|Thursday, 24 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-11-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 30 November 2007 Issue No: 2761
 Pension system reform imperative, PM tells ruling party' s MPsReform of Greece's pension and social security system is imperative, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed in a speech to ruling New Democracy party' s Parliamentary group on Thursday.
According to Karamanlis, failing to act would be "hostile" toward future generations and it would be irresponsible to postpone a solution of the problem for reasons of political convenience:
"It is our responsibility to deliver a system that is freed from its 'pathogenies'," he stressed.
He underlined that the current system was plagued by inequity and distortions that existed at the expense of the many, and that the system was being driven to a complete collapse, whereby society's weakest members would find themselves swept away.
Changes are necessary and making the system fairer would require a long-term process, the prime minister added.
Karamanlis criticised those that he said are resisting dialogue, noting that the government had presented its main policy points, while stressing that no one could "defend inaction".
"Imposing one's terms and absolutes betrays a refusal to conduct dialogue, a refusal to face problems and is an anti-social act. We have no right to shut our eyes to the problem, reforms are an act of responsibility," he stressed.
Outlining the government's goals, plans and positions, he referred to ensuring a fair and viable social security system. He also cited the introduction, as of 2009, of a minimum pension that would be above the poverty line, the creation of a national fund against poverty from 2008 and plans to increase unemployment benefits and the EKAS income supplement for retirees drawing low pensions.
The prime minister further emphasized the government's continuing efforts to boost employment and reduce joblessness, measures for education reform and development and the overhaul of the national health system.
"It is our commitment and unwavering decision to continue reforms in all areas, in administration and local government, in education, for public security and the environment," he underlined.
In terms of economic policy, he said the immediate priority was completing tax reforms, and he highlighted the public works program now being prepared, which he said would be the largest Greece had ever known, as well as policies to boost small and middle-sized enterprises.
Other priorities listed by Karamanlis were protection of the environment and regulating land use, promoting renewable energy sources, restricting emissions of pollutants and restoring the natural environment in fire-ravaged regions.
The prime minister also highlighted the government's achievements in past years, such as high growth rates, exiting the excessive deficit procedure and reinforcing the economy, saying that these had laid a "firm foundation" for the country's future growth and development.
Stressing that the country was now called on to find a "final solution to the problems it inherited from the past," Karamanlis said that there was no room for conservative attitudes that served a privileged few and called on MPs in his party to do their best to help bring about necessary changes and reforms.
"The Parliamentary group is the link between the government and society. We all have an obligation to change those things that embitter and inconvenience the voters, to continue changes and reforms and come together as a strong fist against the problems of the country," he concluded.
 Trade union leaders address ND MPs over pension reformsThe heads of the major public and private sector trade unions, ADEDY and GSEE respectively, addressed the ruling New Democracy (ND) party Parliamentary Group meeting Thursday on the state budget.
GSEE President Yannis Panagopoulos stressed that GSEE believes in dialogue and dismissed allegations that the trade unions do not want dialogue as groundless. He maintained that an attempt was made to settle the social security reform issue with three-hour sessions presented as dialogue while expressing the view that the government will choose not to proceed with the implementation of its proposals.
Panagopoulos suggested the establishment of a "money box" to collect social funds from different resources for the next generations of social insurance recipients.
He expressed opposition to the merger of social insurance funds that can operate without problems for the next fifty years and strongly criticized the previous and current government for inconsistency in the payments of contributions to the Social Insurance Institute, IKA, in violation of existing legislation, while stressing that the state sends the wrong message to private citizens who owe 4 billion euros to the fund in question.
ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros stressed that this was a very difficult turning point for workers adding that based on the state budget they will have to face an even worse reality.
According to budget figures, wages and pensions will be reduced while social spending will be tied down leading to intensification of social inequities, he stressed.
He used as an example the nominal rise of 22 euros in the wages of public employees in 2007 when contributions increased by 24.7 euros, resulting in a net wage reduction of roughly 3 euros.
