|Sunday, 17 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-11-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 29 November 2007 Issue No: 2760
 Inner Cabinet meeting focuses on nat'l social cohesion fundAn Inner Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, focused on a draft law establishing and laying out the scope and structure for a National Social Cohesion Fund, a high-profile initiative unveiled by the current government prior to the last election (Sept. 16) as a way to fight poverty in the country.
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis underlined that the fund will support people living under the EU-defined poverty line, "helping them to have a more dignified life", as he said.
Alogoskoufis said social policy has not yet yielded results in alleviating poverty in Greece.
The planned initiatives will be undertaken mainly by the ministries of employment and health, said Alogoskoufis, adding that financing in 2008 will reach 500 million euros to gradually reach two billion euros a year corresponding to 1,000 euros for each citizen living under the poverty limit.
According to figures provided by the National Statistical Service, roughly two million Greeks citizens are eligible -- mainly low-pension earners, the long-term unemployed and people with disabilities.
 Bakoyannis sees 'real possibility' for Middle East in AnnapolisWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
During her address at the Annapolis Middle East peace conference on Tuesday, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said that the current effort underway for the Middle East crisis gave her a sense that a solution was a "real possibility".
"The level of consensus and the political capital created are unprecedented. The energy, drive and commitment of [U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice and her team, along with the pragmatic, constructive and responsible approach of [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas; and the positive engagement of our Arab friends have made this meeting possible," she said.
Bakoyannis added, however, that actually following through to bring peace to the holy land required matching "our words with our deeds". She stressed the need for "concrete, meaningful and visible steps" on both sides, and to maintain momentum with realistic targets, while noting that the "test will come on the day after".
"In this respect, a robust follow-up will be extremely important and the involvement of the international community, particularly of the European Union, catalytic," she emphasized, while highlighting the upcoming Paris Donors' Conference.
The Greek foreign minister also called for progress on the ground and a normalization of the everyday lives of ordinary Palestinians, saying that this would strike a blow against the "forces of radicalization and extremism that feed on fear and insecurity".
Noting the strong, historic bonds of friendship and understanding between Greece and the peoples of the region, she said Greece was actively engaged in the quest for a comprehensive peace and "more than ready to do its part".
She also announced that Greece was launching the Next Generation Initiative hosting civil society meetings in Greece with the explicit goal of boosting the Middle East peace process.
According to Bakoyannis, the Annapolis conference was "a precious window of opportunity" in which to address the legitimate concerns and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians in a systematic and timely manner.
"The parties concerned should not be daunted by the challenge. Political realities being what they are, we must counter the partisan rhetoric of fear with the politics of hope. It is up to us - around this table - to make this moment a significant step towards a lasting, comprehensive and just peace," she concluded.
 Karamanlis receives Cyprus President Papadopoulos; Athens kudos for Cyprus' euro zone membershipDevelopments regarding the long-standing Cyprus issue, coordination of actions by Athens and Nicosia and prospects for an intensification of efforts aimed at the solution were discussed on Wednesday during a meeting here between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis visiting Republic of Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos.
"The solution of the Cyprus issue should be in accordance with UN resolutions, the principles and values of the EU, of which Cyprus is a member," Karamanlis reiterated, adding that such a solution would allow benefits from the EU participation to reach the entire island, currently not feasible due to continuing military occupation of roughly one-third of the island republic by Turkish forces.
"Greece supports the immediate implementation of the July 8, 2006 agreement and the implementation of the confidence building measures proposed by the Cypriot government," he added.
"The proposals submitted by President Papadopoulos prove that the Cyprus Republic wants a comprehensive, fair and viable solution," Karamanlis further noted, adding that the Turkish side should display a spirit of cooperation for the implementation of the agreed to provisions
The Greek prime minister also thanked the Cypriot government and the Cypriot people for the immediate and unreserved support during last summer's devastating wildfires, while he congratulated Papadopoulos for Cyprus' accession into the Euro-zone and the adoption of the euro on Jan. 1, 2008.
On his part, Papadopoulos stated that Greece's unreserved support was once again reaffirmed.
Referring to the reconstruction of the fire-ravaged village of Artemida, in Ilia prefecture in the western Peloponnese, undertaken by the Cypriot Republic, Papadopoulos said the project is just a small token of appreciation for Greece's support over the years.
 Cyprus president visits fire-ravaged ArtemidaCypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos visited on Wednesday Artemida community, in Ilia prefecture in the western Peloponnese, which was badly hit during this summer's catastrophic forest fires and which the Cypriot government has undertaken to rebuild.
The mountain village in Zacharo Municipality suffered extensive damage during the summer fires and lost 14 of its 100 inhabitants to the flames.
