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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-10-08

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Thursday, 8 October 2009 Issue No: 3317

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Papandreou addresses first Cabinet meeting: 'Today we change page and embark on a new course'
  • [02] Ombudsman addresses cabinet on public administration
  • [03] Greece's new government sworn in
  • [04] Handover of ministries for foreign affairs, defence, domestic policy
  • [05] New culture minister takes over
  • [06] Putin congratulations to Papandreou
  • [07] ND to hold extraordinary conference on Nov. 7
  • [08] LA.O.S. parliamentary group convenes
  • [09] Tsipras elected SYRIZA Parliamentary Group president
  • [10] PM Papandreou to meet Cyprus President before month's end
  • [11] Handover in ministries relating to economy and economic affairs
  • [12] Wines of N. Greece
  • [13] Stocks up 0.52% on Wed.
  • [14] ADEX closing report
  • [15] Greek bond market closing report
  • [16] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [17] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew continues visit to Chania, Crete
  • [18] Natural beauty hidden under the Pindos mountain range
  • [19] Infant trafficking ring dismantled
  • [20] Athens tram drivers to hold 4-hour strike on Thursday
  • [21] Drug arrests in Tripolis, southern Greece
  • [22] Fair on Thursday
  • [23] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [24] Leaders to continue discussion on governance Politics

  • [01] PM Papandreou addresses first Cabinet meeting: 'Today we change page and embark on a new course'

    "Today we change page and embark on a new course for a just society, for a Greece that will make us proud, and to put the country back on a developmental track," newly-elected prime minister George Papandreou told the first meeting of his Cabinet on Wednesday, immediately after it was sworn in.

    "All together, united, we Greeks will write the next pages of our history," the premier said, stressing his goals of transparency across the board, systematic modernisation and upgrading of the state and the democratic institutions, a professional approach to resolving problems, and protection of the individual rights but also the collective public interest.

    Papandreou said that the new government "has received a mandate for the reversal of the situation...a mandate to change the way of governance of our country".

    The premier stressed that all the institutions need to be upgraded in order to become an element of the upgrading of democracy, to the citizens' benefit.

    Noting that the issue at hand "is not the money, but its proper management", Papandreou said that the "extensive corruption" has "taken on the dimensions of a pandemic", and pledged that "we will clash with perceptions deeply-rooted in the state and society".

    He instructed his ministers to take account of the problems existing in the ministries they are taking on, and to "not sweep them under the carpet" but to confront them and solve them.

    Papandreou asked that each minister record the problems faced by his/her respective ministry, so that they can present them to a Cabinet meeting or meetings next week, together with their priorities, noting that "the problems need to be known before measures are announced".

    The premier instructed his ministers to exercise authority without discrimination -- social, financial, religious or other -- adding that he as invited Ombudsman George Kaminis to address the Cabinet for that reason, given the latter's immense experience in public administration matters.

    He further instructed the ministers to seek the resignation of all the ad hoc committees in their ministries, noting that, after evaluation, if the operation of a specific committee was deemed necessary, it could be reinstated.

    [02] Ombudsman addresses cabinet on public administration

    Public administration in Greece was "castrated, intimidated and afraid of responsibility" but needed to be given a chance to prove that it can solve problems, Greek Ombudsman George Kaminis claimed on Wednesday while addressing the newly sworn-in cabinet.

    Speaking at the invitation of Greece's new prime minister, George Papandreou, Kaminis also noted that the Ombudsman's office had been pointing out the problems for years but its recommendations were rarely followed.

    The ombudsman criticised what he called a tendency by ministers to surround themselves with their own, temporary aides instead of trusting in the abilities of civil servants, so that every change of government amounted to a small "revolution" in public administration.

    He also called for the adoption of targets, both in the short, medium and long term, that would be pursued regardless of changes in government. Kaminis said this model had been adopted by the European Union several years ago and had also been nominally adopted by a Greek law passed in February 2004 but the progress made in this direction since had been extremely slow.

    On the radical reforms to public administration announced by Papandreou, Kaminis said that this would bring about substantial savings and streamline public administration, while urging the conversion of Citizens Service Centres into "one-stop shops" and warning that information technology was not a "panacea" and had to be backed up by political decisions to solve problems.

    The ombudsman also referred to the problem of illegal migration, saying that this was likely to continue for many years and required immediate action and decisions. He urged the creation of an "intermediate stage" and tighter definition of political asylum but stressed that Greece could not send out a message that anyone arriving in the country would eventually be made legal.

    [03] Greece's new government sworn in

    The Cabinet of newly-elected prime minister George Papandreou's PASOK government was sworn in on Wednesday morning by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and premier Papandreou, and immediately headed to the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) for the first Cabinet meeting, after which the ministers and deputies will head to their respective ministries for the handover ceremonies from their predecessor New Democracy (ND) ministers.

    Papandreou was sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday morning, and in the afternoon he announced the composition of the new 36-member streamlined government comprising 14 ministries.

    The new streamlined government comprises 14 ministries with an equal number of ministers and 22 deputy ministers, and introduces the new posts of Government Vice-President (deputy prime minister), assigned to veteran politician Theodoros Pangalos, and Minister of State, assigned to newcomer Haris Pampoukis, while the prime minister has retained the Foreign Ministry portfolio himself.

    Of the total 36-member Cabinet, 24 are first-time government members while 12 have served in previous governments. The Cabinet also includes nine women, of which five are ministers and four are deputy ministers, while another five are non-parliamentarians.

    Two deputy ministries will be headquartered in Thessaloniki: the interior deputy ministry and the economy and competitiveness deputy ministry.

    Seasoned PASOK former minister Filippos Petsalnikos will be nominated for parliament president, while former minister ex MEP Christos Papoutsis will take over as secretary of the ruling party's parliamentary group. Papoutsis, together with another former minister, Petros Efthymiou, will also be PASOK's parliamentary spokesman.

    Sotiris Lytras will take up the post of Cabinet secretary.

    [04] Handover of ministries for foreign affairs, defence, domestic policy

    The ministers of the new Greek government on Wednesday each took over from their predecessors of the outgoing New Democracy administration during hand-over ceremonies held at their respective ministries, following the new cabinet's first meeting after being sworn in earlier that morning. Among their number was Prime Minister George Papandreou, who has taken charge of the foreign ministry himself, with Dimitris Droutsas as alternate foreign minister.

    "We will work together in a spirit of national unity," Prime Minister George Papandreou said in a brief address as he took over from outgoing minister Dora Bakoyannis and stressed that "the immediate priority will be the major issues of foreign policy."

    Bakoyannis, on her part, promised to stand by the government "in every effort that aims to support Greece's interests" and stressed that an "unbroken national front is a valuable source of power for a country". She had earlier had a 45-minute meeting with Papandreou, Droutsas and the new deputy foreign minister Spyros Kouvelis, during which she and outgoing deputy ministers George Valinakis, Theodoros Kassimis and Miltiadis Varvitsiotis had briefed them on the ministry's affairs.

    At the national defence ministry, the hand-over took place in a climate of consensus and understanding, with outgoing minister Evangelos Meimarakis relinquishing the helm to his successor Evangelos Venizelos with a promise to support his work, stressing that the area of defence "must be left outside of petty bickering and party politics". Outgoing deputy minister Costas Tassoulas and Yiannis Plakiotakis turned over to alternate deputy minister Panagiotis Beglitis.

    "Our fundamental duty is the territorial integrity and dignity of Greece, as foreseen by the Constitution. We will move in this direction efficiently, seeking the greatest possible national consensus," Venizelos noted in his own address at the ceremony.

    There followed a 50-minute meeting of the outgoing and new political leadership of the ministry, attended by the leadership of the armed forces, followed by a 15-minute meeting between Meimarakis and Venizelos while Beglitis was being briefed by the deputy ministers.

    On the social and domestic front, Yiannis Ragoussis took over the crucial interior ministry - henceforth renamed the ministry of the interior, decentralisation and e-governance - from caretaker interior minister Spyros Flogaitis, in the presence of new deputy minister Dinos Rovlias and deputy minister based in Thessaloniki Theodora Tzakri. The ceremony was also attended by the outgoing deputy minister Athanassios Nakos and General Inspector for public administration Leandros Rakitzis.

    At the traditionally 'difficult' education ministry, renamed ministry of 'education, lifelong learning and religions', new minister Anna Diamantopoulou and deputy ministers Evi Christofilopoulou and Yiannis Panaretos were received by the outgoing minister Aris Spiliotopoulos and outgoing deputy ministers Spyros Taliadouros and Andreas Lykourentzos.

    Diamantopoulou underlined that education, alongside research, technology and lifelong learning, would be at the forefront of PASOK's policy, while she described the area of education as "the mother of all battles" for every government and pledged to continue national dialogue on education reform.

    At the health ministry, new minister Mariliza Xenoyian-akopoulou promised "work, work and more work" from herself and deputy minister Fofi Gennimata as she took over from outgoing health minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, saying that the two of them were a "determined working team that had come in order to turn our programme into action."

    Stressing that health care was at the heart of the social state, she spoke of a "rebirth" of the National Health System and said that health was a top priority for PASOK's government.

    At the justice ministry, outgoing minister Nikos Dendias handed over the reins to the new Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Haris Kastanidis and deputy minister Apostolos Katsifaras, stressing the huge problems faced by the Greek justice system and the need for urgent measures to speed up the delivery of justice, as well as the need for reforms in the country's over-taxed prison system. On his part, Kastanidis referred to the government's determination to restore prestige to the justice system and enhance its vital role as a support of democracy, human rights and individual freedoms.

    The head of the newly-formed Ministry of Citizen Protection Mihalis Chrysohoidis visited the public order general secretariat that forms a part of his new ministry, accompanied by Deputy Minister Spyros Vougias, and took over from outgoing alternate interior minister Christos Markoyiannakis.

    Chrysohoidis had also been in charge of the public order ministry under the last PASOK government and had been in charge when Greek police finally dismantled the urban terror group November 17. His return to the post was hailed by Markoyiannakis, who said hd was "the most eminently suitable member of the present government" for the job.

    [05] New culture minister takes over

    Newly-appointed Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos was welcomed at the ministry by outgoing minister Antonis Samaras, who told him that a great deal of work is in store for him.

    Geroulanos reserved comments for the future, both concerning his duties and the sector of culture and thanked Samaras for his warm welcome.

    The relevant ceremony, however, did not take place in the usual atmosphere for such events, since it was late at noon and the ministry's employees had left.

    [06] Putin congratulations to Papandreou

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday sent his congratulations to newly elected Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou for his victory during Sunday's election.

    "You are recognised as a systematic supporter of development of friendly relations between our two countries ... I am counting on mutual and active cooperation with your government, aimed to establish strategic relations between Russia and Greece in the sectors of the economy, science, culture and others," Putin's letter, published on Wednesday on the Russian government's official site, state.

    "The rich, in content, mutually beneficial bilateral relations fulfill both countries' fundamental interests and stability and security in Europe," Putin concluded.

    [07] ND to hold extraordinary conference on Nov. 7

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) will go to an extraordinary party conference to elect a new party president on November 7, an ND press release announced on Wednesday. The decision, possibly his last as head of the party, was made by outgoing ND President Costas Karamanlis after successive meetings at ND headquarters on Wednesday.

    The former prime minister had announced his resignation from ND's helm following his party' electoral defeat in last Sunday's elections, saying that the party's Congress would convene in a month's time to choose a new leader and that he would not be standing for re-election.

    Meanwhile, former Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters that he will suggest that the new party president be elected with open procedures, adding that the "scenarios" according to which, he will be a candidate only to withdraw his bid later, are "tendentious".

    So far, only one person has announced his candidacy for the post of ND's leadership, Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis.

    Karamanlis, 53, served as premier since March 2004, winning general elections twice in 2004 and 2007.

    [08] LA.O.S. parliamentary group convenes

    The Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S.) party's new Parliamentary Group convened on Wednesday at the main party offices in Athens, chaired by party leader George Karatzaferis.

    The LA.O.S president announced that Asterios Rontoulis will be LA.O.S.' Parliamentary Group spokesman, and Adonis Georgiadis and Costis Aivaliotis will serve as alternate spokesmen. Makis Voridis will be the Parliamentary Group Secretary while Vaitsis Apostolatos is proposed for the post of Parliament Vice-President.

    Karatzaferis underlined that his party met its goal of increasing by 50 percent the number of its MPs, adding that the new parliament session will be interesting.

    [09] Tsipras elected SYRIZA Parliamentary Group president

    Alexis Tsipras was unanimously elected President of the Radical Left Coalition's (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group during the body's first session on Wednesday.

    Tsipras said in a statement that the elections on October 4 gave SYRIZA the possibility of having a strong Parliamentary presence, adding that the new Parliamentary Group has all the preconditions to wage a tough and difficult but effective struggle.

    Commenting on the prime minister's address at the cabinet meeting, Tsipras sai that "we did not hear a word about the major social issues" and pointed out that the new government must try at least to create a shield of protection for society from the crisis.

    [10] PM Papandreou to meet Cyprus President before month's end

    NICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)

    A meeting between Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and Cyprus President Demetris Christofias is expected to take place before the European Union summit on October 29-30, according to Cyprus government spokesman Stephanos Stephanou.

    The spokesman said that the intention and will of both leaders to meet soon has already been expressed, but the time and place of the meeting has not yet been set. The aim, he added, is for them to meet before the EU summit, since there are very important issues that must be discussed.

    The Cypriot spokesman also said that cooperation, coordination and close contact with Greece is a dire necessity, adding that the Cyprus government would work with the new Greek government to face the challenges ahead, especially in view of Turkey's evaluation by the EU in December.

    Financial News

    [11] Handover in ministries relating to economy and economic affairs

    New Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and new Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli on Wednesday assumed their portfolios in a handover ceremony taking over from outgoing National Economy and Finance Minister Yannis Papathanassiou.

    Papathanassiou wished the new ministers success and placed himself and his associates at their disposal.

    After the handover ceremony, Papaconstantinou visited the ministry's press center. He commented that he was briefed by Papathanasiou on urgent issues, pointing out that he will be briefed by all ministry departments.

    New Agricultural Development and Food Minister Katerina Batzeli, speaking during the handover ceremony, announced the immediate adoption of measures concerning taxation and pensions, referring to farm pension increases as well as VAT and petrol consumption tax rebates for farmers. She also stressed that the ministry employees should be productive, transparent and at the service of the Greek farmers to avoid finding themselves replaced. Deputy minister Mihalis Karhimakis was also present in the ceremony.

    New Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili stressed that 'green energy' is the new government's main priority, while assuming the energy portfolio in the handover ceremony held at the ministry of development. Present at the ceremony were the new deputy ministers Yiannis Maniatis and Thanos Moraitis.

    Outgoing Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis presented the ministry's initiatives in the sector of energy, referring to energy saving policies adopted, as well as to the natural gas and oil pipeline projects.

    The remaining development ministry portfolios will be handed over to new Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli later in the afternoon.

    Ministry of Infrastructure, Transports and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas assumed his portfolio from outgoing Transportation and Communications Minister Evripidis Stylianidis.

    Reppas underlined that the ministry's role in promoting 'green development' is decisive, pointing out that hard work is necessary.

    Deputy Ministers Yiannis Magriotis and Nikos Sifounakis will be responsible for the sectors of public works and transports respectively.

    Outgoing Tourism Development Minister Costas Markopoulos handed over the tourism portfolio to new Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos as well as deputy minister Angeliki Gerekou.

    The new minister held a private meeting with Markopoulos and made no statements afterwards. Geroulanos and Gerekou also attended a handover ceremony at the culture ministry, which was merged with that of tourism in the new government, from outgoing minister Antonis Samaras.

    Outgoing Employment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli-Petralia also welcomed the new leadership of the ministry, renamed labour and social insurances ministry, and wished success to new minister Andreas Loverdos and deputy minister George Koutroumanis.

    Loverdos stated that he will make no policy statements ahead of the new parliament's opening session.

    [12] Wines of N. Greece

    A wine-tasting event will take place in Thessaloniki's main Aristotelous Square on Saturday, hosted by the Wine Producers Association of the Northern Greece Vineyard (EBOABE).

    The need for a long-term strategic plan to boost Greek wine exports and help overcome the sector's long-standing problems was underlined in a press conference by EBOABE representatives on Wednesday.

    The Greek Vineyard is approximately 70,000 hectares, while annual wine production reaches four million hectoliters. The annual per capita consumption is estimated at 27-30 liters. Roughly 35 million liters of Greek wines are exported annually to 47 countries.

    Greeks prefer the locally produced wines while the most attractive foreign markets for the Greek wines are the United States, Canada, Germany and Russia.

    [13] Stocks up 0.52% on Wed.

    Greek stocks ended sharply higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with the composite index of the market rising 0.52 pct to end at 2,692.42 points. Turnover was an improved 288.4 million euros, of which 16.6 million euros were block trades.

    Most sector indices ended higher with Raw Materials (4.29 pct), Oil-Gas (3.02 pct) and Constructions (1.41 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.

    The FTSE 20 index jumped 0.21 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 0.58 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.23 pct higher. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 102 to 99 with another 58 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.82%

    Industrials: +1.38%

    Commercial: -0.30%

    Construction: +1.41%

    Media: -1.43%

    Oil & Gas: +3.02%

    Personal & Household: +0.75%

    Raw Materials: +4.29%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.65%

    Technology: -1.59%

    Telecoms: +0.43%

    Banks: +0.02%

    Food & Beverages: +1.26%

    Health: -0.12%

    Utilities: +1.30%

    Chemicals: -0.52%

    Financial Services: -0.16%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Eurobank, Alpha Bank and OTE.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 12.90

    ATEbank: 1.64

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 15.62

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.55

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.19

    National Bank of Greece: 24.18

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 11.00

    Intralot: 4.85

    OPAP: 17.81

    OTE: 11.70

    Bank of Piraeus: 12.40

    Titan: 24.00

    [14] ADEX closing report

    The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a fair price in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 63.194 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,063 contracts, worth 43.325 million euros with 24,257 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,137 contracts worth 19.865 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,025), followed by OTE (2,234), Mytilineos (1,894), Eurobank (1,705), Marfin Popular Bank (1,598), Intralot (900), OPAP (802) and ATEbank (721).

    [15] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market remained a strong 2.266 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.045 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.221 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.935 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose to 134 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 4.45 pct and the German Bund 3.14 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 1.01 pct, the three-month rate 0.74 pct and the one-month rate 0.43 pct.

    [16] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.481

    Pound sterling 0.932

    Danish kroner 7.503

    Swedish kroner 10.443

    Japanese yen 131.73

    Swiss franc 1.527

    Norwegian kroner 8.430

    Canadian dollar 1.567

    Australian dollar 1.664

    General News

    [17] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew continues visit to Chania, Crete

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is currently on a visit to Chania, on the southern Aegean island of Crete, referred to the plague of road accidents on Wednesday during the inauguration of the "Christos Polentas" Park for the Prevention of Road Accidents in Voukolies. A memorial service in the presence of tens of relatives of victims of road accidents was also held.

    Bartholomew visited the Monastery of Gonias and the Prefecture of Chania where he met with local authorities.

    The Ecumenical Patriarch was declared honorary citizen of Kolimvari in a special event held in Ano Vouves, a region where one of the oldest olive trees in the world is found. He also inaugurated the Museum of the Olive Tree.

    Bartholomew inaugurated the "Faith and Order" Committee Plenum of the World Council of Churches on Wednesday night, that is taking place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete at Kolymbari.

    "A profound feeling of humbleness and not proud insistence is required for unity, our continuing and persistent aim," he said.

    Bartholomew referred to the need for unity among churches and explained that "humbleness means that we are focused on learning from others, as well as learning from ascertainments that have already been tested through time," he added.

    [18] Natural beauty hidden under the Pindos mountain range

    Over 100 caves in the Pindos mountain range are awaiting the visitor to explore them. The blend of natural beauty, history and culture in these underground monuments are under the authority and responsibility of the Culture Ministry's Ephorate of Palaeo-anthropology and Speleology. Katafylli, Kotroni, Lamia, Katsarou, Paleolakka, Aetofolia and Spilitsa are just a few of the more known caves where the visitor may admire the miracle of nature in a number of speleothems such as stalactites, stalagmites, cave curtains and columns, eccentrites and cave pearls. In some of them he will be able to tour underground lakes and rivers. A variety of species are seen in this environment such as moths, snails, dolichopodidae, pseudoscorpions, spiders, bats, salamanders and a whole new world, unknown to the most people. According to the Greek Speleology and Alpine Community, special equipment and specific knowledge is mandatory for those who would like to explore some of these caves more thoroughly. ANA-MPA

    [19] Infant trafficking ring dismantled

    Three foreign nationals, a man and two women from Bulgaria, were arrested on Wednesday in Katerini, northern Greece, when they attempted to sell a baby for 13,000 euros to police officers posing as buyers. Among the sellers was the mother of the infant.

    A preliminary investigation revealed that the baby was born in mid August in a clinic on the island of Crete.

    [20] Athens tram drivers to hold 4-hour strike on Thursday

    The Athens tram service will be disrupted on Thursday due to a four-hour strike by the tram drivers' union between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. The tram company announced that problems with the services will begin as early as 8:30 am, however, as the trams were gradually withdrawn from circulation, while normal services will only be resumed by 3:30 p.m.

    [21] Drug arrests in Tripolis, southern Greece

    A 31-year-old man was arrested in Gargaliani, southern Greece, after a search of his house revealed 342 narcotic pills.

    In a separate incident in Hiliochoria Municipality, Messinia Prefecture, also in southern Greece, a 47-year-old man was arrested when police found in his possession 17.5 grams of hashish.

    Both suspects were led before a prosecutor and an investigation is underway by local police.

    Weather Forecast

    [22] Fair on Thursday

    Fair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 10C and 29C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 15C to 28C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 15C to 27C.

    [23] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The new government cabinet announced on Tuesday by prime minister George Papandreou, the major changes in ministries and the succession in the main opposition New Democracy leadership, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Papandreou abolished the Macedonia-Thrace Ministry".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Two major ministries abolished - Major reactions on Macedonia -Thrace ministry abolishment".

    AVGHI: "George and Co. government - New cabinet composed by Papandreou's close associates".

    AVRIANI: "Government's mission is very difficult".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Thessaloniki prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis announced his candidacy for ND's leadership".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Papandreou clashes with PASOK's 'old guard'."

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Close associates, experienced, new young faces and women constitute the new cabinet - Papandreou kept for himself the Foreign Ministry".

    ESTIA: "Bold changes in government structure".

    ETHNOS: "Strong team with vision and experience - George presented a flexible government with reversals and surprises".

    KATHIMERINI: "Government of renewals and surprises".

    NIKI: "Difficult missions - George's and his government's major wagers".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "No expectations or delusions from the new government ".

    TA NEA: "Government ready for battle - George's staff in the front line".

    TO VIMA: "Cabinet of surprises and ready for work - Mergers, abolitions and new ministries".

    VRADYNI: "New Democracy MPs demand resignation of former Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos."

    Cyprus Affairs

    [24] Leaders to continue discussion on governance

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will continue their discussions on Thursday in the framework of the second round of UN-led direct negotiations, which began in September 2008, with a view to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974, concentrating on the issue of governance.

    UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer told reporters here Wednesday after a meeting that the leaders met in a good climate and will hold another two meetings next week.

    Christofias and Talat decided during their previous meeting in September 2009 to accelerate the pace of their meetings, which take place in the UN-controlled buffer zone.

    In his remarks, Downer said that Wednesday's meeting lasted longer than originally planned. The delay in finishing the meeting forced the leaders to cancel an olive tree planting ceremony that was scheduled to take place at the end of the meeting.

    Downer said the leaders began the tet-a-tet in a normal way and had a discussion for a while there and in the plenary discussions about the issue of governance and presidency and so on. "That took up the bulk of the discussion. The leaders will be meeting again tomorrow to continue with the discussion on governance and they are meeting again next week Wednesday and Thursday as well".

    Asked what was the climate at the meeting, Downer replied "very friendly, very easy going sort of discussion, a lot of broad discussion about the different approaches to these issues which is very important".

    Downer said he would be present Thursday but next week he will be away and will be back here again on a fairly constant basis until the end of the year.

    Asked if he is planning to move to Cyprus, Downer said he rents a house in Cyprus adding that his wife will be coming to Cyprus in the week after next.

    To a remark if this implies more permanency, Downer said "this is an arrangement that has been made when I was employed by the UN, the SG, that I should do this job", adding that as the process gets into the second reading, I will spend higher and higher proportion of my time here".

    Downer also clarified that he was asked whether there would be a signing of an agreement by the end of the year or the beginning. "I don't know, it is a matter for the leaders", he answered.

    He also said that although there has been a lot of speculation, there has been no decision yet.

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