|Tuesday, 19 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-11-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 15 November 2007 Issue No: 2749
 Greek govt plans mild reform of pension systemThe Greek government will take a mild approach in reforming the country's pension system, Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, after an inner cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, the Greek minister said a planned reform of the social insurance system aimed at "reversing injustices, distortions and excesses of the system with a mild manner. Our aim is to have a viable, fair and modern pension system to serve pensioners' and new workers' real interests".
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, speaking to reporters, said he briefed the Prime Minister over the results of Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings in Brussels and particularly European Commission's autumn estimates over the European and Greek economies.
Alogoskoufis underlined that the Commission forecasts high growth rates in Greece and noted that a fiscal consolidation effort will achieve the goals included in a 2008 draft budget. Commenting on the likely impact from an economic slowdown in the US and the global economy, Alogoskoufis said the slowdown will have only limited effect on the European economy.
Development Minister Christos Folias, commenting on a memorandum of cooperation signed between Public Power Corporation and Germany's RWE said the government did not plan the privatisation of the electricity utility.
 FM Bakoyannis visiting ParisPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was the official guest of French Farm and Fisheries Minister Michel Barnier at an event he organized on Wednesday on the theme of "Europe and its borders." A group of deputies of the ruling UMP party participated in the event.
According to a briefing by foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, Bakoyannis mentioned during her address the excellent cooperation existing between Greece and France, underlining at the same time policies aiming at strengthening cooperation in the Mediterranean.
The Greek minister expressed Greece's support for the initiative by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the creation of a Mediterranean Union. She said that this initiative must be based on simple procedures and concern the promotion and implementation of specific programs, such as sustainable development, energy, sea transportation, the management of water resources. Lastly, she stressed the need for it to function in a supplementary fashion in relation to existing initiatives and programs.
Referring to Turkey, the minister expressed support for the prospect of its accession to the European Union, on the necessary precondition of lifting the "casus belli", protecting the rights of minorities and recognizing the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as ending occupation in Cyprus.
Bakoyannis pointed out that the Sarkozy initiative on the creation of a Mediterranean Union should not be considered a substitute for Turkey's European prospect, annulling its accession process in this way.
Bakoyannis was to meet French Foreign Minister Kouchner late on Wednesday night.
 FM spokesman on visit to occupied part of Cyprus by FYROM delegationPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, commenting on a visit to Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus by a delegation from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Wednesday and on statements by FYROM's former prime minister Nikola Klushev, said that "with today's unacceptable visit by a Skopjan delegation to the occupied part of Cyprus, it is confirmed once again that some in Skopje are trapped in a vicious circle of intransigence and provocativeness."
Koumoutsakos added that "and this is taking place at the same time when they are supposedly aiming at creating alliance and solidarity relations in the framework of European and Euro-Atlantic institutions that recognize the one legal government on the island. As regards the statements by the former prime minister of Skopje, we shall make no comment. They speak for themselves."
 Burns on FYROM issueWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)
U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said on Wednesday that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) should not be refused "an invitation for joining NATO on any ground except its failing to correspond to substantial entry criteria."
Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs Burns also said that "some people in Greece raise the possibility of a veto regarding an invitation to 'Macedonia' if the name issue is not resolved. Even if the United States agrees on the importance of resolving the name issue, it does not think that only the difference on the name constitutes a reason to prevent 'Macedonia" from joining international organisations."
The U.S. official added that Washington supported the UN process under the auspices of mediator Mathew Nimetz and the implementation of the 1995 Interim Agreement between Greece and FYROM, on which he said that "it allows 'Macedonia' joining regional and international organisations under the name FYROM."
Burns also called on Skopje to show the necessary flexibility, noting Greece's sensibilities, which FYROM should take into consideration.
He also referred to what he called "visionary policy" of Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis regarding Greek-Turkish relations, noting that there was no need on the part of Washington to mediate between Athens and Ankara since relations between them were steadily improving.
Burns finally expressed his support for the re-opening of the Halki School of Theology and the free exercise of the Ecumenical Patriarch's duties.
 PM seeking stiffer penalties for heinous crimes, furlough abusesPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis contacted Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Wednesday, instructing him to introduce a more severe system of penalties for heinous crimes and to review prison furlough for those abusing the system to continue criminal activities, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced.
The spokesman said the government also wanted a review of the framework for the protection of personal data privacy and individual rights for categories of crimes like child pornography, rape and crimes against vulnerable or under-age individuals.
Roussopoulos said the aim was to make penalties more severe and take measures against relapsed or repeat offenders, adding that announcements on this issue would soon be made by Hatzigakis.
Questioned about the extent to which those granting prisoner furloughs upheld the law and would be held responsible, Roussopoulos said that making penalties more severe was a first step. Every citizen and public-sector official had an obligation to uphold the law and consider the consequences of his or her actions on society, he added.
As an example of this he cited the recent revelations that classes were being held in pre-fab containers since 2004, something that the government had been unaware of until just two days earlier when the matter reached the office of the education ministry general secretary.
 Education minister briefs EU commissioners on educational reformBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis briefed European Union Education and Multilinguism Commissioners Jan Figel and Leonard Orban on the course of educational reform in Greece here on Wednesday.
Stylianidis referred analytically during his meetings with the commissioners to progress achieved regarding the implementation of the draft law for first, second and third stage education.
Referring to his meeting with Figel in particular, the education minister said that he briefed the commissioner on the intentions of the Greek government regarding free studies centres and the content of the Greek constitution's article 16, stressing that "we are in a process of revising the constitution," whose final outcome nobody can predict.
The minister added that the government's intentions are determined by Greece's obligation to incorporate relevant EU directives in national legislation, pointing out that "the Greek government intends to involve the education ministry in the unregulated market of free studies centers, that has been shaped in the past decades."
 Exclusive interview with ND Secretary ZagoritisRuling New Democracy (ND) Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis commented on main opposition PASOK in-party developments, rejected early elections scenarios and referred to the of the new election draft law in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA.
Zagoritis said that ND had been stunned by the public confrontation between the PASOK leadership rivals during the recent party presidency race, and expressed the view that the tensions created would be hard to be overcome.
He also said that he sees no distinct change in PASOK while, on the leader election process, he commented that ND has a long experience in democratic procedures and is not afraid to adopt positive changes.
Zagoritis stressed that the early election scenarios are groundless and added that the government will adopt a faster pace in the materialization of its work, while the new election law will be tabled in parliament for vote in the first half of 2008.
He congratulated George Papandreou on his re-election to the leadership of PASOK, stressing that a party is not just its leader but it is also its ideology, principles, values, party cadres and followers, organization, and communication.
The ND secretary said that he sees no distinct change in PASOK and expressed doubts on whether the unprecedented personal attacks cast out by the PASOK leadership rivals and the tensions created during the two-month presidential race could be easily overcome.
The ruling ND expects tough criticism from PASOK, said Zagoritis, adding that, hopefully, it will be well-intentioned and not an attempt to export tension and populism.
Referring to the election of the PASOK leader directly from the party followers, he said that procedures adopted by other political parties are being watched carefully by ND, which is not afraid to adopt positive changes. However, it has been proven that participation and democracy are terms with substantive meaning for ND, he concluded.
The government of ND is working intensively to promote the changes and reforms necessary for the country, said Zagoritis, adding that the economy and the state budget are top priorities while a debate on the social insurance system reform is also underway and will be at the forefront over the next few months. The Constitutional Revision, the new election law and the vote of overseas Greeks are the next leading issues that will have to be resolved through consultation and consensus.
Zagoritis said that the government's intention is to have the new election law approved in parliament in the first half of 2008, stressing that the current election law has been tested and needs to be changed. The new election law will bolster government stability while maintaining the proportional system, he said.
He ruled out the likelihood of early elections due to the developments in the FYROM name issue, adding that negotiations are underway and caution is necessary while waiting for the outcome of the efforts being made.
On the new state budget, he said that it is the first drawn up after tackling the deficits that resulted from the PASOK governments' mistakes and omissions. The deficit has been reduced to below 3 percent for the first time since the country's EMU membership and the financially weaker population groups will be reinforced, added Zagoritis. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2008, small pensions and benefits will be increased while the wages and pensions of the members of the armed forces will also be increased, with taxation being reduced both for private entities and companies, he stated.
Referring to the school sit-ins, he said that they are diminishing, stressing that the right to Education and learning is inalienable and adding that the state has an obligation to solve the problems in the sector.
 George Papandreou wins PASOK leadership election with 55.91 pcPASOK party leader George Papandreou was re-elected party leader during Sunday's leadership election after receiving 55.91 percent of the vote.
Final election results announced on Wednesday evening showed that 769,156 people voted in the election with 763,674 valid votes, 5,482 invalid and 1,212 blank.
George Papandreou received 427,021 votes (55.91 pc), Evangelos Venizelos 291,593 (38.18 pc) and Costas Skandalidis 43,848 (5.74 pc).
 PASOK leader says party to table own electoral law proposalMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday announced that his party would table its own proposal for a new electoral law.
