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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-25

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 25 February 2009 Issue No: 3131


  • [01] Inner Cabinet to convene for briefing on economy
  • [02] FM Bakoyannis meets U.S. nat'l security adviser General Jones
  • [03] FM continues contacts in Washington
  • [04] FM interview in Greek-American paper in light of US visit
  • [05] Gov't eyes ban on anonymous cell phones; reax to chopper escape
  • [06] Papandreou seeks party-leader debate on security
  • [07] PASOK meeting on citizen-state issues
  • [08] PM congratulates Papariga on re-election to KKE helm
  • [09] Deputy FM addresses Black Sea development con'f
  • [10] Greek-Cypriot MPs to cooperate in education
  • [11] Private teachers invited to dialogue on reforming schools
  • [12] Varvitsiotis meets El Salvador foreign minister
  • [13] BoG Gov. on SE European banks
  • [14] Greek gov't announces measures to support tourism industry
  • [15] MIG hires top executives for airline operations
  • [16] New Crete airport to open in 2014
  • [17] Emirates starts second daily Athens -Dubai route
  • [18] Alpha Bank says net profits down 33.5 pct in 2008
  • [19] Nobel Prize Krugman to address Athens conference
  • [20] Krontiras leaves Emporiki Bank
  • [21] India theme country of 74th TIF
  • [22] Vivere to sell Vicom for 4.5 mln euros
  • [23] Greek stocks end 0.23% lower
  • [24] ADEX closing report
  • [25] Greek bond market closing report
  • [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [27] Athens mayor, council majority reaffirm support for land development project
  • [28] Alleged accomplice in acid attack on trade unionist arrested
  • [29] Man arrested for bomb attacks, arsons.
  • [30] Drug ring dismantled in Attica
  • [31] Telethon for Palestinian people
  • [32] Cloudy and wet on Wednesday
  • [33] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [34] President Christofias hopes Turkish Cypriots to respect rights of refugees
  • [35] House President briefs Greek MPs on Cyprus problem Politics

  • [01] Inner Cabinet to convene for briefing on economy

    The Inner Cabinet will convene in a full session in Parliament on Wednesday at noon and focus on the government's economic policy, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stated.

    "The ministers and deputy ministers will be briefed on the latest facts considering that the (international economic) crisis is evolving and new symptoms are emerging," he said, stressing that "all governments are focused on them and an extraordinary EU summit meeting will be held next weekend."

    Antonaros stated that no discussion on bank privatisations was held in the government, and referring to the eyebrow-raising position expressed by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou -- who said nationalisations of domestic banks was not of the question -- pointed out that promptly taken initiatives have provided the local banking system with all the necessary tools to fully meet its social role.

    He also stressed that relevant legislation exerts the necessary pressure on the banks to respond to their social role, while the Bank of Greece also has a specific role.

    On the likelihood of new taxes, Antonaros pointed out that "the unfolding economic crisis is unprecedented and needs to be closely watched while doing everything possible to limit its consequences, including necessary adjustments."

    The announced spending cuts that proceed through specific initiatives and actions is the tool we want to use, he stressed.

    [02] FM Bakoyannis meets U.S. nat'l security adviser General Jones


    Visiting Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met on Tuesday evening (Greek time) with President Barack Obama's national security adviser General James Jones at the White House, with talks focusing on relations between the West and Russia and the next possible steps towards building a new security architecture in Europe, in view of the 60th NATO Summit on April 3-5.

    In this framework the tasks of the Greek chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for 2009 were also discussed, while the Greek foreign minister referred to Athens' concerns regarding Turkey's conduct in the Aegean. The Skopje and Cyprus issues were also discussed.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was looking forward to her meeting, here on Wednesday, with Bakoyannis, according to State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood.

    "Greece is, of course, an important ally and there is a number of issues she wants to discuss with the Greek foreign minister," the spokesman added.

    Asked whether there were any problems pending between the two countries, Wood said: "There are many problems in the world on which Greece and the U.S.A. need to work together in order to bring about peaceful results."

    [03] FM continues contacts in Washington


    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was scheduled to meet Tuesday with leading members of the Congress, beginning with Republican Senator of Greek origin Olympia Snowe.

    Bakoyannis began on Monday a three-day visit to Washington that is her first since U.S. President Barack Obama came into office.

    The Greek foreign minister met the chairman and members of the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), also known as the Helsinki Commission, in her capacity as head of the Greek chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for 2009.

    The minister also met on Tuesday with the chairman and members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

    Bakoyannis arrived in the U.S. capital on Sunday and on Monday addressed one of Washington's oldest think-tanks, the Brookings Institution, which has a high degree of influence on the foreign policy exercised by the Democrats.

