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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-08-02

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Tuesday, 2 August 2011 Issue No: 3853


  • [01] EU eases access to structural funds for Greece
  • [02] Greece welcomes Commission's decision to boost EU funds to Greece
  • [03] Foreign Minister meets UK counterpart in London
  • [04] Gov't to take action on taxi strike - New meeting with minister fruitless - Hoteliers to take legal action
  • [05] Dispute between taxi owners, government escalates
  • [06] Taxi owners blockade tolls at Rio-Antirrio bridge
  • [07] Striking taxi owners in Ioannina purportedly vandalise PASOK MPs' offices
  • [08] ND leader Samaras presents proposals on tourism
  • [09] Finmin briefed KKE leader on economy, privatisations
  • [10] Justice minister request additional space for first-instance courts
  • [11] New Financial Police department inaugurated
  • [12] Press conference by staff at state agencies facing mergers or closure
  • [13] Dialogue opens on tax reform
  • [14] Finance ministry begins dialogue on drastic reform of tax legislation
  • [15] Proton Bank says in full cooperation with supervisory authorities
  • [16] Greek govt to offer low-interest lending to exporters
  • [17] Greek PMI eases further in July
  • [18] Purchasing activity by Greek manufacturers fell further.
  • [19] Warning strike by tourism, catering staff over pension changes
  • [20] Business Briefs
  • [21] Greek stocks end 1.78 pct down
  • [22] ADEX closing report
  • [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [24] Four arrested in connection with kidnapping case
  • [25] Wildfire in Ioannina partially under control, arson confirmed
  • [26] Forest fire reported on Zakynthos island
  • [27] Forest fire in Asprogia, Farsala
  • [28] 2nd Hip Hop Festival in Tripolis
  • [29] Woman fatally injured by train at crossing
  • [30] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [31] UN look forward to progress in the talks until October 21st, Downer says Politics

  • [01] EU eases access to structural funds for Greece

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Spinthourakis)

    The European Commission on Monday announced faster and easier access to community funds for Greece and other five European Union member-states, in a move aimed at stimulating their economies. The EU's executive arm said it wanted to increase the level of EU funding of projects in Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, as well as in Romania, Latvia and Hungary, to help boost growth in those countries. Under the proposal, the EU's co-financing rate on various structural projects will be raised to 95 pct from 85 pct, meaning the recipient countries would only have to provide only a small part.

    [02] Greece welcomes Commission's decision to boost EU funds to Greece

    "Europe today, with Mr. Barroso's comments, showed its solidarity to Greece," Greek Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis said on Monday. Speaking to reporters, commenting on a decision by the European Commission to lower national participation to co-financed structural programs, the Greek minister noted that the support program for Greece was steadily transforming into a recovery plan for the ecoomy. Greece has not the ability to save significant funds. This means we save national funds to use through more flexible channels for the financing of the real economy and at the same time speed up absorption rates of EU funds. "We move steadily and with determination towards the recovery of the Greek economy," he said.

    [03] Foreign Minister meets UK counterpart in London

    LONDON (ANA-MPA - L. Tsirigotakis)

    Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis on Monday had a working dinner with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London.

    In statements after the meeting, Lambrinidis said they discussed a broad range of issues that included the financial crisis in Greece and the Eurozone, the Balkans, the situation in the Middle East with emphasis on Syria and Libya and Turkey's EU accession progress.

    Concerning Turkey, the minister said he had an opportunity to outline the problems generated by the recent statements of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey's President Abdullah Gul, asking Britain to also exert pressure on Turkey to change and follow the dictates of Europe, rather than its own inclinations.

    "It was a very constructive meeting in a very friendly climate and I hope to continue it when Mr. Hague visits our country in the coming months," Lambrinidis added.

    Hague said his meeting with the Greek minister had been very productive and had covered some pressing issues, such as the crisis in the Eurozone.

    He praised for the efforts of the Greek government and the sacrifices made by the Greek people, adding that Britain had a huge interest in a stable Eurozone.

    Hague noted London's satisfaction with the Eurozone's agreement for a second bailout package for Greece on July 21 and said his talks with Lambrinidis also covered broader economic issues, such as the importance of developing trade within Europe and outside European borders for the benefit of European economies in the future.

    They also discussed the diplomatic effort for peace in the Middle East, with Hague expressing London's concern over the situation in Syria.

    On Monday morning, Lambrinidis gave an interview to the BBC programme "Hard Talk".

