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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-12-07
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Gov't eyes 20% cap on private stakes in utilitiesThe Greek government on Friday tabled an amendment in Parliament seeking to impose a 20-percent cap on the acquisition of private stakes in listed companies that own or exploit public utilities and "strategic infrastructure networks". The amendment was attached to a draft bill establishing a National Social Cohesion Fund.
"The acquisition of shares in such companies by third parties, whether individuals or legal entities, apart from the Greek state, above a certain significant percentage that confers the ability to exercise critical voting rights under the company charter could be construed as a partial privatisation of the said companies, for which procedures must be brought to bear to control and protect the undisputed national interest," Economy and Finance Minister Alogoskoufis stressed in a report outlining the reasons for the proposed amendment.
The amendment stipulates that in case of societe anonyme companies of national strategic importance, especially those companies owning or managing national infrastructure networks, the acquisition of shareholder voting rights of more than 20 percent will require the previous approval of the relevant inter-ministerial privatisations committee, which will depend on buyers fulfilling specific terms designed to protect the public interest.
It also requires that certain kinds of decisions by such companies that are outlined in the amendment will be subject to approval by the economy and finance minister.
A report outlining the reasons for the amendment notes, among others, that legislative intervention is necessary due to the increasing economic power of international investment capital and the need to control financial products and services from the point of view of legality. ?This need is now recognised by all European Union member-states, especially in the case of companies that have ownership or exploit networks of strategic national infrastructure in which the state is also a shareholder, in this case the Greek State," the report adds.
Specifically, it says that the privatisations committee will approve the acquisition of a 20-percent share or more if certain terms are met that are beneficial for the public interest, in order to ensure the continual and unobstructed provision of the services offered and the operation of the networks involved.
Such evaluation criteria will include the experience of the third-party shareholders in the running of the networks involved, their solvency, information on their investment strategies, transparency in their transactions, their specific business plans, the size and type of their investment programme, their ownership status, ensuring work positions, the structure of their share capital and particularly the participation of capital originating outside the EU based on the principle of transparency and mutuality, as well as the decision-making processes.
The decisions that must be first approved by the finance minister in the case of such companies of strategic national importance include:
Decisions to break up or liquidate a company and appoint liquidators, any type of company restructuring, such as the conversion to or merger with another company, mergers leading to the creation of a new societe anonyme company, its break-up in whatever form or the shedding of any sectors that might jeopardise the provision of services in areas of strategic importance, any form of transfer, change or conversion and any form of concession or provision as a guarantee and any change or alteration of the allocation of elements of strategic importance in the assets of the above companies and of basic networks and infrastructure for the economic and social life of the country and its security.
MIG stake in OTE at 18.45%, telecom says
Earlier, the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation's (OTE) management issued an announcement clarifying that stake owned by the Marfin Investment Group (MIG) in the state-run telecoms and telephony utility is 18.4551 percent, representing 90,457,663 shares and the equivalent voting rights.
MIG Holding Co. SA's participation in OTE's share capital included a 7.8924-percent share corresponding to 38,684,693 OTE shares and equivalent voting rights owned by MIG directly, and a percentage of 10.5627 percent representing 51,772,970 OTE shares and incorporated voting rights that MIG has the right to acquire under the terms of total return equity swap agreement, whose voting rights are exercised according to MIG's instructions.
The above percentage (10.5627 percent) participation includes 4.4421 percent that corresponds to 21,772,970 shares and voting rights that arise under the terms of a total return equity swap agreement made by MIG and CommerzBank AG, announced on Oct. 22, 2007.
Caption: File photo of OTE's headquarters in the northern Athens district of Maroussi. ANA-MPA / PANTELIS SAITAS
 Children's Ombudsman on minors' rightsThe Children's Ombudsman will present in a press conference on Monday the interventions and conclusions reached by the agency on the implementation of children's rights in Greece.
The presentation will be made on the occasion of International Children's Day of Broadcasting on December 12, the day television and radio stations around the world dedicate some or all of their programming to kids.
In an interview given to the ANA-MPA, Children's Ombudsman George Moschos referred to the body's conclusions, stressing that the main problem for children's institutions in Greece is the poor level of welfare services provided by the state. The situation is equally problematic regardless of whether it concerns children with disabilities, neglected children, or children whose parents are in the process of a divorce and fight for custody rights, he stated.
Infrastructures are inadequate and not specialized and there are no psychologists or social workers in schools in spite of repeated calls made by children requesting such a service, he stressed.
Only a small percentage of juvenile delinquents are so dangerous as to need incarceration and therefore the majority of the children need shelter facilities staffed by small specialized personnel units made up of 7-10 persons resembling the family model. Furthermore, foster parenting is essentially non-existent even though it is legally guaranteed, he said.
The new draft law on the protocol against sex crimes and exploitation is expected to deal with current virtual impunity for parents who sexually abuse their children by adopting the practice of videotaped testimonies, thus protecting children from traumatic interrogation in court, a fact that has kept many children from testifying against abusive parents and care-givers.
Referring to the programme promoting dialogue among schoolchildren, he said that talking with children helps make them responsible and aware citizens, stressing that dialogue has to be held on equal terms and not be superficial.
Only 10-20 percent of the children asked responded that they truly communicate with their parents, he stated, adding that the majority of the children say that their parents care for them but focus on the wrong things, such as grades in school or money rather than what they think or their well-being.
The international treaty on children's rights has passed into law in Greece since 1992 but it cannot be implemented in practice due to inadequate infrastructure, he concluded, adding that the protocol will lead to the adjustment of the penal code to international standards aimed at tackling sex crimes and introduce specific measures in Greece.
Caption: Children's Ombudsman for Greece George Moschos at a press conference in Athens on Friday, Dec. 7, 2007. ANA-MPA / A. BELTES
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