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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-09-09

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

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

Thursday, 9 September 2010 Issue No: 3588

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM chairs wide meeting ahead of TIF
  • [02] PM's programme at TIF
  • [03] Gov't on economic crisis
  • [04] ND pans gov't reshuffle
  • [05] Greek FM reiterates support to G/c proposals concerning Cyprus talks
  • [06] Foreign minister arrives on Cyprus, underlines close Athens-Nicosia coordination
  • [07] Defence minister on new armaments programmes
  • [08] President Papoulias meets new deputy culture minister
  • [09] Road Safety bill tabled in parliamentary committee
  • [10] GDP down 3.7pect in Q2
  • [11] NBG CEO: Bank has no immediate takeover, merger plans
  • [12] FinMin addresses letters to ministers on memorandum's implementation
  • [13] Chryssohoidis: Dual goal of reducing prices and dialogue with market
  • [14] Deputy Energy Minister at EU informal meeting
  • [15] ADEDY urges mass turnout during Saturday's rally in Thessaloniki
  • [16] Local authority unions threaten labour action on election day
  • [17] Mobilisations by truck owners in Athens
  • [18] Iranian business delegation in Thessaloniki
  • [19] LAOS leader meets with KEDKE
  • [20] TCP will not attend Thessaloniki Fair events
  • [21] Exports to Russia up 30.99% in H1
  • [22] PPC union contests wage, bonus cuts
  • [23] Greek exports up 3.0% in H1
  • [24] Stocks end 1.96% lower
  • [25] Greek bond market closing report
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [28] New deputy health minister visits OAKA sports complex
  • [29] Armata 2010: Re-enactment of Naval Battle of Spetses
  • [30] NRC official visits GAEC
  • [31] Fire in Pikermi partially under control
  • [32] Albanian fugitive wanted in gang violence, armed robberies arrested
  • [33] Migrant smugglers arrested at Thessaloniki airport
  • [34] Large quantity of stolen jewelry siezed, three arrested
  • [35] Man dies in labour accident
  • [36] Greek women's national water polo team qualifies for European Championship final
  • [37] Fair on Thursday
  • [38] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [39] President determined to continue talks, irrespective of difficulties
  • [40] UN envoy hopes the Cypriot sides draw closer on property Politics

  • [01] PM chairs wide meeting ahead of TIF

    Prime minister George Papandreou chaired a wide meeting on Wednesday at the Interior Ministry, ahead of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) that opens Saturday evening with the traditional economic policy address by the premier.

    The meeting was attended by interior minister Yannis Ragoussis, government spokesman George Petalotis, finance minister George Papaconstantinou, culture and tourism minister Pavlos Geroulanos and foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas.

    Replying to press questions, Petalotis said the meeting was one of a planning group of the government's next steps, which will formulate -- together with the ministers and collective bodies -- and implement the government's policy.

    To another question, he said the group would be meeting regularly, while its composition each time would depend on the subjects on the agenda.

    Asked whether prime minister George Papandreou planned to be a candidate for UN secretary general next year, Petalotis said that "we have so much work to do, as the Greek government, and all this talk and speculation does not help the country".

    The new Cabinet, which was sworn in on Tuesday after a sweeping government reshuffle, will hold its first meeting on Friday.

    [02] PM's programme at TIF

    Prime Minister George Papandreou's programme in the framework of his visit to the 75th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) will begin with Thursday's meeting with representatives of local production and social agencies and will be concluded with the usual press conference at noon on Sunday.

    The new cabinet, as it was shaped after Tuesday's reshuffle, will convene for the first time on Friday. The meeting will be held at Thessaloniki's Port Authority at noon.

    Papandreou's programme will continue on Saturday with his participation in the inauguration ceremony at the TIF's administration building, in the morning and the meetings he will be having immediately afterwards with the boards and employee representatives of the TIF S.A. and HELEXPO companies.

    The prime minister will then visit the TIF's exhibition premises and in the evening he will be making an address at the "I. Vellidis" convention centre.

    Papandreou's presence in Thessaloniki, in the framework of this year's TIF, will be completed with the press conference at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

    [03] Gov't on economic crisis

    Optimism over future prospects was expressed by government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Wednesday, underlining that the economic crisis is not over and "the government is in a state of alert."

    Petalotis pointed out that "the country and the government are in a position that creates optimism because our goals are being met."

    Referring to the unemployment rate, he said that certain indexes will show improvement in 2011 and the situation will be much better in 2012. He added, however, that "unemploy-ment will continue to be recorded given the size of the economic crisis."

    "Those who have the illusion that the crisis is over, do not see things right," he stressed, adding that "the government seeks revenues with the less possible cost on society."

    [04] ND pans gov't reshuffle

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos on Wednesday ridiculed the previous day's government reshuffle, charging that ruling "PASOK apparently created new job positions".

    "These new jobs are not for the people but for the 48 ministers and deputy ministers who are already fighting over their vague portfolios. As for the people, they face unemployment, closed businesses, a high cost-of-living, reduced wages and pensions."

    [05] Greek FM reiterates support to G/c proposals concerning Cyprus talks

    NICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A.Viketos/CNA)

    Visiting Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas underlined on Wednesday Greece's support to the three-point package submitted by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias aiming at expediting the ongoing UN-led negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem.