    [04] Gov't to take action on taxi strike - New meeting with minister fruitless - Hoteliers to take legal action

    The government said on Monday that it would take an initiative concerning the ongoing strike by taxi owners, which has entered its fourth week.

    "We will safeguard the public interest," government spokesman Elias Mossialos said on private VIMA FM radio station, but declined to reveal the steps the government was mulling because "we are already in the process of dialogue".

    Mossialos made a new appeal to taxi owners to put an end to their "incomprehensible" moblisations as the government has called for dialogue to find a solution that would lead to the deregulation of the profession.

    He said the mobilisations by the cab owners should have already stopped, and warned that the strikers have surpassed all boundaries.

    Mossialos further criticised main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras of calling for an end to the mobilisations, which greatly hurt the Greek economy, "with great delay".

    Meanwhile, a new meeting earlier in the day between a delegation of the striking cab owners and transport minister Yiannis Ragussis once again ended in a stalemate.

    According to sources, both sides insisted on their positions, with the cab owners demanding population criteria to be taken into consideration in the issue of the taxi licences, while the minister reiterated that he will submit his own proposals by the end of the month and dialogue would take place on the basis of those proposals.

    The sources said that Ragoussis warned the strikers that the state will take steps to deal with their "extreme actions" throughout the country, noting that orders have been given to police and judicial authorities to intervene in instances of obstruction of traffic.

    Striking taxi owners have been blockading the country's ports and airports, and on Monday launched a blockade of the tolls on both sides of the Rio-Antirrio bridge linking the Peloponnese with northwestern Greece, saying they are determined to escalate their mobilisations.

    Federation of Attica Taxi Owners (SATA) president Thymios Lymberopoulos said Monday that the owners have decided to stage a 48-hour protest outside the ministry, on central Messogion Avenue, where a strong police force has been deployed to avert violence.

    Culture and tourism minister Pavlos Geroulanos warned on Monday that the taxi owners' mobilisations were a problem for tourism, which is currently at peak season. "With every extreme moblisation, what the taxi owners' achieve is society turning its back on them," he said.

    Also, the Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers (POX) said Monday that its legal consultants have drawn up a draft lawsuit text that has been sent to all its member associations throughout Greece, to be filed by the member associations with the local judicial authorities wherever unlawful actions are committed.

    "Let's all take into account, even at this late hour, that by shooting our own legs we may finally succeed in committing suicide...", POX said in an announcement, adding that the federation could no longer sit and watch this systematic "demolition" of Greek tourism's reputation and image.

    It said that the conditions faced by Greek and foreign visitors and travelers to many tourist destinations "are pictures of shame and degradation that are unacceptable for a country in which a major part of the economy is founded on tourism, an industry that creates and maintains thousands of jobs -- including the taxi sector ".

    [05] Dispute between taxi owners, government escalates

    The dispute between the government and striking taxi owners escalated to open warfare on Monday, with the protests becoming more hardline and dozens of key roads, airports and ports throughout the country in a state of siege.

    A second meeting on Monday morning between Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Yiannis Ragoussis with representatives of the taxi owners national federation SATA again resulted in deadlock.

    A statement by SATA President Thymios Lymberopoulos that Ragoussis had left open the possibility of applying population criteria to determine the number of licences issued was later denied by the ministry, which noted that this would not act to liberalise the sector.

    In spite of the increasing cost of the protest to the sensitive tourism sector, the ministry adopted a hardline stance on Monday and called on law enforcement authorities to strictly implement laws and penalties for those obstructing traffic and transportation. In addition to prosecution, these call for removing driving licences or vehicle registration plates for up to a year.

    Taxi owners are equally adamant, refusing to budge from their demands and suspend protests in order to hold dialogue with the government.

    Ragoussis is due to brief the appropriate Parliamentary committee concerning the dispute with taxi owners on Tuesday, at the request of main opposition New Democracy and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party MPs.

    Throughout Greece, taxi owners were on Monday adopting increasingly extreme forms of protest against the government's planned liberalisation of their sector, with their national union SATA apparently unable - or unwilling - to exercise control over their actions at a local level.

    Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis noted that more than 80 prosecutions involving 6,500 taxi owners were underway and stressed that the police would do their duty and not allow anyone to close roads, ports and airports with impunity.

    Ragoussis also indicated, in his talks with SATA on Monday, that dialogue could not take place at the same time as extreme protests that held society and the tourism sector hostage.

