|Sunday, 17 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-03-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 21 March 2009 Issue No: 3151
 Karamanlis: crisis calls for cooperation, alertnessBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Spinthourakis)
The world was facing a complex economic crisis of "unprecedented" dimensions, one which demanded that countries cooperate and remain alert in order to respond to it, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said during a press conference here on Friday, after a meeting of European leaders. For Greece, in particular, he stressed that the country had to avoid further increasing its already high public debt and fiscal deficit.
"The situation is difficult and it is our choice to tell the citizens the truth. Others may have chosen the easy path and hide the truth from citizens, but this is damaging for the country," he told reporters.
He said the Greek government's policies sought to achieve three parallel goals, with actions that sought to boost the real economy while preserving fiscal balance and supporting those having the greatest need. The premier stressed that none of these could be focused on at the expense of the others.
Specifically for the Greek economy, Karamanlis underlined the problems caused by the country's high public debt and defended austere measures to increase revenues and curb public spending announced earlier in the week, stressing that these "were emergency measures responding to special circumstances" and adopted with "consideration for social justice, based on which the most wealthy Greeks will contribute more to the recovery of the Greek economy".
"It is not the government's job to be pleasant and its actions are motivated by a sense of responsibility," he underlined, referring to efforts to prevent tax evasion and improve tax-collection mechanisms.
Replying to a suggestion that the government also increase taxation on banks, Karamanlis said that this would be a mistake in the midst of the crisis, since it would further restrict the flow of credit to the economy.
The prime minister ruled out another financial audit for the Greek state but stressed the need to carefully monitor economic indicators, noting that this was not demanded by Brussels but a duty and responsibility of the government.
"When we have a problem we must fix it ourselves and no one can tell us how this must be done," he underlined.
Karamanlis pointed out that the public debt had been reduced in recent years relative to the Gross National Product (GNP), adding that he had decided against "shock therapy" to reduce this further. He forecast, also, that Greece would be one of the few EU countries with positive growth in 2009, and that "the country will not enter a period of economic recession".
At the same time, given Greece's long-term tendency toward fiscal imbalance, the drastic measures announced in the past week aimed to tidy up public finances and were taken alongside other measures designed to increase employment and promote growth, as well as measures to support the tourism sector, the prime minister said.
In response to other questions, Karamanlis denied the existence of a plan to bail out Eurozone countries that could not meet their borrowing needs and stressed that, even if such a plan existed, it would not concern Greece. He underlined that the refinancing of Greece's public debt was being carried out in a normal way and that the country had no problem covering its borrowing requirements.
Questioned about solidarity between EU countries, the prime minister said there was no need for solidarity to address fiscal deficit problems in the Eurozone and stressed that each member-state had to implement its own programme of fiscal consolidation.
On employment policy, Karamanlis said that he was in favour of steady jobs but that it was logical to seek solutions of necessity during times of crisis. The Greek government was prepared to discuss the issue of part-time employment, on condition that this would be temporary and decided after consultation with the social partners, he added.
"Rather than close down a business, it is better to seek other solutions," he told reporters, pointing out that flexibility in the Greek labour market was extremely restricted.
Asked to comment on the stance of the opposition parties, Karamanlis claimed that he had asked for a "realistic discussion" leading to an agreement on six "ground rules" that he termed "self-evident". He listed these as preserving the European framework, restricting further growth of Greece's large public debt, gradual adjustment to reduce the public deficit, establishing the 'limits' of the Greek economy, as well as agreeing on the need to support lower income groups and that self-restraint in a time of crisis was beneficial for all society.
There had been no response, he said, adding that the "government will do its duty".
Karamanlis on European Council decisions
Outlining the results of the EU summit, Karamanlis said that ways of coping with the crisis and coordinating the actions of EU member-states had dominated the meeting. He pointed out that national governments and international organisations throughout the world had taken action since September 2008, intervening to deal with the repercussions of the crisis.
Listing the problems, Karamanlis said the most important were the reduction of lending by commercial banks to households and businesses, an increase in state borrowing throughout the world and trends toward protectionism.
Governments had to counter those trends, giving priority in the short term to improving the banks' willingness to give credit in a way that did not jeopardise long-term targets or the viability of public finances, Karamanlis noted, while stressing the need to preserve free trade and avoid protectionism, at the same time promoting structural reforms that increase productivity and competitiveness.
The Greek prime minister also focused on the need to reform the framework for monitoring the international financial sector in the medium term:
"Every financial organisation must be constantly checked and monitored to ensure stability," Karamanlis said, adding that the main guidelines emerging from Friday's European summit had been those of intensifying efforts for the recovery of the real economy and faster action to improve supervision of all financial institutions within the EU.
Referring to the G-20 meeting due to take place in London, Greece's premier said that this meeting should help to reform and restore confidence in the global financial system. At the same time, he stressed that cooperate on an EU level remained the main priority and that this cooperation was, in general, "more efficient".
Karamanlis welcomed a decision by European leaders to provide five billion euros in European funds for energy-related projects to develop infrastructure in rural areas. He said that this package was "of particular interest to Greece" since it would provide funding for three energy-related projects that directly concerned the country and for boosting agricultural development.
Emphasising the human side of the crisis, the Greek premier underlined the need for greater protection for households and businesses, particularly the weaker and more vulnerable sections of society, such as the elderly, young people and the unemployed.
"As in all economic crises, there is a need for international coordination," he pointed out, emphasising the special role of the EU in this direction.
