|Friday, 22 March 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-05-27
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 27 May 2009 Issue No: 3204
 PM: 'We dare difficult decisions that guarantee considerable future benefit'Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed the Economist's conference on Tuesday evening, stressing his intention to take whatever decisions are necessary, whatever the cost may be, to enable the country to exit from the present economic crisis with the fewest repercussions possible.
"We dare difficult decisions that guarantee a considerable future benefit. If we do not do it, the country will never be rid of the burdens it is carrying. If we stay with easy decisions and pleasant words, the country will never develop the speed of progress that it can have," the prime minister said.
Karamanlis placed emphasis on the causes of the crisis, the measures taken by the government to limit the repercussions and his intention to continue steadfastly along the path of reforms.
The prime minister commented on the international economic crisis and said that it was caused by strong doses of irresponsibility at many levels of the public and private sphere, by the inadequacy of transparency rules and by a correlation of irresponsible decisions that accumulated and swelled an explosive toxic mixture.
He also referred at length to the measures taken by his government and stressed the need for backing the financially weaker and supporting employment.
Karamanlis pointed out that while unemployment in Europe is registering decades records, it has been much lower in Greece since 2004, adding that small and medium-size enterprises that are active in tourism, commerce, processing and services are being supported with 1.3 billion euros.
Monetary restructuring is another axis, as he said, and noted that hirings are being restricted in the public sector, all codes concerning flexible expenditures have been reduced by 10 percent and the programme on transparency in public hospitals and social security funds is going ahead in accordance with the timetable.
The prime minister also underlined the need of confronting tax evasion, saying that "tax evasion is an exclusively antisocial attitude that the country can no longer stand. The confrontation is continuing with increasing intensity."
Karamanlis highlighted the government's overall effort to enable the country to emerge from the crisis strengthened and this will be achieved, as he said, with a responsible policy, adding that "we shall achieve this with difficult decisions. There are no pleasant recipes in difficult times."
The prime minister summed up his address by saying that "considerable work has been achieved over the past five years. Above all, the country has entered a reformist strategy which is not stopping, which is not being abandoned. Today, it is being acknowledged that the reforms are more necessary and more imperative than ever. The reformist discussion has opened in Greece and I feel profound satisfaction."
 Miliband meets PM, Bakoyannis for talks on Cyprus, TurkeyBritish Foreign Secretary David Miliband, currently on an official visit to Greece, held talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and then Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday. These covered a range of issues, including the Cyprus problem, Turkey's European accession course, developments in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, climate change, and a missile launch test by North Korea.
In statements after meeting Bakoyannis, Miliband stressed the need for a solution to the Cyprus issue "by Cypriots and for Cypriots" and said that Britain was determined to play only a supportive role in the vitally important negotiations underway, which had to make progress within the next few months.
He also stressed that achieving the desired solution, which was a bi-zonal, bi-communal joint entity, would require courage and flexibility.
The British foreign secretary went on to praise the stance shown by Greece over the past 10 years with respect to European Union enlargement to Turkey and the western Balkans, describing it as "strong, clear and brave". Britain shared those positions and believed that this would strengthen the EU," he added.
Miliband will next go to Turkey but is not due to visit Cyprus, citing practical reasons that made a visit to Nicosia impossible at this time, while pointing out that Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou had only recently visited London.
Asked if the UK intends to withdraw from the Treaty of Guarantee now that Cyprus is in the EU and there is no longer a security issue, and whether it will offer the lands currently occupied by the British bases for a territorial settlement on the island, Miliband noted that the "details" of the Treaty of Guarantee were something that should be discussed at a later stage, and that the focus at present should be on the progress of the talks for a solution.
Regarding accession negotiations with Turkey, he said there was no proposal for postponing a review of its progress in December and that the UK wanted Turkey's preparation for EU entry to go ahead, as well as progress on the Cyprus issue.
On her part, Bakoyannis said there was an agreed process with clear deadlines underway at the EU, adding:
"This is the reason by we once again call on Turkey to fully implement the Ankara Protocol, a necessary condition in order to open eight chapters and allow the accession process to go forward, which is something that Greece supports. We want to see a European Turkey on our borders, we believe that this is in the interests of both countries, on condition that Turkey fulfils its obligations and has implemented all the criteria that are required," she said.
Greece's foreign minister also said that Turkey's accession course was at a "crucial turning point" and that it was up to Turkey to make a strategic choice in favour of radical reforms that will bring it closer to Europe.
"Greece openly and clearly supports this choice, but is not willing to give 'discounts' that would jeopardise the Union's cohesion or be against its national interests," she stressed.
On the Cyprus issue and the efforts for a solution, Bakoyannis said that this was also at a crucial stage that required "courage and good will", as well as a constructive stance from Turkey.
Bakoyannis and Miliband additionally discussed cooperation between Greece and the UK within the EU and NATO, as well as the work done by the Greek chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The UK foreign secretary praised the Greek chair's role in the Georgia crisis and pledged London's support, while he also praised an initiative for an informal OSCE foreign ministers' meeting on the island of Corfu next month.
On the Middle East, Miliband called for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside a secure state of Israel and urged the EU to have a positive role, adding that a new drive by Washington should be supported.
He condemned the missile launch by North Korea and said that Britain would take action in the framework of the UN Security Council so that there would be an international response, so that North Korea was initially contained and then stopped being a threat to security in the region. Regarding the role of the EU, Miliband noted that the Union should create conditions of peace and security not just within but also outside its borders.
Also in comments on the role of the EU, Bakoyannis reiterated Athens' support for the accession prospects of the western Balkans but stressed that a necessary condition for this was respect of the rules and criteria that had been agreed, especially that of good neighbour relations.
Early on Tuesday morning, Miliband had paid a private visit to the Athens Acropolis, in order to "admire this unsurpassed Greek historic heritage" at close quarters.
 Papandreou meets with British foreign secretaryMain opposition PASOK leader and Socialist International (SI) president George Papandreou met on Tuesday with visiting British foreign secretary David Miliband, who expressed interest in PASOK's and SI's initiatives on confronting the problems of climate change and environmental protection.
During a working breakfast, Papandreou briefed Miliband on those initiatives, including his recent visit to Beijing on the same subjects and his meeting with the Chinese President.
The two officials also discussed issues of international concern such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East, as well as issues of Greek interest, including the Cyprus issue and Turkey's EU course.
Papandreou and Miliband further discussed PASOK's activities ahead of the June 7 European Parliament elections.
 PM chairs meeting of inter-minister econ policy committeePrime minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday chaired a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy.
In statements to the press, economy and finance minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said a plan was presented for the merger and abolition of state agencies within a four-month period, as per the government's commitments, elaborating that the plan provides for the merger or abolition of 255 of the 620 such agencies examined to date.
He added that the mergers process will be completed within the next four months, noting that examination was continuing of the remaining agencies.
Papathanassiou stressed that the government was materialising a "very demanding" program which, however, was absolutely necessary not only in order to conserve resources but also for a more efficient and flexible operation of the state.
 DM meets with Albanian counterpartDefence minister Evangelos Meimarakis met on Tuesday with his visiting Albanian counterpart Gazmend Oketa, who reaffirmed the good level of relations between Greece and Albania, while they also agreed on further expansion of bilateral cooperation.
Meimarakis briefed the Albanian minister on the FYROM name issue, reiterating the firm Greek position for a permanent solution to the problem through a mutually acceptable solution, which he said would contribute to the security of the region,
He warned, however, that the extreme stances and practices recently adopted by FYROM do not contribute in that direction.
On Kosovo, Meimarakis reiterated that Greece was in favor of a balances solution that would further ensure security in the region of southeast Europe.
Regarding EU and NATO enlargement towards the western Balkans, he said this would be to the benefit of SE Europe, and of Europe in general.
Oketa expressed appreciation for Greece's undivided support in Albania's course to NATO membership and asked Meimarakis to help in the realisation of the Albanian people's dream of free movement in Europe.
He also thanked the Greek defence ministry for its support regarding the treatment of Albanian soldiers in Greek hospitals.
Oketa further said that the very good level in bilateral relations was reaffirmed by the fact that a dialogue was in process, with various issues being resolved, and reiterated that the two ministers will make every effort for the accession of the countries of the region to the European structures.
 Deputy FM Valynakis discusses illegal immigration with Spanish, Dutch deputy ministersDeputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis met on Monday with his Spanish counterpart Lopez Garrido in the framework of the assumption of the European Union's rotating Presidency by Spain as of January 2010.
Their talks focused on the issue of illegal immigration since Spain and Greece, being Mediterranean countries located on the EU's external borders, have been facing strong pressure due to the increase in the influx of illegal immigrants recently.
The two deputy foreign ministers also examined the issue of Turkey's accession course to the EU and the relevant commitments that the neighbouring country has assumed in this context.
Valynakis reiterated Greece's steadfast position on support for Turkey's European perspective, but clarified that Turkey "will not be able to become a member of the big European family unless it proceeds in time with the fulfillment of all the criteria and preconditions set by the EU."
Also discussed were the latest developments concerning the issue of Cyprus and Valkynakis brought to the attention of his Spanish counterpart Greece's support for the laborious effort of the Greek Cypriot side for a solution to be achieved based on UN resolutions and the principles and values of the EU, while also making special reference to the need for the immediate implementation of the Ankara Protocol and the opening of its ports and airports for Cypriot ships and aircraft.
They also referred to the issue of the EU's budget and agreed to the need to strengthen cooperation regarding the budget's course, both for the current period and the period after 2013. Other issues discussed were the upcoming Euroelections, EU enlargement and the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty.
The Spanish deputy minister briefed Valynakis on Spain's priorities in light of the assumption of the EU Presidency, placing emphasis on efforts to confront the economic crisis, as well as the EU's relations with the Mediterranean countries and the United States. Garrido also pointed out that the Spanish Presidency will place emphasis on strengthening European Sea Policy and European policies for island regions and take a series of actions.
The issue of illegal immigration was also examined in talks between Valynakis and Dutch Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak. The Greek deputy minister briefed Albayrak on the alarming dimensions of illegal immigration in Greece and stressed the need for immediate and practical solutions to protect Greek islands that are being affected most, compared to other regions in the country.
Valynakis aso explained his proposal on the possibility of boats being used for the initial reception and transportation of illegal immigrants to reception centres already in operation, minimising the burden for islands located in the front line.
Valynakis agreed with both Garrido and Albayrak on further strengthening cooperation and the exchanging of views, also in light of the EU June summit where the issue of illegal immigration will be discussed.
 Interior minister discusses immigration issues with Dutch deputy Justice ministerInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos held talks on Tuesday with Dutch Deputy Justice Minister for immigration issues Nebahat Albayrak, as part of the European framework for the speedier implementation of the Treaty on Immigration and Asylum.
Pavlopoulos said after the talks that they discussed issues concerning "the strengthening of efforts to enable us to facilitate legal immigration and, also, common efforts to enable us to avoid illegal immigration and, mainly, for us to avoid the exploitation of people."
He added that we "focused our common efforts on the need to strengthen as soon as possible the European force for the protection of the European Union's external borders, meaning strengthening FRONTEX and its evolution to EUROPOL."
The Dutch deputy minister, who will also be visiting the island of Samos where an Illegal Immigrants Reception Centre is located, said that "I can see prospects for cooperation between the two countries. And we are devoted to this cooperation. We shall support it with all our strength to enable us to have greater results in discussions with the countries from where the illegal immigrants come from. Holland also participates actively in FRONTEX, which is a new tool that we can and must improve."
 Heads of party tickets for Euro polls hold press conferenceThe candidates heading the EuroParliament election tickets of the five political parties in the national Parliament held a joint press conference on Tuesday, during which they presented their positions for the upcoming elections on June 7.
Former education minister Marietta Yiannakou, who heads the ticket for ruling New Democracy (ND), stressed that votes cast for ND would further strengthen the European Popular Party (EPP), the largest bloc in the European Parliament, while voicing ND's support for current European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
According to main opposition PASOK's former spokesman George Papaconstantinou, three things were at stake: the kind of response Europe would have to the economic crisis and whether Europe would become more 'social'; the course of Greece itself, starting with the Euro polls; and participation in the elections, urging voters to turn out in force for the June 7 election.
On behalf of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Evangelos Katsiavas repeated the party's opposition to the EU in principle, noting that the Euro-phile forces should be weakened by the final result, while Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) candidate Nikos Houndis referred to a "social deficit" in Europe, as well as a "democratic deficit". The head of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party ticket Niki Tzavella, a technocrat originating from the ranks of ND, said the coming five years would be historic for Europe because during this time it would have to decide on a new economic model for governance.
 PASOK leader visits Argo centreMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou paid a visit to the Argo centre for mental health and prevention of substance dependency on Tuesday. Afterwards, he strongly criticised the government for "systematically undermining the welfare structures needed by the country," pointing out that thousands of families were affected by the problem of drug and other addictions while prevention centres were underfunded.
The centre is run by the Athens-area municipalities of Holargos and Agia Paraskevi, two of the cities richer suburbs in the northeast.
 Tsipras: SYRIZA aims to be third party in Euro-pollsIn statements on Tuesday, the head of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party Alexis Tsipras said that SYN's goals for the upcoming European Parliament elections were to elect three deputies and for the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) alliance, of which SYN is the senior coalition partner, to come in third.
Speaking at a press conference held in Zappion, Tsipras did not rule out surprises during the June 7 polls and underlined the need for a mass turnout, urging dissatisfied citizens to cast their vote for SYRIZA and change the political scene. The absence of these voters would be a "breather" for the two-party system, he added, accusing the two big parties of promoting abstention.
He also made overtures to the newly emerged Ecologists-Greens party, saying that SYRIZA did not view them competitively and called for cooperation.
Referring to the death of SYRIZA MP Michalis Papagiannakis, SYN's leader said that the party had lost "a piece of our history, our party wealth and we feel shocked at the loss of Michalis".
 Romanian president arriving on WednesdayRomanian President Traian Basescu is due in Greece on Wednesday for a two-day official visit, at the invitation of President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias.
On arriving in Athens, Basescu will have a meeting with Papoulias and the two men will then participate in a meeting between delegations of the two countries.
After visiting the president's mansion, the Romanian president will call on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at Maximos Mansion, where he will attend a working dinner.
Basescu is next due at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry for an economic forum on Greek-Romanian economic cooperation on Wednesday afternoon. Later, he will meet members of the Romanian community in Greece at the Romanian Embassy in Athens.
On Wednesday evening, he is to attend an official dinner given in his honour by President Papoulias.
