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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-02-09

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Tuesday, 9 February 2010 Issue No: 3418


  • [01] PM defends government's plan to grant citizenship
  • [02] ND leader rejects govt's immigration bill
  • [03] KKE leader rejects immigration bill
  • [04] LA.OS leader asks for referendum on immigrants issue
  • [05] Tsipras on immigration policy
  • [06] SYRIZA hosts conference on migration
  • [07] Petalotis on economy, prospects of EU bailout
  • [08] Promachonas farmers to meet Agriculture Minister
  • [09] Farmers' mobilisations - Promachonas remains closed
  • [10] Supreme Court Plenum on higher courts leaderships
  • [11] UN envoy Nimetz plans visits to Athens and Skopje
  • [12] Former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin to speak in Athens on Thursday
  • [13] Katseli meets with business sector representatives in Thessaloniki
  • [14] Deputy economy minister on planned legislation
  • [15] Wednesday strike to ground air traffic in Greece
  • [16] Aegean cancels flights on Feb. 10 due to air-traffic controllers strike
  • [17] Greece launches new tender for Vevi lignite mine
  • [18] Car registrations up 24.9 pct in Jan
  • [19] Foreign investors' participation in ASE unchanged in Jan
  • [20] Greek stocks plunged 3.86 pct
  • [21] Greek bond market closing report
  • [22] ADEX closing report
  • [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [24] Environment ministry outlines measures to clean up Asopos River
  • [25] Carnival season in full swing throughout Greece
  • [26] Chinese New Year to be celebrated in Athens
  • [27] Jordanian National Defence School students in Greece
  • [28] Bank robberies in Attica and Athens
  • [29] Foreign national arrested on drug charges in Galatsi, Athens
  • [30] Trial of police guards in Grigoropoulos' shooting death resumes on Feb. 17
  • [31] Illegal migrants arrested while attempting to leave for Italy
  • [32] Man shot in robbery
  • [33] Bag with thousands of euros from train ticket sales stolen
  • [34] Cloudy, rainy on Tuesday
  • [35] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [36] P5 Ambassadors express full support to President Christofias
  • [37] UN looks forward in continuing the talks, says Downer
  • [38] Archbishop condemns destruction of religious sites by Turkey Politics

  • [01] PM defends government's plan to grant citizenship

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking in Parliament on Monday during an off-the-agenda discussion on Greek citizenship for foreigners and immigration policy, taking place at the initiative of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party, defended the government's decision to grant Greek citizenship to legal, as he stressed, immigrants.

    The prime minister made a clear distinction between immigration policy and citizenship policy, invoking "humanity and realism".

    Papandreou underlined that the controversial bill settles a problem that has been perpetuated for 28 years without any legislative inititiative handling it effectively.

    "550,000 immigrants are living today, legally in our country. Indeed, most owe the residence permit to some of the many legalisations that took place along the way. It is, however, a licence that the state decided to give them. These people exist, live and toil among us. They have faces, hopes, dreams and fears.

    The economic crisis touches them the same and they worry the same as us. They work, they fulfill their security burdens, they obtain ownership, they send their children to school, they have taken roots in Greece which became for their children the only homeland.

    We cannot make exclude them them social developments," he said.

    The prime minister also wondered "what are the ghosts about the distortion of the nation, what does it mean to be Greek, democracy, equality, humanity" and stressed "do we believe so little in the strength of Greece, the strength of Hellenism throughout the centuries."

    Papandreou also argued that the granting of citizenship "does not weaken the guarding of borders and efforts to crack down on the slave trade, that are being upgraded. On the contrary, the fact that citizenship is not granted to immigrants without legal papers also sends a message that there is no point in one entering Greece illegally. Moreover, the founding of the European coast guard service (FRONTEX) is a fact and soon this Organisation's first regional wing will be established in Piraeus."

    [02] ND leader rejects govt's immigration bill

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, speaking during an off-the-agenda debate in Parliament on immigration policy on Monday, said that his party will vote against the PASOK government's bill on citizenship for immigrants and will also abolish it when it comes to power.

    "We do not want Greece to be an enclosed fortress. But we will never allow it to become a free-for-all as well," Samaras stressed and added that the social problem from the legal residence of immigrants has already been solved with legislative interventions by ND governments.

