|Monday, 12 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-06-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 29 June 2007 Issue No: 2631
 Greece raises 1.1 bln euros from the sale of 10.7 pct in OTEThe Greek state on Thursday raised around 1.1 billion euros from the sale of a 10.7 percent equity stake in Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) to institutional investors, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis told reporters.
The Greek minister said the private placement of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation's shares was successfully completed and noted that the placement met strong demand and was significantly oversubscribed by high-quality institutional funds.
The accelerated bookbuilding process was completed early in the day at the ceiling of the price range of 21.40 euros per share, leading to a significant increase in OTE's share prices in the stock market.
Alogoskoufis said the placement was the most successful such process run by the Greek state as it showed no discount from the previous day's closing price.
Investors are awarding OTE's restructuring programme, introduced after 2004, the Greek minister said, adding: "We are creating a modern Organisation, dynamic and competitive to work for the benefit of consumers, the economy and the country. Our goals is to further restructuring the Organisation offering better and cheaper services to Greek citizens. Additionally, the very successful privatization process raised around 1.1 billion euros for the Greek state, contributing significantly in reducing the country's public debt".
He reiterated that the government would adhere to its privatization program.
A Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation's statement earlier on Thursday said the Greek state would launch a private placement of 52,446,092 common shares, or 10.7 pct of the organisation's equity capital, to domestic and foreign investors through an accelerated book-building process.
 PASOK, labour unions react to sale of OTE sharesThe main opposition PASOK party and labour unions on Thursday reacted to the sale of shares of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) by the state and condemned the development in relevant announcements.
PASOK's economy and finance rapporteur Vasso Papandreou and transport and telecomminications rapporteur Dinos Rovlias said that "the government is continuing, with consistency, the policy of OTE's disdain."
He added that "since they were unable to proceed with the direct sellout, through the strategic investor, they activated the sale process of a percentage of the shares. This move took place for purely cash-receiving reasons, to enable the government's economic staff to cover, to a certain degree, the overall collapse of the budget's revenues."
Referring to the same issue, the OME-OTE labour union said that "this move does not serve any operational target of OTE whatsoever, as well as no national objectif, apart from the minimal short-term decrease in the public sector's debts."
The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) said on its part that it "condemns in the strongest way the sale of a new package of OTE with the ceding of a percentage of 10.7 percent to institutional investors. It is the most crucial percentage that leads to the full privatisation of the OTE Group."
 PM briefed on situation due to heatwave; Sioufas says power supply will meet surging demandPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed by the relevant interior minister on Thursday over repercussions and state services' measures to deal with an ongoing three-day heatwave that has scorched the east Mediterranean country, although temperatures are thankfully forecast to drop slightly beginning on Thursday evening.
A batch of wildfires throughout the country, including one that claimed the life of two local residents, 42 and 36, in the Agia region of Larissa prefecture in central Greece on Wednesday evening, were the top priority on Thursday. Additionally, authorities and the state-run Public Power Corp. (PPC) continued to experience record-breaking power consumption nearing the grid's maximum output.
A series of power outages were recorded on Wednesday, including in several Athens districts, as PPC officials apparently tried to steer the distribution system away from a possible regional blackout.
According to the latest reports, nine people died as a direct result of the heatwave, which at times reached outdoor temperatures of 43C to 44C.
After his briefing of the prime minister, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos expressed the government's condolences to the families of the victims, while he said that the most worrying wildfires still burning were in the Pelio district, central Greece, and the Dervenohoria region near north Athens' Mount Parnitha.
Meanwhile, the power supply was gradually being restored to affected areas after an explosion and fire at a PPC high voltage distribution substation in the Oreokastro municipality near Thessaloniki, northern Greece. The blast caused extensive power failures in the city of Thessaloniki itself as well as in other prefectures throughout the Macedonia and Thrace provinces, including Halkidiki, Imathia, Serres, Kavala, Evros and Rodopi.
In commenting on PPC's performance so far amid one of the worst heatwaves in Greece over the past 20 years, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said that between June 18 and June 27 total power consumption in the greater Athens area (Attica prefecture) increased by 35.19 percent; 26.46 percent in the rest of the country.
Sioufas, whose portfolio includes energy policy and oversight of state-run PPC, said the utility logged 66 hours of power loads above 9,000 MW; 36 hours above 9,500 MW and 16 hours of power loads above 10,000 MW. Additionally, he said power consumption for Attica prefecture -- host to roughly half of the country's 11 million residents -- totaled 4,118 MW, as opposed to a power load of 3,540 MW in 2005 and just 3,000 MW in 2003.
Sioufas, in a bid to dismiss opposition criticism of poor maintenance of the grid and a shortage in power generation capacity, reminded that a power load of more than 9,000 MW was reported for only one hour in 2003, whereas the entire southern half of the grid went off line on June 12, 2004 during the first hour of demand above 9,000 MW.
Since 2004, the "Olympic year" for Greece, Sioufas said 922.8 MW have been added to the country's power generation capability.
The minister blamed whatever outages on the overheating of cables, breakers and substations, while appearing confident that both production and distribution capability will more than meet demand in the present.
