|Monday, 11 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-07-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 24 July 2009 Issue No: 3253
 PM: 'Democracy requires fertile compositions'Democracy requires "fertile compositions that unite forces," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said Thursday evening during a speech at an event organised by the "Constantine Karamanlis Institute of Democracy" marking the 35th anniversary of the restoration of Democracy in Greece.
"It requires that we place above all the collective, social and national interest," he also said, adding that it was his government's decision to "change all that harasses, all that is unjust or grieves the Greek citizen, by proceeding with deep structural reforms."
At Thursday's event at the Zappeion Mansion, the art exhibition titled "Art and Democracy. Thirty five Greek creators" was also inaugurated.
Karamanlis praised current President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias, noting the latter's great popularity among Greek citizens and calling for a support to his re-election by Parliament next March. At the same time, the prime minister strongly criticised the main opposition PASOK party regarding its stance on the presidential election issue, calling it "a mere and undisguised violation of the Constitution."
The premier also noted that July 24 was "a day of considering our own debt towards Democracy."
Karamanlis noted that July 24 "reminds us of the consequences of political irresponsibilty and of the subjugation of collective interest to ephemeral expediencies and that extremities and attempts which are questioning the Constitution are concealing serious dangers."
The premier said that he was referring to the issue of the presidential election next March and the subsequent respect of the Constitution.
President Karolos Papoulias, Karamanlis noted, has honoured his role, "we have to honour him in the same way he honoured and continues to honour the institution he serves. By supporting, clearly and immediately, his re-election. We must all have an absolute respect for the Constitution."
Referring to the main opposition party, Karamanlis said: "In simple words, PASOK tells us the following unprecedented thing, that it does not vote for the current president in order to extort the holding of elections and it will vote for him only after elections. This position is a mere violation of the Constitution and an attempt to trivialize institutions. This is not fair for any politician, for any party. PASOK's position constitutes an extreme irresponsibility."
Referring to national issues, the prime minister reiterated that his government has drawn "red lines" beyond which it would not go, while it moved with coolheadedness aiming at defending the country's interests and rights.
Regarding the problem of illegal immigration, Karamanlis noted that his government aimed at protecting the rights of immigrants that are working in Greece and creating the conditions for their social integration, underlinimng however that the country had exhausted all limits and could "not accept uncontrollable waves of illegal immigration."
 Valery Giscard d'Estaing honoured by ParliamentFrench statesman Valery Giscard d'Estaing was presented with the supreme honour awarded by the Hellenic Parliament to influential international figures, the Award for Parliamentarism and Democracy, during a ceremony held in Athens on Thursday.
The 2009 award was handed to d'Estaing by Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas in Parliament's portico, in the presence of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, government ministers, representatives of the political parties, politicians, artists and academics.
Sioufas described the former French president as "a unique, great European visionary, an ally of Greece, a philhellene and someone that gave expression to the slogan 'Greece-France Alliance'."
He particularly stressed d'Estaing's support for the late Constantine Karamanlis, saying that he had stood by him like a true friend on what was perhaps the most difficult day of a long and eventful political career:
"By supporting the initiator of the post-junta period in the hard task that he undertook, you assisting in restoring democracy to its ancient homeland. You have linked your name to the greatest day of the modern Hellenic Republic," Sioufas told d'Estaing.
In addition to d'Estaing's role during the difficult days of July 1974, after the fall of the junta, Sioufas also emphasised his crucial and catalytic support for Greece's entry into the European Economic Community (EEC).
"In our country we have an ancient tradition of honouring the people that have stood by us. The greatest honour that we can give is a place in our hearts. You have won this place a long time ago," Sioufas concluded, handing d'Estain the award bearing an engraved inscription and an image of the Boule and Demos awarding an Athenian citizen in the presence of the goddess Athena.
 PASOK leader on restoration of Democracy anniversaryMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou issued on Thursday a message on the 35th anniversary of the restoration of Democracy in Greece, saying that following the collapse of the military dictatorship the country had a "steadfast democratic course through the shaping of strong democratic institutions."
