|Sunday, 16 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-11-06
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 6 November 2009 Issue No: 3342
 PM: 2010 budget lays foundations for recoveryPrime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday presented the 2010 budget drawn up by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou to his cabinet, stressing that this would lay the foundations for the country's economic recovery.
"We are beginning to carry out all that we promised before the elections," the prime minister stressed, saying that the draft 2010 budget put together in just one month after the elections that brought the party to power was a "serious" budget that took into account the true capabilities of the country and made "a break with the past".
More specifically, he referred to an end of phenomena of corruption, waste and the frittering of public money in pursuit of client politics that he said had taken on "the proportions of an epidemic in recent years".
Papandreou said that the method for drawing up the budget would be changed from the following year, while noting that the 2010 budget represented a decisive step toward the future and insisting that the government would not renege on its pre-election pledges nor back down from its target of redistributing income, even though the true state of the economy had proved to be much worse than that presented by the previous New Democracy government before the elections.
The prime minister said the draft budget aimed to stimulate the market and economic activity, as well as employment, while also including measures against high prices. It would be accompanied by a full and realistic recording of statistical figures on the economy and a new taxation system marked by transparency, a just distribution of the tax burden and correct investment of the Greek tax-payer's money.
The government's aim was to strike at tax evasion but also instill a tax conscience among the public, Papandreou added, listing as the government's goals the protection of poorer social groups, a stimulus of small and medium-sized enterprises and the market and regaining the trust of Greece's EU partners and international markets.
"In other words, to make Greece believe in itself again," he said.
Papandreou also underlined that PASOK had succeeded in shattering the myth that nothing can change in Greece through the changes in the structure of the government, which he described as "historic", pointing out that these had also attracted the attention of visited United Nations chief Ban Ki Moon, who had referred to them in his speech.
 Gov't unveils 2010 draft budgetThe government on Thursday tabled, in Parliament's permanent committee on financial affairs, the state's draft budget for 2010, projecting net revenues of 57.510 billion euros, or 23.5 pct of the country's Gross Domestic Product, up from 21.4 pct this year.
Spending is projected to fall to 31.1 pct of GDP, down from 33.7 pct this year "despite significant funds totaling 2.120 billion euros earmarked for measures to fund social and growth policies", as the relevant minister told reporters.
The budget envisages that a sum of 2.120 billion euros channelled to the education and healthcare sectors, a one-time subsidy to low income families, an incomes policy at levels above the inflation rate, raising farm pensions and gradually raising unemployment benefits. It also envisages actions to contain spending and other bonuses in the public sector.
Spending is projected to be reduced by 910 million euros compared with this year's levels.
Spending on wages and pensions is projected to rise by 3.5 pct next year, as the latter account for 45.9 pct of primary spending, while spending on social insurances, healthcare and social protection account for 28.7 pct of total primary spending. Operating and other spending sectors are projected to be 8.5-pct lower compared with 2009, namely, 9.765 billion euros.
The public investments programme will total 10.3 billion euros, up 8.4 pct from 2009, accounting for 4.2 pct of GDP, with projects co-funded with the EU totaling 6.950 billion euros and the remaining funded by national funds. The public investments programme envisages projects to boost education and vocational training systems, healthcare, manufacturing, large infrastructure projects and infrastructure projects in municipalities around the country.
The central government's debt is estimated at 300.8 billion euros, or 125.3 pct of GDP for this year, up from 262.07 billion euros or 109.6 pct in 2008, rising to 326.3 billion euros or 133.6 pct of GDP in 2010. The general government's debt is expected to rise to 294.95 billion euros (120.8 pct of GDP), from 272.3 billion euros (113.4 pct), respectively.
Spending on interest as a percentage of GDP is projected at 5.3 pct in 2010, from 5.1 pct in 2009 and 4.7 pct in 2008.
Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said the 2010 state budget seeks to cut the fiscal deficit to single-digit figures, contain public debt, cut state overspending, support state revenues with permanent measures, support incomes, raise pubic spending for investments, education and health and to boost employment.
Finance minister George Papaconstantinou presented the draft 2010 State Budget to a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, which he said aims at rekindling the economy, materialisation of the government's commitments, a developmental strategy, redistribution of the income, and enhancing transparency.
Papaconstantinou said it was a great honor for him to present the draft budget, given that Greece was in the midst of exceptionally adverse conditions and exacerbation of the country's chronic structural problems, since the government is commencing a long-term program to boost the economy's competitiveness and regain the country's credibility.
Presenting the fundamental principles of the budget, he said it was a "transitional budget" that was drafted in a short space of time, in cooperation with all the ministers, and materialises PASOK's commitments, supports the financially weaker strata, and is the first serious "tidying up" of the country's finances.
He further noted the "exceptionally adverse" economic environment, with a reduction in GDP and decline in exports.
