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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-06-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 12 June 2008 Issue No: 2917
 Inner Cabinet approves justice ministry draft lawsJustice ministry-sponsored draft laws were approved during an Inner Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday.
Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis stated afterwards that the Inner Cabinet unanimously approved his recommendations concerning the Cohabitation Agreement for heterosexual couples and the adoption of speedier no fault divorce procedures, halving the duration of the process from 4 to 2 years.
He also announced that a child molestation draft law prepared in compliance with a relevant Council of Europe decision will be advanced, following its unanimous approval by the Inner Cabinet, and clarified that it will include both preventive and suppressive measures and harsher penalties.
Referring to the cohabitation agreement, he said that his recommendation did not concern same-sex couples, adding that this aspect was not under discussion.
 Greek Parliament ratifies Lisbon TreatyParliament concluded discussion late Wednesday evening on ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, with the landmark agreement passing by a margin of 250 to 42, as deputies from both ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition PASOK voted in favor. Eight deputies were absent from the vote.
The late night session was attended by all political leaders, led by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, and almost the entire Cabinet.
Earlier, during the debate, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said a proposal for a referendum by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou was caused by "internal dissention within his party", although the latter said he would for in favor.
"Colleagues, two melons cannot fit under one arm. Two different policies cannot be followed at the same time. I heard Mr. Papandreou with great attention, but much of what he said surprised me. He tried to persuade us that Greece is in Europe because of PASOK; that PASOK's principles and values demand a referendum, although in eight years while in power you didn't hold even one. Today you tell us that you agree with the Treaty but a referendum must first be held. Legality comes from the very recent popular vote. Do you ask for a referendum to cover your vote? The treaty cannot cover up your petty political problems. Europe is turning a new page, the Treaty is the product of compromise, that is how Europe moved forward, we put down the weapons and started talking," Bakoyannis said.
She also dismissed Papandreou's criticism regarding deficient briefing on the Treaty's provisions, charging that the former foreign minister in previous PASOK government's was merely using the Treaty's ratification as a "firework" vis-a-vis his internal party opposition.
Earlier, from Parliament's podium, Papandreou demanded a referendum for the Treaty for the "greatest possible democratic and conscious ç participation of active citizens."
"The deepening of democracy in Greece is also a political wager for us & I do not believe in the old leadership models. The 21st century demands leaders who fight for and support the greatest possible democracy participation of informed citizens. This is our democratic tradition. This is who I am and who I will remain..."
He also said he has consistently back a demand for a referendum, even when he was foreign minister in 2003.
Finally, he criticized the government for "fearing the people", as he said, and the opposition to his left for their support of a "no" vote, saying the latter are consigning Europe to marching on with only the monetary treaty of Maastricht and without the "more social and democratic Europe of Lisbon".
On her part, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga said the latest Euro-treaty was "merely an effort by the European Union to accelerate the two-pole race so that as a second world superpower it (Europe) will become the world's second policeman."
Papariga reiterated her communist party's opposition to the Treaty and a demand for a referendum.
Outside Parliament, members of the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) held a protest march against the Lisbon Treaty and in demand of a referendum.
Debate on an opposition (PASOK, KKE and the Coalition of the Left) request for a referendum begins on Tuesday.
 Simitis opposes referendum on EU Treaty in letter to PapandreouIn a letter to main opposition PASOK's leader George Papandreou, the party's former leader and former Greek premier Costas Simitis expressed his disagreement with holding a referendum to ratify the EU Reform Treaty agreed by European leaders at Lisbon.
He adds that he will make the letter public once it has been received by Papandreou.
Simitis said he was surprised by Papandreou's support for holding a national referendum and points out that the ratification of EU treaties through Parliament was a standard practice adopted by all past PASOK governments, including his own and those of Andreas Papandreou, the father of the party's current leader and founder of the party.
He also argues that a long-drawn-out ratification process like a national referendum could weaken Greece's position and influence.
 PM: Lisbon Treaty the 'realistic path to 21st century Europe'Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis emphasised on Wednesday evening, during Parliament debate on ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, that the agreement is the "realistic path to 21st century Europe; a path for a better European future, one of solidarity, stability, collective progress for all peoples, a path that serves the interests of all Greeks."