    Droutsas who is visiting Cyprus, in his first trip abroad after his appointment Tuesday as the new chief of the Greek diplomacy, met Wednesday with his Cypriot counterpart Markos Kyprianou.

    The current phase of the negotiations for a settlement to the Cyprus problem was the top item in the meeting's agenda.

    ''The solution we desire and should pursue must be based on the European Union's principles and values with full respect to the EU acquis communautaire,'' Droutsas said in a joint press conference with Kyprianou, who praised Greece's support both to the efforts for a Cyprus settlement as well as Greece's contribution to the island's EU accession course.

    Reiterating his country's support to the three-point package submitted by President Christofias, Droutsas said ''these proposals are proposals of substance, proposals which show the direction we desire and are proposals which could take the negotiations to an important level and not proposals for communicational purposes.''

    According to the Greek FM, ''all EU partners have realized that President Christofias has once more shown that he is the one showing real dynamic and contributes to the Cyprus negotiations in a constructive way.''

    Replying to a question whether Cyprus and Greece have drafted other alternatives in case the UN-led talks break down, Droutsas said ''we all need to draw our attention and focus on the efforts underway.''

    ''I don't think it is time to look at other scenarios. I believe that we are in an important phase of the talks and we will focus on that. Greece and Cyprus will jointly draft a new strategy whenever necessary,'' he underlined.

    On his part, Kyprianou said he considers Droutsas' visit to Cyprus under his new capacity as ''very important, encouraging and honorary.''

    Referring to the Cyprus problem, Kyprianou reiterated the government's commitment to the efforts for the achievement of an agreed solution on the basis of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with one nationality, one sovereignty, one international personality and the relevant UN resolutions.

    ''And this we will try through the negotiations to achieve but there should be a response by the other side,'' Kyprianou added, pointing out Turkey's role in achieving progress.

    ''Turkey is not a mere spectator, an observer in the issues of the Cyprus problem, it is the creator of the problem and it is obliged to contribute to the solution of this problem,'' he added, pointing out that Turkey has a decisive role and say on the issues currently being discussed in the UN-led negotiations, mainly the chapter of property, while the chapter of territory and the issue of the Turkish illegal settles are pending, as well as the chapter of security.

    Kyprianou added that he reviewed with Droutsas the ways to further promote President Christofias' package aiming at expediting the UN-led talks.

    The package submitted by the Cypriot president provides for the a parallel discussions of property with the chapter of territory and the issue of the settlers, the return of the fenced-off city of Famagusta (Varosha) to the UN as mandated by UN Security Council resolution 550. The objective of the proposal is to restore the town and return it to its legitimate inhabitants, combined with the opening of the city's port for trade for the Turkish Cypriots, under EU supervision, as well as the restoration of the walled city of Famagusta (old part of the city). The third proposal provides for the convening of an international conference, once the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot side are within reach of an agreement on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem.

    ''We believe that this is a substantive proposal, a constructive one and will contribute to the expedition of the talks as well as to the efficiency of the process while the issue of Famagusta will contribute to the good climate but also will assist all other parameters,'' the Cypriot FM added.

    Kyprianou also said that the talks covered the Middle East and the new peace process that began recently.

    Peace talks began in September 2008 between President Christofias and former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. Talks continue now with Eroglu, who succeeded Talat in April this year.

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

    [06] Foreign minister arrives on Cyprus, underlines close Athens-Nicosia coordination

    NICOSIA (ANA-MPA - A. Viketos)

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas arrived at Cyprus' Larnaca airport on Wednesday afternoon, in his first visit abroad as head of Greece's foreign ministry. Previously serving as alternate foreign minister, with Prime Minister George Papandreou having kept the title of foreign minister for himself, Droutsas was made head of the ministry in a cabinet reshuffle on Monday night.

    In statements, he emphasised the symbolic significance of choosing Cyprus as his first visit abroad.

    Droutsas underlined that the Cyprus issue was a top priority for Greek foreign policy and that Greece will stand at the side of Cyprus and the Cypriot people.

    He also noted that his visit was a message of the unity and close coordination between Athens and Nicosia in pursuit of their common goal.

    The minister went on to point out that he had been born on Nicosia and had first-hand experience of tragedy of the 1974 Turkish at the age of five.

    "Cyprus is in my heart," he stated and promised that, as foreign minister of Greece, he would do everything possible for a solution to the Cyprus issue that will reunite the island.

    "The last wall in Europe must fall," he stressed.

    On Wednesday afternoon, Droutsas met also with the Cyprus House of Representative President Marios Garoyian and the heads of the political parties in the Cyprus Parliament.

    He is also due to meet President Christofias on Thursday.

    [07] Defence minister on new armaments programmes

    Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos termed as inaccurate what Daniel Cohn-Bendit, head of the Green Party, said in the European Parliament on Tuesday, while addressing the European Commission president, regarding negotiations between the Greek government and the French and German governments on new armaments programmes and indeed during August.

    Replying to relevant questions by the press on Wednesday, Venizelos said "it is very important for strong voices in support of Greece to exist in the European Parliament and it is equally imporatant that the EU's institutional bodies approach issues from more than one angles. However, the specific reference to negotiations of the Greek government with the French and German government on new armaments programmes and indeed during August is not accurate."

