|Tuesday, 13 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-06-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 16 June 2007 Issue No: 2620
 Greek and Portuguese PMs discuss European constitutional treaty, EU enlargementLISBON (ANA-MPA/S. Goutzanis)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Portuguese counterpart Jose Socrates on Friday discussed the Portuguese presidency's agenda: the revision of the European constitutional treaty, the enlargement of the European Union, climatic changes, combined with energy policy, relations between the EU and Russia and the EU's new sea policy.
Karamanlis said in a statement that Portugal is assuming, on July 1st, the EU's presidency at a focal moment for a series of issues. He said that one of the most important issues is the revision of the European constitutional treaty. A solution must be found at the next European Council that will enable the EU to forge ahead united and strong.
The prime minister underlined his adherence to the basis of the text and stressed that its essence and balance must be maintained. He expressed the conviction and the optimism that a brief and specific mandate must be given so that a solution can be found before the Euroelections in 2009.
Referring to EU enlargement, Karamanlis said that it must move on two axes: firstly, it must be continued with cautious steps and with the criterion of the EU's effective functioning and, secondly, the European adjustment of countries must be based on the full implementation of the EU's criteria.
He further noted that as far as Greece is concerned, which neighbours countries interested to join, enlargement will be a positive development on condition, however, that the structures of these countries will be really Europeanised and will be adjusted to European attitudes.
Karamanlis also referred to relations between the EU and Russia, pointing out that existing obstacles must be lifted and the new cooperation agreement must be signed.
Socrates said on his part that he and Karamanlis have the same concerns and the same view on the future of the EU, as well as on a series of issues that will be examined during his country's presidency.
He also considers as being important issues the EU's relations with Russia, Brazil and China and made special reference to the EU's relations with the Mediterranean's southern countries and those of the Middle East.
Before having a working lncheon with his Portuguese counterpart, Karamanlis visited Lisbon's National Archaeology Museum where he was also given a guided tour of a special sector displaying ancient Greek urns.
 FM address PER roundtable on Balkan stabilityForeign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Friday inaugurated a two-day round-table discussion on "The Balkans as a source of security and stability in Europe", organised in Athens by the Princeton-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) "Project on Ethnic Relations" (PER).
The event, financed by the US Service for International Development and the foreign ministries of Greece and Switzerland, will run through Saturday at a central Athens hotel, under the Aegis of the Greek foreign ministry, and is attended by political leaders from all the countries of SE Europe, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland and the US, as well as officials of the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the United Nations (UN).
Opening the discussion, Bakoyannis said it offered "an opportunity for an exchange of views on the region", and expressed conviction that such an event "will shed new light on the consolidation of peace and stability in southeastern Europe, which is on the road to Ithaca, a long and frequently difficult road".
Bakoyannis welcomed the reopening of negotiations between Serbia and the EU, describing as "fragile" the situation in the region following the end of the clashes of the 1990s, and stressed that "peace in the region is far from being guaranteed".
She also referred to Greece's national strategy, which she said has the support of the Greek public opinion as well as all the Greek political parties and consists of the gradual incorporation of all the countries of SE Europe in the European institutions. On this issue, she described the contribution of former foreign minister George Papandreou, now leader of the main opposition PASOK party, as "significant".
Bakoyannis warned that "the destabilisation of one section of SE Europe could destabilise the entire region", and called the European prospect "the driving force for achieving the necessary changes and reforms inside the countries of the region", explaining that "full compliance with the conditions set out by the EU is the only way to ensure the full accession of the SE European countries into the European family".
She also stressed the need for further development of regional cooperation, stressing that Greece was contributing decisively in that direction both through the Greek investments in the countries of the region -- which the foreign minister noted were in excess of 18 billion dollars -- and through its participation in the construction of infrastructure projects as well as in a series of other sectors, including cooperation in the fields of education, tourism, culture and others.
The two most important issues, she continued, were ensuring stability in Kosovo through a viable and functional settlement that would be backed by a relevant UN resolution and without the imposition of tight time boundaries, and accelerating the domestic reforms in the countries of the region so as to achieve stability in the democratic institutions.
PER president Livia Plaks stressed the need for the active involvement of the Balkan countries in resolving the Kossovi issue, adding that it was necessary to accelerate the accession of all the Balkan countries into the European Union, particularly Albania and FYROM.
 Papandreou condemns violence in Lebanon; conveys congratulations to PeresMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou expressed his condemnation on Friday of yet another bomb attack in Beirut, with the latest terrorist act claiming the life of Lebanese MP Walid Eido, his son and six other people on Wednesday.
Papandreou, who is also the president of the Socialist International, extended his condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and government of Lebanon.
He also condemned any attempt to destabilise Lebanon by targeting the unity of the Lebanese people through political assassinations or other terrorist acts, while he reaffirmed his support in every possible way towards the country's stability, sovereignty and political independence.