    This did not deter taxi owners from blocking access to the Rio-Antirrio bridge or the Athens-Corinth national highway at Rio, causing kilometre-long queues to form as motorists tried to carry out the crossing in the few remaining ferry boats or by using the old national highway.

    In Iraklion, Crete taxi owners set up a picket outside the airport to prevent vehicles entering and there were clashes with police, who used tear gas to disperse them. On the island of Corfu, taxi owners blockaded both the airport and the port in order to prevent tourist coaches from picking up cruise passengers visiting the island, in Thessaloniki they marched through the city centre, on the island of Samos and in Kalamata, southern Peloponnese they occupied the local tax office and looted the offices of a local PASOK MP, while there were reports of damage caused by taxi owners at the offices of two PASOK MPs in Ioannina.

    The protests and mobilisations are having a devastating effect on tourism, according to tourist-sector enterprises. They report that 15 percent of tourists that would have visited Greece on cruises over the summer period have now changed destinations and are visiting Turkey or Spain instead.

    [06] Taxi owners blockade tolls at Rio-Antirrio bridge

    Striking taxi owners in Achaia and surrounding regions on Monday launched a blockade of the tolls on both sides of the Rio-Antirrio bridge linking the Peloponnese with northwestern Greece.

    The cab owners, currently in their fourth week of strikes and other protest actions, announced on Sunday that they had decided an indefinite blockade of the tolls on the bridge, staring on Monday morning at 8:00 a.m., and of the road tolls at Rio on the Patras-Corinth stretch of the national highway.

    On Sunday, taxi owners in the area had allowed motorists to go through the tolls on the bridge and at Rio without paying.

    Traffic from Patras to Corinth was currently being conducted on the old national highway via the Rio and Selianitika passes, while vehicles and passengers were also using ferry boat service.

    [07] Striking taxi owners in Ioannina purportedly vandalise PASOK MPs' offices

    Striking taxi owners reportedly caused extensive damage to the offices of ruling PASOK MPs Michalis Pantoulas and Thanassis Economou in the northern Greek town of Ioannina on Monday.

    According to reports, the strikers left their taxis in the central square and then marched to the MPs' offices.

    The MPs were not in the offices at the time, but the secretaries who were there told police that the cab owners broke PCs in the office and caused other material damage.

    The president of the local taxi owners' union condemned the incident, and spoke of individuals who were out of control.

    [08] ND leader Samaras presents proposals on tourism

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras proposed on Monday the establishment of a national council on tourism.

    Samaras also asked the government to take "drastic initiatives" for the sensitive sector of tourism.

    "Because we are hearing a lot about 'consensus' and we are often observing the government trying, through patch-up jobs, to solve serious problems, we are proposing today a simple step of consensus: We are inviting it (the government) to take an initiative for a 'National Council on Tourism' among parties, social partners and collective agencies of the sector," Samaras said in a statement.

    The ND leader's proposals also include the creation of an independent tourism ministry, the establishment of a marketing business society, jointly by the public and the private sectors, the introduction of reduced and competitive VAT rates for the tourist industry and fighting bureaucratic procedures.

    [09] Finmin briefed KKE leader on economy, privatisations

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Monday had a meeting with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos in order to be briefed on planned privatisations and the recent decisions of the Eurozone summit for further financial assistance to Greece.

    "Our positions that working people will pay for the crisis are confirmed," Papariga said after the meeting, held at her own request.

    "In our view there is a controlled default with partial depreciation and partial devaluation that will not work and we will have a new devaluation wave in coming years," she added.

    She also underlined her parties strenuous objections to the privatisations, especially for strategic utilities, and of the sale of land.

    Papariga said that her party did not support calls for a united "anti-Memorandum front" called for by other political forces and also disagreed with any kind of referendum, noting that the government was using this to entrap voters.

    "Instead of a referendum, we seek elections," she said.

    [10] Justice minister request additional space for first-instance courts

    Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou on Monday sent letters to Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Defence Minister Panos Beglitis, asking for the use of buildings in order to house and expand the services of the Athens first-instance court and relocate the Piraeus court houses.

    Papaioannou has asked for the old 'Keranis' tobacco warehouses on Thivon street to house the Piraeus courthouses, which are currently renting additional buildings at a cost of one million euro a year.

    The minister has also asked to be given use of the building now housing the National Defence Academy in order to create additional courtrooms at the Athens first-instance court, since current facilities were inadequate and did not allow the "expected and required quality" in the administration of justice.

    [11] New Financial Police department inaugurated

    The new department of Financial Police and Prosecution of Electronic Crime was inaugurated at the police headquarters in Athens on Monday.

    Protection of the Citizen Minister Christos Papoutsis said that the government was determined to fight corruption.

    "The government is determined. Society is also determined and demands transparency, controls, attribution of responsibilities and punishment of those responsible. The mission of this new Greek Police service is to confirm and certify this choice. That there is no margin any more for corruption, that the state does not favour anyone, that everybody is responsible to function in this direction, in the direction of restoring our country's prestige but also the Greek economy's force, " the minister said.

    [12] Press conference by staff at state agencies facing mergers or closure

    Representatives of staff at the state broadcaster ERT and in another 11 of 40 public-sector agencies that are to be merged or closed will hold a press conference at the offices of the Athens Journalists' Union ESHEA on Tuesday to announce what action they will take in response to the government's plans.

    Financial News

    [13] Dialogue opens on tax reform

    The government is open to discussing changes in every chapter of taxation (income tax, VAT, real estate tax, etc.), finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Monday, inaugurating a dialogue on reform of the taxation system.

    Venizelos said that there will be no predispositions in the dialogue, but stressed that in all instances any changes made must have zero impact on tax revenues, in other words, the measures that will result in a loss of revenues to the state must be counterbalanced by other measures that will balance the losses.

    He announced that the political parties and relevant agencies must submit their proposals to the ministry's e-mail address by August 22, so that a preliminary draft that will serve as the starting point for the dialogue may be completed by September 15.

    The government intends to table the taxation bill with all the changes in October, together with the draft 2012 budget, Venizelos added.

    Representatives of the political parties and the social partners have been invited to take part in the dialogue.

    [14] Finance ministry begins dialogue on drastic reform of tax legislation

    The Greek government will examine lowering tax rates for individuals and enterprises, cutting VAT and property taxes during a dialogue on tax reform which officially started on Monday. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos presented the framework of the tax reform and said that changes in taxation will have no effect on revenues, which means that lowering tax burdens will be accompanied by interventions to cover any such losses.

    Finance Deputy Minister Pantelis Economou, said reforms will focus mainly on reorganizing the structure of Finance ministry, lowering VAT rates and cutting tax burden in the home building sector focusing on revitalizing the real estate market.

    Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, commenting on VAT rates said: "If we adopt two VAT rates, 10 pct and 20 pct, this will mean a revenue loss of 1.8 billion euros. Therefore, any proposal must be accompanied by a guarantee of equal result as we do not have the room to miss any of our targets". On capital taxation, Venizelos said that based on 2009 figures, real estate property owned by individuals, was worth 400 billion euros, or 170 pct of GDP. "We can understand what a fair taxation on property would bring," he added. On income taxes, he said the government would like to adopt a fairer tax policy and said that corporate taxation was also on the agenda.

    Venizelos said the finance ministry was checking bank transactions more than 100,000 euros and credit cards issued by banks abroad. Commenting on outstanding debt to the state, Venizelos said that new stricter rules -including jail terms - mainly concerned those with outstanding debt of more than 100,000 euros.

    A dialogue with social agencies will continue until August 22. The government expects to have finalize its draft plan by September 15 and to present draft legislation by early October.

    [15] Proton Bank says in full cooperation with supervisory authorities

    Proton Bank on Monday said that an inspection by the Bank of Greece over an embezzlement case worth 51 million euros, which allegedly includes the participation of ex-members of its board, does not seem to cover the bank's assets and said its new board was in constant contact and cooperation with supervisory authorities, ready to take any initiative necessary to prevent or suppress any illegal act.

    In a statement, the bank said its board and workers were continuing their efforts to strengthen the bank within a difficult period for the country and the banking system, with preparations over an equity capital increase -worth 100 million euros- was currently at its last stage. Proton Bank said the plan was expected to be approved in the next few days.

    [16] Greek govt to offer low-interest lending to exporters

    The Greek government will launch a program aimed at supporting Greek exporters this month. The program, by the Organization of Export Credit Insurance (OAEP), offers lending to exporting businesses at very favourable terms, the Regional Development, Competitiveness and Shipping ministry said on Monday.

    A number of Greek banks -Alpha Bank, Eurobank, Attica Bank, Marfin Bank, Hellenic Postbank, Piraeus Bank, ATEbank, Emporiki Bank and National Bank- submitted offers to participating in the program, and the ministry said that first contracts between OAEP and the banks will begin signing within the next fortnight.

    The program ensures financing to Greek export companies up to 200,000 euros for a period of up to four months. The program will last for six months and could extend to 12 months. Greek exporters will be offered very attractive lending terms, with interest rates ranging from 6.1 pct to 7.8 pct, depending on the bank. OAEP will deposit a sum of 3.0 million euros initially, as a start up.

    [17] Greek PMI eases further in July

    Greece's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) eased to 45.2 points in July, from 45.5 in June, a sign of a steady deterioration of business conditions in the Greek manufacturing sector. Operating conditions continued to deteriorate in July, with production, new orders and employment falling significantly, while consumer confidence remained at low levels. The average performance of suppliers worsened again, while signs of a future recovery were very small. New orders fell again in July, remaining on a downward trend for the 23rd month in a row.

    On the other hand, demand for Greek products from abroad continued improving, with export new orders rising for the third consecutive month at the fastest pace since August 2008. Production in the manufacturing sector, however, fell significantly in July. Lower sales and shortages in raw materials were the main reasons for reduced production. Employment in the sector fell at the fastest pace in five months, while inventories fell significantly in July. Outflow prices fell for the fifth consecutive month in July as manufacturers tried to boost their sales.

    [18] Purchasing activity by Greek manufacturers fell further.

    The Purchasing Managers' Index measures business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing economy, while readings below 50 reflect shrinking activity.

    [19] Warning strike by tourism, catering staff over pension changes

    Workers in tourism and catering sectors have announced a 24-hour warning strike on August 23, in protest against proposals to have them struck off a list of jobs classed as heavy and hazardous to health. The change will affect their rights to earlier pensions.

    The national federation will also hold a meeting next Monday to decide whether to escalate their action.

    [20] Business Briefs

    DEPA, Greece's Natural Gas Enterprise, on Monday said its volume of sales grew 20.83 pct in the first half of 2011 to 23.3 million euros, while sales turnover totaled 754.2 million euros, up 28.27 pct compared with the same period last year. DEPA also announced that pre-tax profits jumped 86.73 pct to 129.3 million euros.

    Hellenic Cables on Monday announced the acquisition of Fulgor SA for an undisclosed sum. An Hellenic Cables announcement said the acquisition will strengthen the export activity of the group while it will enrich its high added value product portfolio.

    [21] Greek stocks end 1.78 pct down

    Greek stocks ended significantly lower on the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, as sellers gained the upper hand later in the session, ignoring a positive climate prevailing in other European markets. Traders said the market focused more on capital increase plans by Greek banks following a Greek bond swap program. The composite index of the market fell 1.78 pct to end at 1,182.76 points, after rising as much as 1.72 pct during the day. Turnover remained a disappointing low 51.805 million euros.

    The Big Cap index fell 2.08 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.09 pct lower and the Small Cap index ended 1.62 pct down. Viohalco (0.72 pct), Titan (0.49 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (0.31 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while OTE (6.36 pct), Marfin Popular Bank (5.77 pct) and Hellenic Postbank (3.97 pct) were top losers. The Insurance (6.25 pct), Media (2.27 pct) and Financial Services (0.67 pct) sectors scored gains, while Telecoms (6.36 pct), Health (3.92 pct) and Banks (2.31 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 80 to 50 with another 60 issues unchanged. Koumbas Holdings (12.5 pct), Kepenous Mills (9.76 pct) and Alumil (8.33 pct) were top gainers, while Proton Bank (17.54 pct), Eurobrokers (16.67 pct) and Alapis (11.11 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +6.25%

    Industrials: -0.85%

    Commercial: -0.05%

    Construction: -0.17%

    Media: +2.27%

    Oil & Gas: -0.25%

    Personal & Household: -0.74%

    Raw Materials: -0.86%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.31%

    Technology: -0.98%

    Telecoms: -6.36%

    Banks: -2.31%

    Food & Beverages: -1.88%

    Health: -3.92%

    Utilities: -1.89%

    Chemicals: Unchanged

    Financial Services: .+0.67%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and HBC Coca Cola.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 3.04

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 8.40

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.70

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.44

    National Bank of Greece: 4.60

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 2.64

    OPAP: 11.40

    OTE: 5.45

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.89

    Titan: 14.40

    [22] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.13 pct in the Athens Derivaties Exchange on Monday, with turnover shrinking to a low 14.378 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,721 contracts worth 9.793 million euros, with 29,932 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,608 contracts worth 4.584 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,457), followed by Eurobank (1,623), OTE (498), PPC (493), Piraeus Bank (597), Alpha Bank (1,066), Marfin Popular Bank (338), Cyprus Bank (378), ATEbank (1,668) and Metka (302).

