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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-07-24

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

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

Saturday, 24 July 2010 Issue No: 3549

CONTENTS

  • [01] Cabinet approves three draft bills on transport issues
  • [02] PM addresses cabinet meeting
  • [03] PM's message for 36th anniversary since restoration of democracy
  • [04] Avramopoulos asks PM to convene foreign policy council
  • [05] KKE leader voices objections to Piraeus bank offer for Post Bank, ATEBank
  • [06] US Ambassador-designate to Greece Daniel Smith testifies before Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • [07] Roumeliotis on decision to step down as Greece's IMF rep
  • [08] Damning report on GNTO ad campaigns to public prosecutor
  • [09] Greek envoy to Sofia speaks to BTA
  • [10] More than 750,000 registered in public sector census
  • [11] Bank of Greece welcomes results of stress tests on banks
  • [12] Greek FinMin says state will participate in ATEbank's capital increase
  • [13] Central bank chief optimistic
  • [14] Privatisation Commission agrees appointment of advisors on banking system, state property
  • [15] Legislation gives privatisations committee new powers over state assets
  • [16] Labour minister tables amendment to cancel high salary raises
  • [17] EU reprs hold Athens talks on energy
  • [18] National Bank completes sale of 450-mln-euro bond issue
  • [19] Greek bond market closing report
  • [20] Stocks end 1.39 pct lower
  • [21] ADEX closing report
  • [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday
  • [23] Holargos Metro station inaugurated
  • [24] Wildfire on Crete, Karystos blaze receding
  • [25] Two-hour delay for "Highspeed 6" bound for Milos
  • [26] Torch lit in ancient Olympia for inaugural Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore
  • [27] Heatwave expected on Saturday
  • [28] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [29] Russian FM: Christofias' proposals an important step towards solution
  • [30] President Christofias: Turkey must show will for Cyprus solution

  • [01] Cabinet approves three draft bills on transport issues

    The cabinet on Friday approved three draft bills prepared by the Infrastructure, Transport and Networks ministry, during a session chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou. According to Infrastructure Minister Dimitris Reppas, these will create a new legislative framework that will increase competitiveness and allow rapid growth of the economy.

    Reppas stressed that the changes were not imposed by the memorandum signed by Greece with the EU and IMF for the bailout package but "because the country must make up for lost time".

    The first draft bill approved will 'open' the closed road freight market, where licences for company's carrying freight by road had been locked since 1971 and concerned only 30,000 goods vehicles. The bill will allow the formation of road freight companies that are either societe anonyme of limited liability companies, based on criteria that will include their financial capability, professional adequacy and reputation. For holders of old licences, it will give a three-year adjustment period until 2013.

    The second bill concerns road safety and will seek to tidy up the scene concerning vehicle inspections by the Vehicle Technical Inspection Centres (KTEO). Currently, an estimated 40 percent of vehicles on the road have not passed a KTEO inspection. One of the provisions of the bill is that a vehicle cannot be insured unless it supplies documents showing it has passed a KTEO inspection and, conversely, it will not be able to pass the KTEO unless it is insured.

    The same bill also foresees the opening of the market for vehicle repair shops and fuel gas stations, abolishing an existing limitation concerning the minimum distance between fuel stations and only preserving restrictions requiring that they have a distance of at least 50 metres from areas where people gather in large numbers.

    The third bill deals with air traffic control and relates to a European Union initiative to reduce delays in European skies caused by the existence of several Flight Information Regions, making less competitive in comparison with other countries like the United States where there is a single FIR.

    The current fragmentation of European FIR hampers the EU decision for a "Single European Sky".

    Greece is currently in the Blue Med sector, one of our in the European area, along with Italy, Albania, Malta and Cyprus.

    The EU also requests a single civil aviation structure to direct flights and believes that these changes will result in less wastage of fuel but also changes in air corridors.

    The draft bill also calls for the development and utilisation of regional airports with the participation of private investors.

    [02] PM addresses cabinet meeting

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday demanded from his ministers to intensify their work in the government, even in the mid-summer period.

    Addressing a cabinet meeting which approved three draft bills prepared by the Infrastructure, Transport and Networks ministry, Papandreou said his government has "introduced a different conception regarding the country's governance."

    Referring to developments in the country, the prime minister said "we heal the wounds left behind by the criminal policies which the Greek people condemned."

    Expressing optimism over the results on the economic front, Papandreou noted that after many months "news for Greece are positive and will become more and more positive, as we change radically our country."

    "We are following the correct path and we are ahead of schedule and we will disappoint all those that count on our failure," Papandreou added.

    As regards issues discussed during the cabinet meeting, the premier referred to the possibilities of attracting private investments in regional airports of the country which would contribute to the increase of tourist arrivals.

    He also spoke of his visit, Wednesday and Thursday, to Israel and Palestine saying that the message the country is sending is "Greece is again here", while expressing his certainty that his contacts would soon yield results in the sectors of tourism, agricultural development and solar energy.

    [03] PM's message for 36th anniversary since restoration of democracy

    In a message marking the 36th anniversary since the restoration of democracy in Greece, after the fall of the colonel's junta in July 1974, Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday stressed that this year's anniversary coincided with a crucial period for the Greek people.

    "We are all of us once again waging a great battle. This time the battle is for the restoration of our autonomy, our dignity, social and economic justice and the prospects of our people," Papandreou said in his message.

    He stressed that Greece was now experiencing the results of a crisis caused by the fact that, for many years, the country had failed to build on the sound foundations of democracy placed in 1974 but allowed its weaknesses and failings to grow, with clientelism, corruption and the justice of the strong dominating public life.

    As usual, a reception celebrating the anniversary will be held at the presidential mansion on Saturday morning.

    [04] Avramopoulos asks PM to convene foreign policy council

    In a letter to Prime Minister George Papandreou sent on Friday, main opposition New Democracy Vice-President Dimitris Avramopoulos has asked that the premier convene the National Council on Foreign Policy in order to discuss the activity of the Turkish research vessels "Piri Reis" and "Cesme" in the Aegean.

    Avramopoulos notes that the Turkish foreign ministry's explanations concerning the mission of the two vessels was "not convincing" and, combined with other Turkish actions that undermined relations between the two countries, had created a "very delicate and worrying situation that needs to be examined".

    [05] KKE leader voices objections to Piraeus bank offer for Post Bank, ATEBank

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga met the presidency of Hellenic Post Bank on Friday, stressing that "any further privatisation of Hellenic Post Bank and ATEBank, as this has been expressed by the Piraeus Bank offer, is a choice of the financial and industrial capital to create two or three big, fully private banking groups".

    She stressed that KKE was categorically opposed to such a development and believed that labour relations and work security for employees in these groups would be adversely affected, while the repercussions on the majority of people would be even greater.

    [06] US Ambassador-designate to Greece Daniel Smith testifies before Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)

    US Ambassador-designate to Greece Daniel Bennet Smith said that the Greek government is facing a very difficult economic situation with determination, and implementing all the commitments it has assumed in the framework of the program with the Troika, in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on Thursday.

    He also stressed that the US government fully supports Greece as it applies these difficult changes and noted that encouraging steps have been made, while he also expressed understanding for the Greek citizens who wonder why they must pay for others' actions.

    Smith further said that the emphasis has been put on what needs to be done to improve the situation rather than on what happened in the past, and opined that the moves made so far by the Papandreou government have been in the right direction.

    Replying to a question, the ambassador-designate said that prime minister George Papandreou has made it clear that he is not considering the prospect of default, or renegotiation of the country's debt.

    Smith said that, as US ambassador to Greece in this difficult conjuncture, he will actively promote American investments in and increased trade with Greece.

    The envoy also congratulated the Greek authorities for their successes in combating terrorism, citing as an example the arrest of members of the Revolutionary Struggle group.

    He further lauded Papandreou's efforts in the Balkans and in the UN-brokered negotiations in the FYROM name issue, stressing that the US will adopt the mutually acceptable solution that will arise from the negotiations.

    Lastly, he underlined the policy of rapprochement with Turkey followed by Papandreou, while he also reiterated the US support for the reunification of Cyprus as a bizonal, bicommunal federation.

    Daniel Smith, up to recently executive secretary at the US State Department, holds a BA from the University of Colorado at Boulder and an MA and PhD from Stanford University, and speaks German, Turkish and Swedish.

    He previously served as executive assistant to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs from 2002 to 2005.

    Smith joined the Foreign Service in 1983, and has served in Bern, Istanbul, Ottawa and Stockholm. He has also served as Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary for Global Affairs; Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for European and Canadian Affairs; and Country Officer for Czechoslovakia. From 1993 to 1995 he taught Political Science at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

    He is the recipient of various State Department awards.

    [07] Roumeliotis on decision to step down as Greece's IMF rep

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA - A. Ellis)

    In a statement concerning his decision to step down as Greece's IMF representative on July 21, Prof. Panagiotis Roumeliotis on Friday said that he was leaving in order to take up the equally important position of deputy general secretary at the Union of the Mediterranean in Barcelona, to which the Greek government had appointed him previously.

    During his five-month stint at the IMF, Roumeliotis had played a key role in putting together the a massive bailout package for Greece.

    [08] Damning report on GNTO ad campaigns to public prosecutor

    A dire picture of rampant mismanagement, runaway bureau-cracy, disorganisation and disregard for the law emerged from a report on the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) advertising programme that the Public Administration Inspectors and Comptrollers Corps submitted to the culture and tourism ministry on Friday.

    The report checking the legality of the procedures for awarding advertising contracts in 2008 and 2009 had been commissioned by Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, after it became apparent that the GNTO had overshot the approved budget for advertising to promote Greek tourism by nearly 76.4 million euros over the last three years.

    A ministry announcement said that the report has now been forwarded to an Athens appeals prosecutor so that the matter can be investigated by justice, specifically the Court of Audit, in order to determine to what extent the GNTO was financially harmed by these actions. The culture and tourism minister has also ordered a formal internal inquiry within the GNTO to investigate the degree of responsibility borne by specific members of staff and management.

    In a damning report, the public administration inspectors found that GNTO had no overall approved advertising programme or targets, with decisions taken ad hoc and usually at the prompting of those offering advertising services.

    In addition, the GNTO had systematically failed to hold public tenders for advertising contracts, the majority of which were awarded directly in contravention to existing legislation and in some cases without the required approval, while contracts were very often drawn up and signed after the contractual item and been delivered and then "pre-dated" to preserve the semblance of legality.

    According to the inspectors, the combination of the lack of planning and the irregularities of the contracts, many of which had none of the clauses required by law, left the GNTO entirely at the mercy of its contractors' good will.

    Beyond this, inspectors discovered that the entire procedure was choked by exceptionally time-consuming and costly bureaucratic processes that had no real purpose and that the entire GNTO was bedevilled by a lack of cooperation and coordination between its central services and its outlying branches in Greece and abroad.

    Among the symptoms of this was the fact that different departments often held separate tenders for the same kinds of goods and the fact that central services failed to use staff at its local offices to man and accept delivery of pavilions at exhibitions abroad, burdening GNTO with additional costs to transport staff from Greece.

    Also criticised were the GNTO's questionable choices of members to participate in an Emergency Special Committee for evaluating GNTO pavilions at tourism fairs as well as the fact that the same people were responsible for both organising tenders, deciding their results and accepting delivery of the pavilions, in clear violation of rules for impartiality.

    [09] Greek envoy to Sofia speaks to BTA

    SOFIA (ANA-MPA/B.Borisov)

    Greek Ambassador to Bulgaria Danai-Magdalini Koumanakou expressed on Friday her conviction that "the implementation of the energy projects will be done according to European rules, with respect for the environment and to the benefit of development and welfare.

    Speaking during an interview with the Bulgarian BTA news agency and in view of Greek Prime MInister George Papandreou's visit to Sofia Tuesday, the Greek ambassador spoke of a "new historic phase" in relations beween Greece and Bulgaria and of a message the two prime ministers will be sending to Balkan countries that they "can also reach the point we stand now."

    The Greek prime minister and his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov will jointly chair a common Greek-Bulgarian cabinet meeting.

    "Our bilateral cooperation today, perhaps tomorrow, in an expanded Europe will form the nucleus of a regional community of interests which will speak with one voice," the Greek envoy said.

    Greece and Bulgaria are partners, together with Russia, in energy projects such as the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and the South Stream natural gas pipeline.

    [10] More than 750,000 registered in public sector census

    More than 750,000 public sector workers in the civil service, local authorities and public sector legal bodies had registered in the electronic census begun by the government when the original deadline for registering has expired on Friday. In an announcement on Friday evening, the government announced that the deadline had been extended until Thursday, July 29.

    Sources in the General Secretariat of Information Systems told the ANA the finance and interior ministries now had sufficient data with which to carry out cross checks, a process expected to take a considerable amount of time. The secretariat expects an estimated 2 percent inaccuracy rate in the registrations.

    As of November 1, public sector employees are to be paid via bank accounts by the newly formed Single Payment Authority. The registrations will also be used to set up a single electronic data base with the information of all public sector employees and, as of 2011, a uniform pay scale will be set up.

    Once the procedure is complete, it will be the first time since the formation of the Greek State that there is an overall picture of the staff that receives a salary from the public sector.

    Financial News

    [11] Bank of Greece welcomes results of stress tests on banks

    The Bank of Greece on Friday welcomed the results of stress tests on European banks, organized by the Committee of European Banking Supervisors and national supervisory authorities in close cooperation with European Central Bank.

    In an announcement, the Greek central bank said the test aimed at evaluating total ability of the banking sector in the EU to absorb any further significant financial and economic shocks and stressed that the tests were a significant step towards strengthening stability in the banking sector both in the EU and the Eurozone.

    The central bank said that for Greece the adverse scenario envisaged a deeper recession in 2010 and 2011 and higher interest rates. The six largest banking groups (National Bank, EFG Eurobank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank, ATEbank and Hellenic Postbank) were included in the test, representing more than 90 pct of Greek banking system's assets (excluding subsidiaries).

    The results, based on the adverse scenario, showed that five Greek banks successfully passed the tests, with four (Hellenic Postbank, Alpha Bank, EFG Eurobank and National Bank) surpassing the 6.0 pct Tier I capital ratio, while Piraeus Bank was exactly at the 6.0 pct ratio. In the case of ATEbank, the Tier I capital ratio fell to 4.4 pct by the end of 2011, showing a capital shortfall of 242 million euros. The central bank noted, however, that all six banks have passed the benchmark scenario of the stress tests.

    The Bank of Greece said that the results of the adverse scenario did not reflect the current situation or any direct capital needs and was purposely designed to answer "what-if" scenarios.

    By the end of 2009, all six Greek banks reported Tier I capital ratios ranging from 8.4 pct to 17.1 pct. The central bank said that a significant strengthening of Greek banks' equity capital in 2009 justified their current performance. This capital strengthening resulted mainly from share capital increase plans, internal funding, profitability and a decision to skip dividend payment last year, along with the issuance of preferred stocks.

    The Bank of Greece said it would continue monitoring closely developments in the domestic banking market to ensure that necessary actions were taken to boost banks' capital adequacy, where necessary.

    In any case, the set up of a Financial Stability Fund with a capital of 10 billion euros, in the framework of a support program for the Greek economy, offered an additional safety net, while another 1.2 billion euros were available through a capital support measure agreed in 2008.

    [12] Greek FinMin says state will participate in ATEbank's capital increase

    Greek Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou on Friday said the results of stress tests on Greek banks were positive and stressed that the Greek banking system was able to overcome conditions much more difficult than the ones currently prevailing.

    He also called on Greek banks to proceed with actions and strategic moves strengthening their capital adequacy and their position within a framework of restructuring the Greek banking system.

    Commenting on ATEbank, which failed to pass the adverse scenario, a ministry announced said that the Greek state -was a main shareholder of the bank- intended to boost the bank's capital adequacy by participating in a share capital increase scheme, after an approval by the European Commission. On the other hand, ATEbank should recommend a plan to dealing with its weaknesses within two months and to implementing this plan -in agreement with the Bank of Greece- by December 31, 2010.

    The finance ministry said transparency achieved with the release of the stress tests results was significant and stressed that Greece has already approved a series of mechanisms aimed at fortifying the Greek banking system.

    [13] Central bank chief optimistic

    Bank of Greece (BoG) governor George Provopoulos said Friday he is optimistic on the economy, adding that the worst is behind us, during a meeting with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.

    "We have crossed the Rubicon," the central bank chief said, noting satisfaction with the developments in the economy, indicatively citing the improvement in performance regarding the state deficit and the measures that have been taken to reduce expenditure and increase revenue.

    "This means that in the coming period we will likely have further improvement," he said and, referring to recent governmental decisions, spoke of "tough but necessary laws that indicate that things are rolling in the structural field".

    He also stressed that the "very negative image we had abroad is beginning to turn positive", and anticipated that from autumn on "we will have a substantially better image as it becomes established that progress with the deficit is ongoing, and indeed constantly improving".

    Greece is meeting all its obligations under the Memorandum, and this cultivates a positive picture, Provopoulos said, but conceded that this will take time due to the prior negative projection.

    "However, we have emerged from the Rubicon and this is very important and hopeful," he added.

    He also noted that the results of the Europe-wide "stress tests" for banks are due to be released on Friday afternoon and the visit by experts of the EU "troika" in the coming days.

    [14] Privatisation Commission agrees appointment of advisors on banking system, state property

    An inter-ministerial privatization commission meeting on Friday agreed to appoint 2-3 advisors to examine the Greek state's future moves in the country's banking system and to adopt a more efficient management policy of the state's real estate property.

    The commission comprised Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas and Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos.

    Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, finance minister Papaconstantinou said the advisors will evaluate the state's equity holdings in the Greek banking system, particularly in ATEbank and TT-Hellenic Postbank before making their recommendations for a more efficient exploitation of these holdings.

    Economy Minister Katseli stressed that the government will ask its advisors for a recommendation over a possible strengthening of the state's presence in banks, with alternative scenarios. Papaconstantinou said the government was examining all possible moves over the issue while he declined to comment on the results of Europe-wide stress tests on banks, which were due to be released later in the day.

    Papaconstantinou said a new inter-ministerial commission will be set up - comprising ministry secretaries-general, the State Real Estate Enterprise and the Tourism Development Enterprise- to resolve institutional issues.

    [15] Legislation gives privatisations committee new powers over state assets

    New powers are to be given to the Interministerial Privatisations Committee to 'utilise' all manner of state-sector assets in ways beyond those currently allowed by existing legislation, based on a finance ministry amendment tabled in Parliament on Friday.

    Based on the amendment's explanatory report the term 'utilisation' includes "any form of exchange, legal transaction and or any deed or action, including that of transferring a property asset, through which the public sector, in the opinion of the Interministerial Privatisations Committee, may obtain any kind of direct or indirect benefit".

    The amendment gives the privatisations committee the power to decide on the use of state assets and recommend the foundation of Greek companies (either as sole shareholder, or as a partner or jointly with any other legal entity) that can then proceed to acquire public sector assets.

    The finance minister is named as the minister supervising the committee while implementation of the decisions of the privatisations committee is governed by the stipulations of the 2002 law on privatisations and the civil code.

    Contracts for the utilisation of property are exempt from a pre-emptive inspections by the Court of Audit and also relieved of all taxes or liability imposed by the state or third parties.

    [16] Labour minister tables amendment to cancel high salary raises

    Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos on Friday made good on a promise to block labour arbitration tribunals from awarding private-sector salary increases that were higher than those envisaged in the EU-IMF bailout package for Greece, tabling an amendment in Parliament that automatically cancelled any decision for pay hikes above those of the national general collective labour agreement.

    Decisions issued after the date when the law adjusting to the Memorandum went into effect on May 6 and give higher-than-foreseen salary increases are subject to appeal within 15 days by either the parties that participated in the collective bargaining or the labour minister before arbitrators of the Organisation for Mediation and Arbitration (OMED).

    [17] EU reprs hold Athens talks on energy

    European Commission representatives held talks on Thursday and Friday with Greek energy agencies that focused on accelerating procedures for the liberalisation of electricity and natural gas markets.

    According to sources, the talks were held on a technical level and no decisions were taken. The contacts aimed instead at preparing the meetings representatives of the 'troika" will be having next week in Athens on energy issues.

    [18] National Bank completes sale of 450-mln-euro bond issue

    The National Bank of Greece on Friday announced the successful completion of a Lower Tier II bond issue, worth 450 million euros, through a private placement in Greece.

    The bank said the issue was fully covered in a period of four working days, a proof of investors' confidence in the bank.

    The bond security will be issued by NBG Finance Plc, a subsidiary based in the UK, with the guarantee of National Bank and will be traded in the Luxembourg Stock Exchange. The bond issue will have a maturity of 10 years.

    National Bank said the proceeds from the bond issue will raise the bank's equity capital and the bank's Core Tier I ratio by 34 basis points.

    [19] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 73 million euros on Friday, of which 44 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 29 million were sell orders. The three-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 21 million euros. The 10-year benchmark bond yielded 10.39 pct, down from 10.41 pct on Thursday.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.40 pct, the six-month rate was 1.13 pct, the three-month 0.89 pct and the one-month rate 0.63 pct.

    [20] Stocks end 1.39 pct lower

    Greek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange with investors nervous ahead of the release of the results of stress test on European banks. The composite index of the market fell 1.36 pct to end at 1,590.50 points, for a net loss of 1.39 pct in the week. Turnover was a low 101.244 million euros.

    The Big Cap index fell 1.56 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.84 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.17 pct down. The Insurance (3.05 pct) and Personal Products (0.78 pct) sectors scored gains, while Telecoms (3.87 pct) and Constructions (3.02 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 96 to 79 with another 45 issues unchanged. Texapret (11.11 pct), Technical Olympic (10.81 pct) and Altec (9.09 pct) were top gainers, while Druckfarben (19.64 pct), Mouzakis (9.68 pct) and Envitec (9.62 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +3.05

    Industrials: -0.53%

    Commercial: +0.74%

    Construction: -3.02%

    Media: -1.77%

    Oil & Gas: -0.35%

    Personal & Household: +0.78%

    Raw Materials: -0.90%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.12%

    Technology: -1.49%

    Telecoms: -3.87%

    Banks: -1.18%

    Food & Beverages: -2.25%

    Health: -0.03%

    Utilities: -1.12%

    Chemicals: -1.80%

    Financial Services: -0.72%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 5.02

    ATEbank: 1.00

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.50

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.30

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.00

    National Bank of Greece: 10.90

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.71

    OPAP: 10.83

    OTE: 5.96

    Bank of Piraeus: 4.45

    Titan: 16.50

    [21] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover a low 48.504 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,145 contracts worth 39.676 million euros, with 21,340 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,891 contracts worth 8.828 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,111), followed by Eurobank (2,052), OTE (586), Piraeus Bank (1,248), Alpha Bank (2,404) and ATEbank (919).

    [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.3

    Pound sterling 0.843

    Danish kroner 7.511

    Swedish kroner 9.516

    Japanese yen 113.38

    Swiss franc 1.359

    Norwegian kroner 8.029

    Canadian dollar 1.349

    Australian dollar 1.454

    General News

    [23] Holargos Metro station inaugurated

    The new Athens Metro station in the suburb of Holargos officially opened to the public on Friday, the 28th station in the constantly expanding metro network, while the 29th station at Aghia Paraskevi suburb is due to open in October.

    The Holargos station, accessed from Messogion Avenue and at a depth of 22 meters under ground, will serve an estimated 20,000 commuters daily, making the route to downtown Athens Syntagma Square in just nine minutes.

    A three-level underground parking station with a capacity of 630 cars also opened to the public on Friday at the nearby Nomismatokopeio station at the Athens Mint, also on Messogion Avenue.

    A new metro line from Galatsi to Paradeisos, in Maroussi, the "U" line, will be tendered in early 2011, servicing areas without an adequate bus network.

    [24] Wildfire on Crete, Karystos blaze receding

    A large wildfire broke out early Friday in the Liopetra area of Siteia, on Crete and was still raging at noon, burning forest, brush and farm expanses.

    A strong team of firefighters with five fire engines and several municipal water trucks, and an army contingent were battling the blaze, assisted by a water-dropping helicopter, but efforts were being hindered by high winds.

    No homes or populated areas are at risk.

    A second fire was blazing in a forest expanse on Mt. Gorila in Paramythia, Thesprotia prefecture.

    Meanwhile, a major wildfire that broke out in Karystos, Evia, on Thursday was receding on Friday, although it has passed through several housing settlements and continued to burn forestland, while a strong force of f48 firefighters with 24 fire engines and four divisions on foot were battling the flames, while water-dropping aircraft resumed efforts at the first light of day and reinforcements have been sent from Athens.

    Further, a wildfire that broke out Thursday in Derveni, Arcadia prefecture, was reported as having been contained on Friday, as was another fire in Pera Chorio, Livadia, from which the water-dropping aircraft have now been withdrawn.

    [25] Two-hour delay for "Highspeed 6" bound for Milos

    The ferry "Highspeed 6" calling at the islands of Serifos, Sifnos and Milos will depart with a two-hour delay from Piraeus port on Friday, due to engine trouble that arose during its morning journey for Ios and Santorini.

    The boat was originally scheduled to depart at 18:15 but will now be leaving at 20:00.

    Sports

    [26] Torch lit in ancient Olympia for inaugural Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore

    The Olympic Torch relay got underway Friday on a five-continent journey for the inaugural Summer Youth Olympics to be held in Singapore from August 14 to 26, after an official lighting ceremony at Ancient Olympia, home of the ancient Olympic Games.

    Just as in the traditional Olympic Games, a High Priestess, represented by an actress, lit the Olympic Flame from the sun's rays, using a concave mirror to focus the rays, from which she lit a silver torch in a ceremony in front of the ruins of the 2,600 year old Temple of Hera.

    The torch, which was handed over by the priestess to the first young runner, will travel to five "Celebration Cities" -- Berlin, Dakar, Mexico City, Auckland and Seoul -- representing the five continents (Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania and the Americas), before arriving in Singapore, which was chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in February 2008 to host the first-ever Summer Youth Olympics, officially referred to as the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, in which 3,500 young athletes aged 14 to 18 will compete.

    The Summer Youth Olympic Games is a major international sports event and cultural festival that will be celebrated in the tradition of the Summer Olympic Games, with the inaugural Singapore 2010 Games taking place in the middle of the XXIX Olympiad (an Olympiad is the four-year interval between two Olympic Games, according to the tradition of the ancient Olympics).

    The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) are planned to be an international multi-sport event held every four years in staggered summer and winter events consistent with the current Olympic Games format. The idea for such an event was introduced in 2001 by IOC president Jacques Rogge, who attended Friday's flame lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia, and was adopted in July 2007 at the 19th IOC session in Guatemala.

    The Youth Olympic Flame torch, made of aluminum with a non-slip handle, is inspired from fire and water, with fire representing the Youth's passion and burning desire to learn and excel, blazing the trail in life. Water represents Singapore, with its origins as a seaport; and the vibrant and dynamic nature of Singapore as an island city-state. The torch was designed to combine the dual elements of fire and water, with the water wave on the torch body and a flaming fire on top.

    The mascots for the Singapore Youth Olympics are a fire-themed male lion cub named Lyo and a water-themed female "merlion" cub named Merly.

    According to legend, a long time ago, a prince visited a lovely tropical island where, upon landing, he spotted a beautiful lion and thus named the island Singapura, meaning "Lion City". Today, the lion is the national symbol of Singapore.

    Lyo the mascot of the first YOG is a lion cub with a mane as fiery as his passion for life.\Merly got her name from "mer" (for mermaid, a maiden of the sea) and the letters "l" and "y" for liveliness and youthfulness.

    Weather forecast

    [27] Heatwave expected on Saturday

    Clear skies, little or no winds and rising temperatures reaching highs of 40-41C on the mainland are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with some cloud and rain in the evening. Winds forecast to reach a maximum of 5 Beaufort at sea. Temperatures to range from 18C to 41C. High temperatures in Attica, from 26C to 40C. Sunny in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 23c to 35C.

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

    The economy and developments in the banking sector, with the results of the Europe-wide stress tests due, were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Friday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The final blow to tourism...The rolling strikes by air traffic controllers paralysing air transport".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Yes to everything...including the cutting of (EU) subsidies (to member states with excessive deficits) - Once again, we're plucking out our eyes with our own hands".

    AVGHI: "Fine on the markets for the deficits".

    AVRIANI: "The scandals have tied the hands of ministers, DEKO (public utilities and organisations) managers and other government officials".

    CHORA: "Rage and curses over the cutbacks in pensions".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Karamanlis 'volcano' threatens (main opposition New Democracy) ND's unity - The party split in two over case of Angelou (close aide of former PM Karamanlis on whom restrictive measures have been enforced after his testimony on the Vatopedi land swaps scandal)".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Private auditors take over as...ministers - After turning over the country to the troika, the government now turning over administration to international firms".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The charge sheet (against Angelou) 'points' to Karamanlis (political accountability) in Vatopedi case".

    ESTIA: "Faulty figures on the GDP - They do not include the 'black' economy".

    ETHNOS: "Auditors in social security funds, ESY (national health system), municipalities - Transparency test from five foreign accounting firms".

    IMERISSIA: "Agony for the banks - The markets dancing to the tune of the stress tests".

    KATHIMERINI: "Tests of development in banks - The results of the European inspection (stress tests) awaited today with agony".

    LOGOS: "Test for the banks - Papaconstantinou's (finance minister) optimism for the economy".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "The denationalisations program 'opens'."

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The unemployed must became the cause of the labor-wide struggle".

    TA NEA: "Private sector: Cut of salary increases via legislation".

    TO VIMA: "The deck being re-dealt to the banks - The stress tests the springboard for changes".

    VRADYNI: "Stress tests with possible losses - The European Banking System being put to the test today".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [29] Russian FM: Christofias' proposals an important step towards solution

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cypriot President Demetris Cristofias' proposals on Famagusta, the property issue and the international conference on Cyprus, are an important step towards finding a solution on the Cyprus problem, Russia said Thursday.

    Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Andrei Nesterenko has stated that Moscow believes that ''the proposals announced by the President of the Republic of Cyprus are a very important step towards finding a mutually acceptable solution through the intercommunal negotiations''.

    Ambassador Nesterenko also reassured that Moscow firmly supports a settlement, providing for a viable solution, based on a mutual agreement between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities.

    He also called upon the international community to express its support.

    ''The attempts to take decisions on behalf of the Cypriots, ie. imposing deadlines and arbitration, are not productive'', he concluded.

    Last week, the Cypriot President announced three proposals on the Cyprus issue. The first suggests the linking of the discussion of three of the chapters of the Cyprus problem, those dealing with property, territory and immigration, for easing the resolution of the thorny chapter of properties and for expediting the dialogue.

    The second proposal urges Turkey to apply UN Security Council resolution 550, which calls for the transfer of the fenced off area of Varosha, in Famagusta, to the administration of the United Nations. Part of this proposal is the opening of the port of Famagusta under EU auspices to benefit the Turkish Cypriots.

    The third proposal is to convene an international conference when within range of an agreement on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem.

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

    [30] President Christofias: Turkey must show will for Cyprus solution

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus expects the UN and the international community to turn their attention to Turkey because, ''in order to pave the way for a solution of the Cyprus problem, Turkey must leave behind words and slogans, and show in practice its readiness for an honorable, viable and functional compromise,'' President Demetris Christo-fias has stressed.

    Addressing Thursday evening an anti-occupation event organised by the Turkish occupied municipalities of Kyrenia, Lapithos and Karavas, the president reassured that '' the Greek Cypriot community will continue to sincerely pursue a settlement, providing for a bi- zonal , bi-communal federation with political equality, as defined in UN resolutions, safeguarding the unity of the state".

    ''This is the historical compromise of the Greek Cypriots '' he said, adding that ''a bi-zonal , bi-communal federation solution will protect us against division and division means destruction.''

    The president's speech was delivered by the Minister of Justice and Public Order Loukas Louka.

    President Christofias added that the basis of the solution as well as its framework are clear, adding that "time is against us and consolidates the status quo".

    He also said that a settlement will be beneficiary for Turkey and its vision to join the European Union.

    President Christofias referred to the 1974 coup d' etat and the Turkish invasion noting that ''the lessons of history must act as a call for us in order to undertake our responsibilities in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, and achieve a true reunification of our homeland, the people, the economy and the institutions, which will terminate occupation and Turkey's policy of illegally bringing settlers to the island, and will restore the human rights of all people of Cyprus.''

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. UN-led peace talks are underway between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Dervis Eroglu.

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: "http://www.ana-mpa.gr" * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: ILIAS MATSIKAS


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