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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-02-05

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Friday, 5 February 2010 Issue No: 3415

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM meets with Indian counterpart on sidelines of Delhi Sustainable Development Summit
  • [02] PM on tax measures, possible revival of 'Initiative of the Six' five-continent peace movement
  • [03] ND spokesman on PM's statements
  • [04] PM agrees to meet Gruevski; date via 'diplomatic channels'
  • [05] Alternate FM Droutsas addresses press conference
  • [06] Interior minister on citizenship bill
  • [07] Samaras briefed by Interior Minister
  • [08] Holy Synod on citizenship for immigrants
  • [09] Gov't on possible Frontex-Turkey agreement
  • [10] Defence minister at NATO ministers' meeting in Istanbul
  • [11] Samaras chairs shadow gov't meeting
  • [12] KKE's Papariga on gov't announced measures
  • [13] SYRIZA's Tsipras meets civil servants' union, slams measures to cut salaries, raise retirement age
  • [14] Parvanov congratulates Papoulias on re-election as president
  • [15] Ecumenical Patriarch visits
  • [16] Humanitarian aid to Haiti
  • [17] Gov't on economy
  • [18] ND on prospective new measures: Individual evaluation of each new step
  • [19] Gov't unveils draft bill on autonomy of statistics agency
  • [20] Greek Industries Federation president on economy
  • [21] Parliament suspends Souflias law for illegal building conversions for six months
  • [22] Batzeli takes firm line on farmer protests, rules out extra cash
  • [23] Farmers to retire from Strymonikos roadblock
  • [24] Farmers remain at roadblocks
  • [25] Farmers postpone labour action
  • [26] GSEE calls nationwide general strike on Feb. 24
  • [27] Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling: Net profits up 3% in 2009
  • [28] Stocks plunge 3.33%
  • [29] ADEX closing report
  • [30] Greek bond market closing report
  • [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [32] Death of noted philosopher Kostas Axelos
  • [33] Internal Affairs dept. discovers major scam by customs officials
  • [34] Woman rescued after falling into 6-metre septic tank
  • [35] Terror suspect remanded in custody
  • [36] Drug trafficking arrest on Zakynthos
  • [37] Castaways hospitalised with hypothermia symptoms
  • [38] Cloudy on Friday
  • [39] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [40] Spokesman: President to brief National Council on Cyprus talks
  • [41] UN Secretary General: A Cyprus settlement is within reach

  • [01] PM meets with Indian counterpart on sidelines of Delhi Sustainable Development Summit

    New Delhi (ANA-MPA/V. Mourtis) Greece's prime minister George Papandreou, on an official visit to India during which he will attend and address the 2010 Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS), met on Thursday with Indian prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh for talks covering a wide range of sectors of potential cooperation between the two countries.

    During the 40-minute meeting, the two premiers discussed matters pertaining to cooperation in the fields of construction, infrastructure, telecoms, e-governance, tourism, green technology, enhancing bilateral trade, and a direct air link between the two countries.

    Dr. Singh thanked Papandreou for Greece's support of India's candidacy for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

    The two premiers further discussed climate change, which will be a central theme of the second session of the two-day 10th DSDS on Friday, which will also be addressed by Papandreou, as well as the global financial crisis.

    Papandreou briefed his Indian counterpart on the situation in Greece in the context of the crisis and on progress in the effort to exit the crisis, reiterating that Greece will do so with its own means.

    The Greek premier will address the conference on Friday, on the prospects for sustainable development, while he will have a series of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the DSDS.

    [02] PM on tax measures, possible revival of 'Initiative of the Six' five-continent peace movement

    New Delhi (ANA-MPA/V. Mourtis)

    Prime minister George Papandreou on Thursday announced that measures will be taken for those "who are not paying today but should be paying", referring to the new tax bill to be tabled next week, while speaking to reporters in New Delhi on his official visit to India during which he will attend and address the 2010 Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS).

    In that context, Papandreou stressed that low-salary and small and medium size concerns need to be protected, adding that his government is determined to make the necessary changes because "if those changes are not made, thing will get worse".

    The premier noted that the government has sought the input of all sides with respect to the changes, and especially of those who have the biggest privileges and must contribute more to the effort.

    "None of us are happy with the difficulties the country is facing," Papandreou explained, adding though that "we must turn the crisis into an opportunity, and today is a historic opportunity that we must make use of".

    "The changes will be to the benefit of the citizens," he added.

    Papandreou noted that the current situation is the outcome of the many mistakes made in the past, stressing that it is a national need that the changes are made, particularly given that "the country is at risk".

    He also stressed that the inability and lack of determination of the previous years to introduce changes were what created the present-day problems "which we are paying".

    Papandreou is due to meet on Friday with Indian Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi, and the discussion will also review the 1982 five-continent "Initiative of the Six" peace movement founded by his father, then prime minister of Greece Andreas Papandreou, Mexican president Miguel de la Madrid, Argentinian prime minister Raul Alfonsin, Swedish prime minister Olof Palme, Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, and Sonia Gandhi's late mother-in-law, then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, urging the superpowers to put an immediate halt to all nuclear weapon tests.