According to a PASOK press release, Papandreou spoke by phone with Arab League General Secretary Amr Moussa on Thursday, in view of the Arab foreign ministers' extraordinary meeting in Cairo on Friday, convened to discuss developments in the wider region, and in particular the dire situation in Gaza and Lebanon. The discussion reportedly focused on coordination of initiatives undertaken by Socialist International and the Arab League.
Earlier, Papandreou also spoke with Shimon Peres to congratulate him on his election to the presidency of Israel. Additionally, the PASOK leader sent congratulations to Ehud Barak on his election to the helm of Israel's Labor Party.
 FM Dora Bakoyannis replies to question by PASOK on foreign policyForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, speaking in Parliament on Friday during a debate taking place as a result of a question tabled by the main opposition PASOK party on foreign policy, referred to Greece's relations with the neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
"In the objectively difficult and longstanding issue of achieving an agreement with Skopje (FYROM), the government is following and will continue a policy of determination. The interim agreement does not only apply to us, it also applies to the part concerning Skopje's commitment, to which it is not responding," the foreign minister said.
Called on to clarify the Greek government's policy in relation to FYROM's stance and the prospects of its accession to NATO and the European Union, Bakoyannis reminded that the interim agreement signed by the PASOK government in 1995 gives the neighbouring country the possibility of joining the Euroatlantic structures with its present name (FYROM). However, as she said, "accession to these institutions is not automatic."
Bakoyannis said that "when the time comes, Greece will consider the candidacy of Skopje in its entirety. We shall begin, of course, from whether the government of the neighbouring country is following undeviatingly a policy of good neighbourliness towards a country, Greece, that will be an ally tomorrow, whether, of course, its accession to NATO takes place in the meantime, something that, it is unnecessary for me to remind, necessitates a unanimous decision by the member-states. Actions, attitudes and propaganda of an irredentist logic, such as those mainly adopted by the present government in Skopje, deal a blow at the principles of good neighbourliness, prevent smooth bilateral political communication between the two countries and circumvent specific provisions of the Interim Agreement of 1995."
The foreign minister reminded that the criteria for the accession of candidate countries include "the overall fulfilment of the Ohrid Agreement, the steadfast implementation of a state of law, the democratic and effective functioning of justice and the effective handling of every form of smuggling, including the smuggling of weapons."
She further said that "it is unnecessary for me to add that the prospect of Skopje's accession to NATO with its so-called constitutional name, meaning 'Republic of Macedonia', does merely not exist. However, we shall not exercise, nor shall we be led to policies of domestic consumption and of temporary impressions. And in this hall, the political parties must not allow the repetition of mistakes of the past."
As regards the issue of Cyprus and replying to criticism by the opposition of following a "Pontius Pilate tactic" and of "consciously selecting the strategy of inertia that leads to partition", the foreign minister reiterated that "Greece supports an overall solution to the issue of Cyprus, a Federation and cohabitation on a united island. This, however, does not depend on us alone, but primarily on the Cypriots."
She added that "I think that just as I believe that at the moment the Annan plan is history, PASOK could also see it in the same way, and proceed with its position, whatever this might be, afterwards."
The foreign minister went on to say that "Cyprus is not under guardianship, but it is an independent country. The decisions on the resumption of dialogue were its own decisions, we supported them but, unfortunately, the process froze with the responsibility of the Turkish Cypriot side under pressure by Ankara. I do not think that 2007 is a year of mobility and maybe in 2008 a window of opportunity might present itself, both in Greek-Turkish relations and on the issue of Cyprus."
Regarding developments in Kosovo, Bakoyannis underlined that Greece's position is a "solution without absolute victors and absolute vanquished. This position of ours was also the cause of the EU's decision to give more time for negotiating."
Bakoyannis added that, in any case, the legalisation coming from a Security Council resolution that must have the greatest possible consensus and acceptance, to enable the EU to adopt a unified stance, is absolutely essential.
"The fragmentation of the EU will be a very negative development and the problem will be much greater, if we shall have unilateral actions and unilateral recognitions by various countries," she said.
"No one must accept the possibility of a humiliated Serbia and Serbia must have a tangible European prospect," the foreign minister further said.
Referring, lastly, to the issue of the anti-missile shield, Bakoyannis observed that the issue must be raised in the framework of NATO-Russia dialogue and there should be no actions that will create concerns in a country such as Russia, "which, in any case, is fighting from the same bastion as we are, which is aiming at an effective handling of terrorism and of other asymmetrical threats."
PASOK's Parliamentary representative, Haris Kastanidis, reminded of Russia's "annoyance over past statements by Bakoyannis concerning the anti-missile shield," as well as of the Greek government "being taken by surprise" over the recognition of FYROM by the United States with its constitutional name.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) representative, Orestis Kolozov, called for a peace-loving policy on behalf of Greece and expressed his disagreement with the deployment of American missiles in Europe.
Nikos Constantopoulos, speaking on behalf of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party, requested from Bakoyannis to clarify if she is in principle in favour or against the deployment of the missiles, pointing out that "our interests are not housed with those pursued by the United States. In Kosovo we are seeing a model of generalised implementation of singular protectorates."
Bakoyannis responded to this criticism by saying that "we are neither submissive to the United States nor do we accept orders from anyone. On some issues we agree and on others we disagree, both with American and with other foreign policies."
 PASOK leader to tour Pella, Thessaloniki prefecturesMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou will make a two-day tour of the prefectures of Pella and Thessaloniki beginning Sunday.
More specifically, during his visit to Pella on Sunday, Papandreou will address a political gathering in Yannitsa in the morning, followed by a visit to Meniidos prefecture in the Afternoon.
On Monday morning, he will visit the OAED (Manpower Employment Organisation) Schools in Neapolis, Thessaloniki.
 Serbian defence ministry advisor on visitSerbian defence ministry advisor Dusan Spasojevic paid a courtesty call on Greece's deputy national defence minister Vassilis Michaloliakos in Athens on Friday.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Spasojevic thanked Greece for its assistance in the effort for restructuring of the Serb armed forces.
 Cyprus defence minister due in Athens next weekNICOSIA (CAN/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus' defence minister Christodoulos Pashiardes will pay an official visit to Greece on June 19-20, it was announced here on Friday.
Pashiardes will hold talks with Greek National Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis on bilateral relations and issues of common interest related to the field of defence, according to an announcement issued by the Cyprus' defence ministry.
During his two-day stay in Athens, the Cypriot Minister will lay wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the monument of Greek soldiers killed in Cyprus, and also visit the Military Cadets' Academy.
Pashiardes will be accompanied to Greece by National Guard (Cyprus Army) Commander, Lieutenant General Constantinos Bisbikas.
 Amendment on illegal constructions withdrawnAn amendment tabled in Parliament essentially suspending the demolition of illegal constructions in unmapped forest areas was withdrawn by Agriculture Development Minister Evangelos Basiakos late Wednesday evening following opposition by other parties.
Basiakos cited an absence of consensus in withdrawing the amendment. He also clarified that the issue the legalisation of illegal constructions was not raised.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros later cited the statement made by the minister when asked to comment on information, according to which, the amendment was withdrawn in response to a negative and high-profile reaction by the environment, physical planning and public works ministry.
Antonaros said Basiakos presented a proposal in Parliament suggesting the withdrawal of the amendment, while pointing to those responsible for the existing situation, as he said.
The spokesman stressed that the prime minister's sensitivity toward environmental issues has been displayed in various ways and through specific initiatives, using as an example a sludge drying plant in Psyttalia.
Meanwhile, in answer to press questions on Friday, Antonaros reiterated that the government is not responsible for the outstanding issue of recording Greece's sensitive forestlands on official maps, while stressing that efforts have been made to settle the problem.
"Agriculture Minister Evangelos Basiakos sought consensus of political parties in Parliament but this was deemed impossible," he Antonaros said.
In an unrelated development, he declined comment when asked about a Supreme Court ruling on yet another contract workers' case, pointing out that the current government undertook the initiative to settle the status of thousands of people employed in the wider public sector via temporary contracts.
 Deputy FM Theodoros Kassimis visits AlexandriaALEXANDRIA (ANA-MPA/S. Aravopoulou)
The Greek community in Alexandria gave a warm welcome to Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis on Friday, during his official visit for the inauguration of the historic Patriarchal School of Alexandria which is opening again after 470 years.
Kassimis was received with cordiality at the Patriarchal Mansion in the morning by the Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodoros II. The mansion has been fully renovated over the past two years and hosts the headquarters from which extensive missionary work is being carried out on the black continent.
The Patriarch spoke to Kassimis of this work, through which, as Theodoros said, "the breathe of Greece is being conveyed to the poor countries of Africa" and expressed his gratitude to him, the Greek government and the parties of Greece for the aid they are offering.
Kassimis stressed that the Greek government recognises and supports the Patriarchate's missionary work.
Referring to the Patriarchal School of Alexandria in particular, the deputy foreign minister expressed the gratitude of the Greek government to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for his support enabling it to reopen as a nursery for clerics who, apart from their considerable work, will be able to provide for their congregation in whatever corner they may be serving in.
 Inauguration of diagnostic laboratory in HimareA diagnostic laboratory was inaugurated in Himare, Albania, on Friday in the presence of many dignitaries and crowds of people. The laboratory is a contribution by Hellenicare and was funded by the foreign ministry's International Development Aid Service.
As of Friday, the inhabitants of Himare and of the regions nearby will have access to basic medical tests since the laboratory has been fully equipped with an x-ray and microbiological laboratory, while modern ultrasound and cardiogram apparatuses have also been installed.
The laboratory is operating on premises of the Government Health Centre which totally lacked medical equipment.
 KKE leader addresses women in AspropyrgosCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga addressed on Friday a meeting of women in Aspropyrgos, Western Attica.
Papariga reiterated her criticism of the two mainstream parties, ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement PASOK, saying that both parties were the "parties of plutocracy", adding that "there is not a single social, democratic or political problem which is not related to either ND or PASOK."
Expressing certainty that the two main parties "will never change, because they are parties already shaped", she called on those workers "who have up to now opted for ND and PASOK, to change their choice."
"The ND's or PASOK's so-called social state has no relation whatsoever to policies aiming at the satisfaction of modern and continuously broadening needs of working people, of younger generations, of women," Papariga noted.
Presenting her party's positions on young couples, the KKE leader underlined that "protection of mothers and children, the needs of a young couple wishing to have a child, are affairs pertaining to the state, while the same stands for large families and mothers with children without husbands or fathers with children without wives. Measures are also needed for the support of the family and not just hypocritical measures relating to single persons, without taking into consideration the collective needs of the family and particularly during its first difficult steps."
Papariga also asked for the rendering of "services and care based on state infrastructure and services for handling the problem of the abuse of children," while calling for the abolition of legislation "rendering prostitution a profession in the name of health protection, in the name of legalising illegal activities."
"Prostitution of men and women is a proof of the decomposition of the society of expoiltation and what is needed is the abolition of those factors which breed this anti-social and inhumane phenomenon of vilolence," Papariga concluded.
 LA.OS party leader on FYROM 'name issue'The founder and leader of the out-of-Parliament Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party, Euro-deputy and former New Democracy MP George Karatzaferis, on Friday warned of "serious repercussions" regarding the FYROM "name issue" unless initiatives are undertaken by the country's political leadership.
Karatzaferis, whose party boasts a hard-line stance on the FYROM "name issue", called on the prime minister and main opposition leader to mobilise Euro-MPs affiliated with the European People's Party and the Party of European Socialists, respectively, in favor of Athens' standing positions on the issue.
He made the statement in the northern port city of Thessaloniki in view of discussion over a foreign affairs committee report on FYROM, to be held at a European Parliament plenary session.
 Gov't to pay 3.07 mln euros to 4 pension funds over bond issue; opposition reaxThe government on Friday said it would pay 3,067,762 euros to four state-run pension funds as part of a deal to reverse a transaction involving the purchase of a controversial structured government bond by the four funds.
The money to be paid will cover the interest the funds would have otherwise earned during the period thy held the bond, from February to June 15.
The funds involved are TEADY, the civil servants' supplementary fund; TSEYP, the newspaper vendors' fund; TEAYFE, the pharmaceutical employees' fund, and TEAPOKA, the pension fund employees' fund.
A specific amendment foreseeing the outlay was tabled in Parliament on Friday.
In continuing its attack on the government over the specific bond affair, main opposition PASOK on Friday again referred to a "cover-up effort" and the "looting" of funds' coffers, while charging that the government both "planned and implemented" the questionable practice involved in the purchase of the structured bond and now wants taxpayers to pay the difference.
On its part, a Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) cadre called the government amendment "unacceptable", charging that taxpayers are called on to pay for "dirty transactions".
 Development minister attends event held by Scientific Eolian Energy SocietyDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Friday attended an event held by the Scientific Eolian (wind) Energy Society at Syntagma Square in downtown Athens on World Wind Day being celebrated on the same day.
The minister said that the country will very soon be having the 1000th MW from eolian energy. We have already exceeded the production of electric energy amounting to 800 MW (in 2004 it was less than 400 MW) from eolian parks and the 1000th MW will be established in Greece by the end of the year.
Sioufas said that World Wind Day must be celebrated 365 days a year, he congratulated the Scientific Eolian Energy Society for its symbolic initiative by installing a small wind generator at Syntagma Square, and praised the presence at the event of the relevant Special Environment Committee with its President Mr. Katsiyiannis and its members Sofia Voultepsi and Dimitris Konstantaras.
 Information secretary general addresses CongressWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
Information Secretary General Panos Livadas, addressing Congress on Friday in the presence of officials from senators' and congressmens' offices, underlined the promotion of Greece to an important international business centre and to a gateway for economic infiltration of the wider Balkan region.
Livadas said that, utilising its infrastructures, know-how and human potential, as well as the improvement of its image as a country that is reliable and capable of carrying out great undertakings, that it acquired thanks to the successful hosting of ther Athens Olympic Games, Greece has obtained certain comparative advantages.
He further said that Greece's image as a reliable and international strategic partner was strengthened by the Greek European Union presidency in 2003, the country's constructive participation in the UN Security Council during the 2005-2006 period, while the dismantling of the "November 17" group by the Greek authorities in the summer of 2002, as well as the absolutely safe hosting of the Olympic Games confirmed that Greece is taking the issue of security into consideration with seriousness and is cooperating closely with other countries to safeguard it.
 Alavanos again cites support for permanent status of contract employeesCoalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos on Friday addressed a rally in the west Athens working-class district of Egaleo, where he again expressed his party's support to give tenure to thousands of public sector contract employees.
Alavanos said only his party, the smallest of the four represented in Parliament, truly backed court challenges and mobilisations by contract workers, most employed by numerous municipalities and local governments around the country.
He also charged that a recent Supreme Court decision ruling against the contract workers' main demand was illegitimate, while the party's Euro-MPs are also promoting the cause at the EU level.
In an unrelated development, Alavanos again referred to a recent barrage of charges and counter-charges between his party and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the two leftist parties in the Greek parliament, saying that the latter usually "considers Synaspismos as its chief opponent just prior to local government and general elections."
 Federation head says Greek fish farm industry thrivingGreece's aquaculture industry continues to enjoy significant growth, a seminar organised by the Federation of Greek Mariculture noted on Friday.
Yiannis Stephanis, president of both the Greek and the European federations, presented the industry's performance over the last 20 years, noting that fish farming was an excellent way of exploiting and developing natural resources for Greece and the European Union.
"Step by step the sector's exports have exceeded traditional farm products, such as tobacco and cotton, while we are only 50 million euros short of surpassing the olive oil sector," Stephanis said.
The sector reported a turnover of more than 460 million euros in 2006, with annual production at 100,000 tonnes. Stephanis said 76 pct of total production was exported, resulting in proceeds of 340 million euros for the Greece. The Greek fish farming industry employs around 10,000 people around the country and in remote regions of Greece. Eight enterprises are listed in the Athens Stock Exchange.
The Federation of Greek Mariculture was founded in 1991 and today boasts that the country accounts for around 53 pct of Mediterranean fish production through 340 production facilities.
 Greek trade deficit reaches 9.6 bln euros in Q1, EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
Greece's trade deficit totaled 9.6 billion euros in the first three months of 2007, up 1.4 billion euros from the same period last year, Eurostat said on Friday.
The EU executive's statistics agency said Greek exports totaled 4.4 billion euros in the first quarter, up 15 percent from the same period in 2006, while imports rose 17 pct to 14 billion euros.
Eurostat said Germany (48.5 billion euros), Holland (10.6 bln), Ireland (7.1 bln) and Belgium (4.7 bln) recorded the biggest trade surplus in the January-March period, while the UK (33.7 bln), Spain (22.1 bln), Greece (9.6 bln) and France (8.5 bln) the biggest trade deficit in the EU.
Eurozone recorded a trade surplus of 1.8 billion euros in the first quarter, while the EU-27 a trade deficit of 14.4 billion euros.
 PPC to pay 0.16 euros dividend to shareholdersHigher oil prices had a negative effect on Public Power Corp.'s (PPC) results, Takis Athanasopoulos, the state-run and bourse-listed utility's chairman and chief executive officer said on Friday.
Addressing an annual general shareholders' meeting, Athanasopoulos stressed that in "most European energy markets a regulatory framework links fuel price fluctuations with electricity bills, protecting electricity energy enterprises' profitability from oil price fluctuations".
He stressed that high fuel and natural gas prices and higher spending on energy purchases severely burdened the company's results, from a pre-tax profit of 502 million euros in 2004 to just 42 million euros in 2006.
Athanasopoulos noted, however, that raising bills was not the only way to maintain profitability in the company and stressed that PPC's executives should have labour relations equal to those of competitive enterprises.
Athanasopoulos added that Egyptian telecoms tycoon Naguib Sawiris was an "excellent partner and great investor ... We cooperate with him, listen to his views and proposals, and we examine them," he said.
He said that PPC was examining its position in the market, as well as activities launched in the Greek market by Sawiris, "before we reach our decisions".
Athanasopoulos said PPC has secure power production adequacy to avoid any blackout during the peak summer months, although he noted that an energy shortage was not the only cause of power blackouts or outages.
PPC's board presented a plan to pay a 0.16-euros per share dividend to shareholders.
 Lazaridis to pay out 0.025 euros dividendA Lazaridis general shareholders' meeting on Friday approved a board plan to pay a 0.025-euros per share dividend to shareholders. The shareholders' meeting also unanimously elected a new board for the next five years.
 Greek exports up 7.1 pct in April, yr/yrThe value of import/arrivals in Greece rose by 5.0 percent in April to 4.085 billion euros, up from 3.889 billion in the same period last year, the National Statistical Service announced on Friday.
The service also said the value of export/deliveries rose 7.1 pct in April to 1.286 billion euros, up from 1.202 billion in April 2006.
 Employment in retail sector up 3.1 pct in Q1, yr/yrEmployment in the retail sector rose by 3.1 percent in the first quarter of 2007, compared with the corresponding period last year, the National Statistical Service said on Friday.
The service said that employment in the retail sector was down 2.1 pct in the first three months of 2007 from the October-December 2006 period.
NSS attributed the 3.1 pct rise in the employment rate to a 6.7-pct increase in super market retailers and a 0.8-pct decline in other stores.
 Greek stocks end 0.85 pct higher on FridayGreek stocks ended 0.85 percent higher on Friday, following a strong recovery in other European markets. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange ended at 4,900.51 points with turnover a moderate 358.2 million euros.
Sector indices moved up, with the Food/Beverage (1.30 pct), Chemicals (1.14 pct) and Oil (1.01 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Media (0.36 pct), Commerce (0.15 pct) and Financial Services (0.07 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index rose 0.91 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.42 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.46 pct.
Douros (14.29 pct), Levenderis (12.14 pct) and Koumbas (11.33 pct) were top gainers, while Viosol (9.38 pct), Tsoukaridis (6.98 pct) and Varvaressos (6.25 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 175 to 71 with another 54 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.01%
Personal & Household: +0.93%
Raw Materials: +0.04%
Travel & Leisure: +0.87%
Food & Beverages: +1.30%
Financial Services: -0.07%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 23.40
Public Power Corp (PPC): 22.40
HBC Coca Cola: 33.48
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.68
Emporiki Bank: 21.40
National Bank of Greece: 41.80
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 26.20
Titan Cement Company: 43.00
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with a triple witching of June contracts in the market boosting turnover to 354.769 million euros.
The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.57 pct and on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.26 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 21,656 contracts worth 280.750 million euros, with 41,061 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 939 contracts worth 29.440 million euros with 1,678 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 28,536 contracts worth 44,578 million euros, with investment interest focusing on ATEbank's contracts (5,066), followed by Hellenic Telecoms (1,828), PPC (934), National Bank (1,733), Alpha Bank (1,610), Intracom (4,232), Emporiki Bank (1,976), Intralot (873) and Hellenic Petroleum (1,302).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.664 billion euros on Friday, of which 1.185 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.479 billion were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.075 billion euros with the Greek bond yielding 4.89 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 4.09 pct from 3.85 pct on Thursday, the two-day rate was 4.08 pct, the one-month rate 4.10 pct and the 12-month rate rose to 4.51 pct from 4.49 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - Saturday-MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.342
Pound sterling 0.681
Danish kroner 7.505
Swedish kroner 9.502
Japanese yen 165.74
Swiss franc 1.670
Norwegian kroner 8.158
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.427
Australian dollar 1.604
 European Parliament delegation gives press conference on illegal immigrantsMain opposition PASOK party Eurodeputy Stavros Lambrinidis, speaking during a press conference on Friday organised by the European Parliament's Political Freedoms, Justice and Internal Affairs Committee, which is currently visiting Greece to ascertain illegal immigrants' detention conditions, said that the task that countries of the European south have to carry out regarding illegal immigration is extremely difficult.
Lambrinidis said that the Council of Ministers should not remain content with words but must proceed with deeds in the direction of solidarity for European Union countries that are experiencing the influx of illegal immigrants -Italy, Spain, Canary Islands, Malta and Greece- with the corresponding provision for funds required to handle the situation.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Eurodeputy Toussas explained that the Eurodeputies coming here want to probe a serious political issue, that of immigration. He added that corresponding visits have taken place to other Centres in other member-states. Referring to the island of Samos, he said that "there is an unacceptable and wretched situation there that shocked all."
The head of the delegation, Martine Ruth, replying to a relevant question, said that the Committee ascertained that the worst living conditions for illegal immigrants exist in Malta and Samos comes next. She also said that the Eurodeputies also visited Lampedusa when it was a detention centre but today, however, it is a transit centre and illegal immigrants only stay for a few days.
The Eurodeputies visited Samos on Thursday and Petrou Ralli on Friday for contacts with relevant officials, since these issues concern public order issues.
A meeting was held with immigrant and other organisations after the press conference.
Ruling New Democracy party Eurodeputy Papastamkos did not attend the press conference, but participated in the Committee's visits.
 Delian Apollo by Theatro alla Scala on Delos on September 1The small uninhabited isle of Delos, renowned in Classical antiquity as the centre of the Delian League and today one of Greece's pre-eminent outdoor museums, will host a unique performance by the philharmonic orchestra and soloist of Milan's Teatro alla Scala on the first day of September.
The Sept. 1 performance for an audience of no more than 500 concert-goers is being organised by the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation.
Igor Stravinsky's Apollon musagete (the leader of the Muses) ballet will open the Delian Apollo event, with a solo performance by Roberto Bolle and choreography by George Balanchine. Gustav Mahler's Symphony No.1 will be performed in the second part under the direction of maestro Daniele Gatti.
The event will be broadcast live by the Greek state television (ERT) with satellite feeds to foreign broadcasters as well.
The performance will be repeated at the Herod Atticus Odeon in Athens on Sept. 3, with all proceeds will be donated to the Hellenic Society of Disabled Children.
 Patriarch in Athens on Saturday to visit Christodoulos at hospitalThe Ecumenical Patriarchate on Friday announced that Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will travel to Athens on Saturday to visit hospitalised Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, who is recuperating at an Athens hospital following intestinal surgery this past week.
Christodoulos also received visits by the Metropolitans (bishops) of Thessaloniki, Piraeus and Alexandroupolis on Friday, as well as by several deputies, government officials and many other well-wishers.
 Fire prevention planning on CreteFire prevention planning is in full progress on the southern Aegean island of Crete with two firefighting helicopters in operation stationed in Iraklion and Chania.
In addition, fire detection flights are being conducted by small private planes registered with the Chania and Souda flying club.
The Chania Prefecture Civil Protection Office has also requested that a land firefighting force be dispatched to the region from the Iraklion Fire Brigade.
 Crime re-enactment at Artokosta ConventThe three individuals accused of committing the April 24 double murder at the Artokosta Convent, in northeast Peloponnese, southern Greece, with two nuns as the victims re-enacted the crime on Friday in the presence of a prosecutor.
The re-enactment took place at the exact place where the crime was committed.
The three had broken into the remote convent to steal valuables and the nuns were reportedly smothered with pillows and died from asphyxiation during the robbery.
 Services for overseas GreeksFollowing a joint ministerial decision, the administrative process of "confirming the place of residence or the change in a city's name, village or country, due to a change in borders and the creation of a new country", that is expedited by the foreign ministry's consular authorities can also be expedited through Citizens Service Centres (KEP) or through the Citizens Service Centre for Overseas Greeks (KEPA).
 Another 14 illegals intercepted off SamosFourteen illegal immigrants were intercepted early Friday morning just off the eastern Aegean island of Samos, a favorite "route" by migrant smugglers operating on the opposite Turkish coast.
The illegals were transferred to the island's reception centre, which already holds 145 illegal migrants.
 Charges filed against police precinct commanderCharges have been filed against the commander of the police precinct in the Megara district, west of Athens, after the high-ranking officer was accused of firing his service revolver outside the station while intoxicated, and following a verbal confrontation with another police officer Thursday afternoon.
No injuries or damages were caused by the gunfire.
According to reports, the senior police officer fled the scene immediately after the incident.
 Fair on SaturdayFair weather is expected in most of Greece although local showers may occur, particularly in the north of the country. Winds northerly light. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 19C and 34C and in Thessaloniki from 18C to 32C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe withdrawal of an amendment for suspension of demolitions of unlicenced homes built on forestland, and the lack of magnetic resonance imagers (MRIs) at the Athens General State Hospital and Evangelismos hospital in Athens, were the main front-page items in Friday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "New faux pas by Souflias (environment, town planning and public works minister) - Government MPs and ministers livid".
APOGEVMATINI: "Christodoulos' (Archbishop of Athens and All Greece) legacies to Karamanlis (prime minister) and Papandreou (main opposition PASOK leader) -- The dramatic behind-the-scenes before Christodoulos' hospitalisation - What close associates of the Archbishop told Apogevmatini".
AVGHI: "Light on the contract employees from the European Commission".
AVRIANI: "The people turning their backs on political parties and leaders - The results of an ALCO opinion poll revealing on the lack of credibility of the political system".
CHORA: "PASOK and SYN (Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology) blocked the arrangement on the unlicenced homes - Thousands of owners remain hostages".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Souflias, livid, phoned the agriculture minister and obliged him to withdraw the amendment suspending the demolition of unlicenced homes built on forestland".
ELEFTHEROS: "The 'pimps' (of public life) want lack of governance - They're striking out at Karamanlis through rigged opinion polls".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Evangelismos and General State hospitals without MRI machines - The patients resorting to private health centres (for MRIs), paying up to 500 euro".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The government hastily withdrew the amendment on the unlicenced homes in the forests".
ESTIA: "ND's (ruling New Democracy party) target is a comfortable majority, which is achieved with a percentage of votes above 43 percent".
ETHNOS: "The government got lost in the forest - The pre-electoral amendment that legalised the unlicenced homes was withdrawn".
KATHIMERINI: "Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) intervention in favour of the forests - The amendment on non-demolition of the unlicenced homes withdrawn".
LOGOS: "The government backed down...on the suspension of demolition of unlicenced homes on forest expanses - The amendment withdrawan after intervention by Souflias".
NIKI: "PASOK ties - ND just 0.2 percentage points ahead, according to new opinion poll".
PARASKEVI+13 (weekly): "Political carousel with the elections date - Ring around the rosies, and the citizen on the sidelines".
PARASKINIO (weekly): "New Democracy widening its lead again - Interview polling company's nationwide opinion poll".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Aleka Papariga (Communist Party of Greece-KKE leader) at the (Athens University's) Law School - ND and PASOK must be weakened in the elections, and the KKE strengthened".
TA NEA: "Double blow from Souflias, opinion polls - The government in nervous breakdown".
TO VIMA: "Souflias 'burned' the amendment on the forests - Disorderly retreat".
VRADYNI: "The climate of scandal-mongering PASOK is cultivating boomerangs against itself - Every stone (of scandal) they turn over, they find their own people underneath".
 UN Security Council renews UNFICYP's mandateUNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The UN Security Council approved Friday resolution 1758 (2007) renewing for a further six-month period the mandate of the UN Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
The Security Council 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 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.
 Cyprus would veto energy chapter of EU-Turkey entry talksNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus Foreign Minister Yiorgos Lillikas revealed here Friday that Nicosia would veto any effort in the European Union to open the energy chapter in membership negotiations with Turkey.
Lillikas said Cyprus had tabled its positions on the three chapters that the EU plans to open with Ankara.
''With open cards and respect to the EU procedures and European Council decisions, we had warned that if there were any attempts to open the energy chapter -there were thoughts in the Commission- the Cyprus government would file a veto,'' the Cypriot minister said.
In statements after a meeting in Nicosia with George Perdikis, leader of the Green Party in Cyprus, the foreign minister referred to his talks in Paris earlier this week with the new French government.
He said among the issues discussed in Paris were European issues, including Turkey's bid to join the European Union, and bilateral matters.
''Between the governments of Cyprus and France there is mutual understanding on the basic issues that concern us, both on European and bilateral matters, and there is political will of the two governments to continue the dialogue and cooperation that developed with the previous French government,'' the Cypriot official pointed out.
Lillikas added that he had agreed with French officials to continue contacts and dialogue on a number of issues of mutual interest, including Turkey's EU accession course and the French President's proposal for creating a Mediterranean Union.
 Spokesman: No concessions on Cyprus issueNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Greek Cypriot side is not going to make any concessions on the Cyprus problem, stressed here Friday Government Spokesman Vassilis Palmas.
The Cypriot official noted that there was a stalemate concerning the implementation of the 8 July 2006 agreement reached between Cypriot
President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, in the presence of UN Under Secretary General Imbrahim Gambari.
''I categorically state that the Greek Cypriot side cannot make any concessions for any question concerning the Cyprus problem,'' Palmas stressed.
The government spokesman said the 8 July agreement is ''the only means at this time to create the necessary conditions for a momentum in efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus problem.''
Palmas recalled that the United Nations and specifically the big ''5'' of the Security Council fully back efforts to implement the 8 July agreement.
In a draft resolution renewing for a further six-month period the mandate of the UN Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) which was expected to be approved later Friday by the UN Security Council, the 15-member international body ''expresses full support for the 8 July process, notes with concern the lack of progress, and calls upon all parties to immediately engage constructively with the UN's efforts, as described in Under-Secretary-General Gambari's letter of 15 November 2006, to demonstrate measurable progress in order to allow fully-fledged negotiations to begin, and to cease mutual recriminations.''
Papadopoulos and Talat had agreed to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day-to-day life of the people and those that concern substantive issues.
Following the agreement, the representatives of the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities, Tasos Tzionis and Rasit Pertev respectively, began meetings in the UN-controlled buffer zone to work out the modalities for the implementation of the July agreement.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
 Cyprus Defence Minister to pay official visit to GreeceNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus Defence Minister Christodoulos Pashiardes will pay an official visit to Greece on June 19-20.
An official press release issued here said that Pashiardes will hold talks with Greek National Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis on bilateral relations and issues of common interest related to the field of defence.
During his two-day stay in Athens, the Cypriot minister will lay wreaths at the Unknown Soldier Monument and the monument of Greek soldiers killed in Cyprus and visit the Military Cadets' School.
Pashiardes will be accompanied to Greece by National Guard (Cyprus Army) Commander, Lieutenant General Constantinos Bisbikas.
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