|Tuesday, 25 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-01-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 FinMin announces gradual increase in social spendingGreek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday announced a gradual increase and restructuring of social spending with the aim to offer around 2.0 billion euros more money in social benefits.
Presenting the plan, the Greek minister said social spending would gradually rise to 27 pct of GDP from 26 pct currently and noted that a restructuring of social spending was necessary to become more effective. Instead of being focused, social spending were unevenly distributed to the population and not to households with real needs, Alogoskoufis said.
He said that a more effective combatting of tax-evasion would also contribute in raising social spending. Alogoskoufis presented a survey by the National Statistics Service over the income and living conditions of Greek households in 2004. The survey showed that 19.6 pct of population lived in households with low incomes, slightly down compared with a 19.9 pct rate in 2003. Households facing the danger of poverty totalled 832,456 in Greece, while the default rate was higher for women (20.9 pct) compared with men (18.3 pct).
Older people, aged more than 65 years, faced higher risks of poverty (27.9 pct) compared with younger people (16-24 years old) with a rate of (22.7 pct).
Households living in their own homes faced higher risk of default (20 pct) compared with households living in rented homes (17.9 pct).
Also households living in scarcely populated regions of the country faced higher risk of poverty compared with households in more populated areas.
The survey was conducted on a sample of 5,568 households with 12,381 members aged more than 16 years old. The survey did not include population groups already considered poor.
 PASOK, KKE, Coalition parties criticise FinMin's statementsThe main opposition PASOK party, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) on Thursday criticised statements made earlier in the day by Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis.
PASOK's finance and economy sector chief Vasso Papandreou said "it is positive that Mr. Alogoskoufis has begun to speak of a just society. It is negative in the sense that it is said by the minister who brought to Greece the doctrine of 'I take from the poor and give to the rich'."
An announcement by KKE said that "with today's data that the minister presented, as well as his announcements, the conclu-sion that working people must draw is that the only thing they can expect from the policy that serves the increase in the profits of capital, is the worsening of their financial situation. The income of 11,864 euros a year for a four-member family is not a poverty risk level but a state of impoverishment."
The Coalition party's Political Bureau member and economy and social policy sector chief Panayiotis Lafazanis said "poverty in our country is much higher than 19.6 percent for 2004, that is recorded by the National Statistical Service, because, apart from many other things, the report does not include our fellow citizens who are living in institutions, the gypsies, the homeless, etc. At the same time, the impressively higher percentages of poverty in the Greek countryside, that approach 30 percent, express the complete absence of sub-stantive regional policies and support policies for the farmers' world."
 Finance ministry replies to PASOK party on poverty issueThe finance and economy ministry replied on Thursday night to criticism aimed at the government earlier in the day by the main opposition PASOK party for its economic policy and the question of the level of poverty in the country.
"The members of the main opposition party, instead of apolo-gising for the poverty and the bad economic state they created, are trying to appear again as criticis," the ministry's announce-ment said.
"They should have known that the regular report by the National Statistical Service presented on poverty today, concerned 2004. It concerned, in other words, the results of the economic policy of PASOK over the past twenty years," it added.
The ministry concluded by saying that "the problems of society are not suitable for petty-partisan conflicts."
 State Dep't stresses: Greek government and security authorities in charge of investigation into US embassy attackWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
The Greek government and Greek security authorities are in charge of the investigation into the rocket attack early Friday morning against the US embassy in Athens, which caused minor material damage but no injuries, US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey stressed on Wednesday, replying to questions during a regular press briefing, adding that the FBI has sent some officers to Athens to assist the embassy in its own internal review of the affair, and to provide any support that might be requested by the Greek authorities.
"The most important thing is (that) the people who are in charge of this investigation are the Greek Government and the Greek security forces," Casey said.
Asked to comment on an "on the record" statement to a Greek reporter in Washington on Wednesday by FBI special agent Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman, that "the FBI is providing laboratory and investigative support to assist the U.S. Department of State in its investigation into the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Athens", Casey reiterated that the Greek government and Greek security forces were in charge of the investigation.
"As the distinguished gentleman from the FBI confirmed for you, the FBI has sent out some individuals to assist in that effort. They are there to provide whatever support is needed to the Embassy itself for its own internal review of this matter, as well as whatever support that might be wanted or desired on the part of Greek officials. But in terms of the progress in the investigation and the net results of it, that is something that I'd refer you back to Greek authorities for because again, they're in charge of the investigation", Casey said, adding that "we certainly will do everything we can to cooperate with them".
Asked whether the videotapes taken by "electronic eyes" (security cameras) at the Embassy compound had been turned over to the Greek authorities, Casey said he was not aware precisely what had been asked for, stressing that "those are matters for Greek law enforcement and the embassy to address, in terms of those details".
To another question on whether the State Department had notified the US Department of Justice about the attack, Casey said he assumed that "the full US government has been notified about all aspects of this", and referred any prospective legal questions to the Justice Department.
 President Papoulias hosts reception in honour of Diplomatic CorpsPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias hosted a reception at the Presidential Mansion on Thursday evening in honour of the members of the Diplomatic Corps.
Present at the reception were Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and many members of the Cabinet.
Welcoming U.S. Ambassador in Athens Charlies Ries, Papoulias said: "All the Greek people condemned the un-acceptable attack against the American embassy. I am certain that this attack will not affect our bilateral relations. We must confront terrorism both with decisiveness and calmness."
Papoulias was reffering to the rocket attack against the embassy last Friday morning.
