|Friday, 23 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-03-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 19 March 2009 Issue No: 3149
 Gov't unveils measures to cut spending, boost revenues‘he government on Wednesday announced a series of measures aimed at reining in public spending, including a freeze on salaries of public sector employees earning more than 1,700 euros a month, as well as a symbolic 5-percent tax hike for Parliament MPs, judges and physicians.
Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou also announced the imposition of a one-off tax levy of 1,000 euros for annual incomes above 60,000 euros and up to 80,000 euros; 2,000 euros for incomes ranging from 80,000 to 100,000 euros; 3,000 euros for incomes ranging from 100,000 to 150,000 euros and 4,000 euros for personal annual incomes exceeding 150,000 euros.
The Greek FinMin said the decisions were difficult, while he announced to civil servants with a monthly income of up to 1,500 euros by Dec. 31, 2008 would be given a one-off financial bonus totaling 500 euros for the year. He added that the measures would aid the incomes of financially weaker groups of society and better allocate the burden of the ongoing international economic crisis.
The government also announced that hirings in the public sector would total 12,000 this year despite the fact that 21,500 civil servants retired last year.
Papathanassiou said both the Greek and the European economies were facing the biggest crisis since 1929 and that forecasts by international organisations were becoming more and more pessimistic. He stressed that the government's aim was to strengthen the Greek economy.
"We are creating a safety net for the economy against the crisis," he said, expressing his confidence that the measures would help in achieving better results. He added that the decisions also aimed at boosting the country's economic credibility.
Finally, the minister said the government's volition to take these measures comes as the crisis has hit the economy, adding that governments around the world are protecting enterprises and employment. Papathanassiou said the measures would save state coffers more than 350 million euros this year.
 PM Karamanlis meets Nobel Economics laureate Paul KrugmanPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis received on Wednesday 2008 Nobel Economics Prize laureate Paul Krugman, professor of economic and international affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at the Maximos mansion (government's headquarters). Economy and Finance Minister Yannis Papathanassiou was also present at the meeting.
No statements were made after the meeting
Government on PM's meeting with Krugman
Questioned about a meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and visiting economist Prof. Paul Krugman earlier on Wednesday, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros underlined that the meeting should not be linked to European Union summit beginning in Brussels on Thursday.
In reply to a question about the prime ministers "preferred school of thought" on economic issues, the spokesman underlined that the meeting had occurred in the framework of other such meetings between the premier and renowned international figures that visited the country.
"It is not a question of schools. What is important is that people having great experience in economic issues talk with the premier, analyse the international economic crisis and thus further enrich his already extensive international and economic experience," he added.
 Bakoyannis briefs president, repeats offer to host OSCE meetingForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday briefed President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on the initiatives of the Greek chair within the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
"The Greek presidency aims to contribute to establishing peace and stability in the extremely sensitive area of the Caucasus and Central Asia" said Bakoyannis after the meeting.
She also repeated that the Greek chair is seeking to facilitate dialogue, considered necessary by all sides, on proposals put forward by the Russian and French presidents on European security.
Earlier, Papoulias had also referred to Greece's proposal to host an informal OSCE foreign ministers' meeting in Athens in the summer to discuss redesigning Europe's security architecture, made by Bakoyannis on Tuesday during an EU-OSCE Troika meeting in Brussels.
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will leave on Monday for Tbilisi, Georgia to preside over an OSCE meeting.
 Athens eyes informal OSCE summitThe Greek OSCE chairmanship has announced its intention to hold an informal OSCE foreign ministers' summit to exchange views on the so-called new "European security architecture" based on proposals by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.
"We believe that the informal character of the meeting will be helpful in dealing with this complex issue, which needs time to mature," spokesman George Koumoutsakos said, reminding that the first relative discussion was held at the end of the Finnish chairmanship in Helsinki last December.
In an unrelated development and asked about a controversial Turkish military exercise in the eastern Aegean, code-named "Egemon", Koumoutsakos stated that participating European countries have provided "assurances" that Greek positions will be taken under very serious consideration in the maneuvers and their participation per se.
The exercise is being closely monitored by the Greek side, he stressed.
Regarding the Greek Helsinki Monitor, GHM, its programmes and funding, Koumoutsakos stated that the second stage of its financing has been suspended due to inadequate supporting documents.
 Athens on fYRoM FM's letter; emphasis on 'name issue' solution reiteratedGreece on Wednesday reiterated that it wholeheartedly believes that efforts by Athens and Skopje must focus on the outstanding "name issue", which it called "critical", as well as on negotiations under the United Nations' auspices.
Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos made the statement in announcing that Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis has received a letter from her counterpart from the neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM).
In briefly discussing the contents of the letter sent by fYRoM Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, Koumoutsakos referred to previously cited proposals, namely, a "peace and cooperation treaty", a bilateral committee of education and history experts as well as a framework for development of bilateral ties.
The letter reportedly arrived at the foreign ministry in Athens on Tuesday.
"A solution to this problem (name issue) will be the catalyst (for improved relations) ... other types of conduct are merely a temporising tactic and belie an attempt to reverse priorities and an attempt to divert the negotiation from its objective," Koumoutsakos said.