Papadopoulos, who was accompanied by Minister of the Interior Prokopis Pavlopoulos, received a warm welcome by the local authorities and inhabitants.
In a brief address, the Cypriot president reminded his audience of the Cypriot population's sufferings during the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island republic and the displacement of more than 200,000 people.
"We Cypriots know very well what you have suffered and what you are still suffering. We in Cyprus know very well what it means when somebody loses his beloved persons, his home, his property, his livestock, his source of income," Papadopoulos said.
Regarding restoration works, he said they are expected to start on January 2008. The restoration program, which is being financed by the Cyprus government, will amount to 14 million euros and includes the construction of 48 houses and 25 buildings as well as the construction of a central square. Compensation to inhabitants and reforestation of the region are also included in the program.
Interior Minister Pavlopoulos thanked the Cypriot president adding that the Greek state would always stand by the side of those who have been affected by the wildfires.
Cyprus Interior Minister Christos Patsalides said that the restoration works are estimated to be concluded in the first half of 2009.
President of the Artemida local council George Kossyfas also thanked President Papadopoulos announcing that the square will carry the name 'Cyprus Square'.
During his stay Papadopoulos toured the fire-stricken regions, while before leaving he laid a wreath at the monument erected in memory of firefighters killed during the summer's wildfires.
 PM to visit remote Aghios Efstratios isle on Thurs.Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday announced that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will address ruling New Democracy party's Parliamentary group on Thursday.
Later the same day, Karamanlis will depart for the small northeast Aegean island of Aghios Efstratios (Ai Stratis) on board the Hellenic Navy frigate "Psara", accompanied by Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis and Merchant Marine & Island Policy Minister George Voulgarakis.
On Friday morning, the prime minister will inaugurate a Democracy Museum on the island -- once used as a place of exile for political prisoners -- and tour a temporary exhibition on the island.
 President briefed by education ministerPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received Education Minister Evripides Stylianidis at the presidential mansion for a one-hour meeting, with the latter later telling reporters that he briefed the president over the ministry's policies in the sector.
Stylianidis also referred to the large-scale vandalism that occurred at a high school in the Pangrati district of east Athens, a noted school Papoulias himself had attended nearly 60 years ago. The facility had been occupied by pupils and what were described as non-school elements during a wave of school sit-ins across the country a few weeks ago.
 PASOK to hold congress on February 22-24Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou chaired on Wednesday a meeting of the Congress Central Organizing Committee secretariat, which decided to hold the party's congress on February 22-24.
Addressing the meeting, Papandreou said that the party "has during the past two months highlighted the real reasons of its defeat" in the September 16 general elections, but also "the conditions under which it can become government again" and pledged the "return of the party to principles and values."
He said that PASOK should give assurances to the Greek people that it is ready to "assume the country's fate" terming the upcoming congress a "milestone in the re-foundation and renovation of PASOK."
Papandreou also charged that the government "has no plan for the country."
"The first New Democracy governance was a cummunications trick in which opposition was carried out against the opposition, while now the government plays the game of delays, playing at the same time with the citizens' fear and killing all prospects for the country."
Referring to the November 11 intra-party leadership elections, which he won, Papandreou said: "We have won the first battle while we must win the war in order to liberate the country from political inertia and social despair."
 KKE leader addresses press conference in VolosCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, addressing a press conference in the city of Volos, central-eastern Greece, on Wednesday, called on working people "to shape a united struggle front against the barbaric measures that the government is preparing to bring through a dialogue in which PASOK is also participating."
Referring to the strike called by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) on December 12 and on mobilizations, she said that they must have a continuation.
"Working people must not limit themselves to one rifle shot. Working people must remember the outcome of the great mobilisations that had taken place against a corresponding plan of barbaric measures that had been promoted by the then employment minister Mr. Yiannitsis, of course with the responsibility of the PASOK government" in 2001, Papariga said.
The KKE leader went on to say that "all the conditions exist today, due to the increase in the productivity of labor, for the pensioning limit not to increase but to drop. We are not going to back down for the claim for men to be pensioned at 60 and women at 55. And we insist on the difference of 5 years for men and women."
In a related development, an announcement by KKE referred to the issue of heavy duty and unhygienic professions, stressing that "the positions of the government on heavy duty and unhygienic professions, the increase in general pensioning limits and of pensioning limits for women constitute a tough anti-labor attack" and adding that the government is not aiming at modernizing the institution of heavy duty and unhygienic professions but at the drastic reduction of professions included in them.
 Alavanos stepping down from Synaspismos presidencyCoalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos, who also heads up the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) grouping in Parliament, toured the large island of Crete on Wednesday, a day after he announced that he will not vie for Synaspismos' presidency at an upcoming party congress.
