|Tuesday, 20 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-05-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 7 May 2009 Issue No: 3187
 Gov't determined to make changes and reforms, FinMin saysThe Greek government is determined to make any necessary changes and reforms to take the country out of the crisis with the less consequences possible, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, after a inner cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Papathanasiou said he briefed the inner cabinet over developments in a Eurogroup and Ecofin meetings in Brussels. The Greek minister said the European Commission's spring economic forecasts were worse compare with forecasts made three months ago, while he stressed that the Greek economy -although projected to perform better- was affected by a worsening economic crisis.
"There are no easy recipes and magic solutions," Papathanasiou said, adding that "the government is determined to follow the choice of responsibility and to telling the whole truth to the Greek people, taking the necessary measures and adopting a policy that could lead the country out of the crisis".
 Govt: economic problems not just in GreeceEconomic forecasts were becoming increasingly gloomy for all European Union countries and not just for Greece, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed in statements to reporters on Wednesday.
"The prospects are unfavourable. The situation is not good and predictions for an increase in deficits apply to all countries," he said, reporting on Wednesday's inner cabinet meeting that focused on the economy. He warned that no predictions could be made with confidence, since the crisis was still unfolding.
The spokesman underlined that several of the figures released by the European Commission for deficit, unemployment and growth in other European countries were worse than those for Greece.
Antonaros said that the government had chosen the responsible path of telling people the whole truth and taking the measures, improvement and adjustments needed to exit from the crisis as quickly as possible with the fewest possible negative repercussions.
He went on to dismissed criticism from main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou regarding the government's handling of economic affairs, accusing the main opposition leader of deliberately ignoring what was happening in the international arena and pointing out that 13 of the 16 countries in the Eurozone would have deficits higher than 3 percent in 2009 and at least three had deficits higher than that of Greece.
"Mr. Papandreou does not realise, or does not want to realise, that if there had not been changes, reforms and structural adjustments in the last five years then the country would be in a much worse position," he added.
 PASOK's Katseli on economic policyAfter changing its estimate for the 2008 public deficit four times in as many months, the government had dubbed this "acting responsibly" and, in the name of this responsibility, taken measures that were both unfair and ineffective, main opposition PASOK's spokesperson for economic affairs Louka Katseli said on Wednesday.
Replying to statements made by Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou after a meeting of the inner cabinet, Katseli stressed the need for "urgent, specific measures to boost market liquidity and put an end to wanton state spending" while calling for a stop to favourable measures and tax breaks for the rich and well-connected.
"Fiscal reform must go ahead and the buying power of the citizens increased, public investments much increase in order to protect jobs," she stressed.
 President Papoulias' state visit to Finland continuesHELSINKI (ANA-MPA / N. Megadoukas)
Greek President Karolos Papoulias' four-day official visit to Finland continued on Wednesday with separate meetings with Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and Parliament Speaker Sauli Niinistö.
In a brief address before the Finnish Parliament, Papoulias pointed out the need to "expand democracy to the social and economic sector," and to "minimise the democracy deficit in the EU."
He also called for "better understanding within the EU to avoid disappointing our peoples," stressing that "speaking about Greece, there is indeed a sense of disappointment stemming from the EU ... This is due to the EU red tape and to certain big countries that want to play a leading role in the EU rejecting the democratic equality of all its members," he clarified.
Papoulias underlined the momentum characterising bilateral relations and referred to Greece's OSCE chairmanship for 2009, saying that "we are following Finland's steps and I hope that we will be equally successful, despite the fact that now we are faced with more problems."
The Finnish parliament speaker issued an invitation to Greek Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas to visit Finland.
Later, Papoulias attended a mass at Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki, led by the head of the Finnish Orthodox Church, Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland Leo, and the head of its most populous Helsinki diocese, Metropolitan Ambrosius. In the evening, he is scheduled to address a seminar organised by the Finnish Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles at the Helsinki University.
Earlier on Wednesday morning Papoulias attended an event by the Greece-Finland Business Forum that was addressed by Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis, who underlined Athens' political will to promote bilateral economic and commercial cooperation with Helsinki.
Varvitsiotis pointed out that "opportunities are always present despite the ongoing economic crisis," stressing that "the two countries can further strengthen their cooperation." He underlined Greece's central role in the economic progress of SE Europe, adding that it can facilitate the Finnish businesses that wish to become active in the region's rapidly developing market. He stressed that "the same can be done in the case of the Black Sea countries with which Greece has forged strong economic relations," pointing out "the rising geo-strategic importance of the specific region for obvious reasons."
Varvitsiotis referred to the economic crisis, underlining that Greece, as a member of the Euro-zone, enjoys political and economic stability and has the largest per capita income in the region.
The deputy FM also underlined that last year Greece had a satisfactory rate of exports, reminded that it has the third largest commercial fleet in the world and referred extensively to the government measures adopted to protect the Greek economy from the global economic crisis.
On the sector of renewable energy sources, he stressed that the ideal climate conditions in Greece allow for new investments in clean energy.
May Papoulias tours Finnish state school
The wife of Greek President Karolos Papoulias, Mrs May Papoulias, on Wednesday paid a visit to the Vartiokyla state school in Helsinki, where she has accompanied the president on an official visit. After a tour, she was briefed on the Finnish state school system, which is ranked among the best in the world and is attended by more than 95 percent of Finnish children.
Finnish education is regularly ranked as one of the foremost systems in comparative international student evaluations carried out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The average spread in performace between schools in Finland is 5 percent, whereas in OECD countries it is 34 percent.
During the presentation, the school's headmistress Marianne Roppone attributed the success of the Finnish educational system to the high educational level of teachers (Masters degrees), the high respect and recognition for teachers in Finnish society, linking each school to the special needs and conditions in its area, creating an environment that promotes learning skills but remains friendly to students, support for special abilities and weaknesses of children by specialised teachers and assessing the performance of children and schools independently of the exams for giving grades.
 PM Karamanlis to depart for PraguePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis will depart on Wednesday evening for Prague to participate in the Eastern Partnership Summit to be held on Thursday in the Czech capital. Karamanlis will also meet on Thursday afternoon with his Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor.
 Spokesman on FYROM, Turkey"Such moves aimed at impressions are counter-productive," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros warned on Wednesday, asked during a press briefing to comment on recent reports of plans by FYROM to erect a massive bust of Alexander the Great.
He noted that the NATO member countries had unanimously decided not to extend a membership invitation to FYROM at their Bucharest summit, adding that that decision was still in effect.
Greece, Antonaros continued, back the Euro-Atlantic orientation of the Balkan countries.
He stressed, however, that Greece expected a "specific attitude" from the neighboring country, in the framework of the ongoing UN-brokered negotiations for a mutually acceptable name for FYROM, while adding that Greece was friendly disposed towards FYROM and its population, and noted that Greek businesses active in that country.
"We expect of the neighboring country to prudently meet its duty in the framework set out by the UN," Antonaros reiterated.
Turning to Turkey's dispute of Greece's sovereignty on Agathonissi island, Antonaros referred to Tuesday's statement by the foreign ministry spokesman, adding that "deliberate distortions of reality and such intentional forms of disinformation do not convince anyone. Greece's sovereignty is beyond any doubt".
 FM spokesman on Turkish FM's illegal visit to occupied part of CyprusForeign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Wednesday said that new Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutolu's visit the same day in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus did not contribute to the ongoing negotiating efforts for finding a solution to the protracted Cyprus problem.
"The visit is not a surprise. We must, however, underline that actions such as this one, which clearly aim at upgrading the illegal secessionist entity in the occupied territories, do not contribute to the ongoing negotiating efforts for resolving the Cyprus problem," Koumoutsakos said in a statement.
"Turkey should encourage the Turkish Cypriot community to negotiate constructively and in good faith in the direction of a mutually acceptable solution, which will respect the UN Security Council's resolutions and take into account the European acquis on the island. In final analysis it (Turkey) must fulfil its obligations vis-ŕ-vis the international community and the European Union," Koumoutsakos concluded.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory. The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began direct negotiations in early September 2008 with a view to reaching a solution for the Cyprus problem and reuniting the island.
Main opposition PASOK party spokesman on foreign affairs Andreas Loverdos also commented on the Turkish foreign minister' illegal visit, saying in a statement that "it shows clearly the intentions of Turkish diplomacy. The recent attack launched by the Turkish leadership against the European Court shows clearly that Ankara does not have an honest will to conform to the European system of principles and values."
 House rejects PASOK proposal on Siemens affairThe Greek Parliament rejected in the early hours of Thursday a proposal by main opposition PASOK party for the creation of a parliamentary invastigating committee to probe the Siemens affair, following a debate. Out of the 300-member House 151 deputies - of the ruling New Democracy party - voted against, and 148 - of the three opposition parties- voted for the proposal. 299 deputies participated in the vote.
Main opposition PASOK party Deputy Telemahos Hytiris, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday at the beginning of the debate on the proposal tabled by PASOK leader George Papandreou on the Siemens case, stressed that "the Factfinding Committee for Siemens is an immediate national duty and must be voted for and convene now."
Hytiris, referring to the government, said "if you are not interested in the country and its future which requires a new course, then, at least, don't close Parliament in June so that the offences perpetrated by anyone cannot be written off" and added that "we are not afraid of any probe, any result, whatever it may be. Those responsible must pay, wherever they belong."
The government's rapporteur, Antonis Karamarios, termed PASOK's proposal "absolutely groundless" and called on the House to vote against it. He said that such a discussion can take place when Justice, that has taken the case in its hands, completes its obligations.
"If Justice comes across the provisions of article 86 of the Constitution, then you can be sure that it will be compulsory for the file to be forwarded to Parliament," Karamarios noted and added that "only Parliament is responsible for launching prosecution against those being or having been members of the government or deputy ministers for offences they perpetrated during the exercising of their duties" and that "even if there is a writeoff, then Justice will find the truth and it will attribute responsibilities against whatever politicians and, certainly, the people will condemn them."
According to Parliament's regulation, the plenum's decision on the creation of a Factfinding Committee is taken with the absolute majority of those present, that can be no less than two-fifths (120) of the total number of Parliamentary deputies (300).
Other opposition parties
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) rapporteur, Achilleas Kantartzis, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday during the debate on the creation of a Factfinding Committee to probe the Siemens case, expressed support for its creation and spoke of longlasting responsibilities of both the ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition PASOK parties.
"We are not flying in the clouds and we have no illusions that it will not be used to cover up responsibilities. However, we want a probe in every way," he said, adding that with the government's responsibility the proposal will be rejected and stressed that "its argument that it will not obstruct the work of justice convinces no one" and that the same was also the case during the governments of PASOK when similar proposals were tabled by ND, when in the opposition, and the majority used to reject them and attributed expediency to both parties.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) rapporteur Theodoros Dritsas also supported the creation of a Factfinding Committee and spoke of "a scandal of the past decades that is accompanied by an even bigger one, a coverup."
Dritsas further said that "all this game that has been played in our country over the past decades is of bad taste and it is undemocratic," stressing that both the New Democracy and PASOK parties are moving along this bipolarisation of scandal mongering and covering up and behaving according to whether they are in power or in the opposition and that "it has been ascertained that Siemens financed political parties both in Greece and internationally. We can say that in our party there is no person involved. This is our big difference."
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party rapporteur Makis Voridis said that "what we are interested in and is also of interest to the Greek people is if there are possible responsibilities and due to the writeoff they cannot be examined afterwards" and added that "all should come to light, all should come to Justice, all to their natural judge until the reliability of the political world is fully restored."
Voridis wondered what kind of an obstacle would be raised by the Factfinding Committee to the flow of the penal procedure and that the non-acceptance of the demand by the government would be "suicidal and self-destructive," while assessing that the Siemens case primarily concerns PASOK and this is an extra reason for the government to say "yes to the probe."
 Interior minister addresses Parliament on Siemens caseInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday during the Parliamentary debate on the Siemens issue, said that the main opposition PASOK party "has turned the country into an arena with itself as the sole protagonist because it has absolutely nothing to offer to the people and its so-called positions on an exit from the crisis have been ridiculed."
Referring to the essence of the PASOK proposal on the creation of a Factfinding Committee to probe the issue, Pavlopoulos assessed that PASOK is attempting to shake off its own responsibilities for the Siemens case.
"There is neither an issue of a writeoff, since the judicial probe has not revealed the responsibility of a minister. Whatever you do, cases such as those of the Stock Exchange and Siemens are your legacy. If we believed that you have changed mentality we would have realised it," the minister said.
Pavlopoulos concluded by saying that "the no (to proposal), therefore, has been substantiated. We shall not participate in this mudslinging."
 PASOK spokesman on Parliamentary debate on Siemens caseMain opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papacon-stantinou, referring to the "Siemens case" that is being debated in Parliament on Wednesday following a proposal tabled by PASOK, accused the government of downgrading the issue since, as he said, "for 18 months, instead of the four anticipated at the most, a solitary prosecutor was trying to understand what exactly is going on" and stressed the need for "a serious discussion in Parliament on the responsibilities of whoever are involved, whatever period they may concern."
The spokesman added that "we hope the (ruling) New Democracy party will surprise us tonight and turn up and vote in favour of the Factfinding Committee," adding that "to what extent a Factfinding Committee is successful or not has to do with the extent to which all the parties respect the Constitution and the Parliament Regulation and utilise them for the truth to appear."
 Health minister briefs Parliamentary Social Affairs Committee on swine fluHealth Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Wednesday that "neither slackness, nor exaggeration" is the stance being observed by his ministry regarding the risk of swine flu spreading to Greece, a stance that was praised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday.
Briefing the Parliamentary Social Affairs Committee on the appearance of the new virus, Avramopoulos invoked assessments made by the WHO on the serious possibility of the handling of an epidemic at global level, since the virus changes and without a dramatic increase in mortality, similar to that concerning the "Spanish flu" in 1918, being ruled out. In this framework, Greece is moving to tackle the worst scenario.
"It is very possible thay we may have the first case in our country as well. The basic principle is the truth, transparency, information. We do not play games with these issues," Avramopoulos said and added that "I have briefed the prime minister who considered the issue as being of primary importance. All actions regarding the level of prevention have already been implemented and we are operating at a level of preparation, of the implementation of all the necessary measures to handle the worst scenario."
 KKE's Papariga addresses student event at AUTHCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga, while speaking in Thessaloniki's Aristotle University (AUTH) on Wednesday, reiterated her position that "a vote for ruling New Democracy (ND) or main opposition PASOK is a vote essentially backing identical policies and bipartisanism."
Addressing a KKE-affiliated student movement event in view of the student elections on May 13, Papariga also referred to Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) describing it as "completely unreliable, lacking groundbreaking solutions," while on the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) she used the party's motto, suggesting that it is "two parties in the shape of one". As regards the Greens, she pointed out that they are a replica of Joschka Fischer's Green Party in Germany and a "backup" for ND or PASOK.
Referring to the ND MP Pavlidis' case and the looming scandals, she spoke about disorientation and hypocrisy, underlining that for her party there is "only one choice; a public debate on the real problems." She also stressed that "the reform of the political system cannot be achieved through parliamentary investigative committees or the indictment and sentencing of certain politicians."
 Alavanos visits Iraklio museum, comments on letter to partiesThe Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) was waiting for the other parties to reply to its proposals for extricating Parliament from an obligation to conduct legal processes in cases involving politicians without violating the Constitution, SYRIZA leader Alekos Alavanos said on Wednesday in the city of Iraklio, Crete.
"We are waiting for their replies or, at the very least, other proposals. Because Greek society can no longer tolerate having a Parliament that does not occupy itself with [society's] problems, nor the fact that no one, not a single one of the ministers or former ministers for whom questions of criminal liability have arisen, has been indicted on the basis of the Constitutional and legislative measures," Alavanos said while visiting the Iraklio Archaeological Museum during his second day on the island.
In a letter to the political parties the previous day, SYRIZA had proposed that Parliament essentially relieve itself of the burden of successive scandal investigations by automatically turning such issues over to justice, through an agreement between the parties to set up Parliamentary inquiries into all issues referred to Parliament by justice but that the process should be only a formality, without an in-depth investigation, and always refer the case back to justice.
In statements on Wednesday, Alavanos also expressed his support for the protests of Cretan farmers and said that his two-day visit to Iraklio was primarily to find out about issues concerning the area's cultural heritage, which he intended to raise during a meeting with Culture Minister Antonis Samaras the following week.
 SYN's Tsipras visit PatrasVisiting the port city of Patras in the west Peloponnese on Wednesday, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader Alexis Tsipras urged voters to turn out en masse for the EuroParliament elections on June 7.
"We call on voters to all come out to vote, especially young people, because their future largely depends on it," he said.
Tsipras underlined that the "Left gives a new hope for changing things for the benefit of the labour force and society, that are today being harmed by the neo-liberal policies being followed".
Regarding living conditions for immigrants in Patras, SYN's leader called on the state to provide for both them and the people in the region that were witnesses to a humanitarian tragedy, while stressing the need for a radical change of policy on this issue by both Greece and Europe.
During his visit, Tsipras spoke with SYRIZA's candidate for the EuroParliament Eleni Sotiriou at an even organised by leftist students at Patras University.
 New political party debuts ahead of Euro-electionsThe formal launch of a new political party named "Drasi" (action) took place on Wednesday, and according to its declaration, its "name represents what Greece needs".
The founding declaration is signed by severao noted personalities from the fields of politics, business, science and entertainment, including, among others, former minister Stefanos Manos, entrepreneur and Thessaloniki councillor Yannis Boutaris as well as Thanos Veremis, a professor of modern history at the University of Athens and board member of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).
The party's candidates in the European Parliament elections will be announced on May 14.
 FM sec-gen in Bosnia-Herzegovina on ThursdayForeign ministry secretary general for European Affairs Dimitris Katsoudas will be on a working visit in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Thursday, during which he will visit the headquarters of the Balkan Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).
During the visit, Katsoudas will be received by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia-Herzegovina Nikola Spiric, while he will also meet with RCC secretary general Hido Biscevic, to whom he will outline Greece's positions on the Balkan development programmes being carried out via the RCC.
Katsoudas will further meet with the EU's new High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ambassador Valentin Inzko.
The talks will focus on Bosnia-Herzegovina's European prospect, Greece's backing of that process, and matters of Balkan regional cooperation.
 Meeting held on combatting wildfiresFire Brigade chief Athanasios Kontokostas, speaking during a meeting held on Wednesday on preparations for the 2009 fire-protection period, said that in present times wildfires develop with greater intensity and burn up more expanses of land compared to the past. This is due to the climatic and socio-economic conditions.
Ministries jointly concerned examined during the meeting measures that must be taken to combat wildfires during the period extending from May 1 to October 31 inclusive.
The meeting was chaired by Alternate Interior Minister for Public Order Christos Markoyiannakis at the Fire Brigade's installations in the Athens suburb of Halandri.
The minister stressed after the meeting that "the weather conditions that prevailed during the winter and the many downpours of rain, have affected the state of many forest and agricultural roads. On the other hand, they contributed to the accumulation of a large quantity of material that can be burnt as a result of dense and tall vegetation which, after a short period of time, when it becomes dry, will become very combustible and the cause of us having many more fires and a much more difficult firefighting task."
 Employment minister attends KEDKE-OAED meeting on programme for unemployedThe Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece's (KEDKE) board convened on Wednesday, in the presence of Employment and Social Solidarity Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, and examined the joint programme between KEDKE and the Manpower Employment Organisation (OADED) to employ 20,000 unemployed people by local administration bodies and common action required for its implementation.
Petralia disclosed immediately after the meeting that a cooperation memorandum will be signed next week between the Employment ministry and KEDKE to enable actions to go ahead, the first of which concerns 20,000 jobs in municipalities with the changing of the unemployment benefit into an employment benefit.
"I consider it a very important development. We have the intention to implement together with KEDKE and local integrated interventions also, in each prefecture, and the programme concerning "One authority and one opportunity" for young people aged between 16-25 years of age as well, who either abandon or stop school," the minister said.
Petralia added that "I believe that the main precondition for recovery is strengthening employment. In this difficult economic conjuncture, what we are promoting, as a government policy, is supporting employment and protecting working people."
 Five largest bilateral chambers of commerce hold joint press conferenceThe five bilateral chambers of commerce that are active in the country consider measures taken by the government to help the country exit from the crisis as being on the right path but inadequate and call for emphasis to be placed on structural changes and a change in mentality.
Otherwise, assessments for the country's speedy exit from the crisis are unfavourable, while what is emphasised is the possibility of social unrest intensifying and "disturbances may come from the sector of the immigrants, since they are the least protected by our system," they also said during a joint press conference on Wednesday.
The representatives of the five largest bilateral chambers of commerce termed the measures being taken by the government to tackle the economic crisis "painkillers of a short duration with questionable effectiveness and unpleasant for the people, and stressed that they were not in favour of dismissals but if there was no change in mentality and necessary structural changes did not go ahead, and in the public sector in particular, then they noted the possibility of social unrest breaking out.
The Hellenic-American, Hellenic-British, Hellenic-French, Hellenic-German and Hellenic-Italian chambers will be organising a series of events between May 14 and June 25, with speakers including Finance and Economy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou.
 Hellenic Exchanges aims to boost transparency in capital marketsHellenic Exchanges will continue its efforts to strengthen the company and to establishing greater transparency in the capital market, Spyros Kapralos, the chairman of the company, said on Wednesday.
Addressing an annual regular general shareholders' meeting, Kapralos said an international financial crisis was the most severe crisis since the 1930s and noted that crises always created chances for those seeking opportunities and who would exit the crisis benefited.
Kapralos presented the three main strategy goals of the group, focusing on the reform of the structure and operation of Hellenic Depository, restructuring settlement and clearing services and expanding products and services.
He said that stock markets would have to enrich their products and services through their networks and stressed that Hellenic Exchanges managed to report satisfactory results for 2008 supported by strong turnovers in the first half of the year and by efforts made to cut operating spending by around 10 pct.
 Pensioners protest in HaniaPensioners throughout the island of Crete held a protest rally in the city of Hania on Wednesday, demanding higher pensions and solutions to problems concerning their medical care and medicine costs.
Their main demands were a minimum pension of 1,120 euros for pensioners belonging to all social insurance funds, a higher tax allowance and better health care services by their social insurance funds, especially IKA.
 Marfin Egnatia issues 60-mln-US dollar bondMarfin Egnatia Bank SA on Wednesday announced that its subsidiary in London "Egnatia Finance plc" issued a Tier II bond loan worth 60 million US dollars, with the guarantee of Marfin Egnatia Bank SA.
The 10-year bond issue offer the right of early redemption after five years and are expeced to be rated as Lower Tier II capital according to the Bank of Greece's legislation. The issue carries a 5.5 pct coupon and will be distributed through a private placement.
 Cretan farmers protest in dowtown AthensFarmers from Crete staged a rally outside the Economy Ministry in Syntagma square in downtown Athens on Wednesday morning, in demand of materialisation of the government's promises.
Approximately 1,500 farmers, accompanied by a delegation of local administration officials, arrived on Wednesday morning in Piraeus port on ships from Hania and Heraklion.
The farmers want to meet with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to submit to him a memorandum listing their demands.
The protestors are calling for measures to support olive crops, viniculture and early garden produce cultivation.
 Conference on minerals, their necessity, new European policySpeakers participating in a conference titled "Minerals: their necessity and the new European policy to safeguard them", held on Wednesday by the Federation of Mineral Products, focused on the importance of mineral raw materials for the viability of the European economy and the quality of life of its citizens.
Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said that are life has been structured in such a way that minerals are essential for our survival, to secure the competitiveness of our economy and to achieve a higher quality of life.
The minister further stressed that the main element of Greece's policy in this sector is securing the adequacy of minerals combined with the protection of the environment, as is also determined by the "Verheugen initiative" that has been forwarded to the European Union's European institutional bodies.
Hatzidakis revealed that this year the Development ministry will be going ahead with the rationalisation of the legislative framework governing the excavating sector, taking into consideration the policy of other European countries in this sector.
 Reds SA announces share capital increase planReds SA, a Greek-listed real estate developer, on Wednesday announced a board decision to launch a share capital increase plan worth 25 million euros with the aim to raise its equity capital to 75.2 million eurors, or 57,434,884 common nominal voting shares, worth 1.31 euros each.
Under the plan, Reds will offer 9 new for 20 existing shares to its shareholders of a nominal price of 1.31 pct and at an offering price of 1.40 euros per share.
 Car registrations down 40.3 pct in Jan-AprilCar registrations dropped by 40.3 pct in the January-April 2009 period, compared with the corresponding period last year, the National Statistical Service said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said car registrations totaled 83,208 vehicles (new or used ones) in the first fourth months of the year, while new motorcycle registrations totaled 18,250 in the same period, down 31.9 pct from last year's levels.
 Greek stocks end 1.42% higherGreek stocks continued their rally in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, as the market easily absorbed a wave of profit taking selling early in the session. The composite index rose 1.42 pct to end at 2,191.18 points, with turnover a strong 347.3 million euros, of which 8.3 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved upwards, with the Health (5.28 pct), Food/Beverage (4.66 pct), Telecoms (4.13 pct) and Utilities (3.36 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Constructions (2.35 pct), Personal/Home Products (2.01 pct) and Chemicals (0.57 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 1.35 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.45 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index ended 2.66 pct up. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 119 to 97 with another 52 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.53%
Personal & Household: -2.01%
Raw Materials: +2.19%
Travel & Leisure: +1.34%
Food & Beverages: +4.66%
Financial Services: -0.06%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Marfin Popular Bank, Alpha Bank and OTE and .
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 8.53
Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.70
HBC Coca Cola: 12.80
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.25
National Bank of Greece: 17.70
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.50
Bank of Piraeus: 7.90
Titan Cement Company: 19.38
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 105.379 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -2.60 pct, in volume of 14,427 contracts worth 79.104 million euros and 27,194 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 29,583 contracts worth 26.275 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,478), followed by Eurobank (1,779), Hellenic Telecoms (1,547), PPC (991), Piraeus Bank (2,168), GEK (1,780), Alpha Bank (2,313), Intracom (910), Marfin Popular Bank (4,883), Intralot (694), Cyprus Bank (1,334) and ATEbank (1,544).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.342
Pound sterling 0.893
Danish kroner 7.508
Swedish kroner 10.700
Japanese yen 132.22
Swiss franc 1.521
Norwegian kroner 8.804
Canadian dollar 1.581
Australian dollar 1.806
 Greek Professor Grammenos conferred title of CBE in London ceremonyLONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)
Professor Costas Grammenos, Pro vice-Chancellor of City University London, was conferred the title of "Commander" of the British Empire (CBE), during an imposing ceremony on Tuesday night at Lancaster House.
The medal was presented to Grammenos by British secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform Lord Peter Mandelson, who presented the Greek professor's academic work, stressing that his studies have influenced the practices in the City of London's economic environment.
Professor Grammenos, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of City University London, Deputy Dean of the Cass Business School Undergraduate Programme, and founder of the Costas Grammenos Centre for Shipping, Trade and Finance, as well as chairman of the steering committee of the International University of Thessaloniki, was one of the personalities to whom Queen Elizabeth of England conferred titles and honourable distinctions in her Birthday Honours List for 2009, in recognition of his contribution to research and education in the sectors of Shipping, Commerce and the Economy.
In 1994, Professor Grammenos was given by the Queen the title of "Officer" of the British Empire "for his contribution to teaching and the promotion of Greek-British relations"" while in 1999, he won the highest academic title in Britain, that of "Doctor of Sciences".
He founded the International Centre for Shipping, Trade and Finance in 1983 - renamed the Costas Grammenos International Centre for Shipping, Trade and Finance.
 Greek team wins six medals in Balkan Mathematical Olympiad in SerbiaSix medals, one gold and 5 bronze, were won by the 6-member Greek national team that competed in the 26th Balkan Mathematical Olympiad (BMO) held in Kragujevac, Serbia on April 28-May 4.
The six high school students representing Greece (two from Athens, two from Thessaloniki and one from Heraklio, Crete) were selected based on their grades in nationwide math competitions organized by the Hellenic Mathematical Society, while the Balkan distinctions they have won qualify them for the 50th International Mathematical Olympiad to take place in Bremen, Germany on July 10-22, 2009.
Competitors from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, FYROM, Moldova, Romania, Turkey, Montenegro and Serbia took part in the competition, with guests from the UK, Italy, France, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic. Each participating country was represented by a team of up to 6 high school students (under the age of 20) and two teachers (leader and deputy leader).
 Red Arrows at Battle of Crete eventsThe Royal Air Force's (RAF) renowned aerobatics team, the Red Arrows, will perform in the annual Battle of Crete commemoration events over the Old Port of Hania on May 23.
Events marking the 68th anniversary of the early WWII Battle of Crete will take place across Hania Prefecture on May 16-24 and will include memorial services, exhibitions, speeches and happenings.
The formal hoisting of the Allies' flags will be held at the Firka Fort on May 22, while the German embassy event at the German cemetery in Maleme will take place on Sunday, May 24.
The Battle of Crete began on the morning of May 20, 1941 when German forces launched an unprecedented airborne invasion of Crete, code-named "Merkur". The operation was successful in that it wrested control of the island from Allied forces, although the victory was so costly in terms of paratrooper casualties that the Wehrmacht never again attempted a major airborne operation. The stiff resistance by the allied troops and local Cretans is also credited, by many historians, with delaying the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
 Student injured in L'Aquila earthquake brought to AthensThe armed forces established on Wednesday an airlink to enable a 29-year-old injured during the earthquake in the city of L'Aquila, in Italy, on April 6 to be treated in Greece.
A C27J aircraft carried the Greek student, who was accompanied by his mother and brother, from Pescara in Italy to Elefsina airport.
The student was met at the airport by Deputy Defence Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis, who wished him a speedy recovery and praised the social role played by the country's armed forces.
The student was taken to the NIMTS hospital in Athens.
Plakiotakis was accompanied by Air Force General Staff chief Ioannis Yiangos and the mayor of the municipality of Egaleo Dimitris Kalogeropoulos.
 Same-sex marriage licences null and void, court rulesA first instance court on the large Dodecanese island of Rhodes on Wednesday officially issued a ruling nullifying a pair of same-sex marriages conducted last June on the tiny and remote isle of Tilos, north of Rhodes.
The ruling came a day after attorneys were unofficially briefed over the verdict, generating headlines in several local and international media.
According to the decision by the three-justice court, there is nothing in current Greek case law or the constitution foreseeing a legally recognised marriage by two people of the same sex.
The court also recommended a clarification of any vagueness in current laws and legislation on civil unions via a new law by Parliament.
Two couples, one comprised of two men and the other of two women, received marriage licenses by the municipality of Tilos in June 2008, while a subsequent ceremony was officiated by the isle's mayor.
 City of Athens celebrates Mother DayThe Athens Municipal Creche Childcare Centres will stage a major festive celebration, whose slogan is "Athens celebrates for you Mummy!", on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 10, at the Rouf sports facilities (Pireos & Echelidon sts, entrance via Pireos St at the Petrou Ralli St junction). The event is being held with the support of the National Bank and the City of Athens Youth and Sport Organisation (ONA).
The event will be launched with a performance by the Athens Municipal Creche Childcare Centres children's choir of songs dedicated to mother.
The celebration will feature:
· An exhibition entitled "Colourful wishes for my one and only Mum", comprising 2,500 wishes for mother conveyed by youngsters from the childcare centres' pre-kindergarten section.
· Three-dimensional installations portraying City of Athens Childcare Centres, created by childcare centre staff with the assistance of children, will be exhibited at the Indoor Basketball Stadium.
 Patriarch of Alexandria visits ZambiaCAIRO (ANA-MPA / N. Katsikas)
Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa is on his first visit to Zambia in southern Africa.
In a press conference he gave upon his arrival in the capital Lusaka, he stated that he was visiting the country to "bless the Orthodox faithful and inaugurate the first Missionary Centre, church, school and other benevolent institutions."
Later, the Patriarch inaugurated the Episcopacy, donated by the "St Kosmas Aitolos" Orthodox Missionary Association, while the unveiling of a commemorative plaque was performed by the Patriarch and the Egyptian ambassador.
Patriarch Theodoros will be in Zambia until May 15, during which he will also make a two-day visit to Zimbabwe.
 Cannabis plants found in house in KalamataThe police narcotics squad in Kalamata, southern Peloponesse, in cooperation with security police and acting on a tip-off, raided a 26-year-old man's house in Kalamata where they found and confiscated four 30-60cm high cannabis plants. The man was cultivating the plants together with his 30-year-old friend in flowerpots on his veranda. Police also found in the house hashish leaves weighing 128 grams and a small quantity of dried cannabis.
Both men were arrested and sent before a Kalamata prosecutor, while the local police station is conducting an investigation.
 PM receives Euroleague champions PanathinaikosPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday received the entire Panathinaikos Athens basketball team, who last Sunday became the Euroleague champions for the fifth time in the club's history, in a thrilling and closely-fought game against defending champions CSKA Moscow that ended with a score of 73-71. Along with the players came club officials and the team coaches.
Karamanlis congratulated the team in a brief address, stressing that their success in winning the title for the fifth time, and the second time in three years, had brought honour to Greece. "You have made all Greeks proud. This is a lasting success. Congratulations," he said.
The two sides also exchanged gifts, with the premier receiving a small replica of the Euroleague trophy, two Panathinaikos shirts with the signatures of all the players and a basketball, again signed by the champion team.
Each of the players and club officials present were then presented with a silver bowl etched with the Greek flag and the prime minister's signature. The team, coaches and officials stressed in statements afterwards that the invitation to meet Karamanlis had been a great honour.
 Cloudy, rainy on ThursdayCloudy and rainy weather, and northwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 7C and 24C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with light winds and temperatures ranging from 12C to 24C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 10C to 22C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe aftermath of the Pavlidis case, the Siemens affair and statements by President of Republic Karolos Papoulias on transparency in political life from Finland, where he is on a state visit, dominated the headlines on Wednesday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis preannounced solar energy in houses to protect the environment and economy".
APOGEVMATINI: "7,684 hirings in public sector".
AVGHI: "Social 'explosion' in EU foreseen by Eurogroup president Jean Claude Juncker - He warned that mass lay-offs and the spiraling unemployment will cause a massive uprising in the EU countries".
AVRIANI: "The crooks that took the bribes from Siemens are attempting to pull a fast one over the prosecutor and special examiner".
CHORA: "Shadows over PASOK - They're trying to find which two or more of the party's deputies cast blank ballots in the parliamentary vote the Pavlidis case".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "ND and main opposition PASOK entangled in a scandal-mongering vortex".
ELEFTHEROS: "Unbelievable! They are beating around the bush in ND - New round of dispute over Pavlidis affair".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Shocking document on Siemens scandal - How the Greek state lost tens of billions of euros".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "On the verge of social unrest - EU leadership warning over spiraling unemployment".
ESTIA: "Two hours for one voting procedure - The Deputies' lost time".
ETHNOS: "Karamanlis in awkward position - Operation 'escape' from scandals ahead of the European Parliament elections".
KATHIMERINI: "Society facing tribulations, and politics covering up scandals, on the altar of parties' expediencies".
LOGOS: "New page with Siemens - Government attempting to change subject".
NIKI: "Opportunistic moralists - Government and Karamanlis want to cover up the scandals".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Social security and health for the people, not for profit".
TA NEA: "I am not leaving, I am not leaving...Pavlidis pranking ND".
TO VIMA: "FinMin Yannis Papathanassiou preannounced from Brussels new measures in two installments - European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Joaquin Almunia sends ultimatum".
VRADYNI: "Ray of hope on the crisis - Economic and Industrial Research Institute (IOBE) detects recovery in the Economic Climate index in April
 Nicosia and Doha share views on the Cyprus peace effortQATAR (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khaliya Al Thani have established identity of views with regard to efforts for a Cyprus settlement, during a meeting they had here on Wednesday.
This was stated by President Christofias, who heads the Cypriot delegation, on an official visit to Qatar.
Christofias said he asked the Emir to exert his influence on the Turkish leadership with which he maintains friendly relations, with a view to help efforts for a settlement of the Cyprus question.
He extended an invitation to Qatar's leader to visit Cyprus, which he accepted.
The Cypriot president expressed the belief that his visit will be a turning point in relations between Qatar and the Republic of Cyprus and noted that he considered his visit very important both on political, financial and cultural terms.
Christofias said there is an identity of views with regard to efforts for a Cyprus settlement, the basis of the settlement and the fact that the peace process must take place in the UN framework and under UN auspices.
He noted that Qatar supports firmly UN resolutions and the two communities' engagement in a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution.
The president said they discussed about the course of the Cyprus peace talks and he asked the Emir "to exert his pressure because he has very friendly relations with the current Turkish leadership, with a view to help reach a mutually accepted settlement, based on principles."
Referring to bilateral relations, Christofias said there has been ample will to develop financial, cultural and sports ties between the two countries.
He said that three agreements were signed on Wednesday while another nine will be concluded very soon and will be signed by the competent ministers of the two countries.
Christofias also said they discussed the situation in the Middle East and exchanged views, noting that Qatar is undertaking certain peace initiatives.
"We reconfirmed Cyprus' position of solidarity with the Palestinian people and the settlement of two states, a Palestinian state with territorial integrity of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the state of Israel," he added.
He noted that they discussed relations between Cyprus and Lebanon, which he described as very close.
As he said they talked about the global financial crisis, noting that "Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world and the biggest investment power."
Christofias noted that the Emir expressed his country's readiness and will to invest in Cyprus which he considers as a friendly country.
The president returns home on Thursday.
 Government condemns illegal visit to occupied areas by Turkish FMNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The government of Cyprus has condemned the illegal visit of the new Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, to the northern Turkish occupied part of the country, pointing out that this is yet another illegal action by Turkey.
''The Republic of Cyprus is a single state and undivided as an EU member state and party to international organisations and therefore visits (to the occupied areas) by any members of the Turkish leadership are not consistent with international law,'' Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said, from Doha, Qatar, when asked to comment on Wednesday's illegal visit.
The president stressed that the occupation of Cyprus is illegal and opposes and violates international law.
He added that occupation must come to an end and there must be a settlement of the Cyprus question that will terminate Turkey's occupation, to terminate this illegality and enforce international law, noting that ''this is the aim of our efforts.''
Meanwhile, Acting Government Spokesman, Titos Christo-fides, said in a written statement, issued here Wednesday, that the visit violates the UN Charter as well as UN Security Council resolutions 541 and 550, which describe the unilateral declaration of independence by the Turkish
Cypriot regime as "legally invalid" and call on all states not to facilitate it or recognise any other government in Cyprus except the legal government of the Republic of Cyprus.
This move, Christofides said, "is also part of Turkey's policy to support the secessionist entity and attempts to upgrade its status."
"Furthermore, this action is contrary to Turkey's obligations towards the international community and the commitments it has undertaken towards the EU to support efforts aiming at the solution of the Cyprus problem," he pointed out.
"At a time when negotiations between the leaders of the two communities for a comprehensive settlement are underway and as Turkey should be working constructively towards this direction, in line with its obligations, such activities not only do they fail to contribute to these efforts but on the contrary they undermine them," said Christofides.
Turkey's move, he concluded, shows where the international community must address itself to overcome the obstacles for the solution of the Cyprus problem, he added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began in early September 2008 direct negotiations with a view to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem and reunite the island, which has been divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
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