|Saturday, 10 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-11-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 12 November 2009 Issue No: 3347
 Papandreou: 'We are restoring a state of law'The draft bill on public sector appointments will be the first step toward restoring a state of law in the direction of justice, equality and legality, Prime Minister George Papandreou said during Wednesday's meeting of the Cabinet that discussed and approved the proposed bill.
"As a society we will no longer tolerate client relations [in politics], deals and lawlessness. No Greek man or woman can abide them because this is why Greece has stagnated over the last five years," Papandreou underlined. He stressed that fairness and meritocracy would be the foundation of the new effort and that it was the government's duty to "draw a red line" between the present and a murky past.
"This may annoy certain people but what is important is that this red line will be liberating for most people and for the country," he added.
The prime minister said that the envisaged change toward an open government that was accountable, efficient and fair would not be achieved in one day nor with one bill.
Reviewing the government's work during its first 35 days in office, the prime minister said that it had started to put into action the major changes for which PASOK had received the electorate's mandate.
"The government must daily assure the citizens with actions, each day making one step forward, that we are carrying out our pre-election pledges," he emphasised.
The prime minister especially underlined the issue of gaining people's trust, stressing that the government had to persuade citizens that it was trustworthy in order to gain not just their toleration but also their support and participation.
"Without participation we will not bring about change," he warned the ministers, noting that people would only be persuaded to participate if they were convinced that the government was making a serious and sincere effort for them and the country.
In statements on Monday, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis had said that the draft bill presented to the cabinet on Wednesday was prepared in collaboration with the Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection (ASEP), which would henceforth be exclusively responsible for public-sector appointments.
Among the main changes envisaged is the abolition of the personal interview for job candidates that had been introduced by the New Democracy government, on the grounds that it was open to abuse, and the abolition of "bonus" work experience points awarded to those in state-sector 'Stage' vocational training programmes over those with equivalent work experience in the private sector.
 Opposition statements on cabinet meetingMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party deputy and former interior minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, referring on Wednesday to the legislative initiative titled "Reshaping of system for hirings and their total subjection to the full control of ASEP", ratified earlier in the day by the cabinet, said that "today's cabinet meeting constitutes a characteristic example of the continuation of the tactic of distortion of reality and blatant hypocrisy, which the PASOK governments always follow, proving in the long run that they do not change no matter what lion's skin of 'modernisation' they may put on temporarily."
Pavlopoulos accused the previous PASOK governments of establishing "lawlessness, inequality, injustice and subsequently clientele relations particularly in the sector of hirings."
The former minister further said that with its legislative initiative the government "is coming in essence to reopen the wounds that it had created itself."
Referring to the same issue, the Political Secretariat of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) stressed in an announceent that "today's decision by the cabinet to dismiss in essence project contract workers and those working with stage and to hire in their place much fewer contract workers for a specific period and indeed to cover fixed and continuous needs leads thousands of working people to unemployment," adding that the government is creating a new generation of contract workers and is leading public services and organisations to inadequate functioning and to dissolution.
 Cypriot FM meets with Greek leadership; comments on latest developmentsPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received visiting Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, with the former referring to what he called a "mobilisation" currently witnessed in the Cyprus issue.
The Cypriot minister, on his part, reminded that this is an important period in view of the European Council meeting in December.
The Greek president also expressed interest in the contacts Cyprus President Demetris Christofias will have in London and referred to a British proposal reintroduced on Tuesday, suggesting that 50 pct of the territory now occupied by permanent British military bases on Cyprus be given up after a solution is reached in the long-standing Cyprus problem.
Kyprianou responded that it constitutes a re-introduction of an older proposal and stated that is being considered by Nicosia.
Meetings with Papandreou, Karamanlis
Kyprianou was later received by Prime Minister and Foreign Minister George Papandreou. No comments were made afterwards.
The latest developments in the Cyprus issue in view of the crucial European Council meeting in December and Turkey's European course were the focus of a meeting with main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis.
Kyprianou briefed Karamanlis on the Cypriot positions and the British proposal.
Following subsequent talks, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas emphasised that a Cyprus solution should be based on UN decisions and EU treaties and principles, while fully adhering to the European acquis. He underlined that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots should "be free to discuss their common future without factitious timetables and threats that warn of an alleged last chance, deemed as both counterproductive and unacceptable."
"A difficult milestone lies ahead. Turkey will undergo a strict EU evaluation in December based on its actions and without shortcuts as regards the fulfillment of the obligations it has undertaken toward the EU and its members," Droutsas underlined.
He reiterated that the obligations in question concern good-neighborly relations, respect of territorial integrity and of human and minority rights, protection of religious freedoms, implementation of the Ankara Protocol and normalisation of Turkey's relations with the Republic of Cyprus.
On his part, FM Kyprianou referred to the "very close cooperation" with Greece in all levels and stressed that Cyprus and Greece share the same views both on the Cyprus problem and procedural issues.
"Tight timetables and arbitration should be avoided because back in 2004 they led to failure," the Cypriot minister stated.
He underlined the importance of a "viable solution to the Cyprus issue" and rejected tight timetables in order to be in a position "to ensure the approval of the Cypriot people at a later time."
Kyprianou referred to the role Turkey has played, underlining that it "created the problem and for this reason tangible gestures are needed on its part and not mere intentions."
"We want tangible compliance on behalf of Turkey. This is what we are discussing with the partners; otherwise there will be repercussions," he stated, adding that Cyprus "supports Turkey's EU accession potential. It wants a European Turkey that will think European and won't be an EU guest. This should be the message," he stressed.
Responding to questions made by reporters, Kyprianou stated that the talks on the Cyprus issue and Turkey's accession are parallel processes, adding that a strict EU evaluation of Turkey will not have any consequences on the talks.
"If Turkey wishes to make it easy on itself as regards the EU accession it should contribute positively to the solution of the Cyprus problem, but so far it hasn't adopted a constructive stance. The talks are held within the UN framework. The international organization provides facilitations but is not mediating. Turkey is the one that should make a positive contribution," he stressed.
Kyprianou left all options open responding to a question on the consequences in case Turkey does not comply. "At this hour we do not consider 'freezing' the funds that concern Turkey's EU accession. We will opt for the most appropriate solution. We are studying alternative scenarios and we will choose the most suitable in case Turkey does not comply like the rest of the candidate-states. There will be consequences," he stressed.
 Droutsas attends working dinner for EU foreign ministers in MadridMADRID (ANA-MPA/Ch. Poulidou)
The practical issues concerning implementation of the Lisbon Treaty dominated talks on Tuesday evening at a working dinner hosted in Madrid by Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos for six EU counterparts ahead of Spain's assumption of the rotating EU presidency for the first half of 2010, with alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas representing Greece.
The Spanish government is in the process of preparing and coordinating its imminent EU presidency, which coincides with the first implementation of the Lisbon Treat.
The pertinence of the authorities of the existing EU institutions combined with the authorities of the two new officers influences the every day life of the EU, and this is an issue that Spain is trying to deal with from the outset, Droutsas explained in statements to the press.
Apart from Moratinos and Droutsas, also taking part in the dinner were the foreign ministers of Finland, Italy, Lithuania and Estonia, and discussions also included topics on which Greece and Spain share the same views, such as illegal migration and EU enlargement.
Droutsas noted the new Greek government's proposal for a gradual, strategic incorporation of the western Balkan countries into the EU by 2014, while Spain is launching an initiative for a meeting of high-ranking officials on this theme 10 years after a similar meeting in Zagreb.
Droutsas further outlined Athens' positions on FYROM's accession prospects, stressing that a prior solution to the FYROM name issue is a prerequisite for accession, and briefed his counterpart's on prime minister and foreign minister George Papandreou's recent visits to Istanbul (as foreign minister) and Cyprus (as prime minister) and the Greek positions on Turkey's accession prospects.
Droutsas said that, on the Cyprus issue, his EU colleagues appeared to share the view that a Cyprus solution must be associated with full respect of the EU acquis, both as a guarantee for smooth operation, as well as a measure for facilitating a solution.
 Environment minister visits Ombudsman for briefingEnvironment, energy and climate change minister Tina Birbili on Wednesday made a call on Ombudsman George Kaminis at his office, with whom she discussed environmental issues, with the focus on management agencies and protected areas.
Beyond the symbolism of the meeting, Birbili also stressed the importance of transparency in environmental information and access to that information by the citizens.
"The environmental issues concern each and every one of us, but individually and collectively as a society," she told reporters after the meeting.
Birbili said that emphasis was placed on environmental information, on which Greece was severely behind, as well as on transparency in environmental information.
The minister added that she and Kaminis had pinpointed thematic issues, adding that the management agencies and the protected areas were a top priority for the government.
Kaminis, in turn, stressed that this was the first time that a political official has visited the Ombudsman's office and sought a briefing.
He noted that the Ombudsman's office has a special division on environmental issues, adding that "many cases come to us, and we are in a position to discern what the crucial problems are".
Kaminis added that the Ombudsman is always open to cooperation with the environment ministry, noting that "the best cooperation is to do our job properly, to handle the cases of the citizens, and in this way to contribute also to transparency on the part of the executive authority, and more particularly the energy ministry".
 Education minister meets university rectorsEducation and Lifelong Learning Minister Anna Diamanto-poulou on Wednesday met the presiding board of the Hellenic University Rectors' Synod to discuss problems faced by universities in the application of some articles in the framework law for higher education.
National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) rector Costas Mountzouris said that rectors had sought improvements in the framework law that would help universities function better, such as laws for the distribution of text books to students or the election of teaching and research staff.
The rectors said that their discussion with the minister had not touched on the issue of university asylum and that the current laws were sufficient because "only our view regarding asylum is at fault" because "some see asylum as doing what one wants, without limits."
 EU eyes excessive deficit proceduresBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Spinthourakis)
Greece has failed to take the necessary measures to cut its fiscal deficit, according to recommendations made last spring by the EU Council, the European Commission announced on Wednesday, before recommending that the country be placed under excessive deficit procedures of Article 104(8) of the Treaty of Maastricht.
In practice, this means that the European Commission will recommend to the Council a new framework of actions regarding the Greek economy, which will be specified with procedure under Article 104(9) by early 2010.
Specifically, the Commission considered that no effective action has been taken to deflect the heightened deterioration in the budgetary position in 2009 (-12.7 percent, according to the autumn forecast, as opposed -3.7 percent committed by the previous government), citing an insufficient response by Greek authorities. On the expenditure side, the 2009 budget execution pointed to sizeable expenditure overruns (2½ percentage points of GDP) in 2009, of which more than half is attributed to higher-than-budgeted outlays for compensation of employees and increased capital spending.
The Commission, therefore, recommended the Council to conclude that Greece has not taken effective action, according to Article 104(8) of the Treaty.
In the case of France, Ireland, Spain and the UK, it concluded that effective action had been taken. However, due to unexpected economic events, in other words the worsening global crisis at the turn of the year, which impacted the budget balances beyond the control of governments, the existing deadlines and implied annual structural adjustment were judged as unrealistic.
Under these circumstances, the SGP permits the Council to issue revised recommendations including a revised deadline, on the basis of a Commission proposal. The deadlines have therefore been extended by one year for this group.
EU Commissioner on Monetary Affairs, Joaquin Almunia, commenting on the EU executive's statement, said everyone agreed on the need to draft clear and credible exit strategies from the crisis to limit fiscal deficit and public debts, which have dramatically risen because of the crisis.
The Stability and Growth Pact offers the basis for such exit strategies, through an excessive deficit procedure and with stability and convergence programmes to be published next January.
 Almunia: Greece needs strong structural adjustmentsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
Greece did not take the necessary measures to cut its fiscal deficit, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia reiterated on Wednesday, while calling on Athens to proceed with major structural adjustments.
Speaking to reporters on the European Commission's decisions for countries with excessive fiscal deficits, Almunia said the Commission will unveil, after January, a timetable for Greece to bring its public finances in order, and after the country has submitted an updated stability programme.
"Today we announce the view of the Commission, with the consent of the Greek government, that no effective action has been adopted to cut the fiscal deficit," Almunia said, adding that the Commission will propose a deficit deadline for Greece in the next two or three months.
"Greece needs strong structural adjustments. Greece needs a very ambitious and determined fiscal consolidation strategy over the medium-term and very crucial institution reforms to be able to deliver structural and fiscal adjustments," he said.
 Gov't eyes period for fiscal consolidationAn ECOFIN Council meeting in February will decide on the adjustment period to be granted to Greece to slash its fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct of GDP, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters during a regular briefing on the results of the Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings in Brussels, Papaconstantinou said it was certain that Greece will fall under Article 104(9) of the Treaty as part of an excessive deficit procedure undertaken by the European Commission, stressing that the Greek government's position is to seek enough time for a sustainable fiscal adjustment period.
The minister denied that the next step of excessive fiscal procedure would result in any review of EU funding towards Greece or the appointment of a Community commissioner in Greece. He noted that a group of Eurostat's experts would visit the Greece next week to confirm the country's statistical figures, underlining that he did not know if the inspection would be retroactive.
Papaconstantinou said the government will table in Parliament by the end of this week or early next week, a draft bill transforming the National Statistical Service into an autonomous agency.
In terms of tax system reforms, the minister said 2010 income tax statements would show, as much as possible, all taxpayers' assets and spending, as part of government's efforts to reform the country's often porous tax system. The draft bill will be ready by next March, Papaconstantinou said, adding that currently there was a wide-spread concealment of wealth and tax-evading, noting that the government would cut all tax exemptions deemed bereft of a social benefit.
Commenting on the government's intentions vis-à-vis the pension system, the Greek minister reiterated the government's pre-election pledge not to raise retirement ages or to cut pensions, but stressed that the pension system in the country would be revised to become more fair and viable, fully covering the needs of next generations.
 Interior minister unveils draft bill on public sector jobsInterior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis on Wednesday presented the draft bill for public sector appointments, after it was approved in a meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou.
"This is the first step toward reinserting meritocracy and fairness into the public sector appointments system," Ragoussis told reporters, saying that the bill would be posted on the Internet from Thursday for a period of public debate.
Stressing that this was something the government "owes to all Greeks and especially the younger generations," Ragoussis urged all the political parties to participate and contribute with constructive proposals regarding the bill's final form.
According to the minister, the new bill corrected three key injustices of the previous system: discrimination between those working in the private and public sectors, discrimination between unemployed and employed candidates and that between candidates with past work experience and those with higher qualifications.
Ragoussis noted that the previous point system was skewed so strongly in favour of those with work experience in the public sector that a candidate with a PhD might amass only half the number of points as a high-school leaver that had worked for five years in a public-sector job.
Under the new legislation proposed, all hiring in the civil service and broader public sector, including local authorities, all agencies, enterprises and organisations under ministry supervision, the staff of the Hellenic Presidency, Parliament and all independent authorities, will be carried out via the Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection (ASEP).
The 'bonus' points awarded due to experience in the public sector will be abolished, along with the personal interview, except for the hiring of specialist scientific staff. Also scrapped are the additional points awarded to those that participated in Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) vocational training programmes and the extra points awarded to those over 30 years old.
For athletes that distinguished themselves in international competitions, the bill abolishes the right to a public sector job for those that become involved in professional sport, though it is retained by amateur athletes once they stop competing.
Asked whether the often time-consuming process of ASEP appointments would be made faster, Ragoussis said that the independent authority believed that the time involved could be drastically reduced if it was fully in charge of proclaiming competitions for public sector jobs, in order to avoid the multiple objections raised at present.
Referring to plans for a massive reduction in 'project contracts' - where people were hired to nominally carry out a specific project rather than as employees - Ragoussis said that there would be a one-year transition period during which no one could be hired using a project contract as long as there was an unfilled vacancy in an organisation. He noted that one permanent employee actually cost the public sector less than someone hired with a temporary or project contract.
 Piraeus port strike suspendedPiraeus port dockworkers early Wednesday suspended their strike, after a Piraeus Court of First Instance ruled the ongoing rolling strikes as illegal a day earlier.
The decision to suspend strike action was reached after a marathon meeting of the boards of the Federation of Port Workers of Greece (OMYLE) and the Association of Dockworkers of the Piraeus Port Authority SA (PPA SA) that ran into the first hours of Wednesday.
Following the decision, the port's 1,500 dockworkers returned to work on Wednesday.
The court ruling was issued on Tuesday after the country's chambers of commerce and 48 businesses filed a class action lawsuit against the 1,500 striking dockworkers in the port of Piraeus' container terminal, claiming that their financial interests are being hurt. The dock workers union opposes implementation of a contract giving Chinese multinational Cosco concession of the Piraeus container terminal -- one of the biggest direct foreign investments in Greece over the recent period.
 Dep. FM cites volition to boost cooperation, econ ties with African statesDeputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis underlined on Wednesday that greater economic and developmental cooperation with African states along with utilisation of ethnic Greek and African communities in Africa and Greece, respectively, will be top priorities of Athens' economic diplomacy.
Addressing roughly 40 Greek entrepreneurs and top diplomats of eight African countries with representations in Greece, Kouvelis said cooperation between the eastern Mediterranean country and African countries currently falls well short of its full potential, with growth so far achieved primarily through the efforts of individual Greek businesspeople.
Kouvelis also referred to the major role of the Greek Diaspora in Africa and stressed that the creative spirit of expatriate African communities in Greece should be utilised," he said, speaking during a luncheon hosted by the Hellenic African Chamber of Commerce and Development (HACCD).
Envoys from Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Angola, Ethiopia and Algeria attended the event.
 Mytilineos Group reports higher nine-month profitsMytilineos Group on Wednesday reported increased nine-month net after-tax and minorities profits to 18.3 million euros, from 15.3 million euros last year, although consolidated turnover fell to 486 million euros from 734 million in the same period in 2008. The Group attributed its lower turnover to delays in the works by METKA and the suspension of operations by Sometra in Romania.
EBITDA rose to 89.4 million euros in the January-September period, from 79.6 million euros last year, despite a sharp drop in aluminium prices.
METDA reported a decline in nine-month turnover to 202.9 million euros from 299.1 million last eyar, EBITDA fell to 36.1 million euros from 51.5 million euros and net profits totaled 19.9 million euros.
Mytilineos Group said it expected its EBITDA to range between 115-125 million euros this year.
 DCNS head visits Elefsina shipyardDCNS Chairman & CEO Patrick Boissier visited the Elefsina Shipyards on Wednesday, within the framework of cooperation reportedly focusing on the building of new generation FREMMclass frigates for the Hellenic Navy.
DCNS is a leading European player on the global market for naval defence systems that designs, builds and supports surface vessels, submarines and mission-critical systems and equipment incorporating the advanced technologies.
The 6,000-tonne FREMM-class (Frégate Européenne Multimission) vessels are designed in particular for anti-surface warfare (ASuW) missions.
 Fine for CitibankThe Capital Market Committee has fined Citibank Internatioinal PLC 300,000 euros for violating behaviour rules during the provision of investments advice regarding investments products that had been issued by the Lehman Brothers investments firm.
Specifically, shortcomings were ascertained in the questionnaire on the assessment of the suitability of advice provided for investors and also that reference to the coverage of investments services provided by the UK's Monetary Services Insurance System took place in a way that could lead to a misunderstanding as to its precise content.
 Stocks end moderately higherStocks ended moderately higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with the composite index of the market rising 0.25 pct to end at 2,659.40 points. Turnover was a low 156.9 million euros, of which 12.9 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with the Utilities (1.14 pct), Chemicals (1.04 pct) and Travel (0.93 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Media (3.73 pct), Health (1.55 pct) and Constructions (0.65 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 0.18 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.08 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.31 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 107 to 80 with another 62 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.67%
Personal & Household: +0.08%
Raw Materials: -0.29%
Travel & Leisure: +0.93%
Food & Beverages: -0.16%
Financial Services: -0.21%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Cyprus and DEH.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 11.32
Public Power Corp (PPC): 15.20
HBC Coca Cola: 17.38
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.45
National Bank of Greece: 25.02
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 10.41
Bank of Piraeus: 11.72
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.76 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 55.971 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 6,270 contracts worth 44.192 million euros, with 26,788 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,370 contracts, worth 11.779 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,208), followed by PPC (954), Eurobank (483), Piraeus Bank (465), Alpha Bank (1,327), Intracom (528), Marfin Popular Bank (1,361) and OTE (346).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 3.039 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.606 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.433 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 2.683 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bond was 138 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 4.67 pct and the German Bund 3.29 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 1.515
Pound sterling 0.910
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 10.305
Japanese yen 136.19
Swiss franc 1.522
Norwegian kroner 8.426
Canadian dollar 1.581
Australian dollar 1.626
 Dep. Minister cites new Acropolis Museum's prospect, during London visitDeputy Minister of Culture and Tourism Angela Gerekou continued her contacts here on Wednesday within the framework of the World Travel Market (WTM) international travel trade show.
Gerekou briefed local and international media and met with British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles honorary secretary Eleni Cubitt.
The Greek minister reiterated that the new Acropolis Museum provided a new prospect to the city of Athens and Greece, adding that the demand for the return of the Parthenon Marbles is universal and not just Greek.
 Axios Delta wild horses threatened with extinctionThe wild horses living in the region of the Axios River Estuary, northern Greece, have originated from domesticated horses that were freed by their owners in the early '60s and managed to survive and reproduce, coexisting with other farm animals.
A total of 67 wild horses have been registered in the region, including 13 young animals, and according to the Greek Society for the Protection of Indigenous Species of Farm and Domestic Animals their number is smaller compared to the previous decade.
However, the existing population appears to be in good condition but the fact that the stallions outnumber the mares is an indication that they are faced with problems that threaten their reproduction. The shrinking mare population is most likely due to human intervention considering that many horses are captured and moved to other areas.
The region's wild horses are of average size (1.45 - 1.55 meters tall) bearing strong similarities with the domesticated horses in Thessaly and Mt Pindus and the British thoroughbreds.
One of Greece's, and Europe's most important wetlands, and situated on the western shoreline of the Thermaic Gulf just five kilometers from Thessaloniki, the Axios River Delta is protected under the Ramsar Convention. It has a wealth of fauna and flora, and is home to more than 270 bird species, 60 of them rare and/or threatened, which find shelter in the wetland. It is also an important habitat to wild horses and water buffalos, as well as species threatened with extinction, such as the European ground squirrel, the European otter and Hermann's tortoise.
 Greek cargo ship hijacked by Somali piratesA Greek-owned cargo ship was seized by Somali pirates at dawn on Wednesday in the Indian Ocean, the Coast Guard said.
The Marshall Islands-flag freighter "Filitsa", carrying a crew of three Greek officers and 19 Filipino seamen, was attacked and seized by Somali pirates some 400 nautical miles northeast of the Seychelles as it was sailing from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the port of Durban in S. Africa loaded with fertilizer.
The ship belongs to the Order Shipping Co. Ltd.
According to the European Naval Force (Atalanta mission), pirates are currently holding at least 12 ships with more than 200 hostages, while three of the ships were seized in the last week alone.
The hijacking of the Greek vessel came just one day after the EU and the Seychelles signed an agreement allowing EU naval forces to seek and detain suspected Somali pirates in the waters off the Seychelles, where there has been a surge in piracy over the last month.
 Box with 39 kg of hashish found underneath shipThirty-nine kilos of processed hashish were found in a metal box that frogmen found, when they went by order of the shipowning company to inspect the Turkish-flag freighter Sabahat Sonay, which had arrived at the port of the Cycladic island of Milos on Tuesday morning to take soil that it would be taking to Holland.
The metal box had been screwed underneath the vessel and had attracted the attention of frogment immediately, who removed it and notified the local port authorities.
Following the finding of the box, the Turkish captain was arrested and so were the first mate and the first mechanic, while the ship was forbidden from sailing. According to the Greek coast guard, all three arrested men said they were unaware of the existence of the metal box.
 5.4R quake jolts ZakynthosA moderate earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale jolted the Ionian island of Zakynthos a few minutes before noon on Wednesday, but no damage or injury was immediately reported.
The earthquake was recorded at 11:51 a.m. at a distance of 300 kilometers west of Athens, with its epicentre in the sea southwest of Zakynthos.
The trembler was also felt on Cephallonia, in Pyrgos and other parts of western Greece.
 Rainy on ThursdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 8C and 20C. Cloudy in Athens, with northwesterly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 18C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 16C.
 Ôhe Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDevelopments in main opposition New Democracy after former leadership candidate Dimitris Avramopoulos announced on Tuesday his backing for candidate Antonis Samaras, Ecofin's strict recommendations to Greece on its delinquency in the fiscal deficit, Brussels surveillance, the suspension of Piraeus port dockworkers strike which was ruled illegal by a court on Tuesday, and Health Ministry measures to contain the spread of the new flu, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Outrageous! Avramopoulos to control ND's future - He announced his backing for Samaras in a garrulous and stereotyped speech".
APOGEVMATINI: "Long-term austerity - Worse days to come".
AVGHI: "People and vested rights in the 'black hole'.
AVRIANI: "Samaras, Avramopoulos aim high if their alliance succeeds in defeating candidate Dora Bakoyannis, who is preparing her counterattack".
CHORA: "Change of battle and victory agreement - The centre-right rallies again around Samaras and Avramopoulos".
ELEFTHEROS: "The game toughens in ND following the Avramopoulos-Samaras alliance".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The behind-the-scenes of the (Avramopoulos-Samaras) agreement".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Front for reversal - Samaras, Avramopoulos send messages that they guarantee a two-directional overture".
ESTIA: "Greece sends away foreign investors".
ETHNOS: "Samaras-Avramopoulos front - Joint declaration and gentlemen's agreement".
IMERISIA: "EU team in Athens - Test of truth on the economy's figures".
KATHIMERINI: "New scenery in the succession race - Avramopoulos backs Samaras for leader".
LOGOS: "Deadline until February for the deficit".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "EU sets harsh measures to curtail the deficits".
RIZOSPASTIS: "New antisocial storm over social security, labour and working classes' income".
TA NEA: "Rift scenery after the deal - Surprise agreement for the succession race".
TO VIMA: "Brussels threatens Greece with bankruptcy - Heavy pressure on FinMin George Papaconstantinou: You do not have money to pay salaries and pensions but you give benefits".
VRADYNI: "Forget the grace period! European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia demands from the new government harsh measures and seriousness".
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