    Referring to the implementation of the memorandum, the minister clarified that it was not "connected neither directly nor indirectly, neither explicitly nor silently with the carrying out and even more so with the extension of armaments programmes."

    [08] President Papoulias meets new deputy culture minister

    Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister George Nikitiadis was received by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday. After the meeting, the deputy minister appeared hopeful about the prospects of the Greek tourism sector.'

    "The president asked me many questions. I consider that he was satisfied, especially with what is happening today in tourism and what we can do in days to come, and I expressed confidence that things will be better for our tourism next year, " he said.

    Nikitiadis noted as he was being met by Papoulias that Greek tourism had managed to withstand heavy blows during the previous summer, including tragic events and demonstrations and the trade union picketing Greek ports. He said the next year will be better since an effort was underway to correct bad practices and pay off the debts of the Greek tourism organisation GNTO.

    The deputy minister also informed President Papoulias about a meeting to take place next week on fighting violence in sports. Asked whether the sport portfolio will now be transferred to the health ministry, Nikitiadis said there was a political decision to do this but this needed to "be given legal and regulatory content".

    [09] Road Safety bill tabled in parliamentary committee

    Infrastructure, Transports and Networks minister Dimitris Reppas stressed that road safety is a top government priority, while presenting to a relevant parliamentary committee on Wednesday a bill that will create a National Road Safety Council and a Road Safety General Directorate.

    The bill also regulates issues concerning the supervision and improvement of the Vehicle Technical Inspection procedures, and contains provisions for the deregulation of the operation of auto service stations and fuel stations.

    Financial News

    [10] GDP down 3.7pect in Q2

    Greece's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by 3.7 percent in the 2nd quarter of 2010, according to provisional data on the quarterly national accounts released on Wednesday by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

    Available data indicate that in the 2nd quarter of 2010, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decreased by 3.7% in comparison with the 2nd quarter of 2009 and by 1.8% in comparison with the previous quarter.

    As already reported in the flash estimates release of 12 August 2010, since the 1st quarter of 2010, the estimation method of General Government transactions has changed, creating a break in the series between the respective quarters of 2009 and 2010. This affects the comparability of the 2009 and 2010 data, and thus the rate of change of GDP between the two years reported here should be treated with caution. This issue will be addressed by the end of the year, with the backwards revision of General Government data.

    Gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) decreased by 18.6% in comparison with the 2nd quarter of 2009. By asset, GFCF in dwellings decreased by 19.3%, in other machinery and equipment by 10.6%, in other construction by 27.0% and in transport equipment by 20.9%.

    Total final consumption expenditure, recorded a decrease of 5.1% in comparison with the 2nd quarter of 2009. General government consumption decreased by 8.4%, while private consumption recorded a decrease of 4.2%.

    The external trade deficit decreased by 28.1% contributing positively to the GDP percent change.

    Imports decreased by 13.5% in comparison with the 2nd quarter of 2009. Imports of goods decreased by 21.1% while imports of services increased by 11.4%.

    Exports decreased by 5.0% in comparison with the 2nd quarter of 2009. Exports of goods decreased by 2.3% while exports of services by 7.0%.

    As regards the production approach of GDP, total gross value added decreased by 6.3% in comparison with the 2nd quarter of 2009 and by 3.9% in comparison with the previous quarter.

    Increase in gross value added was recorded only in agriculture, forestry and fishing industry by 1.9%.

    On the other hand, the gross value added decreased in the other industries: manufacturing, mining, electricity, gas and water supply industry by 6.6%, construction industry by 24.7%, trade, hotels-restaurants, transport and communication industry by 10.8%, financial, real estate, renting and business activities industry by 2.7% and in other service activities industry by 1.2%.

    Compensation of employees, at current prices, decreased by 3.9% in comparison with the 2nd quarter of 2009.

    [11] NBG CEO: Bank has no immediate takeover, merger plans

    National Bank of Greece has no immediate plans for a takeover or merger with another bank, Apostolos Tamvakakis, the bank's chief executive emphasised on Wednesday.

    Speaking to banking and financial experts via a teleconference -- a day after the bank announced a 2.8-bln-euro capital increase plan -- Tamvakakis stressed there that the Greek economy does not face a risk of default, as a successful fiscal consolidation programme is currently under way.

    Speaking to the ANA-MPA, NBG executives said the main goal of the bank's capital raise plan was to open the interbank market during a difficult time for the country so that National Bank (and the Greek banking system in general) can boost its liquidity and begin offering capital to households and domestic businesses, thus aiding economic growth.

    National Bank has already successfully passed European stress tests and after completion of its noteworthy capital increase will rank amongst the top European banks. Bank chairman Vassilis Rapanos, noted on Tuesday that the capital plan was proof of an improving climate for NBG and for Greece and could become a milestone in the ongoing economic adjustment process of the country.

    Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs International, Morgan Stanley and Hellenic Postbank will be joint bookrunners of the issue.

    Finansbank stake sale

    Meanwhile, in an ANA-MPA dispatch from Ankara on Wednesday, Omer Arras, the chairman and chief executive officer of Finansbank confirmed that National Bank will sell a 20-pct stake in the Turkey-based bank to Turkish and foreign investors.

