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Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-05-28
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece takes over BSEC rotating presidencySOFIA (ANA-MPA / M. Borisov) - Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis referred to the great opportunity offered to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation to follow the path of "green development" for the benefit of the member states and the greater region, addressing the 22nd BSEC foreign ministers' meeting held here on Friday.
After the special ceremony during which the organization's presidency was handed over to Greece from Bulgaria, Kouvelis commented that the initiatives to be undertaken will show that cooperation, aimed at the region's viable development, is feasible.
Kouvelis stressed that the emphasis on "green development" will highlight the comparative advantages of the Black Sea region through environmental protection, culture, tourism, alternative energy sources and new technologies.
The aim of the Greek presidency will be to mark the shift to green growth, with the focus on "making the Black Sea green" and sending a strong message from BSEC countries to the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Mexico, the deputy minister said.
 ADEDY postpones rallies until June 5The civil servants' union ADEDY on Friday announced that it had finalised plans for protest action against the austerity measures, pension reforms and the changes to labour law being pushed through by the government.
The union said that nationwide rallies in Athens, Thessaloniki and Iraklio that were originally envisaged for this Saturday have been postponed for the following week, on June 5. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the public-sector staff union federations and prefectural sections will hold general meetings and regional meetings linked to forms of action, it added.
 Audit for MantelisA Parliamentary Committee for the control of MP and party finances on Friday decided to order an in-depth audit of all assets owned by former PASOK minister Anastasios Mantelis and compare this with the declarations of means and assets that he had submitted to Parliament.
The decision was unanimous, following the former minister's admission before a Parliamentary fact-finding committee two days earlier that he had received 200,000 marks in undeclared campaign contributions from the multinational Siemens in 1998.
In addition to Mantelis, the committee decided to also subject the assets of former MP Theodoros Tsoukatos to the same scrutiny, even though he has not yet been called up to testify before the Parliamentary investigation into the Siemens slush funds scandal.
The joint decision calls for the re-checking of annual statements of property and financial assets submitted by the former minister since 1990, as well as the opening and checking of all bank accounts held by Mantelis and his next of kin.
A written order to lift the privacy protection on Mantelis' accounts was given in writing on Thursday by the Parliamentary Committee examining the Siemens scandal.
The audit will be carried out by a mixed team of certified public accountants and Parliament officials, which will check all their statements since 1990 in order to determine how they acquired property assets.
The next move will be to ask the Hellenic Court of Audit to confiscate Mantelis' property assets up to the sum of the money he says was given by Siemens, in order to cover any civil law liability that may arise.
His bank account has already been frozen by decision of the Parliamentary committee investigating the Siemens case, after the former minister testified.
Finally, the minutes and decision of the committee will be sent to an appeals court prosecutor so that he can press additional charges against Mantelis for violating laws on the declaration of means and assets, an offence that bears a potential penalty of up to 10 years for concealing sums greater than 300,000 euros.
 Parliament passes 'Kallikratis' billThe Kallikratis bill envisaging mergers between local authorities was passed by the Greek Parliament during a vote on the individual articles on Friday. The bill had been passed in principle during a session on Thursday.
Debate on the bill on Friday focused mainly on the issue of local government elections, with Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis announcing that the government would invite the political parties to dialogue on a municipal election system in June.
Ragoussis stressed that the government would come to these talks with the same position as that incorporated in the bill passed on Friday, which requires that mayors and regional authority chiefs be elected with a 50%-plus majority, but made it clear to all the parties that they would be asked to find a common ground, exhausting all margins for a common, single and fixed system of elections in local government.
 Industrial investment to riseInvestment spending in the industrial sector dropped 44.4 pct in 2009, compared with the previous year, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Friday. In a report, IOBE said the non-metal minerals sector recorded the biggest decline (62.1 pct), followed by the clothing-footwear (42.5 pct), textiles (47.9 pct), food/beverage/tobacco (40.9 pct), while chemicals (-18.7 pct) recorded a smaller decline.
In the European environment, forecasts over investment spending were also negative in 2009, both in the EU-27 and the Eurozone, by 18.1 pct and 22 pct respectively, although down compared with the previous estimate in October 2009 (21.9 pct and 24.9 pct, respectively).
Investment spending in the industrial sector was projected to grow by 6.8 pct this year, particularly in the non-metal mineral sector (70.3 pct), food/beverage/tobacco (29.7 pct), textile (26.6 pct) and chemicals (3.3 pct). On the other hand, however, clothing/footwear and other sectors, investment spending was projected to fall by 86.5 pct and 15.3 pct, respectively in 2010.
IOBE said that Greek industries seemed to have changed their investment mixture last year, focusing more on spending to replacing existing capital equipment (23 pct), raising production capacity (20 pct), improving production methods (20 pct) and expanding production capacity for new products (19 pct). Environmental protection, safety in production and introduction of new production methods recorded the lowest investment spending. This year, the investment mixture is focusing more on expanding production capacity for new products (22 pct), replacing existing capital equipment (21 pct) and raising production capacity on existing products (19 pct).
The report said technological developments and investment incentives positively affected investment decisions last year, while demand came third. All three factors would continue to positively affect investment plans this year, although their impact has lowered compared with previous year. Extra tax on profits, availability and capital costs were negatively affecting enterprises, while economic policy in general was by far the most negative factor for investment spending plans.
 State hospital debts settledThe ministries of finance and health in a joint statement issued on Friday announced that the debts of state hospitals to their procurement suppliers, amounting to 5.6 billion euros, will be settled either in cash or in state securities.
The old debts dating back to the period 2005-2006, estimated to 230 million euros, will be paid off immediately in cash.
The 2007-2009 debts will be paid out with zero-coupon state security bills. Two-year state securities will be issued to cover the 2007 debts, three-year state securities will cover the 2008 debts and four-year state securities will be issued on Jan. 1, 2011 for the 2009 debts.
The statement underlined that such an accumulation of debts will not be allowed to happen again in the future, adding that the Health System Procurement Commission will be activated, while international tenders for hospital supplies will be launched soon.
 Greek stocks end lowerGreek stocks ended the last trading session of a volatile week with small losses in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index of the market fell 0.52 pct to end at 1,570.22 points, after finding resistance at the 1,600 level earlier in the session. Turnover was a low 133.294 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index fell 0.68 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 1.02 pct and the FTSE 80 index dropped 0.94 pct. The Health (2.59 pct) and Financial Services (2.57 pct) sectors scored gains, while Food (3.69 pct) and Insurance (3.40 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 101 to 76 with another 49 issues unchanged.
Edrasi (14.29 pct), Hellenic Fish Farming (14.29pct) and Sato (11.76 pct) were top gainers, while Desmos (20 pct), Compucon (11.11 pct) and Elektroniki (9.70 pct) were top losers.
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