|Monday, 20 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-01-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 14 January 2011 Issue No: 3694
 PM meets EU Commissioner Barnier in AthensPrime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday had a meeting in Athens with European Commissioner for the internal market and services Michel Barnier. Their talks centred on the economic crisis in Greece and what Barnier said was the courageous response of the Greek government and people to "an unprecedented shock that they faced".
"We were on the edge of the precipice but with great effort and the support of the EU we began an unprecedented effort that has brought results," Papandreou said.
Among the government's immediate priorities for the new year was to promote the major reforms that dealt with "inherent and chronic problems," the prime minister said.
He stressed that these reforms would have to be completed in order for Greece to become a modern country with a competitive economy and a state that enjoyed the trust of its citizens.
Papandreou said that his talks with Barnier had referred to issues such as financial markets, derivatives and the effort to establish transparent procedures to avert speculators. They also discussed plans concerning credit rating agencies, where Greece indicated its support of the efforts being made by the Commissioner.
Their talks also covered issues concerning the real economy, green development, innovation and the social economy.
Barnier underlined the need for a recovery of the EU's internal market and gave assurances that nothing would be allowed to escape the oversight procedures that are being established by the G20 and supported by the 27 EU member-states, the European Commission and the European Parliament.
Barnier said that the Commission is completing the necessary preparation "for the transparency required in the operation of credit rating agencies". He also praised the reform efforts of the Greek government.
He underlined that the sacrifices being made by the Greek people were "necessary" in order for Greece to regain its position on the European scene.
"Greece has advantages, a significant position in the internal market and I believe that Greeks have every reason to feel confident about the efforts they are making," he said.
 President receives Israeli FMPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received visiting Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who afterwards noted the excellent relations between Greece and Israel and the positive atmosphere surrounding those relations in Greece.
Papoulias, in turn, referred to the Greece-Israel rapprochement and the progress made in bilateral relations, while he also noted that the two countries could enjoy a mutually beneficial collaboration in the energy sector.
Noting that "everyone is talking about the energy sector", Papoulias said that he personally, given the fact that he comes from a farming region (Epirus), was greatly interested in the agricultural sector, in which Israel "has had great progress in technology but also in new cultivation methods".
Lieberman said that representatives of the Jewish community in Athens told him that they cannot remember relations between the two countries ever having reached such a high level in the past, while he also noted the good relations between the Greek government and the Jewish community.
On agricultural issues, Lieberman said he, too, had a particular interest in that field, adding that he was a big fan of olive oil from Kalamata.
 Premier meets with visiting Israeli FMPrime minister George Papandreou on Thursday met with visiting Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.
No statements were made after the meeting.
 Israel's Lieberman meets Greek defence ministerIsraeli Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman, currently in Athens on a two-day visit, met National Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday. The two ministers confirmed the desire of the Israeli and Greek governments to promote bilateral relations on all levels.
The meeting focused on bilateral relations, the situation in the Mediterranean and the Middle East and the fluid state of affairs in international issues, Venizelos said.
The Greek minister said that an extensive programme of military cooperation between the two countries will continue, taking into account the priorities of each side.
He also noted that Greece's priority was to avoid tension and ensure security in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean, while Israel had security concerns "that we understand and fully respect".
Venizelos said that Greece had traditionally good ties with the Arab world and a genuine strategic relationship with Israel and could thus play a positive and constructive role in the solution of long-lasting and historic problems.
Lieberman expressed his country's appreciation of Greece's assistance in fighting the forest fire in Haifa and other sensitive issues. He noted that bilateral cooperation would contribute to stability in the region and pointed to a number of shared challenges relating to the environment, migration and green energy.
He also repeated an invitation that he had sent to the defence minister to visit Israel in a month's time.
 Athens seminar focuses on closer Greek-Israeli relationsBurgeoning Greek-Israeli ties were the focus of a seminar in Athens on Thursday, which coincided with a two-day visit to the east Mediterranean country by Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman and following recent high-profile reciprocal visits by each country's prime minister.
Beginning his address in Greek before a packed hall in downtown Athens, noted Israeli academic Amikam Nachmani cited a number of sectors where Greece and Israel have common goals, interests and increased prospects for cooperation, particularly in already growing trade ties and economic relations.
The Bar Ilan University professor, nevertheless, directly commented on the closely watched geopolitical implications stemming from the very public souring of relations between the Israeli and Turkish governments over the past few years, warning that Greek-Israeli ties -- as well as Turkish-Israeli ties -- should be independent of each other and not imply an "either/or" dilemma for any of the parties.
