|Wednesday, 26 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-10-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 20 October 2010 Issue No: 3623
 PM: Five targets in battle against unemploymentPrime minister George Papandreou set out five targets in the battle against unemploy-ment, which he called Greece's number one problem, during a meeting with the social partners on Tuesday, adding that his PASOK government will apply "active policies" and not simply policies of reinforcing the unemployed.
The first target, he said, is maintenance of the existing jobs and adaptability of businesses. In that direction, there will be financial backing of enterprises hard-hit by recession in order to preserve working positions, through subsidisation of social security contributions, to enable their employees' adaptation to the new conditions and to avert layoffs for reduction of the operational cost.
The second target is the entry of youth to the labor market and acquisition of work experience, which will be effected through local integrated programs or through programs to support new professionals, the premier said.
The third target is the re-entry of unemployed into the job market, through integrated programs for those left unemployed due to mass layoffs by companies, and the issue of a "re-entry check" instead of the traditional "unemployment benefit". The aim, he said, is to keep the unemployed active rather than being "out of commission" in a system that, although protects them, gives no prospect.
The fourth target is the entry of women into the job market and the support of women.
The fifth target is the support of people with a disability and other vulnerable social groups, such as released inmates or substance dependent people "but people who have endless abilities," Papandreou said.
"We are at the point where we decide to either move forward or turn back to bankruptcy, whether we complete the effort or let it go to waste, Papandreou said, and expressed optimism on the country's course, adding that, despite the difficulties, a "wind of change" was blowing now for the first time.
"We must leave behind the outdated attitudes, institutions and practices," he stressed, adding that everything that had not been done over the space of years must now be done in a very short time so that 2011 will be the last year of recession and the country will enter a recovery orbit, from which the first to benefit will be those who are now shouldering the burden.
Social partners' reaction after the meeting with the prime minister
Production sector representatives and social partners in comments made after the meeting with Prime Minister George Papandreou and the political leadership of the ministry of labour on Tuesday expressed satisfaction with the programmes announced aimed at combating unemployment and creating new jobs.
Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) President Nikos Angelopoulos characterized the measures as "excellent" both for employers and employees, stressing that programme announced supports employment.
Economic and Social Council of Greece (OKE) President Christos Polyzogopoulos stressed that "the programme is well-planned" and is "expected to produce results in the sector of employment".
"In these difficult days it is important to have initiatives that support employment," Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) President Dimitris Daskalopoulos said, adding that development is the only solution.
Private sector union GSEE president Yiannis Panagopoulos stressed that the recession in the Greek economy had turned into an employment crisis with the implementation of austerity measures and the memorandum, adding that "we support any measure that brings relief to the unemployed while preserving job positions."
Hellenic Confederation of Professionals Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) head Dimitris Asimakopoulos stressed that "the measures announced are very important in the battle for the preservation of job positions and the creation of new ones" and underlined "the need for measures and policies that will restart the production sector and the market".
Referring to the measures announced, National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) President Vassilis Korkidis stressed that "they could be the antidote to the closing down of businesses and layoffs".
 Samaras: "Our antidote is progress"Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Tuesday accused the government of preparing new harsh tax measures, during his tour of the northern Attica suburb of Halandri.
During his visit to the Halandri City Hall, Samaras charged that PASOK was preparing society for new tax storm that will result in a new hike in unemployment and suffocation of the market.
The ND leader called on the citizens to back his party's programme in the local government elections in November which, as he said, leads to growth, and to vote against PASOK's policy.
"Our antidote is progress," stressed Samaras, predicting that the "Greek people will hoist the flag of development and will show the 'red card' to PASOK and the mistaken measures on which it is insisting".
 LAOS leader repeats call for all-party governmentPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis on Tuesday repeated his proposal for an all-party national government as soon as possible and invited the leaders of the other political parties to begin dialogue.
He claimed that political developments, spurred by the country's current economic woes, will trigger early elections by Easter and these will lead to some form of coalition government.
"It's better that we form an all-party government now and everyone can contribute in the best way that they can," he added.
He also insisted that political dialogue was necessary on both a national level and in the centre-right area.
"The political system is become reminiscent of a ship of fools. No one is talking to anyone and everyone is slagging off everyone else," he said, noting that main opposition leader Antonis Samaras was "demonising" anyone with different views and Prime Minister George Papandreou was blaming everything on the "bad right".
 DM briefs Karatzaferis on defence policy mattersDefence minister Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday briefed Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis on defence policy matters during a meeting at the ministry.
Venizelos briefed the LAOS leader on the change in the NATO doctrine and administrative structure which, he said, are linked with the region, Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue and the situation in the eastern Mediterranean.
The defence minister noted that there can be no defence policy without a solid national front and high morale in Greek society.
Venizelos further praised LAOS for its "responsible stance" on defence issues "which aims at safeguarding the public interest and transparency, on which an inter-party effort is being made".
Karatzaferis, in turn, said the defence issues are particularly serious, on which "we have a common step", which is of particular necessity for the country, especially in this time of economic crisis.
