|Friday, 19 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-08-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 26 August 2009 Issue No: 3280
 First measures for wildfire relief citedPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis chaired an Inner Cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon that focused on the issue of support for residents affected by the disastrous wildfires in the northeast Attica prefecture over the weekend.
Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias said after the meeting that the measures for those affected are similar to those taken in the wake of wildfires in the western Peloponnese in 2007.
Referring to the environmental destruction, he said an effort is required by all, coordination, planning, immediate and speedy initiatives, patience as well as years.
Souflias announced that planning will be carried out and very soon the implementation of flood-protection and corrosion-protection measures, as well as the creation of fire-protection zones and the construction of roads through forests to enable access to all regions to be easy.
He stressed that the countryside will be linked by satellite for the monitoring of land to be reforested, like in the case of Mount Parnitha, and the region will also be placed under surveillance in this way.
"We shall get to work immediately. All services and officials must coordinate themselves and I believe that with the help of all we shall be able to confront this great ecological disaster that has taken place to a considerable degree," he said.
 Government spokesman on wildfiresGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said during a press briefing on Tuesday, referring to the latest wildfires, that "wherever there was a forest a forest will be created again."
The spokesman added that "no exception, no deviation from this rule will be tolerated," and announced that George Souflias has been appointed coordinator for restoration work.
"Our target is for the environment that was harmed to return to its previous beauty," the spokesman stressed and spoke of a great disaster and of considerable damage.
On the question of compensation, Antonaros said that in the case of homes that were completely destroyed money will be provided for building new ones of up to 120 square metres and at a cost of 750 euros per square metre, while up to 450 euros will be provided for repairs.
 Wildfires under control, vigilance continuesNo active wildfire fronts were reported around the country on Tuesday, with the weekend's major blazes in northeast Attica, on Mt. Kitheronas and Porto Germeno as well as east of Karystos under control or extinguished. Fire Brigade forces remained at the scenes to prevent any rekindling of the wildfires.
In terms of fire-fighting aircraft, one water-dropping helicopter patrolled over Kitheronas, two fire-fighting aircraft and two helicopters over Karystos and two aircraft over NE Attica.
The three Italian and three French aircraft together with a helicopter from Cyprus and Turkey are on alert and remain in Greece but are not patrolling.
 Damage survey beginsÅnvironment, public works and town planning ministry engineers on Tuesday began surveying fire-stricken areas of northeastern Attica to record damages. According to ministry's first estimates, announced on Monday, 150 residences suffered damages
 PASOK leader on wildfiresMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou stressed in a written statement on Tuesday that the wildfires in 2009 must constitute a red line for the state and the citizens, adding that the latest disasters must signal the end of an era and of a model of growth that concludes that whatever does not become cement must become ashes.
Papandreou stressed in his statement that the time when the struggle was being waged against the wildfires was not the time to seek responsibilities, as it is now "that we are seeing with profound pain the ashes of a crime."
The PASOK leader placed grave responsibilities on the government for the lack of a report on mistakes in handling the wildfires in 2007 and for failure to utilise the European Parliament's report in 2008 on wildfires in Greece.
"Responsibilities, therefore, exist and they must be attributed. Responsibilities that are primarily political, operational responsibilities, handling responsibilities. This disaster is totally unjustified because it could have been avoided if the mishaps in 2007 had become lessons," he stressed.
Papandreou concluded by underlining that (PASOK's future government) will prepare a "Green Development" plan that will radically change factors concerning land planning and land use.
 PASOK spokesman on wildfiresMain opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papa-constantinou said on Tuesday that what is self-evident concerning compensation and reforestration is expected to be heard from the prime minister, but from then on Costas Karamanlis has no credibility to say that we shall not see again what we have seen.
The spokesman added that over the past 3-4 days over 20,000 hectares of forest land have been burnt, while in the Attica prefecture over the last 30 years 30,000 hectares have been burnt and stressed, that the questions arising are "who is to blame, what happened."
Asked what the party's position will be "since unauthorised buildings were also burnt in the wildfires," the spokesman referred to the press conference to be given on Wednesday, on the issue of wildfires, pointing out that "this issue requires appropriate handling" and that the handling of the issue must be governed by the principle that unauthorised buldings are illegal.
"The minds of all turn there, economic motives are big, (however) I would not wish to state a clear position on this," Papaconstantinou said, asked about the possibility of arson, something that "other parties have adopted including KKE."
