|Friday, 23 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-04-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 10 April 2008 Issue No: 2865
 PM addresses ND Political Council on FYROM, reforms programPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday addressed the ruling New Democracy's Political Council on the main points of government policy, including its goals concerning the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and programmed reforms.
Regarding the name dispute, Karamanlis referred to the outcome of the NATO summit as a "successful battle waged with determination, wisdom, and the right political maneuvers". He stressed, however, that the way was still long and difficult and added that Greece's aim was a mutually acceptable, viable, and long-lasting solution to the problem that will boost stability in the region and ensure good neighbor relations.
"We say no to contentiousness," Karamanlis said. He added that the leadership of neighboring FYROM should now calmly face the facts and realize that their participation in the international community will require fulfilling the obligations imposed upon them and respecting the international community' s rules.
Regarding pension system reforms, the prime minister said the government was fulfilling its pre-election promises and carrying out bold reforms that will aim to benefit the Greek people.
Commenting on the political furor surrounding social insurance reforms, he noted that the government had strived for consensus and dialogue but had been faced with political parties that competed with each other by using exaggeration, nihilism, and reactionary responses.
"We are the party that makes the difficult decisions," the premier stressed, noting that the measures promoted by the government were necessary for the good of the country despite their short-term political cost, because they guaranteed a permanent national, economic, and social benefit.
Karamanlis then turned to the other reforms carried out by the government, such as those in education, spatial planning, and the privatization plans for Greek ports and Olympic Airlines. He said the government's next target would be a major reform of the administrative structure of the country at the local government level, leading to fewer, but stronger and more efficient local authorities.
Commenting on cooperation between the party and the government, the prime minister said relations were positive and praised the role of ND's Parliamentary group in supporting government reforms, while he urged the party to seek ways for closer cooperation through ideas, proposals, and initiatives on social issues and matters concerning ordinary citizens.
 ND Secretary hails NATO summit decision for FYROMRuling New Democracy Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis on Wednesday described the results of the NATO summit in Bucharest as "excellent" for Greek positions relative to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and he praised the determination of the Greek government.
Zagoritis, in statements made after a meeting of ND's Political Council that was addressed by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, said that Greece had found support for its positions among other members of the Alliance and succeeded in having its positions adopted by the summit. These supporting members of the Alliance said that a solution to the name dispute between FYROM and Greece will have to precede FYROM's entry into NATO.
Commenting on the other issues discussed during the meeting, Zagoritis said that a lot of work remained to be done by the employment ministry in order to implement the social insurance system reforms recently passed by the government, such as pension fund mergers and other measures as well as informing the general public about the changes.
He also commented on the prime minister's call for more contact with Greek society and new prospects for the party's development, stressing that ND was always close to people and would develop action on important issues.
 Bakoyannis calls for EU involvement in Kosovo; renews call to Skopje to solve name issueGreek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis joined her Balkan counterparts in supporting greater involvement by the European Union in Kosovo, during a round-table discussion held in Athens on Wednesday in the framework of an Economist conference. The Greek minister stressed that Kosovo was a great challenge for both the region and for Europe itself and stressed Athens' disagreement with unilateral recognition of Pristina's declaration of independence.
"Greece has never liked unilateral declarations. It prefers and has chosen to support the legally established European presence in Kosovo and not that of a coalition of the willing, as some others may have thought," she underlined.
Arguing that it was Europe that could and should guarantee a democratic, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Kosovo, the Greek minister voiced support for sending a European Security and Defence Policy mission for the rule of law area in the framework of UN Security Council resolution 1244.
The others participating in the round-table discussion included Bakoyannis' Bulgarian counterpart Ivaylo Kalfin, Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, Albania's Lulzim Basha and Romania's Adrian Cioroianu, as well as the prime minister of the Republika Srpska government within Bosnia-Herzegovina Milorad Dodik. They also agreed on the need for greater EU involvement in Kosovo, though Jeremic stressed that any EU force deployed should first be legalised by a decision of the UN Security Council
Bakoyannis, on her part, supported for the signature of a Stability and Association Agreement between the EU and Serbia, expressing her conviction that "our friends the Serbs will confirm the desire for a European future of democracy and development at the upcoming elections". The Greek minister underlined that Athens had consistently supported the European prospects of its neighbours since the beginning of the 1990s, most recently with the "Five-point proposal" the previous November concerning the European prospects of the western Balkans.
She stressed that at a time of great change, Greece had "invested in stability and extended a hand of friendship" and that it saw the economic development of its neighbours as a "valuable and necessary tool" for achieving political stability, which was being promoted through the investments of Greek business and developmental aid given by Greece through the Greek Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans.
The Greek foreign minister also used the meeting as an opportunity to renew Athens' call to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to persevere with efforts to find a solution to the name dispute via the process underway at the United Nations.
