|Wednesday, 26 September 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-06-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 3 June 2011 Issue No: 3803
 Gov't: negotiations on Medium-term strategy close to completionOnly technical details remain before the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy is finalised, government spokesman George Petalotis said on Thursday.
"This will be closed in the best possible way for Greek workers," Petalotis said.
Commenting on the prime minister's trip to Luxembourg on Friday and his meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, the spokesman announced that it would have a heavy workload.
In response to other questions, the spokesman denied that the Memorandum had failed, noting that there were measurable results, but admitted that there had been delays that had to be made up for. He also underlined the government's support for Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, stressing that it was self-evident.
He also repeated that the government would exhaust its four-year term and that the invitation to main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras for consensus remained open.
 PASOK MPs send letter to PM, voicing concerns over Medium-Term strategy billA letter signed by 16 ruling PASOK MPs was delivered to the prime minister's office in Parliament on Thursday by MP Tonia Antoniou. In this, the 16 MPs demanded that the government immediately convene party and Parliamentary bodies to conduct an assessment of the first year of the EU-IMF Memorandum, the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy, additional measures and privatisations envisioned within 2011 and the process of tabling, discussing and voting these in Parliament.
Stressing the need for an assessment of what had been done so far, the MPs said it was an issue of both common sense and Democracy, while they spoke of "widespread concerns over the vote on the Medium-Term [Fiscal Strategy] using urgent procedures and as a single article".
They similarly raise concerns over the processes for the privatisation of state assets, noting that these decisions would determine the country's future for several decades to come.
"For all the above reasons we consider imperative that all institutional organs of Parliament and the party be convened, so that there might be a wide-ranging discussion on the issues," they wrote.
Commenting on the initiative, government spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday said that the "government in practice respected the Parliamentary group more than anyone".
"The cries of concern from MPs are oxygen and have been answered by all that the government is doing. They have been given an opportunity to express themselves via the Parliamentary Working Sectors, where they consult and decide," he added.
According to the spokesman, the letter did not equate to non-consent with the government.
Replying to the MPs concerns that the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy should not be an act with a single article but a normal bill, the spokesman was categoric in stating that it would be voted on in the same manner as foreseen for the budget, as a framework of principles and directions.
The letter was signed by the MPs Tonia Antoniou, Vassilis Geranidis, Sofia Giannaka, Eva Kaili, Kostas Kartalis, Paris Koukoulopoulos, Panagiotis Kouroublis, Odysseas Konstantinopoulos, Dimitris Lintzeris, Athanasia Merenditi, Ektoras Nasiokas, Olga Rentari, Vassilis Togias, Thomas Robopoulos, Nikolas Salagianis and Mihalis Tzelepis.
 FM Droutsas speaks to 'The Sofia Echo'SOFIA (ANA-MPA/B.Borisov)
Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas is prepared to play patience in building consensus in the European Union on support for his proposed EU "Marshall Plan" to assist reforms in the Middle East and North Africa.
Speaking in an interview with the English language edition of "The Sofia Ecco" electronic newspaper, Droutsas acknowledged that it would take time for the idea to be debated and accepted throughout the bloc.
The Greek foreign minister also spelt out Greece's foreign policy vision for giving new impetus to the EU accession prospects of the Western Balkans, dwelt on the way ahead should Athens's dispute with Skopje about the use of the name "Macedonia" be resolved and spoke of the implications for Europe and the wider world in dealing with Greece's economic crisis.
Droutsas said that he was working in close co-operation with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov on core issues in what the EU leadership calls its "Southern Neighbourhood" region - North Africa and the Middle East.
"Both countries (Greece and Bulgaria) approach to the Libya issue is that we need urgently to start a political process. Military intervention alone will not bring the desired results," Droutsas said.
He said that developments in the Arab world had major implications for Europe, notably in large flows of migrants and refugees.
As an EU outer border, Greece was significantly affected by illegal migration, he said. "About 90 per cent of illegal migrants use Greece as an entry point."
On the one hand, this was because Greece's sea borders were difficult to guard and control, while on the other, neighbouring Turkey was not co-operating in dealing with the issue.
Regarding the migration policy of the EU, Droutsas said, "we have a clear policy statement that EU member states should take up the necessary burden sharing".
On his proposal for a "Marshall Plan" - a reference to the US-led post-World War 2 programme to finance the reconstruction of Europe along democratic and free-market lines - Droutsas said that he understood the counter-argument that Europe already faced constraints after the economic crisis.
However, he said, his argument was that such a programme should be seen as a "real investment" in the region, and ultimately in the EU's own peace and stability.
"If we invest in the region in the right way, we shall create economic growth, also meaning economic growth for the EU itself."
Noting that NATO had announced that it was extending its operations around Libya to September, Droutsas said that Greece fully backed a solution envisaged in the relevant UN Security Council resolution.
On the Western Balkans, Droutsas said that Greece - along with Bulgaria and Romania - wanted a revival of the EU prospects of the countries of that area of Europe.
Again, he said that with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolai Mladenov and the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, there was "very intensive co-ordination and co-operation" based on a common vision of wanting to see all the countries of the Western Balkans becoming EU member states.
He likened the principle to the support given by Greece to the EU membership prospects of Bulgaria and Romania, before the two countries joined the bloc in January 2007.
Greece, which in 2003 had hosted the Thessaloniki summit that had been a landmark in a vision and criteria for EU expansion, had come up with "Agenda 2014" regarding the EU perspectives of the Western Balkans.
"We had the feeling that the issue of the European accession prospects of the Balkan states, since the 2003 Greek presidency, had lost its dynamic," Droutsas said. A predominant factor in this was the "enlargement fatigue" among several long-established EU states.
On the issue of whether it was contradictory for Greece to voice support for the EU accession of the Western Balkans while its dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) about the "name issue" meant that Skopje's EU prospects were at a standstill, Droutsas said that this was no contradiction.
He said that since George Papandreou's socialist PASOK government came to power in October 2009, Athens had sought to complement the name dispute resolution process mediated by UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz with person-to-person contacts between the two countries' prime ministers, at the initiative of Papandreou.
The fYRoM name dispute, according to Droutsas, was "an issue deeply rooted in the soul of every Greek". "But if we want to sincerely pursue a solution, we (Athens and Skopje) have to talk, to understand each other a bit better."
Greece wants a name with a geographical qualifier, Droutsas said, reasoning that such usage, by all countries internationally, would stave off any future territorial issues and "nationalistic" issues.
Greece sought a compromise in which there would be neither winners nor losers, and after such a solution was achieved and its neighbour could start EU membership negotiations, Greece would be the "most reliable partner" in supporting these aspirations, he said.
On the Greek economic crisis, Droutsas said that the existing austerity measures already had produced "encouraging positive results".
Greece, Droutsas said, had in the year 2010 cut its budget deficit by five percentage points, which he said was an achievement never before arrived at in the eurozone. Greece had undergone major reforms in the public sector, undertaken "very serious" tax reform and moved against tax evasion, and had carried out substantial reform of the social security system, he added.
The country had increased its exports by 35 per cent year-on-year and figures indicated that the Greek summer tourism season in 2011 would be "very successful," he said.
Indications were that by the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012 Greece would return to economic growth and thus out of recession, Droutsas also said.
"We are on the right path, still a lot of work is necessary," he added.
 FM receives delegation of SPD MPsSupport for the efforts made by the Greek government and the Greek people aimed at overcoming the ongoing economic crisis was expressed by members of a visiting delegation of Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) deputies, in their meeting on Thursday with Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas.
The German deputies stated that they appreciate the efforts made by Greece and expressed confidence in the Greek government, sources said.
On his part, the foreign minister briefed them on Greek foreign policy issues and developments and referred to developments in the Greek economy and to the programme followed by the Greek government to cope with the financial crisis.
 ND leader wraps up tour of CreteMain opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras wrapped up a three-day tour of Crete on Thursday with a series of meetings in the cities of Iraklio and Agios Nikolaos.
Among these was a meeting with the head of Crete's Regional Authority Stavros Arnaoutakis, who briefed him on the progress of public works on the island, and Iraklio Mayor Yiannis Kourakis.
Samaras then visited the Iraklio chamber of commerce for talks with local business people, where he noted the problems caused by the lack of liquidity directed at the real economy and discussed problems relating with transport connections to the island, stressing that excessive bureaucracy remained a major problem that had to be tackled.
ND's leader repeated a call to the government to take measures to "jump-start" the economy.
The main opposition leader's next port of call was Lasithi, where he met Agios Nikolaos Mayor Dimitris Kounenakis and visited the local commercial district and the Lasithi Labour Centre.
