|Thursday, 15 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-11-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 14 November 2009 Issue No: 3349
 PM on social security, STAGE, 'golden boys' salariesPrime minister George Papandreou responded in parliament on Friday during the "Hour of the Prime Minister" to questions submitted for him in the House by the three smaller opposition parties on the social security system, the STAGE subsidised work experience programs and the 'golden boys' salaries.
Papandreou referred the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) to the dialogue on the social security system and invited the alliance to submit its own proposals, speaking in parliament on Friday during the "Hour of the Prime Minister" in reply to charges by SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras of "compliancy" by the government towards the European Commission with respect to the social security issue.
Papandreou asked "specifically from SYRIZA" to submit its own proposals and to avoid the past practice of "facile criticism from the outside", and reiterated his government's opposition to the so-called 'Petralia law' on social security reform passed by the preceding New Democracy (ND) government, but did not commit himself to abolishing laws passed in the past decade.
Elaborating on a relevant question tabled in parliament, Tsipras made reference to the Treaty of Rome and all the other European accords according to which, he said, the European Union has the authority of checking governments on their countries' deficits, but not on the condition of their social security systems.
"The people did not put you (PASOK) in office to carry on with the neoliberal policy of New Democracy (preceding government) but to reverse it. With every day that goes by, however, it is like undergoing the Chinese water torture. Drop by drop, piece by piece, and under the pretext of the pressures, which are real, you are facing from Brussels, we see the same policy. The difference, though, is that Mr. Karamanlis (main opposition ND leader and former prime minister) defended this policy before the elections as being necessary and effective, whereas you are following it 'dragged' by your comrade Mr. Almunia (EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs)," Tsipras said.
"No Commission, no Mr. Trichet (European Central Bank president) or Mr. Almunia can impose retirement ages or increases in contributions to benefit fiscal discipline. With what right did your Minister concede such a right to Brussels. What kind of reform is this, which has the highest contributions and lowest pensions Europe-wide? The GSEE (General Confede-ration of Workers of Greece) Labor Institute assesses that an increase in retirement ages will not bring viability to the (social security) system," Tsipras added.
Responding, Papandreou said that "I can agree with much your criticism of the EU. I, too, have clashed personally with Mr. Almunia on the ease with which he accepted the stock-taking (of the Greek economy by the ND government), putting the Greek economy into the excessive deficit procedure".
"I wish our problem was Mr. Almunia, but our social security organisations are on the brink of bankruptcy. We strongly criticised the Petralia law (as the main opposition party), and unfortunately we have been proved true. All that we had charges holds true, and that is why we are speaking about a change of the entire system. One thing is certain, however. The matter is too serious to deal with it cursorily, with patches. We cannot plan the social security system while ignoring the basic parameters of the market, labor, competition, the operation of the businesses. This is why we are commencing dialogue with all the agencies, the social partners, and will continue the dialogue so that the options decided on will be viable," the prime minister explained.
"We will clash with the rationale that the pensioner and the Greek family should pay for the immense debts of the social security funds as they were bequeathed to us by the (preceding government of) ND. We are here to build a viable social security system, and to do this with the broadest possible consensus," Papandreou concluded.
To a question tabled by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga on the STAGE issue, Papandreou noted that the ad hoc committee set up by the new government for revision of the provisions governing the STAGE programs and 'rented' employees will be ready in December, and opined that the existing lawlessness prevalent in the job market should not lead to prohibition of flexible forms of employment, which he said are a social necessity.
Papandreou championed the idea of a state that protects its working people, guarantees lawfulness and averts "labor jungle phenomena", but on the other hand also permits part-time employment for learning purposes (apprenticeship), or by choice.
However, tenured employment for everyone does not exist anywhere in the world, the prime minister added.
In her question, Papariga disputed the necessity of flexible forms of employment, maintaining that the time when women wanted a part-time job has long gone. "750,000 women today work either part-time, or in Stage programs, or as hired-out employees, under 'black (uninsured) work' contractors. This phenomenon did not appear with the economic crisis, which is real. These policies were being applied in Europe before the crisis, and it is clearly the Commission's intention to expand them," Papariga said.
