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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-04-02

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

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

Saturday, 2 April 2011 Issue No: 3757

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM: 'Recovery of the economy the great wager'
  • [02] Minister responds to ND question on NSRF absorption delays
  • [03] Clash in Parliament between PM, leftist leader
  • [04] PM: sub scandal will be investigated
  • [05] Deputy foreign minister interviewed by '21st Century Business Herald' on Libya crisis
  • [06] Minister opens 'social dialogue' on public hospital mergers
  • [07] Education ministry mulling changes to student transfer rules
  • [08] Gov't preparing new national plan for waste management, minister says
  • [09] SYRIZA leader addresses rally at Sporting stadium
  • [10] Greek Atomic Energy Committee on radioactivity checks
  • [11] Minister cites possibility of doubling Chinese shipbuilding fund
  • [12] Deputy FM Kouvelis stresses need to expand Greece-Serbia economic cooperation
  • [13] Negotiations underway for Maliakos-Kleidi highway road tolls, Parliament told
  • [14] Event in Vienna promotes Greek tourism
  • [15] Greek PMI recovered in March
  • [16] Business briefs...
  • [17] ASE suspends trading on Minoan Lines shares
  • [18] Stocks end week 5.89% down
  • [19] Greek bond market closing report
  • [20] ADEX closing report
  • [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday
  • [22] Strong quake rocks Crete
  • [23] Greeks' life expectancy slightly above European average
  • [24] PM Papandreou receives writer Evgenios Trivizas
  • [25] Police find proclamation from FAI in Korydallos parcel bomb
  • [26] Suspected members of extortion gang arrested
  • [27] Eight defendants in urban terrorism case to be tried in court
  • [28] Arrests for large quantity of drugs concealed in cars
  • [29] Truck driver arrested for transport contraband cigarettes
  • [30] Rainy on Saturday
  • [31] The Athens newspaper headlines at a glance
  • [32] President: Erdogan's remarks part of Turkey's communication policy
  • [33] Cyprus celebrates uprising against colonial rule Politics

  • [01] PM: 'Recovery of the economy the great wager'

    The recovery of the economy was the year's "great wager", Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed in Parliament on Friday. He asserted that there were now visible signs of this recovery, in comparison with the situation handed over by the previous New Democracy government.

    The prime minister was replying to a question tabled by main opposition ND leader Antonis Samaras.

    Papandreou said that the very high consumer price index was due to the taxation imposed to combat the debt, pointing out that the index had dropped significantly in 2500 mass consumption products in February.

    He also sparked controversy with Samaras when he suggested that the main opposition leader was "stuck in the past" and the defence of former ND premier Costas Karamanlis.

    Samaras, in reply, accused Papandreou of having lost touch with reality and blaming everything on the previous government. "You spoke of the previous prime minister: in you I already see the 'previous' prime minister," he added.

    ND's leader accused the present administration of having been mistaken in all its forecasts and invited him to take a walk in any shopping area in Greece.

    "Closed businesses, unemployment, glum faces everywhere. A sad picture of you economic policy. Change it, finally!" he said.

    In the question that he tabled, Samaras called the government to task over "unjustifiable" high prices on the market, which were accompanied by 5 percent inflation and a deep recession. He noted that 56,000 businesses had closed while PASOK was in power, with another 150,000 closures forecast to come, leading to the loss of 300,000 jobs.

    "In Greece we have 20 percent of the counterfeit goods trade of all of Europe and legal commerce loses 25 billion euros in turnover each year in this way - and the state six billion euro," he pointed out.

    Businesses were being called to pay VAT that had they had not yet been paid and the recent tax bill, with its half-measures, had had a negligible result," ND's leader said. He also noted that the public investments programme was currently 70 percent below its annual target, loans to businesses were 13 times fewer and with sums 20 times lower. Absorption of the National Strategic Reference Framework had fallen, with 16 billion euros sitting around and making Europeans wonder," Samaras asserted.

    The main opposition leader proposed a further cut in taxation rates and pointed to the example of Belgium, which greatly slashed VAT while demanding that businesses cut prices and hire new staff.

    Replying, Papandreou said that ND had had five years in which to give business people a 'breather' and that PASOK was now here to relieve businesses of the "weight of the past".

    "Of course we want to reduce taxes and I have asked the social partners to provide guarantees that they will pay the taxes and reduce contribution evasion and tax evasion - and I will give orders to reduce taxation by half. That is what I am waiting for because they also confess that this is the main problem," Papandreou replied.

    He again blamed the country's present dismal economic situation on the poor management of the previous ND government, saying that this had absorbed miniscule amounts of the NSRF and allowed the country to slip in competitiveness by 36 positions in world rankings.

    The prime minister countered by pointing to a present increase in exports and a slight improvement in the rate of GDP change, while also predicting a 'marginally positive' change in employment rates in 2013-2014.

    He also asserted that business start-ups, at 62,000 had surpassed the businesses that closed in 2010 and that "the recovery of the economy is now in our hands".

    [02] Minister responds to ND question on NSRF absorption delays

    Regional Development & Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis stated in Parliament on Friday that the absorption rate of National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds will be doubled -- 4.3 billion euros were absorbed over the last 15 months.

    Responding to a tabled question by several main opposition New Democracy (ND) party MPs, who accused the government of delays in the absorption of NSRF funds and of being unable to give boost economic growth, Chryssohoidis announced that procedures will be simplified to reinforce the absorption rate of community funds.

    Chrysohoidis blamed the preceding ND government for the situation and stressed that "we are in need of a new developmental model that will promote the momentum of the economy through social justice, prosperity and cohesion."

    He stated that Greece comes fourth as regards the absorption of community funds and accused ND of inadequacy when it was in office, stressing that 725 million euros were absorbed in three years whereas the present government policy led to the absorption of 4.3 billion euros in 15 months.

    [03] Clash in Parliament between PM, leftist leader

    Prime Minister George Papandreou underlined in Parliament on Friday that "the government is not afraid to be close to the Greek people but, on the contrary, has an obligation to do that".

    Moreover, the premier called on Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras to assume his responsibilities and participate in the discussion on a medium-term programme for the country's economy.

    He accused Tsipras of adopting an irresponsible stance and underlined that the government's efforts are aimed at ensuring a future for the country, protect and utilize the state-owned property and "leave salaries and pensions unaffected".

    Earlier, Tsipras had maintained that the government is "harsh, neo-liberal, and does not have the support of the people", adding that its "political time has expired and is afraid to face the Greek people".

    Tsipras called on the prime minister "to stop telling beautiful lies to the people and instead tell them the truth about the new tough austerity measures that are being prepared".

    The prime minister accused Tsipras of making the same criticism with the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party without taking under consideration the problems the ruling party of PASOK has inherited as a result of the dead end policy followed by the preceding ND government.

    Papandreou stressed that his government is trying to change the country's course and referred to the creation of the European Support Mechanism that averted the collapse of Greece and other countries.

    [04] PM: sub scandal will be investigated

    The scandal involving the submarines contract and any other case that comes to Parliament will be investigated, Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed on Friday in reply to a question tabled in Parliament by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis.

    "This government will not stop shedding light on everything," he said when Karatzaferis pointed out that the document sent by the public prosecutor "seeks the indictment of half your government and the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) of that time, of which you were also a member".

    LAOS's leader also voiced serious misgivings about a late-night visit by the current Supreme Court Prosecutor to the home of a government minister, while also referring to strong rumours that a former minister had 178 million euro in a bank and stressing that Parliament should have been informed of the case.

    "We personally began the investigation and are not responsible if all the things that happened in the past five years are statute-barred, it is the previous government. There will be light shed on the submarines and everything else sent to us by justice," Papandreou replied.

    In reply to a Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras, meanwhile, the prime minister underlined that the government was not afraid to be close to the Greek people but, on the contrary, had an obligation to do that.

    He was replying to Tsipras' claim that Papandreou was leading "a harsh, neoliberal government with no popular legitimacy, who political time had expired and which was frightened to face the Greek people".

    [05] Deputy foreign minister interviewed by '21st Century Business Herald' on Libya crisis

    The time has come to activate the second part of the United Nations Security Council decision on Libya and begin a dialogue that might lead to political reforms in Libya, Greece's Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis asserted in an interview recently published by a Chinese newspaper '21st Century Business Herald'.

    He said this dialogue should aim to find a viable solution to the crisis and that Greece supports a multilateral international dialogue on Libya, calling on the international community to promote the appropriate diplomatic initiatives.

    Dollis said that Greece was in favour of full respect for Libya's independence, national sovereignty and territorial integrity and wanted Libyan citizens to decide independently on their future and meet a response to their demands for an open, free and prosperous society.

    On the economic impact of the upheaval in the region, he warned that this could have long-term repercussions on the area's stability and stressed the need to intensify international diplomatic efforts to avert any deterioration of the situation.

    According to Dollis, this concerned the contribution of the United Nations, the Arab League and the African Union, along with the support of neighbouring states and organisations and organisations such as the EU.

    Concerning Greece's role as one of Libya's immediate neighbours, Dollis agreed that the stakes for Greece were high during the crisis and in the opportunity to play a major role in tackling this.

    The minister said that Greece had emerged historically as a sincere and reliable country with which the entire region was able to converse. He noted Athens' support for allied operations to end the bloodshed in Libya while at the same time stressing the humanitarian aspects of the crisis and promoting measures to end the armed conflicts and lift the impasse.

    Concerning China's role in the military operation in Libya, Dollis noted that China had an important leading role and a great responsibility as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. He said China's stance reflecting a desire for respect of the UN charter and that many countries shared the concerns and questions it had raised, which had to be answered with an eye to the contents and limits of UNSCR 1973.

    [06] Minister opens 'social dialogue' on public hospital mergers

    A three-month social dialogue period that will lead to decisions on the mergers of greater Athens area public hospitals and a number of small regional hospitals was launched on Friday by Health Minister Andreas Loverdos.

    Loverdos said social dialogue on the decisions reached will be initiated on July 1, before the parliament gives the go-ahead for the mergers, adding that the goal of the endeavour is to ensure that the people will get their money's worth in healthcare.

    The public hospital reform will be based on five types of mergers featuring a single governor and management, as well as, hospital clinic mergers, hospital collaborations and upgrading of small hospitals to specialized clinics to offer either primary healthcare or treat chronic patients.

    Loverdos underlined that the people are not satisfied with the health services they receive despite the large number of doctors and hospital beds available. Based on studies conducted, doctors are distributed unevenly in hospitals nationwide, while there is a lack of hospital staff and ineffective distribution of paramedic staff in hospitals.

    The dialogue was launched without the presence of Federation of Public Hospital Staff (POEDHN) representatives, who abstained, characterising the social dialogue as a pretence alleging that the decisions have already been made.

    [07] Education ministry mulling changes to student transfer rules

    Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou on Friday announced that the ministry is mulling changes to the system for student transfers to other universities from the academic year 2011-2012, so as to restrict the number of transfers that had tended to leave some university departments virtually empty of students while doubling those in others.

    Restrictions on the number of transfers had also been requested by university rectors and the changes envisaged by the minister will call for a specific number of transfer positions for students in special categories, such as large or three-child families, that will also take into account the student's score in the university entrance exams.

    At present, children from families with three or more children have the right to transfer to an equivalent course near their home without restriction, provided such a course is available.

    The minister stressed that such students would not lose the right to transfer to universities near their place of residence but would have to enrol in departments with lower entry scores.

    [08] Gov't preparing new national plan for waste management, minister says

    Interior, Decentralisation and E-governance Minister Yiannis Ragoussis on Friday told Parliament that the government was moving toward a new national plan for solid waste management, with a greater emphasis on recycling and sorting organic waste at source.

    Replying to a question tabled in Parliament by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras, Ragoussis said the aim was to significantly change the public's behaviour as consumers, as well as current patterns in waste management.

    The minister reported that of some two million tonnes of refuse generated in Attica each year, only 10 percent was current processed before ending up in the Ano Liosia landfill site in west Athens and roughly the same percentage was recycled, while 80 percent went straight to the landfill for burial and downgraded the environment of millions of west Attica residents.

    Concerning controversial plans to create a new landfill site in Keratea, which has local residents up in arms and triggered clashes between locals and riot police, Ragoussis said that this would not be a classic landfill but also waste-processing centre that would include a composting unit for pre-selected organic wastes, a centre for sorting recyclable materials, a waste processing unit and a landfill site for any remaining waste.

    He noted that a similar facility was planned for Grammatiko in northeast Attica, while a composting unit would be built at Fyli, west Attica.

    The minister also announced an immediate tender for integrated waste management units in Attica that will deal with 65 percent of the waste generated, so that by 2014 the quantity of waste destined for burial would not be greater than a quarter of the total. He said this would be achieved through an extension of programmes for the recycling and sorting of organic waste at source, so that the sorted quantities tripled in the next five years.

    [09] SYRIZA leader addresses rally at Sporting stadium

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group president Alexis Tsipras, addressing a rally of supporters in the indoor Sporting stadium in Athens on Friday evening, spoke of a government that has invented "a new ghost hovering over the country, the ghost of SYRIZA."

    Tsipras focused his address on criticism of the government, accompanied by criticism on vested interests and the serving of economic interests and on an appeal to the forces of the left, mainly the leftist social forces for unity.

    Tsipras predicted that '"the worse is to come and for the people to be intimidated, the government alone does not have the crucial role with the shaping of a climate of intimidation and collective guilt but a large part of the country's mass media as well."

    [10] Greek Atomic Energy Committee on radioactivity checks

    Extremely small concentrations of traces of radioactivity have been detected in Greek territory which, however, are far below acceptable limits and consequently they are absolutely harmless and do not have the slightest repercussion on health or the environment, according to an announcement, Friday, by the Greek Atomc Energy Committee (EEAE).

    EEAE mentions categorically that no protection measure absolutely is required and no change in the population's feeding or other habits.

    Financial News

    [11] Minister cites possibility of doubling Chinese shipbuilding fund

    BEIJING (ANA-MPA)

    An interview by Maritime Affairs, Islands & Fisheries Minister Yiannis Diamantidis was rebroadcast by the China Business News (CBN) network, where the Greek minister is quoted as saying that a five-million-dollar credit line extended by Chinese banks towards Greek shipowners for shipbuilding may be increased to US$10 billion.

    Diamantidis, who officially visited China in late February, met with government officials, bank executives and the leadership of Chinese multinational Cosco, a major concessionaire at the Port of Piraeus.

    In other statements, Diamantidis was quoted as saying that Cosco plans to turn Piraeus into the biggest transit hub in the Mediterranean, while emphasising that China's overall investment interest has significantly aided in Greece's road to economic recovery.

    [12] Deputy FM Kouvelis stresses need to expand Greece-Serbia economic cooperation

    BELGRADE (ANA-MPA/N. Pelpas)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis, speaking on Thursday evening at a Greek-Serb business forum in Belgrade, during his two-day visit to the Serb capital, stressed the need for the widening of economic cooperation between Greece and Serbia.

    The deputy Foreign minister said that the Greek businessmen are interested in investing in Serbia in the sectors of energy, and in renewable sources in particular, infrastructures, production and tourism.

    "We desire to strengthen economic cooperation, we are encouraging the investments of Greek businessmen in Serbia, but the investments must also move in the opposite direction, so that both sides will equally benefit," Kouvelis said.

    [13] Negotiations underway for Maliakos-Kleidi highway road tolls, Parliament told

    Deputy Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Yiannis Magriotis on Friday informed Parliament that the government was currently negotiating with the concessionaire constructing the Maliakos-Kleidi section of the Patras-Athens-Thessaloniki-Evzonoi national highway for a decrease in the tolls charged on sections of the road still under construction.

    Magriotis noted in a letter sent to Parliament that issues concerning the imposition and collection of tolls were outlined in the contract signed with the contractor in 2007 and ratified by law in Parliament. In spite of this, the ministry was negotiating for their reduction and also for a discount policy for frequent users and local travel and faster introduction of electronic collection of tolls so that tolls could be charged based on distance travelled by road users.

    Concerning access roads alongside the highway, Magriotis noted that these existed for a greater part of its length, that studies on completing the network had been carried out that included construction of bridges at Ziliana and Topoliani. He said that the contract signed with the concessionaire did not include construction of an access road network and that this would necessitate holding a tender for a new contract.

    A request for a renegotiation of the terms of the concession contracts to lower road tolls had been made by PASOK MP Thanassis Papageorgiou.

    [14] Event in Vienna promotes Greek tourism

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)

    An event held here on Thursday and Friday aims at briefing tourist agents of Austria about Greece as a tourist destination, with the active participation of the Greek National Tourism bureau here; the "Filoxenia" tourism expo and the electronic platform "Respond on Demand", which promotes, free of charge, hotels from throughout Greece to tourist agents around the world.

    [15] Greek PMI recovered in March

    Greece's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) recovered in March to 45.4 points from 42.8 points in February and January 2011, to its highest level since January 2010. The index, compiled by Markit, however showed a steady worsening of business conditions in the Greek manufacturing sector.

    Weak demand for Greek manufactured products led to lower new orders during March, with new orders falling both in the domestic and external markets.

    Unemployment in the sector showed signs of slowing down in March, recording the lowest rate of decline in the last 14 months.

    Import prices continued growing in the month to the highest levels since 2008, reflecting higher oil and oil product prices. However, Greek manufacturers cut their prices to meet increasing competition in the market.

    Inventories fell steeply in March.

    The purchasing managers' index is measuring business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing economy, while readings below 50 a shrinking economy.

    [16] Business briefs...

    -- The Central Union of Greek Chambers on Friday expressed its opposition to the introduction, as of April 1, of a government measure to impose a ceiling of 3,000 euros - including VAT - in all cash transactions in the country, as part of an effort to combat tax evasion.

    -- A first round of talks, between banks and bank employees' union (OTOE) over a new collective labour agreement ended in a deadlock on Friday, with OTOE rejecting a bankers' proposal to cut 5.0 pct in wages.

    -- Coca Cola Hellenic Bottling on Friday announced it planned to return capital to shareholders up to 0.50 euros per share. Final decision was expected in a regular general shareholders' meeting scheduled for May 6 which will also discuss a board plan to change the company's statute over its equity capital structure.

    -- The general government deficit totaled 3.061 billion euros in January, the finance ministry said on Friday. In a report, the ministry said the central government's deficit totaled 3,286 billion euros, while legal entities reported a surplus of 174 million euros, municipal authorities a surplus of 77 million euros and pension funds a deficit of 26 million euros in the first month of 2011.

    -- Athens will host the 11th International Venture Capital & Private Equity Forum, on April 5-6. The forum is co-organised by Invest in Greece, the Association of Greek Venture Capital Enterprises and Praxis Network, coordinator of Enterprise Europe Network-Hellas.

    [17] ASE suspends trading on Minoan Lines shares

    The Athens Stock Exchange on Friday announced it was temporarily suspending trading of Minoan Shipping Lines shares for a maximum period of 10 days. An ASE announcement said the decision was taken because the company's annual balance sheet for the 2010 period failed to meet international accounting standards.

    [18] Stocks end week 5.89% down

    Stocks ended lower during the last trading session of a very negative week in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index of the market eased 0.56 pct to end at 1,526.60 points, for a net loss of 5.89 pct in the week. Turnover was disappointing low 101.791 million euros.

    The Big Cap index fell 0.76 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.47 pct down and the Small Cap index fell 0.93 pct. OPAP (3.24 pct), Ellaktor (3.23 pct), Viohalco (1.95 pct) and Coca Cola 3E (0.26 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Cyprus Bank (3.52 pct), OTE (2.16 pct), PPC (2.53 pct) and National Bank (1.75 pct) were top losers.

    The Travel (3.12 pct) and Chemicals (2.83 pct) sectors scored gains, while Health (3.21 pct), Insurance (3.17 pct) and Banks (1.67 pct) sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 95 to 57 with another 51 issues unchanged.

    Vivere (14.81 pct), Imperio (11.54 pct) and Sarantopoulos (9.65 pct) were top gainers, while Pairis (19.61 pct), HOL (19.44 pct) and Alpha Grissin (17.91 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -3.17%

    Industrials: +0.50%

    Commercial: -2.62%

    Construction: +0.33%

    Media: -0.64%

    Oil & Gas: -0.28%

    Personal & Household: -0.98%

    Raw Materials: -0.05%

    Travel & Leisure: +3.12%

    Technology: -0.74%

    Telecoms: -2.16%

    Banks: -1.67%

    Food & Beverages: +0.14%

    Health: -3.21%

    Utilities: -1.84%

    Chemicals: +2.83%

    Financial Services: -0.02%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.47

    ATEbank: 0.70

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.95

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.37

    National Bank of Greece: 6.16

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.35

    OPAP: 15.60

    OTE: 7.71

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.39

    Titan: 17.50

    [19] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 936 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Friday, from 957 bps on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.73 pct and the German Bund 3.37 pct.

    Turnover in the market was a low 25 million euros, of which 16 million were buy orders and the remaining 9.0 million were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 11 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 2.01 pct, the six-month rate 1.55 pct, the three-month 1.24 pct and the one-month rate 0.98 pct.

    [20] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.85 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover a low 30.490 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,190 contracts wortrh 24.976 million euros, with 25,336 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,251 contracts worth 5.514 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,279), followed by Eurobank (896), MIG (728), OTE (1,246), Piraeus Bank (881), Alpha Bank (871) and ATEbank (806).

    [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.425

    Pound sterling 0.888

    Danish kroner 7.516

    Swedish kroner 9.009

    Japanese yen 119.51

    Swiss franc 1.316

    Norwegian kroner 7.867

    Canadian dollar 1.379

    Australian dollar 1.375

    General News

    [22] Strong quake rocks Crete

    A powerful earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter Scale was recorded just after 4:30 p.m. (14:30 GMT) near the large southern island of Crete, with the epicentre located in a sea region between Crete and the island of Karpathos.

    The quake was felt throughout Crete and many of the other islands, reports state.

    "The major earthquake in Japan is likely to have accelerated today's earthquake in the south Aegean," according to Geodynamic Institute director and seismology Prof. Konstantinos Makropoulos.

    He added that it has been three years since an earthquake like today's was recorded, adding that its epicentre was 50 km below the earth's surface, the reason it was felt at such a distance.

    [23] Greeks' life expectancy slightly above European average

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    The life expectancy of the Greeks, according to demographic data for 2009 publicised by Eurostat on Friday, is slightly above the European average.

    According to the same data, the Greek women's fertility rate, despite increasing over the past six years (1.52 children on average) remains below the corresponding European rate (1.60 children).

    As regards life expectancy in Greece, women live on average 82.7 years, while men 77.8 years, according to Eurostat's data. The corresponding figures for the EU of the 27 is 82.4 years for women and 77.8 years for men.

    Lastly, according to Eurostat's data, in 2010 foreigners in Greece represented 8.4 percent of the country's total population (about 954,800). Seven percent of foreigners come from EU member-states and 1.4 percent from third countries.

    [24] PM Papandreou receives writer Evgenios Trivizas

    Prime Minister George Papandreou received writer Evgenios Trivizas in his office in Parliament on Friday, on the occasion of Saturday's International Child's Book Day.

    Trivizas, one of the most prominent writers of children's books, briefed the prime minister on his recent trip to Turkey where he visited schools and met with pupils while they discussed the value of the book and the impact that it must have on young people again.

    [25] Police find proclamation from FAI in Korydallos parcel bomb

    Police on Friday announced that a proclamation was included in the letter bomb sent to Korydallos prison and neutralised by bomb disposal experts on Thursday.

    They announced that the manila envelope containing the bomb also contained a small roll of paper wrapped in insulating tape, which proved to be a proclamation claiming responsibility for the attack signed by the Italian organisation "Informal Anarchist Federation - International Network".

    The proclamation was written in Italian and said the letter bomb was sent to show solidarity with the jailed members of the Greek terror group "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" and imprisoned 'comrades' in Chile, Switzerland and Germany.

    [26] Suspected members of extortion gang arrested

    Two fugitives arrested shortly before midnight on Thursday are believed to be high-ranking members of four gangs involved in the protection racket, police said on Friday. The two were arrested in a raid carried out by the Attica Security extortion squad on an apartment in Kamatero.

    The men arrested were taken by surprise and did not have time to use either the gun or a hand-grenade police found in the apartment.

    Police sources said the two suspects are considered the 'seconds-in-command' of a gang leader now in prison and had undertaken to set bombs on his behalf at various night clubs in Athens or to collect protection money from venue owners.

    They were taken before an examining magistrate on Friday.

    [27] Eight defendants in urban terrorism case to be tried in court

    Eight of eleven defendants charged in the "Revolutionary Struggle" terrorist case should be tried in court, appellate level prosecutor Apostolos Makropoulos recommended to the Court of Appeals Council on Friday.

    The prosecutor recommended that defendants Nikos Maziotis, his companion Panagiota Roupa, Costas Gournas, Christoforos Kortessis, Evangelos Stathopoulos and Sarantos Nikitopoulos, all in custody, as well as another two defendants, who were released on bail, be tried in court. He also recommended that all charges against other three suspects be dropped.

    The defendants face several felony charges for participation in a terrorist group, possession of explosives, bomb explosions and attempted homicides.

    The ultra-leftist, self-styled anarchist gang "Revolutionary Struggle" has assumed responsibility for the Jan. 12, 2007 rocket attack against the US embassy in Athens; the Jan. 5, 2009 assault rifle attack targeting police officers -- seriously injuring one -- and the Dec. 23, 2008 assault rifle attack on a police cruiser in eastern Athens.

    [28] Arrests for large quantity of drugs concealed in cars

    A 37-year-old Bulgarian national arrested at the Promahonas border station had concealed 1,700 grams of heroin in the engine of the car he was driving.

    At the same time, police arrested on a regional road outside Strymonohori another Bulgarian national when a search of the car he was driving revealed about 1,500 grams of heroin. Both of them who are charged with importing, transporting and possessing drug substances where brought before a prosecutor in the city of Serres who ordered their remanding in custody.

    [29] Truck driver arrested for transport contraband cigarettes

    Coast guard authorities in the port of Igoumenitsa on Friday announced the arrest of a 45-year-old truck driver who was caught transporting 59,286 packets of contraband cigarettes in a specially designed crypt in the floor and roof of his truck. The unpaid taxes on the cigarettes are estimated amounted to an estimated 189,099.08 euro.

    Weather Forecast

    [30] Rainy on Saturday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 21C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 5-8 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 15C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 15C.

    [31] The Athens newspaper headlines at a glance

    The countries economic woes, tax raids and a perceived collapse of the political system, especially of the government, mostly dominated the headlines in Athens' dailies on Friday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "[Prime Minister George] Papandreou: 'I'm tired, I want to go".

    AVGI: "Economy, political system in coronary arrest".

    AVRIANI: "Country falling apart, parties sinking".

    CITY PRESS: "Recession remains, unemployment rising".

    DEMOKRATIA: "The 'child' of Soros is selling Greece!".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "The villains were spraying us with psychotropic drugs! - Sunday 27 March".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Collapse for PASOK-Papandreou".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Tax raid and confiscation of money".

    ESTIA: "We are being led into an impasse".

    ETHNOS: "The dialogues that 'burned' the extortionists".

    IMERISSIA: "Who is being targeted by the tax office - Checks on 12 categories of tax payers".

    KATHIMERINI: "[Health Minister Andreas] Loverdos to take a 'scalpel' to hospital governors".

    LOGOS: "Greeks living in fear of unemployment".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "A new action plan against tax evasion".

    ???: "The black lists of tax evaders".

    NIKI OF DEMOCRACY: "Casus belli from banks".

    PARASKEVI+13: "He's seeking a way out through constitutional revision".

    RIZOSPASTIS: " Joint training of Army-Police aims to intensify repression of people".

    VRADYNI: "Great Depression at IKA".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [32] President: Erdogan's remarks part of Turkey's communication policy

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the Cyprus problem, is part of Turkey's communication policy, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said on Friday.

    Departing for Britain where he would meet his British counterpart, Erdogan asserted that the negotiations in Cyprus had come to a deadlock due to the Cypriot side's efforts to ''run out the clock'' and reiterated his country position for a high-level meeting on Cyprus with the participation of Turkish and Greek sides and guarantor countries (Greece and Turkey).

    ''This is the well-known position and the communication policy of Turkey which unfortunately appeals to some circles which otherwise should criticize Turkey'', Christofias said, wondering why the Turkish position is not appealing to French President Nicola Sarkozy and to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu are currently engaged in UN-led direct negotiations, with an aim to reunify the island, under a federal roof.

    [33] Cyprus celebrates uprising against colonial rule

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus marked on Friday the 56th anniversary of the start of the uprising against the British colonial rule on April 1, 1955.

    The armed anti-colonial struggle lasted for four years and led to the establishment of the Cyprus Republic in 1960, having three guarantor powers, Britain Greece and Turkey.

    Celebrations throughout the free areas of the Republic culminated Friday with church and memorial services and various events to mark the launch of the uprising campaign against the British colonial rule.

    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias attended the church service at St John's Cathedral in Nicosia.

    Speaking to the press, Christofias said that ''the message of today's anniversary is a message of reflection and of drawing lessons.''

    He described the lack of unity at home as ''tragic,'' adding that Cyprus will not go forward without unity, irrespective of political and ideological considerations.

    ''This is the message and this is the lesson, if unity prevails we will be able to face Turkish intransigence,'' he concluded.

    Later on, President Christofias attended the memorial service at the Imprisoned Graves for those who lost their lives for the sake of Cyprus' freedom.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

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