 Defence minister briefs SYRIZA's Tsipras on new NATO structureNational Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday held a meeting with Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group leader Alexis Tsipras to brief him on the negotiations underway for the new structure of NATO.
Venizelos, who has briefed all the political party leaders on the issue, informed Tsipras on the agenda to be discussed at the upcoming NATO defence ministers' meeting in Brussels.
 Delavekouras: Athens not expecting shift in Skopje positions on name issueThe Greek government does not expect any substantial shift in Skopje's policy concerning the name dispute with Greece after the upcoming general elections in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras indicated on Thursday.
"We do not consider that there is some difference between the positions of [SDSM leader Radmila Sekerinska] and [current FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski]. We do not consider that there are differences in the positions adopted by successive FYROM governments," he told reporters when asked if the Greek government had any hopes of a breakthrough depending on the result of the election.
"What we expect from the elections in FYROM is a government that will display a constructive attitude," Delavekouras added, noting that "the time has come to find a solution to the name issue".
He said that Greece is investing in a future of stability and growth for FYROM and, in this framework, has supported that country's EuroAtlantic prospects.
"There will be mutual benefit from finding a solution to the name issue," the spokesman stressed and expressed hope that elections in Greece's northern neighbour will be carried out without problems in order to indicate the country's steadfast dedication to its European course.
Asked whether Greece was concerned about the impact of the Polish EU presidency on the name issue, given that Poland had disagreed with Greece's positions on the issue in the past, Delavekouras said that Athens looked forward to close cooperation with Poland during its EU presidency and noted that there were unanimous decisions taken by both the EU and NATO concerning FYROM's EuroAtlantic course.
 Foreign ministry on new Albanian certificatesThe removal of designations of a holder's ethnic origin from new certificates issued by Albania was a decision that raised questions regarding its motives, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras stressed on Thursday.
The spokesman pointed out that the decision reversed the practice of decades and he also noted delays in completing a census of Albania's population due to pressures from nationalist circles opposed to the inclusion of questions on ethnic origin, language and religion.
Combined, these two developments gave the impression that Albanian government decisions were slowly falling in with the dictates of extremist nationalist elements that disputed the existence of ethnic minorities in the neighbouring country and systematically undermined bilateral relations between Albania and Greece, Delavekouras said.
He added that Greece would continue to monitor developments in Albania carefully, using as a guideline the need to respect the rights of the Greek minority in the neighbouring country. He also urged Albania's government to hold constructive talks with representatives of the Greek minority that have voiced strong objections to the decision, in order to find solutions that address their concerns.
The spokesman said that Greece will inform the appropriate EU entities about this issue and repeated Greece's support for Albanian European prospects but stressed that Athens expected Albania to fully comply with the specific obligations and conditions that its accession to the EU depended upon. These included respect for human rights, minorities rights and European standards, he emphasised.
 Foreign ministry: Greek mission in Benghazi safeAll necessary precautions for the safety of the Greek mission in Benghazi have been taken, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday. He was replying to questions following the explosion on Wednesday of a booby-trapped car near the hotel where the Greek mission is staying.
He said the foreign ministry had immediately contacted the head of the mission and confirmed that all its members and those of the accompanying medical team were safe and well.
The spokesman said the Greek mission will remain in the area as long as it's needed and noted that Greece had left channels of communication open with both Tripoli and Benghazi but that the time was not yet ripe for a political solution to the crisis in Libya.
 ISTAME event on elections in Turkey, 'the day after'The political and fiscal identity of Turkey, the day after the elections, Turkey's foreign policy and its political agenda were among the topics tackled by a group of Turkish analysts during an event hosted by the Andreas Papandreou Institute of Strategic and Development Studies (ISTAME) on Thursday.
Ahead of the June 12 general elections in Turkey, the speakers shared the view that the winner will be Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), while the Republican People's Party (CHP) will increase its strength, and that the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) will enter the assembly.
As regards "the day after", the new government's agenda will include, the revision of the Constitution, the economy, the presidential election, the outcome of the Ergenekon case trial and the "Sledgehammer" (Balyoz) case, international relations and political sciences Prof. Soli Ozel (Kadir Has University) stressed.
Analyst Yasin Aktay pointed out that, for the reasons mentioned, the AKP's major goal is to win at least 330 seats in the new national assembly, thus making it easier for the government to adopt a new Constitution through a referendum.
Professor of economics Asaf SavasAkat (Istanbul Bigli University) underlined that Turkey's economy is in a good state "because of the political will to proceed with reforms". He pointed out that the major problem faced by the country is inflation, adding, however, that Turkey's advantages include a strong banking system and the "business acumen" of the Turkish entrepreneurs.
Referring to Turkey's foreign policy, the speakers underlined that after last year's Davos summit, the country - and Erdogan in particular - constitutes a model for the Arab world, where Turkey is more influential.
Relations with Syria are expected to be problematic, considering that the Turkish society is on common grounds with the opposition in Damascus.
The speakers underlined that prospects for the promotion of the Greek-Turkish relations will improve, considering that the current CHP leadership is more reasonable and therefore, the government will not be faced with strong reactions on behalf of the opposition in the implementation of its policies.
ISTAME is a centre for political research and analysis focusing on social democracy.
 Tsohatzopoulos testifies in Parliament on submarine caseFormer PASOK defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos testified on Thursday before a Parliamentary preliminary examination committee investigating his alleged involvement, while in office, in illegalities concerning the purchase of four German-made submarines by the Hellenic Navy.
Responding to questions by reporters before his testimony, Tsohatzopoulos merely referred to "another battle. Nothing is impossible in politics".
According to sources, Tsohatzopoulos has submitted a chronicle of the submarine contract to the committee, with an emphasis on the decisions unanimously reached by the high-ranking Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA), while he maintains that based on the documents presented, decisions were made by all competent collective bodies.
 German envoy on Merkel commentsGerman ambassador to Greece Roland Michael Wegener on Thursday met with local authorities on the Dodecanse island of Rhodes, within the framework of his visits to well-known holiday destinations in the country.
In response to press questions, the German diplomat referred to "wrong impressions" created by certain media outlets in Germany and Greece, stressing, however, "that this does not represent the German people, who love Greece and still choose it as their holiday destination."
He added that German Chancellor Angela Merkel stands by Athens and will contribute to efforts aimed at leading the country out of the current crisis.
The German ambassador explained that the chancellor's recent statements referred to the "privileged public sector employees" in Greece, as compared with private sector employees.
 Protestors block PACE MPs in restaurant on CorfuA group of protestors on the island of Corfu blocked off 60 Greek and foreign parliamentarians in a restaurant late Wednesday where the Greek parliament was hosting a dinner for the participants in a regular meeting of the Council of Europe's (CoE) parliamentary assembly (PACE) Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population is taking place.
The demonstrators, protesting against the government's harsh austerity measures, gathered outside Dimarchiou Square on Wednesday evening, and when they learned that the parliamentarians were in the restaurant of the local Yacht Club, they headed to the site to continue their protests, but were stopped from approaching the restaurant when the iron gate at the entrance of the site closed.
The demonstrators remained outside the gate, shouting slogans, while a few individuals threw stones.
The MPs finally left the restaurant at 1:00 a.m., on a caique, under a discrete police presence.
Among the Greek MPs were deputy employment minister Anna Dalara, parliament vice-president Rodoula Zissi, ruling PASOK MPs Dinos Vrettos and Angela Gerekou, and main opposition New Democracy (ND) parliamentary spokesman Nikos Dendias.
 Government condemns Corfu incident against deputiesGovernment spokesman George Petalotis strongly condemned on Thursday the incident on the island of Corfu on Wednesday night, stressing that the Parliamentary system in the country cannot be intimidated.
The incident had occurred when a group of protestors blocked off 60 Greek and foreign parliamentarians in a restaurant late on Wednesday where the Greek parliament was hosting a dinner for the participants in a regular meeting of the Council of Europe's (CoE) parliamentary assembly (PACE) Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population.
"What took place in Corfu, a Committee of Greek deputies convening with European deputies members of the Immigration Committee, that means human rights and European deputies being stoned, I think is anything but a simple expression of the anxiety and concern of citizens. We must clarify here that a different 'game' is now developing," the spokesman said.
 'Indignados' continuing protest in Syntagma SquareThe "Indignados" started gathering at Syntagma Square in Athens once again on Thursday evening in a new protest against the government's economic policy.
A new development in Wednesday's rally was the appearance of over 300 motorcyclists who drove from Lycabettus round the square and stopped in front of the House of Parliament.
A new protest movement added on to those already existing in Syntagma Square is that of the society for the "Protection of Citizens from the Arbitrariness of Banks."
 Parliament president attends Republic Day events in RomeROME (ANA-MPA / Th. Andreadis-Syggelakis)
Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos represented Greece during the Republic Day celebrations here held on Thursday, which this year coincide with the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Italian Republic.
The foreign delegations attending the events will be the guests in a formal reception at the Quirinale Palace, given in their honor by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
 Gov't unveils measures to open produce sector, boost competitivenessThe government on Thursday unveiled a series of measures aimed at simplifying legislation, cutting administrative burdens for enterprises and strengthening competition, along with protecting consumers' incomes.
Presenting the measures, Regional Development & Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis said the five ministerial decisions would fully open the vegetable and fruits market and the baby food sector, while at the same time setting out an integrated tracking system for fresh produce. He also cited simplified procedures for wholesale pricing, reduced fines and allowing unlimited promotional actions in supermarkets.
The minister said the government was re-examining, "from scratch", all market operations rules in order to present a radically new, modern market code by early 2012, one which would cover the real needs of services and remove all existing hurdles in competition along with unnecessary administrative burdens to enterprises.
Under the plan, the government was abolishing all commercial and industrial profit margins for fresh vegetable and fruit produce, kid foods would be sold in the open market and not only in pharmacies (with the aim to reduce prices by at least 20 pct).
The plan also implements a tracking system for fresh fruit and vegetables, focusing on 12 categories of products (apple, orange, kiwi, lettuce, peach, pear, strawberry, grape, tomato, potato and onion), all basic components of a household basket.
Speaking to reporters, Chryssohoidis said the competition commission will have to play a significant role in new conditions in the market and noted that prices have fallen and the market has stabilised.
 Econ commission on nat'l reforms programmeReforming the public and the wider public sector should be based on an integrated programme of the state's operating restructuring, with specific and long-term targets that will not eliminate the social and quality dimension of offered services, according to a recommendation by the Economic and Social Commission.
The proposal was included in a draft National Reforms Programme (2011-2014).
The Commission, in its report, stressed that the government should proceed urgently with all necessary reforms to create stability in the business environment, low bureaucratic costs and a stable tax framework focusing on development, in order to transform the country into an attractive investment destination for domestic and foreign capital.
OKE noted that a fundamental resolution of the fiscal problem demanded that the government urgently promoted the necessary reforms envisaging an integrated long-term and growth planning. The reforms which will lead the country to an export-growth model, limiting the GDP's dependence on domestic consumption, boosting research and innovation, supporting healthy business activity, combating tax and social insurance evasion, strengthening transparency.
The report stressed that strict austerity has never acted as a strategy for growth and Greece cannot repay its debt and become economically and socially sustainable without growth. OKE rejected any further horizontal cuts in wages and pensions as part of efforts to cut the country's fiscal deficit saying the measure would have only temporary benefits.
The report also stressed it was important to have a detailed plan of how to have a better management of the state's real estate property.
 Regional Development minister on creation of public Investments BankRegional Development and Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis announced at an event of the Greek Exports Promotion Organisation on the presentation of its action plan for the 2012-2013 period, the mobilisation of all forces for the creation of a public Investments Bank within the year.
The minister said that the main target of the bank, which will be public but will have private management, will be support for investments and growth.
He also said that in the month and a half another financing tool will be announced. More specifically, the ministry is in negotiations with the European Investments Bank for the leverage of 1 billion euros that will concern working capital for supporting exports businesses.
 Nikitiadis addresses Mecruise general assemblyDespite the economic difficulties it faces, Greece is continuing with the changes it has announced and is seeking developmental prospects, culture and tourism deputy minister George Nikitiadis said on Thursday, addressing the general assembly of the Association of Mediterranean and Black Sea Cruise Ports (Medcruise) taking place in Piraeus.
He said the first positive results have appeared in the tourism sector, noting a substantial increase in tourist arrivals and revenues, and added that the government has placed the development of tourism among its targets and has already proceeded to the restructure and presentation of Greece's tourism identity.
The Mediterranean must evolve into a unique cruise destination throughout the entire year, Nikitiadis said, stressing that the future of tourism depends also on the future of the cruise branch.
He said that larger and modernised piers are needed, and also noted that accessibility has improved in many areas and a large number of regional airports have many more airlinks and can also serve cruise passengers.
Nikitiadis further said that deep changes are planned in shipping and tourism related studies, while procedures have also commenced for taking advantage of the 4th Community Support Framework (CSF) in order to improve tourism infrastructures.
Piraeus Port Organisation (OLP) chief George Anomeritis told the general assembly that the prospect of the ports and cruise-related companies must be discussed in depth, adding that cruise companies and ports could work together on infrastructures.
Medcruise board of directors president Giovanni Spadoni praised the "very high level" of the Port of Piraeus, adding that one of the Association's targets is to increase the number of cruises in the Aegean and the Ionian.
 Deputy Culture and Tourism minister to visit New YorkNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister George Nikitiadis is expected to arrive in New York on Friday for a series of meetings with representatives of big travel organisations and Greek American agencies.
Nikitiadis will also be having contacts with administrative officials of tourist agencies and in parallel he will be addressing expatriate events in an effort to attract tourist movement from the United States.
 Greece to auction 10 mill. tonnes carbon emission rights in JuneGreece will hold the first auction of 10 million tonnes unused carbon emission allowances via the Athens Stock Exchange within the month, the Greek Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry announced on Thursday.
The environment ministry has signed a contract with the ASE, which has undertaken to conduct the auctions.
The emission rights on auction are from the allowances set aside for new units in 2008-2012. These were held back to be given to new industrial units that were forecast to begin operating during this period, after the initial allocation of carbon rights by each state. As a result of the economic crisis, however, there were fewer investments in Greece and rights for 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions remained unclaimed and will now be auctioned off.
Under Community legislation, power production units, oil refineries, cement factories, paper mills and other industrial sectors must have carbon emission allowances equal to the volume of CO2 they release into the atmosphere.
Until now, some of these emission permits were distributed for free by governments and the rest had to be obtained either on the market or industries had to restrict emissions to avoid higher costs. As of 2013, power production units will no longer receive free emission rights and this is expected to greatly raise the cost of power production and also electricity rates.
 Med-Black Sea Ports general assembly in PiraeusThe Mediterranean, as a cruise destination, is acquiring an increasing proportion of the global market in the branch, which is marked by the switch of interest from the mature market of the Caribbean to the wider region of the Mediterranean, Greek maritime affairs, islands and fisheries minister Yiannis Diamantidis said on Thursday, opening the general assembly of Mediterranean and Black Sea Ports taking place in Piraeus.
Diamantidis said that cruise operators from Miami, the center of global cruises, estimate that by 2014 the Mediterranean will be the top cruise destination.
The minister said that a big boost in home porting (boarding and disembarkation of a passenger in the same port) will begin for Greece in 2012, given that the major companies make their plans on a 2-3 year basis.
He further said that there has been a 10 percent increase in cruiseship arrivals in Greece with a simultaneous increase in tourist arrivals of more than 20 percent.
Diamantidis also noted that immense interest has been manifested by foreign companies for investments in Greek ports, not only in the port of Piraeus but also in other parts of the country, adding that the ministry is in constant contact and discussions on this matter.
A total of 108 representatives of Mediterranean ports and international cruise companies took part in the general assembly, coming from all countries of the Mediterranean as well as from the Black Sea and Red Sea countries.
The general assembly was originally planned to take place in Tunisia, but due to the explosive situation in the region it was relocated to Piraeus.
 Agricultural Development minister visits flooded regions in FthiotidaAgricultural Development and Food Minister Costas Skandalidis visited on Thursday the Lamia plain, in central Greece, to ascertain the extensive damage caused by recent floods that continued on Thursday in certain parts of Fthiotida, stressing that everything possible will be done to compensate farmers who have sustained real damage to their produce.
Farmers in the region waited for Skandalidis calling on him to amend his programme and visit certain regions to see close up what precisely was happening.
 Supermarket promotion of Greek productsA public awareness campaign will be launched this month by supermarkets urging consumers to prefer Greek products, in response to a proposal issued by the initiative "Movement of Citizens - We Consume What We Produce".
"Greek consumers will have the chance to think and realise that preferring domestic products is our duty, because in this way we, the citizens, can participate actively in the battle against unemployment," a Hellenic Confederation of Professionals Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) announcement stressed.
 Business Briefs-- McArthurGlen Group on Thursday reiterated its commitment to a 100-mln-euro investment in Greece and said it was examining new investment opportunities in the country. Gary Bond, the group's chief executive, speaking to reporters during a news conference on the occasion of the opening of a new discount mall in Spata, eastern Attica, said McArthurGlen was confident of the success of its investment, saying the business model of growth and operation of the new shopping center would not be affected by the economic crisis.
-- Jumbo Group, a Greek-listed toy store chain, on Thursday said its network expansion plan was progressing smoothly. A company announcement said a new super-store in Varna, Bulgaria, officially began operating at the end of May, while a new store was expected to begin operating in Burgas, Bulgaria, in the next few months. Jumbo expects that by December 2011 the group would add three new stores in the branch network in Greece, and another store in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, in the second half of the 2011/2012 fiscal year.
 Stocks end lowerStocks continued losing ground at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, in the aftermath of a Moody's decision to downgrade Greece's credit rating on Wednesday and hit by a negative trend in other European markets. The composite index fell 0.99 pct to end at 1,277.23 points, with turnover shrinking to 79.811 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 0.99 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.51 pct lower and the Small Cap index ended 1.17 pct down. MIG (8.62 pct), PPC (2.0 pct) and National Bank (1.46 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while OTE (3.90 pct), Cyprus Bank (3.69 pct), OPAP (3.03 pct) and Coca-Cola 3E (2.0 pct) were top losers.
The Media (4.26 pct), Financial Services (3.91 pct) and Insurance (2.0 pct) sectors scored gains, while Telecoms (3.9 pct), Travel (3.3 pct) and Technology (2.45 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 77 to 44 with another 46 issues unchanged. ELBE (16.33 pct), Kyriakoulis (9.3 pct) and Tzirakian (9.09 pct) were top gainers, while Altec (16.67 pct), Unibios (14.29 pct) and MIG Real Estate (9.94 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.23%
Personal & Household: -2.20%
Raw Materials: -0.25%
Travel & Leisure: -3.30%
Food & Beverages: -1.95%
Financial Services: +3.91%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 3.11
Public Power Corp (PPC): 9.69
HBC Coca Cola: 17.15
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.66
National Bank of Greece: 4.87
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.07
Bank of Piraeus: 1.02
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 13.37 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market, with the Greek bond yielding 16.35 pct and the German Bund 2.98 pct. Turnover in the market was an extremely low 13 million euros, all buy orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 4.0 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged, with the 12-month rate at 2.13 pct, the six-month rate 1.71 pct, the three-month 1.43 pct and the one-month rate 1.22 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.41 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 41.328 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 12,192 contracts worth 34.698 million euros, with 33,053 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,511 contracts worth 6.630 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,055), followed by Eurobank (1,060), OTE (1,716), Piraeus Bank (5,761), Alpha Bank (1,607), Hellenic Postbank (328), MIG (344) and PPC (342).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.467
Pound sterling 0.896
Danish kroner 7.567
Swedish kroner 9.095
Japanese yen 118.35
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 Delphi Centre unveils summer events programmeByzantium will be the central theme of this year's summer events at the European Cultural Centre of Delphi (ECCD), it was announced during a press conference on Thursday in Athens.
The events scheduled to take place on June 28 - July 27 will include a painting and religious objects exhibition, an international symposium, concerts of Byzantine music, ancient Greek language and culture seminars as well as theatre performances.
ECCD board president and noted Paris-based Byzantologist and historian Helene Glykatzi-Ahrweiler underlined that this year's events will focus on Byzantium, from a political, cultural and artistic point of view.
 Rockwave Festival opens July 1The annual Rockwave Festival opens at the Terra Vibe Park, in Malakassa, 38km north of Athens, on July 1.
Twenty five Greek and foreign artists will perform on two stages, the main Terra Stage and the smaller Vibe Stage, during the three-day rock festival.. The Rockwave Festival hosts every year noted artists and bands from all over the world and has been established as the total music summer fest. More than 200 artists have performed at Terra Vibe over the last fifteen years.
 AHI delegation wraps up visit to GreeceThe annual visit to Greece by an American Hellenic Institute (AHI) delegation was completed with a formal dinner, it was announced on Thursday.
This year's guest of honour was UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Marianna Vardinoyannis. The event was attended by MPs and representatives of Greek expatriate organizations.
Later on Thursday, the AHI delegation was scheduled to visit the Elpida Children's Oncology Unit to present it with a donation.
Earlier, the Greek-American delegation held separate meetings with Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Deputy Foreign Ministers Dimitris Dollis and Spyros Kouvelis, the director general of the secretariat of Greeks Abroad, Petros Panagioto-poulos, and US ambassador to Greece Daniel Bennett Smith.
 Protest rally in Didimotiho against illegal immigrants centresAgencies and inhabitants in the northern Evros prefecture voiced their opposition to the creation of new illegal immigrant centres in the region during a protest rally held in the main square in the city of Didimotiho on Thursday.
The event took place in the wake of news of the fire that broke out at midnight, resulting in the destruction of five buildings of the abandoned Karoti army camp, that was being planned to become an immigrants centre.
The protest was organised by the municipality of Didimotiho and as the mayor said it is the beginning of mobilisations against decisions that are attempting to downgrade and downplay Evros without taking the views of the local society into consideration.
 Welder in hospital after tanker explosion in KeratsiniA 58-year-old welder was rushed to KAT hospital in Kifissia with severe burns after he was injured in an explosion on board the tanker where he was working on Thursday morning. The accident occurred while he was cutting through a propane pipe on board a tanker docked at the Public Power Corporation (PPC) pier in Keratsini.
The welder had second-degree burns covering 60 percent of his body and had initially been taken to Attiko Hospital in western Attica. Doctors there judged that his condition was very severe and that he should be transferred to KAT.
The 59-year-old foreman employed by the company carrying out the repairs on the tanker has been arrested, as was the safety technician, aged 56. Both were led before a public prosecutor.
 Electric rail strike on FridayA union representing Athens Piraeus Electric Railway (ISAP) employees will hold a 24-hour strike on Friday. The industrial action was called in protest to the transfers of employees, planned within the framework of the implementation of legislation for the reform of urban transports in the country.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 14C and 30C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 16C to 30C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 17C to 28C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe mergers and shut downs of public entities, the planned reduction of the tax-free ceiling, and the sale of an additional 10 percent stake in Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation to Deutsche Telekom, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Express exit from 'heavy and hazardous' category for 250,000 workers".
AVGHI: "Government in state of panic".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "55 percent tax 'surcharge' for 400,000 professionals".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "14-point plan for Greece".
ESTIA: "The system is collapsing".
ETHNOS: "Cut to tax-free ceilings for all".
IMERISSIA: "10 percent stake in OTE to DT for 410 million euros".
KATHIMERINI: "Prime Minister George Papandreou's fears and the clouds over the economy".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Moody's rating agency downgraded Greece".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Slaughter-measures for the people".
TA NEA: "Public sector: Minus one salary and lay-offs".
VRADYNI: "New 'final extermination' measures".
 Yiannakis Omirou elected House PresidentNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Movement of Social Democrats EDEK Yiannakis Omirou is the new President of the House of Representatives.
He was elected in the third election at the House plenary with 28 votes from the MPs of EDEK, the Democratic Rally and the European Party, and Democratic Party MP Zacharias Koulias.
Outgoing President of the House and President of the Democratic Party Marios Garoyian and Green Party MP George Perdikis were also candidates.
In the first and second elections, Garoyian received 27 votes from the MPs of the Democratic Party and AKEL, while Perdikis received one vote and withdrew his candidacy.
According to the regulations, in the third election the candidate with most votes is elected President of the House.
In his speech after he took over the presidency of the House, Omirou expressed his appreciation to Garoyian for an impeccable term, and said he takes over with a deep sense of responsibility to serve the interests of the country and the people, with foremost the solution of the Cyprus problem, the termination of the Turkish occupation and the restoration of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people.
''Given the continuing Turkish intransigence, which leads to stagnation and deadlocks in the current negotiating process, we declare our steadfast refusal to accept the results of the Turkish crime and our insistence on a democratic, functional and viable solution, on the basis of the principles of international and European law,'' he said.
He also sent a message to the Turkish Cypriots and welcomed their demonstrations against the occupation guardianship of Turkey, and called on Turkey and those encouraging or tolerating her ''to understand that forming conditions of safety, peace, stability and cooperation in the broader region demands the lifting of the illegality and the solution of the Cyprus problem.''
Omirou assured that ''we will work as the legislative authority for the harmonious cooperation of the three authorities of the Cypriot state,'' and also assured that ''we will work collectively and responsibly to restore the credibility of politics'' and the ''alarming phenomenon of abstention by the citizens.''
He also assured that the House will work ''with a sense of responsibility to address the adverse effects'' of the global financial crisis on the economy of Cyprus.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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