|Thursday, 22 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-11-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 13 November 2009 Issue No: 3348
 FM spokesman on FYROM; Gaza UN vote"Greece comes to talks on the fYRoM name issue with an open mind and constructive spirit," foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras reiterated on the occasion of Thursday's meeting in New York between Greek negotiator Adamantios Vassilakis and UN mediator Mathew Nimetz.
Responding to a question on the recent statements made by fYRoM President Georgi Ivanov and after reiterating Greece's firm position for a composite name for all uses containing a geographic qualifier, he stated that "we would expect from fYRoM leadership to abandon any extreme rhetoric that hurts the negotiating process. Such statements show a fixation on Cold War ideas. Aside from the groundless and historically unfounded speculations they express, the reference to Macedonians from 'Aegean Macedonia' is not just inaccurate but show in the most official way the anachronistic, expansionist and irredentist views dominant in fYRoM leadership today. They are in conflict with the principles of the UN Charter and constitute substantive violation of fundamental provisions of the Interim Agreement."
Referring to the political will that remains to be proven allowing the neighbouring country's EU accession process to move ahead, Delavekouras stated that "the December milestone lies ahead."
"At this moment, fYRoM leadership has to make a choice: It can choose the provocative, and ignorant of history, rhetoric it has followed until today, but it will have to face the consequences. Actually, it is up to the fYRoM prime minister, who is actually holding the key to his country's Euro-Atlantic prospect," he concluded.
Responding to a question on Greece's abstention from the UN vote on a report regarding war crimes in Gaza, Delavekouras stated that "the humanitarian disaster during the raid on Gaza is condemnable," referring to the traditionally close relations between Greece and the Arab world, and reminding that they constitute a top priority for the Greek government.
"Greece supports the principle of community solidarity and believes that the EU can become more useful and effective in its interventions if it has a single voice on foreign policy issues," he stressed, referring to a failure to form a common stance within the Union.
A draft decision presented by the EU Presidency was not adopted, and 16 of the 27 EU members opted for abstention.
"This does not constitute a change in Greece's policy in the Middle East. Greece firmly supports a solution through negotiations and believes that the solution that will be reached will be a solution of two independent states, Israel and Palestine. This is our intention. The contacts with the Arab countries are constant and will continue in the immediate future," the foreign ministry spokesman assured.
 Alternate FM details foreign policy priorities in Vienna interviewVIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)
Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas outlined the new Greek government's foreign policy priorities in an interview published in a Thursday edition of a Vienna daily, including detailed responses on questions dealing with the pesky fYRoM "name issue", the Greek-Turkish relations and the increasingly menacing pan-European specter of illegal migration.
Droutsas reiterated that Greece seeks to actively and forcefully promote the European integration (i.e. EU accession) of western Balkans states by the year 2014.
"That date, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI, is symbolic, considering that all problems and conflicts in SE Europe are rooted back in 1914," he said, adding that the Union, being the most successful peace model to date, should assume responsibility for this part of Europe and see that peace and stability are guaranteed.
Responding to a question on the nagging difference between Athens and Skopje on the «name issue", the alternate FM pointed out that Athens sincerely wants the European integration of all of the western Balkans, fYRoM included, and it will work hard to meet this goal.
However, Droutsas clearly underlined that Greece cannot and will not consent to the launch of EU negotiations with the neighbouring landlocked state before the name issue is settled, repeating that Greece supports a composite name with a geographic qualifier for all uses. He stated that it is no secret that the option "Republic of North Macedonia" was the latest proposal made by the UN -- under the auspices of which relevant negotiations are taking place -- that could be considered as a basis for talks by the Greek side.
Regarding the current state of all-important Greek-Turkish relations, Droutsas said the Greek government wants an open policy toward Turkey and supports its EU accession aspirations, as this facilitates necessary reforms to allow the country's transition into a truly democratic state.
"Turkey can become a state with consolidated democratic institutions, where human and minority rights will be respected, and the role of the military will be different from what it has been up until now," he said, adding that Turkey "can become a state that is interested in good-neighborly relations, respects the territorial integrity of its neighbors and will be ready for a solution to the Cyprus issue. These are the issues that are on the table," he said, adding that attention should focus on common interests that exist in order to build the necessary confidence.
Droutsas also referred extensively to illegal migration aimed at Europe, underlining that it cannot be handled by a single country, even more so by a country like Greece, with open borders and numerous islands in the Aegean Sea.
He clarified that Greece, where illegal migrants are estimated to be more than 150,000, is not a destination country but an entry point for people coming from countries experiencing major pressure, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and previously Iraq.
He stated that Greece has appealed to its EU partners for solidarity and assistance, as the problem concerns other EU countries as well, adding that it should be stated openly that the EU could offer greater understanding and support on the issue.