    The Initiative won the international peace award of the Beyond War Foundation in 1985.

    He did not rule out the prospect of revival of the initiative, since the threat of nuclear arms still exists today.

    [03] ND spokesman on PM's statements

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Panos Panayiotopoulos, replying to statements made in New Delhi by Prime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday, stressed the need for a growth dimension in the Greek economy.

    Papandreopu had said that the measures for the economy that the government announced were necessary.

    ND underlines that the breather for the boosting of economic activity is twice a national necessity, as ND leader Antonis Samaras has proposed to the government some time ago, Panayiotopoulos said.

    He added that the Samaras package of growth measures must be implemented immediately, because it constitutes a one-way path for the support of the middle class, households and businesses, otherwise there is the danger of us seeing unemployment soaring.

    [04] PM agrees to meet Gruevski; date via 'diplomatic channels'

    Government spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday revealed that Prime Minister George Papandreou has agreed in principle to a meeting with the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Nikola Gruevski, during a conversation held by the two prime ministers on the telephone the previous day.

    "A meeting between two neighbouring countries is always important and positive, regardless of the problems that exist," Petalotis said.

    He clarified that the date for such a meeting will have to be decided via diplomatic channels and would require much preparation before it could take place, which was essentially the answer given by Papandreou to Gruevski's request.

    In an announcement on Wednesday, the government in Skopje announced that Gruevski had spoken to Papandreou on the phone regarding "issues of mutual interest" and that the phone call was made by Gruevski as a follow-up to a letter also sent on Wednesday, in which he invited Papandreou to meet in FYROM or elsewhere in order to discuss the issue of FYROM's name, which is currently the sole issue of contention between the two countries.

    [05] Alternate FM Droutsas addresses press conference

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, who was due to meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Thursday evening, reiterated during a press conference here Greece's "red line" on the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), that is a name with a geographical qualifier that will be used by all.

    Referring to the issue of Cyprus, Droutsas stressed that the latest Turkish proposals, delivered by (Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali) Talat on the negotiating table constitute "a step backwards" and do not allow ground for optimism over the prospects of the talks.

    He added that "the initiative by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias for the talks and a solution to the problem have the full support of Greece. Their outcome will be successful if a Cypriot solution is found to the problem."

    Droutsas, who presented the philosophy governing the Greek Foreign Ministry's practice and policy and who replied to many questions put to him, said that "the present situation is surely full of challenges and requires our immediate attention. However, the foreign policy of Greece is based on strong foundations and has very clear targets, particularly for the creation of an area of peace, security, stability and growth in our neighbouring region."

    As regards Greek-Turkish relations, the minister noted the meetings of Prime Minister George Papandreou with his counterpart Tayyip Erdogan and the recent one that he himself had with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, underlining that "what we have said repeatedly is that the rate of progress of Turkey's accession negotiations with the European Union depends on Turkey itself."

    Droutsas also presented Greek foreign policy targets in the wider Balkan region, stressing that "in our neighbourhood we want to regain our leading role and to help our neighbours to realise their Euroatlantic aspirations through the Agenda 2014. Furthermore, at global level, we want to participate in the shaping of an international policy. We do not want to be passive observers."

    [06] Interior minister on citizenship bill

    Interior Minister Yiannis Rangoussis, on the occasion of the tabling in Parliament of the bill on aliens' citizenship, outlined the main points contained in the bill.

    The minister stressed that the bill only concerns legal immigrants in Greece, meaning those legalised over the past 20 years with the last procedure being that of 2005-2007, when 150,000 economic immigrants were legalised, that is those who had come to Greece by January 1, 2005.

    Children born in Greece from parents that both the mother and father are staying in Greece legally for at least five years take Greek citizenship automatically.

    The children of legal immigrants who have not been born in Greece but who have attended successfully lessons at a Greek school for six years can also receive Greek citizenship.

    For the first time, the right to vote in first stage local elections is enacted for expatriates and immigrants staying in the country legally, provided that they have final residence permits. Immigrants will be able to be elected up to the post of municipal councillor on condition that they can speak the Greek language adequately. The Interior ministry assesses that the number of those being able to register in election catalogues amounts to 266,250 people, that corresponds to 0.65 percent of voters.

    [07] Samaras briefed by Interior Minister

    ̀ain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Thursday met with Interior and Public Administration Minister George Ragoussis. The meeting was held at the initiative of Samaras, who had requested of Prime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday during their own meeting at the Maximos Mansion to be briefed by Ragoussis.

    Samaras reiterated after the meeting that although it is was the issues regarding the economy that mainly preoccupy the citizens, there are also other issues of equal importance, such as migra-tion, the electoral law and the Kallikratis local administration reform plan that need to be dealt with.

    The ND leader asked Ragoussis, under whose jurisdiction all three of those issues fall, to brief him in detail on them, while Samaras also outlined his own positions.

    Earlier, New Democracy spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos clarified that ND remains firm in its position on the migration issue, underlining that the regulations being advanced by the government will turn Greece into the slackest gateway in the EU for illegal migrants wishing to enter Europe. The requirements must be more severe and strict, said Panagiotopoulos, who also said that Greece must in the steps of the other European countries on this matter.

    [08] Holy Synod on citizenship for immigrants

    The Permanent Holy Synod convened on Thursday under the chairmanship of Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos and dealt with the issue of granting Greek citizenship to foreign immigrants.

    Recognising that the enactment and from time to time amendment of the Law concerning citizenship "did not anticipate and neither does it anticipate now the intervention of the Holy Synod, is the duty of the Greek state through the Greek Parliament".

    Nevertheless, it added that the Law on citizenship is not identified absolutely with the immigration problem. For this reason, the Greek state must examine the preconditions attentively, by which Greek citizenship will be granted. At the same time, however, it must handle the immigration problem with seriousness, on the basis of European Legislation, as well as the sensitivity and the particularity of certain regions of the country, and the possible social repercussions for the entire population.

    [09] Gov't on possible Frontex-Turkey agreement

    The Greek government declared on Thursday that any agreement between the EU border agency Frontex and Turkey will not be accepted unless it is clearly stated that Greek borders are also EU borders.

    Responding to a tabled question in Parliament by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) over a draft agreement between Frontex and Turkey which, according to KKE, disputes Greece's sovereign rights, Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Spyros Vougias stressed that the text of the agreement has not been finalised and that it will be presented in Parliament once it is finalised.

    Vougias added that the foreign ministry and his ministry share similar concerns, noting that Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis has underlined in letters addressed to his Turkish counterpart that an agreement between Frontex and Turkey should clearly state that Greece's borders are EU external borders, in order to be accepted.

    [10] Defence minister at NATO ministers' meeting in Istanbul

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA - A. Kourkoulas)

    National Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos was in Istanbul on Thursday to take part in a two-day informal meeting of NATO defence ministers

    Turkish National Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul hosted the two-day informal meeting, which is chaired by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, at Istanbul Congress Center.

    Venizelos is expected to have bilateral contacts with several of his counterparts in NATO and hold talks with Turkish officials at a reception being held for those attending the meeting.

    [11] Samaras chairs shadow gov't meeting

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) President Antonis Samaras chaired a meeting of the party's shadow government ministers on Thursday, with deliberations focusing on current and other issues.

    Participants reportedly agreed to support the recent government policies that move in the right direction and strongly criticised what they called delays or mistakes.

    In addition, the ND proposals on all current issues of major importance will be posted on the internet for public debate.

    [12] KKE's Papariga on gov't announced measures

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga stated Thursday that the government will announce more economic measures and called the workers "to war" to overturn the government policy.

    Papariga said in a press conference that the economic crisis is not as deep as it is being presented, adding that many problems pre-existed in various sectors but now they have become more visible and noticeable.

    The KKE leader predicted that following a brief recovery Greece will be faced with a new crisis.

    Papariga accused the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party of consenting to the policy followed by the ruling PASOK, adding that the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) has adopted a similar stance. Referring to the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), Papariga stated that it is plagued by inconsistency.

    [13] SYRIZA's Tsipras meets civil servants' union, slams measures to cut salaries, raise retirement age

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras once again slammed the tough austerity measures announced by the government, following a meeting with the leadership of the civil servants' union ADEDY on Thursday.

    "The measures announced by the prime minister the day before yesterday are socially unfair, drive workers to extinction and are also ineffective," Tsipras stressed.

    He also accused Prime Minister George Papandreou of having "deceived the Greek people" into electing him by presenting a alternative 'progressive' platform and then using the popular mandate to "form a grand conservative coalition with the consent and complicity of New Democracy and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS)."

    According to the left-wing party leader, the government was trying to persuade Greeks to "enter a cycle of sacrifices with no returns" that would push Greek society into a deep rut.

    He warned that the public-sector wage cuts would whet the appetite for cuts in private-sector wages as well and said that the decision to raise the retirement age because people were living longer was a "deeply antisocial and inhuman measure, which comes to drag us many years back, to other eras".

    [14] Parvanov congratulates Papoulias on re-election as president

    Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov on Thursday sent a letter to President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, congratulating him on his re-election as Greece's president for a second term and conveying his best wishes for health and happiness in fulfilling his duties.

    [15] Ecumenical Patriarch visits

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Thursday visited the premises where meals are offered by the Athens Archdiocese and the non-governmental organisation "Alilengui" (Solidarity), where he was welcomed by Archbishop of Athens and All Geece Ieronymos and other officials.

