|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-11-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 26 November 2009 Issue No: 3359
 Papandreou, Zapatero discuss Spain's upcoming EU presidencyPrime Minister George Papandreou held a working lunch with his Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Zapatero at noon on Wednesday, with talks focusing on "major issues" that the Spanish EU presidency is expected to tackle as of Jan. 1, 2010.
Papandreou referred to the international economic crisis as being the most outstanding problem facing the Union, along with the related problem of unemployment, for which he said the remedy lies in "green development" and greater investments in innovation, technology, education and renewable energy sources.
The Greek prime minister stated that he agreed with the priority set by Spain regarding "Mediterranean issues", meaning greater protection of the basin's ecosystem, and he termed a related summit in Barcelona as an "excellent initiative".
Referring to bilateral relations between Athens and Madrid, Papandreou said that he looks forward to cooperation between Greece and Spain regarding the transfer of know-how from the latter for renewable energy sources.
He also mentioned the discussion he had with his Spanish counterpart on Greece's views vis-a-vis the Balkans, ties with Turkey and the Cyprus issues, which he said will also arise during the Spanish EU presidency.
Zapatero predicted that the economic crisis will soon be overcome, while he referred to the significance of Mediterranean issues, stressing, in particular, that the Spanish EU presidency places heightened importance on cracking down on illegal immigration.
Referring to the Balkans and Turkey, the Spanish prime minister said that within the framework of his government's policy on these issues there will be close cooperation with the Greek prime minister.
Earlier, Papandreou held a meeting with visiting Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov at the Maximos Mansion and hosted reception for him.
 Alternate FM Droutsas holds talks with NATO SGBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas held talks with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at NATO's headquarters here on Wednesday, focusing on Greek-Turkish relations, relations between the European Union and NATO, the issue of Cyprus and developments in the Balkans.
Droutsas also briefed the Northatlantic Council (ambassadors) on Greece's OSCE presidency, as well as on the ministerial conference that will be taking place in Athens on December 1-2 on security in Europe.
In his meeting with NATO's secretary general, Droutsas referred to the Greek government's priority on foreign policy issues.
On the question of Greek-Turkish relations, Droutsas said that he had the opportunity of conveying to the secretary general Greece's scepticism over Turkey's attitude in the Aegean which, as he said, also has unavoidably repercussions on NATO's functioning as well.
Droutsas also outlined for Rasmussen the Greek government's initiatives on the issue of relations with Turkey and referred to the recent meeting between Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while negotiations under way on the issue of Cyprus were also discussed.
Droutsas further said that a solution to the Cyprus problem must be "European" and "Cypriot", meaning that "the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots must be let to discuss freely about their common future as an EU member-state, without artificial timetables, outside pressures or even threats that speak of a last opportunity for a solution to the Cyprus issue."
As regards the Balkans, Droutsas presented Rasmussen with Greece's proposal known as the "Agenda 2014" concerning the clear perspective that Athens desires to give to the countries of the Western Balkans in connection with their European accession course.
Coming to the question of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FyRoM), Droutsas said that NATO's stance is the known decision taken by the Alliance at the Bucharest summit in April 2008.
He clarified that the only process for a solution to the issue and negotiations on the issue of the name of FYROM is the framework of the UN.
Lastly, referring to the OSCE ministerial session taking place in Athens next week, Droutsas said that it is the biggest event in Athens after the 2004 Olympic Gamers, with the presence of over 50 foreign ministers.
 OSCE FMs to hold decisive meeting in AthensVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
The meeting of the Foreign Ministers Council of the 56 member-states of the OSCE in Athens on December 1-2, in the framework of the Greek Presidency of the Organisation in 2009, will reportedly be decisive for the course of the OSCE.
The foreign Ministers Council, which is being convened at the initiative of the OSCE chairman, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Greece, George Papandreou, constitutes the Organisation's central body for governance and the taking of decisions.
It is not by chance that optimistic positions by leading diplomats regarding the contribution of the Athens meeting were invoked on Wednesday in a main article subtitled "OSCE hopes for its recovery at Foreign Ministers Council in Athens" in the prestigious Austrian newspaper "Die Presse", that is known for its relations with international diplomacy.
The article stresses, among other things, that "the new magical word of the OSCE is named Corfu Process, since the foreign ministers of the OSCE decided this summer on the Greek island to give new life to the political dialogue on security issues, as a reply to the proposal by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for a new European Security System."
