|Monday, 11 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-09-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 10 September 2010 Issue No: 3589
 PM: northern Greece must become locomotive for growthMaking northern Greece a locomotive for growth was vital for Greece's national economy, Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed on Thursday after meeting with manufacturers and social bodies in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.
Stressing that the north could be come a developmental pole for the entire country, he also criticised what he called a mistaken attitude toward the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
"It is all about what Thessaloniki will get, what Athens will give, a miserly attitude concerning the distribution of the state pie, a corrosive debate," he said.
Papandreou said that the country was going through difficult times economically, struggling with recession, unemployment and business closures as well as long-term problems in the areas of health, education and tax evasion that had to be tackled in ways far removed from the old clientist political system.
Apart from the obligations arising from the memorandum for the bailout package for Greece, it was necessary to restructure the country through coordinated action, he added.
Answering the many critics of the memorandum and the bailout package, meanwhile, Papandreou pointed out that, without it, Greece would have been unable to pay wages and pensions.
Concerning the reforms in the Kallikratis plan that transferred power from central government to the regions, he said that its implementation would have multiple results.
 PM meets innovation agency representativesPrime Minister George Papandreou expressed his satisfaction over the signing of a memorandum by the "Alexandria Innovation Zone S.A." with research and innovative entrepreneurship agencies of Thessaloniki, in a meeting he had on Thursday with the Zone's presidernt E. Iakovou and representatives of the nine agencies that jointly signed the memorandum.
The memorandum was signed on Wednesday and was termed "a new starting point in Thessaloniki's effort to become a centre of innovation and entrepreneurship in the wider region of southeastern Europe."
Papandreou stressed that joint actions constitute a precondition for the success of such a difficult undertaking and pointed out that a medium-term operational plan must be prepared that will set measurable targets, in the framework set by the cooperation for innovation memorandum.
He placed special emphasis on the need for interactivity between the university and research foundations of Thessaloniki and the Zone to achieve, as he said, the promotion of the mobility of educational and research staff from countries of southeastern Europe as well.
 PM meets with local gov't candidates in ThessalonikiPrime Minister George Papandreou, in Thessaloniki as of Thursday afternoon on the occasion of the inauguration of the 75th International Trade Fair (TIF), attended a reception with the candidate backed by his ruling PASOK party for the central Macedonia regional authority, PASOK MP Markos Bolaris, as well as the party's candidate for Thessaloniki mayor, Yiannis Boutaris.
 General Secretariat to support PMs workPrime minister George Papandreou on Thursday decided to set up a General Secretariat to support his work, and designated up-to-now director of the ruling PASOK party's parliamentary group Regina Vartzeli as its secretary general.
Earlier, the government policy strategic planning committee held its second meeting at the interior ministry, attended by interior minister Yiannis Ragoussis, government spokesman George Petalotis, finance minister George Papaconstantinou, culture minister Pavlos Geroulanos, and Vartzeli.
The committee, which held its first session on Wednesday, will be holding regular meetings.
 Government on change in ministry responsibilities after reshuffleGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday denied that there would be delays in assigning the areas of responsibility of individual ministers and alternate ministers following the cabinet reshuffle, saying that this would be a matter of days.
While admitting that there had been such delays when Prime Minister George Papandreou had announced his first cabinet, Petalotis attributed these to the fact that the government had been new and that the structure of many ministries had been changed.
"There was a state mechanism that did not follow what had to be done. Now there is a state mechanism that truly operates as the government dictates both as a whole and for each minister individually. There are, of course, legal technical issues, in other words the presidential decrees that must be issues and processed by the relevant organs," he said speaking to Flash radio.
This process was now being carried out by the government general secretariat and should be completed in the space of a few days, Petalotis added.
Concerning specific portfolios, he left open the possibility that these might change hands, referring specifically to that for energy.
"For the time being, energy is where it is and is among the areas of responsibility for which there must be further processing," he said.