    Speaking to reporters, Arras said a part of National Bank's share capital increase -- through a share-offering arrangement -- will be used to raise Finansbank's capital, supporting the bank's growth in the direct future, he said, adding that following completion of the offering National Bank will control at least 75 pct of Finansbank.

    The Turkish banker said the plan's goal is to complete the sale by the end of the first quarter of 2011.

    [12] FinMin addresses letters to ministers on memorandum's implementation

    Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou has addressed, according to reports, letters to the government ministers who are involved in the memorandum's implementation.

    The minister reminds his colleagues of their obligations towards the memorandum and calls on them to filfill them regarding the control of expenditures, as well as the promotion of structural changes in their sectors of responsibility.

    In parallel, in other letters to all the members of the government, Papaconstantinou calls on them to submit their proposals on the 2011 budget by September 20, since the new budget's draft plan will be tabled in Parliament on October 4.

    Moreover, the troika's delegation will be coming to Athens again on September 13 to offer assistance for the preparation of the budget.

    [13] Chryssohoidis: Dual goal of reducing prices and dialogue with market

    Better controls on prices is the main target of the Regional Development and Competitiveness ministry, minister Michalis Chryssohoidis told a meeting of ministry employees on Wednesday.

    The goal, he added, is both reduction of prices and dialogue with the market. "We are determined to protect the citizens' income and launch a battle against excessive profit, profiteering and inflation. Through dialogue with the market, we will implement the legislation for the smooth operation of competition," the minister said.

    He said that ten years earlier the ministry had succeeded in reducing inflation, and the same was being aspired to today in the present conditions of crisis and reduction of the workers' incomes.

    "It is not only the working peoples' incomes and pensions that will be reduced, but also prices in order to achieve greater social justice and avert poverty among citizens," he added.

    [14] Deputy Energy Minister at EU informal meeting

    Deputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis stressed the need for safeguarding accessible prices and quality energy services for the vulnerable social groups at an informal Council of EU Energy Ministers that ended Tuesday in Brussels. On the sidelines of the Council, Maniatis met with the Turkish Energy Minister, whom he invited him to Athens in October.

    During the meeting, which focused on consumer protection, Maniatis noted that support is necessary for the consumers in order to face possible disputes with their suppliers. The meeting also discussed the course of energy infrastructures in the EU and energy efficiency.

    Maniatis supported the Belgian EU presidency's proposals on the development of strategic energy corridors in Europe "taking always into consideration each country's particularities and needs in order to support the further penetration of Renewable Energy Sources and to reinforce the inter-state electricity and natural gas trade, resulting in the development of healthy competition in the bottom line will benefit the consumers". In energy yield issue, Maniatis referred to his ministry relevant initiatives focusing on energy-efficient buildings.

    On the sidelines of the informal Council the Greek deputy minister had bilateral meetings with the Cyprus delegation and his Bulgarian and Italian counterparts on pipelines of common interest as well as with the Turkish Energy Minister, whom he invited to the forthcoming Energy Ministers Summit that will be held on October 12 in the coastal city of Nafplio (northeastern Peloponnese) within the framework of Greece's OSCE presidency.

    Finally he held talks with representatives of the Interbalkan natural gas pipeline TAP on the progress of the works and called on them to table to the Ministry's leadership a progress report on the outcome of their meetings to date.

    [15] ADEDY urges mass turnout during Saturday's rally in Thessaloniki

    In press conference on Wednesday, the head of the civil servants' union ADEDY Spiros Papaspiros presented the union's proposals for the economy and urged workers to join in a protest rally being organised by ADEDY in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Saturday, when Prime Minister George Papandreou visits the city to open the 75th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).

    He presented a letter sent by ADEDY to the prime minister and the political parties, criticising what it called "neoliberal policies that are demolishing labour entitlements and rights throughout Europe" and calling for the cancellation of the memorandum signed with the EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the bailout package for Greece in order to "protect, restore and expand rights".

    The union also demands a new national plan for the "productive restructuring of the economy" that makes rapid use of Community funds available through the National Strategic Reference Framework and "includes the conditions for steady growth and halting unemployment".

    ADEDY also decries attacks on public-sector workers as "biased and unfair" and stresses its opposition to further salary cuts.

    "As proved by the recent census, the alleged 1.5 million civil servants of rumour do not exist and there are only 390,000 civil servants (not counting the military and security forces) with a total payroll cost of 11.8 billion euros," ADEDY's president stressed.

    He also claimed that the salaries of Greece's civil servants were below the average for the EU27, while they were the worst paid public-sector staff in the Eurozone.

    "Ninety percent of civil servants at the end of 35 years does not receive more than 1,600 euros a month," he noted.

    Concerning workers in state-controlled or owned enterprises, such as the telecom company OTE and the Public Power Corporation, Papaspiros stressed that ADEDY will not consent to reductions in workers' salaries, individual work contracts and others.

    [16] Local authority unions threaten labour action on election day

    Municipal workers on Wednesday threatened to abstain from their tasks during the upcoming local government elections on November 2, unless the government promptly agrees to give them higher compensation for their services.

    The local authority workers' union federation POE-OTA said in an announcement that it had asked the interior ministry to increase the amount that municipal workers will receive as compensation and travel expenses, which was reduced from 365 euros to 295.50 euros as a result of the government spending cuts.

