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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-05-31

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Thursday, 31 May 2007 Issue No: 2606


  • [01] OECD hails Greek growth rates, urges more reforms
  • [02] PM meets pensioners, pledges to boost low pensions
  • [03] PASOK spokesman on pensioners and indirect taxation
  • [04] Papandreou meets with OECD GenSec
  • [05] KKE, Coalition parties comment on OECD report on Greek economy
  • [06] The average retirement age is higher for men
  • [07] President Papoulias begins official visit to Russia
  • [08] Karamanlis to meet EU Commissioner Poto nik on Thursday
  • [09] Roussopoulos on CIA reference to minorities in Greece
  • [10] Ecumenical Patriarch receives Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos
  • [11] PM to meet KEDKE at end of June
  • [12] LAOS' leader outlines party programme in press conference
  • [13] Greece's UN permanent representative hosts farewell reception
  • [14] Magginas attends EU employment ministers' council
  • [15] FinMin addresses Greek Network for Partnership Social Responsibility event
  • [16] Development minister presents new consumer protection framework
  • [17] National Bank Group's net profits increase 52 pc in first quarter of 2007
  • [18] Hellenic Telecoms says net profits up 28.4 pct in first quarter, yr/yr
  • [19] Panhellenic Exporters Federation report on 2006
  • [20] Eurobank announces mortgage loan securitization plan
  • [21] Geniki Bank cuts losses in 1st quarter
  • [22] Intrakat increases consolidated turnover in first quarter of 2007
  • [23] Greek Postal Savings Bank announces first quarterly results of 2007
  • [24] Plias Group says turnover up 27 pct in 1st quarter, yr/yr
  • [25] Forthnet says turnover up in 1st quarter
  • [26] Xylemporia reports improved 1st quarter results
  • [27] ASE president meets Egypt's investments minister
  • [28] Greek stocks end 0.47 pct lower
  • [29] ADEX closing report
  • [30] Greek bond market closing report
  • [31] Foreign Exchange Rates - Thursday
  • [32] Greece receives "Blue Flag" for 428 beaches, 9 marinas
  • [33] Lousios River trekking expedition organizers released on bond, restrictions
  • [34] Body of missing hiker found
  • [35] New metro expansion rapidly moves towards SE Athens coastal suburbs
  • [36] Interior minister addresses conference on immigration
  • [37] Hellenikon municipality crews remove fences at Aghios Kosmas beach
  • [38] European Commission on donors of organs
  • [39] PASOK message for World No Tobacco Day
  • [40] Pair of PA Photos executives awarded annual EANA news agency prize
  • [41] Education minister inaugurates road safety park in school
  • [42] Balkan Botanical Gardens to mark World Environment Day
  • [43] Mostly sunny on Thursday
  • [44] Cruicianelli: Cyprus problem is a European problem
  • [45] Commission underlines importance of resumption of UN procedure for Cyprus
  • [46] Cypriot parties discuss Common Assembly for the reunification of Cyprus
  • [47] EU Commissioner commends Cyprus' record on EU law transposition Politics

  • [01] OECD hails Greek growth rates, urges more reforms

    Greek economic performance is one of the best among OECD member-states in the last decade, with GDP growth rising at an average annual rate of more than 4.5 pct in the period 1995-2005 (the second highest rate in the Eurozone and the OECD 30 member states), a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Wednesday. The report, presented by the Organisation' s secretary-general Angel Gurria in Athens, stressed it was encouraging that strong growth rates were mainly based on investments and exports in the last two years despite a fiscal consolidation effort by the government, while it stressed that informal economy contributed less than 1.0 pct of GDP.

    The Paris-based Organisation said it was very likely that growth rate would remain around 4.0 pct, but more reforms were needed to sustain this performance in the next few years, mainly to deal with weaknesses in product and labour markets, to continue fiscal consolidation and promoting reforms in the pension system. The report said managing the necessary reforms in the context of a complacent society was a very significant challenge.

    The OECD hailed a successful fiscal consolidation and stressed that this process must continue, probably with more speed, due to a high public debt and forecasts over a rising future fiscal cost because of an ageing population -one of the highest in the Organisation.

    The report said the public sector had significant room to cut primary spending, reducing workforce and boosting the performance of public sector enterprises, combating tax-evasion and expanding the tax base through tax reform policies.

    The Organisation said a rising current accounts deficit (around 9.5 pct of a revised GDP in 2006) was related with a trend of declining competitiveness and a high inflation rate.

    The report underlined the need for a radical reform of the pension system, a more flexible labour market and called for a cut in minimum wage and lower employers' contributions for low wage workers.

    The OECD called for an improvement of the education system and called for the introduction of annual fees in the country's universities.

    The report said some of the proposed reforms were included in the government's agenda and noted that the government must convince the public opinion over the necessity of reforms.

    OECD's sec-gen urges for reform of Greek pension system

    The pension system is the biggest economic challenge facing Greece, Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters, in Athens, during a presentation of OECD's report on the Greek economy, Gurria said the Greek pension system needed radical reform otherwise the problem could pressure other economic reforms in the country. The pension system offers many incentives for early retirement, while it should not, Gurria noted.

    All OECD member-states are called to resolve this problem and find solutions. The challenge is acute, Gurria said, adding that several countries were readjusting pensions in view of higher living expectations.

    He emphasized on early retirement and said the Greek government should review all incentives offered to early retirement, or offering more incentives to stay in the labour market longer.

    Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said the government has a clear strategy and that the Greek society would decided over the extent of reforming the social security system. He added, however, that measures were needed to ensure the viability of the social security systetm and to correcting injusticies. He reiterated that the solution would be offered by the next government.

    On the labour market, Gurria noted strong employment rates in the age range from 25 to 54 years and stressed that Greece recorded the highest employment rate in this spectrum within the OECD. He noted, however, that women temporarily leaving their work (child birth) finding it very difficult to return to the labour market later.

    OECD's secretary-general said reforms made in the education system so far were moving towards the right direction but stressed that more reforms were needed and said the Greek government should examine the introduction of education fees in higher education.

    Alogoskoufis said that certain reforms (such as education fees) were forbidden by the country's constitution.

    Both men agreed that Greek economic progress was significant. Gurria noted that Greece was moving very rapidly, more than other OECD member-states and urged for improvements in the operation of public enterprises and containing state spending.

    Alogoskoufis said the OECD's report confirmed the progress made by the Greek economy and noted that "we still are in the middle of the road".

