|Friday, 16 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-06-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 11 June 2008 Issue No: 2916
 PM Karamanlis confers with FinMin on spiralling prices, inflationPrime minister Costas Karamanlis conferred on Tuesday with economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, with talks focusing on the problem of spiraling prices in oil and foods internationally.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Alogoskoufis said the discussed the high cost of living, as well as the stock market turbulence and the spiraling prices of oil and food internationally, which he explained also impacted inflation and the public, and particularly the lower income brackets.
Alogoskoufis said that, in tandem with initiatives being taken at international level, steps were also being taken in Greece for better control of prices in order to avoid large increases, but also for supporting the lower incomes.
He noted that increases have also been made to the EKAS (benefit for low pensions) and to the OGA (farmers' social security/pension fund) pensions, as well as tax reliefs for the middle incomes, while the newly-established fund for combating poverty through targeted measures for the low incomes would begin operation in September.
To a question on the late-night abduction of Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) president George Mylonas by unidentified gunmen in Thessaloniki, Alogoskoufis expressed sorrow, and the hope that the Greek Police (ELAS) would quckly locate the abductors and bring the affair to a positive end.
 Gov't economy, inflationInflation has skyrocketed in all EU countries and repercussions have reached Greece, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos reminded on Tuesday when asked to comment on whether the government is alarmed by a rise in the inflation rate, which posted an annualized mark of 4.9 percent in May.
Roussopoulos pointed out that inflation rate would be as low as 3.6 percent if fuel prices had remained at last year's levels.
He said prices in staple foods and non-alcoholic beverages have recorded a small decline of 0.4 percent, showing stabilizing tendencies, adding that the problem needs to be dealt with in a collective manner. "For this reason, the prime minister has addressed a letter to the European Commission President, and has discussed the issue with the French president and the Austrian chancellor," he stressed.
Roussopoulos also said an effort is made to have the rising inflation issue discussed in the imminent EU Summit meeting.
 Government on response to Andravida earthquakeThe government on Tuesday stressed that its top priority was to provide immediate relief to the victims of Sunday's earthquake in Andravida, which caused widespread damage to buildings and two deaths in the surrounding prefectures of Achaia and Ilia in the Peloponnese.
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced that 20 portable container cabins were being transported to the region to house families whose homes were declared unsafe for use, while another 10 would be arriving each day.
The spokesman said the majority of the damage was to older buildings in the villages of Nisi and Valmi, while residents of another three villages were being prevented from returning to their homes for another 48 hours as a precaution and would be housed either in tents or in hotels during that time.
He also cited figures released by the environment, town planning and public works ministry, according to which there had been on-the-spot inspections by ministry civil engineers in 1,500 buildings so far.
In Ilia prefecture, 45 teams of civil engineers had inspected 621 buildings, of which 264 were declared unsafe. Of these, 80 were pegged for demolition and 184 were pronounced repairable.
In neighboring Achaia prefecture there had been 482 inspections, in which 240 buildings were declared unsafe; of these, 70 were pegged for demolition and 170 were deemed repairable.
He added that building inspections were continuing, both in homes and in schools by teams of engineers sent by the School Buildings Organization (OSK), who had so far inspected 133 school buildings and declared 17 unsafe for use.
OSK engineers are scheduled to visit another 45 school buildings on Tuesday and their aim is to repair any damage as soon as possible, so that the schools are ready for the start of the new school year in September, he added.
Roussopoulos said the culture ministry had given orders for the inspection of archaeological sites for possible damage, with some damage reported to exhibits at the Elis museum, while Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos had visited the region but found little or no damage to the area's tourism infrastructure.
The spokesman also announced that a phone line had been set up by the western Greece regional authority at the numbers 2611 100301-10 between the hours of 8:00 and 22:00.
In response to questions, Roussopoulos clarified that the emergency relief of 3,000 euros given to earthquake victims would come from government coffers and not the special fund set up for the relief of fire victims. He explained that the process of allocating relief aid to fire victims had not yet been completed and that there would be announcements on how any money remaining in the relief fund would be spent.
Roussopoulos also repeated that the 3,000 euros was for initial relief aid and that earthquake victims would also qualify for a further aid up to 10,000 euros for lost household effects and would soon be be briefed regarding compensation for lost agricultural produce, while applications were also being accepted for home repairs and rebuilding, without delay or unnecessary bureaucracy.
Regarding the decision to increase the number of documents required to apply for the emergency relief aid relative to last summer, Roussopoulos stress that the government was obliged to improve based on experience, given that many people had last year tried to claim money to which they were not entitled.
For this reason, he added, the government had decided to require that victims also supply a document from their local mayor certifying that they were permanent residents and also from the special inspections service, while applications would only be accepted by ATEBank in order to avoid problems in communication between banks that had arisen the previous year.
 Municipalities union to give cash aid to earthquake victimsThe Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) on Tuesday announced that it would give the sum of 2,000 euros to residents of Achaia and Ileia whose homes had been irreparably destroyed by last Sunday's earthquake.
It said the money would come from its own coffers be paid via local municipal unions in these prefectures, provided the house destroyed was the affected family's only and permanent residence and had been pegged for demolition by state inspection services.
