|Monday, 24 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-01-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Prime minister and finmin discuss upcoming legislation, NSRFPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis held talks with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Wednesday to discuss upcoming legislation being prepared by the finance ministry.
After the meeting, Alogoskoufis said that the top priority was to start implementing the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) for 2007-2013.
The ministers said that the draft bill was now in the final stages of preparation, with the European Commission's expected to give its approval in the first trimester of 2007. It is expected to go into effect in the first half of the year, by which time the relevant legislation will have been passed.
The National Strategic Reference Framework is a new document required by EU regulations, in which member states outline their strategy for spending Structural Funds. It relates to the overall Community Strategic Guidelines which apply to the whole of the EU. The whole process is very closely aligned to the Lisbon agenda and each NSRF has to clearly show how the actions it proposes will further the EU push for competitiveness, growth and more and better jobs with increased social cohesion.
 Greek-US 'excellent' cooperation reaffirmed in talks between FM, US envoy"The excellent cooperation between Greece and the US in conf-ronting the phenomenon of violence and terrorism was ascertained once again," Greece's foreign ministery spokesman George Koumoutsakos said Wednesday, speaking to reporters following a meeting between foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and US ambassador in Athens Charles Ries who discussed a wide range of issues, including developments in the Balkans, the upcoming extraordinary NATO meeting on Afghanistan, and Greece's inclusion in the US visa waiver programme, as well as bilateral economic issues.
Koumoutsakos stressed that the Greek side's firm political determination for results in confronting the phenomena of terrorist was a given fact.
"The ascertainment we made from the beginning that the incident will not affect Greek-US relations is being confirmed every day," Koumoutsakos added, referring to Friday's early-morning rocket attack at the US embassy in Athens that caused minor material damage but on injuries.
During the meeting, Bakoyannis briefed the US envoy on prime minister Costas Karamanlis' tour of Balkan countries earlier this week and the developments in the region, in view of elections in Serbia slated for January 21 and UN Kosovo mediator Martti Ahtisaari's anticipated submission of proposals a few days later.
The two sides further discussed preparation of the NATO extraordinary meeting to discuss the Afghanistan issue "which is high on the agenda of both the US and the Alliance," Kou-moutsakos added.
Also, the Greek side put forward the issue of Greece being included in the US visa waiver programme, Koumoutsakos said, adding that "contacts between officials of the two sides for progress in this matter are continuing normally".
 'I feel absolutely safe in Greece,' U.S. ambassador saysU.S. Ambassador to Athens Charlies Ries, speaking in an exclusive interview with the NET television network on Tues-day, said he is absolutely satisfied with cooperation with the Greek authorities to resolve the terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy last Friday and stressed that he feels absolutely safe in Greece in representing his country and will continue to travel and do his work as best as he can.
He also referred to investigations to detect the perpetrators, that are taking place under the supervision of the Greek authorities.
"We must always be prepared and in a state of vigilance for the possibility of terrorism. Unfortunately, in our era it is a reality in the lives of all. The American embassies in particular are targets all over the world. We are in a state of continuous and increased alert," he said.
Ries said that being a diplomat and not an investigator, he cannot assess whether the perpetrators are usual suspects from the past, stressing that he feels that nothing must be ruled out.
"We are cooperating very closely with the public order mini-ster, Mr. (Vyron) Polydoras and all his associates to find what evidence we can. The embassy staff cooperated with the public order ministry and the Greek Police throughout the weekend. They have taken testimonies from citizens and they have collected evidence. Yes, we have a tape that has been taken from cameras around our embassy and we have delivered it to the Greek police," he said.
Asked whether it is material that can be utilised and whether there is a clear picture, Ries said "it shows the rocket streaking across the street into the embassy. It was dark and it is not as clear as we would like. We are bringing some experts to see what they can do in relation to the picture and find ways of improving it. I hope the tape will be improved, but there are limits to how good it can become under these circumstances."
In reply to whether the tape provides evidence on the suspects, the U.S. ambassador said "there is an investigation that is under way under the supervision of the Greek authorities. I do not wish to go into elements of the investigation with details. I will repeat that both authorities will not leave any opportunity unused in our effort to find and convict those who are responsible for this terrorist act. This attack is directed in reality both against Greece and the U.S. embassy. It is the country that has been dealt a blow by this attack. I know that the government, the Greek police and all who are involved will not leave any opportunity unused in the effort to achieve an absolute in-depth investigation to enable us to find what we can."
Urged to disclose whether he had any information that such an event could take place, Ries said "I think that we must always be prepared and be in a state of vigilance for the possibility of terrorism."
Commenting on the level of cooperation between Greek and American security services, Ries said "excellent. We brought some experts over the weekend to help out. The Greek government is supervising the investigations in all sectors. We are cooperating fully and we are giving every piece of information that can contribute to the investigations to the government, the police and the ministry. In such cases, the way leading to the success of investigations is very often unpredictable."
Asked whether the FBI is involved in the investigations, the ambassador said "the FBI has been involved, but its involvement has nothing to do with the dimensions that have been given. Some of its good members have come."