    He also accused PASOK that "in conditions of unprecedented recession, it is taking measures that in essence turn Greece into a 'magnet' of new waves of illegal immigration" and pointed out that Greek society has reached its limits regarding the absorption of immigrants.

    "When we are at the heart of the worst economic crisis experienced by Greece in the postwar period, granting citizenship en masse to half a million immigrants, together with their children, entails dangers of social upheavals," he said.

    According to the ND leader, the smooth accession of immigrants takes place gradually in a way that does not create the danger of more coming.

    "I am not sending the message that the country has slack procedures on the mass granting of citizenship. I am not turning Greece into a 'magnet' for the entry of new waves of illegal immigrants. I am not sending this message neither to the slave traders who are lurking to bring more 'shiploads' of desperate people, nor to the rest of society that is already at its limits," he also said.

    Focusing on his party's proposal on the issue, Samaras said that children born in Greece will acquire the right to have citizenship, but not immediately, but when they become adults and with the following preconditions: To have completed nine-year compulsory education and to have abandoned the citizenship of their parents.

    "In other words, those children born in Greece will receive citizenship when they reach adulthood if they so wish. But their parents will not receive citizenship from the beginning," he said.

    Samaras also referred to the trend of European countries to "correct mistakes" on the issue, with Britain proclaiming the incorporation of the children of immigrants in "Britishhood", with France creating a national identity and immigration ministry.

    Speaking about the problem concerning the vote of immigrants from non-European countries in the municipal elections which, as he said, "has been rejected by other European governments", he underlined that "there cannot be two-speed citizens. Some who vote everywhere and some who only vote in certain elections."

    [03] KKE leader rejects immigration bill

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, speaking in Parliament on Monday during a discussion on immigration policy, said "no" to the bill being brought by the government on the immigration issue.

    Papariga said that her party cannot adopt a draft law "worse than the more or less problematic previous one" and pointed out that the government may be making "concessions to the New Democracy (ND) and Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) parties in exchange for the consent they showed for the measures against the working people and in favour of the exit from the crisis."

    She added that KKE would be submitting a series of specific positions during the debate on the bill and called for the legalisation of the biggest part of immigrants living in Greece, with another part receiving political asylum and a third part being given the necessary papers to leave and go to the countries they wish."

    Papariga further expressed her party's disagreement with the "nationalism developed by ND and LAOS, an extremely dangerous nationalism with extentions that we do not want to imagine," as well as cosmopolitanism "that is also appearing from leftist forces."

    [04] LA.OS leader asks for referendum on immigrants issue

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) president George Karatzaferis, speaking Monday evening in Parliament during an off the agenda debate on illegal immigration and the granting of Greek citizenship, reiterated his party's proposal for the holding of a referendum regarding the granting of Greek nationality to foreigners.

    Karatzaferis, whose party asked for the off the agenda debate, also reiterated his strong opposition to the government's decision on the issue, counter-proposing the granting of long-term residence permits to immigrants. He also said that the tabling of a relevant bill undermined national unity "at a time when this was an absolute necessity".

    "Regarding the unprecedented economic crisis the country is going through, national unity is necessary. Why are you so hasty on an issue which puts democracy in danger. You may come in three months time and we can talk about it. What is that which prevents you from doing this?" the LA.OS leader wondered.

    Karatzaferis questioned the figures given by the government regarding the number (534,000) of legal immigrants, arguing that it exceeded 1.5 million.

    Rejecting the government's proposal, the LA.OS leader underlined that Greece has lately become "an important gate of entrance to illegal immigrants and that is why we should deter them and not become softer." He also related the increase of crime in the country to the increase of the number of illegal immigrants.

    [05] Tsipras on immigration policy

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alexis Tsipras, speaking in Parliament on Monday during a discussion on immigration policy, said that the immigration problem "is unbreakably linked to the neoliberal conception and policy," adding that the position of the left "is the lifting of the causes that create and swell immigration waves" and that the struggle against racism "is based on ecumenical values and is the basis of democracy".

    "All the previous legislative attempts were distorted, fragmental, they handled the phenomenon phobicly and in an profiteering manner, leaving the immigrants in a state of semilawlessness," he said.

    Tsipras criticised main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras and Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party leader George Karatzaferis, attributing to them "an effort at phobic racist syndrome", while accusing the government of "backtracking".

