|Saturday, 17 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-06-06
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 6 June 2007 Issue No: 2611
 ECOFIN ends deficit disciplinary procedures against Greece; praises Athens' performance, collected dataLUXEMBOURG (ANA-MPA/ V. Demiris)
Greece's fiscal deficit was reduced below 3.0 pct of GDP in a "reliable and sustainable way", the EU's Economy and Finance Ministers' Council (ECOFIN) officially announced on Tuesday, adopting a proposal to end budget disciplinary procedures against Greece for previous excessive fiscal deficits.
The main conclusion of ECOFIN's decision is that "the excessive deficit condition in Greece has been corrected and the Council decides to annul a previous decision on the existence of excessive deficits in Greece".
The Council, in its decision, noted that the country's fiscal deficit fell from 7.9 pct of GDP in 2004 to 2.6 pct of GDP in 2006, mainly through measures of a permanent nature and with certain temporary measures accounting for 0.6 pct of GDP.
The Council expects the fiscal deficit to fall by 0.25 pct of GDP this year, to 2.4 pct, and urged continued vigilance in adhering to fiscal discipline in the future, while reiterating its preference for measures of a "permanent nature."
The ECOFIN Council said Greece's public debt was adequately reduced towards the 60 pct of GDP benchmark level, falling from 108.5 pct of GDP in 2004 to 104.6 pct in 2006. The Council expects the country's public debt to fall to 97.6 pct of GDP in 2008.
"Greek statistics bureau authorities have improved procedures, reducing statistical divergence and improving the quality of statistical data," the Council said, while it noted that Eurostat withdrew all reservations over the quality of Greek economic data.
The Council noted that a recent GDP revision by the Greek government would result in a higher contribution by the country towards the EU budget, reaching 0.25 pct of GDP, while a retroactive contribution would reach 0.75 pct of GDP. It noted, however, that this burden was not expected to push the fiscal deficit above the 3.0 pct level.
 ECOFIN decision of "historic significance", FinMin saysLUXEMBOURG (ANA-MPA/M.Spinthourakis)
An ECOFIN decision to end disciplinary action against Greece on excessive budget deficits was of "historic significance", Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, in Luxembourg, after an Eurogroup/ECOFIN meeting, the Greek minister said: "Our expertise is an example of successful implementation of a revised Stability and Growth Pact," since Greece corrected its excessive deficits, improved its public finances and sustained high growth rates and lower unemployment, despite pessimistic forecasts made right after the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
"It was a difficult process, due to the size of the necessary correction and uncertainties over fiscal data," Alogoskoufis said, adding that the correction of public finances was "unprecedented" with the fiscal deficit dropping from 7.9 pct of GDP in 2004 to 2.6 pct of GDP in 2006. "Fiscal adjustment was made without any negative effects on economic growth," he said, reminding that GDP growth was 3.7 pct in 2005 and 4.3 pct in 2006.
"Our attention now turns to the pre-emptive aspect of Stability Pact," Alogoskoufis said, adding that the country's participation in the euro currency resulted to increased obligations that the country was now in a position to meet.
The Greek minister sounded optimistic over the future, saying that Greece needed an annual adjustment of around 0.7-0.8 pct of GDP in the period 2008-2010, to achieve a goal of balanced budgets by 2010. "This goal is ambitious but feasible," he said. He also expressed his satisfaction over the fact that Greece finally presented a healthy public picture, with reliable and acceptable data, while he thanked the European Commission for "standing by the country's side".
ALogoskoufis said Athens and Brussels worked together to present an action plan aimed to promote transparency and credibility in financial data by Greek municipalities and state-owned hospitals.
 PASOK, Coalition parties comment on Greek economy's exit from supervisionThe main opposition PASOK party and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) commented on Tuesday on the Greek economy's exit from supervision and criticised the government's economic policy.
"The government is celebrating the country's exit from supervision, which we entered at its own initiative and responsibility. The citizens, however, are not happy because for three years, with the pretext of supervision, they have been experiencing on a daily basis the downgrading of their quality of life and the great redistribution of income from the many to the few," said PASOK's economy and finance rapporteur Vasso Papandreou.
"The government's triumph talk over the country's exit from EU supervision is misleading and is taking place for reasons of election consumption. The truth is that Greece left one EU supervision to enter a new and even harsher supervision, with the aim of eliminating the budget's deficit by the year 2010," said the Coalition party's Political Bureau member and economic and social policy rapporteur, Panayiotis Lafazanis.
 PM : Environment our generation's greatest challengePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday stressed that "the environment is the greatest challenge that our generation is called on to deal with, one for which we have no choice but to respond to seriously and responsibly, with tangible results for the planet, for ourselves, and for our children".
In a message marking World Environment Day, Karamanlis stressed that the environmental problem was complex and difficult to solve, and could not be used as an alibi by anyone, while he also noted that action on the environment was everyone's duty and required awareness and action.
The premier said that "the truth is that we are in a permanent global state of emergency, which requires specific targeted and coordinated actions in order to limit and eventually reverse the consequences of humanity's imprint on the planet".
In that effort, Greece was undertaking its share of the initiatives, in accordance with the obligations arising from its capacity as an EU member state and as a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, Karamanlis said, adding that his government was applying a comprehensive strategy for sustainable development, "a strategy whose axes focus on limiting the emissions of greenhouse gases and the promotion of 'green' energy, the institutional consolidation of environmental protection, the stipulation of specific rules of behaviour, and a guarantee of their strict and unwavering implementation by everyone".
The premier stressed that the government was implementing this comprehensive policy not only because of its international obligations, but, "much more so, because we perceive this as our self-evident duty to this and the coming generations".
Karamanlis said that "the road to protection of the environment is a long and difficult one", adding that "greater effort is required by all of us", and noting that his government was "proceeding with decisive steps for the protection of biodiversity, rational management of water resources, recycling and ecological management of waste, the promotion of environment-friendly forms of agricultural and industrial activities, and the substantial improvement of quality of life in the large cities and the periphery".
He said that the World Environment Day was, unfortunately, not a cause for celebration but, on the contrary, "underlines a threatening reality, the repercussions of which we are now witnessing increasingly and more intensely on a daily basis".
Message by FM Bakoyannis
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday issued a message on the occasion of World Environment Day.
"The burdening of the environment is an undisputable fact. We have before us a great challenge: to manage our planet's natural resources in a manner which will secure growth but also the quality of life of the next generations. The common message is one. The time which is passing is not an ally. Particularly with regard to the big problem of global overheating. However, despite this common ascertainment, we have not jointly reached solutions. At least on a global level. Because on a European Union level, the news is better," Bakoyannis said.
The environmental protection policy promoted by the government in a low-profile fashion has specific targets and priorities pointed out government spokesman Thodoros Rousopoulos on the occasion of the World Environment Day on Tuesday.
A complete policy aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions while promoting the use of environmentally friendly energy is implemented in the effort to deal with the major problem of climate change, stressed Roussopoulos, adding that Greece will meet the commitments undertaken within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol.
The government promotes the adoption of complete spatial planning for sustainable development while a national plan on hazardous waste management has been drawn up. In addition, special emphasis is given to the implementation of recycling programmes (recycling rose to 20 percent from 6 percent in 2004), while environmental inspections have intensified, special attention is given to protected areas by increasing their number to protect biodiversity and the rational management of water resources is proceeding, stressed Roussopoulos.
Referring to the problems of sewage sludge and illegal landfills, the government spokesman commented that nothing was done for a number of years but very soon the results of current efforts will become obvious, he stressed.
Papandreou visits pollution-ridden Echedoros for world environment day
Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou visited the pollution-ridden municipality of Echedoros in Thessaloniki on Tuesday morning, opting to spend World Environment Day in the region and to learn about its problems.
Local government officials set up a multimedia presentation with images from the villages of Kalohori and Sindos that demonstrated the environmental degradation caused by industrial activity and the illegal dumping of waste.
They informed Papandreou that Echedoros and the Thermaikos Gulf faced problems through inadequate processing of sewage sludge by the facilities of the sewage treatment plant.
PASOK's leader later visited the sewage treatment plant and a site along the coast of Kalohori that is extensively polluted by both rubbish and sewage.
Describing the area as an "environmental apartheid", Papandreou stressed that the environment was a right for all and criticised the government for failing to come through with a promise to create a national park at the Echedoros Municipality.
Alavanos: Greece lacks eco-protection planning
Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos will attend a rally organised by southeast coastal Athens' Helliniko Municipality on Tuesday to again express his solidarity for a local initiative demanding free public access to beaches.
Among others, the mayor of the small municipality is continuing a two-week-old hunger strike to showcase the municipality's demand for completely unhindered access to beachfronts.
"Greece has no planning aimed at limiting pollutant producing activities," he stressed, meanwhile, during a visit to industrial Thriasio Pedio district of western Attica prefecture (the greater Athens area).
TEDKNA holds event in central Athens marking World Environment Day
The Local Union of Municipalities & Communities of Attica (TEDKNA), on the occasion of World Environment Day, on Tuesday held an event at Athens' Syntagma Square, aimed at making agencies and citizens aware of the need to protect the environment, especially through recycling.
Taking part in the event were municipalities, trade unions and agencies related to recycling, while as from morning, the organizers handed out pamphlets, objects made by recycled material and briefed the public on the benefits from recycling.
The message "The people will win. The environment is our life. Local government pioneers", was projected within the framework of the event, which culminated with a concert by the Athens Municipality's "Musical Ensemble".
 FM Bakoyannis discusses Middle East question with Arab League secretary generalForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa discussed initiatives to defuse the Middle East crisis in Cairo on Tuesday, in the framework of preparing the tour that the Greek foreign minister will be starting in the region on June 10.
Bakoyannis is due to have a working dinner with her Egyptian counterpart Ahmet Aboul Gheit on Tuesday evening and a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak at the Red Sea resort of Sharhm El Sheikh on Wednesday morning.
"We shall make every effort to achieve tangible results and to see light at the end of the tunnel," Bakoyannis said after the meeting and announced a more active role in the region by Greece and the European Union.
"Following the meeting between the 'quartet' (UN-U.S.-EU-Russia), that was constructive, the desire is for us to work and resume the peace process. The EU wants to get involved in the region more, we want to be honest mediators and this is one of the reasons for which you will be seeing many European ministers. There will be many meetings in June. Today, we had two visits by Eureopean foreign ministers, the foreign minister of Sweden is also in Egypt, you shall be seeing more," she said.
The foreign minister and the Arab League secretary general signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the end of the talks on "further cooperation in the political, economic and cultural sector," as Moussa said.
The meeting between President Mubarak and Bakoyannis had initially been scheduled to take place in Cairo, but President Mubarak changed his programme and travelled to Sharhm El Sheikh on Tuesday.
Bakoyannis is also due to meet the wife of the President of the Republic, Susan Mubarak, on Tuesday afternoon, who has active participation in cultural issues and in upgrading the role played by women.
 PASOK leader Papandreou addresses Economic Forum on BalkansMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou addressed the 11th Economic Forum on the Balkans in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Tuesday, in the same place where Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had sent warnings to Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and said that "national issues must not get involved in a tough election confrontation."
Papandreou said that strict warnings are necessary and in turn called on the neighbouring countries to respect Internataional Law absolutely and in full, their commitments towards the international community, the European Union and the member-states.
However, as he noted, "warnings are not enough and a veto is a powerful weapon, provided one knows how to use it. One cannot wield it, or give it a way, like Karamanlis did in the case of Turkey."
Papandreou accused the prime minister of agreeing in 2005 to the accession of FYROM to the EU and NATO without terms and preconditions. He added that "today Greece's negotiating position is worse."
Referring to the ratification on Tuesday of the progress report on FYROM by the relevant European Parliament committee, the PASOK leader said that this development confirms that Greece is constantly faced with fait accomplis.
Papandreou made four ascertainments which, as he said, currently characterise Greece:"we are experiencing the end of the development model being applied since the restoration of democracy (in 1974) onwards, Greece is missing the train of competitiveness, development is leaving many outside and the third week syndrome is tending to become practice and, lastly, Greece is not investing in the future" and mentioned, as an example, "the decrease in investments in education in three consecutive New Democracy party budgets."
He went on to say that a structural crisis currently exists in the economy and insecurity as a result of government policy. "Reliability and trust were lost during these three years, that are essential elements for deep reforms to take place."
Lastly, Papandreou said that the government "followed the path of petty-party options instead of reforms and instead of fiscal restructuring it followed the path of the audit and of supervision, from which we are leaving after three years at a great cost."
Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Tuesday evening responded to the speech given earlier in the day, in Thessaloniki, central Macedonia, by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou at the Economic Forum on the Balkans.
"Mr. Papandreou is right when he says that the story of the wizards with the gifts is insulting for Thessaloniki. Of course, he delayed about 10 years to recognize it. Because for tens years, every September, the PASOK governments in which he participated in as a leading minister, repeated the same myth: A Metro, underwater corridor, expansion of the airport, works at the port, hospitals, without any of these things having proceeded," Roussopoulos said.
"Today, all these things that were promised and are being promised again by PASOK, are becoming action by the New Democracy Government. And this is the truth, which, however much Mr. Papandreou tries, neither is distorted nor obscured," Roussopoulos added.
"It would be therefore well for PASOK and its President, given that for a decade it insulted the intelligence of the citizens, not to attempt today to also insult their memory," the government spokesman concluded.
 Greek Eurodeputies comment on European Parliament's FYROM reportBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee ratified on Tuesday a report by Dutch Eurodeputy Erik Meyer (European United Left) on progress in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in 2006, with a negative vote by Greek Eurodeputies.
The report was ratified with 59 votes in favour, four against and no abstentions. The report was voted against by Greek Eurodeputies George Dimitrakopoulos (New Democracy), Panos Beglitis (PASOK), Thanassis Pafilis (Communist Party of Greece - KKE) and George Karatzaferis (Popular Orthodox Rally - LAOS).
Dimitrakopoulos mentioned in a written statement that "from the time that, despite repeated efforts for the contrary, the unacceptable compromise amendment number 8 was included in the text, which on the one hand recommends the recognition of FYROM's passports and on the other criticises Greece over the visa system, the report had to be voted against."
Beglitis said in a written statement that he voted against the report "because it includes many negative elements concerning the issue of the name and the stance of the Skopjan leadership on its solution."
According to PASOK's Eurodeputy, the report "contains considerable references that create a negative precedent in the negotiating process with Greece and violate resolutions of the UN and the EU."
 PM to chair cabinet meeting on finance ministry issues on WednesdayPrime Minister Costas Karamanis is to chair a meeting of the inner Cabinet on Wednesday morning that will discuss issues related to the economy and finance ministry.
At 13:00, the prime minister is scheduled to meet outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Athens Charles Ries.
 Government stresses constant effort to improve health servicesGovernment spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Tuesday stressed that the government was making a constant effort to improve health services in the country.
"The effort is great and long-term and today we have much better health services. The continual improvement was necessary because the state of the health sector was not the best it could be," Roussopoulos told reporters.
He was responding to questions about the problems that have arisen recently in the health sector, such as a power cut at the Metaxas hospital, the death of a patient at the Dromokaiteio hospital and the death of a newborn because of a lack of specialised ambulances.
The government spokesman pointed to "drastic changes" effected under the present government on issues such as a lack of hospital beds, pharmaceutical supplies, new hospital wings and the construction of new hospitals.
 Justice minister at event marking 170th year of Supreme CourtJustice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras on Tuesday attended an event marking the 170th year since Greece's supreme court Areios Pagos began operating. The event was also attended by Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki, government officials and senior members of the bar and judiciary.
In his address at the event, Papaligouras underlined the government's support and respect for the judiciary in the daily struggle to provide justice, while stressing that the supreme court has always been at the front line of this effort.
"They upheld this tradition especially in the last two years by dealing cleanly and decisively with the incidents of corruption observed within the justice system, which threatened to blacken the integrity in the eyes of the public of the body of Greek judges who, in their vast majority, are honest".
Pointing to legislation passed by the justice ministry to assist this effort, he said this had been crowned with success and that the effort would continue undiminished until it had "fully restored the public's faith in justice".
He also underlined that justice went hand in hand with democracy, so that when one institution was undermined the other also suffered.
"It is not a question of individuals. The individuals, whoever they are, especially when they represent institutions, are judged. No one is immune. It is an unswerving, axiomatic position of this government that nothing untoward will be covered up, that anything that contravenes transparency will be checked and punished - no matter where it originates," he stressed.
At the same time, he stressed the need to set a certain tone in democratic controls, which had to be backed by substantial claims and evidence and should not be led scandal-mongering, rumour and "trials by television".
"Everyone one must realise that the independence of justice is constitutionally established and not negotiable. Greek judges cannot be intimated, blackmailed or manipulated. They carry out their function uninfluenced, obeying only the law and their own conscience," he added.
 Development Minister Sioufas visits TurkeyISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
Greece's Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Tuesday visited Istanbul where he met with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos at the Phanar and to whom he conveyed "the undivided support of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the Greek government."
The Greek minister is in Istanbul to attend the conference "Turkey-EU: Together for a European energy policy".
"The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the lighthouse of Orthodoxy. Our visit to this and to the Ecumenical Patriarch is a small example of our vast respect to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarch," Sioufas said after meeting him.
Sioufas added, "through this opportunity, we assured yet again to the Patriarch the undivided support of the government, of the prime minister of all Greeks."
Earlier in the day, Sioufas met with his Turkish counterpart Hilmi Guler with whom he discussed matters concerning the natural gas pipeline between Greece and Turkey, of which the start of construction work connecting the two countries' natural gas systems was inaugurated by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 5, 2005 and will be completed in the coming weeks.
 Greece, China mark 35 years of diplomatic tiesPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao exchanged congratulatory letters on the occasion of the 35th anniversary since the opening of diplomatic relations between Greece and the People's Republic of China.
The long and lasting friendship between the two peoples reached a climax with the strategic partnership relationship established in 2006, mentioned the Greek prime minister and referred to the joint efforts made aimed at consolidating friendship and mutual political trust through broader cooperation in all sectors.
The Chinese premier pointed out in his letter that the establishment of diplomatic relations opened a new chapter for bilateral relations which have followed a steady course since then. Mutual political trust was strengthened by the strategic partnership relation established while cooperation in the sectors of the economy, commerce, humanitarian and other issues has given fruit, he underlined.
 Development ministry competitiveness secretary addresses 11th Thessaloniki ForumDevelopment ministry special competitiveness secretary Spyros Efstathopoulos, addressing the 11th Thessaloniki Economic Forum, said on Tuesday that funds exceeding one billion euros which will be provided during the 2007-2013 period to boost research, technology and innovation in Greece will be more than double compared to the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF).
Meanwhile, the percentage of private investments in the research sector in Greece remains low since, according to data provided by Eurostat, it does not exceed 28.2 percent compared to an average of 54.6 percent in the 15 member-states.
The United States has a "fixation" on innovation, according to the country's government affairs vice president of the National Competitiveness Council, Bill Bates.
"The United States attributes great importance to innovation," he said, adding that even the smallest regions can turn into innovation incubators.
Moreover, according to a poll carried out in 15 countries, the majority of citizens appears to believe that the soaring development of the Chinese economy will bring it to the same level with the United States in the future.
This is believed by 75 percent of respondents in Israel, 60 percent of the Americans themselves, 69 percent of the French, 62 percent of the Russians and 50 percent of the Chinese.
Main oppositon PASOK party Deputy Evangelos Venizelos stressed the need for Central Macedonia to emerge as the top region, from the point of view of innovation, in Greece by the year 2012.
 Greece, Romania seek to forge closer economic relationsGreek and Romanian business and political officials on Tuesday discussed ways to promote bilateral economic relations during the Fourth Greek-Romanian Economic Forum held in Athens.
The forum on "New business prospects in an expanded Europe", was organized by the Greek-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Forum Invest (a Romanian organization) with the support of the Hellenic Industrial and Business Federation under the auspices of the Romanian embassy in Athens and the Greek embassy in Bucarest.
Greek Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Petros Doukas, addressing the forum, presented the country's positive achievements in economic growth and reforms currently underway to attract more foreign investments in Greece. He also underlined the large penetration of Greek enterprises in Romania, covering a wide range of economic activity: banking, telecommunications, consulting and financial services, construction, food/beverage, shipping, textiles, information, insurance, packaging, plastics, pharmaceutical and cosmetics.
Spyros Papadopoulos, secretary-general on industrial affairs of Development ministry, addressing the forum urged Greek and Romanian businessmen to unite and develop common business activities.
Romanian Transport and Finance Deputy Ministers, Septimiu Buzasu and Darius Mesca, presented the advantages offered by Romania to attract foreign investments, after the country's accession in the EU. The two government officials said they expected Romania to attract around 35-40 billion euros in foreign investments by 2013 to finance large infrastructure projects in the country.
Greek exports to Romanian grew 6.17 pct in 2005, from the previous year, to 509.59 million US dollars, while imports fell by 13.72 pct to 538.12 million dollars. In the first six months of 2006, Greek exports reached 313.3 million US dollars, while imports totaled 299.71 million dollars.
Greece is the ninth largest foreign investor in Romania with 3,164 businesses and investments worth 505.5 million euros.
 Greek tourism industry optimistic over 2007 seasonGreek tourism industry representatives on Tuesday expressed optimism over trends this year, whereas Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia reiterated that Greece would serve as the destination for more tourists in 2007 than any other year.
Andreas Andreadis, the president of the national hoteliers' association, addressing an expanded meeting of the National Tourism Council, said May was a good month for the sector, with full capacity in the Ionian islands and brisk arrivals in Athens as well. Thessaloniki was also sharply up in reservations, with Crete slightly lower compared with the same month last year.
On her part, the minister urged hotel owners to show a high level of sensitivity in environmental protection.
"Pollution kills tourism," Petralia flatly told the council, while she stressed that the ministry was ready to meet increased tourism demand this year by intensifying inspections of both tourism enterprises as well as ports and airports. "We will intervene where necessary," she added.
 Emporiki Bank to expand activities in the BalkansEmporiki Bank on Tuesday said it planned to invest in new markets in the Balkans, including the Serbian banking market, Jean Frederic Deleusse, head of International Development in Credit Agricole -- the Athens-based bank's parent company -- announced.
Addressing the 11th Thessaloniki Forum, the French banker said Emporiki Bank was Credit Agricole's headquarters in decision-making for the markets of Bulgaria, Romania and Albania, while he noted that the Serbian market could be included under a new plan --Credit Agricole owns Meridian Bank in Serbia.
Corporate banking was a top priority for Credit Agricole in Greece, with an emphasis given to maritime shipping credit, with the French bank aiming to reach the top three banks in the sector.
Deleusse praised the Greek authorities for their treatment of Credit Agricole's interest in the bank since the first time it entered the domestic banking market.
"As a foreign investor I am happy in Greece," he said. He underlined CA's faith in the Greek economy and said high economic growth rates would continue in 2008.
Emporiki Bank aims to raise its market share to 10.5 pct by 2011, from 9.0 pct currently, and to achieve an annual profit growth rate of 30 pct. Pre-tax profits are projected to reach 600 million euros by 2011.
 Greek economic sentiment index slightly down in MayGreece's economic sentiment index eased slightly to 100.7 points in May, down from 112 in April, although it remained above the long-term average rate (2001-2006) and was sharply improved compared with May 2006, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) announced on Tuesday.
IOBE attributed a slowdown of the index to a correction of heightened optimism prevailing in the manufacturing sector in the previous month, while positive expectations improved further in services and retail commerce.
The business expectation index in the manufacturing sector eased to 106.6 points in May, down from 113.1 in April. In the retail sector, businesses were more optimistic, while in services sector, businesses were more optimistic over current activity and sales.
The business expectations index in the construction sector jumped to 106.2 points in May from 103.7 in April, the report said.
The consumer condifence index recovered in May to -28 points, from -32 points in April, and was markedly improved compared with the same month last year.
Greek consumers' expectations also improved in the first months of 2007, compared with the same period in 2006, although Greeks remained the most pessimistic consumers in the European Union.
 Sawiris group eyes full control in TellasEgyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris, the main shareholder of Weather Investments Group, on Tuesday announced a plan to rename TIM Hellas into WIND Hellas, while adding that the renamed company will focus on broadband services, as the east Mediterranean country offered significant growth prospects.
Socratis Kominakis, the chief executive of the mobile telephony operator, said WIND will become the first major telecoms operator in Greece to offer integrated telecoms services, both mobile and fixed, broadband Internet and ADSL services in one bill, taking advantage of Tellas, a telecoms operator in which Sawiris owns 51.01 pct. The Egyptian enterpreuner is the owner of WIND, the third largest mobile telephony operator in Italy with more than 15 million customers.
Kominakis said WIND would adopt a highly aggressive sales policy aimed to change the balance in the Greek telecoms market, while he said the company would begin offering new packages in mobile telephony this month and the first fixed-telephony and Internet packages in the summer.
Sawiris confirmed that he has approached the Greek state for the purchase of the remaining 49.99 pct in Tellas and said the price offered was very good.
"If the answer is negative we will sell our share," Sawiris said. Replying to questions over why he opted to pay 4.0 billion euros to buy TIM Hellas instead of purchasing the listed and state-owned Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OSE), Sawiris said: "I do not want to be a partner with any government, because they are slow," adding that WIND will become a leading player in Greece.
 Building activity up 3.7 pct in Jan-March, yr/yrBuilding activity grew by 3.7 pct (based in the number of permits) and by 1.6 pct in volume in the first three months of the year, compared with the corresponding period in 2006, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.
The statistics service the number of permits issued in the January-March period rose by 15.9 pct in Central Greece, by 11.1 pct in the Peloponese and by 11.2 pct in Crete, while it fell by 14.7 pct in Southern Aegean and by 9.2 pct in the Ionian islands.
Building activity in Attica grew by 6.7 pct in the first three months of the year.
 Greek stocks end 0.39 pct lowerGreek stocks eased on Tuesday, extending the previous day's decline, in the Athens Stock Exchange as investors continued taking profits. The composite index fell 0.39 pct to end at 4,898.43 points with turnover a strong 411.5 million euros.
Sector indices moved lower, with the Commerce (1.60 pct), Media (1.54 pct) and Constructions (1.33 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Healthcare (1.01 pct), Utilities (0.10 pct) and Industrial Products (0.03 pct) scored gains.
The Big Cap index eased 0.23 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.59 pct lower and the Small Cap index eased 0.17 pct.
Tria Alpha (19.64 pct) and Halivdofilla (12.9 pct) were top gainers, while Klonatx (8.33 pct) and AEGEK (7.79 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 199 to 74 with another 35 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.72%
Personal & Household: -0.66%
Raw Materials: -0.60%
Travel & Leisure: -0.29%
Food & Beverages: -0.73%
Financial Services: -0.35%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, OTE and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 23.50
Public Power Corp (PPC): 20.16
HBC Coca Cola: 33.70
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.32
Emporiki Bank: 21.00
National Bank of Greece: 41.82
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 26.30
Titan Cement Company: 43.50
 ADEX closing reportTurnover in the Athens Derivatives Exchange rose to 159.122 million euros on Tuesday, with futures contract prices maintaining their discount.
The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.61 pct and on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.59 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 8,454 contracts worth 110.303 million euros, with 48,791 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 529 contracts worth 16.414 million euros, with 1,407 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,147 contracts worth 32.4 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,233), followed by PPC (1,311), OPAP (814), Piraeus Bank (336), Emporiki Bank (404), Alpha Bank (823), Intracom (3,208), ATEbank (2,346), Intralot (744), Attica bank (2,418) and Postal Savings Bank (1,007).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.667 billion euros on Tuesday, of which 1.481 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.186 billion sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 760 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.22 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.68 pct and the German Bund 4.46 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved lower. National Bank's overnight rate eased to 3.70 pct from 3.78 pct on Monday, the two-day rate fell to 3.75 pct from 3.79 pct, the one-month rate was 4.03 pct and the 12-month rate fell to 4.47 pct from 4.48 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.364
Pound sterling 0.683
Danish kroner 7.507
Swedish kroner 9.399
Japanese yen 165.74
Swiss franc 1.661
Norwegian kroner 8.148
Cyprus pound 0.587
Canadian dollar 1.441
Australian dollar 1.625
 PM refers to late statesman Constantine Karamanlis' contribution to modern GreecePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed an international conference in Athens on Tuesday titled "Constantine Karamanlis in the 20th Century", which was organized by the Foundation which bears his name and referred to the "decisive contribution" of the founder of the New Democracy (ND) party to Greece's European course and to the restoration of democracy in the country.
In his speech, on the occasion of the completion of a century since the birth of Constantine Karamanlis, the prime minister said that the late statesman was a politician of moderation and action.
"The great majority of Greeks from every political sphere recognize the contribution of Constantine Karamanlis in the shaping of the new Greece, in the economy and development, the national issues and foreign policy, the European orientation, the consolidation of democracy and of national unity," Prime Minister Karamanlis stressed.
"The legacy which Constantine Karamanlis leaves, obliges all to respond to his example, to put forward national interest above everything else, to cancel in practice every effort for division and tension of the political climate, to get involved in politics having truth as a guide, far from populism and petty party politics," Karamanlis added.
The prime minister also referred to the two major achievements by Constantine Karamanlis, Greece's accession to the then European Economic Community (EEC) and to the restoration of democracy in the country.
Referring to the restoration of democracy, the prime minister reminded of the legalization of all of the country's political forces.
 Constantine Karamanlis exhibition at Benaki MuseumAn exhibition on the late statesman Constantine Karamanlis, who served several terms as Greece's prime minister and president, is to take place at the renovated building of the Benaki Museum on Pireos Street in Athens from Tuesday until July 29.
Entitled "Constantine Karamanlis and his era" it features unique photographic material, much of it on loan from the Constantine Karamanlis Foundation, charting the life of one of the most important figures in Greece's recent history.
The exhibition, which coincides with the 100th anniversary since the birth of Constantine Karamanlis, will be inaugurated at 21:00 on Tuesday night by his nephew and namesake, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Organisers stressed that the exhibition does not treat Karamanlis from a party-political viewpoint but as one of the key figures of Greek history in the post-WWII era.
"It is chiefly aimed at the younger generation, which did not live through the historic events of that time," the director of the Benaki Museum Angelos Delivorias said in a press conference.
 PM Karamanlis inaugurates 'Constantine Karamanlis and his era' exhibitionPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis inaugurated the "Constantine Karamanlis and his era" exhibition at the Benaki Museum on Tuesday night.
The prime minister said in a brief address that the exhibition is a reminder of the era sealed by the personality of Constantine Karamanlis. He also spoke of the contribution of Constantine Karamanlis to the restoration of democracy and to the country's European course.
Karamanlis further said that the exhibition is an occasion for young people to become acquainted with Constantine Karamanlis and his work, adding that history is the result of human action and the responsibility and work of personalities.
 President Papoulias arrives on KarpathosPresident of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias arrived on the Aegean island of Karpathos on Tuesday, where he will begin a three-day tour of Dodecanese islands.
At 17:00, the president was taken to the protected marine zone belonging to the NATURA 2000 Network in northern Karpathos and at 19:00 he is expected at the muncipality of Diafani Olympou.
At 20:00 he will be declared an honorary citizen of the Olympos community during a special ceremony.
On Wednesday night, Papoulias will be declared an honorary citizen of Karpathos at an event held in the municipal amphitheatre.
On Thursday, Papoulias is scheduled to visit the island of Kassos to attend events commemorating the 183rd anniversary of a wholesale massacre of the island's inhabitants by Ottoman Turkish troops.
Papoulias was met on his arrival in Karpathos by Aegean and Island Policy Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis, local MPs, Dodecanese islands Prefect Yiannis Mahairidis and local government officials, as well as Karpathos-Kasos Metropolitan Ambrosios.
 Minister of state attends Regional Press Owners Federation eventMinister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos attended the official opening of the session of the Federation of Owners of the Weekly Regional Press in Athens on Tuesday evening.
Addressing the opening session, Roussopoulos said the law on the regional press "settles longstanding problems fairly and objectively," adding that the Federation will be a valuable body for widening and deepening cooperation between the regional press and the government.
Federation President Lazaros Meletiadis referred on his part to the prospects and problems of the regional press, stressing that the Federation's aim is the sector's restructuring to enable weekly regional newspapers to become viable.
The newly-established Federation has 30 members from the 400 weekly newspapers published in Greek regions.
 Transport minister attends environmental event organised by TRAM SATransport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Tuesday declared the start of an environmental awareness campaign launched by the operators of the Athens tram, TRAM SA, under the slogan "Cut back on Cars".
The campaign will include a series of actions, events on the environment, competitions and Internet communications and began on Tuesday at the Agia Fotini station in Nea Smyrni Square in Athens, where passengers and passers-by set fire to a paper car, demonstrating the need to use public transport instead.
The event was organised to coincide with World Environment Day, which is celebrated on June 5, with Liapis stressing the need to restrict the use of cars in the city and the efforts being made to create a new transport map that has provided faster, more reliable, cheap and environmentally friendly transportation.
Listing figures on use of the Athens tram, he said that the number of passengers using it each day had now reached 60,000 and increased even further during the summer months. At the same time, he announced plans to further extend the tram system, with lines stretching to Voula by August that would be opened for use by the public in September, after a trial period.
 Interior ministry holds press conference on the 'Thiseas' programmeInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Deputy Interior Minister Athanassios Nakos on Tuesday held a press conference at Zappion on the impact of the "Thiseas" programme for the development of local government.
Pavlopoulos said the Thiseas programme, which replaced the badly performing EPTA two years earlier, was a fully developmental programme that served the goal of real regional development and increasing social cohesion.
He stressed that Thiseas made 3.5 billion euros available in a space of five years, in addition to the sums from public and private-sector joint ventures, whereas EPTA had given just 1.5 billion euros in seven years.
 Poisonous fish appears in Greek seasAuthorities on Tuesday warned that a tropical fish that could prove dangerous to human health if eaten had appeared in Greek waters around the islands of Rhodes, Symi and Crete.
Identified as Lagocephalus sceleratus of the Tetraodontidae, a family that includes puffer and file fish, the species has migrated to the Mediterranean from the Red Sea and contains toxins in various parts of its body, such as the entrails and skin, that make it potentially lethal when eaten.
The sale of the specific fish in markets has been forbidden, while fish traders and fish shop owners have been informed by the Athens Prefecture veterinary department.
The fish, also known as the silverstripe blaasop, (www.fishbase.org) is torpedo-shaped, has two silver stripes on the side of its body, a grey spotted back, no scales and four strong teeth shaped like a beak.
All members of the same family are toxic and anyone finding individuals of this family must immediately inform the appropriate authorities, such as the Veterinary service, the Greek centre for marine research, and the fishing directorate.
 Police arrest foreign national sought for drug traffickingGreek Police of the Anti-Drugs Squad on Sunday arrested an Australian who was sought for a series of criminal acts.
He was identified as Antonio Satzih Mokbel, aged 40, who is believed by the Australian authorities to be the leader of a criminal gang and who took part in murders and drug trafficking.
Police said that Australian authorities had offered a million dollar award for his capture.
Mokbel was arrested at Athens' International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos", arriving from Brussels, for the import and trafficking of cocaine. He had hidden on his person 561 grams of cocaine.
Also confiscated from him were 1,200 euros, which came from the selling of drugs and three mobile phones.
The Australian was led before the Public Prosecutor on Monday afternoon.
 Serb tourists saved by miracleA tourist minibus from Serbia was stopped from plunging over a cliff on Tuesday morning when it rammed into a construction company truck, breaking its momentum, police said.
The accident occurred on the Ioannina-Trikala section of the Egnatia Odos national motorway when the driver of the minibus, carrying five passengers, lost control of the vehicle due to slippery road conditions and collided with the truck, which blocked the tourist vehicle's downhill course.
All five passengers on the minibus suffered only light injuries and were taken to the University Hospital in Ioannina, northwestern Greece, for precautionary reasons. Among them was a pregnant woman.
The Serb tourists were on their way to the northwestern Greek port of Igumenitsa to board a ferry to Italy. An investigation is underway on the exact causes of the accident.
 Earthquake rocks Agrinio in western GreeceAn earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale rocked the western Greek city of Agrinio on Tuesday afternoon at 14:50. According to the National Observatory, the epicentre of the quake was on the east shore of Lake Trichonida in Aitoloakarnania, 200 kilometres west of Athens.
The epicentre of the quake was the same as that causing a quake of similar magnitude two months ago. The tremor was strongly felt throughout Aitoloakarnania and other areas of western Greece, such as Patras, the Ionian islands and Epirus.
It was followed by a series of smaller quakes at around 16:00 the same day, while no damages have been reported to the local fire department.
 Arson attacks in AthensA Eurobank branch in Peristeri, Athens became the target of a petrol bomb attack launched by a group of roughly 10 hooded individuals in the early morning hours.
The fire caused limited damage to the bank's ATM machine before it was put out by firefighters. No arrests were made.
Meanwhile, three people were arrested in Paleo Faliro at dawn involved in the arson attack on a Paleo Faliro Municipality police patrol car. The three are being questioned in relation to other arson attacks recorded in the region.
 Drug arrests in ThessalonikiA 48-year-old man was arrested in Sikies, Thessaloniki after police found in his apartment over 2 kilos of heroin, 380 grams of cocaine and 13,400 euros.
Police were led to the man by a 44-year-old drug dealer arrested earlier in the district of Meteora.
 Scattered showers on WednesdayCloudy weather with scattered showers is forecast in all parts of Greece on Wednesday. Temperatures will range between 13C and 26C. Winds variable, light to moderate. Scattered showers in Athens with temperatures ranging between 15C and 26C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 14C to 23C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe World Environment Day, the ongoing bonds affair-related investigation, the latest GPO opinion poll, the high paying Hellenic Post job positions, the article signed by OECD general secretary Angel Gurria in Athens' Kathimerini newspaper and (former main opposition PASOK leader and preceding prime minister) Simitis' differentiation from his successor George Papandreou on the expulsion of (former PASOK government minister) Yannos Papantoniou from the party were the main front-page items in Tuesday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Strict inspections in 800 hotels - Fire protection standards are not being met".
APOGEVMATINI: "World Environment Day: Planet earth - Back to zero".
AVGHI: "The government sides with JP Morgan - Pressures on pension funds to give up the bonds' interest rates in favour of the US investment bank".
AVRIANI: "Total inability by PASOK to capitalize on the damage suffered by the government - The GPO opinion poll".
CHORA: "(Farmers' social insurance and pension fund) OGA large family benefit to 424,702 households - Prime Minister receives briefing".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "The prime minister and the main opposition leader camped out in Thessaloniki, fishing for votes in the same waters".
ELEFTHEROS: "Changes in hirings - The lifting of the permanent employee status is being flatly denied".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Simitis keeps his distance from George (Papandreou) - Characterizes Papantoniou's expulsion from the party as a mistake".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "World Environment Day: I can see the continuous revolution of plants and flowers, Odysseas Elytis".
ESTIA: "Impressive growth - The Greek economy in the 20th century".
ETHNOS: "Hellenic Post hirings, job positions paying 9,000 euros a month".
KATHIMERINI: "Prosperity will come through reforms in Education and Social Insurance - Article signed by OECD general secretary Gurria".
LOGOS: "Sworn depositions on the bonds affair - The first by Agapios Simeoforidis".
NIKI: "Permanent employee status ends - Post-election planning on contract civil servants".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The Green and the Blue state (the colors on the PASOK and ND emblems) proved to be the same - Anti-popular proposals by ND and PASOK, counterproposal by (Greek Communist Party) KKE".
TA NEA: "Three depositions point the finger at (national economy and finance ministry general secretary) Kouris - Prosecutor Zorbas to summon him for questioning".
TO VIMA: "Ruling ND party leads PASOK by one percentage point - Election thriller ahead".
VRADYNI: "Passing grades show rise: 5,000-7,000 more new students to be admitted in universities this academic year".
 ECOFIN to propose Cyprus' accession to EurozoneBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
ECOFIN decided on Tuesday to propose to the European Council the accession of Cyprus and Malta to the Eurozone on
January 1, 2008, a move which was hailed as positive by Cypriot Minister of Finance Michalis Sarris.
The political decision for the accession of the two countries will be taken during the European Council, to convene on June 21 and 22 in Brussels. On July 10, ECOFIN will ratify the decision and will irreversibly determine the exchange rate of the Cyprus Pound against the Euro.
Sarris told CNA there were very positive remarks during Tuesday's ECOFIN meeting regarding the significant work Cyprus has produced collectively.
The accession of Cyprus and Malta to the Eurozone is based on the positive reports submitted to ECOFIN last month by the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
The decision says Cyprus has met all the necessary criteria. Public deficit in 2006 was 1.5% of GDP with the ceiling being 3%. Public debt was 65.3% of GDP in 2006 and, although the ceiling is 60%, the criterion says it can be accepted if it is recording a downward trend, which it is.
Regarding inflation, the criterion says it should not exceed by 1.5 percentage points the average of the three best rates in the EU, which for March 2007 was 3%. In Cyprus it was 2%. Long-term interest rates should not exceed by two points the average of the three best rates in the EU. In March 2007 the EU reference was 6.4% and in Cyprus it was 4.2%.
Cyprus also fulfills the criterion of a two-year stay in the Exchange Rate Mechanism II, since it has been in the ERM II since May 2, 2005, without any deviations.
 Government:UN report on UNFICYP both positive and negativeNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Government Spokesman Vassilis Palmas said on Tuesday that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's report on the renewal of the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) contains positive and negative elements.
Among the positive elements, Palmas noted the clear message for the implementation of the July 8 agreement and the necessity for the continuation of UNFICYP's presence on the island, adding that negative elements were the reference to the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.
Commenting on a reference in the report to the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, Minister of Foreign Affairs George Lillikas said one should view the situation politically and not as propaganda.
Lillikas explained that this reference existed in previous reports but had not been adopted by the Security Council, ''and this is what matters.''
At his daily briefing, Palmas said negative elements were the UN Secretary General's opinion that the presence of UNFICYP may contribute to prolonging the Cyprus problem, the reference to the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, and the difficulties faced by UNFICYP members in carrying out their duties within the buffer zone.
He said positive elements were the clear message about the necessity to implement the July 8 agreement, brokered by the UN, in a way that would not leave any room for deviations from or burying of the process, and that it was necessary for UNFICYP to remain on the island, thus proposing the renewal of its mandate for six months.
Another positive element was the reference to the increasing construction in the Turkish occupied areas, which continues to be a cause of concern, as it could complicate efforts to reach a settlement.
Furthermore, the report refers to the recent demolition of houses belonging to Greek Cypriots in the Turkish occupied areas, the delay in lifting Turkish army minefields and Turkish Cypriot objections to use EU funds in this direction, the stance of the Turkish forces towards citizens entering the buffer zone and the firing of warning shots and the responsibility of Turkey to maintain the status quo in the fenced-off area of Famagusta.
Replying to questions, Palmas said he did not think the negative aspects of the report could be turned around by Friday, when the report is set to be discussed.
Asked about the July 8 agreement and the fact that the report does not deplore the negative stance of the Turkish Cypriot side, Palmas said the UN Secretary General was trying to maintain a balance in order to give the agreement a push.
Asked if there has been any progress in the meetings between the representatives of the leaders of the two communities, Tasos Tzionis and Rasit Pertev, Palmas said they had met again on Monday.
''I do not believe there is any development worth announcing,'' the spokesman added.
Replying to questions about the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and the fact that Turkish claims appear to be gaining ground, Palmas said the government was continuously trying to explain the reality and had proven time and again its willingness to support the Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed on 8 July 2006, during a meeting in Nicosia in the presence of UN official Ibrahim Gambari, to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day-to-day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
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