|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-04-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 14 April 2007 Issue No: 2569
 Gov't tables draft bill on selection of pension funds' boardsThe government on Friday tabled a draft law in Parliament foreseeing changes in the selection of state-controlled pension funds' boards, part of a high-profile and urgent initiative to curb mismanagement of funds' investments, all in the wake of an ongoing furor regarding a controversial bond purchase by the civil servants' supplementary fund.
Under the new legislation -- tabled by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis -- the future heads of pension funds must have proven academic and professional credentials, particularly in social insurance or social policy issues.
The draft bill envisages the formation of a commission to ensure the objective selection of pension funds' presidents, while the commission itself will be comprised of the secretary general of Social Insurance (the non-voting chairman), the head of the Capital Markets Commission, the Bank of Greece's governor and all employers' and employee unions.
The draft bill also seeks to strengthen the participation of representatives from pension funds and pensioners, and to expand the introduction of International Accounting Standards to all primary and supplementary insurance organisations. It also foresees the disclosure of annual financial reports, beginning on Jan. 1, 2008.
In comments on Friday, Tsitouridis - who has borne the brunt of acerbic opposition criticism over the civil servants' pension fund affair -- stressed that the procedure would be completed over the next two months, while he underlined that pension funds not only did not lose money but raised reserve assets from 21 billion euros in 2004 to 31 billion euros in 2006.
Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Petros Efthymiou, commenting on the draft bill, accused the government of trying to cover up the "plundering" of pension funds' assets, while he reiterated his party's call to "bring the money back to pension funds".
 PM to address ND youth group meetingPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis is to attend and address the central committee of New Democracy's youth party ONNED, which will meet on Sunday at the ND party headquarters on Rigillis Street.
The ONNED central committee is scheduled to discuss the proclamation of ONNED's regular conference, the start of pre-conference dialogue, the 2007 student elections and current affairs.
 Kosovo dominates talks between Valinakis, State Dept.'s VolkerDevelopments in the western Balkans were at the epicenter of talks here on Friday morning between Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis and high-ranking US diplomat Kurt Volker, who is the principal deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department.
Expectedly, the fluid situation regarding Kosovo dominated much of the talks, along with the Euro-Atlantic prospects of other regional states.
Both sides later expressed satisfaction at what was termed as "excellent" cooperation between Athens and Washington and the course of bilateral ties.
 Greek envoy outlines country's role in SE Europe, regional issuesWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
Greece's burgeoning image as a factor of stability in SE Europe, a successful model for migrant integration as well as a regional energy hub and global factor due to the Greek-owned fleet, was highlighted here by Greece's ambassador to the United States Alexandros Mallias, during an address at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service.
Mallias spoke earlier this week on the subject of Greek-US strategic cooperation in southeastern Europe and elsewhere.
Among others, Amb. Mallias touched on the issue of Kosovo's final status, Turkey's European course in tandem with Athens' tangible support toward this end, along with the long-standing obstacles and problems facing the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate.
He also referred to Ankara's often fractious activity in the Aegean --deemed as having a negative effect on bilateral relations -- as well as major complications from the continued occupation of northern Cyprus by the Turkish military and the presence of roughly 40,000 Turkish soldiers on EU member-state Cyprus.
In other areas, Mallias underlined the sectors in which cooperation between Greece and the United States acquires increased weight when viewed within specific regional strategic and geopolitical frameworks.
Earlier, the Greek ambassador met with Robert Gallucci, the Dean of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown and a former high-ranking State Department diplomat.
In an unrelated development, Archbishop Demetrios of America addressed an event on Tuesday at New York's Columbia University on the issue of "Religion, Science, and Technology", where he noted that Christianity has nothing to fear or lose by science as long as science is based on provable truths.
The lecture was organised at the initiative of the university's Hellenic Studies programme.
Finally, in an article published in the New York Times by the Archbishop, entitled "More than an Easter in common", on the occasion of this year's same-day celebration of Easter by all of the world's Christian churches, Demetrios referred to a rapprochement between the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches and to a recent visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos.
 Robot craft finds 'Sea Diamond' cruise ship's 'black box'A deep-sea robot craft on Friday located the 'black box' or data recorder on the bridge of the sunken cruise ship "Sea Diamond". The ship sank into the deep blue waters of the scenic Caldera - a natural harbour created by a massive volcanic eruption 3,500 years ago - at the Aegean island of Santorini last week after its hull was breached by striking a reef.