    Tsipras criticised Karatzaferis for the strange things, as he termed them, that he said about "illnesses conveyed to Greek society by immigrants," as well as Samaras for all that he analysed in a strange way, as he noted, about multiculturism.

    [06] SYRIZA hosts conference on migration

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras accused the government on Monday of making "major compromises in the citizenship and civil rights draft law in an attempt to secure the backing of main opposition New Democracy (ND) and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) for its neo-liberal economic policy."

    Addressing a conference in the Parliament building hosted by SYRIZA, on the occasion of the tabling of the draft law on the acquisition of Greek citizenship by foreigners living in Greece, Tsipras underlined "the need for a broad social alliance to ensure the adoption of a progressive migration policy."

    He pointed out that this alliance "will also block the neo-liberal economic measures sponsored by the government, which if adopted will lead to a deeper economic and social crisis."

    The conference was attended by representatives of immigrant organizations and communities, anti-racist organizations, jurists and representatives of the academic community.

    [07] Petalotis on economy, prospects of EU bailout

    Replying to questions relating to the Greek economy, government spokesman George Petalotis on Monday underlined that the government was determined to turn the present difficult situation into an opportunity for improvement.

    He also stressed that "we will get through the crisis on our own" when asked about the possibility of a German-French plan to 'rescue' the Greek economy at the upcoming EU summit on Thursday.

    He did not rule out the possibility that Prime Minister George Papandreou would suggest the issue of a euro-bond in talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday, however, saying that everything the premier had said regarding this remained "open".

    "We are in a period when all matters are open," he noted.

    The spokesman, responding to additional questions, also pointed out that in the context of European solidarity, the countries being targeted would raise the issue of the attacks being made on them and the crisis they were going through. He refused to confirm, however, whether there was already a "specific platform" between Greece, Spain and Portugal in view of the summit, though noting that other countries were going through a crisis, in addition to Greece, and that this had to be dealt with by European bodies.

    In terms of Greece's economy, Petalotis underlined that the model of overborrowing without any strategy in order to cover basic fiscal needs, which had been adopted too readily in the past, had now reached its limits and had to change.

    He stressed that the upcoming tax and social insurance reforms, new incomes policy, and radical changes in the agricultural sector were a "one-way street" and that there were no margins for submitting to special group interests and demands.

    "What comes first at such difficult times in the public interest," he underlined.

    Referring to Monday's meeting at the prime minister's offices on incomes policy, he announced that there may well be an informal cabinet meeting on Tuesday to discuss this and that a complete draft bill on incomes policy will be presented within the week, as well as the general guidelines of the tax system.

    He clarified that the incomes policy bill will be tabled and passed first, followed by the tax bill.

    [08] Promachonas farmers to meet Agriculture Minister

    A delegation of Serres prefecture farmers who are keeping closed Promachonas border post will meet on Tuesday afternoon with Agriculture and Foods Minister Katerina Batzeli at her ministry in Athens. According to the union's president George Kassapoglou the checkpoint will remain closed until the delegation returns from its 3:00 meeting with Batzeli in Athens.

    Moreover representatives of 18 roadblocks will meet on Monday at 5:00 p.m. at the roadbloc in Nikaia in Larissa, central Greece, to decide on their further actions.

    [09] Farmers' mobilisations - Promachonas remains closed

    Protesting farmers remained at Promachonas border post on Monday, blocking trucks from passing through the border. The Ormenio checkpoint in Evros prefecture was open however, although farmers kept their tractors lined up on both sides of the road. The road passing through the Doirani border post in Kilkis prefecture was open throughout the night.

    In Grevena prefecture, farmers with 40 tractors remain on the Egnatia road and at the Servia bridge but without disrupting traffic.

    Thessaly farmers kept closed the Athens-Thessaloniki highway at the Nikaia and Microthebes intersections.

    [10] Supreme Court Plenum on higher courts leaderships

    The Supreme Court's (Arios PAGOS) Administrative Plenum unanimously declared constitutional the Justice ministry's bill on the change in the way that the leaderships of the country's three higher courts are selected.

    According to the bill, the selection of the leaderships of the higher courts will be taking place through Parliament and the ministerial council will be having the last say.