"Greece acquired prestige and a saying in the Balkans, the broader region and on the international scene, while with the people's sacrifices it played a leading role in the European integration process," Papandreou said.
"But today, Greece goes through the most serious crisis since the restoration of Democracy, which is economic, political, moral and cultural. A crisis which is also a crisis of institutions and values. A crisis which is founded on the lack of the peoples' confidence towards institutions, justice, the political system and politics. A crisis aggravated by the international economic crisis and creating a general feeling of insecurity among citizens. A crisis which, in the end, is the result of conservative policies followed by the New Democracy (ND) government," Papandreou adds in his message.
"Greek citizens are today asking for a change of course, for prospects and hope for the country. They are asking for a responsible leadership, a new government," he said.
 KKE, Synaspismos messages on democracy anniversaryThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of Left (Synaspismos) party issued messages on Thursday in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Greece.
"The 35 years since the collapse of the military dictatorship allows the people and youth to think in order to arrive at conclusions regarding 'the best democracy we have ever known'," KKE said in its message.
"KKE considers that existing democratic system is a bourgeois and hypocritical democracy, and this is proven by the thousands of dead in their work places, employers' terrorism, the firing of striking workers and the persecution of trade unionists as well as the restriction of workplace and social security rights," the message added.
In its own message, Synaspismos said "our own task as a left-wing party is, as then, to liberate those social forces that will fight for a better today and tomorrow. This year's anniversary finds us under the shadow of a major economic crisis, the first victims of which are the workers and the financially weak...This is a time for resistance and a counter-attack against neo-liberalism, which is responsible for today's impasses," the Synaspismos message concluded.
 Valinakis and France's Lellouche discuss migration issues, TurkeyTurkey's continuing violations of Greece's air space dominated talks held in Athens on Thursday by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis and Pierre Lellouche, a French minister of state responsible for European affairs.
"[These] are outside European principles and values and do not, of course, befit its candidacy to join the European Community. In any case, it is certain that any divergence from European principles and values increases the distance between Turkey and its accession goals," Valinakis said afterwards.
Bilateral relations, the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, the Balkans, the Middle East and the issue of illegal migration, in particular, were also examined during the meeting.
On the last issue, Valinakis said that Greece stresses the need for "European solidarity" and emergency measures to tackle illegal migration, as well as pressure on Turkey to honour the re-admission treaties it has signed.
Lellouche said his visit had helped him appreciate the extent of the migration pressure on Greece and that the EU "cannot leave Greece to deal with this problem alone".
Referring to the 150,000 illegal immigrants that have entered the country, he stressed that "the right questions needed to be put to Turkey" and a system devised that will protect Greece's coasts. He also promised to inform French President Nicolas Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner about the situation in Greece.
 Antonaros dismisses PASOK criticism over swine flu, KaramanlisGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday dismissed remarks made by main opposition PASOK regarding the government's response to novel influenza, saying that the party was once again "just discovering" a problem that had long occupied public opinion at home and abroad.
He stressed that the government had, by contrast, reacted promptly to the flu alert and taken action months ago, beginning with a meeting convened by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on May 2 that was attended by the four ministers most directly involved.
"Our government is acting with planning, coordination, goals and efficiency," he said and stressed that the issue did not lend itself to exploitation for petty party-political reasons.
The spokesman pointed out that, contrary to what PASOK claimed, the government actually three plans for dealing with a pandemic to work with: the National Plan for an Influenza Pandemic drawn up in 2005, which was finalised and constantly updated, the 'Artemis' National Operational Plan Against an Influenza Pandemic and the latest, the National Strategic Plan Against an Influenza Pandemic drawn up last May.
Antonaros also went on to criticise PASOK's remarks about the late statesman Constantine Karamanlis and the role the latter played in the restoration of democracy to Greece after the fall of the 1974 junta, stressing that the history of a country and especially its recent history could not be rewritten or changed.
"Everybody knows that Constantine Karamanlis was the one that did what was needed from July 24, 1974 onward and in the years that followed, so that democracy could become settled and firmly established in our country," Antonaros noted. Likewise, he added, people were equally aware of Karamanlis' crucial part in making Greece a part of the then European Economic Community.