He said that if the government underestimates the consequences of its choices and the causes that lead to the workers' reaction it will have more problems to face, while on the social insurance issue he pointed out that the workers cannot tolerate the government's proposed solutions, adding that solutions can be found only through dialogue and understanding.
 SEB President addresses ND Parliamentary Group meetingThe need to accelerate changes and tackle the society's "reform phobia" was underlined by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEB) President Dimitris Daskalopoulos during his address to the ruling New Democracy party Parliamentary Group meeting on Thursday.
He pointed out that the recent economic accomplishments are indisputable but added that the challenges and difficulties brought by globalization are considerable.
Daskalopoulos stressed that the times ahead will not be easy, adding that the antidote will be a well-orchestrated counter-attack through the acceleration of the reforms the country needs. Progress can only achieved if the Gordian knot of the social insurance issue is cut, he said, adding that the business sector can contribute to the efforts aimed at solving the problem.
 PASOK airs criticism of gov't regarding social security reform; new coordinating body convenesMain opposition PASOK on Thursday reiterated that the government is proceeding with dialogue on the all-important social security reform issue with a "hidden agenda" and by using such dialogue as a "ruse" to push through "anti-popular" measures.
Speaking at a press conference shortly after the prime minister's address on Thursday to ruling New Democracy party's Parliament group, where he spoke on the specific issue, a handful of top PASOK deputies and top cadres reiterated the opposition party's standing criticism of the government moves.
The press conference also came amid the first session of PASOK's new coordinating body, under the chairmanship of PASOK president George Papandreou.
Former minister Theodoros Pangalos said social security reform is a "national issue" of heightened importance, although he said the government merely chose a "monologue" during Parliament debate on the issue. He also charged that the government failed to clearly spell out what it wanted to do.
Besides Pangalos, PASOK cadres Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou, Nora Katseli, Yiannis Magriotis and Evi Christofilopoulou spoke at the press conference, with the leitmotif revolving around charges of a "hidden agenda" and an "ostensible dialogue".
In terms of proposals to deal with the paramount issue, Christofilopoulou referred to PASOK's idea of creating a "national capital fund for solidarity amongst generations", which she said will not be funded by other funds' reserves but by special taxes on privatisations, among others.
 KKE on PM's address regarding social security reformThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday termed the government's policy vis-à-vis reforms for the country's social security system as "reactionary".
"The policy of New Democracy (ND) is reactionary, because it attempts to abolish the fundamental rights of workers, particularly women and young people, to social security, labour relations and income," a KKE announcement read, commenting on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' address at an ND parliamentary group meeting earlier in the day.
"The reforms pursued by the ND government are not, as the prime minister claims, in the interest of society in general, but are adjustments needed by capital. They are a prolongation of the anti-labor modernizations applied by (current main opposition) PASOK governments," the announcement added.
 Burns calls on Skopje to show sensitivity for Greek concernsMADRID (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis held talks on Thursday with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, on the sidelines of the OSCE's ministerial session in the Spanish capital.
"The government of Skopje must show greater sensitivity for Greek public opinion and for the Greek government and realise that some of their actions were very provocative," Burns said after his meeting with Bakoyannis.
Referring to the same issue, the Greek minister said that "we are ready to attend constructive dialogue and negotiating and we are expecting Mr. (UN special mediator Matthew) Nimetz in Athens in the coming days with this spirit."
Burns made the following statement to the Greek press: "I had a long discussion with Mrs. Bakoyannis, whom I listened to very carefully. I mentioned to her that that I told the Foreign Minister of FYROM (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), A. Milososki that we believe that the prime minister and the government of Skopje must show greater sensitivity for Greek public opinion and for the Greek government. They must realise first that some of their actions were very provocative. Having lived many years in Greece, I understand the importance of the issue for the people and the government of the country. We requested from Mr. Nimetz to become involved again and we hope that a solution will be found that both countries can support. The government of Skopje must realise that it has the responsibility of meeting Greece halfway and show sensitivity for Greek concerns. Some actions by Skopje were unnecessarily provocative. We realise the importance of the heritage of Macedonia in Greek history, the modern-day political stage, in the hearts and minds of the Greeks. We hope that progress will be achieved and you must be certain that the United States will support a solution agreed to by both sides."
