|Friday, 23 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-06-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 22 June 2007 Issue No: 2625
 All must assume their responsibilities on EU Treaty, PM says at EU summit dinnerBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - A. Panagopoulos)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, speaking during a dinner at the European Union's summit on Thursday night, said that all must assume their responsibilities regarding the EU Treaty.
"We must all assume our responsibilities. In the event of failure we must examine other ways to enable Europe to forge ahead, utilising the mechanism of strengthened coooperations," he said.
Addressing earlier in the day the European Peoples Party (EPP) summit, the Greek Prime Minister stressed the need to move forward with the European Constitutional Treaty, which 18 of the member-states had already ratified, while underlining that "we all have an obligation to honour our signatures".
"Who said that all 18 of us that have already ratified the Treaty are fully satisfied with the text that we decided on? We in Greece, for example, would like institutionally more Europe," he said.
The Greek premier reminded those present that a series of compromises had been made "so that we could arrive at a text on which we all finally agreed".
He also said that the two countries that had rejected the European Constitutional Treaty in referendums, France and the Netherlands, must be assisted in accepting it but not by making fundamental changes to the treaty negotiated:
"There must be some minor changes but on no account should those changes touch on the substance," he stressed, while underlining that no one stood to gain by raising "individual demands".
"This must not happen, to the extent that it may disrupt the general principle of the EU's operation, since this is what we are seeking with the Constitutional Treaty," he added.
If no agreement was achieved, Greece was "ready to proceed with those countries that also desire more Europe," Karamanlis concluded.
 PM Costas Karamanlis inaugurates Greek permanent EU delegation's new buildingBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - A. Panagopoulos)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis arrived here at noon on Thursday to represent Greece at the European Union's summit, that will focus on the revision of the Constitutional Treaty, and inaugurated the new building of Greece's permanent delegation at the EU.
Karamanlis pointed out that the aim is "for our diplomatic authorities to reflect the image of a Greece that is modern, self-confident and has ambitious goals."
The prime minister said that the permanent delegation at the EU is the spearhead of the country's presence at the most important decision-making centre internationally and added that "Brussels is now the field where we are making daily struggles to defend our interests in all sectors."
Karamanlis reminded that Greece is one of the oldest member-states of the European family and noted that "we belong to the hard nucleus of the group of countries that actively support the European idea and it is an active partner, contributing decisively to the shaping of a common European course."
He further said that "our country, always in the front line, is participating from the beginning in all the leading policies on closer cooperation, but we are also shaping policies and undertaking considerable initiatives."
Karamanlis underlined that Greece is playing a leading role in the effort to adopt the Constitutional Treaty, saying that "we support the substantive upgrading of the European fabric, that will coincide with its enlargement, we want a Europe with a strong international presence and a role that will guarantee the prosperity of its citizens at the same time."
The prime minister referred to the positive influence and the reformist force that the EU can exercise, as he said, not only for its member-states but also for its neighbours and focused on the Balkan countries in particular and the upgrading of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.
Karamanlis made an account of the government's work in his address and underlined that it is following a wide reformist programme based also on the mandates of the Lisbon strategy and it is utilising, as he added, all EU tools in full with the aim of regional and social cohesion.
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said in a brief address during the inauguration ceremony that the new building is Greece's showcase in the heart of Europe.
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos was also present at the inauguration ceremony, whom Karamanlis congratulated for Cyprus' accession to the EMU, that is expected to be announced officially on Thursday, as of January 1, 2008.
Before attending the inauguration ceremony, Karamanlis visited the new offices of the Constantine Karamanlis Democracy Institute.
 Government dismisses PASOK request for bond inquiry by ParliamentAlternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday dismissed main opposition PASOK's demand for a Parliamentary inquiry into the bonds affair as an "attempt at sensationalism".
Reiterating the position expressed by Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas in Parliament the previous day, Antonaros stressed that "the way that PASOK is submitting this request at this time can only create impressions."
He underlined that the government's position was clear and that it would not allow any interference with the judicial investigation into the case, which was already underway.
"The government is interested in the substance, which is the speedy investigation of the affair. And this is being done by Greek justice at the top judicial level possible," he added.
 Evert criticises proposal for Parliament inquiry into bonds affairThe former leader of the ruling New Democracy party Miltiadis Evert on Thursday said the establishment of a parliamentary committee of inquiry on the bonds affair would be "a big mistake," stressing that the case is now in the hands of Justice.
Justice should not be influenced by and not fall victim to political ploys used to create ephemeral impressions, stressed Evert.
Parliamentary deputies who have in their possession evidence pertaining to the case can request to testify before the responsible examining magistrate, said Evert, adding that at this point any involvement by the Parliament will cause confusion and sidetrack efforts aimed at pursuing the truth.
Any interference in the work of Justice is an insult to its prestige unless the main opposition is not seeking the truth but to create impressions, said Evert.
Those thinking of bringing the issue to parliament when a court investigation is underway do not respect the constitutionally protected principle of the separation of powers, he added.
