|Monday, 11 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-03-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 20 March 2010 Issue No: 3448
 Papandreou and Christofias discuss Cyprus issue, debt crisisPrime Minister George Papandreou received visiting Cyprus President Demetris Christofias in Athens on Friday. They had a lengthy meeting, during which they discussed the latest developments in the Cyprus problem and the debt crisis faced by Greece.
After the meeting, Papandreou announced that he will soon be visiting Cyprus in order to support the Cyprus president's efforts during a crucial phase in the Cyprus talks. Regarding the Greek economy, he stressed that the Greek government had done its part, taken some very difficult decisions and that it was now Europe's turn to support the Eurozone, not just Greece.
Noting that European leaders will be meeting to discuss this challenge in a few days, he underlined that the day would be doubly significant for Greece since the European Council coincided with the March 25 holiday for Greece's independence.
During joint statements with Papandreou, Christofias underlined that Greece can always count on the support of Cyprus at the European Council.
Cyprus's president said that he had briefed Papandreou on the course of talks on the Cyprus issue and that they had decided that the Greek premier should visit the island republic in a few days time to promote their common efforts.
"The prime minister will come to Cyprus so that we can exchange views with the leaders of the parties on what is best to be done from now on in terms of the Cyprus issue," Christofias said.
On his part, Papandreou expressed his appreciation and support for Christofias' efforts to promote a solution in the framework of UN resolutions and respect for European rules and regulations, "as demanded by our common interest".
Christofias thanked Papandreou for his support, both for Christofias' handling of issues within the talks and for the broader efforts being made to convince the international community that the Cyprus issue cannot be resolved unless some fundamental principles of international law, UN resolutions and the principles and values of the EU are respected.
Replying to questions, the Cyprus president appeared uncertain about the usefulness of issuing a joint communique at the end of his talks with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and before elections were held in the occupied territories in the north of Cyprus.
"It depends upon the context and the goals. If it is considered an interim agreement, then we do not agree to this. We are discussing this issue with Mr. Talat and the political leadership in Cyprus and it may even come before the National Council," he explained.
Christofias said that the Cyprus issue consisted of six or seven different aspects, with the talks now focusing on the single aspect of governance.
"This is very important because it is linked with the system, functionality and unity of the state - if it will be a true federation or contain elements of a confederation - and I have to tell you that on various aspects of governance we have achieved convergence but in others there remain major disagreements. I am therefore waiting to see what content the other side wants," he said.
Questioned about the possibility of an international meeting as suggested by the Turkish side, Papandreou referred to a press conference given by Christofias on this issue and said he completely agreed with the views outlined by the Cyprus president during their discussion on Friday. "I believe such a meeting can take place in this framework," he said.
During a press conference held to review the course of direct talks with the Turkish-Cypriot side in the last two years, Christofias had mentioned Turkish proposals for a four-way, five-way or six-way international meeting on the Cyprus issue and counter-proposed an international conference with the participation of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, the European Union, Greece, Turkey, the Cyprus Republic and representatives of the two communities on the island.
Papandreou also took questions regarding Germany's stance toward Greece's economic problems and Berlin's reluctance to back a European deal to help Greece ease its debt crisis, if the country continued to find itself under attack from speculators. In his reply, the Greek premier pointed to an agreement made on the level of all 27 EU countries, following a visit to Athens by officials from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF to assess the country's economic programme.
"We decided on a difficult package so that we would be certain of meeting our target of reducing the deficit by 4 percent in 2010. We did what we had to do. The other side of this decision says very specifically that all necessary measures will be taken to stabilise and support the eurozone. If Greece has done what it should, the other side of this agreement is Europe's determination to support the Eurozone, not just Greece, because we are a part of an economic family. It is Europe's hour," he concluded.
 Cyprus president in PatraVisiting Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said Friday that "our duty is to strive with all our strength for a solution to the Cyprus problem".
''Our duty is to try with all our powers for a solution to the Cyprus problem, which would allow our children to live in peace without fear in a united country, a reunited Cyprus free from occupation,'' Christofias said while addressing a ceremony for the unveiling of a monument in Patra, western Greece, in memory of a Greek soldier who died during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
As President Christofias said, Sergeant Christos Grivas, 21, was transferred to the Greek Force of Cyprus (ELDYK) just a few days before the Turkish invasion. He was last seen in August 15 1974, the Cyprus president added.
''We are aware that we are not alone. The Greek people, the Greek state the Government and the political world is by our side. They support us and encourage us in this struggle. We hope that day will come which would ease our pain and will lift the burden from our hearts,'' the president concluded.
Later on Friday evening, President Christofias was proclaimed an honourary doctor of the Patra University.
 PM Papandreou addresses PASOK Political CouncilPrime Minister George Papandreou, addressing the ruling PASOK party's Political Council in Thessaloniki on Friday evening, reassured the Greek people that "there is no question of the country going bankrupt."
Papandreou said that "fear is not necessary, we have an exit and alternative solutions" and expressed his optimism that "despite the difficulties and mythology the country will succeed."
He also reassured that no problem exists regarding the country's participation in the European Union and the eurozone, while stressing that all must work hard together so that the targets set by the government will be achieved, first of all for the economy to be saved and the country to be saved from bankruptcy and its condemnation to deep recession and decline.
The prime minister referred to the state that Greece was in when PASOK came to power, a Greece "in dissolution, on the verge of bankruptcy, with the danger of not being able to borrow or to borrow with usurious interest rates."
He attributed the "dissolution of the state" to the "economic and party looting of the past years" and stressed that the "New Democracy party managed state funds and public administration for five years with irresponsibility, criminal negligence and frivolity," adding that the price currently being paid is huge.
Papandreou further said that the PASOK party was and remains a patriotic force and tends to the country's interest above all and pointed out that he does not fear what many call political cost.
The prime minister said that Greece requests from its partners that the European Union apparatus be created from now to be able to intervene in markets and support stability in the Eurozone.
Also referring to the government's work, Papandreou said that in five months "we have opened all fronts" and spoke of a "real reversal with which the cycle of injustice in the country is closing."
Papandreou stressed that "we have a vision for the country" and that the sacrifices of the people will bear fruit.
 PM speaks with EU president Van RompuyGreek Prime Minister George Papandreou held a telephone conversation on Friday afternoon with European Union President Herman Van Rompuy and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, at the latters' initiative.
 Greece desires solution to debt crisis within EU, government saysGreece's desires a solution to its debt problems within the European Union, Greek government spokesman George Petalotis reiterated on Friday. He said Athens would do its utmost until the European Council on March 25 in order to persuade its EU partners that Greece now deserved their support and that there must be solidarity with the European Community.
"We made difficult decisions, but also decisions for institutional reforms that will guarantee that the Greek state is now a reliable partner," he said, stressing that the Greek government did not wish to depart from its position of seeking political support from the EU.
Petalotis underlined that the problem was not just Greek but concerned the entire Eurozone, noting that Greece wanted to remain within an EU framework but "was, of course, examining all options".
Replying to questions about a possible mixed system under which Greece might cover its borrowing needs partly with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan and partly with financial assistance from certain Eurozone countries, Petalotis said only that there "are a number of possible options."
"For the time being, what we are asking for is clear and express political support, so that markets are sent a message that Greece is now a reliable country and has the guarantee of the EU, so that [interest-rate spreads for Greek bonds] fall and we can borrow on the terms that we must borrow when it becomes necessary," he explained.
Asked whether the government will be satisfied if the March 25 European summit ended with another statement of support or whether this will have to be accompanied by details of a support mechanism, Petalotis noted that the "EU has a way to make such a statement of political support that provides guarantees. That said, we insist, as do our other partners, on the creation of a support mechanism."
He underlined, however, that Greece cannot and will not continue to borrow at the rates it has been forced to borrow recently.
The spokesman defended the draft tax bill unveiled by the government as a deep and radical reform to end previous injustices in the tax system.
 Papandreou address to labour union congressPrime Minister George Papandreou on Friday addressed the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) 34th congress taking place in Halkidiki, northern Greece, where he called for the participation of the trade unions in the effort to pull the country out of the current debt crisis and restore its credibility.
He also sharply criticised money market speculators and tax evaders, saying Greece is waging a tough battle both inside and outside the country, pledging that "the efforts made by working people will be worthwhile."
Referring to recent austerity measures, the prime minister said "saving the economy and regaining credibility is a necessary precondition to create the country we deserve" which in combination with developmental and institutional initiatives on behalf of the government will enter the course of "green" development and productivity.
"With our decisions, no matter how painful and tough, we want to prevent the likelihood of paying 'loan shark' interest rates for decades, ones that condemn the country to a deep and continuous recession," he said.
The prime minister pointed out that the country pays "a heavy price for criminal choices of past years that led it to a dead end," characterising the responsibility of main opposition New Democracy (ND) party as "historical and self-evident".
Papandreou stated that the political system needs to be changed underlining that it compromised with "corruption phenomena" that undermined democratic institutions, social rights and worker conquests.
"Wage earners and pensioners cannot be the ones to pay the price for the widespread tax evasion," he said, underlining that "at last, impunity should end and everybody should be treated equally before the law."
The prime minister praised the participation of European trade unionists at the GSEE congress referring to International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Guy Ryder and European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) Senior Adviser Tom Jenkins.
 Samaras at GSEE congress: Low incomes the 'cut-off' lineMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras strongly attacked the government on the new measures it has announced, warning that they are "painful" and "inefficient", addressing the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) 34th Congress taking place in Halkidiki, northern Greece, adding that the incomes of the low salary and pension earners is a "red line" (cut-off point) for his party.
He also blamed all the political forces for the maintenance of a "bankrupt model", and his own party for "succumbing to the temptation of administrative 'governmentalism'" because, although it had not created that model, ND was to blame for not daring to change it when it had the opportunity to do so.
Greece will not go bankrupt, he stressed, because it has "potential, comparative advantages, and a future", but he nevertheless criticised the mixture of economic policy being followed, warning that if low-cost fiscal measures are not taken to maintain a controlled demand the market will fall flat.
Samaras called on the government to take breather/measures to invigorate the market "so that the economy will not fall to its knees" and "society will not be dissolved", adding that the sacrifices being asked of the people will only sink the country deeper into recession, leading in turn to a bigger shortfall in revenues and to even tougher measures.
"They can't strangle the economy in order to 'purify' the public finances. They can't dissolve society in order to...'save' it. Unfortunately, the government did not listen to our appeals. From this podium, I once again call on the government to support the economy with breather/measures of zero or very low cost, so that the country may withstand the crisis, and to contain unemployment. So that the economy may exit the crisis without more, tougher measures being needed," Samaras stressed.
He said "it is not Greece that has gone bankrupt, "an entire model of economic management, which was founded on the redistribution of borrowed money", and "a political model that was founded on the redistribution of clientele relations among the state, the political parties and society".
Greece, he stressed, has an immense, unexploited wealth and competitive advantages, which "show us the way to a new, more viable and more competitive economy capable of creating revenue, of disseminating income and opportunities to everyone", and "a new Social Contract in which the labor sector will not live in perpetual austerity".
Samaras said that the preceding ND government "did not lose control" when the crisis broke out, but took "tough measures" to contain the deficit. However, "there is no relation to and no comparison with the measures we are seeing now", which are the "tougher, painful and ineffective", and accused the current PASOK government of inconsistency, stressing that it was forced to impose much worse measures than those (of the ND government) it had rejected a few months earlier.
The ND leader further said that the working people are not to blame for the crisis, and therefore should not pay the cost of it, adding that "every euro that is lost by the weaker does not reduce the deficits, but deepens the recession".
 Culture & Tourism minister announces multiple-entry visas for Russians, during visit to MoscowMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
Greece will grant multiple-entry visas for 6-12 months and up to five years to Russian citizens, Greek culture and tourism minister Pavlos Geroulanos announced late Thursday in statements to the local press upon his arrival in Moscow for a two-day working visit.
Noting that Greece, as a Schengen member, is required to abide with specific rules and regulations, and therefore cannot abolish the visa fees, he said the government has decided to facilitate Russian visitors in a few directions, in statements to ITAR-TASS news agency. He explained that 6-12 month multiple entry visas will be issued to "friends of Greece", namely those who visit Greece frequently or those who, after their first trip, wish to visit Greece again in the same year, while visas of up to a 5-year duration will be issued to visitors known to the Greek authorities who visit Greece chiefly for business reasons.
In statements to the state RIA-Novosti news agency, the Greek government also plans to reduce the cost of the visa paid to the visa centers in Russia (currently 15-20 euros), so that the 35 euros fee paid to the Consulates will be the end cost for a visa. "We are seeking out ways to postpone this additional cost," Geroulanos said, adding that approval was pending by the Greek finance ministry.
The Greek government, he added, is trying to introduce procedures that will facilitate travel to Greece for Russian citizens, while he also noted that people living far from the consulates or visa centers will be able to receive visas without being required to appear in person but instead through the post or the internet, or via their travel agent.
"There are deep cultural ties between Greece and Russia, which encourages the desire for mutual acquaintance and tourism, which is one form of cultural exchange," Geroulanos said.
Religious tourism could be of particular importance for the Russian tourism market, given that "Byzantium and Orthodoxy are connecting links between our two cultures", as could also be major historical anniversary events, such as the planned celebrations for the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon, Geroulanos continued, and invited Russian citizens to take part in the classical Marathon.
Noting that the traditional relations between Greece and Russia have always been very close, the minister stressed that the present Greek government wishes to maintain and further develop those ties, while he also welcomed Russian interest in investments in such sectors as real estate.
Greece, he said, was the first European country to inform everyone on the true state of its economy and, in a long-term perspective, every investor should know with certainty what the economic conditions are in the country it is interested in.
Due to the efforts of the current government, he added, Greece is a stable country where every investor knows the true situation, whereas the real condition continues to be concealed in other countries.
 Culture and Tourism Minister Geroulanos visiting RussiaMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
Greece has decided to be present with all its force in Russia's tourist exhibitions and activerly promote its decision to facilitate as much as possible the issuing of multiple entry and long duration visas for Russian citizens, according to Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, who visited Moscow's MITT-2010 tourist exhibition on Friday.
"More and more Russian tourists are deciding to combine their holidays with cultural events and visits to monuments and archaeological sites, a fact that serves our strategy and the combination of our ministry's two directions, that must not only be achieved at leadership level, but in the entire pyramid of actions," Geroulanos told Greek correspondents in Moscow, summing up his initial assessments on his contacts with tourist agencies.
Earlier, Geroulanos met with his Russian counterpart, Aleksandr Avdeyev, who showed special interest in the European Europeana digitalisation programmes, in which Greece leads in experiences, planning the extension of relevant cooperation with Microsoft as well.
Gereoulanos said that the Russian side also found interesting the carrying out of the merger between the culture and tourism ministries, as well as the possibility of developing cooperation between the two countries in the sector of sport and the hosting of Russian teams during the period of their preparation.
The Culture and Tourism minister also visited the famous Puskin Visual Arts Museum and met with its director Irina Antonova who, among other things, remembered with emotion her cooperation and meetings with late actress Melina Merkouri and expressed the desire to host some exhibition or even some excellent examples of classical sculpture art.
 Pangalos opposed to nuclear energy plants in GreeceGovernment vice-president Theodoros Pangalos on Friday expressed opposition to the construction of a nuclear energy plant in Greece and emphasised instead the exploitation of the country's rich renewable energy sources for the production of electricity.
Pangalos noted, however, the "need for vigilance because our neighboring countries, such as Turkey and Bulgaria, are active in that area".
Answering to a current question in parliament tabled by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis, Pangalos stressed that Greece has substantial energy reserves that have not been exploited, adding that perhaps the most serious solution for the energy problem is the conservation of energy being wasted, especially in the public sector, together with the promotion of the production of aeolic (wind) and solar energy.
"We are alert and support the international community, which is reacting against the proliferation of nuclear energy" he said.
Karatzaferis underlined the need for opening a dialogue on the use of nuclear energy in order to prevent us from trying in the future to catch up with the developments, given that the markets in the region already make use of nuclear energy.
 Geroulanos hold talks with Deputy Foreign Minister of Abu DhabiCulture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos met on Friday with Deputy Foreign Minister of Abu Dhabi Dr Sultan Al Jaber, who is heading a delegation visiting Athens. The two officials expressed their mutual desire for cooperation in the culture and tourism sector.
They also discussed the potential for cooperation in the area of Museums, cultural exchanges as well as investments in the tourism sector.
The two men agreed on a series of meetings in the near future.
 ND leader meets Halkidiki prefectMain opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras was on Friday briefed on problems and issues affecting the northern Greek prefecture of Halkidiki, a popular holiday resort during the summer months, in a meeting with local prefect Asterios Zografos.
He promised his party will exert pressure on the government to speed up work to restore roads and settlements damaged during recent floods and heavy rains.
 KKE's Papariga meets with President Papoulias"Regardless of where the money comes from, the European Union or the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the consequences will be equally grave," Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga stated on Friday after meeting with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
Papariga stated that her visit to President Papoulias was made to brief him on the KKE's positions and the course of the economic crisis as regards the consequences the economic measures will have on the daily lives of the Greek people.
Papariga said that "the Greek affair is implicated in the serious confrontations within the EU and in the tug of war between the euro and the US dollar," adding that "the leading powers took the opportunity to use the Greek issue to settle their differences."
The KKE leader also spoke of "accumulated capital" and expressed the view that the crisis will lead to its further increase. She pointed out that the government's economic policy is backed by the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party and added that there is broad consensus in parliament as regards the economic policy. Papariga concluded that "the only response is the creation of a broad-based popular movement."
 LA.OS leader opens round of meetings with former PMsPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) leader George Karatzaferis opened a round of meetings with former Greek prime ministers on Friday, stressing that he wants to know what their thoughts are and what advice they have to offer in this time of crisis for the country.
Karatzaferis launched the initiative by meeting with former premier and honorary president of main opposition New Democracy (ND) party Constantine Mitsotakis.
The next meeting will be with former PASOK PM Costas Simitis.
 Environment Minister Birbili meets with Austrian AmbassadorEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili met on Friday with Austria's Ambassador in Athens Dr. Michael Linhart and briefed him on the ministry's priorities focusing on renewable energy sources (RES) and innovative technologies for the environment.
They also discussed the further strengthening of bilateral cooperation in the sectors of environmental protection, household-industrial waste management and energy.
 Greek helicopter harassed by Turkish airfightersA Greek Coastguard helicopter was harassed several times on Friday morning by two Turkish F16 fighter planes, as it was carrying out an airborne patrol in the region between Samos and Cos islands in the context of the FRONTEX cooperation.
According to the Harbor Corps headquarters, which has its base on Cos island, the Dauphin helicopter was harassed while flying over Farmakonissi island at an altitude of 200 feet at 8:02 in the morning by the two F16s which were flying in formation at an altitude of 1,200 meters. The pilot of the helicopter immediately informed his base and two Greek F16's rushed to the area and warned the Turkish pilots that they are flying inside the Greek FIR. Shortly afterwards the Turkish jetfighters withdrew from the Greek FIR, while the Greek helicopter continued its mission.
Earlier, the Dauphin has been electronically harassed 11 times by Turkish radars.
 EU's Barroso on Greek economyBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso appealed on Friday to the European Union member-states to come to an agreement during Thursday's Summit on the creation of a financing apparatus that could be used to tackle the economic problems which Greece is facing. He said that it will be a system of coordinated bilateral loans that will be compatible with EU legislation and the legislations of member-states.
The Commission president also mentioned that the creation of this apparatus does not mean that it will be activated automatically and that its management will be taking place by the eurozone.
He did not desire to make guesses, as he said, as to possible participation by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and concluded by saying that "the present situation cannot continue" and that an agreement must be achieved next week.
 Commission reaffirms support for Greek econ programmeBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
Greece has done what was necessary to achieve its ambitious fiscal goals by the end of 2010, the EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner's spokesman said here on Friday.
Amadeu Altafaj, speaking to reporters, said Greece not only did what it should to ensure a reduction of its fiscal deficit but at the same time has made a huge and courageous effort in a political level. He added that consultations over a support mechanism for Greece were currently made on the basis of a political statement made by the EU 27 leaders in February 11 and stressed that the corner stone for this job was to implement the Greek economy's updated Stability Programme.
Commenting on a question over a possible involvement of IMF in a support plan for Greece, Altafaj said the Commission was cooperating with the IMF and reminded that the EU's executive was the one that took the initiative to ask for its technical support.
 Russian foreign ministry on Greek crisisMOSCOW (ANA-MPA - T. Avgerinos)
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko on Friday expressed hope that Greece will soon manage to solve its current economic problems, noting that it remained not just a traditionally friendly nation but also a basic international partner of Russia in trade and economic relations.
"We sincerely wish our friends and partners a speedy resolution of their problems and hope that the Greek government will succeed," he said, noting that Greece was among several countries that were suffering the repercussions of the acute global financial crisis.
 Main points of new tax billA bill envisaging the reform of Greece's taxation system will be tabled by the government in parliament next Tuesday.
The main principles of the draft law were presented to by finance minister George Papaconstantinou to the Inner Cabinet on Thursday.
With the new tax bill, the government will introduce a single, more progressive tax scale for all incomes aimed at redistributing tax burdens between low and medium incomes, lowering tax burdens for personal incomes up to 40,000 euros and introducing a 45 percent tax scale for incomes higher than 100,000 euros.
It also envisages incentives to boost growth, preserving and increasing job positions and introducing a 3-year tax-exemption program for the creation and operation of new businesses by people aged up to 35 years.
The new bill also introduces incentives to boost environmental protection, including incentives for energy efficiency improvement of buildings, and protection of the country's architectural heritage.
It also offers discounts on taxable earnings for enterprises investing in technology and innovation, while part of profits resulting from the sale of goods integrating international patents will be tax-exempt for a period of three years. The bill also reduces tax factors on re-invested profits and further introduces tax exemptions for enterprises preserving job positions despite declining turnover due to the economic recession.
The tax bill maintains favourable taxation for socially vulnerable groups of the population, abolishes special tax exemptions or benefits for self-employed professionals, introduces living standard scales to combat tax evasion and introduces taxes on dividends and other distributed profits.
The bill further changes the formula for calculation of tax on real estate property by introducing a progressive taxation system for real estate properties with an objective value of more than 400,000 euros.
It also raises the tax scale for properties owned by off-shore enterprises from the present 3.0 pct to 15 pct, introduces taxation on the revenues of the Greek Orthodox Church from the exploitation of its real estate property in line with that on other public benefit organisations, and cash registers with receipts for a number of professional groups, including petrol stations, taxis and open market retailers.
In an effort to curb tax evasion, the bill also requires that all transactions between enterprises and payroll payments be made through bank accounts and introduces electronic invoicing for business transactions of more than 3,000 euros. The government also said that cash transactions between enterprises and private entities, or among enterprises, will be allowed only for sums of up to 1,500 euros. Larger transactions will be allowed only through debit or credit cards, checks, and inter-bank transfers.
The new bill also offers tax amnesty for those providing information on corrupt civil servants and strengthens the inspection powers of tax services.
 First task restoring credibility, FinMin says"The game currently played is a complex one and Greece has to manage on its own. It's up to us to restore our credibility and open new roads. This comes first but secondly, of course, we request solidarity from our partners. Finally, the country will do all that it must do to ensure its strategic interests," Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told Parliament on Friday.
The Finance Minister defended the government's new tax bill, saying that social justice was at its core.
SYRIZA president Alexis Tsipras, speaking in Parliament, accused the government of not having any negotiating strategy in talks with its European partners.
 Cruise tourism season opens in ThessalonikiThe cruise tourism season set off in the seaport of Thessaloniki with the arrival of the Louis Cruises cruise ship "Cristal" on Friday.
The so-called pilgrimage cruise, which follows the "Steps of Apostle Paul" and features visits to all archaeological sites associated with Apostle Paul, was launched on Thursday from the port of Piraeus. Other ports of call will be, Kavala in northeast Greece, Istanbul, Dikili and Kusadasi in Turkey and the Aegean islands of Patmos and Mykonos.
The cruise ship, with roughly 400 passengers on board, the majority of them Americans, Canadians and Britons, will leave the port of Thessaloniki on Friday evening.
 Intensified tax inspections bring resultsIntense inspections by Finance ministry's agencies led to 281 pct jump in fines and VAT imposed on Greek enterprises in February, compared with the same month last year, the Finance ministry said in a statement on Friday.
The value of fines and VAT in February totaled 529.5 million euros, from 138.9 million euros in the same month in 2008. Fines and VAT were up 75 pct in January.
 Greek current accounts deficit up in JanGreece's current accounts deficit rose by 9.7 pct, or 327 million euros, in January, compared with the same month last year, to reach 3.7 billion euros, reversing a downward trend prevailing during most of the previous year, the Bank of Greece said on Friday.
The central bank, in a report, attributed this development to a widening of the trade deficit and the current transfers deficit, along with a lower services surplus in the first month of 2010.
The trade deficit widened by 173 million euros, reflecting higher net payments on fuel imports (up 30.5 pct), while net payments on ship purchases fell by 49 million euros. The services surplus fell by 72 million euros, reflecting lower net receipts from transport services (mainly shipping) by 86 million euros, while net payments on travel services were largely unchanged. The incomes deficit shrank by 46 million euros reflecting lower net payments on interest, dividends and profits, while the current transfers balance showed a deficit in January.
The capital transfer balance showed a surplus of 32 million euros, more than half compared with the suplus of January 2009 (69 million euros). The current accounts and capital transfers balance showed a deficit of 3.669 billion euros in January, sharply up from a deficit of 364 million euros in 2009.
In January, Greek citizens' direct investments abroad recorded a net outflow of 46 million euros, while foreign direct investments to Greece recorded a net inflow of 18 million euros.
Portfolio investments recorded a net inflow of 3.8 billion euros, while other investments recorded a net inflow of 400 million euros. The country's foreign exchange reserves totaled 3.8 billion euros at the end of January.
 IHT int'l conference on "Greece at the Crossroads" opens in Athens on MondayThe International Herald Tribune (IHT) is organising an international business conference on Monday and Tuesday titled "Greece at the Crossroads: Will reforms bring competitiveness and Investments?", in a central Athens hotel.
A discussion panel on "How Greece can improve the investment climate? Views from the Private Sector", will be taking place on the first day of the conference.
The conference themes include competitiveness and investments, promoting transparency and curbing bureaucracy, investment prospects in the fields of energy, infrastructures, technology, tourism and foods, the government's three year stabilisation and growth plan for the Greek economy, and promoting Greece as a hub for business growth in SE Europe.
Confirmed speakers at the conference include government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras, economy minister Louka Katseli, finance minister George Papaconstantinou, minister of state Haris Pamboukis, agricultural development minister Katerina Batzeli, alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas, former finance ministers Yannos Papantoniou and Stefanos Manos, internationally renowned economists, bankers, entrepreneurs, Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Constantine Mihalos, and Athens mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis.
 SYRIZA seeks inquiry into transfer of OTE shares to DTA Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) delegation paid a visit to Supreme Court Prosecutor Ioannis Tentes on Friday and presented him with a dossier concerning the acquisition of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) shares by Deutsche Telekom (DT), asking him to investigate the case.
According to the group of MPs and MEPs from SYRIZA, the shares in the formerly state-owned telecoms company OTE were illegally transferred to DT, in violation of Greek laws requiring that a public offer be submitted in cases of privatisation and in violation of EU regulation 2004/25 concerning tenders for acquisitions and protection of minority shareholders.
MEP Nikos Hountis noted that the European Commission had already initiated infringement procedures against Greece concerning the specific case. In the illegal transfer of shares to DT, Greece was potentially faced with the biggest scandal to rock the country in recent years after the Siemens' kickbacks affair, he added.
The supreme court prosecutor has assigned a deputy prosecutor to study the dossier submitted by SYRIZA.
 Greece awarded at MITT 2010 international tourism exhibitionGreece received the prize for the ¬est Presentation of a Destination for 2010 at an event hosted in Moscow by the ITE, the organiser of the International Tourism Exhibition MITT 2010.
According to an announcement, Greece was the honoured country of the MITT this year, which was inaugurated the Greek Deputy Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou.
 Civil servants' head addresses GSEE congressCivil servants' union (ADEDY) president Spyros Papaspyros characterised the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as "the most extreme international body for anti-popular policies," addressing the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) 34th Congress on Friday in Halkidiki.
Papaspyros indirectly expressed his opposition to the likelihood of Greece's resort to the IMF and pointed out that the trade union movement should present a united front and continue its efforts for the benefit of the workers.
The president of ADEDY maintained that "the government has been trapped in a path that unilaterally lays the burden on those who are not responsible for the crisis," adding that despite the public statements made "the social insurance reform is being prepared in secrecy."
 EU Commissioner Damanaki addresses ICC HELLASGreek European Union Commissioner Maria Damanaki, who is responsible for marine policy and fisheries, on Friday addressed a working luncheon organised by the Board of the National Greek Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC ELLAS).
Damanaki stressed that the European Commission is determined to help the country in every suitable way. She added that on the day before yesterday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso had confirmed this position clearly following his meeting with the Greek prime minister.
 New protest rally announced by ADEDY on March 23The civil servants' umbrella federation (ADEDY) called on its members to participate in a protest demonstration scheduled to take place at the Propiyea in downtown Athens at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, March 23, co-organized with the private sector employees.
According to a statement issued by ADEDY, "the workers send a strong resistance message to the anti-social, unfair and dead end measures announced by the government, demanding that they be withdrawn immediately."
 Motodynamiki reports 540,000-euro loss in 2009Motodynamiki Group reported an after-tax and minorities loss of 540,000 euros last year, with domestic sales totaling 59.6 million euros and foreign sales (Romania and Bulgaria) falling to 2.4 million euros.
Consolidated turnover was 62 million euros in 2009, down from 80.7 million euros in the previous year, while operating earnings fell to 138,000 euros from 2.9 million euros over the same period, respectively.
Sotiris Hatzikos, chief executive of the group, said 2009 was a very difficult year with main markets in Greece down around 30 pct , while Romania and Bulgaria fell more than 50 pct.
 Stocks end 1.47% higherStocks ended strongly higher in the last trading session of the week in the Athens Stock Exchange, covering part of Thursday's losses. The composite index of the market rose 1.47 pct to end at 2,049.36 points, with turnover at 222.106 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index ended 1.81 pct higher, the FTSE 40 index fell 0.89 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.21 pct higher. The Utilities (5.67 pct) and Banks (2.85 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Media (3.43 pct) and Commerce (1.75 pct) suffered losses. CPI (16.67 pct), Q&R (10 pct), Medicon (9.63 pct) and Ekter (8.22 pct) were top gainers, while Kordelos Bros (12.5 pct), Koumpas (10.34 pct), Akritas (10 pct) and Xylemporia (9.52 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 88 to 84 with another 53 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.77%
Personal & Household: -1.54%
Raw Materials: +0.05%
Travel & Leisure: -1.40%
Food & Beverages: +0.92%
Financial Services: +0.67%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, DEH and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 6.75
Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.00
HBC Coca Cola: 20.19
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.55
National Bank of Greece: 14.97
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.46
Bank of Piraeus: 6.39
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 319 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.31 pct and the German Bund 3.12 pct. Turnover in the market was around 1.5 billion euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 0.99 pct, the three-month rate 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract was trading at a discount of 2.82 pct on its debut in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover at 115.167 million euros. Volume in the Big Cap index totaled 17,995 contracts worth 88.962 million euros, with 35.432 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 34,628 contracts, woth 26.205 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,165), followed by Eurobank (1,741), MIG (2,783), OTE (2,883), PPC (1,483), Piraeus Bank (1,220), Hellenic Bottling (1,145), GEK (1,725), Alpha Bank (2,953), Intracom (1,638), Intralot (1,182), Cyprus Bank (1,306) and Hellenic Postbank (2,360).
 Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.365
Pound sterling 0.901
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 9.754
Japanese yen 123.84
Swiss franc 1.448
Norwegian kroner 8.036
Canadian dollar 1.377
Australian dollar 1.484
 Exhibition on Alexander the Great in AustriaVIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)
An international exhibition focusing on Alexander the Great will be inaugurated Saturday evening at the Kunsthalle Museum in the central Austrian city of Leoben.
More than 400 artifacts from 25 museums around the world, including the Louvre, the British Museum, St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum and the National Museums of Tajikistan and Afghanistan, will be displayed at the exhibition.
The exhibition, which will last until Nov. 1, was recently hosted in the German city of Mannheim until Feb. 21.
More than 100,000 visitors are expected to visit the Kunsthalle Museum exhibition.
Presenting the exhibition during a press conference in Leoben on Friday, the former general director of the Vienna History of Art Museum, Bilfrint Zaimpel, termed Alexander as "one of the most important, if not the most important, figure in world history".
 Contact centre established at Promahonas border crossingCitizen Protection Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis and Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov on Friday signed a protocol of cooperation for the establishment and operation of the contact centre at the Promahonas border crossing. The protocol was signed on the occasion of the inauguration of the centre.
"Our goal is to make Europe safer and guarantee social peace, stability, justice and solidarity in a very crucial period for the economy and the Greek society," Chryssohoidis said.
On his part, the Bulgarian minister underlined that "the reinforcement of security for both countries and Europe is our main goal."
The contact center is an innovative service targeting cross-border crime with the cooperation of police and customs authorities in Greece and Bulgaria. The responsible authorities in both countries will exchange information concerning state border control to combat crime and violations committed on both sides of the border.
 Bomb attack on 'Chryssi Avghi' office, no injuriesA bomb exploded early Friday morning at the 5th-floor office of the "Chryssi Avghi" (Golden Dawn) ultra-right youth organisation off downtown Omonia Square in Athens, causing damage but no injury as the area had been cordoned off by police following a warning call to an Athens daily.
The bomb exploded at 8:46 a.m., and 22 minutes earlier, at 8:24 a.m., an anonymous caller telephoned Eleftherotypia newspaper warning that "A bomb has been placed at 48 Socratous street, on the 5th floor at the Chryssi Avghi offices" and will explode in 25 minutes. The caller urged that the building be evacuated as well as Socratous street and an adjacent hotel.
Police were immediately alerted, who cordoned off the area.
The explosion caused material damage to the Chryssi Avghi offices and the building, and broke windows in surrounding buildings.
According to early reports by police, the bomb had a time mechanism, and had been left in the hallway of the 5th floor.
Security Police bomb disposal experts and counter-terrorism squad officers are conducting an on-the-spot investigation.
No organisation immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
 Elderly former radio presenter murdered in family tragedyAn 84-year-old former radio presenter who had worked with the state broadcaster ERT, Kalliopi Paisiou, was apparently murdered by her 90-year-old husband Dimitris Paisios on Friday, in a family tragedy played out in the upmarket Athens suburb of Vrilissia.
Police said the evidence indicated that her husband used a pillow to smother his ailing wife, who had recently suffered a stroke and was bed-ridden, having just emerged from hospital five days earlier. The 90-year-old then took his own life using a knife.
In a note left at the scene, he said that deep despair had led him to his actions.
The elderly couple live with their daughter, who had left earlier that morning to take her child to school and returned to find both her parents dead.
 Ministry orders investigation into cause of infant deathThe health ministry on Friday ordered an urgent investigation into the causes that led to the death of a 13-month-old baby from the northwestern prefecture of Kozani at the Ippokrateio Hospital in Thessaloniki.
Two weeks ago the baby was vaccinated against hepatitis and shortly afterwards it exhibited symptoms of gastroenteritis. The incident could not be treated in the hospitals of Kozani and Ptolemaida because they do not have pediatric wards so the baby was taken to the Veria Hospital where the doctors diagnosed gastroenteritis.
The parents took the child to the Special Infections Hospital in Thessaloniki before rushing it to the Children's Clinic ICU at the Ippokrateio Hospital, where the baby died on Wednesday morning.
 Children's event by MedSOS for World Water DayThe environmental group Mediterranean SOS Network (MedSOS) in Greece is organising an event for school children entitled "WATERSAVE: For a drop of water" to mark World Water Day on March 22. The event will take place between 8:30-13:30 on Monday at the Athens municipality's Techopolis arts centre in Gazi.
Official guests are children, who will participate in original and imaginative activities - including music, theatre and painting - designed to help them come into contact with water as a precious resource and discover ways that it can be conserved.
During the event, which is taking place under the aegis of the City of Athens and is sponsored by Alpha Bank, the Mediterranean SOS Network will collect electronic signatures in the framework of the European initiative eMPOWER, in support of specific measures by the international community to protect water resources.
Participants of eMPOWER in Greece include the IT company Athens Technological Centre, the Mediterranean SOS Network, the ANA-MPA and the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA). From other countries there are the Portuguese news agency LUSA and a non-governmental organisation LPN, Italy's ANSA news agency and the NGO Circolo Festabiente and the Belgian non-profit research institute Politech Institute.
 Fair on SaturdayFair weather and light winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 20C. Fair in Athens, with light winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 4C to 16C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe new tax bill and the it contains and the reactions and Prime Minister George Papandreou's message at his ruling PASOK party's Political and National Council conference that recourse to the IMF would be the last solution for the country, dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The new tax measures".
APOGEVMATINI: "National hospitals' debts reached 1 billion euros".
AVGHI: "Case of blackmail in Northern Greece: Salary cut or lay-off".
ELEFTHEROS: "What German Chancellor Angela Merkel said to George Papandreou that left him speechless".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "We are sailing in the wrong direction - Opinion poll indicates nationwide pessimism".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Three-speed tax upsets - End to tax exemptions and deductions, and taxes for those laid-off as well".
ESTIA: "Retractions on taxation - The date of the final decisions is continuously postponed".
ETHNOS: "Wild chase of professionals - Proof of status of living and registers everywhere to tackle tax evasion".
IMERISSIA: "Change of the tax-free ceiling for the first home".
KATHIMERINI: "The Germans driving us to the IMF - Berlin reluctant to contribute to an exclusively European plan to rescue Greece".
LOGOS: "Who are affected by the new tax bill".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The new tax bill brings radical upsets".
NIKI: "Now, now, now - George Papandreou sends triple message and characterised the recourse to the IMF as the extreme solution".
RIZOSPASTIS: "New tax looting of the popular strata - Government's 'fair' taxation a scam".
TA NEA: "Taxes: 'Five changes and one reversal'."
TO VIMA: "Biting new taxes - End to exemptions".
VRADYNI: "New looting of small and medium incomes - Final decisions on the tax bill will be announced on Tuesday".
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