    [02] PM meets pensioners, pledges to boost low pensions

    The government on Wednesday promised a series of measures to boost the income of those on low pensions, such as higher income supplement benefits and tax relief, after a meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and representatives of the pensioner unions' umbrella federation.

    National economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, who also attended the meeting, announced plans to increase the EKAS low-pension supplementary benefit and the Farmers' Pension Fund (OGA) pensions, together with tax relief measures already being advanced by the government and new initiatives that are being examined, in order to boost pensioner incomes.

    Alogoskoufis said that the government, given the existing financial restrictions and the limits of the state budget, has taken "significant steps to reinforce the incomes of pensioners that we had the opportunity to analyse".

    The also minister reminded reporters that pension increases had been above inflation and higher than the equivalent increase to salaries for every year of the present government's term, even in the most difficult years, such as in 2005.

    In addition, the abolition of the recipients' contribution to the LAFKA civil service pensioners' supplementary fund was another very important boost to pensions which, together with the retroactive rebate of contributions that had been paid into the LAFKA by pensioners, exceeded 650 million euro.

    "We had significant increases also in the EKAS: 35 euros monthly this year and another 35 euros monthly as of January 1, 2008. We have a significant increase in the OGA pension of 50 euros per month this year and another 50 euros so that it will reach 330 euros per month, as we had promised," Alogoskoufis said, adding that "naturally, we are examining all other initiatives required to boost the incomes of pensioners".

    One of those initiatives, he continued, "which should not be underestimated", was the large tax reliefs that have already been set in motion, the increase in the tax-free allowance to 12,000 euros from 10,000 euros, and the reduction in taxation rates, Alogoskoufis concluded.

    A representative of the pensioners' union federation, IKA pensioners' president Diamantis Mavrodoglou, noted that the prime minister had fallen short of meeting their demands during the meeting, promising to "make an effort" but avoiding any specific commitment.

    Listing pensioners' demands, he said they included an increase in the minimum pensions to 1,050 euros a month, setting pensions at 80 percent of the last salary, abolition of VAT on basic goods and a tax-free allowance of 15,000 euros, as well as general demands like reducing high prices and better health care.

    Noting Karamanlis promise to increase EKAS, Mavrodoglou said that this "is not a solution, but it is a solution for pensioners on the lowest incomes, since it addresses their financial problem to some extent".

    During the meeting, the pensioners' unions of pension fund losses over the years through unwise investments, like the recently revealed structured bonds and others, noting that up to 100 billion euros had been lost in this way since 1950.

    According to government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, meanwhile, the prime minister had emphasised the great efforts already made by the government to improve standards of living among pensioners, given the huge problems and large deficit that it had inherited from the previous government, and that efforts in this direction would now be even greater.

    He also listed additional measures taken by the government, such as the reintroduction of a unemployed widows under 40, the opportunities given to people to pay up to 150 days of missing social insurance contributions in order to qualify for a pension after the age of 65 for men and 60 for women and others.

    In Thessaloniki, meanwhile, pensioners from various pensioner unions organised a protest march to the Macedonia-Thrace Ministry and held a rally asking for the return of money lost to social insurance funds from investments in structured bonds and that their reserves be managed by those insured and paying contributions to them.

    They also demanded the abolition of a presidential decree 258/05, which they said decreased the income of pensioners of the newly formed OAEE fund by 30 percent, a minimum pension of 1050 euros for the private sector and of 80 percent of the last wage for those in the public sector.

    A delegation of pensioners met with Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis to present their demands.

    [03] PASOK spokesman on pensioners and indirect taxation

    Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) spokesman Petros Efthymiou on Wednesday evening commented on the meeting Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had with pensioners earlier in the day.

    Efthymiou accused the prime minister and Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis "of repeating the pre-election promises of 2004 to the pensioners," adding that "the pensioners who are at the centre of PASOK's program must be respected by all." He described the government's announcements "proclamations of pre-electoral nature which disrespect every citizen."

    Commenting on the ruling New Democracy (ND) government's "so-called social grants to the pensioners," which were presented by government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, Efthymiou said that "these past three years have seen the most extensive in the history of the post-junta era blood-sucking taxation of wage earners and pensioners."

    The PASOK spokesman said that "the key of this unjust policy is the upsurge of the indirect taxes all this three-year period," adding that "for three yars now, the greatest redistribution of income was made at the expense of the many and in support of the few."

    Efthymiou said that "private individuals in 2007 are burdened with two billion euros more taxes compared to 2004, when businesses would have paid 100 million euros lesser taxes in 2007, compared to 2004."

    [04] Papandreou meets with OECD GenSec

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou met with visiting OECD General Secretary Angel Gurria on Wednesday. In comments made afterwards, he stressed that the report prepared by the international organization confirms the country's weaknesses.

    The New Democracy government has failed to efficiently handle the major problems Greece is facing, stressed Papandreou, underlining that it failed in tackling the problems in education and in dealing with the high unemployment rate among women and youth.

    Papandreou also accused the government of failing in the major social insurance issue, leading to a credibility loss. For 92 days the prime minister won't publicize the contracts signed by pension funds, resulting in 92 days of cover-up and behind-the-scenes moves that benefit only a few to the detriment of the Greek household, said Papandreou.

    A new policy, characterized by boldness and a sense of fairness, and a reliable government are essential, and PASOK can guarantee that, he concluded.

    Finance ministry responds

    The Economy and Finance Ministry in an announcement on Wednesday responded to statements made by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou regarding the report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) regarding the Greek economy.

    "Mr. Papandreou yet again behaves like a newcomer to the country. He forgets that he was a member of the PASOK government which claimed that it solved the social insurance (problem) for 30 years. He forgets that he was a member of the governments of PASOK which enlarged the deficits and debts. The OECD report shows these major problems which were left to the economy during the 20-year PASOK governance," the finance ministry announcement said.

    "At the same time, however, the OECD report shows the very significant effort being made by the government for the solution of the problems which it inherited. The government is not committed by the OECD's proposals and proceeds with a plan, dialogue and consensus in the implementation of its reform program," the announcement added.

    [05] KKE, Coalition parties comment on OECD report on Greek economy

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party criticised both the government and the main opposition PASOK party on Wednesday, following the publication of the OECD's report on the Greek economy.

