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM).

    The minister went on to dismiss criticism that Greece was not sufficiently involved in the Middle East.

    "Greece was present under Papoulias (as foreign minister of the then PASOK government in the late '80s and mid 90's) and then completely absent -- and is now again present. There is not an Arab leader that does not state this plainly," Bakoyannis stressed.

    While Greece did not expect to solve the Middle East problem, it was the first country that arrived in Lebanon with humanitarian aid and now had a creative role in the region, and when it chose to adopt a position, it did so with full realisation of what was happening.

    "Greece is not a phobic state, hiding in its shell. It is a mature democracy that exercises policy within the EU and via the EU, but it is present everywhere. In the Balkans, in the Middle East - and today, through the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Greek foreign ministry is now extremely active in all the regions of the Caucasus and central Asia," she said.

    The minister also challenged Papandreou to make his criticism specific:

    "If there are specific actions that were not taken, you should tell us. But you didn't. We heard vague aphorisms and generalities. This does not help foreign policy. What is the view of the main opposition on the Medvedev and Sarkozy proposals? Our own proposals in the framework of the OSCE were applauded by the Security Council. I don't expect congratulations from the Greek Parliament - but I do expect in-depth discussion," Bakoyannis emphasised.

    Stressing that Greece exercised its foreign policy with confidence, the minister called for an end to pessimism and pettiness at home.

    "It is not right that everything coming out of Parliament should be negative for our country. It should not be that we cooperate abroad and at home we cannot hold a civilised discussion and attempts are made to find points of disagreement with the government," she added.

    [02] EU Parliament adopts report on FYROM

    STRASBOURG (ANA-MPA - O. Tsipira)

    The 2009 progress report for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) - which calls for the launch of accession talks with Skopje this year, irrespective of whether a solution is found to the name dispute - was adopted by a margin of 478 votes for, 92 against and 42 abstentions by the European Parliament on Thursday.

    In the report drafted by MEP Erik Meijer, the EP expressed "regret that negotiations have not yet started, three years after [FYROM] was granted candidate status" and called on the European Council to decide on a date for beginning accession negotiations during the current year.

    The issue of FYROM's name and the dispute with Greece was referred to as an outstanding issue for which a mutually acceptable solution must be found, while MEPs reiterated their support for the UN-brokered mediation process.

    The report also noted "that if the two countries don't reach an agreement soon that may lead to a long delay of FYROM´s accession to EU" and urged that negotiations between Greece and FYROM will continue, in spite of proceedings initiated by Skopje at the International Court of Justice, accusing Greece for not complying with the 1995 Interim Accord.

    In another indirect reference to Greece - such as a racist attack on a group of Greek tourists visiting the country by nationalist extremists - the report called on Skopje to display "solidarity with its neighbours with regards to the culture and history" and warned against the resurgence of what it called "hate speech".

    MEPs also "reiterated their support for FYROM's EU aspirations which they deem vital for the stability in the Western Balkans region", noting progress made in visa issues, the fight against human trafficking and illegal migration while stressing the need to successfully conduct general elections in FYROM.

    Greece and its northern neighbour have been in a dispute over FYROM's adopted name of 'Macedonia', which is also the same as a northern Greek province that shares a border with the small landlocked republic. Athens says the name Macedonia implies territorial claims on its own northern province, which was also the birthplace of Alexander the Great and comprised the greater part of the ancient kingdom of Macedon.

    One element of the ongoing dispute between the two countries are attempts by Skopje to place a historical claim on Alexander the Great as the 'ancestor' of its Slav community, with provocative acts such as renaming roads and airports after the ancient king and general, while Greeks have for centuries considered Alexander to be part of ancient Greece's heritage and history.

    ND and PASOK MEPs vote against FYROM report

    In written announcements after the vote, the two biggest groups of Greek MEPs - those of ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK - stated that they voted against the 2009 progress report for FYROM.

    ND MEPs underlined that Greece's northern neighbour was not ready to begin negotiations and that the delay cannot be attributed to Greece. They said that the final text of the report does not agree with the position of the European Commission and the enlargement Commission Olli Rehn that FYROM is not yet ready to begin accession talks.

    They also stated that the report and its request to the European Council for a date to begin accession negotiations "sends the wrong message to Skopje" and criticised the wording of the report, saying that it presented the issue of the name as a outstanding bilateral dispute that should not affect the country's European prospects.

    PASOK MEPs said that they also voted against the report, again noting that its final content "was completely at odds with the European Commission's report.

    "The result is that Greece appears to be solely responsible for delaying the start of the accession negotiations," the PASOK announcement says, even though the European Commission had "clearly stated that the country does not fulfil the basic requirements for beginning negotiations".

    The MEPs stress that bilateral relations were important but that the dispute over the name was "on no account the cause of the important problems faced by this country".

    [03] EU DMs convene in Prague


    The European Union's operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina (ALTHEA), Chad (EUFOR CHAD/RCA) and Somalia (ATALANTA), in the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy, were discussed on the first day of an EU defence ministers' informal summit here on Thursday.

    Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis said, in his address regarding the ALTHEA operation, that "we believe that whatever decision on the future of the operation must take into consideration the European perspective of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the progress being achieved in this direction, avoiding in parallel the creation of a vacuum in the country's security."

    On the question of the EU's operation in Chad, the Greek defence minister said that "the effort to crack down on violence and criminal activity in the region must be continued, there must be a full development of the succession operation under the UN and, at the same time, the country's government must assist the efforts to establish a viable framework in the sectors of justice and policing."

    [04] Papandreou meets with former PM Simitis

    Former premier Costas Simitis on Thursday stated that the country needs a change of course, following his meeting in a Parliament with main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, his successor as PASOK leader.

    Simitis stressed that he will continue to offer his assistance to PASOK through addresses and written interventions, while he described the meeting with Papandreou as very useful, focusing on domestic problems and EU economic developments in relation to the global economic crisis.

    The former prime minister will be invited to re-attend PASOK's Parliamentary group sessions, while no discussion was made on whether he will run in the European Parliament elections.

    [05] PASOK's Loverdos on foreign policy issues

    Main opposition PASOK foreign policy sector spokesperson Andreas Loverdos pointed out the necessity for a "change of tactic" in foreign policy and even a change of strategy as regards the Greek-Turkish and EU-Turkey relations, in comments made during in an interview with ANA-MPA.

    Referring to US President Barack Obama's imminent visit to Turkey, he stated that it is justified, adding that it is the result of a successful effort on behalf of the neighboring country to "emerge as regional power".

    On the other hand, he accused the New Democracy (ND) government of "wasting the diplomatic and political capital amassed by the governments of PASOK", while as regards the foreign ministry he stressed that it is engaged in "exhaustive public relations".

    On the discovery of mass graves of Cypriots missing since the Turkish invasion of the island, he stated that the gruesome discovery proves that "there are only murdered and no missing people", while he questioned the stance adopted by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on the issue and the absence of any relative response on behalf of the foreign ministry.

    On the issue of the FYROM 'name issue', he stated that the government handled it correctly at the NATO Summit in Bucharest, but after that "it made every mistake in the book".

    Loverdos stressed that Greece's restitution as a central player in the EU and the adoption of a new strategy in the EU-Turkey and Greek-Turkish issues will be a top priority for a government headed by PASOK.

    On the meeting of PASOK leader George Papandreou with former premier Costas Simitis, he stressed that PASOK takes "firm steps toward winning political and social majority".

    [06] SAE positive on expatriate vote

    Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Stephanos Tamvakis and the organisation's coordinators from the regions of the United States, Canada and Asia-Africa on Thursday expressed the SAE's approval, in principle, of a landmark draft law granting voting rights to eligible Greek citizens living permanently abroad for general elections in Greece.

    The opinion was expressed during a joint meeting held on Wednesday between the public administration, public order and justice and overseas Hellenism committees.

    "We are experiencing historic moments with the tabling of this bill," the SAE president said, adding that "the bill provides the possibility of exercising voting rights from our places of residence and for this reason we say that we accept the vote being given to us."

    He also called for the possibility of voting, apart from ballot boxes, by mail as well as for the immediate registering overseas Greeks in voting lists.

    [07] U.S. President Barack Obama to attend March 25 national anniversary event

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    The Archbishop of America Demetrius will again be heading this year the expatriate Greeks who will be attending the event to be held at the White House on March 25, to honour the national anniversary of Hellenism.

    The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, is expected to speak of the values of Greek Democracy and Independence, as well as of Greek-U.S. relations. The Archbishop will be speaking on behalf of the expatriate Greeks, after previously holding a private conversation with President Obama.

    The guests will include leading members of expatriate agencies, American government officials and Congress members of Greek origin, as well as Greece's ambassador in Washington, while the presence of Greek government and Parliamentary representatives cannot be ruled out.

