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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-04-20

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

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

Tuesday, 20 April 2010 Issue No: 3472

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM: Gov't determined to fight corruption
  • [02] ND leader Samaras addresses Int'l Transparency event
  • [03] Infrastructures Minister on combatting of corruption
  • [04] Top gov't briefing ahead of ECB, IMF delegation's arrival
  • [05] PM Papandreou on assistance mechanism
  • [06] Gov't on econ assistance mechanism, IMF
  • [07] ND: Avoidance of IMF a 'non-negotiable national stance'
  • [08] ND leader Samaras meets with newly elected ONNED president
  • [09] New ONNED president
  • [10] High-level protection for Mount Hymettus
  • [11] Health minister announces mergers and abolitions of welfare bodies
  • [12] Papariga addresses workers in Elefsina
  • [13] Athens on Eroglu 'election' in Turkish-occupied Cyprus
  • [14] Archbishop of Cyprus visits Theological School of Chalki
  • [15] Gov't: No new austerity measures in 2010
  • [16] Environment minister on building conversions fine and deducible income
  • [17] Incoming tourism hit by air traffic disruption in Europe
  • [18] Eurobank EFG Factors leader in Greek market
  • [19] Industrial turnover index up 3.0 pct in Feb
  • [20] Construction sector lost 40,000 jobs in 12 months
  • [21] Gov't calls for freeze on hotel prices
  • [22] Local authority staff to strike on April 22
  • [23] Stocks end 2.56% down
  • [24] Greek bond market closing report
  • [25] ADEX closing report
  • [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [27] Police find 'Revolutionary Struggle' safehouse in Kypseli
  • [28] Historic Panathenian Stadium reopens to visitors
  • [29] Volcanic ash may reach Greece on Tuesday
  • [30] Four arrested for possession of explosives released
  • [31] Monachus monachus seal found dead on Samos island
  • [32] Bulgarian national killed by train
  • [33] Cloudy, rainy on Tuesday
  • [34] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [35] Spokesman: Change in t/c leadership causes problems in Cyprus talks
  • [36] UN waiting to see Eroglu's intentions
  • [37] Commission: EU fully committed to support efforts for a Cyprus settlement Politics

  • [01] PM: Gov't determined to fight corruption

    Prime Minister George Papandreou underlined on Monday night that his government has proved its political determination to fight corruption and to create "a new framework of principles and rules which will lead to the greatest reforms in the country ever, for the benefit of citizens."

    Addressing an event hosted by Transparency International, Papandreou said "the crisis derives mainly from the non transparency of state power and the public life of the country, from a clientelle conception that has corroded everything."

    The prime minister also referred to tax evasion, noting that with the law which was voted in Parliament last week and which "promotes a radical change in the country's taxation system we have abolished every kind of exemption."

    "The rules are clear and the same for all and draconian measures are taken against tax evasion."

    The country's fiscal deficit, Papandreou said, is due "mainly to the fact that the state have not respected and wasted all taxes payed by Greek citizens."

    If Greece had controlled corruption then its deficit would have been less by 4 per cent of its GDP in the past five years, the prime minister said.

    [02] ND leader Samaras addresses Int'l Transparency event

    "The country needs a new liberal model of governance," main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras underlined on Monday, addressing an event hosted by Transparency International.

    Samaras said the current system has collapsed and pointed out that the country needs a new model of governance, starting with the adoption of a small in size and flexible government.

    The ND leader stated that modern governance calls for decentralization of authority, underlining that the current system cannot produce development. He stressed that it generates only deficits and debts while being unable to utilize the country's comparative advantages or attract foreign investors.

    Samaras also said that the current model of governance nurtures corruption.

    Moreover, the former minister underlined that Greece is under pressure to tidy up its finances, adding that it is not enough to be placed under the supervision of an international organization to solve its problems. He pointed out that systemic corruption is tackled only by changing the model of governance, a move that cannot be imposed by an international organisation.

    [03] Infrastructures Minister on combatting of corruption

    Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas on Monday addressed the conference of the International Transarency-Hellas on the issue of "State and Corruption:Creating Conditions of Transparency", stressing that the basic means of combatting corruption, promoting transparency and sensitising citizens is Knowledge and the Socialisation of Informatics.

    Reppas added that the overall functioning of the state must contain three distinct prodecures: the pubic revelation of data, substantive social consultation and in-depth decentralisation and social accountability.

    [04] Top gov't briefing ahead of ECB, IMF delegation's arrival

    Prime Minister George Papandreou was briefed Monday over the recent ECOFIN meeting by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou.

    In statements afterwards, Papaconstantinou characterised the imminent talks with the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as very important for the detailing of the economic support mechanism, stressing that "we will move very fast if the Greek government decides to use it."

    Papaconstantinou said talks, initially scheduled for Monday, were postponed due to air transport problems caused by volcanic ash from Iceland. Papaconstantinou stated that, hopefully, discussions will be launched on Wednesday, adding that "the government is moving ahead with the budget's execution, structural changes and everything else that makes the economy strong."