 Tsipras on economyRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alexis Tsipras, speaking in the city of Lamia, central Greece, on Tuesday, criticised the government over the economic measures, accusing it of "signing the country's binding to the hostage state of the memorandum, mortgaging the present and the future of Greek society."
Tsipras ascertained that "the Greek citizens are remaining unprotected," adding that " a different path exists and we must claim it". He clarified that it is "the path on the country's disengagement from the hostage state of the memorandum and this path can only be claimed if the citizens resist, claim and send a message in the ballot box."
 FM Droutsas received by Egyptian President MubarakCAIRO (ANA-MPA/Chr. Poulidou)
Greece's understanding of the region's peculiarities and its contribution as an EU member in the constructive role Europe can play in the Middle East was reflected in the meeting Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas had here on Tuesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Droutsas praised the Egyptian President for his role in the inter-Palestinian dialogue and his personal contribution in the stabilizing role played by Egypt.
The meeting was held in a very friendly atmosphere in the presence of Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit.
 FM Droutsas met with Egyptian counterpart, Patriarch TheodorosCAIRO (ANA-MPA/Chr. Poulidou)
The upgrading of bilateral relations, the Middle East and other regional issues were under discussion in the meeting Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas had here on Tuesday with his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Aboul-Gheit.
Soon after he arrived in Cairo, within the framework of his tour of the Middle East, Droutsas had a working breakfast with his counterpart and co-signed a memorandum of understanding on political consultations that enacts regular meetings between the foreign ministries of Greece and Egypt.
They discussed the imminent referendum in Sudan, as well as the issue of Cyprus and the fYRoM name issue.
Droutsas also met with Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria and All Africa, who thanked Greece for its support and expressed gratitude to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for his stance toward the Patriarchate.
FM Droutsas referred to the important work of the Patriarchate and promised that he will visit Alexandria soon.
 Erdogan calls for 'mutual steps' on eve of Greek visitTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for "mutual steps" and "mutual understanding" in relations between Turkey and Greece, during an interview given to Greek journalist Alexis Papahelas and broadcast on Greece's Skai television programme "Fakeloi" on Monday night.
The Turkish premier, who is arriving in Athens in a few days to participate in the Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative, answered questions on flights by Turkish military aircraft above Greek islands, the flow of illegal migrants from Turkey to Greece and Turkey's standing threat that a decision by Greece to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles will be considered "a cause of war".
Erdogan also made it clear that he would not accept the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Mediterranean Climate Conference in Athens and that if Netanyahu participated then he would simply not attend.
The Turkish premier noted that flights above the Aegean by Turkish fighter aircraft "were not as frequent as before" and stressed that Turkey would like a complete absence of flights above the islands. He underlined the need for "mutual understanding" and noted that it would be best if military aircraft of both sides had NATO as their base and were controlled from there.
"We must 'demilitarise' public opinion so that it does not see things from a military standpoint," he stressed, adding that Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou appeared to want the same.
The Turkish premier also noted that the two sides should inform each other of the routes of their military aircraft take and noted that there were still issues surrounding the continental shelf.
"I believe, however, that mutual understanding will help us to also lighten the matter of military spending," he added.
Asked whether the 'cause of war' threat against Greece might be lifted as part of a reassessment of Turkish national security strategy, he replied that "countries should not translate into action those things that constitute a casus belli. At this time we are going through a period in which steps are being made in the direction of peace. Mutually, of course. And when we do this, both Greece and ourselves must do the things that are our responsibility."
"If all efforts are efforts that are interpreted in the direction of peace, then there is no issue of cause of war. That is why we must root out views that remain stuck in the past and I think that together with Mr. Papandreou - and he is doing the same on his own part - we are trying to change the course of things," Erdogan added.
According to the Turkish premier, there was no reason why Greece and Turkey might not be able to reach an agreement on the exploitation of oil or natural gas in the Aegean before the end of the year. He pointed out that talks with this aim were underway and noted that cooperation and collaboration would benefit both Greece and Turkey.
"The Aegean must become a sea of peace and friendship and provide benefits to both sides. We have succeeded in cooperating in various areas, such as in dealing with natural disasters, in matters of forest fires and earthquakes. Why should we not continue in this area," he said.
Finally, on the flow of migrants to Greece from Turkey, Erdogan noted that this wasn't something deliberate and also a concern for Turkish authorities. "You know there is the port of Dikili where we are trying to manage the issue of readmission," he added.
Palriamentary committee recommends referral of 5 former ND ministers to judicial council over Vatopedi-state land swaps affair
A parliamentary preliminary investigation committee on Monday night recommended the referral of five former New Democracy (ND) ministers to a Special Judicial Council over the controversial Vatopedi-state land swaps affair.
By a majority vote of the ruling PASOK MPs sitting on the committee, which was investigating possible criminal liability in the affair, recommended in its conclusions the referral of former government spokesman and minister of state Theodoros Roussopoulos, former agriculture ministers Evangelos Bassiakos and Alexandros Kontos, former deputy finance minister Petros Doukas, and former minister George Voulgarakis to a judicial council for implication in the land swap case referring to Lake Vistonida and surrounding areas.
The five will be referred to the Special Judicial Council following the expected adoption of the preliminary investigation committee's conclusions by the parliament plenary.
According to critics of a series of controversial deals, the state exchanged prime real estate holdings throughout Greece, including buildings in the Athens Olympic Village, for remote tracts of land where development is either restricted or prohibited, such as forestland, RAMSAR-protected areas around Lake Vistonida, and even archaeological sites.
This specific case concerns suspect land deals by the Vatopedi Monastery, where low-value property on the shores of Lake Vistonida was exchanged for prime pieces of public real estate in other parts of the country in transactions carried out by Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation which were approved by ministers.
The parliamentary preliminary probe committee recommends referral of Roussopoulos on charges of moral instigation in illicit property benefit on the part of Vatopedi Monastery and third parties through felony acts of fraud and breach of duty at the expense of the state, and Kontos, Doukas and Bassiakos on charges of moral instigation of legitimisation of revenues from criminal activities, felony breach of duty and fraud that produced illicit property benefit on the part of Vatopedi Monastery and third party companies of invisible and visible shareholders who purchased the real estate properties conceded to the monastery, and as accessories of Roussopoulos.
It also recommended referral of Voulgarakis with "serious indications" of having committed the felony of violation of duty resulting in loss at the expense of the state.
The Special Judicial Council will rule on whether or not the five former ministers will be referred to a Special Court on ministers' accountability.
Separate reports were submitted to the committee by the representatives of the five parliamentary parties sitting on the committee.
 Health Minister insists that smoking ban will be enforcedHealth Minister Andreas Loverdos on Tuesday stressed that the law banning smoking in all public places indoors will be enforced as planned, adding that a first assessment of the impact of the measure will be made in December.
Meanwhile, Deputy Health Minister Mihalis Timosidis repeated as much during his meeting with representatives of the restaurant owners' association POESE and workshop and light manufacturers' union GSEBEE.
The meeting was held in response to POESE's decision to defy the smoking ban as of Monday and provide ashtrays at tables inside restaurants, claiming that the anti-smoking law had caused a sharp drop in turnover.
POESE asked the deputy minister to modify or suspend implementation of the law for specific classes of professions and enterprises, such as venues serving food and drinks.
Timosidis stressed in his reply that the smoking ban was now a law of the state that concerned public health, the common interest and the country's children.
"Parallel to the smoking ban there are programmes underway to inform people about the harmful consequences of smoking, the use of alcohol and substance abuse. At the same time, two national action plans are underway for the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
After the meeting, POESE announced that it will continue its defiance of the ban, insisting on the necessity of a transitional period.
 Dep. Health Minister meets with UN Special Rapporteur on TortureDeputy Health and Social Solidarity Minister Mihalis Timosidis met on Tuesday with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Manfred Nowak within the framework of the latter's fact-finding mission on detention and involuntary hospitalization conditions in Greece.
Timosidis briefed the UN expert on the applied mental health policies and the imminent improvement of the services offered to patients through the creation of psychiatric wards for emergency and short-term treatment in most hospitals. He also presented the three-year joint action plan on asylum seekers adopted by the ministries of health and citizen protection.
The UN special rapporteur found satisfactory the conclusions of his study as regards the involuntary hospitalization and focused on the prospects for improvement in the reception conditions for asylum seekers, according to a ministry of health statement.
 Greek FinMin reassuring over possible upward revision of statisticsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Maria Aroni)
Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday said that an anticipated upward revision of the country's fiscal deficit and debt would not lead to the adoption of further harsh austerity measures by the government.
Speaking to reporters after an Ecofin meeting in Luxembourg, the Greek minister said a Eurogroup meeting on Monday discussed the condition of Eurozone's economies, including Greece, and noted the positive climate prevailing both in the European Commission and the European Central Bank, which jointly welcomed the government's efforts to restructure the Greek economy. "These efforts are acknowledged by markets," Papaconstantinou said, while he underlined the very low interest rate (3.75 pct) of a three-month Treasury bills auction.
He underlined that an upward revision of Greek statistics was expected while he noted that cooperation between the Community and Greek statistics services was fully satisfactory, as acknowledged by Brussels. He added that the biggest problem currently was revising the fiscal condition of the country in the period 2006-2009 and integrating debt piled by loss-making public sector enterprises. Papaconstantinou said he expected this procedure to be completed by the end of the week and that Eurostat would be able to publish a final report by mid-November, ahead of a vote in Parliament of a state budget for 2011. He said the government's main goal was to have a full certification of statistics by Eurostat, an issue of great significance to markets.
The Greek minister said he expected that an upwards revision of fiscal statistics for the period 2006-2009 would have limited impact on the deficit of 2010 and would not lead to new burdens on workers and pensioners. He noted that such a provision was included when a memorandum was drafted with the IMF and the EU and stressed that the Greek government has achieved a significant reduction of deficits in loss-making state enterprises, a trend to be continued in the future.
Papaconstantinou said an economic program agreed with the EU and the IMF included all measures needed and noted that comments made by EU Commissioner Olli Rehn on Monday over the need for additional measures were of "suggestive nature".
He said that Eurogroup and Ecofin meetings in Luxembourg agreed to strengthen the pre-emptive and deterrent role of a Stability Pact in the Eurozone. Based on the agreement reached, Ecofin will need a special majority to notify a member-state with excessive fiscal deficits about the need to take all necessary corrective measures within a six-month period. Papaconstantinou said Greece supported this position adding that the figures should include the private sector's debt as well.
Papaconstantinou said he was satisfied with the prospect of creating a permament mechanism for dealing with financial crisis in the eurozone.
 EU commission on Greek economyThe European Union on Monday welcomed the Greek government's determination to drastically reduce its fiscal deficit and meet its targets, but added that the adoption of additional measures for stabilisation of the Greek economy may be required in the event of a substantial upward revision of the Greek deficit and debt by Eurostat.
EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said in Luxembourg on Monday evening after a eurogroup ministers' meeting that the target is for agreement to be reached between the EU and Greek services by October 22, when Eurostat will publish its revisions of the EU member states' figures for 2009. However, he did not rule out the prospect of Eurostat's review of the Greek figures to be extended to mid-November so that the Greek government, the EU and the IMF will have a clearer picture of the fiscal situation in the country, which will be taken into consideration in the drafting of Greece's 2011 state budget.
Noting that Eurostat is for the first time exercising the enhanced audit powers it was recently given and doubts expressed in the past by Eurostat on the accuracy of Greece's economic data, Rehn said that the European statistical service's experts currently in Greece have spotted certain problems with the country's fiscal data and are working on agreement with the Greek authorities so as to clear up the picture.
Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker interjected that any upward revision would not be due to irregularities or omissions but the result of reclassification of certain entities.
"Certain entities have to be re-classified as public entities, which will have a certain impact upward on the debt and deficit" for the years 2006-2009," Rehn said.
 Growth is the antidote to unemployment, Daskalopoulos saysThe only essential antidote to unemployment is growth, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, president of the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises told a meeting of social partners with the Prime Minister George Papandreou on combating unemployment on Tuesday.
Daskalopoulos urged for reduced taxes and fast track procedures for all investors and not only for foreigners, while he acknowledged that an action program presented by the premier was extensive, multilayered and constitutes a line of defense against rising unemployment in the country. He stressed, however, that attention was needed in implementing the measures to avoiding past mistakes.
The Federation had recommended a series of measures to combating unemployment as early as September 2009, with both large political parties ignoring the proposals and GSEE -Greece's largest trade union umbrella- rejecting the recommendations, he noted.
Daskalopoulso urged for an evaluation of all kinds of benefits and support offered to unemployed people, emphasizing on human resources development programs, focusing on job programs for young people up to 24 years (with very high unemployment rates), lower taxation and combating tax-evasion, drastically cutting state overspending and creating a fast track environment for innovative Greek business activity and not only for foreign investors.
 Greece raises 1.17 bln euros from T-bill auctionGreece successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bills issue raising 1.17 billion euros from the market, with interest rates set at lower levels compared with the previous auction of similar securities in September 21, 2010.
An announcement by the Public Debt Management Organisation said bids submitted totaled 4.674 billion euros, 5.19 times more than the asked sum of 900 million euros, while the yield was set at 3.75 pct, down from 3.98 pct of the September auction. Petros Christodoulou, the head of the Organisation said that foreign investors absorbed more than 50 pct of the issue.
 Labour minister announces 17 programmes to boost employmentLabour Minister Louka Katseli on Tuesday announced 17 action plans by the Manpower Employment Agency (OAED) designed to help target-groups break into the labour market and also to promote the creation and preservation of new jobs.
During a press conference with Alternate Labour Minister George Koutroumanis and the head of OAED Ilias Kikilias, Katseli said the measures exclusively concerned the private sector and had a total budget of 2.5 billion euros.
They are expected to benefit some 667,000 unemployed and employees, acting as a "safety net whose first goal is to slow dismissals and, secondly, boost employment".
She stressed that the programmes were targeted "so that not even one euro will be lost" and that OAED would be a basic pillar of the policy to support employment.
Of the 17 programmes announced, 10 are already underway and seven are due to start in the near future.
According to Kikilias, the programme shifts the focus from subsidising unemployment to subsidising employment.
 Greece and China sign tourist cooperation protocolCulture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos signed a Cooperation Protocol on Tuesday with the Vice President of China's National Tourism Authority and head of the Chinese delegation Jiang Du, regarding mutual action in a series of fields in the tourist sector and know-how exchanges in the sector of tourist training and preparation.