    Financial News

    [08] MIG head unveils plans for OA

    MIG vice-chairman Andreas Vgenopoulos on Thursday said he planned to turn Olympic Airlines into a fully healthy, quality and competitive private airline to the benefit of its shareholders and to servicing the country's needs.

    Speaking to reporters during a news conference in Irakleio, Crete, on the occasion of launching a new coastal shipping route between Piraeus and the port city, the largest on Crete with Attica Group's new vessel, the "Superfast XII".

    Vgenopoulos dismissed press speculation that MIG intended to sell-off Olympic Airlines, saying the group has never sold any of the companies that it purchased.

    He added that based on the group's plans, a new and private Olympic Airlines would begin operating in early October this year, immediately after completion of a liquidation procedure for the current company.

    Vgenopoulos dismissed various press questions citing an interest in politics, while he noted that MIG was still interesting in expanding banking activities in the wider southeast European market, although he stressed that a current global economic crisis has led to a roll-over of plans to a later period.

    He also said MIG intended to contribute to the financing of the country's public debt with more favourable terms and underlined that the group would come out of the crisis stronger.

    Commenting on the ongoing international economic crisis, Vgenopoulos said "amid a global economic crisis we do not opt for words. Business leaders must take their responsibilities and contribute against the crisis".

    [09] President briefed by BoG gov.

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received Bank of Greece Gov. George Provopoulos for a briefing on economic developments.

    The president told the central banker of conflicting economists' theories regarding the duration of the ongoing crisis and whether this crisis would hit Greece as strongly as it hit Germany, for instance. He said the information received by the central banker was significant and that it was a good guide for him.

    Provopoulos said the crisis was continuing and noted that forecasts over economic developments are worsening every month.

    [10] Greece 'cheaper than ever' for tourists in '09, minister

    Greek Tourism Development Minister Costas Markopoulos on Thursday cited the need to adapt tourism growth models and altering expectations in the sector, due to the global economic crisis and uncertainty over developments this year.

    Speaking to reporters in Berlin, the Greek minister stressed no one could make any credible forecasts for tourism trends in the country this year.

    "Anyone who dares a prediction risks defeat, forecasts are forbidden," Markopoulos said, adding that he remained cautiously optimistic that the sector would resist the crisis unless something "very bad" emerged in the European or global economy. He stressed that plans made for Greek tourism would proceed as scheduled. Markopoulos said after very bad figures for January, February was a pleasant surprise but noted that uncertainty prevailed.

    Finally, he said a top priority for 2009 was competitiveness, stressing that "tourists visiting Greece this year will find it cheaper than ever".

    [11] Greek unemployment at 8.9% in Dec.

    The unemployment rate in Greece was recorded at 8.9 percent in December, unchanged from December 2007, the National Statistical Service announced on Thursday. The statistical service, in a report, said the number of unemployed was 434,149 in December 2008, up from 438,066 a year earlier.

    The western Macedonia region (13.4 pct), Epirus (12.2 pct), the South Aegean region (11.8 pct) and Crete (11.2 pct) recorded the highest percentage unemployment rates in December, while the Peloponnese (5.8 pct), the North Aegean region (6.8 pct) and Attica prefecture or greater Athens area (8.3 pct) the lowest rates.

    The unemployment rate for the Ionian islands was 10.2 pct; in Thessaly 9.1 pct and East Macedonia/Thrace 9.3 pct), while for western Greece it was 7.8 pct and in the central Macedonia region 8.8 pct.

    Unemployment hit mostly women (12.2 pct) and to a lesser extent men (6.5 pct).

    [12] Gov't on illegally enclosed balconies, land registry fines

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Thursday clarified that the government does not intend to legalise illegally enclosed sunrooms or balconies in apartment buildings, an ubiquitous phenomenon in Greece's residential construction sector over the past 10 to 15 years.

    "We are talking about reaching a settlement and not about legalisation," he said, adding that a committee set up for this purpose will issue conclusions in May.

    On the land registry issue, Souflias confirmed that those who filed their applications after the expiration of a deadline will pay fines.

    As regards toll roads, the minister stated that tollgates for lorries will be placed in the region of Aghios Stefanos, just north of Athens, at the end of the year. He underlined that the measure will be implemented for trucks that avoid paying tolls at the nearby Afidnes toll station on the main Athens-Thessaloniki highway, stressing that local residents will not be affected.