On EU natgas project, Copenhagen meeting on climate
Asked about his stance to the European Commission's emergency plan for natural gas, Karamanlis said that his address to the EU Summit had emphasised that for projects belonging to the so-called "South Corridor" that would directly benefit all Southeastern European countries, it was necessary to set the right mechanisms in motion.
Regarding preparations for the international climate change meeting in Copenhagen, he said that European leaders had agreed that the EU must have a key role in efforts to restrict the greenhouse gas phenomenon.
"There is no time to delay decisions for dealing with climate change," he said.
 PASOK spokesman on economyMain opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou, commenting on Friday on Greece's presence at the summit, said that the country turned up once again without a plan to tackle the crisis and burdened by a five-year monetary policy that has accumulated debts and deficits.
Referring to the question of restricting extravagane in the public sector and to what the prime minister said about the issue, Papaconstantinou wondered "when did Greece have over the past years a 2.5 percent deficit and when exactly did it have a deficit below the Stability Pact limits."
Referring further to ther public debt, the spokesman said that "with this government the debt is increasing by 18 billion euros every year, while the decrease in the debt, as a percentage of GDP, during New Democracy party governments, is less than the corresponding decrease during PASOK party governments."
Papaconstantinou concluded that "the government turned up in Brussels with a deadlocked and ineffective policy" and added that a change in course was necessary.
 KKE on EU summit decisionsThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), referring in an announcemernt on Friday to decisions taken at the European Union summit, said "the decisions and directives of this summit as well show that the EU can only become worse for peoples."
"The governments of the member-states, neo-liberal and socialdemocrat, decided again that the working class and working people will pay the 'price' of the capitalist crisis. They decided to speed up capitalist restructurings in the framework of the Lisbon strategy and the integration of the single market, with the first aim being the generalised implementation of flexible forms of employment, the establishment of partial unemployment," the announcement said.
It further said that "the EU is a wolf alliance of monopolies and of their political representatives. They attack peoples united, at the same time they are struggling all the more intensely between them as to who will have the least losses and the biggest profits."
The announcement also pointed out that "the promotion of the Eastern Partnership Relation, together with the Euromediterranean Union, signal the intensity of the EU's imperialist aggressiveness."
Lastly, it stressed that "insubordination towards the EU constitutes a basic precondition for the people to repel with their struggle the worst antilabour and antipopular measures, so as not to pay for the crisis. With a powerful KKE, a popular alliance, they can pave the only path in their interest: That of popular power, the socialisation of monopolies and planned growth with social and labour control."
 PM praises initialing of Greece-Albania continental shelf dealBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday expressed his satisfaction over the successful conclusion of negotiations and the initialing of an agreement by Athens and Tirana to delineate a portion of the Ionian Sea continental shelf and other maritime zones in the same sea region.
"The agreement is completely based on provisions of the United Nations' Law of the Sea," Karamanlis said, in reply to a press question, following the conclusion of an EU summit here.
He also said the agreement will further assist bilateral relations.
 PM on police response to terror attacksBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Spinthourakis)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday said that there had been "clear improvements" in the response of Greek law enforcement vis-à-vis the latest round of terrorist attacks in Athens, though noting that he was "not entirely satisfied" on this score.
He stressed that he was against "painting everyone with the same brush", pointing to instances of self-sacrifice by police officers, and stressed that he had confidence in his ministers.
"In any case, attributing political responsibility cannot occur on a daily basis," the premier added.
 H. Clinton and Bakoyannis hold telephone talksWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a telephone conversation with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Friday.
A State Department official termed the telephone conversation a continuation of the two foreign ministers' meeting in Washington last month. Friday's talks focused on bilateral relations and issues relating to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), whose 2009 presidency is being assumed by Greece, the official added.
 Papandreou comments on econ crisisMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Friday chaired a meeting of top PASOK cadres overseeing the party's economic policy sectors, where the former charged that the greatest crisis today is the country's lack of governance.
"With great concern we heard the prime minister today looking for an alibi instead of asking for forgiveness for real problems," he said, charging that Greek Premier Costas Karamanlis is systematically distorting the truth and of unreliability.
He also said that seriousness and responsibility needed to combat the international economic crisis is lacking from today's government.
Moreover, in commenting on EU-wide policy, Papandreou, the foreign minister in previous PASOK governments, chided what he called the "conservative majority in Europe," saying it was unable to rise to the circumstances which the current crisis entails.
"What is needed is a new, progressive majority so Europe can exit the crisis," he said.
 Deputy FM meets with Italian defence undersecretaryDeputy foreign minister Theodoros Kassimis met on Friday with visiting Italian undersecretary of state for defence Guido Crosetto.
Kassimis told reporters after the meeting that they exchanged views on the situation in the Balkans and in Eastern Europe, and particularly on the situation in Afghanistan.
He said that they ascertained common views on many issues, and stressed the desire of the two governments to face them, inside the European Union, with the same reasoning and from the same perspective.
Crosetto, in turn, described the meeting as "particularly important", noting that it provided an opportunity for reaffirmation of the two countries' common European perspective both on issues concerning the Balkans and on international missions, particuarly in Afghanistan.
He opined that in the coming months Itally would, in acknowledgement of Greece's strategic importance in the region, apporach specific issues of Greek interest in the spirit of steadfast friendship and respect of the Greek positions.
 Deputy FM Varvitsiotis concludes contacts with Serb government membersBELGRADE (ANA-MPA/N. Pelpas)
Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis met in Belgrade with Serb Central Bank Governor Radovan Jelaai and Minister for the National Investment Plan (NIP) Verica Kalanovic.
