|Thursday, 22 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-11-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 4 November 2009 Issue No: 3340
 PM: Government picking up speed in fulfilling commitmentsThe government is picking up speed in fulfilling its commitments, prime minister George Papandreou said on Tuesday after chairing a meeting of his Inner Cabinet, adding that a plan to change the state through an open governance is being advanced, noting that such an extensive intervention for rationalisation of the structure of the government is being attempted for the first time since the restoration of democracy in Greece.
He stressed, however, that such an intervention requires time, and will be continued with restructuring by individual ministry.
"Today is an important day, as the Inner Cabinet discussed the PASOK government's first draft law," the premier said, adding that "this is the first act in the fulfillment of our commitments, and indeed with our program for our first 100 days in office".
The draft law concerns an extraordinary "social solidarity" benefit the low income brackets and a "social responsibility contribution" through an extraordinary tax contribution by large, profit-making enterprises.
Referring to the principles of the draft law, which he described as a "redistribution and solidarity" bill, Papandreou said it aimed at reinforcing the financially weaker strata and middle classes, since "approximately one billion euros will go to 2.5 million beneficiaries", through a "reverse redistribution" of that employed by the preceding New Democracy (ND) government, thus boosting the economy and rekindling the market.
Papandreou further said that the draft law is "fiscally neutral", meaning that it does not burden the state budget, which is of great importance due to the present bad state of the economy.
The premier said that the Inner Cabinet also discussed a broad range of issues, adding that "we are working collectively, and this is apparent in the government's day-to-day activities".
 President Papoulias meets with visiting Croatian counterpart MesicPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias met on Tuesday with his visiting Croatian counterpart Stjepan Mesic, with discussions covering matters of bilateral, regional and European interest.
After the one-hour discussion, Papoulias stressed that relations between the two countries were very good, and noted that there were margins for their further enhancement at economic and trade level.
He said the discussed such matters as the FYROM name issue, the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish relations, stressing that "we desire Croatia's support and solidarity".
Papoulias further stressed the importance of strengthening the European prospect of the western Balkans provided, however, that they fulfilled the accession prerequisites, and assured that Greece backs Croatia's EU accession course.
Mesic, in turn, noted that this was his last visit as head of state, given that Presidential elections for his successor will be held in two months.
He said that he and his Greek counterpart discussed matters concerning the wider region, and stressed that relations between the two countries are good and "without open issues".
Soon, Mesic noted, Croatia will be a member of the European Union, as it was in the final stage of its accession negotiations, and stressed that "our accession must not in any way be linked to open issues which we may possibly have with any of our neighboring countries", adding that Croatia backs the EU accession of all the countries of the region.
Papoulias afterwards hosted a luncheon in his Croatian counterpart's honor, during which he reiterated Greece's support of Croatia's accession course and recalled that Greece had also backed Croatia's participation as a non-permanent member in the UN Security Council because "we share the same principles and values of good neighborhood, respect of human rights, respect of the rules of international law and respect of the territorial integrity of states".
Mesic stressed that there should be no "grey zones" in the wider region with countries that do not accede the EU, and called on Greece to assist in the accession of all the countries of the region.
 Parliament President meets Croatian PresidentParliament President Filippos Petsalnikos met with Croatian President Stjepan Mesic on Tuesday and stressed the need for the further strengthening and widening of relations between Greece and Croatia.
"Relations between the two countries are not merely good but excellent," Petsalnikos said, adding that Greece supports and continues to support Croatia's course for its entry to the European Union, while considerable ground exists for cooperation at all levels, the economy, development and culture as well.
President Mesic said on his part that since Greece has no open issue with any country in the Balkans it can play a very important role in the region. He thanked Greece for its support for Croatia's accession to the EU, as well as accession to NATO and as a member of the UN Security Council.
 Dep. FM receives Mexican counterpartDeputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis met on Tuesday with his Mexican counterpart Amb. Juan Manuel Gomez-Robledo, who is currently on a visit to Athens. The meeting was held within the framework of political consultations between Greece and Mexico.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos meets US President ObamaWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos expressed satisfaction after holding 30-minute talks on Tuesday with US President Barack Obama, who assured him that when he meets Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on December 7 he will stress the need for respect for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and call on him to allow the reopening of the Halki School of Theology.
