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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-05-22

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Saturday, 22 May 2010 Issue No: 3499


  • [01] PM counters SYRIZA criticism in Parliament, stresses focus on boosting growth
  • [02] Papandreou receives Libyan PM; talks focus on closer trade, econ ties
  • [03] PM, Samaras meet with Cosco CEO
  • [04] Alternate FM Droutsas holds talks with Serb FM
  • [05] 'Agenda 2014' the focus of talks in Bucharest
  • [06] New deputy culture & tourism minister sworn in
  • [07] Draft bill on biodiversity to be unveiled soon, ministry says
  • [08] Testimony by former ministry official involved in Vatopedi land swap affair
  • [09] Alternate FM addresses event marking 130 years of Greek-Romanian diplomatic ties
  • [10] Alternate DM Beglitis in Corinth
  • [11] Action Group on economic governance, FinMin Papaconstantinou
  • [12] National Bank unveils loan restructuring plan
  • [13] MP insists that central bank explain changes to bond trading rules
  • [14] Labour minister seeks talks on changing labour law
  • [15] Fiscal deficit down 41.5% in Jan-April
  • [16] Greek manufacturing enterprises' profits down 25.5% in 2009, report
  • [17] Apartment prices down 2.6% in Q1
  • [18] Power company union calls off planned strikes
  • [19] Stocks end moderately up
  • [20] Greek bond market closing report
  • [21] ADEX closing report
  • [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday
  • [23] Interview with renowned automobile designer Andreas Zapatinas
  • [24] Greek and Turkish ornithologists team up for conservation of threatened bird
  • [25] Foreign nationals arrested for armed robbery, attempted murder
  • [26] Thieves take 27,700 euros from ATM
  • [27] Major heroin bust in Larissa
  • [28] Man arrested for posting naked photos of ex on Internet
  • [29] US consulate closed on Wed.
  • [30] Rainy on Saturday
  • [31] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [32] Cuba supports a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem
  • [33] UNSG: 'We should seize this critical moment in Cyprus' Politics

  • [01] PM counters SYRIZA criticism in Parliament, stresses focus on boosting growth

    Strong words were exchanged in Parliament on Friday between Prime Minister George Papandreou and the head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group Alexis Tsipras, following a question tabled by Tsipras for the prime minister on the economy.

    Papandreou accused Tsipras of not making a constructive contribution as leader of a progressive party to the effort to restore the Greek economy, while SYRIZA's chief countered by saying that Papandreou had no plan and urged him "to stop pretending to be prime minister" and to "take back the criminal and unjust measures".

    In his reply to Tsipras, the prime minister stressed that the government had been forced to choose between the collapse and salvation of the country. He admitted that the measures taken were unjust for many and said the government's next priority would be to boost growth and create a social safety net.

    "We took very difficult decisions but we did not have the luxury of ample time to directly change a system that had chronic problems and led the country's credibility to a nadir. We want to turn this crisis into an opportunity. To rebuild the state and create a social safety net," he said.

    Replying, Tsipras accused the prime minister of presenting Parliament with a "school essay" that was better suited to a pre-election period than a government that was eight months in power. He accused the government of having "given up" and said it "was unable to guarantee anything".

    "Are you aware how much your measures have set back Greek society? If you have a plan, have you not understood that we are going back to the 1950s and will need 20 years to surface from your choices," Tsipras stressed.

    According to SYRIZA's leader, the measures had led to negative growth of -5 percent, while 1.5 million Greeks would be pushed below the poverty line by the end of the year. He particularly slammed the pension reforms, saying that they 'dismantled' the social insurance system and called on Papandreou to renegotiate with the EU.

    Papandreou rejected Tsipras' criticism, pointing out that the government had managed to avert a default by Greece and that the work done in the past six month could not be compared with the volume of work produced by the previous government.

    He stressed that the country's fiscal problem was only one side of the coin and that the problems will remain if the government only dealt with these issues. The government had managed to arrange the EU-IMF support mechanism and was now making a major effort to boost growth by establishing a "secure environment for enterprise, without bureaucracy and lack of transparency," he added.

    [02] Papandreou receives Libyan PM; talks focus on closer trade, econ ties

    Prime Minister George Papandreou met with visiting Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi on Friday, stressing afterwards that new prospects are being opened for stronger relations between Athens and Tripoli.

    Papandreou underlined that the meeting focused on the sectors of energy, renewable energy sources (RES), construction and tourism.

    He referred to friendly relations of the two countries and underlined that the international community recognises Libya's important place and has restored relations with the country.

    Papandreou stressed that "Libya plays a very important role in the Mediterranean region and serves as gateway of communication with African states." He also announced that he will visit the country soon.

    On his part, the Libyan prime minister referred to the close bilateral relations and focused on cooperation in the sectors of energy, power production, telecoms, RES, natural gas, infrastructures, tourism, sea transport and the prospects of Libyan investments in Greece.

    "Libya is experiencing a phase of major growth with disbursed funds of 200 billion US dollars," he said, stressing that "we welcome the contribution of Greek companies in advance."

    He also suggested the establishment of an economic trade zone between Greece and Libya and the utilisation of the sea borders shared by the two countries.

    "Libya has made a clear political decision to cooperate with Greece and offer our support to help it overcome the crisis," al-Mahmoudi added, underlining that "the Libyan market is an extension of the Greek market".

    Finally, he invited PM Papandreou to Tripoli to sign developmental agreements.

    [03] PM, Samaras meet with Cosco CEO

    Emerging from a meeting with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday, the president and CEO of China Ocean Shipping (COSCO) Group, Capt. Wei Jaifu, expressed satisfaction with results of his meetings with Greek leaders and ministers during his three-day visit to the country.

    Referring to the meeting, Wei said he informed the Greek prime minister of a 43-percent rise in productivity at Pier 2 of the port of Piraeus between January and April, when Cosco took over the container terminal, while assuring him that the Chinese multinational implement everything envisaged under the agreement for use of the pier.

    The Cosco chief also referred to a number of possibilities for investments in Greece, including stakes in the port, railroads and airports, saying that some of fell within his area of authority and some not.

    "We need help on your side in order to bring some projects to China," Wei told reporters, adding that plans needed to be accompanied by the studies aiming at mutual benefits and a "win-win situation".

    Commenting on the economic crisis in Greece, he said that all countries come up against obstacles in periods of restructuring but that the leaders and people must be "in the same boat". He also appeared confident that Greece would soon overcome its economic problems.

    Concerning workers at the port, Wei pointed to the sharp rise in productivity, while noting that Cosco had already hired an additional 300 local employees. He stressed that the company did not intend to bring in employees from China.

    Also present at the meeting with the prime minister was the managing director of the Piraeus Container Terminal S.A., Li Keqiang.


    Wei was later received by main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras.

    Samaras said he welcomes Chinese investments in Greece and "the changed stance of those who, in the past, had questioned the necessity of such an investment."

    "New Democracy has always regarded such investments as very important ... because they mirror the significance of our country's geo-strategic position," he said.

    On his part, the Cosco chief stressed that ND was the political party that brought his company to Greece and thanked former PM Costas Karamanlis for his support.

    [04] Alternate FM Droutsas holds talks with Serb FM

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas met in Athens on Friday evening with Serb Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic and referred to the excellent level of bilateral relations between Greece and Serbia.

    The two ministers discussed the European perspective of the countries of the western Balkans, which Greece ardently supports with its initiative on the accession of these countries to the EU in 2014 "on condition that all the accession criteria will be respected, as well as the very important precondition of respect for the principles of good neighbourliness to which Greece attributes particular importance," Droutsas said.

    Droutsas, who announced that a visit by Serb president Boris Tadic to Athens will be taking place soon, stressed that Serbia "is finding in Greece the most reliable partner and friend," adding that the future of the Balkan countries is in the European Union.

    On his part, Jeremic said that "this year we shall break all records regarding the arrival of Serb tourists in Greece" and expressed his gratitude to the Greek government for support in all fields and primarily that of his country's European prospect.

    [05] 'Agenda 2014' the focus of talks in Bucharest

    BUCHAREST (ANA-MPA / N. Melissova)

    Promotion of the "Agenda 2014" initiative for the European integration of the western Balkans, ahead of an informal EU-western Balkans summit in Sarajevo early next month, is the focus of a meeting between Greek, Bulgarian and Romanian foreign ministers.

    Greece is represented by Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas.

    The Romanian side is represented by FM Teodor Baconschi and the Bulgarian side by FM Nikolay Mladenov.

    [06] New deputy culture & tourism minister sworn in

    New deputy culture and tourism minister George Nikitiadis was sworn in on Friday in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, during a ceremony that was also attended by prime minister George Papandreou and culture minister Pavlos Geroulanos.

    Nikitiadis replaces Angela Gerekou, who resigned from the post.

    [07] Draft bill on biodiversity to be unveiled soon, ministry says

    The Greek environment ministry on Friday stressed the importance of a draft bill for protecting biodiversity, which will soon be posted on the Internet for a period of public debate. A ministry announcement stressed that it would aid significantly in protecting Greece's natural wealth and support global efforts to arrest the loss of biodiversity through coordinated action by national and European bodies.

    "Incorporating the factor of biodiversity protection in every project and activity carried out in our country is a priority for the ministry," said Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili.

    She said the bill would be a step to shifting the way that Greece viewed biodiversity issues, acknowledging that species were not just a decorative factor in people's lives but an irreplaceable national wealth and a source of crucial ecological services and infrastructure, especially in an uncertain future created by climate change.

    The draft bill will seek to introduce regulatory measures for all the natural environment and successful curb the destruction of forests, wetlands, coasts and the marine environment, protect endemic species and control invasion by foreign species that threatened local wildlife.

    [08] Testimony by former ministry official involved in Vatopedi land swap affair

    A former land policy director at the ministry of rural development, who faces felony charges in the Vatopedi Church-State land swap affair, was released on Friday on a 100,000-euro bail and ordered not to leave the country.

    Stamatina Manteli was afforded conditional release after marathon testimony before examining magistrate Irene Kalou.

    Manteli, who is accused of complicity to commit breach of faith, issuing false certificates and removing state documents without proper authorisation, denied the charges against her and maintained that she was pressured by political figures to speed up the land swap deal. The transaction was eventually completed in 2007.

    In a written deposition to the magistrate, Manteli maintained that the land swap was a political decision and that then government ministers had repeatedly intervened to have the exchange completed.

    She named the one-time ministers of state and rural development, the deputy rural development minister and then prime minister Costas Karamanlis' political office director, underlining that "if there were no such interventions the land swap wouldn't be completed so quickly, while there is a chance that it wouldn't have taken place after all."

    Manteli said Vatopedi Monastery monk Arsenios visited her for the first time in 2003 to brief her on the monastery's claims as regards land plots near Lake Vistonida, following a telephone call by then minister of agriculture to notify her of the visit

    Angelou statement

    In a response, Yannis Angelou, the former director of the ex-PM's political office, on Friday categorically rejected allegations that he was involved in the Vatopedi affair.

    "Enough is enough. I am not willing to let my name be involved, by anyone and in any way, in a case with which I had nothing to do," he underlined and stressed that everything he knows about the case is included in a written statement he submitted to the responsible parliamentary investigation committee, as well as, in his testimony before the committee on May 10, 2010."

    [09] Alternate FM addresses event marking 130 years of Greek-Romanian diplomatic ties

    BUCHAREST (ANA-MPA - N. Melissova)

    Attending a ceremony held here on Friday to mark the 130th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Greece and Romania, Greece's Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas stressed the strong social and economic ties between the two countries in the last two centuries, which he said remained unaffected by the economic crisis.

    In addition to historic ties, Droutsas also emphasised the support given by Greece to Romania's more recent efforts to join the European Union and NATO, as well as the close cooperation between the two countries at present for the EU accession of the western Balkans.

    He particularly emphasised their strong economic ties, noting that Greece had been one of the biggest foreign investors in Romania during the past 20 years, with 4.5 billion euros of Greek capital invested in the country and 30,000 Romanians employed by Greek businesses.

    "The current economic crisis cannot restrict the strong impetus of our relations," Droutsas said in his speech, adding that Greece looked to boosting and deepening strategic cooperation with Romania on all levels.

    [10] Alternate DM Beglitis in Corinth

    Alternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis, speaking after the taking of the oath by recruits at the 6th infantry regiment in Corinth on Friday, expressed his conviction that with "wider national and social consenus and understanding Greece can find once again its lost self-confidence, it can once again find its position among Europe's strong countries through a courageous and bold reconstruction at all levels."

    He reiterated that "we as a government commit ourselves to guaranteeing the corresponding and fair distribution of the economic and social cost that overcoming the crisis requires for our country's economic and social development."

    As regards the issue of the decrease in defence expenditures between Greece and Turkey, he observed that the decrease in defence expenditures is not the beginning, it is the end of the road and commented that the decrease in defence expenditures is feasible on the basic precondition that Turkey will withdraw its unilateral demands its revisory policy and its practices in the Aegean.