    [13] Greece, Bulgaria sign rail transport pact

    Greece and Bulgaria on Thursday signed a cross-border railway transport agreement. The agreement, signed by Transport Ministers Evripides Stylianides and Petar Moutafchiev in Komotini, envisages the upgrading of railway transport between the two countries, establishing Greece at the southern end of railway network in Europe and adopting European transport rules.

    The agreement aims to cut transport times for passengers and cargo.

    [14] Turkish business group in Thessaloniki

    Representatives of the Turkish Technological Park TUBITAK and the Organisation of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises of Turkey, KOSGEB, are on a four-day visit to Thessaloniki until Saturday for contacts with local entrepreneurs.

    The visit is held under the auspices of the ministry of Macedonia-Thrace and the Alexandria Innovation Zone in the Pilea district, with the support of the Turkish consul general in Thessaloniki.

    [15] Elinoil completes 76.4 pct of share capital increase plan

    Ålinoil on Thursday announced the completion, by 72.5 pct, of a share capital increase plan, raising 9,543,916 euros through the issuance of 4,771,958 new common anonymous shares.

    The company's board distributed another 256,000 shares raising the coverage of the share capital increase plan to 76.4 pct and raising the sum to 10,056,260 euros.

    [16] Creta Farm signs agreement with ARGAL Alimentario

    Creta Farm on Thursday signed a cooperation agreement with Spain's ARGAL Groupo Alimentario in a move envisaging the creation of a joint venture company.

    The agreement offers Creta Farm access to the Spanish market, a market with an annual consumption of 600,000 tons and an annual turnover of 7.0 billion euros.

    ARGAL Groupo Alimentario was founded in 1914 as a family business and ranks third in the Spanish market.

    [17] Greek stocks end moderately higher

    Greek stocks ended moderately higher after a volatile day at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, helped by a positive trend in other European markets. The composite index rose 1.03 pct to end at 1,554.06 points, with turnover a low 93.8 million euros, of which 6.1 million were block trades.

    Most sectors moved higher, with the Utilities (3.46 pct), Travel (2.73 pct) and Media (1.46 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Raw Materials (1.57 pct), Industrial Products (1.37 pct) and Insurance (1.21 pct) suffered losses.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 1.16 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.12 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index was 0.03 pct up. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 104 to 86 with another 59 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.21%

    Industrials: -1.37%

    Commercial: +0.64%

    Construction: +0.46%

    Media: +1.46%

    Oil & Gas: -0.30%

    Personal & Household: +0.30%

    Raw Materials: -1.57%

    Travel & Leisure: +2.73%

    Technology: +0.46%

    Telecoms: -0.55%

    Banks: +0.99%

    Food & Beverages: +1.31%

    Health: +0.73%

    Utilities: +3.46%

    Chemicals: +0.26%

    Financial Services: +0.74%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.26

    ATEbank: 1.05

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.16

    HBC Coca Cola: 9.88

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.28

    National Bank of Greece: 10.08

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.70

    Intralot: 3.92

    Bank of Piraeus: 4.12

    Titan Cement Company: 14.62

    [18] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover easing to 38.131 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.77 pct, with volume of 6,378 contracts worth 23.882 million euros and 41,762 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 23,050 contracts worth 14.249 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,130), followed by Eurobank (2,821), OPAP (1,571), Piraeus Bank (1,423), GEK (1,534), Alpha Bank (1,148), Ellaktor (1,969) and Cyprus Bank (1,299).

    [19] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market was a low 626 million euros on Thursday, of which 340 million were buy orders and the remaining 286 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 150 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds eased to 298 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 5.99 pct and the German Bund 3.01 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates ended lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.93 pct, the six-month rate 1.79 pct, the three-month rate 1.65 pct and the one-month rate 1.27 pct.

    [20] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.288

    Pound sterling 0.938

    Danish kroner 7.512

    Swedish kroner 11.301

    Japanese yen 125.29

    Swiss franc 1.534

    Norwegian kroner 8.963

    Canadian dollar 1.659

    Australian dollar 1.994

    General News

    [21] Con'f on women, media

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos referred to the utilisation of mass media on issues that concern women's rights protection and their appointment in occupations that highlight their abilities, sensitivities and qualifications addressing a conference on women and mass media hosted by the General Secretariats of Information and Gender Equality.

    Pavlopoulos outlined the efforts made in recent years to lift gender inequalities and underlined that media, being the reflection of society and an indication of culture and Democracy, can assist the State in its effort to uproot any negative stereotypes while encouraging women to claim a place in decision-making centers and high-profile positions.

    General Secretary of Gender Equality Evgenia Tsoumani stressed that the media can contribute to the efforts aimed at lifting prejudices and obsolete mentalities. She also referred to the measures adopted aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs.

    [22] ESIEA president addresses con'f on women, mass media

    Athens Journalists' Union (ESIEA) President Panos Sobolos referred to the presence of women in the mass media, in his address at a conference held on Thursday on the theme of "women and the mass media".

    "Thirty years ago women involved in journalism were like a fly in milk. Today, women account for almost 50 percent of the total number and it is certain that they will also be exceeding this figure shortly," Sobolos said, adding that "nobody wants the media neither to be dominated by women nor by men. All want equal representation."

    [23] Acropolis open for visitors

    Culture Minister employees on Thursday cancelled their 24-hour strike and opened the archaelogical site of the Acropolis for visitors, in an act of good will after reassurances by Culture Minister Antonis Samaras for resolving the problem of paying contract staff working at the culture ministry through a bill to be tabled in Parliament within days.

    A number of staff at the ministry, who had originally been taken on with temporary contracts and had won temporary court orders allowing them to continue working at the ministry until their case was settled, had found their pay blocked by the Court of Audit after the start of the 2009, which refused to approve ministry payment orders on the grounds that there was no obligation to execute a court decision that was not final, so that staff were essentially working unpaid.

    [24] Russian website devoted entirely to Greece

    A Russian couple that visited Greece eight years ago are the creators and operators of the only Russian-speaking news website, <>, focusing exclusively on Greece.

    Roughly 2,500-4,000 Net users visit the website on a daily basis and learn about the Greek language, culture, tourism and investments.

    The website debuted on March 15, 2001 and was met with a positive response considering that based on data provided by Google Analytics its visitors annually are roughly 700,000.

    [25] 'Revolutionary Struggle' claims Citibank attacks

    The 'Revolutionary Struggle' group has claimed two recent attacks against Citibank premises, in a proclamation sent to a weekly newspaper appearing on Thursday, and warned that it would continue to carry out such attacks, with previous warnings made to the media.

    In the proclamation sent to 'To Pontiki', the group assumes responsibility for the March 9 early morning explosion outside a Citibank branch in Athens' northeastern suburb of Filothei, which caused extensive damage to the branch and cars parked nearby, and for the failed February 18 early monring attempt at the Citibank office building in the northern suburb of Kifissia with a booby-trapped car packed with explosives which was neutralized by bomb-disposal experts.

    In the proclamation, the group denies that it had wanted to cause injury to innocent bystanders in the Kifissia attempt, and accused what it called the "paid hacks of the establishment, namely the journalists" of engaging in "goebbelian propaganda" in speaking of a 'blind hit' and an 'al Qaeda style attack', adding that the purpose of the attack had been "to destroy the infrastructure of this specific multinational, rendering its presence on Greek ground precarious".

    "Since, however, we intend to continue to carry out actions with time mechanisms and give warnings of them to the media, so that they will be carried out in a safe way, we declare that if there is any delay in making the warning telephone calls known and in the evacuation of buildings and areas, resulting in risk to the security of citizens, the police and the media that will have received the telephone will be solely responsible," the proclamation said.

    The group said that the targets, whether material or human, were selected on the basis of "social and class criteria", focusing on "the political and economic elite, the mechanisms of the capital and the state, the police guarding them", and not "the general public".

    Extensive reference is also made in the proclamation to the global financial crisis, the causes that led to it, and the "role" played by Citibank and banks in general.

    [26] Jail sentence against far-right militant upheld

    An Athens appellate court on Thursday upheld a previous conviction on right-wing political militant Antonis Androutsopoulos, also known as "Periandros". The original sentence was 12 years in prison. In the first instance, he was found guilty and sentenced to serve 21 years for an attempted homicide outside the first instance Athens courthouse in June 1998.

    The charges he faced in relation to the attack on two other students were reduced to dangerous bodily harm and subsequently withdrawn due to a statute of limitations.

    According to the ruling, the jail time Androutsopoulos served since 2005 pending trial will be subtracted from the sentence.

    Minor incidents, between supporters and self-styled "anti-state" activists were reported after the sentence was announced, quickly ending after a police intervention.

    [27] Woman shot in robbery dies

    A woman shot in an armed robbery at the Germanos chain died as a result of her injuries shortly after arriving at the Laiko Hospital on Thursday afternoon.

    Police said the woman was shot in the chest and doctors had no time to save her, since she died within minutes of arriving at hospital.

    The outlet of the Germanos chain in Vyronas where the woman worked had earlier been the target of an armed robbery by two men, one of whom was also injured in a subsequent exchange of fire with an off-duty police officer that happened to be on the scene and gave chase.

    The robber, an Albanian national, is now being treated for his injuries at the Evangelismos Hospital, while his accomplice managed to get away.

    The incident occured shortly after 14:00, when the two armed men entered the electronic goods outlet - which also serves as a payment centre for phone bills for the entire OTE and Cosmote group - and grabbed an unknown quantity of money. On their way out of the shop, however, they began to shoot and a bullet hit the unlucky woman, who was rushed to Laiko Hospital.

    In the shop at the time was an off-duty police officer in plain clothes, who gave chase, called on the robbers to surrender and exchanged fire with them at a distance of about 100 metres from the shop, hitting one of the two men as they tried to flee.

    Attica Security police are now on the scene and conducting an investigation, while a manhunt is underway to locate and arrest the second of the two robbers.

    [28] Abbot accused of sexual assault remanded in custody

    The abbot of a monastery in Keratea, east Attica prefecture, who is charged with repeated indecent assaults on minors, will be remanded in custody pending trial, following his lengthy testimony before a magistrate on Thursday.

    The 68-year-old monk was reported by his alleged victims several days ago, while several of the accusers are now adults.

    The defendant's lawyer said his client denies the charges and attributes the accusations to a plot and to exaggeration.

    [29] Latest Sithonia mayor resigns

    The newly installed mayor of the resort town of Sithonia, in Halkidiki of northern Greece, tendered his resignation to the Central Macedonia Region's general secretary five days after assuming his duties, citing increased local opposition towards him. Antonis Bougas was elected mayor on March 4 after the resignation of his predecessor, Dimitris Daldoyannis. The procedure for the election of a new mayor is underway.

    Weather Forecast

    [30] Cloudy, rainy on Friday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and northwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 4-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 0C and 16C. Cloudy and showery in Athens, with northwesterly 5-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 15C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 12C.

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

    Government's new bill on collection agencies, which will be renamed "debtor information companies" and will not collect monies but simply inform consumers on their overdue debts, the clash between government and businessmen on the on the layoffs, and New Democracy former Prime Minister and honorary party president Constantinos Mitsotakis' recommendations to PM Costas Karamanlis not to proceed to early elections dominated the headlines on Thursday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "New bill puts a full stop to collection agencies' lack of restraint".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos continues his innovative policy with rational proposals".

    AVGHI: "Synaspismos: "A meeting of the party's leaders on Wednesday left behind the in-party clashes and prepares the ground for SYRIZA's (SYN-led Coalition of the Radical Left parliamentary alliance) battle in the europarliament elections".

    CHORA: "The consumers' resistance is a boycott - Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis states: We will not accept price rises in staple goods".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Profane game under the sacred hill of the Acropolis - Culture Minister announces that he will solve Culture Ministry employees' issues but the employees continue to keep closed the Acropolis archaelogical site".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Former FinMin George Alogoskoufis states at his first public speech (after leaving the ministry): You didn't achieve anything with my beheading".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "900 euros extra tax on real estate".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Former Prime Minster Constantinos Mitsotakis and former FinMin George Alogoskoufis make recommendations to PM Costas Karamanlis on early elections and economic crisis".

    ESTIA: "Major opportunitiy for reforms - The government must take advantage of the crisis".

    ETHNOS: "Ministers give ludicrous explanations for the high cost of living - Development ministry gives absurd explanations".

    KATHIMERINI: "Tremendous decline in investment - Growth slowed down by 2.9 percent in 2008".

    LOGOS: "Enterpreneurs... threaten the government - Open war between government and businessmen".

    NIKI: "New Democracy government increased our state debt by 61 billion euros - Karamanlis' government increased tremendously the debt and exposed the country".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Resistance to the layoffs and massive and aggressive participation in the struggles".

    TA NEA: "Unbearable loans for the SME's - Banks bring suffocation to market".

    TO VIMA: "Activity in the parties - Approaches, clashes and 'flirting."

    VRADYNI: "Stop to collection agencies' lack of restraint".

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