|Sunday, 11 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-06-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 21 June 2007 Issue No: 2624
 Karamanlis inaugurates new education ministry buildingPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday reiterated his policy mantra that "education is the most profitable investment", during the inauguration of the education ministry building in the northern district of Maroussi, a short distance away from the Athens Olympic Stadium.
Karamanlis noted that the ministry was entering a new era, adding that this was the first step in planning for a decentralisation of public services.
The premier described the ministry as the "new headquarters of educational reform", addressing a ceremony attended by the ministry's leadership, other ministers, representatives of opposition parties and ministry staff.
"In an era of major challenges and opportunities, investment in education is the most profitable investment that a society can make," Karamanlis said, adding that this required responsibility and seriousness, and deep-rooted reforms.
Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou said the new building, covering 38,000 square metres, was constructed in accordance with the latest building technologies, while she thanked the prime minister for proving, in practice, that "education is the primary choice".
Yiannakou also announced that two events halls at the new ministry premises would be named after female personalities, namely, French scholar and Hellenist Jacqueline De Romilly, and the other in honor of Greek author and academic Galatia Sarandi.
"Our work is directed to the children. We are the means," Yiannakou said and, addressing the ministry's staff.
A benediction of the building was officiated by Father Thomas Synodinos, the coadjutor of the Church of Greece, who represented hospitalised Archbishop Christodoulos. The former conveyed the Archbishop's blessings and called the new ministry premises a "sacred shrine of education".
After the ceremony, Yiannakou escorted the prime minister on a tour of the new ministry premises.
PASOK party spokesman comments on new education ministry building
Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Petros Efthymiou, referring to statements made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis during the inauguration of the new education ministry building, said on Wednesday that his address "creates wonder as well as regret" when stating that the new building "is a tangible example of the effective and responsible utilisation of the Olympic heritage."
Efthymiou added that "nobody cared to inform the prime minister that he did not find some 'heritage' of which he supposedly made good use, but visited a project that, from the beginning, contained its Olympic use and its use afterwards," adding that the new education ministry building was decided by the PASOK government in the autumn of 2001 and that "the project, that began in August 2002, had its first phase completed (for Olympic use) in April 2004."
 President Karolos Papoulias holds talks with Emir of QatarPresident Karolos Papoulias held talks with the visiting Emir of Qatar Hamad Bin Khalifa on Wednesday, stressing afterwards that the talks between the delegations of the two countries will strengthen the development of Greece's multifaceted relations with Qatar.
The president pointed out that the political will exists on both sides to boost relations further for the benefit of the two peoples.
The talks mainly focused on the sectors of energy, air transportation and investments, as well as on the sectors of tourism and shipping.
The Emir of Qatar thanked President Papoulias and congratulated the Greek people for their positions towards the Arabs and the president personally for his positions towards the people of Qatar.
The talks were attended on the part of the Greek government, apart from Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, by Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis and Deputy Development Minister Anastasios Nerantzis.
The Emir then met with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, while in the evening he will be attending an official dinner hosted in his honour by President Papoulias.
Papoulias hosts dinner
President Karolos Papoulias hosted a dinner on Wednesday night for the Emir of Qatar Hamad Bin Khalifa, who is currently on an official visit to Greece, stressing his conviction that the already friendly relations between the two countries will be strengthened even further and that "the bridge uniting us will obtain new supports and will become all the more wider."
President Papoulias expressed the wish that by the next meeting he will be having with the Emir "the crises tormenting the Middle East will have entered the path to their solution."
The president further noted that Qatar's strategic geographical position in the centre of the Gulf and the sources of wealth it possesses also determine its very important position at regional level, adding that the Emirate's dynamism is also proved by the fact that it is currently one of the fastest developing countries in the world.
President Papoulias thanked the Emir for the welcoming provided for Greek companies by Qatar, which are active in the construction and other sectors and which are "distinguished for their effectiveness."
He further said that "in the sectors of economic cooperation and of tourism in particular, the fields are wide. This relation could be extended to the sector of energy, transportation, shipping and the ship repairs sector, where we have agreed to cooperate on the undertaking of specific joint activities."
Lastly, President Papoulias, invoking the experience obtained by Qatar in hosting the Asian Games and by Greece in hosting the Olympic Games, said that a wide field of cooperation exists between the two countries in the sports sector, adding that "we shall gladly cooperate in whatever effort of yours concerns the promotion of the Olympic Ideal."
 Prime Minister Karamanlis in Brussels for the EU Summit meetingPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis departs for Brussels on Thursday to represent Greece at the European Council meeting.
The prime minister will visit the offices of the Constantine Karamanlis Institute for Democracy at the European People's Party, EPP, building at noon on Thursday and afterwards he will inaugurate the new building of Greece's Permanent Delegation to the EU.
He will also attend an EPP meeting and later in the afternoon he will attend the European Council meeting. Karamanlis will meet with European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering and later in the evening he will attend a working dinner with the 25 EU leaders.
On Friday, Prime Minister Karamanlis will attend the EU Summit meeting.
 Premier confers with FM ahead of EU summitPrime minister Costas Karamanlis conferred on Wednesday with foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, ahead of the two-day EU summit that opens Thursday in Brussels.
"It is one of the most critical European Councils of the last few years," Bakoyannis told reporters after her meeting with the premier, adding that the talks also covered the issue of the EU constitutional treaty and the institutional reforms in the 27-member bloc.
"I want to believe that the leaderships of the European countries will contribute so that the outcome will be positive for Europe's future. We, all the European citizens, have the duty to support the common European structure," she said.
 PASOK leader, Serbian FM discuss Kosovo, regional stability, and Western Balkans' EU prospectMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou met Wednesday with visiting Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic, with talks focusing on Kosovo's future status, safeguarding stability in the region, and the European prospect of Serbia and the other Western Balkan countries.
Speaking to reporters after the working lunch, Papandreou, who is also president of the Socialist International (SI), welcomed the resumption of talks between Belgrade and the European Union on a Stability and Association Agreement, stressing that the region's European prospect was a "fundamental element for the consolidation of peace and cooperation, the principles of good neighbourhood, respect of human rights, and the development of all the peoples of the region, and naturally is also in Greece's interest".
Referring to the Kosovo issue, Papandreou said it was a problem that concerned the entire region and also Europe, noting that the solution found must in no instance be an imposed one. "A solution that is imposed and is not the product of agreement between the two sides creates polarisation, a sense of injustice and, in the bottom line, is a fragile solution also for the stability in the region," he warned.
Papandreou also said that the European Union had "historic responsibilities", adding that it should have been at the forefront of the efforts but was not. He said that after the EU summit in Thessaloniki, the EU had backed down from its role in the Balkans, adding that Greece, too, needed to play its role much more actively. "Unfortunately, Greece, too, is not playing the role that belongs to it in the region," Papandreou said, and promised that his party will continue to actively support cooperation with Serbia and the other countries of the region.
Jeremic warned of the threat of the situation in Kosovo causing destabilisation of the wider region, noting that the purpose of his visit to Athens was to discuss the role that Greece can play, as a Balkan country that belongs to both the EU and NATO".
"I asked for Greece's support, not only by the government, but also by the socialist movement, to which my party also belongs," he said.
"We owe much to Greece with respect to our European prospect. In Thessaloniki in June 2003 (during the EU summit) we received a clear commitment on the part of Europe, and certainly there are many more things that need to be done jointly in order to secure peace and security in the Balkans. Besides, this is a requirement for full incorporation. We anticipate Greece's support, assistance and understanding," Jeremic said, adding that, during his visit here, "I met with understanding at all the levels, as also by Mr. Papandreou".
"It is consoing to know that we have so many friends in Greece," the Serbian foreign minister stressed.
The 32-year-old Jeremic, who assumed the Serbian foreign ministry helm only a few days ago, also referred to the first time he met Papandreou, when he was a young activist and the current PASOK leader was foreign minister of Greece, adding that Papandreou was his source of inspiration for his involvement in politics.
 Government rules out Parliamentary investigation into bonds affairThe government on Wednesday rejected outright a demand for a Parliamentary investigation into the bonds affair made by the main opposition PASOK party. Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas stressed in Parliament that the proposal only served "the petty party-political peddling that PASOK is engaged in" and would not be accepted by the majority.
He pointed out that the affair was currently being investigated by two public prosecutors, a supervisory appeals magistrate appointed that same day, the independent authority against money-laundering under George Zorbas and the Capital Markets Commission.
"How can you propose setting up an investigative committee when this investigation is underway, which looks as though it might give results in just a few days," Magginas said, adding that there was absolutely no reason to add a Parliamentary inquiry when such a deep and multi-level investigation was already happening.
The minister also denied that the government had anything to fear, saying that the protection of friends, relatives and party members had been PASOK's concern, not that of ruling New Democracy.
The PASOK MPs that put forward the proposal urged the Parliament to agree, even to extend its scope back to 1999 or as early as 1950, while repeating that pension funds must be reimbursed in full and with interest for the money they lost to "criminals and their accomplices".
Commenting on the proposal, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said the two main parties were not afraid to discuss the pension funds scandal as long as they could blame each other.
A one-sided discussion on the scandals might lead some people to jail and bring a new law that would simply broaden the factors that gave birth to the funds' scandal, which was their link to the lawless market, Papariga said.
The proposal was backed by the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) representative Thanassis Leventis, who said the cost of the bonds affair should be borne by those who mediated and gained from it.
 Government rules out investigation at presentCommenting on PASOK's proposal, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the government's position was unchanging and that no Parliamentary investigative committee could be set up while the case was still being investigated by the judicial system.
He also accused the main opposition party of "constantly striving for sensationalism".
 Papandreou refers to unwavering campaign against corruptionMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday met with several noted personalities involved in the local "Society of Citizens" movement, judicial officers and heads of independent watchdog authorities, where he promised, among others, to be unforgiving with incidents of corruption.
Additionally, he reiterated his criticism of the government, saying that the current ND government lacks the political will to curb corruption, "but has, in fact, aided it (corruption) with its policies."
"Our goal is not to merely exchanges views over practical measures that must be taken, but to create a wider consensus on the manner in which to fight corruption in our country," he said, adding that he will guarantee an unremitting campaign against corruption.
"A few days ago Mr. Papandreou said that he was not beholden to anything from the past. He forgets, however, that decisions by PASOK governments, of which he was a member and never expressed a different opinion, are binding for the Greek people, as they (decisions) left behind massive burdens," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said in reply to Papandreou's statements.
 PASOK party leader George Papandreou visits KamateroMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou visited an elderly people's home (KAPH) in the municipality of Kamatero on Wednesday afternoon and revealed his party's commitments on relevant issues.
"There must be no distinction between western districts and other richer regions of Attica," he said and stressed that "we do not want privileges for the few, but rights for all", adding that the environment and the quality of life must be guaranteed for all citizens.
The PASOK leader said his party supports welfare efforts, particularly the KAPH institutions and the "Help at home" programme, which he termed "the body and skeleton of a welfare system which is still weak in the country."
Papandreou went on to say that the "Help at home" programme employs 3,500 people and serves 100,000 citizens, claiming that the programme nearly stopped, but PASOK reacted in Parliament and the government was obliged to extend its operation.
Speaking with inhabitants, Papandreou ascertained that the country lacks first stage health centres in neighbourhoods that should operate on a 24-hour basis and be linked to other welfare institutions.
 Nearly two thirds of Greeks back EuroConstitution, survey showsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
Two thirds of all European citizens in the 27 EU member-states are in favour of a European Constitution, including 61 percent of Greeks, according to a Eurobarometer poll released on Wednesday in Brussels.
The poll is released one day before European leaders will be meeting in order to discuss the European Constitutional Treaty.
The poll showed that support for a EuroConstitution has slipped by 11 percentage points in Greece since the autumn of 2006, when it stood at 72 percent, while it has dropped 3 percentage points for the EU overall.
Support is highest among Belgians (82 percent in favour), Slovenians (80 percent in favour) and Hungarians (79 percent in favour), while the most sceptical Europeans are the British (43 percent in favour), Danes (45 percent in favour), Swedes and Finns (47 percent in favour).
In France and the Netherlands, both countries that rejected the European Constitutional Treaty in referendums a couple of years ago, support for a European Constitution currently stands at 68 percent and 55 percent, respectively.
Asked about the EU's symbols, 80 percent of Greeks and 78 percent of all EU citizens consider that the EU flag is "something positive".
Support for EU enlargement appears to be on the wave, overall, with 49 percent in favour throughout the EU. In Greece, support has slipped by 15 percent relative to the previous poll to just 56 percent of Greeks in favour, while the strongest support for enlargement is in Poland (76 percent) and Lithuania (68 percent) and the lowest in Luxembourg (25 percent) and Austria (28 percent).
The issues that Greeks are most concerned about, according to the Eurobarometer survey, are unemployment, the state of the economy, high prices, crime, the education system and pensions, in that order. Regarding the state of the economy, only 18 percent of Greeks find this "very or quite satisfactory" and 82 percent see it as "very or quite bad".
By contrast, 67 percent of Greeks and 69 percent of European citizens overall say they are "very or quite optimistic" about the future of the EU.
Asked how the envisage the EU after 50 years, 71 percent of Greeks and 61 percent of Europeans said it would be a "leading diplomatic force in the world", 66 percent of Greeks and 57 percent of Europeans said it would have its own army, while 71 percent of Greeks and 51 percent of Europeans said it would have a "president elected directly by European citizens".
Regarding climate change and global warming, 97 percent of Greeks and 88 percent of Europeans believe that that EU must deal with the matter urgently.
 Alavanos announces inclusion of KOE, AKOA political groups in 'Syriza' formationCoalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos on Wednesday announced the accession of two small out-of-Parliament leftist political groupings within the Synaspismos-led "Syriza" coalition that will field candidates in the next elections, normally set for March 2007.
Alavanos said the Communist Organisation of Greece party (KOE) and the leftist AKOA group will joint the Syriza initiative, a grouping of left to far left formations not affiliated with the decades-old and Parliament-represented Communist Party of Greece (KKE).
Alavanos also predicted that both major parties, ruling ND and main opposition PASOK, would suffer election losses in the next poll.
 Greek Social Forum protests ill-treatment of detainees by police with marchThe Greek Social Forum and immigrant and anti-racist organisations held a protest rally at Pedio tou Areos Square in Athens on Wednesday and then marched to the Athens Police General Headquarters on the affair of detainees who have been ill-treated at the Omonia police precinct.
The march, accompanied by slogans against Public Order Minister Vyronas Polydoras, was intercepted by strong police forces at a distance of about 100 metres from the Police Headquarters.
The demonstrators stayed at the spot for over 40 minutes, shouting slogans against "state violence" and "violence exercised against immigrants, students and working people."
Speakers addressing the rally at Pedio tou Areos Square earlier spoke of frequent deaths of immigrants at police precincts as a result of "natural causes" and attributed "political responsibilities to the government and the public order minister," claiming that "the policy of suppression is being exercised as a necessary supplement for a policy of austerity and racism."
 Greece and Qatar sign cooperation memorandum to facilitate investmentsA cooperation memorandum to facilitate investments between Greece and Qatar was signed on Wednesday by Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis and his counterpart from the Emirate of Qatar Yousef Hussain Kamal, in the presence of President Karolos Papoulias and the Sheikh of the Emirate of Qatar Hamad Bin Khalifa.
According to the memorandum, cooperation will be promoted on the part of Greece by the Greek Investments Centre (ELKE) and on the part of Qatar by the corresponding Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).
The memorandum anticipates, among other things, support by ELKE for QIA's investments missions in Greece and the holding of regular or special meetings between ELKE and QIA. The duration of the memorandum is one year, while the possibility is provided to renew it automatically every year.
In another development, the first meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee between Greece and Qatar was held in the afternoon at the finance ministry with the purpose of promoting investments and economic relations between the two countries.
As regards economic and trade relations between Greece and Qatar, it is noteworthy that Greek exports to Qatar, according to the National Statistical Service, amounted to 18.23 million dollars in 2006, while Greek imports totalled 27.46 million dollars. The trade balance in 2006 produced a deficit for Greece that amounted to 9.23 million dollars, while the volume of trade reached 45.69 million dollars.
The main Greek products exported were vehicles for transporting merchandise (10 percent), mineral oils (8 percent), electronic computers and data storing units (5 percent), prefabricated houses, greenhouses (4 percent) and small furniture (3 percent).
The energy sector also presents favourable prospects for cooperation between businesses from Greece and Qatar. Oil dominates the country's economy and constitutes, together with natural gas and petrochemicals, the main nucleus of the country's exports and revenues.
 Deputy agriculture minister presides over meeting on organic productsDeputy Agricultural Development and Food Minister Alekos Kontos chaired a meeting on Wednesday that provided the first taste of clauses contained in the new European Community regulation on organic agricultural products and food for the sector's representatives.
The individual aspects of the new EU regulation on organic agriculture were analysed during the meeting and the best solutions were sought to implement it to further develop the cultivation of organic agricultural products in the country.
 Competition Committee to decide on milk cartel by end of JulyThe Competition Committee will have reached its decision on the milk cartel by the end of July at the latest, while the corresponding one on privileged agreements on dairy companies and super markets in September. This was announced in Parliament by Competition Committee President Spyros Zisimopoulos on Wednesday.
Summoned to brief the Parliamentary Institutions Committee on the Committee's work, Zisimopoulos said that its work was delayed following the arrest of its general director.
Zisimopoulos also revealed that the Committee will be reaching decisions in the near future regarding the circumvention of the principles of healthy competition in the banking sector, as well as in others (cosmetics, frozen products, meat, etc) "that will really affect the market and will serve the interests of the consumer."
 Aristides Daskalopoulos Foundation conference on food safetyConsumer training is among the most drastic interventions needed leading to the improvement of food quality and safety without limiting the responsibility of food companies which have the biggest share of responsibility on food safety, stressed participants at the Aristides Daskalopoulos Foundation conference on safety, nutrition, and quality taking place in Athens.
A one hundred percent safety is not possible and there is always a degree of risk in food consumption depending on the type of food and the conditions under which it is exposed in each stage of the production chain until it reaches the consumer.
At the opening of the conference it was pointed out that consumers have come to trust nobody but this has got to change by offering them the appropriate training for their own role in the food production chain.
Consumers must realize that through their choices they can exert pressures directing competitiveness in food market towards safety and quality.
One of the weakest points in the case of refrigerated foods is home refrigeration because, according to a study conducted by the Thessaloniki Aristotle University Food Science and Technology Department, the average temperature in one in three household refrigerators is over 8 degrees Centigrade, allowing the growth of a variety of bacteria.
 Greek pharmaceutical sector's revenues up 13 pct in 2006, reportSpending on pharmaceutical products totaled 6.1 billion euros in Greece last year, up 11.2 pct from 2005, boosted by the circulation of new, more expensive products, and changes in pricing (based on the average price of the three lower EU-25 states), a survey by Hellastat said on Wednesday.
The survey said that the pharmaceutical sector continued facing problems because of delays in payment of debt by state hospitals, noting the the debt to members of the Federation of Pharmaceuticals Enterprises of Greece totaled around 1.17 billion euros at the end of 2006.
Hellastat said revenues by 100 pharmaceutical enterprises totaled 5.08 billion euros last year, up 13 pct from 2005, while profits totaled 382 million euros with an average increase of 13.7 pct (down from a 24 pct average annual profit growth rate in the 2004-2006 period).
Eight in 10 enterprises recorded improved revenue figures in 2006, with only 18 enterprises recording negative results. Gross profit margin was 32.3 pct last year, from 33.1 pct in 2005, while EBITDA margin rose to 6.6 pct from 6.0 pct over the same period, respectively.
Short-term bank borrowing rose to 24.6 pct of sales last year, from 21.2 pct in 2005.
 Greek stocks rebound, end 0.27% higher on WednesdayGreek stocks resumed their upward trend on Wednesday with the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange ending 0.27 pct higher at 4,898,93 points. Turnover was a heavy 544.5 million euros, of which 166.7 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher with the Personal/Home Products (2.12 pct), Raw Materials (1.35 pct) and Media (0.96 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Telecommunications (1.28 pct), Oil (1.06 pct) and Healthcare (0.46 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Big Cap index rose 0.36 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.66 pct up and the Small Cap index jumped 1.40 pct.
Centric (19.57 pct), Parnassos (19.52 pct) and Hatikraniotis (19.33 pct) were top gainers, while Galis (8.11 pct), Levenderis (7.69 pct) and Fashion Box (6.76 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 174 to 88 with another 46 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.06%
Personal & Household: +2.12%
Raw Materials: +1.35%
Travel & Leisure: -0.18%
Food & Beverages: +0.46%
Financial Services: +0.90%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, Marfin Popular Bank, National Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 23.46
Public Power Corp (PPC): 21.50
HBC Coca Cola: 33.56
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.82
Emporiki Bank: 21.08
National Bank of Greece: 42.10
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 25.86
Titan Cement Company: 43.44
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover a low 99.186 million euros.
The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.77 pct and on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.11 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 5,727 contracts worth 74.157 million euros, with 34,135 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 162 contracts worth 5.191 million euros, with 1,291 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 15,136 contracts worth 19.836 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (8,743), followed by Hellenic Telecoms (368), PPC (378), OPAP (455), Piraeus Bank (390), National Bank (477), Alpha Bank (732), Intracom (827), Intralot (364) and ATEbank (547).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 4.209 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 2.179 billion were buy orders and the remaining 2.03 billion euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.28 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.21 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.87 pct and the German Bund 4.66 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.08 pct, the two-day rate was 4.09 pct from 4.08 pct on Tuesday, the one-month rate rose to 4.11 pct from 4.10 pct and the 12-month rate fell to 4.49 pct from 4.51 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.353
Pound sterling 0.679
Danish kroner 7.503
Swedish kroner 9.373
Japanese yen 167.21
Swiss franc 1.673
Norwegian kroner 8.116
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.442
Australian dollar 1.597
 Measures to cut down energy use in public sector envisagedInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Wednesday signed a circular that seeks to encourage energy conservation by public-sector services in the hot summer months, between June 25 and the end of August.
The envisaged measures will apply to all buildings housing public services with the exception of hospitals, health care units, welfare and social insurance bodies.
They will include restrictions on the use of air-conditioning units, so they are set no lower than 25C and only during working hours, restricting the use of electric lighting only to the areas where it is absolutely necessary and closely monitoring, maintaining and checking systems for automatically cutting off power to municipal lighting and road lighting to ensure that they only work between 20:00 and 6:00.
Sioufas noted that peak power consumption increased by 5-6 percent in Greece every year, even though overall consumption only increased by 4 percent on average.
"It is indicative that on 30 June and 21 August in 2006, when we had the highest consumption of electric power, with the peak charge reaching 9,961MW, demand exceeded 9,000MW for 13 hours and in total for all 2006 for only 40 hours. The peak hours, even though they are few in the year, require the operation of a new 400MW unit each year at a cost of about 230-250 million euros. The cost of construction and operation of such units in order to cover demand for these very few hours a year is excessive and an unreasonable burden for the Greek taxpayer," he said.
The minister stressed that the measures might only apply during the summer peak but aimed to make energy conservation a basic element in the everyday life of Greek consumers:
"It is a new national target with economic and environmental repercussions. The start is being made in the public sector, since the public sector has an obligation to give a good example and we hope it will be a step that will encourage the public, households and the private sector to adopt conservation in their day-to-day energy use," he added.
 High alert ahead of forecast heat wave announcedGreece's civil defense and emergency services were placed on high alert as of Wednesday as the season's first heat wave is forecast for the coming days, while municipalities around the east Mediterranean country will open air conditioned facilities around the clock to residents.
A civil defense coordinating council, in fact, met on Wednesday under the chairmanship of Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos to implement measures ahead of temperatures expected to reach or exceed 40C. One forecast calls for a maximum day-time temperature of up to 43C in the Thessaly plain, central Greece, on Saturday..
 Alexandria Patriarch Theodoros' message on World Refugee DayPatriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa on Wednesday issued an appeal calling on all people throughout the world to prove to the children of Africa that they are not children of a lesser God.
In a message on the occasion of the June 20 World Refugee Day, the Patriarch appealed to all international leaders to do their best to end the suffering of refugees and the injustices they endure.
"The Christian Orthodox Church of Africa, being on the continent with the most refugees in the world, will continue efforts to aid those of the 10 million fellow human beings in different parts of the world who have lost their families and homes," he stressed.
Patriarch Theodoros also made a special reference to the thre million refugees in Africa, the majority of whom are children.
 Council of America president calls for liberation of Aghia Sophia ChurchWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
Council of America for the Liberation of Aghia Sophia Church, in Istanbul, President Chris Spyrou called for an end to the "continuing desecration of Aghia Sophia, the Holy Temple of Christianity", during a testimony before the President of the Joint Human Rights Committee of the American Congress, Tom Landos.
Spyrou presented evidence which, as he said, "substantiate beyond any doubt that Aghia Sophia, the Mother Church of Christianity, the Cathedral of the Orthodox Christian Faith and the most majestic church ever to be built, is being desecrated continuously for 554 years." He also denounced continuous violations at Aghia Sophia that have "turned the most sacred place of the Christians into an international market that constitutes a tourist attraction of the Turkish state."
Landos, who is also the president of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed understanding for every case of human rights violation and noted that "out of all the violations with which the Committee is preoccupied few have greater importance than those concerning religious freedoms."
In this context, Spyrou called on American legislators to carefully read the chapter contained in the recent report by the U.S. Committee on religious freedoms that refers to Turkey.
"The time has come for the leaders of the country in which Aghia Sophia is located to realise the logic of our claims and to assist us in the restoration of Aghia Sophia as a Church of the Christian Faith and for which it was built," he said.
 Event honours departing heads of foreign archaeological schoolsThe culture ministry on Wednesday held an event in honour of six departing directors of foreign schools and institutes in Athens, who will soon be leaving Greece.
The event, during which Culture Minister George Voulgarakis and ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos presented commemorative plaques to the departing heads of the U.S., British and Swiss archaeological schools and the heads of the Norwegian, Dutch and Finnish Institutes in Athens, took place in the Stoa of Attalos in the Athenian Agora.
According to Voulgarakis, the work of the six institutes had left its stamp on research and archaeological excavations throughout Greece since the middle of the 19th century, when the French Archaeological School first opened.
The director of the Swiss School Pierre Ducrey was the longest serving of the six directors, having first arrived in Greece in 1982, while Victor Tracy of the U.S. school and James Whitley of the British school both arrived in 2002.
The departing head of the Dutch Institute Getr Jan Winjgaarden took over in 2001, the Norwegian institute director Knut Odegard in 2003 and the head of the newest of the institutes, the Finnish institute established in 1985, had taken over in 2004.
 President Papoulias visits Archbishop Christodoulos in hospitalHellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday visited Archbishop Christodoulos at the Areteion Hospital in Athens, where he is being treated after undergoing intestinal surgery.
President Papoulias told reporters while leaving the hospital that he could not make any comments because he was emotionally moved and expressed the wish that the Archbishop of Athens will have a quick recovery.
In a statement issued by the press office of the Archdiocese of Athens, the Archbishop thanked everybody for their support at this difficult time for him.
 Porch collapse on Rhodes slightly injures 5 touristsFive foreign tourists, including an 8-year-old girl, were injured early Wednesday morning by falling debris when a wood-and-tile porch outside a coffee shop collapsed in the old quarter of Rhodes, the popular Dodecanese holiday island in the southeast Aegean.
The injured, an Italian couple and their daughter, a Briton and a Swedish national, were passing by the cafeteria when the structure collapsed. All five were rushed to a local hospital, with the child sustaining a broken wrist, reports state. All five are reportedly passengers on a cruiseship docked at the port of Rhodes.
The incident occurred in a popular section of Rhodes' Medieval quarter.
 KEDKE and interior minister to discuss 'metropolitan' municipalitiesThe board of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos are scheduled to meet the following Monday to discuss the metropolitan organisation of the country's larger municipalities.
KEDKE also intends to raise issues related to the new 'Kapodistrias' plan, municipal staff on short-term contracts and KEDKE's proposal that it participate in the preparation of draft bills that concern local government.
The above was announced on Wednesday by KEDKE's president, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, who said he would protest strongly during his meeting with Pavlopoulos about the fact that KEDKE was not consulted over the new Municipal and Community Employees Code and stressed that KEDKE might put forward proposals for changes to the code where it disagrees with it.
Kaklamanis also announced that a meeting with Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis was scheduled in the first few days of July, while there remained a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis that was expected to take place after New Democracy's conference.
 International conference on Lord ByronAn international conference on "Lord Byron: Humanism, Liberalism, Philhellenism" is being organized by the Byron Society in Mesologgi, central Greece, next week.
The fifth international conference on Lord Byron (1788-1824) will be held with the participation of university students and professors from the United States, Lebanon, Greece, Ireland, Britain and the Czech Republic.
Conference participants will focus on the many-sided personality of great poet as reflected by his poetry, letters, and actions as a philhellene.
 Foreign national injured in scuffleA 27-year-old foreign national was injured in a scuffle that broke out in a cafeteria at Stefanina village in the Lake Volvi region near Thessaloniki.
Police have launched an investigation into the incident, which occured after midnight.
 Panathinaikos wins basketball championship and 'triple crown'Panathinaikos Athens beat Olympiakos Piraeus 89-76 at the Athens Olympic Stadium on Wednesday night and won the Greek basketball championship after winning 3-2 in the best-of-five playoffs.
Panathinaikos's top scorer in the match was Raymondas Siskauskas who scored 16 points for his team, while for Olympiakos Acker and Zizic each scored 12 points.
The 10-minute scores were 18-16, 45-46, 68-57 and 89-76.
Panathinaikos wins the basketball championship for the fifth consecutive year and for the ninth time in the last 10 years.
Panathinaikos also won the "triple crown" this year. Meaning, the Euroleague Basketball Championship and both the Greek basketball championship and the Greek basketball cup.
 Hot on ThursdayHot weather is expected to continue throughout most of the country. Winds northerly light. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 22C and 37C and in Thessaloniki from 25C to 36C.
 Entry into euro area 'very significant', says PapadopoulosNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has described as "very significant" Cyprus' entry into the euro area in January next year, saying that this confirms that the government's fiscal policy has been a success and the local economy sound enough to meet EU criteria for the euro area.
"This is an important landmark for Cyprus and I believe that once we adopt the euro, prices will be rounded up downwards as opposed to upwards," he said Wednesday on departure for the European Council meeting which will deal with Cyprus' and Mala's accession to the euro area.
He reiterated that this was achieved with the concerted effort of all the social partners, adding that government services will monitor the change of currency to ensure that there is no exploitation of prices.
Papadopoulos recalled that the Cyprus pound will be locked to the euro in early July and the exchange rate will not be known before that.
Referring to the EU summit that starts Thursday, he said this was "very important" as it will review reforms in the European Treaties.
"We hope that it will be possible to reach an agreement that will facilitate the smoother running of the EU, which so far has been governed by the provisions of the Treaty of Nice," he said.
Papadopoulos also said that the current trend among the 27 members seems to indicate that existing Treaties are set to be promoted but no new treaty is likely to be approved.
"There are several differences and everybody understands that if the current German EU presidency does not succeed in clinching such an agreement, then things will be more difficult in the future," he concluded.
Earlier Wednesday the European Parliament approved by an overwhelming majority (585 in favour, 14 against and 90 abstentions) a report by a German Euro MP which gives the green light to Cyprus' entry into the euro area.
Speaking during the debate at the Parliament, German Minister of State for Europe Gunter Gloser and EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia welcomed Cyprus and Malta, saying both countries meet the criteria set out by the Union.
 Government: instability in Turkey hampers progress in CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Cyprus government believes that the fluid political situation in Turkey and existing instability in that country make efforts to achieve progress towards a negotiated settlement in Cyprus difficult.
"We are ready, any time, to begin a dialogue and discussions with a view to achieve progress towards a solution. However we think that the current instability in Turkey and the political fluidity create problems as far as progress is concerned," Government Spokesman Vasilis Palmas said here Wednesday.
Speaking at his daily briefing, he said unfortunately there is no development that could break the current impasse.
He noted though that aides to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat continue their weekly meetings to try and make headway.
"They discuss certain issues but unfortunately there is no development and no move that could create the preconditions for progress", he added.
Palmas' comments come at a time when there is intense political debate with regard to February's presidential elections.
Asked if the peace effort must freeze because of this, the spokesman replied: "as far as we are concerned, at least, we do not look at things from this perspective."
Papadopoulos is widely expected to announce his bid for reelection.
Already former foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides said he would run for the presidency while the government's main partner AKEL is to take its finals decisions on the matter in early July, amid increasing speculation that AKEL General Secretary Demetris Christofias may run as well in the presidential race.
Another presidential hopeful is former agriculture minister Costas Themistocleous.
 Papadopoulos: all help given for HELIOS air crash investigationNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said here Wednesday that the government has made available all necessary means to the Law Office of the Republic to facilitate and expedite its investigation into an air crash in 2005 that killed all 121 persons on board, most of them Cypriots.
He also indicated that early publication of a report by the one-man Cypriot investigative commission into the cause of the air crash, in Grammatiko in Greece, could jeopardize the inquire and will not serve anybody's interest.
"I fully subscribe to what I have said in public. The government made sure that the report by the Greek commission of inquiry was made public at a record time, compared to similar air crashes," Papadopoulos said, replying to questions on departure for Brussels to attend the European Council meeting.
The Police, he added, continue their inquiries in earnest with a view to prepare a file for consideration by the Attorney General who will decide whether anybody will be brought before the courts.
"I do not think there is anybody who wishes to expedite this investigation and jeopardize the validity and integrity of cases that may be brought to justice," the president stressed.
He said the material police investigators have to go through is massive and the government has made available all necessary funds and personnel requested by the Law Office for this purpose.
"There is no other procedure to go about this investigation. I fully understand the pain and the suffering of the relatives of the victims," he concluded.
His comments come as relatives of the victims protested strongly against what they called "inaction", demanding the report of the Cyprus investigative commission, which has not been made public.
On 14 August 2005, an HELIOS Boeing flying to Prague, via Athens, with 121 persons on board, crashed into the mountain side north of Athens, killing all passengers and crew on board.
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