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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-01-21

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Wednesday, 21 January 2009 Issue No: 3101

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Karamanlis requests off-the-agenda discussion on economy
  • [02] FinMin optimistic economy will grow
  • [03] PASOK attacks government econ policy
  • [04] PM Karamanlis briefed by Justice Minister
  • [05] PM meets with Tourism Minister
  • [06] PM briefed by ND Parliamentary spokesman
  • [07] Bakoyannis due in Russia
  • [08] PASOK on shipowner's abduction, economic policy
  • [09] Synaspismos party on farmers' demands
  • [10] Gov't: No change in Athens FIR
  • [11] New education minister receives with predecessor
  • [12] Greek envoy reiterates support for Serbia's European course
  • [13] Archbishop Demetrios invited to Obama inauguration
  • [14] Dems Abroad gather at ACS to watch inauguration
  • [15] Greek farmers block roads, close airport in protest
  • [16] Gov't on threatened farmers' mobilisations
  • [17] Hatzidakis meets with SMEs reps
  • [18] Tourism minister meets with KEDKE delegation
  • [19] Global crisis to hit Greek exports, survey
  • [20] Renewable Energy Sources industry growing steadily in Greece, report
  • [21] Marfin Egnatia Bank unveils strategic partnership with CNP Assurance
  • [22] Kedr Bank seeks to expand operations in Greece
  • [23] Intracom signs 15-mln-euro contract in Bulgaria
  • [24] PPC's board links salary to targets for 2009
  • [25] Frigoglass to significantly cut workforce in Greek unit
  • [26] Greek stocks end 0.45% down
  • [27] ADEX closing report
  • [28] Greek bond market closing report
  • [29] Foreign Exchange rates: Wednesday
  • [30] Abducted shipowner freed
  • [31] Shipowner Panagopoulos speaks to the press after his release
  • [32] EU barometer poll reveals widespread pessimism among Greeks
  • [33] Bolshoi Ballet to perform in Athens
  • [34] Solidarity rally in Thessaloniki for Palestinian people
  • [35] Greek painting exhibition in Melbourne
  • [36] Exhibition by Turkish photographers in Athens
  • [37] Ditch-cleaner finds ancient marble stele
  • [38] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday
  • [39] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Karamanlis requests off-the-agenda discussion on economy

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed a letter to Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas on Tuesday requesting an off-the-agenda discussion on economic policy.

    [02] FinMin optimistic economy will grow

    Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou on Tuesday sent a message to critics predicting that Greece will face unresolved problems on the economic front, saying that the country has "the will, the plan and determination not only to ensure the credible course of the economy, but to strengthen its competitiveness".

    Speaking to reporters after an ECOFIN meeting in Brussels, the Greek minister stressed:

    "All those betting against Greece will lose," he said, adding that gloomy predictions would be dismissed exactly like what happened a few years ago when a portion of the international press lathered over a Greek failure in organising the 2004 Olympic Games, or predicting that because of overspending in the hosting of the Games the country would be lead to financial ruin.

    "Greece successfully hosted the Olympic Games and recorded one of the highest growth rates in the Eurozone and significantly cut unemployment," Papathanassiou reminded.

    He underlined that Greece is one of the five Eurozone countries with positive growth rates, while its fiscal deficit and unemployment rates were below Eurozone's average rates. "Greece has all the reserves needed to deal with difficult situations like the one witnessing currently," he said, adding that a three-year consolidation program, to be submitted with the European Commission by the end of the month, would include policy directions aimed at strengthening fiscal consolidation and ensuring support for the real economy and weaker population groups.

    Papathanassiou said the ECOFIN meeting mainly discussed ways to restore smooth operations in the financial system. "Greece, in contrast with other countries, enjoys a healthy financial system and with the help of a plan to boost liquidity and other development policies, we believe we can manage to achieve a higher growth rates compared with EU forecasts," the Greek minister said.

    The Greek financial system is based on solid bases and there is not danger of insolvency or collapse, Papathanassiou said, expressing the confidence that economic growth rates would exceed Commission's forecasts for 2009.

    Commenting on the implementation of rules by the EU Stability and Growth Pact, the Greek minister said the meeting reached a consensus on adhering to the Pact's rules, although with flexibility.

