|Monday, 12 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-06-02
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 2 June 2007 Issue No: 2608
 Greek, Hungarian PMs discuss economic cooperation, European issuesPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis met in Athens on Friday with his visiting Hungarian counterpart Ferenc Gyurcsány for talks on bilateral relations and European Union developments. During the meeting, the two prime ministers decided to set up a working group to look into the prospects of bilateral economic cooperation in combined transport, trade and energy.
Karamanlis said the talks were "constructive" and that the final aim was to promote links between Greece and Hungary in these areas and to make use of European mechanisms available for similar actions.
He termed the decision to set up the working group an "important develop-ment", adding that the talks with Gyurcsány also covered a number of European issues, such as the EU Constitutional Treaty, developments in the Balkans, Turkey and the Cyprus issue.
With respect to economic cooperation, Karamanlis told reporters that Hungary desired cooperation with Athens in the energy sector, particularly in the transport of natural gas, as well as participation in ongoing Greek projects, given that the east Mediterranean country was proceeding with a major effort in the sector.
Specifically, he said that Hungary expressed an interest in future imports of natural gas coming from either Russia or Azerbaijan via pipelines passing through Greece, a possibility to be examined by the working group that is being set up.
Karamanlis stated that Hungary's interest was beneficial for the Greek side and "shows that we are now making a dynamic entry onto the world energy map".
In his own statements after the meeting, the Hungarian prime minister pointed to the new role now open to countries that in the past were not at the forefront of international interest, such as Greece, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Portugal.
According to Gyurcsány, these could help make political, trade and economic cooperation within Europe take on a "new turn".
With the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU, Greece's geopolitical role had grown, since new possibilities for further development and links between Greece and other European countries had arisen.
"There are two, three countries in the region who are much more interested in the fate of the western Balkan states. We bear a very great responsibility for a possible bad solution, since this can affect us very badly," he said.
The Hungarian premier expressed satisfaction over the close cooperation between Greece and Hungary on a diplomatic level and said that he applauded Greece's effort for the resolution of problems in the western Balkans.
He also referred to tourism, noting that some 400,000 Hungarian tourists visited Greece each year while Greeks visiting Hungary numbered just 100,000. Despite this negative balance, Greece's interest in Hungary was very high, Gyurcsány said.
Pointing out that Hungary has no access to the sea, the Hungarian premier told reporters that his country was seeking to cooperate with countries planning to construct natgas stations, citing close links between Hungary and Croatia.
"We are looking for possibilities and ways that we can contribute to Greek projects, since we see that Greece is making great efforts for development in this area at this time," he said.
He also talked about possible cooperation between research centres in the two countries and stressed the efforts being made by both Greece and Hungary to increase the percentage share of renewable energy sources.
Questioned about the Nabucco natgas pipeline that is set to pass through Hungary en route from central Asia to Austria, Gyurcsány said that Hungary is interested in increasing the security of its energy supplies and is therefore showing an interest in EU programmes.
"Hungary must choose something that will increase its independence and this is one means to keep the country strong," he added.
To other questions concerning the EU's Constitutional Treaty and developments in view of the upcoming EU summit, Karamanlis said Greece had been one of the first member-states to ratify the Treaty and stressed that the two-year deadlock on this outstanding matter needed to be settled within the EU.
He also underlined that the final version of the Treaty adopted must have the minimum possible changes with respect to the current text.
"In every case, however, we must have a very specific schedule, so that everything is completed by the next European Parliament elections in 2009. In this sense, we support the efforts - warmly, in fact - of the German presidency," Karamanlis said.
Noting that he had lengthy talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, the Greek premier underlined that Athens "hopes, believes and supports this effort, so that at the European Council in June we will have a serious, positive development in this direction".
Questioned on the timing of the next general elections in Greece -- the current government's term in office ends in March 2008 -- and whether a past statement of his that elections will be held in their "proper time" also includes the autumn of 2007, the prime minister merely replied "all will be done in their proper time".
 Development minister meets Hungarian premierDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas met on Friday with visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány with talks focusing on economic growth and further expansion of the two countries' cooperation in important sectors on bilateral and regional level (South East Europe and the Mediterranean).
 President Karolos Papoulias visiting Saint PetersburgSAINT PETERSBURG (ANA-MPA/D. Konstantakopoulos)
President Karolos Papoulias left Moscow for Saint Petersburg on Friday, after previously addressing the first meeting of the Greek-Russian Business Council in the Russian capital, stressing the importance of developing Greek-Russian economic relations.
The Greek-Russian Business Council was founded on Friday by the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) and the Union of Industrialists and Businessmen of Russia.
Arriving in Saint Petersburg, President Papoulias met at the city's Government House with the Governor of Russia's "second" capital, Valentina Matvienko.
"If I have lived another life before this one I must have lived it in Greece as well," Matvienko said in welcoming President Papoulias, who in turn termed her Greece's second ambassador in Russia. Matvienko had served in the past as her country's ambassador in Athens.
Speaking to reporters, President Papoulias underlined the importance of Russia's international role, as well as the contribution of the planned Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline for Europe's energy security.
On her part, Matvienko also underlined the importance of the pipeline, as well as her expectations from the scheduled participation of Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas in Saint Petersburg's International Economic Forum that will be taking place this month.
Matvienko also expressed the hope that the number of Greek visitors to Saint Petersburg will increase in a way that will be similar to the increase in the number of Russian visitors to Greece.
She also stressed the significance of the further development and widening of Greek-Russian relations in the economic, cultural and educational sectors.