She charged that the marginal point that the economy has reached is a result of the discrepancies of a structure that is founded on profit and will never pick itself up again if it doesn't not widen and deepen such forms of exploitation.
"Work is not an opportunity. It is not a matter of meritocracy. Work is a consolidated right and lasting need," Papariga stressed.
Papandreou replied that the government was not seeking that the unemployed, youth and women come to terms with unemployment.
"Rather, we are here to protect the right to full-time employment. As for the STAGE and apprenticeship, I agree that the framework has been distorted, but I disagree that they are a negative thing. For a young person to acquire experience on the job is not negative, but it helps him associate practice with theory, provided that these forms of employment are not distorted and do not replace full-time work, thereby undermining the rights of the other working people," Papandreou explained.
To a question tabled by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis, who called for a ceiling to be placed on the "provocative" salaries of the golden boys, which he said were higher than even that of the President of the Republic, the prime minister said that very soon the "lies will be over" and the government will table legislation that will put an end to the undermining of all sense of fairness and to the provocative practice of unjustified waste of the Greek taxpayers' money, and will also avert such incidents in the future.
 ND criticises gov't over econ policyMain opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Friday sharply criticised the government for its policy, and especially for its decision to establish an examining committee on the economy.
"In its first 40 days at the country's helm PASOK has succeeded in becoming a government without general secretaries in ministries, with closed ports; a government that fired young people only due to revanchism; a government of inflated deficits; a government of taxes and of dramatic retreats and lack in coordination," Koumoutsakos charged, adding that "it is a tremendous confession of weakness; blatant incompetence that no PR manipulation or revenge can hide..."
 PM chairs meeting on economic policyA government meeting chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou at his Political Office in Parliament on Friday focused on the adoption of a number of actions in the sector of the economy and political coordination.
The actions in question concern the stimulation of the economy, promotion of investments and production and activation of the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA), government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis stated during a break of the meeting.
Actions focusing on fiscal reform and social dialogue are also being considered, while two draft laws will be tabled in parliament that will concern loan recipients and market fluidity that are expected to be passed before the end of the year.
 Droutsas addresses international conference on the BalkansAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas outlined the government plan designed to give Greece a leading role in the Balkans while speaking Friday at the international conference on "Southeast Europe: Crisis and Prospects" held in Athens.
Droutsas announced that he will tour the region and noted that the Balkans are faced with serious problems (bilateral differences, corruption, organized crime, illegal migration, inadequate infrastructure, black market, mismanagement) which in recent years have embarked on a course of normalization. Already, two countries are members of the European Union, four are NATO members, while all of the region's countries are on their way to Euro-Atlantic integration.
He pointed out that regional cooperation has recorded "impressive qualitative upgrading" as a result of the operation of the Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat.
"However, the inborn problems coupled with the economic crisis make the need for cooperation with European and international financial institutions imperative," Droutsas said. "In this light, the main Greek priorities in the region are designed to create a climate of stability, consolidate good neighbourly relations and strengthen cooperation, considering that the economic and societal development of the Balkans facilitates the promotion of their European prospect," he underlined.
Referring to the Hellenic Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans (HiPERB), Droutsas pointed out that 50 percent of the 550-million-euro programme has been earmarked for actions that have already been promoted.
He reminded those present that Greece is a major investor in the Balkans, with an emphasis on the sectors of energy and banking (there are roughly 2,000 Greek bank branches in the Balkans) and stressed that the growth recorded in the region is mainly due to the 2003 Thessaloniki Agenda.
"Today, we wish to renew this initiative, give a new momentum to enlargement, domestic reform processes and the solution of bilateral or regional problems and enact the 2014 Agenda (that coincides with the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI)," he said.