On Thursday, the Romanian president is to meet Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas and then travel to Thessaloniki and from there to Mount Athos, where he will visit the monastic community on the peninsula.
 SYRIZA MP Papagiannakis passes awayCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) MP for the Athens B' electoral district and former MEP Michalis Papagiannakis passed away on Tuesday at the age of 69.
In an announcement, SYRIZA said that Papagiannakis, a member of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology's (SYN party, which leads the SYRIZA parliamentary coalition) Central Political Committee, had been a consistent and sober voice of the Renovative Left, and had distinguished himself for his independent thought, open mind and ground-breaking positions, and was steadfastly dedicated to the ideas of renewal, ecology and Europeanism.
The first runner up on the SYRIZA ticket for the Athens B' district, Sophia Andriopoulou, is expected to take Papagiannakis' seat in the national parliament.
Papagiannakis was born in Kalamata in August 1941. He studied law, economics and political sciences in Athens, Montpelier. He was an assistant professor at the University of Paris from 1967 to 1970, while in 1970-1980 he was a provost and researcher at the Institut Agronomique Mediterraneen in Montpelier, France, while in the period 1979-1982 he taught at the Center for Islamic and Arab Studies.
He also served in the past as a scientific collaborator at the Panteio University and has collaborated with and written articles in To Vima and Agvhi Newspapers, the Oikonomikos Tachydromos financial periodical and other publications.
In the period 1960-63 he was a member of the United Democratic Left (EDA) party, while he joined the Democratic Resistance movement against the military dictatorship in Greece (1967-73). He was a founding member of the Hellenic Direct Democracy Movement (EAR), as well as a member of EAR's Central Committee and National Secretariat. He later joined the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos), and became a member of its Central Political Committee and its Political Secretariat.
Papagiannakis was first elected to the European Parliament on the Synaspismos ticket in 1989, and was re-elected as MEP in 1994 and 1999. In the national elections of 2007, he was elected to parliament for the Athens B' district, amassing the third most votes of preference among all the candidates of his party.
He has served as vice-president of the European Parliament's Social Committee, vice-president of the United European Left group and of the inter-party committee for the protection of animals.
In January 1992 he was elected vice-president of the Europarliament's Social Affairs and Employment committee. He has also served as vice-president of the Hellenic Committee for the European Union (ELEEE), which was the Greek branch of the Brussels-based supra-party European Movement.
 PM, political parties on death of Michalis PapagiannakisPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis extended his condolences to the family of Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) MP Michalis Papagiannakis, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 69.
"Michalis Papagiannakis struggled all his life with a militant spirit, as well as with sobriety for his ideas and visions: For Democracy, the European Left of radicalism and of renewal, peace and international cooperation. I extend my sincere condolences to his comrades in SYRIZA and to his family," the prime minister's message said.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga also sent the following message to the family of Papagiannakis: "I express my warm condolences over the death of Michalis Papagiannakis, with whom I am linked with militant memories of my pupil and student years. Regardless of our differences, our confrontation had always taken place in a purely political framework."
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis said in an announcement that "an honest expressor of the leftist ideology, a good colleague in the European Parliament and in the National Parliament has gone. His explicit speech was an oasis in the incoherent cries that are heard from the sector that he represented. We shall remember him with great respect."
President of the Republic
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias issued a message of condolences over the death of SYRIZA MP Michalis Papagiannakis, noting that the deceased had been a bold thinker and fighter for ideals, and had paved a path of ideological consistency, political ethos, social participation and contribution.
Papagiannakis, the President continued, had fought with courage for his personal but also the collective visions, and the unshakeable values of justice, solidarity and dignity.
His death is a great loss for all those who believed, and believe, that the struggle for democracy and a better future is a constant one.
Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said Papagiannakis' death was a great loss of a friend, a politician with ethos, an active citizen who fought for progress in Greece and in Europe.
 Scholars dismiss Skopje claims as 'silliness' in letter to ObamaA group of some 200-plus prestigious academics, for the main part historians and Classicists teaching at the most renowned universities in the world - including the likes of Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, Stanford, Vassar, College de France and hundreds of others in the United States and Europe - have sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama asking him to intervene to "clean up the historical debris" left by the previous U.S. administration's policy on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
According to those signing the letter - including widely read authors on ancient Greece and Alexander like Paul Cartledge, Steven H. Rutledge and Robin Lane Fox - Skopje's claims to a Macedonian descent of its Slavic population and its "misappropriation" of Alexander the Great as the country's national hero are a "subversion of history".
"On November 4, 2004, two days after the re-election of President George W. Bush, his administration unilaterally recognized the "Republic of Macedonia." This action not only abrogated geographic and historic fact, but it also has unleashed a dangerous epidemic of historical revisionism, of which the most obvious symptom is the misappropriation by the government in Skopje of the most famous of Macedonians, Alexander the Great.
" We believe that this silliness has gone too far, and that the U.S.A. has no business in supporting the subversion of history," the letter posted on the website Macedonia Evidence (http://macedonia-evidence.org) reads. It goes on to list the substantial historical and archaeological facts that debunk Skopje's assertions.
The letter, dated May 18th, also notes that such "misuse implied unhealthy territorial aspirations" even in the early 19th century and that it was clearly "not a force for historical accuracy or stability in the Balkans".
"We call upon you, Mr. President, to help - in whatever ways you deem appropriate - the government in Skopje to understand that it cannot build a national identity at the expense of historic truth. Our common international society cannot survive when history is ignored, much less when history is fabricated," it concludes.
An initiative begun by Stephen G. Miller, Professor Emeritus of Classical Archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley, the website was continuing to collect the signatures of scholars in support of the letter, with the original 200 having grown to a list of 237 by May 25.
 Recovery a one-way road, ASE head saysThe road to recovery will be long and difficult, Spyros Kapralos, president of the Athens Stock Exchange and chief executive of Hellenic Exchanges, told an Economist conference on Tuesday.
In his speech, Kapralos stressed that the recovery of both the economies and markets was a one-way road after central banks used all their monetary policy weapons and cut interest rates to record lows with the aim to boost liquidity in the banking system, while governments introduced fiscal measures mainly aiming to boost labour markets. The international financial crisis has called for a drastic review of the capitalistic system, to an unprecedented extent, Kapralos said.
International stock markets lost more than 2/3 of their value in a period of 15 months, or more than 35 trillion US dollars, but in the last two months it seems that things have changed in global capital markets, as market sentiment improved and investors sought to risk investments again. Credit spreads of European state bonds against the German Bund have shrunk significantly in the last few weeks, reflecting a stock market rally. "All these are signs that markets are beginning to recover," Kapralos said, adding that history has shown that after periods of crisis stock markets are the first to recovery with volume of transactions returning to higher levels.
Kapralos said the Athens Stock Exchange was now almost 50 pct up from its low recorded in mid-March and was up 28 pct so far this year.
 Greece could exit crisis stronger, Postbank head saysGreece could exit the current economic crisis stronger, competitively, if appropriate and coordinated actions are taken, Aggelos Philippidis, the chairman of Hellenic Postbank opined on Tuesday.
Addressing an Economist conference in Athens, Philippidis said the country could strengthen its presence and economic position in SE Europe and overcome chronic counter-productive procedures "as long as we believe in our strength and see the opportunity within the problem..."
Philippidis said a decision to transform the bank into an "alternative bank", Postbank, was directly linked with the need to show that it operates on the basis of a higher set of ethical standards.
"Postbank's ambition is to become an alternative bank, combining business activity with higher ethical standards; profit with social benefit".
 IMF report too 'pessimistic', gov't saysCommenting on the grim forecasts in an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report on the Greek economy, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday referred reporters to an announcement on the issue by Economy and Finance Minister George Papathanassiou.
International organisations "tended to be more pessimistic because they were not so well acquainted with the specific characteristics of each country," he added, and while the government took all reports by international financial institutions into account, it did not agree with all of them.
"The government has drawn up the country's economic policy responsibly, telling the citizens the truth without dressing it up, and has already said that it will make improvements and adjustments [to policy] whenever they are deemed necessary," Antonaros stressed.
He also referred to statements by the prime minister, who said that the government had chosen the road of changes and reforms, noting that the government's policy was "dictated by the interests of the country".
 Alpha Bank says net profits down 58.2 pct in Q1Alpha Bank on Tuesday reported a 58.2 pct decline in its first quarter net profits to 85.7 million euros, compared to the corresponding period last year, reflecting a significant worsening of the business climate in Greece and Southeastern Europe. Net interest revenue fell 8.9 pct to 402.6 million euros.
Lending, pre-write downs, grew 15.3 pct to 52.2 billion euros, reflecting a 12 pct increase in lending in Greece during the January-March period. Assets under management totaled 44.8 billion euros at the end of March, saving deposits totaled 41 billion euros (+14 pct), of which 34.4 billion euros were in Greece.
Yiannis Kostopoulos, Alpha Bank's chairman, commenting on the results said the bank actively participated in efforts to support Greek small- and medium-sized enterprises and households, while it participated in efforts to support economies in Southeastern Europe as part of a group of international banks. "We believe we will continue our profit course in the future, however, were are cautious over economic prospects in the short-term," Kostopoulos said.
 Aegean Airlines becomes a member of Star AllianceAegean Airlines on Tuesday said it was officially a member of Star Alliance, an international alliance bringing together 22 members, covering 160 countries, 960 airports with a daily flight schedule of 20,000 flights.
K. Albrecht, chief executive of Star Alliance said the "alliance has accepted Aegean for two reasons: first, Greece's geographical position -a key and a hub between East and West and an ideal place for vacations, and secondly, because Aegean offers high quality services to travelers and has an impeccable safety reputation". Albrecht said the Greek airline company has a very successful management. Aegean Airlines' chairman, Theodore Vasilakis, said the airline company, which celebrates its 10th birthday on Thursday, opens a new page in its history and announced that Aegean would participate in a tender to service remote Greek islands.
