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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-02-08
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PASOK raps deals by NBG, ATEbank, CosmoteMain opposition PASOK party on Wednesday asked a high-ranking Supreme Court prosecutor to intervene in four cases of alleged financial scandal and mismanagement by three state-controlled companies.
Four files detailing what PASOK claims is wrongdoing were submitted on the party's behalf by its Parliament spokesman George Floridis and PASOK sector-head for economic issues Vasso Papandreou, both former ministers. Emerging from the meeting with prosecutor George Sanidas, Vasso Papandreou stressed that "there are serious questions that had to be answered" in all four cases.
Specifically, PASOK has criticised the purchase of Turkey's Finansbank by the National Bank of Greece (NBG), at a price the main opposition party claims was much greater than its market value; acquisition of the retail electronics chain Germanos by mobile service provider Cosmote, a subsidiary of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), for a price that PASOK said was roughly four times higher than Germanos' value; NBG's acquisition of the P&K brokerage firm at "several times its real value"; and what the opposition party claims are "risky" foreign investments by ATEbank and a commission it paid to a firm identified as Ealy.
Though all three companies are listed on the Athens bourse, they are essentially state controlled, with boards and CEOs nominated by the government and with the state holding significant ownership in all three.
According to the Supreme Court prosecutor, preliminary inquiries into three of the four cases have already begun by the Athens First-Instance Court prosecutors' office, while PASOK's complaint about the acquisition of P&K will be referred to a prosecutor for investigation.
Caption: Papandreou and Floridis speak to reporters outside the court in Athens on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007. ANA-MPA / M. Marogianni.
 FinMin in India, two accords discussedGreece and India are preparing two bilateral agreements on avoidance of double taxation and the promotion of investments, the contents of which were discussed Thursday between visiting Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and his Indian counterpart Palaniappan Chidambaram in New Delhi.
The two ministers also discussed the economic situation of their two countries, the liberalisation of international trade and the prospects for promoting the relations between Greece and India.
Alogoskoufis told reporters after the meeting that they also discussed prospects of the Indian economy, the growth rate of which exceeds 9 percent.
"It was a very interesting meeting, as the finance minister of India is a very well-known politician and has for years been taking part in the reforms programme of the Indian economy," Alogoskoufis said.
He said that they further discussed the planned agreement for the promotion of investments, as well as an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation, and also ways of rendering relations between the two countries closer.
The Greek minister also stressed that there were very large prospects in the tourism sector as well, given that India's middle-class travels frequently, with Greece presenting a very good tourism destination for the Indian market.
Alogoskoufis further briefed Chidambaram on the developments in southeast Europe and Greece's role in the region, which he said afforded major opportunities for investments and development.
The Indian economy is becoming increasingly extroverted, and this was of great importance to Greece, since it entailed big opportunities for even closer economic relations with India, Alogoskoufis noted.
Alogoskoufis departed Wednesday for an official visit to India, at the head of a large business delegation, aimed at promoting bilateral trade relations.
He is scheduled later Thursday to address the country's leading entrepreneurs at a conference organised by the Hellenic Exports Promotion Organisation (HEPO) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
The Greek minister will also meet with Indian Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee, while the Greek business delegation members will meet with their Indian counterparts.
On Friday, Alogoskoufis will meet with Indian reporters and afterwards he will hold a meeting with India's Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath. Later in the afternoon of the same day, he will give a press conference and attend the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Caption: Alogoskoufis, left standing, addresses Indian entrepreneurs in New Delhi on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007. ANA-MPA / STR
 Papoulias briefed on pipeline accord progressPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias was briefed on Thursday morning by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on a draft agreement between Greece, Bulgaria and Russia for the construction and operation of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline. The draft agreement was initialled in Burgas on Wednesday by representatives of the three countries.
The final tripartite agreement is slated to be signed in Athens in early March, while the exact date will be finalised through diplomatic channels.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Sioufas described the long-awaited agreement as "a national success".
The pipeline, he continued, was supplementary to the shipment routes of the Bosporus.
Sioufas explained that the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline, together with the Greece-Turkey natural gas pipeline, and compounded by the creation and operation of the SE Europe Energy Community, would upgrade Greece into an energy corridor between east and west both towards Europe and the Balkan hinterland.
Caption: Papoulias, right, greets Sioufas at the presidential mansion on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007. ANA-MPA / A. Beltes.
 Regional airports to operate on 24-hour basisA number of Greece's regional airports will operate on a 24-hour basis, beginning with this year's tourism season, tourism development minister Fani Palli-Petralia and transport and communications minister Michalis Liapis announced on Wednesday, following a meeting between the two at the tourism ministry.
The two ministers also announced measures designed to improve airport services, with the creation of special reception areas as well as the airports' timely staffing by seasonal personnel.
Liapis assured the tourism development ministry that he would examine the prospect of reducing the usage costs at the airports during the winter months, thus enabling Greek hoteliers to keep their hotels open during the winter months as well, albeit with lower rates, as per their desire.
Further, the establishment of a committee was announced that would comprise the secretaries general of the two ministries, which would discuss day-to-day problems falling under the authority of the two ministries and recommend solutions.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Petralia noted the excellent cooperation between the two ministries, which she said has yielded results, citing as an example the 50 percent increase in passenger movement since last year at Chania Airport in Crete, following the airport's commencement of 24-hour-operation.
Liapis, in turn, stressed that good, dependable movement projected the country's culture.
The two ministers further discussed ways of attracting flights by low-cost airlines to Greece, while they also had an initial discussion on the prospect of using the military airport at Elefsis for for civilian flights as well.
Wednesday's meeting was the first in a series by Petralia with various ministers for discussion of tourism-related matters.
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