The Greek alternate FM stressed that a first step toward a solution to the problem should be the signing of a readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey.
"Unfortunately, a similar bilateral (Greece-Turkey) readmission protocol has not been implemented yet by Turkey as it ought to. The appeal made to Turkey is to control its borders and coasts more effectively and show consistency in tackling the illegal migrant trafficking network," he stressed.
Finally, responding to skepticism expressed toward Kazakhstan, whose government will take over the OSCE chairmanship from Greece in 2010, he stated that the Central Asia country is given an opportunity to prove the skeptics wrong. The interview was published in the respected daily "Die Presse".
 Alternate FM briefs President on targets, initiativesAlternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas was received by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday, in their first formal meeting since last month's general elections that brought PASOK to power.
Droutsas told reporters afterwards that he briefed the President on the new government's targets and first initiatives on foreign policy issues, adding that he intended to seek Papoulias', a former foreign minister himself, advice, noting that their meetings will be "very frequent".
Papoulias asked Droutsas about his recent visit to Berlin, on the occasion of events marking the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall, and the alternate foreign minister noted that Greece had once again stressed that "unfortunately a wall still remains today in the United Europe, our European family, namely in Cyprus".
"This wall must at last be torn down," Droutsas added.
 Meeting on Greek-Russian cooperationAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Thursday had a working lunch with Russian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Vladimir Titov, who is visiting Athens. The two men earlier had a meeting that covered bilateral relations, Russia's participation in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) pact, cooperation on issues concerning the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and issues of Greek interest, such as the Cyprus issue, the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the Balkans and their European perspective and cooperation on energy issues.
Afterwards, Droutsas said Athens looked to further improving bilateral relations between Greece and Russia, while Titov said that the close cooperation between the two countries "was very important" and would peak when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov participated in the OSCE ministerial meeting that will take place in Athens at the beginning of December.
During the foreign ministry's regular press briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras had noted Greece's desire to play a major role in European energy security by providing alternative pipelines, routes and sources of oil and natural gas, such as the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, the TGI and Southstream natgas pipelines and the connection between the Greek and Bulgarian natgas networks.
 Droutsas and Kouvelis to attend EU General Affairs CouncilThe foreign ministry on Thursday announced that Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis will participate in the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council that will take place in Brussels next Monday.
The Council will also be attended by defence and developmental cooperation ministers and focus on sustainable development and European security and defence issues. During the dinner, there will be a discussion on EU relations with Russia.
 Bakoyannis on fYRoM issueMain opposition New Democracy (ND)candidate for the party's leadership and former foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis said on Thursday that the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ( fYRoM) is entering a crucial turning point.
"The issue of Skopje ( fYRoM) is entering a crucial turning point. The latest developments are causing concern. Greece's message cannot be vague. I call on the government to follow at the European Union the same determined and clear policy that we had followed at the European Union and in Bucharest, achieving our greatest victory on the issue in the last 17 years," she said.
 ND leadership race heats upThe race for the new leadership of main opposition New Democracy (ND) is heating up, with the November 29 election date less than three weeks away, and the three candidates accelerating their campaigns.
Candidate Panagiotis Psomiadis, who is the prefect of Thessaloniki, will be meeting with party officials and supporters in the prefectures of Drama and Kavala on Thursday.
Candidate Antonis Samaras, the former culture minister, will address a rally in Neo Iraklio on Thursday afternoon, and later another rally in Megara, near Athens.
The third candidate, former foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, will pay a two-day visit to Crete on Friday and Saturday, where she will address rallies in all four prefectures on the island.
 Synaspismos on UN Summit on climate changeThe Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party referred to the issue of climate change, which is "one of the most important challenges in the history of humanity", in an announcement released on Thursday in light of the UN International Summit on climate change that will be held in Copenhagen from 7-18 December.
According to party's Political Bureau, Synaspismos together with the European Left Party has begun a political campaign in order that the UN Summit will end with an agreement.
Synaspismos and the Left must support, and will be present in, the struggle for protection of the environment, which will better the life of millions of people around the planet, especially of the socially and economically weak which are the first to be affected by climate change, it said.
For those reasons and in the framework of its campaign, Synaspismos decided to add to its logo the international demand for an agreement at the UN summit.
 Interior Minister Ragoussis testifies in defense of SYRIZA's TsiprasInterior, Decentralization and e-Governance Minister Yiannis Ragoussis testified in a Police Court Thursday within the framework of an investigation conducted following a lawsuit filed in April 2008 by MIG vice-president Andreas Vgenopoulos against the head of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group Alexis Tsipras.
Ragoussis appeared to testify in defense of Tsipras following a personal request by the latter.
