|Friday, 21 September 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-05-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 28 May 2010 Issue No: 3503
 'Kallikratis' plan ratified in principleThe Interior ministry's bill titled "New architecture of local administration and decentralised administration-Kallikratis Programme" was ratified in principle by Parliament on Thursday, following a rollcall vote called for by the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party.
Voting "yes" were 160 deputies (PASOK and the three independents Sofia Sakorafa, Yiannis Dimaras, Vassilis Economou).
Voting "no" were 124 deputies from the New Democracy party, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA).
Independent deputy Dora Bakoyannis declared herself "present."
A total of 285 deputies voted and 174 deputies made addresses during the in principle discussion of "Kallikratis." The discussion is continuing on the bill's articles.
 Heated debate in parliament on local administration merger planThe draft law on the "Kallikratis" local administration reform and merger plan stirred up a heated confrontation between main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras and Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis in Parliament on Thursday.
Samaras dubbed the proposed draft law "monumental in displaying how such an administrative reform should not be implemented" and accused the government of violating the merger criteria in a way that "reveals the practices of petty party politics".
He underlined the need for an overall administrative reform stressing that this is not possible with "Kallikratis," which preserves and repeats the bad practices of "Kapodistria", a previous local administration reform plan.
Ragoussis criticized the main opposition party for its stance, stressing that once again it is saying "no" to efforts aimed at "changing a corrupt system based on cliental relations."
The interior minister stated that the 325 municipalities and 13 regions created within the framework of "Kallikratis" will bring balance to the political system. He said that "Kallikratis" constitutes a radical change in the country's governance, adding that measures ensuring transparency and better control have been incorporated in the proposed local administration draft law.
Gov't on "Kallikratis"
"Anyone, hiding behind local politics and petty politicking, who is unable to realize or refuses to realize the radical changes introduced (by the "Kallikratis" local administration reform plan) is simply losing the forest for the trees and will soon be overtaken by reality. The political parties will be judged based on the degree of responsibility they display," government spokesman George Petalotis said on Thursday.
Commenting on the objections expressed, he said that nobody has questioned the major importance of "Kallikratis" and stressed that the goal set by the interior ministry was to ensure that this major endeavour will be effective and its value will not be downgraded.
 Mantelis charged following Siemens slush fund revelationsGreek authorities on Thursday pressed criminal charges against former transport minister Anastasios Mantelis for legalising income from illegal activity and forbid him from leaving the country. The charges were made based on his admission to a Parliamentary fact-finding committee on Wednesday that he had accepted 200,000 German marks from the Greek branch of the multinational Siemens in the year 1998.
Mantelis, who had served under the PASOK governments of Costas Simitis in the late '90s and had signed a lucrative deal between the state sector and Siemens for the installation of digital phone centres for the country's state-run telecom company, told the Parliamentary inquiry that the money had been given by Siemens as a campaign contribution that he had not needed to spend. He later used the funds to pay for his children's tuition at a U.S. university.
Based on his admission and evidence found when the former minister's Swiss bank accounts were opened, Supreme Court prosecutor Ioannis Tentes has asked the head of the Athens appeals court prosecutors Ioannis Sakellakos to initiate procedures against Mantelis and Sakellakos pressed charges against Mantelis on Thursday.
 Government on Mantelis case, Parliamentary inquiriesGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday underlined the government's "clear and self-evident" condem-nation of former minister Anastasios Mantelis and "any other political figure that behaves in a similar way".
He stressed that the government wanted a full investigation and clarification of all the cases that had harmed the public life of the country, regardless of whether these were also damaging to the PASOK party itself.
"As long as the citizens realise that impunity and irrespon-sibility are firmly and finally in the past," he added.
He pointed out that the Mantelis case, in which the former PASOK minister admitted to taking large sums of undeclared money from the multinational giant Siemens, had only come to light because the PASOK government had insisted on setting up the Parliamentary inquiries into all the various scandals that had rocked the country in recent years.
The spokesman also noted that Mantelis had been expelled from the PASOK party in 2008 and that this was demonstrated PASOK's attitude toward such types of behaviour. He denied, however, that PASOK had known about the money given to Mantelis by Siemens and asserted that the party would not have hesitated to reveal what happened if it had known.
Asked whether Mantelis will be punished, Petalotis said the government would not back down and had initiatied proceedings to discover both political and possible criminal responsibilities. He announced also, that Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis will soon bring a draft bill to Parliament that modified current legislation for prosecuting ministers that would stop offences from too easily becoming statute barred.
He admitted that there had to be intervention concerning the way justice functioned, given that the testimony about Mantelis had originally been given to the examining magistrate in charge of the Siemens investigation Nikos Zagorianos and action should have been taken at that time.
The spokesman went on to promise measures that would prevent people from testifying to wrongdoing in Parliament and then getting off scot free by fleeing abroad, in response to questions about the fact that Mantelis was allowed to simply walk out of the Parliamentary hearing after openly admitting to taking 200,000 marks from Siemens.
He noted that something similar had also happened in the case of Mihalis Christoforakos under the previous government, who was similarly not detained based on the charges against him but allowed to go abroad.
Concerning a proposal by PASOK MP Leonidas Grigorakos that former premier Costas Simitis be summoned to testify in the Parliamentary inquiry, Petalotis said that this was a matter for the fact-finding committee to decide but noted that "targeting people in order to make an impression...can sometimes conceal the investigation of the truth".
 Samaras: Mantelis confession shows 'nightmarish' level of corruptionThe admission by former minister Tasos Mantelis that he had taken money from Siemens for his own personal use "will go down in history as the most negative landmark in the political world's relations with transparency and decency," main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras said on Thursday.
Speaking during a stormy session of Parliament that was nominally about the Kallikratis bill on local government mergers but dominated by the news of Mantelis' confession that he had taken money from Siemens, Samaras spoke of "nightmarish dimensions of corruption that undermined social cohesion" and stressed the need to shed light on all aspects of public life to protect it from corruption politicians and state officials.
"The cynical confession of yet another top-flight PASOK minister that he was being bribed by a multinational company, which succeeded in sacking the country's public finance sphere, indicates the nightmarish dimensions of a corruption that is eating the very vitals of Democracy," he said, stressing that PASOK was constantly accusing ND of scandals but the evidence was constantly pointing to PASOK.
Replying, PASOK MP and head of a cross-party committee for financial control Vangelis Argyris pointed out that Mantelis had also spoken of money shared out among the entire political system and stressed that the former minister would be punished on the basis of a law passed by PASOK, for concealing sources of income in his annual statement of means and assets.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Thanassis Pafilis noted that the Mantelis confession and his revelations about kickbacks to politicians were "a small sample of the stink of a rotting capitalist political system" and called for deeper examination of the Siemens scandal.
Speaking for the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), MP Fotis Kouvelis said the ease with which Mantelis had cynically admitted his actions was because there were no laws to catch and punish those that embezzled public funds.
 Simitis: 'Sorrow and anger' over Mantelis affairFormer Greek premier Costas Simitis, who led a succession of PASOK governments between 1996 and 2004, on Thursday expressed "sorrow and anger" at the revelations concerning his former minister Anastasios Mantelis during a Parliamentary inquiry into the Siemens slush funds scandal.
The fact that these actions were "hatched during PASOK's governmental term in 1996-2004," made these feelings all the stronger, Simitis said in a statement.
He stressed that the actions described by Mantelis, where he admitted to accepting large and undeclared sums from the multinational Siemens, "injured society's sense of justice and blackened the work of the government of that time, as well as the efforts of all those that worked to make Greece a better place".
Simitis said that the work of the Parliamentary fact-finding committees responded to the self-evident demand of Greek society to shed light on a series of cases that poisoned political life and were detrimental for public wealth, adding that they were revealing "sordidness and unlawfulness" that had no place in a well-ordered state.
 Parliamentary fact-finding committee replies to criticism over Mantelis caseThe Parliamentary committee investigating the Siemens scandal on Thursday issued an announcement in reply to criticism of the way it had responded to revelations made by former minister Anastasios Mantelis when he testified before the committee on Wednesday.
The committee was accused in the press and in Parliament of failing to take action to avert the former minister's flight from Greece and for failing to press charges of perjury against him.
After a meeting conducted without stenographers present to record the minutes, the 19 members of the committee issued an announcement in which they stressed that the Parliamentary investigation committee was set up in February without replacing or abolishing the powers and responsibility of judicial, executive or legislative authorities.
Noting that the aim of the committee is to investigate a scandal that stretches back over many decades, having a huge extent and ramifications, they underlined that it was seeking the truth in difficult conditions, having inadequate infrastructure and support.
The Committee informs and immediately makes known documents and witness testimony to the relevant judicial and other authorities, the announcement said.
It ends by stating that the Committee operates within the framework of the Constitution and Parliament regulations and has no right to replace existing institutions and authorities, such as justice, independent authorities, prosecuting authorities and the government.
During the discussion, the committee also decided unanimously to ask the finance ministry to confiscate for the Greek State the sum of 1.2 million euros that was the settlement between fugitive from justice Mihalis Christoforakos and Siemens and to confiscate and open the accounts listed in the same agreement, given Christoforakos' criminal behaviour at the expense of the Greek State.
 Mantelis makes statement to television channelFormer PASOK minister Tasos Mantelis, speaking to a television channel on Thursday, said that "I am in Greece and I shall stay in Greece to give the necessary explanations to the authorities."
Mantelis, who has been forbidden from leaving the country after his testimony on Wednesday before the Parliamentary Committee probing the Siemens issue, added that "I spoke to the Factfinding Committee with sincerity. I am ready to give explanations to Greek justice."
The former PASOK minister admitted to taking large sums of undeclared money from the multinational giant Siemens.
 Alternate FM Droutsas briefs Parliamentary Committee on Turkish PM's recent visitAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, speaking during a meeting of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on Thursday, termed the recent visit to Greece by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan "important and successful."
Briefing the Committee on the outcome of the Turkish prime minister's visit, Droutsas spoke of "the beginning of a new effort for approach, that will only be judged by the result. It was a strong symbolism visit, that passed the message for cooperation and understanding, the creation of a climate of confidence, consolidation of the effort to normalise the relations of the two countries."
Droutsas further said that "many tabboos have broken over the past ten years, we are speaking with sincerity and openly. There was a sincere exchange of the known views and positions in a climate however of common political will to look at the future and the Greek positions were set out with explicitness and directness during all the talks by the prime minister."
All opposition parties expressed their reservations over the issue.
 Education minister meets President, outlines plans for 'New School'President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou, who presented him with an outline of planned changes to Greece's school system that she had earlier presented to reporters.
The plan presented by Diamantopoulou for the "New School" will go into effect during the next academic year beginning in September and essentially envisages a paring down and simplification of the syllabus, especially in hard science subjects like mathematics, physics, chemistry, geography, biology, IT and technology, between the fifth year of junior school right up to the last year of high school, where it would be a lot more restricted.
Another of the ministry's plans, to be floated on a pilot basis in 800 of the largest all-day schools, is a new unified reformed programme for primary schools, with more hours of teaching.
The minister stressed that the big wager for the ministry was to retrain teachers, with 150,000 teachers of all ranks due to participate in seminars on the New School by December 2013.
A further important element in the new policy is a drive to promote the Greek language in Greece and abroad, stressing its importance for world history and development.
 Environment ministry invites proposals for 20 'green' projectsEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili on Thursday signed to invitations for proposals for 20 supportive studies to be funded by roughly 3.5 million euros under the Business Programme "Environment and Sustainable Development 2007-2013". A ministry announcement said the move aimed to accelerate green development and bring Community funding into the country.
The studies are to deal with the management and recycling of waste, the handling of hazardous waste, implementation of Community directives for the protection of the environment and biodiversity, bioclimatic architecture and green procurements in the public sector.
 Papariga on Mantelis, Aspis insuranceCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Thursday said that the confession by former PASOK minister Tassos Mantelis that he had accepted undeclared money from the multinational Siemens was "nothing new, except for the fact that he cynically confessed his guilt himself".
"We consider that this case cannot be restricted to a jostling between [the major parties] about who created the biggest scandals or who is implicated in the biggest scandals," she added.
While the guilty should be punished, it would be a mistake to turn the country's political life into a string of investigating committees while more fundamental problems like social insurance, jobs, wages, pensions and health were left to one side, she added.
Earlier, Papariga had met the association of people that had fallen victim to the bankruptcy of the Aspis insurance company and accused the government of watching developments in the court case as a spectator on the sidelines.
She emphasised that the government had an obligation to help and support these people since the state was responsible for supervising the operation of the private insurance system, especially when the policy of successive governments of both the major parties had encouraged people to turn toward private insurance.
 Greek FinMin in OECD meetingGreek Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou briefed his counterparts in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) over the government's initiatives towards fiscal consolidation in the country.
Speaking to reporters, after an OECD ministerial meeting in Paris on Thursday, Papakonstantinou said he presented the government's measures in drafting of state budgets, a new tax legislation and a series of structural changes in the pension system. These changes, combined with a significant reduction of the fiscal deficit in the first quarter of 2010, were improving the outlook of the Greek economy, offering the ability to produce and export cheaper and better products, he said.
The Greek minister, on the sidelines of the meeting, met with OECD's officials and discussed tax policy issues, and announced the signing of two significant agreements soon aimed at strengthening efforts to combat tax evasion in the country.
Commenting on the inspection of the Greek economy by experts of the so-called "troika" from the EU and the IMF, Papakonstantinou said they will focus on the execution of the state budget and implementation of the government's commitments in the framework of a memorandum signed with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He said that the budget was progressing as scheduled with the deficit shrinking more rapidly than anticipated and noted that based on these facts, no further measures would be needed. He dismissed, again, talk that Greece would reschedule its public debt.
 Greece not considering sale of PPC equity stakeThe Greek government is not considering at this time the sale of Public Power Corporation's electricity production units, or cutting the state's equity participation to below 51 pct, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said a cabinet meeting on Wednesday discussed in general the government's privatization program and stressed that the ministry's position on the issue was to adopt a general, but not common, approach to privatizing state enterprises, as the energy sector was a profitable one not burdening the state budget, while the ownership status was linked with the opening of energy markets, a process currently underway. Birbili said Greece is obliged to adopt all community directives on energy deregulation in about one year's time. She stressed that the privatization issue would be discussed in bilateral meetings with the Finance ministry.
The Greek minister also referred in detail to the government's initiatives on energy, such as introduction of a new regulatory framework on wind parks and renewable energy sources. The ministry expects that energy production units from renewable energy sources, with a power of 5,000 MW -of which 1,000 MW from wind power- could be operational by 2015. The Greek minister will visit Azerbaijan in the next 15 days for talks on energy issues. She said that an agreement with Russia over the set up of a Greek-Russian company, in the framework of the South Stream natural gas pipeline project, will be signed in Moscow, June 7.
 Greece signs "Adriatic-Ionian network for agricultural development" memorandumROME (ANA-MPA/Th. Andreadis)
Agricultural Development and Foods minister Katerina Batzeli on Wednesday signed a protocol of cooperation according to which an "Adriatic-Ionian network for agricultural development" will be created, during a meeting of agriculture ministers of member-countries of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative.
The memorandum provides for exchanges of experiences, implementation of cooperation plans and the promotion of a quality identity of the region's agricultural products, while emphasis will also be placed on safeguarding the agricultural traditions as well as the wider cultural heritage of the region, and also containment of prices.
 Greece assuming Black Sea Economic Cooperation Pact presidencySOFIA (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov)
The meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Pact's Business Council was held at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday, on the eve of the Pact's interministerial meeting in Sofia on May 28.
Energy cooperation among the Black Sea countries with the aim of utilising the possibilities of "green energy" was among the meeting's main issues.
The special significance of economic and political cooperation for peace, security and prosperity in the Black Sea zone was underlined in an address by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov.
The meeting was concluded with the ceremony for the official delivery of the Pact's Business Council presidency to Greece, according to a relevant announcement by the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
 Greek and Chinese officials discuss water management issuesDeputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Thanos Moraitis met on Thursday with visiting Chinese Vice-Minister of Water Resources Hu Siyi. The meeting focused on water resources management issues, the European institutional framework, hydroelectric projects and climate change.
The Chinese official underlined the common characteristics shared by Greece and China, referring to their ancient history and culture and the similar problems they face in water management stemming from the large number of islands and water-consuming farm production.
 GSEE leadership rejects labour minister's invitation to dialogueThe General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) leadership in a meeting held on Thursday rejected an invitation to dialogue by Labour Minister Andreas Loverdos, stressing that the measures suggested for discussion are extreme and anti-labour. GSEE also reiterated its intention not to enter a negotiation on the social insurance issue, with the exception of the responsible parliamentary committee, and defined the framework of the demands made through strike action.
According to a statement issued by GSEE, its executive committee will be given powers to decide the dates of strike action depending on current developments.
The signing of a collective labour agreement was set as top priority that will guarantee the workers' rights, while the demands expressed by the troika (IMF, ECB, EU) and adopted by the government were characterized as unacceptable.
GSEE accused the government of blatant intervention in the collective labour negotiations and of violation of treaties and laws, warning that it will resort to the international labor office and European and international courts.
According to the GSEE statement, a joint decision has already been made with public sector union ADEDY to stage a protest rally in Athens on June 5.
 GSEE president: no margins for bargaining, negotiationAddressing the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) leadership on Thursday, GSEE President Yiannis Panagopoulos accused the government of adopting the most anti-social and neoliberal policies at the behest of the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), thus making any kind of dialogue on labour and pension rights impossible.
"They are terrorising the insured and this is now being done in an unacceptable and criminal way. We can no longer do anything except fight. Lost battles are those that are not fought," Panagopoulos stressed, warning however that the struggle ahead would "not be a speed race but a marathon".
He asked that GSEE's executive committee be given powers to decide the dates of strike action based on developments concerning planned reforms of the pension system.
According to Panagopoulos, the one remaining institutional option left to trade unions was to submit their proposals in detail to Parliament, since the minister refused to accept them, and then support their positions and outline their objections when an invitation came from Parliament.
"We have no margins to bargain and negotiate. All bridges have been cut off," he added.
The trade union leader also completely rejected the government's proposals on relaxing labour law, saying that they completely undermined the entire framework of collective bargaining established by a unanimous Parliamentary decision and international labour contracts.
He called on GSEE to reject an invitation from Labour Minister Andreas Loverdos to participate in dialogue on this issue, saying that it was a "clear provocation".
Panagopoulos said the union's legal team was now examining proposals on redundancy payments and the limits for mass lay-offs, which he said appeared to violate EU treaties and regulations, with a view to resorting to European and international courts.
He also stressed the need to sign a collective labour agreement, saying that it was now clear that industrialists were striving to avoid the signature of any collective agreement and adding that the failure to sign an agreement would be a "strategic defeat".
 OTOE says will participate in all GSEE mobilisationsThe federation of bank employee unions (OTOE) announced on Thursday that it will take part in all the mobilisations to be organised by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), one of the country's two main umbrella federations, which open with a rally to be held on June 5 at 11:00 a.m. in Athens.
OTOE said it would be taking part in the mobilisations in response to "the anti-popular policy of the government which aims at materialisation, to the letter, of the guidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union (EU) and the European Central Bank (ECB)".
The OTOE executive secretariat also decided to take recourse in the International Labor Organisation (ILO) over "the attacks on the insurance rights of bank employees, which contravene international and European law", asking that the ILO undertake relevant initiatives.
OTOE will further organise informational gatherings of bank employees in the main cities throughout the country.
The secretariat also decided on immediate preparation and demand of a collective labor agreement for the current year.
 National Bank says extra tax burden cut Q1 earningNational Bank Group has said net profits totaled 21 million euros in the first quarter of 2010, burdened by extra tax charges, losses in its state bond portfolio and continuing high bad loan provisions. The bank said an extra tax charge and extra tax on securities income burdened its first quarter results by 93 million euros, to a total of 112 million euros. Apostolos Tamvakakis, the bank's chief executive, commenting on the results said they confirmed that National Bank Group continued its growth contributing decisively to a national effort to deal and overcome the crisis. The Greek banker noted that a support mechanism agreed with EU and IMF "was the foundation over which an exit strategy must be based to exiting the crisis". He added that strict and successful implementation of measures will gradually lead to restoring confidence in the Greek economy and stressed that results of this efforts would be visible in the next few months.
Tamvakakis said National Bank maintained its capital base level (Tier I: 11.1 pct) at levels placing the bank among the top in Europe and noted that activities in Southeast Europe and Turkey contributed 154 million euros in the Group's profits in the January-March period. "The challenge for the remaining of the year is managing the quality of our loan portfolio in Greece, supporting healthy enterprises and households.
The bank said pre-provision earnings totaled 465 million euros in the first three months of the year, down 30 pct from 2009, while organic earnings in Greece rose 6 pct to 755 million euros. In Greece, the bank reported losses of 133 million euros in the first quarter 2010 from profits of 176 million euros last year, while its state securities portfolio reported losses totaling 154 million euros, after earnings of 72 million euros in 2009.
Finansbank reported a 32 pct increase in first quarter profits to 122 million euros, while net earnings in Southeastern Europe totaled 32 million euros (up 76 pct from last year).
 Alpha Bank says Q1 profits down 39.5 pctAlpha Bank on Thursday reported a 39.5 pct drop in its first quarter net profits to 51.6 million euros, reflecting a continuing worsening of business conditions in Greece and Southeastern Europe. The bank said first quarter results were a loss of 10.4 million euros if an extra tax charge of 6.19 million euros was included.
Customers' capital under management totaled 45.6 billion euros at the end of March, while saving deposits rose 1.1 pct to 41.5 billion euros. Saving deposits in Greece fell 0.8 pct to 34.1 billion euros. Lending pre-write-offs grew 2.3 pct to 53.3 billion euros, up from 52.2 billion euros in the same period last year, reflecting a 2.5 pct annual growth rate in Greece and a 3.0 pct growth rate in Southeastern Europe. New loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises and mortgage loans totaled 1.305 billion euros and 288 million euros, respectively, in the first three months of the year.
Retail banking pre-tax profits rose to 22.8 million euros in the January-March period, from 18.5 million euros last year, mortgage loans fell 0.7 pct to 11.3 billion euros, consumer loans growth slowed to 2.6 pct (3.7 billion euros) and loans to small enterprises grew 0.9 pct.
In Southeastern Europe, pre-tax profits fell 52.5 pct to 13.1 million euros. Yiannis Kostopoulos, the bank's chairman, commenting on the results said the country's participation in an EU/IMF support package, ensured the implementation of a fiscal consolidation program and promoting necessary structural changes that will allow the country to confirm its important position in Southeastern Europe.
 ATEbank reports 37.4 mln-euro lossATEbank on Thursday reported losses of 37.4 million euros in the first quarter of 2010, after profits of 37.3 million euros in the corresponding period last year. Theodore Pantalakis, the bank's governor, commenting on the results said first quarter performance was affected by a worsening condition of the Greek economy, although he stressed that ATEbank Group maintained satisfactory liquidity levels, focusing on actions to supporting its balance sheet and more effective risk management.
Pantalakis said the bank raised its bad loan provisions to ensure the quality of its loan portfolio and noted that positive performance of its retail banking operations contributed to a further improvement in the Group's pre-provision organic profitability.
 Eurobank says Q1 profits down 24 pctEurobank on Thursday reported a 24 pct decline in its first quarter net profits to 61 million euros and said net profits after an extra tax charge fell to 16 million euros. Nikolaos Nanopoulos, the bank's chief executive, commenting on the results said "decisions to create a support mechanism for countries facing debt crisis problems along with decisions by European Central bank to strengthening the capitalization of financial organizations, boosting liquidity and intervening in the secondary bond market, significantly support Eurozone's cohesion and set the foundations for a return of international markets to normal operations. In a new international environment, Greece is now at a safer position dealing challenges ahead with greater optimism".
Commenting on Eurobank's performance, Nanopoulos said the bank remained profitable and managed to boost net pre-provision revenues, raise profitability in Central and Eastern Europe, while at the same time continued to support its customers during the crisis.
 Alapis says Q1 turnover up 15.6 pctAlapis Group on Thursday reported a 15.6 pct rise in its consolidated turnover to 272.2 million euros in the first quarter of 2010, from 235.6 million euros last year, reflecting higher sales of pharmaceutical products. Consolidated EBITDA totaled 80.7 million euros in the January-March period, from 75.8 million euros in 2009, for an increase of 6.4 pct, while net profits after tax and minorities fell 33.6 pct to 20.5 million euros, burdened by higher amortizations (42.1 million euros in 2010 from 25.6 million in 2009).
The human pharmaceutical department reported a 24.5 pct increase in turnover, a 22.2 pct rise in EBITDA, but a lower EBITDA margin (33.8 pct from 34.4 pct last year).
The medical technology and diagnostics equipment department reported a 0.5 pct decline in turnover to 27.3 million euros and a 44.1 pct drop in first quarter EBITDA to 6.9 million euros.
The veterinary products department reported a 35.8 pct decline in turnover to 13.2 million euros and a 60.8 pct fall in EBITDA to 2.6 million euros.
 OPAP reports lower Q1 resultsOPAP SA on Thursday reported an 11.8 pct decline in its first quarter EBITDA to 261.8 million euros, from 296.9 million euros in the corresponding period last year, reflecting higher distributable profits to winners of betting services, while its EBITDA margin fell to 19.1 pct, from 20.3 pct last year. Net profits fell 10.9 pct to 192.2 million euros, from 215.7 million euros in 2009. Commenting on the results, Ioannis Spanoudakis, OPAP's chief executive said first quarter results were in line with expectations taking in mind a negative economic condition in the country. He said OPAP was preparing intensively to expand activities in the domestic gaming market.
 Folli Follie reports improved Q1 resultsFolli Follie on Thursday announced improved first quarter results despite adverse economic conditions prevailing in many of its markets. Consolidated turnover rose 8.8 pct to 229.4 million euros, while EBITDA rose 16.5 pct to 54.3 million euros in the January-March period, compared with the same period last year.
Pre-tax profits totaled 37.6 million euros, up 10.7 pct from 2009, while net after tax profits rose 11.2 pct to 29.7 million euros. Consolidated earnings after tax and minorities rose 4.0 pct to 25.9 million euros. Earnings per share rose slightly to 0.79 euros from 0.76 in 2009. Folli Follie said sales in Japan accounted for 12 pct of total sales, with the rest of Asia accounting for 59 pct, Europe 13 pct and Duty Free shops for 16 pct.
Jewelry accounted for 59 pct of sales, watches 34 pct and accessories 7.0 pct.
 Greek stocks end 0.46 pct downGreek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, unable to follow a rally in international markets, as negative results by Greek banks in the first quarter depressed sentiment in the market. The composite index fell 0.46 pct to end at 1,578.42 points with turnover falling to a low 127.663 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index fell 1.21 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 1.15 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.43 pct higher. Technology (6.61 pct) and Utilities (3.89 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Insurance (3.45 pct) and Banks (2.59 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 96 to 71 with another 55 issues unchanged. Intracom (15.25 pct), Lambrakis (11.36 pct), CPI (10.34 pct) and ANEK (9.68 pct) were top gainers, while HOL (14.08 pct), Allatini Ceramics (10.0 pct) and Medicon (9.62 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.11%
Personal & Household: +0.27%
Raw Materials: +1.80%
Travel & Leisure: -1.91%
Food & Beverages: -0.90%
Financial Services: +0.57%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, MIG and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.80
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.44
HBC Coca Cola: 18.65
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.04
National Bank of Greece: 10.15
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.18
Bank of Piraeus: 4.37
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 46 million euros on Thursday, of which 22 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 24 million euros were sell orders. The seven-year benchmark bond (April 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 7.0 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 510 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 7.78 pct and the German Bund 2.68 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved higher. The 12-month rate was 1.06 pct, the six-month rate 1.10 pct, the three-month 1.10 pct and the one-month rate 1.05 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.86 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 63.935 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 14,353 contracts worth 53.761 million euros, with 25,084 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 15,995 contracts worth 10.169 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,781), followed by Eurobank (670), MIG (3,070), OTE (1,485), Piraeus Bank (358), Alpha Bank (800), Hellenic Petroleum (410) and Hellenic Postbank (414).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.235
Pound sterling 0.853
Danish kroner 7.499
Swedish kroner 9.743
Japanese yen 111.68
Swiss franc 1.427
Norwegian kroner 8.049
Canadian dollar 1.302
Australian dollar 1.473
 Greeks are Europe's heaviest smokers, a survey showsGreeks occupy the top place in the consumption of tobacco products, according to a Eurobarometer survey conducted on Oct. 3-19, 2009 that was released in Brussels on Thursday on the occasion of the World No Tobacco Day on May 31.
According to the survey, 42 pct of the Greeks (47 pct men, 38 pct women) say that they are smokers when the EU average is 29 pct (35 pct men, 25 pct women), followed by Bulgarians (39 pct) and Hungarians (38 pct). The countries with the lowest percentage of smokers are Sweden (16 pct) and Finland (21 pct).
The survey also showed that 44 pct of the Greeks and 49 pct of the EU citizens say that they have never smoked.
Smokers in Greece responded that they smoke an average of 21.4 cigarettes a day (14.4 in the rest of the EU).
Twenty percent of Greeks (5 pct in the rest of the EU) say that they are exposed to passive smoking in the workplace for more than five hours a day, while 39 pct say that they were never exposed to passive smoking in the workplace (76 pct in the EU).
The poll also showed that 11 pct of the Greeks attempted to quit smoking at least once in the past 12 months (15 pct in the EU). Also, 54 pct of the Greeks and 51 pct of the EU citizens say that the last time they attempted to stop smoking they quit the effort in "less than a week".
Meanwhile, according to a survey conducted by a vocational training school in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, almost one in two Greeks (52.76 pct) agree with the law banning smoking indoors and in public places, while 73.82 pct say that they are not satisfied with the way the measure is implemented.
