|Friday, 20 July 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-05-09
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 9 May 2009 Issue No: 3189
 PM urges: Turn crisis into a catalystPrime ╠inister Costas Karamanlis stressed the need to "turn the crisis into a catalyst" and "proceed with a second wave of reforms" while speaking in parliament on Friday during an off-the-agenda discussion on young people's rights to education, culture and sports initiated by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga.
"We need to lay down new, firmer foundations and build, on those foundations, the country's progress and prosperity in the post-crisis period," Karamanlis said.
Addressing the opposition, the prime minister asked whether it was justifiable to "promise more than the economy can withstand, through wishful thinking and unrealistic recipes and polarisation?"
He stressed that there was only one road to follow in that direction: "the road that responds to what we must change and changes it, what must be revised and revises it, what must be reformed and reforms it".
"In these difficult hours that determine the country's future, politics cannot be dominated by petty party expediencies nor restricted to barren reactionism through monotonous nihilistic 'nos', nor subjugated to the interests of the 'accommodated'. In critical circumstances, we do not have the right to aspire to ephemeral party impressions." the prime minister stressed.
"We do not have the right to abandon the difficult but necessary decisions in fear of the passing political cost. We do not have the right to 'caress ears' in order to appear pleasant," Karamanlis warned.
"The global crisis demands realistic and tough decisions," he said, adding that "it requires that policy is not trapped in the past, in populism and irresponsibility" but, rather, that it "seeks and wins a future from within the path of responsibility".
"That is the only way we can succeed," the premier stressed.
PM slams PASOK 'inconsistency'
During the second round of speeches, Karamanlis focused on what he called main opposition PASOK's "inconsistency" and accused the party and its leader George Papandreou of permanently having a "foot in two camps".
Papandreou says one thing when abroad, another at home, promises to support enterprise when talking to investors and later promises to tax business when talking to workers, PASOK passes laws when in government and then protests against their application when in the opposition, he said.
Karamanlis pointed out that employers were resorting to laws passed by PASOK during the crisis in order to cut back working hours and wages, which was extremely unpleasant but better than forcing a business to shut down altogether and make all its staff redundant. He stressed that businesses should not use the crisis as a pretext to employ PASOK laws but take decisions after consultation with their employees, activating the measures for a restricted period of time only.
Defending his government's record in managing economic issues and the social insurance fund mergers, he said PASOK was contradicting itself by claiming that the economy was collapsing while at the same time promising hand-outs to everyone.
"In words, you have handed out 11 billion euros but you don't explain where you will get it from," Karamanlis noted. He poured scorn on a suggestion by PASOK's spokeswoman for economic issues that funds would be raised by re-introducing a tax on large properties and by taxing the Church, or by abolishing tax exemptions. The premier pointed out that Church property was already being taxed through the uniform property tax and that several categories of tax exemption were actually social welfare measures, like those for unemployment benefit, or mothers with large families and others.
Such references proved that PASOK did not have a seriously thought-out plan and this highlighted the party's overall irresponsibility, Karamanlis stressed.
In his final remarks, the premier countered opposition accusations that state spending had soared by directly assigning public works to contractors during ND's time in government.
"The biggest direct assignments that took place in our country were the famous 'programme agreements' [under PASOK]," Karamanlis asserted, saying that state debts had soared as a result of the "crime" of the stock market bubble, the untransparent contracts of the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF), fines from the European Community, kickbacks for the TOR-M1 and the dealings of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) in Romania and elsewhere.
He stressed that as a senior minister in the last PASOK governments, Papandreou could not be considered without blame for the policies they had followed, even if he was not directly involved in wrongdoing, and criticised the main opposition leader for "seeking to cover up the responsibility of PASOK governments for the tripling of public debt".
 Papandreou: ND bequeathing 'gloomy legacy'The "outgoing" New Democracy (ND) government was leaving a "gloomy legacy" to the younger generation, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said in parliament on Friday, speaking during an off-the-agenda discussion on young people's rights to education, culture and sports initiated by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga.
Commenting on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' address to the House earlier, Papandreou charged that in describing what was at stake today, the premier had described "everything he has not done".
Papandreou further said that ND was "bequeathing" to the younger generations immense financial burdens, an "economy of recession that will be running at negative rates, with deficits reaching up to 5 percent -- despite the grandiose declarations -- and hidden deficits that were created well before the global crisis".
The PASOK leader, addressing himself specifically to the prime minister, said that the ND finance minister himself had admitted last August that "we've hit rock bottom".
"Your government confessed this," he added.
The ND government was leaving behind a huge burden in the form of social security fund deficits, Papandreou said, charging that the government had relieved the banks of their social security obligations and transferred them to IKA (the state Social Security Foundation) and the social security funds. "You played with the toxic bonds, and unified the social security funds without proper planning," he accused the government.
Papandreou said that the younger generation would inherit a country that was "under supervision", having lost its validity and credibility, a country that was borrowing on the most expensive terms in the euro-zone, while it had zero absorption from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) two years its commencement.
ND has burdened Greece with 80 billion euros in debt, PASOK's leader continued, while the "throngs" of 'blue' consultants' on committees set up by the government have cost the country one billion euros.
Papandreou said that when PASO╩ took over the government it would channel 5 percentage points of GDP to education, as it has pledged, with one billion euros being earmarked from the very first state budget it will draft.
"You ask us where we will find the money? One billion euros is the amount that you are wasting for your partisan committees alone. We will make a serious redistribution, cut wasteful spending, innovate," Papandreou said.
PASOK to scrap tax breaks for big business
In his reply to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis rejoinder, Papandreou stressed that his party had no plans to abolish tax exemptions for benefits to parents, the unemployed and weaker classes but only an estimated five billion euros in tax breaks for big business.
"I understand that the prime minister and New Democracy's are anxious to find an alibi for five years of failure. But I would expect that they would not resort to distorting our positions," he said, during the second round of speeches in Parliament.
He also demanded explanations about how the government spent the additional 80 billion euros in public debt and whether Greece had benefited from entering the excessive deficit process as a result of a soaring public deficit in 2007-2008.
"You held elections in 2008 to pass a 'responsible budget' that ended up derailing the country's finances by eight billion euros - more than we spend on education in Greece. Essentially we have no budget," he stressed.
Papandreou repeated that the government had grossly mismanaged the social insurance funds, pointing out that IKA had been recording surpluses when the government took over and now had deficits, while the deficit of the OAEE freelance workers fund had increased from 34 billion euros to 700 billion euros.
State spending overall had increased from 38 billion euros to 50 billion euros, PASOK's leader pointed out, covered with borrowing at high interest when global rates were actually very low.
Replying to Karamanlis' accusations that he was maligning the country with his statements abroad, Papandreou countered that the country's image had been damaged by the state audit, the scandals that made global headlines and the reports on the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos and the ensuing riots that rocked Athens.
 KKE leader calls for measures for the youthCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga stressed that her party's platform on the young people was not determined by pre-electoral rationales.
"What we were saying in the past, we are also saying today. What we are saying today, we have also said before the (global) financial crisis. Because the problems were not caused by the crisis. A screen has now been placed on the past by both (ruling) New Democracy and (main opposition) PASOK," the KKE leader said parliament on Friday during an off-the-agenda discussion on the youths' rights to education, culture and sports initiated by Papariga herself.
The KKE's position was one of suggesting measures that confront and ameliorate the problems, as was its duty, she said, and also defended the party's positions against the EU, noting that "the reasons that our country joined (the EU) were purely political", and so are the repercussions on all the popular classes, and especially the youth.
Papariga stressed the need for measures for the youth, of which "14.8 percent are obliged to abandon school early, in junior high".
The KKE, she continued, considered it a given fact that the Greek family "can and should live better", meaning that all young people should have work, regardless of whether or not they have completed high school or university -- a five-day work-week of 38 hours.
"Is that demand excessive? Utopian? Dogmatic? Backward?" Papariga asked. "Is that which we call housing for the people populism? Is it backwardness when we say that the child should be in school and not have to work until the age of 18?" she continued.
The KKE leader opined that the ability -- both financial and practical -- existed for all the above, but "this is not the case because the capitalistic system undermines everything, and everything is determined by profitability".
Papariga further stressed the problem of unemployment, with the youth the most hard-hit population bracket, adding that "there is immense insecurity".
The KKE, she continued, did not want "subsidised unemployed" but was waging its battle within the existing status quo, seeking measures for the students, for 6-hour work with 8-hour pay, for the students of night schools, for a uniform, free Education, abolition of the anti-education laws passed by the PASOK and ND governments, and measures for the young farmers.
Papariga noted that the KKE submitted its positions a while back, and will give "theme" press conferences on those ahead of the European Parliament elections, while it will also carry on with its struggles against the anti-popular policies, so that the people may decide whether they want an anti-capitalist, anti-monopoly policy or a social-democratic or conservative policy.
 SYRIZA head calls for stronger youth presenceRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos referred to a "confidence crisis, detachment, alienation and indifference between youth and political institutions," addressing Parliament on Friday during an off-the-agenda discussion on the youths' rights to education, culture and sports.
He also stressed that young voters will have to make their presence felt in the European Parliament elections (June 7) in order to bring about a change in the political landscape.
Alavanos also criticised the ruling New Democracy (ND) decision to abstain from the discussion on the establishment of a preliminary examination committee to probe a second Pavlidis case, and referring to the looming "scandals", as he said, blamed both ND and main opposition PASOK party for adoption of a legislative framework that keeps the Parliament occupied with judicial inquiries and sends no one to court.
On the violence by a segment of youth, Alavanos stressed that "we should deal with the causes that lead to violence instead of adopting legislation against the hood-wearers."
 LAOS leader: Society failing young peopleSociety's dismal messages to young people in their early 20s were the focus of the speech delivered in Parliament on Friday by the head of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party George Karatzaferis, during an off-the-agenda debate on youth rights to education, culture and sports initiated by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga.
Any young person born in 1986 will have grown up to witness society fail on multiple levels, from the notorious trials targeting former premier Andreas Papandreou in the late '80s to the stock market scandal of the late '90s, the constant austerity measures alongside repeated revelations of financial scandals, the doping scandals that marred the Olympics, the inability of the state to protect the prime minister's from illegal surveillance, the wheeling and dealing with money from social insurance funds and the complete impunity enjoyed by the rich and powerful, with Parliament acquitting and covering up for corrupt ministers.
According to LAOS's leader, this state of affairs led Greece's disillusioned youth to turn to drugs and prostitution while he also stressed the high number of traffic accidents that he blamed on improperly constructed and dangerous roads built by unscrupulous contractors. He underlined the need for solutions to the drug problem, with tougher penalties for drug dealers.
"We are killing our children," he stressed, to add that "we have no children" in a reference to the country's acute demographic problem.
 Former minister Verelis resigns as MPFormer minister Christos Verelis, a high-profile transport and communications minister in previous PASOK governments, on Friday tendered his resignation as a Parliament deputy.
Verelis, a well-known PASOK MP, said he was resigning his seat due to standing disagreements with the political climate that he said has arise in the country over the recent period, a direct reference to a series of cases alternately dubbed "scandals" by one party or the other in a barrage of charges and counter-charges.
"I want to be a catalyst for transparency," Verelis told reporters, while in a written statement he said: "scandals are weighing down the country. The political world today not only doesn't inspire Greek citizens but the climate surrounding this serves as an alibi for the cynicism that has entangled the country."
In referring to the recently emerged MAN furor involving alleged bribes by the German heavy vehicle-maker in order to ostensibly win international tenders, Verelis stated: "We still do not know what has occurred. There is still not one piece of evidence that is known. However, the creation of a situation to challenge for June 7 (the European Parliament election) immediately began to take shape by paid and willing hack writers...
"I hope there is a quick answer to everything from the progress in the investigation in Germany, and that the Greek justice system mobilises, independently and disobedient of orders and politically motivated designs ... None of this affects me; nothing frightens me," his statement read.
In accepting the resignation, Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas commented that "we hope his decision is the right one; we respect his decision and hope Mr. Verelis will soon return here with us."
Verelis' seat will be filled with the runner-up from the same party ticket, Andreas Makrypidis.
In a later statement, a PASOK party spokesman said Verelis briefed PASOK leader George Papandreou over his decision during Friday off-the-agenda debate in Parliament, after having tendered his resignation to the Parliament president.
"Christos Verelis' personal personal decision is absolutely respected," the spokesman added.
 Parliament ends sessions in light of EuroelectionsPresident Karolos Papoulias has sent a presidential decree to Parliament, announcing the conclusion of the work of Parliament's current term in light of the Euroelections in June.
Parliament will resume its work after the Euroelections with the summer recess sessions.
Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas made a relevant statement on Friday night.
"Prime Minister Mr. Costas Karamanlis informed me that the decree on the conclusion of the sessions of Parliament's second regular synod of the 12th Period, as of tomorrow May 9, due to the Euroelections was signed by President of the Republic Karolos Papaoulias this afternoon. I informed the parties immediately about this," Sioufas said.
 Opposition parties on closure of ParliamentMain oppositon PASOK party leader George Papandreou said on Friday night that the decision taken by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to "hastily close" Parliament's second Regular Session "constitutes, in essence, an institutional deviation".
He added that "it is an unprecedented and provocative move that leads to the writeoff of all the possible penal responsibilities of ministers over the 2004-2007 period."
Lastly, he concluded that "it is a cynical confession that before his government's self-preservation, Karamanlis does not have the slightest inhibition."
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said on the same issue that, "regardless of what the Constitution says, the sudden closure of Parliament concerns either the writeoff of scandals or conceals other expediencies or both."
The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party said that following Pavlidis, Siemens and MAN affairs, the option to stop Parliament's sessions and have the writeoff of the offences of the past five years attempted was a manna from heaven for the government."
Gov't responds to PASOK criticism
Responding to the main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou's criticism over the announcement, late Friday night, of the conclusion of the work of Parliament's current term in light of the Euroelections in June, Government Spokesman Evangelos Antonaros attacked, Papandreou and his party saying: "With his irresponsible statement, the leader of the main opposition party reveals in the most clear manner his obscure plans: Mr. Papandreou and his party are not interested - apparently because it is not in their interest - in the country going ahead with Euroelections in political terms."
"On the contrary," the spokesman added, "they want to plunge the country in scandal mongering... they want to penalise the country's political life."
"What constitutes a deviation, and indeed a grave one, is their effort to conserve at all costs the morbid climate of scandal mongering, " Antonaros said in relation to Papandreou's referenece to an "institutional deviation" on the part of the government.
 Interview by SYRIZA's Hountis on Euro-electionsThe Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) has raised the stakes in the imminent European Parliament elections, Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) Secretary Nikos Hountis said in an interview with ANA-MPA on Friday.
Hountis, who heads the SYRIZA ballot and is practically assured of his election as a MEP, underlined that the likelihood of a high abstention rate will be due to fact that "European citizens view the EU as something hostile," underlining that the left will try to mobilise society in view of the European Parliament elections.
Hountis stated that the two major political parties attempt to create an atmosphere of polarization and underlined that the people should not be trapped into repeating obsolete and meaningless practices reminiscent of past decades.
"Bipartisanism is one of the major causes of political, economic and social problems and deadlocks experienced daily by the citizens and society," he pointed out.
 Eurostat report on asylum applications in EUBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)
Greece has the fourth-highest number of asylum applications relative to its population among European Union countries, after Malta, Cyprus and Sweden, according to a report released on Friday by the European statistics agency Eurostat.
In terms of the absolute number of applications received, Greece ranked fifth with 19,900, with France at the top of the list with 41,800 and the UK second with 30,500 (though the UK figure covers only new applicants).
Eurostat said that EU countries turned down the majority of asylum applications submitted to them in 2008 with the exception of Malta, which approved more than half (1,410 out of 2,685).
In 2008, there were nearly 240,000 asylum applicants registered in the EU27, or 480 applicants per million inhabitants. The main countries of citizenship of these applicants were Iraq (29,000 or 12% of the total number of applicants), Russia (21,100 or 9%), Somalia (14,300 or 6%), Serbia (13,600 or 6%) and Afghanistan (12,600 or 5%).
In 2008, the EU27 made 193,690 first instance decisions on asylum applicants. There were 141,730 rejections (73% of decisions), 24,425 applicants (13%) were granted refugee status, 18,560 (10%) subsidiary protection and 8,970 (5%) were granted authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons.
Greece received 19,885 asylum applications from immigrants in 2008. The largest numbers of these applicants were from Pakistan (35 percent), Afghanistan (11 percent) and Georgia (11 percent). In 2008, Greece considered 29,460 asylum applications in total, granted refugee status in 380 cases (1.3 percent) and rejected 29,080 cases.
The country with the largest number of asylum applications per million inhabitants was Malta (6,350), followed by Cyprus (4,370), Sweden (2,710), Greece (1,775), Austria (1,530) and Belgium (1,495).
The Eurostat report was released one day after the European Parliament passed a resolution proposing measures to protect the rights of asylum seekers and to simplify the system for granting refugee status in the member-states.
 NATO secretary general on FYROM name issueSKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Frangopoulos)
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, speaking after meetings he held here on Friday with outgoing President of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Branko Crevenkovski, and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, said that the pending issue concerning the name remains an obstacle for FYROM's accession to NATO and that the Alliance is not involving itself in the settlement of this pending issue.
"The pending issue concerning the name remains the only obstacle regarding the country's accession to NATO. Unfortunately, NATO is not playing any role and is not involving itself in this issue, that we want to see resolved as soon as possible because Euro-Atlantic incorporation is the sole recipe regarding the longterm stability and security of this region," Scheffer said and reiterated the Alliance's position that its doors remain open for the accession of new members.
FYROM and Greece are engaged in UN-sponsored talks for finding a commonly acceptable solution to the former Yugoslav republic. Greece, a NATO member country, objects to the neighbouring country's entry into the Alliance unless a solution to the name issue is found.
Scheffer travelled to Skopje from Tirana, Albania, where he participated in a meeting with foreign ministers and representatives of the five "Adriatic Charter" countries (Albania, Croatia, FYROM, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina).
 Army General Staff chief to visit United StatesWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
Army General Staff chief Dimitrios Voulgaris will be making an official visit to the United States between May 9-16 and on Monday he will be meeting the president of the American Hellenic Institute. Earlier, he will be meeting Greek Ambassador to Washington Mallias, Defence attache Bridagier Leontaris and the embassy's general staff attaches.
 Two new Honourary Consuls in Greece for Italian RepublicAn official ceremony on the appointment of two new Honourary Consuls of the Italian Republic in Greece was held at the Italian Embassy on Friday, in the presence of Ambassador Gianpaolo Scarante and consul Martin Brook.
Angela Romano, a psychologist specialised in criminology at La Sapienza University in Rome, an inhabitant of the city of Larissa since 1994 where she is married to a surgeon, will be the new Honourary Consul of the Italian Embassy for Larissa and the wider region.
Theofanis Katapodis, an architect born in Patra who completed his studies in Architecture at Valle Giulia university in Rome, who lives on the island of Paros, will be the new Consul for Paros and the Cyclades.
The two new Honourary Consuls were sworn in, reading the text anticipated by the corresponding regulation of the Italian Republic.
 Greek budget deficit totaled 6.9 billion euros in Q1Greece's budget deficit totaled 6.948 billion euros in the first quarter of 2009, more than half the annual deficit of 12.691 billion euros envisaged in the country's stability and growth plan for the year, the Economy and Finance ministry said on Friday.
In a statement, the ministry said net budget revenues totaled 11.014 billion euros, almost unchanged from last year's levels, while spending totaled 15.464 billion euros, recording a growth rate above the annual budget target. The ministry said that revenues in the first quarter accounted for 18.9 pct of revenues envisaged in the program, while spending accounted for 22.6 pct of annual spending.
 PASOK, SYRIZA comment on implementation of state budget in first quarter of 2009The main opposition PASOK party and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) commented on Friday on data regarding the first quarter of the 2009 state budget, stressing that "the situation is worse than expected".
PASOK's political representative for Economic Affairs Louka Katseli said that following three months of absolute silcence, the policy of "responsibility and of seriousness of the (Prime Minister Costas) Karamanlis government is now beginning to be revealed."
Katseli said that public expenditures increased by 25 percent compared to the revised annual target of 9.8 percent contained in the stability programme, while net revenues registered a negative rate of change of -0.2 percent as against the revised annual target in the stability programme of 14.8 percent.
She concluded saying "the only people who are terrorised by the magnitude of the crisis and by the extent of the bill that they will be paying with new tough measures are the citizens."
SYRIZA's Parliamentary representative and Economic and Social Policy rapporteur for the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos), Panayiotis Lafazanis, said on his part that "the delayed announcement of data on the implementation of the budget for the first quarter of 2009 "is absolutely justified, since the relevant data shows a picture of unprecedented monetary collapse that is far worse than the most ominous predictions."
He added that "we are experiencing the full and blatant failure of government policy, while the 'bill' for this failure will come after the Euroelections with an unprecedented antisocial raid."
 Tourist Panorama exhibition opensThe 14th Tourism Panorama exhibition opened on Thursday its gates for the public at an exhibition centre in northern Athens with exhibitors from Greece, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The Cyclades Islands, and the Prefectures of Laconia and Xanthi will be the honored Greek regions at the exhibition.
The trade show, which will run until May 10, was first organised in 1996, addressing the roughly four million residents that live in the greater Athens area other Greek regions at a time when they make decisions for their summer holidays in Greece or abroad.
 Deputy agriculture minister on swine flu measuresThe Agricultural development and foods ministry has not issued any special directive on the H1N1 Novel Influenza (formerly known as swine flu) because the inspections conducted in farm units are strict and held in accordance with EU standards, Deputy Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Michalis Papadopoulos stated on Friday.
Speaking on the sidelines of the inauguration of the Thessaloniki Aristotle University (AUTH) Veterinary School-operated farm, he stressed that authorities are on heightened alert, underlining that the disease is not transmitted through the consumption of pork meat. He also said that all imports come from EU countries and there is no association with third countries pointing out that, therefore, the measures taken are fully satisfactory.
As regards the measures aimed at protecting public health, the deputy minister stated that the health ministry is on top of the situation.
 Electrical equipment sector grew 3.0 pct in 2008The Greek electrical equipment and lighting industry is negatively affected by a decline in building activity, but enjoyed significant prospects from energy saving projects, investments in renewable energy sources and telecommunications infrastructure, a survey by Hellastat said on Friday.
The survey said that imports in the Greek market totaled 1.23 billion euros last year, up 13.2 pct from 2007, while exports fell by 4.3 pct to 547.36 million euros, leading to a widened trade deficit in the sector (682.42 million euros). Electrical appliances are the main imported product (53 pct of total imports), followed by lightigh products (18 pct), cables (13.4 pct) and batteries (9.6 pct). On the other hand, cables accounted for 48.7 pct of total exports with a positive trade balance of 101.36 million euros last year, followed by electrical appliances (26.5 pct), batteries (13.3 pct) and lighting (10.7 pct).
Electrical equipment prices rose by 3.0 pct in 2008, from the previous year, although the growth rate was slower compared with the previous year (+5.0 pct) and from an average growth rate of 6.3 pct in the last eight years.