Karamanlis' address in Parliament was the highlight of the two-day debate on the Lisbon Treaty, and came days after French President Nicolas Sarkozy passionately called on Greece's 300-MP legislature to approve of the pact from the very same podium during an official visit to Athens.
Karamanlis noted that Greece's has had a substantive role in drawing up the current Treaty, "we are satisfied with the efforts for drawing up the Treaty; we are satisfied that all of our partners ended this phase of inwardness and stagnation that had taken hold over previous years."
 Government: Greece opposes 65-hour working weekGreece was among the five countries that opposed a compromise reached by European Union employment ministers that could usher in a 65-hour working week, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said on Wednesday. He indicated that Athens' did not plan to incorporate the revised directive agreed by EU ministers into national law.
"We do not accept this position. We disagree. There is no decision that will be converted into a directive," the spokesman said when asked if the directive would be incorporated into domestic labor law.
Noting that eight countries had initially adopted the same stance, Roussopoulos underlined that Greece had steadfastly stuck to its position and was not allowing changes desired by other countries in the Community to go through.
At the same time, he clarified that Greece had not voted against the new measures after receiving information that the countries voting against would be fewer in number.
"A debate at the European Parliament will intervene. The government is determined to stick to its policy," he added.
A spokeswoman for main opposition PASOK on employment and social welfare issues, Evi Christofilopoulou, was critical of the stance adopted by the government and said that it had no practical impact but was merely an attempt to "blow 'smoke in the eyes' of Greek citizens".
The statements made by Greece's employment minister Fanny Palli-Petralia on this issue were strictly for domestic consumption and served to create an illusion of opposition, she added.
"When someone disagrees with a policy, they vote against it and don't just abstain, washing their hands of the result, as is the government's preferred habit," Christofilopoulou stressed.
The agreement reached by the EU Employment Ministers' Council allows employees to opt out of a 48-hour maximum working week imposed by an EU labour directive but places a cap of 65 hours a week for those that opt out - an improvement over the previous situation in countries where the opt-out applied, like the UK, where employees could work up to 78 hours a week.
Roussopoulos on measures against poverty
On a related topic, Roussopoulos said that the government was putting off implementation of planned measures against poverty until after September in order to process them further, pointing out that some of the measures were entirely new and there was little experience in how they could be carried out.
"It is important not to publicize measures without processing these," he said, citing as an example the government measures for heating oil and diesel and the fact that there had been very few references in the media to their positive impact.
 Employment minister, GSEE on EU employment ministers conferenceEmployment and Social Protection Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia, referring on Wednesday to the results of the conference of European Union employment ministers, said that Greece will not discuss an increase in working hours or a decrease in protection for working people.
Petralia clarified that Greece disagreed with the presidency's position and opposed the positions that were heard at the Council of Ministers. She added that no vote was held and that Greece, together with another four member-states, created a group that expressed its absolute disagreement in a joint statement.
In another development, the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) spoke in an announcement of the risk of weekly working hours being extended to 72.
The Confederation warned that the possible ratification of the decision of the employment ministers will meet with strong reactions from trade unions in Greece and Europe and called on the government to review its position.
 Coalition leader on EU employment ministers decisionCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Alexis Tsipras, speaking on Wednesday after a meeting with party trade unionists, said that "the Council of European Union Employment Ministers took a decision yesterday that no democratically elected government all over Europe would dare to take."
Tsipras spoke of a decision that "takes us almost a century back, to the time when, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, there were no enacted working hours and working people worked 10, 11 and 12 hours a day."
The Coalition leader called on citizens, working people and trade unions to wage a continuous struggle to prevent "these political options that turn us back to the era of the labour middle ages."
 Foreign minister to attend EU General Affairs Council in BrusselsForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will attend the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg on Monday, accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis.
The EU foreign ministers are expected to hold talks on the western Balkans, Iran's nuclear programme, Sudan and preparations from the European Council on June 19.
Bakoyannis is also to attend a European Peoples Party (EPP) working dinner on Sunday night.
 FM Bakoyannis in Cyprus this weekForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will depart for Cyprus on Thursday, her first after Demetris Christofias' election to the presidency of the Cyprus Republic.
Bakoyannis will meet with Cyprus' state and political leadership, and according to foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, she will be briefed on the course of the talks and developments concerning the Cyprus problem.
"The visit confirms the lasting cooperation, communication and coordination between Athens and Nicosia, while sending a strong message reconfirming Greece's support to Christofias' efforts aimed at putting an end to the unacceptable partition of the island," Koumoutsakos stressed.
On Thursday morning, the foreign minister will have separate meetings with President Christofias and her counterpart Markos Kyprianou while later in the afternoon she will meet with leading officials of the parties AKEL, DISY, DIKO, EDEK, EUROKO and the Ecologists.
In the evening she will address a DISY party event on "EU after the Lisbon Treaty", on the occasion of the inauguration of the Glafkos Clerides Foundation.
On Friday, Bakoyannis will meet with Cypriot Parliament President Marios Karoyan and have separate meetings with former Cypriot presidents Tassos Papadopoulos, Glafkos Clerides and George Vasiliou.
On Saturday, the foreign minister will be in Paphos, where she and her Cypriot counterpart will address an event on "the European future of united Cyprus". Later in the afternoon, Bakoyannis will be honored with the city's Gold Key and attend celebrations on the occasion of the twinning of the municipalities of Paphos and Hania, Crete.
 FM Bakoyannis gives interview to CNANICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, speaking in an interview with the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), said that Greece will continue to support efforts that have begun and that are aimed at ending the Turkish occupation and finding a mutual agreement on the reunification of Cyprus.
On the eve of her arrival in Cyprus on a working visit, Bakoyannis said that the new mobility on the issue of Cyprus is the result of the initiatives of President Demetris Christofias and noted that the two communities must be set free in the effort to find common ground capable of supporting the resumption of overall negotiations with guarantees and prospects of success.
The foreign minister stressed, however, that considerable obstacles continue to exist, adding that President Christofias and Turkish Cyprot leader Ali Talat, with the agreement reached on March 21, reaffirmed their adherrence to the goal of a mutual solution for a bizonal and bicommunal federation.
"A new window of opportunity has opened. It is the responsibility of each of us to keep it open," Bakoyannis concluded.
 Athens: no place for 'guarantee' issues in Cyprus talksConsiderations relating to "guarantee" issues or rights of intervention were out of place in the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem, whose target was the reunification of the island republic within the framework of the European Union, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Wednesday.
"The negotiations aim at the reunification of Cyprus. This is the strategic target, the strategic goal: the reunification of Cyprus. In other words a united Cyprus, member of the EU. In such a framework, issues of guarantees or rights of intervention are confused, are practices and ways of thinking that are foreign and unknown in a European framework," he stressed.
He was replying to questions regarding Greece's position as a guarantor power in Cyprus to the issue of guarantees that would be the object of talks between the two sides once negotiations began.
The spokesman denied, however, that his statement implied that Greece was waiving its rights as a guarantor power.
"Nothing of the sort was said, I did not speak about the negotiations process. I made a general statement concerning the end of the negotiations," he stressed.
 Austria's Green party alternate president Vassilakou on ecology and green governanceThe environment, quality of life and the rights of immigrants are the main issues on which Austria's 'The Greens - The Green Alternative Party' Alternate President Maria Vassilakou is focusing, wishing to make a difference. Speaking to ANA-MPA from Thessaloniki, where she attended a Balkan Greens Conference, she said that she wants the Greens to enter the Austrian government because this is the only way to bring about change.
Referring to the Ecologist Greens in Greece, she expressed optimism considering that in the last elections the party received roughly 80,000 votes, and added that it should be represented in Parliament because the environment needs to have a strong voice.
Vassilakou was born in Athens and since 1986 has been living in Vienna, where she studied psychology and linguistics.
 Souflias extols 'ambitious' new land registry programmeEnvironment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Wednesday extolled the next phase of the Land Registry programme beginning next Tuesday as "truly ambitious" and said it was expected to record some 6.7 million property rights in less than four years, so that the Land Registry would cover roughly two thirds of the population when the programme was completed. Souflias was speaking during a seminar on the Land Registry programme.
He also denied that the three and a half months allowed for the public to submit their statements of ownership were insufficient, asserting that it was sufficient time for all members of the public to be informed and submit their statements.
"From that point onward, we will monitor the process closely so that if problem arise they can be dealt with. The requirement is that people don't all wait until the last minute. A demand to extend the final date for submission at this time would only serve procrastination at this time," he added.
The minister particularly appealed to lawyers, notaries, engineers and other professionals involved in the process of drafting a National Land Registry to assist the project as much as they could.
"Especially for the process of accepting the statements submitted by three million citizens we are obliged to set up a truly efficient and reliable mechanism that serves and facilitates citizens, not one that inconveniences them," he stressed.
Listing the measures taken to assist the process, he said that a publicity campaign had been launched to inform the public, the forms had been simplified and the number of accompanying documents reduced. There were 76 Land Registry bureaus set up around the country where the forms could be submitted, in addition to four special Citizens Service Centres in the cities of Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, and there was also the option of submitting the form through a special application over the Internet at the Ktimatologio S.A. website.
The next vital step in the process of setting up a reliable land registry and forest registry would be to clarify which set of aerial photographs should be used, he added.
"It is my position that it is tremendous hypocrisy to draw up these fundamental tools for the protection of the environment and the development of the country using the aerial photographs of 1945. It is unenforceable and illogical. In Greece, from the end of the Civil War and until the mid 1960s, thousands of hectares of forest and land classed as forest changed use and became cultivated land. It was then a matter of survival. What should be then do today, with the aerial photographs of 1945? Do we once again class these lands as forest and remove them from thousands of farming families? We will really remove them? Is there really someone that will do this? Of course not. We will just continue to pretend," the minister said.
This also applied to residential settlements created in land that was once forest, many of which were within Attica and other large areas of the country, he added. It would be impossible to reclaim these lands as forest and to continue to insist on the use of the 1945 aerial photographs would simply mean that the country would continue to not have a Land Registry and Forest Registry, allowing people to continue flouting the laws, the minister underlined.
According to Souflias, it was imperative that the political parties reached some compromise solution on this issue, even though no agreement was reached within the framework of a Constitutional revision, and proposed using aerial photographs from the 1960s.
 FinMin meets with outgoing central bank chiefEconomy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis met on Wednesday with outgoing governor of the Bank of Greece (BoG) Dr. Nicholas Garganas, whose term expires at the end of the month.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Alogoskoufis thanked the central bank chief for their cooperation throughout Garganas' term, and noted that the BoG governor had held the post during a very crucial period of time.
He praised Garganas as having been an "excellent" central bank governor, adding that his attitude had been "very useful" on the formulation of economic policy.
Garganas, too, said his cooperation with Alogoskoufis throught his years at the helm of the Bank of Greece had been "excellent", not only at personal level but also at institutional level.
He said it was in the country's interests that the Bank of Greece collaborate with the economy ministry, adding that Alogoskoufis was one of the best economy ministers he has known, and has done important work in the sector of fiscal policy.
Garganas called on everyone to support his work "because the global and Greek economies are at a very difficult juncture".
"There is no problem that cannot be confronted with the appropriate economic policy," Garganas added.
 Exclusive interview withTourism Development Minister SpiliotopoulosContained optimism as regards this year's tourist flow to Greece was expressed by Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA's televised news bulletin, pointing out that repeating the 2007 numbers in terms of tourist arrivals "would be a miracle".
Spiliotopoulos said that the current economic situation does not favor the euro currency because it is more expensive compared to the dollar. Therefore, the destinations favored are those working with the dollar, he said, adding, however, that the likely decline in certain tourist markets, such as Britain, will be compensated by a rise in the number of tourists from such markets as Russia.
Referring to the tourism sector investments, the minister stated that Greece still isn't a tourism investment reception country because it lacks the necessary institutional framework.
On the problem of shared responsibility with other government ministries, he said that the tourism ministry produces national revenue and needs to be more flexible and effective to meet its objectives, pointing out that less shared responsibility means greater effectiveness.
The country's improved image in the eyes of the tourists is the result of the successful hosting of the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, but despite the efforts made, certain of the inherent weaknesses have returned, he stressed, calling on tourism sector business professionals to turn towards quality and reject the "easy profit" rationale.
 AHCC to host D.C. conference on emerging investment opportunities in GreeceA conference titled "Opportunities in Greece - Expansion of bilateral relations between the United States and Greece" will be held on June 20 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington D.C.
The preceding day, US and Greek officials will meet at the State Department for the fifth session of the Greece-US Economic and Commercial Cooperation Commission (ECCC), which aims to enhance commercial and economic ties between the two countries.
The June 20 event, organized by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (AHCC) in cooperation with the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) aims at completion of discussions currently underway with the private sector in the US, placing emphasis on emerging investment opportunities in Greece.
The event will provide an investment overview and will also focus on three key areas of opportunity in Greece: banking, shipping and the pharmaceutical industry, which represent the frontier of potential investment opportunities in Greece, according to the organizers.
The American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce is one of the largest, most active chambers in Europe and works closely with the Hellenic Foreign Ministry. Virtually all American companies that do business in Greece are members of the chamber, as are many of the Greek companies that engage in trade with the United States. The Chamber strives for continuous improvement of American-Hellenic commercial, financial, and political relations, and endeavors to advance the dialogue between the two countries.
 FFBank completes 50-mln-euro share capital increase planFFBank on Wednesday announced the completion of a share capital increase scheme, worth 50 million euros, in cash and said that its equity capital totaled 138.2 million euros.
The new capital will strengthen the bank's capital adequacy rate and support both its growth rates and strategic goals. FBBank said its priorities were enhancing its position in shipping and business and expanding its market share in retail banking.
 Greek wholesale turnover index up 6.6 pct in Q1Greek wholesale turnover index rose 6.6 pct in the first quarter of 2008, compared with the same period last year, while it was down 4.8 pct from the fourth quarter in 2007, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, said the turnover index in the car repair and fuel and oil product retail sectors grew by 7.0 percent in the January-March period, compared with the corresponding period in 2007.
 Greek wholesale turnover index up 6.6% in Q1Greek wholesale turnover index rose 6.6 pct in the first quarter of 2008, compared with the same period last year, while it was down 4.8 pct from the fourth quarter in 2007, the National Statistical Service said on Wednesday. The service said the turnover index in the car repair and fuel and oil product retail sectors grew by 7.0 percent in the January-March period, compared with the corresponding period in 2007.
 UFI seminar to be held in Thessaloniki June 16-18The Annual European Seminar of the World Union of International Fairs (UFI) will be taking place for the first time in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on June 16-18 this year and will be hosted by Helexpo SA.
The seminar will focus on the theme of "The most important factors for success in difficult market conditions- Prospects for exhibition organizers and owners of convention centers" and will be attended by over 175 representatives from the biggest organizations holding exhibitions all over the world.
The event will also be attended by UFI president Cliff Wallace and the Union's managing director Vincent Gerard, who will be exchanging views and experiences with the participants of 33 countries.
 Athens Stock Exchange opening: Small declineEquity prices were declining at the opening of trade on Wednesday on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), with the basic share price index down 0.29 percent, standing at 3,911.08 points at 11:15 a.m., and turnover at 47.5 million euros.
Individual sector indices were moving mostly downward, with the biggest losses in Food & Beverage, down 2.14 percent; Mass Media, down 1.04 percent; and Oil & Gas down 1.04 percent.
The biggest gains were in Insurance, up 1.15 percent; Financial Services, up 0.98 percent; and Chemicals, up 0.92 percent.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks was down 0.08 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index was down 0.06 percent, and the FTSE/ASE-80 small cap index was up 0.39 percent.
Of the stocks moved, 71 were up, 54 were down, and 43 were unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.90%
Personal & Household: -1.10%
Raw Materials: -1.21%
Travel & Leisure: -0.69%
Food & Beverages: -2.03%
Financial Services: +0.84%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus AEEAP, Bank of Piraeus and Hellenic Telecommuni-cations Organisatin (OTE).
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 20.72
Public Power Corp (PPC): 24.50
HBC Coca Cola: 26.90
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.98
National Bank of Greece: 32.86
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 16.58
Titan Cement Company: 26.98
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.563
Pound sterling 0.797
Danish kroner 7.518
Swedish kroner 9.432
Japanese yen 167.7
Swiss franc 1.624
Norwegian kroner 8.053
Canadian dollar 1.590
Australian dollar 1.650
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising further to 164.300 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.40 pct and the June contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 1.88 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totalled 12,645 contracts worth 130.281 million euros with 34,658 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 197 contracts worth 4.558 million euros with 231 open positions. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 22,449 contracts worth 23.441 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (4,474) followed by Eurobank (1,028), Marfin Investment Group (1,908), Alpha Bank (692), Intracom (2,635), Marfin Popular Bank (3,830) and Mytlineos (1,371).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 2.010 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.165 billion were buy orders and the remaining 845 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily trade security with a turnover of 840 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.65 pct with the Greek bond yielding 5.19 pct and the German Bund 4.54 pct.
In money market, interest rates remained at high levels. The 12-month Euribor rate was 5.41 pct, the six-month rate 5.10 pct, the three-month rate 4.96 pct and the one-month rate 4.47 pct.
 Nearly 1,800 homes deemed unsafe due to earthquake damageEnvironment ministry teams inspecting damaged homes in earthquake-stricken Ileia and Achaia prefectures in the western Peloponnese had so far declared 1,788 houses to be unsafe, of which 20 percent have been condemned and pegged for demolition, the ministry announced on Wednesday.
Included in those numbers were 46 homes deemed unsafe in Agrinion and Astakos, in the prefecture of Aitoloakarnania.
It said that 100 teams made up of 250 civil engineers from the ministry, assisted by 30 colleagues employed by the prefectures of Ileia and Achaia and the Western Greece Regional authority had carried out a total of 4,412 inspections between the earthquake on Sunday and Tuesday night.
The number of engineers carrying out inspections would increase to 400 by Friday and would continue to carry out inspections of the bank holiday weekend, the ministry said. In addition, the ministry cancelled all leave for staff in services involved with restoring damage caused by natural disasters and all staff for ministry services in the regions affected by the earthquake.
It clarified that engineers completing inspections would give home owners a yellow copy of their report, certifying that their home was unsafe for habitation, which they could then use to receive the emergency relief aid of 3,000 euros provided by the state after Thursday.
In addition, 50 portable container cabins to house people rendered homeless by the earthquake had arrived in Achaia and Ileia so far, it said.
Apart from the above measures, the ministry has also banned all construction work in the areas where the earthquake hit hardest until at least next week, based on the course of seismic activity in the area, and warned that recently erected concrete structures will have to be inspected for damage before work can continue.
Meanwhile, a decision for the lump-sum economic relief aid for victims of Sunday's earthquake in Achaia and Ileia was signed on Wednesday by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Health and Social Solidarity Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
This specified that payment of a benefit of 3,000 euros per household will be given to those whose homes are deemed unsafe to inhabit, either because they are condemned, collapsed or in need of repairs. Each of these households is also eligible for further aid of 10,000 euros to replace lost household effects.
Payment of the above benefits will begin on Thursday, via ATEBank, when eligible parties submit an application and necessary accompanying documents.
Also resuming on Thursday are year-end exams in high schools and lyceums in Achaia, after school buildings were inspected for damage.
 Amateur astronomers to repeat Eratosthenes experimentAn experiment carried out 2,200 years ago by ancient Greek mathematician, geographer and astronomer Eratosthenes to calculate the circumference of the Earth will be repeated this Saturday by amateur astronomers in the northern Greek cities of Alexandroupolis and Thessaloniki and in Warsaw.
The experiment will be part of a simulation game called "The Sun measures the Earth" organised by the Thrace Amateur Astronomers' Society, the Astrophysics and Astronomy department of Thessaloniki's Aristotelian University in collaboration with the Friends of Astronomy Club and the Polish Amateur Astronomers Society.
Duplicating the ancient scientists' experiment, astronomers in the three cities will measure the shadow cast by a metre-long bar placed near the Alexandroupolis Light House, the Thessaloniki University Observatory and the Vistula River crossing Warsaw.
The measurements will begin at 11:00 in the morning and end at 16:00 in the afternoon (Greek time) and the results will be fed into a linked computer system in the three cities in real time, which will carry out the necessary calculations.
Organizers said the experiment was a game designed to promote the public's involvement in amateur astronomy and to show that this was not just observing things through telescopes.
The simulation is taking place seven days earlier than the summer solstice on June 21, which is the day chosen by Eratosthenes to carry out his measurements and the longest day of the year, but will seek to confirm the precise measurements calculated by the Cyrenean mathematician concerning the Earth's diameter.
 Eratosthenes and the Aswan wellThe mathematician and scientist Eratosthenes was born in Cyrene (276-194 B.C) in present-day Libya. He studied in Alexandria and Athens and became chief librarian of the Great Library of Alexandria, where he learned of a deep, vertical well near the ancient Egyptian city of Swenet (known in Greek as Syene and near the present-day Aswan Dam) in southern Egypt where the sun's rays fell on the water once a year at noon on the summer solstice without casting a shadow.
Setting up a vertical pole in Alexandria, he measured the angle formed by its shadow at exactly the same hour and day.
He found from his measurement that, in his hometown of Alexandria, the angle of elevation of the Sun would be 1/50 of a full circle (7°12') south of the zenith at the same time.
Assuming that Alexandria was due north of Syene he concluded that the distance from Alexandria to Syene must be 1/50 of the total circumference of the Earth. His estimated distance between the cities was 5000 stadia (about 500 geographical or nautical miles). He rounded the result to a final value of 700 stadia per degree, which implies a circumference of 252,000 stadia. There is debate about the exact size of the stadion he used. The common Attic stadion was about 185 m, which would imply a circumference of 46,620 km, i.e. 16.3% too large. However, if he used the "Egyptian stadion" of about 157.5 m, his measurement turns out to be 39,690 km, an error of less than 1%.
 PM receives George & Barbara Bush in AthensGreek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his wife Natasa Karamanlis on Wednesday received former US president George Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush at the Maximos Mansion government house in Athens, as Greece's prime ministerial couple hosted a luncheon for the parents of the current US president.
George and Barbara Bush vacation in Greece on almost an annual basis, usually as guests aboard a private luxury cruiseship owned by the Latsis shipping family. In the past, several Bush grandchildren have joined their grandparents in Greece for a summer holiday in the east Mediterranean country.
 PM sends wishes to Ecumenical Patriarch on his name dayPrime minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday sent a message of good wishes to Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos (Bartholomew), on the occasion of his name day.
The Orthodox Church celebrates the feast day of Saints Bartholomew and Varnavas on June 11.
 State Legal Council celebrates 125th anniversaryPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias attended an event at the Megaron Concert Hall in Athens on Wednesday held in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the State Legal Council.
Addressing the event, Economy & Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis underlined the institution's service in representing the Greek state in Greek and European tribunals, stressing that the state recognizes and honors its contribution, while pointing to its excellent legal counsel.
 "Digital Wave" competition in the 49th Thessaloniki Film FestivalThe digital film competition "Digital Wave" will be held for a third consecutive year within the framework of the 49th Thessaloniki Film Festival Greek Division, dedicated to the contemporary digital film production in Greece.
Applications will be accepted until Monday, September 8.
Application forms and regulations are available on the Thessaloniki Film Festival website.
 Border police intercept drug runnersBorder police patrolling the Mastorochori region of Ioannina in northwestern Greece on Wednesday intercepted a party of Greeks and Albanian nationals carrying about 31.5 kilos of unprocessed cannabis, who were heading for the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki in two private cars.
Border police officers noticed two suspicious-looking cars and placed them under discreet surveillance. The first of the two cars was stopped at the Ioannina-Kozani junction and three people on board, a Greek and two Albanians, were placed under arrest.
The second car behind them refused to stop, however, and a car chase ensued. Both driver and passengers got out and abandoned the vehicle about 20 kilometers down the road and escaped on foot. Inside the abandoned vehicle, police found three bags of cannabis weighing 31.695 kilos.
Under interrogation, the three men under arrest admitted that one of their party had brought the drugs over the border from Albania on foot and that their car had been acting as a lookout for the second car carrying the drugs.
One of two foreign nationals riding in the second car was also arrested a few hours later in Konitsa, hunted down by border police with the aid of a police dog.
He told police that they were given the car by its owner in Karditsa to use in carrying the drugs and that all three men in the lookout car were expecting to receive instructions over the phone from another Greek, a resident of Thessaloniki, about the final destination for the drugs.
The men placed under arrest are to be led before an Ioannina public prosecutor and the drugs, cars and five cell phones confiscated by police will be used as evidence.
Meanwhile, authorities are continuing a search for an Albanian national and two Greeks that managed to escape arrest.
 Exotic Disease Vet Center inaugurated in OrestiadaA cross-border Veterinary Center focusing on the prevention and effective treatment of exotic diseases affecting livestock such as, foot and mouth disease, sheep pox etc., has been inaugurated in Orestiada, Evros Prefecture in northeastern Greece.
The center will treat non-endemic livestock diseases that usually break out in the border zone of Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey, and is placed within the framework of the community initiative INTERREG III / PHARE CBC Greece-Bulgaria.
 Moscow: talks with Cyprus confirm good relationsMOSCOW (ANA/CNA)
Russia has described the three-day working visit of Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou to Moscow and his talks with Sergei Lavrov as a confirmation of the high level of Russian-Cypriot relations.
A statement issued by the Press Service of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the two countries expressed their common intention to continue their intensive relations. They also said they will work to develop further Russian-Cypriot cooperation in various fields, mainly, in the political, trade, economic and investment sectors.
It said the close proximity of their positions on a series of international problems, including peace in the Middle East, the situation in the Balkan region and the Mediterranean, was ascertained during the talks.
During the talks, Russia and Cyprus also established unity in their approach towards the need to achieve an overall, fair and just settlement of the Cyprus issue, on the basis of relevant UN Security Council resolutions, taking into consideration the opinion, most importantly, of the Cypriot communities.
During his talks in Moscow, Kyprianou and Lavrov discussed European security issues and Russia's relations with the EU. The two ministers also approved a schedule of negotiations between the two ministries for the period 2008-2009.
 Political parties agree to support leaders in efforts for Cyprus settlementNICOSIA (ANA/CNA)
The leaders and representatives of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political parties met on Wednesday at Ledra Palace in the UN-controlled buffer zone for their regular meeting and agreed to support the leaders of the two communities in their efforts to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem.
According to their joint communique, which was read out by Slovakian Ambassador to Cyprus Anna Turenicova, the leaders and representatives of the political parties expressed opinions on the issue ''The way forward: Full fledged negotiation.''
''They agreed to support the two leaders in their efforts to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem as soon as possible through the procedure and the framework they have already agreed upon during their meetings on 21st March and 23rd May 2008,'' the joint communique says.
The next regular meeting of the leaders and the representatives of the political parties will be held on the September 24 at Ledra Palace.
 US presidential candidate discusses CyprusNEW YORK (ANA/CNA)
The Cyprus problem was among the issues discussed at a meeting Republican presidential candidate John McCain had with America's Archbishop Demetrios.
The two met at the head office of the Archbishop of Americas, in New York. Discussions focused on other issues as well, including religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Turkey, the problem relating to the name of FYROM and domestic issues such as education and economy in the US.
McCain refrained from answering any press questions on Cyprus, after the meeting.
Archbishop Demetrios said that the Republican candidate had indicated that he is well acquainted with the Cyprus problem and follows development and has the will to help its resolution.
"He spoke with reserved optimism about Cyprus issue," the Archbishop said.
The Archbishop noted that this was their second meeting in the past year. "McCain is a man who knows Turkey's issues, the Balkans and generally foreign policy," he concluded.
Efforts to resolve the Cyprus question are underway with discussions between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities. Teams of experts meet to prepare the ground for substantive negotiations between the leaders of the two communities with a view to find a negotiated settlement, that will reunite Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
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