    The Patriarch gave out meals together with the Archbishop and then, in a private meeting, he was briefed on the programme beingg implemented by the Athens Archdiocese in cooperation with "Alilengui", while 1,600 dishes of food are shared on a daily basis for homeless people, aliens, people dependent on substances and the poor.

    [16] Humanitarian aid to Haiti

    Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis will head a Greek mission to quake-stricken Haiti with humanitarian aid, comprised of 50 tons of pharmaceutical supplies, foodstuffs and tents. The shipment is scheduled to depart on Sunday night.

    A Hellenic Aid financial assistance of 200,000 euros was approved soon after the devastating earthquake of Jan. 13 and was channeled to the UN World Food Programme.

    In a press conference on Thursday, Kouvelis stated that he will deliver a letter by PM George Papandreou addressed to his Haitian counterpart focusing on the Greek aid, historical bilateral relations and the Greek government's pledge to continue to support the country.

    Kouvelis underlined that Greece's next initiative is to contribute to the reconstruction of health infrastructure for children.

    The Greek humanitarian aid will arrive in Haiti on board a Hellenic Imperial Airways Boeing 747 aircraft. The airline will cover 50 pct of the transport costs. A five-member special team formed by Medecins du Monde and the Greek Rescue Team will also be transported to Haiti and offer its assistance.

    In consultation with the Spanish EU Presidency the Greek airplane will be used for the repatriation of European citizens who are still in Haiti.

    Financial News

    [17] Gov't on economy

    "The government is determined to meet the challenge of the current difficult economic situation and proceed with changes and reforms that will bring the country back on track toward progress, development and prosperity," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said Thursday.

    He underlined that the vehicle used by the government will be the strict observance of the Stability Programme approved on Wednesday as well as the draft laws on the tax and social insurance reform, the revenue policy and the measures announced by the prime minister.

    "Any delay in decision making will have a national cost and the present government is determined not to lay an additional unbearable burden on the Greek people," he underlined.

    Petalotis stated that the parliament will decide if it will be necessary to set up an investigation committee to examine accusations on "mismanagement" in the economy committed by the previous government.

    On the taxing of offshore companies, Petalotis said this is an issue of political will in order "to stop them from being a vehicle for tax-evasion".

    [18] ND on prospective new measures: Individual evaluation of each new step

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) will take a position "by item" on prospective new measures that will be needed, party spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos said on Thursday, com-menting on the European Commission's approval of Greece's Stability and Development Plan, stressing that additional measures are necessary for growth.

    "The Stability and Development Program was approved by the Commission, with reservations regarding the need for comple-ting a reforms package, submission of a new report in mid-March and the government's preparedness for new measures," he said.

    He added that prime minister George Papandreou's announce-ments on Wednesday night only partially meet the need for supplementary measures "and, likely, more will be asked", and reiterated ND leader Antonis Samaras' recent statement that ND will take a position on each such measure individually.

    However, Panagiotopoulos continued, "that which Brussels has not said, but which is needed by the Greek economy, is additional measures not only to reduce the deficit, but for 'breathers' to invigorate the economy, because without those, the recession will deepen, the state revenues will be further compressed, the cyclical expenditures (such as unemployment benefits) will increase, the deficits will not be contained, and unemployment will rise sharply".

    [19] Gov't unveils draft bill on autonomy of statistics agency

    The government on Thursday tabled a draft bill envisioning autonomy for the country's national statistics agency, a high-profile pledge aimed at ensuring that the state's economic figures are credible.

    According to a ministry announcement, the draft law envisages that the statistics agency will become independent, while a new consultancy agency will be formed, the Council of the Greek Statistics System.

    The finance ministry stressed that the new draft bill will create a cohesive framework of rules and institutions around the National Statistics System, adopting community regulations of fair practice to ensure that the Greek Statistics System would integrate smoothly with the European Statistics System.

    The aim of the draft bill is to strengthen the quality and credibility of fiscal and statistics data presenting the country's economic situation.

    Under the draft bill, the finance ministry will change the framework covering the development, production and distribution of statistics, transforming the National Statistical Service into an independent authority called Hellenic Statistical Authority, while the Greek Parliament will become the supervisory body of the new authority participating in the selection of its president and four of the other six board members, supervising its operations and publishing its annual statistics program. The finance ministry will appoint one of the seven-member board.

    The draft legislation will also regulate the operation of the Hellenic Statistics System, adopting EU regulations, establish the main principals of operations and introducing a Council of the Hellenic Statistics System -an agency representing the Bank of Greece, the Labour Institute of GSEE -Greece's largest trade union-, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), the National Centre of Social Research, farm unions and a representative of the European statistics agency Eurostat.

    [20] Greek Industries Federation president on economy

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    Federation of Greek Industries and Enterprises (SEB) president Dimitris Daskalopoulos reiterated here on Thursday the Federation's support for the Greek government's recent economic measures.