Two passengers out of the roughly 1,500 people on board - a French man and his daughter - went missing after the boat sank and are still unaccounted for.
Experts say the data in the black box will shed ample light on the causes of the accident and will be turned over the investigating authorities as evidence. The black box - actually painted a bright orange so that it can be easily located - will have recorded everything from the time of the impact, including the towing and eventual sinking of the ship.
The data will be analysed in detail by specialised technicians, the insurance companies, the Greek coast guard and the ship owners.
Efforts have begun to recover the data recorder using the two robot craft supplied by the Greek Centre for Marine Research, which are equipped with electronic arms and will attempt to enter the ship's interior. If the robot craft fail because of the way that the sunken ship is positioned, the effort will continue using specially trained deep-sea divers.
Meanwhile, the Naxos public prosecutor in charge of the investigation into the shipwreck has asked to be given access to the records for the mobile phones owned by captain of the 'Sea Diamond' and representatives of the shipping firm that spoke with him around the time of the accident.
 IMO letter praises 'Sea Diamond' rescue operationInternational Maritime Organisation (IMO) Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos congratulated the Greek merchant marine ministry on its handling of the naval accident involving the cruise ship "Sea Diamond" in a letter sent to Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis on Friday.
According to a ministry announcement, Mitropoulos praises the ministry and says that the rescue of so many passengers and crew confirms the high efficiency of the ministry's search-and-rescue services, as well as the support provided by the local naval community.
 Employment minister orders assessment of pension fund bond placementsEmployment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis on Friday ordered an assessment of of bond placements by all social insurance bodies and pension funds supervised by the ministry, to evaluate if these were acquired at a reasonable price. The audit will focus specifically on purchases of structured bonds issued by the Greek state and Greek banks up to the present.
It will be carried out by a team of specialised auditing companies that will be selected through a tender to be held by the Employment ministry next week.
The ministry stressed that this assessment will be independent of and in addition to the separate investigations and assessments that social insurance organisations have or should carry out on their own account.
 PASOK accuses government over bonds issue, 'Sea Diamond'In yet another stinging attack on the government, main opposition PASOK's spokesman Petros Efthymiou on Friday levelled accusations of a cover-up over the bonds issue and of botching the rescue and salvage operation for the cruise ship "Sea Diamond" that sunk last week.
According to Efthymiou, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was "leading the operation to cover up the scandal over the bonds" and the role of government members, while Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis was attempting to interfere with the course of justice and Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis was using lies in a desperate mud-slinging attempt against PASOK.
"This cover up operation will fail because the demand to 'give the money back to the funds' cannot be circumvented," he stressed.
He was referring to revelations that state pension funds had invested in high-risk structured bonds issued by the state, rather than safer regular bonds, possibly acquired at well above their market value.
The stock brokerages that handled the transactions and earned the commission were all linked to the ruling New Democracy party and friends of the finance minister, Efthymiou added.
He was strongly critical of the minister's Thursday press conference on the issue, saying that Alogoskoufis' claim that the purchase of structured bonds was a "normal practice" and not illegal raised "major issues" in terms of interfering with justice.
The PASOK spokesman said that the line taken by Alogoskoufis could be seen as an attempt to dictate the basis of a non-guilty verdict to courts.
Tsitouridis came under fire for his statements to the state-run television channel NET on Friday, in which he counter-attacked the main opposition with facts that Efthymiou claimed were false and inaccurate.
The spokesman repeated a demand that a full list of the pension funds that bought structured bond and the board decisions that gave the go-ahead for these purchases be made public, as well as the commission system used and the size of the commissions given.
On sinking of the 'Sea Diamond'
In addition to the above, Efthymiou accused the merchant marine minister of botched handling in the "Sea Diamond" rescue operation after the ship's captain issued a distress signal and the vessel began sinking.
He said that the minister was responsible for the operation based on Greek laws and international treaties and demanded that Kefaloyiannis outline the reasons why he made choices that led to the sinking of an "ecological time bomb" in the heart of the Aegean.
"If he did not make these choices himself, then we have a question of ignorance and dereliction of duty," he added.
In either case, a minister with such political behaviour could not be a minister in any government, the spokesman said.
Asked whether the ship owner was among those business people supported by New Democracy, Efthymiou said there were indications of favourable treatment for the specific shipping firm by the merchant marine ministry.
