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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-12-03

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

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

Thursday, 3 December 2009 Issue No: 3365

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Papandreou says a new page opens for OSCE
  • [02] OSCE FMs adopt proclamation
  • [03] Papandreou-Lavrov talks
  • [04] Russian FM on Greek-Russian relations
  • [05] Papandreou meets Turkish FM Davutoglu
  • [06] Turkish FM at OSCE conference
  • [07] PM, alternate FM meet with State Department official
  • [08] Droutsas on FYROM name procedure, Cyprus issue
  • [09] fYRoM FM comments from Athens on EU prospects, 'name dispute'
  • [10] Barroso on fYRoM name issue
  • [11] Papoulias visit to Prague
  • [12] President Papoulias on upcoming Copenhagen con'f
  • [13] Gov't rescinds appointment of Special Secretary for public utilities and state organisations
  • [14] Samaras confers with Avramopoulos
  • [15] Report on Turkish EU membership
  • [16] Gov't satisfied with Commission's stance, FinMin
  • [17] ECOFIN says Greek response to recommendations insufficient
  • [18] Greek delegation participating in annual Capital Link forum
  • [19] Package of arrangements on renewable energy sources
  • [20] Chamber president addresses Economist Con'f
  • [21] Apostolos Tamvakakis appointed National Bank's new managing director
  • [22] Stocks end moderately higher
  • [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [24] Man again takes hostages at German school in Thessaloniki before surrendering
  • [25] Excavations in Ancient Tegea
  • [26] Customs official arrested in massive contraband cigarette trade
  • [27] Rainy on Thursday
  • [28] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [29] President Christofias: Nothing yet on Turkish moves on Cyprus
  • [30] UN official says it is important to maintain momentum in Cyprus talks
  • [31] UNSG: considerable progress in Cyprus talks Politics

  • [01] PM Papandreou says a new page opens for OSCE

    Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman George Papandreou, speaking at a press conference held at the end of the Organisation's two-day Ministerial Council in Athens on Wednesday, referred to a new page in the Organisation's history.

    "We have committed ourselves in a joint document on how to face common challenges," he said regarding the document agreed and which is focused on the continuation of the Corfu Process.

    "We agreed to join our forces. Greece set difficult and bold targets, without this meaning that the efforts of the Organisation's previous presidency are being disregarded," he added.

    Papandreou further said that "we are aware that many obstacles are in store for us because the OSCE is an Organisation which includes countries from Vancouver to Vladivostok. Greece, being an honourable mediator, succeeded in having a political proclamation after seven years. This became a reality."

    The prime minister went on to say that "we made a bet that the Organisation's member-states can think and speak politically," stressing that the Greek Presidency is delivering an Organisation that can lead developments in the sector of security, on issues concerning the protection of human rights, the citizen's personal dignity and a state of law.

    He explained that the OSCE was the natural forum for such a political discussion and added that it was agreed that with Greece's support (which is part of the OSCE Troika) Kazakhstan will convene a summit, something that has not been held since 1999.

    On their part, representatives of the previous Finnish OSCE Presidency and of the next, that of Kazakhstan, underlined the success of the Greek Presidency of the OSCE in preparing a joint political proclamation document for the first time since 2002.

    "The decisions we took reflect the success of the Greek Presidency," said Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev.

    "The Greek Presidency is leaving behind it a much better political climate for cooperation in Europe, than what Helsinki left last year, although the seeds for the starting of the dialogue on European security fell in Helsinki and were fertilised in Athens," said Finnish ambassador and permanent representative at the OSCE Antti Turunen.

    [02] OSCE FMs adopt proclamation

    The foreign ministers of the OSCE's 56 member-states agreed, during the Organisation's two-day Ministerial Council in Athens on Wednesday, to provide an impetus for the dialogue on the future of European security by adopting a proclamation.

    "The vision of a free, democratic OSCE that includes countries from Vancouver to Vladivostok without dividing lines and countries with different security levels remains a common goal that we are determined to achieve," the document, which is focused on the Corfu Procedure, stressed.

    The document expresses the foreign ministers' "grave concern over the inadequate implementation and disrespect of the principles and commitments of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975."

    "Our greatest priority remains to restore confidence and to regain the concept of the common goal that brought our predecessors together in Helsinki 35 years ago," it added.

    The ministers also expressed grave concern "because the use of force is continuing to be considered an option for solving differences and because the danger of conflicts among countries has not been eliminated."

    The 56 ministers also agreed that their Permanent Representatives at the OSCE promote the Corfu Agreement and to reconsider their work in 2010, during the Presidency of Kazakhstan, that will be the first time a Central Asian country will exercise the presidency.

    [03] Papandreou-Lavrov talks

    The strategic nature of the Greek-Russian relations and their excellent level was reaffirmed during a meeting in Athens on Wednesday between Prime Minister George Papandreou and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, held on the sidelines of the 17th OSCE Ministerial Council in Athens.

    According to reports, Papandreou also accepted a formal invitation to visit Moscow in early 2010.

    Papandreou, who also holds the foreign ministry portfolio, and Lavrov discussed priorities and initiatives aimed at the further development and consolidation of bilateral relations in all sectors, ranging from energy to culture and from regional cooperation to the relations with the EU and NATO.

    They also signed a 2010-2012 joint action plan to be renewed every two years, and expressed the intent to continue the significant Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project.

