|Thursday, 23 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-01-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Karamanlis outlines Greek positions on issues affecting SE Europe during CoE addressSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA / O. Tsipira)
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday reiterated Athens' standing positions on a handful of major issues affecting the entire SE Europe region, during his address here to the Council of Europe's (CoE) parliamentary assembly (PACE).
Karamanlis evoked the CoE's "crucial role" in south-eastern Europe, including Kosovo, where there "still remains a great deal to be achieved", as he said.
It is "essential for peace in the area that the solution be mutually acceptable to both sides as well," the Greek premier said, noting that the contentious issue of a final status for the province ranks as a significant "political problem" that affects regional "stability and security".
"Both sides must continue negotiations in a productive manner. However, what is of great importance and truly necessary for peace in the region, is for a solution to be mutually acceptable to both sides," he added.
Karamanlis said Greece has systematically stressed that such a solution can be achieved only through negotiations; respect of International Law; respect for the multi-ethnic and multicultural character of Kosovo; support of Serbia's European and Euro-Atlantic prospects as well as respect and the safeguarding of Kosovo's Orthodox Christian cultural heritage.
FYROM 'name issue'
Turning to another issue of particular importance to Athens, the Greek prime minister expressed conditional support for EU candidate status towards the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), with the conditions including a resolution to the nagging "name issue".
Moreover, Karamanlis underlined that a mutually acceptable solution must be found to this issue, which continues to plague full ties between Athens and Skopje. He noted that in such a negotiation process "provocative unilateral actions have no place," whereas a mutually acceptable name issue falls within the conditions set out by the EU for FYROM, namely, good-neighbourly relations and regional cooperation.
Addressing questions during a subsequent press conference, Karamanlis reminded that both Greece and FYROM have assumed specific responsibilities over the issue, including the so-called "interim agreement" of 1995.
"I myself am Macedonian, along with 2.5 million other Greeks," he characteristically said in reference to his family's descent from the largest Greek province, Macedonia.
"Greece and, in particular, my government, have made significant efforts to find a compromise for a mutually acceptable solution," he said, calling on FYROM's leadership to respond to this policy, something he said has not materialised so far.
Although Athens and Skopje have achieved remarkable progress in bilateral relations, especially in trade and investments, since signing an UN-mediated "interim agreement" in 1995, the "name issue" remains the only "thorn" blocking full normalisation.
Greece and ethnic Greek communities around the world strenuously oppose FYROM's use of the name "Macedonia", as in "Republic of Macedonia", citing historical and political reasons. Moreover, Greece's largest province, which shares borders with southern FYROM, is called Macedonia, the same geographical region that more-or-less corresponds with the ancient kingdom of Macedonia, the birthplace of Alexander the Great.
In detailing Athens' involvement in its own "back yard", Karamanlis said Greece enjoys an active, multi-faceted and productive presence throughout the SE Europe region, with the goal being to safeguard peace and stability.
As a result, he said support of neighbouring states' Euro-Atlantic prospects and boosting bilateral cooperation on all levels is Greece's standing policy.
Conversely, he said countries in the region are obliged to implement all criteria for membership in Euro-Atlantic structures, emphasising the area of human rights, democratic institutions, the rule of law, tolerance and rapprochement, as well as good-neighbourly relations and the peaceful resolution of differences.
Along these lines, he said Greek investment and economic activity in SE Europe stands at 14 billion euros over the past 15 years, with 3,000 Greece-based firms having created 200,000 jobs in the wider region. In the banking sector alone, the Greek premier said more than 1,000 branches of Greek-owned banks operate in SE Europe, whereas the growing volume of bilateral trade, including with Turkey, surpasses the six-billion-dollar mark.
Human Rights Court
Alluding to the 'strained' workload of the Human Rights Court, he said that ratification of Protocol 14 is crucial and regretted that negotiations have stalled on the accession of the EU to the European Convention of Human Rights.
Karamanlis also noted that a complete implementation by member-states of the Court's rulings is necessary if the tribunal is to operate effectively.
He also expressed support for the institution of a commissioner of human rights at the CoE, and relevant proposals included in a report by Luxembourg Premier Jean-Claude Juncker.
The Greek premier told CoE delegates that fighting and stamping out terrorism is a priority, with Athens aligning itself with efforts by the United Nations to combat international terrorism.
"It is important to deal with this issue with coordinated action, and especially in a manner that safeguards human rights and fundamental freedoms. This is crucial to our success," he emphasised.
Along those lines, he said promotion of cross-cultural dialogue and inter-faith dialogue is absolutely imperative, given that many objectionable actions are due to ignorance and a lack of knowledge of other civilisations and religions.
In touching on a long-standing problem and a priority in Greek foreign policy, the Cyprus problem, Karamanlis said a "trans-formation of our continent will remain incomplete as long as the last wall that divides Europe is left standing on Cyprus."
Karamanlis emphasised that the Cyprus issue is primarily one of human rights, thus it falls squarely under the domain of the CoE.
"Properties were confiscated. Refugees cannot return to their homes; basic human rights have been violated on European soil. Greece remains solidly committed to the achievement of a fair and viable solution aimed at reuniting Cyprus based on relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the European Union's principles," he added.
van der Linden greeting
In greeting Karamanlis to the podium, PACE President RenĂ© van der Linden noted that Greece has been a very active member of the Council of Europe since it joined the 10 founding states in August 1949.
"Greece has established itself as a stable, democratic state in Europe, with an ever increasing voice in international affairs ' This holds very much true for our Assembly, where the Greek delegation, presided by our colleague and my good friend Elsa Papadimitriou continue to provide an invaluable contribution to our work to achieve our common objective - a democratic, prosperous and peaceful Europe," he added.
