|Thursday, 22 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-06-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 20 June 2008 Issue No: 2923
 PM Karamanlis in Brussels for EU summitBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/S. Goutzanis)
Prime minister Costas Karamanlis described as "particularly sensitive" the concjuncture in Europe, replying to press questions on Thursday as he entered a summit of the European People's Party (EPP) grouping of the European Parliament, ahead of the EU summit scheduled later in the evening.
The European Union, he said, must manifest, in action, that it can effectively meet the challenges facing it.
First of all, there is the problem of the high cost of living that was affecting all of Europe, and particularly the lower income brackets, Karamanlis said.
He recalled his recent letter to European Commission president Manuel Jose Barroso in which he pointed out the need for discussion of this problem at the EU summit, aimed at "finding a common denominator of action".
Second, Karamanlis continued, was the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty, which he said myst continue for the good of Europe and its citizens.
The EU summit opened at 5:00 p.m., and was to be followed by the traditional working dinner of the EU heads of state and government.
On Friday morning, Karamanlis is scheduled to meet with Belgian prime minister Yves Leterme, before heading for the second session of the Summit.
The Greek prime minister will make statements to the press afterwards, before returning to Greece.
 Cross-border cooperation programme between Greece, ItalyBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
The European Commission has ratified the cross-border cooperation operational programme between Greece and Italy for the period between 2007-2013, according to an announcement issued on Thursday.
The programme includes European Union support being provided in the framework of the European Regional Development Fund for certain Greek and Italian regions that are located along their common borders.
The Greek prefectures affected by the programme are Etoloakarnania and Achaia (region of western Greece), Corfu, Lefkada, Kefallinia and Zakynthos (region of the Ionian islands) and Ioannina, Preveza and Thesprotia (region of Ipiros).
According to the Commission, the operational programme's budget amounts to 118 million euros, 89 million euros of which constitute EU funding, through the European Regional Development Fund.
The programme's aim is the linking of markets and communities, improving the quality of life and safeguarding and managing the environment.
 Papandreou makes statement on corruptionMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou reiterated on Thursday that he "will not tolerate any practice and any person who has abused the trust of the Greek people and of the party's voters".
Making his statement, Papandreou spoke many times in the first person, showing that he takes the decisions and that he is their guarantor, stressing that he will tolerate no such phenomenon.
The PASOK leader went on to say that he is "proving this on a daily basis" and pointed out that he "will not cease to struggle for a policy having no guardian that will take the country out of the state of being held hostage by economic and political interests that wish to trap the will of the people, sidestep it and subdue the dignity and the morale of the Greek citizen."
Papandreou said that in these efforts he replies that everything must come to light, adding that PASOK has nothing at all to fear.
He also addressed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the government, accusing it of "being afraid and of not daring to bring to light all the issues, such as the Siemens scandal, the phonetappings, the bonds, the cartels, the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), etc."
Papandreou also accused the government of "showing unacceptable unwillingness and weakness" and of "not having the slightest intention of proceeding with the clarification of issues concerning the embezzlement of public funds."
He further demanded the immediate acceptance of his proposal for the creation of a Factfinding Committee for the Siemens case, as well as the acceptance of his proposals on combatting corruption.
Papandreou stressed that this was an issue of democracy and appealing, as he said, to every Greek citizen he stressed that "I need you in this struggle and for a new beginning," adding that "we shall win this struggle together."
 Government spokesman replies to PapandreouGovernment spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, replying to a statement, regarding corruption, by main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Thursday evening, said that PASOK is "in an unprecedented deadlock".
"At a time when the unimpeded functioning of Justice is bearing fruit (regarding the Siemens affair), Mr. Papandreou is aiming at disseminating responsibilities with his statement. He is making the waters murky due to the unprecedented party deadlock in which he has found himself due to the stunning revelations concerning members of PASOK," Roussopoulos said.
 PASOK warns that members implicated in Siemens affair will be suspendedMain opposition PASOK will suspend any members of the party who have "serious implication" in the Siemens affair, PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou announced on Thursday.
"Contrary to the tactic of cover-up followed by New Democracy, PASOK will suspend party membership for all those who have serioux implication in the Siemens case," he said.
Papaconstantinou clarified that the suspension does not pre-judge the outcome of the ongoing judicial investigation process.
He said that among the proposals put forward by party leader George Papandreou on combatting corruption, in addition to the package of specific measures proposed, also included a public invitation to the prime minister and a call for a meeting of the political party leaders with the President of the Republic.
Papaconstantinou further recalled that PASOK and Papandreou have repeatedly called for the establishment of a parliamentary fact-finding commission on the Siemens affair.
 Tsoukatos denies connection to SiemensA veteran official in main opposition PASOK, Theodoros Tsoukatos, on Thursday issued a written statement in which he denied rumours of his involvement in suspicious transactions with the German company Siemens, currently the focus of an international bribery scandal that has also spread to Greece. While admitting that he had mediated in a transaction between Siemens and the PASOK party, Tsoukatos claimed that everything had been above board.
According to the former party official, he had received a visit from Siemens executive Michalis Christoforakos, who conveyed Siemens' offer to make a financial donation of one million German marks to PASOK's campaign and had asked Tsoukatos to supply details of a bank account abroad where the funds might be transferred. Tsoukatos claimed that he had asked for the assistance of an acquaintance in this, who had undertaken to assist the PASOK party without personal gain.
In his statement, Tsoukatos asserted that the sum, the equivalent of 420,000 euros, was then deposited in the party's fund in its entirety without any further involvement on his part.
He further stressed that he had never managed funds on PASOK's behalf and underlined that he would take legal action against anyone implicating him or implying that he had gained in some way through this affair.
Tsoukatos' version of events was challenged later on Thursday, however, by the party's former personnel director and a past member of its Finances Committee Spyros Avgerinos, who denied that Tsoukatos had intervened so that the one million marks might be received by those responsible for PASOK's finances.
"It is impossible that such a sum should have been received by PASOK all at once, especially if it came from a company, a cheque or a bank account," he stressed.
Avgerinos clarified that all PASOK transactions were carried out using coupons, which were equivalent to cash, and he ruled out all possibility that money could have been paid into the party's funds without his knowledge.
The Tsoukatos announcement and the reply by Avgerinos came in the wake of statements by the party's spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Thursday, who said that PASOK will suspend any members of the party who was "seriously implicated" in the Siemens affair.
"Contrary to the cover-up tactics followed by New Democracy, PASOK will suspend party membership for all those seriously implicated in the Siemens case," he said.
Papaconstantinou clarified that such a suspension would not pre-judge the outcome of the ongoing judicial investigation into the affair.
In a related development, former prime minister and PASOK leader Costas Simitis expressed on Thursday evening his "sorrow" over developments.
In a written statement, the former premier "expresses sorrow in case the claims that are being projected are proved to be real."
 Alavanos, Tsipras on Siemens affairRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos and Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Alexis Tsipras commented on Thursday on the ongoing Siemens affair, stressing the need for an in-depth and speedy probe.
"The probe must be carried out with speed and in depth and in all directions," Alavanos said, adding that "in the framework of this probe, we believe that the issue of the C4I case must also be examined and specifically the contract signed after the renegotiating must be provided immediately by the government, because there is very serious and important evidence. From then on, what is necessary immediately is a Factfinding Committee in Parliament, as we have already proposed."
Tsipras said on his part that "the daily revelations on this great scandal show that the forces of the past, which governed the country for many years, have given the country's management to the big private interests, in exchange for plenty of black political money."
 Syn leader at Euro Left Party meetingCoalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party leader Alexis Tsipras departs for Paris on Friday to participate in a meeting of the European Left Party.
The meeting will focus on results of the European Union Summit, which concludes on Friday in Brussels, the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's immigration policies as well as preparing next year's European Parliament elections. The Paris meeting of the council of presidents of the European Left Party will end on Saturday.
 SYRIZA leader meets with ArchbishopCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos met on Thursday with Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, in their first meeting since the latter was elected to the helm of the Church of Greece.
Both described the meeting afterwards as "useful", while Ieronymos said that they discussed matters concerning quality of life and the needs of the people, which he said was the Church's mission.
Alavanos said that a discussion could be entered into with the Church, even on matters on which the two sides had different approaches, such as Church-State relations, and proposed that an inter-party parliamentary be set up for this purpose, as well as a committee representing the Churcy, so as to proceed to "sensible and speedy solutions" on a variety of issues, such as cremation, for example.
SYRIZA parliamentary spokesman Fotis Kouvelis, who also attended the discussion, told reporters that he had reiterated SYRIZA's position on the distinct roles of the Church and State, which he said served the prestige of both the State and the Church.
 Papoulias: refugees a global problemRefugees were a problem whose repercussions did not stop at the borders of the developed and the developing world but touched the entire global community, President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias stressed on Thursday in a message for World Refugee Day on June 20.
"World Refugee Day gives us an opportunity to remember our own refugees, to take an interest in these people - the millions of refugees and displaced persons around the world - who show exceptional courage and fortitude. To consider our responsibilities and obligations. To dream with them of a better and more dignified life".
Perhaps no other word distillated the essence of human tragedy as much as the world refugee, the president noted.
"By definition, the refugee lives a life without identity. The central point in the story told by every refugee is always the same: 'To be born in one place. To grow old in another. To feel a like a stranger in both'.
During the past year, millions of people were forced to abandon their homes and their countries due to a whole range of disasters, ranging from civil conflict and war to natural disasters, Papoulias said.
 Exclusive interview: Frmer Parliament President Apostolos KaklamanisAbsolute certainty that the recent crisis within the main opposition PASOK party will not affect its unity was expressed by former Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA.
Kaklamanis stated that no strategic difference of opinion existed or exists between PASOK President George Papandreou and former party leader and Prime Minister Costas Simitis, commenting on the recent rift between them.
He stressed that he was working for PASOK's victory in the next elections to bring Papandreou to the prime minister's office, pointing out that this is the only way to lift Greece out of the crisis.
Kaklamanis rejected talk that Papandreou is being undermined, stressing that there are certain publishing and financial sector forces that do not like the fact that he is the party's elected president, adding that Euro-elections will be the first vociferous sign of a major political change that will be completed with the national elections.
He expressed the view that opinion polls reflect mainly the people's disapproval of the government, which he said would have already collapsed if it hadn't ensured an unprecedented immunity on the part of the media.
The former parliament president lashed out at the government and the prime minister, characterizing their term in office as a failure, and harmful for Greece and democracy, while he also blamed the government because parliament "is not operating today as dictated by its Rules of Procedure and the Constitution".
 Greek army chief visits Patriarch BartholomewISTANBUL (ANA-MPA - A. Kourkoulas)
The head of the Greek Army General Staff Lieutenant General Demetris Voulgaris, currently on an official visit to Turkey, on Thursday paid a visit to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul.
Addressing the Patriarch, Voulgaris said it had been a "particular honour and a blessing" to meet Bartholomew and praised both the Patriarch's work for the Church and his "significant initiatives on issues concerning the protection of the environment, demonstrating his interest in humanity regardless of religion".
Replying to the Greek army chief, Patriarch Bartholomew underlined that "every step taken toward peace and stability between [Greece and Turkey] was important," while adding that the continued exchange of views was particularly constructive.
He also noted that the confidence-building measures between the two countries were something that both countries needed.
Voulgaris' visit has been extensively covered by the Turkish media, which have stressed its symbolic significance.
 FinMin addresses Venture Capital Forum in AthensA total of 150 business meetings are expected to be held during the 9th International Venture Capital Forum, hosted in Athens by the "Invest in Greece" organisation, the New Economy Fund (TANEO) and the Praxis Network.
Addressing the forum, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis noted that the venture capital institution is successful worldwide, and he stressed that the Greek government was encouraging and supporting this institution as a significant tool in boosting entrepreneurship, promoting innovation and implementing new ideas.
Supporting business activity and investments has been top priority for the government from the beginning and significant steps have been made towards this goal, such as strengthening competition in the banking system, creating an efficient and transparent capital market, creating an updated framework for venture capital business and adopting a more effective absorption of EU funds.
D. Pazaitis, chief executive of Invest in Greece, in his address said "today's innovation is tomorrow's business".
 Greek unemployment fell to 8.3 pct in Q1Greek unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent in the first quarter of 2008, compared with a 9.1 pct rate in the corresponding period in 2007, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday, noting that the unemployment rate in the January-March period was the lost quarterly rate since 1998.
Unemployment among women (12.3 pct) was more than double compared with that among men (5.5 pct), with younger people (aged 15-29) suffering more with an unemployment rate of 17.3 pct.
The statistics service said 86.7 pct of unemployed people were seeking for full time jobs, while the percentage of new unemployed totaled 33.4 pct of total unemployment.
 Bill regulating certified accounting tabled in ParliamentA draft bill harmonising Greek legislation regarding the profession of certified or sworn accountants with the equivalent directives of European Union was tabled in Parliament on Thursday.
The bill chiefly deals with the accounting profession, particularly the conditions for acquiring and keeping a licence to practice the profession of a legal accountant and a business accountant.
 Agreement on double taxation avoidance signed by Greece, Saudi ArabiaFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis and Saudi Arabian Finance Minister Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf signed an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation between Greece and Saudi Arabia, during their meeting in Athens on Thursday.
The meeting, attended by Deputy Minister Antonis Bezas, focused on developments in the oil market and possibilities of further developing bilateral economic relations. These possibilities, according to the ministry, are being boosted with the agreement on the avoidance of double taxation for income and capital.
A further impetus will be provided for bilateral relations through the Promotion and Mutual Protection of Investments Agreement which is expected to be signed in Saudi Arabia soon.
Alogoskoufis told his counterpart that the Greek government places great importance on the extroversion of the Greek economy and referred to the reforms that have taken place in past years to enable the environment for investments in Greece to become more attractive.
The agreement defines the way with which incomes obtained by inhabitants of Greece (both private persons and legal entities) from their activities in Saudi Arabia and vice versa will be taxed.
 Interior minister addresses ADEDY prefectural eventInterior minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos stressed that "civil servants are permanent (tenured) employees, and they will remain so", addressing an event hosted on Wednesday night at the Tripolis Cultural Center by the Arcadia prefectural division of the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), marking the 15th anniversary of the division's establishment.
Speaking on the topic of labor relations in the public sector, Pavlopoulos first of all thanked ADEDY, noting that many of the reforms that have been made to date were with the civil service umbrella organisation's contribution, and chiefly the Civil Service Code, as well as the program agreement signed on the training of civil servants, a result of which was Wednesday's event dedicated to labor relations in the public sector.
Pavlopoulos said that the tenure of civil servants was not at risk, rejecting as "disinformation" rumors that civil service tenure would be abolished.
"The issue is to enhance tenure and give the civil servant the ability to be judged on merit and to provide that which is his duty to provide, and the be continuously trained, taking advantage of the modern technologies both for his own benefit but chiefly to the benefit of his mission," Pavlopoulos said.
 EOT secretary general on official visit to AzerbaijanGreek Tourist Organisation (EOT) Secretary General Iraklis Valvis is on an official visit to Azerbaijan as of Wednesday, on the occasion of the intensification of Greece's presence in new developing tourist markets and the celebration of "Greek Week."
According to an EOT announcement, Valvis held a series of meetings in Baku with institutional officials of the country, businessmen, tourist agencies and foreign journalists, sending the message that "Greece is a hospitable, safe and accessible destination both for Azeri visitors and for potentially interested investors."
Azerbaidjan is a speedily developing country that is tending to take on the characteristics of an economic power with an average growth rate in the region of 20-25 percent and with a large number of Azeris who are interested in Greece, its culture and in the supply of quality services in the framework of the luxury tourist product.
 MIG calls on Group companies to withdraw from SEBMarfin Investment Group (MIG) on Thursday announced its decision to recommend to all the companies in the Group that are members of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) to immediately withdraw from the employers' federation.
No reason for the decision was immediately released.
 Agricultural exhibition in PellaPella Prefecture in northern Greece will host the 21st Agricultural and Small Industry Exhibition to take place in Kria Vrisi on August 27-31.
The exhibition features local farm products and farm equipment as well as cultural events and debates on agricultural issues and local development.
 Former minister organises seminar on shippingA seminar on modern Greek shipping, EU shipping policy and the coverage of naval emergencies by the media was organised by the Progressive Policy Research Centre set up by former minister Yiannos Papantoniou. The seminar was held at the Evgenidio Founation on Wednesday.
The speakers included politicians, academics and people employed in the shipping sector and they analysed a wide range of related issues, including short-haul ferry traffic and how this might be developed in both theoretical and practical terms.
Papantoniou spoke about the international distribution of economic activity, that along with the emerging economies of the Far East, had put Greek shipping into a more favourable position with demand causing a sharp rise in shipping fares.
 Govt revokes price freeze on olive oilThe Greek government on Thursday revoked a decision to freeze the price of olive oil which has been imposed in the days of a crisis with contaminated sunflower oil from Ukraine, a few weeks ago.
Development Deputy Minister George Vlahos said the price freeze will be lifted from Friday 20, June.
 Labour unions hold rally against high pricesThe General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), the PASEGES farmers union, the Athens-Piraeus supraprefecture, the municipality of Piraeus and consumer organisations held a rally in Syntagma Square in Athens on Thursday evening to protest high prices and profiteering and to demand a crackdown on such phenomena.
 PAME labour group holds rally against high pricesThe Communist Party of Greece-affiliated labour group PAME held a rally against high prices at Omonia Square in downtown Athens on Thursday evening, that was followed by a march to the Finance and Economy ministry.
The rally was also attended by the Communist Party's (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga.
"The struggle against high prices that must be intensified will not produce results unless it is combined with the struggle to have all that is being said about healthy and unhealthy competition come to the surface. We must know that the enemy is not only dealing a blow at popular interests, he also knows very well how to deceive," Papariga said in a statement.
 Industrial new orders index up 17.1 pct in AprilThe new orders index in the industrial sector jumped 17.1 percent in April, compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service attributed the jump in the new orders index to a 21 pct rise in intermediate goods, an 11.7 pct increase in non-durable consumer goods, a 9.9 pct rise in capital goods and a 4.3 pct increase in durable consumer goods in April.
 Unions oppose ATE Insurance SA saleThe General Confederation of Workers in Greece (GSEE) expressed on Thursday announced its opposition to plans for the privatisation of ATE Insurance SA (a subsidiary of the ATEbank group), saying it supports employees' effort to block the development.
A statement issued by the union characterises the proposed sale and management and management transfer as a "provocation" by the government. It points out that ATE Insurance is a profit-making company and warns that a change in its ownership status will bring adverse changes in labor relations.
 Greek car fleet needs renewalThe Greek car and truck fleet urgently needs renewal, Transport and Communications Minister Costis Hatzidakis told a general assembly of the Association of Car Importers and Dealers on Thursday. The same message was also delivered by Ivan Hodac, secretary-general of the Association of European Car Manufacturers and other officials attending the assembly.
The Greek minister underlined the need to improving the quality of cars circulating in large urban centers, and noted tha only 1.5 pct of vehicles are withdrawn from circulation in Greece each year, compared with a 21 pct rate in Sweden. Hatzidakis said that a measure of withdrawal of older vehicles was not just a matter for the Transport ministry, but for other ministries as well.
Dimitris Giotakos, a consultant of Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, presented a new draft directive unveiled by the European Commission which envisaged a ceiling on new cars' emissions from 2012.
Greece owns one of the oldest car fleets in Europe, Andreas Andrikopoulos, president of the Association of Car Importers and Dealers told the assembly, and urged for the need to drastically change a current legislation.
Ivan Hodac said Greek authorities should re-examine their position on allowing diesel engine cars to circulate in major cities.
 Transport minister on car withdrawals, Olympic AirlinesTransport and Communications Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said on Thursday that no specific timetable exists on the issue of car withdrawals, adding that international experience necessitates a gradual procedure, starting from very old cars.
Referring to the issue of Olympic Airlines as well, and to reports of the company being decreased in size, Hatzidakis stressed that Olympic's administration is making an effort to confront, in a very difficult international conjuncture, the crisis in which the company has been in for many years. In parallel, the government is trying to provide an overall solution for the company's future by the end of 2008, through negotiations with the European Commission.
 Stock Exchange president concerned over financial crisisAthens Stock Exchange President Spyros Kapralos, speaking on Thursday in the wake of his election to the European Stock Exchanges Union (FESE) presidency, expressed concern over the extent and duration of the current international financial crisis.
Kapralos was speaking during the 12 session of the European Stock Exchanges Union that was held in Sweden.
"The extent, the dimension and the duration of the crisis are elements causing concern. We are facing a series of problems that have a common origin and that have appeared at the same time, creating a crisis which is affecting all of us," he said.
"I am convinced that the structure, the operating rules of certain markets and the products that are negotiated in them were the epicentre of the crisis and enlarged its repercussions," he added.
 Greek stocks fall to new lowsGreek stocks ended lower for the ninth consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market 0.34 percent down to end at 3,649.82 points. Turnover was a low 293.6 million euros.
Most sectors moved lower with the Technology (2.45 pct), Constructions (2.35 pct) and Industrials (1.37 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Food/Beverage (2.90 pct), Utilities (1.54 pct) and Oil (0.72 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index eased 0.68 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.44 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index dropped 1.37 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 149 to 70 with another 59 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.72%
Personal & Household: -1.10%
Raw Materials: -2.29%
Travel & Leisure: -0.14%
Food & Beverages: +2.90%
Financial Services: +0.10%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, HBC Coca Cola and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 19.40
Public Power Corp (PPC): 20.84
HBC Coca Cola: 19.86
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.10
National Bank of Greece: 30.28
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 16.32
Piraeus Bank: 18.66
Titan Cement Company: 26.50
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contracts were traded around their fair prices in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 290.869 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.28 pct and the June contract on the FTSE 40 index at a premium of 0.09 percent.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 23,395 contracts worth 227.358 million euros, with 36,171 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 95 contracts worth 2.186 millione uros with 155 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 64, 567 contracts worth 57.888 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (25,745), followed by OTE (7,283), National Bank (3,454), Alpha Bank (1,771), Intracom (4,460), Mytlineos (2,100), Hellenic Postbank (2,992) and MIG (2,626).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 1.362 billion euros on Thursday, of which 680 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 682 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 435 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.69 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 5.30 pct and the German Bund 4.61 pct.
In money markets, interest rates moved higher. The 12-month Euribor rate was 5.43 pct, the six-month rate 5.12 pct, the three-month rate 4.96 pct and the one-month rate 4.49 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.560
Pound sterling 0.792
Danish kroner 7.518
Swedish kroner 9.478
Japanese yen 168.28
Swiss franc 1.632
Norwegian kroner 8.100
Canadian dollar 1.583
Australian dollar 1.647
 Public administration watchdog unveils 2007 annual report"The bureaucratic attitude of public administration employees, petty interests and most of all society's lukewarm response to measures against corruption, despite the ambitious declarations, make the effort for a good public administration long and difficult demanding political will," according to General Inspector for Public Administration, Leandros Rakintzis who unveiled the watchdog group's 2007 annual report on Thursday.
He pointed out that the costs stemming from a "dysfunctional state" due red tape is huge, estimated at 6.8 percent of the GDP based on EU records.
He reiterated that special measures need to be implemented to combat the corruption phenomenon such as the imposition of tougher control mechanisms, evaluation of control mechanisms, exchange of anti-corruption know-how and heightened public awareness to ensure the public's cooperation.
According to figures included in the 2007 report, inspectors examined a total of 3,537 cases, 575 of which were landed in court and disciplinary bodies, while punitive action was taken in a total of 188 instances.
Most of the complaints examined by the General Inspector concerned public agencies (26.6 percent), prefectures (18.2 percent) and municipalities-communities (17.9 percent).
 Nafplion Classical Music Festival opens Thursday nightThe 17th annual Nafplion Classical Music Festival opens on Thursday night, with a concert staged at the Palamidi Castle by the Nafplion K. Nonis Municipal Conservatory with works by Verdi, Mozart, Chopin and Puccini.
The Festival, the recipient of the Association of Critics of Greece prize, is dedicated this year to Austria and its artists.
It is the only classical music festival in the Peloponnese, and attracts thousands of classical music enthusiasts every year.
Each year, the Festival honors a different counry with performances held at exquisite historical sites.
The Festival in the scenic coastal town of Nafplion, on the eastern shores of the Peloponnese, is organised by artistic director is Yiannis Vakarelis in collaboration with the Phorminx concert society and the assistance of the Austrian Embassy in Greece.
This year's Festival program 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, including 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.
The Festival will run through June 29.
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.
 Greek-American university students briefed on developments in GreeceA group of 12 Greek-Americans studying in major American universities were briefed on current developments in Greece and the government priorities by Minister of State and government spokesman Thodoros Rousopoulos and Informa-tion General Secretary Panos Livadas.
The visiting students from Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Brown, NYU, Pennsylvania, Dartmouth and Florida universities are the guests of the General Secretariat of Information - General Secretariat of Communication until June 22 in cooperation with the United States' not-for-profit "The Next Generation" Initiative. Prominent Greek-Americans, among them, Paul Sarbanes, George Stephanopoulos and others, are members of the initiative's board of directors.
The students, who are also scheduled to meet with Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas, state and government officials, and representatives of the business and academic communities, expressed special interest in developments in the sectors of education, economy, energy, new technologies, immigration, the future of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the high cost of living and the European prospects following the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.
 Crime ring involving police and customs officers uncoveredThe Greek police Internal Affairs department on Thursday said it had uncovered a car-thieving operation that included several officers of the border police, regular police and one customs official. The gang, which included several Greeks and Albanians, operated by moving stolen cars across the Greek-Albanian border into Greece.
After an investigation lasting several months, the IA department and the Ioannina police headquarters pressed charges against nine Albanian nationals, three officers of the border police, one junior police officer and one retired police officer of junior rank, five Greeks, a senior officer of the Greek Police now in retirement and a female customs official.
The charges against them include that of forming an organised criminal outfit with long-term action that had habitually moved stolen vehicles across the Greek-Albanian border in Ioannina prefecture, as well as transporting illegal immigrants from Albania for fees ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 euros per person.
Based on the evidence uncovered during the investigation, the criminal gang appears to have operated in Ioannina for decades, to have had international connections and to have worked in a methodical and organised fashion, using stolen private cars with larger engine capacity that were equipped with fake rental documents from Athens rental services to transport illegal immigrants into Greece. Alternatively, they brought in used cars, again with large engine capacity, bought for very low prices in Italy and Germany. They mainly preferred cars that had been withdrawn from circulation due to their age so that the question of ownership did not arise.
In order to avoid the cars being traced or spotted, they frequently changed the licence plates and replaced them with stolen licence plates taken from vehicles in the area or licence plates that had been bought. They also employed accomplices as look-outs to warn them of police checkpoints along the road.
The border police and local police involved in the gang each received between 300 and 800 euros from each illegal immigrant transported into Greece.
According to the charges against them, the gang was involved in at least 10 cases of immigrant smuggling during 2007, during which they used 15 cars that have been confiscated. They were also involved in the theft and trade of luxury cars stolen in Greece and other European countries, which were then sold in Albania.
Authorities have also confiscated bank deposits amounting to 650,000 euros that were found in the bank accounts of the accused, as well as confiscating large sums in cash and cheques, bank books, cell phones, cars and other evidence connected with the case.
An examining magistrate has so far issued warrants for the arrest of five people, of which three have already been executed with the arrest of a border police officer and two of his cousins. Two Albanian nationals are also being sought.
The border police officer was already on suspension for another disciplinary offence and now faces permanent expulsion from the force.
 Zachopoulos released from Athens hospital, reports sayFormer culture ministry general secretary Christos Zacho-poulos, the target of an alleged blackmail scheme that rocked the country's political landscape over the past months, was released from an Athens hospital on Thursday after a six-month stay, Greek public television reported on Thursday.
The one-time top culture ministry cadre was seriously injured on December 20 after falling from his fourth-floor apartment in Athens' Kolonaki district in an apparent suicide attempt. He was hospitalised in at Athens' Evangelismos Hospital for the past six months The Thessaloniki-area archaeologist, scholar and educator, with a distinguished academic body of work, had resigned from his post as culture ministry general secretary two days before the incident, citing health reasons.
According to reports, Zachopoulos was being transferred by ambulance to Thessaloniki, to continue his treatment.
 November 17 members appeal Court rulingAppeals were lodged at the Supreme Court on Thursday by Savvas, Christodoulos and Vassilis Xiros, Alexandros Yiotopoulos, Costas Telios, Vassilis Tzortzatos and Iraklis Kostaris against the ruling of the Five-member Athens Appeals Court that sentenced them to life imprisonment and prolonged prison terms for participation in the November 17 terrorist group.
They claim in their appeals, among other things, that the European Human Rights Pact and the Constitution have been violated and that the Appeals Court's condemnatory ruling lacks a special and detailed reason, as is required by the Constitution.
Savvas Xiros is also invoking health reasons.
 Indonesian group at dance festivalThe 5th International Balkan Festival of Traditional Dance, organised by the Cultural Organisation of Stavros "Alexander the Great", with take place at the open-air odeon of Stavros, near Thessaloniki, from 18 June to 22 June.
According to a press release issued by the embassy of Indonesia in Athens, the Indonesian cultural group 'Ryandana' will participate in the festival. The group's performances promote the huge variety of Indonesian culture throughout the world. Groups from 12 other countries, together with several Greek groups, will take part to the event.
 Photo exhibition on Afghanistan at Syntagma stationA photographic exhibition, entitled "Rebuilding Afghanistan: An International Partnership", will be inaugurated on Monday at the Syntagma metro station in downtown Athens.
The exhibition, organised by the embassies of Australia and Canada as well as with the Greek foreign ministry's Hellenic Aid agency, will continue until Monday, June 30. An avante premiere of the film "Qadir's Odyssey" will come at the venue on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Syntagma station is the Athens metro system's main hub, lying across from Parliament.
 Foreign national arrested on ova traffickingA 41-year-old Romanian national was arrested late Wednesday night on the island of Crete, charged with trafficking and sale of female ova, taken from two Romanian women he and a female accomplice had kept in captivity.
The accomplice, a Romanian woman, was wanted by police.
According to the case file, the Romanian man and wanted woman held the two women, aded 20 and 27, locked up in an apartment in Chania.
The 27-year-old woman was forcefully given injections in the abdomen with a pharmaceutical product to induce the production of more ova, which the man would later sell for 600 to 2000 euros per ovum.
Police are investigating the possible involvement of more accomplices, while an examination has also been ordered determine whether the 20-year-old woman was also subjected to the same procedure.
An Athens obstetrician/gynaecologist told ANA/MPA that removal of the ova was a very delicate and specialised procedure, and could be done only through paracentesis.
 Hot on FridayHot weather is forecast on Friday, although temperatures will be decreasing gradually. Wind velocity between 4-5 beaufort. Temperatures in Athens ranging from 19C to 34C, and in Thessaloniki from 17C to 31C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceRallies in Athens and Brussels against the high cost of living and skyrocketing inflation, the internal crisis in main opposition PASOK party, and the ratification of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE)-Deutche Telekom contract by parliament dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Radical changes in transfers for 57,000 municipal employees'".
APOGEVMATINI: "The dispute over main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou augments - PASOK's members that object former prime minister Costas Simitis expulsion multiply".
AVGHI: "Brussels and Athens in the grip of demonstrations - Outrage over goverments' idleness against profiteers and cartels".
AVRIANI: "2 -3 minister have taken money under the table from Siemens - The prosecutor traced a DM3.3 million bank account belonging to a high-ranking member of (the former) Simitis government".
CHORA: "High cost of living at EU summit in Brussels - European leaders in the vise of thousands of demonstrators".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "The OTE-Deutsche Telekom 'marriage' ratified on Wednesday in parliament".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "PASOK accusations against (Economy and Finance Minister George) Alogoskoufis just before the proposal for a preliminary investigation into the Deutsche Telekom-OTE agreement".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Euro-uprising over high cost of living - The 27 leaders of Europe discuss 'patches' ".
ESTIA: "Third pole wanted - Political dead-end on the horizon".
ETHNOS: "Profiteering with...outrageous surcharges - Farmers and consumers pay for the lack of price inspections ".
KATHIMERINI: "PASOK member implicated in Siemens case - He never held a governmental position - He is said to have received 1 million deutschemarks".
LOGOS: "Taking to the strees over the soaring prices - Citizens' protest in Athens".
NIKI: "Mrs. Alogoskoufis (wife of the economy and finance minister) a (business) partner of the Germans - Huge scandal charged by PASOK in parliament".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Demonstrations and rallies in 45 cities of Greece on Thursday against high cost of living".
TA NEA: "Hidden tax on first home - Finance Ministry gaffe lights fires".
TO VIMA: "On to Brussels, with tractors - Europewide mobilisation over high cost of living".
VRADYNI: "Everything changing for municipal workers - (Interior minister Prokopis) Pavlopoulos' circular introduces considerable innovations".
Christofias: 'Reunification under federal roof is my vision'
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias outlined here Thursday his vision for the future of Cyprus, which translates into the reunification of the island under a federal roof on the basis of European principles and international law.
He also said that Turkey, whose troops continue to occupy Cyprus' northern areas, holds the key to reunification and suggested that Ankara could make a good will gesture by withdrawing up to half of its troops from Cyprus (it maintains about 40,000 men).
Christofias stressed that the solution must be found by the Cypriots for the Cypriots and said once Cyprus is reunited, it can become a paradise and an important spring-board for the European Union, which it joined in May 2004.
Speaking Thursday at the ''breakfast policy briefing'' of the European Policy Centre in Brussels, he said, ''I am optimist that the future for Cyprus will be bright and peaceful''.
''My vision for the future of Cyprus is a vision for the reunification of the island and for a federal bi-zonal bi-communal Republic of Cyprus, and I consider my vision to be the vision of all the Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots who love their homeland,'' President Christofias noted.
The president recalled that the late President of Cyprus Archbishop Makarios III took a fundamental step towards reconciliation and a historic and a courageous decision to accept the transformation of the unitary state to a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal state, in order to give the opportunity to the Turkish Cypriots to feel more secure and more confident.
Christofias also stressed that Raulf Denktash, the former leader of the Turkish Cypriot community signed with Makarios the 1977 High Level Agreement, which provided that ''the unitary state would be transformed into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal state''. However, Christofias added, ''Denktash changed his position and was referring to two peoples and two states in Cyprus''.
''Evidence of this unconstructive attitude can be found in recent statements of the Turkish National Security Council and the Turkish Cypriot leadership, which continue to refer to the existence of 'two states, two peoples and two republics' in Cyprus," Christofias stressed, and noted that he has reached a series of agreements with Mehmet Ali Talat when he was the leader of the Republican Turkish Party.
''There are many documents on which the Republican Turkish Party and AKEL (the party Christofias leads) have defined many principles for the solution of the Cyprus problem. And these principles are the same with the ones that are included in many UN documents and resolutions'' he added.
President Christofias said that he is ready to sit down with Mehmet Ali Talat and ''to frankly exchange opinions on the basis we have agreed in the past''.
''The Republic of Cyprus should be transformed to a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal state, with one and single sovereignty, one international personality, and one and single citizenship," he said, referring to the basis of a Cyprus solution.
The president advocated the demilitarisation of the United Republic of Cyprus, something which he said has already been agreed with the Turkish Cypriot leader.
Christofias categorically rejected any notion of two states in Cyprus, an idea promoted by Turkey which refers to what it calls ''virgin birth'' and a ''new partnership state''.
Replying to questions, Christofias clarified that the joint statement he and Talat issued after their meeting in late May refers to a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, with political equality, as defined by UN resolutions.
"In order to help my friend Mehmet Ali Talat, we mentioned the final result of the federation (the two constituent states). The Turkish Cypriots consider that as the starting point, meaning that there are already two states that will decide for the common fate'', President Christofias explained.
Now, he added, the Turkish Cypriot leadership is citing changes and new realities to promote the idea of two states in Cyprus.
The president said that indeed there are new realities on the island and the most significant reality is that the Republic of Cyprus is the legal and recongised state, it is a member of the EU, it belongs to all Cypriots, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and this state will have to evolve to a federal state.
Cyprus, he stressed, does not need guarantees of the two motherlands (Greece and Turkey), nor does it need protection and guarantees.
Christofias announced that he would be meeting Talat again by late June and again in July. He talked about confidence building measures, saying these should include demanning in the old city of Nicosia, the divided capital of Cyprus and opening a new crossing point on the northwest of the island to facilitate movement to and from the occupied areas.
Top UN envoy in Cyprus optimist about solution prospects
The top UN envoy in Cyprus appeared optimistic on Thursday that a political settlement is within reach, saying that recent developments lead to optimism.
UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Taye Brook Zerihoun said today that developments in Cyprus during the past two months engender much optimism and spoke of ''a widely-shared view that a solution may be within reach.''
Addressing an UNFICYP medal parade, Zerihoun noted that ''we have seen marked progress in the peace process in the past few months, a development that has engendered much optimism and goodwill in Cyprus and around the world.''
He echoed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's reference in his latest report on UNFICYP that ''a window of opportunity for Cypriots to finally resolve the Cyprus problem is clearly open: the two leaders have taken decisive steps towards their shared objective of resuming negotiations aimed at a comprehensive settlement.''
''We are particularly encouraged by their agreement on March 21 to launch a process that was consolidated by their joint statement of May 23, in which, together, they expressed a common vision for the end game to the peace process, and a future united Cyprus,'' the UN Chief of Mission added, recalling that on Wednesday Lynn Pascoe, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, while in Cyprus, reiterated the organisation's commitment to assist the parties in their search for a just and durable solution.
''After witnessing the determination of the leaders to move forward, and the progress achieved by the Working Groups and Technical Committees paving the way for direct fully-fledged negotiations, there is a widely-shared view that a solution may be within reach,'' said Zerihoun.
He pointed out however that ''a comprehensive settlement is not a foregone conclusion. Much hard work remains to be done and compromises will have to be made.''
''Compromises are indeed always the basis on which durable agreements are constructed," he said, adding that ''there will be problems along the way - some of them serious'' and that is ''precisely why there is a peace process.''
According to Zerihoun, in the face of a long-entrenched conflict, in which stalemate has come to look like normality, it may be sometimes difficult to envisage an alternative, to resist the temptation of taking the path of least resistance and return to a familiar but falsely comfortable immobility.
''To counter this, it is crucial to keep in sight the ultimate objective: that of bringing about a future of durable peace and prosperity for all the people of Cyprus. And that is why the leadership, courage and vision that the leaders have demonstrated at the present juncture are so crucial,'' Zerihoun said.
Concluding the UN official said that ''we at the United Nations will continue to be at their side, to accompany the peace process closely, as they build on the present momentum and push the process to a successful conclusion.''
After the April 21 meeting, the first encounter between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, six working groups dealing with substantive issues of the Cyprus problem and seven technical committees on day-to-day issues have been set up and continue to work on a daily basis to prepare the ground for fully-fledged negotiations.
The two leaders decided on their second meeting on May 23 to meet again by the end of this month to assess the work of the working groups and technical committees and determine whether to start fully-fledged negotiations. President Christofias announced today in Brussels that he will be meeting Talat in June and July.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
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