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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-12-06

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

December 6, 2006

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM analyses Greek economy at Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce conference
  • [02] Cabinet approves stiffer penalties under new Traffic Code
  • [03] Papandreou addresses PASOK's Parliamentary Council
  • [04] Russian defense minister in Greece on official visit
  • [05] FM briefs President on foreign policy issues
  • [06] EU education ministers discuss common vocational training system
  • [07] Petralia met with visiting Nashville mayor Bill Purcell
  • [08] Prosecutor to seek evidence from Germany, Switzerland on Siemens case
  • [09] Deputy FM Stylianidis and U.S. Ambassador Ries to address 'Development Aid Policy'
  • [10] KKE leader holds talks with former Coalition party leader Nikos Konstantopoulos
  • [11] KKE leader Aleka Papariga addresses event at Athens University Law Faculty
  • [12] Reforms have helped improve Greek banking system, Finmin says
  • [13] Finmin sees leeway for narrower bank spreads
  • [14] Gov't defends plans for ports; PASOK calls for immediate halt
  • [15] Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas outlines initiatives in energy sector
  • [16] Deputy FM Evripidis Stylianidis concludes visit to Kuwait
  • [17] Greek officials see fairly swift convergence for Bulgaria, Romania
  • [18] Cyprus, Athens bourses welcome joint platform
  • [19] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks decline
  • [20] UN unanimously adopts 'cultural property return' Resolution tabled by Greece
  • [21] Athens-Sparta - 8th-5th Century BC exhibition in NY
  • [22] Accused in MEVGAL blackmail scandal released on bail
  • [23] Cave discovered in Nestorio, northwest Greece
  • [24] Olympiakos Piraeus draws 1-1 with Shakhtar Donetsk in Champions League match
  • [25] FM expresses disappointment over Turkey thwarting Cypriot accession in Open Skies Treaty
  • [26] Vanhanen says Commission recommendation good foundation for discussion
  • [27] Deliberations begin Friday at SC on UNFICYP resolution
  • [28] Cyprus fulfills fundamental convergence criteria for adopting euro

  • [01] PM analyses Greek economy at Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce conference

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed the 17th annual conference of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce on the theme of "The hour of the Greek economy" on Tuesday, saying that the Greek economy has broken away from the fictitious reality, it has obtained goals and a strategy, as well as a new course.

    "The reformist strategy is continuing steadfastly, undeviatingly and intensively. It is continuing with the demand and support of society," Karamanlis said.

    "We are not yet in the state we want and that the country is entitled to. Continuity and consistency is necessary with the reforms we have started, what is necessary is an increasing rapid pace," he added.

    Karamanlis then referred to the paramount reform in economic policy, tax reform, which is now entering its second phase. He explained that the tax-free margin is increasing, tax percentages are decreasing for private persons and social care measures are being enacted, while a considerable simplification of the accounting books and data code is anticipated at the same time so as to curb bureaucratic procedures and reduce the cost they entail.

    He further noted that the continuation of privatizations is a basic element in the new economy.

    The prime minister criticized previous governments for the state of the economy that they delivered and underlined the results of the reformist strategy scheduled by the New Democracy government.

    Karamanlis stressed that the country's growth rate is one of the highest in the eurozone, reaching 4.4 percent in the third quarter of the current year. After a five-year downward trend, tourism is registering a considerable increase in arrivals that amounted to 7 percent last year. Despite the unfavorable impact from international oil prices, inflation dropped to below 3 percent. Direct foreign investments increased almost tenfold during the first eight months compared to last year, exceeding 3.5 billion euros, while total investments have increased by more than 10 percent during the first half of the year.

    The prime minister also made special reference to Greek-U.S. economic and trade cooperation, stressing that in 2005 imports from the United States totaled one billion euros, while exports reached 700 million, adding that despite the fact that there is a deficit of 300 million euros in the trade balance the American market provides great opportunities for Greek businesses.

    PASOK leader addresses conference: PASOK can guarantee the social pact, reached through social dialogue, which is necessary in order to make the major changes the country needs, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said Monday night, addressing the opening session of a two-day Greek Economy Conference organized by the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce at a central Athens hotel.

    Papandreou also stressed that he will use all the experience he has accumulated to promote Greece's interests abroad and attract foreign capital to the country.

    He launched a fierce criticism on the government policy, which he said results in missed opportunities despite the fact that it came to power at a time when the Greek economy was at its best moment in recent history.

    Papandreou also referred to foreign policy issues and particularly EU-Turkey relations, stressing that the likelihood of sanctions on Turkey for not meeting its obligations toward the EU will constitute palpable proof of the fact that efforts to bring Turkey closer to the EU have failed and, at the same time, the effect on Greek-Turkish relations will also be decisive.

    He said that the impasse could have been avoided if Greece had continued the serious efforts for the solution of the continental shelf issue at the appropriate time and had exercised serious policy when handling Turkey's EU Customs Union Protocol issue back in 2004 or 2005.

    Referring to the economy, the PASOK leader stated that in 2007 or 2008 the EU will decide on lifting the fiscal supervision status imposed on Greece, stressing that again nothing will change if the economic policy model followed today remains the same.

    Papandreou also referred to five priorities that have to be backed by bold changes. Namely, providing equal access to quality education for all and incentives to boost entrepreneurship and innovation, investing in the workers' dexterities and vocational training, creating a new social state and making the environment a competitive advantage.

    The PASOK leader stated that there are certain necessary preconditions in order to meet the objectives mentioned above.

    Decentralization and state reform was one of them, he said, adding that privatizations were not an end in itself but should be part of an overall planning.

    He stressed that the creation of a new macro-economic and fiscal framework was necessary and added that he disagreed with the indiscriminate taxation rate cuts on corporate profits.

    The PASOK president also stressed that the problem with the taxation system was not high taxation rates but the fact that it lacked credibility.

    Papandreou further referred to the need to build a healthier relationship between political and economic forces, between political power and the mass media, and stressing that specific businessmen or mass media should stop enjoying preferential treatment.

    [02] Cabinet approves stiffer penalties under new Traffic Code

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The government on Tuesday approved the revised traffic code introducing stiffer penalties for offenders proposed by Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis, during a meeting of the inner Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Liapis said that the aim of the new traffic code was to act as a deterrent in the hope of preventing many of the fatal accidents that put Greece at the top of the league for per capita road accident deaths in the European Union, while at the same time creating a mentality that favored safe driving habits.

    To this end, the minister noted that the fines for dangerous driving would increase but speed limits would also be slightly raised.

    He pointed out that the last revision of the traffic code was carried out in 1999 and that the government's present proposals were developed by a team of experts and scientists, while they had been unveiled for public debate six months earlier.

    Liapis urged MPs to intervene and voice their opinions on this major issue, one which claims hundreds of lives on Greek roadways each year, stressing that he welcomed dialogue on his proposals.

    He also described the draft bill prepared by his ministry as a "breakthrough" and expressed hope that there would be cooperation and broader consensus with the opposition.

    Responding to reporters' questions about the sharp increase in the amount of the fines, Liapis denied that this was another method of 'milking' the public to boost government coffers.

    "That occurs when something is imposed on you against your will. No one obliges anyone to go through a red light, ignore right of way or to illegally traverse a guarded level crossing," Liapis pointed out.

    The minister also stressed that wearing a seatbelt was obligatory and that the measure was now being extended to taxis, where passengers in the front seat will be obliged to wear a seatbelt, as well as to passengers on inter-city buses.

    Asked whether the government intended to reduce high rates of VAT currently imposed on motorcycle helmets, which are treated as luxury goods for tax purposes, Liapis said that he had raised the issue with European Commissioner for transport Jacques Barrot but had not yet received any reply.

    In comments on the draft bill during Tuesday's regular press briefing, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that the traffic code was not just a legal text but also a rule for life.

    He stressed that the government's goal was to protect human life more efficiently, given that Greece occupied one of the worst positions in the EU in terms of road safety.

    The spokesman said the transport ministry, following dialogue with the qualified bodies, had settled on a modern framework of dealing with traffic violations, particularly those that placed human life at risk.

    This included the decriminalization of certain minor offences and misdemeanor-type violations, better collection of fines, an upgrade of the point system and a rationalization of fines, he added.

    [03] Papandreou addresses PASOK's Parliamentary Council

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Addressing the first meeting of his party's Parliamentary Council on Tuesday, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou attacked the government and said that it had failed on all fronts.

    He stressed that the key to the success of the newly created body would be to present a united front and take dynamic action against the government, while defending and promoting PASOK's positions and decisions.

    On the issue of the budget, Papandreou said that PASOK would ensure that it highlighted the under-funding of education, health, the undermining of social security and the government's lack of sensitivity toward families.

    Commenting on the government's tax reforms, meanwhile, PASOK's leader said that it was actually a harsh redistribution of income from the many to the wealthy few, which was socially unfair and did not lead to development.

    He also stressed that the members of the Parliamentary Council each bore "personal responsibility" for the sector that they had undertaken and the actions they decided to take, urging them to mobilize all citizens and party members on the issues discussed during the meeting.

    [04] Russian defense minister in Greece on official visit

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov arrived in Greece on Tuesday for a two-day official visit, during which he will have talks with the Greek government and state leadership.

    On his arrival he met with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyiannis and was later received by President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias, while a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

    Papoulias greeted the visiting Russian official with particular warmth, underlining the long ties of friendship between Greece and Russia.

    "I am aware of this and want to contribute to developing them even further," Ivanov replied.

    The Greek president underlined the close cooperation between Greece and Russia in handling international affairs and issues concerning their immediate neighborhood, as well as matters of mutual interest in the Mediterranean and the Balkans, while Ivanov pointed to the two countries cooperation in the Black Sea region.

    Papoulias also commented on relations between Russia and the European Union, describing Russia as a major European power.

    "I do not think that any European can think that there is a future for the EU without Russia. And I think that you also have a particular regard for developing ties with the EU," he added.

    Russian DM Sergei Ivanov visits Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos: Russian Vice President and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov visited Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos at noon on Tuesday.

    "We feel joy because we are offering you hospitality not as a stranger but as a brother. The Church of Greece maintains close relations with the Church of Russia and the personality of Patriarch Alexiy is respected and loved. We are counting on these relations because we are aiming at the benefit of our Orthodox peoples," Archbishop Christodoulos said and thanked Ivanov for his second visit to the Church of Greece.

    Ivanov underlined the historic bonds existing between the Orthodox peoples which, as he said, facilitate communication and cooperation between them. He also noted the crucial and decisive role played by the Orthodox faith in the modern world for the prevalence of peace and the significance of the Orthodox Church for the Russian people, the state and the armed forces of his country.

    The Russian defense minister conveyed a letter to Archbishop Christodoulos from the Patriarch of Moscow Alexiy in which he stresses that "you are contributing considerably to the strengthening of friendship and cooperation between our Churches, countries and peoples."

    [05] FM briefs President on foreign policy issues

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday briefed President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on foreign policy issues.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Bakoyannis said that the main topic of discussion had been the decisions to be taken by the European Union, either at foreign ministers' level or by the EU Summit on 14-15 December, on Turkey's EU accession prospects.

    She said they further discussed the situation in the Middle East on which, according to Bakoyannis, the President expressed particular concern.

    Asked to comment on a main opposition PASOK party statement that a prospective crisis in EU-Turkey affairs would also affect Greek-Turkish relations, the foreign minister said that the EU-Turkey issues naturally also influenced bilateral relations.

    However, she added, the EU needed to maintain a uniform stance, to send a clear message to Turkey, while at the same time preserving the European lever of pressure on Turkey.

    "It is not easy to have consensus within the European Union, but we will strive for it," she said.

    [06] EU education ministers discuss common vocational training system

    HELSINKI, 6/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou represented Greece at a meeting of EU education ministers held in Finland on Tuesday to discuss a common policy for vocational training and education.

    Commenting on the results of the meeting, Yiannakou noted that creating a single system for vocational training in Europe would mean activating all the interested parties in such a way that vocational education and training became an integral part of each country's education system.

    The EU ministers agreed to focus their policies in this area on issues concerning the quality of knowledge and skills provided, so as to make the system more attractive to those seeking to acquire qualifications for the job market.

    They also agreed to work on developing common tools to lead to a unified vocational training and education area in Europe.

    [07] Petralia met with visiting Nashville mayor Bill Purcell

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Tourism Minister Fanny Palli Petralia on Tuesday met with the visiting mayor of Nashville, Tennessee, Bill Purcell, who was accompanied by US ambassador to Athens Charles Ries.

    Following the meeting, Petralia stated that joint actions will be undertaken to boost tourist flow between Greece and Nashville, stressing that this city of the American south is the Athens of the United States, referring to the full-scale replica of the Parthenon built in the city. An estimated 10 million tourists visit Nashville each year.

    The Nashville mayor also referred to the joint actions aimed at boosting tourism and expressed his admiration for the Greek culture.

    [08] Prosecutor to seek evidence from Germany, Switzerland on Siemens case

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    An Athens public prosecutor investigating the procurement of the C41 security system by the Greek state on Tuesday said that he would ask Greek authorities to officially request information gathered by Swiss and German authorities on a suspected bribery case involving an executive for the company Siemens.

    [09] Deputy FM Stylianidis and U.S. Ambassador Ries to address 'Development Aid Policy'

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis and U.S. Ambassador Charles Ries will speak on "Helping Hands: Greek and American Approaches to Development Aid Policy", the public affairs section of the American Embassy in Athens announced in a press release on Tuesday.

    The event will take place at the Foreign Ministry's "Yiannos Kranidiotis" Auditurium, 1 Academias Street on Friday at 10:30-12:00 noon.

    [10] KKE leader holds talks with former Coalition party leader Nikos Konstantopoulos

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga held talks with former Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Nikos Konstantopoulos on Tuesday and said afterwards that a longstanding major problem exists regarding the role of state-run and private media.

    Papariga said that the position of KKE is, apart from the effort to achieve rules concerning ethics and the effort to utilize constitutional revision, that what is important is the development of social criticism.

    Konstantopoulos said on his part that "the political life of the country cannot and must not become a silent viewer of certain programs that want to manipulate political developments, disorientate public opinion, erode the political system and, at the same time, exercise demagoguery on the institutions' existing problems of weakness or inadequacy."

    [11] KKE leader Aleka Papariga addresses event at Athens University Law Faculty

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga addressed an event organized by the party's educational organization at the Athens University's Law Faculty on Tuesday night, saying that the educational system is linked to the economy and reforms in it are aimed at the restructuring of the capitalist system.

    Papariga said that the aim of KKE is to help strengthen developments in the popular movement. Referring to teachers' mobilization, she said that it is important since it brought attention to the issue of education, also expressing indignation over developments taking place in society.

    In parallel, she added, it highlighted a known problem, the state of crisis existing in the sector and in the trade union movement in general, while accusing the main opposition PASOK party of capitalizing on the teachers' struggles before the elections.

    [12] Reforms have helped improve Greek banking system, Finmin says

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A series of reforms and privatizations undertaken by the government have created the right conditions for a better banking system in Greece, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis claimed on Tuesday while addressing the International Banking Forum organized by the Economist in Athens.

    According to the minister, banking was a healthy, productive sector and banks were introducing innovative services. Noting increasing competition within the sector that benefited businesses and households, he said this progress was largely due to the sector's heightened competitiveness.

    He attributed this to structural changes and reforms, a series of privatizations and the restructuring of the Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE). He also pledge to continue reforms with the further privatization of the Post Offices Savings Fund and ATE, while pointing to the government's support of National Bank of Greece (NBG) in its expansion to Turkey, which he described as a historic event.

    The minister also referred to the marked progress of the Greek economy, with the improvement of fiscal indicators, falling unemployment, rising exports and increasing interest displayed by foreign investors.

    He pledged to continue the government's reform program without wavering, noting that the first cycle of reforms was coming to a close at the end of the government's four-year term and that New Democracy would seek the electorate's mandate to embark on a new cycle of reforms in the next four years.

    [13] Finmin sees leeway for narrower bank spreads

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Interest rate differentials between deposits and loans could fall further as there is room for more competition and better operations by banks, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday.

    Banks often still showed high operating costs due to problems of the past, reflected in rate margins, the minister replied to a reporter's question on the sidelines of a forum in Athens arranged by The Economist magazine.

    Cenbank seeks reform of banking regulation

    Central bank governor Nikos Garganas said on Tuesday that he wanted to see reform of banking regulation.

    "There are cases in which banks abuse their power. That is why we must be able to intervene through a suitable statutory framework," Garganas told a banking forum in Athens arranged by the The Economist business magazine.

    Under the current regime, regulation of the sector is carried out by mainly by the Bank of Greece, with the development ministry handling competition and market operation.

    Garganas also noted that the domestic banking system was stable with a low exposure to credit and market risk; and capital adequacy was satisfactory.

    Furthermore, the market had also grown in strength from a recent wave of mergers and acquisitions.

    However, risk was involved in investing in southeastern Europe and Garganas reported that he was seeking tighter regulatory controls in the region.

    He welcomed the contribution of Greek banks to the transition of southeast European countries to free market economies, and a resulting shift towards the European Union.

    Greek banks employ 15,000 people in 1,000 outlets in Bulgaria, Romania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Albania and Turkey, Garganas added.

    [14] Gov't defends plans for ports; PASOK calls for immediate halt

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The government staunchly defended its plan to privatize port services in Thessaloniki and Piraeus through concessions once again on Tuesday, while main opposition PASOK demanded an immediate halt to the process.

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos also denied rumors that the prime minister's faith in Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis had been shaken or that he had refused a meeting requested by the minister.

    Regarding the problems created at the port of Piraeus by dockworkers boycotting overtime work in reaction to the government plans, Roussopoulos said the merchant marine minister had taken steps to overcome the problem, talking with the interested parties in open dialogue.

    The spokesman also stressed that the government's goal was to improve the efficiency of the country's two largest ports - Piraeus and Thessaloniki - on multiple levels so that they attained the same standards as ports in European countries.

    At the same time, he repeated that the labor rights of dockworkers would not be affected by the measures and that a mistaken impression was being created in the media on this issue.

    Quoting PASOK leader George Papandreou, however, main opposition party spokesman Petros Efthymiou said that the consequences of the concessions that the government intended to offer would be "unacceptable and disastrous" for the country.

    "Our disagreement is absolute," Efthymiou added.

    Addressing the first meeting of his party's Parliamentary Council earlier that day, Papandreou stressed that on issues of major importance, such as this one, responsibility did not lie solely with the merchant marine minister but also the premier.

    The government plan calls for the privatization of several port services through 30-year concessions that it intends to put up for tender. The move has angered the dockworkers union, which feels that the labor rights of its members are threatened and has responded with a 'go-slow' that has seriously disrupted the flow of cargo through the ports.

    PASOK has slammed the proposal as untransparent and says the government bears great responsibility for the clash that has diverted shipping traffic to Greece's neighbors and competitors, while noting that the concessions are for the most profitable activities of the two ports, from which they earned 70 percent of their revenue.

    [15] Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas outlines initiatives in energy sector

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas outlined the government's initiatives in the energy sector in an address at a conference of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce on the Greek economy that is due to end on Tuesday.

    Sioufas said that a new energy policy is being applied over the past two-and-a-half years aimed at safe energy supply with the best possible prices, the utilization of renewable energy sources and biofuel, the deregulation of the electricity and natural gas markets and the strengthening of the country's international connections in the sectors of electricity, oil and natural gas.

    The development minister further said that the construction of the Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline will be completed soon, whose operation will begin at the end of the spring of 2007.

    In addition, the tripartite agreement for the implementation of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline is being promoted, an agreement was signed with the Italian government for the construction of the undersea Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline, a memorandum of cooperation was signed with Egypt in the natural gas transportation sector and electricity connections are being promoted with neighboring countries (FYROM, Bulgaria, Turkey, Italy, etc).

    [16] Deputy FM Evripidis Stylianidis concludes visit to Kuwait

    KUWAIT, 6/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    A business mission to Kuwait, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis and coming in the wake of the official visit Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis made to Egypt and President Karolos Papoulias made to Libya, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, was concluded with the reaching of the first agreements.

    The aims of the Greek mission, that included the Arab-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and 14 businesses, was to widen fields of cooperation with the purpose of promoting exports, creating joint ventures and attracting investments to Greece.

    The two sides expressed their joint desire for further strengthening economic relations, that lag far behind excellent political relations, and shared their concern over the unstable situation prevailing in the region and made special reference to Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and the Palestinian issue.

    Calling on Kuwaiti officials to make investments, Stylianidis said "we have a firm and modern economy that can minimize business risk and maximize benefit."

    [17] Greek officials see fairly swift convergence for Bulgaria, Romania

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Convergence with current EU economic levels will come no sooner than 2017 for Bulgaria and Romania, stated Economic and Social Council of Greece (ESC) President Nicholas Analytis on Tuesday. He pointed out, however, that the two countries are likely to do better than other new EU member-states, like Poland which will have to shape up its rural economy or Hungary.

    Commenting on the sidelines of a conference organized in Thessaloniki by ESC and the European Economic and Social Committee, he stressed that true convergence will come in 8 to 10 years and a lot will depend on what the countries themselves will do. For example, if Bulgaria makes progress in the information society it will move much faster, he added.

    On the problem of corruption in the Balkans, he pointed out that serious efforts are being made to combat the phenomenon but there is still a lot that needs to be done.

    In certain cases, anti-corruption legislation in Bulgaria and Romania is better than relevant legislation in Scandinavian states but the problem is in the implementation of the law, stressed Transparency International officer Rune Rasmussen, adding that Bulgaria and Romania have made big progress in terms of legislation.

    According to Rasmussen, western Balkan states made some progress in combating corruption and the EU does a lot to help them control it. Referring to Greece, he stated that its record is not very good as proven by the fact that it occupies the 15th place among the EU member states.

    [18] Cyprus, Athens bourses welcome joint platform

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The head of the Cyprus bourse, Akis Cleanthous, on Tuesday welcomed establishment of a common trading platform with the Athens market that began operating on October 30.

    In a visit to Athens, Cleanthous held talks with his counterpart, Spyros Kapralos, who said the platform was a success.

    The platform comprises common technological infrastructure (trading, clearing/settlement and registry systems) and a compatible legal and regulatory framework between the two exchanges.

    [19] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks decline

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The Athens share index closed at 4,191.96 points, showing a decline of 0.47%. Turnover was 825.2 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.84% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 0.35% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.32% down.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 138 to 105 with 62 remaining unchanged.

    Stock Futures:

  • Most Active Contract (volume): Hellenic Technodomiki (1678)

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 140.6 million euros

    Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 3.92 pct

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2016): 3.92 pct yield

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2016 (1.0 bln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.3 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates

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

    U.S. dollar 1.343

    Pound sterling 0.679

    Danish kroner 7.515

    Swedish kroner 9.121

    Japanese yen 153.9

    Swiss franc 1.601

    Norwegian kroner 8.195

    Cyprus pound 0.582

    Canadian dollar 1.532

    Australian dollar 1.708

    [20] UN unanimously adopts 'cultural property return' Resolution tabled by Greece

    NEW YORK, 6/12/2006 (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    Greece's culture minister George Voulgarakis called for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece late Monday night, speaking at the UN just after the General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution tabled by Greece last month on the return or restitution of cultural property to their countries of origin. He also welcomed the adoption of the resolution by the plenary session as "exceptionally important".

    "The Greek initiative for the Resolution that has been unanimously adopted by the United Nations, which concerns the reunification of antiquities, is an exceptionally important event," Voulgarakis said after the adoption of the resolution, adding that "this result is the outcome of the efforts we have made recently to enable the antiquities to return to their places of origin".

    "The adoption of this resolution in itself signals and guides the countries to help so that the antiquities from all over the world will return to their homes. Greece will always seek and strive, in that direction, for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to their rightful place".

    Addressing the General Assembly, Voulgarakis explained that "the uniqueness of the Parthenon, as a monument-symbol of the global civilization, is the decisive factor that renders the demand for their return universal, but also more timely than ever, particularly now, when we are in the final stage of completion of the New Acropolis Museum" in Athens.

    The draft resolution on "The Return or Restitution of Cultural Property to their Countries of Origin" had been tabled at the UN by Greece's Permanent Representative, Ambassador Adamantios Vasilakis, on November 3.

    Addressing himself to the president of the UN's 61st General Assembly and the representatives of the UN member countries, Voulgarakis said:

    "I thank you for the opportunity you have given me to address the General Assembly, to express the sincere gratitude and appreciation of the Greek government, for the unanimous adoption of the resolution on the return and restitution of the cultural treasures to their countries of origin. The adoption of the resolution, with a 'consensus', and its endorsement by the majority of the representatives, clearly states its importance for the international community, and the clear intentions of all of us to proceed with bilateral and multilateral collaborations so as to resolve these matters."

    Noting that "UNESCO's systematic and hard work is at the core of these efforts for the protection of cultural heritage", Voulgarakis also conveyed the Greek government's appreciation to UNESCO director-general Koichiro Matsuura.

    Voulgarakis further noted the immense legal dimensions of antiquities smuggling, stressing that "the illicit trade in antiquities is included in the same category as the illicit trade in weapons, narcotics and people. It constitutes a form of organized crime that is directly linked with the mafia and money laundering. It is a crime against all of us. Not only against the States whose cultural heritage is being decimated, but also against all of humanity, because the monuments are destroyed, information is lost, the artifacts are cut off from their historical and physical environment".

    He also spoke of the value of heritage, stressing that "a person without history and a cultural identity becomes poorer as an existence and substance; he is cut off from his natural and cultural environment, and is deprived of his ability to explain the phenomena of his evolution".

    However, Voulgarakis continued, "a new wind has been blowing in recent years".

    "An increasing number of museums are adopting strict ethical codes in the acquisition of cultural property. The international scientific community and the archaeologists, regardless of nationality, are raising their voices for the protection of the world cultural heritage and demanding that an end be put to the looting and smuggling of cultural artifacts. New, more stringent legislation is being adopted in this direction, such as recently in Switzerland and Britain. But the global public opinion, too, and the media, have been sensitized, particularly after the destruction of cultural properties in Afghanistan and Iraq," he explained.

    Voulgarakis stressed "we hear this necessity, and we are giving it flesh and blood with today's Resolution".

    "Greece took the initiative to introduce this Resolution, which is greatly important to the protection of cultural heritage and signals this new era. It reflects the initiatives that have been taken at international level through international conventions, resolutions and initiatives by UNESCO, and other international initiatives. It advances the cooperation among the countries, in the framework of the UN and UNESCO, in order to protect humanity's cultural heritage and its values. It ensures the advancement of the return and restitution of the cultural properties that have been illegally removed from their countries of origin, and stressed the need for their return to those countries," he said.

    "In the age of globalization, the peoples must be able to preserve their historic and cultural identity and, at the same time, communicate and collaborate amongst themselves without the barriers of the past. But this cooperation and movement of cultural properties must abide by ethical codes and rules," he added.

    Noting the recent positive developments in this area, Voulgarakis stressed: "Greece, through its collaborations with other states and museums, has already succeeded, in this past year, to repatriate some of its antiquities. Two important antiquities have been returned by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, while discussions are pending for the return of two more antiquities by the same museum. Also returned to Greece were two fragments from the Acropolis, on of which was from the Parthenon. The one fragment was returned by the University of Heidelberg, while the other was returned by Sweden. These returns were made in the framework of the need for restitution of a monument which, although it is situated in Greece, belongs to the entire world."

    However, the Greek culture minister continued, "the Parthenon Marbles remain 'divided' between Athens and London".

    "The uniqueness of the Parthenon, as a monument-symbol of world heritage, is the decisive factor that renders the demand for their return universal, but also more timely than ever. Particularly now when we are at the final stage of completion of the New Acropolis Museum. This Museum will house all the remaining parts of the Parthenon and is expected to also include the Marbles we seek back from the British Museum," Voulgarakis said.

    "The reunification of antiquities signals the completion of civilisational mosaics which, for the time being, are gapingly incomplete, the completion of a fragmented image which, precisely due to the looting of its basic pieces, is distorted and misleading. If we succeed in completing the cultural image of each country with the repatriation of those antiquities that have been removed, illegally or unjustly, from their countries of origin, we will be creating steady foundations not only for the present, but also for the generations that will follow," the minister stressed.

    "The cultural heritage of every country is the cultural heritage of all of humanity. All of humanity bears the burden and responsibility for the protection of this cultural heritage," the Greek culture minister concluded.

    [21] Athens-Sparta - 8th-5th Century BC exhibition in NY

    NEW YORK, 6/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The culture and differences of the ancient Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta are being presented to the American public from Tuesday, in a "unique exhibition", as described by Greek Culture Minister George Voulgarakis, during a press conference on Monday at the Onassion Cultural Centre of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, in Manhattan.

    Voulgarakis congratulated the Onassis Foundation, particularly its president Antonis Papadimitriou, as well as the National Archaeological Museum, noting that the exhibition, like others which have been presented by the Onassis Foundation, contribute in the direction of the projection of Greece's culture.

    "For the first time, two magnificent cities of antiquity are being projected in a modern multicultural city," said Voulgarakis, noting that "the best ambassador of Greece is its culture."

    Speaking at the same press conference, Foundation president Antonis Papadimitriou referred to the content and timeless significance of the exhibition, noting "the parallel life and rivalry of these two cities, with very many dimensions".

    Papadimitriou said that unique art objects were on display, adding that this was the first they were traveling outside Greece, and thanked the Central Archaeological Council, the National Archaeological Museums of Athens and Sparta, and all the other museums that allowed "these masterpieces" in their possession to be included in the exhibition abroad.

    Greece's National Archaeological Museum director and curator of the exhibition, Dr. Nikos Kaltsas, outlined the exhibits, divided into three unities: the cultural, political and economic course of Athens and Sparta from the 8th to the 5th century BC.

    "For the first time has such a large number of Laconic and Attic artwork been gathered side by side," Dr. Kaltsas said, noting that the purpose of the exhibition was not a comparison, but rather to highlight the differences of the two city-states in mentality, organization and artistic expression "which, in times of peace, developed that which today is known worldwide and universally acknowledged as classical Hellenic civilization".

    The rival Hellenic city-states, Sparta and Athens, were distinct from one another not only politically and culturally, but also artistically. While ancient Sparta was famous for militarism and austerity, its artistic developments are typically regarded as less advanced than those of Athens, which has long been revered for producing some of the most exquisite artworks in all of ancient Greece.

    The exhibition will trace both Laconic and Attic artistic developments from the 8th to the 5th centuries B.C., with a focus on the historically overlooked achievements made in Spartan art during this period. A total of 289 rare artifacts from the two city-states are brought together in this exhibition, many of which are visiting the U.S. for the first time. Highlights of Athens-Sparta will include a marble head of Leonidas, from the 6th century B.C., and Laconic bronze figurines of hoplites, from the 8th to the 6th centuries B.C., with loans drawn from museums across Greece.

    Artifacts on display include a marble statue believed to represent the Spartan king Leonidas, weapons found at Thermopylae where he died fighting Persian invaders, and finds from Marathon, where Athens defeated a Persian army in 490 B.C. Athens and Sparta overcame decades of mutual distrust to ally against Persian invasions in the early 5th century B.C., but fought each other in the bitter Peloponnesian War which divided Greece's querulous city states and lasted, with brief intervals, from 431-404 B.C. Sparta won that war but lost the peace, declining in later years into a rural backwater, while Athens remained a center of learning and culture for most of its later history.

    Papadimitriou, in an interview with ANA-MPA, said the exhibition was very important and of great interest from both a cultural and a historic viewpoint, and was the seventh exhibition to be organized by the Foundation in the US.

    He said the exhibition showcased the parallel life and rivalry of the two city-states, with their numerous influences on politics, history, culture, philosophy and art.

    Papadimitriou said that, of the 289 artifacts on display, particular interest was presented by the marble bust of a hoplite believed to be that of Leonidas, dating to the end of the 5th century BC, a marble 5th century BC statuette of an Attic Kore from the Acropolis Museum, bronze hoplite figurines from Sparta dated between the 8th-6th century BC, a 6th century BC clay cylix by the Laconian painter Arkesilas, a mid-4th centry BC marble statuette of the goddess Athena, Attic bas-reliefs and a gravestone stele from the late 5th century BC, and 5th century BC arrowheads and spears from the site of the Battle of Thermopylae.

    The Onassion Cultural Centre is the Foundation's headquarters in the US, and a subsidiary of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation established in 1975 after the death of shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, named after Onassis' son Alexandros who was killed in a private plane crash.

    [22] Accused in MEVGAL blackmail scandal released on bail

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Two of the three men accused of attempting to blackmail the northern Greek dairy industry MEVGAL, including former Competition Commission general director Panagiotis Adamopoulos, were on Tuesday released on bail by an examining magistrate.

    The second man released was Adamopoulos' alleged accomplice in the scandal, customs broker Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos.

    The magistrate granted requests lodged by the two remand prisoners a short while ago for their release, imposing bail of 50,000 euros on each and forbidding them to leave the country, as well as requiring that they report to their local police station twice a month.

    According to the magistrate, Adamopoulos was not considered likely to attempt to flee justice, nor was he in a position to commit similar offences since he no longer had a position of influence. Anagnostopoulos was released after claiming serious health problems.

    The third man allegedly involved in the case, the grain merchant Costas Constantinidis, is to remain in jail pending a trial.

    The three men are accused of using the threat of a stiff Competition Commission fine to persuade MEVGAL to hand over €2.5 million and were remanded in custody in September.

    They were caught after MEVGAL CEO Petros Papadakis reported the attempted blackmail to police and, in collaboration with the financial crimes squad, arranged a meeting with the blackmailers to give them an advance of €200,000 in cash in marked notes. Constantinidis was the first person arrested in connection with the case on Monday in Syntagma, carrying the marked notes he received from a MEVGAL executive.

    [23] Cave discovered in Nestorio, northwest Greece

    ATHENS, 6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A cave with stalactites of unique beauty was accidentally discovered by Mountain Tourism vocational training institute students in Nestorio, northwest Greece, near the historic monastery of Tsouka in the Agia Anna region, 5 kilometers from Nestorio, Kastoria.

    The students, a professor and archaeological agency officials organized a search operation after receiving information that treasure hunters were spotted in the region. The cave was discovered in an inaccessible mountainous area and no local knew of its existence because its entrance was covered by dense vegetation.

    Bones found inside the 100-meter-long cave were sent for testing to determine their age.

    Soccer

    [24] Olympiakos Piraeus draws 1-1 with Shakhtar Donetsk in Champions League match

    6/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Olympiakos Piraeus drew 1-1 with Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine (halftime 0-1) in a Champions League Group D soccer match played at Karaiskaki Stadium in Piraeus on Tuesday.

    Shakhtar went into the lead with a goal scored by Matuzalem in the 27th minute and Olympiakos equalized with Nery Alberto Castillo in the 54th.

    Olympiakos came last in the Group.

    [25] FM expresses disappointment over Turkey thwarting Cypriot accession in Open Skies Treaty

    BRUSSELS, 6/12/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)

    Cypriot Foreign Minister George Lillikas, in a meeting on Tuesday with OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, expressed Nicosia's disappointment over Turkey preventing Cyprus accession in the Treaty of Open Skies.

    Lillikas met de Brichambaut on the sidelines of the 14th meeting of the annual Ministerial Council of the 56 OSCE participating States in Brussels where they examined the role which Cyprus can play in strengthening the Mediterranean dimension of the OSCE. The organization's Secretary-General accepted an invitation by Lillikas to visit Cyprus at the end of January.

    Addressing the Council, Lillikas welcomed its results and reconfirmed the significance which the Republic of Cyprus attaches in improving its effectiveness and ability to respond to the new challenges.

    Lillikas accused Turkey for its unacceptable stance towards Cyprus' efforts to become a member of the Treaty of Open Skies and expressed the hope that soon it will realize that the aim of serving the common interests of the OSCE should be above political expediencies of isolated member states.

    The Cypriot minister also held bilateral meetings with his European counterparts on the sidelines of the council, in view of the EU General Affairs Council on December 11-12 which will concentrate on Turkey's EU course.

    He also analyzed the Cypriot positions and proposals which aim at securing the preconditions and control mechanism on Turkey, so that Turkey's EU course will be accompanied by the implementation of its obligations towards the EU and member states.

    On November 29, the European Commission said it was recommending a partial suspension of Turkey's EU membership talks for refusing to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and aircraft.

    The Commission said eight out of 35 negotiating chapters would be put on hold.

    EU member-state Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory. Turkey, which aspires to join the EU, has so far refused to implement numerous United Nations calling for the immediate withdrawal of its troops from this east Mediterranean island Republic.

    [26] Vanhanen says Commission recommendation good foundation for discussion

    BRUSSELS, 6/12/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Finland's Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen on Tuesday described the recommendation of the European Commission on Turkey's EU course as a good foundation for a discussion.

    In a speech at the European Parliament in Brussels on the Future of Europe, Vanhanen repeated that the decision of the 25 on Turkey's EU course will be taken on Monday at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council and the European Summit next week will not deal with the issue.

    Vanhanen made special reference to Turkey, underlining that the presidency will take all necessary measures so that the decision will be taken at a foreign ministers' level, adding that the issue will not be examined at the European Council.

    Referring to the Committee's recommendation, Vanhanen stressed that the presidency supports it because it is a "good foundation for a discussion for taking decisions" by the 25.

    On November 29, the European Commission said it was recommending a partial suspension of Turkey's EU membership talks for refusing to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and aircraft.

    The Commission said eight out of 35 negotiating chapters would be put on hold.

    [27] Deliberations begin Friday at SC on UNFICYP resolution

    UNITED NATIONS, 6/12/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Deliberations begin at the UN Security Council on Friday to adopt the resolution for the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) that expires December 15th.

    Security Council members will be briefed by the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Michael Moller during a closed session on Secretary-General Kofi Annan's final report to the SC on the renewal of UNFICYP's mandate.

    Deliberations amongst the five permanent members of the Security Council to prepare the draft resolution which will be presented will follow. The Security Council meeting to adopt the resolution will be held on December 15.

    Well informed sources, commenting on reports that the resolution might contain references regarding the possible future withdrawal of UNFICYP, said that neither the Americans, who traditionally support the restructuring of UNFICYP, nor the SG's references indicate a possible change in the resolution's wording.

    The same sources said that the leaking on the part of the British to the press were rather one sided and are related to the pressure on the Greek Cypriot side in view of the discussions on Turkey's EU course in Brussels.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed on July 8, 2006, during a meeting in the presence o fUN Undersecretary for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari, to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day-to-day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem.

    Following the agreement, senior aides of the two leaders in Cyprus, Tasos Tzionis and Rasit Pertev, began meetings in the office of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Michael Moller in the UN-controlled buffer zone to work out the modalities for the implementation of the July agreement.

    [28] Cyprus fulfills fundamental convergence criteria for adopting euro

    BRUSSELS, 6/12/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)

    Cyprus fulfills all fundamental convergence criteria for adopting the euro, according to the Convergence Report which Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia made public in Brussels on Tuesday.

    It is the second ''regular'' report since the enlargement of the EU to 10 new Member States in May 2004.

    In the 2004 Convergence Report, the Commission assessment was that Cyprus fulfilled two of the convergence criteria (on price stability and long-term interest rates). The assessment on legal convergence concluded that legislation in Cyprus was not fully compatible with Article 109 of the Treaty and the ESCB/ECB Statute.

    The report said that no national legislation has been enacted so far resolving the legal convergence issues identified in the 2004 Convergence Report. However, a draft Law amending the Central Bank of Cyprus Law of 2002 and 2003 was submitted to Parliament on October 12

    2006 in order to address these issues and to ensure full compatibility with the Treaty and the ESCB/ECB Statute.

    In its present form, this draft Law removes all incompatibilities raised in the Convergence Report of 2004.

    The report indicates that Cyprus has traditionally enjoyed relatively low, although at times volatile, inflation, reflecting the sensitivity of its small and open economy to external price shocks.

    The average inflation rate in Cyprus during the 12 months to October 2006 was 2.3 percent, below the reference value of 2.8 percent, and it is likely to remain below the reference value in the months ahead.

    Cyprus fulfils the criterion on price stability, it said.

    Furthermore, the report noted that Cyprus is at present not the subject of a Council decision on the existence of an excessive deficit.

    According to Almunia's report, expenditure growth was restricted by the imposition of a ceiling on the nominal growth rates of current primary and capital expenditure, a policy which has been continued in subsequent budgets. Government debt decreased to 69.2 percent of GDP in 2005. Cyprus fulfils the criterion on the government budgetary position.

    The Cyprus pound has participated in ERM II since 2 May 2005, i.e. for 19 months at the time of adoption of this report and has not completed two years in the ERM II. Since its entry, the pound has remained close to the central rate and has not experienced severe tensions. The report indicates that Cyprus does not fulfill the exchange rate criterion.

    Almunia's convergence report also stressed that the average long-term interest rate in Cyprus in the year to October 2006 was 4.1 percent, below the reference value of 6.2 percent and thus Cyprus fulfils the criterion on the convergence of long-term interest rates.


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