The meeting with Jelaai focused on the repercussions of the international economic crisis in the region and it was ascertained that cooperation between all countries is necessary to handle it effectively, while it was agreed that protectionism is no solution.
The deputy minister and Kalanovic examined details of Greece's participation in the reconstruction of road axis 10.
On the first day of his stay in Belgrade and in his meeting with Finance and Regional Development Minister Mladjan Dinkic, the way was finalised with which the Greek side will participate in the reconstruction of Axis 10 and its funding.
As a result of Greek funding, the implementation of the project will begin with the reconstruction of the Levosoje-Donji Neradovac section, that is 16 kilometres long.
It was also agreed that Greece will participate in the funding of the remaining sections of Axis 10, which will be jointly funded by the World Bank and the European Investments Bank. Greece's total participation, through the Greek Balkan Economic Reconstruction Plan, in the specific project amounts to 100 million euros.
 Justice minister dissatisfied after surprise inspection of Patras prisonJustice Minister Nikos Dendias made a surprise inspection at the Aghios Stefanos correctional facility near the western city of Patras on Friday, expressing his dissatisfaction afterwards on the level of security measures, among others.
Dendias stressed that everything possible will be done to modernise and upgrade of the correctional system. He pointed out that this can be achieved initially through intensified security measures, adding that more of them will be adopted via the legislative route.
Responding to a question by reporters on increasing sentences for suspects committing crimes while wearing hoods, Dendias said "the Greek citizens' right to protest is being respected, but no one has the right to commit crimes with their faces covered. We do not recognise the right to committing a crime. We do not recognise a state of lawlessness."
 AHEPA praise for new NATO commander nomineeWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
The American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) this week expressed its satisfaction over a decision by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to propose the appointment of US Navy Adm. James Stavridis for the post of NATO commander in Europe.
"We are overjoyed with the news," said AHEPA President Ike Goulas said in reference to the highly decorated US admiral of Greek descent, adding that "we are extremely proud of his excellent achievements and we are convinced that, following his appointment, he will serve the nation and lead the Alliance in an excellent and discreet way."
 Souflias says Acheloos River diversion to proceedEnvironment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Friday expressed certainty that a controversial and decades-old project to divert water from Acheloos River in western Greece (Aetoloakarnania prefecture) to central Thessaly will proceed unhindered.
He was speaking in Parliament in response to a tabled question by a Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) MP also elected from the Thessaly region.
Souflias, a veteran minister and parliamentarian elected from Larissa, the largest prefecture in Thessaly, stressed that the specific project in the greater region of the Mesochora-Sykia tunnel to Thessaly has already been earmarked for 580 million euros of funding, pointing out that a total of 600 million cubic meters of water a year will be diverted to Thessaly from the Acheloos, out of an annual drainage of four billion cubic meters.
A team of EU experts from the Environment General Directorate concluded, after visiting the region, that the diversion of waters from the Acheloos River will have no effect whatsoever on the ecosystems and the prefecture of Aetoloakarnania, Souflias said.
The project, according to supporters, aims to divert the Acheloos' waters towards central Greece in order to irrigate the Thessaly plain and to replenish the Pineios River ecosystem.
The Acheloos River runs north to south through the centre of Aetoloakarnania after forming from springs and current in the central mountain range. It empties into the Ionian Sea. The forests and riparian ecosystems of southern Pindos, the Acheloos Valley and the Acheloos Delta have been included in the national Natura 2000 list. The Acheloos Delta forms the Messolongi Lagoons Complex.
 Tourist development minister visits MoscowMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
Tourist Development Minister Costas Markopoulos, speaking at a press conference at the convention cenrtre of Moscow's MITT tourist exhibition, said that Greece remains in the front line as an option for Russian tourists and Russian tourist agencies and, despite the crisis, insecurity and existing queries, it plays a leading role as a tourist destination.
Markopoulos, who visited the Greek pavilion at the exhibition, said that "we have annulled indirect taxes, subsidised work and we have done all that we can and we are doing all that we can to decrease inelastic expenditures and to prolong the tourist period."
The minister referred with satisfaction to all that is being done over the past years to achieve the speedier issuing of entry visas for Russian citizens through the Visa Centre in Moscow, resulting in Greece being, as Russian tourist agencies also recognise, the country issuing visas quicker than any other European country.
Markopoulos further said that "the tourist period is no longer only July-August. It is also September and October. Last year we had 60 percent more visas in September because some new charters came in. Therefore, we have a long way before us," adding that the struggle will be waged to the end and "we shall assess the result on December 31."
The minister disclosed that "the Russian tourists who came to Greece last year were just over 300,000" and pointed out that "we feel that the margin for an increase is very large. We are working on this and we feel the certainty and self-confidence that the citizens of this country regard Greece as a tourist option."
 Agricultural Development minister on national dialogue on farming issuesAgricultural Development and Food Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis had a discussion on Friday with farmers and agencies of the Peloponnese Region, at the Cultural Centre in the city of Tripoli, in the framework of national dialogue on the country's farming issues.
Hatzigakis was accompanied by Deputy Ministers Mihalis Papadopoulos and Costas Kiltidis.
Speaking before the commencement of the event, Hatzigakis explained the reasons why the dialogue is taking place (to define the course and the axes of farming policy in the years to come) and said that from February until the beginning of the summer the farmers will be receiving over one billion euros, both from the 500 million package and from subsidies.
"Consequently, at this point as well we are absolutely consistent," the minister said.