 KKE on wildfiresCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga referred to an "immeasurable" ecological catastrophe in commenting on Tuesday over the recent wildfires that devastated northeast Attica prefecture.
Papariga, moreover, again charged an organised arson plan was at hand, part of efforts by what she called "economic interests" to appropriate major tracts of land and to change land use laws, all aimed at generating profit. She also again emphasised her party's radical position of, namely, "social property", i.e. the right of every worker to a first residence and even a vacation home beyond the "regime of buying and selling land".
Finally, she said it was incomprehensible that large swaths of forestland are owned by monasteries in the country.
 Alavanos on wildfiresRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alekos Alavanos, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, said that the protection of forests is tantamount to the protection of the country's national integrity.
Alavanos spoke of a "government of banks, because although giving 28 billion to the banks it was unable to find money for fire protection," adding that "it is a government that is not interested in working people" and clarifying that "it is a fact that forest firemen are workers for a specific period of time and do not constitute a regular and permanent force for forest protection."
He also said that "it is necessary that the government should go, as well as the two-party system, given that the government relies on forest-killing laws of PASOK."
 FM reiterates Athens' positions on Cyprus, Turkey's EU prospectsForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday reiterated Athens' position regarding the long-standing Cyprus problem and tersely pointed to Ankara's more-or-less negative involvement in efforts by the two communities on the island republic to achieve a solution, as well as to Turkey's EU prospects.
Bakoyannis was speaking during a handover ceremony at the foreign ministry in Athens and the swearing-in of a new general secretary of the ministry.
Nevertheless, regarding the ongoing dialogue on the Cyprus issue, Bakoyannis said there "are conditions for a solution, despite the difficulties ... Greece will offer any and all support to (Cyprus) President Christofias."
In echoing the long-standing position of both Nicosia and Athens, Bakoyannis reiterated that any solution for Cyprus must revolve around a bizonal, bi-communal federation, "a solution that must be just, viable and functional without outdated guarantor systems; one based on UN Security Council resolutions; one that respects EU values and principles and implements the Union's acquis communautaire."
In a direct reference to Ankara's involvement in the overall and complex question, the Greek foreign minister charged that Turkey's "occupation army is determining the level of flexibility of the Turkish Cypriot side in negotiations". She also added that Turkey still has time to demonstrate that its proclamations citing "zero problems" with neighbouring countries are more than mere words.
"By the end of the year its (Turkish government) compliance with the so-called Ankara protocol will be evaluated, along with its commitment to normalising relations with the Republic of Cyprus," Bakoyannis reminded, adding that the neighbouring country should not expect "special treatment", "a Europe a la carte does not exist for anyone."
Finally, the Greek minister emphasised that Athens' policy is and remains clear-cut: "Full implementation means full accession, without deviations and without blank cheques".
Amb. Aristeidis Sandis on Tuesday officially took over the ministry general secretary post from Amb. Aristeidis Agathoklis.
 FM: Crucial period in fYRoM ' name issue'Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday predicted that the upcoming six-month period will be particularly crucial for solving the still unresolved fYRoM "name issue", a "thorn" preventing Athens' full normalisation of relations with the one-time Yugoslav republic for the past 19 years.
Bakoyannis reiterated that Athens will continue, "with a positive disposition", its participation in the UN-mediated talks with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) to find a mutual acceptable solution "without winners or losers".
"This, in fact, is the message towards Skopje by the international community, the EU and NATO," she added.
On a stricter note, Bakoyannis also decried what has recently been lampooned as a policy of so-called "antiquisation" by the current Gruevski government, charging that "with inaugurations (of infrastructure projects) and antiquity theft it (Skopje government) thinks it can re-write history ... whereas on many occasions it goads its people into fanaticism and intolerance, thereby moving them further away from their Euro-Atlantic course."
In uttering Athens' leitmotif vis-a-vis a possible solution, she cited a composite name with a geographic qualifier for all uses (erga omnes).
 Greek-US judicial agreements ratified at Parliamentary com't levelA relevant Parliamentary committee on Tuesday ratified, via majority vote, two draft agreements between Greece and the United States concerning the exchange of information regarding terrorist acts and strengthening cooperation on preventing and combating serious crime.
