|Saturday, 16 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-11-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 22 November 2011 Issue No: 3939
 PM, Barroso stress need for consensus on bailout plan in GreeceBRUSSELS (AMNA - V. Demiris)
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday expressed support for the "Herculean efforts" being made by Greece's new cooperation government to bring the country out of the crisis, during a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos after their meeting in Brussels.
Barroso again underlined that all of Greece's political forces had to work together and back the government's efforts at this crucial time for Greece.
He said that the national unity government in Greece constitutes decisive message of political stability in the country.
Barroso said that there are two goals that the Greek government has to meet: firstly to finalise the three-year second economic aid programme by the end of the year and complete the Greek state bond swap (PSI) in early 2012.
He also expressed certainty that Greece will implement the October 26 decisions, stressing that in the meeting with the Greek prime minister he received renewed assurances that the goals will be met on behalf of Greece.
"Confidence and determination are of decisive importance," he said, "not only to the international community to continue the country's financing but to international markets as well."
Barroso assured the Greek premier that the European Commission is doing everything possible to help Greece through the EU task force set up to provide technical assistance to the country "on the condition that Greece wants to help itself and wishes to achieve broad political consensus".
The European Commission president underlined that he has complete confidence in the determination of the Greek people to build national consensus.
In conclusion, Barroso stressed that a broad national consensus is necessary in these extremely difficult circumstances and called for less use of political tactics and greater commitment to implement everything agreed upon.
On his part, Papademos said that Greece expects the full implementation of the decisions of the October 26-27 Eurozone leaders' summit and emphasised that all the country's main political forces had made a commitment in this direction by creating the new three-party cooperation government.
He also expressed confidence that this commitment will be expressed in such a way as to overcome the doubts within the European Union and the International Monetary Fund concerning Greece's determination to meet its commitments.
He stressed that the government's goal is to assume further actions to boost competitiveness and combat unemployment, reiterating that Greece's presence in the Eurozone is a one-way street.
He agreed with Barroso that the government is making a "Herculean effort", underlining that if its mission is successful it will lead to the implementation of structural reforms, much needed by the next government.
In reply to questions about the written commitment demanded by European authorities from Greece's political party leaders that they will implement the decisions of October 27, Papademos said that the new government will provide written guarantees.
Papademos also underlined that it is very important that the political leaders in Greece give a positive response to the request made by the Eurogroup and the IMF for written commitments adding, however, that the way in which they will express their commitment is entirely up to them.
He also noted that the political party leaders in Greece, through their vote of confidence in the new government, "had honoured the government and their long-term commitments".
 Rompuy expresses eurozone's commitment to support Greece's effortsBRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Aroni)
European Union Presidernt Herman Van Rompuy expressed the eurozone's full commitment on continuing to support Greece's efforts, in an announcement he issued from Brussels on Monday, shortly after his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
In parallel, the EU president stresses that he received the full commitmernt of Greece's new government that it will implement the new programme.
"The Eurogroup must be in a position to agree, in its next session, the disbursement of the sixth tranche of the loans to Greece," Rompuy said in his announcement and adds: "We fully support the ongoing talks between the Greek authorities and the private creditors. A new programme for the country that the eurozone and the European Fiscal Stability Mechanism support must be completed immediately."
Rompuy went on to say: "The situation is demanding. Many efforts have already been made by the Greek people, however, more must be done for the restoration of stability, confidence and growth. I call on Greece's political leaders to fully support this strategy."
Lastly, Rompuy stresses that the eurozone is going through a difficult period and notes that in December he will submit the intermediate report on the ways of strengthening economic governance, following the mandate he received from the eurozone's summit on October 26.
 PM Papademos to meet ECB president Draghi on TuesdayPrime Minister Lucas Papademos will meet European Central Bank President Mario Draghi at 6 in the evening on Tuesday.
Papademos will be travelling to the ECB's headquarters in Frankfurt for this purpose, from Luxembourg where he will be continuing his contacts with European officials on Tuesday.
 Finmin contacts French, German counterparts on the telephone, discusses bailout loansFinance Minister and government vice-president Evangelos Venizelos on Monday held talks on the telephone with his French and German counterparts, Wolfgang Schaueble and Francois Baroin, respectively, concerning the disbursement of the 6th tranche of bailout loans to Greece.
