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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-03-25

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 25 March 2009 Issue No: 3154


  • [01] Commission sets 2010 deadline for 'correction' of Greek budget deficit
  • [02] Commission's recommendations
  • [03] Greek gov't must take measures to correct excessive deficit, EU's Almunia says
  • [04] PASOK on EU response to crisis
  • [05] PASOK blames gov't for economic ills
  • [06] Greek leaders' messages for March 25 Independence Day
  • [07] Pupils' parade for Independence Day
  • [08] Papariga addresses int'l con'f in Belgrade on occasion of NATO bombings
  • [09] Deputy FM concludes London visit
  • [10] Former PM Simitis lecture at Bilgi Univ. in Istanbul
  • [11] Culture minister arrives in Ioannina
  • [12] Council of State approves 42 pct law for local elections
  • [13] State Department Spokesman: Clinton will not meet Talat
  • [14] Merchant Marine minister visits London at invitation of Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee
  • [15] PASOK official on liquidity package
  • [16] MIG dismisses reports of interest for Skaramanga Shipyards
  • [17] PPC reports 305.9-mln loss in '08
  • [18] Aspis Bank reports 48.1 million euros loss in '08
  • [19] Autohellas/Hertz reports improved '08 results
  • [20] "Argolida 2009" exhibition inaugurated on April 1
  • [21] Volos-Syria ferry boat route considered
  • [22] CEMR executive bureau in Athens
  • [23] Vivartia Group reports net profits up 21.4% in '08
  • [24] Greek stocks end moderately higher
  • [25] ADEX closing report
  • [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [27] Framework law for universities gets all-clear from CoS
  • [28] POSDEP's new board sees 'crucial period' for state universities
  • [29] Lights out on March 28 Earth Hour
  • [30] Photo exhibition in support of Tanzania mission
  • [31] Court acquits three over surveillance camera protest
  • [32] Teenage boy arrested for posting indecent photos of young girls on the internet
  • [33] Rhodes man charged with attempted murder of two Albanians
  • [34] Summer Time into effect on Sunday
  • [35] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday
  • [36] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [37] Christofias says that relative progress has been made in Tuesday's meeting Politics

    measures, FinMin says

    Finance and Economy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, commenting on Tuesday on the recommendation made by the European Commission to the Ecofin Council on the procedure regarding Greece's excessive fiscal deficit, said that the proposals contained in the Commission's recommendation fully confirm the necessity of the measures that the government has already announced and which concern both the state expenditures' cutback programme and income policy in the public sector.

    Papathanasiou added that the measures are already being implemented and the government believes that the goal of reducing the fiscal deficit below 3 percent of GDP by the year 2010 can be achieved.

    He said that the Commission is asking three things from Greece:

    Fiscal adjustment must begin in 2009, to have the deficit reduced below 3 percent by 2010 in a reliable and viable way.

    Greece must strengthen the fiscal adjustment plan by using clearly defined and permanent measures to decrease current expenditures, including a prudent income policy in the public sector, so as to be able to contribute in this way to the necessary reduction of the debt as a percentage of GDP.

    "All the above recommendations have already been included in the government's planning, they have been announced and they have started being implemented. The Commission's recommendations show that the government's plan is the only realistic and workable way to secure the country's exit from the crisis, with security and safety," the minister added.

    Referring to opposition criticism of the government, Papathanasiou said that "the Commission's recommendations do not adopt any of the irresponsible and populist proposals of the main opposition party's (PASOK) leader Mr. George Papandreou. No mention is made of an increase in taxation for businesses, as PASOK's leader is repeating monotonously. Because such a thing, particularly at a time of crisis, would lead to a dramatic increase in unemployment rates, similar to those bequeathed to us by the PASOK governments in 2004."

    Papathanasiou noted that no mention is also made of taxing ecclesiastical property "since the Commission is aware, unlike Papandreou, that the Church's real estate is being taxed for the first time in the country through the ETAK."

    "The dialogue on the exit from the crisis requires difficult but necessary decisions. And not unattainable and populist promises," the minister concluded.

  • [01] Commission sets 2010 deadline for 'correction' of Greek budget deficit


    Following an assessment in February of Greece's Stability and Convergence Programme, the European Commission on Tuesday proposed a deadline for a "correction" of Greece's budget deficit, which exceeded 3 pct of GDP in 2008.

    The proposed deadline takes into account of the respective fiscal and macro-economic situation of the country.

    Once the recommendation has been adopted by the Council, Greece will have six months to specify what measures it intends to take to progressively reduce its budget deficit.

    "National budgetary positions in the EU and elsewhere have deteriorated considerably in the last year and are set to deteriorate further on account of the economic crisis we are living through and the discretionary measures rightly adopted by Member States to sustain demand and promote investment," Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said on Tuesday, adding:

    "To limit the costs of the debt for generations present and future, it is crucial that governments devise an adjustment path whereby they commit to correct public deficits from the moment the economy starts to recover, which is expected to happen gradually in 2010. The Stability and Growth Pact provides the framework for this exit strategy and a return to sound and sustainable public finances in the medium-to-long term," he said.

    [02] Commission's recommendations

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)

    In its six-page recommendation to the Council, the Commission estimates that unless there is a change in economic policy, the country's fiscal deficit could reach 4.25 pct of GDP by 2010 and urged for measures of permanent nature aimed at cutting spending, a more prudent wage policy in the public sector and mainly cutting the fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct of GDP by 2010.

    The European Commission made six recommendations to the Greek government: cutting the fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct of GDP in a credible and sustainable way, by taking additional measures of permanent measures by 2010 with the aim of resuming economic competitiveness and settling existing imbalances in the country's external payment balance.

    Greek authorities should also continue efforts to ensuring that the public debt would gradually fall close to the benchmark level of 60 pct of GDP, while efforts should continue to improving collection and processing of national statistical data, particularly fiscal data.

    The Council offers Greece a deadline of October 24, 2009 to present effective measures towards fiscal consolidation and to specifying measures needed towards correcting the fiscal deficit by 2010.

    Greek authorities must also report progress made in implementing these recommendations in a separate chapter included in the country's updated stability program for the period 2009-2010.

    [03] Greek gov't must take measures to correct excessive deficit, EU's Almunia says


    European Union Economy Commissioner Joaquin Almunia presented here on Tuesday the European Commission's recommendations for eurozone countries having "excessive deficits," stressing that economic prospects have probably worsened over the past two months for all the EU member-states.

    The Commissioner referred in particular to the four member-states that must correct their fiscal deficits (Greece, Spain, France and Ireland), underlining that the Commission's recommendations are based on the fact that all the countries are not setting out from the same point and, therefore, they shall not correct their deficits in the same year.

    Summing up the parametres differentiating the case of Greece and on the basis of which the Commission is requesting from Athens the immediate correction of the deficit, Almunia said that apart from the positive growth rate and the relatively small deficit, there are two more points that differentiate the case of Greece and render the taking of measures imperative: "The trade balance's high foreign deficit and the huge public debt as a percentage of GDP."

    Lastly, on the question of whether he considers the immediate correction of longstanding problems of the Greek economy feasible, Alumia said that with its recommendations on Tuesday the Commission is not discovering anything new, adding that it is not the first time that an excessive deficit process is being activated against Greece.

    "This problem was remedied in the past, consequently, it is not a case of an impossible but of a possible task," he said and concluded that "the Greek government must, for its own sake, take measures to correct the excessive deficit."

    [04] PASOK on EU response to crisis

    Main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday praised the response of the U.S. administration in handling the present world economic crisis, "in contrast to a conservative Europe, which remains perplexed, without taking all initiatives it ought to take."

    He was responding to a question about whether the plans announced by U.S. President Barack Obama could serve as a "guide line" for similar measures in Europe.

    "There is need for a greater coordination in the economic governance of Europe and more active policies, because even if problems are not exactly the same, nobody exits from the crisis with restrictive policies," the main opposition party spokesman added.

    [05] PASOK blames gov't for economic ills

    Main opposition PASOK laid yet more charges of incompetence at the government's door on Tuesday, saying it was mismanaging the country's economic affairs while making little or no effort to make the rich pay their share of taxes.

    "Those who evade taxes, those who should be contributing more for a fairer taxation system - it is clear from the answers given [Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou] that the government will not touch them. You can be sure that the next PASOK government will do this," party spokesman George Papaconstantinou said in comments on an interview by Papathanassiou to the newspaper "Eleftheros Typos".

    In this, the minister had dismissed as unworkable the proposals made by PASOK leader George Papandreou for the taxation of offshore companies currently used as tax loopholes or the taxation of Church assets, which Papaconstantinou interpreted as "an admission that the government does not intend to touch the rich and powerful".

    Quoting from the European Commission's recommendation to the Greek government, meanwhile, he noted that Greece was entering an excessive deficit process for a second time in five years and that the country's dire economic straits were not a result of the international economic crisis, as the government claimed.

    "The problem is [Prime Minister] Costas Karamanlis' administration and the economic choices of this government," Papaconstantinou stressed.

    He further criticised the government's failure to ensure that Greek banks were doing their job properly, pointing to a report issued on Tuesday by the Greek Consumer Ombudsman.

    "This shows clearly that all these years they have been making excessive profits as a result of practices that have not helped the Greek family and the average Greek business," the spokesman underlined and called for immediate government measures to ensure the return of illegally charged interest to borrowers.

    According to the ombudsman's report, Greek highstreet banks had failed to lower housing loan floating interest rates in line with fluctuations in European interest rates, placing an unfairly large burden on households that borrowed to buy a home.

    [06] Greek leaders' messages for March 25 Independence Day

    Greece's leadership on Tuesday issued proclamations on the occasion of the 188th anniversary of the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821 on March 25, which will be celebrated throughout the country on Wednesday as well as in expatriate Greek communities around the world.

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias referred to the need by all to "again declare our devotion to the values and ideals, the principles and collective visions, which serve as our invaluable inheritance."

    He also referred to the fluid and dangerous, as he said, situation in the world today, where "all Greeks are called on to demonstrate their devotion to democracy; our faith in the future of Hellenism and our vision for the future, one of progress and social justice for a better society for all."

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed that "Greece and all of Europe is faced with one of the most crucial turning points since WWII. We have encountered an unprecedented storm that demands tough, unpleasant but absolutely necessary decisions. Decisions made for the collective and national good."

    The Greek prime minister underlined that the two-fold celebration of Orthodoxy and Hellenism highlights lessons taught, as well as principles and values that are timeless and becomes the beacon that "leads the country to the safest way out of the global economic crisis."

    "We are being challenged to display in practice the will to serve society as a whole ... Greeks united can transform the global crisis into a national opportunity for the day afterbased on the certainty that we can pull our country out of the global economic storm while ensuring that it will be stronger than ever," the prime minister said on the occasion of the uprising against dour Ottoman rule in 1821.

    PASOK leader

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou referred in a message on Tuesday, on the occasion of the March 25 anniversary of the Greek Revolution against Ottoman rule in 1821, to the Greeks' struggle for liberation.

    "We are celebrating today the liberation struggle of the Greeks. The great struggle of the renaissance of the Nation. It symbolises the effort of every man, every people for the achievement and defending of basic rights. Of freedom, independence, dignity, democracy, of the right for us to determine our fortune ourselves, the right to a humane society," he said in his message.

    The PASOK leader also stressed that "today is a crucial moment for our homeland with uncertainty and insecurity prevailing in our society in which the feeling is being created that the achievements and acquisitions from the efforts of many years are being threatened, that filled us with satisfaction and pride."

    Interior minister

    "The message of the Greek War of Independence of 1821 is still timely, particularly the fact that our ancestors in difficult situations and times acted collectively, choosing to defend the general good instead of individual interests," Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos underlined in his message on the occasion of the March 25 national anniversary.

    Principles like democracy, human rights and the struggle for freedom and national progress constitute strong foundations when people are faced with hard times, Pavlopoulos said, referring to the global economic crisis and insecurity.


    "Today, more than any other time in the 188 years that have passed since the national rebirth, the country needs to be grafted with the spirit of that era," Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) president George Karatzaferis underlined in his message on the occasion of the Independence Day holiday.

    [07] Pupils' parade for Independence Day

    The traditional pupils' parade commemorating the March 25 Greek Independence Day was held in Athens on Tuesday.

    As in previous years, the education minister represented the Greek state. The parade included participation of students from 12 elementary schools, 14 junior high schools and 14 high schools, led by Kalavryta high school students holding the 1821 revolutionary banner.

    In statements afterwards, Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos stressed that "in order to conquer the future we should draw lessons from the past and history."

    [08] Papariga addresses int'l con'f in Belgrade on occasion of NATO bombings

    BELGRADE (ANA-MPA / N. Pelpas)

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Tuesday addressed an international conference here of political formations from around the world espousing what they call "anti-imperialist" positions, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the NATO bombings against Serbia.

    Papariga pointed out that even though the battle in military terms was unequal, it "helped the peoples in the Balkans, and generally, in Europe, draw important and crucial conclusions as regards their present and future."

    The international conference is hosted by Forum Belgrade and the World Peace Council, and held with the participation of representatives of 45 leftist movements and organisations from a same-number of countries.

    [09] Deputy FM concludes London visit

    LONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)

    Deputy foreign minister Theodoros Kassimis concluded a visit to London on Monday night with an address at the Hellenic Center on the theme "Greece's position today in the international sphere".

    Earlier, Kassimis was received by Archbishop Grigorios of Britan and Thyateira, who also hosted a luncheon in the deputy minister's honor, while he also discussed matters concerning the Greek community in Britain.

    [10] Former PM Simitis lecture at Bilgi Univ. in Istanbul

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)

    Former PASOK prime minister Costas Simitis stressed the need for resolution, as soon as possible, of the Greek-Turkish differences that have been the focus since 2003 of the exploratory talks between the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries, replying to press questions after a lecture he delivered at Bilgi University in Istanbul.

    Simitis said that a speedy resolution of the differences would be to the benefit of both sides, adding that those issues that cannot be solved in the exploratory talks should be referred to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, by joint agreement, stressing that "there cannot be a one-sided referral".

    Earlier, in his lecture, Simitis appealed for enhancement of European cooperation and unity in facing the global financial crisis.

    "The answer is: more Europe," Simitis said.

    He elaborated that the response to the present crisis could not be given by each member state individually. "Today, more than ever in the history of the European, what is needed is an 'economic governance', which the EU is substantially lacking in," Simitis said, and criticized the perceptions prevailing in the European Commission, which he said produce a mentality of minimum intervention by the Commission in the management of the problems.

    Simitis anticipated that different levels of cooperation would develop in the EU, and stressed that such specialization was not negative for the unity of and democracy in the EU.

    "European unification will proceed with the gradual creation of broader forms of cooperation of various kinds, in various policy areas," the former premier said.

    These forms of cooperation would comprise a network, at the core of which would be the basic member countries that would take part in all the forms of cooperation and thus, under an umbrella encompassing all the member states, the individual member states could adjust by case to various levels of unity and differentness, while cooperation would be expanding, Simitis continued.

    To a question on Turkey's position in the EU, Simitis explained that the EU could not yet consider an issue of expansion towards another direction, adding that the issue concerned not only Turkey, but any other country prospectively applying for accession. "This matter cannot be considered before the latest, large expansion of the Union towards eastern Europe is assimilated," he added.

    Simitis further called for the initiation of a majopr public discussion throughout Europe on the major issues of the EU.

    [11] Culture minister arrives in Ioannina

    Culture Minister Antonis Samaras arrived in the cirty of Ioannina, in northwestern Greece, on Tuesday to represent the government at March 25 celebrations taking place on Wednesday.

    Samaras began his two-day visit from the archaeological site of Dodoni, where restoration work is being carried out, at the ancient theatre and then he visited the Ioannina Castle.

    At noon, the minister chaired a meeting at the General Secretariat of the Region of Epirus, in which the prefects also participated, focusing on issues concerning his ministry's duties.

    [12] Council of State approves 42 pct law for local elections

    The plenum of the Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, on Tuesday gave its approval for an election law allowing the election of prefects and mayors in the first round of local elections if they gain more than 42 percent of the vote.

    The Council found that the measure was not contrary with any articles of the Constitution and that law-makers had the right to set an electoral system for the local government officials.

    The decision will be officially published after the Easter holiday on April 19.

    [13] State Department Spokesman: Clinton will not meet Talat


    The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not hold a meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, Robert Wood, Spokesman of US State Department said Tuesday. Talat is beginning Wednesday his visit to the US.

    Replying to a question on whether Clinton will meet with Talat, Wood stated: "Well, as you know, the Secretary is traveling tomorrow (Wednesday) morning to Mexico. So there will not be a meeting".

    Regarding the meeting Clinton held Monday with the Archbishop Demetrios of America, Wood stated: "The Secretary and Archbishop Demetrios met yesterday (Monday) here at the State Department. The Archbishop requested the meeting. They discussed the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Secretary expressed our support for reopening the Halki seminary in Turkey. The United States respects Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as an important religious leader of global standing. Our ongoing support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Halki seminary is part of our commitment to human rights and religious freedom worldwide".

    Financial News

    [14] Merchant Marine minister visits London at invitation of Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee

    LONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)

    Merchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy minister Anastasis Papaligouras concluded a visit to London, at the invitation of the London-based Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee.

    During his vist, Papaligouras met with the plenary of the Committee's board of directors and discussed current issues concerning Greek and global maritime.

    Discussions particularly focused on protection of the institutional framework for Greek shipping and the need for preserving the climate of confidence.

    The Greek shipowners of London also put forward the issue of the best possible representation and presence of Greek shipping at global level, particularly during the present international financial crisis.

    Another matter discussed was the Greek shipping register, ship recyclling, and avoidance of unilateral measures by the European Union.

    The board expressed appreciation for the Greek government's actions in the effort to combat piracy at sea off the Somali coast, and stressed the need for continuatin of such actions and efforts in other problem areas such as the Niger Delta.

    [15] PASOK official on liquidity package

    The government's 28 billion euros liquidity boosting package for the Greek economy was being given to the banks, but the liquidity was not being chanelled to the real economy, main opposition PASOK official on the economy Louka Katseli charged on Tuesday during a press conference.

    She said that, of the total 28 billion euros, banks to the present had made use of 9 billion euros, mainly through the issue of preferred stocks and transactions in state securities, Katesli said, adding that there had been a net reduction of 262 million euros in bank financing to businesses in January 2009.

    Katseli said that the 28 billion euros package's design did not enable either the Bank of Greece or the economy and finance ministry to monitor the use of the package, through the commissioners appointed to the banks making use of the package, or to finance the real economy.

    She said that no one knew what 'holes' the banks were covering with the money, nor how much would finally be chanelled to the real economy.

    On the government's economic policy in general, Katseli said that its sole achievement was to plunge the country twice into a five-year excessive deficit procedure by the EU. She further criticized the recent measures announced by the government as socially unfair and dead-end measures that would further reduce demand and sink the market into an even bigger recession.

    [16] MIG dismisses reports of interest for Skaramanga Shipyards

    Marfin Investment Group on Tuesday dismissed press reports that it was interested in buying Skaramanga Shipyards. In a statement, MIG said the group was never interested in Skaramanga Shipyards nor it participated in any talks to buy the company.

    [17] PPC reports 305.9-mln loss in '08

    Public Power Corp. (PPC), Greece's listed electricity utility, on Tuesday reported losses totaling 305.9 million euros in 2008, after profits of 222.3 million euros in 2007. The power utility added that losses excluding CO2 spending totaled 216.3 million euros for the year.

    Pre-tax, interest and amortisation earnings (EBITDA) totaled 343.6 million euros in 2008, down from 818.7 million euros in 2007, for a decline of 58 pct.

    PPC said pre-tax losses totaled 395.9 million euros last year, after pre-tax profits of 276.4 million euros in 2007, of which 165 million euros were revenues from the sale of Tellas.

    The power utility said revenues rose 13 pct in 2008 to 5.82 billion euros, from 5.15 billion euros in the previous year. PPC said 53 pct of total revenues were spent on fuel, energy purchases and CO2 emission rights, sharply up from 41 pct in 2007.

    Hydroelectric production was 169,000 MWH in 2008, down 5.4 pct from the previous year and sharply down (-52.5 pct) from 2006, while electricity production from lignite-fired stations fell by 3.9 pct in 2008.

    PPC's participation in Larco -- a nickel production unit -- came to zero, burdening the Group's results by 22.5 million euros and the parent's results by 30.8 million euros.

    Commenting on the results, P. Athanasopoulos, PPC's chairman and chief executive, said a worsening of results in 2008 highlighted the group's weaknesses, the vulnerable points of its business model and of the Greek electricity market as well.

    Athanasopoulos said PPC's EBITDA margin rose to 30 pct in the first two months of the current year, up from 19 pct in the corresponding period in 2008. He also said that according to preliminary figures, pre-tax profits in the January-February period totaled 190 million euros, from 69 million euros last year.

    [18] Aspis Bank reports 48.1 million euros loss in '08

    Aspis Bank on Tuesday reported an after tax and minorities loss of 48.1 million euros last year and said assets dropped 11 pct to 2.6 billion euros.

    Lending after provisions totaled 2.1 billion euros, down 4.0 pct, while saving deposits eased 10 pct to 2.0 billion euros and operating expenses jumped 40 pct to 109 million euros.

    The bank attributed its 2008 losses to lower net interest margin, a significant increase in operating expenses in the first half of the year and a restructuring programme cost.

    Financial transactions and commission revenues also negatively affected the bank's results, with net commission revenues down 18 pct to 24 million euros, while financial transactions recorded losses of 2.6 million euros.

    Aspis Bank said provisions totaled 23.1 million euros last year, of which 18.25 million euros were provisions for bad loans, sharply up from 3.4 million euros in 2007.

    [19] Autohellas/Hertz reports improved '08 results

    Autohellas/Hertz on Tuesday reported a 12.2-pct increase in its 2008 turnover to 142.5 million euros, up from 127 million euros in the previous year, including activities in Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania.