Addressing an annual conference of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities (KEDKE), being held in Kyllini, in the western Peloponnese, Papandreou also noted that a "new national strategy is needed, which will bring oxygen to our democratic system, liberate creative forces and protect the weak."
Regarding local government issues, he said the target "is to reinforce local authorities with funds, decentralising powers and fighting against bureaucracy."
 Thessaloniki Mayor Papageorgopoulos wraps up visit to AustraliaMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)
Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos wrapped up a visit to Australia on Wednesday after visiting Sydney, where he met with distinguished members of the Greek-Australian community and visited the offices of the Pan-Macedonian Association of New South Wales.
He also visited the SAE Oceania offices and met with Greek-Australian city mayors.
Earlier, Papageorgopoulos had visited Adelaide where he met with South Australia State Premier Michael Rann and Mayor Michael Harbison.
Regarding the "name issue", which is a particularly sensitive topic in the northern Greece province of Macedonia, the South Australia premier stated that it is unthinkable for such a young state such as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to attempt to usurp the name "Macedonia" and emblems identified with the Greek history and heritage.
He also stated that he has become the target of criticism by the FYROM community in Australia, in response to his repeatedly stated positions regarding the issue.
The mayor of Thessaloniki called on Greek-Australians to participate in a rally next Sunday in Melbourne in defense Greek position on the FYROM "name issue".
 Government announces start of Hestia programGovernment spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday announced the launch by the interior ministry of the Hestia Program for the social integration of immigrants from non-EU countries living in Greece in 2007-2013.
He said the program consisted of six operational programmes that were three quarters financed from Community funds and 25 percent from national funds.
These funds amount to 1.527 million euros in 2007, 2.635 million euros in 2008, 2.371 million euros in 2009, 2.55 million euros in 2010, 3.132 million euros in 2011, 3.827 million euros in 2012 and 4.277 million euros in 2013.
 Government promises brighter picture in next OECD report on healthThe government on Wednesday promised that the next report on healthcare in Greece issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2007-2008 would "reflect a new reality" in the country's healthcare sector.
He had been asked to comment about a recently published OECD report showing that state spending on health was reduced and diverged greatly from private spending on this sector.
According to Roussopoulos, the latest report was based on figures from the ten-year period 1995-2005 and that this picture had changed for the better through the creation of new jobs in the state health sector and the commitment of 7.5 percent of the state budget for 2008 on health.
"I express the confidence of the minister responsible that the new OECD report will record a new reality," the spokesman added.
 ONNED marking Polytechnic uprising with event on environmentRuling New Democracy's youth group ONNED on Wednesday announced that it is organizing a special event on the environment in order to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Polytechnic uprising of 1973, which marked the beginning of the end for a military junta ruling Greece at that time.
According to ONNED, the "effort for the salvation of the planet is the continuation and the modern version of the struggle for freedom and democracy". It noted that democratic freedoms were curtailed when divorced from sustainable development and in an environment that did not allow people to express themselves, develop their personality and live.
The event will take place on Thursday at 18:00 at the Goulandris Natural History Museum (100 Othonos Street, Kifissia) and among those participating will be European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas, ND MP for Athens Fotini Pipili, ND Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis and noted academics, with journalist Aris Portosalte acting as compere.
 Conventional Disarmament Conference ends in GenevaThe seven-day Conventional Disarmament Conference, chaired by Greece's Permanent Representative at International Organizations Frangiskos Verros, came to an end in Geneva on Wednesday.
The Conference's final text includes the adoption of a compliance control system for 110 member-states with the terms of the Conventional Disarmament Treaty and anticipates the convening of an international conference on tackling the repercussions of the use of ammunition derivatives.
Speaking at the end of the session, the Greek Permanent Representative hailed the favourable conclusion of sessions and stressed the humanitarian dimension of controlling the use of ammunition derivatives, that caused great destruction and losses of non-combatants in Lebanon recently.
 Parliament turns down request to lift MP's immunity from prosecutionParliament on Wednesday rejected a public prosecutor's request to suspend Parliamentary immunity from prosecution for main opposition PASOK MP George Lianis so that he might be tried on a charge of slander, with 189 votes against and one abstention.
 No surprises in 2008 final budget text, FinMin saysA final text on 2008 state budget, to be tabled to Parliament next Tuesday, 20 November, will have minimum changes from a draft budget plan and will not include any surprises, while the government will present a draft legislation on the third phase of a tax reform in the last 10 days of November, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said it was positive the fact that the European Commission's autumn forecasts on the Greek economy were in line with national estimates and noted that the EU's executive acknowledged efforts made towards fiscal consolidation and that the country's structural fiscal deficit will be below 3.0 pct of GDP for the first time. The Commission has cut its estimates on economic growth for all its member-states, compared with its April estimates, with Greece the only exception as the autumn estimates were improved reflecting the dynamism of the Greek economy.
The Greek minister said that a second phase of fiscal consolidation will cover the wider public sector and will have positive impact on economic growth and further cutting the fiscal deficit.
Commenting on the government's income policy in the public sector, Alogoskoufis said it will exceed the inflation rate, while he was clear that no "green" taxes were expected to be introduced on cars in the EU. Commenting on his recent visit to New York, Alogoskoufis said he had a series of meetings with financial organisations' chief executives who expressed interest in Greece and investment opportunities in the country.
 Parliament ratifies amendment on tax-free investments reserveThe Parliament plenum on Wednesday ratified, with the votes of the ruling New Democracy party and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, the finance and economy ministry's bill on the "management, control and implementation of development interventions regarding the 2007-2013 period" (ESPA).
In parallel, also ratified was the amendment by which Greece complies with the European Commission's decision which considers that the special tax-free investments reserve, created by businesses from their undistributed profits during the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years, constitutes state backing and calls for the repossession of relevant amounts, plus interest.
Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas said that the largest number of businesses that benefited from the relevant terms contained in law 3220/2004 are small and medium-size enterprises that can join approved statuses (de minimis regulation) and consequently avoid the repossession obligation.
Bezas added that out of about 3,600 businesses that had made use of the specific terms contained in law 3220/2004, about 3,300 small and medium-size enterprises can rid themselves of the obligation of returning the subsidies in question and that fall under the de minimis status.
 Tourist development minister concludes visit to LondonLONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)
Tourist Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos concluded his visit to London with two meetings on Wednesday.
Spiliotopoulos met with the Greek Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Efthymios Mitropoulos and with his British counterpart Margaret Hodge who told him that she has been visiting Greece as a tourist since her student days.
"Our meeting took place in a very familiar and warm climate, it covered issues concerning the exchange of experience on tourist policy, it covered issues resulting from concern on how we shall proceed with policies that will further strengthen tourist movement both in Greece and in Britain, that has particular anxiety over strengthening tourist movement following the 2012 Olympic Games that London will be hosting," the Greek minister said.
Hodge called on Greece to convey, as much as possible, its experience from the Athens Olympic Games to enable London to carry out excellent Olympic Games as well, while also requesting its assistance in the framework of the Cultural Olympiad that Britain will be hosting.
 Greece taking initiative on common EU farm positionsGreece will be taking an initiative on the shaping of common positions by European Union farm ministers regarding health checks.
This was announced by Agricultural Development and Food Minister Alexandros Kontos, following his meeting with Hungarian Ambassador G. Toth.
Kontos said that a joint experts group will be created to probe possibilities of cooperation between Greece and Hungary in the farm sector.
 PM Costas Karamanlis gives entrepreneurship awardsPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis and Development Minister Christos Folias gave the "Kouros 2007" Entrepreneurship Awards on Wednesday night, during a special event held for the 13th consecutive year by the Entrepreneurship Club at a downtown Athens hotel.
This year's "Kouros 2007" awards were given to the following:
-Development and Innovation Award: Ioannis Stroutsis-President and Managing Director of the Ilektroniki Athinon AEE company.
-Award for Performance in International Economic Field: Harilaos Kavvadias-President and Managing Director of the Mega Plast SA company.
-Social Contribution Award: Lazaros Efremoglou-President of the Major Hellenism Foundation.
Karamanlis said in a brief address that "in a difficult international business environment, as it is being shaped by the very high prices of oil, the promotion of Greek businesses that excel themselves in their performances in both economic development and in social contribution is a good reason for us to be optimistic. It is tangible proof that entrepreneurship in Greece has both a present and a future. The ground is fertile. What is necessary is specific initiatives, the coordination of actions, policies with a gaze towards tomorrow."
The prime minister added that the government is continuing to implement the strategy that provenly has positive, measurable results for the economy, growth, social cohesion.
He underlined the new mixture of economic policy that is leading steadily to the restructuring of fiscal indexes with the simultaneous achievement of firm and high growth figures, the creation of new jobs and a decrease in unemployment.
"Stable, strong and viable growth-the utilisation of every comparative advantage that we have-the creation of new and well-paid jobs: this is the triptych on which we are moving. This is the goal, the challenge that we are being called on to win, shaping a wide social alliance against the little and the mediocre," the prime minister concluded.
 Finmin meets visiting minister from Victoria State, AustraliaEconomy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Wednesday met the Industry and State Development minister of the Australian State of Victoria, Theo (Fanos) Theophanous, who is currently visiting Greece at the head of a business delegation from Australia.
Alogoskoufis and the Cypriot-Australian minister reviewed developments in bilateral economic and trade ties between the two countries after recent visits there by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Alogoskoufis and discussed ways in which these could be further strengthened.
 Greek-Indian CEOs' Forum start up agreement signedThe Federation of Greek Industries on Wednesday signed a bilateral agreement with the Federation of Indian Industries to set up a Greek-Indian CEOs' Forum.
The agreement was signed at the presence of Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas, who is currently on an official visit to India.
Thanassis Lavidas, secretary-general and head of SEB's international activities, said the agreement sealed a cooperation protocol signed last February in New Delhi, thus creating new prospects for the Greek business community.
The Greek-Indian CEOs' Forum aims to strengthen bilateral economic relations, such as raising Greek investments to India and promoting Greek products in a market with a population of hundreds of millions. The forum will also help both Greek and Indian exporting companies and help solve problems such as copyright laws, simplify legislation, deregulating commerce and simplifying procedures for foreign investments.
 Geniki Bank completes 210-mln-euro share capital increase planGeniki Bank on Wednesday announced the successful completion of a share capital increase plan. The rights' issue plan was covered by 98.5 percent and raised 207,122,736 euros, or 51,780,684 new common nominal shares, with the remaining 768,461 shares distributed among the bank's oldest share-holders.
Geniki Bank said the share capital increase plan raised a total 210,196,580 euros. The bank's equity capital will rise by 56,227,585 euros, or 52,549,145 new common nominal shares at a nominal price of 1.07 euros each.
 Information GenSec on visit to HoustonGeneral Secretary for Information Panos Livadas, currently on a US tour, on Tuesday completed a visit to Chicago, after which he went to Houston, Texas, where he addressed an event organized at the League of Houston conference centre, organized by the Greek Consulate.
Livadas outlined the developments in the energy sector and the opportunities presented in that sector in Greece, addressing an audience of more than 150 executives active in the Texas energy market.
He further delivered a lecture at Saint Thomas University, and further met with professors and post-graduate students at Rice University.
Before leaving for Houston, Livadas addressed an event organised by the Greek Consulate in Chicago and the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), where he outlined the modern image of Greece, stressing the recent developments in the economy, the energy sector and the merchant marine, as well as the investment opportunities in Greece today.
Livadas also visited the Hellenic American Academy in Chicago, a Greek school founded some 100 years ago, with 550 pupils, which combines the US educational programme while also teaching the Greek language, history and culture, also also thus attracting American pupils
 KKE opposes further PPC privatisationThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) is absolutely opposed to any form of further privatisation of the Public Power Corporation (PPC), KKE leader Aleka Papariga said on Wednesday, during a visit to the PPC's steam-operated electricity plant at Aghios Dimitrios, during a tour of Kozani prefecture.
"The workers' biggest enemy is the so-called 'market deregulation', that which is called the 'four freedoms of Maastricht'. And that's where we must begin, because if we look at the PPC problem in a piecemeal way, with respect to some policies or actions under the PASOK or ND governments, then we've missed the train," she said.
She said the KKE "is here to prove that the war against lignite is tendentious, that lignite can be used while at the same time fully protecting the environment", adding that "technical means exist with which that, and not only that, can be achieved, to put an end to the phenomenon of deserted villages".
Naturally, she continued, some villages would need to be relocated, "but necessary in this case is a major program for restoration of the land, not with green general speaking, but land that can produce farm and animal breeding products".
"We support other forms of energy, but all these must be incorporated into a uniform state public energy sector that will function with the goal of serving the human needs but also those of production, and definitely not those of profit," she said.
Papariga accused the government of seeking ways "to increase the contributions, to raise the retirement ages, to reduce the pensions".
"They have ways," she said, adding, "will we allow them to do so?"
The answer, she continued, was "popular uprising".
 Consumer Ombudsman presents annual reportComplaints reaching the independent authority of the Consumer Ombudsman recorded an increase of 706 percent in the past year, with the majority of them concerning public agencies (33 percent), the retail trade and services (25.6 percent), banks (11.1 percent) and weight loss institutes (9.1 percent), according to figures included in the agency's annual report presented to Deputy Development Minister Georgios Vlachos on Wednesday.
Consumers complained over the uncontrolled issue of credit cards and loan approvals by banks, while in the retail trade sector, most complaints concerned the obstacles customers meet with when they wish to cancel an order. Weight loss institutes are most often accused of operating without a license or using deceptive methods to attract costumers. The complaints concerning public utilities companies focus on excessive charges for low quality services while insurance companies are often accused of unilaterally changing contract terms.
The Consumer Ombudsman ensures that commercial, business and public enterprises comply with fair marketing practices.
 Greek GDP up 3.6 pct in Q3, yr/yrGreece's Gross Domestic Product grew by 3.6 pct in the third quarter of 2007, according to provisional estimates published by the National Statistics Service on Wednesday.
Economic growth slowed by half percentage point in the July-September period, compared with the second quarter of the year (GDP growth was 4.1 pct) and with the third quarter of 2006 (GDP growth was 4.5 pct).
NSS's officials said that because of the recent upward revision of Greek GDP it was not possible to publish estimates over GDP parameters in the third quarter of the year. The statistics service said the average growth rate of the nine-month period from January to September was 4.1 pct.
 Hellas Online to be listed in ASE in early 2008A triple-merger between Hellas Online (a member of Intracom Group), Teledome and Unibrain is expected to be completed by the end of December 2007, paving the way for Hellas Online's listing in the Athens Stock Exchange.
Stephanos Loukakos, chief executive of Hellas Online, said Intracom Group will own 92 pct of shares in the new company which will have a capitalization around 300-400 million euros. Hellas Online will launch a share capital increase plan, worth more than 150 million euros, in the first quarter of 2008.
The management aim is the company to become the largest fixed telephony and broadband services provider in Greece with a market share of more than 25 percent of broadband services and to transform into an asset-based operator with significant investments in infrastructure development offering ADSL2+, VDSL, Fiber to the home technologies.
Investments are expected to total 160 million euros in the 2007-2008 period, of which 70 million euros this year and the remaining in 2008. Loukakos said growth will be sought both through organic development and acquisitions. Hellas Online recently completed the purchase of 100 pct of shares in Attica Telecoms and the acquisition of Teledome. In July 2007, Hellas Online signed a three-year commercial strategic agreement with Vodafone offering broadband services and fixed-telephony services.
 Greek stocks end 0.93 pct higherGreek stocks ended higher on Wednesday following a very strong performance in Wall Street the previous day. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange rose 0.93 pct to end at 5,177.09 points, off the day's highs. Turnover was a strong 533.7 million euros, of which 155.7 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors scored gains, with the Food/Beverage (2.80 pct), Financial Services (1.57 pct), Oil (1.55 pct) and Banks (1.49 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Telecommunications (0.62 pct), Utilities (0.41 pct) and Constructions (0.35 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index rose 1.06 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.69 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.86 pct. Olympic Technical (14.86 pct), Nafpaktos Spin Mills (8.79 pct) and Mohlos (8.33 pct) were top gainers, while Desmos (10 pct), Praxitelio (9.02 pct) and Atlantic (8.52 pct) were top losers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 189 to 64 with another 51 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.55%
Personal & Household: +0.38%
Raw Materials: +0.58%
Travel & Leisure: +0.73%
Food & Beverages: +2.80%
Financial Services: +1.57%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Cosmote, Alpha Bank, National Bank and Terna Energiaki.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 25.96
Public Power Corp (PPC): 26.50
HBC Coca Cola: 27.70
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.02
Emporiki Bank: 21.06
National Bank of Greece: 45.72
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 24.82
Titan Cement Company: 33.00
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended mixed Wednesday's session in the Athens Derivatives Exchange with turnover rising 231.185 million euros. The December contract on the Big Cap index was traded at a discount of 0.44 pct, and the November contract on the Mid Cap index at a premium of 0.29 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 11,051 contracts worth 151.006 million euros, with 37,104 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 972 contracts worth 31.741 million euros with 1,285 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 8,071 contracts worth 16.011 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (1,529) followed by Eurobank (330), Marfin Investment Group (767), PPC (270), Marfin Popular Bank (752), National Bank (620), Alpha Bank (1,159), Intracom (406) and ATEbank (541).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 2.214 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.269 billion were buy orders and the remaining 945 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security wih a turnover of 817 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.31 pct with the Greek bond yielding 4.45 pct and the German Bund 4.14 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 4.07 pct from 4.0 pct on Tuesday, the two-day rate was 4.07 pct, the one-month rate eased to 4.16 pct from 4.17 pct and the 12-month rate rose to 4.59 pct from 4.57 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.481
Pound sterling 0.716
Danish kroner 7.511
Swedish kroner 9.321
Japanese yen 164.57
Swiss franc 1.658
Norwegian kroner 7.990
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.415
Australian dollar 1.643
 Culture minister briefs President PapouliasCulture Minister Mihalis Liapis on Wednesday briefed President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on issues concerning his ministry.
In statements to reporters afterwards, Liapis said the president had shown great interest in the transfer of antiquities from the old to the new Acropolis Museum and that he had invited the president to visit the new museum once the transfer was complete at the end of the year.
Papoulias, in turn, informed Liapis that the so-called "Green presidents" of Europe will hold their next meeting at Ancient Olympia in September 2008.
In his statements, the culture minister also referred to the eradication of sports-related violence as a priority issue for the ministry and announced that a draft bill dealing with this problem will soon be tabled in Parliament, adding that he had invited the Greek president to join him at the match between Greece and Malta for the Euro qualifiers.
Accompanying the minister on his visit was Special Olympics President Gianna Despotopoulou, who presented Papoulias with the flag of the Special Olympics.
 President Papoulias to be made honorary citizen of GjirokastrGJIROKASTR (ANA-MPA - P. Barkas)
The municipal council of the southern Albanian town of Gjirokastr, which has a sizeable ethnic Greek community, on Wednesday unanimously approved a proposal to make Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias an honorary citizen of their town.
The reasoning behind the move was based on Papoulias' contribution toward "breaking the ice" and promoting relations between Greece and Albania, as well as assisting Albania in joining EuroAtlantic structures.
 Ecumenical Patriarch given honorary doctorate in BulgariaSOFIA (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov)
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos was given an honorary doctorate by the Bulgarian Libraries and Information Technologies Management School during an official ceremony held on Wednesday.
It was stressed that this distinction comes in the wake of about 30 corresponding titles given to the Ecumenical Patriarch by famous universities and Theology Schools in Athens, Moscow, Paris, London, etc.
Speaking during the event, the School's rector, professor Stojan Denchev, said that it is mentioned in the diploma awarded to the Patriarch that in this way Bulgarian Orthodoxy and the country's scientific community distinguish the contribution of the "first among equals" Patriarch to the ever-increasing international prestige of Orthodoxy, to dialogue and cooperation among Churches and to efforts to protect the environment on the planet.
The Patriarch stressed the need for historical events, phenomena and developments to be interpreted in an objective way, free from human passions, nationalistic and other extreme ideological and political convictions that result in the distortion of the truth.
The Patriarch's program in the Bulgarian capital includes talks with Bulgarian Patriarch Maximos and a meeting with President Georgi Parvanov.
 Interior minister inaugurates local administration annual conferenceInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos inaugurated the annual conference of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) at the Kyllini Castle in the prefecture of Ilia on Wednesday.
The minister underlined the value of "creating strong local administration at the service of the citizen, with firm resources and a development orientation that constitutes an active agency of local democracy and regional development."
On the question of administrative reform, Pavlopoulos said that "the new administrative division of the country can only result from a wide dialogue with the local administration's collective representation bodies."
He added that "this dialogue has already begun during our previous tenure and it is continuing on the basis of the creation of stronger and more effective local administration organisations."
 Greek Cultural Month in MarseillesThe Greek Cultural Month events held in Marseilles, France are dedicated to the four major Greek refugee waves that arrived in the city from Constantinople, Asia Minor, the island of Chios and the Dodecannese islands over the past four centuries.
The Greek Cultural Month, based on an idea by Greece's consul general to Marseilles, is being held from October 27 through November 30 under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the foreign ministries of Greece and France.
The events include exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, theater performances, music concerts, book launchings, religious events etc.
"Marseilles has never ceased to display and possess a Greek chromosome which is a palpable reality across the French south", said Greece's consul general to Marseilles Petros Panagiotopoulos speaking to ANA-MPA. He added that apart from the Greek expatriate organizations there are also many philhellenes in the city that feel a deep love for Greece, recognizing it as the birthplace of Western Civilization and a "distant homeland".
The Greek community in Marseilles numbers roughly 3,000 members, second and third generation Greeks, who came mainly from Constantinople and Asia Minor.
 Theft of 17th century icons reported at remote Epirus monasteryA manhunt was underway on Wednesday in extreme northwest Greece to track down the suspects that made off with 35 valuable icons and a wood-carved and gold-lined door from within chapel located inside the perimeter of a remote and uninhabited monastery in the Zagori mountains in Ioannina prefecture, Epirus province.
The monastery is dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin, near the village of Makrino, in the eastern part of the Zagori mountain range.
The icons, of different dimensions, are dated to the 17th century.
 Alonissos honours Vythoulkas, father of modern homeopathyGreek homeopathy professor George Vythoulkas, the founder of modern homeopathy, has been declared an honourary citizen of Alonissos, by unanimous decision of the Municipal Council, it was announced on Wednesday.
Alonissos mayor Panayotis Vlaikos noted Vythoulkas' contribution to the island, where he has been a permanent resident since 1987, and to its tourism development in periods of low tourism movement.
The Athens-born Vithoulkas is a teacher and practitioner of homeopathy, and was a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, also referred to as the "Alternative Nobel Prize", in 1996.
He studied homeopathy in South Africa, receiving a diploma from the Indian Institute of Homeopathy in 1966, after which he returned to Greece, where he practiced and taught classical homeopathy to medical doctors in Athens, where he eventually founded the Centre of Homeopathic Medicine in 1970.
In 1976, Vythoulkas organized the first of what became an annual series of International Homeopathic Seminars, while in 1994 he founded the International Academy for Classical Homeopathy on Alonissos for post-graduate training for homeopaths, which have been attended by more than 5,500 doctors from all over the world to date.
The Academy is the only institution in the world dedicated exclusively to the teaching of Homeopathic Medicine.
 Bulgarian writer Doncho Tsonchev receives the AIMOS Balkan Literature PrizeBulgarian writer Doncho Tsonchev will be honored with this year's 4th AIMOS Balkan Prize in a special ceremony at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The award ceremony will be held within the framework of the International Book Fair in Sofia on December 5-9.
The Center of Culture and Books in Southeastern Europe and the Association of Book Publishers in Northern Greece participate in this year's book fair with their own pavilions.
The AIMOS Balkan Literature Prize was enacted by the Center of Culture and Book in southeastern Europe within the framework of the efforts aimed at promoting the Balkan book and culture internationally and is being awarded every two years in a Balkan author.
The prize has already been received by Bulgarian writer Gencho Stoev, FYROM's Bozin Pavlovski, Albania's Nikos Katsalidas and Greek poet Takis Varvitsiotis.
Tsonchev, born in 1933, has published 67 books, five of them became theater plays and 6 were made big screen movies. His books have been translated into 28 languages and he has received a number of literary awards. He is also a boxing and race car champion while over a year ago he was elected to parliament with the Bulgarian Socialists.
 Pol Leurs wins Greekartoon contest in GreeceSelf-taught Luxembourgian artist Pol Leurs has won the first prize in the second International Cartoon Contest 'Greekartoon' organized by the Greek culture ministry in Athens. The runners-up were Brazil's Moacir Knorr Gutteres and Indonesian artist Jitet Koestana.
The prizes will be awarded in a special ceremony on November 20 at the Benaki Museum on Pireos street.
This year's contest had 892 entries by 473 artists from 67 countries, of which 100 were short-listed and will be put displayed alongside the prize-winning entries in an exhibition at the Benaki Museum, after which they will go to Thessaloniki.
 Cloud, showers on ThursdayCloud and showers are forecast, while storms will be taking place mainly in the west of the country, with wind velocity reaching 4-8 beaufort. Temperatures in Athens ranging from 10C to 19C, and in Thessaloniki from 6C to 12C.
 Hellenic Parliament president assures Greece stands by CyprusNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A.Viketos/CNA)
Visiting President of the Hellenic Parliament Dimitris Sioufas assured on Wednesday that Greece stands beside Cyprus and supports the struggle for a functional and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem, based on UN decisions and EU principles and values.
Speaking after a meeting in Nicosia with President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos, Sioufas expressed the gratitude of the people of Greece for the help and support of Cyprus in tackling the fires and their consequences that hit Greece during the summer.
Sioufas said that with President Papadopoulos ''we had a very hearty and constructive discussion,'' adding that ''the President informed us about the economic and developmental potential of Cyprus.''
He said the president ''briefed us on the developments and prospects regarding the Cyprus problem,'' adding that President Papadopoulos also informed them on ''the support our Cypriot brothers are giving to handle the consequences of the fires we had in Greece during the summer.''
''I expressed, on behalf of all the Greeks and all the political forces, to the Cypriot Government, to all the Cypriots, our gratitude for this support and aid given to the citizens who were struck by the devastating fires of the summer,'' he noted.
He also said he conveyed ''to the President of the Republic of Cyprus, and through him to all our Cypriot brothers, the support of the political forces in the struggle for a functional and viable solution of the Cyprus problem, based on UN decisions and the principles and values of the EU.''
''All us Greeks stand beside our Cypriot brothers. We want a continuous upgrading of our cooperation in all sectors and on all levels,'' he concluded.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS