|Tuesday, 26 May 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-10-01
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 1 October 2010 Issue No: 3607
 PM: Boosting development, major reforms up nextPrime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday referred to the country's economic course, the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party's stance, a draft bill envisioning the irrevocable settlement of outstanding tax obligations as well as high-profile and damaging mobilisations in the road freight sector.
Speaking to reporters at Maximos Mansion, Papandreou underlined that "we have met our obligations by doing everything we have said we'll do," pointing out that "we are on the right track, a fact that is being recognised internationally, and the country is regaining its credibility."
He pointed out that "a different Greece from what we have known so far is emerging, despite the protests and the pain from the sacrifices made ... we know that the measures taken were of temporary use, adopted in order to deal with the crisis. Now, we are moving on to boost development and proceed with major structural reforms."
The PM stressed that "the government was expecting a broader consensus from the opposition parties which has not been the case," adding that "we have the society's consensus."
As regards the position expressed by main opposition New Democracy (ND) president Antonis Samaras, namely, that the deficit could be eliminated in 2011, Papandreou countered that "he should have given us his formula and presented his proposals six months ago, so that our problems would be solved."
Responding to a question on whether former PASOK premier Costas Simitis will testify before a separate parliamentary committee probing the Siemens bribery scandal, Papandreou stated that "we have said that everything will be brought to light."
On the irrevocable settlement of outstanding tax cases, a measure that has been criticised as unfair to law-abiding and conscientious taxpayers, he justified those who are against it, adding that this is the last time that such a measure will be implemented, considering that the new tax system puts an end to such practices.
As regards the protests against the liberalising of the road freight sector, Papandreou attributed the ongoing opposition to the relevant legislation by "closed-shop" interests. He stressed that the so-called "closed professions" will be opened to ensure more job positions.
Commenting on the role of his advisors, such as former European Central Bank vice-president Lucas Papademos and Italian banker and economist Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, the Greek PM stated that "they have their views, but the fact that they are advisors does not mean that they make decisions."
Finally, in response to a question related to a "Financial Times" article co-signed by Schioppa, he said the advisor never spoke of default.
 Government text on its first year"We did in a year, what was not done for years" is the title of a text publicised by the government and which outlines the government's work a year after the national elections in October 2009, while the introduction to the text underlines, among other things, the statement by Prime Minister George Papandreou at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on 12 September this year that "the major task of Greece's reshaping has already started. The revolution of the self evident has begun."
In another point of the introduction a relevant statement by the prime minister is quoted saying that "if a year ago the dilemma for Greece was either we change or we sink, and then we changed course and we did not sink (and) we achieved what appeared to be unattainable, today after avoiding the worse, but of course with the crisis always here, the dilemma takes on a new dimension: either we change Greece or we condemn Greece."
The text's introduction ends with the prime minister's words that "and even if mistakes were made, we did not make the great mistake: to remain inert before the developments, to let Greece decline even more, for established conceptions and practices to soar. We lifted sleeves and we shall continue in this way. And we are still at the beginning."
 ND leader criticises PM over statements on economyMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras criticised Prime Minister George Papandreou for what he said in a meeting with journalists at the Maximos Mansion at noon on Thursday.
Addressing deputies and cadres of the Attica basin, the ND leader termed Papandreou's statements, in which the latter criticised the ND for the present state of the economy, "inconceivable", stressing that the spreads increased from 130 units to 1000 during PASOK's governance.
"Someone should tell Papandreou that the reason the spreads are at these levels at present is that the economic policy he is following is being disputed," Samaras said.
As regards the prime minister's commitment that he will go ahead with a factfinding commission for the economy, Samaras replied that he has no objection, but requested that the probe begin from 1981.
"We shall not place a barbed wire of time. Greece was not founded in 2004, nor did it end in 2009. Greece existed both before and after," Samaras stressed.
The ND leader accused the ruling PASOK party of being unable to govern without factfinding commissions since, as he said, it needs a permanent disorientation of public opinion.
 Former Athens airport will become park, PM promisesPrime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday dismissed reports that the old airport at Helliniko would be handed over to Qatar to build a casino, stressing that the site of the former airport would become "the biggest and best" metropolitan park in Europe.
The premier made the statement during talks with political reporters at the Maximos Mansion on Thursday to mark the first year of PASOK's government since its election on October 4, 2009.
Papandreou categorically denied that Qatar had asked to build a casino at Elliniko, noting that they "do not have any problem for an immediate return on their investment" since they had a fund with roughly one trillion dollars to invest.
He also stressed that the Greek side had laid down terms for carrying out the investment that Qatar had accepted and that did not include the building of a casino.
The premier clarified, however, that within the envisaged park there would also be provision for other types of activities, such as sports or higher-level education.
"If it is only parkland this will create a dangerous 'forbidden zone' and ghetto, which we cannot allow to happen," Papandreou added.
In response to questions, he strenuously denied the prospect that fast-track procedures would lead to environmental regulations being violated, stressing that fast track was to speed up procedures not violate basic principles.
On economic issues, Papandreou said that a Parliamentary inquiry into the problems of the Greek economy, due to be set up before the end of the year, would also examine the role of international credit rating agencies in generating the Greek problem, as well as the role played by Goldman Sachs before Greece joined the euro in 2001. He ruled out all prospect of an investigation reaching as far back as 1981 when PASOK first came to power, however.
"We are not going to write a history book," he underlined to reporters.
Regarding plans for mergers between Greek banks, Papandreou confirmed that there would definitely at least one "state pillar" and possibly even a second but refused to go into further details. He also stressed that this was not an issue pertaining to the Memorandum and therefore the EU-ECB-IMF experts would not have any say over it.
Asked about the much-criticised bill for settling outstanding tax cases, which received only reluctant support and strong criticism from even ruling PASOK MPs, Papandreou asserted that the current tax law was essentially "non-existent" since it was not implemented. He stressed that Greece must now look to a new taxation system where the concept of an "unchecked case" did not exist.
"Inspections will be conducted randomly and exhaustively, where violations are found there will be extremely severe penalties and all cases will close within the same year and not be transferred to the next year," he said.
This was very different to the old system that assumed all tax-payers were crooked and kept them 'hostage' for 10 years, Papandreou added.
The prime minister also promised that the government would place great emphasis on boosting employment during 2011. He clarified that wages could only be increased if tax evasion was drastically reduced and the Greek economy was doing better but did not rule out a reduction in taxes.
Concerning the upcoming local government elections, Papandreou said the government would put great emphasis on supporting the Kallikratis plan and urged people to vote for those supporting the new institution, stressing that it would not be properly implemented otherwise.
He pointed out that those voting 'against the memorandum' would end up saddled with whoever they voted for afterward and also pointed out that the result would be watched abroad not just at home, as an indicator of whether Greeks supported the reforms underway and whether the country would have a good course.
 Papandreou on Christofias' reported statements in D.C.Prime Minister George Papandreou was asked on Thursday about recent statements reportedly attributed to Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias this past week during an address in Washington, particularly references to events leading up to the July 1974 Turkish invasion of the island republic following an earlier coup against then Cyprus president Makarios.
Asked about the alleged reference to "two invasions", Papandreou merely noted that this claim is a well-known position by Christofias' AKEL party.
"... Greece has its responsibilities for the invasion, but the Greek people do not. The 1974 invasion was a Turkish one, one which evolved into occupation, which remains to this day; the responsibilities are exclusively Turkish ones for this."
 New Ministers swearing in at presidential mansionÔhe swearing-in ceremony of the new Deputy Interior, Decentralisation and e-governance Minister George Petalotis, Minister of Marine issues, Islands and Fishing Yannis Diamantidis and Deputy Minister of Marine Issues, Islands and Fishing Elpida Tsouri, was held on Thursday in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister George Papandreou at the presidential mansion.
The ceremony was officiated by Metropolitan Damaskinos of Velestino.
After the conclusion of the ceremony, Papoulias and Papandreou had a one hour meeting.
Leaving the mansion the new Minister of Marine Issues Yannis Diamantidis emphasised the huge responsibilities of his ministry and reassured that "We will work hard all together in the ministry".
The minister and deputy ministers had not been sworn-in with the rest of the Cabinet after the recent reshuffle pending the signing of the relevant Presidential decrees officially creating their posts.
 FM addesses World Affairs Council in LANEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The government has proven its determination to face the crisis, and deep and extensive reforms have been made in a short period of time, Greece's foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas stressed on Wednesday, addressing the World Affairs Council international relations forum in Los Angeles (California).
Droutsas briefly outlined the situation in the country today following the huge crisis that broke not only in Greece but all of Europe, while he also presented the most significant changes that have been made by the government in recent months, such as the new tax system, the changes in the pension system and efforts to stamp out tax evasion.
He said the government's central policy is "restoration of confidence" in the state institutions and the just state, through decisions that will strike a blow against corruption and mismanagement.
