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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-04-26

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Thursday, 26 April 2007 Issue No: 2579


  • [01] PM says Greece supports political unification and deepening of EU
  • [02] Almunia praises gov't's deficit slash; points to need for pension reform, competitiveness
  • [03] Deputy FM Evripidis Stylianidis addresses Economist conference
  • [04] Former minister Chrysochoidis addresses Economist conference
  • [05] Ambassador Ries outlines US security priorities at Economist roundtable
  • [06] PASOK leader addresses conference on entrepreneurship and SMEs
  • [07] DM briefs Parliament com't; refers to requests for participation in peacekeeping missions
  • [08] PM briefed by Development minister on Balkan tour
  • [09] PM confers with parliament president
  • [10] 'We are determined in the struggle against corruption', justice minister says
  • [11] US envoy lauds immediate mobilisation of Greek police after security threat
  • [12] Spokesman on airspace violations
  • [13] Karamanlis-Evert meeting
  • [14] Ombudsman on granting of political asylum
  • [15] KKE leader on education, prisons unrest, bonds issue
  • [16] Synaspismos holds protest rally over bonds issue
  • [17] Communist Party delegation to visit Lebanon
  • [18] SYN leader on visit to Lesvos
  • [19] Sustained efforts needed, FinMin says; Almunia on EMU's success
  • [20] PASOK leader meets Commissioner Joaquin Almunia
  • [21] Greek Parliament ratifies Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline agreement
  • [22] Government on announced spending cuts
  • [23] Ministers on importance of small and medium-sized businesses in Greek tourism
  • [24] Minister briefs Parliament Committee on management of fund reserves
  • [25] UNI secretary general calls for absolute consolidation of social insurance funds
  • [26] Event to promote energy co-production in Greece
  • [27] Development ministry presents measures to spruce up street markets
  • [28] Minister approves first phase of photovoltaic power programme
  • [29] Alogoskoufis meets with UNI GenSec
  • [30] Greece wins top award at SITC tourism salon in Barcelona
  • [31] Merchant marine minister briefs Parliament on Greek shipping
  • [32] Moody's upgrades credit rating of Piraeus Bank
  • [33] Selonda Group buys 46 pct in Fjord Marin Turkey for 7.8 mln euros
  • [34] Greek Aluminum 2007 exhibition opens on Thursday
  • [35] Minister's message for World Intellectual Property Day
  • [36] Greek stocks jump 0.95 pct on Wed.
  • [37] ADEX closing report
  • [38] Greek bond market report
  • [39] Foreign Exchange Rates - Thursday
  • [40] Greek, Italian presidents attend anniversary events in Cephallonia
  • [41] Calm restored in Greek prisons
  • [42] Souflias addresses Alternative Management Systems conference
  • [43] Greek population rose through migration in 2006, Eurostat reports
  • [44] Personal Data Authority forbids religion and national origin in foreigners' applications
  • [45] The two nuns were victims of strangulation
  • [46] Illegal immigrant arrests on Kos, Samos
  • [47] Arson attacks in Athens
  • [48] Pioneer system provides information on traffic conditions in Thessaloniki
  • [49] Scientists tag rare brown bear in northern Greece
  • [50] Thessaloniki to host int'l conference on sports education
  • [51] Overcast on Thursday
  • [52] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM says Greece supports political unification and deepening of EU

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed a conference on Wednesday evening titled "What model for Europe? What can we learn from each other" sponsored by the economy and finance ministry, stressing that Greece supports the speedier political unification and deepening of Europe.

    Karamanlis added that Greece is participating, in any case, in the group of 13 countries that have moved ahead with Economic and Monetary Unification, shaping the European Union's nucleus.

    The prime minister went on to say that Greece is participating actively in the reflection on the development of the EU. It is participating in the shaping of the European model on boosting economic dynamism, increasing employment and strengthening social cohesion.

    "Greece is implementing today a concerted reformist strategy. We are applying changes and reforms for the improvement of our economic and social performances, in absolute agreement with the European strategic plan. We have shaped and we are following a new mixture of economic policy with a clear social dimension. The goal is a double one:Sustainable fiscal adjustment. Sustainable growth. The aim is an increase in wealth produced and the fairer distribution of the social dividends," he said.

    Karamanlis further said that "today, however, we are at a crucial point once again:Europe is sceptical again over its course. The challenges that it is being called on to confront are, now, more complex. Unemployment is dealing a blow, to a smaller or greater degree, at almost all countries. The aging of the population is pressuring the Social Insurance and Health systems."

    The prime minister also said that "the greenhouse phenomenon is warning of the increasing dangers and the obligation to protect the environment. The energy issues are dictating a common approach for the safety of the EU's energy supply. The intensity of international competition is exercising strong pressure for increased economic effectiveness and technological supremacy. The globalisation of markets makes more intense the need for reforms, for the strengthening of the competitiveness of our economies, for regional and social convergence."

    He further added that "these issues are preoccupying all governments and concern all European citizens. The new era requires changes and reforms to handle dangers and the utilisation of opportunities that are coming. It requires a collective effort and close cooperation."

    Lastly, Karamanlis stressed that "it is certain that all together, with a strong Economic and Political Union, can do better. All of us EU member-states have committed ourselves on the Lisbon Strategy on the direction of structural changes. We are committed on a joint effort to strengthen research and technology, increase competitiveness and employment and increase the size of the product produced and distribute it fairer."

    Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis made an address at the opening of the event, underlining that the EU member-states must utilise their experience in the economic policy sector from the implementation of different economic models and practices to enable answers to be provided for the challenges currently facing the European economy.

    [02] Almunia praises gov't's deficit slash; points to need for pension reform, competitiveness

    EU Commissioner Joaquin Almunia on Wednesday had mostly upbeat news and praise for the Karamanlis government's high-profile efforts over the past couple of years to slash a once embarrassingly high budget deficit, speaking to an audience that included Premier Costas Karamanlis himself and most of the top Cabinet ministers.

    In outlining three "messages", as he said, he brings to Athens regarding the Greek economy -- a year and a half after his last official visit -- Almunia first praised the Karamanlis government for successfully cutting the deficit from more than 7 percent to under the mandated 3-percent level.

    The positive comment by the influential Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner comes ahead of next week's Commission recommendation to the Ecofin council on whether the excessive deficit procedure against Greece will be lifted. The government has expressed genuine optimism that the country's exit from the regime will serve as a distinct fillip for its overall economic strategy.

    Almunia spoke at an event in downtown Athens organised by the economy and finance ministry, as he followed Karamanlis and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, the conference's host, to the podium.

    Another Almunia "kudo" was Athens' recent acceptance of a Euro-group decision to have all eurozone member-states field balanced budgets, at least, by 2010.