    [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.463

    Pound sterling 0.892

    Danish kroner 7.561

    Swedish kroner 9.142

    Japanese yen 112.5

    Swiss franc 1.143

    Norwegian kroner 7.808

    Canadian dollar 1.391

    Australian dollar 1.323

    General News

    [24] Four arrested in connection with kidnapping case

    The Greek Police Crimes Against Life Department on Monday announced that they had cracked a kidnapping case that took place in Attica last May when a 67-year-old doctor was taken and held for ransom. They said that five suspects had been identified, of which four had been arrested in neighbouring Bulgaria and were due to be extradited to Greece.

    The four men arrested were all of Albanian nationality, aged 20, 22, 23 and 28 years old, respectively.

    The 67-year-old was taken captive while cultivating a plot of land in Stamata and taken to a remote location deep in a forest at Agios Merkourios where his captives had set up a space where he would be kept hostage.

    The kidnappers left him there and he was found by police after his family had paid a ransom of 1,360,800 euro that had been left in another remote, uninhabited location in Attica.

    A police investigation quickly uncovered the identity of the suspects, who had fled to Albania on the day after they released their victim. International arrest warrants were issued and Greek police officers went to Albania, where in collaboration with local police forces they continued their search.

    They tracked the suspects and discovered that they had left on a charter flight to Turkey on July 8, on holiday at a luxury hotel on the Turkish coast. They did not return to Albania as planned but continued their holiday by visiting Istanbul, where they stayed at more luxury hotels.

    The four suspects were finally arrested on July 30 as they crossed the borders of Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The process for their extradition to Greece has already begun.

    [25] Wildfire in Ioannina partially under control, arson confirmed

    The Ioannina fire brigade on Monday announced that a fire on Mount 'Mitsikeli' that had been burning since the previous day was now partially under control.

    The fire started out in an area known as Kranoula and swept across the entire mountainside, reaching the summit and passing over the other side to the picturesque, pine-covered slopes of the Zagori district.

    A helicopter has been dousing the fire with water since this morning and a strong force on foot has been continuing efforts to get the fire completely under control. Flames have rekindled in some of the areas of Kranoula that are already burnt but these are not viewed with concern by fire-fighters.

    The fire brigade has confirmed that the cause of the fire was arson, following the discovery of a fire-setting mechanism. Fire brigade investigators and the police also have several leads concerning the identity of the culprit, including his description.

    Important evidence concerning the identity of the culprit was supplied by a hang-glider who was in the area at the time the fire broke out and was able to give several clues that will help to locate and arrest him.

    [26] Forest fire reported on Zakynthos island

    A forest fire broke out early on Monday afternoon in the region Volimes on the Ionian island of Zakynthos. Eleven firemen and five vehicles were sent to put out the blaze, assisted by one fire brigade helicopter. No homes were reported at risk but fire-fighters were struggling to control the blaze because of brisk force 5 winds.

    [27] Forest fire in Asprogia, Farsala

    A fire broke out late on Monday afternoon in forest at Asprogia, Farsala. A force of 25 firemen, nine vehicles and an 18-man team on foot was sent to put out the blaze, assisted by two fire brigade aircraft. No residences were threatened and winds were of low intensity. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

    [28] 2nd Hip Hop Festival in Tripolis

    The 2nd Hip Hop Festival, marking the 40th anniversary of the Hip Hop culture, will be held on Sunday, August 28, in Areos Square in Tripolis, sponsored by the local municipality.

    The purpose of the Festival is to present the four elements of Hip Hop culture -- break dance, graffiti, mc-ing and dj-ing.

    Break dance will be represented by the group Breakers without Feat, with choreographies from Athens. Noted Jasone from Thessaloniki and Answer and Crisis from Athens will do the graffiti presentation.

    Mc-ing will be represented with songs by Flow job, 6aria, Mystiki Syntagi (Secret Recipe) and Afro Cream from Athens.

    Featured djs will be Rebel-oz and dj Skinny.

    [29] Woman fatally injured by train at crossing

    A 27-year-old woman was killed on Sunday evening as she ran through the bars of a train crossing near Trikala with her moped.

    According to a police announcement on Monday, the young woman was hit by an oncoming OSE train, causing her fatal injury.

    The local traffic police are investigating the circumstances of the accident.

    [30] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The Troika supervision on Greece for implementation of the Memorandum and the ongoing taxi owners' strike were the main front-age items in Athens' dailies on Monday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Go-slow strike by civil servants - Protest over new cuts in benefits - They will be on the job, but will not be working".

    AVRIANI: "Yellow 'jihad' (taxis) paralyzes government and causes stroke in tourism".

    DIMOKRATIA: "German administrator above even George (prime minister Papandreou) - Greece's new administrator arriving in Athens to take up duties as of September 1)".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Government begging for consensus and exorcises early elections".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "New cut in pensions, and extra contributions for salary earners".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The murky paths of millions, with insufficient controls".

    ESTIA: "The government improvising from its first day in office".

    ETHNOS: "Scrutiny for directors in public sector".

    IMERISSIA: "Plan to reduce taxes on incomes, profits, VAT".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "In flagrante court as of today for overdue debts to state".

    TA NEA: "The prosecutor's hour - Taxi owners continue their extreme mobilisations".

    VRADYNI: "New criteria for unemployment benefit - Drastic reduction of beneficiaries".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [31] UN look forward to progress in the talks until October 21st, Downer says


    UN SG Special Adviser on the Cyprus problem, Alexander Downer said on Monday that the UN work hard to try to help the parties in Cyprus to achieve a "good agreement" on the Cyprus problem, in consistence with Security Council resolutions.

    He added that if there is real progress between now and October 21st, this would have a positive impact on public confidence as well.

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu met UN SG Ban Ki-moon in Geneva, on July 7th, and according to Ban's statement after the meeting, they agreed to enter into an intensive period of negotiations on the core issues of the Cyprus problem, to achieve convergences before meeting again in New York, in October.

    Speaking to the press after meeting with President of the Republic Demetris Christofias, ahead of Tuesday's new round of intensive talks, Downer said that "it is important that we really invest time and energy in the talks this week and we hope that these will be productive".

    Invited to comment on Turkish prime minister's recent statements on the Cyprus issue, Downer said that "we don't get into commentary on everything everybody says on the way through", adding that "it wouldn't make sense if we set our souls as commentators on everything every prime minister in the region says".

    During an illegal visit to the occupied areas of Cyprus on July 20, Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan ruled out the return to the Greek Cypriots the Turkish occupied areas of Morphou and Karpass, in the context of an overall political settlement.

    "When we get to these issues of property and territory, all these questions will be discussed", Downer said.

    Commenting on the current economic and political situation in Cyprus and how it affects the course of the direct talks, Downer said that "out of crisis comes an opportunity", adding that "it is important when things do go wrong to try to turn that adversity into opportunity as best as you can".

    "For Cyprus going through some difficult times, it would be a wonderful thing if people could feel that there is some real progress being made towards a solution, that's where we put our energy, the UN, and we hope that as time goes on we can spread some good news about the talks and the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem", Downer said.

    Asked whether President Christofias is capable of turning the crisis into an opportunity, given the domestic political situation, Downer expressed the opinion that "if the talks can go well, if we can make some real progress over the next few weeks particularly between now and the 21st of October, then that would be very positive and it would have a positive impact on public confidence as well".

    He said that people are sad and depressed because of what happened on July 11 , saying that "the President and the government has to try to solve the Cyprus problem".

    "A solution has been elusive a long time and it is important that everything be done to try to achieve a successful solution to this problem", he noted.

    Thirteen people were killed and dozens were injured when a massive explosion occurred at the naval base "Evangelos Florakis", near Limassol, on the southern coast, in the early hours of July 11th. The blast badly damaged the island's main power plant, at Vasiliko, resulting in daily power cuts.

    The blast occurred in containers, full of munitions, which Cyprus had confiscated from ''Monchegorsk'', a vessel sailing from Iran to Syria in 2009. Nicosia was acting in accordance with UN sanctions against Teheran.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Peace talks aim at a negotiated settlement that will reunite the country, under a federal roof.

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