Ambassador Ries thanked President Papoulias for his interest and stance on the handling against the attack and that of the stance of the Greek government.
 PM confers with public order ministerPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Thursday with Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras and was briefed on the course of the investigation in last week's rocket attack at the US Embassy in Athens, which caused minor damage but no injuries.
Polydoras told reporters after the meeting that the investigation was focusing on four areas, namely, vehicles-eyewitnesses, findings on the scene, cameras-videos and the route followed by the weapon used.
The minister stated that the investigation was continuing, and underlined the importance of an ensuing assumption of the responsibility for the attack (by a group) a written proclamation.
Responding to a question on why there were no arrests of troublemakers who caused the violent incidents on Wednesday, Polydoras stated that operationally,too, the police are doing their job well.
 PASOK party criticises government's public security policyMain opposition PASOK party spokesman Petros Efthymiou on Thursday sharply criticised the government for its policy in the public security sector, as well as Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras for the policy he is following with the police.
"All Greeks are aware that over the past three years an increase in common crime has prevailed. The very data, that bear the signature of Mr. Vyron Polydoras, bear witness that common crime is increasing steadily and so in the city and in the countryside, and indeed in the countryside in a double way, the citizen feels this lack of protection for his security. At the same time, hooded people are acting with more unaccountability than ever, as Athens experienced last night and at the same time leading services, such as the counter-terrorism service, are becoming the victim of the same disease of this three-year period, which is the partisanship of the state," Efthymiou said.
According to PASOK's spokesman, "throughout the entire state, and in the police as well, the partisanship of ND is disorganising the operational capability of the Greek Police."
Lastly, referring to statements made by Polydoras after meeting Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Efthymiou said "today, Mr. Vyron Polydoras briefed the prime minister and declared that he is absolutely satisfied with the operational performance of the police. At the same time, the Greek people are judging the operational and political inadequacy of the public order ministry specifically and strictly. But today as well, it became obvious who is responsible for this dissolution: It is the prime minister himself who is covering up for his minister."
 PM briefed by defence ministerPrime minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed Thursday by national defence minister Evangelos Meimarakis on currenty issues concerning the ministry while, replying to press que-stions later, the minister said that he had broached the issue of redetermining the operation of the country's Independent Authorities.
Meimarakis said the Independent Authorities' functions should be redetermined based on the new conjuncture, the way the section of the political authority that has been turned over to the Independent Authorities is exercised, noting that he was in no conflict with those Authorities, but felt that the citizens most be aware of the limitations on the government.
"We are judged by the citizens," Meimarakis said, adding that "I meet citizens on the street who say to me 'you are a minister, you can do whatever you want, why don't you release the names of the draft-dodgers?',".
"But that's not the way it is," he stressed.
He said the citizens must know that the government has the political determination, but "they must know why the hirings in the hospitals delay", for example, adding that, in the ASEP (public sector hiring examinations board), i.e., there existed the "ailing phenomena of public administration", since the process takes more than two years for one appointment to take place.
"Can the Authority (Personal Data Protection independent Authority) safeguard the law-breakers at the expense of the law-abiding citizens?" Meimarakis queried.
Asked why the Independent Authorities were not being changed, Meimarakis said the old saying "Head hurts, I cut off head" was not valid, and opined, regarding security cameras, that "they must not be prohibited when they serve the national interests".
"Why, then, were the cameras used in 2004 (for the Athens Olympic Games) for protection of the citizens and the country's image, but not today?", he asked, adding that "I have no problem if a camera tapes me as I shop at the supermarket, go to a bank, or pass outside an embassy".
Meimarakis said, in fact, that most of those who were protesting the use of security cameras today used such cameras themselves at their offices, adding that "it's their right of they consider that it contributes to their safety".
Asked whether there were such cameras at the ruling New Democracy party (ND) headquarters on Rigillis street in downtown Athens, Meimarakis said that ND did did not use such cameras at its offices.
He also said that the social groups must guard their demonstrations and "must not allow hooded" troublemakers, stressing that, following the collapse of the dictatorship, "everyone showed their faces at the demonstrations that took place", adding that the hooded troublemaker is "considered a provocateur".
Asked on the prospect of changing the terms of operation of the Independent Authorities through the revision of the Constitution, Meimarakis replied: "If necessary, perhaps, but the Constitution institutes the (independent) Authorities, it does not set out their operation".
Asked on his relations with public order minister Vyron Polydoras, who has recently been the target of criticism, Meimarakis stressed that their relations have always been excellent, and opined that Polydoras' leadership would result in positive results in the police.
 PASOK spokesman criticises defence ministerMain opposition PASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou on Thursday stated that National Defence Minister Vangelis Meimarakis was "developing a whole line of thinking, according to which responsibility for the government's omis-sions in areas like health, state-sector recruitment, lies with independent authorities, such as ASEP, or on other issues other independent authorities".
He also contrasted Meimarakis' statements with those of Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, saying that the two constituted a "monument to governmental mixed messages".
 ADAE fails to reach decision on draft dodgers issueThe Authority of Assurance of Information and Communi-cation Privacy and Security (ADAE) convened on Thursday to examine the request by the National Defence Ministry for a permission to publish the names of persons who had been exempted from military service on health reasons, using fake medical documents and other fake data. However, ADAE failed to reach a decision on Thursday.
It will convene again on January 25 in an effort to reach a final decision.
