|Friday, 23 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-05-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 29 May 2009 Issue No: 3206
 PM: Government achieved series of important results in foreign policyPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis, speaking during a televised debate between party leaders on Thursday evening and referring to foreign policy said that his government has achieved a series of considerable results in this sector, stressing that Greece supported Cyprus over the issue of the Annan plan in accordance with the support of the overwhelming majority of the people of Cyprus. He added that it raised a veto at the NATO Alliance regarding the accession of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in a case that required "boldness and courage".
Karamanlis also referred to the important energy agreements that the government has made, "agreements that make Greece an energy corridor," the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline, the South Stream natural gas pipeline and the Turkey-Greece-Italy natural gas pipeline.
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou said that Greece must protect the human rights of all and not let others do it and accused the government of "laying down arms in the face of Turkey in 2004, 2005 and 2009, resulting in Turkey taking us for granted."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said that "if we adopt whatever the European Union says we would be in contrast with the working people" and added that in Greece there has been no referendum neither for the Maastricht Treaty nor for any other treaty.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) President Alekos Alavanos said that "today amidst the terrible crisis, in the European Union the complete unaccountability of big capital has prevailed and the casino economy and banks do what they please."
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis expressed support for the holding of a referendum to enable the Greek people to decide whether they desire Turkey's accession to the European Union.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, referring to economic policy, placed emphasis on reforms and mentioned the change in the framework regarding joint ventures between the public and private sectors, educational reform, the reforming of the social security system, the new land planning framework, the privatisation of the Olympic Airlines company and the longterm leasing of the port of Piraeus, while adding that more reforms were necessary.
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou said that "the planet must change its growth model and I want Greece to be in the lead in 'green development' for which we have an integrated political proposal that includes, among other things, reconstruction, recycling and renewable energy sources everywhere."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga wondered which party pays the tax authorities, adding that none did, while businesses paid. She further said that parties' finances should be checked by their own institutional bodies.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos said that "the problems facing shops are due to the big stores that violate the law and this is a problem that they are facing on a daily basis."
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis, asked why he gave consensus to the prime minister on the issue of the economy, said "in a period of crisis this is the stance dictated by responsibility."
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, referring to social policy issues said that "despite the fact that we are experiencing a big economic crisis, the government is doing all that it can to support low wage earners and pensioners."
The prime minister admitted that delays exist in payments by the state but added that "what is certain is that money is not being lost." He also said that the government has increased the EKAS allowance, the minimum salary has been increased and the unemloyment benefit has been increased from 300 to 460 euros.
PASOK party leader George Papandreou said that "I do not have a weakness for the Swedish social state model, I have committed myself for a social state which is not merely a moral issue, but also an issue of growth. I also speak about the existence of rules in labour relations."
KKE leader Papariga said on her part that "when pensions are in danger we cannot refer this problem to socialism," adding that her party had tabled its proposals in Parliament. She also spoke of "profits by entreprises amounting to billions which should be taxed."
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos said that the economic situation in Greece is explosive, there are unemployed people with 15 euros as a bonus per day, pensioners of the Farmers Insurance Fund (OGA) with 10 euros a day and a new generation of unemployed, rented working people, part timers, uninsured and those receiving receipts for providing services.
LA.OS. leader Karatzaferis called on political leaders to hold a Parliamentary debate on the issue of immigration, adding that illegal immigration constituted an important probleme touching the country's economy and other sectors of social life.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, referring to the issue of education, said that the draft law on universities is being implemented "despite furious and undemocratic reactions," adding that changes are also being promoted in second stage education to enable the examinations system to change.
Papandreou said on the issue that "I have experienced the situation, I am aware of the problems," while refering to the funding of education with 5 percent of GDP and the linking of education to "green development" and new professions.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga called for equal, modern, high level, public and free education, adding that the examinations issue cannot be solved unless many other problems are resolved.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos said that "we are proud to have stood by the side of young people, this constitutes a legacy and an achievement," while noting that the mass media and the political forces should also listen to youth and the problems they are facing.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis said that alien pupils must not exceed 30 percent of pupils and pointed out that the British prime minister who epressed this "is not considered as being extreme."
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, referring to the issue of the environment said that the environment is a great priority that must not be served with words but in practice and underlined that the government is promoting renewable energy sources and has reduced by 90 percent the number of 4,000 illegal landfills that it had received.
PASOK leader George Papandreou said that he has ascertained from his contacts worldwide that ecological conscience is developing and raised the issue of "green development or barbarism, unless we go to another growth model."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga criticised the European Union, saying that it is a myth that it has environmental sensitivities and referring to the circulation of modified products in European countries.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos criticised the prime minister over the fact that Greece has the lowest funding in the European Union for education and the enviroinment and added that "you are using the environment as a means for a transaction with big interests, on the one hand, and on the other even with your voters."
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis said that there should be a balanced momentum regarding policy priorities to safeguard the quality of the environment and the necessary goods for citizens to live.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, referring to the issue of public administration and governance said that "I have the courage and the bravery, when something goes wrong, to come out and say that I assume the responsibility," while focusing on the Vatopedi case. Commenting as well on the issue of scandals in general, he said that "issues always arise, but Justice discovers them, investigates them and brings them to light."
PASOK leader George Papandreou said the dilemma is "between lawlessness arbitrariness and impunity or another logic, between clientele logic or meritocracy and between covering up or transparency."
KKE Secretary General Aleka Papariga said that the party "has never compromised and that its morality has been put to the test and has even been ackowledged by the torturers."
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos said that SYRIZA has proposed 100,000 new jobs, something that must be done, instead of us paying banks and jeeps with half of the classification duties.
Lastly, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis said that his party seeks transparency and aims at being in the political game so as to be able to bring spring.
 PM Karamanlis: Investing in the country's biggest capital, our youthThe government is putting emphasis on new technologies and modern infrastructures, prime minister Costas Karamanlis stressed on Thursday during a visit to the model "school classroom of the future" in Halandri, accompanied by education minister Aris Spiliotopoulos and deputy minister Andreas Lykourentzos.
The 'classroom of the future', the first in Greece, will have all the infrastructures necessary for the application of individualised education, employing the latest technological solutions, Karamanlis said.
One characteristic element of the 'classroom' is the use of an inter-active blackboard that provides unlimited audiovisual prospects and encourages participation in the lesson, while the pupils will have an electronic textbook containing the curriculum material which, in turn, will be multiplied and updated through the use of multi-media, Karamanlis explained.
He said that the exploitation of technology in the design and development of the "digital classroom", with the proper software, will offer pupils innovative means to discover and put to use their own dexterities.
The prime minister stressed that "we must prepare the children starting school to be able to live in the globalised environment arising from the new technologies, PCs, digital portrayal, satellite communications", so as to fully cultivate in them those dexterities that will fully acquaint them with the competitive environment they will live and work in.
Innovation and creativity are two fundamental prerequisites for the evolution of the Greece of the future, Karamanlis stressed, noting that the target was a developmental course and protagonistic role in the European family.
Research and technology was, at international level, radically transforming education, entrepreneurship, the services sector, and the country's social and economic development more generally, the prime minister explained, adding that knowledge, learning, open horizons and extroversion are the fundamental building materials for the strong Greece envisioned with an active presence in the overall European effort.
"This is why we are investing in the young generation, which is our country's greatest capital. The future belongs to those who systematically prepare for it, to those who look ahead and work towards a specific direction, with firm goals," Karamanlis continued.
He stressed that education was directly linked with the country's future, and "we are preparing the school that meets the modern-day global status quo, preparing the pupils to successfully meet the demands of the tough international competitive environment".
 Exclusive interview with FM BakoyannisIn an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA, Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis noted that the outcome of any type of election -- be it for local or prefectural government or the European Parliament -- always contains a political message as well, but stressed that the government, however, that those polls were not for the election of a government, which would be the same one the following day.
What was at stake in the Euroelections, she said, were the European course and Europe's prospects, and what Europe will do in the face of very large changes.
She said that a European Parliament able to wage a daily battle with the Commission was needed, noting that the Europarliament will have very great authorities in the new stage being entered.
Therefore, she said, it was very important that Greece be properly represented by experienced MEPs, ones who are fighters and determined to wage a battle on all the issues of concern to Greece.
But there was also a 'Greek' wager, Bakoyannis continued, in the sense that the message of the Euroelections, or of any election, always has a political message as well, adding, however, that the June 7 polls were not elections for a new government. "This is clear. The government will be the same the following day."
Asked whether early general elections could be a solution to the impasses caused by the various problems and the impact of the global financial crisis, Bakoyannis replied in the negative, warning that, on the contrary, they would only intensify the problems "because the reality is that Greece, like the other European countries, is faced with a very big crisis which everyone in the world agrees is the biggest economic crisis since 1929".
Consequently, the responsibility of the government - 'which it has assumed with a sense of responsibility' - is to take the country out of this crisis and at the same time turn the crisis into an opportunity..."in other words, to emerge stronger from the crisis," she said.
"The battle we are waging is a difficult one, but also one we have been called on to wage, and we must fulfill the confidence the Greek people showed us last September," Bakoyannis said.
To a question on whether she was worried over prospective developments in crucial foreign policy matters in the second half of 2009, Bakoyannis noted that the world around us was changing rapidly, adding that the EU was facing new challenges and reiterating the position that Greece is stronger when Europe is stronger, and that Greece's EU membership made the country stronger.
There was a critical discussion ahead relating to the review of Turkey's EU course, "whether Turkey has met its obligations or not", such as the Ankara Protocol and its implementation, Bakoyannis said, while the negotiations on the Cyprus issue were also ongoing, "critical negotiations between (Cyprus) President Christofias and Mr. Talat (Turkish Cypriot leader), difficult negotiations...we will have to see how those progress".
There was also the FYROM name issue, which was still outstanding, she said, adding that the negotiations under UN special representative Matthew Nimetz will resume after the Euroelections, possibly towards the end of June. "A new effort will be made for finding a mutually acceptable solution," she said.
Further, there was also Greece's chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), noting that Greece has invited, for the first time in the OSCE's history, the organisation's 56 foreign ministers to a meeting on Corfu so as to open the dialogue on European security.
The challenges are many, Bakoyannis said, adding that Greece was handling these issues with confidence in the country's arguments and strength, and in the Greek diplomatic services.
 President Papoulias, Parliament President meet with visiting Mayor of MorfouPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received visiting Mayor of Morfou Charalambos Pittas, who reiterated that Turkey has adopted an intransigent stance in the efforts for the solution of the Cyprus issue.
The mayor of Morfou, a town in the Turkish occupied northern part of the island, stressed that Turkish settlers continue to arrive despite the efforts made for a solution and the new atmosphere that has been created in the past seven months. He stated that settlers on the island are estimated at half a million, pointing out that "the Turkish Cypriots themselves are awe-stricken with the Turkish settlers arriving from Anatolia."
Pittas also stated that the Greek Cypriot land is being illegally developed and sold to foreign buyers, in violation of relevant international court decisions.
Meanwhile, in a meeting with the Mayor of Morfou, Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas stressed that the efforts for the solution of the Cyprus problem within the framework of UN decisions and the European acquis have the backing of the Greek Parliament.
Sioufas was briefed on the course of the talks on Cyprus and the situation in the occupied municipality of Morfou and underlined that Greece supports a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, stressing that this is the only option that guarantees a viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem. "The Wall on Cyprus, the last remaining wall in Europe, will have to fall," he stressed.
The Mayor of Morfou underlined that "based on the course of the talks launched between Cyprus Republic President Demetris Christofias and the other side, things are not rosy," and reiterated that the other side's intransigence intensifies, referring to arrival of more settlers on Cyprus.
 FM Bakoyannis meets with the Mayor of Morfou, ethnic Greek leaders in AlbaniaMayor of Morfou Charalambos Pittas called for the support of the Greek government to bend the "Turkish intransigence and provocation" and promote the negotiation process currently at a critical stage, in the meeting he had Thursday with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis at her office in Athens accompanied by a cross-party city council delegation.
"We expressed to the foreign minister our concern for the phase our national issue is going through" and the "disappointing experience" as regards the course of the negotiations due to the "Turkish intransigence" despite the efforts made by Cyprus Republic President Demetris Christofias to be productive, the Mayor of Morfou stated after the meeting.
"We underlined the anxiety of the refugees and sought ways to overcome the Turkish intransigence and provocation," he said.
He characterized as a "provocation" the fact that "while talks are underway the Turkish side promotes the practice of settlements" referring to "half a million settlers" and condemned "the illegal exploitation of our property."
FM Bakoyannis expressed Greece's support for the struggle of the Cypriot people and stated that "our side is in a position to respond to the call and has weapons that it can use" while "calling for a chance to be given to the dialogue to continue."
Meanwhile, "Omonia" President and Chimara Mayor Vasil Bolanos and KEAD Chief Vangelis Dule visited FM Bakoyannis within the framework of the political contacts they are holding for the mobilization of the Greek minority in view of the parliamentary elections in Albania in June.
"We seek the mobilization of the ethnic Greek minority and the migrants living in Greece whose presence should be strong in the June 28 elections," Dule stated after the meeting. "It is crucial for the country's European integration," he said, adding that "the representatives of the ethnic Greek minority received assurances that all the Albanian citizens in Greece will be facilitated to exercise their voting rights."
Present at the meeting was Deputy FM Theodoros Kassimis, who in a recent visit to Albania had a meeting with Bolano and discussed the promotion of developmental cooperation through infrastructure projects.
 Gov't on PASOK's criticism, Greek expatriate voting rightsGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday lashed out at main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, responding to the latter's criticism of the government's immigration policy, stressing that "obviously he has forgotten that for many years he was the foreign minister and shared in the political responsibility for the specific policy he has now discovered."
He added that "the government implements a substantive immigration policy and plays a leading role in the processing of regulations and joint mechanisms."
As regards Papandreou's statement on "socialism or barbarism", Antonaros characterized as "a slip-up the fact that Papandreou and PASOK's leading cadres continue to try in vain to divide the Greek citizens and voters into categories."
Referring to the voting rights of the Greek expatriates, Antonaros stated that "by choosing not to back the relevant draft law prepared by the government, PASOK does not meet its institutional role," adding that "its stance is inexcusable."
 Gov't on the incidents with immigrantsGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, referring to the recent incidents in Athens involving immigrants, on Thursday stated that "the Greek State has proved through the years that it respects religious freedom completely and unequivocally condemns any attempt to violate this freedom."
On the individual responsible for the incident with the Koran, Antonaros stated that "the law enforcement authorities do what's necessary."
 KKE delivers protest to Interior minister on immigrantsA delegation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), headed by the party's Central Committee member and Parliamentary representative Spyros Halvatzis, delivered a protest to Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday concerning the issue of immigrants.
Halvatzis said afterwards: "Our delegation raised basic issues on immigrants with the Interior, Public Administration and Public Order Minister. Problems also related to the legalisation of immmigrants and to the attacks developing by law enforcement forces against immigrants. We discussed demands that the immigrants have and concerning places of worship and the cemetery which is essential for them. He reassured us about the mosque and the cemetery that these procedures are moving ahead and will move speedily. However, no matter how much the minister tried, we were not convinced that the measures being taken by the government to handle immigrants and particularly for the need for their legalisation or the issuing of legalising documents for presence in our country are moving or shall move."
 PASOK on PM's interviewMain opposition PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou told reporters on Thursday that the interview with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis the previous day showed that he was "unrepentant" concerning the scandals that had rocked public opinion.
The premier had denied the existence of political responsibility and was thus personally to blame for the lawlessness and impunity, Papaconstantinou said.
It also showed that the government intended to "shower" voters with yet more taxes as soon as the elections were passed, without Karamanlis having the political courage to say what these taxes would be.
According to the spokesman, the press conference given by PASOK leader George Papandreou to all channels earlier the same day, before the premier's interview on Mega, gave voters a good opportunity to compare the leaders of the two main parties, adding that PASOK's opponents were the country's problems and not ND voters.
 President Papoulias receives Indonesian parliament chairmanPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received Thursday visiting Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly Chairman Hidayat Nur Wahid and noted that he was "following with great interest the progress made by his great country."
Papoulias also thanked him for Indonesia's position on issues of Greek interest such as the Cyprus problem, the Islamic Conference and the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), expressing satisfaction because Indonesia plays an important role in the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN.
The president of the Indonesian parliament expressed the belief that the exchange of views between high ranking officials of the two countries will further strengthen bilateral relations.
 Indonesian Assembly chairman visits Greek ParliamentParliament President Dimitirs Sioufas on Thursday received visiting Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly Chairman Hidayat Nur Wahid, who is visiting Greece at the head of an Indonesian delegation. The meeting was carried out in a warm climate with references to Alexander the Great, while Wahid invited Sioufas to carry out an official visit to Indonesia.
Sioufas thanked the Indonesian Assembly for its positions on Greece's name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and for its stance on the Cyprus issue, stressing that they were greatly appreciated by the Greek Parliament and Greek people.
Wahid noted that Greece was very well known in his country, through the ancient philosophers like Socrates and Plato, while the grave of Alexander the Great was rumoured to exist in the northern regions of Sumatra.
 Romanian president visits Greek ParliamentGreek Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas on Thursday presented visiting Romanian President Traian Basescu with Parliament's gold medal and papyrus scroll, in recognition of the mutual feelings of friendship between Greece and Romania, during Basescu's visit to the Greek Parliament.
Greeting the Romanian president, Sioufas lauded the close ties between the two countries and thanked Basescu for Romania's support of Greek positions in the Cyprus issue and in the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). He also noted that Greece had steadfastly backed Romania in its efforts to join EuroAtlantic structures.
Relations between the two countries must continue to be close in order to promote regional development and cooperation and jointly tackle the repercussions of the global economic crisis, he added.
On his part, Basescu noted that the Greek Parliament's ratification of Romania's and Bulgaria's accession to the EU in 2005 "established both the old historic ties between the two countries and the future ties that will exist".
 Candidate MEPs debate at Foreign Press AssociationFour candidates for the European Parliament elections on Thursday held an informal 'debate' organised by the Foreign Press Association in Greece, outlining their political arguments in view of the June 7 elections. They included former foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos and Theodoros Skylakakis of ruling New Democracy, versus Marilena Koppa and Stavros Lambrinidis of main opposition PASOK.
All four candidates agreed that the European Parliament elections were a crucial and decisive turning point for the future of Europe but disagreed as to whether their results might act as a sort of 'referendum' about domestic affairs in Greece.
 No 'new' issues in pension reform plans, gov't saysGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday denied that recent statements by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis raised new issues concerning social insurance.
"These are matters that were first raised about five or six months ago," Antonaros told reporters, adding that there were no "open" issues in terms of social insurance reform.
"This is not something we concealed," he added, noting that the reforms to Greece's social insurance system aimed to rationalise the system and help the funds operate more efficiently.
Concerning opinion poll results indicating weakened loyalty among ruling New Democracy supporters and what had caused this, the spokesman stressed that the government was exercising policies that demonstrated sensitivity to the poorer sections of society, as indicated by the latest incomes policy it had unveiled.
"The government is doing whatever it can to support employment, so that the losses from the international economic crisis are as few as possible," Antonaros stressed.
Regarding a trip by Economy and Finance Minister George Papathanassiou to Berlin for talks with his German counterpart, Antonaros said only that there was frequent contact between the economy ministers of Eurozone.
 Natgas to one million Greeks in 2010, Hatzidakis saysThe government's goal is that another 85,000 Greek households will have access to the natural gas network by the end of the year, rising to 250,000 households and roughly one million citizens by the end of 2010, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said on Thursday.
He was speaking during the inauguration ceremony for a new power station at the Liquified Natural Gas Terminal run by the Hellenic Gas Transmission System Operator (DESFA) on the islet of Revythousa in Pachi bay, off the coast of Megara.
Hatzidakis stressed that the natural gas network will be extended to the Peloponnese as far as Megalopolis, in order to supply the new power stations built there by the Public Power Corporation (PPC), and from there to Kalamata and intervening cities. The government was also examining the possibility of bringing natural gas to Crete, again to supply power stations in Iraklio and Hania, he said.
The minister also pointed to the start of work on constructing a compressor station at Nea Mesimvria in Thessaloniki, which will increase the network's transmission capacity, and plans for new gas companies to supply Eastern Macedonia-Thrace, Central Macedonia and Central Greece.
Commenting on a recent resurgence of tension between Russia and the Ukraine over natural gas in the last few days, the minister admitted that there was an "unstable environment" and that the facilities at Revythousa were the system's major reserve, as was proved in the crisis that occurred during the last winter.
"We met the country's needs and also covered Bulgaria," he pointed out, adding that talks were underway with Bulgaria to hasten funding for a new pipeline from Komotini to the Bulgarian city of Haskovo.
 Tourism minister in EU council meetingBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
The European Union Council of mininisters responsible for competitiveness discussed here on Thursday the tourism industry's role is in handling of the current economic crisis. The discussion was held at Greece's initiative.
Greek Tourism Minister Costas Markopoulos, who participated in the council's works, told reporters it was imperative that the issue of tourism in Europe be upgraded to a community level and that the tourism industry should have its place in the agenda of the council meetings.
Markopoulos added that Greece has already adopted the 'Calypso' programme, amounting to 3 million euros for the period 2009-2001 aiming at supporting the internal social tourism of Europe. This programme, he added, is a pilot and study programme.
"Europe must accelerate its pace defining ecomomic criteria for social tourism and creating a special budget for it," the Greek minister said.
 PASOK on investment environment, energy issuesIn a press conference on Thursday, main opposition PASOK MP Michalis Chrysochoidis, the party's spokesperson on development issues, cited figures made public by Ernst & Young international credit rating agency, stressing that Greece dropped three positions in 2009 from the 10th to the 13th as regards the investment environment and Renewable Energy Sources (RES) development prospects.
He stressed that "the stagnation observed recently in the RES sector can neither be covered up nor dressed up."
Chrysochoidis blamed government inertia for the fact that Greece is lagging behind within the EU in terms of including new RES in the country's energy balance.
 Agriculture minister on charges by PASOK MPsAgriculture Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Thursday rejected claims made by main opposition PASOK MPs concerning the dead fish found in Maliakos Bay and alleged attempts to change the status of 170 hectares of forest in Halkidiki prefecture in northern Greece.
The minister said the incident with the fish in Maliakos had already been proved to be the result of heavy rain that caused a local river to spill over its banks, while the case with the land was a result of 'ignorance of legislation on forests' and concerned only 7.4 hectares in which the officials responsible were applying the law.
 Eurobank EFG says Q1 profits down 62.5 pctEurobank EFG on Thursday reported a 62.5 pct decline in its net profits to 81 million euros in the first quarter of 2009, from 215 million euros last year. Operating earnings (pre-provisions) totaled 363 million euros in the January-March period, up 13 pct from 2008, reflecting higher growth and lower operating spending.
Net interest income fell 3.9 pct to 544 million euros, of which 188 million euros (or 35 pct) came from international activities. Net interest margin fell to 2.7 pct in the first three months of the year, from 3.2 pct last year.
The bank's board will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to offer two news shares for 98 existing ones to its shareholders. New loans totaled 1.4 billion euros in the first quarter to 56.3 billion euros, up 12.2 pct on an annual basis.
 Cooperation memorandum between DEH, MEDGAS SAThe Public Power Corporation's (DEH) board convened on Thursday and approved the signing of a draft cooperation memorandum between the Corporation and the MEDGAS SA company concerning the assessment of a proposal on the procurement of compressed natural gas for use by the Corporation's units on the island of Crete.
According to an announcement, the relevant business proposal was submitted by MEDGAS SA to the Corporation for the supply on a longterm basis of compressed natural gas for all of its units in Crete, both existing and scheduled, as an alternative solution to their being supplied with liquefied natural gas.
 EU report on living conditions in Greece, EU27BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)
In 2007, 30 percent of Greeks lived in a household unable to afford an unexpected expenditure, according to figures released by Eurostat on Thursday from its Statistics on Incomes and Living Conditions Survey for the EU27 countries in that year. The average throughout the 27 EU member-states was 34 percent, or one in three, with the highest rates recorded in Latvia, Hungary (both 63 percent) and Poland (54 percent) and the lowest in Norway (12 percent), Sweden (18 percent) and Denmark (19 percent).
Greeks came top in terms of those unable to meet rent or mortgage payments on their homes during the past year, at 7 percent, and ranked third-highest after Hungary and Poland for those in arrears with utility bills (16 percent).
By contrast, 7 percent of Europeans were unable to meet utility bills on average and 3 percent had been in arrears with their rent or mortgage.
Just over eight in 10 Greek households and 80 percent of European households own a car, while 9 percent of Greek households and 9 percent of European households state that they cannot afford one. Among Greek households having underage children, 91 percent own a car as opposed to 86 percent for the EU average, while seven percent of Greek households with underage children state that they cannot afford one (compared to nine percent in the EU).
 Pasal Development reports unfavourable Q1 resultsPasal Development on Thursday said its consoliated after tax and minorities earnings totaled 139,00 euros in the first quarter of 2009, from 2.2 million euros last year, for a decline of 93.6 pct. The company attributed this negative development to a 58.6 pct drop in profits from counting investment real estate property in its fair price, totaling 1.2 million euros in the January-March period, from 2.9 million euros last year.
Pasal Development, in a statement, said it would examine the sale of real estate assets in an effort to maintain sufficient liquidity and boosting its profitability. Operating revenues jumped 175 pct to 2.5 million euros, from 928,000 euros last year, boosted by the operation of Athens Heart shopping mall in Athens.
 Ellaktor Group reports improved Q1 resultsEllaktor Group on Thursday reported a 26.7 pct increase in its first quarter consolidated turnover to 483.05 million euros, from 381.1 million euros in the corresponding period last year and said consolidated pre-tax and interest earnings rose 15.1 pct to 61.81 million euros.
Consolidated pre-tax, interest, depreciation and amortization earnings (EBITDA) rose 19.8 pct to 86.42 million euros. After tax earnings rose 22 pct to 37.02 million euros, while earnings after tax and minorities totaled 26.84 million euros, up 31.6 pct. Earnings per share were 0.16 euros per share, up from 0.12 euros in 2008.
Parent turnover rose 6.67 pct to 384,000 euros, while EBITDA was 93,000 euros and pre-tax losses totaled 1.12 million euros. Net after tax losses were 1.17 million euros in the January-March period.
 Alumil Group reports 35.2 pct drop in Q1 salesAlumil Group on Thursday reported a 35.2 pct decline in its first quarter sales to 42.1 million euros, compared with 65 million euros in the corresponding period last year. Gross profits fell 59.6 pct to 6.8 million euros, from 16.8 million euros last year.
Pre-tax, interest, depreciation and amortization earnings (EBITDA) totaled 284,000 euros, down 97 pct from the first quarter of 2008, while pre-tax losses totaled 6.9 million euros, after earnings of 3.9 million euros in 2008, with losses per share at 0.39 euros.
Parent sales fell 42 pct to 29.5 million euros, EBITDA totaled 2.4 million euros and pre-tax losses totaled 6.8 million euros and net after -tax earnings totaled 7.2 million euros.
 Revoil reports says EBITDA jumped 71 pct in Q1Revoil Group on Thursday reported a 13.7 pct increase in its first quarter turnover to 168.41 million euros, from 148.11 million euros in the corresponding period last eyar and said gross earnings jumped 34 pct to 7.31 million euros, from 5.45 million euros last year. Pre-tax, interest, depreciation and amortization earnings (EBITDA) totaled 2.53 million euros, up 71 pct from 2008, while pre-tax profits soared 169 pct to 1.49 million euros and after tax and minorities profits soared to 1.12 million euros from 420,000 euros last year.
 Greek stocks end moderate higherGreek stocks ended with gains in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index rising 0.62 pct to 2,309.08 points. Turnover was a moderate 214.6 million euros, of which 5.6 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with the Insurance (11.14 pct), Media (5.90 pct) and Chemicals (4.11 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Oil (2.22 pct), Raw Materials (1.60 pct) and Telecommunications (0.84 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index fell 0.66 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 0.40 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 1.05 pct up, while advancers led decliners by 148 to 85 with another 36 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.22%
Personal & Household: +0.65%
Raw Materials: -1.60%
Travel & Leisure: +0.34%
Food & Beverages: +1.51%
Financial Services: +3.16%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Bank of Cyprus, National Bank, Public Power Corporation (DEH) and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 8.53
Public Power Corp (PPC): 16.30
HBC Coca Cola: 14.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.30
National Bank of Greece: 18.65
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.86
Bank of Piraeus: 8.04
Titan Cement Company: 20.60
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.396
Pound sterling 0.876
Danish kroner 7.504
Swedish kroner 10.821
Japanese yen 135.46
Swiss franc 1.523
Norwegian kroner 9.033
Canadian dollar 1.566
Australian dollar 1.789
 Man arrested for illegal archaeological excavationA 58-year-old man is to be led before a public prosecutor in Karditsa on Thursday, following his arrest for participating in an illegal archaeological dig.
The man is accused of belonging to a group carrying out illegal excavations and that along with accomplices had opened two trenches in an area of forest in Mavromati, Mouzaki in order to find antiquities.
Searching his home, police discovered evidence such as metal detectors, a gas pistol, information leaflets on ancient objects and coins, maps, aerial photographs of the region, hand-written plans and notes, knives and other objects.
 Illegal immigrants arrested in Ikonio, HiosTwelve Pakistani nationals and two Vietnamese women without valid travel documents were discovered trying to enter Greece illegally on Thursday, hidden in a special compartment in a Bulgarian truck that arrived at Ikonio on the Cyprus-flagged RO-RO ferry 'Notos'. All 14 were arrested, as was the driver of the truck, also a foreign national.
They were discovered during a routine check by customs officers, who alerted the coast guard, and said that they boarded the vessel in the Israeli port of Haifa.
The coast guard on the Aegean island of Hios reported the arrest at dawn on Thursday of another 25 illegal immigrants, including women and children, that were headed for Greek territory in a motorised dinghy. They were all arrested, along with the 57-year-old immigrant trafficker transporting them.
 Cloudy, rainy on FridayCloudy and rainy weather, and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 11C and 30C. Cloudy in Athens with local showers, with southeasterly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 17C to 30C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 16C to 27C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis' and main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou's interviews on all issues ahead of Euroelections dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Ruling New Democracy's (ND) victory in election cannot be ruled out - Bogus opinion poll results are collapsing".
APOGEVMATINI: "Karamanlis stated: I am a fighter, I feel in top form and I will continue to struggle", adding that he impressed the public with his honesty and dynamic.
AVGHI: "SYRIZA leader Alekos Alavanos and Synaspismos leader Alexis Tsipras interventions to prevent clashes in Friday's Muslim communities protest in Athens".
AVRIANI: "The two mainstream parties put the blame on publishers and 'interests' in an attempt to conceal their unreliability and inability because they are afraid of the people's disapproval, in the Euroelections".
CHORA: "Karamanlis gave the message for the Euroelections: All together towards victory".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Prime Minister left open the participation or not of ministers involved in the Vatopedi case in the party's ticket and pledged not to impose new taxes ....under conditions".
ELEFTHEROS: "Historical high profile ND former minister Ioannis Varvitsiotis criticises ND's electoral policy".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "I am not leaving, I am a fighter - Karamanlis says no to new taxes if things remain as they are".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The 'High Priest' of evasion - Karamanlis did not give substantive answers".
ESTIA: "Thursday's debate (among the party leaders ahead of the Euroelections) - A parody of real political dialogue".
ETHNOS: "Karamanlis backs to the very end the ministers implicated in the Vatopedi monastery case".
KATHIMERINI: "Europe puts pressure on Turkey on illegal migrants wave - Connects the major issue with negotiation on Turkey's accession to EU".
LOGOS: "The head of ND's Euroelections ticket Marietta Giannakou predicts: The abstention rate in Euroelections will not be high in Greece".
NIKI: ęThey are betting on abstention and.... ecology".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The vote is the weapon against EU policies".
TA NEA: "Karamanlis gave absolution to those implicated in Vatopedi case - Papandreou: Either we change or we sink".
TO VIMA: "George Papandreou: Either we change or we will sink".
VRADYNI: "Karamanlis and Papandreou opened up their cards on Wednesday".
 President: Opening of Limnitis to be discussed between Iacovou and NamiNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The issue of opening up the crossing point of Limnitis will be further discussed by Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat's adviser Ozdil Nami Cyprus, President Demetris Christofias said here on Thursday.
Returning to the Presidential Palace after his 30th meeting with Talat, in the framework of direct negotiations on the Cyprus question, that began in September 2008, and asked if he conveyed the request of Maronites to hold a Mass at the church of Ayia Marina in the occupied areas, President Christofias said that ''everything we needed to put forward has been put forward.''
President Christofias refrained from commenting developments in the UN Security Council regarding the resolution on the renewal of the mandate of UNFICYP.
Asked to comment on a statement made by the Special Advisor of the UNSG on Cyprus Alexander Downer that there has been no letter sent to him by President Christofias on this issue, the president replied that he has sent a letter to the SG and not to Downer.
Downer sees satisfactory momentum in Cyprus talks
Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on Cyprus Alexander Downer said on Thursday that the momentum in talks between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus for a settlement of the island's political problem is not spectacular but is not worryingly slow, adding that if the momentum is maintained at a satisfactory rate, a comprehensive agreement can be reached.
Regarding any changes in the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Downer said there was no proposal at this stage for the Security Council to change the mandate of UNFICYP, and that in the event of a comprehensive settlement, the Force's role might go through some sort of change.
Speaking after Thursday's meeting between the leaders of the two communities, namely President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, Downer said ''the two leaders met in a tete-a-tete session for about an hour and a half and had a very friendly discussion, they report,'' noting that ''of course, nobody else was there but they report it was a very friendly and relaxed discussion.''
''There was some further discussion on the economy, some work was done during the tete-a-tete meetings by the representatives and other officials on moving forward towards convergences on some aspects of the economy,'' he noted.
He pointed out that ''the leaders thought it would be a good idea to focus on this again next week and next week's meeting will be on Wednesday instead of Thursday, Wednesday at 10:00 am, and that will be the last meeting that will discuss the economy'' and that ''the leaders will then move on to another topic and we will explain what that topic will be next week but not this week.''
Replying to questions, Downer said ''we don't set strict timetables and I think to set any timetable could make the negotiations a bit more difficult rather than easier.''
''The economic chapter is quite, not so much contentious, but quite long. There is a lot of material to deal with. As you can imagine, talking about running a modern economy in a federal structure or in any structure requires a fair bit of work and a fair bit of contemplation, so that is taking a bit of time. Then they will move to another topic and they should be able to move through the next two or three topics reasonably quickly and then they will move to the second stage, where they will come back and have a look at some of the areas in the chapters that have been points of disagreement and then of course, having done that, they will eventually get to the final stage,'' he said.
Downer expressed the view that ''things are moving in a positive direction'' and noted that ''it is important to focus here on momentum.''
''Momentum varies, you know. When there was some disagreement last week on the question of Limnitis, that slows momentum a bit. On the other hand, the atmosphere today, the discussions today put some new pace back into that momentum so we have had a much better atmosphere today. So I think the momentum is there. The momentum is satisfactory. It is not spectacular but it is not worryingly slow,'' he pointed out.
He said that, ''if we can keep the momentum going at a satisfactory rate, we can still, as I keep saying, to admittedly many doubters, and I appreciate there are many doubters, but that this job can be done and that a comprehensive agreement can be reached.''
''I took up this job with cautious optimism and several months later, as I am well into this job, I know quite a lot about it now, I know a lot of people and some of them I know very well, I remain cautiously optimistic,'' he added.
Asked if he believed a change in the mandate of UNFICYP is warranted, Downer said he did not think there was any proposal at this stage for the Security Council to change the mandate of UNFICYP, ''on the basis of information I have from New York on the draft resolution.''
''There is no proposal for a significant change to the mandate but I always say on these matters it is something that we, at our level, leave to the Security Council. The Secretary General is not a member of the Security Council. The Security Council is the decision-maker on these matters and that is something they have been talking about, every six months, for 45 years, so I don't think anything is terribly different this time,'' he added.
To other questions, Downer said UNFICYP is ''working fine'' and noted that, ''what will happen if there is a comprehensive agreement in terms of UNFICYP is one of the things, obviously, that the Security Council will have to contemplate, should that arise, should my cautious optimism prove to be justified.''
''Then obviously the whole question of how UNFICYP would be structured and its role would have to be reconsidered in that context. That is something I am sure the leaders would want to talk about at a later stage but all of the members of the Security Council and the two sides here would see a comprehensive settlement leading to some different role, perhaps, for UNFICYP. Of course, if you had a comprehensive settlement, the situation would be somewhat different, somewhat better, somewhat more positive and so UNFICYP's role might in those circumstances go through some sort of change,'' he said.
He added however that ''nobody has made any decision about that and I am not making any predictions about what sort of change might be contemplated at that stage.''
''The UN always makes a series of contingency plans so that whatever decisions the Security Council makes, it is able to respond with reasonable speed to those decisions,'' he noted.
Replying to questions, Downer said ''we don't know what would be required of UNFICYP in the event of a comprehensive agreement'' and that, ''in previous exercises, where attempts have been made to produce a comprehensive settlement here, there have been ideas of how UNFICYP's role could be changed, but in this particular case there has been no discussion about that.''
''What the UN does, in particular what the department of peacekeeping operations does, is very understandably make sure that they have the capacity to respond, at least within a reasonable period of time, to what might be the best option for Cyprus in the event of there being a comprehensive settlement. One just doesn't know and I shouldn't speculate on how such a settlement may change the structure of UNFICYP,'' he added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008 with an aim to reunite the island.
 Spain supports efforts for Cyprus solutionNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Spain firmly supports the efforts to reach a just solution in the Cyprus problem, Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou noted after a meeting he had on Thursday with Spain's Secretary of State for the European Union Diego Lopez Garrido.
In statements following the meeting, Kyprianou described the relations between Cyprus and Spain as "excellent" and stressed the importance of holding meetings between the two countries.
Kyprianou said that Spain is a big country in EU as well as a friendly country to Cyprus which "firmly supports the efforts to reach a just solution in the Cyprus problem".
He added that "this is of a great importance because despite Spain's good relations with other countries in the region and with Turkey it remains stable on principles and this is important to us".
He also noted that Cyprus has common positions with Spain on foreign policy issues such as EU-Russia and EU-Cuba relations as well as on the Kosovo issue.
Kyprianou said that the fact that Spain will assume the rotating EU presidency during the first semester of 2010 was the main issue discussed at the meeting.
Garrido expressed satisfaction over the outcome of the meeting noting that both Cyprus and Spain have shared positions on various issues which are being discussed within EU.
He added that his country considers Cyprus' support as very important for Spanish EU presidency to be successful.
Kyprianou congratulated Spain's Secretary of State for the victory of Barcelona over Manchester United with 2-0 in the final of Champions League.
 FM: Greek Cypriot side wants a Cyprus settlement more than anyone elseCommenting on statements by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on the need for an immediate solution to the Cyprus problem, after his meeting with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Kyprianou said ''we appreciate the will of all and their support for a solution of the Cyprus question", adding that no one wants the settlement of the Cyprus question more than the Greek Cypriot side.
"I must, however, recall that no one wants the solution of the Cyprus problem more than our side. We are the victims of the invasion and occupation, our people, primarily, have been displaced," he said.
He noted that ''we appreciate advice and positions but I believe they must turn to other directions.''
Furthermore he said that ''our positions are constructive and contribute not only to the fair solution of the problem but also to working out a functional federal system in a unified state, which ensures the unity of the future. We believe that this serves the interests of both sides", he added.
Kyprianou said that "we will continue with the same desire to resolve the Cyprus problem" and stressed that "Turkey which primarily created the Cyprus problem must support clearly and constructively the form of the settlement that has been determined by the UN Security Council and adopted by the European Union, which Turkey wants to join".
Asked about the consultations taking place in the UN Security Council to finalize the resolution on UNFICYP, Kyprianou reiterated the Cyprus government's position that UNFICYP must continue to operate as it is.
He said that "we are in consultation with the permanent members of Security Council", and expressed hope that "our observations, which are reasonable, will be heard".
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