"Mention was made of human rights and of our problems of the Patriarchate. Indeed, he told us that he is expecting the prime minister of Turkey in December. And he will mention all these issues to him as he had done on other occasions. As you are aware, during his visit to Turkey he raised the issue of the reopening of the Halki School of Theology at the Grand Turkish National Assembly and said that he will not cease to speak about these issues which for him are issues of religious freedom and human rights for which he is interested for all the world. This was his message. We also spoke about the Greek community here and the freedom enjoyed by the Orthodox people in America. And the president said that this is self-evident because it is anticipated by the Constitution of America," he said.
Speaking outside the White House, Vartholomeos said that he also discussed environmental protection issues with President Obama.
"With the politeness and kindness characterising him he received us, the Archbishop of America and the other metropolitan brothers. With great politeness and kindness he referred to our first meeting in Istanbul. He said he was pleased that we were meeting again. We spoke about ecological issues, about the banquet that we had, while he is not yet sure if he will go to the world conference in Copenhagen," he added.
The Ecumenical Patriarch was accompanied by Archbishop of America Demetrius and the three metropolitans who have travelled to the United States with him.
 Health ministry circular on H1N1 vaccination programmeHealth Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou on Tuesday sent a circular to hospital administrations throughout Greece, outlining the government's plan of action for tackling the H1N1 novel flu pandemic and giving instructions on the administration of H1N1 flu vaccines.
This instructs each hospital on how to set up an Influenza Pandemic Committee that will be put in charge of administering the vaccinations in the hospital and the health centres under their supervision. This will be responsible for taking delivery of the vaccines, ensuring their proper storage and distribution, training of staff and vaccination teams, finding suitable premises and ensuring that these have the necessary equipment, such a refrigerator, desk and telephone.
The circular specifies that kits for training the vaccination teams will be sent by the Hellenic Centre for Infectious Diseases Control (HCIDC) to hospital administrations by November 10.
It also recommends that the vaccination centres in hospitals operate during the afternoons on a daily basis and on weekends when the hospital is not on duty.
The starting date for the vaccination programme has been set for Monday, November 16, and the first week will be devoted to the vaccination of all hospital staff and individuals considered at special risk and whose doctors recommend (in writing) priority vaccination.
Next in line will be at-risk groups that have underlying health problems and are under long-term observation by the hospital in question.
Staff at other health care facilities will be the next to receive the vaccine, beginning with those of private clinics and nursing homes of less than 150 beds, who are asked to get the vaccine from their nearest state hospital by supplying a list of staff that wish to vaccinated.
Private doctors and dentists will receive the vaccine based on lists submitted to their local hospitals by their local medical or dentists' associations.
Private hospitals and clinics of more than 150 beds, such as the Onassis heart surgery centre or the Papageorgiou general hospital, will follow the same protocol as state hospitals.
The HDIDC will be responsible for installing software to monitor the course of the vaccination programme in each hospital vaccination centre, while funds to pay vaccination teams will be taken from its budget.
Hospital administrations have been given until November 5 to inform the ministry that they have set up the influenza pandemic committees and designated a team to take deliver and distribute the vaccines. They then have until November 10 to set up teams for administering the vaccines to the public.
 ND leadership election on Nov. 29Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party members will elect a new party leader on Nov. 29, according to a decision reached by the party's congress organising committee, following deliberations on Tuesday between outgoing ND President Costas Karamanlis and the three remaining candidates vying for the post.
In case of a second round, voting will take place on Dec. 5. The ND extraordinary party congress will be held this weekend.
 Tsipras calls for freeze of COSCO leasing agreement in PiraeusCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday called for an immediate freeze of a concession leasing the Piraeus port container terminal to the Chinese company COSCO, which he said should not be allowed to establish itself in the port.
Tsipras made the statement at Piraeus prefecture, demanding that the agenda of the negotiations with COSCO be immediately made public and stressing the need to protect the labour and insurance rights of people working at the port.
He criticised the government for having what he called an "unclear policy" regarding the future of the port and said that the contract with COSCO was a "colonial-type" agreement that granted the Chinese company extraordinary tax concessions and other privileges that had also attracted the attention of the European Union.
 Memorial service for PM's late grandfather and former premierA memorial service was held on Tuesday for the late prime minister George A. Papandreou, grandfather of the current premier and father of ruling PASOK's late founder and former premier Andreas Papandreou, at Athens' First Cemetery.
The service was attended by the prime minister, prominent ruling PASOK cadres and former ministers, family members.
 Commission to move with next step of excessive fiscal procedures against GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
The European Commission is expected to proceed with the next step in the excessive fiscal deficit procedure against Greece next week, after agreeing that the previous Greek government failed to take the necessary measures in implementing EU recommendations made at an ECOFIN council meeting last spring, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters during the presentation of the Commission's autumn forecasts for the EU economy, Almunia said that "based on existing figures the previous government did not take effective action to reduce its deficit".
The European Commission presented its autumn forecasts on the conditions and outlook of European economies by 2011.
In general terms, the EU's executive believes that after the ongoing recession, Europe's economy was on the road of gradual recovery with the first encouraging signs already seen in the second half of the year, although the EU's economy was projected to shrink by 4.0 pct in 2009. The Commission said the recovery would be felt more in 2010 with GDP expected to rise by 0.7 pct, although unemployment would continue rising to 10.3 pct and fiscal deficits rising to 7.5 pct of GDP next year, before starting to fall slightly to 6.9 pct of GDP in 2011.
In its forecasts for the Greek economy, the Commission said that having experienced a decade of strong economic growth of 4 percent, on average, the Greek economy entered a recessionary phase in 2009. The accumulation of growing and long-term persistent domestic and external imbalances was accelerated by the unfolding of the ongoing crisis, weighing on the sustainability of the real convergence process in the long run. Both consumer and business confidence were strongly hit, weakening economic activity in 2008 and weighing on medium-term prospects.
Although it reacted later than in other countries, GDP growth decelerated strongly in 2008, growing at only 2 percent compared with 4.5 percent in 2007. The downturn is already taking a heavy toll on public finances. Tax revenue started to weaken in late 2008, while government debt financing became more challenging and more expensive, putting further pressure on the fragile budget.
Given the lack of room for manoeuvre, no expansionary fiscal policy response to the crisis was adopted within the EERP. However, a number of temporary measures were implemented in late 2008 and 2009, aimed at supporting vulnerable social groups and the sectors most hit by the crisis. In addition, although the direct impact of the financial crisis on the banking sector has been relatively contained, mainly thanks to the limited exposure of the Greek banks to high risk financial investments, a series of measures was implemented to safeguard the stability of the sector.
 Flat growth in 2010 - mild recovery in 2011The outlook is for real GDP to remain almost flat in 2010, before recovering mildly in 2011. Credit expansion, although still positive, should remain sluggish on the back of tighter credit conditions and high household indebtedness. Moreover, falling employment growth, declining wages and lower non-labour income growth should weigh on disposable income over the medium-term, putting a brake on real demand. In view of the highly uncertain environment, the households saving rate might increase, leading to further pressure on consumption growth. As a result, private consumption is projected to contract by 1¼ percent in 2010, while returning to positive growth rates by the end of the forecast horizon.
Negative prospects and tightening credit conditions are also expected to worsen profit expectations and discourage investment. Gross fixed capital formation continued to fall markedly in 2009, on the back of both housing and equipment investment retrenchment. In spite of the government's attempt to accelerate the execution of public investment and projects through Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in 2009, only a few of these projects have as yet started. Public investment activity however, is expected to resume in 2010 and to continue to rise in 2011. Investment should decline further in 2010 before showing some positive signs by the end of 2011, reflecting the continuing downsizing of the housing sector and the contraction in corporate investment.
The contraction in domestic demand is expected to continue in 2010, mirrored also by shrinking imports, which are projected to continue falling by around 3 percent in real terms. Total exports, in turn, should recover mildly in 2010, after the significant fall recorded in 2009, largely because of more favourable world demand prospects. Exports of goods should rise by almost 2½ percent in 2010 and increase further in 2011, while exports of services in particular world trade sensitive merchant shipping and tourist receipts - should return to positive territory. All in all, the contribution of net exports to GDP growth should be positive both in 2010 and to a lesser extent in 2011, mainly due to the ongoing fall in imports, which goes well beyond that implied by historical elasticities.
The contraction of economic activity is weighing heavily on employment which is set to fall by some 2 percent over the forecast horizon. This will push the unemployment rate up to around 10¼ percent and 11 percent in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
The main risks to this baseline scenario are quite balanced. On the positive side, the resurgence of both consumer and business confidence and the gradual improvement of liquidity and capitalisation of Greek banks may help to sustain credit expansion at modest levels, which could underpin private consumption and ease the adjustment of the housing sector. In addition, if the fall in domestic output is not proportionate to the decline in demand, the increase in net exports may compensate more for the fall in domestic demand, leading to a higher contribution of net exports to GDP growth than assumed. On the negative side, a sharper fall in external demand would weigh more on economic activity. Moreover, within a context of tighter credit conditions, external financing could prove less benign and so the servicing of Greece's fast-rising external debt might crowd out domestic spending.
 Sustained recovery implies correcting domestic and external imbalancesThe significant progress made by Greece in terms of real convergence over the last decade may be considerably challenged. Bringing the Greek economy back to a sustained convergence path involves the prompt identification and correction of the factors underlying the widening domestic and external imbalances. The developments in the external sector are expected to lead to a significant correction of the external deficit in 2010.
Nevertheless, the expected improvement over the medium term is likely to be much more moderate, given the structural weaknesses of the external performance of the economy.
The persistent deterioration of external imbalances reflects both rising investment and falling savings. The private and public sectors have alternated over time as the driving force of this deterioration, with the share of general government de-savings having markedly increased in the most recent years. The ongoing crisis, however, has the potential to make these imbalances unsustainable in the medium term, with obvious implications for the financing of the large external and public deficits.
The 2008 general government deficit notified by the Greek authorities in October 2009 stands at 7¾ percent of GDP, higher by 2¾ percent percentage points of GDP than the previous notification made in April 2009.
For 2009, the official public deficit estimate stands at 12.5 percent of GDP, compared with the budgetary target of 3.7 percent of GDP included in the January 2009 update of the stability programme. Taking into account relevant information provided by the Greek authorities, and the budget implementation cash-data over the first nine months, the general government deficit in 2009 is expected to reach 12¾ percent of GDP
Under a no-policy-change scenario assumption and on the back of the discontinuation of one-off expenditure realised in 2009, the headline deficit should remain above 12 percent of GDP in 2010 and increase further over the forecast horizon, exceeding 12¾ percent of GDP by 2011. Both falling revenue-to-GDP and rising expenditure-to-GDP ratios will contribute to this fiscal deterioration. The economic downturn, coupled with high budget deficits, is expected to push debt higher, from 112.5 percent of GDP in 2009 to over 135 percent of GDP by 2011, thus weakening the already fragile sustainability of Greek public finances in the long term.
 Govt: Levy on corporate profitsThe government on Tuesday unveiled a draft law aimed at offering a one-time cash bonus low-income families in the country and imposing a "social responsibility tax" on pre-tax profits of around 300 large companies, along with slapping an extra tax contribution for real estate property valued at more than 600,000 euros.
Presenting the draft legislation, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said it was the first such legislative intervention aimed at increasing social solidarity and noted that this law would benefit more than 2.5 million people, in a plan budgeted at more than one billion euros.
Papaconstantinou said there 444,500 people currently eligible for bonus, with annual family income ranging between 14,000 and 21,500 euros. Payment of the benefit will be made in two tranches, before Christmas and during 2010.
The minister stressed that the 300 largest and very profitable enterprises and banks would pay an extra tax on their 2008 pre-tax profits, while another 60,285 owners of large real estate holdings - valued at more than 600,000 euros - would pay an extra tax contribution as well.
Papaconstantinou said the tax rate on large real estate property would range from 0.20 pct to 0.60 pct with the government hoping to raise 180 million euros from this levy. The government would also impose a 0.3-pct duty on the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece's commercial real estate property. Papaconstantinou said enterprises with pre-tax profits up to and not exceeding 5.0 million euros in 2008 would not pay an extra tax, while for pre-tax profits of more than 5.0 million euros the tax rate would range from 5 pct to 10 pct. The government expects to raise 870 million euros from this tax.
 Parliament budget reduction for first time in 35 yearsA 1.75-percent decrease in the 2010 draft Parliament budget was announced on Tuesday, with the budget standing at 218.58 million euros, slashed by 3.88 million euros compared with the 2009 budget.
Based on the figures to be presented in the Parliament's plenary session on Wednesday, the development will be the first time in the past 35 years that no increase is recorded in Parliament's budget.
 Alafouzos, Tsakos honored by Japan's emperor for contributions to Greek-Japanese tiesThe emperor of Japan has awarded the medal of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, to Aristidis Alafouzos, a well-known Greek shipowner and president of the Athens-based Kathimerini media group, as well as to Panagiotis Tsakos, the founder of Tsakos Shipping and Trading SA, on the occasion of the 110th anniversary of the Greek-Japanese diplomatic ties.
The Japanese embassy in Athens underlined, in an issued statement, that Alafouzos is decorated in recognition of his long contribution to the development of the Greek-Japanese economic relations and the mutual understanding between the two peoples.
Alafouzos contributed to forging closer bilateral relations by entrusting his fleet to the Japanese ship-building industry. Furthermore, the head of the Kathimerini media group contributed to the mutual understanding of the two peoples through the regular publication of news items and articles on Japan, focusing on economic, political and cultural issues.
Tsakos was decorated in recognition of his contribution to the development of the Greek-Japanese economic and cultural relations, mainly through the cooperation with the Japanese ship-building industry. He also contributed to the development of the Greek-Japanese cultural exchanges by supporting the KEIO University and the Asiatic Society of Japan through the "Tsakos Fund".
The Order of the Rising Sun medal features rays of sunlight radiating from the rising sun. The attachment is shaped into a chrysanthemum.
 Emporiki Bank reports 472.1-mln-euro losses in Jan-SeptEmporiki Bank on Tuesday reported expanded losses and lower net revenues in the nine-month period from January to September 2009, compared with the corresponding period last year.
The bank said consolidated after tax and minorities results showed a loss of 472.1 million euros, from losses of 121.2 million euros in 208, with net revenues falling 2.4 pct to 576.5 million euros in the nine-month period, from 590.6 million euros last year. Pre-tax losses totaled 454.8 million euros, from a loss of 71.4 million euros last year.
Emporiki Bank said that quarterly results showed some improvement, with losses falling to 113.4 million euros in the third quarter, from losses of 190 million euros in the second quarter, while net revenues rose to 217.2 million euros from 200.3 million euros in the second quarter.
Its loan portfolio rose 1.3 pct to 24 billion euros in the third quarter, while saving deposits grew 10 pct to 6.4 billion euros. Emporiki Bank said group equity capital totaled 701 million euros.
Alain Strub, vice-president and chief executive of the bank said the management of Emporiki Bank would continue efforts to restructuring its lending portfolio and noted that strong support offered by Credit Agricole was guaranteeing the development and the future success of the bank.
 Federation of Car Importing BusinessesThe Federation of Car Importing Businesses stressed its opposition to the government's decision to revoke the measure of car withdrawals, stressing that the tax incentives such as the decrease in the classification dues or the amount of money to the consumer for withdrawal "increase monetary revenues and do not reduce them because they boost the market."
In an announcement, the federation assessed that the revocation of withdrawal "will lead to the immediate reduction of the automobile market by at least 30 percent and of monetary revenues by 35-40 percent."
It also pointed out that the purchase of a new car in Greece "is burdened with taxation amounting to about 40 percent on average, by the imposition of the classification dues and VAT." It added that this taxation is more than double that imposed in other European countries.
Lastly, it said that the outcome will be the restriction of new car sales and, in parallel, the limited exit of old cars from circulation due to the high acquisition cost.
 McDonald's: No plans to leave Greek marketMcDonald's Hellas on Tuesday flatly dismissed recent press claims alleging that the company was planning to end its presence in the Greek market.
In a statement, McDonald's Hellas said there was no strategy or thought of leaving the Greek market, as a press article in one weekly claimed. The report has relied on the multinational's decision to reconsider its activities in the Icelandic market.
The company said its domestic sales have steadily improved in the last three years, as a result of restructuring, including the closing of unprofitable outlets. McDonald's said it re-opened six renovated outlets in Greece during the period 2008-2009, with comparative sales rising 11 pct in the January-September 2009 period, compared with the same period in 2008.
McDonald's operates a network of 35 outlets in Greece, of which 13 are franchising contracts.
 Stocks end 2.35% downStocks ended sharply lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 2,600 level. The index fell 2.35 pct to end at 2,584.04 points, with turnover rising slightly to 236.5 million euros, of which 9.7 million euors were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the exception of the Chemicals index which ended 0.87 pct higher. Health (3.23 pct), Banks (3.22 pct), Insurance (3.19 pct) and Food/Beverage (3.16 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index fell 2.58 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.36 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index eased 1.10 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 141 to 45 with another 56 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.11%
Personal & Household: -0.30%
Raw Materials: -1.06%
Travel & Leisure: -0.97%
Food & Beverages: -3.16%
Financial Services: -2.21%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 12.30
Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.35
HBC Coca Cola: 17.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.95
National Bank of Greece: 24.00
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 10.21
Bank of Piraeus: 10.75
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.87 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 107.387 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 13,270 contracts worth 90.771 million euros, with 25,180 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 15,233 contracts worth 16.612 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,922), followed by Eurobank (1,015), MIG (827), OTE (1,931), Piraeus Bank (1,372), Alpha Bank (1,014), Intracom (1,168), Marfin Popular Bank (1,487) and Cyprus Bank (558).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 2.134 billion euros on Tuesday, of which 1.073 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.081 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.140 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was 140 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 4.63 pct and the German Bund 3.23 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.23 pct, the six-month rate 1.04 pct, the three-month rate 0.72 pct and the one-month rate 0.42 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.477
Pound sterling 0.905
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 10.547
Japanese yen 133.31
Swiss franc 1.524
Norwegian kroner 8.581
Canadian dollar 1.596
Australian dollar 1.648
 Environment minister confers with Athens mayor on Twin Urban Regeneration plan, problemsEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change minister Tina Birbili and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Tuesday agreed on the need to place priority on the twin urban regeneration, during a meeting at the ministry that focused on the historical center of Athens, the metropolitan park in Goudi, interventions on historical buildings, and the twin regeneration and green areas.
On the future of the Twin Urban Regeneration plan, Birbili said that a solution must be given because the twin regeneration was the main target. "We want this program to be materialised in its total," she said, elaborating that she was referring also to the area of the former Panathinaikos soccer club stadium on central Alexandras Avenue, not only the soccer club's new stadium project. However, she added, there was a binding ruling by the Council of State, "and we will try to find a solution within that framework".
"Athens must become a competitive city because it is a very beautiful city. We had coinciding views on many of the matters, while on others we said that this was a first meeting and cooperation will follow in order to see how we will handle them," the minister added.
Kaklamanis said he briefed the minister on the twin urban redevelopment issue in light of the Council of State's ruling on the one hand and the developer's recourse against the ruling on the other hand.
"I did not expect the minister to give me a reply today, because it is obvious that she has to study the case," Kaklamanis said, but added his belief that "we will find the minister an ally in the proper solution of the problem, so that the dream of the Twin Urban Regeneration will become a reality."
He added that the City of Athens was in close cooperation, without any problems, with the Panathinaikos group.
Kaklamanis further said that he was leaving from the first meeting with the new minister satisfied, and with the hope that solutions will be found to all that had been discussed, and expressed conviction that Birbili will help in finding a solution.
 Diamantouros persuades EU Commission to revise rules on giftsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
Following an issue raised by European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamantouros, the European Commission on Tuesday announced that it was revising its internal regulations concerning gifts received by European Commission staff.
The case raised by the European Ombudsman concerned a report against two high-ranking European Commission officials working at the General Directorate for Competition that were in charge of anti-doping issues. According to a report by the non-governmental organisation Friends of Europe in April 2008, they had accepted invitations for VIP seats to the Rugby World Cup match in Paris from a sporting goods company.
The NGO's argument, which was essentially accepted by the European Ombudsman, was that the gift could be construed as a conflict of interests given the positions held by the two officials and that they should not have been permitted to accept them.
This position was also accepted by the European Commission in an announcement on Tuesday, which said that it had informed Diamantouros that it had begun a process for revising internal regulations concerning gifts received by Commission staff.
 Snowfall in northern GreeceSporadic snowfall was recorded on Tuesday in regions of western Macedonia, in northwest Greece, while winter weather conditions were recorded across the northern parts of the country with rainfall, low temperatures and strong winds.
Snowfall was recorded in the mountainous regions in the north-western prefectures of Florina and Kastoria, while the city of Florina reported snow and sleet with zero temperatures.
The snowfall caused problems to motorists moving on the provincial road of Florina-Kastoria via Vigla and Vitsi as well as on the Kastoria-Ioannina road via Nestorio.
 Classical music by Greek-Turkish musicians in Athens this monthTurkey's consulate general for Athens-Piraeus will co-sponsor two musical events in the Greek capital this month, with the Tetraktys Quartet and noted clarinetist Dionysis Grammenos performing chamber music (Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven) on Monday at Athens' Parnassos Concert Hall.
Tetraktys was founded in 2008 by two Greek and two Turkish virtuosos, with Grammenos, the recipient of the 1st prize at the Eurovision Young Musicians 2008 awards, participating for the Brahms quintet with the clarinet and the string quartet.
Tickets are priced at 10 euros (five euros for students) for the concert, to be held at 8, Aghiou Georgiou Karitsi St. near Syntagma square.
The second concert, part of the "Around the piano concert series -- 2009", will be held at the B&M Theocharakis Foundation for Fine Arts & Music on Wednesday, Nov. 11. The concert will feature Schubert's Trout quintet, performed by Turkish and Greek musicians.
Works inspired by animal fauna, for piano, voices and the string quartet will be performed.
Tickets range from 10 to 20 euros. The Foundation is located at 9, Vas, Sofias & 1, Merlin -- Syntagma Square.
 50th Thessaloniki int'l film festival opens on Nov. 13The 50th Thessaloniki International Film Festival opens on Nov. 13 under the theme "Why Cinema Now", and will run until Nov. 22.
In a press conference in Athens on Tuesday, it was announced that the festival's international competition section will feature two world premieres, one international and eight European.
The international competition jury committee will be chaired by noted film director Theo Angelopoulos.
The festival will also host special tributes, while actress Jane Birkin will be among the special guests.
 5.7R quake rocks CephalloniaA moderate earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale rocked the island of Cephallonia in the Ionian Sea on Tuesday morning, but no damage was immediately reported.
The quake, which was strongly felt on Cephallonia and nearby Zakynthos island, was also felt in the entire Ionian Islands complex and parts of the Peloponnese.
The earthquake was recorded at 7:25 a.m. at a distance of 334 kilometers west of Athens, with its epicenter in the sea region southwest of Cephallonia at an epicentral depth of 10 kilometers.
 Athens Soccer Clubs Union president attacked with crowbarsAthens Soccer Clubs Union (EPSA) President Panayiotis Dimitriou was attacked by two men (there was also another man with a high-powered motorcycle) who hit him over the head and on various other parts of his body with crowbars as he emerged from his home in the Athens suburb of Vrilisia on Tuesday morning to go to his car.
Dimitriou suffered injuries on his head, face and several other parts of his body and was rushed to hospital for treatment, while his life is not in danger.
According to what he told police, he had received threats on his mobile phone a few days ago and mentioned that he had no differences with anyone.
 Rainy on WednesdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 3C and 20C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 8C to 18C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 6C to 15C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe government's decision to impose an extraordinary contribution on large enterprises' profits, the abolition of old vehicles withdrawal incentives and Former Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos' withdrawal from the race for main opposition New Democracy's leadership, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Unbelievable mess in government! They announce measures and afterwards they withdraw them".
APOGEVMATINI: "Leader from the first round - Avramopoulos' withdrawal from the succession race for ND's leadership changes the situation in ND".
AVGHI: "300 million euros from enterprises, 1.2 billion euros from working people- Extraordinary tax contribution from large enterprises' profits".
AVRIANI: "Show of arrogance from the 'labor-fathers' - They again closed Piraeus port, destroying the economy and embarrassing the country ".
CHORA: "Avramopoulos withdrew and charged the established procedure".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Dockworkers obstruct the market: What interests are behind their strike?".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Extraordinary contribution imposed on enterprises".
ESTIA: "Populism dismantling the country".
ETHNOS: "Old vehicles withdrawal incentives halted because of high cost - Shocking decision for automobile market".
KATHIMERINI: "Extraordinary contribution imposed on large real estate properties and enterprises".
LOGOS: "End to old vehicles withdrawal incentives".
NIKI: "Avramopoulos 'voted' for Dora (Bakoyannis, former Foreign Minister and candidate for ND leadership)".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Battle for ports, shipyards and coastal shipping to be handed over to the people".
TA NEA: "Extraordinary tax on large real estate properties will be imposed in 2009 tax statements".
TO VIMA: "Prime Minister George Papandreou and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece held talks in private on Church of Greece property taxation".
VRADYNI: "Whoever was quick has withdrawn his old vehicle - Unprecedented surprise and injustice for thousands of old vehicle owners".
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