|Sunday, 11 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-11-05
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 5 November 2009 Issue No: 3341
 UNSG addresses global forum on migration in Athens, meets with political leadershipUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlined three challenges facing the planet vis-à-vis the issue of migration, paying particular attention to the modern-day scourge of human trafficking, especially of women and children, during his address to the 3rd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), which opened in Athens on Wednesday.
The second challenge, he continued, was that of climate change. He noted that 10 percent of the global population lives in coastal areas that could be affected by the rise in the sea levels. In addition, new migration waves are anticipated due to extreme weather conditions such as floods, drought, etc.
The third challenge, Ban said, was that of the vulnerable migrants such as women and children, who he said suffer degradation, are pushed into forced labour, prostitution and even organ removal. The UN chief also noted that a global campaign has been launched for prevention of violence against women.
Greek Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis, who took the podium after the UN chief, focused on the problem of illegal migrants and on the social and civil integration of legal migrants.
Greece, he said, has realised both the abilities and the limitations of police measures, while the government has declared its intention to clash with illegal migration networks.
He also referred to the two focal points of the country's policy for the integration of migrants.
The first focal point is to boost the integration of legal migrants through measures to enhance their safety, as well as the participation of long-residing migrants in local government elections as well as through the provision of Greek nationality to the migrants' children born in Greece.
The second focal point, Ragoussis continued, is management of the constantly increasing number of migrants lacking travel documents (illegal migrants). One of the measures that will be taken is the establishment of an executive coordination centre for such migrants, with the participation of all the ministries involved, he said.
The minister stressed that a prerequisite for the solution of that problem is international cooperation, given that the problem is a global one.
 PM receives UN Sec-Gen, talks on climate changeRepercussions of climate change on modern migration movements were the main focus of talks on Wednesday between PM Papandreou and Ban Ki Moon.
"Greece attaches great importance to the United Nations, of which it is a founding member, while there is a tradition of long-term and multilateral cooperation and dedication to the principles of international law," the prime minister said, stressing the UN's decisive mission for global peace and cooperation.
Their meeting also covered issues of Greek interest, such as the Cyprus problem and the "name dispute" with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), and matters such as the UN peacekeeping forces and the "Millennium targets".
Papandreou said that climate change would probably emerge as the foremost problem of the planet and that dialogue on this issue would reach a peak in Copenhagen in December. The Greek premier announced that he would be attending the climate change summit himself and expressed hope that "we can reach a binding agreement".
According to the premier, he had emphasised the Greek government's dedication to this goal in his talks with the UN Secretary General, in addition to the initiatives recently undertaken by the EU and his attempt to redirect the Greek economy toward green development.
"The Secretary General will find us to be supportive of his efforts," he stressed.
Concerning modern migration movements and Greece's chairmanship of the 3rd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), Papandreou said that he had emphasised in talks with Ban Ki Moon the need for development in both the countries of origin and the countries that received immigrants so that, when migrants returned to their countries they would transfer know-how, experience and capital to these.
Papandreou also emphasised the need to protect workers and the poorer sections of society from the impact of the global economic crisis.
"I informed the UN Secretary General on my latest initiatives to create a momentum on both the Cyprus issue and the name issue with fYRoM," the Greek premier said, expressing satisfaction that his views and the UN Secretary General's largely coincided and promising close cooperation.
Ban Ki Moon welcomed the Greek premier's promise to help Cypriots arrive at an agreement for a solution to the Cyprus problem, saying that the international community had "high hopes" for the negotiations now underway and that these must continue, adding that UN special envoy Alexander Downer would continue to work with the leaders of the two communities.
Regarding the name dispute with fYRoM, the UN Secretary General said special mediator Matthew Nimetz was ready to repeat talks whenever the two sides were ready, welcoming Greece's readiness to begin talks and Athens' assurance that it would fully support the role of the UN special envoy on this issue.
On the issue of migration, he noted that the Greek economy had benefited from the presence of migrants while referring to concerns about conditions of hospitality in Greece.
"I hope that Greece, as a destination country, will continue to defend and promote the rights of migrants," Ban Ki Moon said, urging Greece to respect the processes for asylum applications.