    He and the members of Europe's biggest employers organisation BUSINESSEUROPE presented the positions of European employers on the recovery of the European Union's economies to EU president Herman Van Rompuy and Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

    Asked by representatives of the European press to comment on the state of the Greek economy, he expressed the conviction that the Greek government took the right decisions and it is ready to implement the measures for the country's monetary adjustment to European standards.

    On the question of the degree of difficulty regarding the imple-mentation of these measures, Daskalopoulos said that political consensus on the government measures is unprecedented for Greek reality and that, despite the existing reactions, Greek public opinion is aware that this is the only path for a solution to the problems of the Greek economy.

    Lastly, asked in what ways the Greek economy could return to growth rates, Daskalopoulos said that in Greece there is a huge business potential that could be released if the state modernises the legislative framework, curbs bureaucracy and deregulates the markets.

    [21] Parliament suspends Souflias law for illegal building conversions for six months

    The Greek Parliament on Thursday approved the temporary suspension of a town planning law that allowed owners of property with illegally converted open-air spaces or basements to pay a one-off fine to 'sanction' the planning permission violations. The measure, designed to collect fines and provide quasi-legal standing for an estimated 1.5 million properties in Greece that currently violate town planning rules in this way, has been suspended for six months.

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili defended the decision to 'freeze' the measure instituted by her predecessor George Souflias on the grounds that it dealt with the issue of planning violations in an fragmentary way and was more a tool for collecting revenue than solving problems.

    She promised to bring a more comprehensive proposal that also took into account environmental issues, noting that the previous measure made no provision for preventative or enforcement measures but instead facilitated those breaking the law.

    The measure concerns a type of building violation that has become extremely common in Greece, where property developers "bump up" the size of homes and apartments by submitting plans that include large balconies or 'semi-enclosed' spaces, which are then illegally enclosed by large windows and converted to indoor use.

    Those then buying such properties find themselves in a legal limbo and are theoretically liable for hefty annual fines if the planning violation is discovered, though in practice there is little enforcement of rules and discovery is extremely rare. The measure passed by Souflias did not make these conversions and extension legal but 'waived' future fines for the same offence.

    [22] Batzeli takes firm line on farmer protests, rules out extra cash

    The agriculture ministry has "done all it could" and it was now up to farmers to defuse the situation after three weeks of protest road blocks, Greek Agriculture and Foods Minister Katerina Batzeli stressed on Thursday during a press conference at the 23rd Agrotica exhibition in Thessaloniki. She once again ruled out all prospect of additional cash assistance to farmers from state coffers.

    Batzeli announced that payments of the remainder of Community funding to those eligible will begin on March 5 and, when complete, there would be a settlement of released subsidies for tomatos, cotton and possibly rice crops. She also announced the return of VAT to farmers in April, if possible, or one month sooner than usual.

    During the press conference, she appealed to farmers to stop closing the country's borders because in this way they "exported" the crisis and harmed the country.

    The minister went on to repeat announcements regarding a number of measures and improvements linked to the farming sector, promising that a number of issues that currently troubled the farm sector - such as the operation of the market, high production costs and the competitiveness of agriculture - will have been solved by June.

    Batzeli also revealed that Greece may be forced to return at least 550 million euros from the compensation paid to farmers in a package handed out by the previous government. The ministry was currently engaged in tough negotiations with the European Commission in order to find a formula to avoid this, she added, but there was no guarantee of success.

    The minister went on to criticise the handouts given by her predecessor Sotiris Hatzigakis, saying that they had failed to achieve their aims and that payment of 'petty sums' under pressure from road blocks was not a way to solve the problems, only to stop the protests.

    Concerning tobacco, Batzeli said the government's aim was to persuade farmers to switch to different crops, while for cotton she noted the need for a different support framework and announced a meeting with cotton gin owners at the ministry next Tuesday to discuss payment of contracts to farmers that had delivered their product and not been paid.

    [23] Farmers to retire from Strymonikos roadblock

    Protesting farmers decided on Thursday to pull out on Friday from their roadblock at the Strymonikos interchange. According to the farmers' federation president Anastassios Katos, the farmers will withdraw their tractors from the road, although disappointed by the government's stance, and called on all their fellow farmers not to pay the PPC (electricity) bills instead as a show of protest.

    The tractors will remain on Thursday on the national highway but without disrupting the traffic.

    [24] Farmers remain at roadblocks

    Protesting farmers at Promachonas on Thursday kept the border with Bulgaria closed. The farmers opened up the road late Wednesday night for a few hours the road to allow cars and trucks that had been blocked at the checkpoint since last Sunday to pass through before reclosing the checkpoint.

    Moreover, the Ormenio and Kipi checkpoints in Evros prefecture are open, with farmers intermmittently closing the Ormenio checkpoint.

    Roads bypassing the Doirani and Evzoni checkpoints in Kilkis prefecture are open, as are the Krystallopigi and Niki checkpoints in Florina prefecture.

    Protesting farmers of Serres prefecture keep blocked the Egnatia motorway at the Kedryllia intersection.

