|Tuesday, 20 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-10-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 16 October 2009 Issue No: 3324
 Government eyes reforms to stem illegal migrationCitizens' Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Thursday told the leadership of the Greek coast guard that he hoped to put an end to the entry of illegal immigrants into Greece from the sea, during a meeting also attended by Greek Police chief Vassilis Tsiatouras.
The head of the coast guard Theodoros Rentzeperis and other coast guard officers underlined the need to modernise the service in terms of both its personnel and resources, adding that they have been striving to do their best for years.
In statements to reporters, Chrysohoidis announced plans to modernise and rename the coast guard (whose Greek name until now was officially the 'Harbours Corps'), creating the Hellenic Coastguard with a headquarters based in Piraeus. He also announced that the government was considering the immediate release of 1,200 foreign national prisoners due to be deported that are currently being held in police jails.
Chrysohoidis stressed that the government would no longer tolerate the large-scale mass entry of illegal immigrants nor the human traffickers that brought them. He said the Greek coast guard will be converted into an operational force with high capabilities for patrolling the coasts, while a new order of the ministry would free the coast guard from all other duties.
For the guarding of ports, as required by ISPS Code, port authorities should employ private security firms or pay to use coast guard officers.
 Petsalnikos elected parliament presidentPASOK former minister Philippos Petsalnikos was elected parliament president on Thursday.
In a secret ballot, he was elected with 160 votes out of a total 299 MPs that voted, receiving 8 votes more than the ruling PASOK party's seats in the 300-member unicameral parliament of Greece.
Also, 130 blank ballots and one invalid ballot were cast.
Petsalnikos, a Kastoria Prefecture deputy, said afterwards that his intention is to "cooperate with all deputies seeking harmonious and productive coexistence", adding that he will work "with a measure of responsibility, unbiased and objectively".
In the handover ceremony outgoing Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas expressed certainty that his successor will have a successful term and wished him to have the pleasure of delivering a stronger and more functional parliament for the benefit of the people and Democracy when his term in office ends.
On his part, Petsalnikos stated that his election places on him great responsibility, underlining that his goal is a parliament that is open to the people and society, and more transparency in legislative work.
Addressing the MPs, he stated that this is a great honor for him and northern Greece, pointing out that this is the first time that the parliament president comes from a border district in that part of the country.
Petsalnikos stated that the parliament will have to host public debate and constructive discussion to upgrade parliamenta-rianism and the role of the MPs in an effort to overturn the people's discontent.
He also reiterated the statements made on Wednesday by Prime Minister George Papandreou who stressed addressing the ruling PASOK party Parliamentary Group that the goal is to have a parliament that will be "open to society and the people".
Petsalnikos stressed that "we do not need more but better laws" referring to the need for more transparency in the legislative process and higher quality legislative work, adding that the practice of tabling last-minute amendments to parliament for approval should stop.
He referred to the statements made by the prime minister suggesting active participation of the parliament in important contracts, concerning defense programmes in particular, and in the appointment of the Justice leadership. He condemned the practice adopted by many government ministers to be represented by deputy ministers during parliamentary control sessions and announced that the Prime Minister's Hour in parliament will undergo changes. He also stressed the need to reform the institutional framework for the mandatory "means of wealth statements" to ensure that the people will be better informed.
 Gov't on the economy, social insuranceGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Thursday stated that the government is working toward requesting more time from the European Commission to have the deficit reduced.
On the pension age limits and the government's stance within the framework of the European Commission, Petalotis stated that "we will convey to the EU the sense that it is dealing with a reliable and productive country in order to have the best possible outcome."
"The social insurance issue will be discussed based on our commitments and our specific policy," he said, adding that "we cannot forget that we are an EU member with the rights and obligations this entails."
 Gov't on the election systemGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis referring to the issue of the change of the election system commented that there is clearly a necessity.
He also stated that there is no issue of "party discipline" referring to the proposals the government will present as regards the election law.
 Greece: no EU entry talks for FYROM without name solutionGovernment spokesman George Petalotis stressed on Thursday that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will not receive a date for starting EU entry talks unless it first resolved the dispute with Greece over its name.
"It is clear that FYROM will receive no date for the opening of its EU accession negotiations unless the issue of the name is resolved," Petalotis stressed in response to questions.
He added that "exclusive" responsibility for the EU accession negotiations of all countries and therefore of the particular country as well, belonged to the European Union, its member-states and consequently Greece.
"The national red line is known and unequivocal," he pointed out.
 Alternate FM meets with US ambassador to AthensUS Ambassador to Athens Daniel Speckhard met with Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Thursday and congratulated him on the "impressive initiatives undertaken by the Greek government both on a regional and international level as an indication of interest in a joint solution of the regional and international problems".
Exiting Droutsas' office following the one-hour meeting, Ambassador Speckhard stated that he assured the alternate FM as regards the strong support of the United States to the US-Greek relations and the strong alliance and added that "we are ready to continue supporting our bilateral relations."
Ambassador Speckhard stated that a visit by PM Papandreou to the United States was not discussed and clarified that it was a courtesy call and chance to become acquainted, during which "mutual respect was expressed while the good feelings of the United States toward the Greek government and the Greek people were underlined." He also expressed optimism for the future.
 Health Minister urges clearer guidelines on novel influenzaHealth Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou on Thursday asked Greece's Scientific Council on A(H1N1) influenza to establish simpler guidelines for identifying cases of novel influenza in schools. She stressed the need for clearer and stricter criteria for deciding when pupils needed to be removed from school, in order to avoid shutting down individual classes or even entire school complexes unnecessarily.
Xenoyiannakopoulou added, however, that sample checks carried out in the schools shut down so far had confirmed the existence of novel influenza.
It was clarified that the main criterion for an incident to be suspicious and justify the student's remaining at home until recuperation, was a temperature of over 38 C, plus a second symptom among the ones already defined as novel influenza symptoms.
The minister requested that the council issue a decision by next week on when vaccination against novel influenza will start and the groups that will be given priority.
 Deadline for submission of candidacies for ND leadership endsThe deadline for the submission of candidacies for main opposition New Democracy's (ND) leadership expired at 8:00 p.m. Thursday, with three high-profile ND cadres having already publicly stated their intent to run for the party presidency, namely former foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, former health minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, and Thessaloniki prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis.
The candidates so far appear to all agree that the party leader should be elected by the ND rank and file, while outgoing leader and former prime minister Costas Karamanlis' decision on appeals to remain at the party helm until the succession process has been completed remains pending.
An extraordinary ND Congress has been called for November 7 by Karamanlis, who announced his resignation from the leadership after the former government's crushing defeat in the October 4 general elections, effective as of November 8.
Although the extraordinary Congress was originally called by Karamanlis to elect his successor, which under the party Charter is done by the Congress, calls by candidates and other prominent ND cadres for election of the party leader by the party grass roots, the likelihood has arisen that the extraordinary Congress may decide on an amendment of the Charter, in which eventuality the election of a leader will be put off for a few weeks so as to convene a regular Congress. Appeals have been made urging Karamanlis to remain at the ND helm until such a process is completed and a new leader is elected.
Congress Organising Committee chairman Dimitris Sioufas stated on Wednesday that the Committee was deliberating the candidates' request for participation of the rank and file in the election of the new party leader, while the ability for such participation was also being examined in the context of the current Charter.
Meanwhile, ND's new parliamentary group that emerged from the October 4 elections will hold its first meeting on Monday, and will be addressed by Karamanlis, while it will also elect the group's new general secretary and five alternates.
Under the Organising Committee's decisions, all members of the party have the right to submit candidacy for the ND leadership, and must be submitted in writing by 8:00 p.m. on Thursday (October 15). To be finalised, a candidacy must be re-submitted, by 8:00 p.m. on October 22, accompanied by the signatures of 50 Congress delegates, with each delegate having the right to sign (endorse) only one candidacy. Immediately afterwards, the process of drafting the list of delegates for the extraordinary Congress, in accordance with the current party Charter, will begin.
 Bakoyannis submits official ND leadership candidacyDora Bakoyannis submitted her candidacy for the leadership of the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party officially on Thursday, in light of the special congress that will be taking place on November 7.
At the same time, 1,000 congress members from all over the country are signing a document in support of her candidacy.
They are representatives of employee, farmers and trade societies, women's organisations, scientific agencies, local administration bodies and party organisations who noted in a letter that Bakoyannis "is undoubtedly the most suitable for the party's leadership."
 Samaras announces ND leadership candidacyFormer culture minister and Messinia deputy Antonis Samaras announced his candidacy for the leadership of the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Thursday evening.
Samaras said that the party must promote its ideals and bring back to it those who it has saddened, adding that "we must open our horizons to make our ideas a magnet for society. We must dare to move forward to become a modern European Centre-Right party."
He further said that unity is required at the party's head, noting that ND's ideology, social liberalism are not two words that are merely suited and stressing that "it binds our traditional values with the most modern liberal conceptions."
 Psomiadis formally submits candidacy for ND leadershipThessaloniki prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis on Thursday formally submitted his candidacy for the presidency of the main opposition New Democracy party (ND), in a letter to Dimitris Sioufas, the chairman of the Organising Committee of the party's extraordinary Congress scheduled for November 7.
The deadline for submission, in writing, of the candidacies expires at 8:00 p.m. Thursday.
In statements to the press, Psomiadis said that he will submit the signatures of 50 Congress delegates endorsing his candidacy by the deadline, which until 8:00 p.m. next Thursday, October 22.
He further said that he will not retract his candidacy, noting that his initiative serves the unity of ND.
 Interior Minister Ragousis meets with ENAE boardInterior Minister Yiannis Ragousis discussed the problems faced by the country's prefectural authorities in a meeting he had on Thursday with the board members of the National Union of Prefectural Local Authorities (ENAE).
The discussion focused on problems stemming from the lack of funds necessary to meet the needs stemming from the additional authority relinquished to the prefectures, while a debate on administrative reform has also gotten underway.
 Archbishop on Church-State cooperation over property issuesArchbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos on Thursday presented a series of proposals for cooperation on property issues between the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece and the Greek State to a meeting of the Church bishops, which he chaired.
Ieronymos noted that the majority of the Church's property was used to fund its huge operating costs but that another, very large part, remained "inactive or trapped".
He said that cooperation between the Church and the State on terms that were honest, sincere, transparency, consistent and included binding guarantees on the part of the State for using this property would be beneficial and were "indicated in the face of today's social realities".
The archbishop underlined, however, that the aim of such cooperation would from the first be to set up a Church Welfare Fund, rather than to boost the coffers of either Church or State.
Regarding the state's payment of the clergy's salaries and funding of church schools, Ieronymos noted that this was "the least compensation for the unauthorised appropriations [of Church property] or retraction of agreed decisions".
In statements during his pre-election campaign, Prime Minister George Papandreou had unveiled plans to launch talks on the taxation of Church income that has so far been exempt from taxes.
 Greeks of Egypt congratulate Papandreou on winning electionsCAIRO (ANA-MPA - N. Katsikas)
The Greek-Egyptian community of Cairo and Alexandria on Thursday congratulated Prime Minister George Papandreou on his party's victory in the recent Greek elections, while asking him to support efforts to solve the problems of Greek-Egyptians and the Greek diaspora in general.
 Gov't: no plan to declare dock worker strike illegalGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday said the government had not considered action to declare a strike by Piraeus port dock workers illegal and abusive.
"This is precisely why we are following a course of resolving the issue through dialogue," he added.
Asked whether the government intended to give strikers a deadline to end their strike, Petalotis said that there was "nothing like that" and that the government wanted the situation resolved as quickly as possible.
He also categorically denied that the government intended to also offer pier 1 at the port as part of the process of renegotiating the agreement with COSCO.
Petalotis said the government's obligation was to handle the situation that had arisen and that its success was measured in the fact that there was now dialogue between the dock workers and the management of the Piraeus Container Terminal company in order to find a way out of the current deadlock.
"As long as dialogue is underway, this means that we do not have absolute intransigency," he added.
Commenting on the incidents between riot police and striking ship yard workers outside the labour ministry on Thursday morning, meanwhile, the spokesman said the government wanted a climate of peace, calm, dialogue and negotiation between ministry leaderships and workers.
"From that point on, we cannot tolerate situations of lawlessness," he noted, adding that the role of the police was to ensure legality, while exercising moderation.
 Tsipras meets with striking dockworkersCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader and leader of the SYN-led Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) parliamentary group Alexis Tsipras went to Piraeus port on Thursday, where he spoke with striking dockworkers who went into their 14th day of labor action demanding annulment of the preceding government's concession of the ports' container terminal to the Chinese company COSCO for 35 years.
"The only solution is for the State to regain that which belongs to it. We must regain state control of the country's biggest port and consolidate the labor relations for hundreds of workers," Tsipras said, calling the concession sighed with COSCO "colonial", and wondering what the new government will do.
Tsipras said that he was "pleasantly surprised" with the dockworkers for the "selflessness and integrity of their struggle on behalf of society, and not on their own behalf", adding that their struggle did not concern only the Piraeus dockworkers but the entire Greek society.
 Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry on repercussions of port strikeThe Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, commenting on Thursday on the repercussions of the strike in the port of Piraeus, stressed that "the market has literally been frozen."
The Chamber pointed out in an announcement that "it has repeatedly expressed its recognition and respect for the democratic right to strike," but added that under the current economic circumstances these strikes "have placed almost the entire business community in a state of hostage."
The Chamber proposed to employees "to give time to the new government for dialogue to be carried out and their interests to be safeguarded."
 Labour minister holds talks with GSEE directorateLabour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos promised social dialogue and positive changes in labour relations to the directorate of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), during his visit to the Confederation's offices on Thursday and said that the state must participate in such dialogue procedures and not remain an observer.
The dialogue procedures are expected to start next week after the completion of the process concerning the new government's policy statements.
Replying to the minister, GSEE President Yiannis Panagopoulos stressed that the unions will stand by the government on positive changes but they shall be opposed on issues where they disagree.
 Tear gas used to disperse striking ship yard workersPolice used tear gas to disperse a gathering of striking Perama ship yard workers on Thursday, in an incident that followed the strikers' meeting with Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos at the ministry.
The ship yard workers had arrived at the ministry from Perama in a motorcade of private cars and motorbikes hung with protest banners and picket signs. At the entrance to the ministry they were met by Loverdos, who asked for additional time to respond to their demands until after the government policy statements had been made.
Scuffles ensued after the minister's departure, during which police made use of tear gas and chemicals.
The ship yard workers are demanding a one-off bonus of 1,500 euros for 2009, as well as a higher unemployment benefit payable for a longer period of time. They also demand immediate measures to support the unemployed, such as a freeze on loans and guaranteed health care. Unemployment among Perama ship yard workers is currently running at roughly 50 percent.
 Greece needs three-year stabilisation program, IOBE saysThe formation of a new government, after the recent general elections in the country, offers the opportunity to implement an economic policy based on decisions of a permanent nature, limiting to a minimum all extraordinary interventions imposed by the negative financial conjucture, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said in its quarterly report on the Greek economy.
"A fresh popular mandate creates the possibilities to implement an economic policy with medium-term targets and with greater freedom from so-called "political costs"," the report said, adding that economic policy has to face the great and difficult task of solving problems such as a recession in the real economy, worsening fiscal conditions and lower competitiveness.
IOBE's report also stressed that the consequences of the international crisis on the country's real economy were serious, with Greek GDP expected to shrink by 0.5 pct this year, reflecting reduced households' consumption, a fall in exports and a big decline in private investments - partly balanced by stronger public investments and a big decline in imports. All output indices were suffering, with industrial production retail sales and tourist revenues falling significantly, while the unemployment rate exceeded 9.0 pct of the country's workforce.
The report stressed that the general government's deficit exceeded 5.0 pct of GDP in 2008 and that this situation was worsening more during 2009, forecasting a fiscal deficit above 10 pct of GDP. The previous government's budget target envisaged a fiscal deficit of 3.7 pct of GDP this year. Public debt was steadily rising and was expected to reach 270 billion euros by the end of the year.
IOBE, however, noted that liquidity conditions have been largely restored in the banking system, although credit expansion rates towards households and enterprises continued declining.
The report said that the country needed a minimum three-year fiscal stabilization program and noted that a combination of fiscal restructuring and economic boosting measures would be a feasible policy.
 Olympic Air holds official commencement ceremonyThe commitment of Marfin Investment Group (MIG) "the biggest Greek business group to continue to place social interest above the short-term business interest for as long as the economic crisis lasts" was expressed by the Group's Presidernt Andreas Vgenopoulos during the ceremony for the official commencement of the functioning of the new Olympic airline, OLYMPIC AIR, that was held in the packed hall of Olympic's technical base.
Vgenopoulos thanked Prime Minister George Papandreou for whom he said that being the leader of the main opposition party he had supported the privatisation of Olympic, ignoring petty political interests.
Vgenopoulos also said that the achievement of Olympic Air would not have been feasible without the backing and hard work of its 5,000 employees.
 Greek inflation at 0.7 pct in Sept, EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
Greece's annual inflation rate fell to 0.7 pct in September, from 1.0 pct in August, Eurostat said on Thursday. In a monthly report, the EU executive's statistics agency said the inflation rate in the Eurozone also fell to -0.3 pct in September from -0.2 pct in August, compared with 3.6 pct in September 2008. In the EU-27, the inflation rate fell to 0.6 pct in September, from 0.3 pct in August and 4.2 pct in September last year.
Ireland (-3.0 pct), Portugal (-1.8 pct) and Estonia (-1.7 pct) recorded the lowest percentage rates, while Romania (4.9 pct), Hungary (4.8 pct) and Poland (4.0 pct) the highest inflation rates.
The inflation rate fell in 23 EU member-states, it was unchanged in Romania and rose in three member states.
 Credit conditions worsened sharply in Jan-SeptCredit conditions worsened in the Greek market in the January-September period, with the value of bounced checks rising 153 pct compared with the same period last year to 2.4 billion euros, with the volume of bounced checks rising 165.41 pct to 245,788 over the same period.
The number of bounced checks totaled 26,384, worth 256 million euros in September, down 24.29 pct and up 21.9 pct respectively, compared with August.
The value of unpaid bills totaled 184.1 million euros in the January-September period, with a volume of 113,042, for an increase if 49.45 pct and 63.58 pct respectively over the same period in 2008.
In September, the value of unpaid bills totaled 15,485, worth 24.4 million euros, up 29.59 pct and 24.89 pct, respectively, over the same month in 2008.
 Piraeus Bank names new private equity headLucas Pilitsis on Thursday was appointed head of private equity and venture capital business in Piraeus Bank. Mr Pilitsis worked as a senior executive for State Street in Boston and London for several years and has a deep knowledge and expertise in the field of venture capital/private equity, investment banking business.
 Satellite broadband Internet to Albanian schools by OTE subsidiary companyThe Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE S.A.) subsidiary company HELLAS SAT will soon provide broadband Internet to 300 remote schools in Albania via the Greek satellite HELLAS SAT 2.
The installation of 300 broadband satellite HELLAS SAT NET connections at an equal number of schools in Albania is expected to be completed shortly by the OTE subsidiary company HELLAS SAT and the Albanian company STARSAT.
The project, coordinated by the Albanian prime minister's office, concerns the installation of computer networks and broadband connections at all primary and secondary education schools in Albania.
The main contractor of the project is the Albanian Telecommunications Organization, Albtelecom, with subcontractor the company STARSAT, which installs the broadband connections HELLAS SAT NET in remote Albanian towns, such as Gjirokaster, Tepelene, Vlore, Durres, Korce, as well as villages near Tirana.
 Stocks end slightly lowerGreek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, as investors took profits after Wednesday's rally, in line with a correction trend in other European markets. The composite index eased 0.10 pct to end at 2,894.15 points, with turnover a heavy 418.4 million euros, of which 28.9 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved downwards, with the Insurance (3.85 pct), Chemicals (3.0 pct) and Utilities (2.24 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses, while Food/Beverage (3.64 pct), Financial Services (1.98 pct) and Oil (1.52 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index eased 0.01 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.55 pct down and the FTSE 80 index dropped 1.85 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 169 to 59 with another 45 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.52%
Personal & Household: -1.58%
Raw Materials: -1.72%
Travel & Leisure: -1.45%
Food & Beverages: +3.64%
Financial Services: +1.98%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Marfin Popular Bank, OTE and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 14.00
Public Power Corp (PPC): 15.30
HBC Coca Cola: 18.84
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.74
National Bank of Greece: 27.79
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 11.85
Bank of Piraeus: 13.20
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.67 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a strong 108.545 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 10,949 contracts worth 84.429 million euros, with 24,841 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 25,354 contracts worth 24.116 million euros, with investment interest focusing on MIG's contracts (3,173), followed by OTE (2,752), Piraeus Bank (1,960), National Bank (2,389), Intracom (1,734), Marfin Popular Bank (2,148), Intralot (1,734), Cyprus Bank (1,907), Hellenic Postbank (1,566) and ATEbank (2,123).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 132 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with turnover a strong 2.775 billion euros, of which 1.334 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.441 billion euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 2.099 billion euros and yielded 4.61 pct, while the German Bund yielded 3.29 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 1.02 pct, the three-month rate 0.74 pct and the one-month rate 0.43 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.498
Pound sterling 0.922
Danish kroner 7.503
Swedish kroner 10.418
Japanese yen 135.14
Swiss franc 1.525
Norwegian kroner 8.401
Canadian dollar 1.548
Australian dollar 1.634
 EETT president meets Information Society commissionerNational Telecommunications and Post Offices Committee (EETT) President Leonidas Kanellos held an acquaintance meeting with Information Society and Mass Media Commissioner Viviane Redding in Brussels.
Kanellos informed the Commissioner that the spreading of broadband services in Greece has currently exceeded 16 percent and the aim is to reach the European average by the end of 2010.
Redding expressed support for the considerable work that the EETT has carried out and is continuing to carry out and stressed that it is important for Greece to have a strong and independent regulator of the electronic communications market, whose decisions will be implemented speedily and effectively.
 Services alerted to handle problems in light of winterThe Infrastructures, Transport and Networks ministry has placed the relevant services that are supervised by it in a state of complete readiness to facilitate the handling of possible problems appearing in light of the oncoming winter.
A circular sent by Minister Dimitris Reppas to the relevant services calls for increased readiness and action for the prevention of destruction in view of the winter months and the experience from extreme weather phenomena in the past.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos to visit USNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will be visiting the United States from October 20 to November 6 and will be meeting US President Barack Obama at the White House.
The Ecumenical Patriarch's first stop will be New Orleans, where he will be chairing the 8th Environmental Symposium on "Religion, Science and the Environment."
He will then be going to New York to participate in celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the enthronement of Archbishop of America Demetrius. In the framework of the events, an album will be presented on Demetrius's 10 years as the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America.
On October 25, Vartholomeos will be officiating at the Saint Demetrius Cathedral at Merrick on New York's Long Island. On October 26, the name day of Saint Demetrius, the Patriatrch will be officiating at the Saint Demetrius Cathedral in Astoria.
Apart from President Obama, the Ecumenical Patriarch will also be meeting Vice President Joe Biden, House of Representatives President Nancy Pelossi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
 Ziller National Theatre building re-opensThe newly refurbished National Theatre in the historic neoclassical building erected by late 19th-century architect Ernst Ziller on Agiou Konstantinou Street in the centre of Athens is now open to the public after 8.5 years of restoration work.
The historic building, whose restoration was begun by the late director of Greece's national theatre Nikos Kourkoulos, re-opened on Wednesday night with a performance of the play "Pouthena (Nowhere)" directed by Dimitris Papaioannou, who makes full use of the ultra-modern central stage and its new equipment and "pits" its 26 performers against the stage itself.
The performance lasts just 45 minutes and is on twice a day at 21:00 and 21:45 from Wednesday to Saturday, with two earlier performances at 19:00 and 19:45 on Sunday until December 6.
 Greek edition of Pfeiffer book on Sistine Chapel frescoes presented at National Gallery eventThe Italian Embassy in Athens on Thursday announced that the Greek-language edition of the book "The Sistine Chapel: A New Vision" by author Heinrich W. Pfeiffer will be presented at the National Gallery - Alexandros Soutzos Museum on October 21 at noon.
The event is organised by the publishing house Capon, which brought the book out in Greek, and the National Gallery's curator Marina Lambraki-Plaka, while it will be attended by the author himself.
Prof. Pfeiffer teaches History of Art at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and the book explores the hidden depths and colours revealed by a recent renovation of the stunning frescoes of the Sistine Chapel.
There will follow a reception for participants given by the Italian Ambassador in Athens Gianpaolo Scarante at the Italian ambassador's residence.
 Organised crime squad dismantles drug and weapons ringThe Greek police organised crime squad on Thursday reported the dismantling of a criminal group dealing in drugs and weapons in the regions of Attica, Crete and Larissa, in an operation using the assistance of Greece's National Intelligence Service (EYP), which carried out a long-term phone surveillance of the suspects.
In a coordinated operation on Wednesday, police arrested a total of seven suspects: three men aged 38, 44 and 50 years old, respectively, in the Aspropyrgos region in Attica, two men aged 32 and 50 years old in Athens, a 44-year-old man and his 34-year-old girlfriend in Larissa and a 46-year-old in Georgioupolis, Hania on Crete. All the suspects were Greek nationals.
At the time of their arrest, the suspects were found in possession of 3.538 kilos of heroin divided into packages ready for sale, 30 kilos of cannabis, two precision scales, a metal press for compressing drugs, eight metal moulds used in compressing drugs, various tools used in mixing, cutting and packaging drugs, a Kalashnikov rifle, two revolvers, a gun, a flare gun, two hand grenades, 95 shells of various diameters, a weapons scope, a silencer, three ancient coins and other evidence. Police also confiscated a tow-truck and a car mounted upon it.
The seven suspects were led before a public prosecutor on Thursday.
In addition to the above arrests, police also arrested a 34-year-old Albanian national in Athens for dealing and possession in drugs as part of a separate investigation and operation.
The man is accused of operating a drugs lab from his house and was found in possession of roughly 1.5 kilos of heroin, 280 grammes of cannabis, precision scales, drug-cutting equipment and a fake ID of the kind issued to ethnic Greek Albanians. The suspect was led before a public prosecutor on Thursday.
 Robbery by men impersonating policeTwo men impersonating police officers robbed a truck carrying supermarket supplies, after they pulled over the driver on pretence of carrying out a routine inspection.
The incident occurred on Wednesday night in the Mandra region of Attica when the two men driving a Citroen car and wearing uniforms similar to those of special guards asked the driver of a refrigerator truck to pull over.
When the driver stopped, they made him get out of the cab at gunpoint and then drove the truck to a remote location, where they transferred all the goods to another vehicle, leaving the truck behind. The driver was abandoned at another location.
The case is being investigated by the Mandra Security Police.
 Hooded individuals attack newspaper officesA group of roughly 15 individuals, wearing hoods over their faces, attacked just before 1:00 pm Thursday the offices of the publishing company "Nemesis" in Nea Ionia, Athens, owner of the newspaper "Espresso".
The assailants using rocks, wooden sticks and other objects damaged the building's façade as well as private cars parked nearby and fled escaping arrest.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 4-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 7C and 26C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with southerly 5-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 22C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 10C to 18C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens dailies at a glanceThe dockworkers' ongoing strike in Piraeus, Prime Minister George Papandreou's series of measures for transparency and meritocracy in the public sector and the developments in main opposition New Democracy ahead of its November 7 Extraordinary Congress, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Scent of woman in the new parliament", referring to the increased number of women MPs.
APOGEVMATINI: "Government in the middle of a storm - Strike continues in Piraeus port".
AVGHI: "Cosco, take everything -Government negotiating expansion of Piraeus port contract".
AVRIANI: "The country's collapsing economy faces major threat".
CHORA: "Meimarakis furious against Karamanlis, Sioufas on the handling of the Extraordinary Congress issue (and others issues also)".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Greece's veto against FYROM's accession to EU in the waste bin - EU begins negotiations without prior resolution of the name issue".
ELEFTHEROS: "Karamanlis: Meimarakis (former Defence Minister) you are crazy? - Clash between two men over the Congress".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Situation in Piraeus port is a 'Chinese water torture'."
ESTIA: "Ravaged state, huge waste".
ETHNOS: "George opens war on state of political favours - Measures for transparency and meritocracy".
KATHIMERINI: "Strike in Piraeus port turns into a thriller - Government seeks a compromise solution - Cosco is hesitant".
LOGOS: "Economy, Shipping and Competitiveness Minister Louka Katseli: Contract with Cosco will not be annulled".
NIKI: "George's new dogma: Clash with authority".
RIZOSPASTIS: "PASOK hands over the port to COSCO".
TA NEA: "Condition in ports and shipyards a 'baptism of fire' for the new government - Meanwhile, unemployment reaches 10 percent".
TO VIMA: "The 'four keys' for the new state".
VRADYNI: "Government trapped in its pre-electoral promises".
 President: Convergences on governance but no final result yetNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has said that there are convergences between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides on the chapter on governance but there is no final result yet.
In statements after the conclusion of Thursday's meeting between himself and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in the framework of UN-led direct negotiations on the Cyprus problem, and asked whether progress had been achieved during the meeting, he said "there are convergences, there are positive elements on the table regarding governance, but I cannot state that we have a final result".
President Christofias expressed the position that during their next meeting they will conclude the discussion on foreign relations and begin the second reading on the chapter on properties.
Invited to say what will happen in the event that they do not close the issue on the executive power, he said it will be referred to the package of issues which are not closed yet.
Replying to a question as to whether that means that there will be a new round of talks, he said that nothing can be excluded.
The president was also invited to elaborate further on the separate statements made earlier by himself and the Turkish Cypriot leader on the intervention of foreigners in the Cyprus problem.
He stressed that actions and interventions on behalf of foreign powers bear the greatest responsibility for Cyprus' tragedy, the creation and complexity of the Cyprus problem.
"On the other hand", he added, "Talat's position is known, not only does he favour the intervention of the international factor but also arbitration".
Asked whether the Turkish Cypriot side has accepted the Greek Cypriot side's revised proposals on the executive power, he said "they did not reject it, they discussed it but I cannot state that they have accepted it".
President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008, with a view to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.
 President: Commission's report on Turkey satisfactoryNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has said that the European Commission's progress report on Turkey is satisfactory.
"As a starting point, I believe that, yes, the report is satisfactory so that we can work further", the president said on Thursday, replying to questions on his arrival to the Presidential Palace after the conclusion of his meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader.
He also said that the National Council, the President's top advisory body for the Cyprus issue, has not decided that Turkey's punishment is the only goal.
"Our aim is that Turkey is persuaded, that pressure is exerted on Turkey, through this report, and to exploit this report as an instrument so that Ankara changes its stance. If Turkey does not change its stance, then all is open", he concluded.
 Negotiations are stuck, Spokesperson for Enlargement saysBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The European Commission has the feeling that negotiations between President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are stuck, the Spokesperson for Enlargement has said, stressing however that the window of opportunity is still open.
Speaking to a group of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot journalists, currently in Brussels at the invitation of the European Commission, and invited to comment on the negotiation process currently underway between President Christofias and Talat aiming at reaching a solution of the Cyprus problem, Spokesperson for Enlargement Amadeu Tardio Altafaj said that ''on the substance, we are stuck, this is the feeling of the Commission.''
Altafaj also said that there is a sense of urgency regarding the solution of the Cyprus problem linked to the fact that ''there is a whole new generation that does not have the same perception'' as the generations before.
However, he added, ''the window of opportunity is still open,'' and referred to the responsibility the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus have assumed, saying that ''the EU will not do the job Talat and Christofias took the responsibility for.''
Invited to comment on the 2009 progress report on Turkey released Wednesday in Brussels, Altafaj rejected estimations that the report is soft on Turkey. ''Eight chapters are blocked and this is a strong incentive,'' he said.
He wondered whether stronger sanctions could be more effective, and went on to say that ''this is not the conclusion we drew from our experience.''
Furthermore, he expressed the opinion that ''much stronger direct pressure would not change the order of priorities, and priority is in the hand of Mr. Talat and Mr. Christofias.''
He added that ''if leaders are not able to deliver, they have to explain why they did not deliver.''
Altafaj, however, stressed that ''the window of opportunity is still open.''
Replying to another question, Altafaj said that President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso ''is extremely concerned'' about the Cyprus problem and that the situation in Cyprus ''is a completely anachronistic situation.''
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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