 PM to chair ND central committee meeting on SaturdayPrime minister Costas Karamanlis will chair a meeting of his ruling New Democracy party's (ND) central committee on Saturday.
Karamanlis will address the meeting, to take place at a central Athens hotel to discuss the party's action planning.
meanwhile, ND central committee secretary Lefteris Zagoritis will chair a meeting of the ND prefectural organisations' (NODE) chairmen on Friday afternoon.
 National Council on Foreign Policy discusses BalkansBalkan developments, especially Kosovo, dominated Thurs-day's meeting of the National Council on Foreign Policy, chaired by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and attended by representatives of the political parties in Parliament, except the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).
Leaving the meeting, Bakoyannis said it had taken place in a good climate and thanked all the participants for their constructive imput.
She noted that the status of Kosovo would be a central issue on the agenda of the next EU General Affairs Council and an upcoming NATO ministers' meeting.
Bakoyannis said the discussion had also covered the other problems of the region, since the entire region was interlinked in one way or the other and, of course, was affected by the decisions that were taken.
These included Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU and upcoming elections in Serbia.
During the meeting, the minister also briefed Council members on the results of a recent trip to Balkan countries by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, as well as the conclusions of the last European Council meeting concerning Turkey's EU accession course.
In addition to the political parties, the meeting was also attended by senior foreign ministry officials and diplomats.
On his part, former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos, who represented main opposition PASOK, initially referred to a very "beneficial meeting," before underlining support for Athens' core position of backing Turkey's European prospects in tandem with the fulfillment of the EU candidate country's obligations to the Union.
"...Obligations that Ankara has assumed quite a long time before the Annan plan (for Cyprus)," he added.
"Additionally," Pangalos said, "the referendum on the Cyprus issue must not be bundled together with Turkey's criteria for accession, and functioning as a 'counter-weight' for Turkey." He also said issues involving respect of human rights in the neighboring country must be resolved.
In terms of Kosovo, Pangalos said the issue affects the entire region, stressing that a "demand for sacrifices and concessions cannot be exerted from just the Serbs without some form of significant trade."
Finally, Pangalos reminded that the FYROM "name issue" must be solved within the framework of the 1995 interim agreement between Athens and Skopje.
Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) representative Panos Trigazis, meanwhile, referred to the "assumption of initiatives" by the Greek side in the Balkans, following the conclusion of the meeting.
In touching on the thorny Kosovo matter, he was clear:
"We are concerned that a possible unilateral independence of the region (Kosovo) will cause a chain reaction of instability in the western Balkans and a negative precedent for other interna-tional problems. A solution must be mutually acceptable and based on international law. We are against new fragmentations in the Balkans," he said.
Regarding the FYROM "name issue", Trigazis called for a continuation of talks under UN auspices, while he echoed standing Greek policy of backing Turkey's course towards the EU as long as the former meets its obligations in full.
"It should also not escape us that efforts for a peaceful resolution in the triangle 'Turkey-Greece-Cyprus' can be negatively affected by developments in the Middle East, where the Bush administration continues to insist on its catastrophic decision to continue the war in Iraq with the dispatch of more troops," he concluded.
 Police Chief briefs Equality-Human Rights commissionGreek Police (ELAS) chief Anastasios Dimoschakis stressed the significant collaboration with other agencies and services inside and outside of Greece on combatting phenomena of human trafficking and exploitation, in a briefing of the Equality and Human Rights commission late Wednesday.
Dimoschakis told the Commission that 17 specialised anti-trafficking task forces have been set up, while, citing statistics he submitted to the Commission, noted that the perpetrators were chiefly Greeks and Albanians, while the participation of Russians and Romanians in such rings has declined, while the the victims were mainly came from Moldova and Bulgaria.
At the same time, Dimoschakis continued, the Greek Police has undertaken an international initiative, code-named "Ilaria", being held for the first-time at European-wide level, adding that the officers conducting the planning were the same team that was involved in the security planning for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Citing the same data, Dimoschakis said that 284 arrests were made in 2003 thoughout Greece, 288 in 2004, and 202 in 2005, while in the first half of 2006 a total of 95 perpetrators were arrested. The number of victims were 93 in 2003, 181 in 2004, 137 in 2005, and 38 in the first half of 2006, adding that the victims in 2006 were mainly from the same country of origin as the perpetrators.
The Greek Police chief stressed that Greece was "not threatened by organised crime or crime rings", adding that "the problems we face are of moderate or low crimes), while at the same time the country had a high rate of solving crimes.
Two other issues being faced by the Greek Police, Dimoschakis continued, were juvenile delinquency and narcotics, for which law enforcement departments would be set up in every prefectural capital. Indeed, he noted, in the areas of Epirus and Northern Macedonia, 6.5 tons of canabis and over 60 kilos of heroin have been confiscated.
Further, he said, ELAS would soon inaugurate a website on disappeared minors, as well as a 24-hour telephone hotline.
Dimoschakis also stressed the ensurance of the individual rights and freedoms of citizens.
Noting that there were isolated incidents of violation of the citizens rights, that did harm to Greece's image internationally as well as that of the Greek Police, Dimoschakis stressed that: "The deportment of the police must ensure public order and security, and the rights of the citizens. It must be pervaded by social sensitivity. The reaction to any form of violence must be vertical, but not such, however, that would lead to the undermining of the citizens' rights".
"Our slogan," he added, "is: a police force with legal action, without excesses or actions that harm the citizens' confidence and the country's image internationally".
 Roussopoulos on the independent authoritiesThe constitutional guarantees to the operation of Independent Authorities should be observed even if there is disagreement with their findings, stated government spokesman Thodoris Roussopoulos on Thursday in response to a question on whether the government is considering changing the constitutional framework governing their operation.
Roussopoulos reiterated that the government respects the independent authorities, adding that as far as the rest are concerned the old saying stands, according to which 'those who judge are also judged'.
 Government on abuse of university asylum rulesThe need to revise the handling of university asylum rules to prevent their abuse by those bent on criminal action was stressed by government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Thursday.
"The government has frankly stated the need to review the way of handling university asylum, in such a way that asylum is not compromised but there is no use or abuse of asylum so that certain people can proceed with criminal activities," he said.
Commenting on incidents after a rally on Wednesday, during which masked youths barricaded inside the National Metsovian Polytechnic lobbed fire bombs at riot police and set two officers alight, Roussopoulos noted that "the images speak for themselves".
"We saw police officers fall victim to fire bombs that were obviously made within the university institution. This is a peculiar view in reference to university asylum, in which there is an absolute reversal of meanings. Asylum exists so that there is freedom of thought, not for the construction of Molotov cocktails," he said.
The spokesman also mentioned an earlier conversation with artist and School of Fine Arts professor Yiannis Moralis:
"Our great painter said that of the nine portraits that he presented to the Metsovian Polytechnic, sever were destroyed in the fire (set while anarchist youths had taken possession of the building) that occurred there a few years ago."
 PASOK official comments on educationMain opposition PASOK party education sector chief Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Thursday criticised the government for its education policy, particularly in third-stage education.
"The government is opening the ministerial drawers and once again is using the draft law being prepared to disorientate the agenda of these days that is unpleasant for it. Over the past year-and-a-half it has been concealing itself behind a flexible dialogue as an excuse, which it opens and closes with purely tactical characteristics and not for the benefit of the public university," he said.
"Today, Mr. Roussopoulos decided that this dialogue has been completed. As far as PASOK is concerned, reforms in third-stage education constitute a national priority. Disregarding petty-partisan handling, we have taken up a positive and responsible position on the changes that must take place in the public university," he added.
Chrysohoidis further pointed out that "our aim is clear: an upgraded public university in the 21st century, that will combine the achievements of the past, meaning free and mass access, with the challenges of the future for quality, research, internationalisation and innovation."
 New Zealand government ministers visit Chania municipalityThe strong ties of friendship between Greece and New Zealand forged during WWII were confirmed during the ceremonial visit to the municipality of Chania made by Defence and Trade Minister Philip Goff and Interior, Police, Transportation, Food Safety Minister Annette King, who are on a private visit to Crete with their families.
Goff referred to the New Zealanders who were killed alongside the Cretans fighting against the German Nazi occupation, adding that his wife's father was among those who fought and was held prisoners on Crete in 1941.
On her part, King stated that visiting Crete was an emotional experience because they are descended from the generation that fought on the island.
 PM to meet with Justice MinisterPrime minister Costas Karamanlis will meet Friday morning with Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced on Thursday.
 PASOK leader sends condolences over death of Cyprus' education ministerMain opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou on Thursday sent a telegram of condolences to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos over the death on Wednesday of Cyprus' Education and Culture Minister Pefkios Georgiades.
"Mr. President, the news of the death of Pefkios Georgiades filled us with great sorrow. The contribution of Pefkios Georgiades in the promotion of your work was known to all of us. His deep culture always helped him to care about the future," Papandreou said in his telegram.
 KKE delegation in TurkeyCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga will lead a party delegation to Istanbul this week on the occasion of the 8th congress of Turkey's communist party.
The KKE delegation will also participate in an international conference entitled "The Near East Question", sponsored by the Turkish party.
 Syn leader meets with Chilean envoy on fate of missing personsCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party President Alekos Alavanos met on Thursday with Chilean Ambassador in Athens Sophia Prats with talks focusing on missing persons of Greek origin in Chile.
Alavanos told reporters afterwards that his party "has launched a campaign regarding the fate of many young democrats, Greek leftists or of Greek origin who had gone missing" during dictatorships in Argentina and Chile in the 70s.
"Unfortunately, Greek governments have shown negligence. That is why we have begun contacts with the ambassadors of these countries," Alavanos added.
He said that with Ambassador Prats he discussed the case of two Greek families that had gone missing. "Among them there is a child of Greek origin who had gone missing with his parents in 1976 and that, probably, has been adopted by an Argentinian family belonging to the military, after assassination of the child's parents," Alavanos said.
 Alogoskoufis urges for responsible moves in banking sectorGreek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday urged all those involved in development in the banking sector to show seriousness and sense of responsibility to avoid any negative repercussions. The Greek minister also noted that the ministry would decide on a new chief executive in Public Power Corporation the soonest possible.
 Development minister presents investment proposals of 'Digital Future' programmeDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Industry Secretary General Spyros Papadopoulos on Thursday presented the investment proposals which have been submitted within the framework of the "Digital Future" Programme of the measure 3.2 of the Operational Programme "Society of Information".
A total of 941 business pojects were submitted, budgeted at at 298 million euros, of which 786 investment projects-proposals were approved for funding as they fulfill the prerequisites of the relevant proclamation, that is, 83.5 per cent, budgeted at 154 million euros, with a total public expenditure of 72 million euros. Of these investment project-proposals, 464 concern the Attica region and 332 the country's other regions.
The "Digital Future" Programme concerns the modernisation of medium-size businesses.
 Gov't urges sustainable growthThe banking and insurance sectors are key to the country's drive for sustainable growth, the government's secretary general for consumers said on Thursday.
"Bancassurance bears great responsibility as a basic partner in the country's endeavour for growth," I. Ikonomou told a seminar held by UNEP FI, a financing initiative by the United Nations for its environmental programme.
"The sector's backing in financing investment efforts is a firm basis for growth activity, both in the public and private sectors...Sustainable and viable development are a priority for those who can see even a little bit ahead," Ikonomou noted.
Lasting growth was also needed in many sectors of the economy, and mainly industry, where banking and insurance were key players.
The seminar was on sustainable development and the social responsibility of the bancassurance sector.
 Bulgarian minister comments on Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipelineSOFIA (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov)
The agreement on the construction of the Burgas-Alexandrou-poli oil pipeline will be signed by the end of next month, according to what was stated in Thursday's press by Bulgarian Regional Development and Town Planning Minister Asen Gagaouzov.
According to Gagaouzov, all pending issues concerning the terms for providing land, from where the pipeline will be passing, as well as the issues regarding the construction of the oil reception terminal in Burgas have already been resolved.
"Participation in the share capital of the construction company will remain 51 percent for Russia and 49 percent, altogether, for Greece and Bulgaria," the minister added in a statement to the newspaper "Trud."
 Profile signs 3.2-mln-euro supply contractsProfile, a Greek-listed software company, on Thursday reported the signing of a series of contracts with various public sector organisations to the supply of integrated information systems, worth 3.2 million euros.
The company said the contracts signalled its determination to focus on public sector projects, in which Profile has a comparative advantage, such as combined transport, financial applications and portal solutions.
 Kotsovolos Group says sales up 19 pct in May-November, yr/yrKotsovolos Group, a Greek electric appliances retail chain owned by Dixons, on Thursday reported a 19 percent increase in the first seven months sales of the current financial year (July 2006-June 2007) to 225.6 million euros.
The company also said that its sales in the eight-week period until January 6, 2007, rose 15 percent compared with the same period last year.
 China's trade attache tours Kavala port facilitiesThe trade attachÃ© of the Chinese embassy in Athens, Cheng Dayan, on Thursday toured the new commercial port in the northern city of Kavala, followed by talks with local chamber officials.
The Kavala district, including the new Philip II commercial port in the Nea Karvali municipality, account for nearly two-thirds of Greek exports to China, the attachÃ© said, citing fertilizer and marble shipped from the area.
Cheng also noted that several Chinese firms have recently commenced feasibility studies for the ports of Piraeus, Thessaloniki and Irakleio, Crete, without going into specifics.
 Perama ferry blockadeThe city council members and the employees of the municipality of Perama, Piraeus, staged a two-hour blockade of the Perama ferry from where the ships to the nearby island of Salamina in the Saronic Gulf set sail.
The Perama mayor stated that the blockade was symbolic and was held in a show of protest against the "miserable" financial state of the municipality, which is unable to pay the monthly salaries to its employees.
 Teotec in alliance with NEC ComputersTeotec, a member of the Theoharakis Group, said on Thursday that it had forged an alliance with NEC Computers of Japan.
Under the terms of the five-year pact, Teotec will act as NEC's exclusive representative in Greece, the domestic firm's managing director, George Koliris, told a news conference.
The two firms are aiming at a gradual penetration in the Greek market of NEC's products, accompanied by development of a promotion and sales network, Koliris reported.
The move forms part of Teotec's strategy to align information technology and telecoms business, he added.
 Greek stocks jump 1.3 pct on ThursdayGreek stocks jumped 1.30 percent on Thursday, pushing the composite index to a new 80-month high at the Athens Stock Exchange. The index ended at 4,675.54 points with turnover a robust 437.4 million euros.
All sectors moved higher with the exception of Industrial Products (-0.21 pct). The Insurance (2.02 pct), Banks (1.99 pct), Utilities (1.90 pct) and Travel (1.73 pct) indexes scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.
The Big Cap index rose 1.52 percent, the Mid Cap index ended 0.78 pct higher and Small Cap index rose 1.16 pct.
Varvaressos (19.19 pct), Boutaris (18.97 pct) and MLS (13.89 pct) were top gainers, while Tria Alpha (10.31 pct), Gener (6.25 pct) and Klonatex (6.25 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 185 to 77 with another 50 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.83%
Personal & Household: +1.06%
Raw Materials: +0.66%
Travel & Leisure: +1.73%
Food & Beverages: +0.11%
Financial Services: +0.11%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Marfin Popular Bank, OTE, and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 25.02
Public Power Corp (PPC): 20.96
HBC Coca Cola: 29.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.80
Emporiki Bank: 22.84
National Bank of Greece: 37.30
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 30.26
Titan Cement Company: 42.60
 Derivatives Market Close: GEK top in stock futures tradeEquity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4.43 pct
 Foreign Exchange RatesReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.302
Pound sterling 0.661
Danish kroner 7.513
Swedish kroner 9.172
Japanese yen 158.0
Swiss franc 1.631
Norwegian kroner 8.430
Cyprus pound 0.583
Canadian dollar 1.532
Australian dollar 1.655
 New Athens mayor Kaklamanis sworn in at City HallNew Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis and Athens' new muni-cipal council were sworn in during a special ceremony held at the Athens City Hall on Thursday.
Among those attending the ceremony were Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, Deputy Interior Minister Apostolos Andreoulakos, Athens-Piraeus Super-Prefect Fofi Gennimata, Athens Prefect Yiannis Sgouros and former ruling New Democracy chairman and Athens mayor Miltiades Evert.
In his speech, Kaklamanis stressed that local government could only begin to prosper if it managed to "wean itself off its dependence on the state, in terms of both authority and finances".
Also among the speakers was Pavlopoulos, who underlined that the government trusted local authorities with the running of programmes for social convergence, economic development and the handling of the 4th Community Support Framework funds.
 Special Ombudsman report on hirings outside ASEPPartiality, lack of objectivity, violation of legislation and lack of transparency in state-sector hirings outside ASEP (Supreme Staff Selection Council) that have led to widespread suspiciousness in the public, can be dealt with to a great degree by rationalizing the legislative framework and outlining the minimum objectivity and meritocracy requirements that should be common to all stages of a personnel hiring procedure in the public sector and local government, according to a special report on the hirings outside ASEP prepared by the Greek Ombudsman Office for the period 1998-2005.
The independent authority also recommended the drawing up of a Personnel Hiring Code that will incorporate the suggestions made earlier and constitute a framework of requirements that will have to be met in all public sector hiring procedure stages.
Regarding the role of interviews in state hiring procedures, the Ombudsman Office mentioned that the problem was not job interviews in themselves, which are internationally accepted as a considerably useful procedure, but the overall suspicions created over how it is being done and under what guarantees. The Ombudsman Office suggested that minutes of the job interviews should be kept while the interviews should be conducted transparently and publicly.
 Politicians address event on transparency in political and public lifeTransparency in the country's political and public life was the focus of attention at the conference organised at the Sports Museum in Thessaloniki on Thursday evening by the interior ministry, the National Public Administration and Local Government Centre and the ERT 3 television channel.
Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that "very important steps have been taken in the sector of transparency, but the struggle was, is and remains continuous."
Main opposition PASOK party Deputy Evangelos Venizelos said "we talk very much about transparency, just like about corruption, believing that it is an issue that is only institutional or political."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Deputy Antonis Skyllakos said that transparency does not concern public administration primarily. And this is so because the economy, the system, the multinationals and globalisation help the appearance of phenomena of corruption.
Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) Deputy Nikos Konstantopoulos said he ascertained a "deficit in transparency" that means a "deficit in democracy", adding that "the political demand for transparency in the name of democracy will always have opposite it all those apparatuses that desire post-democracy."
 Hold-up at EYDAP office in NikeaTwo armed robbers, believed to be foreign nationals, took off with an unspecified amount of money after forcibly entering the Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYDAP SA) offices in Nikea, Attica prefecture.
They removed the money from the office's cash desk after threatening employees and customers at gunpoint, brandishing Kalashnikovs, and opened fire into the air while fleeing the scene.
A police investigation is underway for their arrest.
 Anarchist violence again reported in central AthensA group of young self-styled anarchists took refuge at the Athens businesss school campus in the Greek capital's downtown at dawn, throwing firebombs base at a nearby bank and the Competition Commission's offices.
The subsequent blazes were quickly extinguished by the fire brigade, although traffic was interrupted in surrounding streets during morning rush hour.
 Inquiry on court judges receiving bribesAn inquiry on the occasion of a report aired on a private television show alleging that court judges and employees received bribes was ordered by the head of Appellate Court Judges prosecutor's office George Koliokostas.
The investigation will be conducted by the Appellate Court Judges prosecutor to determine if the report was valid and identify those who have committed illegal acts.
 EETT bans adult phone service in wake of Internet scamGreece's National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) on Thursday announced that it had ordered the company Maknan to deactivate a series of 901 phone-sex lines in the wake of an Internet scam, through which subscribers were being illegally charged for using the premium-rate phone lines without being aware of it.
Investigating complaints by customers who received oversized bills and after a hearing with both Maknan and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), which provides the phone lines, EETT issued a temporary order to deactivate the 901 lines and also ordered OTE not to try to collect the amounts corresponding to the use of these services from customers that have submitted complaints.
The decision was made after thousands of OTE subscribers received bills charging them for calls to the 901 services that they claimed were never made. The problem was later shown to be caused by rogue dialler software that hooked up users to the Internet via the premium-rate 901 lines. In this way, subscribers worked up astronomical phone bills simply by surfing the 'net, without using any phone-sex service.
 Churches more vulnerable to earthquake damage, study findsChurches are more vulnerable to earthquake damage than other public buildings in Greece, according to a survey carried out throughout the country by prefectures after the devastating quake in Athens in 1999.
Its findings were presented on Thursday at a seminar in Thessaloniki by the head of Thessaloniki Polytechnic's Concrete Laboratory Cosmas Stylianidis, who said this was partly due to the design of churches, which tend to have large domes, high ceilings and pediments, in conjunction with their age and inadequate support structures.
Not on the danger list are early Christian, Byzantine and other historic churches that are thoroughly checked, maintained and restored where required by archaeological services.
Other public buildings in Greece tend to be relatively new, or in the case of the OTE and other buildings have very high-quality construction, while schools and hospitals are also seen as having good earthquake specifications.
Overall, however, the survey was deemed a failure because of a poor response by prefectures, with only 30 conducting surveys, which in some cases included very few public buildings.
 New website unveiled by US embassyA new website hosted by the US embassy in Athens, mosaiko.gr, will be devoted to the multi-layer links between Greek and American cultures.
According to the embassy, decades-old links between Greece and the United States in areas ranging from the arts, to sports, education and new technologies, will be showcased.
Among others, the website will feature articles and an updated calendar for cultural events.
 European Human Rights Court reaches decision on appeal by Syrian against GreeceSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
The European Human Rights Court publicised in writing here on Thursday its decision on the appeal made against Greece by the Syrian-origin citizen of Athens Ghassan Alsayed Allaham.
The Court unanimously ruled that there was a violation of article 3 of the Human Rights Treaty that forbids the inhuman and degrading handling of a person. The Greek state will have to pay Allaham 4,000 euros for material damages, 20,000 for mental anxiety caused and 3,000 euros for expenses.
According to the European Human Rights Court's information bulletin, the person who made the appeal is of Syrian origin, he was born in 1962, he has been living and working in Greece since 1986, he is married to a Greek woman and possesses residence and work permits.
 PASOK deputies on problem of garbage in AtticaIn a question they tabled in Parliament on Thursday, 31 main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputies, headed by Andreas Loverdos, accused the government of "incompetence in the handling of garbage, particularly in the Attica Basin."
According to the deputies, "the New Democracy government for three years confronts in the worst possible manner the acute problem of the handling of garbage, both in the whole of the country and in particular in the Attica Basin."
Focusing on the problem in Attica, the PASOK deputies said that "if a new temporary solution is not found now, the collection of the garbage in the Basin at the end of March will be permanently halted."
 Armed robbery ends in suspects' arrestsA violent robbery attempt in Nea Moudania, Halkidiki prefe-ture of northern Greece, resulted in the arrest of the two assailants near Thessaloniki following a police chase ending with a crash.
The two suspects, aged 53 and 24, had earlier broken into a local residence and slightly injured two occupants, the owners of the apartment.
According to police, the two assailants are convicts with involvement in drug-related incidents.
 More illegal migrant arrests on SamosTen illegal migrants -- four men, two women and four children -- were detained by coast guard authorities Thursday on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, after having crossed over from the opposite Turkish coast by inflatible dinghy.
On Wednesday, two illegal migrants reportedly drowned and another five went missing after their wooden vessel sank in a separate incident in the same region.
 President Papoulias meets bidding committee president for 2013 Mediterranean GamesPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received at the Presidential Mansion on Thursday the president of the bidding committe for the hosting of the 2013 Mediterranean Games, Isidoros Kouvelos.
Kouvelos told President Papoulias that "we have started this bid, which is very important for capitalising on our Olympic heritage and for the development of central Greece. It is something which not only the government wants, but also all the political world."
Kouvelos said the final decision on which country will host the 2013 Mediterranean Games will be taken in Italy this October. Greece bids for the organisation of the games proposing Larissa and Volos in central Greece.
"President Papoulias showed great interest and promised his undivided support in this effort to bid for these Games," Kouvelos said.
President Papoulias also received on Thursday the president of the National Book Centre, author Dimitris Nollas.
Nollas noted that "the most important thing which we have achieved is to establish since 2004 the Thessaloniki Interna-tional Book Exhibition."
 Weather Forecast: Unseasonally warm on FridayUnseasonally warm weather is forecast in all parts of the country, with some scattered cloud. Temperatures in Athens from 7C to 18C; and in Thessaloniki between 1C and 13C.
 The Athens dailies at a glanceThe report on poverty to be unveiled Thursday by national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, the Marfin and Piraeus Bank take-over attempts, the independent Personal Data Protection Authority's green light for surveillance cameras inside and outside soccer stadiums, the telephone cally by a mystery woman on Friday's early morning rocket attack at the US embassy in Athens (which caused minor material damage but no injuries), and Wednesday's violence by hooded individuals in central Athens during a student's rally protesting the planned revision of Article 16 of the Constitution (which allows only the State to set up universities), were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The state at the mercy of the hooded individuals - The infamous (university) 'asylum' in the spotlight once again".
ANO KATO: "The Americans, too, see arrests - ELAS (Greek Police) chief (Anastasios Dimoschakis) optimistic on locating the assailants".
APOGEVMATINI: "New OGA (farmers' social insurance/pension fund) changing the farmers' lives - Historic changes in social insurance policy for the agricultural sector".
AVGHI: "Pre-electoral political favours with forests and coasts - The government denigrating the revision of the Constitution".
AVRIANI: "PASOK's (main opposition party) refusal to back revision of Articles 24 (on protection of the natural and cultural environment, including forests) and 117 (on maintaining the 'forest' designation of burned or deforested forest expanses) on the forests harming half of Greece".
CHORA: "What is changing regarding the unlicenced buildings on the seacoast - The economy ministry's draft law".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Who is covering for the hooded troublemakers? - The people indignat over the collusion between authorities and self-styled anarchists".
ELEFTHEROS: "Police in flames from molotov cocktails (homemade firebombs) at the Polytechnic University".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "496 cameras in 24 soccer stadiums - The Personal Data Protection Authority gives green light".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The forest ate the 'wolves' - Article 24: It's revision will not come to pass".
ESTIA: "PASOK undermining the revision - Stubborn 'no' to the rationalisation of Article 24".
ETHNOS: "The 'Anna' (mystery woman informant in the investigations into the now defunct '17N' terrorist group) of Lampsakos street (sidestreet across the US embassy from where the rocket is believed to have been launched) - Informant/enigma on the strike on the US embassy".
KATHIMERINI: "The plan for finding resources to channel to the poor - The economy minister to unveil the report today (Thursday)".
LOGOS: "The investigations on the Embassy hit in the dark - The material from the (security) cameras (at the embassy compound) 'usable' ".
NIKI: "Green 'block' - The ND (ruling party) proposal for turning the forests into 'cement' will not be passed".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The forests and the environment in the hands of profiteering - Discussion on revision of Article 24".
TA NEA: "Anarchists' raging vendetta against ELAS - Attack with flaregunds - Polydoras' (public order minister) policy boomerangs".
TO VIMA: "Sallas (Piraeus Bank chairman) vs. Vgenopoulos (Marfin Popular Bank CEO): I'll take his bank away from him in a month's time".
VRADYNI: "12,000 euros subsidy for youths to open up their own business".
 COREPER to activate procedure for new chapter for TurkeyBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The EU Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) decided on Thursday to activate the procedure for the opening of a new chapter, that of Statistics, in Turkey's negotiations for accession to the EU.
The chapter will open once the procedure is completed, namely the exchange of letters with Turkey.
So far, Turkey has concluded negotiations on the Research and Science chapter and has commenced the procedure to open the chapters on Statistics and Industry and Businesses.
On 11 December 2006, the General Affairs Council had decided to freeze the opening of eight chapters, while the remaining 26 would open when the preconditions were met but would not close as long as Turkey did not comply with its obligation to open its ports and airports to the Republic of Cyprus.
On 22 January 2007, the 27 member states will adopt a statement regarding the regulation for direct trade with the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus. In the statement, which was agreed on by COREPER and will be approved on 22 January without discussion, the Council will note the progress made regarding the regulation for the financial aid towards the Turkish Cypriots, aimed at facilitating the reunification of Cyprus.
It will also point out that the work at the Council level aimed at adopting a European Commission proposal regarding direct trade should recommence without delay.
Cyprus, which became a member of the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Education Minister buried on ThursdayNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot Minister of Education and Culture Pefkios Georgiades, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 72 after a heart attack, was buried on Thursday.
The funeral, led by Archbishop Chrysostomos II, was held at Panayia Evangelistria church in Nicosia, in the presence of President Tassos Papadopoulos, Greek Minister of Education and Religious Affairs Marietta Yiannakou, the members of the Council of Ministers, political party
leaders, members of the House of Representatives and other political party members, the military and church leadership, and others.
In a funeral oration, Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis praised the laboriousness, passion, humour and service of Pefkios Georgiades, noting that during Wednesday's cabinet session, the Minister of Education was ''as always a lively and creative presence,'' while during Thursday's special meeting his absence was ''bitter''.
Pashiardis said that Pefkios Georgiades had never betrayed anyone but was betrayed by his own heart, adding that he knew how to spread a smile, love, joy and kindness.
''You also had the simplicity and sweetness of a small child, the vigour and optimism of an impulsive youth, the maturity and realism of a down-to-earth man. All this ornate with inexhaustible humour and disarming politeness,'' Pashiardis said.
He added that Pefkios Georgiades, through his entire career, ''showed a humanity which charmed, sensitivities which touched, visions which inspired, principles and authenticity which captivated.''
Pashiardis said that Pefkios Georgiades spent the last years of his life serving education and culture and that from the post of Minister of Education and Culture ''he fulfilled with faith this responsibility and accepted with optimism this challenge, striving, without rest, to translate government policy into visible works and materialise his ideas and visions.''
In a statement, Yiannakou said ''my personal grief and that of the government is deep over the loss of a great man, who at the same time was characterised by true optimism and a vision for this country and Hellenism in general.''
 Greek Education minister expresses sorrow at death of Cypriot counterpartNICOSIA (ANA-MPA - A. Viketos)
Greek Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou on Thursday expressed the Greek government's and her personal deep sorrow at the death of Cyprus' education minister Pefkios Georgiades, who died unexpectedly on Wednesday of a heart attack.
Yiannakou made the statement after her arrival in Nicosia at midday to attend the late minister's funeral.
She stressed that Pefkios Georgiades would be remembered by all with deep emotion and with honour for his work but also with love for his great sensitivity, his intelligence and the importance that he attached to all matters that had to do with mankind.
Meanwhile, the Cyprus Republic's embassy in Athens and its General Consulate in Thessaloniki announced that they will open condolence book for the late minister on Friday and Monday, between 10:00-14:00. The first at the embassy's educational section at Iraklitou 10, Kolonaki and the second at the consulate's office on Nikis Avenue 37.
 Cyprus takes over OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation presidencyNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus, along with Croatia and Denmark, is taking over the 2007 presidency of the Forum for Security Cooperation of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
According to an official press release, during Wednesday's first meeting of the Forum for 2007, which was held in Vienna, Minister Plenipotentiary Spyros Attas, whos is presiding over the Forum for the first term of 2007, said that the Forum has before it an ambitious programme, both regarding the volume of work and the content.
''We aspire to the active participation and support of the 56 OSCE member states to achieve our goals,'' he said, adding that during its presidency, Cyprus would be in close cooperation with Spain, which is presiding over the OSCE.
During Wednesday's meeting, the presidency presented its programme and elaborated on its priorities. Among the most important activities of the Forum is the meeting to combat smuggling of small arms and light weapons (SALW), which will be held on 21 March 2007.
The Cypriot presidency submitted proposals for the more active participation of the Forum in the OSCE conference Partners for Cooperation, in which Middle East, African and Asian countries participate.