    "The statements of the government and of the president of PASOK, following the meeting with the secretary general of the OECD, reveal that the anti-labour positions of the OECD on the social security issue (increase in the pensioning limit, abolition of early pensioning, changes in labour relations, etc) are not only its own. They also constitute goals of the New Democracy party and of PASOK. While both are trying to conceal this before the elections, they have undertaken commitments towards the plutocracy and the imperialist organisations, that it is impossible for them to achieve," KKE said in its announcement.

    KKE added that "the president of PASOK was also revealing with his silence, who did not have even a word to say against the provocative proposals of the OECD."

    The Coalition party's Political Bureau member and economic and social policy rapporteur, Panayiotis Lafazanis, said on his part that "the report of the OECD on the Greek economy constitutes an 'antisocial manifesto' that contains a package of proposals on the demolition of the social security and pensioning rights of working people, the further flexibility and dissolution of labour relations and the imposition of more intense class discriminations and the establishment of fees in third stage education."

    [06] The average retirement age is higher for men

    The average retirement age varies from 54.3 (in the Armed Forces) to 64.2 (in the sectors of farming, stockbreeding, fishing, etc), according to a sample-based special study on the transition from the workforce to retirement conducted by the National Statistical Service of Greece, NSSG.

    The average retirement age is higher for men compared to women with the exception of company and organization senior executives, owners of large and small enterprises, farmers, stockbreeders and fishermen.

    Based on the study, 31.5 is the average number of years on the job -- 32.5 years for men and 29.8 years for women -- while males and people with lower education tend to stay longer in the labor force.

    Higher pension is the main reason leading 54.4 percent of those participating in the study to postpone retirement even though they have reached retirement age.

    A considerable number of retirees (26.7 percent) continue to work to ensure a larger income.

    The average retirement age for men and women is 63.8 years, while 63.9 is the average retirement age for men as opposed to 63.5 for women.

    [07] President Papoulias begins official visit to Russia

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA/D. Konstantakopoulos)

    President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for a four-day official visit and will meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Thursday.

    On arrival on Wednesday, Papoulias had a meeting with Moscow and All Russia Patriarch Alexios who stressed the "long-term friendly relations between the Greeks and Russians and the particularly strong and sincere relation which is due to the joint participation in Orthodoxy."

    The Patriarch of the Russian Church briefed President Papoulias on its decision to welcome in Moscow next January, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, on the occasion of the bestowal to the Primate of the Greek Church of an award by the International Foundation of Unity of Orthodox Peoples.

    On Thursday, Papoulias will meet President Putin, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Louzhkov.

    The Greek president also attended a concert with works by Mozart during his visit to the Pushkin Museum. The orchestra was conducted by Greek conductor Theodoros Kouretzis, who was awarded this year's "Golden Mask", the greatest Russian award for arts.

    President Papoulias is accompanied by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, National Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, Culture Minister George Voulgarakis and Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia.

    Bakoyannis is expected to sign with her counterpart Sergei Lavrov a cooperation program between the two ministries and the two governments. The other three Greek ministers will also have meetings with their counterparts on Thursday.

    President Papoulias' talks are expected to focus on Greek-Russian cooperation issues, the situation in the Balkans, European Union-Russia relations and the situation in the eastern Mediterranean.

    [08] Karamanlis to meet EU Commissioner Poto nik on Thursday

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is to meet with European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Poto nik on Thursday afternoon.

    Taking part in the meeting will be Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou, General Secretary for Research and Technology George Tsoukalas and the president the National Council for Research and Technology Prof. Dimitris Nanopoulos.

    At 20:00 on Thursday, the prime minister will address the spring meeting of the members of the International Institute of Finance taking place in the Zappion Building in Athens, which will focus on European economic development, particularly in the area of southeastern Europe.

    On Wednesday, meanwhile, Karamanlis had a meeting with Environment and Town Planning Minister George Souflias. No statements were made after the meeting.

    [09] Roussopoulos on CIA reference to minorities in Greece

    A reference in the CIA website to three minorities in Greece explicitly states that it refers to nationalities and not ethnic minorities, commented government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday, in response to a question by a reporter during the regular press briefing regarding the CIA website.

    Rousopoulos also cited a foreign ministry statement issued on April 27, which stated that neither bureaucracy nor intelligence agencies can alter or modify international treaties and they, certainly, cannot change the reality of the state of affairs in Greece.

    [10] Ecumenical Patriarch receives Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA A. Kourkoulas)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Wednesday received visiting Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos at the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Fanar, Istanbul and underlined Fanar's warm support for both Theophilos and the Jerusalem Patriarchate.

    "The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre that is so dear to us all here through the centuries, guards the holy and sacred for our race and our Church at the Holy Lands," Bartholomew said, expressing the gratitude of "all Orthodox Christians".

    Theophilos said the purpose of his visit was to discuss matters that concerned the Jerusalem Patriarchate but also the Brotherhood of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

    Immediately afterward, the Jerusalem Patriarch attended a dinner held by Bartholomew and is expected to hold talks at Fanar later on Wednesday afternoon.

    On Thursday he will visit the Holy Trinity Monastery on the island of Halki, where the Halki Theological School in housed, and he returns to Jerusalem on Friday.

    [11] PM to meet KEDKE at end of June

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is to have a follow-up meeting with the leadership of the municipalities and communities union KEDKE in the last week of June, it was announced on Wednesday.

    KEDKE's president, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, on Wednesday briefed KEDKE's board on his talks with Karamanlis and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and announced that the bill for the management of the 4th Community Support Framework that is to be tabled soon will include an article for the formation of a company called "Demos SA".

    Alogoskoufis has also agreed to meet representatives of KEDKE within the next fortnight to discuss the financial problems of municipalities.

    [12] LAOS' leader outlines party programme in press conference

    The main points on the agenda of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party were presented by its President George Karatzaferis in a press conference in Athens on Wednesday.

    Karatzaferis stated that the next elections are a golden opportunity for a victory of democracy in case LAOS manages to be represented in the Greek Parliament, stressing that such a development will increase citizen intervention.

    He pointed out that there will be no other similar opportunity provided that the two major political parties are already discussing the change of the election law.

    Karatzaferis stressed that his party will promote the adoption of a new election system based on proportional representation, reform the social insurance system by adopting a national pension, and establish a special court to try cases involving politicians. He also stated that the taxation system will be reformed and measures will be taken to curb tax evasion and deal with low birthrates.

    He suggested that two referenda should be held annually on different issues and proposed the establishment of a special office to monitor banking sector activities.

    Karatzaferis also stressed that his party is open to collaborations with anyone agreeing with its basic proposals.

