|Monday, 19 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-06-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 26 June 2009 Issue No: 3229
 Gov't unveils 1.9-bln-euro package of tax measuresGreek Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou on Thursday unveiled a package of tax measures that aim to boost state revenues by 1.9 billion euros. Presenting the package, the Greek minister said that the measures, although not pleasant, were necessary and fairly distributed throughout society.
The measures include the imposition of registration duties on boats with a length exceeding 10 meters and a one-off tax for owners of leisure craft (the measure is expected to raise around 60-70 million euros).
The government will also impose an annual special tax on cars with a high-cylinder engine (raising 80 million euros), raise a special consumption tax for fuels (exempting heating oil), impose a 10 pct duty on pre-paid mobile telephony (raising 140 million euros), abolish a tax-free allowance for lottery tickets (raising 180 million euros), impose a special tax on buildings that violate the terms of construction permits by enclosing spaces originally designated as balconies (raising 1.15 billion euros) and cutting international developmental aid by 120 million euros.
Papathanasiou said the government remains committed to the goals of reducing the fiscal deficit to 3.7 pct of GDP this year, creating initial conditions for limiting public debt and preserving the credibility of the Greek economy. The Greek minister added that a battle to combat tax evasion and cutting public spending would continue.
 Interministerial committee convenes on economyThe Interministerial Committee on the economy, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, convened on Thursday at the Maximos mansion (government headquarters).
After the meeting, Economy and Finance Minister Yannis Papathanassiou said to the press that they discussed measures to be taken to combat the economic crisis.
Papathanassiou, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis were present at the meeting.
 Government continuing to take contradictory measures, PASOK official saysMain opposition PASOK party political representative for economic affairs Louka Katseli, commenting on Thursday on the new measures announced by the finance and economy minister, said that the government "is continuing relentlessly to take mistaken short-term and contradictory measures to cover the 'holes' that the minister himself was obliged to admit after an unjustified delay."
"The government is not hesitating, for purely monetary reassons, to supposedly 'arrange' semi-outdoor premises, undermining even more the reliability of the state and deceiving the citizens who will be called on to pay a new tax for the second time, without substantive safeguarding," she said.
Katseli further said "the new tax raid, through an increase once again of indirect taxes, is sending the bill to working people and to young people again, who are the main users of card mobile phones," adding that "this policy is a recipe for failure and deepens the vicious circle of recession and of monetary deviation."
 Greece looks forward to its multilevel cooperation with Russia, FM Bakoyannis saysMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, speaking in an interview Thursday with the Russian ITAR-TASS news agency, stressed that Greece is looking forward with great interest to its multilevel cooperation with Russia, it attributes strategic importance to Greek-Russian relations and believes in a unified, undivided and peaceful Europe, without dividing lines and without exclusions.
Speaking in light of this weekeend's Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Corfu meeting, Bakoyannis underlined that "the Greek OSCE Presidency expressed from the very first moment its readiness to promote the dialogue on European Security, within the Organisation's framework, which constitutes the exclusive paneuropean dialogue forum," since "Greece believes in a unified, undivided and peaceful Europe, without dividing lines and without exclusions, and it equally believes in dialogue as a means for resolving differences and for the restoration of a climate of trust."
Referring to Greek-Russian cooperation, the foreign minister termed the two countries' political relations excellent and expressed the Greek side's appreciation for the Russian stance on the issue of Cyprus, as well as for good cooperation between Moscow and Athens in international fora, while noting that "in the economic sector, our relations have been characterised over the recent period by special mobility and are presenting interesting prospects despite the international economic crisis," adding that "we are attributing particular emphasis to our cooperation in the energy sector, which includes important projects that have been selected with the sole criterion of national interest, as well as the energy security of Europe in its entirety."
Speaking to ITAR-TASS's correspondent on existing energy plans, Bakoyannis said that with regard to the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline, its construction "constitutes a top priority project for the Greek government and one of special importance for the wider region."
She assessed that the project is proceeding in accordance with the timetable, since "the law on expropriations on Greek territory is expected to be prepared by the end of the year and agreements will be signed for the pipeline's passing between the joint venture of companies that has undertaken the construction and the two stipulating countries, from where the pipeline will be crossing" and that is expected to function "around the end of 2011."
Focusing on the South Stream natural gas pipeline, which will be passing through Greece, Bulgaria and ending in Italy, Bakoyannis noted that Greece is closely watching developments regarding its construction plan and, following the creation of a joint company that will build the pipeline's Greek section, the expediency plan is expected within the current year.
"The construction of the South Stream pipeline, particularly after the decision on doubling its capacity, is a project of great importance for the European energy market. Combined with the North Stream (Russia-Germany) pipeline they will contribute decisively to strengthening energy security in Europe, in the framework of our declared policy on the diversification of energy sources and corridors on our continent," Bakoyannis added.
Commenting on the upcoming first foreign ministers session of the NATO-Russia Council in Corfu, following last year's crisis in Georgia, Bakoyannis stressed that its main goal is restoring a climate of trust and transparency between the two sides and strengthening political dialogue and practical cooperation, while underlining that "Greece has always been a defender of cooperation between NATO-Russia and, consequently, we are in favour of the full activation once again of all the works of the NATO-Russia Council, on an equal basis, given Russia's special weight in the international security system as well."
