|Friday, 23 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-03-27
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 27 March 2009 Issue No: 3156
 Event for March 25 anniversary held at White HouseWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA - A. Ellis)
The ties and common values shared by Greece and the United States, from the first democracy of antiquity to the modern democracies of the present day, were emphasised by U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and the Orthodox Archbishop of America Demetrios in speeches given during a special ceremony held at the White House to mark the 25th March anniversary of Greece's revolution for independence.
During the Wednesday event, the Archbishop also seized the chance to ask Obama to take a sympathetic approach to three major issues for Greek foreign policy: the unobstructed operation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Fanar, resolving the Cyprus problem and settling the dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Obama spoke about the "common ideals and common struggles" of the two countries and thanked the Greek-American community for its contribution to American society, referring to his Greek-American friends and supporters in Chicago and events held to commemmorate the March 25th anniversary by the Greek community of that city.
He also referred to the "strong bonds" between Greece and the United States and welcomed Greeks and Greek-Americans to the White House, stressing that cooperation between the two countries will continue in the coming years.
Among those present were Greek Justice Minister Nikos Dendias, the Greek Ambassador to the Washington Alexandros Mallias, Cyprus's Ambassador to Washington Andreas Kakouris and the U.S. Ambassador to Athens Daniel Speckhard.
The Archbishop's speech referred to the independence struggle of 1821 in Greece, noting that the freedom fighters of the Greek revolution had been greatly influenced by the American revolution that had preceded their own and America's declaration of independence in 1776 and pointing out that many American philhellenes had fought at the side of the Greeks in 1821.
Vice-president Biden referred to the assistance he had received from the Greek-American community when he was first elected to Congress nearly 40 years earlier and underlined the bonds and common values of the two peoples, noting that the two countries "originate from the same historic DNA," while he emphasised his long-term relationship with Archbishop Demetrios, describing him as a "friend".
 Menendez support over 'name issue' at Greek Embassy eventWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA - A. Ellis)
U.S. Congressman Robert Menendez promised here on Wednesday that he will continue to support Greek positions in Congress, while addressing Greek expatriates, diplomats and military officers of third countries at an event to mark the March 25 Greek Independence Day holiday at the Greek embassy in Washington.
Menendez described Greece as a strong ally in NATO and said that Greece's objections over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) concerned much more than a name. He also said that a clear message should be given to Ankara concerning the need for a solution to the Cyprus issue and the unobstructed operation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Those present were also briefly addressed by Greek Justice Minister Nikos Dendias, who is currently on a visit to the United States and had earlier represented the Greek government at the annual ceremony marking "Greek Independence Day" at the White House.
Dendias said he was proud to be among the Greek expatriates, stressed the strong bonds of friendship and the common roots between Greece and the United States and thanked Greece's Ambassador to Washington Alexandros Mallias, who is due to depart in June, for the services he has offered.
The event was also addressed by Archbishop of America Demetrios.
 Greek-U.S. relations not determined by relations with third countries, U.S. Ambassador Speckhard saysWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
U.S. Aambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard, asked during his address at the Woodrow Wilson Centre here to comment on reactions expressed regarding the decision taken by President Barack Obama to visit Turkey and not Greece, said that Greek-U.S. relations are not determined by relations with third countries.
He further assessed that Greece had every reason to desire the strengthening of Turkey and its rapprochement with Europe.
Speckhard said that the new U.S. administration places emphasis on cooperation in the framework of multilateral approaches and international organisations, something that must satisfy Greece.
Referring to the situation in Afghanistan, which is a priority for the U.S. and NATO, he said that it concerns Greece directly as well, since 25,000 Afghan illegal immigrants entered Greece illegally last year, out of a total of 140,000.
Speckhard also expressed optimism that the issue of the visa waiver programme for Greeks visiting the U.S. will have a favourable conclusion soon, since negotiations on two out of the three relevant documents have been completed and those concerning the third are under way.
He reminded that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyannis have termed the issue in question a priority.
Lastly, on the question of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Speckhard said that it is an issue in which the U.S. does not intervene, except to the degree that the parties interested request some facility, underlining that the issue is being handled in the framework of the UN by mediator Matthew Nimetz, who is among the few who are aware of the issue in depth.
 Cabinet discusses tourism, economic crisisPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday chaired an inner cabinet meeting dealing with tourism issues and measures for coping with the global economic crisis. After the meeting, Tourism Development Minister Costas Markopoulos stressed that Greece remains in the top selection of worldwide tourism destinations.
"Our answer, to managing the crisis and to the gloomy and destructive forecasts, is constant and daily action," the minister underlined.
Markopoulos stated that Greece's promotional campaign abroad had been increased by 50 percent and that advertising with tour operators, using an upgraded system, had already yielded results, with the same number of charter flights arriving in Greece as last year.
"It is the success of a long-term effort, which I took over from the previous tourism minister and am continuing. I will hand it over, when the time comes," Markopoulos added.
Asked whether the meeting had discussed the press furore surrounding an alleged leaked statement by the prime minister expressing "tiredness," Markopoulos stressed that the meeting had focused exclusively on tourism issues.
 PM Karamanlis to hold talks with agriculture minister on FridayPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis will have a meeting with Agricultural Development and Food Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Friday morning, focusing on issues concerning the farming world, while the prime minister will be briefed on the 4th Community Support Framework and the projects that will be included in it.
Following his meeting with Karamanlis, Hatzigakis will have two meetings with representatives of stockbreeding organisations. Measures in support of the Greek stockbreeding sector are expected to be decided.
According to an announcement, Deputy Agricultural Development and Food Minister Constantine Kiltidis has sent a draft Presidential Decree to the Council of State on the settlement of fishing issues in the Laconic Gulf.
 Papandreou urges support for welfare programmesMain opposition PASOK President George Papandreou on Thursday spoke out strongly against allowing welfare structures targeting special population groups, such as drug addicts or mental patients, to decline during periods of economic crisis.
"The problems cannot be solved by commercialising pain, nor by themselves," Papandreou underlined during a special event organised by his party at Zappion in central Athens, noting that welfare was not a matter to be left to charity but required planning, funding, the application of scientific conclusions and the hiring of staff.
"May people employed in welfare structures have been working unpaid for months and offering their spiritual reserves, but a serious welfare system cannot depend only on volunteerism," Papandreou stated at another point.
Papandreou referred to the "medieval" state of the Greek mental health sector about 20 years earlier, with large asylums acting like 'bins' for mental health patients, and the major efforts made to de-institutionalise these patients and help them return to society.
According to PASOK's leader, the policies followed by the New Democracy government in recent years had undone much of this work and returned things to where they started, culminating in the European Union's decision to stop funding these programmes, because the funds were not reaching the people they were destined for.
He also referred to long waiting lists for those seeking to get onto drug rehabilitation programmes and underlined that state aid to drug addicts could also help certain neighbourhoods that had become branded as high crime areas. Pointing out that 40 percent of drug offenders were in jail for minor offences, he said that prison sentences, which act as 'training for crime', could have been avoided if the right social programmes existed.
"We want culture and humanity. In our policy, I note that many of the things that need to be done are not related so much with funding as with another approach to these issues," he added.
 PASOK spokesman on government, PMMain opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou spoke on Thursday of the "citizen's insecurity due to his financial situation, his employment future, his pensions, his social security and his day-to-day life."
The spokesman also referred to the "unreliability and failure of the government to povide solutions, to protect social security rights and labour relations that are being dismantled in our country," adding that the government "has become tired and has tired the Greek citizens for the simple reason that it is not solving problems and in order for this to take place a different government is necessary with a different policy."
Papaconstantinou also referred to the ombudsman's annual report, terming it "an extremely interesting x-ray of problems."
He added that the report speaks, among other things, of an "internal institutional crisis, cases of a lack of independence for Justice, serious problems in public administration, cases of the ASEP council being sidestepped and pathogenies in the labour market."
Papaconstantinou further said that "the question is if there will be a sustained response by the state and the reply is, unfortunately, 'no' with this government."
 PASOK leader will depart for Chile to address conference on 'Progressive governance'Main opposition PASOK party leader and Socialist International President George Papandreou will depart for Chile, while afterwards he will be visiting the United States.
Papandreou will be addressing a conference organised by the Chilean government, in cooperation with a British think tank, on the issue of "Progressive governance: Reply to the global crisis," while he will also be attending a luncheon with leaders of other countries.
The issues that will be discussed at the conference concern defining progressive policies to tackle the international crisis, promoting responsible and viable globalisation, handling climatic change, the state of social protection and of the labour market in the era of globalisation and the role of science and technology in sustainable growth.
Apart from the Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, the conference will also be attended, among others, by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The conference is part of the socialdemocrats' preparation in light of the G20 summit.
PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou, asked if what will be discussed with the participation of Papandreou brings closer to the views of the United States or to those of the European Union, said that "what is required is not for us to take a position in favour or against, we are members of the European and the socialist family and in this capacity the president of PASOK will voice arguments in favour of a more aggressive policy on the part of the EU towards the crisis. We have not concealed the criticism that we are exercising against a conservative Europe and the lack of reflexes to enable Europe to exit from the vicious circle."
The spokesman further said that "at the same time, we cannot fail to observe that on the other side of the Atlantic there is a government that is trying, time will tell to what extent it will succeed, very specific moves to change a very unfavourable situation."
 PASOK tables question in Parliament over fire brigadeA group of 33 main opposition PASOK MPs, led by MP for Thessaloniki Haris Kastanidis, on Thursday tabled a question for Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Parliament regarding alleged party favouritism in the latest round promotions within the fire brigade, claiming that better qualified candidates had been superseded for top jobs by those with better political connections. They also claimed that a recruitment process for trainee firemen had been "rigged", while the fire brigade was experiencing shortages in staff, planes and had no updated operational planning.
 Ombudsman submits 2008 report to ParliamentGreece's public administration (civil service, local government, public utility companies, etc) was described as "defensive and introverted" in dealing with society and the public by Greek Ombudsman George Kaminis, who on Thursday presented the independent authority's annual report for 2008 to Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas.
Kaminis stated that administration had again been guilty of omissions and acting arbitrarily, while he emphasised that it "ignored European reality".
The independent authority received 10,954 complaints from citizens last year, recording an increase of 3.23 pct compared to 2007, while it appears that more and more citizens understand its role better, considering that the percentage of cases shelved because the agency was deemed unqualified to handle them was at 25.8 pct, the smallest percentage recorded in the past 9 years.
Of the well-documented complaints, 75.5 pct were settled in favor of the petitioners, 9 pct of the cases were not solved despite the mediation efforts, while 7.8 pct of the complaints were impossible to settle due to legislative voids and organizational deficiencies in public administration.
Most of the problems concerned municipalities (18.13 pct), Attica Immigration Office (13.5 pct), social security funds (9.3 pct), public utility companies (10.5 pct), prefectures (7.74 pct), the ministry of finance (4.66 pct) and the ministry of education (4.5 pct).
However, it was pointed out that municipalities, communities and the Attica immigration office have improved their performance in solving cases mediated by the Ombudsman Office.
As regards environmental issues and town planning, the authority observed sketchy action on behalf of public administration and laxity in environmental legislation implementation.
The Ombudsman's Office made efforts to improve health services and consolidate patients' rights but ran into obstacles relating to administrative deficiencies and fragmentary legislation.
Regarding gender equality at the workplace, the independent authority has concluded that the rights of working mothers are more vulnerable to abuse as a result of the economic crisis, with private-sector women employees facing an uncertain future.
 Deputy FM at 'Gymnich' meetingGreek Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis will be traveling to Hluboka and Vitavou, in the Czech Republic, to participate in a two-day informal European Union FMs' meeting (Gymnich), a ministry press release stated on Thursday.
The Middle East problem, the situation in Belarus as well as the European Security and Defence Policy are expected to be discussed on Friday. On Saturday, the meeting will focus on developments in western Balkan, while a working luncheon with the participation of foreign ministers from EU candidate-countries and from western Balkan countries will follow.
 Greek envoy on violations of human rights in Cyprus by TurkeyGENEVA (ANA-MPA)
Greece's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Frangiskos Verros, addressing a Council on Human Rights meeting here, referred to Greek and Cypriot missing persons during the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of the Republic of Cyprus.
Verros underlined that Turkey has the obligation to exhaust all possibilities in determining the fate of the missing.
The Greek envoy also said that the Greeks were shocked by the recent statement of Turkish actor Attila Olgac admitting that he had executed in cold blood nine war prisoners during the invasion, adding that the families of the missing were asking for full light to be shed on the event.
The Greek Permanent Representative further underlined that the cause of violating humen rights in Cyprus was the Turkish invasion and occupation, a fact, as he said, that has been recognised by a series of UN Security Council and UN's General Assembly resolutions.
 Athens reiterates support for pipelineConstruction of an oil pipeline linking Burgas, on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, with Alexandroupolis in extreme northeast Greece, "is a project of national importance," Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis reiterated on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with the chairman of the Russian oil company Transneft, Nikolai Tokarev, to discuss progress in the pipeline project, the Greek minister stressed that Athens' will was to complete the project as soon as possible. He said he believed that the same volition prevails on the Russian and Bulgarian sides as well.
Hatzidakis said the project could begin in 2010, adhering to timetables set for construction.
Moreover, he said the Greek government will table a draft bill to Parliament by the end of June to sort out any problems related with the construction of the oil pipeline, stressed that "construction of more pipelines contributed to the energy safety of Europe and Greece and to better services to consumers".
The meeting was also attended by representatives of the consortium building the pipeline (Transbalkan Pipeline) and representatives of Kazakhstan's oil company.
Tokarev told reporters he was completely satisfied with the support offered by the Greek development ministry and Greek companies participating in the project, and noted that ILF, a German firm, would soon complete its technical and financial survey for the pipeline project.
Finally, Tokarev said the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline would not compete with any other project and that the aim was to strengthen the security and independence of consumers.
 EU axes early pensions for women in Greek public sectorBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
The European Court of Justice on Thursday announced a largely anticipated ruling stating that different retirement ages and minimum length of service for men and women under the current Greek pension system are incompatible with Community law. The court's ruling covers retirement rules for both the civil service and the Greek armed forces.
According to the Eurocourt's ruling, Greek legislation afforded more favourable conditions for women in the public sector, especially mothers, in comparison with male colleagues but without addressing problems that women were likely to encounter during their professional careers.
It found that provisions of the Greek civil and military pensions code did not offset the disadvantages to which the careers of female civil servants and military personnel are exposed by helping them with their professional advancement.
Greece had argued that pension rules were a social measure to compensate for whatever disadvantages suffered by women because of the often shorter duration of their working career.
 Gov't spokesmanIn Athens, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, speaking at the regular press briefing, said competent ministers will outline their positions after studying the relevant European Court decision.
He clarified that the decision concerns public sector employees only, reminding that Greece had used specific arguments when the case was tried.
Responding to a question on whether the government will attempt to delay implementation of the specific decision, Antonaros pointed out the existence of specific procedures that are being followed.
The full ruling reads:
The EC Treaty prohibits any discrimination in respect to pay male and female workers, regardless of the mechanism determining such inequality.
The European Commission sought a declaration from the Court of Justice that the provisions of the Greek Civil and Military Pensions Code providing for differences between male and female workers with regard to pensionable age and minimum length of service required infringe the principle of equal treatment. It takes the view that that system lays down retirement conditions which are less favourable to men than to women.
Greece has not disputed the fact that there are differences in treatment, but submitted that the Greek pension system, as a statutory social security scheme, does not fall within the scope of the Treaty but under Directive 79/7. In any event, those differences correspond to the respective social roles of men and women and constitute measures which compensate for the disadvantages suffered by women because of the shorter duration of their working life.
First of all, the Court notes that, according to the EC Treaty, each Member State is to ensure that the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work is applied. 'Pay' means the wage or salary and any other consideration, whether in cash or in kind, which the worker receives directly or indirectly, in respect of his employment, from the employer. The concept of pay does not encompass social security schemes directly governed by legislation, but does include benefits paid under a pension scheme, which essentially relates to the employment of the person concerned.
It points out that among the criteria applied in its case-law in order to classify a pension scheme, only the criterion of employment (the fact that a pension is paid to the worker by reason of the employment relationship between him and his former employer) can be decisive, the means of financing and management of the scheme not constituting decisive factors.
The Court notes that the pension paid under the Greek Code complies with the three criteria defined by the Court's case-law enabling it to be classified as pay within the meaning of the Treaty:
it is applied to a wide and varied group of workers which, although made up of disparate categories with tasks and employment relationships which are entirely dissimilar, can be distinguished by particular characteristics governing the employment relationship with the State or other public employers;
it is calculated on the basis of the length of service completed; and, finally,
it is calculated on the basis of the final salary.
The Court points out that it is contrary to the principle of equal treatment to impose for the grant of a retirement pension paid in relation to employment age conditions and rules on minimum periods of service required which differ according to sex for workers in identical or comparable situations.
That principle does not preclude a Member State from applying measures providing for specific advantages intended to facilitate the exercise of a professional activity by the under-represented sex or from preventing or compensating for disadvantages in professional careers. Furthermore, national measures covered by the principle of equal treatment must, in any event, contribute to helping women conduct their professional life on an equal footing with men.