    On the issues of FYROM and Turkey's course toward Europe, Karatzaferis stated that decisions on these matters should be made directly by the Greek people through referenda.

    On the immigrants living in Greece, he commented that only those necessary should remain in the country while an understanding should be reached with the United Nations regarding the rest.

    [13] Greece's UN permanent representative hosts farewell reception

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P.Panayiotou)

    Greece's Permanent Representative at the United Nations Adamantios Vassilakis hosted on Wednesday a farewell reception at the organisation's premises.

    Present at the reception were the wife of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, permanent representatives of many countries-members of the Security Council, foreign diplomats, representatives of NGO's, Archbishop of America Demetrios and leaders of Greek-American organisations.

    Vassilakis will be succeeded next week by Ioannis Mourikis, until now Greece's ambassador to Canada.

    Financial News

    [14] Magginas attends EU employment ministers' council

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)

    Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas on Wednesday attended an EU employment ministers' council here that focused on health and safety at work, immigration policy and family policy. The council adopted a resolution for a new Community strategy on health and safety at work during 2007-2012.

    In his address to the council, Magginas said that Greece considered health and safety at work to be an important factor for improving the quality of work and increasing competitiveness.

    "We estimate that the new strategy will further contribute to improving the work environment, and to the development of national policies with common goals between the member-states," he said.

    He also outlined a national strategy that was being implemented by the Greek employment ministry that was based on social dialogue and placed emphasis on updating the list of work-related ailments, reduction in accidents at work and strengthening and modernising inspection mechanisms.

    Regarding migration, Magginas said that Greece was in favour of formulating a common EU immigration policy, while taking into account the special characteristics of the labour market in each member-state. He also reminded those present of Greece's proposal for a European coast guard.

    On EU policies for families, the minister said the council had restated its support for the family as an institution in a different light.

    "The changes to traditional family structures, in combination with the demographic changes that modern societies are undergoing, demand a reflection of the reality in society so that the policies that we design to support families are effective and yield results," he said.

    According to the minister, this "alliance framework for the family" would be a valuable tool for Greece also, since support of the family was a central political priority of the Greek government. He stressed that families had proved themselves the most effective and multi-dimensional means of meeting contemporary challenges, such as the demographic problem, poverty or social exclusion.

    Magginas announced that there had been a meeting on Tuesday between the employment ministers of 11 EU member-states - among them Greece, Cyprus, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary - that aimed to explore future joint initiatives for enhancing the European social model and "social Europe".

    At this meeting, he said that Greece had supported the need to revise Europe's social agenda in accordance with the long-standing position held on this issue by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    [15] FinMin addresses Greek Network for Partnership Social Responsibility event

    Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis addressed the conference of the Greek Network for Partnership Social Responsibility on the theme of "Social activity 2007: Values and practices of responsible entrepreneurship" on Wednesday, saying that the fact that businesses started adopting long ago the principles of Partnership Social Responsibility is positive.

    However, the minister pointed out that a great deal of ground has yet to be covered before these principles become a possession of all businesses.

    Alogoskoufis further said that governments, being great consumers, must gradually include the principles of Partnership Social Responsibility in the specifications of products they obtain, as a form of reward and as an incentive for compliance.

    "Because our goal must not be competitiveness at all cost, but competitiveness that will be compatible with the principles and values of our culture," the finance minister said.

    Alogoskoufis also referred in his address to extensive phenomena being observed concerning the production of products or services in the modern-day global economy with the exploitation of human dignity, particularly through child labour.

    Lastly, the minister said that the consumers are ultimately the factor that can persuade businesses to adopt the principles of Partnership Social Responsibility.

    [16] Development minister presents new consumer protection framework

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Deputy Yiannis Papathanasiou and Consumer Secretary General Yiannis Economou presented the new institutional framework on consumer protection on Wednesday and publicised the finalised plan on the "amendment and completion of law 2251/1994, as it is being applied, for the protection of consumers."

    Speaking at a press conference, Sioufas said that "the arrangement being introduced constitutes the fulfilment of a debt of elementary social solidarity and a necessary means of social sensitivity."

    The bill's initial text was publicised for public deliberation in early October and the text presented on Wednesday, as Sioufas said, "fully covers the needs of today and tomorrow in the sector of the consumer, also incorporating relevant European Union Directives with the conviction that Greek legislation is being armed with a modern bill. But always, of course, the citizen-consumer, with his assistance, is the most creative element for the smooth functioning of the market."

    The minister further said that the bill is coming to amend and supplement and not to abolish the existing framework "that has been valid since 1994 and has functioned in a satisfactory way for almost 13 years, but it must adapt to the modern-day developments of the market, arm consumers with new institutional means and procedures which, with the guarantee of the state, widen his protection and, at the same time, secure conditions for a smooth and competitive functioning of the market."

    Lastly, according to an arrangement included in the bill on consumer protection tabled in Parliament for ratification, banks will not be able to proceed with the auctioning of real estate for debts of up to 10,000 euros, when it has been proved that it concerns an initial main residence.

    [17] National Bank Group's net profits increase 52 pc in first quarter of 2007

    The National Bank Group's net profits reached a historic high of 381 million euros in the first quarter of 2007, increasing by 52 percent compared to the corresponding period in 2006.

    Net profits also increased by 27 percent as against the fourth quarter of 2006, excluding the charge amounting to 100 million euros of the previous quarter, concerning the taxation of the bank's reserves. The profitability of the Group's own capital, despite their considerable increase (+72 percent) amounted to 25 percent.

    According to an announcement by the bank on Wednesday, the improvement of the Group's profit-making is primarily the result of the widening of its sources of revenues, through the development of bank activities in the local market and the markets of Turkey and southeastern Europe.

    Characteristic of this is the fact that in the first quarter of 2007, Finansbank contributed over a third of the Group's total profit-making.

    Also contributing to the Group's profit-making was the restraining of operational expenditures which, despite the widening of activities, reached levels that were lower than in the previous quarter.

    National Bank President and Managing Director Takis Arapoglou said in a statement that "the performances of the first quarter of 2007 confirm our strategic options," adding that "the contribution of our activities outside Greece, in southeastern Europe and Turkey, to the Group's profit-making has been widened, exceeding 150 million euros, while the profit-making of Finansbank had a considerable contribution, that is over a third of the Group's total net profits in the first quarter."

    [18] Hellenic Telecoms says net profits up 28.4 pct in first quarter, yr/yr

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Wednesday reported an 8.8 percent increase in its consolidated turnover to 1.508 billion euros in the first quarter of 2007, compared with the same period last year, and said that operating expenses rose 7.8 pct to 1.248 billion euros.

    Net profits jumped 28.4 pct to 140.9 million euros, while earnings per share totaled 0.2875 euros per share, up 28.4 pct from the corresponding period last year.

    Parent turnover fell 3.5 pct to 660.9 million euros, while operating expenses fell by 8.0 pct and net profits soared 145.7 percent to 50.3 million euros in the January-March period. EBITDA margin in fixed telephony operations jumped from 26.8 pct in the first quarter 2006 to 34.5 percent this year.

    Cosmote reported a 38.5 percent increase in first quarter turnover to 687.6 million euros and a 38.3 pct increase in customer base in the first three months of the year to 12,211,939 customers. Net profits, however, fell by 0.7 pct to 74.7 million euros.

    OTEnet reported a 9.0 pct increase in turnover to 27.8 million euros in the first quarter.

    Romtelecom return to profitability in the first three months of 2007, despite a 0.4 pct decline in turnover to 222.1 million euros. Net profits rose 5.3 pct to 19.8 million euros.

    [19] Panhellenic Exporters Federation report on 2006

    A report by the Panhellenic Exporters Federation titled "Greece's exports in 2006 in basic groups of products" showed that the strong increase in the value of exports in 2006 is due to an increase to all the major geographical regions and in all the major categories of products, apart from the "beverages and tobacco" category.

    It is also due to a considerable structural change: the very sharp increase in "technology intensity" products and in "specialised labour intensity."

    The increase of 19.3 percent in exports to 16.7 billion euros (20.9 billion dollars or 20.4 percent) is due to the increase in exports to all regions that were almost equal in the EU (25) and in Third Countries.

    The increase to the 10 new member-states was very strong (42.2 percent), as well as to the two candidate countries, Bulgaria (28.8 percent) and Romania (45.7 percent) that joined the EU on January 1 this year.

    [20] Eurobank announces mortgage loan securitization plan

    Eurobank on Wednesday announced a plan to securitize part of its mortgage loans portfolio and said ABN Amro, Barclays Capital, Morgan Stanley and EFG Telesis Finance will act as consultants.

    The Greek bank will hold a roadshow presentation to selected institutional investors and investment firms abroad. Eurobank has successfully securitized mortgage loans worth 2.5 billion euros so far.

    [21] Geniki Bank cuts losses in 1st quarter

    Geniki Bank Group on Wendesday reported pre-tax losses of 10.3 million euros in the first quarter of 2007, after a loss of 25.8 million euros in the corresponding period last year and said that net results showed a loss of 11.1 million euros from a loss of 20.6 million euros over the same periods, respectively.

    Geniki Bank announced a significant increase in retail banking business, with sales and production up by 7.0 pct to new customers, 18.6 pct in housing loans, 13 pct in credit cards and 23 pct in mutual funds. Housing loans grew by 26.7 percent and consumer loans were up 18.2 pct in the first quarter of the year.

    The loans portfolio (after provisions) totaled 3.0 billion euros, up 13.8 pct, while savings and repos totaled 2.7 billion euros, up 14.6 pct in the three-month period.

    Operating income totaled 42.2 million euros, up 0.2 pct from the same quarter in 2006. Geniki Bank plans a share capital increase to meet all regulatory and institutional demands.

    [22] Intrakat increases consolidated turnover in first quarter of 2007

    The Intrakat company's consolidated turnover from continuing activities in the first quarter of 2007 amounted to 28.87 million euros, compared to 16.98 million euros in the corresponding period in 2006, increasing by 70.02 percent.

    According to a relevant announcement, the increase is due to the assumption of new projects, primarily in the construction sector, meaning complex projects of civil engineering and telecommunications networks, as a result of a turn to integrated projects.

    The consolidated pre-tax, interest and depreciation (EBITDA) results from continuing activities, from losses amounting to 1.65 million euros in the first quarter of 2006, registered profits totalling 1.23 million euros in the first quarter of 2007.

    [23] Greek Postal Savings Bank announces first quarterly results of 2007

    The Greek Postal Savings Bank's net profits after taxes decreased by 47 percent in the first quarter of the current year, compared to the corresponding period last year, amounting to 39.12 million euros from 74.09 million euros.

    According to a relevant announcement, the decrease in profits is due to the drop in the results of fiscal activities that are mainly treated as unrepeated profits.

    The bank's board President, Panos Tsoupidis, said in a statement that the Savings Bank's economic results confirm the assessment of a 10 percent market share in retail banking and indeed in a shorter period that had been initially assessed.

    [24] Plias Group says turnover up 27 pct in 1st quarter, yr/yr

    ΤέλοςφόρμαςΑρχήφόρμαςPlias Group on Wednesday reported a 27 percent increase in its first quarter turnover to 7.9 million euros, from 6.2 million euros in the corresponding period in 2006.

    Operating earnings (EBITDA) jumped 134 percent to 54,000 euros after a loss of 158,000 euros in the same period last year, while after tax results showed a loss of 1.0 million euros this year from 1.1 million in 2006.

    Parent turnover rose 31 percent to 3.7 million euros, with after tax losses of 308,000 euros in the January-March period, from 483,000 euros in 2006.

    [25] Forthnet says turnover up in 1st quarter

    Forthnet, an Greek telecoms and internet services provider, on Wednesday said its turnover rose 11.2 pct to 26.5 million euros in the first quarter, although EBITDA showed a loss of 5.8 million euros, after profits of 1.7 million euros in the same period last year.

    Forthnet said its 2play subscribers reached 21,000 at the end of May after its official launch in April.

    The company said its capital structure and liquidity were strong, with cashflow at 79.1 million euros. Capital investments totaled 8.5 million euros this year from 2.7 million in 2006.

    [26] Xylemporia reports improved 1st quarter results

    Xylemporia on Wednesday reported a 30.8 pct increase in consolidated sales to 8.32 million euros in the first quarter and said pre-tax profits jumped to 472,000 euros from 40,000 euros in the corresponding period in 2006.

    After tax and minorities earnings totaled 406,350 euros in the January-March period, from 18,930 euros last year.

    Parent sales were up 28.3 pct and gross profit margin jumped to 16.5 pct of sales this year from 14.8 pct in 2006. Pre-tax profits soared 189 percent to 249,000 euros in the first three months of 2007, from 86,000 last year.

    [27] ASE president meets Egypt's investments minister

    Athens Stock Exvhange (ASE) President Spyros Kapralos met on Wednesday with Egyptian Investments Minister Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, who is on a two-day visit to Greece.

    During the meeting, also attended by Egyptian Ambassador in Athens Hamdi Loza and ASE General Directors Socrates Lazaridis and Gikas Manalis, the Greek officials were briefed on the growth and perspectives of Egupt's Capital market and on steps being taken for its modernisation.

    The meeting also focused on progress regarding cooperation between the Greek Stock Exhange S.A. (EXAE) and the Egyptian Capital market, while the participation of Egypt's Stock Exhange in the 4th International Capital Markets Conference, organised by the Athens Stock Exchange in Thessaloniki on June 18-19, was confirmed.

    [28] Greek stocks end 0.47 pct lower

    Greek stocks ended lower on Wednesday following a similar trend in international markets. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange fell 0.47 pct to end at 4,914.90 points, with turnover a heavy 442.7 million euros.

    Sector indices eased, with the Industrial Products (2.07 pct), Commerce (1.78 pct) and Healthcare (1.53 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Telecoms (1.02 pct), Personal/Home Products (0.94 pct) and Food/Beverage (0.92 pct) scored gains.

    The Big Cap index fell 0.73 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.59 pct lower and the Small Cap index eased 0.37 pct.

    Vis (16.96 pct), Lannet (15 pct) and Desmos (10.53 pct) were top gainers, while Thrace Plastics (6.72 pct), Galis (6.52 pct) and Sarantopoulos (6.36 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 186 to 86 with another 30 issues unchanged.

    [29] ADEX closing report

    Turnover in the Athens Derivatives Exchange rose to 122.01 million euros on Wednesday. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.49 pct and on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.51 pct.

    Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 7,648 contracts worth 99.105 million euros, with 38,245 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 319 contracts worth 9.877 million euros with 2,861 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 7,658 contracts worth 13.028 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Intracom's contracts (1,947), followed by Eurobank (222), OTE (379), PPC (199), Piraeus Bank (110), National Bank (982), Alpha Bank (832), ATEbank (579) and Postal Savings Bank (306).

    [30] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.442 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.156 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.286 billion were sell orders.

    The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 745 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.21 pct with the Greek bond yielding 4.61 pct and the German Bund 4.4 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were largely unchanged. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 3.84 pct from 3.83 pct on Tuesday, the two-day rate rose to 3.86 pct from 3.83 pct, the one-month rate was 4.0 pct and the 12-month rate 4.44 pct.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.99%

    Industrials: -2.07%

    Commercial: -1.78%

    Construction: -0.77%

    Media: -0.01%

    Oil & Gas: -1.51%

    Personal & Household: +0.94%

    Raw Materials: -0.26%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.33%

    Technology: -1.38%

    Telecoms: +1.02%

    Banks: -1.32%

    Food & Beverages: +0.92%

    Health: -1.53%

    Utilities: -0.23%

    Chemicals: -0.86%

    Financial Services: -1.47%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 23.22

    ATEbank: 3.92

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 19.80

    HBC Coca Cola: 34.20

    Hellenic Petroleum: 11.24

    Emporiki Bank: 20.90

    National Bank of Greece: 43.40

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 26.36

    Intralot: 23.78

    Cosmote: 23.80

    OPAP: 27.94

    OTE: 23.40

    Titan Cement Company: 43.42

    [31] Foreign Exchange Rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.352

    Pound sterling 0.684

    Danish kroner 7.509

    Swedish kroner 9.370

    Japanese yen 164.57

    Swiss franc 1.659

    Norwegian kroner 8.182

    Cyprus pound 0.587

    Canadian dollar 1.451

    Australian dollar 1.652

    General News

    [32] Greece receives "Blue Flag" for 428 beaches, 9 marinas

    Greece came 2nd among 49 countries for clean beaches in 2007, with 428 of its beaches fulfilling the necessary criteria to receive the "Blue Flag" certificate this year, the most important being water quality.

    A total of 428 beaches and 9 marinas, operated by coastal municipalities, hotels and other operators, were awarded "Blue Flags" in Greece, according to the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, HSPN, which has handled the "Blue Flags" programme in the country since 1992.

    Last year, "Blue Flags" were awarded to 411 beaches and 5 marinas in Greece.

    "Blue Flag" marina candidates are evaluated in detail to ensure compliance with the criteria concerning waste recycling facilities in the marina, the presence of a map indicating all required facilities, life-saving equipment and the posting of safety precautions. Candidate beaches are evaluated based on the presence of a map indicating all required facilities, presence of waste recycling facilities at the beach and compliance with the water quality criterion regarding sampling frequency.

    [33] Lousios River trekking expedition organizers released on bond, restrictions

    The two co-owners of the excursion firm that organized the ill-fated trekking expedition to Lousios River gorge in the Peloponnese, southern Greece, have been released on a 20,000-euro bond each, and under the restriction that they will not leave the country.

    The Tripolis investigating magistrate and a prosecutor reached the decision about two hours after midnight following a marathon 8-hour-long testimony given by the two defendants on Tuesday afternoon.

    Both are charged with multiple counts of manslaughter and causing bodily harm through negligence in relation to the deaths of 6 hikers while 2 others are still missing.

    Six people had been confirmed dead on Sunday evening after a group of 18 hikers were swept away by a torrent on the Lousios River in Arcadia prefecture the previous evening.

    According to officials, a group of 18 hikers from Athens, after visiting the nearby towns of Dimitsana and Stemnitsa, set off for a trek along the Lousios riverbed and an ascent of a waterfall when they were swept away by a torrent of floodwater and mud as they attempted to cross the swollen river.

    [34] Body of missing hiker found

    Rescue workers on Wednesday found the body of a woman that had been missing since Saturday, when the rain-swollen waters of the Lousios River had swept her away along with several others taking part in a fatal hiking trip.

    She is one of two people who had been unaccounted for after the incident, in which another six people lost their lives.

    Rescue teams are now attempting to recover the body, while the search continues for a man that is still missing since the accident.

    [35] New metro expansion rapidly moves towards SE Athens coastal suburbs

    A new tunnel-boring machine, TBM, arrived at the Helliniko construction site in southeast Athens on Wednesday, with the relevant public works minister stressing that the metro tunnel extending the metro to the Greek capital's upscale coastal districts will be ready within the next 15 months.

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias made the comments at the worksite, while he added that the metro Line 2 expansion project has proceeded better than anticipated, based on the existing timetables. He said that by the end of 2009 the Ilioupoli, Alimos, Argyroupoli and Helliniko metro stations will be ready.

    Souflias said accompanying studies for the construction of car parks at the four new metro stations are also underway, reminding that a much-needed metropolitan park in the congested Greek capital will be developed on the large expanse where Athens' old airport still stands.

    At best, normal drive time from the Helliniko airport site to Syntagma square -- in the middle of central Athens -- takes roughly 35 minutes, while metro commuters will be able to reach their destination in less than 15 minutes.

    [36] Interior minister addresses conference on immigration

    Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos addressed the 2nd Conference on Immigration Management on Wednesday night, referring to the "coordinated and organised effort being made by Greece over the past three years to shape a modern immigration policy that will allow for the promotion of immigration to a factor of development and progress."

    The interior minister said that "about 170,000 illegal immigrants have already been legalised in our country with procedures that constituted a model for other member-states of the European Union, while the relevant effort is being continued, in a way that is also controlled, until the complete, as much as possible, elimination of the phenomenon."

    Pavlopoulos noted that the government is utilising every successful practice and policy that has been followed by the rest of the EU's member-states for the better handling of individual issues arising.

    Lastly, he referred to a recent report by the Immigration Policy Institute that showed that immigrants working in Greece are employed as much as 89 percent as salaried employees, while 6.5 percent are self-employed and 2.8 percent are employers. In addition, 73 percent of men immigrants and 58 percent of women are mainly employed in construction, restaurants, hotels and as maids, or are employed as unskilled workers.

    [37] Hellenikon municipality crews remove fences at Aghios Kosmas beach

    Hellenikon Municipality crews on Wednesday removed sections of iron fences which were built by private businesses at Athens' coast of Aghios Kosmas so as to allow free access to citizens to the region's beach.

    The task of removing the fences began shortly before 6 p.m., headed by Hellenikon Mayor Christos Kortzidis, who is on a hunger strike for 13 days, in the presence of main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou, Coalition of the Left, Movement and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos, members of the Greek Parliament, Glyfada Metropolitan Pavlos and representatives of Piraeus Prefecture.

    The municipality's crews initially removed the iron fences at the entrance of Aghios Kosmas' beach, where citizens paid an entrance fee, and then proceeded in removing the "Galazio" and "Carting" fences.

    The mayor of Hellenikon said he was touched by the great support, stressing he will continue his hunger strike until he gets "a clear and satisfactory reply to the demand for the delivery of the beach to its legal owners, the citizens."

    Both Papandreou and Alavanos spoke of "a historic moment during which the citizens impose the implementation of the Constitution and demand their share to the beaches." At the same time, they expressed their support to the efforts being made by the mayor of Hellenikon.

    [38] European Commission on donors of organs


    The European Commission on Wednesday proposed the creation of a European card for donors of organs, so as to facilitate the procedure for the finding of organs in the European Union. In Greece at present, just three per cent of citizens are donors of organs, against 12 per cent in Europe.

    According to a Eurobarometer poll made public on Wednesday and specifically to the question "do you believe that the issue of a card for donors of organs is useful?", just 64 per cent of Greeks replied positively, against 81 per cent by Europeans, while 36 per cent of Greeks replied negatively, against 19 per cent by Europeans.

    The countries who most support the issue of a card for donors of organs are Sweden and Malta (95 per cent), Finland (92 per cent) Denmark, The Netherlands and England (89 per cent).

    [39] PASOK message for World No Tobacco Day

    The main opposition PASOK party on Wednesday pointed to its previous pledge to adopt "comprehensive anti-smoking programmes" in a message issued to mark World No Tobacco Day on May 31.

    PASOK MP Christos Protopapas, in charge of health and welfare issues on the party's Parliamentary Council, said the message for this year focused on a "clean, smoke-free environment" and the importance of this for public health.

    He also criticised the health ministry for failing to organise events to drive home this message and for confining itself to just sending out a circular to public services.

    Pointing to the alarming statistics connected with smoking worldwide, Protopapas noted that it was the second most important cause of death throughout the world, with half of regular smokers expected to die as a result of smoking, while many people who have never smoked will also die as a result of passive smoking.

    "In our country, however, the figures cause concern. Greece is among the top countries in the EU with regard to the consumption of cigarettes per person and for the percentage of people over 15 that regularly smoke," he said.

    In an attack on the ruling New Democracy party, Protopapas said it had proved that fighting smoking was not among its priorities and accused it of abolishing anti-smoking measures passed by PASOK and replacing them with a "new regulatory framework" that led to a state of complete standstill, during which the tobacco industry got rich at the expense of the public's health.

    [40] Pair of PA Photos executives awarded annual EANA news agency prize

    The European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) this week announced that the recipients of the 2007 EANA Award for Excellence in News Agency Quality are PA Photos IT director Phil Lakin and PA Photos operations manager Paul Spencer.

    The pair was awarded the prize for their contributions in establishing the ShootLive Digital photography workflow.

    PA Photos, based in London, is a company within the PA Group, which also comprises the news agency Press Association.

    "ShootLive simplifies the digital photography workflow process to such an extent that only the creative input of the photographer and skill and judgment of the editor are required to capture and deliver images from every event to clients in a variety of digital formats. The ShootLive technology was developed by PA Photos but is also available for other media groups," the EANA Bureau, which is also the jury for the award, noted in a press release.

    The EANA award will be presented to Lakin and Spencer by the EANA president, Dr. Wolfgang Vyslozil, the CEO of the Austrian news agency APA, in Geneva on Sept. 19-21, on the sidelines of the EANA's annual assembly and a conference focusing on competition and internationalisation.

    [41] Education minister inaugurates road safety park in school

    Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou on Wednesday inaugurated a road safety theme park in the forecourt of the 129th primary school in the Athens district of Patissia.

    After being shown around the park, the minister said that the mission of schools was not just to teach basic knowledge but also to cultivate well-rounded personalities.

    "In this framework, lessons in how to behave on the road are also lessons on the respect that one citizen owes to another and respect for the rules," she said.

    The education and transport ministries were undertaking several join actions to teach children the rules of road safety, an effort that largely depended on teachers for its success, she added.

    [42] Balkan Botanical Gardens to mark World Environment Day

    The Balkan Botanical Gardens of Krousson are planning a series of events to mark World Environment Day on June 3, the management announced on Wednesday. These will include a photography and painting exhibition, discussions, theatre and games with an environmental theme for children.

    The Gardens are set up in the village of Terpyllos in northern Greece, about 30 kilometres from Kilkis and 70 kilometres from Thessaloniki, and have managed to collect 1,500 plants native to Greece and southeastern Europe, researchers at the Gardens said on Wednesday.

    The Botanical Gardens occupy a 31-hectare site and up to 20 percent of the plants in its collection are considered rare, with efforts underway for their conservation, while the ultimate goal is to include all the roughly 6,000 species native to Greece.

    Weather forecast

    [43] Mostly sunny on Thursday

    Sunny weather will prevail in most parts of Greece on Thursday, with scattered showers or storms in central Macedonia and Thrace. Temperatures will range from 12C to 28C. Winds westerly, northwesterly, light to moderate.

    Sunny in Athens, with temperatures ranging between 18C and 28C. Possibility of brief storms in Thessaloniki and temperatures ranging from 17C to 26C.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [44] Cruicianelli: Cyprus problem is a European problem


    The Cyprus problem is not just a problem of Cyprus but of the whole of Europe which it must handle, said here Wednesday Italian Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Famiano Cruicianelli.

    Speaking after talks with Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiorgos Lillikas, Cruicianelli who completed his official visit to the island, said that Cyprus and Italy share the view that Turkey must become a member of the EU after it complies with all EU rules.

    On his part, Lillikas said that Cruicianelli's visit provides the opportunity to continue the dialogue which began with the Cypriot minister's visit to Italy and to find new ways to enhance and strengthen the already good cooperation they have.

    He said they examined the Cyprus problem, the recent developments surrounding it as well as the aims of the Cypriot government as far as the implementation of the July 8 Agreement for the reunification of the island is concerned.

    Speaking through an interpreter, Cruicianelli said they discussed developments on the regulation concerning trade with the Turkish Cypriots.

    He pointed out the position of the European Commission on the issue, noting that Italy respects the Commission's decisions "despite the fact that we are not deaf to the problems that have resulted".

    Cruicianelli said he will present these positions to the Commission. Referring to their talks, Cruicianelli said they had the chance to ascertain the excellent relations between the two countries in the trade, economic and financial sectors.

    They also examined issues dealing with the European constitution, noting there is identity of views on this issue and how the EU should function.

    On the Cyprus issue, Cruicianelli said "we have reached some conclusions on the critical situation in which the Cyprus problem stands".

    The Italian Under-Secretary said that on this sensitive issue, he must refer to the very close relations which Italy maintains for years now with the Republic of Cyprus and underlined that "we support all international and UN efforts to reunite Cyprus. We support that it was a serious mistake to make thoughts of two states in Cyprus", he added.

    Cruicianelli said that "it is our duty as Italy to reach a fair solution to Cyprus," adding that "we must reach a solution between the two communities".

    He said Italy's relations with Turkey are close, adding that this will help present the Cyprus problem to the Turkish side.

    Earlier, the Italian official was received by President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos.

    Cyprus, an EU member state, has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third.

    [45] Commission underlines importance of resumption of UN procedure for Cyprus


    Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has said the Commission underlines the significance in the resumption of the procedure which will promptly lead to complete negotiations under UN auspices to achieve an overall settlement and is ready to help the UN achieve this aim.

    The Commissioner was replying to a question by Cypriot Euro MP Marios Matsakis in response to Turkey's non-compliance to the decision of the European Court of May 2001 which ruled that Turkey is guilty for a wide range of mass, systematic and continued violations of human rights in Cyprus.

    In his reply, Rehn said that the compliance of a signatory state to the European Convention of Human Rights with a decision of the European Court of Human Rights is monitored by the Council of Ministers which is the relevant EU institution.

    He said that fundamental issues which are pending are those such as the missing persons' issue and the property issue whereby with the draft resolution of the Council of Ministers of 3-4 April 2007, Turkey was called to give immediate information on the issue.

    Rehn said that these issues make necessary the need for a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem which will lead to the reunification of the island. The Commission, he added, underlines the significance of the resumption of the procedure which will promptly lead to complete negotiations under UN auspices for an overall settlement and is ready to help the UN achieve this goal.

    Cyprus, an EU member state, has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the islandΤs northern third.

    [46] Cypriot parties discuss Common Assembly for the reunification of Cyprus


    Leaders and representatives of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot political parties had on Wednesday their regular meeting under the auspices of the Slovak embassy in Cyprus, during which they exchanged views ''on the issue of a Common Assembly for the reunification of Cyprus''.

    A joint press release issued after the meeting says ''they debated on the basic ideas of the proposal and suggested that the issue remains on the agenda''.

    ''The leaders have also decided to hold two bicommunal events in honor of the Ambassador of Slovakia Yan Varso on the occasion of his departure from Cyprus'', the joint press release says.

    The next regular meeting of the leaders and the representatives of political parties from both sides will be held on the 25th of June 2007 at 10.30 a.m.

    [47] EU Commissioner commends Cyprus' record on EU law transposition


    European Union Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services Charlie McCreevy praised here Wednesday Cyprus' record with respect to EU law transposition and implementation, noting that Cyprus is a very good example to other EU member-states.

    Speaking in a joint press conference with Cypriot Finance Minister Machalis Sarris, McCreevy congratulated Cyprus mainly on its good macroeconomic situation that should allow the country to join the Euro zone in 2008, as well as Cyprus' ''excellent track record with respect to the transposition and implementation of EU laws.''

    Replying to questions, McCreevy referred to his contacts with government officials noting that ''they are very open to opening up the markets in whole other areas,'' adding that ''this should allow Cyprus to exploit the potential of being in a single market for 190 million persons as it is today.''

    He noted that he expects Cyprus, particularly in the services area ''to gain considerable foothold than the other member-states and all these would benefit the Cypriot economy and the Cypriot people.''

    Cyprus' transposition deficit is 1 per cent, one of the lowest within the EU member-states, lower than the target of 1.5 per cent set by the European Union.

    ''I think Cyprus can be a very good example to lots of other member states and Cyprus is a very committed member of the EU and wants to actively participate in all of its activities.''

    On his part, Sarris noted that the European Sigle Market is one of the main reasons why Cyprus joined the European Union.

    ''We focus on the liberalisation of all markets, including the banks market, and capital and labour markets. All these have great importance for a small island,'' he concluded.

    McCreecy was received by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, while he had separate meetings with Sarris and Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Antonis Michaelides.

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