|Monday, 11 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-07-31
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 31 July 2010 Issue No: 3555
 Government enlists armed forces to break truck strikeThe government on Friday announced a tough crackdown on striking truck owners that have voted to defy a civil mobilisation order and continue their strike. Among a series of measures and announced by the appropriate ministerial committee was a decision to enlist the aid of the armed forces to transport fuel supplies.
The government also slammed the truckers' refusal to comply with the civil mobilisation order as "a grievous insult to law and order that harms society as a whole".
Apart from requisitioning the privately-owned tanker trucks, the armed forces are ordered to use their own vehicles to ensure the supply of fuel to crucial sectors such as airports, power plants and hospitals while the Greek Navy is to assist, if necessary, in carrying tanker trucks to the islands.
In the meantime, the details of those defying the civil mobilisation order will be sent on to public prosecutors so that they might be charged, while the penalties foreseen under the law - including revoking the offender's licence - will be immediately enforceable.
Truck owners voted to continue their strike in a meeting on Friday afternoon after talks with the government ended in deadlock, defying a civil mobilisation ordering them back to work. The strike, which includes owners of tanker trucks that transport fuels, has literally starved the country of fuel.
In a stormy general meeting at the Peroke Theatre, the truckers opted to escalate the dispute with the government in spite of the disruption to the country and the economy as a whole.
The meeting started with a one-hour delay and the truckers' union president Georgios Tzortzatos briefed the members on the talks with Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas the day before.
Other voices in the meeting, especially from tanker truck owners, called for a more militant stance, however, and these eventually carried the day. A vote in favour of continuing to strike was taken after roughly three hours of debate and not by secret ballot but by a show of hands.
In statements after the meeting Tzortzatos stressed that truck owners were not prepared to give up their licences and were determined to defend their rights. After their meeting, the truck owners marched in the centre of Athens to Parliament and presented a resolution with their demands and the decisions taken at their meeting.
The government, meanwhile, has warned truck owners through the ministers involved and the government spokesman that it will enforce the law and continue to requisition both the vehicles and the civil mobilisation of their owners. Government officials stressed that no professional group had the right to make the whole of society and the country hostage to its demands.
Problems in the mainland markets were less pronounced on Friday, as the tanker trucks and vehicles owned by oil companies have been working incessantly over the past 24 hours after picketing by strikers stopped, ensuring a better supply of fuel to petrol stations. Added to these will be the requisitioned vehicles, the first of which started to appear at Thessaloniki refineries on Friday.
The situation was more serious on several Greek islands, however, where petrol stations ran out of fuel two days ago and shortages in other goods, especially fresh fruit and vegetables, are starting to appear.
The civil mobilisation orders to individual truck owners were also starting to be delivered in large numbers from the afternoon - 48 hours after the decision was announced by the government - with police estimating that the process of serving the papers will be completed by Monday.
In order to facilitate the restocking of the market with fuel, in particular, Reppas on Friday signed a decision that temporarily lifts a ban on the use of national highways by fuel tanker trucks making deliveries between Friday and Sunday.
The truck owners are protesting against a bill unveiled by the infrastructure and transport ministry that seeks to open up the road freight market - currently only served by government-licensed "public use" vehicles. The last government licences for truck owners were issued in the 1970s and opening up this market is among Greece's obligations to the EU.
 Reppas says government will go ahead with reformInfrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas commenting Friday on a striking truck owners' decision to continue their strike in defiance of a civil mobilisation ordering them back to work, said that the government would go ahead with the reform adding that society was not unprotected.
The minister also called on strikers to "consider their responsibilities", and warned that "they will be the sole responsibles for whatever follows."
The truck owners are protesting against a bill unveiled by the infrastructure and transport ministry that seeks to open up the road freight market - currently only served by government-licensed "public use" vehicles.
 State, political leadership expresses grief for fallen helicopter pilotsGreek President Karolos Papoulias expressed deep regret for the loss of the two pilots killed in the Apache military helicopter crash earlier on Friday. In a telegram addressed to the families of the victims, President Papoulias stressed that "Greece mourns for the tragic loss."
National Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos ordered a three-day period of mourning in the armed forces and expressed grief for "the tragic deaths of two select Army Air Force officers killed in the line of duty," adding that "our thoughts are with their families."
Venizelos stated that a preliminary investigation has been ordered to determine the causes of the crash.
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) national defense sector head MP Theofilos Leontaridis expressed deep regret for the tragic incident and extended his condolences to the families of the two pilots, "who lost their lives while serving the country". He called on the government to "launch an in-depth investigation on the causes of the crash of a helicopter which was received quite recently."
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) extended its condolences to the families of the two helicopter pilots and called on the government to give clear answers to questions concerning maintenance and training issues.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary spokesman MP Thodoris Dritsas after extending his condolences added that answers should be given on the causes and the circumstances under which the tragic incident took place.
SYN underlined that tragic cost in terms of human lives and called for explanations concerning the causes of the crash.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) President George Karatzaferis extended his condolences to the families of the dead pilots and questioned the adequacy of the Army Air Force personnel training.
An Apache military helicopter, on a test flight, made a crash landing near Megara just before noon on Friday, and the two-member crew on board died in an ensuing fire. According to reports, the helicopter crashed during an emergency landing at a military airport at 11:49 a.m. after it developed mechanical failure. It was quickly engulfed in flames and the bodies of the two pilots were found later by rescuers.
 PM expresses grief for fallen helicopter pilotsPrime Minister George Papandreou expressed deep regret for the loss of the two pilots killed in the Apache military helicopter crash earlier on Friday.
"We all, the Armed Forces, the Greek people, mourn for the loss of two young people who fell during the exercise of their duty...Our thougts are with their families," Papandreou said in a statement.
 PM Papandreou adresses Cretan expatriatesPrime Minister George Papandreou called on Greek expatriates to "send the message that Greece can", while opening a three-day conference organised by the World Council of Cretans and Lassithi prefecture that is taking place in Agios Nikolaos, Lassithi on the island of Crete, on Friday night.
"We are called today to do the revolution of the self-evident," the prime minister said and referred to the efforts being made to take the country out of the crisis, the measures being taken in all levels and the efforts for transparency in all sectors.
Papandreou said that a "collective effort is need in order to take the country out of the crisis" and praised the work done by Cretan expatriates in supporting Greece.
"Your presence here is very important because it is a vote of confidence to our country," the premier added.
Referring to the "need for changes in all sectors," Papandreou spoke of the fight against corruption in all sectors and the fight against tax evasion, the effort for creating a better public health system, better education and a modern social security scheme.
Regarding the island of Crete, the prime minister accused the previous New Democracy government of "abandoning Crete at its fate", and underlined the need for the shaping of a new model for growth of the island.
Speaking on energy policy issues, Papandreou said the strategic policy of his government was the renewable energy sources and announced that the government was examining the issue of establishing an "energy link" between Crete and continental Greece.
"The big wager is to make Crete an energy hub," he said.
He also called on expatriate Greeks to invest in Greece and "participate in the cosmogony of changes taking place".
The conference was also adressed by Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos.
Earlier in the day Papandreou visited an award-winning agricultural cooperative based in the village of Kritsa, congratulating its management and staff on the excellent quality of their products.
The prime minister was given a warm welcome in the village square in Kritsa and stressed that he had come to Crete "to draw strength and also to show everyone that the provinces and Greece have strength."
He praised local residents, saying that they demonstrated another side of Greece capable of imagination, hard work, creativity and creating value.
"We have to once again find our strength and not rely on borrowed powers," he stressed.
Speaking about the government's work, Papandreou said that he was also struggling so that Greece could once more find its value.
"We may be paying for the mistakes of the past but we will find our way again," he underlined.
 Droutsas: Greece's position on Kosovo unchangedBELGRADE (ANA-MPA - N. Pelpas)
Greece's position on the issue of Kosovo has not changed, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said in an interview given to the Serb news agency Tanjug ahead of his visit to Belgrade and Pristina on Friday.
"Our position on the issue of Kosovo is well known and unchanged. We stressed this when the opinion was issued and I repeat it now. Greece has a special position in the region and - by extension - has special responsibilities," Droutsas said.
"And that is why we think that our well known "Agenda 2014" initiative has added value: it can function as a catalyst, lending impetus to the dialogue on a diplomatic solution. It can function as a channel through which Europe's role emerges. We have to give priority to diplomacy and consensus-based, sustainable solutions within the framework of the European family to which we belong," the minister added.
The minister said the issue of Kosovo and the new state of affairs after the International Court of Justice's Advisory opinion on Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence would dominate his talks in Belgrade and Pristina.
Droutsas said the meetings would given an opportunity to also relay what was discussed at the latest EU ministers' council in Brussels concerning the Hague court's ruling.
"My message will be that we have to take this as an opportunity to look ahead to the future, which can be nothing other than European. I am deeply convinced of this," he added.
Asked whether Greece was promoting a new dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Droutsas said that Athens wanted to see "the initiation of a political process that will be the basis for the next steps - not just on the Kosovo question."
He emphasised that Athens was equally interested in stressing the region's European perspective and that "dialogue and diplomacy are by definition the path to be followed".
Asked whether Greece would vote for a Serbian resolution on the issue at the UN, Droutsas replied that Greece wanted there to be a coordinated stance between Belgrade and Brussels.
"This presupposes sincere, open dialogue - without prejudices - between the EU and Serbia. You may be certain that Greece's role and contribution to this dialogue will be decisive in the search for moderate, consensus-based phrasing, with a view to achieving compromises so that we can speak with a single voice. The position and cornerstone of our policy is that the Balkans need sustainable solutions, which are solutions based on consensus," the minister said.
On bilateral Greek and Serbian relations, Droutsas said that these were excellent and that economic relations were particularly dynamic, with Greek high on the list of foreign investors in Serbia.
Concerning the margins for strengthening relations further, he stressed that these were mainly in light of Serbia's future accession to the European Union.
"When you - like all the other candidate countries - begin the process of adaptation to the European acquis in individual chapters, I think it well be clear how strong the foundations of our relations are. We are ready to provide know-how in every sector. And this is the essence of the Memorandum Mr. Jeremic and I will sign during my visit," he stressed.
Droutsas will depart for Belgrade and Pristina on Friday, where he will be received by Serbian Patriarch Irinej, as well as Serbian President Boris Tadic. During the visit he is to have a working dinner with Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, with whom he will sign a Greek-Serbian Memorandum of Cooperation on European Union issues, and meet Greek business people based in Serbia. In Pristina, he is to meet with Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu and premier Hashim Thaši.
 Alternate FM Droutsas meets Serb President TadicGreek Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas discussed here on Friday the issue of Kosovo with Serb President Boris Tadic.
Droutsas briefed the Serb president on an EU General Affairs meeting earlier this week where the issue was examined in light of an International Court of Justice advisory opinion as regards the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo. The Greek minister underlined the "need for initiating a political process that would lead to the finding of a solution through a compromise."
He also noted the need for coordinated actions between Belgrade and Brussels, adding that "Greece's interventions to that direction will be determining".
 Alt.FM confers with UN envoy on Cyprus issueAlternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas met on Friday with the UN secretary general's special advisor on the Cyprus issue Alexander Downer, with whom he discussed the ongoing UN-mediated negotiations for a Cyprus solution.
During the 90-minute meeting, which was held in the context of the regular meetings and systematic cooperation between the Greek side and the UN representative, Downer made a detailed presentation of the current state of the talks and the positions of the two sides on Cyprus, as well as on the prospects of the negotiation, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras told a press briefing.
The two sides also discussed the next steps and the package of proposals submitted recently by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias aiming at giving new momentum to the negotiation process.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Downer stressed the importance of maintaining contact with the governments of the three guarantor powers -- Greece, Britain and Turkey -- and said that the UN has been very close to the Greek position throughout the negotiation process, and described Christofias' idea for an international conference as "very interesting", but added, however, that the matter has not yet been discussed with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and that it would help if progress on the domestic aspects of the issue, such as that of properties, has been achieved before convening such a conference.
Droutsas, in turn, reiterated Greece's full support for Christofias and stressed that the Cyprus president's proposals on the negotiation process, Famagusta and an international conference will give a boost not only to the UN process but also to improving the climate on the island and to Turkey's EU accession course, according to Delavekouras.
Droutsas also reiterated that, with those proposals, the Greek Cypriot side and President Christofias specifically are one step ahead with respect to the substance of the problem, thus proving their commitment to achieving a solution as set out in the relevant UN resolutions and the agreements between the leaders. He also once again stressed the importance of achieving a "Cypriot solution" coming from the Cypriots for the Cypriots, and a "European solution" that will reflect the reality of the Republic of Cyprus' participation in the EU and respect the EU acquis.
It is apparent, Delavekouras added, that Christofias' proposals, and particularly the proposal for simultaneous discussion of the property aspect with the territorial aspect and the matter of the colonists, comprise a self-evident development, provided the volition exists on all sides for speedy progress in the negotiations, given that those aspects are inter-connected.
Athens firmly believes that of vital importance for the progress of the negotiations is not the announcement of dates and artificial deadlines but rather a substantive and constructive participation in the UN process. As such, Turkey's role is decisive to the degree that it can give a boost to the negotiations by responding positively to the Christofias proposals, Delavekouras stressed.
 Greece expects positive report by troika expertsA group of experts from the troika (EU Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) on Friday completed its round of meetings with government ministers, as part of a regular inspection of the Greek economy in the framework of the memorandum.
The experts will present their first report to Greek Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou on Monday, while a progress report was expected to be drafted next week and to be sent to Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington for approving a second tranche of a loan agreement, worth 9.0 billion euros.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, a top Finance ministry official said the government informed the troika experts that execution of the state budget was progressing as scheduled and the any risks have been identified. The next steps of reforms in the Greek economy will focus on restructuring the regional and municipal landscape in the country (Kallikratis project), restructuring Hellenic Railways Organisation and deregulating so-called "closed" professions. The official said that the government would present a draft bill on deregulation of closed professions and noted that the implementation of the memorandum needed an updating of commitments and not the addition of new issues.
Finance ministry officials expect that the troika's report will be positive as Greece has completed or was very close of achieving all commitments included in the memorandum. The report, however, is expected to underline that fiscal risks still remaining, particularly in the budget revenues leg, which lagged behind annual targets, along with measures to deal with rising inflation, appointment of auditors in public sector enterprises and state hospitals, combating tax and contribution evasion and boosting transparency in state procurements.
The next round of inspection by troika experts is scheduled by the end of October.
 EU-IMF team discuss energy market liberalisationThe environment ministry's general secretary for energy and climate change Constantine Mathioudakis on Friday met the team of visiting European Commission, ECB and IMF inspectors to discuss issues concerning the liberalisation of the Greek energy market.
In statements to the ANA-MPA, Mathioudakis confirmed that the EU-IMF team had officially requested the sale of 40 percent of the lignite-fuelled and hydroelectric power plants of the state-owned Public Power Corporation (PPC) to private investors. The general secretary replied that the Greek government did not agree with this proposal because there were technical and other problems in carrying it out.
During the negotiations, the EU-IMF team appeared willing to consider solutions other than the sale of power plants provided they led to the liberalisation of the energy market.
The Greek electricity market is almost entirely dominated by the state-owned Public Power Corporation (PPC), which is also the country's largest industry.
In a meeting with the PPC's workers' union GENOP-DEH on Thursday, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said that the government's position was the same as that of the environment and energy ministry, which is opposed to any sale of the PPC.
A GENOP-DEH announcement on Friday urged the government not to give in to "unreasonable and provocative" demands and warned that the union will respond to any attempts to sell off the PPC with labour action.
 U.S. envoy on Eurasian energy at environment ministryEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili and deputy minister Yiannis Maniatis on Friday had a meeting with U.S. Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy Richard Morningstar that focused on the Turkey-Greece-Italy (TGI) and Nabucco natural gas pipelines.
During the meeting they agreed that the TGI and the Nabucco pipeline being promoted by Brussels and Washington as an alternative supply route for European energy markets that bypassed Russia were complementary rather than rival projects.
The meeting also covered issues concerning energy security, international energy agreements for pipelines, investments in renewable energy sources and green development.
Morningstar referred to energy diversification and stressed Greece's strategic role in enhancing and promoting energy security in Europe. Regarding the TGI, he said that it was one of the choices being promoted with the strategic target of making possible the transportation of natural gas from the Middle East and Caspian Sea to Europe.
The meeting also noted an exploration of the regional aspects of the TGI with the construction of the interconnector Greek-Bulgarian (IGB) pipeline that will assist the transport of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) to southeastern European countries.
In the context of energy supply diversification, Birbili said the Russian-Italian Southstream pipeline was an important project and noted cooperation with countries like Qatar, Libya and Egypt that sought to promote LNG.
The two sides agreed that green development and renewable energy sources (RES) generate wealth, jobs and opportunities for investment while consuming fewer natural resources, with less negative impact on the environment.
Among others, Birbili briefed the U.S. envoy on Greece's planning to meet Europe's 20-20-20 targets, including a 40 percent participation by RES in power production, 10 pct contribution by bio-fuels in transport and 4 percent reduction relative to 2005 of greenhouse gas emissions in non-commercial sectors.
 Environment Minister Birbili meets with British AmbassadorThe European Union goals as regards climate change and the reduction of the "greenhouse" gas emissions were the main issues discussed in a meeting between Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili and British Ambassador to Athens David Landsman on Friday.
They both agreed on the leading role the EU can assume by promoting a low-carbon economy model, underlining that the EU voice should become stronger in view of the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun.
 Interior and finance ministers unveil public sector census outcomeThe outcome of the electronic census conducted to determine the exact number of public sector workers in the civil service, local authorities and public sector legal entities was presented by Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis and Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou in a press conference on Friday.
Both ministers thanked the 768,009 public sector workers for their participation in the census and those who worked in the project which they described as an "unprecedented initiative for the Greek state, which was planned and materialized in two months and at zero cost."
They underlined that the census "will be a valuable tool", pointing out that as of 2011 all public sector workers are to be paid by the newly formed Single Payment Authority.
The interior minister clarified that those who were unable to register in the electronic census will be given another chance after accounting for the reasons that did not allow them to meet the July 29 deadline. He stated that all cross checks will be completed by mid September, stressing that the "troika" has made no demands for layoffs or abolitions of job positions in the public sector.
Based on the data collected by the ministry of finance General Secretariat of Information Systems, male employees in the public sector make up 54 pct of the workforce while females correspond to 46 pct. According to the available data, 39 pct of those registered have a university education, 28 pct have a secondary education diploma, 9 pct are primary education graduates and while 9 pct have technological education diplomas.
The data collected showed that 43,743 public sector workers are over the age of 60; 168,958 belong to the 50-60 age group; 258,280 are 40 to 50 years old; 205,277 are between 30 and 40; 86,246 between 20 and 30 and 4,174 are under the age of 20.
Moreover, 82 in 100 are permanent public sector employees (including the members of the judiciary and the civil servants).
 ADEDY on the public sector census"The numbers refute the systematic, and continuing for years, misrepresentation of reality," stated the public sector union ADEDY on Friday after the presentation of the public sector census outcome by the leaderships of the ministries of interior and finance.
"The allegations made according to which the public sector workers were as many as 2 million have been overturned," ADEDY underlined, stressing that the Greek public sector is way below the EU average both in terms of worker numbers and their cost, referring to their salaries.
ADEDY stressed that the depreciation of public sector organizations aimed at facilitating their privatization should end and pointed out that the sector's manpower should be better utilized while ensuring dignified work conditions and salaries.
 Education Minister meets Archbishop IeronymosThe ecclesiastical seminaries, the life-long training of the clergymen and education for the disabled were the main issues discussed in a meeting between Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece on Friday.
After his courtesy call to the ministry of education, Archbishop Ieronymos said that the meeting was cordial and interesting, stressing that they focused on the ecclesiastical seminaries, namely the schools attended by the future clergy.
Diamantopoulou pointed out that the Church and the State, maintaining their distinct roles, can have an excellent cooperation with optimal results for the benefit of the people. She stressed that the organized education system with the Church volunteerism can have excellent results.
 ND leader Samaras visits the Aegean island of LesvosMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras, currently on a visit to the northeast Aegean island of Lesvos, reiterated on Friday his support to the candidacy of Lesvos' Prefect Pavlos Vogiatzis for the post of the North Aegean Region head in the forthcoming local administration elections this fall.
Samaras met with local administration officials and business representatives in Mitilini, while he also toured the city's central market, before departing for the town of Kalloni.
 LAOS party briefed by EU-IMF inspectorsThe team of European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF inspectors currently in Greece on Friday briefed Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party Deputy President Georgios Georgiou and a delegation of LAOS MPs and MEPs on the course of the government's implementation of the Memorandum for the Greek bailout package.
 Retail sales turnover index down 1.2 pct in MayGreece's retail sales volume fell 7.3 pct in May this year, compared with the same month last year, after a decline of 14.5 pct recorded in May 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Friday.
The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development to a 19.6 pct drop in the volume of sales in clothing-footwear, a 14.8 pct decline in department stores, a 14.6 pct fall in fuel and lubricants, a 10.4 pct decline in furniture-electrical appliances, a 7.8 pct fall in pharmaceutical-cosmetics and a 3.9 pct decline in food stores.
The turnover index (current prices) eased 1.2 pct in May, after a decline of 13.9 pct recorded in May 2009.
 National Bank top primary dealer in Greek bond marketNational Bank ranked first among primary dealers in the Greek state bond market in the first half of 2010, the Bank of Greece said on Friday. In a report, the central bank said the top 10 primary dealers in the market were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, EFG Eurobank Ergasias, Alpha Bank, Deutsche Bank, ING Bank, Nomura Intl, HSBC Bank, Emporiki Bank and BNP Paribas.
 National Bank issues 1.5-bln-euro covered bondsNational Bank of Greece on Friday announced the completion of a covered bond issue, worth 1.5 billion euros, as part of a covered bond issue program totaling 15 billion euros. The new issue was three covered bonds worth 500 million euros each, of 5-, 7- and 9-years duration, carrying an ECB interest rate plus 1.70 pct, 2.0 pct and 2.3 pct, respectively.
The program is covered by the bank's mortgage loans in euros and foreign currency. The issues are rated Baa3 by Moody's Investors Service.
 Emporiki Bank reports improved income, losses in H1Emporiki Bank, a member of Credit Agricole Group, on Friday reported a 7.4 pct increase in its net income in the first half of the year to 368.4 million euros and said gross operating earnings grew 71 pct compared with the same period last year to 40 million euros.
The bank said its loan portfolio grew 2.0 pct in the January-June period to 23 billion euros, with loans to enterprises accounting for 50 pct of total portfolio. Higher net banking income reflecting a 30.4 pct rise in net income from interest to 315.2 million euros, while net banking income fell 4.8 pct burdened by a negative fluctuation of mark-to-market evaluation of its commercial portfolios, including mainly state securities.
Operating expenses fell 2.7 pct to 328.4 million euros in the first six months of the year. Emporiki Bank said net losses totaled 535.3 million euros, reflecting higher bad debt provisions and increased transformation expenses. Losses totaled 325.9 million euros in the second quarter of 2010.
Provisions rose 57.5 pct in the first half. Saving deposits fell 13.7 pct to 12.9 million euros, hit by a strong declining trend in the Greek banking market. Commission income fell 5.0 pct to 59 millon euros.
Commenting on the results, Alain Strub, vice-president of Emporiki Bank, said the bank managed to further improve its operating performance as a result of a commercial policy and cost-cutting measures.
 Eurobank Properties reports negative H1 resultsEurobank Properties on Friday reported a loss of 3.3 million euros in the first half of 2010, after profits of 25.9 million euros in the same period last year. The company attributed this negative development to lower evaluation of its real estate assets, reflecting adverse conditions in the commercial market this year, an extra tax charge of 4.4 million euros and lower interest revenues.
The company, however, said rent revenues grew 8.0 pct in the January-June period to 22.1 million euros and financial expenses fell 2.0 pct to 1.3 billion euros, resulting in an increase in operating earnings by 6.5 pct to 17.7 million euros and funds from operations falling by 21 pct.
Eurobank Properties said its share was trading at a discount of 47 pct in the Athens Stock Exchange.
 Stocks 5.75 pct up in the weekGreek stocks ended lower in the last trading session of the week in the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday, as investors took profits after a recent rally in the market. The composite index fell below the 1,700 level, ending at 1,681.98 points, off 1.55 pct. The index jumped 5.75 pct in the week, with July recording a 17.27 pct gain. Turnover was a low 90.212 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 2.32 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 0.27 pct and the Small Cap index ended 1.05 pct down. Industrial Products (2.22 pct) and Commerce (1.03 pct) scored gains, while Banks (3.24 pct) and Technology (3.07 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 94 to 76 with another 42 issues unchanged. Klonatex (12.50 pct), Loulis (12.34 pct) and Dionic (11.11 pct) were top gainers, while NEL (12.5 pct), Elmec Sport (9.09 pct) and Mouzakis (8.57 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.15%
Personal & Household: -0.71%
Raw Materials: -1.53%
Travel & Leisure: -1.46%
Food & Beverages: +0.20%
Financial Services: +0.78%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.83
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.21
HBC Coca Cola: 18.10
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.02
National Bank of Greece: 11.19
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.90
Bank of Piraeus: 5.07
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 24 million euros on Friday, of which 4 million were buy orders and the remaining 20 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 6.0 million euros. The Greek bond yielded 10.42 pct, up from 10.26 pct on Thursday.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.42 pct, the six-month rate 1.15 pct, the three-month 0.90 pct and the one-month rate 0.65 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.38 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover a low 45.381 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,650 contracts worth 35.870 million euros, with 24,098 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 17,272 contracts worth 9.511 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,953), followed by Eurobank (974), MIG (3,440), OTE (462), Piraeus Bank (1,305), Alpha Bank (1,314), Marfin Popular Bank (1,796), Hellenic Postbank (621) and ATEbank (1,715).
 Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.313
Pound sterling 0.841
Danish kroner 7.510
Swedish kroner 9.508
Japanese yen 113.52
Swiss franc 1.364
Norwegian kroner 8.004
Canadian dollar 1.356
Australian dollar 1.458
 Elderly couple dead in fire┴n elderly couple died late Thursday night in a fire that broke out in an apartment building in Thessaloniki, northern Greece. Firemen found the couple's charred bodies in a sixth floor apartment.
Ten fire engines with a 25 member crew rushed to the scene to put out the fire.
 Wildire on Samos partially containedA wildfire that broke out on the island of Samos, in the Kokkari region, on Wednesday night was reported as having been partially contained on Friday morning.
The fire broke out in five different spots in the area south of Kokkari, and spread quickly, fanned by high winds.
On Thursday night the fire was blazing in two large fronts at Kokkari and near the village of Mytilinaion, and firefighting forces on the ground continued efforts throughout the night to keep the flames from spreading to populated areas and to contain the two fronts.
The land forces were joined again by five water-dropping planes and six helicopters at first light of day, and firefighters hope to have fully contained the blaze by noon on Friday.
 School in Beslan named after teacher Yiannis KanidisA newly-built school in the North Ossetia town of Beslan in Russia, a region that made headlines in September 2004 when it became the target of a bloody terrorist attack, will be named after the 74-year-old teacher Yiannis Kanidis, the oldest of the hostages kept by the terrorists. A total of 350 people were killed in the Beslan school massacre, among them 155 small children.
Kanidis, an ethnic Greek, died during the Sept. 4, 2004 while trying to protecti the children, and the inauguration of the school named after him will take place on Sept. 6, 2010.
The project was co-financed by the governments of Greece and Norway. The school is designed to receive 200 pupils, 72 of them boarding pupils.
 Large cannabis plantation discovered in southern GreecePolice destroyed a large cannabis plantation on Friday discovered in a remote rural region in Mistras, Lakonia Prefecture, in southern Greece.
A total of 900 cannabis plants, between 1.5 and 3 meters tall, were uprooted by the authorities following a police stakeout since last Wednesday in the region.
A police investigation is underway to locate the cannabis growers.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe impasse between government and striking truck owners, the labour unions' recourse to the Council of State against the Memorandum and the new bill for the armed forces dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The requirements for promotions and the hierarchy in the Armed Forces changing".
APOGEVMATINI: "Everything changing for officers - The labour status in the Armed Forces aligns with the new retirement law".
AVGHI: "Memorandum, troika, government being taken to court".
AVRIANI: "The civil mobilisation was a farce - Government's clash with truck owners paralyzed the country".
CHORA: "They went to discuss but they were beaten by police".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Civil mobilisation a parody".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Lengthy deliberations and decisions on Friday".
ESTIA: "The state and the guilds - Who serves protectionism".
ETHNOS: "End to early retirement in Armed Forces".
IMERISSIA: "Employment minister Andreas Loverdos' new ultimatum to businesses that owe money to social security funds".
KATHIMERINI: "The truckers' strike turns into a thriller - The state mechanism unready to implement its decision for civil mobilisation".
LOGOS: "Truck owners' strike continues".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Agony perpetuated in the market after the impasse".
NIKI: "The reasons behind the harsh decision for civil mobilisation revealed".
RIZOSPASTIS: "We will not legitimise the blow against the people's political struggle".
TA NEA: "Marathon deliberations as gas stations run out of fuel".
TO VIMA: "The lorries' uprising".
VRADYNI: "Zero hour for the government -Explosive cocktail for the economy".
 President to continue Cyprus talks despite problemsNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias pointed out on Friday that, despite the problems in negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem and despite the fact that progress was far from satisfactory, the Greek Cypriot side would continue the negotiations in order to achieve a solution.
He also called on the people of Cyprus to continue supporting efforts for a just, viable and functional settlement, adding that unity was imperative in order to achieve this aim.
Speaking at an event organised in Panayia to honour the first President of the Republic, the late Archbishop Makarios III, and those who lost their lives in the 1974 coup d' etat and the Turkish invasion of the island, President Christofias referred to the life and work of Makarios III and noted that ''we bear the responsibility to vindicate Cyprus and our people, we bear the responsibility towards those who left and the younger generations to liberate and reunify our homeland.''
''I stress once again that the first step in this direction is unity on the home front because, as the tragedy of 1974 teaches us, we Cyprus also bear responsibility for the Cypriot tragedy,'' he said.
He also reiterated his ''promise to continue and intensify efforts to vindicate our people, for the return of the refugees to their ancestral homes, to vindicate our enclaved persons and the struggles of our dead heroes, to vindicate the relatives of the missing persons, who have been living a daily Calvary for the past 36 years, with the aim of their life being the determination of the fate of the loved ones.''
Referring to efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, President Christofias said that ''our policy for a solution is based on a comprehensive strategy,'' adding that ''we aim, through the development of specific initiatives, to achieve the cooperation of the various factors that can play a role in the solution of the Cyprus problem.''
President Christofias also mentioned the recent proposals submitted by the Greek Cypriot side, and expressed hope that ''they will give new impetus to the process.''
He explained that the Greek Cypriot side proposes linking the chapters of property, territorial readjustments and immigration, citizenship, foreigners and asylum, the delivery of Varosha to the UN so that the town can be restored and returned to its legitimate citizens, the restoration of Famagusta which is common cultural heritage, the opening of Famagusta port under EU auspices to the benefit of all parties, and an international conference when agreement on internal aspects is close with the participation of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the EU, the guarantor powers, the Republic of Cyprus and the two communities on the island.
''The solution of the Cyprus problem is a difficult aim to reach but it is a necessity, because through a solution will the future of the country and our people be secured,'' he said, adding that ''the basis of a solution is a bizonal bicommunal federation with political equality, as defined in relevant UN resolutions, for a single state with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international identity, a state which will secure the unity of the area, the people, the institutions and the economy.''
President Christofias assured that, ''despite the problems we are facing in the negotiations and despite the fact that progress achieved is not what we would have wished for, we will continue the negotiations to materialise the vision of the solution,'' adding that ''there is no other way to achieve a solution.''
He added that ''our positions and aims are clear and we know what we want, what we are pursuing, and we are working hard to achieve this.''
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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