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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-12-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 10 December 2009 Issue No: 3371
 PM to Inner Cabinet: 'Greece in intensive care'Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday warned that the country "is in the intensive care unit", a reference to financial and fiscal woes he said are also threatening national sovereignty for the first time since 1974, speaking at a meeting of the government's Inner Cabinet.
The premier further said that the lack of credibility his PASOK government "inherited" from its predecessor New Democracy (ND) has turned into an object of exploitation, and stressed that his government was acting solely on the principle that the only people decide on their future.
The 2010 state budget it has tabled reflects the government's first steps for recovery of the economy and containment of the deficits, he added.
Papandreou announced that he will meet with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday to propose a meeting of the leaders of all the political parties in order to discuss ways to eliminate corruption, which he said is linked with the state of the economy.
The meeting was also addressed by the chairman of the Greek chapter of Transparency International Costas Bakouris, as Wednesday is the UN-recognised International Day against Corruption.
In other statements, Papandreou linked the economic crisis to the operation of the state, which, as he said, is governed by a 'clientele mentality' and systemic corruption.
Papandreou further said that "we are opening fronts with corruption, parasitical interests and lack of transparency and we are forging ahead closing wounds and trying to revive the economy.
"The first steps are being taken in the budget for the recovery of the economy and the curbing of the deficit, while we have opened the dialogue on reforms in the tax system, the management of public funds, transparency and the social insurance issue," the prime minister said, stressing that PASOK's programme will also be reflected in the Stability and Growth Programme.
Papandreou referred in his address to all that happened during events over the weekend in memory of teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos, saying that we made an organised effort to protect the citizen an his right to demonstrate freely without violence and lawlessness and protecting lives and property as well.
"We do not wish to exercise force as a state," the prime minister said, adding that "we distanced those who aimed at exploiting the thirst of young people for justice."
 Samaras on economy; addresses EPPBONN (ANA-MPA/S. Goutzanis)
Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, addressing the European People's Party (EPP) conference here on Wednesday, expressed his faith in what he called the fundamental principles of social liberalism, which combines decentralised markets with the regulatory role of the state.
Samaras said that decentralised markets can produce more prosperity than any other system, adding that "free markets cannot solve all problems; in order for us to maximise prosperity and growth we need something more than free markets: we need competitive markets.
"This 'competitiveness demand' is not achieved automatically by the forces of the market alone. An external factor is necessary that regulates the economy, eliminates the distortions of markets, discourages illicit practices and imposes mutually acceptable rules. Only the state can play this role."
Samaras also turned his attention to the domestic political scene, nothing that "I realise the anxiety of (PM George) Mr. Papandreou to disengage from his promises before the elections, now that he is facing reality in the face. However, the seriousness of the circumstances at hand does not permit the country's prime minister to resort to uncouth, unfair and groundless attacks against ND governments, instead of acting himself and taking all the necessary measures to enable the country to exit from the crisis with security and stability."
He added that the unfavourable assessments of international credit rating firms are not due so much to the serious fiscal and economic conditions in the country "but to the indecision and delaying of the government in taking all the suitable measures to confront the crisis."
Samaras is accompanied by a high-ranking ND delegation. The conference is expected to be attended by 13 European Union member-states' prime ministers, six prime ministers outside the EU, and some 1,500 delegates. The conference will conclude on Thursday after the election of the EPP's new president.
 PM receives visiting Patriarch of AlexandriaPrime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday met with visiting Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa, who was accompanied by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece.
During the 40-minute meeting, discussions focused on the venerable Patriarchate's missionary work and on issues affecting expatriate Greeks.
Theodoros also invited the Greek prime minister to visit the Patriarchate, and presented him with a silver vase made by children in Egypt, decorated with a dove of peace, noting: "I give this (vase) to you symbolically, because you always bring peace and work for peace".
Papandreou, in turn, presented Theodoros with a silver vase decorated with an ancient Greek trireme, stressing that "it symbolises the Greece of the seas and continents".
Theodoros had a series of meetings on Tuesday afternoon with the leaders or representatives of the Greek political parties, whom he briefed on the problems faced by the peoples of Africa and the Patriarchate's activities.
Finally, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis will award the City of Athens' Gold Medal to Patriarch Theodoros on Thursday at the Athens City Hall.
 DM Venizelos winds up Cyprus visitNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)
A solution of the Cyprus issue and development of Greek-Turkish relations are catalytic factors for Turkey's course to the EU, Greek defence minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Wednesday in Nicosia, during a meeting with the Cypriot House of Representatives' defence and foreign affairs committees.
Venizelos, who arrived in Cyprus on Tuesday for a two-day official visit, stressed the need for a viable and functional solution to the Cyprus issue founded on the relevant UN Resolutions and in the framework of the EU principles.
Regarding Greek-Turkish relations, the defence minister stressed that the Turkish threats in the Aegean and provocations must be terminated, and noted that even during his own flight to Cyprus on Tuesday, infringements of the air traffic regulations and violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter planes had taken place. He added that armed Turkish warplanes had made overflights over the Greek island of Agathonissi, and the intervention of the two military Staffs had been necessary to avert an accident, given that a military maneuver had been in progress at the time in a previously designated area.
Venizelos assured the two committees of the continuation of the defence cooperation between Greece and Cyprus, which he noted is also foreseen among EU member states and in the Lisbon Treaty.
"We are ascertaining how important Cyprus' accession to the European Union and the eurozone was," the minister added.
Defence committee chairman Yannakis Omirou thanked Greece for its long-standing support to Cyprus, and expressed gratitude to the Greek officers and soldiers who have served, or are currently serving in Cyprus, while foreign affairs committee chairman Averof Neophytou said that Greece was and remains Cyprus' only selfless support, adding that Cyprus owes its EU accession and the upgrading of its defence capability to Greece.
Venizelos later visited the camp of the Greek Forces in Cyprus (ELDYK) in Malounta, before leaving for Athens in the afternoon.
 Papariga unveils KKE bills on labor and social securityCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga unveiled on Wednesday bills drafted by her party on "reforms in labour relations in the public and private sector on the basis of the principle of full-time and steady work for all, with rights" and on "safeguarding the social security funds' reserves and broadening the workers' insurance and pension rights".
Papariga accused Labour Minister Andreas Loverdos and Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou of attempting to reverse the existing labour regime and social security system with "barbarous changes", adding that the working people must "declare war" on them.
She said that the new PASOK government is "neither better nor worse" than the preceding New Democracy government, adding that the people should not feel "bound" by their vote but instead show their strength as an emerging popular majority.
Papariga further said that her party has not been invited to the dialogue in the framework of the Council of Political Leaders, adding, however, that "whether we go or not, nothing changes, the government operates like an open book".
 FinMin press conference at FPAFinance minister George Papaconstantinou anticipated turmoil for the Greek economy on the international markets over the next few months, noting that the attitude of the markets towards the Greek economy was mainly due to the lack of credibility inherited from the preceding (New Democracy) government "which cannot be remedied in just a few days", speaking at a press conference on Wednesday at the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Athens.
The present PASOK government, however, will do everything necessary to regain the lost credibility, and up to the submission of the country's revised Stability and Growth program to the EU in January it will give constant indications of its intentions, Papaconstantinou noted, adding that those indications comprise measures and policies to reduce wasteful spending, increase the country's revenues and put the economy on a developmental course.
Asked whether the Greek government bonds have faced speculative attacks, Papaconstantinou replied that "speculative games have always existed."
"Unfortunately, they are a part of the operation of the markets and we have to live with them, but at the same time we are taking all the measures necessary to face them and ensure the fiscal indicators," the minister stressed.
He further said that the 2010 budget recently tabled in parliament was a first, significant step in the process, as it reduces operational expenditures by 10 percent, suspends public sector hiring with the exception of the 'sensitive' sectors, changes the system of medical and medicinal supplies procurement, and abolishes the practice of taxation of revenues outside the tax scale.
The mid-term program, which will be reflected in the revised stability and growth plan in January, will introduce a clear-cut "road map" for returning to a situation that will not mortgage the future and will contain the public debt, Papaconstantinou continued.
He also noted that although Greece is under the protective umbrella of the euro, the government nevertheless was not complacent, and "everything depends on our own actions, decisions and determination".
Questioned on changes to the taxation system and the relevant dialogue to begin soon, the minister said it will be a radical change to the taxation system with the introduction of a uniform tax scale that will encompass all revenues, the inclusion of dividends in the scale, the progressive taxation of real estate property, objective determination of the living income, and the corporate accounting system.
He said there will also be a fair increase in state revenues, to be paid by "those who have", while the tax base will also be broadened and tax evasion will be stamped out. In tandem with the dialogue, the government is also proceeding with a reorganisation of the tax authorities and a revision of the taxation mechanism in order to tackle tax evasion, he added.
Papaconstantinou also said that there will be a substantial reduction in the armaments programs in 2010 compared with the current year, followed by further reductions over the following years, stressing, however, that any reduction will take into consideration the country's needs and the battle-worthiness of the Armed Forces.
 French minister: Greece not threatened with bankruptcyPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
French economic affairs, industry and employment minister Christine Lagarde said on Wednesday that Greece is not at risk of bankruptcy, speaking on the francophone regional radio station RMC (Radio-Monte Carlo).
"I do not believe it possible that Greece will declare bankruptcy," Lagarde said, adding that she was expecting Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou in Paris next Tuesday to discuss Greece's public finances.
Lagarde also noted that the eurozone member countries have asked fellow-member Greece to immediately implement an effective action plan for the re-determination and settlement of its public finances.
"I anticipate that they will do this. The Greek minister made a commitment to us, he must fulfill his commitment," she added.
 Gov't: Business debts draft law on ThursEconomy, Competitiveness & Shipping Minister Louka Katseli, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, said a draft bill dealing with over-indebtedness of businesses and professionals towards banks will be submitted to Parliament by Thursday evening.
Katseli further said the draft law concerning the settlement of debts owed by over-indebted individuals will also be forwarded in Parliament by next week at the latest.
 Parliament debate on social insurance issueEmployment Minister Andreas Loverdos set the year 2015 as "the year of the aggravation of the social insurance problem and of disaster", when the post-junta generation will be pensioned off, unless a solution is found now.
Briefing the relevant Parliamentary Committee on the social insurance problem and the course of dialogue, Loverdos clarified the government's will to achieve the necessary agreements as soon as possible so that the "countdown" on solving the problem will begin in 2010.
"The dimensions of the social insurance bomb will concern 2010, heightening in 2015, a year in which we question the possibility of the state to provide pensions, unless something is done today," the minister said.
"We don't have time," he added, calling on all (political parties, social agencies, scientific world) to act jointly with proposals in the dialogue and sounded the alarm, referring to the EU's assessment according to which Greece pays 11.5 percent of GDP for pensions every year and in 2040 it will be paying 24.1 percent.
On behalf of the main opposition New Democracy party, former deputy ministers Gerassimos Yiakoumatos and George Kontoyiannis said they will provide their consent for whatever positive measure is taken by the government, "the consent that the ND government also wished to have when it opened the social insurance issue."
Yiakoumatos said that ND will be submitting its proposals officially shortly and added that "we shall stand by, without populism, everything positive and we shall support the government."
 Meeting on collective labour agreementThe General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) on Wednesday referred an invitation by the Federation of Greek Industries -- on the joint signing of a "social contract" between the social partners to tackle the crisis -- to official negotiations that will start in the coming weeks over a new collective labour agreement.
GSEE President Yiannis Panagopoulos said that issues raised in the meeting, held at the Federation's offices, were related to employment, unemployment, dismissals and methods that seriously harm employment.
 Greece, Russia agree to boost cooperation in transports sectorVisiting Russian transport minister Igor Levitin and Greece's minister of infrastructure transport and networks Dimitris Reppas on Wednesday discussed further development of bilateral cooperation in the sectors of road, rail and air transports.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Reppas noted the traditional good relations between Greece and Russia, and announced that a committee of experts of the two ministries has been set up which will have completed its work in 2010 aimed at the signing by the two ministers of a new agreement on road transports, which he said will boost the trade cooperation and economic relations between the two countries.
On air transports, the two ministers stressed their determination to improve the existing framework, aimed at boosting tourism movement between Greece and Russia.
Regarding rail transports, Reppas did not rule out the prospect of a Thessaloniki-Moscow route being established within 2010, with a frequency of two routes weekly.
Levitin, in turn, described his talks in Athens as very satisfactory, stressing that the dialogue on the transports sector will continue, adding that there is a series of topics that could be advanced so as to facilitate the work of the transport companies of both countries.
 Deputy FM Kouvelis on Greek-Russian bilateral cooperationDeputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis, speaking at the end of the Joint Greek-Russian Interministerial Committee session on Wednesday, stressed the determination of Greece and Russia to strengthen bilateral cooperation in many sectors, from which many Greek businesses will benefit in a period of economic crisis.
The discussion started with energy cooperation and special emphasis was placed on the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline.
The Greek side once again confirmed its interest in the speedy and effective implementation of the project, that is also of great interest for the country's energy planning, as Kouvelis said after the discussion.
Also discussed was cooperation for the development of the South Stream natural gas pipeline, the renewal of the cooperation agreement on the supply of natural gas after the end of 2010 for 2016, as well as cooperation between Greece and Russia on green technology issues and the saving of energy.
 Stocks continue slide on Wed.Stocks continued their free fall at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with the composite index of the market losing 3.36 pct to end at 2,105.48 points. Turnover was a heavy 487.6 million euros, of which 14.3 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved downwards, with Banks (5.75 pct), Insurances (4.02 pct) and Commerce (3.21 pct) recording the biggest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index fell by 3.96 pct, the FTSE 40 index recorded losses of 2.02 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 1.30 pct lower. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 172 to 44 with another 33 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.05%
Personal & Household: -2.33%
Raw Materials: -0.93%
Travel & Leisure: -2.34%
Food & Beverages: -2.73%
Financial Services: -0.47%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 7.42
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.70
HBC Coca Cola: 15.54
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.01
National Bank of Greece: 17.00
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.60
Bank of Piraeus: 8.24
 Greek astrophysicist and NASA robotics expert to receive AIT's Niki AwardDr. Thanasis (Tom) Economou, an astrophysicist at Chicago University and NASA robotics expert, is the recipient of the Athens Information Technology's (AIT) first Niki Award, which will be presented on Monday evening in Athens.
Dr. Economou, a Professor of Astrophysics and Senior Scientist at the University of Chicago's Enrico Fermi Institute, has been building instruments for interplanetary spacecraft since the mid-1960s. Currently he is associated with three of NASA's robotic missions: the Mars Exploration Rovers, the Cassini mission to Mars, and the now-complete Stardust mission to Comet Wild-2, which has been redirected to a second cometary target.
Dr. Economou also built the Alpha Proton X-ray Spectrometer that successfully performed the first chemical analysis of Martian rocks aboard the Mars Pathfinder rover in 1997. Working in the laboratory of Anthony Turkevich, he contributed to the alpha backscattering experiment of three robotic Surveyor space probes that landed on the moon in 1967-68. With Turkevich during the 1970s and 1980s, he also conducted basic nuclear physics research on the subatomic structure of matter using the most advanced particle accelerators at Los Alamos, Argonne and Fermi National Accelerator laboratories. During the 1990s they performed an important double beta decay experiment of Uranium-238 to Plutonium-238, suggesting for the first time that neutrinos consist of a small quantity of mass.
In August, NASA announced that microparticle samples from the tail of Comet Wild-2 'trapped' by instruments designed by Economou on the Stardust spacecraft contain the substance glycine, a fundamental building block of life. "Glycine is an amino acid used by living organisms to make proteins, and this is the first time an amino acid has been found in a comet," according to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Our discovery supports the theory that some of life's ingredients formed in space and were delivered to Earth long ago by meteorite and comet impacts."
The Athens Information Technology (AIT), founded in 2002, is a prestigious, non-profit Center of Excellence for Research and Graduate Education, with exclusive collaborations in education and research with the Carnegie Mellon and Harvard universities in the US and Aalborg university in Denmark.
To date, AIT has presented post-graduate titles to 450 graduates who today are internationally recognised executives and/or research experts, as well as more than 300 scholarships and financial aid to honor students from 21 countries, while the Centre's life-long learning courses have been attended by more than 2,500 senior executives from the public and private sector in SE Europe and the Middle East.
The Friends of AIT established in September the annual Niki Award to honor Greek scientists, and scientists of Greek descent, who are recognized by the international community for their contribution to the world of science and technology and who inspire new scientists to follow in their footsteps.
The Niki (Victory) award, a statuette crafted by the sculptor Costas Ananidas, is inspired by the statue Niki of Samothrace from the prow of a ship and represents the goddess as she descends from the skies to the triumphant fleet. Her right arm was originally raised, cupped round her mouth to deliver the shout of "Victory!" The most likely battle commemorated by this monument is believed to be the Battle of Kos, in 255 BC, in which Antigonus II Gonatas of Macedonia won over the fleet of Ptolemy II of Egypt. Victory by Greeks who have overcome difficult challenges is demonstrated throughout history and the world to this day, according to AIT.
The Niki 2009 Award will be presented to Dr. Economou by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece during a special ceremony in a central Athens hotel on Monday, December 14, at which Carnegie Mellon University president Dr. Jared Cohon will be the keynote speaker, while the proceeds of the event will be donated to the AIT Scholarships, Awards and Financial Assistance Fund. Attending the Ceremony will be representatives from major Greek scientific and academic institutions, businesses, banks, organizations, diplomatic corps, the media, and interested individuals.
 Athens mayor on garbage strikeThe growing mounds of rubbish on the city of Athens' street corners generated a heated response by Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Wednesday, hours after Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis called on the municipality's administration to take "necessary" legal action in order to resume garbage collection.
"The city of Athens introduced the legal procedures yesterday (Tuesday), therefore, he (Ragoussis) rather belatedly thought to intervene in order to settle a situation for which he is solely responsible, due to his unwillingness to satisfy a basic demand made by strikers, namely, the allocation of additional points (to contract workers with experience who apply) for a position with the relevant organisation".
Kaklamanis also said that strikers' demand has the unanimous support of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece, of which he is president, and "all political forces in Parliament, except for the government."
 ND office, vehicles targeted by arsonistsA main opposition New Democracy (ND) local office in the Toumba district of Thessaloniki was targeted by arsonists late Tuesday night.
The arsonists threw home-made fire-bombs (molotov cocktails) at the building housing the ND office and fled.
The ensuing fire caused material damage to the building, but no injuries were reported.
Meanwhile, a spate of arson attacks took place throughout the night in several parts of the greater Athens area, targeting seven cars and a motorcycle in the Exarchia district in downtown Athens, and the suburbs of Papagou and Kolonos.
 Rainy on ThursdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 4-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 0C and 17C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with northerly 4-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 13C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 9C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe state of the Greek economy and the downgrading of its credit rating by Fitch Ratings, the plunge on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) and the government's proposals on social security, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Social security: 10 changes in pensions".
APOGEVMATINI: "Employment Minister Andreas Loverdos' statement shocked parliament: Unemployment has skyrocketed to 20 percent".
AVGHI: "Government 'retiring'.... social security!".
AVRIANI: "The downgrading barrage of the country's credit rating .....paralyses the economy, plunges the Stock Market and sends away the investors from abroad".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "SOS plan includes strict austerity -New measures on the way".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The speculators unsheathed their knives - Suffocating pressure and downgrading of Greek economy".
ESTIA: "The lack of confidence in the Greek economy must be reversed as soon as possible".
ETHNOS: "The turbulence in the economy brings the series of credibility ratings downgrading".
IMERISSIA: "Under siege - New downgrading, government in a quandary".
KATHIMERINI: "Markets sound the alarm bell - Concern of repercussions on the euro".
LOGOS: "Fitch's bomb on Greek economy - Downgrading of Greece's credit rating".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Downgrading gives rise to chain reactions".
NIKI: "We are being attacked by foreign speculators".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Workers rise up, they are dismantling the social security system".
TA NEA: "Markets pressing for harsh measures - Greece downgraded to Class B ".
TO VIMA: "The nine keys of the new social security system".
VRADYNI: "Stock Market, bonds and credibility collapsed - Greek Economy downgraded to B' class for the first time in the last 10 years".
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