The MIG vice-president had filed lawsuits against Tsipras and the private television channel STAR alleging that a slander campaign had been launched against his company at a time when the agreement with Deutsche Telekom was being widely discussed.
In the lawsuit against Tsipras, MIG seeks compensation of 1 million euros for public defamation by Tsipras for his statement that "certain parties purchase air and sell air to OTE (Hellenic Organization of Telecommunications)".
 Measures to ease overcrowding; incarceration terms changedJustice Minister Haris Kastanidis on Thursday announced what he described as permanent and temporary measures aimed at tackling prison overcrowding, as well as improving detention conditions in the country's correctional facilities.
According to official figures, a total of 11,432 inmates are being held in detention facilities across Greece when there is capacity for 9,103 inmates.
The minister said two committees will be set up to promote ideas for speeding up court proceedings, while referring to the measures for relieving prison overcrowding, he said discussions with interested parties (bar associations, judges' unions and NGOs) will precede relevant decisions.
He also said that criteria and preconditions for incarceration will be reworded in order to become clearer, specific and easier to prove. Pre-trial incarceration is abolished for defendants charged with offences that could translate into prison terms of between 5 and 10 years, except in the case of previous irrevocable convictions.
Individuals convicted for misdemeanor drug-related offences will also face milder sentencing guidelines, excluding defendants charged with narcotics trafficking.
Specifically, drug users and small-time dealers handed down prison terms of up to 5 years will be released conditionally after serving 2/3 of the sentence, while those with larger sentences will be conditionally released after serving 2/5ths of their prison term. Drug traffickers sentenced to a life sentence will be treated in the same manner with those facing terrorism charges, released from prison after serving 25 years of their original sentence.
Kastanidis also stated that inmates who are unable to buy out their prison sentence by paying 3 euros a day can opt for community service and be released after serving 3/5th of their sentence.
 Event on management of Germany's public imageThe Federal Republic of Germany celebrated in Athens on Thursday the triple anniversary of a successful course: 60 years from the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 10th anniversary of the transfer of the capital from Bonn to Berlin.
The event titled "The management of the public image of Germany" was organised by the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Athens and the Press Attache Union (ENAT).
Government spokesman and Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister George Petalotis said in his address that Germany's image was not created easily, nor by chance, but was based on an organised strategy plan on the promotion of its public image, with a dynamic international diplomacy combined and harmonised with a powerful cultural diplomacy.
Petalotis further said that Greece certainly has many things to learn from the German example, one should consider what Greece's public image is today and stressed that today, for the government and Prime Minister George Papandreou, "the country's extroversion constitutes an extremely important priority."
The event was also addressed by Communication and Public Relations Councillor Anna Schwan, Communication Director General of the German foreign ministry Michael Zenner and others.
 Greece to probe inaccurate stats sent to EUGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday announced the formation of an independent committee to determine why the economic figures supplied to the European Commission by Greece had fallen so short of accuracy.
"The government found itself in a very difficult position, on behalf of Greece. What we have here is not a reprimand of the Greek government, it is a reprimand of Greece at the EU when it was proved that the figures we were sending were false," Petalotis told reporters and stressed that those responsible had to be identified.
The spokesman announced that Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou had already decided to create an independent committee that would have to prepare its report by the end of the year, which would then be forwarded to Parliament so that matters might take their course.
He clarified, also, that the formation of this investigating committee had not been demanded by the European Commission.
"We are not simply interested in assigning blame but with the country's credibility," he stressed.
Petalotis did not rule out a Parliamentary investigation if the evidence pointed to individuals being personally responsible "for the very great damage done to the Greek State by the deliberate concealment of figures," while denying political motives other than those of restoring justice and the truth.
"There is no element of criminalising political life. If there is evidence on political figures, there is a process provided under the Constitution and Parliamentary regulations. If there is evidence on non-political figures, then a public prosecutor can take action," the spokesman said.
The main issue was that there should be a report that showed whether there was responsibility for what had happened and whether this could be narrowed down to individuals, he added.
In response to questions, Petalotis stressed that the country had been totally discredited when it became apparent that the figures supplied by the New Democracy government had been so altered as to make Greece untrustworthy.
"The present government is called on to restore the country's credibility," he added and to "convince our [EU] partners that the figures that we give them today are reliable, and that the budget we are drawing up and our economic policy are reliable."
Questioned about whether the government would be able to keep its pre-election pledges in light of the country's dire financial straits, Petalotis noted only that "the crisis is an opportunity for major changes in the state and the economy."
 Government on EU recommendations for Greek job marketDefending labour rights was among the government's top priorities, government spokesman George Petalotis stressed on Thursday when asked to comment on a report by the EU finance ministers' Council on the Greek labour laws, especially for newcomers to the job market.
"There is no government pledge for wages outside of collective agreements," the spokesman clarified, adding that the government had no intention of abolishing collective negotiations.
Regarding the ailing social security system, Petalotis noted that this was not, in any case, either fair or viable. "It is a major challenge for the Greek government that will be addressed through a law," he added.
Asked to comment on the fact that Finance Minister George Papconstantinou had signed the ECOFIN report concerning reforms to collective negotiations without raising any objections, Petalotis said that the ECOFIN report contained "recommendations" and that the Greek government was in charge of deciding specific policies.
"We listen to the proposals of our partners. From there on there is a national policy, while we have principles, ideology and values that we do not compromise," he said.
On ages of retirement, Petalotis said the government would honour its pledge that these would not increase but stressed that this was a different issue from that of making retirement age equal for men and for women, where the EU had already found Greece in violation of EU directives. He clarified that this issue would also be dealt with through legislation "in due time".
 Ministers discuss measures for ailing social insurance systemFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou and Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos had a meeting on Thursday to discuss issues concerning the two ministries, especially the problems of the country's ailing social insurance system.
After the meeting, Papaconstantinou said that serious problems had arisen in the financing of social insurance funds from the 2009 budget and that the government was launching a series of policies to address the problems as a whole.
Loverdos noted that the already massive deficits of the social insurance funds had widened further in 2009 and that the present government had taken charge of a system facing huge problems and enormous funding needs, in excess of those legislated for.
He reported that the recorded additional requirements for state financing of social insurance funds in 2009 exceeded 2.5 billion euros and that a policy to deal with the system as a whole was needed.
The two ministers said that the social partners (trade unions and employer associations) would be asked to give their opinions over the next few days and then the two ministries will announce the steps that the government will take to address the problems.
According to Loverdos, all the envisaged measures were prepared and ready to be set into motion without delay.
 Government on shipyards, port strikeThe government on Thursday categorically denied reports of a secret meeting by Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli regarding the Skaramangas shipyards.
Government spokesman George Petalotis stressed that the government's work on both the issue of the Skaramangas shipyards and the dockers' strike at Piraeus Port was "collective" and "could not be slandered".
Katseli herself, during statements in response to questions tabled in Parliament, noted that all problems concerning Piraeus port "were on the table" in talks coordinated by George Anomeritis and that these would be dealt so as to "benefit all sides".
"All our promises will be carried out, we will protect the growth prospects of the Piraeus Port Organisation and the entire Piraeus region and this is a wager for the future," she said.
She was responding to an accusation from Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Diamanto Manolakou that the government had "deceived the workers and criminalised their struggle".
The minister countered by saying that the government would exhaust all legal means to correct the problems in the lease agreement signed with the Chinese company COSCO for the port's container terminal in order to promote the public interest. She also pointed out that the rights of the workers were fully protected and that the closure of the port was damaging to the entire economy, including thousands of small businesses.
 Greece reiterates significance of Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline projectThe Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline project is a significant project with geopolitical, financial and energy importance, Greek Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Spyros Kouvelis said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, on the sidelines of a Black Sea Business Forum in Thessaloniki, the Greek minister said Greece and Bulgaria shared the same views on the project and underlined the strong interest of both countries to proceed with the plan.
"In consultations with the Environment ministry we need to ensure all environmental terms and to begin building a project well designed to the benefit of the energy industry, citizens and Greece in general," Kouvelis said.
The Greek minister said the Black Sea region was the natural neighbourhood of Greece and that the country needed to boost cooperation in business activities with neighbouring countries and cooperation for sustainable and green development in the region.
The Greek government supported, through bilateral and regional agreements, the promotion of a Road Ring in Black Sea, a project adopted by Russia. "Our aim is to facilitate, through diplomacy, secondary matters, giving a boost to the most significant infrastructure and development projects in the region," he noted.
Kouvelis said a special fund aimed at offering support and development help to countries in the Black Sea region was underway and added that the Black Sea region was rich, but it had to support its development with its own resources along with any foreign help.
A memorandum of cooperation to build a Road Ring was signed in 2007 but Foreign ministers of the Black Sea Cooperation Pact. The road project has a length of around 7.000 km with vertical road connections for Azerbaijan, Serbia and Albania.
 Economy minister holds talks with European Investment Bank vice presidentEconomy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli discussed an increase in action to warm up the economy and the country's production restructuring, with parallel backing for competitiveness with the support of the European Investment Bank, with the bank's vice president Plutarchos Sakellaris on Thursday.
"We hope that in the future the European Investment Bank will support even more actively initiatives having to do with the financing of small and medium-size enterprises, with urban reformations, with the ports and coastal shipping," the minister said after the meeting and added that "very soon we shall have specific results to announce."
Asked by reporters about the issue of liquidity in the market, Katseli said "next week there shall be announcements on the government's new policy on this issue. At this moment the problem is real and we must solve it both with measures concerning the Greek government itself and financing in the depth of time. Today, with the European Investment Bank, we discussed precisely about the financing programme that will allow us really to make a great incision in this sector."
 Environment minister meets with EIB vice-presidentEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change minister Tina Birbili met on Thursday with European Investment Bank (EIB) vice-present Plutarchos Sakellaris, whom she briefed in the government's initiatives in the area of Renewable Energy Sources (RES), urban renewal, energy conservation and waste management.
Sakellaris, in turn, briefed the minister on the EIB's initiatives.
"We exchanged initial views on the materialisation of the initiatives, and I believe that we will intensify our meetings in the future," Birbili said afterwards.
Sakellaris confirmed that "we certainly will continue this constructive cooperation", and stressed the importance placed by the EIB on the environment and energy.
He also announced that an international conference on energy and the environment will be organised in March 2010 in Thessaloniki, and invited Birbili to attend.
 Infrastructure minister meets EIB vice-presidentInfrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas on Thursday had a meeting with European Investment Bank vice-president Plutarchos Sakellaris that was also attended by deputy ministers Yiannis Magriotis and Nikos Sifounakis.
The ministers were briefed on the EIB funding programmes in Greece, while there was an exchange of views and review of the loans already given to Greece. Sakellaris said the EIB was interested in future cooperation on projects within Greece.
 Environment Minister Birbili meets with environment chamber presidentEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili met Thursday with Chamber of Environment and Sustainability President Mihalis Dekleris, honorary vice president of the Council of State.
According to a statement issued afterwards, the informative meeting was held in a "very positive atmosphere"
 Minister promises to end 'unfair competition' from Turkish trucksThe Greek government was determined to end the unfair competition posed by Turkish trucks to their Greek counterparts by transporting goods within Greece in violation of existing bilateral agreements, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas told Parliament on Thursday.
The minister pointed out that Turkish trucking companies fully exploited their right to have an equal number of licences as their Greek counterparts and had a competitive advantage in the form of tax-free fuel and lower labour costs.
Reppas noted that the same journey will cost a Greek customer 1,200 euros when carried out by a Turkish truck and 2,500 euros using a Greek truck. As a result, Turkish truckers had carried out 25,000 paid journeys in the past year when Greek truckers did not exceed 1,000.
The minister said that the Turkish trucks would temporarily be allowed to continue journeys within Greece, in order to avoid shortages on the market due to the ongoing dockers strike, especially for fresh produce. In due course, however, the government would step up controls and ensure that each Turkish truck had a proper licence to carry goods in Greece, he noted.
 Greek unemployment at 9.0 pct in AugustGreek unemployment fell to 9.0 pct in August, from 9.6 pct in July, but remained sharply higher compared with a 7.1 pct rate in August last year, the National Statistical Service said on Thursday.
The number of unemployed people totaled 452,706 in August, up 27.6 pct from the corresponding month in 2008. The statistics service said unemployment among men was 7.2 pct and among women 11.6 pct in August, with the 15-24 age group recording the highest unemployment rate (24.2 pct), followed by the 25-34 age group (11.8 pct).
Eastern Macedonia/Thrace (12.1 pct), Central Greece (10.9 pct) and central Macedonia (10.4 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates in the country, while Ionian islands (3.8 pct), the Peloponese (5.1 pct), southern Aegean and Crete (6.3 pct) the lowest unemployment rates.
 Parliament budget for 2010 passedThe Greek Parliament's budget for 2010 - the first in 34 years that envisages a reduction of spending relative to the previous year - was passed by MPs on Thursday. Voting in favour of the 2010 budget were ruling PASOK, main opposition New Democracy and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) voted against and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) cast blank votes.
The 2010 budget provides for 218 million euros in overall spending by the Greek Parliament, a reduction of 3.9 million euros or 1.75 percent relative to the budget for 2009 or 0.4 percent of the state budget.
Presenting the 2010 budget, Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos stressed that MPs had to contribute to cost-cutting efforts during a financially difficult period and act as an example.
 Greek consultancy services market up 8.8% in 2008The European market for consultancy services grew 8.2 pct in 2008 to 86.2 billion euros, a report by the European Federation of Management Consultancies Associations (FEACO) announced on Thursday.
The Greek market for 2008 totaled 255 million euros, an increase of 8.8 pct compared with the previous year, the Greek Federation of Management Consultants (SESMA) said, adding that the growth rate was significant as it continued a growing trend prevailing in Greece and the European market from the previous year. SESMA said it expected a slight decline in its members' turnover for 2009.
The sectors participation the country's Gross Domestic Product was 0.10 pct, while the rate in Europe was 0.54 pct, with developed countries' rate exceeding 1.0 pct (UK, Germany, Austria).
