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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-06-01

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Tuesday, 1 June 2010 Issue No: 3506


  • [01] Strong Greek condemnation over deadly Israeli attack on flotilla
  • [02] Papandreou statement on Gaza ship raid
  • [03] Political parties' condemnation
  • [04] Parliament condemns Israeli raid on Gaza-bound vessels
  • [05] Israeli embassy response
  • [06] Protest broken up outside Israeli embassy
  • [07] ND leader briefed by DM, military leadership
  • [08] Gov't on transparency; Simitis
  • [09] Ex-premier's aide files suit against ND MP
  • [10] ND requests extension of probe on Vatopedi; gov't on Tsohatzopoulos
  • [11] PM receives expatriate group's leadership
  • [12] Tabled question by ND on pharmaceutical expenditures
  • [13] Credit expansion rate slows to 3.2% in April
  • [14] J&P Avax reports improved Q1 results
  • [15] Babis Vovos reports improved Q1 results
  • [16] Retail sales up in March
  • [17] Stocks end 1.24% down
  • [18] ADEX closing report
  • [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [20] Athens Festival opens on June 1
  • [21] Rainy on Tuesday
  • [22] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Strong Greek condemnation over deadly Israeli attack on flotilla

    The Greek government on Monday strongly condemned the pre-dawn storming, by Israeli naval commandos, of the main ship comprising a flotilla of carrying NGOs' humanitarian aid to Gaza, in which at least nine people were killed and more than two dozen injured.

    Speaking after a briefing by Israeli ambassador to Greece Ali Yahya, who was urgently summoned to the foreign ministry, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas stressed that "there is no excuse for the violence, the extent of this violence cannot be justified ... We condemn it," the alternate foreign minister said.

    Droutsas also said that "the safety of the Greek citizens comes first, and their safe return home", adding that the Greek government and foreign ministry were in close communication with Greece's EU partners.

    Two Greek ships, the Sfendoni and the Eleftheros Messogios (Free Mediterranean), were taking part in the flotilla.

    Droutsas further said Athens has decided to discontinue an ongoing joint Greek-Israeli air exercise, code-named "Minoas 2010", that commenced on May 25 and was due to run through June 3, and to also postpone a scheduled visit by the Israeli air force staff chief on the occasion of the exercise.

    The comments came after a meeting the Israeli ambassador to Greece, Ali Yahya, who was summoned to the ministry.

    Yahya said it was a disagreeable situation, over which both countries are concerned. He said "we had briefed from the beginning the dangers of this mission, in which there are extremist groups that want to assist the Hamas ... Whoever wants to help the Palestinians, there are other official channels via Israel and via the Palestinian Authority," Yahya added.

    The Israeli envoy further said the spot where the incident took place is a "military area", but declined to reply to questions on whether it was in international waters.

    Meanwhile, the Greek foreign ministry on Monday activated its crisis management unit and immediately sought information from Israeli authorities on the safety of Greek citizens taking part in the mission.

    According to a ministry announcement, the Greek embassy in Tel Aviv has been instructed to contact and officially seek information and explanations from Israel authorities on the boarding operation.

    The ministry secretary general also contacted Yahya for immediate information on the safety of the Greek citizens on board the flotilla, stressing once again the need for all the necessary measures to be taken for their safety.

    The ministry further reminded Greece's firm position that any activity of NGOs must be carried out freely, under the self-evident condition that it is lawful.

    It said that immediately upon expression of their intention to take part in the aid mission to Gaza, the Greek participants were informed of the serious security risks, while the ministry services also contacted the Israeli authorities for the safety of the Greek citizens.

    The ministry said it will continue to monitor the developments and take all necessary actions.

    [02] Papandreou statement on Gaza ship raid

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou issued a statement on Monday regarding the deadly early morning takeover by the Israeli navy of half a dozen vessels sailing for Gaza.

    "Today's tragic incidents, which followed the military intervention of Israel against a flotilla of vessels carrying activists headed to Gaza, is condemnable and unacceptable ... The violence that was exercised during today's (early Monday morning) operation by Israeli armed forces against an international humanitarian aid dispatch to Gaza, cannot be justified. It (intervention) had tragic results and caused us profound sadness. We also express our sincere condolences to the families of the victims," Papandreou's statement read.

    The Greek prime minister also called for the immediate return of Greek citizens who were on the vessels.

    "The security of Israel and the entire region, as well as the search for a solution to all of the region's problems, is aided only via negotiations and compliance with Security Council resolutions," the statement concluded.

    [03] Political parties' condemnation

    In further fallout, the Israeli attack on the "Free Gaza Move-ment" flotilla generated the strong condemnation of political parties, associations and movements.

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party foreign policy and international relations sector head Dimitris Avramopoulos termed the attack "unprovoked and in violation of international law" and called on the "government and the foreign ministry to proceed with the necessary moves immediately."

    "It is obvious that NGO actions should take place unhindered and beyond borders, and any judgement as regards their legality should be made by international bodies and not unilaterally by a single state," Avramopoulos said.

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) underlined that this "is a new crime committed by the Israeli state and its government, "signalling the escalation of the imperialist aggression against the Palestinian people and the other peoples in the region."

    The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) accused Israel of "having lost all sense of measure, becoming more and more violent," adding that its brutal actions are against the country's own interests.

    The Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) accused Israel of "acting again, and this time officially, as a pirate," and of "committing a new international crime".

    Finally, independent MP Dora Bakoyannis, the previous foreign minister, also condemned the Israeli attack, stressing that rightfully it has provoked worldwide indignation.

    "Nothing can justify the loss of human lives, more so when they are civilians who apparently were not even in Israeli territorial waters."

    In a related development, the Panhellenic Federation of Journalists' Unions (POESY) on Monday referred to a "pirate attack launched by the armed forces of the state of Israel against a flotilla of solidarity to the Palestinian people; the suffering Gaza Strip in particular."

    The POESY statement said at least three Greek journalists, Aris Hatzistefanou (SKAI radio), Katerina Kitidi (from a small Greek-language news website called TVXS) and Maria Psara (Ethnos newspaper), were on board the vessels, along with dozens of journalists from different parts of the world.

    [04] Parliament condemns Israeli raid on Gaza-bound vessels

    Parliament on Monday afternoon condemned the Israel raid and takeover of six ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.

    The common theme in addresses by party rapporteurs was the need for humanitarian corridors towards Palestinian regions to remain open, while Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas criticised Israeli forces for "excessive force without any justification" while he announced that the first Greek activists are expected to return on Tuesday.

    "Whatever activity by non-governmental organisations must be exercised freely provided that it is lawful - and what is lawful cannot be judged unilaterally by anyone. International law and its full respect is the measure," Droutsas said, confirming that the ultimate aim of Greek foreign policy, as well in its whatsoever interventions in the Middle East issue, is the creation of two countries, "with a viable Palestinian state that will co-exist next to Israel in conditions of peace and security."

    Meanwhile, Droutsas said there is no name of a Greek citizen mentioned in lists with the victims or the wounded in the raid that took place, according to the official briefing that the Greek foreign ministry had from the Israeli foreign ministry.

    He made the statement in Parliament, adding that the Greek embassy in Israel is in continuous contact with Israeli authorities for the return of all the Greek nationals.

    [05] Israeli embassy response

    The Israeli embassy, in an announcement, emphasised that "the Israeli navy prevented six ships from breaking the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip ... this happened after many appeals and warnings by the Israeli armed forces, which for hours, at dawn today (Monday), called on the ships to head for the port of Ashdod in Israel, (in order) to unload the humanitarian material that they were carrying to be delivered to Gaza, after a relevant check."

    "The ships ignored the calls," the Israeli announcement added.

    "In one case, and specifically on a Turkish ship, activists of the organisation attacked with crowbars, knives and weapons the Israeli armed forces, resulting in activists being killed and wounded in the scuffle. Only on the Turkish ship was there a serious incident. It is clear that the activists had prepared for an armed engagement."

    [06] Protest broken up outside Israeli embassy

    Disturbances broke out outside the Israeli embassy in Athens early Monday evening when demonstrators hurled bottles and stones at police forces on guard outside the embassy.

    Police responded by using teargas, resulting in the protest dispersing.

    According to reports, demonstrators then headed for central Athens, with scattered "cat-&-mouse" skirmishes with police forces reported.

    The rally was held to press for the release of the activists and vessels by Israeli authorities.

    The protest was called by leftist groups and pro-Palestinian activists.

    Earlier, another protest rally was held outside the Israeli embassy by the Communist Party (KKE)-affiliated youth organisation KNE.

    [07] ND leader briefed by DM, military leadership

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras was briefed on Monday on Greece's defense policy and the state of the Greek Armed Forces by defense minister Evangelos Venizelos and the military leadership.

    In statements after the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, both Samaras and Venizelos said that the country's financial difficulties did not impact Greece's defense and foreign policy, stressing that the greatest possible national consensus is required.

    Venizelos said that it is his institutional obligation to brief the main opposition leader, without any confidentiality obstacles, on defence policy issues, adding that such contacts will continue.

    He also stressed the need for national unity and the largest possible consensus so as to preserve the battle worthiness of the Hellenic Armed Forces and its morale, and to boost the country's diplomatic clout.

    Venizelos further assured that the country's foreign and defense policy will not suffer for economic and fiscal reasons.

    Samaras, in turn, said that they discussed the critical matters concerning the Armed Forces "in these critical hours", adding that he briefed the national defense ministry leadership on ND's solid view that the economic difficulties must, at all sacrifice, not impact the precious battle worthiness of the Armed Forces and its morale, "which requires consensus, attention and meritocracy".

    "I believe that, in these difficult hours, on such matters we, together, can monitor the developments and co-formulate views," Samaras said, adding that such serious matters should not become the object of the inter-party differences.

    Asked to comment on a pre-dawn attack by Israeli defense forces on a humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza, Samaras expressed strong concern over the grievous incident.

    [08] Gov't on transparency; Simitis

    "It is already known that transparency in public life and combating corruption is a top priority," government spokesman George Petalotis said on Monday.

    He pointed out that when the ruling PASOK party was in the opposition had called on the then ruling New Democracy (ND) party to set up parliamentary investigation committees jointly "regardless of whether former PASOK party cadres would have been called to the stand."

    "We are determined to carry out the process and see that those responsible will be accountable for their actions," Petalotis said.

    Called to comment on ND's insistence on having ex-prime minister Costas Simitis testify before the parliamentary committee investigating the Siemens bribery scandal, Petalotis said the law and constitution must be observed, pointing out that the government's view, particularly in the case of former PMs, is that they should be summonsed only if they can contribute to the investigation in a meaningful manner.

    On political party finances, Petalotis said the government is in favour of transparency and has made specific proposals, pointing out that a relevant legislation will be passed to guarantee transparency from now on.

    [09] Ex-premier's aide files suit against ND MP

    A former top aide to one-time premier Costas Simitis, Thodoros Tsoukatos, on Monday filed a slander suit against main opposition New Democracy (ND) MP Panagiotis Kammenos, citing comments by the latter during a meeting of a Parliamentary committee investigating the Siemens kickbacks and bribery affair.

    Tsoukatos, who served as a top political adviser and later as a Parliament deputy, demands 200,000 euros for "moral damage" suffered, as he claims in his lawsuit, the result of the "slanderous and insulting expressions" Kammenos used against him in the committee sessions.

    Tsoukatos reiterated that one million deutschmarks he received from Siemens prior to 2000 were handed over to PASOK officials, and stressed that all his bank accounts are at the disposal of the Greek justice system.

    Tsoukatos has been barred from leaving the country and was released on a 100,000-euro bail on July 1, 2009, after testifying before a special examining magistrate investigating the Siemens case. He had testified on charges of passive bribery and money laundering.

    [10] ND requests extension of probe on Vatopedi; gov't on Tsohatzopoulos

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) on Monday requested that a Parliamentary committee investigating the Vatopedi state-Church land swap affair receive a four-month extension. The request was made in the wake of press reports that link former PASOK minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos with companies that managed Vatopedi Monastery money.

    The extension was requested by ND to give time to the committee to open the monastery's bank accounts as well as those of collaborating companies.

    Meanwhile, government spokesman George Petalotis, called to comment on press reports concerning Tsohatzopoulos, he said the government cannot comment because (Tsohatzopoulos) is a PASOK party official and not a government official, stressing however, that "transparency in transactions is effective for everybody."

    [11] PM receives expatriate group's leadership

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Monday received the leadership of the expatriate organisation American Hellenic Institute, whose president, Alekos Haralambidis, said afterwards that "we had a very nice meeting with the prime minister and we see things positively. We are here to help, to see what we can do, the expatriates in America, we came for this reason."

    Haralambidis also said that, generally speaking, the discussion with the prime minister focused on help to increase investments "from America and from private individuals in America."

    [12] Tabled question by ND on pharmaceutical expenditures

    Three main opposition New Democracy (ND) party sector heads and other 24 ND MPs tabled a current question in Parliament on Monday concerning expenditures for pharmaceuticals, directed to the three responsible ministries.

    The question to the ministers of finance, competitiveness and shipping and labor and social insurance concerns what they called "the skyrocketing public expenditures for pharmaceuticals recorded in the first four months of 2010 that jeopardize the implementation of the stability and development programme."

    Financial News

    [13] Credit expansion rate slows to 3.2% in April

    Credit expansion rate slowed further in Greece in April to 3.2 pct, from 3.5 pct in March and 4.2 pct in December 2009, the Bank of Greece announced on Monday.

    The central bank, in a monthly report, said credit expansion slowed both towards enterprises and households in the month.

    New funding to domestic enterprises totaled 15 million euros, down from 446 million euros in April 2009, for an annual growth rate of 3.9 pct, from 4.3 pct in March and 5.1 pct in December 2009. All sectors suffered a slowdown in new funding, with the exception of "other financial institutions" where annual growth rate accelerated because of intra-group moves.

    Credit expansion to the manufacturing sector was a negative 1.7 pct in April, from -1.3 pct in March and -3.5 pct in December 2009, followed by the commerce sector (-0.8 pct in April, 0.5 pct in March and 4.2 pct in December 2009). Credit expansion was almost unchanged in the construction sector (3.3 pct in April from 3.4 pct in March and 2.7 pct in December 2009), while credit expansion to the shipping sector slowed significantly to 0.7 pct in April from 2.3 pct in March and 4.0 pct in December 2009.

    Net new funding to households was a negative 174 million euros in April, for an annual growth rate of 2.5 pct in the month, down from 2.7 pct in March and 3.1 pct in December 2009.

    Net new mortgage funding was a negative 18 million euros in April for an annual growth rate of 3.3 pct, from 3.5 pct in March and 3.7 pct in December 2009, while consumer loans recorded a negative net flow of 151 million euros (0.6 pct in April from 1.0 pct in March and 2.0 pct in December 2009.

    [14] J&P Avax reports improved Q1 results

    J&P Avax on Monday reported improved first quarter results, with pre-tax profits rising 6.5 pct to 13.5 million euros, from 12.6 million euros in the corresponding period in 2009.

    EBITDA rose 2.8 pct to 25.3 million euros in the January-March period, while net profits rose 3.0 pct to 9.8 million euros. Net shareholders' earning fell 6.2 pct to 8.9 million euros, while turnover dropped 17.7 percent to 189 million euros, from 229.5 million euros in 2009.

    [15] Babis Vovos reports improved Q1 results

    Babis Vovos on Monday reported after-tax losses of 3.1 million euros in the first quarter of 2010 and said EBITDA dropped 63 pct to 1.8 million euros, compared with the same period in 2009.

    The company attributed this result to a (downward) readjustment of investment real estate properties, worth 4.9 million euros, in the January-March period.

    Net financial expenses totaled 4.9 million euros in the first three months of the year, down 7.8 pct from the same period last year. Group income rose 57 pct to 22.6 million euros, while leasing income were unchanged at 13 million euros. Net asset value/earning fell 0.8 pct to 11.68 euros.

    [16] Retail sales up in March

    Retail volume index (turnover in fixed prices) -including fuel- rose 10.1 pct in March, compared with the same month last year, after a decline of 18.7 pct recorded in March 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said Monday.

    The statistics agency, in a report, attributed this result to an 18.5 pct rise in pharmaceutical-cosmetics sales, an 18.5 pct increase in clothing-footwear, a 15.5 pct rise in books-paper, an 8.6 pct rise in electrical appliances, an 8.5 pct increase in food stores and 0.4 pct increase in department stores sales.

    The retail sales index, including fuel, rose 14.9 pct in March, after a 17.9 pct drop in March 2009.

    [17] Stocks end 1.24% down

    Stocks ended lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, in line with a decline in other European markets. The composite index fell 1.24 pct to end at 1,550.78 points, with turnover shrinking to a low 63.499 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index dropped 1.52 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.79 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index fell 1.52 pct. The Travel (3.32 pct) and Commerce (2.08 pct) scored gains, while Health (5.72 pct) and Media (4.51 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 106 to 51 with another 68 issues unchanged. Medicon (19.74 pct), Druckfarben (17.65 pct) and Klonatex (16.67 pct) were top gainers, while Vell Group (15 pct), Viokarpet (9.76 pct) and Nakas (8.89 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.55%

    Industrials: -2.14%

    Commercial: +2.08%

    Construction: -2.22%

    Media: -4.51%

    Oil & Gas: -4.14%

    Personal & Household: -0.76%

    Raw Materials: -1.48%

    Travel & Leisure: +3.32%

    Technology: -2.05%

    Telecoms: -2.17%

    Banks: -2.47%

    Food & Beverages: +1.28%

    Health: -5.72%

    Utilities: -1.38%

    Chemicals: +0.75%

    Financial Services: -3.51%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.55

    ATEbank: 1.15

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.60

    HBC Coca Cola: 18.19

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.90

    National Bank of Greece: 10.03

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.97

    Intralot: 2.94

    OPAP: 12.95

    OTE: 6.75

    Bank of Piraeus: 4.09

    Titan: 14.25

    [18] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.76 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover shrinking to a record low of 19.453 million euros.

    Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,533 contracts worth 19.453 million euros, with 24,852 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 4,601 contracts worth 2.791 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (1,020), followed by MIG (284), Piraeus Bank (526), National Bank (1,004), Alpha Bank (376) and Titan (157).

    [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.240

    Pound sterling 0.855

    Danish kroner 7.499

    Swedish kroner 9.700

    Japanese yen 113.52

    Swiss franc 1.434

    Norwegian kroner 8.002

    Canadian dollar 1.299

    Australian dollar 1.469

    General News

    [20] Athens Festival opens on June 1

    The Athens Festival opens on Tuesday with the award winning "Angels of America" directed by Nikos Mastorakis. Playwright Tony Kushner adapts his political epic about the AIDS crisis during the mid-eighties, around a group of separate but connected individuals.

    From June 1 to June 15, the Athens Festival will present at Peiraios a video installation titled "I Am Not Me, the Horse is Not Mine" by the renowned South African visual artist William Kentridge which combines narration, video projection, and a vocal and instrumental soundtrack. The project is based on the book "The Nose" (1837) written by Russian author Nikolai Gogol.

    Also, from June 1 to June 15, a photography exhibition by Socrates Socratous will be held at Benaki Museum.

    Weather Forecast

    [21] Rainy on Tuesday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 12C and 30C. Slightly cloudy with local rainfall in Athens, with southerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 19C to 28C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 16C to 23C.

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

    The clash between ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy (ND) on the SIEMENS scandal and ND leader Antonis Samaras' operation 'catharsis', the government's denationalisation programme and the effort to collect 13 billion euros from the VAT increases by the end of the year, the social security system and the start of dialogue on labour relations, dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Following the Troika's (ECB, EU and IMF) orders pensions become....benefits".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Chaos and panic in PASOK over the continuous revelations in the Siemens scandal".

    AVRIANI: "Eminent Greek who lives in Germany has direct access to the Simitis (former PASOK government prime minister) system - He was the 'maestro' who directed the Siemens 'orchestra'."

    ELEFTHEROS: "University professors and National Institute of Geological and Mining Research made shocking revelations on the gold reserves in Greece".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Prime Minister George Papandreou sacrifices Simitis to save himself - Samaras gets rid of the 'dead weight' to create a new ND, aiming at catharsis before the party's Congress".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "PASOK and ND attempt to wash out their sins of the past - The appeals to the fact finding commissions is a war of impressions".

    ESTIA: "The scandalous bill on (the accountability of) ministers was passed in parliament with by PASOK-ND cooperation".

    ETHNOS: "Finance Ministry financial crimes squad experts are searching the Siemens lists".

    IMERISSIA: "Alarm over the revenues - Finance Ministry financial crime squad takes to the streets".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Denationalisation plan in search of 1 billion euros".

    TA NEA: "Troika demands pensions to be cut in half and increase of the retirement age to 65 with 40 years of work - Athens reacts".

    VRADYNI: "Secret agreement on freezing salaries - The dialogue on the labour relations begins without the labourers".

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS

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