Lastly, replying to a question on the proposal made by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on a new security architecture in Europe, Bakoyannis said that "Greece hailed the proposal by President Medvedev from the very beginning as being an invitation for dialogue on security problems, both old and new, that Europe is facing. Twenty years after the end of the Cold War we have taken great steps, but we must all acknowledge with sincerity that many things have yet to be done. Consequently, the proposal by President Medvedev constitutes an opportunity for substantive dialogue on security in Europe. The Greek OSCE Presidency embraced it from the very beginning."
 Papandreou on policy for economic recoveryGetting the country back into a "growth trajectory" was the challenge facing PASOK, the main opposition party's leader George Papandreou stressed on Thursday. He was addressing a meeting of PASOK's working group for the economy, during which he presented the four main policy directions of the effort for recovery.
Papandreou also referred to an anticipated introduction of new taxes to raise state revenues, noting that this was "the easy choice for a government that has no reform plan, not even a plan for restructuring the production sector of the economy".
He pointed out that PASOK had warned people about the imminent new taxes before the European Parliament elections and had asked the government to tell voters exactly what was in store for them.
According to PASOK's president, an additional tax burden for middle and low incomes during a period of recession would prove catastrophic for the economy and extremely difficult for the average Greek family.
"The fact that Greece has entered a trajectory of recession and fiscal irregularity is confirmed by both the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and by the European Commission," he said, accusing the government of lacking any serious plan for the country's recovery.
Papandreou also blamed the government for Greece's present plight, saying it was a result of mistaken policies, and for failing to take any measures to support the economy as other countries had done.
According to PASOK's president, economic recovery would need a four-angled approach that included measures to deal with the country's economic shortfall through the funding and restructuring of production infrastructure to create a new economy spearheaded by "green" development; measures to boost the reliability of economic policy and reduce the cost of funding productive investments; imposing rules of transparency, participation and joint responsibility; and a serious fiscal reform with radical changes to the method for drawing up the budget.
 Parliament passes amendment on illegal migrationAn amendment on illegal migration that renders all offences related to people trafficking as felonies was passed Wednesday night in parliament in the first summer recess session.
The amendment was passed with the votes of the ruling New Democracy (ND) and opposition Popular Orthodox Struggle (LAOS) MPs sitting in on the first recess session.
The bill upgrades to felony status all offences concerning the trafficking of illegal migrants and other amendments to the existing legislation on illegal migration.
Addressing the debate before the vote, justice minister Nikos Dendias stressed the need for consensus ontackling the problem of illegal migration, while the ruling party and main opposition PASOK crossed swords over who was respnsible for the aggravation of the problem and on their respective migration policies.
 DM Meimarakis on major problem of illegal immigrationISTANBUL (ANA-MPA)
Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis addressed the 26th International Work Meeting on global security on Thursday, which is taking place here on the issue of "global security in the era of economic uncertainty", referring to the major problem of illegal immigration.
"The wave of illegal immigrants constitutes a potential threat for most of the developed societies of the West, with consequences that are social, economic and political," the minister said.
Meimarakis stressed that Greece receives about 150,000 illegal immigrants a year. The majority of them comes from Pakistan and Iraq, while "from Afghanistan alone we are hosting 46,000 illegal economic immigrants at the moment."
He underlined that Greece and the European Union are looking forward to effective cooperation by Turkey in handling the problem of illegal immigration.
Meimarakis also met with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos.
 EPP Group Study Days in Athens from June 29BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Spinthourakis)
European People's Party (EPP) MEPs will attend a Group Study Days meeting in Athens from June 29 until July 2, at the Astir Palace Hotel. Analysis of the European election results, the forthcoming challenges of the newly-elected European Parliament, the political priorities of the Swedish Council Presidency and the strengthening of relations with the national parliaments will be the main focus of the EPP Group Study Days.
According to an EPP announcement issued on Thursday, the priorities of the EPP Group, the largest in the European Parliament, will be the immediate adoption of the Lisbon Treaty to ensure the smooth functioning of the European institutions; the reform of the financial markets to avoid a new crisis; climate change, ahead of the Copenhagen conference in December; and improving the security of European citizens.
The visiting MEPs will be welcomed by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas. The meeting will also be addressed by the outgoing head of the Greek Delegation in the EPP Group Ioannis Varvitsiotis and his successor Marietta Giannakou, who has been elected for the third time since 1984.
The re-elected Group Chairman, Joseph Daul, EPP President, Wilfried Martens, along with EPP Group Vice-Chairmen Jaime Mayor Oreja and Othmar Karas and the Heads of National Delegations, will be first to analyse the results of the European elections.
Prominent Greek government figures will attend the meeting, including Foreign Affairs Minister Dora Bakoyanni, Minister for the Economy Yannis Papathanassiou and Minister of the Interior Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
Hans-Gert Poettering, European Parliament President, Josť Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Commissioners Vivian Reding, Stavros Dimas and Jacques Barrot will give keynote speeches.
A press conference will take place at the beginning of the meeting in the Astir Palace Resort Room Cosmos in the Westin Hotel at 14.30 hrs.
 10 Siemens case defendants to testify next week; Tsoukatos on July 1Ten defendants in the Siemens kickbacks and bribery case will testify before a special examining magistrate next week, following a request by their attorneys.
According to the indictment, the defendants are accused of complicity to commit bribery and money-laundering.
Former main opposition PASOK MP and one-time high-ranking cadre Theodoros Tsoukatos will testify on Wednesday. The examining magistrate is also considering issuing a subpoena for two past treasurers of PASOK -- dating from 1999 -- following Tsoukatos' allegation that he received one million deutschmarks from Siemens Hellas as a "campaign contribution" towards the ruling party.
Meanwhile, First Instance Court prosecutor Leonidas Nikolopoulos has suggested to the Council of First Instance Court Judges to rule in favor of the release of a 300,000-euro bail for the daughter of fugitive Christos Karavelas, a former Siemens Hellas executive.
The charges against her for complicity in money-laundering are based on the fact that her father transferred large sums of money into joint accounts held jointly in his daughters' names from his own account in Switzerland.
 Siemens Hellas former exec arrested in GermanySiemens Hellas former CEO Michalis Christoforakos, a fugitive from justice who is wanted in Greece in a high-profile bribery and money-laundering case, has been arrested in Germany by the German judicial authorities, it was announced on Thursday.
Athens special examining magistrate Nikos Zagorianos, who is investigating the Siemens kickbacks scandal, had issued an international arrest warrant for Christoforakos on May 21 after the latter failed to show up for testimony claiming, through his lawyer, that health reasons did not allow him to travel from Munich to Athens.
Christoforakos has German nationality and a German passport.
 Government, PASOK on Christoforakos arrestGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Thursday that initial information he has regarding the arrest in Germany of former Siemens Hellas CEO Michalis Christoforakos was unofficial.
Christoforakos is a fugitive from justice who is wanted in Greece in a high-profile bribery and money-laundering case and was been arrested in Germany by the German judicial authorities.
"The Greek government has expressed in the most clear way that, just like in all cases and in this case as well, it is interested in its full and in-depth clarification," Antonaros said, adding that "the government has done all that is allowed, what is required to enable independent Greek justice to probe the case in depth" and clarifying that an international arrest warrant has been issued.
Commenting on the same issue, main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou said that "German Justice has done what the Greek one did not do" and expressed the hope that Christoforakos "will come to Greece for the truth to become known," while recalling the proposals made by PASOK for the creation of a Factfinding Committee on Siemens, which the government had rejected.
 Parents of jailed Greek reporter in Iran call for his releaseThe parents of a Greek journalist arrested in Iran recently in the wake of street violence linked with the presidential election in the Mideast country have issued a public appeal for his release.
"Our son, Iason Athanasiadis, has been detained in Iran while working as a journalist, and the Greek foreign ministry has been making efforts to secure his release, for which we are deeply grateful. Iason is a dedicated reporter, photographer and filmmaker who grew up in Greece and regards himself as Greek," a statement by Athanasiadis' parents, Polymnia and Georgios, read.
"Iason has always maintained his integrity as an independent journalist who sells articles, photographs and film to outlets in many parts of the world. His work serves no purpose other than the fair and humane coverage of life in the many countries where he has worked," the statement added, emphasising the fact that Athanasiadis is only a Greek citizen, contrary to press claims by some media referring to him as either a British or US dual national.
Both parents also noted that the prolific Greek journalist also retains a "particular love of Iran, and a deep respect for its cultural and religious traditions".
 Greece revises down 2009 GDP forecastGreek Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou on Thursday revised downwards forecasts for economic growth this year to zero, from an initial forecast for a growth rate of 1.1 pct and said the Greek economy would begin recovering by the end of 2009, returning to positive growth rates in 2010.
Presenting a package of tax measures aimed at boosting state revenues by 1.9 billion euros this year, the Greek minister said state revenue losses would total 2.6 billion euros, or 1.1 pct of GDP, in 2009, compared with provisions in a Stability and Growth Program. Adding to this sum is another 0.9 billion euros, or 0.4 pct of GDP, of extra spending aimed to offer support to weaker classes, a restructuring plan for Olympic Airlines and payment of money owed to local authorities.
Papathanasiou said the government's updated Stability and Growth Program already included measures to raise 1.2 billion euros in state proceeds and said an additional 2.3 billion euros in state proceeds were needed to bring the country's fiscal deficit to 3.7 pct of GDP this year.
 Focus on Greece-China tradeThe 10th Greek-Chinese joint inter-ministerial committee convened Thursday with the participation of Deputy Foreign Minister Militiades Varvitsiotis and Chinese Deputy Minister for Commerce Jiang Zengwei, focusing on bilateral economic and trade relations.
Varvitsiotis referred to the difficulties faced by the Greek farm exports, pointing out that "the removal of trade barriers and the simplification of import procedures for agricultural produce would give Chinese consumers the possibility to gain access to internationally renowned and high-quality Greek farm products."
He also raised commercial transactions issues focusing on the protection of industrial property, country-of-manufacture labelling, and trademarks of Greek enterprises active in China, noting that "we are looking forward to the active contribution of competent state authorities in China."
Varvitsiotis underlined that "while the bilateral institutional framework is constantly growing stronger, bilateral economic cooperation does not reflect the true potential of the two countries. Specifically, in 2008 PRC was in 4th place in terms of imports into Greece, but ranks 32nd as a destination for Greek exports.
The bilateral volume of trade has increased steadily in recent years, reaching 5.03 billion USD in 2008. However, this steady increase is due mainly to imports from China (4.8 billion USD in 2008), while Greek exports to China in 2008 totalled only 153 million USD.
"The development of commercial transactions between the two countries - with Greece's trade deficit with China increasing fast - is an issue that needs to be addressed by both sides, given that it bears directly on the course of our commercial relations," the Greek minister said.
He also underlined that "the most significant Chinese investment is undoubtedly the agreement signed between Cosco and the Piraeus Port Authority for development and exploitation of the Piraeus container terminal."
Additionally, the Greek side thanked the Chinese government for its stance regarding the participation of fYRoM in the 2010 Shanghai World Fair, while the Chinese official confirmed that his government supports UN mediation efforts and will adopt a mutually acceptable solution that will result.
Following a working luncheon hosted by Varvitsiotis the 16-member Chinese delegation visited the New Acropolis Museum.
 Greek-Italian joint venture to construct electric power production plantAn agreement on the construction of an electric power production plant by a Greek-Italian joint venture was signed in Damascus on Thursday, on the sidelines of Greek President Karolos Papoulias's official visit to Syria.
The agreement was signed by the joint venture of the Greek METKA company and the Italian Ansaldo Energia group and Syria's public electricity corporation and anticipates the construction, in 26 months, of a plant having a capacity of 800 megawatts that will operate with natural gas and whose total cost will amount to 650 million euros.
A forum between Greek and Syrian businessmen was held in Damascus on Thursday, in the framework of the visit, with Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis being the main speaker.
The discussions revealed the Syrian side's great interest in investments by Greeks in the sectors of construction, road transportation, energy and tourism.
 Emporiki Bank unveils new business planEmporiki Bank on Thursday unveiled a new business plan aimed at improving its productivity and adapting its cost base to a new economic environment.
The plan, covering the period 2009-2011, sets as main targets the stabilization and management of current conditions, restoring margins, reducing cost base, limiting exposure to risks and creating the necessary structures for a successful performance in the future. Under the plan, Emporiki Bank will cut its general and administrative expenses by around 21 pct by 2011, restructure and relocation of branch networks -including closing branches in non profitable areas, or located in areas with oversupply of branches. A total of 57 branches will be closed and another 33 will be relocated, while 22 new units were expected to open in new areas. The management will also seek to renegotiat leasing contracts for its units and re-examine a sale and lease back program.
The plan also envisages the concentration of all central services in one building in central Athens, continuing a voluntary retirement program for around 1,500 workers in the next three years, modernizing a procedure of evaluating credit worthiness. Emporiki Bank also seeks to revise its human resources management.
Commenting on the plan, Alain Strub, Emporiki Bank's vice-chairman and chief executive, said Credit Agricole SA was committed both towards Emporiki Bank and the Greek banking market and noted that the plan would allow the bank to become profitable by 2011.
 Economic crisis necessitates more effective training policies, Employment minister saysEmployment and Social Solidarity Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, speaking on Thursday at an event on the beginning of a programme titled "Training of cadres of public enterprises and organisations" of the Professional Training SA company, said that the restructuring of production and employment has led to speedy growth and the reassessment of policies on professional education and training.
"The current economic crisis necessitates today, more than ever, effective and flexible training policies to enable human potential to be equipped with knowledge, capabilities and skills that will make it capable of handling the rapid developments," she said.
The minister also stressed that the training programme has scientific contribution from the Athens Economic University, cooperation with the public utilities Special Secretariat and joint funding from the European Social Fund.
 EIB funding for Port of PiraeusAn agreement to finance the construction of the new Pier 1 at the port of Piraeus was signed on Thursday by European Investment Bank (EIB) vice-president Plutarhos Sakellaris and officials of the Piraeus Port Authority.
Merchant Marine & Island Policy Minister Anastasis Papaligouras was also on hand for the signing ceremony.
The agreement envisages a loan of 55 million euros for the completion of the project as well as the procurement and supply equipment. A previous EIB contract funneled 35 million euros to the Piraeus Port Authority for a project to increase volume at the container port in Pier 2.
 Hellenic Telecoms to pay 0.75 euros per share dividendA Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation's general shareholders' meeting on Wednesday approved a board plan to pay a 0.75 euros per share dividend to shareholders and elected a new 10-member board council with a three-year term.
The shareholders' meeting, represented by 58.89 pct of shareholders, elected Panagis Vourloumis as chairman and chief executive and Haralambos Dimitriou as vice-chairman -non executive member.
 Trade balance deficit posts 51.1pct decrease in April yr/yrGreece's trade balance deficit posted a hefty decrease of 51.1 percent year-on-year in April 2009 over the corresponding month last year, according to figures released on Thursday by the national statistics service ESYE.
More specifically, the trade balance deficit fell to 1,790.9 million euros in April 2009 from 3,661.6 million euros in April 2008, marking a 51.1 percent decrease. The trade balance reflects the difference between the overall value of exports-dispatches and the overall value of imports-arrivals.
According to ESYE, the overall value of imports-arrivals dropped by 41.6 percent to 2,992.9 million euros in April from 5,124.6 million euros in April 2008, while the overall value of exports-dispatches declined by 17.8 percent to 1,202 million euros in April from 1,463 million euros in April 2008.
Further, the overall value of imports-arrivals in the first quarter (Q1) of 2009 fell by 35.2 percent to 12,663 million euros from 19,488.7 million euros in Q1 2008, while the overall value of exports-dispatches in the first quarter of the year dropped by 17.4 percent to 4,518.7 million euros from 5,472.3 million euros in Q1 2008.
 Eurostat publishes GDP per inhabitant in PPS figuresBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)
The purchasing power of the people in Greece corresponded to 95 pct of the European average in 2008, according to Eurostat figures made public on Thursday as regards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per inhabitant expressed in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS).
Based on Eurostat figures, the purchasing power of the Italians corresponds to 100 pct of the average European, while the people of Spain (104 pct), France (107 pct) and Cyprus (95 pct) are also close to the European average.
The purchasing power in Portugal, Malta, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia ranges between 70 and 90 pct of the European average. The Estonians, Hungarians, Lithuanians and Polish are below 70 pct while the purchasing power of the Romanians corresponds to 46 pct of the European average compared to the Bulgarians' 40 pct.
The people of Luxemburg have the strongest purchasing power in the EU27 corresponding to 253 pct of the European average, followed by the Irish (140 pct) and the Dutch (135 pct). In Austria, Sweden, Denmark, UK, Finland, Germany and Belgium it ranges between 110 and 130 pct of the European average.
The purchasing power of the people of Turkey corresponds to 45 pct of the European average, FYROM (32 pct), Serbia (37 pct) and Albania (25 pct).
The GDP figures per inhabitant, expressed in PPS, published by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities, cover the 27 EU Member States, the three candidate countries, three EFTA Member States and four Western Balkan countries.
 Stocks end 1.0% downGreek stocks ended lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday. The composite index fell 1.0 pct to end at 2,177.03 points, with turnover at 159.8 million euros, of which 8.2 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved down, with the Financial Services (3.95 pct), Health (3.34 pct) and Constructions (3.03 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Utilities (2.89 pct), Telecoms (2.32 pct) and Personal/Home Products (1.13 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index eased 1.58 pct, the FTSE 40 index was unchanged and the FTSE 80 index fell 1.16 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 137 to 71 with another 51 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.90%
Personal & Household: +1.13%
Raw Materials: -2.04%
Travel & Leisure: -0.61%
Food & Beverages: -0.59%
Financial Services: -3.95%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), National Bank, PPC and Hellenic Post Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 7.30
Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.92
HBC Coca Cola: 13.68
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.00
National Bank of Greece: 18.06
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.88
Bank of Piraeus: 6.84
Titan Cement Company: 18.87
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.99 percent in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 58.576 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,605 contracts, worth 46.444 million euros, with 23,291 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 13,114 contracts worth 12.132 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,701), followed by Eurobank (733), OTE (1,247), PPC (929), Alpha Bank (1,375), Marfin Popular Bank (971) and Hellenic Postbank (1,654).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 178 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with turnover also shrinking to 947 million euros of which 647 million were buy orders and the remaining 300 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 425 million euros. The Greek bond yielded 5.19 pct and the German Bund 3.44 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.53 pct, the six-month rate 1.35 pct, the three-month rate 1.14 pct and the one-month rate 0.82 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.405
Pound sterling 0.863
Danish kroner 7.505
Swedish kroner 11.160
Japanese yen 135.41
Swiss franc 1.543
Norwegian kroner 9.148
Canadian dollar 1.633
Australian dollar 1.762
 New flu cases in Greece reach 70, all mildThe number of new flu A(H1N1) cases in Greece have reached 70, the National Center for Health Operations (EKEPY) announced on Thursday, after three new incidents were confirmed earlier in the day.
The new cases concern a 14-year-old teenager and a 43-year-old woman, both Australian nationals who recently arrived in Greece from Australia, while the third concerns a 26-year-old man of Greek descent, who EKEPY said had been in close contact with an earlier confirmed case from the US.
Of the 70 total cases, 23 have been completely cured, while the remaining patients are undergoing treatment.
EKEPY further said that all cases diagnosed so far in Greece have been mild, and there was no cause for concern.
 Social rehabilitation event at OKANA officesOrganisation Against Drugs (OKANA) President George Fotinopoulos set high standards for the elimination of OKANA's waiting list during an event held on social rehabilitation at its offices on Thursday, in the presence of Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Fotinopoulos said that this goal concerns the 5,000 users who have joined the waiting lists until today, hoping to be included in a substitutes providing programme.
Referring to efforts that have been made in the Greek countryside, Fotinopoulos spoke of six new units that were created in 2008 and that absorbed 800 opium-substance users.
He added that another two units will be delivered by the end of the summer, in Iraklio on the island of Crete and in Mytilene, while stressing that waiting lists in regional units are expected to disappear in 2009, something that has already been achieved in Agrinio and Petra Olympou.
 Special Audit Service action against drug traffickingThe Special Audit Service (YPEE), in a statement issued on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking observed on 26 June, refers to its actions aimed at combating various types of criminal activity.
The ministry of national economy and finance agency's organizational structure features divisions that have undertaken considerable action against drug trafficking.
Since 2005, when YPEE was established, it has confiscated 6.093 kilos of heroin, 0.972 kilos of processed cannabis, 6.955 kilos of unprocessed cannabis, 240.109 kilos of cocaine, 808 cannabis trees, 378 cannabis seeds, 1.023 kilos of coca leaves, 5,676 methadone pills, 4,990 ecstasy pills, 30.98 kilos of KHAT, 42,131 pharmaceutical products and 91,470 anabolic pills.
 Immigrant-traffickers caught in Athens, ThessalonikiAttica security police on Thursday announced that they had cracked a ring of Pakistani, Greek and Iraqi immigrant-traffickers that brought illegal immigrants into the country via Turkey and then kept them captive until their families paid a ransom for their release. Another 21 illegal immigrants and five immigrant traffickers were also intercepted and arrested on Thursday in a separate operation in Thessaloniki, northern Greece.
Nine members of the ring were arrested in Wednesday morning raids on a Peristeri apartment, where the illegal immigrants were being held in appalling conditions, and on a shop in Ilion that acted as a front for the ring and was also involved in money-laundering. The nine arrested included four Pakistani nationals, two Iraqi nationals and three Greeks.
An additional six Pakistanis and one Afghan national that had illegally entered Greece were also placed under arrest. Three of them had been shut up in the apartment, which had bars across the windows. Since their arrival in the country 10 days ago they had been subjected to daily beatings and threats against their lives so that their relatives in Pakistan would pay 7,000 euros for each of them to be released.
Police also confiscated a private truck found in the suspects' possession, which had been stolen from the coastal Athens district of Moschato and modified to transport illegal immigrants, two pairs of fake licence plates, four private cars used as lookouts for the truck and 40,000 euros.
All those arrested were led before a public prosecutor.
In Thessaloniki, meanwhile, police said that the 21 illegal immigrants arrested had also entered the country from Turkey.
The arrests were made during a coordinated operation in areas of Evros and Thessaloniki, in which five foreign immigrant traffickers, three men and two women, were also arrested in a rural region just outside Soufli.
 Youth Council concert on the environment to feature SakisThe National Youth Council (ESYN) is organising a concert on the environment on Wednesday, July 1, at the Panathenian (Kallimarmaro) Stadium in Athens.
The concert, featuring Greek pop star Sakis Rouvas, is being held in the context of the "SMS of Youth 2009 - Actions for the Environment" campaign, with the support of 2,500 official agencies (including ministries, local governments, universities, chambers, NGOs), and aims at raising public awareness and citizen participation in environmental issues such as water conservation and recycling.
The slogan of the ESYN campaign is "All Together, You First". Tickets for the concert are available at the Metropolis, FNAC and Public stores, while the price is 15 euros.
The National Youth Council also announced the opening of its new website at www.esyn.gr, which provides news of the Council's activites and aims to provide a forum for communication and exchanges of views.
Further, the ESYN, as a representative of the youth of Greece but also in collaboration with the European Youth Forum, is calling on the European Parliament deputies of all the political parties to back the youth agenda on Europe, and invites young people to add their voices to the campaign at the site www.youthagenda.eu.
"As young people sharing the vision of European integration and the European values, we believe that we can successfully face the challenges for the future only if the EU can speak out and act as a true Union," according to the ESYN. "We expect bold and innovative decisions by the national and European leaders and organisations, and want specific benefits from the EU in our everyday lives," it adds, noting that, in that context, the ESYN was putting forward specific proposals for a new youth agenda in the EU, and calls on the MEPs to include them among their priorities.
 Sani Festival opens July 17The 17th Sani Festival will open at the Sani Resort in Halkidiki, northern Greece, on July 17 and until Aug. 29.
A new section, aside from the "Sounds of the World" and "Jazz on the Hill" events, entitled "Music on Films vs Film on Music", will be dedicated to soundtracks, thus commencing cooperation with the Thessaloniki Film Festival.
The festival will feature concerts by the groups "Ska Cubano" and Grammy award winners "Calima" as well as by Michel Legrand, amongst participating artists.
 US Consul General visits Thessaloniki prefectUS Consul General to Thessaloniki Hoyt Brian Yee, who is leaving his post following his appointment to Afghanistan, paid a courtesy call on Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis on Thursday.
The American diplomat underlined the excellent cooperation shared with the prefect's office while, on his part, the prefect presented him with a replica of an ancient Greek vase and a Thessaloniki photo album.
 Lazaristes Monastery Festival underway in ThessalonikiThe Lazaristes Monastery Music Festival, featuring world-famous artists, is underway in Thessaloniki with events throughout summer.
Among the artists scheduled to give live performances are American singer and songwriter Michael Bolton and the British rock band "Deep Purple" as well as many popular Greek singers.
The Lazaristes Festival is an annual local government-sponsored event.
 Jailbreak averted in Agia Prison, CreteAn escape attempt by an inmate in the Agia Prison on the island of Crete was thwarted early Thursday while an Albanian, who was assisting the convict him for the sum of 5,000 euros, is wanted by police.
The inmate, a Belorusian national serving a 10-year sentence for attempted homicide, tried to climb up the prison walls using a rope his accomplice had thrown in from outside the facility. The would-be escapee was arrested as soon as he began the ascent.
The Albanian managed to get away using the car of a prison guard after threatening him with a gun. The suspect abandoned his car in the region of Omalos and disappeared on foot towards the mountains. A police manhunt is underway for his arrest.
 Cloudy, rainy on FridayCloudy weather and possible local showers, and westerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 12C and 31C. Cloudy in Athens with possible local showers, with northwesterly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 19C to 31C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 16C to 27C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDevelopments in the mass media after the closure of Eleftheros Typos daily newspaper, and speculation on early elections and additional taxes, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "University entry exams: 79 percent of the candidates scored above the base passing grade".
APOGEVMATINI: "50-year-old Greek woman gave birth to her twin grandchildren".
AVGHI: "Reliance and corruption devastating the media".
AVRIANI: "Dirty war against Theodoros and Gianna Angelopoulos (owners of Eleftheros Typos newspaper)
ELEFTHEROS: "At last ruling New Democracy wakes up from the stupor - Aims to limit its members' leakage to Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS)".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "New tax package, to be paid immediately".
ESTIA: "Games with elections - The electoral law is being continuously violated".
ETHNOS: "Economy Ministry begins safari, targeting 600,000 taxpayers with overdue debts".
KATHIMERINI: "Arbitrariness and abuse of institutions in Universities", according to the report for 2008 submitted on Wednesday in parliament by the independent authority on Quality in Higher Education.
LOGOS: "Revolutionaries Sect urban guerrilla group starts war - They cast unprecedented threats in many directions".
NIKI: "The economic indicators out of control".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist Party of Greece leader Aleka Papariga: The illegal migration issue must become a cause of the people".
TA NEA: "2 billion euros tax storm, for starters - The fiscal deficit is out of control".
TO VIMA: "Owners of yachts and luxury cars will pay an extraordinary contribution"
VRADYNI: "Two tendencies on early elections and government reshuffle".
 Baroso: Turkey's cooperation ''essential to a Cyprus solution''NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
EU Commission President Joze Manuel Barroso said on Thursday that Turkey's constructive cooperation is essential to a lasting settlement to the Cyprus problem.
Addressing the plenary session of the House of Representatives, Barroso said that he raised this point during the meetings he had with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayipp Erdogan who assured him ''that Turkey is committed to a solution to the Cyprus problem in line with UN parameters.''
''I take note of these assurances,'' Barroso added, noting that both he and the EU and its institutions are supporting the current ''Cyprus-driven'' efforts for a Cyprus solution under the auspices of the United Nations.
He also said ''we have to remind Turkey, at every opportunity, of its obligation to fully implement the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement, that is to remove all restrictions on the free movement of goods with all Member States and, thus, to open its ports to all vessels coming from Cyprus,'' adding that he believes ''the Turkish government realizes that the Cyprus settlement will give a breath of fresh air to its negotiations with the EU.''
Praising Cyprus President Demetris Christofias' and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat's ''courage, determination and farsightedness,'' Barroso said that ''the year 2009 should be the right moment to achieve a settlement. As you say in Greek it is time which should not be missed.''
''Today we are in a very crucial moment for the Cyprus history. The whole international community and Europe are in fact looking at you. They all expect a settlement and reunification of Cyprus,'' the EU Chief said.
He pointed out that a settlement would bring ''enormous benefits to all Cypriots'' in the political economic and cultural fields, adding that ''this is the way we should look at this objective.''
The EU Chief also said that this generation of political leaders can solve the Cyprus problem, clarifying that he does not say the process will be easy.
''Indeed, I recognize that it will be extremely difficult given past events. The past cannot be forgotten nor should it be but nor should it stand in the way of progress. It can have a vote but not a veto,'' he added.
Barroso noted that the settlement requires imagination, flexibility and most importantly a spirit of compromise, adding that compromise is the key-word for the EU's every-day business.
''The challenge'', he went on, ''is to look at compromise as an opportunity to achieve progress. I am convinced that the leaders can strike a deal where both sides come out as winners.''
Barroso underlined that a Cyprus finally healed of its divisions will be able to devote its energies to other pressing problems it faces.
''A Cyprus that is finally able to realise its full potential as a pole of stability inside the EU. A Cyprus that is at one with itself and able to make its full contribution to the world,'' he added.
Noting that he believes the two leaders can achieve the solution of the Cyprus problem, Barrosso said ''please support them. Because, if they fail, the moment will be gone, and there may not be another opportunity for a very long time - if at all.''
Barroso concluded his address wishing that a united Cyprus will assume the EU Presidency in the second half of 2012. ''You can achieve it.''
Cyprus, an EU member-state since May 2004, has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
President Christofias and Talat began UN-led talks last September in a bid to achieve an agreed settlement which would reunify the island.
Barroso: Now is the time to solve the Cyprus issue
President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said now is the time to solve the Cyprus and urged President of the Republic Demetris Christofias, together with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to continue their efforts for the reunification of the island.
In statements after talks at the Presidential Palace Thursday morning, Barroso also said the Commission and he personally support the efforts of the two leaders in every way possible but urged them to find a solution themselves.
In his remarks, President Christofias thanked Barroso for his support and assured him he will do everything possible to reunite the island and rid the island of the tragedy of division and occupation.
Barroso thanked Christofias for the support he has offered him at the European Council for his re-election, noting that he was honoured to chair the Commission "which is a point of reference, a point of union between all the 27 member states" where they practice the idea of solidarity.
He described his meeting with Christofias as "excellent".
"I was impressed very much by Mr. Christofias' sincere commitment and determination to find a solution to the Cyprus problem together with Mr. Talat", he remarked.
"There is a historic chance now to end this conflict once and for all. So please keep your efforts Mr. President. The time is now. Do not allow a situation where the younger generation will simply accept the status quo. The European Commission and I personally support very much the efforts of the leaders in every way we can. We cannot make the deal. That's the point people have to understand. We can help find a solution, we can support find a solution, but it is up to Cypriots themselves to find this solution," Barroso said.
The European Commission President said "reunification will allow all Cypriots to benefit from Cyprus' membership in the EU. That is the message that I am bringing here today, one of confidence in the future of this country".
President Christofias welcomed Barroso to Cyprus, noting that the Commission leader embraced the Cyprus issue from the very start as well as the island's creative participation in European matters.
"Personally, I have promised him I will do everything possible together with Mr. Talat to rid Cyprus of this tragedy and to rid also the EU of this problem. And this is what I am trying to do, I have repeated this assurance at the very cordial talk we had during our tete-a-tete meeting and during the talks of our delegations", he added.
