|Saturday, 21 July 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-01-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 29 January 2010 Issue No: 3409
 Papandreou blames speculators for rising bond spreadsDAVOS (ANA-MPA - V. Mourtis)
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou once again blamed speculators for the rising interest-rate spread on Greek government bonds while speaking in Davos on Thursday, saying that they were targeting Greece in order to strike at the Eurozone.
He also pointed out, however, that Greece had recently managed to get raise more money in loans than it had asked for and that this amounted to a vote of confidence in the country, in spite of the speculators' rumours.
Papandreou was speaking as part of a panel that also included Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet.
The Greek premier strenuously denied a report in the Financial Times, according to which Greece had asked China for a loan, stressing that there had been no such contact. Again emphasising the existence of speculators and that these could cause problems to even large and robust economies, he pointed out that rumours such as these had instantly changed the climate and caused spreads to increase.
Papandreou was supported in this by Zapatero, who also stressed that there were many targeting the euro, chiefly those that did not like its existence. According to the Spanish premier, the EU had to counter these attacks with increased coordination and cooperation on a European level.
Replying to questions about the ongoing protests by Greek farmers, Papandreou said the government had indicated its determination by refusing to give in to demands for more money and making it clear that not one euro was to be wasted.
"We are making deep changes, some of which may possibly be painful for many people, but we are sure that Greeks are determined to support our programme," the Greek premier added.
On the troubles of the Greek economy, Papandreou said that Greece was largely responsible for the problems because of the previous government's poor financial management combined with corruption, waste and a lack of necessary reforms that heightened during the economic crisis.
He stressed that Greece's largest problem at present was a credibility deficit, which was a bigger problem than its economic woes. He also outlined an ambitious goal to reduce the deficit by four points this year and bring it below 3 percent by 2012, through measures taken as part of Greece's Stability and Development Programme.
Regarding the eurozone, he stressed that this served as a buffer and that the government considered it a valuable tool for carrying out its programme.
Trichet, on his part, stressed to the two prime ministers that it was their responsibility to deal with the problems affecting their countries, while calling for better supervision of Eurozone member-state economies.
Before the panel discussion, Papandreou had a meeting with Zapatero.
 PM Papandreou holds meeting with Commissioner AlmuniaDAVOS (ANA-MPA/V. Mourtis)
Prime Minister George Papandreou held a half-hour meeting with EU Economy Commissioner Joaquin Almunia in Davos on Thursday evening.
The discussion focused on Greece's stability and growth programme in light of the report that the European Commission will be submitting on Wednesday on the Greekprogramme. Almunia's interest focused on how the programme is being implemented and whether there are obstacles or delays.
It is reminded that Almunia had expressed himself in the near past on the stability programme saying that it was on the right path.
 Barroso on eurozone, GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso stressed the need here on Thursday for the greater coordination of economic policies in the European Union, saying that the case of Greece proves that "we must approach the issue of the economic policies of member-states in a unified manner and in particular of the eurozone member-states."
"It is evident that the economic policies are not only a national issue, but European as well," he said.
Referring to Greece specifically, Barroso expressed the conviction that the best way for Greece to be helped is for the country itself to respect the commitments it has assumed in the framework of the Stability Pact, adding that "we must support the Greek government in this effort," and that "the new government took clear commitments in this direction and we are preparing our decision on the Greek programme which will be publicised on February 3."
 Alternate FM Droutsas meets UN SGLONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)
Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, in the framework of the International Conference on Afghanistan, held a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Thursday afternoon.
The two men referred in particular to the issue of Cyprus and specifically the course of talks between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and in light of Ban Ki Moon's visit to Cyprus on Sunday.
Droutsas and the UN secretary general agreed to hold another bilateral meeting in New York next week.
At 6:30 (Greek time) Droutsas was to be having a meeting with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki and in the evening he would be having a working dinner with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
 Greek, fYRoM FMs meet in LondonLONDON (ANA-MPA / L. Tsirigotakis)
A meeting between Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and the foreign minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), Antonio Milososki, concluded here on Thursday evening.
According to reports, a brief review of bilateral issues and of the nagging "name dispute" took place during the meeting.
The Greek side reportedly again pointed to the UN framework as the process for resolving the difference, while noting that Athens is expected "substantive and constructive participation" by Skopje on the issue.
Milososki, whose office requested the meeting, presented a proposal on the upgrading of diplomatic missions of the two countries, which are currently at the liaison level, while the prospects for the signing of an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation were also discussed.
The Greek alternate minister again reiterated that Athens wants and is working towards the improvement of bilateral relations, something that has also been confirmed by the contacts that have been held at the highest political level, and following a Greek initiative.
Within this framework, the possibility of a visit by Droutsas to the neighbouring country and a Milososki visit to Greece were also discussed. Droutsas added that the Greek side is already examining, with a positive spirit, the promotion of a double tax avoidance agreement, "on the basis of real needs".
However, he cautioned that the Skopje government's proposal for the upgrading of diplomatic missions "is not compatible with the negative rhetoric against Greece that is being encouraged in Skopje, a stance that aggravates relations of the two countries and does not assist the prospect of solving the issue of the name."
Finally, Droutsas expressed Greece's readiness to examine such a step positively when conditions permit, again reminding of Greece's steadfast commitment for an improvement of bilateral relations and a will to achieve a "mutually acceptable solution on a name with a geographical qualifier towards all (erga omnes), within the framework of the negotiations taking place under the auspices of the UN."
 Petalotis on Greek-Albanian agreement for territorial watersGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday said that the government was closely following developments in neighbouring Albania concerning a Greek-Albanian agreement on the delineation of territorial waters.
The agreement, which had been signed in Tirana in April 2009, was annulled by Albania's Constitutional Court earlier this week.
"We are following this development and, in fact, we have had no official briefing from the Albanian side," Petalotis said.
In comments on Wednesday, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said that this was a domestic procedural issue in Albania and that Athens will wait for the official briefing from Tirana and the Albanian government's proposals on how it intends to handle the issue.
 Bakoyannis criticises gov't following Albanian high court's annulment of deal on territorial watersFormer foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday sharply criticised the ruling PASOK government of what she called inertia vis-à-vis a Greek-Albanian agreement on the delineation of territorial waters in the Ionian Sea and its recent annulment by Albania's constitutional court.
"This annulment was made following a reaction by (Albanian) nationalistic organisations and recourse by Albanian Socialist party president Mr. (Edi) Rama. None of the procedures followed (for the signing of the agreement) is questionable and everything was made according to international rules foreseen by the United Nations," Bakoyannis said in a statement.
The agreement, signed in Tirana in April 2009 when Bakoyannis held the foreign ministry portfolio, was annulled by the Albanian high court earlier this week.
"I do not know if (ruling) PASOK tried to inform its fellow (Albanian) socialist party on the benefits of the agreement when it received information that the latter intended to undermine this agreement," she added.
"What I know, however, is that while Mr. Rama was announcing his intention in mid-October, the Greek government showed no haste at all in tabling the agreement for endorsement by Parliament, which opened a few days later, in order to create a positive momentum for its safeguarding as well as for the safeguarding of the high level of Greek-Albanian relations, which we had achieved," Bakoyannis concluded.
PASOK won the general election in Greece on Oct. 4, 2009.
 Batzeli on European Commission, farmersAgricultural Development and Foods Minister Katerina Batzeli said on Thursday, on the occasion of the European Commission resorting against Greece for the package of 500 million euros that Hatzigakis had given to the Greek farmers last year, that "we shall defend the interests of our country with every legal means so that we shall not have monetary burdening and fines."
The amount of 150 million euros that Kontos had given to the partnerships the year before last has beeen included in the resort against Greece.
Batzeli reiterated that national and extraordinary subsidies do not solve any of the farmers' problems and for this reason the government insists on the institutional interventions that will boost the farmer's income and restructure the farming sector.
 Petalotis rules out additional funds for farmersGovernment spokesman George Petalis once again appealed to farmers to quit road blocks and open the borders on Thursday, urging them to abandon this form of protest and begin dialogue with the government. He stressed, however, that the government would not give in to their demands for extra cash direct from national coffers.
"We will not promise subsidies of doubtful legality that embarrass Greece at the European Union and internationally and that, finally, the Greek people are called on to pay," he stressed, adding that the government had outlined a long-term plan for the problems of the agriculture sector.
He also noted that judicial authorities were already taking action against the farmers' protests, where these were illegal, and stressed that paralysing transport and the economic life of the country was not a justifiable way to press demands, even when the demands themselves were just.
According to the Panhellenic Coordinating Organ of farmers, which is one the groups behind the road block at Alamana, it is waiting for a meeting with Agriculture Development Minister Katerina Batzeli on Friday afternoon in order to decide whether to stop the protests.
 Farmers close again Promachonas checkpointProtesting farmers on Thursday blocked again the Promachonas border post which will remain closed throughout the day. The Promachonas railroad station, however, is open.
 Justice ministry unveils bill changing selection process for higher court officialsJustice minister Haris Kastanidis on Thursday unveiled a bill on the "selection of judicial functionaries in the highest-ranking offices of Justice and restoration of the principle of self-administration of the courts".
Kastanidis said that the aim of the bill is to ensure the disengagement of the judicial authority from the influence of the executive authority through changing the selection process for the justice leadership.
The bill aims to introduce parliamentary input in the approval of the individuals that are appointed to the top offices in the country's highest courts.
Kastanidis explained that the Cabinet will initially nominate six candidates, who fulfill all the required credentials, for the country's three highest courts -- the Council of State, the Areios Paghos (Supreme Court) and the Court of Auditors-- as well as the Supreme Court prosecutor, the Court of Auditors' commissioner general and the commissioner general of the administrative courts -- which will then be conveyed to the Conference of Parliamentary (party) Presidents, who will recommend three of the six candidates after calling all six to audiences.
 Deputy FM meets with visiting Jerusalem PatriarchDeputy foreign minister Spyros Kouvelis met on Thursday with visiting Patriarch Theofilos of Jerusalem.
Kouvelis told reporters afterwards that they had an "excellent" discussion during which the Patriarch made a detailed briefing on the mission being carried out by the Patriarchate "in a very important and sensitive region", adding that he himself places "very great importance on a closer cooperation so as to have precious information both on the efforts being made and the difficulties faced by the Patriarchate".
"Our aim is to support the continuation of the mission of a strong Patriarchate which, however, is being struck out at by many sides, and to contribute to the effort for preserving Orthodoxy and Hellenism in a very sensitive region," Kouvelis said.
The Patriarch, in turn, said he had a very good meeting with the deputy minister during which all the issues concerning the Patriarchate were discussed.
"We referred to the role the Patriarchate is called upon to play, not only the religious and social role but also the political role regarding the issue of Jerusalem, and the Holy Lands," the Patriarch said, explaining that "the Patriarchate has assumed a major social and missionary task, in which the Greek government has been, is and remains a supporter and helper".
 Papariga on Olympic contract workersCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, speaking on Thursday after meeting dismissed contract workers of Olympic, said that KKE cannot tolerate that, apart from Olympic's sale, the biggest victims, the contract workers, who have many years of work and have reached the point of having white hair today, to ultimately be left out of the arrangements.
Papariga also expressed support for the fishery workers of Nea Mihanionia, Thessaloniki, saying that the stance of the Employment Ministry's secretary general is unacceptable.
Commenting on announcements on labour relations, Papariga said that the government "is enacting the slave trade. It legalises it and indeed it is leaving these employees even more exposed with the three-month employment, flexible employment in the clutches of the employers, since it says that all this can be extended if the employees agree."
 SYRIZA to vote 'present' in re-election of President Karolos PapouliasThe Parliamentary Group of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) decided during its session on Thursday to vote "present" in the vote on the re-election of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
According to SYRIZA sources, Alexis Tsipras will visit President Papoulias on Friday and brief him on the party's positions on the farmers' mobilisations, as well as on the Parliamentary Group's decision. He will also announce that SYRIZA will not propose another candidate. Tsipras will be making statements on SYRIZA's positons on this issue after the meeting.
 Tsipras visits Forthnet officesRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alexis Tsipras visited the offices of Forthnet on Thursday and said that "the government, instead of abolishing the labour middle ages, instead of abolishing the uninsured forms of labour, insecurity, the leased employees, the block receipts, that conceal permanent and stable labour is coming supposedly to arrange it and in reality to enact it to more light versions."
Tssipras expressed doubts whether even these measures will be implemented and said that "we doubt very much that even these light versions will be implemented in a country where the elementary in labour legislation are not implemented."
 Group claims responsibility for fire bomb at Simitis' officeThe terror organisation "Revolutionary Liberation Action" has claimed responsibility for Thursday's fire bomb attack on the office of former Greek prime minister Costas Simitis in central Athens, with a phone call to the private television network SKAI.
The same group has in the past claimed responsibility for similar attacks on the offices of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party and on the office of New Democracy MP Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
A makeshift incendiary bomb made with four gas canisters had exploded the same afternoon outside the entrance to Simitis' political office on the fifth floor of a building on 35 Akadimias Street. The explosion caused serious damage to the door and the office interior but no injuries.
Police briefly cordoned off Akadimias Street and diverted traffic at that point until they completed their investigation at the scene.
They later announced that the device was made of four gas canisters, which had exploded and caught fire. In addition to fire damage to the door of Simitis's office, it also caused more minor damage to the next-door entrances of the Simitis Foundation and a lawyers' office.
There were two people in the office at the time of the explosion, who both went out onto the balcony to escape the flames, while the building was evacuated by the fire brigade as a precaution.
The Anti-terrorist squad and Attica Security are now investigating the attack.
 Maniatis holds talks on Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipelineSOFIA (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov)
Deputy Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis and Bulgarian Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister Traicho Traikov discussed important cooperation issues between Greece and Bulgaria on Thursday in the strategic sector of energy, in a meeting held in the framework of the two-day international forum on energy cooperation between Black Sea countries that took place here.
"I raised the issues of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline and the need for us to speed up procedures, to proceed speedily, the various problems to be solved and, mainly, the economic funding to the international company, that exists on the part of Bulgaria," Maniatis said in reply to a queston by the ANA-MPA.
It is reminded that in recent statements regarding the pending payment of dues for the international construction company of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline (that Bulgaria has to jointly fund with five million euros, as is anticipated by relevant agreements between Sofia, Athens and Moscow), Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said that the country will pay the relevant funds to the international company, when the circumstances will permit this, invoking the economic difficulties of the budget.
"Mr. Traikov informed us that the issue has been undertaken by the vice president of the government and Finance Minister and very soon the issue will be solved, very soon. On my part, I expressed Greece's desire for us to proceed very quickly and wherever problems exist to help them to be overcome," Maniatis added.
Speaking at a press conference after the talks and asked whether Bulgaria has found the money for the joint funding of the international construction company of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline, Traikov expressed his country's will to meet all the international commitments that it has undertaken, including the problem in question, which falls under the competence of the Economy Ministry.
Responding to a question by the ANA-MPA on the progress of the study on the environmental repercussions of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline, which was initiated recently by the relevant Bulgarian ministry, Traikov expressed the conviction that the study will take place with all the seriousness and responsiblity required by the project, without referring to the timetable for its completion.
Maniatis also announced after meeting Traikov that a joint working group between Greek and Bulgarian officials will tend to the immediate construction of the pipeline that will link Bulgaria's natural gas network with the Greece-Italy pipeline.
Maniatis stressed that through a coordinateed effort by the relevant ministers of Greece, Italy and Bulgaria, European funding amounting to 45 million euros was secured for the linking of the network of Bulgaria with the Greek-Italian pipeline, in the framework of the European Union's Reconstruction Plan.
He added that a relevant agreement had been signed by the interested agencies of the three countries last summer in Sofia and stressed the need for the high momentum of the project's progress to be maintained.
 Black Sea countries discuss energy cooperationSOFIA (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov)
Government officials and leading experts from 10 countries of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation exchanged views on the development of cooperation in the strategic sector of energy, in the framework of the two-day forum in Sofia.
"It was a very useful meeting. I think that we went a step further with the Declaration that all we ministers signed. I believe that this targeting which exists, meaning for us to begin creating energy systems which are compatible with each other, is an ambitious but realistic proposal," Deputy Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis told the ANA-MPA on the importance attached by Greece to energy cooperation in the Black Sea zone.
"In addition, I consider it very important that the desire was expressed that the major plans go ahead, these projects that link with pipelines and contribute to the energy and economic relations between the member-states," Maniatis added.
Maniatis referred in his address to the Burgas-Alexandroupoli, South Stream piplines, to the natural gas pipeline between Turkey, Greece, Italy and Bulgaria.
"I also stressed in particular the need for us to work together for the promotion of renewable energy sources that constitute a new form of energy, which is friendly towards the enironment, as well as for us to cooperate on energy saving issues," he further said.
He also pointed out that "many of our countries, including Greece, are extremely extravagant in the consumption of energy."
Maniatis went on to say that "as I am used to saying in Greece, the saving of energy constitutes a big, inexhaustible energy deposit of our country" and termed the conference "very productive."
He also focused in his address on the main axes of the Greek presidency of the Black Sea Cooperation in the second half of 2010, that will concentrate on promoting "green development" and on renewable energy sources.
 Investment spending to recover in 2010, IOBE reportInvestment spending in the industrial sector dropped 44.8 pct in 2009, compared with the previous year, a report by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.
IOBE, however, stressed that final figures on investment spending will be available in the next report to be published in March-April period, after completion of the earnings report season.
The Institute said a decline in investment activity last year, because of the economic crisis, spread throughout the manufacturing sectors, with Food/Beverage/Tobacco (48.3 pct), Non-Metal Minerals (32.7 pct) and Other Sectors (51.4 pct) recording the biggest annual declines. Investment spending were down 25.4 pct in the clothing-footwear sector, 18.2 pct in textiles and 7.9 pct in chemicals.
Investment forecasts in Greece fell in line with a trend in the remaining Europe, although at a faster pace. Investment spending in the EU and the Eurozone fell by 21.9 pct and 24.8 pct, respectively.
IOBE also published its first estimates for this year's investment spending. According the Institute, investment outlook in the industrial sector will improve in 2010, with spending projected to rise by 5.6 pct. Most sectors are projected to rebound, with the exception of the clothing-footwear (-85.2 pct) and the Other Sectors (-15.6 pct). Investments in the non-metal minerals sector are projected to rise by 43.5 pct, in chemicals to rise by 33.1 pct, in food/beverage/tobacco to rise by 27.7 pct and in the textile sector to rise by 11.9 pct.
IOBE, however, stressed that investment expectations in certain sector might be exaggerated. European enterprises expect investment spending to continue falling this year (-4.3 pct in the EU) and -4.7 pct in the Eurozone.
Investment spending expectations will cover replacement of existing capital equipment (21 pct), raising production capacity (20 pct) and improving production methods (20 pct).
 Uproar over write-off of 5.5 billion in fines owed by brokerageBoth MPs and ministers made angry comments in Parliament on Thursday regarding the revelation that fines owed by Acropolis Securities amounting to 5.5 billion euros were written off by the tax office in 2008. Acropolis Securities was the stock brokerage deeply implicated in the 2007 scandal over the sale of structured bonds to social insurance funds, at prices well above market rates at the time.
Health Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou said the decision to write off the debt was "scandalous" and stressed that it was equal to the total debts of Greek hospitals. Speaking on behalf of the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, MP Asterios Rondoulis stressed that the state could not "write off the debts of Acropolis Securities and then cite laws in order to avoid giving money to poor people in need".
The decision to write off the company's debts was revealed on Wednesday, during the presentation of the Supreme Court of Audit's report on 2008 before Parliament's Special Standing Committee on Financial Statement and General Balance Sheet of the State. According to this, of the 6.09 billion euros in debts written off from state revenues in that year, 5.5 billion euros concerned fines owed by Acropolis Securities.
It was signed by the head of the Athens Tax Office, who had apparently accepted the company's appeal against payment of the fines as valid.
Responding to demands for further clarifications regarding the nature of the fines written off, Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sahinidis said that the case was currently being investigated by a public prosecutor and promised to give full details when the government's financial statement for 2008 was discussed before the full Parliament.
In an announcement on Thursday, the minister said that a financial inspectors was currently investigating the fines imposed on Acropolis. He also stressed in Parliament that the debt was written off by the previous government of New Democracy, not by the current PASOK government.
The case has been undertaken by the first-instance court prosecutor for financial crimes Paraskevas Adamis, who has been instructed to examine whether state services followed the correct procedures after the fines were imposed.
Commenting on the affair, government spokesman George Petalotis said there was intense interest in the case on behalf of the government's economic team, which was eagerly awaiting the conclusions of the prosecutor's inquiry.
Asked to clarify whether the amount had been written off or its payment postponed, as a former New Democracy minister claimed on Thursday, Petalotis said that the Court of Audit report referred to the debt as "revenue written-off".
The inquiries ordered by judicial authorities and the finance ministry sought to determine exactly how and why this happened, whether the decision was legal and justified, and to discover whether those involved could be held to account for wrongdoing, the spokesman added. He stressed that the government would be unable to say anything until the inquiry was completed and its findings officially announced.
 Deputy culture and tourism minister confers with HATTADeputy Culture and Tourism minister Angela Gerekou met on Thursday with the board of directors of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (HATTA) for a discussion of issues concerning Grek tourism and the travel/tourism offices sector, which was also attended by tourism secretary general George Poussaios and National Tourism Organisation of Greece (NTOG) president Nikos Kanellopoulos.
The discussion focussed on ways of boosting the tourism industry's entrepreneurship and liquidity, while the HATTA officials briefed Gerekou on measures they consider necessary for eliminating the counter-incentives to the development of Greek tourism, the long-standing problems regarding incoming tourism, improvement of infrastructures, the development of tourism activities and theme-tourism, and extending the tourism season.
 Greece, Turkey discuss cooperation in tourismGreece and Turkey will examine all possibilities for a creative cooperation in supporting tourism amid a crucial international economic conjucture to the benefit of both countries, Greek Culture and Tourism Deputy Minister Angela Gerekou said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with the president of Turkey's Travel Agents' Federation (TURSAB), Basaran Ulusoy, the Greek minister stressed that both countries have to examine all possibilities for cooperation in the field and said the meeting was held in a good climate of cooperation.
Ulusoy extented an invitation by Turkey's Culture and Tourism minister to the Greek minister for an official visit to Turkey.
 AGROTICA exhibition opens on Feb.3Some 1,410 exhibitors from Greece and 34 other countries will participate in the 23rd International Agriculture machinery "Agrotica" Exhibition to be held in Thessaloniki, northern Greece from 3-7 February.
According to an announcement by organiser Helexpo on Thursday, the exhibition's main slogan will be "Farming has changed».
Agricultural Development and Food Minister Katerina Batzeli will inaugurate Agrotica on February 3 at noon at the Thessaloniki International Fair's (TIF) pavilion number 8.
The Exhibition will showcase all the modern trends and developments in agricultural production.
Moreover, in exhibition's framework, the 3rd Panhellenic Congress AGROTICA will be held under the auspices of the Agriculture Ministry which will be dedicated to the theme "Alternative Forms of Energy and Renewable Energy Sources".
 Athens Airport 2009 resultsThe Eleftherios Venizelis International Airport of Athens on Thursday announced that it managed to exit the international economic crisis unscathed, reporting only a slight decline in passenger traffic last year.
Official figures showed that passenger traffic fell 1.5 pct in 2009 to 16.2 million passengers, the second smallest percentage decline in Europe, where passenger traffic fell by 5.9 pct -- on average -- last year. However, the Athens Airport is the only European airport to report a 5.4-pct rise in the number of flights, to more than 210,000, when the European average records a -7.3 pct for the year.
The airport added nine new destinations last year and 13 new airline customers.
The domestic market recorded an historic record with 6.1 million passengers, up 5.2 pct from 2008, while international market fell 5.1 pct to 10.1 million passengers.
Passenger traffic showed concrete signs of recovery in the second half of the year, a trend continuing in the early weeks of 2010.
Yiannis Parashis, the airport's general manager, expressed his satisfaction over the 2009 figures and said he was optimistic over this year's outlook.
 Greek consumers still reluctant on e-commerce transactionsGreek consumers remained reluctant in making purchases through the Internet for personal use, with the percentage of Internet users making e-commerce transactions accounting for only 16.2 pct of total users in the first quarter of 2009, a report by the National Statistical Service said on Thursday.
The report noted, however, that first quarter transactions were up 18.2 pct compared with the same perion in 2008, while the profile of e-commerce users was people aged 25-34 with a higher education.
Products purchased through the Internet were mostly entertainment tickets (theater, concerts, cinema) 30.9 pct, computer accessories 28.3 pct and electronic devices 27.3 pct. The biggest incentive for making electronic transactions were lower prices (66.3 pct), time saving (66.2 pct) and greater variety of products (62.7 pct).
 Halcor to issue 10-mln-euro bond loanHalcor SA, a Greek-listed steel and metals group, on Thursday announced the signing of an agreement with Alpha Bank to issue a bond loan worth 10 million euros. The three-year bond carries an interest rate of Euribor plus spread.
 Stocks end moderately higherStocks ended moderately higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, recovering slightly after Wednesday's sharp losses. The composite index rose 0.66 pct to end at 1,985.86 points, with turnover rising to 292.436 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index rose 0.71 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.06 pct up and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.15 pct. The Financial Services (2.75 pct) and Oil (2.18 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Raw Materials (2.15 pct) and Industrial Products (1.60 pct) suffered losses.
Klonatex (14.29 pct), Compucon (11.11 pct), Vovos (10.93 pct), Shelman (10.0 pct) and Texapret (9.09 pct) were top gainers, while United Textiles (14.29 pct), Kekrops (9.79 pct), VIS (9.63 pct) and Nutriart (9.52 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 101 to 70 with another 57 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.18%
Personal & Household: -0.50%
Raw Materials: -2.15%
Travel & Leisure: +1.83%
Food & Beverages: +1.86%
Financial Services: +2.75%
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: 6.48
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.00
HBC Coca Cola: 16.01
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.80
National Bank of Greece: 15.25
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.00
Bank of Piraeus: 6.02
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to a record high of 405 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 357 bps on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 7.24 pct and the German Bund 3.19 pct.
Turnover in the market totaled 1.190 billion euros, of which 805 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 385 million were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 430 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates fell further. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.96 pct, the three-month 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 1.09 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 110.039 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 18,620 contracts, worth 91.961 million euros with 26,779 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 19,917 contracts worth 18.078 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (7,158), followed by MIG (1,490), Eurobank (850), PPC (711), Piraeus Bank (918), GEK (775), Alpha Bank (1,745), Cyprus Bank (664) and ATEbank (1,873).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.411
Pound sterling 0.868
Danish kroner 7.504
Swedish kroner 10.283
Japanese yen 127.37
Swiss franc 1.484
Norwegian kroner 8.244
Canadian dollar 1.494
Australian dollar 1.566
 Exploration of shipwreck of Polyaigos reveals 5th-4th century BC amphoraeThe Culture Ministry intends to designate a shipwreck off the uninhabited Cycladic island of Polyaigos, in the Aegean, as a "submarine archaeological site" after completion of an initial examination of finds that surfaced during recent marine digs, according to a ministry announcement.
Divers on the marine digs in November 2009 recovered vases dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries BC from depths of 25-49 meters off the coast of Polyaigos.
Aquatic archaeologists brought up such artifacts as amphorae used for carrying, and small table ceramic vases, all intact, as well as fragments of the shipwrecked vessel's anchor.
A team from the Submarine Antiquities Ephoreia comprising aquatic archaeologists Elias Spondylis, George Koutsouflakis and Efstathios Stathis, depth technicians Petros Tsampourakis and Ludwig Mersenier, and underwater photogra-pher/cinematographer Vassilis Mentoyiannis in November made an initial exploration of the wreck site, which had been spotted in 2004. The ancient ship was loaded with amphorae, which are scattered around the wreck in two main concentrations.
An analysis of the amphorae recovered dated the wreck to between the end of the 5th century BC and the first half of the 4th century BC.
At least three types of amphorae were identified, of which one originated from ancient Peparithos (the island of Skopelos), while the others were closely identified with the Classical Era amphorae workshops of the northern Aegean.
Four of the intact amphorae recovered were pointed bottom carrying vessels, while the other two intact amphorae were smaller ceramic table vases.
Fragments of the ship's anchor were also found.
According to the ministry, the Polyaigos shipwreck sheds light in the study of sea-borne commercial routes of the Classical period and the movement of goods in the southwestern surrounds of the Cyclades islands, and enhances knowledge on the region.
The shipwreck was photographed in detail, resulting in a high-definition photo-mosaic, and also filmed, while procedures have been set in motion to designate the wreck area as a submarine archaeological site.
Polyaigos is an uninhabited island in the Cyclades, near the islands of Milos and Kimolos.
Its name means "many goats", given that it is inhabited only by flocks of goats belonging to shepherds from nearby Milos and Kimolos that roam its two mountains, Stroggylos, which rises to 330 meters, and Psilo Vouno (meaning 'high mountain'), which rises to 370 meters.
Although barren due to grazing by the goats, Polyaigos has a sprinkling of breathtaking beaches, mainly on the southern part of the island, but also a large number of sea-surface caves that are home to a population of the Monachus monachus Mediterranean monk seal, one of the most endangered species of mammals in the world.
 Water quality critical in many Greek rivers, experts sayMany of Greece's rivers are in a critical state in terms of water quality, according to statements made on Thursday by the head of Parliament's Special Permanent Committee for the Environment Costas Kartalis while addressing a sub-committee on water resources.
"The newly formed Environment ministry must look seriously into the issue," Kartalis stressed.
The sub-committee was also briefed by specialist scientists from the Inland Waters Institute of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research and the General Inspector for the Environment Panagiotis Merkos.
The experts said that the state of Greek rivers was better than the European Union average, especially at high altitudes, because of low levels of industrialisation in the country. In spite of this, about 58 percent of their total length was in a sub-standard or even a poor state based on measurements carried out between 2007 and 2009.
They also pointed out that 85 percent of biological sewage treatment plants were either not working at all or not working to full capacity.
Another problem cited was the reduced volume of water in many rivers, leading to a reduction in silt deposits and losses of land lower down (as in the Nestos river delta), as well as reduced output of hydroelectric dams by up to 60 percent of estimates for 50 years.
Major problems with pollution are also recorded in the Axios, Pineios, Evros and Asopos rivers, while the condition of the Sperheios, Nestos, Aliakmonas, Strymonas and Acheloos rivers is considered unsatisfactory.
They pointed to serious delays in carrying out Community Directive 2000/60 and stressed that Greece lacked a substantial network for monitoring the quality of river water.
Merkos stressed the need for additional staff for the environment inspectors' service, saying the current 30 inspectors were not enough to cover the work and pointing out that the equivalent service in Belgium had a staff of 400.
The General Inspector said that half his staff was in court on any given day, and the rest had to cope with a case load covering the entire country, while they received 700 reports requiring investigation just in January 2010.
He also asked that his service be given greater powers to impose and not just recommend fines, as well as the power to revoke licences for units that violated laws on polluting.
 One suspect released on bail in synagogue arson caseOne of five suspects in the twin arson attacks on a Hania synagogue earlier this month has been conditionally freed on bail, authorities in the Cretan city announced on Thursday.
The man, identified as a 24-year-old US citizen, is charged with complicity in the two incidents.
According to the man's attorney, his client has supplied testimonies of three witnesses claiming he was with them on the night when one of the attacks occurred.
A local man from nearby Irakleio and a British national were charged and released pending trial, while another Briton remains jailed without bond. The fifth man, identified as a US citizen, remains at large.
 Greek Language Certification exams in MayThe Greek Language Certification exams will be held on May 11 and 12 by the Greek Language Center, in 117 examination centers throughout Greece and abroad.
The examinations will be for Levels A, B, C and D certification (corresponding to Council of Europe levels A2, B1, B2 and C1).
Registration for the exams will be from February 1 to March 22, and candidates must submit the required documentation to the examination center they wish to take the test in.
More detailed information may be requested by phone at (0030) 2310 459101 and (0030) 2310 459574, or fax (0030) 2310 459107, and at the website: http://www.greek-language.gr/greekLang/certification/09.html.
 Turkish minehunter to sail through Corinth CanalThe Greek Navy General Staff (YEN) on Thursday anounced that the Turkish minehunger TCG EBREMIT-261 will sail through the Corinth canal at noon headed to the port of Toulon in France, in the framework of its participation in NATO's standing Mine Countermeasures Force South (MCMFORSOUTH)
 Cloudy, rainy on FridayCloudy and rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 16C. Cloudy in Athens, with southerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 4C to 15C. Cloudy and rainy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 1C to 8C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceRumors of secret agreements between the Greek government and China for refinancing the state debt and the finance ministry's denial, and the abolition or merger of more than 200 public services aimed at reducing wasteful spending in the public sector were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Thursday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "List of the 200 state services that will be abolished or merged".
APOGEVMATINI: "Shocking revelation in parliament - According to deputy finance minister Filippos Sachinidis, a mammoth 5.5 billion euros fine (imposed on the 'Acropolis' stockbrokerage in 2007) was written off by the director of an Athens office of the Tax Bureau".
AVGHI: "Cold shower for the government and economy - Government at a loss in the wake of the unprecedented speculative attack".
AVRIANI: "Speculators blocked borrowing from China in order to continue their looting of the Greek economy - They set up unprecedented speculative 'games' at the expense of the Greek (10-year) state bonds, skyrocketing the spread to a historic high of 3.75 percent".
CHORA: "China Syndrome hits the government - International hubbub over (rumored) secret contacts with Beijing".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Papaconstantinou's (finance minister) gaffe cost us 420 million euros - Lethal consequences from the minister's 'games' with...Chinese investors".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "'Yellow' blow by speculators - Borrowing spread skyrockets via...China (to pre-EMU rate of 6.77 percent)".
ESTIA: "Greece drowning from the borrowing - We're celebrating while we should be crying".
ETHNOS: "5,500 euros salary ceiling for public sector executives - Pangalos (government vice-president) 'directive' for drastic cutback of expenditures".
IMERISSIA: "Storm hits bonds and stock exchange - Record high in spread, plunge in stocks".
KATHIMERINI: "Chinese 'acrobatics' in Athens - The statements on borrowing from Chinese investors skyrocketed the spread (of the 10-year state bonds to 373 base points from 299)".
LOGOS: "Foreign speculators continue to 'hit' at Greece - Finance ministry denies rumors of Chinese interest in the state bonds".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "China Syndrome hits bonds, stocks".
NIKI: "The last stronghold - National unity needed in the difficulties ahead".
PONTIKI (weekly): "The government 'flies at 6,000 euros per hour - 1.1 million euros for the governmental VIP airplanes' flights from October 5 to December 31".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Unified struggle of the public sector and private sector employees - Redeployment of the (workers') Movement, and people's counter-attack".
TA NEA: "Removal from the pedestal - ND (main opposition New Democracy) did not back Karamanlis (the party's former leader and ex prime minister) in the Siemens slush funds scandal".
TO VIMA: "China Syndrome 'doped' the speculators - Spreads reach record high".
VRADYNI: "Defenseless economy - Press reports in Britain put Greek stockmarket through...Chinese torture".
 UN Secretary General expected in Cyprus on January 31UNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has decided to visit Cyprus from January 31 to February 2 for discussions with the leaders of the two communities and his Special Adviser Alexander Downer, focusing on the state of progress in the talks for a Cyprus settlement.
In a statement, the UN chief's Spokesperson said that Ban Ki Moon spoke on Wednesday with Downer ''regarding the intensive talks currently underway between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders.''
''The UN is committed to help the leaders find a solution. The Secretary General would like to personally show his support for their efforts, and has decided in that regard to travel to Cyprus, from 31 January to 2 February. While in Cyprus, he will hold discussions with the leaders as well as with his Special Adviser, focusing on the state of progress in the talks, and on how best the UN can continue to assist their efforts,'' according to the statement.
The spokesperson added that ''the international community has tremendous goodwill for Cyprus and a strong interest in seeing the Cypriots arrive at a solution.''
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunify the island.
A first round of intensive negotiations was held in early January and the second round began on Monday.
 Government welcomes UNSG's upcoming visit to CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The government of Cyprus has welcomed UN Secretary General's decision to visit Cyprus 31 January -2 February, 2010.
In statements Thursday to the press, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou stressed that the Greek Cypriot side "wants and seeks to exploit UNSG's presence here to promote efforts towards a solution".
"President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and the government welcome the UN Secretary General to Cyprus", he said.
Stephanou reiterated that the solution of the Cyprus problem must be based on the UN relevant resolutions, the principles of international and European law, as well as on the High Level Agreements 1977 and 1979 which provide for a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
The government, he stressed, wants UN involvement in efforts to reach a solution in Cyprus.
"The ongoing Cyprus negotiations are taking place within the UN framework and on the basis of the UN resolutions", Stephanou said.
The spokesman went on to add that the government wants the implementation of the UN resolutions on Cyprus and UN assistance so that a solution is reached on the island.
Asked whether the government is concerned about the possibility that the UN might exert pressure on the Greek Cypriot side, he replied:
"We are not concerned, since we have clear positions" as regards the procedure and the role undertaken by those involved.
He pointed out that Cypriots are the ones who decide on the framework of the solution while the UN role is to support those efforts on a correct basis.
Stephanou noted that Ban Ki Moon's upcoming visit to Cyprus proves that the achievement of a political solution in Cyprus constitutes a high priority for the UN.
He also expressed the view that UNSG's visit to Cyprus is taking place at a period of increased international interest in Cyprus, adding that the policy followed by President Christofias on the Cyprus problem has yielded results.
"As a result of the President's policy on the Cyprus problem, there is international movement and interest in Cyprus", he concluded.
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS