|Friday, 7 March 2014|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-03-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 20 March 2009 Issue No: 3150
 Karamanlis: Europe will emerge stronger from crisisBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Aroni) Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis arrived in Brussels on Thursday, where he will attend the two-day EU summit that opens that same afternoon.
Following a meeting by affiliated European People's Party (EPP) leaders prior to the summit, Karamanlis stressed that "more Europe" is necessary to deal with the difficult international economic conditions at present. He also noted that EPP leaders agreed over the need to better coordinate policies, as well as greater effectiveness and speed in taking decisions.
"It's certain that Europe, however, will exit the global crisis stronger, assuming that everyone acts with solidarity, protecting Europe's social acquis communautaire," he added.
Support for Jose Manuel Barroso's bid to again serve as president of the European Commission and the EPP's manifesto ahead of European Parliament elections in June were also discussed.
Karamanlis is accompanied by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Deputy FM Yiannis Valinakis.
The summit will focus on the global economic crisis, the credit situation, energy issues and climate change, as well as the European Neighbourhood Policy and the EU's relations with America.
In the evening, after the first session of the summit, Karamanlis will attend a traditional working dinner of the EU heads of state and government.
The second and final session of the summit commences on Friday morning, after which Karamanlis will make statements to the press before his departure for Athens.
 MeetingsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Thursday, on the sidelines of the European People's Party (EPP) summit with Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko, confirming that bilateral relations between Greece and Ukraine are developing in a satisfactory way, while possibilities exist for developing relations at commercial level even further.
The Greek side expressed satisfaction over the agreement reached on the passing of natural gas and its distribution to countries in Eastern Europe and support was also expressed for the European orientation of all European countries that are not European Union member-states.
 Economic crisis requires different policy, Papandreou saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, speaking to reporters shortly after the European Socialist Party's summit here on Thursday, said that a different policy was necessary to handle the present economic crisis.
"Europe needs a bold, progressive policy with a development perspective and the strengthening of the real economy," he said, adding that "inertia cannot lead to a solution to problems that are being created by the economic crisis."
The PASOK leader also stressed the need for supporting employment and protecting the financially weaker groups, through the activation of the welfare state.
Papandreou further referred to the need to boost "green development" through public and European Union investments and added that in the face of the economic crisis "big words are not needed, but actions and specific plan, that the European Socialists possess."
He met on the sidelines of the summit with many prime ministers and European Socialist party leaders, as well as with EU officials, such as Commissioner Joaquin Almunia and EU foreign policy representative Xavier Solana.
 Greece, Albania initial continental shelf delineation agreementThe initialling of the agreement on the delineation of the Greek-Albanian continental shelf was carried out by the heads of the two countries' delegations on Thursday.
According to a statement by foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, the agreement concerns "the delineation of the continental shelf and other sea zones that the two countries are entitled to on the basis of international law" and it is "based fully on the terms of the UN Charter on Sea Law (1982), that both countries have ratified."
The text was initialled on the part of Albania by Albanian foreign ministry secretary general Ferip Hoxha and on Greece's part by ambassador George Savvaidis.
Koumoutsakos further said that the agreement is a "substantive contribution to the further development of the friendly relations between Greece and Albania and is part of the strategic aim of our country to conclude agreements on the delineation of its sea zones with all the neighbouring countries."
The signing of the agreement by the two countries' foreign ministers will take place on a date that will be fixed by the two sides through diplomatic channels.
 PASOK on new taxes, economic policyMain opposition PASOK on Thursday slammed the emergency one-off taxes and public-sector salary freezes announced by the government the previous day, saying they were the "very definition of political fraud and bankruptcy".
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had personally promised that there would be no new taxes as recently as November, PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou pointed out and claimed that the need for extra taxes was not a result of the economic crisis so much as "the government's financial incompetence".
On the benefits announced for those on lower incomes, he noted that these did not amount to much more than 0.80-1.5 euros per day for groups like pensioners.
According to Papaconstantinou, PASOK had a "radically different philosophy" on taxation policy as a whole, which would include a reduction in the taxation of company profits that were reinvested in businesses and created jobs and the taxing of dividend payments and profits on stock exchange transactions as income.
Papaconstantinou questioned what Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis could hope to achieve at the European leaders' summit beginning later today, noting that the premier would arrive "armed" with the tax measures announced on Wednesday, even though the European Council's agenda was actually dealing issues like stability and transparency for financial systems, the EU recovery programme, the Lisbon Strategy and preparations for the G20 meeting.
According to the spokesman, the recovery plan adopted by the EU last December had included a series of actions to boost purchasing power, competitiveness, ensure that banks returned to their traditional role as creditors, fiscal measures for public investment, VAT reductions and lower social insurance contributions.