    Pre-tax, interest and amortisation earnings totaled 80.7 million euros last year, from 75.1 million euros in 2007, an increase of 7.5 pct, while profits after tax and minorities fell 13.8 pct to 13.5 million euros last year.

    Parent turnover rose 7.3 pct to 124.1 million euros in 2008, while pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings rose 4.3 pct to 72.8 million euros.

    The company's net position was 105.4 million euros. Autohellas/Hertz said it planned to pay a 0.12-euro per share dividend to shareholders.

    [20] "Argolida 2009" exhibition inaugurated on April 1

    The local production and tourism industry "Argolida 2009" Exhibition in Damanara, near Tripolis in southern Greece, will be inaugurated on April 1 by Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Vlachos.

    The exhibition will run until April 5.

    [21] Volos-Syria ferry boat route considered

    Consultations are underway between Greek and Syrian authorities for the re-activation of a commercial ferry boat route linking the port of Volos, in central Greece, with Syria. Contacts were launched in response to a relative interest expressed by the Syrian side, according to reports.

    The specific route was cancelled in 1986.

    Merchant Marine, Aegean & Island Policy ministry officials will visit Damascus at the end of the month to discuss possible arrangements within the framework of the continuing Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.

    [22] CEMR executive bureau in Athens

    The forecast that the crisis will last for at least one more year with reduced resources of European municipalities and regions due to the global economic crisis were discussed at the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) executive bureau meeting in Athens on Tuesday.

    The meeting was chaired by CEMR President, Mayor and Governor of Vienna, Michael Häupl, and executive president and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis. who welcomed efforts by the EU to assist local and regional authorities.

    The conclusion reached by participants was that local societies and regions can play an important role in the economic investment programmes pointing out that investments made at regional and local level have short-term benefits.

    [23] Vivartia Group reports net profits up 21.4% in '08

    Vivartia Group on Tuesday reported a 28.5-pct increase in its 2008 sales to 1.437 billion euros, up from 1.119 billion euros in 2007, reflecting strong organic growth and integration of acquisitions made during the year (Nonni, Everest Group and Olympic Catering).

    Pre-tax, interest and amortisation earnings (EBITDA) totaled 153.5 million euros, up 21.2 pct, while pre-tax profits fell 28.1 pct to 37.5 million euros, reflecting higher financial expenses.

    Net after tax and minorities earnings rose 21.4 pct to 12.6 million euros in 2008. Vivartia said it strengthened its market shares in several product categories, such as dairy products, yoghurt, bakery products and fast food.

    Commenting on the results, Vivartia's chief executive Spyros Theodoropoulos said the positive results were achieved despite a significant decline in the profitability of its dairy and beverage business in the fourth quarter of 2008.

    [24] Greek stocks end moderately higher

    Greek stocks ended Tuesday's session moderately higher in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index of the market rose 0.28 pct to end at 1,694.28 points, off the day's highs, while turnover rose to 141.6 million euros of which 2.6 million were block trades.

    Most sectors moved higher, with the Utilities (3.79 pct), Oil (1.81 pct) and Constructions (1.76 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Food/Beverage (2.56 pct), Raw Materials (1.13 pct) and Insurance (1.03 pct) suffered losses.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 0.11 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.16 pct up and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.20 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 105 to 89 with another 61 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.03%

    Industrials: -0.29%

    Commercial: +0.48%

    Construction: +1.76%

    Media: +1.24%

    Oil & Gas: +1.81%

    Personal & Household: +1.12%

    Raw Materials: -1.13%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.39%

    Technology: -0.11%

    Telecoms: -0.09%

    Banks: +0.05%

    Food & Beverages: -2.56%

    Health: +0.27%

    Utilities: +3.79%

    Chemicals: -0.38%

    Financial Services: +0.37%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Public Power Corp (PPC) and OTE.

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.75

    ATEbank: 1.10

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.50

    HBC Coca Cola: 10.60

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.63

    National Bank of Greece: 11.98

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.31

    Intralot: 3.93

    OPAP: 20.50

    OTE: 11.25

    Bank of Piraeus: 4.90

    Titan Cement Company: 16.86

    [25] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices ended the first trading session of the new contract series with a significant discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 2.24 pct, with turnover a low 42.105 million euros. Volume was 7,406 contracts worth 30.984 million euros, with 25,107 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 17,079 contracts worth 11.121 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,065), followed by OTE (1,185), PPC (1,440), Piraeus Bank (1,189), GEK (1,422), Alpha Bank (3,375), Cyprus Bank (1,619) and Marfin Popular Bank (632).

    [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.361

    Pound sterling 0.927

    Danish kroner 7.509

    Swedish kroner 11.003

    Japanese yen 133.74

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    General News

    [27] Framework law for universities gets all-clear from CoS

    The Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, has found that the framework law governing the structure and operation of Greek Higher Educational Institutes (AEI) was in compliance with the Constitution, according to an education ministry announcement on Tuesday.

    This said that the court had rejected applications that the law be annulled by the Hellenic Federation of University Teachers' Associations (POSDEP) and the Legal, Economic and Political Sciences School Teachers Association, which had concerned the way that electoral bodies for electing, promoting and giving permanent positions to members of faculty.

    The Court threw out all claims by the applicants that the specific law was unconstitutional and exceeded its authorisation.

    [28] POSDEP's new board sees 'crucial period' for state universities

    The institution of the state university in Greece is going through the most critical period, institutionally, operationally and financially, the newly-elected Hellenic Federation of University Teachers' Associations (POSDEP) board members underlined in their first press conference Tuesday.

    POSDEP President Professor Nikos Stavrakakis underlined that the purpose of university asylum was to protect the freedom of expression and research on campus but admitted that violent incidents have recently multiplied on the premises of the National Technical University of Athens and referred to the existence of so-called "gray zones" in the facilities.

    Members of the union federation's board and its vice-president, Professor and former dean Socratis Katsikas, appealed to the political parties for their assistance, saying that they should unequivocally condemn acts of violence and threats of violence, regardless of where they come from.

    They also announced that the university professors will actively participate in the national dialogue for the reform of the Lyceum School education and the university admission system.

    [29] Lights out on March 28 Earth Hour

    The Municipality of Athens is participating in the Earth Hour global event on March 28, which is being held to raise public awareness on the need to take action on climate change and energy conservation. Greece occupies the top place worldwide with the largest number of individual participations, followed by Canada and Australia, which pioneered the event.

    With the slogan "Turn off the lights, see the difference" the people of Athens are called on to participate in the initiative on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 pm (local time) and switch off lights for an hour.

    The Municipality of Athens will turn off the lights on Lycabettus, the City Hall, all the municipal buildings and the Technopolis cultural center. A music concert will be held on Pnyka Hill hosted by the City of Athens, SKAI TV and WWF Greece.

    Earth Hour is an annual international event created by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund), held on the last Saturday of March, that asks households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change. It was pioneered by WWF Australia and the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007 and achieved worldwide participation in 2008.

    [30] Photo exhibition in support of Tanzania mission

    An exhibition entitled "Women in Space and Time" featuring photographs by Evangelos Mamalingas will open at the Bank of Piraeus' cultural centre in Thessaloniki Thursday, with all proceeds to a mission in Tanzania operated by Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa.

    Anonymous women from Turkey, China, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Thailand are captured on film detailing their daily lives.

    The photographer's archive includes roughly 45,000 photos taken during trips around the world and over a period of three decades.

    [31] Court acquits three over surveillance camera protest

    An Athens court on Tuesday acquitted two power linemen and the head of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) Yiannis Panagopoulos of charges connected to their actions on December 12, 2007, when they placed a cover over a CCTV surveillance camera at the corner of Panepistimiou and Vasilissis Sofias Streets during a GSEE rally.

    The two Public Power Corporation (PPC) linemen that climbed up and covered up the camera had been charged with damaging an object of public utility and Panagopoulos had been charged with instigating their actions.

    Appearing in court, the accused said that their actions were purely symbolic and that the camera was not in operation at the time. They said their intent was not to cause damage but to protest about the use of the cameras to monitor the rally.

    The prosecutor on the bench also recommended that the three be acquitted since there was no damage to the camera, which was not working at the time. She also pointed out that the cameras were exclusively for use in managing traffic.

    [32] Teenage boy arrested for posting indecent photos of young girls on the internet

    A fifteen-year-old pupil has been arrested in Halkidiki, northern Greece, charged with posting indecent photos of underage girls on the internet, police announced on Tuesday.

    The pictures of half-naked girls were allegedly posted on his own website between September and November last year.

    Most of the photographs were taken with the consent of the young girls, and the 15-year-old was urging the visitors to his website to e-mail to him similar photos, police said.

    Three computer hard-drives and a portable PC found in his parents' house were confiscated by police.

    [33] Rhodes man charged with attempted murder of two Albanians

    A 60-year-old man on the Aegean island of Rhodes was arrested on Tuesday after he was accused of attempting to kill two Albanian labourers, aged 39 and 47 years old.

    According to the charges against him, the man approached the two workmen while they were carrying out construction work on the property of a third party and initially threatened them with a hunting shotgun, after which he fired shots against them three times.

    Police were alerted and rushed to the scene, where they arrested the 60-year-old and confiscated the rifle, which the suspect apparently had no permit for.

    The man appeared before a Rhodes public prosecutor on Tuesday, who charged him with attempted murder, illegally carrying a weapon and illegal weapons use, all as criminal offences. He is to appear before an examining magistrate to present his case on Thursday.

    [34] Summer Time into effect on Sunday

    Daylight saving time goes into effect on Sunday, March 29, as on 4 a.m clocks will be turned to 5 a.m.

    Weather Forecast

    [35] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday

    Cloudy and showery weather, and southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 4-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 2C and 18C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with southwesterly 5-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 7C to 16C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 6C to 13C.

    [36] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Newspapers speculation on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' retirement from his ruling New Democracy party's helm if he loses the general elections, and the signing of MIG's acquisition of Olympic airways dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The scenarios of Prime Minister's retirement are ludicrous - Costas Karamanlis will be present and active".

    APOGEVMATINI: "The Church of Greece supports the state in its efforts against the economic crisis, according to Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos in a statement after a meeting with the prime minister on Monday".

    AVGHI: "ND, main opposition PASOK's 'flexible' agreement - They agreed on flexible working hours 'under conditions'."

    CHORA: "Too young for pension - Imaginative scenarios of Karamanlis' retirement".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Karamanlis' alleged retirement sets fire in ND - Turmoil after the prime minister's statement that he is tired".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "FinMin interview on measures against the crisis and flexible working hours".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Nervous breakdown in ND - Government in chaos".

    ESTIA: "Olympic Airways's sale signed ".

    ETHNOS: "Pension at 65 for women -FinMin's message for compliance with European Court's decisions".

    KATHIMERINI: "US government's purchase of up to 1 trillion dollars in toxic bonds from US banks boosted Dow Jones ".

    LOGOS: "Commission gives 6 months deadline before imposing new measures - 2-year notice for Greece to reduce the deficits".

    NIKI: "Storm of layoffs - 5,000 workers lost their jobs in March".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Industries and working places must become fortresses of counter-attack - Government and EU continue the anti-working class measures".

    TA NEA: "Commision's five years austerity punishment - Brussels: Your policy is at fault, not the crisis".

    TO VIMA: "PASOK envisions governance - Conflicts and cliques are rocking ND"

    VRADYNI: "In Brussels' straits- Comission's strict orders and suffocating timetables for Greece".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [37] Christofias says that relative progress has been made in Tuesday's meeting


    Relative progress has been made in Tuesday's meeting between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus in the framework of the direct negotiations with a view to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem, President of the Republic Demetris Christofias has said.

    Speaking after the meeting, President Christofias said that the discussion on EU matters will continue on the next meeting and after that, the two leaders will take up the issue of economic matters.

    "There has been a relative progress. We have to say that and it is positive", President Christofias said noting that he does not think the discussion on the EU matters will be fully concluded during the next meeting, that will take place on the April 2, 2009.

    "Serious discussions on some aspects of the EU matters are taking place, and it is likely some of the issues to remain open", he added.

    Replying to a question, President Christofias said that "to an extent", the technocrats contributed to narrow the differences of the two sides on the EU matters.

    Asked if Talat's forthcoming visit to the USA has been discussed during the tete-a-tete meeting, President Christofias said "no".

    President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began direct negotiations in September last year with a view to solve the question of Cyprus, which has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the island.

    UN SG's Special Representative

    The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus achieved progress at Tuesday's meeting held in the framework of direct negotiations with a view to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem.

    UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Taye Brook Zerihoun told reporters after the meeting that the leaders, President of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, held at first their usual tete-a-tete meeting and then continued the discussion on EU matters "in a positive and constructive manner".

    Their next meeting will be held April 2nd during which they will continue the discussion on EU matters and will then take up the issue of economic matters, in the presence of UN Secretary General's Special Adviser for Cyprus Alexander Downer who is due to arrive in Cyprus the first weekend of April.

    Zerihoun said that the leaders' representatives will meet this Friday again and early next week to continue their discussions on EU matters, "with a view to helping the leaders conclude their discussions on this subject on their meeting on the 2nd of April".

    Replying to questions, the UN official said that the representatives have been continuing discussions when the two leaders were on tete-a-tete meetings, adding "they have made advances on particular chapters".

    "I think the next meetings they will try to put all these things in one document for the leaders to consider on the 2nd of April", he concluded.

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS

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