    [03] PASOK attacks government econ policy

    Main opposition PASOK's spokesman for development issues Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Tuesday attacked the government's economic policies, saying that they had led to the paradox of consumer prices rising even as nominal inflation was falling.

    Citing figures sent to the development ministry by industry and supermarkets, Chrysohoidis said that a new round of price increases of about 17 percent was being prepared. At the same time, the prices of basic goods in international markets were in freefall, he added, with price indexes for basic food stuffs having dropped between 14-28 percent compared to the record highs of the past year.

    Unlike in Greece, he said, this situation had led to veritable price wars between retail chains in other European economies, as they struggled to cope with the financial crisis.

    In a reaction to Chrysohoidis' statements, Deputy Development Minister George Vlachos expressed surprise that the main opposition MP had "sped to announce price rises in advance," without any specific and confirmed figures.

    "Does he have privileged advance information from businesses? Is he trying to assist aspiring profiteers in a difficult juncture for the market? What the market needs today are responsible actions by everyone not irresponsible populism," the minister stressed, adding that the PASOK official's statements could only harm consumers.

    [04] PM Karamanlis briefed by Justice Minister

    Prime Minster Costas Karamanlis was briefed on Tuesday by Justice Minister Nikolaos Dendias at the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters).

    Dendias informed the premier on ministry matters, and on his plans regarding the major issue of the accelaration of the system of attribution of justice, stressing to reporters afterwards that he intends to carry on with his predecessors' efforts more intensively.

    Responding to a press question on speculation that criminal actions, such as recent abductions of high profile businessmen, are being coordinating from the inside jails, the Justice Minister said: " I cannot reply based on rumors or speculation. I am certain that the investigative authorities will do their job and will solve the case, just as they have done in the past".

    [05] PM meets with Tourism Minister

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Tuesday with the new Tourism Development Minister Costas Markopoulos.

    Speaking to the press after the meeting, Markopoulos underlined that in the difficult prevailing financial conjuncture in Europe and globally, Greece has a comparative advantage in tourism, which we must support and enforce in order to strengthen it so as to comprise a powerful weapon of our economy.

    Replying to a question on where his focus will be, Markopoulos said that the priority will be on domestic and foreign tourism and luxury tourism, as well as on tourism for the average Greek and the lower income brackets.

    "Whatever is to be done will be in consensus with all the social groups and all the organisations involved in the tourism sector," he said.

    To a press question on whether the goverment is thinking of early general elections, the minister said that the government was not occupying itself with elections but with the difficult economic conjuncture and how it will give solutions and fulfill the citizens' high expectations.

    [06] PM briefed by ND Parliamentary spokesman

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday was briefed by ruling New Democracy (ND) Party parliamentary spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos focusing on legislative work issues.

    Responding to a relative question, Panagiotopoulos said early elections are unlikely, adding that the government is concentrating on overcoming the global crisis with the least possible consequences.

    As regards opinion poll results for ruling ND party, he said it can be reversed with the right decisions in the right direction, pointing out that they are already being made by the government focusing on a more socially oriented policy.

    He also underlined that he will not take over as ND Parliamentary group secretary, commenting that the prime minister asked him to remain at his post as the party's parliamentary spokesman.

    [07] Bakoyannis due in Russia

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA - M. Ginis)

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is expected in Moscow on Tuesday, on her first trip abroad since Greece took over the presidency of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). She is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov the following day.

    In an interview with the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS concerning her visit, she said it would cover all issues pertaining to the OSCE but also bilateral affairs, especially in light of the recent natgas supply crisis.

    "Political cooperation between Greece and Russia is at an excellent level," she said, adding that the two countries had similar opinions on most major international issues and worked together closely in the international organisations in which both were members.

    In terms of bilateral affairs, Bakoyannis said she would focus on further developing economic cooperation so that it was in line with the very close political ties between the two countries, especially in the energy sector where she noted "huge" prospects to further consolidate and deepen relations.

    The foreign minister also emphasised Greece's intention to be included in the new energy map being drawn in the region, stressing that the recent gas crisis had highlighted the correctness of Athens' policy of seeking a diversification of energy routes and to make Greece an energy hub for its surrounding area.