Alavanos, however, will remain as the head of SYRIZA's parliamentary group.
While in the Cretan port city of Rethymno, Alavanos toured a local high school, later decrying the poor conditions of the facility, as he said, and calling for more funding of the education sector.
Later in the day, Alavanos was due to visit the infamous Zoniana township in the mountainous portion of Rethymno prefecture, where a police convoy came under assault rifle fire earlier in the month - an incident that generated a massive police crackdown in the rugged area to stamp out cannabis cultivation, drug smuggling and weapons running, among others.
 Education minister meets U.S. Congress membersEducation Minister Evripidis Stylianidis met with members of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday evening, accompanied by the U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Greece, Thomas Countryman and U.S. embassy officials.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the meeting, Stylianidis said that the educational issues was discussed and views were exchanged on innovations that can be applied in the sector of education.
"It was a very interesting discussion between us and a conclusion drawn from it is also the need for us to tighten our relations with the United States even more, for us to place the necessary emphasis on the education of the Greek community there, that is functioning indeed as a bridge for the transfer of know-how and a bridge linking both peoples," the minister said.
"We only stand to benefit through such meetings and through such exchanges of visits, seeing systems that are innovative ones and which produce results in other countries and taking from them suitable ideas to adjust them and implement them in our country as well, with the aim always being the qualitative upgrading of education provided," Stylianidis added.
 US experts in Greece to review visa waiver program candidacyThe US embassy in Athens on Wednesday announced that the "next step" in Greece's candidacy for inclusion in the "visa waiver program" comes this week with the visit of a delegation of US experts to Athens
According to an embassy press release, the development is part of a "formal technical review led by the US Department of Homeland Security".
Committee specialists will meet with their Greek counterparts at the ministries of foreign affairs, interior, and justice, and will also tour selected Greek airports and border crossing points, the press release added.
The American embassy reminded that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice formally nominated Greece to the modernised visa waiver program in an Aug. 31 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
"Greece is the only country to have received such a nomination since the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 became US law on August 3," it stated.
 Parliament ratifies articles of port security billThe Parliament Plenum on Wednesday ratified the articles contained in the bill on strengthening port security.
The issue was raised once again during Wednesday's session of port security being assigned to private companies, also in light of allegations regarding the involvement of members of the European Security company in a drug trafficking ring.
Merchant Marine Minister George Voulgarakis said that "two port officials were arrested two months ago who participated in a smuggling ring and were convicted."
 Justice minister on London working visitLONDON (ANA-MPA)
Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis, on a working visit to London since Tuesday evening, met on Wednesday with his British counterpart Jack Straw and Bridget Prentice, under secretary of justice responsible for European and international matters.
 FinMin reiterates government's insistence on policy of changes, reformsFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, addressing the Parliamentary Economic Affairs Committee on Wednesday evening, reiterated the government's insistence on the policy of changes and reforms reflected in the 2008 state budget.
Speaking during Wednesday's third session of the Committee on the 2008 budget, the finance minister said that the second phase of fiscal restructuring is beginning and mentioned the goals set for the next year.
He said that the first concern of the government's economic policy is a further decrease of the deficit to 1.6 percent of GDP from 2.7 percent in 2007. He also said that the main aim is continuing the de-escalation of the public debt to 91 percent of GDP from 93.4 percent in 2007 and substantive support for sensitive groups in society.
Alogoskoufis said that other parallel goals are the effective handling of tax evasion, backing for the countryside and settling old pending economic issues concerning local administration and the social security funds.
"Following three-and-a-half years of continuous and consistent implementation of our reformist program the Greek economy has now entered a new course. We are handling with success the major problems of yesterday, problems that we are all aware of. We are overcoming considerable challenges, challenges that are known to all. And today we have tangible results. Our reformist program has brought about specific and tangible results that belong to all," Alogoskoufis concluded.
 Employment minister announces measures for heavy duty, unhygienic professionsEmployment Minister Vassilis Magginas on Wednesday announced a series of measures to modernize the institution of heavy duty and unhygienic professions (BAE), to shield the system of awarding disability pensions, to boost low and medium-level pensions and to protect motherhood.
Addressing a joint meeting of the Parliamentary Economic and Social Affairs Committees, where the third cycle of dialogue on the social security system was concluded, Magginas said that the institution of heavy duty and unhygienic professions will be revised and modernized for the removal of unfairness and distortion existing in many classes of working people that are not included in the heavy duty and unhygienic sector.
Magginas added that the IKA-ETAM heavy duty and unhygienic profession regulation currently concerns 537 professions, while the beneficiaries amount to about 700,000, at a time when completely different terms and preconditions are applied in European Union countries.