 Papandreou on foreign policy issuesMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou expressed concern that a "hot incident" in the Aegean could transpire before the end of the summer, speaking on Thursday to his party's working group on foreign policy and defence.
Moreover, he condemned violations of the Greek national airspace, the infringement of the Athens FIR and all other provocations committed by Turkey, while accusing the government of being unable to handle tough foreign policy and defence issues.
Referring to Turkey's European course, the former foreign minister in repeated PASOK governments reiterated his party's support, underlining at the same time that the neighboring country has to fully meet its obligations undertaken when it became a candidate for EU accession. He pointed out that these are specific obligations toward Greece and the Republic of Cyprus as well as toward the European Union and all its member-states.
On the continental shelf issue, Papandreou stated that the government has missed a historical chance, as he opined, provided by a strategy that envisions a resolution through the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
He stated that the EU Summit meeting in December can be a milestone in the reviewing of Turkey's relations with the European Union, adding that Greece can redefine its relations with Turkey with determination and protect its interests in all issues directly affecting it such as, the illegal migration problem.
"Greece should not consent in December without preconditions and tangible proofs on behalf of Turkey," he said, adding that "no one should consider Greece's stance in December as being a given."
On the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) "name issue" and the recent visit of the UN envoy to Athens and Skopje, Papandreou stressed that the opposition has not been informed yet by the government on Matthew Nimetz's changes and reiterated that Greece should remain firm to its standing positions.
Papandreou also reiterated his party's opposition to the reelection of Jose Manuel Barroso to the European Commission presidency.
 Public Order chief: Zakynthos spate of fires 'suspicious'Alternate Interior Minister for Public Order Christos Markogiannakis stressed that the outbreak of eight fires in various parts of Zakynthos island in a close space of time could not be by chance and, rather, was suspicious, while he also called on the opposition parties in parliament to take part in the dialogue for the establisment of a National Council on Domestic Security.
In late-night statements on Wednesday after a groad meeting of officials and agencies at the ministry, Markogiannakis said that the almost simultaneous spate of fires on Zakynthos was suspicious, and that was why the ministry was acting full force in order to have results, in reply to a question on why the EYP (National Information Service) has been involved in the investigations for possible arsons.
"I'm not talking about assymetrical threats, but sometimes it is suspicious when we have successive (forest) fires in a single area," he said.
Markogiannakis said that the ministry services would be reinforced with two more helicopters, adding that there would be increased vigilance in the period of 23-25 July, at which time the National Meteoroligical Service (EMY) has predicted weather conditions during which fires usually break out.
The alternate minister said that the meeting, which was attended by the secretaries general for public order and civil protection, the chiefs of the Greek Police (ELAS), Fire Brigade and Rural Police, and representatives of the army, air force, the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) and other relevant bodies, aimed at "coordination of all the services in order to tackle any problem arising these days but also throughout the high-risk period for fires".
He added that the various services were acting in three directions: prevention, coordination, and fire-fighting.
Markogiannakis further appealed to main opposition PASOK, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) to participate in the dialogue for the creation of a National Council on Domestic Security, after the PASOK and SYRIZA representatvies, MPs George Dolios and Theodoros Dritsas walked out of a relevant meeting on Wednesday.
Markogiannakis said that the MPs had "walked out suddenly", and called on them to return to the dialogue, opining that their views on the matters being discussed were "similar".
 Ambitious Faliro Delta plan ratifiedCreation of a cultural park at the Faliro Delta in coastal southern Athens, and specifically on the site of the old horse racetrack, will soon get underway, following ratification in Parliament of a relevant draft law on Thursday.
A ministry of finance-sponsored draft law ratifying the contract between the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the Greek state, the Greek national opera, the national library, the Hellenic Olympic Properties S.A., and the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corp., was passed in Parliament with the votes of deputies from ruling New Democracy (ND), main opposition PASOK and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS).
The 450-million-euro, 24.3-hectare cultural centre will be named after the late Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos.