 DT, OTE eye future developmentBONN (ANA-MPA / D. Kambasis)
Deutsche Telekom (DT) and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Friday discussed ways of further developing the Greek telecoms' operations months after the German multinational purchased a 25-pct equity stake in OTE, taking over the utility's management as well.
In a meeting between top executives from both telecoms providers in Frankfurt, it was announced that as of Feb. 10, 2009 a connection of networks between DT and OTE was achieved, allowing the Greek telecoms organisation to use DT's underwater trans-Atlantic optic fibre cable, which links Europe with America.
Deutsche Telekom's executives stressed that a partnership with OTE and the promotion and implementation of new technologies was creating new opportunities for customers in SE Europe, along with improved service quality and heightened competition, while prospects of further investments in the telecoms sector would lead to lower costs for consumers.
DT also said it aims to expand its network in the Middle East's developing markets.
 PPC's strategy, Greek energy policy detailed at Economist con'fPublic Power Corp. (PPC) chairman and CEO Panagiotis Athanasopoulos on Friday reiterated the Greek power utility's intention to separate its transport and distribution networks, while he also referred to "speculative practices" in the Greek energy market.
Addressing an Economist conference in downtown Athens focusing on the energy sector, Athanasopoulos underlined the need for PPC to maintain a reasonable profit, while he added that the utility offered one of the lowest energy bills in Europe. He noted that PPC was recording the highest cost among all major European energy groups at 10 euros per MWh, citing delays in adopting common European regulations.
Athanasopoulos was adamant that PPC was not seeking a strategic investor but was looking towards joint ventures and partnerships, a process moving ahead but at a very slow pace.
"We draft our strategy with the vision of a powerful player in the region and not just within Greek borders, aiming at long-term growth," he said.
Addressing the same conference, Yiannis Costopoulos, the chief executive in Hellenic Petroleum, predicted a consolidation in the domestic fuel retail market in the next five years.
Costopoulos stressed that an economic crisis has cut demand for petrol by 0.5 pct and for diesel by 4.0 pct, although he noted that Hellenic Petroleum would invest heavily in a new refinery in the Elefsina district, west of Athens, to boost diesel production, as the groups expects a major increase in demand in the future.
He noted that Hellenic Petroleum was examining all prospects of takeovers and partnerships, including in neighbouring countries, such as Bulgaria and Serbia, where it aims to establish a competitive presence.
Christos Folias, an ND deputy and former development minister, in his address said the government has timely acknowledged the challenges and opportunities in the energy sector and has made a dynamic entrance as an international player.
"We have signed significant bilateral and multilateral agreements with powerful strategic partners, fully harmonised with EU policies," Folias said. He noted that Greece's policies in the energy sector did not just serve the country's and Europe's energy security but they are fully harmonised with environment protection programmes, while they seek to support economic growth and job creation.
Main opposition PASOK MP and former minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis said Greece needs to draft a strategy aiming towards energy production with clean technologies, protection of the environment and in support of development.
Chryssohoidis said PPC would be a vehicle to support energy development in the country.
 Bank of Greece releases Balance of Payments data for Jan. 2009The central Bank of Greece (BoG) on Friday released the latest Balance of Payments figures:
In January 2009, the current account balance showed a deficit of ¬ 3,368 million, down by ¬ 566 million year-on-year. This development reflects a contraction of the trade deficit. By contrast, the surplus of the services balance declined and the deficits of the income account and the current transfers balance grew.
The ¬ 972 million decrease in the trade deficit reflects mainly a ¬ 603 million drop in the trade deficit excluding oil and ships and, secondarily, a ¬ 361 million fall in the net oil bill, while net payments for purchases of ships remained unchanged. Underlying the decline in the trade deficit excluding oil and ships was the fact that the import bill fell by ¬ 807 million or 24%, i.e. more than the corresponding export receipts (which decreased by ¬ 204 million or 18%).
The ¬ 248 million reduction in the surplus of the services balance is mainly attributable to a narrowing of the surplus of the transport balance and, secondarily, a rise in net payments for other services. The widening of the income account deficit mainly reflects higher net interest, dividend and profit payments. Finally, the growth of the deficit of the current transfers balance is accounted for by lower net transfers to the "other" sectors (excluding general government), while net EU transfers to general government remained virtually unchanged. (It should be recalled that current transfers from the EU mainly include receipts from the Guarantee Section of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) in the context of the Common Agricultural Policy, as well as receipts from the European Social Fund, while current transfers to the EU include Greece's contributions (payments) to the Community Budget.)
Capital transfers balance
In January 2009, the capital transfers balance showed a surplus of ¬ 68.5 million, i.e. considerably lower year-on-year. (Capital transfers mainly include receipts from the Structural Funds - except for the European Social Fund - and the Cohesion Fund under the Community Support Framework.)
Combined current account and capital transfers balance
The combined current account and capital transfers balance showed a deficit of ¬ 3,300 million in January 2009, down by ¬ 326 million year-on-year.
Financial account balance
In January 2009, direct investment showed a net inflow of ¬ 94 million. In particular, under non-residents' investment in Greece, a net inflow of ¬ 109 million was recorded. The most important transactions concerned a ¬ 75 million inflow from the Austrian company "Hofer KG" for its participation in the capital increase of "Aldi Hellas Supermarket Holding Ltd." and a ¬ 30 million outflow (disinvestment) concerning the sale by "Wind PPC Holding" to "Wind Hellas" of the former's stake in "Tellas S.A." (this was the second out of six instalments - the first one had been paid in October 2008). Residents' investment abroad recorded a net outflow of ¬ 15 million, with no remarkable transactions.
