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Cosmote helps OTE profits March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Telecoms.
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Greece’s largest telecom group Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, OTE, soon to be 20 percent-owned by Deutsche Telekom, grew profit by 15 percent last year, with mobile and Internet operations providing the bulk of earnings.

OTE increased its stake in its Cosmote mobile phone unit to 99 percent and focused on the Internet to offset a continuing fall in income from fixed-line telephony as Greece deregulates its telecom market. The strategy may pay off – revenue from mobiles and fast Internet ADSL take-up was significantly higher than income from OTE’s fixed-line operations.

“The full integration of Cosmote… puts us in a much better position to benefit from the growing convergence between fixed, mobile and broadband,” said OTE President and CEO Panagis Vourloumis in a statement. “The nature of our competition is changing and intensifying throughout our markets.”

The total number of ADSL subscribers in the country doubled to about 1.1 million customers, OTE said.

OTE said net 2007 profit rose to 662.6 million euro compared with 575 million a year earlier, with sales up 7.3 percent to 6.32 billion. Cosmote’s contribution to the top line was about 3.06 billion for the year. “Without Cosmote’s strong 2007 performance the results would have been worse,” said an Athens-based analyst who declined to be named. “The increase in mobile users is one key to future growth, which is also why Deutsche Telekom is interested in OTE.”

On Monday, Deutsche Telekom said it had agreed to buy a 20 percent stake in the Greek group with a view to increasing its holding as part of growth plans based on the acquisition of mobile phone companies. Deutsche Telekom is also seeking to buy part of the government’s 28 percent stake. Greek media have said Deutsche wants to lift its stake to about 30 percent.

OTE expects Cosmote, which will be delisted soon, to maintain its position as Greece’s market leader and sees the unit’s revenue for 2008 up by about 15 percent, helping offset a drop of about 4 to 5 percent in fixed-line revenue, it said.

Nicosia’s Ledra Street opening would shatter symbol of division March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Cyprus Occupied, Politics.
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Hopes remain high for Cyprus breakthrough if crossing is established

Peace talks… > Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, who is to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat today, said he is ready for peace talks but stressed that there can be no quick fix solution.

21-03-08_ledra_street_crossing.jpg  A Cypriot soldier stands guard by a temporary bulkhead at a Cypriot outpost next to the UN buffer zone that divides the Greek and Turkish Cypriot controlled areas of Nicosia.

The hustle and bustle of shoppers eyeing trendy boutiques on the southern side of Nicosia’s Ledra Street is not unlike what you would encounter in the commercial heart of any European city.

21-03-08_ledra_street1.jpg  Yet steps away from where couples huddle to sip coffee and buskers ply their trade stands an armed soldier guarding a barricade – a stark reminder that Nicosia remains Europe’s last divided capital in its last partitioned country.

Today, the island’s rival leaders are expected to agree on opening a crossing at Ledra Street – a deeply symbolic move that would give a lift to a fresh reunification drive. Up close, there is nothing remarkable about the 2.5 meter (8 foot) high barricade of aluminium and plastic boards.

21-03-08_ledra_street3.jpg  It certainly is less forbidding than the concrete wall torn down a year ago. But it rudely interrupts a vibrant street in the capital’s medieval core, shutting out a decaying no-man’s land of weed-strewn streets and crumbling buildings that slices the island into a Greek-Cypriot south and an occupied and military controlled Turkish-Cypriot north.

The UN-controlled buffer zone has been in limbo since 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a failed coup by supporters of uniting the island with Greece. And the Ledra Street barricade has been the most poignant symbol of the enduring separation between the once-warring communities.

Expectations are high that Greek-Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will jointly announce a Ledra opening today to serve as a springboard for the start of talks on breaking years of deadlock on reunification. On Wednesday, President Christofias said Greek Cypriots were «ready to proceed with the opening at Ledra Street.»

The buildup to a Ledra opening has attained an air of inevitability. Nicosia’s Mayor Eleni Mavrou repeatedly said a crossing could be readied within five days of an announcement, despite months of work to shore up derelict buildings on either side of the pedestrian walkway.