"The Greek government has done none of these," he stressed, while noting that the European Commission had rejected both the updated Stability and Development Plan and the National Reforms Programme submitted by Greece. While the Commission had asked for permanent structural reforms, he added, the measures announced by the government were one-off measures that did not address structural weaknesses.
Asked to comment on PASOK's insistence on 'green development' policies and the reservations expressed by economist Paul Krugman during talks with PASOK leader George Papandreou, Papaconstantinou clarified that the economist had merely said that green development was not a solution in itself for exiting the crisis, since some of the investments had a long-term horizon.
On the other hand, the spokesman added, 'green development' was something that "we must do anyway".
"This direction is a one-way street and this is apparent from the importance given to these sort of investments by countries like the United States under its new administration, but also by many European countries," Papaconstantinou stressed, while adding that PASOK considered that Europe should have taken additional action to overcome the crisis.
Turning to other issues, Papaconstantinou again expressed doubts about whether new measures announced by the government would be effective in protecting public safety and preserving order. He also asked the government to clarify what had caused the death of a woman inmate who died in transit to Crete from Athens, while condemning a bomb attack on the office of New Democracy MP Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Responding to an announcement by Environment Minister George Souflias about establishing an independent environment ministry by 2010, the spokesman noted that this was the first time that he had seen "the prime minister publicly replaced".
"There will, of course, be an environment ministry in 2010 because it will have been founded by the PASOK government after it has won the elections," he added.
 Sioufas on cutbacks in MP salaries, Parliament spendingParliament President Dimitris Sioufas on Thursday listed three ways in which Parliament and the members of Parliament would contribute to efforts to cut back public spending.
These will include the 5 percent contributions withheld from MP salaries (or 5,800 euros per month) and paid into the Social Cohesion Fund during 2009, the fact that MPs will not receive a salary increase in 2009 and payment by MPs of the one-off levy imposed by the government for all those declaring an income greater than 60,000 in 2007, provided they meet the criteria.
Sioufas pointed out that Parliament had also returned 5.7 million euros from the 2008 budget to the government coffers and was cutting back elastic costs by 10 percent during 2009.
He stressed that no MP had refused to pay the 5 percent contribution to the fund designed to alleviate poverty.
Asked whether the government's announcement that MP salaries will be reduced was an infringement of Parliament's autonomy, Sioufas said that this was not a departure from order but an "irregularity" and pointed out that Parliament's budget was subject to the government's approval.
 Markoyannakis responds to parliament question on security issuesDeputy Interior Minister Christos Markoyannakis, who holds the public order portfolio, expressed the government's intention to accept proposals aimed at dealing with security problems, responding to a current question on the immigrant-related violence in the city of Patras, tabled in parliament by ruling New Democracy (ND) MP Anastasia Ragiou-Metzelopoulou.
Referring to the measures taken by the government, he stressed that the restriction of individual rights or Democracy is not in the government's intentions. The measures taken, regardless of whether they are rapid intervention measures, blockades or the use of police dogs or water cannons, will not be adopted without serious consideration and are aimed at establishing a climate of security in the Greek society, Markoyannakis stressed.
He also stated that the government is willing to examine and adopt any proposals made within the framework of a dialogue.
On the situation created by the immigrants in Patras, southern Greece, he pointed out that it is not exclusively a police problem and called on all competent authorities to contribute toward its solution.
 Bosnia presidency chairman to visit GreeceThe Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina's three-member presidency Nebojsa Radmanovic is to carry out an official visit to Greece on April 27-29 at the invitation of President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias.
 Papoulias hosts lunch for Cyprus presidentPresident of Greek Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday hosted a lunch in honour of visiting Cyprus President Demetris Christofias
 Papathemelis party to participate Euro-Parliament electionsThe head of the Democratic Revival party, former PASOK minister and northern Greece MP Stelios Papathemelis, on Thursday announced that the party will participate independently in the European Parliament elections in June.
According to Papathemelis, the party's objective is to defend the Greek national positions at the European Parliament.
 U.S. Congress members on visa waiver programmeWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
Forty-one U.S. Congress members, headed by House of Representatives Europe Subcommittee President Robert Wexler, have addressed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, calling for Greece to be included in the visa waiver programme, reminding of relevant discussions held with Congress members by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis during her recent visit here.
The two ministers of the Obama administration are urged to resolve the issue as soon as possible, using all the available means at their disposal for a speedy conclusion of relevant negotiations, making the issue a priority for the new U.S. administration.
It was also stressed that Greece has fulfilled all the formal preconditions for it to be included in the programme.
 Ecumenical Patriarch receives Serbian FM JeremicISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (Vartholomeos) and Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic discussed issues concerning relations between the Patriarchate of Serbia and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, during their meeting here on Thursday.
Jeremic, who visited the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Fanar district, stated that he was deeply impressed and honoured.