    [11] UN envoy Nimetz plans visits to Athens and Skopje

    UN Secretary General special envoy Matthew Nimetz plans to visit Athens and Skopje, according to a UN statement on Monday.

    A UN spokesman stated that Ambassador Nimetz is looking for a mutually acceptable time to visit the region responding to invitations extended by both governments. The exact dates will be announced as soon as a relevant decision is reached.

    [12] Former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin to speak in Athens on Thursday

    Former Israeli deputy minister Yossi Beilin and Greek Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sahinidis will be the main speakers at a special event organised by the Greek-Israeli Chamber of Commerce and Technology on Thursday at 13:30.

    Beilin is known as the 'architect' of the Oslo accords for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the 1990s and continues to actively support peace through the Geneva initiatives. His speech will be on "The Economic Crisis as an Opportunity".

    Sahinidis is expected to outline the government's economic policy.

    Financial News

    [13] Katseli meets with business sector representatives in Thessaloniki

    Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli called on exporters in northern Greece to present their proposals for incentives that will boost exports and competitiveness on an international level in view of the public debate on the new developmental law to get underway shortly.

    In a meeting held in Thessaloniki, Katseli also requested that the Exporters' Association of Northern Greece (SEVE) present proposals for specified programmes on a sector and regional level.

    In her meeting with representatives of the Professional Chamber of Thessaloniki (EETH), Katseli underlined that a new programme supporting business liquidity through the Credit Guarantee Fund for Small and Very Small Enterprises (TEMPME) will be implemented by the end of February guaranteeing operating capital.

    She added that another three programmes will be announced through the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), while the likelihood of opening a new circle in support of women and young entrepreneurs is being considered.

    Katseli will be the keynote speaker in an event hosted by EETH in early March after accepting a formal invitation.

    The minister also met with representatives of the Small Industry Chamber of Thessaloniki (VETH) and discussed sector problems.

    [14] Deputy economy minister on planned legislation

    Deputy economy, competitiveness and shipping minister Markos Bolaris on Monday noted the importance of the ministry's recent bill providing special arrangements for the settlement of overdue corporate debts, adding that the final text contained the views of market agencies put forward through a public consultation.

    He also noted the Solidarity Benefit which, via consumption, was chanelled to the SMEs, thus boosting the market.

    The minisry's new bill on overdebted households, to be tabled soon, will introduce bankruptcy legislation for households as well, in accordance with the model existing in the rest of the European Union.

    Bolaris further announced that another bill being prepared by the ministry concerns the operation and restructuring of the Competition Committee, the legal status of which still falls under a 1977 law.

    Further legislative initiatives planned by the government include acceleration and simplifaction of the procedures for establishment, licensing and operation of business enterprises, Bolaris added.

    [15] Wednesday strike to ground air traffic in Greece

    An upcoming strike by the civil servants union ADEDY on February 10 is expected to seriously disrupt air transport on that day because of the participation of air-traffic controllers and civil aviation electronics engineers in the strike, called to protest against a wage freeze and cuts in benefits announced by the government for public-sector staff.

    [16] Aegean cancels flights on Feb. 10 due to air-traffic controllers strike

    Aegean Airlines on Monday announced that all its flights on February 10 will be cancelled as a result of a 24-hour strike by air-traffic controllers. The airline's announcement said that it will make every effort to arrange for the passengers of the cancelled flights to travel on other flights in its network within the next few days.

    Aegean will also have to change the departure time of the following flights on February 9:

    A3 137 Thessaloniki-Athens will depart at 22:45 instead of 23:20

    A3 136 Athens-Thessaloniki will depart at 22:45 instead of 23:30

    A3 606/607 Athens-London-Athens will depart from Athens at 14:45 instead of 17:20 and depart from London at 19:45 instead of 22:20 (local time).

    [17] Greece launches new tender for Vevi lignite mine

    The Greek government on Monday launched an international tender to lease a lignite mine in Vevi, Florina, after a previous tender held in 2006 was annulled. Environment, Energy and Climate Change Deputy Minister Ioannis Maniatis, in an announcement, said candidates must express their interest in the tender within 35 days after publication of the tender.

    Selection of a winner will be made by a five-member commission, while the contract will need to be ratified by the Greek Parliament.