During the same period, a net inflow of ¬ 2,141 million was observed under portfolio investment, mainly reflecting inflows of ¬ 2,028 million as resident institutional investors' holdings of foreign bonds and Treasury bills fell, as well as inflows of ¬ 523 million for non-residents' purchases of Greek government bonds and Treasury bills, which, however, were considerably lower than in January 2008 (¬ 6,600 million). These developments were partly offset by a small outflow of ¬ 384 million for residents' purchases of foreign shares.
"Other" investment recorded a net inflow of ¬ 1,258 million, mainly because of a ¬ 2,079 million increase in non-residents' deposit and repo holdings in Greece, which exceeded by far an outflow of ¬ 500 million for repayment of general government loans.
At end-January 2009, Greece's reserve assets reached ¬ 2.5 billion. It should be recalled that, since Greece joined the euro area in January 2001, reserve assets, as defined by the European Central Bank, include only monetary gold, the "reserve position" with the IMF, "Special Drawing Rights", and Bank of Greece claims in foreign currency on residents of non-euro area countries. Conversely, reserve assets do not include claims in euro on residents of non-euro area countries, claims in foreign currency and in euro on residents of euro area countries, and the Bank of Greece participation in the capital and the reserve assets of the ECB.
Balance of payments data for February 2009 will be released on April 22.
 Marfin Popular Bank to issue 250-mln-euro new securitiesMarfin Popular Bank on Friday announced a board decision to approve the issuance of capital securities worth up to 250 million euros with the aim of further strengthening the Group's capital base.
The securities will have no maturing date and could be repurchased -on the approval of the Central Bank of Cyprus- at their nominal value along with any interest, five years after issuing date. The securities will carry a fixed 7.0 pct interest to be paid every three months.
The capital securities will be offered to a limited circle of investors at a minimum participation of 50,000 euros. Marfin Popular Bank said it could examine offering similar securities to the public through a public offer at a later stage.
 Former FinMin Papantoniou visits WashingtonWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/A. Ellis)
Former minister of national economy and finance Yannos Papantoniou met in Washington with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and in comments he made afterwards he stated that they had a detailed discussion on recent developments in the global economy. "We share the conclusion that the crisis will deteriorate as predicted by world organizations, the IMF in particular," Papantoniou said afterwards.
Papantoniou, a former PASOK minister, also addressed a Woodrow Wilson Centre event elaborating on the topic "Parallel Goals: EU Integration and international responsibilities" and attended a seminar organized by the American University where he delivered a speech on "European Security in the Global Environment".
Papantoniou had contacts with US House Representatives Greek-Americans, John Sarbanes (D-MD), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Zack Space (D-OH), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Dina Titus (D-NV).
 Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling to pay 0.28 euros per share dividendCoca-Cola Hellenic Bottling's board on Friday said it would seek shareholders' approval to a plan to pay a 0.28 euros per share dividend to shareholders for the year 2008.
The company has scheduled an annual general shareholders' meeting for Thursday 18, June 2009.
Doros Constantinou, chief executive of the company, said: "We are in a pleasant position to propose a 12 pct increase in dividend payments for 2008. This increase reflects the power of the company's operational strategy and the board's commitment to achieving higher returns for our shareholders".
 Con'f on water conservationFuture water shortages in the country and efforts to better utilise and conserve water resources was the subject of a conference on Friday, with Deputy Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Themistocles Xanthopoulos underlining that Greece will have to increase its water reserves soon, noting that 60 percent of run-off from melting snow ends up in the sea.
He addressed a conference, entitled titled "Water: The Day After", hosted by the Athens Water and Sewerage Co. (EYDAP SA), the largest water utility in the country, on the occasion of the World Water Day.
 Building materials' price index up 2.2 pct in FebruaryGreece's building materials' price index rose 2.2 pct in February 2009, compared with the same month last year, after an increase of 5.1 pct in February 2007, the National Statistical Service said on Friday.
The statistics service fell 0.2 pct in February from January 2009, after a monthly increase of 0.5 pct in January 2008.
 Intracom Holdings to offer shares to its workersAn Intracom Holdings' extraordinary general shareholders' meeting on Friday agreed to grant a total of 815,021 shares to its workers in the company or affiliated enterprises. The shares were purchased in 2006 as part of a share buy back program.
 Greek stocks end 1.54% higherGreek stocks on Friday ended significantly higher, helped by a wave of buying in blue chip stocks at the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index of the market rose 1.54 pct to end at 1,647.88 points, with turnover an improved 150.6 million euros, of which 10.6 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with the Financial Services (3.96 pct), Constructions (3.25 pct), Oil (3.16 pct) and Travel (2.78 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Health (4.70 pct), Insurance (3.84 pct) and Technology (1.71 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 2.16 pct, the FTSE 40 index fell 1.59 pct and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.15 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 100 to 96 with another 47 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +3.16%
Personal & Household: -1.27%
Raw Materials: +1.40%
Travel & Leisure: +2.78%
Food & Beverages: +0.97%
Financial Services: +3.96%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Public Power Corp (PPC) and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.35
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.70
HBC Coca Cola: 10.54
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.60
National Bank of Greece: 11.46
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.11
Bank of Piraeus: 4.70
Titan Cement Company: 16.54
 ADEX closing reportThe June contracts on the FTSE 20 index were trading at a significant discount (3.64 pct) in their debut in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover remaining a low 85.783 million euros. Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 15,964 contracts worth 63.513 million euros, with 31,566 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 56,671 contracts worth 22.270 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (17,340), followed by Eurobank (1,164), MIG (2,781), OTE (2,531), PPC (1,998), OPAP (1,991), Piraeus Bank (2,393), National Bank (5,017), Alpha Bank (8,297), GEK (3,337) and ATEbank (1,720).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market jumped to 1.661 billion euros on Friday, of which 1.136 billion were buy orders and the remaining 525 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 320 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was 268 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.66 pct and the German Bund 2.98 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.87 pct, the six-month rate 1.72 pct, the three-month rate 1.57 pct and the one-month rate 1.18 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.365
Pound sterling 0.947
Danish kroner 7.511
Swedish kroner 11.144
Japanese yen 130.91
Swiss franc 1.541
Norwegian kroner 8.719
Canadian dollar 1.690
Australian dollar 1.984
 New evidence on bomb blastPolice explosives experts on Friday confirmed that the bomb set off outside the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation (KED) building on Thursday night, at the corner of Koniari Street and Alexandras Avenue opposite the Supreme Court, was a remote-controlled device that they described as 'powerful'.