The two sides agreed, among other things, to encourage the start of direct air linkage between the two countries and to strengthen on both sides cooperation between tourist businessmen, cultural agencies and journalistic missions.
The Chinese delegation showed particular interest in participation in the "Cultures Crossroads 2013" in Thessaloniki, where China will be the theme country and committed itself to backing the institution with a considerable presence.
Special reference was made to the Greek state's considerable efforts to facilitate Chinese visitors during the visa issuing process.
 Tourist minister on effort to approach tourist marketsCulture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, addressing the SETE conference on Tuesday, announced radical changes in Greece's way of approach to tourist markets.
With November being the starting point, Greece will begin its advertising campaign with an effort to promote Greece that will develop in time according to when a market enters the booking game, as the minister mentioned.
"For the first time through the knowledge that we have all collected together we can approach the market that we want with specialised messages, specialised means and specialised associates such as tour operators and journalists," he added
Geroulanos also announced three programmes that will flank Greece's tourist promotion actions. The first programme is the development of the content of 90 experiences, a programme concerning all of Greece with experiences that can emerge as integrated tourist products. The second programe concerns the promotion of Thessaloniki and bears the name "Crossroads of Culture" and the third is a programme that will highlight all the activities taking place in Athens at present.
 Greece first destination for Hungarian touristsVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Greece holds first place in the Hungarians' preferences for tourism abroad, according to new official data by the Hungarian Central Statistical Service, to which a relevant report in the special magazine "Napi Turismus" refers under the title of "Greece the most popular destination of Hungarian tourists."
The new statistical data concerns the year 2009 and according to which 134,000 Hungarian tourists visited Greece last year which, as it was noted, tops the relevant list, followed by Italy, to which 129,000 Hungarian tourists travelled to in 2009, Austria (106,000), Croatia (77,000) and Turkey (63,000).
The Hungarians' interest in tourism in Greece appeared to remain undiminished this year as well, as has been stressed in relevant reports in the Hungarian press before the summer months, which referred to information from owners of Hungarian tourist offices.
 Astakos energy project cancelled, statements by deputy FM KouvelisIn a letter replying to Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis, the deputy Energy minister of Qatar, informs him that "the two Qatari companies that participated in the consortium on the implementation of the energy centre in Astakos (western Greecce) are withdrawing their interest, judging that the project in question is not viable."
In a statement to the ANA-MPA, Kouvelis said that the Qatari side recognises that on Greece's part the suitable moves were made and that the problem appeared between the businessmen who are participating in the joint venture.
"This development has to do with the business part of the investment. The businessmen did not reach an agreement," Kouvelis said, stressing that the agreement signed by Minister of State Haris Pamboukis in New York for investments amounting to 5 billion dollars is not affected in any way.
The deputy Foreign minister added that "it is stressed in the letter that the Qatari side is open to other proposals for cooperation on energy issues."
 Consortium withraws interest in Astakos projectEarlier sources said that a Qatari-led consortium withdrew its interest for building a terminal for liquified natural gas and an electricity production station in Astakos, western Greece, after the group failed to reach an agreement with Italian consumers over the price of the product.
The decision was notified to the Greek side after a letter sent by the company to Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Spyros Kouvelis, stating that the Emirate was withdrawing its interest in participating in the consortium. The letter noted that the investors from Qatar were open to other energy cooperations.
The investment was a private deal, between companies, in which the Greek state had not participation beyond facilitating licensing procedures to speed-up the investment, budgeted at around 2.5 billion euros. The government, the sources said, did everything in its power to facilitate the investment.
This development is not affecting, in any way, a bilateral deal signed between Greece and Qatar in New York last month. A commission set-up following the memorandum of cooperation between the two countries will convene in the next two to three weeks.
 Infrastructure minister presents proposed new system for commissioning public worksInfrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas on Tuesday outlined the basic principles and philosophy of a new system for carrying out public works to MPs in Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee.
Reppas said an authority with powers to check project proposals and tenders that was fully independent of the ministry would be the key to the proposed legislation. This authority would be staffed by the conference of Parliament presidents with an enhanced majority of four in five votes and assist public administration in the tasks of inspection, with the aim of achieving faster progress in projects and greater transparency in the choice of contractors.
He also underlined that the system for projects costing more than five million euros would be changed from that of choosing the lowest bid to one promoting "the most cost-effective economic offer" based on considerations of cost, completion times and guarantees concerning the project's expected life-span.
The minister said the proposed new system would go through the process of open public consultation since many Parliamentarians are opposed to the prospect of creating yet another independent administrative authority.
 Agricultural development minister meets new U.S. ambassadorAgricultural Development and Food Minister Costas Skandalidis met at the ministry on Tuesday with new U.S. ambassador Daniel Bennet Smith.
According to an announcement, a wide exchange of views took place during the meeting on cooperation between the two sides, the development of the farm products balance and the further widening of trade transactions in the agricultural sector.
The balance between the two countries is positive for Greece and the prospects for certified Greek products are favourable.
 French ambassador visits French factories in Tripolis, PeloponneseFrench Ambassador to Athens Christophe Farnaud travelled to Tripolis in the Peloponnese on Tuesday in order to pay a visit to the French firms 'Air Liquide' and "Heliosphere" that have plants producing photovoltaic panels in the Tripolis industrial zone.
He also met and had talks with local government officials in the Area.
 EAB participating in manufacturing of European unmanned combat aircraftThe Hellenic Aerospace Industry S.A. (EAB) is participating in the development and manufacturing of the first model European Unmanned Combat Aircraft UCAV-nEUROn- by six companies of European countries, utilising its extensive know-how and representing the country as an equal member among the companies: Dassault Aviation (France), SAAB (Sweden), ALENIA (Italy), EADS-CASA (Spain), RUAG (Switzerland).
EAB has undertaken the planning, analysing and manufacturing of the exhaust assembly, the aircraft's aft fuselage and the VMS avionics test ring.
 National Bank begins trading of new shares in ASENational Bank began trading of its new shares in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday after the successful completion of the bank's share capital increase plan. The bank is also starting procedures to sell up to 20 pct in its Turkish subsidiary Finansbank with the hiring of consultants to the sale - part of a program to boost National Bank's capital. The sale is expected to be completed in the period from January 15 to February 15, 2011.
Foreign investors, Turkish and others, have already expressed interest in buying an equity stake in Finansbank. The bank reported net profits of 251 million euros in the first half of 2010, up 8.0 pct from the same period in 2009, with a recovery of the Turkish economy boosting expectations of further improvement in the future. Finansbank said its lending portfolio grew 25 pct to 14.7 billion euros, with retail banking lending up 30 pct to 7.4 billion euros. Saving deposits were strongly up (29 pct) in the 12 months.
The success of National Bank's capital boost plan signals the beginning of a strategy to become a regional leader and further enhancing its activities in Southeastern Europe.
 Bondholders win control of Wind HellasBondholders emerged as preferred bidders for Wind Hellas on Monday, in a debt-for-equity swap. The group of creditors pledged to invest 420 million euros with the completion of the deal to repay the company's debt and to finance Wind Hellas' long-term growth and business plan.
The transaction will cut the company's debt to third parties by 1.867 billion euros, allowing it to move ahead with a strong liquidity, while the new board will include telecoms executives with international prestige.
This development offers Wind Hellas a deep financial breath, as the new shareholders are ensuring capital adequacy, a restructuring and financial strength needed to respond to the challenges of a very difficult and competitive market, while also to proceed with the implementation of its investment plan.
The new board members -senior telecom executives and members of the Greek business community- will be appointed by Wind Hellas, cooperating with Nassos Zarkalis, who will remain as chief executive. Zarkalis said the deal was a significant step towards restructuring the company.
 Stocks end 1.02 pct upGreek stocks ended higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, defying a negative trend in other international markets, helped by strong buying interest in bank shares. The composite index of the market rose 1.02 pct to end at 1,573.08 points, off the day's highs. Eurobank (3.81 pct), Alpha Bank (2.76 pct), National Bank (2.22 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks. Turnover was an improved 123.161 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 1.20 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.64 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.66 pct. Banks (2.14 pct) and Commerce (2.04 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Chemicals (2.16 pct) and Media (2.0 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 104 to 76 with another 46 issues unchanged. Edrasi (16.67 pct), Sciens (10.81 pct) and Nakas (8.05 pct) were top gainers, while NEL (14.29 pct), Vell Group (13.51 pct) and Euroholdings (12.5 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.08%
Personal & Household: +1.52%
Raw Materials: -1.51%
Travel & Leisure: -0.14%
Food & Beverages: +1.05%
Financial Services: +1.31%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Coca Cola, Bank of Cyprus and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.22
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.68
HBC Coca Cola: 18.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.82
National Bank of Greece: 8.28
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.90
Bank of Piraeus: 4.04
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 184 million euros on Tuesday, of which 25 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 159 million euros were sell orders. The six-month Treasury bill issue was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 16 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was 660 basis points from 651 bps on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 9.0 pct and the German Bund 2.40 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.49 pct, the six-month rate was 1.22 pct, the three-month rate 1.05 pct and the one-month rate 0.79 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.51 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover at 43.707 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 8,443 contracts worth 32.326 million euros, with 28,733 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,914 contracts worth 11.381 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,830), followed by Eurobank (1,535), MIG (1,604), OTE (1,294), Piraeus Bank (1,134), Alpha Bank (1,364), Cyprus Bank (1,792) and ATEbank (383).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.397
Pound sterling 0.887
Danish kroner 7.517
Swedish kroner 9.409
Japanese yen 114.07
Swiss franc 1.351
Norwegian kroner 8.234
Canadian dollar 1.433
Australian dollar 1.427
 State of emergency on Ikaria, Chios due to heavy rainsA 34-year-old man was found dead on Tuesday under the rubble of his house that collapsed as a result of subsidence caused the heavy rainfall on the Aegean island of Ikaria overnight.
The dead man was discovered by a rescue worker in the village of Karkinagri.
A state of emergency has been declared on the sparsely populated island by local authorities as in certain regions the disaster has been immense. Entire villages and the island's road network have suffered extensive damage, while the Fire Brigade has received roughly 45 calls for help.
On the island of Chios, which was also declared in a state of emergency, a man drowned when his car was swept away by a torrent and 10 others were rescued from trapped cars Monday night.
Fire Brigade rescuers found the body of the elderly man in his overturned car, which was swept away during heavy rainfall, in the Olympoi region on southern Chios.
The Fire Brigade received more than 140 calls for flooded houses, and reinforcements arrived from the nearby island of Lesvos.
 Digital library symposium in AthensA Symposium entitled "Europeana in Greece: adding Greek cultural content in the European Digital Library" was held at the National Research Foundation in Athens on Tuesday.
The event was organized by Veria Central Public Library in cooperation with the National Documentation Centre and the Laboratory of Digital Libraries and Electronic Publishing, Archives and Library Sciences of the Ionian University.
The aim of the Symposium, which was held under the aegis of the ministry of education, was to bring together all interested parties and agencies that digitize and file regional cultural information.
The symposium proceedings were launched by the director of Veria Central Public Library, the recipient of the "Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation" 2010 Access to Learning Award, recognized as the "most successful library model in Greece and throughout the world".
The European digital library Europeana (www.europeana.gr <http://www.europeana.gr>, available in all EU languages) was created in November 2008 and provides access to more than 12 million digital items including, books, newspapers, pictures of museums objects, letters, photos, music, spoken word from cylinders, tapes, discs and radio broadcasts, TV broadcasts, films and newsreels that come from roughly 1,500 European national libraries, cultural foundations and organizations.
 Homeless in urban centres: Victims of the economic crisisThe number of homeless in Athens increases every day and the situation is terrifying. The economic crisis has not only stricken the major cities but also smaller municipalities in the environs where the phenomenon was unknown until recently.
"The situation has escalated. The economic crisis has changed the quality and the identity of the homeless. In the past, the homeless were mostly alcoholics, drug addicts or people facing psychological problems. Now we see elderly people, migrants and people who have lost their jobs or their house," Homeless Support organisation member Vassiliki Tzanakou told ANA-MPA.
According to FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless ) estimates, the number of homeless in Greece has reached approximately 20,000 people, excluding refugees and migrants, while the number of street homeless people and those in transitory shelters in the city of Athens is approximately 11,000 (3,000 Greeks and 8,000 foreigners).
 Int'l seminar on Geoparks on LesvosThe 4th International Intensive Course on Geoparks was held on the island of Lesvos, eastern Aegean, focusing on the evaluation and management of natural monuments.
The seminar was taught by distinguished university professors, directors of Geoparks, museums and world heritage monuments and was attended by 35 scientists from 13 countries.
The event took place on Oct. 1-6 in parallel with the 9th European Geoparks Conference and was organized by the University of the Aegean / Department of Geography and the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest with the support of the Global UNESCO Network of Geoparks and the European Geoparks Network.
The 5th International Intensive Course on Geoparks will be held on Lesvos in Sept. 2011.
 Thessaloniki Concert Hall anniversary eventThe Thessaloniki Concert Hall will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a special music concert on Monday, Oct. 25. A work written especially for the occasion by composer Giorgos Koumentakis will be among the music pieces performed.
 One dead, 10 rescued from trapped cars, in torrential rain on ChiosA man drowned when his car was swept away by torrential waters and 10 others were rescued from trapped cars Monday night during extreme rainfall on the island of Chios, where a state of emergency has been declared.
Fire Brigade rescuers found the body of the elderly man in his overturned car, which was swept away during heavy rainfall, in the Olympoi region on southern Chios.
Another 10 people trapped in their cars from the torrent were also rescued, as the Fire Brigade received more than 140 calls for flooded houses, and reinforcements arrived from nearby Lesvos island. The island was declared in a state of emergency.
 Gang targeting delivery boys behind Pakistani's murderPolice on Tuesday announced that they had cracked a murder case dating to last June, in which a 35-year-old Pakistani was shot and killed in the Athens district of Agios Panteleimonas. According to the Attica Security Crimes Against Life department, their chief suspects are a gang that habitually targeted and robbed delivery boys.
Members of the gang are two Albanians aged 27 and 23 years old, respectively, and a Greek aged 28.
Police have arrested the 27-year-old Albanian, who was recently released from Grevena prison after serving time for drug offences. He admitted to the murder under questioning.
The gang operated by phoning up and making fake orders using a false name and address, after which they would set up an ambush, attacking the person that brought the delivery to the address they had given and demanding his or her money.
The unlucky Pakistani had apparently resisted and attempted to run away, at which point the 28-year-old Greek shot him in the back, causing him fatal injury. The gang then fled the scene.
The man arrested was led before a public prosecutor on Tuesday and warrants have been issued for the arrest of the other two.
 Heroin hidden in porcelain table clock seizedRoughly 2 kilos of heroin were hidden in a porcelain table clock confiscated by the Athens Police in collaboration with British authorities.
The clock was traced at one of London's international airports on Monday. It had come from Iraq and was destined for Athens via the UK.
The Greek authorities were notified immediately leading to the arrest of two Afghans, aged 26 and 27, at Athens' international airport. The 26-year-old picked up the clock at the airport and attempted to hand it over to the 27-year-old in an appointment set up over the phone by a third individual still at large.
The delivery was thwarted by police and the two suspects were arrested.
 High school teacher, 65, arrested for hacking into minister's websiteA 65-year-old high school teacher arrested for hacking into and modifying the website of Deputy Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou was charged with four misdemeanours on Tuesday.
The charges against him include resistance of arrest, slander, tampering with documents and setting the friendly relations of the state at risk.
 Rainy on WednesdayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 11C and 26C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with southwesterly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 17C to 24C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 14C to 23C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAbolition of tax confidentiality, PASOK's proposal to send five former ND government ministers allegedly involved in the Vatopedi monastery-state swap land scandal to special court, and speculation of new austerity measures in 2011, mostly dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "PASOK 'Vatogate' and vile conspiracy".
APOGEVMATINI: "Predetermined referrals".
AVGHI: "Something new is born from the Left, social PASOK and youth meeting".
ELEFTHEROS: "PASOK's action to refer ND ministers to special court is preposterous".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "One-day contracts without any rights - 12 hours of work will be paid as four hours".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Additional austerity measures in 2011".
ESTIA: "Greek politicians are indifferent about the future".
ETHNOS: "PASOK charges five ND ministers".
IMERISSIA: "Cutbacks in salaries via four harsh measures".
KATHIMERINI: "EU: Additional measures in 2011".
LOGOS: "Five former ministers to be referred to special court".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Tax confidentiality to be abolished".
NIKI: "2.3 billion euros in measures to support employment".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Government prepares new harsh attack against workers and unemployed".
TA NEA: "End to tax confidentiality".
TO VIMA: "4 plus 1 former ministers to be referred to special court on Vatopedi case".
VRADYNI: "New measures with the deficit as the alibi".
 FÌ briefs Chinese counterpart on Cyprus talksNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou met Tuesday in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, with whom he discussed developments in the Cyprus issue, as well as bilateral relations with China.
According to an official announcement, Yang reiterated China's support for the continuation of current peace talks in Cyprus, aiming at reuniting the island, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
Kyrianou thanked the Chinese Foreign Minister for his country's consistent and steady support, and for retaining a principled position concerning the Cyprus problem.
The Cypriot Minister briefed Yang on the course of direct talks and explained the three-tier proposal, put forward by the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias.
Yang stated his countryÔs support for the continuation of the peace talks and noted that the aim should be the reunification of the island, while securing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus, on the basis of the relevant Security Council Resolutions.
The two sides also discussed China-EU relations, with emphasis put on the constructive role played by Cyprus in furthering the two sides' cooperation.
A number of propositions were also reviewed concerning the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Moreover, the ministers discussed the promotion of cooperation between the two countries, by concluding a number of bilateral agreements, currently under negotiation.
Kyprianou is expected to meet later in the afternoon with Deputy Prime Minister and Vice-President of the Chinese Government Li Keqiang, before returning to Cyprus.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
Peace talks are currently underway between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. The president has recently put forward a three-tier proposal in a bid to help make headway at the peace talks.
 Spokesman: EP Committee decision on direct trade positiveNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said on Tuesday that the decision of the Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Parliament that the legal basis of the Commission's regulation on direct trade between the EU and Cyprus' Turkish occupied areas was wrong was a positive development.
He noted that the issue has not yet closed completely, despite the fact that the decision places developments on the right basis.
Stephanou said the decision was ''a positive development,'' adding that ''the decision is the result of hard and coordinated efforts made by the President of the Republic, the Government and its services, the political parties and the six MEPs of the Republic of Cyprus.''
He added that ''the issue has not yet closed completely, despite the fact that the decision places developments on the right basis.''
''The Government will continue efforts'' in cooperation with the political parties and the Cypriot MEPs towards ''the desired end,'' he said.
Stephanou added that ''the Government will continue to actively promote the President's proposal on Famagusta, which provides, inter alia, the opportunity to develop the relations of the Turkish Cypriot community with the EU, without violating the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and international law.''
''The adoption of the proposal of the President of the Republic on Famagusta, and the whole package of proposals'' would serve ''the main aim of achieving a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem, based on UN resolutions, international and European law, and the high level agreements of 1977 and 1979,'' Stephanou pointed out.
He noted that ''only through a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem could the problems caused by the continuation of the occupation and the de facto division of our homeland be solved.''
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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