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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-10-30

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 30 October 2009 Issue No: 3336


  • [01] Papandreou addresses European Socialist leaders
  • [02] PM Papandreou addresses EU summit working dinner
  • [03] PM Papandreou appeals to OSCE countries for cooperation, solidarity
  • [04] PM Papandreou meets fyRoM counterpart
  • [05] Stern warning to Skopje from Parvanov over 'minority' claim
  • [06] President Papoulias, government vice-president Pangalos receive Canada's governor general
  • [07] UN chief in Athens next week
  • [08] UN Secretary General to visit Greek Parliament
  • [09] US Congressmen address letter to Secretary of State Clinton on the Cyprus issue
  • [10] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew meets with UN SecGen in NY
  • [11] US House of Representatives' resolution hails the role of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
  • [12] Government vows action on 'disorder' in labour relations
  • [13] KKE leader sees labour 'Dark Ages' in government measures
  • [14] FinMin Papaconstantinou on transparency
  • [15] Cooperation agreement between Thessaloniki and China's Zhejing Province
  • [16] National Bank said funding up 7.1 pct in Jan-Sept
  • [17] Greek groups' subsidiaries abroad play significant role, survey
  • [18] IFBA to hold 2010 meeting in Athens
  • [19] Greek stocks end 1.56 pct down
  • [20] ADEX closing report
  • [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [22] Bill on protecting burnt forests posted on Internet for public debate
  • [23] Handing over of Olympic Flame in Athens
  • [24] Maronia Cave, home of the mythological Cyclops Polyphemus
  • [25] Greek team receives top prize in 3rd Olympiad of Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • [26] International technological conference in Athens on interactive entertainment
  • [27] Geroulanos the millionth visitor of the new Acropolis Museum
  • [28] Major haul of contraband cigarettes discovered in Thessaloniki
  • [29] Rainy on Friday
  • [30] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Papandreou addresses European Socialist leaders

    European socialists want Europe to have cohesion and make citizens its top priority, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said on Thursday in Brussels. Papandreou was addressing a meeting held by Party of European Socialists (PES) leaders of state and government, shortly before the start of the European Union summit.

    Papandreou stressed that the aims of European socialists were to support policies that created jobs for all, supported smaller businesses and created a people-centred society.

    Another issue underlined by Greece's premier was that of promoting green development, noting that this and the major decisions that must be taken during the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen would act as a lever and an opportunity for socialists to take important intiatives and decisions.

    Such decisions would concern the future of growth and create jobs, as well as social cohesion and a more humane and social Europe, he added.

    The PES leaders' summit was held to coordinate the policy of Europe's socialist leaders in terms of the priorities to be raised at the EU summit. The main issues discussed were European policies for employment during the economic crisis, priorities for the reforms to international financial institutions and the Lisbon Treaty.

    [02] PM Papandreou addresses EU summit working dinner


    Government spokesman George Petalotis, speaking to Greek reporters on Thursday night, referred to the address made by Prime Minister George Papandreou on the first day of the European Union summit here.

    Petalotis said the prime minister referred to Greece's leading role in the Balkans, while on the issue of cooperation with Turkey, he reassured Greece's support to the neighbouring country's European perspective and, in parallel, the improvement of Turkey's relations with the EU.During the discussion on climatic changes, Papandreou referred to the question of green development.

    As regards Greece, the prime minister stressed the disastrous consequences of the wildfires and the need for their tackling by the state. He also focused on the issue of the utilisation of water resources and migration caused by climatic changes, pointing out that Europe must take a position on all these issues.

    [03] PM Papandreou appeals to OSCE countries for cooperation, solidarity

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister George Papandreou, issuing a message on Thursday as the OSCE chairman, called on the 56 member-states of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to strengthen cooperation and solidarity between them to overcome tensions. The message was addressed to its Permanent Council in the framework of a teleconference at the Organisation's headquarters here.

    The prime minister stressed in his message that regardless of the difference of views on the primary causes of tensions, it is necessary for the deadlock of distrust to break, which he termed as being one of the main challenges facing the Organisation.

    Papandreou termed the "Corfu Process" as an important collective achievement, adding that despite the "impressive progress", a "Europe that will be free in its entirety and peaceful," as was the vision of the countries participating in the OSCE, when they adopted the Paris Charter in 1990, continues to remain difficult to discern.

    "People living in regions struck by prolonged disputes need peace and stability and not a fragile situation," he pointed out.

    Papandreou further stressed that the Greek Presidency of the Organisation will continue to make efforts to seek ways of securing the continuation of the OSCE's activation in Georgia, particularly in the regions affected by the dispute.

    Lastly, the Greek prime minister expressed his conviction that the conference of foreign ministers of the OSCE's 56 member-states, that the Greek Presidency will be holding in Athens on December 1-2, will constitute an opportunity for a "new start and a revival of the spirit of Helsinki."

    [04] PM Papandreou meets fyRoM counterpart

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Mourtis)

    Prime Minister George Papandreou clarified Greek positions and Greece's stance on the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fyRoM) and on the possibility of the starting of European Union-fyRoM accession negotiations, during his 15-minute informal acquaintance meeting with the neighbouring country's Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on Thursday.

    The two leaders held a telephone conversation on Wednesday afternoon at the initiative of fyRoM's side, that requested that Gruevski speak with Papandreou to congratulate him on his election victory on October 4.

    According to Greek diplomatic sources, Papandreou clarified that it is Greece's will to have a leading role in the Balkans, particularly on the accession course of all the countries of southeastern Europe, proposing 2014 as the accession date on the 100th aniversary of the start of the First World War. A proposal that will provide a new impetus for the Balkan countries that have acquired an accession momenutm from the Thessaloniki Summit, a momentum that weakened over the past period.

    Greece, according to the same diplomatic sources, desires in this framework to promote the accession of fyRoM as well. However, it made it absolutely clear what the preconditions are for such a thing. Greece insists on the national "red" line and places as the first and essential precondition, before even thinking of the possibility of the starting of accession negotiations, the solving of fyRoM's name issue. And this, as it was said, will be underlined by Greece on every opportunity.

    It was categorically stressed that the solution to the issue of the name is a name with a geographical qualifier for all uses.

    The prime minister will be arriving in London on Saturday to meet British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Minister David Milliband.

    [05] Stern warning to Skopje from Parvanov over 'minority' claim

    SOFIA (ANA-MPA - B. Borisov)

    Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov on Thursday warned the government in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to retract statements regarding the existence of an ethnic 'Macedonian' minority in Bulgaria's Pirin region or jeopardise the country's prospects of joining the EU.

    An announcement released by the Bulgarian presidency's press office on Thursday quotes Parvanov's stern reaction to a statement made by FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski - who referred to "Macedonians of Vardar, the Aegean and Pirin" - and his warning that Sofia's support for FYROM's EU accession was not "unconditional".

    "I am bewildered by the position that has been expressed by the Prime Minister of neighbouring [FYROM]. I see it as unacceptable, as an expression of territorial claims. It is all the more unacceptable as [FYROM] aspires to become a member of the EU," Parvanov said on Thursday, during an official visit to Australia.

    Bulgaria's president stressed that Sofia's support for its neighbour's EU entry was largely dependent on that country's behaviour and he urged Skopje to immediately withdraw similar claims.

    Parvanov also underlined that Skopje must fulfill the criteria for EU membership, which included that of cultivating good relations with its members.

    Bulgaria's Deputy Foreign Minister Marin Raykov, who accompanied Parvanov on the trip to Australia, noted that FYROM would receive a date for the start of accession negotiations with the EU as soon as as it resolved the problems with its neighbours.

    Skopje's government claims the existence of ethnic 'Macedonian' minorities in northern Greece and southwest Bulgaria; claims disputed by the governments in both those countries. It is also in a dispute with Greece over the use of the name 'Macedonia', which Athens construes as an attempt to make territorial claims against a northern Greek province with the same name.

    According to the Greek argument, the name Macedonia actually describes a much broader geographic area, which spans parts of Greece, Bulgaria and also FYROM itself.

    [06] President Papoulias, government vice-president Pangalos receive Canada's governor general

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received visiting Governor General of Canada Michaelle Jean at the Presidential Mansion in Athens. Afterwards, she met with government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos, who hosted a formal luncheon in her honor, in the place of Prime Minister George Papandreou who is currently in Brussels for the EU Summit meeting.

    In his welcoming speech, President Papoulias pointed out that Haiti, the country of origin of the Governor General of Canada, supported the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Turks in 1821, adding that the struggle of the Haitian people for freedom and independence had taken place earlier, in 1803.

    He also said that her visit to Athens has coincided with the lighting of the Olympic Flame that was passed on to the organizers of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

    President Papoulias underlined that "Canada embraced the Greek immigrants" and referred to the humanitarian aid Greece received from Canada during WWII, stressing that he has memories of that from when he was a child.

    He said that he was moved by the fact that the Canadian delegation includes distinguished members of the Greek community and referred to the presence of Metropolitan Sotirios of Canada, urging the Governor General Jean to support the Greek-speaking school "Metamorphosis".

    Governor General Jean said she was very happy to be present at the ceremony for lighting the Olympic Flame and insisted that ties between Greece and Canada need to be strengthened further, particularly in the sectors of commerce, investments and human relations.

    Speaking about the Greek community in Canada, she stated that they are being referred to as "Canadians of Greek origin", constituting a strong bridge between the two countries, and pointed out that the degree of their assimilation into the Canadian community is proved by the fact that deputies of Greek origin are elected in parliament.

    She also stated that she intends to visit Ancient Olympia within the framework of a major tree planting event in a show of solidarity toward the people of southern Greece that suffered the devastating wildfires of 2007.

    [07] UN chief in Athens next week

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will pay a two-day official visit to Athens next week to open the 3rd Global Forum on Migration and Development.

    According to a UN announcement, Ban will be in Athens on November 4-5 on an official visit, during which he will also meet with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, and prime minister and foreign minister George Papandreou, while he will further address a special session of the Hellenic Parliament.

    [08] UN Secretary General to visit Greek Parliament

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be visiting the Greek Parliament on Thursday, on the occasion of his presence at the 3rd World Forum on Immigration and Development, at the invitation of House President Filippos Petsalnikos.

    Ban Ki-moon will be meeting Petsalnikos in private and then address the deputies in the Senate hall and afterwards he will be given the Parliamentary Gold Medal in recognition of the longlasting important role played by the UN to promote peace and cooperation between countries and peoples, as well as the initiatives that he has taken in this direction.

    It is the first time that a UN Secretary General will be addressing the Greek Parliament. His presence is considered very important as it is taking place a few weeks before the Copenhagen summit on climatic change, convened at the UN's initiative.

    [09] US Congressmen address letter to Secretary of State Clinton on the Cyprus issue


    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a letter signed by 132 members of the US House of Representatives expressing support for the Obama administration's efforts on the Cyprus issue while urging it to avoid the mistakes of the failed efforts of the past.

    The letter was signed by roughly one-third of the House Representatives. Signatories include the Democratic and Republican Chairmen of the two Committees charged with overseeing this issue. The effort was led by Albio Sires (D-NJ), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Michael McMahon (D-NY), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Ted Poe (R-TX).

    They urged the head of the US diplomacy to "avoid the resurrection of settlement provisions like those of the 2004 UN effort", stressing that those provisions were overwhelmingly rejected and reminded that the provisions included in the Annan Plan were considered "unacceptable for a western democracy" by the US House of Representatives' European Affairs Subcommittee.

    They added that, "foreign advocacy of artificial deadlines and unacceptable settlement provisions contributed to the defeat of the 2004 settlement efforts" and stressed that it is unacceptable to be suggested that Cyprus should accept the presence of foreign troops on its territory.

    The 132 US House Representatives pointed out that "it is a virtual certainty that Turkey will never achieve its dream of EU membership as long as its troops continue to occupy part of Cyprus," and concluded that in order to be accepted and proven functional a settlement effort should be "of the Cypriots, by the Cypriots and for the Cypriots."

    [10] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew meets with UN SecGen in NY

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, on a visit to the US, was received on Wednesday night (local time) in New York by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the UN headquarters, for talks that included environmental issues ahead of December's international UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen.

    Bartholomew, who was accompanied by Archbishop Demetrios of America and Greece's permanent representative to the UN, ambassador Anastasis Mitsialis, told reporters after the 20-minute meeting, said they discussed environmental issues in light of the Copenhagen conference, and that he briefed the UN chief on his own "environmental initiatives" and the Ecumenical Patriarchate's "humble activities" regarding the "interfaith and inter-cultural dialogue".

    The Ecumenical Patriarch said he had also made not to his three visits to Ban's country of descent, Korea, and his previous visit to the UN during the tenure of secretary general Kofi Annan. He further briefed the UN chief on his upcoming visits to London next week for a conference on cooperation among religions and cultures being organised by Prince Charles, and afterwards to Athens, and noted that he will be in Copenhagen for the climate change conference.

    Bartholomew further said that he stressed to Ban that the SecGen was working for the unity of nations and cultures while the Ecumenical Patriarchate was contributing in that direction through the interfaith dialogue and the Patriarchate's initiatives for environmental protection, "and consequently we can be considered collaborators in the same direction, for the good of humanity".

    [11] US House of Representatives' resolution hails the role of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew


    The personality and global role played by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was praised by the US House of Representatives with a resolution adopted on the occasion of his formal visit to the United States launched on Oct. 20, and his imminent visit to the US capital on Nov. 2-5.

    The resolution adopted with 424 votes in favour and none against (the US House has 435 members) recognized the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarch's role in the efforts for peace, religious issues and the environment, and encouraged United States foreign policy makers to continue to urge Turkey to grant religious freedom and property rights to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    The resolution was put together by Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Co-Chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, and was signed by other 50 US House Reps before being submitted for approval.

    The US House welcomes to the United States "the spiritual leader of nearly 300,000,000 Orthodox Christians around the world and millions of Orthodox Christians in the United States," the "convener of an ecumenical meeting which produced the first condemnation by Muslim leaders of the 9/11 attack on the United States as an anti-religious act". It is also stressed that that the "Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is the spiritual home of the world's oldest and second largest Christian church in the world".

    It is pointed out that "Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew received on his first official visit to the United States in 1997, a gold medal, presented by the United States on behalf of the Congress in recognition of his outstanding and enduring contributions to religious understanding and peace". It is pointed out that he was "a recipient of the Congressional gold medal, the highest Congressional honor given to individuals like George Washington, Pope John Paul IV, and Winston Churchill, among others".

    The resolution also points out that the Ecumenical Patriarch is "recognized in the United States and abroad as a leader in the quest for world peace, greater religious understanding, and respect for the Earth's environment," underlining that his efforts earned him the title 'the Green Patriarch'.

    Financial News

    [12] Government vows action on 'disorder' in labour relations

    Labour relations in Greece displayed such obvious symptoms of disorder and problems of arbitrary abuse that, in several instances, it appeared as though Greece had decided to abolish protection for workers altogether, Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos stated on Thursday. He stressed that his own priority would be to solve the problems that can be solved.

    He was speaking after the first meeting of a committee put together to examine labour law and propose improvements that would restore functioning mechanisms and guarantees for the protection of employees, especially for the more flexible forms of employment involving part-time, temporary or "rented" staff.

    The minister accused the preceding New Democracy government of adopting a clumsy, neoliberal approach to these issues that seemed to show that the above state of affairs was a conscious political choice.

    Stressing that the committee would not receive a fee, Loverdos said that its task would be to highlight the existing guarantee mechanisms that were not being enforced in practice and to propose new measures in the framework of union law.

    He also clarified that public dialogue on the proposed reforms would be conducted within the committee, so that the proposed measures could be tabled in Parliament or enforced as soon as its work was done.

    "In this sense, I am waiting for proposals about when we can finish our work. On my part, I propose December 15," the minister added.

    Loverdos also underlined, in response to questions, that the government would not back down from its decision to not give extra points to staff in public-sector vocational training 'Stage' programmes seeking permanent jobs in the public sector.

    [13] KKE leader sees labour 'Dark Ages' in government measures

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Thursday criticised the government's stance regarding labour law and the people employed in the state sector using the 'Stage' vocational training programmes.

    "Unemployment cannot be answered with the government's fake argument that it wants meritocracy. When the jobs established by the government are far fewer than the thousands of unemployed, it cannot speak of meritocracy. The government must tell the truth. Using the excuse of meritocracy, it wants to help usher in a labour 'Dark Ages' that will become broader and more established. We demand permanent work for all," Papariga stressed.

    In a meeting with former Olympic Airways contract workers, she said the present government was "hiding" behind the decisions of its predecessor, which had excluded 800 people hired by the former national carrier over several years on a contract basis from being eligible for the package of measures applying to the rest of the national carrier's staff when the airline was privatised.

    Papariga was also highly critical of a Community directive on labour regulations that allowed the 'renting' of staff, saying that these "abolished all restrictions, however minor, relating to the forms of employment" and said that it should meet with "militant resistance" on the part of all workers, not just those directly affected.

    [14] FinMin Papaconstantinou on transparency

    Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Thursday that the issue of transparency constitutes a focal option for the government and the same applies to public finances.

    Papaconstantinou added that given the big difference being ascertained in the deficit announced by the previous government and the real deficit, securing reliability is essential.

    The finance minister added that for this reason the creation of a committee was decided in which representatives from IOBE, KEPE, the Bank of Greece and the Labour Institute will be participating. The committee will deliver before the end of the year the evaluation of the real situation, its assessment and, in parallel, proposals will be made on the improvement of the system in its entirety with the aim of having reliable data, which will be useful in relations with partners as well.

    [15] Cooperation agreement between Thessaloniki and China's Zhejing Province

    An agreement in the sectors of commerce, business and tourism was signed Thursday at local administration level by the Thessaloniki prefect and his counterpart from China's Zhejiang Province. The exact form of the cooperation will be clarified shortly by the two sides.

    The Zhejiang Province business delegation, currently on a visit to Thessaloniki, is in search of business partnerships in Greece and Europe in general.

    [16] National Bank said funding up 7.1 pct in Jan-Sept

    National Bank on Thursday said funding of Greek households and enterprises totaled 3.2 billion euros in the first nine months of the year, an increase of 7.1 pct, and stressed that it was on track to achieving a goal for a double digit growth rate in new loans this year.

    The bank said that according to data released by the Bank of Greece, National Bank's contribution to the total of mortgage loans in the period from December 2008 to September 2009 was 69 pct, covering 1.3 billion euros from a total of 1.9 billion euros in the market.

    National Bank said funding of small- and medium-sized enterprises totaled 900 million euros in the nine-month period, for a growth rate of 29 pct.

    [17] Greek groups' subsidiaries abroad play significant role, survey

    Greek multinational's subsidiaries play a very significant role in the groups' international production network, adding quantitive and quality services, a survey by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.

    The survey stressed that the short-term recorded strong financial position of Greek multinational groups would act as a protection shield against the threat of an economic crisis, while in the long-term multinational activities would have a positive impact on their competitiveness, particularly in their activities in Greece.

    IOBE said Greek multinational enterprises' subsidiaries contributed around 40 pct of total sales, while they were dynamic financial factors, significant employers and investors. The survey said that the main motive of establishing subsidiaries abroad was the search of new markets, seeking of strategic funds and a combination of both.

    [18] IFBA to hold 2010 meeting in Athens

    The 11th Inter-Balkan Forum of Banking Associations (IFBA) will be held in Athens in the spring of 2010.

    IFBA was established in 2004 in an initiative by the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA) to promote banking in the Balkan region.

    It numbers 10 members - banking associations from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey.

    [19] Greek stocks end 1.56 pct down

    Greek stocks continued moving lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 2,700 level. The index ended 1.56 pct down at 2,669.63 points, with turnover soaring to 457.8 million euros, of which 16.6 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower with the Telecoms (3.31 pct), Health (2.84 pct) and Travel (2.29 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Media (8.92 pct), Personal/Home Products (1.05 pct) and Raw Materials (0.61 pct) scored gains.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 1.52 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 0.10 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.37 pct down. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 150 to 61 with another 44 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.24%

    Industrials: +0.15%

    Commercial: -1.32%

    Construction: -0.46%

    Media: +8.92%

    Oil & Gas: -1.08%

    Personal & Household: +1.05%

    Raw Materials: +0.61%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.29%

    Technology: -0.45%

    Telecoms: -3.31%

    Banks: -1.26%

    Food & Beverages: -1.66%

    Health: -2.84%

    Utilities: -2.26%

    Chemicals: -1.51%

    Financial Services: -0.71%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Eurobank, Alpha Bank and Marfin Popular Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 13.02

    ATEbank: 1.95

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.06

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.60

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.06

    National Bank of Greece: 24.40

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 10.90

    Intralot: 4.52

    OPAP: 17.30

    OTE: 11.97

    Bank of Piraeus: 11.74

    Titan: 22.51

    [20] ADEX closing report

    The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.45 percent in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 147.203 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 16,931 contracts worth 118.007 million euros, with 23,103 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 25,926 contracts worth 29.196 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,367), followed by Eurobank (1,100), MIG (1,943), OTE (1,847), PPC (1,089), Piraeus Bank (1,703), Alpha Bank (2,542), Marfin Popular Bank (2,924), Intralot (1,002) and ATEbank (1,131).

    [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.490

    Pound sterling 0.904

    Danish kroner 7.502

    Swedish kroner 10.418

    Japanese yen 136.21

    Swiss franc 1.523

    Norwegian kroner 8.450

    Canadian dollar 1.599

    Australian dollar 1.640

    General News

    [22] Bill on protecting burnt forests posted on Internet for public debate

    The environment, energy and climate change ministry has posted its proposed draft bill for protecting the forests burnt in the August 2009 fires on the Internet at the website

    The draft bill was posted on Wednesday for a period of public debate that will last until Friday, with members of the public invited to make any comments, observations and proposals regarding its contents.

    The aim of the bill is to increase protection of burnt forests and forest land from being illegally occupied or from unauthorised development and construction - a frequently observed phenomenon in areas where forest fires have occurred in the past.

    Environment Minister Tina Birbili noted that the views and proposals submitted by the general public in this manner will be processed by ministry staff and taken into consideration when preparing the final draft bill that will be tabled in Parliament.

    [23] Handing over of Olympic Flame in Athens

    The ceremony for the handing over of the Olympic Flame for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games took place at the Panathenian Stadium in Athens on Thursday in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and the Governor General of Canada Michaelle Jean.

    An address was made by Greek Olympic Committee President Spyros Kapralos, who said he was proud that Greece fulfilled in the best possible way the ceremony for the Olympic Flame Lighting and the Torch Race in Athens for the 21st Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010.

    He added that he was delivering the Olympic Flame to the Vancouver Olympic Committee, entrusting on the part of Greece "a piece of our history, a piece of our culture, a piece of our life."

    The ceremony was also attended by Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, Canada's Sports Minister Gary Lan, former minister Fani Palli-Petralia and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

    [24] Maronia Cave, home of the mythological Cyclops Polyphemus

    According to Greek mythology Odysseus, during his 10-year journey home from the 10-year Trojan War, arrived in the Kingdom of the Kikonians, the land of the Thracian people who lived between present-day Lake Vistonida and the estuary of the Evros River, where he tied up his ship. The hero took 12 men and set out to find supplies. Along the way they found a large cave, which turns out to be the home of the fierce Cyclops Polyphemus, the one-eyed (Cyclops) son of Poseidon and Thoosa, who traps them in the cave and devours two of the men for his meal. The next day when Polyphemus returns to the cave with his flock of sheep, Odysseus inebriates him with a strong wine given to him by King Maron. When Polyphemus passes out, Odysseus and his men drive a stake into the Cyclops' eye, blinding him, and escape the cave by tying themselves to the undersides of the sheep.

    Polyphemus' cave, also known as Maronia cave, is situated 25 kilometers east of Komotini, near the historical settlement of Maronia, in a limestone hill with steep, and at times sheer, corridors.

    Although it is unknown when the cave was discovered, systematic exploration since 1969 by members of the Hellenic Speleological Society indicates that it has always been occupied, due to prehistoric finds of human presence, corresponding finds dating back to the Neolithic period and the Byzantine era that have been excavated in the cave.

    The local villagers knew of the cave's existence long before it was first visited by prominent archaeologist George Bakalakis in 1938, following indications in a passage in Apollonius' "Argonautica".

    The Maronia Cave is considered an important monument both with respect to its beauty and its archaeological interest. Its vast chambers are adorned with breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites of varying shapes and colors that resemble cypress trees and leafy branches, leading the first explorers to give such names to the chambers as the Stone Forest, the Red Room, the Chamber of the Bats, the Harp Chamber and the Chamber of the Idols.

    In modern times, the cave's entrance was used as a shelter for animal herds.

    Apart from the colorful stalactites and stalagmites, the cave is also home to and breeding ground of two rare species of bats found nowhere else in the world.

    Maronia Cave is also the only place in the world where one can find the unique populations of the isopod Alpioniscus thracicus, the coleoptera Maroniella beroni and the non-marine mollusk Balcanodiscus cerberus. Also, 30 different species of invertebrae have been found, of which 25 have permanent populations and five are new to science, while of particular importance are 8 exclusive cave-dwelling species (6 species of troglobites and 2 species of stygobites) and at least 10 species native to the cave.

    According to scientists, the cave was formed 8-10 million years ago, when the region emerged from the sea and erosion from rainwater began. the movement of the subterranean waters created caverns that were colonized by non-marine organisms.

    The cave was explored by the Petrocheilos couple in the early 1960s, when the first systematic documentation of its interior commenced. A more coordinated effort began in 2000, when the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Periphery, in collaboration with the Municipality of Maronia, assigned the task of conducting biological, geological and related research and studies to a team of professors from Thessaloniki's Aristotle University (AUTH). The researchers' results were submitted to the Periphery, which then began drafting a program to commence visits to the cave, in cooperation with experts from the Vienna Museum of Natural History and the Alistratis Cave in Serres and the Mara Cave in Drama.

    The local Rodopi prefectural council recently approved a contract to assign a study for exploitation of the cave, while the plan is, in collaboration with the Speleology and Palaeontology Ephorate, to set out a 300-meter long trail along which visitors can view the exquisite stalactites and stalagmites.

    Further, using state of the art laser technology, a virtual reality application will be developed that will enable visitors to "visit" and view the inaccessible sections of the cave. A similar technology will be used to videotape the rare bats, with the footage then being shown to visitors in a projection room, thus causing almost zero disturbance to the cave's dwellers.

    [25] Greek team receives top prize in 3rd Olympiad of Astronomy and Astrophysics

    The Greek mission that competed in the 3rd Olympiad of Astronomy and Astrophysics held in Tehran on Oct. 17-26 received the top prize for team work and two distinctions awarded to individual members. Competing in the event were 20 countries and from Europe, Asia and South America and roughly 100 students.

    The honorary distinctions were awarded to Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) Physics Department freshman Angelos Tsiaras and Brussels Greek School secondary education student Athanassios Mitrakis for their performance in all three phases of the competition, namely, theory, practical exercise, and night sky observation with a telescope. The Greek mission also comprised university student Giorgos Valogiannis and secondary education students Giorgos Lioutas and Orpheas Voutiras.

    The heads of the Greek mission were AUTH Physics Department professor Yiannis Seiradakis and University of Thessaly lecturer Loukas Zacheilas.

    The next Astronomy Olympiad will take place in Beijing in 2010 while Greece will be the host in 2013.

    [26] International technological conference in Athens on interactive entertainment

    The 5th International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology 2009 (ACE 2009) opened Thursday in Athens hosted by the Foundation of the Hellenic World (IME) and the international organization Association for Computing Machinery - Special Interest Group Computer - Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI).

    The conference, which is being held together with the 4th International Conference on Digital Interactive Media Entertainment and Arts (DIMEA 2009) focusing on developments concerning digital interactive entertainment media and relative arts, will run until Oct. 31.

    Interactive entertainment is a rapidly developing industry with notable social and cultural dimensions. The conference is a major academic forum for the presentation of new research results from the entertainment computing field.

    The conference agenda also includes a Creative Demo Session during which a presentation of over 20 studies/experiments will take place and the best of them will receive special distinctions.

    [27] Geroulanos the millionth visitor of the new Acropolis Museum

    Minister of Culture and Tourism Pavlos Geroulanos became the one millionth visitor of the new Museum of the Acropolis on Thursday, which he visited for the first time after receiving his portfolio.

    Geroulanos stressed that the people's response since June, when the museum opened its doors to the public, has been unprecedented, adding that this is a proof of the close relationship between culture and tourism.

    [28] Major haul of contraband cigarettes discovered in Thessaloniki

    A major haul of contraband cigarettes has been found and confiscated in the northern Greek port of Thessaloniki, Greek authorities announced on Thursday.

    Law enforcement agencies said that a container from Egypt was discovered to hold 10 million cigarettes instead of the bathroom accessories listed on its bill of lading, representing more than one million euros in unpaid excise duty.

    Weather Forecast

    [29] Rainy on Friday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 7C and 21C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 9C to 16C.

    [30] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Tuesday's terrorist attack on a police station in the Athens northern suburb of Aghia Paraskevi in which eight rookies were injured, two of them seriously after the station was riddled with 99 bullets, and the economy were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Thursday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Terrorism declares war - Operation to execute young police officers at Aghia Paraskevi police station".

    APOGEVMATINI: "We're turned into another Iraq - Unprecedented in savagery attempt of mass killing of police officers by brazen terrorists".

    AVRIANI: "Amnesty should be given to (the convicted members of the terrorist group) 'November 17' and other armed groups - The country cannot withstand more bloodshed".

    CHORA: "Urban guerrilla warfare - Bloody response to the law enforcement authorities' 'take-over' of Exarchia".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Terrorists cause bloodshed in ELAS (Greek Police) - 100 minus 1 bullets from Kalashnikovs, with six injuries, two of them serious, at Aghia Paraskevi police station".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Provocation with 100 bullets - Terror-army of 6 gunmen riddled the Aghia Paraskevi police station with bullets".

    ESTIA: "Taxpayers at their limits - The increase in taxation is unallowable".

    ETHNOS: "The ruthless killers in a vise - Contained optimism of imminent arrests in ELAS".

    TA NEA: "Show of terror with 100 bullets - They wanted dead police officers".

    VRADYNI: "100 bullets against Democracy - Unanimous condemnation of cowardly attack on Aghia Paraskevi police station".

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