"Greece is more than just a valuable member of the Council of Europe. Whether it is about future enlargement of the EU, accession of Turkey to the EU, the importance of streamlining cooperation between the EU and the Council of Europe in order to avoid duplication and double standards, or international efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Cyprus issue, Greece is the strategic partner of the Council of Europe in the region," he added.
 Karamanlis - message to FYROM over name issueSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA - O. Tsipira, M. Aroni)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday stated that Athens supported the future EU and NATO prospects of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) - but only if Greece's tiny northern neighbor came to terms "with the basic rules of the game" in its dispute with Greece over the name 'Macedonia'.
Karamanlis was speaking during a joint press conference with Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) President Rene van der Linden after their meeting in Strasbourg, where he had just delivered an address to the COE parliamentary assembly.
Regarding the 'name issue', Karamanlis said that ongoing negotiations on the dispute were still in progress but stressed that Greece had made its positions crystal clear and was now waiting for FYROM to do the same, pointing out that this had not yet occurred.
Greece objects to FYROM's use of the name 'Macedonia' on the grounds that it is a geographical term that is shared by a northern Greek province having a common border with FYROM and may give grounds for future expansionist designs against Greece.
The Greek premier also referred to developments in Kosovo, noting that the proposals of special UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari were awaited with great anticipation.
Karamanlis stressed that the main goal was to ensure stability in the region, outlining Greece's position that no solution could be imposed that was not mutually acceptable to both sides involved, Serbia and Kosovo.
He said that such a solution must respect human rights and the rights of the minorities of both sides, while guaranteeing the European prospects of the wider region.
The prime minister also took questions from PACE deputies regarding the planned EU Constitutional Treaty and how he intended to support efforts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to proceed to a "good Constitution", stressing that it was urgent to revive efforts to make EU institutions more manageable.
"We are all aware of the situation that has existed after the two negative referendums for the Constitutional Treaty. We strenuously support that the times has come to rekindle our efforts and we must be more constructive and contribute to efforts by Chancellor Merkel to do this. It is a necessity. It is self-evident that we respect different points of view, but a union of '27' cannot function well and gaze on the future with the rules for a Europe of '6'. It is therefore of the utmost urgency to move on," Karamanlis said.
Asked if he agreed with recent statements by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who said that the EU should drop its unanimity rule and replace it with a qualified majority rule so as to evolve into a 'United States of Europe', Karamanlis said that Athens was "close to that view".
"We are a large family. We share the basic targets but this does not mean that we will all agree on an issue. There are differing views, even about the future of Europe," he noted.
According to Karamanlis, Athens sees the process toward political integration as "positive, favorable and we support it". Though the EU was by definition a forum for consensus and compromise, this formula could not continue to be successful in coming years, he added.
"Regarding majority, there are great sensitivities, it is a complex matter that we are handling with great caution. But we all understand that a family of '27' or more in coming years cannot function only with full consensus.
Fielding a question on illegal immigration and whether Greece would be willing to host a CoE observatory for improving the way this was handled, the Greek premier answered simply "yes".
"Greece, which is at the extreme southeastern limit of the EU, faces the awesome challenge of the huge waves of migration. It is natural that the government gives this issue priority and great importance. We actively participate in all relevant organs and believe there is improvement of cooperation on a European-wide level," he added.
Answering a question by Greek deputy Dinos Vrettos on the possibility of vetoing Turkey's EU progress, Karamanlis repeated that Athens supported full accession for Turkey, provided that it fully conformed with EU terms and criteria.
"I believe we have a broad cross-party position in Greece, at least between the two main parties, regarding our strategy where Turkey is concerned. We believe, of course, that it has not fulfilled the obligations and commitments that it undertook in its contract with Europe. We consider that the decision of the European Council last December was positive, in the sense that mit made it absolutely clear to Turkey that the EU is not satisfied with its progress, with respect to promoting the reforms and respecting the conditions that it has itself accepted," Karamanlis noted.
"We believe in a policy that offers Turkey the incentives required for growth, reform, to become a European country," he added.
Asked to comment on Greece's insistence on the term 'Moslem' rather than 'Turkish' for the minority group in Thrace, Karamanlis replied that Greece was a democratic society that fully respected all human rights and minority rights, as well as abiding by the rule of law and international treaties - such as the Treaty of Lausanne that defined the specific minority as 'Moslem'.
 'Full compliance, full accession' Greece's position on Turkey's European prospects, PM saysSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, replying to questions put to him by deputies at the Council of Europe, said on Wednesday that "full compliance, full accession" is Greece's position on Turkey's European prospects.
The prime minister reiterated that Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations and commitments towards the European Union, reminding that last December the European Council had made it clear to Turkey that it has not achieved the progress expected on issues for which it has committed itself. The prime minister went on to say that Turkey must continue its European course.
On the question of Cyprus and in reply to a question by a British deputy, Karamanlis said that both Greece and the government of Cyprus desire the finding of a viable solution under the auspices of the UN, but with the constructive involvement of the EU.
As regards people missing after the invasion in 1974, the prime minister said that this issue remains important for the relatives and the government of Cyprus, as well as of Greece.
"We believe that the conditions under which these people disappeared must be revealed," he said. He also reminded that a special committee, under the auspices of the UN is already functioning, but noted that despite Turkish promises for considerable steps to be taken there are no tangible results yet.
Lastly, asked about the issue of the "isolation" of the Turkish Cypriot community, Karamanlis replied that "the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots is the result of the invasion of northern Cyprus by Turkey" and that this issue reappeared when Cyprus became an EU member in 2004.
The prime minister then noted that Greece supports the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community and said that in the past two years, following the approval of the EU's funding regulation amounting to 260 million euros, the Turkish Cypriots' income per capita has tripled.
 Government on planned bill for universities, PM's visit to FranceThe government will table its draft bill on education within the term of the present Parliament, once it was complete, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Wednesday.