Gov't spokesman responds to PASOK spokesman
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, responding on Friday evening to statements made earlier in the day by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) spokesman Petros Efthymiou, stated that "PASOK, showing its long-term scorn in the procedures of transparency, persists on regurgitating empty words."
Roussopoulos added that "the essence is that the Karamanlis government means and shows in practice that henceforth all are moving in the light and any individuals responsible are led before justice."
 Gov't continues push for improved public sectorThe 2006 annual report and objectives for 2007 were presented during a meeting of a committee monitoring implementation of a public sector restructuring programme, held on Friday in the presence of Interior and Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
"A qualitative improvement in citizens' everyday life passes through a qualitative upgrading and re-organisation of state structures, while reform of administrative mechanisms is a basic precondition for economic growth, competitiveness and progress," he stated.
He underlined that the programme (2005-2007) was recently revamped to alleviate past dysfunctions, such as lack of transparency and mismanagement.
Eighty-two projects with a total budget of 5.7 million euros began in 2005 within the framework of the programme, while scheduled projects for 2006 are 117.
Pavlopoulos stressed that the experience acquired will provide the grounds for the drawing up of the 2008-2010 national action plan.
 Interior minister addresses European Ombudsmen's meetingInterior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos addressed the European Ombudsmen's 10th Round Table in Athens on Friday, referring to dangers lurking for human rights in the present-day globalisation era.
The minister proposed, as a response to these dangers, "the shaping of an effective institutional framework and the briefing of the citizen on guarantees anticipated for his benefit, as well as on the way with which he can exercise his rights effectively."
Lastly, Pavlopoulos stressed that the leading institutional framework for shielding and guaranteeing the rights of man at European level is the European Treaty on the Rights of Man, whose implementation is safeguarded by the European Human Rights Court and the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner.
 European ombudsmen hold round table meeting in AthensThe office of the Commissioner for Human Rights held its10th Round Table with national Ombudsmen of Council of Europe member-states on 12-13 April at the Zappion building in Athens. Organised together with the Ombudsman of Greece, the meeting is also attended by heads of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and a number of selected international experts.
Following a preliminary meeting in Berlin last January, this Round Table provided an opportunity to identify measures to support the long-term effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights control system.
Among those participating was Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg, who gave a joint press conference with Greek ombudsman George Kaminis regarding the conclusions of the round table on Friday.
Kaminis said the talks had focused on the new role of the Human Rights Commissioner's office and that of national ombudsmen in the processes currently being drafted before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, after the 14th additional Protocol in the European Convention for Human Rights came into force.
With the new measures, national ombudsmen will undertake to provide information and assessments to the interested parties on whether their applications to the European Court were admissible and will be able to give their opinion on the questions concerning human rights violations to the ECHR.
Hammarberg, on his part, said that the conditions exist in Europe for the protection of human rights and the issue was to solve the problems for implementing these in each country.
"We must put pressure on governments to establish the right laws on a national level to implement the convention," he said.
According to Hammarberg, not just one right but a whole series of rights required better handling in Europe, where xenophobia, unequal treatment of minorities and illegal immigrants currently prevailed and had to be eradicated.
Rounds Tables are held every two years by the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights to promote the role of the ombudsmen in the protection of human rights. This year's event constitutes part of the activities organised on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Greek Ombudsman Institution.
 European Court of Auditors' head completes visitEuropean Court of Auditors President Hubert Weber on Friday expressed optimism over the proper management and operation of a National Strategic Reference Framework programme for the period 2007-2013, during a meeting with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Deputy Minister Christos Folias and Investment and Development secretary-general K. Mousouroulis.
An announcement issued by the ministry, after the meeting, noted that Weber asked for Athens' contribution to transfer know-how of management and control systems to newer EU member-states.
Greece has already established bilateral cooperation with Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic and Hungary, or tri-party meetings including representatives from the European Commission.
The ministry reminded that the European Court of Auditors, in its last report, graded the Greek management and control system as effective.
 Avramopoulos addresses int'l mayors' conference in IstanbulISTANBUL (ANA-MPA)
Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos referred to the role of cities and municipalities in a globalised society, speaking here on
Friday at the 4th World Mayors' Summit, and in his capacity as the president of the World Institute of Cities' Diplomacy.
On the sidelines of the summit, Avramopoulos met with the mayor of Moscow and discussed the prospect of cooperation on health sector issues. Avramopoulos also met with the mayor of Istanbul.