The UN Secretary General also praised Greece's contribution to the "concepts of democracy, human rights and a state of law," and the Greek prime minister's role at the EU, adding that he would address the Greek Parliament on behalf of the UN on Thursday.
Papoulias hosts luncheon
Later on Wednesday, Papoulias hosted an official luncheon in honour of Ban Ki Moon, during which he referred at length to the UN's pivotal role in issues of key interest for Greece, such as the Cyprus problem or the name dispute.
Papoulias repeated that the problem on Cyprus was one of "a long-term invasion and occupation" and that it could not be solved until the occupation and its repercussions had ended. He also referred to what he called the "blatant paradox" in Turkey's stance, as a candidate-country for EU entry, to refuse to recognise one of the existing member-states of the EU, the Cyprus Republic.
"It is obvious that Turkey's European aspirations have no hope while the Cyprus issue remains an open wound," the Greek president underlined.
Regarding the name dispute between Greece and neighbouring FYROM, Papoulias said that Athens objected to Skopje's attempt to lay exclusive claim to a name and a region that since the Middle Ages had actually described a multinational geographic area that was not the homeland of any one nation.
In his reply, the UN Secretary General underlined Greece's historic contribution to concepts such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law that were guiding principle of the United Nations.
He also referred to his recent trip to Afghanistan, which he visited immediately before coming to Greece, and strongly condemned the attacks targeting UN personnel in that country, while urging all UN member-states to cooperate in order to solve the problems of extremism and terrorism.
The UN chief finally thanked Greece for its participation in all UN peacekeeping missions and the contribution of the Hellenic Navy to fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia.
Finally, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party president Costas Karamanlis met in Parliament on Wednesday with the visiting UN Secretary General.
The half-hour meeting focused on the problems of climate change and piracy at sea, while an emphasis was placed on matters of particular concern for Greece like, developments in the Cyprus issue. No statements were made afterwards.
UN chief tours New Acropolis Museum
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by his wife, visited the Íew Acropolis Museum on Wednesday afternoon and was given a guided tour by museum director Prof. Dimitris Pandermalis.
Prime Minister George Papandreou and his wife will host a dinner in honour of the UNSG and his wife later in the evening.
 PM addresses GFMD: Need to open up new ways of thought and policyThe Greek government's policy on migrants will be a drastic advancement of measures for their integration and social participation, aimed at achieving a socially cohesive and just Greece, prime minister George Papandreou said on Wednesday, addressing the 3rd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) which is being held in Athens. "Our goal is to combat inequality and fear in society," he stressed.
The 3rd GFMD, taking place at the Megaron-Athens Concert Hall and attended by 250 representatives of international organisations, is also being attended by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who addressed the Forum, and a number of government ministers.
Papandreou said that it was a "happy coincidence" with "great symbolism" that this year's Forum is taking place in Greece, "a country that well knows what migration means and how it could work for everyone's benefit.
"We need to open up new ways of thought and policy on regulating this phenomenon that will allow us to avert extreme problems that we frequently encounter, such as racism, human trafficking, barbarous exploitation of women and children," the prime minister urged.
Noting that migration was not just a present-day phenomenon, given that it has existed throughout history "not as a regional phenomenon, but a crucial one for the development of our world, of civilisation, of the way we perceive our societies, but also for us ourselves", the Greek premier spoke of the relationship between migration and development.
"Development and migration are communicating vessels and provide the ability for us to realise also the beneficial possibilities of a regulated migration, because development reduces migration to the countries of origin, but migration in turn also increases growth," Papandreou said.
Papandreou added that migration has, in the countries of destination, contributed to filling empty work positions and the creation of additional jobs for the native population, to improvement of the demographic indexes, to boosting the social security systems, to reduction of the production costs, to containment of inflationary pressures, and to improvement of the competitiveness of the economies.
"Ancient Greek civilisation would not have been a point of reference for the Mediterranean Basin had the Greeks not migrated to and settled in what are today's southern Italy, France, Egypt and the Middle East," Papandreou underlined.
The premier further noted that in the last 20 years Greece has undergone a fundamental transformation, with the consolidation of democracy and economic growth having transformed Greece from a country of origin (of migrants) to a country of destination of migrants, "of people who came to our country in search of a better destiny".
"It is all those who supported and support with their presence, the crucial sectors of our economy, in agriculture, in construction, in tourism, in shipping. The migrants, too, have left their own, indelible mark on our country in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, through their work in the construction of the infrastructures," the premier continued.
Development, he stressed, "is not just an economic matter, but one of values, knowledge, democracy for both the countries of origin and destination, and also for the migrants themselves".
Turning to his government's commitments, Papandreou described them as "a series of distinct but also mutually supplementary axes of action", which include the consolidation and ensurance of the legality of residency and gradual passage into a regime of long-term residency for the permanent migrants, intensive promotion of social integration so as to lift exclusion to access to fundamental social goods and services that are necessary for the development of each individual's personality and participation in the country's social life.
Further, he stressed that his government has committed itself to boosting the participation of migrants in the country's civil life, through the ability to acquire Greek nationality "chiefly for the so-called second generation", the institution of dialogue with the migrant organisations and related NGOs, but also with the participation of the long-residing migrants in local government elections which, the premier noted, is also an EU policy.
"Our aim is to confront illegal migration on the criterion of consolidating our integration policies as well as respect of the fundamental human rights, through more efficient guarding of the borders, fuller utilisation of the institutional abilities for return to the country of destination, and through revision of the policy on granting political asylum, which currently does not meet our obligations," Papandreou stressed.
Another element is the new, active negotiation on the distribution of the burden of illegal migrants and asylum-seekers within the EU "since, in reality, all of Europe is in the same transitional period as Greece, whereas our country is one of the main destinations of migrants headed to the entire EU," he continued.
Papandreou also stressed the need to re-determine relations with the countries of origin in order to create fair and mutually beneficial relations, and also the need to "take the control of the movement of people between our countries into our own hands".
"Our wager is to create legitimate and safe routes for migration," he added.
Turning to climate change, Papandreou stressed that it does not concern only the environment, but it also poses immense challenges with respect to the forced movement of populations due to its effects.
 Minister on free readmission of legal immigrantsCitizen's Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis publicised in a statement on Wednesday the ministry's decision on the free readmission of legal immigrants throughout the year.
"Following appeals by many immigrants organisations, as well as the Interior Ministry itself on the granting of readmission permission to Greece for the holders of type A' blue confirmation so that all the legal immigrants without exception to be able to travel to their countries of origin during the Christmas holiday period, the Citizen's Protection Ministry decided to respond to the real need for the free movement of legal immigrants from and to their country of origin, throughout 2010 in its entirety. This decision concerns multiple readmissions to the country," the minister said.
 Anti-racist rally in AthensCitizens' rights groups, anti-racist organisations, leftist organisations, immigrants and students organisations held a rally in downtown Syntagma Square on Wednesday night, followed by a march to the Concert Hall and calling "For a world without racism, poverty and war."
Arriving at the Concert Hall, the demonstrators attempted unsuccessfully to surround the building as they were prevented from doing so by strong police forces.
The rally was part of a series of events organised all over the country by the Organising Committee on Action Against the World Immigration and Development Forum that is taking place in Athens in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
 DM Venizelos holds press conferenceDefence Minister Evangelos Venizelos referred to all the current issues of his ministry during a press conference held on Wednesday.
Venizelos announced the reshaping and modernisation of legislation concerning armaments contracts to enable the General Defence Armaments Department to acquire the necessary legal backing. In this context, the assistance of the International and European Economic Law Centre has been requested and EU legislation will be incorporated for additional transparency guarantees to be provided.
The Citizen's Protection ministry will be given the former Uza Moria army camp on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos for the creation of a refugee reception centre.
On the possibility of the participation of Turkey in the European force that supervises by air the Greece-Turkey borderline for the detection of illegal immigrants, Venizelos said that "if the neighbouring country wants to participate in the European force, but respecting the sovereign rights and the territorial integrity of our country, as well as international regulations, then it is welcome. Unfortunately, however, Turkey through its radars is continuing to harass helicopters and aircraft of the European force."
On the question of the ministry's budget, the minister said that 700 million euros were saved this year from expenditures on armaments, while the proposal for a 36 percent increase in operational expenditures was not accepted.
As regards 2009, the expenditures for armaments, based on deliveries, amount to 3.157 billion euros, in 2010 they will be less than 2. 72 billion euros, in 2011 they will be restricted to 350 million euros and in 2012 to 85 million euros.
Commenting on Greece's international commitments, Venizelos said that "we accept the decision-framework (for the procurement of French frigates) and we shall proceed to the best moves for the protection of the national interest and of the state."
 DM Venizelos meets Thyssen Group Marine Systems officialDefence Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Minister of State Haris Bamboukis met at the Maximos Mansion on Wednesday afternoon with the executive president of Thyssen Group Marine Systems.
Venizelos said that a mutually acceptable framework was shaped during the meeting on the steps that should be taken to complete the formation that has been agreed for the submarines and for a viable solution to be found for the Skaramangas Shipyards.
He added that the German side will assume the responsibility of seeking and proposing responsible and reliable solutions for the Shipyards, solutions having a monetary and business depth. A list of proposals will be prepared that will be evaluated by an International Firm that will be selected by the Greek government.
Meanwhile, the Shipyards' operation will be continued as normal and tests at sea of the three new submarines will begin as soon as possible.
 President Papoulias awards medal to the Archbishop of FinlandPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday awarded the Medal of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix to Archbishop Leo of Karelia and All Finland.
Receiving Archbishop Leo, who was accompanied by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, President Papoulias referred to Leo's exceptional work which he himself witnessed during his visit to Finland last May. "Everyone loves you in Finland and speaks of your Church with respect and admiration; most rightfully so, because you are doing many and good things," the President noted.
On his part, Archbishop Leo referred to the respect Finland displays toward minority Churches and made a special reference to the interest of Finnish President Tarja Halonen in the Karelian language issues.
Archbishop Leo stated, receiving the medal, that "I have no words to express my gratitude for this honorary distinction which is awarded not just to me but to the faithful and the state of Finland as well."
 Nimetz calls on Greece, fYRoM for talks in New YorkNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
An announcement by a UN Secretariat spokesman on Wednesday said that (UN mediator on the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (fYRoM) name) Matthew Nimetz has proposed a new meeting with the representatives of Greece and fYRoM, during the week beginning on November 16.
The announcement said that during statements made to the press on Wednesday by the Secretary General and the Greek prime minister in Athens, the Secretary General noted that his personal envoy on talks between Greece and fYRoM, Matthew Nimetz, is willing for the talks to resume as soon as both sides are ready.
It was further pointed out that the Secretary General mentioned that it is an encouraging fact that the Greek prime minister told him that "Greece is ready" and "will fully support" the "continuous facilitating role" of Nimetz.
The announcement also stressed that Nimetz mentioned that he is in contact with the sides and has proposed the holding of a meeting in New York during the week beginning as of November 16.
 Ivanov invites Papoulias to SkopjeSKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Frangopoulos)
The president of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), Gjorge Ivanov, has invited President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias to formally visit the neighbouring country.
Ivanov conveyed the invitation to Amb. Alexandra Papadopoulou, who heads Greece's liaison office in Skopje.
The invitation underlined that a visit by Papoulias, the date of which is left open to be decided by the latter, will give a "strong boost" to the strengthening of good-neighbourly relations.
The fYRoM head of state also mentioned that he is "deeply convinced that in bilateral relations of the two neighbouring countries, things that unite us and bring us closer together are more than those that divide us."
Ivanov also expressed hope that Papoulias will accept the invitation.
Caption: ANA-MPA / EPA file photo of fYRoM President of Gjorge Ivanov.
 Erdogan addresses letter to PapandreouANKARA (ANA-MPA - A. Abatzis)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sent a letter to Greece's Prime Minister George Papandreou outlining a number of proposals for creating cooperation prospects between Greece and Turkey, according to a dispatch sent by the Turkish news agency Anadolu on Wednesday.
In the letter sent on October 30, Erdogan referred to the Turkish government's intention to develop relations between the two countries in all areas and "examine all existing problems". He also said that a "line of zero problems with neighbours" is a priority of Turkish foreign policy.
Erdogan went on to express hope that the new Greek government will be able to give a new momentum to bilateral cooperation and the dialogue underway for the past 10 years, expressing satisfaction over Papandreou's visit to Turkey during the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) foreign ministers' meeting.
Papandreou attended the meeting in the capacity of foreign minister, having also taken the foreign ministry portfolio for himself when he formed the new Greek government.
 Alternate FM to meet Turkish official on ThursdayAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas will host a working luncheon at the foreign ministry on November 5 at 14:45 for Turkey's Minister of State and main negotiator with the European Union, Egemen Bagis, a ministry announcement said on Wednesday.
 KKE leader on social solidarity benefitCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Wednesday termed the government's decisions on the social solidarity benefit a "poor house policy", stressing that the PASOK government "gives for two years a 25-cent benefit to the member of the four-member family," and adding that "this is a strong slap in the working people's face."
Papariga said that KKE's position is that "a big struggle must start this year for the national collective agreement and for the branch agreements." She also pointed out that this struggle must be supported by all the working people.
"With a struggle front which, if it unwinds through unified action by all the working people, can create preconditions even for a better situation, even for the blunting of problems," she said.
Referring to statements by EU Finance Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, Papariga said that "the working people have tightened their belts many years ago," adding "the working people have no responsibility for the debts and the deficits."
 Petalotis repeats aim for single-digit deficit in 2010The government's aim is to reduce the public deficit to a single-digit percentage of GDP within 2010, government spokesman George Petalotis insisted on Wednesday, in spite of the great weaknesses of the Greek economy that had also been highlighted by the European Commission.
Replying to questions concerning the special solidarity benefit for low-income families, Petalotis said that there had been an in-depth discussion on this by the Cabinet and the draft bill for the benefit had been carefully prepared. Public debate on the bill had begun but any proposals "must be in the direction set by the government and will not have repercussions on public finances," he added.
Asked whether the benefit will be taxed, the spokesman noted only that any such decision would be announced.
On the taxation of middle incomes, Petalotis said the government was proceeding in accordance with its pre-election pledges and wanted to create a stable fiscal and tax environment, with the aim of redistributing burdens.
He also stressed that the issues of incentives to scrap older vehicles and increases in road tax were now "closed" and that the government had improved on the legislation passed by the previous government, while the decisions taken jointly by Environment Minister Tina Birbili and Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou had been fully justified from both a financial and environmental standpoint.
The spokesman confirmed, in response to questions, that money saved from the car-scrapping measure would be directed toward education.
 New 48-hour strike at port of PiraeusPiraeus port dockers decided on Wednesday to hold a new 48-hour strike beginning at midnight Wednesday and end at midnight on Friday.
The dockers also decided to abstain from overtime work this weekend and will meet again on Friday to decide on whether or not they will further escalate their strikes.
 Gov't on port strike, Skaramangas shipyardGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis stated on Wednesday that a new strike called by unions at the port of Piraeus is an issue that "bedevils society over recent days".
Responding to press questions, Petalotis stated that the government was called on to deal with the strike action as soon as it was launched on Oct. 1 by "setting criteria and standards," adding that the government believes that "a feasible solution can be achieved only through dialogue."
He announced that a Piraeus Port Authority SA (PPA SA) board member will be appointed to act as alternate CEO, and authorised to begin a dialogue immediately between the PPA, Cosco's subsidiary in Greece and the port's worker unions.
Commenting on the issue of the Skaramanga Shipyard, Petalotis stated that the "government has reacted" and that "it will proceed keeping in mind that public interest comes first".
 Culture and Tourism Minister Geroulanos and deputy minister Gerekou visit SETECulture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos accompanied by deputy minister Angela Gerekou visited Wednesday the offices of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE).
In the meeting, held with SETE board members, they agreed to set up a framework of cooperation to jointly draw up a common strategy in the sector and adopt coordinated action with the responsible government ministries and agencies involved.
 Tax evasion at 30 bln euros annually, reportÔax evasion in the country totaled 30 billion euros annually, a sum far exceeding the state budget's deficit this year, a report by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) announced on Wednesday.
The Federation's report, based on figures published by the finance ministry for the year 2007, said that government efforts to collect 20 billion euros from tax evaders could either cut taxpayers' taxes by around 30 pct, erase the country's fiscal problem or allowing a combination of both. The report also noted that wage earners and pensioners accounted for 74 pct of total income, while self occupied people only 4.0 pct and 99.5 pct of enterprises paid an annual tax of 6.100 euros on average.
SEV said more than 50 pct of Greek households' (54.4 pct) tax statements were below the 12,000-tax exempt level, paying no income taxes, another 33 pct of families' tax statements ranged from 12,000 to 30,000 euros, paying an average tax of 1,140 euros annually, while only 2.0 pct of Greek families' tax statements were above 60,000 euros, paying 34 pct of total income taxes in the country.
The report also said that 99.5 pct of enterprises, totaling 202,418 small and medium-sized enterprises, were paying an annual tax of 6,100 euros on average, equal to the income tax paid by a wage-earner with a monthly income of 2,000 euros.
The 1,500 largest Greek enterprises, employing an average of 350 people, were paying 72.2 pct of total corporate taxes in the country, or an annual tax of 2.2 million euros on average.
 Greek economic sentiment index jumped in OctoberGreece's economic sentiment index rose significantly in October, continuing an upward trend prevailing in the last few months, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Wednesday.
The index jumped to 71.7 points in October from 63.8 in September, its highest reading since October 2008, reflecting a significant improvement in demand and supply, with the consumer's confidence index rising to the highest level in two years.
The economic sentiment index in the EU and the Eurozone continued moving upwards for the seventh consecutive month in October to 86 and 86.2 pct, respectively, although both remained significantly lower compared with long-term average levels.
IOBE attributed this advance also to increased expectations created by the new government, a phenomenon systematically recorded in all reports since 1985.
More analytically, business expectations in the industrial sector, along with estimates for current levels of demand and new orders, were moving higher, with inventories rising slightly.
In the services sector, business expectations for demand worsened slightly, while expectations over short-term demand rose.
In the retail sector, business expectations for current sales worsened, inventories fell, but estimates over employment in the sector for the next quarter improved significantly.
In the construction sector, expectations over works remained strongly negative, while forecasts over employment showed a slight improvement.
Greek households' expectations over their financial situation rose significantly in October, along with expectations over the country's economic condition, while intention to save in the next 12 months rose significantly. Expectations over developments in unemployment improved with the relative index falling to the lowest level this year.
Greek consumers' expectations over the financial situation of their households jumped 13 points to -9 in October, with one in four households expected a slight or marked improvement of their financial situation. Intention to buy a car in the next 12 months rose slightly with the index rising to -73 points in October from -76 in July, reaching the European average rate, although intention to buy a home fell in the month.
 Greek cooperative banks report improved 9-month resultsGreek cooperative banks reported satisfactory increases in their nine-month results, compared with the corresponding period last year, Nikos Myrtakis, chairman of the Association of Cooperative Banks of Greece said on Wednesday.
Assets totaled 4.546 billion euros, up 18.8 pct compared with the same period in 2008, while saving deposits grew 17.6 pct to 3.597 billion euros and loans rose 6.4 pct to 3.152 billion euros.
Equity capitals grew 6.11 pct in the January-September period to 541.9 million euros, while pre-tax profits fell 10.61 pct to 39.9 million euros, reflecting a cut in profit margins and higher cost of money.
The Association of Cooperative Banks of Greece opened 13 new retail units around the country in the nine-month period, raising their network to 213.
 Hellenic Exchanges says net profit down 44% in Jan-SepHellenic Exchanges SA on Wednesday said its nine-month consolidated net profits fell by 44 pct to 27.9 million euros, from 50.2 million euros in the corresponding period last year. Consolidated turnover fell 38 pct to 53.1 million euros.
The Group attributed its lower results to a decline in share prices, despite a 23 pct rise in the volume of transactions in the January-September period, with turnover falling by 47 pct to 34.4 billion euros.
In the derivatives market, the volume of transactions fell 6.0 pct.
Hellenic Exchanges reported non-repeated revenues of 1.8 million euros, while expenses pre-amortization totaled 17.1 million euros, down 14 pct from last year. Operating earnings (EBIT) dropped 47 pct to 33.3 million euros in the nine-month period, while net earnings per share fell 39 pct to 0.43 euros, from 0.71 euros in the corresponding period last year.
 AB Vasilopoulos reports improved 9-month resultsAB Vassilopoulos on Wednesday reported an 11.1-pct increase in its consolidated sales to 1.064 billion euros in the nine-month period from January to September 2009, up from 958 million euros in the corresponding period last year.
A company statement attributed this increase to a competitive price policy adopted by the group, the contribution of new retail units and an improvement in the contribution of a subsidiary in the food business.
Parent sales totaled 1.011 billion euros, from 926 million euros in 2008, for an increase of 9.2 pct. Consolidated operating profits totaled 31.8 million euros this year, from 27.5 million euros in 2008, with operating earnings easing to 30.4 million euros in 2009 from 33.2 million euros in 2008.
EBITDA jumped 19.3 pct to 53.4 million euros in the January-September period, with consolidated after tax profits rising to 18 million euros from 16.8 million last year.
Parent after tax profits eased to 17.7 million euros in the nine-month period from 21.6 million euros last year. AB Vassilopoulos signed an agreement in early October for buy a supermarket chain with a network of 11 retail units, boosting its presence in the Thrace region.
The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
 Stocks rebound stronglyStocks rebounded strongly at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index back above the 2,600-level. The index jumped 2.66 pct to end at 2,652.65 points, with turnover at 230.7 million euros, of which 22.5 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher with the exception of the Media sector which ended 0.78 pct lower. Banks (4.12 pct), Insurance (3.29 pct), Technology (3.06 pct) and Personal/Home Products (2.57 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.
The FTSE 20 index rose 3.23 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.81 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index ended 1.73 pct up. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 163 to 38 with another 46 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.74%
Personal & Household: +2.57%
Raw Materials: +1.41%
Travel & Leisure: +1.25%
Food & Beverages: +1.18%
Financial Services: +2.21%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Cyprus and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 13.00
Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.65
HBC Coca Cola: 17.49
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.00
National Bank of Greece: 25.12
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 10.50
Bank of Piraeus: 11.15
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.69 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 78.660 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,204 contracts worth 64.020 million euros, with 25,240 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,270 contracts worth 14.640 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,150), followed by Eurobank (888), OTE (1,653), Piraeus Bank (1,147), Alpha Bank (1,746), Marfin Popular Bank (777) and Cyprus Bank (1,021).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market fell to 1.870 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 987 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 883 million euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.530 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmarkbonds was 139 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 4.71 pct and the German Bund 3.32 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.23 pct, the six-month rate 1.04 pct, the three-month rate 0.72 pct and the one-month rate 0.42 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.487
Pound sterling 0.900
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 10.521
Japanese yen 135.37
Swiss franc 1.523
Norwegian kroner 8.509
Canadian dollar 1.580
Australian dollar 1.640
 11th Greek ICT Forum opens - Message from PMThe 11th annual Greek Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Forum opened in Athens on Wednesday in a central hotel.
A message from prime minister George Papandreou was read out to the opening session of the two-day conference, outlining four "decisive interventions" planned by his government that will set in motion "catalytic and long-term changes" in the sectors of Information Technology, Telecoms and Digital Communications.
The interventions aim at broadening the right and ability of access of all the citizens, agencies and enterprises to high-speed digital communication networks from wherever they are situated, the availability of all public information to the social whole through digital infrastructures, the integrated computerisation and digitilisation of the public sector and the introduction of Open Software, especially in education, and the transition from public sector software supply to the provision of integrated services.
In his message, the premier outlined a visionary framework of policy principles which he said will impact the development of information technologies and digital communications over the coming years.
The specialisation of the four interventions into specific tactical moves is eagerly awaited by the enterprises in the sector, given that the government has not directly linked the utilisation of ICT technologies with EU funding, but has drafted a long-term developmental framework of its own.
The Forum will discuss six thematic subjects covering the most important areas of growth of digital services to the public, to enterprises, agencies and civil services, with more than 100 speakers presenting the developments that will influence the course of the information technology, telecoms and broadband services markets, according to the organisers.
 Greek Alternate FM at anniversary event in ViennaVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas will be the main speaker at an event to be held here on Friday on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The event is organised by the Greek OSCE Presidency, while the Greek minister will also be having a series of meetings with the Austrian state and political leadership.
The event, taking place at the old Hoffburg palace in Vienna, is expected to be attended by over 600 representatives of public life from Austria and abroad.
Droutsas will be having consecutive meetings with the Austrian state and political leadership on Friday morning, initially with Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer and then with Austrian Parliament President Barbara Prammer and Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger.
 Air Force 4-day events programme for patron saintThe Greek Air Force has organised a series of events spanning four days, from November 6-9, in order to mark the feast of its patron saint, the Archangel Michael. The official celebration will be held at the Dekelia airforce base on November 8.
During the four days, airports throughout Greece will be open to the public between 9:00 and 17:00 daily, except on Sunday when they open after 13:00. School pupils will be able to visit Air Force units, where they will be able to view various exhibitions.
There will also be air shows in remote towns and islands and events involving flying clubs and aviational sports clubs.
The air show at the Dekelia Air Force base on Sunday will include a demonstration rescue using a Super Puma helicopter, a demonstration fire-fighting operation using a CL-415 aircraft and flights of T-6 training aircraft.
As every year, the Air Force will hold a nationwide essay competition, inviting students in the final year of high school to submit essays on a given theme. The three best essays will receive a symbolic cash prize and their authors will be offered the opportunity to fly in an Air Force plane.
The events will include a memorial service and the laying of wreaths at the Fallen Airmen Monument at Dekelia air base on November 7.
 Officer dies in fire aboard Greek-owned tanker off UAEA fire broke out in the engine room of the Greek-owned Liberian-flag tanker "Fair Energy" on Wednesday morning as it was anchored off the port of Khor Fakkan in the United Arab Emirates, causing the death of the ship's first engineer Y. Anastassopoulos.
According to the local port authority the fire, which was put out by the tanker's foreign crew, broke out during refuelling of the ship.
The body of the Greek officer will be transported to Greece by the owning company "Fair Del".
 Rainy on ThursdayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 23C. Cloudy in Athens, with southerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 21C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 9C to 18C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEU forecasts for zero growth in the Greek economy in 2010 and its strict recommendations and the situation in main opposition New Democracy ahead of the elections for the party's leadership, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Storm of additional contributions - Tax evasion hunt against property owners for debts".
APOGEVMATINI: "The government's inconsistency is verified - Every decision is not well prepared and lacks prospect".
AVGHI: "Poor social benefit package".
AVRIANI: "Who will receive the solidarity benefit, and how".
CHORA: "The leadership race in main opposition New Democracy is turning into a derby".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "EU foresees zero growth and skyrocketing of unemployment in 2010".
ELEFTHEROS: "Who will receive the social solidarity benefit"?
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "EU warns: Alas if .... The gloomiest messages on the Greek economy since 2002".
ESTIA: "The new taxes are preposterous- They burden the honest taxpayers".
ETHNOS: "Benefit/breather for 2.5 million Greeks".
KATHIMERINI: "EU stance gets tougher on Greece".
LOGOS: "EU forecasts zero growth and unemployment over 10 percent for Greece in 2010".
NIKI: "Mutiny in PASOK over the abolition of the old vehicles withdrawal incentives, and the taxes and extraordinary contributions".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The government's sensitivity equals a one euro charity to the destitute".
TA NEA: "300 enterprises and 60,285 property owners will pay extraordinary contributions ".
TO VIMA: "From whom they take and to whom they give - Government proceeds with first part of income redistribution policy".
VRADYNI: "Knives unsheathed in ruling PASOK - We promised one thing and are doing something else".
 President Christofias meets Russian Foreign Minister LavrovNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias received here Wednesday, Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, who is paying a two-day official visit to Cyprus.
The meeting recorded a full convergence of views between Cyprus and Russia with regard to the Cyprus problem.
Speaking to the press, President Christofias expressed satisfaction on the results of his meeting with Lavrov and described the meeting as ``excellent.``
He added that there would be more practical results which would be analysed during the talks between Lavrov and Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcos Kyprianou.
"Ôhe Russian Federation stands by our side and I would like to thank once more the leadership and the people of Russia for this consistent, long-standing stance which it observes in favour of Cyprus, in favour of the rights of the Cypriot people as a whole," President Christofias said, pointing out that "because a just, viable and principled solution to the Cyprus problem, based on the UN resolutions and the principles of the international law would serve the Cypriot people as a whole."
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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