President Papoulias also laid a wreath at the statue of Ioannis Kapodistrias at the city's Greek Square. Kapodistrias was a foreign minister of Russia in the early nineteenth century, before becoming the first governor of independent Greece.
 Mediterranean Forum FMs discuss creation of Euromediterranean UnionThe foreign ministers of the 11-nation Mediterranean Forum convened under the chairmanship of Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in the city of Rethimno, on the island of Crete, on Friday night and discussed the proposal made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the creation of a Euromediterranean Union.
The discussion was held during a dinner hosted by the Greek foreign minister for her counterparts that was attended by the delegation heads (ministers and deputy ministers).
The French positions were outlined by French Deputy Minister for European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet and it was the first time that a representative of the new French government presented ideas on the Euromediterranean Union.
Turkey, for whom this prospect is of great interest, is represented at the Rethimno Forum by Deputy Foreign Minister Ertogrul Apakan.
Bakoyannis will be having a bilateral meeting with Jouyet on Saturday morning, before the beginning of the 14th Mediterranean Forum's ministerial session.
Developments in the Middle East were also discussed during the dinner, due to the crucial situation prevailing in the region and in light of the foreign minister's tour of the Middle East in early June.
Two issues to be discussed during the ministerial session on Saturday are energy cooperation in the region of the Mediterranean and the problem of immigration that is an issue for the Mediterranean's European countries which receive immigrants.
The Mediterranean Forum's annual presidency will be taken after Greece by Portugal, which is being represented at the session by Foreign Minister Luis Amado.
 PM confers with employment ministerPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with Employment Minister Vasilis Magginas on Friday to be briefed on ministry-sponsored legislation.
Magginas commented that a legal framework regulating investment activities undertaken by pension funds will be submitted in Parliament within the next few days.
The minister stated that there is nothing left to be said on the matter, responding to a question on the return of pension fund money by investment bank JP Morgan and the counter-proposals made.
On the OECD proposals, the employment minister stated that international organizations have the right to express their views but beyond that the Greek government is very much aware of the existing problems and is not bound by views expressed, regardless of their origin.
 PM to visit Thessaloniki on SaturdayPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis is to travel to the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Saturday in order to address a ruling New Democracy pre-conference meeting in the city.
ND Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis is already in Thessaloniki, where he took part in a meeting of the party's administrative committee and will have meetings with party officials to prepare for the pre-conference meeting.
 Gov't says justice system probes into bonds affair override need for Parliament com'tThe government on Friday reiterated its position against the establishment of a Parliament committee of inquiry into the ongoing bond issue affair, calling such a development redundant, given that the issue is currently under close investigation by two judicial authorities as well as the independent Capital Markets Commission.
Labour and Social Securities Minister Vassilis Magginas made the statement in reply to a tabled question by the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party, initially tabled for Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis himself.
Magginas' reply, in place of Karamanlis, in fact, resulted in the question's withdrawal by Synaspismos leader Alekos Alavanos and his sharp criticism of the premier. Alavanos has over the recent period consistently withdrawn tabled questions by his party when ministers appear instead of Karamanlis.
Conversely, Magginas, as have other ministers before him, dismissed the leftist party's criticism of the prime minister's attendance in Parliament.
"The prime minister is neither hiding nor is he avoiding Parliament procedures. He belongs to the group of office-holders that have consistently been present in Parliament for the maximum amount of time that their responsibilities allow," Magginas said.
 Spokesman on elections, press reportsThe prime minister's comments on the issue of elections still stand, commented alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, responding to questions by reporters during a regular press briefing on Friday.
Antonaros stressed that the government is strictly implementing its programme and has met all pledges made to the Greek people.
On the bond affair, Antonaros stated that the government stance is known, adding that the issue has already been discussed in depth.
The alternate government spokesman stated that he is not aware of press reports on alleged relations between (Civil Servants' Auxiliary Pension Fund, TEADY, former board chairman) Agapios Simeoforidis and investment bank JP Morgan, stressing that he will not comment on the ad hoc parliamentary committee hearing held on Thursday.
 ND Secretary outlines programme for party's pre-conference eventsThe pre-conference event that will take place in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Sunday will "open a new page" for New Democracy (ND), ND Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis said on Friday.
Zagoritis clarified that it would be the first of a series of pre-conference events by the ruling party, with addresses by ND President and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who would deliver the main address since the subject of the meeting would be local government and its institutions.
The other pre-conference events will take place in Larisa on June 10, Iraklio on June 17, Nafplio on June 20, Patra on June 24 and Ioannina on June 30-July 1. The pre-conference process will culminate in the party's 7th regular conference on July 6-8 in Athens. Additional pre-conference events on specific issues will also be held in Piraeus, Alexandroupolis, Halkida and other Greek cities.
In addition to the dialogue at the pre-conference gatherings and meetings, dialogue with the public would also be held over the Internet, Zagoritis added.
Replying to reporters' questions, Zagoritis said he was certain that Karamanlis would be re-elected with a strong Parliamentary majority and criticised main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou for adopting a highly confrontational, populist tone:
"Instead of Mr. Papandreou changing PASOK, he has changed himself. He has identified with polarisation, with acrimony, with populism and often with slander. And this is natural, because when you lack positions, policies, directions or a compass, when you have no arguments, it is obvious that you raise your pitch and seek to disorientate. We will not follow Papandreou in acerbity and polarisation," he said.
