|Friday, 22 February 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-03-05
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 5 March 2009 Issue No: 3137
 PM briefs President on EU summit, global econ impactPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday briefed President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias over Sunday's extraordinary EU summit and developments in the global economic crisis, as well as its impact on Greece.
Karamanlis said united Europe was facing the biggest crisis ever, stressing that coordination of actions was required to tackle the crisis.
He said it was a crisis that was developing day-by-day in such a way that no one can predict the extent, size and depth of its consequences.
A specific action plan was necessary to confront the economic and, chiefly, the social repercussions of the crisis, Karamanlis said, stressing also that responsibility and maturity was required on the part of everyone -- political parties, professional and social agencies and the citizens.
The premier further reiterated the need for agreement on "the basics and the self-evident", given that the crisis "is knocking on our door" and "no one can turn a deaf ear".
Meeting with Parliament president
Karamanlis later briefed Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas on Sunday's extra-ordinary EU summit.
He said that the present crisis had different characteristics than those of the '70s and '80s, but also of beginning of the current decade, adding that no one could safely predict the depth and intensity of the crisis.
Sioufas said, however, that he was among those who believe that this crisis can be converted into a significant opportunity for the economy, society and the country itself.
With prudence, cool-headedness, national understanding and social solidarity, and with the proper interventions, the effects of the crisis can be drastically restricted, he said, adding that this was everyone's responsibility -- the political leaders, social partners, banking system and the business community itself.
 PASOK on econ crisis, election speculation, OA saleMain opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Wednesday accused the government of lacking an exit plan from the ongoing international economic crisis, one that will guarantee citizens' purchasing power.
He was commenting on the statements made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis following his meeting with the President of the Republic earlier in the day.
Papaconstantinou also maintained that government has lost its credibility before the people, criticizing it for not preparing the country in view of the crisis.
Responding to a question on whether the prime minister is preparing the ground for early elections, Papaconstantinou said that "the impasses faced are so pressing that at some point elections will be unavoidable".
Referring to the presentation on Thursday of PASOK's "green development" proposal by party leader George Papandreou, he stated that it "constitutes the only developmental option for the country if it wishes to be competitive and viable in an extremely adverse and full of challenges international environment", adding that "green development" means investments and new job positions.
On the sale of Olympic Airlines (OA), Papaconstantinou clarified that PASOK supports a private and public sector partnership investment established through a transparent process that could also include collaboration with a foreign carrier.
As regards the consensus requested by PM Karamanlis, he commented that the leader of PASOK will table his proposals and listen to what the prime minister will have to say, adding that PASOK's position in favor of general elections and consensual election of the President of the Republic "still stands".
 Athens defends fYRoM travel advisoryThe Greek foreign ministry on Wednesday stressed that its travel advisory for Greek nationals seeking to visit or transit the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was prompted by several good reasons, in addition to the weekend attack on a group of Greek tourists. Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos made the statement in response to a comment by the hardline nationalist prime minister of Greece's northern neighbour, Nikola Gruevski.
"We have pinpointed the reasons why it was judged advisable to supply this information for Greeks that intend to visit - either in order to stay or in order to transit - the territory of FYROM. Among these reasons we mentioned Skopje's exaggerated strictness, which borders on excess, in enforcing the law, which leads to disproportionately adverse results for Greek citizens," Koumoutsakos told reporters.
Among such "adverse results", the spokesman listed out-of-proportion and exceptionally steep fines imposed on Greeks, the practice of forcing Greek nationals to stand trial for relatively minor administrative offences, requiring truck drivers to unload their cargo for inspection at any point along their route and in all kinds of weather and even impounding or threatening to impound their vehicles for disputed violations, when a simple fine would have sufficed. The spokesman went on to criticise the practice of withholding the passports or identity cards of Greeks accused of violations, either until fines were paid or trials were held, which prevented their departure from the country for greater or lesser periods of time.
Regarding Gruevski's statement, the spokesman pointed out that it took three days and the Greek foreign ministry's announcement in order for there to be a formal response from Skopje, adding that this was "at least moving in the right direction".
Koumoutsakos underlined also that Athens was not trying to discourage contact between Greeks and their northern neighbours. "Greece believes in the usefulness of contacts between the two peoples," he said but rejected a proposal by Skopje for a mixed committee to prevent the repetition of incidents like those in Ohrid on Saturday.
"There is no need to set up committees for things that are obvious. Instead of proposing the creation of committees as a ruse, what should be happening is the solution of problems through the right decisions," he added.
Koumoutsakos said the incident at Ohrid would in no way affect a visit to Skopje planned by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, in her capacity as chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), noting that this was completely separate from bilateral relations and the name dispute between the two countries.
Regarding the impact of the incident on FYROM's progress toward EU accession, the spokesman said that this was not something for Greece to judge and stressed that delays in the European progress of neighbouring countries was not Athens' goal.
"Our conviction and strategic target is for the European perpective to proceed unimpeded, provided the conditions are met - and for our neighbouring region to essentially move toward rapprochement with the EU. At the end of this process, it is envisaged that the neighbouring countries will become EU members. This is a national strategy, from which we have neither shifted nor intend to shift by even a hair. The delays, however, are not the responsibility of Greece or the EU. The candidate-countries have an obligation to follow policies that meet the requirements and we are happy when we see this policy of supporting neighbouring countries, both in the EU and NATO, bring results," he stressed.
Asked whether the climate toward Greece in FYROM was discussed by Bakoyannis during her talks with U.S. officials in Washington, Koumoutsakos said that the foreign minister's talks had covered FYROM but centred specifically on the negotiations at the UN over the name dispute and the effect that the atmosphere and policies cultivated by Skopje were having on these.
The Greek foreign ministry issued "travel advice" to Greeks visiting FYROM after a group of tourists from Greece, travelling in the city of Ohrid in five coaches, were attacked by a group of about 30 nationalists, who threw stones and sticks at them. Two of the tourists were injured.
The attackers also damaged the coaches and spray painted "United Macedonia" and "Alexander the Great" on the vehicles.
Greece and its northern neighbour have been in a dispute over FYROM's adopted name of 'Macedonia', which is also the same as a northern Greek province that shares a border with the small landlocked republic. Athens says the name Macedonia implies territorial claims on its own northern province, where Alexander the Great was born.
The two countries are currently participating in UN-mediated negotiations to resolve the name dispute but have failed to make substantial headway since the 1995 Interim Agreement, with Athens accusing Skopje of failing to negotiate in good faith and criticising Skopje for provocative moves, such as a decision to rename Skopje airport as 'Alexander the Great'. The issue of the name also became a stumbling block to FYROM's bid to join NATO in 2008, alongside Albania and Croatia.
 Athens: Participants in Turkish military exercise briefed over Greek positionsGreek positions on sovereign rights and jurisdiction were reiterated by foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Wednesday, in response to a press question regarding a Turkish air-sea exercise scheduled to take place in the eastern Aegean in the second half of March, with the participation of US, British, Dutch and Belgian forces.
"Greece's positions have been made clear to all participating countries and it has been noted that these countries will act with total respect to Greece's sovereign rights and jurisdiction as dictated by international law, treaties and rules," he pointed out.
On whether the specific issue was raised in the meetings Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis had with US officials during her recent visit to Washington D.C., Koumoutsakos stated that "Greek-Turkish relations were discussed in detail" and that "the specific issue was also in the talks".
"Besides, the briefing was made a long time ago and relevant efforts continue," he added.
 Greek, Bosnia DMs confer in AthensIssues concerning security in the Balkans, the wider region of SE Europe, the Middle East and Caucasus as well as bilateral cooperation were discussed during a meeting between the defence ministers of Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Evangelos Meimarakis and Selmo Cikotic, respectively, in Athens on Wednesday.
Meimarakis commented afterwards that the security situation in the Caucasus and the Middle East, combined with the global economic crisis create, conditions of instability in the wider region, while the western Balkans need constant vigilance and attention.
He reiterated Greece's support to the efforts made by Bosnia-Herzegovina for membership in Euro-Atlantic institutions, pointing out that "such a prospect will contribute to the consolidation of security and stability in the wider region".
Referring to Kosovo, Meimarakis reiterated that Greece is in favor of a balanced solution that will guarantee stability in SE Europe.
On his part, Cikotic commented that recognition of a country's independence is a bilateral issue. As regards the stance of Bosnia and Herzegovina he observed that based on its Constitution it is interested in the existence of consensus between ethnic minorities living on its territory and, therefore, wishes to have good relations with the Serbs who constitute part of the country.
Cikotic expressed gratitude to Greece for its unreserved support and substantive assistance to his country's efforts for reconstruction. He also stated that the two countries share the same positions on most international issues and concluded that Athens can contribute to the consolidation of peace, security and stability in the region.
On the FYROM "name issue", Meimarakis reiterated that Greece firmly supports a mutually acceptable solution and urged the political leadership of the neighboring country to avoid extreme positions and practices.
 Alavanos raps banks, gov'tRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos, speaking in the Cretan city of Irakleio on Wednesday, charged that the prime minister's visit to the president would be useful "if there was a government that realised what was self-evident."
Alavanos added that the government should not support bankers but "socially beneficial" banks, that it should not spend tax money in a huge wave of armaments and relevant expenditures, as he said.
Meanwhile, Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party leader Alexis Tsipras toured the Evangelismos hospital in Athens on Wednesday and, addressing its staff, said the prime minister is calling for consensus while invoking the global economic crisis, but "in essence, he is calling for time to stay in power and for an alibi for his policy."
Tsipras also spoke of a "social deficit", stressing that the percentage of GDP expenditures for health stands at 2.4 percent when the average in the European Union is 13.6 percent.
 Dialogue on education reform to begin on March 11National dialogue on reforming Greek schools will kick off on March 11 with the opening session of the Council for Primary and Secondary Education at the Zappion building, under Professor George Babiniotis.
This will discuss reforms for the upper high school or lyceum system, as well as a new system of entrance examinations for tertiary education.
A first meeting of the representatives of political parties taking part in this dialogue will be held next Monday at the education ministry.
The highschool teachers union federation OLME announced in a press conference on Wednesday that it will not be participating in this dialogue, however, but would only send its proposals in written form.
According to OLME President Costas Maniatis, "teachers will not give legitimacy to this theatre dialogue" that the government was attempting to orchestrate, while he also criticised the government for further reducing spending on education.
Teachers also warned that they do not rule out strike action, even if these coincided with the holding of the nationwide university entrance exams in May.
In terms of their proposals, teachers are in favour of free access to higher education but, until such a system can be put into operation, they also call for an increase in the number accepted into higher education, abolition of the pass mark of 10, nationwide exams in a limited number of subjects and are against calculating the marks received in highschool toward the marks for entry into higher education.
 Interministerial com't convenesAn inter-ministerial agencies committee convened at the economy ministry on Wednesday, with the participation of FinMin Yiannis Papathanassiou, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Employment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli-Petralia and Health and Social Solidarity Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, as well as Deputy FinMin Nikos Leggas.
Speaking after the meeting, Avramopoulos said impressive results have been achieved in slashing expenditures, preparing balance sheets and in the all-important procurements.
Replying to a relevant question, he said most agencies having direct contact with the ministry are also supervised by the economy ministry. Lastly, he noted that as a result of the change in the procurements system some 500 million euros will be saved annually.
 Armed Forces senior officers promotion process concludedFollowing the conclusion of the regular Armed Forces senior officers promotions and retirements process by the General Staff Chiefs Council and the decision reached by the Government Foreign Affairs and Defence Council (KYSEA) on Wednesday, the Armed Forces leadership is shaped as follows: Dimitrios Grapsas National Defence General Staff Chief, Ioannis Yiangos Air Force General Staff Chief, Georgios Karamalikis Navy General Staff Chief and Dimitrios Voulgaris Army General Staff Chief.
 Police promotionsMajor General Yiannis Rahovitsas, who is known for his term in the Attica Narcotics Squad in the past and up to now servied in Lamia as police inspector for Sterea (mainland) Greece, was named on Wednesday as the new Attica police chief, in the annual police promotions and retirements.
Brigadier Dikopoulos was named as the new commander of the Attica Security police, while he is succeeded in his former position as head of the police counter-terrorism squad by Brigadier Chorianopoulos.
A total of 11 Brigadiers were promoted to the rank of Major General, while 19 retained their ranks and 24 were promoted to the rank of Major General and retired as "successfully ending their careers".
Also, 46 police directors were promoted to the rank of Brigadier while 61 were retired as having successfully ended their careers.
 2 more bids submitted for OAAegean Airlines - a Greek-listed airline -- and Chrysler Aviation on Wednesday formally submitted separate bids for the purchase of state-run Olympic Airlines, offering 170 million euros and 210 million euros, respectively.
Aegean Airlines said its aim was the creation of robust Greece-based carrier with the necessary critical size to compete in global competition within the framework of a single European area.
A company statement read: "In case our bid is accepted by the Greek state, we intend to ease part of our domestic activities to further boost existing competition in the Greek air traffic market, while servicing remote lines remains an obligation".
Aegean also pledged to complete the transaction in no more than 60 days after signing a final agreement with the Greek state, saying this will save hundreds of million of euros in operating losses burdening the Greek state.
Chrylser Aviation said its bid covers the Olympic Airways group (Pantheon Airways, ground handling and the technical & maintenance base) while it also plans to submit an offer for the purchase of Olympic Group's remaining assets. Chrysler Aviation said it would recommend that the Greek state hold a 25-pct stake in Olympic Airlines.
Commenting on the two offers, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said it was positive the fact that there were more offers for the national carrier, stating: "the government will continue talks with MIG and Swissport until the end of the week, respecting the exclusive nature of negotiations, while we will also examine other offers based on specific principles: existing legislation, national and community rules on competition, real date of the offers and the recommendations of a commissioner monitoring the sale procedure".
 Tourism conference on facing the global crisisEmployment and Social Protection minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Wednesday appealed for hotels to remain open throughout the entire tourism period, addressing an Expro-sponsored conference on "The suppliers' branch facing the financial crisis".
Petralia noted that not a single wage must be lost by hotel employees, so that they may receive the work benefit for the period in which the hotel unit is closed.
She also called on hotel owners to manifest responsibility in this difficult conjuncture, and outlined her ministry's policies for boosting domestic tourism, noting that this year, for the first time, the number of people eligible for social tourism will be 700,000 from 400,000 last year.
Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers president Andreas Andreadis painted a black picture of tourism movement, noting that hotel reservations were currently 20 percent down from the same period last year, and called for a second package of tourism-boosting measures to be taken, if required, in order to belie speculation that tourist arrivals in 2009 would drop by 10 percent over last year.
Andreadis noted, however, that the reduction in the throughput fee at Athens International Airport (AIA) and abolition of landing fees would be a breather for the tourism industry, as the cost reductions would be passed on to visitors to Greece through discounts on the overall price of their tourist packages.
He further said that the Greek hoteliers would do everything possible to maintain the jobs in the sector and keep their hotels open for the entire tourism period, stressing that they have already made substantial discounts in the packages offered without discounts in the quality of their services. He noted that the discounts reached 30 percent for reservations in May, and 20 percent for the rest of the tourism period.
Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) president Constantine Michalos said that the creation of an independent Chamber of Tourism would not be the advisable solution for exiting the crisis, given that the times required the uniting of forces, rather than fragmentation.
 Souflias on special land planning framework for tourismEnvironment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias, addressing a joint meeting of the Parliamentary Environment and Economy and Trade Committees on the issue of special land planning for Tourism on Wednesday, said he was open to proposals by both political parties and relevant agencies.
Souflias termed it as being one of the most important reforms and spoke of a campaign to defame it and of unbelievable disinformation .
The minister added that hard and systematic work was done to prepare the special framework on Tourism, while extensive consultations with society and all the relevant agencies had followed.
 Greece 24th in int'l tourism indexGreece ranked 24th amongst 133 countries in the global Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) announced on Wednesday.
SETE said Greece fell two places in 2009, from the previous year, while it ranked 18th in Europe. The Association attributed the decline in Greece's ranking to a rise in the rankings of Cyprus and Belgium, while it noted that other competitor countries maintained their rankings (Spain was sixth), Portugal (17th), Croatia (34th), Turkey (56th) and Egypt (64th).
Greece's advantages were the country's cultural sites and heritage, high-quality healthcare services, tourism infrastructure, while a major disadvantage was a lack of proper regulatory framework to support the tourism sector.
Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France and Canada topped the list of this year's Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index.
 Gov't points to declining prices in marketDeclining prices recorded in a number of products, which will be made public shortly by the general secretariat for commerce, are attributed to a list of measures adopted by the government, ones aimed at combating the high cost of living as well as to the low prices of raw materials, Deputy Development Minister George Vlachos stressed in an interview with ANA-MPA.
Referring to individual consumers and to consumer rights organisations, he pointed out that they should take action for their own protection.
Price changes are under the government's control, he stated, adding that the free market does not mean uncontrolled market. The development ministry has the political will to tackle any dysfunctions and clash with private interests within the framework of the market reform efforts, he pointed out.
Prices in roughly 20,000 products have dropped, while 4,000 to 4,500 price hike recalls have been recorded since September 2008, Vlachos said, adding that companies are obligated to justify any price hikes.
Referring to measures adopted by the government to reduce the high cost of living, he pointed out that inflation in January was limited to 1.8 pct, mainly due to reduced prices of raw materials.
 Credit expansion to enterprises satisfactory, reportCredit expansion to enterprises remained at satisfactory levels, fully reflecting banks' efforts to satisfy - as much as possible -- Greek enterprises' funding needs despite difficulties prevailing in money and capital markets, a report by Alpha Bank stated on Wednesday.
The bank's analysts said credit expansion to main business sectors was satisfactory, with a growth rate of 16.4 pct to the manufacturing sector despite a 4.2 pct decline in industrial production, a 19.5 pct growth rate to the agriculture sector, 20.1 pct to tourism, 20.8 pct to commerce and 33.7 pct to the construction sector.
Alpha Bank's report said Greek enterprises' loan debt totaled 54.1 pct of the country's GDP, down from a 60.1 pct reading in the Eurozone, while enterprises' and households' debt accounted for 101.9 pct of GDP in January, up from 94.4 pct in December 2008 and 119.2 pct in the Eurozone.
 Greek economic sentiment index in record lows in FebruaryGreece's economic sentiment index fell significantly in February, remaining on a declining trend of the 12th consecutive month in line with a negative trend prevailing in most European countries, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Wednesday.
IOBE, in a monthly report, said the economic sentiment index dropped to 47.2 points in February from 55.4 in January, a new all-time low, with another 18 EU member-states -including UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Cyprus, recording all time lows in the month. The report recorded worsening conditions in all sectors of the economy with the exception of the services sector, with manufacturing and retail sectors hit harder while the construction sector suffered more mildly.
Consumer confidence fell afresh in the country, after a slight recovery in January, reflecting worsening predictions of Greek consumers over the country's economic condition and their households' financial situation. Expectations on unemployment hit record lows in February.
 Eurobank reports 20% drop in '08 net profitsEurobank Group on Wednesday reported a 20-pct fall in its net profits to 652 million euros in 2008, down from 836 million euros in the previous year, adding that activities in its "New Europe" sector contributed 137 million euros to group profits.
The bank said saving deposits grew 26.3 pct to 45.7 billion euros, while loans grew 22.4 pct to 57.1 million euros.
Commenting on the results, Nikolaos Nanopoulos, the bank's chief executive, said the group maintained a strong capital base - with a capital adequacy rate of 12.4 pct -- and increased cash flow despite a difficult economic juncture.
The Greek banker stressed that the bank was creating an inventory of additional provisions for any future risks, totaling 240 million euros, a move further strengthening its balance sheet. "Our priority remains boosting organic pre-provisions earnings, stricter control of risks, further improving portfolio quality and cutting operating costs at all levels," Nanopoulos said, adding that Eurobank EFG was supporting Greek businesses and households throughout this very demanding juncture by showing both understanding and flexibility, promoting relations based on trust.
Eurobank said it would skip a dividend payment in cash this year.
 SEB assumes UBCCE presidencyThe Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) has taken over the presidency of the Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises (UBCCE) for the two-year term 2009-2011, at the UBCCE's second general assembly held in Istanbul.
The UBCCE, headquartered in Istanbul, is a non-governmental international Union composed of central, private, voluntary, nationally representative, horizontal business organizations from the countries neighboring or having strong geographical ties with the Black Sea and Caspian Region.
The UBCCE's objectives are:
- to establish institutionalized cooperation between central, voluntary, private, non-governmental, horizontal business organizations from member countries with a view to assisting the economic and social development of the region.
- to permit concerted action by these central, voluntary, private, non-governmental, horizontal business organizations vis-à-vis governments and the business community, favoring the adoption, where necessary, of policies conducive to the better functioning of a market economy under optimal conditions for member countries.
- to promote the social and economic interests of the companies represented by its members.
- to provide its members with information, carry out commissions studies, adopt positions and promote these.
 French award for exporters federation headPanhellenic Exporters Federation President Christina Sakellaridi was honoured by the French government during a special ceremony at the residence of the French ambassador, Christophe Farnaud, on Tuesday evening.
 Greek canned peach exports down 22% in Q4Greece's canned peach producers on Wednesday said exports were down 32 percent in December 2008 and 22 pct in the fourth quarter of the same year, compared with 2007, as the industry was feeling the impact of a global economic crisis.
The producers said exports were significantly down in the first two months of 2009, with eastern markets (Russia and Poland) recording the biggest percentage drop.
Officials figures by the Union of Canning Producers, showed that the volume of canned peach exports totaled 85,400 tons in the fourth quarter of 2008, from 108,700 tons in the same period in 2007, with December exports easing to 18,800 tons, from 27,400 tons in 2007.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, Costas Apostolou, the president of the Union, said exports fell by 35 pct in January and 27 pct in February, and stressed that based on current levels of demand, the industry will be left with increased stocks this year, almost double compared with 2008.
The Union asked for immediate government measures to support the sector's cash flow and it is expected to meet with Agricultural minister to discuss the sector's problems.
 Greek stocks end 0.24 pct downGreek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange with the composite index of the market easing 0.24 pct to end at 1,507.39 points, reflecting losses in blue chip stocks. Turnover was a low 109.2 million euros, of which 2.9 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors ended lower, with the Commerce (2.65 pct), Travel (2.53 pct) and Telecommunications (2.28 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Raw Materials (4.85 pct), Constructions (3.81 pct) and Personal/Home Products (3.49 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index eased 0.82 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 1.47 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.33 pct higher. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 103 to 86 with another 57 issues unchanged.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a reduced discount (0.41 pct) in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover a low 26.965 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,250 contracts worth 19.300 million euros, with 32,028 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,628 contracts, worth 7.365 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,412), followed by Eurobank (687), Marfin Investment Group (698), PPC (570), OPAP (607), Alpha Bank (618), Marfin Popular Bank (908) and Intralot (660).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 659 million euros on Wednesday, of which 309 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 350 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security of the day with a turnover of 275 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose to 270 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.81 pct and the German Bund 3.11 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.99 pct, the six-month rate 1.86 pct, the three-month rate 1.77 pct and the one-month rate 1.47 pct.
 Painter Yiannis Palaiologos diesContemporary Greek artist Yiannis Palaiologos passed away on Tuesday at the age of 52, after a bout with cancer.
Palaiologos was one of the top representatives of moderm Greek figurative painting, and a student of Yiannis Tsarouchis, with whom he had collaborated in the decoration of the renowned Athenian cinema theater Rex.
His works have been presented in numerous one-man shows and group exhibitions, while one of his most recent paintings is on display at the Athens War Museum in a group exhbition titled 4 Seasons, which runs through Sunday.
His funeral will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Koropi cemetary, northeast of Athens.
 Int'l Friends of Kazantzakis society presents awardsThe International Society of Friends of Nikos Kazantzakis on Wednesday honored foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, several journalists, including ANA-MPA, and other individuals who have contributed to advancing the Society's goals.
The Society wa set up 21 years ago in Geneva, where Eleni Kazantzaki was living, and aims at promoting the great Greek thinker and author's work and, in that context, the Greek intellect and culture in general.
The Society paid tribute to Bakoyannis for ther "material and moral" contribution to its work, and especially for the mobilization of the Greek embassy's around the world on the events organized by the Society in 2007 marking the 50th anniversary of Kazantzakis' death.
Commendments were also awarded to Cyprus former education minister Claire Angelidou, the ambassadors of France and Switzerland in Athens, secretary general for information Panos Livadas and secretary general for communication Maria Papada, ANA-MPA director of the Greeks Abroad desk Diamantenia Riba, Greek state radio ERA 5 and journalist Noah Parlavatzos, and Crete University rector George Grammatikakis, who is also president of the Kazantzakis Museum Foundation.
 Volos among cities receiving 'Dosta' awardsPARIS (ANA-MPA / O. Tsipira)
The "Dosta" awards were presented during a special ceremony held at the Council of Europe here on Wednesday. "Dosta" in the Roma language translates into "Enough."