"It is self-evident that the entry of new activities or specialities in the list of BAE must be examined and which would fulfill relevant terms and preconditions," the minister said, noting that the special 12-member Committee set up by decision of the economy and employment ministers, focusing on re-determining the professions and works that will be subject to the BAE regulation, will be submitting its report by the end of the year.
"The report will be taking into consideration the terms currently corresponding to indexes that are determinable and measurable scientifically and that are acceptable internationally," he said.
Magginas further said that incentives will be provided for staying at work voluntarily so that a person entitled to a pension, over the age of 65 if he is a man and over 60 if she is a woman, to stay on. The increase will be equal to 3.3 percent instead of 2 percent for every year of work, with the maximum increase limit being 10 percent and so, instead of a person receiving 70 percent of a salary for a pension he will be receiving 80 percent. In parallel, labour contributions will be decreased.
Moreover, the existing regulation on assessing the degree of disability will be revised and updated, while low and medium-level pensions will be boosted.
The employment minister went on to say that as of January 1, 2008, the social solidarity bonus, EKAS, will increase to 230 euros from 195, Farmers Pension Fund (OGA) pensions will increase by 52 euros and reach 330 euros from 280 euros, while the minimum unemployment benefit will be increased, to 404 euros, a National Social Cohesion Fund will be created and a Minimum National Pension will be established.
Lastly, the minister stressed that motherhood will be backed for young mothers with the almost doubling of the right to the recognition of fictitious time and a decrease in their contributions.
 Gov't defends initiative on social security reformThe government on Wednesday sternly defended its recent handling of the sensitive and potentially explosive social security reforms issue, reiterated that dialogue to overhaul the country's creaky pension system is its own initiative and the "only solution".
Moreover, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, in response to a barrage of related questions at his regular press briefing, dismissed criticism by saying that the government "gets attacked when it tables its positions, and it gets attacks when if it doesn't (ahead of the dialogue)".
Additionally, he repeated that the government will not table legislation to raise retirement ages for women and men, while he reminded that Greece has been referred to the European Court by the Commission because, in fact, the government decline to retirement ages men and women the same.
 Unprecedented strike by journalists over planned pension fund mergerJournalists in Greece responded with a 24-hour nationwide strike Tuesday to the government's proposal to merge their pension fund with those of medical doctors, engineers and lawyers to form a "scientists' fund" within the framework of its plans to reform the country's ailing social security system.
Journalists protested by holding a rally and a march of unprecedented size. Roughly 2,000 journalists and mass media employees took to the streets in Athens in protest over the government's pension fund merger plans. The mobilization was held with the participation of press and electronic media journalists, technical personnel, printers, representatives of the pension funds the government would like to merge into a unified single fund, the country's largest private and public-sector unions, GSEE and ADEDY, and parliamentary deputies.
Addressing the strikers in a rally held outside the offices of the Athens Journalists' Union (ESHEA), union president Panos Sobolos reiterated the joint decision adopted by all press sector trade union boards to continue mobilizations to the end.
He stressed that the government will not be allowed to proceed with its plans, announcing the start of unprecedented strike action by the mass media sector. Journalists will participate in the nationwide workers' strike scheduled for December 12 and intend to begin a series of 48-hour or open-ended strikes in the near future.
The striking journalists held a protest march to the ministry of employment and the parliament building where they delivered petitions with the sector's demands to the minister in charge of media issues, the parliament speaker and the political party leaders.
Their demands include the withdrawal of all regulations detrimental to journalists and their work, abolition of all legislation approved in the past decade that targets the institution of social insurance, settlement of all pending contribution payments owed to pension funds, a guarantee of satisfactory benefits that meet the current needs of the insured and the preservation of the autonomy and self-management of social security funds rather than abolishing them through the merger method.
 High-ranking US Congressional delegation briefed in Athens on regional energy policyDevelopment Minister Christos Folias on Wednesday received a delegation of visiting US Congressmen at his ministry, where talks focused mainly on energy issues and Greece' s long-term strategy in the energy sector.
The delegation, led by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) and also comprised of Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Dennis Moore (D-Kansas), Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia) and John Carter (R-Texas), was briefed on the under-construction Burgas-Alexandropoulis oil pipeline bypassing the congested the Bosporus Straits; negotiations over á proposed extension of the South Stream gas pipeline from Russia, and of course, the recent inauguration of the Greece-Turkey portion of the Turkey-Greece-Italy natgas pipeline.
Regarding the latter, Folias, who holds the energy portfolio, noted that the pipeline is not only significant from an energy standpoint, but also looms important in the overall rapprochement of Greek-Turkish relations.