    [18] Car registrations up 24.9 pct in Jan

    The Greek car market recovered in January, with car registrations (both new and used ones) totaling 32,765 vehicles in the first month of 2010, up 24.9 pct compared with the corresponding month in 2009, the National Statistical Service said on Monday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said motorcycle registrations totaled 3,957 in January, from 4,407 in January 2009, for a decline of 10.2 pct.

    [19] Foreign investors' participation in ASE unchanged in Jan

    Foreign investors' participation in the Athens Stock Exchange's capitalization was 48.9 pct in January, almost unchanged from 48.5 pct in December, official figures showed on Monday. Foreign investors were net sellers in the first month of 2010 with capital outflows totaling 64.58 million euros, while Greek investors were net buyers with capital inflows totaling 67.25 million euros.

    Foreign investors accounted for 55 pct of January's turnover in the market, down from 51.3 pct in December but up from 48.8 pct in January 2009, while Greek investors accounted for 26.9 pct in January from 29.7 pct in December and 31.4 pct in January 2009.

    The Athens Stock Exchange's capitalization totaled 78.2 billion euros in January, down from 84.1 billion a month earlier, but up from 67 billion euros in January 2009. Turnover totaled 4.377 billion euros in January, down 6.0 pct from December, but up 78 pct from January 2009.

    [20] Greek stocks plunged 3.86 pct

    Greek stocks suffered a heavy blow in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, with the composite index of the market ending at 1,806.40 points, off 3.86 pct. Turnover was an improved 283.153 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index plunged 4.58 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 3.57 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index ended 3.88 pct down. The Travel sector was the only one to record gains (0.82 pct), while Banks (6.82 pct) and Raw Materials (6.47 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Lyberis Publications (8.0 pct), Euroholdings (7.69 pct), Neorio (7.5 pct) and Levenderis (3.28 pct) were top gainers, while Fintexport (18.60 pct), Klonatex (12.5 pct), Mouzakis (11.63 pct) and Intrakat (11.11 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 166 to 29 with another 38 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.90%

    Industrials: -2.92%

    Commercial: -2.94%

    Construction: -2.30%

    Media: -3.48%

    Oil & Gas: -3.13%

    Personal & Household: -1.72%

    Raw Materials: -6.47%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.85%

    Technology: -6.07%

    Telecoms: -3.23%

    Banks: -6.82%

    Food & Beverages: -0.62%

    Health: -5.16%

    Utilities: -4.00%

    Chemicals: -2.43%

    Financial Services: -3.18%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 5.96

    ATEbank: 1.54

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.90

    HBC Coca Cola: 16.20

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.16

    National Bank of Greece: 12.90

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.05

    Intralot: 3.28

    OPAP: 14.64

    OTE: 9.00

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.25

    Titan: 10.00

    [21] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 367 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 364 bps on Friday, after hitting a low of 356 bps during the day. The Greek bond yielded 6.80 pct and the German Bund 3.13 pct. Turnover in the market shrank to 740 million euros, of which 140 million were buy orders and the remaining 600 million euros were sell orders.

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

    [22] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the Athens Derivatives Exchange was trading at its fair value on Monday, with turnover at 84.066 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 14,354 contracts, worth 65.102 million euros, with 30,462 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 23,681 contracts worth 18.964 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,843), followed by Eurobank (970), MIG (1,269), OTE (2,053), Piraeus Bank (881), GEK (1,914), Alpha Bank (2,629), Cyprus Bank (1,242) and Hellenic Postbank (432).

    [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.378

    Pound sterling 0.883

    Danish kroner 7.503

    Swedish kroner 10.242

    Japanese yen 123.05

    Swiss franc 1.477

    Norwegian kroner 8.235

    Canadian dollar 1.475

    Australian dollar 1.589

    General News

    [24] Environment ministry outlines measures to clean up Asopos River

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili on Monday repeated a pledge that those responsible for polluting the Asopos River would be made to pay for cleaning it up.

    "Those that caused and continue to cause the pollution will undertake, under the supervision and coordination of the state, the cost of cleaning it up," Birbili told a meeting in the Oinofyta area, during which she presented the ministry's programme for the environmental crisis at Asopos.