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos also addressed the summit, where he stressed that peaceful cooperation at a multicultural level is important for the prosperity of humanity and the survival of the environment.
 Coalition party leader continuing visit to CreteCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alekos Alavanos, continuing his visit to the island of Crete, called on the government from the city of Hania on Friday night to reveal all the social insurance funds that have purchased bonds of any type.
Alavanos reiterated his proposal for the creation of a new transparent framework to control the utilisation of the social insurance funds' reserves.
The Coalition party leader also referred to the issue of the sinking of the cruise ship Sea Diamond off the holiday island of Santorini last week after striking a reef, saying that there was a delay in the rescue operation and underlining the danger of the sea environment in the Aegean being polluted by crude oil and toxic substances.
 Seminar points to link between terrorism, drug tradeThe links between terrorist organisations and drug trafficking were highlighted in the conclusions of a three-day international seminar organised by the U.S. Consulate in Thessaloniki and the Alternate Seat of the Stability Pact for SE Europe that was held in the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis on April 11-13.
Participants concluded that the development of organised crime circuits that were supported and funded through activity linked to drug trafficking were a huge threat to both regional and global security, stability and prosperity.
As a remedy against human-trafficking, meanwhile, the seminar proposed the creation of a specialised network of prosecutors and an integrated and personalised framework for witness protection, as well as a system for exchanging sources, information and allocating work.
Another suggestion were laws that allowed confiscating the property of convicted human traffickers and using this to financially compensate their victims.
 Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis holds talks with Nicosia counterpartNICOSIA (ANA-MPA - A. Viketos)
Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis arrived in Cyprus on Friday afternoon and held talks with the Mayor of Nicosia Eleni Mavrou.
Speaking after the talks, Kaklamanis said that various issues of mutual interest were discussed, both institutional and practical "that may enable us to secure cooperation for the benefit of both cities."
He also announced that he invited Mavrou to make an official visit to Athens.
Mavrou said on her part that the meeting with Kaklamanis signals the beginning of a new phase in cooperation between the two municipalities and stressed that "we want to strengthen this cooperation."
 EU Commissioner Piebalgs praises Greece's growing diversification in energy sectorEuropean Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, responsible for energy issues in the Union, on Friday praised Athens' policy in the energy sector, during a press conference in Athens and following his meeting with Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas.
Earlier, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis received the EU Commissioner at his official office for a meeting.
In statements to reporters, Piebalgs underlined the progress made in the deregulation of the country's domestic electricity market, while he also referred an ongoing emphasis on renewable sources of energy (RES) and Greece's growing international energy links, stressing that the Greek government has taken all necessary measures to face the risk of drought and its consequences on power production.
Regarding a natural gas pipeline connecting Turkey with Greece, the EU Commissioner called it an important project for Europe, saying he has accepted an invitation to attend an inauguration ceremony in July.
Referring to a natural gas pipeline project expected to connect Greece with Italy, an extension of the network from Turkey, the Latvian Commissioner pointed squarely to a Commission position for diversifying energy sources.
"Europe must be supplied with natural gas from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, and in the future, from Iran," he said.
Regarding the recently sealed Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project, he commented that it will facilitate the transport of oil from the Caspian Sea region to the European Union.
Piebalgs also expressed optimism over a goal for RES to reach a 20-percent share of Greece's energy balance by 2020.
On his part, Sioufas stressed that Greece will meet the RES 20-percent goal before 2020, adding that power production capacity of RES plants has doubled over the past three years, while the prediction for 2007 is expected to exceed the 1,100MW-mark.
Sioufas underlined that investments in the sector of energy will reach 4.5 billion euros in 2007-2010, and referred to the interest expressed by international firms to participate in a tender underway for the construction of the first privately owned power station in the country.
He also presented initiatives made to save energy in the public and private sector, whereas regarding Burgas-Alexandroupolis, he mentioned that an effort is being made to begin construction projects in 2008.
 Sioufas meets with Montenegro leadership, energy cooperation eyedBELGRADE (ANA-MPA / N. Pelpas)
Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas concluded a ground-breaking series of contacts with Montenegro's top leadership on Thursday in Podgorica, outlining at least three sectors for budding cooperation between EU-member-state Greece and the newly independent state in the western Balkans.
Sioufas was received by Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic and Prime Minister Zeljko Sturanovic, among others, where he reiterated Athens' volition to support Montenegro's European integration and to aid its economic convergence with the rest of the continent via the Greek government's structural fund for the Balkans.
