|Saturday, 16 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-05-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 16 May 2009 Issue No: 3195
 PM chairs Cabinet meeting on present and future prioritiesPrime minister Costas Karamanlis said that Greece was in the middle of an exceptionally difficult year, speaking after a meeting of the Cabinet he chaired on Friday.
He noted that he had called the meeting amidst a critical conjuncture for the country, in order to reaffirm the priorities for the present and the future.
The government has an institutional obligation to ensure that the upcoming European Parliament elections will take place under clear political terms. "We want the political dialogue to concentrate on the issues related to the unprecedented (global) financial crisis, on the issues of concern to the citizens, on their problems, every day lives and their worries," the prime minister said.
At the same time, the government wanted the significance of Europe and Greece's membership in the European family to be highlighted, as well as the importance of cooperation and coordination in common goals, he added.
"We are in the midst of an exceptionally difficult year for our country as well. In the preceding period we placed priority on our Plan for limiting the adverse impact of the global financial crisis and for enhancing our economy's defences, for supporting employment and our financially weaker fellow citizens, for backing the most hard-hit sectors and branches, and for fiscal streamlining," Karamanlis said.
In that direction, he continued, the government was proceeding systematically to a drastic containment of expenditures that can be reduced, to changes to streamline the state and limit its expansion, and changes that ensure greater efficiency, better service to the citizens, with a smaller cost for the taxpayers.
Following the completion of the Third Community Support Framework (CSF0 and the full utilisation of the Community resources, the government was now proceeding with the implementation of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) for the period 2007-2013, Karamanlis said, stressing that 80 percent of the NSRF resources were being channeled to the Greek periphery for actions pertaining to development, infrastructure projects and boosting employment.
The biggest priority today throughout the world was facing the international crisis, he said. All the countries and governments, in the face of the rapid developments, were being obliged to constantly revise their calculations and programs. Greece, he continued, could not be an exception, and therefore "we are readjusting our planning, updating our actions when required to the necessary degree".
In the preceding years, crucial reforms made had shored up the Greek economy to such a degree that it was today displaying greater resilience than other, stronger economies, Karamanlis said.
The global financial crisis was today acting as a catalyst for a new wave of reforms which are not only necessary, but mandatory, the premier said, adding that he had instructed his ministers to systematically prepare the new wave of changes and reforms, as the government's decision was that the new reforms should cover all sectors: institutions, state, economy and education.
Karamanlis announced that the government would be immediately launching an initiative to enhance the institutions pertaining to transparency.
"We are immediately setting in motion a dialogue of substance and depth in parliament's Committee on Institutions and Transparency" during which the proposal put forward by the leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group and any other proposals forthcoming from the other parties can and must be examined, the premier said, adding that the target was to proceed with bold changes that are compatible with the Constitution.
He stressed that the greatest possible consensus will be sought and, if possible, the advancement of regulations with the agreement of all the parties.
The government, Karamanlis concluded, has opted for the path of responsibility against barren political speech, nihilism and irresponsibility.
"Others have chosen to serve their party and personal interests. But the choices of all of us are judged by the citizens. They will be judged in the upcoming Europarliament elections," he said, adding his certainty that "once again, the Greek people will vindicate our choices".
 PASOK criticises PM's speech to CabinetFailure to curb state spending, failure to absorb funds from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) and using the Cabinet as a "purely decorative" organ were just three criticism levelled against Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis by main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Friday, in response to the premier's statements while chairing a meeting of the entire cabinet.
"The full cabinet is the supreme organ for implementing government policy, according to the Constitution," Papaconstantinou stressed in statements to reporters, noting that the prime minister had convened the entire Cabinet only six times since the 2007 elections, instead of once a month.
Regarding the premier's pledge for drastic cuts in public-sector spending, the spokesman said the latest figures conversely showed an increase of 23 percent in the first trimester, while he was scathing about Karamanlis' reference to dialogue in Parliament'sInstitutions and Transparency Committee, pointing out that the premier had himself closed Parliament just a few days ago.
"If Karamanlis meant the things he says, Parliament would be open today," PASOK spokesman underlined, and emphasised that PASOK had never refused dialogue and would participate in the Parliamentary committees when these were operating again.
Replying to the prime minister's call for a EuroParliament election campaign carried out on "purely political terms," Papaconstantinou said that PASOK intended to talk about the problems faced by voters and a "Greece that participates, demands and wins in Europe," as well as a "social Europe" in which people came first.
 Government spokesman on PASOKGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Friday, referring to criticism by the main opposition PASOK party, said that nobody is surprised any more by the nihilism of (PASOK President George) Papandreou's leadership group and added that the PASOK party has made its choices.
"At a time when the government is working hard and systematically to handle the crisis, to restrict its repercussions for the real economy, employment and the income of households, PASOK not only refuses to contribute to the joint effort but is undermining it continuously as well," Antonaros said.
The spokesman added that "PASOK is the party that made 'no to everything' its ideology."
 South Stream natgas deal signedSOCHI (ANA-MPA)
Russian energy giant Gazprom and Greece's natural gas provider on Friday signed the primary agreement for the construction in Greece of the ambitious South Stream natural gas pipeline, during a ceremony at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Alexei Miller, Gazprom's managing director, and the president of Greece's National Natural Gas System Manager (DESFA), Nikolaos Mavromatis, signed the agreement for each party. Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis was also present at the signing ceremony.
According to an announcement by the two sides, the agreement defines the principles of cooperation during the project's pre-investment phase and determines the conditions and rules for mechanisms regarding the creation and operation of a joint venture that will be established on an equal basis -- an entity assigned the planning, construction and operation of South Stream's Greek section.
The joint venture will prepare a feasibility study for the natural gas pipeline on Greek territory. The study will include an analytical assessment of all the technical, legal, monetary, environmental and economic characteristics and indexes of the project.
Until the final investments decision is taken on the implementation of the South Stream project, an administrative committee and a joint working group that will be set up by Gazprom and DESFA, will deal with the detailed planning of technical operations and preparation of a feasibility study for the Greek section.
DESFA managing director Panayiotis Kanellopoulos said "the signing of the cooperation agreement between Gazprom and DESFA is based on the bilateral agreement between Greece and Russia," adding that "... Through this agreement, the two companies aim at the development and ultimately the implementation of a project of paramount importance, strengthening energy security in the wider region. We agreed on a flexible and effective model to implement this project."
 Development Minister Hatzidakis holds talks with Gazprom presidentSOCHI (ANA-MPA)
Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis and the delegation of the National Natural Gas System Manager (DESFA) held hour-long talks at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday with the president of the Gazprom company, Alexei Miller, on the sidelines of the signing of the agreement between DESFA and Gazprom concerning the establishment of a Greek-Russian company to construct and exploit the South Stream natural gas pipeline.
Corresponding agreements were signed with Bulgaria and Serbia, as well as between Gazprom and Italy's ENI, while the signing was followed by a meeting of the prime ministers of Russia and Italy, Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi, with Hatzidakis and representatives of other countries.
Speaking after the signing of the agreement, Hatzidakis said "the signing of the agreement is an important step for the progress of this pipeline. The pipeline will be completed within the timetables in accordance with the commitments of the Russian side as well, meaning by the end of 2015. Today, an agreement was signed that concerns in particular the creation of a company for this pipeline. For us, it will have headquarters in Greece and, in parallel, regarding today's meetings and the statements by both Mr. Putin and Mr. Miller to us, I wish to say that it appears that the Russian side has special as well as ambitious plans for the South Stream pipeline in relation to its commercial exploitation, plans that include Italy as well. Greece is following the developments, we are following how this setting is being shaped, so that we will have, as a country, the biggest benefit possible both from this pipeline and from the wider mobility existing over the issue."
The minister further said that "it was agreed in the meeting that we had with Mr. Miller as well, that negotiations on this agreement should begin immediately. There shall be two groups. Each one will represent its own side in negotiating. The head of the Greek group will be the president of the National Strategy Council (SES), Mr. Rafael Moysis. These negotiations will begin immediately with the aim of us having the best results as soon as possible."
 Papandreou, Hu Jintao discuss climate, global crisisBEIJING (ANA-MPA - V. Mourtis)
The head of Greece's main opposition party, PASOK and Socialist International President George Papandreou, was received by Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on Friday. In statements afterward, Papandreou said the meeting had focused on three crucial issues for mankind: climate change, the global economic crisis and controls for international financial institutions.
According to PASOK's leader, the two sides agreed that the Socialist International could be a key vehicle for cooperation on these issues, one that could guarantee solutions leading to a more humane society. He also noted China's critical role in their outcome and stressed the margins for further improving Greek-Chinese bilateral relations.
Papandreou was accompanied by the Co-Chairs of the Socialist International Commission for a Sustainable World Society, Ricardo Lagos and Goran Persson, and Socialist International Secretary General Luis Ayala.
PASOK's president briefed Hu Jintao on the results of the Commission's sessions in Beijing and they discussed the proposals being made by the Socialist International and by China in view of the Copenhagen Summit on climate change later this year, as well as environmental issues in general.
During their talks, China's president outlined his country's intentions in this area and expressed a positive view on global cooperation for dealing with climate change, listing steps and programmes initiated by China to promote "green" development.
During meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing, Papandreou focused on the 11 fundamental questions sent by the Socialist International regarding the environment and climate change to all countries in the world.
China's views on 10 of these questions are more-or-less identical to those of the Socialist International, something confirmed during the meeting with Hu Jintao.
Referring to the global economic crisis, China's president said that this had chiefly hurt exports from his country but that the Chinese government had ploughed a lot of money into public investments in order to keep rates of development high - a policy that appeared to be succeeding.
Afterwards, Papandreou commented that Europe should also be following the leads of China and the United States on this issue but had that Europe had its own "inflexibilities".
China's president also noted, however, that developing economies could not alone carry the burden of modernisation and measures to restrict pollution, calling for the transfer of know-how to developing countries in the form of investments that would stay in those countries.
Regarding financial institutions, Papandreou proposed that China's president use his country's clout to press for a change in the rules of financial institutions and the International Monetary Fund, so as to prevent future "bubbles" like those responsible for the current economic crisis. He also proposed that China send a representative to participate in the work of the Stiglitz Commission for Global Financial Issues.
 Papandreou addresses Beijing seminar hosted by Communist Party of ChinaBEIJING (ANA-MPA - V. Mourtis)
Greek main opposition PASOK leader and Socialist International (SI) president George Papandreou and the Communist Party of China called for a "different developmental model", that of a green economy, during a joint seminar in Beijing on Friday morning (local time) organised by the Chinese party.
Papandreou, in statements on the sidelines of the seminar, said that the need for such a developmental model had been jointly ascertained by SI and the Communist Party of China.
He said that for this to be accomplished, "we need to break out of the rationale that the market will solve everything". A new planning for protection of the environment is needed, he added, stressing that green economy was a guarantee for sustainable development, for new jobs, quality of life and prosperity for all.
Earlier, in an opening address to the seminar, Papandreou referred to the great importance of cooperation between SI and the Communist Party of China on the two timely issues of the global financial crisis and climate change, and stressed SI's will for further upgrading of those relations, noting that the seminar was proof of that desire.
The new areas proposed by Papandreou for expansion of cooperation are of a strategic nature and concern peace and disarmament while, referring to the global financial crisis, the PASOK leader said that it has brought to the surface all the disadvantages and imbalances of what he called the "fundamentalism" of the free market.
"It is our duty to adopt a new model of growth, that of green development, and a new model of governance," Papandreou stressed, adding that the upcoming global conference on the environment and climate change to take place in Copenhagen in the autumn was a "very big challenge", particularly on how the governments will handle the issue of sustainable growth.
Papandreou said that green development was a "conditio sine qua non" for the prosperity of all, noting that, if adopted, everyone would benefit.
He further noted the problems that could arise due to lack of sufficient oil and natural gas reserves in the world, stressing that this rendered mandatory a turn to renewable energy sources (RES). In this way, he added, armed clashes and conflagrations could be averted in the future.
 Greek leadership holds talks with US Dep. Sec't of State SteinbergGreek leadership on Friday received visiting US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who arrived Athens for a lightning visit, first meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at the Maximos Mansion government house before holding nearly an hour-long meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.
According to the latter, the Greek side briefed the "number 2" at the State Department on a series of issues of regional and Greek interest, including matters dealing with the Aegean, Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus problem and the fYRoM "name issue", given that the US diplomat's next stop is Skopje.
On his part, Steinberg cited Greece's importance as a partner for the United States in SE Europe and in international affairs, mentioning the Greek military presence in Afghanistan, its significant role in boosting stability and economic opportunities in the Balkans as well as cooperation in WMD anti-proliferation efforts. He stressed that numerous contacts and exchanges at the highest level between Washington and Athens have occurred over the recent period, a statement aimed at showcasing an increased in US interest in the east Mediterranean country.
Additionally, he noted that the recently resurgent problem of piracy was discussed, while in beginning his brief statement to reporters, Steinberg reiterated the US side's volition to include Greece in the visa waiver program -- a long-standing request by Athens.
"It will help us to create more bridges between our peoples," he said.
Bakoyannis said OSCE developments and the current Greek presidency's goals were discussed, "following our trip to the United States we have decided to have closer cooperation."
 Foreign Ministry spokesman on OSCE mission in GeorgiaForeign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, referring on Friday to the OSCE's mission in Georgia, reiterated that the Greek OSCE Presidency started laborious efforts to achieve a convergence of views and ultimate unanimity on an extremely complicated and difficult issue, such as the stationing of the OSCE mission in Georgia.
"As it was also pointed out by the Foreign Ministry yesterday (Thursday) as well, the Greek Presidency of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), as soon as it assumed its mission, started laborious efforts as an honourable mediator for achieving a convergence of views and ultimately unanimity on an extremely complicated and difficult issue, such as that of the stationing of the OSCE's mission in Georgia.
"The undertaking was very difficult from the start, given the diametrically opposite positions on matters of principle between the sides directly involved.
"The intense and unceasing efforts by the Greek Presidency over six months which both sides have also repeatedly and publicly welcomed and hailed, have not yielded to date the result desired by OSCE, which is securing the continuation of the OSCE Mission's stay in Georgia. Consequently, the negotiations have been suspended until further notice.
"We would like to hope that, despite all this, the achievement of a mutually acceptable compromise remains feasible," Koumoutsakos said in his statement.
 Valinakis meets Romanian foreign ministry state secretaryCountries wishing to join the European Union had to understand the European approach, accept it and meet the Community's criteria and requirements fully and promptly, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis stressed on Friday, after meeting the Romanian foreign ministry's state secretary Bogdan Mazuru.
"They must understand that the EU is a community with solidarity. This is the most important message," he added.
Commenting on his talks with Mazuru, he said they had focused on the need for the EU to show solidarity over open issues with third parties and had agreed on the need to demonstrate this solidarity outward with specific political moves.
"With Romania we share common interests and common views, within the EU and regarding the enlargement process," Valinakis said.
The Romanian official said the two sides had agreed to further intensify bilateral relations and noted that the two countries were not only "partners but also close friends". He announced an upcoming visit by Romania's president to Greece in two weeks, with a hefty agenda, and plans for a trilateral meeting with Bulgaria as well during the summer "to focus on implementing our views in the region".
Mazuru said the two sides had the same views on the rapprochement of the western Balkans to the EU, as well as the EU prospects of the Community's eastern neighbours in general, while Valinakis also noted the common interests of the two countries in the Black Sea region.
 Top Croatian FM official meets with SE European envoys in AthensA handful of ambassadors and diplomatic mission heads of SE European countries accredited to Greece met on Thursday afternoon in Athens with the visiting director of the Croatian foreign ministry's important SE Europe and neighbouring countries' bureau, Davor Vidi.
The invitation-only meeting, hosted at the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) offices, came amid the nagging and up-until recently obscure impasse between EU member-state Slovenia and candidate-state Croatia over the Piran Bay issue. The latter primarily involves the maritime delineation between the three countries of the sea region where the coastline of Trieste, Italy converges with Croatia's northern-most Adriatic littoral -- the famed Dalmatian coast -- and the 42-kilometre Slovenian "window" to the Adriatic.
In short, Slovenia wants access to international waters in the Adriatic, while Croatia wants to retain its maritime border with Italian territorial waters. During the meeting, alternate points of view were aired, especially over the seminal question of whether to resolve whatever differences between EU candidate states and full members before or after the latters' accession.
The candid but amicable discussion also touched on similar instances of "political vs. legal" considerations vis-à-vis bilateral differences, while it was pointed out that a prospective adjudication of the Piran Bay issue by the International Court of Justice could take years, a prospect that would delay Croatia's EU accession, given that the one-time Yugoslav republic figures as the closest of all current candidate-states to attaining membership.
The ambassadors of Slovenia and Croatia attended the meeting, along with charge d'affaires of Serbia, the head of the liaison office of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) in Athens and the first councilor of the Bosnia & Herzegovina embassy in Athens.
One of the main points heard during the meeting was the fact that the current difference should not "poison" public opinion in the two countries or their close relations.
In brief statements to the press after the meeting, Vidi emphasised that his government believes international law backs its arguments, while he said Zagreb hopes the Ljubljana government returns to the position it promoted when it held the rotating EU presidency in the first half of 2008.
Croatia's all-important relations with Serbia and Bosnia were also discussed.
 FM on Euro-electionsForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, speaking from the northern city of Veria on Friday, recommended patience until a ruling New Democracy (ND) ticket for the upcoming Euro-elections is unveiled by the prime minister, when asked by reporters if a woman should head the list of candidates.
"Show some patience, the ND president will announce the party's Euro-elections ticket soon," Bakoyannis said, and responding to questions concerning the Siemens case, she stressed that "this issue is closed".
 KKE's Papariga visits Perama shipyardCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary general Aleka Papariga stressed on Friday that "voters face no real dilemma in the Euro-elections or the national elections because the policies of the two mainstream political parties, ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition PASOK, have already been tested."
Addressing workers during a visit to Perama Shipyards in Piraeus, Papariga stressed that "voting for KKE is very important because it measures the power of the workers' movement in conditions of crisis and in the absence of measures beneficial for the people."
 Karatzaferis decries 'foul, morbid political climate'Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) president George Karatzaferis on Friday sharply criticised Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, charging that they continue to insult each other and degrade the standards of the pre-election campaign.
He also called the political environment "fetid and morbid" during a press conference held in Athens.
Karatzaferis presented his party's candidates from the Macedonia province for the Euro-elections and referring to Parliament's adjournment he underlined that "many have been saved. Not only Mr. Karamanlis from Siemens but also PASOK. The Greek people will never know what happened at the Vatopedi monastery, Siemens and they will never know how much money former ND minister Aristotelis Pavlidis took and how."
 Deputy FM Valynakis addresses Constantine Karamanlis Democracy InstituteDeputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis addressed an event organised in Athens by the Constantine Karamanlis Democracy Institute on Friday night, focusing on the June 7 Euroelections and the citizens' participation in them.
Valynakis said that the need for "a substantive discussion on major issues regarding the course of the country and of the large European family is falling victim to easy impressions and meaningless verbalism."
He added that the European Union's actions must be coordinated and aimed at protecting employment, supporting small and medium-size entrepreneurship, boosting tourist development, improving the social state and decreasing the repercussions for social groups being harmed the most.
The deputy minister also said that what is important in the Euroelections is for correlations to be created that will confirm the collective European determination for us to forge ahead and move speedily.
 PASOK on economyMain opposition PASOK spokesperson on economic issues, Louka Katseli, directed a number of questions to the government as regards the country's economic situation amid the international economic crisis.
She accused the government of "pretending to deal with economic problems while the Greek economy is on the verge of recession and with the market in a state of asphyxiation."
Katseli stated that in April bounced checks reached 27,740, corresponding to 271.4 million euros, increased 220.3 pct compared to April 2008.
 Marfin Popular, Marfin Egnatia banks announce merger planThe boards of Marfin Popular Bank (MPB) and its subsidiary Marfin Egnatia Bank (MEB) on Friday agreed to begin merger procedures between the two banks, with transformation date set June 30, 2009.
The plan, which envisages that Marfin Egnatia Bank will absorb Marfin Popular Bank, aims to improve the Group's strategic flexibility ahead of its intended expansion in the Greek market and in the Southeast European market, along with strengthening the group's capital base by 10 pct.
After completion of the merger procedure, the group will examine the organizing and operations of banking activities in Cyprus through a new Cypriot bank, a subsidiary of the merged Group.
 ATEbank aims for 10% credit expansion in '09ATEbank focuses its strategy on ensuring adequate liquidity with the lowest possible cost and adopting business policies that would allow the bank to contributing as much as possible in strengthening the real economy through maintaining bank credits, Dimitris Miliakos, the bank's governor told an annual general shareholders' meeting on Friday.