    [04] Russian FM on Greek-Russian relations

    Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in an address at the Athens Concert Hall on Wednesday with which the activity of the Greek-Russian Federation was officially inaugurated, stressed the "need for the changing into binding law" of the understanding policy achieved at the OSCE and the Russia-NATO Council regarding the avoidance of extending the security of a country at the expense of others.

    Lavrov also expressed Moscow's expectations on the speeding up of the approval of the OSCE's charter and underlined cooperation between Greece and Russia in a multitude of issues, such as those concerning the guaranteeing of security and the struggle against international terrorism.

    He mentioned as an example of constructive mutual understanding policy between the two countries their cooperation, in contact with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat, in the direction of solving the Cyprus problem, always observing the principle of "don't harm."

    Lastly, he expressed certainty that the perspective in Russian-Greek relations will be encouraged by the implementation of the joint strategic plans in energy, such as the South Stream natural gas pipeline and the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline.

    Joint action between Russia and Greece on speeding up the implementation of South Stream will allow the securing of differentiation in paths for the transport of Russian energy resources to Western Europe, Lavrov said, adding that the Russian side "is assuming a balanced part of the development of Greece's infrastructure in the natural gas sector."

    He also assessed that constructive cooperation between the two countries regarding the interbalkan Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline will develop in an intensive manner.

    Lavrov considers prospects of Russian-Greek relations in the military and technical sector, science and technique in the sector of culture and tourism were good, and revealed that he discussed with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou the planning of a "Russia Year" in Greece and of a "Greece Year" in Russia.

    He also added that the Greek prime minister promised to support the teaching of Russian language in Greece, since many Russian families live in Greece.

    On the question of Cyprus, he pointed out that the two countries steadfastly maintain that all the efforts that are being deployed towards achieving a breakthrough must be based on international law, existing UN Security Council resolutions and, primarily, on the "person of the mission of good services" by the UN secretary general and "must assist the work and stabilise the move towards an agreement, but in no way must they impose invented solutions and must not set artificial timetables for the achievement of an agreement."

    Lavrov further stressed that Russia and Greece have "a joint view on the need for the strict observance of the general rules and principles of internataional law regarding the idea of objective development procedures which shape a multipolar international order, the avoidance of unilateral and violent methods for settling regional differences."

    [05] Papandreou meets Turkish FM Davutoglu

    Prime Minister George Papandreou met with visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday on the sidelines of the 17th OSCE ministerial council in Athens, with both side citing closer cooperation in the bilateral, regional and international level as well as within the framework of the EU.

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas also attended the meeting, which was reportedly held in an excellent atmosphere, while he later stated that the goal is to continue the cooperation established in the period of 1999-2004.

    Droutsas added that Papandreou's response to a high-profile letter, sent immediately after his Oct. 4 election victory, by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will be delivered shortly.

    "We have agreed on cooperation by the two sides for the sake of mutual benefit as well as for the benefit of the entire SE Europe (region). This spirit of cooperation sends out a message that Greece and Turkey can work together. It's worth the effort. It is a message of peace," Droutsas stressed.

    On the likelihood of a meeting between the two prime ministers, Droutsas said "it will be held when we'll be well-prepared and have something tangible to present."

    The potential for the adoption of practical measures to boost cooperation of the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey in 2010 was also considered in Wednesday's meeting.

    According to the Greek alternate FM, the Turkish side spoke positively of the Papandreou's target for the EU integration of the western Balkans in 2014, while the Turkish FM confirmed Erdogan's intent for closer bilateral cooperation.

    Regarding Greek-Turkish cooperation within the framework of the Union, the Greek side expressed support to Turkey's European course, adding that "we underlined that the obligations towards member-states should be implemented; the EU course should proceed and this will help in Greek-Turkish rapprochement."

    Referring to the discussion made on the Cyprus issue, Droutsas said the "Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots should be able to negotiate freely and contribute in the most effective way in the continuation of the process."

    Referring to the practical support of Turkey's EU accession course, Droutsas said Greece is willing to offer technical support as it has done in the past with a joint working group.

    The two sides also referred to the Balkans and PM Papandreou, who also holds the foreign ministry portfolio, had the opportunity to elaborate further on the "2014 Agenda". They also referred to cooperation within the framework of the global climate change issue as well as to regional cooperation in the Middle East. The Union for the Mediterranean was also mentioned as a new area for joint action.

    On a bilateral level, Droutsas underlined the need to promote the delineation of the continental shelf in the Aegean through exploratory contacts and expressed an expectation that the issue can be settled quickly through the International Court in The Hague, if necessary.

    The Turkish side expressed its intent to develop a multiple cooperation model with Greece in sectors such as transport, health, economic ties and environmental protection. "This is being considered, we are still in the beginning of this discussion," Droutsas pointed out.

    [06] Turkish FM at OSCE conference

    The Corfu Process provides a platform for discussion of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's proposal for a new European collective security architecture, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday, addressing the 17th OSCE ministerial conference in Athens.

    Davutogu spoke of security challenges that exceed the national borders and require collective answers, stressing that the OSCE experience and principles can contribute in that direction.

    On the migration issue, Davutoglu said that the challenges of globalisation have put the migration issue very high on the agenda, adding that its confrontation requires strong cooperation. "We should not forget that we're talking about human beings, whose dignity we must safeguard," he added.