    The Spanish Commissioner's other two messages were "more efforts" to rapidly lessen Greece's debt-to-GDP ratio (currently at above 100 percent) and, just as urgently, deal with a rapidly ageing population by proceeding with social security and pension reforms.

    Regarding the latter, Almunia reiterated that figures show Greece will be find itself in a "high risk category" over the long-term if major reforms are not taken to overhaul the pension system, boost competitiveness, raise employment and streamline public administration.

    On a final note, he said the only figure with a negative course in relation to figures from two years ago is Greece's current accounts deficit.

    [03] Deputy FM Evripidis Stylianidis addresses Economist conference

    Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, addressing the conference organised by the Economist magazine in Athens on Wednesday and referring to Turkey's course towards the European Union, reiterated Greece's steadfast support for Turkey's accession prospects and the importance attributed by the Greek government to the strengthening of bilateral economic relations.

    Commenting on the prospects of enlargement and the deadlock created with the French and Dutch "no" to the European Constitutional Treaty, Stylianidis said that it will be lifted if Nicolas Sarkozy is elected President in France, who has stated that from now on a similar Treaty could be ratified by the country's Parliament without a referendum.

    On the question of the Sarkozy-(German Chancellor Angela) Merkel axis, which is in favour of a special relation between Turkey and the EU, Stylianidis said that Greece believes that "if we show Turkey the path, it is more probable that it will proceed with reforms rather than if it has no clear target."

    He further said that if Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul is elected President of Turkay, "Ankara will no longer have an alibi to delay the reforms that are necessary for its accession."

    Focusing, however, on sanctions recently imposed on Turkey by the EU, the deputy foreign minister referred to apparatuses that are anticipated by the accession process and that were used "so that the process will take place in the best possible way so that it can lead to real convergence."

    Lastly, Stylianidis referred to the Greek government's firm position in favour of the EU's enlargement, as regards Turkey and the Western Balkans, so that "peace, stability, democracy and development can be consolidated."

    [04] Former minister Chrysochoidis addresses Economist conference

    The problem of security is primarily political and not a military-operational problem and should therefore be dealt with politically, stressed main opposition PASOK MP Michalis Chrisochoidis on Wednesday, while addressing an Economist conference in the seaside town of Vouliagmeni, southeast of Athens.

    Chrysochoidis was public order minister when Greek police succeeded in capturing and dismantling the terror groups November 17 and Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA).

    He stressed that Greece has played a very crucial role in the European prospect of the Balkans, adding that the EU integration course of the region's countries will bring stability and peace showing that the peoples' fates can be changed after all.

    The MP stressed that the basic political problem in Cyprus, namely the international problem of invasion and occupation of Cyprus by an EU candidate state, has been forgotten and there is concern about the lifting of bans that are in effect for the Turkish Cypriots.

    On the global security issues, Chrisochoidis stressed that they affect everyday life and concern the combating of terrorism at a world level, civil wars, state violence and regional security issues. He said that genocides and wars downgrade the human environment, adding that the peoples' trust can be won through the implementation of a policy that advocates security.

    Chrisochoidis also stated that the United Nations is a bureaucratic mechanism and therefore a smaller and more flexible body should undertake to deal with the problem of terrorism within the framework of a multilateral framework.

    Regarding the Balkans, he stressed that the solution to the Kosovo problem should be viable and agreed by all parties involved, especially Serbia.

    [05] Ambassador Ries outlines US security priorities at Economist roundtable

    US Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries strongly supported the continuation of NATO's action, in parallel with the Organi-sation's conformation to the challenges of our times, in the context of his participation in the 11th Economist Government Roundtable in Athens on Wednesday.

    He stressed that NATO's support in Afghanistan is of vital importance and highlighted NATO's role in dealing with asymmetrical threats and drug trafficking. Underlining the need for close cooperation, Ries stressed that each ally was responsible for its contribution to NATO's response forces and that these actions had to be made faster and stronger every time.

    Making reference to Iran's political leadership, Ries characterised it a major transgressor of the Iranian people's human rights, accused it of supporting extreme terror organisations and he repeated his discontent about the fact that it maintains the continuation of its nuclear plan.

    Additionally, the US Ambassador expressed his gratitude to the Greek authorities for the arrest of "17th November" terrorist group, for the secure organisation of the Olympic Games and for their immediate reaction following the rocket attack and the recent threats against the US Embassy.

    Regarding the western Balkans, Ries pointed out that 16,000 troops were already deployed in Kosovo in order to support European and global stability.

    He said that Washington supported the proposals of UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari for the protection of minorities, as well as a proposal for Kosovo's independence as the only viable solution. Serbia could not govern Kosovo but Serbia's democratic leaders could assist in the overall effort, he added.

    With respect to the Middle East, the U.S. Ambassador stressed that economic prosperity was vital in order to bring stability to the region.

    He said that the goal in Iraq, specifically, was to train Iraqi forces so as to prevent Shiites and Sunnis from taking control, establish peace and create a framework for reforming the state.

    He said that Israel and Palestine must live side by side for the sake of global peace and avoid extreme solutions and furthermore expressed his speculation on the "element of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority". Ambassador Ries stated that it undermines the efforts for peace in the region of President Mahmoud Abbas.

    Ries underlined that Israel must assist the Palestinian economy and said that the U.S. were already sending two million dollars a year to the Palestinians - which did not go to the Palestinian Authority, however, so that they would not end up being channeled into terrorist action.

    [06] PASOK leader addresses conference on entrepreneurship and SMEs

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou addressed a conference on "Entrepreneurship and small and medium-size businesses (SMEs)" on Wednesday, stressing that "we are creating a wider alliance of social forces that can and want to support a series of great changes, reforms and the modernisation of the Greek state."

    Papandreou went on to say "a wide alliance that breaks away from the ordinary conception of consensus and goes a step further, to make you participants in this effort of ours."

    The PASOK leader termed SMEs "special interlocutors" of PASOK, adding that "we are not calling for the vote of the Greek people as the 'lesser evil', but we are consolidating with our programme the conscious support of the Greek people for the new hope in this country."

    Papandreou said that the five main goals of this wide alliance are focused on the creation of a state of transparency, a fair redistribution, a new development model, a modern welfare state and investing in man.

    He termed as "tragically negative the account of the New Democracy (ND) government" and stressed that from "the supervision of the economy, the revision of GDP and the 'main shareholder' to managing the shipwreck in Santorini, ND is accumulating policies and practices that are harming the country's image internationally."

    Referring to the "bonds" issue, Papandreou spoke of an "inalienable and continuous crime against the social insurance funds," adding that "we shall seek responsibilities and also for whoever they exist."

    Commenting in particular on targets, Papandreou referred to the establishment of a stable tax framework and of an accounting definition of revenues for all businesses, the gradual abolition of the Books and Data Code, speedy and fair solutions for differences between the tax authorities and taxpayers, the establishment of a specimen control system and the replacement of most money fines by a point system.

    He also pointed to a considerable decrease in tax for undistributed profits, the taxing of companies' distributed profits and dividends as income for private persons, the assessment of the repercussions of all government measures on SMEs and an increase in public investments to 5 percent of GDP at least.

    Lastly, Papandreou focused on a decrease to one week of the minimum time required for the commencement of a company, facilitating access for commencement and initial development funding, the reshaping of bankruptcy law with the aim of providing a "second chance", learning and encouraging entrepreneurship at school and linking the educational and research system with production and providing a new role for the banking system.

    Government responds

    Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday evening responded to the speech main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou addressed earlier to representatives of Small and Medium Size businesses.

    "The government supports -and it proves that in practice- the Small and Medium Size enterprises in opposition to PASOK which with its actions and ommissions had convicted them to decline and insecurity," Roussopoulos said.

    "Generous financial support and the incentives included in the new development law, the reductions in the tax law are some of the measures taken by the government and which are already operating as reliable and effective instruments of growth and prospect for the SMEs," the spokesman added.

    [07] DM briefs Parliament com't; refers to requests for participation in peacekeeping missions

    Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis addressed Parlia-ment's standing committee on foreign affairs and defence Tuesday night for a review of the ministry's activities in 2006 and planning for 2007. The meeting was held for the first time at the defence ministry headquarters, lasting more than three hours and covering a wide range of issues concerning the armed forces.

    Amongst the topics discussed were gradual hikes in military pay -- beginning in the fall of 2007 -- the hiring of 2,750 five-year NCOs (2,150 in the land forces and 600 in the navy), the enlistment of 2,200 high readiness army reserves, the establishment of a military cemetery in Gjirokastr, Albania, and the continuation of mine clearing in the Evros River region within the framework of the Treaty of Ottawa.

    Meimarakis also referred to the establishment of military relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, a Greek-Turkish natural disaster management exercise in Greece and the gradual settlement of the 10.9-billion-euro armaments debt inherited from the preceding government.

    Responding to committee members' questions, Meimarakis said Greek positions were clearly stated by National Defence General Staff Chief Adm. Panayiotis Hinofotis, following a question related statements made by the Turkish military chief in Thessaloniki last week within the framework of a Balkan general staff chiefs' meeting. He added that he does not believe in impressive results but, rather, direct dialogue creates a good climate for the resolution of the problems.

    The minister also referred to regional training centres, the armed forces' 2010-2015 reorganisation plan, a gradual reduction of military conscription terms, the problem of conscription-dodgers, 2004-2007 military personnel transfers, certified translation of treaties and the modernisation of state-run defence industries. He also termed criticism by the main opposition PASOK party as unfair.

    Meimarakis also expressed his willingness to brief the main opposition in private on operational issues.

    Economist remarks

    Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Meimarakis outlined Greece's overall obligations in various peacekeeping missions around the world before focusing on the regional situation and the allocation of its military resources.

    "Greece has the privilege of being in a strategic position. At the same time this creates the need to spend a great deal of money on defence. Greek fighter planes fly much more frequently than the (NATO) Alliance's other planes; our naval vessels patrol and operate much longer than any other member-state, and this should be examined in detail," the minister said, adding:

    "It is not possible for Greece to exert such arduous efforts, over the past three years, to slash the deficit under 3 percent (of GDP) and at the same time meet demands by the Alliance for greater participation in such (peacekeeping) missions. We want to fulfil these requests but it is not possible, in the end, to meet them under such conditions."

    Finally, the Greek defence minister said a further improvement in Greece-Turkey relations depends squarely on the latter, while he again criticised what he called repeated violations of Greek national airspace by Turkish warplanes and "unilateral demands (by Ankara) along with arbitrary interpretations (of international law)."

    [08] PM briefed by Development minister on Balkan tour

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Wednesday on the latter's recent tour of Balkan countries focusing on energy and developmental cooperation issues.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Sioufas referred to the natural gas pipeline form Turkey to Greece to Italy, the first section of which is expected to be ready by the end of June, bringing to Greece natural gas from Turkey.

    The minister stated that the project was launched by the prime minister and his Turkish counterpart in July 2005 and in mid July 2007 they will inaugurate the arrival of natural gas to Greece.

    He also said that in the meeting with the prime minister they discussed two development ministry-sponsored draft laws concerning the amendment and reform of legislation on Societe Anonymes and on consumer protection issues, which are due for discussion in parliament within the next 15 days.

    [09] PM confers with parliament president

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Wednesday morning with Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki at Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) in Athens.

    No statements were made to reporters after the meeting.

    [10] 'We are determined in the struggle against corruption', justice minister says

    Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras, speaking in Parlia-ment on Wednesday on the "ratification and implementation of the penal law treaty against corruption", said that "we are determined in the struggle against corruption."

    He was responding to criticism launched by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputies about the bonds issue.

    "We are proving every day in practice that we are determined not to stand cowards, fatalists and without will against the endemic phenomena of corruption," Papaligouras said.

    Replying specifically to PASOK deputy Anna Diamanto-poulou, the justice minister said, "The Karamanlis government has proven that every phenomenon which contravenes transparency and the principles of management cannot be covered up. It is exposed, punished, from wherever it comes from, without partisan discriminations."

    He noted that "this is the fundamental difference between the new governance and the governance of PASOK. Illicit networks, interests and transactions which before found a free field, today are not tolerated. Mentalities and behaviour which reproduce an eroded and condemned past, are now no longer faced with cover-ups, but with the scalpel of the law."

    [11] US envoy lauds immediate mobilisation of Greek police after security threat

    US ambassador to Greece Charles Ries called the immediate mobilisation around the embassy compound in Athens an indication of the "very good cooperation with the Greek authorities", after a security "blanket" was placed around the compound in the early morning hours of Wednesday, following claims by an Iraqi national that several compatriots were preparting a terrorist strike against the US embassy in the Greek capital.

    Half a dozen Iraqi nationals were being questioned by police after their compatriot's claim.

    Ries also expressed appreciation towards the Greek authorities for their more general efforts, both for the arrest of the 'November 17' terrorist group, and for the security programme implemented during the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.

    Ries made the statement during an address Wednesday morning at an Economist conference in the seaside town of Vouliagmeni, southeast of Athens.

    Half a dozen Iraqi nationals were being questioned by police in Athens after a compatriot claimed the men were preparing a terrorist strike against the US embassy in the Greek capital, causing a security "blanket" to be placed around the embassy compound in the early morning Wednesday.

    A later police announcement, however, said the claims appear to be unsubstantiated, although intense investigations are continuing.

    Police continued to partially seal off the area surrounding the US embassy at around 10 a.m. (08.00 GMT), which is located along one of Athens' busiest thoroughfares, causing traffic jams in all directions.

    According to the police statement, the foreign national appeared at the anti-terrorism squad's headquarters on Tuesday evening and gave authorities information on the alleged attack. Greece's public order minister Vyron Polydoras informed embassy officials, including the US ambassador, of the threat in the early morning, as three raids were subsequently made on a same-number of residences reportedly in the vicinity of the sizeable embassy compound.

    [12] Spokesman on airspace violations

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednes-day reiterated a statement by national defence minister Evangelos Meimarakis on violations of Greek national airspace by Turkish fighter planes, stressing that "such actions of violation do not help the climate of good neighbourhood".

    He was replying to questions during a regular press briefing.

    [13] Karamanlis-Evert meeting

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Wednesday with his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's former president Miltiadis Evert.

    No statements were made after the meeting.

    [14] Ombudsman on granting of political asylum

    The Ombudsman, making public on Wednesday the special report on "Protection of individuals who seek political asylum in Greece: Problems of interpretation and implementation", ascertains that despite the improvement of the situation compared to previous years, there are still certain problems on the matter, as there are malfunctions and inefficiencies which "betray the low priority of the humanitarian aspect given in the strategic planning" of the confrontation of the mass inflow of foreigners in Greece.

    The problems, according to the report, can be described as matters of "mistaken interpretation of the existing legislative framework, which mainly concern the deportation and detention of those seeking asylum, the notification of administrative decisions regarding the asylum and the prerequisites for the halting of the investigation of the request for asylum."

    Furthermore, "not maintained to a great degree are the rights of those seeking asylum in transit centres, while weakness and/or unwillingness of the implementation of the relevant regulations is observed on the part of the Greek Police."

    [15] KKE leader on education, prisons unrest, bonds issue

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Wednesday called for students' mobilisations to continue in view of an upcoming EU education ministers' council in London in May.

    "This time an overwhelming participation of popular forces should take place. In mid-May in London, (EU) education ministers are expected to decide on new and worse measures, which will be introduced by (ruling) New Democracy party in Greece. Measures which, unfortunately, the (main opposition) PASOK party has also supported through its programme. The struggle, therefore, goes on," Papariga told reporters during a visit at the Athens University.

    Commenting on unrest in prisons, Papariga said "those who have committed criminal acts are punished by imprisonment, but there can be no prisons within prisons. Living conditions there must be humane."

    Referring to the Social Security Funds bonds issue, the KKE leader said "there are no honest and dishonest bonds. There is no honest and dishonest stock exchange. It is gambling in any way. Therefore no games in gambling, and the workers should ask the return of stolen money even from the '50s."

    [16] Synaspismos holds protest rally over bonds issue

    The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party held a protest rally outside the Employment and Social Protection Ministry and then marched to the Economy and Finance Ministry on Wednesday to denounce "the long-term looting of the social insurance funds," in view of the recent case of the "structured" bonds.

    A delegation of the protestors also visited the Development Ministry and met with the ministry's Secretary General, Evgenios Papadopoulos.

    The main speaker at the rally was Synaspismos Political Bureau member Panos Lafazanis.

    [17] Communist Party delegation to visit Lebanon

    A delegation by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), headed by its Secretary General Aleka Papariga, will begin on Thursday a three-day visit to Lebanon. The visit will take place at the invitation of the country's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

    According to a party press release, during its visit, the delegation will hold talks with Berri, all the country's political parties, political organisations and movements, while it will also visit regions in southern Lebanon that were hit by Israeli raids in July 2006.

    [18] SYN leader on visit to Lesvos

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) leader Alekos Alavanos arrived on the island of Lesvos for a visit on Wednesday, where me met with Mytilene mayor Nasos Yiakalis.

    Yiakalis briefed the SYN leader on the problems faced by the municipality of Mytilene, capital of Lesvos, such as the relocation of the local Public Power Corporation (PPC) plant, the unloading of bulk fuel at Mytilene port and the commencement of procedures for its relocation, and other issues concerning the municipality.

    Alavanos said his visit to the island was of a parliamentary, as well as a political, nature, adding that he was at the disposal of the municipal authority for any matter that required political intervention both at Hellenic Parliament and European Parliament level.

    Financial News

    [19] Sustained efforts needed, FinMin says; Almunia on EMU's success

    The Greek economy is on a very good course but still has structural weaknesses, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis stressed on Wednesday during an address at an Economist-sponsored seminar in the coastal Athens suburb of Vouliagmeni.

    The Greek minister said the country was in the "middle of the road" and that a greater effort was needed in certain sectors, such as a public administration.

    Alogoskoufis acknowledged that challenges needed to be dealt with were sustainability of public finances, a long-term viability of the social insurance system and implementing a National Strategic Framework Benchmark. He noted this could be the last chance, since Greece was not expected to receive as much money from EU funds in the future.

    "Public finances are in very good shape, with fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct, the public debt falling, economic growth rates almost double the Eurozone's average, unemployment dropping, entrepreneurship is rising and foreign investments total 4.3 billion euros in 2006," he said.

    Alogoskoufis noted that Greece moved away from the standard of state-backed growth with more emphasis given to private investments. He stressed there was absolutely no room for complacency. "We need constant and consistent effort," he said.


    Addressing the seminar, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, said a strong EU would have positive results for the Eurozone. Referring to the achievements of Economic and Monetary Union, Almunia said they include the limitation of foreign exchange risk, protection of Eurozone economies, containing inflation and an accommodative monetary policy.

    "EMU has been a European success story. The positive impact of the euro on macroeconomic stability and economic integration are among the many tangible benefits derived introducing the single currency nearly 10 years ago ... The euro has even overtaken the dollar in the international bond market, with 49 percent of the total global bond market denominated in euros in 2006 compared to 37 percent for the dollar," he stressed.

    [20] PASOK leader meets Commissioner Joaquin Almunia

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou met with visiting EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia on Wednesday evening saying afterwards that the New Democracy government "placed the country under supervision for petty partisan purposes and did this to break the promises it gave to the Greek people before the elections and whom it deceived consciously".

    The meeting with Almunia was held at Papandreou's office in Parliament and lasted for about three quarters of an hour. PASOK deputy and former commissioner Vasso Papandreou was also present at the meeting.

    Papandreou said in a brief statement that the "supervision issue caused the country's international degradation and this degradation is continuing with the New Democracy government."