    "In the modern international environment, a country that produces or is a transit country for energy resources acquires a strategic geopolitical and economic advantage," she noted, adding that Greece's aim was to become a "reliable, responsible and predictable partner, a strong link in Europe's energy chain" through projects like the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, or the TGI and South Stream natgas pipelines.

    Asked whether her talks in Moscow would also touch on a proposal by Russian Premier Dimitri Medvedev for a new "security architecture" in Europe, she noted that the OSCE was "the right forum for this kind of discussion" and expressed hope that it would continue.

    She also stressed the OSCE's potential role at a time of great challenges for security and stability worldwide, including in areas under the OSCE's jurisdiction, saying the organisation had proved sufficiently flexible and adaptable to be able to bolster security and cooperation.

    "The top priority of the Greek presidency will be to seek the widest possible consensus between the members of the Organisation on all issues of security that demand solutions. We believe that we can contribute to these as a reliable and trustworthy mediator," she said.

    [08] PASOK on shipowner's abduction, economic policy

    Main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday expressed the party's satisfaction over the favourable outcome of the ordeal experienced by shipowner Pericles Panagopoulos, adding that "now, of course, the time has come for the arrest of the perpetrators, the time has come for the police to do their work and to find the businessman's abductors."

    Referring to economic issues, the spokesman said that "Greece is participating in the counci of finance ministers in Brussels under the weight of the European Commission's extremely unfavourable report for our country," while underlining that "this data rejects everything that the government was trying to tell the Greek citizens over the past years."

    Papaconstantinou further said that "in simple language, the Greek citizens have realised very well that the prime minister has deceived them repeatedly, over the past five years, presenting a picture of the Greek economy which is very distant from reality."

    He also criticised the government for its economic policy in its entirety and wondered "where exactly does the borrowed money of the Greek government go" and referred to remarks made by the government spokesman on PASOK's economic proposals, saying that "either Mr. Antonaros does not read my statements or he pretends not to understand."

    [09] Synaspismos party on farmers' demands

    Support of the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) for farmers' demands, calling them "just and self-evident", was expressed by the party's political secretariat in an announcement, following its meeting on Tuesday.

    The announcement added that "the country's remaining farmers are expressing their own desperation over the situation in the countryside due to the policy being exercised throughout all the past years" and added that "it is a case of a policy of diminishing incomes, total lack of planning, as well as of interest in the viability of the farm economy and production."

    [10] Gov't: No change in Athens FIR

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, citing foreign ministry information, on Tuesday stressed that there is no change in the Athens FIR (Flight Information Region) or similar plans, while all relative international agreements are into effect.

    Antonaros made the comment in response to a question referring to a newspaper report.

    [11] New education minister receives with predecessor

    Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos met Tuesday with his predecessor Transport and Communications Minister Evripidis Stylianidis stressing afterwards that they had a substantive discussion on pending education sector issues.

    Responding to questions on alleged proposals made by the National Council on Education to replace the nationwide exams system, Spiliotopoulos stressed that dialogue on issues such as university admission will be held without preconditions, pointing out that all views will be considered.

    [12] Greek envoy reiterates support for Serbia's European course

    BELGRADE (ANA-MPA / N. Pelpas)

    Outgoing Greek Amb. Christos Panagopoulos, addressing a farewell ceremony hosted in his honour by Serbian Parliament President Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic, reassured here that Athens will continue to support Serbia's European prospects.

    Panagopoulos also promised that Greek support for the Serb economy will continue, mainly through investments, and stressed that major possibilities for cooperation in the sectors of energy, tourism, telecoms and infrastructure projects.

    Dejanovic thanked the Greek envoy for the progress achieved during his tenure in relations between the two countries, ones linked by historic bonds of friendship.

    The Serbian Parliament president also informed Panagopoulos that she has accepted an initiative by Greek Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas for a conference of Parliament presidents from SE European countries on the Middle East crisis.

    [13] Archbishop Demetrios invited to Obama inauguration

    Archbishop Demetrios of America will be present on Tuesday to the inauguration of new president of USA Barack Obama.

