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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-10-05

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

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

Tuesday, 5 October 2010 Issue No: 3610

CONTENTS

  • [01] Budget draft plan projects fiscal deficit at 7% of GDP in 2011
  • [02] 'Sacrifices will not be in vain,' Finmin stresses after tabling draft budget
  • [03] PM addresses Cabinet, expresses optimism for future
  • [04] ND lambasts PASOK on 1st year of governance
  • [05] PM Papandreou in Belgrade on Tuesday
  • [06] Vassilis Exarchos PASOK party's new Parliamentary Group secretary
  • [07] U.S. ambassador visits government vice president
  • [08] Greek judicial candidates for ECHR
  • [09] EU Commissioner Damanaki to visit Turkey
  • [10] FinMin Papaconstantinou on VAT
  • [11] Olli Rehn's spokesman on Chinese investments in Greece
  • [12] Greek exports to China rising but still low, exporters say
  • [13] Deputy environment minister at International Energy, Economy Forum
  • [14] Vourloumis to leave OTE helm by end of 2010
  • [15] Greek external debt at 187% of GDP in Q2
  • [16] Gov't to change VAT for range of goods
  • [17] Civil servants' union announces strike for Oct. 7
  • [18] Deposits in Greek banks up in Aug.
  • [19] Merger rumours boost bourse
  • [20] Greek bond market closing report
  • [21] ADEX closing report
  • [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [23] Manhunt for four gunmen after failed bank robbery
  • [24] Revolutionary Struggle group detainees to make supplementary testimony
  • [25] Smoking ban in cars with children mulled; five fines doled out for smoking offences
  • [26] Romano Prodi in Athens
  • [27] Antakya Chorus of Civilizations in Athens this month
  • [28] Closed section of ISAP electric railway to open Wednesday
  • [29] World Animal Day celebrated
  • [30] Illegal migrant arrests in NW Greece
  • [31] Major herion arrest in N. Greece
  • [32] Testing of country's siren system on Wednesday
  • [33] Cloudy on Tuesday
  • [34] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Budget draft plan projects fiscal deficit at 7% of GDP in 2011

    The government on Monday tabled its draft bill for the 2011 state budget in Parliament, envisaging a reduction of the general government deficit to 7.0 pct of GDP, down from 7.8 pct this year.

    The draft plan was calculated around targets set by a memorandum of economic policy and projects that the country's GDP will shrink by 2.6 pct in 2011, after decreasing 4.0 pct this year, before recovering with a projected growth rate of 1.1 pct in 2012 and 2.1 pct in 2013.

    The unemployment rate is projected to jump to 14.5 pct next year and to 15 pct in 2012, falling to 14.6 pct in 2013, after reaching 11.6 pct in 2010, while the inflation rate is projected to fall from 4.6 pct this year to 2.2 pct in 2011; 0.5 pct in 2012 and 0.7 pct in 2013.

    The budget draft plan also projects that the fiscal deficit will fall below 3.0 pct of GDP in 2014, while the public debt will begin dropping as a percentage of GDP by 2013.

    Regular net budget revenues will rise by 6.9 pct in 2011 to 56.340 billion euros, from 52.7 billion in 2010, while spending will rise by 2.2 pct after falling 7.8 pct this year, to 67.651 billion euros from 66.188 billion euros, respectively. Net interest payment on public debt will rise to 19.6 pct next year to 15.800 billion euros, from 13.209 billion euros in2 010, while primary budget spending are projected to fall by 1.5 pct to 51.850 billion euros in 2011 from 52.633 billion euros in 2010.

    Public investment programme revenues are projected to rise by 30.1 pct to 3.911 billion euros, from 3.015 billion euros this year, while spending of the program are expected to be cut by 3.3 pct to 8.7 billion euros.

    Budget revenues from direct and indirect taxes are projected to rise 5.0 pct to 55.862 billion euros next year, up from 53.194 billion in 2010, reflecting higher VAT rates, a higher special consumption tax on fuel, higher taxes on luxury products, new revenues from the sale of gaming licenses, an extra tax charge on profitable enterprises as well as higher taxes on real estate property.

    Direct taxes are listed at 21.098 billion euros in 2011, slightly up from 21.408 billion euros this year.

    [02] 'Sacrifices will not be in vain,' Finmin stresses after tabling draft budget

    "The people's sacrifices will not be in vain," Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou stressed on Monday after tabling the draft budget for 2011 in Parliament.

    According to the minister, the draft budget "is yet another major step to tidy up public finances" that would help Greece regain its lost credibility both at home and abroad.

    [03] PM addresses Cabinet, expresses optimism for future

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Monday conveyed an optimistic message on the course of the Greek economy, addressing Cabinet members who convened on the occasion of the first anniversary since PASOK's election victory in 2009 brought the party to power.

    Moreover, he lashed out at the previous and the current leadership of the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, blaming ND for the current economic and debt crisis Greece is facing.

    He underlined that the country is going to make it despite predictions to the contrary, pointing out, however, that the "fight is not over yet and that the road ahead remains tough."

    Papandreou stressed that if things go well in 2011, which he described as a "decisive second halftime", then "we can hope that the course of the economy will change and 2012 will be a year of economic growth that will take place on solid foundations for the first time."

    The PM stated that deficit in 2011 is projected at 7 pct of the GDP and called on all his government ministers to decrease excessive spending in public sector.

    Additionally, Papandreou emphasised that in 2010 the general government deficit will be reduced by 43.5 pct, meaning that it will drop to 18.5 billion euros compared to 32.75 billion euros in 2009.

    Papandreou accused ND of displaying major irresponsibility when in early 2009 maintained that the country's deficit was less than 3 pct of the GDP, providing false information to the EU, when in reality it was five times higher.

    He accused the current ND leadership for maintaining that it can eliminate the deficit in a year when its skyrocketing course was the work of the ND government, adding that the main opposition party cannot rise to the occasion and shoulder its share of responsibility.

    Responding to criticism by ND, Papandreou stated that the upward revision of deficits and debts is conducted by Eurostat, adding that the country's deficit was the result of corrupt practices followed by the preceding government.

    [04] ND lambasts PASOK on 1st year of governance

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) on Monday lambasted the PASOK government on its first year in office.

    In a 33-page text titled "From the 'money that exists' to the bonds of the Memorandum: PASOK: One year in power", issued by ND's Policy Planning Secretariat, tables and statistical data on the economic indicators are presented, which ND says are unbeliable witnesses to the "resounding failure" of the government's policy.

    The text also contains statements by prime minister George Papandreou and government cadres before the 2009 elections that brought PASOK to power and in the following months, accusing Papandreou of misleading the Greek people in an effort to be elected to the government at all cost.

    ND further accuses Papandreou of an irresponsible stance, as prime minister, resulting in tragic repercussions for the economy, charging that the deficits and debt problem gradually turned into a borrowing crisis, with the spreads jumping from 130 basis points in October 2009 (when PASOK took office) to 400 in January 2010.

    The main opposition party also accuses PASOK of lacking any developmental initiative whatsoever which, ND said, would have contained the recession. This lack, it added, lead Greece to the Memorandum.

    With recession at 4 percent, unemployment at 12 percent, inflation exceeding 5.5 percent and the number of enterprises going out of business multiplying, all sectors of the economy are presenting signs of collapse, ND charged, adding that even IMF officials were expressing doubts over the success of the program, while Greek society is sinking into a generalised depression.

    The text also said that ND leader Antonis Samaras has pre-sented a specific plan for exiting the crisis that contains the proper policy mix, and which can lead to growth.

    Gov't responds to ND criticism

    "People ponder over the evils that ensued from the catastrophic governance of New Democracy," underlined government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said on Monday in response to statements made earlier by main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos on the completion of one year since the ruling PASOK party took office.

    Petalotis underlined that "in just a year the government did more than it was done in the past 30 years."

    He referred to radical reforms promoted by the government in the public sector and the economy through the "administrative revolution" of the "Kallikratis" local government reform, the hirings in the public sector through ASEP (Supreme Staff Selection Council), the creation of "new and fairer" taxation system and a "new, viable" social insurance system.

    [05] PM Papandreou in Belgrade on Tuesday

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, at the end of his programme in Brussels in the framework of the Europe-Asia summit, will be visiting Belgrade on Tuesday afternoon, where he will be addressing the Annual Conference on Serbia's European Prospect.

    [06] Vassilis Exarchos PASOK party's new Parliamentary Group secretary

    Vassilis Exarchos is the new secretary of the PASOK party's Parliamentary Group, gathering 137 votes in the relevant vote.

    A total of 144 of the party's 157 deputies voted, since 4 were absent due to government and party obligations they had to serve, while 9 are abroad. The deputy from Larissa received 137 votes, while 7 blank votes were also cast.

    [07] U.S. ambassador visits government vice president

    Newly-appointed U.S. ambassador tp Greece Daniel Bennett Smith paid a courtesy call on government Vice President Theodoros Pangalos on Monday.

    The will was expressed during the visit for even closer cooperation in the future, while bilateral relations issues were also discussed and developments in the region in which the U.S. are showing great interest.

    Special emphasis was placed on economic issues and the investments sector and the U.S. ambassador expressed great appreciation and satisfaction on behalf of the U.S. on the Greek government's actions, and of Prime Minister George Papandreou in particular, for the country's economic recovery, stressing that the U.S. is providing full support for the government's initiatives.

    [08] Greek judicial candidates for ECHR

    The Council of Europe (CoE) Parliamentary Assembly plenary session will elect three new judges to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday, from lists of three candidates proposed by Greece, Estonia and Portugal.

    The Greek candidates are Linos-Alexander Sicilianos, Petros Stangos and Maria Tsirli, with the selected candidate to replace judge Christos Rozakis, whose term has ended.

    The selection of the three Greek candidates was made following a joint public call for expression of interest, issued by the ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of justice on Dec. 4, 2009.

    [09] EU Commissioner Damanaki to visit Turkey

    European Commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries Maria Damanaki is to carry out an official visit to Turkey on October 6-9.

    Damanaki will meet the Turkish ministers of agriculture, fisheries and transport, while on Thursday she will have a working breakfast with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at his residence.

    On Friday Damanaki will deliver a lecture on EU maritime policy at Istanbul's Technical University and have a working lunch with the university rectorate. She will also meet with employer groups and trade unions representing the fisheries and shipping sectors, as well as non-governmental organisations.

    Later the same afternoon, Damanaki will visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate for a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

    Financial News

    [10] FinMin Papaconstantinou on VAT

    Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, speaking in an interview with the ANT1 television channel, termed "a feat" the results of the effort to implement the 2010 budget, particularly with regard to the decrease of the deficit over 12 to 13 billion euros.

    "We are beginning at last to have serious public finances and we are placing the foundations for growth," he said.

    Asked about the transfer of products to higher VAT scales, he said that the final decisions will be reflected in the final budget plan in November and once again ruled out the possibility of mass transfers to higher tax scales.

    On the contrary, the minister stressed, there shall be VAT decreases for main consumer products and small increases of one or two units for other products.

    "We are looking for the less painful solution for the VAT issue," he further said, adding however that for some luxury goods VAT will increase from 11 to 23 percent.

    [11] Olli Rehn's spokesman on Chinese investments in Greece

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    Amadeu Altafaj, the spokesman of Economy Commissioner Olli Reh, called on to comment during the regular press briefing on Sunday's statements by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on the Greek economy, said here on Monday that "every kind of move that promotes investments in Greece, can help the recovery of the Greek economy."

    Rehn's spokesman stressed that the European Commission shares the view of the Chinese authorities that Greece can emerge from the crisis, since the country is implementing its economy adjustment programme correctly.

    "Whatever helps the increase in demand is welcome," Altafaj said, adding that the programme that Greece is implementing is "strict but necessary."

    [12] Greek exports to China rising but still low, exporters say

    More than 1,000 Greek companies currently have stable trading relations with China and their numbers are steadily growing, a representative of the Greek-Chinese Chamber of Commerce told the ANA-MPA on Monday. According to the Greek exporters' association, meanwhile, Greek exports to China rose by 50.7 percent during the first seven months of 2010 but still only account for 0.04 percent of Chinese exports to Greece.

    "The members of the Greek-Chinese Chamber of Commerce increased at a rate of 15 percent in the last year and now stand at 1,077," the chamber's representative Stamatina Markou informed the ANA-MPA, noting that most of these were importers of Chinese goods.

    Markou said the chamber's growth in the 15 years since it was founded is steady and reflects the level of business relations between the two countries. The fact that it was continuing to grow in spite of the economic crisis was proof of the "momentum and prospects of Greek-Chinese cooperation," she added.

    The Chamber's president Constantinos Yiannidis highlighted the potential for business between the two countries and said that the push to expand Greek-Chinese economic relations could act as a powerful boost for the Greek economy and contribute to attracting many more foreign investors from other countries to Greece.

    According to the Export Studies Centre of the Hellenic Exporters' Association, goods worth 81.6 million euros were exported to China in January-July 2010, up from 54.2 million euros exported during the same period in 2009. This represented a 51 percent increase but only accounted for 0.9 percent of total Greek exports (up from 0.6 percent of total exports in 2009). Greece's chief exports to China are raw materials such as marble and copper goods.

    If the upward trend of the first seven months is maintained, then Greek exports to China during the current year will amount to 185 million euros.

    Imports from China slowed this year for the first time after a long period of rapid growth due to the economic crisis.

    There are currently very few Greek industrial investments in China though some 60 direct Greek investments on Chinese soil are currently being discussed. The largest Greek investors at this time are S&B Industrial Minerals, Frigoglass, Crete Plastics, which have built industrial plants in China. Activities on a smaller scale are planned or underway by Greek businesses that include FHL Marbles Kyriakidis that built Cosmos Building Materials in Shanghai for the cutting and processing of marble in collaboration with local partners. They were preceded by the smaller company MMS from Kavala, which set up a marble-processing machinery and equipment unit.

    [13] Deputy environment minister at International Energy, Economy Forum

    Deputy Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis stressed the need for strengthening regional cooperation for the safe and timely handling of environmental issues from the exploitation of hydrocarbons, at the International Forum on Energy and the Economy of Black Sea and Eurasian countries, held in Istanbul by the Atlantic Council.

    Maniatis referred in particular to the need for strengthening cooperation between the countries in the region on the sensitive issue of environmental protection and the safe production of oil and natural gas.

    Maniatis met among others on the sidelines of the Council with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser of U.S. president Carter, and Richard Morningstar, special Envoy of the State Department in Eurasia on energy.

    [14] Vourloumis to leave OTE helm by end of 2010

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) chairman and chief executive Panagiotis Vourloumis on Monday expressed his desire to leave the post.

    Speaking to reporters, Vourloumis said "I want very much to leave OTE", adding that this would be the right thing for the organisation since lengthy transition periods cause problems, noting that a swift solution was necessary.

    He said he will leave OTE's helm at the end of the year, saying talks are currently between OTE's main shareholders over his successor.

    Vourloumis said there was no moral issue with recent court actions against him and noted that now that the issue was at justice's hands it would be wise to wait for the results.

    He said a government decision to impose an extra tax on large enterprises could create serious shocks to the foundations of the Greek economy if continued for long, while he attributed a decline in OTE's share price to the general situation prevailing in the Athens Stock Exchange. Vourloumis said OTE's share was the biggest and best investment opportunity, but patience was necessary, while he said he did not know yet if a dividend would be paid for 2010.

    Vourloumis said OTE intended to sell its 20 pct equity stake in Serbia Telecom at a price to be approved by OTE's board, although Serbian authorities have not yet published the terms of a tender. OTE has invested 155 million euros in Serbia. He said that creating an optic fibre network would be OTE's main investment program for the next three year and stressed that Cosmote's priority would be developing its broadband network. Vourloumis reiterated that for OTE to remain competitive, a cut of its workforce was necessary, not through voluntary retirement schemes but with logical compensations, while he underlined the need to freeze wages.

    [15] Greek external debt at 187% of GDP in Q2

    Greece's gross external debt grew by 21.3 billion euros in the second quarter of 2010, from the same period last year, to reach 434.3 billion euros, of 187 pct of the country's GDP, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.

    In a report, the central bank, said the figures for the external debt included debt to other countries from the general government, banks, etc, with the general government debt including the current value of Greek state securities held by foreigners.

    The public sector's external debt eased to 184 billion euros at the end of June from 213.1 billion euros in the first quarter of the year. This decline reflected mainly a large fall in the value of Greek state bonds during that period. The Bank of Greece said foreign investors' portfolio with Greek state bonds totaled 200 billion euros in March to fall to 154.7 billion euros in June (based on prices set in the secondary bond market).

    Banks' debt to foreign investors totaled 139.6 billion euros, reflecting capital raising from the European Central Bank, up from 112.6 billion euros in the first quarter of the year. Greek banks' short-term external debt was 105.3 billion euros and the long-term debt 34.3 billion euros in June.

    The Bank of Greece's debt grew to 84.7 billion euros at the end of June, from 60.9 billion euros in March.

    [16] Gov't to change VAT for range of goods

    The government's economic team on Monday announced a plan to reduce VAT from 11 percent to 6 percent for a range of goods that was not specified. The announcement was made during Monday's meeting of the cabinet.

    At the same time, VAT on several goods will be increased from 11 percent to 13 percent and 23 percent.

    The final decision concerning VAT rates will be made in November, after talks with EU-IMF experts.

    [17] Civil servants' union announces strike for Oct. 7

    The civil servants' union, ADEDY, on Monday called on public sector employees to participate in the 24-hour nationwide strike on Thursday, Oct. 7.

    During a press conference, ADEDY president Spyros Papaspyrou told reporters that the public sector trade union leaders will not enter into a dialogue over a new and unified salary unless salary cuts already implemented in the wider public sector are reversed, while also demanding negotiations for collective work contracts.

    [18] Deposits in Greek banks up in Aug.

    Households' and enterprises' deposits to banks grew in August for the first time in seven months, the Bank of Greece announced on Monday.

    The central bank, in a report, said that deposits totaled 213 billion euros in August from 212.3 billion euros in July.

    Greek households' deposits grew slightly to 177.4 billion euros, from 177.3 billion euros, while non-financial enterprises' deposits grew to 30.6 billion euros in August from 30 billion in July. The report said, however, that enterprises and households deposits were down 10.5 pct so far this year.

    [19] Merger rumours boost bourse

    A new wave of speculation over possible mergers in the domestic banking sector, this time referring to Eurobank and Alpha Bank, boosted buying interest at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, pushing the composite index of the market 1.37 pct higher.

    The index ended at 1,488.71 points, with turnover rising to 148.196 million euros. Alpha Bank (7.19 pct) and Eurobank (5.14 pct) were among top gainers, followed by National Bank (+2.5 pct).

    The Big Cap index rose 1.95 pct, the Mid Cap index were unchanged and the Small cap index ended 0.46 pct up. The Health (3.08 pct) and Banks (2.91 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Insurance (2.32 pct) and Industrial Products (0.90 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers and decliners were equally distributed, with another 51 issues unchanged. Altec (12.5 pct), ETEM (12.5 pct) and Edrasi (9.09 pct) were top gainers, while Fieratex (16.67 pct), Cardico (12.5 pct) and Medicon (9.41 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -2.32%

    Industrials: -0.90%

    Commercial: +0.01%

    Construction: -0.40%

    Media: +1.01%

    Oil & Gas: -0.70%

    Personal & Household: +0.90%

    Raw Materials: +1.37%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.11%

    Technology: +0.56%

    Telecoms: +1.73%

    Banks: +2.91%

    Food & Beverages: -0.37%

    Health: +3.08%

    Utilities: +1.37%

    Chemicals: +2.66%

    Financial Services: +0.66%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.77

    ATEbank: 0.90

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.53

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.30

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.72

    National Bank of Greece: 7.38

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.50

    OPAP: 11.94

    OTE: 5.29

    Bank of Piraeus: 3.75

    Titan: 14.97

    [20] Greek bond market closing report

    ‘he yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 778 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 796 bps on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.03 pct (it fell below the 10 pct level during the session) and the German Bund 2.26 pct. Turnover in the market improved to 103 million euros of which 41 million were buy orders and the remaining 62 million euros were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 44 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.46 pct, the six-month rate 1.19 pct, the three-month 0.95 pct and the one-month rate 0.72 pct.

    [21] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.34 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover a low 36.622 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,626 contracts worth 26.779 million euros. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,386 contracts worth 6.823 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,751), followed by Eurobank (533), OTE (832), Piraeus Bank (738), Alpha Bank (789), Marfin Popular Bank (326), Cyprus Bank (240) and Hellenic Postbank (234).

    [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.381

    Pound sterling 0.872

    Danish kroner 7.513

    Swedish kroner 9.313

    Japanese yen 115.01

    Swiss franc 1.343

    Norwegian kroner 8.094

    Canadian dollar 1.411

    Australian dollar 1.426

    General News

    [23] Manhunt for four gunmen after failed bank robbery

    A manhunt was underway on Monday for the arrest of four gunmen who attempted to rob a National Bank branch in the southern city of Argos. An officer was injured in the arm when the suspects opened fire during a police chase.

    The bank manager came face-to-face with two of the robbers, who had broken into the bank through a backdoor, when he opened the branch on Monday morning. A third suspect was keeping watch while another was waiting in a getaway car parked outside.

    Police were notified by customers at an adjacent cafe, who witnessed the scene. The suspects inside the bank were warned that patrol cars were on the way by their accomplice, who took off using the getaway car that was later found abandoned in the village of Eleohori.

    According to police, the car the robbers used was stolen in the Athens coastal district of Glyfada on Saturday.

    [24] Revolutionary Struggle group detainees to make supplementary testimony

    The six people detained temporarily for participation in the "Revolutionary Struggle" group are being summoned to make a supplementary testimony before investigators.

    The special investigators in the case have called on the six to make a supplementary testimony on Wednesday and Thursday.

    The summons concern charges filed against the six, after their testimonies, and are related to weapons detected by police on premises members of the group reportedly used.

    Among the six is the companion of the person believed to be the main defendant, who is being held in prison with her baby.

    [25] Smoking ban in cars with children mulled; five fines doled out for smoking offences

    Tough anti-smoking legislation for those that light up in their cars when children under 12 are present is being mulled by the government, which is considering tabling the new laws as an amendment in Parliament on Wednesday. Envisaged fines for violating the proposed ban may range from 1,500 euros to 3,000 euros, while offenders may be stripped of their driving licence.

    Health Minister Andreas Loverdos has apparently stated his determination to pass the new measure and may enlist the help of the municipal police in its enforcement, asking them to patrol roads around primary schools in order to locate drivers that are smoking in their cars while carrying children to and from school.

    Meanwhile, according to Athens deputy mayor Andreas Papadakis, only five tickets for violating the ban on smoking in public places have been handed out in central Athens since October 1, when the "grace period" for adapting to the new legislation ended.

    According to Papadakis, the balmy weather in the capital over the past few days has helped Athenians stay on the right side of the law, allowing smokers to sit outdoors until late at night.

    Patrols by municipal police found that majority of venues had complied with the law by putting up anti-smoking signs and removing ashtrays from their tables, in spite of some grumbling. Still pending are "incident report books" at municipal police stations that will keep records of violations by individual venues. When these amass more than four, the owners can then lose their licence.

    A different picture was painted by health ministry inspectors, however, after visiting bars in the busy Gazi district and elsewhere. These found that up to 70 percent of venues supplied ashtrays and allowed customers to smoke. According to health ministry general secretary Antonis Dimopoulos, the ministry could have handed out up to 1,000 fines the previous Friday alone.

    He stressed that the government was deliberately enforcing the ban gradually, in order to avoid causing a climate of resentment, but that inspections would become tougher in the next few weeks as the ministry was daily receiving "disappointing" reports from the five major municipalities of Athens, Thessaloniki, Piraeus, Patras and Iraklio.

    [26] Romano Prodi in Athens

    Former Italian prime minister European Commission president Romano Prodi, along with journalist Jean-Marie Colombani, will participate in a discussion entitled the "Major trends in the Geopolitical Dynamics of the 21st century", set to take place on Oct. 7 at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron).

    The discussion will be the first of a number of events co-organised by the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA) and the Megaron, held with the participation of key figures in the international political and economic scene.