Questioned whether he is satisfied with the work of the Greek counter-terrorism service and of the other Greek authorities, he said "as I said from the beginning on Friday, I am very satisfied. Absolutely satisfied with the cooperation and the enthusiasm with which the Greek authorities are approaching the problem."
On the question of whether he does not rule out the possibility of an international connection, Ries said "there is an assumption of responsibility by a local group and I think that we must take it into serious consideration. I am not saying that there is clear evidence of an international connection, but I am saying that every good investigation for me must examine evidence from all sources and we must not start with pre-judices."
Lastly, Ries was asked whether he loves the country and travels frequently with his wife, if he will continue to travel and if he feels safe and said "absolutely. I feel safe. My job here is to represent the United States in Greece. I have taken it seriously and I will continue to travel and do my job as best as I can."
 Gov't on use of traffic camera footage in terror investigationFreedom and security can and must coexist, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said on Wednesday when asked to comment on the use of material recorded by CCTV traffic cameras on Athens' thoroughfares to help uncover the perpetrator's of last Friday's terrorist strike against the United States Embassy in central Athens.
"When you have technology at your disposal, you can use this while absolutely respecting the Constitution and private life," he told reporters.
According to Roussopoulos, surveillance and recordings by cameras should be allowed in public areas, where the private life of citizens was not being violated. He also pointed to the example of Britain, where the arrest of those responsible for the bomb attack on the London underground was made possible by using clues from CCTV.
Asked whether the government was considering bringing legislation on this issue, Roussopoulos replied that the government was first waiting for the decision of the Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, to which the government has applied to obtain permission to use CCTV material as an exception to a independent privacy authority ruling banning their use for anything other than monitoring traffic flow.
He also noted that the cameras had originally been installed for security surveillance purposes during the Olympic Games, during which time they were used in a way that fully respected the private life of Greek citizens, while noting that it was bizarre to send out a message that the Greek State was interested in protecting the lives of foreigners but not of Greek citizens.
 Police chief confident of cracking terror strike caseThe chief of the Greek Police (ELAS) Anastasios Dimoschakis on Wednesday told MPs on Parliament's Equality and Human Rights Committee that he was confident that police investigating last Friday's rocket-propelled missile strike against the United States Embassy would crack the case.
"...when all the evidence is collected and processed we will have the result that you and we desire. We are serious. A mistake on our part from here on cannot be forgiven," he said.
Outlining police actions in response to the attack and the progress of the investigation so far, Dimoschakis stressed that there had been a high-level response, in which all members of the police force had followed the plan developed for such incidents, which was now in full deployment.
He said that all vehicles in the area - which exceeded 20,000 in number - had now been checked, as well as all Athens hospitals near the area since use of a rocket-propelled grenade was likely to cause injury.
Dimoschakis underlined that the Greek police force was taking the case extremely seriously, with the anti-terrorist squad on full alert and collaborating with foreign law enforcement agencies, and police were gathering and analysing all the evidence in the case and were equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories.
 Karamanlis,Voulgarakis discuss culture ministry issuesPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with Culture Minister George Voulgarakis on Wednesday to discuss culture ministry-related issues.
Voulgarakis told reporters that next year will be Greece's year in China, a fact that presupposes the joint mobilization of many government ministries, adding that within this framework a discussion was held with Finance Minister George Alogo-skoufis.
Responding to a question on the use of surveillance cameras, Voulgarakis stressed that such mechanisms should be activated because in the end they benefit democracy, as long as the constitutional guarantees are being observed and citizens' privacy is respected.
Voulgarakis also stated that he has complete confidence in the Greek Police and its operational mechanisms, that can and will bring results.
 PM congratulates MEP Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou on EuroParliament postPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday congratu-lated New Democracy MEP Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou on her election as first Vice-President of the European Parliament on Tuesday. This is the first time that a Greek MEP has been elected to this position.
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that the prime minister, in his letter to the MEP, noted that her election was an "eloquent recognition of her work during her eight-year term at the European Parliament".
 Parliamentary committee rejects PASOK's proposal on Greek citizenship and voting rightsA relevant Parliamentary Committee on Wednesday rejected a draft law proposed by the main opposition PASOK party on "the right to vote of citizens of third countries and the acqui-sition of Greek citizenship by overseas Greeks."
The PASOK party's proposals were rejected by the government deputies, with the exception of Aris Spiliotopoulos who cast a blank vote.
Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos accused PASOK of "functioning like a pendulum that moves between uncertainty and hypocrisy."
PASOK Deputy Evangelos Venizelos said on his part that "it is not possible that people living among us and shaping Greek society are not able to enjoy its respect."
Pavlopoulos said that PASOK is trying to handle two very important issues in an offhand manner and without examination and study having taken place, at a time when its cadres are well aware how many difficulties and risks are involved in a possible amateurish handling of these issues.
 PASOK leader Papandreou to attend reception hosted by President PapouliasMain opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou will attend a reception on Thursday evening hosted by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias at the Presidential Mansion in honour of the Diplomatic Corps, according to a PASOK announcement on Wednesday.
 KKE leader holds talks with security forces employee directoratesCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga held talks on Wednesday with the directorates of security services employees and, speaking afterwards, expressed support for the employees' financial demands, but her disagreement "with the effort being made for the militarisation of all these services."
Papariga stressed that "we do not agree at all with the effort being made for the further militarisation of all these services in the direction of strengthening the suppression of the popular movement."
The KKE leader noted that "we consider speculation develo-ping lately that there is no police and that everything has fallen apart very suspicious. All these lead, in our view, to the creation of special bodies, either paramilitary or parapolice, that will have nothing to do with protection from social crime but will play a repressive role and will lead to situations that will be very extreme."
Lastly, Papariga said "we are opposed to such developments. This speculation which is developing is very suspicious and, indeed, it becomes even more suspicious following the developments at the U.S. embassy. All have immediately started to call for special bodies, apart from technical means, the cameras, to solve the problem for us."
 Government defends plans to revise Constitutional protection for forestsGovernment spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednes-day justified the government's plans to revise article 24 of the Constitution, which refers to the protection accorded to forests and forested land, by pointing out that the current system was unrealistic and essentially unenforceable, thus leading to greater abuses.
"The sensitivity of all of us to the environment is extremely great," he added, pointing out that the current situation with extensive illegal construction and land use was not satisfactory.
"We are currently using aerial photographs of 1945 to determine whether an area is a forested expanse. From World War II until today, however, forested expanses have evolved into cultivated expanses and we continue to pretend, while leaving unsolved a major problem - that of the forest registry - that would record and define the situation without misinterpre-tations," he said.
According to Roussopoulos, the government's proposal was to use aerial photographs taken in 1975 that would allow the problems to be solved, while helping to protect the remaining forests and strengthening the country's policy for forests.
"It is not possible for us to believe that a purely agricultural expanse in Thessaly that has been cultivated for the past 50-60 years is forest, because this is recorded in a aerial photograph of 1945. If we continue not to see reality, in effect we are contributing to the degradation of the environment," he added.
A later government could then try to redress the illegal acts committed after 1975, based on the relevant photographs, he said.
 Greece plans to issue 50-year bondGreece plans to issue a 50-year bond, Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Petros Doukas said on Wednesday.
'We have this capability and this a very big success for the country,' the Greek minister said, adding that 'until 2003 state borrowing could reach only 20-year maturity'.
Speaking to reporters, Doukas presented the Greek govern-ment's borrowing programme for 2007 which includes issues and re-issues of benchmark bonds and interest-bearing bills. The Greek state will issue 5-, 10- and 30-year bonds and one 15-year issue. The government will not issue three-year bonds. The 10-, 15- and 30-year bonds will be syndicated issues, while re-issues will be auctioned. Five-year issues will be auctioned, while the government will issue a syndicated inflation-linked bond loan depending on market conditions.
The government hopes to raise around 28.5 billion euros through its borrowing programme this year, of which 17 billion through syndicated issues and 11.5 billion through auctions.
Greece has successfully auctioned a 10-year benchmark bond. Bids offered totalled 8 billion euros, while the issue was 5.0 billion euros. The government will issue a 30-year bond in early February and two new benchmark bonds (one 15-year and an inflation-linked bond) in spring.
Doukas said the government will issue three-, six- and 12-month bills totalling 1.0 billion euros and other strategic securities issues totalling 4.0 billion euros.
 Absorption rate of EU funds reached 58 pct in 2006The absorption rate of funds from a Third Community Support Framework reached 58 percent, while securing of capital (contract signing) totalled 90 percent, Greek Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Christos Folias said on Wednesday.
The Greek minister, presenting a report of EU funds' absorption for 2006, said there were no loss of funds last year and that funds remaining to be absorbed in a Third CSF programme totalled 13.7 billion euros. Folias said the government would not have any problems absorbing these funds by Easter 2009. The Greek minister said that a National Strategic Reference Programme, covering the Fourth Community Support Framework for the period 2007-2013, was at the last stage of drafting and was expected to be tabled to Parliament soon.
Folias also announced that a total of 4,400 applications have been made with a new investment law 3299, budgetted at 11.82 billion euros, with subsidies totalling 5.0 billion euros. The Greek minister said the government has already approved 2,649 applications, worth 4.745 billion euros with subsidies more than 2.0 billion euros.
 PASOK party criticises government over 3rd CSFThe main opposition PASOK party on Wednesday criticised the government on the occasion of a press conference given by Deputy Finance and Economy Minister Christos Folias on the course of the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF).
"The government has failed disastrously in utilising the biggest development programme (3rd CSF) that our country ever had at its disposal. Today's announcements are, unfortunately, once again completely distant from reality. The greatest confession of failure is the recent voluntary cutback in the budget of the 3rd CSF by 1.8 billion euros, with a corresponding annulment of projects and investments for regional development," an announcement by PASOK's economy sector said.
PASOK pointed out that in 2004 "absorption on an annual basis decreased by 4 percent and since then it has been backed continuously with accounting methods and moves, such as the retrospective inclusion of projects that were financed by national funds with a decrease in the CSF budget."
The party added that "the same scenario was repeated in 2006. In the programme of the Information Society alone in December 2006, 22 projects from the past were included, approved and given contract status and showed expenditures totalling 148 million euros, projects that had been implemented with national funds."
"Last year, at this time of the year, Mr. Folias announced that from now on expenditures had to be 7 billion euros a year so that there would be no losses. In 2006, less than 4.5 billion euros were ultimately absorbed for the 3rd CSF," the announce-ment said.
 Coalition party comments on 3rd CSFThe Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Syna-spismos) party criticised the government on Wednesday over the issue of the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) and in the wake of a press conference given by Deputy Finance and Economy Minister Christos Folias.
"Despite the desperate efforts by Mr. Christos Folias to beautify, with a host of alchemies, the course of the 3rd Com-munity Support Framework, reality is implacable," said the party's Political Bureau member and economic and social policy chief Panayiotis Lafazanis.
"With the responsibility of the New Democracy government and of the previous PASOK government, billions of euros from the 3rd CSF will be lost, while even those that will be absorbed will not have the necessary development and social impact and a considerable part of them is being provided with purely clientele and partisan expediencies," he added.
 Talks with EU on Olympic next weekThe government will hold a new round of negotiations next week with the European Union's executive Commission on the future of Olympic Airlines, formerly Olympic Airways, Deputy Finance Minister Peter Doukas said on Wednesday.
Government negotiators would maintain their position that a settlement should be allowed resulting from a figure of 560 million euros owed by the state to the national carrier and state subsidies the Commission believed were illegally given to Olympic, Doukas reported.
 Gazprom official makes statement on south European natural gas pipelineMOSCOW (ANA-MPA)
The decision on the course that will be covered by the south European natural gas export pipeline will be taken in about a year's time, Gazprom's alternate managing director Aleksandr Medvedev said on Wednesday, according to the economic news agency PRIME-TASS.
Speaking during a press conference, Medvedev expressed con-fidence that Gazprom will participate in the creation of the southern natural gas export channel to Europe.
The plan for the south European pipeline includes the extension of the Russian Blue Stream pipeline, that exports natural gas to Turkey, to the southern part of Italy through Greece, as well as in the direction of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria.
 First technological cluster inauguratedThe first Technological Cluster was inaugurated in the Athens suburb of Maroussi on Wednesday by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, Research and Technology Secretary General Yiannis Tsoukalas and Competitiveness special secretary Spyros Efstathopoulos.
It is the Microelectronics Innovation Centre that gathers, under the same roof, 15 rapidly developing Greek and foreign high technology companies employing 200 people.
Speaking to reporters after the inauguration, the development minister said that the technological cluster, the first to be created in Greece, together with the other five Innovation Poles that are being created all over the country, "will place Greece, the scientific and research community, in a leading position."
Addressing the event, Sioufas said that the inauguration of a high specialisation cluster in new technologies and in innovation signals the country's tangible entry into the new economy.
 Conference in Thessaloniki on extroversion of Greek businessesIn the presence of Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, a two-day conference will begin in Thessaloniki, central Macedonia, on January 23, organised by the Greek Foreign Trade Organisation (OPE) and the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBETH), with emphasis on the "key markets" of Russia, Korea, Bulgaria and Romania.
It is the 3rd "Greek Exports Manager Forum", at the focus of which will be the development of the extroversion of Greek businesses. The conference is directed to export managers of Greek businesses and aims at transferring the experiences and technical know-how by Greek and foreign rapporteurs.
The conference will deal with the analysis of two important markets, of Russia and Korea, which, according to the organisers, can constitute a field for a dynamic growth of exports and cooperation, as well as those of Bulgaria and Romania, their accession of which to the European Union, opens new prospects for Greek businesses.
 Marfin Popular Bank expects 33 pct annual growth rate in 2007-09Marfin Popular Bank on Wednesday said it expected a signifi-cant increase of its profits in the next three years, while it noted that it has not yet received a decision by the Capital Markets Commission of Cyprus over its bid to acquire Bank of Piraeus and Bank of Cyprus.
MPB told institutional investors its net after tax profits would total 372 million euros this year, 480 million in 2008 and 614 million in 2009, for an average annual growth rate of 33 percent. Profits, after minorities in Egnatia Bank and MFG, are projected to reach 360 million, 470 million and 600 million euros, in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively.
The Capital Markets Commission of Cyprus on Tuesday called Marfin Popular Bank to withdraw its public offers to the shareholders of Bank of Cyprus and Bank of Piraeus on the grounds that it breached market regulation.
 Piraeus Bank optimistic about Marfin offerThe vice chairman of Athens-quoted Piraeus Bank, Mihalis Kolakidis, said on Wednesday that management was optimistic about the outcome of its public offer for Marfin Popular Bank, with the process expected to last about two months.
An extraordinary shareholders meeting would be held around the middle of February in order to vote on a share capital increase, Kolakidis told a news conference.
Marfin's board was expected to meet after the session to discuss the offer, he added.
 Hellenic Exchanges reiterates goal to expand in Southeastern EuropeHellenic Exchanges SA, the operator of Athens Stock Exchange, Athens Derivatives Exchange and NEXA, on Wed-nesday said its strategic goal was to expand in Southeastern Europe.