From evidence collected at the scene of the explosion, they surmise that the device was detonated remotely from a fairly short distance away and that those responsible probably had visual contact with the site of the explosion and could thus ensure that no passers-by fell victim to the blast.
Investigators also assume that this was the reason why there was no warning telephone call about the bomb to authorities.
Among the findings at the scene is a plaque distorted by the explosion that experts suspect was used to receive the signal from a remote detonator that may have been similar to a car alarm system.
Apart from this, police estimate that the device contained roughly two kilos of explosives but that the brunt of the blast was absorbed by the car parked next to the bomb, which suffered the most damage.
The bomb had been placed in a blue plastic bag hung from the base of a railing along the side of the road, near the entrance to the KED building and between parked cars. In addition to the damage suffered by the car, the blast also caused minor damage to the entrance of the building and shattered windows in the surrounding neighbourhood.
Two security guards had been on night-time guard duty within the KED building at the time of the explosion, but these were stationed at the back of the building so that they were neither in any danger but did not see anything suspicious that might help in the investigation.
Police will examine footage recorded by CCTV traffic control cameras on Alexandras Avenue and outside the Supreme Court and other buildings in the area, hoping to identify the suspects. The likelihood of this is considered low, however, since experts believe that the culprits will be in disguise, as in the case of the car booby-trapped with a 125-kilo ANFO bomb outside the Citibank building in Kifissia.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the explosion, though the use of a device with a remote-control detonator bears the hallmarks of "Revolutionary Struggle", which had used the same method for the attack targeting former minister George Voulgarakis in May 2006 and another group named 'Popular Will'. The latter terror group had detonated a bomb using a cell phone at the Larissa court building on 29 May 2004, an explosive devices at the offices of the international firms Bayer, Siemens and Lufthansa in Maroussi in June 2008, and at the finance ministry's Economic Social Committee building in Neos Kosmos, Athens a month after that. The group had claimed responsibility for the above attacks with a proclamation sent 50 months after its first appearance.
Anti-terrorist squad officers are now waiting for a proclamation that will explain the reasons for the attack on the specific building.
The explosion occurred at 21:30 on Thursday night, causing damage but no injuries. A strong smell of natural gas that followed the explosion was found to be due to the fact that the lid of a natural gas pipe had been blown off by the explosion, while the bomb-disposal experts clarified that there had been no explosion of natural gas.
 Minister on public administration's reformsInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Friday referred to the fourth round "2007-2013" of reforms in Greece's large public administration, inaugurating a session of the committee overseeing the ambitious project.
Pavlopoulos underlined that the ministry is systematically carries implementing a 631-million-euro budget, while characterising it the most important reform package ever attempted in the country.
 Pavlopoulos addresses e-learning conferenceThe government plan for the radical reform of public and local administration is in progress, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos stated in a tele-conference held Friday within the framework of a one-day conference on "Modern Trends and Prospects in e-learning and TeleEducation", hosted by the National Center for Public Administration and Local Government.
Pavlopoulos stated that administrative procedures become simpler, sector burdens are being reduced, while the services provided to the citizens are improved under the guidance of the interior ministry Administrative Reform 2007-2013 operational programme that constitutes a bridge toward Digital Administration.
The National Center for Public Administration - Local Government is in constant search of innovative approaches concerning the education and training of public servants and within this framework Distance Learning Programmes are being implemented since 2007, Pavlopoulos stated.
 Minister at foundation ceremony for digital driving test centreTransport and Communications Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Friday laid the foundation stone for the first of 11 new "digitalised" testing centres for new drivers, in the municipality of Thermi in Thessaloniki. He stressed that the government intended to put a stop to incidents of corruption and bribery involving new driving licences, as well as the heavy toll in lives on Greek roads.
The new driving test track will occupy 6.6-hectare site donated by the agriculture ministry and has a construction budget of 4.7 million euros.
"The state is being re-founded in the transport sector," Stylianidis told those present, stressing that the new site would streamline the prefecture's transport and communications services, in which everything would be electronic and digital, with fully objective criteria for assessing those applying for a licence to drive.
"With the digitalisation of the files and the creation of electronic [testing] parks, there will henceforth be no room for third parties in the process of certifying drivers," he underlined.
The minister noted that another 10 such centres are scheduled to be built around the country, while that in Thessaloniki was expected to be completed by the autumn since roughly one third of the auxiliary facilities on the site were already complete.
