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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-07-08

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

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

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Friday, 8 July 2011 Issue No: 3832

CONTENTS

  • [01] Βarroso to set up task force on Greece; contact person named
  • [02] PM Papandreou chairs ministerial meeting on speeding up government work
  • [03] FM meets in Vienna with Austrian counterpart
  • [04] FM Lambrinidis speaks to foreign media in Vienna
  • [05] Papandreou replies to Medvedev letter on European missile shield
  • [06] Venizelos, Trichet meeting in Frankfurt
  • [07] Gov't on violent protests targetting MPs, ministers
  • [08] PASOK MPs table question on rating agencies
  • [09] Second stab at Siemens investigation criticised as 'parody'
  • [10] Interior minister unveils institutional initiatives
  • [11] BoG report on climate change in Greece presented to Parliament
  • [12] Armed Forces chief visits Sofia
  • [13] French Gaza flotilla vessel in Cretan port
  • [14] Greece examines three scenarios for privatization of PPC
  • [15] IOBE presents proposals to help Greece exit the crisis
  • [16] Development ministry and shipowners agree on 'active role' to boost economy
  • [17] Infrastructures minister holds talks with taxi federation representatives
  • [18] Inflation unchanged at 3.3% in June
  • [19] Tourist arrivals at Greek airports up 9.52pct in 1st half of 2011
  • [20] Greek participation in International Vinexpo Bordeaux Exhibition
  • [21] ELPE merger with Petrola approved
  • [22] Car registrations down 42 pct in Jan-June
  • [23] Business Briefs
  • [24] Foreign investors cut equity participation in ASE
  • [25] Greek stocks end flat on Thursday
  • [26] Greek bond market closing report
  • [27] ADEX closing report
  • [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [29] Kalamata 17th International Dance Festival opens next week
  • [30] President Papoulias receives Greek professors
  • [31] Police crack ring buying cars with forged cheques
  • [32] Fire broke out in grassland near Ptolemaida in the northwest
  • [33] Fair on Friday
  • [34] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [35] Leaders agree in Geneva on intensive talks
  • [36] Chrysostomos II meets Archbishop of America Politics

  • [01] Βarroso to set up task force on Greece; contact person named

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)

    European Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday replied to a letter from Prime Minister George Papandreou on accelerating the disbursement of Community funds to Greece, saying he intends to set up a special task force to provide technical assistance to the EU member-state and to improve absorption of EU structural and cohesion funds.

    Barroso also asked Papandreou to name a contact person that will coordinate the efforts of the Commission and Greek authorities to this end, with the Greek prime minister forwarding the name of former top European Commission official Giorgos Glynos.

    The first meeting between Glynos and a delegation sent by the European Commission president will take place next week, after the Eurogroup meeting on Monday.

    Sources within the European Commission said establishing such a task force will be a matter of "days or weeks", while Barroso has indicated that the team will be led by Commissioner for monetary affairs Olli Rehn, working under his auspices.

    Enlisting the aid of experts from EU member-states with experience in international organisations and the private sector, the task force will work in consultation with Greek authorities in order to re-examine the projects that will be partly funded by the EU.

    The aim, to be carried out in cooperation with the European Investment Bank, is to abandon programmes that are problematic and present large delays in their implementation, and instead placing emphasis instead on schemes that boost growth, create jobs and promote the better training of human resources in the country.

    Gov't spokesman

    In a statement later in the day, goverment spokesman Elias Mossialos termed the development as "very positive".

    Mossialos confirmed that the prime minister's adviser on European issues, Giorgos Glynos, will be the Greek side's interlocutor with Barroso's office, clarifying that implementation and absorption actions are the responsibility of the ministers.

    [02] PM Papandreou chairs ministerial meeting on speeding up government work

    Prime Minister George Papandreou chaired a ministerial meeting Thursday on speeding up the implementation of the government's work, stressing that every day "must bring to us the results of a week."

    According to government sources, government vice president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos made a briefing on his meeting, Wednesday, with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble and spoke of a very positive climate on the part of German industrialists for investments in Greece.

    The meeting then focused on specific bills that the government will table with the first being that of the Education ministry on third stage education. According to the government's planning the bill will be submitted in July and is expected to be ratified around the end of August.

    The next bill expected to be submitted concerns the new way of issuing building licences.

    On the question of sport, the government sources mentioned that a discussion is currently taking place between UEFA and the Greek Soccer Federation (EPO) and the government does not wish to intervene in it.

    "If, however, this discussion leads nowhere," it stressed "then all eventualities are open and 'on the table' and the Greek government will take a position on the issue."

    Apart from Papandreou and Venizelos, the meeting was attended by the ministers Anna Diamantopoulou, Haris Kastanidis, Andreas Loverdos, George Papaconstantinou, Christos Papoutsis, Dimitris Reppas, Mihalis Chryssohoidis and Costas Skandalidis.

    The meeting was also to be attended by Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Minister Yiannis Ragoussis who was ultimately unable to attend due to the meeting he had with representatives of taxi drivers and taxi owners.

    [03] FM meets in Vienna with Austrian counterpart

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis on Thursday referred to the Austrian government's positive stance toward Greece, in statements after meeting here with his counterpart and Austrian vice-chancellor Michael Spindelegger.

    In a joint press conference, Lambrinidis pointed out that the second package of economic measures voted recently in the Greek parliament is more ambitious than the first and assured that there will be no delays in its implementation, underlining the Greek government's determination, the sacrifices made by the Greek people and the support of the Austrian government and the Austrian people.

    The foreign minister also pointed out the importance of boosting economic growth in Greece while implementing reforms.

    He stressed that no euro will be wasted from the money invested by Austria despite the rumours of economic collapse that circulated in the past 18 months, adding that this is a pledge on behalf of the Greek government.

    Lambrinidis referred to the major developmental programme that is being launched in Greece and stressed that economic growth is as important as fiscal stabilization not only in Greece but in Europe as well. The opportunities for major investments in Greece were also discussed.

    He underlined that the number of tourist arrivals in Greece has recorded a notable increase of up to 15 pct and expressed the wish that the number of Austrian tourists will increase as well. He also invited his Austrian counterpart to visit the country this summer.

    The foreign minister and his Austrian counterpart also referred to the Western Balkan countries' EU accession prospect, stressing that it will play an important role in regional peace and stability by contributing to the region's economic growth.

    On the Middle East, the two sides stressed that the democratic vision of the peoples in the region can be realized with Europe's support.

    On his part, Spindelegger said that they discussed the reforms and decisions taken by the Greek parliament and stated that he is willing to help Greece receive as soon as possible the European funds it is entitled to.

    They also discussed the imminent privatizations and the interest expressed by Greece in the participation of Austrian investors.

    [04] FM Lambrinidis speaks to foreign media in Vienna

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis stressed his conviction that "we do not deserve a Europe, where one turns against the other in a period of crisis" and the need for a strong Europe that no other political force in the world will be able to compete against, while replying to questions by the international media during his joint press conference with his Austrian counterpart Michael Spindelegger in Vienna.

    As he said, he commits himself to struggle so that Europe will remain steadfast on the principle of solidarity, which is one of the basic principles of the European Union and this is his vision. He also said that the strength of Europe is in that a total of 500 million people have joined their forces in foreign policy, the economy, investments.

    Lambrinidis also said that great changes are taking place that are essential and that "what we want is to forge ahead."

    [05] Papandreou replies to Medvedev letter on European missile shield

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA - Th. Avgerinos)

    A reply from Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to a letter sent a month ago by Russian President Dimitry Medvedev concerning the European missile shield was presented to Russian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Grushko on Thursday by the Greek ambassador in Moscow Mihalis Spinellis.

    Diplomatic sources said the Greek side, in response to Russia's initiative for a "new security architecture" and a combined European shield that also involves Russia, expressed its clear desire that cooperation between all the interested parties in dealing with common threats should continue, while taking into account the special attributes of each side.

    The Greek government has also said it is willing to agree to listen to a detailed presentation of Russia's ideas by its representative at NATO Dmitry Rogozin, who has been instructed by Medvedev to hold meetings with the leaders of European government that received his letter.

    Spinellis was received by Grushko and a Russian foreign ministry announcement said that they discussed the results of the NATO-Russia Council in Sochi on July 3-4, prospects of cooperation on the missile shield and establishing security and stability in Europe.

    [06] Venizelos, Trichet meeting in Frankfurt

    According to a Finance Ministry announcement on Thursday, Government vice-president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos met on Thursday morning in Frankfurt with the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) Jean Claude Trichet.

    [07] Gov't on violent protests targetting MPs, ministers

    Government spokesman Elias Mossialos on Thursday spoke about "indications of escalating political violence" and denied that the prime minister stated in his speech before the Cabinet a day earlier that "we are on the verge of a political diversion".

    Speaking at a regular press briefing, he noted that "we are talking about phenomena of political violence," adding that the government does not wish to impose a specific agenda and that all issues are open and should be discussed within the framework of open parliamentary procedures.

    "A calm, democratic, open parliamentary dialogue should not be intimidating," he stressed and called on all political parties to present their positions on all those issues.

    As regards SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left parliamentary alliance), in particular, he made it clear that it "is not extremist but democratic like any other political party represented in the Greek parliament. However, he called on its leadership, and not individual cadres, to take a specific stance in response to recent strong statements made by its youth movement.

    The government spokesman repeated that "there is no good or bad violence" and called on all political powers to flatly condemn the phenomena of political violence.

    Speaking earlier in the day in the state-run NET radio, Mossialos stated that the special cross-party parliamentary committee to be set up soon will deal with all aspects of violent acts.

    He said that "the committee will meet for a limited time and its findings will focus on other issues as well, such as, demonstration organizing. The role of the police will be examined to ensure that they operate within the framework of the state laws and constitution. We will seek the consensus of the political parties to ensure unanimity as regards the actions the State should take."

    Responding to a question over a "Wall Street Journal" editorial this week, which expressed a positive opinion of proposals made by main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras, the government spokesman reminded that "for a year and a half, the same newspaper was arguing in favour of the country's default."

    As regards the public utility companies and redundant personnel, he stated that "there are alternative solutions such as personnel transfers in the public sector, contract work, voluntary exodus, part-time employment. There is also the labour reserve option. We have ample time as regards labour reserve. The procedures followed will be based on meritocracy and objectivity and take place through the Supreme Council for Staff Selection (ASEP)."

    [08] PASOK MPs table question on rating agencies

    Four MPs of the ruling PASOK party on Thursday tabled a question in parliament addressed to finance minister Evangelos Venizelos and foreign minister Stavros Lambrinidis asking what ways the government intends to propose to its EU partners to deal with the rating agencies in order to safeguard the national and European economy.

    The MPs, in their question, said that the recent developments indicated the EU's inability, primarily at political level, to manage and deal with the attitude of the rating agencies and their influence on the markets.

    They further said that this has resulted in phenomena of the policy decisions of sovereign countries and international organisations being dependent on the assessments and calculations of the rating agencies, which are being investigated for speculation and non-transparent rules of operation.

    The MPs further said that these specific agencies are profitable companies that serve, in every way, the interests of their clients and in no instance the public interest.

    The asked the ministers if they intend to put the acceleration of the establishment of a European rating agency, of a public character, on the agenda, and whether they will ask the EU to look into legal ways of prohibiting the rating agencies of including the economies of the EU member states in their evaluations (even with a simple expression of opinion), given that this instance does not fall under the protected freedom of speech or economic liberty that is recognised by the modern Constitutional documents, given the superiority of the public interest.

    They further ask the ministers whether they will issue a warning that any new downgrading during the duration of the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy programme (which could prospectively have devastating consequences in view of Greece's future return to the markets) would comprise cause of a legal war between the Greek state and the rating agency that goes ahead with such a move.

    [09] Second stab at Siemens investigation criticised as 'parody'

    Main opposition New Democracy and other opposition parties on Thursday reacted critically to news that ruling PASOK MPs were collecting signatures in order to re-open the Siemens case for four former ministers and send them before a Parliamentary preliminary investigation committee.

    ND press spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis attacked the government and said it was attempting to "shunt responsibility for the scandal where this did not exist and achieve an immoral political trade-off".

    Mihelakis insisted that PASOK was fully responsible for the Siemens scandal that the ruling party was deliberately bringing the issue to the forefront at a time when people were being tested by its harsh and unfair economic measures and "a dead-end policy that is disintegrating the economy and society".

    He called on the government to immediately put into effect a proposal by ND leader Antonis Samaras for an inspection of the 'means of wealth' statements of all ministers and deputy ministers since 1974.

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) MP Dimitris Papadimoulis, a member of the original committee that had investigated the Siemens case, also dismissed the proposal as a "parody of cleansing for the sake of appearances".

    He claimed that PASOK had obviously come to an agreement with ND behind the scenes and had essentially scrapped the fact-finding committee's original report on the scandal. Papadimoulis noted that of the 12 former minister that PASOK had then wanted investigated, it was now down to just four whose political careers were already essentially dead.

    Papadimoulis also pointed out that Greece had yet to see one euro of the money lost as a result of Siemens kickbacks, five years after the scandal was first uncovered by German and U.S. authorities, whereas 17 other countries had so far received 1.7 billion euro. By contrast, Greek authorities had not yet even calculated the amount of the damage suffered, he pointed out.

    Sources in the PASOK Parliamentary group revealed on Wednesday that MPs are collecting signatures to request a Parliamentary preliminary investigation committee into the actions of former ND finance minister George Alogoskoufis, and current Democratic Alliance party MP Christos Markoyiannakis, and former PASOK ministers Anastasios Mantelis and Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

    In statements responding to the reports on Thursday, Markoyiannakis and Alogoskoufis both denied any sort of involvement in the scandal.

    "I am ashamed and sorry that I devoted 30 whole years to what is called politics," Markoyiannakis said in response to the news to a local radio station, claiming that the whole affair would essentially be an elaborate cover-up of those really responsible.

    According to Alogoskoufis, the initiative was an attempt to disorient public opinion and political persecution against him and he stressed that the finance ministry at no time had oversight of contracts signed by Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, which was a bourse-listed company.

    [10] Interior minister unveils institutional initiatives

    Interior Minister Haris Kastanidis on Thursday unveiled the institutional initiatives he is considering.

    The draft law introducing the referendum option for political and social issues, except fiscal issues which are constitutionally excluded, will be ready by the end of July. "The draft law's goal is to improve the quality of democracy," the minister stressed.

    Other draft laws expected to be introduced soon concern the funding of political parties, as well as, auditing and election campaign expenditures. The issue of the "source of wealth declarations" submitted by political figures will also be addressed, while the new election law will be considered at a later time.

    Kastanidis also said that the reduction of the number of MPs is an issue that could be settled through a referendum.

    [11] BoG report on climate change in Greece presented to Parliament

    Gradual climate change is having a negative impact on the health of the Greek people and the economy, according to a Bank of Greece (BoG) report "on the environmental, economic and social impacts of climate change in Greece" prepared by the Climate Change Impacts Study Committee presented in parliament on Thursday.

    Parliament's Special Permanent Committee on Environmental Protection Chairman Kostas Kartalis underlined the need for immediate changes in the way cities are built and the methods used in the management of water resources.

    According to the report, climate change will have a considerable negative impact on many sectors in Greece. Agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism, transportation, coastal activities and the built-up environment in urban centres will all be affected by the rise in air temperature, drought, extreme weather events and a rise in sea levels. This will lead to lower productivity, loss of capital and additional expenditure for damage repair. Biodiversity, ecosystems in Greece and human health will be negatively affected.

    The report was presented to the parliamentary committee by Christos Zerefos, member of the Academy of Athens and Coordinator of the Climate Change Impacts Study Committee.

    [12] Armed Forces chief visits Sofia

    SOFIA (ANA-MPA - B. Borisov)

    The head of Greece's Armed Forces General Staff General Ioannis Giagkos on Thursday had a meeting with Bulgaria's Defence Minister Anyu Angelov, during a visit to Sofia at the invitation of his Bulgarian counterpart General Simeon Simeonov.

    In statements afterward, Angelov said that Greece and Bulgaria were an example of model regional cooperation in defence, pointing out that the two countries were the first to sign an air policing agreement.

    A Bulgarian defence ministry announcement said that General Giagkos expressed the Greek side's support for Sofia's request to have the South East European Brigade (SEEBRIG) headquarters permanently based in Bulgaria.

    In talks with his Greek counterpart, General Simeonov also briefed him on reforms to Bulgaria's armed forces that are due to be completed in three years time and expressed satisfaction with the high level of cooperation between the two armies.

    Talking to the ANA-MPA after visiting the Graf Ignatievo air base near Plovdiv, which was recently modernised to meet NATO standards, General Giagkos said there was a new momentum in defence cooperation between Greece and Bulgaria.

    [13] French Gaza flotilla vessel in Cretan port

    A French vessel from the Free Gaza flotilla sailed into the port of Siteia, Crete, at midnight Wednesday, where harbor authorities were inspecting the vessel and its papers.

    It was as yet unknown where the "Dignite-Al Karama", with eight people on board, had set sail from, but according to information the vessel left Corsica on June 26.

    Two more ships of the Gaza flotilla remained anchored in Cretan ports, the "Guernica" in Hania and the "Tahrir" in Aghios Nikolaos.

    The vessels, carrying aid to Gaza, have been banned from leaving Greek seaports by decision of the Greek citizens' protection ministry, following a request by the "Quartet" on the Middle East (US, Russia, EU, UN) that all governments should use their influence and prevent the departure of the flotilla for Gaza.

    The Freedom Flotilla II plans to break an Israeli blockade and deliver aid to Gaza.

    Greece, which has called for an end to the blockade and the reopening of Middle East peace talks, earlier in the week proposed undertaking an initiative to use Greek vessels to route humanitarian aid to Gaza through regular existing channels.

    Financial News

    [14] Greece examines three scenarios for privatization of PPC

    The Greek government is examining three scenarios for the privatization of Public Power Corporation, along with measures to open up the electricity market and allowing access to third parties in lignite production in the country, Environment, Energy and Climate Change George Papaconstantinou said on Thursday.

    Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said the options examined by the government were selling PPC's shares through the stock market -which may not be the best solution as the minister said- selling PPC's subsidiaries and finding a strategic investor -an idea Papaconstantinou described as "interesting". "The way to privatize PPC needs careful talk. We are not just looking for revenue, PPC has a crucial role, we want it to make investments and to be a strong pylon in the energy system," Papaconstantinou told reporters, adding that PPC's pension fund will not be a problem for its privatization, although a dialogue with workers will continue.

    Commenting on a plan to allow third parties to participate in PPC's lignite production, a measure imposed by the EU Commission and the memorandum, the Greek minister said the issue was affecting PPC's privatization, although it was an independent issue. "I have not announced the sale of PPC's units," he said, adding that "in the overall negotiation selling is included along with a swaps procedure".

    Papaconstantinou said another possibility was to separate PPC from subsidiaries in transport and distribution of energy, in the framework of the enterprise's restructuring. Commenting on renewable energy sources, he said the government's goal was to install new units with a power of 300 MW from windpower and 400 MW from photovoltaic parks this year.

    Meanwhile, the ministry on Thursday tabled to Parliament a draft legislation -approved by the cabinet- envisaging the opening up of electricity and natural gas markets in the country, promoting hydrocarbon research, the Burgas-Alexandroupolis, the Greece-Italy and the South Stream oil and natural gas pipeline projects.

    [15] IOBE presents proposals to help Greece exit the crisis

    Greece has not exhausted all its weaponry to surrender to a default and its consequences, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.

    In its quarterly report on the Greek economy, IOBE presented two scenarios for exiting the crisis and noted that a detailed information of all citizens should have been underway over the two options and mainly over the costs and the benefits of each one.

    The Institute, in its report, said that approval of a Mid-term Plan by Parliament did not ensure its success since its implementation depended on a series of domestic policies and organizing parameters, such as implementing an ambitious but feasible program of privatizations and exploitation of state property worth 50 billion euros by 2015, a catalyst for cutting the public debt below 130 pct of GDP by 2015. It also depended on the stance of Greece's partners in the Eurozone, the ECB, the IMF and generally markets.

    Under the two scenarios offered by the troika, the Eurozone, the ECB and the IMF will take over the refinancing of Greece's existing public debt on the precondition that the country's general government deficit will fall below 2 pct of GDP by 2015 and implement privatizations worth 50 billion euros. This proposal rejects any credit event and envisages that more than 2/3 of Greek debt will be held by ECB and the European Stability Mechanism.

    IOBE presented its proposal for exiting the crisis, which focuses on adopting a 10-year growth program, gradually reducing the fiscal deficit below 2 pct of GDP by 2015 mainly through limiting spending and combating tax evasion, promoting wide-spread reforms and privatizations, adopting measures to boost liquidity in the economy, lifting all hurdles in business activity, implementing flexibility in labor markets, establishing permanent job positions for secretary-generals or deputy ministers in the civil administration and accelerating justice.

    IOBE estimates that the Greek economy will shrink by 4 pct this year, unemployment will rise to 16.5 pct and the inflation rate will average 3.3 pct in 2011.

    [16] Development ministry and shipowners agree on 'active role' to boost economy

    Ship owners and the leadership of the development, competitiveness and shipping ministry reached full agreement on Thursday concerning the active involvement of Greece's ship owners in efforts to kickstart and restore the Greek economy.

    The meeting was held with Development Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis, Alternate Development Minister Haris Pamboukis, the head of the Union of Greek Ship-owners Theodore Veniamis and UGS vice-president Christos Kanelakis.

    The two ministers also expressed the ministry's intention to carry out actions and initiatives that will be announced shortly, which will seek to boost and upgrade Greek shipping.

    [17] Infrastructures minister holds talks with taxi federation representatives

    Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Minister Yiannis Ragoussis held talks with representatives of the taxi and cabs federation, while the ministry and the professional drivers had different assessments on what was discussed during the meeting.

    No statements were made by the ministry's political leadership after the meeting, but an announcement was issued stressing that "the deregulation of the profession of taxis was discussed as it has already been achieved on the basis of law 3919 of 2011. The position of the political leadership, that was expressed in both meetings, is that the deregulation of the profession is proceeding normally on the basis of the rules that will be determined soon, as the law anticipates."

    The announcement adds that the ministry's leadership requested the proposals of both unions, of owners and drivers, on the content of the rules on the basis of which the issuing of new taxi licences will be carried out.

    On their part, the owners claim that at the meeting a three-month negotiating period was agreed and that discussions will begin on a zero basis.

    [18] Inflation unchanged at 3.3% in June

    Greece's annual inflation rate was 3.3 pct in June, unchanged from May, the Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Thursday.

    The statistics service, however, recorded significant price increases throughout the range of products and services, mainly in housing and transport.

    The inflation rate, measured by the consumer price index, grew 3.3 pct in June compared with the same month last year, after an increase of 5.2 pct recorded in June 2010. This increase reflects a 4.1 pct rise in food and beverage prices, an 1.5 pct increase in alcohol and tobacco prices, a 2.8 pct increase in clothing/footwear, an 1.0 pct rise in durable goods prices, an 1.4 pct increase in health prices, a 5.1 pct increase in transport prices, a 2.3 pct rise in communications, a 0.4 pct increase in leisure, a 0.9 pct rise in education, a 0.9 pct increase in hotel/coffee/restaurant prices and a 3.2 pct in other goods and services prices.

    The inflation rate fell 0.2 pct in June from May 2011, after a decline of 0.3 pct recorded in the same period last year. Greece's annual harmonized inflation rate was 3.1 pct in June, unchanged from May.

    [19] Tourist arrivals at Greek airports up 9.52pct in 1st half of 2011

    Tourist arrivals at airports throughout Greece rose by 9.52 percent in the first half of the year, according to provisional figures released on Thursday by the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE).

    Visitors arrivals at Greek airports rose by 9.52 percent, totalling 4,214,220 arrivals in the period January-June 2011.

    Foreign tourist arrivals at Greek airports in the month of June alone reached 1,782,673 marking a 15.8 percent rise against the same month last year.

    The destinations posting the largest increases in the first half of the year were the islands of Rhodes and Kos, with 33.25 percent and 31.07 percent respectively.

    Substantial increases were also posted in Thessaloniki (11.57 percent), Heraklion, Crete (15.06 percent) and Hania, Crete (7.82 percent).

    Conversely, Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (AIA) posted a 3.02 percent decline in arrivals.

    [20] Greek participation in International Vinexpo Bordeaux Exhibition

    The Greek participation in the International Exhibition Vinexpo Bordeaux, held in France between June 19 and 23, 2011 is considered successful.

    An announcement by the Exports Promotion Organisation stresses that the products of 2,400 exhibitors from 47 countries were promoted at this year's event and in an exhibition space of 40,000 square metres and the number of commercial visitors exceeded 48,000 from 148 countries, registering an increase compared to the corresponding event in 2009.

    It was also noted that "having the best possible promotion of Greek businesses and of the wines of the Greek vineyard as the target, a Wine Bar operated with great success at the Greek pavilion with the support of Greek sommeliers, that constituted a pole of attraction for visitors."

    Six Greek businesses presented their products at the Greek pavilion.

    [21] ELPE merger with Petrola approved

    The merger of Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (ELPE) and Hellenic Petroleum Company-Petrola S.A. was approved by the regional development, competitiveness and shipping ministry on Thursday, to be effected with the absorption of Petrola by ELPE.

    Petrola is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Athens-listed ELPE.

    ELPE controls three of the country's four refineries -- in Aspropyrgos, Elefsina and Thessaloniki -- and more than 60 percent of the market.

    [22] Car registrations down 42 pct in Jan-June

    Car registration fell 32.2 pct in June this year, compared with the same month in 2010, for a decline of 42 pct in the first half of 2011, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said new car registrations totaled 12,444 vehicles in June, down 32.2 pct from June 2010, while car registrations totaled 72,048 vehicles in the January-June period, after recording a 14.6 pct decline in the corresponding period last year.

    Motorcycle registrations fell 28.4 pct in June this, for a decline of 23.5 pct in the January-June 2011 period.

    [23] Business Briefs

    -- Spending by incoming tourism in Greece rose significantly in the first four months of 2011, a report by Visa Europe said on Thursday, with tourism spending in Greece rising to 245 million euros in the January-April period, from 214 million euros in the same period last year, for an increase of 14.32 pct. Visitors from Cyprus once again topped the list of incoming tourism in Greece with the highest spending totaling 70 million euros, an increase of 14.66 pct.

    [24] Foreign investors cut equity participation in ASE

    Foreign investments slightly cut their participation in the Athens Stock Exchange in June to 51 pct, from 51.2 pct in May, while Greek investors owned 47.6 pct of the market's capitalization, up from 47.5 pct over the same period, respectively.

    Foreign investors were sellers in June, with net capital outflows totaling 65.3 million euros, while Greek investors were buyers with net capital inflows of 63.61 million euros. The value of transactions totaled 1.819 billion euros in June, down 3.0 pct from May and down 18 pct compared with June 2010. Average daily turnover, however, rose to 86.6 million euros in June from 85.3 million in May, but it was down compared with 100.82 million euros in June 2010.

    The number of active investor codes rose to 44,883 in June from 39,855 in May, but down from 50,574 in June 2010. The market's capitalization totaled 49.2 billion euros, down from 50.1 billion euros in May and down from 56.5 billion euros in the same month last year.

    [25] Greek stocks end flat on Thursday

    Greek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index easing 0.12 pct to end at 1,264.23 points after volatile trading. Turnover improved to 101.778 million euros.

    The Big Cap index eased 0.34 pct, the Mid Cap index fell 0.99 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.09 pct lower. Ellaktor (5.58 pct), Viohalco (2.80 pct) and Eurobank (1.87 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while ATEbank (25.93 pct), PPC (3.33 pct) and Motor Oil (2.55 pct) were top losers.

    Construction (2.11 pct), Telecoms (1.31 pct) and Industrial Products (0.60 pct) scored gains, while Utilities (2.83 pct), Oil (2.29 pct) and Health (2.04 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 68 to 61 with another 38 issues unchanged. TBank (20 pct), Mohlos (11.11 pct) and Ideal (10 pct) were top gainers, while ATEbank (25.93 pct), Euromedica (17.5 pct) and Vioter (9.09 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: Unchanged

    Industrials: +1.03%

    Commercial: -1.15%

    Construction: +2.11%

    Media: Unchanged

    Oil & Gas: -2.29%

    Personal & Household: +0.60%

    Raw Materials: +0.53%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.29%

    Technology: +0.34%

    Telecoms: +1.31%

    Banks: -0.73%

    Food & Beverages: +0.02%

    Health: -2.04%

    Utilities: -2.83%

    Chemicals: -1.12%

    Financial Services: +0.61%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 3.39

    ATEbank: 1.00

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 9.30

    HBC Coca Cola: 18.74

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.42

    National Bank of Greece: 4.84

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.27

    OPAP: 10.80

    OTE: 6.18

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.03

    Titan: 16.20

    [26] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 13.52 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market from 13.48 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 16.5 pct and the German Bund 2.98 pct, reflecting renewed worries over efforts to resolving a debt crisis in the Eurozone. Turnover in the market was a low 3.0 million euros, all sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the only trade security of the day.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 2.18 pct, the six-month rate 1.81 pct, the three-month 1.56 pct and the one-month rate 1.33 pct.

    [27] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.70 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 36.251 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,381 contracts worth 26.235 million euros, with 29,161 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 38,623 contracts worth 10.016 million euros, with investment interest focusing on ATEbank's contracts (17,651), followed by Eurobank (3,901), PPC (836), Piraeus Bank (1,121), National Bank (8,356), Alpha Bank (2,619), Marfin Popular Bank (680), Intralot (1,354), Cyprus Bank (343) and Hellenic Postbank (225).

    [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.446

    Pound sterling 0.905

    Danish kroner 7.570

    Swedish kroner 9.231

    Japanese yen 117.37

    Swiss franc 1.223

    Norwegian kroner 7.858

    Canadian dollar 1.394

    Australian dollar 1.347

    General News

    [29] Kalamata 17th International Dance Festival opens next week

    The Kalamata International Dance Festival is the crown event of the year for the city's International Dance Centre, which was founded in the spring of 1995 for the purpose of supporting and promoting the art of dance via research, education, and artistic activities and creativity.

    This year's Festival, which opens on July 14, features six productions, eight performances, and choreographers and dancers from five countries, namely France, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Greece.

    Currently in its 17th year as an active presence in the Greek dance scene, thanks to the support of the local authorities, the Kalamata Festival has earned itself a special place on the festival map of the Mediterranean South, and built bridges to international dance creativity.

    A number of influential figures, whose work is shaping the history of contemporary dance, made their first Greek appearance at Kalamata, while the Festival has also taken care to promote and support Greek creativity in the field by commissioning works from talented Greek choreographers and supporting new companies in their experimental explorations.

    Another integral part of the Festival is the seminars and talks aimed at dance students and professions alike, while other parallel events include publications and video dance productions.

    From the very start, the Festival was programmed with two considerations in mind: the wide range of trends in contemporary dance and the ever-larger audiences this art-form attracts. Today, sixteen years down the line, every year sees a widely-varied audience enthusiastically respond to the call of the Festival.

    Kalamata, the city of dance, is set to host its 17th annual programme of events between the 14th and 21st of July.

    The Festival opens next Thursday (July 14) with "Babel" (Words), a co-production by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Damien Jalet and Antony Gormley, that will also be presented the following day.

    [30] President Papoulias receives Greek professors

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received two distinguished Greek professors teaching at Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University, stressing that "Greece is not the country of economic crisis and vulgarity. There is also a Greece of culture that should be brought forth."

    President Papoulias received Panagiotis Roilos, professor of Modern Greek Studies and Comparative Literature at Harvard University and Dimitris Yatromanolakis, who holds joint appointments in the Department of Anthropology and Humanities Center at Johns Hopkins University while he is also faculty associate at the Department of the Classics at Harvard University.

    Both professors will present the Harvard University Greek Culture awards in a special ceremony in Athens.

    [31] Police crack ring buying cars with forged cheques

    Southeast Attica Police on Thursday announced that they had successfully cracked a ring that used stolen or forged cheques in order to fraudulently obtain luxury cars from their owners. Authorities have arrested a 26-year-old Greek national in Glyfada and are looking for four accomplices that helped him set up the scam.

    For the past three months, the ring had scoured ads on the Internet for the sale of expensive luxury cars and approached owners, pretending to be prospective buyers. They then drew up fake letters of attorney and persuaded owners to sell their cars in exchange for post-dated cheques that were either stolen or could not be covered.

    They then sold the cars on to other, unsuspecting buyers using more fake letters of attorney and other documents.

    The ring has so far been involved in the sale of five cars, with a total profit of 125,000 euro.

    The suspect under arrest has been led before an Athens first-instance court prosecutor while authorities are also looking into the ring's possible involvement in other crimes.

    [32] Fire broke out in grassland near Ptolemaida in the northwest

    A fire that broke out early at noon on Thursday in a farm region in Asvestopetra near Ptolemaida in NW Greece destroyed roughly 10 hectares of grassland.

    Five fire engines and their 9-member crew assisted by 8 firefighters on foot are battling the blaze while reinforcements are on their way.

    Weather Forecast

    [33] Fair on Friday

    Fair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 16C and 35C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 19C to 35C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 20C to 32C.

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

    Government vice president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos' talks with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble in Berlin, the decrease in pensions and the supernumerary staff in the public sector, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "192,000 insured without pension - List grows of IKA (state Social Security Foundation) insured retirees awaiting formalisation of their pensions, some of them up to a year and a half".

    AVGHI: "Prime Minister George Papandreou fears Universities and Plazas (Indignants) movement".

    AVRIANI: "Turkish tycoon to buy Greek islets".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Government admits layoffs in public sector - Lies about the cuts in pensions".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Tax bureaus are not collecting revenues".

    ESTIA: "National crime with the economy".

    ETHNOS: " 'Not collecting' movement in Tax Bureaus".

    IMERISSIA: "Dirty games - Debt war raging".

    KATHIMERINI: "Rekindling of fears of spread of debt crisis".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Plan for Eurobond issue again on the table".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Popular vigilance and struggle against the intensifying state suppression".

    TA NEA: "Dinner in Berlin with privatisations as the first course".

    VRADYNI: "The cuts in salaries also reducing the pensions".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [35] Leaders agree in Geneva on intensive talks

    GENEVA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    President of the Cyprus Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu have agreed in the meeting they held Thursday with United Nations' Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva, to enter into an intensive period of negotiations on the core issues of Cyprus problem when they return to the island, Ban stated.

    According to a statement by UNSG Ban Ki-moon read out in the presence of President Christofias and Dervis Eroglu after their meeting and working lunch in Geneva, Ban said that it was also agreed that the two leaders will focus on finding a way through the difficult ''core issues'' in the negotiations. ''I have every expectation that by October the leaders will be able to report that they have reached convergence on all core issues, and we will meet that month in New York,'' he said.

    "This will take the Cyprus negotiations close to their conclusion and would allow me to give a positive report to the Security Council on the matter," Ban noted, adding that "it would also pave the way for me to work with the parties towards convening a final, international conference".

    Ban said that this has been their third meeting, after the meetings in New York in November 2010 and Geneva in January of this year. He also reminded that he spoke with President Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader in April when they decided it was best to take a little more time to advance the negotiations towards a comprehensive settlement before they met again.

    Both sides have worked steadily to take the negotiations forward since their meeting in January, ''but progress has been far too slow,'' Ban noted. ''Some important areas have remained untouched. For this reason, today's (Thursday) meeting has been useful and productive,'' he added.

    They have identified some of the difficulties that are standing in the way of reaching a comprehensive agreement and discussed the need to significantly intensify the negotiations, he said.

    Ban had also raised with both the leaders the importance of looking ahead at the objective rather than focusing on the problem in minute detail.

    According to the Secretary General, the atmosphere at Thursday's meeting was quite positive and he was impressed with the commitment of both sides to agree on the details to create a united Cyprus.

    Both leaders have made it clear that they are aiming to reach a comprehensive solution as soon as possible, he added. ''I stated to Mr. Christofias and Mr. Eroglu that while I agreed that the negotiations must be Cypriot-led and Cypriot-owned, I was prepared to offer an enhanced United Nations involvement, without prejudice to this central principle''.

    "Both leaders have accepted my offer," Ban Ki-moon said adding that he also took the opportunity to remind both leaders of the parameters of the agreement ''that we are striving to reach as set out in relevant Security Council Resolutions''. The leaders have agreed to enter into an intensive period of negotiations on the core issues when they return to the island, UNSG said, pointing out that they will focus on finding a way through the difficult core issues.

    The Secretary General said he has expectation that by October the leaders will be able to report that they have reached convergence on all core issues, and they will meet that month in New York. "This will take the Cyprus negotiations close to their conclusion and would allow me to give a positive report to the Security Council on the matter," he said adding, ''it would also pave the way for me to work with the parties towards convening a final, international conference''.

    Ban also stressed that the leaders have agreed that they must begin to build support for a comprehensive agreement. ''On both sides, the public has become weary. Both leaders must renew hope and enthusiasm for a solution''.

    Finally, he said that the two leaders have acknowledged the need to begin to prepare their communities for the compromises required for a settlement and the prospect of living together in a united Cyprus.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. UN-backed talks for a mutually agreed settlement to the problem of Cyprus began in September 2008.

    [36] Chrysostomos II meets Archbishop of America

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The Greek community of America, and especially the Greek-Cypriot community is in a constant vigilance and gives a continuous battle to promote a proper solution to the Cyprus problem, Archbishop of America, Demetrios, stated here Thursday.

    Demetrios, who was speaking after a meeting with Cyprus Archbishop Chrysostomos II, earlier in the day at the Archbishopric, he stressed that the Cypriot community in America plays a significant role in the promotion of orthodoxy and "global Hellenism" in America.

    The Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II said that during the meeting they exchanged views on issues regarding church, and thanked the Archbishop and the Greek community of America for their interest in the Cyprus problem.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. UN-led peace talks are currently underway between the leaders of the island's two communities, in an effort to find a negotiated settlement that will unite the country under a federal roof.

    After the meeting, the Archbishop of Cyprus hosted a luncheon in honor of the Archbishop of America, also attended by Greek Ambassador to Cyprus, Vassilis Papaioannou and American Ambassador Frank C. Urbancic.

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