In an announcement to the press, Hellenic Exchanges said that any decision over an equity participation in stock markets in the region would depend on the conditions prevailing. Commenting on recent press reports over a possible acquisition of the Bulgarian Stock Market, Hellenic Exchanges reiterated there were regular contacts over various issues between the two exchanges and noted that a multi-party delegation of Hellenic Exchanges Group, headed by the president of Athens Stock Exchange and chief executive of Hellenic Exchanges, Spyros Kapralos, would visit Sofia at the end of January to present ASE's joint trading platfom with the Cyprus Stock Exchange.
 Finance ministry's new informatics and communications network beginsThe Economy and Finance Ministry's General Secretariat of Informatics Systems (GGPS) announced on Wednesday the start of the implementation of the ministry's new network, which is being financed by the Operations Programme "Society of Information" of the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF), budgeted at about 17 million million euros, in the context of the modernisation of its infrasructures for the better service of the citizen.
The new network includes more than 750 agencies throughout Greece, in essence covering the total of the ministry's services. The new network constitutes a fundamental part of the under creation National Network of Public Administration "SYZEVXIS".
 Greek farm export prices up 2.4 pct in November, yr/yrGreece's agricultural sector export price index rose 2.4 pct in November 2006, compared with the same month 2005, while the import price index rose 3.4 pct over the same period, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.
NSS said the export price index was up 3.9 pct from October while the import price index rose 0.5 pct over the same period, respectively.
 Farmers to blockade streets if demands not metFarmers in Larissa said on Wednesday that would blockade prefecture streets with their tractors in the first 10 days of February if the government failed to meet their demands by the end of January.
Demands involve Value Added Tax rebates and debt settlement with banks.
 Greek inflation at 3.2 pct in December, EurostatGreek annual inflation was 3.2 pct in December 2006, un-changed from November, Eurostat said on Wednesday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in its monthly report, said Eurozone's annual inflation rate was also unchanged at 1.9 pct in December, but down from a 2.2 pct rate in December 2005. The inflation rate in the EU was 2.1 pct in December, un-changed from December 2005.
Malta (0.8 pct), Finland (1.2 pct), Germany, Poland and Sweden (1.4 pct each) recorded the lowest inflation rates in December, while Latvia (6.8 pct), Hungary (6.6 pct) and Estonia (5.1 pct) the highest inflation rates. Eurostat said the consumer price index rose in 15 member states, it fell in five and was unchanged in another four member states.
 Tourism & Property trade fair in AthensGreece will host the first international annual Tourism & Pro-perty 2007 trade fair, May 18-21 in Athens, the first tourism real estate fair to be held in the country.
The event, organized by Real Travel, aims to bring together Greek and international agencies from the private and public sector with tourism and real estate professionals in the wider Southeast European region. It also aims to promote the Greek holiday home in international markets.
The trade fair plans to expand in London, Munich and Stock-holm, three markets with strong interest for the purchase of holiday homes in Greece.
 Trade ties up between Greece, SE EuropeTrade ties between Greece and southeastern Europe showed high growth between 1996 and 2005, the Panhellenic Asso-ciation of Exporters said in a report released on Wednes-day.
Greek exports to the region in that period rose by 116%, more than doubling, the report said.
Also in 1995 to 2005, imports to Greece from southeastern Europe increased by 159%, up more than 2.5 times, according to the trade group.
"Despite a brisker rate of increase in imports, the overall trade balance for the region remained in Greece's favour in each year under review," the report said.
"In 2005, imports from southeastern Europe covered 65% of exports," it added.
 Black Sea Bank appoints new general secretaryThe Black Sea Trade and Development Bank on Wednesday announced that George Kottas was appointed for a three-year term as general secretary in the bank, replacing Charalambos Tsarouhas.
Kottas served in the European Commission and is an expert in regional policy and agricultural development policies with high expertise in EU's structural funds.
The Black Sea Bank was founded in 1997 by the 11 member-states of the Black Sea Cooperation Organisation and funds development projects in the region.
 Euromedica seeks investor for share cap riseAthens-quoted Euromedica SA announced on Wednesday that it had appointed Lazard as its financial consultant in finding investors willing to place approximately 100 million Euros in the company's share capital increase.
The proceeds would be used to to build a hospital in Athens in collaboration with another group of companies and/or physicians; and further expand the company's broad network through the buyout of diagnostic centres throughout Greece, management said in a statement.
Euromedica is currently holding talks with clinics for possible future collaboration; and is negotiations for incorporation of its subsidiaries, General Clinic of Thessalonica (32.58% held by Axon Holdings), the Medical Institute of Advanced Techno-logy of Crete (39.05% held by Axon Holdings), and Eurome-dica of Western Macedonia, the statement said.
The company is also examining the possibility of exploiting assets worth more than 120 million Euros (in 2003 prices) through establishment of a property development company in order to better segregate business risk from real estate from that associated with the provision of health services.
The real estate investment company would be listed on the Athens Stock Exchange in order to draw capital for further growth, management added.
 AB Vasilopoulos says sales up 13.5 pct in 2006AB Vasilopoulos SA on Wednesday reported a 14.6 pct increase in its four-quarter 2006 consolidated sales to 291.4 million euros, from 254.2 million euros in the corresponding period in 2005, and said that consolidated sales rose 13.5 pct last year to 1.03 billion euros from 908 million euros in 2005.
The supermarket group said its expansion activity continued last year with the opening of five new units, two City units and six franchising units. AB Vasilopoulos said its retail unit network totalled 108 units last year, and planned to add another 19 units in 2007.
 Executive bus launchedGreek Limo Bus (GLB) said on Wednesday that it had launched its executive coach, the Limo Bus, a moving five-star business and conference unit.
The exclusively designed coach was built in the Netherlands at the VDL BOVA plant in a 550,000 euro investment, GLB said in a statement.
GLB is a subsidiary of Event Makers SA, a special tourism organiser.
 Greek stocks end flat on WednesdayGreek stocks ended Wednesday's session mixed to higher in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index rose 0.06 pct to end at 4,615.48 points with turnover a heavy 415.9 million euros.
Sector indices were mixed with the Travel (1.12 pct), Chemicals (0.76 pct) and Raw Materials (0.40 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, and the Insurance (1.94 pct), Financial Services (0.99 pct) and Healthcare (0.66 pct) suffering the heaviest losses.
The Big Cap index rose 0.01 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.14 pct lower and the Small Cap index fell 0.28 pct.
Tria Alpha (19.89 pct), Galaxidi (19.47 pct) and Maxim-Pertsinidis (12 pct) were to gainers, while Axon Holdings (9.43 pct), Boutaris (7.94 pct) and Naousa Spin Mills (6.25 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 134 to 110 with another 65 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.20%
Personal & Household: -0.06%
Raw Materials: +0.40%
Travel & Leisure: +1.12%
Food & Beverages: +0.40%
Financial Services: -0.99%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Marfin Popular Bank, Alpha Bank, and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 24.60
Public Power Corp (PPC): 20.50
HBC Coca Cola: 29.26
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.78
Emporiki Bank: 22.90
National Bank of Greece: 36.78
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 30.00
Titan Cement Company: 42.00
 Derivatives Market Close: Intracom top in stock futures tradeEquity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4.29 pct
 Foreign Exchange RatesReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.301
Pound sterling 0.662
Danish kroner 7.512
Swedish kroner 9.150
Japanese yen 157.0
Swiss franc 1.627
Norwegian kroner 8.414
Cyprus pound 0.583
Canadian dollar 1.528
Australian dollar 1.656
 Protestors clash with police, 4 cars torched in central AthensA rally in central Athens held to protest against a revision of article 16 of the Constitution erupted into violence on Wednes-day. Shop windows, including a cafeteria and a bank, were smashed and four cars were torched along Fillelinon street during collisions between protestors and riot police, while police responded with use of teargas.
The fires were attributed to firebombs lobbed at a car belonging to the Bosnia-Herzegovina embassy by masked anarchist and extreme-left elements, which frequently incite confrontations and clashes with police at protests and demonstrations in Athens. The fire then spread to three adjacent vehicles and a nearby cafeteria.
Fire-engines stationed nearby responded immediately and quickly put out the blaze, while traffic and the protest march were interrupted during the fire-fighting operation.
Minor clashes with police also occurred in the main body of the rally when protesting students attempted to break through a police cordon around Parliament but were repelled with limited use of teargas.
Wednesday's rally had been organised in advance to coincide with a planned second debate on article 16 in Parliament, which did not finally take place as the debate was wrapped up on January 10.
Taking part in the protest was Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader Alekos Alavanos, who under-lined that the attempt to revise article 16 would not be permit-ted to pass.
"Everyone wants state-run, high-quality, free universities open to all children that complete lyceum. Today the movement for article 16 meets with the movement for article 24, with the environmental movement, and they are reinforcing each other," he said.
The debate in Parliament has now moved on to article 24 of the Constitution, which concerns the constitutional protection afforted to forests and forested expanses.
Violent incidents, in which riot police officers briefly caught fire when attacked by firebombs, also occurred as the masked protestors withdrew from Syntagma Square and Panepistimiou toward the Athens Metsovian Polytechnic, where they barrica-ded themselves into the university grounds and threw stones and fire-bombs at police.
 Attacks target special guard, MAT squadA special guard at the Hellenic American Union (HAU) offices in Athens was attacked at dawn on Wednesday while on duty.
According to his testimony, unidentified individuals on two motorcycles threatened him with a flare gun but he managed to turn them away by using a noise flare.
Earlier, approximately 30 individuals had attacked a riot police squad (MAT) in Exarchia, Athens using stones and flares. The incident was brief and ended with the attackers fleeing the scene.
 Nine expatriates to receive prizes from President PapouliasNine leading Greek expatriates are on the list of distinguished personalities to be honored this year by Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias.
They are former US House Representative Michael Bilirakis from Florida, world famous singer Nana Mouskouri, director and publisher of the New York-based Greek-American newspaper 'The National Herald' Antonios Diamantaris, vice-president of the Archdiocese Council of America Michael Jaharis, Western Policy Centre founder Angelo Tsakopoulos, Greek-American businessmen Alex Spanos and George Bechrakis, the director of the University of Chile Byzantine and Greek Studies Centre, professor Castillo Didier and Boston MIT University thermodynamics professor and entrepreneur George Hatsopoulos.
Dr. Hatsopoulos was also recently interviewed by the New York-based Greek-American daily 'The National Herald', in which he outlined his latest breakthrough that is expected to bring radical changes to cardiology and heart surgery, the invention of a new and improved artificial heart that will last over 20 years and is replaceable.
Hatsopoulos' colleagues in the field of Thermodynamics and electronic inventions call him modern Einstein because his inventions have a decisive effect on science and humanity.
The artificial heart pump developed by one of the subsidiaries in his company Pharos - one of his most innovative inventions - is a replica of the human heart and has already been used successfully on patients particularly, as temporary replacement in heart patients awaiting transplant.
Hatsopoulos stated that if he was to begin his career now he would study biology because he is interested in technological inventions only if they help the people, which was the reason that led him to make the artificial heart.
His training began in Greece at the Athens Polytechnic and continued at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received his bachelor's (1949), master's (1950), engineer's (1954), and doctorate (1956) degrees all in mecha-nical engineering.
In 1965, he and Joseph Keenan published their famous text-book Principles of General Thermodynamics, which restates the second law of thermodynamics in terms of the existence of stable equilibrium states.
In 1965, Hatsopoulos was president and founder of the Thermo Electron Engineering Corporation and Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at M.I.T., while in 1996 he won the John Fritz Medal, the highest American award in the engineering profession.
 Survey stresses role of elderly HGVs in road accidentsHeavy goods vehicles (HGVs) are involved in a quarter of all fatalities on Greek roads, while they become increasingly dangerous with age, according to survey presented by National Metsovian Polytechnic professor Mattheos Karlaftis on Wednesday.
The survey on "The influence of professional vehicles on the safety of Road Networks" was sponsored by the Association of Motor Vehicle Importers Representatives (SEAA) in the framework of its participation in the European Commission's efforts to draft a European Road Safety Charter.
Working with figures compiled by Greece's National Statistics Agency for the 35,625 road accidents involving HGVs, buses and light lorries that occurred in Greece in the years 1996-2004, the survey showed that these resulted in the deaths of 5,046 people, of which 2,500 were killed in accidents involving HGVs and buses.
In absolute numbers, the number of accidents of this sort were lower than in other European countries but the number of people killed was, paradoxically, much higher and tending to rise.
The age of the vehicle is directly linked both to the likelihood that it will be involved in an accident and the number of deaths that result, with HGVs more than 25 years old being 4.6 times more dangerous than vehicles of the same class that are less than five years old.
The study also revealed that the average age of the Greek goods vehicle fleet is around 18 years old, much higher than the EU average of 12.5 years. Many of the HGVs, lorries and coaches in Greece are second-hand vehicles imported from European countries where they can no longer be used due to age.
The study proposed a reduction in the average age of the heavy vehicles fleet in Greece and their replacement with new techno-logy, through a withdrawal programme with incentives given by the state.
 Mitsotakis leaves hospital after bypass operationHonorary president of ruling New Democracy party Con-stantine Mitsotakis was released from hospital on Wednesday in excellent condition and will undergo standard post-operative medical observation, according to a statement issued by the Onassion Cardiosurgery Centre in Athens.
Mitsotakis underwent a successful double bypass surgery on January 9.
 Melbourne Lord Mayor to visit sister city Thessaloniki next monthMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)
Melbourne's Lord Mayor John So will visit Thessaloniki in early February, where he will receive the Key to the City from Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos.
The sister cities of Melbourne and Thessaloniki this year celebrate the 23rd anniversary since their twinning on March 19, 1984.
The mayors of the two cities have in recent years been cooperating closely to expand their commercial and cultural exchanges.
So's visit will formalise the collaboration between the two cities, while planning will also be discussed for events that will mark the 25th anniversary of the twinning.
"I can't wait to set my foot in Thessaloniki," So told the Greek-Australian "Neos Kosmos" newspaper's English Edition. "I'm certain that the visit will be a unique experience for myself and my wife," he added.
 OA plane makes emergency landing in Ioannina for medical reasonsAn Olympic Airlines (OA) plane had to make an emergency landing at Ioannina airport on Wednesday while en route from Tirana to Athens.
On board the plane was a 26-year-old patient being transported to a hospital in Athens from Tirana. Her condition deteriorated during the flight and her life was at risk, so that captain reque-sted permission to land at Ioannina, from where an ambulance immediately transported the young woman to Ioannina's university hospital.
The plane then continued the flight toward Athens.
 Large quantity of heroin confiscated in Florina; Albanian arrestedA large quantity of drugs was found in an Albanian car and was confiscated by the authorities at the customs post of Krystallopigi, in Florina prefecture, northern Greece, on Wednesday.
The drugs, which according to initial checks is heroin, were located in the car driven by an Albanian national, who was arrested.
The drugs consisted of 21 parcels, each weighing about 500 grams, totally weighing 11.4 kilos. Their value is estimated at 800,000 to one million euros.
The driver was arrested and will be led before the Kastoria public prosecutor on Thursday.
 Two illegal migrants dead, five missing off SamosThe bodies of a male and a young female have been recovered by the crew of a Coastguard patrol boat scouring the sea region of Cape Praso on the Aegean island of Samos since early Wednesday morning, when a search and rescue operation was mounted to locate a total of 9 illegal migrants who found themselves in the water when the wooden boat they boarded on the opposite Turkish coast sank for unknown reasons.
Meanwhile, two illegal migrants were found safe in a gorge while the search in the wider region was continuing given that, according to the 9 rescued migrants, there were five more who were still missing at sea.
 Drug arrests on RhodesPolice on the southeast Aegean island of Rhodes disbanded a drug trafficking ring supplying heroin and cocaine to the entire Dodecanese islands' region.
Three undercover police officers posing as 'customers' arrested two 26-year-old Albanian nationals who had in their possession 1.5 kilos of cocaine and 500 grams of heroin.
 Weather Forecast: Unseasonally warm on ThursdayUnseasonally warm weather is forecast in all parts of the country. Temperatures in Athens from 6C to 18C; and in Thessaloniki between 0C and 14C.
 Cypriot President expresses sorrow over Education Minister's deathNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has expressed deepest sorrow for the death of Minister of Education and Culture Pefkios Georgiades.
Georgiades, who has served Minister of Education and Culture since President Papadopoulos assumed office in 2003, died Wednesday afternoon of heart attack, at the age of 72.
''I express deepest sorrow and great personal grief for the sudden death of Minister of Education and Culture Pefkios Georgiades, a fine person with whom I was bound with a close friendship since our school years and for whom only pleasant memories I have,'' said President Papadopoulos in a written statement.
President Papadopoulos said Georgiades, as a human being, ''he had the smile of kindness and the diffusing power of sincerity. As a Minister he worked with zeal and creative passion for our education and culture, producing remarkable results and ma-king an important contribution.''
''I will remember him with ample of gratitude for all those he offered quietly, as a valuable partner in the Council of Mi-nisters,'' Papadopoulos added.
''His family lost a dedicated protector. I lost a dear friend, a faithful and worthy associate,'' President Papadopoulos conclu-ded.
 Cyprus and Lebanon sign agreement on economic zoneNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs George Lillikas signed on Wednesday in Beirut an agreement for the Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone between the Republic of Cyprus and Lebanon.
During his one-day trip to Beirut the Cypriot minister held talks with Lebanese officials on issues of mutual interest.
Meanwhile, the Cyprus Council of Ministers decided on Wednesday to grant Lebanon the sum of 100,000 Cyprus pounds (approximately 165,000
euros) in the context of the international conference for the financial support of the country.
 AKEL and RTP agree to undertake initiatives for Cyprus problemNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Left-wing AKEL and the Republican Turkish Party (RTP) have agreed to undertake initiatives in every direction in their respective Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to promote the procedure provided for in a letter sent by UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari.
The leaders of the two parties, AKEL General Secretary Demetris Christofias and RTP President Ferdi Sabit Soyer, announced the decision after a meeting on Wednesday at RTP's headquarters, in the Turkish-occupied part of Nicosia, the world's last divided capital city.
Christofias said that the two parties also agreed to promote the issue of disengagement, which the two sides have been requesting for some time.
Regarding the opening of a checkpoint in Ledra Street, a main commercial road in the centre of the walled city of Nicosia, he said the two parties agreed that it should be opened the soonest possible by following the same procedure through the UN as in other cases.
''This is the joint statement of the two parties after the con-structive meeting we had,'' Christofias pointed out and explai-ned that ''in order to be constructive and effective in our efforts, we have decided not to make any further statements.''
Asked to clarify which positions on military disengagement the parties had agreed on, Christofias said ''our parties agree that there should be disengagement in Nicosia and elsewhere, we are talking about disengagement and everything can be discussed.''
To a question if it was agreed that all the symbols in the Ledra Street area should be removed, Christofias said ''we did not go into details,'' adding that this was the UN's job.
Soyer said ''both parties are working for a solution of the Cyprus problem and peace in Cyprus, aware of their responsibilities on the issue.''
''In this context, the exchange of visits aims at discussing important issues, on some of which we follow the same line,'' he added.
Soyer said ''both sides have the problem of drought, we need a lot of rain and not a lot of words,'' noting that he would not respond to any questions in order to maintain the ''good climate of the meeting.''
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Indiana University Professor Coufoudakis on Cyprus issueNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A.Viketos)
Dr. Van Coufoudakis, Dean Emeritus, and Professor of Poli-tical Science at Indiana University in the U.S., in an interview he gave to the ANA-MPA on Wednesday said that "in order for the Cyprus issue to be solved in a proper way, real negotiations must be held and not the imposition of a solution, and the lessons of the failure of (former UN secretary-general) Kofi Annan should be taken into consideration."
Coufoudakis said that new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must present a new plan for a solution to the Cyprus issue, which will be based on the principles of the European Union and of Human Rights. He stressed that such a plan can cover the needs of both of Cyprus' communities.
Professor Coufoudakis was in Cyprus during these past past days to promote his book "Cyprus: A Contemporary Problem in Historical Perspective", which was published by the Modern Greek Studies Department of the University of Minnesota in the U.S.