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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-02-15

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Friday, 15 February 2008 Issue No: 2820


  • [01] Greek FM says FYROM's road to NATO and EU passes through 'a mutually acceptable solution'
  • [02] FM Bakoyannis holds talks with U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns
  • [03] FM covers Kosovo, Cyprus issue and Turkey in D.C. address
  • [04] Gov't on FYROM 'name issue'
  • [05] KKE leader on Kosovo issue
  • [06] PM briefed by minister ahead of debate on pension reforms
  • [07] KKE on social security reform, hazardous professions
  • [08] Unions warn for new strike
  • [09] Education minister attends EU Education Ministers Council
  • [10] Magistrate order independent psychiatrict review of attorney implicated in Zachopoulos blackmail affair
  • [11] Nikolitsopoulos unable to testify says hospital document
  • [12] Former prime minister addresses event on 'progressive governance'
  • [13] Turkey - Minorities: law regarding charity foundations
  • [14] Deputy FM at first EU-BSEC meeting in Kiev
  • [15] Greek economy grew by 3.6 pct in Q4 2007
  • [16] PASOK, Coalition on GDP slowdown
  • [17] Commission cites Euro-court ruling against OA; gov't reax
  • [18] Development minister holds talks with consumer protection commissioner
  • [19] Agriculture minister at inauguration of Food and Beverages exhibition
  • [20] Gov't, industries discuss environmental issues
  • [21] Greece lags on innovation, EU report
  • [22] Marfin Popular Bank says profits up 130 pct in 2007
  • [23] FBBank expands branch network
  • [24] Greek inflation rate to averge 3.5% this year, report
  • [25] Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling says profits up 24 pct in 2007
  • [26] Greek stocks end 1.66 pct higher
  • [27] ADEX closing report
  • [28] Greek bond market closing report
  • [29] Foreign Exchange Rates - Friday
  • [30] Strong earthquake in southern Greece
  • [31] After-shock follows strong quake in southern Greece
  • [32] OECD delegation visits Ioannina
  • [33] AHEPA Australasia assistance to fire victims
  • [34] Daniel Day-Lewis in Greece
  • [35] Police arrest drug trafficker, find antiquities
  • [36] American Embassy closed on Mon.18 Feb.
  • [37] Municipal employee accused of issuing false documents to foreign nationals
  • [38] Four foreign nationals arrested on robbery charges
  • [39] President Papoulias attends signing of Special Olympics memorandum
  • [40] Cloud, sleet on Friday
  • [41] Putin: Russia supports Cyprus' integrity
  • [42] Cyprus reports to UN air traffic violations by Turkey Politics

  • [01] Greek FM says FYROM's road to NATO and EU passes through 'a mutually acceptable solution'


    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met on Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nichols Burns.

    "I had three successive meetings with the State Department's leadership. We talked mainly on the Skopje (FYROM) issue, and at the same time on Kosovo and problems of the broader region. It was an opportunity for a sincere, and I believe a substantial, exchange of views. And I had the opportunity to fully expound on Greece's position, particularly on the FYROM name issue and the European prospect. From then on, the process is continuing, the negotiation is continuing. We are also awaiting the proposals by Mr. (UN mediator Matthew) Nimetz," Bakoyannis told reporters at the end of her talks.

    "There was no name put at the table. What was put at the table was the essence. We are discussing the essence," she added, responding to a relevant question.

    She declared herself "neither optimistic nor pessimistic," adding that consultations were still going on. She also reiterated that FYROM's road to NATO and the European Union "passes through a mutually acceptable solution."

    Greece is at odds with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the use by the latter of the name 'Macedonia'. Athens objects to the use of the name by FYROM, citing irretendist designs by the landlocked republic against its northern Macedonia province. The two countries are currently conducting UN-sponsored negotiations on the finding of a final name to FYROM, under the mediation of Matthew Nimetz.

    [02] FM Bakoyannis holds talks with U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns


    U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns welcomed Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis at the State Department on Thursday, terming the Greek foreign minister a "very good friend and ally of the United States and one of the best foreign ministers in Europe."

    He added that during the day, that he termed "great", he would be hosting a luncheon for Bakoyannis who would then be meeting Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice herself.

    Burns said that the U.S. believes in and count on Greece and considers its alliance with the country very important. Asked about the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROK), he said that he is well aware of the Greeks' sensitivity over this specific issue and explained that the U.S. is not playing a mediating role, adding that this task is up to the UN.

    Bakoyannis said on her part that during her discussions with the State Department's political leadership she will be presenting Greece's position on the Skopje issue and will examine developments in Kosovo which, as she said, will preoccupy the European Union on Monday.