The goal, he said, is for Greece to become the most transparent country in the European Union, noting the measures to encourage the development of business activities and investments and Greece's "many unique advantages".
Droutsas also noted the country's renewable energy sources and also referred to green tourism and shipping.
On the EU-IMF support mechanism, he reiterated that the loan will be returned in full, while he also noted the recent quarterly report that ascertains an impressive start to the program with significant reforms and impressive progress.
The foreign minister further referred to the fundamental principles of Greece's foreign policy, and outlined Greece's positions on Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue, the FYROM name issue, and the situation in the Balkans and the Middle East.
 Environment minister addresses conference in CyprusNICOSIA (ANA-MPA)
The Greek government considers green development a strategic necessity, and not a utopia, the country's environment minister Tina Birbili said in Nicosia on Thursday, addressing an event organised by the Andreas Papandreou Foundation (Cyprus) on the theme "Greek Development - Challenge: Future and prospects for Greece and Europe in the Global Economy".
"Green development is a cause for us all, it is a cause of society. A new, broad alliance of the citizens is needed, an alliance that extends beyond the narrow partisan lines. It does not concern only a few social groups. It has nothing to do with age or where one lives and works. Greek development is a new strategy, an aspiration to restructure the country's productive base, for balanced regional development and the creation of new jobs, new green jobs, as they are called internationally," Birbili said.
She also presented her Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry's integrated plan for actions that will enable the successful advancement of green growth.
 Amendments to environment ministry 'Green Fund' draft billAn environment ministry draft bill on a Green Fund and the ratification of forest maps was approved by the Parliamentary Committee processing the legislation on Thursday, after Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili bowed to MP objections and amended two of the articles.
In the first she withdrew a paragraph giving the environment minister powers to change legislation on the building code via presidential decrees, while in the second case she agreed that the board chairman of the Green Fund (providing funds for environmental action) should be interviewed and approved by Parliament.
Strong reservations were also voiced against the parts of the bill dealing with the drafting of forest maps, with several PASOK MPs seeking improvements and opposition party MPs expressing fears that they were "premature".
 President Papoulias to visit Cyprus on the occasion of the Republic's 50th anniversaryPresident of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias departs for Cyprus on Friday for a two-day visit on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus.
According to the programme, the Greek president, who arrives Friday midday, will attend an official dinner hosted by President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias.
Later on, President Papoulias and his entourage will participate in an official ceremony that will take place in Nicosia to celebrate Cyprus' 50th independence anniversary.
During the day, Papoulias will hold a series of separate meetings with former first lady Fotini Papadopoulou, the spouse of late former Foreign Minister Alekos Michaelides, Yiola Michaelidou, the Pancyprian Union of Refugees, the Committee of the Occupied Municipalities of the Union of Cyprus Municipalities, as well as the Pancyprian Organisation of the Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons.
Before returning to Athens on Saturday, President Papoulias will meet President Christofias at the Presidential Palace.
 Truck owners continue to defy government measuresSeveral truck owners on Thursday continued to defy the government's efforts to impose a new liberalised regime in the road freight sector, in spite of an amendment tabled on Wednesday that introduces jail terms for those that continue to refuse to work.
As the controversial amendment neared a vote in Parliament, truckers were inventing new methods to circumvent the new punitive measures, under which those refusing to comply with requisition orders face between three to five years in jail and could have their licence revoked. Owners of licensed public-use trucks were also continuing attacks on drivers transporting freight, with about 20 attacks reported between Wednesday night and Thursday noon.
An estimated 3,000 trucks also remain parked alongside national highways but have not significantly obstructed the flow of traffic so far. Some of their owners, in view of the amendment being passed by Parliament, have responded by removing the trucks license plate so that it is harder for authorities to trace them.
Their ongoing action is beginning to have a negative impact on markets strangled of supplies but some freight transport is being carried out by organised freight companies that on Wednesday issued an announcement adopting a different stance from other licensed truck owners.
Haulage is currently being carried out in groups, with convoys of trucks accompanied by police patrols in order to avoid attacks and damage to the vehicles involved by truckers still manning road blocks.
There are also severe problems at Piraeus port due to the accumulation of some 8,000 containers that recipients cannot pick up as a result of the truckers' action, forcing them to pay additional money for their storage and protection.
 ND spokesman on PM, truckers issueMain opposition New Democracyn (ND) party spokesman Panos Panayiotopoulos, referring on Thursday to the truckers strike issue, accused the government of trying to create extreme social tensions in Greek society.