Miliakos said the bank's aim was to maintain a 10-pct minimum credit expansion growth rate this year, focusing on retail banking and financing of small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Commenting on the condition of the Greek economy, in general, he said the biggest challenge was to create the necessary preconditions to return to satisfactory growth rates, namely, by effectively dealing with long-term structural weaknesses such as high public debt and fiscal deficit, high current accounts deficits, low rates of savings and investments and high unemployment rates, particularly among young people. Miliakos stressed that Greek banks have been able, so far, to absorb pressures from a global financial crisis and said that most banks reported profits in 2008.
ATEbank operates a network of 479 branches in Greece and 28 abroad.
 Credit conditions worsen in AprilCredit conditions worsened for one more month in 2009, with the value of bounced checks and unpaid bills rising sharply in April.
The value of bounced checks jumped 220.3 pct in April, compared with the same month last year, to 271.4 million euros, while volume was up by 243.78 pct to 27,740. The value of bounced checks in the first four months of the year totaled 984.1 million euros, while volume was 98,245.
The value of unpaid bills grew 20.0 pct to 15.7 million euros in April, while volume was up 3.6 pct to 10,478. In the January-April period, the value of unpaid bills was 75.2 million euros with volume at 44,499.
 Marginal rise in Q1 GDP yr/yrGreece's GDP posted a marginal 0.3 percent rise year-on-year in the first quarter of 2009 against the corresponding quarter in 2008, according to figures released on Friday by the National Statistics Service (ESYE).
The first-quarter GDP however, marked a 1.2 percent decline against the preceding quarter (fourth quarter 2008), according to the same figures.
ESYE attributed the slow down in the growth rate to a substantial decline in exports and investments.
ESYE further announced that the overall consumer expenditure for state consumption posted a marginal rise which, combined with a substantial decline in imports, contributed positively to the indicator.
 Conference on risk managementThe Greek Informatics Institute of the Greek Business Administration Society organised the first Risk Management&Compliance Forum concluding that the recent monetary crisis showed once again that one of the basic elements for the success of monetary foundations is the ability to achieve the effective managing and control of risks of all kinds.
Banks desiring to remain competitive must follow the latest developments in assessing and managing risks and invest in the implementation of informatics systems and the development of their cadres to enable them to have the ability to meet both the traditional and most recent risk management techniques, it was ascertained at the forum.
It was further noted that it is clear that due to the complex and complicated nature of information required, technology plays an important role in risk management and in this direction banks are led to utilising integrated risk management platforms.
Moreover, the evaluation of the perfirmance of capital that is adjusted to risk and the performance of each of a bank's units helps in the formulation of a more correct view on the profit-making of the monetary organisation and protects from "unpleasant" interpretations of figures.
 Smaller interest rate for state's debts ruled unconstitutionalThe Council of State plenum, the country's supreme administrative court, on Friday ruled (decision No 1663/2009) that legislation imposing a smaller interest rate for overdue debts and claims owed by the state than for overdue claims and debts owed to the state by private concerns is unconstitutional and in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Council of State ruling concerns the 4 pct discrepancy in the interest rate (legal/overdue) charged for public and private claims, which are 10 pct for the former and 6 pct for the latter.
 Aegean Airlines to pay 0.25-euro per share dividendAegean Airlines on Friday announced it would pay a 0.25-euro per share dividend to shareholders and said its shares would be traded on the Athens Stock Exchange ex-dividend as of May 20, 2009.
 Stocks end 1.04% higherGreek stocks ended the last trading session of the week with moderate gains at the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday. The composite index rose 1.04 pct to end at 2,146.15 points, with turnover at 217.6 million euros, of which 5.5 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved upwards, with the Constructions (3.33 pct), Banks (3.31 pct) and Utilities (1.78 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Food/Beverage (3.65 pct), Financial Services (1.67 pct) and Insurance (1.08 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 1.69 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.01 pct down and the FTSE 80 index rose 0.52 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 113 to 94 with another 53 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.32%
Personal & Household: -0.18%
Raw Materials: +1.25%
Travel & Leisure: +0.05%
Food & Beverages: -3.65%
Financial Services: -1.67%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Vovos, Public Power Corp (PPC) and Bank of Cyprus.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 8.05
Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.10
HBC Coca Cola: 13.40
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.84
National Bank of Greece: 16.90
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.40
Bank of Piraeus: 8.05
Titan Cement Company: 19.30
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract was trading at -2.28 pct in the last trading session of the contract in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover at 64.062 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 8,957 contracts worth 48.106 million euros, with 29,488 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 17,812 contracts worth 15.956 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,302), followed by OTE (888), Piraeus Bank (776), Alpha Bank (855), Marfin Popular Bank (1,934), Mytilineos (681).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 180 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Friday, with turnover a high 1.248 billion euros of which 1.013 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 235 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 460 million euros. The Greek bond yielded 5.16 pct and the German Bund 3.36 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.61 pct, the six-month rate 1.45 pct, the three-month rate 1.25 pct and the one-month rate 0.82 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.362
Pound sterling 0.897
Danish kroner 7.506
Swedish kroner 10.722
Japanese yen 129.7
Swiss franc 1.514
Norwegian kroner 8.887
Canadian dollar 1.602
Australian dollar 1.806
 PM Karamanlis' message marks 68th anniversary of Battle of CreteCelebrations marking the 68th anniversary of the Battle of Crete commence on Saturday in Hania, due to culminate next Sunday (May 24), as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis referred to the historic event in a message on the anniversary, with emphasis on the element of unity as well as the need to put aside any differences, in the interest of the country.
"The Battle of Crete, one of the most glorious pages in the history of modern Hellenism, is a tangible reminder of the duty of every free person to fight with commitment and determination to safeguard the lofty values of freedom and dignity," Karamanlis said in his message, adding that the Battle of Crete "is one more resounding proof of the indomitable superiority of the just over invasive brute force".
In today's critical international conjuncture, the sacrifices of the Greek and Allied freedom fighters acquires a special symbolic content, as on the one hand it serves as a steadfast legacy for the persistent, unwavering and effective promotion of peace, democracy and international law in our wider neighborhood, and on the other hand is an example of the many and important things we can achieve when we decide to unite our forces and put aside the individual differences, the prime minister said.
The anniversary's message of unity is a criterion of action, but also a source of inspiration, in dealing with the global financial crisis, Karamanlis said, adding that, especially in an era in which the global conjoining of forces is an immediate priority, Greece's recent history inspires and encourages us.
Events marking the 68th anniversary of the early WWII Battle of Crete will take place across Hania Prefecture from May 16 to 24 and will include memorial services, exhibitions, speeches and happenings.
The formal hoisting of the Allies' flags will take place at the Firka Fort on May 22, while a German eembassy event at the German ccemetery in Maleme will take place on Sunday, May 24.
The Battle of Crete began on the morning of May 20, 1941 when German forces launched an unprecedented airborne invasion of Crete, code-named "Merkur". The operation was successful in that it wrested control of the island from Allied forces, although the victory was so costly in terms of paratrooper casualties that the Wehrmacht never again attempted a major airborne operation. The stiff resistance by the allied troops and local Cretans is also credited, by many historians, with delaying the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
 Culture minister inaugurates 32nd Book FairCulture Minister Antonis Samaras inaugurated the 32nd Book Fair on Friday and referred to the need for cooperation between the state and people involved with books and to the systematic encouragement of book reading.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by writer, publisher and former Deputy Minister to the President of the Republic of Cyprus Patroklos Stavrou, Florina Deputy Stathis Constantinidis, a representative of the Athens Metropolis, the deputy mayor of the Municipality of Athens Angelos Moschonas and other dignitaries.
 Archaeologists to study submerged ancient town in Laconia, southern GreeceThe oldest submerged town in the world is about to give up its secrets with the help of equipment that could revolutionise underwater archaeology.
The ancient town of Pavlopetri lies in three to four metres of water just off the coast of southern Laconia in Greece, near a very popular sandy beach. The ruins date from at least 2800 BC and include intact buildings, courtyards, streets, chamber tombs and some thirty-seven cist graves which are thought to belong to the Mycenaean period (c.1680-1180 BC).
Underwater archaeologist Dr Jon Henderson, from the University of Nottingham, will be the first archaeologist to have official access to the site in 40 years. Despite its potential international importance no work has been carried out at the site since it was first mapped in 1968, by a team from the University of Cambridge headed by Dr Nicholas Flemming, and Dr Henderson has had to get special permission from the Greek government to examine the submerged town.
Although Mycenaean power was largely based on their control of the sea, little is known about the workings of the harbour towns of the period as archaeology to date has focused on the better known inland palaces and citadels. Pavlopetri was presumably once a thriving harbour town where the inhabitants conducted local and long distance trade throughout the Mediterranean. Its sandy and well-protected bay would have been ideal for beaching Bronze Age ships. As such, the site offers major new insights into the workings of Mycenaean society.
The aim of Dr Henderson's project is to discover the history and development of Pavlopetri, find out when it was occupied, what it was used for and through a systematic study of the geomorphology of the area establish why the town disappeared under the sea.
The submerged buildings, courtyards, streets, tombs and graves, lie just off a sandy stretch of beach close to an area popular with holiday makers and campers. Under threat from tourism and industry the remains are being damaged by boats dragging their anchors, inquisitive snorkelers on the hunt for souvenirs and the growth of marine organisms which are also taking their toll degrading the fragile 3,500 year old walls.
The survey, in collaboration with Elias Spondylis of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Greek ministry of culture, will be carried out using equipment originally developed for the military and offshore oilfield market but looks set to transform underwater archaeological survey and recording.
Dr Henderson from the Underwater Archaeology Research Centre (UARC) in the Department of Archaeology, and his team will carry out a detailed millimeter accurate digital underwater survey of the site using an acoustic scanner developed by a major North American offshore engineering company. The equipment can produce photo-realistic, three dimensional digital surveys of seabed features and underwater structures to sub-millimetre accuracy in a matter of minutes.
The project has received funding from the Institute of Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP), The University of Nottingham and the British School of Archaeology at Athens.
Four annual fieldwork seasons are planned. This May and June the team will carry out a full underwater survey. Between 2010 and 2012 there will be three seasons of underwater excavations. After a study season in 2013 the findings of Dr Henderson's research will be published in 2014.
 Cycladic Art Museum, NGO PRAKSIS organising visits to Museum by immigrants, refugeesThe Cycladic Art Museum will be organising, in cooperation with the non-governmental organisation PRAKSIS, visits by immigrants and refugees to the museum's premises to enable them to get better acquainted with Greek culture.
The event is titled "Cultural Accession Acts" and is being implemented under the auspices of the Greek foreign ministry.
With the main slogan being "Let us get acquainted better", immigrants and refugees living in Greece are invited to brush aside their day-to-day problems and come into contact with the country's hospitable image, rich Greek culture.
On the occasion of World Museums Day on May 17, 2009, people from Afghanistan and Iran will be facilitated by PRAKSIS to visit the Cycladic Art Museum with their children to participate in the programme of events scheduled for the public at large.
 Council of State OKs Panathinaikos stadium but not shopping mallThe construction of the project in Eleonas, Attiki that includes a new sports stadium and other arenas for the Panathinaikos sports club, as well as a parking lot, was approved as legal on Friday by the Council of State, the country's supreme administrative court, with 15 votes in favor and 10 against.
The Council of State in a closed door session also ruled that the construction of the Athens City Hall building and a shopping mall near the stadium is unconstitutional.
 College entry exams beginThe annual nationwide university entry exams commenced on Friday with the subject of Greek language. Approximately 90,000 candidates will vie for a position in the country's numerous state universities and technical institutes.
Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos visited a high school in the Moschato district between Athens and Piraeus and a grading centre, where he wished all pupils the best of success, underlining that the education ministry's services are fully mobilised for the weeklong process.
 Abduction case solved; arrestsPolice in western Attica solved an abduction-for-ransom case with the arrest of a Greek, 33, and two Albanian nationals, aged 21 and 31.
The two victims, aged 41 and 70, both Albanian nationals of Greek descent, were abducted last Sunday afternoon in the region of Elefsina where they were supposed to have a business meeting with unidentified individuals.
Later on that day, an unknown man called the 41-year-old's partner and asked for 170,000 euros as a ransom for the release of the two men.
Police were immediately contacted and with the help of a special hostage negotiator the ransom was reduced to 14,500 euros. The sum was paid and the abduction victims were freed in the region of Megara.
Evidence collected by police led them to five individuals, a Greek and four Albanians, one of whom is already incarcerated in Corfu Prison while another was wanted for thefts. An unidentified woman that made the contact with the relatives of the abduction victims is still wanted.
According to police, both the victims, especially the 41-year-old, were brutally assaulted by the abductors.
 Burglar falls two storeys in bid to evade arrestA burglar in Thessaloniki jumped from the second storey of a building on Friday, in a desperate attempt to escape capture and arrest by authorities. He was caught and taken to Thessaloniki's AHEPA hospital with injuries to the head and a broken right arm.
The 38-year-old man from Kazakhstan had earlier broken into an apartment in the Toumba area, where he came face to face with the owner, who quickly ran out of the apartment and locked the door from the outside, trapping the burglar within. The thief then attempted to escape by jumping into the back yard of the building from a balcony but was injured in the attempt.
 Migrant smuggling, drug arrest in KastoriaA 39-year-old Albanian national was arrested on Friday in the Kostarazi, Kastoria intersection, northwest Greece, after border guards found in his car two illegal migrants from Albania he intended to transport to Corinth, in the south of the country.
A search in the vehicle also revealed 4.5 kilos of hashish.
The smuggler and the two illegal migrants were led before a Kastoria prosecutor.
 Cloudy on SaturdayCloudy weather with local showers, and southeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 2-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 13C and 31C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with southeasterly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 16C to 30C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 15C to 29C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceParties' activities ahead of European Parliament elections, the commencement of university entry exams, the new rise in unemployment and planned measures to combat tax evasion, dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "University entry exams begin with Modern Greek language".
APOGEVMATINI: "Tax Bureau teams and policemen will stop luxurious cars and check whether the drivers have paid their taxes".
AVGHI: "450,997 registered unemployed in February - Major leap to 9.1 percent from 8 percent last year."
AVRIANI: "The Siemens affair will be a major factor for the election result - Political side-effects from the gigantic scandal".
ELEFTHEROS: "Ruling New Democracy a volcano ready to erupt - Citizens are disgusted from the non- implementation of ND's motto of 'modesty and humbleness'."
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Tax test for vehicles - Policemen and tax bureau employees' common teams in the streets".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Government's ridiculous idea on combating tax evasion via the Laiko lottery ticket".
ESTIA: "Everything being sacrificed on the altar of the two-party system".
ETHNOS: "Tax bureau employees and policemen begin safari".
KATHIMERINI: "EU threatens action against Greece again for refusing to recognise certificates of franchise colleges affiliated with EU universities".
LOGOS: "One of four young people unemployed - Unemployment rate reached 9.1 percent in February".
NIKI: "Unemployment a noose for the youth ".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Counterattack on the crisis by the labour and working class movement".
TA NEA: "Tax ambush on luxury vehicles".
TO VIMA: "Tax bureau employees' ambush on luxury cars".
VRADYNI: "Unemployment ravages the youth".
 President Christofias: Bicommunal meetings become an institutionBRATISLAVA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, has expressed his gratitude to Slovakia for the continuous support regarding the bicommunal dialogue of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parties which began 20 years ago and continues to take place regularly in Nicosia.
In a video address, during an event at the Slovak Foreign Ministry to mark 20 years of bicommunal dialogue, President Christofias expressed satisfaction for the fact that his party's ideas and policy (AKEL) of rapprochement between the two communities in Cyprus has been materialised by then Ambassador of Czechoslovakia in 1989.
The meetings, he noted, have become an institution and have been taking place regularly.
''These meetings have proved to be a useful tool for the relations of the parties and contributed decisively to the development of friendly relations between the participating parties'', President Christofias said.
The President of Cyprus thanked Slovakia on behalf of the entire Cypriot people for its contribution throughout the years.
''In the future, I hope soon, when we will manage to solve the Cyprus problem and reunify our common homeland, the contribution of Czechoslovakia and Slovakia will constitute a golden page in our history'', he stressed.
 President Christofias undergoes minor surgery successfullyCyprus President Demetris Christofias underwent on Friday, at St Mary's hospital in London, a minor surgery for the opening of the right popliteal artery of the lower right limb.
According to an official press release, the surgery was conducted successfully and Christofias feels very well.
President Christofias will return to Cyprus on Sunday.
 FM: Cyprus will not veto Turkey's EU accession courseNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said there is no issue of Cyprus vetoing Turkey's EU accession course, either on its own or with another country, adding that either possible repercussions for Turkey will be decided jointly or Cyprus will decide on its own not to give its consent to the opening of EU negotiating chapters for Turkey.
Replaying to questions after a presentation of the work carried out by the ministry since he took over his duties, Kyprianou said that "we are preparing for all scenarios" in view of the milestone of December, when Turkey's EU course will be assessed.
Kyprianou noted that "it is too early to determine a strategy, because a lot depends largely on the course of the negotiations for a Cyprus settlement."
"We are preparing for all scenarios always in consultation with the Greek government," he said and recalled that "there is no veto as it existed in 2004 or later to officially halt Turkey's accession process, there should be a joint decision of the 27".
Thus, he said, "the choice is either to decide jointly the repercussions for Turkey or for Cyprus to decide for itself not to give consent for the opening of chapters alone or with other partners".
Kyprianou noted that there are eight chapters, which are officially frozen in Turkey's accession negotiations, because they are related with the implementation of Turkey's obligations towards the EU.
The foreign minister noted that Turkey's accession prospect is one of the main incentives for a settlement of the Cyprus question and that is why Cyprus gave its consent in 2004 for the commencement of the accession negotiations, despite the fact that Turkey still occupies the island's northern third.
"It was considered that it is in Cyprus interest Turkey to have this European perspective, but with the terms and conditions we have set," he added.
He noted that Turkey has not made any progress during the last five years in fulfilling its specific obligations, adding that "we are now in negotiations to resolve the Cyprus problem which is our basic demand. This is what we want above all. This is where Turkey is judged."
On the issue of the Partnership for Peace, Kyprianou said there have been no repercussions so far for Cyprus due to the fact that she does not participate in the Partnership.
Furthermore, he noted that Turkey is responsible for the cooperation problems between EU and NATO since Ankara refuses to accept that the EU has 27 member states, expressing the belief that this has been understood by the EU.
The minister said that since he assumed his duties he paid 70 visits abroad. He also noted that the government is considering the possibility of chartering a special aircraft of the Republic to be used by officials especially during the EU Presidency in 2012.
Answering to a question whether Cyprus will cooperate with other countries apart from Denmark and Poland, with which Cyprus will hold the EU-trio Presidency from the second half of 2011 until the end of 2012, Kyprianou said there are first the contacts among the three countries. The ministry, he said, is in close contact with the Greek ministry and the British Foreign Office has proposed to support this effort as regards vocational training.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Turkey, which aspires to become an EU member, does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member-state since May 2004.
 Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland officially welcomed to CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland Savva has conveyed messages of support to the Cypriot people, during the first visit of the Primate of the Polish Orthodox Church to Cyprus.
The Metropolitan was welcomed by the clergy and the people on Friday to the Archbishopric in Nicosia. Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II and members of the Holy Synod received the Primate of the Polish Church in the courtyard of the Archbishopric.
A church service followed at St John's Cathedral in Nicosia.
Addressing the Metropolitan, Archbishop Chrysostomos II referred to the ongoing occupation of Cyprus northern third by Turkish troops and asked him to pray so that the trial of the Cyprus people will be soon terminated.
He also noted that because of the Turkish occupation, the Metropolitan cannot visit religious sites in Cyprus' Turkish occupied areas.
On his part, Metropolitan Savva said this is the first time in history that the Primate of the Polish Orthodox Church pays an official visit to Cyprus.
He noted the long history of the Church of Cyprus, noting that Cyprus has been and remains a cradle of holiness and tradition for the entire Christian world.
He also said that the Church of Cyprus has been suffering for 35 years with the country and its people from the Turkish occupation which does not allow it to use its churches, has caused the flee from ancestral homes and has deprived many Cypriots the right to return to their homes. He also referred to the desecration and neglect of churches in the occupied areas, which as he said constitute an invaluable heritage for the whole of Europe.
After the church service, a meeting of the Holy Synod took place, during which the Archbishop of Cyprus elaborated before the Metropolitan of Poland on the Cyprus question and the current situation of the Church of Cyprus.
Archbishop Chrysostomos II said that the Church supports the government's efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem and wants a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem, noting that if this is a divisive solution there will be no future for Hellenism in Cyprus.
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