 Appeals judges agree to assign magistrate to bonds caseA council of 135 Greek appeals judges on Thursday agreed with a recommendation to appoint an appeals court magistrate to investigate the purchase of structured bonds by Greek pension funds. The council assigned the investigation to appeals judge Giorgos Lekas and named Giorgos Hoimes as his back-up.
They also ordered the head of the Appeals Public Prosecutors' department Giorgos Koliokostas to press charges against all responsible parties for six crimes and two misdemeanours.
These included criminal charges of fraud, forming a criminal organisation, legalising income from illegal activity, tax-evasion, breach of faith, and of aiding and protecting a criminal in combination with the law on embezzlement of public funds, as well as the misdemeanours of not reporting crimes and aiding embezzlement of public funds.
The council also ordered the public prosecutor's department to press charges for any other offence that might be revealed during the course of the investigation, with charges expected to be pressed by Monday at the latest.
 European Parliament adopts Greek MEPs report on juvenile delinquentsSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA - O. Tsipira)
The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a report by main opposition PASOK MEP Katerina Batzeli calling for a "comprehensive strategy" on a national and European level for dealing with juvenile delinquents.
The report was approved by 440 votes in favour, 64 against and 71 abstentions.
It notes that dealing with juvenile delinquency required "comprehensive and effective school, social, family and educational policy". Its aim is to transmit "social and political values and the early socialisation of young people", with special emphasis on prevention.
MEPs also call on the European Commission to impose specific criteria on all member-states for collecting national statistical data, so that this can be compared, and to identify "best practices" in the various member-states.
One aspect stressed in the report is the potential role of the media, and member-states are asked to reach agreement with media organisations on a "road map for the protection of children's rights and especially young offenders, regarding both a ban on broadcasting extreme images at specific hours in the day and regards revealing the identities of juveniles involved in delinquent behaviour".
According to Batzeli, the media could also have an important preventive role by informing and sensitising the public and providing high-quality programmes.
A special amendment, meanwhile, referred to the Community seeking "close cooperation between judicial and police authorities for solving cases involving missing children who are victims of juvenile delinquency".
Finally, the report underlined the important role of families and stressed the need for EU measures for balancing family, social and educational policy, dealing with poverty and social exclusion, integration of immigrants and creating common cultural values.
"Bad children are usually also sad children. We owe it to them to return a smile to their lips," Batzeli concluded.
 Papandreou sends message to FYROM from KilkisMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Thursday sent a message to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) while speaking at an event held on the occasion of the Battle of Kilkis anniversary. The Battle of Kilkis-Lahanas in northern Greece took place during the Second Balkan War between Greece and Bulgaria for the town of Kilkis. The Greek army defeated the Bulgarians in a battle that lasted three days from June 19 to June 21 in 1913.
Papandreou stated that Greece wants good relations with FYROM but its Euro-Atlantic prospect is uncertain if no solution on the name issue is reached in a mutually acceptable way. He referred both to FYROM and Turkey saying that their EU accession is not just a matter of EU enlargement but also concerns adherence to EU principles and values on their part.
He also referred to Greater FYROM aspirations on behalf of Skopje and to Turkey's threats targeting territorial integrity referring to Cyprus stressing that when Greece becomes the target of threats it relies on the effectiveness of the Greek armed forces and diplomacy.
Papandreou added that the course of the Balkan region countries toward the EU is an important element for Greece, and used Bulgaria as an example stating that it used to be Greece's enemy during the Balkan Wars and now is an EU partner.
Papandreou laid a wreath at the war memorial and together with his brother Nikos visited the tomb of Nikolaos Papandreou, their grandfather's brother who was killed in the battle.
 Coalition party leader Alekos Alavanos tours Ilia prefectureCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alekos Alavanos toured the prefecture of Ilia, in the Peloponnese, on Thursday and speaking at a press conference referred in particular to the educational system, the bonds case, the European constitution and issues concerning the prefecture's inhabitants.
Focusing on problems facing the prefecture, Alavanos said "it is a prefecture with great possibilities, provided it begins to tackle its problems."
He further said that "there must be support for more leading possibilities such as organic agriculture and stockbreeding, the integrated management systems, the extension of name and origin products and the taking of measures for young farmers to stay on, as well as infrastructure works such as the promotion of the Ionian Motorway, the extension of the railroad and the air gateway of Western Greece," adding that "it is important that a series of options that the society of Ilia must support in its entirety should be included in the 4th Community Support Framework."
Alavanos also mentioned the European constitution, saying that "every effort to resuscitate a European constitution that has been rejected by the citizens of the countries where a referendum was held, even as a mini issue, contrasts with the expectations and the needs of the societies of the countries of the European Union."
 Government underlines zero tolerance for police brutalityCommenting on the latest reports of police brutality - this time targeting young prostitutes at a police station - alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday stressed that the government would show absolutely no tolerance for violence by officers exceeding the bounds of duty.
"The tolerance of the state, the government, of all of us to any form of violence or exceeding the duties assigned by the state to its functionaries is and must be zero. No tolerance," Antonaros stressed.
He added that the Greek police were now examining the video and photographs reproduced by a newspaper to determine whether police officers were involved, and that the public order ministry intended to impose exemplary punishment on any officers that were found to have taken part.
 Police chief visits Greek ombudsmanGreek Police Chief Lt. Gen. Anastasios Dimoschakis on Thursday paid a visit to the Greek Ombudsman George Kaminis and briefed him on cases where members of the public have lodged complaints about their interactions with the police force and asked the ombudsman's to intervene.
Among the complaints discussed were outstanding reports of mismanagement by the police, both in individual cases and in references in the ombudsman's annual reports.
They also discussed the way that the police handled disciplinary proceedings, especially in cases where criminal proceedings had been initiated at the same time.
Dimoschakis additionally briefed the ombudsman on the problems and issues that arose with the detention of citizens in police stations, which were governed by specific laws, and a recent circular designed to give officers and low-ranking members of the force guidelines for improving the daily interaction with the public.
Kaminis presented the chief of the police with files containing reports and observations regarding the police force.
 Eurodeputies call for urgent economic and humanitarian aid for new Palestinian governmentSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Eurodeputies called for immediate and urgent economic and humanitarian aid for the new Palestinian government, as well as for the Palestinian population in Gaza in a resolution ratified on Thursday on the MEDA programme concerning Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.
The relevant report on behalf of the Budget Control Committee, that is titled "MEDA and economic support for Palestine, evaluation, implementation and control", was proposed by Greek New Democracy party Eurodeputy and European Parliament vice president Rodi Kratsa-Tsangaropoulou.
 Indonesian embassy press release on bird flu initiativeThe Indonesian embassy in Athens on Thursday issued a press release copy of a same-day initiative by the country's bird flu coordinating committee to recommend a "robust" vaccination programme to curb and eradicate avian influenza in the archipelago nation's massive bird population.
 FinMin hails strong economic performanceGreece, Ireland, Finland and Luxembourg are the most rapidly growing economies in the EU-15, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday.
Presenting the ministry's report on current developments and prospects of the Greek economy, Alogoskoufis noted that Greek economy's performance has proved wrong all pessimistic forecasts over an economic slowdown after the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. The Greek minister stressed that GDP grew by 4.3 pct in 2006, up from a 2.7 pct growth rate in the Eurozone, while GDP grew by 4.6 pct in the first quarter of 2007 in Greece compared with a 3.0 pct growth rate in the Eurozone.
Alogoskoufis said the country's fiscal deficit was expected to fall to 2.4 pct of GDP this year, from 7.9 pct of GDP in 2004. Commenting on strong economic growth rates, the minister said they reflected a significant increase in investments and exports and not an expansive fiscal policy as in past.
Exports grew by 13.7 pct in 2005 and by 18.2 pct in 2006, while investments rose 12.7 pct last year contributing by 77 pct to Greek economic growth rate. Investments grew by 15 pct in the first three months of 2007, from 9.4 pct last year.
Alogoskoufis said fiscal consolidation was achieved without cutting social spending or reducing households' incomes. Greek households' real available income grew by 3.4 pct in 2005 and by 4.0 pct in 2006, leading to a 3.7 pct increase in private consumption over the two-year period.
Average inflation eased to 3.2 pct in 2006 from 3.5 pct in 2005, while unemployment dropped to 8.8 pct in the fourth quarter of 2006, from 11.3 pct in the first quarter of 2004. The Greek minister, however, acknowledged that unemployment remained high compared with the EU average and noted that one of the most significant problems facing the economy was that it did not create enough job positions.
Another big problem was social security, Alogoskoufis said, adding the problem would be addressed gradually over the next years.
He announced that the government would table to Parliament draft legislation to combating tax evasion, envisaging strict punishment of tax evaders and offering incentives to taxpayers. Another priority was promotion of a Social Cohesion fund aimed to support people living in poverty. Around 2.0 million people are considered poor currently in Greece and the fund will offer financial support totaling 2.0 billion euros. The government aims to cut poverty levels from 20 pct currently to 15 pct of the EU average, Alogoskoufis said.
He noted that Eurostat officials were currently in Greece to examine Greek GDP revised figures.
Political party reactions
Responding to Alogoskoufis' statements, main opposition PASOK MP Vasso Papandreou, responsible for economic affairs on the party's Parliamentary Council, accused of painting a false picture of the economy.
"A false picture of the economy and covering up the bonds scandal are the two basic axes of the government's policy, which Alogoskoufis faithfully serves," she said, adding that Greek society was aware of this, as was evident in the "displeasure expressed by 82 percent of the citizens".
According to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the finance minister had once again concealed that those who benefited from the increase in wealth generated where the rich, whereas the lives of the workers that generated the wealth had deteriorated.
"ND's pre-election pledge to reduce poverty from 20 percent to 15 percent is a big lie. Real poverty in Greece and in the EU is much greater and is constantly increasing," the party said.
 Deputy FM Evripidis Stylianidis calls on Bavarian businessmen to look upon Greece as partnerMUNICH (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)
Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Thursday appealed to Bavarian businessmen to look upon Greece as a partner in their business activities in southeastern Europe, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
Stylianidis, who was speaking during his three-day visit to Bavaria which has an economic, political and cultural dimension, praised the efforts of the European Union's German presidency to provide a new impetus for the European Treaty and a new vision for Europe.
He referred in particular to the impetus provided by the German presidency for the "New Neighbourhood" policy with priority being placed on the Black Sea, a region in which Greece is very active, the energy sector, transportation and the linking of ports.
Stylianidis presented Greece's new image as a country, as he said, "having firm economic foundations" and "modern infrastructures" and also referred to the decrease in the fiscal deficit that led to the lifting of supervision by the European Union.
Stylianidis met with Bavarian government officials as well as Greek community organisations.
Interministerial EU Programmes Committee examines course of 3rd CSF implementation
The course of the 3rd Community Support Framework's (CSF) implementation, in light of the 10th Monitoring Committee meeting to be held on June 26, was examined at the finance and economy ministry by the Interministerial European Union Programmes Committee on Thursday.
The Committee convened with the participation of Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Employment and Social Protection Minister Vassilis Manginas and Finance and Economy Deputy Minister Christos Folias.
Folias acted as the rapporteur at the Ministerial Committee, while the draft law being prepared for the National Strategic Framework Reference for the 2007-2013 period was also discussed at the meeting.
 Tourism minister presents coastal zone reformation planTourist Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia presented the plan concerning the reformation of the coastal zone, that includes the creation of a pedestrian and bicycle route along a distance of 42 kilometres, from Peace and Friendship Stadium to Varkiza, on Thursday afternoon during a special event held at the 3rd marina in Glyfada, the fifth municipality that the minister visited as part of the plan's promotion.
"The opening of Athens to the sea, the creation of a unified pedestrian and bicylce route is a far-reaching project having a symbolic and real importance, a project that will change the image and possibilities of the region," she said.
The minister stressed that the decision to create a coastal zone signals a focal political option since it places the prefecture of Attica, and the southern municipalities of Attica in particular, high in the effort to achieve the country's overall tourist development.
 Tourist arrivals up 6.8 pct in Jan-May, reportTourist arrivals in Greece rose by 6.8 pct in the first five months of 2007, the Institute for Tourism Research and Forecasts (ITEP) said on Thursday, adding that the growth rate was satisfactory.
The Institute, in a report said, however, that the country's competitors recorded almost double growth rates, with Croatia up 12.4 pct, Turkey 14.9 pct and Egypt 14.2 pct, while other tourist destinations such as Italy, Spain and Portugal recorded smaller growth rates (5.9 pct, 2.3 pct and 0.9 pct, respectively) and Cyprus recorded a 5.1 pct decline.
ITEP stressed that the growth figures so far this year was leading to forecasts of a growth rate of more than 7.0 pct in 2007, although it underlined that tourist arrivals were not equally distributed around the country, with Athens-Thessaloniki-Kavala-Rhodes and Crete showing strong growth figures, while the rest of the country was facing a "chaos". The Ionian islands were suffering a decline in arrivals, while East and North Aegean islands and the Peloponese were hit by a recession.
 National Bank employees union calls 24-hour strike on June 25The National Bank employees union (SYETE) has called a 24-hour strike on June 25.
According to a relevant announcement, SYETE demands, among other things, hirings to be carried out with a public test, an end to "the state of hirings through the window with provocative salaries", a change "in the provocative and unfair policy of distributing exorbitant bonuses and stock options" and the signing of a satisfactory operational collective agreement.
SYETE further mentions in the announcement that the labour and social insurance rights of National Bank employees are not negotiable.
 Hellenic Telecoms to pay 0.55 euros per share dividend to shareholdersAn Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation's annual general shareholders' meeting on Thursday approved a board plan to pay a 0.55 euros per share dividend to shareholders after skipping dividend payment for the previous two years.
Addressing the shareholders' meeting, OTE's chairman and chief executive Panagis Vourloumis presented the management's work in 2006 and emphasiiizeeed on measures taken to improve the organisation's position in the telecommunications markets in Greece and abroad, amid intensifying competition. He particularly mention a programe to promote the use of broadband services with higher speed connections and lower charges.
Vourloumis criticized the country's telecommunications market watchdog for its way of implementing policies. Commenting on 2006 results, he said they were significantly higher from 2005, with EBITDA margin rising to 29.1 pct from 24.4 pct in 2005, while the organization reported after tax profits of 531.2 million euros in 2006, after a loss of 237.2 million euros in the previous year.
Vourloumis said he expected the creation of larger and stronger groups to emerge in the country, combining mobile and fixed-telephony operations in the country, with the ability to invest strongly in the market.
 Building cost index up 7.0 pct in May, yr/yrBuilding materials price index grew 7.0 pct in May, after increases of 5.5 pct and 2.7 pct in the same months in 2006 and 2005, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service said the index was up 0.5 pct in May from April, after increases of 0.9 pct and 0.1 pct in the corresponding months in 2006 and 2005.
The average index in the 12-month period from June 2006 to May 2007 grew 6.6 pct, the report said.
 Athens Airport to build exhibition and conference centerAthens International Airport on Thursday signed a contract with Rota Ltd, J&P-Avax SA and Damco Energy SA for the construction of an exhibition and conference center in the facilities of the airport.
The exhibition center will begin operations in 2009, it will cover an area of 50,000 sq.m. with more than 3,000 parking positions, while the conference center will be able to host 700 persons.
 Greek stocks end 0.45 pct downGreek stocks came under renewed pressure on Thursday with the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange losing 0.45 pct to end at 4,876.87 points. Turnover was a strong 414 million euros, of which 100.8 million were block trades.
Most sectors ended lower with the Personal/Home Products (1.53 pct), Industrial Products (1.44 pct) and Travel (1.39 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Commerce (1.37 pct), Financial Services (0.28 pct) and Constructions (0.03 pct) scored gains.
The Big Cap index eased 0.29 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.48 pct lower and the Small Cap index fell 0.80 pct.
Euroholdings (12.33 pct), Space Hellas (10 pct) and Euroline Investment (9.76 pct) were top gainers, while Allatini Ceremics (9.15 pct), Levenderis (7.58 pct) and Viosol (6.67 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 178 to 83 with another 39 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.63%
Personal & Household: -1.53%
Raw Materials: -0.02%
Travel & Leisure: -1.39%
Food & Beverages: -0.64%
Financial Services: +0.28%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Alpha Bank, National Bank, Eurobank and Mitilineos.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 23.82
Public Power Corp (PPC): 21.50
HBC Coca Cola: 33.32
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.74
Emporiki Bank: 20.96
National Bank of Greece: 41.70
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 25.78
Titan Cement Company: 43.40
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices kept trading at a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover an improved 132.393 million euros.
The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.06 pct and on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.22 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 8,203 contracts worth 105.251 million euros, with 34,135 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 267 contracts worth 8.512 million euros with 1,291 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,108 contracts worth 18.629 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (3,157), followed by PPC (582), OPAP (481), Piraeus Bank (1,682), Alpha Bank (1,009) and Intracom (253).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 3.98 billion euros on Thursday, of which 1.85 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 2.13 billion euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.465 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.21 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.85 pct and the German Bund 4.64 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate fell to 4.07 pct from 4.08 pct on Wednesday, the two-day rate eased to 4.07 pct from 4.09 pct, the one-month rate was 4.11 pct and the 12-month rate 4.51 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.350
Pound sterling 0.677
Danish kroner 7.503
Swedish kroner 9.328
Japanese yen 166.82
Swiss franc 1.674
Norwegian kroner 8.098
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.441
Australian dollar 1.594
 Heat wave to continue into weekend, weather service predictsThe heat wave that began earlier this week is set to continue for the next three days, with temperatures climbing even higher, the Greek weather service EMY forecast on Thursday.
In response, the Athens Prefecture Civil Protection Service sent a circular to the 48 municipalities within its jurisdiction instructing them to prepare to deal with extreme conditions.
Municipalities and communities are instructed to leave air-conditioned areas open to the public if EMY's forecasts prove correct, especially for vulnerable groups like old people and those with chronic illness, and to supply their addresses to the public.
It also advised the public to apply for information and assistance to the Athens Prefecture switchboard number 1539 between 8:00 and 20:00 at night or to the Athens Prefecture Civil Protection Office at 210 - 6984950 and 210 - 6984940.
Meanwhile, the president of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities (KEDKE) Nikitas Kaklamanis sent an urgent letter to all municipalities and communities in the country on Wednesday that lists the emergency measures they must take for dealing with the high temperatures.
These included leaving local civil protection offices on alert throughout the weekend; increased surveillance of illegal rubbish dumps and clearing public spaces of flammable materials to avoid fires; monitoring and checking municipal water supply systems to avoid problems, as well as maintenance work on fire hydrants; attempting to restrict and ensure good management of water; having municipal social services, such as the Help at Home programme, on standby; restricting use of air-conditioning in public buildings to avoid power supply problems; informing citizens on prevention and first aid measures during the heat wave; ensuring that air-conditioned areas were available for the use of vulnerable groups and activating local volunteer groups to provide assistance.
 Christodoulos diagnosed with 'treatable' liver cancerPhysicians treating hospitalised Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Wednesday announced that the influential Greek Church leader was diagnosed with a "treatable" type of liver cancer in tandem with an "unrelated" malignant growth in the large intestine, which was removed via surgery last week.
Physicians speaking at a press conference at the Aretaion Hospital of Athens stressed that Christodoulos was instrumental in allowing a complete and public briefing regarding his condition.
No metastasis by the two malignant growths was detected, while last week's surgery is expected to fully treat the cancer in the large intestine, doctors said, adding that the Archbishop will remain in intensive care for another two days at most.
 US Congressional com't hears testimony on violations at Hagia Sophia CathedralWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
Veteran Greek-American Council political leader Chris Spirou on Wednesday called for an end to the continuing violations of the sanctity of the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the pre-eminent Orthodox cathedral in the world and currently a museum in the Bosporus metropolis.
Spirou, who heads up the organisation Free Agia Sophia Council of America, in addressing the US Congress' Human Rights Caucus and its chairman, influential California Congressman Tom Lantos, outlined what he said were violations at the venerated monument for 554 years in the wake of its conversion to a mosque.
He also denounced the fact that Turkish authorities have transformed the basilica into an international bazaar and tourist attraction.
Lantos reportedly expressed understanding for every instance of human rights violations and referred to the importance of religious freedoms.
Spirou called on US legislators to carefully read the chapter contained in the recent report by the US committee on religious freedoms that refers to Turkey. He also reiterated the council's demand that Hagia Sophia be restored as a place of worship for all Christians, the purpose it served for a millennium.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos holds talks with Council of Hellenes Abroad presidentCouncil of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Stefanos Tamvakis paid a courtesy call on Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos at the Phanar, Istanbul, on Thursday and conveyed to him SAE's support for the issues of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
SAE's president expressed his "unlimited respect" for the Patriarch and expressed the "wish that ways will soon be found to solve the problems threatening the Ecumenical Patriarchate's existence."
He also said that cooperation between SAE and the agencies of the Church is a foregone conclusion and it is being strengthened and developed on a daily basis to benefit Hellenism and Orthodoxy in every corner of the earth.
Lastly, the Patriarch accepted a proposal by Tamvakis to receive SAE's new directorate at the Phanar in early autumn.
 Alexandria Patriarch Theodoros II visits SyriaPatriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa arrived in Damascus, Syria on Wednesday afternoon for a five-day visit, as he was warmly received by Antioch Patriarch Ignatius IV of and a large crowd of Orthodox Christian faithful.
Speaking at the Annunciation Cathedral in Damascus, Theodoros thanked Ignatius for the warm reception, calling him as an enlightened ecclesiastical leader of the Orthodox faith.
The Patriarch of Alexandria will attend a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch, a Church founded in 45 AD by the Apostle Peter.
Before returning to Cairo on June 25, Patriarch Theodoros II will also meet with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
 Athens Mayor awards Medal of Merit to Emir of QatarAthens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Thursday awarded the City of Athens Gold Medal of Merit to His Highness, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani in a ceremony held at City Hall.
In his address the mayor praised the Emir for his "decisive contribution to the establishment of democratic principles" in Qatar, including a constitution and a series democratic reforms.
He also applauded his "consistent, honest efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue," including the annual Interfaith Conference, and Qatar's efforts for a peaceful solution to the Middle East problem.
"We identify with your achievements as Athens introduced independent radio broadcasting to Greece, while Qatar brought independent television to the Middle East, which led to significant improvement in access to news and information in the Arab world.
And a decision by the Al Jazeera television network to also broadcast in English further contributes to intercultural dialogue and understanding," Kaklamanis said.
He said that Athens looked forward to greater cooperation between the two capitals, Athens and Doha and the two countries.
The Emir was accompanied by Qatar's Economy and Trade Minister Yousef Hussain Kamal and its Energy and Industry Minister Mohammand Saleh Al-Sada. The Greek government was represented by Deputy National Defence Minister Yiannis Lambropoulos, while several local government officials also attended.
 Strong explosion at grill house kills one, injures sevenAn explosion at a grill house in the southern Athens district of Nea Smyrni just before midnight on Wednesday killed a woman passing by the eatery and injured another seven people, five seriously. Authorities have attributed the blast to a faulty gas canister.
Two couples, reportedly the co-owners of the restaurant, are among the injured, along with a 90-year-old woman passing by at the time of the explosion.
An investigation is underway by the fire brigade to determine the exact causes of the explosion.
 Large cache of opium seized in ThessalonikiPolice in Thessaloniki on Thursday announced that they had confiscated 24.368 kilos of opium and arrested a local man and a Bulgarian national during night. This was the largest quantity of opium ever confiscated in the annals of the Greek police.
The 44-year-old Bulgarian and 66-year-old Greek are believed to be members of an international drug-trafficking ring. Their arrest was achieved through collaboration between the Greek drugs squad, the National Intelligence Service and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
It is believed that the two suspects intended to sell the opium for 10,000 euros a kilo to a police officer posing as a buyer, after he had first convinced them that he had the means to use the opium as a raw material for making heroin.
Police confiscated the drugs and two private cars that had been used to transport them.
The two suspects will be led before a public prosecutor, while the drugs squad announced that it will continue its investigation in order to fully dismantle the drugs ring.
 Thessaloniki prosecutor orders prosecution against five police officers involved in Alex caseA prosecutor in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Thursday ordered prosecution to be launched against five police officers for violation of duty, who had been initially involved in investigations concerning the disappearance of 11-year-old Alex in 2006.
According to testimonies provided for the prosecutor by the parents of Alex, police officers, journalists and others, the police officers delayed in examining the five minors involved in the case of the boy's disappearance.
It was also revealed that the police officers did not carry out an immediate search of the uninhabited house where the five minors had reportedly taken the boy's body initially.
The possibility of paedophile circles being involved in the disappearance case was also examined in the framework of investigations, but such an eventuality was not proved.
 Immigrant-smuggler, 37 illegal immigrants arrestedPolice on Thursday announced the arrest of an Albanian man that was caught transporting 37 illegal immigrants from Albania in the back of a truck with Athens licence plates.
They said the suspect had taken 1,000 euros from each immigrant for their passage into Greece.
The group of immigrants was picked up in a farming region near the village of Rodotopi in Ioannina and intercepted at the "Vlachostrata" detour. They had been taken to Rodotopi by other members of the immigrant-smuggling gang, who helped them cross the border at unguarded points.
The illegal immigrants and the driver will appear before a public prosecutor in Ioannina.
Police also intercepted two Greeks transporting seven illegal immigrants from Albania in their cars near Arta and Paramythia in Thesprotia. They will be led before the local public prosecutors.
 Fragment of ancient marble relief returned by Danish citizenA fragment of an ancient Greek marble relief was returned to Greece on Thursday by a Danish family that had owned it for over a century.
Carsten Dahl had contacted the Greek Ambassador in Denmark last April on his own initiative, informing him of the fragment's existence, because he believed that "antiquities should return to their country of origin."
The fragment was from a 4th century B.C. Attica carved relief shaped like a small temple that portrayed the goddess Athena. It had been given to the Dahl family in 1897 by a Danish writer and war correspondent working in Greece at the time.
It was officially received on Thursday by Culture Minister George Voulgarakis in a special ceremony at the culture ministry, though Carsten Dahl was unable to attend due to ill health and was represented by his nephew.
Voulgarakis thanked and publicly congratulated Mr. Dahl, stressing the "huge symbolic importance" of his decision to transfer ownership of the fragment to the Greek culture ministry.
"It vindicates our efforts and points to similar actions and initiatives," the minister said, repeating that the antiquities taken out of Greece were "lost pieces of our history".
"The culture ministry of Greece will serve in every possible way the building of the policy that will result in the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles," he added.
 Girls stage abduction to avoid fallout for bad marks at schoolTwo young girls aged 13 and 14, members of the ethnic Greek minority in southern Albania, on Thursday admitted to staging their own abduction because they were afraid to face their parents' wrath over their poor marks at school.
Their ruse was responsible for a massive police operation - including use of a police helicopter and activation of a crisis-management plan - after their parents had reported the imaginary kidnapping on Wednesday afternoon.
The parents had originally been contacted by one of their daughters on Wednesday, who claimed that she and her sister had been kidnapped from their home in Nea Smyrni by strangers who had broken in by force. She said that they had been gagged, tied up and had their faces covered then bundled into a white van and taken to an unknown location, where they were being held in the basement of an unknown house.
The girl claimed she had hidden her mobile phone in her trousers and the kidnappers had not found it. She also claimed to have been told by the imaginary kidnappers that they had abducted the two girls to settle a personal score with their uncle, who lived with the family.
In a phone call about an hour later with police, the girl then claimed that her phone's battery had run out, after which no one was able to contact the two teenagers until about 11:00 the same night, when the girls called the N. Smyrni police station and said they had been set free by the kidnappers at Nea Smyrni Square.
They were immediately picked up by officers from the Crimes Against Life squad but then began to contradict themselves under questioning, until they finally confessed that they had made up the whole thing because they were afraid of their parents' reaction to their poor results at school.
Also taking part in the operation was a police psychologist, who advised the family to handle the two girls in the best possible way so that the incident would not be repeated in the future. The Misdemeanour's Court public prosecutor's office was also informed, who ordered that the two juveniles be released.
 Two light tremors in ThesprotiaTwo light tremors shook residents in Thesprotia, western Greece on Thursday at around midday.
The first quake occurred at 12:58 and measured 4.3 on the Richter scale, while the second was at 13:05 and measured 4.5 on the Richter scale. They were most strongly felt near the town of Paramythia, where the epicentre was located.
No damage has been reported so far.
 Number of children in school reduced 1 pct since last yearThe number of children and teenagers attending primary and secondary schools came to roughly 1,462,000 during the 2006-2007 academic year, or 1 percent less than the year before, according to figures released by the Greek National Statistics Service on Thursday.
This represented a reduction of some 14,500 students throughout the country.
The number of teachers, conversely, increased by 2 percent to reach a total of 150,000 and the number of schools was reduced by one, from 15,436 to 15,435.
 Hotter on FridayHotter weather is expected throughout most of the country, with temperatures reaching as much as 40C on parts of the mainland. Winds light. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 24C and 39C and in Thessaloniki from 22C to 37C.
 President Papadopoulos says Cyprus approved for EurozoneBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos announced on Thursday evening that the European Council had approved the proposals of the European Commission and the European Central Bank for the accession of Cyprus and Malta to the Eurozone on 1 January 2008.
He added that the Council would instruct ECOFIN to set a date for the parity of the Cyprus pound to the Euro next month.
Regarding Turkey's EU accession course, he said Cyprus was determining its position chapter by chapter, adding that discussions were ongoing regarding the chapters the German presidency wishes to open and ''we don't want to be unduly negative.''
Referring to the areas of Cyprus under Turkish occupation, President Papadopoulos expressed regret that the political conditions did not allow for the introduction of the Euro, so that the Turkish Cypriots could enjoy its advantages, but pointed out that it was impossible to introduce the Euro in the occupied areas for many reasons.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, President Papadopoulos said ''this is a very historical day for Cyprus.''
''It has become possible, through the hard work of the government officials, the experts who advise us, the understanding of the European Central Bank and the Commission, and it is proof that the economic policy we have followed in Cyprus has been rewarded by making it possible for us to accomplish the indicators which are very strict and which are demanded by the European Central Bank and the Commission,'' he said.
He added that ''we managed to reduce our deficit from 6.3% when this government took over to 1.4% this year, with very good prospects'' and noted that ''it will go further down.''
''The public debt, which was 72% against the GDP is now 64% with falling inclination and the inflation has been kept within the boundaries of the three best performing members of the EU, and unemployment is very little. All this we have achieved with the help and sacrifices of our people,'' the president said.
President Papadopoulos noted that Thursday's decision is ''interpreted as being a confirmation of the sound policies which the government has followed.''
''In the case of Cyprus, we are expecting that the rounding up of prices will be downwards, not upwards, because right now our currency is stronger than the euro and a great number of businesses have already declared their policy and are bound to reduce their prices by 1%,'' he pointed out.
Referring to the Turkish occupied areas, he said ''it is sad that the political conditions do not allow for the introduction of the Euro, so that our Turkish Cypriots compatriots can enjoy its advantages,'' but pointed out that it was impossible to introduce the Euro in the occupied areas for many reasons.
Replying to questions, President Papadopoulos pointed out that ''it is not possible'' to introduce the euro in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus ''unless the area is under the control of the Central European Bank and the Commission, which it is not, and if they manage to comply with the requirements, which are very strict, as to the economic indicators.''
''That cannot be achieved now when the economy of the occupied areas is completely controlled by Turkey in Turkish lira, not in euros,'' he said.
Asked if Cyprus would veto the opening of negotiating chapters for Turkey, President Papadopoulos said ''we have stated our position in the working groups.''
''There is a further meeting going on. Negotiations are going on. Our position is very clear. We say we raise our objections. There are matters relating to policy, in addition to technical conditions, and also bearing in mind the attitude of Turkey towards Cyprus. It seems really unbelievable that Turkey will in one day exercise its veto in a number of international organisations which we try to join, for example the European Meteorological Agency. Cyprus is vetoed. Now what political impact that would have getting the weather forecast, which we get anyway, published. I don't understand. Do they expect us the following day to vote for them to open chapters, especially those where there are technical objections, not only from us, from other countries as well,'' he said.
President Papadopoulos pointed out that ''Cyprus is determining its position chapter by chapter,'' adding that discussions are continuing on the chapters the German presidency of the EU wishes to open and ''we don't want to be unduly negative.''
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Papadopoulos and Poettering discuss Cyprus and EU issuesBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos met in Brussels on Thursday with President of the European Parliament Hans Gert Poettering, with whom he discussed the Cyprus problem, the accession of Cyprus to the Eurozone and the European Council meeting.
Speaking after the meeting, Poettering said they agreed that Cyprus and the European Parliament should give all its support to the Presidency of the EU so that "we get a result during this European Council on the substance of the Constitutional Treaty."
"We have discussed the developments with the introduction of the Euro in Cyprus and, thanks to the European Parliament, I think we solved, more or less, the problems of delaying the accession, so there will be no delays of Cyprus and Malta to introduce the Euro on January 1, 2008," he said.
Poettering added that "the European Parliament and I, we try to do everything to be successful."
He noted that they "exchanged views on the political situation in Cyprus," adding that President Papadopoulos gave him "very good and detailed information," and that they discussed the situation in Turkey.
Poettering noted that they agreed that Cyprus and the European Parliament should give all its support to the Presidency of the EU so that "we get a result during this European Council on the substance of the Constitutional Treaty."
President Papadopoulos said he explained his positions concerning Cyprus and the July 8 process, relating to a UN-brokered agreement to help resume negotiations towards a settlement.
He thanked the European Parliament and Poettering in particular "because he was very helpful in the last minute hitch we might have had about differences between the European Council and the Commission as to the procedure."
"I expressed my gratitude because for us this day is an historic day, achieved with a lot of sacrifices by our people, employers as well as trade unions and government, and we consider it to be a vindication of the correct economic policies which the government has been following," he added.
President Papadopoulos said "this Council is also an historic one" and assured that Cyprus is very supportive of the EU presidency's efforts.
"We hope that the German presidency will leave its mark on this very important process of reforming the Treaties. I wish every success to the forthcoming Council," he concluded.
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