 Appeals prosecutors discuss prison corruptionThe heads of appeals court prosecutors' offices around the country, barring that of Kalamata, gathered for a meeting on Thursday at the invitation of Supreme Court Prosecutor Ioannis Tentes, during which they discussed ways to combat corruption in Greek prisons.
An announcement issued by the Supreme Court Prosecutor's office after the meeting said that the discussion had been creative and fertile and the 14 prosecutors had concluded that preventative and suppressive measures were needed, which would require intensive inspections by the public prosecutors responsible.
It also said the supreme court was considering the possibility of recommending legislation that will give prosecutors a stronger institutional role in relation to prisons.
 President presents swords to new Army CadetsPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday presented their swords to the new Second Lieutenants who graduated from the Evelpidon Military Academy, during a ceremony at the Academy premises in Vari, Attica prefecture.
The President was accompanied by deputy national defence minister Yiannis Plakotakis.
The traditional oath was taken by 224 new Second Lietenants, among them 16 from Cyprus, 4 from Armenia, 2 from Syria, 3 from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and one each from Bulgaria, Libya, Jordan, Romania, Albania, Cameroon and Moldova, while the Order of the Day was delivered by the Academy commander Major-General Stavros Koutris.
 Souflias: measures for cars only target emissionsEnvironment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Thursday rejected criticism of the new measures targeting fuel-guzzling, older-technology vehicles and stressed that the reasons for them were strictly environmental.
"They only aim to deal with atmospheric pollution due to vehicle circulation," Souflias underlined, adding that studies have shown that 70 percent of emissions in urban areas were caused by vehicle traffic.
He also pointed out that similar measures and programmes were being carried out in several other European countries, including those that had extensive metro networks.
Regarding the progess of metro works in Greece, the minister said that the rate of work in the past five years had been roughly double that achieved during previous governments.
Souflias announced that the Nomismatokopio metro station on line three will be ready in August, while another four stations (Holargos, Peristeri, Anthoupolis and Haidari) will be completed by the end of the year. Four more stations (Ilioupolis, Alimos, Argyropoulis and Elliniko) are expected to be ready by the following spring.
In addition to the above, the minister announced that a tender to build six more stations along the extension of the line from Haidari to Piraeus was underway, soon to be followed by a tender for the construction a major U-shaped line with 20 stations that will run through the areas of Galatsi, Panepistimio, up to Pagrati and Maroussi.
According to Souflias, the overall plans for developing the Athens metro, with 200 stations and 220 kilometres of lines, had been included in the new regulatory plan for the capital, which transport infrastructure funds in Athens had gone to metro projects as a priority.
The measures announced by the government for reducing emissions included "environmental taxes" based on the level of emissions produced by car engines, with lower licence fees and road taxes for so-called "green" vehicles accompanied by 50 to 150 euros increases for older technology cars. The new rates will come into force for 2010.
Souflias also announced a new programme (2009-12) to retire older vehicles via incentives and referred to the establishment of a "green" perimeter in Athens that will exclude older model cars.
 Gov't unveils 250-mln-euro subsidy program for professionalsThe Greek government on Thursday unveiled a 250-mln-euro program aimed at offering financial support to some categories of professionals for investment on technological equipment.
Under a plan, unveiled by the Economy and Finance ministry, subsidies up to 50 pct will be offered to lawyers, doctors, dentists, engineers, accountants and consultants for investments on the purchasing of IT equipment, software and medical equipment.
Subsidies will vary from 5,000 to 20,000 euros for doctors and dentists, 4,000-8,000 for engineers, 3,000-5,000 for lawyers, accountants and consultants on the precondition that annual gross income would not exceed 35,000 (doctors, dentists, engineers in Athens and Thessaloniki), and 25,000 euros for lawyers, accountants and consultants in Athens and Thessaloniki.
 Tourism minister visits ChaniaMinister of Tourism Costas Markopoulos, while on a visit to Chania, Crete underlined on Thursday that Greece is among the safest countries in Europe health-wise.
Markopoulos, responding to a question on whether the A/H1N1 novel influenza (swine flu) will affect tourism, pointed out that the number of flu cases in the country is relatively small and suggested calm.
He underlined that "we do not need to see ghosts where there aren't any" referring to the debate opened on what might or might not happen in October concerning the likelihood of a novel influenza outbreak.
Markopoulos added that the measures taken at the country's entry points are the strictest in Europe and therefore very effective.
The minister also announced the funding of the restoration project of Eleftherios Venizelos' house in Chania by the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), the completion of the Samaria Gorge digitization project and the creation of a small marina in Kalyves, Municipality of Armeni.
 Small, very small enterprises mostly hit by crisis, surveyNearly eight out of 10 small-and-very small-sized enterprises in Athens have been affected by the financial crisis, suffering from a decline in turnover and delays in customer payments, a survey by MARC SA published by the Athens Chamber of Small and Very Small Enterprises (BEA) stated on Thursday.
Presenting the survey, Thomas Gerakis, chairman and chief executive of MARC SA said the figures confirmed fears expressed by BEA's members in late 2008 and showed that small- and very small enterprises were mostly affected by the economic crisis. The survey was conducted on a sample of 480 enterprises-members of BEA in the period July 14-15.
Specifically, 84 pct of BEA's members reported a decline in turnover compared with 2008, while only 4.0 pct reported an increase in turnover. Average turnover fell by 35.36 pct so far, compared with a decline of 33.2 pct a year earlier.
Gerakis said one of the most significant problems facing enterprises in the sector was a delay in debt payments, with 56.4 pct of enterprises saying payment time was more than three months, while 16.2 pct said payment time was more than six months.
Forty pct of enterprises expected to end the year with losses, with only 2.3 pct saying they would end the year with higher profits. A 26.4 pct of respondents said they have already cut workforce in the last six months, and another 21.8 pct said it could cut their workforce in the future. A total of 17,000 small- and very small enterprises would face serious operating problems next year, while 8,500 risked closing their businesses.
Exactly 37.9 pct of small- and very small enterprises expect the economy to exit the crisis and recover by the end of 2010, while 37.5 pct said they expected the first signs of recovery after 2011.
 NBG share capital hike completedNational Bank of Greece on Thursday said its share capital increase was 2.25 times oversubscribed, with the bank raising 551,838,075 euros through cash and the sale of 110,367,615 new common nominal shares of a nominal price of 5.0 euros per share and an offering price of 11.30 euros per share.
A bank statement said 97.36 pct of the share capital increase plan was covered by existing shareholders through a rights issue for 107,452,301 new common nominal shares at a sum of 1,214,211,001 euros. Another 140,695,117 shares were offered to the bank's employees and pensioners raising 1,247,154 euros.
 Aspis Bank approves share capital increase planAn Aspis Bank extraordinary general shareholders' meeting on Thursday approved a board plan to raise 120 million euros through a share capital increase plan.
The meeting approved unanimously to reduce the bank's equity capital by 135,175,153 euros with the aim to creating a special reserve, through cutting its nominal shares' value from 2.71 euros to 0.60 euros per share.
Under the plan, Aspis Bank will issue 128,128,108 new common nominal shares (voting) of a nominal value of 0.60 euros per share to be offered to existing shareholders. The bank said the total sum to be raised may vary according to market conditions.
 Alpha Bank report on Bulgarian economyBulgaria will have to convince international investors of its capability for a timely economic recovery although the country cannot implement its own monetary or foreign exchange policy, a report by Athens-based Alpha Bank stated on Thursday.
Alpha Bank, in its weekly financial bulletin, said Bulgaria's current accounts deficit fell by 44.7 pct in the first five months of 2009 to 1.97 billion euros (or 5.8 pct of GDP), from 3.57 billion euros (10.5 pct of GDP) in the corresponding period last year, reflecting a 30.7-pct drop in exports and a 33.4-pct fall in imports over the same period.
The report said a further cut in the deficit would face more hurdles because of a revaluation of both the nominal and trade weighed foreign exchange parity of the domestic currency as a result of a revaluation of the euro currency. The services' deficit, however, fell significantly to 16.9 million euros in the January-May period, from 245.5 million euros in the same period in 2008. Alpha Bank's analysts expect the country's current accounts deficit to remain below 12 pct of GDP this year, from 26 pct in 2008. Foreign direct investments recorded a 50 pct decline in net capita inflos (1.13 billion euros) in the five-month period, accounting for 57.5 pct of the current accounts balance.
