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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-12-15

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

December 15, 2006


  • [01] PM Karamanlis underlines need for common policy, action on issue of immigration at EU Summit
  • [02] Karamanlis meets Cypriot president
  • [03] Tourism minister meets with Burns in Washington
  • [04] Archbishop Christodoulos, Pope Benedict issue joint communiqué after Vatican meeting
  • [05] Deputy DM on Turkey
  • [06] Air Force General Staff Chief concludes visit to Romania
  • [07] Conference on transparency and local government
  • [08] Deputy interior minister meets regional director of UN High Commission in Rome
  • [09] ADAE imposes 76 million euros fine on Vodafone
  • [10] Information Secretary General Livadas to visit Saint Petersberg in Russia
  • [11] Tax bill, including OTE amendments passed by Parliament
  • [12] Opposition parties walk out of debate on tax bill amendments
  • [13] Papandreou slams development amendment, tax reforms
  • [14] President Papoulias briefed on economy by Alogoskoufis
  • [15] Alavanos meeting with GSEE, ADEDY
  • [16] 'Andreas Papandreou' Institute slams 2007 budget
  • [17] Gov't welcomes drop in joblessness
  • [18] Cenbank: No major risk from household debt
  • [19] Mark Mobius hails Greek banking moves in Turkey
  • [20] Conference in dedication to Greek top quality olive oil
  • [21] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks decline
  • [22] Public order minister confers with UNHCR goodwill ambassador
  • [23] Athens mayor lights Christmas tree at Syntagma Square
  • [24] 'Nonda' retrospective at Benaki Museum
  • [25] Internet use on rise in Greece
  • [26] European Court condemns Greece for overlooking destruction of substances which harm the ozone
  • [27] Fake invoices' scam unveiled

  • [01] PM Karamanlis underlines need for common policy, action on issue of immigration at EU Summit

    BRUSSELS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday underlined the need for the European Union to have a common policy and adopt common actions on the issue of immigration, during his address at the EU Summit which began here on Thursday.

    The issue of immigration dominated the debate in this first day of the summit, and apparently the political will for coordinated policies on it gains ground.

    Karamanlis said that Greece has supported the proposal on immigration submitted by Mediterranean countries reminding that Athens has proposed the creation of a common coast guard and the adoption of a common European action.

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis told reporters that immigration was a problem not only for Greece but for all Mediterranean countries, mainly Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Malta, noting that in recent years an important increase in the number of illegal immigrants trying to settle in European countries has been registered.

    Regarding Serbia's European prospect, an issue discussed at the summit, Bakoyannis said that it needed the EU's support, adding that Greece supported the idea that Serbia's democratic forces should be backed. The foreign minister said that Serbia's collaboration with the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague was necessary for Serbia's European progress.

    PM's earlier statements: The accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU sends all candidate states a positive message - namely, that observance and fulfillment of all EU terms and criteria pays off and is rewarded, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis underlined on Thursday upon his arrival in Brussels.

    The prime minister noted that European leaders would welcome Bulgaria and Romania to the EU bloc during Thurs-day's summit meeting, adding that this development confirmed that Greece followed the right policy on the specific issue. The EU accession of the two countries helps in the wider region's stabilization, he added.

    Karamanlis said that the issue of illegal immigration -- which is of major importance for Greece -- would also be discussed by EU leaders, as well as the Constitutional Treaty, innovation, research and EU enlargement.

    Immediately after his arrival, the Greek prime minister had a meeting with Serb President Boris Tadic, who was in the Belgian capital for the signature of an agreement on his country's accession into NATO's Partnership for Peace.

    The prime minister reiterated his support to the European orientation of the Balkan countries.

    [02] Karamanlis meets Cypriot president

    BRUSSELS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos met here on Thursday on the sidelines of the European Union Summit which began its two-day sessions.

