|Sunday, 19 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-11-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 21 November 2007 Issue No: 2754
 Cabinet unanimously ratifies 2008 state budgetThe 2008 state budget was ratified unanimously during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, while Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in his address that the 2008 budget is of crucial importance for the country's course since it aims at three parallel goals simultaneously.
Firstly, the continuation of fiscal restructuring in a mild and effective way, secondly, the continuation of high growth rates with emphasis being placed on the countryside and, thirdly, the fairer distribution of the dividends of growth with targeted transfers to the financially weaker.
"This budget is the first to be prepared after our country's exit from the excessive deficit process, a process to which the country had been led by the irresponsibility of the governments of the past," Karamanlis said.
The prime minister further said that "the general governance deficit will decrease to 1.6 percent next year from 2.7 percent of GDP this year, adding that on the basis of data contained in the revised GDP, the deficit decreased for the first time since our accession to levels below 3 percent, from 7.3 percent of GDP that it was in 2004."
Referring briefly to the current year's budget, Karamanlis said that the basic indicators of the 2007 budget are moving almost at the same levels with the initial predictions, and this is so despite additional funds amounting to 1,103 million euros (0.5 percent of GDP) that were provided for relief for people affected by the wildfires and for the settlement of state debts to Olympic Airways.
The prime minister also referred briefly to the outcome of economic policy over the three-and-a-half years that have passed, focusing on fiscal transparency, the drastic curbing of the fiscal deficit, the decrease in direct taxation, the more than doubling of the absorption of European Union funds, the decrease in unemployment by 3 percent and on the high growth rates.
"We are not going to sacrifice these achievements on temporary expediencies, in no way will we follow policies that undermine the future of our country. On the contrary, we are determined to continue the changes and the reforms with responsibility and boldness," he said.
Commenting on next year's budget, Karamanlis said that it is another step towards achieving the goals that the New Democracy party had agreed with the citizens in last September's elections.
He added that these goals are further fiscal restructuring, the completion of tax reform, the strengthening of regional growth and the strengthening of the growth model, whose foundations he had laid over these years, placing emphasis on the continuation of privatisations and on joint ventures between the public and private sectors.
Karamanlis further stressed the goals of further strengthening transparency in fiscal management, the reforming of the social security system on the basis of positions set out by the government both before and after the elections and the strengthening of social cohesion and of the social state. He also said that the 2008 budget implements ND's commitments to the citizens and mentioned some of them.
Firstly, as of January 1, 2008, the EKAS benefit will increase to 230 euros (an increase of 18 percent), pensions of the Farmers Pension Fund (OGA) will increase by 52 euros and reach 330 euros (an increase of 19 percent), the minimum unemployment benefit will increase to 404 euros (an increase of 10 percent), a national social cohesion fund will be created and the government's commitments to the armed forces will be implemented and as of 1/1/2008 a sublieutenant's salary will amount to 860 euros.
Lastly, the government's commitments to families with three children will be implemented with the granting of a large family bonus from the beginning of the year, funds will be provided for health that are 9.4 percent higher than this year, funds for education will be 6.5 percent greater than this year, a big public works programme will be financed that amounts to 9.3 billion euros and the decrease in tax rates for households will continue so that in 2009 medium-level incomes will be taxed with a 25 percent rate from 30 percent and 40 percent that was the case until now.
 FinMin Alogoskoufis tables 2008 state budget in ParliamentFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday submitted the 2008 state budget to Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas, in the presence of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the Parliamentary Plenum.
A preliminary discussion on the budget will be taking place at the Finance Committee on November 27 and will be followed by the main discussion at the Parliamentary Plenum on December 16-20.
 Greek economy to grow by 4.0 pct next year, FinMin saysThe Greek economy is expected to grow by 4.0 percent next year, with private consumption projected to grow by 3.5 pct, up from 3.2 pct this year, and investments to grow by 10.5 pct (from 8.9 pct this year), the Greek minister said.
Public consumption is projected to slow to 0.7 pct next year from 4.2 pct in 2007, with total domestic demand at 4.5 pct. Greek exports are expected to rise by 7.3 pct and imports to rise by 7.8 pct. Employment is expected to rise by 1.9 pct in 2008, with unemployment falling to 7.4 pct (from 8.3 pct this year), while productivity will grow by 2.2 pct and inflation to rise to 2.8 pct next year form 2.7 pct in 2007.
The central government's deficit is projected at 3.4 pct of GDP next year, from 4.1 pct this year, while the general government's deficit to fall to 1.6 pct of GDP, from 2.7 pct this year, including an extra charge of 1.11 billion euros (Greek contribution to the EU following the country's recent GDP upward revision).
Budget credits are projected at 24.1 pct of GDP from 24 pct this year, with spending on wages and pensions rising by 8.9 pct and payments to pension funds and social protection spending will rise by 17.2 pct next year.
The Public Works Program envisages spending totaling 9.3 billion euros, from 8.7 billion euros this year and 8.184 billion in 2006, or 3-3.7 pct of GDP for the period 2000-2008, compared with a rate of 2.4-2.6 pct in the Eurozone over the same period. The program also includes funds for the reconstruction of regions hit by summer fires (200 million euros).
Regular budget revenues are expected to grow by 12.1 pct next year to 58.070 billion euros, with tax revenues totaling 6.27 billion euros. The government aims to complete a tax reform program by submitting a draft legislation to parliament over the next few weeks. The budget also envisages harmonizing a special consumption tax on fuel projects, and gradually reducing incomes tax factors to reach 25 pct and 35 pct by 2009.
Proceeds from direct taxes are projected to rise by 11.5 pct to 22.040 billion euros, while proceeds from indirect taxes to grow by 13.9 pct to 32.605 billion euros.
 Greek 2008 budget to cut fiscal deficit to 1.6 pctGreece's 2008 budget aims to cut the fiscal deficit to 1.6 pct of GDP and reduce the country's public debt to 91 pct of GDP, from 93.4 pct this year, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, presenting the draft 2008 budget, the Greek minister stressed the budget aimed also at offering fundamental support to low income families, effectively combating tax evasion, supporting regional growth, payment of financial obligations to municipal authorities and pension funds.
Alogoskoufis said the budget also envisaged higher social benefits, creating a Social Cohesion National Fund worth 2.0 billion euros annually over the next four years, an increase of 9.4 pct to Healthcare and a 6.5 pct rise in Education, while the Public Works Program will total 9.3 billion euros in 2008, up 6.9 pct form 2007.
He noted that the budget also envisaged lowering income tax factors. The Greek minister said budget spending, excluding interest rate payments, will rise to 27.9 pct of GDP next year, from 27.8 pct this year, despite earmarking more funds on social benefits and investments.
Primary spending are projected to slow to 7.3 pct in 2008, from 11.7 pct in 2007, while the central government's net revenues will total 60.052 billion euros, or 24.5 pct of GDP, from 23.7 pct this year.
Tax proceeds are projected to rise by 12.9 pct next year to 22.3 pct of GDP, from 21.1 pct in 2007.
 Opposition parties criticise 2008 state budgetOpposition parties criticised the 2008 state budget that was unanimously ratified by the cabinet on Tuesday, expressing doubts whether it will benefit working people.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in an announcement that "the budget shields the competitiveness and profit-making of monopolistic groups, securing the increase in public revenues, particularly with the increase in indirect taxation," adding that "the people can expect nothing positive from the implementation of the budget, because this year's as well constitutes an additional attack on working class income."
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Deputy and Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) Economy and Social Policy rapporteur Panayiotis Lafazanis said that "the government tabled a budget that anticipates an unprecedented tax raid that will burden the broader working class with excessively increased direct and, mainly, indirect taxes."
Lastly, the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party said in an announcement that "the depiction of the budget with a macroscopic inspection shows steps of optimism. However, its microscopic inspection reveals that these steps will be taken with wooden legs."
 Gov't unveils proposal for election law revisionA proposal by Interior and Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos to revise the existing election law was unanimously approved during an Inner Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, a session chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
"The goal of the new election law is to bolster government stability without hurting proportionality in the parliamentary representation of smaller parties," Pavlopoulos again said in citing the government's leitmotif over the issue.
He said that based on envisioned new election law, a 50-seat bonus in the 300-MP Parliament will be reserved for the party garnering the most votes, compared to 40 seats allocated with the present election law. Pavlopoulos clarified that this bonus will be reserved only for individual political parties and not for post-election coalitions.
He also referred to the adoption of a gender quota system for party ballots in general elections, eying a one-third quota for female candidates.
The new election law will be tabled in Parliament before the Christmas holidays, he added.
After the Inner Cabinet meeting PM Karamanlis conferred with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.
A subsequent meeting on Tuesday will focus on the 2008 state budget before it is tabled in Parliament, followed by a press conference by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis.
 KKE comments on electoral lawThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), commenting on the contents of the electoral law disclosed on Tuesday, said that the response of the working people must be the mass weakening of the mainstream New Democracy and PASOK parties.
"Whatever the electoral system that two-party rule will decide may be, the response of the working people must be one: the mass weakening of ND and PASOK, of the centre-right and the centre-left, and the strengthening of KKE and the class popular movement," KKE said in an announcement.
"Working people have experience and realise for what reason the manipulation of electoral systems is taking place," it added.
 Foreign ministry outlines details of western Balkans proposalThe Greek foreign ministry on Tuesday outlined details of Athens' proposal for giving a new impetus to the progress of the Western Balkans towards Europe, which was presented by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis at an EU General Affairs Council the previous day.
According to foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, the Greek proposal aims to revive the rate of reforms in the region, which has recently been flagging, and outlines specific steps and actions that must be taken by all sides to confirm the region's European prospects and to support efforts for its stabilisation and growth.
"A clear accession policy for the countries of the region is the most important and perhaps the most effective tool in order for these countries to overcome political, social and economic weaknesses and challeges and converge with the rest of Europe," Koumoutsakos said, explaining Athens' position.
He also noted the need for measures that had an impact on the lives of people in the area.
"In order to have, through the European perspective, the results that we desire we must combine this with measures that make it tangible to the inhabitants of this area, that meet their basic needs and their main demands," he said.
He noted that the EU had already recognised the importance visa liberalisation for the people and governments of the western Balkans and had promised to help these countries so that step could be taken.
"Following up on the visa facilitation agreements we signed this year, the EU must now offer these countries a 'road map' that will finally lead to visa liberalisation, a series of specific and measurable conditions and an outline of the necessary steps with a indicative time frame," he added.
Also among measures proposed by Athens is the immediate signature of a Stability and Association pact with Serbia, followed by one with Bosnia-Herzegovina as soon as possible. He denied that the Greek proposal was "overlooking" outstanding problems linked to Serbia's refusal to hand over fugitives wanted as war criminals, pointing out that the EU had already started to resume the stabilisation and association process with Serbia which had been "frozen" for some time.
Serbia and the other countries that have signed Stability and Association Pacts but are not candidates should then be encourage to apply, Greece believes, suggesting that the European Commission present 'opinions' on their applications in the autumn of 2008 so that the European Council could decide on whether to give them candidate status in December 2008.
Koumoutsakos said that the date for the start of accession negotiations with these countries could then be decided at a later stage, based on their progress in fulfilling specific criteria set by the EU, and that this should also determine the speed of the accession process once talks began.
Other Greek suggestions are to direct additional funds to this region from the EU budget through "broad use of the principle of flexibility," in order to meet EU priorities in this sensitive region at a critical time.
Koumoutsakos said that the Greek initiative had highlighted the leading role that the EU has played in the Balkans over past years, while noting that "there are now visible signs of flagging, signs that demonstrate that the beneficial effect of our policies is becoming weaker". He pointed out that according to the latest European Commission progress reports for the area, the overall process of reforms in the region had slowed down in some countries, while in others the reforms were not yet permanent.
He also stressed that the situation in Kosovo demanded substantial involvement by the EU, both for Kosovo and the wider region of the western Balkans, in order to restrict the possible danger to regional security.
 Proposal well received by EU partners, Koumoutsakos reportsAsked how the Greek proposal had been received by its EU partners, Koumoutsakos said there had been a positive reception from both European Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn and the Portuguese presidency of the Community, which suggested that it be discussed at the next European Council in December.
Regarding the timing of the proposal, he said this was prompted by developments in the region that created uncertainty and mobility, especially concerns related to the status of Kosovo. Asked what effect this might have on developments in Serbia with respect to Kosovo, he stressed that there "neither a direct nor indirect connection".
"We have taken into account the situation in the region. The proposal is the result of concern about the Balkans, which we believe must at this time receive a specific, positive and practical message from the EU," he added.
He also denied that the proposal might be a way to "sugar the pill" for Belgrade so that it might accept independence for Kosovo.
According to Koumoutsakos, the EU should be trying to avoid allowing the region to slide back into a state of "unproductive introversion, without tangible European hopes and prospects".
 Gov't on US House Resolution regarding FYROMReferring to the signing of a Resolution by 101 members of the US House of Representatives calling on FYROM to respect the 1995 Interim Agreement with Greece, a foreign ministry spokesman on Tuesday noted that the development is a proof of the positive response vis-a-vis Athens' views regarding the FYROM "name issue".
Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said such a response is evident even in countries, such as the United States, that have recognised the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with its constitutional name.
He also pointed out that the Resolution is only one of four that has amassed more 100 signatures during the current US Congressional session.
He added that many US House Representatives signed the resolution following a recent decision by the Skopje government to reject the framework submitted by UN envoy Matthew Nimetz and after Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns testified before a US Congressional subcommittee.
Nearly one-fourth of all US House of Representatives have signed the high-profile Resolution urging FYROM to cease its use of propaganda - mostly irredentist -- and work with the United Nations and Greece to find a mutually acceptable solution for the long-standing "name issue" separating Athens and Skopje.
 UN announces visits by mediator Matthew Nimetz to Athens and SkopjeNEW YORK (ANA-MPA - P. Panagiotou)
The United Nations on Tuesday announced that the UN Secretary-General's special envoy Matthew Nimetz, who is mediating in the dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the so-called "name issue", will travel to Skopje on December 3 and Athens on December 5 for talks the governments of both countries.
 Petition in Thessaloniki cites irredentist propaganda, calls on Athens to block FYROM's Euro-Atlantic courseA petition signed by some 1,250 well-known Thessaloniki residents calls on the Greek government to exercise right and veto the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) EU and NATO accession course, accusing the leadership of the neighboring state of violating international treaties and engaging in wholesale irredentist propaganda against Greece.
The petition, signed by various academics, local government officials, Church leaders, heads of organisations, retired military officers, journalists, professionals and business people, among others, charges that the multiethnic one-time Yugoslav republic to Greece's immediate north has "systematically violated the interim agreement signed in 1995 ... ignores all UN Security Council and European Union resolutions and decisions and attempts to monopolise the name 'Macedonia' for expansionist purposes."
"Greece and the Greek people, the Greek Macedonians, in particular, are watching EU bodies, our cultural heritage, our right to preserve our identity and self-determination, being unscrupulously jeopardised with the FYROM 'name issue' used as a pretext," the petition reads.
The roughly 1,250 signatories, all from the Thessaloniki-area, the biggest metropolis in Greece's large Macedonia province, also conveyed the petition to international organisations and countries that have recognised FYROM with its constitutional name, while clarifying that the name, in itself, would not have been the essence of the problem if it did not constitute "an irredentist vehicle against Greece".
 FM Bakoyannis meets with Cyprus House Speaker and AKEL leaderForeign minister Dora Bakoyannis met Tuesday with visiting Cypriot House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias, leader of the AKEL party and a Cyprus presidential candidate, with whom she exchanged views on the Cyprus problem.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Christofias said that they outlined their evaluations "on the developments, or non-developments, in the Cyprus issue, and, naturally, on what must be done", adding that the discussion had been "very friendly and cordial".
"Everyone's reservation is to more deeply investigate Turkey's intentions regarding the Cyprus issue at this time...and I think that after the elections (in Cyprus), there will be a real need for the two governments (Greece and Cyprus) and political forces (of the two countries) to sit at the table, after the Cypriots (political forces) sit at the table, and reach a unanimous decision on the future handling," he said.
Obviously, initiatives will be undertaken, he said, adding that "we must prepare ourselves as best we can".
"We must seek a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation, which, this time, will be functional and viable," Christofias said, adding that Greece and Cyprus must decide together and work methodically in that direction.
 Parliament president meets with Cyprus counterpartParliament president Dimitris Sioufas met Tuesday with visiting Cyprus House of Representatives speaker Demetris Christofias, and assured him of the Hellenic parliament's steadfastness in its support of the Cypriot people's struggle for a Cyprus solution based on the relevant UN resolutions.
Sioufas also presented proposals to the Speaker of Cyprus' House of Representatives for strengthening cooperation between the two parliaments, including the twinning of their respective Libraries, giving broadcast time on the Hellenic Parliament's television station for projection of the activities of the Cypriot House, and the joint organisation by the two parliaments of a programme on the Greek-Cypriot radio station of London focusing on the Greek language and Hellenic culture.
The excellent relations between the two peoples, countries and parliaments were also reaffirmed during the meeting.
Christofias, who is leader of Cyprus' AKEL party and a candidate in Cyprus' upcoming presidential election, thanked Sioufas and reaffirmed the excellent level of bilateral relations, while he also agreed to Sioufas' proposals for further strengthening the ties between the two parliaments.
 SYRIZA leader voices support for Christofias presidential candidacy in CyprusCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos on Tuesday opined that Cyprus' AKEL party leader Demetris Christofias, who is a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus and currently speaker of Cyprus' House of Representatives, was perhaps the "only personality" who could achieve a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus issue among the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.
Speaking after a meeting with Christofias, who is currently visiting Athens, Alavanos said that Christofias "is a personality who expresses a policy that manages to combine resistance to the aspirations of the large imperialistic forces in the Republic of Cyprus with the ability of substantive intervention in the international developments, for the advancement of the interests of the Cypriot people -- Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike -- as well as the need for resolving the problem on the basis of the UN resolutions".
Alavanos wished Christofias the best of luck in his election campaign.
Christofias, in turn, thanked Alavanos, and stressed that the solidarity and support forthcoming from the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and SYRIZA was "balm" for him, as it "gives me the strength to wage -- together with my comrades, and not only them, but also with the many people who support my candidacy -- the battle of the Presidential elections with significant prospects of winning this battle".
"The goal is one: To serve as effectively as possible the entire Cypriot people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, focusing on ridding the occupation, reunifying our country and, of course, the materialisation of a pro-popular and progressive programme," Christofias said.
 US welcomes Greece-Turkey natgas pipelineWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
The US on Monday welcomed the construction of the Greece-Turkey natural gas pipeline, which was inaugurated on Sunday by prime ministers Costas Karamanlis and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"The opening of this pipeline is a welcome development," US state department spokesman Sean McCormack said during a regular press briefing, adding that "it diversifies the sources of energy delivery through a southern route".
"This is, I believe, the first delivery of that Caspian gas into southeastern Europe and I would note that that gas is transiting to Greece via Turkey, which, again, is an important development and it shows how neighbors and countries in the region can work together," McCormack concluded.
 Albanian president's visit can only help bilateral ties, foreign ministry saysIn comments regarding an upcoming official visit to Greece by Albanian President Bamir Topi, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Tuesday stressed that this could only be viewed as helpful for Greek-Albanian relations.
"An official visit by a head of state, especially of a neighbouring country with which Greece has close ties of cooperation, friendship and functional bilateral relations, in economic, political and other areas, is an important visit," he said.
Asked whether Topi's visit might be an opportunity to resolve outstanding problems that "were keeping Greek-Albanian relations hostage", Koumoutsakos denied that there was any such issue.
"Relations between the two countries have multiple levels and complexities, they are bilateral relations of a great breadth and depth. It is logical that there are issues that need work in order to progress even further and, if there are obstacles, that these should be overcome. The aim of such a summit meeting is, among others, to confirm the very good course [of relations] and to help on points where extra assistance is needed. The Greek side, and I imagine the Albanian side also, expect the best possible outcome from this visit," he stressed.
 Koumoutsakos on Greek policy for Middle EastGreece's interest in Middle East developments was specific, hands-on and not just theoretical, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Tuesday. He had been commenting on a discussion of the Middle East problem held at the EU General Affairs Council in Brussels the previous day and in light of the upcoming meeting on the Middle East at Annapolis in the United States.
"This policy became specific during the Lebanon crisis, where Greece was one of the first countries that assisted with the evacuation and transportation of people wishing to abandon the crisis area, and contributed to the economic reconstruction of Lebanon, for which it has pledged to give five million euros," he added.
He also pointed to Greece's participation in the Rome meeting on Lebanon - which was the first time Greece had taken part in such a meeting on the region - and its role in drawing up UN resolution 1701 as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
The spokesman further highlighted Greece's participation in UNIFIL and the proposals it put forward at a international conference on the reconstruction of Iraq.
"The foremost moment for Greek policy regarding the Middle East was when the Greek presidency of the UN Security Council undertook the initiative to organise a discussion on the region with emphasis on the Palestinian problem, which was the first such discussion in 20 years," the spokesman underlined.
He also reminded reporters of a series of bilateral and other contacts made by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in the area, including two Middle East Tours that had included Syria.
 Deputy agricultural development minister holds talks with Finnish ambassadorDeputy Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Costas Kiltidis held talks with Finnish Ambassador Er. Huittinen on Tuesday and thanked him for his country's solidarity on the issue of the summer's wildfires.
Kiltidis said that the cornerstone of the government's forestry policy is the sustainable development of forests and, with regard to reforestation, the genetic adjustment of small trees and the preservation of biovariety.
 Press strike on Tues. in opposition to gov't proposals for journalists' pension fundsThe Athens Journalists' Union (ESIEA) on Tuesday announced a pair of 24-hour strikes, the first next Tuesday, following the Union's heated opposition to what it described as a framework of proposals for journalists' pension funds, made a day earlier by Labour and Social Insurances Minister Vassilis Magginas to ESIEA's elected board of directors.
ESIEA's president, veteran police reporter Panos Sobolos, also said that the board has called on MPs and Euro-MPs that are members of the Union to a meeting, whereas it will also request meetings with the prime minister himself and political party leaders.
Meanwhile, in a related development on Tuesday, Magginas met with representatives of a confederation of pensioners' groups, the Greek Medical Association and the presidents of the medical associations of Athens and Piraeus. During a second round of meetings, Magginas met representatives of the country's bar associations, notaries and bailiffs at the Athens Bar Association's offices.
 ANA-MPA services presented at local gov't exhibitionThe Athens News Agency - Macedonian Press Agency (ANA-MPA) will present its activities in the local government sector at the 6th annual "POLIS 2007" exhibition, which will take place in Thessaloniki at the HELEXPO convention centre on Nov. 22-25.
Visitors at the ANA-MPA pavilion will be briefed on the services provided by the Greek national news agency to the country's municipalities and prefectures.
The renewed ANA-MPA website www.ota.gr <http://www.ota.gr>, the only local administration website in the country, will be in operation on the opening day of the exhibition.
 Air China announces 2 weekly flights connecting Beijing with Athens via DubaiChina's national carrier Air China will announced that it will debut a Beijing-Dubai-Athens route, with weekly scheduled flights beginning on Nov. 28.
The ground-breaking route linking Athens with Beijing and Dubai (stopover) will depart from Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport on Mondays and Thursdays.
The route is part of an initiative to boost tourism between Greece and China and facilitate business travel, while, at the same, increase the frequency of flights between Athens and Dubai.
 Goldman Sachs Asset Management to expand activities in GreeceGoldman Sachs Asset Management seeks to emphasise on promoting its product and services in the Greek market through its cooperations with banking groups operating in Greece, Nick Phillips, GSAM's chief executive for Europe said on Tuesday.
Goldman Sachs Asset Management sees significant growth prospects of its activities in Greece, particularly in the mutual funds management sector and investments. GSAM cooperates with Citibank, Eurobank and Piraeus Bank in Greece, while its assets under management total 500 million US dollars.
Goldman Sachs Asset Management manages around 701.1 billion US dollars globally and ranks among the top 15 fund managers worldwide.
 Greek current accounts deficit up 30 pct in Jan-Sept, yr/yrGreece's current accounts deficit widened by 30 percent in the nine-month period from January to September 2007, totaling 20.9 billion euros, reflecting a higher trade deficit in the country.
The Bank of Greece, in its monthly report, said the trade deficit rose by 15 percent to 3.7 billion euros, reflecting a 41 percent increase in payments on ships (5.2 billion euros), while net payments on fue imports fell by 248 million euros. The trade balance, excluding ships and fuel, showed that exports grew by 4.9 pct and imports rose by 12.4 percent.
The services' surplus grew by 755 million euros in the nine-month period, reflecting a 13.7 pct increase in revenues from shipping services, while gross revenues from travel services were up 1.1 pct.
The incomes' deficit widened by 1.4 billion euros, reflecting a 30 percent increase in payments on interest, dividends and profits (10 billion euros).
The current transfers' surplus fell by 354 million euros, reflecting a decline in net revenues by 367 million euros, while net revenues from the EU grew by 13 million euros. Payments to the EU grew by 274 million euros in the January-September period.
The financial transactions' balance showed a spectacular 120 percent increase in portfolio investment inflows, while foreign direct investment inflows fell in the nine-month period. Net inflow of foreign direct investments totaled 681 million euros, while capital outflows surpassed 3.1 billion euros.
Portfolio investments recorded a net inflow of 14 billion euros in the January-September period.
 Competition Commission staff to strike on ThursdayStaff at Greece's Competition Commission on Tuesday decided to hold a three-hour work stoppage next Thursday, between 11:00 and 14:00, and to escalate strike action the following weeks by holding three-hour work stoppages three times a week for the next four week, as well as 24-hour strike in between.
The strike action is being held to protest against understaffing at the Competition Commission since its foundation and because the development ministry has refused to give a timeframe for resolving financial and other demands raised by the employees.
The financial incentives are considered necessary in order to hire new staff and in order to retain staff already employed by the Commission. As the staff union announced, 20 full-time employees have resigned in 2006 and two specialist scientists departed in 2007. There is currently a staff of 58 working at the Commission, instead of the 150 originally envisioned by the relevant laws, and staff is being sought through transfers and detachments to man the administrative and financial services directorate.
 Profile reports improved nine-month resultsProfile on Tuesday reported a 36-percent increase in its net after-tax profits to 1.5 million euros in the nine-month period from January to September, and a 34-percent rise in its pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) to 3.3 million euros over the same period.
Consolidated turnover in the January-September period totaled 11.7 million euros.
Parent turnover totaled 10.9 million euros, pre-tax profits totaled 2.15 million euros (up 38 pct) and after tax profits jumped 34 percent to 1.48 million euros in the nine-month period.
Earnings per share totaled 0.12 euros, up 31 percent. Charalambos Stasinopoulos, Profile's chairman and chief executive, said the company expects this year's sales to reach 25-27 million euros and said turnover from international activities will reach 20 percent of total revenues.
 Home building materials' price index up 5.5 pct in Oct, yr/yrGreece's new home building materials' price index rose by 5.5 percent in October, compared with the same month last year, after increases of 6.5 pct and 3.3 pct in the corresponding months of 2006 and 2005, respectively, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.
The composite index rose 0.4 pct in October, from September, after increases of 0.5 pct and 0.4 pct in the same months in 2006 and 2005, respectively.
 Greek merchant marine fleet up 4.3 pct in Jan-SeptGreece's merchant marine fleet totaled 2,052 ships at the end of September, with a gross tonage of 37,084,318 dwt, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.
The statistics service said 624 ships were cargo ships, 502 tankers and 926 passenger ferries.
The statistics service also noted that in the January-September period, the Greek merchant marine fleet rose by 4.3 pct, with cargo ships down 0.2 pct, tankers up by 9.8 pt and passenger ferry ships up by 4.6 pct.
 Greek stocks end 0.70 pct downGreek stocks continued losing ground in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, pushing the composite index of the market 0.70 percent down to end at 4,960.31 points. Turnover was a strong 637.1 million euros, of which 64.4 million were block trades.
Most sectors suffered losses with the Financial Services (3.91 pct), Media (1.62 pct), Chemicals (1.58 pct), Commerce (1.56 pct) and Personal/Home Products (1.36 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Utilities (1.46 pct), Food/Beverage (0.90 pct) and Oil (0.85 pct) scored gains.
The Big Cap index fell 0.55 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.66 pct lower and the Small Cap index eased 0.83 pct. ANEK (9.43 pct), Euroline (8.91 pct) and Daios Plastics (6.69 pct) were top gainers, while Mailis (12.94 pct), Cardasilaris (8.44 pct) and Desmos (7.69 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 176 to 67 with another 56 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.85%
Personal & Household: -1.36%
Raw Materials: -0.69%
Travel & Leisure: +0.22%
Food & Beverages: +0.90%
Financial Services: -3.91%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Marfin Popular Bank, OTE and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 24.30
Public Power Corp (PPC): 25.38
HBC Coca Cola: 27.80
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.92
Emporiki Bank: 20.70
National Bank of Greece: 43.60
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 23.96
Titan Cement Company: 31.00
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover jumping to 373.324 million euros. The December contract on the Big Cap index was traded at a discount of 0.62 pct and the December contract on the Mid Cap index at a premium of 0.80 percent.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 24,953 contracts worth 327.262 million euros, with 35,176 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 611 contracts worth 18.991 million euros, with 623 open positions. Volume in futures contracts one equities totaled 17,656 contracts worth 27.071 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Investment Group (3,608), followed by Marfin Popular Bank (2,347), PPC (1,116), Piraeus Bank (560), Hellenic Exchanges (516), National Bank (1,952), Alpha Bank (568), Intracom (883), Viohalco (699), Mytilineos (545) and ATEbank (2,479).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market jumped to 2.863 billion euros on Tuesday, of which 805 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 2.058 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.152 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds rose to 0.32 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.40 pct and the German Bund 4.09 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 4.10 pct from 4.08 pct on Monday, the two-day rate rose to 4.10 pct from 4.08 pct, the one-month rate was 4.19 pct and the 12-month rate eased to 4.60 pct from 4.63 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.490
Pound sterling 0.722
Danish kroner 7.512
Swedish kroner 9.356
Japanese yen 164.15
Swiss franc 1.653
Norwegian kroner 8.059
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.464
Australian dollar 1.679
 Flood victims to receive immediate compensationFlood victims will receive a one-time 3,000-euro compensation instead of a 670-euro welfare benefit, as provided by existing legislation.
Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos announced that the process will be undertaken by the ministry of health and social solidarity, whereas local governments will determine who is eligible.
Compensation will be paid immediately, via the same procedure followed in the case of wildfire victims last August.
Pavlopoulos stressed that the situation along the Evros River, extreme northeastern Greece, is at a breaking point, with the water level constantly rising.
An emergency rescue unit has already departed for the region.
 Health minister on action against drug addictionThe health ministry's new policy on combatting drug addiction includes the granting of methadone by selected National Health Service (ESY) hospitals, focusing on new forms of drugs, handling alcoholism and preparing three-year National Action Plans.
Speaking during the discussion on the report by the Parliamentary Interparty Committee on combatting drug addiction, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos stressed the need for reshaping goals and policy, considering the existing model an antiquated one and stressing his conviction that "the struggle can be won and ultimately it shall be won."
Avramopoulos further said that "the model created in the '80s requires changes" and pointed to the need for a modern policy on addiction to both new drugs and alcohol.
 President Papoulias made honorary citizen of KalamataPresident of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias was on Tuesday declared an honorary citizen of the coastal city of Kalamata, in the southern Peloponnese, by the city's mayor Panagiotis Nikas, in a ceremony also attended by Deputy Education Minister Andreas Lykourentzos and local MPs.
In his acceptance speech, Papoulias referred extensively to the damage inflicted by the mega-fires of the previous summer in the area, which he said were a major environmental disaster but also a blow to the "essence of our culture".
"There is no more time for complacence. Protection of the environment must be our first priority. Every citizen individually and all of us together must join our forces to demand respect for nature," he underlined.
 President Papoulias unveils statue of Theodoros KolokotronisHellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday unveiled a statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis, one of the leaders in the 1821 Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman rule, in the hero's birthplace of Ramovouni, Messinia Prefecture, in Peloponnesus southern Greece.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, President Papoulias expressed joy at being in the birthplace of one of the most glorious figures in the Greek Revolution, and stressed that the lofty ideal of freedom is being reaffirmed.
The Peloponnesian Association will undertake to build a museum of the 1821 Greek struggle, estimated to cost roughly 400,000 euros. The projects will be funded exclusively by Peloponnesians worldwide.
President Papoulias will be declared an Official Citizen of Kalamata, at a special ceremony at the Town Hall, during which he will also be presented with the Gold Key of the City.
 Athens offers rate exemption for large familiesThe city of Athens' council members on Monday passed a majority decision to except large families -- with four children or more -- from sanitation and lighting charges, following a proposal Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis.
Meanwhile, the largest and most populous municipality in the greater Athens area announced that sanitation and lighting charges rose by 1 percent in comparison to last year - up from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent - whereas council rates will now vary according to area.
Additionally, the municipality said it will record three-member families and examine the possibility of a rate exemption for this category next year.
Previously, large families were entitled to a rate reduction of 50 percent.
 Police discover large quantity of bootleg CDs, DVDsA large quantity of bootleg CDs, DVDs and other objects were discovered in Athens' district of Kypseli by police in a raid on Tuesday of a workshop-warehouse for the reproduction of fake CDs.
The illegal workshop was operated by two Nigerians who were arrested and led before the public prosecutor.
Police discovered and confiscated 14,070 fake CDs and 727 fake DVDs.
 Overcast, frosty on WednesdayOvercast and frosty weather with northerly, northeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 7-8 beaufort. Scattered showers in the Cycladic islands and Crete. Temperatures will range between 01C and 16C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with moderate, northerly, northeasterly 5-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 06C to 15C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 03C to 13C.
 Cyprus to participate in the Mediterranean Parliamentary AssemblyNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/CNA)
Cyprus will participate in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean to be held in Malta between 22 and 24 of November 2007.
The Cyprus delegation comprises three members of the House of Representatives, Takis Hadjigeorgiou, Tasos Mitsopoulos and Aggelos Votsis.
According to an official press release, the meeting will mark the official opening of the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean which will be based in Malta.
The Assembly will discuss and adopt resolutions on various issues such as the Middle East problem and matters concerning the understanding between civilizations and religions and migration flows.
The meeting in Malta will launch a strategy document entitled ''Building on our common Mediterranean Heritage'' that outlines, amongst other things, the strategic objectives and priorities of the Parliamentary Assembly.
 Cyprus represented at Community of Democracies ConferenceNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/CNA)
Cyprus Permanent Representative at the UN Andreas Mavroyiannis represented, on behalf of Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, the Republic of Cyprus at 4th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies, which took place in Bamako, Mali, November 14-17, 2007.
The Community of Democracies (CD) is an intergovernmental organization of democracies and democratizing countries with a stated commitment to strengthening and deepening democratic norms and practices worldwide.
The Ministerial Conference in Mali mainly addressed the relation between democracy and development.
After three-day consultations and negotiations, the Conference adopted a declaration on the ministerial consensus of the Community of Democracies for Democracy, development and poverty reduction.
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