The Court holds that the provisions of the Greek Civil and Military Pensions Code are not of a nature to offset the disadvantages to which the careers of female civil servants and military personnel are exposed by helping them in their professional life.
 EBEA, Financial Times Global Events conferenceThe Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Financial Times Global Events will organise in Athens on April 1-2, in the framework of wider international discussion on the economic and monetary crisis, its repercussions in the sectors of the economy and the prospects of national economies in the new global economic situation, an international conference on "How Greece can manage the challenges and utilise the opportunities provided by the changing global economic environment."
The conference will begin at 18:00 on Wednesday, April 1, and come to an end at 17:30 on Thursday, April 2.
 Mytilineos Group says turnover up, EBITDA down in 2008Mytilineos Group on Thursday said consolidated turnover rose to 976 million euros in 2008, from 913 million euros in the previous year, despite adverse conditions in the foreign exchange market which burdened the group's turnover by 50 million euros.
The Group said net after-tax profits totaled 31.3 million euros last year, while net after tax and minorities earnings totaled 18.5 million euros. Pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) eased to 117.6 million euros in 2008, from 153.7 million in 2007, burdened by higher fuel and electricity price costs.
Metka reported a 34 pct increase in turnover to 381.5 million euros, while EBITDA rose 17 pct to 66.9 million euros and EBITDA margin remained a high 17.5 pct. Net after tax and minorities earnings rose to 41.4 million euros, from 36.8 million euros in 2007.
 Greek F&B sector grows 1.2% in 2008, reportProduction in the food and beverage sector grew 1.2 pct in 2008, compared with a 4.2-pct decline in the manufacturing sector in general, a report by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) stated on Thursday.
IOBE, in the report, noted that a current global economic crisis has not significantly affected the food and beverage industry, at least during 2008, despite its significant contribution in the European and domestic real economies. The report, however, recorded a rapid worsening of business climate in Greece and Europe, affecting the food and beverage industry, although forecasts for the sector were less pessimistic compared with other manufacturing sectors.
The food and beverage industry maintained relatively high periods of secured production and percentage of capacity utilisation last year, at 4.2 months and 74.6 pct, respectively, unchanged from the previous year. Investments however fell significantly (-23 pct), while early predictions for 2009 remained negative with investments forecast to fall by 3.3 pct compared with 2008.
Employment in the sector recorded a decline of more than 5.0 pct, after a three-year period of an average 4.0 pct annual growth.
The food industry recorded a 6.9-pct increase in prices last year, significantly down compared with an average 11.4 pct increase of prices in the domestic manufacturing sector.
IOBE said the domestic food and beverage industry faced many challenges, such as significant pressures from global competition, a changing consumer model and technological developments.
 Lamda Development says profits up 1.0 pct in 2008Lamda Development on Thursday reported an 1.0 pct increase in its after tax and minorities profits to 60.1 million euros in 2008 and said its net pre-tax assets rose to 485.8 million euros last year from 454.6 million euros in 2007.
The company said its consolidated repeated results totaled 29.1 million euros in 2008, up 25 pct from the previous year, reflecting improved operating profits. Lamda Development said "The Mall Athens" reported a 4.0 pct increase in turnover and "Mediterranean Cosmos" a 10 pct increase in turnover last year and expressed its satisfaction over the operation of its new shopping mall "Golden Hall" in December 2008.
 OPAP says investment management firm owns 13.38% of its equity capitalOPAP SA on Thursday announced that the Capital Research and Management Co. - an investment management company - owns 42,705,785 shares indirectly, or 13.3874 pct of the Greek lottery and football pools' equity capital, including a 5.148-pct equity stake, or 16,421,040 shares, directly owned by Capital Income Builder.
 Vivartia to break into 4 separate companiesVivartia SA on Thursday announced a board decision to transform itself into a holdings and management services company, by breaking into four subsidiaries -- dairy and beverages, bakery goods & pastries, fast-food outlets and frozen foods.
The plan will be presented for approval in a general shareholders' meeting.
Vivartia said a transformation date was set at March 31, 2009 and noted that the main goals of the plan are more efficient management, greater flexibility and strategic partnerships for each sector separately.
 Greek stocks end 1.16% higherGreek stocks ended 1.16 percent higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market above the 1,700 level. The index ended at 1,714 points, with turnover an improved 161.6 million euros, of which 8.6 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved upwards, with the Financial Services (4.66 pct), Banks (4.36 pct) and Chemicals (4.33 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Travel (1.93 pct), Utilities (0.90 pct) and Food/beverage (0.66 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 2.01 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.15 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.75 pct up. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 122 to 72 with another 62 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.12%
Personal & Household: +1.46%
Raw Materials: +0.44%
Travel & Leisure: -1.93%
Food & Beverages: -0.66%
Financial Services: +4.66%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Public Power Corp (PPC), OPAP and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.05
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.29
HBC Coca Cola: 10.52
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.68
National Bank of Greece: 12.32
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.42
Bank of Piraeus: 5.00
Titan Cement Company: 16.76
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover easing to 38.066 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 2.81 pct, with volume at 5,818 contracts worth 24.505 million euros and 24,925 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 20,404 contracts worth 13,561 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (4,276), followed by Eurobank (1,125), OTE (1,036), PPC (3,613), Piraeus Bank (811), National Bank (2,207), Alpha Bank (1,650) and ATEbank (450).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds shrank to 251 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 749 million euros, of which 386 million were buy orders and the remaining 363 million euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 166 million euros. The Greek bond yielded 5.65 pct and the German Bund 3.14 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month Euribor rate fell 1.84 pct, the six-month rate was 1.70 pct, the three-month rate 1.53 pct and the one-month rate 1.15 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.371
Pound sterling 0.939
Danish kroner 7.508
Swedish kroner 10.963
Japanese yen 134.7
Swiss franc 1.538
Norwegian kroner 8.888
Canadian dollar 1.684
Australian dollar 1.950
 Interior minister issues circular on 'Earth Hour'Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos has sent a circular to all ministries, regional services, independent authorities and all of the ministries' general and special secretariats, concerning their participation in the global "Earth Hour" initiative.
On Saturday, March 28, at 20:30 the above agencies are called on to participate in the initiative, turning off the external lights of public services, provided this will not create possible problems regarding the functioning or security of installations.
The circular stresses that the participation of all in the initiative constitutes a message of hope to preserve the environment and to create the safeguards that will protect life itself.
Athens Airport will also be participating in the initiative and will be carrying out a series of actions on Saturday night, aimed at decreasing electric power consumption.
More specifically, between 20:30 and 21:30 the lights will be turned off and the functioning of the western runway and of taxiing facilities will be discontinued without this meaning, of course, any problem concerning flights since all will be served by the eastern runway.
At the same time lighting will be decreased in buildings, staff parking facilities and other selected premises inside the airport, while security conditions for visitors, passengers and staff will be observed absolutely.
 Ministry, metro to participate in 'Earth Hour' mobilisationThe ministry of transport and communications will actively participate in the WWF Earth Hour global event aimed at raising public awareness on environment issues and climate change.
On Saturday, March 28 all lights at ministry buildings will be switched off for an hour between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., while all advertising signs in the Athens metro and tram stops will be turned off.
Minister Evripides Stylianidis stressed that caring for the environment is a matter of conscience and not just another trend. "We have no time to waste. We should all take action," he said, adding that "green policies" should be implemented to create better conditions for the next generations. "Mistakes should not be repeated," he stressed.
Attiko Metro announced that trains will stop for one minute during the event, while all external lighting in terminals will be turned off for an hour.
 National Observatory of Athens to join Earth HourLights will be turned off at the Geoastrophysics Museum in Thisio during the Earth Hour global event on March 28, the National Observatory of Athens announced on Thursday.
The National Observatory also called on consumers to combine turning off the lights in their homes with lowering the house heating thermostat by one degree, thus reducing considerably the gas emissions responsible for the "greenhouse effect".
The Municipality of Athens will also participate in the event with the slogan "Turn off the lights, see the difference" and Athenians are invited to participate in the initiative on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 pm (local time) by switching off lights for an hour.
The event was pioneered by WWF Australia and the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007 and achieved worldwide participation in 2008
 Papoulias praises WWF Hellas effortsPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday congratulated WWF Hellas Director Dimitris Karavellas for the group's efforts to mobilise Greek society into participating in the "Earth Hour" global event, underlining that the presidential mansion lights will also be switched off.
Papoulias expressed satisfaction over the fact that Greece records the highest number of individual participations in the March 28 environmental awareness event. He also referred to "notable progress" made in the reforestation of Mt. Parnitha, north of Athens, which has repeatedly been ravaged by wildfires over the years.