Bilateral trade ties have significantly increased between the countries over the years, nearing the half-billion-dollar mark, with roughly a half a million Israelis visiting Greece last year, whereas Israel now serves as Greece's biggest export market in the Middle East.
Besides prospects for military and security cooperation, both countries' recent concerns over illegal immigration, all-important energy sector cooperation, tourism, boosting trade and even employing Israeli technology in the desalinization field were cited.
The event - co-organised by the Athens-based Institute of International Economic Relations (IIER) and the research unit on Global Governance and the EU at the Universidad de Zaragoza -- featured two separate sessions, the first entitled "Political and Economic Relations of Greece with Israel" and the second "Greek - Israeli Relations in the Wider Context of the Eastern Mediterranean."
The first session was moderated by ANA-MPA Managing Director Nikolas Voulelis and included Nachmani; Johnny Modiano, the vice-chairman of the Greek-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Technology as well as IIER Director Charalambos Tsardanidis.
Tsardanidis served as the moderator for the second session, with speakers including Stelios Stavridis, an ARAID senior research fellow at the Universidad de Zaragoza; Ekavi Athanassopoulou, a lecturer at the University of Athens, and Theodoros Tsakiris, head of the Observatory for European Energy Policy (EKEM).
 Foreign ministry on Erzurum visit, relations with TurkeyForeign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Thursday underlined that Prime Minister George Papandreou's decision to go ahead with a visit to Erzurum, in spite of Turkish air space violations preceding the visit, was "highly symbolic". In this way, Greece had shown its willingness to improve relations but also stated the problems in a clear way, he added.
Regarding the flights by Turkish planes over Greek territory, Delavekouras described these as "unacceptable" and said they raised the risk of a dangerous incident but also cast doubts on whether Turkey sincerely desired to normalise relations.
He noted that Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas had contacted his Turkish counterpart twice on the phone prior to the premier's visit, stressing that the flights were unacceptable and would not be tolerated.
Delavekouras underlined that Greece did not let such incidents slide and that every violation and infringement by Turkey resulted in an immediate response from the foreign and defence ministries to assert Greece's sovereignty. In spite of this, the premier had chosen not to cancel the visit but instead go and state the issues in a clear way, he added.
He also highlighted the significance of a promise by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to improve bilateral relations and the steps taken in this direction in recent months, starting with the High-Level Cooperation Council and a series of agreements that included those on illegal migration.
Under this Turkey will accept 1,000 requests a year from Greece for the return of illegal migrants. The spokesman noted that this agreement appeared to be going ahead and that the meetings between the two premiers had allowed Turkey to realise how serious this issue was.
"We want to see the completion of the readmission agreements between the EU and Turkey and, until that time, strict observance of the existing agreement between Turkey and Greece and with Bulgaria," he added.
Concerning the exploratory talks underway between the two sides, Delavekouras noted that the two prime ministers had asked that these be intensified. If progress was not possible in a reasonable space of time, the Greek position was that the two sides should resort to international courts.
Delavekouras insisted that the discussion was confined only to delineating the Aegean continental shelf and refused to comment on reports concerning the content of the exploratory talks, stressing that the discussions were confidential.
He stressed that Greece's declared policy was to delineate the marine zones with all its neighbours.
"This is how the agreement with Albania arose - in spite of the problems that emerged with the country's constitutional court - and negotiations are underway with Libya and Egypt. Our relationship with Cyprus allows us, whenever we judge that this is in the interest of both countries, to move quickly and finally, exploratory talks with Turkey."
He clarified in response to questions that the possibility of linking the EU with the Leviathan natural gas reserves with a pipeline passing through Greece had not been discussed in talks on Wednesday between visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Droutsas, noting that the two sides had only indicated their willingness to cooperate in the energy sector.
 Papandreou cites hospitality, positive climate during recent Turkey visitGreek Prime Minister George Papandreou's office on Thursday announced that he spoke by telephone earlier in the afternoon with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, where the former expressed his appreciation for the hospitality and the positive climate that prevailed during his recent visit to Erzurum, in NE Turkey.
 FM spokesman on new foreign policy doctrineForeign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Thursday underlined that the foreign ministry's intention is to involve the national council on Foreign Policy (ESEP), academics and possibly even journalists in the shaping of the new foreign policy doctrine currently being processed, in order to have as much positive input as possible.
Foreign ministry general secretary Ambassador Ioannis-Alexios Zeppos has been assigned to draw up a rough draft of the new foreign policy doctrine on which the aforementioned debate will be held.
"Our wish is (the new doctrine) to be the product of consensus and reflect the core of our foreign policy," Delavekouras stressed.
As regards the European External Action Service (EEAS) staff, he said that the whole process is underway and that Greece has presented a few candidates with extensive know-how, referring specifically to the appointment of Angelos Pangratis as the new head of EU Delegation to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
"EEAS can be representative if it takes under consideration the geographic factor, thus ensuring that the member states' composition will be reflected," he added.
 Foreign ministry statement on Lebanon developmentsA Greek foreign ministry spokesman on Thursday referred to political developments in Lebanon, stressing that "Greece is watching with attention and concern the developments in Lebanon, following the fall of the national unity government under Saad Hariri."
Spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said Athens is reiterating its steadfast support for the independence, sovereignty, stability and the democratic form of government of Lebanon, "which contributes to the stability of the entire region."
The spokesman added Greece, both bilaterally and with the framework of the EU, "is prepared to contribute in every way to the overcoming of the present crisis and the stability of the friendly country. Since Greece is always on the side of international legality, we stress our support for the work of the International Court on Lebanon."
 Greece welcomes upcoming talks at UN on FYROM name issueThe Greek government on Thursday expressed satisfaction with UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz's scheduling of a meeting with the Greek and FYROM representatives at the name talks for February 9 in New York.
Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said, in a statement, that the designation of the meeting is a confirmation of the fact that the framework of the process is the UN-brokered negotiation.
He said a review of where things currently stand on the FYROM name issue is anticipated at the meeting, adding that the Greek side looks forward to a constructive meeting.
Greece, the spokesman underlined, was going into the meeting with the political volition for resolving the issue.
He added that the meetings that the Greek side has sought between the prime ministers of the two countries have created a more positive climate "that we will seek to preserve, through the direct high level contacts".
At the same time, though, "we need to see from the other side as well such a political volition for a solution, which is absolutely necessary to proceed with the neighboring country's EU and NATO accession process", Delavekouras stressed.
 German FM reacts to Athens' decision to participate in ICJ proceedings on WWII reparationsBERLIN (ANA-MPA / G. Pappas)
The government of Germany invokes the privilege of exterritoriality and has "no understanding" of the Greek government's decision to exercise its right to participate in support of the Distomo massacre victims at proceedings being held before the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ).
The proceedings concern the pending dispute between Germany and Italy as regards WWII reparations for the massacres and destruction committed during the Nazi occupation.
In a written statement on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle mentioned that he "has no understanding of the Greek government's decision" and pointed out that Germany is aware of its responsibility for its history. He also stated that "we are aware of the particular suffering of the Greek people during WWII". However, Germany firmly supports its position and is optimistic that its legal approach will be accepted in the ICJ.
The German foreign minister invoked the privilege of exterritoriality and pointed out that "as regards the claims against Germany we are expecting that the internationally recognized law principles will be respected and most of all Germany's immunity as a state."
The statement concluded that "if this basic principle ceases to be in effect then the world community of states will be faced with legal uncertainty".
The German foreign minister was notified over the Greek government's decision by Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Wednesday.
The town of Distomo, south-central Greece, was the scene of a massacre during WWII when 218 locals were executed as part of Nazi reprisals for the activity of partisans in the general area.
The Distomo massacre case deadline at the International Court of Justice in The Hague expires on Jan. 14, 2011.
 PASOK MPs ask clarifications on debt write-offFive ruling PASOK deputies on Thursday tabled a current question in parliament on the withdrawal of a proposal for writing off 24 billion euros as "uncollected debts" contained in a bill on "Urgent measures for implementation of the Support Program for the Greek Economy" that was recently passed by the House.
MPs Panagiotis Kouroumblis, Nadia Yiannakopoulou, Elias Theodoridis, Athanasios Papageorgiou and Pavlos Stasinos noted in their question that the creation of negative impressions in the society, in a time of economic crisis and social difficulty, had been averted with the withdrawal of the said proposal, and called for the names of the debtors be revealed in parliament, as well as the conclusions of the relevant investigation carried out by the authoritative ministry that would prove that the debtors and members of their families do not have shareholdings in offshore companies.
They also called for a briefing of parliament as to whether the prospect of concession of the Greek State's rights to collect the debts to specialised private firms via international tender has been adequately investigated so as to achieve the best possible result.
Further, the five MPs ask whether the judicial guarantees are secured, via the Council of Audit, regarding the Greek state's rights to collection of those debts and, if possible, for assurance to be presented that the amount of money of the proposed write-off will not become a part of the state deficit in the immediate future.
 Minister invites striking public transport employees to dialogueInfrastructure, Transport and Networks minister Dimitris Reppas on Thursday invited public transport employees and the mass transit companies to dialogue aimed at contributing the upgrading of urban transport.
The call comes amid heightened industrial action and a 24-hour strike Thursday by urban transport employees over a bill unveiled the previous day on restructuring the mass transit system. Public deliberation on the bill opened on Thursday.
Reppas said that the government is taking "the necessary and useful initiative" for reform of urban transport "that will lead to modern and qualitative transport services that improve the everday lives of the citizen", but stressed that "this process requires everyone's cooperation".
The minister further reiterated that the government "supports the public nature of the commuter companies" and "safeguards the right to work of all the working people".
"The goal is a common one, as is also the responsibility," Reppas added.
 Government invites striking transport workers to begin dialogueGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday criticised striking public transport workers for continuing a strike declared illegal by the courts, urging them to respond to the transport ministry's invitation to begin dialogue "so that we have the best possible bill at the end".
"Apart from the rights that we have as workers and which we defend there is also the law. And when there is a court ruling that judges a strike illegal and abusive we must uphold this," he stressed.
Petalotis urged all sides to realise the importance of having public transport that benefited Greek citizens and to eliminate deficits through a completely different, revamped and rationalised approach to transport needs.
Asked whether the government would resort to laws allowing civil mobilisation and even dismissal of strikers, Petalotis said that this would be an extreme resort that the government was loathe to use, while adding that "the laws exist and apply to everyone".
"Before we get to these measures, we call on workers to come to dialogue and stop strikes, especially when these harm middle and lower strata of our society," he said, noting that one union in the public transport sector had already indicated a willingness to participate in dialogue.
The ISAP electric railway was the only public transport operating in Athens on Thursday, when buses, tram, trolleys and metro held a 24-hour strike in protest against planned reforms to the public transport sector and threatened staff transfers.
 Public transport strike goes ahead as planned Thursday despite court rulingsA 24-hour public transport strike in buses, trolleys, the Athens metro and ISAP trains and the tram is taking place as scheduled on Thursday, as the unions of mass transit employees decided to defy court rulings issued late Wednesday designating the strikes illegal, and despite warnings by the government of disciplinary action and other sanctions provided by law against the defiant strikers. The controversial bill restructuring public transports, which has sparked an ongoing wave of strikes and stoppages, was unveiled on Wednesday afternoon after being approved by the Cabinet earlier in the day.
The greater Athens area is without mass transit, despite the Athens First Instance Court ruling issued after recourses by the administrations of the public transport companies.
The Hellenic Rail (OSE) intercity routes and the Proastiakos suburban railway, however, were running normally after suspension of the 24-hour strike by the relevant employees' unions.
Infrastructures, Transport and Networks minister Dimitris Reppas warned strikers that if they carry on with the mobilisations despite the court ruling, they will face disciplinary and other sanctions.
The bill on the restructuring of public transport provides for the creation of a "Metropolitan Agency" for urban transports and a revamping of the system through mergers of the existing mass transit companies, obligatory transfers of personnel and changes to the labor relations.
The bill was unveiled on Wednesday during a meeting of the Cabinet, which approved the draft law for tabling in parliament.
More specifically, the bill provides that the five public transport companies operating under the umbrella of the OASA urban transport organisation will be merged into two agencies, one for the road transport companies (ILPAP trolleys and ETHEL buses) and one for the three rail companies (Tram, Metro, ISAP trains) and, more particularly, ETHEL will absorb ILPAP and the Metro will absorb ISAP and the Tram.
With respect to personnel, the transfer of approximately 1,500 of the total 11,850 employees currently working in urban transports will be transferred.
Further, the existing collective labor agreements will be abolished and new agreements drawn up with the new agencies.
 Minister's briefs Parliament on issue of mosque constructionEducation Affairs Minister Anna Diamantopoulou on Thursday briefed Parliament over the government's positions regarding the construction of a mosque in Athens, as well as other related issues.
"Presently, there is no plan to build a mosque in Thessaloniki or a second one in Athens," the minister said, responding to a tabled question by opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) MP Kyriakos Velopoulos.
Moreover, Diamantopoulou said a mosque to be built in Athens -- the first in the capital of the modern Greek state -- will be smaller in size than initially planned and will be located in a green space. She added that construction design will "respect the national framework and culture", while adding that it will be under the jurisdiction of the ministry of education, which will be the only entity to set the terms for its operation.
"This is a significant political decision because we would not want such a place of worship to be in the jurisdiction or under the responsibility of any other centre or country outside Greece," she stressed.
On his part, Velopoulos retorted: "Acting humanely is very important but it should not be primped. We have to be careful, because Islam has 117 sects. They (sects) cannot share the same mosque, they cannot co-exist. Could you tolerate the burqa, the stoning for adultery, the (ritual) slaughtering of animals outside the mosques?"
In reply, Diamantopoulou said: "certain actions are unpleasant and appalling but we cannot reject one of the major religions in the world. Every religion has positive elements and we can use them to create conditions of smooth co-existence."
"The government decision is constitutional, based on the principles of religious tolerance and the need for the implementation of international treaties on places of worship for the Muslim community," she stressed, adding that "political or religious hate talk has no use when there is no counter-proposal on where those people will exercise their religious duties."
 Interior and environment ministers to meet with European Commissioner for the environmentBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis and Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili will meet here on Friday with European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik to discuss the issue of the illegal dumpsites operating in Greece.
The meeting will concern the illegal dumps still operating in Greece in violation of European legislation, the spokesman of the European Commissioner said.
 Unnamed former minister the object of judicial investigation sent to ParliamentAn unnamed former deputy minister is the object of a judicial investigation that was sent to Parliament on Thursday by the Supreme Court prosecutor. By law, when there is evidence indicating that an MP or a minister is implicated in a judicial investigation the case file is forwarded to Parliament, which must decide whether prosecution is warranted.
The case concerns the protection of some 25 hectares of public land in the Athens suburb of Glyfada and in Paliohano on the Astrous coast that has also been the subject of press reports.
 Thessaloniki Bar Association opposes fence on Greek-Turkish borderThe board of the Thessaloniki Bar Association on Thursday passed a resolution in which it expresses its opposition to the Greek government's plans to construct a fence on a section of its border with Turkey in the Evros region.
 Greece honors French presidency general secretary Claude GueantPARIS (ANA-MPA / O. Tsipira)
Greece on Thursday afternoon will award the Medal of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix to Claude Gueant, the general secretary of the French presidency.
Minister of State Haris Pamboukis will represent Republic President Karolos Papoulias in the ceremony, to take place here at the Greek Ambassador's residence.
"The medal awarded is in recognition of the valuable and continuous support offered by Mr. Gueant to Greek national issues and to Greece during the tough times our country is experiencing as a result of the economic crisis," Greek ambassador Constantine Halastanis said.
Gueant is the French President's close associate since 2002 and in 2007 he was the director of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy's election campaign.
 EU official: Greek fiscal effort 'ambitious, painful'BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
Fiscal consolidation programmes currently implemented by Greece and Ireland are "ambitious and painful", Marco Buti, the Director-General of the European Commission's Economic Affairs directorate said on Thursday.
Addressing a seminar on "The European economy in 2011", organised by the European Policy Centre, Buti said that certain European governments should adopt structural reforms in parallel with their austerity policies. Commenting on Greece, the EU official said the government has pledged to adhere to set targets.
He noted that the Greek people were traditionally very political and divided, however, currently "they show unity and a readiness to accept that changes must be made".
Buti underlined the significance of creating of a permanent stability mechanism and stressed that European governments' policies should be coherent. Finally, he said a scenario of debt restructuring for a Eurozone country would not only be undesirable but also unlikely to occur in a developed country.
 PM, shipowners discuss shipping issuesPrime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday met with the leadership of the Greek Shipowners Union for talks, expectedly, on shipping issues.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Maritime Affairs Minister Yiannis Diamantidis said the meeting was held in a very good and positive climate.
"In a difficult time for the country, shipping is primary tool of economic growth, and in this framework, the Union presented its views and demands, while the premier heard their views with a very open mind," he said, adding: "we agreed in many things particularly the constant cooperation and contact between the government and the Union to achieve targets set".
Greek shipowners reportedly requested an upgraded tertiary education system for future seamen, an issue that generated media attention this week after a visiting Israeli delegation in Athens broached the prospect of training Israeli merchant marine cadets in Greece. Shipowners also requested a clear decision on which ministry will oversee the coast guard -- favouring the maritime affairs ministry, according to reports -- while they also called for shipping capital invested in real estate projects in Greece to be considered as a foreign investment.
The government, according to sources, is preparing draft legislation for a framework to boost the port of Piraeus prospects as a major shipping centre in the eastern Mediterranean.
 FinMin holds meetings on 'opening' closed professionsFinance minister George Papaconstantinou had a series of meetings with other ministers on Thursday to discuss the issue of "opening" the so-called closed-shop professions
Among the ministers he held discussions with were Infrastructure, Transport and Networks minister Dimitris Reppas, Environment, Energy and Climate Change minister Tina Birbili, and Justice minister Haris Kastanidis, as well as representatives of the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE).
 FinMin: Draft bill on liberalisation of professions next weekFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou, addressing an event by the Athens-based ISTAME think tank on Thursday, said the Cabinet will review a draft bill next week on the long-sought liberalisation of all so-called "closed" professions in the country.
He added that the bill will anticipate an across-the-board elimination of most current restrictions in various professions and vocations in the country, "without exception".
European Union Commissioner Michel Barnier, the main speaker at the event, criticised international credit rating firms, while favouring new regulations for their operation and even the establishment of new firms in the sector.
 Tourism minister: First indications are positiveCulture and tourism minister Pavlos Geroulanos on Thursday said that the first indications in the tourism sector are "positive", speaking to reporters after a meeting with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
Geroulanos made special mention of the finance minister's recent decision to reduce the VAT on tourism accommodations, opining that the measure has "given a note of optimism" to the prospects for the new year.
He said everyone has begun to share the view that the recovery in the Greek economy will begin from the tourism sector.
Geroulanos further described countries such as Britain and Germany as being of "particular significant" for the tourist flow this year.
 Gov't iniative to boost tourism in greater Athens areaCulture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos and Attica Regional Governor Yiannis Sgouros on Thursday discussed issues concerning the tourist development of the greater Athens area. The focus was, among others, the "Athens Every Week" programme aimed at promoting the greater Athens as a destination, the upgrading of the increasingly gritty "historic centre", as well as the Marathon course.
Geroulanos said that the top priority is an increase of tourism in Attica prefecture.
 State imposed 4.1-mln-euro fines against businesses in 2010?uthorities imposed fines totaling 4.13 million euros against businesses last year, a Regional Development and Competiti-veness ministry announcement stated on Thursday.
The fines, imposed by the ministry's central and regional services, covered breaching of market legislation. The ministry said it was establishing an electronic system aimed at obtaining a better management of fines.
 Unemployment shoots to 13.5pct in Oct. 2010Greece's unemployment rate jumped to 13.5 percent in October 2010 from 9.8 percent in October 2009, according to figures released on Thursday by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority.
According to the Labor Force Survey for October 2010 made public by ELSTAT on Thursday, the ununemployment rate in October 2010 was 13.5% compared to 9.8% in October 2009 and 12.6% in September 2010.
The number of employed amounted to 4,369,543 persons while the number of unemployed amounted to 684,047 and the number of inactive to 4,263,751.
The number of employed decreased by 135,557 persons compared with October 2009 (a 3.0% rate of decrease) and increased by 3,048 persons compared with September 2010 (a 0.1% rate of increase).
The number of unemployed increased by 192,908 persons (a 39.3% rate of increase) compared with October 2009 and by 56,332 persons compared with September 2010 (a 9.0% rate of increase).
Unemployment among women, which rose to 17.6 percent in October 2010 from 13.7 percent in October 2009, continued to be much higher than that among men, which rose to 10.6 percent in October 2010 from 7.1 percent in October 2009.
The hardest hit age bracket, however, was youth (15-24), which reached 34.6 percent in October 2010 from 27.5 percent in October 2009.
Unemployment in the 25-34 age bracket shot to 18.3 percent from 12.6 percent in October 2009, and in the 35-44 age group rose to 11.5 percent from 8.0 percent in October 2009.
By region, the highest unemployment rates were recorded in Western Macedonia (17.2 percent from 9.3 percent in October 2009), Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (15.4 percent from 9.8 percent), Central Macedonia (14.8 percent from 10.1 percent), the southern Aegean (14.5 percent from 9.1 percent), and Attica (14.4 percent from 10.4 percent).
 Gov't picks advisers in privatisation of DE.PA, Hellenic Defence SystemsThe Greek government on Thursday selected its financial and legal advisers in the privatisation of DE.PA, the state-run natural gas enterprise, as well as Hellenic Defence Systems SA.
The advisers will examine the possibility of how to have a better management of the state's equity participation in these two enterprises.
A finance ministry announcement said Alpha Bank, N.M. Rothschild & Sons Ltd. and UBS Ltd. together with Koutalidis Law Firm were selected as advisers to the privatisation of DE.PA, while KPMG Consultants SA and FDM & Associates Law Firm were selected as advisers to the privatisation of Hellenic Defence Systems.
 Athens metro: Deficit decrease by 50% for 2010The Attiko metro company (AMEL) on Thursday said it projects to cut its deficit by almost 50 pct for 2010, to less than 10 million euros, compared with a shortfall of 19 million euros in 2009.
The state-run company attributed the decline to an improvement of all operations, particularly in the second half of the year, with payroll costs falling below 65 million euros, or 69 pct of revenues in 2010, from 72.4 million euros or 77 pct of revenues in 2009.
Payroll costs fell below 64 pct of revenues in the fourth quarter of 2010.
AMEL said operating spending, excluding personnel, would be cut by around 4.0 pct to 35.5 million euros in 2010, from 37 million euros in 2009.
Company officials said they expected the positive trend to continue at a more rapid pace this year, resulting to an improvement in financial figures -- meaning a decrease in shortfalls.
 Stocks end flat on Thur.Stocks ended flat at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index of the market rising 0.31 pct to end at 1,442.52 points. Turnover was a moderate 101.22 million euros.
The Big Cap index ended 0.45 pct higher, the Mid Cap index rose 0.28 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.60 pct up. Hellenic Postbank (3.11 pct), Motor Oil (2.46 pct), National Bank (2.22 pct) and Eurobank (2.21 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Cyprus Bank (2.63 pct), OTE (2.10 pct) and PPC (1.83 pct) were top losers.
The Oil (1.77 pct) and Financial Services (1.73 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Media (4.08 pct) and Telecoms (2.10 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 100 to 68 with another 46 issues unchanged. Vivere (16.67 pct), Edrasi (14.29 pct), ANEK (11.76 pct) were top gainers, while Klonatex (16.67 pct), Xylemporia (15.38 pct) and Ideal (11.40 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.77%
Personal & Household: +0.30%
Raw Materials: -0.99%
Travel & Leisure: +0.48%
Food & Beverages: +0.14%
Financial Services: +1.73%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and DEH.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 3.70
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.70
HBC Coca Cola: 20.18
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.99
National Bank of Greece: 6.44
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.70
Bank of Piraeus: 1.70
 Greek bond yields deflateThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 834 basis points in midday trading on the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, down from 840 bps at the opening and around 1,000 bps on Monday, following a spectacular decline in bond spreads in other regional European countries.
Expectations that the EU will agree on measures to finally deal with a debt crisis hitting regional Europe, have significantly improved market sentiment, allowing European governments to smoothly auction state bond issues in the last few days.
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased further to 821 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 831 bps on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.26 pct and the German Bund 3.05 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 20 million euros, of which 18 million euros were sell orders. The six-month Treasury bill was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 17 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.50 pct, the six-month 1.22 pct, the three-month rate was 0.9 pct and the one-month rate 0.75 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.65 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 41.604 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,005 contracts worth 33.355 million euros, with 31,026 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,805 contracts worth 8.249 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,410) followed by Eurobank (1,857), OTE (1,976), Piraeus Bank (1,489), Alpha Bank (1,902), Marfin Popular Bank (2,078), Cyprus Bank (889) and GEK (686).
 Four suspects in terror-related probeFour suspects were arrested by the anti-terrorist squad on Thursday in relation to an ongoing investigation into the "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire" terrorist group, an operation begun over the past few days.
The names of the four were not been disclosed and, according to reports, they refused to provide information on their identity or fingerprints.
Additionally, searches were carried out on two residences in the Athens districts of Vyronas and Tavros.
According to the same reports, searches were underway in the cities of Patras and Thessaloniki.
 Meeting between environment minister, Attica regional gov.Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili and new Attica Regional Governor Yiannis Sgouros held talks on Thursday on the all-important issue of upgrading of the quality of life in the congested greater Athens area as well as the burning issue of managing the Greek capital garbage.
Birbili briefed on progress over several projects in downtown Athens, as well as the trash and sewage problems.
 Free pass for Stylida residents at Pelasgia toll postsThe company operating the Pelasgia toll posts on the Athens-Lamia national highway on Thursday announced that it will issue 1,400 passes that will distributed to Stylida residents throughout charge and allow them toll-free passage.
Until the passes are distributed, local residents will be allowed through the toll posts without charge.
The decision followed the sensational arrest of Stylida Mayor Apostolos Glezos, a well-known actor that starred in a number of local television series, after he tore down the barriers at the toll posts to create an access road for locals and demanded action to ensure that they did not have to pay tolls for local trips within their own municipality.
The issue arose after the company failed to issue passes for locals, who had no alternative road for making local trips and were forced to use the motorway and pay expensive tolls.
 Latest violence between illegal migrants at NW portPolice on Thursday afternoon said rival groups of illegal immigrants assembled at the port of Igoumenitsa, in extreme northwest Greece, clashed earlier in the day, resulting in a 22-year-old Algerian being injured.
The rival groups of illegals were identified as Kurds and Algerians.
According to reports, police dispersed the illegal migrants from the port, with most fleeing into the hilly brushland close to the port, where they have set up temporary shelters.
The wounded man was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, while police remained at the scene to prevent renewed violence.
The incident marked the third injury over the past three days stemming from clashes between illegal immigrants at the port.
Igoumenitsa, along with the western port city of Patras, further south, are viewed as "gateways" to western Europe -- via Italy-bound ferry boats -- by mostly Third World and Asian migrants who previously sneaked into Greece. Heightened security by Greek authorities, shipping companies and foreign law enforcement of late has severely hampered efforts by illegals and migrant smugglers to board vessels, resulting in practically thousands of migrants congregating near port areas.
 Suspects in elderly woman's rape, beating, apprehendedThree of four suspects in the Sunday night beating and rape of an elderly woman in the Athens district of Ano Liossia have been arrested, police said on Thursday.
The perpetrators, according to the 78-year-old victim's statements to the police, are Roma.
One of the three detainees is 13 years old, while the fourth perpetrator, who is wanted by police, is 15.
The other two detainees are aged 18 and 26.
The 26-year-old is charged with robbery, while the three teenagers are charged with rape.
 First H1N1 incident of new yearThe first H1N1 new flu incident in Greece for 2011 was confirmed on Thursday in Larissa.
The patient is a 40-year-old local man, who is hospitalised in the intensive care unit of the Larissa General Hospital in serous but stable condition.
 Large quantity of cannabis confiscatedAn Albanian national unsuccessfully attempted to smuggle into Greece 145 kg of cannabis he had hidden in his car, when the vehicle crashed into a tree during a police chase on Thursday. The driver managed to flee the scene.
The car was spotted at the Kampoti-Arta intersection in western Greece and pursued when its driver ignored police signals to pull over and sped away.
 Drug arrests in northern GreeceFour individuals, three local men and a 25-year-old Bulgarian woman, were arrested in northern Greece on drug possession and trafficking charges, police said on Thursday.
A 43-year-old local man and a 31-year-old Albanian were arrested in the city of Edessa, charged with cocaine trafficking after a police search in the latter's residence revealed roughly 630 grams of the drug.
In a separate incident, a local man and a Bulgarian woman, both 25, were arrested at the intercity bus terminal in Thessaloniki when police found roughly seven kilos of hashish stashed in their luggage.
 Cloudy on FridayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 1C and 18C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 17C. Same in Thessa-loniki, with temperatures ranging from 6C to 12C.
 Athens Newspaper HeadlinesThe bill on mass transit restructuring and reactions and economic issues were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Thursday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "New labor agreements and transfers in public transports".
AVGHI: "Europe at crucial turning point".
AVRIANI: "One billion euros to National Bank from major British banking group".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Barrage of new harsh members from the government".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Shock changes in public transport".
ESTIA: "Immense losses due to the strikes".
ETHNOS: "Changes in public transport without 'brake'."
IMERISSIA: "Ambitious moves in EU for exit from crisis".
KATHIMERINI: "Critical turning point for urban transport".
LOGOS: "Brake (on public transport) due to mergers".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "European support sends signal to the markets - One step closer to definitive solution of the European debt".
NIKI: "Reduction of salaries - Reduction of benefits - Reduction of personnel".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The popular movement the target, on pretext of 'moralising' the system".
TA NEA: "The new law on smoking".
VRADYNI: "Salary reductions of up to 25 percent in the DEKO (public utilities and organisations, which include public transports)".
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