    [27] Antakya Chorus of Civilizations in Athens this month

    The music department of the Parnassos Literary Society will present a concert by "Antakya Medeniyetler Korosu" (Antakya Chorus of Civilizations) on Friday, Oct. 15, at the Society's Parnassos Concert Hall in downtown Athens.

    According to a press release by the Turkish embassy in Athens, the city of Antakya is known for its multi-ethnic and multi-religious social fabric with roots dating back to the early ages and the ancient Near East city of Antioch. Antakya Chorus of Civilizations was established in 2007 to reflect these universal values.

    Members of the chorus include singers and musicians of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths, people from various professions, including priests, imams and nuns as well as teachers, students and artisans.

    The chorus' conductor is Seyda Koyas.

    The concert is held under the auspices of the embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Athens.

    Ticket prices range from 10 to 15 euros. (ANA-MPA)

    [28] Closed section of ISAP electric railway to open Wednesday

    The section of the ISAP electric railway line between the Ano Patissia and Irene stations that had been closed for repairs and maintenance will re-open for use by the public this coming Wednesday, the Athens public transport organisation OASA announced on Monday.

    The X15 shuttle bus service that currently serves passengers for the closed section of the lines will continue to run until Tuesday night.

    Also restored for use by the public on Wednesday are the platforms at Perissos and Pefkakia stations on the ISAP line.

    [29] World Animal Day celebrated

    The World Animal Day was celebrated for the first time in 1931 at an ecologists meeting in Florence, Italy aiming to sensitize people and experts on the endangered species. Since then the celebration has broaden and now encompasses all kinds of animal life and is widely celebrated throughout the world.

    The specific date, October 4, was chosen as World Animal Day as it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and it is intended to be a day of celebration for anyone in the world who cares about animals.

    [30] Illegal migrant arrests in NW Greece

    A Bulgarian national was arrested in Igoumenitsa, extreme northwest Greece, on migrant smuggling charges when he attempted to transport three Turkish nationals without travel documents into the country. Both the alleged smuggler and the illegal migrants were led before a local prosecutor.

    Meanwhile, a local man and two illegal migrants from Albania were arrested when the former attempted to transport the latter to Igoumenitsa.

    A total of 196 illegal migrants from Albania were arrested in the past three days in northwest Greece and all of them were repatriated through Kakavia border crossing.

    [31] Major herion arrest in N. Greece

    A 29-year-old Nigerian man was arrested on the Serres-Dramas national motorway, in northern Greece, on drug possession and trafficking charges, police said on Monday.

    The suspect, who believe acted as a "drug mule", had reportedly hidden inside his body two pellets of heroin weighing a total of roughly 75 grams.

    [32] Testing of country's siren system on Wednesday

    Warning sirens will sound throughout Greece at 11:30 this Wednesday morning as part of the exercise Parmenion, when there will be a test activation of the automated remote control system for the country's civil protection warning sirens.

    The sirens will sound for one minute in order to test the system and the public is advised that there is no cause for confusion or alarm, a Citizens' Protection ministry announcement said.

    Weather Forecast

    [33] Cloudy on Tuesday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 11C and 27C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 17C to 26C. Cloudy with local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 16C to 20C.

    [34] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit to Greece and the agreement on the boosting Chinese investments in Piraeus port as well as the purchase of Greek State bonds and the 2011 State Budget, mostly dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "China backs Greece - Thirteen agreements on commerce and development brought by the Chinese premier".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Return to the 'road of silk' - Papandreou's government, albeit late, makes overture to China".

    AVRIANI: "The real estate 'gang' ordered death contracts".

    CHORA: "Papandreou was awarded for his support to the German economy".

    ELEFTHEROS: "PASOK government: One year of disaster for the country".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The secrets and traps of the new income tax statement".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Beijing puts up the money and Greece puts up the works".

    ESTIA: "Papandreou's first year of governance: Twelve-month nightmare ".

    ETHNOS: "Chinese landing operation - Strategic support in words and actions".

    IMERISSIA: "Tax inquisition".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "China makes investments and buys Greek State bonds".

    TA NEA: "Labour agreements a la carte!".

    VRADYNI: "Austerity kills the development - Additional taxes, and salary and pensions freeze foreseen in 2011 State Budget".

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