The two officials also discussed the Middle East issue and the Annapolis conference, from which the Greek mission arrived directly in Madrid, as well as the question of Kosovo.
Burns praised Greek presence at the international conference on the Middle East, saying that "I am pleased that Greece participated in the Annapolis conference as a full member. I am grateful to Mrs. Bakoyannis for the support she is offering for efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, for the creation of a Palestinian state after 60 years and the creation of conditions of security in Israel. The role of Greece, which is being involved in this procedure, is very important. The Annapolis conference was a great success. We must continue the hard work now, continue this process and achieve further progress."
Referring to Kosovo, Burns said that efforts are being made, in the framework of the OSCE, to achieve a good development on the issue.
He conceded that "the coming months will be very difficult since there will be a transitional period there" and expressed the hope that "this will happen peacefully, with stability and there will be no violence."
Commenting on her meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, she said that they ascertained the very good level of economic and political cooperation and discussed the agenda of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis's visit to Moscow.
 FM spokesman on FYROMAsked by Greek reporters to comment on Greece's reaction in the event that the government of Skopje "makes some move for the sake of impression" by lifting the renaming of Skopje's international airport, an eventuality that the neighbouring country is reportedly considering, according to press reports, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said that "such a thing would not constitute a reason for the reversal of the Greek position, of Greek policy, that is focused on the essence of the issue."
Skopje has renamed the airport to "Alexander the Great" provoking Greece's strong reaction.
 European Parliament adopts report on European Supervision WarrantBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a report by ruling New Democracy party Eurodeputy Yiannis Varvitsiotis concerning the draft decision on the European Supervision Warrant for judicial procedures between European Union member-states.
The European Supervision Warrant is a judicial decision issued by a relevant authority of a member-state concerning a suspect who is living abroad permanently, with the purpose of returning the person in question to the member-state where he usually lives legally or to whatever other member-state, in the event that this is requested by the suspect and the member-state interested permits this.
The European Supervision Warrant will be issued on condition that the suspect complies with supervision measures, to ensure that justice is provided appropriately and, mainly, to ensure that the suspect will be at the disposal of the authorities for a trial to be held in the issuing member-state.
 New ambassadors present credentials to PresidentGreek President Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received the new U.S ambassador in Greece Daniel Speckhard at the Presidential Mansion, who presented his credentials. During the ceremony, Speckhard gave President Bush's regards and expressed his desire that the good relations between the two countries will continue and develop during his term of service in Greece.
Also presenting their credentials to President Papoulias on Thursday were the new ambassadors of India Dilip Sinha, Austria Michael Linhart, Georgia Irakli Tavartkiladze and People's Republic of China Luo Linquan.
 KKE's Papariga visits LarisaGreek Communist Party (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga called on workers to join forces and avert the tabling of the draft law for pension system reform to Parliament speaking during her one-day visit to Larisa, central Greece on Thursday.
The general strike called for December 12 can only be the beginning in the workers' struggle against the government's proposed reforms, stressed Papariga, adding that the much-advertised measures in support of working mothers in essence undermine motherhood.
Papariga accused the government of leading social insurance funds to bankruptcy and favoring the further privatization of the healthcare sector. She also expressed opposition to public administration reforms and an election law promoted by the government.
 Annual report on entrepreneurship in GreeceOver one million people are currently involved in business activity in Greece, while an additional one million people plan to begin business activities over the next three years.
This is deduced by the annual report of the Economic and Industrial Research Foundation (IOBE) on entrepreneurship in Greece (2006-2007), that was presented on Thursday during an event held at the National Bank's Th. Karatzas Mansion.
The main points contained in IOBE's report were presented by professor Stavros Ioannidis and by Angelos Tsakanikas.
A total of 1.1 million people in Greece, almost 16 percent of the population, are involved in some form of business activity. Out of this figure, 600 thousand people were established businessmen, meaning that they participated in the ownership of a business venture, while about 540,000 people are at an initial stage to begin some business activity.