    Turning to other issues, he said that a stable Afghanistan would be in everyone's interests, adding that Turkey offered technical and financial support to the OSCE for improvement of the security conditions.

    Further, the unresolved conflicts in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova continue to threaten security on the European continent, he warned, stressing that respect of national sovereignty and territorial integrity must comprise the foundations for their settlement, while he also expressed support for the OSCE's Minsk Group.

    Davutoglu also expressed his conviction that arms control and the establishment of confidence-building measures in the framework of the OSCE were fundamental to building security, as was implementation of the agreement on conventional arms.

    [07] PM, alternate FM meet with State Department official

    Prime minister and foreign minister George Papandreou and alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas met on Wednesday with US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, on the sidelines of the 17th ministerial conference of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which winds up in Athens later in the day.

    The one-hour meeting covered international issues and bilateral topics, while the prospect of Papandreou paying an official visit to Washington in the new year was also discussed.

    The Greek side briefed Steinberg on developments in the region, including Athens' political initiative to give impetus and prospect to the Western Balkan countries for accession to the EU in 2014, as well as Greece's "positive intentions" on FYROM's prospects and its initiatives to create a positive climate, including direct contacts between the leaderships of the two countries in tandem with the UN-mediated procedure for resolution of the FYROM name issue.

    Steinberg was also briefed on developments in relations with Turkey and on the course of the Cyprus issue.

    The two sides further discussed US President Barack Obama's policy on Afghanistan and the decision to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan before withdrawing forces in July 2011, and other regional issues.

    Papandreou and Droutsas are also slated to meet with Turkish foreign minister Ahmed Davutoglu later Wednesday on the sidelines of the OSCE conference, while the foreign ministry announced that a reply to Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's letter to the Greek premier will not be forthcoming on Wednesday.

    [08] Droutsas on FYROM name procedure, Cyprus issue

    The only procedure in which the FYROM name issue is being negotiated is that under the UN, alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas said on state television on Wednesday morning, adding that "this is the procedure we support and in the framework of which we are making efforts".

    He noted, however, that direct contacts with Skopje did not hurt but, in fact, could assist the process.

    "We believe that when you have clear positions -- and we have clear positions on the Skopje issue -- you must, with self-confidence, point the way yourself with initiatives, and that is what we are doing," he explained.

    Asked whether Skopje's position has altered, Droutsas said that "this will be seen in the framework of the UN-mediated negotiations".

    Droutsas said that the government's position has from the outset been and remains crystal clear: "Commencement of negotiations for Skopje's (EU) accession is inconceivable without prior solution of the name problem".

    On the prospect of his visiting Skopje, Droutsas replied that "it is on the table, we are examining it and will see about it along the way".

    For the government, he continued, the discussion and briefing of all the political forces of the country "is a matter of course", adding that on the major national issues the great majority of the political forces agree on the goals, "which is very important", and stressing that open discussion with everyone "goes without saying".

    On the Cyprus issue, Droutsas said that Greece is at Cyprus' side "not only in words but also with action", adding that he was in constant contact with Cyprus foreign minister Markos Kyprianou, with close, daily cooperation and absolute coordination "and we will go to the EU summit with a common line on this issue".

    [09] fYRoM FM comments from Athens on EU prospects, 'name dispute'

    The visiting foreign minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), Antonio Milososki, on Wednesday reiterated his more-or-less recent call for upgraded relations between Greece and his country, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the OSCE's 17th ministerial conference in Athens.

    Referring to provisions contained in a September 1995 Interim Agreement between the two neighbouring countries, Milososki said the upgrading of respective liaison offices in the other country's capital to embassy status would provide momentum towards bilateral ties and aid the significant Greek business community operating in fYRoM, in addition to better facilitating their activities.

    Additionally, he said the two neighbouring states should also consider the signing of an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation, a long-standing request by Greek businesses and investors in the country.

    Regarding the still pending fYRoM "name issue", the thorny and paramount obstacle to a full normalisation of bilateral ties with Greece as well as the one-time Yugoslav republic's Euro-Atlantic course, Milososki agreed with the official Greek position that the UN-mediated process must not be disrupted.

    "The process is in the United Nations. It isn't our intention to undermine the process," he said, adding that the new Greek government is "new to the Greeks, but whether it brings something new for us will depend on the prospect of it adopting a new position in December".

    He said there was still a short time left to "consider the benefits and losses" of a possible blocking of decisions, a direct reference to Athens' "red line" vis--vis fYRoM's coveted start to EU accession talks, given the Greek side's standing and repeatedly stated position over a mutually acceptable "name issue" solution in the form of a composite name with geographic qualifier for all international uses.

    Moreover, he expressed conviction that the European Council would follow the EU Commission's recommendation to begin accession talks with the land-locked country to Greece's immediate north, "because the commencement of (accession) negotiations will help our country be more stable and develop, as 'Macedonia' is always a good neighbor and does not cause security problems in the region," he added, using the eyebrow-raising short version of his country's constitutional name -- which Greece vociferously rejects, given that it is the exact same name of Greece's largest province, Macedonia, in northern Greece.

    Milososki opined that the decision taken at the European Council is "a matter of the Commission's credibility and a matter of the credibility of the European integration process".