On their part, the US Congressmen cited the importance of environmental protection and queried the ministry officials over Athens' institutional investments' framework.
 Olympic Airlines issue in agenda of talks between transport minister, EU commissionerThe Olympic Airlines issue will be included in the agenda of talks between Transport and Communications Minister Kostis Hatzidakis and European Union Commissioner Jacques Barrot, to be held on the sidelines of the EU's Council of Transport Ministers taking place in the Belgian capital on Thursday.
This was announced by Hatzidakis in reply to a question related to the fact that the European Court was to consider an appeal against Olympic on Wednesday.
The minister said that no decision was to be taken on Wednesday since such trials do not end on the same day and one must wait for a few months for the result to be issued.
 OAED presents business plan for 2008Greece's Workforce Employment Organization (OAED) on Wednesday approved its business plan for the year 2008, which envisages strengthening OAED's strategic role in the employment sector through closer cooperation with municipal authorities, universities, social agencies, non-profit organizations, creating a special internet site offering real-time information to job seekers around Greece and upgrading EURES services aimed to boost workers' mobility in the Eurpoean Union.
The business plan, which was sent for ratification to Employment and Social Protection Minister Vasilis Magginas, also envisages a more efficient use of funds from a Fourth Community Support Framework program focused on special groups of unemployed people, such as women, youths and unemployed above 45 years old. OAED also plans to transform an unemployment benefit into an employment benefit and promoting vocational training programs.
 Marfin Investment Group says earnings up five times in Jan-SeptMarfin Investment Group on Wednesday said its net after tax and minorities earnings rose by almost five times to 395.2 million euros in the January-September period, from 83.1 million euros in the same period last year.
Net earnings from repeated activities grew 316 percent to 137.6 million euros. Commenting on the results, MIG's chief executive Denis Malamatinas said the group has become the largest Greek group of companies and one of the biggest in Southeastern Europe, while he underlined that MIG was continuing the implementation of its investment program aimed at offering more value of shareholders.
 Marfin Popular Bank says profits up 141 pct in Jan-Sept, yr/yrMarfin Popular Bank on Wednesday reported a spectacular 141 percent increase in its net after tax and minorities earnings to 483.2 million euros in the nine-month period from January to September, compared with the corresponding period last year.
Consolidated assets rose 45 pct to 29.1 billion euros, loans rose 444 pct to 16.5 billion euros and saving deposits rose 39 pct to 21.1 billion euros. The bank said its new revised business plan for the period 2008-2010, envisages growth rates of 40 pct and 23 pct for loans and deposits, respectively, while revenues are expected to rise by an annual growth rate of 26 percent.
Marfin Popular Bank said its branch network is expected to total 724 units by 2010, from 435 this year and said it expected its after tax and minorities earnings to surpass 1.0 billion euros by 2010.
Andreas Vgenopoulos MPB's chief executive, commenting on the results said they reflected the management's proper planning and the staff's hard efforts.
 Northern Greece industry recovered in 2006, surveyIndustrial groups based in northern Greece reported a slightly improved turnover and a profit growth rate equaling the inflation level in 2006, recovering after presenting negative results in 2005, a survey by the Federation of Northern Greece Industries (SBBE) said on Wednesday.
The survey, based on a sample of 300 enterprises from 18 sectors, was presented by SBBE president George Mylonas. The survey said that turnover rose 4.11 pct in 2006, after falling by 4.68 pct in 2005, while pre-tax profits rose 11.50 percent after an 8.13 percent decline in 2005. Profit margin rose to 4.21 percent in 2006 from 3.93 pct in the previous year.
Mylonas attributed last year's improved results to a mixture of factors, such as: strong domestic demand and global economic growth, higher exports and the closure of loss-making enterprises. Mylonas said he expected this year's results to be "much better" with turnover growing by more than 5.0 pct.
The survey said that the percentage of profitable enterprises among the 300 included in the sample fell from 89 pct in 2002-2003 to around 83 pct in 2004, 2005 and 2006, with food/beverage, chemicals, synthetic materials, oil products, plastics, electric appliances traditionally the most profitable sectors of the industry. On the other hand, manufacturing, tobacco, leather-footwear, textiles, wood and paper products were the most loss-making enterprises.
Mylonas urged for a clear industrial and sector policy to support the industrial sector in regional Greece, along with measures to simplify the tax system and more transparency in transactions between the state and enterprises.
Alumil Mylonas maintained its leading position in the manufacturing sector in Northern Greece with a turnover of 189.3 million euros last year, followed by Mevgal (176 mln) Hellas Can (140 mln), Pepsic-Ivi (108.8 mln), Siemens (105 mln).
 Tourist arrivals up 5.6 pct in January-OctoberForeign tourist arrivals in Greece grew an average 5.7 percent in the 10-month period from January to October, the Institute for Tourism Research and Forecasts (ITEP) said on Wednesday. In a report, ITEP said the growth rate matched the global growth rate with Greece maintaining its share in the global market, although the country lost ground in South and Mediterranean Europe, where tourist arrivals average growth rate was 6.7 pct in the Jan-Oct period.
ITEP said tourism foreign exchange revenues grew 1.0 pct in the nine-month period from January to September reflecting a decline in overnight stays in Greek hotels and the expansion of "all inclusive" services covering around 15 pct of top class hotels in the country. Tourist arrivals fell 9.5 pct in Crete in October, after an increase of 4.2 pct last year, while in the Dodecanese islands arrivals fell by 5.1 pct after an increase of 2.7 pct over the same period. In the Ionian islands, arrivals fell from 10.5 pct last year to 14.6 pct in 2007.
The Panhellenic Association of Hoteliers on Wednesday submitted to Tourism Development ministry a survey over the development of "boutique" hotels in the country. The so-called boutique hotels will have a room capacity of up to 50 rooms, offering a warm family atmosphere, new ideas in architecture and decoration, personal services and high-quality food. The survey was based on the standards of boutique hotel industry around the world.
 Piraeus Bank Romania expands branch network to 95Piraeus Bank Romania, a subsidiary of Piraeus Bank Group, on Wednesday said its branch network in Romania rose to 95 units after the bank recently opened five new branches in Bucarest.
The Greek banking group expands its network in Romania by opening an average four branches monthly securing presence in the country's 40 out of a total 41 regions.
"In early 2007 our aim was to operate 100 branches around the country, but now I am sure we will overcome this goal," Mandalena Gridei, deputy manager of Piraeus Bank Romania said.
The bank expects its profits to rise by 15-18 million euros this year.
 New Greek-Arab Chamber of Commerce offices inauguratedDevelopment Minister Christos Folias on Wednesday inaugurated the new offices of the Greek-Arab Chamber of Commerce.
"The new strategy of Greece is based on extroversion, strengthening export trade, attracting foreign investments and encouraging the international economic activity of the Greeks," the minister said in a brief address.
"We are aiming at improving the competitiveness of businesses, achieving scale economies through cooperation and creating business alliances and entry into new developing markets and sectors of business activity," Folias added and pointed out that "the Arab world is an ideal place for these activities."
 Events on upgrading Greek-Turkish relations in economic, trade sectorISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
The Greek embassy and Istanbul's General Consulate will be organizing events to upgrade Greek-Turkish relations in the economic and trade sector.
The program of events announced on Wednesday during a press conference held at the General Consulate's Sismanoglio Mansion also includes the presentation of a television documentary with a review of Greek-Turkish economic and trade relations and their contribution to rapprochement between the peoples of both countries.
A few years ago, the volume of transactions between the two countries was a few thousand dollars, while now it has reached 2.2 billion euros, said Greece's Ambassador George Yennimatas, adding that the next goal is for it to reach five billion dollars.
Yennimatas further said that the buyout of Turkish Finansbank by the National Bank of Greece and the natural gas pipeline between Turkey and Greece were two very great steps that heightened economic cooperation between the two countries.
Journalist and columnist Mehmet Ali Birant said during the event that "if we were told 15 years ago that relations would reach this point we would laugh, it would appear impossible" and reminded that a few years ago Turkish businessmen could not dare to take investments steps in Greece.
"There is a balance now in relations between the two peoples," he said and stressed that this is the result of diplomacy and of Europe.
 Greek-Bulgarian-Turkish business forum in KomotiniThe Greek-Turkish Chamber of Commerce and the Greek-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will organise the first-ever Greek-Bulgarian-Turkish business forum on Saturday in north-eastern Greek city of Komotini, it was announced on Wednesday.
Business relations between the three neighboring states and prospects for the region's economic development will be discussed.
Multinational cooperation will also be discussed at the forum, where ministers from the three countries are expected to participate.
The same forum will be held for a second time next June, together with the international INGEX exhibition.
 Greek jewellery exhibition in New York Times buildingWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
The cultural premises of the new and impressive building of the New York Times newspaper in Manhattan has been inaugurated with a Greek jewellery exhibition.
The title of the exhibition of well-known jewellery designer Debby Handri is "The sun of Greece" which was presented with the sponsorship of the Greek Tourist Organisation (EOT) and with the contribution of Greece's General Consulate in New York.
The exhibition includes original jewellery, created with imagination and gold, pearls, valuable stones, plastic and other items.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony, Greece's general consul in New York Ekaterini Boura referred to the values and the beauty contained in Greek culture, underlining the efforts of Greeks all over the world, and of those in New York in particular, to highlight and promote Greek cultural elements.
 Greek stocks jumped 1.79 pct on WednesdayGreek stocks jumped 1.79 percent on Wednesday following a strong performance in other international markets. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange ended at 4,951.70 points with turnover a strong 475.3 million euros.
Most sectors scored gains, with the Utilities (3.93 pct), Food/Beverage (3.70 pct), Commerce (3.33 pct) and Industrial Products (3.05 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Oil (0.12 pct) and Telecommunications (0.02 pct) suffered losses. The Big Cap index rose 1.93 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.73 pct higher and the Small Cap index jumped 2.03 pct.
NEL Lines (13.33 pct0, Sprider (12.63 pct) and Varvaresos (10.0 pct) were top gainers, while Allatini Ceramics (8.74 pct), Euroholdings (6.85 pct) and Dromeas (3.90 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 236 to 48 with another 21 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.12%
Personal & Household: +2.07%
Raw Materials: +1.37%
Travel & Leisure: +2.14%
Food & Beverages: +3.70%
Financial Services: +0.88%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 23.30
Public Power Corp (PPC): 31.00
HBC Coca Cola: 27.20
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.40
Emporiki Bank: 20.54
National Bank of Greece: 42.70
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 23.62
Titan Cement Company: 30.52
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices saw their discounts ease during Wednesday's session in the Athens Derivatives Exchange, with turnover remaining an improved 255.166 million euros. The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.46 pct and the December contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.05 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 15,205 contracts worth 197.297 million euros, with 32,402 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 1,089 contracts worth 17.670 million euros with 861 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,326 contracts worth 21.314 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (1,956), followed Marfin Investment Group (1,276), PPC (991), Piraeus Bank (419), National Bank (958), Alpha Bank (1,439), Intracom (940), Intralot (559) and Post Savings Bank (918).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.124 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.092 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.032 billion were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 832 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.35 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.45 pct and the German Bund 4.10 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved lower. National Bank's overnight rate fell to 3.97 pct from 4.12 pct on Tuesday, the two-day rate fell to 4.02 pct from 4.12 pct, the one-month rate eased to 4.17 pct from 4.19 pct and the 12-month rate rose to 4.65 pct from 4.63 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.486
Pound sterling 0.719
Danish kroner 7.516
Swedish kroner 9.411
Japanese yen 163.32
Swiss franc 1.659
Norwegian kroner 8.172
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.479
Australian dollar 1.685
 Greek intervention at International Red Cross conferenceGENEVA (ANA-MPA)
Greece's Permanent Representative at International Organizations, Ambassador Frangiskos Verros, addressing the 30th International Red Cross and Red Crescent conference on Wednesday, that is currently taking place here, said that Greece embraces the principles of humanitarian law absolutely and is working systematically for its respect by countries and for its dissemination.
Verros recalled considerable international action by Greece, such as the timely providing of humanitarian aid to Lebanon and stressed that Greece, which is exercising the Presidency of the Human Security Network this year, is organizing a series of high-level meetings in New York, Geneva, Vienna and Athens to promote the sensitisation of international public opinion on the state of human rights in the more sensitive groups of the population, such as children and women.
 WWF documentary film premiere in AthensThe Global Conservation Organisation Fund WWF on Wednesday invited the public in Athens to attend the official premiere of the documentary film 'The 11th hour' at the Village Centre cinema complex in Faliro, Athens on Tuesday 4th December. The documentary focuses on enviromental problems in the framework of an international campaign called 'The climate is in your hands' and the box office earnings from the film will be donated to WWF.
Actor Leonardo di Caprio is the producer and narrator of the film that describes how, even now, we can change the climate and save the planet. The documentary features more than 50 scientists and politicians, among them Mikhail Gorbachev, Steven Hawking and former CIA leader James Woolsey.
Di Caprio stated: "We citizens, leaders, consumers and voters must ensure that governments will include the environment in their policies and in our daily life. Furthermore, during this crucial period in human history, our generation's top priority must be the elimination of disasters caused by the industrial civilisation".
 Greek Police chief attends European Police Chiefs Group conferenceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
Greek Police chief Anastasios Dimoschakis attended the conference of the European Police Chiefs Group here on Wednesday, that focused on issues of strategic importance related to the strengthening and improving of European police cooperation on combating organized crime and terrorism.
Speaking at the conference, Dimoschakis stressed the necessity and priority that must be given to the joint combatting of illegal immigration, human trafficking and terrorism, in cooperation with Europol.
 DNA test to identify body found on Lousios River banksAuthorities on Wednesday said that a largely decomposed body found two days ago, snagged on a rock along the banks of Lousios River near the Karytaina Bridge in the western Peloponnese, will be subjected to a DNA test to determine its identity.
The gruesome discovery was made by a local farmer and the Nafplion medical examiner is proceeding with an autopsy that will include the DNA test.
According to authorities, the human remains most likely belong to the eighth and last drowning victim from a group of hikers that were swept away by flash floods while attempting to cross Lousios River last May.
 Cocaine ring busted in Greek, Bosnian, Croatian joint operationAn international cocaine trafficking ring active in the Balkan region was dismantled in Greece following well-orchestrated action by the Finance Ministry Special Audit Service, authorities announced on Wednesday.
The drug traffickers used legitimate cargo containers carrying timber to smuggle the cocaine into Greece, and from there to Bosnia via Croatia.
According to the statement issued, Special Audit Service inspectors in the Port of Piraeus confiscated a total of 80 kilos of cocaine from Ecuador destined for Bosnia via Croatia following surveillance lasting several months.
The cocaine was divided into 139 packs hidden in the container's walls, ceiling and door.
At the request of law enforcement authorities in Croatia and Bosnia and with the approval of the Athens Court of Appeals Prosecutor, the container left the Port of Piraeus for the Croatian Port of Rijeka with 200 grams of cocaine as a decoy with the purpose of arresting the container recipients.
On November 15, a 34-year-old Greek national, who had been involved in drug cases in the past and had recently founded a general trading company in Aspropyrgos, Athens, appeared as the container's recipient and following his request it was returned to Greece by road.
The container ended up in a warehouse at Aspropyrgos and its recipient was arrested during a police raid on November 23.
Based on evidence gathered during questioning, two more individuals, both of them Albanian nationals, are also involved and are now wanted. Police in Bosnia and Croatia have arrested other six people in connection to the case.
Drug and weapons trafficking ring dismantled
A drug and weapons-trafficking ring was dismantled in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, police announced on Wednesday. Police officers arrested five people of Albanian nationality, who were found in possession of a major quantity of drugs and heavy arms (guns, Kalashnikov rifles, hand grenades).
Moreover, according to police statements, two gang members are suspects in 36 armed robberies at banks and super-markets .
 Olympiakos Piraeus beats Lazio in Champions League matchOlympiakos Piraeus beat Lazio of Rome 2-1 in a Champions League Group C match played at Olimpico Stadium in Rome on Wednesday night.
 Scattered showers on ThursdayScattered showers are forecast, particularly in the west of the country, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 6C and 14C, and in Thessaloniki from 4C to 10C.
 Cyprus satisfied with Commission report on Euro introduction preparationsNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot Minister of Finance Michalis Sarris expressed on Wednesday the Government's satisfaction regarding the European Commission report on Cyprus' progress towards adopting the Euro on 1 January 2008.
Meanwhile, thirty-three days before the Republic of Cyprus joins the Eurozone, the Ministry of Finance has sent the message to all private businesses to obtain the new currency in time.
Speaking at a press conference, Sarris said the conclusions of the Commission's report are very positive regarding both the awareness campaign and the level of preparation of the public and private sectors for the introduction of the Euro.
''This report reaffirms the optimism we have regarding our entry to the Eurozone on 1 January 2008,'' Sarris noted.
Director of the Economic Research and EU Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of Finance Andreas Charalambous said the report covers very important issues concerning the withdrawal of the Cyprus pound, and ''reflects the progress made in Cyprus on the level of technical preparation in all sectors.''
Charalambous pointed out the necessity for businesses to calculate their needs, cooperate with the banks and obtain sufficient amounts of the new currency in time for the change-over.
He added that for a month after the introduction of the Euro, citizens will be able to pay in Cyprus pounds in cash only but noted that the Ministry of Finance wanted the withdrawal of the Cyprus pound to be completed as soon as possible.
Referring to concerns that the changeover would lead to an increase in prices, Charalambous said the percentage of citizens concerned was dropping but still remained quite high and remained ''the main challenge we have to face in relation to the adoption of the Euro.''
Furthermore, Sarris presented the new currency converter, which is free of charge, can be found on the Ministry's website and can be downloaded and installed on mobile phones. He added that special calculators were also being sent to homes for conversion purposes.
Charalambous explained that around 300,000 conversion calculators were to be sent out, covering all Cypriot households. The process began this week and would be completed by early December.
Sarris also presented a self-evaluation questionnaire for the degree of readiness of businesses to handle the changeover. The business interested could apply online for a questionnaire, fill it in and send it back in order to receive the evaluation.
''We are using modern methods of evaluation so that each company can determine the level of preparation it has reached,'' Sarris added.
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