|Friday, 16 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-06-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 13 June 2008 Issue No: 2918
 Greek FM: bicommunal federation the only prospect for Cyprus solutionNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/N.Melissova/CNA)
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed here Thursday that only a bicommunal bizonal federation can help bring peace and security to Cyprus.
Speaking after talks with her Cypriot counterpart Markos Kyprianou, she also said that the road to a reunited, peaceful and prosperous Cyprus is not "a bed of roses" but it can be achieved.
Bakoyannis expressed hope that sufficient progress is made at the ongoing talks between representatives of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities to allow substantive negotiations to begin, leading to a mutually acceptable solution.
"Only a bizonal, bicommunal federation can open widely the prospect of a settlement and provide the necessary momentum for a common, better future, for peace, development and security in Cyprus, without the illegal presence of the occupation troops, and without the right of intervention and the outdated system of guarantees by third countries," the Greek foreign minister stressed.
"The road to achieve this goal, a reunited, peaceful, stable and prosperous European Cyprus, is not a bed of roses. We both believe in the struggle for a just, functional and viable settlement," she added.
Referring to the latest developments in the Cyprus problem, Bakoyannis expressed hope for progress at the joint teams of experts (the working groups and the technical committees), to prepare the ground for substantive negotiations, leading to a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem.
The Greek foreign minister reiterated the support of Greece to Cyprus. "Athens, as always, supports the efforts of the Republic of Cyprus, President Demetris Christofias and the Cyprus political leadership", she said.
On Ankara's role in the Cyprus peace effort, she had this to say: "Ankara has a very important role to play, to encourage actively the Turkish Cypriot leadership to move in the right direction, that of moderation and constructive attitude."
"Turkey cannot use domestic political concerns as an alibi for maintaining its long standing positions of suspicion and intransigence. No internal issue must be presented as an alibi for the absence of a substantive effort towards Cyprus settlement," she said.
Replying to questions about the right of guarantee in Cyprus, she said: "A European united Cyprus has no need for old-fashioned guarantees and rights of intervention."
Turkey, whose troops continue to occupy Cyprus' northern part, is one of three guarantor powers of Cyprus' independence. The other two are Greece and Turkey.
Regarding Turkey's EU course, she said that Turkey has the opportunity to join the EU, provided it fulfils all the criteria and the prerequisites set out by the Union.
In his remarks, Kyprianou noted the pivotal timing of Bakoyannis's visit, the first since the election of the present government to power, and said they had a "very constructive discussion."
"Greece affords Cyprus continuous political support, in practice, in particular on the question of Cyprus. We had the chance to discuss this national issue and other European matters we deal with," he said.
Nicosia and Athens, he said, agreed on further cooperation and coordination on various issues, especially within the EU context.
Later on, Bakoyannis met the leaders of Cyprus' parliamentary political parties.
 Bakoyannis meets ChristofiasNICOSIA (ANA-MPA - N. Melissova)
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was received by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias on Thursday, the first day of her visit to Cyprus. During a meeting later joined by delegations from the two sides they discussed the progress made by working committees for the Cyprus issue and the prospects for solving the Cyprus problem, as well as the domestic situation in Turkey.
Bakoyannis had earlier held talks with her Cypriot counterpart Markos Kyprianou, both one-on-one and with the participation of delegations from the two countries. According to foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, they mainly discussed issues related to Europe.
In statements shortly after her arrival at Larnaca airport on Thursday morning, Bakoyannis underlined that this was another "moment of crucial importance" for the Cyprus issue and praised the effort begun by President Christofias as "brave and difficult".
She said that Greece would assist in ensuring that this effort was based on sound foundations and preceded by the required preparation so that there were the greatest possible guarantees for its success.
"Success cannot be anything less than a final solution," she added, noting that such a solution would "tear down the last wall in Europe".
She also stressed that it "must end the illegal occupation of Cyprus and put an end to the flagrant violation of international law and the results of invasion and occupation".
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 presented with the Gold Key of the city and attend celebrations on the occasion of the twinning of the municipalities of Paphos and Hania, Crete.
This is Bakoyannis' first working visit to Cyprus since Christofias was elected to the Presidency.
 FM Bakoyannis addresses Glafkos Clerides Eurodemocracy InstituteNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis addressed the "Glafkos Clerides" Eurodemocracy Institute here on Thursday, in the presence of the former Cyprus president, referring to prospects being created by the Lisbon Treaty for the European Union countries and for Cyprus and Greece in particular.
Referring to the security and prosperity framework being promoted by the Lisbon Treaty, she said that "it is appearing at the most suitable time in relation to the new efforts for a solution to the issue of Cyprus."
She reiterated Greece's support for President Demetris Christofias and for all the political forces in Cyprus and stressed that "what is necessary today is, without pressures and tight timetables, the strengthening of the momentum of talks to pave the way for the preparation of a solution, based on the resolutions of the Security Council and the European principles and values, that will be acceptable."