    According to the union federation, the current sum was insufficient for even travel costs.

    Local authority staff are those primarily used to help organise and supervise the election process and to relay results during elections.

    [17] Mobilisations by truck owners in Athens

    Owners of trucks and fuel trucks of public use carried out mechanised parades in downtown Athens on Wednesday, creating serious problems for traffic on a difficult day for traffic due to the work stoppage of public transport employees as well.

    They parked their vehicles to protest in this way the Infrastructures and Transport ministry's draft law on the deregulation of the road transportation of goods.

    [18] Iranian business delegation in Thessaloniki

    The president of the chamber of commerce of Iran's Zanjan province on Wednesday called for the creation of a Greek-Iranian chamber of commerce and database. Ibrahim Jamil made the proposal during a special event at the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    He headed up a 17-member delegation on the Thessaloniki visit.

    According to data provided by the Greek side for 2008, the total volume of trade between Greece and Iran totals two billion euros, of which 99.6 percent concerns oil imports, making Iran Greece's ninth biggest supplier.

    In the same year, the value of Greek exports to Iran reached a mere 8.2 million euros.

    [19] LAOS leader meets with KEDKE

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis met on Wednesday with the presidium of the Central Union of Communities and Municipalities of Greece (KEDKE), headed by its president, Athens mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, in the framework of his contacts ahead of the LAOS leader's address at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Kaklamanis expressed fear and concern over the Kallikratis plan, calling it a "shell" law since the relevant Presidential Decrees and regulatory decisions have not yet been issued.

    Describing the financial state of all the municipalities in the country as "dire", he noted the 1.5 billion euros cutback in the local governments' resources, adding that a further 3 billion euros will be cut in the new budget "by order of the troika".

    He warned that the above 4.5 billion euros being cut from the local governments' budgets will "financially strangle the country's municipalities".

    Karatzaferis, in turn, expressed fear that the Kallikratis plan will cause a 'stroke' to local governments as a result of financial problems, and that the 4.5 billion euros that the municipalities were being deprived of will be passed on to the already financially-burdened citizens through increases in municipal taxes

    [20] TCP will not attend Thessaloniki Fair events

    The Professional Chamber of Thessaloniki, in an announcement on Wednesday, stated that it will not attend the 75th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) inauguration or any of the events held on the sidelines of TIF scheduled from 11-19 September.

    "We will not be taking part in the fiesta" said the president of TPC Michalis Zorpidis "in protest of the government's policy".

    [21] Exports to Russia up 30.99% in H1

    Greek exports to Russia rose 30.99 pct, while imports dropped 52.24 pct in the first half of 2010, official figures revealed on Wednesday.

    According to a report by the Hellenic Statistical Authority regarding bilateral trade between Greece and the Russian Federation, Greek exports totaled 126.97 million euros in the January-June period, up from 96.93 million euros last year, while Russian exports to Greece dropped to 605.3 million euros from 1.26 billion euros over the same period, respectively.

    The volume of trade fell 46.32 pct to 732.8 million euros in the six-month period.

    The agency attributed the rise in Greek exports to higher exports of fur products, electrical appliances, fruit and fresh fish, while Russian exports to Greece dropped because of lower exports of crude oil.

    The trade balance between the two countries showed a deficit of 478.32 million euros in favour of Russia in the first half of the year, down 59.13 pct compared with the corresponding period last year.

    [22] PPC union contests wage, bonus cuts

    A union representing the Public Power Corp.'s (PPC) workforce on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Athens aimed to overturn wage cuts envisioned in a memorandum signed between the Greek government and the EU-ECB-IMF 'troika'.

    In an appeal to the Council of State (CoS), the country's highest administrative court, the GENOP-DEH union demands that the memorandum be declared invalid, terming it as unconstitutional. A lawsuit was also filed against the state for what the union claims are illegitimate wage cuts and abolition of the so-called 13th and 14th salaries.

    In addition, the union said it will take its case to the International Labour Organization (ILO), alleging "infringement and blatant violation of the collective work contracts."

    In an unrelated development, large enterprises that are PPC customers will soon have the opportunity to select money-saving alternative electricity rates through the new "Artemis" system, to be presented at the PPC's pavilion at Thessaloniki's International Trade Fair (TIF) on Sept. 11-21.

    [23] Greek exports up 3.0% in H1

    Greece's traditional trade partners are apparently recovering strongly, while new market targets are emerging, a report on Greek exports, compiled by the Panhellenic Federation of Exporters, stated on Wednesday.

    Presenting the report, which is based on figures for the first half of the year, Christina Sakellaridi, the president of the Federation said:

    "With the domestic market and the economy in recession, it is time to seek export opportunities," she said, adding that economic reforms currently underway should be accompanied by an "aggressive national export strategy directly linked with attracting foreign investments."

    Greek exports grew 3.0 pct in value in the January-June period to 7.384 billion euros, up from 7.167 billion euros last year, while imports fell 18.4 pct to 20.097 billion euros, down from 24.638 billion euros, respectively.

    The country's trade deficit shrank to 12.714 billion euros in the first half of 2010 -- down from 17.471 billion euros in 2009, a decline of 27.2 pct.

    Exports to OECD countries grew 2.8 pct, accounting for 57.8 pct of Greek export value. Exports rose 6.8 pct to EU countries, 1.5 pct to the Balkans, 22.5 pct to the Federation of Independent States, 8.4 pct to Middle East and North Africa, while exports fell 26.6 pct to North America, 31.1 pct to Africa and 21.1 pct to Latin America.

    Exports to Germany (8.4 pct) and the UK (51.4 pct) grew strongly, regaining significant market shares, while exports to Turkey rose 28.8 pct; 11.4 pct for Romania; 31 pct for Russia; 58.1 pct for the UAE and a whopping 55.8 pct for China. Exports fell 34.9 pct to the United States, 62.4 pct to Switzerland and 16 pct to Egypt.

    Major export products included manufacturing products (4.318 billion euros), agricultural products grew 1.0 pct, while fuel exports were stagnant and exports of raw materials jumped 16.3 pct.

    [24] Stocks end 1.96% lower

    Stocks ended lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, as a decision by National Bank to proceed with a share capital increase plan at a price lower than its current market price turned investors into sellers. The composite index fell 1.96 pct to 1,586.62 points, with turnover rising to 169.293 million euros. National Bank's share price fell 6.44 pct to 9.73 euros.

    The Big Cap index dropped 2.50 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.84 pct down and the Small Cap index fell 0.92 pct. The Raw Materials (2.23 pct) and Telecoms (0.87 pct) sectors scored gains, while Health (3.96 pct) and Banks (3.70 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 115 to 49 with another 41 issues unchanged. CPI (12.5 pct), VIS (9.78 pct) and Vivere (9.26 pct) were top gainers, while Avenir (19.7 pct), Attikat (11.54 pct) and Edrasi (11.11 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -5.52%

    Industrials: -1.14%

    Commercial: -0.94%

    Construction: -1.52%

    Media: -2.30%

    Oil & Gas: -0.74%

    Personal & Household: -0.63%

    Raw Materials: +2.23%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.41%

    Technology: -1.69%

    Telecoms: +0.87%

    Banks: -3.70%

    Food & Beverages: -1.03%

    Health: -3.96%

    Utilities: +0.07%

    Chemicals: -0.64%

    Financial Services: +0.07%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 5.20

    ATEbank: 1.03

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.00

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.30

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.05

    National Bank of Greece: 9.73

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.09

    OPAP: 11.98

    OTE: 5.79

    Bank of Piraeus: 4.00

    Titan: 15.50

    [25] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 78 million euros on Wednesday, of which 65 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 13 million were buy orders. The three-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 53 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 952 basis points, from 947 bps on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.82 pct and the German Bund 2.30 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.41 pct, the six-month rate 1.13 pct, the three-month rate 0.88 pct and the one-month rate 0.62 pct.

    [26] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.10 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 74.327 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 13,656 contracts worth 54.796 million euros, with 21,601 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 29,418 contracts worth 19.531 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (13,040), followed by Eurobank (2,282), MIG (1,011), OTE (957), Piraeus Bank (1,859), Alpha Bank (2,655), Mytilineos (792), Cyprus Bank (1,257), ATEbank (2,241) and Hellenic Postbank (832).

    [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.279

    Pound sterling 0.828

    Danish kroner 7.505

    Swedish kroner 9.345

    Japanese yen 107.26

    Swiss franc 1.294

    Norwegian kroner 7.944

    Canadian dollar 1.341

    Australian dollar 1.395

    General News

    [28] New deputy health minister visits OAKA sports complex

    The newly-created deputy minister for health, diet and physical exercise Christos Aidonis, who will also take over the portfolio for sports, on Wednesday paid his first visit to the 'Spyros Louis' Olympic Athletics Centre of Athens (OAKA).

    During the visit he was briefed on work underway to restore the OAKA stadium grass pitch and the overall state of the Olympic sports complex's facilities in Maroussi, as well as the action that must be taken in the short term to ensure they are running smoothly.

    The deputy minister said the main goal was the ability to organise the sports complex so as to give free access and the opportunity to exercise to the public, while developing the long-term viability of OAKA by promoting multiple activities and improving its financial position by collecting sums owed to it.

    [29] Armata 2010: Re-enactment of Naval Battle of Spetses

    The sinking of the Ottoman (Turkish) flagship in the Spetses Naval Battle on September 8, 1822 will be re-enacted in the Spetsian harbor on Wednesday evening, in the annual "Armata" anniversary celebration, combined with the celebration of the feast of the island's Panaghia Armata (the Virgin Mary of the Armata).

    Spetses is one of nine European cities participating in the European Network of Historical Reconstructions (re-enactments). In each of the participating cities -- Brussels (Belgium), Dublin and Cork (Ireland), Bailen (Spain), Slavkov (the Czech Republic), Tewkesbury (Britain), and Hydra and Spetses (Greece) -- the reproductions are considered historic events.

    The Battle of Spetses was fought on the night of September 8, 1822, during the Greek War of Independence, and is re-enacted on the same day each year on Spetses.

    On 8 September, 1822 the Ottoman navy set sail from Monemvasia to bring supplies to the Ottoman fortress of Palamidi in Nafplion, which at the time was under siege by the ground forces of Alexander Ypsilantis and the naval forces of Laskarina Bouboulina. The plan also included attacks on the rebelling Greek islands of Spetses and Hydra en route to Nafplion.

    As it neared the islets of Trikeri and Spetsopoula, the Ottoman navy faced the naval forces of the islands of Spetses, Hydra and Psara under the command of Andreas Miaoulis, who ordered the Greek navy to sails towards the Argolic Gulf and lure the Ottoman navy away from the islands. However, in fear of putting Spetses' security at risk, most of the ships' captains ignored Miaoulis' command and instead opened a direct attack against the Ottoman navy.

    The battle between the small Greek naval force and the huge Ottoman navy was fierce. Spetsiote captain Kosmas Barbatsis heroically manoeuvred his ship next to the Ottoman flagship and burned it down. Most of the Ottoman fleet was burnt or sunk in the battle, and the remaining Ottoman ships retreated. As a result, the Ottoman navy never reached Nafplion, which was liberated by the Greek freedom fighters two-and-a-half months later, on November 30.

    The re-enactment of the sinking of the Ottoman flagship is the climax in a week of cultural and other events commemorating the Battle of Spetses and celebrating the Panaghia Armata.

    The events conclude on Sunday.

    [30] NRC official visits GAEC

    US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) commissioner and former MIT professor Dr. George Apostolakis on Tuesday visited the Greek Atomic Energy Commission headquarters (GAEC).

    Accompanied by an NRC delegation, Apostolakis was given a tour of the GAEC laboratories and met with the Greek commission's president Dr. Christos Housiadas to discuss activation of a technical cooperation agreement signed between the two Commissions.

    The Greek side is interested in NRC technical assistance in the licensing process of the 'Democritus' National Research Center's research reactor which is currently undergoing a major upgrade.

    The two sides decided on the guidelines of the technical cooperation, the details of which will be finalised in the immediate future.

    [31] Fire in Pikermi partially under control

    A fire that broke out at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday near Marathonos Avenue in the Attica region of Pikermi was partially under control by 16:55 p.m., authorities said.

    The fire started near an ice-cream manufacturing plant and was burning regions of dried grass and trees. A number of homes situated nearby were not immediately under threat.

    Fifty fire-men and 18 vehicles, along with two water-bombing airplanes and a helicopter have been deployed to put out the blaze. This force will remain on the scene until the fire is fully extinguished.

    [32] Albanian fugitive wanted in gang violence, armed robberies arrested

    A 22-year-old Albanian national arrested on Monday in a Piraeus-area district is believed to be a member of an Albanian gang involved in a bloody turf war in the Greek capital two years ago as well as a perpetrator of numerous armed robberies of jewelry stores and break-ins of upscale residences in the greater Athens area.

    The man is suspected of participating in the robbery of nine jewelry stores, where merchandise worth 500,000 euros was taken, as well as in the burglary of six residences.

    Nine murders and at least 13 attempted homicides were attributed to the 2008 violence, which pitted mostly gangs of young Albanians nationals vying for slices for the drug trade in parts of central and west Athens.

    The suspect was arrested along with a Romanian woman, 22, in the Piraeus working-class district of Drapetsona after a brief car chase. He had reportedly ignored a police patrol's indication to stop for a routine traffic stop.

    Authorities found an assault rifle, a pistol, bullets, a bulletproof vest as well as 11,490 euros and US$4,300 in the vehicle, while a subsequent search of the couple's home revealed another assault rifle, three handguns, a large number of rounds, another bulletproof vest, suspected loot from previous robberies, cannabis and two precision scales.

    [33] Migrant smugglers arrested at Thessaloniki airport

    Two Polish nationals, 32 and 27, were arrested in Thessaloniki on migrant smuggling charges accused of assisting two illegal migrants from Afghanistan to travel abroad by plane using "Macedonia" International Airport, police announced on Wednesday.

    The 32-year-old used a city bus to transport the two Afghans to the airport where his 27-year-old accomplice was waiting with airline tickets.

    Police arrested the smugglers and the illegal migrants near the airport.

    [34] Large quantity of stolen jewelry siezed, three arrested

    Three persons, two men aged 28 and 57 and a 44 year-old woman were arrested by Athens Police officers on the 87th km of Athens-Lamia highway in an intercity bus for possessing a large quantity of stolen jewelry.

    Police, acting on a tip-off, located and confiscated 444 items of jewelry weighing 3.5 kilos.

    The suspects will be sent before the Athens prosecutor.

    [35] Man dies in labour accident

    A fatal labour accident occurred in Velvento in Kozani with a 36-year-old being the victim.

    According to an announcement by police, the man was working on a pole of the Public Power Corporation (DEH) when he came into contact with electric cables, resulting in his being electrocuted and losing his life.

    Sports

    [36] Greek women's national water polo team qualifies for European Championship final

    ZAGREB (ANA-MPA)

    The Greek women's national water polo team beat Italy 10-5 in a semifinal game of the European Championship here on Wednesday and qualified for Friday's final in which it will be playing against the winner of the second semifinal between European Champion Russia and Holland. The eight-minute intervals had the following results: 0-3, 2-4, 2-1, 1-2.

    Weather Forecast

    [37] Fair on Thursday

    Fair weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 15C and 35C. Fair in Athens, with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 20C to 34C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 19C to 30C.

    [38] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The new Cabinet's swearing-in a day earlier and efforts for the battered economy's recovery, press speculation over EU "messages" for additional austerity measures and VAT hikes, as well as National Bank's 2.8-billion-euro share capital increase, mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Reshuffle ... a jumble".

    APOGEVMATINI: "New ministers not aware of responsibilities".

    AVGHI: "Burning issues: Heating oil, VAT, inflation".

    CHORA: "Hospitals short of gauzes and medicines".

    ELEFTHEROS: "French Europarliament deputy Daniel Cohn-Bendit reveals: Greece promised to buy weapons in order to receive second tranche of (EU) loan".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Increase in heating oil sealed - Ministers have changed, but memorandum's predatory policy remains".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and EU preannounce harsher measures: It's is not enough, you have to pay more".

    ESTIA: "Musical chairs with ministries".

    ETHNOS: "Ministers' head-on collision with responsibilities - Government's balancing act restructured".

    IMERISSIA: "National Bank of Greece show of power - NGB's initiative opens up foreign bourses for listing of Greek companies".

    KATHIMERINI: "Reshuffle was Prime Minister George Papandreou's first step for new changes".

    LOGOS: "Three scenarios 'on the table' for VAT rates".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "100-metre hurdle race for new government - Development deficit, shortfall in revenues and bankruptcy scenarios".

    NIKI: "George makes U-turn to populist PASOK".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist Party (KKE) intervention in Parliament : Give 2004 Olympic buildings to the people".

    TA NEA: "What George (Papandreou) demands from his ministers after the reshuffle".

    TO VIMA: "Government's race for third tranche of loan".

    VRADYNI: "Recycling of old appliances - Prime minister mobilised ruling PASOK's grass roots ahead of new measures and local government elections".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [39] President determined to continue talks, irrespective of difficulties

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The President of the Republic Demetris Christofias has expressed his determination to continue the UN-led peace talks he is engaged with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, aiming at a solution of the Cyprus problem, irrespective of the difficulties he may have to face.

    The president described the property issue, currently under discussion, as difficult and complex and said that he is not willing to be the last President of the Republic of Cyprus before division.

    In statements to the press, here Wednesday, after the conclusion of the first all-day intensive meeting on the property issue between himself and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, the president said that the discussion is being held on the basis of the proposals submitted by the two sides on the property issue.

    "It is not an easy discussion, it is a very difficult issue, a very complex issue", President Christofias pointed out, adding that they will continue discussion during the next intensive meeting of the two leaders on Friday.

    Noting that he cannot accept the fait accompli in Cyprus, he said that a solution must be found which will respect the human rights of all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, bearing in mind the difficulties which have been created by the continuous Turkish occupation of Cyprus' northern territory.

    "We will continue the discussion, no matter how difficult it may be. There is no other option", President Christofias stressed.

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

    The Cyprus talks resumed in September 2008 between President Christofias and former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. Talks continue now with Eroglu, who succeeded Talat in April this year.

    [40] UN envoy hopes the Cypriot sides draw closer on property

    UN Secretary-General Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, hopes that the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides will reconcile their views and draw closer on the chapter of property, currently under discussion in the ongoing UN-led talks aiming at reuniting the island, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    In statements after the six-and-half-hour all-day talks between President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, Downer said the two leaders discussed ''to some great length'' the proposals they had submitted on the chapter of property, adding that they will continue the discussion on Friday.

    He said the two leaders and their teams continued their discussions over lunch.

    ''Naturally enough the day was devoted to discussing the proposals that have been put forward on the property issue and the leaders will now resume those discussions at 10 am on Friday to a full discussion again, along the format of the discussion that we had today,'' the UN envoy said in his statements.

    Asked about the UN's expectations, Downer clarified that the UN ''does not have a position at all'' on the proposals of the two sides.

    ''We are entirely neutral in terms of the proposals and working through the proposals is a challenge for the leaders and of course their two teams, to explain the proposals, to make sure that both sides understand their own proposals and look for ways to reconcile the two positions, that is the challenge they have. So we wouldn't offer you any commentary on the proposals, not surprisingly at all,'' he added.

    Asked if he believed that these two days will indicate the future of the talks, Downer said that a lot is written about what he is supposed to think. "Actually I always know best what I think,'' he noted.

    ''What I think - if I could reveal this to you - is that these are two important days. It is very helpful every so often to have this intensification of the talks,'' he said, recalling the ''good work'' done on Governance and Power-Sharing during the past intensive talks in March.

    ''Our hope is that on this very challenging chapter, the chapter on property and of course the other associated issues that you are familiar with, the territory issues and the like, it is our hope that the two leaders will be able to draw closer through this period. That is the point of the talks,'' he went on to say.

    Asked if after the first all-day meeting the two leaders have a common premise on which to discuss, Downer said ''inevitably there are differences and inevitably there are understandings'', noting that the two leaders proceed to the talks knowing the other side's positions.

    ''They obviously have a good idea of each other's positions and of course they have exchanged proposals,'' he said, refraining however from commenting on what the two leaders think or say about the other side's positions.

    Responding to a question whether he is optimistic from the first all-day meeting, Downer recommended patience until Friday.

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