|Tuesday, 20 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-06-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 14 June 2007 Issue No: 2618
 'Titanic' battle against climate change stressed by Karamanlis, GoreThe need to enlist world's young people in "the titanic battle to save the planet" was the central message in a speech given by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in Athens on Wednesday. He was speaking during an event on "Climate Change: Active Citizens for the Future of the Planet," organised in central Athens by the Constantine Karamanlis Institute for Democracy, an event also addressed by former US vice-president and latter-day environmental icon Al Gore.
"Climate change is the most important challenge that our generation has to face. We can no longer continue to ignore or misinterpret what is already happening to the environment," Karamanlis underlined.
In his speech, during which the Greek prime minister announced that copies of Gore's Oscar-winning documentary and book, "An Inconvenient Truth", would be supplied to all primary and secondary schools in the country as part of a national programme for the environment, Karamanlis stressed that "we must transcend ourselves and history, making our allies in the titanic battle to save the planet all the young people of all the world and Greece".
The Greek premier also stressed that environmental policy was a central choice of the government, in the context of revising the National Programme for the reduction of greenhouse gases so as to meet European Union targets and avert the dire predictions of scientists.
"Our policy is guided by the fact that we no longer have the luxury - not to say the folly - to deal with growth and the environment as two different, unrelated fields," he said.
Karamanlis cited a European Council report for 2006 that found Greece to be fully consistent with its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, while noting that the government would not become complacent but further intensify its efforts - not just as a consequence of Kyoto and EU policies but "because we consider it a moral obligation".
He also outlined the measures Greece intends to take to achieve this goal, such as the first National Plan for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Allocation for 2005-2007 and the even stricter 2008-2012 programme that called for 8.9 percent emissions cuts by 150 Greek industrial companies, or a special spatial planning law for renewable energy sources, which aims to help raise the production of alternative 'green' energy production from 11% at present to 20% in 2010 and 30% in 2020.
The prime minister went on to list environmental progress made by Greece in other areas, such as recycling that had increased from 6% of all waste to 20% in three years, or the opening of the new sludge-drying plant at the Psyttalia sewage works.
He said the government was determined to make use of the most up-to-date technological developments in environmental policy in order to protect biodiversity, streamline the use and allocation of natural resources - especially common resources like forests, water and fisheries - while promoting policies for recycling, environmentally-friendly agriculture, industry and tertiary enterprise, and achieving better quality of life in cities, towns and villages.
The Greek premier underlined that worldwide coordination was a condition of success in goals to protect the environment, as was the so-called "prisoner's dilemma" or the need to ensure that everyone contributed to the common effort.
He also expressed confidence that the "glass is still half-full" and that saving the planet only required the necessary political will.
"Let us awaken consciences. The new generation is our ally. The young people that can exert pressure and now call on us to take action," he said.
Karamanlis referred to the stance of the developed countries that emitted the most greenhouse gases but underlined that the joint effort of the rest of the world would be a first step to sensitising countries like the United States, China and India.
"By doing our duty we force the others to do theirs," he said.
Speaking after Karamanlis, Gore stressed that the planet was in "a state of emergency" and warned that there were no more than 10 years to save the world, after which the chance would be lost.
According to the former US vice-president, meanwhile, preventing the factors responsible for the current situation required only political will.
He stressed that future generations would condemn the present generation as unethical for failing to take the action that could reverse the situation when it was able to do so, underlining that the looming environmental changes were the greatest and the worst in the history of the world.
Listing alarming statistics on population, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and melting polar ice in tandem with possible consequences, such as a new ice age, he pointed to the damage left in its wake by Hurricane Katrina and stressed that "this is just the start".
According to Gore, the causes that will lead to destruction were booming population, technological advances and also "a short-term view of problems", one imposed by the "tyranny" of market forces.
Finally, he thanked Karamanlis warmly and described him as a leader with political will and complete awareness of the problems, who is playing an important role in efforts to deal with it. He also thanked the Greek premier for his announcement that he would make Gore's DVD and book available in Greek schools, noting that the proceeds are all donated to a US non-profit foundation for the protection of the environment.
 FinMin on creation of International Environment OrganisationFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis referred on Wednesday to the question of creating an international organisation to coordinate efforts aimed at protecting the environment and easing climatic changes.
In a question put to former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, in the framework of an event organised by the "Constantine Karamanlis" Democracy Institute on climatic changes, Alogokoufis raised the issue of the creation of a special organisation to enable international interventions on environmental protection to be more effective.
"We could create such an organisation," Gore replied, adding that a precondition for its success is for its establishment to be accompanied by the necessary political will as well.
"We shall find the courage to create new institutions in this effort of ours," the former U.S. vice-president noted.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was also positive towards the finance minister's proposal.
 PM meets with former US vice-president GorePrime minister Costas Karamanlis met Wednesday with US former vice-president Al Gore, ahead of their addresses at an event organised by the Constantine Karamanlis Institute for Democracy on the environment, being held at a central Athens hotel.
No statements were made after the private discussion.
 PASOK leader meets former US vice-president Al GoreMain opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader and Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou met Wednesday with former US vice-president Al Gore.
Talks focused on environmental issues and the planet's climatic changes. Gore referred to the talks he held with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, whom he termed the "Green Patriarch", in Istanbul a day earlier.
Papandreou told Gore that environment and climatic changes are high on the SI's agenda and briefed him on the organisations intention to establish, during its next Council meeting, a committee on sustainable development issues, headed by former Swedish prime minister Goran Persson and former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos.
The SI president also invited Gore to cooperate with the SI's Academy, currently under formation, for the exchange of experiences on enviromental issues.
Other issues discussed were the situation in Iraq and the Middle East. Papandreou arrived for the meeting driving an hybrid car.
Gore addressed earlier in the day, together with Prime Minister Costas Karamnlis, an event organised by the Constantine Karamanlis Institute for Democracy on the environment, being held at a central Athens hotel.
 Al Gore delivers 'Inconvenient Truth' slideshow in AthensFormer vice-president Al Gore arrived in Athens on Wednesday to sound the alarm over climate change and deliver his blockbuster slide show to a captive Athenian audience.
The lecture was held in two packed auditoriums at the Megaron Mousikis in Athens, one live and the other on video relay, and embellished with references to Thermopylae and Archimedes, as well as the most recent compelling evidence of global warming that has emerged since the release of the Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" that was based on the original slide show - including fears of what he called a "tipping point" created by the release of CO2 currently frozen in the Siberian tundra and Alaska.
Among those who attended the lecture were President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou and former prime minister Costas Simitis.
In an earlier press conference, Gore had referred to climate change as a "planetary emergency" and stressed that there was now strong evidence that humankind had no more than 10 years in which to reverse this crisis.
"Though hard on our ears, this is unfortunately an accurate description of what we are facing. It is a challenge to our moral imagination and our ability to rise to meet this challenge is essential, it will determine the future of human civilisation," Gore stressed.
Humanity was rapidly approaching a point of no return, beyond which the ability to retrieve the favourable conditions that made human civilisation possible would be forever lost, the former U.S. vice-president said, adding that this could only be avoided by acting quickly.
While conceding that this was currently "outside and beyond the realm of what is considered politically possible," he also underlined that this had to change:
"We have to expand the limits of what is politically possible and the best way to do this is to spread knowledge of what is happening," Gore told reporters.
In strong criticism of the current U.S. administration, including a statement that the war on Iraq was "a huge mistake", he underlined the need for the United States to provide leadership on climate change issues and ratify the Kyoto Treaty, while he also outlined proposals to bring forward the signature of a new, tougher protocol by 2010 at which the biggest offenders - including the U.S., China and India - would be brought on board.
He was also pessimistic about the results of the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, though complimenting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her efforts.
"I am not among those who viewed the outcome on the global environment G8 summit as a success," Gore told reporters. He stressed that, in his view, "the slight change in tone at Heiligendamm amounts to nothing. Actually worse than nothing because it may have created a false impression in some people that it was something."
Answering questions about his role as chairman of the fund management firm Generation Investment Management, Gore also used the opportunity to present a position that environment and business were not incompatible, stressing that an environmental perspective in business made good sense if one went about it the right way.
Pointing out that pollution was waste and an unnecessary spending of money on resources that cost money, Gore argued that cutting down on pollution actually saved money, made businesses more efficient and helped uncover inefficiencies that would otherwise go unnoticed, so that companies actually become more profitable by reducing pollution.
He stressed the need for businesses, politics and the media to break away from short-term thinking that distorted priorities and "moved away from sensible decisions".
Gore - who described himself in his lecture as a "recovering politician" - also made it clear that he did not intend to run in the next U.S. presidential election, stressing in response to questions that "I don't expect to be a candidate again because I am now involved in a different kind of campaign."
At another point he emphasised that, while he had not ruled out his return to politics, "I don't expect to be and have no plans to do so".
Stating that he had realised that "there are other ways to serve", he said he hoped to lift public awareness on climate change issues so that whoever does run for president will face a demand from the people to take action, while he also emphasised a grassroots mobilisation in reply to other questions concerning the environmental priorities of any Democrat administration that might emerge in the U.S.
Above all, he emphasised that he did not see the climate change problem as a primarily political issue, stressing that it was a moral and ethical issue and one of the most immediate problems that faced the nations of the earth, whether rich or poor.
 Jordan reverses decision over Jerusalem Patriarch during Bakoyannis visitAMMAN (ANA-MPA - N. Melissova)
The Jordanian government on Wednesday officially announced that it has reversed its decision to withdraw recognition from Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos III, following a meeting between Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Jordanian Foreign Affairs Minister Abdelelah Al-Khatib. The decision to once again recognise Theophilos as Patriarch was made by the Jordanian cabinet on Tuesday.
"This is an extremely positive development. We welcome it with the certainty that the Jerusalem Patriarchate will continue to fulfill without obstacles its so very important mission and good work for all its congregation," Bakoyannis said in a statement to the ANA-MPA after the one-hour meeting, noting that Al Khatib had briefed her on the Jordanian cabinet's decision in detail.
During joint statements by the two ministers, Al Khatib referred to a "new start" in relations between Jordan and the Jerusalem Patriarchate.
Bakoyannis said that Greece and Jordan had agreed to support the ancient institution of the Jerusalem Patriarchate and its self-governing status, and that the Patriarchate must meet the needs of all its congregation.
"We will continue together with the Jordanian government to preserve the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the rights of its Jordanian members," she said.
Al Khatib gave assurances that Jordan would protect the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the rights of its Jordanian members.
"It is an important Patriarchate. We respect its independence and we are interested in the way its operates. We want to protect the property of the Church and to look after the Jordanian community that belongs to that Church," he stressed.
He said the Patriarchate had sent letters to Jordan's Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit that briefed the premier on the decisions made by the Holy Synod on Monday.
"It was a positive development that helped us and the Greek government to close this chapter," the minister underlined.
In a statement on Tuesday night, Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Judeh said that his government was satisfied with the letters sent by the Patriarch and the Patriarchate's Holy Synod saying that no Church land had been sold under Theophilos, adding that he had "honoured all the commitments he undertook when he was appointed as patriarch in 2005".
In the letters, Theophilos said that no concessions of Church property had been made during his tenure and that he would continue to protect the Patriarchate's property against every illegal land concession.
On her arrival in Jerusalem during a tour of the Middle East, the Greek foreign minister had intensive talks with both the Patriarch and her Jordanian counterpart.
Theophilos III replaced Irineos I, who was ousted in May 2005 over claims that he had approved the unsanctioned sale of church property to Jewish investors - an act that is barred under Israel's peace agreement with Jordan in 1994.
On May 12 this year, the Jordanian government revoked recognition of Theophilos after receiving what it said was "documented evidence" that he was involved in transactions to sell or lease church property in Jerusalem.
Bakoyannis-Khatib talks on Middle East problem
Talks between Bakoyannis and Jordan's leadership, including the Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, also focused on the situation in the Middle East.
"The Greek and European effort is to support the resumption of peace talks and every initiative that will lead to peace in the region. Greece is the European Union country nearest to the Middle East and within the European Council it plays a special role in EU efforts toward peace-making," she said.
Jordanian's foreign minister, meanwhile, expressed his country's appreciation for Greece's involvement and determination to contribute to peacemaking and an improvement of the condition of Palestinians. He stressed that he also looked to continued cooperation with his Greek counterpart in order to improve Greek-Jordanian relations.
The positive developments over the issue of the Patriarchate were "an indication of the strength of ties between the two countries," he added.
Bakoyannis is due to depart on Wednesday night for Beirut, the last stop on her tour of the Middle East, where she will meet with the political leadership of the country, conveying a message of support from the Greek government to that of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and for Lebanon's territorial integrity and stability.
 PASOK leader outlines vision of new econ development modelMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou outlined his party's and his own vision of a new model of economic development for Greece that will be environmentally oriented, during a visit to Perama, near Piraeus, on Wednesday.
Greece's presence abroad will receive a boost and the country's new image will place it in an international movement led by such personalities as Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos and former US vice-president and presidential candidate Al Gore, said Papandreou. Environmentally-friendly development will offer new opportunities to younger generations while creating new prospects for new jobs and investments in Greece.
The PASOK leader stated that green development is a significant advantage for the economy and added that it guarantees and ensures quality life for all people.
Perama mayor Yannis Glykas briefed Papandreou on local problems and requested access to the sea, construction of an additional road and greater support to the Perama shipyard zone.
Regions like Perama will have to be protected by the State and not be left downgraded in an 'environmental apartheid' due to poor finances, Papandreou said, adding that access to a dignified quality environment is necessary while underlining that the removal of oil tanks from the region will lead to its upgrading.
Papandreou referred to Al Gore's visit to Greece on Wednesday, underlining the latter's efforts to raise world public awareness on environmental issues, efforts which he said were wholeheartedly supported.
 KKE leader Aleka Papariga addresses party rally in IlioupoliCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga addressed a party rally in the Athens district of Ilioupoli on Wednesday night, criticising both mainstream parties, the ruling New Democracy (ND) party and main opposition PASOK, and stressing that "they must both lose strength in Parliament and in the leading organs of the mass movement and confidence in organisation and struggle to gain ground."
Papariga denounced "all those who are annoyed by KKE's position that there are no differences between ND and PASOK and that their unimpeded alternation gives a new lease of life to antipopular policy."
The KKE leader said that "the working class and the people who are suffering must see the election struggle as an opportunity to achieve a victory that they will turn into a springboard for the upsurge of the popular movement."
Papariga went on to say that "the people can only extract concessions and pave the way for a real solution when they show strength and determination to forge ahead."
Concluding her address, Papariga criticised the mainstream parties for their policy and mentioned "a long series" of options and actions of theirs which she termed "conservative, dogmatic and antiquated", such as the coverage of employment with part-time and flexible employment, hourly wages, the coverage of one position by 3-4 employees, the increase in the pensioning age, the economy not being able to stand increases (only profits) and for claims not to exist due to the deficit and debts for which the people are not responsible.
 SYN leader Alavanos visits Serres prefectureCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader Alekos Alavanos visited on Wednesday the Serres prefecture, Macedonia, and was briefed by local authorities on problems of the region.
In a press conference later, Alavanos condemned the government over its handling of the bonds issue affair, saying that "an investigation into the scandal should have been launched from the very beginning of the affair."
The Synaspismos leader also referred to US President George W. Bush's recent Balkan tour, charging that the US president "does not bring gifts to the Balkans but many tons of dynamite and this is demonstrated by his declarations."
As regards the name issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Alavanos said that negotiations between Greece and the neighbouring country should continue through the United Nations.
Responding to a question on his party's relations with the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and declarations made by its Secretary General Aleka Papariga, the Synaspismos leader said that he was not interested in answering to Papariga, adding "the left of the past is dislikable and repulsive to young generations."
 Yiannakou on sixth-grade history textbookEducation Minister Marietta Yiannakou visited an elementary school in Athens on Wednesday within the framework of the launching of a book on road safety and the new traffic code (KOK), published by the transport ministry.
The new course book for grade school pupils aims to aid efforts at reducing the appallingly high number of road accidents recorded annually in the country.
On a separate matter, namely, regarding corrections to a controversial sixth-grade history textbook, Yiannakou said she will announce them as soon as they are approved.
The textbook had come under fire from a bevy of groups and historians for various departures from the version of events traditionally taught in Greek public schools.
 European communist and labour parties protest establishment of new U.S. bases in European countriesA total of 35 European communist and labour parties have issued a joint statement expressing their strong protest "over the development of American 'antimissile' bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as of so-called 'conventional' military bases of the United States in Bulgaria and Romania."
The statement, publicised on Wednesday by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), stressed that "these plans, that are rejected by the peoples of the corresponding countries and by an ever-increasing protest movement in Europe, flagrantly violate international treaties on the reduction of military forces and of nuclear armaments."
The communist and labour parties stressed that "the real aim of this system is the creation of new possibilities for aggressive acts against other countries without the risk of reprisals, strengthening even more the military supremacy and hegemony of the United States in this way."
They also assessed that "it has become absolutely clear from now that the establishment of new American bases will speed up armaments competition and militarisation, it will further intensify competition among imperialist powers and intensify attacks on democratic and social rights. This is the reason why this policy is meeting with such great resistance."
 Greek ambassador hosts dinner for US Senator MenendezWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)
Greek Ambassador to the US Alexandros Mallias hosted a dinner in honour of Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey).
Present at the dinner were also leaders of Greek-American organisations, especially from the US Cypriot community, who thanked Menendez for his longstanding positive stance towards Greek and Cyprus national issues.
 JP Morgan, North Asset Management execs testify in Parliament over bond issueRepresentatives of the international investment bank JP Morgan and the financial firm North Asset Management (NAM) testified before the Greek Parliament's standing committee for economic affairs late on Tuesday regarding their role in the issue and sale of a 280-million-euro Greek government structured bond to Greek pension funds.
JP Morgan's head of operations for Europe Jacob Stott told MPs that the "transaction for the issue of the bond was relatively attractive for the Greek State". He stressed that JP Morgan, which underwrote the bond on behalf of the Greek government, did not pay any commission or have transactions with any pension funds, nor was it aware of the price that the pension funds paid.
"Our relations with the pension funds were restricted to the fact that we presented them with not one but two generous proposals for the purchase of the bond," he said.
He also told MPs that JP Morgan had approached the Greek government for the issue of the bond via NAM.
Stott revealed that the price of the bond when issued was between 88% and 89% and that it was then sold to NAM at 92.25%, while noting that the benefit from swaps had to be factored into the transaction as a whole.
Regarding the bank's contacts with the Greek finance ministry, Stott said that these took place between October 2006 and March 2007 and were held with staff from the state's General Accounting Office but not with government ministers, though associates of the Greek finance ministry such as George Kouris had been involved.
During talks with the Greek government to buy back the controversial bond, the bank was contacted by Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas and Kouris, he added.
Representing NAM, the London-based hedge fund's general director Louis Plowden-Wardlaw said his company did not know "who the final recipients of the bond would be", while stressing that everyone was aware that NAM could not hold onto the bond itself.
He also confirmed that NAM had dealt with PASOK governments in the past.
Regarding the role of NAM's agent Giorgos Papamarkakis, he said that Papamarkakis that had acted as a consultant to the Greek finance ministry under PASOK governments, when he had been working for JP Morgan.
At the start of the hearing, main opposition PASOK MPs protested because the individuals directly involved in the transactions for the bond affair, such as Papamarkakis or JP Morgan's representatives Panagiotis Adamopoulos had not appeared to testify to the Committee, saying that this was unacceptable behaviour.
Main opposition PASOK party on Wednesday reiterated its high-pitch criticism of the government regarding the ongoing structured bond furor, with top deputy and former minister Vasso Papandreou saying that an appearance by a JP Morgan executive before a Parliament committee a day earlier exposed "the government's lies".
Papandreou, along with spokesman Petros Efthymiou and Maria Damanaki, also repeated criticism that the government misinformed public opinion and tried to cover up the affair.
Finally, a former executive of JP Morgan investment bank, Avraam Savvidis, on Wednesday appeared before a local appellate level prosecutor to answer questions over a structured bond deal at the centre of an ongoing political furor in the country.
According to Savvidis' attorney, his client's only involvement in the deal is the submission of a investment plan detailing provisions of the bond sale for the North Asset Management (NAM) firm.
The attorney stressed that Savvidis did not know who the final holders of the bond would be or the price that NAM executive George Papamarkakis would set for the structured bond.
Government spokesman responds to PASOK officials
Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, responding to a joint press conference by main opposition PASOK party officials Petros Efthymiou, Vasso Papandreou and Maria Damanaki on Wednesday, accused PASOK of trying to create a climate of polarisation.
"The phraseology used by PASOK on the bonds issue again today is yet more proof of the nudity of its policy and the lack of whatever constructive proposal on problems preoccupying the Greek citizens," Roussopoulos said.
 EU Commission report on Greek economic outlookThe European Commission on Wednesday published its report on the condition of public finances in the Economic and Monetary Union area of the European Union, presenting latest developments in main budget figures in the Eurozone and the rest EU member-states and examining their medium-term outlook.
Referring to Greece, the report underlined that an ECOFIN meeting decided to end disciplinary procedures against Greece for its excessive budget deficit, saying that the country has managed to cut its fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct of GDP in a sustainable way.
Greece's fiscal deficit fell to 2.6 pct of GDP last year, mainly through permanent measures and some temporary measures accounting for 0.6 pct of GDP. The Commission said the country's public debt was steadily falling towards the 60 pct of GDP level. Greek public debt fell from an average 110 pct of GDP in the period 2001-2005 to 104.5 pct last year and was projected to drop to 97.6 pct in 2008 and to 91.25 pct in 2009. The EU's executive arm said the Greek fiscal debt would fall to 2.4 pct of GDP, although it noted the need for Greek authorities to remain alert in the future and underlined its preference to permanent measures in fiscal consolidation.
The Commission said it expected total revenues to fall by around 0.25 pct and spending to drop by around 0.25 pct of GDP, while the country's structural balance was projected to show a slight improvement this year (0.25 pct of GDP).
The European Commission said that the fiscal deficit would reach 2.75 pct of GDP in 2008 on the precondition that the government would not change its economic policy.
All estimates were based on Greece's old data and not on the country's revised GDP figures, currently under examination by Eurostat.
 Conference on Macedonia-Thrace peripheryThe sum of 808 million euro will be chanelled to the Macedonia-Thrace periphery from the wider regional operational programme via the public expenditures over the coming years (2007-2013), national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis said Wednesday, addressing a conference on the periphery held at a central Athens hotel.
Alogoskoufis said that an additional sum would be forthcoming to that specific periphery concerning interventions that will be financed by the other sectoral programmes of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF for the new Programming Period covering 2007-2013).
The minister noted that materialisation of the current Regional Operational Programme for eastern Macedonia-Thrace had reached 60.1 percent, while large sections of the Egnatia motorway and Egnatia's vertical axis Ardanio-Ormenios were progressing at a fast pace, while other important projects were also under construction at the same time, such as the upgrading of the Alexandroupolis airport, the modernisation of the Komotini General Hospital, and the construction of the Iasio and Akropotamos dams, among others.
He said that, with the government's policy on regional development, effective solutions were being advanced for the major problems faced by the Greek periphery.
This effort will continue, Alogoskoufis stressed, "because the problems that were created over two decades of oligory and omissions cannot be solved automatically and effortlessly".
Addressing the same conference, development minister Dimitris Sioufas said that Northern Greece, with the development of its infrastructures and mainly the oil and natural gas pipelines, with the expansion of the business networks in SE Europe and the enlargement of inter-Balkan and Black Sea cooperation, was seeking a role of economic protagonist in the region.
He noted that business concerns in Northern Greece faced many problems due to the crisis in the sectors of textiles, clothing and tobacco, but also due to the cheap labour in neighbouring countries, thus causing many of them to opt for relocation in southeast Europe, resulting in turn in Greek invested capital in the region being in second place among the international investments in Bulgaria and in third place in Romania.
Sioufas listed the measures taken by the government to boost competitiveness, noting that the new Development Law was characterised by an intensive peripheral dimension and offered subsidies of up to 60 percent of the investment to SMEs of the periphery.
Thus, he said, to date, 1,579 projects budgeted at 787.55 million euro have been incorpated under the Development Law in the Periphery of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace.
Sioufas particularly referred to the Greek section of the Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline from Komotini to the border region of Kipi, an investment of millions of euro which he said would substantially boost local development and create new jobs.
He further referred to the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, saying that it would yield "substantial benefits to the national, and chiefly the local, economy", and upgrade the region of eastern Thrace as an energy and economic hub of the wider geographical area. The pipeline's operation would also ensure tens of millions of dollars a year in transit fees, Sioufas said, adding that the government has commited itself to chanelling those funds, in their entirety, to infrastructure and development projects in Evros prefecture and all of Thrace more generally. In addition, the materialisatin of the one billion euro investment would also create jobs, both during the construction period (2008-2010), and also some 250-300 permanent jobs for its operation as of 2010.
All those developments, he explained, contributed to making the entire region of SE Europe an area of high investment interest in the energy sector. Thrace, Macedonia and Epirus, the third due to the construction of the Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline, were evolving into an energy hub for all of Europe, Sioufas said, adding that in the next few years, in the natural gas and electricity sectors alone, investments in SE Europe would exceed 30 billion euro.
Tourism development minister Fani Palli-Petralia told the conference that the administrative periphery of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace can and must play its own role in the effort for the advancement and development of Northern Greece, for the future and the prosperity of the entire country.
The Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Periphery could comprise the northern 'ceiling' of the development zone of Greece's sea-going tourism, exploiting the Aegean Sea coastline, she said, adding that it was these prospects that the country was today called on to take advantage of, highlighting the tourism potential of the Periphery.
Petralia said that the sum of 25 million euro would be chanelled to the Periphery of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace in the framework of the 4th Programming Period, with 15.7 million euro slated for boosting the entrepreneurship and extroversion of the region and developing specialised forms of tourism, and the remaining 9.3 million euro slated for improvement of the business environment, strengthening competition and consumer protection through upgrading of the public infrastrctures for the development of all forms of tourism, for projection and publicity of the tourism product, and digital convergence projects.
Deputy economy minister Christos Folias explained that the developments in SE Europe, following Bulgaria's and Romania's accession to the European Union, as well as the developments in southwest and central Asia, have altered the geopolitical correlations, creating a new status quo in the field of inter-state cooperations, as well as immense investment prospects that highlight the strategic role the Periphery of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace can play in the sectors of commerce, manufacturing, energy and tourism in the wider region, and not only.
 Greek farmers to lose from EU revision of fruits, vegetable market, GESASE claimsGreek farmers will lose from any new revision of the common market for fruits and vegetables in the European Union because "funds received by 2013 will end up being much less than farmers' demands," GESASE (the General Confederation of Greek Agrarian Associations), said on Wednesday, reacting to a decision by EU farm ministers to revise the fruits and vegetable market.
GESASE said Greek farmers will lose more than 30 million euros annually because of the inability of EU ministers to agree on a benchmark period of 2001-2006, while producers could lose even more.
GESASE urged the Greek agriculture ministry to immediately implement a policy of disconnecting prices from production, to draft a national strategic plan to support producer groups and to upgrade the fruits and vegetable market in the country.
 Spyrou firm signs exclusive agreement with Syrian governmentThe Agricultural Spyrou Firm has signed an exclusive agreement with the Syrian government to undertake a restructuring programme for the country's agriculture.
The Greek company will undertake to implement a longterm business plan on the reconstruction of agricultural production, providing the country with seeds, necessary technology and know-how, as well as contributing to the creation of relevant infrastructures. This development is the result of the company's longterm efforts for infiltration and consolidation in markets in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Agricultural Spyrou Firm, according to the agreement, will undertake over a period of 10 years to contribute to the multiplying of Syria's agricultural income.
 Supermarket chains seek organic growth in GreeceSupermarket chains operating in Greece have shifted their priorities to organic growth through investments to expand their retail network and creating logistics centers, a survey by Hellastat said on Wednesday.
The report said that a wave of mergers and acquisitions last year covered small, regional chains, although a large deal was not excluded in the future.
Hellastat said that competition pressures in the domestic retail market from the expansion of multinational groups (Carrefour-Marinopoulos and AB Vasilopoulos) and discount stores (Dia, Lidl and Plus) pushed Sklavenitis and Masoutis to join their forces, following Metro's example, while private label products remained the answer of large supermarket chains to the challenge of discount stores.
The report said it expected this challenge to intensify from 2008 as another player was expected to enter the Greek market (Aldi).
Hellastat said supermarket and cash&carry enterprises' turnover totaled 8.37 billion euros last year, up 6.5 pct from the previous year, while 56 out of a total 65 enterprises in the sector improved their sales.
Operating earnings totaled 303.4 million euros, up 8.5 pct from 2005, while net pre-tax profits jumped 20.4 pct to 130.4 million euros.
 Parliament ratifies bill on customs code amendmentThe bill on the amendment of the customs code, which also includes further arrangements of a social character for large families, farmers and handicapped people, was ratified in principle by the two mainstream parties, ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK, on Wednesday.
"We are continuing the policy of targeted interventions, mainly for the benefit of the financially weaker. We are continuing, due to the good state of the economy now, to satisfy reasonable demands that a fair government should satisfy," said Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas.
 Pireaus Bank Bulgaria acquires Dirent BulgariaPiraeus Bank Bulgaria on Wednesday announced the signing of an agreement to acquire Dirent Bulgaria SA, in a move aimed to expand its leasing activities in the Bulgarian market.
Direct Bulgaria SA specialises in operating leasing services. Its assets total 5.0 million euros and its customer base totals 120 enterprises.
Piraeus Bank Bulgaria offers leasing services through Piraeus Leasing Bulgaria and Piraeus Auto Leasing Bulgaria. Piraeus Leasing Bulgaria is the fifth largest leasing company in the country, with a market share of 5.93 pct.
 Special Operation Licences withdrawn from 97 hotels in countryThe Greek Tourist Organisation's (EOT) Regional Tourism Services have withdrawn the Special Operation Licences from 97 hotels all over the country, from the beginning of June to date, following orders by Tourist Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia regarding the observation of commitments set by law for hygiene, security and fire protection.
A further 51 hotels had their Special Operation Licences returned to them, after they had been withdrawn due to the lack of the fire protection certificate, after it was ascertained that they had complied with relevant legislation.
It was also ascertained that in eight of the country's 13 regions all legislative deviations have been remedied and, consequently, no withdrawal of the Special Operation Licences was carried out.
 Elval to pay 0.04-euros per share dividendAn Elval general shareholders' meeting on Wednesday approved a board plan to pay a 0.04 euros per share dividend to shareholders and a plan to issue a bond loan up to 30 million euros to boost its liquidity through long-term borrowing.
Elval said its share price will be traded ex-dividend from June 29. Pre-tax profits totaled 9.8 million euros in the first quarter of 2007, up 84.8 pct from the same period last year, while consolidated pre-tax profits soared 76.8 pct to 12.3 million euros.
 Bulgarian authorities clear Vivartia's acquisition of UMCVivartia SA on Wednesday announced it has won approval from Bulgarian competition authorities to acquire United Milk Company AD (UMC) from BSF Fund.
The completion of the takeover of 99.99 pct of UMC's shares is expected in the next few days.
UMC is a leader in the dairy industry in Bulgaria, with sales of 17.5 million euros last year, pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings of 1.0 million euros, assets totaling 18.4 million euros and net borrowing of 7.0 million euros.
 Greek stocks end 0.53 pct down on WednesdayGreek stocks remained under mild pressure on Wednesday in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index fell 0.53 pct to end at 4,816.23 points with turnover a heavy 413.9 million euros, of which 105.3 million euros were block trades.
Sector indices ended lower with the Utilities (1.64 pct), Food/Beverage (1.15 pct) and Raw Materials (1.08 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Technology (0.88 pct), Insurance (0.46 pct) and Constructions (0.46 pct) scored gains.
The Big Cap index fell 0.40 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.47 pct lower and the Small Cap index rose 0.14 pct.
Maxim-Pertsinidis (18.97 pct), Ekter (10.88 pct) and Spyrou Farm (10.81 pct) were top gainers, while Plias (6.35 pct), Frigoglass (5.44 pct) and Mohlos (4.95 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 149 to 124 with another 34 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.09%
Personal & Household: -0.46%
Raw Materials: -1.08%
Travel & Leisure: -0.40%
Food & Beverages: -1.15%
Financial Services: +0.21%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, J&P Avax and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 22.66
Public Power Corp (PPC): 21.30
HBC Coca Cola: 32.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.46
Emporiki Bank: 21.10
National Bank of Greece: 41.30
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 25.82
Titan Cement Company: 43.16
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices maintained their slight premiums in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover a heavy 385.748 million euros.
The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a premium of 0.04 pct and on the FTSE 40 index at a premium of 0.06 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 23,198 contracts worth 295.171 million euros, with 41,010 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 1,278 contracts worth 39.565 million euros with 1,309 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 31,295 contracts worth 51.011 million euros, with investment interest focusing on ATEbank's contracts (5,664), followed by PPC (4,083), Piraeus Bank (871), National Bank (1,028), Alpha Bank (3,596), Intracom (3,181), Emporiki Bank (981) and Hellenic Petroleum (1,173).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market soared to 3.571 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.406 billion euros were buy orders and 2.165 billion euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.02 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.20 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.87 pct and the German Bund 4.67 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 3.85 pct from 3.80 pct on Tuesday, the two-day rate rose to 4.08 pct from 3.75 pct, the one-month rate rose to 4.10 pct from 4.09 pct and the 12-month rate was 4.49 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.339
Pound sterling 0.679
Danish kroner 7.507
Swedish kroner 9.491
Japanese yen 163.82
Swiss franc 1.666
Norwegian kroner 8.165
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.434
Australian dollar 1.595
 World Refugee Day events by UNHCR office in GreeceThe UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Greece will dedicate the World Refugee Day on June 20 to two of the biggest refugee crises in the world today, in Iraq and Chad, with events to take place in Athens between June 19-22.
The head of UNHCR office in Greece, George Tsarbopoulos, stated that the recent UNHCR guidelines concerning the granting of refugee or humanitarian status to Iraqi nationals have been brought to the attention of the Greek government. In addition, a request has been made to immediately start examining asylum applications made by Iraqis living in Greece.
On the situation in Greece's northern and eastern borders, Tsarbopoulos referred to current detention conditions and stated that asylum granting procedures need improvement.
World Refugee Day events will be inaugurated by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in Athens on June 19 and will include five photo exhibitions on refugee situations in different parts of the world and the Greek UNHCR office mission to western Africa; an art exhibition, presentation of works by refugee artists and a UNHCR poster exhibition.
 Public hearing in US Congress next week on Haghia SophiaA public hearing in the US Congress next Wednesday will focus on reports of desecration at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the renowned early Byzantine-era cathedral that was converted into a mosque after Constantinople's fall in 1453 and later turned into a museum in the early 20th century with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.
The hearing, held by the joint Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC), marks the first time that Congress will hear testimony on the situation concerning Hagia Sophia, Eastern Orthodox Christianity's equivalent of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
The hearing will be chaired by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Ca), while Hellenic American Union (HAU) President Chris Spyrou, who will represent the "Free Hagia Sophia Council of America", is also scheduled to address the caucus.
Spyrou, in fact, will give a press conference on the issue in Athens on Thursday.
 Naxos prosecuting authorities issue three arrest warrants in connection with 'Sea Diamond' sinkingProsecuting authorities on the island of Naxos sent three arrest warrants to the Central Piraeus Port authority on Wednesday, calling for the finding and bringing before justice of the captain of the sunken cruise ship "Sea Diamond", Yiannis Marinos, and the legal representatives of the company managing the ship, Maria Ioannou and Georgia Chrysostomou.
The arrest warrants were issued because despite the merchant marine ministry's repeated orders to the shipping company Hellenic Louis Cruises, a plan to pump the ship's 400 tons of fuel has not yet been prepared and submitted.
Investigations to find and arrest the three have been negative so far, while captain Yiannis Marinos is being prosecuted because, being the main person in charge of the Sea Diamond, he did not take the measures that were necessary and anticipated to prevent the pollution of the sea region of the island of Santorini, after the ship sank early last April outside the port of the Aegean island of Santorini.
 International cocaine ring dismantled in GreeceAn international ring involved in processing, producing and selling cocaine has been dismantled in Greece by the Special Control Service in cooperation with the National Intelligence Service and the Drug Service of the United States (DEA).
A cocaine processing laboratory was discovered in the region of Lakka, close to the coastal Anavyssos district outside Athens, while a total of 26 kilos and 135 grams of cocaine were discovered and confiscated and five arrests were made.
Authorities believe that the creation of the cocaine processing laboratory is part of the efforts of the Colombian cartel to transfer production laboratories from Latin America to consumer countries in Western Europe.
 Successful airlift of US citizenA Super Puma helicopter was used to transport an American citizen suffering from a heart condition who became ill while on board a Bahamas-flag cruise-ship as it was sailing 180 nautical miles west of Kyparissia, Peloponnese in southern Greece.
The helicopter landed at Araxos Airport where an ambulance was waiting to take the man to Rio Hospital, near the city of Patras.
 Explosion injures two in Zea Marina, PiraeusThe captain and the marine engineer of the 12-meter-long leisure boat "Whisper" were slightly injured by an explosion that rocked the vessel on Wednesday morning at Zea Marina in Piraeus.
The two were taken to hospital while an investigation was underway by the Zea Port Authority to determine the causes of the explosion.
 Cloud, showers on ThursdayCloudy weather and showers on continental Greece are expected on Thursday. Winds variable. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 18C and 31C and in Thessaloniki from 17C to 30C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe accusations exchanged in parliament on Tuesday between JP Morgan and North Asset Management (NAM) over the structured bonds affair, US former vice-president Al Gore to the Ecumenical Patriarchate (while in Turkey to speak on climate change and take part in a press conference on the 'Live Earth' series of concerts worldwide), the base passing grades for AEI and TEI (institutions of higher education) entrance examinations in the subjects tested so far, and the rewriting of the new 6th grade history book, were the main front-page items in Wednesday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "American investments in Greece - Meeting between Sioufas (development minister) and Burns (US undersecretary of state who was in Athens and had talks with government officials the past two days) - Discussion on energy issues".
APOGEVMATINI: "11,396 new hirings - Tables with all the positions".
AVGHI: "Suppression without frontiers - What the ministers decided in Brussels", referring to the 'enhanced police cooperation' decided by the justice and public order ministers of the 27 EU member states during a meeting Tuesday.
AVRIANI: "The dairy industry coming out on top - Recommendation at Council of State for annulment of the fine that had been imposed by the Competition Committee".
CHORA: "How the modern Rural Police will be staffed was discussed in parliament on Tuesday".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Mr. President (of the ruling New Democracy party, prime minister Costas Karamanlis), put a muzzle on the dobermans - Souflias asked the prime minister to put a rein on those who were polarising the climate with their statements, because it was boomeranging" against ND.
ELEFTHEROS: "Bomb on the very foundations of PASOK (main opposition party) exploded in parliament by former development undersecretary Salagoudis", who revealed that Papamarkakis, the managing director of North Asset Management, which is implicated in the bond scandal, was an advisor at the national economy ministry under the preceding PASOK governments.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Al Gore, former US vice-president: 'The Patriarchate is an honour for Turkey' - Historic meeting between the American politician and Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "JP Morgan fingered Kouris (finance ministry secretary general) - Revelations in parliament - One by one, the chainlinks are being broken".
ESTIA: "Greece's role in the Balkans - Clear downgrading due to anti-Americanism".
ETHNOS: "The course of the AEI-TEI base grades - Nationwide exams: Grading data for all the Schools".
KATHIMERINI: "JP Morgan and North American Asset in feud over the bonds - Mutual accusations in parliament".
LOGOS: "PASOK-ND clash reaches the extremes".
NIKI: "JP Morgan covers Alogoskoufis (national economy and finance minister) and Doukas (deputy national economy and finance minister) on the bonds scandal, points finger at Kouris (ministry secretary general)".
RIZOSPASTIS: "He's provoking with the 'Marshall Plan' of the so-called US assistance - Statements by (ND) honourary president Mitsotakis".
TA NEA: "JP Morgan causes storm over Kouris - Burning deposition (in parliament) on the bond affair".
TO VIMA: "The government 'rewriting' (the) History (book) - Overturne to the Right".
VRADYNI: "Papamarkakis a 'green' (PASOK) advisor, at the side of the finance ministers during the PASOK governments".
 Cypriot, French foreign ministers pledge to enhance tiesNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Recent developments in the question of Cyprus and Franco-Cypriot relations were the focus of discussions in Paris between Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiorgos Lillikas and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner.
Speaking after the meeting, Lillikas said that there was a common understanding between the two ministers on important issues that concern the European Union, such as the future of the European Constitution, EU enlargement and EU-Turkey relations, in view of next week's EU summit.
"We talked about recent developments in Cyprus, in the effort to resume negotiations towards a political settlement that would reunite the country, as well as bilateral relations, in particular areas which would enhance these ties even more," the minister added.
Bilateral ties, he continued, could be further developed on the basis of an agreement Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has clinched during his visit to Paris in November 2005.
Lillikas and Kouchner also talked about the French proposal for a Mediterranean Union.
"We exchanged views about how to proceed with this idea and some meetings will probably take place, either in Cyprus or elsewhere, to take the dialogue on this matter further," Lillikas said after Wednesday's meeting, which was also attended by French Secretary of State Jean-Pierre Jouyet.
 The Vatican to help save Cyprus' Turkish occupied heritageNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Secretary of State of the Vatican has assured the head of the Church of Cyprus that his state will support efforts by the Greek Orthodox Church to protect and restore the country's cultural and religious heritage in the northern Turkish occupied part of the island.
Secretary of State His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who met on Wednesday in the Vatican with the primate of the Church of Cyprus
Archbishop Chrysostomos II and his entourage, said he would ask Holy See representatives in powerful states that shape the nations' fate to exert pressure on Turkey and agree to help restore Turkish occupied Greek Orthodox churches.
The Archbishop briefed His Eminence on the political situation in Cyprus, saying that Turkish troops continue to occupy the island's northern part and the destruction and pillage of Christian churches carries on.
Chrysostomos II, who is accompanied by three senior bishops, visited Wednesday the Saint Peter Basilica, the chapel where the remains of Saint John Chrysostomos lie and other religious sites, including the tomb of the late Pope John Paul II.
The head of the Church of Cyprus also met with the Archbishop of Genova and other religious leaders and discussed unity among the different Churches and cooperation.
Inter-religion dialogue and the dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox Church were also part of the discussions.
This is the third time the head of the Church of Cyprus visits the Vatican. The first time was in the 13th century and the second in 1967 when the late Archbishop Makarios III visited.
 Cypriot MPs discuss Cyprus issue in GermanyNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the German Brandenburg Parliament (Landtag), Gunter Fritsch, has expressed the wish that the Cyprus question is solved soon, on the basis of European Union principles and values.
According to a press release issued here Wednesday by the Cyprus House of Representatives, Fritsch was speaking during a meeting with a delegation of the Cyprus House-Germany Friendship Committee, currently visiting Berlin for a series of meetings.
The Cypriot MPs met with the German-Cyprus Friendship Group at the German Bundestag and discussed the latest developments in the question of Cyprus, as well as a resolution recently adopted by the German Bundestag on Cyprus, which recommends that what the Turkish Cypriots call "isolation" is lifted.
The illegal Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus claims that it is "isolated" from the international community and blames the government of Cyprus for this. The legal government of the Republic maintains that what the Turkish Cypriots call "isolation" is the result of Turkey's occupation and in fact reflects an attempt by the regime to gain recognition, short of diplomatic recognition, and upgrade its status.
UN resolutions say the regime is "legally invalid" and call on all states not to facilitate the secessionist entity in occupied Cyprus.
During their stay in Germany, the Cypriot MPs met with the Chairman of the European Affairs Committee and Development Policy of the Brandenburg Landtag, Buchow Klaus, who referred to the Cyprus issue and wished for the reunification of Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion, as soon as possible.
The head of the Cypriot parliamentary delegation Averof Neofytou stressed during the meetings that the human rights of the Cypriot people are being violated as a result of the continuing Turkish occupation of the island's northern part.
He also said that Cyprus, an EU member since May 2004, demands a solution through dialogue, on the basis of international and European law.
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