    Financial News

    [11] Action Group on economic governance, FinMin Papaconstantinou

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni-V. Demiris)

    European Union President Herman Van Rompuy stressed here in Brussels on Friday that "all the countries of the EU agreed on the need for greater monetary discipline," while underlining the "joint consensus" existing on the imposition of stricter economic and political sanctions on countries that systematically violate the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact.

    The EU finance ministers and representataives of the European Central Bank met in Brussels on Friday under the chairmanship of Van Rompuy to discuss the institutional problems facing the EU and the eurozone, apart from the crisis period it is currently experiencing. It is the first working day of this "Action Group."

    As regards the German proposal on "controlled bankruptcy" of overindebted countries, that is interpreted by many as a form of forcing a country to leave the eurozone, Rompuy clarified in principle that no kind of controlled bankruptcy is anticipated for Greece, through the support mechanism, and in any case no such thing is anticipated by the European support mechanism for all the eurozone countries as well.

    Addressing the first session of the action group on economic governance, Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou raised, among other things, the issue of monetary adjustment and the better coordination of economic policies in the eurozone.

    Papaconstantinou also showed indirect but clear support for Germany's legislative inititives on the curbing of profiteering games against state titles on its territory.

    Greece, Papaconstantinou added, expressed reservations on any possible debate regarding the Treaty's reform, which, according to Greece, would not solve problems.

    [12] National Bank unveils loan restructuring plan

    National Bank on Friday unveiled a plan aimed at restructuring consumer and business loans, worth more than 1.0 billion euros, offering a boost to the bank's premium clients, while at the same time intensifying efforts to ensure payment of debts.

    Addressing a general shareholders' meeting, National Bank chief executive Apostolos Tamvakakis said the bank has introduced a series of loan restructuring products for all categories of retail and business banking. Tamvakakis said a new package of state guarantees, the valuable help of the European Central Bank and the ability of banks to create additional liquidity, allowed for optimistic forecasts that the Greek credit system will achieve good liquidity conditions gradually, in the first six months of 2011.

    Referring to the bank's aims, Tamvakakis said they include preserving a dynamism to develop activities in neighbouring economies and stressed that credit expansion in Turkey was project at more than 20 pct. National Bank plans to expand its branch network in Turkey.

    Vassilis Rapanos, the bank's chairman, said the current crisis was offering an unquestionable choice: to reform and modernise the structure of the state and to change the way of thinking.

    National Bank's shareholders approved a board plan to rename National P&K Securities into National Securities.

    [13] MP insists that central bank explain changes to bond trading rules

    Responding to an announcement by the Bank of Greece regarding its decision to introduce extend the settlement period of transactions on its electronic bond trading platform HDAT, ruling PASOK MP Vasso Papandreou on Friday insisted that the BoG had to explain its actions.

    "The question the Bank of Greece (BoG) must answer is why, in the midst of the financial crisis when the problem with short selling was universally known, when it knew of the country's financial problems, why at that time it decided to relax rather than make stricter the regulations for settlement and in this way facilitated speculation against our country," she said.

    The MP had tabled a question on the decision to extend the settlement period from T+3 to T+10 in Parliament on Wednesday. The BoG issued a reply quoting a European Central Bank official, in a reply to questions that appear to support its actions and say that settlement periods are not seen as a crucial factor in encouraging naked short selling.

    Papandreou noted that the BoG announcement contained replies but not the questions they answered, insisting that the changes in the rules encouraged speculation at Greece's expense.

    [14] Labour minister seeks talks on changing labour law

    Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos on Friday sent out invitations to trade unions and employer groups to participate in talks on labour market issues due to begin on May 31.

    Invited to attend was the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation representing employees in the private sector, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), the artisans, workshop and small business owners' association GSEBEE and the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE).

    On the agenda of the talks is the procedure for resorting to the Mediation and Arbitration Organisation, increasing the monthly dismissals limit in mass layoffs, the amount of redundancy settlements and ways of paying them, as well as measures to discourage the dismissal of older employees nearing retirement.

    Also to be discussed are establishing different terms of employment and minimum wage for young people under 25 that enter the job market for the first time and the terms for employing and insuring people hired with trainee contracts, which cannot be greater than one year, and setting a maximum duration for temporary contracts.

    [15] Fiscal deficit down 41.5% in Jan-April

    Greece's state budget deficit dropped 41.5 pct in the January-April period to 6.313 billion euros, down from 10.791 billion euros in the corresponding period last year, the finance ministry announced on Friday.

    In a report, the ministry attributed the fiscal deficit in the first four months of the year to lower spending and higher revenues, despite the fact that figures did not fully reflect additional cost-cutting measures announced in March and May.

    Net budget revenues grew 10 pct in the January-April period, down from a budget target for an annual growth rate of 11.7 pct, budget spending fell 7.9 pct (budget target of 4.8 pct), primary spending fell 8.6 pct (budget target of 4.4 pct) and interest spending fell 4.6 pct ( budget target of 5.1 pct). The Public Investments Programme's spending dropped 39.1 pct, while revenues were down 39.8 pct in the four month period.

    [16] Greek manufacturing enterprises' profits down 25.5% in 2009, report

    Profitability of Greece's largest manufacturing enterprises (based on sales) fell significantly in 2009, a survey by Stat Bank said on Friday.

    The survey, based on the balance sheets of 618 large industrial enterprises, said profits dropped 25.5 pct last year, to 1.09 billion euros, down from 1.46 billion euros in 2008, reflecting a reduction in turnover by 16.4 pct to 22.46 billion euros.

    The survey did not include Hellenic Petroleum (EL.PE) and Public Power Corp. (PPC) - because of the volatility of both enterprises' results are related with energy costs. If results by those two enterprises were included, profits were up 131 pct to 2.3 billion euros.

    Greece's largest manufacturing enterprises' average net profit margin was 4.9 pct in 2009, slightly up from 2008, while equity capital fell 1.6 pct to 16.67 billion euros and foreign capital grew 4.5 pct to 20 billion euros.

    From the 618 enterprises in the survey, 73.5 pct reported profits and 26.5 pct losses, with the percentage of loss-making enterprises growing steadily. The 452 profitable manufacturing enterprises of the sample saw their sales decline by 12.4 pct (17.3 billion euros), but profits rose 2.8 pct to 1.6 billion euros.

    The 164 loss-making enterprises reported higher losses in 2009 (513.8 million euros), from 98.4 million euros in 2008, for an increase of 422 pct.

    The survey concluded that an economic crisis widened the gap between the country's manufacturing enterprises. The survey also said that turnover of the 720 largest importing and exporting enterprises fell 10.6 pct to 28.6 billion euros last year, from 32 billion euros in 208, with profits also falling by 21 pct to 666 million euros.

    [17] Apartment prices down 2.6% in Q1

    Apartment prices fell 2.6 pct on average, in nominal terms, in the first quarter of 2010, compared with the corresponding period in 2009, the Bank of Greece announced on Friday.

    In a report, based on figures offered by commercial banks, the central bank said apartment prices fell by an annual average rate of 3.6 pct in 2009, after recording an 1.7-pct annual average increase in 2008. The report said prices fell more in the older apartments category (more than five years: -4 pct), while for new apartments the decline was -0.3 pct, following a trend which prevailed in 2009 (-4.5 pct and -2.2 pct, respectively). Apartment prices fell 2.0 pct in Athens, 3.6 pct in Thessaloniki, 3.0 pct in other large cities and 3.1 pct in the remaining parts of the country, down from annual decline rates of 4.6 pct, 5.9 pct, 2.6 pct and 1.7 pct recorded in 2009.

    Transactions made through the banking system totaled 22,100 in the January-March period, from 24,000 in the fourth quarter of 2009, but up 38.5 pct compared with the first quarter of 2009. The volume of transactions grew 32.3 pct in the first three months of the year, down from an annual average growth rate of 39.3 pct in 2009. The value of transactions made through the banking system grew 25.3 pct in the first quarter, down from 40.4 pct in 2009.

    [18] Power company union calls off planned strikes

    The Public Power Corporation (PPC) employee union GENOP on Friday called off a series of 48-hour rolling strikes that were due to begin next week on Tuesday in protest against the government's pension system reforms.

    The union said the strikes were called off after the minister pledged to "respect the autonomy and independence of our social insurance body and, chiefly, our property".

    [19] Stocks end moderately up

    Stocks ended the last trading session of a highly volatile week with small gains at the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday. The composite index of the market rose 0.81 pct to end at 1,595.10 points, for a net loss of 3.81 pct in the week. Turnover was a low 113.4 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 1.02 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.59 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.44 pct. The Food (2.18 pct) and Banks (1.85 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Insurance (4.53 pct) and Technology (1.88 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 83 to 76 with another 69 issues unchanged. Elgeka (20 pct), Edrasi (14.29 pct) and Compucon (12.5 pct) were top gainers, while Epsilon Net (10 pct), Technical Publications (9.76 pct) and Nakas (8.82 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -4.53%

    Industrials: +0.97%

    Commercial: +1.61%

    Construction: -0.31%

    Media: -1.36%

    Oil & Gas: +0.15%

    Personal & Household: +0.44%

    Raw Materials: -0.12%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.74%

    Technology: -1.88%

    Telecoms: +0.31%

    Banks: +1.85%

    Food & Beverages: +2.18%

    Health: -0.46%

    Utilities: +0.46%

    Chemicals: +1.04%

    Financial Services: +1.78%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.75

    ATEbank: 1.24

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.50

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.64

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.55

    National Bank of Greece: 10.51

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.48

    Intralot: 3.07

    OPAP: 12.65

    OTE: 6.35

    Bank of Piraeus: 4.52

    Titan: 15.73

    [20] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 94 million euros on Friday, of which 59 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 35 million were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 17 million euros, followed by the five-year bond with 13 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 523 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 7.89 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.95 pct, the three-month 0.64 pct and the one-month rate 0.40 pct.

    [21] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the Athens Derivatives Exchange was trading at -1.29 pct on Friday, with turnover a low 60.476 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 12,807 contracts, worth 48.170 million euros, with 25,356 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 16,576 contracts worth 12.306 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (8,052), followed by Eurobank (930), MIG (944), OTE (967), Piraeus Bank (1,103), Alpha Bank (735) and Mytilineos (1,800).

    [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.259

    Pound sterling 0.877

    Danish kroner 7.502

    Swedish kroner 9.909

    Japanese yen 112.98

    Swiss franc 1.452

    Norwegian kroner 8.208

    Canadian dollar 1.351

    Australian dollar 1.525

    General News

    [23] Interview with renowned automobile designer Andreas Zapatinas

    As a child, he was enthralled by the sight of the powerful, fast cars competing in the Acropolis rally speeding by him like colorful arrows, stirring up the dust in the small provincial town he lived in. Afterwards he would go home and take out his metal toy cars and design, on the margins of his copybooks, new, futuristic cars and dream of one day making his own cars.

    Andreas Zapatinas, the talented automobile designer whose name has for years figured in the international automobile industry, having worked as chief designer with Subaru, Alfa Romeo, BMW and Fiat, told ANA-MPA in an interview that he has been designing cars as far back as he can remember, from his childhood years.

    "Federico Fellini, too, appears to have been influenced by a similar scene in his childhood, because he uses it in his (1937 semi-biographical coming-of-age) film 'Amarcord' ('I Remember'), with a group of young boys dreaming of being racing drivers in car rallies," Zapatinas told ANA-MPA in Thessaloniki, where he attended an event on "Competitiveness through Design" hosted by the Federation of Northern Greece Industries and the Auto Business Review.

    "The automobile interested me as a means of autonomy but also as an object, impressively large in space, that gives you the sense that you can travel everywhere," says Zapatinas, depicting the car as the horse of the modern era, as it is also a "living and breathing" means of transportation that also heats up and grows cold.

    "When I begin a design, the hand draws the first line, which is not necessarily straight, and gradually, with the collaboration of the mind and the senses, I progress, having a challenge before me to create something new. Sometimes you have to break with the facts and redesign objects that have remained the same for years, simply because it just happens," he says, citing as an example his collaboration with Kleemann, where he designed an avant-garde curvilinear elevator cabin, giving users a different feeling.

    Zapatinas observed there has been a decline in the automotive industry, chiefly in the western world, over the past decade, but opined that this is only a transitional stage for the next five years and predicted that the Chinese automobile industry will play an important role in the future.

    "The car has started to be seen now as the 'bad boy', due to cost and environmental pollution, and the people in the Western countries are seeing it with a 'different eye'," he explains, noting that the changes in society are already reflected in the industries, which are gradually changing the same product to serve the needs of the future.

    "So long as the basic use and relationship of the product are changing, so, too, will the product itself change," he predicts.

    Andreas Zapatinas, a world-renowned automobile and industrial designer, was born in Athens in 1957, and studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California, from where he graduated in 1986.