He also referred to the multifaceted activities and the global role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, underlining the "unique and charismatic personality" of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
 Group claims responsibility for attack on MP's officeThe group "Revolutionary Liberation Action" on Thursday claimed responsibility for last night's attack on the offices of New Democracy MP Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in phone calls to the broadcasting network SKAI and the newspaper "Eleftherotypia".
The 5th-floor office of the Athens 2nd constituency MP in downtown Athens was targeted by arsonists late on Wednesday night, using a makeshift explosive device made of gas canisters and petrol that caused minor material damage to the office's door.
Police later announced that there was no permanent police guard stationed at the building, which was monitored by police patrols that had not detected anything untoward.
Commenting on the incident later, Mitsotakis said that recently there has been a worrisome peak in violence by organized, illegal groups, whose victims the previous week had been shop owners in Athens.
"I fervently defended their right to live freely and work in a safe environment," Mitsotakis said, adding that the result was Wednesday's "criminal action with the explosiion of a home-made explosive mechanism at the entrance to my political office".
Now is the time for actions, not words, he said, adding that the citizens "demand more".
"They demand security and, above all, that law and order be imposed," Mitsotakis said, adding that he will continue to defend the imposition of law and order "at any cost".
 Explosion in Athens district of AmbelokipiAn explosion occurred at 9:30 on Thursday night at the intersection of Alexandras and Koniari streets in the Athens district of Ambelokipi, while the cause of the explosion has not yet been determined.
The building where the explosion occurred houses the Public Estate Corporation.
 Souflias proposes autonomous environment ministryEnvironment, Town Planning and Public Works minister George Souflias on Thursday proposed the establishment of an autonomous ministry for the environment, in the first half of 2010, as well as single ministry for infrastructures and transports, speaking at a one-day event organised by his ministry in central Athens for the presentation of the new Operational Program "Environment and Sustainable Development 2007-2013".
Souflias said that when the Third Community Support Framework (CSF) was completed and the projects under the Fourth Programming Period (2007-2013) commenced, there would be an opportunity of separating the environment portfolio from the public works ministry with the creation of an autonomous ministry for the environment.
He said that the first half of 2010 would be the appropriate time to establish an environment ministry, adding that the energy and forests portfolios should be transferred to the new ministry.
Souflias further proposed abolition of the transports and communication ministry and its merger with the public works portfolio into a ministry of Infrastructures and Transports.
The minister noted that the budget for environmental works to be financed under the 4th Programming Period was estimated at 4.2 billion euros, with basic priorities including reform and codification of town planning legislation, the institution of a new procedure for the issue of construction permits, drainage projects, waste management projects, water-supply projects and significant anti-flooding works in the prefectures of Attica and Thessaloniki as well as other urban areas.
Further priorities included 'green transportation' projects such as extension of the Thessaloniki Metro and energy projects, revision of the Athens and Thessaloniki Town Plans and the introduction of such Plans in major cities, materialization of the Metropolitan Park at Ellinikon, and enhancement of traditional housing developments.
In a brief account of his five years at the helm of the ministry, Souflias noted the "two major tools" of environmental policy, namely the Land Registry and the National Town Planning, the completion of which constituted "one of the most significant structural changes in the country in the last decades".
Souflias further noted the Special Framework on Renewable Energy Sources (RES) that has been established, as well as planned prjects in the sectors of industry and tourism, adding that the Special Framework for coastal and mountain regions would soon be put to deliberation.
Also, the incorporation of EU directives, implementation of an integrated national planning on climate change and the increase in recycling by 400 percent were a few more results, he added.
The minister stressed that the global financial crisis, instead of turning attention away from the environment, should rally everyone around sustainable growth, or "green development", which he said provided new opportunities for growth and employment.
 Development minister hails National Social Development AgreementDevelopment Minister Costis Hatzidakis hailed the "National Social Development Agreement" on behalf of the government during Thursday's event of the Economic and Social Committee (OKE) at the Zappion Mansion in Athens.
The minister stressed that this agreement, in the framework of the Economic and Social Committee, "means that there is maturity on behalf of Greek society to facilitate consensus provided that all, parties and agencies, rise to the occasion with responsibility and sincerity towards the citizens."
Hatzidakis said that social cohesion is the target, without one forgetting difficulties in the international environment and the possibilities of the state budget.
He added that the government, within the limitations set by the international framework, is proceeding with the adoption of measures aimed at supporting the fluidity of businesses as well as the financially weaker and underlined that "we are calling on the more powerful financially to lift the greatest burden."
Hatzidakis further said "consensus and national understanding are a priority for the government" and pointed out that "even if certain forces do not want this the government is obliged to continue along this path."
 Development minister on Greece's energy policyGreek Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Thursday night that safety and sufficiency of energy supplies as well as competitiveness constituted the three central axes of Greece's energy policy, while addressing an Economist-sponsored conferenece organised in Athens.
He also referred to projects that "confirm Greece's extroversial energy policy", mentioning the Greece-Turkey-Italy (ITGI) natural gas pipeline which would transfer natural gas from the Caspian region to Western Europe. He added that opting for the ITGI pipeline instead of the Nabucco pipeline had to do only with the fact that the former has completed half of its construction and in that sense it would be completed faster. "The pipeline's section connecting Turkey anf Greece is functioning, while we are working hard for its extension to Italy within the timeframes agreed," the minister said.
He also referred to the Greek-Russian agreement regarding the broader South Stream energy project involving the annual transfer of 31 billion cubic metres of natural gas to European markets.
 Unemployment rate dropsThe unemployment rate in Greece eased to 7.9 pct of the workforce in the fourth quarter of 2008, down from 8.1 pct in the corresponding period in 2007, the National Statistical Service announced on Thursday.
The service, in a report, said the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2008 was the lowest rate in the same quarter since 1998. The unemployment rate among women totaled 11.7 pct, more than double the 5.7-pct rate among men. Teens and young adults, aged 15-29, recorded the highest unemployment rate (16.5 pct).
The report said 86.7 pct of unemployed people were seeking a full time job, while the percentage of new unemployed (first time unemployed) was 34 pct of all unemployed persons, while the long-term unemployed (out of job for more than 12 months) stood at 47 pct of total unemployed.
Western Macedonia (12.6 pct), Epirus (10.5 pct) and western Greece (9.8 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates amongst Greek regions, while the northern Aegean (4.6 pct) and Attica prefecture (6.8 pct) recorded the lowest rates.
The number of employed people in the country totaled 4,553,623 at the end of the fourth quarter of 2008, while the percentage of those holding part-time jobs 5.7 pct.
 Net benefits SMEsFurther familiarisation with Internet services will help small-to-medium-sized enterprises improve their businesses, Constantinos Mihalos, president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA), said on Thursday.
Addressing the 4th international conference on cultural convergence and digital technology for entrepreneurship, Mihalos said government measures were also needed to support this trend.
He focused on business activity of SMEs, the cornerstone of economic activity not only in Greece but throughout Europe.
"Internet is a medium allowing anyone with a good idea and a proper business plan to create a product or a service and sell it around the world. Size, infrastructure and volume are not the main issues any more, but speed, flexibility and a right interpretation of consumers' demands," he said, adding that small enterprises were among the pioneers of the Internet's success.
 Greek shipping support for MIGMarfin Investment Group (MIG), Greece's largest business group, belongs mainly to the Greek shipping community and would have never reached its current position without the active support of the shipping industry, MIG vice-chairman Andreas Vgenopoulos said on Thursday.
Addressing a reception at the Piraeus Shipping Club, Vgenopoulos said MIG was the main investment arm of worldwide Greek shipping, investing in the east Mediterranean country and in more than 40 countries.
He stressed that business leaders have a duty to take actions and initiatives supporting the economy and the society in times of an international economic crisis and noted that representatives of the Greek shipping industry were doing their duty by preserving job positions amid adverse economic conditions, maintaining high wage levels and continuing investments, many of them through MIG.
The high-profile MIG executive said a global economic crisis looks like a partly destroyed train running at low speed, risking passengers' lives, moving towards the exit of a tunnel.
Commenting on the Greek economy, Vgenopoulos emphasised on a lack of competitiveness and its high public debt. The situation was getting worse from a lack of liquidity in the market, he said, adding that the domestic banking sector's significant presence in southeastern Europe was worsening conditions.
Vgenopoulos said lower profits by domestic banks would hit public revenues as well, while commenting on an agreement reached with the Greek state to buy national carrier Olympic Airways and its ground service, he said it the result of collective efforts reached after negotiations with several members of the shipping community.
 World Bank business forum in AthensThe national economy and finance ministry will host a business forum in Athens on March 23 in cooperation with the World Bank within the framework of recent efforts aimed at boosting Greek investment activity.
The event will take place at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and Greek companies will be briefed on current and future development projects undertaken by the World Bank particularly focusing on regions that attract the Greek investors' interest namely, east Europe, central Asia, north Africa and the Middle East.
 Vivartia denies e-mail claim about Delta milkVivartia on Thursday strenuously denied any form of contamination in the fresh milk sold by its subsidiary Delta in 2006, saying that it was the victim of a spurious defamation campaign.
"The malicious and misleading attack against Delta fresh milk via chain e-mails falsely giving the details of an agricultural development ministry employee, about the supposed presence of aflatoxins in Delta fresh milk in 2006, is continuing and being propagated, harming the company, consumers and public officials," a Vivartia announcement said.