The draft bill was approved by MPs of the ruling New Democracy party, while main opposition PASOK party deputies expressed reservations over certain aspects of the agreements, calling for greater clarification during debate by the Parliament plenum, when a memorandum of understanding will be tabled.
MPs of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) opposed the agreements, claiming possible a circumvention of individual rights and personal data.
Both Justice Minister Nikos Dendias and Alternate Interior Minister for Public Order Christos Markoyiannakis reassured MPs that personal data and individual rights are protected absolutely, while the country's national interest is also secured at the same time.
They also emphasised the fact that with the abolition of the visa requirement for Greek citizens wishing to travel to America will be achieved.
Dendias said suspicions aired by opposition deputies are excessive, stressing that other European countries, such as Germany, have signed similar and far more wide-ranging agreements.
Replying to criticism by the opposition that a third agreement with the memorandum of mutual understanding may contain "traps", Dendias clarified that it is a proclamation of principles and not a text that must be ratified by Parliament.
Markoyiannakis said that the ground for exchanging information is very limited and only for persons that have been convicted of terrorism acts, or have been arrested for terrorism and in no way will it concern suspects.
"We agree, in principle, over the bill, but we do not have clear knowledge of the details to enable us to see whether the Greek government has counter-signed excessive demands by the United States, ones that will lead to the harming of individual rights and the lifting of personal data. The bill needs further processing, while the third agreement with the memorandum of understanding must also come before Parliament to enable us to have a fuller picture," PASOK MP Grigoris Niotis said.
KKE rapporteur Achilleas Kantartzis claimed that "through these agreements between Greece and the United States, suppressive measures and imperialist mentalities are being strengthened," adding that "their main target is the suppression of the popular movement."
SYRIZA rapporteur Nikos Tsoukalis also opposed the bill, speaking of agreements that are not based on equality of rights and reciprocity, but that reveal the concept of a submissive country.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party rapporteur George Georgiou expressed reservations, stressing the need for the further clarification of controversial clauses in the bill and reserved his position for the plenum.
 PASOK releases letter by Christoforakos' German attorneyMain opposition PASOK party on Tuesday released a letter by the attorney for one-time Siemens Hellas CEO Michalis Christoforakos, who remains jailed in Munich and wanted by Greek prosecutors for his alleged role in the local Siemens kickback and bribery investigation, where the lawyer categorically denies that he never told Greek media his client offered to provide information to political parties over campaign contributions.
"I must point out that neither on Aug. 8, 2009 nor on any other occasion did we give an approved interview to the aforementioned newspaper, 'To Vima', or to any reporters (of the paper) ..." the letter by attorney Stefan Kursawe reads, while in the first paragraph Kursawe refers to the "alleged statements" attributed to him in the newspaper article.
"Unfortunately, because I lack knowledge of the Greek language I am not in a position to follow Greek press articles, and thus, I cannot correct inaccurate references ... We merely stated on Greek state television that we will relay every written request towards Mr. Christoforakos by third parties, and we wonder why no such questions were directed until mid August 2009. Whether Mr. Christoforakos will answer such questions is exclusively his decision," Kursawe states.
He adds that the ongoing judicial process in Germany, where his client is remanded to custody and fighting extradition to Greece, make it impossible to issue statements or to provide whatever evidence.
PASOK party secretary Yiannis Ragoussis had addressed a letter to Kursawe on Aug. 18, 2009 requesting all evidence Christoforakos had in his possession and that concerned PASOK, following the publication of the article purportedly quoting the German attorney.
 FinMin: Reforms needed to make economy more competitiveEconomy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou on Tuesday urged for a common effort to exit the current financial crisis and to lead the country into a new period of high growth rates.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with representatives of the country's largest employers and workers' unions, GSEE, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), the National Confederation of Greek Commerce and Small Manufacturing Enterprises (GSEBEE), the minister called for understanding, cooperation and consensus. "Either we will take difficult but nationally necessary decisions, or we will slide many decades back," Papathanassiou told reporters.
He stressed that although the crisis hit the country with some delay, it was causing serious problems to the real economy and the country's public finances. Papathanassiou again urged for the implementation of a wide-ranging reform programme that will make the Greek economy more competitive, capable of attracting foreign investments and creating more and better job positions.
"It is time to open a national dialogue, to agree and move on. We have asked and expect social and producer classes' proposals towards this end," Papathanassiou said.
 SEV presents measures to boost employmentThe Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) on Tuesday unveiled a package of 10 measures aimed at supporting employment in the country amid a rising trend in the unemployment rate.
The measures were presented, by SEV's president Dimitris Daskalopoulos, during a meeting with Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou. The meeting underlined the need to deal with chronic and structural problems of the Greek economy, highlighted during the global financial crisis, along with SEV's proposals to promoting structural reforms.
Speaking to reporters, Daskalopoulos said the Economy minister reiterated his view that the crisis highlighted the country's chronic structural problems and the government's decision to implement an integrated structural reforms program -a position strongly supported by SEV in the last three years.
Daskalopoulos expressed SEV's hope that there would be a clear political will to promoting reforms and said that one-off measures to boost tax revenues would have no results since they failed to fundamentally deal with the fiscal deficit problem, while shrinking households' incomes and domestic markets during a prolonged recession period.
He said that a major economic and social problem facing the country currently was rising unemployment and stressed that Hellenic Federation of Enterprises' measures were aimed at boosting employment. He noted that the measures were the product of discussions with GSEE -Greece's largest trade union- and other social partners.
Daskalopoulos urged the government to include these measures to its economic policy plan -to be unveiled by Prime Minister during his traditional inaugural speech at the Thessaloniki Trade Fair early next month and called for opposition political parties to endorse them. "It is our duty to strengthen employment," he said.
The measures include: more state funding of a Social Cohesion Fund to support weaker classes, abolishing all tax counter-incentives, supporting new hirings with a temporary lowering of social security contributions for enterprises, lower social security contributions for enterprises facing serious problems in the 2009-2010 period, subsidizing vocational training for workers with reduced working hours, restructuring and strengthening of all mechanisms regulating the labour and social security markets, completion of an employers' register, adopting a community directive on group lay-offs, immediate implementation of a law offering loan guarantees to enterprises and raising unemployment benefits by 25 pct for at least one year.
 METKA-led consortium wins Megalopoli power plant projectPublic Power Corp. (PPC), Greece's power utility, on Tuesday awarded a project to build a new production unit in Megalopoli to a consortium led by METKA and ETADE, with a pricetage of 500 million euros, 43 million euros less than the consortium's initial offer.
PPC said the signing of the contract will be made in the next two months if the consortium accepts a precondition set by PPC's board, namely, that no penalty be paid if the unit's operation is delayed up to 13 months.
Under the plan, METKA and ETADE will build a 811 MW natgas-fired power plant in Megalopoli, a town in the central Peloponnese that already hosts other PPC units.
 Fourlis Group reports lower H1 resultsFourlis Group on Tuesday reported a 5.3-pct decline in its net profits to 13.39 million euros in the first half of 2009, from 14.14 million euros in the same period last year. Group turnover was 316.08 million euros, down 9.7 pct from 2008, while consolidated pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) were unchanged at 30.26 million euros.
Consolidated pre-tax and minorities earnings rose 0.5 pct to 19.58 pct in the January-June period, while earnings per share eased to 0.26 euros from 0.28 euros last year.
Fourlis said its IKEA unit reported a 0.7 pct increase in sales to 139.05 million euros and pre-tax profits of 17.12 million euros in the first half, up from 138.04 million and 11.54 million euros, respectively.
Its Intersport unit reported a 14.2 pct increase in sales to 37.64 million euros and pre-tax profits of 2.25 million euros (down from 3.48 million euros in 2008).
The electronic retail unit reported a 22.1 pct decline in first half sales reflecting lower business in Romania.
 OPAP reports mixed H1 resultsOPAP SA, Greece's state-run lottery group, on Tuesday reported a 0.1-pct increase in its first half sales to 2.764 billion euros, marginally up from 2.760 billion euros in the corresponding period last year. It added that pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) fell 8.9 pct to 506.7 million euros, from 556.1 million euros, over the same period, respectively.
OPAP said net profits eased 3.8 pct to 371.2 million euros, down from 385.8 million euros last year. Commenting on the results, OPAP's chairman and chief executive, Christos Hatziemmanouel, said first half results were satisfactory amidst an extremely difficult economic environment and given the absence of a large international sports event this year.
"We remain steadfast to our goals for the year, seeking new partnerships abroad and improving our products in Greece," he said.
 Greek trade deficit down 43.6 pct in JuneGreece's merchandised trade deficit shrank by 43.6 pct in June to 2.321 billion euros, from 4.116 billion euros in the corresponding month last year, the National Statistical Service said on Tuesday.
The statistics agency, in a report, said the trade deficit -excluding oils- fell by 25.7 pct or 803.5 million euros and stressed that the trade deficit reflected a 37.8 pct drop in import-arrivals and a 22.6 pct fall in export-deliveries in June.
The trade deficit in the January-June period totaled 12.172 billion euros, from 21.742 billion euros in June 2008, for a decline of 44 pct, while excluding oils the deficit fell by 3.808 billion euros or 24.3 pct in the same period. Greek exports fell by 18.4 pct in the six-month period, while import-arrivals dropped by 36.8 pct.
 ASE ends above 2,500 levelGreek stocks continued moving higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, pushing the composite index of the market above the 2,500 level for the first time this year. The index rose 0.91 pct to end at 2,505.74 points, with turnover at 175.3 million euros, of which 7.1 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved upwards, with the Insurance (10.46 pct), Travel (3.75 pct), Commerce (3.68 pct) and Personal/Home Products (2.75 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Health (0.45 pct) and Media (0.42 pct) suffered losses. The FTSE 20 index rose 0.69 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.33 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index rose 1.04 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 125 to 84 with another 49 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.98%
Personal & Household: +2.75%
Raw Materials: +1.52%
Travel & Leisure: +3.75%
Food & Beverages: +0.66%
Financial Services: +1.73%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 11.05
Public Power Corp (PPC): 16.14
HBC Coca Cola: 15.58
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.23
National Bank of Greece: 22.89
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 10.60
Bank of Piraeus: 10.90
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.25 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover remaining a low 43.479 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,645 contracts worth 30.607 million euros, with 22,231 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,927 contracts worth 12.872 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (2,107), followed by OTE (1,469), PPC (745), OPAP (1,134), Piraeus Bank (1,019), National Bank (1,559), Alpha Bank (961), Cyprus Bank (478) and ATEbank (512).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.443
Pound sterling 0.881
Danish kroner 7.502
Swedish kroner 10.170
Japanese yen 136.13
Swiss franc 1.529
Norwegian kroner 8.678
Canadian dollar 1.553
Australian dollar 1.719
 Fatality reported in fight between foreign nationalsA 22-year-old Somali man was fatally injured by a 19-year-old compatriot during a violent fight between the two on Tuesday in broad daylight in a central Athens district recently plagued by violence.
The incident occurred on a street two blocks from Omonia square. The victim was pronounced dead at an Athens hospital, while the suspect was arrested.
 Man arrested for spate of bank robberiesPolice have arrested a 31-year-old man for carrying out a spate of bank robberies in the Athens districts of Kypseli, Patissia and Gyzi on Tuesday.
Between 10:40 and 11:50 in the morning, the armed man robbed a Bank of Piraeus branch office in Gyzi of 10,350 euros, a Citibank branch office in Gyzi of 4,515 euros, a Probank branch office in Kypseli of 5,115 euros and an Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE) branch office in Patissia of 13,040 euros.
Investigations also revealed that the man had robbed an ATE branch office in Gyzi on Monday of 11,950 euros as well.
 Fair on WednesdayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 16C and 35C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 22C to 32C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 20C to 30C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe day after the disastrous wildfires that ravaged northeastern Attica and a SMEs finance support programme to begin in September, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "1.05 billion euros for commerce, tourism and manufacturing".
APOGEVMATINI: "Ministry teams begin record of damages".
AVGHI: "Endless crime..."
AVRIANI: "Rangers responsible for Attica's forests destruction".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Mr. Karamanlis must apologise not only for the scandals and but also for the wildfires".
ELEFTHEROS: "Enough! Make changes now Mr. Karamanlis".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The state of crime - Who is responsible for Attica's latest disaster".
ESTIA: "Attica defenceless - Why we are defenceless before wildfires".
ETHNOS: "Silly explanations to cover up responsibilities - The wind and pine trees are responsible".
KATHIMERINI: "Fatal mistakes and derelictions - State and citizens again unprepared".
LOGOS: "Attica a lunar landscape - Ecological disaster incalculable".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The land must belong to state".
TA NEA: "Government spokesman Antonaros gives ridiculous explanation: The pine trees to blame".
VIMA: "Without an alibi.....Why and how was Attica turned into ashes again".
VRADYNI: "The pines trees blamed for disaster!"
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