Moreover, 965,000 people (14.2 percent of the total population) stated that they plan to start business activity over the next three years.
An additional 180,000 people (2.7 percent of the population) have stopped their business activity.
Over 20 percent of business efforts in 2006 constitute necessity entrepreneurship, meaning by people turning to business activitity due to the lack of other employment possibilities.
Entrepreneurship is a case for higher ages. The average age of a young and ambitious businessman is 38 years (compared to 36.5 years in 2005).
Furthermore, 54 percent only have a senior high school diploma (the third highest position in Europe in the participation of second stage education graduates.
Half of the young and ambitious businessmen steadily belong to the higher (one third) income bracket of the Greek population, which reveals that business requires considerable financial resources.
As regards women's entrepreneurship, the main conclusion reached by IOBE is that although Greek women's participation in the initial stages of business activity is considerably behind that of men, the deficit mainly concerns the role played by women in ventures during the establishment phase, while it decreases drastically in ventures that have already begun.
Addressing the event, Development Minister Christos Folias said that the government is supporting entrepreneurship with the new development law, with lower tax rates, the simplification of the establishment system for businesses, the handling of bureaucracy, with a modern institutional framework, new and upgraded industrial regions, etc.
 Greek-Moldovan joint ministerial meetingThe first meeting of a Greek-Moldovan joint inter-ministerial committee on economic, technological and scientific cooperation was held in Athens on Thursday as part of the implementation of a Greek-Moldovan agreement on the specific sectors.
Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas headed the Greek delegation, while head of the Moldovan delegation was Finance Minister Mihail Pop.
Doukas underlined the investment opportunities opened for Greece in the country, while the Moldovan minister commented that the meeting will bolster bilateral cooperation.
The committee meeting was concluded with the signing of a bilateral protocol, while talks focused on commercial and economic cooperation, agriculture, energy, the process for standardization and certification, tourism, transports and communications, research and technology, small and medium-size enterprises, cooperation within the framework of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) as well as development cooperation.
On the sidelines of the meeting, a cooperation agreement was signed by the Hellenic Organisation for Standardisation (ELOT) and the Standardisation and the relevant Moldovan service.
 FinMin meets Moldovan counterpartNational Economy and Finance Minister Georhe Alogoskoufis met on Thursday with visiting Moldovan Finance Minister Michail Pop with talks focusing on bilateral economic relations.
 Development minister meets Egypt's trade and industry ministerDevelopment Christos Folias on Thursday met with Egypt's Trade and Industry Minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid and discussed the development cooperation between the two countries, in light of the official visit to Greece in a few days time by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The two ministers discussed issues such as the strengthening of bilateral economic and trade relations, the promotion and coordination of action in the framework of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, the strengthening of Greek business presence in Egypt and the training of staff of Egyptian businesses in Greece.
 European Budget Commissioner addresses Parliamentary committeesEuropean Budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite on Thursday addressed a session of Parliament's Economic and European Affairs committees, noting that "we must first see the quality of our policies and to revue them and afterwards decide how much money we need."
In reply to questions by New Democracy (ND) party deputy Antonis Samaras and by main opposition PASOK deputy Christos Papoutsis on the need of enlarging the European budget, the Lithuanian commissioner noted that "already with this comparatively small budget, we have expenditures which are not productive." She added that "we cannot swell the budget and afterwards spend without responsibility."
She recalled that "the enlargement and the euro led to an increase of Europe's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2%, something which is not so bad a message for your country."
Asked whether the reduction of the agricultural income was a consequence of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and will lead to greater economic recession, Grybauskaite noted that the CAP was created "so as to jointly confront matters which one member-state cannot deal with" and that "it is the responsibility of the member-states to decide what they will cover from the national and the European budget."
 ADEDY holds its 33rd congressThe Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) on Thursday held its 33rd congress.
"The Interior Ministry's doors will always be open for dialogue, regardless of the extent of demands by the trade unionist civil servants," Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos told the congress.
Pavlopoulos underlined that "the civil servants gained much more through dialogue than by the sterile refusal" and referred to the institutionalization of meritocracy through the civil servants code, but also the agreement with ADEDY on training programs for civil servants.
Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou called on the delegates "in a course of overturning the policy of the New Democracy (ND) party, against the strong neo-conservative establishment together with all the progressive society."
Papandreou also criticized the government on the social security issue, accusing it of "spreading fear and insecurity."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) representative George Skiadiotis called on the working people to organize a counter-attack on all fronts, particularly on the social security issue.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos in his address spoke of "a government of 112 deputies if the bonus of the electoral law is deducted" and called on the working people to participate in the strike on December 12 so as to "bring to its knees the government's anti-social security plans."
ADEDY president Spyros Papaspyros accused the government of "a structured austerity policy which will result in the reduction of the purchasing power of the working people in the public sector."
The ADEDY congress ends on Friday.
 First Air China flight from Beijing lands in AthensThe first plane carrying out a flight from Beijing to Athens via Dubai by the Chinese carrier Air China landed at Athens International Airport on Thursday, where it was met by a welcoming committee and an inauguration ceremony was held.
Transport Minister Kostis Hatzidakis gave a brief address in which he stressed that one of the government's main goals was to make Greece an international transport junction, which meant that it was not possible to ignore the wider region of Asia since this was the fastest growing region of the world.
He also highlighted the benefits of the new direct flights on a political and economic level but also for tourism, stressing his conviction that the linke between Athens and Beijing would become more frequent as the volume of goods and passenger air transport increased, for the benefit of both countries.
 HAI invests 16 mln euros to establish aerospace design centreHellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) on Thursday announced that it will invest 16 million euros to set up an aerospace structure design centre with the contribution of the Greek defence ministry.
Presenting the plan, Tassos Filipakos, chief executive of the company, referred to a milestone transformation of HAI from a manufacturer of aerospace parts into a designer, developer and manufacturer, enabling the company to have access to know-how of modern applications.
The Greek state will cover 9.0 million euros of the investment project, while EADS, the European aerospace manufacturer, will train HAI staff. The project is expected to be completed in 18 months. HAI said a programme to upgrade its productivity, including both production staff and infrastructure, will require an investment of 100 million euros over the next five years and the hiring of 250 senior executives.
HAI has successfully continued a 25-year contract with EADS to manufacture passenger doors for Airbus aircraft.
 National Bank reports record nine-month profitsÍational Bank of Greece on Thursday reported a spectacular 66-pct increase in its nine-month net profits to a record 1.313 billion euros.
Takis Arapoglou, the bank's chairman and chief executive, said the bank's performance in the third quarter of the year confirmed the board's expectations of a dynamic growth of business in Greece and in the wider Southeastern Europe region as well as Turkey. He said that in absolute terms, nine-month results have surpassed the Group's 2006 results.
"Profitability of our subsidiary abroad covers more than one third of total profits in the nine-month period, with Finansbank the most significant contributor with net profits of 349 million euros. This result is very encouraging given the relatively early state of growth of the Turkish banking market and the dynamism expected to give to Finansbank a plan to expand its branch network by almost the double compared with its size before the takeover," Arapoglou said.
The Greek banker noted that the group continued implementing its three-year business plan taking advantage of a strong capital adequacy rates and its strong saving base.
Loans totaled 52 billion euros in the January-September period, up 29 pct from last year, while deposits totaled 57 billion euros, up 14 pct from the same period last year. The loan/deposit ratio was below 90 pct, one of the lowest internationally, offering the bank a strategic advantage during a recent crisis in international money markets.
National Bank offered 2.9 billion euros in new mortgage loans in the nine-month period, up 17 pct from last year, with outstanding mortgage loan totaling 15.7 billion euros.
National Bank operates at branch network of 593 units in southeastern Europe, with more than 8,500 employees, and was expected to raise its branch network number to 643 by the end of the year. Loans grew 74 pct in the region to 5.9 billion euros.
Retail banking loans grew 76 pct in the nine-month period, while non-performing loans accounted for 4.9 pct of total loans. National Bank said its organic earnings in the January-September period totaled 128 million euros, up 34 percent from 2006.
 Hellenic Telecoms reports mixed nine-month resultsHellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Thursday reported mixed nine-month results with turnover rising and net profits easing.
The group's turnover totalled 4.688 billion euros in the January-September period, up 9.0 percent from the same period last year, reflecting higher income from broadband services and mobile activities both in Greece and abroad.
Net profits 4.33 million euros, down 2.8 percent from the same period in 2006.
Parent turnover rose 3.4 pct to 1.986 billion euros, with net profits rising 13.2 percent to 374.7 million euros. Hellenic Telecoms said its ADSL customers surpassed 750,000 in September and noted that it expected the number to surpass the 800,000-mark by the end of the year.
Cosmote reported a 38.1-percent increase in its nine-month turnover to 2.251 billion euros, although net profits rose by 0.7 percent only to 275.9 million euros.
OTEnet reported a 12-percent increase in consolidated turnover to 90.7 million euros. The company is currently in a process to be absorbed by OTE SA.
RomTelecom reported a 2.4-pct decline in turnover to 649 million euros, with net profits dropping 53.1 percent to 19.5 million euros.
 Greek consultancy services market grew 20 pct in 2006, KantorThe Greek consultancy services market grew by 20 percent in 2006, a report by Kantor Consultants announced on Thursday.
The report, covering 45 consultant companies with an annual turnover of more than 300,000 euros, showed that the Greek market's turnover surpassed 252 million euros, reversing a two-year stalemate, with the average annual income growth rate at 16 percent in the period 2002-2006.
Standard consultancy services accounted for 42 pct of all income, except for information services, followed by management and monitoring of programs (41 percent). High-level strategy was only 17 percent, but growing steadily in the last few years. The public sector remained a significant customer of consultant companies (main and regional agencies and public sector enterprises).
Only 45 enterprises reported a turnover of more than 300,000 euros in 2006, compared with 54 in 2002, with the top 10 companies accounting for 67 pct of total income in 2006 (58 pct in 2002). Large multinational companies further strengthened their presence in the Greek market, with foreign auditing firms also boosting their presence.
Consultant companies improved their net profit margin to 10.6 pct in 2006, from 8.5 pct in 2005, while long-term borrowing rose significantly. The average company almost doubled in the last five years, Kantor said in its report.
Kantor said it expected the public sector to remain a significant customer of the industry in the coming years and noted that increased demand was also expected from the private sector.
 EU agriculture representative on Greek feta cheeseBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Michael Mann, the representative of European Union Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, referred here on Thursday to the Greek origin of "feta" cheese, stressing that the transitional period given to countries that produced and sold white cheese under the name of "feta" in the EU has expired on October 16, without any other further possibilities existing for exemption for those attempting to question the authenticity of Greek "feta."
However, called on to comment on the fact that white cheeses are continuing to be sold in the European market, that are not produced in Greece, under the name of "feta", Mann said that reports have not yet been submitted to the European Commission's relevant services.
 Intrakat company's consolidated turnover increases 56.1 percentThe Intrakat company's consolidated turnover increased by 56.1 percent during the first nine months of the current year, totaling 102.7 million euros from 65.8 million euros during the corresponding period in 2006.
The group's mixed profits increased by 174.9 percent and reached 10.8 million euros as against 3.9 million euros during the corresponding period last year. The mixed profit margin also improved and amounted to 10.5 percent of the consolidated turnover compared to 6 percent during the first nine months in 2006.
The group's total consolidated results before taxes, interest and depreciation (EBITDA) totalled 5.27 million euros in profits from losses amounting to 1.46 million euros in 2006.
 Retail sales index up 4.1 pct in September, yr/yrGreece's retail sales turnover index (in current prices) rose by 4.1 percent in September compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service announced on Thursday, reflecting a 6.7-pct increase in supermarket sales and an 1.9 pct rise in other retail sales in the month.
The statistics service said supermarket sales grew 7.8 pct in September, pharmaceutical-cosmetic sales were up 6.8 pct, department stores sales rose 5.2 pct, bookstore sales rose 2.7 pct and clothing-footwear sales were up 2.0 pct in the month. Sales of furniture, electrical appliances and home equipment fell 2.4 pct in September.
The retail sales volume index (turnover in stable prices) was up 0.5 pct in September, compared with the same month last year.
 Intracom Holdings cancels triple merger planIntracom Holdings on Thursday announced it was cancelling a triple merger plan between Unibrain, Hellas On Line and Teledome, after Intracom Holdings decided not to purchase the remaining 61 percent equity stake in Teledome.
In a statement to the Athens Stock Exchange, Intracom Holdings said its strategic goal continued to be the creation of a strong business group in the telecommunications services market.
 Greek stocks end 0.44 pct higherGreek stocks moved cautiously higher on Thursday after Wednesday's sharp advance. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange rose 0.44 pct to end at 4,973.59 points with turnover a heavy 548.5 million euros, of which 75.2 million were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher with the Utilities (4.43 pct), Commerce (3.35 pct) and Telecommunications (1.93 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Oil (0.69 pct), Raw Materials (0.62 pct0 and Insurance (0.44 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index rose 0.70 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.50 pct higher and the Small Cap index was unchanged at Wednesday's closing levels.
Lamda Development (13.7 pct), Kego (8.14 pct) and Varagis (8.13 pct) were top gainers, while Tria Alpha (8.77 pct), Dromeas (7.43 pct) and Desmos (6.90 pct) were top losers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 138 to 114 with another 57 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.69%
Personal & Household: +0.60%
Raw Materials: -0.69%
Travel & Leisure: +0.37%
Food & Beverages: -0.24%
Financial Services: +0.76%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, DEH, OTE and Marfin Popular Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 22.90
Public Power Corp (PPC): 32.50
HBC Coca Cola: 27.12
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.38
Emporiki Bank: 20.50
National Bank of Greece: 43.50
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 23.72
Titan Cement Company: 30.52
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended Thursday's session with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange while turnover was a strong 210.408 million euros. The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.59 pct and the December contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.58 percent.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 12,241 contracts worth 161.485 million euros, with 32,335 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 256 contracts worth 10.964 million euros, with 853 open positions. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,857 contracts worth 25.758 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (2,993), followed by Marfin Investment Group (1,595), PPC (750), National Bank (1,159), Alpha Bank (2,086), Intracom (935) and ATEbank (472).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 1.339 billion euros on Thursday, of which 570 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 769 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 455 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds widened to 0.35 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.43 percent and the German Bund 4.09 percent.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 4.02 percent from 3.97 pct on Wednesday, the two-day rate was 4.02 percent, the one-month rate rose to 4.85 pct from 4.17 pct and the 12-month rate rose to 4.75 pct from 4.65 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.485
Pound sterling 0.720
Danish kroner 7.517
Swedish kroner 9.443
Japanese yen 163.56
Swiss franc 1.663
Norwegian kroner 8.157
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.472
Australian dollar 1.685
 Culture minister meets with Italian ambassadorCulture Minister Michalis Liapis on Wednesday discussed all aspects of bilateral cultural cooperation between Greece and Italy, duing a meeting in Athens with Italian ambassador to Athens Gianpaolo Scarante.
The two sides agreed that negotiations for renewal of an education cooperation pact should start as soon as possible, in order to include scientific cooperation.
Talks also focused on a likely visit by Liapis to Italy, where he will have meetings with his Italian counterpart Francesco Rutelli and Youth and Sport Minister Giovanna Melandri.
The Italian ambassador outlined the cultural initiatives Italy will undertake in Greece next year, including an exhibition in Athens featuring works by Tiziano Vecelli, better known as Titian, and an exhibition dedicated to Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki.
 Papoulias to visit Patras, ancient OlympiaGreek President Karolos Papoulias will visit the western port city of Patras on Friday on the occasion of the feast day of the city's patron saint, Apostolos Andreas (St. Andrew).
In a ceremony at city hall, Papoulias will be proclaimed honorary citizen of Patras and afterwards he is scheduled to inaugurate an Epirus cultural centre.
In the afternoon on the same day, Papoulias will tour the archaeological site of ancient Olympia.
 17 people, including HS pupils, charged in relation to school's vandalismSeventeen people have been charged with multiple misdemeanors related to extensive destruction and vandalism at a historic high school in the east Athens district of Pangrati during a wave of student sit-ins this past month.
An Athens prosecutor filed charges against 14 pupils, 13 of whom are minors, as well as against two individuals still at large and an 18-year-old who will go on trial.
An indictment reportedly includes depositions given by parents, teachers and the school facility's administrators.
 Thessaloniki man linked with anti-state violence remanded to custodyA 26-year-old Thessaloniki man was ordered remanded to custody on Thursday on numerous felony charges, including engaging in terrorist acts, as authorities claim the college student is part of a self-styled underground cell in the area responsible for firebombings, with a car dealership being the most recent target.
The urban terrorism link reportedly stems from the discovery of a proclamation in the man's residence and a similar copy on his PC resembling a text discovered last month claiming responsibility for the torching of three power utility vehicles. Last month's attacks were carried out by the so-called "anti-state brigade of conscience".
Another three suspects - two men and a woman aged between 25 and 30 - are wanted in connection with car dealership incident and in previous firebombings of ATMs in Thessaloniki - as "cashpoints" are a favourite target of self-styled anarchist and anti-state cells in the country.
A total of 11 home-made incendiary devices were used in the car dealership attack on Monday.
 ND students group attends meeting of European Democrat StudentsFollowing an intervention by the New Democracy (ND)-affiliated students group (DAP-NDFK), a text by the delegation of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which referred to the country as "Macedonia" instead of FYROM, was withdrawn from the European People's Party's "European Democrat Students" (EDS) Council meeting.
The EDS's meeting - at which DAP holds the vice-presidency - was held in Gimaraes, Portugal, on the theme "The challenges for education after the Lisbon Treaty".
 Scattered showers, storms on FridayScattered showers and storms with southerly, southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 03C and 20C. Scattered showers with the possibility of storms in Athens, with southwesterly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 07C to 15C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 07C to 12C.
 President Papadopoulos says no official initiative for Cyprus settlementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos said on Thursday that the government did not have any official proposal for a new initiative for a Cyprus settlement after the presidential elections, noting that there was however information regarding mobility on the matter.
Speaking at Larnaca Airport on his return from Athens and asked about a new initiative on the Cyprus problem, President Papadopoulos said ''it is information, it is statements, press reports, and everyone is speaking about mobility.''
''I am not aware of a specific initiative. There is nothing concrete,'' President Papadopoulos pointed out.
Replying to questions, President Papadopoulos said that there was a possibility for a window of opportunity to appear, based on press reports, diplomatic sources and the UN Secretary General's recent report, adding that there was a long distance between these remarks and an initiative.
Commenting on reactions by the Turkish occupation regime regarding the purchase of products by Turkish Cypriots in the government-controlled areas of the Republic, President Papadopoulos said the Greek Cypriot side permitted free trade, while the occupation regime imposed restrictions.
''The economic active between the two communities is totally free from our side. If there are any restrictions there are imposed by the occupation regime for its own reasons and it would be good for those speaking about free trade to know that trade is not one-way. It involves both sides and not one side forbidding it and us leaving it free,'' he said.
President Papadopoulos added that the measures taken by the occupation regime to restrict the purchases made by Turkish Cypriots in the government-controlled areas was ''an answer to those who say that the Turkish Cypriots are in economic isolation.''
''If there is isolation it is isolation imposed by the occupation troops and the efforts of the Turkish Cypriots to project that they are a separate legal entity in Cyprus,'' the President pointed out.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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