 Nine deaths officially pinned on heatwave by health ministryThe Greek health ministry has officially attributed nine deaths to the heatwave that has swept the country since June 22, driving temperatures above 40 degrees centigrade for several days, according to figures released on Thursday.
In addition to the nine people that died, another 344 people had to be taken to hospital with symptoms of heatstroke, of which 218 were admitted for treatment.
In Thessaloniki, meanwhile, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos has asked all hospitals in the area to remain on duty because of the extended power cuts in the area and ordered that all patients not suffering from acute health problems be discharged.
Commenting on the way that hospitals had functioned while the heatwave was at its peak, Avramopoulos said they were satisfactory and had remained on standby.
 Deputy defence minister on fire-stricken PorosDeputy Defence Minister Vassilis Mihaloliakos on Thursday underlined the need for collective action to mend the extended damage inflicted on the island of Poros during a destructive fire the day before.
Mihaloliakos was visiting an armed forces training centre of the island, where he also had meetings with Deputy Education Minister Giorgos Kalos, Piraeus Prefect Vassilis Mihas, the local mayor and other local bodies and officials.
The minister congratulated municipal authorities, the fire brigade, the training centre staff and all the island's inhabitants for their efforts, stressing that they "have saved this lovely island from the flames".
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces General Staff on Thursday announced that 13 army officers, 131 troopers and 15 army vehicles were assisting the firefighting forces on the ground and in the air to fight the fires that have broken out throughout the country, especially the blaze in Agia Larisa and in Lygourio in Argolida.
 PASOK leader Papandreou in Geneva for SI summitMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou is in Geneva on Thursday in his capacity as president of the Socialist International (SI), as a SI summit is expected to feature the participation of 300 representatives of political parties from around the world and some 40 heads of state and government.
Developments in the strife-plagued Middle East, especially the situation in the Palestinian areas, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as the Kosovo issue will be on the agenda of talks.
 President Papoulias concludes visit to ArmeniaPresident of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday concluded his three-day visit to Armenia, meeting in Yerevan with members of the Greek community and the Armenian Patriarch.
On Thursday morning, he visited a museum of old manuscripts in the city, which he praised warmly in the visitors' book as a "wonderful museum" and a "living proof of Armenian culture and the ancient historic ties with Greece".
He next received a delegation of Armenians of Greek descent, who claim that their small community far exceeds the official figures of 1,500 and is over 4,000-strong, and discussed issues that concern them and their demands, which were outlined in a memorandum they presented to Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis, who was present.
Immediately afterward, the Greek president visited the Catholicos Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Church, for a one-hour meeting focusing mainly on supporting Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Fanar, Istanbul following a Turkish court decision denying the Istanbul Patriarchate's ecumenical status.
During his three-day visit to Armenia, Papoulias met Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, as well as planting a fir tree at the monument commemorating the Armenian genocide.
 Papoulias to visit Kavala and DramaHellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias will visit Kavala, northeastern Greece, on Friday to attend festivities on the occasion of the feast day of the city's patron saint Apostle Paul.
President Papoulias will attend a doxology at the Apostle Paul Cathedral, officiated by Metropolitan Bishop Prokopios, and afterwards he will lay a wreath at the city memorial. During a special ceremony at the Municipal Gardens, the President will be declared an honorary citizen of Kavala.
On Sunday, he will visit the northern city of Drama to attend events commemorating the anniversary of the city's liberation from Ottomon rule on July 1, 1913.
He will attend a doxology at the Drama Cathedral followed by a wreath laying ceremony and a student and military parade.
President Papoulias will further inaugurate a photo exhibition and, in a special event held at the City Hall, he will be declared honorary citizen of the city of Drama.
 PM letter of congratulations to new UK counterpartPrime minister Costas Karamanlis has sent a letter of congratulations to new British prime minister Gordon Brown.
In his letter, Karamanlis referred to the political and economic ties between the two countries, stressing that he looks forward to a further strenghening of bilateral relations between Greece and the United Kingdom at both national and EU levels.
 FM spokesman on Tony BlairA foreign ministry spokesman on Thursday conveyed Athens' best wishes to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in his new mission as representative of the international quartet for peace in the Middle East.
Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said Blair is a recognisable international figure and wished him success in the mission he will undertake, stressing that the situation in the Middle East requires immediate, meaningful and effective actions.
 Greek foreign minister on official visit to VaticanGreek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is to carry out an official visit to the Vatican on July 4, the foreign ministry announced on Thursday.
According to the announcement, Pope Benedict XVI is to grant an audience to Bakoyannis, who is also to meet her counterpart in the Vatican City, the Secretary for Relations with States Dominique Mamberti. Their talks will focus on EU developments and regional issues, the announcement said.
 Bakoyannis to meet Lithuanian counterpart next MondayGreek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet her Lithuanian counterpart Petras Vaitiekunas next Monday at noon, soon after he arrives in Athens on a working visit.
The main issues they will discuss are the results of the recent European Council concerning a reform European Constitutional Treaty, developments in the western Balkans and especially Kosovo, developments in the Middle East and bilateral relations in economic and energy issues.