Even a key Greek-Cypriot objection to Turkish army patrols near a future crossing that scuttled previous attempts at an opening appears to have been overcome: Aides to Christofias and Talat suggested last week that Turkish troops would pull back enough to remain out of sight of the crossing.

21-03-08_ledra_street2.jpg  Another breach in the buffer zone would be nothing new – five crossings have opened since 2003 when Turkish Cypriots eased restrictions. Greek and Turkish Cypriots have since crisscrossed the divide hundreds of thousands of times, setting aside old trepidation and mistrust to see old friends and visit homes they had been barred from visiting for nearly three decades.

But a Ledra Street crossing would resonate most with Cypriots jaded after decades of stalemate and a heap of failed peace initiatives. That’s because Ledra’s mystique as the embodiment of division would be shattered – offering fresh hope for unification.

«It could serve as an ice breaker, I think we are able work things out with the Turkish Cypriots,» said Chrysanthos Trokkoudes, 69, whose health food store is a stone’s throw away from the barrier.

Ledra Street has been a symbol of separation since January 1964 when British peacekeepers laid barbed wire across the street between Nicosia’s Greek and Turkish Cypriot sectors after brokering a cease-fire agreement.

The street’s division was cemented in 1974 with the invasion. «A symbol of division may now turn out to become a symbol of reunification,» said veteran Turkish-Cypriot politician and former mayor of northern Nicosia Mustafa Akinci. Besides hope, a crossing would offer the tangible benefit of injecting new life in the old town nestled within 15th-century Venetian walls. Tourists and locals eager to satisfy their curiosity would boost commerce, especially in the less cosmopolitan Turkish-Cypriot north.

Peace deal seen to boost Cyprus tourism industry March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Cyprus Occupied, Politics, Tourism.
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Cyprus’s tourism industry would benefit from $300 million a year in additional revenues if a peace deal was hammered out, economists said yesterday.

Economists from the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides of the island said the sector would also stand to benefit from greater cooperation and economies of scale.

“Ninety-eight percent of the Turkish Cypriot respondents and 79 percent of the Greek Cypriot respondents see a win-win situation with a joint tourism industry,” The Management Center, an independent think tank, said in a news release.

Tourism is an important component of the economies of both Cypriot sides; it represents 14 percent of gross national product of Turkish Cypriots, and 12 percent of Greek Cypriots’ gross domestic product. Tourism revenues in the Greek-Cypriot part of the divided island were $2.73 billion last year. Revenues in the Turkish-Cypriot part were $328.8 million in 2005, the last year for which figures are available.

The survey, funded by the British Embassy in Cyprus, said Greek and Turkish Cypriot industry professionals regard the division as a negative factor for their businesses.

“Tourism professionals of the two sides believe that the continuation of the current political situation results in lost business opportunities, and is perceived as a lose situation, at least for their side,” the research team said.

Greece improves tourism ties with Moscow March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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Greece’s Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos had a very cordial meeting with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov in Russia.

Greece and the local authority of Moscow will sign a memorandum of cooperation in tourism probably in May, as agreed to yesterday by Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov. It follows a proposal by the Greek Minister which surprised Luzkov during the meeting held by the two men in the Russian capital, in the context of Spiliotopoulos’s visit to the international tourism exhibition MITT.

The Minister said tourism is Greece’s heavy industry, generating 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. But sea and the sun alone, he added, are not enough, for attracting visitors requires hard work, great effort, education and a strategy.

On the problem arising from the visas that Russians must obtain to visit Greece, Spiliotopoulos said it would be better if they were not required. He did however stress the rapid and efficient processing of applications with the Consulate in Moscow, which issues as many as 3,000 daily, delivered within 48 hours, while the Consulate in St Petersburg has them delivered the same day. Luzhkov thanked the Greek Embassy and Consulate for making it easier for his compatriots, while promising to do what he can to reduce bureaucracy for Greeks who wish to visit Russia.

Last year some 235,000 Russians visited Greece according to data from the Russian Tourism Organization. The Russian official accepted Spiliotopoulos’s proposal for Greek investors with expertise in building hotels and infrastructure to become active in Moscow and around the Black Sea, adding that there are at least 120 suitable plots in his city waiting to be utilized.

Spiliotopoulos also announced the tripling of funds for the promotion of Greek tourism in the Russian market this year, rising to 1 million euro from 350,000 spent last year. The Minister further invited Russian businesses and groups to invest in Greece, making special reference to the programs available through the Tourism Development Company for the utilization of public tourism property.

A Texas girl raises cash after last summer’s fires in Greece March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Hellenic Light Americas.
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Child moved by damage > Catherine Leffert, 10, who has contributed to the reforestation effort in fire-ravaged Greece.

Not all donations that poured into Greece after last summer’s fires were from overseas Greeks. Some came from total strangers to the country who were moved by the tragedies suffered by so many people. Ten-year-old Catherine Leffert of Dallas, Texas, who has no Greek background at all, read about the fires in a magazine.

“She was so moved that she cried,” said her mother Carla. “She felt particularly sorry for the elderly and the children.”

So Catherine decided to do something about it. She collected money by making small gifts to sell and also went door-to-door. After six months, she had 150 dollars. Her parents Jonathan and Carla Leffert, contacted the media-led organization “Reforestation Now!” which recommended the group “Plant Your Roots in Greece” which has conducted several reforestation drives around the country.

This week Catherine has had an opportunity to see the effects of the fires up close. She and her family are on holiday in Greece, and visited Ancient Olympia, where fires devastated large areas right up to the ancient site.

“I thought it was so, so sad,” Catherine told the local press yesterday. “The trees were like dead or gone.”

The Olympic Flame for the Beijing Olympics is to be lit in a traditional ceremony at the ancient site next Monday 24th March.

More firefighters are to be hired March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Greece News, Nature.
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Almost 7,000 firefighters are to be hired in the next few weeks

Some 5,500 seasonal firefighters will be hired on April 1 along with some 1,200 full-time firemen as Greece beefs up its fire defenses ahead of the summer.

Deputy Interior Minister Panayiotis Hinofotis informed a parliamentary committee yesterday about the hirings as he blamed the fire service’s poor performance during the wildfires last summer on a lack of coordination. “What was to blame last summer was a lack of coordination and the interventions by local officials that stemmed from ignorance or panic,” he said.

Greek bloggers fight for gay partnership equality March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life, Lifestyle, Politics, Religion & Faith.
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More than 200 weblogs have joined an initiative called Greek Bloggers Against Discrimination to campaign against proposed new legislation on domestic partnerships that excludes same-sex couples.

“This discriminatory project has been widely denounced not just by the LGBT community, but also Greek citizens from all walks of life who believe that it violates the Equality clause enshrined in our constitution, as well as the country’s European commitments,” the group said. “We ask our friends in Europe and around the world to help us achieve the widest possible publicity for these initiatives.”

Gay rights group Olke plans to lobby the Greek government and has slammed what they perceive as an unlawful draft bill. Greek government policy is still steadfastly anti-gay. Gay marriage has long been opposed and gays are still barred from entering the military. However, homosexuals in Greece are still seeking a greater voice within their country in recent years, which culminated in the first Gay Pride parade in 2005.

A Greek lesbian couple in Athens are due to attempt to marry in a civil ceremony in the country’s first same-sex marriage. The law does not explicitly proclaim a civil union must take place between a man and a woman and the couple are hoping to take advantage of that loophole.

The Greek Othordox Church’s governing synod has described the plans to afford unmarried or defacto couples the same legal rights as their married counterparts as a “catastrophic bomb” which threatened Greek society and compared the move to “prostitution.”

For a full list of the weblogs that have signed on the initiative > http://gayrightsgreece.blogspot.com/2008/03/domestic-partnership-that-discriminates.html