 OPAP says net profits up 3.5 pct in Q1OPAP, Greece's state lottery, on Tuesday reported a 6.0 pct increase in first quarter sales to 1.463 billion euros, from 1.379 billion euros in the corresponding period last year, reflecting satisfactory performance of KINO and a recovery in Lotto and Joker games.
Betting operations' sales fell by 8.4 pct, while KINO reported a 12 pct increase in sales in the January-March period.
Lotto (75.2 pct), Joker (27.7 pct) and Lotto (15.7 pct) recorded the biggest percentage increase in the first quarter of the year.
Pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) fell 0.9 pct to 296.9 million euros in the first three months, while EBITDA margin fell to 20.3 pct form 21.7 pct last year. Net profits rose 3.5 pct to 215.7 million euros.
Christos Hatziemmanouel, OPAP's chairman and chief executive, commenting on the results said the company was optimistic over its performance this year.
 Greek trade deficit down 39 pct in Jan-MarchGreece's trade deficit shrank by 39 pct in the January-March 2009 period, compared with the corresponding period in 2008, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.
Excluding oil, the trade deficit fell 14.6 pct over the same period. The trade deficit fell to 6.317 billion euros in the first quarter of the year, from 10.355 billion euros in 2008. The value of export-deliveries fell 17.1 pct in the January-March period, while the value of import-arrivals dropped 32.9 pct.
The March shortfall totaled 2.272 billion euros, down 39.9 pct from last year, with imports down 33.2 pct and exports falling by 15.2 pct in the month.
 Sfakianakis reports lower Q1 resultsSfakianakis on Tuesday reported a 20.48 pct decline in its first quarter turnover to 92 million euros, while EBITDA dropped to 9.5 million euros and pre-tax profits totaled 981,000 euros. Parent turnover was 76.8 million euros, EBITDA totaled 5.6 million euros and pre-tax profits totaled 602,700 euros.
The car market dropped by 37.9 pct in the first quarter of 2009, compared with the corresponding period last year, while the motorcycle market fell by 32 pct over the same period.
 Flexopack reports lower Q1 resultsFlexopack on Tuesday reported a 16.57 pct drop in its first quarter turnover to 9.196 million euros, from 11.023 million euros in the same period last year, while EBITDA fell by 4.44 pct to 1.765 million euros.
Parent turnover fell 8.96 pct to 9.131 million euros and EBITDA eased 1.08 pct to 1.742 million euros. The company said exports fell by 2.81 pct to 5.956 million euros in the January-March period, accounting for 65.23 pct of total turnover.
 Stocks end 1.93% lowerGreek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, with the composite index of the market losing 1.93 pct to end at 2,234.81 points. Turnover was a moderate 235.3 million euros, of which 1.4 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors ended down, with the Oil (6.57 pct), Raw Materials (5.25 pct), Insurance (5.03 pct) and Financial Services (4.85 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Health (0.47 pct), Telecoms (0.26 pct) and Travel (0.25 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index dropped 2.02 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.12 pct down and the FTSE 80 index eased 1.23 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 169 to 65 with another 37 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -6.57%
Personal & Household: -0.82%
Raw Materials: -5.25%
Travel & Leisure: +0.25%
Food & Beverages: -3.44%
Financial Services: -4.85%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Marfin Popular Bank, Bank of Cyprus, National Bank and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 8.10
Public Power Corp (PPC): 15.20
HBC Coca Cola: 14.08
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.24
National Bank of Greece: 18.05
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.49
Bank of Piraeus: 7.97
Titan Cement Company: 18.34
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the Athens Derivatives Exchange was trading at -1.97 pct on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 96.343 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 13,929 contracts worth 79.075 million euros, with 28,637 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 23,319 contracts, worth 17.268 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (4,916), followed by Eurobank (847), OTE (1,323), PPC (1,141), Piraeus Bank (1,225), National Bank (3,107), Alpha Bank (1,837), Hellenic Postbank (930) and ATEbank (1,187).
 Greek bond market closingTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 810 million euros on Tuesday, of which 440 million were buy orders and the remaining 370 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 705 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 167 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.28 pct and the German Bund 1.67 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved upwards. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.63 pct, the six-month rate 1.46 pct, the three-month rate 1.26 pct and the one-month rate 0.93 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.401
Pound sterling 0.883
Danish kroner 7.504
Swedish kroner 10.638
Japanese yen 133.12
Swiss franc 1.526
Norwegian kroner 9.022
Canadian dollar 1.582
Australian dollar 1.809
 President Papoulias signs charter for smoke-free environmentPresident of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday signed a "commitment for life" and the charter of rights and obligations for a smoke-free environment, during a meeting with the members of the National Coordinating Committee Against Smoking 'Spyros Doxiadis-Georgios Gennimatas".
Papoulias is the first Greek citizen to sign the charter and congratulated the committee on its work, noting that he was among those that had never smoked in his life and a strong opponent of smoking and its harmful consequences.