Based on the poll conducted on a sample of 741 people, both the smokers and "prospective" smokers are not taking seriously (61.13 pct and 56.55 pct respectively) the smoking warnings on the cigarette packs.
 Athanasios Botsis journalistic awardsFor the 28th consecutive year the Journalism Promotion Foundation Athanasios V. Botsis on Thursday gave awards to journalists who have distinguished themselves.
President Karolos Papoulias sent greetings stressing that the Press has a catalytical affect on the shaping of social conscience and tough struggles have been waged for its independence.
"The citizens are becoming more and more demanding and more and more distrustful," he said.
Government vice president Theodoros Paangalos said that the Press is an internal element of the modern political system that must be self-sufficient and exercise its role freely, critically and in a revealing way.
Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos referred to the role of the mass media which, as he said, must seek the truth and exercise criticism, provide objective information and promote Education.
Among those awarded is former Athens News Agency general director and current councillor to the ANA-MPA general directorate Andreas Christodoulides for the successful promotion of the Athens News Agency-Macedonian Press Agency into a modern agency for the authoritative and speedy provision of information from and to all the world.
The Foundation's awards were given also to:
-Iasonas Athanasiadis for the authoritative briefing of international public opinion from war fronts and social upheavals.
-Nikos Aslanidis for the television journalistic research programme "True Scenarios" on the ERT3 channel.
-Tasos Teloglou for the revelation of the Greek participation in the Siemens kickbacks issue.
 Italian ambassador presents book 'The Duchy of the Aegean'Italian Ambassador to Greece Gianpaolo Scarante presented in the Italian ambassadorial residence in Athens on Thursday the book titled "The Duchy of the Aegean", a bilingual publication in Italian and Greek of the Archives of the scientific Meeting held in Naxos and Athens on the issue of the Venetian presence in the Aegean.
The "Duchy of the Aegean" is a rich collection of archive material related to the prolonged history of the Venetian presence in the Cyclades and in Naxos in particular.
 Photo exhibition on Chios at Greek General Consulate in New YorkNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Scenes from abandoned premises that contain memories and experiences for the people of the eastern Aegean island of Chios are being presented through the photo exhibition of Stratis Voyiadzis "Mastichochoria, inside world", at Greece's General Consulate in New York, in cooperation with the United Chios Societies of the US and Canada.
The exhibition was inaugurated on Thursday morning (Greek time) by Greece's general consul Agi Balta.
 13 immigrants injured in clash in downtown AthensThirteen Bangladeshi nationals were injured, and will be arrested following their release from hospital, in a clash between two opposing groups of foreign nationals in downtown Athens late Wednesday night, police said on Thursday.
Police said that more than 200 migrants were involved in the violent incident at the corner of Menandrou and Sophocleous streets.
They said that two opposing groups, comprising chiefly Bangladeshi nationals as well as other foreign nationals, clashed with clubs, crowbars, stones and other objects, resulting in the injury of 13 Bangladeshi nationals, who are hospitalised in an Athens hospital. Police said that all 13 will be arrested and taken before a prosecutor.
A strong police contingent rushed to the scene, where six migrants -- from Bangladesh, Palestine and Algeria -- were detained and are being held at the Acropolis police station, and will possibly be arrested together with the other 13.
Police noted that this was not the first time that violence of such extent has taken place among migrants in the center of Athens.
 Illegal migrantsTwenty-three illegal migrants, including three minors, were detained and two foreign crew members were arrested aboard an Austrian-flag sailboat Wednesday night off the eastern coast of Pelion, police said.
The sailboat "Vigri" was spotted as it was sailing two natucial miles off Coast Veneto.
It was revealed during questioning of the illegal migrants that the two people-smugglers had picked them up from a Turkish coast to take them to the coast of Magnesia prefecture.
The illegal migrants were behing hosted in a facility in Agiokampos, while the two people-smugglers were taken before a prosecutor.
 Weapons found in stolen car in PatissiaA kalashnikov rifle and a pistol were found late Wednesday night in a stolen car with stolen licence plates in the Patissia district of Athens, police said Thursday.
The car was spotted by a local resident, parked in Thimarakia Square, who thought the car was suspicious and alerted police. When squad cars arrived at the scene, four people who were in the vehicle ran out and fled.
The four suspects initially went into a nearby construction site, then stopped a passing car, removing its driver by force. Two of the suspects took of with the car while the other two escaped on foot. A search of the car turned up the kalashnikov in a black sack in the back seat and the pistol underneath one of the seats.
Police believe the case is linked with common crime, but are investigating all possibilities.
A crime lab examination is underway to see of the weapons have been used in criminal actions.
 Major heroin bustA 56-year-old man of foreign nationality was arrested at Igoumenitsa port (northwestern Greece) on Wednesday charged with drug trafficking. The man was caught by Igoumenitsa Coast Guard officers while attempting to board a ferry for Italy with his car. On his possession the officers found eighty one packages containing 44 kilos and eight grams of heroin wrapped with carbon sheet which made their detection by detection devices extremely difficult. The drugs were hidden in a secret compartment in the roof of the car.
The Igoumenitsa Coast Guard is conducting an investigation while the suspect will be led before a prosecutor.
 Three caught burgling house to find gold coinsPolice on Thursday reported the arrest of three men who were caught in the act of burgling a house in Thessaloniki to look for gold coins with the aid of a metal detector.
The three men were all Greeks, aged 27, 29 and 77 years old, respectively. They have been charged with a series of robberies and violating laws concerning weapons and protection of antiquities.
 Worker injured in Thessaloniki's metro construction siteLabour Inspection Agency (SEPE) officials conducted an on-the-scene investigation at the Thessaloniki metro construction site on Thursday to determine the causes that led to the serious injury of a 37-year-old worker employed by the AIASA consortium that has undertaken construction work at Venizelou metro station.
The accident happened on Wednesday afternoon when the worker was hit by a component of heavy machinery that somehow became detached and fell.
 Wildfire breaks out in VoulaA fire broke out in the Athens suburb of Voula on Thursday afternoon at 17:30 in an area of dry grass and low vegetation.
No residences were being threatened by the blaze, which three fire-fighting helicopters, 45 firemen and 15 fire engines had been sent to put out.
 Cloudy on FridayCloudy weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 2-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 12C and 33C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with variable 2-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 14C to 32C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 14C to 30C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe Siemens slush funds case and former Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis' admission that he received a 'campaign donation' from Siemens, an OECD report predicting an increase in unemployment and an economic development recession in Greece, the new social security system and the government's denationalisation plan, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Mantelis' shocking admission: Yes, I took money from Siemens".
APOGEVMATINI: "Mantelis answered prime minister George Papandreou's query 'Where did the money go...'."
AVGHI: "Mantelis admits and points at ruling PASOK on bribes - I took 200,000 DM as a campaign donation, but you must search for the 10 million DM in kickbacks to ministers".
AVRIANI: "Mantelis points at a secret treasurer appointed by (then) prime minister Costas Simitis' system to have received a 10 million DM bribe from Siemens".
ELEFTHEROS: "Mantelis: "I took the money...what about ministers? - Most of us 'sin' in order to meet our campaign expenses".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Mantelis' cynical admission: PASOK cadres shared 10 billion DM from kickbacks".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Mantelis' admission to parliamentary fact finding commission on Siemens kickbacks case".
ESTIA: "Eurozone's future at risk - European leaders have made historic mistakes".
ETHNOS: "Shocking admission on Siemens 'sponsoring'."
IMERISSIA: "The denationalisation list - The plans for Water Boards, Hellenic Railways, PPC and Casinos".
KATHIMERINI: "Mantelis' admission and implications - He characterized the 200,000 DM he received from Siemens a 'donation'."
LOGOS: "Mantelis admits his involvement ... in Siemens case".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "OECD foresees gloomy conditions for 2011".
NIKI: "When you hear of renegotiation of our debt we will be heading towards controlled bankruptcy".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The people's health at the mercy of the market".
TA NEA: "Government wages battle to reduce the required working years for pension from 40 to 37 years".
TO VIMA: "Three crimes without punishment - Former Minister's shocking admission".
VRADYNI: "High prices and unemployment are plunging society into chaos - Prices out of control, business shut-downs and lay-offs create an explosive mix'.
 Cyprus deserves place in NATO-EU dialogue, says NATO SGBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Problems between the EU and NATO, resulting from differences between Cyprus and Turkey, have to be resolved, a press conference given by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland has heard.
Rasmussen also said that Cyprus, an EU member state, deserves a seat at the table when there is a dialogue between NATO and the European Union.
The two officials in Brussels met for the first time since Ashton has been appointed to her post.
NATO sources point out that the conflict between Turkey and Cyprus "paralyzes" relations between NATO and the EU since Cyprus acceded the Union in 2004.
Ankara, they add, prevents cooperation on many levels to block the flow of information relating to confidential military operations to the Republic of Cyprus, which Ankara does not recognise. Cyprus, whose northern part is occupied by Turkish troops, blocks Turkey's participation in various European defence operations.
Asked what new ideas can Rasmussen and Ashton bring to overcome the problems which have hamstrung the relationship between NATO and the European Union for a long time, Rasmussen told the press "speaking frankly, maybe a bit bluntly, I see the following way. The European Union must move to accommodate some concerns raised by NATO allies that are not at the same time members of the European Union".
Firstly, he said, "the European Union should include non-EU contributors to their military operations. They should include them in decision-making processes, like NATO does in ISAF format".
Secondly, Rasmussen continued, "the European Union should conclude a security agreement with Turkey. Thirdly, they should conclude an rrangement between Turkey and the European Defence Agency. That's what needs to be done on the EU side".
Furthermore, "on our side, it should be accepted that Cyprus is actually a country which deserves a seat at the table when we are having a dialogue between NATO and the European Union".
Concluding, Rasmussen said "that's how I see it politically. I'm not a diplomat, so I put it bluntly to you. The question is how we can move from here to there".
Ashton did not comment on Rasmussen's statement, noting however "there is great strength and willingness across both organisations to try and find pragmatic ways of dealing with issues".
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of the island's territory.
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