|Monday, 19 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-11-27
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 27 November 2009 Issue No: 3360
 Athens on EU-Turkey ties, Prespes Lake meetingA foreign ministry spokesman on Thursday referred to a closely watched EU summit next month that is expected to make crucial decisions regarding Turkey's EU course.
"Greece is in cooperation and close coordination with the Republic of Cyprus," spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said, adding that Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou will be in Athens for next week's OSCE Summit. Referring to a letter by Cypriot President Demetris Christofias to the leaders of the Union's 26 other member-states, he pointed out that the course of negotiations is not satisfactory.
The issue will be discussed in the European Council and the Greek side has expressed a hope that there will be progress with Turkey making steps toward the right direction, "because Turkey will be judged very strictly and objectively. This is a given," Delavekouras stressed.
Asked to comment on a letter sent by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Prime Minister George Papandreou, he replied that it will be answered.
Tripartite Prespes meeting
Meanwhile, the spokesman said that Papandreou proposed a tripartite meeting in the Lake Prespes region with his counterparts from Albania and fYRoM to discuss environmental cooperation in the verdant and ecologically significant region only a few days before the Copenhagen Summit on climate change.
Athens seeks the creation of a framework involving community programmes and know-how that will allow Greece, fYRoM and Albania to cooperate and deal with environmental issues.
The initiative was launched on the occasion of the anniversary of another similar meeting held in the Lake Prespes region 10 years ago and the issuance of a joint statement declaring their commitment to cooperate to face jointly the problems of the region's ecosystem which, due to its nature, needs inter-state cooperation.
"Negotiations between fYRoM and the EU will not be launched if the 'name issue' is not settled with the adoption of a name for all uses (erga omnes) that will include a geographic qualifier," the foreign ministry spokesman said in response to a press question.
Responding to a question on the likelihood of any discussion on the 'name issue', Delavekouras stated that it is understandable that "the entire spectrum of issues that concern participating countries will be discussed, and therefore, it is reasonable to have a discussion on the name issue with prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) Nikola Gruevski."
"However, there shouldn't be any misinterpretations. The framework for a solution is the process followed in the United Nations under UN envoy Matthew Nimetz. This is where a solution will come from and we expect that the other party will participate in the process constructively. Direct and private meetings can contribute by giving a momentum in the UN dialogue process," he stated.
"Skopje should adopt a constructive attitude to reach a mutually acceptable solution. EU accession negotiations cannot be launched for as long as such a solution is not achieved," Delavekouras said, adding that this should be made clear to avoid any surprises, misunderstandings and expectations that cannot be met.
Responding to a relevant question, Delavekouras said Gruevski will arrive for the meeting on a commercial flight.
 Foreign ministry on OSCE ministerial councilGreek President Karolos Papoulias will inaugurate the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Ministerial Council in Athens next Tuesday morning, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday. Greece currently holds the OSCE chair.
There will follow speeches by Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister George Papandreou, chairman of the Council, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Joao Soares, OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut and the heads of the member-states' delegations.
The Council sessions will end with a press conference next Wednesday.
According to Delavekouras, 50 of the 56 member-states had so far confirmed that their foreign ministers would attend, while the remainder would be represented at another level. He also confirmed that there would be bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Council.
The spokesman said that the Greek OSCE chair's efforts would be focused on achieving a political declaration that built on the foundations laid with the Corfu process, using a proposal by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for a new European security treaty to launch constructive dialogue on security issues in Europe.
 Justice ministry draft law on victims of crimes of violenceThe justice ministry-sponsored draft law on compensation to victims of intentional crimes of violence, in compliance with a relevant EU Directive, was approved Thursday in principal by the political parties in parliament.
Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Haris Kastanidis has pledged before the responsible committee processing the draft law that certain clauses will be reconsidered to cover cases of serious misdemeanours and the expansion of the deadline within which a crime should be reported.
According to the draft law, the State will have to compensate the victims of violent crimes that are sentenced as felonies.
The state will have to pay compensation in three instances, namely if the culprit does not have the necessary resources to compensate the victim, if the culprit's identity is unknown and if the culprits cannot face charges either because they are covered by the statute of limitations or because of mental incapacity.
The compensation will cover material damage caused directly by the crime, medical and hospital expenses, loss of income and funeral expenses but not moral damage.
On Monday, the parliamentary committee will discuss two amendments on the problem of jail overcrowding presented by the justice minister.
 Chrysohoidis seeking overhaul of migration policyCitizens' Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Thursday announced the start of a discussion to radically rethink Greece's migration policy - saying that this would include a reduction of police involvement in the processing of asylum applications and a system allowing greater respect for human rights.
The minister noted that migration and the entry of immigrants into Greece was currently a "national social issue" and that migration in general was both a global and European problem.
Talks on the framework and details of this new policy for migration will he held by an expert committee that began its work on Thursday, with representatives of 11 ministries and other bodies taking part and chaired by the Citizens' Protection Ministry general secretary.
Chrysohoidis said that the ministry's plan would set four targets for the country in relation to migrants and refugees:
Firstly, to secure Greece's borders more efficiently and control the heavy flow of migrants resulting from Greece's geographic position on the outskirts of the EU and its long coastline. To achieve this, Chrysohoidis noted, Greece needed to cooperate with European and the international community, because it was unable to cope with the problem alone.
A second target was to end conditions leading to inhuman treatment of migrants in an overburdened system having to cope with 250,000 people from different countries every year.
A third goal was to change immigration policy so as to incorporate migrants into society and to do this quickly and with equality.
The fourth and final goal would be a radical overhaul of the political asylum system so that it was given to all those entitled to it, instead of just 0.03 percent of applicants as at present.
 Dep. FM briefs parliamentary com't on Greeks abroad issuesDeputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis Thursday outlined the activities that the ministry intends to undertake towards improving relations between Greeks abroad and the home country.
Addressing members of a permanent parliamentary committee on Greeks abroad, Kouvelis said the potential of Greek expatriates should be fully utilised through continuous and systematic communication via e-governance which constitutes a top priority of the government.
He stated that a major role can be played by the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) expatriate organization adding that the meeting of the SAE Youth Networks' Coordinating Councils to take place in Thessaloniki next week will be a great opportunity to learn what the young expatriates expect from Greece.
Kouvelis also referred to the role of the Church in uniting the Greeks worldwide.
 New Harbour Corps chief appointedThe Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) convened on Thursday and unanimousy appointed Vice Admiral Athanasios Bousios in the post of chief of the Harbour Corps as he has all the qualifications required by the law to fill the vacated post of Harbour Corps chief.
In parallel, KYSEA placed in retirement the previous chief Vice Admiral Theodoros Rentleperis and awarded him the title of honourary Harbour Corps chief and of admiral in retirement.
 ECHR rules against Greece in rights case brought by immigrantSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA - O. Tsipira)
The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ruled against Greece in a case brought against the country by an Afghan national, finding that his treatment at the hands of Greek authorities had failed to protect his basic human rights and freedoms.
Rafk Tabesh, 24, had applied to the court in February 2008, complaining about the conditions of his detention pending deportation as an illegal immigrant, claiming that he was subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment and that his detention was unlawful, while the reasons for his arrest were given to him in a language that he did not understand.
Tabesh could not be informed of the outcome of his case, however, because his current address is unknown.
The Afghan man had arrived in Greece in July 2006 without a valid residence permit. He was first arrested on December 24 of that year and held for 48 hours, after which he was convicted by a Thessaloniki court and given a 40-day suspended sentence for having fake documents.
He was then re-arrested immediately after his release, on December 28, and jailed pending his deportation. During his incarceration, Tabesh was held at a special facility for foreign nationals at the police jail in Kordelio, Thessaloniki, where conditions have been described as unacceptable for the point of view of hygiene and human rights.
Tabesh was released on March 28, 2007 because the three-month period that immigrants could be legally detained pending deportation had expired. An application for political asylum that he made on April 16, 2007 has not yet been replied to.
The ECHR unanimously condemned Greece for violating articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention for Human Rights and ordered the Greek government to pay the applicant 8,000 euros for moral damages and 3,500 euros for court expenses.
 Dialogue on social insurance reforms beginsDialogue on reforming Greece's social insurance system began officially on Thursday morning, with a meeting between the leadership of the labour ministry and Greece's two largest trade union organisations, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union ADEDY. Between them, these two trade union groups represent the majority of the private and public sector workforce.
Labour Minister Andreas Loverdos launched the talks by underlining the extremely problematic state of the country's social insurance and pension system, pointing out that emergency financing from the state had tripled to 2.47 billion euros in 2009, while forecasts for 2010 were grim. At the same time, he stressed that the government would not raise retirement ages, reduce pensions or increase contributions.
Appealing against what he called a "knee-jerk" distrust of anyone that attempted to discuss social insurance reform, Loverdos said the government would strive to solve the problem by focusing mainly on a reduction of wasteful spending by health services and by clamping down on undeclared employment and contribution evasion.
He warned, however, that the approach of restricting spending and broadening the revenue base of the system by itself would not be enough to solve the problems, for which structural reforms were imperative.
The current structure of the social insurance system jeopardised the ability to pay pensions to future generations and was a mine at the foundations of the national economy, the minister stressed.
Loverdos promised that the government would not pre-empt or take unions by surprise, however, and that any measures taken by the government would arise through organised dialogue.
Concerning the structure and preparation of the dialogue, the minister suggested a nine-member committee of experts, with four members selected by the social partners (trade unions and employer groups), four members by the government and a chairman that was approved by both government and the social partners.
He asked that the suggestions for committee members be submitted by December 4, 2009 and said that the government would base any legislative measures taken on the findings and final report of this committee, after the completion of political dialogue both within and outside Parliament.
GSEE President Yiannis Panagopoulos underlined that trade unions were not prepared to back down on the issue of retirement age and size of pensions, while asking for greater assistance to those getting lower pensions. GSEE was in favour of merging the funds of salaried workers into a single body, he added.
ADEDY President Spiros Papaspirou raised issues directly relevant to civil servants, such as the financing of their welfare fund and the increase in the retirement age of women based on EU rules.
The labour ministry leadership is scheduled to have similar meetings later in the day with the main associations representing employers, including the artisans and workshop owners association GSEBEE, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) and the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE).
 Gov't on start of dialogue on social insurance reformGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday hailed the start of dialogue on reforming Greece's social insurance system, stressing that the government desired and needed transparency in order to arrive at a consensus for dealing with the problems.
Regarding a proposal by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on conducting dialogue on this issue, the spokesman said that the dialogue would take place in the way outlined by Labour Minister Andreas Loverdos and agreed on by those taking part.
"We are beginning in this framework, knowing that great changes must be made to the social insurance system of the country to ensure a fair and viable insurance system for Greek citizens," he said.
 SYRIZA on social insurance issueOpposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras outlined his party's positions on the social insurance reforms issue on Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference, he stressed that "cutting pensions is politically irrational and immoral", adding that "raising the age limit for retirement is an extremely anti-social and counter-effective measure."
He also blamed the governments of New Democracy (ND) and PASOK for what he called a "black hole" in the social insurance finances.
Tsipras underlined that the assets of the social insurance funds need to be protected, contribution evasion should be combated, while all debts to social insurance funds should be paid off.
 Commission declines comment on bank forecastBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
The European Commission on Thursday declined to comment on a report issued by Deutsche Bank the previous day, where the German banking giant claimed the Commission will recommend that Greece seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying it was part of its policy not to comment on banks' assessments vis-à-vis EU member-states.
Speaking to reporters, Amelia Torres, a spokeswoman for Economic and Monetary Affairs Commission Joaquin Almunia, said it was the responsibility of the Commission not to "feed" such speculation, although she reminded that the EU executive's has already stated its position over the Greek economy and expects implementation of the 2010 state budget, which should focus on restoring the economy on a fiscal restructuring path in a persuasive way.
Torres also noted that the condition of the Greek economy and of all other EU member-states would be examined in Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings next Tuesday and Wednesday in Brussels.
 FinMin on market liquidityFinance Minister Louka Katseli addressed the Parliamentary Production and Commerce Committee on Thursday appearing optimistic over the effectiveness of the bill to be tabled on boosting liquidity in the market.
Katseli stressed that the bill which regulates outstanding debts owed to banks after 1/1/2008 is the outcome of consultations that even exceeds the proposals of those interested, while it is possible that until it is tabled in Parliament soon that those subject to its beneficial terms will increase.
Katseli also promised the paying off shortly of the state's obligations towards businessmen who have become subject to the previous development law (that will be abolished on December 31) and the tabling of a bill on the abusive practices of banks in early 2010.
 Testimonies into charges on remote air routes assignment commence, beginning with MIG chiefMarfin Investment Group (MIG) president Andreas Vgeno-poulos gave a 90-minute testimony on Thursday to prosecutor Paraskevas Adamis, in the first testimony in the preliminary examination being conducted by Adamis on charges made by Vgenopoulos recently regarding the air routes to remote destinations in the Aegean.
Adamis has been assigned by chief prosecutor K. Sakelakos the task of investigating the tenability of Vgenopoulos' charges and whether offences of breach of faith and transgression of duties were committed by non-political persons in the case.
Leaving the prosecutor's office, Vgenopoulos told waiting reporters that the penal investigation has commenced into the case of the 15 remote air routes, the assignment of which the MIG chief charged incurred 2.2 million euros in losses to the state, whereas his recently-acquired Olympic Air (formerly the Olympic Airlines national carrier), which was not assigned the routes, had offered to run without any state subsidisation.
 Credit expansion at 4.4% in Oct.Credit expansion to Greek enterprises and households slowed significantly in October, the Bank of Greece announced on Thursday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said the private sector's debt to commercial banks surpassed 251.5 billion euros at the end of October, despite the fact that net monthly funding flow fell by 60 million euros, with credit expansion growth slowing to 4.4 pct in October, down from 5.4 pct a month earlier.
George Provopoulos, the Bank of Greece's governor, speaking in Parliament last week, said he expected credit expansion to slow further to 4.0 pct this year, from an initial target of 10 pct growth rate.
Funding towards domestic enterprises recorded a negative flow of 166 million euros for an annual growth rate of 5.4 pct at the end of October, down from 6.9 pct in September and 18.7 pct in December 2008.
Funding fell towards all sectors, with the exception of tourism, electricity/natural gas/water, communications and other sector. Credit expansion in the industrial sector recorded an annual growth rate of -2.3 pct in October, from -0.1 pct in September and 15.8 pct in December 2008, while in the constructions sector it was 1.0 pct in October, from 2.4 pct a month earlier and 35.2 pct in December 2008.
In shipping, credit expansion grew by 2.7 pct in October, from 5.7 pct in September, while in the commerce sector, credit expansion grew by 6.0 pct in October, from 7.6 pct in September and 19.5 pct in December 2008.
Net funding to households totaled 106 million euros in October, for an annual growth rate of 3.3 pct, from 3.9 pct in September and 12.8 pct in December. Mortgage loans grew 4.0 pct, from 4.3 pct and 11.5 pct, during the same months, respectively.
Consumer loans recorded a negative flow of 25 million euros, for an annual growth rate of 2.4 pct in October, from 3.3 pct in September and 16.0 pct in December 2008. Other loans to households slowed further to -3.2 pct in October, from -2.0 pct in September and 9.5 pct in December 2008.
 Aegean Airlines reports improved 9-month resultsAegean Airlines on Thursday reported a 3.0-pct increase in its nine-month sales to 481.3 million euros, while pre-tax, interest, amortization and aircraft leasing expenses earnings (EBITDAR) grew 9.0 pct to 91 million euros in the January-September period.
Pre-tax profits grew 34 pct to 47.9 million euros, while net after-tax profits jumped 42 pct to 37.7 million euros. The airline company attributed its improved results to a drop in fuel prices and benefits in operating costs from a renewal of its aircraft fleet.
Net cash flows from operating activities totaled 57.3 million euros, with cash reserves totaled to 226.2 million euros.
Aegean Airlines said passenger traffic totaled 5.1 million in the nine-month period, up 10 pct from last year, while its flight schedule grew by 11 pct over the same period.
Dimitris Gerogiannis, chief executive of Aegean Airlines, said the nine-month results were achieved in a very difficult economic environment.
 Motor Oil-Mytilineos Group form joint venture in natgas marketMotor Oil and Mytilineos Group on Thursday announced a strategic alliance in the natural gas market, under which the two companies will set up a joint venture (with 50-50 pct equal participation) focusing on the import and distribution of natural gas in all forms (liquefied, compressed, etc.)
The natural gas will be used for industrial facilities and electricity production plants owned by the two groups, as well as for sale to other parties in Greece and abroad.
Motor Oil and Mytilineos Group agreed to purchase and jointly distribute 65,000 cubic metres of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the first such cargo to be distributed in the Greek market by a private company.
 Viohalco says nine-month results hit by global crisisViohalco on Thursday said its consolidated turnover fell 40 pct in the January-September period, compared with the corresponding period last year to 1.728 billion euros, while consolidated EBITDA fell to 59.78 million euros from 289.72 million euros in 2008. Consolidated pre-tax and minorities results showed a loss of 75.53 million euros in the nine-month period, after profits of 137.09 million euros in 2008 and net after tax and minorities losses totaled 51.62 million euros after earnings of 57.52 million euros last year.
Viohalco said its results were negatively affected by a prevailing economic crisis, with lower volume of sales and product prices. Net borrowing totaled 1.023 billion euros, down 8.18 pct from last year.
Parent pre-tax profits totaled 4.4 million euros, down 86.4 pct from last year.
 Hellas online reports mixed nine-month resultsÇellas online on Thursday reported losses in the January-September period despite improved figures in the nine-month period this year. Pre-tax losses totaled 34.3 million euros, from 27.5 million euros in the corresponding period last year, while EBITDA totaled 7.0 million euros in the third quarter, for a total of 9.7 million euros in the nine-month period, with amortizations rising to 36.1 million euros, from 17.3 million euros last year.
Consolidated turnover grew 57.1 pct in the third quarter and by 50.6 percent in the January-September period to 41.6 million euros and 111.4 million euros, respectively.
Hellas online said investments totaled 56.6 million euros in the nine-month period, for a total of 258.1 million euros since early 2006, supporting the development of the largest privately-owned network of optical fibres in Greece. The company said its customer base totaled 248,263 at the end of September, for a market share of 28.1 pct.
 Folli Follie reports improved nine-month resultsFolli Follie on Thursday said its consolidated after tax and minorities earnings rose 31.4 pct in the January-September period to 84 million euros, from 64 million euros in the corresponding period in 2008.
Sales grew 8.0 pct to 731.6 million euros, from 678.4 million euros last year, while EBITDA rose 6.5 pct to 161.2 million euros. Pre-tax profits totaled 129.2 million euros, up 20 pct, and net after-tax profits rose 21.4 pct to 99.9 million euros. Earnings per share jumped to 2.57 euros from 1.95 euros.
Tzortzis Koutsolioutsos, vice-president of the company, said the nine-month results highlighted the Group's very good performance since the beginning of the year and stressed that results so far exceeded the management's expectations for the year.
 Stocks plunge 6.21 pctGreek stocks collapsed in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, hit by negative comments by foreign banks on the outlook of the Greek economy and by a sharp decline of prices in other European markets. The composite index lost 6.21 pct -its biggest daily percentage drop in the last 12 months- to end at 2,225.32 points, with turnover a strong 353.7 million euros, of which 6.8 million euros were block trades.
All sectors ended down, with the Banks (9.01 pct), Food/Beverage (8.56 pct), Financial Services (8.44 pct), Insurance (8.11 pct), Raw Materials (6.87 pct) and Media (6.47 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index dropped 7.26 pct, the FTSE 40 index fell 4.82 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 4.97 pct down. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 204 to 21 with another 28 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.49%
Personal & Household: -3.94%
Raw Materials: -1.49%
Travel & Leisure: -2.21%
Food & Beverages: -8.56%
Financial Services: -8.44%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Piraeus and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 8.60
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.25
HBC Coca Cola: 13.80
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.04
National Bank of Greece: 20.00
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.30
Bank of Piraeus: 9.00
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.69 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 129.700 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 17,380 contracts worth 102.231 million euros, with 25,597 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 31,141 contracts worth 27.469 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,502), followed by Eurobank (1,927), MIG (4,271), OTE (3,739), Piraeus Bank (2,439), Alpha Bank (2,593), Marfin Popular Bank (2,124) and Cyprus Bank (2,260).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened sharply to 204 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market, with turnover at 1.882 billion euros of which 512 million were buy orders and the remaining 1.338 billion euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 811 million euros. The Greek bond yielded 5.20 pct and the German Bund 3.16 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.23 pct, the six-month rate 0.66 pct, the three-month rate 0.71 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 1.519
Pound sterling 0.918
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 10.538
Japanese yen 131.75
Swiss franc 1.521
Norwegian kroner 8.568
Canadian dollar 1.600
Australian dollar 1.656
 European Court of Justice ruled against Greece on data retentionBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
The European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that Greece failed to enact within the deadline set the necessary legislative, regulatory and administrative clauses to comply with Directive 2006/24/EC on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks.
The member-states had to comply with the directive by Sept. 15, 2007 at the latest and notify the European Commission immediately. The Court mentions in its ruling that Greece does not question the violation with which it was charged.
 Greek shipping firm denies press reports of freed vessel in SomaliaAn Athens-based shipping company on Thursday denied same-day press reports claiming that its Malta-flagged "Ariana" was freed by Somali pirates.
Spyros Minas, speaking for All Oceans Shipping, said the company has been negotiating for the release of the 70,000 dwt bulk carrier, yet no deal had been struck by Thursday.
The vessel was hijacked more than six months ago as it sailed off Somalia in the Indian Ocean. The vessel and 24 Ukrainian crewmembers have been held in a southern Somali harbour since then.
Minas called the same-day press reports "rumours", which he said originated from a shady NGO active in the specific region.
 Arson attack on office of deputy Justice ministerAn arson attack on the political office of Deputy Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Apostolos Katsifaras, located in Themistokleous street in Athens, occurred at 7 in the evening on Thursday.
The arsonists placed two containers with an inflammable fluid outside the door of the office on the first floor of the building and set them on fire. Two small explosions followed and police summoned to the scene extinguished the blaze before the fire brigade arrived while the damage caused was limited.
 "Charles de Gaulle" visits GreeceThe French Navy aircraft carrier "Charles de Gaulle" will be visiting Greece on Dec. 3-8 within the framework of exercises in the Mediterranean held on Nov. 23-Dec. 11 after a long period of being out of commission to undergo a major overhaul. The nuclear-powered vessel will also conduct joint exercises with the Greek Navy.
The "Charles de Gaulle" has a crew of 1,900 people and carries 40 aircraft, among them Dassault Rafale M and E-2C Hawkeye aircraft, helicopters, modern electronics and missiles. It is the second largest European carrier, after the "Admiral Kuznetsov", and can perform as many as 20 catapult launches in less than 12 minutes. Its length is 260 meters and moves with a speed of 27 knots (50 km/h) covering hundreds of nautical miles with full autonomy.
 President Papoulias gives volunteer awardsPresident Karolos Papoulias gave the volunteer awards during a ceremony held in the Old Parliament Mansion in Athens on Thursday evening.
The awards concern the "Quality Islets" test organised by the "Citizens' Movement for an Open Society."
 Football team of Greek artists, ex-players in RamallahRAMALLAH (ANA-MPA)
A football team comprised of Greek artists and former professional players, entitled "Hasta La Victoria Siempre", has arrived in the West Bank town of Ramallah to participate in a series of events in solidarity to the Palestinian people, according to reports here on Thursday.
The events come within the framework of an international day in solidarity to the Palestinian people on Nov. 29.
Among others, the Greek team is expected to play a friendly with a team comprised of Palestinian veterans on Thursday evening at the Faisal Husseini stadium.
Members of the team toured refugee camps in the Ramallah area and visited youth clubs and local deputies.
 Earth tremor in sea region southwest of PeloponneseAn earth tremor measuring 4.5 points on the Richter scale was recorded by seismographers at the Geodynamic Institute at 17:10 on Thursday at a distance of 300 kilometres southwest of Athens.
The tremor's epicentre was located in the sea region southwest of the Peloponnese.
 Fair on FridayFair weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 2-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 2C and 21C. Fair in Athens, with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 20C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 15C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEuropean officials' statements on the Greek economy, Bank of Greece (BoG) governor George Provopoulos' statement in parliament that he had informed former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and current prime minister George Papandreou before the general elections on the size of the deficit, the spread of the new flu and main opposition New Democracy (ND) leadership candidates' campaigns ahead of Sunday's election, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Public sector: Cutbacks in benefits...".
APOGEVMATINI: "Knives unsheathed in government - Lack of coordination, confusion and government officials' contradictory statements create the impression of dissolution".
AVGHI: "March in the darkness".
AVRIANI: "The economy a step before collapse".
CHORA: "Free-fall in market after Provopoulos' statements".
ELEFTHEROS: "Greek military officials against NATO - They believe that in the event of a Greek-Turkish clash the Alliance will back Turkey".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Government confused under the shadow of a crash".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Message to Provopoulos: The government is trying to reverse the negative climate".
ESTIA: "The unacceptable situation with taxes - The consistent taxpayers are being punished"
ETHNOS: "Big pressure for new measures - International recommendations for economy's supervision".
IMERISSIA: "The country in the vortex of the markets - Government at a loss".
KATHIMERINI: "Government disregards reality".
LOGOS: "Double 'crucifixion' of Greek economy - Deutsche Bank's report points to IMF".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Suffocating pressure on bank shares".
RIZOSPASTIS: "PASOK government and ND are mocking the people - Rigged squabble over deficits".
TA NEA: "Europe bankers recommend shocking formula - They are threatening us with the IMF".
TO VIMA: "Government spokesman George Petalotis castigates publicly BoG government George Provopoulos for attempting to set off the responsibilities of the former and current government".
VRADYNI: "Government in chaos - We passed from the stage of surveillance to that of exposure".
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