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Gay rights for Greeks March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life, Greece News.
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Justice Ministry looking at law for homosexual couples in Greece

The Justice Ministry has pledged to establish a working group on the rights of gay couples living together, following a request by the National Commission for Human Rights.

The Ministry said it would set up a working group, with the help of the Commission, “to analyze all aspects of the issue, international practice and the existing domestic legal and social framework.”


Clocks forward March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy, Greece News.
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Clocks will go forward one hour tomorrow morning as summertime begins.

The time will change at 3 a.m. on Sunday, when clocks will go forward to 4 a.m.

Greece lands tourism prize in Shanghai March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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Greece has been chosen as the “Most Popular Travel Destination in Europe 2007-08” by China, proving that efforts to tap the Chinese tourism market are bearing fruit.

Speaking at the opening of the World Travel Fair 2008 in Shanghai, where Greece is the honored country, Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos recognized the importance for Greece of the tourist market of Shanghai, as 600,000 of its citizens travel abroad every year.

“Representing a country that organized the 2004 Olympic Games with absolute success,” Spiliotopoulos reiterated his certainty that China will be as successful in holding the 2008 Olympics. He also expressed his hope for the best possible cooperation between Greece and China “in the fields of economy and culture.”

The WTF began on Thursday and ends tomorrow. It features 500 exhibitors from various countries and territories, while Greece’s kiosk by the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) covers an area of 400 square meters. On Thursday, the WTF awards committee delivered an award to the Greek representation for the most popular destination in Europe. Yesterday, the signing of a protocol of cooperation between the GNTO and Shanghai was also due.

Related Links > http://www.gnto.gr

Illegal drug trade flourishing in Greece March 28, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Health & Fitness, Police & Crime.
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The illegal drug trade is flourishing in Greece, thanks to a “pyramid” system of dealers and middlemen that is perpetuated and protected by a network of friends and associates, a new study has shown.

One of the most shocking findings of the study – a collaboration between drug addicts, support organization staff, policemen, lawyers and journalists – is that the average dealers are family men. Most of these dealers push about 1 to 2 kilos at a time to mediators who then sell smaller quantities to users. The study also found that the average middlemen are foreigners with low incomes.

The most fertile ground for drug-dealing networks are industrial areas with ample storage and logistics facilities, it was revealed. As for the trade in drugs, busy urban areas are the most promising for would-be dealers. In Athens, central Omonia Square is like a “department store” for drugs, with different groups of pushers offering various narcotics at different times of day, the study said. Many Athens nightclubs also tolerate the illegal drug trade on their premises, the study found. According to Sofia Vidali, a criminology professor who led the study, drug dealing is not only flourishing in clubs but also in schools and offices in certain neighborhoods where dealers have a heightened presence.

As for prevention, police efforts have not been particularly effective, according to the study, which noted that only 10 to 20 percent of drugs circulating on the market actually fall into police hands. According to Nikos Paraskevopoulos, a lecturer on criminal law at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, new legislation is not needed. It would be enough if existing legislation was enforced, he said.

Water on Cyprus is rationed March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Nature.
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Authorities on the island of Cyprus announced Monday that they were immediately reducing the water supply to people’s homes to cope with a “dramatic” drought that has left dams nearly empty.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said supply cuts of 30 percent were a “necessary measure” in light of a 17-million-cubic-meter (600-million-cubic-feet) shortfall in water reserves. The island needs 66.7 million cubic meters (2.35 billion cubic feet) a year to cover its needs.

“We’ve initiated a number of measures to tackle the truly dramatic situation we’re facing,” Stefanou told reporters. Stefanou said the government would reduce by almost a third the supply to local water boards that distribute water to homes. The cuts will take effect at once. Other measures include the construction of pipelines to feed local reservoirs with water that will be shipped from Greece in tankers five months from now.

Authorities also plan to double the daily output from a desalination plant now being built, to 40,000 cubic meters (1.4 million cubic feet) by October. Cyprus already has two operating desalination plants with a combined daily output of 92,000 cubic meters (3.2 million cubic feet) and the government will look into using more portable units.

Stefanou said officials will bore more into the island’s water table. A water conservation campaign will also be stepped up.

Meanwhile, officials will draw up a long-term strategy to help the island effectively deal with chronic shortages caused by its heavy dependence on rainfall. Capacity at the island’s dams now stands at just over 10 percent, 2.5 times less than their capacity at this time last year. Compounding the lack of rain are record-setting temperatures for March that reached Monday to 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit).

Piraeus port poised to tap benefits March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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Piraeus port poised to tap benefits of Greek shipowners’ flight from British capital > More than 1,200 shipping companies, employing more than 12,000 highly specialized staff, were based in the port of Piraeus in 2007, compared to 900 in 2005.

At a time when efforts are being made to ensure that Piraeus, Greece’s main port city, gains a leading place among international shipping centers by enhancing both infrastructure and services, London-based Greek shipowners are seriously considering whether to stay or move as a result of tax reforms planned by the British government.

For decades, income generated off British soil by non-British residents enjoyed tax-free treatment. More than 100 Greek shipowning families based in London are now thinking of moving to Piraeus, primarily for two reasons: significant infrastructure improvement projects have been carried out in the past six years, while the government has taken certain measures to guarantee a stable and competitive institutional environment for shipping companies.

During a recent visit to London, Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis gave assurances to Greek shipowners that the government intends to maintain the favorable tax regime applicable for the Greek shipping community, which controls 8.7 percent of the world fleet, with 4,173 vessels. This translates into a capacity of 260,929,221 dwt (deadweight tons), which represents 16.4 percent of overall world shipping.

“We are considering taking additional measures in favor of shipowners who might move their base to Greece,” Voulgarakis is said to have told a gathering of Greek shipowners. “We are going ahead with the creation of a cluster arrangement, based on international standards and Greek features, aimed at promoting Piraeus as a shipping center with global linkages.”

In Greece, shipping companies are not taxed either on income earned abroad or on property purchases and income from capital denominated in US dollars. In 2007, foreign exchange inflows to Greece from shipping amounted to 17 billion, a figure that accounts for 7 percent of the country’s GDP.

The contribution of Greek companies to the British economy is estimated at some $10 billion annually. A study by the British Chamber of Shipping showed that if Greek shipowners decided to leave the city, the economy will lose almost one billion pounds, not to mention some 120,000 professionals in medium and high-ranking executive posts, who will have to move out with their families.

The British government is planning certain changes for non-citizens living in the country, who in the coming years would have to pay 30,000 pounds ($62,000) if they want to avoid paying tax on income from abroad.

But London’s losses could be Piraeus’s gain, in the framework of legislation that is supportive of shipping operations. In the past six years, 30 shipping firms have set sail for Piraeus and Athens. London-based shipowners believe that a significant upgrade of Piraeus port could result in a large influx of companies from the British capital.

Greek Government keen to expedite OTE deal with Deutsche Telekom March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Telecoms.
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Equal equity and management shares; unions cagey about job assurances > OTE workers raised the German flag to protest plans for a DT share in management.

Consultations are gathering pace for the finalization of a deal between the government, OTE telecom’s main shareholder, and Deutsche Telekom (DT), which last week agreed to buy a 20 percent stake of OTE from buyout firm Marfin Investment Group (MIG). The talks concern DT’s possible purchase of a further stake from the government, which now owns about 28 percent.

Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told Eleftherotypia newspaper on Sunday that the government was also willing to share the management of the country’s largest telecommunications company but the form it may take would be determined by the negotiations.

The government is anxious for a speedy conclusion, fearing union opposition and stock market speculation in OTE shares. Yesterday, investment bank Credit Suisse downgraded OTE’s target share price from 26 euros to 22.50. Officials are apprehensive that any sharp decline in the OTE share price would undermine the DT-MIG agreement and scuttle any further developments.

Meanwhile, OTE unions (OME-OTE) began preparing protests against any deal with DT, fearing it may jeopardize jobs in future. A three-day strike is due to begin today. At a meeting on Saturday, OTE CEO Panagis Vourloumis assured unionists that legislation passed last year, which obliges the government to keep a minimum 20 percent share, also provides for no dismissals. Earlier on Friday, Alogoskoufis told OME-OTE officials that the government’s intention was to keep a 25 percent stake plus one share, on a par with DT, which would make them equal partners.

He also said both sides would have veto rights protected by legislation. Alogoskoufis added that the Germans had proposed retaining Vourloumis as CEO, with which the government agreed. Vourloumis urged the unions to refrain from strikes, as this would only benefit competitors, and said the deal would improve OTE’s future prospects.

OME-OTE pressed Alogoskoufis for a separate agreement on job security, to which they would be a party. The Minister referred them to Vourloumis, who said this was a matter to be decided by the new management that would emerge from negotiations. It was after this that the three-day strike was called.

The Ministerial privatizations committee is meeting either today or tomorrow to appoint the government’s consultants who will negotiate with the Germans. It is considered likely that UBS, Credit Suisse and Eurobank will be retained, as they are already well acquainted with the matter.