According to the Greek president, smoking and road accidents were the two major 'ills' bedevilling Greek society.
 Monument for Hungarian contribution to Corinth Canal unveiledA monument built to commemorate the Hungarian contribution to the construction of the Corinth Canal, between 1881-1893, was unveiled on Tuesday.
The monument, built at the entrance to the canal, is in memory of Istvan Turr and Bela Gerster, two distinguished Hungarian engineers who designed and built the Corinth Canal together with 2,500 workers.
Hungary's Ambassador Josef Toth said that those who had contributed to the erection of the monument inaugurated should be honoured and added that "I believe that the 300,000 Hungarian tourists who come to Greece every year will visit this monument."
 First students graduate from Alexandria Patriarchal SchoolCAIRO (ANA-MPA/N. Katsikas)
The Patriarcate of Alexandria experienced a great event with the awarding of the first diplomas to the graduates of the "Athanasios the Great" Orthodox Seminary.
The historic seminary is once again giving to the ecclesiastical African society cadres who can provide for the benefit of Orthodoxy and of their local communities in every part of Africa.
The special event that was held in the presence of Alexandria Patriarch Theodoros II on Sunday, was honoured by the Governor of Alexandria Adel Labib, also showing the importance attributed to the event by Egypt.
The Alexandria Patriarch thanked the Greek state for its undivided assistance and solidarity for the work of the Church of Alexandria.
Also present at the event were the Bishops of Mareotida Gabriel, Patriarchal Bishop of Alexandria and Kanop Spyridon, Prior of the Holy Patriarchal Monastery of Osios Savvas, the Ambassador of Cyprus in Egypt Constantine Leontiou, Greece's General Consul in Alexandria George Diakofotakis, the President of the Greek Community of Alexandria Yiannis Siokas, presidents and representatives of Greek societies and agencies and other dignitaries.
 Cretan court acquits British merrymakers arrested wearing nuns' habitsSeventeen British merrymakers who were arrested last week on the island of Crete for walking around dressed as Catholic nuns, wearing crosses and flashing the women's undergarments they wore under the nuns' habits, were acquitted by a Court of Misdemeanours in Heraklion on Tuesday.
The 17 defendants, all men, appeared in the habits, but sans crosses and women's undergarments, for the hearing at the Heraklion Court Building.
The 17 were charged with scandalous behavior, but no witness came forward to attest to being scandalised by the affair.
The defendants, who are due to return to Britain on Tuesday, also claimed before the court that their intention was not to scandalise, but simply to have a good time.
 Man killed in Exarchia drive-by shootingA 26-year-old man was shot six times and killed by two unknown assailants just after 14:00 in the afternoon in the Athens district of Exarchia, on the corners of Tositsa and Tsamadou streets.
The victim was on a moped and had stopped at the junction of the two roads when two men on a motorbike passed by him and the passenger shot him four times with a revolver.
The 26-year-old fell injured to the ground, at which point his assailant got off the motorbike and shot him another two times at point-blank range, leaving him dead.
The two perpetrators then sped off on the motorbike and the victim was rushed to the Polykliniki hospital in an ambulance, where doctors declared him dead on arrival.
The identity of the victim has not yet been officially announced by authorities, but he was a well-known figure to regulars in Exarchia Square. Based on the evidence so far, police attribute the killing to a personal dispute.
Shortly after the crime took place, a stolen motorbike with no number plates was discovered on Ermou Street and police are trying to determine whether it was the one used by the culprits.
 German tourist killed in traffic accident in ChalkidikiA German tourist aged 61 was killed and another five people were injured in a traffic accident occurring on the Moudania-Kassandra regional motorway, in the northern prefecture of Chalkidiki, on Tuesday morning.
The accident took place when a rented car driven by the German national, with another three fellow countrymen on board, aged between 48-64, collided with a passing car that had a young couple on board.
According to police, the collision occurred when the German was attempting to drive his car back onto the road, as he was emerging from a fuel station that he had stopped at earlier on.
A 48-year-old woman riding in the German's car was seriously injured, while the other two passengers in the same car and the couple in the second car were slightly injured.
 Armed robberies in banksThree armed robberies were reported early Tuesday in Attica prefecture.
Early in the morning two armed men grabbed an unknown sum of money from a National Bank branch in t district of Aghios Dimitrios.
In a separate incident an unidentified man robbed Millenium Bank in Peristeri, west of Athens later another armed robbery took place at a Citibank branch in northern Athens suburb of Pefki.
 Fire in basement of Agios Panteleimonas churchA fire broke out in the basement of Agios Panteleimonas church in Acharnon avenue in Athens at about 9 pm on Tuesday. The fire was extinguished promptly by firemen who arrived at the scene and did not have time to spread.
The causes of the blaze have not yet been clarified. However, the possibility of arson is also being examined since a window had been proken.