He spoke of "small civil wars putting one professional group to clash with the other," and appealed to truck owners to show responsibility and self restraint.
"They must not fall into the trap set for them by the government options. We demand from the government to abandon its extreme intransigence and to choose at last the path of substantive and sincere dialogue," he stressed.
Referring to statements by Prime Minister George Papandreou earlier in the day, Panayiotopoulos said that the premier had "predicted inflation of 1.9 percent and it has risen to 5.6 percent, an increase in revenues of 13.7 percent and it is 3.4 percent, unemployment at 11.8 percent at the end of 2010 and it is already 11.8 percent from the middle of the year, a decrease in the public investments programme by 4 percent and it has already decreased by 33 percent."
 Chryssohoidis meets truckowners presidentThe president of striking truckowners, George Tzortzatos, speaking after meeting Regional Development and Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis on Thursday, said that "when the intentions are good, the meetings are short and effective."
On his part, the minister made no statement on the outcome of the meeting.
 Deadline for three Parliamentary scandal investigations extendedThe conference of Parliament presidents on Thursday agreed to extend the deadline for all three special committees currently investigating high-profile scandal cases in Parliament, namely the Siemens kickbacks case, the Vatopedi monastery land swaps and the overpriced structured bonds sold to social insurance funds.
The Parliamentary committee investigating the Siemens case was originally scheduled to end its work on Thursday but the deadline has been pushed back to October 28. The Parliamentary Preliminary Examination committee for the Vatopedi monastery land swaps has been given until October 15 to complete its work instead of the originaly October 4 deadline, while the work of the committee investigating the structured bonds has been extended until November 30.
 KKE leader addresses pharmaceutical plant employeesOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga said on Thursday that the people with their vote in the Nov. 7 local government elections should condemn both the ruling PASOK party and main opposition New Democracy (ND).
Speaking before workers at the Vianex pharmaceutical plant, Papariga referred to a chance for the people to express their disapproval of anti-popular policy implemented by the two major political parties.
 Minister addresses letter to Commissioner Reding over Ashtiani caseEducation Minister Anna Diamantopoulou has addressed a letter to EU Commissioner Viviane Reding, calling on the latter to intervene in the case of the Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian who has been sentenced to death by stoning in the Middle East country.
Diamantopoulou urged Reding to assume the initiative for a joint appeal letter to be prepared and sent to the president of Iran, a letter that will be signed by all former and present female EU Commissioners.
 Regional Development a nd Competitiveness minister outlines plansRegional Development and Competitiveness minister Michalis Chryssohoidis outlined the focus of his ministry's efforts in the coming period to journalists on Thursday, specifying the focal points as the high prices, development and extroversion.
He warned that "we will have failed if we do not change the development model" despite having overcome the fiscal crisis.
On market prices, the minister said the question that requires an answer is why, 100 of the products that comprise the "household basket" and account for 80 percent of overall expenditure are 30 percent more expensive in Greece than in other European capitals, particularly given that Greece is a country of low labor cost and rents.
Chryssohoidis said he was against state interventions on the market, stressing that the ministry's sole concern will be implementation of the laws, with emphasis on fairness in competition.
The tools for the developmental effort include the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), the Public Investments Program, and the new development law, which he said will be ready by the end of October, as well as the new financing tools that will be a cooperation between the state and banks.
He noted that efforts are being made to speed up the rate of absorption of the NSRF funds, while in 2011 a review will be made of the programs, as well as simplification of the procedures wherever deemed necessary, in order to place greater emphasis on innovation and extroversion.
The aim, the minister continued, is to create a wave of young investors. "We will invite young entrepreneurs to spread their wings," he said, explaining that, in that direction, the new fund to arise from the evolution of the current Guarantee Fund for Small and Micro Businesses (TEMPME, to which the state will contribute 460 million euros and anticipates a sum double that from the banks) will be utilised, as well as the EU initiatives JESSICA and JEREMIE.
Overall, in the period remaining to the end of 2011, the state, through the NSRF, will channel 2 billion euros to the market and expects another 3-4 billion from banks.
Chryssohoidis said that 2011 will be a particularly critical year, since recession will result in the closure of businesses and increase in unemployment, and consequently the government is obliged to apply an anti-cyclical policy to rekindle and restart the economy.
 Agreement for Hellenic Shipyards signed with Thyssen Krupp Marine, Abu Dhabi MarFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou and National Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday signed a contract with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems representative Hans Christoph Atzpodien and Abu Dhabi Mar representative Iskandar Safa concerning the future of Hellenic Shipyards in Skaramangas and a programme for Greek Navy submarines.