 Petalotis contradicts claims of high-cost governmentGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday refuted claims that the current government was "expensive", stressing that the reduction in operational running costs for the public sector in the past eight months was one billion euros less than the equivalent period in the previous year.
According to the spokesman, this meant that the government's efforts to reduce spending in the public sector over this period had led to "unprecedented savings" in the daily operating costs of the state, such as consumption spending, procurements, telephones, fuel, state vehicles, state grants, overtime and salaried committees.
 Greece, Bulgaria celebrate 130th anniversary of diplomatic relations with opening of new border crossingPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and his Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Parvanov on Thursday celebrated the 130th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries with the inauguration of the new Kyprinos-Ivaylovgrad border crossing in Evros.
"The opening of one more border crossing affirms our mutual will to upgrade our cooperation in our shared border areas. We wish to improve the infrastructures, strengthen the local economy and local tourism, in a particularly adverse economic conjuncture," Papoulias said at the ceremony, at which the Greek government was represented by government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos and deputy foreign minister Spyros Kouvelis and the Bulgarian government by the government vice-president and the ministers of foreign affairs and infrastructures.
Papoulias said he was deeply moved, as he himself had inaugurated the Ormenios-Svilengrad customs house in 1988, as foreign minister at the time.
He further said that the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline will be another significant step in the cooperation and allied ties uniting the two peoples.
Parvanov, in turn, described the ceremony as a celebration for the two peoples, stressing that "today we are not simply good friends, we are allies...Greece is among the top positions in trade relations, and is one of the largest investors in Bulgaria".
Two more border stations are due to be inaugurated soon at the Komotini-Kardzhali and Paranesti-Arda frontiers.
 FM winds up official visit to CyprusNICOSIA(ANA-MPA/CNA)
Greece's foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas, winding up an official visit to Cyprus, on Thursday issued a double appeal to Turkey to withdraw its occupation troops from the occupied northern part of the island republic and to agree to a proposal by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias for the return of the fenced-off city of Famagusta (Varosha) to its legitimate Greek Cypriot inhabitants.
Droutsas, who arrived in Cyprus on Wednesday on his first official visit abroad after being sworn in as foreign minister the previous day, met on Thursday with President Christofias and, in statements to the press afterwards, appealed to Turkey to contribute, with actions, to the Cyprus solution efforts.
A three-point package of proposals put forward by Christofias for expediting the UN-sponsored Cyprus reunification effort calls for a) the parallel discussions of the property issue with the chapter of territory and the issue of the settlers, b) the return of the fenced-off city of Famagusta (Varosha) to the UN as mandated by UN Security Council resolution 550 with the objective of restoring the town and returning 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), and c) 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.
"I assured President Christofias once again of the absolute support of Greece, the Greek government, to his efforts. These efforts are precious and have been acknowledged and appreciated by the international community, and by all our EU partners. The Republic of Cyprus has a voice, validity and credibility" Droutsas said after his talks with Christofias.
He also expressed Greece's support for the three-point package submitted by President Christofias. "These are substantive proposals, constructive ones and can contribute to finding a solution soon, a desired solution, based on UN resolutions, the EU principles and the European acquis communautaire. This is the solution, which is in the best interests of the all citizens of Cyprus," he added.
Droutsas called on the Turkish Cypriot community to show a constructive spirit at the negotiations, and on Turkey to take the necessary actions.
"I call on Turkey to withdraw its troops from Cyprus. The Cyprus issue is an issue of invasion and occupation, and this is something we do not forget and we stress in every direction. I call on Turkey to respond positively to proposals, such as the return of the Famagusta to its legitimate inhabitants," he said.
Droutsas further reaffirmed that the Cyprus issue remains a top priority for Greek foreign policy, and that Greece and Cyprus are together, united.
"Only if we stay united can we achieve our goals," the Greek foreign minister stressed.
 FM spokesman on efforts for Cyprus solutionThe proposal of Cyprus Republic President Demetris Christofias concerning the future of Varosha (a quarter in the occupied Cypriot city of Famagusta) and the seaport of Famagusta can provide considerable momentum to the negotiating process and create the preconditions that will boost Turkey's European prospect by opening new chapters, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday.
Referring to the visit to Cyprus by Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, he said that it was "very important", bearing a "strong symbolism", and added that its goal was substantive in a crucial conjuncture when good coordination is necessary before making the next steps.
"President Christofias' initiatives show the way to a solution for the Cyprus issue," he said.
"Any progress in the EU accession course for the neighbouring country (Turkey) is unthinkable if no progress is made in the Cyprus issue. If Turkey wants, according to official statements, to see a progress being made in the Cyprus issue now is the chance to prove it by responding to the proposal," he added.
Delavekouras pointed out that the messages (by Turkey) received so far are negative, adding that there is a "distance between rhetoric and deeds." He also reminded that Turkey has occupation troops on the island, stressing that the Cyprus problem is a problem of invasion and occupation.
As regards Greece's cooperation with Cyprus and Israel, he said that "forging closer relations with Israel is placed within the framework of a strategy we have adopted and we will continue to work toward deepening relations. We watch with satisfaction our relations flourish both bilaterally and internationally for the benefit of regional peace and stability".
He clarified that relations with Israel are not antagonistic to any other country and that they have their own foundations.
On the cooperation between Greek-American and Jewish organizations in the United States, he stated that it was an old practice, pointing out that their cooperation intensifies at their own initiative for their mutual benefit.
Referring to the referendum in Turkey, he said that it is a domestic issue and stressed that Greece expects from Turkey to be a steady neighbour with strong democratic institutions and European orientation engaged in making reforms.
He also underlined that Greece wants the EU to send a clear message to Turkey that its full EU accession will be the conclusion as soon as it meets its obligations.
 Greece: fYRoM sending 'mixed signals'Athens on Thursday cited what it called "mixed signals" by the leadership of the neighbouring former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), with a foreign ministry spokesman noting that "the latter must decide whether it truly desires good-neighbourly relations and a solution to the name issue."
Spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras reiterated that the Greek government will continue efforts to improve bilateral relations and to keep the neighbouring country's European prospects open.
"We have an invitation for a visit by (Greek FM) Dimitris Droutsas to Skopje, issued by his counterpart, yet a day earlier we have an interview by him (fYRoM Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki) criticising Greece," the spokesman pointed out, adding that "Mr. Milososki should clarify whether or not he wants good relations with Greece."
Continuing on the same subject, Delavekouras warned that such criticism and attacks "do not serve any purpose beyond radicalising and creating tension vis-a-vis the public opinion in fYRoM, something that makes achieving a solution difficult."
Speaking during a routine press briefing at the foreign ministry in Athens, the spokesman said there is no invitation on the tabled by the UN mediator for a meeting with Milososki or another diplomat on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, although the Greek foreign ministry leadership is seeking a meeting with mediator Matthew Nimetz in New York City, he added.
Asked about a possible meeting between the Greek and fYRoM prime ministers in New York, Delavekouras said no such meeting is scheduled, although such a possibility cannot be ruled out.
Queried by reporters over recent press reports claiming a newly submitted proposal by Nimetz, the spokesman flatly dismissed such reports, underlining that no such proposal has been tabled.
Additionally, Delavekouras said Athens requested and received clarifications by the US State Department regarding recent high-profile comments by the US ambassador in the former Yugoslav republic to Greece's north. The Greek spokesman said the State Department's position remains the same, namely, that Washington supports the ongoing negotiations within the UN framework by the two sides, whereas it will back any solution agreed to by Athens and Skopje.
In repeating Athens' standing positions on the "name issue", Delavekouras said the negotiations centre on a specific objective: determination of a final name for fYRoM, one clearly stipulated by UNSC resolutions and the (1995) interim agreement.
"Our country's position remains constant," he said.