Bakoyannis said that "it is our vision that European Union accession will become the catalyst for the finding of a solution which will allow all the people of Cyprus to enjoy the benefits of accession."
 Barroso congratulates Greece on ratification of reform treatyBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday congratulated Athens for ratification of the Lisbon EU Reform Treaty.
The Greek Parliament concluded discussion late Wednesday evening on ratification of the 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.
"I would like to congratulate Greece for the successful ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by parliament. I would like to thank the Greek government and the Greek House for their unwavering support to the EU and the Reform Treaty. 18 parliaments of EU member-states have until now ratified the Lisbon Treaty," Barroso said in a written statement.
European Peoples' Party (EPP) President Joseph Daul also congratulated the Greek Parliament for the treaty's ratification, terming the decision "historic".
The Treaty is yet another step towards the creation of an institutionally more effective Union which becomes bigger and bigger," Daul noted in a written statement.
"(ruling) New Democracy (ND) party and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis have actively contributed to this positive result," Daul added.
 UN envoy Matthew Nimetz holds talks with Greek, FYROM representativesNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz and the representatives of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in negotiations on the issue of the neighboring country's name, Ambassadors Adamantios Vassilakis and Nikola Dimitrov respectively, held talks at the UN headquarters for over two hours on Thursday.
Speaking after the meeting, Nimetz said that "a review took place" of the issue and that he will be visiting the region soon, but not next week but later on.
"Both sides expressed their will to proceed with the examination of aspects for a solution to the issue," he added.
The envoy also mentioned that he has not submitted any new proposal, but there are "various ideas", however, that are being discussed "with the purpose of achieving a mutually acceptable solution."
Asked whether any progress has been achieved, he said that "the gap has narrowed, but it has not been bridged."
On the question of the situation prevailing in FYROM, he stressed that "there is a new government and it has clarified what the leadership of the country will be, there is a president and it is known who the prime minister will be," adding that "the leadership of the country has agreed that this issue must be resolved and I cannot see why there should not be a continuation of the process."
Replying to another question, he pointed out that "both sides are showing good faith and following the developments of the past months (Greek veto against FYROM's NATO entry, elections in FYROM), they have introduced new factors," adding that "both sides are focusing more on the goal which is the finding of a solution."
They are aware, as he said, of "what is feasible and what is not."
Also replying to a question on whether a timetable exists and, more specifically, by July 9 when the NATO accession protocol of Albania and Croatia will be signed and if there are pressures by the State Department for a solution by then, he said that "there are no timetables, this can be positive or negative" and that "the State Department ardently desires a solution to be achieved," but he himself does not have the feeling that pressures are being exerted.
On the part of FYROM, apart from Dimitrov, also present at the UN headquarters was Martin Protoger.
 NJ Senator Menendez urges Rice to 'exercise influence' for a FYROM name solution acceptable to GreeceWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) sent a letter to secretary of state Condoleezza Rice calling on her to exercise her influence so that a solution to the FYROM name issue that is also acceptable to Greece may be found as soon as possible.
Menendez, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, warned in his letter that so long as a name solution remains outstanding, problems could prospectively arise with the ratification of bilateral or multilateral agreements and treaties.
He further noted that the members of NATO, including the US, at their summit meeting in Bucharest in April, agreed on a Joint Declaration which, in Paragraph 20, stipulates:
"ΤέλοςφόρμαςΑρχήφόρμαςWithin the framework of the UN, many actors have worked hard to resolve the name issue, but the Alliance has noted with regret that these talks have not produced a successful outcome. Therefore we agreed that an invitation to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be extended as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached. We encourage the negotiations to be resumed without delay and expect them to be concluded as soon as possible."
Given the above, the letter continues, "I urge you to continue to assist the efforts for resolution of the name issue between the two countries".
Menendez warned that the lack of a solution to this issue hurts relations with the US, particularly as regards the bilateral and multilateral agreements and treaties that will be forthcoming before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
 Greek KFOR convoy crosses the borders with FYROMThe first Greek military convoy on its way to Kosovo to replace KFOR personnel crossed the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) at 10am (local time) on Thursday in accordance with NATO procedures regulating the movement of the alliance's troops, the Greek National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) announced.
On June 3, FYROM custom authorities had barred a Greek KFOR military contingent from entering the country on its way to Kosovo.
The Greek military convoy of 50 vehicles and 140 soldiers, a replacement force for another Greek peacekeeping unit stationed in Kosovo, was ordered at the time to return to its base in Polykastro, Kilkis prefecture, after being prevented from entering FYROM territory on the grounds that the Greek officers and NCOs did not possess passports.
 DM Meimarakis attends NATO DMs spring conferenceThe spring conference of NATO defence ministers began in Brussels on Thursday with the participation of National Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis.
Issues discussed on the first day were the course of NATO operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan. On the question of NATO's presence in Kosovo (KFOR) and the security situation in the wider Balkan region, the Greek defense minister once again stressed in his address Greece's position, according to which NATO's involvement in it must be maintained at the present high level of operational readiness.
As regards the presence of KFOR in the region, Meimarakis pointed out that it guarantees security and stability in the region, the population's freedom of movement and the protection of historic and religious monuments.
Also focusing on the course of NATO's operations in Afghanistan, the defense minister stressed during the Council of member-states and non-member-states of the Atlantic Alliance which contribute to the ISAF force, the need for the continuation of coordinated efforts to enable the authorities in Afghanistan to be helped in consolidating a stable, safe and democratic country, which will be rid of destabilization threats.
Meimarakis met on the sidelines of the conference with Armenia's new Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan, at the request of the Armenian side, with whom he discussed issues of bilateral interest.
 Greek FM to meet U.S. Secretary of State on June 24Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Berlin on June 24.
According to Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos, the meeting, which will be held on the sidelines of the Palestine Donors International Conference, will take place at the U.S. initiative.
 Former premier Simitis kicked off PASOK's Parliamentary blocIn a shock development on Thursday, the head of main opposition PASOK George Papandreou informed his predecessor and twice elected prime minister of Greece Costas Simitis, that he should no longer consider himself a member of the party's Parliamentary bloc.
The main opposition leader announced his decision to PASOK's former president - and the man that successfully ushered Greece into the euro-zone - in a letter sent in reply to the letter he received from Simitis the previous day.
In this, the former premier had openly and publicly disagreed with the party line in favor of holding a national referendum to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, saying that such a policy would be "adventurous" and potentially damaging for Greece.
Papandreou clarified that he did not intend to initiate formal procedures for expelling Simitis from the party's group of MPs, such informing the Parliament President, out of respect for the former premier's history, his contribution and their joint course in the governments of 1996-2004. He stressed, however, that he would no longer consider Simitis a part of the party's force in Parliament.
The letter adds that Simitis' views are "always examined with great interest" and Papandreou stressed his great respect for Simitis' work at the helm of the country and the constructive cooperation between them.
At the same time, he offered the opinion that the former premier has decided to act outside the framework of PASOK decisions and operate autonomously and independently. As Papandreou noted in the letter, this was something he could understand but not accept.
Referring to the issue raised by Simitis about whether Greece should hold a national referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - which was ratified by 250 MPs in the 300-seat Greek Parliament on Wednesday night - Papandreou said that he had already answered before the former premier had even written his letter, given that decisions on this had been taken at PASOK's conference and the party's Political Council that were clear and enhanced democracy in the country.
According to PASOK's leader, he interpreted Simitis' decision to make his letter public as an active refusal to fall in line with the rest of the Parliamentary Group, which he said was an "unjustifiable political act".
Papandreou also noted that Simitis' move engendered doubts and questions about PASOK's political will and direction, creating confusion and disorientation at a time when Greeks under New Democracy's government were already being sorely tested by high prices, lawlessness, impunity, corruption and the collapse of any sense of the rule of law.
He also underlined that these questions and doubts were being created at a time when people were turning toward PASOK, which was today a new hope and determined to win and carry out policies that would restore justice, equality, solidarity and humanity."
 Simitis answer to PASOK leader PapandreouFormer prime minister and deputy Costas Simitis, replying in a letter on Thursday to main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou, who earlier in the day placed him outside the party's parliamentary bloc, stressed that he maintains "the right to express his views and act according to his conscience and judge what is good for the country."
"I do not intend to deny the freedoms and to express my opinion and be able to point out to my party when things go well and when not," Simitis said.
Simitis further noted to Papandreou that PASOK under the latter's leadership lost all the electoral confrontations after 2004, "while the percentage and his appeal to the voters have been reduced drastically."
 Education minister gives press conference on sector reformsThe reform in the education sector was not only being implemented, but it was continuing with success, education minister Evripides Stylianidis said Thursday, speaking at a press conference on higher education and the course of the new law on universities.
Stylianidis said that he had been at the receiving end of many political and personal insults, but had not responded, nor would he reply to "political argumentation" of "such ethos and attitude"..
"I am not relinquishing my self-evident rights, as a citizen to freely express my views, and as a politician to staunchly and consistently support the platform positions of my party, which also happen to be the positions of the political and social majority," he said.
Stylianidis also said that despite the reactions by "extremist political groups" to the voting for the election of administrative authorities at the universities, "the academic community and the students safeguarded, and in the end imposed, democracy in the universities", while the outside evaluation of the higher education institutions would begin in the autumn.
Further, a draft law would be tabled in parliament in the next few days that will codify, supplement, modernize and adapt post-graduate studies in Greece to the new European status quo, he said.
Ministry secretary general Dimitris Platis announced that the ministry would be ready by the end of the month to announce the grades of the university candidates from the nationwide examinations, while in the last week of August the base passing grades per each university School would be announced.
Further, the dialogue for the new system of nationwide university entrance exams was expected to begin later this year, although its implementation would be in the next four-year term of government.
 Education Minister Stylianidis on reformEducation Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, addressing a press conference on Thursday, made an account of the course of university reform. The minister thanked the university authorities, the student movement, the creative forces of the public university, as he said, who faced violent behavior with courage.
He also praised the contribution of the political parties and the political forces who "with their stance condemned the violence, isolated extreme attitudes and defended the application of the law and the reforms of the (Prime Minister Costas) Karamanlis government in the sector of education."
The minister also referred in detail to personal attacks being launched against him and concluded that "we, the government of Costas Karamanlis in its entirety, are responding to provocations with specific and measurable results that prove in a resounding manner that not only is the reform being implemented but it is also continuing successfully."
 KKE's Papariga on Euro-electionsThe European Parliament elections scheduled for next year will have a highly political character because the people's vote will pass judgment on the government policies and the European Union, Greek Communist Party (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said on Thursday.
In a press conference held on the occasion of the party youth movement's 34th KKE-KNE Festival to take place on September 18-21 in Ilisia, Athens, Papariga wondered whetherworkers will accept the 65-hour work-week as an "inevitable development" adding that Euro-elections will mark the start of more worker movement struggles.
 Gov't on quake assistanceA 3,000-euro relief benefit allocated by state coffers has already been received by the first 312 eligible earthquake victims, while other five have received a 5,000-euro financial assistance after submitting necessary documents proving ownership of residences damaged by Sunday's powerful tremor in SW Greece.
Referring to the issue, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros also stated that building inspections in the earthquake-stricken region are proceeding with a quick pace by approximately 300 civil engineers, stressing that roughly 5,000 ongoing construction sites have already been checked.
 Interior Minister meets with Achaia and Ilia prefectsInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday met with the prefects of Achaia and Ilia in the western Peloponnese, as well as with the mayors of these two prefectures which were affected by last Sunday's 6.5 points on the Richter scale earthquake.
After the meeting, the Interior Minister, directing himself to the officials, explained the procedure which was followed so as to satisfy their demands. He assured them that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis "is close to them" and that he himself, along with the Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, are preparing a Special Developmental Program for the region.
"Mr. Alogoskoufis with whom I spoke with before meeting you, assured me, and I convey to you, that by the end of September and through dialogue with you in July, the Special Developmental Reconstruction Program will be ready for the two regions, which will be incorporated within the framework of the National Strategic Reference Framework with all the infrastructure which is needed," Pavlopoulos said.
 Ecumenical Patriarch receives SAE boardIn a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on Thursday, the president of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad Stefanos Tamvakis pledged the SAE's unfailing support for the work done by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Bartholomew, stressing that "its continuation concerns us all".
The SAE's board was received by the Ecumenical Patriarch at Fanar on Thursday, in what Tamvakis described as a historic meeting with all members of the board after 12 years.
The Patriarch welcomed the SAE board and asked them to convey his regards to all the Greeks that they represent. He also referred to the relations of harmony and cooperation that the Orthodox Church wishes to cultivate with the expatriates' organization, stressing that it was the Church that supported expatriate Greeks before the SAE was founded.
To this end, he requested that the coordinators of the seven regions of the SAE maintain closer ties with the Church for the benefit of all Greeks.
After its arrival on Wednesday night, the members of the SAE board had a first meeting with representatives of the Greek community in Istanbul where they exchanged views and ideas about the future of Greeks around the world.
 Justice ministry bill on child protection from sexual exploitation and abuseThe Justice ministry issued an announcement on Thursday stressing that the prevention and combating of the sexual exploitation and abuse of children with specific preventive measures and policies, the protection of the rights of children that are victims and providing help for them, as well as the promotion of national and international cooperation against the sexual exploitation and abuse of children and of child pornography are the main goals of the bill presented on Wednesday by Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis and was ratified by the Inner Cabinet unanimously.
The purpose of the bill is to achieve "the more effective handling of this pathological phenomenon, following the dramatic dimension that it has taken on in recent years," the announcement added.
 Four more measures announced to crack down on high pricesThe development ministry is planning the modernization of the legislative framework on the operation of super markets as part of measures it is promoting to crack down on high prices.
The four new measures announced on Thursday, out of the development ministry's total of 41, include one on the creation of a law processing committee, with members who are officials from jointly responsible ministries and super market representatives, that will be preparing a relevant proposal.
The aim is to create an integrated law that will be regulating the way with which super markets will operate so that "phenomena will not be observed that affect the market negatively and which are due either to the non-existence of arrangements or to arrangements that do not meet modern conditions," according to an announcement by the ministry.
The other three measures concern the reconsideration of all licenses provided for merchants in Central Markets, the guiding of services of the Trade General Secretariat and of the managements of Central Market Organizations to ascertain observance of legislation and the intensification of the systematic checking of sale invoices.
It is noted that 27 out of the 41 measures have already been implemented and four more were announced on Thursday.
 Greek unemployment fell to 9.0 pct in MarchGreek unemployment fell to 9.0 percent of the workforce in March 2008, from 9.5 percent and 9.2 percent in the corresponding months in 2007 and 2007, respectively, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service said unemployment hit more women (12.7 pct) than men (6.3 pct), with the unemployment rate in the age group 15-24 totaling 27.1 percent, while in the 25-34 age group totaled 11.9 percent.
South Aegean (20.8 pct), Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (11.8 pct) and Epirus (10.2 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates, while North Aegean (5.4 pct) and Attica (7.2 pct) recorded the lowest rates in March.
The number of employed people in the country totaled 4,494,724 in March 2008, while the number of unemployed was 442,558 and the number of financially non-active population totaled 4,287,843.
 Gov't on lower incomes, pension benefitsThe government has increased the EKAS low pension benefit received by those eligible, adopted tax relieves for lower income groups and envisions that the Social Cohesion Fund will be in operation soon, within the framework of efforts made to support lower incomes and pensions," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Thursday in response to a press question concerning exclusion of 70,000 pensioners from the low pension benefit.
Referring to the roughly 450,000 children who live below the staggered EU poverty threshold, he said the government has implemented a package of measures aimed at the relief of those in greater need.
 FinMin, KEDKE head discuss municipal financesEconomy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis discussed municipal finances issues with Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) President and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis during a meeting on Thursday.
They focused on the increase of municipal revenues from car circulation fees and the funding of MUNICIPALITY SA in accordance with the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).
 Piraeus Mayor calls off planned protests after meeting FinminPiraeus Mayor Panagiotis Fassoulas on Thursday announced that he was calling off planned protest action that would have impeded access to the country's largest port on Friday - the start of a summer season bank holiday weekend when thousands are expected to visit the Greek islands - after a meeting with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis.
During the meeting at the finance ministry, they discussed the indebted municipality's perilous financial position and agreed to suspend the municipality's debt repayments of the Deposits and Loans Funds for a period of 12 months. They also decided to table new legislation within July for a final settlements of the problems of over-indebted municipal authorities.
 FinMin, transport minster conferEconomy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Transport and Communications Minister Kostis Hatzidakis conferred on Thursday on issues relating to the state of public utilities and the use of the country's airports.
No statements were made after the meeting.
 Piraeus Port Authority declares Cosco Pacific as provisional tender winnerThe Piraeus Port Authority's board on Thursday declared Cosco Pacific Ltd as provisional tender winner in a tender to lease the management of the port's two main cargo terminals for a period of 35 years.
Cosco Pacific has made the highest bid in the tender. Under the terms of the tender, the Chinese company will have to submit additional paperwork before beginning a round of negotiations with the Piraeus Port Authority over the contract.
In a related development, Merchant Marine Minister George Voulgarakis on Thursday reiterated the government's will to upgrade the country's major ports and the coastal shipping sector in order to attract more shipping capital and transform the port of Piraeus into an international shipping center.
Speaking to reporters, the minister said a series of measures and projects have been announced to upgrade the country's major ports and noted that the ministry's main concern was the ensure the smooth operation of coastal shipping transport throughout the year, but particularly in the summer season.
Voulgarakis said the ministry was in constant talk with representatives of the industry seeking to convince costal shipping companies to contain fare increases this year, although he acknowledged that a surge in international oil prices was heavily burdening the sector.
Commenting on the decision in favor of Cosco, Voulgarakis said the Chinese company will pay out 4.3 billion euros for 35 years, of which 3.4 billion euros were guaranteed proceeds for the Piraeus Port Authority, comprised of 50 million euros as a down payment; 591 million euros in rent and 2.7 billion euros guaranteed exchange on revenue.
 Gov't on borrowers' rights; sunflower oil furorThe Greek Food Authority (EFET), the country's independent food safety watchdog, has announced that only confiscated sunflower oil that has tested negative to dangerous substances will be released, according to alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday.
He also denied reports that the use of previously confiscated sunflower oil, which was suspected of being tainted with mineral oil, will be left to the food industry's discretion.
In an unrelated development, in reference to the protection of bank borrowers, Antonaros said the prime minister announced a package of measures a month ago in Parliament, adding that a relevant draft law incorporating an EU directive on consumer loans and borrowing will be ready soon.
Furthermore, loan terms ruled as illegal by state courts will be abolished by a ministerial decree to be signed in the next few days by the deputy development minister.
 PPC: Power rates up by more than 5% as of Jan. 1Electricity bills will be raised by more than 5.0 percent from Jan. 1, 2009, as a result of the introduction of a "fuel clause" on Public Power Corp.'s rates, PPC chairman and chief executive T. Athanasopoulos told an annual general shareholders' meeting on Thursday, while he warned that the country's power utility "was already in a defensive position, with its profitability in danger this year".
PPC has already announced it will raise its electricity bills by a weighed average 7.0 pct from July 1, 2008. Athanasopoulos told shareholders that if oil prices remained around 130 US dollars per barrel by the end of 2008 and the euro/US dollar parity at 1.55, the introduction of an international fuel prices management mechanism will lead to an increase in PPC's revenues by more than 5.0 percent in the first quarter of 2009.
"Dealing with challenges becomes more difficult because PPC is forced to operate in a framework of a semi-deregulated electricity market. For decades, electricity energy was offered a low prices and in many occasions below cost. This policy resulted in a non-attractive market for new investors in energy production. Today, the market remains non-attractive also for electricity supply to end consumers," Athanasopoulos stressed.
He added that electricity bills were 86 pct higher than in Greece.
 Import price index in industrial sector jumped 8.4 pct in AprilGreece's import price index in the industrial sector jumped 8.4 pct in April, compared with the same month last year, after rises of 0.8 pct and 7.4 pct in the same months in 2007 and 2006, respectively, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said the import price index was up 1.7 pct in April from March 2008 and attributed the 8.4 pct increase to a 2.3 pct rise in import prices from Eurozone member-states and a 17.2 pct jump in import prices from other countries.
The energy price index (30.2 pct) and consumer goods price index (3.9 pct) were the main factors behind the composite indexe's jump in April.
 Mytilineos buys 2 windpark operators for 27 million eurosMytilineos Group on Thursday announced the acquisition of Dong Energy AS's portfolio in Greece, which includes Aeoliki Energy SA and Karystia Windpower Parks Ltd, for 27 million euros. The two companies operate four windpower parks with a total power of 18.6 MW. In 2007, they reported a consolidated turnover of 4.1 million euros and pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) of 3.0 million euros. The four windpower parks will become part of Endesa Hellas' energy portfolio.
 Korres Natural Product buys German cosmetics distributorKorres SA Natural Products, a Greek-listed cosmetics company, on Thursday announced the completion of a purchase of a 50 percent equity stake in District Two Cosmetics Distribution GmbH, a German distribution company, for 750,000 euros.
District Two, based in Munich, was founded in 2003 and has a clientele of 380 retain customers. The German company reported sales of 1.6 million euros last year, with Korres' products accounting for more than 70 pct of total sales.
 Greek stocks remain under pressureGreek stocks remained under pressure for the fourth consecutive session this week in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index fell 0.98 percent to end at 3,839.44 points with turnover at 320.3 million euros, of which 34.1 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Financial Services (2.67 pct), Utilities (1.73 pct0 and Telecommunications (1.67 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Constructions (1.39 pct), Chemicals (1.08 pct) and Technology (0.23 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index fell 1.22 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.52 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.24 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 136 to 89 with another 61 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.17%
Personal & Household: -0.09%
Raw Materials: +0.12%
Travel & Leisure: -0.99%
Food & Beverages: +0.13%
Financial Services: -2.67%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Piraeus Bank and EFG Eurobank Ergasias.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 20.44
Public Power Corp (PPC): 24.00
HBC Coca Cola: 26.90
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.10
National Bank of Greece: 32.22
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 16.52
Piraeus Bank: 19.00
Titan Cement Company: 27.36
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising further to 182.079 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.39 pct and the June contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 1.30 percent.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 13,933 contracts worth 142.181 million euros, with 35,466 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 111 contracts worth 2.562 million euros with 252 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 25,440 contracts worth 32.243, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (5,155), followed by Eurobank (916), Hellenic Telecoms (4,433), Piraeus Bank (963), National Bank (1,233), Alpha Bank (911), Intracom (4,434), Hellenic Postbank (1,282) and MIG (2,064).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 1.217 billion euros on Thursday, of which 746 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 471 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 460 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was unchanged at 0.65 pct with the Greek bond yielding 5.24 percent and the German Bund 4.59 percent.
In money market, interest rates moved further higher. The 12-month Euribor rate rose to 5.42 pct from 5.41 pct on Wednesday, the six-month rate was 5.12 pct, the three-month rate 4.96 pct and the one-month rate 4.47 pct.
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.554
Pound sterling 0.797
Danish kroner 7.517
Swedish kroner 9.455
Japanese yen 167.41
Swiss franc 1.624
Norwegian kroner 8.101
Canadian dollar 1.593
Australian dollar 1.662
 Nafplion classical music festival next weekThe 17th Nafplion classical music festival, held each year in this scenic coastal town on the eastern shores of the Peloponnese, is set to begin next Thursday on June 19. This year's festival is dedicated to Austria and its musicians and is again expected to attract thousands of visitors from surrounding regions and the rest of Greece.
Naplion Mayor Panagiotis Anagnostaras said the 2008 festival was organized by artistic director Yiannis Vakarelis in collaboration with the concert society Phorminx and the valuable assistance of the Austrian Embassy in Greece.
Vakarellis said that the festival's programme for this year includes works by Mozart, J. Strauss, Schubert, Haydn, Alban Berg, all of whom hailed from Austria, many of which will be performed by Austrian musical ensembles like the Vienna Mozart Children's Choir, the Penta wind quintet of Salzburg, the Artis String Quartet, the soprano Marlis Petersen and other internationally acclaimed artists.
Tickets for the performances can be bought in advance over the Internet at the address www.ticketquest.gr and can also be obtained at the venues where the performances are held up to one hour before the performance begins.
 Earthquake jolts Crete, no damage reportedA moderate earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale jolted the island of Crete in the early morning hours of Thursday, but no damage was reported.
According to the Athens National Observatory's Geodynamic Institute and the Thessaloniki University's Geophysics Laboratory, the earthquake was recorded at 3:20 a.m., at a distance of 385 kilometers southeast of Athens, with its epicenter in the area of Ancient Zakros, on the eastern tip of the island, and at an estimated epicentral depth of 25 kilometers.
The quake was felt throughout all of eastern Crete.
The town of Zakros is situated near the eastern coast site containing ruins from the Minoan civilization. The site is often known to archaeologists as Zakros or Kato Zakros. It is believed to have been one of the four main administrative centers of the Minoans, and its protected harbour and strategic location made it an important commercial hub for trade to the east. The ancient town was dominated by the Palace of Zakros, originally built around 1900 BC, rebuilt around 1600 BC, and destroyed by a major earthquake around 1450 BC along with the other major centers of Minoan civilization, effectively marking the end of the Minoan era. ΤέλοςφόρμαςΑρχήφόρμαςIt was the last of the major palaces to be discovered and is smaller than the other three at Knossos, Malia and Phaistos.
 Patras hospital temporarily evacuated following quakeThe evacuation of the Agios Andreas Hospital in the western port city of Patras is a precautionary measure due to damages caused to the building by last Sunday's powerful 6.5 on the Richter scale earthquake, which jolted SW Greece.
According to a health ministry announcement, the hospital evacuation is temporary for necessary repair work to get underway.
A total of 17 ambulances and three mobile units have undertaken to transfer roughly 80 patients to a former military hospital in Patras, currently housing the hospital's clinics, as well as to other hospital in nearby cities.
 President receives UNESCO general director, Consumer Federation reprsPresident Karolos Papoulias received UNESCO general director Koichiro Matsuura at the Presidential Mansion on Thursday.
President Papoulias was also visited by the Administrative Committee of the Panhellenic Federation of Consumer Unions "Paremvasi" (Intervention).
The meeting was held at the President's initiative, who said to the Committee members "thank you for responding to my invitation. I wish to congratulate you for the struggle you are carrying out, it is very moving, it has a moral base because we are all aware that many of our fellow countrymen are suffering as a result of high prices, which is due to the unaccountability of the market and to profiteering by certain businessmen."
President Papoulias also said that "we must all protect consumers, control apparatuses must be reinforced and we must be very strict with those who think that they can gain at the expense of the overwhelming majority of our fellow countrymen."
 President Karolos Papoulias attends Fire Brigade Academy officers graduation ceremonyPresident Karolos Papoulias attended the graduation ceremony for 33 new Fire Brigade Academy officers on Thursday, together with Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
Speaking during the event, Pavlopoulos said that "the Fire Brigade is being enriched continuously with staff and it is preparing itself to tackle the great challenges that are coming, mainly from climatic changes. We must, primarily towards the coming generations, protect the environment. And for this reason the Fire Brigade will be here."
Fire Brigade Academy commander Sp. Mouratidis said in his order of the day that the new officers have received good training which they must continue to enrich, because only in this way will they be able to handle the new dangers that are being created, both from climatic changes and from technological development.
 Bloody robbery in freight forwarding companyTwo unidentified gunmen robbed a freight forwarding company in Athens' Votanikos district Thursday morning and in the process they opened fire, for reasons as yet unknown, wounding a female employee in the abdomen.
The victim was rushed to hospital while a manhunt is underway for the arrest of the assailants, who got away with an undetermined amount of cash.
 Former fund president remanded over structured bonds scamThe former president of the hotel workers pension fund TAXY was remanded in custody on Thursday, by order of the appeals justices' council, over a suspected scam involving the purchase of structured bonds by the pension fund he was in charge of.
He stands of accused of breach of faith to a criminal degree in connection with a scandal that erupted last year following revelations that a number of Greek pension funds had bought structured bonds at inflated prices, well above market value, as well as paying out exorbitant commission.
The accused faces had testified before the appeals examining magistrate investigating the case about a month ago. The charge against him concerns the purchase of bonds in 2005-2006 through which the pension fund incurred estimated losses of 12 million euros, according to the magistrate.
After his testimony, the examining magistrate and public prosecutor in charge of the case had disagreed over whether he should be remanded in custody, with the former being in favor of his release and the latter favoring his detainment, a view finally adopted on Thursday by the appeals justices' council.
 Bear seriously injured by car while trying to save cubA mother bear was seriously injured by an oncoming vehicle on the Egnatia highway while attempting to save her young cub, the animal conservation groups Callisto and Arktouros said on Thursday.
The driver of the car was slightly injured in the accident but the adult bear sustained serious injuries to the head and left flank.
According to environmental groups, the bear had climbed over damaged fencing put up to prevent wild animals from entering the high-speed road and was in the Grevena-bound lanes when the accident occurred.
Egnatia Odos SA staff informed the two conservation organizations to collect the animals. On arriving, they found that the female bear had been hit repeatedly by the same car in her attempt to turn back and collect her cub, which had lagged behind. They concluded that the bear, instead of trying to avoid the car, had continued heading in the direction of the cub and had been hit again as the vehicle swerved in an attempt to avoid her.
The direction in which the young cub was heading indicated that it had been trying to reach a field of fresh wheat on the other side of the road in order to feed.
The injured bear was drugged by a veterinarian on the Callisto team and taken to the Arktouros Veterinary Station for the Treatment of Wild Animals at Aetos in Florina.
According to an announcement, however, her survival is considered very uncertain, as is that of the young cub that has been effectively orphaned.
The groups stressed that incidents like this highlight the lack of sufficient precautions along major closed highways, including Egnatia, "so that they are not converted into lethal artificial barriers for wildlife and dangerous routes for unsuspecting drivers".
Both groups said that they had repeatedly warned the management of Egnatia Odos that the barriers put up along that section of the road were unsuitable as long as three years ago, both in writing and verbally, but their warnings had been ignored.
They added that this was the fourth accident involving wildlife along the specific section of Egnatia Odos in the last 10 months.
 Two young brothers who went missing found deadTwo brothers, aged six and eight, who went missing from Orestiada, northern Greece, a few days ago, were found dead at 6:10 p.m. on Thursday in an under construction building in Orestiada.
Last week the parents and another man were arrested and charged with selling, while a woman is being sought.
At the scene where the two children were found are the public prosecutor and police officers who are investigating the case, while the coroner's results in the cause of the death are being awaited.
 Bicycle lane project in AthensThe government on Thursday announced that two bicycle lanes with a total length of 21.4 km will be ready in two years in congested Athens, following the decades-old example of other European cities for cleaner environment.
A 13 km-long bicycle lane, with an estimated budget of two million euros, will link a park adjacent to the justice ministry, while a 1.2-million-euro, 8.4 km-long bicycle lane will link the Panathiakos Stadium with the Faliro Delta in southern coastal Athens.
Transport and Communications Minister Costis Hatzidakis announced, in the presence of Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, that 15 million euros from EU funds will be available for the financing of proposed bicycle lane projects.
 Partly cloudy on FridayPartly cloudy weather with westerly, southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 5-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 13C and 34C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with southwesterly 4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 17C to 33C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 18C to 28C.
 Draft resolution on UNFICYPUNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The UN Security Council has called on the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities to begin expeditiously fully-fledged negotiations towards a political settlement.
The Council, in a draft resolution on the renewal of the mandate of the UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), welcomes the analysis of developments on the ground over the last six months in the Secretary-General's report.
It "urges the parties to build on the present momentum and continue their efforts to identify to the greatest possible extent areas of convergence and disagreement, while preparing options where feasible on the more sensitive elements, and to work to ensure that fully-fledged negotiations can begin expeditiously and smoothly, in line with the agreement of 21 March and the Joint Statement of 23 May," which the two community leaders have concluded.
The Council reaffirms all its relevant resolutions on Cyprus, in particular resolution 1251 (1999) of 29 June 1999 and subsequent resolutions.
"It expresses its full support for UNFICYP and decides to extend its mandate for a further period ending 15 December 2008," the draft text says.
Furthermore, it calls on both sides "to continue to engage, as a matter of urgency and while respecting UNFICYP's mandate, in consultations with UNFICYP on the demarcation of the buffer zone, and on the United Nations 1989 aide-memoire, with a view to reaching early agreement on outstanding issues."
The Council calls on the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkish forces to restore in Strovilia, on the east of the country, the military status quo, which existed there prior to 30 June 2000. Turkish occupation troops have violated the military status quo in this area and refuse to comply with repeated calls to return the situation to what it was before June 2000.
The draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to submit a report on implementation of this resolution by 1 December 2008 and to keep the Security Council updated on events as necessary.
The Council also welcomes the agreement of 21 March and the Joint Statement of 23 May 2008 which, inter alia, "have demonstrated a renewed political willingness to support and engage fully and in good faith with the UN's efforts, reaffirmed the commitment of the leaders to a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, as set out in the relevant Security Council resolutions, and to consider further civilian and military confidence building measures."
It also welcomes "the opening of the Ledra Street crossing which has helped foster greater trust and interaction between the two communities; reaffirming the importance of continued crossings of the Green Line by Cypriots, and encouraging the opening of other crossing points and the intention of the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Adviser at the appropriate time and to keep the Council informed of further developments and progress."
The Council welcomes the efforts being undertaken by UNFICYP to implement the Secretary-General's zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to ensure full compliance of its personnel with the United Nations code of conduct, requests the Secretary-General to continue to take all necessary action in this regard and to keep the Security Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take appropriate preventive action including the conduct of pre-deployment awareness training, and to take disciplinary action and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel.
"It decides to remain seized of the matter," it concludes.
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