Germany remained the largest market in Europe (with a market share of 30.7 pct), followed by UK (23.2 pct), Spain (11.0 pct) and France (9.6 pct). Greece was at the bottom with a market share of 0.3 pct.
In Greece, business consulting and IT consulting accounted for the biggest part of the market (73 pct and 5.0 pct, respectively), followed by the Development and Systems Integration (4.3 pct) and Outsourcing (5.3 pct).
The manufacturing sector, the financial sector (banks, insurance companies) and the public sector are the main customers of the industry in Europe, while in Greece the biggest customer remained the public sector, followed by the manufacturing sector and energy, telecommunications and the financial sector.
Greek consultants ranked third in Europe in exporting consultancy services, after Finland and Spain.
 ATEbank reports imporved nine-month resultsATEbank on Thursday reported an impressive improvement in its credit expansion business to small- and medium-sized enterprises and Greek households in the January-September period. The bank also reported satisfactory nine-month results, with Group profits falling 1.6 pct to 82.4 million euros and bank profits jumping 46.7 pct to 96.3 million euros despite a loss of 30 million euros by Hellenic Sugar Industry.
Loans grew 19.9 pct, up from an average 5.4 pct in the Greek banking system, focusing more on small- and medium-sized enterprises (50.2 pct) and households (15.6 pct). Mortgage loans grew 12.2 pct to 6.6 billion euros, while consumer credit (including credit cards) grew 28.6 pct to 1.9 billion euros.
Outstanding loan portfolio, pre-provisions, totaled 22.6 billion euros at the end of September (+19.9 pct), despite write offs of 2.2 billion euros in the last five years. The loan portfolio, after provisions was 21.6 billion euros, up 20.1 pct compared with the same period last eyar.
Non-performing loans rate rose to 7.3 pct in September 2009, from 6.9 pct in September 2008. Saving depositis grew 10 pct to 21.8 billion euros, with time deposits accounting for 37.7 pct of total deposits.
Banking activities recorded an 11.9 pct increase in net interest and commissions revenues to 545.9 million euros and 57.8 million euros, respectively in the nine-month period. Other operating revenues totaled 216.6 million euros in the third quarter of 2009.
 'Aegean' to link Athens-Vienna as of December 10VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
The starting of an air link between Athens and Vienna, as of December 10 with the Aegean Airlines, was announced during an official presentation of the company and its programme at an event held at a hotel in the Austrian capital on Wednesday night.
The event took place in cooperation with the Vienna International Airport and was attended by representatives of Austrian tourist organisations, travel agencies and the mass media, as well as representatives of Greek services and Greek community organisations in Austria.
 Anti-Money Laundering Conference in AthensThe American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce will host the 1st "Anti-Money Laundering Conference: Legal framework-Practice-International Experience" on Nov. 16.
The conference will focus on views exchanges, presentation of proposals of involved institutions and interested parties from the public and private sectors, as well as a presentation of international practice and experience in combating legalisation of income from illicit activities and terrorist financing.
 Stocks end 1.46% downStocks fell sharply at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index of the market ending at 2,620.44 points, off 1.46 percent. Turnover was a moderate 233.3 million euros, of which 15.9 million euros were block trades.
All sectors moved downwards, with the exception of the Personal/Home Products which ended 0.88 pct higher. Media (5.43 pct), Insurance (4.07 pct), Oil/Gas (3.53 pct), Commerce (2.44 pct) and Raw Materials (2.43 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index fell 1.46 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.06 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index dropped 1.51 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 162 to 42 with another 38 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -3.53%
Personal & Household: +0.88%
Raw Materials: -2.43%
Travel & Leisure: -2.07%
Food & Beverages: -2.15%
Financial Services: -1.85%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Marfin Popular Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 11.18
Public Power Corp (PPC): 15.00
HBC Coca Cola: 17.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.07
National Bank of Greece: 24.80
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 10.50
Bank of Piraeus: 11.40
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract was trading at -2.03 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover jumping to 120.252 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 12,583 contracts worth 86.284 million euros, with 27,082 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,508 contracts worth 16.984 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (2,334), followed by Eurobank (981), MIG (751), OTE (2,235), PPC (859), Piraeus Bank (784), National Bank (2,200), Alpha Bank (2,298), Intralot (565), Cyprus Bank (540) and Hellenic Postbank (613).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market jumped to 3.338 billion euros on Thursday, of which 1.879 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.504 billion were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 2.972 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 132 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 4.69 pct and the German Bund 3.38 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. 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 - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.504
Pound sterling 0.909
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 10.33
Japanese yen 135.39
Swiss franc 1.522
Norwegian kroner 8.458
Canadian dollar 1.582
Australian dollar 1.619
 Health minister announces reexamination of anti-smoking measuresThe government is examining all options, including the implementation of a total smoking ban, Health and Social Solidarity Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou stated in Parliament on Thursday.
Responding to a current question tabled by ruling PASOK party MP Ektoras Nasiokas, she stressed that firstly all measures will have to be fully evaluated and the dialogue in progress with all parties involved will have to be completed before any decision is reached. Nasiokas also stated that smoking is allowed in 99 pct of the stores under 70 sqm.
The health minister pointed out that the anti-smoking measures adopted 10 months ago will be re-evaluated. She stated that certain steps have been made in public agencies and outdoor advertising, stressing, however, that implementation problems are widespread in restaurants and clubs.
 Ecumenical Patriarch becomes Special Olympics volunteerISTANBUL (ANA-MPA - A. Kourkoulas)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Thursday received the president of the Special Olympics Organising Committee Gianna Despotopoulou at his seat in Fanar, Istanbul and signed a form to become a volunteer in the 2011 Special Olympics in Athens.
Despotopoulou outlined the aims of the Special Olympics programme, saying that it aimed to "de-institutionalise" children and also teach society to respect differentness.
The Patriarch praised the organisation's efforts, while he discussed ways in which the Orthodox Church might contribute to the Games and accepted Despotopoulou's invitation to attend events held in the framework of the Special Olympics in Athens.
 "Conspiracy Fire Cells" case assigned to court of appeals examining judgeThe case of the "Conspiracy Fire Cells - Faction of Nihilists" urban terrorist group, described as an anti-state anarchist cell, was assigned due to its gravity to a Court of Appeals Examining Judge following a recommendation by Supreme Court Judge Ioannis Tentes.
The plenum of the Court of Appeals Judges unanimously appointed Dimitris Flegas in charge of the case, while Constantinos Baltas was appointed assistant examining judge.
Three young people are currently in custody in relation to the case, while six arrest warrants have been issued.
The suspects were arrested on Sept 23, 2009 during the discovery of an alleged "bomb-making" safehouse in the northern Athens suburb of Halandri and remanded in custody pending trial. All of them have denied any wrongdoing in statements they made before an examining magistrate.
 Justices' Council orders further investigation into Kuneva attackThe Misdemeanours Court Justices Council on Thursday ordered that there be further investigation by an examining magistrate into last year's attack on former trade unionist Konstantina Kuneva. The justices deemed that the case should not be shelved and that efforts to find Kuneva's attackers continue.
A former official in an Attica region cleaners' union, the Bulgarian national was assailed by an unidentified attacker that sprayed acid onto her face and torso while returning home in December last year, leaving her seriously disfigured and disabled.
The justices also ask that the victim be questioned in the course of the investigation, in order to shed as much light as possible on the case. Kuneva, who is still being treated in hospital after the attack, had been unable to give evidence to police earlier in the investigation.
 State offers one-mln-euro reward in Kuneva acid attack caseThe government announced a reward of one million euros for information leading to the arrest of the assailants involved in the acid attack on former office cleaners' unionist Konstantina Kuneva a year ago, an attack that left the Bulgarian national seriously disabled and disfigured.
According to a joint ministerial decision, the reward will be given for any leads that will help in the arrest of the culprits.
The attack on Kuneva, who is still hospitalised with grave health problems, occurred 18 minutes after midnight on Dec. 23, 2008 in the Athens district of Petralona. Kuneva had been an organiser in an Attica-area cleaners' union.
Full anonymity for informants is guaranteed, authorities said.
 Explosion outside Panathinaikos FC fan clubA home-made explosive device exploded early Thursday morning outside a Panathinaikos football fans club in the southern Athens district of Aghios Dimitrios.
The device was placed in front of the entrance door of the club. Damage to the offices and the nearby buildings were reported.
According initial estimations by police, the explosive device was of moderate power and was made from an as yet unidentified explosive substance.
Police are conducting an investigation.
 Mother of slain 15-year-old wants defendants tried in Athens areaThe mother of a 15-year-old youth shot to death last December by a police officer in central Athens has petitioned the supreme court to request that a trial of two defendants charged in the case be held in the Athens area.
The petitioner, Gina Tsalikian, whose son Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot in the widely publicised case, said cited difficulties for her personally, her attorneys and jurists to attend the trial in the western mainland town of Amfissa.
Her attorneys called for the trial of the two special police guards to be held at the specially modified courtroom within the Korydallos penitentiary, in the working-class district of Piraeus.
The trial was originally set to open in the port city of Halkida, roughly an hour and a half north of Athens, but was shifted after local judicial reactions.