"The message that we are sending is clear. We want to continue immediately, with the same dedication, the same persistence, the negotiations in a UN framework, so that we arrive as soon as possible at a solution based on an essentially composite name with a geographic qualifier that will apply for all. We seek a solution that is comprehensive, viable, functional, a solution without winners and losers, a mutually-acceptable solution, that will allow us to build a future of friendship and cooperation with our neighbouring state, developing ties and alliance and close partnership," Bakoyannis underlined.
Greece would be more than glad to welcome FYROM into the EuroAtlantic family once such a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue were found and this was also the position adopted by the NATO allies in Bucharest, she added.
Support for the Greek position was voiced by Kalfin, who called on the two sides to resolve the problem in good faith and stressed that good neighbour relations were equally important as FYROM's future in the EU and NATO.
On the issue of Kosovo, Serbia's Jeremic stressed that Belgrade was not prepared to give up its sovereign rights and territorial integrity in exchange for rapprochement with the EU and said that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence set a "dangerous precedent".
Opposition to Pristina's move was expressed by most of the other officials present, with the exception of Albania's Basha who said Kosovo's independence was a "historic event" that would promote stability and could not be reversed.
 Bakoyannis and Romanian counterpart hold talks in AthensGreek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis gave a working dinner for her Romanian counterpart Adrian Cioroianu in Athens on Wednesday, during which they confirmed the good climate in bilateral relations. The Romanian minister also conveyed Bucharest's special understanding for Greece's position concerning the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
"At the Bucharest summit we welcomed Croatia and Albania into NATO. As regards FYROM, it is my sincere hope that we will proceed as quickly as possible in carrying out the NATO joint communique, which calls for a solution to the name issue and an invitation to join the Alliance," Bakoyannis said in joint statements afterwards, leading with the name issue.
"We understand the Greek positions regarding FYROM. I assure you that Romania has understood that Greece wants to invite FYROM but first wants to find a mutually acceptable solution," Cioroianu said in response.
The two ministers also considered regional issues during the dinner, with emphasis on the status of Kosovo. This and Serbia's European prospects were another two issues on which the views of Athens and Bucharest converged, with Bakoyannis calling for the fastest possible EU rapprochement for Belgrade and Cioroianu noting Serbia's "key" role in the area.
On a bilateral level, Bakoyannis said that Greece saw Romania as a "close friend and partner" and that they worked together closely and exchanged views in the framework of the EU on issues concerning the European Council. She also stressed the economic cooperation of the two countries and pointed to major Greek investments in Romania.
Cioroianu praised Greece as a "model for solidarity" in the region that should be imitated by younger EU members and asked Greece to support a faster EU rapprochement for the Republic of Montenegro.
Replying to a question regarding the possible impact of early elections in FYROM on the negotiations over the name issue at the UN, Bakoyannis made the following statement:
"We want the negotiations under [UN mediator for the name issue Matthew] Nimetz in the framework of the UN to go ahead. We are ready to do this starting tomorrow and we expect Skopje to have a similar response, regardless of its internal political processes."
 FM Bakoyannis meets Bulgarian counterpart KalfinGreek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis held talks on Wednesday with her visiting Bulgarian counterpart Ivailo Kalfin focusing on regional issues and especially Kosovo, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Serbia's European prospects.
Bakoyannis said that her talks with Balkan counterparts "are continuous and substantial and will intensify in the future."
The Bulgarian foreign minister termed relations between the two countries "strategic" and "friendly".
 PASOK leader Papandreou addresses Economist conferenceMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou addressed the conference organised by the Economist magazine at the seaside resort of Vouliagmeni on Wednesday, making special reference to the issue of the neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) name issue.
"I wish to make the folliwing observation on every effort made by various mediators. Every effort must help the goal of a mutually acceptable solution and must not become a part of the problem," he said.
Referring to the recent NATO summit in Bucharest, Papandreou said that a negative development for Greek national interests was averted and reiterated that Greece's aim was not the veto but a solution to the issue of the name of FYROM, that will be mutually acceptable on a composite name with a geographical qualifier for all uses without exception.
Papandreou further stressed that efforts to solve the issue of the name must be continued, but always under the auspices of the UN.
The PASOK leader also opposed the establishment of a stste in Kosovo and its unilateral recognition since, as he said, they constitute a violation of international law.
Commenting on international developments in general, as well as on developments in the region of Greece, Papandreou stressed that three major challenges currently exist, focusing on climatic change as being the first. He added that this issue has becone a priority at the Socialist International, while mentioning that the impact is also considerable in Greeece in agricultural production and in other sectors, such as the water balance and the spectre of desertisation.
Papandreou determined security and stability as being the second major challenge, that is at our door, and that is related to the international political and economic system.
He went on to say that "what is necessary is a new democratic and global governance with strong institutions for arranging and balancing great inequalities, as well as restricting the dangerous accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of a few and uncontrolled elements."
Papandreou assessed that "first of all Europe must activate itself in this effort, must awaken from its lethargy and contribute to stability and probably with the incorporation of wider regions such as Russia and the Mediterranean."
The second factor that can play a role in the democratisation of the global governance system, as Papandreou said, "is a new progressive government in the United States which will distance itself from the Cold War complex or the phobia complex that was cultivated following September 11 and that will have the courage to contribute to the shaping of a fairer world."
Lastly, Papandreou drew three conclusions concerning the country's economic state: "the Greek government did not utilise the leading position of the country and of its economy in 2004 and wasted time, money and reliability, the Greek economy is currently unprotected against international turbulence since there is no plan for handling and managing crises and the country, in a rapidly changing environment, is being called on to claim its own economic and growth identity in a new global distribution of labour."
 Forces of two-party rule belong to the past, Alavanos saysRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos, speaking during his tour of Iraklio, on the island of Crete, on Wednesday said that "we, as SYRIZA, want to make proposals looking to the future and not to the past and the forces of two-party rule belong to the past."
Alavanos added that "I believe that i will not be offending anyone because we are here in Crete, saying that 'vendetta' is an alien idea to us. Alien, however, is not the attack by other parties."
He further said that "we have experience from continuous criticism that we are hearing from KKE (the Communist Party of Greece) and in the same way that we handled them, we shall also handle those of PASOK. Meaning, that we shall not enter a ground of partisan confrontations. Society does not want this from SYRIZA. Society wants us to give answers to modern-day problems, it wants new faces and we shall continue in this sense."
 Synaspismos's Political Secretariat convenesThe Political Secretariat of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) convened on Wednesday and discussed the problem of doping in sport as well as the recent NATO summit.
According to an announcement, the problem of doping in sport is a major issue for Synaspismos and discussion centred on initiatives which should be taken.
Regarding the NATO summit, the character and pursuits of the Alliance in the region was stressed, while as for the matter of the "name issue" of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the party's orientation was reiterated for a mutually acceptable solution within the framework of the United Nations.
 PM's agenda this weekPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis will speak on Thursday at an off-the-agenda session in Parliament following a Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) request for debate on the ongoing FYROM "name issue", government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced on Wednesday.
Karamanlis will also receive visiting Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek on Friday at the Maximos Mansion.
In answer to press questions referring to Karamanlis' visit to Moscow, Roussopoulos said an invitation exists, while talks are being held via diplomacy channels to determine an exact date for such a visit.
 Wide-spread investigation into doping scandal continuesGreek Weightlifting Federation President Nikos Skiadas on Wednesday was the latest individual to testify before a first instance court prosecutor assigned a preliminary investigation into highly damaging allegations of doping involving practically all the athletes on Greece's national weightlifting team.
National Anti-Doping Council President Chryssa Spiliopoulou has also testified in the same case, as teams of prosecutors and police raided a handful of pharmacies, gyms and warehouses in Athens over the recent 48-hour period in search of banned substances, primarily steroids.
Meanwhile, an attorney representing weightlifting team head coach Christos Iakovou called for chief prosecutor Panagiotis Poulios to direct a specialised police electronic crimes unit to investigate the authenticity of an email ostensibly sent earlier in the week by a Shanghai-based firm that produces the banned performance-enhancing substances. The latter substances were detected in the 11 athletes' urine samples by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) last month.
The email, signed only by one "Su Lee" and addressed to "Dear Client", claims the banned substances were shipped to Greece by mistake.
In a related development, the Greek Handball Federation in a statement issued Wednesday denied news reports claiming that an alleged instance of doping was detected in the national team, clarifying that the violation concerned the use of cannabis use by a foreign athlete.
Turning to pro football, samples were taken from a total of 12 players of top Greek clubs AEK Athens and Panathinaikos Athens on Wednesday during a surprise inspection by the National Anti-Doping Agency (ESKAN).
The latest doping furor broke last Friday when it was announced that 11 out of 14 athletes -- both in men's and women's national teams -- had failed tests conducted by WADA on March 7. Well-known coach Christos Iakovou tendered his resignation immediately in the wake of the news.
In the wake of the doping furor, the embassy of the People's Republic of China in Athens released the following press announcement on Wednesday:
"The Embassy has contacted the Greek side and informed competent authorities in the Beijing and Shanghai. The Chinese side takes this issue very seriously and has immediately started an investigation and requested further information from the Greek side.
"China reiterates its adherence to the universal sports ethics which took origin from and are enshrined in Greece. We are committed to safeguarding the sanctity of Olympic values, firmly opposed to any use of doping by exercising strict control of all doping-related substances. We are ready to work closely with the Greek side to find out what happened and take all necessary actions," the press release concluded.
Meanwhile, speaking during a regular press briefing on Wednesday, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said whatever supplements provided to sports federations and gyms are approved by the National Organization for Medicines (EOF).
Referring to the likelihood that certain substances are listed as dietary supplements to avoid being regulated by EOF, he cited statements the relevant sports ministry that procedures must be followed or modified.
Supplements have to be EOF approved, he said, adding that citizens are obligated to obey the law.
As regards press claims that roughly 11 million dietary supplements are on the local market without EOF approval, he pointed to an exaggeration, saying state services have an obligation to trace violations in case of illegally marketed substances.
 Incidents mar university student elections in ThessalonikiLimited incidents were recorded Wednesday morning in Thessaloniki's Aristotle University, where student elections are being held, when roughly 20 unidentified individuals wearing helmets entered forcibly the Veterinary School auditorium just before the election process got underway, set ballot papers on fire and caused material damages.
Voting began as soon as calm was restored and will continue until 8pm.
Similar incidents were also recorded on Tuesday evening at the Polytechnic School when a group of unidentified individuals interrupted an election campaign gathering and tore up candidate banners.
 French envoy in Larissa, VolosFrench Ambassador to Greece Christophe Farnaud began a two-day tour of Larissa and Volos on Wednesday accompanied by a large delegation of embassy officials.
Underlining the "excellent" relations between the two countries and the "very good political relations" between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Farnaud further noted France's special inetrest in strengthening its economic relations with Greece.
The French envoy also showed increased interest for the preparations of the 2013 Meditarranean Games which will be in the two central Greek cities.
 German envoy lays wreath at noted Cretan town's war memorialGerman ambassador to Greece Wolfgang Schulteis on Wednesday visited the southwest Cretan town of Kandanos, which was completely razed to the ground by German paratroopers in June 1941 as retribution for the stiff resistance put up by local residents during a Nazi airborne invasion -- Operation "Merkur" -- during WWII.
In brief statements, Amb. Schulteis, who spoke in Greek, expressed the German nation's deep sorrow for the destruction of the town and the surrounding area.
He also laid a wreath a memorial to the fallen of Kandanos, the same site where German occupation forces had erected a sign reading: "Here stood Kandanos, destroyed in retribution for the murder of 25 German soldiers, never to be rebuilt again."
"This black page (of history) must teach subsequent generations that our peoples can live and prosper only with peace, solidarity and cooperation," Hania Prefect Grigoris Arhontakis said in his address.
The German ambassador also met with local officials.
 Development Minister Folias addresses Economist conferenceDevelopment Minister Christos Folias addressed the Economist magazine's conference at the seaside resort of Vouliagmeni on Wednesday, stressing that the implementation of a dynamic and extroversive energy policy constituted a strategic option for the country.
Folias said that through a series of agreements on the construction of oil and natural gas transportation pipelines (Burgas-Alexandroupoli, TGI, South Stream) Greece aims at becoming an energy centre and, in parallel, securing its adequacy in energy.
"Greece is joining the energy map, although it does not produce energy," he said. As regards the South Stream natutal gas pipeline, the minister pointed out that the greater the differentiation of energy resources, the higher the adequacy in energy.
The minister also underlined Greece's leading role and multiform positive contribution to the establishment of the Energy Community of southeastern Europe, a unified energy market in our region, having a prediction and a specific timetable for its gradual incorporation in the European Union's energy market.
Folias also noted that the deregulation of the energy market is a basic aim of the government's energy policy and assessed that it will lead to the boosting of private investments and better quality services, as well as lower prices for consumers.
 Greek govt, Deutsche Telekom meet to discuss OTE saleGreek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Transport and Communications Minister Kostis Hatzidakis on Wednesday met with Deutsche Telekom's vice-chairman Karl-Gerhard Eick.
The meeting focused on the progress of negotiations over reaching a strategic alliance agreement between the Greek state and Deutsche Telekom to sell a minority equity stake in Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation to the German telecoms giant.
 Greek economy grows by 3.6% in Q4, EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
The Greek economy grew by 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, compared with the same period in 2006, Eurostat said on Wednesday.
The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report, said GDP growth in the Eurozone was 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, while in the EU-27 economic growth was 2.5 percent, compared with 2.5 pct in the US and 1.8 pct in the Japan.
Slovakia (14.3 pct) and Lithuania (8.5 pct) recorded the highest percentage growth rates in the EU, while Hungary (0.4 pct) and Germany (1.8 pct) recorded the lowest percentage growth rates.
 Deputy Agriculture Minister Kiltidis visits the U.S.NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Greece's Deputy Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Costas Kiltidis is having a series of contacts with Greek-American entrepreneurs and importers of Greek foods and beverages in the United States (Washington, New York and Philadelphia).
His visit to the U.S. is from April 7-13.
Kiltidis will meet on Thursday with Archbishop of America Demetrius.
On Friday, Kiltidis will take part in an event at Drexel University in Philadelphia and on the next day he will speak at a symposium within the framework of the 17th "Hermes Expo International" exhibition in Atlantic City.
 Greece can face energy needs with lignite, renewable energy sources for 70 yearsGreece can survive as regards its electric power needs for at least another 70 years, with the use of lignite by 60 percent and renewable energy sources by the remaining 40 percent, and in this way it can face the global energy crisis expected as of 2020.
This was stressed by Cretan Polytechnic professor Antonis Foskolos, a scientific researcher of the Canadian government and of the geological service of Canada, while speaking during a press conference held on Wednesday on the occasion of the event organised by the Geology Department of Thessaloniki's Aristotelio University on Wednesday afternoon in the framework of the international celebration of Planet Earth Year (2008).
"In 150 months we shall not know where to find energy," he said, adding that the return to lignite and renewable energy sources will have a positive effect for Greece, since the deficit in the balance of trade will be curbed considerably, at least 10,000 new jobs will be created and the country will no longer be dependent on any country for energy and stressed that Greece has lignite for at least another 60 years.
Foskolos further said that according to assessments by Greek geologists, Greece has exploitable oil deposits ranging between 3 to 5 billion barrels. Oil is believed to exist in Ipiros, Thasos, to the west of Cephalonia and between Limnos-Chios and the coast of Asia Minor.
 Conference on tackling illicit trade, distortion of brand productsA conference held on the theme of "Tackling illicit trade and the distortion of brand products" was aimed at informing relevant Greek services on practical issues concerning the recognition of distorted products, as well as an exchange of experiences between Greece and France on issues regarding handling and cracking down on the phenomenon of copying.
The event was organised by the School for Training of Finance and Economy ministry employees in cooperation with the Trade Department of the French embassy in Greece.
The conference was attended by employees of the Finance and Economy ministry (customs clearance agents and employees of the Special Controls Service), as well as representatives of the Greek Police, the Harbour Corps and the Municipal Police of the Athens Municipality.
The presentation of the general framework on illicit trade and the operational activity of the Greek authorities was carried out by officials of the Special Checks Service, the ministry's Customs Controls Department, the Greek Police and the Harbour Corps.
The conference was addressed, among others, by the French Ambassador to Greece Christophe Farnaud.
 Health Minister Avramopoulos addresses Retail Sales Federation working luncheonHealth and Social Solidarity Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos addressed a working luncheon held with the Greek Federation of Retail Sales Businesses (SELPE) on Wednesday, saying that "entrepreneurship, despite being unfairly targeted today, is the one which is a pioneer and paving ways with self-confidence and dynamism."
The minister added that "the considerable achievements that Greek society has to display are those that are based on the economic and business sector."
Avramopoulos also criticised the frequent weakness of politics to contain "savage bureaucracy that, combined with trade union conceptions and partisan rule, constitute a bastion for the progressive conceptions that are necessitated by the future."
 Greek closed-end investment funds' assets down 4.7 pct in MarchGreek-listed eight closed-end investment funds' assets fell by 4.7 pct to 340.9 million euros in March, from 357.8 million a month earlier, reflecting a negative trend in the Athens Stock Exchange over the same period.
The average numerical return of the sector was -15.54 pct so far this year, while the average weighed return -16.12 percent, with all companies in the sector presenting negative internal value returns, ranging from -11.75 pct to -23.13 pct. The average discount of the sector was -17.68 pct in March, with all eight companies in the sector trading at a discount ranging from 2.03 pct to 31.58 pct.
 Aegean Airlines raises fuel surcharge on its faresAegean Airlines on Wednesday announced it was raising a fuel surcharge on its fares citing high oil prices in the last two months of the year.
The Greek-listed airline said it would raise its fuel surcharge on its domestic flights by two euros and its international flights by four euros from April 15, 2008. Aegean Airlines said it excluded its special offer fares of 39 euros (domestic flights) and 59 euros (international flights) from the increase.
 Greek exports up 4.4 pct in FebruaryThe value of Greek import-arrivals fell by 8.3 pct in February, compared with the same month last year to 4.328 billion euros, while the value of Greek export-deliveries rose 4.4 pct to 1.384 billion euros, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a monthly report, said Greek imports totaled 4.719 billion euros in February 2007, while Greek exports totaled 1.326 billion euros in the same month last year.
 Greek industrial production index down 4.2 pct in FebruaryGreek industrial production composite index fell by 4.2 pct in February, compared with the same month last year, after an increase of 3.5 pct in February 2007, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a monthly report, attributed the 4.2 pct drop of the index to a 5.2 pct decline in the manufacturing production index, an 8.8 pct drop in the mining production index and an 1.4 pct increase in the electricity-natura gas-water production index.
The report said the capital production index fell 12.2 pct, while the intermediate production index fell by 9.3 pct in February and the durable goods production index fell by 3.6 pct. The energy production index was up 1.5 pct.
 Greek stocks rise 1.21 pct on Wed.Greek stocks regained their upward trend on Wednesday after Tuesday's profit-taking selling, pushing the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange above the 4,100 mark again.
The index rose 1.21 pct to end at 4,137.40 points, with turnover a low 290.8 million euros, of which 40.5 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher with the Telecommunications (3.57 pct), Travel (3.05 pct), Raw Materials (2.30 pct) and Media (2.02 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Personal/Home Products (1.01 pct), Insurance (0.50 pct) and Financial Services (0.24 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index rose 1.07 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.10 pct lower and the Small Cap index rose 0.48 pct. Viosol (10.64 pct), Newsphone Hellas (8.91 pct) and Dromeas (8.89 pct) were top gainers, while ANEK (27.27 pct), Desmos (19.35 pct) and Elbisco (8.42 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 128 to 105 with another 53 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.91%
Personal & Household: -1.01%
Raw Materials: +2.30%
Travel & Leisure: +3.05%
Food & Beverages: +0.96%
Financial Services: -0.24%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE, and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 21.06
Public Power Corp (PPC): 27.50
HBC Coca Cola: 30.92
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.80
National Bank of Greece: 35.32
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 20.10
Bank of Cyprus: 8.70
Hellenic Post Bank: 11.56
Piraeus Bank: 20.20
Titan Cement Company: 27.28
Marfin Popular Bank: 5.52
Marfin Investment Group (MIG): 4.96%
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising slightly to 104.407 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 3.18 pct, while the April contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.15 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 8,329 contracts worth 86.513 million euros, with 29.509 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 122 contracts worth 2.988 million euros, with 277 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 6,536 contracts worth 10.887 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,401), followed by Marfin Investment Group (272), OTE (745), Alpha Bank (291), Intracom (294), Marfin Popular Bank (345), Mytilienos (462) and Hellenic Postbank (481).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market remained a thin 411 million euros on Wednesday, of which 246 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 165 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 185 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds rose to 0.50 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.53 pct and the German Bund 4.03 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 4.05 pct from 3.92 pct on Tuesday, the two-day rate also rose to 4.05 pct from 4.01 pct, the one-month rate was 4.38 pct and the 12-month rate 4.76 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.585
Pound sterling 0.804
Danish kroner 7.519
Swedish kroner 9.437
Japanese yen 162.65
Swiss franc 1.606
Norwegian kroner 8.004
Canadian dollar 1.615
Australian dollar 1.707
 President Papoulias visits fire-ravaged Parnitha National ParkPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday paid a visit to the areas of the national park on Mount Parnitha that were ravaged by the fires of last summer, at the invitation of the "Parnitha Observatory" conservation group. The president was briefed by scientists and ordinary citizens involved in work for the reforestation of the burnt areas.
"Protection of the environment is our life and the life of our children," Papoulias said in statements during the visit, stressing that "we will be historically irresponsible if we do not hand over nature undamaged to the next generations".
The president thanked all those who had joined in this "this beautiful and great struggle," among them the firemen and volunteer fire-fighters, as well as the other volunteers involved in restoring the forests, stressing that this great effort would help the country see better days.
 Extended metro services at weekends made permanentGreek Transport Minister Kostis Hatzidakis on Wednesday announced that a two-hour extension of Athens metro and electric railway (ISAP) services on Fridays and Saturdays, introduced a couple of months ago as a pilot scheme, would now go into effect on a permanent basis. Thus, trains will continue running for two hours after midnight on Friday and Saturday, the days when most people tend to go out.
The ministry said that the two months when the extended timetable had operated as a pilot scheme had given valuable information about the usefulness of the measure and that the public's response had vastly exceeded expectations, with an average of 4,020 passengers using the late-night trains on Fridays and 7,458 on Saturdays.
According to the figures released by the minister, the metro tended to attract many more passengers than the ISAP railway, while Saturdays were much busier than Fridays. Peak numbers of passengers were recorded on March 30, when about 30,000 people used the late-night train services.
The metro stations with the highest passenger traffic were Syntagma, Monastiraki, Kerameikos, Omonia, Dafni and Egaleo, while the most-used ISAP stations were Piraeus, Thissio, Omonia, Monastiraki, Victoria and Attiki.
In order to cover the additional personnel needs created by the measure, the ISAP railway will hire an additional 300 people while the Metro will hire 45 technicians.
During Wednesday's press conference, the ministry presented a survey on commuting habits and the extended metro/ISAP timetable conducted by the firm MRB using a sample of 806 people. This showed that 88.4 percent of those in the survey used public transport, even if only occasionally, and 18.4 percent used the metro daily, while 98.6 percent consider that the metro helps improve the quality of life in Athens.
 Event held in Athens on European Constitutional TreatyAn event organised by former Eurodeputies and deputies was held in Athens on Wednesday on the theme "European Constitutional Treaty and representative democracy".
Addressing the event, Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas said that the European Constitutional Treaty "concerns the future of Europe and naturally also the future of our country."
Sioufas noted that the term Constitutional Treaty "is accepted by all the member-states of the European Union." He stressed that "it is another step for the Europe we want. We in Greece want more Europe. A more political, democratic and social Europe."
 Presentation of report on mass mediaThe majority of Greeks believe that the leading issues concerning the responsibility of the mass media are the reliability of news (86.1 percent) and the production of quality programmes (85.2 percent).
Also attracting their attention are labour conditions and respect for labour rights (81.7 percent), according to a report prepared by the Communication Institute in cooperation with the Pantios University that was presented during the open Forum 2008 "Mass media: Ethics, profit and power" which was organised by the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB).
Next in line are issues concerning the protection of the environment and the use of materials that are friendly to the environment (80.2 percent), the coverage of social and environmental responsibility issues (78.9 percent), participation in environmental programmes (75.9 percent), the shaping of environmental culture (73.1 percent) and, on the other hand, controlling and exercising criticism for authority (publication of cases of abuse of power (79.1 percent) and exercising criticism for those having power and strength (77.2 percent).
 Event to be held for protection of coastsAn event on the theme "Protection of coasts", within the framework of the programme BEACHMED-e: Strategic management of beach protection for sustainable development of Mediterranean coastal zones", will be held in Xanthi, northern Greece, on Thursday.
It concerns the work of the European Union Initiative INTERREG IIIC - Southern Zone.
The work has to do with the study and improvement of technical and strategic management for the protection of coasts, within the framework of the sustainable growth of coastal zones in the Mediterranean.
 Olive Museum inaugurated in Eleochori, KavalaAn old oil-mill abandoned since 1970 in Eleochori, near Kavala in northeastern Greece, has been restored to house the Olive Museum where visitors can learn about the Greek history and folklore tradition through the olive tree products.
The oil-mill, built back in December 1950, had brought prosperity to the local people signaling an era of development for the entire region of the Kavala western coasts.
The 250,000-euro project, funded by European programmes and the 3rd CSF, features an object exhibition and recreation area.
The museum is the first of its kind in the Prefecture of Kavala and the wider region of Easter Macedonia and Thrace.
 Olive trees to return to inner city neighbourhoodOlive trees will reappear in the inner-city area of Elaionas, as the city of Athens is reviving the image to which Elaionas - which literally means "olive grove" in Greek - owes its name.
Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis and 300 pupils from several Athens primary and high schools will each plant an olive tree in the Elaionas district -- at the 93-97 block of Athinon Avenue -- on Friday.
The tree-planting represents another step in the municipality's efforts to upgrade Elaionas' natural environment as part of regeneration works for the wider area.
 Large heroin bust in the Port of IgoumenitsaA 35-year-old British nationality Kurd was arrested Tuesday in the Port of Igoumenitsa, northwestern Greece, while attempting to board a ferry to Italy after Port Authority officers discovered hidden in a secret compartment in his modified car a total of 22 kilos and 506 grams of pure heroin he brought from Turkey.
The drug bust is among the largest made in Greece and the suspect will be led before a prosecutor Wednesday.
Since 1987, port authorities have confiscated roughly 100 kilos of heroin and 56 tons of cannabis, while in cooperation with domestic and foreign competent authorities they have seized roughly 25 tons of cocaine and hundreds of thousands of narcotic pills found on cargo ships.
 One death reported in Rhodes love triangle casePolice on the Dodecanese holiday island of Rhodes on Wednesday announced an attempted murder-turned-suicide incident involving two foreign nationals and a local man Tuesday evening, with the assailant reported as the lone fatality.
According to reports, a 32-year-old Albanian national, listed as a member of the ethnic Greek community in the neighboring country and as a permanent resident of Rhodes, used a shotgun to fire at a British woman, 22, and a local 24-year-old man. The suspect was apparently despondent over a failed relationship with the woman, police said.
He fled the scene and was later found dead in a remote location outside the city of Rhodes, with the cause of death listed as a self-inflicted shotgun wound.
Both the local man and the British woman sustained only minor injuries.
No names were released by police.
 Fire on Turkish-flag cargo shipA fire broke out on Wednesday on the Turkish-flag cargo ship "NURTEN ANA" which was anchored in the port of Thessaloniki, Macedonia. The lives of the crew were not in danger.
According to the Merchant Marine Ministry, after information given by the skipper, the fire that broke out on the bridge of the vessel was extinguished immediately.
None of the 26-member Turksih crew were in danger.
 Cloudy on ThursdayCloudy weather with southerly, southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 4-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 8C and 26C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with southerly, 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 25C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 9C to 22C.
 President Christofias satisfied with progress towards a Cyprus settlementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The developments regarding the progress on the Cyprus problem are going on smoothly and positively, Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias has said.
Speaking after a National Council's session, here, Wednesday, President Christofias said that during the session he did not notice any negative reactions by the members of the National Council, regarding his handlings in the Cyprus issue.
At the same time, he expressed the belief that the working groups and the technical committees will be able to operate in a week from now.
Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed on 21 March 2008 to ask their respective advisers, George Iacovou and Ozdil Nami, to meet with a view to set up a number of working groups and technical committees to prepare the ground for substantive negotiations.
The leaders also decided to meet again in three months to review the work of the committees dealing with aspects of the Cyprus problem, the results of which will be used to start negotiations under UN auspices for a solution.
Asked whether he was happy with the progress made in the Cyprus issue, despite the fact that the working groups and the technical committees have not yet started work, Christofias noted that "it is scheduled for those groups and committees to begin work this week".
President Christofias also pointed out that "the way ahead has to be seen with seriousness. There is progress, and when this progress is positive, I am satisfied", he added.
Commenting on the illegal visit of the Turkish General Ilter Basbug to the occupied areas, Christofias noted that this can only be viewed as a provocative action.
"This is something the United Nations and the International community are well aware, and they do not feel happy when leaders of the Turkish Military Forces visit the occupied area in order to inspect the troops, especially at a time when a positive effort has begun", Christofias added.
On the issue of functional improvement of the National Council, Christofias pointed out that he expects, in order to call for a special session on that issue, written proposals by the political parties on how to upgrade the National Council. This "is a pre-election promise and I wanted to keep my promises," President Christofias concluded.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Iacovou and Nami finalised agenda of additional three committeesNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou and Ozdil Nami, aide to the Turkish Cypriot leader, finalized on Wednesday the agenda of another three working groups and technical committees in a 5 hour-long meeting.
After Wednesday's meeting, the number of technical committee and working groups, the agenda of which has been agreed, reached eight out of a total of 13 agreed by the two aides on March 26.
Iacovou explained that the meeting took five hours to conclude because the two sides entered into the ''most important issues'' to be covered by the technical committees and working groups.
''We are towards the end and I expect that we will conclude all 13 working groups and technical committees, and (we will finish) perhaps by tomorrow night of Friday,'' he added.
Iacovou also said that the work agreed between the two aides is on an ad referendum basis, that is, to be given the final approval by the leaders of the two communities, noting that he expects that another technical committee and one more working group will be created in addition to the 13 agreed initially.
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.
 Obama: Now is the time for optimism on CyprusWASHINGTON (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama believes that the time has come for new optimism for a solution to the Cyprus issue.
In his opening remarks at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the confirmation hearing of Ambassador-designate to Cyprus Frank C. Urbancic Jr, Obama, who was chairing the session, said he thought that this is a time for "new optimism" during a long time of estrangement for Cyprus.
Referring to the recent opening of a crossing point at Ledra street in Nicosia to facilitate movement to and from the island's northern Turkish occupied areas, Obama stated that "after four decades this was a tangible indication of the goodwill of both communities."
He indicated that the two communities share a "common home, history and destiny".
Addressing Urbancic, "IÔm sure you will do everything in your power to help the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot community to reach a just and lasting peace."
 US designate ambassador: the Cyprus problem is a US priorityFrank Urbancic, US designate Ambassador to Cyprus, has promised to work for a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem, which he described as one of the US foreign policy priorities.
Urbancic was speaking at the special hearing of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the US Senate, where the candidacies of four ambassadors were ratified.
Urbancic stressed the need for the US to work closely with the leaderships in Cyprus, for a bizonal bicommunal federation.
He also pointed out that the United States recognise a single state in Cyprus, the Republic of Cyprus. Urbancic said that the US have to involve the Turkish Cypriot community in the reunification efforts and prepare it for that by strengthening the Non Governmental Organisations, and by promoting the economic prosperity on the whole island.
Urbancic said also that the de facto division of the island causes suffering for both the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots, and at the same time, harms the US strategic interests in the region. The unacceptable status quo, he continued, also threatens the efficiency of the cooperation between EU and NATO, and hinders cooperation between Greece and Turkey.
After the latest developments in the Cyprus issue and the agreement between the leaders of the two sides, Urbancic said there is a reason for optimism.
In addition, Urbancic stressed the need for US strong support on the United Nations reunification efforts. However, he admitted that the negotiations for the details of a comprehensive settlement will be a difficult task.
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