Macedonia-Thrace Minister Stavros Kalafatis described the centre as "a big small project" that would help cut back bureaucracy and promote decentralisation and transparency.
 Minister inaugurates children's mental health centreEmployment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli-Petralia inaugurated the Social Insurance Institute (IKA-ETAM) Children's Mental Health Centre in Athens on Friday underlining that its main objective is to promote emotional well-being of children and their families.
The state-of-the-art building complex features an auditorium with a capacity of 250 people, seminar halls and a library, while a team of 40 experts (child psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers) will meet all diagnostic and treatment needs of children, adolescents and their families.
Referring to IKA-ETAM, the largest Social Security Organisation in Greece, Petralia stated in the 4th quarter of 2008 managed to increase its revenues by 4.13pct compared to the same period in 2007. The minister also stressed that revenues in January 2009 alone increased 9.63 pct compared to the same month in 2008, adding that its budget for 2009 has a surplus of 94 million euros.
 Greek-owned freighter seized by pirates in Gulf of AdenA Greek-owned cargo ship has fallen victim to piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the Merchant Marine Ministry announced on Friday.
According to early information, the St. Vincent-flagged freighter "Titan", belonging to the Albamare City shipping company, was seized by pirates off the Somali coast on Thursday night in the Gulf of Aden as it was transporting a cargo of steel from the Black Sea to Korea. The vessel's 24-member crew includes three officers: the captain, first mate and first engineer.
The Ministry's Operations Center was in constant contact and cooperation with the Operations Center in Kuala Lumpur.
The vessel was headed towards the Somali coast late Thursday night.
 HFC exhibition on Athenian Democracy inauguratedMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA / S. Hatzimanolis)
The archaeological exhibition "Athenian Democracy speaking through its inscriptions" was formally inaugurated in Melbourne on Thursday at the Hellenic Foundation for Culture (HFC) Centre, housed in the Hellenic Museum facilities.
Inaugurating the exhibition General Secretary of the Greek Ministry of Culture, Thodoris Dravillas, stressed that the Greek community of Melbourne does not forget its roots and manages to preserve its cultural identity and distinct characteristics.
Addressing the event HFC President Professor George Babiniotis underlined that "this priceless exhibition records and highlights the democratic ideology of our ancestors."
The exhibition, organized by the Epigraphic Museum and the University of Athens, is being held on the occasion of the formal opening of the HFC Centre in Melbourne and will give the opportunity to the general public to understand the operation of the world's first Democracy.
 Fire at National Defence ministry under controlA fire broke out from an unspecified cause at the National Defence ministry at 17:30 on Friday and was placed under control with the help of the Fire Brigade. The fire broke out on the 5th floor where the Political Planning and Defence Service is housed near the Pentagon's gate on the side of the suburb of Neo Psychiko.
 Cloudy, rainy on SaturdayCloudy and showery weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 4-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 17C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with southerly 6-8 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 7C to 15C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 9C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe EU Summit focusing on immediate measures to combat the global financial crisis and a bomb explosion Thursday night outside the Public Real Estate Corporation (KED) in downtown Athens dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "University entry exams will begin on 15 May because of the Euroelections".
APOGEVMATINI: "Education Ministry announced on Thursday the number of entrants in University".
AVGHI: "50,000 enterprises saved 9.1 billion euros in taxes due to the government's policy".
AVRIANI: "Enviroment and Town Planning Minister George Souflias announced structural reforms in government".
CHORA: "Europe a volcano - The recession provokes social outbursts".
ELEFTHEROS: "Souflias' manifesto to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Ministers - The reforms he proposes for the government structure".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Powerful bomb explosion outside the Public Real Estate Corporation".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Outcry - Massive reactions over the government's measures - The tax evaders remain unaffected".
ESTIA: "The extraordinary tax has side-effects - The basic taxation principles are being violated".
ETHNOS: "The.... 'minus' for the salaried and pensioners - Who will lose and how much from the freeze on incomes".
KATHIMERINI: "The new bomb intensifies the discomfort - Blind strike at KED".
LOGOS: "Karamnalis' difficult mission .....in Brussels".
NIKI: "Government milking the Greeks dry - It's preparing new tax measures after the salaries freeze".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Devitalisation of EU in order for the people to have the power - New antisocial attack from EU's Spring Summit".
TA NEA: "Recprd number of University entrants to the backdrop of speculation of early elections".
TO VIMA: "Wave of intense reactions against the one-sided fiscal measures".
VRADYNI: "970 new University entrants' positions".
 President Christofias to press on with talks for Cyprus settlementBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias assured on Friday that the Greek Cypriot side would persist with discussing the aspects of the Cyprus problem with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, in the framework of direct negotiations on the Cyprus problem, under UN auspices, with an aim to bridge the differences, without violating fundamental principles.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels after the conclusion of the European Council, President Christofias said his European partners are interested in the Cyprus talks, especially now that the leaders of the two communities have entered the chapter on European affairs, noting that he has been informing EU leaders that matters are not simple.
President Christofias said he had brief talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU member state leaders, who are interested in Cyprus and the Cyprus problem.
He added that ''especially now that the EU chapter is being discussed, everyone is interested and I am interested in telling them that things are not simple, and that in this chapter there are difficulties.''
''In some chapters there may be a good basis for discussion but when we enter details, such as the chapter of properties, for instance, or this of the EU, we come across many difficulties. But we are there and we are here to face these difficulties,'' he said.
