|Wednesday, 21 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-07-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 21 July 2011 Issue No: 3843
 Papandreou confers with Commission chief ahead of Thursday's summitBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Spinthourakis)
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou held talks here on Wednesday afternoon with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, ahead of Thursday's extraordinary EU summit in the Belgian capital.
The talks lasted for one hour and thirty minutes and no statements were made afterwards. According to Greek diplomatic sources, the premier presented to the Commission president the Greek positions "underlining the particular importance it has for Greece the Greek public debt's viability, the banks' liquidity and the gradual decrease of the burden on the citizens' shoulders."
 Papandreou to meet Merkel Thursday, ahead of EU summitGreek Prime Minister George Papandreou will be holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at noon on Thursday in Brussels, ahead of an extraordinary European Union Summit the same day.
 PM has phone conversation with former U.S. president Bill ClintonPrime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday contacted former U.S. President Bill Clinton on the telephone, shortly before his departure for Brussels to attend Thursday's emergency Eurozone summit.
According to sources the call, which was made just three days after Papandreou held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Athens, was chiefly about the current financial crisis threatening Greece and Europe.
Bill Clinton apparently agreed with Papandreou's view that the Eurozone meeting must yield some kind of solution to Greece's debt problem and he expressed his support for the efforts made by the Greek government in order to exit the crisis, and for the Greek people who are being asked to make sacrifices toward this goal.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Greek premier is scheduled to have series of bilateral meetings.
 Gov't spokesman: Thursday's summit 'decisive' for future of Greece, EuropeThursday's eurozone summit in Brussels will be "decisive" for the future of Greece and Europe, Greek government spokesman Elias Mossialos said on Wednesday.
Greek prime minister George Papandreou "is waging the battle to guarantee that Greece will remain standing, with hope and a prospect for its citizens," Mossialos said in a written statement.
The premier is "waging the battle for the debt to be viable and for the burdens on the citizens to be reduced, for protection of deposits and boosting of liquidity on the market", he said.
"These, for us, are the red lines that serve the national interest," the government spokesman added.
 FinMin in Washington next weekGreek government Vice president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos will visit Washington early next week, where he will have a series of meetings with top US and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials.
Venizelos, who arrives in the US capital on Sunday, will meet over the following two days with US administration officials Congressional leaders, as well as with the senior officials of the IMF.
On Monday, Venizelos has a scheduled meeting with the new IMF director general Christine Lagarde.
He will also meet with US government officials in follow-ups to recent talks in Athens with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Treasury Department deputy assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasia Christopher Smart.
On reports and comments over a legislative initiative by eight Republican Senators opposing IMF loans to EU countries, as the US is the largest contributor to the IMF, Venizelos said this does not reflect the official policy of the US administration.
"It is very usual for Senators or US Representatives to undertake various legislative initiatives in Congress, without those reflecting the policy position and line of the US administration," Venizelos said.
Venizelos said that the US position on the international economic and fiscal crisis and more particularly in relation to the eurozone and Greece is publicly known and clear. This also holds true for the US position in the IMF, which is particularly supportive, he said, adding that these matters were discussed in a "very positive and creative spirit" during his recent discussions in Athens with Clinton and Smart.
 Samaras demands solutions without 'selective default'Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras underlined on Wednesday the need for the European Union to show determination in handling the debt crisis, to promote solutions without a "selective default" and without the participation of the private sector in state bond risk.
In a statement issued ahead of Thursday's crucial European Union summit in Brussels, Samaras noted that the EU "should help in practice the member-states which are facing a problem, for reasons of solidarity but also because otherwise the danger of the crisis being transmitted to the entire Europe, and beyond it, becomes greater."
Outlining the reasons for his objections to the participation of the private sector, the ND leader noted that "the participation of the private sector in the risk of state lending was a wrong choice from the very beginning, which soared the cost of borrowing for the weaker countries and still transmitts the crisis everywhere.The 'selective default' is not a solution. This is what we must avoid. Because it aggravates the problems of liquidity in countries such as Greece."
Concluding Samaras pointed out to the need of supporting growth in countries that are in crisis.
 Samaras meets with SEV board membersMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Wednesday met with the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) board members. The meeting was held at the party headquarters in Athens.
 Tsipras: "No solution without structural changes, circumventing the markets"Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday expressed pessimism over Thursday's eurozone summit in Brussels, warning that "there can be no solution without structural changes and circumventing the markets".
He told a press conference that the two proposals being discussed are dead ends, short-lived and piecemeal.
Tsipras said that a buy-back of bonds was a "dead-end" plan, while the participation of the private sector -- which would lend to the mechanism and in the event of default would be the last to be paid -- would entail a rise in the spreads and consequently would create bigger problems than those it would supposedly solve.
The SYRIZA leader said that problem is not just a Greek one but a European one with global dimensions, and accused the government of going to Thursday's summit without positions and without a strategy.
"At the previous summits, the government went with its hands in the air, and now it is going with its hands tied behind its back, with the Medium-Term programme signed and the privatisations programme agreed in advance," Tsipras charged.
On his recent telephone discussion with prime minister George Papandreou, Tsipras said that Papandreou had considered the proposals of the European Left to be reasonable, but had noted that the correlations in the EU are negative.
"Yes, but one fights to change the correlations," Tsipras said, adding that SYRIZA, which was opposed to the Memorandum and the Medium-Term programme, is being vindicated, and warning that selective default would lead to generalised bankruptcy, as was the case in Argentina.
"All the solutions being proposed, to the degree that they do not re-consolidate the architecture of the EMU and do not circumvent the markets, are doomed to fail," Tsipras said, accusing the European leaders of being beneath the circumstances and warning that "non agreement" is the worst scenario.
"If the summit ends in a fiasco, there is a real danger of a fiscal crash," he said, adding that the government has immense responsibilities for not having taken measures "to safeguard us from the possibility of such a flood".
Tsipras conveyed a message of solidarity to the Greek people from the Leftist forces of Europe, and outlined the basic points of SYRIZA's proposal for exiting the crisis.
The main points include write-off of the largest part of the debt and "improvement" of the repayment time and interest rate, change of the role of the European Central Bank (ECB), transfer of part of the debt to the ECB with the issue of a euro-bond, measures for the redistribution of the wealth through "socialisation" of the banks, and taxation of the wealth and the high incomes.
He also called for European guarantee of bank deposits and ensurance of the viability of social security funds.
Tsipras further called for a rallying of "all the forces that disagree with the Memorandum", saying that the creation of a broad alliance is a "historical necessity", while also opining that if the Left could found a "common pace", it would be the biggest power, given that all the opinion polls were indicating that the two-party system was collapsing.
Veteran Leftist politician Manolis Glezos, who was with Tsipras at the press conference, said that Greece does not owe money to Germany but that the opposite holds true, estimating that Germany's debt to Greece from the forced loan to the Nazi occupation forces and indemnities from WWII, with interest, was currently 1.5 trillion euros.
 DM sharply criticises Erdogan comments on CyprusNICOSIA (ANA-MPA / A. Viketos)
Visiting Greek Defense Minister Panos Beglitis on Wednesday characterized as "empty words" the threats made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Turkey will freeze its EU accession negotiations during the Cypriot EU Presidency in the second half of 2012.
Speaking on a local television station, Beglitis stressed that taking over the EU Presidency is a historic opportunity for the Republic of Cyprus.
He stressed that Cyprus and Greece should continue an aggressive policy on international level denouncing the Turkish intransigence and inconsistent stance.
Earlier the defense minister had met with Archbishop Chryssostomos. In statements made afterwards, he characterized the comments of the Turkish premier as "unacceptable", adding that they display reluctance in solving the Cyprus problem.
Referring to the 37th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the ongoing occupation of a large part of Cyprus by Turkish forces, Beglitis stressed that "everything possible should be done to avert the painful consequences of the invasion and occupation".
He said that a solution should be reached within the framework of the UN based on UN and EU decisions, adding that the solution that will be found should "reunite the island, the Greek Cypriots with the Turkish Cypriots, without making any discounts and without compromises that are beyond what Hellenism can bear".
Beglitis underlined that the issue of the Turkish occupation forces should be brought to the forefront and "we should show on every chance we get who is responsible for the situation and who has the political will to solve the Cyprus problem".
Referring to the recent tragic accident in a Cypriot naval base, he underlined that despite its economic problems Greece will contribute to the efforts made for Cyprus' recovery.
 Greek FM Lambrinidis comments on Hadzic's arrestGreek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis commented Wednesday from Warsaw the arrest, by the Serbial authorities, of Goran Hadzic, a Croatian Serb war crimes suspect from the 1990s Yugoslav conflicts.
"Serbia has proved in practice its absolute dedication to the aim of arresting and bringing before justice all those accused of horrible crimes. We have demanded this from Serbia and Serbia fulfils it," Stavrinidis said in a statement, adding that the European Union should support the speeding up of Serbia's full EU accession process.
 FM to receive Israeli opposition leader LivniGreek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis will meet in Athens at noon on Thursday with visiting Israeli opposition leader and former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, it was announced on Wednesday.
 Greek FM gives lecture in WarsawWARSAW (ANA-MPA)
Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis reiterated here that Athens has returned "up to the last euro of the money it has received and it will continue to do so until the end of this programme, with a very high interest rate."
Addressing an event at the Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw on Tuesday, Lambrinidis underlined that Greece has made a "super-human and unprecedented effort in the entire European Union in order to return to responsibility, both for its own benefit and the benefit of its partners."
He pointed out that in recent years, "two fundamental values of the European Union are under attack: responsibility and solidarity. The responsibility that each member of the same family should demonstrate towards its partners but also the solidarity that the Union as a whole should demonstrate towards each one of its member-states."
 Reichenbach to lead Commision Task Force for GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday appointed Horst Reichenbach, Vice-President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and former Director General of the Commission, to chair the Task Force for providing technical assistance to Greece.
"With the launch of the Task Force for Greece, the Commission wants no stone left unturned when it comes to using structural funds in the best way possible to assist Greece in enhancing competitiveness, boost growth and tackle unemployment," Barroso said.
He noted that Reichenback brought "precious experience and great expertise to the task".
Barroso proposed a comprehensive programme of technical assistance to Greece during talks with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in June, to help support the delivery of the EU-IMF adjustment programme and accelerate the absorption of EU funds. The proposal was endorsed by the European Council on June 23-24.
According to a Commission press release, the Task Force will be based in Brussels, with a support team in Athens. It will closely work with the Greek authorities and the other EU member-states to coordinate the comprehensive programme of technical assistance that Greece needs in order to deliver the EU/ IMF programme. Its work will have a strong focus on competitiveness, growth and employment.
The Task Force will provide a quarterly progress report to the Greek authorities and the Commission, with the first report expected by the end of October. General coordination of the Task Force, reporting to Barroso, will be ensured by European Commissioner Olli Rehn.
 ND com't presents constitutional revision proposalsMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras on Wednesday received the constitutional revision proposals prepared by the responsible ND committee, chaired by party vice-president Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Samaras congratulated the committee members on the "excellent work" and underlined that "we contribute to the change of the political setting".
The formal presentation of the proposals will take place in a special event next Wednesday before they are put out for public debate.
 ND leader's message on 37th anniversary of Cyprus invasion"All Greeks should be united and determined while offering their support to the struggles of the Cypriot Hellenism," was underlined by main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras in a statement he made on Wednesday on the occasion of the 37th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
The ND leader said July 20th marks the greatest national tragedy in modern history and also serves as an international reminder of the true dimensions of the Cyprus problem, seen as a problem of invasion, occupation and illegal settlement in the occupied Cypriot territory.
Samaras stressed that a solution should be reached within the framework of the UN decisions and the European acquis, adding that it should put an end to the fait accompli created by the invasion and lead to a united Cyprus without settlers and occupation forces; a solution that will be "really functional and viable, European and democratic".
 Greek parliament honours those killed during Turkish invasion of CyprusThe Greek Parliament observed on Wednesday a minute of silence in memory of those killed during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on July 20,1974.
Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos addressing the House said this was a sad anniversary, adding that this tragedy has led to the occupation of Cyprus' northern part for 37 years now and claimed the lives of thousands of people, causing grief and pain.
He noted that Nicosia remains the only divided European capital, adding that by invading Cyprus, Turkey violated the international law.
Petsalnikos wished for a solution to the Cyprus problem, noting that this is a fundamental priority for all political parties of the country and for Hellenism as a whole.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
 Zagorianos acquitted of wrongdoing in conduct of Siemens investigationThe Appeals Justices Council on Wednesday acquitted first-instance court judge Nikos Zagorianos of wrongdoing in his conduct of the investigation into the Siemens kickbacks scandal in Greece. Zagorianos had been the examining magistrate in charge of the case when the key suspect, Mihalis Christoforakos, was allowed to flee the country to Germany.
The Council's decision acquitted Zagorianos of breach of duty and abuse of authority, finding that neither omissions nor actions by the magistrate during the course of his investigation were linked to Christoforakos' flight.
The decision backs up the findings of the appeals magistrate that originally investigated the charges against Zagorianos, who had recommended that he be acquitted. The Appeals Justices' Council had decided at the time to go ahead with the investigation, however.
In its meeting on Wednesday, it adopted the prosecutor's position that there was insufficient evidence to support the charges.
The magistrate has also been acquitted by a decision of the Supreme Court Areios Pagos of all disciplinary liability.
 Papoulias received Education MinisterRepublic President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday was briefed by Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou on the reforms promoted in the tertiary education sector, with the latter underlining that they "will prevent future economic, political or social crisis".
As regards reactions sparked by the education reforms, Diamantopoulou stressed that "reform goes hand-in-hand with reaction" and repeated that she is open to dialogue. The minister also referred to the proposals presented by the Technological Education Institutes (TEI) presidents and the federation of university and TEI professors, as well as, to next week's meeting of the political parties in parliament.
Diamantopoulou stressed that reform in universities and TEIs is absolutely necessary and underlined that it is very important to become "an issue of consensus instead of confrontation".
 Papoulias receives road safety expertRepublic President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received Athens Polytechnic professor Giorgos Kanellaidis, an expert on traffic management and road safety.
Prof. Kanellaidis handed Papoulias the strategic plan for improving road safety in Greece (2011-2020), and thanked him for his interest in the issue.
According to Kanellaidis, the number of fatalities and permanent injuries (paralysis) as a result of road accidents is still large, and underlined that roughly 3,000 people are crippled annually.
 Development minister in BerlinDevelopment, competitiveness and shipping minister Michalis Chryssohoidis will be in Berlin on Thursday for a series of contacts aimed at attracting German investments to Greece that will include talks with German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble.
The agenda of talks includes Greece's denationalisations programme, as well as the "Alliance for Development in Europe" initiative being promoted by Chryssohoidis.
The Greek minister, who will be accompanied by officials of the Invest in Greece service, will also address an event organised by the Federation of German Industries (BDI) on investment opportunities in Greece.
Chryssohoidis will meet with German deputy economy minister Bernhard Heitzer, to establish a steady and organised channel between the two ministries for attracting investment initiatives and activities to Greece by German companies.
He is also scheduled to meet with European Investment Bank (EIB) vice president Matthias Kollatz-Ahnen, to discuss the prospect of EIB participation in the financing of development actions in Greece.
The talks with Schauble will focus on the procedures for the adoption of policies, by the European institutions, for boosting the growth and recovery of the Greek economy.
 Greek budget deficit up to 12.747 billion euros in H1Greek state budget deficit widened to 12.747 billion euros in the first half of 2011, up from a budget target for a shortfall of 10.374 billion euros and from a deficit of 9.997 billion euros in the January-June period last year, the Finance ministry said on Wednesday.
The ministry, in a report, said that budget revenues fell behind schedule by 3.016 billion euros in the first six months of the year, while spending were down by 644 million euros in the six-month period. Net budget revenues totaled 21.818 billion euros, down 8.3 pct from 2010, reflecting a larger than expected economic recession in the country and non-repeat of 2010 revenues. The Public Investments Program's revenues were up 87.7 pct or by 337 million euros in the January-June period.
The finance ministry, in a statement said a shortfall in revenues was expected to be effectively dealt with in the second half of the year with the performance of tax measures included in a Medium-term Fiscal Strategy Programe. Regular budget spending rose 8.8 pct from 2010, reflecting higher interest payments, increased subsidies to pension funds, higher payments for unemployment benefits and higher payments for state hospital debt.
Primary spending rose 4.5 pct, or by 1.111 billion euros, while the Public Investments Program's spending fell 42.3 pct.
 Green light to advertising by lawyers, law firmsThe Athens Bar Association gave the "green light" to advertising by lawyers and law firms under certain conditions, warning violators that they will be faced with disciplinary action and fines of up to 10,000 euros, it was announced on Wednesday.
The Athens Bar Association put out for public debate a draft Presidential Decree that abolishes all restrictions in connection with the advertising by self-employed professionals and, at the same time, defines the terms and preconditions for legal advertising.
After the public debate is completed the draft presidential decree will be forwarded to the ministry of justice which will have the final say.
 Non-resident arrivals up 13.1pct in Jan-MarNon-resident arrivals from abroad rose by 13.1 percent in the first five months of the year, the Hellenic Statistical Service (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday.
According to the Border Statistical Survey conducted by the Bank of Greece, in the period Jan-March of 2011, arrivals of non-residents from abroad increased by 13.1%, as compared with the same period of the year 2010, ELSTAT said.
More specifically,arrivals from Europe,which account for the majority of arrivals of non-residents to Greece (81.7%), registered a increase of 8.6% in Jan-March 2011 as compared with the same period of 2010, while arrivals from the Member States of the European Union recorded a increase of 1.1%. Arrivals from Russia (79.8%), France (70.5%), Albania (53.9%), U.K (32.4%), showed a significant increase.
On the other hand, a significant decrease of arrivals was observed in the cases of Italy (29.4%), Germany (19.5%), and Cyprus (15.9%).
As regards to the distribution of arrivals by country of origin of non-residents, the largest number of arrivals came from Bulgaria (10.3%), Cyprus (8.5%), Germany (7.8%), the United Kingdom (7.1%). Moreover the corresponding data for the rest of the continents show a significant increase of arrivals from Asia for the period Jan-March 2011 as compared with the same period of 2010.
The analysis of the data by means of transportation and by point of entry shows that most arrivals are by air, and airports with the largest proportion of traffic to be those of Athens (Eleftherios Venizelos) (40.0%), and Thessaloniki (6.6%).
 Stocks end slightly lowerStocks edged lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday with investors cautious ahead of a crucial EU Summit on Thursday. The composite index of the market ended 0.29 pct lower at 1,184.35 points, ignoring a recovery in other European markets. Turnover was a low 51.643 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 0.03 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 0.60 pct and the Small Cap index eased 0.29 pct. Cyprus Bank (1.85 pct), National Bank (1.61 pct) and Piraeus Bank (1.18 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Titan (2.79 pct), Coca-Cola 3E (2.03 pct0 and MIG (1.96 pct) were top losers.
The Health (4.68 pct) and Travel (1.09 pct) sectors scored gains, while Insurance (4.17 pct) and Food (1.98 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Broadly, advancers narrowly led decliners by 62 to 61 with another 54 issues unchanged. Unibios (20 pct), Haidemenos (15.48 pct) and NEL (11.76 pct) were top gainers, while Koumbas Holdings (12.5 pct), Sarandopoulos Mills (10 pct) and Hatzikranioti (8.14 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.86%
Personal & Household: +0.13%
Raw Materials: -0.16%
Travel & Leisure: +1.09%
Food & Beverages: -1.98%
Financial Services: -0.28%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and Coca Cola 3E.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 2.92
Public Power Corp (PPC): 8.75
HBC Coca Cola: 18.80
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.17
National Bank of Greece: 4.43
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 2.64
Bank of Piraeus: 0.86
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 14.30 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 14.9 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 17.04 pct and the German Bund 2.74 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 7.0 million euros, of which 6.0 million were buy orders and the remaining 1.0 million euros were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 3.0 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate was 2.17 pct, the six-month rate 1.81 pct, the three-month 1.60 pct and the one-month rate 1.45 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.63 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover shrinking to 14.947 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,568 contracts worth 11.747 million euros, with 29,689 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,229 contracts worth 3.200 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,717), followed by Eurobank (689),
PPC (262), Piraeus Bank (1,248), Alpha Bank (986), Mytilineos (721), Cyprus Bank (337) and ATEbank (599).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.442
Pound sterling 0.893
Danish kroner 7.567
Swedish kroner 9.308
Japanese yen 113.73
Swiss franc 1.182
Norwegian kroner 7.921
Canadian dollar 1.365
Australian dollar 1.341
 Taxi owners extend strike indefinitely; block roads, airportsTaxi owners decided to continue their strike indefinitely and to find additional forms of protest during a general meeting on Wednesday, after the breakdown of talks held earlier that morning with Infrastructure, Transport & Networks Minister Yiannis Ragoussis.
The head of the taxi owners' association (SATA) Thymios Lymberopoulos said that no taxis will cruise the streets for the duration of the strike and expressed his distress at the "10-15 provocateurs" that were responsible for incidents outside the minister's office.
The 90-minute meeting with Ragoussis and representatives of striking taxi owners ended in deadlock, while violence erupted outside the ministry when some protesting taxi owners tried to storm the building and were repelled by riot police using teargas.
Taxi owners began with a 48-hour nationwide warning strike at dawn on Monday, which they first extended for 48 hours and then indefinitely when talks with the ministry broke down.
The clash between taxi owners and government evolved into a head-on collision following the new minister's decision fully deregulate the profession immediately, without any transition period, disregarding a Presidential Decree that was being advanced by his predecessor at the ministry, Dimitris Reppas, with which the cab owners had agreed.
Meanwhile, taxi owners around the country also engaged in other forms of protest action on Wednesday, blocking access to roads, ports and airports throughout Greece.
One group from the port city of Patras and surrounding regions had blocked the Rio-Antirrio bridge, that spans the entrance to the Corinthian Gulf and is a major route connecting the Peloponnese and Athens with northwestern Greece. Others head to the Rio toll posts on the national highway, which they opened and closed at intervals.
Taxi owners in the northwestern Greek city of Ioannina set up a blockade of the city's airport for three hours, without preventing the movements of passengers, while similar action was taken by taxi owners on Crete at Hania airport, which taxi owners decided to blockade indefinitely after the deadlock in talks with the minister. Passengers are now entering Hania airport on foot.
Concern about the forms of action chosen by taxi owners and the harm this is doing to the country's image abroad as a tourist destination was expressed by the Association of Airline Companies Representatives (SAAE).
In other forms of action, approximately 300 taxis from various areas of the Peloponnese have set off from the Nestani and Spathovouni toll posts heading toward Athens, while 60 taxis stayed behind at the Nestani and Corinth toll posts and are allowing cars to go through without paying.
Meanwhile, a motorised protest by taxi owners in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki has caused massive traffic jams and changes to bus routes through the city.
Expressing concern about the impact of the mobilisations, 21 ruling PASOK MPs have asked that the PASOK Parliamentary Working Sector for transport be immediately convened and that the transport minister Ragoussis brief its members on the ministry's plans and intentions concerning the sector.
In a letter to the PASOK Parliamentary Group secretary, the 21 MPs noted that the situation is developing in such a way that "the Greek economy, tourism sector and the country's image abroad are currently receiving a serious blow with unforeseeable repercussions".
On its part, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party lashed out at Ragoussis for his handling of the taxi sector deregulation issue, saying that he is the "architect of chaos".
ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis accused Ragoussis of undermining the dialogue with taxi owners before it began. He also alleged that Ragoussis' stance is the result of a "personal vendetta" with his predecessor Dimitris Reppas, the current Public Administration Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas.
The ND spokesman called on the taxi owners to display a measure of responsibility and refrain from blocking airports, seaports and national motorways avoiding social confrontation.
 Rio-Antirrio bridge opens as taxis depart, traffic flow restoredProtesting taxi owners that had blocked access to Rio-Antirrio bridge departed late on Wednesday, restoring the flow of traffic to normal.
Taxi owners from Achaia and Aitoloakarnania had blocked access to the crucial bridge, which spans the Corinthian Gulf and connects the Peloponnese with northwestern Greece, since the afternoon.
They revealed that they are planning other forms of protest against government plans to fully deregulate the taxi service sector and remove quantitative limits on licences but have not announced what these are.
 Crucial meeting with seamens' reps on ThursAlternate Development, Competitiveness & Shipping Minister Haris Pamboukis on Thursday afternoon will meet with
Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) representatives, it was announced on Wednesday. The outcome of the meeting will be decisive in determining whether the union will call for strikes in the coming period.
PNO has warned of industrial actions in July unless Article 44 of the medium-term fiscal strategy enabling law is abolished. According to the article in question, the state financing of the seamen's pension fund NAT will be reduced, thus possibly affecting pensions paid.
Members of the association of shipping enterprises met with PNO representatives on Monday and called for no strike actions during tourism high season, stressing that the negative impact of their mobilisations on the shipping sector and the local island economies will be irreversible.
 Major changes to Athens bus routes from SaturdayThe Athens public transport organisation OASA on Wednesday announced sweeping changes to Athens bus routes from this Saturday, in order to improve services to the public and further promote combined use of public transport.
OASA said the new plan was designed to better coordinate bus routes with fixed rail services and to take into account changes in the population distribution in Attica, which has increased and shifted outward to the new and developing suburbs.
It also seeks to meet higher standards of service demanded by the public and take into account the increased cost of owning and running a private car.
The aim is to increase the total number of passenger journeys within the area where OASA operates, so that public transport increases its share of total journeys to 45 percent of the total in the next three years, or seven million journeys per day.
OASA expects that the changes to routes will greatly reduce the distance travelled by buses and reduce the operating cost of running the service, improve the quality of service provided to commuters and reduce environmental pollution around Attica.
 Boat with 129 illegal migrants spotted off AstakosA 15-metre Catamaran-type sailing boat with some 129 illegal migrants on board was intercepted on Wednesday morning in the sea off Petinari, in Astakos, western Greece, by the Greek coast guard.
The boat was escorted by the Coast Guard to port, where the illegal migrants were disembarked for counting and then taken to a local indoor gymnasium conceded by the municipality.
Greek authorities said the migrants were mostly of Pakistani or Afghan origin and were in good health. The group included 126 men, two women and one child, while one of the women was pregnant.
The men will be housed in the indoor gymnasium while the pregnant woman was taken for a precautionary medical examination. The second woman and child will be housed in the port authority's headquarters.
According to the Astakos Port Authority, one or more migrant smugglers were possibly among the migrants.
The catamaran was headed for Italy while the location it set sail from remains unknown.
 Illegal migrant arrests in central GreeceTwo alleged illegal migrant smugglers, both Romanian nationals, and four illegal migrants -- two Moroccans, an Algerian and an Afghan -- were arrested by police in Karditsa, central Greece, it was announced on Wednesday. The arrests were made after the private car with the suspects was flagged down for a police check.
 Asvestohori fire put out in IoanninaThe fire that broke out between Asvestohori and Neohoropoulo, near the northwestern Greek city of Ioannina, was finally put out on Wednesday but not before it had burnt through 1,300 hectares of brush, farmland and forest, including the last remaining stand of woods in Ioannina University campus.
The wild fire had raged throughout the night and several times threatened homes in the surrounding villages of Asvestohori, Pedini, Neohoropoulo, Kato Marmara. It also swept through the campus and threatened the university hospital and set ablaze the dump at Dourouti.
Sunrise brought the fire-fighting aircraft back into the fray and these helped bring the fire under control.
 Sunny, cooler temperaturesGenerally sunny weather but slightly cooler temperatures than in previous days are forecast throughout Greece on Thursday. Winds mostly west northwesterly, from 3-6 Beaufort and up to force 7 at sea. Temperatures will range from 20C to 36C. Sunny in Athens, with temperatures between 25C and 36C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 19C to 33C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe deliberations and scenarios for resolving the debt crisis ahead of Thursday's extraordinary eurozone summit mostly dominated the front pages of Wednesday's newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Ragoussis (new infrastructures, transport and networks minister) the architect of the chaos created by the taxi owners' strike".
AVGHI: "Government admits it is going to Thursday's summit without demands".
AVRIANI: "Europe's fate at stake at Thursday's summit".
ELEFTHEROS: "Karatzaferis (LAOS leader) to PM Papandreou: Play 'hard rock' at Summit".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Electronic source of wealth statements for bank deposits and stock shares".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Draft law in US against Greece - Greek debt and Memorandum have turned into war between the Republicans and President Obama, with the Republicans having already tabled a draft law calling for a halt to US aid to Greece via the IMF (International Monetary Fund)".
ESTIA: "Theatre of the irrational with the default".
ETHNOS: "The hiring criteria for 15,000 teachers".
IMERISSIA: "Summit games".
KATHIMERINI: "Frenzy of deliberations at the last minute before the Summit".
LOGOS: "Stick and carrot by Merkel".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Tough political thriller with the Summit".
NIKI: "'Selective' dribble".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Demonstrations today for health system".
TA NEA: "Water torture by Merkel".
VRADYNI: "Plasmatic years for speedier retirement and bigger pension".
 President Christofias calls for unity on the home frontNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President Demetris Christofias has called on Cypriots to remain united, leaving behind divisive practices of the past that may bear catastrophic results for the country.
The president was the main speaker at an event at the Presidential Palace, on Tuesday evening, to condemn the tragic events of 1974, the Greek junta-backed coup and the ensuing Turkish invasion.
In his speech, Christofias condemned Turkey's policy vis-a-vis Cyprus, as a mere communication policy, and sent a message to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, who is on an illegal visit to Cyprus' northern occupied areas, to cooperate in a creative manner in order to achieve a viable and functional solution of the Cyprus problem.
During the event, a minute's silence was observed in memory of those killed during the coup and the invasion, as well as for the victims of last week's blast at the naval base "Evaggelos Florakis", in which 13 persons were killed, when about 100 containers, most packed with gunpowder, exploded. The containers were seized in early 2009 from a ship sailing from Iran to Syria, in compliance with UN sanctions against Teheran.
President Christofias, in his out-of-text remarks while addressing the people, said he welcomed them "in this sacred place, which has been consecrated by the blood of those who resisted fascism and defended the dignity of this betrayed people".
The president stressed in his speech that it was time for unity, prudence and consensus. Responding to mottos chanted by members of EDON, the youth organization of ruling AKEL party, he said that people who stay united shall never be defeated.
"We have no right to behave like we have done in the past, because, this time, the results would be completely devastating," he said.
The president's call came in the wake of demands for his resignation following the deadly blast at the naval base.
Greek Defence Minister Panos Beglitis was also attending the event, representing the Greek government, while a delegation of Greek MPs represented the Greek parliament.
Christofias asked Beglitis to convey to the Greek Premier George Papandreou his gratitude for his support to Cyprus, repeating the same pledge to the delegation of MPs towards Greek political leaders.
Prior to the event, short films displayed footage of the 1974 events - Turkey's invasion, excerpts of speeches by the first President of the Republic, the late Archbishop Makarios, anti-occupation marches.
The president further said that there has been quite a lot of scaremongering for potential clashes, due to another protest, organized outside the Presidential Palace in relation to the blast.
"People need to express their views and they do so tonight, through their massive and peaceful attendance in this grand gathering", he said.
The event was attended, among others, by the Secretary General of AKEL Andros Kyprianou, DIKO President Marios Garoyian, Metropolitan Nikiforos and Greek Ambassador of Vassilis Papaioannou.
On Monday, July 11, thirteen people were killed by a huge blast, following a massive explosion at the Naval Base "Evaggelos Florakis", near Limassol.
The explosion caused extensive damage to nearby Vassiliko power plant, leading to power shortage all over Cyprus. Communities in close proximity where also hit, while Mari village suffered most of the damage.
The blast occurred in containers, full of munitions, which Cyprus had confiscated from ?Monchegorsk?, a vessel sailing from Iran to Syria in 2009, complying with UN sanctions against Iran.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
 Spokesman: Erdogan's statements show real intentions over CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent statements regarding the Cyprus issue, show Ankara's real intentions, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said on Wednesday.
Speaking to the press after Wednesday's meeting of the Council of Ministers at the Presidential Palace, Stephanou said that, "although Ankara constantly propagandises that she is in favour of a solution to the Cyprus problem as soon as possible, the Turkish Prime Minister's statements are provocative and represent the dimension of the problems we face."
He reassured that the President of the Republic, as the negotiator of the Greek Cypriot side, will continue his efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, "especially now that we enter the intense phase of the negotiations."
The spokesman noted that President Demetris Christofias will continue to proceed with the talks, putting forward constructive proposals, based on principles and on the agreed basis of the solution, namely a bizonal bicommunal federation.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. UN-led talks are underway between
President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, with an aim to reunify the island under a federal roof.
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