Asked about references to the neighbouring country's identity and language in whatever previously tabled solutions, he emphasised that "these have been rejected and do not exist."
"The objective of the negotiations is to determine a final name for fYRoM, and the framework of the solution proposed by Greece, one that will lead to a solution, is a name with a geographic determinant, erga omnes," he stressed.
 Barroso on FYROM name issueBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso appealed to all sides to have a solution found to the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (fYRoM) name as soon as possible, following his meeting with fYRoM President Georgi Ivanov.
"Now is the time for decisions," Barroso stressed and, as he said, he sends a message of encouragement to the interested sides for a solultion to the issue of FYROM's name.
He also called "on all sides having influence to behave with a European spirit of compromise."
 FM spokesman on KosovoThe UN General Assembly draft resolution on Kosovo presented on Wednesday is an important development that corroborates the position and efforts made by Greece for a solution in Kosovo, one based on consensus procedures, a foreign ministry spokesman underlined on Thursday.
"Yesterday, the foundations were laid toward this direction and now we are in anticipation of next Monday's vote," spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras stressed.
Delavekouras reminded that Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas was first dignitary visit the region after the International Court ruling, in order to "underscore our vision for the European prospect of the western Balkans and the role the EU can play in the effort to solve the issue of Kosovo."
He also referred to recent contacts Prime Minister George Papandreou had with Serbian President Boris Tadic and to Wednesday's telephone communication between Droutsas and his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic, who is currently in New York.
"Serbia's European course is being reaffirmed, a fundamental element for a solution in Kosovo, Serbia, and the entire region. We will continue the efforts with our EU partners," Delavekouras concluded.
 LA.OS announces regional candidatesThe opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) announced on Thursday that high-profile MP Adonis Georgiadis will be the party's candidate in the Nov. 7 elections for the Attica regional authority -- one of 13 newly created administrative entities in the country, in place of the current 54 prefecture.
LA.OS founder and president George Karatzaferis also announced that party MP Asterios Rontoulis will run for the regional authority of Thessaly, in central Greece.
Moreover, the party will support independent candidate Nikos Papandreou for the Sterea Ellada (south-central continental Greece) regional authority; former New Democracy (ND) MP Spyros Spyrou for the Ionian Sea region; former prefect Babis Kokkinos in the South Aegean region and Ioannina Prefect Alekos Kachrimanis, who will be a candidate in Epirus region.
 Alavanos to run for Attica regional authorityFormer left-wing party leader Alekos Alavanos, who for years had led the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group before stepping aside for current leader Alexis Tsipras, on Thursday announced that he will run for election as Attica regional authority chief.
He said the local government elections were a unique opportunity for the Greek people to express their position of the social state and development and "against the Memorandum and a government that must leave as soon as possible".
Concerning developments within SYRIZA and the left-wing alliance's inability to select a common candidate, Alavanos said this could have been avoided if those involvement had acted on the basis of society's criteria rather than the criteria of individuals and groups.
Asked what he would consider a success in the local government elections, Alavanos conceded that the result may not be very good but added that "we are living in historic moments and no one can be absent".
Commenting on Alavanos' decision to run, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party - the largest group within SYRIZA - criticised the move as weakening the presence of the renewalist and radical left in the elections.
According to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the move was indicative of the impasse and bankruptcy of trying to "put a human face on capitalism and correct the things beyond correction".
 FM receives UNESCO Director-GeneralForeign Minister Dimitris Droutsas met on Thursday with the new Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, currently on a visit to Athens.
"We support with all our powers the efforts of the Republic of Cyprus aimed at making the international public opinion aware of the abandonment and looting of the cultural and religious heritage in the occupied territories," Droutsas commented following the meeting which was held just a few hours after he returned from Cyprus where he was on a two-day formal visit.
Droutsas reiterated that "the Cyprus problem in its core is a problem of invasion and occupation by Turkish troops," adding that "the cultural and religious heritage has been abandoned in the occupied territories of Cyprus and this priceless property is being looted and left to be destroyed by time."