The new budget will reduce the state expenditures and subsidies to agencies, abolishes the old car withdrawal incentives, and also reduces the armaments expenditures, while at the same time it reinforces the financially weaker classes, increases funding for education by one billion euros, foresees credits for the hiring of 3,000 employees in the National Health System (ESY), and raises the unemployment benefits, among other measures, the minister continued.
Papaconstantinou further noted the main fiscal target, which is to reduce the state deficit from 12.7 percent of GDP in 2009 to 9.4 percent of GDP in 2010 through an increase in revenues and decrease of expenditures.
Elaborating, the minister said that the increase in revenues will result from the activation of the mechanisms for collection of overdue debts and clamp down on tax evasion, an increase in taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, and the introduction of a more just taxation system, while the reduction of expenditures will result from a reduction of armaments spending and state consumer expenditure.
Papaconstantinou further noted that the state debt currently stands at 300 billion euros, adding that it increased by 40 billion euros in 2009 alone.
 UN chief addresses Hellenic Parliament: Reserved optimism for Cyprus solutionVisiting UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon expressed "reserved optimism" on a solution of the Cyprus issue, which must come "from the people of Cyprus, for the people of Cyprus", addressing a special session of the Hellenic Parliament on Thursday, while he also expressed his solid hope that the FYROM name issue, "which weighs on Greece's relations with its neighboring country", will be resolved in the immediate future.
Ban, the first UN secretary general to visit Greece, outlined the UN agenda, in which he invited Greece to play an active role, in statements that come just days after his visit to Afghanistan and a month before the UN's international summit on climate change is to be held in Copenhagen.
The UN chief stressed that "these days are critical" for environmental protection, adding that the developed countries must take measures immediately to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time providing economic and technological assistance to the developing countries to enable them to also move in the same direction.
He lauded the EU's leading role in the effort on climate change and welcomed the "vision of green development taking root in Greece", with a turn towards renewable energy sources and the creation of a ministry for the environment.
The UN's second target, he continued, is the further dissemination of economic opportunities, under which he placed the migration policy of the developed countries. Noting that more than 1 billion people throughout the planet live under the poverty level, Ban referred to the global financial crisis, recognising the tribulations it has caused to the robust economies but also reminding that the developed countries have both the political and moral obligation to help the underdeveloped countries.
In previous economic crises, developmental aid was halted at precisely the time it was most needed, he said, stressing that the global recession cannot serve as an excuse to abandon promises. Fulfillment of obligations is not philanthropy, but it is crucial that there is a plan for global recovery, the UN chief stressed.
On migration policy, he noted that in recent years, the Greek economy has greatly benefited from the contribution of the migrants, adding that he was also aware of the efforts being made to ameliorate concerns on the living conditions of (unauthorised) migrants and on the problem of adequate protection of migrant workers. "I honestly believe that Greece, as a country of destination of such workers, will continue to advance and protect the rights of the migrants. I also hope that the Greek government will follow the recommendations of the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the treatment of asylum-seekers," he added.
The consolidation of global peace is another firm priority of the UN, Ban said, while earlier he had also praised the participation "with faith in democracy and freedom" of the 1,000 Greek soldiers in the Korean War.
He noted that the sacrifice of the Greek people had helped in the liberation of his own country. "I will never forget my meeting with some old veterans a few years ago here in Athens," Ban added.
The UN chief also spoke warmly of the UN employees who had been attacked by the Taliban in Afghanistan and all those who risk their lives for a better future for the people of Afghanistan.
In that framework, Ban asked for more active support by Greece in the UN's peacekeeping missions, and also stressed the necessity for putting a taboo on nuclear weapons in the world.
We will never be able to achieve peace and prosperity in a world threatened by the nightmare of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, he stressed.
Ban also referred to two issues of direct Greek interest, namely the Cyprus issue and the FYROM name issue.
On Cyprus, he said that the UN actively supports a settlement, in advancing the ongoing talks between the leaders of the two communities, adding that steady progress has been made
Despite the many difficulties, he remained reservedly optimistic on the prospects for a settlement, adding that Greece's unique and close relationship with the Republic of Cyprus renders its support decisive.
Now is a unique opportunity to resolve the long-standing problem, Ban said, and urged that we must do all that we can to support the Cypriot people in achieving the goal of a mutually acceptable and beneficial settlement for a unified Cyprus.
On the FYROM name issue, Ban noted that a resolution of the matter will open up new prospects for regional cooperation, stability and security in SE Europe, adding that he had solid hope that the matter will be resolved in the near future, and expressing his certainty that both Greece and FYROM will make every effort for a mutually acceptable agreement.
 Alternate FM Droutsas meets with UN SecGenAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas met Thursday with visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and focused on the course of the Cyprus issue, the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), climate change, migration, peacekeeping missions and the Olympic Truce.
Droutsas briefed the UN chief on the migration flows entering Greece from Asian and African countries via Turkey and stressed that close cooperation with Turkish authorities is very important in order to deal with the problem while respecting its humanitarian aspect. On the FYROM name issue, the Greek side expressed its commitment to the talks being held under the auspices of the UN and the mediation of UN envoy Mathew Nimetz.