    The minister said that this will seek to protect public health, restrict and eradicate pollution, spatially organise the currently informal industrial zone existing in the Oinofyta-Schimatari region and ensure that the measures envisioned are carried out.

    In order to give priority to the measures, the Asopos River has now been defined as a body of water, rather than the conduit for transporting industrial wastes to the Evoikos Bay as it had been considered up until now. A Social Support Services team has been charged with setting strict limits both in terms of the level of wastes in the Asopos and on industrial emissions.

    At the same time, there will be a revision within 2010 of the environmental terms for licensing industrial uses in the surrounding region, with priority given to activities for which these terms have expired.

    Industrial activity in the area will be subject to strict inspections from the Special Secretariat of Environment and Energy Inspectors, assisted by health and labour inspectors. The inspections will include mandatory periodic reports for waste producers by companies that are potential polluters.

    Other measures taken by the ministry are designed to establish a reliable methodology for deciding the size of fines, ensuring equal treatment of those inspected and transparency and access to the results of tests.

    In the meantime, the ministry was collaborating with the Athens water company EYDAP to ensure that local residents had access to safe, drinkable water.

    In order to ensure that the measures are carried out and adhered to, the environment ministry has set up a advisory committee that includes representatives of all the bodies involved, a body to handle investments and sell new sites for establishing industrial plants, and wil reactivate the Oinofyta Environmental Inspectors Office in order to coordinate the entire effort and draft an annual report on its execution.

    [25] Carnival season in full swing throughout Greece

    The Carnival season is in full swing throughout Greece, with revelries lasting to February 14, the eve of the Clean Monday holiday that marks the beginning of the 40-day Great Lent leading to Orthodox Easter.

    The Carnival culminates on Sunday, February 14, with the grand parade of floats, culminating in the traditional burning of King Carnival which is accompanied by fireworks displays.

    The City of Athens is organising events throughout the Carnival season in several downtown venues, as well as in neighborhoods in its seven districts. The program includes children's events in the city center and neighborhoods, youth-oriented events in central Athens locations and an extensive program in the center and districts.

    The western port city of Patras, home of Greece's first and longest-running Carnival, has also pulled out all stops this year with a bevy of events that will also culminate in the theme float parade on Sunday.

    Carnival merry-making has gradually spread throughout the country, with cities, towns and villages organising their own events and float parades reflecting local traditions.

    [26] Chinese New Year to be celebrated in Athens

    The Chinese community in Athens will for the first time hold a public event to celebrate the Chinese New Year on this Sunday, February 14, in Athens' Kotzia Square, in front of Athens' City Hall. According to their traditions, we are now entering the year of the Tiger and this will be celebrated with a series of events under the banner 'Spring and Harmony: One family, one love".

    The director of the InterChina Cultural Centre Tonia Luo, who heads the committee organising the festival, held a press conference on Monday at the Foreign Press Association in Athens to present the programme of events, noting that the aim was to "build bridges of friendship" between Greeks and the Chinese.

    "We hope, through this event, that more Greek friends will be able to learn about China, about its traditions and culture, will be able to enjoy the colour, smells and tastes of China so that the friendship between the two peoples will progress to a deeper level," she said.

    The highlights will include the traditional lion dance, Chinese dancing and songs, martial arts exhibitions and other displays of China's traditional arts and crafts, such as calligraphy, kite-making, the tea ceremony, Chinese foods and artifacts and a lottery.

    The celebration is being held under the aegis of China's Embassy and City of Athens, in the presence of Chinese ambassador Luo Linquan and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis. The ambassador and mayor will declare the start of festivities in the traditional Chinese manner by painting the irises into the eyes of the Lions and exchanging New Year wishes.

    This year's Chinese New Year coincides both with Valentine's Day and the last day of the Greek carnival season, or Apokries.

    The money that will be collected from the sale of goods and food will be donated to the City of Athens to be spent on charity, while the municipality has decided to give the money to the municipality's Foundation for the Homeless in order to help those most in need during these times of economic difficulty.

    [27] Jordanian National Defence School students in Greece

    Three professors and 23 students of the Jordanian National Defence School, headed by brigadier Atas M. AL. Aabbadi, are currently in Greece in the framework of the implementation of the military cooperation programme between the two countries for 2010.

    The students of the Jordanian School were briefed on Greek defence policy and exchanged views with representatives of the Greek National Defence General Staff on issues of mutual defence interest.

    The Jordanian delegation will be leaving Greece on February 14.

    [28] Bank robberies in Attica and Athens

    Two banks in adjacent buildings in Oropos, northeastern Attica, were targeted simultaneously by robbers earlier on Monday.

    Two individuals wearing motorcycle helmets and armed with a hand pistol and a Kalashnikov rifle robbed the Agricultural Bank of Greece and made off with an undetermined amount of money riding a motorcycle. At the same time, another two individuals, also wearing motorcycle helmets and armed with hand pistols, robbed the National Bank of Greece located next door and got away with a motorcycle.

    A police manhunt is underway for the arrest of the suspects.

    On Monday morning, two robbers armed with a Kalashnikov and a hand pistol smashed the glass façade of a Eurobank branch in the Athens district of Nea Smyrni, using a sledgehammer and made off with an undetermined amount of money using a getaway car driven by an accomplice.

    Police believe that the gang is responsible for at least ten similar bank robberies committed since the beginning of the year.

    [29] Foreign national arrested on drug charges in Galatsi, Athens

    Police on Monday reported the arrest of a 36-year-old Albanian national in Galatsi, a suburb of Athens, who they identified as member of a drug trafficking ring involved in importing large quantities of heroin, cocaine and hashish into Greece.

    Acting on a tip-off, police first located the suspect's home and then the drug lab he had set up in an office he was renting.

    Roughly 3.5 kilos of heroin, 211 grams of cocaine, 885 grams of processed cannabis, 780 grams of unprocessed cannabis (skang), 3,400 euros in drug money, two precision scales and drug lab equipment were seized by police.

    The suspect was led before a prosecutor to be arraigned.

    [30] Trial of police guards in Grigoropoulos' shooting death resumes on Feb. 17

    The Amfissa trial of two special police guards on murder charges related to the December 2008 shooting death of 15-year-old pupil Alexis Grigoropoulos in Athens' Exarchia district, will resume on Feb. 17.

    The court adjourned on Feb.3 due to a death in the family of the chief prosecutor in the case.

    Defendants are police special guards Epaminondas Korkoneas and Vassilis Saraliotis.

    [31] Illegal migrants arrested while attempting to leave for Italy

    Four illegal migrants, aged 16, 23, 27 and 32, were arrested in Corinth, southern Greece, after being found hiding inside a parked truck scheduled to board a cargo ship to Italy in their attempt to enter the neighboring country illegally. The four had managed to get in the truck without the driver's knowledge.

    The illegal migrants, who were led before a prosecutor on Saturday, had caused 20,000-euros worth of damages to the cargo transported by the truck.

    [32] Man shot in robbery

    The owner of a state betting shop was shot in the leg and robbed by two men on Sunday night in Ammoudara, in the Iraklion prefecture on the island of Crete. The man had just closed the betting shop and was leaving with the day's earnings of 5,500 euros.

    He was followed and held up by the two men, who shot him when he resisted. The man was taken to the Venizelos Hospital, where doctors say he is not at risk, while police have launched a manhunt to arrest the two robbers.

    [33] Bag with thousands of euros from train ticket sales stolen

    Two unidentified men made off on Monday morning with a bag containing roughly 100,000 euros in cash from Hellenic Railways (OSE) ticket sales.

    The two, using brass knuckles, smashed the driver's side window of an OSE vehicle parked outside Peloponnese Station in Athens, snatched the bag from the driver's hands and took off on a motorcycle.

    A police investigation is underway to arrest the culprits.

    Weather Forecast

    [34] Cloudy, rainy on Tuesday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 15C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 5C to 13C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 7C.

    [35] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The crucial week for the Greek economy starting Monday and peaking with the EU Summit on Feb.11, the changes in social security policy and the new taxation scale, and moblisations planned by unions in protest of the government's new measures dominated the headlines on Monday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "What the new taxation bill foresees".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras proposes seven recovery measures for the economy".

    AVRIANI: "Big investors 'exported' 10 billion euros to tax havens (Switzerland and Cyprus) in two months!!!".

    CHORA: "Tax-free ceiling with '5-speed' receipts between 1,600 and 12,000 euros".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Controversy in ruling PASOK over the harsh measures - PASOK's secretary points to the exit door for those who disagree".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Civil servants, military officers and women will need to work an additional 5-10 years before being eligible for retirement".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Social security: Tough decisions and harsh reactions".

    ESTIA: "The way out of the crisis - Room for improvement exists".

    ETHNOS: "The changes in social security to be implemented in four phases - Government's final proposal to be tabled on Tuesday in parliament".

    IMERISSIA: "The new taxation scale - Reversals in incomes and real estate".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "EU plan to shield against the speculative attacks".

    TA NEA: "The three secrets of the new taxation scale".

    VRADYNI: "Society in turmoil - Government's unity at risk due to the harsh measures".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [36] P5 Ambassadors express full support to President Christofias


    The Ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have expressed their full support to the efforts made by President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias to reunify the island.

    The Ambassadors of the US, Russia, China, Britain and France were received Monday by President Christofias, who briefed them on the ongoing UN-led negotiations for Cyprus and the recent visit of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Cypurs.

    Speaking on behalf of all P5, British High Commissioner in Nicosia Peter Millet said "the President invited us as the ambassadors of the UN Security Council P5. He gave us a very good briefing on the progress on the negotiations and on the UNSG's visit".

    Millet said the P5 welcomed the progress that has been made in the negotiations for Cyprus.

    "We welcomed his briefing and we welcomed the progress that has been made in the negotiations. And we, as P5, gave the President all our support in his efforts to reunify the island and also as P5 the support we have for the UN in facilitating that process", he concluded.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Peace talks began in September 2008 with a view to finding a negotiated settlement to reunite the country.

    [37] UN looks forward in continuing the talks, says Downer


    United Nations Secretary General Special Envoy to Cyprus Alexander Downer said Monday that the UN looks forward to the two leaders, President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, in continuing to work through the issues they need to work through, in the framework of the UN-led bicommunal talks for the solution of the Cyprus problem.

    Downer, who was speaking after a meeting with AKEL Secretary General, Andros Kyprianou, underlined that both Christofias and Talat are committed to continue the talks.

    "We had a good discussion this morning about how the talks are proceeding and in particular from the perspective of the United Nations, we look forward to the continuation of the talks and Mr. Christofias is committed to that and Mr. Talat of course as well," he said adding that the UN "look forward to the two leaders continuing to work through the issues they need to work through".

    Replying to a question on when the next meeting between the two leaders is going to take place, Downer said that there are no dates yet, adding that according to what he thinks the two sides will be conferring about this issue in the next few days.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunify the island.

    [38] Archbishop condemns destruction of religious sites by Turkey


    Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus Chrysostomos II has condemned the continuous destruction of Cyprus' religious sites by Turkey in the northern Turkish occupied areas of the island.

    In his address Sunday at a liturgy held in Nicosia in the presence of Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland Leo, Archbishop Chrysostomos II said that more than 500 orthodox churches have been desecrated, destroyed or converted into mosques, military camps or hen houses and added that Orthodox icons are being sold on the black market in Europe and the US.

    He called on Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland Leo as well as the government of Finland to help put an end to the destruction of Cyprus' religious heritage by Turkey.

    The Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland, who is currently in Cyprus for a week-long official visit, pledged to do whatever he can for the respect of the cultural heritage in Europe.

    "On my part, I will do all I can so that the EU respects the right of its members to preserve their cultural heritage. Our love and support towards the Church of Cyprus is granted", he said.

    The Cypriot Archbishop said that Turkey, which invaded Cyprus in 1974 and since then occupies 37% of Cyprus' territory, "proceeds with its designs, with the tolerance of the so-called civilized humanity, to the implementation of its plans".

    Turkey, he went on to add, "has implemented ethnic cleansing, by expelling Christians Orthodox from their homes and properties and by bringing illegal Turkish settlers from Anatolia to our occupied areas, thus changing the demographic structure of our country".

    "Moreover", he noted, "Turkey wants to destroy anything which reminds the Greek and Christian character of that area".

    Archbishop Chrysostomos II said that the Church of Cyprus has asked to be allowed to save and restore religious sites, ''but Turkey, which claims to respect the rule of law and to have good will, has remained merciless".

    Archbishop Leo was received Monday by President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias at the Presidential Palace. No statements were made after the meeting.

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