    Demetrios, who has been invited by Obama to attend the Presidential Inauguration celebrations will also participate on Wednesday at the traditional National Prayer Service that will be held in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. in presence of the new President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

    [14] Dems Abroad gather at ACS to watch inauguration

    Democrats Abroad of Greece and scores of expatriate Americans and Athenians alike gathered at the American Community Schools of Athens campus on Tuesday evening of an "inaugural celebration", with live coverage of the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States, an event that capped off a series of events by local Democrats in support of one-time presidential contender, events that began almost a year ago.

    Financial News

    [15] Greek farmers block roads, close airport in protest

    Greece's farmers went ahead with their threat to block major roads and other forms of protest action on Tuesday - including the closure of an airport on Crete - ignoring appeals from the government to "avoid extremes".

    Tractors rolled onto the tarmac at around 13:30 and blocked access to the Athens-Lamia national highway near the Lamia junction, as farmers from Fthiotida and Viotia chose this method to air their grievances. They later extended their blockade to the old national highway and rural roads as well, even as more farmers shut down the railway line near Davlia for half an hour as a symbolic gesture.

    Meanwhile, farmers from Livadia, Orhomenos and Vagia blocked the national highway at the Kastro junction.

    Motorists struggling to find alternative routes found their journey times extended by as much as five hours as they were forced to make detours as far away as Arachova and Amfissa in order to circumvent the farmer blockades.

    Police are currently diverting traffic from the old national highway and directing all vehicles to Brallos. From there, large vehicles are directed to Amfissa to reach Delphi and Arachova and then head towards Livadia so that they rejoin the Athens-Lamia national highway near Thiva. Private cars can travel via Amfiklia-Tithorea and Elateia and then use minor roads to reach Livadia, Thiva and the national highway.

    They were joined by farmers in the north, with tractors closing down the Promahonas border crossing in Serres and the Exohi border crossing in Drama, a bridge over the Strymonas River and the Mavroneri junction in Kilkis, while the road blocks on the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway at Tempi, Nikaia in Larisa and the Mikrothivon junction remained in place.

    Further targets for protest were the Egnatia highway and the Kavala-Xanthi road.

    On Crete, meanwhile, farmers from Iraklio and Lasithi prefectures took over the 'Nikos Kazantzakis' airport, occupying even the runway.

    Farmers in the Lamia region have threatened even wider blockades that will close off the old national highway and most secondary roads on Wednesday.

    The farmers' associations federation GESASE urged farmers to continue their struggle in a message on Tuesday, while demanding that the government announce "binding and immediate measures to support their income, satisfying the demands of the farmer movement".

    GESASE blasted the government's farm policy, saying that the only people gaining from it were the profiteering circuits that preyed on the agricultural sector, and pointed out that prices for agricultural products had collapsed for the second time in the last five years while the government looked on and did nothing.

    [16] Gov't on threatened farmers' mobilisations

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday, referring to various farmers' mobilisations announced for the coming period, merely noted that citizens have a right to defend their views but in a way that does not hurt the whole of society's interests.

    The end of January and February over the past decade is usually a period marked by mobilisations by farm unions.

    Speaking at a regular press briefing in Athens, Antonaros also referred to the negotiations between Rural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis and farmers' representatives.

    [17] Hatzidakis meets with SMEs reps

    The number of approved loans to small-to-medium sized businesses through Credit Guarantee Fund for Small and Micro Enterprises (TEMPME SA) programmes has rapidly increased, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis stressed after the meeting he had Tuesday with the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Trades (GSEVEE) Board.

    Highlighting the progress made, Hatzidakis underlined that TEMPME has received roughly 10,000 loan applications and already one tenth of them has been approved.

    He also announced that the 100-million-euro entrepreneurship programmes for women and youth will be launched before the end of February.

    [18] Tourism minister meets with KEDKE delegation

    Newly appointed Tourism Development Minister Costas Markopoulos met Tuesday with a delegation of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE), headed by its president, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis to discuss tourism issues.

    Markopoulos ensured the KEDKE representatives that he will bring no provisions to parliament for approval concerning the abolition of a municipal tax imposed on private businesses operating in tourist regions before holding consultations with the municipal authorities.

    As regards the adoption of new measures for tourism, the minister stressed that all options that would benefit the country are being considered.

    [19] Global crisis to hit Greek exports, survey

    Greek exports will be negatively affected by a global economic crisis, a survey by the Center of Export Research and Studies said on Tuesday. The survey, examining the performance of Greek exports during global recessions in the last three decades, showed that Greek exports fell during the recession of 1981-1983, 1991-1993 and 2000-2003 and noted that the decline was stronger since a recession in global demand was combined with a fall in the international competitiveness of Greek exports.

    An evolving financial and economic crisis, the survey said, will highlight the chronic problems of export activity in the country, such as a low level of competitiveness and a prevailing dominance of traditional products. A subdued economic activity throughout the world and a limited expansion or stalemate in international trade will affect Greek exports, such as products related with industrial production (non ferrous metals), products related with building activity and constructions, and products such as clothing and food. The categories likely to suffer more from the crisis are oil products, non-ferrous metals, iron, steel and products, plastics, clothing, tobacco and farm products.

    All these sectors accounted for two-thirds of total value of Greek exports in 2007, the survey said.

    [20] Renewable Energy Sources industry growing steadily in Greece, report

    Greece's renewable energy sources sector is steadily growing, a survey by Hellastat SA revealed on Tuesday, with power production from the industry totaling 878 MW at the end of 2006, an average annual growth rate of 23 pct in the period 1990-2006.

    In the survey, Hellastat said by the end of 2007 total electricity energy power production totaled 1,039 MW (up 18 pct from 2006), while total power production -including large hydroelectric projects- totaled 4,060 MW.

    Hellastat said a total of 297 enterprises were included in the survey, of which only 124 reported commercial activities in 2007. Turnover of the sample grew by 36.5 pct to 216.3 million euros in 2007, from 158.5 million euros in 2006, reflecting a significant increase in turnover by companies with an annual turnover of more than 10 million euros. Gross results grew by 28.2 pct in 2007, slower compared with a 68.6 pct increase in 2006, while EBITDA rose by 16 pct and net profits were stable reflecting higher operating costs. From a total 124 companies included in the survey, 102 reported positive pre-tax profits.

    The survey noted, however, that time-consuming bureaucracy and weaknesses in the regulatory framework, high initial investment cost, inability of energy storage, natural gas competition, delays in implementing investment projects, were creating hurdles in the further development of the industry.

    [21] Marfin Egnatia Bank unveils strategic partnership with CNP Assurance

    Marfin Egnatia Bank's loan portfolio towards private customers and small-to-medium-sized enterprises will grow by more than 10 percent this year, the head of the bank Andreas Vgenopoulos said on Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters during a news conference held to present a strategic partnership between Marfin Egnatia Bank and French group CNP Assurances, Vgenopoulos said this growth would be achieved without any state support and stressed that the bank would maintain strict criteria in its lending policy, with the aim to avoid any increase in the bank's non-performing loans portfolio.

    Vgenopoulos cited the strategic partnership between Marfin Egnatia Bank and CNP Assurances, with the French group acquiring 50.1 pct in Marfin Insurance Holdings and taking over the management of all insurance companies of the group in Greece and Cyprus.

    E. Bouloutas, Marfin Popular Bank's chief executive, and Gilles Benoist and Xavier Larnaudie-Eiffel, the chief executive and deputy chief executive in CNP Assurance, respectively, said the alliance aimed at offering better insurance services to Marfin Group's customers.

    CNP, founded in 1850, is the largest life insurance company in France, with premium assets of more than 32 billion euros.

    CNP-Marfin seeks to gain a significant share in the Greek bankassurance market over the next 3-5 years.

    [22] Kedr Bank seeks to expand operations in Greece

    Kedr Bank, currently operating one branch in Athens, announced that it wants to strengthen its presence in Greece with the opening of four branch units.

    Presenting the bank's strategy, Yiannis Gen, the bank's head for operations in Greece and Europe, said an expanding operation would contribute in further enhancing trade and financial relations between Greece and Russia.

    Kedr Bank opened its first branch in Athens in November 2007 and offers a wide range of banking services, such as investments, joint ventures, European programmes, tourism and building activity. The bank also aims to offer services to Russian-speaking residents living in Greece, some 400,000 people.

    Kedr Bank was founded in 1991 and began its expansion in 2002. It currently operates a branch network of more than 250 units. Among its major shareholders are: Eurobank Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and East Capital, a Swedish group.

    [23] Intracom signs 15-mln-euro contract in Bulgaria

    Intracom Telecom on Tuesday announced the signing of a contract, worth 15 million euros, with BTC, the Bulgarian Telecoms Corporation, for the supply of infrastructure equipment for the Bulgarian company's GSM network. The supply will be made through Intracom's subsidiary, Intracom Bulgaria.

    BTC is the largest telecoms operator in Bulgaria and one of the biggest enterprises in the country, with a workforce of 7,000, 2.1 million subscribers in fixed-telephony operations, 1.3 million subscribers in mobile telephony operations and 240,000 Internet subscribers.

    [24] PPC's board links salary to targets for 2009

    Public Power Corp. (PPC) chairman and chief executive P. Athanasopoulos on Tuesday proposed cutting its 2009 compensation to 40 pct of its 2008 salary and linked the remaining 60 pct to three specific targets.

    The proposal, approved by PPC's board, envisages that payment the remaining 60 pct of its salary would be linked with achieving three targets: full implementation of 2009 budget, savings up to 90 million euros and completing procedures and signing of contracts for building of power production units with a power of 2,400 MW. Under the plan, the chairman will not receive a bonus for 2009, while similar cutbacks are envisaged also for the vice chairman and the deputy chief executive of the corporation.

    [25] Frigoglass to significantly cut workforce in Greek unit

    Frigoglass on Tuesday announced plans to significantly cut its workforce in its production unit in western Greece as part of a restructuring of its production units. The company also announced the shut down of its unit in Norway and production cuts in Poland.

    Under the plan, Frigoglas seeks to cut its workforce in its unit in Achaia by 120 workers, through a voluntary exit program and to ensuring the remaining 90 job positions in the unit. The cost of the program is expected to reach 8.5 million euros.

    [26] Greek stocks end 0.45% down

    Greek stocks ended lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, following a negative trend in other European markets.

    The composite index of the market fell 0.45 percent down to end at 1,652.51 points, off the day's lows. Turnover was a low 131.1 million euros of which 2.9 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower, with the Food/Beverage (2.33 pct), Oil/Natural Gas (1.19 pct) and Raw Materials (1.12 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Utilities (4.64 pct), Personal/Home Products (3.74 pct) and Constructions (3.58 pct) scored gains.

    The FTSE 20 index eased 0.56 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.32 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.59 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 126 to 59 with another 55 issues unchanged.

    [27] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a widened discount (3.41 pct) in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover remaining a low 61.558 million euros. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,394 contracts worth 50.691 million euros. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,291 contracts worth 10.447 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,468), followed by Eurobank (1,597), MIG (757), OTE (1,446), OPAP (732), Alpha Bank (756), Marfin Popular Bank (956) and ATEbank (1,140).

    [28] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year benchmark Greek and German bonds widened to a new record high of 271 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 5.73 pct and the German Bund 3.02 pct.

    Turnover in the securities market totaled 950 million euros, of which 335 million were buy orders and the remaining 615 million euros were sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates fell further. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.53 pct, the six-month rate 2.44 pct, the three-month rate 2.37 pct and the one-month rate 2.02 pct.

    [29] Foreign Exchange rates: Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.303

    Pound sterling 0.938

    Danish kroner 7.511

    Swedish kroner 10.976

    Japanese yen 117.84

    Swiss franc 1.492

    Norwegian kroner 9.265

    Canadian dollar 1.649

    Australian dollar 1.981

    General News

    [30] Abducted shipowner freed

    Well-known local shipping executive Pericles Panagopoulos, kidnapped more than a week ago outside his southeast Athens home, was found unharmed in the early morning hours Tuesday after his family reportedly paid a huge ransom.

    Panagopoulos, 74, was spotted by the crew of a police patrol car sitting on a park bench outside a rest stop on the outskirts of western industrial Athens. Earlier, the shipping magnate's wife had reportedly left a large cache of euros at a designated spot on the Athens-Lamia highway, north of the capital.

    He was later taken to his home in an exclusive seaside district where his family and personal doctor awaited, as reports over the past days noted that he suffers from a heart condition.

    [31] Shipowner Panagopoulos speaks to the press after his release

    Shipowner Pericles Panagopoulos, who was abducted last week, was released early on Tuesday after his family paid a 30 million euros ransom demanded by his abductors. Panagopoulos spoke to the press, and thanked especially the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Deputy Interior Minister Athanassios Nakos, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, Greek and foreign officials and politicians and people of the media in general who took interest in his ordeal, as well as his family and his associates for the way they all handled his abduction.

    Panagopoulos did not reveal any specific details on the condition of his detention, but said that the abductors were polite and took care of him, and made sure that he took the medicines required for the condition of his health, clarifying that he always has his medication with him.

    He also said that he could not describe the place of his detention, and added that the abductors who were in contact with him were more than one.

    [32] EU barometer poll reveals widespread pessimism among Greeks

    A barometer poll conducted by the European Commission in Greece shows hight rates of pessimism and dissatisfaction among Greeks in a number of areas. The poll was conducted between October 6 and November 6 2008, using a sample of 1,000 citizens aged over 15 throughout the country. Its findings were released on Tuesday.

    The survey forms part of a broader study being carried out in the 27 EU member-states and three candidate countries (Croatia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), as well as in the Turkish-Cypriot community.

    A majority of Greeks expressed pessimism over the state of the economy, both nationally and on a global level, and dissatisfaction with levels of employment, the state of the environment, size of pensions and Greek institution. More than half said they were having trouble meeting their financial obligations. In spite of the above, one in two Greeks stated that they were happy with their daily life in general.

    At 90 percent, Greek levels of dissatisfaction over the state of the country's economy were the highest in Europe, where the EU average was 69 percent. Greeks are also the most dissatisfied among Europeans with the state of the environment in the country, at 76 percent, compared with 51 percent as the EU average.

    The vast majority (92 percent) express disappointment over employment levels, placing Greeks third in EU rankings after the Portuguese and Hungarians.

    Six in ten Greeks say that they are having trouble paying standard bills, while 66 percent see a downturn for the economy and employment levels in the country. There is strong dissatisfaction among the overwhelming majority (93 percent) over the cost of living (compared with 78 percent in the EU) and power (69 percent in the EU), over the level of pensions (91 percent compared to 58 percent in the EU), of poverty and inequality (89 percent versus 67 percent in EU), of unemployment benefit (89 percent versus 51 percent in EU), efficiency of public administration (89 percent compared with 55 percent in EU) and healthcare (78 percent compared with 43 percent in EU).

    Overall, seven in 10 Greeks consider that the country is heading in the wrong direction (49 percent in the EU) with the economy, high prices and unemployment ranking as the top problems. There is also a generalised lack of trust in the government (EU 61 percent), the Parliament (68 percent versus 58 percent in the EU) and the political parties (86 percent versus 75 percent in the EU).

    Conversely, six in 10 Greeks has faith in the EU and the euro (compared to 47 percent in the EU), and seven and 10 consider that Greece has benefited from its membership of the EU. At the same time, 45 percent of Greek public opinion applauds the country's membership of the EU and 43 percent take a neutral attitude. Greeks are in favour of accelerating the building of the EU but are opposed to a "two-speed" Europe.

    [33] Bolshoi Ballet to perform in Athens

    The historic and world-famous Bolshoi Ballet, which dates back more than two centuries and is among the oldest ballet companies in the world, is due to appear in Athens for three performances in February. During a press conference on Tuesday at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron), where the performances will take place, the Ballets director and head dancer Yanin Gennady explained that it would include both the students of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and the Ballet's 11 soloists.

    "It is always interesting to see the development of our students and the audience will be able to see their prospects and how, from the Academy, they finally become soloists in the Ballet," he said.

    Gennady explained that the soloists would work with the students in a sort of "lesson on stage" and would perform a selection drawn mainly from the classical repertoire, with some forays into a more modern repertoire.

    Among these will be sections of "The Nutcracker", "Swan Lake" and "Don Quixote", "Classical Symphony", "Russian Dance", "Ballet of the Dolls" and "Carnival of Venice".

    The performances will be held in the 'Friends of Music' hall at the Megaron on Sunday, February 1 at 12:00 and 20:30 and on Monday February 2 at 20:30.

    [34] Solidarity rally in Thessaloniki for Palestinian people

    Palestinian and Greek students, as well as anti-war, political and social groups, held a solidarity rally for the Palestinian people on the occasion of the swearing-in of the new U.S. president, and to condemn the policy of the United States and of Israel in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Tuesday night.

    Holding placards and banners and shouting slogans in support of the Palestinians, the demonstrators gathered outside the building housing the U.S. consulate. They also distributed printed material to passers-by containing information on the situation prevailing in the Gaza Strip, while also calling for a pullout of the Israeli military from the region and the lifting of the embargo to enable humanitarian aid to reach the area.

    [35] Greek painting exhibition in Melbourne

    Melbourne (ANA-MPA / S. Hatzimanolis) -- The exhibition "Ambassadors of Modern Greek Art - Three generations of painters" was inaugurated at the Greek Museum of Melbourne on Monday.

    On view are works by 26 painters representing three generations of artists with a notable presence in Greece and abroad over the past 50 years.

    The exhibition is 90 percent funded by the Greek ministry of tourism.

    [36] Exhibition by Turkish photographers in Athens

    A photography exhibition entitled "Big Postcards from the Neighbour" opened on Tuesday at the Ligue Franco-Hellenique in downtown Athens, featuring the works of Turkish photographers Ömer Türel and Kamil Ercüment Atak.

    Turkey's ambassador to Athens, Ouz Celikkol, was scheduled to officially open the exhibition, which will be run until Jan. 31.

    [37] Ditch-cleaner finds ancient marble stele

    A municipal employee cleaning ditches in a rural area of Karditsa prefecture on Tuesday found the bottom half of an ancient funerary stele made of marble.

    The stele fragment is 96 cm high, 42 cm wide and 17 cm in depth. The front part bears a depiction of the god Hermes about 28 cm high and a text of eight verses. It was turned over the Karditsa police and is due to be evaluated by the Archaeological Service.

    Weather Forecast

    [38] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and southeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 2-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 0C and 20C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with southeasterly 4-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 8C to 18C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 12C.

    [39] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The EU Commission's adverse forecasts on the Greek and international economy, the ongoing Turkish provocations in the Aegean and the release of shipowner Pericles Panagopoulos a week after he was abducted outside his house in southern Athens coastal suburb of Kavouri, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Greece is withstanding - Almunia described the deep crisis in the European markets".

    APOGEVMATINI: "The crisis bringing Europe to its knees - EU Commission gloomy forecasts even for Europe's giants".

    AVGHI: "SYRIZA party rally in Athens responds: Not a single step backwards"

    AVRIANI: "Europe on the verge of bancruptcy while US is in worse condition".

    CHORA: "As a 'tsunami' is drowning Europe, Obama takes over the US presidency".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Turkish F16 buzzed Aegean Airlines airplane headed for Alexandroupolis (northeastern Greece)".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Almunia's halt to Greek economy -All figures jumped off the tracks and rocketed to major heights".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Social crash - 3.5 million unemployed in Europe in 2009".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Two years in the tunnel - Greece on the threshhold of EU excessive debt procedures".

    ESTIA: "Election for lack of governance - Who are advancing the early elections scenarios".

    ETHNOS: "Shipowner Pericles Panagopoulos was released early Tuesday morning - The abductors took 30 million euros ransom".

    KATHIMERINI: "Forecasts of a deep reccession in Europe - Greece: 0.2% growth rate, 80,000 new unemployed, deficit over 3 percent".

    LOGOS: "New 3-year stability programme - EU forecasts over 3% deficit , zero growth in Greece".

    NIKI: "The government crashed the the ship of the economy".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Class political counterattack against the monopolies, EU and their parties".

    TA NEA: "Black 2-year period for jobs and incomes - Europe, Greece in a reccession tunnel".

    TO VIMA: "Almunia gives instructions on the administration of the crisis - The government will prepare a 3-year stability plan".

    VRADYNI: "Yes to benefits, no to wasteful spending - Fiscal adjustment that will respect society's needs".

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS


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