 Greek Scientific Aeolian Energy Union on British reportThe British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is calling for an increase in land aeolian energy instalations in its report on "Positive Planning for Land Aeolian Installations", because aeolian parks can be developed without harming wildlife.
The report was hailed by the leading renewable energy sources union in Britain (British Wind Energy Association-BWEA), while according to an announcement by the president of the Greek Scientific Aeolian Energy Union-ELETAEN Dr. I. Tsipouridis, the report acknowledges that, in the framework of a wider mixture of renewable energies that is necessary for Britain to achieve its targets in the framework of goals set for the European Union's Renewable Energy Sources for 2020, there should be a considerable increase in the land potential of aeolian installations, that means the development of a greater number of wind generators.
The report also stresses that the government must secure an appropriately organised licensing procedure at national and local level, to be able to respond to the increase in the number and scale of renewable energy sources projects.
 Pilot programme for wild artichoke as biomass cropA pilot programme to grow wild artichokes as a cheap source of biomass for use in generating electricity was announced on Thursday by the northern Greek prefecture of Kozani. During a press conference, prefecture officials said that the perennial wild artichoke plant had minimal water requirements, needed no fertilizer and gave a high yield per hectare.
The plant will start to be cultivated during the current growing season and is expected to allow local farmers to grow biomass as a cash crop in the future. In the meantime, the cost of cultivating the plant will be covered by the prefecture for the first two years, while farmers will receive the value of the dry biomass from the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and subsidies from the agriculture ministry.
 Greek Directors' Guild honors poet RitsosFilms dedicated to the life and work of well-known 20th century Greek poet Yannis Ritsos (1909-1990) will be screened by the Greek Film Directors' Guild on April 2-3, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth. Special tribute events will also include poem recitals made by Ritsos himself for a French radio programme in 1960, as well as lectures on his work.
 PROPO agency employee killed in robberyAn employee of a PROPO state betting agency in Nea Smyrni, Athens died of gunshot wounds on the operating theatre of Erythros Stavros hospital late on Wednesday night, the victim of an armed robbery at his workplace.
The robbery occurred at around 9:10 at night, carried out by a single, unidentified man armed with a handgun. In unspecified circumstances, the robber shot the unlucky betting shop employee and fled with an unknown quantity of the day's earnings. The victim was rushed to hospital in critical condition and died at around 11:00.
Police are now carrying out an investigation to find and arrest the culprit.
 Woman's body washed ashore in ThessalonikiThe body of a woman, roughly 35 years old, was washed ashore in the region of Thermaikos Bay in Thessaloniki on Thursday. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the causes of her death but early evidence does not indicate that she was the victim of a crime.
The body was spotted by passers-by near the New Waterfront where the Thesasloniki "Megaron" Music Hall is located.
 Authorities trace chat-room suicide messagesLaw enforcement authorities in Thessaloniki averted the possible suicide of a 35-year-old divorced man and father of a small child, who had allegedly cited his intention to end his life to Internet chat-room interlocutors due to personal reasons.
Electronic crime squad officers traced the messages to a residence in Hania, Crete, and informed local authorities to contact the man and offer specialised help.
 Diplomatic corps vehicle set on fire in AthensA diplomatic corps vehicle parked outside the French Institute on Amalias Street in central Athens was deliberately set on fire late on Wednesday night at 23:05. The fire caused some damage to the car before it was put out by the fire brigade.
 Cloudy, rainy on FridayCloudy and showery weather, and northeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -4C and 17C. Cloudy with possible showers in Athens, with northeasterly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 15C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 4C to 13C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEconomic measures being mulled by the government after the European Commission's recommendations and a European Court decision for equal retirement age for men and women in the public sector dominated Thursday's headlines in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The changes taking place in social insurance. The decision to equate age limits for men-women".
APOGEVMATINI: "Rallying around the prime minister. Top members of the government and New Democracy put an end to disinformation regarding the departure of [Prime Minister] Costas Karamanlis.".
AVRIANI: "What Alafouzos was carrying in his yacht and how he tricked the coast guard and police with forgeries and scams? Guess how many billions the cargo he was carrying must have been worth".
CHORA: "The looting brought the debt. Europeans hold Greek governments responsible".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Ten commandments from the European Commission and if we don't follow them by October they will strip us bare".
ELEFTHEROS: "'Tear down' the myths of the post-junta period. Demand by [PASOK MP] Mihalis Chrysohoidis in 'shock' interview with Eleftheros".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Pensions 'in limbo' for 236,000 women in the public sector. Concern over changes imposed by Euro-court".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "A 3.4-billion-euro noose for two years. New package of 'guaranteed result' measures mulled by economic team".