 Foreign leaders send condolences for earthquake victimsCyprus President Demetris Christofias on Tuesday offered his condolences and his support over the phone to President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias for the earthquake that struck the Peloponnese on Sunday. Papoulias also received a telegram of condolences for the earthquake victims from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
 PASOK spokesman on earthquake sufferers, inflation, opinion pollMain opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou, commenting on Tuesday on measures announced by the government, said that immediate financial aid for the earthquake-stricken "is the least and the self-evident".
He added that what is necessary is not the financial benefit but the government also being present on the day after. Referring to the case of wildfire sufferers, he said that "a great distance between words and deeds was ascertained there."
The spokesman also commented on the issue of high prices, saying that in touching 5 percent inflation is achieving a 10-year record and accused the government of "trying to convince that inflation is imported," retorting that "only a small part of it, according to existing evidence, is due to the international crisis."
Replying to a question on the latest opinion poll by the Public Issue company, he said that the first remark is that the ruling New Democracy (ND) party no longer commands a majority, adding that if elections were to take place now the ruling party would not be able to form a government.
The second remark, as he said, concerns the PASOK party which "is on an upward course". The specific opinion poll notes a decrease in the distance by 2.5 percentage points and, as he added, PASOK is showing that it has acquired a momentum after some time.
 PASOK party secretary visits PeloponneseMain opposition PASOK party Secretary Yannis Ragousis, after visiting the earthquake stricken regions in NW Peloponnese, arrived in Corinth, southern Greece, on Monday evening, within the framework of his meetings with newly elected PASOK prefectural committee members across the country.
Ragousis referred to the quake victims in the prefectures of Ileia and Achaia, stressing that they are in need of greater support from the state mechanism.
Responding to questions on in-party issues, he said that measures will be taken to handle any irregularities reported in the party election process, warning even with member expulsions.
Ragousis also called on the SYN leadership to come to terms with the existing political situation and need for change.
Later on Tuesday, Ragousis will visit Argolida, while his tour will be completed on Friday with visits to the prefectures of Lakonia, Messinia and Arcadia.
 Bakoyannis to visit Cyprus on June 12-15NICOSIA (ANA-MPA - A. Viketos)
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is to carry out a working visit to Cyprus on June 12-15, the Cypriot foreign ministry announced on Tuesday.
It said that Bakoyannis will meet her Cypriot counterpart Markos Kyprianou on Thursday, to be followed by talks between delegations of the two sides.
While in Nicosia, Bakoyannis will also be received by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and the president of the Cyprus House of Representatives Marios Karoyan.
The Greek foreign minister is additionally scheduled to have successive meetings with previous presidents of Cyprus, including Tassos Papadopoulos, Glafcos Clerides and George Vasiliou, as well as meeting separately with the leaders and representatives of the political parties in the Cypriot Parliament.
Other engagements while in Nicosia for Bakoyannis include a speech at a public debate on "The European Union after the Lisbon Treaty", while she and Kyprianou are also booked to speak at an event organized by the Paphos municipality on "The European Future of a Reunited Cyprus".
 Papandreou meets with Piraeus mayor to discuss city's massive financial woesMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Tuesday promised Piraeus mayor Panagiotis Fassoulas that his party will bring the issue of the city's massive financial woes to Parliament, during a meeting between the two men ahead of controversial mobilizations called by the port city's mayor for Friday.
Papandreou also took the opportunity to criticize the New Democracy (ND) government's policy on local administration, "the more so towards the local governments that are not under ND control".
Fassoulas, a former star basketball player in Greece and at the European national team level, is a member of PASOK and a one-time candidate for Parliament.
Serving his first term in the mayor's chair in Piraeus, he has called on supporters and municipal workers to block the port of Piraeus on Friday, ahead of a three-day weekend linked to a Monday holiday, a threatened move that has generated a flurry of criticism.
The municipality of Piraeus has been plagued by serious financial problems dating back almost 15 years.
 Synaspismos's Political Secretariat convenesThe Political Secretariat of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) convened on Tuesday and discussed the situation in the earthquake-struck regions of the western Peloponnese as well as the initiatives taken by the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) in view of the ratification this week of the European Treaty by Parliament.
According to an announcement, the Political Secretariat was briefed by a party delegation, headed by party Secretary Nikos Hountis, which visited the quake-stricken regions on Monday and assessed that on the basis of previous experiences regarding the reaction of the state in similar situations, Synaspismos must exert pressure with all its strength in order for the necessary measures to be taken immediately "which usually are announced by the government but are not implemented."
 SYRIZA leader calls for referendon on Lisbon TreatyCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos called for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, speaking during a press conference on Tuesday.
Referring to a parliamentary debate on the issue, Alavanos accused the government of attempting to limit the discussion to just a few hours, calling it an offence to democracy.
Regarding the main opposition PASOK party's stance, Alavanos pondered "for what reason it is aligning itself with (ruling party) New Democracy", and called on PASOK to align itself "with the European forces exercising criticism on the present-day crisis in the European Union".
He reiterated that SYRIZA will vote against the Treaty, which he said "gives no answer to the big and modern-day problems of the peoples of Europe" and made particular reference to the rapid rise in prices, "uncontrolled operation" of the market, the rise in inflation and poverty, and called on the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) to renegotiate their agreement (collective labor agreement) with the employers.
Replying to a question on SYRIZA's course and recent opinion polls, Alavanos said he was satisfied "despite the war SYRIZA faces from the system".
However, he continued, SYRIZA was not "following the opinion polls, but wants to change the landscape", adding that "today we have a rotting political landscape that needs to be replaced by new forces".
SYRIZA rapporteur Yannis Banias expressed opposition to the EU's security strategy, warning that militarization would further aggravate the financial problems of the popular strata. He said the Treaty was conservative on matters of rights, institutions, security, decision-taking and exercise of power while, particularly with respect to immigrant and refugee issues, he said the Treaty was "reactionary".
Constitutional Law professor Elias Nikolopoulos, in turn, said that the Treaty's provisions were counter to the Greek Constitution, and should not be passed by the Greek parliament. He further said that the Treaty lacked "every meaning of popular sovereignty", as was also the case with the Constitution of Greece, and predicted that numerous problems would arise in the future due to the "many un-Constitutional elements" contained in the Lisbon Treaty.
 Pavlopoulos: Turkey flouting readmission accordsInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Tuesday accused Turkey of failing to honor agreements for the readmission of illegal immigrants that passed through its borders into Greece.
"Turkey is refusing to implement, even barely, the accords for the readmission of illegal immigrants that it signed with Greece. It is also refusing to sign such agreements with the European Union. This stance is one of the basic factors that must be evaluated in terms of whether Turkey is observing Community rules," Pavlopoulos said.
The minister made the statements during a joint session of five Parliamentary committees on the guarding of the EU's external borders.
He also presented figures showing that the number of illegal immigrants being caught by Greek authorities had increased steadily over the past years, with the problem showing a 93 percent increase between 2002 and 2007.
A similar increase had also been seen in the number of people seeking asylum, which had soared by 461 percent between 2004 and 2007.
"Our country provides a hospitable shelter to those in need, with special provision for minors and particularly unaccompanied minors. It also reminds Europe at every opportunity that it has an obligation arising from history, its culture and its democracy to set the issue of migration on a different basis. For, as long as there is poverty, wars and dictatorships, as long as there is great inequality between rich states and poor states, the phenomenon of migration will not stop," the minister stressed.
Pavlopoulos said that Europe should support poor countries so that they were able to keep their people at home, alert these countries to the terms for migration to the EU so that its nationals could come legally and also urge third countries to sign readmission accords with the EU and stick to them.
The minister further claimed that Greece was currently at the forefront of EU policy against illegal immigration and that in recent years had build model reception centers for immigrants within its borders.
Merchant Marine and Island Policy Minister George Voulgarakis echoed the call for action on a global level, stressing that this had to target the trafficking systems that were currently being fuelled by billions of dollars.
Main opposition PASOK MP Michalis Chrysohoidis also agreed that the EU must call Turkey to order, since it was currently acting to push illegal immigrants into Greece.
 Transport minister holds talks with Eurocontrol general directorTransport and Communications Minister Kostis Hatzidakis held talks on Tuesday with Eurocontrol general director David MacMillan and IAOPA president Phil Boyer, focusing on the better management of the United European Sky to avoid delays in civil aviation flights, as well as on issues concerning General Aviation.
The two are in Athens to participate in the 24th IAOPA International Congress on the theme of General Aviation, that is taking place in Greece this year.
Hatzidakis said that General Aviation is a sector in which Greece must show special interest, since it can contribute considerably to the boosting of the tourist wave.
 SAE board meets LAOS leaderThe board of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) on Tuesday had a meeting with Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis in Athens. They briefed him on the SAE's activities, thanking him for his party's support and stressing that Greek expatriates always supported Greece and were interested in LAOS's positions on issues of interest to Greece.
The meeting concludes a round of contacts between the SAE board with Greece's state and political leadership in Athens. Its members are due to depart for Istanbul on Tuesday evening, where they will attend a mass for the name day of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on Wednesday. The Patriarch will receive them at Fanar the following day, on Thursday, before they return to northern Greece for talks with officials in Thessaloniki.
 SAE appeals to Greeks abroad to help earthquake victimsThe board of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) on Tuesday appealed to Greek expatriates throughout the world to aid and support earthquake victims in southwestern Greece that lost their homes and property during Sunday's 6.5 Richter earthquake.
Members of the board offered the symbolic sum of 5,000 euros, bringing the total collected by the Sydney-based Hellenic Emergency Relief Fund to 35,000 euros.
 Greek Church to donate 500,000 euros to earthquake victimsThe Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, chaired by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, on Tuesday announced that the Greek Church will give 500,000 euros for the relief of victims of last Sunday's destructive earthquake in Ileia and Achaia.
The Synod's press spokesman, Thessaloniki Metropolitan Anthimos, said the Church had mobilized its non-government organization Allilegii (Solidarity) and had already delivered large quantities of humanitarian aid, such as tents and bedding, clothing, food and drinking water to be distributed to the victims of the quake.
A team of technicians had also been sent to examine and list damage to churches in the region, he added.
In addition to the above, the Synod issued a statement that homosexuality violated the will of God and the teachings of the Bible, Anthimos said.
 Archbishop of America Demetrius meets Senator McCainNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Archbishop of America Demetrius had a half-hour meeting with Senator John McCain, Republican Party candidate for the U.S. presidency, at the offices of the Archbishopric in Manhattan, on Tuesday.
During the meeting, topics discussed included American domestic and foreign policy, matters related to religious freedoms, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Cyprus issue and the name issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
 Garganas urges for action to combat inflationClosed domestic markets and the services sector were the main responsible for high inflation in the country, Nikos Garganas, the outgoing governor of the Bank of Greece said on Tuesday.