    In conclusion, he said his country expects all the EU members to follow the Commission's recommendation, as fYRoM "has fulfilled the political criteria for the commencement of accession negotiations".

    [10] Barroso on fYRoM name issue

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed his conviction that in light of the upcoming European Union summit next week a real opportunity is being given to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) to prove to the European leaders that there can be a soluton to the name issue, following his meeting here on Wednesday with fYRoM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

    Barroso said that the European Commission's proposal to suggest the starting of accession negotiations with the neighbouring country was a message of encouragement to the country's political leadership to work for a solution to the problem, stressing in parallel that a real opportunity exists now for a solution to the issue of fYRoM's name "on condition that the suitable political will is displayed by both sides".

    [11] Papoulias visit to Prague

    PRAGUE (ANA-MPA/N. Megadoukas)

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, currently on a formal visit here, met on Wednesday with Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who provided his clear support to Athens' positions vis-a-vis Turkey's EU prospects.

    The meeting, which was held in the Prague Castle, focused on bilateral, EU, Balkan and international issues.

    The Czech president, asked to comment on the EU enlargement and Turkey's accession course, considering that the new European Commissioner for enlargement, Stefan Fule, is Czech, stated that "the candidate states for EU accession should meet all preconditions and terms set."

    He added that the Czech Republic, being amongst the newest EU members, believes that it should also be the last, stressing that "the EU doors should close for new members ... we are against a further EU enlargement and opening."

    Klaus pointed out that he fully agrees with the position of Papoulias that the candidate states for EU accession meet all preconditions and terms in advance, whereas the "premature" accession of a candidate state will rank as a major mistake.

    On his part, Papoulias pointed out that the position expressed by his Czech counterpart regarding fulfillment of preconditions was also Athens' position adding that all candidate states should meet terms and preconditions set by the EU, pointing out that there will be no "shortcuts".

    The two head of states characterised their talks as cordial and constructive, underlining the excellent level of bilateral relations and reaffirmed their common will for the further development of bilateral relations.

    Papoulias stated that they discussed developments in Western Balkans and pointed out that the Greek position is clear, namely, that the EU accession course of the SE European states is supported under the precondition that they meet all criteria and prerequisites set by the EU.

    Papoulias and Klaus expressed clearly different views on climate change, in view of an upcoming international summit in Copenhagen. "Reaching a specific consensus in Copenhagen will be a success for President Papoulias, whereas for me it will be a success if no agreement or consensus in reached," the Czech President stressed.

    The meeting was also attended Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis.

    Papoulias also met with Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer who hosted a working luncheon in his honor during which they discussed bilateral relations and European issues.

    Later in the evening, Papoulias will attend a formal reception hosted in his honor by his Czech counterpart.

    [12] President Papoulias on upcoming Copenhagen con'f

    PRAGUE (ANA-MPA/N.Megadoukas)

    President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias said here on Wednesday night that Greece was aiming at a "comprehensive agreement, legally binding" at the upcoming Copenhagen World Conference on Climate Change.

    Addressing an official dinner hosted by Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Papoulias said that it was the duty of all, and especially of the European Union, "to respond decisively to the challenge presented by an acute international problem such as climate change."

    "Climate change constitutes the most important environmental, social as well as economic challenge to our planet," President Papoulias said, adding: "Despite errors and ommissions of the past, we must, even now, go to Copenhagen with the necessary political will, so that our vision becomes a reality."

    [13] Gov't rescinds appointment of Special Secretary for public utilities and state organisations

    The government late Tuesday rescinded the appointment of Andreas Koutoupis as Special Secretary for the Public Utilities and state Organisations (DEKO) at the Finance Ministry, after "it was proven after the fact from information brought to the government's attention" that Koutoupis "had, up until the recent past, continuously and eponymously expressed himself on the Internet with vulgar, insulting and extreme epithets against the government he was asked to serve in a responsible position", a government announcement said.

    The announcement stressed that Koutoupis' personal targeting, as arise from his public remarks, "are in full aberrance with the principles and values of PASOK".

    It is noted that Koutoupis took part in the open selection process for the ministries' secretaries general at his own initiative, submitting his CV which was "objectively and meritocratically" judged to be "notable". In the second stage of the selection process, Finance minister George Papaconstantinou, who did not know Koutoupis personally, called him twice for an interview, the announcement explained.

    "This stance proves that, regardless of his formal credentials, Koutoupis not only lacks the elements of confidence and ethos that are necessary in order to serve the Greek citizens from a public position, but he is also compromised and liable," the announcement added, clarifying that "for this reason he cannot assume this or any other public post".

    The announcement further noted that the selection procedure it followed proves that all the criteria of objectivity and meritocracy are being adhered to, without taking into account partisan or other expediencies.

    "The most important credential put forward by the present government as an unswerving condition for assumption of a public post by any citizen is ethos, dignity and respect for the mandate of the Greek people," the announcement added, stressing that "the government is determined to carry on with the open staff selection process for responsible state positions, without any 'discounts' on the elements of capability and ethos that are necessary for state functionaries."

    [14] Samaras confers with Avramopoulos

    The newly elected president of main opposition New Democracy (ND) Antonis Samaras on Wednesday met with former minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who also vied for the party's leadership last month before dropping out and eventually lending his support to Samaras.

    After the meeting, Avramopoulos said they discussed the party's reconstitution and restructuring, adding that a series of meetings will follow in the future.

    "A common aim unites us and with solidarity we will stand on the front line of a collective effort to put forth a robust (political) opposition," Avramopoulos said.

    Asked whether he will assume a particular role in the party, Avramopoulos said ND's president assigns roles and missions.

    [15] Report on Turkish EU membership

    A report by an independent committee on Turkey, presided over by former Finnish president Marti Ahtisaari, supports Turkey's full accession to the European Union, criticising the negative stance of certain European countries.

    The committee presented the report in Athens on Wednesday under the title "Turkey in Europe: Breaking the vicious circle." The report has already been presented in several European capitals and in Turkey and is the second report by the committee regarding Turkey, in which the basic developments on relations between the EU and Turkey are analysed.

    The committee is comprised of former heads of state and government, foreign ministers and EU commissioners, as well as other Europeans who held important public posts in the past.

    Financial News

    [16] Gov't satisfied with Commission's stance, FinMin

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)

    Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Wednesday expressed satisfaction over the understanding, as he said, showed by Eurogroup president Jean Claude Juncker and EU Economy and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia towards Athens' efforts at greater fiscal consolidation.

    Speaking to reporters after an ECOFIN meeting here, the minister stressed it was very positive the fact that EU officials acknowledged that positive steps were taken towards the right direction, while they (officials) categorically rejected speculation over the "collapse" of the Greek economy.

    Papaconstantinou said the Greek problem was mainly a problem of policies implemented by the previous government and stressed that an ECOFIN decision to proceed with the next step of disciplinary procedures against Greece for its excessive deficits was a clear line dividing the past and the future.

    "A future which will be judged based on decisions taken by the current government and will be recorded not only in the 2010 state budget but mainly in an updated Stability and Growth program to be submitted to the European Commission in January," he said.

    The Greek minister said he briefed his counterparts in a Eurogroup meeting on Tuesday over the main aspects of next year's budget, which aims at supporting the growth of the economy and put the country's public finances in order by cutting the fiscal deficit by 3.6 percentage points next year. Papaconstantinou said the government will table a new draft law on the tax system to Parliament in May, along with measures to drastically cut overspending in the public sectors, opening a dialogue on the reform of the social insurance system and actions to improving economic competitiveness.

    He said the European Commission has not made any recommendations to Greece towards cutting or freezing public sector wages.

    Papaconstantinou reassured markets that Greek state securities were a very good investment.

    Gov't on economy

    "Last week, when all kinds of disaster scenarios were looming as regards the prospects and potential of the Greek economy, the government's message to the people was clear, namely, the Greek economy, Greece, can and will regain its credibility," spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said on Wednesday.

    "We have passed a 'reef' with a plan, speed and determination," he said, adding that "all those who have invested in disaster scenarios for the Greek economy and warned that the EU would reject the proposed budget were proven to be wrong."

    "The tiding of finances started with the submitted budget which, despite the difficulties, supports development and redistribution," he said, adding that "the Stability Programme to be tabled will constitute an important step toward the development of our economy and the reacquisition of the country's credibility."

    Responding to a question on whether Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou undertook the commitment in Brussels on Tuesday to proceed with the adoption of additional measures in 2010, Petalotis stated that the minister of finance "made a great effort to convince our partners of Greece's credibility prospect." He said that he "presented the draft budget, which was accepted by the European bodies, to be followed soon by the Stability Programme of the Greek economy," adding that "consultations will get underway on a new draft law on taxation to reflect credibility on that level as well."

    The government spokesman also stated that Greece's evaluation concerns the previous six-month period for which the last New Democracy (ND) government is exclusively responsible.

    [17] ECOFIN says Greek response to recommendations insufficient

    The European Council on Wednesday said it has established that Greece's response to its recommendations on measures to correct its excessive deficit has been insufficient.

    The ECOFIN, in its meeting on Brussels, said it had adopted a decision, under article 126,8 of the treaty, establishing that its response to the recommendation it issued in April 2009, when the excessive deficit procedure was initiated, has been insufficient.

    In its April recommendation to Greece, the Council set out measures for correction of the deficit by 2010 and called for continued efforts to improve the collection and processing of government statistical data. Shortcomings in public finance statistics have however recurred, and Greek public finances have worsened beyond what could have been expected as a result of the economic downturn.

    New measures for the 2009 budget consist mainly of revenue-enhanching measures, partly temporary, and not permanent measures on the expenditure side as called for by the Council.

    [18] Greek delegation participating in annual Capital Link forum

    The annual forum of the Capital Link company will begin on Thursday at the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan in New York, under the auspices of the Greek Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping ministry and bears the title "Greece:preparing recovery."

    During the forum, the Greek delegation headed by Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli will have the opportunity of attracting the interest of American investors to the opportunities and the ground for recovery and revival provided by the Greek economy.

    The Invest in Greece company will also be participating in the forum, represented by Managing Director Apostolos Tsoukalas, who will highlight Greece's competitive advantages for investments in the sector of energy, new technologies and real estate.

    [19] Package of arrangements on renewable energy sources

    A package of arrangements on renewable energy sources with interventions in the entire spectrum of the institutional framework that concern them will be included in a bill by the Environment, Energy and Climatic Change ministry, that will be provided for public consultation soon, according to statements made by Minister Tina Birbili on Wednesday.

    Addressing the Economist's conference on the green economy, Birbili said that the bill will include arrangements on the licensing of electric power production units from renewable energy sources, changes in the special land planning framework prepared by the previous government, terms on the construction of energy transport networks and on the familiarisation and participation of local societies in the undertaking.

    [20] Chamber president addresses Economist Con'f

    Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) President Konstantinos Mihalos addressed the Economist Conference on Wednesday, stressing that "environmental policy should be implemented by using a "carrot and a stick."

    Speaking in the conference titled "Doing Good: Green Economy, green business and sustainability challenge", Mihalos pointed out that cooperation with the market and businesses, either in general or by sector, can be more effective that coercion. Cooperation can concern more environmentally friendly production, adoption of common specifications on energy saving as well as other similar issues, he stressed.

    "In this effort the business community and the State should not be in opposite camps but next to each other. This should be realized by both sides," he said, adding that it is equally important for businesses to do much more than to just comply with state regulations.

    [21] Apostolos Tamvakakis appointed National Bank's new managing director

    The National Bank's board decided on Wednesday to appoint Apostolos Tamvakakis as the bank's managing director and Vassilis Rapanos to the post of president. According to a relevant announcement, Rapanos is an Athens University professor and Tamvakakis is an economist.

    [22] Stocks end moderately higher

    Stocks ended cautiously higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with the composite index of the market rising 0.34 pct to end at 2,433,24 points. Turnover was a moderate 244.1 million euros, of which 12.8 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved upwards, with the Technology (2.99 pct), Raw Materials (2.18 pct) and Industrial Products (1.22 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Food/Beverage (1.88 pct), Utilities (0.83 pct) and Health (0.60 pct) suffered losses.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 0.59 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 0.81 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.55 pct higher. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 127 to 80 with another 48 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.37%

    Industrials: +1.22%

    Commercial: +0.25%

    Construction: +0.17%

    Media: +0.91%

    Oil & Gas: +0.17%

    Personal & Household: +0.55%

    Raw Materials: +2.18%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.40%

    Technology: +2.99%

    Telecoms: -0.09%

    Banks: +1.04%

    Food & Beverages: -1.88%

    Health: -0.60%

    Utilities: -0.83%

    Chemicals: +0.97%

    Financial Services: -0.21%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 9.65

    ATEbank: 1.87

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.51

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.89

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.29

    National Bank of Greece: 22.15

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 9.75

    Intralot: 3.85

    OPAP: 16.98

    OTE: 10.54

    Bank of Piraeus: 10.80

    Titan: 22.56

    [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.521

    Pound sterling 0.911

    Danish kroner 7.501

    Swedish kroner 10.424

    Japanese yen 132.6

    Swiss franc 1.519

    Norwegian kroner 8.488

    Canadian dollar 1.589

    Australian dollar 1.639

    General News

    [24] Man again takes hostages at German school in Thessaloniki before surrendering

    55-year-old man convicted of weapons possession and taking hostages in 2006 at the German school in Thessaloniki became a repeat offender at the same site on Wednesday.

    Costas Arabatzis again burst into the school, reportedly wielding a pistol and explosives, before taking three staff members hostage, only to release them and surrender to police hours later.

    He again claimed his actions are motivated over claims against the German state.

    [25] Excavations in Ancient Tegea

    The first stage of a five-year (2009-2013) excavation project in Ancient Tegea, near Tripolis, has been completed by an international team of archaeologists led by the Norwegian Institute in Athens in Collaboration with the Greek culture ministry's 38th Ephoria for Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and 25th Ephoria of Byzantine Antiquities.

    The area of excavation is a field located to the west of the theatre and the Basilica of Thyrsos, where magnetometer survey 2003-2004 documented the probable location of a major north-south street and a stoa bordering the agora.

    The two ongoing field-projects at Tegea, a survey of a side-valley to the east of the urban centre and an excavation in the centre of the ancient city, started in June, 2009.

    Tegea was a settlement in ancient Greece, and it is also a municipality in modern Arcadia, with its seat in the village Stadio.

    Ancient Tegea was an important religious center of ancient Greece,containing the Temenos (Temple) of Athena Alea . The temenos was founded by Aleus. Votive bronzes at the site from the Geometric and Archaic periods take the forms of horses and deer; there are sealstones and fibulae. In the Archaic period the nine villages that underlie Tegea banded together in a synoecism form one city.Tegea was listed in Homer's Catalogue of Ships as one of the cities that contributed ships and men for the Achaean assault on Troy.

    Tegea struggled against Spartan hegemony in Arcadia and was finally conquered ca 560 BCE. In the fourth century Tegea joined the Arcadian League and struggled to free itself from Sparta.

    The Temple of Athena Alea burned in 394 BC and was magnificently rebuilt to designs by Scopas of Paros, with reliefs of the Calydonian boar hunt in the main pediment. The city retained civic life under the Roman Empire; it was sacked in 395 by the Goths.

    The site of ancient Tegea is now located within the modern town of Alea, which is located about 10 kilometers southeast of Tripolis.

    [26] Customs official arrested in massive contraband cigarette trade

    A customs officer in Igoumenitsa, extreme northwest Greece, and a Hungarian couple that temporarily resided in the port city, were arrested Wednesday, accused of distributing tens of thousands of previously confiscated contraband cigarettes.

    Authorities were reportedly led to the customs officer by the two foreign nationals, both street vendors, who were arrested for selling contraband cigarettes to truck drivers. A search in their car revealed 180 packs of cigarettes.

    The customs officer was arrested after police searched his residence and discovered 1,218 packs of cigarettes hidden in a storage room. Previously the couple allegedly told police that the first suspect was supplying them with the contraband cigarettes.

    An inventory in the storage area at the Igoumenitsa customs office revealed that 462,260 of the 579,892 packs seized over the past two years were missing, worth more than 1.5 million euros in street value.

    Weather Forecast

    [27] Rainy on Thursday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 5C and 17C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 17C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 15C.

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

    Brussels' support of the government's economic policy for exiting from the crisis, newly-elected main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras' first meetings and the social security issue, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Bomb for the one-off retirement benefit (superannuation)!".

    APOGEVMATINI: "The iceberg melts in ND - Samaras' initiative for unity in the party".

    AVGHI: "Banks are ripping off the state".

    AVRIANI: "Ultimatum from Brussels: Cutbacks in civil servants' salaries and staff reduction".

    CHORA: "Samaras builds ND on strong foundations -Incorruptible persons appointed to key-positions".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "George (Papandreou, prime Minister) persuaded Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos for the Church to pay the uniform tax on real estate (ETAK)".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Athens handed over to FYROM's hands - Government's dangerous handing of the national issue".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Ruling PASOK in chaos - In-party clash over the appointment of the Special Secretary for the DEKO (public utilities and state organisations)".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Umbrella and pressure (for Greece) - Eurogroup President Jean Claude Juncker: The scenarios on bankruptcy are ungrounded".

    ESTIA: "Papandreou's, Samaras' close friendship (they have been friends since their college days at Amherst College) is a unique opportunity for consensus".

    ETHNOS: "The new electoral law in the Interior, Decentralisation and e-Governance Minister's hands".

    IMERISSIA: "Truce with foreign funds - Athens Stock Exchange skyrockets".

    KATHIMERINI: "Juncker's letter to Athens contains seven conditions - Brussels reassures that Greece will not go bankrupt".

    LOGOS: "Samaras launches 'operation unity' in ND".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "EU provides supports on the condition that harsh measures will be imposed".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "State and employers must take measures to protect the public healthcare system".

    TA NEA: "Top-level deal with Brussels after Juncker's letter".

    TO VIMA: "Climate for Greek economy is changing".

    VRADYNI: "Development is the only antidote to the crisis - Samaras' proposal on reversal of climate in economy".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [29] President Christofias: Nothing yet on Turkish moves on Cyprus

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has said that Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat had not submitted anything at the negotiating table that would verify Turkish press reports for moves on behalf of Ankara concerning the Cyprus problem.

    He added that during Tuesday's meeting with Talat, in the context of UN-led direct negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem, they continued discussions on citizenship, aliens, immigration and asylum.

    Asked if Talat had brought anything to the negotiations from Ankara that would confirm Turkish press reports that Turkey was preparing moves concerning the Cyprus problem, President Christofias said he had no such information yet.

    He noted that the issues of citizenship, aliens, immigration and asylum are all open subjects.

    Replying to questions about a mechanism that would resolve disputes, in the context of a solution, the President said this too was an open issue, on which there is no agreement yet with the Turkish Cypriot community.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    The leaders of the two communities have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunify the island under a federal roof.

    [30] UN official says it is important to maintain momentum in Cyprus talks

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, said on Wednesday that there were areas of convergence and still some areas of divergence in talks to solve the Cyprus problem, noting that it was important to maintain the momentum.

    Speaking after a meeting with President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias, Downer said the Cyprus problem was not easy to solve but he believed the leaders of the two communities had made progress.

    Downer said Wednesday's meeting was ''an opportunity for us to spend a bit of time together reviewing the progress in the talks,'' and referred to meetings held between the leaders and their aides, as well as those scheduled for the next few days.

    ''The important thing is that the process maintains its momentum and this series of meetings, I think, is very constructive,'' he added.

    Replying to questions, Downer said ''the details of the negotiations are naturally enough behind closed doors and I think that is appropriate,'' adding that ''there are areas of agreement, of convergence, and there are still some areas of divergence.''

    ''I think they have made progress. That is not to say that the problem of Cyprus is solved. There are still difficult challenges ahead. In the UN we want to encourage the leaders to continue with the negotiations, and to continue the negotiations in the constructive way that the talks are being held, whilst never wishing to detract from the enormous difficulties that are involved,'' he added.

    Downer pointed out that ''if the Cyprus problem was so easy to solve, it would have been solved a long time ago, so people here should not have any illusions about this being an easy problem to solve.''

    ''You have got two leaders here who want to see a solution to the Cyprus problem. You have got a lot of support from the international community for a solution to the Cyprus problem, and we want to continue through the UN to provide that support as best we possibly can so that the leaders ultimately can agree to a solution,'' he added.

    To other questions, Downer said that in the talks ''we are going through the second reading now,'' adding that ''we went through the first reading and concluded that a few months ago.''

    ''They are making steady progress but all problems are not solved, obviously. So, there is still a way to go. And it is difficult, of course it is difficult. It is difficult for obvious reasons. There is a lot of history here. There is a lot of politics here. All of these things have to be addressed,'' he added.

    Asked about an intensification of the talks, Downer said ''the leaders are meeting twice this week'' and pointed out that ''it is only so often they can meet, there have to be preparations between the meetings, there has to be consultation between meetings, they have to think about different positions between meetings.''

    Downer said it was ''not realistic'' to expect the leaders to meet every day of the week, and pointed out that ''the important thing is that we keep up the momentum of the process and obviously there have been discussions about how that the programme will unfold in the months ahead.''

    Asked if a Camp David type scenario was feasible, Downer said he did not think ''foreign policy by analogy'' was a good idea because ''every case is different,'' adding that ''there is a bit of an inclination to keep the process here in Cyprus.''

    To questions regarding the venue of the talks, Downer said ''where we are having the talks is a very nice place to have them,'' adding that ''there is no plan to have talks outside of Cyprus.''

    Asked about UNFICYP's mandate, Downer said that ''while these negotiations are going on, nothing is going to change,'' noting that ''what we need is stability during this period of the talks and it depends what the leaders want to do once the talks are concluded, assuming that they are successful.''

    Regarding the views of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on the talks, Downer said ''he is a very wise man and we can always count on his descriptions as being wise.''

    [31] UNSG: considerable progress in Cyprus talks

    UNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stresses that considerable progress has been achieved in the Cyprus UN peace talks.

    In his report to the Security Council, which was to be issued as a document of the Council on Wednesday, Ban, who recommends to the Council to extend the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in Cyprus mission for six months, until 15 June 2010, adds that the two sides have not yet considered in depth the role which the UN would be expected to play in support of a settlement.

    The report notes that military violations by the opposing forces during the current reporting period were at comparable levels at each other and this was "attributable to a reduction in violations by the Turkish Forces, following the positive approach taken by them in recent months".

    It points out that the situation remained calm, however efforts to promote talks for military confidence building measures did not produce results. The report notes that UNFICYP remains optimistic that the measures it has proposed, such as the un-manning and/or closing of observation posts in areas where opposing troops are particularly close to one another and agreements for future de-mining activities, would help improve the situation.

    The report notes that despite a significant relaxation of movement restrictions placed on UNFICYP military personnel, the continued restriction of movement of locally employed UN personnel by the Turkish Forces/ Turkish Cypriot Security Forces remains a concern.

    Furthermore, it says the Turkish Forces have conducted regular inspections of the liaison post at Strovilia, and have repeatedly overmanned the position in violation of the military status quo in the area.

    As far as demining is concerned, the report says the procedure in the buffer zone is progressing well, with 57 of the 72 minefields cleared. A total of 14 thousand mines have been destroyed and more than seven square kilometers of land cleared of mines. It also refers to the incident of the death of a civilian contractor of the Mine Action Centre who was killed in a demining accident in October.

    The report notes that both communities continued to rely on UNFICYP's civilian assistance, which ranges from humanitarian and economic matters to a variety of bicommunal issues affecting the lives of Cypriots.

    It commends both sides for reaching an agreement on opening the Limnitis crossing and calls for urgent implementation of stage two of the restoration at the Ledra Street crossing.

    "The establishment of economic, social, cultural, sporting or similar ties and contacts, will have a positive impact on the peace process", the report notes, adding that such contacts "would nurture a sentiment of trust between the communities and help ease the sense of isolation felt by the Turkish Cypriots".

    In addition, it says that "greater economic and social parity between the sides will make the eventual reunification not only easier, but also more likely. In the context of an internationally sanctioned peace process, efforts in the opposite direction can only be counterproductive".

    As regards the work of the Committee of Missing Persons, the report notes that it has enjoyed broad political and public support during the reporting period allowing the Committee to achieve further progress. By November 2009, the remains of 570 individuals had been exhumed on both sides of the buffer zone and the remains of over 350 missing persons had undergone examination at the Committee's bicommunal anthropological laboratory in the UNPA. Following 1,232 cases of DNA genetic analysis carried out at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, the remains of 186 individuals were returned to their respective families.

    On the UN-led direct talks for a Cyprus solution, Ban Ki-moon points out that "although considerable progress has been achieved in the Cyprus talks, the two sides have not yet considered in depth the role which the UN would be expected to play in support of a settlement".

    In addition, he says it is "too early to be able to identify with sufficient confidence the parameters of the UN involvement in the context of a possible solution. At the same time", he adds, "UNFICYP has initiated preparatory activities, based on a range of possible outcomes and scenarios, in the framework of contingency planning as requested by the Council. For the time being, such planning will continue to proceed in a flexible manner and be guided by the evolution in the talks and the views of the parties on the role they would like the UN to play in the implementation of an agreement".

    Ban underlines that "it is my firm belief that UNFICYP continues to play a vital and unique role on the island, including in support of my good offices mission" and recommends to the Security Council to extend the mandate of the mission for six months, until 15 June 2010.

    At the same time, "in light of Security Council's calls in previous resolutions and my earlier stated intention to keep all peacekeeping operations under review, I will continually keep the operations of UNFICYP under close review, taking into account developments on the ground and the views of the parties, and will revert to the Council with recommendations as appropriate for further adjustments to UNFICYP's mandate, force levels and concept of operations as soon as warranted".

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