Commenting on the affair concerning pension fund investments in government-issued structured bonds, Zagoritis said the affair was now in the hands of independent justice and that the government would not intervene in its function, since the important thing was to hold a full investigation.
"Nothing will remain in shadow. There are multiple investigations underway. Whoever has betrayed our trust, whoever has broken the law, will suffer the consequences," he stressed.
 Deputy FM Valinakis meets Luxembourg counterpart SchmidtDeputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis had a meeting with his Luxembourg counterpart Nicolas Schmidt at the foreign ministry in Athens on Friday and discussed developments regarding the European Constitutional Treaty, ascertaining an identity of views on the specific matter.
"We want to proceed on the basis of the European Constitutional Treaty. Our main care is the safeguarding of the essence of what was agreed in June 2004. We do not desire a settlement which will not safeguard our main target: A more democratic Europe, more effective, more political," Valinakis said, according to a foreign ministry press release.
"Greece is in the front line. We are actively participating in the consultations being held, with criterion a politically strong Europe. We are undertaking initiatives and co-shape the developments," Valinakis added, in reference to Greece's role in the processes taking place , in view of the European Union (EU) Summit in June.
 Minister replies to charges of police vindictiveness against college studentPublic Order Minister Vyron Polydoras on Friday rejected opposition criticism that Greek Police officers have deliberately targeted a 19-year-old college student accused of participating in anarchist-related violence in Thessaloniki.
Speaking in Parliament, Polydoras was responding to a tabled question by Coalition of Left (Synaspismos) deputy Thanassis Leventis concerning the May 5 arrest of the student outside a Thessaloniki campus.
Polydoras said that as a parent and an office-holder he sympathises with the 19-year-old while, at the same time, he expressed his confidence in the police force and the independent judiciary, while stressing that there can be no interference with the justice system.
Leventis called for the release of the student, who remains in custody pending trial, while he maintained that the defendant is being charged based on circumstantial evidence. The same 19-year-old was arrested, tried and acquitted of charges related to violence during a protest against education reforms in Athens earlier in the year.
 Papariga again voices KKE opposition to deregulation of energy marketCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga on Friday called for workers' support in the next general elections, while again launching an attack on ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK.
Papariga spoke at a press conference in the town of Kozani, northwest Greece, within the framework of a tour of Kozani prefecture and the wider region.
She stressed that elections -- scheduled for March 2008 -- are not a contest between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and PASOK leader George Papandreou on "who is better, smarter or more honest".
"Virtue and ability in politics are fulfilled only through the relentless battle against plutocracy," she said.
The KKE leader also flatly dismissed a comment by LA.OS party president and Euro-MP George Karatzaferis, namely, that he often shares the same view and vote with KKE's Euro-deputies on various issues at the European Parliament.
Earlier, Papariga visited the Public Power Corp. (PPC) lignite mines in Amynteo as well as power plants in Kozani prefecture, where she spoke with employees. She also reiterated the communist party's absolute opposition to any energy market deregulation.
 Papariga urges voters to 'condemn' two-party systemCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Friday urged voters to "condemn the two-party system" in the upcoming general elections. She was speaking in the city of Larisa in central Greece, where she is due to address an open political meeting on Friday evening.
During her visit to the area, Papariga held a press conference and stressed that the upcoming elections would be a major electoral battle but also a very good opportunity for the people to use the elections as a weapon, after many years.
She stressed that voters should make the next elections "a literal hell" for the two main parties, ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK, and dismissed current wrangling between them over stock market scandals, graft, structured bonds and the appointments of party supporters as "useless and ineffective".
Papariga underlined that KKE was not prepared to cooperate with either of the two main parties after the elections but would be open to cooperation with groups of citizens that had similar views and positions on issues that concern Greek society.
Also to address the open meeting in Larisa is the head of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Prakash Karat, who is visiting Greece as the KKE's guest.
 Debates in Washington on Kosovo, FYROMWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)
Developments in the Balkans in light of efforts to settle the final status of Kosovo, as well as current developments in Serbia, were the object of debates at two events organised here at the Woodrow Wilson Centre and the Centre of Strategic and International Studies.
Participating in the dabates were academics, think tank analysts, ambassadors, diplomats and members of the Mass Media.
Greece's Ambassador to the U.S. Alexandros Mallias, who was the main speaker at the events, expanded on Greek positions regarding Kosovo, underlining, among other things, that the issue is a European one par excellence, as it is directly linked to European security and the adoption of European principles and values. Therefore, he said, the European Union (EU) must have an all important role in shaping developments.
It was underlined, during discussions that followed regarding ongoing consultations at the UN Security Council, that a best compromise solution should be found between the U.S and EU positions on one hand and Russia's stance on the other.
It was also noted that U.S. argumentation that Kosovo cannot be regarded as a world precedent should be reinforced even more and acquire a legal base, as political arguments on an issue pertaining to international lav are not convincing, thus creating a sense of insecurity to many countries.
Regarding Serbia, it was underlined that new prospects and incentives are needed, particularly at present, not so much as an offset to the loss of Kosovo but as the start of a new course for Serbia, free of nationalism and introversion of the past.
In this framework, special mention was made to Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' telephone talks, last month, with Serbian President Boris Tadic and Serb leader Voislav Kostunica for the formation of a coalition government of democratic forces in the country.
On the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) name issue, it was underlined that Athens effectively supports the security and stability of the land-locked republic while it constitutes its most important investor and supports its European and Euro-atlantic prospects, as part of a broader political and strategic planning aiming at the full incorporation of all Balkan states to the EU and NATO.
It was also noted that Athens has shown in practice its readiness to find a mutually acceptable solution of FYROM's name, by accepting the proposals of UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz as a basis for further negotiations, contrary to the Skopje government which has opted for intransigence and provocative behahiour.
 FinMin outlines Greek economic achievements at IIF meetingThe positive picture presented by the Greek economy and its noteworthy performance over the last three years was presented by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Friday, in his address to the spring meeting of the Institute of International Finance (IIF),
Alogoskoufis placed emphasis on the Greek economy's strong growth rate, which reached 4.6 percent in the first quarter of 2007, stressing that it was no longer fuelled chiefly by the public sector, but also by the private sector, investments and export activity, which he said were posting a strong showing.
Speaking to the global association of financial institutions, taking place in Athens with the attendance of more than 500 leading financiers and economic policymakers from around the world, the minister further noted the significant reduction in the country's fiscal deficit, which fell to below 2.6 percentage points of GDP in 2006, while a new decline was anticipated this year. He also highlighted the substantial reduction in unemployment to below 9 percent in 2006.
Alogoskoufis also outlined the positive results of the reforms that have been introduced, stressing that "we are halfway down the road, not at the end of it", and noting that there were still steps to be made so as to further boost entrepreneurship and strengthen the extroversion of the Greek economy.
Speaking specifically on the more extroverted outlook of the economy, he cited Greece's role in the wider region of southeast Europe, a region which, he said, had the prospects to become Europe's next economic miracle. Alogoskoufis said Greek business investments in the region currently exceeded 15 billion euros, while Greece-based banks were also playing a significant role in the area with a network that exceeded 2,300 branches.
Replying to a question, Alogoskoufis anticipated that the strong growth rate would continue over the coming years, due to the positive developmental prospects of the wider region of SE Europe, as well as the course of the euro-zone in general.
In a later address, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány presented his country's experience with widespread reforms in the Visegrad country, pointing to the necessary involvement of the average citizen in the process.
ECB VP Papademos
On his part, European Central Bank Vice-President Lucas Papademos echoed previous speakers in voicing his institution's and other international organisations' optimism over the prospects for the international and European economy, particularly over the next two-year period.
Papademos, the former governor of the Bank of Greece, said reforms in Europe have produced results, such as a decrease in unemployment. Conversely, he said reforms must proceed for economic growth and macroeconomic stability to continue.
 Almunia cites significant improvement in Greece's statistical data over past 3 yearsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
European Commission Joaquin Almunia on Friday again cited what he called the improvement recorded by Greece over the recent period in collecting and processing statistical data, an issue that has generated heated back-and-forth accusations between ruling New Democracy party and main opposition PASOK since roughly December 2004.
In reply to a press question following his opening comments here to mark the first-ever release of quarterly sector accounts for the euro zone and the European Union, Almunia said "noteworthy progress" and a "significant improvement" has been observed in the reliability of Greece's statistical data following cooperation between relevant Greek authorities and the EU's statistical services over the last three years.
He also reminded that the Commission has taken recourse against Greece in late 2004 over the issue of faulty data - particularly over the country's fiscal deficit.
Finally, the powerful Commissioner for monetary policy in the Union said the Commission's services were presently evaluating the most recent measures announced by Athens for collecting and processing statistical data, with the recourse procedure being lifted once the prescribed Community procedures are proved to have been included in the statistical methodology employed by Greek services.
A high-profile audit of the Greek state's finances by the current Karamanlis government, begun in the latter half of 2004, resulted in a sharply upwards revision of the budget deficit, which in turn resulted in the commencement of a excessive deficit procedure against the country by the Commission, a procedure that was only recently suspended.
That development, dating from late 2004, had generated heated criticism by main opposition PASOK. In fact, the two previous national economy ministers under the preceding PASOK governments, Yiannos Papantoniou and Nikos Christodoulakis, had sent a letter to the European Union's ECOFIN Council in January 2005 blaming Greece's deficit overrun on a change in accounting rules, a change they charged was inspired by petty political motives on the part of the Karamanlis government.
The two former ministers claimed that the upward revision of Greek deficit data above 3 per cent of GDP was mainly due to the new Greek government's decision to change the way of recording defence spending. They also charged that the ND government had deliberately tried to discredit economic performance under PASOK in order to facilitate its own fiscal management in the future.
The letter had echoed arguments by former Greek premier Costas Simitis in a letter to the "Financial Times" just before Christmas 2004, as the latter claimed that the new Karamanlis government had "bent" previously accepted rules in its audit of government accounts to produce the higher deficit figures. He also argued strongly against the retroactive application of new methods for estimating expenditure and stressed that governments should not be allowed to recalculate the fiscal position they inherited at will, claiming that this put the "statistics on which national and European policy is based at the mercy of the electoral cycle".
Simitis' arguments were, however, countered in a letter by late Eurostat director general Gunther Hanreich a week later.
Hanreich denied that the upward revision of the Greek deficit was the result of a retroactive change in accounting methods, saying it was chiefly the result of systematically underestimating expenditures.
According to Hanreich, Eurostat's report showed that defence spending had been clearly underestimated, regardless of the accounting method used, while revenues of insurance funds had been overestimated and interest from state bonds had been miscalculated.
 Development minister attends presentation of Research Framework ProgrammeThe official presentation by European Union Commissioner Janez Potocnik of the 7th Research and Technological Deve-lopment Framework Programme (2007-2013) was attended on Friday by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou and Research and Technology Secretary General Ioannis Tsoukalas.
Sioufas focused in his address on developments in Research and Technology in Greece in past years. He noted the low rate of investments in research and innovation, both in the public and private sectors.
According to the minister, the public effort in the research and technology sector is fragmented in many sectors, agencies and groups with a size that is smaller than the necessary crucial mass, that would produce considerable results.
The Greek research community is distinguished by the lack of a business spirit, while the level of recognition of the importance of technology and of the possibilities that it provides for the economy and society is low. Moreover, regional inequalities are great, with the prefecture of Attica attracting most of the country's research and technology activities.
Potocnik presented the new Programme-Framework stressing that the European Union will finance the 7th Research and Technological Development Framework Programme, that covers the 2007-2013 period, with 54 billion euros.
He said the funds will be used to finance programmes that wil contribute decisively to the development of European research and technology. He also pointed out that changes in technology, the demographic situation and the climate are coming with speedier rates than had been experienced in the past.
The Commissioner expressed the hope that Greek researchers will participate even more, compared to the past, in the new Framework Programme for research, noting that in the two previous corresponding programmes Greece had a high participation rate, considering the size of the country.
Potocnik said that over 2,000 Greek researchers participated in about 1,500 programmes in the 6th Framework Programme.
 Consumer protection, customs bills tabled in ParliamentDraft bills regulating consumer protection issues and a revision of the customs code were tabled in Parliament on Friday.
The first bill makes it the obligation of the State to "inform and education consumers - especially the weaker social groups - on issues concerning the market, competition and responsible consumer behaviour".
It also clarifies that consumers cannot be bound by "unexpected terms that [the consumer] is unaware of through no fault of his own and that he had not way of predicting".
It also makes suppliers responsible for providing information on a product's likely life span and requires that they provide spare parts and repairs for products within that time. The definition of faulty goods is extended, meanwhile, to mean those that do not have the expected performance, according to their specifications.
The draft bill revising the national customs code allows parents of large families with four or more underage children to acquire a second car with an engine of up to 2,000cc without paying a registration fee, provided that five years have elapsed since they first used this right.
The same exemption is also extended to passenger cars acquired by disabled people with paralysed lower limbs and 80 percent or more disability.
Finally, an amendment attached to the bill extends until the end of 2008 the right of the public sector to detach staff in former public-sector companies, in which the state holds a direct or indirect majority of their share capital, after the companies leave the public sector.
 Support for implementation of investment projectsDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Ministers Anastasios Nerantzis and Yiannis Papathanassiou, following recommendation by Industry Secretary General Spyros Papadopoulos, on Friday signed decisions for the payment to 1,078 businesses of all categories, for the implementation of investment projects in the programs which are being implemented by the Industry General Secretariat, of a total of 49.7 million euros, from January 1, 2007 to May 15, 2007.
 Athens aims to become popular city break destinationThe city of Athens could become as very important and popular city break destination for tourists as it offers all necessary infrastructure along with many opportunities for entertainment and recreation, although it lacks behind in branding and focused promotion.
That was the conclusion of an event held in Paris, France, organized by the Athens-Attica Hoterliers' Association. The event was dedicated to the city of Athens and was warmly welcomed by the Parisian travel market. The Association, in a statement, said the event showed the way ahead to upgrade the image of the city and to establishing the city as a 12-month city break.
The Association's officials urged for a more systematic contact with the French market and noted that daily flights between Paris and Athens, launched by "easy-jet" reported an average seat occupancy of more than 93 percent so far.
 Greek hotel occupancy rate rose to 59.8 pct in 2006Overnight stays in Greek hotels, apartments and campings rose by 4.6 percent in 2006, compared with the previous year, the National Statistics Service said on Friday.
The statistics service said customer arrivals rose 4.3 pct, while hotel room occupancy rates grew to 59.8 percent in 2006 from 58.6 percent in 2005.
Southern Aegean (Cyclades, Dodecanese islands), Attica and Central Macedonia recorded the biggest increase in hotel occupancy rates, while Crete (78 pct), Southern Aegean (77 pct) and Ionian islands (76 pct) recorded the highest occupancy rates.
 Greek PMI up to 54.1 in MayThe Greek Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 54.1 points in May from 53.2 points in April, reflecting improved conditions in the manufacturing sector for the fifth consecutive month.
New orders grew strongly in May, with foreign markets the main source of increased sales. Employment rates improved further, while average cost grew strongly due to higher import prices. Finally, higher purchasing power pushed inventory levels higher for the first time in three months.
The PMI index measures business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing sector, while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.
 WLA head says OPAP a leader in world lottery marketThe Greek Lottery Organisation OPAP has a leading role in the world market of lottery games, Arthur L. Gleason, Jr., president and CEO of the World Lottery Association said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters in Athens, Gleason said OPAP accounted for 30 percent of total lottery turnover in Europe and 20 percent worldwide. He said that the World Lottery Association was founded in 1999 and stressed that a total of 152 companies operated in all five continents. "Only in Antarctica you cannot find a lottery," he said, adding that the lottery turnover reached 202 billion US dollars last year, worldwide, with Europe accounting for 46 pct of the market (93 billion US dollars), followed by North American (60 billion) and Asia (37 billion).
The WLA will hold its annual meeting in Rhodes, in October 2008.
 Athens Water says profits up 75 pct in Q1An Athens Water general shareholders' meeting on Friday approved a board plan to pay a 0.11 euros per share dividend to shareholders, up 57 percent from the previou year.
Addressing the meeting, Constantinos Kostoulas, Athens Water's chairman of the board, said the utility was implementing projects of strategic significance for its growth and for offering quality services to citizens.
Athens Water reported a 3.8 pct increase in its 2006 turnover to 362 million euros, an increase of 18.1 pct in EBITDA to 74.2 million euros and a 67 pct rise in after tax profits to 33.3 million euros.
The company said its first quarter profits totaled 3.1 million euros in the first quarter of 2007, up 75 pct from the corresponding period last year.
 Plaisio Computers issues five-year six-mln-euro bond loanPlaisio Computers on Friday said it has issued a five-year non-negotiable and non-convertible bond loan, worth 6.0 million euros.
The bond loan was fully covered by Alpha Bank SA, Alpha Bank London Ltd and Alpha Bank Cyprus Ltd while the proceeds will be used to refinance existing debt.
 PC Systems says turnover up 264 pct in Q1PC Systems on Friday reported a spectacular 264 pct increase in its first quarter turnover to 6.2 million euros, from 1.7 million euros in the same period last year.
Pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) totaled 613,000 euros in the January-March period, after a loss of 1.6 million euros last year, while pre-tax profits totaled 261,000 euros from a loss of 2.1 million euros in 2006.
After tax results showed a loss of 1.5 million euros, reflecting a heavy tax burden.
 Greek stocks end 0.02 pct higherGreek stocks ended Friday's session slightly higher in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index rose 0.02 pct to end at 4,973.21 points with turnover a heavy 442.6 million euros.
Sector indices ended mixed. The Healthcare (4.59 pct), Technology (2.67 pct) and Industrial Products (2.47 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Oil (2.07 pct), Insurance (1.62 pct) and Banks (0.70 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index fell 0.27 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.43 pct higher and the Small Cap index jumped 1.39 pct.
Tria Alpha (19.85 pct) and Viosol (14.71 pct) were top gainers, while Desmos (5.0 pct), Motor Oil (4.98 pct) and Hyatt (4.75 pct were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 164 to 108 with another 33 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.07%
Personal & Household: +0.37%
Raw Materials: +0.65%
Travel & Leisure: +1.06%
Food & Beverages: -0.58%
Financial Services: -0.49%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, National Bank, OPAP and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 23.72
Public Power Corp (PPC): 20.58
HBC Coca Cola: 34.20
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.32
Emporiki Bank: 21.00
National Bank of Greece: 43.32
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 26.76
Titan Cement Company: 43.30
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market eased to 2.371 billion euros on Friday, of which 1.115 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.256 billion euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 620 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.22 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.65 pct and the German Bund 4.44 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate fell to 3.80 pct from 3.87 pct on Thursday, the two-day rate eased to 3.80 pct from 3.84 pct, the one-month rate rose to 4.03 pct from 4.0 pct and the 12-month rate rose to 4.47 pct from 4.45 pct.
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices were traded at a discount in the last trading session of the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover a moderate 104.778 million euros.
The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.42 pct and on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.29 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 6,875 contracts worth 89.853 million euros, with 38,617 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 148 contracts worth 4.640 million euros, with 1,495 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 7,481 contracts worth 10.284 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Intracom's contracts (2,035), followed by PPC (249), OPAP (355), National Bank (498), Alpha Bank (663), ATEbank (297), Viohalco (432) and Intralot (256).
 Foreign Exchange Rates - Saturday-MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.354
Pound sterling 0.684
Danish kroner 7.508
Swedish kroner 9.390
Japanese yen 165.12
Swiss franc 1.664
Norwegian kroner 8.175
Cyprus pound 0.587
Canadian dollar 1.445
Australian dollar 1.634
 EETT conference sees higher broadband penetration in GreeceGreece has made huge strides over the past two years in broadband internet penetration, according to speakers at an international conference on "Exploring the Global Dynamics of Broadband Internet" organised by the Hellenic Telecommu-nications and Post Commission (EETT) that began in the Athens resort of Lagonissi on Friday.
According to EETT president Nikitas Alexandridis, broadband infrastructure and services would be the "vehicle" driving the country's economic growth, which would make it competitive on the world stage of the knowledge revolution. He predicted that the Internet, along with tourism and shipping, would be the third main axis for the country's economic development.
The conference was also addressed by Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, who opened it on behalf of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and outlined the measures taken by the government to "bridge the digital gap", equating the effort to develop broadband networks with the major road and rail networks or the electricity grids developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.
European Commissioner for the information society Viviane Reding noted the sharp increase in the penetration of broadband in Greece in recent years but said that the country had to do a "Marathon sprint" in order to approach the Community average of 17 percent, compared with just 4.4 percent in Greece and over 30 percent in some European countries.
While Greece had pledged to reach the Community average in 2009, by that time other countries will have progressed even further, she added.
She also noted that connection speeds in Greece were still very low, predicting that the average connection speed in the EU would increase from 20Mbps from 2Mbps today, and emphasised the need to develop wireless broadband connections or WiMAX in Greece, so as to reduce the digital gap between urban centres and rural areas given Greece's rugged landscape.
This would need higher connection speeds, which required more stringent control of frequency ranges, she added.
Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) chairman Panagis Vourloumis, in his address, underlined the need for international cooperation to spread the use of broadband, noting that this required harmonisation of legislation and coordinated government actions, as well as cooperation between the private and public sectors.
 Transport Minister Liapis on broadband linksTransport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis on Friday noted "the overwhelming increase of broadband links and the stable decrease in the cost of telephony," responding to a question in Parliament by the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK).
The head of PASOK's Transport and Communications Department, Dinos Rovlias, said that "the government is incapable of meeting the developmental needs of telephony in Greece, as the country remains last in Europe in all the issues of electronic communications, network, broadband and digital radio and television, in all surveys."
Liapis responded that there was "an increase of broadband links from 0.47% in 2004 to more than 6% today. On a level of households, the percentage exceeds 16%. The ADSL lines touched 40,000 at the end of 2004, while today they are almost 700,000."
 Transport minister presents new public transport map for west AthensTransport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Friday presented a new public transport map for west Athens districts, during a visit to the west Athens suburb of Egaleo, where he outlined the new bus routes serving the district's newly opened metro station and changes to other bus services.
Liapis said that Egaleo was set to become an important public transport junction for the surrounding area, since its metro station was the end of the line and would be the final destination of seven connecting services that would cover the transport needs of commuters from Aspropyrgos, Keratsini, Agia Varvara, Haidari and Korydallos.
Other bus routes have been modified so that they pass near the new metro station, linking it to Nikaia, Piraeus and Elefsina, so that the residents of west Athens will have new options of reliable, fast, cheap and environment-friendly means of transport.
 Hellenic Foundation for Culture branch to be founded in MelbourneMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA / S. Hatzimanolis)
The proposal to establish a Hellenic Foundation for Culture (HFC) branch in Melbourne, Australia was met with the wholehearted support of Greece's ambassador in Canberra George Zois.
HFC president and Athens University former rector professor George Babiniotis had explored such a prospect during his recent visit to major Australian cities.
Babiniotis had a number of contacts with university and cultural institutions in Melbourne and Sydney to outline the prospects of an HFC branch requesting their participation in the endeavor.
The HFC objective is not simply to create another cultural institution for the Greeks living abroad but to organize major cultural events that will help get through to Australians messages concerning Greece's culture, history and contribution to the world, stated Babiniotis.
An exhibition with books referring to Homer's works, the oldest text in the European culture, can be held in Australia with recitals of Homer's verses acted out by well-known Australian actors, stressed Babiniotis, adding that the Australian audiences will be impressed by the spectacle that will be accompanied by a deluxe publication on the ancient Greek poet.
The HFC operates under the supervision of the Greek culture ministry and cooperates closely with the ministry of foreign affairs, having as a goal the projection of Hellenic culture to Europe, America and now Australia.
Based on the existing legislation, the HFC will appoint a coordinator in Australia with the tangible support of the ministries of culture and foreign affairs. The Melbourne branch will offer scientific assistance to the La Trobe University National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research (NCHSR) and help in the organizing of cultural events, exhibitions and other activities decided by the Athens HFC office.
 Athens and Piraeus mayors sign cooperation memorandumThe mayors of Athens and Piraeus, Nikitas Kaklamanis and Panagiotis Fassoulas, on Friday signed a memorandum of cooperation between their two municipalities, setting up a permanent committee for this purpose.
The agreement was signed at the Technopolis centre on Pireos Street, which has linked the two cities since antiquity.
Kaklamanis said the aim of the agreement was to trade best practices and to jointly plan and implementation actions on issues where the two municipalities have the same positions.
As examples, he listed waste management, cultivating a collective "metropolitan" attitude in the citizens of Athens and Piraeus, deploying joint actions for economic and tourism development and the transfer of knowhow.
Regarding waste management, in particular, Kaklamanis said the time had come for a final solution to the problem for all of Attica and that this would be achieved in the next three to four years with the completion and unobstructed operation of the sites already set aside for depositing and processing waste, as well as the immediate start of preparations to introduce alternative means of waste management.
The former government minister also stated that central government "is not overpleased when it faces a united front, whether this of local government or other bodies". He pointed out that only coordinated pressure on the central government had secured the 22 million euros needed to construct an intermediate cell in Fylis, which is expected to cover the needs of the capital for the next 1.5 to two years.
Fassoulas said the object of the memorandum was to formulate policies for waste management, stressing that this was a "thorny problem that will take on explosive dimensions if it is not immediately dealt with".
 Hashish packages wash ashore in PeloponneseKiparisia Port Authority officers on Friday confiscated a total of 77 packages, each containing 1 kilo of hashish, that washed ashore in the wider region of the Kalo Nero beach in Kiparisia, western Messinia Prefecture in the Peloponnese, southern Greece.
The port authority was notified by local people who found the first 6 packages.
All packages found were damaged as result of being in the water for several days.
An investigation is underway to determine their origin.
 Three people killed in traffic accident near LarissaThree people were killed in a traffic accident early Friday evening near Larissa, central Greece, when their cars collided.
The accident occurred at the 362nd kilometer of the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway when one vehicle, in which were two brothers aged 31 and 27 and was heading towards Thessaloniki, central Macedonia, entered the opposite lane and crashed with a car driven by a 35 year-old woman.
All three were inhabitants of Larissa Prefecture.
Their bodies were transferred to the Larissa General Hospital for an autopsy.
 Sunny on SaturdaySunny weather will prevail in most parts of the country on Saturday, with the possibility of storms in the mountainous regions of mainland Greece. Temperatures will range from 11C to 30C. Winds westerly, northwesterly, light to moderate.
Sunny in Athens, with temperatures ranging between 16C and 30C. Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki and temperatures ranging from 16C to 28C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceRussian president Vladimir Putin's verbal attack on the US, and the developments in the high-risk structured bonds/social insurance funds' reserves affair, were the main front-page items in Friday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Tough measures against smoking announced by health minister (Avramopoulos), with draft law to follow".
APOGEVMATINI: "The Cold War phantom being revived - Acute attack by Putin against US for the anti-missile umbrella in Central Europe".
AVGHI: "JP Morgan wants to come out on top - Becomes brazen due to the government's stance".
AVRIANI: "Dynamic attack on all fronts by top government officials - Karamanlis (prime minister) gives the signal from Thessaloniki".
CHORA: "Increased expenditures for salaries LAFKA (rebates of contributions by beneficiaries to the LAFKA, the civil service pensioners' supplementary fund), Funds, as deficit falls by 19 percentage points".
"ND (ruling New Democracy party) between hammer and stake - On the Left it is being hammered by PASOK (main opposition party), and on the Right it is being side-swiped by George Karatzaferis (Popular Orthodox Rally-LAOS party leader)".
ELEFTHEROS: "PASOK former ministers criticised George (Papandreou, PASOK leader) for the 'hard rock' opposition in the (parliamentary) discussion on hirings and meritocracy".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Putin outburst against Bush (US president), in the presence of Papoulias (Greece's President of the Republic, who is currently in Moscow on a state visit) - What's behind the clash between Moscow and Washington".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "One lies, the other hides - Parliament: The Postal Fund Bank president and the ATE (Agricultural Bank) governor".
ESTIA: "Populism puts a brake on everything - Cruel reaction to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) recommendations".
ETHNOS: "Piggy-bank with kickbacks in the Postal Fund Bank".
KATHIMERINI: "Harsh attack by Putin against US - He casts blame on the US for the commencement of a new armaments race in Europe - Meeting with Papoulias".
LOGOS: "Bonds affair: Summons to suspects beginning Friday".
NIKI: "Karamanlis a hostage - Papandreou all-fronts attack over the bonds".
PARASKINIO (weekly): "The 'barons' in PASOK ready for the leadership if Papandreou loses the (general) elections".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The people must get rid of the two-party alternation (in government) in the elections - KKE (Communist Party of Greece) leader's (Papariga) tour in Kozani prefecture".
TA NEA: "New storm over kickbacks, funds, as (early) elections are declared via Reuters (news agency)".
TO VIMA: "The bonds scandal: The 'shadows' reached parliament".
VRADYNI: "PASOK coercing Justice".
 Government welcomes ECHR's ruling in Xenides-Aresti vs Turkey caseNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The European Court of Human Right's (ECHR) final ruling in the property case of Greek Cypriot refugee Myra Xenides-Aresti vs Turkey has many positive aspects, since it reaffirms the applicant's right to property, said Friday Government Spokesman Vasilis Palmas.
The ECHR called on Ankara to pay compensation amounting to 885,000 euro by August 22 this year to Greek Cypriot Xenides Aresti for the loss of her property in the fenced off area of the since 1974 Turkish occupied town of Famagusta.
"The Court's ruling affirms the right to property and has positive aspects. The most important one is that it reaffirms the violation of the applicant's property right. Moreover, the Court ruled important compensation for loss of use of property and for moral damages, which are important aspects", he added.
But the spokesman noted the fact that the ECHR will examine again the legality or not of the self styled property commission set up by Ankara in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, in future cases against Turkey, filed by Greek Cypriot refugees.
"The issue concerning the so called commission is the only one that needs careful handling. All other aspects of the Court's rulings are satisfactory", he said.
Asked whether the government considers this ECHR ruling to be a 'legal precursor' for the return of Famagusta, Palmas noted that the Court's decision does not create a case law as such.
But he said that any similar future applications filed before the ECHR will most probably have the same outcome.
The spokesman called upon the Greek Cypriot refugees and all others involved, like their lawyers, to handle such issues with great attention.
"I would like to stress that the applications filed before the ECHR must be filed in such a way to secure a successful ruling", he said, adding that any possible mistake would be a negative outcome for the Republic of Cyprus and for all people who have properties in the occupied areas".
Referring to the self-styled property commission in Turkish occupied Cyprus, the spokesman said that through this so called commission, Ankara seeks to de-incriminate itself and continue usurping Greek Cypriot properties in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus.
The Cypriot government, he added, deems that Turkey, by using various tricks and taking advantage of some Greek Cypriots, is using the so called commission to continue committing its crimes in Cyprus regarding the illegal exploitation of Greek Cyrpiot properties.
The Republic of Cyprus, divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third, became a full EU member state in May 2004.
 Cyprus records fourth best unemployment rate in EUBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The unemployment rate in Cyprus in April 2007 was 4.4%, which was the fourth best rate recorded in the EU, according to figures released by Eurostat.
In the Eurozone, average unemployment stood at 7.1%. The lowest rate was in the Netherlands with 3.3%, followed by Denmark with 3.4%,
Ireland 4.0% and Cyprus 4.4%. The highest levels were recorded in Poland with 11.2%, Slovakia 10.5%, France 8.6% and Greece 8.6%.
In Cyprus, the unemployment rate for men in April 2007 was 3.7%, women 5.3% and persons under 25 years of age 9.1%.
Eurostat estimates that 16.7 million men and women in the EU27, of which 10.6 million were in the euro area, were unemployed in April 2007. In April 2006, 18.7 million men and women in the EU27, of which 11.8 million were in the euro area, were unemployed.
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