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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-04-09

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 9 April 2008 Issue No: 2864


  • [01] PM Karamanlis calls on FYROM to cooperate with Greece on name issue
  • [02] US envoy, former German FM address Economist con'f
  • [03] Athens repeats standing positions over solution to 'name issue'; FM on US official's comments
  • [04] Koumoutsakos on FYROM name issue talks
  • [05] Bakoyannis to meet Balkan counterparts this week
  • [06] Inner cabinet discusses energy developments
  • [07] Foreign ministry on Greek-Albanian relations
  • [08] Parliamentary delegation in New York
  • [09] Education Minister Stylianidis visits Washington
  • [10] Former PM Simitis on Bucharest summit results
  • [11] Foreign minister comments on Cyprus issue developments
  • [12] PASOK leader tables question in Parliament for PM on privatisations
  • [13] KKE leader questions PM on German occupation reparations
  • [14] Interior Minister Pavlopoulos on rights of Greek gypsies
  • [15] Authorities raid Agios Kosmas training centre over doping scandal
  • [16] SYRIZA leader Alavanos on anti-doping
  • [17] Commission urges Greece to apply rules for asylum seekers
  • [18] Deputy Interior Minister Hinofotis talks with Bulgarian counterpart Yonov
  • [19] New social security reform law to be implemented in full, FinMin, employment ministers say
  • [20] Commission proposes 89.7 million euros aid for forest fire damage
  • [21] Greek inflation unchanged at 4.4 pct in March
  • [22] PASOK spokesman on inflation, high prices, utilities
  • [23] OTE telecom union calls off rolling strikes but pledges to fight on
  • [24] Cuban ambassador visits Trikala Chamber of Commerce
  • [25] Aegean Airlines reports 10% rise in passenger traffic in Q1
  • [26] Foreign investors' share in Greek capital market down slightly in March
  • [27] Building activity down 13.5 pct in January
  • [28] Services back to normal, central bank announces
  • [29] Greek stocks end 1.83 pct lower
  • [30] ADEX closing report
  • [31] Greek bond market closing report
  • [32] Foreign Exchange Rates - Wednesday
  • [33] Papoulias receives SAE president
  • [34] Three generations of family arrested in drug bust
  • [35] Cloud, scattered showers on Wednesday
  • [36] Serbian FM: Cyprus question an issue of principle
  • [37] Iacovou and Nami agree on agenda of commitees
  • [38] Government: Cyprus' future lies in recognising diversity
  • [39] Cypriot Archbishop to visit Moscow Patriarchate Politics

  • [01] PM Karamanlis calls on FYROM to cooperate with Greece on name issue

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, addressing the conference organized by the Economist magazine on Tuesday evening, called on the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to cooperate with Greece in finding a solution to its name issue.

    He stressed that he extended a public invitation to the political leadership of FYROM for the discussion to be continued as soon as possible in the framework of the UN.

    Karamanlis said that the solution must be a complex name that will be mutually acceptable and for all uses, a "solution that will not be able to be used as an vehicle for historically inaccurate, nationalistic and irredentist logic."

    The prime minister termed its stance at the Bucharest summit and towards FYROM's NATO accession in general an "act of responsibility and credibility," adding that it is an act of consistency by Greece towards the principles of good neighborliness.

    Elaborating further on the issue of FYROM, Karamanlis said that in the process of seeking a solution there will be no winners and defeated and both countries will benefit, while noting that "partnership and allied relations cannot be built on pending issues."

    Karamanlis further said that "we are awaiting their response, viewing the European future and not the Balkan past. We want to be allies and partners. We want relations of friendship and close cooperation."

    Turning to domestic issues, the prime minister expressed his determination in continuing his reforms policies. He said that in an era of rapid developments, changes and challenges, the course towards future requires firm axes and strategic agreements, agreements that concern "where we want to go and, mainly, how to go."

    The prime minister clarified that his commitment and his position is that the goals, no matter how conditions and the environment change, remain steadfast.

    Karamanlis further stressed that it is disastrous for each state to leave matters to be crushed under the weight of the repercussions of global developments and underlined the need for a competitive economy and a foreign policy of open horizons.

    Focusing on foreign policy in particular, Karamanlis said that Greece supports, "steadily and sincerely, not only the European prospects of the countries of southeastern Europe, but of neighboring Turkey as well."

    "The course, however, of each of our neighbors depends, first of all, on themselves. For us, their full compliance with the principles, values and prerequisites of the EU also means their full accession. We want to have our neighbors as allies and partners. It is, however, self-evident and clear that neither can allied or partnership relations be built on serious pending issues," he said.

    [02] US envoy, former German FM address Economist con'f

    US ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard addressed an Economist conference at the seaside resort of Kavouri on Tuesday, terming Greece an ally and a valuable partner in the region that we would like to have a "proper relation with its northern neighbour."

    The conference was entitled "Driving the World Agenda Through 2020".

    "...we look forward to continuing strong cooperation with Greece. I expect we will see little change in the US policy in this region and our desire to support Europe in taking the lead in fostering stability and integration," the ambassador said, stressing that Washington supports democracy and stability in Kosovo, as well as Serbia's course to enable it to come closer to European institutions.

    The US ambassador also referred to the forthcoming presidential elections in his country, saying that they will enter the final stretch with the economy and foreign policy being the main issues.