    The Greek foreign minister attendeed meanwhile a reception given by the Greek Ambassador to Washington Alexandros Mallias.

    On Wednesday, Bakoyannis is to meet U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for talks that are expected to focus on bilateral relations, OSCE issues, the situation in the Middle East and the Caucasus, developments in the Balkans, relations with Turkey and the Cyprus issue.

    Toward the end of the week, the foreign minister will visit New York for about two days.

    [04] FM interview in Greek-American paper in light of US visit

    NEW YORK CITY (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    Greek-US relations are exceptional and are enhanced by the Greek-American community's significant presence, however, significant changes and surprises should not be anticipated in the wake of Barack Obama's assumption of the US Presidency, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said in an interview appearing in the Greek-American newspaper "National Herald" (Ethnikos Kirykas) on the opportunity of her current visit to the United States.

    Referring to her upcoming meeting in Washington with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and replying to a question on what changes she'd like to see in Greek-US relations, Bakoyannis said she did not believe that substantial changes or surprises should be expected in bilateral relations between the two countries, which are traditional and exceptional relations.

    In that context, Bakoyannis said she believes Greece will have a fruitful cooperation with the new US leadership for the advancement of their bilateral ties and more generally their cooperation on the international scene.

    Besides, she added, both the new US President and his associates have indicated that they were knowledgeable on the issues of particular Greek interest, and expressed abelief that Hillary Clinton will be a very active secretary of state who, with her extensive experience, will bring a new dynamic to US foreign policy, always within the framework of her country's steadfast strategic interests. Consequently, Bakoyannis added, she looks forward to a fruitful cooperation with Clinton and her associates to the mutual benefit of both countries.

    To a question on the "exacerbation of Turkish provocations in the Aegean" and whether Greece was considering a change of stance regarding the neighbouring country, Bakoyannis stress that Greece has a long-term strategy on Greek-Turkish relations.

    The developments in 2008 did not help in achieving speedier and more effective steps in improving the relations between the two countries, she said, adding that the Turkish provocativeness was not a new phenomenon, nor have there been periods in which that behavior was more limited.

    Turkish provocations have existed in the last decades and continue to exist, and this was being confronted by Greece with a steadfast, calm and serious policy; in a structured and effective way, and with clear-cut positions and strong arguments, thus fully safeguarding Greece's national interests, she said.

    Bakoyannis stressed that she did not believe that Greece's policy, which was founded on a structured and long-term strategy, should change with respect to Turkey. "Greece continues to be vigilant, and on every occasion brings Turkey's provocative attitude to the attention of its friends and allies."

    Turning to the FYROM "name issue", Bakoyannis stressed that Greece remained firmly and constructively in the UN-brokered negotiation process on the issue, despite the delay tactics employed by the neighbouring country's leadership. "Greece's positions have been and continue to be crystal clear", she said.

    At the same time, one should not forget that Greece's positions are also NATO Alliance positions, both in the framework of the European Union and of NATO, the foreign minister elaborated.

    Bakoyannis further expressed genuine regret over the results arising from FYROM's stance. She said that those in power in FYROM are by themselves raising obstacles to the fulfilment of their people's European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations, knowing full well that a resolution of the name issue is a condition for FYROM's accession to the Atlantic Alliance and for its smooth course to Europe. Greece, she added, hopes that the neighbouring country will abandon its outdated tactics, ones reminiscent of "a bad Balkan past".

    As for the economic situation, Bakoyannis noted that for the past year and a half the world was facing the largest post-war financial crisis.

    In this difficult conjuncture, the Greek government was literally exhausting all margins to widen and reinforce the social protection network provided by the state, she said, opining that, in light of the severest credit crisis in recent years, there was no room for petty party expediencies and populist attitudes.

    Everyone, she stressed, was obliged, with their actions and stance, to back the government in the difficult task it has undertaken of bringing the country out of the crisis with a structured plan and strategy.

    [05] Gov't eyes ban on anonymous cell phones; reax to chopper escape

    The government on Tuesday defended the latest set of urgent measures aimed to prevent another spectacular escape from one of the country's prisons as well as to combat organised crime in general, days after a pair of notorious convicts again used a helicopter to fly away from Greece's main penitentiary.

    In defending one of the measures, namely, banning the use of anonymous pre-paid mobile phones -- estimated as a few million in Greece -- government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the telephone confidentiality is still adhered to. Nevertheless, he said that requiring the listing of an owner's particulars even for a pre-paid connection is implemented in several European countries, such as Germany, France, Spain, Slovakia and Hungary.

    "I am surprised by the fact that some people, whom I do not want to name, are putting corporate interests above the public good and above citizens' security and that of the country," Antonaros said in response to press questions during his daily briefing.

    The spokesman dismissed criticism that banning anonymous pre-paid mobile phones and connections infringe on human and civil rights, "law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear, only those that are considering or have committed criminal acts."

    In a more general comment, Antonaros said the "deja vu" airborne prison break by the criminal duo of Paleokostas-Rizaj "was made possible due to the corroded system, demonstrating that other measures are necessary, and that is what we are doing."

    [06] Papandreou seeks party-leader debate on security

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Tuesday demanded an off-the-agenda debate on homeland security between the party leaders in Parliament, in a letter addressed to Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas.

    Specifically, the letter requested a discussion "on the disintegration of the state and its resultant inability to ensure even basic protection and safety for citizens' daily lives".

    Papandreou also cited a "generalised sense that lawlessness prevails" in the country, as well as official figures released by the Hellenic Police showing that both organised and ordinary crime was growing rapidly.

    This sense that the state of law was breaking down was further exacerbated by the government's harsh and class-based policies that "strike broadly at social strata and cultivate poverty, inequality and new social tensions," he added.

    The latest escape from Korydallos prison, PASOK's leader emphasised, had dealt a disastrous blow to the image of law enforcement in Greece.

    "In a small space of time, the same culprits, in exactly the same way, escaped twice - pulverising in the eyes of stunned Greek and - unfortunately for the country - international public opinion any sense of public order and security in our country," he underlined.

    And this against the backdrop of the violence that swept Greek cities, involving the destruction of property and attacks on the public, the violation of basic individual freedoms and democratic legality, and a resurgence of terrorist attacks.

    [07] PASOK meeting on citizen-state issues

    The government was placing its petty party expediencies above the public interest with respect to the Security Corps, and was trying to cover up its lack of plan and effectiveness under supposed strictness, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said on Tuesday, addressing a meeting of his party officers on citizen-state-local government issues.

    Papandreou also said that PASOK intended, possibly later on Tuesday, to table a request in parliament for an off-the-agenda discussion on matters concerning the security of the citizens.

    The request charges that the country has fallen into anomy, while the public sentiment was one of dissolution of the state and disdain of the institutions, combined with a general climate of economic insecurity, and puts forward an issue of credibility of the government and its responsibilities.

    [08] PM congratulates Papariga on re-election to KKE helm

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday sent congratulations to Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on her re-election to the party helm during the KKE's 18th congress, which ended on Sunday.

    In the letter, Karamanlis expressed his conviction that Papariga will continue to exercise her institutional role with commitment to her principles, and wished her health and strength.

    To the degree allowed by the ideological and political differences between the KKE and his ruling New Democracy (ND) party, but also to the degree mandated by the present critical phase for the country amid the international economic crisis, Karamanlis said he looked forward to her cooperation towards limiting the repercussions of the crisis on the country and Greek society.

    [09] Deputy FM addresses Black Sea development con'f

    Notable growth momentum in the Black Sea region, particularly in the sectors of energy and transportation, was underlined by Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis during his address at a Black Sea conference on regional integration and inclusive growth, held in Athens by World Bank under the auspices of the foreign ministry.

    Kassimis said that despite the improved business environment achieved in the Black Sea region in recent years, further measures are needed in the sectors of energy, transport, agriculture and infrastructure considering that there are still challenges that need to be met as regards stability and security.

    He underlined the constructive cooperation between the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation, BSEC, and EU and referred to the Black Sea Partnership Initiative launched a year ago in Kiev aspiring to improve cooperation on issues concerning democracy, human rights, good governance, security, the environment, commerce, energy and transportation.

    Kassimis stressed that forging closer relations between the EU, the Black Sea region and BSEC is a standing priority for Greece underlining the presence of ethnic Greek populations in almost all the countries in the region.

    The conference focuses on strategic importance issues, regional commerce, common challenges in investments and development, and measures aimed at limiting the effects of the climate change and ensuring the fair distribution of growth-related benefits.

    [10] Greek-Cypriot MPs to cooperate in education


    The Standing Committee on Cultural and Educational Affairs of the Hellenic Parliament and the Parliamentary Committee on Educational Affairs of the Cyprus House of Representatives agreed here Tuesday to cooperate and exchange views on issues of mutual interest.

    A five-member delegation, headed by the President of the Standing Committee on Cultural and Educational Affairs of the Hellenic Parliament Maria Kollia-Tsarouha, is paying a visit to Cyprus at the invitation of the President of the Parliamentary Committee on Educational Affairs, Nicos Tornaritis.

    On Tuesday, the members of the Greek delegation participated in a joint conference with the President and members of the Committee on Educational Affairs of the Cyprus House, during which issues concerning the two Committees were discussed.

    Tornaritis and Tsarouha agreed that Cyprus and Greece should join forces in the field of education to meet big challenges in the European environment.

    The Greek parliamentary delegation also met the authorities of the University of Cyprus.

    Rector Stavros Zenios informed the delegation about the programmes of the University of Cyprus as well as the close ties it maintains with Greek Universities.

    ''We believe that the University of Cyprus is a very good University'', Tsarouha said, after the visit.

    During their stay in Cyprus, the Greek parliamentary delegation is due to meet Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus, Chrysostomos II and Famagusta Mayor Alexis Galanos and all mayors from the free areas of Famagusta district, on the East of the island.

    The delegation will visit the cease-fire line, which separates the Republic's northern Turkish occupied areas from the southern government controlled part of the country, in Nicosia and Dherynia, on the East.

    [11] Private teachers invited to dialogue on reforming schools

    Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos on Tuesday asked teachers in private education to participate in dialogue on educational reforms for the Greek primary and secondary school system, during a meeting with the presidency of their union federation OIELE.

    "We consider crucial both the role and the manner in which OIELE will participate," the minister stressed in statements after the meeting.

    Spiliotopoulos also announced his intention to seek the contribution of school owners in the discussion, adding that they were also a part of the picture as it related to private education.

    "A school is primarily a school and only secondarily a business," he added, noting that any "arbitrariness" would have to be restricted as a matter of course.

    OIELE President Mihalis Kouroutos said the union federation has agreed to take part in the dialogue proposed by the minister.

    [12] Varvitsiotis meets El Salvador foreign minister

    Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis on Tuesday welcomed a decision by El Salvador's government to recognise the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) by the name agreed by the two sides in negotiations now underway at the United Nations to resolve the name dispute between FYROM and Greece. El Salvador has already recognised FYROM with the name it has adopted in its constitution, which is disputed by Greece.

    Varvitsiotis on Tuesday had a meeting with El Salvador's Foreign Minister Marisol Argueta de Barillas, during which they confirmed the excellent bilateral relations between Greece and El Salvador and the desire to develop these further, especially in the areas of migration, tourism and shipping.

    In joint statements after the meeting, Varvitsiotis announced that food aid to El Salvador from Greece will increase from 80,000 to 100,000 euros in 2009 and that Greece will offer three scholarships to Greek universities, especially in studies related to shipping.

    The two sides also set up a committee to monitor the progress of economic cooperation, in accordance with the Lima agreements between the EU and Latin American countries.

    Financial News

    [13] BoG Gov. on SE European banks

    Greek banks are in a position to deal with the impact from the international economic crisis hitting southeast European markets, as they are less exposed to the region compared with other West European financial institutions, while they enjoy strong capital adequacy to absorb increased bad debts, Bank of Greece Gov. George Provopoulos said on Tuesday.

    In an interview with Reuters, the Greek central banker said economic activity was slowing down in Southeastern Europe.

    "There is a significant slowdown and, of course, we monitor closely the situation. The Bank of Greece has demanded that Greek banks maintained high capital adequacy ratios (Tier 1) to deal with any possible problems. In any case, Greece banks must be prudent and they are. Even if the situation worsened there are many mounds," Provopoulos said.

    Greek banks have expanded in the region but not so much as other countries' banks, such as Austrian banks. Lending by Greek banks totaled 55 billion euros, around 16-17 pct of Greek GDP, while the rate for Austrian banks was around 70 pct, the central banker said, adding:

    "This shows that the Greek banking system is not largely exposed to the southeast European region". Provopoulos, however, stressed he was not overly relaxed, saying the situation must be closely monitored. "Temporary hardships should not change the long-term prospects of these countries. Greek banks will continue to suppor these economies," the central banker said, adding that he was not overly concerned with non-performing loans. "Greek banks have a strong capital base to absorb such shocks," he noted.

    [14] Greek gov't announces measures to support tourism industry

    The Greek government on Tuesday announced measures aimed at supporting the domestic tourism industry amid a severe global economic crisis. The Finance ministry, in a circular, announced the immediate rebate of Value Added Tax paid by touristic enterprises (travel agencies, hotels) in spending on fixed assets. The tax rebate will cover 90 pct of VAT paid while the procedure will be completed in 30 days. The remaining 10 pct of VAT will be rebated after completion of provisional tax controls.

    Meanwhile, Tourism Development Minister Costas Markopoulos on Tuesday signed a ministerial decision to begin payment of subsidies for the renewal of the country's tourist bus fleet.

    [15] MIG hires top executives for airline operations

    Marfin Investment Group (MIG) on Tuesday announced the hiring of two executives to strengthen its airline operations arm.

    MIG announced the hiring of Antonis Symigdalas as future chie executive of air transport operations in the group and Stavros Daliakas as future marketing manager. Both are very experienced executives with senior job positions in Aegean Aviation, Aegean Airlines and Olympic Airways.

    MIG is currently in exclusive talks with the Greek government for the purchase of Olympic Airlines and Olympic Airways' technical base.

    [16] New Crete airport to open in 2014

    A new airport in Kastelli, on the large island of Crete, is scheduled to open in 2014, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias said during a meeting with local administration officials in Irakleio, Crete on Tuesday.

    Tenders will be considered in May and a contractor will undertake the 1.2-million-euro project by the end of the year. Construction of a new road linking the airport with the north and south road axes on Crete will be included in related infrastructure projects.

    The airport, auxiliary facilities and infrastructure will cover an area of 600 hectares, including a 3.8-km-long runway to accommodate large aircraft and meet the island's needs in air transportation.

    Roughly 1,000 jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase, while 2,500 people will be employed as airport staff.

    Thirty major projects with a total budget of 500 million euros are currently under scheduled for Crete.

    [17] Emirates starts second daily Athens -Dubai route

    Emirates Airline will commence a second daily flight between Athens and Dubai starting on March 29.

    The new flight will depart from Dubai at 17:30 hours and arrive in Athens at 21:30, while the return flight will take off from Athens at 23:00 and land in Dubai at 04:25.

    Emirates Airline currently operates a Boeing 777 aircraft on the specific route. The new flight will be conducted by an A330-200 aircraft with a capacity for 237 passengers.

    Passengers arriving in Dubai can board connection flights to over 100 destinations including India, China, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

    [18] Alpha Bank says net profits down 33.5 pct in 2008

    Alpha Bank on Tuesday reported a 33.5 pct decline in its net profits to 512.1 million euros in 2008, compared with 2007, excluding extra revenues 80.4 million euros from the sale of Alpha Insurance to AXA in March 2007.

    The bank said its results reflected a more conservative management of the balance sheet while they were affected by a significant worsening of a financial crisis and an economic slowdown. Net interest proceeds grew 12 pct to 1.798.6 billion euros, with net interest margin at 3.0 pct in 2008, from 3.1 pct in 2007. Net commission revenues were unchanged, with credit card income growing by 17.7 pct and portfolio and investment banking proceeds falling by 27.9 pct in 2008.

    Loans, before write downs, grew 21.1 pct to 51.9 billion euros at the end of December 2008, slowing down from a 25.4 pct reading in September 2008, reflecting a 15.2 pct growth in Greece and a 47.9 pct increase in Southeastern Europe.

    Capital under management totaled 48.3 billion euros, while saving deposits grew 22.7 pct to 42.5 billion euros. Savings in Greece grew by 24.6 pct to 35.9 billion euros, while in Southeastern Europe, savings grew by 15.1 pct to 6.1 billion euros.

    In retail banking, pre-tax profits totaled 419.5 million euros, down from 508.4 million euros in 2007, while housing credit grew 13.3 pct to 11.2 billion euros reflecting lower demand in the second half of the year.

    Pre-tax profits in Southeastern Europe fell 4.6 pct to 111.7 million euros last year.

    Commenting on the results, Alpha Bank's chairman Yiannis Costopoulos said that "in a period of unprecedented volalitity in the financial sector, we achieved a satisfactory profitability confirming our operational capabilities. In 2009 we will intensify our responsible corporate social policy focusing on supporting the Greek economy and enhancing stability in Southeastern Europe".

    Alpha Bank said it was unable to present its plan over dividend payment this year ahead of a government legislative initiative to ban dividend payments for banks participating in a 28-bln-euro plan to boost liquidity in the market.

    [19] Nobel Prize Krugman to address Athens conference

    Paul Krugman who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, the sole awardee for 2008, will address a one-day conference in Athens on March 18. The conference is organised under the auspices of the Hellenic Enterprises Association (SEB).

    Krugman, who has been invited to Greece by the educational-advisors' company 'Prothessi SA', will speak on "The Financial Crisis: Managing in Challenging Times".

    Other speakers at the conferenece include Willem Buiter, Professor of European Political Economy at the London School of Economics (LSE) and Quentin Peel, international affairs chief editor at the Financial Times.

    SEB also organises an open forum, April 7, on "The crisis that threatens us, the crisis that challenges us".

    [20] Krontiras leaves Emporiki Bank

    Credit Agricole on Tuesday announced a decision by Antonis Krontiras, chief executive in Emporiki Bank, to leave his post after disagreeing with the Group's strategy.

    The French bank said Mr. Jean-Frederic de Leusse will remain temporarily as chairman of Emporiki Bank's board. Credit Agricole had announced on February 11 the appointment of Alain Strub as chief executive in Emporiki Bank with Antonis Krontiras taking the place of chairman of the board.

    [21] India theme country of 74th TIF

    India will be the theme country of the 74th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), which this year opens its doors on September 5 in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, Macedonia. This was announced on Tuesday by the trade fair organisers HELEXPO SA, who said that details about India's presence as TIF theme country will be unveiled at a press conference in Athens on March 3.

    [22] Vivere to sell Vicom for 4.5 mln euros

    Vivere, a Greek-listed company, on Tuesday said it planned to sell Vicom, the operator of Virgin Megastore, for 4.5 million euros, and called for investors to submit proposals and bids.

    A company statement said decisions by a general shareholders' meeting and its board called for the sale of 4,556,999 nominal shares in Vicom (99.99 pct of its equity capital) of a nominal price of 1.0 euro per share. Under the decision, the sale will be made on the precondition that the company will not record a loss from the transaction.

    [23] Greek stocks end 0.23% lower

    Greek stocks ended slightly lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The composite index of the market eased 0.23 pct to end at 1,545.40 points, with turnover a low 94.3 million euros, of which 4.1 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower, with the Financial Services (6.07 pct), Insurance (2.58 pct) and Media (2.19 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Personal/Home Products (1.99 pct), Oil (1.70 pct) and Industrial Products (1.67 pct) scored gains.

    The FTSE 20 index eased 0.03 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.26 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.93 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 136 to 66 with another 50 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +2.58%

    Industrials: -1.67%

    Commercial: -1.27%

    Construction: +0.74%

    Media: +2.19%

    Oil & Gas: -1.70%

    Personal & Household: -1.99%

    Raw Materials: +1.02%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.67%

    Technology: -0.78%

    Telecoms: -0.19%

    Banks: -0.60%

    Food & Beverages: -0.10%

    Health: -1.02%

    Utilities: -0.87%

    Chemicals: +0.38%

    Financial Services: +6.07%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, OPAP and Alpha Bank.

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.54

    ATEbank: 1.05

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.30

    HBC Coca Cola: 9.76

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.30

    National Bank of Greece: 9.80

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.04

    Intralot: 3.48

    OPAP: 20.00

    OTE: 10.34

    Bank of Piraeus: 4.06

    Titan Cement Company: 13.70

    [24] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.16 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover a low 35.170 million euros. Volume was 6,465 contracts worth 24.541 million euros, with 32,405 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,583 contracts worth 10.629 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,037), followed by OTE (3,656), Alpha Bank (986), PPC (462), Piraeus Bank (401) and Eurobank (295).

    [25] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 546 million euros on Tuesday, of which 331 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 215 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 165 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds widened to 245 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.46 pct and the German Bund 3.01 pct.

    In interbank market, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.06 pct, the six-month rate 1.96 pct, the three-month rate 1.85 pct and the one-month rate 1.56 pct.

    [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.286

    Pound sterling 0.886

    Danish kroner 7.509

    Swedish kroner 11.433

    Japanese yen 123.38

    Swiss franc 1.492

    Norwegian kroner 8.804

    Canadian dollar 1.612

    Australian dollar 1.995

    General News

    [27] Athens mayor, council majority reaffirm support for land development project

    A majority of the Athens city council on Tuesday called for a resolution reaffirming the city's support for an ambitious twin urban regeneration land development project and the associated construction of a Panathinaikos football stadium in the rundown Votanikos district of central Athens.

    The initiative came during an extraordinary meeting convened to discuss the controversial project, which has pitted Panathinaikos, a well-known land developer and the municipality against opponents of the plan, primarily the Parliament-represented Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA).

    The resolution would confirm the municipality's commitment to proceed with the provisions in a contract with the Panathinaikos sports club as well as to approve submission of a request for the issuance of a construction permit, allowing excavation and the installation of supports for a planned football stadium and the amateur club's facilities.

    "All of those individuals who have begun to call the municipality to task for the supposed delays, which they themselves have caused, should take this opportunity to cease misleading and misinforming interested parties and to confirm by vote their agreement with and desire for the dream of Panathinaikos and residents of Elaionas and Alexandras Avenue to become reality without asterisks and provisos," Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis said.

    Kaklamanis added that the Athens-based Babis Vovos construction group, the lead company in the consortium awarded the land development deal, has forwarded an extrajudicial statement in which it states that if the common legal foundation of the twin urban regeneration project, as outlined in the legislation, was retracted, the company would demand the return of a 5.6-hectare property that is essential to the construction of the stadium.

    The proposal by the majority municipal ticket was approved with 29 votes in favour, three against and five abstentions.

    [28] Alleged accomplice in acid attack on trade unionist arrested

    A 48-year-old Albanian national formerly employed in a cleaning company was arrested by authorities as a suspect in the shocking late December acid attack against Bulgarian national Konstantina Kouneva, who was active in the Athens area's cleaners' union, it was announced on Tuesday.

    According to evidence and information collected by police investigating the attack, the 48-year-old Albanian is believed to be the suspect who blocked Kouneva's way while an accomplice threw acid at her -- an unprecedented attack by local standards.

    Police said the suspect had also threatened Kouneva in the past, while the day after the attack he telephoned her residence asking for information on her condition.

    Police have forwarded evidence and information to an examining magistrate assigned the case, who immediately issued an arrest warrant, with the man arrested on Saturday.

    [29] Man arrested for bomb attacks, arsons.

    A 48-year-old man, who was already in police custody, has also been accused of two bomb attacks and two arsons in nightclubs, while he is also charged with two arsons targeting brothels, all in the greater Athens region.

    The suspect was recently captured by police accused of making explosive devices for people of the underworld, planting bombs and selling illegal arms.

    [30] Drug ring dismantled in Attica

    The Attica Security narcotics squad on Tuesday revealed the discovery and dismantling of an organised drug trafficking ring bringing large quantities of cannabis from Albania to Attica.

    The ring was operated by a family based in Ano Liosia and led by the father, aged 60. It was active in the areas of Ano Liosia, Kamatero, Peristeri and Halandri in Attica.

    Also arrested at the same time as the suspected mastermind of the gang were his wife, aged 57, his two sons, aged 32 and 33 respectively, two nephews aged 30 and 28 and two more individuals aged 29 and 47.

    One of the man's two sons had a moving firm and the other a firm with heavy digging machinery, while the two nephews were owners of a used car lot in Peristeri, where police found and confiscated 160 kilos of unprocessed cannabis.

    They also confiscated 437,455 euros in suspected drug earnings, two handguns, 40 rounds of ammunition, four luxury cars used to transport the drugs, 16 cell-phones and two sets of precision scales.

    According to information given to the police, the father used to have his own cannabis farms in western Greece and west Attica but then switched to using Albanians to grow the drugs across the border and send it to Greece, where it was picked up and sold by the family.

    Police are also investigating whether the legitimate businesses operated by the family were used as a front for laundering the cash from the drugs trade.

    The arrest was preceded by an investigation of several weeks in order to collect evidence that could dismantle the group. Those arrested were led before a public prosecutor on Wednesday.

    [31] Telethon for Palestinian people

    A telethon hosted by state ERT television on Monday in support of the suffering Palestinian people in Gaza Strip yielded roughly 1.2 million euros from donations by viewers from Greece and abroad who watched the event, which was aired on ET1 and ERTWorld.

    The telethon was held in cooperation with eleven trade unions, international organizations, local governments, etc. namely, GSEE, ADEDY, UNICEF, Athens-Piraeus Supra-prefecture, ENAE, KEDKE, GESEVE, Athens Bar Association, Technical Chamber of Greece, Athens Medical Centre and Athens Pharmaceutical Association.

    The money raised will be used for the restoration of the Christian Hospital that was reduced to rubble during the recent bomb attacks. Technical Chamber civil engineers will undertake to redesign the hospital which, when completed, will offer its services to local residents regardless of their religion.

    Meanwhile, a solidarity concert in support of the people of Palestine was staged on Monday evening by the Palestinian Community in Thessaloniki sponsored by Thessaloniki prefecture municipalities. All proceeds will be used to purchase medical and pharmaceutical supplies to be shipped to Gaza.

    Weather forecast

    [32] Cloudy and wet on Wednesday

    Cloudy weather, with rain and snow on high ground is forecast throughout the country on Wednesday. Northeasterly winds, between 4-7 beaufort, up to 8 beaufort in the Aegean. Temperatures between -7C - 13C. Cloud, rain and sleet in Athens, temperatures ranging from 1C - 10C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures between -1C - 9C.

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

    The 10 measures announced by the government to boost security in the correctional system after convicted felon Vassilis Paleokostas' carbon copy escape with Albanian convict Alket Rizaj by helicopter from Korydallos prison, repeating their June 2006 jail break, opposition reactins to the incident, and the upcoming EU extraordinary summit on Sunday on the global financial crisis which is expected to take measures for the 'weaker links" in the euro-zone were the main front-page items in Athens' newspapers on Tuesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "10 measures for the correctional system - What the Cabinet, which was not attended by...Paleokostas, decided".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Deposition 'burns' the Prison Council - With 10 immediate measures, the government trying to put order in the chaos of the correctional system".

    AVGHI: "They're putting...managers at the prisons - Taken by surprise, the government dredges up conservative stereotypes".

    AVRIANI: "Paleokostas' escape widens PASOK's lead over New Democracy to 4.2 percent, with SYN tumbling to fourth place while LAOS presents a spectacular rise", according to a GPO nationwide opinion poll.

    CHORA: "They're searching for 'black hole' in the prisons - The new jail break took place with accomplices from 'inside', the government believes".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: ", others...sink - The government, with the 'iceberg' it faces every day, will have the fate of the Titanic".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Rizaj and the mystery-woman the 'keys' - ELAS (Greek Police) sees 'bridges' with abductions (of businessmen) and terrorism".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Fasten your seatbelts and switch off your cell phones - Measures...after the fact/escapes announced by the government, just as in 2006".

    ESTIA: "Complete corrosion of the State - The conclusions from the jail break".

    ETHNOS: "They took measures again for...Paleokostas - Government meeting/operetta after the fiasco of the escape".

    KATHIMERINI: "Incompetent state, brazen crime - The jail break from Korydallos increases the citizens' sense of insecurity".

    LOGOS: "They're looking for accomplices from inside (the prison)...Dendias (justice miniser) asked for, and received, resignations".

    NIKI: "The government a farce - Karamanlis' and ministers' non-existence proven once again".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "KKE 18th Congress a springboard for counter-attack with a policy line of breaks and reversal".

    TA NEA: "13.5 million card cell phones being 'arrested' - Ludicrous measures after the fiasco".

    TO VIMA: "Korydallos the 'regulator' - Heavy climate in government - Paleokostas escape impacts political developments".

    VRADYNI: "Fundamental state mechanisms full of holes".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [34] President Christofias hopes Turkish Cypriots to respect rights of refugees


    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias said on Tuesday that the Greek Cypriot side expects the Turkish Cypriot side to respect the right of the refugees to decide what to do with their own properties.

    President Christofias, who was giving a lecture at the Political Science Department of the Belgrade University, referred to the direct talks for a Cyprus settlement and the issue of properties, noting that ''our position is clear, the rights of the displaced to their properties is sine qua non.''

    ''These rights are safeguarded through international and European treaties, international law and the decisions of international courts of law. We are defending this principle and we expect the Turkish Cypriot community to respect, in its proper dimension, the right of the legal owners of property to decide if they wish to resettle in their property, exchange it for another property or get compensation,'' he pointed out.

    The issue of property is currently being discussed during the UN-led talks, underway in Cyprus, between the President and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.

    President Christofias said it has been clarified with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat that the basis of a solution will provide for a bizonal bicommunal federation with a single citizenship, sovereignty and international identity, with political equality, as set out in UN resolutions. Turkey, he noted, wants the creation of two states in Cyprus.

    Replying to questions, President Christofias said he remained optimistic and that in the direct talks there has been convergence on many issues.

    Regarding Turkey's EU accession course, President Christofias said Cyprus supports this course but not unconditionally.

    ''We are a small country and we have rights and we will defend them,'' he said, adding that Turkey cannot join the EU if it does not withdraw its occupation troops from Cyprus.

    Furthermore, President Christofias said Cyprus supports the prospects of Serbia's accession to the EU.

    He added that the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo was unacceptable and assured that the Republic of Cyprus will not recognise it.

    President Christofias noted that the situation is Kosovo ''is nothing more than a blatant violation of the territorial integrity of Serbia, the most fundamental principle of international law, the UN Charter and the role of the Security Council.''

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Christofias and Talat have been engaged in talks since last September with a view to finding a mutually agreed settlement that will reunite the country.

    [35] House President briefs Greek MPs on Cyprus problem


    Acting President of the Republic of Cyprus, President of the House of Representatives Marios Garoyian received Tuesday a delegation of the Hellenic Parliament's Committee on Education Affairs, headed by Chairwoman of the Committee Maria Kollia-Tsarouha.

    Garoyian briefed the delegation on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem, expressing gratitude for the steadfast support of Greece to the struggle for the reunification of Cyprus and its people.

    He said that, despite the insistence of the Turkish side on a confederation and two states, the Greek Cypriot side remains focused on positions of principle for a Cyprus settlement, based on UN resolutions, the principles and values of the EU and high level agreements.

    Garoyian added that the Greek Cypriot side remains focused on the ongoing process of direct negotiations, with an aim to reach a bizonal bicommunal federation, on the basis of political equality, as set out in UN resolutions, providing for a single state with a single sovereignty, citizenship and international identity.

    Chairman of the House Committee on Education Nicos Tornaritis and Tsarouha briefed Garoyian on the cooperation between the two committees, and pointed out that education had a role to play in parliamentary diplomacy.

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