|Sunday, 25 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-02-01
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 1 February 2010 Issue No: 3411
 PM chairs top gov't meeting on economyThe condition in the economy and the country's finances, which generated international headlines and attention over the recent period, dominated a meeting on Sunday, chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou, with top ministers, government officials and Parliament MPs participating.
The meeting comes in the wake of Papandreou's high-profile attendance at last week's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he referred, in detail, to Greece's measures to exit its deficit crisis.
Implementation of the Greece's updated Stability and Growth Programme as well as related legislated initiatives was discussed.
 Crucial week ahead for Greek economyThe week beginning on Monday will be crucial for the Greek economy, as the EU College of Commissioners (European Commission plenary) is due to release its recommendation on the new Greek Stability and Development programme on Wednesday. Equally crucial is the anticipated release of the budget revenues for January, on which will depend whether the measures decided by the government will be accelerated or applied later.
Prime Minister George Papandreou and Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou waged a veritable communications 'battle' over the past week to uphold the Greek economy's credibility and reverse the negative climate, in a flurry of interviews with the international media on the sidelines of the 40th World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, and in the premier's address to the Forum.
A boost to the effort were the votes of confidence forthcoming from the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) in statements by Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Joaquin Almunia and ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet, who categorically denied speculation of Greece defaulting and/or withdrawing from the eurozone, which brought a substantial decline in the Greek bond spread that had risen dramatically in the wake of default/withdrawal rumors.
 Gov't on press report claiming EU deadline for harsher measuresA Finance Ministry announcement on Saturday responded to an article published in the "Vima" newspaper regarding an EU deadline for harsher measures to be taken by Athens on the economic front.
The announcement states that the "EU's proposal will be announced on February 3, and the report on which the newspaper's article refers to deals with measures already known and included in the Stability and Growth Programme, which has been submitted to EU".
According to the newspaper, an EU document cites a 60-day deadline for the Greek government to take new harsher measures on the economy, including cutbacks in salaries and benefits, a freeze in hirings, new taxes in real estate and the gender equalisation in retirement ages, together with the increase of the age retirement limit.
 Samaras: ND will back necessary measures by governmentMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras announced that his party will back measures and initiatives of the PASOK government that are necessary to tackle the economic crisis "because the times are critical and this is demanded for the country's interests", in a newspaper interview appearing on Sunday.
In an interview with "Kathimerini" newspaper, Samaras stressed, however, that "consensus is a two-way street".
"We proposed measures. We backed every necessary initiative," Samaras said, adding that ND "does not speculate politically on the fronts of social unrest, as PASOK had done when it was the main opposition party."
 KKE calls for strong popular frontThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) organised a meeting with party supporters and friends, attended by party leader Aleka Papariga, on Sunday.
A KKE announcement called for the urgent formation of a strong popular front in order to repel the harsh anti-popular measures being advanced by the government and the EU, with the consensus of main opposition New Democracy (ND).
The front should be forged under the banner of "No sacrifice for the plutocracy", the KKE said, adding that the responsible position by the people is that of not accepting being permanently and irreversibly doomed to poverty.
 SYN to convene extraordinary congressThe Coalition of the (Synaspismos, or SYN) Central Committee on Sunday adopted a proposal by party leader Alexis Tsipras for an extraordinary Congress in the next three months.
The decision was taken on the closing day of a two-day Central Committee meeting in a central Athens hotel.
Tsipras tabled the proposal during the opening session on Saturday, saying that an extraordinary Congress is necessary for several reasons, including a crisis between Synaspismos and the SYN-led Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary alliance, the smallest party in the legislature.
"We have tired the people of the Left," Tsipras, who heads the SYRIZA parliamentary group, told the Central Committee on Saturday, stressing that "we will not organise a Congress for the purpose of squaring accounts".
 LAOS calls for rallying of political forces to exit crisisPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis called for the rallying of the entire political world "in order to have a vague hope to exit the crisis".
Speaking to reporters before a party event in Thessaloniki on Saturday, Karatzaferis called for the rallying together of all the political forces of the country is required "so that we may have a vague hope of bringing the country out of the crisis".
He said that prime minister George Papandreou "tried to turn night into day at Davos, and went through painful moments", referring to the recent 40th World Economic Forum.
Karatzaferis also said that he observed an effort to boost the current leaders of the two mainstream parties -- ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy (ND) - through the "destruction" of their predecessors, former prime ministers Costas Simitis and Costas Karamanlis respectively, as well as Simitis' 'environment' (PASOK) and the Mitsotakis family (ND).
 Minister denies ties to ex-Siemens Hellas chiefMinister of State Haris Pamboukis on Saturday referred to a same-day newspaper article claiming that his name was found written eight times in former Siemens Hellas CEO Michalis Christoforakos agenda.
