|Wednesday, 13 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-01-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 28 January 2010 Issue No: 3408
 PM informs President of backing for latter's re-electionPrime minister George Papandreou met with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday and briefed him on his ruling PASOK party's intention to nominate Papoulias for re-election to the country's highest office.
"It is a joy and honor for us to come to you today with a proposal that honors us all, for your re-election as President of the Republic," Papandreou told Papoulias upon his arrival at the Presidential Mansion.
Papandreou said it was widely believed among the Greek people that Papoulias did honor to the post, and that in difficult times for the country the President gave the institutional and state mark with which he reinforced their feeling of certainty, security and democracy.
Responding, Papoulias said that consolidation and enhancement of the democratic institutions is the highest duty, while Papandreou added that "we must restore the self-evident to our country's political life, that everyone must fulfill their duties".
Greece is facing problems, such as the current farmers' protests, the premier said, adding that "the problems are not solved with roadblocks, but from within a dialogue and with the disposition of everyone for major changes and reversals".
He noted that, in tandem, Greece is waging a difficult effort internationally to restore the country's credibility and "on this path, Mr. President, your assistance will be of great benefit".
Speaking to reporters after the meeting Papandreou said that "the President of the Republic has acted in the best possible way and honored in the most decisive manner the highest office, always with sound judgement and a sense of national duty, in a period in which our country's institutions have undergone tribulation and been put to doubt".
"This is why I believe that our proposal for his re-election is self-evident, and I am certain that this decision has the broad consensus of the political parties and the Greek people," Papandreou added.
 ND formally nominates President Papoulias for re-electionMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Wednesday formally nominated incumbent President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias for re-election.
ND leader Antonis Samaras submiitted a letter to parliament president Filippos Petsalnikos on Wednesday morning informing him that the ND parliamentary group proposes the renewal of of President Papoulias' term, the party's press spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos said in an announcement.
 Papandreou meets central bank governorBank of Greece governor George Provopoulos on Wednesday emerged in an upbeat mood after a meeting with Prime Minister George Papandreou, during which they discussed the economic policy the government intends to follow.
"I can say that I leave feeling much more optimistic," he told reporters, adding that Papandreou had made it clear that the government was determined and ready for action in the framework of the stability and development programme.
 Papandreou, Erdogan letters should be made public, Samaras saysMain opposition leader Antonis Samaras, head of Greece's New Democracy (ND) party, on Wednesday requested that the letters exchanged by Prime Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan be made public so that the country's political leadership might be informed of their contents. He said this would allow the parties to adopt a responsible position concerning relation between Greece and Turkey.
"There is intense concern over the concealment of the overall content of the letters exchanged by the prime ministers of Greece and Turkey, especially in light of their upcoming meeting in Davos and Erdogan's scheduled visit to Athens," Samaras said.
According to the main opposition leader, the secrecy surrounding the two letters strengthened the impression that Greece was "sliding" into bilateral talks with Turkey on all issues and behind closed doors, and doing so at a time when Turkey was clearly constantly adding to the "problems and demands" in the agenda of Greek-Turkish relations.
 Alternate FM Droutsas in LondonLONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)
Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, who is in London to participate in the International Conference on Afghanistan on Thursday, took part in a roundtable discussion at the London School of Economics (LSE) on Wednesday on the prospects and positions of Greek foreign policy.
Droutsas explained the positions of the Greek government on Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue, developments in the Balkans and the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
After the discussion at the LSE, Droutsas held a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and on Thursday, on the sidelines of the Conference on Afghanistan, he will have bilateral meetings with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates and with the Foreign Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Antonio Milososki.
On Thursday evening, Droutsas will be having a working dinner with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
 Alternate FM on Albanian Constitutional CourtAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas was asked by reporters of a radio station about the decision of the Albanian Constitutional Court to annul the Greek-Albanian agreement on the delineation of territorial waters that had been signed in Tirana in April 2009.
Droutsas termed the development negative, but pointed out that it is a "domestic procedure issue in Albania that we have no other choice but to respect."
The minister added that Athens will wait first of all for official briefing on the part of Tirana and the proposals of the Albanian government as well on how it intends to handle the issue further.
Referring to his recent visit to Tirana, Droutsas said that on the part of the Albanian government all the assurances were given on the importance and priority that Albania attributes to precisely this agreement.
On Wednesday evening, in the framework of the International Conference on Afghanistan in London, Droutsas will also have the opportunity, as he said, to discuss this issue with Albanian Foreign Minister Ilir Meta and listen to his initial reactions.
 Farm minister and livestock farmers fail to agreeAgricultural Development and Foods Minister Katerina Batzeli on Wednesday met representatives of northern Greek livestock breeders, while she also attended a conference by young farmers at a central Athens hotel.
In statements afterward, the government said that the attempt at dialogue did not yield results, with livestock breeders saying that they agreed with the ministry's programme for the market but not with the measures proposed to tackle their immediate financial problems.
Regarding young farmers, Batzeli announced the two last wave of farmers included in the programme would be unified and those eligible would receive funding of up to two million euros.
She once again appealed to farmers to behave responsibly and withdraw from roadblocks, making it clear that they will not receive direct funding from state coffers as they had in the past.
 Gov't urges protesting farmers to back plan for agricultureGovernment spokesman George Petalotis once again appealed to protesting farmers to withdraw from road blocks on Wednesday, urging them to back the national strategy for agriculture unveiled by the government on Tuesday.
"Farmers are not opposite us, we do not want them at the road blocks but with us in the fight to restructure the agricultural economy, the state and reorder our economy as a whole," Petalotis stressed.
The spokesman said the government's plan looked to the long-term, with proposals that would bring permanent solutions and address the farmers' real needs.
"We are not resorting to 'quick fixes' and opportunist hand-outs of doubtful legality, as in the past, but are all working together for real, permanent solutions to restructure the agricultural economy," Petalotis underlined.
The spokesman stopped short of openly accusing political parties in the opposition of encouraging farmers to continue blocking roads but stressed that "those trying to create problems at the present point in time bear the responsibility".
Farmers at road blocks remained deaf to the government's appeals, however, declaring their determination to continue protest action until their demands were fully satisfied. They stressed that the package of measures announced by Agriculture Minister Katerina Batzeli the previous day, after the end of a two-day conference to discuss farming issues, was nothing more than money that they were due to receive anyway.
 Promachonas remains closed, Kipi and Ormenio openOrmenio and Kipi border posts in Evros prefecture were open on Wednesday, although protesting farmers kept their tractors parked along both sides of the road at both border stations, without blocking traffic.
Protesting farmers at Promachonas border station announced on Wednesday their intention to block the railroad track to Bulgaria for 48 hours. The road passing throught Promachonas checkpoint remained closed for the 9th consecutive day.
On Wednesday morning farmers of Serres prefectures decided to block the Serres-Thessaloniki highway at the Strymonikos interchange from 11am till 3pm.
Moreover, the Egnatia motorway at the Kedryllia intersection remains closed for the 13th consecutive day. Traffic is being diverted to the old national highway which, however, will close from 1:00 till 6:00 pm.
 Health minister announces draft bill for hospital procurementsThe government intends to table a draft bill within the next two months dealing with hospital procurement that will seek to clean up the system and discourage cost inflation by suppliers, Health Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou revealed on Wednesday.
She said the ministry was examining measures such as electronic monitoring orders and introducing special hospital packaging for drugs.
Xenoyiannakopoulou said that the procurements system was currently chiefly responsible for skyrocketing hospital debts, which during the period of the previous New Democracy government had reached 6.2 billion euros, of which 1.2 billion had been paid and the rest were waiting settlement.
"Especially for consumables, prices are five or six times higher in relation to other countries," she pointed out.
The minister also revealed that the government had saved 80 million euros by cancelling orders made by ND for 12.4 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine that proved unnecessary, while the country had secure a stockpile of 3.5 million doses of the vaccine.
She noted that the vaccination programme will continue since only 363,000 people had been vaccinated so far and there were still severe cases of H1N1 arriving in hospital, with two people losing their lives to the virus each day.
The minister went on to report success in using some 150 hospital beds around the country that were not in use because of a lack of staff, noting that 83 of these were now being used in 27 hospitals around the country, while the remainder would be put into use by the end of February.
 DM outlines ministry policy prioritiesDefence Minister Evangelos Venizelos, addressing a con-ference on Wednesday of the Federation of Greek War Materials Manufacturers, outlined the main policy lines followed by the ministry on issues concerning armaments and investments.
Among others, he cited the restoration of the institutional framework and procedures in the sector of defence systems.