These are the reasons, he added, that he has supported Barroso's re-election as President of the Commission.
Cyprus President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Talat have been engaged in negotiations aiming to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.
 EU will to its utmost to accommodate the terms of a Cyprus settlementEuropean Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Thursday that once the leaders in Cyprus agree on a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue the EU will do its utmost to accommodate the terms of a settlement in line with the principles on which the EU is founded.
Speaking during a press conference here, during his one-day visit on the island, Barroso said there is a unique chance this year to solve the Cyprus question that needs to be grasped, noting that he is impressed by the commitment of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to achieve a settlement.
Barroso, who also met during his visit here the UN Secretary General's Special Representative to Cyprus Taye Brook Zerihoon said he highly appreciates his dedicated work and the efforts of the UN to help the parties to strike a deal
The European Commission President said he discussed with the two leaders the importance of further Confidence Building Measures and that in this context he expressed the Commission's readiness to contribute financially to upgrade a road close to the Limnitis crossing point and encouraged both leaders to find a solution on this issue. "I hope a solution will be found soon," Barroso said. He noted that he told the two leaders that the opening of Limnitis crossing point will be a very good signal.
Asked about Turkey's stance in favour of a settlement providing for two states in Cyprus, Barroso underlined that this is a Cyprus-led process, noting that any agreement will be good if it respects basic EU principles, freedom, democracy and the rule of law. He also stressed that it is important from the European point of view to have a country that speaks with one voice in the EU.
Asked about the EU team of experts on Cyprus, formed under his presidency, Barroso said "the idea is to assist the process" by providing technical expertise since in case there is an agreement there will be the need to transpose the acquis communautaire to the northern part of the island, currently under Turkish occupation.
"So we are giving advice in many of those issues. Most of them are technical, legal matters and in fact we have already sent one expert from our team to the group led by Mr. Downer (UN Special Adviser), the UN, and he is available," he said.
He also underlined that apart from providing help at the technical expert level the European Commission is supporting the process politically. "I am here to do that today. We wanted to give that message to the Cyprus people that we care about this and that it is important for the future of Cyprus to achieve a solution," he added.
Asked if Turkey is expected to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and aircrafts by December Barroso said "we have been consistently saying that to our Turkish partners, that they should respect and implement the Ankara protocol. It is not up to me to make a judgment," he noted, adding that it is up to the Turkish side to respect the agreement.
Responding to another question, European Commission President said it does not mean that the EU does not try to look at the situation objectively because Cyprus is an EU member state.
Asked if the EU is going to support the process financially he said that in case there is a settlement "I cannot commit specifically but I am sure that we could work with our member states to find some ways to support that process."
He added that what is important now is not the issue of financing but progress on the political level, noting that there has been some progress but there is still a lot to be agreed.
Turkey which aspires to become an EU member does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state since May 2004.
President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008 with a view to reach a settlement of the question of Cyprus, divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
President Christofias says EU support needed for Turkish acceptance of federation
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias pointed out on Thursday that the support of the EU and its member states is needed in order to urge Turkey to accept a bizonal bicommunal federation as the basis for a solution of the Cyprus problem.
In an address at the dinner in honour of the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, President Christofias noted that the benefits for the Turkish Cypriot community from a reunified Cyprus functioning in full compliance with EU laws and standards will be enormous, adding that there should be no permanent derogations.
President Christofias said that ''in our first five years in the EU we were lucky to have received the support and guidance of President Barroso in making our first steps as a small country in the complex world of European institutions.''
''Inside the EU, even though one of the small members, Cyprus aspires to be present and active in all institutions and to contribute to the internal dialogue, as well as to the joint actions of the Union, which faces many important challenges in various fields,'' he added
President Christofias expressed appreciation for Barroso's personal interest and leadership in the problem of Cyprus by means of the Commission's Cyprus Steering Group, which is responsible for following the progress of the negotiations and for providing whatever assistance may be needed and requested by the negotiating sides.
''The involvement of President Barroso and of the EU is important because Cyprus is a full member of the Union and needs to be able in the future as a united Federal Republic to continue to function as an active participant in the decisions and actions of the Union. It is also important because the Union represents values, freedoms and human rights which we believe in, and which we would like to see implemented for our whole population, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike,'' he said.
He added that ''the benefits for the Turkish Cypriot community from a reunified Cyprus functioning in full compliance with EU laws and standards will be enormous,'' noting that ''there should be no permanent derogations, only limited temporary transitional arrangements.''
''Adapting quickly to the acquis and integrating fully in European institutions, rather than seeking restrictions and exceptions, is the wisest choice for our Turkish Cypriot fellow citizens,'' President Christofias pointed out.
He also noted that since the first day of his Presidency he has tried his utmost to break the old deadlocks and to open the way for an agreement leading to reunification and to the withdrawal of foreign troops and illegal setters.
''Mr. Talat and I have clarified that this agreement would be based on a bizonal, bicommunal Federal Republic with a single sovereignty, single citizenship and single international personality, with political equality as defined by the UN resolutions. The support of the EU and its member states is needed in order to urge Turkey to accept this basis and not to insist on the creation of 'a new partnership of equal founding states' and on confederation,'' he concluded.
On ending his address, President Christofias presented Barroso with a copy of an amphora vase from the 14th century BC when Mycenean craftsmen and merchants were trading with Syria and the rest of the Middle East, using Cyprus as a bridge between East and West, Europe and the Orient.
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