Bokova is in Athens to attend the two-day international forum hosted by UNESCO Hellas aimed at promoting the equality of the sexes and the strategic role women can play in global development.
 Education minister meets UNESCO's general directorEducation Minister Anna Diamantopoulou met on Thursday with UNESCO's general director Irina Bokova in the framework of the latter's visit to Greece.
According to an announcement by the Education ministry, they discussed, among other things, the way with which UNESCO's role can be improved in international affairs, Greece's active participation in UNESCO's educational programmes with the aim of promoting cooperation among cultures, peace, the promotion of democratic values, sustainable development and the providing of education for all.
The minister presented the changes that have already begun in the sector of education with emphasis on Educational Priority Zones and the Environmental Education Centres, while also stressing the increasing participation of Greek schools in UNESCO's programmes.
 Protopapas to replace Rovlias in Parliament's structured bonds probeRuling PASOK MP Christos Protopapas was elected on Thursday to replace MP Dinos Rovlias as the new head of a Parliamentary committee investigating the structured bonds scandal, after Rovlias was made deputy minister for development.
Protopapas was elected with the support of independent MP Nikos Tsoukalis.
During testimony on Thursday, the committee heard the former head of the Police Officers Support Fund Anastasios Dimoschakis admit that he had approved an investment of six million euros in overpriced structured bonds, with guaranteed returns of 50 percent plus the original capital in 20 years.
According to PASOK MPs, simply depositing the same amount in the Bank of Greece at that time would give annual returns of 3.7 percent, or a total return on investment of 85 percent.
Dimoschakis apparently informed both of the labour ministry and the Bank of Greece of the planned investment but had received no reply. PASOK MPs claimed that both the fund's financial advisor National Bank of Greece, which had a government-appointed leadership, and government officials at that time appeared to encourage the purchase of the structured bonds by funds.
 Schools opening throughout country on MondayEducation Minister Anna Diamantopoulou said during a press conference on Thursday that 15,000 schools will be opening throughout the country on Monday, with 1,350,000 pupils and 160,000 teachers.
"The 'Cassandras' made additions and subtractions and reached the conclusion that 20,000 teachers will be missing. And the situation would be like this if we had left things to the 'automatic pilot'. The ministry's moves began last November with legislative arrangements, with rationalisation in the placings of teachers, the return of 5,000 accredited teachers was scheduled, while we made continuous checks to avert the appearance of fictitious numbers of pupils and teachers," the minister stressed.
 Gov't announces establishment of social economy fundLabour and Social Insurance Minister Louka Katseli, speaking in Thessaloniki on Thursday, announced the establishment of a social economy fund, most likely before the end of the year, to be financed with 100 million euros from the European Social Fund (ESF) and private resources. The fund will finance actions that serve social purposes and entrepreneurship.
Katseli also stated that by November those eligible will be able to utilize the new "Entrepreneurship Fund" to be financed with 450 million euros from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) 2007-2013 and an equal contribution by financial institutions.
In addition, the cultural entrepreneurship fund will be activated as of October financed with 40 million euros.
 Heavy penalties for money laundering, tax evasionThe Finance Ministry has sent a circular to all tax offices, audit centers and the SDOE financial crimes corps specifying heavy penalties and audits, as provided under the legislation on money laundering, for businesses that repeatedly do not issue receipts, that have overdue debts to the state of more than 120,000 euros, that issue fake invoices, and for taxpayers who have not submitted income tax statements resulting in evasion of taxes of over 15,000 euros.
Thus, the above categories of businesses and tax payers will be audited for money laundering, and if such arises, the confidentiality of their bank accounts, tax history and stockmarket transactions will be lifted and the transgressing parties will face imprisonment of up to 10 years.
The circular lists the specific violations of legislation that will lead to inspections by the Committee for Combating the Legalisation of Revenues from Criminal Activities (money-laundering watchdog), which include failure to issue or the issue of inaccurate tax documentation (receipts, invoices, etc.), non-payment of overdue debts to the state that exceed 120,000 euros, non-submission of or submission of inaccurate income tax statement for undeclared incomes of which the corresponding tax exceeds 15,000 euros, non-payment or inaccurate payment of VAT and other withheld taxes that exceed 3,000 euros annually, the issue or acceptance of fake invoices regardless of value, and illicit trade and contraband.
 Greece falls to 83rd place in global competitiveness report, WEFGreece fell to the 83rd place in the global competitiveness index of the World Economic Forum this year, down from 71st in 2009, reflecting a worsening of the macro-economic environment in the country.
A WEF report stated that the worsening macro-economic environment combined with the "poor" operation of institutions and low-market efficiency pushed Greece lower in the global competitiveness list, at the bottom of the list amongst EU-27 states.
Greece ranked 84th in institutions, 42nd in infrastructure, 123rd in macro-economic environment, 40th in health and education, 42nd in higher education, 94th in market efficiency, 93rd in financial market development, 46th in technological readiness, 39th in market size, 74th in the specialisation of enterprises and 79th in innovation.
Switzerland remained at the top of the global list, followed by Sweden (up from fourth in 2009), Singapore, the United States (down from second place last year) and Germany (up from sixth in 2009).
 Home photovoltaics programme extended; criticism against ministry for failing to implement lawsThe government on Thursday announced a decision to modify and extend a special programme for installing photovoltaic systems on buildings, which can now be installed not just on roofs but on other building features, while it has also been made open to public-sector organisations and non-profit private sector organisations such as schools and hospitals.
Under the new rules, photovoltaic systems in the programme can now also be installed on building facades, shading structures for verandahs and detached buildings like garages and sheds.
The decision was made by the ministries of finance and environment, energy and climate change and applies throughout Greece.
In the meantime, the Association of Photovoltaics Companies issued an announcement that asks the environment ministry to finally start implementing the decisions and circulars envisaged in the new law on renewable energy sources.
The association said the ministry needed to issue ministerial decisions concerning the amount investors must deposit as a guarantee and decide on the proportion of the various renewable energy technologies (wind power, photovoltaics, etc) that the ministry wants to have. Also pending is a circular to regional authorities concerning the way the issue of certificates of exemption from 'environmental terms approval'.
"The non-implementation of the dictates of the laws in the RES bill by the same ministry that drew them up have brought the market in photovoltaics to a standstill, investors to despair and the services of the Public Power Corporation charged with examining applications to a dead end," the association stressed.
 Iranian business delegation in AthensRepresentatives of 25 Greek businesses met on Thursday with members of a chamber delegation from the Iranian province of Zanjan during their presence at the Athens Trade and Industry Chamber.
The Iranian businessmen referred to investment prospects in their country and sectors for joint trade relations -- just as foodstuffs, construction and petrochemicals.
The Iranians also cited specific obstacles to trade, such as restrictions on transactions with US dollars and the euro due to international sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme.
 Industrial production down 8.6 pct in JulyGreece's general industrial production index dropped 8.6 pct in July this year, compared with the same month in 2009, after a 10.2-pct decline recorded in the previous 12-month period, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics agency, in a report, said the average industrial production index was down 6.3 pct in the January-July 2010 period, after a decline of 10.3 pct recorded in the corresponding period in 2009.
The agency, attributed the 8.6-pct drop in the index to a 16-pct fall in mining production, a 9.3-pct decline in manufacturing production (9.3 pct in food, 23.8 pct in textiles, 20.7 pct in clothing, 29.6 pct in furniture and 43.7 pct in machinery and equipment), a 6.0-pct drop in electricity and a 0.1-pct rise in water production.
 Greek exports edge up in JulyGreek exports edged higher in July, while imports continued their plunge, reflecting shrinking private consumption in the country.
The Hellenic Statistical Authority, in a report published on Thursday, said the value of import-arrivals dropped 30.9 pct in July to 3.030 billion euros, from 4.385 billion euros in July 2009, while the value of export-deliveries rose 0.03 pct to 1.325 billion euros, from 1.325 billion euros last year.
 Wholesale turnover index off 2.1 pct in Q2Greece's wholesale turnover index fell 2.1 pct in the second quarter of 2010, compared with the same period last year, after a decline of 14.9 pct recorded in 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics agency, in a report, said the wholesale turnover index was up 2.0 pct in the second quarter, from the first quarter of 2010, after an increase of 9.5 pct recorded last year.
 ASE launches roadshow in LondonThe Athens Stock Exchange launched its fifth annual roadshow in London on Thursday with the participation of 26 significant Greek-listed enterprises.
The roadshow, held at the facilities of Bloomberg TV station, focuses on establishing direct contact between Greek enterprises and foreign investment firms, ASE's president Spyros Kapralos said, adding that this year's event will have around 700 meetings.
Kapralos underlined the presence of all major funds, such as Capital and Fidelity, whose high-ranking executives met with government officials and Greek businessmen.
Speaking to reporters, Kapralos referred to efforts made by ASE to modernize its operations towards converging with other advanced countries of Europe. This effort includes significant regulatory changes, such as in the settlement and clearing sector, to satisfy demands by foreign investment firms. He noted that foreign investors were mainly interested on the country's macro-economic developments and were awaiting to see how the crisis would develop.
He underlined the importance of the Greek capital market remaining among developed markets and the need to restructuring the Athens Stock Exchange by saying it would be better to have a smaller market with less enterprises and a proper market.
 Stocks end 1.53% higherStrong buying interest for bank shares supported a recovery in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday after two days of decline. The composite index of the market rose 1.53 pct to end at 1,610.83 points, with turnover at 105.111 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 1.75 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.79 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.45 pct. The Commerce (2.67 pct) and Telecoms (2.42 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while media (1.46 pct) and Oil (1.22 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers and decliners were equally distributed (85 each) with another 49 issues unchanged.
Klonatex (16.67 pct), Taxapret (9.09 pct) and Unibios (9.09 pct) were top gainers, while Hol (20 pct), Avenir (18.87 pct) and Attikat (17.39 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.22%
Personal & Household: +1.28%
Raw Materials: +1.23%
Travel & Leisure: +1.90%
Food & Beverages: +1.01%
Financial Services: -0.56%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and DEH.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.58
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.94
HBC Coca Cola: 19.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.95
National Bank of Greece: 9.68
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.36
Bank of Piraeus: 4.06
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 71 million euros on Thursday, of which 52 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 19 million were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 15 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 939 basis points from 952 bps on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.71 pct and the German Bund 2.32 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.
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.62 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 60.832 million euros. Volume in the Big Cap index index totaled 8,587 contracts worth 40.163 million euros, with 21,756 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 21,887 contracts worth 20.669 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,269), followed by Eurobank (2,445), MIG (1,205), OTE (4,355), OPAP (850), Piraeus Bank (979), Alpha Bank (2,201), Cyprus Bank (532) and Hellenic Postbank (369).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.281
Pound sterling 0.832
Danish kroner 7.505
Swedish kroner 9.322
Japanese yen 107.31
Swiss franc 1.296
Norwegian kroner 7.935
Canadian dollar 1.323
Australian dollar 1.386
 The ancient quarries of ThassosThe remnants of history, and nature itself, despite changes affected with the passage of time, bear undeniable witness to a place's past glory, prosperity and geostrategic importance.
Such is the case of the remains of the ancient marble quarries and surrounding area of unparalleled beauty of Alyki on the island of Thassos.
The quarries, abandoned for centuries, attest to the island's position as an important settlement and trading center in antiquity and to its rich history of marble quarrying and precious minerals mining.
The ancient quarry at Alyki, but also the modern-day marble quarries on the southeastern coastal area of the island are an important piece of the local history, where visitors can also see traces of the ancient, but advanced, quarrying methods of yore.
 New Metropolitan of RethymnoBishop Evgenios of Knossos was on Thursday elected as the new Metropolitan of Rethymno and Avlopotamos, to replace the deceased Metropolitan Anthimos.
Evegenios was elected unanimously by the Holy Provincial Synod of the Church of Crete.
 Bank robbers make off with 471,000 euros on RhodesTwo armed robbers made off with 471,000 euros after holding up a cooperative bank on the island of Rhodes on Thursday morning.
Two men, wearing crash helmets and sunglasses, stormed into a branch of the Dodecanese Cooperative Bank in the city of Rhodes just after it opened on Thursday morning and at gunpoint forced the director and staff to hand over the contents of the bank's vault.
The robbers placed the money into a bag and fled on a stolen motorcycle, which was later found abandoned in another part of the city. The motorcycle had been stolen a few days earlier on Rhodes, and its owner had reported the theft to the police.
A manhunt is underway to locate the robbers.
The bank director was later rushed to hospital in a state of shock.
 Foreign national arrested for migrant-smugglingAn Austrian man has been arrested in Ladochori, Thesprotia prefecture for smuggling three Afghan illegal immigrants into Greece in his car, Greek authorities announced on Thursday.
The four were caught during a police inspection when the migrants presented fake travel documents. Cross-checking the vehicle license plates, meanwhile, police found that these had been stolen in Athens on August 19.
Authorities also announced the arrest in the port city of Igoumenitsa in northwestern Greece of a two Greeks transporting a illegal immigrant to the city of Arta for a fee.
The migrant smugglers and illegal immigrants will be led before a Thesprotia public prosecutor.
Authorities in Epirus have reported the arrest of 86 Albanian illegal immigrants in the last 24 hours, all of which have been deported back to Albania via the Kakavia border crossing.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 14C and 33C. Slightly cloudy with possible rain at night in Athens, with northerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 19C to 32C. Cloudy with local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 19C to 28C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe Interior Ministry's new role as a "directorate" that will have the responsibility of the government's political planning and Prime Minister George Papandreou's decision not to include government vice president Theodoros Pangalos in the team, the first meeting of the new Cabinet on Friday in Thessaloniki ahead of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) inauguration and Greek Statistical Authority report of a further decrease of GDP in the second quarter of 2010, the government's decisions on tax evasion, the changes and transfers in prefectures and municipalities arising from the "Kallikratis" local administration reform plan, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Theodoros Pangalos put on the sidelines".
APOGEVMATINI: "Greece sinks deeper in recession".
AVGHI: "Synaspismos supports candidacy of lawyer Alexis Mitropoulos, who specialises in labor issues, for Attica region in local government elections".
AVRIANI: "Former PASOK government prime minister Costas Simitis' secret loans send us full speed ahead to bankruptcy".
CHORA: "He (Papandreou) left out Pangalos and named Ragoussis as coordinator of the government's policy".
ELEFTHEROS: "Shocking statement by the head of Eurostat Walter Radermacher - Papandreou is hiding the truth from us about the deficits and the debt".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Papandreou kicked out Pangalos from the new leadership group".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Bureaucracy keeps 15 billion euros intended to support enterprises' liquidity 'blocked' on the Finance Ministry's shelves".
ETHNOS: "Final countdown for 3,000 transfers of employees working in prefectures".
IMERISSIA: "Domino of reversals in the banking map".
KATHIMERINI: "Papandreou establishes a directorate'.
LOGOS: "Greek economy deep in recession".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou's recommendation to new and old ministers to follow the Memorandum to the letter".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Joint action for development that will satisfy the popular needs the only road".
TA NEA: "Finance Ministry considers new incentives to support the ailing car market".
TO VIMA: "Tax evasion will be considered organised crime".
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