Focusing on the domestic defence industry, the minister stressed that "we are greatly interested not in functioning as go-betweens or as mediators, but as genuine joint producers, who digest know-how and produce know-how."
Lastly, Venizelos reiterated that "the country is facing very specific real security and defence problems in the Aegean, the eastern Mediterranean. Problems that are due to known historical geographical and primarily political reasons. Problems that we want to be overcome, that we hope will be overcome. We are working intensively in this direction, but unfortunately we cannot be very optimistic and mainly we cannot nurse illusions."
He adding that "we are ready for major political initiatives in the direction of a de-escalation of tension; we want stability to prevail in the wider region. Greece is a factor of stability, it resists every revisionist conception on these issues, but of course, we are obliged to have reliable, fit-to-fight modern armed forces that promote the conceptions of cooperation between services and a vertical administration structure; armed forces that can safeguard the country's integrity, dignity and diplomatic might."
 Alternate DM meets with EADS executiveAlternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis met on Wednesday with Bernhard Gerwert, CEO of the Military Air Systems Business Unit of EADS (the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.), according to a ministry press release.
According to reports, the meeting had been requested by the EADS executive.
 President Papoulias receives Athens mayorPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, head of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE), in order to discuss the Kallikratis Plan for reforming local government.
Kaklamanis presented three studies done by the Institute for Local Administration, one of them an equivalent to the Kallikratis plan for restructuring local government, one on the state of central Athens and one on the unused buildings in the city centre.
The mayor said that the majority of KEDKE's members were in favour of the Kallikratis plan and that KEDKE was still waiting for payment of the funds due to local government for 2009 that had yet to be paid.
He stressed that all sides were to blame for the state of affairs in central Athens, while the City of Athens had the least share of that responsibility because under the current legal framework it had mininal powers to intervene.
As an example, he cited the problem with unused buildings in the city centre, where municipal services needed to permission from a public prosecutor and have police present in order to enter and clean them or face prosecution as trespassers.
 Parliament to probe Siemens scandalParliament on Wednesday unanimously agreed to set up a Parliamentary inquiry into the Siemens kickbacks and bribery scandal, without putting the issue to a vote. The Parliamentary investigation committee will have 19 members, like the one set up to look into the Vatopedi monastery land swaps, and is expected to have concluded its work by March 17.
 Greece commemorates Int'l Holocaust Memorial DayAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, in a statement on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp and the 10th anniversary of the Stockholm Declaration on the Holocaust, reiterated on Wednesday that "today, 65 years ago, Allied forces entered the death camp of Auschwitz, putting an end to an unprecedented disgrace, whose signs remain visible even today and mar humanity.
"Millions of men and women did not survive to see that day. Others, however, succeeded, and many of them are still with us, reminding us as witnesses of the extremities which human existence can reach," the Greek minister he said, adding: "Greece, honoring the fallen, has established with a unanimous decision by Parliament, January 27 as a day of remembrance for the victims of Holocaust."
The Alternate Minister also stressed that WWII victor Greece "is proud to be one of the countries that were first to sign this monumental document, which indeed was signed on its behalf, as then foreign minister, by George Papandreou, the country's current prime minister."
 Book on 'Greeks in Auschwitz-Birkenau'NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The chief of the Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic and Historical Archives Service Fotini Tomai referred to the continuous efforts aimed at strengthening collective memory for the victims of the Holocaust and the briefing of the public both inside and outside Greece on the drama and the struggle of the Greeks of Jewish origin.
Speaking to reporters and correspondents of the expatariate, Greek and Cypriot mass media, during a press conference at Greece's Press and Communication Office in New york, Tomai presented a series of evidence, documents and testimonies that reveal and highlight the extent of human tragedy as recorded in the book "Greeks in Auschwitz-Birkenau", that will be presented on Thursday night during a special event at the Greek General Consulate in New York. It is a publication of the Foreign Ministry through which the shocking story emerges of the sixty thousand Greeks who experienced untold torture at the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Tomai is in New York to attend Wednesday's memory events taking place at the UN's headquarters for January 27, International Holocaust Day.
 Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly accepts Patriarchate's 'ecumenical' characterPARIS (ANA-MPA/ O. Tsipira)
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) accepted the "ecumenical" character of the Patriarchate in Istanbul with the approval, on Wednesday afternoon, of a resolution by the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee.
With the same resolution, the deputies term as "anachronistic" the concept of "reciprocity" proposed in article 45 of the Lausanne Treaty (1923) on the handling of minorities and request its abandonment.
Approving a report on "Freedom of religion and other human rights for non-Muslim minorities in Turkey and for the Muslim minority in Thrace (Eastern Greece)", the PACE acknowledged the question was "emotionally very highly charged".
On the question of the Halki School, the deputies request its reopening and its recognition as a department of the school of theology of Galata Saray.
An amendment which called for the renaming of the "Greek Orthodox School of Theology of Halki" to a "High theological Institute belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate" was rejected.
The deputies also call for the full clarification of the issue of property that belonged to religious foundations and that had been confiscated in 1974.
The governments of the two countries were also asked to report back to the Assembly on progress made within a year on the resolution's main demands, meaning in February 2011.
 Alternate FM Droutsas congratulates Serbian Patriarch IrineosAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas addressed a message of congratulations to Serbian Patriarch Irineos on the occasion of his election, wishing him health, a long life and success in his important work.
 Gov't dismisses asset sale claimsGreece on Wednesday categorically dismissed press reports that the government has reached any direct or indirect agreement to sell state debt, bonds or other Greek assets to investment groups in China or elsewhere.
A finance ministry announcement also dismissed reports that the ministry has authorised an investment bank to negotiate such agreements on behalf of the Greek government.
The announcement also stressed that the smooth servicing of the country's public debt was a top priority of the government and that the framework of a government borrowing programme included a geographical diversification of funding sources.
Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou recently visited London to meet with international institutional investors, while similar meetings are scheduled in Athens and during his visit to the United States and Asia.
The announcement stressed that a successful sale of a five-year syndicated bond loan in Jan. 25, was proof of demand for Greek bonds in international markets and stressed that a successful implementation of a stability and growth programme by the government would lead to better borrowing terms.
 EU launches inquiry over farm payments in GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
The European Commission on Wednesday announced a decision to launch an official inquiry procedure over compensation payments - worth 425 million euros - to Greek farmers by the Organisation of Greek Agricultural Insurance (ELGA) in the period 2008-2009.
The Commission expressed doubts over the compatibility of the financial support payments to Greek farmers, saying it doubted the extent of natural disasters in Greece during the period.
Meanwhile, Bulgarian and Romanian experts arrived on Wednesday in Brussels to brief Community services over damages suffered to their commodities because of road blocks raised by Greek farmers on the country's northern frontiers.
 Meeting with representatives of EU Commission's General Employment DepartmentDeputy Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Stavros Arnaoutakis on Wednesday discussed the course of the operational programmes of the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA 2007-2013), that are jointly funded by the European Social Fund, with representatives of the European Commission's General Employment Department.
The meeting was attended by Investments and Development secretary general G. Petrakos and the speeding up of the implementation of ESPA programmes that are funded by the European Social Fund was agreed.
 MIG chief meets with environment ministry leadershipEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change minister Tina Birbili, deputy minister Thanos Moraitis and energy secretary general Costas Mathioudakis met on Wednesday with businessman Andreas Vgenopoulos.
According to an announcement issued later, the meeting took place at Marfin Investment Group (MIG) vice-president Vgenopoulos' request, and matters of common interest were discussed.
 Alcoholic beverages market shrinking, reportΤhe alcoholic beverages market is steadily shrinking in greater Athens, a report by Icap Group stated on Wednesday.
The report said the market grew strongly in the mid-80s when local consumers, following European models, began replacing domestic products with other imported alcoholic drinks. Under intense conditions of international competition several Greek distillers and import companies came under the control of larger international groups.
Demand for alcoholic beverages is highly affected by consumer habits, which veered towards a healthy food and living standard in the last few years, a trend that apparently does not support demand for alcoholic beverages.
Prices, combined with available income by consumers also plays a decisive role in demand, while a special consumption duty on alcoholic beverages affects the selling price of a product and strengthens demand for other drinks with a lower alcohol content.
Domestic production of alcoholic spirits mainly involves ouzo, liquors and brandy, with exports dominated by ouzo products. The Greek market is steadily falling in recent years.
Whiskey accounted for around 40 pct of the market in 2008, followed by ouzo with a 25 pct market share, vodka, liquors and brandy, while gin and rum recorded smaller market shares.
Pre-tax profits fell 11 pct in 20007, while sales rose 7.0 pct in the same year, the report said for distillers, while importing companies reported a 5.0 pct rise in sales and a very big rise in pre-tax profits in the same year.
 Andromeda reports improved 2009 resultsAlpha Trust Andromeda on Wednesday said its after tax profits totaled 3.257 million euros in 2009, after losses of 41.846 million euros in 2008 and said the board will timely inform investors over its plan for earnings distribution after the company completed two capital return plans, worth 0.12 and 0.06 euros per share, to its shareholders.
Andromeda said assets totaled 56.51 million euros in 2009, up 5.16 pct from the previous year, while its portfolio (in current prices) was invested in shares (71.35 pct), of which 54.63 pct in Greece and 16.72 pct abroad, with the remaining 17.31 pct in bonds, 1.45 pct in cash and 9.89 pct in foreign funds.
Gross profits totaled 5.48 million euros, while the company's internal share value was 2.05 euros, at a discount of 28.29 pct.
 Plaisio Computers says net profits up 11.1 pct in 2009Plaisio Computers on Wednesday reported an 11.1 pct increase in net profits last year to 4.731 million euros, despite a 5.4 pct drop in turnover to 389.67 million euros. The company said its board will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to pay a 0.12 euros per share dividend to shareholders, despite adverse economic conditions.
Sales grew 6.4 pct in the fourth quarter, confirming a gradual recovery, after recording declines of 14.5 pct, 12.3 pct and 2.6 pct in the first three quarters of 2009.
 Stocks drop 3.89% on Wed.Stocks suffered heavy losses in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, hit by turmoil in the Greek state bond market. The composite index fell 3.89 pct to end below the 2,000 level at 1,972.93 points, with turnover at 210.2 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index dropped 4.68 pct, the FTSE 40 index fell 2.03 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 1.83 pct down. All sectors ended lower, with the Banks (5.89 pct) and Raw Materials (5.69 pct) sectors suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Vision-Sound (13.33 pct), Desmos (12.50 pct), Plias (10.0 pct), Zampa (9.93 pct) and Vivere (9.43 pct) were top gainers, while Nexans (9.74 pct), Praxitelio (9.43 pct), Envitec (9.38 pct) and Texapret (8.33 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 139 to 47 with another 43 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.94%
Personal & Household: -1.81%
Raw Materials: -5.69%
Travel & Leisure: -2.88%
Food & Beverages: -2.49%
Financial Services: -4.48%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and Public Power Corp (PPC).
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 6.30
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.10
HBC Coca Cola: 15.70
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.60
National Bank of Greece: 15.40
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.02
Bank of Piraeus: 6.10
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened sharply to 357 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 345 bps on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.77 pct and the German Bund 3.20 pct.
Turnover in the market totaled 1.058 billion euros, of which 255 million were buy orders and the remaining 803 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 405 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.96 pct, the three-month rate 0.66 pct and the one-month rate 0.42 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.87 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 80.784 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 13,697 contracts worth 69.158 million euros, with 26,121 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,068 contracts worth 11.626 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,628), followed by Eurobank (851), MIG (420), OTE (659), PPC (817), Piraeus Bank (781), GEK (799), Alpha Bank (1,352), Marfin Popular Bank (331), Cyprus Bank (470) and ATEbank (344).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.418
Pound sterling 0.874
Danish kroner 7.504
Swedish kroner 10.326
Japanese yen 126.96
Swiss franc 1.483
Norwegian kroner 8.285
Canadian dollar 1.509
Australian dollar 1.578
 Smokovo Baths, a centuries-long history with a monastic traditionThe Smokovo Baths, or Spa, in Karditsa, Thessaly prefecture, central Greece, have a centuries-long history and monastic tradition and today are one of the most well-known therapeutic spa tourism in Greece, while the thermal waters' therapeutic properties have been known since antiquity.
The Smokovo Spa, with its five hot mineral springs, is situated in the region of ancient Menelais (today's Menelaida municipality), in the traditional village of Smokovo (renamed Loutropigi, meaning spring source), which lies at an altitude of 450 meters on the slopes of St. Elias hill on the Agrafa mountains (the southernmost part of the Pindus range), in an environment rich with vegetation, as it is surrounded by forests thickly wooded with fir, oak and chestnut trees, as well as abundant waters.
It was in 1662 that the monks Moschos and Fraggos Stravoenoglou -- Smokovite archons, according to tradition -- developed the springs, building makeshift installations and baths. Later, Ali Pasha of Ioannina would regularly visit the Baths, together with Mahmut Pasha for therapeutic purposes, and gave their names to two of the springs.
According to the archives of Menelaida municipality, in 1882 the springs passed into the proprietorship of the Greek state, which leased them to private concerns for their exploitation. In 1903, the springs were leased to a Karditsa politician named Tertipis on a 20-year concession. It was at that time that the Karditsa-Smokovo road and the area's first hotels were built.
In 1923, the Karditsa General Enterprises Society took over the exploitation of the springs for 25 years, which built a modern, for the era, balneotherapy (facility.
In 1943, during the Nazi occupation of Greece, a team of SS officers blew up the installations because the ELAS (Greek People's Liberation Army) Officers' School was hosted there. The facility was leased by the National Tourism Organisation of Greece (GNTO) to a private individual, with the obligation of rebuilding the spa, while under a 1983 contract exploitation of the springs was turned over to the Loutropigi community.
The spa's thermal waters come from five springs, with a natural temperature of 37-40.2 C, and are channelled to the hydrotherapy facility. The waters are sulphurous alkaline, and are considered ideal for arthritic and rheumatic disorders, chronic rheumatism, sciatica, neuralgia, muscle aches, ailments of the respiratory tract, gynaecological disorders and skin diseases. The method of treatment is bathing and inhalation.
The Smokovo Baths today are state-of-the-art, and since June 2009 the new renovated SPA complex opened which, in addition to the therapeutic treatments also offers visitors wellness and relaxation treatments, as it sports a swimming pool, a fully-equipped gym, two conventional and two diathermal saunas, two hamams (steam baths), and two relaxation massage rooms, while the hydrotherapy spa has individual inhalation rooms with 22 machines as well as an inhalation room for groups, a nasal showers chamber, and 53 private baths that become jacuzzis (hydromassage) at the touch of a button.
Specialised staff is also on hand during the treatments, while the spa center is currently open from June 1 to October 15, although extension of the spa season is being mulled. Throughout the rest of the year, the spa hosts organised groups of visitors.
The therapeutic properties of warm minister springs have been known in Greece since antiquity, not only by experience but also scientifically. The ancient Greeks were well aware of the therapeutic quality of hydrotherapy (techniques of therapeutic bathing and use of water) and balneotherapy (therapeutic bathing in medicinal and thermal springs), which were used not only for treatment purposes but also to enhance physical condition.
Indicatively, as early as the 5th century BCE, the historian and physician Herodotus (484-425 BC) observed that different natural mineral springs, in various parts of Greece, had different therapeutic properties. He developed a rudimentary system for differentiating the therapeutic indications of various types of mineral waters. He also recommended that courses of spa therapy be undertaken, for 21 days on end, at certain times of the year, and differentiated that warm baths should be made in the spring and cold baths in the summer.
Hippocrates (460-377 BC), ΤέλοςφόρμαςΑρχήφόρμαςthe Father of Medicine, was also the father of hydrotherapy and balneotherapy. He was very much interested in the therapeutic properties of various waters, which he saw were either rain fed, as in lakes or marshes, or from subterranean aquifers, as in mineral springs that come bubbling out of the rocks. He theorized that their differing curative properties came from their differing contents of various minerals, like iron, copper, silver, gold or sulphur.
Today, therapeutic tourism is an alternative form of tourism combining holidays with preservation of physical and mental well-being.
 Jerusalem Patriarch Theofilos III arrives in AthensJerusalem Patriarch Theofilos III arrived at Athens airport on Wednesday afternoon and will be staying in Athens until Friday.
The Patriarch was met at the aiport by Education Ministry secretary general Vassilis Koulaidis, two representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the secretary general of the Holy Synod, archimandrite Kyrillos Mysiakoulis.
On Thursday morning he will be meeting Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis, who will be hosting a luncheon for him, while in the afternoon he will be visiting Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos.
 Greece's 'Red Book of Endangered Species' revised, updatedGreece's new 'Red Book of Endangered Species' - updated for the first time in 17 years - was presented by environmental organisations and academics that worked on the revised version on Wednesday. The book is a data bank of the species most at risk of extinction in the country, along the lines of the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
The groups involved stressed that the Red Book was an invaluable tool for preserving and managing the country's biodiversity, as well as a mirror for the state of Greece's fauna, which comprised some 50,000 species.
"Research is not a luxury, it is a necessity," stressed the head of the Hellenic Zoological Society Sinos Giokas, whose society was in charge of carrying out the project.
The work of revising and updating the Red Book was carried out in collaboration with the Greek Ornithological Society, WWF Hellas, the Hellenic Herpetological Society and the Institute of Speliology Research of Greece.
 Shootout between police, robbers after bank hold-up in CorinthA shootout took place between police and bank robbers after a hold-up in Corinth on Wednesday shortly before noon.
Three gunmen, armed with Kalashnikov rifles stormed a Eurobank branch in Corinth and grabbed an as yet unknown amount of money from the tellers at gunpoint. But the robbers ran into police as they fled the bank, and opened fire on the police officers with their Kalashnikovs before speeding off in a black jeep.
Police chased after the jeep in patrol cars, and one of the patrol cars caught fire as the robbers continued to fire at the police during the chase. The crew of the patrol far managed to get out of the burning car uninjured, while the robbers sped off and evaded arrest.
A manhunt has been launched by police to locate the gunmen, while reinforcements were currently on the way from Athens to join in the investigation.
 Police solve murder of woman in GyziPolice on Wednesday solved the murder of a 33-year-old Romanian woman who was found a day earlier shot to death in the first-storey hallway of an apartment building in the Athens district of Gyzi.
Police said that the perpetrator was the woman's 53-year-old Greek companion, who later commited suicide.
The couple had been together for approximately three years, and had a little daughter together, but separated six months ago.
Police said that the man had been pressuring the woman to return to him and had threatened her on several occasions.
On Tuesday morning, the man shot the woman in her apartment with a .22 pistol, then went to his own home in Malesina, Fthiotis prefecture, and shot himself with the same weapon, putting an end to his life.
The man's body was found later by security police, who had been searching for him after the woman's body was discovered.
 Spate of arson attacks in AthensA spate of arson attacks took place throughout the night in the southeastern Athens suburbs of Argyroupolis, Terpsithea and Glyfada.
Two incendiary devices exploded outside a major supermarket chain on a central street in Argyroupolis. The ensuing fire was extinguished by a strong team of 30 firefighters with 10 fire engines. The two devices, comprising propane canisters, were placed outside the supermarket's entrance and the entrance to its storage facility, while a third device in the parking lot failed to explode.
In a second incident, unidentified persons doused a parked jeep with US license plates with a flammable liquid in Terpsithea at 3:30 a.m.
In the third incident, 15 minutes earlier, unidentified persons set fire to three motorcycles parked in the outdoor parking space of an a apartment building in Glyfada, at a short distance from the Terpsithea incident.
Athens security police were investigating the incidents.
 Pupil dies after falling off third floor of school buildingA 17-year-old high school senior on Wednesday fell to his death off the third floor of his school building in the Athens suburb of Neo Heraklio.
The young boy was rushed to nearby Aghia Olga hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.
The local police station, which is conducting a preliminary investigation, is examining suicide, for as yet unknown reasons, as the most likely possibility.
 OA to offer Cyprus school kids chance to visit Acropolis MuseumMore than 3,500 school pupils from Cyprus will have an opportunity to visit the Acropolis Museum through an offer made by Olympic Air as part of the airline's corporate social responsibility programme.
The programme is called "A Day in the Museum" and will be carried out in collaboration with the education ministry and culture ministry of Cyprus. It provides that one middle school class from each school, a total of 3,500 children, will be given the opportunity for a day-trip to Athens in order to visit the museum.
The first group, from the Rizokarpasos school in the occupied territories of Cyprus, will arrive in Athens on Friday.
 Cloudy, rainy on ThursdayCloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -3C and 14C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 4C to 11C. Cloudy with rain or sleet in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 0C to 5C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe farmers' roadblocks and the repercussions on the market, the draft law on labour relations, the migrants' issue and a new four-year subsidised programme aiming to tackle unemployment, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "240,000 hirings in public sector (in the period 2010-2013) although the state coffers are empty".
APOGEVMATINI: "16,100 job opportunities".
AVGHI: "OAED (state Manpower Employment Organisation) will finance with one billion euros salaries and employers' social security contributions in enterprises hard-hit by the crisis".
AVRIANI: "Guild-like respond with strikes over the 10 percent cutbacks of in benefits".
CHORA: "On Marco Polo's path in search of 10 billion euros - Papaconstantinou (finance minister) hastens to China for loan".
ELEFTHEROS: "Draft law containing all the changes in labour relations".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou 'blocks' Agriculture Minister Katerina Batzeli - He found cash for Fthiotida the prefecture's farmers, but for the farmers throughout the rest of the country he said that the coffers are empty".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Ten 'roadblocks' to employment sector chaos - Package to support the 8-hour working day and social security".
ESTIA: "Prime Minister George Papandreou must give farmers an ultimatum".
ETHNOS: "Acceleration of initiatives ahead of EU Summit".
IMERISSIA: "25 billion euros deal between Athens and Beijing".
KATHIMERINI: "Disagreement inside government over the farmers - Charges for political inciting and search of an alternative way".
LOGOS: "Obstinacy and roadblocks continue - Farmers insist on their demands".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Plans for new borrowing increase the spreads".
NIKI: "We are sinking, but we will are not change - The political system is being disdained, and everyone is acting nonchalant'.
RIZOSPASTIS: "Free money to capital, charity for the labourers".
TA NEA: "Storm of price hikes in 700 staple goods".
TO VIMA: "Flexible work even in the DEKO (Public Utilities and state organisations)".
VRADYNI: "Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras warns of unpredictable developments due to continuation of roadblocks".
 Leaders decide to extend second round of intensive talksNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat decided on Wednesday to extend the second round of the UN-led intensive talks by one day, as part of their effort to find a negotiated settlement to the Cyprus problem.
Speaking after Wednesday's meeting, the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer said the leaders "have been focusing their discussions on governance and power-sharing. Given the way the discussions have evolved during the course of the day, the two leaders have decided that they will meet again on Friday for further discussions", he said, adding that the meeting will take place again at the Chief of Mission's house.
Asked if this is not the end of the second round of the intensive talks, Downer replied: "That's right. What's going to happen is that the officials will have some discussions and then the leaders themselves will meet again on Friday. So that will be, of course, the culmination of this intensive period."
Asked if there have been any convergences, during Wednesday's meeting on the issue of governance and power sharing, Downer noted that he is not announcing anything, because the leaders are meeting again on Friday after further discussions amongst the officials.
"Statements will be made at the end of the process, at an appropriate time, in an appropriate way, which will explain what is being happening", he pointed out.
Asked about the progress made during the six days of intensive talks, he said: "Well, the proof of that pudding will be, as they say, in the eating. By that I mean there will be statements made at the end of this process, which has been extended until Friday. There will be statements made at the end of this process at an appropriate time, in an appropriate way, which will explain what has been happening", he added.
Replying to a question about a possible visit to Cyprus by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Downer said that such visits are announced by the Secretary General or his spokesman in New York.
"The Secretary-General, I think you'll find, is having a press conference, at about 2:45 today (Wednesday) to talk about a number of things. This is an example of the Secretary-General announcing himself, or his Spokesman, announcing himself the plans of the Secretary-General. Any plans the Secretary-General may or may not have, won't be announced here in Nicosia. They are, as always, typically announced in New York. We'll just have to wait and see", he said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunify the island.
A first round of three-day intensive negotiations was held in early January and the second three-day round began on Monday.
 UNSG may visit Cyprus to assist peace talksUNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will wait until Friday to decide whether he will visit Cyprus or not, following a briefing by his Special Adviser Alexander Downer.
Asked if he intends to go to Cyprus, he replied: "As I have repeatedly said I'm waiting to visit Cyprus to give my help, to assist the negotiation at any time appropriate. I' m still waiting to be briefed by my Special Envoy, Alexander Downer."
"I know that the negotiations have been continuing until today (Wednesday) and we need some more time to assess and evaluate the situation. I understand that there has been some movement and as soon as I receive some update from my Special Envoy I will be able to decide when to visit Cyprus," he added.
Asked if the decision will be made on Friday, he said "I have to be advised and briefed by Mr. Downer. I had a talk this morning with him but still it is not clear," he noted.
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are engaged in talks to find a negotiated settlement to reunite Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
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