 Cloudy, rainy on WednesdayCloudy and rainy weather, and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 2-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 14C and 30C. Cloudy in Athens, with northeasterly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 18C to 29C. Cloudy with local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 17C to 26C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe IMF forecasts on the Greek economy, and the European Parliament elections campaign dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "6,000 new professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists, vets, etc.) will receive 15,000 euros subsidy".
APOGEVMATINI: Interview with president of Muslims Union in Greece Mehmet Imam on the recent incidents in Athens".
AVGHI: "IMF recommends abolition of social state by 2012, privatisations and social security under private and financial criteria".
AVRIANI: "Abstention deludes the polls - Nobody can be definite on the outcome".
CHORA: "Shocking revelations on SIEMENS slush funds ".
ELEFTHEROS: "We Greeks will not become strangers in our own country - Rage against illegal immigrants' behaviour".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "IMF recommends harsh measures and demands 12 billion euros until 2012".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "4 billion euros taxes per year - IMF: Freeze salaries in public sector, make cutbacks in private sector too".
ESTIA: "Politicians do not inspire the citizen - People are in despair".
ETHNOS: "IMF report vitiates government's propaganda".
KATHIMERINI: "IMF recommends freezing of salaries and pensions - Long-term plan to reduce the debt".
LOGOS: "Austerity recipe - IMF foresees negative growth rate of -2 pct for economy, and 6 percent deficit".
NIKI: "Ruling New Democracy attempts to improve its image".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Call for mass participation in Euroelections and vote for Communist Party of Greece".
TA NEA: "Harsh austerity after the Euroelections".
TO VIMA: "Muslims living in Athens demand a mosque and a cemetery ".
VRADYNI: "The two mainstream parties' main competitor in the Euroelections is the low level of rallying among their supporters".
 Cyprus makes strong representations to the UNNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Cyprus government has lodged a strong demarche with the United Nations in connection with moves by Britain and the US to link UNFICYP's presence (UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus) with progress in the ongoing direct negotiations, under UN auspices.
According to reliable sources, the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias has already sent a letter of protest to the UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on Cyprus Alexander Downer.
"Nicosia is being blackmailed that the mandate of UNFICYP will not be renewed," the same sources have said, noting that Nicosia is fighting a battle on the matter and its stance could become more tough, if need be.
Press reports suggest that in a draft resolution on UNFICYP's mandate, there is thinly veiled blackmail directed towards Nicosia, saying that the Security Council will take up the matter again in December 2009, taking into consideration the situation on the ground and the positions of the two sides, with recommendations to amend the terms of reference of the force and its operational structure, in the light of progress at the talks.
Nicosia, the sources have told CNA, believes that such moves are unfair as they take place at a time when efforts are underway to find a negotiated settlement in Cyprus, after four years of stalemate.
The Republic of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began UN-led direct negotiations for an agreed solution to the Cyprus problem in September 2008 and so far have held 29 meetings.
UNFICYP, one of the longest serving UN peace missions, arrived on the island in March 1964 after intercommunal fighting broke out. Its mandate is renewed every six moths.
US Ambassador: Cyprus does not need UNFICYP to exist
Cyprus is a state which clearly exists and does not need UNFICYP (the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus) to exist, US Ambassador in Nicosia, Frank Urbancic, has said.
The ambassador was invited Tuesday to comment on press reports according to which the US and Britain are making efforts to review the terms of UNFICYP's mandate during its renewal by the UN Security Council in December 2009.
"The UNFICYP mandate is renewed every six months and is being reviewed now as it is and as it was last December and there is nothing extraordinary about that. Cyprus as a state, it clearly exists. Cyprus doesn't need UNFICYP to exist", the ambassador told reporters during a press conference at the US pavilion of the Cyprus International Fair in Nicosia.
"What I am trying to do is break the link. There is nothing between the two. Cyprus is a member of the EU and there is no possibility of an alteration of that," he went on to add.
Asked if there is a behind the scenes attempt to change UNFICYP's mandate, the US diplomat noted that "there is no behind the scenes per se. The UNFICYP mandate expires every six months and is up for renewal now. So, that is where we are".
Replying to questions on whether the government of Cyprus is aware about a proposal to change UNFICYP's terms of reference, he said "there are no secrets in the UN. The draft (resolution) is being reviewed and is in New York which is where it properly belongs and governments talk".
He explained that "this is the normal process. A draft resolution is put out for whatever purpose it is you are talking about and then it is discussed and adopted or not adopted. But I see no possibility that it won't be extended".
Commenting on a journalist's remark that the new US government has a new approach about its relationship with Ankara, Urbancic said that
"there is no surprise that the US has and will maintain a very solid relationship with Turkey and that's to everybody's benefit".
"You frequently encourage us to talk to Turkey and we couldn't talk to Turkey if we didn't have a relationship with them", he said, adding that the solution of the Cyprus problem "is something that is going to be good for everybody's business including your own and we want to be part of that".
The Republic of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
UNFICYP, one of the longest serving UN peace missions, arrived on the island in March 1964 after intercommunal fighting broke out.
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