Under the contract signed on Thursday and recently ratified by Parliament 75.1 percent of the shipyards go to Abu Dhabi Mar and 24.9 percent remains with Thyssen Krupp Marine. Construction of the two Navy submarines will continue and the Greek state reserves a right of veto on changes to the shareholder composition of the shipyards and composition of its board of directors.
 Papademos dismisses notion of debt restructuringGreece will not proceed with a restructuring of its public debt, Lucas Papademos, a former ECB vice-president, again reiterated on Thursday, in comments to the Market New International news agency.
Papademos, an advisor to Greek PM George Papandreou, said such a scenario "was neither desirable nor possible," adding that the Greek government and European authorities have dismissed such a scenario.
He said the best way to calm markets is persistence on systematic and efficient implementation of measures to reduce the country's fiscal deficit, as well as necessary reforms to boost economic growth.
"After some time, as progress on public finances will be made and policy credibility will rise, I think that markets will calm down," Papademos said.
 FinMin, Interior minister hold talks with ADEDY directorateInterior, Decentralisation and Electronic Governance Minister Yiannis Ragoussis and Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou met on Thursday afternoon with the directorate of the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), for talks focusing on the shaping of the dialogue framework for the new unified salary scale of public sector employees.
The government, according to a relevant announcement by the Interior ministry, is looking forward to a constructive dialogue for the shaping of the unified salary scale, whose aim will be a fairer salary system of the public sector employees, through a new salary scheme.
 Greece, Bulgaria, Romania sign labour law, social security cooperation pactGreece, Bulgaria and Romania signed a tripartite agreement in Sofia on Thursday laying the ground work for cooperation in the areas of labour law and social insurance.
The agreement was signed on behalf of Greece by Alternate Labour and Social Insurance Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis and his counterparts from Bulgaria and Romania.
Cooperation between the three countries will create the necessary conditions to jointly tackle the major problems of "opportunist entrepreneurs" and "undeclared labour", Koutroumanis stressed.
During the two-day visit to the Bulgarian capital the Greek delegation will attend the International Conference on Undeclared Work.
 Piraeus Bank withdraws offer to buy ATEbank and Hellenic PostbankA decision by Piraeus Bank to withdraw an offer to buy both ATEbank and Hellenic Postbank is paving the way for new developments in the domestic banking market.
"Two-and-a-half months after expressing interest in buying ATEbank and Hellenic Postbank, Piraeus Bank withdrew its interest after realizing that relative decisions were not imminent," Stavros Lekkakos, Piraeus Bank's chief executive said on Thursday.
Mihalis Sallas, the head of Piraeus Bank Group, in a news conference held in July 15, had said that the aim of the Group's offer to the government was to creating a large banking group with assets more than 105 billion euros. Piraeus Bank offered 701 million euros to buy 77.31 pct in ATEbank and 33.04 pct in Hellenic Postbank.
A counter-proposal, presented immediately afterwards by ATEbank's governor Theodore Pantalakis, aimed at creating a strong state pylon in the banking sector through a four-party merger between ATEbank, Hellenic Postbank, Savings and Loans Fund and Attica Bank.
A group of international consultants, comprising from Deutsche Bank AG London Branch, HSBC Bank PLC and Lazard Freres SAS, selected by an inter-ministerial commission for Restructuring and Privatizations to advise in a government effort to restructure the country's banking system, is expected to present its report soon. Final decision will be taken by the government.
Bank executives and economic analysts stressed that a new round of takeovers and mergers cannot be halted and noted that a change in the domestic banking map has been already discounted.
Greek Prime Minister, in a recent interview with Reuters TV, had said that Greece owned a healthy banking system and underlined that the results of a recent European stress test on Greek banks were good. The Greek Premier stressed he expected mergers in the banking sector and noted that the creation of strong and larger banks would be valuable to the country. "I expect there will be a strong state bank and two or three private banks," he said.
 Hellenic Sugar Industry reports higher annual lossesHellenic Sugar Industry on Thursday reported a net loss of 27.1 million euros, after tax and minorities for the year July 2009-June 2010 and said it was urgently looking to European markets to find sugar producers fearing it would be unable to produce more than 90,000 tons of sugar in the period 2010-2011, compared with the quota of 158,000 tons it is allowed according to the national quota.
Strong rainfalls and flooding of the Evros and Strimonas rivers have dramatically reduced the cultivation areas this year, to 140,000 stremmata from 220,000 initially scheduled. The company expects to cover a significant part of its needs with imports from its subsidiaries in Serbia.
Hellenic Sugar Industry said its production volume jumped 71.1 pct in 2009-2010 to 171,786 tons of sugar from 100,382 tons a year earlier, with sales rising 28.8 pct to 257.3 million euros.
The Greek company, which has signed a commercial partnership agreement with ED & F MAN, controller of 25 pct of global sugar production, hopes it could gradually recover a large part of the share it lost in the domestic market in recent years, taking advantage of any price recovery in the future.
 Retail sales volume down 9.1% in JulyThe volume of retail sales fell 9.1 pct in July this year, compared with the same month last year, after falling 10.2 pct in July 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Thursday.
The statistics agency, in a report, attributed the decline in the volume to a 17.5 pct drop in clothing-footwear, a 14.9 pct drop in furniture-electrical appliances, a 13.3 pct decline in pharmaceuticals-cosmetics, a 10.7 pct drop in lubricants, a 10.4 pct fall in bookstore, a 6.8 pct decline in food/beverage/tobacco and a 4.0 pct decline in food stores.
The retail sales index, in current prices, including fuel, fell 3.7 pct in July 2010, after a decline of 9.1 pct recorded in July 2009.
The statistics agency said that post and courier services increased 5.4 pct in the second quarter of 2010, compared with the same period last year, while protection and research services rose 3.7 pct, air transport services grew 2.1 pct, accounting services rose 1.7 pct and cleaning services rose 1.1 pct in the same period. On the other hand, warehouse services fell 4.0 pct, road transport services fell 2.5 pct and market research services eased 0.7 pct in the second quarter of the year.
 Stocks edge higherStocks edged higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index of the market rising 0.3 pct to end at 1,471.04 points. Turnover was a low 99.149 million euros. The Big Cap index rose 0.16 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.27 pct higher and the Small Cap index eased 0.03 pct. The Food (1.92 pct) and Constructions (1.93 pct) sectors scored gains, while the Commerce (3.92 pct) and Health (2.76 pct) sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 91 to 67 with another 56 issues unchanged. Unibios (10 pct), MIG real estate (9.86 pct) and Neorio (8.75 pct) were top gainers, while Q&R (20 pct), NEL (15.38 pct) and Altec (11.11 pct) were top losers. National Bank's shares fell 0.83 pct to 7.17 euros, while Hellenic Postbank (3.07 pct), MIG (2.47 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (2.12 pct) suffered losses among blue chips stocks. On the other hand, Eurobank (4.74 pct), ATEbank (2.20 pct) and Alpha Bank (2.45 pct) scored gains.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.73%
Personal & Household: -0.72%
Raw Materials: +0.23%
Travel & Leisure: -1.71%
Food & Beverages: +1.92%
Financial Services: -0.91%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Bank of Cyprus, DEH, OPAP and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.60
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.43
HBC Coca Cola: 19.36
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.53
National Bank of Greece: 7.17
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.42
Bank of Piraeus: 3.63
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 821 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday. Turnover was a low 45 million euros of which 38 million were buy orders and the remaining 7.0 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 9.0 million euros. The Greek bond yielded 10.44 pct and the German Bund 2.23 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.42 pct, the six-month at 1.14 pct, the three-month rate at 0.88 pct and the one-month rate 0.62 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.51 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 47.167 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,843 contracts worth 20.278 million euros, with 29,543 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,481 contracts worth 6.611 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,786), followed by Eurobank (586), OTE (454), Piraeus Bank (1,164), Alpha Bank (1,148), Cyprus Bank (556) and Hellenic Postbank (795).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.375
Pound sterling 0.866
Danish kroner 7.511
Swedish kroner 9.215
Japanese yen 114.59
Swiss franc 1.339
Norwegian kroner 8.031
Canadian dollar 1.418
Australian dollar 1.418
 Commission asks Greece to comply with EU law on pollution controlThe European Commission called on Greece on Thursday to implement the EU legislation on industrial emissions and address the pollution of air, water and soil.
Greece has failed to regularly inform the Commission about the implementation of Directive 2008/1/EC (the IPPC Directive) on integrated pollution prevention and control which ensures that authorities address the pollution of air, water and soil caused by the operation of an installation. Greece has two months to respond to the reasoned opinion, failing which the Commission may refer the case to the European Court of Justice.
Directive 2008/1/EC requires industrial and agricultural activities with a high pollution potential to have a permit, which can only be issued if certain environmental conditions are met. The EU member states are required to inform the Commission about the implementation of the Directive every three years. So far Greece has not sent the report covering the period 2006-2008.
 Four police officers arrested in major contraband cigarette bustFour police officers, three of them high-ranking, were charged on Wednesday with operating a major contraband cigarette production and trafficking ring in northern Greece.
The bootleg cigarettes, produced and packaged in a clandestine plant in Halkidiki prefecture, east of Thessaloniki, were allegedly exported to Germany.
At least 20 people are in custody while an investigation is still underway.
The initial probe began last June following a fire that erupted at the illegal production unit, which authorities believe was due to arson.
 Tension, violence reported in Aghios Panteleimonas protestScuffles and tension was again reported overnight in the inner Athens neighbourhood of Aghios Panteleimonas after local residents staged a protest against the presence of illegal immigrants, mostly from Central Asia, in the district.
According to police, some 200 demonstrators gathered in the main square, before fanning out towards adjacent roads in the congested Athens district.
Five people were detained, while riot police prevent a group of demonstrators from reaching a rundown building being occupied by self-styled anarchist youth.
The incident comes roughly a week after three Afghan illegal migrants were arrested for stabbing two local men coming to the aid of an Albanian teen allegedly being assaulted by the former in the Aghios Panteleimonas square.
Mobilisations by local residents in the district have in the recent past attracted ultra-nationalist and virulently anti-migrant groups, and conversely, anti-state activists, leftist groups and self-styled anarchists demonstrating in favour of the undocumented foreign nationals.
 European Aquarium Curators conf' on CreteThe 27th European Aquarium Curators' conference will take place at the Cretaquarum at Gouves near Heraklio on the island of Crete from 2 to 6 October.
The conference will focus on the latest developments in management for aquariums open to the public.
According to a Cretaquarium announcement, the hosting of the cīnference is of great importance given that "Cretaquarium" is only in its fifth year of operation.
The conference is held under the auspices of the European Union of Aquarium Curators (EUAC).
 Restoration agreement signed for ancient Roman theatre at Hersonissos, CreteImportant restoration works at the ancient Roman-era theatre in Hersonissos, Crete will continue following a relevant agreement signed on Thursday between the local municipal authority and the ministry of culture.
The funding of the project will be undertaken entirely by the local municipality.
The Odeon at Hersonissos, dating back to the 1st - 2nd centuries AD, was destroyed during the Cretan insurrection in 1897.
Sixteenth century geographer Onorio Belli had referred to the theatre, stressing that it presents a number of innovations as regards its ground plan. Trial excavations held in 1995 unearthed part of tiered seating and the western outer wall of the theatre's stage.
 Souda naval station vehicle torchedA vehicle belonging to the Souda Bay Naval Station on Crete was apparently targeted by arsonists at dawn on Thursday.
The SUV was located in a parking space under an apartment building in Hania when the fire broke out. An investigation is underway.
 Cloudy on FridayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 10C and 29C. Slightly cloudy with possible light showers in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 18C to 26C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 16C to 23C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe truck owners' decision to continue their mobilisations and stricter penalties, including jail sentences, for truckers who do not comply with government requisition orders, and a draft law on the closing of outstanding tax obligations to be voted on Thursday in parliament mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Refusal to comply with requisition a felony".
APOGEVMATINI: "Broad meeting at main opposition New Democracy headquarters ahead of local government elections".
AVGHI: "Tax evasion flourishing - The closing of outstanding tax obligations draft law to be voted in parliament on Thursday under summary procedures".
AVRIANI: "Government's clash with truck owners at the extremes".
CHORA: "Disobedient truckers will be sent to jail".
ELEFTHEROS: "Government targets the owners of small properties and gives amnesty to crooks".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "With the new amendment on the closing of outstanding tax obligations, the Finance Ministry exonerates the big-time tax evaders".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Labour Ministry mulling a draft law that will leave open windows for lower salaries than those foreseen in the collective labor agreements".
ESTIA: "Society on self-destruction track - A vast madhouse".
ETHNOS: "Government and prosecutors get tougher - Severe measures after truck owners' intransigence".
IMERISSIA: "Enterprises shutting down due to shortages in market".
KATHIMERINI: "4 billion euros 'saved' from cutbacks in salaries and pensions in public sector wasted due to state's inability to control expenditure".
LOGOS: "Truck owners threatened with imprisonment - The amendment on truckers' requisition was ratified in parliament".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Government and Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) discuss corporate contracts".
NIKI: "How much you will have to pay in taxes: Tables and examples".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Vote for the Popular Rally ticket (KKE-backed ticket in upcoming local government elections) to boost the popular pressure and counterattack".
TA NEA: "Mad trucks!! - Clash without brakes".
TO VIMA: "Head on collision without brakes - War between government and truck owners".
VRADYNI: "Head on collision between government and truckers - Clash in parliament on the amendment".
 President message to mark 50 years of independenceNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has called on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community to test the will of the Greek Cypriot side for a Cyprus settlement, pointing out that they will be surprised.
The president said that there are no regrets for making a good will gesture to the Turkish Cypriots by accepting a bizonal bicommunal federation as the solution in Cyprus but warned that he is not prepared to make any concessions to foreigners.
He also said that as far as the people of Cyprus are concerned, he will not relinquish rights and freedoms which European citizens enjoy in their own countries, nor will he accept permanent restrictions of these rights.
President Christofias noted that he envisages a reunited Cyprus where all Cypriots live and work together for the common good of the country.
In his address to the Cypriot people, on the occasion of Friday's 50th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus, President Christofias said that Turkey continuously vows that it wants a settlement by the end of this year, unfortunately its actions are far from its public declarations and its behaviour proves that it really is not ready for a settlement.
The president noted that irrespective of difficulties "we are fully ready for a settlement. We reject categorically partition and we are determined to fight against it."
He called on Turkey to take a decision for further steps and meet its obligations towards the EU, noting that "we are ready for this."
The president described his recent proposals at the ongoing UN-led peace talks as proof of the Greek Cypriot side's determination to achieve a settlement the soonest. He said they are balanced and realistic, adding that they provide for benefits and incentives to all interested parties, including Turkey.
"If Turkey accepts them, then the talks with the Turkish Cypriot community will accelerate and the momentum for a settlement will be created," he added.
President Christofias acknowledged that the negotiations "are not moving forward the way we would like" and that there are problems both with the positions and the approaches of the Turkish Cypriot leadership and Turkey's policy towards Cyprus and the Cyprus problem.
"We shall insist, as it is our duty to do so, on a settlement based on UN Security Council resolutions, the 1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements, the agreement with the former Turkish Cypriot leader for a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality as provided by the UN for a single state, a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single personality. We shall insist until the end because this is the only way the country and our people will be reunited and Turkey's occupation will end," he stressed.
President Christofias also said that the settlement of the Cyprus problem requires consistency to principles and showing realism.
"The courageous and historic compromise of a bizonal, bicommunal federation is a good will gesture towards our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, which we do not regret. Nonetheless, we have no intention of making any concessions to foreigners and we have no intention of relinquishing for the people of Cyprus rights and freedoms which European citizens can enjoy in their countries nor are we prepared to be subject to permanent restrictions and prohibitions," the president stressed.
He underlined that "we are striving to achieve a just, viable and functional settlement under the circumstances that will end the Turkish occupation and will reunite our country and the people, in the framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation."
Referring to the current negotiations for a solution, he said the negotiating process is not proceeding as he would have liked to see it move.
"I cannot hide the fact that we encounter problems with the positions and the approach of the Turkish Cypriot side and with Turkey's policy on Cyprus," he acknowledged.
Today, he noted, 50 years after independence, "we draw lessons from our recent past but we move on to the future which will be hopeful and bright only if it is common for all of us, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins," he stressed.
Outlining his vision, the president said he wants to see his homeland reunited and its people working together for the collective good of the country.
"We look forward to a time when it will not matter who we are serving or who is serving us Ø be they Greek or Turkish in our homeland," he added.
He called on everyone to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Cyprus' independence and defend the Republic of Cyprus united.
In July, the Cypriot President announced three proposals on the Cyprus issue. The first provides for linking discussions on property with discussion on territory and immigration, in a bid to facilitate the resolution of the thorny chapter of properties and expedite the dialogue.
The second proposal urges Turkey to apply UN Security Council resolution 550, which calls for the transfer of the fenced off area of Varosha, in Famagusta, to the administration of the United Nations. Part of this proposal is the opening of the port of Famagusta under EU auspices to benefit the Turkish Cypriots.
The third proposal is to convene an international conference when within range of an agreement on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third territory. UN- ed talks are currently underway between the leaders of the two communities of Cyprus, President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu to find a negotiated settlement to reunite the country under a federal roof.
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