In his last news conference as head of the central bank, Garganas presented figures from a sample of 440 enterprises, which showed that the wholesale commerce sector raised its profits by an average 82.1 pct in 2007, the retail sector by an average 21.5 pct and the commerce sector in general by 43.7 percent. The industrial sector raised its profits by 11.0 pct over the same year.
The central banker said he expected productivity to rise by 1.6 percent this year and total payroll spending by private enterprises to rise by 8.3 percent and the per product unit cost to rise by 4.7 pct.
These figures showed, Garganas stressed, that higher inflation in Greece -compared with the EU inflation rate- was attributed mainly on Greek enterprises' excessive profit margin as they enjoyed very strong positions in the market. He added that other external factors, such as a jump in oil prices and food prices, also contributed to a rise in the inflation rate.
Commenting on general economic developments, Garganas said the Greek economy was not doomed to enter a stalemate as long as more drastic measures were taken. He underlined that the government's macro-economic policy was moving towards the right direction and urged for more emphasis to be given on reducing inflation and to re-examine the operating framework of so-called closed professions.
 OTE president addresses Parliamentary Finance CommitteeHellenic Telecomunications Organisation (OTE) president and managing director Panayiotis Vourloumis told the Parliamentary Finance Committee on Tuesday that "OTE's agreement is in the interests of the Organization, the employees and our economy. It was a correct move."
He was speaking during the discussion concerning the ratification of OTE's contract with the Deutsche Telekom company.
Vourloumis termed the statement made by the MIG company's vice president Andreas Vgenopoulos on a triangular relation between Deutsche Telekom, OTE and the state sector in the agreement a "science fiction scenario."
He added that he had no part in negotiations between the state sector and the German company, but added that "I agree that a good agreement was reached at a very good time."
Moreover, he said that "it is a good contract, a good agreement. As is the case with all contracts, goodwill will be required to enable the two sides to cooperate for the company's benefit."
Asked by deputies on when he realized that OTE was becoming the target of an aggressive buyout, he replied that he became aware of it when Vgenopoulos announced that his MIG company possessed 5 percent.
Vourloumis stressed that "the government was very right in proceeding with the tabling of the amendment to stop OTE's aggressive buyout," adding that he had pointed out at an early stage that OTE was the target of an aggressive buyout, even if the state sector possessed 33 percent of the shares.
 Vietnamese president addresses business forumVisiting Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet addressed on Tuesday a business forum on the promotion of economic and business relations between Greece and Vietnam, calling on Greek businessmen to include Vietnam in their future plans in Asian markets.
The forum was organized in Athens by the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) in the framework of the Vietnamese president's official visit to Greece.
SEB signed a cooperation protocol with the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce and Industry to contribute to a rapprochement between the two business communities and to the development of beneficial cooperation, laying the foundations for more extensive information regarding opportunities in Vietnam and on joining networks with big and extroversive Vietnamese companies.
Welcoming the Vietnamese president, SEB's board vice president and international activity chief Thanassis Lavidas said that Vietnam's inexplorable market can constitute a considerable alternative solution for Greek companies expanding in the Far East, since it presents a high degree of development and it is opening and deregulating its economy with reforms that create a friendly ground of activity for foreign investors.
Sectors of special interest for Greek-Vietnamese cooperation are construction, energy project infrastructures, high technology, pharmaceutical products, health services, agricultural industry and fisheries, shipping and shipbuilding, tourism, infrastructures, etc.
The Vietnamese president said that his government is looking forward to new investments moves of European origin and assured Greek businessmen that they will enjoy all the support and facilitating possible in whatever initiatives they take. The forum was attended by 60 businessmen and senior company members from various sectors in Vietnam.
 Intralot signs cooperation agreement with Vietnamese lotteryIntralot on Tuesday announced it has signed a memorandum of cooperation with the lottery operator of Vietnam's capital to modernise Ho Chi Minh city's lottery service, the largest in Vietnam, with sales surpassing 140 million US dollars in 2007.
The memorandum was signed during an Greek-Vietnamese Forum held in Athens by Constantinos Antonopoulos, Intralot's chief executive, and Quang Vinh, managing director of the Lottery, at the presence of the President of Vietnam, Nguyen Minh Triet, and government officials.
Commenting on the development, Quang Vinh said: "We are happy to begin our cooperation with Intralot. Ho Chi Minh City's Lottery eagerly awaits to receive its first on-line system from the top company in the sector".
 Palli-Petralia attends 97th Int'l Labor Conference in SwitzerlandGENEVA (ANA-MPA)
Greece's Employment and Social Protection Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia addressed the 97th International Labor Conference held here on Tuesday and referred to the reforms in Greece's Social Insurance System.
The Greek minister further referred to the creation of the National Social Cohesion Fund but also the incorporation of all "in a society of equal opportunities, in a strong economy which will create greater shares which will be distributed in a fairer way to all."
She stressed that "dignified labor constitutes a factor of stability and sustainable growth, a fact which constitutes a central target of the International Labor Organization."
"Greece implements its developmental planning, which brings about countable results on all levels. Indicatively, I refer to the high growth rate and the reduction of unemployment, on the basis of structural reforms which serve a final target," Palli-Petralia added.
 Employment prospects down in July-Sept., survey; Petralia on EU employment decisionHiring prospects in Greece are slowing down over the next three months, a survey by Manpower said on Tuesday, although employment prospects remained positive for the country in general.
The survey, conducted every three months, was based on interviews with more than 55,000 employers in 32 countries, and in particular 788 employers in Greece.
Total Employment Prospects fell by four percentage points this quarter, compared with the previous three-month period in Greece, with 23 of Greek employers in the survey saying they intended to hire more workers over the next quarter, 4.0 pct said they expected to employ less workers, 64 pct expected no change and 9.0 pct of employers said they were uncertain over employment trends in the July-September period.
The Tourism sector was the most dynamic sector, followed by the electricity-natural gas-water sector, transport and communications and commerce (both wholesale and retail). On the other hand, the construction sector was the most pessimistic.
Employers in Northern Greece said they expected new hirings to remain unchanged at last quarter levels, while in the wider Attica region, employment prospects fell by five percentage points.
Meanwhile, in a related development from Brussels, the European Union agreed on Tuesday to let employees opt out of a maximum 48-hour workweek and to give more rights to temporary workers across the 27-nation bloc.
In statements afterwards, Greek minister Fanny Palli-Petralia expressed Athens' dissenting position, noted that "We are not discussing -- and we will opt out of the adaptation process; no increase in work hours, nor a decrease in the protection regime of workers with short-term contracts. This is clear and our standing position," she said.
 Athens debuts in MasterCard's World Trade Center surveyAthens ranked 55th among 75 cities in MasterCard's World Trade Centers for 2008. This is the first time that the Greek capital is included in the list after it was first published in 2007.
MasterCard's survey on World Trade Centres evaluates and ranks the largest cities based on the critical functions linking markets and trade around the world. The list ranks 75 cities based on seven criteria - law and political framework, financial stability, easy enterprising, financial flow, economic center, creating new knowledge and information flow, living standards.
Athens ranks 13th in financial stability, which includes factors such as Gross Domestic Product, foreign exchange rates and inflation, and ranks 43rd in living standards.
London remained the most significant city in world economy, with Europe accounting 40 pct of the top 25 cities.
 Greek-Algerian economic forum held in AthensA forum on Greek-Algerian economic cooperation was organised in Athens on Tuesday at the initiative of the foreign ministry, in cooperation with the Algerian embassy in Greece and the Federation of Greek Industries and Businesses (SEB).
According to a ministry press release, a high-ranking delegation of Algerian government and business officials from sectors such as ports management, construction, public works, banking and finance as well as energy, and around 60 Greek delegates, took part in the conference.
Addressing the one-day forum, Foreign Ministry International Economic Relations Secretary Theodoros Skylakakis underlined "the important dynamism of the Algerian economy and referred in particular to the high foreign currency reserves the country possesses - around 100 billion US dollars in 2007- and the budget's important surplus -around 17 billion US dollars in 2007."
 Development minister meets Algerian businessmenDevelopment Minister Christos Folias held talks on Tuesday with 14 Algerian businessmen and stressed that bilateral trade and economic relations between Greece and Algeria can be strengthened further at economic and commercial level.
The minister added that relevant agencies are examining a plan on establishing a Greek-Algerian Business Council.
Folias pointed out that the development of bilateral cooperation could focus on the sectors of energy, industry, agriculture and fisheries, construction and ports.
 Expatriates' group briefed on property registration processThe World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) organisation's presidium met with Ktimatologio SA President Christos Goulas on Tuesday. The latter heads the state-affiliated agency that supervises the long-delayed national cadastre (land registry) project in Greece.
The meeting aimed to ensure that Greek expatriates will be thoroughly briefed on the property registration process that gets underway June 17 in 107 regions in the prefectures of Attica (the greater Athens area) and Thessaloniki, as well as in prefecture capitals not included in previous national cadastre projects.
 Expatriates will have to register property in Greece until Dec. 30.In less than four years, a total of 6.7 million title deeds will be registered, corresponding to 310,000 hectares of real estate and two-thirds of the country's population.
Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis has already addressed letters to Greek consulate authorities to appoint more personnel in order to facilitate ethnic Greek expatriates.
 Crop damage in central GreeceStrong hailstorms hit the prefectures of Trikala and Karditsa, central Greece, causing damage to crops, according to local authorities on Tuesday.
A 20-minute hailstorm, with hail the size of walnut, caused extensive damage to corn, cotton, vegetable, watermelon, melon and grain crops in the prefecture of Karditsa. Crops were also damaged in Trikala.
 Judicial employees to strike June 12-13The Federation of Judicial Employees of Greece announced on Tuesday that judicial employees will be holding a 48-hour nationwide strike on June 12-13, 2008, calling for the filling of vacant organic posts, an increase and reallocation of organic posts and the upgrading of their remuneration, etc.
 ASE suspends trading of Alumil shares after abduction of CEO and SBBE chief MylonasTrading of Alumil Mylonas Aluminum Industry S.A. stock was suspended on Tuesday on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) following the abduction late Monday of the company's president and CEO George Mylonas.
Following a request by the company, ASE chairman of the board Spyros Kapralos, in agreement with the Capital Market Committee, announced the temporary halt of trading of the Alumyl shares, effective immediately, for the protection of the investors and smooth operation of the market.
Mylonas, who is also president of the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) and an ASE board member, was abducted by unidentified gunmen shortly before midnight on Monday in Thessaloniki, as he was returning to his home in the Panorama residential district.
 Greek stocks end 1.88 pct lowerGreek stocks remained under pressure for the second consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The composite index lost 1.88 percent to end at 3,925.77 points with turnover a low 263.2 million euros, of which 15.89 million were block trades.
Most sectors ended lower, with the Technology (3.76 pct), Financial Services (3.53 pct) and Telecommunications (3.17 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Healthare (0.35 pct) and Commerce (0.19 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index fell 2.02 pct, the FTSE 40 index eased 1.62 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 1.90 pct lower. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 208 to 35 with another 42 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.89%
Personal & Household: -1.47%
Raw Materials: -2.30%
Travel & Leisure: -0.10%
Food & Beverages: -1.84%
Financial Services: -3.53%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, MIG and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 21.14
Public Power Corp (PPC): 24.70
HBC Coca Cola: 27.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.10
National Bank of Greece: 32.50
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 16.96
Piraeus Bank: 20.02
Bank of Cyprus: 9.00
Marfin Popular Bank: 5.14
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market jumped to 1.701 billion euros on Tuesday, of which 771 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 930 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20,2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 425 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds jumped to 0.66 pct with the Greek bond yielding 5.18 pct and the German Bund 4.52 pct.
In money market, medium-term interest rates moved higher. The 12-month Euribor rate rose 5.43 pct from 5.42 pct on Monday, the six-month rate was 5.12 pct, the three-month rate 4.96 pct and the three-month rate 4.47 pct.
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices saw their discount widen significantly in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 174.279 million euros.
The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.13 percent and the June contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 2.14 percent.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 13,208 contracts worth 137.389 million euros, with 33,647 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 118 contracts worth 2.743 million euros, with 209 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 32,466 contracts worth 31.116 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Hellenic Telecoms' contracts (4,330), followed by Eurobank (792), Marfin Popular Bank (3,907), Piraeus Bank (803), Hellenic Exchanges (1,003), Alpha Bank (1,176), Intracom (2,253), Mytilineos (997), Cyprus Bank (1,215) and Hellenic Postbank (1,727).
 Foreign Exchange Rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.565
Pound sterling 0.799
Danish kroner 7.519
Swedish kroner 9.389
Japanese yen 167.1
Swiss franc 1.620
Norwegian kroner 8.032
Canadian dollar 1.610
Australian dollar 1.646
 Northern Greece industry federation chief abducted by gunmen (ADDS reactions)Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) president George Mylonas was abducted by unidentified gunmen shortly before midnight on Monday in Thessaloniki, as he was returning to his home in the Panorama residential district.
According to initial information, the gunmen cut him off and immobilized his car -- which was driven by Mylonas himself and with his wife as a passenger -- a short distance from his home. The perpetrators then boarded the victim's car and forced the industrialist to drive eastwards for a few kilometers, stopping in the Thermi area where they abandoned the car and the woman and disappeared, taking Mylonas with them.
Mylonas' wife immediately alerted authorities to the abduction.
Police who rushed to the scene found Mylonas' cell phone and watch on the back seat of the abandoned car.
Mylonas, 49, is the owner, president and CEO of the listed Alumil Group of companies, which is involved in the aluminum constructions industry and has major investments in Greece and abroad.
Investigations throughout the night did not turn up any leads as to the identity of the abductors or their whereabouts.
Blockades were set up at the borders to prevent the abductors from taking Mylonas out of the country, and also along the borders with the neighbouring prefectures.
Serres-born Mylonas is also on the board of directors of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) and the Hellenic Aluminium Association, and vice-president of the board of the Association of Aluminum Processing Industries.
Further, Mylonas is vice-president of the Greece-China Business Council, and a member of the Greece-Serbia Business Council.
Mylonas and Alumil have received several awards and distinctions in recent years for their business activities.
 Family appeals for limited media coverage of the abductionIn an appeal to the mass media, the industrialist's family asked journalists to avoid exhaustive coverage of the Mylonas' abduction and to not relay a constant stream of information about it, while thanking the electronic media and the press for their "immediate and serious interest".
"The constant and intensive coverage, regardless of the good intentions, appears to be making the situation more difficult," a written statement issued by the family said, asking the media to limit themselves to "concisely and simply informing the public".
Close associates of the 49-year-old industry leader, board members of SBBE and relatives appear to be following the family's line and are refusing to make any comment regarding the case, while a police guard has been stationed outside the entrance of SBBE's offices.
Several politicians and SEV have condemned the kidnapping and expressed their support for the family during this difficult hour, expressing hope that the ordeal would soon be over.
Among them the mayor of Thessaloniki Vassilis Papageorgopoulos, Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis, Macedonia-Thrace Minister Margaritis Tzimas.
Tzimas said he was "shocked" by the news and described Mylonas as a "serious, successful businessman that is a credit to northern Greece and all the business community", while Psomiadis slammed the attack as "cowardly and inhuman".
A SEV announcement said that the federation "shared in the family's anguish and their hope that the State will make every possible effort so that this painful adventure will end quickly and George Mylonas will once again rejoin his family," stressing that this was the top priority at this time.
 Papoulias meets EESC, UNICEF heads in AthensPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday had successive meetings with the president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Dimitris Dimitriadis and of the local branch of UNICEF Lambros Kanellopoulos, during which he was briefed on the activities of the two bodies.
During his meeting with Dimitriadis, Papoulias referred to the important issues being negotiated by the Committee, whose Greek presidency ends at the end of this year, such as the referendum being held in Ireland on Thursday on the Lisbon Treaty.
A possible 'no' in the Irish referendum is seen as a potentially catastrophic blow to the EU, which would send talks on constitutional reform right back to the beginning.
He also praised Kanellopoulos on the high profile enjoyed by UNICEF in Greece.
 Women-trafficking ring operating in Romania bustedAttica police on Tuesday announced that the bust of a ring of women-traffickers operating chiefly in Romania. They said they were put on its trail by a 17-year-old underaged victim of the gang, who had been forced to work as a prostitute at various brothels in Athens.
The girl escaped her captors on Sunday night and went to the police, who set up an operation and arrested a 36-year-old Polish man and a 38-year-old Romanian woman at a night club in Athens on Monday night. The two are suspected members of the ring that is believed to spread over several countries.
Members of the gang in Romania allegedly scouted girls from poor neighborhoods and persuaded them to come to Greece with the promise of legal work in restaurants or caring for young children.
The 17-year-old, who had been given a false identity card in order to appear adult, managed to get away and sought the assistance of police at the airport. During the subsequent operation, officers also released another two women believed to be victims of the gang, who are now staying at a shelter for women set up by a non-governmental organization.
In an apartment where the three women were kept captive, police officers also found and confiscated 2,000 euros in cash, two bankbooks with deposits of around 20,000 euros and three fake stamps for documents of the Agios Panteleimonos police station, in addition to the Romanian passports and identity cards of several women and a large number of hand-written notes with the names of women, the numbers of clients and dates.
The suspects arrested were led before a public prosecutor on Tuesday.
 Large group of illegal migrants dropped off on CreteThe coast guard and police have launched a joint operation to intercept several dozens illegal migrants who were dropped off on a beach near the large port city of Irakleio, on Crete, early Tuesday morning.
According to reports, some 80 Palestinians have already been detained in the region.
 Fewer visitors to archaeological sites in Feb.The number of visitors to Greek museums and archaeological sites in February 2008 recorded a noted decline compared to the same month last year, according to the National Statistical Service.
Museums were visited by fewer people in February 2008 (46,999) compared to the same month in 2007 (110,090), while the same trend was recorded in the country's archaeological sites, with 78,054 visitors in 2008 and 127,756 in 2007.
Despite the considerable drop in the number of visitors, ticket proceeds in museums and archaeological sites reached 731,758 euros in February 2008, a small decline from 761,968 euros in the same month in 2007.
In the first two months of 2008, museums and archaeological sites were visited by a total of 105,054 and 163,333 people respectively, while overall ticket proceeds reached 151 million euros recording an increase of 1.9 percent compared to the same period in 2007 when they were at 1,48 million euros.
 Civil protection map exerciseA map exercise code-named "Cooperation - Tunnel 2008" on multiple car accidents involving a fuel truck and leakage of hazardous substances along the "Attiki Odos" motorway road tunnel was held at a central Athens hotel on Tuesday.
Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos attended the exercise and stressed that it strengthens cooperation between competent authorities facilitating common actions and initiatives aimed at dealing with relative risks and threats while ensuring better coordination in crisis management at institutional and operational level.
 Authorities intercept large haul of khatA large quantity of the drug khat was intercepted and confiscated by the drugs squad at Athens international airport.
They said that 23.5 kilos of the drug were found on a 37-year-old Somali national arriving on a flight from London on Monday night, who intended to give the drugs to two other Somali nationals aged 31 and 25 that were waiting for him at the airport and were also placed under arrest.
 Greece loses 2-0 to Sweden in Euro 2008 soccer matchGreece lost 2-0 to Sweden (halftime 0-0) in a Euro 2008 qualifying round Group D soccer match played in Salzburg, Austria, on Tuesday evening.
Sweden's goals were scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 67th minute and Petter Hansson in the 72nd.
 President ready to accept UN invitation to meet TalatNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot President Demetris Christofias would accept a UN invitation for a meeting with UN Under-Secretary General Lynn Pascoe and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said on Tuesday.
The spokesman was replying to questions, following press reports that Pascoe is due in Cyprus next week and is planning to invite the two community leaders to dinner to review development in the recent efforts to resume negotiations, leading to the reunification of Cyprus.
"Let us wait until the final decisions about Pascoe's visit are announced and once the necessary arrangements are in place, we shall make our announcements," he said.
Responding to questions, he said no date has been fixed for the next meeting between President Christofias and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mehmet Ali Talat, expected to take place in late June to review the progress at the level of bicommunal teams of experts (seven Technical Committees and six Working Groups.)
On the anticipated announcement of confidence building measures, the spokesman explained that the issue is part of discussions at the technical committees, which deal with day to day concerns that affect the lives of Cypriots.
"We shall wait to see the overall picture that will emerge from discussions at the technical committees," he explained, adding that top aides to the two community leaders will meet to finalise proposals on confidence building measures.
It would be preferable to have the final picture of development before any announcement takes place, he added.
Responding to other questions, he said that military matters continue to be discussed as in the past.
On the prospect of opening new crossing points to and from the island's northern Turkish occupied areas, the spokesman said the government focuses its attention on what has been agreed by the two leaders, namely to try to open a crossing point at Limnitis, on the northwest, independently of any other issue.
Since Christofias was elected to the presidency in February this year, a fresh effort is underway to resume direct negotiations with a view to find a political settlement that will reunite Cyprus, which has been divided for more than three decades, following the 1974 Turkish invasion.
 Foreign Minister satisfied with meetings in MoscowLARNACA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcos Kyprianou returned to Cyprus on Tuesday satisfied with the results of his contacts in Russia, which remains an ally to the Republic of Cyprus.
Speaking at Larnaca Airport, on his return from a trip to Paris, London, Tirana and Moscow, Kyprianou said each meeting ''had its meaning and its benefit for Cyprus.''
Referring to his stay in Moscow, Kyprianou said the visit was in the context of meetings in capitals of UN Security Council permanent members, adding that for Cyprus Russia has ''a special significance.''
He noted that Russia ''has always been a steadfast friend, it has an active and stable stance, supporting the Republic of Cyprus in very difficult times.''
Kyprianou added that he conveyed the message that ''the people of Cyprus acknowledges and feels grateful, especially in this new effort to solve the Cyprus problem and the deliberations at the UN.''
The Cypriot Minister and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov agreed to stay in touch and discuss the Cyprus problem, Kyprianou said, adding that they discussed the relations of Russia with the EU.
''Cyprus supports the development and strengthening of these relations,'' he pointed out.
Kyprianou also referred to President Demetris Christofias' visit to Moscow this Autumn, noting that Russia ''attributes special importance to the visit and it should be well prepared.''
He added that it was for this reason that he was already discussing the visit with Lavrov, noting that many bilateral agreements could be signed between the two countries in the meantime.
They also agreed on an intensive schedule of meetings and talks between the two mministries in all sectors of mutual interest, such as the Cyprus problem and the EU.
''I want to express my satisfaction regarding my visit to Moscow. It remains a steadfast ally for the Republic of Cyprus and we will continue to have close contact,'' Kyprianou said.
Referring to his trip to Paris, Kyprianou said he discussed the French presidency of the EU with his French counterpart, as well as ways to improve the operation of the General Affairs Council.
On his trip to London, where he accompanied President Christofias, Kyprianou said the outcome of the president's meetings was positive, with the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the United Kingdom and the commitment on behalf of the UK for a constructive stance towards and cooperation with the Republic of Cyprus.
Regarding his trip to Albania, Kyprianou said the meetings held there were important for the development of commercial relations as well as for political reasons, since Albania participates in various organisations, such as the Islamic Conference.
Commenting on the UN Secretary General's draft report on renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), which encourages the two sides on the island to continue showing political will so as to achieve more progress during the preparatory period ahead of negotiations, Kyprianou said the Greek Cypriot side has proven its good will to participate in and contribute to the new effort to solve the Cyprus problem.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Cypriots have to agree on a solution, says USNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Washington believes that the really crucial issues of the Cyprus question must be addressed and agreed to by the Cypriots themselves.
"Any sort of real critical mass, to finding a solution for the Cyprus question, is going to have to come from on the island itself," US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack has said.
Asked about the discussion US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had last week with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan on the Cyprus question, McCormack said that they had a good discussion which went on for several minutes about Cyprus.
"I think that there's a shared sense of optimism, mutual optimism for Cyprus, and that there appears to be some momentum there. Both sides, I got the sense, would encourage that momentum," he added.
He noted that "ultimately any sort of real critical mass, to finding a solution, is going to have to come from on the island itself. That isn't to say that those on the outside and in the international system aren't prepared to help, should we see that momentum really take hold," McCormack added.
The spokesman was commenting on the ongoing discussions among experts from the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities. Their objective is to prepare the ground for substantive negotiations between the two community leaders, leading to a political settlement that will reunite Cyprus, which has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
 EU exercise to be carried out in CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus' Civil Defence and Germany's Civil Protection will be carrying out an EU exercise titled ''Assessment Mission Course'', during which various civil protection and emergency services officers of EU member states and other international organisations will be trained.
According to the scenario of the exercise, which is being carried out for the seventh time, a powerful earthquake shakes Cyprus with many human losses, material damage and other problems, which leads the Republic of Cyprus to request the help of the EU.
The EU sends assessment teams, which will visit vital services and organisations, using aircraft and other means.
According to an official press release, the exercise is important for the EU and Cyprus, since persons holding key positions in EU civil protection services and other emergency organisations will be trained in the sectors of situation assessment and the provision of aid.
It will also give the opportunity to Cypriot services to evaluate and upgrade their programmes, through contact with the participating experts.
This year, for the first time, the German Aerospace Service will be participating with the LIMES system. Seven persons with special equipment will be monitoring and covering, by satellite, all activities of the exercise.
They will also provide photographs and maps of various areas of Cyprus which, according to the scenario, have been affected by the earthquake, along with a situation assessment.
Furthermore, through the LIMES system, all teams participating in the exercise will be able to be in continuous contact, both among themselves and with the EU Monitoring and Information Centre in Brussels, in order to send and receive information.
The final part of the exercise will be held on Wednesday at the Ministry of the Interior, in the presence of Minister of the Interior Neoclis Sylikiotis and German Charge d' Affaires Joachim Heidorn. It will include sending to the EU the final report that will have been prepared regarding the damage and the needs that arose, according to the scenario of the exercise.
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS