|Thursday, 21 June 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-06-05
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 5 June 2009 Issue No: 3212
 PASOK leader Papandreou reiterates "either we change or we sink'Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou addressed his party's main rally in Athens on Thursday evening, ahead of Sunday's Euroelections, appealing to all social groups and to people voting for the ruling New Democracy (ND) party in the previous elections and stressing that "our struggle is also their struggle" and using the phrase "we can together" many times.
Papandreou's address contained many accusations against the government, as well as an attack on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, whom he accused of "closing Parliament to cover up and write off the offences of his ministers", while stressing that the Karamanlis government "demolished Greece."
The PASOK leader reiterated the slogan "either we change or we sink" and said that Greece "shall not sink and will change course on Sunday." He also said he was "determined to clash with interests" to achieve the goals he has set against extravagance, corruption and impunity.
"In your name I am determined to clash with both the big interests and with corruption that is dissolving Greece and we shall win together because my only duty is my duty to the people and to the homeland," he said.
"On June 7 we are voting for Europe. We are deciding for Greece," the PASOK leader said and pointed out that "every vote for PASOK is a useful vote, a vote for the present and the future."
Papandreou also said that "the victory shall be a victory of our great democratic party, of the many over the few and powerful" and called on the citizens to vote in the elections and stressed that "there are those who are resorting to propaganda for abstention: The few, the powerful, 'our guys', who would like it very much if we left them in peace."
He noted that "abstention is a vote of tolerance for the downhill course" and added that "on Sunday we shall change so as not to sink."
The PASOK leader further said that "the Karamanlis government received Greece with prospects, self-confidence, with a development momentum and optimism and it demolished it," while also accusing the government of "losing without a fight historic opportunities for the homeland", serving those who are "likable" and not the worthy and sinking "in inequality, lawlessness and the decomposition of the state of law."
Papandreou criticised the government for its policy in its entirety and said that the dilemma on June 7 was clear: Providing the government with a "blank cheque" or "putting an end to bounced cheques."
Lastly, Papandreou referred to the European programme of PASOK and of the European socialists and to PASOK's national goals, stressing that against PASOK in Sunday's struggle "we have all the forces of the establishment and the interests of the powerful who cannot stand PASOK speaking about things that must change and shall change."
 PM Karamanlis: Initiatives on the crisis will continuePrime minister Costas Karamanlis stressed that his ruling New Democracy (ND) party was aiming for victory in Sunday's European Parliament elections, adding, however, that the 'day after' the elections the government will carry on with its initiatives for tackling the impact of the global financial crisis, speaking on private television on Thursday morning.
Noting that a vote cast in the Euroelections was different than that cast in national elections, Karamanlis said that he would seriously take into consideration the outcome of Sunday's vote but added that it was not a vote to elect a government or prime minister.
The premier conceded that he would have acted differently in a number of instances, if his government did not have a slim majority of 151 MPs in the 300-member parliament, but stressed that he was not susceptible to blackmail or coercion: "In all my 53 years, I have never bowed to blackmail, ever, from anyone, either within or outside the party."
Regarding the issue of Siemens bribery scandal defendants Michalis Christoforakos (Siemens Hellas former CEO) and Christos Karavelas (Siemens Hellas former executive), who have fled from the country, Karamanlis said that this occurred before the indictments were made, while he noted that although there may have been some delay in the process, this would not be the first time that such insufficiencies have arisen in services staff.
Karamanlis categorically rejected, however, that anything had happened intentionally, "and I d not believe that any Greek government would do something like this intentionally".
He further added that the period being investigated did not concern ND, since it had been under the term of the previous government (PASOK) that the contracts in question were signed.
The high-profile Siemens slush funds investigation in Greece involves several major contracts signed in 1997 between Siemens and the state-run Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE S.A.) to install digital technology at the latter's telephone substations.
Asked whether foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, who assumed the political responsibility regarding the delay, should have resigned, Karamanlis explained that assumption of the political responsibility does not mean that one should resign, but rather acknowledgement that a problem has arisen in a specific matter. "It doesn't mean that everyone must abandon their post because a dysfunction has appeared," he said, adding that "it is the prime minister who judges whether some changes need to be made".
The premier also reiterated his intention to remain at ND's helm, even in the event of defeat in the national elections, provided that «those around you and more widely consider you capable and worthy, and want you at their side in this fight".
On opposition calls for early general elections, Karamanlis said that national elections should be held after the crisis has ended.
On the economy, he said that the reforms must continue, reiterating that he believes in mild adjustment, and added that jobs have been safeguarded in Greece, in comparison with the rest of the EU, while he also insists on reinforcing social sensitivity within the margins of the economy's abilities.
