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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-05-08

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Tuesday, 8 May 2007 Issue No: 2589

CONTENTS

  • [01] Commission will recommend on May 16 Greece's exit from excessive deficit procedure, Almunia says
  • [02] FinMin satisfied with European Commission's spring economic predictions for Greece
  • [03] Opposition parties comment on Greek economy's impending exit from supervision
  • [04] PM meets visiting Russian deputy premier
  • [05] Dep. FM Kassimis meets with visiting South Australian premier Rann
  • [06] Karamanlis meets with Cyprus' Christofias
  • [07] Cyprus House speaker meets SYN's Alavanos
  • [08] Cyprus House of Representatives speaker addresses Cypriot students
  • [09] PM congratulates Sarkozy on election victory
  • [10] Bakoyannis on Sarkozy election, Turkey
  • [11] Foreign minister comments on visit to China
  • [12] Papandreou again reiterates call for early elections
  • [13] President observes Greek army exercises in Xanthi
  • [14] Roussopoulos on police work, Polydoras
  • [15] Papariga condemns actions of hooded anarchist youths
  • [16] Tourist season off to strong start, tourism minister informs PM
  • [17] PM to speak at opening session of SETE general meeting
  • [18] Development Ministry SG visits Egypt
  • [19] Greek economic sentiment index up in April
  • [20] Greek closed-end investment funds' assets slightly up in April
  • [21] J&P-Avax SA to build 9.05-mln-euro five-star hotel for Handris Hotels
  • [22] InterBalkan Forum of Bank Associations meeting in Sofia
  • [23] Govt to table MiFID directive to Parliament in next few weeks
  • [24] Greek bond prices down in April
  • [25] Greek stocks up 0.51 pct on Monday
  • [26] Foreign Exchange Rates - Tuesday
  • [27] ANA-MPA on strike Tuesday
  • [28] British Museum rules out return of all Parthenon Marbles
  • [29] Thessaloniki International Book Fair to open doors on May 17
  • [30] Greek painters to exhibit their work in London
  • [31] Hellenism honours its dead at Mauthausen
  • [32] Athens prosecutor proposes 39 life counts, 6,604 years in jail for 12 N17 group defendants
  • [33] Moderate quake jolts Zakynthos early Monday
  • [34] Immigrant smuggler arrested on Samos
  • [35] Drug smuggling arrests in northern Greece
  • [36] Police patrol car torched
  • [37] Mostly overcast on Tuesday
  • [38] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [39] Cyprus President congratulates France's new President
  • [40] Cyprus President: T/C leader's letter to UNSG causes grave concern
  • [41] Cyprus pledges to do everything to facilitate economic aid for TCs
  • [42] Government says Turkish military exercise is held in international waters Politics

  • [01] Commission will recommend on May 16 Greece's exit from excessive deficit procedure, Almunia says

    EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia on Monday said the European Commission will recommend on May 16 that Greece, Germany and Malta exit an excessive deficit procedure.

    Speaking to reporters, presenting the EU executive's spring economic forecasts, Almunia said the Commission expected Greece's fiscal deficit to remain below the 3.0 pct limit for both this year and 2008. The EU Commissioner noted, however, that Greece and Italy should make more efforts to reduce their public debt.

    Greece's general government deficit outcome for 2006 was 2.6 percent of GDP, including one-off revenues of 0.6 percentage point of GDP, the Commission said in its spring economic forecasts for Greece.

    The report said the Greek deficit should decline by 1/4 percentage point of GDP to 2.4 pct this year.

    Economic growth is projected to accelerate over the forecast horizon, with real GDP growing at around 3-3/4 in both 2007 and 2008. It is the first time since 2004, when the Commission begun excessive deficit procedures against the country, that the Commission forecasts a fiscal deficit below the 3.0 pct Maastricht Treaty for three successive years. The Commission noted that this estimates were based on the old GDP series and not on the revised GDP data reported by the Greek authorities in the EDP notification tables in April 2007. The Commission stressed that Eurostat was still undergoing complete examination of revised GDP figures. "Should the Eurostat examination confirm in full the 26 percent upward revision of nominal GDP figures, the denominator effect of a higher GDP would reduce the deficit just below 2.0 pct. However, the revision would lead to a permanent increase of Greece's contribution to the EU budget and this would result in a deficit close to, but below, 3.0 pct of GDP," the report said.

    The Commission said Greece's public debt was 104.6 pct of GDP last year and said it expected the debt to ease to 100.9 pct in 2007 and to 97.6 pct in 2008. Greek inflation stood at 3.3 pct in 2006 and was forecast to ease to 3.2 pct this year and 3.1 pct in 2008, while unemployment is projected to fall to 8.5 pct in 2007 and 8.1 pct in 2008, from 8.9 pct last year.

    The Commission said a decline of the fiscal deficit to 2.6 pct of GDP in 2006 reflected payments and deferred payments by banks in exchange of the assumption by social security of pension commitments. For 2007, the deficit should decline by 0.25 pct to 2.4 pct of GDP, including one-off revenues of 0.5 pct. Total expenditures are projected to decrease by around 0.5 pct of GDP, mainly driven by lower interest expenditure, public consumption and investment. The structural balance would improve by 0.5 pct of GDP. Under the assumption of unchanged policies, the 2008 deficit would be about 2-3/4 pct of GDP.

    Prospects for 2007 and 2008

    Economic growth is projected to decelerate over teh forecast horizon, with real GDP growing at around 3-3/4 pct in both 2007 and 2008. Changes in the growth composition compared with the 2006 outcome are expected to be marginal, except investment growth, which foreseen to trend down, returning smoothly to historical levels. Economic activity is likely to remain almost exclusively domestic-demand-driven. Rising interest rate expectations and more moderate wage growth are expected to outweigh positive developments in employment and direct income tax cuts, thus inducing a marginal slowdown in private consumption growth to 3.5 pct per year until 2008. Government consumption growth is expected to move closer to GDP growth. Domestic demand is forecast to contribut about 4.0 per year to GDP growth. On the external front, imports are projected to keep pace with domestic demand, while economic competitiveness is likely to worsen, consequently slow down exports of goods. Export of services are expected to retain a strong growth rate.

    Activity in 2006

    The Commission said economic activity accelerated to 4.25 pct last year from 3.75 pct in 2005. Private consumption remained robust while invement bounced sharply up in 2006 and was largely responsible for the buoyancy of domestic demand. The contribution of public consumption to GDP growth was marginal, reflecting fiscal consolidation efforts. The reforms in real estate taxation sustained credit expansion and still very low real interest rates induced the strong acceleration recorded by residential investment. The sustained performance of exports of goods, as well as the rebound in tourism and transportation sectors, were more than outweighed by the strong import increase, thus the external sector contributed negatively to growth.

    Labour market, costs and prices

    In line with economic activity, employment grew by 1.5 pct in 2006. At 6.0 pct, nominal wage growth was well above harmonised inflation (3.25 pct), which, along with productivity growth at 2-3/4 pct kept on pushing unit labour cost growth above that of the euro area. The country's competitive position would further deteriorate, although the differential with the euro area in terms of unit labour costs growth would be lower, the report said.

    [02] FinMin satisfied with European Commission's spring economic predictions for Greece

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis on Monday expressed his satisfaction over the content of the European Commission's spring economic predictions for Greece.

    Speaking on arrival at the Eurogroup's meeting and commenting on the announcement made by Commissioner Joaquin Almunia that he will be presenting his proposal on Greece's exit from the excessive deficit process on May 16, Alogoskoufis said that "it is an encouraging fact that the European Commission recognises the great efforts that have been made in Greece to decrease the fiscal deficit and for the structural reforms, which resulted in this deficit decrease to be accompanied by a strong economic growth and a decrease in unemployment."

    Alogoskoufis added that Greece is entitled to exit from the excessive deficit process, but pointed out that "we still have ground to cover." The finance minister referred in particular to the revision of the goal set by the Greek authorities for balanced budgets by 2010 and the important reforms that must be carried out in the Greek economy to strengthen economic growth, to tackle the problem of unemployment more effectively and "to enable us to utilise the great possibilities that the Greek economy has without shortcomings."

    [03] Opposition parties comment on Greek economy's impending exit from supervision

    Opposition parties on Monday commented on the Greek economy's impending exit from supervision, expressing doubts as to what will be in store for the Greek people.

    "It is pleasant that the country is exiting from supervision. PASOK and George Papandreou pressured in this direction. The truth, however, is that the government placed the country under supervsion with the false data from the audit and it is taking us out again in an artificial way. What is worse is that the exit from supervision does not entail anything positive for the Greek family," said main opposition PASOK party finance rapporteur Vasso Papandreou.

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said "whether Greece exits from supervision or remains, a reason is always found for social benefits to be reduced, for education not to be financed and for social rights to be taken away from working people. Consequently, the fate of the people, of education and of youth has nothing to do with the various arithmetical goals of the European union. It has to do with opposing and breaking away from them."

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) economic and social policy rapporteur Panayiotis Lafazanis said on his part that "the exiting of the Greek economy from EU supervision, apart from the fact that it is the result of creative accounting measures to a considerable degree, will bring nothing good for the world of salaried labour and for the retired from work," claiming that the Greek economy will exit from EU supervision "to enter a new and tougher one aimed at eliminating the budget deficit by 2010, for which the government has undertaken commitments."

    [04] PM meets visiting Russian deputy premier

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday received Russia's First Deputy Premier Sergey Ivanov, who is currently on a visit to Greece. Their talks focused on bilateral relations and current affairs in the surrounding region, but they also devoted some time to last night's Euroleague Basketball final, where Athens' Panathinaikos beat CSKA Moscow to earn the club's fourth Euroleague Final Four championship victory.

    In banter before the camera, Ivanov told the Greek premier that he had seen the game and noted that it had been very good.

    No statements were made after the meeting.

    [05] Dep. FM Kassimis meets with visiting South Australian premier Rann

    Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis and South Australia Premier Michael Rann focused on an upcoming visit of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to Australia, during a meeting in Athens on Monday.

    Kassimis expressed his thanks for Rann's continuous support of various Greek positions on the international stage, particularly for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, while noting that he is also highly supportive of the expatriate Greek community in South Australia.

    Rann referred to the upcoming visit of Karamanlis to Adelaide, pointing out that he will speed up his visit to the United Kingdom to return to the South Australian capital in time to personally welcome the Greek prime minister.

    [06] Karamanlis meets with Cyprus' Christofias

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday met here with Cypriot House Speaker Demetris Christofias for talks on the Cyprus problem and EU-related issues. No statements were made after the meeting.

    Afterwards, Christofias, who is also the Left AKEL party general secretary, termed his meetings with Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis as important, cordial and substantive.

    Following his meeting with Bakoyannis, he told reporters that they reviewed developments in Turkey and discussed the critical situation in the neighboring country.

    Christofias expressed a view that "moderate Islam" has to be supported to prevent the domination of the military establishment in Turkey and to avoid a setback in the Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue. For the Cypriot people is a matter of survival, he stressed.

    Christofias also expressed a hope for further democratisation in Turkey.

    [07] Cyprus House speaker meets SYN's Alavanos

    Both Greece and Cyprus must carefully study the new state of affairs created by the election of Nicolas Sarkozy in France and developments in Turkey, Coalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN) party president Alekos Alavanos said on Monday after meeting visiting Cyprus House Speaker Demetris Christofias.

    Commenting on events in Turkey, Alavanos stressed that every departure from Parliamentarism and democracy created greater obstacles to resolving the Cyprus issue and resolving problems with Greece, while he also pointed to Sarkozy's objections to Turkey joining the EU.

    These developments had to be considered in order to design a programme for interventions and initiatives, he added.

    Christofias said that there was a common concern over these issues and an identity of views with Alavanos and with other officials that he had spoken to in Athens.

    Commenting on the election result in France, Alavanos said that these were a "defeat for the radical Left" that had been apparent in the first round.

    "This defeat is linked to its multiple fragmentation. We believe that there is a road for regrouping for the French Left and this passes only through common action, unity and solidarity. For a Left - whether in France, in Greece, in Europe or in Latin America - that does not want to be marginal or quaint, which wants to be a power to be reckoned with, common action is the only way," he stressed.

    [08] Cyprus House of Representatives speaker addresses Cypriot students

    Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker and Secretary General of the Greek Cypriot Leftist AKEL party Demetris Christofias addressed an event organised on Monday by the Progressive Students Movement and the Democratic Movement of Cypriot working people in Athens, stressing that the essence of the Cyprus issue lies in the conflict between the people of Cyprus in their entirety, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, on the one hand and imperialist interventions on the other that led to occupation, it lies in the invasion and occupation by Turkey of a large part of the Republic of Cyprus.

    Christofias further said that the national chauvinist Right in both communities combatted the prospect of the mass political struggle that created the preconditions for the joint effort to shake off colonialism and to exercise the right of self determination.

    He added that precisely this allowed the British imperialists to divide the popular front, implementing a policy of "divide and rule." AKEL and the Left replied to chauvinism and nationalism with a policy of fraternisation and cooperation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

    [09] PM congratulates Sarkozy on election victory

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday sent a message congratulating newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy on his victory during the final round of the presidential election held in France on Sunday.

    Karamanlis noted the warm relations between Greece and France, as well as the close ties between Greece's ruling New Democracy party and the right-wing UMP party headed by Sarkozy and his own warm relations with the new French president.

    The Greek prime minister expressed his conviction that "these traditionally close ties of cooperation and friendship between our two countries will be strengthened further and we will have an opportunity to work together on a bilateral level but also within the European Union".

    Asked how Athens views Sarkozy's position on Turkey, meanwhile, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stressed that the government had repeatedly stated its position regarding Turkey's European prospects.

    [10] Bakoyannis on Sarkozy election, Turkey

    Welcoming the election of Nicolas Sarkozy in France as a sign of "the return of politics in France", Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Monday stressed that Greece did not necessarily share his views regarding Turkey. She was speaking after a press conference held to announce details of her upcoming trip to China.

    According to Bakoyannis, Sarkozy's election showed that French voters desired political change and politics based on specific issues rather than broad generalities.

    "I believe in clearcut political speech. I do not consider that the 'rounded' political speech that has now become established can be the policy of tomorrow. The politician has an obligation to clearly state his views. It is important that citizens know what they can expect from us," she said.

    Regarding Sarkozy's position on Turkey, however, she stressed that Greece remains firm in supporting the need to send a message to Turkey that would "encourage reforms, its democratic prospects and the need to meet EU requirements".

    Asked whether Greece was concerned that recent developments in Turkey might adversely affect its relations with Greece and its European prospects, the minister only replied that Athens was watching developments closely and "hoped democracy would be the major winner", stressing that a democratic, stable and European Turkey was in Greece's best interests.

    She also stressed Greece's dedication to supporting Turkey's European course, even if the climate in Europe toward Turkey was not that favourable.

    "Greece has a steady policy, according to which it would be good for the wider Balkans, including Turkey, to belong to Europe. This is the policy that we support. Of course, we do not at all underestimate the concerns of European leaderships and societies but the issue will be answered in the long run and this is how we must see it," she said.

    Bakoyannis also underlined that the interests of Greece and Cyprus coincided with a European prospect for Turkey.

    Commenting on Turkey's latest actions in the Aegean, however, the minister underlined that Greece was not prepared to negotiate concerning its territorial rights and would defend them "in all directions, with friends and partners".

    [11] Foreign minister comments on visit to China

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed during a press conference on Monday that her visit to China for the 35th anniversary since Greece and China established diplomatic relations would be an excellent opportunity to strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation on all levels.

    Bakoyannis is scheduled to depart for Shanghai at the head of a business delegation, accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis and foreign ministry general secretary Theodoros Skylakakis.

    The effort to promote bilateral relations will focus on shipping, tourism, cooperation in alternative energy sources and promoting Greek exports to China.

    The 35 years of Greek-Chinese diplomatic relations will be celebrating in Beijing on May 11 with a concert in the 'Forbidden City' featuring popular Greek singer Alkistis Protopsalti, who was also present during the press conference on Monday.

    [12] Papandreou again reiterates call for early elections

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou again issued his call for the government to declare early elections, this time speaking on Monday from the northeast border city of Komotini.

    In an address to his party's affiliated youth group, PASP, Papandreou charged that the government is not capable of governing, while he expressed optimism that his party will win the next elections, which he called a "great democratic referendum".