He said that one of the issues the bill would attempt to address was that of university asylum, which it would try to restore to "its original sense, which was the protection of the free movement of ideas and communication within the academic community".
Asked about the fact that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had not arranged a meeting with European Court of Human Rights Vice-president Christos Rozakis and European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamantouros while visiting Strasbourg, Antonaros said the premier's schedule was too tight and that he had already met a great number of prominent Greeks in Athens.
 Government on CIA flights through GreeceAll movements of aircraft to and from Greece "fully respected the laws, regulations and treaties for international air navigation," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Wednesday. He was responding to questions about a draft European Parliament report claiming that 64 CIA flights had passed through Greek territory.
According to the draft report, many flights and stopovers by CIA planes in Europe were part of a secret detention and transfer system for terrorist suspects, while the US operated secret prisons in some member-states and used others as staging posts with the collusion of EU governments and EU officials.
According to the leader of the opposition party Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) Alekos Alavanos, the government was obliged to give an explanation regarding the revelations in the report, which named Greece among the countries in which CIA planes made stopovers.
 'Revolutionary Struggle' group claims responsibility for strike on U.S. embassy through proclamationThe "Revolutionary Struggle" organization, with a five-page proclamation it sent to the weekly newspaper "To Pontiki" (The Mouse), claims responsibility for the terrorist strike at the American Embassy on January 12, the public order ministry announced on Wednesday evening.
The proclamation, according to the announcement, was delivered to the police by the management of the newspaper at 8:05 in the evening. The text of the proclamation was delivered to the Crime Laboratories for further investigation.
The proclamation had been received by the newspaper's management on Tuesday, the ministry's announcement concluded.
 Bakoyannis sends condolences for death of Ismail CemGreece's foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday sent a letter of condolence to the family of Ismail Cem, a former foreign minister of Turkey, who died earlier the same day of lung cancer at the age of 66.
In a statement, Bakoyannis stressed that the news of Cem's death inspired great sorrow in all who had the good fortune to have met the visionary Turkish politician and had shared in his faith that Greek-Turkish relations must steadily improve.
"I would like to express by sincere and deep condolences to his family and loved ones," Bakoyannis added.
 PASOK leader expresses sadness over Cem's deathMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday expressed sadness over the death of Turkish former foreign minister Ismail Cem, who died Wednesday of lung cancer at the age of 66.
"Ismail was, for me, a person with whom I shared a vision. A person with whom I worked hard for the vision of peace. Ismail was also a very good friend. I was very sadded by this," Papandreou, who was also foreign minister of Greece concurrently with Cem, said in his message.
Cem was first named foreign minister in June 1997 under the coalition government led by Mesut Yilmaz.
He remained foreign minister under the minority government led by Bulent Ecevit that took over from Uilmaz in January 1999 and under the coalition governmentled by Ecevit in May 1999, resigning from the post in July 2002.
On May 2, 2000, Cem and Papandreou were jointly awarded the "Statesman of the Year" award in New York by the East-West Institute for their efforts towards Greek-Turkish rapprochement, particularly after the devastating earthquakes in Istanbul (August 17) and Athens (September 7) the preceding year (1999), when the two countries rushed to each other's assistance.
 Papandreou meets with security forces unions' representativesThe government policy divides society and is responsible for the tension created between society and police, stated PASOK president George Papandreou after meeting with security forces unions' representatives to discuss issues concerning the citizens and security as well as issues the security forces members have to deal with while on duty.
The main priorities are the protection and safety of the people and the respect of democratic rights, stated Papandreou.
The PASOK leader also stressed that his party guarantees meritocracy in security forces and the dignity of those serving in them.
He accused the government of following a policy that turned society into a jungle where the right of the strongest prevails, adding that his party guarantees a fair society and a State that protects principles, regulations and the dignity of all citizens.
 Greek envoy addresses event on future status of KosovoWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA / A. Ellis)
There should be no losers and winners resulting from the future status of Kosovo, maintained Greece's ambassador to the United States Alexandros Mallias addressing an event on the future of southeast Europe, Kosovo in particular, held by a US foreign policy institute in Washington.
Ambassador Mallias was the main speaker in the event and stressed that the firmly supported by Greece European prospect of the Balkan states is the major incentive and mechanism safeguarding stability, peace and prosperity in the region. After referring to the proposal expected to be tabled by the UN special envoy former president of Finland, he pointed out that fundamental preconditions for stability in the Balkans are EU consensus, close EU-US cooperation and Russia's involvement.
Responding to a question by the FYROM embassy charge d' affaires, Mallias chose to point out the need for a mutually acceptable solution to the FYROM name issue based on the proposals tabled by UN envoy Matthew Nimetz in 2005, while he called on Skopje to follow the example of Bucharest and Sofia by looking forward to the future and not turning to the past, a fact that will allow the country's accession into the Euro-Atlantic structures.
The message that Europe is the future was sent to numerous recipients by the Greek Prime Minister through his visits to the Balkans, underlined Mallias responding to questions made by a large audience that included US vice-president Cheney aides, US State Department and USAID officials and public opinion makers.
After the discussion directed by the head of the institute's Eurasian Policy Centre, Mallias responded to questions by television reporters from Azerbaijan, stressing the shared interest in energy safety issues, as well as to questions by FYROM and the Serb-speaking Voice of America journalists regarding the recently held elections in Serbia and its European prospect.
 MP Tzannetakis to India for Congress Party centennialGreek MP and former prime minister Tzannis Tzannetakis will be leaving for India on Friday to represent the Greek government and ruling New Democracy party at events marking the first centennial since the foundation of the Indian National Congress or Congress Party, which will take place in New Delhi on January 29-30.
In meetings with Indian officials, Tzannetakis will convey the efforts of the Greek government and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis for closer ties with India in politics, the economy and cultural issues.
 Athens mayor makes proposal to European counterparts on abolition of death penaltyAthens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis has made a proposal to the mayors of European cities, who appeal for the abolition of the death penalty, to gather in Rome or, if possible, in Athens to discuss this sensitive and serious issue at length.
The proposal was made to Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni, who had the initiative for the gathering of signatures and, apart from the Athens Mayor, the document has been signed by the mayors of Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Vienna, Florence and Ljubljana.
After the gathering of signatures from more mayors of European cities, the document will be submitted to the European Council and the European Parliament and will be published in the press.
The appeal against the death penalty says, among other things, that "we mayors of European cities, faced with continuing executions in many cities in the world on a daily basis, make an urgent appeal for an end to this flagrant violation of human dignity. The death penalty does not reduce crimes. We believe that justice has no need for it."
 Law goes into effect for protection of children against physical punishmentLaw 3500/06 which was voted in the Greek Parliament, went into effect as of Wednesday "for dealing with family violence".
Included in the law is Article 4 which for the first time makes clear that physical punishment of children is forbidden in the context of their upbringing.
The Network for the Prevention and Combating of Physical Punishment of Children has recommended to the Justice Ministry the above regulation for the purpose of preventing violence in the family and in the broader social environment, and in accordance with the proposals of international human rights organizations.
 Alavanos and Argentine ambassador discuss missing GreeksCoalition of the Left (SYN) party president Alekos Alavanos on Wednesday met with Argentine ambassador to Greece Jorge Alejandro Mastropietro and discussed the issue of the people of Greek descent who are missing in Latin American countries.
Alavanos stated after the meeting that he raised the issue of the Argentine democrats who went missing during the military junta and most likely died fighting for democracy.
Alavanos said that among those missing are also small children who were probably adopted by families of members of the military, adding that SYN calls for the active intervention of the Greek government.
He said that his party is launching a campaign in the name of the Greek or Greek descent Argentine citizens who should not be forgotten or abandoned in case they are still alive adding that their history and contribution should always be remembered.
 Invitation for Greek businesses to access the Russian marketRussia's agriculture ministry general director Vladimir Grigorievic Kaisiev late Tuesday addressed an invitation to Greek businessmen to commence activity on the Russial market, assuring them that the state would treat relevant proposals in a positive manner and provide the required "assistance" at all levels.
Addressing the 3rd Greek Export Managers Forum organized in Thessaloniki by the Hellenic Exports Promotion Organization (HEPO), Kaisiev spoke of a lack of Greek products on the Russian shelves, stressing that this needed to change, given that Russian consumers sought Greek products and trusted them.
Another inhibitive factor that did not allow Greek products to become everyday consumer items for the Russians was the high cost of the Greek products, he said, adding that the two countries must seek a way to remedy that.
On the sectors for Greek business in Russia, Kaisiev said that the range was wide, given that Greek businessmen could collaborate with Russian counterparts in the production of wheat, sugar and dairy products, among others. He said that Greek entrepreneurs could carry out cultivations in Russia, which had vast expanses suitable for cultivations, and then transport the products to Greece. He further noted that the establishment of production units in Russia could prove a unique opportunity.
As for wine, he continued, the opportunities for Greek entrepreneurs were immense, given that Russians consumed more than 80 million liters annually, while two other attractive sectors were those of seafood and babyfood.
Dionyssis Protopapas, advisor at the Greek Economic and Commercial Affairs bureau in Moscow, spoke of the prospects for Greek products to develop dynamically on the Russian market, and noted that Greek exports to Russian were expected to post a 23 percent increase for the year 2006.
He said the Russian market was conducive to buyouts and mergers, while the problems faced by entrepreneurs included bureaucracy, corruption and lack of infrastructures, and also noted that "exports cannot be carried out without an importer".
Russia, he continued, was a market of 142 million consumers whose economy presented a growth rate of 6.9 percent, while by the year 2010 it would be running at an average rate of 5 percent. Russia was also one of the few countries where a decline in poverty was noted, he said, adding that the Russian consumers no longer preferred imitations but now opted for brand name and high quality products.
Protopapas said that sectors such as foods and beverages were particularly attractive for Greek investors, followed by vegetable oils, juices, canned products and cosmetics.
 Panayiotis Athanasopoulos new president and managing director of DEHPanayiotis Athanasopoulos, having long administrative experience with the Toyota company, in Greece and abroad, is becoming the new president and managing director of the Public Power Corporation (DEH).
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas met with Athanasopoulos on Wednesday and proposed to him to accept the posts of president and managing director of DEH, following consultations with Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, with whom Athanasopoulos also met. Athanasopoulos was the first choice of the development and finance ministers.
Sioufas said in a statement that "Mr. Athanasopoulos, a distinguished academic, having a considerable and successful course in the management of a big multinational business, in Greece and abroad, accepted this proposal. The current president of DEH, Costas Kyriakopoulos, with whom I also met, had expressed his view to me days ago that it is preferable that the new head of DEH have both duties."
A special general assembly of majority shareholders will be convened in the coming days on the issue of his election, in accordance with the charter. Athanasopoulos will assume his new duties immediately after the Parliamentary Utilities Committee expresses its opinion.
 FinMin addresses event on competitionFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis addressed an event in Patra, western Greece, on Wednesday night that was organised by the "Lida-Nana and Spyros Doukas" Foundation on the issue of "The time of the countryside Entrepreneurship-Employment-Competition."
Alogoskoufis said in his address that "our economy is achieving considerable progress", while on the issue of the countryside he noted that "the development of the countryside is on a good path. Major problems are being solved. The Peloponnese and western Greece are participating in this development. Our reforms are working and are creating new prospects for all."
Focusing on the course of the economy, the finance minister said that "we have placed the economy on a stable course of development and progress with a series of activities and reforms" and, referring to reforms, noted that "we have shaped an attractive framework."
 Employment minister visits administration of Farmers Pension FundEmployment and Social Solidarity Minister Savvas Tsitouridis met on Wednesday with the administration of the Farmers Pension Fund (OGA) and said afterwards that considerable progress is being achieved at the Fund.
OGA, that currently serves 854,000 insured people, of whom 500,000 are in a state of primary insurance, will develop, as Tsitouridis said, into a complete and modern fund, while underlining its public nature now and in the future. He added that a leap was accomplished in 2006 regarding benefits provided by the Organization.
The employment minister pointed out that the budget for 2007 provides financing amounting to 10,792,000,000 euros for the social security system, presenting an increase of 11.7 percent compared to 2006.
Main opposition PASOK party employment and social security chief Maria Damanaki, reacting to Tsitouridis' statements, said that "the minister's long statements merely serve election expediencies. Today, he is promising big increases in the pensions of farmers, while for 2008 he is promising (at no loss, since they concern the next government) even bigger ones."
 Serres farmers continue strike actionThe tractors and agricultural machinery of farmers from Serres, northern Greece, remained on the Serres-Thessaloniki national highway for the third consecutive day on Wednesday.
During Wednesday's gathering, the Serres farmers unanimously decided not to remove their tractors from the roads.
On Tuesday evening, their representatives held a lengthy meeting with Deputy Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Alexandros Kontos which ended without agreement.
In statements to ANA-MPA, the president of the "Serres Coordinating Sruggle Body", Christos Varoutis, said that "what they told us yesterday at the ministry were not answers to our demands, but simple explanations which did not satisfy any one."
Varoutis said the farmers will meet anew on Thursday to decide on whether they will continue their protest and to symbolically blockade the highway.
A total of 400 tractors and agricultural machinery are at the junction of the Serres-Thessaloniki and Serres-Promahona highways.
In an unrelated development, 150 workers of the "Soulis" industry who have been dismissed carried out a symbolic blockade of the Athens-Lamia national highway on Wednesday at the entrance of Lamia, central Greece.
 Cyprus authorities seek data from Piraeus BankNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A Viketos)
The Cypriot capital commission has asked Athens-quoted Piraeus Bank for technical information concerning its bid for Marfin Popular Bank, the authority's president, George Haralambous said on Wednesday.
Haralambous told reporters that the commission had prepared its comments on Piraeus' application to hold a public offer for Marfin's stock, and would send them to the Greek bank for clarification.
He was speaking after a meeting in the Cypriot capital with the chairman of Piraeus Bank, Mihalis Sallas.
 Crucial period for education companies in Greece, report saysEducation services companies' operating profit margin fell 70 basis points in 2005 to 8.9 pct, a report by Hellastat said on Wednesday. The report noted that from a total of 266 companies in the sector, 170 reported profits in 2005 -of which 62 increased their profitability-, 23 loss-making companies raised their losses, 32 cut their losses and 36 reported losses in 2005 after profits in 2004.
Hellastat said the current period was crucial for the future of the education sector, as the Greek parliament debated a revision of the article 16 of the Constitution to allowing the foundation of non-state universities in the country.
The franchising system was the most popular among education institutes in 2006, while some Greek companies expanded activities abroad (ECDL in China, ICT Hellas in Albania, etc), while the Greek church also showed interest in founding private -non-profit- schools in Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras.
The sector improved its gross profit margin to 36 pct in 2005 from 34.3 pct in 2004, while return on equity also rose to 5.4 pct from 4.8 pct over the same period, respectively.
Sales rose 1.8 pct, or 6.48 million euros, to 357.28 million euros and net pre-tax profits jumped to 4.09 million euros in 2005 from 900,000 euros in the previous year. The profits by the five largest education groups in the country accounted for 19.1 pct of total profits in the sector.
 Hellenic Acquaculture reports sharply improved 2006 resultsHellenic Acquaculture SA on Wednesday reported a 9.9 pct increase in its 2006 consolidated turnover to 50.14 million euros from 45.62 million euros in 2005.
A company statement said exports accounted for 44 percent of its consolidated turnover last year, up 9.0 percent in the 12-month period due to exports to new markets such as Italy, Spain and France.
Gross profits totaled 10.97 million euros last year from 8.52 million in 2005, for an increase of 28.8 pct, while pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) jumped 64.9 pct to 6.63 million euros from 4.02 million euros over the same period, respectively.
Consolidated pre-tax and interest earnings jumped 79.7 pct to 4.86 million euros, while pre-tax profits rose 68.7 percent to 3.0 million euros. Consolidated after tax and minorities earnings soared 93.4 pct to 2.36 million euros in 2006 from 1.22 milion euros in 2005.
 UNICE renamed 'Businesseurope', SEB saysThe Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) announced on Wednesday that the Confederation of European Business (UNICE) has been renamed BusinessEurope.
The new name was announced during a special event which was held in Brussels.
As stated by its president Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, Businesseurope has the ambition of expressing more effectively the central role played by businesses in Europe, aimed at growth, employment and prosperity for all the European citizens.
The Businesseurope organization includes as members 39 national industrial and employer federations from 33 countries, among them being SEB, and represents more than 20 million small, medium and large-sized businesses.
 Lannet sues OTE telecomAthens-quoted Lannet SA, a fixed-line telecoms provider, said on Wednesday that it had sued OTE telecom to protect shareholders' and customers' interests, and seek compensation for lost business.
The move followed suspension of trade in Lannet's stock on the Athens bourse earlier in the day and its subsequent reinstatement before the close after OTE announced that it would disconnect 85% of Lannet's telephone lines to customers for non-payment of a 10 million euro debt by a subsidiary, Telepassport, which it acquired recently.
Sued were Panayiotis Vourloumis, chairman of Athens-quoted OTE, and the board of directors.
Lannet said OTE's move breached interim court orders in October and November 2006.
 Helexpo to appoint new reps abroadHelexpo SA, the state owned trade fair organizer, said on Wednesday that it was seeking to expand its network of associates abroad, currently numbering 15 in 10 countries.
The company is planning to establish representatives in Serbia (TTI-Travel & Trade), the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Moldova, the Czech Republic and China.
Recently appointed were associates in Albania and in Bulgaria's Centre for Economic Development.
 METKA in 110-mln-euro energy project in PakistanMETKA, a Greek-listed engineering group, on Wednesday announced the signing of a contract, worth 110 million euros, with The Karachi Electric Supply Corporation Ltd (KESC) for the building of an electricity energy power station, with a power of 200MW, in Karachi, Pakistan.
The contract envisages a gradual delivery of the power station, starting from July 30, 2007 until December 12, 2008. The power station will operate under a combined cycle with natural gas as a fuel. METKA joined forces with General Electric Co and Istroenergo Group Inc for the supply of turbine engines.
 Deficit in trade with South KoreaTrade with South Korea shows a deficit for Greece with domestic exports to the Asian country declining and Korean goods increasingly gaining ground, a diplomat told the ANA-MPA in an interview.
Stephanos Voudouris, first counselor at the Greek embassy in Seoul's economic and trade bureau reported that in 2006 Greek exports to South Korea are estimated at 85 million US dollars, down 8.5% from 92.7 million a year earlier. In 2003, exports sent were more than 100 million dollars.
Korean exports to Greece totaled more than 2.6 billion dollars in 2006, up 56% from 1.7 billion in 2005, Voudouris noted.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the Greek Export Managers Forum in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, organized by HEPO, Greece's state exports board.
 South Korean firms seek Greek alliancesSouth Korean companies are seeking alliances with Greek companies, the president of the Korean Association of Exporters (KOIMA), Son Hon Kon, said on Wednesday.
He was addressing the Greek Export Managers Forum held in the northern port city of Thessaloniki arranged by HEPO, Greece's state exports board.
In addition, the managing director of Dongwon told the conference that his firm was eager for alliances.
 IFC to buy stake in FinansbankAthens-quoted National Bank of Greece and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) announced on Wednesday that IFC would acquire up to 5% of common shares in Turkey's Finansbank AS, recently acquired by National.
IFC's purchase will be made through completion of National's public offer for stock in Finansbank from minority shareholders that began on January 8 and ends on January 29.
National Bank currently owns more than 86% of Finansbank.
 ASE suspends trading in shares of Lannet TelecommunicationsThe Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday announced the temporary suspension of trading in the shares of Lannet Communications SA after an announcement by Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) that it was temporary suspending the operation of 85 pct of all interconnection circuits with Lannet.
The decision by OTE was taken because Lannet did not repayed debt by Telepassport after the merger of the two telecommunications services providers. Telepassport owed more than 10 million euros to Hellenic Telecommunications Organization.
 ASE lifts suspension decision for LannetThe Athens Stock Exchange lifted a decision to suspend trading in the shares of Lannet Communications after consultation with the Capital Markets Commission.
The suspension decision was taken earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, Lannet in an announcement to the press strongly reacted to a decision by Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) to suspend operations of its interconnection circuits with OTE, saying the decision was illegal since it ignored court decisions in favour of Lannet.
 Greek stocks surge 1.38 pct on WednesdayGreek stocks rebounded spectacularly on Wednesday in the Athens Stock Exchange as investors returned in the market seeking blue chip stocks. The composite index jumped 1.38 percent to end at 4,698.21 points with turnover a heavy 560.8 million euros.
All sectors scored gains, with the exceptions of Personal/Home Products and Constructions (down 0.13 pct and 0.03 pct, respectively. The Media (3.32 pct), Utilities (3.16 pct) and Oil (3.03 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.
The Big Cap index rose 1.41 percent, the Mid Cap index jumped 1.76 pct and the Small Cap index rose 1.01 pct.
Tria Alpha (20 pct) and Hitech (19.15 pct) were top gainers, while Desmos (13.79 pct), Klonatex (12.5 pct) and Lannet (7.75 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 184 to 76 with another 50 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +3.03%
Personal & Household: -0.13%
Raw Materials: +2.49%
Travel & Leisure: +0.72%
Food & Beverages: +0.20%
Financial Services: +2.22%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Eurobank, Bank of Cyprus, PPC, and Marfin Popular Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 25.40
Public Power Corp (PPC): 21.50
HBC Coca Cola: 29.46
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.18
Emporiki Bank: 23.20
National Bank of Greece: 39.00
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 29.66
Titan Cement Company: 43.10
 Derivatives Market Close: PPC 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 1.310
Pound sterling 0.664
Danish kroner 7.514
Swedish kroner 9.132
Japanese yen 159.3
Swiss franc 1.632
Norwegian kroner 8.329
Cyprus pound 0.583
Canadian dollar 1.545
Australian dollar 1.676
 Origins of lots in Christie's auction must be clarified, Greece saysGreece's alternate government spokesman on Wednesday said that it remained to be clarified whether the lots up for sale at a Christie's auction in London were part of Greece's cultural heritage.
The London auction house is set to proceed with the sale of items belonging to the early 20th-century Greek monarch George I during an auction scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, in spite of a formal Greek request to call off the auction, while refusing to disclose where they came from.
Pointing to statements made on the issue by Culture Minister George Voulgarakis on Wednesday while appearing on the Greek state television channel NET, Antonaros stressed that the Greek government wanted to send out a clearcut message that it wanted to "keep track of everything".
"Whatever has left the country without observance of the proper procedures will be monitored and will be the object of contention," he added.
Speaking on Tuesday, Voulgarakis had said that the objects on sale at Christie's were "indisputably part of Greece's modern history".
Sports minister chairs 'Sports-Tourism-Francophony' meeting in Athens
Deputy Culture Minister responsible for sports George Orfanos chaired the first official meeting of the "Sports-Tourism-Francophony" committee which took place at the Zappion Mansion in Athens on Wednesday.
The newly established committee aims at reinforcing the existing cooperation between the ministry and the French Republic in the framework of Francophony on issues covering sports and culture and facilitating contacts among French-speaking youth.
Thousands of Greeks will be hosted over the next four years in France and a corresponding number of French-speaking youth from other countries will be hosted in Greece
After the meeting, Orfanos and French Ambassador in Athens Bruno Delaye gave a joint press conference.
"We confirm the mutual trust and cooperation between Greece and France. We are in a position to announce the fruits of the joint initiative, with French Ambassador in Athens Mr. Bruno Delaye, an effort which was made within the framework of the International Francophony Organization," Orfanos said.
On his part, Ambassador Delaye said:"Thanks to the dynamism of Mr. Orfanos, this cooperation group has to its credit an important project, which is expected to culminate with that which the Committee which has been created will do."
 9th Thessaloniki Documentaries Festival - Images of the 21st CenturyHuman rights and present reality in Asia will be at the epicenter of the Ninth Thessaloniki Documentaries Festival - Images of the 21st Century, which will be held from March 16-25 with the participation of films and film directors from all over the world, along with all the recent Greek production of documentaries.
The dedication to "Human Rights", as well as to the "Gaze in Asia", is established from this year as two separate departments of the festival and are added to its already officially established programs, "Views of the World, "Registration of Memory", "Portraits-Human Routes", "Small Narrations", "Society and Environment", "Music".
 Rally on education issue held in central AthensA rally on the burning issue of education was held in Athens on Wednedsay and ended at 3:30 p.m.
Students and tutors who were protesting against the revision of Article 16 of the Constitution, gathered outside Athens Polytechnic at noon. They then marched to Parliament shouting slogans against educational reforms and later headed back to the polytechnic where they dispersed.
 ELIAMEP to hold public discussion on the independence of universitiesThe Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) will hold a public discussion on 'The meaning of university independence in Greece today' scheduled to take place on Wednesday, January 31 at the amphitheater of the National Hellenic Research Foundation in Athens.
 Two lesser N17 defendants speak at appeals trialTwo lesser defendants in the ongoing "November 17" appeals trial made closing statements before the five-judge appellate court on Wednesday, including the youngest of three Xiros brothers, Vassilis, convicted in the first instance process.
Vassilis Xiros again denied the charges and said he would refuse to answer questions, citing the "rejection of (previous defense) objections and fabricated statements (confessions to authorities)..."
The other defendant, Dionysis Georgiadis, denied the charges against him, as he had done in the first instance trial, saying only that his culpability lies in his acquaintance with the three Xiros brothers - Savvas, Christodoulos and Vassilis.
He did admit, however, to using a forged ID card in order to lease an apartment for Savvas Xiros, a residence that was ultimately used as a "safe house" for the ultra-leftist terror band.
 First-ever Henri et Madeleine Muller Prize awarded to Luxembourg academic, writer WagnerThe first 'Henri et Madeleine Muller' prize for the promotion of friendship between Greece and Luxembourg was awarded to Guy Wagner, the author of noted composer Mikis Theodorakis' biography and president of the International Foundation Mikis Theodorakis 'Filiki', during a ceremony on Tuesday at the Neumnster Abbey Cultural Centre in Luxembourg.
The prize, named after the professor who translated Homer's 'Odyssey' into the Luxembourgian language and was for many years the president of the Friends of Greece Association, is under the auspices of the Embassy of Greece and Luxembourg's Culture Ministry.
Luxembourgish belongs to the West Central German group of High German languages, and is the primary example of a 'Moselle Franconian', according to online encyclopedias.
The prize recipient, a professor and former director of the Esch-sur-Alzette Theater who has signed numerous publications on the Greek literature and culture, was honored for his contribution to the cultural cooperation between Greece and Luxembourg.
The prize honorary committee is made up of distinguished personalities from Greece and abroad like Theodorakis, European Court of Justice President Vassilios Skouris, Greek singer Maria Farantouri, former European Commission President Jacques Santer and European Commissioner Viviane Reding.
 FPA cuts New Year cakeThe Foreign Press Association (FPA) on Wednesday evening cut is New Year cake in the presence of many members of the government and of the main opposition party.
The cake was cut by Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki, while the event, which was accompanied with live music, was addressed by Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, both in his capacity as former FPA president and on behalf of Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos.
Also present, at the event, among others, were Athens Journalists Union (ESHEA) President Panos Sombolos and Athens News Agency-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA) Director General George Tambakopoulos.
 Events by the 'Network for the reunion of the Parthenon Marbles'Events by the "Network for the reunion of the Parthenon Marbles" are continuing with the participation of thousands of pupils throughout Greece.
Already, as announced, 65,000 signatures have been gathered, 900 letters to the British Museum sent, while 200 sketches and paintings by young people have been created.
The events by the pupils will culminate at noon on January 30, when 1,500 pupils will form a human chain around the Acropolis.
The events are being held with the participation of the "Melina Mercouri" foundation and the prefectures of Athens and Piraeus.
 OA flight to Limnos detours to Rhodes due to inclement weatherAn Olympic Airlines (OA) domestic flight from Thessaloniki en route to the islands of Limnos and Lesvos was forced on Wednesday to change course and land at Rhodes instead, due to inclement weather conditions at the first two airports.
The airplane, with 50 passengers on board, landed at Rhodes' Diagoras Airport at 9:00 a.m., where they were due to continue to Lesvos on the same plane later in the day when weather conditions were expected to improve.
 Humanitarian aid by 'Solidarity' arrives in LebanonHumanitarian aid for the people of Lebanon, which was sent by the non-governmental organization of the Church of Greece, "Solidarity", arrived in Beirut on Wednesday.
The aid consists of 156 tonnes of food-stuff, medicines and items of primary need.
It was the fourth humanitarian aid mission to Lebanon by "Solidarity".
 Chinese professors to learn Greek languageTwo Chinese professors will attend the Modern Greek Language School of the Aristotelio university of Thessaloniki for a year. They arrived on Tuesday from Beijing's Foreign Studies university, where a Greek Language Faculty has been operating since 2006.
The Chinese professors, who already have a degree of knowledge of the Greek language, will attend the School, study Greek culture and after receiving certification will return to Beijing University to teach the Greek language.
The newly-established Greek Language Faculty of Beijing University, where a total of 45 foreign languages are taught, was created by the Hellenist former dean of Australia's La Trobe University, who is already teaching Greek in the Chinese capital.
 Two foreign nationals arrested on counterfeiting chargesTwo Albanian nationals, 28 and 26, were arrested in Kypseli, Athens on Tuesday on money counterfeiting charges after police found in their possession 38 counterfeit 50-euro banknotes.
A police investigation is underway to determine the origin of the banknotes and whether the arrested are members of a ring.
 Robbers target bank in Thessaloniki twice in two weeksA Eurobank branch in Nea Michaniona, Thessaloniki became the target of armed robbers for a second time in just two weeks on Wednesday morning.
Two armed men entered the bank and after holding customers and bank employees at gunpoint they took off with an unspecified amount of money riding two escape motorcycles.
For the record, on January 9 two armed robbers targeted the same bank and stole a total of 13,600 euros. Police is not ruling out the likelihood of the two robberies to have been committed by the same individuals.
 Incendiary device targets ND officesA homemade incendiary device made up of two propane canisters was placed by unidentified individuals outside a local New Democracy party organization in Nea Smyrni, Athens, in the early morning hours on Wednesday. One of the two canisters exploded causing limited damage.
 Vandals destroy graves at an Athens cemeteryUnidentified individuals desecrated 15 graves at the Ellinikon cemetery in Athens. The incident took place between Saturday and Monday without anyone noticing it. A police investigation is underway to arrest the culprits.
 Weather Forecast: Showers in northwest on ThursdayUnseasonally warm weather is forecast in all parts of the country, with showers in the northwest. Gale force winds in the Aegean. Temperatures in Athens from 8C to 19C; and in Thessaloniki between 9C and 16C.
 G/C and T/C parties express wish for a united Cyprus economyNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Greek and Turkish Cypriot parties expressed on Wednesday their common wish for a united economy when the Cyprus problem is solved.
During their regular meeting under the auspices of the Slovak Embassy in Cyprus, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parties began a discussion on a united economy, at the proposal of G/C Democratic Party (DIKO).
A joint communique issued at the end of the meeting said the leaders and the representatives of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political parties "exchanged views about the necessity of the united economy within the framework of a bicommunal and bizonal federation".
The next meeting is scheduled for February 2.
Speaking after the meeting, Greek Cypriot left-wing AKEL General Secretary, Demetris Christofias said that ''the common position is that it is necessary to have a united economy in the framework of a Cyprus settlement.''
DIKO President, Marios Karoyian said that a united economy would help all citizens of Cyprus, pointing out that Cyprus is set to enter the Eurozone as of January 1, 2008.
''The benefits of Euro could be shared by all lawful citizens of Cyprus,'' Karoyian noted, adding that during Wednesday's meeting positive but also remote positions were expressed. However he expressed satisfaction over the start of the discussion.
Greek Cypriot Ecologists and Environmentalist Movement General Secretary Giorgos Perdikis said the Movement's joint proposal with the Turkish Cypriot party, New Cyprus, for the demilitarization of Cyprus was tabled during the meeting but it will be discussed at a later one.
 UN Secretary-General on Cyprus issueBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Wednesday said that he intended to urge Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to implement the agreement of July 8, 2006, after a meeting in Brussels with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Asked whether he intended to undertake a new initiative for a solution to the Cyprus issue, Ban said that the UN's efforts in this direction were continuous, while expressing regret that the proposals of his predecessor Kofi Annan were "not accepted by the two sides".
He added that it was important that the two communities on Cyprus implement the agreement made in 2006, saying that he intended to encourage them to do this.
 Cyprus FM to attend donors conference for LebanonNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Lillikas left on Wednesday for Paris to participate in a special donors conference for Lebanon.
It is expected that states will pledge additional funds toward Lebanon's reconstruction as well as the reduction of its public debt.
Cyprus Council of Ministers approved earlier this month the contribution by the Republic of Cyprus of 100 thousand Cyprus pounds (one pound trades at about 2.2 dollars) to the Government of Lebanon.
The Paris meeting will be attended by 13 European Union members, 15 other countries, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the UN and the European Investment Bank.
 US support easing of ''economic isolation'' of Turkish CypriotsWASHINGTON (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The US supports the easing of the ''economic isolation'' of Turkish Cypriots as a way to reduce disparities between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, and thereby facilitate reunification of the island, a State Department press release said.
Asked to comment on the text adopted by European Union Foreign Ministers saying that ''work aiming at the adoption of the Commission proposal for a Council Regulation on special conditions for trade with areas of the Republic of Cyprus in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control must resume without delay,'' the State Department said that ''we are pleased to see the EU following up on a commitment it made to Turkish Cypriots in 2004.''
''We support the easing of the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriots as a way to reduce disparities between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, and thereby facilitate reunification of the island,'' the press release noted.
''This is, ultimately, a matter for the EU to decide,'' it concluded.