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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-12-23

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 23 December 2009 Issue No: 3381


  • [01] Cabinet discusses bill on immigrants, road safety
  • [02] Cabinet convenes in the presence of Archbishop
  • [03] Gov't, environmental groups on Copenhagen results
  • [04] Papoulias replies to invitation to visit Skopje
  • [05] Moody's downgrades Greek bond ratings to A2, but 'mild' report spurs Stock Exchange, bond market
  • [06] European Commission quarterly report on eurozone economy: Greece
  • [07] FinMin chairs council of experts meeting
  • [08] Dialogue on tax reform begins
  • [09] Loverdos on the social insurance system financing
  • [10] Gov't on bankers' reaction to draft law on market liquidity
  • [11] President Papoulias receives BoG Governor Provopoulos
  • [12] PASOK MPs calls for Parliamentary probe into Germanos buyout
  • [13] ADEDY announces two-week strike at end January
  • [14] Gov't to overhaul food authority, agricultural insurance body
  • [15] Qantas subsidiary to link Melbourne with Athens
  • [16] Stocks rally, end 4.48 pct up after 'mild' Moody's rate cut
  • [17] ADEX closing report
  • [18] Greek bond market closing report
  • [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [20] President Papoulias' message to the Greeks abroad
  • [21] Nativity message of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
  • [22] Christmas message of Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece
  • [23] Christmas message of Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania
  • [24] Christmas message from Patriarch Theodoros II
  • [25] SAE president's message
  • [26] Manhunt for perpetrator of two shooting injuries
  • [27] Drug trafficking and gun posession arrests
  • [28] Huge unprocessed cannabis haul seized in northwest Greece
  • [29] Six people indicted in the Souroti football match case
  • [30] Arrest warrant issued for ship owner Agoudimos
  • [31] Book on French Embassy in Athens launched
  • [32] Brown bear killed in Egnatia road
  • [33] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Cabinet discusses bill on immigrants, road safety

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday chaired a cabinet meeting which focused on an interior ministry's bill that grants citizenship to overseas Greeks and immigrants.

    "Granting citizenship to overseas Greeks and immigrants is a wager that Greece has no right not to win," the premier said, noting that conditions of security, safety and social justice should be created.

    The transfer of populations, as he said, "has reached dimensions that cannot be controlled and it is natural that this provokes concern."

    "The changes that are taking place are touching even our identity," Papandreou noted, indicating that "fear is a bad guide and we cannot have security if we do not include into our society alsoo those who live in our country."

    He further termed as "positive the fact that all Greek political parties agreed in principle, apart from some extremist elaments, with the way the government touches the issue, and this gives a new dimension of patriotism, based on an open society."

    Papandreou also announced the UN's High Commissioner on Refugees Antonio Gutieres was expected in Athens.

    On his part, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis said that European Union policies were directed towards incorporating immigrants.

    The bill, as the minister said, "opens the door to second generation immigrants, the institution of naturalization is being harmonised with the state of law and the right to vote and be elected is being granted to overseas Greeks and immigrants leaving for a long time in Greece."

    According to estimates, some 250,000 overseas Greeks and immigrants are expected to participate in next year's local government elections.

    Only those that were born and have been living in Greece for more than five years, the children that are born in Greece and are being declared by their parents as well as children that have been studying in Greek schools for many years, have the right to become Greek citizens.

    The cabinet also discussed the issue of road safety, while the prime minister set, as his government's target, the reduction of road accidents by 40 per cent until 2015.

    [02] Cabinet convenes in the presence of Archbishop

    Security, justice and humane treatment is the aim of the government's migrant policy, Prime Minister George Papandreou told a cabinet meeting, also attended by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, on Tuesday.

    This was the first time that a Primate of the Church of Greece attends a cabinet meeting.

    The prime minister also said he was "shocked" by "the pain of the planet" gathered at the Centre for Homeless and Immigrants of the City of Athens, which he had visited earlier in the day accompanied by the Archbishop.

    Papandreou underlined that tackling the problems of human beings could be the "foundation for a cooperation between the State and the Church," adding that the Archbishop's presence at the cabinet meeting underlined the government's recognition to the Church's humane contribution.