It stressed that the safety of fresh milk and keeping consumers fully informed was a top priority for the company and that all milk distributed by Delta was absolutely safe, as proved by stringent scientific criteria and strict inspections by health and safety authorities.
"Delta has for many years now used a system of specialised checks throughout its entire raw materials supply and production chain, in order to ensure the excellent quality of its final products. At no time has any dairy product produced by Delta been found by state authorities to be positive for aflatoxin. We are certain that those responsible for this groundless accusation will eventually be found and be made to pay," the group stressed.
The announcement also notes that:
The agriculture ministry employee alleged to have written the letter in which consumers are warned against buying Delta milk has confirmed in writing that the document was not written by herself or her service;
That the Greek Meat and Milk Organisation (ELOGAK) had taken samples during the period when Delta products were allegedly contaminated and that all these samples came back negative for contaminants, as confirmed by the State General Chemical Laboratory.
That tests carried out by the Hellenic Food Authority during that year, specifically for the presence of M1 aflatoxin in Delta milk, had confirmed that all samples submitted by the company were in compliance with legal limits and therefore negative for aflatoxin.
 Kri-Kri Dairy reports improved 2008 resultsKri-Kri, a Greek-listed dairy producer, on Thursday reported an 18.9-pct increase in its 2008 parent sales to 38.172 million euros and a 9.5-pct increase in its net after-tax profits to 2.570 million euros, up from 2.348 million euros in 2007.
The company said EBITDA rose 21.7 pct to 5.261 million euros, while pre-tax profits totaled 3.502 million euros for an increase of 12.3 pct.
Consolidated turnover rose 17.8 pct to 39.736 million euros in 2008, EBITDA jumped to 5.381 million euros from 4.527 million in 2007 and pre-tax profits rose to 3.505 million euros from 3.093 million euros in 2007.
Net consolidated profits, after tax and minorities totaled 2.573 million euros, up 10.8 pct from 2007. The company plans to pay a 0.0540 euros per share dividend to its shareholders, up 16.9 pct from the previous year.
 Frigoglass reports lower 2008 resultsFrigoglass on Thursday reported a 7.6-pct increase in its consolidated sales to 487.8 million euros while noting that sales excluding figures by SFA fell 3.5 pct to 437.4 million euros last year.
Operating earnings, excluding SFA, fell 28.6 pct to 50.9 million euros, reflecting restructuring costs, while net profits, excluding SFA, fell 48 pct to 23.7 million euros, reflecting losses from foreign exchange, financial expenses and tax factors.
Sales grew 51.2 pct and 37.7 pct in Africa/Middle East and Asia/Oceania, respectively, Frigoglass said in a statement, with Ukraine, Morocco, Poland and Nigeria, Greece, Romania, Serbia, Indonesia and India recording the biggest increases in sales.
Assets totaled 498.3 million euros last year, reflecting the integration of SFA, while net debt jumped from 47.7 million euros in 2007 to 179.7 million euros in 2008.
 Sprider Group says sales up 20.3% in '08Sprider group on Thursday said consolidated sales grew 20.3 pct to 154.072 million euros last year, up from 128.103 million in 2007, reflecting the launch of 35 new sales units during the year.
Gross profits totaled 98.884 million euros, up 32.7 pct from 2007, while gross profit margin jumped to 64.2 pct in 2008 from 58.1 pct in 2007 reflecting improved operating efficiency of the group's supply system and a correction in the US dollar/euro currency exchange rate.
 ASE unveils significant cost cuts for its membersThe Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday announced significant cost cuts for its members in an effort to boost trading in the market. An ASE board meeting decided an average 31 pct cut in annual member subscriptions in the Athens Stock Exchange, an average 11 pct cut in annual member subscriptions in the Derivatives market and free ODL services to all its ASE members for the current year. The board also decided to cut to zero all commissions in trading and settlement on stock options for a period of six months.
 ASE above 1,600-level on Thur.Greek stocks ended strongly up, pushing the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange above the 1,600-mark level on Thursday. The index rose 2.80 pct to end at 1,622.88 points, with turnover an improved 149.4 million euros of which 6.9 million were block trades.
Most sectors moved upwards, with the Banks (6.32 pct), Constructions (3.70 pct), Utilities (3.04 pct) and Travel (2.77 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Financial Services (0.91 pct), Chemicals (0.55 pct) and Media (0.49 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 3.63 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.61 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 1.18 pct higher. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 136 to 68 with another 53 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.03%
Personal & Household: +2.56%
Raw Materials: +1.25%
Travel & Leisure: +2.77%
Food & Beverages: +1.21%
Financial Services: -0.91%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Public Power Corp (PPC), OTE and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.28
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.68
HBC Coca Cola: 10.42
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.32
National Bank of Greece: 11.26
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.03
Bank of Piraeus: 4.55
Titan Cement Company: 15.64
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 882 million euros on Thursday, of which 502 million were buy orders and the remaining 380 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 335 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 278 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 5.83 pct and the German Bund 3.05 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates fell further. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.877 pct, the six-month rate 1.73 pct, the three-month rate 1.58 pct and the one-month rate 1.19 pct.