    Meanwhile, in an ANA-MPA dispatch from Brussels and in response to a relevant press question, spokesman Amadeu Altafaj said everything is ready on the EU side for the opening of talks, while he pointed out that the European Commission delegation will be made up mainly of technocrats, headed by General Directorate for Economic and Financial Affairs Deputy Director General Servaas Deroose.

    Commenting on the way the talks will be conducted in Athens, the European Commissioner's spokesman stated that they will be held mainly on experts' level "but there will be consultations between the representatives of the three international organizations as well," referring to the European Commission, ECB and IMF.

    Called on to comment on what might happen in case problems in air transportation continue and the delegations are unable to arrive in Athens, Altafaj said a teleconference option is open, stressing that "we cannot allow the opening of the talks to be delayed for a long time."

    [05] PM Papandreou on assistance mechanism

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking during consultations with ministers on Monday, stressed that if the country's interest necessitates using the European Union's assistance mechanism "we shall do it without hesitation," adding that if such a thing takes place he will inform citizens with sincerity.

    The prime minister added that if resorting to the assistance mechanism is necessary to enable the big changes that are required for the country to have a course of confidence, "we shall do it."

    Papandreou pointed out that the country is probably in the most crucial period and has to face a "double compulsory challenge." He said that they are the pathogenies of a historic 35-year circle and the results of the disastrous policy and of the criminal options of the Karamanlis government. He further said that if the New Democracy party "had remained in government it would have led the economy and the country to disaster."

    Referring to the assistance mechanism, Papandreou said that it is a double success, firstly because it exists and secondly because the country obtained a safety net. In addition, as he said, this mechanism is the result of a decision of the European Union, secondly it is the result of European will, meaning basically European and thirdly it contains the participation of the International Monetary Fund to a small degree.

    Papandreou placed the responsibility for the presence "in the framework" of the IMF on the conservative European forces which, as he stressed, did not show the faith that was necessary in the powers of the European Union.

    Lastly, outlining the government's current aims, Papandreou said that they are a safety net for the economy and the country, productive restructuring, a new viable growth model and a new model of effective governance that secures transparency, a substantive result and justice.

    [06] Gov't on econ assistance mechanism, IMF

    "We wish to have the EU-approved economic assistance mechanism ready to be immediately activated if and when it is requested," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said Monday.

    He stressed that the government is trying to ensure that borrowing will take place under the most favourable terms for the Greek people, pointing out that this is the goal set to be met through the mechanism or not.

    Asked to comment on why Prime Minister George Papandreou feels the need to repeat that the country will not go bankrupt, Petalotis said "the country will not face bankruptcy but many times this reality is being disputed due to the surrounding atmosphere, generating specific results."

    "The right preconditions, that will allow us to overcome the crisis in a few years and make further progress, are present, given that the government and the state will operate the right way," he stated.

    "Resorting to the European economic assistance mechanism and the request for its activation, when and if it takes place, does not mean that the country is bankrupt. It will mean that we have tried and were able to create a support mechanism that will avert having to face worse conditions for borrowing," Petalotis pointed out.

    "We would have been faced with bankruptcy if no EU support mechanism was created," he added and stressed that there is no issue of having a debt renegotiation and a return to the drachma, Greece's national currency before the euro.

    He also stated that the government has examined the option of dollar-based bond loan, pointing out that "when we find that this is advisable we will do it."

    Petalotis spoke of "unprecedented and unheard of" situation the government was faced with, stressing that its sole obligation is the country's salvation. "Within the framework of this effort we proceed with all necessary moves regardless of personal or political cost," he said.

    The government spokesman underlined that it is imperative to proceed with structural reforms in the state and the economy and with the strict implementation of the stability and development programme.

    [07] ND: Avoidance of IMF a 'non-negotiable national stance'

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) on Monday reiterated the party's conviction that Greece, with the proper policy mix, can face its borrowing crisis alone and avoid resorting to the EU support mechanism.

    ND spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos reiterated a statement by party leader Antonis Samaras made Sunday that with the proper policy mix "our country can face the borrowing crisis on its own and avert the EU support mechanism, which includes International Monetary Fund (IMF) involvement".

    He also reiterated a warning by Samaras that prime minister George Papandreou's "neo-liberal socialism is leading us to the IMF", warning that such a recourse would have repercussions for the country.

    "Avoidance of the IMF is our non-negotiable national stance," the ND spokesman stressed.

    [08] ND leader Samaras meets with newly elected ONNED president

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras met with newly elected ONNED President Andreas Papamimikos at the central party offices in Athens on Monday.

    Samaras stated that what was initially dared on party leadership level was repeated in the election of the party's youth organization leadership adding that "45,000 young people voted to elect the new president of ONNED."

    Papamimikos stated that the large turnout of voters showed that the youth are interested in politics and congratulated his fellow candidates for the well-run election race.

    ND party spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos commented that the party leadership adopted a neutral stance as regards the ONNED elections.

    He also announced that the party meeting scheduled to take place in Komotini on Saturday is postponed to May 2 due to the problems in air transportation caused by the volcanic ash.

    Andreas Papamimikos was elected president of the main opposition New Democracy (ND) youth organisation ONNED, with a 55.91 percent majority 23,655 votes, against co-candidate Costas Hatzis, who received 18,638 votes, or 44.05 percent, it was announced on Monday morning after completion of the count from Sunday's election in ONNED.

    [09] New ONNED president

    Andreas Papamimikos is the new president of the main opposition New Democracy (ND) youth organisation ONNED, with a 55.91 percent majority 23,655 votes, against co-candidate Costas Hatzis, who received 18,638 votes, or 44.05 percent, it was announced on Monday morning after completion of the count from Sunday's election in ONNED.

    [10] High-level protection for Mount Hymettus

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili on Monday unveiled a draft presidential decree designed to upgrade the environmental protection status of Mount Hymettus, the mountain range that flanks the Greek capital to the east. There will be a one-month period of public debate on the presidential order before it comes into force.

    "We are establishing a very extensive zone of absolute protection of nature, within which all building will be absolutely forbidden and only public works for the protection of the ecosystem will be permitted," Birbili said during a press conference.

    The draft decree establishes five different protection zones for the mountain range, with zone A granting absolute environmental protection, zone B establishing a 'peripheral protection zone' and three additional zones relating to specific uses, such as parks, cemeteries and archaeological sites.

    She noted that Hymettus was a "ray of hope" for Attica and its protection was vital for all residents of the Attic basin, especially in the current difficult conditions created by climate change.

    The minister mentioned that the Mount Hymettus ecosystem was protected as a Natura 2000 area and would be included in an additional protective regime based on the Community's directive for birdlife within the next few weeks.

    She also described the presidential decree as a "forerunner and model" for the protection of Attica's mountains, not just as valuable ecosystems but also because of the irreplaceable ecological services they provide.

    The provisions of the draft bill are the following:

    Zone A has been extended relative to Zone B and now covers 9,300 hectares - from 7,600 hectares previously - to include the entire 'Special Preservation Zone' (Natura 2000) established in a 1978 presidential decree, providing absolute protection for the natural environment and forbidding all building work apart from works for protecting and managing the ecosystem.

    Zone B allows activities linked to education, farming and outdoor recreation, in accordance with existing forest regulations, as well as the building and operation of one environmental information and education centre per municipality on the eastern foothills of Hymettus, provided that this is located in a parcel of land of at least four hectares. This will have a maximum building coefficent of 0.2 and percentage coverage of 15 percent.

    Zone C applies to sections within the protected region that are also of archaeological interest, in which only agricultural activity is permitted.

    Zone D is divided into two sections and essentially refers to the metropolitan parks of Goudi and Ilisia. In these are established a 'core' and peripheral zone of urban greenspace, through which the natural mountain environment 'infiltrates' the city, and are defined as areas of controlled development with a further presidential decree pending to define such development in detail.

    Zone E is defined as 'special uses' and essentially allows the operation of existing cemeteries under strict constraints.

    The decree also legislates for construction of bioclimatic building in the zones, forbids hunting and forbids the erection of advertising billboards in all zones.

    Within eight months, meanwhile, forest and town planning services are required to compile a list of all buildings in the area that have been irrevocably judged as unauthorised, which they must then forward to the Special Demolitions Service that will undertake to tear them down.

    Concerning the so-called 'antenna park' on the summit of the mountain, Birbili said that the ministry would "not be touching this for now" but was working with the Infrastructure, Networks and Transport ministry in order to remove the broadcast antennas in the future.

    [11] Health minister announces mergers and abolitions of welfare bodies

    Health and Social Solidarity Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou on Monday announced the first organisations and services supervised by the health ministry that are to be merged with others or abolished as part of a cost-cutting drive.

    She said future mergers to be decided by the ministry may even include some of the smaller hospitals spread around Attica, whose administration will be taken over by larger ones.

    The first services to be merged or abolished are in the welfare sector. They include the National Centre of Health Research, which is to be abolished because there are services within the ministry that can cover its mission.

    There is also a proposal to merge the Centre of Inherited Blood Ailments with the National Blood Centre, the Institute of Social Demographics and Research with the National Centre for Social Studies and the absorption by the National Solidarity Centre of the National Observatory for Disabilities and the Foundation for Social Welfare and Solidarity.

    Asked about the employees currently employed by these services, the minister said that they would not be laid off and that an effort was being made to ensure that employees currently detached to other services returned to the National Health System.

    [12] Papariga addresses workers in Elefsina

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Central Committee General Secretary Aleka Papariga emphasised on Monday that "the government will awakened if one million people go to the streets", a reference to a two-day strike by civil servants' unions and a communist-affiliated union grouping this week.

    Addressing workers in Elefsina, Papariga stressed that KKE gives its battle "both inside and outside Parliament", pointing out that it is faced with an overwhelming majority that does not vote in favour of popular measures and called for protests against the government measures.

    [13] Athens on Eroglu 'election' in Turkish-occupied Cyprus

    Athens on Monday commented on yesterday's election outcome in the Turkish-occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus, with all parties stressing the importance of the continuation of talks aimed at solving the long-standing Cyprus problem.

    "We want the negotiation process to continue as defined in UN resolutions, and it is our concern that it will not be interrupted because we have an ultimate goal," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said Monday on the occasion of Dervis Eroglu's "election" in the occupied northern third of Cyprus.

    He added that the Cypriot side has already set out the framework for a bizonal, bicommunal federation with a single international personality and a single nationality, stressing that these preconditions should be observed in new negotiations as well.

    "This will be to the interest of the Cypriot people, the Republic of Cyprus and both communities," Petalotis stated.

    He also reiterated that the outcome of the "so-called elections" by the Turkish Cypriots -- explaining that they are defined as "so-called" because "they are not elections of a recognised state" -- should be compatible with the Cypriot people's request.

    Meanwhile, responding to a press question as regards developments in the occupied part of Cyprus, foreign ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras stated that "thanks to the efforts and initiatives undertaken by Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, a process of talks has been underway for some time now in Cyprus, under the auspices of the United Nations, aimed at finding a solution. A solution of a bizonal and bicommunal federation with political equality, a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality, as set down in the United Nations resolutions on Cyprus. A Cypriot solution, by Cypriots and for Cypriots. A European solution for a reunited Cyprus that will function effectively as a member state of the European Union, within the framework of the European Union."

    Delavekouras also stated that "as reaffirmed during the Greek Prime Minister's recent visit to the Republic of Cyprus, the Greek government fully supports the efforts of President Demetris Christofias and the decision to continue the process of the talks following the determination of a new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.

    Specific progress has been made until now within the framework of the talks. Not the kind of progress we would like or the progress that could have been made, but some progress nevertheless. It is obvious and also a matter of good faith that this progress should be safeguarded.

    "The foreign ministry spokesman added that "it appears that the Turkish Cypriot community will be represented by Mr. Eroglu. The positions he has expressed from time to time are familiar to us, and naturally they do not inspire optimism, given that they do not share in the positive spirit in which President Christofias has approached the talks.

    "Mr. Eroglu needs to come to the negotiating table in a constructive spirit, with a clear will to reach a solution within the framework that has already been determined by the ongoing process.

    The framework for the talks is a given. President Christofias has proven his constructive spirit. The Turkish Cypriot side has a responsibility to show that it can respond in kind. And it will also be responsible for any failure or backsliding.

    It is also obvious that we are waiting for Turkey - a country in a key position on the Cyprus issue - to encourage and enable the Turkish Cypriot side to negotiate constructively."

    Finally, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party Dimitris Avramopoulos said talks must continue, while calling on the Greek government to use its influence with the EU, UN and Turkish government so that the new T/C leadership will immediately implement both the letter and spirit of the up-until-now Christofias-Talat talks, "ones aimed at the achievement of a just, viable and permanent solution to the Cyprus problem".

    [14] Archbishop of Cyprus visits Theological School of Chalki

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA.A.Kourkoulas/CNA)

    Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II visited on Monday the Theological School of Chalki, in the framework of his official visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    He was welcomed by the Bishop of Moschonisia and Halki's Abbot Apostolos. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew guided Chrysostomos to the School.

    Welcoming the Archbishop, Apostolos described his visit as an historical one, since this is the first visit of a Primate of the Cyprus Church at least in the last 100 years.

    He also said that Chrysostomos' visit underlines the very close bonds between the two Churches, while he also noted the fact that many Cypriot clergymen were educated there.

    On his part, the Cypriot Archbishop noted the School's great contribution to the Church of Cyprus, since until today many of its graduates offer their services to Cyprus's Church.

    He also expressed the wish that the School will soon reopen.

    Financial News

    [15] Gov't: No new austerity measures in 2010

    Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Monday said Greece was unlikely to take additional austerity measures in 2010, even if the EU-IMF support mechanism for Greece is activated, while adding that measures for 2011 and 2012 "have yet to be made specific".

    He was replying to press reports that the IMF might demand additional cuts, this time in the private sector.

    "The measures and decisions that we have taken for 2010 are more than enough, more than what the IMF or the other bodies making up the support mechanism would have asked of us," the spokesman told reporters.

    At the same time, he clarified that the three-year Stability Programme "has only been made specific for 2010", while dismissing press predictions of harsh measures in 2011 and 2012 as not being based on facts.

    "Some of these measures that are leaked really are proposed by the IMF but they are proposals and no discussion has ended," he stressed.

    Petalotis also declined to comment on a proposal by IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn for deflation through further wage cuts, noting that the government had taken measures and decisions that it judged would be effective in overcoming the crisis and would not greatly affect the income of Greeks.

    "I do not think we can discuss every solution that is proposed," he said.

    Regarding EU suggestions that social insurance reforms be brought forward to 2013 instead of 2018, as proposed by the Greek government, the spokesman said only that the government maintained its original suggestions.

    Petalotis further flatly denied a statement attributed to Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou by the Spanish newspaper 'El Pais', stressing that the minister had never granted an interview to the paper and that it had been the opinion of the writer, not the minister.

    [16] Environment minister on building conversions fine and deducible income

    Those paying fines to preserve illegal building conversions under a new draft bill will not have the additional building space count toward their 'deducible' income for tax purposes, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili clarified during a press conference on Monday.

    The ministry recently tabled a draft law that allows owners to pay a fixed sum in order to preserve unauthorised alterations to original building plans for a period of 40 years.

    Such alterations might include loft, basement and garage conversions that increased effective living space, as well as illegally enclosed 'semi-outdoor' features like verandahs and balconies to make additional rooms. Such conversions had become a standard practice in Greek construction, often doubling the size of usable spaces in buildings relative to that listed on its plans for which they are taxed, with an estimated two million buildings containing such illegal features.

    The minister said that the fines will be calculated based on the zone price rather than the assessed value, because the second option would create difficulties.

    [17] Incoming tourism hit by air traffic disruption in Europe

    The cloud of volcanic ash that has covered a big part of Europe in the last five days, paralyzing European airspace, is causing big problems to tourists travelling to Greece, the Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies (HATTA) said on Monday.

    Speaking to ANA, Mrs Anyfanti, general manager of Greek travel agents, said big tour operators were trying to shift their transport work through sea and land networks, with TUI forwarding a significant number of tourists to the port of Patra, western Greece.

    HATTA said a group of Belgian tourists travelling from Egypt, spent two nights in hotels in Heraclio, Crete, then they flew to Spain before taking a road transport to Belgium. More than 70 flights have been cancelled at the Heraclio airport in the period from Thursday until Sunday.

    The same problems were facing also Greek tourists travelling abroad and were seeking transport ways to return home.

    [18] Eurobank EFG Factors leader in Greek market

    Eurobank EFG Factors on Monday reported improved 2009 results, which moved the company to the top of the factoring services industry in the country.

    The annual volume of factoring services surpassed 3.5 billion euros last year, for an increase of 21 pct compared with the previous year, while new funding to customers totaled 800 million euros. Pre-tax earnings jumped 50 pct reflecting mainly an expanding customer base and the promotion of new, more synthetic products.

    Eurobank EFG Factors was the top company globally in the international factoring business (import and export). Eurobank EFG has established factoring network in Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania, and the company is eying an expansion to Serbia and Cyprus.

    [19] Industrial turnover index up 3.0 pct in Feb

    The turnover index in the industrial sector (measuring both the domestic and external markets) rose 3.0 pct in February, compared with the same month last year, after a decline of 26.9 pct recorded in February 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.

    The statistics agency said the average index in the 12-month period from March 2009 to February 2010, fell 18.7 pct after a decline of 0.9 pct recorded in the previous 12-month period.

    The new orders index in the industrial sector fell 5.7 pct in February, after a decline of 31.3 pct recorded in the corresponding month in 2009. The statistics agency attributed this development to a 13.4 pct drop in the domestic market index and a 6.7 pct increase in the external market index.

    [20] Construction sector lost 40,000 jobs in 12 months

    Building activity suffers a deep crisis for the third consecutive year, the largest such period since the end of World War Two, with a big part of contractor companies currently in dire conditions.

    These were the conclusions of a seminar organised by the Technical Chamber of Greece, bringing together construction and building companies, engineers, GSEE-Greece's largest trade union umbrella- workers, lawyers, home owners and representatives of the building materials industry.

    Addressing the seminar, Yiannis Panagopoulos, GSEE's president said the construction sector, which contributed both directly and indirectly with 15 pct of GDP and 17 pct to total employment the country, has lost 40,000 jobs in the last 12 months.

    All participants agreed that the domestic home market has been left on its own, with support measures announced, or new policy to support mortgage credit. The organizing committee of the seminar stressed that a systematic inactivity of the state to promote relief measures in the construction market was hitting the industry. They also underlined the huge shortcomings in infrastructure projects and stressed the need to activate a Fourth Community Support Framework program.

    Home building needs new ideas and new approach, with the volume of new buildings steadily falling since 2005, the organizing committee said, asking for more bank lending to support home buying, a more favourable micro-economic environment for construction enterprises, establishing a stable tax regime and cutting property transfer taxes by 50 pct for a period of six months. They also urged for the immediate payment of accumulated state debt to construction companies.

    [21] Gov't calls for freeze on hotel prices

    The government has called on hoteliers to contain their prices and to absorb the recent increases in VAT rates, Culture Deputy Minister, responsible for tourism, Angela Gerekou said Monday.

    Speaking to reporters after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou - ahead of the premier's speech at the general assembly of the Federation of Tourist Enterprises on Wednesday - she said the government was expecting a swift resolution to the visa problem, while predicted increased arrivals from Russia, eastern Europe and the Balkans this year.

    She also admitted that the abolition of cabotage in the cruise ship sector was still a pending issue.

    [22] Local authority staff to strike on April 22

    The local authority workers' union federation POE-OTA has decided to join a 24-hour nationwide strike declared on Thursday, April 22 by the civil servants' union ADEDY. Municipal employees are striking to protest against the reductions and cuts in their salaries and the new social insurance reforms.

    [23] Stocks end 2.56% down

    Stocks ended sharply lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, hit by a jump in the Greek state bond spread to a new record high. The composite index of the market ended 2.56 pct lower at 1,944.11 points, with turnover a low 141.771 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index dropped 2.47 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 3.29 pct down and the FTSE 80 index fell 2.03 pct. All sectors moved downwards, with the Health (8.49 pct) and Financial Services (4.85 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Maillis (15.38 pct), Loulis (7.78 pct), Minoan Lines (7.26 pct) and Haidemenos (6.84 pct) were top gainers, while Edrasi (18.18 pct), Sato (16.67 pct), Karamolegos (13.92 pct) and Cardico (13.04 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 161 to 32 with another 26 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.49%

    Industrials: -0.85%

    Commercial: -2.15%

    Construction: -1.22%

    Media: -1.36%

    Oil & Gas: -1.43%

    Personal & Household: -2.26%

    Raw Materials: -1.38%

    Travel & Leisure: -3.47%

    Technology: -5.09%

    Telecoms: -0.92%

    Banks: -2.64%

    Food & Beverages: -1.86%

    Health: -8.49%

    Utilities: -2.45%

    Chemicals: -0.34%

    Financial Services: -4.85%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alapis, Alpha Bank and OPAP.

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

    Alpha Bank: 6.24

    ATEbank: 1.44

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.10

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.70

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.08

    National Bank of Greece: 12.85

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.05

    Intralot: 3.64

    OPAP: 16.87

    OTE: 8.57

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.99

    Titan: 19.51

    [24] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds jumped to new record highs in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday, reaching 461 basis points, from 425 bps on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 7.68 pct and the German Bund 3.07 pct. Turnover in the market shrank significantly to 181 million euros, of which 151 million were sell orders and the remaining 31 million were buy orders. The three-year bond (March 20, 2012) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 71 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month 0.99 pct, the three-month rate 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.

    [25] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.29 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover at 47.284 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,426 contracts worth 39.596 million euros, with 26,528 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,007 contracts, worth 7.693 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,649), followed by Eurobank (1,038), MIG (791), OTE (356), Piraeus Bank (488), Alpha Bank (855), Cyprus Bank (410) and Hellenic Postbank (250).

    [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.353

    Pound sterling 0.887

    Danish kroner 7.502

    Swedish kroner 9.775

    Japanese yen 124.49

    Swiss franc 1.446

    Norwegian kroner 8.046

    Canadian dollar 1.378

    Australian dollar 1.474

    General News

    [27] Police find 'Revolutionary Struggle' safehouse in Kypseli

    Weapons and explosives have been found in a safehouse of the "Revolutionary Struggle" group in the Athens district of Kypseli. According to police sources, it is the group's main safehouse and the greatest part of weapons, if not all, has been found.

    Due to the materials found in the apartment, the police were evacuating the tenants from the apartment building as a precaution, until the materials are removed.

    [28] Historic Panathenian Stadium reopens to visitors

    Athens' historic Panathenian (Kallimarmaro) Stadium, the venue of the first Modern Olympic Games in 1896, has reopened for visits by the public after being closed for restoration at the beginning of 2000 and reopening briefly for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, during which the Classical Marathon finish and the Archery finals were hosted there.

    The legendary stadium, dating back to 330 BC, has traditionally hosted athletic events and been a center of attraction for millions of visitors from all over the world, and is one of the most important monuments in Athens and all of Greece, and this led the Hellenic Olympic Committee to decide to reopen the Stadium as a visitors' destination.

    The Stadium is now open to visitors throughout the year, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. between March and October, and from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m between November and February, with guided tours, while the ticket price has been set at three (3) euros.

    The guided tours include information on the Stadium's rich history, architecture, construction and restoration, its location, and landmark events for athletics and Greek civilization, and especially its Olympics history.

    The Panathenian Stadium (stadium of all the Athenians), also known as the Kallimarmaro (meaning 'beautifully marbled') Stadium, is the only major stadium in the world constructed entirely of white marble, and indeed of the world-renowned white "Penteli marble" from nearby Mt. Penteli, the same marble that was used 2,400 earlier for the construction of the Parthenon on the Acropolis.

    In antiquity it was used to host the athletic part of the Panathenian Games organised in honor of Athens' patron goddess Athena.

    The site of the Panathenian Stadium was originally a small natural valley, between the two hills of Agra and Ardyttos, over the Ilissos River. The earliest Stadium consisted of a "dromos" or flat track for running events, with a rectangular "theatron" surrounding it for seating, and open at the north end, with wooden seating.

    It was restored by Lykourgos in 330-329 BC for the athletic competitions of "Panathinea", the greatest festivities in ancient Athens, entirely in Pentelic marble. Between 140 and 144 AD, Herodus Atticus again restored the Stadium, giving it the form that was found in the 1870 excavation: the horseshoe construction with a track 204.07 meters long and 33.35 meters wide. It is believed that the Stadium had a seating capacity of 50,000 people.

    The last restoration was in 1895 for the first Modern Olympics the following year, with funding provided by the Greek benefactor George Averoff based on designs by architects Anastassios Metaxas and Ernst Ziller. The Stadium was built long before dimensions for athletic venues were standardised, and its track and layout followed the ancient "horseshow" model, with a seating capacity of 80,000 on 50 rows of marble steps, while it currently holds 45,000 spectators.

    The Stadium is the finishing point for the contemporary Marathon race which was held each October. This is a modern re-enactment (first held during the inaugural modern Olympic Games, staged in Athens in 1896) of the run of the Athenian hoplite (heavily armed soldier) Pheidippides who, in 490 BC, sped from the battlefield at Marathon in northeastern Attica, where the Athenians and their allies the Plataians had just defeated the superior forces of the Persian King Darius, to announce to his fellow citizens that the victory was theirs. He than died immediately from exhaustion. The official distance of the route from the ancient bridge at Marathon to the Stadium is 42.2 km (26.2 miles), which was codified for the 1924 Olympic Games held in Paris.

    More recently, the Kallimarmaro Stadium was selected as the main motif for a high value euro collectors' coin, namely the "Panathenian Stadium commemorative coin" minted in 2003 in honor of the Athens 2004 Olympics. The Stadium is also depicted on the flip side of all the Olympic medals awarded during the 2004 Games and the following summer Olympics of Beijing in 2008.

    [29] Volcanic ash may reach Greece on Tuesday

    The cloud of volcanic ash that has spread across Europe may also reach Greece on Tuesday and Wednesday, pushed by northwesterly winds expected across Europe and the Balkans, according to forecasts by Greece's national meteorological service.

    Winds are expected to shift to west-southwesterly directions in the central Mediterranean and the Balkans from Thursday, meaning that any quantities of ash that finally reach Greece will most probably be dispersed.

    Forecasts on the spread of the volcanic ash originating in Iceland are made using specialised prognostic models based on both the quality and physical-chemical qualities of the material, as well as atmospheric conditions.

    The phenomenon is currently being monitored by the UK meteorological service (MetOffice), which is one of nine accredited Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres (VAAC) existing worldwide.

    [30] Four arrested for possession of explosives released

    Three young men arrested last week for possession of explosives were released after appearing before an examining magistrate on Monday, with the condition that they report to a police station at regular intervals. Also released but without conditions was a 52-year-old woman, the mother of one of the three, who had been arrested with them.

    The four defendants answered to criminal charges for possession of explosives and various misdemeanours. They had been arrested during a raid on the woman's house in Kallithea the previous week, where the explosives were found.

    Police had at first suspected a connection between the four detainees and the terrorist group "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" because they had firecrackers containing a type of gunpowder used by the terror group to make bombs. No connection was found, however, with the three claiming in testimony on Monday that they intended to use the firecrackers at a football game.

    [31] Monachus monachus seal found dead on Samos island

    A 1.7-metre Monachus monachus Mediterranean monk seal has been found dead in the area of Peri settlement on the northern part of the Aegean island of Samos. According to the NGO "Archipelagos Institute of Marine and Environmental Research of the Aegean Sea", the seal was killed by dynamite used by fishermen.

    Archipelagos has sounded a "warning bell" over the frequent instances in the Greek seas in which endangered marine species are killed by human activities.

    An investigation is being held in the area for prosecution of the guilty parties.

    [32] Bulgarian national killed by train

    A 33-year-old Bulgarian man was run over and killed by a Greek Railways (OSE) train in Nea Magnesia in Thessaloniki on Monday.

    The unlucky man had apparently been walking along the railway track at the time.

    The exact causes of the accident are being investigated by the Halkidona traffic department.

    Weather Forecast

    [33] 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 4-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 9C and 22C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 21C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 12C to 17C.

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

    The postponement of the EU-ECB-IMF delegation's arrival in Athens for Wednesday to make final arrangements for the possible activation of the support mechanism, due to air transport problems caused by the volcanic ash from Iceland, the changes demanded by the EU and IMF in social security and the problems in air transports due to the volcano dust from Iceland, dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Greece takes second place in Europe in crime rate".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Zero visibility in airports and economy - The volcanic ash arrives, the IMF visit is delayed".

    AVRIANI: "Political scenery before the danger of collapse with rumble - The overwhelming majority of the people blame all the politicians for the country's bankruptcy and its surrender to the IMF".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Volcanic ash is hazardous to our health - The ash is coming to Greece and will stay for a few days".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "IMF'S two first orders: 1,500 euros ceiling on pensions - Equalisation of retirement age for men and women in public sector".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Payrolls in public sector being put through the sieve".

    ESTIA: "Politicians have major responsibilities on how we ended up at the IMF's doorstep".

    ETHNOS: "Domino effect of cutbacks in salaries and pensions - What the 'possible' scissoring will bring in the private sector".

    IMERISSIA: "IMF demands new measures".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "The inspectors bring new sweeping package of measures".

    TA NEA: "EU's letter/ultimatum: Retirement at the age of 67!".

    VRADYNI: "Dante's Inferno - Hard years to come for employees, pensioners and professionals".

    Cyprus Affaits

    [35] Spokesman: Change in t/c leadership causes problems in Cyprus talks

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The government of Cyprus has expressed its concern over Dervis Eroglu's victory at the illegal elections, which took place Sunday in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, deeming that this will cause serious problems for the reunification talks on the island.

    ''This is a bad development. Taking into consideration Eroglu's declared positions against a federation and for the establishment of two independent states in Cyprus, this could cause very serious problems to the Cyprus negotiations,'' Stephanou told reporters at the Presidential Palace on Monday.

    ''We expect the international community to exert its influence and pressure on the new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community to continue talks on the proper basis,'' Stephanou said.

    He added, "We expect the UN and the EU to reconfirm the basis of the solution of the Cyprus problem as well as the international community to exert pressure on Ankara to respect finally the UN resolutions on Cyprus and the EU decisions.

    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias was expected Monday to send letters to UNSG. Letters will also be send to the five UN Security Council permanent members, President of the European Commission, President of the European Council, and his 26 EU counterparts, regarding this development, Stephanou said.

    Furthermore, he urged the political parties in Cyprus to show patience and responsibility, ahead of the National Council meeting (top advisory body to the President on the Cyprus issue), to take place 26, 27 and 28 of April.

    The National Council meeting, he added, will discuss all issues in the light of the change in the Turkish Cypriot leadership.

    The spokesman stressed that "we remain committed on the basis of the solution of the Cyprus problem, as agreed, under the UN auspices, with former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. The basis of the solution is a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, as defined in the relevant UN resolutions, for one state, with one and impartible sovereignty, one citizenship and one international personality".

    This basis, he continued, has been adopted by the UN Security Council and is included in a series of UN resolutions.

    In addition, he expressed Cyprus' commitment to continue negotiations, on the correct basis, for the achievement of a mutually acceptable solution that would end the Turkish occupation of Cyprus, reunify the country, its people and institutions and end Turkey's policy to bring to Cyprus illegal settlers.

    "We will continue working for this solution constructively and with consistency in principles", he stressed.

    He recalled the December 2009 European Council's conclusions, which stresses Turkey's important role in the efforts to reach a solution in Cyprus as well as the fact that Ankara has not yet fulfilled its obligations towards the EU, Cyprus and the Cyprus issue.

    "Among others, the EU, in its recent conclusions, calls upon Turkey to work for the solution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of the UN resolutions", he concluded.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias has been engaged in peace talks with former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, since September 2008, with a view to finding a negotiated settlement to reunite the country.

    Cyprus President has telephone conversations with Eroglu and Talat

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias had on Monday telephone conversations with the new Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglou and the outgoing Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

    According to an official press release issued here, Christofias expressed to Eroglu his readiness to meet him at the negotiating table, with a view to continue efforts for a Cyprus settlement.

    Eroglu thanked President Christofias for contacting him and expressed his wish to meet him soon.

    Meanwhile, during their telephone conversation, Christofias and Talat agreed to remain in contact in the framework of efforts aiming to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.

    [36] UN waiting to see Eroglu's intentions

    UNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The United Nations are waiting for a clarification of Dervis Eroglu's intentions regarding the Cyprus problem, and the period leading up to June 15, when the resolution on renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) is scheduled to be adopted.

    This specific period is expected to be crammed with meetings and discussions, according to UN diplomats.

    Commenting on developments after Eroglu won Sunday's illegal elections in the Turkish occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus, a UN diplomatic source said one should wait and see, pointing out that Eroglu must work within the parameters already agreed on.

    ''We have to wait and see, but if the process is to have a chance to succeed, Eroglu has to work within the parameters agreed by the two sides and endorsed by the international community,'' the same source said.

    Messages have already been sent to Eroglu and Turkey via diplomatic channels, and many players in the Cyprus problem are expected to make similar statements.

    Furthermore, the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer is expected to arrive in New York on April 26 for meetings with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other UN senior officials and members of the Security Council.

    [37] Commission: EU fully committed to support efforts for a Cyprus settlement

    BRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The European Commission and the European Union are fully committed to support efforts towards a settlement of the Cyprus problem, which would be to the benefit of Cyprus and the EU in general, a European Commission press release issued on Monday said.

    Referring to the results of the illegal elections held on Sunday in Cyprus Turkish occupied areas, the Commission said ''Mr Talat and Mr Christofias had achieved important progress in shaping a settlement that would reunite the island on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation,'' adding that ''this was highly appreciated by the Commission's President Jose Manuel Barroso."

    ''Now that Mr Eroglu has been elected leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, it is crucial that the settlement talks go on. The Commission encourages Mr Eroglu to continue in a constructive spirit the efforts towards settlement and reunification. The Commission will continue to offer full support to the leaders' efforts towards a comprehensive settlement,'' the Commission noted.

    It added that ''there is no alternative to a solution to the Cyprus problem. The status quo is in no one's interest. Turkish Cypriots are EU citizens and should enjoy all benefits of EU Membership as soon as possible. It is in the hands of both leaders to make this happen,'' the Commission noted.

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