As regards climate change, an issue that is dominating talks held within the framework of the EU and the UN in view of the Copenhagen Summit meeting, the Greek side stressed that it is important that the international community makes decisions to deal with this major problem, the consequences of which will become particularly apparent in the Mediterranean region. The UN expressed the intent to boost efforts aimed at coordinated decisions that will yield results in Copenhagen.
Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras, speaking to reporters afterwards, explained that as regards the Cyprus issue Greek diplomacy supports a solution that will result from a dialogue between the two communities without timetables, pressures, threats and arbitration. "The dialogue is the goal that will allow the two communities to enjoy in a tangible manner the benefits that will be produced," the foreign ministry spokesman stated.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister George Papandreou had a telephone communication with Cyprus Republic President Demetris Christofias and briefed him on the contents of the UN SecGen talks in Athens.
 Katseli holds talks with UN SGEconomy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli held talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday and referred to the government's intention to promote the role of shipping as an important sector for the development and protection of the environment. The Secretary General is in Greece on an official visit.
A framework was set during the talks for closer cooperation between Greece and the international organisation while the minister emphasised the intention of the government and the ministry to cooperate closely and support the UN's work, while pointing to the need for the boosting and upgrading of the UNDP's office in Athens to a regional office to enable Greece to become the centre of the wider region.
Katseli also underlined that Greece desires to play an important development role in the wider region since it is a strategic European hub at the crossroads of three continents.
 Citizens' protection minister confers with EU Commissioner on illegal migrants, asylum seekersMinister for citizens' protection Michalis Chryssohoidis met with visiting European Commission vice-president Jacques Barrot, who holds the justice, freedom and security portfolio, on Wednesday night.
Speaking after the meeting, Chryssohoidis said that the asylum process will be transferred from the authority of the police services to the justice ministry.
He also said he called for an immediate amendment to the Dublin Regulation, explaining to the Commissioner that it was very unfair for Greece.
Greece, he added, was seeking, through such an amendment, that the thousands of (unauthorhised) migrants in other EU countries, which countries that claim that the migrants originated from Greece, be not returned to Greece. Chryssohoidis also called for Turkey to be convinced to honor its signature in the readmission protocols it has signed with Greece.
Under the Dublin Regulation, which was passed in 2003 and replaces the Dublin Convention, the member state responsible for an asylum claim is the state through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU, and the asylum seeker is returned to that member state.
Tens of thousands of unauthorised migrants enter Greece each year, most of them ferried across by migrant smugglers from the opposite Turkish coasts, with final destinations including parts of Greece but also other EU countries.
Barrot, in turn, said that Chryssohoidis had assured him that Greece will seek a solution to the asylum problem.
He also said he would go to Ankara next with the aim of securing Turkey's cooperation in the illegal immigrants issue.
The Commissioner further said that the EU will try to convince Turkey to sign the Frontex agreement, and in tandem to abide by the readmission agreements it has already signed.
 Athens on Erdogan letterÁ letter addressed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to his Greek counterpart George Papandreou was delivered on Monday to Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas by the Turkish ambassador to Athens, as a follow up to Papandreou' s visit to Istanbul and meeting with Erdogan, according to a foreign ministry spokesman on Thursday.
Spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras also reminded that the Greek prime minister's decision to visit Istanbul highlighted the new government's intent to undertake initiatives. He said the messages sent out went to three directions namely, Balkan states, showing them that Greece supports and wants to facilitate their EU accession course; the Turkish people, by displaying a readiness for a meaningful improvement of bilateral relations for the benefit of regional stability as well as to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, by showing that the Greek government supports firmly its position and demands.
Responding to a relevant question, Delavekouras said the Turkish PM's letter constitutes "routine practice" and that the prime minister will send his reply shortly.
As regards the contacts of Turkey's Minister of State and chief negotiator for the EU, Egemen Bagis, with the Greek government, Delavekouras stated that they will take place in view of December's Summit meeting when Turkey will undergo "objective and strict evaluation". He also said that "everything is possible. Greece is waiting for Turkey's tangible response to the EU criteria and prerequisites and the commitments it has undertaken," pointing out that there will be "no shortcuts".
Referring to the operation of Frontex, Delavekouras pointed out that "Greece wants Turkey's cooperation with Frontex," considering that no such agreement has been signed yet despite Ankara's statement that it will do so.
He underlined that such a development would be "crucial" in dealing with the illegal migrant wave Greece is faced with and expressed the wish that the visit by EU Commissioner Jacques Barrot, responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, to Turkey on Thursday will contribute toward this direction.
He also reminded that Greece has signed a migrant readmission protocol with Turkey since 2001 which, however, "is not being observed by Turkey". Referring to the harassment incidents targeting Frontex aircraft, he pointed out that it is an "illegal behaviour" and Greece has made the necessary moves.