    According to former German foreign minister and former leader of the Greens party Joschka Fischer, the greatest challenge facing the international community has to do with how much the world will change until 2020 at economic, ecological and political level, adding that one issue that the European Union must address is that of immigration and of the population increase.

    [03] Athens repeats standing positions over solution to 'name issue'; FM on US official's comments

    Greece on Tuesday again reiterated its standing position over the nagging FYROM "name issue", days after Athens followed through on its "no solution, no invitation" stance vis--vis the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) aspiration to join NATO, and a day after the latest eyebrow-raising statements by a top US State Department official regarding the landlocked one-time Yugoslav republic.

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was amongst first Greek officials queried on the statements by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Dan Fried -- who responded to press questions over the issues of "ethnicity" and "language" in FYROM a day earlier -- with the Greek FM merely noting that they (Fried's comments) "are not helpful".

    " (the) Macedonian language exists. Macedonian people exist we teach Macedonian at the (US) Foreign Service Institute. We teach Serbian, we teach Croatian, now we teach Bosnian. There's a debate in Montenegro as to Crnogorski Jezik, the Montenegrin language. All languages -- and I speak now as -- not as a bureaucrat, but as - you know, a former --a lapsed historian. All languages are human creations and they develop over time and become codified there is a Macedonian language," a State Department transcript of Fried's statements read.

    In a later clarification, State Department spokesman Tom Casey stated that "the United States does not confer official recognition on either language or ethnicity and any discussion of Macedonian as a language or ethnicity should have no bearing on the resolution between Greece and Macedonia of the name issue. We continue to urge both sides to remain engaged in the UN process and keep working toward a mutually agreed solution as soon as possible."

    Asked on Monday during a State Department briefing about the issue of "ethnicity", given an earlier reference to "Macedonia patriots", Fried said:

    "I did mention that. But, you know, this is an issue it is for people to define themselves, ultimately, I suppose. The ethnicity is - you know, it's just a fact as far as I can tell. The issue of the name is something that is on the table. And this is something to be discussed. I'm not the negotiator and I'm not, certainly, an anthropologist or an ethno-historian."

    Meanwhile, on her part, Bakoyannis in Athens reminded that the "the subject of negotiations is specific, and concerns the finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue "We will live together with the neighboring country, we are in favor of its stability and prosperity, and we must look to the future We are ready for a reopening of negotiations under UN special representative Matthew Nimetz," the Greek FM said in televised comments.

    In a later statement, a Greek foreign ministry spokesman noted that negotiations over the FYROM "name have specific subject and target, namely, "to reach a mutually acceptable solution, that will be cohesive, practical and enforceable and does not have winners or losers."

    In response to US Assistant Secretary of State Fried's more intricate statements from a day earlier, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos tersely said that "we will not be carried away into discussions that could side-track negotiations from their actual objective."

    PASOK spokesman

    On his part, a spokesman for the main opposition PASOK party called Fried's comments "unacceptable", echoing initial reactions, namely, that they do not assist efforts in solving the "name issue".

    Spokesman George Papaconstantinou added that negotiations to resolve the pending dispute must remain within the UN framework. He also said any potential visit to Skopje by PASOK leader George Papandreou depends on the political situation in the neighbouring state. "Developments there next week may point to the best time for a visit by Mr. Papandreou, who wants -- given his extensive experience with Balkan issues -- to be useful."

    US envoy

    Finally, speaking on Tuesday at an Economist conference being held at a SE Athens resort, entitled 12th Roundtable with the Government of Greece, US ambassador Daniel Speckhard noted that "... the Balkans have not been a major (US presidential) campaign issue, and I do not expect them to become one as we get closer to the election. But I can tell you that our interests in the Balkans are clear. The United States wants Greece and your neighbor to the north to have strong relations; we want Kosovo to establish itself as a stable, multi-ethnic, democratic society; we want Serbia to move forward to realise its goals as a member of Europe and its institutions...

    "And, in all these areas, Greece is still our ally - our indispensable partner - and we look forward to continuing strong cooperation with Greece. I expect we will see little change in the US policy in this region and our desire to support Europe in taking the lead in fostering stability and integration."

    [04] Koumoutsakos on FYROM name issue talks

    The negotiation on the FYROM name issue currently underway at the UN has a specific subject and target, namely to reach a mutually acceptable solution, that will be cohesive, practical and enforceable and does not have winners or losers, stated foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Tuesday.

    He made the statement when asked to comment on references by US Assistant Secretary of State on European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried's to "Macedonian ethnic entity" and "Macedonian language".

    "We will not be carried away into discussions that could side-track negotiations from their actual objective," Koumoutsakos added.

    [05] Bakoyannis to meet Balkan counterparts this week

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will take part in a round-table discussion on Kosovo that is being organized as part of an Economist conference on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos announced. The conference will be held in the Attica seaside resort of Kavouri.

    Others taking part in the talk will be her Bulgarian counterpart Ivaylo Kalfin, Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, Albania's Lulzim Basha and Romania's Adrian Cioroianu and the prime minister of the Republika Srpska government within Bosnia-Herzegovina Milorad Dodik.

    Bakoyannis' speech is scheduled to take place at 9:30 a.m. and she will later host a dinner in honor of Cioroianu at around 13:30, during which they will discuss bilateral and European issues, the progress of trilateral Greek-Bulgarian-Romanian cooperation, and affairs of regional interest such as the status of Kosovo, the Cyprus issue and the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. At 15:00, there will be statements at the Greek foreign ministry.

    On Thursday morning, meanwhile, the Greek foreign minister will receive a visit from Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov for talks focusing on bilateral, regional and international issues, followed by a meeting at 17:00 with U.S. Undersecretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Matthew Bryza.

    On Monday next week, Bakoyannis is also scheduled to meet the British government's special envoy for the Cyprus issue, Labour MP for Enfield Mrs. Joan Ryan.

    [06] Inner cabinet discusses energy developments

    An Inner Cabinet meeting on Tuesday discussed energy developments, agreeing to pursue a goal of continuing to promote the country as an energy hub in southeastern Europe.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Development Minister Christos Folias said the government's intention and strategy was to ensure ample energy supplies with the least possible emissions at the best possible prices.

    "At the same time for (Greece) to become a transit centre for delivering energy supplies to our partners in the European Union," Folias added.

    The Greek minister stressed that Russia was a distinct partner of the EU and of Greece in energy issues.

    [07] Foreign ministry on Greek-Albanian relations

    Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Tuesday stated that Greece has hailed the invitation for NATO membership extended to Albania in the most formal way through Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis. He made the comment in response to a question on bilateral relations, following Albania's accession into the North Atlantic alliance.

    He added that this is a positive development for bilateral relations and the region in general, clarifying that over the past few years there have been no shadows in the good neighborly relations between the two countries and the bilateral issues they are concerned with are administrative and technical in nature.

    [08] Parliamentary delegation in New York

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    The members of the parliamentary inter-party delegation that attended celebrations by the Greek American community in New York celebrating the March 25 Greek Independence Day anniversary held a press conference on Monday at the Greek press and communications office.

    Ruling New Democracy (ND) party MP Alexandros Dermentzopoulos, referring to the developments in the FYROM name issue, said that Greece's policy had been vindicated and stressed the uniform and solid stance of the Greek political world.

    Main opposition PASOK MP Christos Papoutsis said that in recent years, the political world of Greece has done systematic work and made the Greek positions on the name issue clear to the US.

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) MP Adonis Georgiadis said that in the past Greece did not have a planned foreign policy and therefore Greece had not succeeded in convincing the US, resulting in confusion on the Greek goals".

    The delegation also visited the Hellenic Classical Charter School in Brooklyn, where they met with the members of the school's administrative board and educational council.

    [09] Education Minister Stylianidis visits Washington


    Greek Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis is expected to arrive in Washington on Tuesday after wrapping up his visit to Chicago.

    Stylianidis is scheduled to visit the Greek Studies Center at Harvard University and meet with US Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Goli Ameri and members of the Hellenic Caucus in the US House of Representatives.

    He will visit Georgetown University and address an event on "Greek education for Greek expatriate children: steps toward the future" hosted by the Greek embassy to Washington in cooperation with the cultural association "Prometheus". The education minister will also attend a formal reception hosted by Ambassador Alexandros Mallias in his honor.

    Before departing for New York on Wednesday, Stylianidis will meet with US Deputy Secretary on Education Raymond Simon in Washington and visit the High School of the Future in Philadelphia, established in cooperation with Microsoft.

    Stylianidis is scheduled to complete his visit to the United States on April 14.

    [10] Former PM Simitis on Bucharest summit results

    Former prime minister Costas Simitis on Monday said Greece acted "correctly" by capitalizing on an opportunity given at a NATO Summit in Bucharest last week to "remind all that the name issue involving the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has not been resolved."

    Addressing an event organized by the Association for Social Reform (OPEK) in Thessaloniki, Simitis, a Parliament MP, added, however, that "things are not easy, because many countries that supported Greece in Bucharest do not consider the issue as being important and they will not support us for ever."

    For this reason, "the Greek government must immediately take initiatives within the United Nations, the European Union and the UN Security Council in order for a solution to be found."

    He also outlined his ideas over what he called "progressive governance", citing the need for "new and convincing ideas, which are conditions for political hegemony."

    "The opposition, which wants political hegemony, must overcome the stage in which its actions are confined only to watching and commenting on the government's moves," Simitis said, indirectly pointing to his own main opposition PASOK party.

    [11] Foreign minister comments on Cyprus issue developments

    Commenting on developments concerning the Cyprus issue, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Tuesday stated that "we welcome the first positive steps made in this direction with the March 21 agreement between Cyprus Republic President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and the reopening of the Ledra Street Crossing".

    [12] PASOK leader tables question in Parliament for PM on privatisations

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou tabled a question in Parliament for Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday regarding the privatization of public corporations.

    According to the PASOK leader, the government "aims at concealing the budget's widening deficits through the liquidation of public property."

    "If the government's plans are implemented, Greece will be the only European country in which the biggest ports, all the major airports, telecommunications, the production of electric power and other vital sectors of the economy will either be in private hands or will be controlled by corresponding organizations of other countries," he said.

    Papandreou claimed that this "antiquated and failed policy had been implemented in the past by extreme neo-liberal governments, such as those of Margaret Thatcher and Constantine Mitsotakis while today, all governments, even that of the United States, realize the need for the control and regulation of markets for the protection of the economy and of the citizens, while they take measures to shield their strategic corporations, even the private ones, against aggressive buyouts by profiteering capital."

    Papandreou calls on the prime minister to clarify the government's intentions regarding the maintenance of public control of public utilities and other socially beneficial strategic organizations.

    He also calls for an explanation as to "what benefit the Greek consumer will have if decisions on telecommunications, electric power production and ports are taken by foreign business groups instead of the Greek state, as well as what is the expediency of the full or partial granting of these corporations' administration to private interests, instead of the conclusion of strategic cooperation or individual partnerships between the public and private sectors, where this is deemed necessary and under public control."

    [13] KKE leader questions PM on German occupation reparations

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga has tabled a question in Parliament for Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis that the government "has, in essence, abandoned the major issue of claiming Germany's debts owed to Greece."

    Papariga reminded that Germany must return the compulsory loan that it concluded with Greece during the occupation period, amounting to 3.5 billion dollars in 1944 prices, the amount of 7.1 billion dollars in 1946 prices that it had been obliged to pay to Greece by the Paris Peace Conference (1946) as reparations for damage caused to the Greek economy, to compensate victims for damages they sustained and to return archaeological treasures that it seized from Greece.

    Lastly, she called on the prime minister to clarify the issue and what action the government will be taking to enable these considerable sums to be returned as soon as possible.

    [14] Interior Minister Pavlopoulos on rights of Greek gypsies

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said in a message on Tuesday, on the occasion of the World Day of the Roma Nation, that the ministry is working methodically to safeguard the rights of all sensitive social groups, particularly of the Greek gypsies.

    "The Interior ministry, in the framework of its duties, is working systematically and methodically in the direction of fully safeguarding guarantees for respect to the rights of all sensitive social groups and of the Greek gypsies in particular and for the speeding up of their smooth integration in society," he said.

    Pavlopoulos referred to the ministry's efforts, particularly through the Integrated Action Programme that is being implemented, as well as to institutional initiatives and new programmes and measures of tangible support "that also secure for Greek gypsies the same equal opportunities that they are entitled to for their participation in education, employment and social life in general."

    The minister further said that many important steps have been taken over the past four years to shield the rights of Greek gypsies and many longstanding pending issues were resolved.

    Lastly, he analyzed the ministry's activities regarding Greek gypsies, such as the programme for their social accession, combating exclusion and discrimination, programmes for permanent housing, housing loaning, the building of settlements, education, etc.

    [15] Authorities raid Agios Kosmas training centre over doping scandal

    Greek authorities on Tuesday conducted a raid led by first-instance court public prosecutor Andreas Karaflos on the Agios Kosmas Olympic training centre, in the context of an investigation into a doping case involving Greece's national weight-lifting team.

    Karaflos arrived at the head five men detached from the Attica Security drugs squad for the needs of the investigation and confiscated documents at the Agios Kosmas facilities in order to study them and see if they are connected to the case.

    The prosecutor is also due to visit a warehouse on Lenorman Street in Athens later in the day that is said to be connected with the controversial preparations taken by the athletes and will question a pharmacist that, according to the evidence, was involved in preparing the illegal substances.

    The president of the Greek weight-lifting federation Nikos Skiadas is due to testify before Karaflos on Wednesday.

    An urgent judicial investigation to determine whether any crimes have been committed in relation to the law on the use of banned substances was ordered on Monday by Athens chief prosecutor Panagiotis Poulios, who assigned Karaflos to the case. The Greek Weightlifting Federation is expected to be ordered to turn over all documents, including results of the out-of-competition anti-doping tests.

    The decision was made at the same time as a meeting chaired by Culture Minister Michalis Liapis on the use of banned performance-enhancing substances (doping) by Greek athletes, following Friday's announcement that samples of 11 athletes in the national weight-lifting team came back positive in doping tests.

    This said that 11 out of 14 athletes -- both in men's and women's national teams -- had failed tests conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on March 7. Well-known national team coach Christos Iakovou tendered his resignation immediately, in the wake of the news.

    Meanwhile, in an unconfirmed report that emerged on Monday, a Chinese company that produces the detected substance -- illegal by WADA standards -- informed Greek authorities on the same day that within the next few days it will assume, in writing, responsibility for sending the controversial substance to the Greek weightlifting team by mistake.

    [16] SYRIZA leader Alavanos on anti-doping

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary spokesman Alekos Alavanos tabled a question in Parliament on Tuesday to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on "the ineffectiveness and weakness of the state to take necessary measures against doping."

    In view of the inspections of the national weightlifting team, Alavanos claimed that "persons who played a negative leading role in the Athens Olympic Games and were not punished, as should have been the case, were protected and continue to poison Greek athletics and youth."

    [17] Commission urges Greece to apply rules for asylum seekers

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)

    The European Commission on Tuesday repeated calls to Greece to improve conditions at reception centres for immigrants and asylum seekers to the country, as well as to incorporate certain elements of the "Dublin II" directive into national legislation.

    European Commission spokesman Friso Roscam Abbing noted that a process against Greece over this issue and the Dublin II regulations was currently pending at the European Court of Justice. He was responding to complaints by non-governmental organizations regarding delays in granting asylum by Greek authorities and about conditions at reception centers for illegal immigrants.

    The spokesman also noted the difficulties faced by Greece and other countries on the EU's external borders, such as Cyprus, Malta, Italy and Spain, in dealing with these issues.

    He said that the EU supported Greece on the issue of immigrant reception and considering asylum applications and that the European Refugee Fund had given Greece 5.5 million euros in aid over the last seven years for this purpose, with another 1.5 million euros due to be given in 2008 alone.

    Abbing also noted that a lot of illegal immigrants were coming to Greece from Turkey, stressing that this was "a very important problem that must be solved".

    He said the Commission was in constant talks with Turkish authorities over this issue, without any results so far. Abbing underlined, meanwhile, that Turkey had an obligation to take back immigrants that had illegally crossed from its territory into the European Union's borders.

    [18] Deputy Interior Minister Hinofotis talks with Bulgarian counterpart Yonov

    Deputy Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Panayiotis Hinofotis held talks with his Bulgarian counterpart Goran Yonov in Serres, Northern Greece, on Tuesday and discussed the final form of the Greek-Bulgarian agreement which will be signed in Sofia on April 29 for the creation of a Contact Centre for the combating of crime.

    Discussed during the four-hour meeting was the common policy and cooperation between the two countries regarding the combating of crime, within the framework of the creation of a Common Contact Centre for collecting and processing of information, the coordination of police action and the speeding up of the processes for the control at the borders.

    Financial News

    [19] New social security reform law to be implemented in full, FinMin, employment ministers say

    Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis and Employment and Social Protection Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia announced on Tuesday that the new law on social security reform will be implemented in full and in every direction accurately, including the Bank of Greece Fund which will be incorporated in the Social Security Fund (IKA).

    Responding to press reports, the two ministers announced that procedures for the unification of social security funds have already begun for the implementation of the social security reform law.

    It was added that in the framework of these procedures, the finance and economy ministry has created a tripartite committee of representatives of the finance and economy ministry, the Bank of Greece and the Bank's Fund.

    Th Committee will be proposing the technical details of procedures required for IKA incorporation to the Funds Incorporation Committee.

    [20] Commission proposes 89.7 million euros aid for forest fire damage

    The European Commission on Tuesday said it was proposing a grant for Greece from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) totalling 89.7 million to offset part of the costs incurred after devastating forest fires during the summer of 2007. This proposal to the Budget Authority (European Parliament and Council) will result in funding being made available as soon as the Authority agrees. The grant will be used to reimburse the cost of emergency measures such as rescue services, the provision of temporary housing, the cleaning up of disaster-stricken areas and the restoration of basic infrastructures to working condition.

    Danuta Hbner, European Commissioner responsible for the Solidarity Fund, said: "I had the opportunity to see the horrific fire damage in Greece for myself, so I know the scale of the needs. Last year we had several major natural disasters in Europe, devastating the lives of people both in the north and the south. We had many calls for assistance from the European Solidarity Fund, after storm Kyrill in Germany, and disastrous floods in the UK, as well as from Greece.

    Let's act on the lessons learnt: I hope Member States will finally take on board the Commission's 2005 proposal to improve the Solidarity Fund with the European Parliament's support. We proposed measures that would allow advance payments and mobilise the funds more quickly. Last year showed us just how much we need these improvements."

    In summer 2007, a large part of Greece was affected by forest fires. They were most intense and widespread in southwestern Greece, the Peloponnese, Evia and Attica. The disaster caused major damage to the economy and to basic infrastructure and the environment. Substantial costs were incurred for providing temporary accommodation and funding rescue services to meet the immediate needs of the population concerned. There were 65 deaths in the Peloponnese, in Western Greece and in Evia as a result of the fires.

    Today's proposal to mobilise a grant of 89.7 million requires the Budget Authority to adopt an amending budget. The Commission and the Greek authorities will then sign a financing agreement.

    The EU Solidarity Fund, created in 2002, grants emergency aid to EU member-states and countries involved in accession negotiations in the event of a major natural disaster. Its annual allocation amounts to 1 billion. To qualify for aid under the Solidarity Fund, countries must provide a documented estimate of the damage which is examined by the Commission in the light of specific criteria. On 6 April 2005, the Commission adopted a proposal for the new and improved EU Solidarity Fund (for 2007-2013), which would cover disasters other than those arising from natural catastrophes and with improved eligibility criteria and delivery mechanisms.

    [21] Greek inflation unchanged at 4.4 pct in March

    Greek inflation rate was 4.4 percent in March, unchanged from February, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday. The statistics service, in its monthly report, said the consumer price index (core inflation) rose to 3.6 pct in March 2008 from 2.6 pct in March 2007, while Greece's harmonized inflation rate was 4.4 pct in March 2008.

    The consumer price index was up 2.3 pct from February. The statistics service said the March figure reflected a 6.1 pct increase in food and beverage prices, a 10.7 pct jump in housing prices, a 4.6 pct rise in education, a 4.5 pct increase in hotel-coffee-restaurant prices and a 4.1 pct increase in transportation prices.

    [22] PASOK spokesman on inflation, high prices, utilities

    Main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou, referring on Tuesday to data concerning the development of inflation in March, said that high prices "are now touching everyone".

    Papaconstantinou added that the data has "confirmed the course of inflation since February with the consolidation and spreading of inflationary pressures."

    The spokesman accused the government of "doing nothing effective for high prices but, on the contrary, it is fuelling inflation" and mentioned increases at the Public Power Corporation (DEH) as an example. He also doubted whether the issue of high prices was discussed during Tuesday's meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Development Minister Christos Folias.

    Papaconstantinou further criticised the government that a few days after the ratification of the social security bill it "began the dismantling of the law".

    Also referring to the tabling of a timely question in Parliament for the prime minister by PASOK leader George Papandreou on the privatization of public organizations of strategic importance, Papaconstantinou said that a "Third World model is being applied in privatizations which, when fully implemented, will have made Greece the only European country having all its ports, a large part of airports and all the public corporations and organizations of strategic importance either in the hands of private individuals or in the hands of foreigners."

    [23] OTE telecom union calls off rolling strikes but pledges to fight on

    The board of the OME-OTE union, representing staff at the former state-owned Greek phone utility Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, on Tuesday said it was suspending a series of rolling 24-hour nationwide strikes but would continue to press its demands through other forms of labor action.

    This will include a protest demonstration outside OTE management's headquarters on Wednesday and a speech to the workforce.

    There union's board will have an emergency meeting next Monday to reassess the situation, based on a request by the New Democracy-affiliated trade union movement DAKE.

    In an announcement, OME-OTE said that the almost universal participation of OTE staff in the strike "sent a loud message to OTE's president and CEO".

    The union objects to the transfer of a large share of OTE from MIG to German-based Deutsche Telecom.

    [24] Cuban ambassador visits Trikala Chamber of Commerce

    Cuban Ambassador to Greece Hermes Herrera Hernandez visited the Chamber of Commerce in the city of Trikala, central Greece, on Tuesday and held a series of contacts with local agencies, including President Vassilis Yiayiakos and board members of the Trikala Chamber of Commerce.

    Welcoming Hernandez, Yiayiakos referred to the longstanding bonds of friendship linking the two countries and the two peoples.

    He then focused on the production potential of the Trikala prefecture, expressing the wish that "the specific meeting will constitute the beginning of the development of commercial transactions between Cuba and businessmen from Trikala."

    On his part, Hernandez showed special interest in the development of business and commercial relations with the prefecture of Trikala. He analyzed at length the investments status existing in his country and a showed keen interest in the prefecture's farming production and in prospects for concluding agreements on exporting basic products to Cuba.

    The president of the Trikala Chamber of Commerce offered to the Cuban ambassador an icon and the Chamber's emblem, while Hernandez offered in return rum produced in Cuba.

    [25] Aegean Airlines reports 10% rise in passenger traffic in Q1

    Aegean Airlines on Tuesday reported a 10-percent increase in passenger traffic in the first quarter of 2008, compared with the corresponding period last year to 1,062,202 passengers with 11,601 flights.

    The Greek-listed airline said its average passenger per flight rose to 92 from 88 in the first quarter of 2007, for an increase of 4.0 percent.

    Aegean Airlines said its domestic traffic totalled 705,483 passengers, up 1.0 percent, from last year, while its international traffic totalled 356,719, up 35 percent over the same period.

    The airline said it was adding new destinations to its flight schedule, with two daily flights to London and a daily flight to Tirana from May 2.

    [26] Foreign investors' share in Greek capital market down slightly in March

    Foreign investors marginally decreased their participation at the Athens Stock Exchange to 50.5 pct in March, from 50.8 pct in February 2008, official figures showed on Tuesday.

    A monthly report by Hellenic Stock Markets said daily average turnover rose to 436.7 million euros in March, from 365.04 million in February, while daily average turnover (on an annual basis) totalled 442.27 million euros.

    Turnover in the Greek market totalled 6.550 billion euros in March, down 14.5 pct from February and 33.8 pct compared with March 2007. Net capital outflows by foreign investors totalled 360.03 million euros in March 2008, while inflows by Greek investors totalled 259.81 million euros.

    The Greek market's capitalisation totalled 155.2 billion euros in March, down 2.95 pct from February, reflecting 102.4 billion euros of the FTSE 20 index (down 3.2 pct), 20.0 billion euros of the FTSE 40 index (down 5.2 pct) and 10.0 billion euros of the FTSE 80 index (down 1.9 pct).

    [27] Building activity down 13.5 pct in January

    Building activity dropped by 13.5 pct in January 2008 (in permits) and by 4.7 pct in volume in the first month of 2008, compared with the same period in 2007, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.

    Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (27.7 pct), Attica (25.3 pct), western Greece (19.4 pct) and central Greece (18.6 pct) recorded the biggest percentage decline in permits, while Northern Aegean (10.1 pct), Southern Aegean (11.9 pct) and Crete (5.6 pct) the biggest percentage increases in January.

    [28] Services back to normal, central bank announces

    In an announcement issued on Tuesday, the Bank of Greece said that all its services had been restored to normal operation after the end of a strike by the central bank's staff.

    [29] Greek stocks end 1.83 pct lower

    Greek stocks ended sharply lower on Tuesday, reversing a several-day advance in the Athens Stock Exchange, as investors took profits. The composite index fell 1.83 percent to end at 4,087.89 points, with turnover a low 305.13 million euros of which 27.5 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower with the Media (2.98 pct), Food/Beverage (1.29 pct), Commerce (1.03 pct) and Chemicals (0.54 pct) scoring gains, while Raw Materials (3.70 pct), Banks (2.83 pct), Constructions (2.77 pct), Financial Services (2.77 pct) and Healthcare (2.16 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The Big Cap index dropped 2.26 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.62 pct lower and the Small Cap index fell 0.04 pct. Alpha Grissin (10.21 pct), Ideal (9.13 pct) and Fieratex (8.33 pct) were top gainers, while ANEK (13.16 pct), Diekat (10.0 pct) and Elviemek (9.87 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 183 to 70 with another 36 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.49%

    Industrials: -0.73%

    Commercial: +1.03%

    Construction: -2.77%

    Media: +2.98%

    Oil & Gas: +1.17%

    Personal & Household: -1.43%

    Raw Materials: -3.70%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.16%

    Technology: -2.05%

    Telecoms: -0.43%

    Banks: -2.83%

    Food & Beverages: +1.29%

    Health: -2.16%

    Utilities: +0.96%

    Chemicals: +0.54%

    Financial Services: -2.77%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 21.20

    ATEbank: 2.80

    VIOHALCO: 7.10

    ELTEX: 7.60

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 27.42

    HBC Coca Cola: 30.60

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.66

    National Bank of Greece: 34.92

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 19.74

    Bank of Cyprus: 8.92

    Intralot: 12.20

    Hellenic Post Bank: 11.48

    OPAP: 22.34

    OTE: 18.50

    Piraeus Bank: 20.16

    Titan Cement Company: 27.60

    Marfin Popular Bank: 5.44

    Marfin Investment Group (MIG): 4.92%

    [30] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover easing further to 81.887 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 2.76 pct, while the April contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.72 pct.

    Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 6,030 contracts worth 62.921 million euros, with 28,333 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 127 contracts worth 3.117 million euros, with 269 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 7,000 contracts worth 11.347 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,491), followed by Eurobank (329), Marfin Investment Group (732), OTE (525), Alpha Bank (647), Intracom (386), Marfin Popular Bank (385), Mytilineos (357) and Cyprus Bank (443).

    [31] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market fell to 494 million euros on Tuesday, of which 170 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 324 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 200 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds rose to 0.49 pct with the Greek bond yielding 4.52 pct and the German Bund 4.03 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate fell to 3.92 pct form 4.0 pct on Monday, the two-day rate eased to 4.01 pct from 4.02 pct, the one-month rate was 4.37 pct and the 12-month rate 4.76 pct.

    [32] Foreign Exchange Rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.582

    Pound sterling 0.803

    Danish kroner 7.519

    Swedish kroner 9.435

    Japanese yen 162.04

    Swiss franc 1.604

    Norwegian kroner 8.020

    Canadian dollar 1.603

    Australian dollar 1.710

    General News

    [33] Papoulias receives SAE president

    World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Stephanos Tamvakis was received on Tuesday by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.

    Tamvakis presented the Greek president with SAE's annual report, which contains observations, requests and proposals from all seven regions of the world falling under the SAE's competence.

    [34] Three generations of family arrested in drug bust

    A grandmother, daughter and grand-daughter who had set up a drug-dealing family business were arrested in Dedropotamos, Thessaloniki police announced on Tuesday.

    According to police, a 68-year old woman, her 32-year old daughter and one of her grand-daughters, aged 20, were found in possession of roughly 40 grams of heroin, which police believe was intended for sale. Following a search in their house, authorities found and seized roughly 10,000 euro in cash and two bankbooks as well as items of jewelry and a valuable church icon with which they were paid in kind by drug users.

    Weather forecast

    [35] Cloud, scattered showers on Wednesday

    Cloudy and rainy weather with southerly, southeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 5-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 10C and 26C. Cloudy in Athens, with southerly, southeasterly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 25C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 9C to 19C.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [36] Serbian FM: Cyprus question an issue of principle


    he question of Cyprus is an issue of principle for Serbia and relates to support for Security Council resolutions and respect for the UN Charter and international law, Foreign Minister of Serbia Vuk Jeremic has said.

    In statements after a meeting here Tuesday with Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, Jeremic referred to Kosovo, noting that "Serbia considers the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo void and it carries no legal or political meaning for us."

    Referring the same issue, Kyprianou said "Cyprus does not recognise Kosovo. For us it is a question of principles, a question of preserving and safeguarding the territorial integrity of both countries. This is a UN principle, a principle of the Helsinki Final Act, of international law and having these principles as a basis we will never recognise Kosovo," Kyprianou added.

    Jeremic said it was a great honor for him to be the first minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia to pay an official visit to Cyprus.

    "Our friendship goes a long way and we have a long history of friendly relations but it is only today that a Minister of Foreign Affairs is paying an official visit to the Republic of Cyprus. We had a fruitful conversation today (Tuesday). On the bilateral level we get an excellent relationship and we are going to continue building on this fantastic basis we have inherited from our predecessors," he added.

    "Serbia considers the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo void and it carries no legal or political meaning for us. For us the territorial integrity of Serbia remains intact, we are going to continue using our diplomatic work," he added.

    He stressed that "Serbia is not going to give up its sovereignty and territorial integrity and at the same time, it is not going to give up its quest to become a member of the EU. We do not expect this condition to be posed in front of us", he noted.

    Jeremic said that Serbia always supports Cyprus with which it has a long standing friendship. "It is a principled position, it is a position that defends Security Council resolutions, and basically this is the right thing to do," he added.

    Kyprianou said they discussed various issues of mutual concern but also bilateral issues and European issues.

    "The good cooperation, the good-friendly-brotherly relations between our two countries go a long way back since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus and they continue as both our countries have gone through difficult times, still do and that brings us closer," Kyprianou noted.

    He said they discussed the Cyprus problem, adding that both he and President of the Republic Demetris Christofias, whom the minister met earlier, had the opportunity to brief the minister on recent developments and the beginning of a new procedure to help find a negotiated settlement in Cyprus, that would reunite the country, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    "Cyprus does not recognize Kosovo. For us it is a question of principles, a question of preserving and safeguarding the territorial integrity of both countries. This is a principle of the United Nations, the Helsinki Final Act, principle of international law and on the basis of these principles, we will never recognize Kosovo," Kyprianou added.

    He said that there similarities with the situation in Cyprus "because we are also striving to maintain the territorial integrity of our country and even though we know the position that Kosovo is a sui generis case and does not create a precedent, nevertheless it does violate the same principles of international law."

    Kyprianou stressed that Cyprus favors and fully supports the European process of Serbia. "We believe Serbia belongs to Europe, it belongs to the EU and has the possibility to move as quickly as possible towards the EU and for this we always supported and support within the context of the EU the speeding up of these European process, including the signing of all relevant agreements," he added.

    He said that "despite the fact that some states have recognized Kosovo we should emphasize that the recognition is not a European position, is not an EU policy and should be left to each member state to decide for itself and maybe it is good to remind that many states in the EU have not and will not recognize Kosovo."

    "There is no EU position on this, this should not become a condition for Serbia to move closer to EU or join the EU, this should not become an obstacle in allowing and facilitating Serbia to move towards the EU," Kyprianou concluded.

    [37] Iacovou and Nami agree on agenda of commitees


    Cypriot Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou and Ozdil Nami, aide to the Turkish Cypriot leader, agreed Tuesday on the agenda of five technical committees and working groups.

    Iacovou and Nami meet regularly with a view to implement an agreement reached by Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat during their meeting on March 21. On March 26 Iacovou and Nami agree to establish as soon as possible, six working groups and seven technical committees.

    ''We have essentially concluded with the agenda of five committees and working groups, we have made good progress on other issues but have not yet finished,'' Iacovou said in statements after a lengthy meeting with Nami in the presence of UN SG' Special Representative in Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar.

    Iacovou did not elaborate on the titles of the working groups and technical committees, the agenda of which was concluded.

    He explained that either one or the other side needs to consult with its technocrats on details relating to technical issues under discussion.

    Iacovou said that he will meet Nami on Wednesday afternoon ''I believe that by tomorrow we will possibly cover two thirds of the work we are engaged in with regard to the technical committees and working groups and I hope that by Thursday we will finish (with the agenda),'' he added.

    Responding to questions, he said an effort will be made to make up for lost time, adding that he hopes that all working groups and technical committees or a significant number will begin work simultaneously.

    Furthermore, Iacovou said that the Greek Cypriot side is very close to finalizing the list of the technocrats who will participate in the technical committees and the working groups on behalf of the Greek Cypriot side.

    [38] Government: Cyprus' future lies in recognising diversity


    The future of the people of Cyprus lies in recognising diversity and the need for cooperation, elements which are indispensable to build and strengthen peaceful cooperation in a common homeland, without the barbed wire of partition and the de facto division and without the presence of foreign troops, Government Spokesman Stefanos Stefanou has said.

    Stefanou, who was addressing here Tuesday a book exhibition on the Holocaust organized by the English School, stressed that the Holocaust is one of the darkest pages in the history of humanity in the course of the 20th century.

    "The book exhibition serves as a reminder that progress and civilization were attained through long and hard struggles. It also reminds us that defending and safeguarding these achievements can be brought about only through struggles," Stefanou said.

    "The question of how we can act to ensure a better future becomes all the more timely, as international law continues to be shamelessly violated by policies which exploit peoples and are warlike," he stressed and pointed out that crimes against humanity underline the importance of existence and of strengthening universal values and principles, forged by struggles of peoples for freedom, national vindication, dignity and human rights.

    He added that "these are values and principles that humanity acquired after paying a heavy price in blood, pain and tears, the international community is called upon to defend, so that tragedies may not be repeated again and there will not be more pain, destruction and wars."

    Furthermore, Stefanou underlined that "history teaches us that whenever the international community looked down on these values, whenever it did not insist on their faithful implementation, many countries and peoples paid a heavy price and new crimes were committed against mankind. Therefore, what is of critical importance is for all of us to defend with consistency these universal values and principles."

    Referring to Cyprus, Stefanou pointed out that it is a multicultural country that has experienced many tragedies because of nationalism, and intolerance, which was allowed to grow between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and because of foreign interventions in our country.

    Finally, he said, "These tragic experiences teach us that the future of our people lies in recognizing diversity and the need for cooperation, elements which are indispensable to build and strengthen peaceful cooperation in a common homeland, without the barbed wire of partition and the de facto division of our country and without the presence of foreign troops."

    [39] Cypriot Archbishop to visit Moscow Patriarchate


    The Primate of the Church of Cyprus Archbishop Chrysostomos II will visit the Moscow Patriarchate in July.

    The Archbishop announced Tuesday his visit will take place beginning of July and underlined the importance of maintaining excellent relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.

    "The Cyprus problem remains unresolved. Therefore, our relations with the Russian Church should continue to be strong", Archbishop Chrysostomos II said and referred to the close relations which exist between the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Russian political leadership.

    The Primate of the Church of Cyprus said that relations between the Orthodox Church of Cyprus and the Russian Orthodox Church have always been very close.

    "The Russian Church has supported us in difficult times and we would like to continue having these close ties", he concluded.

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