    The premier said that immigrants in the country "constitute a large part of the Greek society", adding that "all those who persist in treating immigrants as second class citizens delude themselves in front of the problems that may arise."

    "Our migrant policy's aims are security, justice and humane treatment," Papandreou said, underlining that it was the State's obligation to support the Church in its work.

    On his part, Archbishop Ieronymos said that the Church has prepared special programmes for homeless and poor people. He also asked the State's help for part of the property owned by the Church to be used in welfare and philanthropic action.

    Ieronymos also invited the prime minister to attend a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Church.

    [03] Gov't, environmental groups on Copenhagen results

    The results of the Copenhagen climate talks fell short of what they should have been but helped bolster belief in the need for a new model for growth, government spokesman George Petalotis stressed in statements on Tuesday.

    "We may have had the specific results, which clearly were not what was expected and what they should have been, but all those taking part in the Copenhagen summit that believe in green development left with even stronger conviction that we must at last change the model for growth," Petalotis said in response to questions.

    He also underlined the role played by Prime Minister George Papandreou in his capacity as president of Socialist International, noting that Greece's premier had outlined the agenda for several discussions held on the sidelines of the summit and outlining specific proposals for green and viable development.

    Disappointment in the results of the climate summit was also expressed by the environmental organisations Greenpeace and WWF Hellas that were based in Greece, who noted that 63,888 Greek citizens had signed its online petition pressing for an agreement to combat climate change, while 3,500 children had sent postcards to the premier with the same demand.

    "Sadly, the end of the conference at Copenhagen finds the global civil society bemused, wondering why its leaders have decided to place their differences and interests above the salvation of the planet," an announcement said.

    "In spite of this, the impressive global mobilisation and the powerful demand of Greek society for a healthy planet cannot but leave margins for optimism in this difficult struggle," they stress, noting that the non-binding nature of the deal struck at Copenhagen left open the field to press for a new, effective agreement for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

    [04] Papoulias replies to invitation to visit Skopje

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday replied to an invitation to visit the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) extended by FYROM President Georgi Ivanov on November 4, saying that he "would like to visit the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia without the hindrance of the pending name issue".

    "I do not wish to suggest what would be to the interest of your country. I nonetheless firmly believe you need to realistically assess the situation. A solution to the name issue will prove beneficial for the legitimate aspirations of your people. I ought to highlight that the longer it takes for a solution, the longer the accession course of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia towards the European Union will remain pending," he stressed.

    The Greek president also emphasised Greece's support for friendly and good neighbourly relations with all neighbouring countries, including FYROM, and expressed hope that he would have an opportunity to visit "once this difference between us is history".

    Financial News

    [05] Moody's downgrades Greek bond ratings to A2, but 'mild' report spurs Stock Exchange, bond market

    Moody's Investors Service on Tuesday downgraded Greece's government bond ratings to A2 from A1, with the rating action concluding the review for possible downgrade initiated by Moody's on 29 October 2009. The outlook is negative.

    This rating action does not affect the ratings of Greece's country ceilings for bonds and bank deposits, which remain Aaa (like the rest of the Eurozone).

    The rating action downgrading the Greek economy by just one category was positively received by the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) and bond market, with the ASE basic share price index posting a 2.55 percent rise at the opening of the trading session, standing at 2,172.55 points at 10:55 a.m., and turnover at 31.9 million euros. The bond market, in turn, opened with a decline in the spread bvetween the Greek and German 10-year bonds from 275 base points to 258 base points at the opening on Tuesday morning, considering the Moody's report on the Greek economy as mild.

    "Greece's repositioned rating of A2 balances the Greek government's very limited short-term liquidity risks on the one hand, and its medium- to long-term solvency risks on the other," says Sarah Carlson, Moody's lead sovereign analyst for Greece. Moody's notes that the country's longer-term risks have only partly been offset by the government's announced policy response.

    Moody's had initiated its review of Greece's A1 sovereign rating in response to mounting evidence that the government's long-term credit strength was eroding materially. In particular, the rating agency intended to assess the new government's policy intentions and its room for manoeuvre.

    "Moody's believes that Greece is extremely unlikely to face short-term liquidity/refinancing problems unless the European Central Bank decides to take the unusual step of making the sovereign debt of a member state ineligible as collateral for bank repurchase operations -- a risk that we consider very remote," says Arnaud Marès, Senior Vice President in Moody's Sovereign Risk Group.

    Moreover, as evidenced by other support operations within the EU, Moody's indicated that there are potentially other means to mobilize emergency liquidity funding should it be required -- but Moody's does not believe that this will be necessary.

    Moody's also does not believe that the Greek government's difficulties represent a vital test for the future of the eurozone, but rather a repricing of relative risks that had been concealed by years of abundant global liquidity and somewhat above-potential growth.

    "The Greek government's credit challenges are of a longer-term nature," explains Ms. Carlson. "They stem from a slow erosion in competitiveness and economic potential, which implies that the government's debt problem cannot be resolved by growth alone. They also result from chronically weak fiscal institutions, which cast a shadow over the government's ability to implement decisive fiscal retrenchment in order to restore debt sustainability."

    Furthermore, the combination of a global post-crisis environment that is less favourable to Greek public finance dynamics (with increased risk discrimination and muted global demand) and an equally challenging domestic environment (with accelerating demographic pressure on public finances in coming years) will make any fiscal adjustment increasingly difficult and costly to postpone. However, Moody's continues to think that a migration of liabilities from the banks' balance sheets to that of the sovereign is unlikely.

    Moody's acknowledges that last week's announcements by the Greek government clearly identify these weaknesses and pave the way for a lasting solution. However, the long-term credit standing of Greece will depend on the Greek population's acceptance of these measures and the government's vigorous implementation of them. "As neither of these can be taken for granted, and because these measures will also take time to bear fruit, Moody's has placed a negative outlook on the Greek government's new A2 rating," says Ms. Carlson.

    At A2, Greece's bond rating compares with those of other high-income but highly indebted countries that do not face external payment vulnerabilities. However, the rating is positioned well below those of Belgium, Ireland or Italy (which are rated at Aa1-Aa2) to reflect Greece's poor track record in terms of real fiscal adjustment. Greece's rating also remains higher than Baa-rated Mexico, Brazil or Hungary, all of which have better or similar debt metrics but much lower income levels. These countries also do not benefit from the protection against external payment crises afforded by Greece's membership in the European Monetary Union.

    Looking ahead, the question of whether the negative outlook will evolve into a stable outlook or into a further downgrade will depend on the Greek government's plan being followed through -- as demonstrated for instance by a sustained increase in tax revenues and/or the effectiveness in reining-in expenditure.

    Downgrades for City of Athens, Greek banks

    In addition to Greek state bonds, Moody's downgraded the City of Athens credit rating by one point, to A2 from A1, with a negative outlook. The credit-rating agency said the decision reflected the municipality's intimate operational and funding ties with the Greek state, with a large part of its funding derived from the transfer of capital from the Greek government.

    Three Greek banks were also targeted for a credit ratings cut by Moody's, among them the National Bank of Greece (to A1 from Aa3), EFG Eurobank Ergasias (to A2 from A1) and Emporiki Bank (to A2 from A1). The decision was justified based on the repercussions of the global economic crisis on the Greek banking sector, which Moody's said had not been immediately apparent but had gradually weakened the position of banks in Greece and the rest of southeastern Europe.

    Finance ministry on Moody's rating

    The government is determined to materialise the measures that have been announced, and is intensifying its efforts for recovery of the Greek economy, the finance ministry press office said in an announcement on Tuesday after Moody's Investors Service downgraded Greece's government credit rating to A2 from A1.

    The ministry underlined the fact that Greece's credit rating was downgraded by Moody's just one level (from A1 to A2), but remained in the same category (A), and was two levels higher than the ratings recently announced by two other rating firms (Standard & Poor's and Fitch).

    The ministry statement further noted that the Moody's announcement acknowledges that the materialisation of prime minister George Papandreou's recent announcements pave the way to lasting solutions to the problems of the Greek economy.

    [06] European Commission quarterly report on eurozone economy: Greece


    The need for immediate introduction of measures aimed at fiscal stabilisation in the EU member states which have posted an increase in their state debts and in which weaknesses in the economies are apparent was stressed, inter alia, in the European Commission's latest quarterly report on the state of the eurozone economy.

    According to the Commission, fiscal stabilisation is necessary for a self-sustaining and viable recovery in the eurozone. In that context, the Commission notes that "the experience of Greece is a source of serious concern", and that "the Commission will come forward early next year with recommendations on how to correct the excessive (fiscal) deficit".

    The Commission further grouped Greece with Ireland, Spain, Cyprus, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Slovakia as eurozone members in which increased expenditure is attributed to long-term population ageing, noting that measures will be required to reduce expenditure. It noted the need for facing the long-term high cost related to population ageing with reforms of the pension systems and correction of the fiscal situation.

    The Commission also noted an immediate need for reform of the pension and health systems in such a way that will not impact the recovery of the eurozone member states' economies.

    [07] FinMin chairs council of experts meeting

    Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou chaired on Tuesday the first meeting of the Council of Economic Experts, which focused on the Stability and Growth Programme that the Greek government will be presenting to the European Commission in January next year.

    [08] Dialogue on tax reform begins

    Dialogue on reforming Greece's tax system kicked off at the finance ministry on Tuesday, in a meeting chaired by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou.

    Among the first measures discussed was the use of tax rebates on receipts from purchases and the provision of services as an incentive to tax-payers to assist in discouraging tax evasion.

    Based on measures proposed by the finance ministry, all tax payers should collect as many receipts of all kinds - both from retail goods purchases and services - in order to qualify for a reduction in income tax. It has not clarified, however, whether the amount in receipts will be linked with the tax-free allowance.

    The finance ministry is also mulling a reduction of the taxation rate for undistributed corporate profits to below current levels of 25 percent, while leaving open the prospect of taxing dividends in 2009 based on income tax brackets.

    Tuesday's session of the Central Dialogue Committee on the reforms decided on a meeting of the individual working groups from next Monday. The framework of the dialogue and specific questions toward tax-payers concerning the envisaged changes will be posted on the Internet on Wednesday.

    [09] Loverdos on the social insurance system financing

    Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos stated Tuesday that voluntary early retirement schemes were "destructive clientelist interventions" and should not be an option for the future of the social insurance system.

    Addressing the Committee of Experts formed by the social partners to carry out dialogue on social insurance reform, Loverdos said that the State has never refused its participation in the social insurance financing pointing out, however, that it prefers that the funds be channeled to the financing of a new, viable, public, comprehensive and socially fair insurance system.

    Outlining the suggested resources for the financing of the new social insurance system, Loverdos referred to self-financing through the permanent settlement of debts and the utilization of the assets of the social insurance funds. Also, by limiting excessive spending, the government anticipates saving between 800 million euros and 1 billion euros on an annual basis beginning in 2010.

    He also stated that new funds are expected from direct taxation and EU financing within the framework of anti-poverty and migrant integration policies.

    Loverdos stated that the inclusion in the social insurance system of roughly 100,000 migrants, after a relevant draft law is passed in parliament in January, will contribute to the increase of revenues without raising social insurance contributions.

    Meanwhile, government spokesman George Petalotis, referring to the voluntary early retirement scheme for Piraeus Port Authority SA employees, clarified that the government has no objections following clarifications according to which, the financial burden for the "exodus" will be undertaken by the Port Authority and not by the social insurance funds.

    [10] Gov't on bankers' reaction to draft law on market liquidity

    "Each bank has its own views and the government has its own," government spokesman George Petalotis stated Tuesday adding that "the government makes decisions after taking into consideration the opinions expressed by all social partners."

    Asked to comment on the "objections" raised by the bankers as regards the draft law on market liquidity, Petalotis stated that the National Bank of Greece President and CEO are essentially in agreement with the draft law.

    Petalotis stated that Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli does not need the government's support as regards the draft law, considering that the government makes its decisions in the known collective manner.

    On the bankers' warning that the banks will follow a stricter policy on loan approvals if the draft law on market liquidity is presented for approval, Petalotis stated that all proposals and views are taken under consideration.

    [11] President Papoulias receives BoG Governor Provopoulos

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received on Tuesday Bank of Greece (BoG) Governor George Provopoulos at the Presidential Mansion in Athens.

    Responding to a question from President Papoulias concerning developments on the economic front, Provopoulos stated that Greece is faced with major challenges and accumulated problems that need a solution in order for the country to be able to get back on the road to development.

    Provopoulos stated that "a first step has been made by the prime minister, who pledged to proceed with major structural changes and reforms and seek notable gradual decline of the public debt on a year-by-year basis for the next 3-4 years."

    Provopoulos stated that "there is only one step left to be made, namely, to specifically identify the measures and actions that will support the materialization of the goals set."

    He expressed certainty that this step "will be seen in the convergence and development programme the Greek government will have to submit by mid January."

    [12] PASOK MPs calls for Parliamentary probe into Germanos buyout

    A proposal for a fifth Parliamentary investigation into a suspected scandal, this time concerning the acquisition of the electronic goods chain Germanos by Cosmote, was presented to Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos by 127 main opposition PASOK MPs on Tuesday.

    According to the MPs, the purchase had been financially damaging for Cosmote, a mobile phone provider that was a subsidiary of the state-run Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), and thus counter to public interest.

    They said that there were clear indications of wrong-doing and possible legal liability connected to the deal, while stressing the need to investigate and apportion responsibility on a political level, regardless of the outcome of any investigation by the courts.

    The MPs signing the proposals noted "multiple parameters" in the case, including issues of insider trading linked to the buyout that had repercussions on the prices of Germanos, OTE and Cosmote stock, as well as the fact that the leadership of the finance ministry had been briefed by the heads of OTE and Cosmote at that time.

    They also claimed that the price of Germanos stocks had been artificially boosted at the time by speculators, with an unusually large volume of transactions in Germanos shares before the buyout was announced and an unjustifiable rise in the price of the company's shares between November 5 and May 6 that had led to large profits at Cosmote's expense.

    [13] ADEDY announces two-week strike at end January

    The civil servants' union ADEDY has announced plans for a two-week strike starting on January 28, 2010 and lasting until February 10, 2010, with the central message that workers should not be the ones to pay for the economic crisis.

    An ADEDY announcement said that the strike was called in response to an anticipated escalation of measures targeting the rights of workers and pensioners in both the public and private sectors - but especially the public sector - that would include reductions in pay and benefits and deprive them of labour, salary and social insurance rights.

    The union said that it was seeking to promote cooperation with the private-sector unions in carrying out the strike and coordinating the actions of the workforce.

    [14] Gov't to overhaul food authority, agricultural insurance body

    The government intends to carry out a complete re-organisation of the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) and the Greek agricultural insurance agency (ELGA), Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Katerina Batzeli announced on Tuesday in a press conference.

    The minister said that a draft bill re-organising the two agencies will be tabled at the start of the new year and would be accompanied by a change in their management.

    "Quality, safety and prices are our main concerns," Batzeli told reporters and revealed that high fines will soon be imposed on three food-sector firms (one dealing in sesame, one in milk and a central supermarket) for violating food safety and health regulations and for misleading consumers.

    She also announced that the government was considering imposing an insurance premium for farmers' agricultural production to replace the money withheld via VAT at present.

    [15] Qantas subsidiary to link Melbourne with Athens

    The Australian airline company Jetstar, Qantas' low-cost subsidiary, is planning to inaugurate flights connecting Australia with Athens in 2010, and has ordered 15 new aircraft to cover the new itineraries.

    Jetstar is mulling inexpensive rates for the Melbourne-Athens route, which in some cases could fall as low as 1,200 Australian dollars (approximately 730 euros) for two-way tickets.

    The Greece-Australia link is part of a new developmental policy announced by the two airlines on Monday, anticipating that better days are ahead for air transportation, which includes the introduction of new destinations and acquisition of new airplanes.

    [16] Stocks rally, end 4.48 pct up after 'mild' Moody's rate cut

    Stocks soared on news of a smaller-than-expected ratings cut for Greek bonds from Moody's on Tuesday, ending 4.48 percent up at close of trade on the Athens bourse, with the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange gaining nearly 100 points to end at 2,213.47 points and turnover at 197.9 million euros.

    All sectors moved upward, with the biggest gains posted by stocks in Banks (6.04 pct), Insurance (5.20 pct), Foods and Beverages (5.09 pct), Travel and Recreation (4.83 percent) and Public Utilities (4.18 percent).

    The FTSE 20 index surged 4.91 pct up, the FTSE 40 index rose by 2.57 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 2.14 pct higher. Advancers led decliners by 167 to 35, while another 37 issues were unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +5.20%

    Industrials: +2.37%

    Commercial: +2.15%

    Construction: +2.37%

    Media: +2.67%

    Oil & Gas: +2.33%

    Personal & Household: +3.34%

    Raw Materials: +2.45%

    Travel & Leisure: +4.83%

    Technology: +3.56%

    Telecoms: +0.19%

    Banks: +6.04%

    Food & Beverages: +5.09%

    Health: +2.13%

    Utilities: +4.18%

    Chemicals: +3.05%

    Financial Services: +3.54%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and EFG Eurobank Ergasias.

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

    Alpha Bank: 8.37

    ATEbank: 2.01

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.80

    HBC Coca Cola: 16.65

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.28

    National Bank of Greece: 18.15

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.00

    Intralot: 4.00

    OPAP: 14.96

    OTE: 10.36

    Bank of Piraeus: 8.22

    Titan: 20.02

    [17] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.50 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 68.304 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,731 contracts, worth 54.655 million euros, with 19,821 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 13,715 contracts worth 13.649 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,486) followed by Bank of Pireaus (1,094), Hellenic Postbank (950), Atebank (945), Alpha Bank (945), Eurobank (851), Bank of Cyprus (582) and OTE (535).

    [18] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 250 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday (278 on Monday), with the Greek bond yielding 5.75 pct and the German Bund 3.25 pct. Turnover was 355 billion euros, of which 275 million were buy orders and the remaining 80 million euros were sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates remained unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 0.99 pct, the three-month 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.43 pct.

    [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.439

    Pound sterling 0.900

    Danish kroner 7.501

    Swedish kroner 10.512

    Japanese yen 131.88

    Swiss franc 1.510

    Norwegian kroner 8.431

    Canadian dollar 1.523

    Australian dollar 1.638

    General News

    [20] President Papoulias' message to the Greeks abroad

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias in a message on Tuesday addressed to the Greeks of Diaspora on the occasion of the Christmas Holiday underlined his faith in the "creative forces" of Hellenism and the "ability of the Greeks living abroad to withstand adversities and hardships."

    "Greek society can meet the current challenges, knows how to assert its rights and supports upheavals when necessary. This fact allows optimism that 2010 will be a better year for the majority of the people," President Papoulias underlined.

    [21] Nativity message of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Tuesday addressed a Nativity message to Christians worldwide, stressing that "with the Incarnation of the Divine Word, the salvation of the human race has already potentially occurred. For those who believe in Jesus, live in accordance with this faith, fulfilling His commandments and practicing His teaching, are thereby elevated to become the friends and participants of God! They become 'partakers of divine nature' (2 Peter 1.14), gods by grace! This takes place exclusively within the Church, where we are reborn in Christ."

    "With these joyful and hopeful realities before us, from the sacred See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the Phanar, we extend to you our fervent festive congratulations and wholehearted Patriarchal wishes on this central feast of the Christian calendar. We greet all of our beloved faithful throughout the world, the beloved children of the holy Mother Church - clergy of all levels, monastics and laity, pastors and parishioners, and especially those suffering, experiencing sorrow, need or trial. May the pre-eternal Son of God - who was born in a cave and lay in a manger - who for our sake became Son of Man, render all of us worthy of his self-emptying love and of His sacred, venerable incarnate dispensation," the Ecumenical Patriarch concluded.

    [22] Christmas message of Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece

    Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece referred in his Christmas message on Tuesday to the widespread disillusion-ment in the world today and the pain this caused.

    He underlined that the planet is plagued by problems and suffering, pointing out that the message of Christmas is that no sorrow, hardship or tragedy can uproot the hope that emerges from the manger of the newly born Christ.

    The Archbishop concluded in his message that Christmas means that the people can still find joy.

    [23] Christmas message of Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania

    Almost all humanitarian initiatives and structures adopted anywhere in the world to relieve pain, desertion, loneliness and poverty and support the elderly and foreigners come from people enlightened, directly or indirectly by the light of Christ, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania underlined in his message for Christmas on Tuesday.

    "We have to continue this tradition with creative ideas, bold initiatives and various activities," the Archbishop stressed.

    [24] Christmas message from Patriarch Theodoros II

    "Our contemporary civilization considers human rights an entitlement. So often these 'rights' are rights only in name. Yet from the time of Christ's Birth, these became a foundation and tradition of the Church," Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa underlined in his Christmas message.

    The Patriarch stressed in his message that "with His birth, love enters the world in the flesh. It becomes the only authentic way of life without becoming the shirking of responsibilities, without changing into guilty silence and neutrality towards those suffering and treated unjustly. It doesn't offer tons of comforting words or false crumbs of civilization to the exhausted victims of our own doings. It is transformed into the only Way, Truth and Life for the thousands of suffering souls of Africa, Asia and of the marginalized in the great western cities that thirst for the transcendence of their daily condition and of eternal death."

    [25] SAE president's message

    CAIRO (ANA-MPA/N.Katsikas)

    World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Stephanos Tamvakis pledged on Tuesday that the SAE would "continue its efforts towards supporting every cause regarding Greece and Cyprus."

    In a message for the Christmas and New Year holidays, Tamvakis also termed as "particularly positive" the work achieved by the SAE in 2009, underlining the role of overseas Greeks for the future of Hellenism.

    [26] Manhunt for perpetrator of two shooting injuries

    Attica police launched a manhunt on Monday night for the location and arrest of a man believed to be the perpetrator of shooting injuries in two incidents earlier in the evening in the greater Athens area.

    In the first incident, a young Bulgarian man riding a bicycle in the Votanikos district was shot in the right wrist at 7:20 p.m., and was taken to hospital for first aid.

    The youth told police that he had seen a black jeep approaching and heard the gunshot, but had no idea why he was shot.

    Less than half an hour later, at 8:04 p.m., a 57-year-old Greek man was taken to hospital with a bullet in the abdomen. Police said the man had been walking on a street in the Moschato district, near Piraeus, when he was shot, but had not seen the perpetrator. Footage from surveillance cameras in the area at the time the man was shot showed a black jeep like the one described by the Bulgarian man.

    The motive of the two attacks was still unknown on Tuesday morning, as there is no link between the two victims.

    [27] Drug trafficking and gun posession arrests

    A 40-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman were arrested by Katerini Drug Squad on Tuesday in Aghios Panteleimonas, Pieria prefecture, northern Greece charged with drug trafficking and weapon posession.

    Police found 16.8 grams of cocaine hidden on the woman, while a search of the man's house revealed a small quantity of drugs, two pistols, a rifle and 46,400 euros in cash, which were confiscated.

    The suspects are due to appear before a Katerini prosecutor.

    [28] Huge unprocessed cannabis haul seized in northwest Greece

    A major haul of unprocessed cannabis was intercepted on Tuesday in the Prefecture of Thesprotia, northwestern Greece, before reaching Athens, which was its final destination.

    A police search in a small truck driven by an Albanian national uncovered a total of 681 kilos of the drug. The cannabis was seized and the driver of the vehicle was arrested and led before a prosecutor.

    An investigation is underway to trace the recipients of the drugs in Athens, while an effort is in process to identify the drug traffickers in Albania in collaboration with the neighboring country's authorities.

    [29] Six people indicted in the Souroti football match case

    Six individuals, aged between 20 and 28, are facing felony and misdemeanor charges filed by a First Instance Court Prosecutor in Thessaloniki for allegedly participating in violent incidents in the nearby town of Souroti, during a football match roughly two and a half months ago.

    The defendants, five of which had a police record for hooliganism, had forcibly entered a football stadium on Oct. 7, 2009 where a match of the Under 17 teams of ARIS FC and PAOK FC was taking place and without being provoked they attacked football fans, injuring at least 6 people.

    A police investigation conducted on the scene of the bloody incident revealed wooden bats, metal rods, nails, stones an other objects used by the assailants.

    [30] Arrest warrant issued for ship owner Agoudimos

    A Piraeus Public Prosecutor on Tuesday ordered the arrest of ship owner Gerassimos Agoudimos and the chief executive of his shipping line G.A. Ferries after 11 employees filed a report saying that they had not been paid their salaries and Christmas bonus.

    Piraeus police are now searching for Agoudimos and his associate in order to carry out the order for his arrest.

    [31] Book on French Embassy in Athens launched

    The wife of the French Ambassador in Athens, Helene Farnaud, has presented a new book entitled "The French Embassy in Greece" written by herself and edited by the ambassador, Christophe Farnaud.

    The book presented on Monday, focuses on the building of the French Embassy itself, the Merlin de Douai Mansion, a historic landmark in Athens that has helped cement the strong ties between France and Greece and a home for successive ambassadors and their families.

    [32] Brown bear killed in Egnatia road

    Á female brown bear was killed by a vehicle on Monday on the Egnatia highway at the Siatista-Crystallopigi intersection . The 80kg bear was the tenth brown bear to be killed on the Egnatia highway in 2009. The animal climbed over the wire fencing along the motorway and was 'trapped' on the road.

    The driver abandoned the injured animal without notifying the police.

    The enviromental organisations Arcturos and Kallisto for the protection of wild animals, in a joint statement, stressed that most fatal accidents involving bears have been reported at this specific section of Egnatia, where special crossings for bears have not been constructed.

    Moreover, the said, there are no warning signs for passing drivers to alert them of possible bear crossings in order to reduce speed.

    "It is only a matter of luck that we have not had human victims as well," the statement concluded.

    The Greek brown bear is listed among the endangered species.

    [33] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The European Commission's quarterly report on the eurozone and comments on the Greek economy, the parliamentary debate on the 2010 State Budget and the Tax Bureau's stepped up audits starting from Jan. 1 aiming to increase the state revenues, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The state does not know the precise number of services we are paying for".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras accuses prime minister George Papandreou of delay".

    AVGHI: "Greece is the European Union's guinea pig".

    AVRIANI: "Publisher Christos Lambrakis' death brings radical changes in publishing and political scene".

    CHORA: "Arguments and jabbering over the economy's corpse in parliament as Greece is threatened with bankruptcy".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Robbers shot policemen in cold blood while Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chryssohoidis was presenting the crime-fighting policy".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Ruling PASOK senior officials Costas Skandalidis and Vasso Papandreou accuse the government that the measures are delayed and do not focus on development".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Tax audit safari - One million enterprises and professionals targeted".

    ESTIA: "Court rules the extraordinary contribution unconstitutional".

    ETHNOS: "Explosive Court ruling on extraordinary contribution".

    IMERISSIA: "Tax Bureau offices on alert - Emergency audits in search of revenues".

    KATHIMERINI: "Commission deeply worried about Greece".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "EU: The Greek deficits will have repercussions on the euro".

    NIKI: "Economy Minister Louka Katseli remains adamant on the banks' demands".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Counterattack against the 'snitches' because they target the popular movement".

    TA NEA: "A great Greek passed away: Christos Lambrakis".

    TO VIMA: "Mourning for the death of a great Greek: Christos Lambrakis 1934-2009".

    VRADYNI: "PASOK deputies' plea to prime minister: George, where are you taking us?"

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