 No link between Patriarchate ruling in Turkey and natgas project, Greece saysThe Greek foreign ministry on Thursday said that a Turkish court's ruling concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Fanar and Greece's decision to participate in the construction of a natural gas pipeline with Russia were completely unrelated issues.
Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said that Greece's participation in the pipeline project was linked to implementing its energy policy, in agreement with its European partners and the European Commission:
"We attach great importance to energy security based on differentiating sources and routes of energy," he said.
This was unrelated to the Turkish court's decision, which was made about 15 days earlier and announced on Tuesday, the spokesman added.
Asked whether Greece's decision may have caused displeasure in some quarters, Koumoutsakos said he was not aware that any displeasure had been expressed, adding that Greece's desire to discuss energy issues with all sides was known.
A court ruling in Turkey that was announced on Tuesday disputed the ecumenical nature of the Orthodox Patriarchate based in Fanar, Istanbul, saying that the centuries-old religious institution now only represents the tiny handful of Greek Orthodox Christians still living in Turkey, and denied it the right to style itself as ecumenical.
Athens again raises issue of Ecumenical Patriarchate
"The Ecumenical Patriarchate is not a bilateral issue, and it has attracted the interest of the European Union and countries such as the United States," foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos reiterated on Thursday.
Koumoutsakos cited a statement on Wednesday by US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey, recent comments by former US Vice President Al Gore and an unprecedented letter signed by 42 out of 50 members of a US House Committee on foreign affairs addressed to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a letter specifically raising the Patriarchate issue.
He also referred to a number of European texts on Turkey's EU course with references to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Halki Seminary.
"Everything mentioned proves that the issue of the Patriarchate is not bilateral... Greece clearly has a special interest in its (Patriarchate's) unobstructed operation, but it is more than obvious that the Ecumenical Patriarchate's status and operation has also attracted the interest of many nations and organisations," the spokesman said.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate will be among the issues to be discussed in the meeting of Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis with Pope Benedict XVI during her visit to the Vatican on July 4, Koumoutsakos added, reminding that during his recent visit to Istanbul the Pope had addressed Patriarch Vartholomeos as Ecumenical Patriarch.
In a related development, World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) president Stefanos Tamvakis expressed his full support to the Ecumenical Patriarch on the occasion of this week's shocking ruling by a Turkish court dismissing the Ecumenical status of the Istanbul-based Christian Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople.
 State Dept. on 'ecumenical' status of PatriarchWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
The US State Department on Wednesday issued a written statement referring to the "ecumenical" status of the Istanbul-based Christian Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, without however, referred to this week's unprecedented court decision by a Turkish high court claiming that the Patriarchate only represents the Greek Orthodox community in the predominately Muslim and EU hopeful.
The statement also refers to the great "respect" held by the US for "Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Vartholomeos)", while using term "ecumenical" twice.
A State Department spokesman later declined to comment directly on the Turkish court decision, instead he reiterated Washington's emphasis on the promotion of religious and human rights.
The development has caused a whirlwind of condemnation by religious and political leaders around the world.
 Foreign ministry on FYROM's EU prospectsAthens' was keeping "all options open" concerning the EuroAtlantic prospects of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Thursday.
"The judgement will be overall and will concern all the criteria we have set," he told reporters when asked what stance Athens would take, while he also referred them to a recent speech by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in Parliament on the issue.
Koumoutsakos said that FYROM would be judged collectively at European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, and that the judgement would be based on whether it showed good neighbourly relations, real flexibility in the process for finding a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of its name and whether it meets other terms and conditions, such as the Ohrid Agreement, steady implementation of the rule of law, effective justice and others.
"The prospect that Skopje will join NATO with the existing so-called 'constitutional' name simply does not exist," the spokesman added.
Greece objects to the use of the name 'Republic of Macedonia' adopted by FYROM on the grounds that it is the same as that of a northern Greece region on the tiny republic's border and may give rise to future territorial claims against Greece. Athens also objects to attempts by FYROM's to establish a historic connection between the republic's Slavic-speaking majority and Alexander the Great, the ancient Macedonian king, general and conqueror that has long been regarded as an inseparable part of Greece's own history.
 Foreign ministry on Turkish military flights in AegeanThe Greek foreign ministry on Thursday said that flights by Turkish military planes in Greek skies above the Aegean the previous day did not actually violate an agreement made last year by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.
Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos pointed out that the agreement for a summer moratorium, which was extended by a month at the time, actually concerned planning and carrying out military exercises by the two countries in the Aegean.
"However, this does not mean that this Turkish practice of large-scale activity in the Aegean that ignores the rules of the Athens Flight Information Region and the limits of Greek airspace is a positive or constructive attitude. On the contrary, it is a negative practice and is treated as a negative practice both diplomatically and operationally - directly and efficiently," he said.
 Education ministry's operational programme approved by European CommissionThe education ministry is the first ministry in the European Union to have its operational programme, in the framework of the 4th Community Support Framework, approved by the European Commission.
According to an announcement by the ministry, in the framework of the Greek government's programming effort, the education ministry has prepared a basic strategic plan for the development of educational policy over the 2007-2013 period.