The later is implicated in the Siemens kickback and bribery furor.
"I never had professional or other relationship with Mr. Christoforakos and Siemens," Pamboukis said.
 Alternate DM: High-level collaboration with VenizelosAlternate defence minister Panos Beglitis said that the government was applying a policy that "does not enable wrong handlings and conflicting statements", adding that he and defence minister Evangelos Venizelos form an "explosive duo" in the "daily hard work", in an interview appearing on Sunday in the Eleftheros Typos newspaper.
He further described their co-existence in the ministry as a "high-frequency collaboration".
Beglitis outlined the government's fundamental targets in the defence sector, pinpointing the "peaceful resolution of the problems with Turkey" as a priority and citing prime minister George Papandreou's recent letter of response to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in that context.
Other priority targets include management of defence expenditures, which he said must ensure the best effectiveness at the lowest cost.
On the new law on the hierarchy and promotions in the Armed Forces, Beglitis said that the fundamental elements are meritocracy, instituted criteria for the evaluation of the officers, the ability of promotion of the most capable, and avoidance of retirement of officers without their agreement.
 Roadblocks continue for 17th dayProtesting farmers entered their 17th day of roadblocks on Sunday, as representatives from 20 major regional roadblocks met in Serres, near the blocked-off Promahonas border post, and decided on nine central demands to be put to the government.
Demands include remuneration for lost income and guaranteed prices in farming and animal breeding products, protection of local production from imports of the same products, linking of subsidies with production and abolition of all the "legal" and "illegal" withholdings and subsidisation of basic farming supplies, reduction of production costs through abolition of VAT on supplies and equipment and on petrol, a 3-year freeze on farmers' debts and deduction of all the overdue debt penalties that have been imposed on their loans, full insurance of agricultural production and agricultural capital against all natural hazards, and reduction of the retirement age to 60 for men farmers and 55 for women farmers.
Apart from the nine joint demands, it was decided during the meeting that farmers from every regional roadblock maintain the right to pursue specific local demands as well.
Meanwhile, roadblocks in Northern Greece and Thessaly remained intact for a third week, as farmers decided to carry on with dynamic mobilisations following an impasse in negotiations with the government.
However, farmers who have been blocking the Promahonas border post decided on Sunday evening to open up the crossing on the border with Bulgaria, which had been blocked since Friday morning, for trucks.
The blockade had resulted in a 25-kilometer queue of trucks carrying goods to form on the Greek side of the border, while a queue approximately double that length had formed on the Bulgarian side.
A spokesman for the farmers said that trucks will be allowed through until the congestion at the border station has been cleared up, and the crossing will be re-closed late Sunday night.
 Experimental cultivation of stevia rebaudiana as alternative crop is 'promising'Called by many "the plant of the new millennium" and "the sugar of the future", Stevia was completely unknown in Greece up until 2006 when the University of Thessaly commenced a systematic scientific research aimed at introducing the plant to Greek farmers as an alternative crop, an effort that is ongoing.
According to Professor Petros Lolas, Thessaly University is the only foundation in Greece to systematically study stevia, which has been experimentally introduced in several parts of the country.
Lolas told ANA-MPA that stevia is of major agricultural, industrial and commercial interest for Greece, but also the EU, with respect to the growth of the agricultural and national economy.
Regarding the agricultural perspective, stevia could in the next 4-6 years, under certain conditions, become the new alternative crop for the former tobacco producers, Lolas said, adding that stevia cultivation could contribute to the diversification of Greek agricultural but also to the exploitation of large farm expanses that have been abandoned. Given the current prices for stevia leaves internationally, the plant could ensure a satisfactory income and employment, without requiring subsidisation.
Since the plant is not threatened by many or serious 'enemies' or diseases, it is suitable for organic production and this is considered a "green" cultivation.
The species Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or liquorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.
In 2006 and 2007, University of Thessaly studies on the plant's adjustability, productivity and affordability conducted in ten agricultural regions in Greece (Serres, Xanthi, Grevena, Katerini, Toumpa Kilkis, Lamia, Drama, Zagliveri, Tithorea, Agrinio) produced very encouraging results. The plant's adjustability was proved to be satisfactory in conditions of limited fertilizer use and irrigation while is highly resistant to insects or diseases.
Professor Lolas, who heads the University of Thessaly research program, stressed that Stevia rebaudiana can be an innovative and alternative crop, replacing conventional and problematic ones, and can lead consumers in Greece and the EU away from the use of sugar and synthetic sweeteners. The specific plant can ensure a good income for farmers even better than tobacco.
Stevia rebaudiana is a species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family native to subtropical and tropical South America and Central America discovered in 1887 in Paraguay. For centuries, the Guaraní tribes of Paraguay and Brazil used Stevia species, primarily S. rebaudiana which they called ka'a he'e ("sweet herb"), as a sweetener in medicinal teas for treating heartburn and other ailments.
 Greek rescue team returns from HaitiThe Greek rescue team returned to Thessaloniki late Friday evening from Haiti and on Saturday gave a press conference at their headquarters.
The rescue team will continue to offer aid to Haiti and has already collected and will sent humanitarian aid to Port au Prince. Moreover, it focused in cooperation with other agencies and private donors on the foundation of an orphanage in the quake-stricken region in order to provide the security and psychological support to the orphans.
 Ántiquities arrestA 25-year-old cafe owner was arrested Sunday morning in the Kessariani district of Athens on charges of breaking the law on antiquities.
A police search of the cafe turned up a gold wreath comprising 18 golden leaves, a gold ring, a pair of small gold Eros', and other gold artifacts, which were confiscated.
The detainee will be led before a public prosecutor.
 Arsonists target tax bureau office, diplomatic carTwo arson attacks targeted a Tax Bureau office (DOY) in Athens and a car with diplomatic licence plates in Thessaloniki early Sunday.
A group of six unidentified persons threw a home-made incendiary device at a DOY office in the Athens district of Neos Kosmos shortly after midnight.
The vandals broke a glass window and threw a firebomb into the DOY premises, causing minor material damage to the ground floor. The ensuing fire was quickly extinguished by local residents.
In the Thessaloniki suburb of Kalamaria, unknown persons set fire to a parked car with diplomatic licence plates at dawn.
The fire spread to an adjacent car, and firefighters who rushed to the scene extinguished the blaze before the cars were destroyed.
Meanwhile, two more arson attacks on private cars took place in the early hours of Sunday in Thessaloniki.
In the first instance, a private car was targeted in the Voulgari district, while in the second instance arsonists attempted to set fire to a parked car in the city centre, but were spotted by locals and aborted the attempt, leaving behind the home-made incendiary device as they fled the site.
 Greek Superleague resultsPanathinaikos Athens dropped two points at home on Sunday in drawing 1-1 against cross-town rival AEK Athens. Following Olympiacos Piraeus' 1-0 lacklustre win over Panionios Athens, Panathinaikos' lead over Olympiacos stands at six points.
In other action:
Iraklis Thessaloniki-Kavala 1-0
Levadiakos Livadia-Asteras Tripolis 1-0
Panthrakikos Komotini-Ergotelis Crete 3-2
PAS Yiannina-Larissa 2-0
PAOK Thessaloniki-Atromitos Athens 1-0
Xanthi-Aris Thessaloniki 2-1
Standings after 20 weeks of play:
1. Panathinaikos 49 points
2. PAOK 43
4. Aris 32
5. AEK 30
6. Asteras 29
7. Atromitos 26
8. Ergotelis 25
10. Kavala 24
12. Iraklis 22
13. Larissa 21
PAS Yiannina 21
15. Levadiakos 19
16. Panthrakikos 6
 Rain, T-storms on MondayRainfall is forecast throughout the country on Monday, with thunderstorms in the west and snow in the mountainous regions. Northwesterly winds of up to 6 to the beauforts. Temperatures between 8C to 15C on the mainland, with 3C to 4C lower in the north. Cloudy in Athens, 4C to 10C; rain in Thessaloniki, 4C to 10C.
 Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glanceThe economy and the pressure on Greece to adhere to the Stability Program dominated the front-page headlines of Athens' Sunday newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Panic over the farmers' subsidies - Exclusive document".
APOGEVMATINI: "Definitive solution for disputed forest expanses and encroached state land".
AVGHI: "At the limits of tolerance, or beyond?"
AVRIANI: "Christoforakos' (Siemens Hellas former CEO) 50 hours of 'burning' discussions set fire to the political system".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Papaconstantinou (finance minister) under 'guardianship' - Government officials accuse him of 'unacceptable and amateur handling'."
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The new taxes/taxation scale plan brings larger taxation for 500,000 taxpayers and tax reliefs for 1.5 million".
ETHNOS: "Harsh behind-the-scenes for rescue of Greece and the euro".
KATHIMERINI: "Measures, or 'guardianship' (excessive debt procedure) - Ultimatum from Brussels (EU headquarters)".
LOGOS: "Alternative solution for the farmers".
NIKI: "The household 'basket' becomes smaller - Households in despair - Burring price hikes in consumer goods".
RIZOSPASTIS: "United labor-popular action for success of PAME strike on February 10".
TO VIMA: "Support from Europe, with burning terms - The behind-the-scenes of the secret contacts".
VRADYNI: "Settle your debts to the banks - Exclusive: What the government's bill (on borrowers) contains".
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