 Greek stocks end 0.47 pct higherGreek stocks resumed their advance in the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday, after Thursday's correction. The composite index rose 0.47 pct to end at 2,151.40 points, with turnover at 228.8 million euros, of which 3.7 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with the Technology (10.13 pct), Health (6.39 pct) and Insurance (3.40 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Travel (7.47 pct), Telecommunications (3.63 pct) and Utilities (2.88 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 0.41 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.70 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.43 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 120 to 107 with another 39 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.97%
Personal & Household: +2.04%
Raw Materials: +2.72%
Travel & Leisure: -7.47%
Food & Beverages: +1.69%
Financial Services: +1.82%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 8.58
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.60
HBC Coca Cola: 13.24
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.37
National Bank of Greece: 17.00
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.80
Bank of Piraeus: 8.34
Titan Cement Company: 18.60
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -2.21 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover falling to 85.173 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 12,561 contracts worth 67.985 million euros, with 27,191 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 20,653 contracts worth 17.188 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,066) followed by Eurobank (1,534), Piraeus Bank (1,923), GEK (2,300), Alpha Bank (2,668), Marfin Popular Bank (2,276) and Intracom (552).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 162 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Friday. Turnover was 1.195 billion euros, of which 865 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 330 million euros were sell orders. The three-year benchmark bond (March 20, 2012) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 390 million euros. The 10-year Greek bond yielded 5.07 pct and the German Bund 3.44 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.67 pct, the six-month rate 1.50 pct, the three-month rate 1.31 pct and the one-month rate 0.87 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.353
Pound sterling 0.897
Danish kroner 7.508
Swedish kroner 10.596
Japanese yen 134.43
Swiss franc 1.526
Norwegian kroner 8.710
Canadian dollar 1.570
Australian dollar 1.784
 Skulpturhalle Basel hosts Acropolis Museum exhibitionAn exhibition promoting the New Acropolis Museum in Athens will open at Skulpturhalle Basel, Switzerland, on May 12, part of an initiative by the Hellenic Foundation for Culture (HFC).
The exhibition focuses on the excavations conducted on the spot where the new museum stands today, some 400 metres from the Acropolis, and serve as a pre-opening of the New Acropolis Museum next month. The exhibition is organised by the Organisation for the Construction of the New Acropolis Museum (OANMA).
Among the exhibits will be a scale model of the new museum in relation to the Acropolis hill and the surrounding urban environment, as well as a second scale model that shows the foundations of the museum along with parts of the Parthenon and other artifacts.
The exhibition will run until June 10, 2009
On the inauguration day of the exhibition, a conference on "The New Acropolis Museum and its exhibits" will be held at the University of Basel in cooperation with HFC, OANMA, and the 1st department of prehistoric and classical antiquities of Athens.
 Athens mayor praises start of works for new Panathinaikos sports complexAthens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Friday toured the Votanikos site in central Athens, where excavation and demolition works began for the ambitious urban regeneration land development project that includes a new sports stadium and other arenas for the Panathinaikos sports club.
"Today the city of Athens is celebrating a dream that is starting to become a reality. The dream of the twin urban regeneration project, at the heart of which lies our city team's stadium and the new Panathinaikos Sports Club - Amateur Division facilities. It constitutes the biggest urban regeneration project in the city's history and, I believe, it is worth the effort - for Athens, its residents, its visitors, all sports fans and, especially, Panathinaikos fans," Kaklamanis said, adding:
I would like to thank the city council's municipal tickets who supported this vision from the very start. Costas Skandalidis, Christos Papoutsis and their municipal ticket. Theodoros Bechrakis, from whom I was handed the baton, which he received from Dora Bakoyannis and, together, we all made an effort to move it forward."
The final go-ahead for the entire project, including construction of a large shopping mall, hinges on a decision this month by the Council of State (CoE) following a legal petition by 131 plaintiffs against the commercial aspect of the project in the rundown Votanikos district.
 Events marking the anniversary of the Dodecanese surrender to the WWII alliesEvents marking the anniversary of the surrender of the Dodecanese islands, southeast Aegean, to the allied forces by the Germans at the end of WWII were held on the island of Simi on Friday.
The events were held in the presence of Deputy Merchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy Minister Panos Kammenos and parliament deputies.
 Philhellenism and International Solidarity day on April 19The Greek Parliament on Friday set April 19 as "Day of Philhellenism and International Solidarity" with a special plenum session and the issuing of a commemorative stamp portraying Lord Byron.
Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas said that "the setting of April 19, the day of the death of Lord Byron, as Day of Philhellenism and International Solidarity, underlines the significance that we Greeks attribute to the contribution of Philhellenes during the struggle for national independence, as well as the value of international solidarity."
Speaking on behalf of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party, Panayiotis Adraktas referred to international solidarity, being expressed as support for peoples subject to destruction or violence and whose national sovereignty and human rights are being infringed.
Theodoros Pangalos of the main opposition PASOK party said that it is high time that the persons who comprised the Philhellenes movement must be studied in the countries of their origin.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) representative Achilleas Kantartzis said that "it is a known fact that the 1821 revolution shook the Holy Alliance, feudalism and the monarchy in Europe" and added that the question always remains of solidarity for whom and for what purpose.
Yiannis Banias, speaking on behalf of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), said that many say today that Greece owes its independence to foreign intervention, but stressed that without the struggle, the battles and the sacrifices and without the great movement of Philhellenism it would be impossible for us to think of the first London Treaty and the naval battle of Navarino.
Asterios Rondoulis, speaking for the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, said that "I lived in England for two years. I haven't heard the English speaking of Anglophiles, or the French of Francophiles. Why do we have to search all the time for Philhellenes?"
 Hellenism to honour Mauthausen concentration camp victimsVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Hellenism will be honouring the memory of 3,700 Greeks who lost their lives at the "Mauthausen" Nazi concentration camp, located in Upper Austria, during the Second World War, with speeches, the laying of wreaths and the presentation of the work by composer Mikis Theodorakis, bearing the same name. The event will be taking place on Sunday, May 10.
 Counterfeiting ring broken up; Net fraud arrestA counterfeiting ring was reportedly broken up in Athens following the arrest of a 50-year-old local man wanted for fraud, along with a 31-year-old expatriate from Kazakhstan and a 46-year-old Armenian national. Following a police investigation, it was purported that the high-quality counterfeit bills were produced in hi-tech underground labs in Bulgaria.
The suspects were arrested in the process of dividing among them a total of 1,000 counterfeit 100-euro banknotes.
Police found and seized a total of 107,100 euros in counterfeit 100-euro bills, 2,600 euros in counterfeit 200-euro bills and an air gun.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, a 58-year-old man stands accused of multiple counts of internet fraud.
Greek authorities were notified via Interpol after complaints made by Internet users in Poland, Germany and the United States, according to which, they paid a total of 12,500 for electronic equipment hawked by the suspect on the Internet but never received.
An investigation by the Electronic Crime Squad revealed that the same individual had defrauded, in a similar manner, another 25 Internet users around the world.
 Fair on SaturdayFair weather, and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 10C and 28C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with light winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 27C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 12C to 25C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe European Central Bank president's forecasts and the economy were the main front-page items on Friday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "European Central Bank (ECB) reduces interest by 0.25 percent to 1.00 percent".
APOGEVMATINI: "Hunting for the 'black' gold - Development minister Hatzidakis unveiled government plan for oil exploration and extraction in Greece".
AVGHI: "IKA (state Social Security Foundation) in the 'red' - Seven in 10 enterprises not submitting their contributions, the cumulative deficit has reached 15.9 billion euros, while uninsured employment among youth rampant".
AVRIANI: "Simitis (PASOK former prime minister) was aware that Tsoukatos (his economic advisor) was receiving kickbacks from Siemens".
CHORA: "Crash test for the economy - The doom-sayers are being proved wrong".
ELEFTHEROS: "Finally, we'll be extracting the oil in the Aegean - Dynamic and Greek-oriented decisions by Hatzidakis.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Holidays a...midsumer night's dream - One in eight Greeks will stay home".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Explosion in debts and insecurity - Stroke in social security funds, with IKA first, from owed contributions and health expenditures".
ESTIA: "Who are harming the economy - Climate of insecurity in view of new taxes".
ETHNOS: "Loans with 4-speed interest rates - Record reduction by ECB - How the Greek banks are reacting".
KATHIMERINI: "EU heading towards more flexible labor relations - 10-point recommendation by the troika".
RIZOSPASTIS: "All the labor rights placed in the guillotine - Extraordinary EU summit".
TA NEA: "Cheaper loans and cutbacks in salaries - Good news, and bad news, from Brussels".
TO VIMA: "Recovery on the horizon - Stagnating capital seeks investments - New data that the global financial crisis is running out of steam and coming under control".
VRADYNI: "Interest rates, inflation, hit bottom, but prices remain high - Lack of cash, slowdown in commerce".
 President Christofias expects EU to exert pressure on Turkey for Cyprus solutionNICOSIA (CNA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias said on Friday that Cyprus expects the EU to exert pressure on Turkey to take the necessary steps that will lead to a solution of the Cyprus problem.
Addressing an event in Nicosia, organised by the European Parliament and European Commission Offices in Cyprus, to mark Europe Day, President Christofias assured that ''we will strive with all our might for the reunification of our homeland the soonest possible so that, along with our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, we will be able, free of the burden of occupation and in conditions of peace, security and prosperity, to utilise any benefits from our accession to the EU and participate, even more actively, in forming Europe.''
''In this effort we expect the solidarity and support of Europe and expect the EU and our partners to exert their pressure on Ankara so that it takes substantive steps that will facilitate progress and a solution of the problem, a solution that, apart from the UN Security Council resolutions on Cyprus, will have to be based on the principles and values of the EU. In this direction, it is necessary to make clear in every direction that a solution that does not comply with the EU principles and values cannot be accepted,'' he added.
President Christofias noted that the EU ''has yet to adequately convince the citizens in various member states'' on issues concerning external and defence policies, thus leading to ''the distancing and indifference of a large part of the population regarding Union affairs.''
''Our country, as a full-fledged member of the EU, actively participates in the decision making process. With the main aim being the interests of the European citizens, the government is determined to contribute so that, through a fruitful dialogue and consent, on a European level, decisions are taken and policies are carved that express the interests of the people and citizens, fulfill the vision of the European citizens for a better future and effectively handle their problems and concerns,'' he added.
Referring to the global financial crisis, President Christofias said that ''as European leaders we have an obligation to find solutions that will provide a true outlet from the crisis and will tackle the problems emerging for the citizens of the Union.''
''In this admittedly difficult curve, it is imperative to meet the expectations of the citizens and restore their trust towards the EU. We must convince that we can give effective solutions to the problems. This is the only way to bring Europe closer to the citizens. This is the only way to make our common course feasible in order to meet the financial, social and institutional challenges of today and tomorrow,'' he noted.
President Christofias referred to the historical background of the EU and reiterated ''our commitment to actively strive to contribute to the construction of a strong Europe, which will have as its central orientation social progress and the prosperity of European citizens.''
He added that the ideal Europe ''will be able to assert its role on the international scene and will play the leading role in efforts for the global establishment of the principles of democracy, equality and human rights, and will contribute to establishing a new notion to tackle international problems and will expect their peaceful resolution through dialogue, mutual understanding, respect of diversity and consent.''
''Only within a Europe with clear orientation we will be able to face the political, financial, social and environmental challenges of the 21st century,'' he added.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Foreign Ministers of Cyprus, Denmark and Poland meet in NicosiaNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Denmark and Poland, Marcos Kyprianou, Per Stig Moller and Radoslaw Sikorski respectively, met in Nicosia on Friday ahead of discussions in the coastal town of Polis Chrysohous, in the Paphos district, regarding their presidency of the EU during the second half of 2011 and the whole of 2012.
Kyprianou said he was ''very happy that we have the opportunity to be here together,'' noting that ''the purpose of the meeting is to prepare for the trio-presidency for the second half of 2011 and 2012.''
''Our colleagues and officials of the Ministries have been having meetings already, but at the political level it is an opportunity for the three Ministers to meet, be briefed by our colleagues on how they have been working so far and plan the next steps for the presidency. We will have our meetings in Polis Chrysohous in Paphos,'' he added.
Sikorski said he was ''delighted'' to be in Cyprus. ''I believe I am the second Polish Foreign Minister to visit Cyprus since we regained our independence in 1989.''
He said he was also ''delighted that our presidency is so well matched,'' explaining that ''we have the Mediterranean aspect of the EU, the Nordic, and Poland, of course, is one of the members that joined five years ago and represents Central Europe.''
''We will try to lead all Europe fairly and I am glad we are starting the work to coordinate our position and to coordinate our activities. On behalf of Poland I would say that we greatly look forward to leading Europe together,'' he added.
Moller said Denmark has held the presidency a couple of times in the past since joining the EU in 1972 and that personally he was ''president of foreign affairs in 2002, when we made the enlargement.''
''I will not promise you that we will enlarge once more with ten countries as we did during our presidency in 2002,'' he added.
Moller noted that during their meeting in Cyprus they will be discussing their countries' presidency, adding that ''whatever we decide will not necessarily be what we do because the world changes.''
''We may be in for surprises but of course we have to make a line for what we are going to do,'' he pointed out.
To questions regarding Poland's stance not to ratify the Lisbon Treaty until Ireland concludes its vote on the Treaty, Sikorski said that ''in Poland we have completed the parliamentary part of the ratification process.''
Sikorski added that the President's position is ''clear'' in saying that ''Poland will not be an obstacle to the ratification of the Treaty and, as soon as Ireland ratifies, he says he will sign and I believe we can take his word for it.''
Asked if this might give the wrong message to Poland's EU partners, Sikorski said other countries have still to ratify the Treaty. ''Each country has a slightly different constitutional arrangement. Our President has made his position clear and I am afraid we will have to live with that,'' he added.
To questions regarding the major issues that the trio-presidency will have to deal with, Moller said there will still be work to be done on the financial crisis, climate change, terrorism and the rise of extremism in Europe.
Replying to the same question, Sikorski said ''we launched yesterday (Thursday) the Eastern Partnership of the EU, which was originally a Polish-Swedish idea, so I expect Poland to host the second summit in two year's time.''
''Poland has also consistently been in favour of Europe developing a stronger foreign and in particular defence policy, and you can expect us to be in the forefront on that,'' he added.
Kyprianou said ''we will have to pick up on the work for the Union for the Mediterranean, which is already creating a lot of problems.''
''One thing we know for sure we will have to deal with is the financial perspectives for the next financial period and it will not be an easy task, I have to say, but its our trio-presidency that will have to handle the situation,'' he added.
Asked about ties between the EU and NATO, Sikorski said ''we do believe in a closer working relationship between the EU and NATO.'' ''I think it is particularly needed in Afghanistan because NATO is a military superpower. The EU is a developmental superpower. We could win, which is to say leave Afghanistan and hand it over to the rightful authorities by working together on both supplying security and developing Afghanistan and denying it to the bad guys. So I do think that Afghanistan proves how necessary it is to forge those closer links,'' he said.
He added that ''as EU we should also develop means to back up our diplomacy with force'' noting that ''Poland has been a part of most EU military operations so far, we are also a major contributor to NATO missions, such as in Afghanistan, where we have 2,000 troops right now, and in general we are a border state of Europe so we believe in strong defence.''
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