According to the announcement, "the ministry's civil leadership, with effective interventions, has completed all the relevant discussion stages and so on June 8, 2007, only three months after the tabling, the negotiating process was successfully completed."
 Foreign ministry financing housing for returning KosovarsThe Greek foreign ministry is financing the construction of housing complexes in Kosovo to house returning Kosovars who had been displaced due to ethnic violence, "in consistence with the policy of ethnic reconciliation and the multinational character of Kosovo," ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Thursday.
The foreign ministry's International Developmental Cooperation Service (YDAS) has financed the construction of new homes in the village of Srpski Babus, where 86 Kosovars, who had bee displaced due to the ethnic violence, returned on Saturday, 23 June.
The new dwellings they will live in have been built by the Greek non-governmental organisation European Perspective (EP) with funding by the YDAS.
"It is an initiative that has met with the appreciation of the local authorities and leadership of Pristina, and is continuing with the construction of other housing projects in other areas of Kosovo as well," Koumoutsakos said, stressed that Greece "continues to back actions that promote peace and stability in the region, playing a constructive role".
 Communist Party leader continues tour of CreteCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga outlined her views on economic reforms on Thursday while in Rethymno, during her tour of the island of Crete.
She also attacked the two main parties, ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK, saying that their policy of making big promises was populist.
"Reform, modernisation and renewal is for us when people work at steady jobs for fewer hours for five days a week, seven hours a day - 35 hours. For men get their pension at 60 and women at 55, for young people to have free access without class barriers to all levels of education. When young men and women have the opportunity to enjoy holidays, entertainment, coasts and beaches freely in the summer, in organised camps that do not cost much. For young people not to feel the insecurity that they now feel as a result of the many years of reactionary measures that have been taken," she said.
She also claimed the existence of an organised plan to wipe out the Communist party and urged the electorate to vote against the two main parties in the upcoming elections.
 Greece to open Greek products promotion/projection centres in NY, Moscow, London, HKThe economy and finance ministry, in cooperation with the foreign ministry and the Hellenic Exports Promotion Organisation (HEPO) will establish four Centres abroad for the promotion and projection of Greek products and investments, it was made known on Thursday, through the public and private sector collaboration process (SDIT), while the official announcement of the decision to set up the Centres in New York, Moscow, London and Hong Kong is anticipated on Friday.
The four Centres will operate under private economy criteria, and their establishment falls under the initiatives planned by the government for the second-half of 2007, national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis said, opening a conference of the National Exports Council.
Also planned under the framework of initiatives for second-half-2007 are two large business missions to Russia and Brazil, and implementation of the Greek products and services exports programme on the Chinese market, in the context of implementation of the "Greece in China" cultural year that has been designated by Beijing for 2008 on the occasion of its hosting of the next Olympic Games next year.
Also, an advertising campaign for Greek products will take place abroad, bugeted at 10 million euro, while a corresponding campaign will be organised domestically, aimed at mobilising the Greek enterprises in participating in HEPO's extroversion activities.
Further, the promotion of Greek products in the Arab countries, with particular focus on the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Omman and Jordan will also continue at an intensive pace in the second-half of 2007.
Alogoskoufis said that the measures that have been taken to date have contributed to an increase in Greek exports, which rose by 8 percent in 2005 over 2004, by 8.8 percent in 2006 over 2005, and by 10 percent in the first trimester of 2007 alone against the first four-month period of 2006.
The minister also noted the problems that have been resolved, which also contributed to the increase in exports, such as VAT rebates on exports, expenditures that now are tax-deductible, advancement of the computerisation of the general registry of exporters, the creation of a data base for access to the products, services and investments market, and amendment of HEPO's founding law, which substantially improved the services provided and under which HEPO assumed the management of the regime of guarantees issued by the Greek state for loans, letters of guarantee and credits to the shipbuilding industry, in the framework of the state reinforcements.
Deputy foreign minister Evripides Stylianidis, in turn, stressed that economic diplomacy comprised one of the most powerful means for promoting a country's economic interests abroad.
To date, he said, more than 30 business missions and visits have taken place to over 53 countries, while 17 meetings of the various mixed inter-ministerial committees have also taken place.
He said the increase in GDP revenues from exports rose from 7.1 percent in 2004 to 8.8 percent in 2006, and was anticipated to climb to 9.8 percent in 2007.
Stylianidis further referred to the activities of Greek enterprises in the Balkans, and also in the Arab world, exports to which he said jumped by 31.3 percent in 2006 against 2005.
Representatives of the Panhellenic Association of Exporters stressed that the top priority of export policy must be to contribute, with specific actions, to boosting, accelerating and extending the structural reforms to the exports sector. They also called for encouragement of new products that meet the increasing consumer demands, particularly with respect to quality.
 Deputy FM addresses Greece-China Business CouncilDeputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis made an account of efforts made by Greece so far to approach the Chinese market, "recognising in time the momentum of the Chinese economy" at the Greece-China Business Council on Thursday and outlined the sectors in which Greece has comparative advantages to further strengthen bilateral cooperation.