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices maintained their discounts in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover jumping to 131.766 million euros on roll-over of positions ahead of Friday's termination of March contracts. The March contract was trading at a discount of 0.57 pct, with volume of 26,015 contracts worth 102.220 million euros and 32,132 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 52,255 contracts worth 29.546 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (7,682), followed by Eurobank (1,976), MIG (3,368), OTE (2,958), PPC (1,291), OPAP (2,958), Piraeus Bank (3,053), GEK (5,475), Alpha Bank (4,053), Intracom (2,411), Marfin Popular Bank (5,017) and Cyprus Bank (3,078).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.378
Pound sterling 0.948
Danish kroner 7.511
Swedish kroner 10.953
Japanese yen 130.71
Swiss franc 1.550
Norwegian kroner 8.714
Canadian dollar 1.686
Australian dollar 1.992
 Ai Stratis Greece's first 'green isle'The small and remote northern Aegean of island of Ai Stratis (Aghios Efstratios), situated a few miles southwest of Limnos, is projected to be transformed into a "green island" by exclusively using renewable energy sources, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis announced Thursday.
Pilot projects budgeted at 10 million euros, funded by the General Secretariat of Research and Technology, will be underway and completed before the end of the year, to be followed as early as June by similar initiatives by a commercial scale on slightly larger islands, namely, Nisyros and Tilos.
According to the ministry, only three completely "green islands" exist in the world, King Island in Australia, Samsoe in Denmark and Utsira in Norway. Aghios Efstratios aspires to become a member of this exclusive group.
Oil-fired generators currently used to meet the island's electricity needs will be replaced by wind generators, photovoltaic systems and a bio-mass unit. The project also provides for the replacement of all mass transportation with electric-powered vehicles. A project study conducted by the Public Power Corp. (PPC), the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the Center for Renewable Energy Sources (CRES) and the University of the Aegean will be completed in May.
Hatzidakis underlined that the promotion of "green energy" use is a priority for the government and pointed out that since 2004 the installed power of plants using renewable energy sources was tripled from 430 to 1,350 MW.
 Minister tours public administration inspectors' offices"Inspection mechanisms engaging in combating corruption and mismanagement have the government's support," Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos stressed during his visit to the offices of the Public Administration Inspectors Agency.
Pavlopoulos underlined that the government has made the protection of inspection mechanisms a priority both at an institutional level and in terms of means, infrastructure and intensification of inspections. "The goal is to pinpoint unlawful behaviours and impose severe sanctions on violators," he stressed.
He referred to the impressive improvement of the agency's performance based on its 2008 annual report to be released shortly, underlining that in one year it conducted a total of 845 inspections whereas in the period 1998-2003 (under PASOK governments) they were less than 376.
 Education minister discusses exams with regional directorsEducation Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos on Thursday met the regional directors for education, discussing their role in organising the nationwide university entrance examinations, as well as more general issues.
"We all recognise, and it was confirmed today, the need for certain actions, changes and modernisation for improvement of our educational structures, on all levels," Spiliotopoulos noted.
 Greece, Ukraine sign Public Administration Cooperation MemorandumDeputy Interior Minister Christos Zois signed a Cooperation Memorandum in the sector of Public Administration and Administrative Reform between the Interior ministry and the Ukrainian Central Public Administration Service in Kiev on Thursday.
The head of the Ukrainian side, professor Tymofij Motrenko, stressed his country's desire for close cooperation with Greece to enable it to benefit from its European experience.
Zois conveyed greetings from Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and reassured the Ukrainian side of Greece's readiness to assist it in adjusting its structures to European institutions, which Ukraine looks forward to joining.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on 'Earth Day 2009'ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos appealed to all, regardless of religion and nationality, to participate in the "Earth Hour", an initiative by the international WWF environmental organisation, that has now emerged as a global collective force for the protection of the planet.
Vartholomeos stressed in a message on the occasion of "Earth Hour" that "on March 28, therefore, let us all turn off the lights of homes, offices, factories, services and other buildings for one hour, from 8.30 to 9.30 in the evening, declaring our commitment in this way to the good struggle for the protection of the environment and the aversion of climatic change."
The Patriarch added in his message that "the climatic change constitutes indisputable proof that the environmental crisis is the exclusive universal and human problem, since it affects every corner of the earth and, of course, every person, either poor or rich, young or elderly."
 Caratheodory Museum enriched with new exhibitsThe Caratheodory Museum in Komotini, northeast Greece, to be inaugurated on March 21 by Transport and Communications Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, has been enriched with new important exhibits that shed a new light on the scientific work and life of the great Greek mathematician.
The museum collection includes tens of significant documents, letters, treatises as well as original copies of his correspondence with Albert Einstein. Also, on display is his entire published work, studies and books in six languages (Greek, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian).
Constantin Caratheodory (1873-1950) was a Greek mathematician. He made significant contributions to the theory of functions of a real variable, the calculus of variations, and measure theory. His work also includes important results in conformal representations and in the theory of boundary correspondence. In 1909, Caratheodory pioneered the Axiomatic Formulation of Thermodynamics along a purely geometrical approach. The contents of letters exchanged between Caratheodory and Einstein suggest that the work of Caratheodory helped shape some of Albert Einstein's theories.
 Simitis to speak at Istanbul Bilgi UniversityISTANBUL (ANA-MPA - A. Kourkoulas)
Former Greek premier Costas Simitis will deliver a lecture on "Democracy and pluralism in the European Union" at Istanbul Bilgi university on March 23.
The event was announced on Thursday by the private, non-profit university's European Studies department, which is organising a series of lectures on current challenges facing the world.
Others invited to deliver lectures on these topics include German philosopher and sociologist Jurgen Habermas, U.S.-based sociologist and world-systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn and former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
During his visit to Istanbul, Simitis will also be meeting Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
 Archbishop Ieronymos to visit New York in NovemberNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The Chios Federation of America and Canada has decided to give the "Homeric Award" to the Church of Greece. The award is expected to be received by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, who will be visiting New York between November 13-17.
Archbishop Ieronymos will be the first Archbishop of Athens who will be making an official visit to the United States in the last 50 years.
The award will be given on Saturday, November 14, and Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos has been invited to attend the "Homeric Award" ceremony, since he will be in the United States at the time to address an Ecological Conference.
 Notorious fugitive's brother convicted of bank robberyA court of appeals in Lamia, central Greece, sentenced Nikos Paleokostas, the older brother of escaped convict Vassilis Paleokostas, to six years in prison after finding him guilty of robbing a National Bank branch in Karpenisi in 2001.
Paleokostas denied the charges and questioned the authenticity of the photographs taken by the bank's CCTV camera, which were presented in court as evidence.
According to the charges, Nikos Paleokostas committed the robbery on Sept. 7, 2001 and managed to take off with a paltry one million drachmas he took from a bank teller at gunpoint, plus 875,000 drachmas he found in cash drawers. He was a fugitive until September 2006 when he was arrested near Arachova, central Greece, after a police chase.
His transfer from the Patras prison to Lamia to stand trial was made under heightened police measures.
 50 kilos of hashish confiscated in NW GreecePolice arrested on Thursday a 69 year old man in Kastoria, northwerstern Greece, on drug dealing charges, and confiscated a total of 50 kilos of hashish, in two separate incidents, while two more individuals were wanted.
Police officers found in his car a sack containing 24 kilos and 170 grams of hashish.
Moreover, Kozani police were seeking two other individuals who, according to an eye-witness, threw out of their car approximately 23 kilos of hashish packed in plastic bags.
 Cloudy, rainy on FridayCloudy and showery weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 5-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 17C. Cloudy in Athens, with southerly 5-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 5C to 16C. Cloudy with local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 4C to 9C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe global financial crisis, the freezing on public sector salaries and opposition reactions on government's crime-fighting measures dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "500 euros one-time benefit for low salaries and pensions".
APOGEVMATINI: "Tight but just incomes policy- State supports the financially weaker and demands sacrifices from the wealthier".
AVGHI: "Null incomes policy - Karamanlis, by freezing salaries and pensions, will beg on Thursday in Brussels while the European leaders persist with the Stability Pact's impasse".
AVRIANI: "Extra taxes for the wealthier and an extra benefit to low incomes".
CHORA: "Zero increases to high incomes while the low salaries in public sector will be fortified".
ELEFTHEROS: "Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis,in an interview with the newspaper, calls for: Alliance against the hooded groups".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The cost of the crisis - The new incomes policy in detailed examples"
ELEFTHEROTYPOA: "Shocking measures - Freeze on civil servants' salaries and pensions".
ESTIA: "We must belie Krugman - In Greece, the forecasts can be reversed".
ETHNOS: "Unhooded robbery - Double shock brings freeze on incomes and extraordinary tax".
KATHIMERINI: "Extraordinary measures for the economy - 1,000 to 5,000 euros extra tax for personal income over 60,000 euros".
LOGOS: "Dissapointment over the shocking measures - Zero salary increase for 478,000 civil servants".
NIKI: "The toughest austerity in the last 30 years".
RIZOSPASTIS: "New provocative attack on workers' income - Government decided freeze on salaries and pensions".
TA NEA: "Extraordinary tax and salary freeze - Government admits bankruptcy".
TO VIMA: "First extraordinary measures - Public sector employee's salaries frozen - 794,000 salaried and pensioners are called on to pay for the crisis".
VRADYNI: "Ice on salaries - Low front in civil servants' incomes".
 Government monitors Talat's possible visit to WashingtonNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The government is aware of efforts to arrange a visit to Washington by the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou has said, noting however that the visit has not yet been confirmed.
In statements to the press Thursday, Stephanou said that "we are monitoring the issue and those who must act are acting."
"As always", he continued, "we examine and analyse any developments which in one way or another affect Cyprus".
Stephanou noted that "it is too early to come to any conclusions, bearing in mind that we have not seen anything yet as regards the crux of the matter."
The spokesman reiterated that the government examines and monitors such issues very carefully so as to act accordingly.
Reports about a possible visit to Washington by Talat emerged in the past 24 hours, suggesting that the Turkish Premier had asked Clinton, on her recent visit to Turkey, to receive Talat in Washington.
 Acting President: support to Turkey in EU depends on its stanceNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Acting President of the Republic of Cyprus and House President Marios Garoyian has warned that if Turkey does not fulfill its EU obligations, it should not expect Cyprus to continue being supportive towards Ankara's EU accession negotiations.
Garoyian, who met Thursday the heads of the EU diplomatic missions in Nicosia, informed the Ambassadors on Cyprus' positions regarding Turkey's European course, saying that Ankara has undertaken some obligations, "which unfortunately since 2004 has not fulfilled".
The Turkish side, he went on to say, cannot "ignore nor can it violate its own signature".
The Republic of Cyprus, Garoyian added, backed in 2004 the commencement of the EU-Turkey accession negotiations, under the condition that Ankara behaves as a modern European state, through respect of human rights and EU principles and values and normalising its relations with the Republic.
"In order to normalise its relations with Cyprus, Ankara must withdraw its occupation forces, send illegal settlers back to Turkey, restore human rights, and stop the illegal exploitation of Greek Cypriot properties in the Turkish occupied areas'' he said.
Garoyian added that at the meeting he underlined that the EU should exert its pressure on Turkey to abandon its policy, which, he said, ''leads to a deadlock, is in full conflict with EU principles and constitutes a world provocation for all civilised societies''.
Asked what could happen if by the end of the year Turkey does not meet its obligations, Garoyian said that Cyprus has clarified its position from the beginning.
"We have shown our good will in 2004. If Turkey persists with the same positions, it should not expect the Republic of Cyprus to continue being supportive towards the negotiations and the opening of more EU chapters", he stressed.
Regarding his meeting with the Ambassadors of the EU countries in Nicosia, he said he also informed them about the Greek Cypriot side's positions on the Cyprus problem.
The meeting took place at the initiative of the Czech Ambassador in Nicosia, whose country holds the current EU presidency. Present at the meeting were also the Ambassadors of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Britain, as well as the Ambassador of Lithuania stationed in Athens and Head of the European Commission's Representation to Nicosia, Androula Kaminara.
"I outlined our positions, our arguments, I analysed our red lines. I believe they are satisfied with the information they received", Garoyian said.
Invited to comment on US President's forthcoming visit to Turkey and on press reports, according to which Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat would be visiting the US next week, Garoyian said that "the policy of one superpower does not change from one day to the other".
But he pointed out that Cyprus and Greece should be effective and make some moves there, where important decisions are made and policies are shaped.
"Nothing is gained without systematic and well prepared efforts. Greece and Cyprus coordinate their efforts to strengthen our arguments, especially in the US and with people who today govern the US and have had traditionally good, friendly and correct positions regarding the Cyprus issue", he concluded.
 Turkish Cypriots may vote in EP elections, says governmentNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Turkish Cypriots may vote in the European Parliament elections, if they register in the electoral roll, said on Thursday Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou.
"The Republic of Cyprus joined the EU with all its territory, under Protocol 10 in May 2004 and it is going to hold the European elections this June. Turkish Cypriots, citizens of the Republic, may vote after they register in the electoral roll", Stephanou added.
Asked if the European Parliament could hold the elections in the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, the spokesman stressed that the ’Cyprus Republic is a member state and is going to hold the elections for the European Parliament, as every other EU member state will do".
He said that the Republic is making specific efforts to give the opportunity to Turkish Cypriot citizens to register in order to vote in the forthcoming elections.
Stephanou explained that the acquis communautaire has been suspended in the northern Turkish occupied part of the island.
European Parliament elections will take place in Cyprus on 6 June. Cyprus elects six MEPs.
The Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state, has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied one third of its territory. 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.
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