 Minister at ceremony for fallen firemenDeputy Citizens' Protection Minister Spyros Vougias on Thursday attended a ceremony to honour firemen that had lost their lives in the line of duty, which was held on the anniversary of the death of the first Greek fireman killed while on duty, Constantinos Poulios, who died while attempting to put out a fire in a Thessaloniki shop on November 12, 1942.
 Man arrested for graffiti incident outside Turkish consulate in ThessalonikiA 19-year-old man was arrested in Thessaloniki on Thursday after his companion allegedly scrawled offensive graffiti on the wall of the Turkish consulate in the northern port city.
The two men were reportedly spotted by police sentries outside the Turkish consulate, with one of the two actually seen defacing the wall. However, the actual assailant fled on foot, whereas his companion was arrested.
He faces a local prosecutor on a single charge of simple complicity to commit felonious damage to foreign property.
 Illegal migrants intercepted off the island of KythiraThe Greek Coast Guard spotted an unidentified number of illegal migrants on board a sailing boat anchored in the sea region of Avlemonas, east of the southern Aegean island of Kythira located south of the Peloponnese.
All illegal migrants are in a good condition and after they are counted they will be taken to the local Health Clinic for precautionary medical tests.
 Nigerian human-trafficking ring bustedThe Attica Police Human Trafficking Squad on Thursday said that it had successfully cracked an organised ring of Nigerian traffickers that brought young girls to Greece from Nigeria and forced them into prostitution.
They arrested a 20-year-old woman of Nigerian descent with a Greek nationality and ID but were still looking for her husband, also a Greek national of Nigerian descent.
The couple are suspected members of a ring involved in the sexual exploitation of women, which 'recruited' young Nigerian women in desperate financial straits and brought them to Greece via Turkey. They then used physical violence and the threat of witchcraft to force them to work as prostitutes, demanding 80,000 euros from each girl in order to release them.
The ring had been operating for the past two years and, based on the evidence so far, had brought more than 40 young Nigerians into Greece and collected more than 180,000 euros from sexually exploiting them. The two suspects are believed to have sent this money abroad to their accomplices using banks.
For five of the women that were victims of the group, police mobilised processes for their immediate assistance and protection as victims of human trafficking.
The 20-year-old arrested by police was led before a public prosecutor on Wednesday.
 Foreign national charged in Amorgos homicideA 26-year-old foreign national turned himself into to police on the island of Amorgos on Wednesday and reportedly confessed to the slaying of a 23-year-old compatriot hours earlier in the region of Aghios Pavlos on the island.
The incident occurred at a building site where the perpetrator and the victim, both Albanian nationals, were engaged in construction work.
According to reports, the 26-year-old Albanian national attacked his fellow countryman with a crowbar, fatally striking him in the back.
The causes of the slaying were not announced.
 Dalaras donates 40,000 for refugeesGreek singer George Dalaras, the 6th UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Good Will Ambassador, on Thursday presented 40,000 euros raised in a benefit concert to the National Council for Refugees at an event in Athens marking the NCR's 20th anniversary.
 50th Thessaloniki Film Festival begins on FridayThe 50th Thessaloniki Film Festival opens on Friday with the screening of the film "Soul Kitchen" by the director Fatih Akin at Thessaloniki's Olympion cinema. This will be preceded by an official opening ceremony directed by Angelos Frantzis and presented by the actor Christos Loulis.
 Cloudy on FridayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 21C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 20C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 17C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEU intentions to place Greece under excessive deficit procedures in accordance with Article 104 of the Maastricht Treaty, the government's new taxation system, the new bill on hiring in the public sector and the campaigning ahead of the election for a new main opposition New Democracy leader, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Everything changing in public sector hiring".
APOGEVMATINI: "EU demands change in pension rights and new taxes".
AVGHI: "Retirement at a very old age - EU recommends raise in retirement age and cutbacks in pensions".
AVRIANI: "European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia demands cutbacks in civil servants' salaries".
ELEFTHEROS: "All the changes on hirings".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "New measures a trap - End to tax reliefs for those who declare incomes of over 30,000 euros".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Everyone on the hook - FinMin George Papaconstantinou announced changes for more just taxation".
ESTIA: "Surveillance is necessary for our own good - We should welcome it".
ETHNOS: "Game of favouritism is over - Hirings in public sector and Public Utility Organisations only via ASEP (public sector hiring examinations board) procedures".
IMERISSIA: "The deficit has a 'name."
KATHIMERINI: "Actions under EU pressure - Social security issue opens again".
LOGOS: "Hirings in public sector only via ASEP".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Champions in the EU 'black list' of deficits".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Government and EU sending collective labor agreements and social security rights to the guillotine".
TA NEA: "The five keys to opening the public sector's doors - All hirings via the ASEP".
TO VIMA: "Europe demands harsh measures, government is hesitant".
VRADYNI: "National humiliation - Almunia expressed his disdain for Greece".
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