    He worked as a designer at the Fiat Centro Stile from 1988 until 1994, where he met BMW chief designer Chris Bangle and followed him to BMW. At Fiat, Zapatinas was chief exterior designer of the Fiat Barchetta and contributed to the design of the Fiat Coupe, and also contributed to the design of the Fiat Bravo.

    Four years later, in 1998, he became chief designer at the Alfa Romeo Centro Stile, contributing to the design of the Alfa Romeo 145, 156 sports wagon, 159 and Brera, while he also has been credited for the unique for its time rear end design of the Alfa Romeo 147.

    In 2002, Zapatinas moved to Subaru in Japan as Head of Advanced Design.

    His pioneering work has put its mark on the BMW 1 series, particularly in the coupe and cabrio models, and the 5 and 3 series, as well as the newly-circulated X5 and X6 series.

    Zapatinas has also contributed to the design of a variety of showcase models such as the Subaru B9 sc, R1e and B5tph.

    He also contributed to the external, internal and general design of automobiles depending on the needs in each case, and was a major contributor to the design of the Alfa Romeo GTA, its accessories and promotional material, as well as in designing the Subaru stands at major automobile salons (Geneva, Frankfurt, Tokyo).

    Zapatinas has further taught at design at Schools in Italy and Switzerland and, since September 2006, shortly after his departure from Subaru, he has been designing and acting as consultant for automotive industries and other branches of industry.

    [24] Greek and Turkish ornithologists team up for conservation of threatened bird

    Greek and Turkish ornithologists are working together to save the migratory seabird Yelkouan Shearwater, which is threatened with extinction.

    The Hellenic Ornothological Society, the international bird conservation organisation Birdlife International and the Turkish protection society have teamed up to conduct simultaneous taggings of the Yelkouan Shearwater in the Bosporus Straits and the Greek islands of Lesvos and Limnos, which the birds visit and nest.

    Total mystery covers the bird's reproduction and feeding habits to date, but it is believed that it lives on small unpopulated islands in Greece, Italy, France, Tunisia and Malta, and head for the Dead Sea for wintering via the Bosporus Straits.

    More than 25,000 birds were recorded passing through the Straits in one day, and more than 14,000 were recorded in Lesvos in one day.

    [25] Foreign nationals arrested for armed robbery, attempted murder

    Police on Friday announced the cracking of an armed robbery case against a state betting agency in Kalamata on April 1, in which the culprits had shot into the air and taken 4,000 euros.

    Arrested in connection with the robbery were two Albanian nationals aged 17 and 23 years old, respectively. The two are believed to be members of a criminal gang comprised of another seven Albanians arrested by Attica security police for other offences.

    Investigating officers also consider the 23-year-old the chief suspect in the attempting murder of a 29-year-old resident of the town of Kyparissia in the Peloponnese, who was shot three times on April 2.

    The files on both cases have been sent on to the Kalamata and Kyparissia public prosecutors.

    [26] Thieves take 27,700 euros from ATM

    Unidentified thieves managed to crack open a National Bank of Greece ATM cash dispenser in Kopanaki, Messinia prefecture early on Friday morning, using a blow torch to open the safe and take 27,700 euros.

    An investigation has been launched by local police.

    [27] Major heroin bust in Larissa

    A 20-year-old Albanian national was arrested in a rural area outside Sikourio, Larissa prefecture in central Greece, while attempting to sell 152 grams of heroin to an undercover police officer, who posed as a buyer.

    A 24-year-old local man, who drove the first suspect to the site, was also arrested.

    Police seized another 333 grams of heroin, while 10 grams of the drug were found in the possession of the 24-year-old.

    [28] Man arrested for posting naked photos of ex on Internet

    A 21-year-old man in the coastal city of Volos was arrested and charged on Friday for posting naked photos of a former girlfriend on a popular social networking site on the Internet. The man apparently created an account for the woman, in which he uploaded photographs and obscene comments, in order to pressure her into resuming their relationship.

    [29] US consulate closed on Wed.

    The US embassy in Athens' consular section will be closed to the public on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, for internal administrative reasons, according to a press release issued by the embassy. This closure includes the non-immigrant visa unit, immigrant visa unit, federal benefits unit, US citizen services unit and the passport unit.

    Weather Forecast

    [30] Rainy on Saturday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 8C and 25C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 12C to 24C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 21C.

    [31] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Government's measures to tackle tax evasion, the enhanced fiscal discipline and the controlled bankruptcy mechanism in the EU promoted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the nationwide labour strike on Thursday, and Cosco and Qatar major investment projects in Greece, dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Bank loan and credit card repayment facilitations (for pensioners and civil servants) from National Bank of Greece".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Changes in local administration reform 'Kallikratis' plan".

    AVGHI: "People set social security reform as their red line to the government - Thousands of people protested on Thursday and sent a message against the government's reforms under IMF-EU recommendations".

    AVRIANI: "Labour Minister exposes the 'ridicule' with the parliamentary fact-finding committees: "We are making fools of ourselves by presenting five different findings (one report from each of the five parties represented in parliament) on the Vatopedi monastery scandal".

    ELEFTHEROS: "5 percent VAT on blue movies - 10-21 percent on food - Government characterised porn DVDs as 'educational for society'."

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Economy Minister Louka Katseli, government spokesman George Petalotis, ruling PASOK parliamentary spokesman Petros Efthymiou and PASOK party secretary Socratis Xynidis, pull the carpet out from under Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou over the bond scam".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Euro-war against speculators - Initiatives to restrain' the markets' lawlessness intensify".

    ESTIA: "The reactions to the measures seriously hinder their implementation".

    ETHNOS: "Multinational tricks with prices - Surcharge for consumers - Revenues loss for the state".

    IMERISSIA: "50 billion euros in secret incomes - 9 billion euros tax loss for the state every year".

    KATHIMERINI: "9 billion euros loss in state revenues from tax evasion on incomes".

    LOGOS: "Five different conclusions on the Vatopedi case - New clash among parties".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Major investment programmes underway".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Resounding message of rejection of the barbarous antipopular policy".

    TA NEA: 'Life raft for 300,000 loans - Immediate facilitation for civil servants".

    TO VIMA: "Repayment restructuring for mortgage loans and credit cards".

    VRADYNI: "National Health System in state of collapse - A four-year-old child from Xanthi (northeastern Greece) died helpless".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [32] Cuba supports a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem


    Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez has reiterated his country's support for a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus issue, through peaceful negotiations, within the UN framework, to the benefit of both communities on the island.

    Rodriguez, who is paying an official visit to Cyprus, held a meeting on Friday with his Cypriot counterpart Marcos Kyprianou.

    In statements after the meeting, Rodriguez praised the traditionally and historically good relations between the people of Cyprus and Cuba.

    "Our people will never forget the historical contribution made by Archbishop Makarios. We admire him and remember him, not only as a very important international leader but also as a very close friend with the Cuban people," he said.

    Rodriguez said he had excellent talks with Kyprianou and representatives of Cypriot political parties.

    "Both our countries are affected by challenges like the global economic crisis, or the climate change impact. We exchanged views on some multilateral issues," he said.

    On the Cyprus issue, he reiterated "the very well known and traditional position of Cuba in support of a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus issue, through peaceful negotiations on the basis of the UN framework, and for the sake of both communities."

    Rodriguez expressed high appreciation for the traditional support of the government of Cyprus and the people in efforts to lift the US embargo on Cuba.

    Kyprianou stated that such meetings presented them with the opportunity to exchange views on bilateral issues and issues of common interest.

    "I had the opportunity to brief my colleague on the process of direct negotiations, on how we conceive the change in the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community. And I reiterated our will for finding a functional and viable solution to the Cyprus problem," he stressed.

    The Cypriot Foreign Minister expressed his appreciation for the firm support of Cuba to the struggle of the people of Cyprus for reunification and to terminate the Turkish occupation.

    Kyprianou also said that they discussed EU-Cuban relations, and expressed support for strengthening those relations.

    Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    President Christofias and former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began peace talks in September 2008. Talks are set to resume on May 26, between President Christofias and Dervis Eroglu, who succeeded Talat.

    [33] UNSG: 'We should seize this critical moment in Cyprus'


    The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that the current critical moment in Cyprus should be seized, referring to the ongoing peace talks for a political settlement, set to resume next week between Cyprus President, Demetris Christofias and new Turkish Cypriot leader, Dervis Eroglu.

    Speaking Friday at Bogazici University in Istanbul, on the sidelines of an international conference on Somalia on Saturday, Ban said that Turkey has a special role to play in resolving the 35-year division of the island.

    "Talks resume next week. A convergence of views is taking shape. We should seize this critical moment," he said.

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

    President Christofias and the former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began peace talks in September 2008. Talks are set to resume on May 26, between President Christofias and Eroglu, who succeeded Talat.

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