As a conlusion, the writer stresses that decisive days are approaching for the OSCE, in early December the foreign ministers of its 56 countries will meet in Athens and the ambassadors of the OSCE are already scheduling at its Permanent Council the decisions that will be taken in the Greek capital.
 President to make state visit to Czech Republic next weekPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias will pay a four-day state visit to the Czech Republic next week, at the invitatio of his Czech counterpart.
Papoulias, at Czech president Vaclav Claus' invitation, will be in the Czech Republic from December 1 to 4.
 Gov't on Acheloos diversion; Prespes meetingGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis stated on Wednesday that there is no disagreement between the relevant environment minister and the infrastructure minister regarding the controversial Acheloos River diversion project.
Petalotis referred to Prime Minister George Papandreou's campaign pledge in the city of Larissa, central Greece, when he stated that "we will not allow Thessaly to turn into a new Sahara. This, we can guarantee."
In an unrelated development, and referring to a tripartite meeting on Friday between the prime ministers of Greece, Albania and fYRoM in Prespes lake region of northwest Greece, and whether the " name dispute" will be brought up, he stated that "there can be no agreement because we will not deviate from the known negotiating framework, namely, that of the United Nations".
He reiterated that the tripartite meeting will focus on environmental protection issues.
"There will be only a discussion if specific issues are raised between two parties," he said, "but no decision or agreement because there is no such process."
 Parliamentary Permanent Foreign Affairs and Defence CommitteeThe Parliamentary Permanent Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee held its first public session at the defence ministry on Wednesday, during which the ministry's civil and military leadership briefed its members on its duties.
The members of the parliamentary committee were briefed on the mission of the Armed Forces, the strategic doctrine, the structure and organisation of the Armed Forces, defence policy, the joint defence doctrine between Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, the armaments programme, Greece's international obligations and Greek-Turkish relations.
On the question of Greek-Turkish relations, Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos said that there is evident interest by the political leadership of the neighbouring country to find corridors of contact and reiterated the need for strategic calmness.
He stated that the country's participation in international missions provides diplomatic prestige, reliability and effectiveness in managing national issues. He noted that a Greek officer will be testifying at a trial to take place in Kenya in the framework of the European ATALANTA mission for combatting piracy. He also revealed that if necessary, the two Greek medical groups will return to Afghanistan.
He also pointed out that the unified defence space between Greece and the Republic of Cyprus is functioning at all levels and announced that he is planning a visit to Cyprus in the first 10 days in December.
The reassessment of the Armed Forces' armaments programme has begun with the aim of handling the most possible threat scenarios without sluggishness and prejudice, the minister alo said.
Research and rescue missions have a purely humanitarian nature and the fact that Turkey must respect air traffic rules in the Athens FIR is part of the framework of responsibility that Greece has for the safety of civil aircraft flights.
Next week, the minister is expected to announce in cooperation with the Environment, Energy and Climatic Change ministry the policy on army camps which, as he said, is a friendly policy for local societies.
 Gov't on the special solidarity benefit"Our commitments are carried out," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis stated Wednesday referring to the debate in parliament on the Special Solidarity Benefit draft law. He stated that more than 2.5 million households will be supported, adding that families with children and vulnerable social groups with low incomes will be a priority.
Petalotis reiterated the announcements made on Tuesday by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou according to which, low income earners with a family or a protected member that were unemployed until Nov. 3, 2009 will receive double solidarity benefit.
"It is the first time in recent years that a government proceeds with such a fair and socially necessary redistribution in a way that is so direct and socially just," he said.
 Gov't condemns arson attack on PASOK MP officeGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis categorically condemned the attack with an incendiary device that was planted at the main entrance of the office of ruling PASOK party MP Yiannis Vouros.
"Such attacks turn against Democracy and those elected to support it. All responsible authorities are investigating the case to bring those responsible to justice," he stated.
 Karatzaferis: 'Hollywood-style' gov't unable to follow real developmentsPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) leader George Karatzaferis on Wednesday launched a scathing attack against the government, accusing it of "not being able to follow real developments" in the country.
"The country is facing bankruptcy, while PASOK demonstrates an inability to follow real developments," Karatzaferis said at a press conference.
"A series of decisions, such as overturning the vehicle withdrawal measure, the port of Piraeus and differences between government officials prove, in practice, that the Hollywood-style government of (Prime Minister) George Papandreou doesn't operate smoothly," he added.
Karatzaferis also charged that after 50 days in office the PASOK government "has not tabled a single bill in Parliament, it has not appointed ministries' secretary generals or even regional directors..."
He also directly accused the prime minister of attempting to "alter the electorate by giving the right of vote to migrants."
"Greece does not live in a safe neighborhood for us to proceed with such initiatives."
 Ieronymos receives Bulgarian President ParvanovÁrchbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece received on Wednesday the President of Bulgaria Georgi Parvanov, who is on an official visit to Greece.
Éeronymos underlined the need for cooperation between the Church of Greece and Bulgaria in order for the Orthodox faith to be expressed uniformly. "I believe that the voice and the strength of the Orthodox spirit can become a substantial force in Europe," stressed the head of the Greek Church.
Parvanov thanked the Archbishop for his reception and noted that this particular meeting marks the spiritual bonds that remain vivid over the centuries between the two countries.
"It is very important that, with the presence of Bulgaria and Greece in the EU, the voice of the Orthodox faith is heard loud and clear" Parvanov said, adding that "our bilateral cooperation is particularly important in order to safeguard our national identities within the Union".
Parvanov was accompanied by Metropolitan Nathaniel of Nevrokopi, who conveyed to Ieronymos greetings from the Patriarch of Bulgaria Maximos.
 Survey among military shows scepticism about NATO's supportOfficers in the Greek armed forces believe that the country has to be part of a broader alliance but are sceptical about whether NATO will support Greece in a confrontation with neighbouring Turkey, according to an original and unusual survey unveiled in Athens on Wednesday.
The survey, which gauged views among Greece's military officers regarding the country's relations with NATO, was conducted by the opinion poll firm VPRC on behalf of the magazine "Monthly Review" and presented during a press conference at the local Foreign Press Association. It was conducted among a sample of 829 active and retired Greek military officers between May and September 2009 in Attica, Central Macedonia, Thessaly, Crete and two Aegean islands.
The conclusions that emerged from the survey were that armed forces officers were a "compact" group without greatly diverging opinions, though the dominant trends and views among them also pervaded Greek society as a whole, showing that they were not a "closed community".
Their stance toward NATO was more pragmatist than ideological, since they considered that Greece was too small a country to solve its problem alone and therefore needed to belong to some form of larger group. At the same time, Greek officers consider that NATO supports Turkey more than Greece and that it would not help Greece in any conflict between the two countries.
Of the officers that responded, 20 percent were in favour of NATO on ideological grounds, while 15 percent were against NATO on ideological grounds. For the remaining 65 percent, their attitudes were based on the country's European and ethnocentric orientation. The ethnocentric orientation had a distinct European tendency.
The dominant trend among Greek armed forces officers was a European orientation of the country. At the same time, they considered that the European Union was not currently in a position to play a substantial role. They saw this as a possibility in the future, if the EU succeeded in establishing an autonomous military presence worldwide.
They had reservations concerning the proposal for a global NATO but considered that Greece must belong to an international organisation.
The survey in question is the first of six planned by "Monthly Review" in the next two years and was the first of its kind conducted in a NATO member-state.
 Russian president congratulates Alexandria PatriarchMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th.Avgerinos)
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday sent a congratulations message to Alexandria Patriarch Teodoros II on the occasion of his 55th anniversary and the 5 years since his enthronement.
In his message, the Russian leader underlines Theodoros's contribution to unity of Orthodoxy and the widening of the constructive dialogue between Christian Churches.
"We honour the attention you are paying to the development of a fruitful cooperation with the Russian Church, the pastoral care for our compatriots, the warm relation with Russia to which you are linked through many ties," President Medvedev notes.
 Greek-Bulgarian trade ties showcased at chamber eventCooperation between Greece and Bulgaria in the energy sector and further development of bilateral relations were underlined during an event at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) on Wednesday, attended by President Karolos Papoulias and visiting Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov.
Speaking at the event, Bulgarian Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister Traicho Traikov stated that cooperation between the two countries is productive, while he referred to the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline.
EBEA President Konstantinos Mihalos emphasised that Bulgaria is the fourth most important destination for Greek exports, while Greece is the third largest investor in Bulgaria with direct investments estimated at 3 billion euros. Additionally, more than 100,000 jobs in the neighbouring country are linked with Greece-based investments and activities, mostly in the sectors of foods and beverages, construction, apparel manufacturing and services (bank, insurance, health).
Mihalos pointed out that despite the adverse economic conditions in 2008, the volume of bilateral trade reached 2.4 billion euros, recording a 21.7-pct increase compared to the previous year, while both the Greek and the Bulgarian exports posted increases.
 Deputy energy minister on Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipelineThe Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline, the Komotini-Haskovo natural gas pipeline and the possibility of the signing of an electric power exchange agreement between Greece and Bulgaria were discussed on Wednesday morning by Deputy Energy, Environment and Climatic Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis and Bulgarian Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister Traicho Traikov.
As regards the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline, Maniatis said that Greece is moving steadfastly towards the implementation of the project and announced that a bill will be tabled to facilitate the construction of the project, with emphasis on issues concerning land use.
In parallel, the project's Local Committee will be recreated, the Interministerial Committee for its monitoring, as well as the Negotiating Committee of the Passage Agreement, while possible offset benefits for the local societies are being examined.
The Bulgarian side stressed the need for securing the necessary quantities of oil as a precondition for the pipeline's viability. The timely settlement of the issue will also be requested from the Russian side which has assumed the contractual commitment.
Maniatis and Traikov agreed to close cooperation between the two ministries for all the necessary measures to be taken for the passing of the pipelines through their territory, taking into consideration all the parametres (technical, economic, environmental, etc).
On the question of the "vertical" Haskovo-Komotini (IGB) pipeline, the importance of the project was stressed, the prospect of its funding by the European Economic Recovery Plan was examined while the creation of a bilateral work group was decided for its implementation.
At the same time, the initiative by the three ministers from Greece-Bulgaria-Italy to send a letter to European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs on securing the necessary funds was considered positive.
 Gov't following a firm line on economic policy, spokesman saysThe government was taking steps to alleviate the very difficult economic state it had found by following a firm line that was promised before the elections and was now being turned into immediate policy, government spokesman George Petalotis said on Wednesday.
"We found a chaotic situation that we are now trying to overturn," he stressed, referring to the state of the economy when PASOK took over power.
He had been asked to comment on alarming warnings made on Tuesday by Bank of Greece governor George Provopoulos that the country's ever-worsening fiscal figures might significantly impair Greece's ability to borrow money as credit-rating agencies revised downwards their estimates of its economy.
Provopoulos made the statements while presenting the central bank's interim report on monetary policy to the Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee, urging drastic reforms to correct the long-term imbalances and weaknesses of the economy, particularly in the social insurance system.
Responding, the spokesman underlined that the government was placing emphasis on both the developmental prospects of the country and social justice.
"It is on this basis that we are proceeding and trying to change the economy on a structural level, so we do not have a repetition of the massive economic problems that we experienced after the unacceptable economic policy of New Democracy.
Petalotis rejected suggestions that the present government bore a measure of responsibility for the current state of affairs or had been aware that the Greek economy was veering out of control when it was main opposition, noting that PASOK had received only estimates from the central bank and not the full facts, to which only the New Democracy government had been privy.
"We heard the estimates but we could not imagine the true extent of the fiscal derailment. We found it, we are recording it and we are dealing with it," he added, noting that the government would not back down from any of its pre-election pledges relating to social justice.
The present government was addressing the problems by legislating for an independent Statistics Service that would not conceal the real economic figures used by the Greek government and provided to the EU, he stressed.
Regarding the measures proposed by the central banker, Petalotis underlined that sole responsibility for deciding economic policy lay with the Greek government, not the central bank.
"The Bank of Greece has a different role, and the role of the government is completely different again," he emphasised.
The spokesman finally underlined the government's support for Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, stressing that he faced "an extremely difficult task" and that the drafting of the budget was a "titanic task" produced by the government collectively.
In his presentation to the Greek Parliament, Provopoulos had warned that failure to address the country's serious macroeconomic problems - whose chief expressions were the "twin" fiscal and current accounts deficits and the public debt - might greatly slow Greece's emergence from the economic crisis and lead to a period of extended low growth rates.
 FinMin on monetary situationFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Wednesday, describing the government's efforts to tackle the country's major monetary problems and to submit a reliable stability programme to the European Commission in January, that the country's monetary state is very difficult.
"We are moving along a tightrope to create order. We are under continuous surveillance by the international markets from which we borrow. They are punishing us with expensive spreads and high interest rates. We must restore the country's reliability deficit to be able to borrow with better terms," the minister said.
Papaconstantinou was categorical as regards the country joining a surveillance status in February by the European Council, stressing that "this is a foregone conclusion and the only thing that is conditional is the time horizon until Greece succeeds in correcting its deficit."
The finance minister, briefing the relevant Parliamentary committee on the results of ECOFIN, reassured that the PASOK party had not been informed before the elections by Bank of Greece Governor George Provopoulos, concerning the deficit of the general governance and that it would reach double-digit figures.
"I can reassure that the briefing of the prime minister, and then main opposition party leader, on the cash deficit was at 8 units and that it would go to a double-digit figure. But what the Bank of Greece governor had not informed us about was where the general governance deficit would be, and which reached 12.7 percent. We did not imagine it even in our worse nightmares," he said.
 Labour minister to hold meetings on pensions reform on ThursdayLabour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos will hold a round of meetings with the main trade union and employer groups to discuss reforms to Greece's social insurance system on Thursday.
The meetings, which will also include Deputy Labour Minister George Koutroumanis, will kick off with one at 9:00 in the morning with trade unionists from the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation, and the civil servants' union ADEDY. Between them the two union organisations represent the majority of the Greek workforce in the private and public sectors. There will follow a meeting at 14:00 with the national artisans and workshop owners association GSEBEE, then at 16:00 with the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) and at 18:00 with the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE).
 Arapoglou optimistic over Greek banks' prospectsHellenic Bank Association president Takis Arapoglou, who is also the CEO of National Bank of Greece, on Wednesday expressed optimism over the course and outlook of Greek banks.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek banker emphasised that "rumours of the past few days related to the impact of the economic crisis, especially in view of the gradual withdrawal of extraordinary measures supporting liquidity by the ECB, are exaggerated, to say the least.
"Whoever is spreading such rumours is ignoring the measures that Greek banks have already taken in coordination with the Bank of Greece, so as to protect their capital adequacy and to create liquidity reserves, so as to replace, in a timely fashion, whatever liquidity has been raised from the ECB."
He added that recent third quarter results as well as the unprecedented and successful access of all major banks in international capital markets left no doubt over the positive outlook of Greek banks.
 Greek navy officers commended by IMO for "exceptional services" in anti-piracy effortGreek naval officers were among the recipients of Certificates for Exceptional Services Rendered to Shipping and Mankind awarded by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) during a special ceremony in London on Tuesday night, held in the context of the organisation's 26th general assembly.
The Greek officers were honored for their participation in the international efforts to repress piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.
Certificates were presented to the Commanding Officers, or their representatives, of navy ships from EU and NATO member countries and several other individual countries from various regions, namely from Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
The Certificates for the Greek officers were presented to Greek Lt. Commanders Panagiotis Lymberis and Antonis Papaioannou, at a ceremony attended by Greece's minister for the economy, competitiveness and shipping Louka Katseli, who is representing Greece at the IMO general assembly that winds up on Wednesday, and Greek ambassador in London Vassilis Pispinis.
 Conference on religious tourismMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
Prospects of promoting religious tourism between Orthodox countries are being examined by the two-day conference organised by the Moscow Patriarchate's Pilgrimage Centre which began on Wednesday, hosting delegations from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch, as well as of the Churches of Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Serbia, Ethiopia, the Serres Prefecture, etc.
Zakynthos metropolitan, heading the Greek Church delegation said in statements "We call on people to enjoy the places of their choice and I Zakynthos, to enjoy the sun, the warm sea, the traditional Greek hospitality and while they will be for recreation, we shall also remind them of the soul, leading them to the holy and sacred of our faith and the unprecedented monuments of our culture."
The delegates were greeted on behalf of the Moscow Patriarchate by bishop Markos, calling on his fellow countrymen pilgrims to deepen their knowledge on the regions they visit, reviving Russia's longstanding pilgrimage traditions.
 Ag minister receives Sudan counterpartRural Development and Food Minister Katerina Batzeli met on Wednesday with visiting Sudanese Agriculture and Forestry Minister Abdel Haleem al-Mutafi.
The two ministers exchanged views on the prospects of improvement of trade relations in the sector of agriculture.
According to reports, Sudan is interested in importing certified seeds of wheat, cotton and corn.
 Gov't calls on hospital doctors to call off strikeHealth and Social Solidarity Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannako-poulou appealed to hospital doctors on Wednesday not to proceed with a warning strike scheduled for Nov. 30.
Speaking in Parliament she stated that a clause included in a proposed one-off "solidarity benefit" settles most of their demands.
 Greek trade deficit down 39 pct in SeptGreece's trade deficit fell 39 pct in September to 2.266 billion euros, from 3.718 billion euros in the corresponding period last year, the National Statistical Service said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a monthly report, said the trade deficit in the January-September period totaled 18.589 billion euros, from 32.684 billion euros last year, for a decline of 43.1 pct. This drop reflected a 17.9 pct decline in exports and a 35.9 pct fall in imports in the nine-month period.
 Air-traffic controllers to hold 4-hour strike on FridayHellenic Civil Aviation Authority staff and air-traffic controllers will hold a four-hour strike on Friday, between 8:00-12:00, in protest over the controversy that has broken out over the state-subsidised flights to the more sparsely populated Greek islands.
In a press conference on Wednesday, the head of the civil aviation authority's union federation OSYPA Vassilis Alevizopoulos said that civil aviation employees should not be caught up in conflicts between rival businesses or businesses and the government, calling on the transport ministry to intervene.
 Titan Group reports lower nine-month resultsTitan Group on Wednesday said its net after tax and minorities earnings fell 36.5 pct in the January-September period to 103.7 million euros, reflecting higher financial costs and increased amortizations, while comparable figures were affected by an extra tax benefit of 16 million euros in the corresponding period in 2008.
The company said demand for building materials fell in Greece and in Southeastern Europe, while it rose significantly in Egypt.
EBITDA fell 2.1 pct in the third quarter, while turnover fell 11.6 pct to 1.046 billion euros in the nine-month period and EBITDA fell 11.4 pct to 257.9 million euros. EBITDA in domestic operations and western Europe totaled 96 million euros, down 29 pct compared with the corresponding period last year.
Demand for building materials in the US market continue falling, with operating earnings in the US falling 20 pct in the nine-month period to 28 million euros.
Parent net profits dropped 51 pct to 40.9 million euros, turnover fell 19 pct to 339.6 million euros and EBITDA fell 24 pct to 88.5 million euros.
Titan Group said its prospects for the remainder of 2009 were linked with a continuing international economic crisis.
 OPAP says turnover steady, profits down in Jan-SeptOPAP on Wednesday reported an 8.7 pct decline in its consolidated net profits to 501.7 million euros in the January-September period, from 549.6 million euros last year, while earnings per share fell to 1.57 euros from 1.72 euros, respectively.
Pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) fell 13 pct to 693.2 million euros in the nine-month period this year, from 796.8 million euros in 2008, reflecting a rise in distributed earnings to winners of betting activities. Turnover, however fell 0.08 pct to 3.974 billion euros from 3.977 billion euros last year. Payroll costs totaleld 42.8 million euros, up from 39.9 million euros last year.
 Stocks end sharply lowerStocks ended sharply lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 2,400 level. The index ended off the day's lows at 2,372.61 points, losing 2.30 pct, while turnover jumped to 446.6 million euros, of which 15.4 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved downwards with the Health (4.61 pct), Banks (4.13 pct), Media (3.99 pct) and Technology (3.70 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Travel (0.79 pct) and Chemicals (0.06 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index fell 2.79 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.80 pct down and the FTSE 80 index plunged 3.19 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 183 to 39 with another 32 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.16%
Personal & Household: -3.04%
Raw Materials: -1.04%
Travel & Leisure: +0.79%
Food & Beverages: -1.24%
Financial Services: -0.79%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Piraeus and EFG Eurobank Ergasias.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 9.43
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.80
HBC Coca Cola: 15.12
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.11
National Bank of Greece: 22.00
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.92
Bank of Piraeus: 9.48
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 1.50 percent in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover jumping to 184.525 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 25,319 contracts worth 155.644 million euros, with 26,722 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 29,440 contracts worth 28.881 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,862), followed by Eurobank (2,653), OTE (2,152), OPAP (1,145), Piraeus Bank (2,510), Alpha Bank (3,548), Marfin Popular Bank (1,734), Cyprus Bank (4,245) and GEK (804).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 182 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with turnover a heavy 2.666 billion euros, of which 1.105 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.561 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.930 billion euros. The Greek bond yielded 5.04 pct and the German Bund 3.25 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.23 pct, the three-month rate 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.43 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.520
Pound sterling 0.910
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 10.439
Japanese yen 133.16
Swiss franc 1.521
Norwegian kroner 8.483
Canadian dollar 1.591
Australian dollar 1.636
 Plan to combat violence against women unveiledGreece's justice, transparency and human rights ministry on Wednesday unveiled a national plan to combat violence against women, children and to stop human trafficking, timed to coincide with International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis noted that violence against women continued to be one of the biggest social problems, one that had increased rather than decreased in spite of the legislative measures taken against it.
Kastanidis said the new plan took a three-sided approach, seeking to further improve the legislative framework and make it more effective against violence and trafficking, set up a standing network of support structures for abused women throughout the country, such as counselling centres and shelters, and create mechanisms for monitoring and coordinating state action and the effectiveness of policy for protecting women.
Deputy Justice Minister Apostolos Katsifaras noted that incidents of domestic violence, physical and psychological, as well as the trafficking of women in Greece had risen to alarming levels in recent years. He particularly stressed, in a message toward abused women and society, the need to "break the silence" concerning the abuse.
The justice ministry's new general secretary for equality Maria Stratigaki noted that 35 women had been murdered within the past 17 months by their partners or husbands, while 1,661 women had sought help in dealing with abuse.
 Message on Int'l Day for Elimination of Violence against WomenThe Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Ministry's secretary general for gender equality Maria Stratigaki issued a message on Wednesday marking the UN-designated "International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women".
"A great number of girls and women are victims of domestic violence, sexual and economic exploitation, rape by unknown and known individuals, sexual abuse as children, sexual harassment at work, and abuse (and even homicide) by their companions," Stratigaki noted in her message.
"However, the victims of violence are not only the women who suffer the violence personally, but all women, as a gender, while at the same time we all also share the blame because of our tolerance," she added.
Stratigaki stressed that the solutions must emanate from society and be adopted by politics.
Together with the UN and the EU, the Secretariat General for Gender Equality, in collaboration with women's organisations and the society of the citizens, is extending and broadening its actions aimed at systematic confrontation of such phenomena in Greece, with the aim of eliminating gender-based violence in all its forms, Stratigaki concluded.
By resolution 54/134 of 17 December 1999, the UN General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and invited governments, international organizations and NGOs to organize activities designated to raise public awareness of the problem on that day. Women's activists have marked 25 November as a day against violence since 1981. This date came from the brutal assassination in 1960, of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, on orders of Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).
 EP resolution on climatic changePARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
The European Parliament adopted on Wednesday, with a considerable majority of 516 in favour, 92 against and 70 abstentions, a resolution containing ambitious targets for climatic change in light of the Copenhagen summit.
With the resolution, the Eurodeputies are calling for the achievement in Copenhagen of "an agreement that will be legally binding and integrated which will incorporate the progress achieved until today and contain quantitative data on fundings and on the decrease of emissions."
"We must not deviate from this target in Copenhagen," said Commissioner Stavros Dimas during the discussion which preceded the vote. The European commissioner termed the Copenhagen Summit "a historic opportunity for the taking of a global, integrated, based on science, agreement."
He underlined that at this moment the EU is being called on to set the example and confirm its leading role. The challenges are great, Dimas said.
According to Dimas, the main targets in Copenhagen are:
-Two degrees Celsius must not be exceeded with regard to the increase in temperature.
-It must be secured that all countries will assume the necessary commitments in accordance with the principle of differentiated responsibilities, including the United States, eight years after their withdrawal from Kyoto.
-Fundings must be determined for the speedy start and the taking of immediate action, without waiting for 2013, particularly for the period of adjustment in sensitive regions and the very poor countries.
With their resolution today the Eurodeputies call on the EU to determine a foreign policy in the sector of climate and be expressed with a unified voice, aiming at achieving a legally binding agreement that will be implemented as of January 1, 2013.
 Auction of noted Greek artists' works at ZappeionA total of 260 works by 161 noted Greek painters of the 19th and 20th centuries will be auctioned by auction house "Vergos" on Saturday, December 5, 2009 at the Zappeion Mansion in Athens.
The auction includes works by Alexis Akrithakis, Spyros Vassiliou, George Gaitis, George Gounaropoulos, Nikos Eggonopoulos, Nikos Kessanlis, Yannis Tsarouchis and Alekos Fassianos.
The paintings will be in display at Zappeion from Wednesday, 2 December, to Friday, 4 December, between 10 am and 10 pm.
 French research ship docks at FlisvosThe French scientific research ship "Tara" was due to dock in southern coastal Athens' Flisvos marina on Wednesday, where it will remain until Sunday.
The vessel's 15-member crew is made up of oceanographers, biologists, geneticists and other experts from distinguished scientific research centers.
Its three-year mission, "Tara Oceans", to all the seas of the world was launched on Sept. 5, 2009 from the port of Lorient in Brittany and will be completed in 2012, having covered a total of 150,000 kms (81,000 nautical miles) and visiting roughly 50 countries.
The next scheduled stop of the ship will be Larnaca, Cyprus on Dec. 4 before heading for Lebanon and Egypt en route to the Indian Ocean.
"Tara Oceans" is an international mission organised by Tara Expeditions and an international scientific consortium under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The mission will attempt to provide answers to climate issues and further knowledge on marine biodiversity by studying microscopic life in the oceans to understand its impact on the climate of the planet.
The goal is to inform the public about the vital role of oceans while boosting environmental awareness particularly among children.
 More schools close due to new fluAccording to an Athens prefecture announcement on Wednesday, approximately 220 schools and classes have been suspended due to instances of H1N1 flu. All schools will remain closed for one week.
Moreover, 60 schools in the prefecture of Larissa, central Greece, closed on Wednesday due to increased incidents of new flu.
 Bride brings heroin to incarcerated husband-to-beA wedding ceremony scheduled to take place in the Chania Prison on the southern Aegean island of Crete on Tuesday was cancelled after a search in a bag carried by the bride-to-be revealed 1.5 grams of heroin.
The 32-year-old woman, a Ukrainian national, maintained that the drugs were not destined for her 35-year-old jailed groom but for another inmate, also from Ukraine.
The man that handed the bag to the woman is wanted by the police, while legal procedures have been launched against the couple and the third individual.
 Contraband cigarettes found in Aspropyrgos warehouseThe Special Audits Service on Wednesday reported the discovery of 860,390 packets of contraband cigarettes in a warehouse in the Aspropyrgos region, where they were being stored for distribution and export without payment of the necessary tariffs and taxes.
The commercial value of the cigarettes found is estimated to be greater than 2.5 million euros and the unpaid taxes exceed two million euros.
 Weapon smuggling arrestsFour individuals were arrested on weapons smuggling charges on Wednesday by police.
According to reports, a local man, a Romanian national and two Bulgarians were charged after authorities confiscated two handguns, two cartridges, three swords, knives, a folding metal rod, 96 shells, five cell phones and 5,680 euros.
 Fair on ThursdayFair weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 2-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 2C and 20C. Fair in Athens, with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 17C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceBank of Greece (BoG) governor George Provopoulos' recommendations on the Greek economy, stepped up measures against the new flu, the new taxes on real estate, and the face-off between the top candidates for the main opposition New Democracy party's leadership Dora Bakoyannis and Antonis Samaras ahead of Sunday's election, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Tax storm for property owners".
APOGEVMATINI: "National Vaccination Committee warns: Pregnant women must be vaccinated against the new flu".
AVGHI: "Government's and prime minister's first 100 days of governance give the impression of confusion and disorder".
AVRIANI: "Ministers in the role of prosecutors".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Provopoulos 'fingers' prime minister George Papandreou: Papandreou knew since September 8, 2009 that the deficit was a two-digit figure".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "500 municipalities, 10-15 Local Governments".
ESTIA: "Frail economy - Threat of tax 'witch-hunts'."
ETHNOS: "Hot December - 'War' over taxation and social security".
IMERISSIA: "Provopoulos' dramatic warning".
KATHIMERINI: "Alarm bell sounds on Greece's borrowing".
LOGOS: "Double solidarity benefit to unemployed with children".
NIKI: "Provopoulos' bomb warning of imminent bankruptcy".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Thousands of people demonstrated, demanding their rights".
TA NEA: "BoG governor warns: Take measures, we are heading towards bankruptcy".
TO VIMA: "Front against taxation on real estate properties - FinMin George Papaconstantinou: The 'terrorism' will not succeed".
VRADYNI: "Cry of despair - Newspaper survey indicates that the unemployment rate in the provinces exceeds 30 percent".
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