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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-07-01

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Karamanlis meets with EU parliament president
  • [02] Papandreou: W. Balkans' EU entry by 2014
  • [03] Tsoukatos out on bail; denies Siemens bribe charge (RECASTS)
  • [04] Greek plastics sector's profits down 52% in '08
  • [05] Smoking ban in enclosed places begins

  • [01] Karamanlis meets with EU parliament president

    Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday received visiting European Parliament President Hans Gert Pöttering at his Maximos Mansion office in Athens.

    Afterwards, Karamanlis underlined the long-standing friendship he has with the current Euro-parliament president.

    "His lengthy contribution to this institution and his valuable experience has been the most powerful guarantees for a successful presidency," Karamanlis said in reference to Pöttering's tenure.

    According to the Greek premier, implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, increasing the role of the European Parliament, the Union's enlargement, as well as the problem of illegal immigration was discussed.

    On his part, Pöttering expressed his thanks towards the Greek government and opposition for their support of the Lisbon Treaty. He also spoke warmly of Karamanlis and thanked Greek Parliament president Dimitris Sioufas for the latter's dedication to Europe, as he said, adding:

    "Countries that have not yet ratified the Lisbon Treaty should look to Greece as an example," a reference to the rapid ratification of the treaty by the country's Parliament.

    [02] Papandreou: W. Balkans' EU entry by 2014

    Greece's main opposition PASOK leader and Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou on Monday called from Budva, Montenegro, on the European Union to accept in its ranks the countries of the western Balkans, namely Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, FYROM and Albania, by the year 2014, one hundred years after the start, in the Balkans, of WWI.

    Papandreou, who was addressing the opening session of a Socialist International (SI) council meeting, called on the EU to reinforce and guarantee the perspectives of peace, security and stability in the Balkan region.

    The SI president also referred to the current world economic crisis, terming it an economic and political crisis as well as a crisis of values.

    "Democracy is threatened and the threat emanates either from new type authoritarian regimes, or from the concentration, in the hands of few, of an immense economic, political and 'media' power," Papandreou noted.

    He added that socialist values "are today as timely as ever and can act as a catalyst for a better world, a world without poverty, without diseases, without corruption and illiteracy."

    Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the meeting and referring to Greek internal issues, Papandreou did not exclude the possibility of early general elections, claiming that the government was "a hostage", especially after the "closure of Parliament and June's Euroelections".

    Accusing the government of "diffusing rumours on early elections", Papandreou said it would be better to let the Greek people decide through elections.

    [03] Tsoukatos out on bail; denies Siemens bribe charge (RECASTS)

    Former PASOK official Theodoros Tsoukatos, who served as a political advisor to ex-prime minister Costas Simitis, was prohibited from leaving the country and released on a 100,000-euros bail on Wednesday after testifying before a special examining magistrate investigating the ongoing Siemens kickbacks and bribery case.

    Tsoukatos testified on charges of passive bribery and legalisation of revenues from illegal activities (money laundering). According to an indictment, Tsoukatos received the sum of one million deutschemarks through the accounts of third parties between Feb. 4 to May 25 1999, when he was a member of the PASOK central committee and advisor to the then prime minister. He is also charged with serving as a go-between for then Siemens Hellas CEO Mihalis Christoforakos and forwarding the money to high-ranking officials of state-run Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) of that time as well as other unidentified persons.

    Christoforakos, a fugitive from Greek justice, was recently arrested in southern Germany on an international warrant issued by Greek judicial authorities.

    Siemens was a major contractor to the Greek state at the time.

    In a written deposition he submitted to the examining magistrate, Tsoukatos denied all the charges against him and described the charge sheet as being "impressively vague, completely unlike me, and contrary to all the evidence in the case file".

    Tsoukatos said he had received Christoforakos at his political office, in an appointment arranged by his office, on Oct. 20, 1998 and had discussed a variety of politics-related matters with him.

    According to Tsoukatos, Christoforakos had expressed, during that meeting, his company's desire to contribute to PASOK's fundraising campaign for the party's congress and the upcoming European Parliament elections, "without asking for anything in return or linking it with any corporate activity whatsoever".

    Tsoukatos said he accepted the offer, provided the money did not originate from suspicious quarters or illegal activities and did not entail exchanges, "because no election campaign costs only the sums declared and no official ledger reflects the precise financial state (revenues-payments) of a political party".

    He added that, during another visit, Christoforakos cited the precise amount as being one million deutschemarks.

    Tsoukatos further said he turned over the money to the party, and validated fundraiser tickets (receipts) for the corresponding amount, insisting in statements to reporters that the money was spent on PASOK's campaign despite the party's standing denial. PASOK officials have, since Tsoukatos' admission that he took the contribution from Siemens Hellas, repeatedly said there is no record of any such sum being deposited in the party's accounting books.

    According to Tsoukatos, however, the absence of such a record was hardly surprising and there was always significant disparity between official records and monies entering campaign funds.

    "Everyone knows full well that no large donation (above the then legal limit of 10 million drachmas or 15,000 euros at present) is recorded in the official books. If this happened, the books would not pass inspection by Parliament and the consequences would be - apart from the legal penalties for breaking the law on party funding - a reduction by 50 percent of the annual state funds to the political party (today amounting to 22 million euros)."

    Tsoukatos said he felt "betrayed" by PASOK, saying its new leadership should have sought out the unofficial records of that time and spoken to the individuals involved:

    "I was not alone, it is here that I am alone," he stressed.

    [04] Greek plastics sector's profits down 52% in '08

    Greeces plastics industrys net profits fell 52 pct in 2008, or by 36.8 million euros compared with 2007, with almost two in three enterprises reporting either profit declines or losses during the year. Loss-making enterprises accounted for 26 pct of total enterprises in the sector, according to a survey based on the balance sheets of the 131 largest plastics industries with sales of more than 3.0 million euros in 2008.

    The sector, including 97 profitable and 34 loss-making enterprises, recorded net profits of 33.7 million euros in the year, from 70.5 million euros in 2007, with pre-tax profits falling by 39.4 million euros.

    The survey showed that the 97 profitable enterprises sales totaled 1.29 billion euros, or 67.8 pct of the sector, while sales grew 3.5 pct reflecting higher raw materials prices in the first half of 2008.

    Production costs rise was larger than sales, with gross margin falling to 20.2 pct in 2008 from 20.5 pct in 2007 and gross profits rising by 7.3 million euros to 385.8 million euros.

    Pre-tax, interest, depreciation and amortization earnings (EBITDA) fell to 218.7 million euros last year, down 3.0 pct from 2007, while EBITDA margin dropped to 11.5 pct from 12.2 pct over the same period, respectively. Pre-tax profits fell by 42 pct in 2008.

    These figures, combined with a 14.1 pct decline in the volume of production of plastic products in the first four months of 2009, confirmed that the Greek plastics industry was seriously hit by a global adverse economic environment.

    [05] Smoking ban in enclosed places begins

    A smoking ban went into effect throughout Greece on Wednesday, prohibiting smoking in all enclosed spaces and public services. The ban is the enactment of a relevant law by the health and social welfare ministry, aimed at promoting the health of smokers and non-smokers alike.

    Health minister Dimitris Avramopoulos noted in a message that "smoking is the biggest contributor to the mortality rate in Greece, causing 20,000 deaths annually, while passive smoking is responsible for the loss of 700 lives each year".

    The law also prohibits the sale of tobacco to and by minors, the use of tobacco products in all enclosed public spaces, airports, public transport stations and on public transport means, and snack shops, etc. Smoking areas may be designated provided the areas are separated from the rest of the premises and have special ventilation systems installed.

    Violations of the prohibition on selling tobacco products to minors carry fines of up to 1,000 euros, doubled for a second-time offence, and could lead to the rescinding of a licence to sell tobacco and alcohol and a fine of up to 20,000 euros for a third-time offence.

    Violation of the smoking ban carries a first-time fine of up to 500 euros, depending on the severity of the transgression.


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