President Christofias assured that ''we will persist with the discussion of issues with Mr. Talat, with an aim to bridge the differences, without violating fundamental principles, one of which is the functionality of the state and the functionality of the Republic of Cyprus, the federal, the united Republic of Cyprus, within the EU, as a member state.''
''We cannot have two separate representations, we cannot have two separate policies regarding fulfilling Cyprus' obligations towards the EU,'' he pointed out.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
The leaders of the two communities, namely President Christofias and Talat, have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reach a comprehensive settlement.
President Christofias supports stricter EU monitoring measures to tackle crisis
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias said on Friday that there should be stricter monitoring measures to tackle the consequences of the global financial crisis, noting that he was not optimistic that the employment summit scheduled for May in Prague could provide anything specific on a European level to overcome the harshness of the crisis.
He also said that on climate change, Cyprus managed to double its EU funding, from 5 to 10 million euros, and expressed hope that the EU would at some point discuss the Cypriot study regarding the consequences of climate change.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels after the conclusion of the European Council, President Christofias said that, regarding the financial crisis, ''the EU wants to send the message that it believes in what it is doing, it wants to send an optimistic message to the member states, that the measures taken will bear fruit.''
''The European Council does not believe that additional measures should be taken at this point in time, because the results of the measures already being implemented should be assessed,'' he said.
''Stricter monitoring measures should be taken. State intervention, in the context of the market economy, plays a stabilising role, and we believe that the measures that have been taken should be continued and consistent,'' he added.
Furthermore, President Christofias said on the issues of climate change, energy and energy supply that ''some decisions were taken, which need to be more specific,'' adding that Cyprus was an exception, since the only way it could be provided with raw material for the production of energy was by sea and thus ''we cannot cooperate with other states in joint projects.''
''We asked to have our share in the help the EU is providing to the member states,'' he said, adding that at first 5 million euros were given and ''we gave a struggle at the dinner and managed to secure another 5 million euros.''
He pointed out that this sum was not exorbitant, since the creation of an energy centre in Vassiliko would cost around 750 million euros.
President Christofias also expressed hope that at some point the EU would discuss a Cypriot study of the consequences of climate change, adding that it is estimated that Cyprus will need 1 billion euros to tackle the situation.
''We are requesting the contribution of the EU. At the first stage, we will receive 6 million euros'' to tackle the consequences of drought, he said.
Referring to the G20 summit to be held in London next month, President Christofias said efforts were being made for the EU to appear with a common view. ''I think this Council has achieved that,'' he added.
Replying to questions about the employment summit and whether anything specific could emerge on a European level to tackle the harshness of the crisis, President Christofias said he was not optimistic.
''I am not optimistic. Different views are being expressed at the Council regarding what everyone is expecting from such a Council summit. I do not know if such a summit will finally take place,'' he said, adding that ''one concludes from the views expressed that there are fears among the various partners that great expectations will be created among the workers and in view of the European elections, if there are no specific and tangible decisions which will send a positive message to the people, many fear that they will have repercussions during the elections.''
He pointed out that ''we, due to our positions, do not have such fears,'' adding that "we will support a social policy, which will lead to results.''
President Christofias added that such a summit should lead to the creation of new jobs and defend the rights of the workers.
 Rehn urges Turkey to comply with ECHR decision on missingLONDON (CNA/ANA-MPA)
EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn called upon Turkey to fulfill its obligations stemming from the European Court of Human Rights' Fourth Interstate Application of Cyprus vs Turkey on the humanitarian issue of missing persons.
"Turkey is obliged to ensure conditions for the effective investigation into the fate of Greek Cypriot missing persons who disappeared in life-threatening circumstances", Rehn notes in a letter - reply, to the UK Organisation of Relatives of Cypriot Missing Persons.
Meanwhile, Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou, replying to a letter of the Organisation regarding missing persons, stressed that "Turkey is obliged to give a full and quick response to the decision of the Court".
According to the Fourth Interstate Application of Cyprus vs Turkey, (10 May 2001), Ankara is found guilty of continuous gross human rights violations in Cyprus.
The ECHR ruled that Turkey's authorities had never investigated claims by relatives that missing persons had disappeared after being detained, in circumstances where there was real cause to fear for their welfare.
Moreover, the ECHR ruled that the Turkish authorities' failure to investigate effectively, with an aim to clarify, the whereabouts and fate of Greek Cypriot missing persons, who disappeared in life-threatening circumstances, was a continuing violation of the procedural obligation under Article 2 of the Convention to protect the right to life.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
Hundreds of Greek Cypriots have been missing since 1974 and nearly 500 Turkish Cypriots are missing either since the intercommunal fighting in the early 1960s.
 Archbishop of Cyprus meets EP PresidentBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the European Parliament Hans Gert Poettering assured on Friday that he would exert pressure to solve the problems raised by Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus Chrysostomos II, during a meeting in Brussels.
In statements after the meeting, the Archbishop said it was ''a very positive meeting,'' noting that ''we had the opportunity to tell him in every detail what the situation is, the cultural heritage, which does not only belong to us but to Europe and the whole world.''
''He listened attentively to our concerns that most of the monuments are derelict, and I called on him to intervene personally and dynamically, so that we can save what can be saved'' in the Turkish occupied areas of the Republic, he added.
The Archbishop said he also explained to Poettering that the Turkish occupation regime would not allow liturgies to be held in churches in the areas under Turkish occupation, noting that the European Parliament President ''listened with attention and promised to exert pressure.''
''The meeting was very successful,'' the Archbishop added. Replying to questions, he said the Church representation in Brussels would make an effort to contribute to preserving the values and ideals on which the EU is founded.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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