Referring to the gist of FM Milososki's letter, namely, the greater development of bilateral relations, the spokesman reiterated that the "course of relations depends on the implementation of the (September 1995) 'interim agreement'. A solution to the name issue will also serve as a catalyst for the development of bilateral relations, regional cooperation and the neighboring country's European prospect."
Conversely, Koumoutsakos did not rule out the possibility of a reply by Athens.
Moreover, he announced that Bakoyannis, in her capacity as chairwoman of the OSCE presidency for 2009, will visit the former Yugoslav republic to Greece's north after presidential and local government elections there on Sunday. Nevertheless, he noted that the Greek foreign minister's pending visit to Skopje has no relation to bilateral ties or the "name issue".
Asked about a recent report by a UN human rights expert on the situation of minority rights in EU and NATO member-state Greece, Koumoutsakos referred directly the recent and exhaustive responses by the Greek ambassador at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Koumoutsakos also mentioned, in reply to a press question, that Greece will not send observers to fYRoM for the coming elections there in order to avoid any misunderstandings or attempts to involve the Greek presidency of the OSCE in the election-monitoring process.
 Deputy foreign minister in BelgradeBELGRADE (ANA-MPA - N. Pelpas)
Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis on Wednesday met Serb Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, on the first day of his three-day visit to Serbia.
The meeting was conducted in a friendly climate and focused on bilateral relations, developments in the Balkans, Serbia's progress toward joining the European Union but also the situation in Kosovo, in view of a visit to Belgrade by the head of the European mission to Kosovo (EULEX) Yves de Kermabon.
During discussion on the global economic crisis and its repercussions, the Greek minister expressed concern about the problems faced by Greek businesses in Serbia and Jeremic, on his part, promised Belgrade's support and assistance in resolving any problems that arose. Varvitsiotis later met individual heads of Greek businesses based in the area, promising Athens' assistance in overcoming their problems.
The Greek deputy minister is later scheduled to meet Serb Economy and Regional Development Minister Mladjan Dinkic.
 Deputy FM Varvitsiotis discusses Axis 10 with Serb leadershipBELGRADE (ANA-MPA/N. Pelpas)
Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis told the ANA-MPA that the way with which Greece will be participating in the reconstruction of road Axis 10 has been finalised, following his meeting on Wednesday with Serb Economy and Regional Development Minister Mladzan Dinkic.
Varvitsiotis, who began a three-day working visit to Belgrade, said that the trip's great success is that the way of participation in the project and its funding has been finalised, as had already been promised since 2002.
He further said that an agreement was reached on the specific section of the project which will be funded directly by the Greek government, as well as on the amount with which it will participate in the reconstruction of the section being funded by the World Bank.
Varvitsiotis said that he reassured his interlocutors in Serbia that Greek banks are not facing problems like the banks of other countries are, and will continue their banking task, just like before, and the aim is for them to maintain the infiltration percentage and market share that they have already achieved.
The deputy minister went on to say that "the continuation and strengthening of the presence of Greek businesses in Serbia is of paramount importance for our economic policy and our policy in the Balkans in general, since we believe that the economic development of the countries in the region and Greece's economic infiltration gives us political advantages."
 Papandreou meets Serb official, economist Paul KrugmanThe global economic crisis dominated successive meetings held on Wednesday by Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou, leader of Greece's main opposition PASOK party, with the head of Serbia's Socialist Party Ivica Dacic and prestigious economist Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for economics.
After meeting Dacic, who is also Serbia's interior minister and first deputy prime minister, Papandreou expressed satisfaction that Serbia's government "was making decisive and systematic progress in important issues concerning its course toward the European Union."
PASOK's leader said that his talks with Dacic had also covered developments in the Balkans and ways in which socialists in the Balkans could cope with the economic crisis, while announcing that Balkan socialist parties were mulling a meeting to exchange views and facilitate cooperation between them in view of the crisis.
According to Dacic, the current crisis was proof that the neo-liberal economic model had failed and he stressed that socialists must become an alternative solution, while expressing his party's interest in joining the SI.
The two men also discussed Kosovo, with Dacic noting the destruction of Serb cultural heritage within the region and the fact that various countries had recognised Kosovo's independence outside a United Nations framework.
Papandreou praises Krugman
Receiving Prof. Krugman, PASOK's leader described him as an academic that was not afraid to speak out boldly and without compromise, whose personal stance had shown that science and politics were not incompatible concepts.
Referring to Krugman's work, Papandreou said that the renowned economist had provided answers to crucial questions regarding economies in the framework of globalisation.
PASOK's leader noted that he approached the Krugman's work from a sociological viewpoint, raising the issue of democracy and whether the increasing economic inequality of the modern world cast doubt on the existence of democracy.
The 2008 Nobel Economics Prize laureate, professor of economic and international affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, will be the keynote speaker at a conference to be held in Athens on Wednesday on the theme "The stockmarket crisis: Management in periods of challenges".
While in Athens, Professor Krugman will also meet Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou.
 KKE opposes privatisation for statistics serviceCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Wednesday underlined that her party will oppose any attempt to privatise Greece's National Statistics Service, or convert it into an independent authority. She made the statement while meeting the statistics service staff nationwide union.
"We may disagree with the state that we live in but that does not mean that we can agree to changing labour relations. Much more so when services for which the state is responsible are transferred to other centres that no one can control, either within or outside Parliament," she said.
Commenting on measures announced by the government to crack down on violent demonstrators and rioting within city centres - specifically measures forbidding demonstrators from concealing their faces with the use of hoods and other methods - she forecast that the incidents would be used to set up a more repressive state.
 Alavanos on STAGE employees, joblessnessCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group head Alekos Alavanos on Wednesday met the Panhellenic Union of STAGE Employees and called for the renewal of the contracts of all those working in STAGE programmes, with full pay, insurance and labour rights.
SYRIZA's leader also called for emergency measures to find jobs for the unemployed while warning against attempt to "recycle unemployment" and make employees "hostages of the government". He particularly emphasised the need to help young people in this context, and "not create a hotbed of joblessness, poverty and degradation of young people that will only generate violence, looting and the breaking of shop windows".
Regarding the measures announced by the government to discourage violence and rioting during demonstrations, Alavanos said these were primarily "for appearances" and would not solve the problems of the government's incompetence and the lack of protection for the public, while also giving rise to serious legal complications.
 SYN President Tsipras' press conference in TripolisCoalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN) President Alexis Tsipras met Wednesday with production sector representatives in Tripolis, southern Greece, and in a press conference he gave afterwards stressed that "the crisis is widespread" calling for a "change of policy, public monitoring of the banking system and replacement of the stability pact".
Referring to the incidents of violence, Tsipras stated that his party has tabled specific proposals that can be effective.
He also warned that the countryside is threatened with desertification as a result of the economic crisis.
Tsipras will wrap up his visit to Tripolis with a visit to the University of the Peloponnese to address a student audience and after delivering a speech in the city's cultural center.
 Education minister on university asylumEducation Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos on Wednesday underlined that the government was committed to preserving university asylum as a place for the free exchange of ideas.
"Our target was and continues to be to protect asylum as an asylum for ideas, reflection, education and research," he said in response to press questions.
The minister also noted that the current law on university asylum was recent and not always applied, while the government was open to suggestions for improvements once it had been tested in practice.
"In any case, if in the future, ideas on reforms are proposed by any party within the framework of the official dialogue on education that has begun, these proposals will be evaluated and if they are can really contribute, we will consider them," he said.
In the meantime, the minister added, it would be better for the law already in place, which arose through consensus between all the parties, was properly enforced.
Spiliotopoulos also confirmed that he was favourably disposed to the idea of removing universities from the centre of Athens.
"Long before I became education and religious affairs minister, I have supported that for historic reasons, for reasons of symbolism and as a duty to the younger generation, we should convert the Polytechnic (National Technical University of Athens) to a National Resistance Museum, so that we can all remember the tank that on that night sought to violently abolish freedom of speech and thought in universities," the minister said.
 Justice minister clarifies prison reformsJustice Minister Nikos Dendias on Wednesday outlined a series of recent legislative reforms for the justice system and to alleviate prison overcrowding, stressing that the goal is to provide solutions to numerous and long-standing problems.
According to an announcement on Wednesday the new measures include allowing the Greek ombudsman the right to enter and inspect the country's correctional facilities; a detox facility at the Cassandra lockup in northern Greece; inclusion of prison hospitals in the National Health System (ESY); changing certain prison terms in favor of community service for drug offenders.
In addition, type C high-security correctional facilities will be established for lifers and dangerous criminals while the possession and use of mobile phones will be banned within correctional facilities. Additionally, charges of collusion of prison guards or police officers in jailbreaks will be upgraded into a felony.
 ND Secretary on new law against demonstrators concealing facesNew Democracy Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis on Wednesday stressed that the government's new legislation, which introduced extra penalties for those convicted of vandalism and related crimes if they had concealed their faces by wearing hoods or other items, targeted "those that break the law, those who destroy, those who vandalise, those who injure".
Those who did the above had to be arrested and punished, "whether or not they wore hoods," he added.
"Some people have to choose. Are they with the hood-wearers that break the law or with the people? Are they with legality or not?" he said.
 Parliament committee approves new ELAS Internal Affairs directorThe Parliamentary Special Permanent Committee on Institutions and Transparency approved Ilias Zachos' candidacy for the post of the director of the Greek Police (ELAS) Division of Internal Affairs.
Zachos was appointed Internal Affairs deputy director eight moths ago and has 33 years of service in the Greek Police.
All the members of the committee praised his personality and qualifications.
 Former Polish PM addresses Constantine Karamanlis Democracy Institute eventFormer Polish prime minister and current Eurodeputy Jerzy Buzek, addressing an event organised in Athens on Wednesday by the Constantine Karamanlis Institute of Democracy and the group of Eurodeputies of the European People's Party-European Democrats, focused on the issue of "European Accord: Energy and Security-Vision for a common future."
Buzek said that one speaks in the European Union now of a common European energy policy, stressing that in order for this to be achieved political will is necessary by the governments of the member-states.
He added that the EU has mainly two problems to overcome. The demographic and energy ones and pointed out that a change in energy policy is an issue of strategic importance. He also said that environmental changes necessitate new measures in the countriews of Europe that must turn to the development of renewable energy sources.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos meets ministry representatives CommitteeISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos raised the issue of the reopening of the Halki School of Theology and the problems of Community foundations in the City with a Committee of Turkey's Foreign and Interior ministries that visited the Phanar on Wednesday.