 Cypriot FM on Turkish PM's letter to Greek counterpartNICOSIA (ANA-MPA / A. Viketos)
Cypriot Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou stated that Cyprus Republic President Demetris Christofias has already been briefed on the content of a letter Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed to his Greek counterpart.
Speaking in a local talk show, Kyprianou pointed out that the Turkish PM's letter sends the message that "problems should be solved within the framework of the zero problem policy in the region. And this also includes us."
Kyprianou stated that the Erdogan letter and the visit by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to Brussels are placed within a "publicity campaign launched by Turkey to prove that it wants a speedy solution to the Cyprus problem", while he stressed that "it is important to be cautious and wait for tangible initiatives."
He also sent out the message that "if no concrete progress is made in the Cyprus issue by December there will be consequences on Turkey's EU accession course". The position expressed by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, that the EU has undertaken commitments toward Turkey, is wrong, he said, clarifying that "an EU candidate state cannot set its own preconditions. Only the EU can set terms and preconditions".
Kyprianou underlined that the EU has undertaken no commitment as regards the conclusion of Turkey's EU accession negotiations.
 Turkey's Bagis meets PM, alternate foreign ministerAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Thursday hosted a working lunch with visiting Turkish Minister of State Egemen Bagis, Turkey's chief negotiator in its accession talks with the European Union.
The lunch took place after a half-hour meeting between Bagis and Prime Minister George Papandreou that ended without statements.
Droutsas and Bagis held informal talks focusing on bilateral relations and Turkey's accession talks in view of the EU Summit in December. The Turkish minister outlined the reforms carried out by Turkey and the progress that had been made so far, while they also examined the possibility of bilateral cooperation between Greece and Turkey on European issues.
The Greek side repeated its support for Turkey's EU accession if Turkey fully met the criteria and obligations required by the EU in view of its evaluation in December.
Bagis, who is in Athens to speak at an event organised by the International Centre for Black Sea Studies, also conveyed the regards of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Greek government.
 President to pay state visit to SloveniaPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias will pay a three-day state visit to Slovenia on November 17-19, at the invitation of his Slovenian counterpart Dr. Danilo Turk, it was announced on Thursday.
 OSCE marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin WallVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas will be the keynote speaker in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) event to be held here on Friday marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Droutsas will address the event as the Special Representative of the OSCE CiO Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Greece George Papandreou. The event, coorganized by the Greek OSCE Chairmanship, Austria and Germany, will also be addressed by former foreign minister of Germany Hans Dietrich Genscher.
 Alternate FM Droutsas' and Dep. FM Kouvelis' scheduleThe agenda of Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas was announced Thursday by foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras.
On Thursday morning, Droutsas met with visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and afterwards he attended the UN SecGen's speech in the Greek Parliament.
He also attended a meeting between Prime Minister George Papandreou and Turkey's Minister of State and chief negotiator for the EU Egemen Bagis. Afterwards, Droutsas hosted a working luncheon for the Turkish official.
Early in the afternoon, the Alternate Foreign Minister and Special Representative of the OSCE CiO will travel to Vienna where he will hold bilateral meetings, participate in the OSCE event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and attend the Special Meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on Nov. 5-6.
On Thursday evening, he will meet with Metropolitan Michael of Austria, and on Friday, Nov. 6, he will meet with Austrian President Dr. Heinz Fischer, the Speaker of the Austrian Parliament, Dr. Barbara Prammer, Foreign Minister Dr. Michael Spindelegger, and the Secretary General of the OSCE, Ambassador Marc Perrin de Brichambaut.
On Nov. 9 at 9:30am, Droutsas will attend a meeting of the EU ambassadors organized by the Swedish EU Presidency. On the same day, he will accompany PM Papandreou in Berlin to attend an event marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
On Nov. 10, Droutsas will be in Madrid to attend the informal dinner of the EU foreign ministers hosted by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos in view of the Spanish EU Presidency. The dinner will be attended by the foreign ministers of Italy, Finland, Hungary, Estonia, and Lithuania.
On Nov. 11, he will receive Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou. At 14.00 he will host a working luncheon and at 15.30 he will attend the meeting between Papandreou and Kyprianou.
On Nov. 12, he will host a working luncheon for Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov.
Meanwhile, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis met Thursday with the Director General of the International Organization for Migration, Ambassador William Lacy Swing.
On Nov. 11, at 13.00 Kouvelis will attend a working luncheon hosted by Hellenic African Chamber of Commerce and Development (HACCD) President Sotiris Mousouris for the African ambassadors, while on Nov. 12 he will visit Thessaloniki to open the 3rd Business Forum of the Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises (UBCCE).
 Labour minister defends abolition of stage schemeLabour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos on Thursday told Parliament that the government decision to abolish the "stage" vocational training schemes ended a regime that discriminated unfairly between candidates for jobs in the public sector.
He was responding to questions tabled in Parliament by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary leader Alexis Tsipras and main opposition New Democracy MP Geoge Kontogiannis, who accused the government of a "heartless decision" that "threw thousands of young people out onto the street".
The minister clarifed that the envisaged measure provided equal opportunities for those that had acquired work experience in the private sector with those that had worked as trainees in the public sector.
According to Loverdos, there were neither a legal nor moral grounds for continuing the stage scheme for those hired immediately before the elections, while he said that the government was considering the possibility of hiring those with 24-months plus in a public-sector post via the Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection (ASEP), as staff with temporary contracts.
"For those that have one, two or more years in the public sector in this form of captivity, the government's decision must be carefully considered in all its parts. There is provision for these people. The government has decided to announced jobs, where there is need, via ASEP, which assures us that we can cover [these positions] in 20-25 days for staff with temporary contracts," the minister said.
He also pointed out that the law provided those that had gone through stage training schemes with extra points as past experience when they applied for state-sector jobs and that the government needed to pass a measure that would give equal weight to past experience in the public and private sectors to candidates for such jobs, while modifying current laws on hiring via temporary contracts that gave the unemployed precedence over those in training schemes.
"Possibly, Parliament must here vote an amendment and with this legislative framework the 'stagers' can be candidates and not be automatically included on the basis of the unconstitutional law of the ND measure. In this way, all those young people that have the right qualifications will be hired through ASEP competitions," he stressed.
The minister underlined, however, that these employees would not be given points to work as permanent public-sector staff because this would be unacceptable for all those people without the political connections that would have given them a chance at a position on a stage scheme.
 Katseli on the new dockworkers' strike in PiraeusEconomy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli stated Thursday that "open dialogue means open ports", firmly supporting a substantive dialogue with striking dockworkers.
Katseli underlined that she regretted that the Federation of Port Workers of Greece (OMYLE) and the Association of Dockworkers of the Piraeus Port Authority SA (PPA SA) have decided to continue their strike, adding that such actions lack legitimacy.
Katseli stated that the immediate opening of a dialogue between PPA SA and Cosco's subsidiary in Greece on major contractual issues, PPA pricing until Nov. 2 and the appointment of a new CEO in PPA SA, constitute a framework of commitments undertaken by the government that were accepted by the workers as early as Oct. 16.
The minister also called on the strikers to assume their share of responsibility and realize the impact of their decisions on the economy, consumers, the business community and the production sectors.
Piraeus dockworkers decided to hold a new 48-hour strike beginning at midnight Wednesday. They also decided to abstain from overtime work this weekend. The strikers will hold a meeting on Friday to decide their next move.
 FinMin on transparency in political moneyThe planned change of the electoral system and introduction of substantive control on the campaign expenses of the political parties and candidates will contribute to the streamlining and transparency of political monies, finance minister George Papaconstantinou said in parliament on Thursday.
Replying to a question tabled by former parliament president and ruling PASOK MP Apostolos Kaklamanis concerning "provocative violations of the electoral and taxation legislation" in the recent campaign period ahead of the October 4 general elections, Papaconstantinou conceded that the Special Audits Service was dysfunctional to the point that the relevant written charges submitted by Kaklamanis on October 2 were conveyed just recently to the regional services for audit.
Kaklamanis, in turn, noted that his question does not concern bureaucracy, but the essence of the fiscal problem and social injustice, adding that the point at hand was the obliteration of the phenomenon of the huge tax evasion, contribution evasion and corruption.
Kaklamanis stressed that the problem must be tackled head-on, at its roots, by the politicians themselves.
 Greeks work longer than other Europeans, Eurostat survey showsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
Greeks work longer hours than any other Europeans - about 42 hours a week on average - according to the results of a survey carried out by the European statistics agency Eurostat that was released on Thursday.
The figures refer to the second trimester of 2009 and report that the average working week in the 27 EU member-states is 40.3 hours a week, while in the Eurozone it is 40 hours.
Greeks are top of the list with 42 hours per week, followed by the Czechs with 41.6 hours a week, Austrians with 41.5 hours a week and Poles with 41.4 hours a week.
The shortest working week is enjoyed by the Finns (37.8 hours), Danes (38 hours) and Swedes (38.1 hours).
According to the same survey, Greece has the lowest rate of part-time employment as a proportion of full-time employment in the EU, at 6 percent. The average is 18.8 percent in the EU27 and 20 percent in the Eurozone.
Part-time work is most common in the Netherlands (48.2 percent) and in Sweden (27 percent), while it is least common in Bulgaria (2.6 percent) and Slovakia (4 percent).
 GDP down by 0.3% in '10The 2010 budget is a starting point for a new effort amid a very difficult fiscal environment, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told reporters on Thursday during the presentation of the state's draft budget.
The minister said it was a "transition budget", seeking a recovery of the economy, a redistribution of incomes and putting state's finances in order.
It was the first time that a state budget envisaged cuts in primary spending, Papaconstantinou said, adding that the government believed that the state should respect citizens' money. He noted that the budget was a tool of economic policy, but structural changes were needed, while he added that the government would adhere to its pledge to change the country's tax system. A dialogue would begin soon for a new tax draft law, which would be probably ready in March, he said.
Conversely, he acknowledged that the situation was very difficult because of the very high fiscal deficit and public debt, accompanied by structural weaknesses in public administration.
The budget envisages a negative growth rate of -0.3 pct next year, down from -1.5 pct in 2009, while investments are projected to fall by -2.0 pct from -20 pct this year.
Exports are expected to grow by 2.5 pct in 2010, down from -14 pct in 2009, while imports are projected to recover, with a growth of 1.5 pct from -22 pct this year.
The state's regular revenues are projected to grow by 3.82 billion euros, with regular revenues totaling 56.9 billion euros, up 7.2 pct from this year. Tax revenues are expected to grow by 7.2 pct to 54.225 billion euros, reflecting the implementation of a new tax system, combating tax evasion and speeding up procedures to collect outstanding taxes.
The government expects revenues from direct taxes to rise by 8.9 pct to 23.725 billion euros next year, from 21.785 billion in 2009. Income tax revenues were projected to grow by 3.5 pct to 17.375 billion euros, corporate taxes to fall by 7.2 pct to 3.525 billion euros, property taxes to jump by 82.1 pct to 865 million euros and revenues from direct taxes of previous fiscal years to rise by 4.8 pct to 2.725 billion euros.
Revenues from indirect taxes were projected to grow by 6.0 pct to 30.5 billion euros, revenues from transactions taxes to rise by 4.1 pct to 18.472 billion euros and VAT proceeds to rise by 5.0 pct to 17.315 billion euros. A 10.2 pct rise in VAT proceeds is projected following the imposition of a special consumption tax on cigarettes.
 Hellenic Telecoms reports lower Q3 resultsHellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Thursday reported lower third- and nine-month results, reflecting pressures from an international economic crisis.
OTE said group revenues fell 7.4 pct in the third quarter to 1.517 billion euros, compared with the corresponding period last year, while next profits dropped 19 pct to 293 million euros and earnings per share fell 19 pct. Third quarter EBITDA was down 7.9 pct to 571 million euros, from 620 million euros in 2008. The group said nine-month turnover fell 6.5 pct, net profits fell 13.4 pct and EBITDA dropped 9.0 pct.
Parent turnover fell 6.1 pct to 596.9 million euros, operating earnings dropped 17 pct to 60.7 million euros, while EBITDA eased 13.4 pct to 163.9 million euros.
Cosmote Group said turnover fell 9.7 pct in the third quarter to 791.1 million euros, for 6.5 pct decline in the nine-month perid from January to September. Operating earnings fell 13.1 pct to 197.7 million euros and EBITDA eased 5.6 pct to 313.4 million euros. Net new connections grew 14.6 pct to 725,313. Cosmote said it continued expanding its leading position in Greece and boosting its revenue share in Romania.
In Greece, Cosmote attracted 271,000 net new connections, raising its customer base to 9.1 million, up 22.3 pct compared with the same quarter of 2008. Turnover rose 2.0 pct to 507.9 million euros in the third quarter and by 3.4 pct in the nine-month period. Operating earnings fell 8.7 pct to 161.4 million euros, while EBITDA fell 5.4 pct to 207.7 million euros.
Cosmote said its subsidiaries in Albania and Bulgaria reported lower third quarter results, while Cosmote Romania reported a 24 pct rise in turnover to 107.4 million euros, EBITDA jumped 45 pct and EBITDA margin rose to 17.8 pct.
Germanos said third quarter turnvoer fell by 10.5 pct to 236 million euros, operating earnings dropped 20.8 pct an EBITDA fell 8.5 pct.
RomTelecom said turnover fell 6.2 pct in the third quarter of 2009.
 J&P-Avax signs 156.5-mln-euro road project in PolandJ&P-Avax on Thursday announced the signing of a contract wortrh 156.5 million euros for the construction of a motorway project in Poland, after winning an international tender.
The motorway project is located in the southeastern part of Poland, part of A4 motorway which crosses the country reaching the borders with Ukraine. The project includes 21 bridges and two parking slots. The project is expected to be ready in 30 months.
J&P-Avax has already signed another six work contracts in Poland, worth around 300 million euros.
 Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling reports flat nine-month resultsCoca-Cola Hellenic Bottling on Thursday reported a 3.0 pct decline in its comparable nine-month net profits to 411 million euros, or 1.13 euros per share.
The company said comparable operating profits (EBIT) totaled 591 million euros, down 1.0 pct compared with the corresponding period last year, while net sales totaled 5.151 billion euros, down 4.0 pct from last year. The volume of sales totaled 1.617 billion boxes, unchanged from last year's levels. Cash flows from operating activities totaled 519 million euros in the January-September period, up 250 million euros from last year.
Third quarter volume of sales was 584 million boxes, down 4.0 pct from the same quarter in 2008, while net revenues totaled 1.885 billion euros, down 9.0 pct from 2008.
Comparable operating profits (EBIT) were 281 million euros, down 2.0 pct, while comparable net earnings fell 1.0 pct to 210 million euros.
Commenting on the results, Doros Konstantinou, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling's chief executive said the results showed a further improvement in organic profitability margin and stressed that the company's goal remained to achieving cash flows of least 1.2 billion euros in the period 2009-2011.
 Car registrations down 22.1 pct in Jan-OctNew car registrations dropped 22.1 pct in the January-October period this year to 247,554 units, compared with the corresponding period in 2008, the National Statistical Service said on Thursday.
The statistics agency, in a report, also said the new motorcycle registrations totaled 65,705 units in the 10-month period, down 30.7 pct compared with the same period last year.
 Foreign investors' participation in ASE unchanged in Oct.Foreign investors' participation in the Athens stock market was almost unchanged at 49.7 pct in October, marginally up from 49.2 pct in September, official figures showed on Thursday.
Foreign institutional investors were net buyers in October, with capital inflows totaling 97.96 million euros, while off-shore companies and corporations were net sellers with capital outflows totaling 38.16 million and 45.92 million euros, respectively.
Greek investors were net sellers, with capital outflows totaling 80 million euros. Foreign investors accounted for 47.33 pct of total turnover in the market, down from 50.96 pct in September and 52.96 pct in October 2008.
The value of transactions totaled 6.287 billion euros in October, up 13.8 pct from the previous month. The Athens Stock Exchange's capitalization totaled 99.8 billion euros, up 1.03 pct from September and 27.9 pct higher from October 2008.
 Stocks end 1.17% higherGreek stocks continued moving higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index of the market rising 1.17 pct to end at 2,683.57 points. Turnover was a moderate 250.5 million euros, of which 9.8 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with the Insurance (3.82 pct), Banks (2.75 pct) and Telecommunications (2.63 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Food/Beverage (2.89 pct), Travel (1.27 pct) and Chemicals (1.15 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 1.70 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.63 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index rose 0.16 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 100 to 87 with another 59 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.28%
Personal & Household: +1.28%
Raw Materials: +0.02%
Travel & Leisure: -1.27%
Food & Beverages: -2.89%
Financial Services: +0.23%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Cyprus and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 13.12
Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.75
HBC Coca Cola: 16.94
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.20
National Bank of Greece: 25.82
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 10.90
Bank of Piraeus: 11.47
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.78 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 85.994 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,820 contracts worth 69.186 million euros, with 25,749 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 15,734 contracts worth 16.808 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (2,381), followed by Eurobank (937), MIG (1,639), OTE (1,490), Piraeus Bank (1,389), National Bank (2,110), Marfin Popular Bank (2,149) and Cyprus Bank (1,274).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market jumped to 2.971 billion euros on Thursday, of which 1.535 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.436 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 2.386 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was 139 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 4.72 pct and the German Bund 3.33 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.23 pct, the six-month rate 1.04 pct, the three-month rate 0.72 pct and the one-month rate 0.42 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.498
Pound sterling 0.902
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 10.523
Japanese yen 135.37
Swiss franc 1.523
Norwegian kroner 8.504
Canadian dollar 1.593
Australian dollar 1.649
 Justice minister visits Korydallos prison complexJustice, Transparency and Human Rights minister Haris Kastanidis visited the Korydallos high security prison facility on Thursday, where he instructed prison director Pavlos Doulamis to submit a full list of the problems faced by the facility.
Kastanidis, who was accompanied by deputy justice minister Apostolos Katsifaras and the Ombudsman's assistant Calliope Spanou, was briefed on the problems by the director and the prison employees.
He also visited the incarceration wings and spoke with inmates, who were surprised since this was the first ever visit by a justice minister to the prisoners' quarters.
Kastanidis said that this was his first of a series of visits to all of the country's prisons, and stressed the ministry's intention to improve the living conditions of the prison employees and inmates alike through deep changes to the correctional system.
The main problems that require solution, he continued, are overpopulation of the prisons, shortages in healthcare and staff, delays in court hearings of cases, and difficulties in the readmission of migrant inmates to their countries of origin.
 New chiefs of police, fire brigade announcedThe Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) on Thursday announced the appointments of Lieutenant General Eleftherios Economou as the new head of the Greek Police (ELAS) and Lieutenant General Stylianos Stefanidis as chief of the Fire Brigade. Economou, previously the ELAS Inspector for Southern Greece, replaces Lieutenant General Vassilis Tsiatouras.
 Ankara says Turkish frigate thwarts takeover of Greek-owned vessel (Ádds)ANKARA (ANA-MPÁ)
The Turkish military on Thursday announced that a Turkish frigate patrolling in the Gulf of Aden prevented the hijacking of a Greek-owned freighter sailing in the sea region earlier in the day.
The Turkish general staff office said the frigate "Gediz" fired warning shots and dispatched a helicopter and commandos to prevent efforts by five armed pirates to board the Panamanian-flagged "Theophoros", owned by the Good Faith shipping group.
Conversely, the Greek coast guard's headquarters in Athens said the attempted piracy was thwarted by the seamen aboard the "Theophoros", all foreign nationals, who drove off the attackers with high-pressure hoses. The coast guard also referred to assistance by British marines.
The Turkish military dispatch out of Ankara, meanwhile, said all five pirates were arrested.
The attack reportedly took place on Thursday morning, local time, following an SOS transmission by the merchant vessel.
The waters and sea lanes off Somalia in the NW Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Aden have increasingly been plagued by piracy over the past few years, resulting in the dispatch to the region of a multinational anti-piracy naval task force.
 Prosecutor proposes conviction for two in ELA trialAn Athens prosecutor on Thursday proposed the conviction of Christos Tsigaridas and Angeletos Kanas for participation in the "Revolutionary Popular Struggle" terrorist group (ELA) and in actions of the organisation and the acquittal of Irini Athanasaki.
Following a hearing lasting for several months, where the appeals by the three convicted to 25-year prison terms were considered, the prosecutor proposed that Kanas be found guilty for actions of the organisation that have not been written off, until 1994, since he "provided material and spiritual assistance."
For Tsigaridas, he proposed conviction for simple complicity in all of the organisation's explosions, until 1989, that have not been written off.
For Athanasaki, the prosecutor proposed acquittal due to the writting off of charges concerning actions perpatrated before 1985 and acquittal for actions concerning the 1985-1995 period since it had not been proved that she had active and decisive participation.
 Austrian region Styria meets AthensA meeting between the City Councillor of Graz Ms. Sonja Grabner and the Deputy Mayor for International Relations of Athens Ms. Sophia Daskalaki-Mytilineou took place on Thursday, in the framework of the "Styrian Days", organised from October 29, 2009 until November 8, 2009 under the slogan "Styria meets Athens".
The City Councillor of Graz was accompanied by the Ambassador of Austria in Athens, Dr. Michael Linhart.
The two officials discussed issues of common interest shared by the cities of Graz and Athens. They expressed their willingness to upgrade their relations by strengthening cooperation in the fields of culture, tourism and social policy. They also stressed that cultural exchange between the cities should primarily focus on the younger population.
Among the Styrian events that took place in Athens in honor of the former Greek students at the Universities of Graz and Leoben, were the presentation of a film on the current architectural landscape of Styria at the New Benaki Museum, a fashion show by designer Andrea Luh from Styria and a gala evening with a brass band from Styria.
In addition, "Culinary Days" are organized at the Athens Ledra Marriot Hotel from November 5-8 during which wines and meals from the Austrian region Styria can be degusted.
 Fire-bombs cause minor damage in Exarchia, GyziUnidentified persons threw two home-made incendiary devices (molotov cocktails) at the Office of the Exarchia-Neapolis Political Movement, one of the component factions of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party, in the Exarchia district in downtown Athens in the early hours of Thursday, breaking a glass facade as well as minor damage from the ensuing fire, which was quickly extinguished.
About an hour later, another home-made incendiary device comprising small propane canisters exploded outside the entrance of the Friends of Panathinaikos soccer club office in Gyzi square, central Athens, and the ensuing fire caused minor damage to the building's facade.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 9C and 24C. Cloudy with possible showers in Athens, with southerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 22C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 18C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe economic crisis and the new tax policy, tax evasion which reaches 30 billion euros every year, the State Budget draft to be tabled on Thursday in parliament, the dockworkers' strike, the new flu and the situation in main opposition New Democracy (ND) ahead of the election for a new leader, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Government playing games with migrants, seeking their vote in order to alter election results".
APOGEVMATINI: "Prime Minister George Papandreou's close associates appointed as secretaries general in the Ministries".
AVGHI: "Dockworkers block Cosco - New 48hour strike on Thursday and Friday announced at Piraeus port".
AVRIANI: "Industrialists accuse self-employed professionals and small and medium sized enterprises of tax evasion reaching 30 billion euros every year".
ELEFTHEROS: "Something strange is happening with our national issues - Rapid developments in the midst of blatant contradictions".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Indirect taxes from January - State Budget draft contains the well known recipe".
ESTIA: "The economy languishing - Wealth distribution requires production".
ETHNOS: "Government's plan for changes in public sector".
KATHIMERINI: "PM statement: Every migrant's child to be born in Greece will acquire Greek nationality".
LOGOS: "Situation in Piraeus port out of control - Dockworkers extend their strike".
NIKI: "6,100 hirings in Health sector - Scenery changes in state hospitals and healthcare".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist party leader Aleka Papariga's statement: Piraeus port's privatisation must be annulled".
TA NEA: "Doctors appeal: Be vaccinated against the new flu".
TO VIMA: "Professionals' taxation on the horizon - 700,000 professionals declare only 4 percent of the tax income".
VRADYNI: "IKA state Social Security Foundation warns: Pensions and Christmas bonus in jeopardy".
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