Energy issues -- as Sioufas holds the energy portfolio in the Greek government -- also dominated talks, as the minister proposed a bilateral agreement on the sector, along with agreements on SMEs and R&D exchanges.
In talks with Sturanovic, the latter briefed Sioufas on Podgorica's reforms and efforts to join Euro-Atlantic institutions, while he thanked Athens for its support. Both sides also expressed a readiness to schedule a meeting between the Greek and Montenegrin prime ministers in the near future.
During a meeting with Minister for Economic Development Bradimir Gvozdenovic, the two sides discussed bilateral trade and economic cooperation, with the first step being immediate cooperation deals between the two countries' chambers of commerce.
 Greek import price index down 0.4 pct in February, yr/yrGreece's composite import price index in the manufacturing sector fell 0.4 pct in February compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Friday.
The statistics service said the index was up 1.1 pct in February from January, reflecting a 0.3 pct increase in the intermediate goods price index, the capital goods index and the consumer goods price index, a 4.8 pct rise in energy goods price index, while the durable goods price index remained uchanged.
 Fresh milk samples normal, food control agency saysThe United Food Control Agency (EFET) has found the samples of all pasteurised fresh milk products, either having a brand name or a private label, to be normal. The checks were carried out at the order of Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou. At the end of the relevant probe, EFET conveyed the results of the laboratory tests on milk samples to the ministry's leadership.
 Postal Savings Bank says net profits up 12 pct in 2006Greece's Postal Savings Bank on Friday reported a 11.93 percent increase in its net profits to 137.17 million euros in 2006, from 122.55 million euros in the previous year.
The bank said assets totaled 12.337 billion euros last year from 11.564 billion in 2005, for an increase of 6.68 pct, with its loan portfolio rising 59.72 pct to 4.863 billion euros in 2006, from 3.045 billion euros in 2005.
Savings deposits rose 7.76 pct to 10.726 billion euros, net interest revenues rose 4.66 pct to 253.58 million euros and net commission revenues jumped to 24.81 million euros in 2006 from 3.53 million euros in 2005. Earnings from financial transactions soared 316.9 percent to 126.4 million euros.
Operating expenses totaled 202.59 million euros, up 58.9 pct, reflecting the cost of a new information system and the bank's participation in a deposits guarantee fund.
Earnings per share, after tax and minorities, totaled 0.97 euros last year, from 0.74 euros in 2005, an increase of 31.08 percent.
 Greek stocks jump 1.0 pct on FridayGreek stocks ended the last trading session of the week higher at the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index jumped 1.0 pct to end at 4,808.46 points with turnover a strong 408.1 million euros.
Most sector indices ended higher with the Oil (1.88 pct), Telecommunications (1.88 pct) and Food/Beverage (1.61 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Healthcare (1.20 pct), Commerce (1.19 pct) and Media (1.15 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index rose 1.06 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.52 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.54 pct.
Atermon (14.29 pct), Euroholdings (13.51 pct) and Viosol (12.50 pct) were top gainers, while Vivere (19.57 pct), Idea (14.07 pct) and Tria Alpha (9.80 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 150 to 100 with another 55 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.88%
Personal & Household: -0.57%
Raw Materials: +0.62%
Travel & Leisure: +0.48%
Food & Beverages: +1.61%
Financial Services: +1.05%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, OPAP and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 23.68
Public Power Corp (PPC): 18.00
HBC Coca Cola: 31.70
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.32
Emporiki Bank: 21.06
National Bank of Greece: 42.60
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 31.26
Titan Cement Company: 43.78
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover at 132.983 million euros.
The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.56 pct and the April contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.19 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 6,714 contracts worth 84.688 million euros, with 29,099 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 483 contracts worth 14.560 million euros, with 1,392 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 7,883 contracts worth 5.561 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,565), followed by OTE (661), PPC (274), OPAP (253), Hellenic Exchanges (305), Alpha Bank (360), Intracom (1,140), ATEbank (878), Intralot (527) and Motor Oil (244).
Volume in stock repos was 7,593 contracts and in reverse stock repos 845 contracts.
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market jumped to 4.682 billion euros on Friday, of which 2.001 billion were bid orders and 2.681 billion were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.795 billion euros, while the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds shrank to 0.217 percent. The Greek bond yielded 4.45 pct and the German Bund 4.22 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved lower. National Bank's overnight rate fell to 3.70 pct from 3.83 pct on Thursday, the two-day rate was 3.70 pct, the one-month rate fell 3.85 pct and the 12-month rate rose to 4.26 pct from 4.25 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.364
Pound sterling 0.686
Danish kroner 7.514
Swedish kroner 9.356
Japanese yen 161.83
Swiss franc 1.649
Norwegian kroner 8.163
Cyprus pound 0.585
Canadian dollar 1.547
Australian dollar 1.637
 Large Greek government delegation in NYC for Greek-American paradeNEW YORK CITY (ANA-MPA / P. Panagiotou)
Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis and Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis, among others, will lead a large Greek government delegation at this year's Greek Independence Day on Sunday through the heart of Manhattan.
A total of 56 floats and representatives of 95 organisations, communities, associations, schools and companies will participate in the annual Greek-American parade, while A&E Network honorary president Nicholas Davatzis will serve as the Grand Marshal.
According to organisers, the Greek-American community in the US metropolis will again promote a handful of national issues considered of supreme importance for Greece and Hellenism, in general, including a long-standing demand for the withdrawal of Turkish occupation forces from northern Cyprus, the Macedonia "name-issue", recognition of the early 20th century genocide of ethnic Greeks in Black Sea region (Pontians) and safeguarding the rights of the ethnic Greek minority in southern Albania.
On the occasion of his visit to New York City, Meimarakis met on Thursday with Archbishop of America Demetrios as well as with representatives of local Greek-American communities.
 Athens mayor on new football fieldAthens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Friday observed the commencement of demolition works involving two old buildings located at 9-11 Agias Annis St, Votanikos. The specific structures were selected for their symbolism as the site marks the start of a planned pedestrian walkway that will lead to the new Panathinaikos football stadium.
Following the completion of the demolition work, Mayor Kaklamanis made the following statement:
"Today, the first step was taken towards the realization of the Votanikos-Alexandras Avenue urban regeneration project. One component concerns our city's historic team and its new football field, and the amateur division's sports facilities. The second component involves the redevelopment of the site which today hosts Panathinaikos' football field on Alexandras Avenue."
Kaklamanis on Friday met with Panathinaikos Sports Club - Amateur Division chairman Thanassis Yiannakopoulos at City Hall to discuss the Votanikos-Alexandras Avenue urban regeneration project.
"I am very pleased because, finally, the dream is coming true. Quite some time ago I conveyed certain reservations I had to the Mayor. He showed full understanding. All of the basic issues have been resolved and a number of minor details remain, which will be seen to by the municipality and Panathinaikos' legal representatives. I also received very good news. The Mayor told me that the demolition is starting," Yiannakopoulos said.
Responding to reporters' questions whether he was optimistic that the Panathinaikos stadium will be built by 2008, Yiannakopoulos said:"Unfortunately, many bureaucratic formalities exist. I hope that it will be ready, but I don't believe that the stadium will be complete by 2008."
 Overcast on SaturdayOvercast weather is forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday. Winds northerly, northeasterly, moderate to strong. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 10C and 22C and in Thessaloniki from 7C to 21C.
 The Friday editions of Athens' dailies at a glanceAn interview by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis regarding the bonds affair, the cruiseship's sinking off Santorini and measures against hooligan violence were the main front-page items in Friday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Government accused of hiring PASOK cadres - Unbelievable statement by PASOK leader George Papandreou over pension fund boards".
APOGEVMATINI: "Legislation on selection of new pension fund boards".
AVGHI: "Cynical government stance on bonds affair".
AVRIANI: "(ND party central offices) Rigilis on election course - Urgent procedures for listing of candidates nationwide".
CHORA: ęGovernment launches 'clean hands' operation".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Almost everybody in Greece spent time on board the Sea Diamond owner's yacht".
ELEFTHEROS: "Pension funds lost 1.6 billion euros under PASOK governments - Revealing evidence by ministries ".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Go after the greedy - Alogoskoufis urges uninformed fund directors".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Bonds: Alogoskoufis launches cover up operation".
ESTIA: "Government ministers become prey for mass media - Frequent appearances on television wear out government".
ETHNOS: "Tuition fees rise (as much as, the highest rate quoted) 50 percent - Government's gift to private school owners".
KATHIMERINI: "Pension fund scandal clue found in London - British come up with clues, as opposed to Greek authorities".
LOGOS: "Pollution concern - Consequences of Santorini wreckage".
NIKI: "Cynical government - Rejects demand for return of lost money to pension funds".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Sea Diamond wreckage: Effort to cover up causes and guilty".
TA NEA: "Pension funds should have been more careful - Cynicism recital over commission".
TO VIMA: "Alogoskoufis serves as appointed defense on bonds issue - Recruited by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis".
VRADYNI: "The 9 lies of (PASOK's color) green propaganda - Alogoskoufis rebuts bonds-related misinformation".
 Cypriot president: Turkish side doing all it can to avert July 8 AgreementNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/CNA)
The Turkish side is doing all it can to revert the agenda and procedure decided in the July 8 Agreement of 2006, Cypriot President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos said here on Friday.
"I think it is well known. They are doing all they can to avert the agenda and procedure which is clearly set out in the Gambari letter. All references contained in Mr. Talat's (Turkish Cypriot leader) letter are contrary with the letter and the spirit of the Gambari letter, which sets out in detail and clearly the procedure," Papadopoulos noted.
The president made the statement when he was invited to comment on Thursday's statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul during his illegal visit to the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus, that the Turkish side is doing all it can for the July 8 Agreement.
Invited to comment Gul's statement that Turkey will always be at the side of the Turkish Cypriots even if the EU does not fulfill its promise to the illegal regime for trade with the north, the president replied "this is what we have been saying. That direct trade estimated at eight million euro will not improve neither the economic situation, nor help the general economic position of the Turkish Cypriots."
It is obvious, he added, that they claim the trade with the areas not under the control of the Republic of Cyprus, for purely political reasons. ''This is what Mr. Gul said, but in a more diplomatic manner," the president added.
Referring to the Turkish side's stance on the opening of Ledra Street, President Papadopoulos said that the "least that we can say, it is a paradox for Talat to claim that the removal of the occupation troops or the Turkish Cypriot policemen who are under the orders of the Turkish general of the occupation forces, is a threat to security."
He pointed out that "the threat to security is their presence and not their removal."
The president pointed out that the Greek Cypriot side has not placed any new preconditions or new reasons for the opening of the crossing point and continues to support the opening of not only the Ledra Street crossing point but of also other crossing points which were proposed in 2005.
"We are demanding what is self-evident, to set out the regime of the buffer zone. Is it under UNFICYP's control or just as the Turkish Cypriots are demanding, under their control? And if it is under UNFICYP's control, just as the whole of the buffer zone should be, then they have no right or position, nor the Turkish troops or Turkish Cypriot police have any say,'' he added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed on July 8, 2006, during a meeting in Nicosia in the presence of UN official Ibrahim Gambari, to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day-to-day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
 EU Regional Policy Commissioner to pay official visit to CyprusNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/CNA)
European Commissioner for Regional Policy Danuta Hubner arrives in Cyprus on Monday for an official visit.
The aim of the visit is to exchange views on projects and programmes within the framework of the Structured Funds and the Cohesion Fund between 2007-2013 and evaluate the implementation of projects between 2004-2006.
During her two-day stay, Hubner will be received by President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos. ‘hey will discuss issues concerning the Cohesion Policy of the EU, the Lisbon Strategy and the EU's enlargement. They will also exchange views on the course of the Cyprus problem, an official statement said here on Friday.
Dr. Hubner will hold a meeting with Finance Minister Michalis Sarris and will visit projects which are co-funded by the EU and the government. She will also address the conference "Structural Funds 2007-2013: Opportunities for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises" in Limassol, organized by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Planning Bureau.
She will also attend the presentation of urban regeneration projects in Nicosia to be co-financed by EU Structural Funds in the period 2007-2013 and visit projects co-financed by EU Structural Funds in the urban area of Nicosia in the period 2004-2006.
The EU Commissioner will give a press conference with Finance Minister Sarris on Tuesday before her departure.
 Geoff Hoon to visit CyprusLONDON (ANA-MPA/CNA)
British Minister for Europe Geoff Hoon will visit Cyprus on April 25 and will have talks with the Republic's Foreign Minister George Lillikas.
A Foreign Office spokeperson told CNA that during his visit to Cyprus, Hoon will have talks with Foreign Minister George Lillikas.
Asked if Hoon will have other meetings during his stay on the island, she said the visit will be short, adding that the only talks the British official will have is with the Republic's foreign minister.
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