    The foreign minister further said that the rest of the problems of concern for the U.S. and Greece will also be discussed.

    Bakoyannis noted that she attended the memorial service for Tom Lantos, the president of the Congress Foreign Relations Committee, who died recently, stressing that she had cooperated with him many times in the past on issues concerning Greece.

    Asked to comment on the issue of Kosovo, Bakoyannis reiterated that whatever development there may be on the issue in question it should not constitute a precedent.

    [03] FM covers Kosovo, Cyprus issue and Turkey in D.C. address


    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday addressed a Center for Strategic & International Studies discussion here regarding on the subject of "transformation of south-eastern Europe."

    Former US national security advisor and CSIS Trustee Brent Scowcroft delivered an introduction of Bakoyannis, who reiterated Athens' standing position that regional stability and prosperity depend on respect of democratic principles and human rights, along with cultural and religious tolerance.

    She also cited "significant progress" in terms of Turkey's reforms, saying Greece hopes that the former will contribute to a solution of the Cyprus problem so that "the European Union will meet its promises to Turkey".

    Along these lines, she said Greece, as the most senior NATO and EU member-state in SE Europe, feels an obligation to help its neighbours attain Euro-Atlantic structures, as long as pre-conditions are fulfilled.

    Bakoyannis called Serbia a "pivotal" country for the region, while she emphasised that any final status solution for Kosovo requires realism and must be linked with the EU's principles and democratic values related to tolerance, multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism.

    In terms of NATO's envisioned expansion, she said Croatia and Albania have achieved progress in terms of the good-neighbour criterion, something that has not occurred with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    The Greek FM said that despite Athens' positive overtures vis-ŕ-vis the landlocked former Yugoslav republic, especially in the trade and investment sector, as well as the Greek side's volition to contribute to negotiations leading to a mutually acceptable solution for the 'name issue', the Skopje government has not responded and continues efforts to "monopolise" the Macedonian identity.

    Moreover, she underlined that Washington's decision in November 2004 to recognise FYROM with its "constitutional name" was an incorrect decision that upset Athens, as it sent out a "wrong message" that Skopje does not need to seek a mutually acceptable solution to the "name issue" with Greece.

    In other matters, she said Greece continues to back Turkey's European prospects, making it clear, however, that no future Turkish accession is possible without the prior solution to the Cyprus problem.

    Continuing on the Cyprus matter, she said Kosovo is not a precedent for a currently divided Cyprus or Turkey's Kurdish regions.

    Finally, she said Athens has not decided what its final stance will be on the possibility of a declaration of independence by Kosovo, emphasizing that any decision will be taken in consultation with its partners and after a thorough assessment of the facts.

    [04] Gov't on FYROM 'name issue'

    A meeting between Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday in Washington would not be limited to the FYROM "name issue" and would tackle other matters as well, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros noted on Thursday.

    Responding to press questions referring to the latest round of statements by the FYROM foreign minister, the spokesman said the Skopje government should enter UN-sponsored negotiations for a mutually acceptable solution in a "constructive spirit".

    Asked if the government would recognizese Kosovo in case the province's government declares independence, Antonaros declined to comment on what he termed a hypothetical question, as he merely reiterated that the government has a clear-cut and standing position on the issue.

    [05] KKE leader on Kosovo issue

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Thursday stressed that her party has for years declared its opposition on Kosovo secession, in reference to the Serbian government's decision to request an off-the-agenda meeting of the UN Security Council.

    Papariga added that KKE has called on the Greek government not to send a military force to Kosovo. She also stressed that KKE will ask for an emergency meeting of Parliament's foreign affairs committee in order to discuss developments in the province, as well as to express concerns over "negative consequences" that will effect the entire Balkans, as she said.

    In an unrelated, Papariga referred to a European Court's decision condemning Greece for subsidies to ailing national carrier Olympic Airways, saying her party does not recognise "any European Court" or the European Union's right to take such decisions. In fact, she reiterated the leftist party's standing position against Greece's participation to the EU.

    [06] PM briefed by minister ahead of debate on pension reforms

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis received Employment and Social Insurances Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia on Thursday who briefed him on the crucial social security reforms issue.

    Speaking to the press after the meeting, Petralia stressed that proposed reforms are in the "final stretch", adding that she and the prime minister discussed several issues a day before an off-the-agenda Parliament debate on the reforms, called by ruling New Democracy party.

    [07] KKE on social security reform, hazardous professions

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday reiterated its opposition to government plans regarding social security system reforms and prospective changes to the heavy and hazardous occupations regime.

    In a press conference on Thursday, KKE leader Aleka Papariga stressed that she has no confidence in the government and its pledges namely, that the pension age limits will not be raised and that pensions will not be cut.

    [08] Unions warn for new strike

    Unions representing civil servants and the largest trade umbrella group in Greece, GSEE, participated in 24-hour strike on Wednesday against the government's proposals for reforms in the country's bloated social security system.

    Union leaders vowed to keep "struggling against government's anti-social policy and social security reforms", while warning of a new strike after government unveils its proposals, with the prime minister himself taking the podium in Parliament on Friday.

    The Athens Journalists ' Union (ESHEA) also participated in the strike action, which saw the Greece's massive public sector and several state-run utilities come to a standstill, including interruption of air and ferry links, although the vast majority of stores and businesses around the country remained opened.

    [09] Education minister attends EU Education Ministers Council

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis participated in the European Union's Education Ministers Council here on Thursday, that focused on the EU "Education and training 2010" program.

    Speaking after the Council's session, Stylianidis said that he had the opportunity of expressing his support for Cyprus, that protested during the Council over the fact that while funding and participating in OECD programs, its entry into this organization is being obstructed by Turkey.

    The minister stressed during his address that first and second stage education, including pre-school education, constitute the basis on which third stage education and lifelong learning are based.

    Stylianidis held talks on the sidelines of the Council with British deputy education minister and his Romanian counterpart, inviting the Romanian minister to visit the CEDEFOP exhibition in the city of Thessaloniki with him and to examine the possibility of cooperation at inter-Balkan level in the education sector.

    [10] Magistrate order independent psychiatrict review of attorney implicated in Zachopoulos blackmail affair

    A noted local lawyer charged this week in the Zachopoulos blackmailing affair remained hospitalised in an Athens hospital's psychiatric ward on Thursday -- as he has for the past month -- following claims that he suffers of depression and suicidal tendencies.

    Meanwhile, Christos Nikolitsopoulos' counsel, Makis Tzifras, resigned as the former's defence attorney on Thursday. Tzifras said he is unable to communicate with his client.

    Nikolitsopoulos has been summoned by an examining magistrate to answer questions on his alleged felonious involvement in the ongoing "sex & blackmailing" case.

    In a later development, Nikoloutsopoulos' wife appeared before the examining magistrate handling the case and presented a document issued by two psychiatrists at Athens' Aiginition Hospital, where her husband is being treated, maintaining that he is not fit to testify and face a "stressful interrogation process".

    As a result, examining magistrate Dimitris Economou ordered an on-the-spot inspection by two university psychiatry professors, in order to determine Nikolitsopoulos' condition.

    [11] Nikolitsopoulos unable to testify says hospital document

    The wife of labour law specialist Christos Nikoloutsopoulos appeared before the examining magistrate handling the case and presented a document issued by the physiciatric ward of Eginitio Hospital, where her husband is being treated, certifying that he is not in a condition to testify and face a stressful interrogation process.

    [12] Former prime minister addresses event on 'progressive governance'

    Former prime minister Costas Simitis addressed an event on Thursday evening on the theme "progressive governance" in the presence of Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas, former president of the republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and many deputies of the main opposition PASOK party.

    Simitis enumerated in his speech the main preconditions for the "creation of a progressive governance which is not a form of a visionary society but calls for a realistic analysis of reality and political will and boldness in revising policies."

    Simitis explained that the "agent of the progressive governance" cannot be a unique party but a broader political and social formation because, as he said, "the symptom is currently a widespread pessimism, which is also expressed through the questioning of the present political system."

    "In these difficult conditions some are looking for a way out in 'a return to the past'. But the roots belong each time to their own times. They can inspire but they cannot support what is new," Simitis said.

    "As long as the new tools of understanding and intervention are lacking, the progressive governance will lack insight, audience and force for mobilization," he added.

    Commenting on recent gallop results showing a simultaneous decline of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party and the main opposition PASOK, Simitis said that a similar phenomenon occurred in Great Britain in the 80s and in France in the 60s, noting that this happens when "existing balances with apparatuses are being conserved and when an effort is being deployed to exclude reforms."

    [13] Turkey - Minorities: law regarding charity foundations

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A Kourkoulas)

    The plenum of the Turkish National Assembly approved on Thursday the 25th article of the law regarding charity foundations (vakouf), an article which concerns the international activities of vakoufs.

    The article foresees that the vakoufs will be able to resort to international activities and cooperations, will be able to create organizations and representations abroad, as well as becoming members of organizations which have already been set up abroad.

    The discussions are continuing on the 26th article which regulates "the participation of all the foundations in businesses and companies".

    The law which substantially improves the administration of the community and charity foundations concern mainly the non-Muslim minorities which had received a hard blow mainly in the decades of the 60's and 70's from the stance of the state and the courts towards the minorities.

    Financial News

    [14] Deputy FM at first EU-BSEC meeting in Kiev

    KIEV (ANA-MPA/N.Melissova)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis on Thursday underlined the benefits Greece has gained through its rapprochement with the countries of the Black Sea region, "which presents a strong energy and economic interest."

    Addressing reporters during the first ministerial meeting between the European Union and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Pact (BSEC) countries taking place in the Ukrainian capital, Valinakis said:

    "Today we are assisting the completion of an initiative undertaken by Greece for the creation of a 'synergy' between the EU and the BSEC in sectors that are very important to our country, such as energy, transport, the environment and in facilitating traveling as well, which helps our tourist industry."

    The "Black Sea Synergy" is the term being used for the new cooperation, inaugurated on Thursday by EU and BSEC foreign ministers and, according to a joint statement at the end of the meeting, which will aim at the development of transport, energy and infrastructures. The "Synergy" is also expected to capitalize on the European Neighboring Policy and its funding instruments for implementing of major projects, such as a coastal road axis around the Black Sea, the linking of the region's ports with the Aegean and the modernization of their infrastructure.

    Greece has played a leading role in rapprochement between the EU and BSEC countries, while the BSEC Greek presidency in 2005 had placed it at the top of its agenda.

    Present at the meeting were German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan, EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and the Bulgarian and Romanian foreign ministers.

    Valinakis also held talks with Ukrainian officials during his two-day stay in Kiev on bilateral issues, while he signed a memorandum of cooperation with his counterpart Kostiantyn Eliseyev.

    [15] Greek economy grew by 3.6 pct in Q4 2007

    The Greek economy grew by 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, compared with the corresponding period in 2006, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.

    The statistics service said 3.6 pct increase of the Gross Domestic Product reflected mainly a 2.8 pct rise in final demand, while investments fell by 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007.

    Exports grew by 10.4 pct in the October-December period, adding 1.6 percentage points to final demand in the economy, while imports rose by 0.3 pct over the same period. Spending on final consumption grew by 3.1 pct in the fourth quarter last year, adding two percentage points to final demand in the economy.

    Eurostat, also announced that Greek GDP grew by 3.6 pct in the fourth quarter of 2007. The EU executive's statistics agency said GDP growth in the Eurozone was 2.3 pct and in the EU-27 2.6 pct, with Slovakia (14.1 pct) and Latvia (9.6 pct) recording the highest growth rates, while Germany (1.8 pct) and Portugal (2.0 pct) the lowest growth rates. GDP growth in the US was 2.5 pct and in Japan 1.8 pct in the fourth quarter.

    [16] PASOK, Coalition on GDP slowdown

    The main opposition PASOK party and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) commented on Thursday on the slowdown in the GDP's increase to 3.6 percent during the last quarter of 2007.

    PASOK's economy sector rapporteur Louka Katseli said in a statement that "the further slowdown in the rate of the GDP's growth during the fourth quarter of 2007, to 3.6 percent, disproves the government's claims that the economy has acquired strong foundations," adding that "what is of greater concern is that investments have decreased by 4.1 percent, confirming the Greek economy's serious production deficit."

    Referring to the same issue, SYRIZA deputy Panayiotis Lafazanis said that "the decrease in the increase rates of GDP to 3.6 percent during the fourth quarter in 2007 and the steady decrease in growth rates from one quarter to another (4.3 percent in the first quarter, 4.1 in the second and 3.8 in the third) rings the danger bell for the course of the Greek economy."

    [17] Commission cites Euro-court ruling against OA; gov't reax


    The European court (Court of Justice) on Thursday confirmed that Greece has failed to comply with a 2005 Commission decision ruling that the Greek government had illegally subsidized state-run Olympic Airlines, and asking for such aid to be recovered.

    "I take note of this ruling, which follows several rulings by the European Courts and decisions by the Commission in this dossier. It confirms the urgent need for a viable and legally sound solution to this file," EU Vice-President and Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said, adding:

    "This is in the interest of the European aviation sector, of Greek consumers and taxpayers, but also of the employees of Olympic Airways services and Olympic Airlines and is indispensable in order to preserve a continuity of service to remote areas in Greece. Should it be the case that swift compliance is not achieved, I would have no choice but to propose to the College to file a new action with the Court of Justice, asking for the imposition of fines and periodic penalty payments."

    According to a press release issued here on Thursday, the court judgment concerns the Commission decision of Sept. 14, 2005, where the Commission found that Greece "had granted, between 2002 and 2005, illegal and incompatible State aid to Olympic Airways Services and Olympic Airlines, which have taken over respectively the ground activities and flight operations of Greece's state-owned flag carrier Olympic Airways."

    The Commission had ordered Greece to recover the aid from the beneficiaries, something it said Athens failed to do.

    "Between 1994 and 2000 the Commission took three decisions authorising public aid for the restructuring of Olympic Airways ... In December 2002, however, the Commission found that further aid had been granted to the airline which was incompatible with the common market ... and asked Greece to recover such aid. Greece failed to comply with this decision, which has in the meantime been largely upheld by the Court of First Instance on 12 September 2007. Following a judgment by the Court in May 2005 confirming non-compliance with the 2002 decision, the Commission filed an application for the Court to impose fines and periodic penalty payments on Greece, pursuant to Article 228 of the Treaty..." the press release read.

    Gov't reaction

    On his part, government alternate spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the European Court's decision is "another unpleasant development," while he added that what is essential is a just and viable solution for the OA issue.

    Antonaros' comments were echoed by Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis, who noted that OA is now obliged to repay hundreds of million of euros in state aid.

    Moreover, Hatzidakis said the government's priorities vis-ŕ-vis OA include continued negotiations with the Commission; commencement of a "sincere dialogue" with employees; inaugurating a new company structure, one that is compatible and can "attract reliable investors", and, as the minister said, "we want to retain the name (Olympic) and logo, but not its problems and debts."

    [18] Development minister holds talks with consumer protection commissioner

    Development Minister Christos Folias held talks on Thursday with Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kouneva, in the presence of Consumer Secretary General Yiannis Economou and the director of the European Commission's delegation in Greece, Ierotheos Papadopoulos.

    The Commissioner congratulated the development minister for the great progress achieved by Greece in past years, regarding consumer issues, and stressed that the business community and the consumers must work together and harmoniously for the protection of consumer rights.

    The development minister briefed Kouneva on the package of measures that his ministry is preparing to have implemented as of next week with the aim of normalizing and improving competition in the market and strengthening the consumer's position. He also informed her of the government's determination to support the better organizing of consumer organizations.

    Lastly, Folias said that the Commissioner's presence in Greece coincides with the promotion of measures of the development ministry on combating the high cost of living and protecting the consumer.

    [19] Agriculture minister at inauguration of Food and Beverages exhibition

    Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Alexandros Kontos on Thursday spoke at the inauguration of the 21st International Food and Beverages exhibition at the Exhibition Centre EXPO ATHENS in Anthousa, Attica.

    "The aim of action which we are undertaking in every direction is for us to create a stable basis on which will be constructed the competitiveness of the Greek agricultural economy and the future of the processing economy," Kontos said.

    He further said that from the ministry, 1,450 investment plans have been approved budgeted at 1.4 billion euros, while important opportunities are opening in the 4th program period 2007-2013.

    [20] Gov't, industries discuss environmental issues

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Thursday met with the leadership of the Greek Federation of Industries (SEB) to discuss environmental issues.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, SEB president Dimitris Daskalopoulos he requested the creation of a "National Development Council" with the task of drafting and recommending proposals on environment and town planning issues.

    The largest employers' group also expressed the sector's frustration over the handling of a case with a number of businesses that allegedly polluted the Asopos River, north of Athens, as the ministry imposed heavy fines and published their names.

    Souflias told reporters that he did not accept the proposal regarding the council, since the ministry already operates a National Town Planning Council covering the same issues. He also urged industries to be extremely careful on environmental issues.

    [21] Greece lags on innovation, EU report


    Greece ranks 29th amongst 37 countries in terms of innovation, the European Commission announced on Thursday, adding however, that Greece was steadily making up for previously lost ground.

    The EU's executive, in a report, said Sweden, Switzerland and Finland topped the list, while Turkey, Romania, Latvia and Bulgaria were at the bottom.

    Countries are evaluated on a number of criteria, such as incentives offered on innovation, promoting knowledge and entrepreneurship.

    The European performance table lists 37 countries in four categories according to their performance.

    The "leaders" category included Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Israel, Denmark, Japan, Germany, UK and the US; the next category included Luxembourg, Iceland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Austria, France, Belgium and Canada, while Australia, Estonia, Slovenia, Norway, the Czech Republic, Italy, Cyprus and Spain were included in the "average innovator" category.

    Greece, along with Malta, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Portugal, Latvia and Romania comprised the category of countries "covering lost ground".

    [22] Marfin Popular Bank says profits up 130 pct in 2007

    Marfin Popular Bank on Thursday reported a spectacular 130 percent jump in its net after tax profits to 563.4 million euros in 2007, while net after tax and pre-minorities profits totaled 593.2 million euros, surpassing an upwards revised forecast of 580 million euros.

    Marfin Popular Bank said 2007 was a year of significant growth for the bank, which established its presence in 13 countries with total assets of 30.3 billion euros, a branch network of 415 units in Cyprus, Greece and other countries and a workforce of more than 8,000 staff.

    The bank's board will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to pay a 0.35 euros per share dividend to shareholders, up 14 percent from the previous year. Marfin Popular Bank said loans grew 47 pct to 17.6 billion euros, with international loans totaling 2.34 billion euros, or 12.8 pct of total loans. Saving deposits grew 28 pct to 20.7 billion euros, reflecting an expanding network and customer base.

    The board also approved its reorganized structure, with Andreas Vgenopoulos as executive vice-chairman of the Group, Efthimios Boulouts chief executive and Constantinos Vasilakopoulos chief executive in Marfin Egnatia Bank. Mr Andrea Moneta will take over as chairman.

    Commenting on the bank's results, Andreas Vgenopoulos said the plan of consolidating its banking activities in Greece was successfully completed, while MPB managed to expand activities with new acquisitions in Ukraine, Malta and Russia.

    [23] FBBank expands branch network

    FBBank on Thursday announced plans to expand activities with the opening of three new branches in the first half of the year, raising its total network to 19 units. The bank also announced that it was expanding business to small- and medium-sized enterprises and retail banking services.

    The Greek bank said it has opened its first branch in the city of Hania, Crete, while two more branches are expected to open in Athens and Kavala soon.

    [24] Greek inflation rate to averge 3.5% this year, report

    Greece's inflation rate is expected to gradually fall in the second half of 2008, Alpha Bank's analysts said on Thursday.

    The bank's analysts said the inflation rate would remain at high levels in February, around 4.1 pct, but would begin a gradual decline as of July 2008 to end the year at 2.6 percent. Analysts' forecasts are based on an assessment that the price of oil will remain below 90 US dollars per barrel on average this year. The average estimate for the inflation rate in 2008 was 3.5 percent.

    [25] Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling says profits up 24 pct in 2007

    Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling SA on Thursday reported a 13 percent increase in the volume of sales to 2.019 billion boxes last year, compared with 2006, while net profits grew 15 percent to 6.462 billion euros over the same period.

    Operating earnings (EBIT) rose 22 pct to 703 million euros, while net profits rose 24 percent to 472 million euros, and earnings per share totaled 1.30 euros, up 24 percent.

    Doros Constantinou, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling's chief executive, presenting the results said 2007 was a year of significant performance for the company reflecting the successful management policy. He noted that the company was currently operating a refrigeration network of 1.6 million euros and announced a board decision to build 15 energy efficiency electricity power stations by 2009 in 12 countries. The plan is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent.

    Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling expects sales volume to rise by 7.0 pct this year and a 12-15 pct increase in earnings per share.

    [26] Greek stocks end 1.66 pct higher

    Greek stocks rebounded on Monday, following a recovering trend in other international markets. The composite index at the Athens Stock Exchange rose 1.66 percent to end at 4,424.70 points, with turnover a moderate 481.5 million euros, of which 123.2 million were block trades.

    All sectors moved higher, with the Oil (4.14 pct), Raw Materials (4.01 pct), Food/Beverage (3.39 pct), Media (3.06 pct), Technology (2.80 pct) and Industrial Products (2.54 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day.

    The Big Cap index rose 1.44 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.21 pct higher and the Small Cap index ended 0.98 pct up. ANEK (12.41 pct), Elton (18.99 pct) and Kyriakoulis (17.53 pct) were top gainers, while VIS (9.03 pct), Proodeftiki (5.56 pct) and Desmos (3.70 pct) were top losers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 213 to 38 with another 47 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.23%

    Industrials: +2.54%

    Commercial: +0.83%

    Construction: +0.97%

    Media: +3.06%

    Oil & Gas: +4.14%

    Personal & Household: +2.31%

    Raw Materials: +4.01%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.15%

    Technology: +2.80%

    Telecoms: +2.17%

    Banks: +1.12%

    Food & Beverages: +3.39%

    Health: +0.64%

    Utilities: +2.19%

    Chemicals: +0.63%

    Financial Services: +0.81%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were Alpha Bank, National Bank, Piraeus Bank and OTE.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 21.08

    ATEbank: 3.54

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 29.86

    HBC Coca Cola: 29.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 10.34

    National Bank of Greece: 39.70

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 19.20

    Intralot: 13.50

    OPAP: 24.30

    OTE: 21.30

    Titan Cement Company: 31.00

    [27] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices ended mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 184.625 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.55 pct, while the February contract on the FTSE 40 index at a premium of 0.06 pct.

    Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 12,803 contracts worth 148.219 million euros, with 26,073 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 342 contracts worth 9.231 million euros, with 487 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,061 contracts, worth 16.833 million euros, with investment interest focusing on PPC's contracts (1,475), followed by Eurobank (485), Marfin Investment Group (584), OTE (362), GEK (490), National Bank (741), Alpha Bank (1,460), Intracom (603), Marfin Popular Bank (567) and Hellenic Petroleum (1,106).

    [28] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.369 billion euros on Thursday, of which 1.237 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.132 billion sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 520 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.41 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.38 pct and the German Bund 3.97 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.02 pct, the two-day rate 4.04 pct, the one-month rate 4.20 pct and the 12-month rate 4.34 pct.

    [29] Foreign Exchange Rates - Friday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.474

    Pound sterling 0.747

    Danish kroner 7.513

    Swedish kroner 9.403

    Japanese yen 159.49

    Swiss franc 1.624

    Norwegian kroner 8.014

    Canadian dollar 1.467

    Australian dollar 1.629

    General News

    [30] Strong earthquake in southern Greece

    A local geologist estimated that the depth of Thursday's quake at 30 kilometres, located in a sea region south of the extreme southwest harbor town of Methoni, while he added that it is possible that the tremor was the main earthquake.

    According to Prof. Efthymios Lekkas, aftershocks measuring 6 on the Richter scale may occur.

    [31] After-shock follows strong quake in southern Greece

    A strong after-shock that occurred at roughly 2:25 p.m. was recorded in the same region (off the harbour town of Methoni) in the extreme southwestern Peloponnese on Thursday where an earlier quake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale shook southern Greece.

    [32] OECD delegation visits Ioannina

    An OECD delegation on Thursday began a two-day visit to Ioannina, northern Greece, at the invitation of Deputy Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Stavros Kalogiannis.

    The aim of the visit is within the context of assessing the environmental performances of the OECD member-states.

    The presence of the delegation is targeted at ascertaining the degree of achieving national and international objectives and obligations in the sector of Environment and Sustainable Growth.

    [33] AHEPA Australasia assistance to fire victims

    MELBOURNE (ANA-MPA / S. Hatzimanolis)

    A fundraiser organized by Australasian Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and the SBA Radio Greek Program was held to assist wildfire victims in Greece, collecting more than 80,000 euros.

    The money raised has already been sent to Greece, with special emergency relief president, veteran diplomat Petros Molyviatis, expressing his gratitude to the group for the immediate mobilization of the Greek-Australian community.

    In total, fundraising efforts in Australia for wildfire victims have generated more than five million Australian dollars.

    [34] Daniel Day-Lewis in Greece

    Daniel Day-Lewis is passing through Greece these days, before next Sunday, day of the awarding of this year's Oscars, where he is considered favorite for the man's role, thanks to his interpretation in the film "There will be blood", which will be screened in Greek cinemas from February 21.

    He said that the reasons that brought him to Athens yet again are "family bonds" which he has developed with the Society for the Protection of Spastics, its head Daphne Iconomou and the children with brain paralysis, which the society supports with its action since 1972.

    The projection of the film "There will be blood" at Pallas Cinema on Thursday night, where he was also present, was organised with the objective of the revenue to be allotted to the work of the Society for the Protection of Spastics.

    [35] Police arrest drug trafficker, find antiquities

    Police have arrested a 42-year-old man in the city of Yiannitsa, in northern Greece, accused of drug trafficking, while also finding various antiquities in his home.

    Apart from the quantity of drugs, police also confiscated numerous ancient and Byzantine coins and artifacts. Also found were a Venetian coin, a bronze pipe, buckles from costumes and parts of pottery dating back to the iron age and up to the Byzantine era, as well as items created in more recent years.

    [36] American Embassy closed on Mon.18 Feb.

    According to an American Embassy's press release on Thursday, the U.S Embassy in Athens and its Consular Section, the U.S Consulate General in Thessaloniki and all U.S. government offices in Greece will remain closed on Mon.18 Feb. 2008 in observance of President's Day. The day marks the birthdays of U.S Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

    [37] Municipal employee accused of issuing false documents to foreign nationals

    A municipal employee in Mithimna, Hania prefecture on the island of Crete, is accused of providing false certificates to foreign nationals who applied for residence permits in Greece, allegedly charging between 200 and 500 euros.

    Acting on a tip-off, police raided the immigration office in the municipality, leading to the arrest of the man and three alleged accomplices, a local amn and two foreign nationals who are still wanted.

    The identified municipal employee was not arrested for procedural reasons and the investigation continues.

    [38] Four foreign nationals arrested on robbery charges

    Four Romanian nationals, including woman, were arrested in Komotini, northeast Greece, this week and charged in a series of robberies in Kavala, Alexandroupolis, Drama, Xanthi and Komotini.

    The four, aged between 24 and 35, reportedly used local hotels hideouts.

    Special Olympics

    [39] President Papoulias attends signing of Special Olympics memorandum

    President Karolos Papaoulias on Thursday attended the ceremony held at the Athens Concert Hall for the signing of the memorandum concerning the Athens 2011 Special Olympics.

    "The Special Olympics games remind us that sport can function as a means for the respect of diversity and of human dignity, as a lever to secure solidarity and humanity in a society of equal participation and creation, where all develop with the same opportunities and the same rights," President Papoulias said in his address.

    "It is a special honor for all the Greeks that in 2011 our country will be hosting the Special Olympics, since it is an event that shows the strength of sport to unite people, beyond physical, mental and racial discriminations," he added.

    The Special Olympics will be held in Athens in 2011, the city that hosted the Olympic Games in 2004. In 2011, Greece will be hosting the 7,500 athletes who will be participating in the tournament.

    Thursday's event was attended, among others, by the President of Special Olympics Hellas and president of the Athens 2011 Special Olympics Organizing Committee, Yianna Despotopoulou, who signed the agreement on the part of Greece together with Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis.

    Weather Forecast

    [40] Cloud, sleet on Friday

    Cloudy weather and sleet with northerly, northwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 6-7 beaufort. Frost in the morning. Snow in the mountainous regions. Temperatures will range between -7C and 13C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with northwesterly 4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 1C to 13C. Overcast in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -3C to 8C.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [41] Putin: Russia supports Cyprus' integrity


    Russia maintains its position in favour of Cyprus' and Serbia's territorial integrity, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated Thursday during a press conference in the Kremlin.

    "Are you not ashamed in Europe of the double standards you are applying to settle such problems?" Putin asked the leaders of European states.

    His comments came in response to press questions, as it is widely expected that the US and many EU countries plan to recognise an independent Kosovo, which is set to announce a unilateral declaration of independence on Sunday or Monday.

    Asked whether there is a contradiction between Russia's support to UN Security Council resolutions and his statement, President Putin said that his country opts for the observance of the fundamental principles of international law, which are based on respect of the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of states.

    "From this point of view we maintain the same approach towards the Cyprus issue and the problem of Kosovo", the Russian President stressed, adding that "there is a relevant resolution providing that Serbia is entitled to territorial integrity and we have respect to this. The same applies to Cyprus that must be a united country and we support this state of affairs".

    Putin argued that there is no contradiction, noting that "a contradiction would emerge if in one part of Europe we form relations based on certain rules and in another part we base them on completely different rules to serve the interests of a country or of a group of countries."

    In such a case, this would lead to chaos and it would be scary, Putin concluded.

    Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. The Turkish Cypriot self-styled regime in occupied Cyprus is recognised only by Turkey and the UN have called on all states not to recognise it, describing it "legally invalid."

    [42] Cyprus reports to UN air traffic violations by Turkey


    Cyprus has reported to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon new violations of the international air traffic regulations and the national airspace of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkish Air Force military aircraft recorded from 5 December 2007 until 30 January 2008.

    In a letter to Ban, which circulated on Wednesday as a document of the General Assembly, Cyprus' Permanent Representative to the UN, Andreas Mavroyiannis strongly protested the violations and called for their immediate cessation.

    "I would like to stress that Turkey by its irresponsible actions not only gravely violates international law and international rules, but also puts at risk the safety of international civil aviation in the region", the Cypriot diplomat noted.

    He also underlined that Turkey, a "country that has aspirations to take a non-permanent seat in the Security Council next year, systematically attempts to undermine the sovereignty and unity of the Republic of Cyprus by promoting an illegal secessionist entity, arrogating to itself, inter alia, the right to interfere in part of the sovereign airspace of Cyprus. This gravely jeopardizes the atmosphere of trust and confidence that should prevail between the two sides in order to resume negotiations and provides once again evidence of Turkey's precise political aim, which is to consolidate the division of the island and maintain its presence in Cyprus".

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the islandÔs northern third.

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