    "For three years we are experiencing retrogression," he said and stressed that PASOK is calling for the country's immediate exit from supervision and noted that he stressed this to Almunia.

    He concluded by saying that "what will remain from the whole issue of supervision will be higher VAT, zero increases in salaries and pensions, cutbacks and inadequate funding for education and health and the same stands for public investments as well."

    Almunia made no statement after the meeting.

    [21] Greek Parliament ratifies Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline agreement

    The Greek Parliament on Wednesday ratified a tri-party agreement, between the Russian Federation, Bulgaria and Greece, for cooperation, construction and management of an oil pipeline linking Burgas with Alexandroupoli.

    Deputies from the ruling ND party and PASOK main opposition party voted in favour of the ratification while deputies from the comunist KKE party and the Synaspismos party voted against.

    The agreement is a collective result by the Development and Foreign ministries, continuing the efforts by the previous government, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said, noting that the oil pipeline was establishing Greece as an energy hub in the region. "National successes do not belong to any party," he told parliament.

    [22] Government on announced spending cuts

    The finance minister announced the government's intention for further spending cuts because all Eurozone countries are required to reduce their deficit by 0.5 percent, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said on Wednesday.

    He was clarifying statements made on Tuesday by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, who said that Greece would seek to increase its annual fiscal adjustment from 0.5 percent at present to between 0.6-0.7 percent between 2008-2010.

    Reporters questioned the need to further intensify spending cutbacks, given that Greece had adequately met criteria for exiting from the excessive deficit process.

    Roussopoulos pointed out that levels of social spending in Greece were now approaching the average for the European Union.

    "As the economy and finance minister said, the question is how to better allocate spending so that there is a better result. Already, the issue is being studied so that the distribution of social spending is more effective," the spokesman said.

    [23] Ministers on importance of small and medium-sized businesses in Greek tourism

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Wednesday addressed the start of the sessions of the International Scientific Workshop which is organised by the Hellenic Organisation of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises and Handicraft (EOMMEX) on the theme "The Small and Medium Sized Enterprises in the tourism sector for the member-states of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Organisation".

    The ministers expressed the overall importance of small and medium-sized businesses in the Greek tourism product.

    Sioufas described the contribution of tourism to the Greek economy as "oxygen", given that in 2006 its participation in the Gross Domestic Product exceeded 18 per cent.

    The development minister praised the cooperation between the two ministries and as an example of this, he reiterated the significant increase of the absorption of the funds from the competitiveness programme. As he said, from 7.9 per cent in 2004, it exceeded 77 per cent at the end of 2006.

    On her part, Tourism Development Minister Palli-Petralia underlined that small and medium-sized tourism businesses "are at the heart of the economic tourism activity, as they offer employment, strengthen the local economies, support regional growth and contribute decisively in the deepening of social cohesion."

    [24] Minister briefs Parliament Committee on management of fund reserves

    The government guaranteed that Greece's social insurance funds would not lose a single euro and that neither their assets nor the pension of any citizen were in any danger, Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis told Parliament's Standing Committee on Social Affairs on Wednesday.

    The minister was speaking during a marathon and highly acrimonious session held to brief the Committee on the management of fund reserves, during which it also heard testimony from Bank of Greece deputy governor Panagiotis Thomopoulos and the general secretary in charge of supervising Greece's social insurance funds Evgenios Papadopoulos.

    Tsitouridis also denied steering pension funds toward investing in the specific structured bond product and promised to uncover any wrongdoing:

    "No recommendation regarding investment behaviour was ever given to any social insurance fund, and if any persons took advantage of the confused and antiquated institutional framework, we will find them and make them pay," he stressed.

    Replying to strong criticism and accusations of political responsibility leveled by main opposition PASOK MP Maria Damanaki, Tsitouridis stressed that the government acted in concert on this and every issue and that there was a "collective responsibility to complete a job that we began some time ago."

    "If anyone believes that this government could 'wink' at fund managements - the majority of whom are social partners - and to brokerage firms and banks, then they overestimate the capabilities of this government and every government," the minister added.

    Damanaki, however, dismissed the minister's arguments as "fairy-tales" and stressed that PASOK's aim was not to use the minister as a scapegoat but uncover his responsibility for the affair.

    "We do not consider him solely or mainly responsible for the scandal. Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and deputy Economy Minister Petros Doukas bear the same responsibilities. But the person chiefly responsible for all this is the prime minister," Damanaki added.

    The Committee session was held to investigate allegations that several Greek social insurance funds may have suffered financial losses by investing in a high-risk structured bond issued by the government, which they bought at inflated prices while paying an unusually high commission.

    [25] UNI secretary general calls for absolute consolidation of social insurance funds

    Philip Jennings, secretary general of the Union Network International (UNI), who visited Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis together with unionists of the Bank Employee Federation (OTOE) on Wednesday, called for the absolute consolidation of working people's social insurance funds.

    Jennings, as well as the OTOE unionists, who gave a press conference later on, requested reliable and transparent management of social insurance funds' reserves and absolute respect for working people's money.

    They further noted that they brought before the government during the meeting, also following the recent decision by the International Labour Organisation, the appeal for dialogue from a zero basis between the government, OTOE and the Greek Bank Union for an overall handling of the bank employees' social insurance issue in a way that will honour collective labour agreements.

    Intervention by Alogoskoufis was also requested for the safeguarding of respect for the institution of collective negotiations on all issues and at all levels in the bank sector.

    [26] Event to promote energy co-production in Greece

    The biggest renewable energy source is energy saving, and within this framework, co-production of electricity and heating could add 30 percent of a European goal for energy saving.

    This was the message sent by Fiona Riddoch, manager in Cogen Europe, and K. Theofylaktos, president of the Hellenic Association of Electricity and Heating Co-production, during a news conference held on the occasion of the "Co-Production Day".

    Theofylaktos said Development ministry has begun an effort to complete a regulatory framework on funding from third parties and harmonizing Greek legislation to community directives, with the aim to promote co-production of electricity and heating in Greece. He noted that electricity energy from co-production was just 2.5 pct of total energy production in the country and was not expected to surpass 5.0 pct by the end of the year.

    He noted there were significant prospects to install co-production systems, especially in hospitals, clinics, hotels, sport facilities, shopping centers, but also in homes. He stressed that co-production could be used to cover cooling needs in the country as well.

    [27] Development ministry presents measures to spruce up street markets

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Development Minister Ioannis Papathanassiou on Wednesday presented a series of measures designed to spruce up Greek street markets or 'laikes agores', including a new, improved design of market stall.

    Among other measures announced were the pilot operation of weighing stations where shoppers could check that the actual weight of the goods they purchased at 48 markets, the start of a tender for the supply of chemical toilets for street markets, as well as other measures designed to make them more attractive.

    [28] Minister approves first phase of photovoltaic power programme

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Wednesday approved the first phase of the Photovoltaic Station Develop-ment Programme prepared by the Energy Regulatory Board (RAE). Signing the decision, Sioufas said it was one more decisive step toward developing photovoltaic systems in Greece and carrying out large investments in alternative energy sources, which are set to reach 2.5 billion euros by 2010.

    The first phase of the photovoltaics programme outlines the basic principles and strategy for developing photovoltaic power stations in the country.

    [29] Alogoskoufis meets with UNI GenSec

    National Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis met with global trade union organization UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings in Athens on Wednesday.

    Their meeting focused on the implementation of the new law on the bank employees' social insurance issue.

    [30] Greece wins top award at SITC tourism salon in Barcelona

    Greece won the top prize at the SITC (Salon Internacional de Turismo de Cataluna) International Tourism and Leisure Show in Barcelona, Spain, as the Greek pavilion emerged in first place from among 75 countries participating either with Travel Bureaus or private enterprises.

    The Greek pavilion won first prize for its architectural aesthetics, organisation, operation and service to the public, while Greece was praised by the chairman of the trade exhibition's organiser FIRA and the president of the Association of Catalonian Tourism Journalists as the "jewel" of the Mediterranean due to its "exceptional tourism contribution".

    This is the first such award for Greece in its 20 years of participation in the Barcelona fair, resulting in the SITC board inviting Greece to participate as the "honoured country" in the 2008 fair.

    The Association of Catalonian Tourism Journalists proposed Greece for the award, and the proposal was immediately adopted by FIRA.

    The award was accepted on Greece's behalf by the director of the National Tourism Organisation of Greece's (EOT) office in Spain, Theodora Makri, during a special ceremony that was also attended by GTreece's consul General in Barcelona Nikolaos Bazas.

    [31] Merchant marine minister briefs Parliament on Greek shipping

    Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis on Wednesday briefed Parliament's Production and Trade Committee appearing positive for Greek shipping in the immediate future and noting that unemployment of seamen has declined, cruise ship services have improved and that there is a tendency for the return of ships under Greek flag.

    "We will not permit morass to prevail in our policy. Greece cannot be with smiles for the sake of public relations in opinion polls," he said.

    Regarding his options for the privatisation of trading posts in the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, options which brought him in direct confrontation with the ports' workers, he said, "whenever we need to disagree, the disagreement will be specific, with a specific character and the assuming of responsibilities. The only thing which we cannot be accused of is the lack of undertaking responsibilities for our actions."

    [32] Moody's upgrades credit rating of Piraeus Bank

    Moody's Investors Service on Wednesday upgraded the long-term rating of Piraeus Bank by three notches to A1 from Baa1.

    The credit rating firm said the decision was taken in view of the bank's increased financial condition and its position in the banking market. Moody's also upgraded the bank's financial strength rating to C from C-, and its short-term rating to Prime-1 from Prime-2.

    Moody's, which recently adopted new rating methods for banks (Joint Default Analysis and BFSR), said the upgrading of Piraeus Bank reflected the bank's financial strength and its large share in the domestic banking market.

    Piraeus Bank, in a statement, said its significantly improved credit rating would lead to lower cost of raising money from capital markets and to the widening of its institutional investors' base.

    [33] Selonda Group buys 46 pct in Fjord Marin Turkey for 7.8 mln euros

    Selonda Group on Wednesday announced the purchase of a 46 percent equity stake in Fjord Marin Deniz Urunleri Sanayi Ticaret AS (Fjord Marin Turkey), in a move aimed to create the biggest Mediterranean acquaculture group in Europe.

    Norway's Fjord Marin AS owns the majority 54 percent of the Turkey-based company.

    Selonda's entry in Fjord Marin was a combination of a share capital increase plan, worth 8.5 million euros, the capitalisation of loans and cash. Selonda will pay 7.8 million euros for the purchase of the 46 percent equity stake.

    Fjord Marin Turkey owns licences totaling 14,000 tons, covering 30 percent of total production capacity in Turkey. Its present production totals 6,000 tons, while its turnover and pre-tax profits are expected to reach 30 million and 1.6 million euros, respectively.

    Selonda aims to consolidate the acquaculture sector in Turkey and to own 50 percent of the country's production in the period 2007-2008.

    [34] Greek Aluminum 2007 exhibition opens on Thursday

    The 9th Aluminum Technology and Applications Exhibition "Greek Aluminum 2007" will be inaugurated on Thursday by Deputy Development Minister Anastasios Nerantzis.

    The four-day exhibition will be held at the EXPO ATHENS grounds in Anthousa, Attica prefecture, with the participation of major aluminum products companies.

    [35] Minister's message for World Intellectual Property Day

    In a message for World Intellectual Property Day that is observed on April 26, the leadership of Greece's development ministry on Wednesday stressed that "encouraging creativity in every sector was not just a responsibility of the state" but benefited all of society.

    "It is in the interests of every business, whether big or small, of every scientist, of every teacher, of all Greeks regardless of their profession or interests. Creative ideas are power. Their protection and exploitation are development and wealth," the ministry said in a message signed by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou and Research and Technology General Secretary Yiannis Tsoukalas.

    The said that significant measures to encourage invention and innovation had been taken in recent years, while pointing to a 38 percent increase in the number of patent applications submitted to the Greek patent office in 2005-2006. It also promised further measures to facilitate the establishment of patents and support investment to promote innovation and exploit inventions.

    [36] Greek stocks jump 0.95 pct on Wed.

    Greek stocks jumped 0.95 pct on Wednesday, reversing a two-day decline in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index ended at 4,836.84 points, with turnover a moderate 352.2 million euros.

    Sector indices ended higher, with the Oil (1.93 pct), Utilities (1.72 pct) and Banks (1.52 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Food/Beverage (0.50 pct), Technology (0.39 pct) and Media (0.29 pct) suffered losses.

    The Big Cap index rose 1.16 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.23 percent higher and the Small Cap index jumped 1.01 pct.

    Ideal (19.54 pct), Kreka (14.79 pct) and Epilektos (11.48 pct) were top gainers, while Tria Alpha (6.31 pct), Vivere (6.19 pct) and Ideal (common) (6.09 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 165 to 83 with another 60 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.34%

    Industrials: -0.18%

    Commercial: +0.12%

    Construction: -0.11%

    Media: -0.29%

    Oil & Gas: +1.93%

    Personal & Household: +0.40%

    Raw Materials: +0.06%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.23%

    Technology: -0.39%

    Telecoms: +1.38%

    Banks: +1.52%

    Food & Beverages: -0.50%

    Health: +0.92%

    Utilities: +1.72%

    Chemicals: +0.73%

    Financial Services: +1.12%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, National Bank, OTE and Alpha Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 24.02

    ATEbank: 3.90

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 18.70

    HBC Coca Cola: 32.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 11.40

    Emporiki Bank: 22.14

    National Bank of Greece: 42.60

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 30.92

    Intralot: 23.84

    Cosmote: 23.60

    OPAP: 28.14

    OTE: 22.14

    Titan Cement Company: 42.78

    [37] ADEX closing report

    Futures contract prices maintained their discount during Wednesday's session in the Athens Derivatives Exchange, with turnover at 129.019 million euros.

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.70 pct, while the April contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.63 pct.

    Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 7,058 contracts worth 89.350 million euros, with 32,544 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 488 contracts worth 14.824 million euros, with 1,311 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 5,158, with investment interest focusing on Eltech's contracts (835), followed PPC (383), Piraeus Bank (182), National Bank (822), Alpha Bank (331), Intracom (222), GEK (509), Emporiki Bank (388) and Intralot (225).

    Volume in stock repos was 2,649 contracts and in reverse stock repos 370 contracts.

    [38] Greek bond market report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 3.623 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.858 billion were bid orders and 1.705 billion were sell orders.

    The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.013 billion euros, while the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.23 percent. The Greek bond yielded 4.44 pct and the German Bund 4.21 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were largely unchanged. National Bank's overnight rate was 3.84 pct, the two-day rate was 3.84 pct, the one-month rate was 3.85 pct and the 12-month rate 4.26 pct.

    [39] Foreign Exchange Rates - Thursday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.375

    Pound sterling 0.686

    Danish kroner 7.510

    Swedish kroner 9.248

    Japanese yen 163.25

    Swiss franc 1.654

    Norwegian kroner 8.229

    Cyprus pound 0.586

    Canadian dollar 1.542

    Australian dollar 1.653

    General News

    [40] Greek, Italian presidents attend anniversary events in Cephallonia

    In the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano, anniversary events were held on the Ionian of Cephallonia on Wednesday commemorating the sacrifice of Italian soldiers of the 'Acqui' brigade and Greek resistance fighters against the German occupation.

    Thousands of Italian soldiers of the brigade 'Acqui' who had surrendered to German occupation forces on the island in September 1943 after Italy's capitulation were massacred by the Nazis. Two hundred Greek resistance fighters were also killed by the Germans.

    The two men met and talked at the building of Cephallonia Prefecture at Argostoli.

    At the end of the meeting, President Papoulias said, "It was a great joy for me to meet today in Cephallonia with the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano. It was a very touching day, it was a day in which we remembered and honoured all these young men of the Acqui brigade who were victims of the Nazi monstrocity. I must say that their blood did not go in vain. It watered the passion of the Italian people, the anti-fascist passion of the Italian people had as a result the destruction of the fascist regime in Italy and the lethal blow against the German Nazism."

    Earlier, Italian President Napolitano gave a speech after laying a wreath at the monument of the fallen of the Italian Acqui brigade. "I again pay tribute here in Cephallonia, as did my predecessor Carlo Ciampi, to the fighters and to the fallen of the Acqui Brigade. And I do so on the day when the Celebration of Freedom is celebrated in Italy. It is a celebration of all the Italians."

    President Napolitano accepted an invitation by his Greek counterpart Papoulias to visit Greece.

    [41] Calm restored in Greek prisons

    Calm had been restored on Wednesday in almost all Greek prisons where protests had broken out by inmates demanding better detention conditions and shorter sentences following the lead of inmates at Malandrinos Prison in central Greece.

    Conditions returned to normal in the Chania Prison on the island of Crete where on Tuesday inmates had refused to eat dinner in a show support to inmates protesting in correctional facilities across the country.

    The unrest at the Komotini Prison, northeastern Greece, where inmates refused to return to their cells complaining for overcrowding ended on Wednesday morning.

    In Larisa Prison, calm was restored in the early morning hours after the peaceful intervention of police forces. The situation was the same in the Diavata Prison in Thessaloniki where inmates returned to their cells after an intervention by the MAT riot police. The unrest in the Nafplio Prison ended just before midnight.

    Meanwhile, tension continued at the Nea Alikarnassou prison in Heraklion, Crete, where approximately 60 inmates gathered on the prison roof demanding better detention conditions. A strong police contingent was on alert around the prison facility.

    [42] Souflias addresses Alternative Management Systems conference

    Figures in the past three years prove that Greece has become the country of recycling, stressed Environment Minister George Souflias on Wednesday while addressing the Alternative Management Systems conference in Athens.

    Ten certified systems of alternative waste management are currently in operation in the country based on a complete institutional framework.

    Souflias stated that Greece had previously lagged far behind in recycling rates, reaching only 6 percent in 2003 compared to the EU average of 33 percent. The situation has changed, stressed the minister, considering that a total of 886,000 tons of waste have been recycled in 2006 corresponding to 20 percent of the total waste production in Greece, while in 2007 roughly 1 million tons will be recycled corresponding to 23 percent.

    However, Souflias stressed that a lot of work is still needed in the field of public awareness.

    He also stressed that the environment ministry will present a sustainable development planning framework next month concerning tourism, industry, coastal and mountain regions.

    [43] Greek population rose through migration in 2006, Eurostat reports

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)

    The population of Greece rose to 11,169,100 inhabitants in January 2007 and increased by 43,900 relative to January 2006, the European statistics service Eurostat reported on Wednesday.

    This increase was primarily due to immigration rather than births, however, Eurostat reported.

    Specifically, immigration is estimated to have added 41,000 new inhabitants to the country while the natural increase of the population (the number or births minus the number of deaths) accounted for just 2,900 of the overall population rise.

    Overall population growth in the 27 European Union member-states over the same period was roughly 1.8 million people, bringing the total population of the EU to 494.7 million.

    The population decreased in eight EU member-states, among them Bulgaria (by 52,300), Germany (by 126,300), Estonia (by 4,800), Latvia (by 14,100), Lithuania (by 17,600), Hungary (by 18,700), Poland (by 55,200) and Romania (by 39,600).

    The decrease in population in Germany and Hungary is attributed exclusively to a natural decrease, that in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania is caused "mainly" to a natural decrease, while that in Poland is cause mainly by emigration.

    In Slovenia and Slovakia, population increase was exclusively the result of immigration, while immigration was "mainly" responsible for population growth in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Sweden and the UK.

    Natural population increase was exclusively responsible for population growth in the Netherlands and mainly responsible for population growth in France and Finland, the report added.