 Gov't on measures to combat crisisGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, citing information he received from Economy and Finance Minister Yannis Papathanassiou, on Thursday underlined that negotiations launched in April to jumpstart the "real economy" and employment have been completed.
"The goal is to address the credit needs of businesses facing problems due to the crisis," he stressed.
The programme provides for both state-guaranteed business loans and interest rate subsidies.
"In this way, the survival and operation of businesses, as well as the preservation of many job positions, is guaranteed," Antonaros stressed.
 PM, Souflias visit Alimos metro station construction sitePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis paid a visit to an under-construction metro station in Alimos on Thursday, accompanied by Environment and Public Works Minister George Souflias. In statements at the site, the prime minister stressed that the government had given priority to the biggest public transport and environmental project of the country.
"We are extending the metro in the southern suburbs, the western neighbourhoods, in Peristeri, Anthoupoli and Haidari," he said.
The work would continue toward Piraeus and the "forgotten" regions of the capital in Aghia Varvara, Korydallos and Nikaia, without big words but with big works that changed the daily life of citizens and improved overall quality of life in Attica, he added.
"Some people might systematically invest in denial, in the levelling of all things and lies. They cannot change, they are stuck in yesterday. But Greece is changing, progressing and going forward. This is the reality and truth of our work," Karamanlis stressed.
Earlier, Souflias announced that the metro system will have spread to the municipalities of Ilioupolis, Alimos, Argyroupolis and Elliniko by next spring.
Before visiting the metro site, the prime minister had visited the Attica Traffic Police headquarters and praised the serious work done by the police daily. He urged them to do their best during the coming election weekend, when traffic on the national road network would be increased due to voters travelling to the regions where they were registered to vote.
 Gov't on PASOK, Euro-electionsThe government on Thursday accused main opposition PASOK of releasing election campaign television ads that insult and defame political rivals, part of an effort to "cover up the absence of policy on its behalf".
"This is an indication of panic and lack of policy on the major issues faced by the country," he said.
As regards the likelihood of a consensus between ND and PASOK, Antonaros stated that the main opposition party will have to be transformed and change its attitude in a radical manner in order to present proposals.
 KKE leader visits Hellenic Weapon IndustryCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga visited on Thursday the Hellenic Weapons Industry (EBO) in Mandra, near Athens, where she stressed that Greece needs to acquire a strong state defence industry.
"When we say disobedience and insubordination to the EU, we mean that Greece must have a state defence industry that undertakes as many projects as possible for the country's defence, and naturally not offense armaments," she added.
Papariga said it was necessary for such units as that in Mandra, which had the infrastructure to manufacture modern weaponry systems, to undertake such projects. This is an obligation of the country's governments, "and a very big responsibility, because we are not speaking of any production, but a production that is associated with the country's defense capability, and its disengagement, to the degree possible, from its dependence on markets abroad, on the foreign monopolies, which could put pressure on us in difficult times".
The country needs to rid itself of the situation in which units such as that in Mandra, with the capability of building modern weaponry systems, have been left with only 136 employees today, while the armaments sector is literally dominated by private concerns, purely for the purpose of profit, she added.
 Gov't on Siemens developmentsCommenting on his use of the term "remand prisoner" for another defendant in the case, Georgios Skarpelis, the previous day, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday noted that the term might not have been absolutely precise, but that this did not alter the essence of what he had said.
"The person I was referring to was, in fact, being held by prosecuting authorities and the point lies elsewhere. I was referring to persons who were known from a certain period and the role that they played in specific positions," he pointed out, repeating that the Siemens affair was a scandal linked to main opposition PASOK governments and their questionable decisions.
Regarding the flight from justice of Siemens suspect Christos Karavelas, the spokesman noted that any responsibility by the current administration would be discovered and dealt with.
Questioned about the testimony of former Siemens AG manager Reinhard Siekaczek, who said that both large political parties in Greece received kickbacks from the company's slush funds, Antonaros stressed that New Democracy did not need to do much, since former top PASOK cadre and MP Theodoros Tsoukatos has already admitted to receiving one million marks from Siemens as a campaign contribution that he passed on to PASOK coffers.
"The rest are simply assertions," he added, noting that there was no record of even a single D-mark being contributed to ND.
 PASOK on Siemens affair, state broadcasterCommenting on the flight of Siemens' case suspect Christos Karavelas abroad, main opposition PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Thursday said that mounting evidence pointed to responsibility that neither the government, nor its ministers, were willing to accept.
"Just as [Foreign Minister Dora] Bakoyannis has not accepted the political responsibility," he added.
"If responsibility is not accepted by the ministers, it then burdens the prime minister," Papaconstantinou pointed out.
Asked if PASOK was demanding only Bakoyannis' resignation for Karavelas' flight, the spokesman said that "in any country where political responsibilities are undertaken, the two ministers would have resigned".
He also countered the government's argument that the affair concerned contracts and actions carried out under PASOK governments by pointing out that ruling New Democracy had refused the proposal for a Parliamentary inquiry into the affair and allowed the two main suspects in the case to leave the country.
Asked whether PASOK could match the guarantee given by the ruling party that no money from Siemens had been paid into its own funds, Papaconstantinou replied affirmatively, saying "there was no inflow of money from Siemens into PASOK's accounts".
Regarding the damaging admission by Theodoros Tsoukatos that he had arranged for one million marks in campaign contributions to be paid to PASOK by Siemens, Papaconstantinou only repeated that ND had three times refused a Parliamentary investigation committee and allowed the main suspects to flee Greek justice.
Papaconstantinou went on to comment that the government had exhibited an "exaggerated" reaction to PASOK's campaign spots on television, saying that its intensity had made a powerful impression on the main opposition.
He also referred to what he called "preventative censorship" by state-run ERT, who had asked the National Radio and Television Council (ESR) to approve PASOK's campaign before it would run the party's spots, saying this reflected the overall treatment of opposition parties by the state broadcaster and pointing out that none of the private channels had felt it necessary to approach the ESR for the same reason.
 Former Siemens AG exec released pending trialA one-time former senior executive at Siemens was released on his own recognizance after appearing before a special examining magistrate in Athens on Thursday as a suspect in an ongoing bribery and money-laundering investigation involving Greek state contracts awarded to the German multinational.
After a six-hour hearing conducted with the aid of an interpreter, he was released on condition that he not leave the country and report to a police station at regular intervals until the case comes to trial.
Like others charged in connection with the case, Volker Jung is accused of bribery and legalising income from illegal activities in connection with a contract awarded to Siemens in 1997 by state-run telecom Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE).
At one time Jung headed of the German multinational's communications unit and was also head of the supervisory board at Siemens' Greek subsidiary, Siemens Hellas.
In another development linked to the same explosive case, the lawyers hired to defend the family of Christos Karavelas, a fugitive from Greek justice whose wife and two daughters were arrested by authorities earlier this week, announced that they were resigning because they disagreed with the defence tactics adopted by the family.
The defence of Karavelas' daughters has now been taken on by the lawyer Sakis Kehagioglou.
Kehagioglou paid a visit to special examining magistrate Nikos Zagorianos, who is in charge of the case, on Thursday to inform him that he was taking over the defence of the three Karavelas daughters facing complicity in money-laundering charges. The charges against them are based on the fact that their father transferred large sums of money into joint accounts held with his daughters' names from his own account in Switzerland.
The Athens attorney later lodged an appeal against their detention in custody and for a substantial reduction of a one-million-euro bail imposed on each of Karavelas' two adult daughters. All the women deny any involvement in the activities of their father.
 Gov't on illegal migration via TurkeyLUXEMBOURG (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
Greece emphasised to its EU partners here on Thursday that neighbouring Turkey, an EU candidate-state, must absolutely respect the agreements it has signed on the readmission of illegal migrants that entered Greece from its territory -- a pressing issue amid an increasing flow of mostly Third World nationals attempting to reach the Union via Turkey.
Interior and Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who represented Greece at the EU Justice and Internal Affairs Council, reiterated that if Turkey wished to enter the Union as a member it must adhere to Europe's acquis communautaire, of which an immigration and asylum pact entered into effect last October.
Pavlopoulos echoed Greek leadership in reminding that the neighbouring country, with which Greece's shares an extensive maritime border in the eastern Aegean and an often porous land border in the northeast Thrace province, has not met its commitments to take back migrants entering Greece from its territory.
"We are open to the steps Turkey is taking towards Europe, but this also necessitates simultaneous steps towards its (Turkey) modernisation, particularly with respect to the acquis communautaire," Pavlopoulos told his EU counterparts, reiterating that a landmark November 2001 Greek-Turkish protocol has not been honored by Ankara.
The Greek minister said the Union's proposals are generally moving in the right direction, although they will have to meeting all of the EU's needs, especially given the eastern Mediterranean particularities.
To prove his point, Pavlopoulos said Greece requested the readmission of 65,947 illegal immigrants back into Turkey, with only 2,271 returned over a span of seven years.
Finally, the Greek interior minister, who holds the law enforcement portfolio, said Athens wants the EU to sign and implement other such readmission protocols with other third countries where large numbers of illegal immigrants originate, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Somalia.
 Russian President Medvedev sends message of congratulations to Greek counterpartMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev hailed in a message President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias's personal and longstanding contribution to the development of Greek-Russian cooperation, while congratulating him on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
"In all the responsible posts, you always remained a friend of our country," the message said and underlined that "your rich political experience and wisdom as a statesman have given you the prestige due both in Greece and on the international scene."
An announcement publicised by the Kremlin's Press service on Thursday said that "being a fighter of the heroic Greek Resistance during the years of the Second World War, you contributed to the liberation of Europe from fascism, the defence of the values of freedom and democracy."
The Russian president's message said that thanks to a great degree to the personal stance of the President of the Republic "relations between Russia and Greece, that are established on a strong spiritual and historic base, are reaching new heights in a strategic partnership relation today."
The Kremlin's announcement lastly said "we are developing bilateral political dialogue dynamically, we are implementing big joint plans in the energy sector, we are guided by close positions on current international problems, we are working jointly for the consolidation of peace, stability and security on the European continent."
 ANA-MPA interview with Dutch ambassador to AthensThe substantive economic support and a number of bold measures in the social and budgetary sector define the reaction of the Netherlands to the economic and financial crisis and further reinforce the foundations of the Dutch economy in the years to come.
In an interview with ANA-MPA, the Dutch ambassador to Athens Kees van Rij referred to this issue and to EU enlargement, the need for closer cooperation between the EU and the US, particularly within the framework of efforts aimed at dealing with the economic crisis, and to Greek-Dutch relations which he described as "excellent". On the roughly 800,000 Dutch tourists that visit Greece annually during the summer months, he expressed optimism that they would again seek to spend two or three weeks in the sun this year.
Referring to the basic measures taken by the Dutch government to deal with the international economic crisis, he stated that they are both short-term and long-term in nature. He pointed out that the Dutch government has already supported banks with 80 billion Euros, while 7.5 billion Euros have been allocated to infrastructure upgrading, the sectors of health, environment and transport etc, in addition to 50 billion Euros for scheduled state spending over the next two years.
Furthermore, legislation has been adopted aimed at getting state spending under control in the year 2011, while reducing the budget deficit that has been created. The Dutch ambassador also stated that the AOW state pension scheme has been updated and pension age increased from 65 to 67. "The impact of the crisis is felt by the Dutch economy and forecasts for 2009 see negative growth of 4.8 pct," he stated.
On the EU-US Summit meeting held in Prague on April 5, he stated that it showed that the successful handling of the international economic crisis and the prevention of similar phenomena in the future call for close cooperation in particular in the framework of the G-20. This cooperation is also crucial in meeting the challenges of reducing climate change .
As regards Turkey's EU accession course, he commented that accession negotiations were launched on Oct. 3, 2005 and are in progress, pointing out that it is self-evident that Turkey will have to meet all the EU accession criteria before the negotiations are completed. Referring to the Balkan-region he said:
" The countries that meet the EU criteria and conditions are welcome as member states in the European Union," adding, that "each country will be assessed separately." He stressed that the Dutch approach is "strict but fair", adding that the framework for the future relations between the EU and the Balkans countries was originally shaped in the 2003 EU Summit held in Thessaloniki.
Referring to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its future, he said that this specific issue constitutes part of the revision of the entire EU budget that will concern both revenues and spending. He pointed out that the new European Commission is expected to make proposals for the budget's re - evaluation. "The budget should reflect the priorities of European policies , allowing the EU to be competitive, innovative and strong in global affairs ," he stressed.
He described Greek-Dutch relations as "excellent", underlining that the two countries share the same views on many issues and cooperate closely as EU partners and within the framework of international fora such as the OSCE, NATO and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"Bilateral economic and trade relations are very good," he said, pointing out that the Netherlands are among the major five foreign investors in Greece. He also referred to the roughly 800,000 Dutch tourists that visit Greece annually during the summer months and to the close cooperation in the sector of culture. Performances by Amsterdam's De Nederlandse Opera and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra were hosted in Athens this year, while an exhibition on the Golden Age of Dutch Graphic Design is scheduled for later this year to be hosted at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens.
 Ministers sign decision on photovoltaics on roofsThe Finance, Development and Environment, Town Planning and Public Works ministers have signed a joint ministerial decision regarding the installation of photovoltaics on roofs, that will apply as of July 1.
According to an anmnouncement by the Development ministry on Thursday, the terms for installarion will be determined in a new decision by Public Works Minister George Souflias.
The "Photovoltaics on Roofs" programme will provide every citizen with the possibility of utilising green energy by installing photovoltaics on his roof for the production of electricity, with favourable incentives and simple procedures.
 DEH implementing environmental investments in 13 big regionsThe Public Power Corporation (DEH) and its subsidiary DEH Renewables have already started implementing environmental investments amounting to 7,195 million euros in 13 big regions in the country, which will be carried out over the 2009-2014 period.
According to an announcement, these investments concern the construction of new units for the production of electric power and Renewable Energy Sources projects, whose implementation will yield many benefits for the national economy, consumers and the environment.
 Piraeus Bank sells 500-mln-euro 2-year bondPiraeus Bank on Thursday announced the successful completion of a two-year bond worth 500 million euros as part of an EMTN (Euro Medium Term Note) aimed to raise medium- to long-term capital. Piraeus Group Finance Plc was the issuer of the bond.
A bank statement said the international investment community welcomed its bond issue, with a book building surpassing 1.25 billion euros (2.5 times oversubscribed). A total of 96 investors from 15 countries participated in the bond offer, with 60 pct offered to international institutional investors. Piraeus Bank said its two-year bond carries a 4.50 pct coupon and will be listed in the Luxembourg Stock Exchange. Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Merrill Lynch were underwriters of the issue.
 EFAMA AGM in AthensAthens will host the annual general meeting of the European Fund and Asset Management Association (EFAMA), a group that includes Greece's Association of Institutional Investors.
The includes 26 national associations and 44 asset management groups, with portfolios totaling 11 trillion euros, of which more than 6.0 trillion euros were managed by 54,000 mutual funds.
The general assembly, to be held June 19-20, will bring together to management executives from Allianz Global Investors, Invesco, Credit Agricole Asset Management, Schroders Plc, BNP Investment, Union Asset Management, F&C, DWS Investments, Robeco, etc.
The general assembly will elect a new president for a two-year term.
Aris Xenofos, the president of the Greek Institutional Investors Association, said hosting of this significant event in Greece underlined the Association's dynamic role in asset management in the country and in the wider New Europe region.
 Greek economic sentiment index recovered in MayGreece's economic sentiment index recovered to 49.2 points in May, after several months of decline, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.
IOBE, in a monthly report, said the retail and services sectors were less pessimistic over their outlook, while the manufacturing sector also recorded a new slight improvement, construction sector worsened and consumer confidence was unchanged at April's levels.
The report said that the economic sentiment index has reached its lowest level in the two-month period from April to May, although it noted it was still difficult to say that this development signalled the course of a recovery.
The manufacturing sector reported a marginal improvement in inventories and a marked recovery in production forecasts, although expectations for demand and new orders fell slightly.
Business expectations in the services sector showed an improvement in demand and business activities, although expectations of the current trend of demand worsened slightly.
In the retail sector, expectations improved significantly, for demand and current sales, while inventory levels fell significantly.
In the construction sector, business expectations worsened in May, while consumer confidence was unchanged at April's levels.
 GDP up 0.3pct yr/yr in Q1 2009Greece's GDP grew by 0.3 percent in the first quarter of 2009 year/on/year against the corresponding quarter in 2008, although it posted a 1.2 percent decrease against the preceding quarter (4th quarter 2008), according to figures released on Thursday by the national statistics service ESYE.
Also, net Fixed Capital investments fell by 6.3 percent in first-quarter 2009 against the same quarter last year, attributed to a 30 percent reduction in transport equipment, a 19.8 percent reduction in housing, and a 23.4 percent reduction in mechanical equipment, despite a 35.5 percent increase in sundry constructions that was spurred mainly by an increase in the expenditures of the Public Investments Program.
Further, overall consumer expenditure rose by 1.0 percent in the first quarter of the year over the corresponding quarter in 2008, attributed chiefly to a 6.1 percent increase in public consumption, while private consumption posted a marginal decline of 0.1 percent.
Finally, imports fell by 16.8 percent in the first quarter of 2009 against Q1 2008, while exports dropped by 20.2 percent in the same comparison.
 Tourist arrivals at Rhodes airport increase marginally 0.73 pc in MayTourist arrivals at Diagoras airport on the Dedecannese island of Rhodes increased marginally by 0.73 percent in May, compared to the corresponding month last year.
According to data announced by the Civil Aviation Service, 167,986 tourists arrived with charter flights in May, as against 166,769 last year.
Arrivals of tourists from the traditional markets of Germany and Britain were visibly less, however a considerable increase of visitors from France and the Scandinavian countries was registered.
According to assessments by the President of the Rhodes Hoteliers Union, Vassilis Minaidis, expressed during the general assembly of the island's hoteliers, the decrease at revenues level will amount to 20 percent, a development that is causing concern among the island's businessmen.
 Direct railway link with Russia, UkraineHellenic Rail (OSE) has announced the operation of a weekly direct route linking Greece with Ukraine and Russia, which is set to begin next week and that will operate throughout the summer.
The itinerary Kiev - Thessaloniki - Kiev will begin on Wednesday 10 June and the return route will take place every Friday, beginning from June 12.
The route Moscow - Thessaloniki - Moscow will commence on Friday 12 June and the return route will run every Monday, beginning June 15.
The last route will take place on Sept. 21.
 Foreign investors' participation in ASE up in MayForeign investors raised their participation at the Athens Stock Exchange to 48.7 percent in May, up from 47.2 pct in April, although foreign investors recorded net outflows totaling 65.89 million euros in the month. Greek investors recorded a net inflow of 86.41 million euros in the market.
Foreign investors accounted for 40.9 pct of total trading activity in the Greek market in May, down from 47.1 pct in April and 69.3 pct in May 2008. Greek investors accounted for 58.3 pct of activity (42.2 pct private investors, 14.2 pct private financial companies and 1.8 pct non financial companies).
Turnover grew 41.7 pct in May from April to 5.2 billion euros, although it was down 51 pct compared with May 2008. Daily average turnover in May was 260.6 million euros, from 204.4 million in April and 505.3 million euros in May 2008.
The number of active investors' codes grew to 84,439 in May from 68,357 in April. The market's capitalization totaled 87.2 billion euros in May 29, 2009, up from 75.7 billion euros a month earlier, but sharply down from 153.4 billion euros in May 2008.
 Stocks end 2.90% downGreek stocks ended significantly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, hit by a wave of profit taking. The composite index dropped 2.90 pct to end at 2,338.90 points, with turnover at 268.3 million euros of which 13.6 million euros were block trades.
All sectors moved lower with the Technology (5.13 pct), Health (5.01 pct), Insurance (4.86 pct), Raw Materials (4.21 pct) and Banks (4.20 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index dropped 3.31 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.86 pct down and the FTSE 80 index fell 2.28 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 176 to 62 with another 30 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.40%
Personal & Household: -0.01%
Raw Materials: -4.21%
Travel & Leisure: -4.16%
Food & Beverages: -1.06%
Financial Services: -2.69%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Bank of Cypus and Bank of Piraeus.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 8.45
Public Power Corp (PPC): 16.50
HBC Coca Cola: 15.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.57
National Bank of Greece: 19.20
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.29
Bank of Piraeus: 7.49
Titan Cement Company: 20.10
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of -0.66 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 91.026 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 11,225 contracts worth 68.462 million euros, with 27,849 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 25,688 contracts worth 22.564 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Cyprus Bank's contracts (5,248), followed by Eurobank (1,183), OTE (3,514), Piraeus Bank (2,875), National Bank (3,910), Alpha Bank (1,220), Marfin Popular Bank (2,244) and GEK (1,054).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market jumped to 1.340 billion euros on Thursday, of which 429 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 911 million euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 649 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 192 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.56 pct and the German Bund 3.64 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.62 pct, the six-month rate 1.45 pct, the three-month rate 1.26 pct and the one-month rate 0.92 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.420
Pound sterling 0.875
Danish kroner 7.507
Swedish kroner 10.898
Japanese yen 137.41
Swiss franc 1.524
Norwegian kroner 8.976
Canadian dollar 1.582
Australian dollar 1.787
 DM attends war musuem reopening in HaniaThe fully renovated war museum in Hania, Crete, was formally inaugurated on Thursday by Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, National Defense General Staff Chief Gen. Dimitris Grapsas and the honorary president of ruling New Democracy (ND) party and former PM Constantinos Mitsotakis.
Earlier, Meimarakis attended the unveiling of a bust of Lt.-Gen. Emmanuel Kelaidis who served as Air Force Chief in 1950-1955.
The minister also laid a wreath at the statue of 1st Lt. Costas Iliakis, who was killed when his fighter jet crashed during the interception of a Turkish aircraft over a sea region near the southeastern Aegean island of Karpathos on May 23, 2006.
 Fighter plane crashes, pilot ejects to safetyAn Airforce F-16 fighter plane crashed on Thursday morning near Ioannina, northwestern Greece, while on a training flight, but its pilot managed to eject to safety.
According to an Airforce General Staff (GEA) announcement later, the F-16 was on a training flight near the area of Ioannina when it crashed at 10:33 a.m. Thursday.
The pilot successfully used thae automatic ejection system and ejected to safety.
The announcement said that the pilot was in contact with another jetfighter in the area, adding that a Super Puma helicopter was on the way to pick up the downed pilot and transport him to the closest hospital.
 Deputy FM addresses letter to Venezuelan counterpart over 'Astro Saturn' issueDeputy Foreign Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis, following the protest demarche delivered to the ambassador of Venezuela in Athens Rodrigo Chavez on March 27, 2009, regarding the conditions of detention for the captain and first mate of the tanker "Astro Saturn" in the city of Puerto La Cruz, has sent a letter to the Deputy Foreign Minister of Venezuela Alejandro Fleming Cabrera.
In his letter, Varvitsiotis requests a fair and speedy adjudication of the issue and reiterates the appeal for an improvement in the two seamen's detention conditions.
 Minister receives Arsakeio Tirana pupilsEducation Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos received at his office on Thursday a group of visiting elementary pupils from the Arsakeio School of Tirana, Albania.
Spiliotopoulos commented afterwards that bridges of substantive cooperation with neighboring countries, like Albania, can be built only through culture and education.
"This bilingual school has helped upgrade education in Albania while, at the same time, allowing the creation of communication channels, forging relations of mutual cooperation and understanding," he stressed.
 Alexandria Patriarch praises Obama speech in EgyptCAIRO (ANA-MPA - N. Katsikas)
Alexandria and All Africa Patriarch Theodoros II on Thursday praised the message of reconciliation sent to Muslims and Arabs by U.S. President Barack Obama during his speech at Cairo University earlier that day, stressing that the Alexandria Patriarchate supported every initiative promoting the harmonious coexistence of Christians and Muslims.
Patriarch Theodoros had attended the speech given by Obama at the invitation of the Egyptian presidency, briefly interrupting a tour that he had begun last week in Nairobi, Kenya for the purpose.
On the sidelines of the event, he exchanged a cordial handshake with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
 Ieronymos condolences for Air France crashArchbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece has sent a telegram to the French ambassador to Athens Thursday offering his condolences regarding this week's Air France tragedy over the Atlantic.
The Archbishop expressed his condolences to the families and relatives of the 73 French citizens on board the Air France Airbus 330, which crashed while crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
 Fire-bomb attack on police station in MelissiaA group of about 10 people threw home-made fire bombs (molotov cocktails) at a police station in the northern Athens suburb of Melissia late Wednesday night, causing extensive damage to six police cars.
The group was repulsed by the police station's guard, who fired shots in the air, while the duty officer threw two non-lethal grenades (emitting sound and light).
The perpetrators approached the police station from the rear side of the building and threw several molotov cocktails, damaging three police patrol cars, two security police vehicles, and a private car belonging to a policeman, two of which vehicles were completely detroyed.
The station guard fired in the air and the duty officer threw two non-lethal grenades, and the perpetrators fled, scattering in different directions, some on foot and others on motorcycles.
The police counter-terrorism squad was investigating the incident.
 Woman bank robber strikes againPolice on Thursday reported a second bank robbery carried out by a woman in recent months, this time at a branch of Agricultural Bank of Greece in Nea Erithrea, northern Athens.
Witnesses said a woman in a white skirt and top and large black sunglasses had approached the teller at around 2:30 on Thursday afternoon, holding a handbag. She told the teller that she had a gun in her handbag and threatened to shoot unless he gave her all the money in the till. As soon as he had handed over 2,500 euros, she grabbed the money and ran out.
Police said this was the second armed robbery involving a woman in roughly a month, after the woman who struck at a Eurobank branch in the Athens suburb of Halandri. During that robbery, however, the woman had not spoken at all and simply handed the teller a note saying that she had a gun and demanding money.
Investigating officers have not ruled out the possibility that the same individual was involved in both cases.
 Jewish cemetery desecration decriedUnidentified individuals desecrated a Jewish cemetery in Frontzos district in the northwestern city of Ioannina, prompting the strong reaction of the Central Jewish Council of Greece.
In response to the desecration, reportedly occurring at dawn on Wednesday, the council has issued a statement calling on "responsible authorities to take all necessary measures to avert similar incidents of violence and destruction and arrest those responsible as soon as possible."
 Loreena McKennitt tour postponedCanadian singer Loreena McKennitt has postponed a tour that included three dates in Greece later this month, due to a sudden deterioration in her mother's health.
McKennitt's tour would have begun in Morocco on June 6, with performances in the ancient odeon in Patras on June 9, followed by an appearance at the Theatre Vrachon on Mount Hymettus in Athens on June 10 and a concert a the Lazariston Monastery in Thessaloniki on June 11.
Organisers will put out an announcement on June 15 to say whether the tickets sold in advance will be refunded or be valid for performances by the same artist in the near future.
 Arsonists target banksArsonists attacked three banks throughout greater Athens in the first hours of Thursday, causing minor material damage.
The attacks, which occurred between 1:03 and 1:25 a.m., targeted a Millennium Bank in Paleo Faliro, an Alpha Bank branch in Maroussi, and an Aspis Bank branch in Halandri.
The arsonists used home-made incendiary devices comprising small propane canisters in all three incidents.
 Fair on FridayFair weather, and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 2-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 11C and 31C. Fair in Athens, with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 17C to 31C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 17C to 28C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceRapid developments in the Siemens case and the party leaders' election campaigns ahead of Sunday's European Parliament elections dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
APOGEVMATINI: "Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' supporters stayed to listen to his speech in Thessaloniki under the pouring rain".
AVGHI: "The absolute disgrace- Karamanlis and main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou dispute each other's honesty and set up a bogus pre-electoral bogus clash to win over the votes of the undecided".
AVRIANI: "Silence in PASOK over party spokesman and Europarliament candidate George Papaconstantinou's alleged involvement in SIEMENS case".
CHORA: "Mr. Papandreou, who are your friends? - ND's merciless questions point at PASOK cadres' implication in Siemens scandal".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Despite the Prime Minister's efforts to narrow the difference from PASOK, former SIEMENS executive Christos Karavelas is turning his efforts to ashes".
ELEFTHEROS: "Defence Minister Vangelis Meimarakis to newspaper: PASOK must give explanations on its involvement in the SIEMENS case".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The elections a 'court' on the SIEMENS case".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis assumed responsibility over the Karavelas case (former Siemens Hellas executive facing charges in the scandal, who has fled the country), attempting to cover the oligory phenomena."
ESTIA: "Chaos with the voters' catalogues - Plasmatic number of voters".
ETHNOS: "At last ....justice has been attributed!! - Siemens' sins visited on a girl's back", referring to the imprisonment, pending trial, of Karavelas' 26-year-old daughter.
KATHIMERINI: "Political arena under SIEMENS shadow".
LOGOS: "New stumbling block in investigations into Siemens case".
NIKI: "The clash over Siemens reaches the extremes".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Call for a powerful Communist Party and working class struggle against monopolies".
TA NEA: "Coup d'etat with the seal of Maximos (Mansion, the government headquarters) - Government's spokesman Evangelos Antonaros had preannounced the incarcerations in the Siemens case".
TO VIMA: "Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will be the scapegoat if New Democracy loses the first place in the Euroelections
VRADYNI: "Euroelections under a Siemens shadow - Rapid development with incarcerations and arrest warrants".
 Pre-election period in Cyprus expiresNICOSIA (CNA)
The pre-election period in Cyprus in view of the European elections, to take place on June 6 on the island, ended at midnight on Thursday.
A total of 526,060 registered voters are called to elect the six MEPs from Cyprus. The number of voters includes 6,458 community citizens living in Cyprus, as well as 9,628 Cypriots who will be voting abroad. A total of 1,126 polling stations will be set up, including 34 abroad.
Speaking at a press conference, Chief Returning Officer Lazaros Savvides said the number of voters is the highest ever registered in any elections in the Republic, noting that there is now a 9% increase in the number of voters, compared with the European elections of 2004, with the number of Turkish Cypriots having doubled and the number of EU citizens voting in Cyprus having tripled compared with the 2004 figures.
Referring to the registered voters by category and district, Savvides said in Nicosia there were 209,392 registered voters, of which 207,225 are Greek Cypriots, 571 Turkish Cypriots and 1,596 EU citizens, Famagusta 28,616, of which 27,865 Greek Cypriots, 261 Turkish Cypriots and 490 EU citizens, Larnaca 86,764, of which 85,721 Greek Cypriots, 90 Turkish Cypriots and 953 EU citizens, Limassol 144,367, of which 143,017 Greek Cypriots, 274 Turkish Cypriots and 1.076 EU citizens, and Paphos 47,293, of which 44,842 Greek Cypriots, 108 Turkish Cypriots and 2.343 EU citizens, while 9,627 Greek Cypriots and one Turkish Cypriot will be voting abroad.
Furthermore, 410 polling stations will operate in Nicosia, plus two special polling stations, one for the enclaved and one for the prisoners, 320 in Limassol, 50 in the free areas of Famagusta, 179 in Larnaca, 131 in Paphos and 34 abroad.
The Turkish Cypriots living in the government controlled areas of Cyprus, as well as the EU citizens in Cyprus, will be voting at the same polling stations as the Greek Cypriots, depending on the area they reside in on the island.
For voting procedures abroad, a total of 166 officers will work at the polling stations, of which 45 are embassy staff and 121 specially trained personnel from Cyprus.
In Cyprus, around 10,000 civil servants and police officers will be working to cover all phases of the voting procedure.
Polling stations will open at 0600 local time (0300 GMT) and close at 2000 local time, with a one-hour break from 1200 to 1300. Polling stations abroad for Cypriot voters will be synchronised to close at the same time as those on the island.
The counting of ballot papers will be carried out at the polling stations, as soon as they close, and results will be announced on June 7, late at night, when the last polling station in the EU closes.
The six successful candidates from Cyprus will be proclaimed MEPs at the International Fair grounds in Nicosia, soon after the announcement of the results.
The cost of the European elections in Cyprus is expected to exceed the budget, which was for 4.5 million EUR, since the calculations had been made before the decision to operate polling stations for Cypriots abroad.
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