    Among others, he also detailed what he said were the differences between the "progressive" and "conservative" schools of thought vis--vis, among others, globalization, dialogue between civilisations and restrictions to civil rights under the guise of dealing with terrorism.

    "We socialists are building bridges of life and understanding; we are in favor of pre-emptive diplomacy instead of pre-emptive war; in favor of dialogue instead of extremism..." he said.

    In returning to his criticism of the government, he said it has not pushed forth any reforms or substantive upgrading in any sector.

    Turning to education issues, he promised 5 percent of GDP for the education sector if PASOK is elected, as well as autonomy for Greece's numerous universities and tertiary technological institutes and an evaluation process for such schools.

    Finally, he again criticised the government and PM Costas Karamanlis personally over the ongoing bonds affair related to alleged mismanagement of various state-run pension funds' investments and reserves.

    Gov't spokesman comments

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Monday evening commented on a speech given by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou, in Komotini, northern Greece, earlier in the day.

    Roussopulos said that Papandreou "every day increases the height of the bar of his irresponsibility. Today he surpassed it, attempting to also draw into the strategy of polarisation and tension, which leads to impasse, young people who are struggling for a better tomorrow, who deserve a new political culture."

    The government spokesman noted that "Mr. Papandreou is free to make any choice he believes it serves him. The Greeks judge and when the time of elections comes, they will disappoint him."

    [13] President observes Greek army exercises in Xanthi

    President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias on Monday observed a military exercise held near Petrochori in Xanthi, northern Greece that involved the Greek Army, the Army's Air Force and Greek Air Force planes.

    Afterward, he expressed complete satisfaction and pride in the very high state of readiness of the Greek armed forces, congratulating the tank crews that took part for their very good training, morale and operational readiness.

    He also lavished praise on the families of armed forces officers for the support that they gave Greece's fighting forces, emphasising the important role of spouses that cared for the homes and families of military personnel that were often far from home.

    Papoulias hailed the Greek army's high efficiency as a deterrent force and as a body for promoting peace and its ideals and noted that Greece extended a hand of cooperation to all its neighbours.

    "The Armed Forces, the political world, the Greek people want peace and seek peace. I believe that this message will be understood by all our neighbours," Papoulias added.

    Monday's exercise was based on a scenario calling for the destruction of a bridge created by the "enemy" and a plan for pushing back from Greek territory. It involved the participation of 'Leopard' tanks, Apache combat helicopters and two F-16 fighter planes.

    After the exercise was completed, the President was given the role of captain and gunner on a Leopard tank, successfully firing five shots.

    He was accopanied on the trip by Deputy National Defence Minister Yiannis Lambropoulos.

    [14] Roussopoulos on police work, Polydoras

    Government spokesman Theodoros Rousopoulos on Monday stressed that police work is very difficult, in response to a question concerning the arson attack targeting a police patrol car in Thessaloniki earlier on Monday.

    He stressed that in certain cases police performance is very good and in others less successful, adding that this can happen in any line of work.

    The government spokesman stated that the people watching police being constantly criticized for actions taken or not taken realize that the confrontation going on frequently creates false impressions.

    He responded negatively when asked if the prime minister is displeased with Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras.

    The government spokesman also stated that he is not aware of whether the prime minister had contacted Polydoras after the controversial statement made by the minister in parliament, when he described his stint at the ministry's helm as "serving a sentence". Rousopoulos added, however, that the prime minister has very frequent communication with his ministers.

    [15] Papariga condemns actions of hooded anarchist youths

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga on Monday condemned the actions of various self-styled anarchist youth groups in Greece's major urban areas, saying such activity merely provide Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras an alibi to suggest the use of plastic bullets.

    Papariga, who spoke at a press conference in the northern city of Serres, stressed that only a strong popular movement using well-founded arguments against the competitive policy of the two major political parties will bring results.

    Regarding the likelihood of early elections, Papariga stated that putting elections on the forefront displays a lack of willingness to deal with existing problems.

    She added that main opposition PASOK party keeps calling for early elections due to a lack of arguments, adding that its leader is only interested in forming a government to continue the same anti-popular policy and not in solving existing problems.

    Papariga also criticised the two major parties, ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK, for essentially sharing the same foreign policy.

    Financial News

    [16] Tourist season off to strong start, tourism minister informs PM

    In a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday, Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia reported that this year's tourist season had kicked off earlier and more strongly than in previous years.

    "This means we have to stay alert and mobilise the entire state mechanism, but the prospects are very good for this year also. I think that this will be the third consecutive year that we will have increased traffic during the summer - and not only then - but also increased foreign exchange from tourism," she underlined.

    Pointing out that tourism contributed over one billion euros a month to the Greek economy, Petralia expressed certainty that this figure would be even greater in 2007.

    She noted that her ministry's coordination with other ministries, with local authorities and tourism bodies over the past months had yielded the sought-after results, leading to a collective, cooperative approach by all involved in generating Greece's tourist product.

    "Our message for this year's tourist season is: 'Safe, friendly, clean environment'. This means safety during one's stay, hospitality and quality services," Petralia stressed.

    Asked to comment on Greece's anticipated exit from the excessive deficit procedure, the minister underlined that this was very important for the country and a great success for the government but not necessarily linked to early elections.

    "I would say that it inspires us to work even harder until the time of the elections," she added.

    [17] PM to speak at opening session of SETE general meeting

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is due to address the opening session of the 15th General Meeting of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) at the Athens Concert Hall on Tuesday night.

    [18] Development Ministry SG visits Egypt

    Development Ministry Secretary General Nikos Stefanou recently visited Egypt where he met with Deputy Oil Minister Abdella Ghorab and EGAS company officials.

    The broadening of bilateral energy cooperation in the sectors of natural gas and oil, but also the support of the business presence in Egypt of Greek companies active in the sector of research and the exploitation of hydrocarbons, constituted the purpose of the visit.

    The meeting, which was attended by senior officials of the Hellenic Petroleum company, the Vardinoyiannis Group and of the Public Gas Supply Corporation of Greece (DEPA), was held in continuation of the Cooperation Memorandum for energy cooperation between the two countries in the sector of natural gas and oil, which was signed in Cairo on May 2006.

    [19] Greek economic sentiment index up in April

    Greece's economic sentiment index jumped by almost three points in April to 112 points, from 109.1 points in March, remaining above the long-term average and sharply up compared with April 2006, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Monday.

    In its monthly economic conjucture, IOBE said the improvement reflected improved optimism in manufacturing and retail sectors, while economic sentiment worsened slightly in services and construction sectors, while consumer confidence fell.

    Positive forecasts over production and orders outlook supported a climate of optimism in the manufacturing sector, while reverses were down in April, while in the retail sector, business expectations were up. On the other hand, in the services sector, expectations over demand eased in April and in the construction sector forecasts over employment and project growth were slightly down.

    The consumer confidence index fell to -32 points in April from -29 in March. Greeks remained pessimistic for one more month, although the index was significantly up compared with its reading in April 2006. Greek households were more pessimistic over their financial health, while saving showed a slight improvement.

    [20] Greek closed-end investment funds' assets slightly up in April

    Greek-listed closed-end investment funds' net assets rose 0.6 pct in April to 393 million euros, from 391 million euros a month earlier, the Association of Institutional Investors said on Monday.

    The average numerical return of the sector was 4.92 pct in 2007, while the average weighed yield of the sector was 6.10 pct over the same period. All closed-end investment funds showed positive internal value returns, ranging from 1.96 pct to 9.87 pct, while the average discount of the sector was -20.41 pct. All eight investment funds were traded at a discount in April, ranging from 12.09 pct to 27.39 pct.

    [21] J&P-Avax SA to build 9.05-mln-euro five-star hotel for Handris Hotels

    J&P-Avax SA on Monday announced the signing of a contract, worth 9.05 million euros, with Handris Hotels SA, for the building of a five-star hotel in Thessaloniki.

    The 403-bed hotel will be build in western Thessaloniki near the city's port. The project is expected to be ready in eight months.

    [22] InterBalkan Forum of Bank Associations meeting in Sofia

    Hellenic Bank Association presided the 7th members' meeting of the Interbalkan Forum of Banking Associations in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Forum brought together bank associations from Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Boznia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and Slovenia.

    The Forum was founded in 2004 on the initiative of the Hellenic Bank Association and meets at secretary-general level of its members. It goal is to exchange information on an institutional level, mutual support and cooperation in financial issues and education in banking matters.

    The agenda of the meeting in Sofia included developments of the Bulgarian economy and of the country's banking system, in which Greek banks are the biggest investors, and of issues related with payment systems. Christos Gortsos, HBA's secretary-general and president of the Forum, made an overview of developments in European regulatory framework covering all sectors of financial services. The Forum also presented comparative figures by member-states over existing saving guarantees and consumer protection systems and regulations.

    Ivan Iskrov, the governor of central bank of Bulgaria, speaking to representatives of the Forum -during a visit to the central bank's headquarters in Sofia- referred to Bulgaria's entry in the European Union and the course of the country's economy. The Bulgarian banker noted that the economy was growing strong, at an average annual rate of 5.0 pct in the last six years, and enjoyed a fiscal stability.

    The Forum will soon publish a report, in English, offering a comparative presentation of banking systems of the countries participating in the Forum, while it is expected to launch in website (http://www.interbalkanforum.net) over the next few days.

    The next meetings of the Forum will take place in October 2007 in Greece and in Montenegro in spring 2008. The members of the Forum unanimously approved a three-year extension of the Greek presidency.

    [23] Govt to table MiFID directive to Parliament in next few weeks

    Procedures to completing the operation of a Semi-regulated Market in the Athens Stock Exchange are expected to be completed by the end of 2007, Alexios Pilavios, chairman of the Capital Markets Commission said on Monday.

    Addressing an event in Thessaloniki, organized by the Greek market watchdog and the Association of Northern Greece Industries, Pilavios said the operation of this market was essential for the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises and for the economy as well, while he noted that a community directive on the introduction of MiFID would be tabled to Parliament in the next few weeks.

    "A directive on transparency and financial reports of listed companies was approved by Parliament and now we must integrate MiFID, completing a range of EU directives covering the Greek capital market," Pilavios said.

    [24] Greek bond prices down in April

    Greek state bond returns rose across the yield curve in April in the Greek electronic secondary bond market, following a similar trend in other Eurozone markets, with the three-year and the 10-year bonds recording the biggest monthly increases.

    The three-year and 10-year benchmark bonds saw their returns rise by 15 basis points, to 4.23 pct and 4.45 pct respectively, from 4.08 pct and 4.30 pct at the end of March. The 30-year benchmark bond's return rose 12 bps to 4.71 pct. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds eased to 24 basis points in April from 25 bps in March.

    Bond prices fell by 24 to 193 bps in April, with the 30-year bond ending at 97.99 from 99.92 in March, while the 10-year bond price ended April at 98.73 from 99.95 in March.

    Turnover in the Greek bond market totaled 58.98 billion euros in April, from 62.51 billion in March and 42.42 billion in April 2006. Average daily turnover rose to 3.10 billion euros, from 2.84 billion in March, with investment interest focusing on bonds with a maturity of seven to 15 years, which accounted for 36.53 billion euros or 62 pct of total turnover.

    The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a monthly turnover of 22 billion euros.

    [25] Greek stocks up 0.51 pct on Monday

    Greek stocks rose on Monday pushing the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange above the 4,800 level. The index ended 0.51 percent up to 4,820.06 points, with turnover a low 217 million euros.

    Sector indices moved higher with the Industrial Products (1.38 pct), Raw Materials (1.34 pct) and Commerce (0.86 pct) scoring the biggest percentage points of the day, while the Constructions (0.72 pct), Healthcare (0.54 pct) and Utilities (0.45 pct) suffered losses.

    The Big Cap index rose 0.35 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.52 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.61 pct.

    Marfin Financial Group (20 pct), Ideal (19.87 pct) and Mathios (13.85 pct) were top gainers, while Desmos (16.67 pct) and Zampa (7.72 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly advancers led decliners by 124 to 118 with another 70 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.55%

    Industrials: +1.38%

    Commercial: +0.86%

    Construction: -0.72%

    Media: +0.63%

    Oil & Gas: -0.17%

    Personal & Household: +0.55%

    Raw Materials: +1.34%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.33%

    Technology: +0.07%

    Telecoms: +0.82%

    Banks: +0.43%

    Food & Beverages: +0.14%

    Health: -0.54%

    Utilities: -0.45%

    Chemicals: +0.45%

    Financial Services: +0.76%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 22.48

    ATEbank: 3.90

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 19.66

    HBC Coca Cola: 34.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 11.22

    Emporiki Bank: 22.20

    National Bank of Greece: 41.78

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 29.98

    Intralot: 22.86

    Cosmote: 23.54

    OPAP: 28.32

    OTE: 22.40

    Titan Cement Company: 43.00

    [26] Foreign Exchange Rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.372

    Pound sterling 0.687

    Danish kroner 7.511

    Swedish kroner 9.238

    Japanese yen 164.62

    Swiss franc 1.660

    Norwegian kroner 8.187

    Cyprus pound 0.587

    Canadian dollar 1.514

    Australian dollar 1.661

    General News

    [27] ANA-MPA on strike Tuesday

    The Athens News Agency-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) service will not operate on Tuesday due a strike declared by the Athens Journailists' Union (ESHEA). The strike is from 6 a.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday.

    Taking part in the strike will be journalists of all the mass media (Press, journalistic site and Portal, Radio and Television Stations), the Press Offices, state-run Greek Radio and Television (ERT), businesses of the broader public sector and the Greek public sector. ANA-MPA will not broadcast news during this time.

    According to an ESHEA announcement, the journalists demand the "immediate return of the money which was given for the purchase of the bond with the legitimate interest rates and the yields of the capital which was allotted, the safeguarding of the autonomy and operation of the Funds with elected Administrations and Social control, the full securing of the Funds' reserves with a stable and guaranteed in advance yield, the full clearing up of this unprecedented matter with the revealing of any civil or penal responsibilities and the immediate solution of the problem of the contract staff at ERT."

    [28] British Museum rules out return of all Parthenon Marbles

    LONDON (ANA-MPA - L. Tsirigotakis)

    The British Museum on Monday ruled out the return to Greece of "all" the Parthenon Marbles, in an announcement issued after last week's meeting between Greek and UK culture ministry officials in the presence of UNESCO representatives.

    According to the announcement, the museum considers the Parthenon Marbles an inseparable part of its collection on the cultures of the world that the museum has on display and can therefore "not consider the possibility of returning to Athens all the sculptures of the Parthenon".

    The announcement ends, however, by stressing the importance of dialogue and calls for continuing "friendly discussion with out Greek colleagues" in order to explore whether there are "reasonable grounds" for finding a way forward.

    Representatives of the Greek and UK culture ministries met in London in the presence of two UNESCO representatives last Friday.

    [29] Thessaloniki International Book Fair to open doors on May 17

    The 4th Thessaloniki International Book Fair will open its doors on May 17 and will last until May 20, under the slogan "Appetite comes by reading". The Greek culture ministry will grant a 900,000 euros subsidy derived from the "Culture" operational programme.

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias is due to inaugurate the fair, in which 400 publishing houses from 47 countries will exhibit their books. One hundred Greek and foreign authors will also be present at the fair.

    Christos Zachopoluos, culture ministry secretary general, told a press conference in Thessaloniki on Monday that the fair constituted a "national cultural event for the book, an indispensable tool for Greek professionals and an international happening." He also underlined that "Greek authors find, through the culture ministry's and the Greek Book Centre's (EKEBI) activities, support, encouragement and recognition."

    "In 2006 we had an 8 per cent increase in book editions reaching 9,200 titles," he said, adding that, despite the increase, book-reading remained at the same relatively low levels as, according to an EKEBI report two years ago, "one out of two Greeks never opens a single book."

    [30] Greek painters to exhibit their work in London

    Twelve Greek painters will be exhibiting their in the Belgravia Gallery, in the region of Mayfair in London, between May 10-31.

    The painters who will be exhibiting their work in the Belgravia Gallery are Daphne Angelidou, Chrysa Vergi, Alexis Varoukas, Erietta Vorthoni, Kostis Georgiou, Giorgos Golfinos, Stefanos Daskalakis, Manolis Zacharioudakis, Irini Iliopoulou, Pavlos Samios, Maria Filopoulou and Manolis Haros.

    Approximately the same group had also presented their work in Florida in 2004 and in New York in 2006, under the characteristic title of "Reflections I & II."

    The exhibition's inauguration on May 10 is expected to be attended by both British and Greek art enthusiasts, as well as by admirers of modern Greek art from such countries as the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.

    [31] Hellenism honours its dead at Mauthausen

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    The memory of the 3,700 Greeks who lost their lives at the Nazi concentration camp of Mauthausen in Upper Austria during World War II, was honoured on Sunday by representatives of the Greek state, a delegation of the Greek Parliament, Greek mass agencies but also by many members of the Greek community in Austria, at a ceremony at the Greek Monument at Mauthausen.

    The wish for such a crime not to ever be repeated in the history of mankind, prevailed in speeches made at the Greek Monument at Mauthausen by deputies Alexandros Dermetzopoulos (New Democracy) and by Panagiotis Kossionis (Communist Party of Greece), as well as by Greek Ambassador in Austria, Theodoros Sotiropoulos. Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy Stylianos Matzapetakis, who took part in the delegation of the Greek Parliament, was finally unable to attend the ceremony due to a sudden illness he had in Vienna.

    The concentration camp at Mauthausen was created by the German Nazis in 1938, initially to transfer prisoners there from the Dachau concentration camp. Until its liberation by the allied troops on May 5, 1945, more than 206,000 prisoners from all over Europe, witnessed incredible inhumanity there. For the 122,797 of them, among them 3,700 Greeks, the liberation came too late as they died in the crematoriums of Mauthausen.

    [32] Athens prosecutor proposes 39 life counts, 6,604 years in jail for 12 N17 group defendants

    An Athens prosecutor on Monday proposed sentences in the retrial of the November 17 group issue, suggesting a total of 39 life counts, prison terms totalling 6,604 years and fines amounting to 103,500 euros for 12 defendants found guilty.

    The heaviest sentence was proposed for Alexandros Yiotopoulos with 17 life counts, 1,865 years in prison and a fine of 35,700 euros. In the first trial, Yiotopoulos had been handed down 21 life counts, 2,109 years in jail and a fine of 21,000 euros.

    The second heaviest senetence was proposed for Dimitris Koufontinas with 11 life counts, 1,751 years in prison and a fine of 36,800 euros. In the first trial, he had been given 13 life counts, 1,965 years in jail and a fine of 23,500 euros.

    As regards Savvas Xiros, the 13th defendant, who has not appealed his initial conviction, the prosecutor proposed that changes in certain charges leading to a decrease in sentences for certain acts should be extended to him as well.

    After the prosecutor made her proposals, the Athens appeals court adjourned until Wednesday when it will be expected to announce its decision on the sentences to be handed down to the defendants found guilty.

    [33] Moderate quake jolts Zakynthos early Monday

    A moderate earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale was recorded in the sea region southwest of the Ionian island of Zakynthos at 4:34 a.m. (02.34 GMT) on Monday.

    According to a Thessaloniki University geophysics laboratory, the quake's epicentre was located 23 kilometres off the coast of Zakynthos.

    [34] Immigrant smuggler arrested on Samos

    The Samos coast guard on Monday arrested a Moroccan man while he was transporting 21 illegal immigrants of various nationalities to the island from the shores of Turkey.

    He was led before a public prosecutor to be charged, while the illegal immigrants were taken to the island's hospital for a medical check-up and then to the island's illegal immigrant reception centre.

    [35] Drug smuggling arrests in northern Greece

    Three foreign nationals, allegedly members of an international drug ring, were arrested over the weekend in the Strimonikos region in Serres, northern Greece, on drug smuggling charges.

    Specifically, police said the suspects planted significant caches of drugs at specific spots along various national motorways meant for pickup by accomplices at a later date.

    Police discovered a total of five packages of heroin weighing 719 grams and two packages with 326 grams of cocaine planted under billboards along the Thessaloniki-Kavala highway.

    Meanwhile, a total of 28 people were arrested in the month of April in Thessaloniki on drug-related charges.

    Police seized more than four kilos of heroin, 200 grams of cocaine, roughly four kilos of cannabis and 1,325 narcotic pills.

    [36] Police patrol car torched

    A police patrol car parked near Thessaloniki's Aristotle University was set ablaze in the early afternoon on Monday.

    No injuries were reported and according to the fire brigade the patrol car was most likely the target of an arson attack.

    Weather forecast

    [37] Mostly overcast on Tuesday

    Mostly overcast weather is forecast throughout most of the country on Tuesday. Scattered showers in central Macedonia, Thrace and Crete. Slight drop in temperatures, ranging from 9C and 28C. Winds, westerly, northwesterly, light to moderate.

    Partly cloudy in Athens, with temperatures ranging between 15C and 28C. Same in Thessaloniki and temperatures ranging from 14C to 25C.

    [38] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The election of Nicolas Sarkozy to the French presidency dominated the front pages of Monday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Elections talk without ruling out likelihood of government reshuffle"

    APOGEVMATINI: "Sweeping victory by centre-right in France - Triumph by Sarkozy in second round with 53.69 percent of the vote"

    AVRIANI: "A radio station owner, the treasurer of a football club and the owner of a major car dealership masterminded trafficking of 25 kilos of cocaine"

    CHORA: "The (farmers' fund) OGA pension raised from 270 euros to 330 euros for 65-year-olds"

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Adnan Menderes' ghosts loom over Bosporus following Gul's second failed attempt to become president (of Turkey)"

    ELEFTHEROS: "Elections' scent in the air - Election time is still undetermined"

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "From May of '68 to Sarkozy's May - French election results cause upset in Europe"

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The French voted for a male Thatcher - Sarkozy was persuasive, Royal maintained high voter support"

    ESTIA: "Easy victory by Nicolas Sarkozy"

    ETHNOS: "28,216 civil servants held hostage - Scandalous agreement between JP Morgan and Trust and Loans Fund"

    TA NEA: "Appeal to Vyron Polydoras to stay in post - (Prime Minister Costas) Karamanlis fears heroic exodus"

    VRADYNI: "Sarkozy's victory a blow for Turkey - Wind of change in France freezes Ankara"

    Cyprus Affairs

    [39] Cyprus President congratulates France's new President

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has sent a letter to Nicolas Sarkozy, congratulating him for his election as new President of the French Republic, Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis said here Monday.

    According to the spokesman, in his letter, Papadopoulos after congratulating Sarkozy, ''expresses the conviction that the friendly relations between France and Cyprus will be promoted even further and that the close cooperation between the two countries would be expanded in all fields.''

    Invited to comment on Sarkozy's position that Turkey should be granted a special partnership with the EU and not the status of full member, Pashiardis said that the Cypriot government will not comment on the policy of any European country towards Turkey's accession prospects.

    ''It is up to Turkey itself to prove with actions and not words that it is entitled to receive a European identity and this proof depends on Ankara's full compliance with the European prerequisites and its response with its European obligations and commitments,'' the spokesman concluded.

    Cyprus, an EU member state since May 1 2004, has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    Turkey, a country aspiring to become an EU member state, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus and refuses to implement the EU-Turkey Customs Union Protocol, which provides for the opening of its ports and airports to Cyprus.

    [40] Cyprus President: T/C leader's letter to UNSG causes grave concern

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos expressed here Monday grave concern over Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat's letter to the UN Secretary-General calling for the complete overhaul of the July 8 2006 agreement, aiming to address substantive and day-to-day issues of the Cyprus problem.

    Receiving the credentials of South Africa's new High Commissioner to Cyprus Mandisa Dona Marasha, Papadopoulos reiterated his government's commitment to the immediate implementation of the July 8 agreement which is fully supported by the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

    ''It is therefore of grave concern that in his 3 April 2007 letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Talat, has called for its complete overhaul,'' the president added, noting that ''we are continuing our efforts towards the implementation of the 8 July Process, which we believe can create the dynamic necessary for the solution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of the principles agreed to on 8 July 2006.''

    Papadopoulos also reiterated the Cyprus continues to support the European orientation of Turkey, provided that the Turkish government fulfils all the contractual obligations it has undertaken vis-a-vis the EU and its member states.

    ''A first step in this direction would be for Turkey to proceed, without further delay, with the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement, the opening of its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels, as well as the termination of its blocking of Cyprus' membership to international and regional organisations,'' the president pointed out.

    He also recalled that this policy of the European Union and of its member states was reiterated in the Conclusions of the European Council of 15 December 2006, when it was decided that eight of the 35 chapters will be 'frozen', that Turkey's accession process will be delayed, and that the 'opening' of all the remaining chapters will be decided upon unanimously by the member states at intergovernmental level, with each member state retaining the right to block the opening of any chapter on technical grounds.

    ''Cyprus'', he added, ''will consider its stand regarding the opening of each chapter in light of Turkey's performance of its obligations towards the European Union and Cyprus in the European and other fora.''

    Presenting her credentials, Marasha said that South Africa supports efforts to secure full implementation of all United Nations resolutions on Cyprus and to this end, wishes to emphasize the important role of the United Nations to secure a just and workable solution for the island and its people.

    ''The South Africa Government encourages Greek and Turkish Cypriots to find their own peaceful solution to the dispute. South Africa urges the leaders of the two communities to again take up dialogue and to allow and encourage bi-communal meetings and not to take any actions that would impede or jeopardize direct talks by any means,'' she concluded.

    On July 8 2006, Papadopoulos and Talat at the presence of the then UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrabim Gambari reached an agreement providing for the concurrent establishment of working groups to address substantive aspects of the Cyprus problem and technical committees to deal with the day-to-day problems that affect the people, as well as Confidence Building Measures.

    Cyprus, an EU member state since May 1 2004, has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    Turkey, a country aspiring to become an EU member state, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus and refuses to implement the EU-Turkey Customs Union Protocol, which provides for the opening of its ports and airports to Cyprus.

    [41] Cyprus pledges to do everything to facilitate economic aid for TCs

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The Cyprus government is ready and willing to do everything possible to facilitate economic aid for Turkish Cypriots, following, without doubt, all legal procedures, pledged, here Monday Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis.

    Asked how the upgrading of the green line regulation, with the trade of honey and fish will operate, Pashiardis said that these issues concern details.

    Pashiardis said that the firm position of the government is that ''we are ready and willing to do everything to facilitate the economic aid for Turkish Cypriots, following of course all legal procedures''.

    Cyprus, which joined the EU on May 1, 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    [42] Government says Turkish military exercise is held in international waters

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis said here Monday that Cyprus considers there is no problem arising from the Turkish military exercise, involving ships, a submarine and airplanes, off the southern shore of Cyprus, since it is taking place west of the Cypriot coastline in international waters.

    ''As long as the Turkish military exercises are being conducted in international waters, no problem is raised for the government and no response is justified,'' Pashiardis noted replying to a question, adding however, that if any violation of Cyprus air space or its Flight Information Region is recorded it will be reported.

    Invited to comment on press reports that Turkish oil company TPAO has opened a tender for oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean, Pashiardis said that the government is not aware whether these reports are true.

    ''If this is true, then it will be another violation on behalf of Turkey,'' he said.

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS


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