    [44] Personal Data Authority forbids religion and national origin in foreigners' applications

    The Personal Data Protection Authority has addressed a warning to the interior, public administration and decentra-lisation ministry, with its decision no. 16/2007, by which it calls on it to adjust application forms for residence permits for foreigners from third countries (outside the European Union), not to include religion and national origin.

    The Authority pointed out in its decision that religion and national origin constitute sensitive data.

    [45] The two nuns were victims of strangulation

    The two elderly nuns found dead in the Orthokostas Convent in the Peloponnese, southern Greece, on Tuesday morning appeared to been killed by "suffocation due to strangulation", while there were also signs of a struggle at the scene of the crime, according to the initial finds of medical examiner Filippos Koutsaftis after his examination of the bodies at the scene.

    A detailed autopsy will be conducted at the Athens Medical Examiner's Service, where the bodies have been taken.

    The nunnery is guarded by police until the investigation is over.

    The nunnery, situated in a mountainous region, showed signs of forced entry, and the two nuns are believed to have been the victims of a robbery.

    [46] Illegal immigrant arrests on Kos, Samos

    Authorities on the Aegean island of Samos on Wednesday arrested 16 illegal immigrants from Somalia that were intercepted on the island. They were taken to the island's immigrant reception centre - which now houses some 180 people - after a precautionary medical check-up.

    On the nearby island of Kos, meanwhile, police arrested two local inhabitants aged 55 and 23 on charges of immigrant smuggling.

    The two men were caught while driving 15 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan in their cars. The immigrants had been dropped off onto the island from the nearby shores of Turkey. The suspects' cars and mobile phones were confiscated in the framework of an ongoing investigation.

    [47] Arson attacks in Athens

    Two arson attacks by unidentified individuals took place in Athens during the night.

    Shortly after midnight, a petrol bomb attack targeting a National Bank of Greece branch in the district of Zografou caused material damage.

    A few hours later an environment, town planning and public works ministry car parked on central Alexandras Avenue, near the Pedio tou Areos Park, was destroyed after being doused with gasoline and set on fire.

    [48] Pioneer system provides information on traffic conditions in Thessaloniki

    A pioneer "City Traffic" electronic system will enable moto-rists in Thessaloniki to be informed in real-time on the traffic conditions on all the streets of the city, it was announced on Wednesday.

    A total of 600 taxicabs will participate in the endeavor. They will be equipped with telematic devices and using GPS (Global Positioning System) technology will provide traffic information by phone, written texts, SMSs and via the net.

    The 24-hour, seven days a week, City Traffic system will be in full operation in the fall.

    [49] Scientists tag rare brown bear in northern Greece

    Researchers for the Kallisto environmental organisation on Wednesday said they had successfully fitted a collar with a satellite tracking device on one of northern Greece's increasingly rare brown bears, who was caught raiding a honey bee farm in the Grevena woods.

    It was the third visit to the beehives by the adult male bear weighing 180 kilos, who was caught in a special trap laid for him by the team of scientists, who then sedated him and fitted the satellite collar.

    The tracking device will enable scientists to accurately monitor the bear's whereabouts to within a few metres, locating and recording his position almost every hour. The data from the satellite telemetry will be used chiefly to assess possible changes to the behaviour of bears in the region due to the construction of the 36-kilometre section of the Egnatia Highway from Panagia to Grevena.

    This section of the highway runs through an important habitat for brown bears and is just two to three kilometres from the Valia Kalda North Pindos National Park.


    [50] Thessaloniki to host int'l conference on sports education

    The International Foundation of Olympics and Sports Education will organise the 2nd International Conference in Thessaloniki, central Madedonia, from April 27-29 on the theme "A new generation changes the world".

    The sessions of the conference will be opened by Deputy Culture Minister responsible for sports George Orfanos at a ceremony which will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Thessaloniki Sports Museum.

    The conference's sessions, which will take place at the hall of the Thessaloniki Bar Association, will start on Saturday morning and end at noon on Sunday.

    Taking part in the conference will be representatives of the major sports and educational agencies, such as the International Olympics Committee, the European Commission, the United Nations, UNESCO, the European Committee on the Spirit of Sports and the International Council of Sports Sciences.

    Weather Forecast

    [51] Overcast on Thursday

    Overcast weather is forecast in all parts of the country on Thursday, with the possibility of intermittent rain in northern and central mainland Greece. Slight drop in temperatures in the east and north. Winds northerly, northeasterly, moderate to strong. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 10C and 22C and in Thessaloniki from 7C to 17C.

    [52] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The bonds affair and uprisings in several prisons throughout the country were the main front-page items in Wednesday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Inmates' uprising - Domino of takeovers in prisons".

    APOGEVMATINI: "10,370 opportunities in the public sector - The distribution of the positions by specialisation and agency".

    AVGHI: "Prisons: Schools of violence - The inmates' uprisings spread to six cities".

    AVRIANI: " 'Mr. Louis' sent away the tugboats five hours before the 'Sea Diamond' sank - The conflicting depositions of the (sunken cruiseship's) captain and first mate 'burn' the owning company".

    CHORA: "Independent Authority on the (social insurance) Funds' monies - New warning bell from Garganas (Bank of Greece governor)".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "As the Bank of Greece governor pointed out, the loose administration and gaps in supervision have rendered the funds 'ships set adrift' ".

    ELEFTHEROS: " 'Recipes' for the Funds, economy, by Bank of Greece governor Nick Garganas".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Uprising in prison cells, with plan - It started at the Malandrinos prison, prompted by an incident with an anti-authoritarian inmate".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The uprising of the damned - Inmates at 10 prisons staged uprising after Malandrinos for better conditions".

    ESTIA: "What is going on with the government? It's pace has broken since 2006".

    ETHNOS: "International ridicule over the bonds affair - Financial Times: The bitter political scandal will have more victims".

    KATHIMERINI: "Chain reaction of prison uprisings - Situation explosive in eight of them, despite the immediate reaction of the authorities".

    LOGOS: "They insist on covering Tsitouridis (employment minister) - Roussopoulos (government spokesman): The scenaria of isolation of the employment minister 'imaginative' ".

    NIKI: "International ridicule - Financial Times refer to 'bitter Greek scandal' ".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Hazardous to the health and safety of pupils - The system of school excursions is counter-educational and profit-oriented".

    TA NEA: "Family stabs against Karamanlis - Insinuations by ministers and MPs".

    TO VIMA: "Tsitouridis being led to the sacrificial altar - He's called on to pay the price for everyone...".

    VRADYNI: "Hiring without age limit - Sweeping changes with the new Municipal and Community Employees' Code".

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