    The Exochi border post in Drama prefecture was open during the night but the Chryssoupoli interchange in Kavala was blocked.

    Grevena prefecture farmers remain on the Egnatia motorway and several others have gathered at the Servia bridge in Kozani, but without obstructing the traffic.

    However, Thessaly farmers remain at their roadblocks at the Nikaia and Microthebes intersections on the Athens-Thessaloniki highway.

    Stop Press

    [25] Farmers postpone labour action

    The farmers' national coordinating body decided late on Thursday night to postpone all labour action.

    George Terzis, a farmer representative from Kilkis, Macedonia, told the ANA-MPA that the farmers' union leadership would be making statements on its decision on Friday.

    [26] GSEE calls nationwide general strike on Feb. 24

    The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) on Thursday announced a 24-hour nationwide strike on February 24 and said that it was withdrawing trade union representatives from a committee to conduct dialogue on reforming Greece's social insurance system.

    According to GSEE, Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation for the private sector, the strike was called in response to the wage-cuts and later retirement age decided by the government but also the hardline stance displayed by employers that had led negotiations for a general collective labour agreement to deadlock.

    GSEE President Yiannis Panagopoulos accused the government of backing down to pressures from farmers and warned employers that private-sector workers will fight for higher wages. He urged employees to join the strike against the "neoliberal and extortionist policies of profiteers" and said that the hardline stance of employers was further emboldened by the prime minister's address, while there were no measures targeting the rich and powerful.

    [27] Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling: Net profits up 3% in 2009

    Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling on Thursday said its comparable operating profits (EBIT) totaled 651 million euros in 2009, down 1.0 pct from 2008, while comparable net profits totaled 437 million euros, up 3.0 pct over the same period, whereas earnings per share rose 3.0 pct to 1.20 euros.

    The company said cash flows from operating activities - including the effect of net capital spending - jumped to 546 million euros in 2009, up 284 million euros from 2008. The volume of sales fell 2.0 pct to 2.069 billion boxes, with net revenue from sales down 6.0 pct to 6.544 billion euros.

    Volume of sales in the fourth quarter of 2009 totaled 452 million boxes, down 8.0 pct from 2008, while net revenue from sales fell 12 pct to 1.393 billion euros and comparable EBIT rose 1.0 pct to 60 million euros.

    Doros Constantinou, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling's chief executive, commenting on the results said the company remained cautious over the short-term conditions in the market, while it will continue focusing on initiatives to boost efficiency, reducing movement capital and strengthening market shares.

    [28] Stocks plunge 3.33%

    Stocks suffered heavy losses in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with bank shares coming under strong selling pressure. The composite index fell 3.33 pct to end at 1,951.70 points, with turnover at 215.757 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index dropped 3.89 pct, the FTSE 40 index fell 2.69 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 2.57 pct lower. The Food sector was the only one to record gains (1.90 pct), while Utilities (6.50 pct) and Banks (5.42 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Klonatex (12.5 pct), Vivere (10.0 pct), CPI (9.68 pct), Karamolegkos (8.86 pct) and Texapret (7.69 pct) were top gainers, while Compucon (10.0 pct), Elfico (9.90 pct), Imperio (9.80 pct) and Galaxidi (9.52 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 151 to 36 with another 43 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -4.59%

    Industrials: -0.98%

    Commercial: -0.63%

    Construction: -0.80%

    Media: -1.77%

    Oil & Gas: -1.46%

    Personal & Household: -0.96%

    Raw Materials: -3.42%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.40%

    Technology: -2.66%

    Telecoms: -3.09%

    Banks: -5.42%

    Food & Beverages: +1.90%

    Health: -4.14%

    Utilities: -6.50%

    Chemicals: -3.07%

    Financial Services: -1.77%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank and Eurobank.

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

    Alpha Bank: 6.80

    ATEbank: 1.67

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.72

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.51

    National Bank of Greece: 14.85

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.92

    Intralot: 3.30

    OPAP: 14.60

    OTE: 9.40

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.81

    Titan: 20.00

    [29] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.46 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 71.488 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 11,558 contracts, worth 57.124 million euros, with 26,649 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 16,172 contracts worth 14.364 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,629), followed by Eurobank (978), MIG (612), OTE (1,161), Piraeus Bank (825), GEK (2,004), Alpha Bank (1,887), Intralot (328), Cyprus Bank (947) and ATEbank (300).

    [30] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds fell slightly to 347 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 348 bps on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.63 pct and the German Bund 3.16 pct. Turnover in the market shrank to 746 million euros, of which 497 million were buy orders and the remaining 249 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 250 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates edged lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.96 pct, the three-month rate was 0.66 pct and the one-month rate 0.42 pct.

    [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.395

    Pound sterling 0.880

    Danish kroner 7.504

    Swedish kroner 10.214

    Japanese yen 126.69

    Swiss franc 1.480

    Norwegian kroner 8.234

    Canadian dollar 1.481

    Australian dollar 1.585

    General News

    [32] Death of noted philosopher Kostas Axelos

    Noted Greek philosopher Kostas Axelos died in the early hours of Thursday in Paris at the age of 85.

    Born in Athens in 1924, he attended highschool at the French Institute and German School of Athens, and later enrolled in Law School to pursue law and economics studies, but became involved in politics with the onset of WWII and joined the Greek Resistance during the German and Italian occupation, and later in the Greek Civil War.

    He was inspired by the writings of Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle, Empedocles, Marx, Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky, and the poets Rimbaud, Rilke and Holderlin.

    An organiser and journalist affiliated with the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in 1941-1945, was arrested and condemned to death by the then government, but escaped after a fake 'execution' and incarceration in a camp, and in 1946 abandoned the communist party ranks.

    At the end of 1945, with the help of then director of the French Institute in Athens Octave Merlier he boarded the legendary ship SS Mataroa to Paris. Shortly after his departure, he was sentenced to death in absentia.

    In Paris, he studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, and from 1950-1957 he was a researcher in the philosophy department of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CRNS), where he wrote his dissertations, before moving on to the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes.

    He taught philosophy at the Sorbonne from 1962-1973, during which time he wrote his dissertation "Marx, pensure de lat technique ("Alienation, Praxis and Techne in the Thought of Karl Marx) attempting to provide an understanding of modern technology based on the thought of Heidegger and Marx, which was influential in the 1960's.

    He was a collaborator, columnist and later editor of the pioneering, at the time, magazine "Arguments" (1956-1962), and founded and, since 1960, directed, in tandem with "Arguments", the philosophical series "Editions de Minuit", which also published most of his own books.

    Axelos has written 24 books and a plethora of texts in French, Greek and German, which have been translated into 16 languages, with "Le Jeu du Monde" (Play of the World), being his most important book, which argues for a pre-ontological status of play.

    In March 2009 he was made an honorary Doctor of Philosophy of Thessaloniki's Aristotle University (AUTH), which was his last visit to Greece.

    [33] Internal Affairs dept. discovers major scam by customs officials

    The Greek Police Internal Affairs department has uncovered a major scam involving 10 customs officers that led to massive losses in customs and excise revenue. The discovery was the culmination of a year-long investigation whose findings were revealed on Thursday.

    The 10 customs officers are accused of forming a ring that used various tricks to falsify their books and allow thousands of trucks to cross the Greek-Albanian border into Albania in exchange for cash bribes.

    Accused in connection with the case are five employees of the Kakavia customs post, four employees of the Mertzani customs post in Ioannina prefecture and one customs officer at the central Ioannina customs service.

    According to the findings of the investigation, between September 27, 2008 and January 13, 2010 they allowed 11,814 trucks to illegally cross the Mertzani border crossing and 4, 780 trucks to illegal cross the Kakavia border crossing in the four years between January 2006 and 2010.

    The amount of revenue lost to the state is believed to be huge and the investigation has been extended to previous years. The money taken by the ring was proportional to the value of the goods being transported and was paid into a joint account to be shared out later.

    The customs officials involved have been charged with repeated counts of legalising income from criminal activity, repeated counts of conspiracy to abuse authority, and conspiring to commit breach of faith.

    [34] Woman rescued after falling into 6-metre septic tank

    A 60-year-old woman who fell into a six-metre deep septic tank in a village outside the central city of Larissa on Thursday was successfully rescued by the fire brigade.

    The woman, who told authorities she was collecting wild greens when she fell into the disused pit, was unhurt.

    [35] Terror suspect remanded in custody

    A 21-year-old arrested as a suspected member of the terror group "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" was remanded in custody on Thursday after appearing before an appellate-level examining magistrate.

    He had been arrested on Monday after police found his finger prints on movable objects within an apartment in Halandri that was being used as a safe house by the terrorist organisation.

    The young man has denied the charges and claims that he never visited the Halandri apartment but had met one of the three people also arrested as suspects in the case through a gym that they both attended.

    On Thursday morning, the appeals justices plenum appointed appellate court president Dimitris Mokkas to be the special examining magistrate in the case, in the place of the late Dimitris Flegas who died at the end of December.

    Terrorist cases in Greece by-pass primary courts and are processed directly at appellate level based on anti-terror legislation passed in the early 2000s, though the right to appeal is not lost.

    [36] Drug trafficking arrest on Zakynthos

    A 35-year-old resident of Zakynthos island was arrested on Thursday by local police on drug trafficking charges. At the time of the arrest, police found on him an envelope containing 30 grams of heroin. Later a police search of his house revealed another 2.5 grams of heroin and 800grams of cannabis.

    The detainee had collected the envelope with the drugs from a private transport company in the city of Zakynthos.

    The suspect will be sent before a prosecutor.

    [37] Castaways hospitalised with hypothermia symptoms

    Three castaways rescued late Wednesday night off the coast of Kalymnos island in the southeastern Aegean have been hospitalized suffering from hypothermia. The three men, aged 59, 40 and 21, were on board their boat, the "Aegeas" when it crashed into a reef between the islands of Kalymnos and Kalolimnos and sank. However, the captain had managed to send an SOS to the Kalymnos Coast Guard which immediately launched a rescue operation. The three men were spotted late at night one mile off the cape Hrysso Spileo by a rescue team.

    Weather Forecast

    [38] Cloudy on Friday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 15C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 13C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 11C.

    [39] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The European Commission's approval of the measures contained in the Greek government's Stability and Development plan, the opposition parties' and labour unions' reactions, and the changes in professionals' taxation, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "State returns to 79,500 citizens the money they paid for the national cadastre".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Fear of social outburst - Prime Minister George Papandreou is intensely criticised for not fulfilling his pre election pledges and announcing 'burning measures' instead".

    AVGHI: "Cutbacks in salaries in private sector as well".

    AVRIANI: "European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia preannounced new package of measures - Storm of reactions and barrage of mobilisations".

    CHORA: "Robberies, roadblocks, social turmoil and ...consensus - Reactions to the severe measures escalate".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Trade unionists affiliated to ruling PASOK sent message to PM: George you deceived us, we declare war on you over social security, taxation and income".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "George 'annuls' his ministers".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Those mostly affected by the new measures on retirement age limit - The 40-year-olds are the big losers".

    ESTIA: "Populism has dismantled everything".

    ETHNOS: "Sweeping changes on minimum retirement ages".

    IMERISSIA: "Markets challenge the EU - Portuguese virus now afflicts the spreads".

    KATHIMERINI: "New social security system under EU pressure ".

    LOGOS: "EU gives the green light to Stability Plan but...under the threat of additional measures".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "EU's unprecedented supervision of the economy".

    NIKI: "Power in unity - President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias calls on Greeks to rally together".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Workers rise up against the measures that violate our rights".

    TA NEA: "Three years of austerity".

    TO VIMA: "End to tax 'asylum', everyone must keep accounting ledgers".

    VRADYNI: "Papandreou did not keep his pre-electoral promises on social security".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [40] Spokesman: President to brief National Council on Cyprus talks

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias will brief Friday the members of the National Council on the recent developments regarding the UN-led Cyprus talks.

    Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said Thursday that the top advisory body to the President on the Cyprus problem, the National Council, which is composed of two members from all parliamentary parties, will be briefed Friday by President Christofias on the developments regarding the Cyprus problem and the ongoing Cyprus talks.

    He also said that there are some convergences as regards the Cyprus negotiation, adding, "the political parties will be briefed tomorrow (Friday) in detail".

    The spokesman was also invited to comment on a statement made by UNSG Ban Ki-moon that President Christofias told him that he would issue some sort of plan for further negotiations, despite the illegal elections in Cyprus occupied areas to be held in April.

    "To avoid misinterpretations, I should say that he was referring to the next meetings between President Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat for the continuation of the negotiations", the spokesman said.

    Invited to comment on a statement by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat that there has been some approach towards the Turkish positions but this has not been announced, Stephanou said that "Talat is not telling the truth", adding "when we make statements, we should be very careful with the statements we make".

    President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008, with a view to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.

    [41] UN Secretary General: A Cyprus settlement is within reach

    UNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he was encouraged by what he saw and heard during his recent visit to Cyprus adding that a settlement of the Cyprus problem is within reach.

    Ban, who briefed the UN Security Council about his recent visits to London, Ethiopia and Cyprus told journalists that ''Leaders made good progress, but talks need to go farther, faster. My Special Advisor Alexander Downer will work to keep up the momentum of this Cypriot-led process. I do believe a solution is within reach - but it will require even more courage, compromise and commitment,'' he added.

    Responding to a question, Ban said he was very much encouraged by such a strong commitment by both leaders to continue their negotiations. ''And I was again, very much encouraged and touched by the strong support of the people from both sides who were chanting, in unison, shouting 'resolution now','' he added.

    As he noted, ''these were all the loud and clear voices from the general population, regardless of where they were from, both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot. That was quite moving for me. I felt a strong sense of responsibility (about) what the United Nations can do more to facilitate this Cypriot-led and Cypriot-owned negotiation.''

    He said that his observation was that a solution was possible and a solution was within reach, and, in fact, they made significant progress in power-sharing and governance. ''I was quite encouraged by this. Of course, there are many more important issues: property; border and security issues. I hope they will continue,'' the UN Secretary General said.

    He added that Cyprus President Demetris Christofias told him that he would issue some sort of plan for further negotiations, despite the so called elections in Cyprus occupied areas to be held in April, adding that this ''is quite encouraging.''

    ''And I am going to have my special adviser, Alexander Downer, continuously engaged, so that this negotiation will be facilitated,'' Ban concluded.

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