|Thursday, 15 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-06-27
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 27 June 2008 Issue No: 2929
 PM meets Bosnian premier, sends message to SkopjeGreek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday sent a strong and clear message to Skopje in statements after his meeting with Bosnia-Herzegovina's Prime Minister Nikola Spiric in Athens.
"We hope that the new government will abandon the provocative rhetoric of the pre-electoral period, so that we can together arrive at a solution," Karamanlis stressed. He also emphasised that political will was more important for finding a solution than time.
The prime minister noted that the latest European Council meeting expressly referred to the need to find a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the name issue, as part of good neighbour relations, and had included this among the criteria for FYROM's European perspective.
Karamanlis underlined Greece's consistent support for the European prospects of all the countries in the western Balkans but only on condition that they met the established terms and criteria for EU entry, among which respect for good neighbour relations was paramount.
In comments on bilateral relations between Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina, meanwhile, the Greek premier said that his meeting with Spiric in Sarajevo a year earlier, when he had attended the inauguration of the Greek-Bosnian friendship building refurbished with the use of funds from the Greek Plan for the Reconstruction of the Balkans, had been a "landmark" in relations between the two countries.
He mentioned other projects in Bosnia currently being constructed with funds from Greece and bilateral agreements that had been signed or were in the process of being ratified by the two sides, such as one for bilateral defence cooperation and two very important economic agreements, one for economic and technological cooperation and one for avoiding double taxation.
The Bosnian premier praised what he called the leadership role played by Greece in the western Balkans and asked for this role to be further developed for the good of the region. He pointed out that Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis had asked the European Union to intensify the pace of rapprochement with the western Balkans.
He also thanked Greece for the 19.5 million euros that it spent on the Greek-Bosnian friendship building and the 3.5 million euros being spent on construction of a Sarajevo hospital.
Regarding the dispute with FYROM over the name issue, Spiric essentially supported Greece's position and said that Sarajevo "believes in a compromise solution".
Event in honour of Bosnia-Herzegovina PM Spiric
Bosnia-Herzegovina Prime Minister Nikola Spiric was welcomed by Petros Molyviatis, at an event jointly held on Thursday in his honour by the Constantine Karamanlis Foundation and the Constantine Karamanlis Democracy Institute.
Molyviatis underlined the special honour that Spiric reserved for Greece in it being the first country that he was visiting following the signing of the European Union-Bosnia-Herzegovina Association and Stability Agreement.
On his part, Spiric recalled the role played by Constantine Karamanlis in the Europeanisation of the Balkans and then referred to the ordeal of the "unfortunate war", that his country experienced between 1992-1995, and which came to an end with the Dayton agreement and pointed out that since then Bosnia-Herzegovina has started three big reformist processes: the reconstruction of the country, the building of confidence between the parties formerly involved in the conflict and a transition to Euroatlantic structures.
Spiric also said that in 2007 his country presented a steady increase in GDP and record foreign investments and observed that "we are pursuing the European concept becoming the possession of all citizens, because there is no alternative solution."
Lastly, the prime minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina said that his country's aim is to become a NATO member and expressed his gratitude to Greece for supporting its Euroatlantic course.
 Bakoyannis reports 'useful discussion' with NimetzIn statements after her meeting in Athens with UN mediator Matthew Nimetz regarding the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said they had had a first exchange of views in light of the changed political framework after the NATO summit in Bucharest and the conclusions of the latest European Council meeting.
"We had a very useful discussion, during which there was a in-depth review and assessment of the political and diplomatic environment that arose after Bucharest, the elections in FYROM and the European Council," Bakoyannis said.
The foreign minister reaffirmed Greece's "steadfast and sincere desire to achieve a mutually accepted solution" but stressed that Athens considered that any agreement should be final and conclusive, without exceptions and not open to confusion or doubts about the need to fully adhere to the agreed terms.
Questioned about whether neighbouring FYROM should put the issue of the name to a national referendum, Bakoyannis clarified that Greece was not concerned about the internal procedures followed its northern neighbour but insisted that the final solution be sanctioned by a decision of the UN Security Council that would be "binding without exceptions".
She said the discussion with Nimetz concerned the issues that fell under his remit, which were finding a mutually acceptable solution the name issue and its implementation, and denied the existence of a July 9 deadline for finding a solution, as Nimetz had done beforehand, while at the same time repeating that Greece would like a solution to be found as quickly as possible.
Asked whether the two sides were any closer to such a solution, she only said that the negotiations were continuing and "going into substantial issues".
Nimetz says no July 9 deadline in name issue negotiations
Speaking before Bakoyannis, Nimetz said that he did not see the negotiations ending by a specific deadline at the present time.
"I don't consider July 9 or any other date significant in these discussions," he told reporters, answering questions after his meeting with the Greek foreign minister.
He had been asked whether this date was being aimed for so that FYROM could join NATO with Croatia and Albania.
"We wish these issues to proceed at a rapid pace," he said but stressed that "these are complex issues," and that he did not see any major developments in the next few days.
Nimetz, who is next due to visit Skopje and hold talks with FYROM's leadership on Friday, said that he had did not present any new proposals but only "some ideas" that might lead to a solution and that the central topic of the talks was the name issue.
While confirming that the use of an "adjective" in the name for Greece's northern neighbour that would make it acceptable to the Greek side was among the issues that figured prominently in the discussions, he declined to give more details or specifics about which proposals had dominated the talks.
In response to other questions, Nimetz said that he had heard the views of the Greek side from Mrs. Bakoyannis and did not consider that direct talks between the Greek and FYROM foreign minister would help promote a solution at the present stage. He also clarified that issues of "identity" or language were not part of the negotiations.
Greece objects to the use of the name "Republic of Macedonia" by FYROM on the grounds that it is shared by a northern Greek province that shares a common border with FYROM and may conceal or give rise to expansionist designs on Greek territory. There is also tension between the two countries over claims by FYROM's Slav majority to be direct descendants of the ancient Macedonian king and general Alexander the Great, who was born and ruled in a kingdom roughly coinciding with the present-day Greek province, and to adopt the symbols of the ancient Macedonian royal family as its own.
Commission spokesperson on European Council conclusions for FYROM
The conclusions reached by the latest European Council referring to FYROM were "balanced and fair" said a spokeswoman for European Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn in Brussels.
According to spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy the specific paragraph reflected the policy followed by the European Commission since the previous March, when it adopted an announcement on the European perspective of western Balkan countries. She also pointed out that FYROM had the possibility of coming one step closer to the EU, on condition that it fulfilled certain terms by the autumn.
Quoting the relevant paragraph in the summit conclusions, Nagy noted that the European Council had stressed that FYROM could come closer to the EU by the end of the current year if it "met the terms of the conclusions of the European Council of December 2005, the political criteria of Copenhagen and the fundamental priorities of the accession partnership of February 2008."
She also pointed out that the European Council takes note of the conclusions of the EU General Affairs Council of June 16, 2008, which said that preserving good neighbour relations remained fundamental, and that these included finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue based on negotiations.
The spokeswoman further reminded reporters of the EU's condemnation of the violent incidents and irregularities recorded during FYROM's recent elections and said that the European Commission was monitoring the situation in FYROM and the measures taken by its authorities and that these would be included in the next annual progress report on the country.
 President Papoulias winds up state visit to ChinaSHANGAI (ANA-MPA/N. Megadoukas)
Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday wound up a five-day state visit to China, that included talks with senior state and government officials in Beijing and Shanghai, aimed at further expansion of bilateral relations, particularly in the economic and investments sector.
Both Athens and Beijing reaffirmed their political volition to speed up efforts in that direction, and in that context Greek-Chinese Business Fora were held in both Beijing and Shanghai with the participation of entrepreneurs from the two countries.
Speaking at the Business Forum in Shangai earlier Thursday, which was attended by Papoulias and the ministers accompanying Papoulias on his visit, Greek deputy foreign minister Petros Doukas invited Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Greece, a country which he explained was in the hard core of the European Union and was already dynamically active in its wider region.
"We invite you to work together with us," Doukas said, and called on the Chinese businessmen to utilise Greece as the "center" for penetration of the wider region.
Doukas said that the Greek President's visit to China was a culmination of the "dynamic Greek-Chinese relations", and praised the progress achieved by the Chinese economy, stressing that "we want to take part in your growth with Greek products and knowhow", and singled out Greek farm exports to China and tourism as two sectors of great interest to Greece.
The deputy minister further invited Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in the Greek stockmarket, adding also that "we need a Chinese bank in Greece".
He further cited the sectors of energy and alternative energy forms, organic famring and construction as areas of interest for bilateral cooperation.
Doukas outlined the advantages of the Greek economy, the new law on investments and the "ambitious" denationalisations program set out by the Greek government, and, addressing himself to the Chinese businessmen, said that "we want you to see us as your friends" and as "your partners for China's penetration in our wider region".
He also called on the Chinese businessmen to invest in Greece from their foreign exchange surplus so as to close the gap, which tiltes against Greece, in the trade balance between Greece and China, and stressed the need for cooperation in the sector of alternative forms of energy.
Papoulias and the Greek delegation were also given a tour of the traditional settlement at Jhuojheng Park, while an official luncehon was hosted for them by the Governor of Jiangsu Province, before departing for the return trip to Athens.
 Papandreou presents SI platform for coming Athens con'fClimate change, the necessity of democratic governance, viability of the world's economy as well as issues of international peace and immigration will top the agenda of the 23rd conference of the Socialist International (SI), which begins at an Athens-area seaside resort on Monday.
SI president and main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou presented the agenda of the conference during a lengthy press conference in central Athens on Thursday, along with SI general secretary Luis Ayala.
According to Papandreou, some 650 delegates from around the world, including dozens of party leaders and heads of state, will participate at the conference, including representatives from the Communist Party of China, India's Congress Party and the Democratic Party of the US.
"This is a supreme moment for socialists' political family ... the Socialist International, the biggest international organisation at the moment, has contributed to the humanisation of societies," Papandreou said.
On his part, Ayala said the SI was a "platform of dialogue", while noting that topics up for discussion deal with the planet's biggest problems.
Conversely, when asked if such conferences merely constitute "luxury vacation for certain representatives", Ayala said the SI does not meet rarely, and meetings take place continuously, "but wherever we travel, we are obligated to take certain measures, including ones for our security and work."
Asked what direction the SI is taking, politically, and whether it is influenced by social democrat forces, such as the ones in Germany, or, more leftist proposals, Papandreou underlined that "although parties with different roots and traditions exist (under the SI banner), the SI is called on today to synthesise alternative proposals for the management of international crises. The organisation has alternative proposals, and this stresses its necessity."
Additionally, Papandreou expressed his hope for success in the expected Cyprus President Demetris Christofias-Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat talks regarding the Cyprus problem, while asked about relations between the SI and Talat, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot, answered that "countries are one thing, parties are another; a society of citizens is one thing, and recognition of a state is something quite different. There is no recognition of either the (T/C) pseudo-state, or of Kosovo," Papandreou said.
 Parliament to provide financial support for Socialist International meetingParliament's financial contribution to facilitate the holding of the international meeting of the Socialist International (SI) in Athens was confirmed on Thursday by the President of the House, Dimitris Sioufas.
"A week ago, the Parliament President offered to support, financially and in every other way this great international meeting of the Socialist International, which is taking place in Athens, an issue that Mr. Sioufas communicated to the President of PASOK, George Papandreou. PASOK gladly accepted the proposal by the Parliament President," said a relevant statement by Sioufas.
 PM Karamanlis confers with Rural Development and Food Minister KontosPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis conferred with Rural Development and Food Minister Alexandros Kontos on Thursday, with the focus on agricultural issues.
Afterwards, Kontos told reporters that he briefed the prime minister on the new cotton regulation agreed two days ago following tough negotiations within the European Union.
The new regulation fully guarantees farmers' subsidies "allowing us to support local cotton producers," Kontos stated.
The premier was also briefed on the debate underway in the EU as regards the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the adjustments that will have to be made to become more effective, as well as on the draft law regulating stockbreeding, to be presented in parliament soon.
 Papandreou calls for cleanup of political system, electionsMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thursday gave an across-the-board press conference in Athens amid the ongoing Siemens campaign donation furor rocking his party, as he reiterated his demand for a Parliamentary committee of inquiry eventually followed by early elections, while at the same time lashing out against the rival New Democracy (ND) government.
Papandreou, who began the press conference to present a coming Socialist International (SI) conference at an Athens seaside resort, later answered a bevy of questions linked directly to a former top PASOK cadre's admission that multinational Siemens donated one million deutschmarks in late 1999 for PASOK's upcoming election campaign, money that PASOK treasury officials at the time claim never reached the party's coffers.
In expanding his criticism on account of the heated Siemens affair, Papandreou also requested Parliament committees of inquiries for a handful of other cases, including the recent OTE management transfer, the structured bonds purchases, the Vodafone phone tapping affair and the case involving a so-called "milk cartel" in the country.
In reference to the Siemens "contribution" in late 1999, he charged that "PASOK showed immediate reflexes, whereas ND hears nothing". He also said the prime minister and government spokesman are not being truthful when they say an ongoing judicial investigation and Parliament probe cannot occur at the same time.
Moreover, Papandreou accused noted Athens attorney Alexandros Lykourezos, "a friend of (PM Costas) Mr. Karamanlis," as behind a recent spate of press leaks, "based on what expediencies is Mr. Lykourezos providing these (press) leaks."
In qualifying his call for early elections, a little more than nine months after the last election in the country, Papandreou said they should be conducted with a new election law and with smaller election districts, while also calling for more transparency in the country's mass media. Along those lines, he charged that the government is "manipulating" provincial mass media by using advertising revenue by state agencies.
In answer to another question during the almost two-and-a-half hour press conference, he said he was "proud" of his past participation in PASOK governments and of the movement's work, as he called the party, while adding that PASOK "didn't always stand at its stature ... we didn't feel proud when wealth was produced during the (PASOK) governance but wasn't properly distributed, while creating new inequities."
He also ruled out the prospect of changing the opposition party's name and symbols, while announcing a "major renewal".
Finally, asked whether former prime minister Costas Simitis will be on the party's ballot in any upcoming general election, he said it was not the time at present to discuss ballots.
"Mr. Papandreou today asks for what he and his party, a few days ago, rejected in the constitutional revision, where we clearly proposed the monitoring of parties' finances by an independent judicial authority," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos later said.
"He (Papandreou) obviously forgets. Those who seriously and responsibly participate in public life don't, however. PASOK's hypocrisy is obvious once again."
Finally, lawyer Alexandros Lykourezos, a former ND deputy, flatly rejected Papandreou's claims that he is behind any press leaks regarding the Siemens-PASOK case, saying that reporters who wrote the articles can attest to this.
He also said he is not a defendant in any case, disputing a remark by the PASOK leader.
"As Siemens' attorney I am fulfilling my debt, contributing to the work of the Greek justice system."
KKE Secretary General Papariga on Siemens issue
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, commenting on Thursday on the Siemens issue, said that "unfortunately, there is no possibility of a substantive and real cleanup in the power parties," adding that "what we need is a change in policy."
Papariga stressed that her party wants a factfinding committee for the Siemens scandal and that "it is obvious that for as long as there are Siemens there will also be kickbacks, there will be politicians and other persons who will be bribed. The system creates this problem and this system must be overturned."
She also said that "we are at a crucial phase. The people must realise that they must counterattack, not to fall into scandal talk, but they must make a real cleanup. That means that the popular movement must win."
 KKE Secretary General Papariga on drugsCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga visited the "Nostos" regabilitation programme on Thursday and stressed her absolute disagreement with the national action plan prepared by the government on drugs because "it privatises prevention, detoxication and rehabilitation."
Papariga said that "the use of drugs does not stem from an illness of the brain or an illness of the body, nor is it to be found in the user's DNA. It is a social problem, above all, and expresses the need of young people to distance themselves from insecurity, unemployment and the bad cultural and political atmosphere that exists."
She added that her party supports therapeutical communities above all and called for therapeutical communities to exist everywhere, as well as integrated prevention centres, at least in every prefecture.
 Alavanos on Siemens issueRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alekos Alavanos, speaking in Iraklio on the island of Crete on Thursday, called for the immediate convening of a Factfinding Committee to probe all the Siemens cases, adding that he will reiterate this in Parliament on Friday.
"Siemens has already done a dirty job and many dirty things have taken place in the sector of telecommunications," he said.
"If no Factfinding Committee is created for the issue of Siemens in which the one big party is already provenly incolved and in which, according to documents of courts in Germany, the other big party is also involved, where will a Factfinding Committee be created? Shall we make a Factfinding Committee because we did not do well in the European soccer championship?" Alavanos added.
 Gov't on political party financesAll constructive proposals on the draft law regulating political party finances will be studied, according to government spokesman Thodoros Rousopoulos.
He made the comment responding to a question by a reporter on the proposals expected to be presented by main opposition PASOK party President George Papandreou considering that his party had not consented to the amendment of a relative constitution article.
 Gov't on the Glyka Nera wildfireThe response of the firefighting forces was immediate, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stated, referring to Wednesday's wildfire in the region of Glyka Nera on Mt. Hymettus, Athens.
The Fire Department was called at 12:53 and the first fire engines arrived on the scene at 12:58, followed by firefighting aircraft within the next 20 minutes to half an hour, Roussopoulos said, adding that firefighters had displayed self-sacrifice so that the fire would be extinguished quickly, considering that the wind was blowing from different directions.
He also said that details on state assistance to municipalities and prefectures for the implementation of fire prevention measures will be presented Friday.
Roussopoulos made the comments responding to statements made by a local mayor who had alleged that no fire prevention measures were taken in spite of his proposals.
The government spokesman clarified that the region is protected under "Natura 2000" and therefore, fire prevention zones are not allowed.
 PACE calls on Turkey to become a modern democracyPARIS (ANA/MPA/O.Tsipira/CNA)
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called on Turkey's institutions ''to respect each other's competences'' and join efforts to pursue political reforms that will turn the country into a modern democracy.
Following the proposals by rapporteur Luc Van den Brande (Belgium, EPP/CD), the parliamentarians adopted on Thursday a resolution in which it is stated that, regardless of its outcome, the lawsuit against the ruling party, as well as the Turkish Prime Minister and the Turkish President, ''is seriously affecting political stability in the country'' and the functioning of democratic institutions.
A press release by the Council of Europe says that the Assembly deems that the dissolution of political parties ''should be regarded as an exceptional measure to be applied only in cases where the party concerned uses violence or threatens civil peace and the democratic constitutional order.''
According to the Assembly, ''a comprehensive review of the law on political parties is required in order to bring this text fully into line with European standards'' and that the need for a new civilian constitution altogether ''has now become more evident than ever''.
In this regard, the government's initiative to draft a new constitution opens ''a window of opportunity for a broad national debate involving all actors of society.''
The Assembly asked its Monitoring Committee to intensify its post-monitoring dialogue with Turkey and closely follow the development of the democratic functioning of its state institutions and if need be ''seriously consider the possibility of re-opening the monitoring procedure.''
Greek deputy Anna Benaki underlined in her speech during the discussion which preceded, that Greece as a neighbouring country to Turkey was interested in the maintenance of stability in the broader region and in this respect "we express our deep concern in the event the ruling party's functioning is finally prohibited and if a court ruling destitutes the legally elected prime minister and we are strongly concerned over further developments in our neighbouring country."
 Spiliotopoulos on development of cruise tourismTourist Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos, addressing a conference on cruises on Thursday, stressed the need for the country to take advantage of opportunities appearing for the further robust development of tourism through cruises.
Well-known companies have already activated themselves in the Mediterranean with buyouts of European companies, however, they are using ports in Italy and Spain as hubs.
Most big companies prefer circular access to the Eastern Mediterranean from Greece or a quick passage through Greek territory, Spiliotopoulos said, pointing out that "we must take advantage of this fact, also imposing our country dynamically on the map of international reputation cruises."
The minister further said that "in 2006 we saw about 1.2 million cruise passengers in Piraeus, mainly from ordinary transit arrivals."
 Greek participation in Beijing International Tourist ExhibitionThe Greek Tourist Organisation (EOT) has been given an award for the best organised participation in the International Tourist Exhibition in Beijing, BITE 2008, by the city's Tourist Authority BTA and the Exhibition's organisers. Greece participated as the theme country out of a total of 1,000 exhibitors from 100 countries.
The Tourist Development Ministry and EOT was represented by the organisation's president Athanasios Economou, who had constructive meetings with Chinese officials to promote Greek tourism in China.
Economou also met, among others, with the president of the Tourist Authority in Beijing, agreeing on the signing of a Tourist Cooperation Protocol between EOT and the city of Beijing, similar to the Cooperation Protocol between EOT and the city of Shanghai, that had been signed last March.
 FinMin to inaugurate Greek pavilion at Zaragoza Expo 2008Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis will depart for Zaragoza on Friday, heading up a Greek delegation, to tour the World Expo 2008 Exhibition. The visit is part of "Greece Day" at the Expo 2008 on Saturday. The minister will inaugurate the Greek pavilion. "Greece Day" will be marked by various events in Expo's facilities in the presence of Spanish government officials.
 Tax burden slightly up in Greece in 2006, EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V.Demiris)
The tax burden in Greece reached 31.4 percent of GDP in 2006, down compared with a 39.9-pct rate in the EU-27, Eurostat announced on Thursday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report, said tax burden in Greece was 31.3 pct in 2005 (39.3 pct in the EU-27), up from 29.4 pct in 1996 (40.3 pct in the EU-27).
Consumption tax rose to 17.6 pct in 2006, from 17.0 pct in 2005 (22.1 pct and 22.0 pct in the EU-27 over the same years, respectively), but down compared with a 17.7 pct rate in 1996. Labour tax rose to 38.1 pct in 2006, from 37.8 pct in 2005 and 35.7 pct in 1996 (34.8 pct, 34.6 pct and 35.7 pct in the EU-27, respectively).
Eurostat said the top income tax rate was 40 pct in Greece, up from 38.7 pct in the EU-27.
 Hellenic Telecoms to pay 0.75 euros per share dividend to sharehldersHellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Thursday held in regular annual general shareholders' meeting, the first after Deutsche Telekom acquired the management of the organization. Panagis Vourloumis, OTE's chairman and chief executive, addressing the meeting said the organization remained on an upward track for the second consecutive year and either met or surpassed set targets for the year, in an increasingly competitive environment and despite the interventions by the Regulatory Authority.
Vourloumis said OTE will be in a position to start offering cable television services and stressed that Cosmote's performance was very good. He acknowledged, however, that OTE's subsidiaries in Romania, Romtelecom and Cosmorom, still faced problems and said that foreign activities accounted for 26 pct of the Group's income.
He said the purchase of an equity stake by Deutsche Telekom was a positive development. The general shareholders' meeting approved a board plan to pay a 0.75 euros per share dividend to shareholders. OTE's shares will be traded ex-dividend from July 1.
 US, Greece co-sponsor copyright conferenceA wideranging group of participants from government, industry, international organisations, and academic groups are attending a conference entitled "Copyright Policies and the Role of Stakeholders", co-sponsored by the Hellenic Copyright Organization and the United States Patent and Trademark Office Global Intellectual Property Academy, slated for June 26-27.
According to a US embassy press release, during the opening session on Thursday, US ambassador Daniel Speckhard stressed that "educating ourselves and the public about intellectual property rights is one of the most important things we can do to fight counterfeiting and piracy."
According to estimates, Greece has one of the highest piracy rates in the European Union. Cooperation on intellectual property rights was also one of the topics discussed during the June 19 United States - Greece Economic and Commercial Cooperation Commission held in Washington, DC.
Other sponsors of the conference include the United States Chamber of Commerce and EPOE, Greece's Anti-Piracy Association of Producers and Distributors of Audiovisual Works.
 Serbs and Romanians opt for the Greek islands and HalkidikiThe Greek islands of Corfu, Crete, Rhodes and Zakynthos are the most popular summer destinations for Serb tourists (40 percent), based on figures provided by Serb tour operators.
Greece is the top choice for Serbs who spend summer abroad, with vacation packages recording a 20-40 percent rise.
Polychrono, Pefkochori and Hanioti in Halkidiki, northern Greece, are the most popular destinations for Serb tourists. The coasts of Halkidiki are very popular among Romanian tourists as well who can find affordable seven-day vacation packages priced as low as 159 euros.
 Intralot wins lottery license in TasmaniaIntralot on Thursday announced it was expanding its activities in Tasmania, after the country's Lottery Commission awarded the Greek company with a license to operate lottery and gaming services in Tasmania.
Under the license, Intralot will offer Kino, Cross & Match, TV Bingo, Pick3, Pick5 Heads or Tails and instant lottery.
 Shipping fx inflows up 22.57 pct in Jan-AprilGreece's shipping foreign exchange inflows rose by 22.57 percent to 6.023 billion euros in the January-April period, from 4.914 billion euros in the corresponding period in 2007, Merchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy ministry said on Thursday.
 Royal Dutch Shell chief economist on energy scenariosThe increase in international oil prices will continue, unless the growth being presented by the developing markets, such as China and India, is contained, according to the chief economist of Royal Dutch Shell Steven Fries.
"Although in the oil markets there is profiteering to a certain degree, the high prices are related mainly to the fundamental elements of the market," Fries said during an event held on Thursday regarding the presentation of Shell's Energy Scenarios by the year 2050. He pointed out, however, that nobody can foresee the development of prices with certainty, since the factors affecting them are many.
 Greek stocks plunged 2.81 pct on ThursdayGreek stocks came under renewed pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday and lost all of the previous session's gains. The composite index fell 2.81 percent to end at 3,483.98 points, with turnover a low 245 million euros.
Most sectors moved lower with the exception of the Telecommunications sector which ended unchanged. Technology (6.68 pct), Food/Beverage (5.27 pct) and Oil (4.92 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index fell 2.72 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.48 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index dropped 2.96 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 196 to 49 with another 33 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -4.92%
Personal & Household: -2.99%
Raw Materials: -2.92%
Travel & Leisure: -0.10%
Food & Beverages: -5.27%
Financial Services: -2.17%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and Bank of Cyprus.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 18.94
Public Power Corp (PPC): 22.40
HBC Coca Cola: 17.24
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.12
National Bank of Greece: 28.50
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 15.22
Piraeus Bank: 17.96
Titan Cement Company: 25.50
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising slightly to 141.009 million euros. The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.27 pct and the July contract on the FTSE 40 index at a premium of 0.05 percent.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 13,280 contracts, worth 125.276 million euros, with 32,625 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 23 contracts worth 508,497 euros with 146 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,169 contracts worth 13.513 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (2,367), followed by Marfin Popular Bank (773), National Bank (1,177), Alpha Bank (671), Cyprus Bank (469) and Intracom (323).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 1.33 billion euros on Thursday, of which 575 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 755 million euros 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 0.65 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 5.22 percent and the German Bund 4.57 pct.
In money markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month Euribor rate eased to 5.40 pct from 5.41 pct on Wednesday, the six-month rate was 5.12 pct, the three-month rate 4.95 pct and the one-month rate 4.46 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.585
Pound sterling 0.798
Danish kroner 7.518
Swedish kroner 9.491
Japanese yen 170.58
Swiss franc 1.631
Norwegian kroner 8.022
Canadian dollar 1.602
Australian dollar 1.652
 EU directive on harm to the environmentBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The European Commission has decided to resort to the European Court against nine member-states, including Greece, for failing to include in their national law a European Union directive concerning responsibility for harming the environment.
The time limit for including the directive in national legislation expired on April 30, 2007, and the development concerns Austria, Belgium (only the region of Brussels), Greece, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Britain.
Commenting on the Commission's decision, Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said "the directive on environmental responsibility implements the principle 'he who pollutes pays' and constitutes one of the most important new legislative acts by the EU in the past years in the environment sector."
 AHEPA's 86th convention begins in Athens on MondayThe largest and oldest Greek-American association, the American Hellenic Education Progressive Association (AHEPA), opens its 86th convention in Athens on June 30, with US ambassador Daniel Speckhard as the main speaker in an address expected to focus on foreign policy issues.
On the sidelines of the convention, which will last until July 6, a series of events will be dedicated to the memory of the American Philhellenes who fought during the Greek War of Independence in 1821.
 Patriarch Bartholomew to attend launch of St. Paul's year by PopeISTANBUL (ANA-MPA - A. Kourkoulas)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I intends to travel to Rome to attend celebrations for the Solemnity of the Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul on June 28, when Pope Benedict XVI will proclaim the start of a year dedicated to St. Paul, to mark the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the "Apostle of the Gentiles".
An announcement issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate at Fanar said that the Patriarch had decided to accept an invitation extended to him by the Pope to attend this year's ceremony and would be accompanied by a delegation of Orthodox Church clerics and a large group of Greek expatriates from the United States led by Archbishop of America Demetrios.
It will be the Patriarch's first attendance of the feast day of Sts Paul and Peter since Pope Benedict succeeded Pope John Paul II and returns a visit carried out by the Pope to the Patriarchate's patron saint feast day in 2006.
 Alexandria Patriarch inaugurates school of theology in GhanaCAIRO (ANA-MPA/N. Katsikas)
Africans in Ghana welcomed Alexandria Patriarch Theodoros in their own characteristic way in the capital of Accra, in the place where a new school of theology was inaugurated to educate local people in theology.
With traditional costumes, the water that they gave him to drink as they do with their distinguished visitors, with songs and tunes based on drums and dancing by little girls from the region, the faithful showed all their hospitality and love to the Primate of the Church of Alexandria.
The Patriarch of Alexandria was expected to meet the President of the government of Ghana later in the day.
 "Plant Your Roots in Greece" donation to Kalyvia Municipality in AthensThe Hellenic American Council of California, AHCC, donated the sum of USD 45,775 to the Municipality of Kalyvia in Athens through the Greek expatriate "Plant Your Roots in Greece" Initiative.
The sum donated will be used for new water reservoirs, watering systems and irrigation projects within the framework of municipality's efforts for the restoration of the natural environment of Mt Panio, taking place with the support and active participation of the local community and tens of volunteers.
The "Plant your Roots in Greece" Initiative operates under the auspices of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) and UNESCO.
 Newborn found abandoned outside apartment building in AthensA newly born baby girl was found abandoned just before 10 pm Wednesday night at the front entrance of an apartment building in the Zografou district of Athens.
According to testimonies by local residents, the infant was abandoned by two women who quickly disappeared.
A police patrol rushed the baby to the "Agia Sophia" Children's Hospital to undergo medical tests while a preliminary police investigation is underway.
 Athens municipality events on Int'l Day Against Drug AddictionA number of special events are scheduled by the municipality of Athens to take place on the occasion of the International Day Against Drug Addiction celebrated on June 26.
The events include music concerts and awareness raising initiatives held with the participation of former addicts and their parents, aimed at informing the people of Athens on the problem of drug abuse.
Meanwhile, the Detox Center "Athens-Life" relocation project will soon get underway. The Athens municipality-owned three-building complex designed to house the detox center will feature facilities for 32 adults as well as rehabilitation programmes directed to teenagers and minors.
 Greece to send 8 million cubic metres water to CyprusGreece will immediately send eight million cubic metres of fresh water to Cyprus to help the island republic cope with an intense water shortage, under an agreement signed on Thursday by Environment, Town Planning and Public Works George Souflias during a meeting with Cypriot Agriculture and Natural Resources Minister Michalis Polynikis.
The water will be immediately transported to Cyprus in six water-tanker ships and will be drawn from Athens water board (EYDAP) reservoirs. The price will be the same as that charged for residents of Aegean islands lacking fresh water.
In response to questions, Souflias clarified that EYDAP did not at present need to take additional measures to guard against water shortage but stressed that consumers should avoid wasting water.
 Police crack major card-cloning caseThe Attica police financial crimes department on Thursday said it had cracked a major case of fraud involving cloned credit cards and cash cards that were used to take tens of thousands of euros, and made two arrests.
A police announcement said that an investigation based on information provided by executives of a Greek private bank had led to the arrest of two Romanian men aged 33 and 37, respectively, who are considered part of a ring that managed to swipe card data using the ATM of an Icelandic Bank in the centre of Athens, which it then used to create cloned credit cards and withdraw money.
They also managed to create a cash card of the same bank in the same way, carrying out thousands of transactions in a week and withdrawing a vast sum of money and to block the bank's systems so that the specific transactions did not register.
At the time of their arrest, the two suspects had the specific card in their possession and the sum of 24,000 euros. According to police, however, this is just a fraction of the sums that they are believed to have illegally taken.
The two men were led before a public prosecutor on Thursday and the investigation into the case is continuing.
 Hundreds of drug arrests in the first half of 2008 in ThessalonikiPolice operations in Thessaloniki led to 680 arrests on drug-related charges during the first half of 2008.
According to official figures, police found and seized 29 kilos of heroin, 5.5 kilos of cocaine, 27.5 kilos of hashish, 2,928 narcotic pills, 6 kilos of methadone, 208 grams of opium, 19 guns and the sum of 191,000 euros.
 Illegal immigrants arrested on SamosSamos port officials arrested 25 men and one woman, all illegal immigrants, northeast of Cape Prasso in the early hours on Thursday.
The illegals had arrived on the eastern Aegean island in two dinghies, that they destroyed immediately after their arrival from the Turkish coast. All of them were taken to the Samos General Hospital for a preventive medical checkup.
 Wildfire at Patima in Halandri under controlA wildfire which broke out at 7:10 on Thursday evening in the region of Patima in the northern Athens suburb of Halandri, in a forested area close to houses, was placed under control later in the night.
Ten vehicles and 30 firemen had arrived at the scene of the fire, while five firefighting aircraft and two helicopters had also been sent to help in extinguishing the blaze.
According to an announcement by the Fire Brigade, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday 51 wildfires broke out all over Greece, 22 of which in the Attica prefecture. All the wildfires have been placed under control, with the exception of one in the village of Tzara in the western prefecture of Preveza.
 More than 60 fires reported around Greece, authorities sayMore than 61 forest fires had broken out throughout Greece in the past 36 hours, the fire brigade reported on Thursday.
The latest blaze that was still underway was one in the Magoula region of Attica that broke out around noon in the Xirorema district and was burning through expanses of shrubs and dried grass heading toward the location Damaria.
Though the fire did not engender great concern, the fire brigade was treating it with caution and had deployed a strong force of 45 fire-fighters, 15 vehicles and a 16-man unit on foot because of strong winds blowing in the area.
Fires reported on Thursday morning at Sardinina in Aitoloakarnania and in Kavala were now under control, the fire brigade said.
 Hot on FridayHot weather is forecast on Friday, as well as local showers and storms in the west, centre and north of the mainland. Wind velocity between 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures in Athens ranging from 22C to 36C, and in Thessaloniki from 22C to 34C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceNew reveleations on the Siemens affair implicating stockbrokers, and the massive wildfire that broke out on Mt. Hymettus, one of the mountains surrounding Athens, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Athens turned into hell - Wildfires and power failure in half of Attica perfecture".
APOGEVMATINI: "10,150 teachers appointed in public sector".
AVGHI: "The government passes the cost of the the inflation rise onto the people's salaries - FinMin George Alogoskoufis admits that the Budget is up in the air".
AVRIANI : "The examining magistrate on the Siemens case summons Trepeklis (close friend of main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou) again".
CHORA: "The 'game' over the 'prime' Athens 2004 Olympic Games contract (C41 security system assigned to SIEMENS)".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Mt. Hymettus...land of fire".
ELEFTHEROS: "What do ruling party New Democracy (ND) parliament member know about governmental officials' involvement in the Siemens case?"..
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Last warning - The fire on Hymettus was the 'dress rehearsal' for Attica's protection - This time .....only 1 thousand stremma turned into ashes".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The 'black suitcases' gang - Network of go-between stockbrokers".
ESTIA: "Fiery nightmare in Attica - This year was Hymettus' turn".
ETHNOS: "Unprotected in the face of the first blazes -The state and government did not learn there lesson from last year's holocaust".
KATHIMERINI: "Testimonies on flow of money into PASOK's coffers - Contradictory testimonies on Tsoukatos' involvement".
LOGOS: "New rise in European interest rates - New surcharge for the Greek consumers".
NIKI:"Blazes surround the government - Government's mechanism insufficient in the face of the first major wildfire".
RIZOSPASTIS: "International Day against Drug Abuse (June 26) - Struggle for life".
TA NEA: "1,212,000 euros bomb in a blue (ND party colour) kickback in the period 2003-2005".
TO VIMA: "Ring of go-betweens for the kickbacks - New revelations on the corruption systems".
VRADYNI: "The nightmare returns - Wildfire on Mt. Hymettus."
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