The annual volume of Greek-Chinese trade transactions over the 2001-2006 period tripled and reached 2.4 billion dollars. Despite the balance deficit, Greek exports have increased by 110 percent from 2004 until today and Greek investments in China have exceeded 200 million euros.
"We also believe that a wide field is being opened for Chinese investments activity and we look forward to considerable Chinese investments in our country," the deputy foreign minister said.
Outlining Greece's comparative advantages, he referred to exports of farm and dairy products and of cosmetics, while noting that the Greek authorities are making efforts to promote these products by concluding agreements to sidestep bureaucratic obstacles.
Focusing on the sector of tourism, Stylianidis said that Greece is expecting an increase in the influx of tourists due to the improvement of the living standards of the Chinese, the prestige produced by the Athens Olympic Games, the hosting of the next Olympic Games by Beijing and as a result of a direct air link between the two countries as of autumn.
 Emporiki Bank issues 800-mln-euro bond loansEmporiki Bank on Thursday said that its subsidiary Emporiki Group Finance Plc issued two bond loans worth 800 million euros. The bond issues were offered to foreign institutional investors.
The two bond loans, of 400 million euros each, are fully guaranteed by Emporiki Bank. The first, maturing on June 29, 2010 carries a coupon of three-month Euribor plus 0.11 pct and the second, maturing on June 27, 2012 a coupon of three-month Euribor plus 0.14 pct.
 Bank of Piraeus announces 1.25-bln-euro securitization of mortgage loansThe Bank of Piraeus on Thursday announced the securitization of mortgage loans worth 1.25 billion euros. The securitization will be carried out by Estia Mortgage Finance II Plc, an investment company based in London, and it is expected to be completed by the end of July. The securities will be offered to foreign institutional investors. UBS Ltd was appointed bookrunner of the issue. Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's offered credit rating to the issue.
 Public works minister signs Maliakos-Klidi detour project contractEnvironment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias and representatives of the construction joint venture on Thursday signed the contract concerning the construction of the detour project extending from Raches in the region of the Maliakos Gulf to Klidi in the prefecture of Imathia, east-central Greece.
Construction work for this important road project will begin in November and will be completed over a period of four and a half years. The project will have a total cost of 1.15 billion euros and the state's financial contribution will amount to 173 million euros.
The assigning contract, that will be tabled in Parliament for ratification in July, will have a duration of 30 years. Souflias said that the importance of the project is great. The Raches-Klidi sector is a "project of special strategic significance that completes the country's central road axis and, indeed, at its most difficult points, at Platamonas and Tempi, with tunnels having a total length of 23 kilometres."
 Greek unemployment fell to 9.1 pct in Q1The unemployment rate fell to 9.1 pct in the first quarter of 2007 in Greece, from 9.7 pct in the corresponding period last year and 10.4 pct in the same period in 2005, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service said the unemployment rate for the first three months of the year was the lowest since 1998 and noted that unemployment remained high among women (13.9 pct), while unemployment among men was a low 5.7 pct. Unemployment among young people (aged 15-29) was 18.2 pct in the January-March period.
First time unemployed totaled 32.3 percent of total unemployed people, while long-term unemployment (seeking job for more than 12 months) accounted for 49 pct of total unemployed people.
The south Aegean (16.5 pct), Ionian islands (13.9 pct) and west Macedonia (13.0 pct) regions recorded the highest unemployment rates, while Thessaly (7.2 pct), the Peloponese (7.4 pct) and Attica (8.3 pct) recorded the lowest unemployment rates.
The number of employed people totaled 4,461,231 in the first quarter of 2007, with the primary sector accounting for 12 pct of total employment, the secondary sector for 22 pct and the services sector for 66 pct.
 Social agencies meet in AthensThe participation and contribution of social agencies in drafting policies to help EU member-states dealing with forthcoming economic and social changes, is the main element of a joint action program promoted by ETUC, BusinessEurope, UAEMPE and CEEP, the four European Organisation of Social Agencies, a statement by the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises and Industries said on Thursday.
The Greek Federation is holding a two-day event in Athens bringing together experts from the European Union, representatives from the European Social Agencies with their counterparts from Greek workers and employers unions. The event will help to promoting a social dialogue in finding commonly accepted solutions to structural problems facing the country's social and economic environment.
 Andravida field transformed into civil airportThe government on Thursday announced the transformation of the Andravida air field in the northwest Peloponnese into a civil airport able to service most airliners.
The 20-million-euro project will be included within a regional development framework and constitutes an important step toward boosting the tourism sector in Ilia prefecture, which straddles the popular Peloponnese's western coast. The upgrades will also include new air traffic control systems and communications systems worth more than 10 million euros.
Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis made the announcement during a visit to the area.
 Producer's price index up 1.6 pct in May, yr/yrThe Producer's Price Index in the industrial sector, measuring both the domestic and foreign markets) rose by 1.6 pct in May compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service said the index was up 2.3 pct in May from April 2007.
 Greek per capita GDP at 89 pct of EU average in 2006, EurostatGreek per capita GDP accounted for 89 percent of the EU average in 2006, Eurostat said on Thursday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in a statement said the figures were based on old data and not revised GDP figures recently submitted by Greek authorities, currently under examination by Eurostat.
Luxembourg, with 280 pct, recorded the highest per capita GDP in the EU-27 and Bulgaria (37 pct) the lowest.
 OTE lifts ASE higher on ThursdayGreek stocks rebounded on Thursday after three days of declines in the Athens Stock Exchange, supported by strong gains in the telecommunications sector. The composite index rose 0.87 pct to end at 4,797.27 points, with turnover a heavy 393 million euros.
The Telecommunications index jumped 5.48 percent reflecting a 6.54 pct rise in Hellenic Telecom's share price after news of a new private placement of around 10.7 pct of its shares, while Cosmote rose 2.76 pct. The Food/Beverage (2.25 pct) and Healthcare (0.74 pct) sectors scored big gains, while the Industrial Products (0.97 pct), Financial Services (0.96 pct) and Utilities (0.94 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Big Cap index rose 0.85 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.14 pct and the Small Cap index ended 1.24 pct higher.
ELBE (19.35 pct), United Textiles (13.89 pct) and Rilken (11.36 pct) were top gainers, while Desmos (10 pct), ANEK (9.79 pct) and Tria Alpha (9.72 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 156 to 98 with another 53 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.11%
Personal & Household: +0.40%
Raw Materials: +0.42%
Travel & Leisure: +0.25%
Food & Beverages: +2.25%
Financial Services: -0.96%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, National Bank, Cosmote and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 23.46
Public Power Corp (PPC): 20.60
HBC Coca Cola: 33.28
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.70
Emporiki Bank: 21.00
National Bank of Greece: 41.82
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 24.10
Titan Cement Company: 42.08
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices widened their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday with turnover rising to 100.638 million euros.
The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.66 pct and on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.32 percent.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 5,792 contracts worth 73.721 million euros, with 35,900 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 235 contracts worth 7.349 million euros, with 1,299 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,490 contracts worth 19.567 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (4,105), followed by Eurobank (949), Marfin Popular Bank (448), PPC (966), Piraeus Bank (329), National Bank (335), Alpha Bank (467), Intracom (422) and GEK (821).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.266 billion euros on Thursday, of which 1.091 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.175 billion were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 990 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.22 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.79 pct and the German Bund 4.57 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 4.09 pct from 4.08 pct on Wednesday, the two-day rate jumped to 4.18 pct from 4.08 pct, the one-month rate was 4.11 pct and the 12-month rate 4.51 pct from 4.50 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.357
Pound sterling 0.677
Danish kroner 7.502
Swedish kroner 9.315
Japanese yen 166.93
Swiss franc 1.667
Norwegian kroner 8.015
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.440
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 Dozens of fires reported across country in wake of two fatalities in AgiaFiremen have been combatting dozens of forest fires raging across the country since Wednesday, causing two fatalities in Agia in central Greece, while the heatwave scorching Greece is gradually receding.
In latest developments, a huge fire is laying waste the thick forest on Mount Parnis, the only mountain remaining unscathed in the Attica prefecture so far. The Mon Parnes Hotel and the camping sites of the Bank of Greece have been evacuated and police have forbidden cars and pedestrians from moving beyond the cable car network.
The fire on Mount Parnis began in the region of Dervenohoria and spread to the forest due to strong winds that suddenly changed direction. Ten firefighting aircraft and two helicopters were reported tackling the blaze until late into the afternoon, while 16 fire engines and 40 firemen were brought from other prefectures in the country to assist efforts to contain the blaze.
Meanwhile, the fire at Dervenohoria was still raging out of control, as well as at Schimatari, that broke out in the afternoon near the national motorway. This fire, according to the fire brigade, was caused by an electricity pylon. It has so far laid waste a large expanse of land and has damaged many houses in the village of Stefani.
The second fire broke out near the 66th milestone of the Athens-Lamia motorway and both lanes of the motorway were closed to traffic for a long period of time. The fire had almost reached Avlida in the afternoon and, according to the fire brigade, residential areas were in danger.
Other fires still continuing were at Neohori and Kalamaki in the eastern prefecture of Magnisia, Karaouli near Elefsina, Nea Tyrintha in the Argolida prefecture in the Peloponnese, Melivia in the Larissa prefecture and Avdira in the Xanthi prefecture.
Many other fires were reported under partial control, but the danger of their rekindling always existed due to the strong winds. The fire brigade chief alerted all firefighting forces in the country in the afternoon.
The two people in Agia in the prefecture of Larissa, aged 36 and 42, were burned alive after being trapped by the forest fire raging in the region and while assisting firefighters in their efforts to extinguish the blaze.
 European Commission activates civil protection apparatus to handle wildfires in GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The European Commission has activated the European Union's civil protection apparatus to handle wildfires that are raging in Greece.
The Commission's decision was taken following a relevant request by Greece for firefighting aircraft and helicopters to be provided. An announcement by the Commission said that within two hours from the request being made Italy, France and Portugal offered a total of five firefighting aircraft of the "Canadair" type (two from Italy, two from France and one from Portugal).
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said that "the aid offered by these member-states is the strongest proof of European cooperation and solidarity in times of need."
 Fire at PPC facility causes extensive power failures in northern GreeceA fire at the Public Power Corporation (DEH) distribution substation at Ilioupoli, Thessaloniki, possibly caused by an explosion, left many regions in the city without electricity on Thursday morning
The power failure also affected areas in the prefectures of Imathia, Serres, Rodopi and Evros in northern and northeastern Greece. A large firefighting force was on the scene trying to extinguish the fire, while DEH crews were working intensively to restore power supply to the affected regions.
 Fire a 'chance event', minister says; power supply 60% backCiting information from technical experts on the scene, Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis on Thursday told reporters that a fire that broke out at a power plant in Oreokastro, Thessaloniki the same day was a "chance event" and not due to a system overload, which was capable of withstanding much more current.
He stressed that staff had the fire department and the Public Power Corporation had gone above and beyond the call of duty and thus managed to get the fire under control and put in outin a short space of time, adding that the transformer which exploded has been in operation since 2001.
"Power has already come back to northern Greece and to most areas of Thessaloniki and it will soon be fully restored," the minister said.
About 60 percent of the power grid was up by 16:00 in the afternoon in the city of Thessaloniki, a regional PPC manager said. He said the power company had drawn up a programme with rotating power cuts so as to cover the needs of the entire city, which would last approximately 1.5 hours in each area.
He said the PPC's aim was to fully restore power to Thessaloniki by midnight and urged residents to show restraint in electricity consumption over the next hours.
 Man killed in Ilion armed robberyArmed robbers that burst into a bank in Ilion, western Athens on Thursday killed a 61-year-old man in cold blood and injured two others, police said on Thursday.
The two culprits, who were wearing black helmets when they entered the National Bank of Greece branch on Thivon Avenue at 10:00 on Thursday morning, are still at large.
The unidentified suspects entered the bank and one of them held customers and staff at gunpoint while the other passed behind the counter, taking an unspecified amount of money from the tills.
One of the robbers shot a warning shot into the air, which ricocheted and wounded a 27-year-old bank teller in her right calf. As they were emerging from the bank, they ran into the 61-year-old customer, who tried to stop the pair and asserted that their guns were fakes. One of pair then shot at him four times at close range and injured him fatally.
Yet another of the customers, a 21-year-old man, was lightly injured when a bullet ricocheted and hit his hand.
The two robbers escaped on a black, cross-country motorbike heading in an unknown direction.
Their three victims were taken to Pammakaristos Hospital, where the bank teller admitted for treatment and the 21-year-old released after being given first aid. Five empty shells were found on the scene.
 More than 28 out of 100 Greeks expected to be elderly in 2020, report showsMore than 28 out of every 100 Greek citizens are expected to be elderly in the year 2020. The aging phenomenon will bring about considerable repercussions regarding the state of the population's health, a more intense use of health services and an increase in medical expenditures.
Moreover, women will be a "high risk" group in the near future since 70 out of 100 aged 65 and over will develop problems in their cardiovascular system.
This was indicated in a report prepared by researchers of the National Social Research Centre (EKKE), following a systematic study, titled "Aging of population and health with emphasis on cardiovascular system ailments and mental disorders", presented to the press on Thursday morning.
According to the report, "ailments of the cardiovascular system are the main cause of death at international level, regarding both total population and the elderly in particular. They are responsible today for 30 percent of deaths on the planet, while 80 percent of these deaths concern people over 65 years of age."
It further said that "given that the first cause of death in Greece are cardiovascular ailments with 44 percent in 1980 and 47 percent in 2005, the aging of the population is expected to have a considerable impact on the increase in deaths resulting from these ailments."
 Old city of Corfu added to list of world heritage monumentsMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)
The old city of Corfu has been added to the list of UNESCO's world heritage monuments as of Thursday.
According to the director of the Greek Consulate in Sydney's press office, Efthymios Aravantinos, the decision was taken unanimously in Christchurch in New Zealand by the 21-member world heritage committee of the UN, following a positive recommendation by UNESCO's advisory organisation ICOMOS.
Corfu is the 17th Greek location to be added to UNESCO's world cultural and natural heritage list, but its entry had experienced many obstacles since 1999, when the Greek request had been made initially.
ICOMOS's initial evaluation, however, had questioned the international value of its historical monuments at the time and the file on Corfu's candidacy, which was incomplete at first, had to be withdrawn three times to avoid its rejection.
 Concert for children of war in Athens by Lebanese singer FairuzA concert for the children of war will be given by Lebanese singer Fairuz at the ancient theatre of Herod Atticus in Athens on July 7. It is organised by the Foundation for the Child and Family in collaboration with the International Movement of Women for Peace and the Athens & Epidaurus Festival organisation.
Foundation chairwoman Marianna Vardinogiannis said revenues from the concert will go to the Foundation to support the war-stricken children of the Mediterranean and the 'Elpida' foundation for children with cancer.
The director of the Athens and Epidaurus Festival Giorgos Loukos expressed hope that the Lebanese singer's concert will actually take place, since she had cancelled all her other engagements in Europe, while noting that all the tickets are already sold.
Those interested in finding out about the concert can call the Athens Festival box office at Panepistimiou 39, Tel. 210 3272000 or the offices of the Elpida Foundation at Pindarou 10, Tel. 210 7757153.
 Serres to commemorate liberation anniversaryThe city of Serres, in northern Greece, will celebrate the 94th anniversary of its liberation on Friday, beginning with a memorial service at the city's main cathedral followed by a wreath-laying ceremony and parade.
The government will be represented by Deputy Health Minister George Konstantopoulos.
 Major drug arrests in northern GreeceTwo suspects, aged 23 and 25, were arrested in the Platamonas resort region of Pieria prefecture in north-central Greece after police reportedly found 525 grams of cocaine in their possession.
In a separate incident, two men, 27 and 28, were arrested in Thessaloniki after a police search in an apartment reportedly revealed 400 grams of heroin.
 Temperatures falling on FridayTemperatures will fall even more on Friday, while local storms are expected in central and northern Greece. Winds northeasterly moderate. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 23C and 35C and in Thessaloniki from 19C to 32C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe damage caused by the wave of forest fires throughout the country, the scorching heatwave of the past few days, and the prime minister's speech at the New Democracy pre-congress in Piraeus, were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Record temperatures and problems - 45C heatwave".
APOGEVMATINI: "22,600 new jobs - Fifteen projects, budgeted at 238-million-euro, by Greek Manpower Employment Organization".
AVGHI: "The contract workers case goes to the European Court - The government planning is overturned".
AVRIANI: "Tough stance by the prosecutor in the Athens Stock Exchange looting case".
CHORA: "The forests are on fire, the sea water is boiling hot - Unprecedented heatwave in Greece".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Heatwave and fires torment the country".
ELEFTHEROS: "22,600 job positions - Priority to women and jobless graduates".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Retirement age for 250,000 public sector female employees should be raised by five years, according to the European Commission".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Up to 23-hour-long power outages in heatwave conditions".
ESTIA: "Political insecurity is heightened by election-linked oracles".
ETHNOS: "Fire, DEH (Public Power Corporation) and heatwave - Fires take over after the scorching heat".
KATHIMERINI: "Turkey's French 'No' to the EU - Statement by the deputy foreign minister - Threats by (Turkish General Staff Chief General) Buyukanit targeting Iraq".
LOGOS: "From heatwave to fires - 110 fires recorded".
NIKI: "Burned by DEH - Long power outages to avoid a generalized blackout".
RIZOSPASTIS: "An especially designed attack on (Greek Communist Party) KKE is being prepared - Fabricated lies will be channelled to the press".
TA NEA: "Fires caught them unprepared - Government-Fire Brigade errors".
TO VIMA: "State blackout caused by the heatwave - Total absence of coordination".
VRADYNI: "22,600 new jobs in public sector, private businesses - New STAGE programmes through OAED (Greek Manpower Employment Organization)".
 President Papadopoulos assures Croatian President for Cyprus' supportNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos expressed Cyprus' support towards Croatia in its effort to join the European Union.
President Papadopoulos held Thursday morning official talks with his Croatian counterpart Stjepan Mesic, who is paying Cyprus an official visit.
The Croatian President thanked President Papadopoulos for his support and expressed the wish that Cyprus continues contributing to Zagreb's efforts to become a full EU member state.
During official talks at the Presidential Palace, the two Presidents discussed matters concerning Croatia's EU accession course, the problems in the south eastern Mediterranean region and ways to resolve them, as well as the prospects for further enhancing their bilateral relations in the fields of commerce, economy and culture.
In statements after the meeting, Mesic described President Papadopoulos' official visit to Croatia last November, as a turning point for the relations between Nicosia and Zagreb.
Referring to bilateral relations, he emphasized on the "great potential that exists for further strengthening our fruitful cooperation".
The Croatian President, who is accompanied in Cyprus, among others, by the Chairman of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce and the Director of the largest Croatian ports, noted that "through this (delegation) we wish to show that in terms of economic cooperation much more must and can be done".
He also said that he informed the President of Cyprus on how Croatia resolved the refugee issue that emerged, as a result of the wars in the region.
"The process of the return of refugees and restitution of their properties and bringing those people who are responsible for crimes to justice, is something that enables us to have fruitful cooperation with the countries of the region", the Croatian President said.
Asked whether his country intends to utilize Cyprus' experience towards the EU, Mesic said "we do wish to use and exploit the experience of Cyprus and we also wish Cyprus to continue its support towards Croatia on its EU path".
In his statements, President Papadopoulos referred to the "excellent relations with Croatia", adding that during the official talks, they "had a useful exchange of views on a number of issues, which affect both our countries''.
"We also discussed the process of Croatia towards the EU which we strongly support", the Cypriot President said.
Furthermore, he underlined the need to further enhance the relations between Cyprus and Croatia.
''We must increase our bilateral, commercial, economic and cultural relations and it is up to the individuals to see the opportunities and make the best of it'', he concluded.
Later on, the Croatian President held a meeting with the President of the House of Representatives Demetris Christofias.
No statements were made after this meeting.
The Republic of Cyprus is divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
Cyprus became a full EU member state in May 2004.
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