    During their meeting, held in an excellent climate, the two leaders referred to the "very positive" results of Monday's EU General Affairs Council regarding Turkey. The talks also focused on the prospects of Turkey implementing the decisions reached and the neighboring country's European course.

    During a European People's Party (EPP) summit earlier in the day, Karamanlis summarized Greece's position on the issue by stating "full compliance-full accession", while French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Bavarian Prime Minister Dr. Edmund Stoiber criticized Ankara on its stance also supporting the idea of a special EU- Turkey relation.

    During his meeting with Serb President Boris Tadic, who was in the Belgian capital for the signature of an agreement on his country's accession into NATO's Partnership for Peace, Karamanlis reiterated Greece's steadfast support to the European orientation of Balkan countries, while Tadic thanked the Greek government for its support.

    [03] Tourism minister meets with Burns in Washington

    WASHINGTON, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    "We want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to welcome Greeks to the USA and I was able to assure the minister that president Bush and our government want to proceed as quickly as possible to work out the arrangements to provide the Visa Waiver Status, if that is possible for the Greek people to come to the US" Undersecretary of state for political affairs Nicholas Burns assured Greece's tourism development minister Fanny Palli-Petralia, during a meeting on Wednesday, on the third day of Petralias' visit to Washington.

    Burns, a former US ambassador to Greece, made the announcement to the press after his meeting with Petralia at the State Department.

    "Greece is one of our very best friends anywhere in the world it's a long relationship going all the way back to Greek Independence which we supported and in modern times we rely so much upon the efforts of the Greek government to be close to us, to support us and we can support them in the economic development" Burns said.

    The two officials discussed promoting American tourism to Greece, and Burns assured Petralia that the US government was doing everything it can to welcome Greeks to the US.

    "We are working on some specific ideas to promote investment on travel between us and to bring our countries more closely together" Burns said, and thanked Petralia for her leadership and friendship to US.

    Burns hosted a working luncheon for Petralia at the State Department, which was attended, inter alia, by Greek ambassador to the US Alexandros Mallias, the director of Petralia's diplomatic office Amb. Alexios Christopoulos, and the Congressman elect for the state of Maryland, John Sarbanes.

    Petralias outlined Greece's tourism policy to Burns, as well as the post-Olympics utilization of the Olympic properties, the prospect of a tourism cooperation protocol between Greece and the US, Greece's new developmental law and the prospects for tourism investments in Greece.

    "I asked Mr. Burns that we proceed with the signing of a bilateral agreement in the tourism sector between the US and Greece, and naturally discussed the visa issue, which is so important to the Greeks who wish to visit the US," Petralia told reporters.

    Petralia noted that there had been a very large increase in American tourist arrivals in Greece in 2006.

    "Following the meetings we had here in Washington, we predict that 2007 will be an excellent year for American tourist arrivals in our country. We look forward to Mr. Burns' support, too," she said.

    Earlier, the tourism development minister met with the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and executive vice president of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), William Maloney, who expressed optimism of an increase in American tourists to Greece in 2007.

    They agreed on commencing cooperation on matters of training tourist agents on Greek tourism products, the new forms of tourism available in Greece, and the projection of Greece in the US so that American tourism officials and travelers could get to know the country better as a tourism destination, and all that it has to offer to the tourist.

    After the meeting, Petralia said that she had asked Maloney for more systematic cooperation, "and for us to proceed to an agreement so as to make it known to all the American travel agents that Greece has many possibilities for new forms of tourism".

    Greece was awaiting ASTA's formal proposals she said, adding that "very soon this cooperation will be much closer, since we are beginning our advertising campaign in the US, which this year will be a focused one", explaining that "this is the reason for my trip to the US".

    On Wednesday afternoon, Petralia was the keynote speaker at an event organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington entitled "Tourism as a Bridge of Culture", during which she noted that the tourism industry was a dynamic part of the Greek economy.

    She said that the public and private investments completed in the framework of organizing the Athens 2004 Olympic Games had radically altered the country's image. Greece, Petralia continued, was a European destination that combined may advantages, it was among the 10 best tourist destinations for European tourists, and the goal was to become the number one destination in the next few years.

    [04] Archbishop Christodoulos, Pope Benedict issue joint communiqué after Vatican meeting

    VATICAN, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece and Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday proclaimed their "common mission in walking the difficult path of the dialogue of truth towards restoration of society's communion in the bond of love", and also urged the developed nations to manifest greater assistance to the developing and poorer countries, in a joint communiqué issued during the first state visit by a primate of the Orthodox Church of Greece to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church.

    In the joint communiqué, issued after a meeting between the two Church leaders, the Archbishop and the Pope stressed the belief that religions held a particular role in the preservation and prevalence of world peace, and could not be converted into sources of intolerance and violence.

    "As Christian leaders, we jointly urge the entirety of religions leaders to continue and strengthen the inter-religious dialogue and work for the creation of a society of peace and fraternity among individuals and peoples," the communiqué said.

    The two spiritual leaders also demanded major sensitivity for a more effective protection in their countries, as well as at European and global level, of the human rights and dignity of the human being as a creation in the image of God.

    They further urged the developed countries to "manifest greater contribution to the developing states but also to the poorer countries, with the aim of helping the weak and poor who are by far the children of God", adding that "given our common beliefs, we share the common desire for further commitment to the development of communion, in a spirit of constructive cooperation for the ministration of persons and peoples, bearing witness to our faith and hope".

    Earlier, the Archbishop and his entourage were escorted on a tour of St. Peter's Basilica by the historic church's Cardinal.

    Christodoulos laid an offering of a silver oil lamp on the tomb of St. Peter, which he lit while chanting a prayer. Byzantine hymns accompanied the Archbishop as he chanted a memorial service at the tombs of Pope John Paul II and Paul the VI, and laid a gold-plated wreath on the tomb of Pope John Paul II.

    On Thursday evening, the Pope will present to the Archbishop, during a special ceremony, two links of the chain which, according to tradition, the Apostle Paul (St. Paul) was bound during his imprisonment, as an offering of the Roman Catholic Church to the Church of Greece.

    The ceremony will take place at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, and the gift to the Church of Greece, according to a Vatican announcement, is "part of the precious chain of St. Paul's imprisonment", which is preserved at the basilica built in his honor.

    The basilica is built over the traditional site of St. Paul's burial. The chains believed to have held St. Paul during his imprisonment just before his executions are preserved in the basilica's Chapel of the Relics. St. Paul preached in Athens before making his way to Rome, where he was killed.

    This is the first-ever official visit by a primate of the Greek Orthodox Church to the Vatican, although Archbishop Christodoulos had previously gone to Rome for the April 2005 funeral of Pope John Paul II.

    [05] Deputy DM on Turkey

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The Greek-Turkish affairs have become Euro-Turkish affairs, and this is a success not only of the policy we have followed but of Democracy as well, proven outright by the recent EU General Affairs Council decision, Deputy National Defense Minister Vasilis Michaloliakos said Thursday during a visit to the First Army Corps headquarters, the Tactical Air Force Command, TAFC, and the 110th Combat Wing in Larisa, central Greece.

    Addressing military officers and petty officers both at the army corps and the TAFC, he stressed that Greece's backing to Turkey is not a carte blanche for policies inconsistent with the European principles and values. He observed that the military activity and practices of the neighboring country, the aggressive communication policy it follows and the fact that it provocatively challenges the legal status in the Aegean are points to be taken into account on Turkey's future European course.

    [06] Air Force General Staff Chief concludes visit to Romania

    BUCHAREST, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Greece's Air Force General Staff Chief Lieutenant-General George Avlonitis completed a three-day official visit to Romania on Thursday, at the invitation of his Romanian counterpart Gheorghe Katrina.

    Avlonitis was briefed by Lieutenant-General Katrina on the structure and capabilities of the Romanian air force and visited two bases.

    Avlonitis told ANA-MPA that his visit aimed at strengthening Greece-Romania cooperation, adding that more Greek officers will be sent to Romania in the framework of programs for the exchange of officers for training. He noted that Greece and Romania will cooperate in training programs for pilots and technicians.

    [07] Conference on transparency and local government

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Transparency issues are on the right track, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said Thursday, addressing a conference on "Transparency and local government - monitoring procedures and effectiveness" jointly organized by KEDKE (Central Union of Municipalities and Communities), ITA (Local Government Institute) and the Ombudsman's Office.

    Pavlopoulos said that based on the annual Ombudsman reports, the mismanagement percentage in the Local Government Organizations, OTA, dropped in 2005 as opposed to 2004. Mismanagement in municipalities and communities was reduced to 18.7 percent from 20.8 percent, while the decline recorded in prefectures was 9 percent from 11.4 percent.

    Based on the latest Public Administration General Inspector's Report, figures are positive for 2005 given that transparency violations dropped from 4.85 percent to 2.55 percent. In addition, the best track record in combating Supreme Staff Selection Council, ASEP, approved hirings violations was recorded in 2005, when the reported violations dropped to 32.2 percent from over 62.2 percent in the period 1994-2004.

    [08] Deputy interior minister meets regional director of UN High Commission in Rome

    15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    A courtesy meeting was held at the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Ministry on Thursday between Deputy Minister Athanasios Nakos and the regional director of the UN High Commission in Rome, Walter Irvine, and the head of the office of the UN High Commission for Refugees in Greece, George Tsarbopoulos.

    They exchanged views about the problems faced by refugees in relation to matters of legal migration.

    The representatives of the UN High Commission also raised the issues of political asylum, the special centers for foreigners, as well as the legalization of immigrants who live illegally in the country.

    The deputy interior minister committed himself for a consistent and constructive cooperation with the UN High Commission on matters of migration and political refugees.

    [09] ADAE imposes 76 million euros fine on Vodafone

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The Authority for the Assurance of Communication Privacy (ADAE) on Thursday imposed a heavy fine on the mobile phone company Vodafone on the phone-tapping issue, which came to light last February.

    The Independent Authority, after an investigation which took many months and having gathered all the data it wanted, convened on Thursday and decided to impose a total fine of 76 million euros on Vodafone, attributing to it responsibilities and charging the company for the illegal software which was found in its network as well as for other actions to which it resorted to, once the problem was detected.

    ADAE imposed a fine of 500,000 euros for each one of the 106 telephones which were being tapped and 500,000 euros for the identification of the specific phones, without first informing the relevant Independent Authority, that is, ADAE.

    It also imposed a fine of 15 million euros on Vodafone, charging it of hindering the work of the Independent Authority, when it revealed the illegal software, as well as a fine of 7.5 million euros for another five violations.

    [10] Information Secretary General Livadas to visit Saint Petersberg in Russia

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Information Secretary General Panos Livadas on Thursday gave an interview to the correspondent of the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS in Greece, Yury Malinov.

    The interview was given in light of Livadas' visit to Saint Petersberg so as to attend events organized by the Greek Consulate, in cooperation with Greek agencies.

    Commenting on the purpose of his visit to Russia, Livadas told Malinov:"We are linked with Russia by long-term bonds of friendship and cooperation at many levels. We are working for the development of our bilateral relations and the constant cooperation in a series of sectors of interest. The purpose of the visit is to brief the Russian public on developments which compose the contemporary face of Greece. The visit in Russia also includes a speech by me at the School of International Relations of the State University of Saint Petersberg on Greece's strategy in the conditions of the globalized environment."

    Livadas added that "Greece systematically invests in extroversion and the competitiveness of its economy and as shown by available data, it is winning the bet of challenges which are opening."

    The information secretary general said that the events organized by the Greek Consulate in Saint Peterberg come to an end on Friday.

    [11] Tax bill, including OTE amendments passed by Parliament

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    A draft bill for tax reform, including a series of controversial amendments related to the further privatization of Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), development law and others, were passed by a Parliamentary majority on Thursday during the debate on the articles.

    Specifically the amendments passed refer to funding for regional development, increases in pensions for farmers, the personnel code governing terms of employment at OTE and the abolition of a minimum participation by the state sector in OTE's share capital.

    [12] Opposition parties walk out of debate on tax bill amendments

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The opposition parties on Thursday walked out of the last day of the debate on the government's tax bill in Parliament, in protest over amendments concerning the privatization of Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) and a development map for Greek regions.

    Their objections were centered on both the contents of the two amendments and their last-minute attachment to the tax bill without any previous discussion at committee level, even though they concerned highly controversial and important issues.

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou stressed that the sale of OTE should not take place and said that his party will "block these unacceptable maneuvers and investigate all their aspects".

    "This course will be reversed. The state must have a decisive role in OTE," he underlined.

    Papandreou also leveled criticism against Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki for allowing the government to undermine Parliamentary procedure by introducing issues that should be central to Parliamentary debate as secondary amendments but stressed that primary responsibility lay with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis "who is always hiding".

    He accused the government of rushing the amendment through because it was serving hidden interests and its actions would not hold up to scrutiny, saying its plan was to quickly sell off OTE to private interests without ensuring that the country's interests were protected, so that OTE was converted from "a strong regional player to a small subsidiary of a foreign organization".

    According to PASOK MP Dinos Rovlias, meanwhile, the main opposition party did not consider itself bound by the decisions of the present government:

    "In a few months we will have a new Parliament and a new government. The potential buyers should keep this in mind," he said, while also raising questions of telecoms security through concession of the state's share in OTE to the private sector.

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Antonis Skyllakos said OTE's sale was a "crime that began under PASOK and is being completed under [ruling] New Democracy", while Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology president Alekos Alavanos also underlined his party's opposition to the planned privatization.

    Responding to PASOK's criticism, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis accused Papandreou of giving a "recital of unreliability" and said that PASOK decided to depart from the debate after finding itself exposed for criticizing a policy that it had itself attempted as a government in 2000 but failed to follow through, despite paying handsomely for consultants to handle the process.

    The minister rejected arguments that the government was undermining Parliament by tabling the issues as amendments, accusing PASOK of undermining democratic debate even further through its decision to walk out.

    He also denied that there were any objections to the planned privatization from Environment Minister George Souflias or that the government's plan was to sell all the state shares in OTE.

    "We will proceed with a strategic partner, if one is found, because this is not an easy process and we will naturally ensure that the interests of shareholders and national security are protected," Alogoskoufis added.

    At another point in his speech, the finance minister said that the main opposition's threat to reverse the sale or cancel agreements with prospective strategic partners was a bluff.

    "We saw what [PASOK] did in the past," Alogoskoufis noted, recalling a pre-election pledge by PASOK to make OTE a single-share company before the party proceeded to sell successive trenches of OTE shares after 1997, for a total of five billion euros.

    [13] Papandreou slams development amendment, tax reforms

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The main opposition leader's criticism also extended to the development map amendment tabled by the government, which he said signalled the failure of ND's policies and that it was now abandoning efforts for regional convergence.

    "The investments were only on paper," he said, claiming that government policy in this area had brought negligible results.

    Regarding reforms to the taxation system, Papandreou said that those actually benefiting were those with the highest incomes, while those earning between 12,000 and 25,000 euros a year were paying an additional 200 euros in tax.

    He accused the government of fearing elections and rushing to make good on outstanding deals with specific interests, though not its pledges to the electorate.

    Earlier in the day, a Parliamentary majority approved the tax bill in principle on the first reading in a roll-call vote requested by 15 PASOK MPs, with 156 ruling New Democracy MPs voting in favor and all 117 opposition MPs present voting against.

    Roussopoulos on PASOK walk-out: Commenting on PASOK's decision to walk out of the debate from Brussels, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that the main opposition, after selling off 62% of OTE, was now "hiding behind anti-Parliamentary behavior".

    He accused PASOK of "refusing dialogue because it lacked arguments and was ignorant of the fundamental principle of democracy, which is that of majority rule".

    [14] President Papoulias briefed on economy by Alogoskoufis

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias was briefed on the course of the Greek economy on Thursday by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, in view of the vote on the draft budget for 2007 in Parliament next week.

    According to the finance minister, things were "going very well" and were set to go even better.

    In comments to reporters after the meeting, Alogoskoufis said that the economy was on a positive course and the government's reforms were bringing results, though he stressed that this did not do away with the need for yet further reforms and efforts to improve things further.

    [15] Alavanos meeting with GSEE, ADEDY

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party president Alekos Alavanos met in parliament on Thursday with the presiding boards of the umbrella labor unions GSEE and ADEDY, representing the private and public sector respectively, and commented inter alia that because of the government-adopted stance this is a phase of confrontation and not dialogue.

    He said that the dialogue currently underway in parliament is without a result adding that the effort to amend article 16 of the Constitution to allow the establishment of private universities is only one side of the coin, referring to the privatization efforts in other sectors as well such as the OTE telecoms, an issue also under discussion in parliament.

    Alavanos reiterated that GSEE and ADEDY, together with the teachers' unions OLME, POSDEP and DOE, are always active in the struggle to support public tertiary education, to achieve a 5 percent rise in the education sector funding, and to guarantee free access for all to universities and free public education.

    GSEE president Yiannis Panagopoulos thanked the SYN president for his stance on the GSEE and ADEDY proposal for a public social and political dialogue on Education, adding that a dialogue will also be held at a later stage with other social partners such KEDKE, ENAE and PASEGES in order to make a further step forward.

    [16] 'Andreas Papandreou' Institute slams 2007 budget

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The Institute of Strategic and Development Studies 'Andreas Papandreou' (ISTAME) - named after the late founder and leader of the main opposition PASOK party - on Thursday questioned the economic policy followed by the ruling New Democracy government and the draft budget for 2007.

    According to ISTAME, the European Union's decision to stop monitoring the Greek economy under the excessive deficit process was not a result of successful fiscal reform but other parameters, such as the transfer of costs for 180 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) projects to the 4th CSF, while the 2007 budget was not based on reliable assumptions.

    As an example, it quoted a predicted increase in private consumption by 3.8% and said that this was unlikely to be achieved because household debt will be even higher and the cost of servicing loans will increase, while a rise in inflation would also dampen spending on private consumption.

    It also criticized the draft tax bill for its failure to link tax brackets to the price index so that any tax benefits for families with small children would evaporate over the years as wage increases pushed tax payers into higher tax brackets.

    Pointing out that the proposed bill further burdened those earning income from rents and freelance work in addition to salaried employment, ISTAME predicted that wage earners and pensioners would find their total tax burden in 2005-2007 increased by six billion euros.

    [17] Gov't welcomes drop in joblessness

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Employment and Social Protection Minster Savvas Tsitouridis reported on Thursday that unemployment had slowed to 8.8% from 11.3% at the beginning of 2004.

    Addressing the National Employment Commission, Tsitouridis repeated the government's priorities of boosting employment, lowering joblessness, combating poverty and social exclusion, and ensuring a decent standard of living for all Greeks.

    [18] Cenbank: No major risk from household debt

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The governor of the Bank of Greece, Nikos Garganas, said on Thursday that he saw no major risk from household borrowing.

    "I think that overall, as shown by research have conducted and by current data, there is no major problem of over-borrowing," Garganas said in reply to a reporter's question.

    "At the same time, certain families are having difficulty in paying off their loans, but this is something we know," he stated.

    The central bank chief was speaking to media after briefing the president of the republic, Karolos Papoulias, on the European Central Bank's latest interest hike and the state of the domestic economy.

    Garganas said he told Papoulias that economic progress was good, but structural weaknesses still had to be tackled.

    Household debt at 82.1 bln euros: Household debt to banks totaled 82.1 billion euros at the end of October 2006 for the year so far, representing 42% of the country's gross domestic product, the Bank of Greece said in a report released on Thursday.

    In comparison with January-October 2005, household borrowing showed a 26.7% increase, according to the central bank.

    Mortgages maintained a brisk rate of increase at 28.3% to total 54.2 billion euros at the end of October 2006, the report said.

    [19] Mark Mobius hails Greek banking moves in Turkey

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Global investment guru Mark Mobius on Thursday welcomed moves by Greek banks to invest in Turkey.

    "The Turkish market, along with other emerging markets including China, India and other Asian markets," are the future, due to major growth prospects for their economies and opportunities for investment," Mobius, CEO of Templeton Asset Management, told a news conference in Athens.

    He also expressed confidence in opportunities afforded by the Greek economy and domestic companies as a gateway to countries in southeastern Europe.

    Mobius, who ranks among the world's top ten emerging market fund managers, was in Athens to launch an alliance with Marfin that allows Greek investors access for the first time to products of Franklin Templeton.

    [20] Conference in dedication to Greek top quality olive oil

    15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    This year's two-day Scientific Conference of the Foods Department of the Union of Greek Chemists (EEX) is dedicated to Greek top quality olive oil.

    The conference is held within the framework of the established annual theme "Days of Foods Chemistry".

    The EEX conference is taking place in cooperation with the Chemistry and Technology Foods Laboratory of Thessaloniki University's Chemistry Department, the General State Chemistry Laboratory, the Greek Lipid Forum and the EEX's Central and Western Macedonia Department, on December 16-17 at the Ceremony Hall of the old building of the Philosophy School of Thessaloniki University.

    [21] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks decline

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The Athens share index closed at 4,326.44 points, showing a decline of 0.02%. Turnover was 370.6 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.13% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 0.02% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.27% up.

    Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 140 to 118 with 49 remaining unchanged.

    Stock Futures:

  • Most Active Contract (volume): PPC (3941)

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 234.9 million euros

    Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4.04 pct

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2016): 4.04 pct yield

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2016 (1.5 bln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.8 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates

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

    U.S. dollar 1.329

    Pound sterling 0.676

    Danish kroner 7.514

    Swedish kroner 9.132

    Japanese yen 156.2

    Swiss franc 1.611

    Norwegian kroner 8.215

    Cyprus pound 0.582

    Canadian dollar 1.536

    Australian dollar 1.698

    [22] Public order minister confers with UNHCR goodwill ambassador

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Refugee protection issues in Greece were discussed on Thursday during a meeting between public order minister Vyron Polydoras and Greece's UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador, popular singer George Dalaras.

    Dalaras told reporters after the meeting, which was also attended by public order ministry general secretary honorary ambassador Costis Aelianos and Police Chief Lt. General Anastasios Dimoschakis, that the Greek people are particularly sensitive to refugee and immigrant issues.

    Dalaras raised certain issues concerning refugee and asylum-seeker protection, stressing that people who need asylum or humanitarian status should be categorized among the mixed groups of foreign nationals entering Greece illegally and offered special treatment.

    He also referred to the quality of the asylum procedures, underlining the low asylum application approval percentage in Greece as opposed to other EU countries. He mentioned the detention conditions in the special reception facilities for illegal foreign nationals and referred to the unaccompanied foreign children in Greece whose traces are lost even though at some point they were under the jurisdiction of state authorities.

    The public order minister said that he will visit soon the detention centers for foreigner nationals to have a personal view of the existing situation and pledged that he will follow closely the issues raised.

    George Dalaras will also meet with the ministers of interior and health.

    [23] Athens mayor lights Christmas tree at Syntagma Square

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Athens Mayor Thodoros Behrakis at 7 p.m. on Thursday lit the large Christmas tree at Syntagma Square, thus signaling the start of festive events by Athens Municipality.

    The festive scene is accompanied by the established carrousel and the "sugar city" which offers candy to all.

    This year Santa Claus invites all the children to his "Work-shop", a small unique house, and receives the children. In the rooms of the house, the children see his helpers, the small elves, making toys.

    The 80-seat carrousel is comprised of small horses and carts.

    [24] 'Nonda' retrospective at Benaki Museum

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    A major retrospective exhibition of work by Greek sculptor and painter Epaminondas Papadopoulos - better known on the international art scene simply as 'Nonda' - opened at the Pireos Street section of the Benaki Museum in Athens on Thursday.

    Entitled "Nonda: Six decades of art 1940-2000", the exhibition features 150 paintings, sculptures, drawings and other objects created by the artist and will run until February 18.

    Working from his base in post-war Paris in the 1950s, Nonda was counted among the avant-garde artists making up the Ecole de Paris and made a name for himself in Greece with nudes that shocked the society of that time.

    An expressionist painter, Nonda was also a trail-blazer in the creation of public art installations and the use of unconventional materials, such as blood, charcoal and sand. Among the highlights of his career that made him known to a broad audience in Paris was his participation in the Pont Neuf exhibitions in the 1960s, including his construction in 1963 of a 'Trojan Horse' that he lived in throughout the duration of the exhibition.

    [25] Internet use on rise in Greece

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Greeks may not be as familiar with surfing the Internet as most of the Europeans, but the numbers using the worldwide web are constantly increasing, according to the results of a survey conducted by AGB under the auspices of the Information Society Observatory released on Thursday.

    More specifically, 25 percent of the Greek population surfs the web for information, while 61 percent use it as a work tool, 64.1 percent for e-mail and chatrooms, and a smaller proportion for on-line purchases, travel and entertainment.

    According to the survey results, use of the Internet by women is relatively small (24 percent of the total Greek users) compared with men (76 percent).

    Use of the Internet by persons above 50 years of age is also relatively small (8 percent), compared with users in the 25-34 age bracket (41.3 percent and 35-44 age group (26.8 percent).

    An overwhelming 90 percent of the net users go online on a daily basis, mainly from home (59.9 percent) and from the workplace (36.9 percent).

    As for mode of Internet connection, an increase was ascertained in ADSL connections from the home, although Greece remains behind with respect to high speed connections (above 512 kbps) in comparison with other European countries and the US.

    [26] European Court condemns Greece for overlooking destruction of substances which harm the ozone

    15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The European Court on Thursday condemned Greece, because, as it said in an announcement, it overlooked "to take the necessary measures for the determination of the minimal requirements regarding the qualifications of personnel who are assigned for the recycling, the qualitative replacement and destruction of substances which destroy the heap of the ozone."

    The European Court said that Greece overlooked to submit to the Commission by December 31, 2001, a report with data regarding the available installations and the quantities of used substances which were recycled, qualitatively replaced or destroyed.

    [27] Fake invoices' scam unveiled

    ATHENS, 15/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    One of the largest scams involving fake invoices was unveiled by the finance ministry Special Audit Service.

    Three Athens-based companies belonging to individuals related to each other were issuing fake invoices to third companies across Greece since 2000.

    Based on the available evidence gathered so far it has been established that the fake invoices issued correspond to 150 million euros while the lost tariffs and taxes are estimated at 50 million euros.

    The investigation continues and according to estimates the total value of the fake invoices issued by the specific ring will exceed the 500-million-euro mark while the lost state revenues are expected to be as high as 150 million euros.

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