|Friday, 23 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-06-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 15 June 2007 Issue No: 2619
 Health minister briefs PM on sector reformsPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed on the reforms being implemented in the health sector during a meeting he had on Thursday with Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
The health minister referred to the adoption of a new system and programme on procurements, adding that the health sector reform programme is being implemented at a rapid pace so that it will soon give fruit.
He said that the procurement commission chairman will be selected among a number of candidates to ensure that all necessary requirements will be met and that the person appointed to the post will have the approval of the responsible parliament committee.
Primary healthcare is also being promoted, said Avramopoulos, while a special emphasis is given to prevention with the establishment of a national council on prevention to convene with the participation of institutions and mass media representatives.
On the statements made by main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, referring to an alleged procurements' scandal, Avramopoulos stated that the allegations were unfounded and stressed that the current government has launched a major effort for transparency in transactions to reverse the situation it inherited.
The minister of health stated that many of health sector demands are being settled and stressed that the hiring of 6,500 new hospital staff is underway, while a broad programme is being completed concerning new infrastructures and the updating of hospitals and decentralized health services.
 European Court on hospital procurementsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
The European Court reached a verdict on Thursday on a Greek issue concerning hospital procurements. It ruled that the duty of assessing and safeguarding the technical adequacy of medical and technological products bearing the CE sign does not lie with the hospital obtaining a similar product, but with the national committee that has the duty to carry out relevant checks.
 FM Dora Bakoyannis visits Lebanon, calls for end to violenceBEIRUT (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday sent a clear and strong message for an end to violence, for moderation and for continuous dialogue from Beirut, the city that is mourning the victims of Wednesday's terrorist attack, including Parliamentarian Walid Eido.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Tarek Mitri expressed his gratitude to Greece and to Bakoyannis personally, for their continuous solidarity for Lebanon from the beginning of the crisis, last summer, to date.
Speaking at a joint press conference given by the two foreign ministers, in the presence of Prime Minister Faoud Siniora, Mitri said "Greek solidarity has been continuous from the beginning of the war, with its contribution to the safeguarding of our sea borders and with the economic support that it is providing for us." He said that Bakoyannis's choice to close her tour of the Middle East with her visit to Lebanon is "a symbolic but very strong act," adding that his country counts for Greece.
"On behalf of my government and of the Lebanese people, I express my gratitude to this country and to the foreign minister in person, who is visiting us for the third time in a year," he said.
Bakoyannis extended her condolences to the families of the victims and of the Parliamentarian slain and to the entire Lebanese people, saying that "our message is clear and sincere. Put an end to violence, moderation, hard work and continuous dialogue should prevail."
She further said "if you want me to tell you my personal view, terrorism cannot provide an answer to any of the problems facing the world."
The foreign minister reiterated, just as she did throughout her entire tour of Middle East countries - Israel, Palestinian territories, Syria, Jordan - that Greece "has a steadfast, substantive and tangible interest in the region."
"This is reflected and confirmed in this series of visits as well, that I am carrying out in the countries in the region, at a really crucial time conjuncture" she added.
Shortly before leaving for Athens, where she was due to return on Thursday night, Bakoyannis met with the leader of the Patriotic Front party and leader of the Maronites general Michel Aoun.
 Bakoyannis visits Greek Navy frigate Hydra in BeirutForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis visited the Greek Navy frigate "Hydra" at the port of Beirut on Thursday.
Bakoyannis congratulated its captain and crew for a work well done, stressing that thanks to their efforts Greece has a presence and a voice in the region.
The frigate "Hydra" and other two Greek Navy warships participate in the UNIFILMAROPS force, whose mission is to protect Lebanon from imports of weapons and military equipment that could have a destabilizing effect on the country.
Frigate Captain Lieutenant Commander Yannis Samaras referred to Greece's overall contribution to the region since last summer, when the Greek Navy was mobilized for the safe transportation of Greek and foreign nationals away from Lebanon's war zones.
While in Beirut, Foreign Minister Bakoyannis is scheduled to meet Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and later Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and Foreign Minister Tareq Mitri.
The meeting with parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri was canceled because of the funeral of a parliament deputy killed in the bloody terrorist attack that rocked Beirut on Wednesday.
 Karamanlis in PortugalPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis departed for Portugal on Thursday afternoon, as he is scheduled to meet on Friday with Portuguese President Cavaco Silva and opposition leader Luis Marques Mendes, while he will also attend a working luncheon hosted by his counterpart Jose Socrates.
Portugal takes over the EU rotating presidency on July 1.
 Parliament President meets Romanian Senate presidentParliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki met on Thursday with visiting President of Romania's Senate Nicolae Vacaroiu.
Addressing the press, Psarouda-Benaki said that "Greece and Romania share faith to the same democratic principles and our views coincide on all issues pertaining to the broader region of the Balkans." She also said that the Greek Parliament "offers its full support for Romania to meet its European Union obligations."
On his part, Vacaroiu thanked Greece for its support in his country's efforts to enter the EU and asked for the Greek Parliament's "help for Romania to proceed with success in its current effort to adapt itself to European rules."
 Papoulias in Armenia this monthPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, accompanied by his wife, will officially visit Armenia between June 26 and June 28, the president's office announced on Thursday.
The visit comes after an invitation by Armenian President Robert Kocharian.
Papoulias will be accompanied by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Deputy FM Theodoros Kassimis as well as a delegation of Greek entrepreneurs.
 PASOK leader condemns killing of Lebanese deputyMain opposition PASOK leader and Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou on Thursday condemned Wednesday's killing of a Lebanese deputy expressing his "abhorrence".
"I want to express my abhorrence and condemn the terrorist attack in Beirut, which resulted in the death of Walid Eido, his son and another six personds while injuring a considerable number of citizens," Papandreou said in a statement issued by the party.
"We condemn every attempt to destabilise Lebanon, the unity of the Lebanese people through political murders or other terrorist actions and we reconfirm our committment to support in every possible way the country's stability, sovereignty and political independence," he added.
According to the PASOK press release, Papandreou held a telephone conversation with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa in view of the special meeting of foreign ministers of Arab countries in Cairo on Friday, which is expected to examine the Palestinian issue and developments in Lebanon.
Earlier, Papandreou also held a telephone conversation with Shimon Peres whom he congratulated for his election to the post of president of Israel.
The SI president also sent a telegramme congratulating Ehoud Barak for his election as leader of Israel's Labour Party.
 PASOK leader to attend int'l conference on climate changeMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou met on Thursday with Andreas A. Papandreou, who is a member of the organising committee of an international conference on climate changes and energy security, to be held in Athens on October 14.
Andreas A. Papandreou told reporters after the meeting that had briefed the PASOK leader, who is also his brother, on the conference which is organised under the auspices of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, noting that "dealing with climate change is a moral obligation for all politicians and all political forces."
He also confirmed that the PASOK leader will be present at the conference. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has also confirmed his itention to attend the same conference, after a meeting he had with A. Papandreou earlier this week.
 PASOK party spokesman on bonds issueMain opposition PASOK party spokesman Petros Efthymiou on Thursday expressed confidence that "justice, honouring its independence, will not restrict its investigation on the bonds issue to what the government wants, meaning to one bond and four social insurance funds."
Efthymiou raised once again the issue of political responsibilities, saying that "particularly after the deposition to the Parliamentary Economic and Social Affairs Committee by JP Morgan's official Mr. Stott, this issue is pending and, indeed, in an open way now."
He claimed that political responsibilities fall on Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas and Finance Ministry secretary general George Kouris, as well as on former labour minister Savvas Tsitouridis and former labour ministry secretary Papadopoulos and the reponsibility falls on the prime minister for all of them together.
Efthymiou termed JP Morgan "a participant and accomplice in the apparatus for the issuing of the sinful bond" and added that now "it is a participant and accomplice in the cover-up operation."
Asked whether the bonds issue is the beginning and the end of PASOK's election tactic, Efthymiou said that the party's election tactic has been shaped ever since it called for elections for five reasons and the bonds issue is not included among them.
 KKE leader addresses gathering at Athens University Law FacultyCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Thursday night addressed a gathering of professors and employees of universities and technical institutes at the Athens University's Law Faculty.
"In the ballot box are not judged some isolated problems, no matter how serious they may be, but the programme and practice of parties," Papariga said.
"What will be judged in the next elections, will be overall policy in the field of the economy, social policy and the political system, and in general the ideological fabric, the stance and position on the international system of capitalism," she added.
Lastly, Papariga referred to the Palestinian issue, saying that "regardless of the internal factors that determine developments in Palestine, the United States as well as their European partners have a criminal responsibility above all for failing to provide a solution all these years," adding that "they are proceeding with the economic exclusion of Palestine and they are acquitting Israeli occupation, planning through a civil war to literally dissolve the dreams and hopes of the Palestinians for their own independent country."
 Turkey seeking to slide out of July 8 agreement, Cyprus president tells ANA-MPANICOSIA (ANA-MPA - A. Viketos)
Turkey appears to be trying to slide out of agreements made for progress on the Cyprus issue, especially the agreement of July 8, 2006, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said in an exclusive interview with the ANA-MPA released on Thursday.
"It is my belief that the Turkish side wants to return to the position that the Annan plan, with a few decorative modifications, must be the basis for finding a solution to the Cyprus problem," Papadopoulos said, adding that this was the main reason why the July 8 agreement had not been implemented so far.
He also categorically denied that his government had relegated a solution to the Cyprus problem to the distant future - stressing that he a solution was urgent but could not be found unilaterally - or that his policies were leading to the permanent division of the island republic.
"I reject that charge as unacceptable because, apart from anything else, everyone knows that the conditions for promoting the separatist goals of the Turkish side did not originate with the Greek side or with me but from the occupation of Turkish forces and the climate cultivated in the past that the Annan plan - which contains divisive provisions - could be acceptable," Papadopoulos stressed.
The Cyprus president blamed the current stalemate over the Cyprus issue on the reluctance of the Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot side to engage in substantial talks and the failure to implement the July 8 agreement, which called for setting up technical committees and working teams to carefully prepare the groundwork for talks on a Cyprus solution.
He pointed out that the two sides on the island had reached a "common understanding" regarding the composition and the start of the operation of the working groups envisioned under the July 8 deal in March but that the Turkish side had then abandoned the effort.
According to Papadopoulos, the Turkish-Cypriot side was seeking to extricate itself from the process initiated by UN Undersecretary General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari, which departed from the Annan plan.
"This policy is dictated by Ankara and we know this with certainty," the Cyprus president added.
Asked to comment on Turkey's insistence on arguments that the Turkish-Cypriots were "economically excluded", Papadopoulos said that Ankara was no longer pushing for the recognition of the illegal regime in northern Cyprus as a separate state, since that would automatically exclude it from the European Union and the concomitant benefits, but was now attempting to "upgrade" the status of the illegal regime in a mistaken interpretation of both the letter and spirit of the 2004 EU directive for direct trade with Turkish-Cypriots.
He stressed, also, that the term "direct trade" did not arise in any part of the resolution of April 2004 nor in the later regulation arising from it.
"We have stated to the European Union, and we constantly raise and argue in all countries and forums, that the so-called 'direct trade' does not aim at the economic growth of Turkish-Cypriots nor does it promote the second part of the decision of April 26, which is "to promote the economic integration and reunification of Cyprus. Therefore, every provision of the regulation that does not serve reunification we legitimately and justifiably reject," he said.
Asked whether Cyprus' position was understood by its EU partners and the international community, Papadopoulos claimed that Nicosia's view was increasingly accepted and that more and more EU member-states agreed that Turkey was seeking political rather than economic benefits via the regulation.
Regarding the approach of the new United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the Cyprus issue, Papadopoulos said that the Secretary-General did not appear to have arrived at any firm opinion yet, adding that they were due to meet in September when the Cyprus president went to New York for the UN General Assembly.
 Finance minister and EU Commissioner Spidla discuss reformsNational Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday discussed the government's reform programme and the new policies that include operational programmes within the National Strategic Reference Framework during a meeting with visiting European Commissioner Vladimir Spidla, responsible for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities.
Alogoskoufis stated after the meeting that the common goal set was to improve the employment rate, which is low in Greece compared to other EU member states, adding that among the issues discussed was the high percentage of structural unemployment in Greece and the low effectiveness of social spending.
Alogoskoufis added that structural unemployment is being tackled, while at the same time seeking higher employment rates to preserve and boost growth and social cohesion. He also stated that he briefed the European Commissioner on the Greek government's intention to establish a national poverty fund that will be financed with 2 billion euros over the next 4 years.
The finance minister also said that cooperation between the Greek government and the European Commission on the issues under discussion was very good.
On his part, the European Commissioner noted that the two sides have an agreement regarding the tracing of problems, adding that growth rates were high, the progress made by the Greek economy was excellent, and economic indexes were in very good shape but that there were limitations due to the structural problems that need to be faced.
Spidla added that the programmes related with employment, vocational training, manpower and management will be studied by the European Commission and are expected to be finalized in early fall.
 Interior minister holds talks with EU Commissioner Spidla on administrative reformInterior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and European Union Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Vladimir Spidla, who is currently on a visit to Athens, held talks on Thursday on the Special Administrative Reform Operational Programme, that is being financed by the European Social Fund.
Speaking after the meeting, Pavlopoulos said that "Greece, for the first time, is shaping a Special Operational Programme on the reforming of Public Administration," adding that it should have been done in the year 2000 in the 3rd Community Support Framework.
"We are doing it now and we are in the last stage of its approval in its entirety. As it is known, it has been approved as a Programme in general, but we must also agree on individual issues," he said.
The minister also said that the countries that have implemented such a programme are not many and thanked Spidla for his assistance and his interest.
 EU, Greece agree on human resources development programmeEmployment and Social Protection Minister Vasilis Magginas on Thursday announced an agreement with the European Commission to promote a "Human Resources Development 2007-2013) operational programme.
Speaking to reporters, in a joint news conference with EU Commissioner Vladimir Spidla, the Greek minister stressed the programme's main goal by the end of 2013 was to better exploit human resources as a driving engine for economic growth and strengthening social cohesion in the country. The EU will cover 2.26 billion euros with the Greek state covering the remaining 3.1 billion euros of the programme.
The main goals of the operational programme are: raising the percentage of adult participation in vocational training from 1.8 pct currently to 6.0 pct by 2013, boosting the participation of workers in training programmes from 0.9 pct to 7.0 pct and raising the number of long-term unemployed people to energetic policies to 25.
Speaking to reporters, Spidla said Greece was currently enjoying a marvelous period, ranking among EU member-states with the highest growth rate, but stressed that the labour market could become a long-term hurdle to further progress and urged for the need of reforms in the labour market.
 Employment minister addresses event on European Social FundGreece will receive European Union funding during the 2007-2013 period for the human potential development sector, funds amounting to 2.2 billion euros and this only concerns the development of human resources.
Funding in this sector, together with national participation, will exceed 3 billion euros. There will also be more EU funding in other social sectors as well, meaning sectors financed by the European Social Fund.
This was revealed during an address made on Thursday night by Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas during a celebration held in the Roman Agora for the 50th anniversary of the European Social Fund.
Magginas underlined the great contribution of the European Social Fund to Greek society during all past years since Greece acceeded to the Union and referred at length to the European social model.
 Papoulias receives FinMin AlogoskoufisPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, with the latter later telling reporters that he briefed the president over a recent milestone EU decision abrogating an excessive deficit procedure against Greece.
Alogoskoufis again reiterated that the economy has still not been fully restructured, as he cited ongoing reforms, fiscal adaptation, the better operation of a "social state" and the social security system.
Earlier, Papoulias received the president of the Economy and Social Policy Committee (OKE), Christos Polyzogopoulos, a high ranking main opposition PASOK cadre and former GSEE union leader.
 Greek inflation unchanged at 2.6% in May, EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
Greece's annual inflation stood at 2.6 pct in May, unchanged from April, Eurostat announced on Thursday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report published here, said the inflation rate was unchange in the Eurozone at 1.9 pct, down from 2.5 pct in May 2006, while the EU-25 the inflation rate fell to 2.1 pct in May, down from 2.2 pct in April and 2.4 pct in May 2006.
Malta (-1.0 pct), France and Sweden (1.2 pct each) recorded the lowest inflation rates in the EU, while Hungary (8.4 pct), Latvia (7.8 pct) and Estonia (5.9 pct) recorded the highest rates.
The inflation rate rose in 11 member-states, it was unchanged in three and fell in 12 members-states. There were no figures for Portugal.
 Gov't to set up digital security action groupEconomy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday said his ministry was setting up an action group on digital security in order to better coordinate agencies and independent authorities for the protection of the public vis-a-vis digital technology.
The ministry said there was a problem with digital security in the country, saying that this negatively affects a relation between citizens and technology. "There are people using unfair means and practices to take advantage of technology for criminal activities. There is always a danger," Alogoskoufis said, adding:
"That's why we must enhance the efficiency of a mechanism protecting citizens from electronic fraud and abuse of free access to the Internet. Citizens must have full confidence in technology."
The action group aims to disseminate information to the public and enterprises regarding digital risks and ways of dealing with them.
 Fuel whosale market steadily growing in Greece, reportFuel wholesale trading companies operating in Greece continued their strategic expansion and network restructuring in 2006, a report by Hellastat said on Thursday.
The report noted that the promotion of biofuels in the European energy charter is one of the priorities of the European Union in its effort to introduce "green" energy sources. The EU has set a target for biofuels to account for 5.75 pct of total fuel used in transportation by 2010.
Hellastat said that already some domestic enterprises have begun activities to benefit from this new opportunity by setting up subsidiaries and investing in building processing and production facilities for biofuels.
The domestic wholesale fuel market continued growing in 2006, with the total turnover of the 19 enterprises in the sector at 9.05 billion euros, up 15.8 pct from 2005. Pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings totalled 170 million euros last year, down 19 pct from 2005, reflecting negative EBITDA results by the three largest enterprises in the sector. Aegean was the only wholesaler to report a strong EBITDA growth rate (15.1 pct), with Avinoil up 1.0 pct last year. Net average pre-tax profit margin rose 1.3 pct in 2006.
 Greek export price index in farm sector fell 5.5 pct in April, yr/yrGreece's export price index in the farm sector fell by 5.5 pct in April compared with the same month last year, while the import price index rose 3.6 pct over the same period, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The export price index rose 1.3 pct in April from March 2007, while the import price index fell 0.1 pct over the same period.
 Halcor to pay out 0.085-euros per share dividendA Halcor annual regular shareholders' meeting on Thursday approved a board plan to pay a 0.085-euros per share dividend to shareholders, up 31 percent from the previous year.
Halcor's board, presenting its goals for the year, said volume was steadily rising, mainly in industrial copper products, zinc and wires, while it offered estimates over the impact on the company from a significant increase in copper prices and fluctuations in international markets.
The shareholders' meeting approved last year's results.
Halcor's board attributed improved 2006 results to a more efficient performance of subsidiaries in Greece and abroad.
 Production index in construction sector up 14.3 pct in Q1The production index in the construction sector jumped by 14.3 percent in the first quarter of 2007, compared with the same period last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The production index in the construction sector, however, was down 31.1 percent in the January-March period compared with the October-December 2006 period.
 Greek stocks rebound on Thursday, end 0.89 pct upGreek stocks rebounded on Thursday supported by renewed buying interest for blue chip stocks in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index rose 0.89 pct to end at 4,859 points, with turnover a heavy 518.2 million euros, of which 144.1 million euros were block trades.
All sector indices moved higher with the exception of Constructions and Travel (down 0.24 pct and 0.04 pct, respectively). Utilities (4.62 pct), Media (2.62 pct) and Healthcare (2.02 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.
The Big Cap index rose 0.62 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.74 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 1.26 pct.
Fintexport (12.82 pct), Multirama (12.77 pct) and Levenderis (12.73 pct) were top gainers, while Galis (9.74 pct), Vis (7.74 pct) and Ekter (6.54 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 187 to 83 with another 36 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.81%
Personal & Household: +0.40%
Raw Materials: +0.92%
Travel & Leisure: -0.04%
Food & Beverages: +1.89%
Financial Services: +0.41%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Eurobank, National Bank, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 23.10
Public Power Corp (PPC): 22.42
HBC Coca Cola: 32.92
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.58
Emporiki Bank: 21.18
National Bank of Greece: 41.20
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 26.08
Titan Cement Company: 42.74
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.852 billion euros on Thursday, of which 1.324 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.258 billion euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 765 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.20 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.84 pct and the German Bund 4.64 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 3.85 pct, the two-day rate was 4.08 pct, the one-month rate 4.10 pct and the 12-month rate 4.49 pct.
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover a strong 383.727 million euros.
The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.09 pct and on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.19 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 22,337 contracts worth 287.447 million euros, with 39,243 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 616 contracts worth 19.229 million euros with 1,574 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 45,545 contracts worth 77.050 million euros, with investment interest focusing on ATEbank's contracts (7,584), followed by Eurobank (1,663), Hellenic Telecoms (3,295), PPC (3,106), National Bank (4,196), Alpha Bank (4,464), Intracom (7,342) and Mytilneos (1,369).
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.341
Pound sterling 0.681
Danish kroner 7.505
Swedish kroner 9.491
Japanese yen 164.87
Swiss franc 1.668
Norwegian kroner 8.172
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.431
Australian dollar 1.606
 EU announces slight decrease in Europe's greenhouse gas emissions for 2005BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas on Thursday welcomed the same-day announcement of results regarding the European Union's greenhouse gas emissions, which fell by 0.7 percent in 2005.
Conversely, he also urged member-states to "accelerate structural economic changes to ensure deeper, lasting emission cuts." The emissions fall in 2005 took EU-27 emissions to 11percent below their levels in the Kyoto Protocol's base year (1990 for most countries and gases) and EU-15 emissions to 2 percent. The EU-15 is committed under Kyoto to ensuring that its emissions between 2008 and 2012 average at least 8 percent below base year levels.
"It is very encouraging that we are cutting emissions while the European economy grows strongly," Dimas said, "but it is clear that many member states need to accelerate their efforts to limit emissions significantly if the EU is to meet its Kyoto target. With the adoption of long-term emission reduction targets by EU leaders in March, there is no reason to wait to take bold steps to achieve the necessary structural changes in how we produce and use energy. Doing so will ensure that emissions cuts become progressively deeper and remain permanent. "
CO2 emissions from public electricity and heat production fell by 0.9percent due mainly to a reduction in the use of coal. CO2 emissions from households and services decreased by 1.7percent, with substantial falls in Germany, UK and the Netherlands. One general reason for this was the milder than usual winter. Germany also achieved significant reductions in methane emissions from the waste sector as a number of innovative policies and measures began to bear fruit.
Among EU-15 member states Spain recorded the biggest emissions increase in absolute terms in 2005, with a rise of 3.6 percent or 15.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents.
Poland saw the biggest emissions increase in absolute terms among the EU-12 member states, with a rise of 0.6 percent or 2.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents. This was due mainly to a 1percent increase in fugitive methane emissions from energy and rises in methane and nitrous oxide emissions from the agriculture sector of 5 percent and 4.5 percent respectively. Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia also saw emissions increases in 2005.
 Minister of State on conference on 'Handicapped people and the mass media'The 2nd International Conference on "Handicapped people and the mass media" to be held on June 18-19, as well as the 1st E-Motion Pictures International Festival "Documentary and Disability", on June 16-18, will be organised at the initiative of Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, by the General Communication Secretariat-General Information Secretariat.
"The issues preoccupying handicapped citizens are part of wider concern over the quality of democracy, for the consolidation of the rights of all citizens in practice. In this framework, we are organising the 2nd International Conference on the issue of 'Handicapped people and the mass media", as well as the 1st International Festival 'Documentary and disability'," Roussopoulos said in a statement.
He added that "as regards the mass media, they can contribute to informing and sensitising the public on disability issues and to widening the access of our fellow countrymen with a disability to their entertainment and information content."
The minister concluded by saying that these are the first sustained steps on an issue concerning society in its entirety and requires a joint effort, an issue that all have a duty to contribute to.
 Greek-US leader Spirou unveils initiative on Hagia Sophia; Congressional hearing next WednesdayA nascent international initiative to restore the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul as a place of worship for all the world's Christians was outlined here on Thursday by veteran Greek-American political leader Chris Spirou, less than a week before a public hearing is scheduled on the religious monument's condition at the US Congress.
Spirou, a noted New Hampshire Democratic leader and long-time activist for Greek national issues in the United States, said the organisation he heads up (Free Agia Sophia Council of America) will present evidence showing the "violation" of Eastern Orthodoxy's most renowned basilica over the past 554 years.
"We will demonstrate that the violations have turned this most sacred site for Christians into an international bazaar. We will present our belief, as a Council that believes in human rights, that no government has the right to determine the use of a church or has the right to appoint or approve of religious faiths, to ordain priests or to determine holy figures," Spirou charged in a clear reference to the Turkish government.
He nevertheless stressed -- at the beginning of his comments during a press conference in Athens -- that the initiative has absolutely nothing to do with Greece or sensitive Greek-Turkish relations and US-Turkish relations, or even Greek-US-Turkish relations. He also said he has had no contacts with Greek officials or the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the campaign, noting that he learned of his invitation to appear before the joint Congressional Human Rights Caucus while on a visit to Athens.
"The Ecumenical Patriarch is in the same position as the Hagia Sophia. He (the Patriarch) is in captivity ... I don't want to worsen his position," Spirou said in answer to a press question.
He also cited the restoration of a cathedral in the Kremlin and recent court decisions in Hungary as a precedent for restoring a place of worship to its original function.
Moreover, he emphasised that the Hagia Sofia is to Orthodox Christians what St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is to Roman Catholics, or the Wailing Wall to Jews and Mecca to Muslims.
Finally, he distanced himself from any potential "provocation" vis-à-vis Turkey, saying "the time has come for the leaders of the country in which the Hagia Sophia is located to see the legitimacy of our demands and join us in returning it to its rightful place, as a church of the Christian faith."
The Congressional Human Rights Caucus will convene next Wednesday to focus on reports of violations, brought up by the Council, 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.
The hearing will be chaired by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Ca), the chairman of the influential House Committee on Foreign Affairs, with Spirou representing the Free Agia Sophia Council of America group during his testimony before the caucus.
 PM, ministers visit Archbishop Christodoulos in hospitalPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday morning visited Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece in hospital, where he is being treated after an operation.
The prime minister arrived at 9:00, stayed with the archbishop for a few minutes and left shortly before 9:30.
Christodoulos also received visits from Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou and Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos. Both said that they found the Archbishop in good condition, optimistic and in a humourous mood.
Shortly afterwards, Christodoulos also received a visit from main opposition PASOK MP Christos Protopapas.
 Foreign ministry and Alexandria Patriarchate begin new aid effortThe Patriarchate of Alexandria on Thursday announced that it was beginning a new effort to provide humanitarian support to the peoples of Africa, in collaboration with the Greek foreign ministry.
The announcement was made by the Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa Theodoros II and foreign ministry official Giorgos Pandremenos, who heads the political office of Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, after a meeting they had in Alexandria.
The new five-year programme will be carried out by the Patriarchate's newly-formed Developmental Office, in cooperation with the foreign ministry and all its archdioceses.
Pandremenos also announced that the foreign ministry will this week assess a study that has been submitted for the renovation of the Aghios Georgios monastery in old Cairo.
 Creation of Action Group for Digital SafetyAll citizens have the possibility, as of Thursday, to obtain information on the activities of the "Action Group for Digital Safety" through the website www.dart.gov.gr that provides useful information and practical advice on issues concerning new information and electronic communication technologies.
According to Special Digital Planning Secretary professor V. Asimakopoulos, the DART-Digital Awareness & Response to Threats portal will function as an information-prevention-handling centre for every citizen and it already includes an initial block of information that will be enriched gradually.
 Stolen statue of Apollo returned to GreeceThe Greek government on Thursday praised the return of a marble statue of the Olympian god Apollo, 16 years after the artefact was stolen, along with nine other items, from a museum on Crete.
The unconditional agreement to return the priceless statue, depicting a male marble torso, was reached with a Swiss art dealer with the mediation of the Swiss government, after the statue was tracked to Berne, Switzerland.
The statue, temporarily kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, was discovered by Italian archaeologist Federico Halbherr in the 19th century during excavations in Gortyna, Crete. It is believed to be a 1st century AD replica of a famed statue found in ancient Athens created by either by famed 4th century BC ancient sculptor Praxiteles or one of his students.
Greek Culture Minister George Voulgarakis hailed the return of the artefact, the latest in a string of high-profile repatriations of antiquities smuggled out of Greece.
 Healthcare coverage available for Greek-Australians in GreeceMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)
Greece's Employment and Social Protection Ministry has confirmed that the social Security Agreement signed by Greece and Australia provides for the healthcare coverage of the Greek-Australian old-age pensioners, the Greek-Australian newspaper Neos Kosmos reported on Thursday.
The agreement signed during the recent visit of Greece's Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to Australia provides for the healthcare coverage of Greek-Australian pensioners who will return to Greece or for pensioners who have already returned to Greece under certain conditions.
According to the employment ministry Interstate Social Security office, the main condition in order to be eligible for full healthcare coverage is to have completed 15 years of aggregated periods of insurance in the two countries (Greece and Australia).
The Greek-Australians who receive pensions from only from Australia because they have not worked in Greece at all will have to pay 8.5 percent of their Australian pension (42 euros a month minimum) to the Social Insurance Institute (IKA) in order to have healthcare coverage during their stay in Greece.
The social insurance agreement will be put into effect soon after its ratification by the Australian government. A team of employment and social protection ministry officials will visit Australia next month to discuss issues related to the implementation of the agreement with their Australian counterparts.
 'Chaotic Revolutionary Nuclei' assume responsibility for Patra National Bank blastThe "Chaotic Revolutionary Nuclei" group, in its first appearance, assumed responsibility in a phone call to the newspaper "Peloponnisos" for an explosion occurring at dawn on Thursday at a National Bank branch in the western city of Patra.
An unidentified call said that the act took place "as an indication of solidarity for the three persons arrested at Paleo Faliro, on the outskirts of Athens, last week while they were attempting to place gas cannisters under a vehicle belonging to the municipal police.
The explosive device used at the National Bank branch was composed of three gas cannisters tied to each other with a piece of tape and a piece of cloth dipped in fuel. The ensuing explosion caused only limited material damage.
 World Special Olympic Games in Athens in 2011The World Special Olympic Games of 2011 will be held in Athens, according to an announcement by the Greek Bid Committee on Thursday. The decision was taken by the International Special Olympics Committee, following a detailed check and assessment made of all candidacies.
The Bid Committee was comprised of personalities of the country's public life. Its Honourary President was the prime minister's wife, Natasha Pazaiti-Karamanli and the President was Yianna Despotopoulou, President of Special Olympics Hellas.
Meanwhile, the XII World Special Olympic Games will be held in Shanghai, China, between October 2-11, 2007, with the participation of 7,500 athletes, 3,500 trainers, 45,000 volunteers and 20,000 members of their families, from 160 countries.
The World Special Olympic Games are the greatest sports, humanitarian and social event of 2007 that will be given coverage, apart from China's state-run television, by the international mass media, while they will be watched by personalities from the politicial, sports and artistic sectors from all over the world.
 Cloud, showers on FridayCloudy weather and showers on continental Greece, particularly in the north of the country, are expected on Friday. Winds light. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 19C and 32C and in Thessaloniki from 18C to 31C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceFormer US vice president Al Gore's address and slide show in Athens on the environment, the latest developments in the structured bonds affair, Middle East strife, an amendment blocking the demolition of illegal constructed buildings in forests, the Supreme Court's rulings regarding public-sector contract staff and a top body's decision that legalises penalties for early payment of fixed-interest housing loans were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Bonds: the 'black propaganda' is shot down. Not one shred of evidence against a member of government".
APOGEVMATINI: "Sympathy for Archbishop. He was successfully operated on at Aretaio (Hospital) - In intensive care from today until this afternoon".
AVGHI: "Against contract workers and in favour of banks! The Supreme Court under the guidance of Kedikoglou", referring to Supreme Court decisions on contract workers and penalties for early payment of mortgages.
AVRIANI: "Papamarkakis who grabbed the kickbacks from the structured bonds trusted by the Simitis system".
CHORA: "Prices are changing for more than 700 medicines. The new list on Friday".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Though finance ministers under PASOK denied that Papamarkakis was their advisor, the evidence shows that they played ...BLUEGREEN JP Morgana with the bonds" (refers to revelations in Parliament that North Asset Management director Papamarkakis had past contacts with PASOK governments.
ELEFTHEROS: "Avramopoulos 'missile'. He spoke of weaknesses of the political system.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Banks win on 'penalty' points. Penalties for early settlement of housing loans made legal".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "They are driving them to mutual slaughter. Middle East: The U.S., their friends and the UN a little bit".
ESTIA: "PASOK's goal is a marginal defeat so as to avoid a major internal party crisis".
ETHNOS: "Corruption at the Supreme Court. Unprecedented manipulation with contract staff as victims".
KATHIMERINI: "The environment, the 'Thermopylae' of the 21st century. Gore's declaration in Athens. Karamanlis: we will not be complacent".
LOGOS: "SOS for the environment...issued by former U.S. vice-president Al Gore".
NIKI: "Bitter pill. Increases of up to 28.5% in medication decided by government".
RIZOSPASTIS: "KKE: 'No essential differences between ND and PASOK'. What and who is discomfited by this KKE position".
TA NEA: "Ministry - JP Morgan skip from lie to lie. String of contradictions over bonds affair".
TO PONTIKI: "Kouris also ready for 'meat hook'. Bonds: Instead of subsiding, the scandal threatens to engulf yet more".
TO VIMA: "They (the government) are also sacrificing the forests pre-electorally. Surprise amendment in Parliament".
VRADYNI: "The conspiracy has collapsed. Akropolis was 'green' [colours of the main opposition PASOK party], Papamarkakis was also 'green'. Bonds affair a boomerang for PASOK".
 Government denounces efforts for the illegal settling of RizokarpasoNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Cyprus government has made representations to the UN denouncing the effort of the occupying regime to promote the illegal settling of the occupied village of Rizokarpaso, in the Karpass peninsula.
Invited to comment reports about illegal settling of Rizokarpaso, Government Spokesman Vassilis Palmas said that "it is a fact that the Turkish forces continue the destruction of our heritage and of the properties of Greek Cypriot at Rizokarpaso."
"This situation is completely unacceptable and shows the real face of the occupation, and the establishment of a fait accompli," he added, noting that "the Government has made all the representations that it should do and by which it denounces this stance and behaviour of the
Turks," noting that representations have been made to the UN.
Replying to a question, Palmas said the government has learned that plots of land at the area will be given to Turkish nationals who will settle there, noting however that this information is not 100% confirmed.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
 UN Security Council to renew UNFICYP's mandateUNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The UN Security Council is expected to approve on Friday a resolution renewing for a further six-month period the mandate of the UN Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
After consultations the big "5" of the 15-member international body have agreed to a draft resolution, expected to be approved unanimously, UN sources told CNA.
The draft resolution reaffirms that the status quo in Cyprus is unacceptable and that the time is not on the side of a settlement and that negotiations on a final political solution of the Cyprus problem have been at an impasse for too long.
The Council expresses full support of the 8 July process, notes with concern the lack of progress and calls upon all parties involved to immediately engage constructively with the UN's efforts to demonstrate "measurable progress in order to allow fully-fledged negotiations to begin, and cease mutual recriminations."
The draft resolution welcomes the principles and decisions enshrined in the 8 July agreement, stressing that a comprehensive settlement based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation and political equality, "is both desirable and possible and should not be further delayed."
The Security Council agrees with the Secretary General that the responsibility of finding a solution lies first and foremost with the Cypriots themselves and notes that the primary role of the United Nations in assisting the parties to bring the Cyprus conflict and division of the island to a comprehensive and durable settlement.
Turkish troops have been occupying 37 per cent of Cyprus territory since 1974, ignoring repeated UN resolutions calling for their immediate withdrawal from this east Mediterranean island, an EU member state since 2004.
 Italian PM undertakes initiative to save Cyprus' cultural heritageNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Prime Minister of Italy Romano Prodi is undertaking an initiative to save Christian and other cultural monuments in Cyprus Turkish occupied areas and to promote the demand of the Church of Cyprus for the maintenance and renovation of Cyprus' occupied monuments.
Prodi met Thursday in Rome with Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who said after the meeting that the Cyprus delegation explained to Prodi the situation as regards the destruction of churches in Cyprus' occupied areas adding that the Italian Prime Minister pledged that he will discuss the issue with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and other EU leaders during the forthcoming European Council in Brussels.
"He assured that they will all work together so that Europe will exert pressure on Turkey to stop this vandalism and the destruction of our churches because this is not an issue concerning only us but the whole humanity," he added.
"This is the heritage of the whole world, it concerns him personally but it also concerns Europe. I am sure that they will exert pressure to stop the destruction of our churches," he added.
The Archbishop said that during the meeting Prodi asked him about the Annan plan. "I answered that the plan was not functional and not viable and if it were accepted and collapsed later, then the Cypriots would search for another homeland."
Earlier the Archbishop was declared Honourary Doctor of the Pontifical Urbaniana University in the field of missionary work.
On 24 April 2004, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities were called to approve or reject in two separate referenda the UN envisaged Annan plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. The overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriot community rejected the plan while the majority of the Turkish Cypriot community approved it.
The Republic of Cyprus entered the EU in May 2004. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 EU Commission to contribute to restoration of churches in occupied CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The European Commission has the intention to contribute to the preservation and restoration of Christian Churches and other religious and cultural monuments which are found in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus.
This is stated in a press release issued by Cypriot European Parliament Member Yiannakis Matsis, who recently met with Andrew Rasbash, European Commission Head of Unit in charge of the Turkish Cypriot community.
The Cypriot MEP, accompanied by Chairman of the Committee of Budgets of the European Parliament, Reimer Boege, met with Rasbash in the framework of Matsis' and Boege's efforts for the protection of the cultural heritage in the northern occupied part of Cyprus.
"During the meeting, Matsis, Boege and Rasbash had a constructive exchange of views and it was also noted that the Commission has the intention to contribute to the preservation and restoration of Christian churches and other religious and cultural monuments which are found in the occupied part of Cyprus", the press release says.
As a result of the Turkish invasion and occupation, more than 133 churches, chapels and monasteries that are located in the northern part of Cyprus, controlled by the Turkish army since 1974, have been desecrated, 78 churches have been converted into mosques, 28 are used as military depots and hospitals, and 13 are used as stockyards.
Their ecclesiastical items, including more than 15,000 icons, have been illegally removed and their location remains unknown.
According to the Cypriot Department of Antiquities, the most significant and priceless of these icons have already been auctioned off and sold by art dealers abroad.
The Republic of Cyprus, divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third, became a full EU member state in May 2004.
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