They also discussed the implementation of the Private Sector Involvement (PSI) in a haircut of Greek debt, in accordance with a decision made by Eurozone leaders on October 27, the finance ministry said.
In the meantime, teams of EU-IMF troika officials set to work at the General Accounting Office in Athens, following the departure of troika inspectors, examining both the divergence from current budget targets and further details of measures for the 2012 budget.
The leadership of the troika is due back in Greece in December in order to evaluate progress in implementing the bailout memorandum and the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy, based on the report of their teams in Athens, and to begin negotiations for the agreement for a new 130-billion-euro loan to Greece.
 ND: Samaras will not sign commitments demanded by Commission; nat'l dignity at issue"The president of New Democracy (ND) will not sign, as requested by the Europeans," party spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis reiterated on Monday, adding that ND leader Antonis Samaras has proceeded with adequate institutional moves to allow for the unhindered disbursement of a sixth EC-ECB-IMF loan tranche.
Referring to the written commitments requested by the Commission, Mihelakis said "there is an issue of national dignity, because it does not concern Mr. Samaras as an individual but as the leader of the (Greek) main opposition party."
He added that ND has done everything to ensure that public sector wages and pensions will be paid on time.
Mihelakis also stated that new Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has made it clear that he heads a transitional government and has repeatedly referred to the framework of principles agreed to in the meeting chaired by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
Mihelakis said ND is firm on its positions as regards "secondary" but, nevertheless, important issues such as, the deregulation of the taxi sector and the lifting of cabotage.
 Commission: Written commitments a precondition for disbursement of 6th loan trancheBRUSSELS (AMNA / V. Demiris)
The Eurozone is still waiting for written and clear commitments on behalf of Greek political powers, namely, that they will adhere to the Oct. 26 EU decisions, the spokesman of the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn repeated here on Monday.
Responding to questions during a scheduled press briefing, Amadeu Altafaj underlined that the goal of the specific written commitments is to assure the Eurozone member states that Greece will adhere to its commitments regardless of developments in the coming weeks or months related with the imminent elections. Altafaj stressed that Greece depends on the international economic assistance it receives and underlined that the sixth tranche of the aid will have be disbursed before the end of December for the country to meet its needs.
Referring to meetings Prime Minister Lucas Papademos will have with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and vice president Olli Rehn, European Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly stated that discussions will focus on the implementation of the October 27 decisions, the disbursement of the sixth tranche and PSI participation.
Bailly underlined that written commitment is a precondition for the disbursement of the sixth tranche and expressed guarded optimism that the Greek authorities will provide the necessary commitments as soon as possible.
 ND party publicises letter by Samaras to EPP president MartensThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) party publicised on Monday the letter addressed by ND leader Antonis Samaras to the president of the European People's Party (EPP) Wilfried Martens and the leaders of the parties participating, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Samaras informs in his letter his EPP counterparts on the latest developments in Greece following the announcement of the referendum by then prime minister George Papandreou which led to the formation of a cooperation government. He adds that ND will observe the agreement reached in the meeting of the three party leaders under the auspices of the President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Paapoulias, at which "it was agreed that the task of the new government is the implementation of the decisions of the European Union's summit of October 26 2011 and the implementation of the economic policy linked to these decisions."
Samaras reiterates that the elections will ease the situation in Greek society and clarifies that ND fully supports the targets of the fiscal adjustment, regarding the eradication of the deficit and the reversal of the momentum of the debt and agrees with "tools" that are being implemented already (although unsuccessfully), and in particular the curbing of public expenditures, the combatting of tax evasion, structural reforms, the privatisations programme and the utilisation of the public real estate property that is not being exploited.
 ND leader threatens expulsions over internal bickeringMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Monday warned party members to stop their bickering over "non-existent" problems, stressing that he will not tolerate this situation to continue and threatened expulsions.
In a terse statement, Samaras said that "the next (cadre) to occupy himself with non-existent problems in ND, which insult every ND member and supporter but also -- in these difficult hours the Greek people are facing -- every Geek citizen as well, should be aware that he will find himself automatically outside the party".
The comment was made in response to a press question outside the ND headquarters.
 Chryssohodis reserves right to be candidatre if procedures are set in motion in PASOK for new leaderDevelopment minister and high profile PASOK cadre Michalis Chryssohoidis on Monday said he reserved the right to be a candidate for the party leadership, speaking on private REAL FM radio station.
"I am a politician, a cadre of my party that has a long term. I believe that I am useful for politics and the country today. I deserve at some time to become a candidate, if procedures are set in motion in PASOK, but on condition that all the procedures will be respectfully applied," he said.
On the new transitional government under Lucas Papademos, Chryssohoidis said that "there is one element that is decisive: the change of atmosphere", adding that Papademos at the helm of the country acts as a relief and positively with respect to the citizens and Greece's partners.
 Left-wing parties demand abolition of new property taxCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Monday demanded that a new property tax levied through Greece's power utility be entirely scrapped, during a visit to the Public Power Corporation (PPC) centre responsible for issuing power disconnection orders, where the PPC staff union GENOP has begun a sit-in protest.
Her demand was also echoed by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras, who also visited the PPC disconnection centre on Monday and said that pressure must be stepped up "for the final abolition of the illegal, unconstitutional and anti-popular head tax that no one must pay". He stressed that those with the power must prevent the tax being implemented.
Papariga warned that a government decision to suspend disconnections over non-payment for a few days, until mechanism were in place to protect groups exempt under the law from having their power supply cut off, should not lead to complacence.
She stressed that the KKE asked that the tax be entirely abolished for all because a social good such as electricity should not be denied because someone did not pay an unfair tax, which she stressed was illegal and should be abolished.
Replying to questions, she supported those mayors that provided support for their citizens unable to pay the property tax and said that the mayors of the large municipalities like Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki should adopt this trend.
Tsipras also appealed to Greek mayors to defend the interests of the citizens that voted for them, saying that the Greek people would be able to "resist and win, provided we rally our struggle alongside the unions and create bodies of resistance everywhere".
 Meeting under FinMin Venizelos on exclusion from payment of special real estate dutyHouseholds will be excluded from the payment of the special real estate duty that provenly and following a check are unable to pay it, as well as those having an incapacity of 80 percent and above.
This was decided at a new meeting held on Monday under the chairmanship of government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos with the participation of the relevant officials and the administration of the Public Power Corporation (PPC).
It was ascertained at the meeting that the flow of payment of the special duty through PPC bills is satisfactory and corresponding to the usual payment flow of PPC bills. Payment already reaches 80 percent.
It was decided that all having an incapacity of 80 percent and over will be excluded, regardless of reason, and all who are under every kind of mechanical support to be excluded, declaring such a thing to PPC immediately.
 PPC asks prosecutor to end union sit-in at PPC disconnection centreThe management of the Public Power Corporation (PPC), Greece's state-run power utility, on Monday asked for a public prosecutor to intervene in order to end an occupation by the PPC trade union GENOP at its centre for disconnecting power to customers with overdue bills.
The decision to resort to the law was taken after the PPC's management consulted with the environment, energy and climate change ministry, which accused GENOP of irresponsibility and "taking the law into its own hands".
The union's move was prompted by the government's decision to use the PPC in order to levy a new property tax using the utility as a collection mechanism. If the tax is not paid promptly, the PPC has been instructed to disconnect the power supply to the property in question, even if the electricity bill has been paid.
The union has strongly criticised the use of the PPC to collect the tax as unduly harsh, especially for more the poorer sections of society, while pointing out that there have been insufficient provisions to ensure that the tax is not demanded of those that are exempt, such as the unemployed.
The ministry, on its part, expressed surprise that the GENOP union was employing such "Robin Hood" tactics at a time when the government was already in talks with the PPC's management in order to ensure that such "vulnerable groups" did not have their power cut off until the system by which they would be protected from having to pay the property tax was finalised.
 Greek FM: Cyprus remains top priorityNICOSIA (AMNA/A.Viketos/CNA)
Greece remains committed to a solution of the Cyprus problem that will be just, viable, functional, within the framework of UN resolutions and harmonized with the acquis communautaire, Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Demas stressed on Monday.
In statements at Larnaca airport on arrival in Cyprus, the new Greek FM underlined that Cyprus remains the top priority of Greek foreign policy.
He also said that during his visit to Cyprus he will meet and coordinate with the Cypriot leadership to reinforce cooperation between the two countries and render it more effective.
 New alternate education minister calls on ArchbishopNew alternate education and religious affairs alternate minister Constantine Arvanitopoulos paid a courtesy visit on Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece at the latter's office.
Welcoming the new alternate minister, Ieronymos wished him strength in his new duties, and success for the benefit of the people.
After the half-hour meeting, the two men noted the value of cooperation between Church and State in facing the people's problems.
Arvanitopoulos said that they exchanged views on the immense difficulties faced by the country and the heavy problems faced by the citizens, as well as the role of the State and the Church in confronting those problems.
He added that he looked forward to close cooperation with the Church and with the Archbishop's associates for a further discussion of all the issues.
The Archbishop, in turn, said that "we are all called on today to work for the good of the Church and the good of our people".
"We must do everything we can, more and better, because many issues need to be faced with prudence and methodically," he added.
 Fast track investment law facilitates establishment of small share capital companiesA development ministry-sponsored bill will expand the field of the fast track investment law to facilitate the creation of private enterprises with share capital of just 1 euro.
Development, Competitiveness & Shipping Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis on Monday outlined the main clauses of the "Business-friendly Greece" draft law to be tabled in parliament soon.
The ministry-sponsored bill will include 12 specific actions aimed at facilitating the establishment and operation of businesses while lifting obstacles to entrepreneurship.
Chryssohoidis underlined that there will be no investment interest in Greece unless the debt problem is faced and the October 26 decisions are implemented.
As regards the promotion of strategic investments, he said that three files with a budget of 1.2 billion euros have already been approved, while another 20 files including investments in the sectors of energy, tourism and gold mines, will soon be forwarded to the ministerial committee for strategic investments.
 Environment minister presents 'Ilios' programme in European ParliamentThe signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Greek and European governments interested in participating in the "Ilios" programme is the next step in the course of implementing the project.
The Greek government is already seeking expanses that are available and suitable for the installation of the photovoltaics and has so far located 354 pieces of land belonging to the state that fulfill the preconditions.
This appears from the presentation made at the European Parliament on Monday by Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister George Papaconstantinou, at an event on the theme of "A viable and competitive framework for the Greek economy: The contribution of solar energy and the Programme 'Ilios'."
The "Ilios" programme anticipates the production in Greece of electric power from photovoltaics. The power will be exported to European countries wishing to participate or shall be consumed in Greece but will be credited to the account of Europoean countries regarding the achievement of targets for the protection of the environment.
 Fiscal consolidation not the cause of Athens' problems, RehnBRUSSELS (AMNA)
The problems faced by Greece are not due to "excessive fiscal consolidation", European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn stated here on Monday.
Addressing a seminar, the Finnish Commissioner acknow-ledged that aside from the large debt, the main problem of the Greek economy is its inability to create the appropriate conditions for a steady return to economic growth, both in the medium-term and in the long-term.
 FinMin Venizelos on guarantees to banksFinance Minister Evangelos Venizelos announced the doubling of anticipated guarantees to Greek banks, through the Bank of Greece, during the discussion on the relevant legislative content act at the Parliamentary Economy Committee. Consequently, another 30 billion will be added to the 30 billion euros anticipated by the initial arrangement, by December 31 2012.
Venizelos also announced that obstacles for the publication of the names of big debtors to the state will be removed after next Friday, while also criticising the SYRIZA party by accusing its Eurodeputy Nikos Hountis of deliberately causing a problem in the country with his questions to the Commission, particularly with regard to the agreement between Greece and Switzerland on cracking down on tax evasion.
Venizelos assessed that the programme that will accompany the loan contract will be signed in January in the best of cases. "There are no party expediencies and conflicts now, but the expediencies of the country. And nobody can play with them," he said characteristically.
 Deputy development minister for shipping Georgiadis in London for IMO AssemblyDeputy Development Minister for shipping affairs Adonis Georgiadis is in London to attend the 27th Assembly of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which opens Monday.
Georgiadis, who arrived in London on Sunday night, will also meet with a delegation of the Greek shipowners of London and with the Greek secretary general of IMO Efthimios Mitropoulos.
The Assembly will run through November 30.
 Merchant fleet declines 4.2pct in SeptemberThe Greek merchant fleet declined by 4.2 percent in September compared with September 2010, to 2,027 ships (above 100 dwt), the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Monday. The merchant fleet had declined by 0.2 percent in September 2010 against the corresponding month in 2009.
Conversely, the capacity of the Greek merchant fleet rose by 0.8 percent in September, reaching 43,356,420 dwt compared with September 2010, against a 2 percent increase in September 2010 over the corresponding month in 2009.
 Audits on offshore companiesAudits on 115 off shore companies have been completed by the finance ministry's economic crimes squad (SDOE) thus far, and have been fined an overall 40,867,580 euros, according to a written statement submitted in parliament by alternate finance minister Pantelis Economou.
The statement said that audits being conducted over the two year period 2010-2011 total 345, of which 115 audits have been completed while audits for another 230 were still in progress.
The statement was submitted following a question tabled by SYRIZA deputy Dimitris Papadimoulis regarding tax evasion by offshore companies.
 Business Briefs-- The building materials index for new residential buildings rose 1.7 pct in October 2011 compared with October 2010, as a result of higher petrol prices, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT) announced on Monday.
 Stocks end at Jan. 1993 levelsStocks ended significantly lower at the opening of the trading week on Monday at the Athens Stock Exchange, hit by a negative climate in other European and international markets along with a warning by Moody's of a possible downgrade of France's credit rating.
The composite index of the market fell 3.74 pct to end at 686.00 points, its lowest level since January 1993.
Turnover remained a disappointing low 29.334 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 4.04 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.89 pct lower and the Small Cap index dropped 2.50 pct.
Insurances (1.20 pct), Commerce (0.59 pct) and Travel-Recreation (0.14 pct) sectors scored gains, while Financial Services (- 7.46pct), Utilities (-7.11 pct) and Chemicals (6.15 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 118 to 33 with another 18 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.71%
Personal & Household: -2.53%
Raw Materials: -2.21%
Travel & Leisure: +0.14%
Food & Beverages: -5.58%
Financial Services: -7.46%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, DEH and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.75
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.75
HBC Coca Cola: 12.20
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.35
National Bank of Greece: 1.72
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.52
Bank of Piraeus: 0.22
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds stood at 16.15 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 18.03 pct and the German Bund 1.88 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates remained mostly unchanged. The 12-month rate was 2.02 pct, the six-month rate 1.69 pct, the three-month 1.46 pct and the one-month rate 1.19 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.54 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover shrinking to a low 6.645 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,347 contracts worth 4.421 million euros, with 17,945 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,748 contracts worth 2.224 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,446), followed by Alpha Bank (1,127), MIG (861), Marfin Popular Bank (699), Eurobank (682), PPC (629), OTE (477) and GEK (455),
 Foreign Exchange rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.366
Pound sterling 0.872
Danish kroner 7.554
Swedish kroner 9.317
Japanese yen 104.99
Swiss franc 1.256
Norwegian kroner 7.958
Canadian dollar 1.414
Australian dollar 1.381
 Shocking rise in HIV infections in Greece, health ministry reportsRecently published figures concerning the spread of HIV and AIDS in Greece have revealed a shocking increase in the rate of infection, especially among intravenous drug users, the health ministry said on Monday.
Figures presented by the Centre for the Control and Prevention of Diseases (KEELPNO) for January-October 2011 there were 803 new infections reported in that period, of which 686 were men and 117 were women. There was also a significant surge in HIV/AIDS among intravenous drug users, with the rate of infection increasing 1250 percent to reach 190 new reported cases, just under a quarter of all new cases reported in the same ten-month period.
The highest number of new infections was still among men having sexual contact with other men (33 percent), while one in four of the infected women was under 25 years old. Among the victims in 2011 were three children (two boys and a girl) born to mothers that used drugs.
According to Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, drug addiction and illegal prostitution, especially when combined with illegal migration, were the main culprits for the rise in the rate of infection.
Concerning illegal prostitution, Loverdos stressed that the lack of protection was allowing the disease to spread through undeclared prostitution into the general population. He said that Greeks had to realise that they were at risk and announced that KEELPNO will soon be launching an information campaign on this issue.
KEELPNO warned that HIV was rife in those involved in illegal prostitution, adding that there were currently 600 illegal brothels operating in Attica alone. It said the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users was encouraged by generally poor economic and social conditions, prostitution, a rise in sexually transmitted diseases, unprotected sex and sharing needles.
Loverdos announced that the state will distribute 100,000 syringes and condoms in Athens and Thessaloniki as a means of containing the spread of the disease.
The figures were presented in view of the 23rd Panhellenic AIDS Conference that will take place in Athens on November 25-27.
 New exhibition by Alexandros Onassis Foundation in New YorkNEW YORK (AMNA/P.Panagiotou)
"Transition to Christianity. Art in late antiquity, 3rd-7th century A.D." is the new exhibition of the Alexandros Onassis Foundation in New York. The inauguration will take place on Tuesday December 6, in the presence of several invited politicians, journalists, businessmen, artists and representatives of museums and cultural agencies from Greece and the US, as well as officials of the foundation headed by its president Antonis Papadimitriou.
Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos is expected to represent the government.
"It is an exhibition that constitutes a continuation of the general effort of our foundation to present issues that revoke prejudices and innovate in the sector of art and history," the executive director of the Onassis Foundation in Nerw York ambassador Loukas Tsilas told the ANA-MPA.
 Alter TV chairman arrested for 1.2-million-euro unpaid VATThe board chairman of the privately-owned Alter television channel Kostas Yiannikos was arrested by the SDOE financial crime squad on Monday for failing to pay 1.2 million euro in VAT since the start of 2011.
Yiannikos was arrested with the procedure for someone caught in the act of committing a criminal offence and will be led before a public prosecutor to be charged on Tuesday, based on the evidence against him.
If the charges brought against him are for a criminal offence, the case file will be assigned to an examining magistrate and Yiannikos will then have to appear before the magistrate.
 Thessaloniki's Anatolia College to celebrate 125th anniversaryAnatolia College's alumni association will organise a musical event on Sunday at Thessaloniki's Megaron concert hall, within the framework of the events commemorating the 125th anniversary of the school's founding.
Anatolia graduate Panayiotis Antoniou, the leader of Cyprus' Democratic Rally party, will briefly address the event.
 Wildfire burns for fourth day at Prespes lakes, fireman deadA wildfire that broke out on Friday afternoon in a remote area at Prespes Lakes, northwestern Greece and has cost the life of a fireman was blazing out of control for a fourth day on Monday. The blaze is burning brushland and 14 fire engines with a 58 member crew are battling the blaze.
A fireman perished on Saturday morning when the fire engine he was driving fell over a cliff.
 Cloudy on TuesdayCloudy weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 2-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -4C and 19C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens, with variable 2-3 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 17C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 12C.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime Minister Lucas Papademos successive meetings in Brussels and Luxemburg on Monday and Tuesday on the disbursement of the sixth tranche of the bailout loan to Greece and the 2012 State Budget, mostly dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "State budget foresees 3.6 billion euros additional burden on Greeks".
AVRIANI: "They want to humiliate Greece's entire political system".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Short circuit in surtax (on real estate collected via electricity bills)".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Turkish 'landing' with electric current on Greek islands".
ESTIA: "False budgets".
ETHNOS: "First wave of civil servants leaving on reserve labour in seven days".
IMERISSIA: "Battle for the 8 billion euros - Operation unblocking of sixth tranche ".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Papademos' crucial meeting on the written commitments".
TA NEA: "Papademos' test under the shadow of the signatures".
VRADYNI: "Up to 50 percent additional cutbacks in pensions".
 Christofias: Efforts to locate hydrocarbons proceeding very wellNICOSIA (CNA/AMNA)
Efforts to locate possible hydrocarbons in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are progressing very well, President Demetris Christofias said Monday, in statements on the drilling rig 'Homer', where exploratory drilling is underway in the Republic's Block 12 'Aphrodite', south of Cyprus.
According to an official press release, Christofias said his presence on the platform underscores the Republic's sovereign rights which, as he pointed out, "we are determined to exercise."
After a briefing by Noble officials and a guided tour of the platform, the president said that the issue is of national importance and that is how everyone must address it.
He said an overall strategic plan on pending issues relating to natural gas being piped to land will be drafted.
"This is a very important issue. There are issues which will come up when gas reaches the land. A team of experts has been set up, a team of technocrats, and a strategic plan is being drafted which we will have to examine cautiously and discreetly," he noted.
Referring to the Turkish Cypriots, President Christofias wished that this effort will bear fruit and underlined that "this also constitutes a challenge for Turkey to change its stance to solve the Cyprus problem the soonest possible and co-exploit the natural resources, in the framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federal Republic of Cyprus, a single state with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single personality."
The president said that cooperation and "agreements" the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime has signed with Turkey are illegal, pointing out that the Republic of Cyprus is acting within international law, "and that is what we are doing with Noble Energy and with anybody we cooperate with. I therefore wish that Noble Energy will give us the best possible results the soonest possible." Christofias also said that the second licensing round for hydrocarbons exploration will soon be announced and wished every success to this.
He thanked Noble officials for their presentation, noting that the whole venture is impressive, and wished them luck. He noted that their success is also a success of the Republic of Cyprus.
He noted that he visited the drilling rig to get a personal picture of the entire effort "because there is a lot of very serious work to do.''
''This is an effort which - if successful - it will ensure the future and prosperity of generations to come,'' Christofias said.
During his visit to the platform, President Christofias was briefed in detail by Noble officials on all aspects of the work being carried out.
President Christofias and his entourage visited the Control Room, the remote operating vehicle and the conference room.
Around 130 people work on the platform. They are employees of Noble Drillings and Noble Energy.
Addressing the employees, President Christofias expressed hope that their search for hydrocarbon reserves or "nature's gift", as he called it, yields results.
"I wish you all the best and I hope we will soon have concrete results", he said.
The name of the platform "Homer" hails from Homer Ferrrington, one of the founders of the Noble Drillings company.
According to Noble Drillings, "Homer" has the ability to conduct drillings in a 9,100 meters depth. Houston-based "Noble Energy" began drilling in Cyprus' EEZ last September.
Cyprus has signed an agreement to delineate the EEZ with Egypt and Israel with a view to exploit any possible natural gas and oil reserves in its EEZ. A similar agreement was signed with Lebanon but the Lebanese Parliament has not yet ratified it.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
 Downer: UN will not arbitrate in the Cyprus issueNICOSIA (CNA/AMNA)
The UN has no intention of arbitrating or mediating in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, but will do everything it can to help the two sides build bridges, the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer said on Monday, after a meeting in Nicosia with President Demetris Christofias.
Downer said he had not seen the president since the Greentree meeting between the UN Secretary General and the leaders of the two communities, ''so it has been good to catch up with him again and to not just talk about the follow-up from Greentree but to start planning the couple of months ahead before we return to Greentree a bit beyond the middle of January.''
He added that he meets with President Christofias on ''a fairly regular basis'' and noted that Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu is currently away and he is planning to meet with him at the weekend.
Asked if he was optimistic about this new phase of talks, Downer said ''it is difficult, we have no illusions about that but we thought, as the Secretary General said, that good progress was made at Greentree and in the lead-up to Greentree.''
''Ultimately we have to find agreement on all of the core issues. We have moved forward on some. We still have difficulties with others. There are a lot of convergences. There are still some divergences. So it is difficult but, you know, this is an issue that has been going on for 37 years so, as I've said often, no one has any illusions about how difficult it is. It is fantastically difficult but we will press and we will see how we go,'' he added.
Asked if there was a stepped-up role for the UN, perhaps as a bridge-builder, Downer said ''we are very cautious about our role.''
''Obviously we have signed up to this process and one of the bases of this is that we don't mediate or arbitrate. That you could almost say is one of the bases of the talks, certainly a principle, if you could call it that, that we signed up to right at the very beginning, so we are not planning to do that. But we do talk very frequently, of course, day in and day out, to the two sides, and we do our best to help them bridge the gaps. We don't bridge the gaps, they bridge the gaps, but we do our best to try to help that process and to facilitate that process,'' he said.
He added that ''there are all sorts of different meetings you can have, which people give them title and try to put our strategy and our tactics into boxes.''
''I don't think that is right. We are completely pragmatic, within the framework that we have signed up to, not outside of that framework. Ever since I have been here people have been predicting that the UN wanted to arbitrate and mediate and was going to do all sorts of dramatic things. I have explained it. Don't be hysterical, we are not going to. We haven't said we will and we won't. Take my word for it. But we do what we can to help the two sides,'' he said.
Downer noted that ''at the end of the day they have got to build the bridges'' and that ''we can help them but ultimately they have to build the bridges themselves.''
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The leaders of the two communities are currently engaged in UN-led negotiations with an aim to reunify the island.
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