|Saturday, 23 June 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-05-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 8 May 2009 Issue No: 3188
 PM Karamanlis addresses Eastern Partnership SummitPRAGUE (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed the inaugural session of the Eastern Partnership Summit, organised by the Czech European Union Presidency here on Thursday, stressing the importance of energy interdependence between the European Union and its partners in eastern Europe, as well as the need for the creation of a legally binding framework guaranteeing the security of investments and market deregulation.
He further underlined the importance of developing regional electric power markets having an advanced energy performance, stressing at the same time that the deepening of the EU's energy cooperation with its eastern partners is of fundamental significance.
"This is also the reason why Greece supports the creation of a targeted regional Action Plan for Energy Infrastructures," the prime minister said and also pointed to the need for widening liquefied natural gas imports in the EU. He mentioned in particular that Greece is convinced that the possibilities of the liquefied natural gas of EU member-states being turned into gas must be boosted, especially in such regions as southeastern Europe and the Baltic.
"In this perspective," the prime minister further said, "Greece is examining the construction of a second terminal station for liquefied natural gas on the coast of the Aegean" and noted that "similar terminal stations must be developed in other European regions as well."
Lastly, Karamanlis stressed that the importance of the EU's strategy for the Eastern Partnership Summit lies in the possibilities that this strategy provides for strengthening the regional stability, the relations of good neighbourliness, the economic progress of Armenia, Azerbaidjan, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine.
 PM Karamanlis stresses importance of maintaining good relations between EU-eastern partnersPRAGUE (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed the special importance of maintaining good relations between the European Union's member-states and its eastern partners, while speaking to reporters here on Thursday, on the sidelines of the inaugural session of the Eastern Partnership Summit, organised by the Czech European Union Presidency.
The prime minister said that the current meeting is part of the framework of maintaining good relations, stressing at the same time that the aim of the Eastern Partnership Summit is a rapprochement between the eastern partners and the EU without, however, this meaning that a perspective exists for the accession of these countries to the EU.
Karamanlis further pointed out that Thursday's meeting will help the improvement of relations of good neighbourliness and that its character is a supplementary one in relations between the EU member-states and these countries.
The prime minister concluded that Greece desires special relations with the eastern partners, stressing the need for the promotion of political and economic reforms in these six countries, namely Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia and Armenia.
 Papoulias addresses event in Helsinki calling for return of Parthenon MarblesHELSINKI (ANA-MPA/N. Megadoukas)
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, on a state visit to Finland, expressed hope that the Parthenon Marbles, which are currently in the British Museum, would soon be placed "in the spot awaiting them" at the New Acropolis Museum that will be inaugurated next month.
The Greek President was addressing a seminar on the Parthenon marbles on Wednesday evening at the University of Helsinki, organised by the Finnish Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles that was set up last year, and which joined the International Association for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures in December.
The need for the return of the Marbles was stressed by Committee's president, former Finnish ambassador to Greece Ole Norrback, archaeologist and director of the New Acropolis Museum project Dimitris Pantermalis, and Cambridge University professor and chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles Anthony Snodgrass.
The speakers, both during their addresses and a preceding press conference, noted that they had recently brought the issue of the Marbles' return to the British parliament, while Prof. Pantermalis reiterated that replicas of the Parthenon Marbles that were in the British museum would supplement the original Marbles in Athens in the new Museum.
In a brief greeting to the event, Papoulias stressed that the Committee's efforts were proof that the return of the Marbles was not the cause of just one country, but a global cause, just as the message of the Acropolis regarding "the measure and human scale in all our activities" was a global one.
Prof. Norrback, the second longest-serving minister in Finland between 1979 and 1999 before leaving politics to become a diplomat, said that the hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games by London provided the UK with a unique opportunity to act in accordance with international agreements and the contemporary manner of thought by announcing the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens.
"That would be a perfect combination of the noble principles of antiquity and modern-day application of the Olympic Spirit, and such an action would display genuine respect for other civilisations and their cultural legacies," Norrback stressed.
Later, Papoulias and Finnish President Tarja Halonen, who is also a proponent for the return of the Marbles, inaugurated a photo exhibition of the restoration works on the Acropolis and of the New Acropolis Museum, after which Papoulias hosted a reciprocal reception in honor of Halonen.
Greece has long been vigorously campaigning for the return of the priceless 5th century B.C. Parthenon Marbles -- friezes and other architectural parts of the Parthenon -- from the British Museum to Athens.
The Marbles, which date from between 447 BC and 432 BC, were removed from the Parthenon -- the temple dedicated to the ancient goddess Athena that crowns the Acropolis -- by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century with the tacit permission of local Ottoman administrators then ruling in the area. Elgin removed the friezes and other parts of the impressive Parthenon temple and later sold them to the British Museum.
 Parliamentary debate on second Pavlidis case begins without NDThe debate on the proposal tabled by the main opposition PASOK party on the creation of a Special Parliamentary Committee to carry out a preliminary enquiry on the possible perpetration by former Aegean and Island Policy minister Aristotelis Pavlidis of the offence of violation of duty and of bad faith (concerning the unprofitable route of the island of Tilos) began on Thursday without the participation of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party's Parliamentary Group.
Following the announcement by Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas of the statement by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis that ND's Parliamentary Group will not be participating in the debate and in voting, PASOK's Parliamentary representative Evangelos Venizelos said that the government "is abandoning Parliament in the hands of the opposition for the third time."
"The country does not have a government enjoying the confidence of Parliament, and the only solution is for us to resort to the citizens' verdict for the authentic correlation of forces to be registered and for us to come to another government," Venizelos said.
Venizelos also spoke of a "Karamanlis tactic" aiming at showing that PASOK is dealing with scandals while he (the premier) with the country's major issues.
"Indeed, this afternoon, Mr. Karamanlis will cross roads with the citizens' agenda, with their anxiety on what is happening and on what is going to happen, on what exists in the country," Venizelos added.
He also noted that PASOK accepts the procedure by necessity and that it reserves the right to raise more issues during the debate that concern safeguarding Parliament's prestige.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) Deputy Makis Voridis said that "following ND's flight for the second time, LAOS refuses to participate in the ridiculing of Parliament." He called once again on ND and PASOK to keep Parliament open so that all the issues can be judged and stated that "we shall abstain from farcical comedies."
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary representative Fotis Kouvelis termed ND's failure to appear in Parliament "a unique phenomenon in the operation of European Parliaments." "The government gravely offended the operation of Parliament and it is showing with its attitude that it disappears from procedures that it believes harm its petty-party interests," he said. Lastly, Kouvelis announced SYRIZA's departure from Parliament during the present process, believing that the development of the case, and with ND's absence, is leading to an institutional deadlock.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Deputy Spyros Halvatzis ascertained that with the responsibility of ND and PASOK the probing of scandals "is being led to degradation and to a coverup". He added that ND "is preventing Parliament from shedding light" on the Pavlidis and Siemens cases, while PASOK "is highlighting scandals selectively, covering up responsibilities of its own."
Halvatzis further said that KKE calls on working people to draw political conclusions and to see how the parties of two-party rule are facing their real prpblems.
 Parliament concludes debate on Pavlidis issue without taking decisionThe debate on the proposal made by the main opposition PASOK party on referring former minister Aristotelis Pavlidis to the Judicial Council was concluded at the Parliamentary Plenum on Thursday evening without a decision being issued, since the secret ballot anticipated by Parliament's regulation did not take place.
Following the abstention of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party and then of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, the main opposition party withdrew so that its proposal would not be led to rejection.
 PASOK leader calls for debate on economyMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou called for an off-the-agenda debate in parliament on economy-related issues, at political party leader level, in a letter submitted to the House president Dimitris Sioufas on Thursday.
In the letter, Papandreou said that the country and the people were at a serious financial and political impasse due to the New Democracy government, which he accused of systematically concealing the true state of crucial indicators such as state revenues, expenses and borrowing needs.
Unemployment was skyrocketing, there was a lack of serious programs for the unemployed, inequalities were widening, and sectors of the population were being marginalises, while wasteful spending and arrangements that constituted political favors for the powerful and "friends" were a further onus on the Greek people, Papandreou continued in his letter.
Instead of advancing the materialisation of an integrated and credible plan for facing the crisis and setting the foundations for recovery of the Greek economy, the ND government was exhausting its actions with semi-measures of a pre-electoral nature and policies that were deepening the crisis, widening the inequalities and the impasses, wasting crucial resources and damaging the country's credibility, Papandreou charged.
 Papandreou visits Athens TEI ahead of student electionsMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thursday visited the Athens Technical School (TEI) and spoke with students their, ahead of the May 13 student elections.
In a brief address, Papandreou said that PASOK was waging a battle against corruption and wanted to change the political system. "We will not allow the strong interests to buy out politicians, judges and the media," he said.
Papandreou reiterated his pledge that PASOK, in its first term in government, would earmark an additional one billion euros from the state budget for education. "They ask us, where will we find the money. We will find it because it is us who will be managing the Greek people's money, without waste and with transparency," he added.
 Enquiry ordered for case of German MAN vehicle industryAn Athens prosecutor has ordered the holding of an urgent preliminary enquiry regarding the case of the German MAN vehicle industry. The prosecutor ordered a probe as to whether offences were perpetrated concerning contracts signed by the Electric-Powered Buses of the Athens-Piraeus Region company (ILPAP) with the industry in question between 2000-2002 for the procurement of vehicles and other materials.
Prosecuting authorities in Munich, Germany, are carrying out an investigation in the case, following reports that the company, in order to achieve the conclusion of contracts, had transferred large amounts of money to bribe relevant persons in various countries.
 PASOK spokesman comments on 'MAN issue'Main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou, commenting on Thursday on the "MAN issue", the German vehicle industry, "which appears to be affecting Greece as well", said that "I hope the prosecutor's office in Munich will forward the evidence and Greek Justice will act fast."
According to a German newspaper report, the MAN vehicle industry is being accused by the prosecutor's office in Munich of having set up a network of "black funds" to distribute payoffs in Germany and foreign countries so as to secure large deals for the procurement of vehicles to state organisations. The report further revealed that MAN had developed activities in countries of Africa and Europe, including Greece.
As to whether PASOK had "probed" the controversial period, Papaconstantinou said that it concerns the 2002-2004 period, when PASOK was in power, noting that "procurements took place, but there is a great distance to the point of one attempting to relate it to something suspicious", reiterating that "we are waiting for information" and stressing that "we shall not tolerate another period with leaks."
 Appellate judges assign Vatopedi case to special examining judgeThe plenum of the Court of Appeals Judges decided on Thursday to assign the investigation of the controversial Vatopedi land swap case to a special Court of Appeals examining judge.
Court of Appeals Judges' President Irene Kalou was assigned the case, assisted by special examining judge Nikitas Christopoulos.
The decision was made following a relevant proposal by Supreme Court Prosecutor George Sanidas made due to the gravity of the case.
 Embassy of Czech Republic hosts Europe Day eventThe embassy of the Czech Republic in Athens hosted a special event at the Byzantine and Christian Museum on the occasion of the Europe Day celebrated on May 9.
Addressing the event held within the framework of the Czech EU Presidency, Czech Ambassador to Athens Hana Mottlová underlined that the EU enlargement in 2004 was a collective success, adding that the 27 EU member states have benefited in various ways from the "largest economic zone in the world."
An exhibition titled "European identity", featuring 40 billboards created by fine arts students from 8 EU members, was also inaugurated by the Czech ambassador to run at the Byzantine and Christian Museum until May 10.
On May 9, 1950, Robert Schuman presented his proposal on the creation of an organised Europe, indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. This proposal, known as the "Schuman declaration", is considered to be the beginning of the creation of what is now the European Union.
 Green 'New Deal' Money Conference in AthensEnterprise and protection of the environment can go hand in hand, Greek Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis stressed on Thursday while delivering the opening address at the annual CEO & CSR Money Conference on green development taking place in Athens, adding that this was the path that Greece should choose.
Studies had shown that environmentally degraded areas did not attract investments, the minister pointed out, adding that the State had an obligation to create the appropriate legal framework and incentives for promoting green enterprise.
He stressed that business firms must be made aware of the importance of sustainable economic activity, for the benefit of society as a whole but also themselves, and that consumers must reward companies that supported green growth by preferring their products.
Outlining measures being taken by the Greek development ministry in this direction, Hatzidakis referred to upcoming measures to provide incentives for households to install photovoltaic systems, a planned new framework for investment in renewable energy sources (RES) and projects for promoting new RES technologies and their applications, such as making the islands of Aghios Efstratios and Nisyros fully energy independent and powered by "green energy".
Another area stressed by the minister was energy conservation and improving energy efficiency in buildings, as well as efforts to link green development and enterprise.
Other speakers included the director of the United Nations Environment Programme, economics and Trade Branch Hussein Abaza.
Outlining the UN's environment policy, Abaza referred to the current global crisis and said this was linked to an increase in oil prices combined with a reduction in the available quantities of food and drinking water, which had recently developed into an economic crisis.
He stressed that UN initiatives to promote green development regarded the environment as an opportunity, since investing in the environment helped to create jobs, created opportunities in the market, promoted trade and reduced poverty.
Other Greek officials addressing the conference were ruling New Democracy MP and the chair of Parliament's special permanent Environmental Protection Committee Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who underlined the "huge" opportunities for promoting green development in Greece if the country could first trim the red tape and bureaucracy that plagued state-sector transactions.
He spoke in favour of creating an autonomous environment ministry in Greece but stressed that its areas of authority and ranking relative to other ministries would b crucial.
The need to cut down red tape was also stressed by main opposition PASOK's political spokesman for environmental issues Spyros Kouvelis, who called for a "rationalisation" of incentives for investors in this area and said that current laws essentially "punished" serious investors while rewarded those "out to make a quick profit".
The speaker for the Greek Ecologists-Greens party Spyros Sgouros underlined the potential of the organic farming market in Greece, noting that this could also benefit the tourist sector.
The one-day CEO & CSR Conference 2009, entitled "Government & Business forging a Green 'New Deal'," was organised by Money Conferences in exclusive collaboration with EuroCharity and took place at the Athenaeum Intercontinental hotel in downtown Athens.
 EU Environment Commissioner Dimas and 'CEO&CRS Money Conference 2009'European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas believes that the simultaneous handling of the unfavourable economic crisis and of the climatic crisis threatening the economy is required, according to his recorded address to the "CEO&CSR Money Conference 2009 - Businesses and State forge the green New Deal" conference.
The conference was organised for the 3rd consecutive year by Money Conferences in exclusive cooperation with EuroCharity and took place in a downtown Athens hotel on Thursday.
Dimas believes that a new economic model for low carbon dioxide emissions is necessary and referred to "the positive messages" the European Commission is receiving from the new U.S. administration, as well as to the positive dialogue taking place with China, a delegation of which arrived in Brussels on Thursday for high-level talks.
Dimas appeared optimistic over a new global agreement being reached in Copenhagen in December which will replace the Kyoto Protocol and stressed that the participation of businesses in the "CEO&CSR Money Conference 2009-Businesses and State forge green New Deal" conference means they have received the message that they must include the requirements of the low carbon dioxide emissions economy in their planning.
 Gov't cites oil exploration goalsThe government on Thursday announced the drafting of a new regulatory framework for the search and exploitation of oil, paving the way for a new era in oil exploration in the country.
Announcing the plans, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis underlined the financial and geopolitical benefits resulting for the country from oil exploration, adding that Greece was currently paying 4.6 pct of GDP, more than 11 billion euros annually, for the purchase of oil and petroleum byproducts from abroad.
He declined to make specific forecasts over the size of any hydrocarbon fields in Greek territory, although the president of the National Energy Strategy Council, R. Moisis, said that currently only 0.5 pct of crude oil consumption (around 120 million barrels per year) was drilled in Greece, stressing that the government's aim is for new exploration to begin by 2010.
The new framework, expected to be voted on by Parliament by the end of the year, would include the creation of a Search and Development Agency, adjusting Greek law to Community regulations and introducing European environmental legislation and incentives to attract investments, in addition to launching a series of international tenders for oil exploration.
 Parliament passes amendment to boost property marketParliament on Thursday passed an amendment designed to boost the Greek real estate and construction markets, with Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas urging those directly or indirectly involved in construction to give greater emphasis to reducing prices in order to benefit both themselves and the economy at large.
Under the measures passed by the government, the state will henceforth guarantee the remaining 25 percent of mortgages that had not previously been covered by banks, so that borrowers can now obtain a loan for the entire cost of the property they intend to buy.
The government has also relaxed the criteria for tax rebates of the interest paid on mortgages: whereas rebates were previously given only for those buying their first home of up to 120 square metres, with the rebate only covering the interest for the first 200,000 euros of a loan, the new amendment allows subsidies for the purchase of any residence up to 200 square metres, both main and holiday homes, and covers the interest rates corresponding to the first 350,000 euros of the loan. The measures apply to housing loans taken out until December 31, 2010.
 Greenpeace: Green growth to boost economy, job marketGreen growth was the only solution for emerging from the current economic crisis and would simultaneously help protect the climate and the planet's environment, according to a report presented in Athens on Thursday by the environmental organisation Greenpeace.
The report drawn up by environmental expert and former executive director of Greenpeace Greece Stelios Psomas estimated that green development could help create between 256,000 and 403,500 jobs in Greece by the year 2020.
Of these, between 98,000-155,000 would be full-time "green jobs" in the energy, construction, recycling and farming sectors and the remainder would be created indirectly throughout the economy by boosting consumption.
The report called for a new employment policy, especially in the renewable energy sources sector, while pointing out the promising opportunities offered by activities like alternative waste management, organic farming and eco-tourism.
It also pointed to the ever greater share of the labour market occupied by "green energy," with the sector currently employing roughly 2.5 million people worldwide at present (440,000 in wind energy, 190,000 in photovoltaics and 650,000 in solar energy) and more than a million currently involved in the bio-fuels sector.
 Pork consumption safe, minister stressesAgricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Thursday stressed in response to an observed reduction in pork sales that Greek pork meat was completely safe, stressing that any fears about its consumption were unjustified.
"The pork meat consumed in Greece is either produced domestically (45-50 percent) or produced in Europe," he underlined, pointing out that there had been no incidence of swine flu linked to pigs or pork production in the country.
 Greek annual inflation at 1% in AprGreece's annual inflation fell to 1.0 pct in April, down from 1.3 pct in March, the National Statistical Service announced on Thursday. The statistics agency said the inflation rate, measured by the consumer's price index, fell 0.3 pct in April from March 2009, after an increase of 0.6 pct in April 2008 and attributed the 1.0-pct annual figures to a 5.5-pct rise in alcohol and tobacco prices, a 4.7-pct increase in education prices, a 3.9-pct rise in hotel-coffee-restaurant prices, a 3.3-pct increase in health, a 3.0-pct rise in clothing and footwear and a 2.8-pct rise in other goods and services.
Prices, however, fell by 5.1 pct in the transport sector, 3.9 pct in housing and 0.5 pct in communications.
NSS secretary general Manolis Kontopyrakis, commenting on the figures, said the 0.3-pct fall in the consumer's price index in April reflected a 7.6-pct drop in car prices.
The core inflation was 2.1 pct in April, down from 2.7 pct in March.
Kontopyrakis said the consumer price index was expected to fall by at least 0.3 pct in May because of lower milk prices and lower fuel prices.
 OTE profits up 89% in Q1Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Thursday reported an 89-pct increase in its first quarter consolidated profits to 266.7 million euros, up from 141.1 million euros last year.
Operating earnings, pre-amortisations, fell 7.4 pct to 533 million euros, while EBITDA margin fell 0.8 percentage points to 36.6 percent, reflecting higher payroll spending, higher ad spending and third party payments.
Operating profits jumped 84.9 pct to 442.8 million euros in the January-March period, although excluding the cost for a voluntary retirement program (201.9 million euros), operating profits fell by 9.3 pct to 255.2 million euros.
Turnover fell 5.4 pct to 1.454 billion euros, reflecting lower income from fixed telephony operations in Greece and Romania. Investments in fixed assets rose 59.3 pct to 221.4 million euros, while Group debt was unchanged at last year's levels (6.045 billion euros).
Net borrowing fell 0.8 pct to 4.584 billion euros.
Commenting on the results, Panagis Vourloumis, Hellenic Telecom's chairman and chief executive, said the group's strength was put to the test early this year, but that the group was well prepared to deal with new challenges resulting from a negative economic environment.
 Cosmote raises market share to 43 pctCosmote on Thursday reported 518,000 new subscriptions in the first quarter of 2009, the largest number in any quarter over the last three years, raising its total customer base to 8.4 million, up 29 pct compared with the same period in 2008.
The mobile telephony operator said its market share rose to 43 pct.
Cosmote said income rose 4.4 pct to 443 million euros, although EBITDA fell 6.8 pct in the first three months of 2009.
In Greece, Cosmote said EBITDA margin fell by 4.5 percentage points to 36.9 pct in the first quarter, compared with the corresponding period last eyar, while in Romania, EBITDA was 13 million euros, after losses of 7.7 million euros in the first quarter of 2008 and EBITDA margin was 13.3 pct. In Bulgaria, Globul's EBITDA rose 2.7 pct to 41.4 million euros, while in Albania, AMC's EBITDA margin fell by 2.4 percentage points to 62.1 pct.
 Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling says net profits down 74% in Q1Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling on Thursday reported a 74-pct drop in first quarter net profits to 7.0 million euros, with net earnings per share at 0.02 euros, down 75 pct compared with the corresponding period in 2008 and net operating earnings fell by 41 million euros.
The volume of sales rose 3.0 pct to 441 million unit cases, down 4.0 pct from last year, while income was almost unchanged at 1.374 billion euros in the January-March quarter.
Doros Konstantinou, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling's chief executive, commenting on the figures, said the group faced difficult trading conditions in some of its markets, reflecting constant challenges in the global economic environment, although he stressed that the group managed to raise its market shares.
Konstantinou said it was difficult to predict short-term trading conditions and noted that the group's strong capital structure, combined with new initiatives would further enhance its competitive position.
 Greek kiwi tree variety wins international recognitionA Greek last name has become widely known in Europe, the United States, Latin America and even New Zealand. The "Tsechelidis" kiwi is a new and improved tree variety characterized by higher yield and fruit weight, fruit uniformity and lower percentage of 'double', 'triple' and 'flat' fruits than the "Hayward" cultivar.
The exclusive plant breeder' s rights of the Tsechelidis variety belong to the company AGROHARA L. Karipidis - Å. Tsechelidou Special Partnership, based in Episkopi near Naoussa (Municipality of Anthemia), in the prefecture of Imathia, northern Greece.
The variety is sporogenic and was created with a method used by researchers exclusively for the creation of new varieties and by many nursery gardeners for the creation of seedlings to be used in grafting cultivated varieties.
The seeds used belonged to the "Hayward" variety. Thus, the new variety was developed from one seedling, the only one among those selected from the seedbed and transplanted to the orchard.
This plant bore fruit for the first time in 1994. The characteristics of its fruit were so impressive that they immediately triggered interest for further study and follow up.
For a period of ten years, the variety was reproduced in the same orchard with the "Hayward" variety. An observation base was created with numerous plants from both testifiers, while the cultivation activities for both varieties were similar. Observations conducted showed that the new variety has stable characteristics, which do not present degeneration, while giving an impressive advantage over the "Hayward" variety characteristics.
The first application for the recognition of the new variety was submitted to the EU Community Plant Variety Office in France in December 2003. The same process was followed through the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) in the countries of its jurisdiction interested in kiwi cultivation. In parallel, the new variety's genetic identity was determined by the Agronomics School of the University of Volos (Thessalia, central Greece) using molecular DNA analysis. The results of the molecular analysis supported the uncontested differences between the two genotypes ("Tsechelidis" and "Hayward").
The annual kiwi production globally is estimated at 1.3 million tons, with Greece's market share at 60,000 tons.
 Parliament passes hospital debt regulationA health ministry-sponsored regulation, incorporated into the draft law on taxation, providing that hospital procurements made on a contract extension basis are regarded as legitimate, was passed in Parliament on Thursday with a roll-call vote.
Of the 282 MPs present, 151 ruling New Democracy (ND) deputies voted in favor, while 131 opposition deputies voted against.
 Regional airports report improved traffic in AprilGreece's Civil Aviation Authority on Thursday reported a 10-pct increase in the arrival of foreign flights to regional airports in the country in the month of April, as well as an 8.0-pct rise in domestic flights arrivals in the same month, saying the improvement is the result of a decision taken by the transport ministry to suspend slot fees in Greece's regional airports.
Rhodes (25.6 pct), Thessaloniki (18.0 pct), Irakleio (10.2 pct), Corfu (12.8 pct) and Hania (7.4 pct) recorded the biggest percentage increases in foreign flight arrivals in April, compared with the corresponding month last year. The suspension of airport slot fees will be valid until the end of September 2009.
 Foreign investors' participation in ASE up in AprilForeign investors raised their participation at the Athens Stock Exchange only slightly in April to 47.18 pct, up from 46.85 pct in March, although their participation was down compared with a 50.48-pct market share in April 2008.
Greek investors' participation in the market was 51.74 pct in April, down from 52.2 pct in March.
Foreign investors recorded capital inflows totaling 321.44 million euros in April, while Greek investors were net sellers with capital outflows of 316.99 million euros. The number of active investor codes rose significantly to 68,357 in April, from 62.717 in March.
Average daily turnover in April was 204.4 million euros, up from 118.9 million euros in March, but down from 345.9 million euros in April 2008. The Athens Stock Exchange's capitalisation was 75.7 billion euros in April, up from 63.1 billion in March but down from 163.5 billion euros in April 2008.
 Piraeus Bank in 900-mln-euro securitisation issuePiraeus Bank SA on Thursday announced the successful securitisation of business loans worth 900 million euros, through Axia II Finance Plc, a company based in London. Deutsche Bank AG (London branch) was the organiser of the issue, while Moody's Investors Service offered credit rating to the issue.
 Mytilineos to pay 0.10 euros per share dividendA Mytilineos Group regular general shareholders' meeting on Thursday approved a board plan to pay a 0.10 euros per share dividend to shareholders. A regular general shareholders' meeting by METKA -a member of Mytilineos Group- also approved a plan to pay a 0.40 euros per share dividend to shareholders.
 Greek stocks end 2.28 pct downGreek stocks ended a six-day rally at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, as a wave of profit taking in the last hour of trading reversed an early advance of prices. The composite index dropped 2.28 pct to end at 2,141.23 points, with turnover at 346.2 million euros, of which 13.2 million were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Technology (8.36 pct), Health (8.22 pct), Raw Materials (5.23 pct), Constructions (3.50 pct) and Banks (3.44 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while, Food/Beverage (1.20 pct) and Travel (0.16 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index dropped 2.60 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 3.64 pct down and the FTSE 80 index fell 2.10 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 171 to 67 with another 35 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.40%
Personal & Household: -3.14%
Raw Materials: -5.23%
Travel & Leisure: +0.16%
Food & Beverages: +1.20%
Financial Services: -3.03%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and Marfin Popular Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 8.81
Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.08
HBC Coca Cola: 13.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.16
National Bank of Greece: 16.31
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.35
Bank of Piraeus: 7.84
Titan Cement Company: 18.10
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -3,17% in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover easing to 94.516 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 12,765 contracts worth 71.063 million euros with 27,400 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 28,838 contracts worth 23.453 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,079), followed by Eurobank (1,699), OTE (2,483), Piraeus Bank (2,959), GEK (1,734), Alpha Bank (3,836), Marfin Popular Bank (3,050), Cyprus Bank (3,140) and Mytilineos (799).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German state bonds shrank to 176 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with turnover rising to 1.211 billion euros, of which 721 million were buy orders and the remaining 490 million euros were sell orders. The Greek bond yielded 5.14 pct and the German Bund 3.39 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.69 pct, the six-month rate 1.52 pct, the three-month 1.32 pct and the one-month rate 0.89 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.347
Pound sterling 0.891
Danish kroner 7.508
Swedish kroner 10.560
Japanese yen 133.78
Swiss franc 1.528
Norwegian kroner 8.689
Canadian dollar 1.569
Australian dollar 1.773
 Event held on Council of State's 80th anniversaryAn honourary event was held in the Supreme Annuling Court's compound on Thursday afternoon marking the 80th anniversary of the Council of State's operation, while President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias unveiled the bust of late statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, who was the founder of the Council of State.
Addresses were made by Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas, Justice Minister Nikos Dendias, Council of State President G. Panayiotopoulos and the general director of the Eleftherios Venizelos National Research and Studies Foundation N. Papadakis.
Sioufas said that the Council of State has successfully contributed to the state of law and the justice minister noted, among other things, that "the Council of State has succeeded during its 80-year modern history to distinguish itself in the country's legal world, with the splendid work that it has accomplished and it has contributed considerably to the appropriate functioning of the state of law."
 Rhodes will be the seat of UNESCO's Intercultural Euromediterranean CentreThe city of Rhodes, the capital of the southeastern Aegean island of Rhodes, will be the seat of UNESCO's Intercultural Euromediterranean Centre and the founding act will be signed on Friday in a special ceremony to be attended by prominent figures from Italy, Russia, Bulgaria, Israel, Romania, France, Belgium, the United States and Turkey.
The centre will be temporarily housed at the Medieval City of Rhodes until the Rhodes Mansion is completely restored to be its permanent headquarters.
The Intercultural Euromediterranean Centre will undertake to organize European and international meetings and conventions on cultural heritage, cultural relations and environmental protection.
 Journalism in the Internet era debate in AthensThree prominent representatives of international mass media answered questions on the course of journalism worldwide, taking under consideration the unfolding economic crisis and the increased role of the Internet, during an event on "Journalism in the Internet Era" held in Athens within the framework of the Megaron Plus cultural programme.
Lydia Aguirre, Director ELPAIS.com, Georgina Henry, Executive comment editor of Comment is Free/ Ôhe Guardian and Jim Roberts, Editor of Digital News at The New York Times, underlined that careful steps are being made while balancing between the economic crisis and the search for innovative applications that will increase media competitiveness.
"El Pais" managed to be competitive without resorting to layoffs by redefining its goals and seeking new readers, "The Guardian" promoted polyphony using as a tool the interactive nature of millions of blogs, while "The New York Times" overcame the "news ownership" cliché.
The event held on Wednesday evening was sponsored by the "Alexander S. Onassis" Public Benefit Foundation in cooperation with the Department of Communication, Media and Culture, Panteion University.
 Patriarch of Alexandria visits AIDS hospital in ZambiaCAIRO (ANA-MPA / N. Katsikas)
Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa on Thursday visited an orphanage and a hospital in the Zambian capital Lusaka for children and adults with AIDS.
The Patriarch, currently on a visit to the southern African country, prayed for all the people in the world suffering from the disease, gave presents to the children and donated foodstuffs and medicines.
In a press conference to local newspapers, the Patriarch underlined that Zambia has made considerable progress in the 15 years since his last visit, adding that the problems tormenting the country can be overcome only through education and faith.
 Authorities say Cypriot student encouraged 'cybersuicide' pactA 28-year-old Cypriot student in Chicago has been reportedly identified as urging Facebook visitors to participate in a group suicide, according to SafeLine, a centre for safe internet charged on Thursday.
His electronic traces were detected by the Electronic Crime Squad police in Thessaloniki in cooperation with Interpol and Cypriot law enforcement authorities, following a complaint by an anonymous internet user filed with the SafeLife hotline in Greece: www.safeline.gr.
According to Thessaloniki police, the Cypriot student's parents were unaware of his actions, while he maintained that the creation of the specific Facebook group was a prank and not intended to encourage Internet users to commit suicide.
 4.2 Richter earth tremor in Kyparissia GulfA slight earth tremor measuring 4.2 points on the Richter scale occurred at 18:31 on Thursday, whose epicentre was located in the sea region 250 kilometres southwest of Athens, in the Gulf of Kyparissia, in the Pelopennese, according to an announcement by the Geodynamic Institute.
 Drugs found stashed away in Messinia cavesA 44-year-old Albanian national was arrested in Kalamata, southern Greece, for possession of 4,533 grams of dried cannabis found hidden in two remote caves in a mountainous region of Messinia Prefecture.
Police made the arrest acting on a tip off. The suspect, who was in Greece illegally, is scheduled to appear before a prosecutor.
 Fair on FridayFair weather, and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 7C and 26C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with 3-4 beaufort northerly winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 26C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 12C to 24C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe announcement of 20,000 hirings of unemployed in municipalities and parliament's rejection of a main opposition PASOK proposal for the establishment of a parliamentary preliminary investigation committee on the SIEMENS affair dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "End of long waiting lines in public sector - Applications and documents will be submitted and received online".
APOGEVMATINI: "20,000 unemployed to be hired via Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED)".
AVGHI: "Front for the salvation of Mt. Hymettus - Local authorities, scientific and environmental organisations and Eastern Attica prefect demand the protection of Hymettus National Forest".
AVRIANI: "PASOK unsuccessfully attempted to 'short-circuit' the judicial investigation into the Siemens slush funds affair, with the ruse of (its motion for) a parliamentary preliminary examination committee".
CHORA: "Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou's and former Prime Minister in PASOK government Costas Simitis' relations on a tight rope - The media barons want another meeting ahead of the Euroelections".
ELEFTHEROS: "Hiring of 20,000 unemployed in municipalities".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Inner Cabinet decided on June's measures: Taxes, taxes, taxes".
ESTIA: "Impasse with the deficit - Its containment to the targeted 3% of GDP by 2010 is impossible".
ETHNOS: "New taxes to cell phone owners - Money collecting raid in waves after the euroelections".
KATHIMERINI: "Greece involved in the German MAN vehicle industry scandal with a 2002 contract".
LOGOS: "New taxes on cell phones and real estate - Economy and Finance minister Yiannis Papathanassiou preannounced harsh measures once again".
NIKI: "Ruling New Democracy acts as a 'Pontius Pilate' on the scandals".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Cast vote of objection to EU, in the students' and European Parliament elections, Communist party of Greece (KKE) urges students".
TA NEA: "Consumers turn their backs on expensive products and opt instead for cheaper private labels, due to the crisis".
TO VIMA: "China Syndrome brings hope for exit from the crisis - The Asian giant becoming the planet's steam engine".
VRADYNI: "How 20,000 unemployed will be hired in the public sector".
 President:talks have not yielded the expected progressDOHA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The progress achieved so far in the direct talks between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, aiming at a political settlement, is not what the Greek Cypriot side had expected, President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias stressed on Thursday.
The president also stressed that the solution in Cyprus will not be a two-state settlement but a bizonal bicommunal federation.
Speaking in Qatar, during a visit at the building site of the new airport part of which is being constructed by a Cypriot company, the president said that despite the numerous meetings that have taken place during the talks, the progress achieved was not the one expected and desired by the Greek Cypriot side.
''We expected more progress on the most important aspects of the Cyprus issue,'' he said, adding that ''what we have agreed on to date is far from the core substance of the Cyprus problem both on governance and property issues''.
The president explained that there is a common basis at the talks and both communities recognise the ownership of property but there are differences in how property owners can be vindicated, and on some issues these differences are important.
Referring to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on a property case, he said ''it justifies and confirms our own positions at the talks because we believe that the owner of property and not the current user of the property should have the first say."
He warned that ''as time goes by and Greek Cypriot properties change hands, things will become more difficult and the position of the Turkish Cypriot side will become more adverse towards reaching solutions on these issues''.
"However, there are some principles which we have to follow and defend, and this is exactly what we are doing," he said.
President Christofias reiterated that the solution of the Cyprus problem will be a bizonal, bicommunal federation with whatever that entails, noting that "the Greek Cypriots should realize that they will not govern the Republic of Cyprus on their own but they will have partners in the running of the country, and these are the Turkish Cypriots''.
On the other hand, he stressed, some Turkish Cypriots have been intoxicated by the artificial illegal regime, in the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, and it seems they are not too pleased to join a federal state where political equality does not mean numerical equality.
"The solution of the Cyprus problem will not be that of a two state solution,'' he stressed.
As he said, ''this is a complex and complicated issue but we have to find solutions, this unacceptable situation cannot go on for ever, as it consolidates the fait accompli and creates worse conditions for all Cypriots''.
He expressed the view that Cypriots have become more mature and are able to decide how to govern their country.
"We do not need guarantors, we are an EU member and I believe the best guarantee for the Turkish Cypriots, who are concerned about their safety because of the past, is exactly our EU membership," he pointed out.
Referring to Turkey's EU accession course, he said that ''we support the full accession of Turkey to the EU on certain conditions," noting that ''first of all it should respect the Republic of Cyprus which it does not recognise''.
Ankara, he said, must fulfill its obligations towards Cyprus and the EU.
Replying to questions, the president said that as long as Turkey's National Security Council continues to back a two-state solution, the Turkish Prime Minister will continue to support such a settlement, as the Turkish military play a decisive role.
"That is why we are reserved and cautiously optimistic. We look at the balance between the Turkish government, the president and the military," he added, noting that this balance has not tipped in favour of the government because the Turkish military have always maintained a hard position on the Cyprus problem.
Some of these people, he explained, believe that they have a big say on Cyprus, as an extension of Anatolia, something which hampers the peace effort.
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.
 British Premier pledges to contribute to solution in CyprusLONDON (CNA/ANA-MPA)
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has stressed that the British government can and will contribute to the achievement of a solution in Cyprus.
The British premier, who attended Wednesday a reception given at the Foreign Office in London by British Minister for Europe, Caroline Flint, for Cypriots living in the UK, said that the solution of the Cyprus problem must come by Cypriots themselves.
"You know that we in Britain believe that we can play a part and want to play a part in a solution that obviously is by Cypriots but a solution we believe we can help and do every thing we can to do so", he underlined.
The British prime minister pledged that he would do everything possible to contribute to the achievement of a Cyprus solution.
"And I just pledge to you that I would do every thing that I can for President of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat by putting my views to the Turkish government as I did to the Turkish President and the Turkish Prime Minister only in the last few weeks", he stressed.
Brown expressed belief that one of the historical challenges is the unity of Cyprus.
"I believe that one of the historical challenges is the unity of Cyprus and what we can do together to make that possible", he said, adding that "the opportunities for Cyprus are enormous".
He went on to add that "the relationships that can be created and the reputation of Cyprus in the world can be so much enhanced".
Addressing the Cypriots overseas, the British premier said "what you share as aims and objectives we share too and we want to work with you to achieve these great aims".
He also thanked Cypriots living in the UK for their contribution to Britain.
"I thank you for all you do and contribute to our country, thank you for what you do in your individual communities here in Britain, thank you for the relations you build between Britain and Cyprus and thank you for being here", he concluded.
 President Christofias says new horizons open for Qatari investmentsDOHA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias said on Thursday that ''horizons have opened wide'' regarding Qatari investments in Cyprus, noting that eight agreements have been signed and more are in the pipeline.
In statements during his official visit to Qatar, President Christofias said that ''if what we are talking about with the Qatari leadership take on form regarding investments on both sides, then Cyprus as a whole will benefit and this is our aim.''
Asked about the prospects of Qatari investments in Cyprus, President Christofias said ''the horizons have opened wide but I am always reserved and expect to see things in practice.''
''We have signed eight agreements, which so far are the basis for further cooperation. Nine more agreements are being prepared and will be signed this year. And of course we have the Emir's visit to Cyprus and the trips of many Ministers of the Government. These are not fortuitous events and will have a practical significance,'' he added.
On Thursday morning, President Christofias and the delegation accompanying him visited The Pearl, an artificial island, where they were received and briefed on the project by senior officers and members of the staff of the Cypriot contractors constructing the infrastructure of the whole complex and a huge part of the buildings.
President Christofias described what he saw as ''amazing'' and noted that ''it is a huge investment carried out by a country with the capability to do so.''
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