The Bulgarian economy fell 3.5 pct in the first quarter of 2009, while figures were expected to worsen in the second quarter after a 22.1-pct drop in industrial production in May and a rise in the unemployment rate to 7.3 pct of the workforce in June 2009, up from 5.97 pct in June 2008.
The inflation rate was 3.7 pct in June, down from 3.9 pct in May and 4.8 pct in April 2008. Domestic demand is expected to be significantly dependent on a recovery of credit expansion, which slowed to 15.7 pct in May 2009, from 19.9 pct in April 2009.
 MIG Real Estate debuts in ASEMIG Real Estate on Thursday debuted in the Athens Stock Exchange, with its shares trading in the medium and small capitalization category of the market.
MIG Real Estate was founded in 1999 under the name "Attica Properties SA", until Marfin Investment Group bought 50 pct in the company and was transformed into a real estate investment company.
The company owns 32 real estate assets, leased to highly credibility customers, such as Marfin Egnatia Bank, Millennium Bank, Piraeus Bank, Citibank, Grant Thornton, Hygia Clinic, Wind Hellas, etc.
MIG offered to investors 2.5 million new common nominal shares at 4.0 euros per share, raising 10 million euros from the sale. A 35.65 pct of shares was offered to institutional investors, while the remaining 64.35 pct to private investors. The company's capitalization totaled 49.36 million euros at the start of trading in the market.
"MIG Real Estate is the first listing in our main market after 18 months. I am convinced it is a company capable of developing in the market," Spyros Kapralos, president of the Athens Stock Exchange said.
Hlias Volonasis, MIG Real Estate's chairman said the listing was 4.5 times oversubscribed, signalling the dynamism of the company.
 Stocks end 1.07% higherGreek stocks ended higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market closer to the 2,300 level. The index ended 1.07 pct up at 2,295.26 points, with turnover remaining a low 100.3 million euros, of which 7.9 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved upwards, with the Banks (2.18 pct), Commerce (2.09 pct) and Technology (1.35 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Insurance (1.34 pct), Oils (1.31 pct) and Media (1.25 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 1.39 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.16 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index rose 1.15 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 114 to 82 with another 58 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.31%
Personal & Household: -0.94%
Raw Materials: +1.06%
Travel & Leisure: +0.85%
Food & Beverages: +0.73%
Financial Services: +0.20%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and Bank of Piraeus.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 9.09
Public Power Corp (PPC): 15.84
HBC Coca Cola: 15.25
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.08
National Bank of Greece: 19.50
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.70
Bank of Piraeus: 8.15
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 540 million euros on Thursday, of which 310 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 230 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 240 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 138 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 4.78 percent and the German Bund yielding 3.40 percent.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.37 pct, the six-month rate 1.17 pct, the three-month rate 0.92 pct and the one-month rate 0.55 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 1.32 percent in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 30.311 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,127 contracts worth 24.251 million euros, with 23,820 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 7,437 contracts worth 6.060 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,140), followed by Eurobank (516), OTE (715), Piraeus Bank (674), GEK (1,006), Alpha Bank (622), Marfin Popular Bank (438) and Cyprus Bank (638).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.434
Pound sterling 0.868
Danish kroner 7.504
Swedish kroner 10.842
Japanese yen 135.3
Swiss franc 1.532
Norwegian kroner 8.996
Canadian dollar 1.573
Australian dollar 1.751
 Lebanon readies for 6th Francophone Games in BeirutThe countdown for the upcoming 6th Francophone Games in Beirut, Lebanon continues, as the Games are scheduled to be held between Sept. 27 and Oct. 6 in the coastal Mideast country.
According to a press release by the Lebanese embassy in Athens, some 3,000 athletes, artists and representatives from 68 Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie member-states, including Greece, will attend the international sports and cultural event.
 Int'l poetry prize to journalist Petros KassimatisThe recipient of the Argentine writers' society (SADE) first international literature prize is journalist Petros Kassimatis, winner of the international competition on "Hellenism and Alexander the Great" held in cooperation with the Greek cultural organization "Nostos" in Argentina.
Petros Kassimatis received the top prize in poetry for his work "Samarkand, at the Ancient Observatory", while he also received a distinction for another of his works. The award will be delivered in special ceremonies in Buenos Aires and Athens.
Writers and poets from Greece, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, Cyprus, Italy, Russia, Germany, United States, Mexico and Spain competed with over 200 works (short stories and poems) in Greek and Spanish. The literary competition was held under the auspices of the foreign ministry of Greece and the Greek embassy in Argentina.
Kassimatis was born in Athens and has a university degree in sociology and political sciences. He is the Greek Parliament press office director.
 New indictments against escaped convict Paleokostas, accomplicesEscaped convict Vassilis Paleokostas and his alleged accomplices in the kidnapping of industrialist George Mylonas last summer in Thessaloniki have been indicted for bank robbery, weapons possession and a score of other offences.
Lab results following the examination of objects seized from the country home in the region of Agia Paraskevi in Thessaloniki, where the businessman was held hostage, and from the apartment kept by the gang in the region of Perea, proved that the suspects had committed a bank robbery in July 2006, Thessaloniki police said.
The National Bank robbery in east Thessaloniki yielded 74,100 euros, 12,000 Swiss francs, 5,020 US dollars and smaller sums in other foreign currencies as well as a handgun kept in the bank's safe.
A police investigation showed that another hand gun found in the possession of the gang had been removed from a luxury car stolen in the region of Vouliagmeni in Athens on Dec. 4, 2007.
In addition, 18 of the 20 license plates of automobiles and motorcycles, found in their possession, were proved to be forged.
 Russian tourist dies at Lindos AcropolisA 64-year-old Russian tourist suffered a fatal injury and died after a fall during his visit to the Lindos Acropolis archaeological site on the island of Rhodes. The accident occurred on Wednesday evening.
According to Rhodes police, the man slipped and fell while descending the steps from the Acropolis and hit his head.
 Cannabis cultivation destroyed on Mt. ParnithaA large cannabis cultivation spotted by a police helicopter this month hidden in a wooded region on Mt. Parnitha, due north of the greater Athens, was destroyed on Wednesday.
Police raided the region and destroyed a total of 885 plants, some up to 2.5 metres tall, after stake out operations aimed at arresting the individuals growing the cannabis proved fruitless.
The cultivation was well organised with seven wooden huts and an automatic irrigation system that used water from a nearby spring.
 Arson attacks in ThessalonikiUnidentified individuals using homemade incendiary devices made of propane canisters launched two arson attacks in Thessaloniki in the early morning hours on Thursday.
They first targeted the local offices of ruling New Democracy (ND) party and the fire that broke out caused minor damage.
Ten minutes later a Cypriot Consulate car was seriously damaged by fire that broke out as a result of an arson attack.
 Wildfire breaks out in Ano GlyfadaA wildfire broke out around noon in the Athens coastal suburb of Ano Glyfada, at tne end of Papaflessa street.
A strong team of 30 firefighters with 10 fire engines, assisted by a firefighting helicopter, were battling the blaze.
 Hotter on FridaySunny weather and rising temperatures are forecast on Friday, with moderate northeasterly winds rising to a maximum of 7 Beaufort in the Aegean. Temperatures are seen ranging between 19C and 41C. Sunny in Athens, with temperatures from 24C to 38C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 23C to 37C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceMeasures announced by the environment, town planning and public works ministry for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, political affairs and the new flu pandemic were the main front-page item in Athens' dailies on Thursday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Cheaper cars, with withdrawal of old technology cars as the incentive - Savings of up to 3,200 euros for cars and up to 13,000 euros trucks".
APOGEVMATINI: "Car withdrawals with incentives - The Inner Cabinet advancing a rekindling of the economy and ensurance of a better environment with non-polluting vehicles".
AVGHI: "Civil Servants' Welfare Fund: They're mortgaging property in order to pay the lump-sum retirement benefit".
AVRIANI: "The flu hits PASOK, too! Health minister Avramopoulos accused the main opposition party of populism".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Government, main opposition cross swords over the new flu".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "(Environment, town planning and public works minister) Souflias boosting the automobile market, in the name of environmental protection".
ESTIA: "Reform of taxation system".
ETHNOS: "Surcharge on cars - Withdrawal the bait - New program with money collection and 'green' goals".
KATHIMERINI: "Explosive rise in deficits, debt - International Monetary Fund (MF) report predicts two-year recession for Greek economy".
LOGOS: "Measures for reduction of emissions".
NIKI: "He's withdrawing the cars and withdrawing himself - The prime minister plays his final card before losing the elections".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Coordination of action for public security, health, welfare - Meeting of unions, agencies".
TA NEA: "Withdrawal/trap and new duties on cars - The new measures entrap thousands of vehicle owners".
TO VIMA: "Withdrawal of 'dirty' cars, or their expulsion from the city center - Three-year program for replacement of pre-1999 cars".
VRADYNI: "Withdrawal, or surtaxes - Measures for the environment".
 Christofias criticises Nami's remarks on settlersNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Security issues, the opening of Limnitis crossing point, citizenship, immigration and the presence of illegal settlers, in Turkish occupied Cyprus, were discussed here Thursday at a meeting between the leaders of the island's two communities.
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat concluded today their 38th meeting, in the framework of the UN-led direct negotiations aiming at finding a mutually accepted solution to the Cyprus problem.
In his remarks after his meeting, Christofias said that the Greek Cypriot side criticised statements by Ozdil Nami, advisor of the Turkish Cypriot leader, that all Turkish settlers should stay in Cyprus after a political settlement.
"We discussed with Nami that issue and of course we adopted a very critical stance towards such statements", the president said.
He said that he had a lengthy tete-a-tete meeting with Talat, during which they discussed, in a very constructive manner, as he pointed out, recent developments.
In addition, the leaders discussed the issue of security and the opening of the Limnitis crossing point, on the northwest, to facilitate movement to and from the island's northern Turkish occupied areas. Furthermore, "the two sides made their preliminary statements on the issue of citizenship, immigration, and the issue of settlers", Christofias said.
Replying to questions, President Christofias said that there was no discussion about the number of settlers.
"Our positions on the issue are based on principles and we do recognise the humanitarian aspect of this issue", he said, adding that this issue will be discussed further in the future.
President Christofias, replying to another question, pointed out that the Greek Cypriot side supports a population census, as proposed by former UN Secretary General Boutros Ghali in 1992, a proposal adopted by the Security Council.
Asked to comment on statements by Turkish officials, the president noted that Ankara maintains its positions and Nicosia its own.
"Our positions are based on UN resolutions, the 1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements, agreements and joint statements Talat and I have made on one state with a single sovereignty, single citizenship and one international personality, with political equality as defined by UN resolutions, and agreements on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal solution", Christofias stressed.
"Our positions refer to a united state with a unified economy, common institutions and a united people in the context of a federation", he concluded.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunite the island.
 European Churches call on Turkey to protect religious sites in CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The General Assembly of the Council of European Churches has requested the revision of Turkey's policy concerning the maintenance of Christian places of worship in the areas of Cyprus under Turkish military occupation.
The General Assembly, which took place in Lyon, France, from July 15 to 21, calls on the Turkish government to revise its policy on religious education.
According to a press release, the General Assembly calls for full respect of human rights and religious freedoms, as well as respect of sacred sites and religious monuments, and the protection of freedoms and religious communities.
The General Assembly decided to declare 2010 a year of response of European churches to immigration.
It also celebrated the 50th anniversary since the establishment of the Council of European Churches.
In its message, the General Assembly also refers to the global financial crisis and climate change.
The Church of Cyprus was represented by a delegation comprising Bishop of Neapolis Porphyrios, Archimandrite Benedict Ioannou, Dean Ioannis Kyprianou, and theologians George Kakouras and Michaella Pavlou.
The General Assembly meets every six years in a different European city.
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