ESTIA: "The recovery coming faster. Massive reserves of the free-market economy".
ETHNOS: "Six month Golgotha for Karamanlis. After the euro-ultimatum for new measures by October".
TA NEA: "Pension at 65 impacts 140,000 women. Euro-court's decision today".
VRADYNI: "Now starts the hard part. Five-year austerity with clear timeframe imposed by Brussels".
 EU Chief says Cyprus settlement important for EU-Turkey relationsNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso pointed out Thursday the need for a solution to the Cyprus problem, noting that a Cyprus settlement is important for the EU-Turkey relations.
Speaking after a meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Brussels, Barroso said that a Cyprus solution is in the interest of the EU, Turkey and Cyprus.
Describing the opportunity for a Cyprus settlement presented by the current UN-led negotiations as the best for a long time, Barroso said that the Cyprus problem sometimes cast a shadow over the relations between Turkey and the EU.
"It is important the two sides in Cyprus show goodwill and all concerned to offer their good offices. I am aware that Turkey supports these efforts for solution and I hope it will encourage the interested parties," he said.
Cyprus, an EU member since May 2004, has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Cyprus President
Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat entered in UN-led direct negotiations since early September 2008 and have held 24 meetings so far.
 FM: Turkey must fulfill EU obligations if it wants to continue EU bidNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Turkey must fulfill its obligations stemming from EU conclusions and observes a constructive stance in the Cyprus solution process to continue its EU bid, Cyprus Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcos Kyprianou said on Thursday.
Replying to questions, during a press conference regarding his departure for the Holly See, where he will escort the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias, as well as his participation in the EU informal meeting of the EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Gynmich), Kyprianou said that Cyprus' position on Turkey's accession is clear.
He said that Cyprus supports the accession of Turkey in the EU with no discounts and provided Turkey will fulfill all its obligations towards the EU including those that concern Cyprus.
''At the same time we believe that Turkey must start fulfilling its obligations outlined in the EU Commission report, in the European Council conclusions and in EU's declaration of September 21 2005, so it would be able to continue its EU process,'' Kyprianou said, adding that a constructive stance in the Cyprus solution process is included in these obligations.
Asked whether there is a time limit for Turkey's evaluation in December 2009, Kyprianou pointed out that Turkey should have already started fulfilling and perhaps it should have fully fulfilled these obligations outlined in the European Council conclusions in December 2006, adding that Turkey will be evaluated the coming autumn and the coming December from the EU on the basis of the lack of progress.
''There is time, the matter is very simple from a practical point of view, what is pending is a political decision from Turkey,'' he added.
The Republic of Cyprus, he said, expects that Turkey must fulfill these obligations in order to continue its EU bid.
Referring to the EU Council, Kyprianou said this meeting has particular importance because the European Foreign Ministers will meet their counterparts from the Western Balkans where there are ''very delicate and sensitive issues,'' and will meet the Foreign Ministers of candidate states, namely Turkey, Croatia and FYROM.
Cyprus, an EU member state since May 2004, has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Spokesman says opening of crossing-points part of handling of Cyprus problemNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said Thursday that the opening of crossing points between the government-controlled areas of the Republic and the Turkish occupied areas belongs to the broader handling of the Cyprus problem.
He added that President of the Republic Demetris Christofias has requested the views of the members of the National Council on the opening on the issue of the Limnitis crossing point, noting that the government fully shares the desperation of the inhabitants of the area for the delay.
Stephanou reminded that the opening of Limnitis was agreed on by the leaders of the two communities in March 2008 and assured that the
Greek Cypriot side is ready for the immediate opening of the crossing point and it is ''the Turkish Cypriot side that is placing obstacles in the implementation of the agreement.''
He furthermore noted that President Christofias has been raising the issue with the Turkish Cypriot side, the international community and the United Nations.
Regarding direct talks between the leaders of the two communities to solve the Cyprus problem, Stephanou pointed out the need for unity in order to assist President Christofias in his efforts to reach a settlement.
''There is no other way to solve the Cyprus problem apart from the procedure of negotiations between the two communities,'' he said.
Stephanou added that the end result should be ''a bizonal bicommunal federation, with political equality, as described in UN resolutions, a united federal Republic of Cyprus with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international identity.''
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