The alternate foreign minister stressed that the Greek perspective as regards the European integration of the Balkans does not mean that the main foreign policy principles will be compromised. Referring to the opening of FYROM's EU accession talks he stated that a solution to the name issue - with the adoption of a name for all uses that will include a geographic qualifier - is a precondition. He called on FYROM's leadership to "abandon the nationalist rhetoric and the usurpation of the Greek history and culture and enter a constructive dialogue that will open the way to its European future."
The conference was also addressed by Greece's Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis, who likewise stressed that Greece was taking a leading role in the EU accession course of the western Balkans, and looked to a "regional cooperation framework with emphasis on green development, environmental protection and energy security."
"For our country, the next wave of enlargement is a historic wager. It concerns our neighbourhood and we have every reason to become the steam engine for these countries' accession," the minister added.
Kouvelis noted that after a difficult period of introspection for the EU, the time had come again to give a new impetus to the European prospects of the western Balkans and that this was the aim of the initiative announced by Prime Minister George Papandreou in Istanbul for a new road map to accelerate these countries' progress toward joining the EU, with 2014 as the final accession date for all countries in the region.
The conference is organized by the Center for Progressive Policy Research (KEPP), the Hellenic Center for European Studies (EKEM), and the Institute of International Economic Relations (IIER).
 Greek battalion to stay in Kabul, KYSEA decidesThe government on Friday made a series of decisions concerning Greece's contribution to international NATO and EU military missions sanctioned by the UN Security Council - including that the Greek force in Afghanistan should remain stationed in Kabul - during a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou.
KYSEA took unanimous decisions clarifying the country's positions on Greece's military and other contribution to such missions, which were later announced by National Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
Regarding Greece's contribution to the NATO force in Afghanistan, the Council decided that the Greek Battalion (TESAF) - which numbers 122 troops and includes an engineering company, two teams of eight health workers and a support and security team - will remain in Kabul and will not be moved to another location in that country.
Greece will increase its funding toward the NATO force, however, giving three million euros to the Afghan Army Reconstruction Fund. Venizelos, who described the move as a "multiply useful gesture," said that the extra spending will be offset by savings on the cost of moving the existing Greek Battalion, which will not finally take place.
Greece has already offered 600,000 euros to the French-British initiative for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) helicopter unit and 800,000 euros to a Hungarian initiative for putting together a reconstruction team.
Greece will also send an additional 19 trainers to help train the 201st Afghan Corps, who will be incorporated in the NATO structure, with the Alliance taking responsibility for their safety along with the other three Greek trainers already sent.
In addition to the above, Greek will take over management of Kabul airport from April until October 2010, providing 53 executive staff. Two Greek officers and four Greek military police are currently serving at the airport.
Athens had also agreed to send up to two teams of eight health officers to man NATO hospitals if this is requested by ISAF command.
In January 2009 there had been a decision to possibily move the Greek Battalion in Afghanistan from Kabul to Herat provided certain conditions were met, or even the much more dangerous region of Farah. The move would have required equipping the battalion with armoured vehicles and would have taken place in December 2009.
According to Venizelos, the specific conditions set for the move had not been met and this view was confirmed by KYSEA during Friday's meeting. Greece's defence minister clarified that the departures of the military officers will begin once the conditions are met and security guarantees are provided.
In addition to the above, KYSEA also decided to extend Greece's participation during the year 2010 in the EU anti-piracy operation code-named Atalanta, providing one Navy frigate, and in the NATO anti-terrorism operation Active Endeavour, providing one Navy unit and flights by Greek aircraft.
Greece will also take over command from 2012 of the NATO Response Force, which will have the NATO Deployable Corps - Greece (NDC-GR) as its headquarters. This force is available and when fully deployed numbers 2,900 personnel. In this framework, in 2010 Greece will contribute an airborne battalion and Greek officers under the Danish command, in the same proportion as that decided by Denmark for 2012.
Commenting on the KYSEA decisions, Alternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis said that Greece had to continue making its presence felt, politically and militarily, in international affairs. KYSEA on Friday reaffirmed the country's international position and credibility, he added. We will defend our country's strong position in international organisations with the defence of national and public interest as our only compass, he said.
 Greek negotiator meets with UN mediator on FYROM name issueNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz had a working dinner with Greece's chief negotiator, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, on Thursday evening (NY time).
Earlier, during a private meeting, meeting between the two men, Vassilakis briefed Nimetz on the initiatives of the Greek government regarding the name issue, including Greek prime minister George Papandreou's recent meeting with his FYROM counterpart Nikola Gruevski, and also on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's meetings during his recent visit to Athens.
This was Vassilakis' first meeting with Nimetz after the election of a new government in Greece last month.
Vassilakis told ANA-MPA that he was in New York at Athens' initiative for the purpose of briefing Nimetz on the new government's "approach and basic pillars" on the FYROM name issue.
"The Greek side is taking part in the (UN-brokered) negotiations with full respect for the UN's role and its relevant Resolutions".
"We are entering the negotiation with an open mind and constructive attitude. Our positions are crystal clear, and known to all. We seek a definitive solution to this matter. A solution that will free the cooperation prospects of the two countries and their peoples. A name with a geographical qualification for all purposes, erga omnes," Vassilakis stressed.
The Greek negotiator further stressed that his visit was for the purpose of briefing Nimetz in-depth on "how we see things".
"We speak clearly, so that there will be no surprises, or misunderstandings. Mr. Nimetz expressed his intention of preparing a trilateral meeting in the immediate future," Vassilakis added.
Asked to comment on press speculations in Skopje (FYROM) that Greece has submitted specific proposals to Nimetz and was prepared to make concessions, Vassilakis denied the speculations as "ludicrousness unworthy of comment", adding that "no such discussion has ever taken place",
He explained that the purpose of his visit on Thursday "was not to get into the substance and content of the issue, but to brief Mr. Nimetz on the government's approach for the coming period".
"I briefed Mr. Nimetz in a clear-cut way on Greece's publicly declared position: There can be no commencement of accession negotiations for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with the EU without prior resolution of the long-standing problem," Vassilakis stressed.
Nimetz is due on Friday to meet with the FYROM negotiator Zoran Jolevski, in order to assess when he can go ahead with convening a trilateral meeting between himself and the Greek and FYROM negotiators.
 Explosion outside PASOK MP's residenceA home-made explosive device exploded on Friday noon outside the builiding where ruling PASOK MP Mimis Androulakis' appartment is housed in the Athens district of Kareas.
A unidentified person earlier called the Europe-wide three-digit emergency number (112) and warned of the imminent explosion. Police immediately cordoned off the area. No injuries were reported.
Police are conducting an investigation.
 Police suspect 'Cells of Fire' for Androulakis attackThe anti-terrorist squad on Friday said that the bomb attack on the home of ruling PASOK MP Mimis Androulakis was probably the work of the group "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire - Nihilist Fraction".
No organisation has yet undertaken responsibility for the attack but investigating officers said that the construction of the explosive device used was similar to that used in attacks claimed by the group against other MPs, most recently in the attack on the home of former minister Marietta Yiannakou in Patissia.
The bomb contained a small amount of explosives linked to two electronic clocks that were placed inside a cooking pot within a cloth travelling bag. The device was placed at the entrance of Androulakis' apartment, where it was found by a cleaner that carried it down to the entrance of the apartment building and left it outside, without knowing what it was. The bomb exploded shortly afterward.
Earlier, there had been a warning phone call by an unidentified man to the European emergency number 112. The call was received at 13:47 and warned of an explosion in 20 minutes. The bomb actually exploded at 14:01, or six minutes earlier than the time given.
Police had been able to cordon off the area and take precautions to avoid injuries, however.
 Draft law on crime victims' compensationA draft law on compensation to victims of intentional crimes of violence will be brought to Parliament for approval in the coming period, in compliance with a relevant EU Directive.
Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis announced Friday that the draft law will define the compensation preconditions for victims of intentional crimes of violence.
 ND leader Karamanlis' mother passes awayMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis' mother, Aliki, passed away on Friday morning, after more than a month in hospital.
Aliki Karamanlis was hospitalised at the Eric Dunan Hospital since October 5, the day after the general elections in Greece.
 Econ shrinks 1.6% in Q3BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
The Greek economy shrank by 1.6 pct in the third quarter of 2009, compared with the corresponding period last year, Greece's National Statistical Service and Eurostat announced on Friday.
The Greek statistics service said the country's Gross Domestic Product fell by 0.3 pct in the third quarter compared with the second quarter of the year, reflecting mainly a decline in investments, construction activity, exports and private consumption.
The EU executive's statistical agency said Eurozone GDP fell by 4.1 pct, while GDP in the EU-27 was down 4.3 pct and in the US GDP fell by 2.3 pct. Eurostat also said that GDP grew by 0.4 pct in the Eurozone and shrank by 0.2 pct in the third quarter compared with the second quarter of 2009.
Amelia Torres, a spokeswoman for EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, said that after five consecutive quarters of negative growth, the EU economy returned to positive growth rates confirming the European Commission's estimates.
 Greek state to guarantee salaries at Skaramangas, minister saysThe Greek state guarantees the normal payment of salaries at the Skaramangas shipyards until an agreement is reached with the German company regarding their future, National Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Friday.
Speaking during a press conference, the minister said that he had received a letter from the CEO of Thyssen Group Marine Systems, Hans Cristof Atzpodien, which confirmed the content of an agreement made on November 4 and requested certain "self-evident" clarifications. The Greek government would be sending its reply on Friday as per the agreement, he added.
According to a defence ministry announcement, the deal struck on November 4 requires the German company to undertake to find and suggest responsible and reliable solutions having "financial and business depth" for the future of the shipyard.
In this way, a list of proposals will be drawn up that will be evaluated by international consultants chosen by the Greek government.
In the meantime, the shipyard will continue to operate as normal and testing in the water of the three new submarines ordered by the Greek government will begin as soon as possible.
Venizelos said that the German side is expected to have finished the entire process by the end of February at the latest, while the final agreement will be ratified by Parliament.
The minister clarified that the payment of the salaries, which amounts to 3.5 million euros a month, will be covered by offsetting the amount against costs arising from active contracts with Germany, such as the programme for modernising S-type frigates.
"In any event, we will not jeopardise the submarines for four million euros," he stressed.
The political leadership of the defence ministry will next week brief Parliament's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the decisions taken by the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) on Friday, he said.
 Economy minister addresses conference on southeastern EuropeEconomy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli, addressing the Progressive Policy Research Centre Conference at the Concert Hall on Friday on the theme of "Southeastern Europe: Crisis and Prospects", said that the strengthening of entrepreneurship and of the Greek economy's extroversion are main targets for the government.
The minister noted that maintaining the interest of Greek entrepreneurship in investments in southeastern Europe can be boosted both through private and public investments.
Katseli added that the country can play a decisive role in the political, institutional and economic support of the Balkan countries, with the aim of backing their European orientation.
Lastly, she said that with the promotion of productive investments a more effective handling of economic inequalities noted today can be achieved.
 Greek shipowners at State Department on piracy issueWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
A delegation of the Greek Shipowners Union held talks with US government officials at the State Department, focusing on the increasing threat posed for sea transport by the sharp rise in pirate attacks off Somalia and in a region spreading over a distance of a thousand miles from the country's coast.
Union members met with Assistant Secretary of State for political and military affairs Andrew Shapiro, his deputy Tom Countryman, who served a few years ago as a charge d'affaires at the US embassy in Athens and is aware of the Greek shipowners' concern over the issue.
After ascertaining the great cost sustained by specific companies and the risks appearing for international trade and the global economy in general, the two sides discussed the need for cooperation to tackle the phenomenon.
In this framework, the benefit was underlined from the continuous coordination of moves between governments and shipowners, while specific measures were examined which the latter could take to prevent the capture of ships by pirates.
Shapiro stressed that the US government hopes that the Greek shipowners, who control 20 percent of international shipping, will proceed with the taking of self-protection measures for their ships.
 Turkish business mission to HaniaOne hundred and forty-five entrepreneurs from Turkey on Friday visited the Chamber of Commerce of Hania, Crete, part of a visit to enhance trade between Turkey and the region.
"Turkey as is widely known, has low production costs because it has low labor costs" according to Hania Chamber of Commerce president Evangelos Spanoudakis, adding that "enterprises for their own interest, prefer to buy products from Turkey".
It was the second visit that Turkish entrepreneurs from the Izmir Chamber of Commerce paid to Hania over the past two years.
Turkish entrepreneurs represented sectors of clothing, beverages, footwear, furniture, building materials, tourism and electronics.
 Greek mutual funds' assets up 10.07 pct this yearGreece's mutual funds' assets totaled 11.4 billion euros, up 10.07 pct from the beginning of the year, official figures showed on Friday.
A report by the Association of Institutional Investors said that Eurobank EFG Mutual Funds Management Company topped the list with funds under management worth 2.8 billion euros, or 25.20 pct of total assets, followed by National Asset Management (17.37 pct), Alpha Asset Management (16.17 pct), Pension Funds (10.04 pct), Marfin Global Asset Management (6.52 pct) and HSBC Hellas (4.79 pct).
 Eurobank Properties to pay 0.15 euros per share pre-dividendEurobank Properties on Friday announced a board decision to pay a pre-dividend of 0.15 euros per share from its dividend payment for the year 2009. A company statement said the decision was taken following its positive financial results in the nine-month period from January to September.
 Attica Bank ends speculation of merger deal with Aspis BankAttica Bank on Friday dismissed the possibility of a merger deal with Aspis Bank. A few days ago, Aspis Bank had said it was examining a merger deal with Attica Bank and that Viktor Restis -a Greek businessman- was interested in participating in its share capital increase plan.
 Stocks end 1.21% lowerGreek stocks continued moving lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 2,600 level. The index ended at 2,588.71 points, down 1.21 pct, with turnover a low 157.6 million euros, of which 8.9 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Oil/Gas (2.72 pct), Banks (1.87 pct), Industrial Products (1.39 pct) and Raw Materials (1.37 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Health (1.43 pct), Chemicals (0.62 pct) and Media (0.57 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index fell 1.45 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.07 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.05 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 107 to 72 with another 68 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.72%
Personal & Household: +0.04%
Raw Materials: +0.04%
Travel & Leisure: -1.13%
Food & Beverages: +0.12%
Financial Services: -0.69%
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: 10.82
Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.95
HBC Coca Cola: 17.03
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.85
National Bank of Greece: 24.26
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 10.30
Bank of Piraeus: 11.22
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.78 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover shrinking to 52.622 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 6,296 contracts worth 43.026 million euros, with 27,429 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,364 contracts, worth 9.596 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (1,433), followed by MIG (772), PPC (633), National Bank (1,251), Alpha Bank (1,160), Intracom (405), Marfin Popular Bank (582) and Cyprus Bank (784).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market was around 2.5 billion euros a few hours before Friday's close in the market, with the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds at 139 basis points. The Greek bond yielded 4.75 pct and the German Bund 3.37 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 - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.498
Pound sterling 0.898
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 10.319
Japanese yen 134.58
Swiss franc 1.521
Norwegian kroner 8.431
Canadian dollar 1.578
Australian dollar 1.614
 Health minister reassures over safety of H1N1 vaccineHealth and Social Solidarity Minister Mariliza Xenoyianna-kopoulou on Friday reassured the public over the safety of the H1N1 vaccine, pointing out that she herself will be vaccinated even though she does not belong in any of the high-risk population groups.
Addressing a one-day conference on the theme of "Vaccination against the H1N1 novel influenza pandemic", held in Thessaloniki's Ippokratio Hospital, the minister pointed out that all possible measures are being taken to protect public health and deal effectively with the likelihood of a pandemic.
Xenoyiannakopoulou stated that a "pilot vaccination" programme is already underway in many of the country's hospitals, while the vaccination of medical and hospital staff will be officially launched on Monday. The vaccination of high risk population groups will begin on Nov. 23.
Referring to the safety of the vaccine, she underlined that there is no reason of concern, adding that vaccination will take place within the framework of a European plan. Vaccination in other 15 European countries is already underway for several weeks and no serious problems have been reported, she said.
 President Papoulias on road safetyPresident Karolos Papoulias, in a message on the occasion of International Traffic Accident Victims Memory Day (November 15), referred to the fact that Greece holds a negative European record in road safety.
President Papoulias added that this "is something that does not honour our education and our social culture, nor the state which should handle traffic accidents as a major national issue."
The president further said in his message that "every year, thousands of our fellow countrymen lose their lives or are mutilated on the asphalt. Most of them are young people and many are children. The causes are composite based on investigations by relevant scientific agencies: Bad roads, aggressive driving, use of alcohol, bad state of road network, defective policing."
President Papoulias also pointed out that the resonsibility is both individual and political, adding that "let us ask for the roads that we are entitled to from the state and let us pay the attention and responsibility that we owe when we drive. So that there are no more holiday exoduses that develop into slaughter on the asphalt."
 Culture-Tourism minister cites delays in Med Games preparationsCulture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos stated in Parliament on Friday that the government is committed to doing everything possible to ensure the timely completion of the preparations for the XVII Mediterranean Games, to be hosted by the central Greek cities of Larissa and Volos in June 2013.
Responding to a current question by an opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) MP, Geroulanos accused the previous government of "criminal inaction that is impossible to justify".
He added that the games' organising committee was set up just two years ago and that no studies or invitations to tenders have been introduced yet.
The rowing and sailing infrastructure projects will be launched immediately and be completed within the set timetable, the minister stressed, while referring to the Mediterranean Village, he said that the project's spatial study is underway. However, the Larissa-Volos suburban rail line is plagued by major delays and a major effort will be made to ensure that it will be completed, he said.
 50th Thessaloniki Film Festival opensCulture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos inaugurated on Friday night the 50th Thessaloniki Film Festival pledging that a new bill on Greek cinema would soon be ready for consultation with interested parties.
The minister also said 2009 would signal the "end of an era in which art was silent, since by accepting the muzzle of state subsidies, it stopped biting. It stopped questioning power. It stopped protesting."
President of the festival, actor George Corraface also addressed the inauguration event.
 2nd Minority Issues ForumGENEVA (ANA-MPA)
A representative of Greece's Permanent Delegation at the UN, in the framework of the 2nd Minority Issues Forum that took place at the UN's headquarters here on Thursday and Friday on the issue of the participation of minorities in political life, referred in his address to the participation of minorities in the country's political life.
He stressed that in all the elections of the past decades in Greece, deputies were elected from the moslem minority, while in the elections in October 2009, just as in the case of the elections in September 2007, two members of the moslem minority were elected with the ruling party and the 16 candidacies of members of the moslem minority show the interest of the Greek political parties to promote their access to the country's political life.
At local level, in the Rodopi Prefecture, three of the nine mayors and the total of three community leaders are members of the minority, while in the prefecture of Xanthi two of the seven municipalities and the total of three communities have mayors or community leaders who also belong to the moslem minority.
 Ski resorts in northern Greece ready for first visitorsMaintenance work in most of the ski resorts in the northern part of the country has been completed and all the facilities are ready for visitors, as the first snow has started to fall in those regions. The Mt Voras (Kaimakcalan) crown in the prefecture of Pella is already covered with snow and temperature has dropped several degrees below zero. The ski resort will be in full operation after the maintenance of the ski lifts is completed.
In Naousa, the "Tria-Pente Pigadia" ski resort is ready for winter sports lovers, while the first snowflakes are being expected at Vigla-Pisoderi ski resort in Florina, northwest Greece, which usually opens by mid November.
Ready for the tourists is Seli in Imathia Prefecture, while the ski resorts of Vitsi in Kastoria Prefecture and Elatochori in Pieria Prefecture, as well as Vasilitsa, Lailia and Falakro in the prefectures of Grevena, Serres and Dramas respectively, are also preparing for the winter.
 Tree planting at wildfire-ravaged site by US embassy staff, volsVolunteers from the US embassy along with local high school pupils and teaching staff on Friday planted 1,000 trees in a deforested area of Mt. Pendeli, which overlooks the greater Athens area from the north.
The initiative was co-sponsored by Greenbelt with assistance from the municipality of Pendeli, Eurocharity, the Hellenic Society for the Protection on Nature and more than 120 volunteers, who planted pine and laurel trees in a fire-ravaged spot on Pendeli, which was scorched in 2007
The pupils and volunteers were greeted at the reforestation site by US Amb. Daniel Speckhard, Pendeli Mayor Dimitris Stergiou and the president of Greenbelt, Vassilis Xipolitas.
A presentation by a local fire brigade representative and a live video conference with the Montana US Forest Service was later held during a reception for pupils and volunteers at the US embassy.
 Turkish consulate graffiti suspect acquittedA Thessaloniki Court on Friday acquitted a 19-year-old man of charges of complicity to inflict criminal damage on foreign property. The young man was arrested in Thessaloniki on Thursday after his companion allegedly scrawled offensive graffiti on the wall of the Turkish consulate in the northern port city.
He said in his testimony that he had no connection with the incident, maintaining that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The two men were reportedly spotted by police sentries outside the Turkish consulate, with one of the two actually seen defacing the wall. However, the actual culprit fled on foot, whereas his companion was arrested.
 Drug trafficking ring dismantledThe Athens Immigration Police on Friday reported that they had dismantled a drug trafficking ring following an investigation based on a tip-off.
Three people, a local man, and two Albanian nationals, were arrested having in their possession roughly 32 kilos of unprocessed cannabis and a precision scale.
According to police, they were trafficking roughly 50 kilos of unprocessed cannabis a week.
 Cloudy on SaturdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 2-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 3C and 21C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 17C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe government's intention to proceed with immediate changes in social security and the measures on tax evasion, EU recommendations to FinMin George Papaconstantinou for an even more severe fiscal policy, the new flu outbreak and the in-party backstabbing in main opposition New Democracy (ND) between top leadership candidates Dora Bakoyannis and Antonis Samaras, dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Council of State ruling: The extraordinary contributions are illegal".
APOGEVMATINI: "10 reversals in social security - Papandreou government hastens to reopen the most burning social issue the in public and private sector".
AVGHI: "Cutbacks in social security and expenditures".
AVRIANI: "Why are Greek soldiers in Afghanistan when Cyprus continues (to be) under occupation over the last 35 years"?
CHORA: "ND'S grass roots' torrent drowns manipulations and nepotism! Polls indicate Samaras leading the election race, ahead of Bakoyannis".
ELEFTHEROS: "Ecofin's shocking proposals on salaries, pensions and uninsured work to FinMin Papaconstantinou".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Pensions: 8 shocking changes via express procedures before Christmas".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Rapid changes in social security - Government calls General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) on Tuesday to start a dialogue".
ESTIA: "Taxation being simplified - The existing system is conducive to tax evasion".
ETHNOS: "New labour map for teachers and high school professors".
IMERISSIA: "Reversals in social security - Pensions in accordance with the level of contributions".
KATHIMERINI: "Reversals in the terms of detention pending trial - Distinction between sentences for substance users and for drug dealers".
LOGOS: "Dialogue on social security to start immediately, under the pressure of the deficits".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Bank of Greece's plan for an exit from the crisis".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Increase in retirement age bashes the working women".
TA NEA: "New flu's outbreak knocks on our door".
TO VIMA: "New taxes immediately".
VRADYNI: "Social security: "What will change in 2010".
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