Participating in the Committee were ambassador Kerim Uras, deputy director of the Foreign ministry's Cyprus-Greece Department, as well as Alp Aye, director of the Political Affairs General Department of the Foreign ministry's European Union General Secretariat.
 Canadian envoy meets Macedonia-Thrace ministerMacedonia-Thrace Minister Stavros Kalafatis received on Wednesday Canadian Ambassador to Greece Renata E. Wielgosz. The latter is currently in Thessaloniki supporting Canada's participation in the 11th Short Film Festival.
Kalafatis and Wielgosz agreed on a "future continuous mutually beneficial contact towards protecting and reinforcing entrepreneurship, especially in the tourism sector," given the world economic crisis.
 FM Bakoyannis addresses event on FrancophonyForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis addressed an event held at the French embassy for Francophony Day, which is celebrated on March 20 by 82 countries, that communicate in French, and in which Greece has been included with a dominant voice since 2004.
The foreign minister referred to the founding of the institution of Francophony in Nigeria in 1970, stressing that this international organisation is based on the fact that the country-members wish to use the bonds that are created by the common language and global values in the service of peace, cooperation, solidarity and sustainable development.
She added that a characteristic of this organisation is that the French language, "although setting out from the same starting point, respects and promotes cultural differences."
 Sale of OA land service to MIG approvedThe land service package of Olympic Airways (OA) passes formally into the hands of the Marfin Investment Group (MIG), apart from the flight and technical services, following the green light given by the Interministerial Privatisation Committee on Wednesday afternoon, which accepted the relevant proposal made by the government's monetary and legal advisers.
The development concludes the issue of the privatisation of all three pylons of Olympic Airways, whose privatisation will produce benefits amounting to 177.2 million euros for the state, while it is expected to have additional benefits later resulting from additional asset elements.
Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said that the Greek taxpayers will stop paying about 350 million euros a year for OA and the state will be receiving 150 million in contributions to the Social Security Foundation (IKA), Spata airport stamp tax and salaried services taxes.
The price for the land service amounted to 44.8 million euros, while another 5 million euros must be added to this figure, that is the buyoff of the share capital of the new land service company.
According to Hatzidakis, the agreements between the Hellenic state and MIG will be signed next week and then the contracts will be forwarded to Parliament for ratification.
 Paul Krugman: International economic crisis a collective problem2008 Nobel Economics Prize laureate Paul Krugman, professor of economic and international affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, addressing a conference on Wednesday on "The Monetary Crisis: Management in times of challenge" organised in Athens by the Prothesis Business Consulting society, said he was very concerned over what is happening in the global economy as well as over the inadequacy of the politicians to handle the international monetary crisis.
Krugman said that the international economic crisis is a collective problem and added that understanding the causes of the crisis is of crucial importance, particularly from a political point of view since the international economy has been dealt a blow by the virus of recession and the usual medicines are not having an effect. He pointed out that the increase in demand and investments through the decrease in interest rates is not possible for the first time since 1930.
According to Krugman, the situation with regard to the international economy is now peculiar since, as he said, the usual rules do not apply and public policy is required to change this peculiar sitation that is being experienced. He further said that "we were told to say once upon a time that an increase in consumption is an act of patriotism, we did this in 2001 (following the attacks on the twin towers in New York) but not now."
Comparing the situation currently prevailing in the Unuited States and Europe, Krugman said that a considerable plan for the recovery of the economy exists in the United States which, as he said, is not adequate since 4,5 million jobs have already been lost, while Europe has done even less and now it has a coordination problem and even leading politicians have not realised the magnitude of the crisis.
 Transport minister at conference on deregulating postal marketTransport and Communications Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Wednesday underlined the urgent need to form a framework that will ensure quality services for all and guarantee the benefits of healthy competition in view of the postal services deregulation.
Addressing a conference on postal services hosted by the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission, EETT, the national regulatory authority that supervises and regulates the telecommunications and postal services market, Stylianidis stressed that a draft law is in the wings, while the 3rd EU postal directive will soon be incorporated into national legislation.
Stylianidis called on all parties involved to prepare the ground for the imminent changes, underlining that the communications environment will be drastically altered due to the technological advancements in the sector and the postal market deregulation that will be in effect in Greece in 2013, two years after most of the EU countries.
 KEDKE president meeting with finance ministerThe dialogue between the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) and the national economy and finance ministry will be launched in April, focusing on ways to make up for revenues lost by local administration as a result of the reduced municipal tax imposed on private businesses operating in tourist regions.
Commenting after a meeting on Wednesday with National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou, KEDKE President and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis stated that the minister has pledged that the dialogue will get underway on April 4 and will be completed by the end of the month.
Kaklamanis added that the dialogue will be based on the proposals tabled by KEDKE or any other alternative proposal by the ministry of finance, pointing out that this is a very positive development.
The invitation to a dialogue extended by the minister will have to be approved by KEDKE's administrative bodies.
 Proclamation on electric power markets signedA proclamation on climatic change, electric power markets and the security of energy supply was signed in Brussels on Wednesday by 61 senior officials of electric power companies that are members of Eurelectric.
According to an announcement by Greece's Public Power Corporation (PPC), the specific proclamation "is of great importance since the companies that are members of Eurelectric are committed to eliminating the consequences of the use of coal until 2050, taking all the necessary measures to achieve this common goal."
All the electric power companies are taking action to modernise their electric power production potential and network infrastructures and to carry out the investments required to achieve environmental targets. In order to achieve the targets, the European electric power industry must invest 1.8 trillion euros by 2030.
The proclamation as also co-signed by PPC's president and managing director Panayiotis Athanasopoulos who said that "the proclamation of the European electric power companies constitutes a great challenge that they are being called on to handle to have the environment protected effectively."
 ADEDY presents report on 'economic crisis in Greece'The Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) presented a report on Wednesday regarding the "economic crisis in Greece", prepared by the GPO company. ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros said that the report's findings "show the fairer distribution of wealth and the strengthening of the state and of solidarity as being a social demand."
He said that the findings "record the struggling and demanding stance of trade unions, while it appears that working people assess the protection and upgrading of health and education under the conditions of the crisis."
According to the report, 59.9 percent of respondents say that, compared to last year, their financial state has worsened as against 35.9 percent who believe that it has remained the same and only 4.1 percent who declare that it has improved.
Moreover, 51.4 percent fear a little or not at all that they will lose their job due to the crisis and 44.4 percent fear greatly or to a considerable extent the prospect of unemployment.
A further 86 percent of respondents attribute a degree of responsibility for the economic crisis to the difficult international conditions, while 84.8 percent attribute profiteering by banks and 66.4 percent the corruption of governments.
Lastly, 92.5 percent assess as being a priority the support for financially weaker groups, 61.3 percent prefer that big banks pass under the control of the state and 52.9 percent agree with the response that the economy must be supported even if the taking of tough austerity measures is necessary.
 Compensation to Kolonaki shop ownersDeputy Economy and Finance Minister Athanassios Bouras will table on Wednesday an amendment in parliament that provides for compensation to Kolonaki store owners whose shops were targetted and damaged by hooded groups last Friday.
 Lay-offs in tourism sector inevitable, industry head saysLay-offs in the tourism sector are inevitable, Nikos Angelopoulos, the president of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), said on Wednesday.
Addressing the annual general assembly of travel agents (HATTA), Angelopoulos urged for the expansion of employment subsidies offered to enterprises, and stressed that measures announced by the government to support the tourism sector are inadequate to deal with the crisis. He underlined that authorities have delayed the country's ad campaign abroad.
Meletis Tzaferis, the secretary general of the tourism development ministry, said the ministry was launching a dialogue to draft new legislation to deal with problems facing travel agents.
The president of the travel agents' association, Elena Fili, in her address, underlined the difficult year ahead for Greek tourism and stressed that cooperation by all sides was needed to deal with the consequences.
 Greek tourism pavilion at Moscow fairThe Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) on Wednesday inaugurated the Greek pavilion at the MITT international travel fair in Moscow.
GNTO president Yiannis Kofinis, in his address, stressed that the Greek government's policy was focusing on efforts to further boost the country's presence in international fairs and to implement the biggest ad campaign in the last few years.
"We are ready to communicate our vision and the Greek tourism product and we will succeed," he said.
Kofinis noted that Russian market was a target-market for Greece, while saying that the excellent political relations between the two countries could further develop economic relations.
 Broadband services grow strongly in Greece, reportBroadband penetration was 13.43 pct in Greece at the start of the year, and the dynamism of domestic demand for broadband services make it a feasible target of converging with EU-27 by the end of 2010, a report by the Observatory for Information Society said on Wednesday.
The report said that 13 out of 20 Greeks enjoyed one of the most competitive retail access prices in the European Union, with 1,975 new DSL connections made every day in the second half of 2008, of which 1,405 were LLU connections.
Average nominal broadband speed access was 5.9 Mb/s early in 2008, ranking Greece sixth in the EU, with 30 pct of Greek subscribers enjoying connections with speed exceeding 2Mb/s.
The number fixed broadband lines in Greece totaled 1,506,614, an increase of 48.1 pct from the previous year and up 20.2 pct from the first half of 2008, with 6,260 leased lines and 184,625 wireless connections (data cards).
European Union data showed that domestic broadband coverage was 86 pct in early 2008, slightly down from a 92 pct average in the rest of the EU.
 Industrial import prices down 1.7% in Jan.Greece's import composite index in the industrial sector fell 1.7 pct in January 2009, compared with the same month last year, the National Statistical Service said on Wednesday.
The statistics service said the index was up 8.6 pct in January 2008 and down 1.3 pct in January 2007. The import index rose 0.1 pct in January from December 2008.
The statistics service attributed the 1.7-pct decline in the index in January to a 2.0-pct rise in intermediate goods, a 1.5-pct rise in durable goods, a 0.6-pct rise in capital goods and a 12.2 pct decline in energy goods.
 Business meetings in Kosovo on April 6-7Business meetings in the sectors of foods-drinks, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, electrical appliances, construction materials and construction will take place in Pristina, Kosovo on April 6-7.
The meetings are organized by the Liaison Office of Greece in Pristina, the Office of Deputy General Secretary for International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation, and the Economic and Commercial Affairs Office in Northern Greece.
The Exporters' Association of Northern Greece (SEVE) will be the mission coordinator.
 Energy Tech exhibition opens in ThessalonikiDeputy Development Minister Ioannis Bougas will inaugurate the Energy Tech 2009: 2nd International Exhibition of Heating-Cooling, Conventional and Renewable Energy Sources on March 19 at the Thessaloniki International Exhibition Center.
The exhibition will run until March 22.
 Greek stocks end 0.35 pct downGreek stocks ended moderately lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, following a decline in other international markets. The composite index fell 0.35 pct to end at 1,578.63 points, with turnover a low 93.9 million euros of which 2.1 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Constructions (1.65 pct), Food/Beverage (1.06 pct) and Personal/Home Products (0.46 pct) scoring gains, while Financial Services (3.29 pct), Oil (1.46 pct) and Insurance (1.02 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index eased 0.50 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.22 pct up and the FTSE 80 index rose 0.16 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 94 to 92 with another 57 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.46%
Personal & Household: +0.46%
Raw Materials: +0.04%
Travel & Leisure: -0.47%
Food & Beverages: +1.06%
Financial Services: -3.29%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and Public Power Corp (PPC).
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 3.96
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.24
HBC Coca Cola: 10.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.37
National Bank of Greece: 10.60
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.87
Bank of Piraeus: 4.18
Titan Cement Company: 14.68
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 74.719 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.67 pct with volume at 14,913 contracts worth 57.605 million euros and 31,321 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 26,868 contracts worth 17.114 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,337), followed by Eurobank (1,094), MIG (1,740), OTE (862), PPC (1,151), OPAP (1,707), Piraeus Bank (1,047), Alpha Bank (1,797), Intracom (1,511), Marfin Popular Bank (2,528) and Cyprus Bank (1,963).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.323
Pound sterling 0.946
Danish kroner 7.510
Swedish kroner 11.050
Japanese yen 129.97
Swiss franc 1.545
Norwegian kroner 8.879
Canadian dollar 1.669
Australian dollar 1.999
 Renovated Nafplio Archaeological Museum inauguratedCulture minister Antonis Samaras inaugurated the updated exhibits of the Archaeological Museum of Nafplio on Tuesday evening, as the Museum, one of the most historic in Greece, reopened to the public after five years, during which it underwent extensive renovation.
Speaking at a special ceremony, Samaras stressed that Argolida prefecture, with the state-of-the-art renovated Nafplio musum, was pointing the way to all the other regions of Greece, a country that was brimming with monumental treasures.
Visitors to the renovated musuem may tour its 2,000 exhibits that cover a period of 33,000 years, including the renowned Dendra Panoply (cuirass), the only one of its kind that has been found and dates back to the 15th century BC, featuring a helment made from boar tusks.
The earliest known suit of European armor, the Panoply was found in a tomb at Dendra, near Mycenae, and dates to shortly after 1400 BCE. It is plate armor, consisting of a bronze cuirass with a skirt of three articulated bronze plates in front and three behind. A separate neck piece and hinged shoulder plates completed the protection for the torso. While not as cumbersome as it appears, it would have required heavy internal padding and would have prevented the soldier standing up once he had fallen. A composite helmet with bronze cheekpieces protected the head. Remains of a pair of greaves and a single arm guard were also found with the armor. A few other pieces of bronze armor from this period are known, but it is unlikely that bronze armor was commonly used. Most armor at this time was probably leather, perhaps reinforced with bronze plates. Breastplates and greaves are mentioned by Homer, but apart from the Dendra armor, no examples of a Greek cuirass survive from earlier than the 8th century BCE.
 Permanent exhibition of Cypriot antiquities inauguratedA permanent exhibition of antiquities from Cyprus was inaugurated on Wednesday at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens during an ceremony attended by the Presidents of Greece and Cyprus, Karolos Papoulias and Demetris Christofias, respectively, and Culture Minister Antonis Samaras.
The museum's collection of Cypriot antiquities commenced in 1879. The first ancient Cypriot pottery artifact was purchased by the Archeological Society on Feb. 17, 1879 and was donated to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
A total of 180 artifacts, covering the entire spectrum of Cypriot antiquity and highlighting the unity of Hellenic civilisation, will constitute one of the permanent collections of the museum. Audio-visual material available to visitors will offer additional information on Cypriot antiquity.
During his address, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias has called on Turkey to abandon its policy of looting and destroying Cyprus' cultural heritage and take measures to protect it.
Christofias said that in the framework of their talks aiming to solve the Cyprus question, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot community have agreed to set up a committee that will record Cyprus' cultural monuments and make proposals for their protection and restoration.
Christofias described the Cypriot collection at the National Archaeological Museum as a "very rich and excellent example of Cyprus' civilisation which goes back many centuries".
He said that this permanent exhibition, which was set up through a donation of Anastasios Leventis Foundation in cooperation with the National Archaeological Museum and Archaeologist Vasos Karagiorgis' scientific supervision, was presented as of Wednesday to the visitors of the Museum, to commemorate a glorious civilisation and the historic course of the people of Cyprus, who have survived through centuries of adventures and hardships.
Christofias also stressed Cyprus' contribution to world civilisation, noting at the same time the cultural identity and the strong ties between Cyprus and Greece.
He also noted that Cyprus' cultural heritage does not only belong to Greek Cypriots but also to Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins.
Christofias stressed that "Turkey has the duty and an obligation towards Cyprus and humanity to abandon the policy of looting and destroying our cultural heritage and take immediately measures for its protection."
Greek Minister of Culture Antonis Samaras said the presence of the Presidents of Cyprus and Greece at the inauguration ceremony attributes a particular cultural significance to the event.
National Archaeological Museum of Athens Director Nikos Kaltsas said it would be a major omission for the biggest museum of Greece not to host a permanent exhibition of Cypriot antiquities.
President of the Leventis Foundation Anastasios Leventis said that big part of the Cypriot cultural heritage is closely linked with Greek civilisation.
He also said that the Foundation has helped major museums of Europe and the US to exhibit significant collections of Cypriot antiquities.
 Book on statesman Karamanlis unveiledA three-volume work on the life of Greek statesman Constantine Karamanlis, uncle to Greece's current prime minister Costas Karamanlis, was unveiled during an event organised by the Constantine Karamanlis Foundation at the Old Parliament on Wednesday.
The book is entitled "Constantine Karamanlis in the 20th Century".
 Police officer remanded in custody over shooting incidentA police officer charged with shooting and seriously injuring the owner of a cafe in the central Athens district of Plaka was on Wednesday remanded in custody after appearing before the 10 examining magistrate.
The police officer denied a charge of attempted murder and illegal weapons use, claiming that he shot into the air and that the bullet ricocheted. He has asked for a ballistics analysis to confirm his claim.
 Korydallos prison guards to again stand trialThe three prison guards and a helicopter pilot implicated in the Hollywood-style repeat helicopter escape from the Korydallos Prison on Feb. 22 by notorious convicts Vassilis Paleokostas and Alket Rizaj will again stand trial following their acquittal in a first instance court shortly after the escape.
A new trial will be held following an appeal by the first instance court prosecutors' office in the port city of Piraeus, while a court date is pending.
The helicopter pilot and two of the prison guards were acquitted in the first trial, while a third guard received a 6-month suspended sentence for illegally possessing a gun that was discovered in his residence during a police search.
A Korydallos prison chief warden implicated in the escape was found guilty as charged and was handed down a three-year suspended sentence.
 Nemea City Hall burglarizedUnidentified individuals broke into the Nemea City Hall, southern Greece, on Tuesday night and removed 2,264 euros kept in the municipality safe.
An investigation is underway by local police.
 Hospital employee suspended after embezzlement chargeAn employee at the University Hospital of Iraklio, on the island of Crete, was suspended from duty after he was accused of embezzling roughly 11,000 euros during the past year from fees paid by foreign nationals for medical tests.
The case came to light when a foreign national asked for a receipt to submit it to his social insurance fund.
 Woman prisoner dies on board ferryA 41-year-old woman prisoner died on board the ferry boat "Crete II" on Wednesday, while being transferred from Piraeus to Iraklio, Crete under police escort.
The woman was serving a sentence for drugs offences and was found in a comatose condition during the journey. When the ship docked in Iraklio, she was rushed to Iraklio University Hospital by ambulance, where doctors pronounced her dead on arrival.
An examination and autopsy will be carried out in order to determine the cause of death, while the Iraklio coast guard has launched a preliminary inquiry.
 Cloudy, rainy on ThursdayCloudy and showery weather and northwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 5-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -3C and 15C. Cloudy in Athens, with northwesterly 5-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 5C to 13C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 10C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' newspapers at a glanceAn urgent justice ministry draft bill introducing stricter sentences for the commission of criminal acts by hooded perpetrators - in the wake yet another spat of violence by self-styled 'anti-state' vandals in central Athens last week - as well as press speculation over whatever EU recommendations to curtail the fiscal deficit by the end of 2010 dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Justice Minister Nikos Dendias takes their hoods off - Strict law aims to restore order".
APOGEVMATINI: "End to hoods' impunity - Justice Minister announces severe measures against urban terrorism".
AVGHI: "Four major enterprises in northern Greece cut working hours; reduce salaries".
AVRIANI: "Everything changes in legal system with Justice Minister's radical bill".
CHORA: "Agony for tourism - The last trench in economic crisis".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Danger in Athens - Hundreds of abandoned buildings in the centre of Athens dens full of illegal migrants, drug addicts".
ELEFTHEROS: "All against the minister (Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos) - spectator of hooded vandals".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The war of the hoods - Grave penalties to those who wear masks and destroy properties".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Insulting justice - Government covers up police incompetence with strict bills".
ESTIA: "Ruling New Democracy able to recover; main opposition PASOK's outrageous demagogy favors it (rebound)".
ETHNOS: "Greek taxpayers burdened with 1.5 billion euros to finance the state's re-establishment during the five years of ND's governance".
KATHIMERINI: "Inner Cabinet decides to impose severe penalties for hoods".
LOGOS: "The hoods criminalised- Government plans to impose severe measures under stress of new vandalism".
NIKI: "The hoods in court - Karamanlis' government want us 'uncovered' ".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Working class cries out that plutocracy must pay for crisis, in rallies throughout the country on Tuesday".
TA NEA: "Farcical law on hoods - Government in panic".
VIMA: "They are covering up -- crisis - Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis interrupts debate on ".
VRADYNI: "Double penalty for hoods - Omnibus bill for public order and correctional system".
 House President sees no progress in efforts for a solution in CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the House of Representatives Marios Garoyian on Wednesday said that after six months of direct talks between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities, no real progress has been achieved in efforts to find a negotiated settlement in Cyprus.
He also pointed out that the key to the solution lies in Ankara.
In a toast at a formal dinner, in honor of President of the National Council of Slovak Republic Pavol Paska, Garoyian said that the Greek Cypriot side went to the negotiations that started on 3 September with a clear political will for a solution.
"Unfortunately", he said, "after six months of negotiations, there has been no real progress, since the key to the solution lies in Ankara, which must, together with the Turkish Cypriot leadership, demonstrate the same goodwill and contribute constructively to the efforts for a just, viable and functional settlement of the Cyprus problem".
He stressed that the purpose for the Greek Cypriot side is an agreed solution, based on bizonal bicommunal federation, which safeguards the legitimate interests of all Cypriot citizens, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins. He added that the solution should ensure full respect and restoration of fundamental human rights and freedoms for all Cypriots.
Garoyian urged Slovakia to continue contributing towards the solution of the Cyprus problem as an EU member-state, by exercising political pressure on Turkey to change its stance on Cyprus.
Paska also attended a working lunch on Tuesday, hosted by the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs Averof Neofytou, where Cyprus and Slovak parliamentary delegations exchanged views on further strengthening bilateral relations.
The Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state, has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied one third of its territory. President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot Leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September last year, with a view to solve the question of Cyprus.
 Archbishop inaugurates Offices, urges Turkey to become EuropeanBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
If Turkey wishes to have a European course, it has to allow Orthodox Christians to repair their destroyed churches and give them the opportunity to visit them whenever they wish, Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus Chrysostomos II, has stressed, referring to the military occupation of Cyprus' northern part by Turkish troops.
Speaking Wednesday at the inauguration ceremony of the Office of the Representation of the Church of Cyprus to the EU, in Brussels, the
Archbishop said that the Church has the obligation to inform its EU partners about the continuous destruction, looting and desecration of the Greek Cypriot religious sites by the Turkish army in the occupied areas of Cyprus.
He said that the purpose of the Church offices in Brussels is to get acquainted with the representatives of all the member states of the EU and to contribute to efforts for peace, prosperity and the spirit of love in all mankind.
"Unfortunately our efforts cannot be restricted to these goals alone, since our own country has suffered one of the worst kinds of invasions resulting in the occupation by Turkey of its northern part, with thousands dead, missing and displaced persons. Therefore we cannot remain passive about this and the plundering of our cultural heritage", he stressed.
The Archbishop said that "it is our moral duty to report Turkey to all institutions of the European Union for its continuous occupation of the 37% of Cypriot territory - a member of the European family. Hence it is our obligation to consistently update our partners on the continuing destruction, looting and desecration of our monuments by the Turkish military occupation of the illegal self-styled regime".
"Our churches have been looted and destroyed and despite everything, our efforts, to be allowed to repair them with our own expenses, have remained fruitless. On the contrary, their own holy sites in the southern government controlled part of the country have been maintained by our government. In addition they are allowed to use them whenever they wish. We have offered to provide them facilities if they need any, which they bluntly rejected", he added.
The Archbishop noted that 50,000 icons, frescoes, religious mosaics and other religious relics have been stolen from places of worship since 1974, some of which have been located in European and other auction houses and coordinated efforts by the Church and the government of Cyprus have managed to repatriate some of them, after paying huge amounts of money.
"We believe that if Turkey wants to have a European course, it has to allow us, Orthodox Christians, to repair our destroyed churches and give us the opportunity to visit them whenever we wish to exercise our religious rights," he said, noting that these sites are of great religious and historical importance to the Greek Cypriots and are identified with Christian traditions.
He warned that "if Turkey continues to ignore our requests, then we have no choice but to address ourselves to the European Court of Human Rights and claim all legal remedies in respect for our inalienable rights."
Turkey, he went on to add, should be treated as a country, which must comply with European values and institutions.
"Only then, will Europe achieve its objectives and convey the message to future member states, that if they want to have a European course they should behave in a European manner", the Archbishop concluded.
 Spokesman: EU must provide know-how at Cyprus talksNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The government believes that the EU can and must provide its know-how at the negotiations on the Cyprus question, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said on Wednesday.
Responding to a question on the EU contribution to the talks, Stephanou said that "we have our own technocrats, who participate in the competent working group and attend meetings between the two aides of the two leaders George Iacovou and Ozdil Nami," adding that "the two aides have their own advisors with regard to the issues under discussion."
Asked if EU help will be sought, Stephanou said that "this is an issue that has to be dealt jointly with regard to the EU know-how."
"We believe that the EU can and must provide its know-how," he noted, adding that the EU has expressed its readiness to help at the political and technical level.
On the political level, he noted that in view of Turkey's accession negotiations, the EU must turn to Turkey and ask Ankara to implement the obligations it has undertaken towards the EU and its member states, including the Republic of Cyprus.
At the same time, he added, the EU must exert its influence on Turkey, so that the latter cooperates for a just, viable and functional settlement of the Cyprus question, which will serve the legitimate interests of all the people of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
With regard to the technical level, Stephanou said that the EU can provide its expertise and know-how on issues regarding EU matters which are being discussed during the negotiations.
This, he pointed out, is beneficial and positive. Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September last year with a view to solve the question of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. They are currently discussing EU issues.
Turkey, which aspires to become an EU member state, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state since May 2004.
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