"Enough of prejudices, enough of discrimination against the Roma," is the message sent to Europe by the Congress of Local and Regional Aurthorities of the Council of Europe, that hosted the event for the second time.
Four cities, including the central Greek port city of Volos, were honoured in the presence of their mayors for their action and efforts to protect the rights of the Roma and to achieve their inclusion into local societies.
 Bank torched in Neo Psychico, extensive damageExtensive damage was caused to a Piraeus Bank branch in Neo Psychico in the early hours of Wednesday when unidentified persons broke a bank window and threw a home-made incendiary devicse into the facility.
The molotov cocktail (fire-bomb) and a home-made device comprising small propane canisters exploded and caused a fire that quickly spread throughout the entire branch. The fire was extinguished shortly afterwards by a team of 12 firemen with 4 fire engines that rushed to the scene.
The perpetrators, who immediately fled the scene, were being sought by police.
 Foreign national arrested on drug trafficking chargesA 19-year-old Albanian national was arrested near the town of Neapolis, in the northwestern prefecture of Kozani, following a police car chase and a subsequent search in his car that revealed 68 kilos and 650 grams of hashish packed in three travel bags.
The young Albanian was chased by police after he sped off when flagged down for a routine check outside the village of Polyanemos, Kastoria Prefecture.
 Large heroin cache found in jailA packet containing 23 grams of heroin and two syringes was confiscated on Wednesday in within the correctional facility near the southern city of Nafplio. Police confiscated the drugs and the other items and are conducting an investigation.
 Parliament donates statue to municipality of DramaParliament President Dimitris Sioufas will unveil on Friday, March 6 a statue by famous Greek sculptor Christos Kapralos (1909-1993) donated to the northern Greek municipality of Drama by the Greek Parliament.
The 3.8 meters-tall bronze statue titled "Mother" is placed at the courtyard of the new Dramas City Hall.
Kapralos made the statue during WWII using his mother as a model.
 Forced landing at sea by fire-fighting planeA fire-fighting plane had to make a forced landing at sea just off the Amarynthos region in Evia on Wednesday, for reasons as yet unknown.
All five crew members are safe and well, while the plane was towed to the nearby harbour of Oropos. It will be inspected by a team of civil aviation engineers to determine the precise cause of the malfunction that forced it to land.
 ISAP routes modified in the next two weekendsAthens Piraeus Electric Railways (ISAP) announced changes in its service in the next two weekends due to renovation works in the network, it was announced on Wednesday.
The Iraklion-Kifisia route will be out of service in the coming weekend while the Attiki-Eirini Station route will not be in operation in the weekend of March 14-15.
Commuters will be accommodated by the bus lines 500B and 500Ã respectively.
 Would-be migrants rescued in remote regionThree Albanian nationals attempting to illegally cross into Greece on Tuesday evening through a remote mountainous pass near the village of Vigla in Florina prefecture of northwest Greece were spotted on Wednesday by a fire brigade rescue team.
According to authorities, the three men lost their way in the woods and called for help from the mobile phones. Fog and snow made the rescue operation difficult, according to reports.
 Cloudy, rainy on ThursdayCloudy and rainy weather and southeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 22C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with southeasterly 6-8 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 13C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis meeting with President Karolos Papoulias later in the day and EU recommendations that Greece take additional measures to combat the crisis dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The hiring procedure for 60,000 unemployed in the private and public sector".
APOGEVMATINI: "22,945 hirings in public sector".
AVGHI: "Salaries, pensions and bonuses in the 'guillotine' - The government submissively abiding by the Commission and OECD recommendations".
AVRIANI: "The guilty must pay for the unemployment and the poverty that has spread everywhere and the looting of the world's wealth".
CHORA: "Life-raft with new measures - Alert in government over the unexpected development".
ELEFTHEROS: "The first social security Fund went bankrupt - General Bank of Greece's Personnel Fund is unable to pay auxiliary pensions and lump sum retirement gratuity".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Tsounami strikes the social security funds".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Government does not want to impose additional taxes before European Parliament elections".
ESTIA: "The economic crisis demands consensus - Parties outbid each other in irresponsibility".
ETHNOS: "Friendly ultimatum for measures - Brussels awaiting Athens' new plan".
KATHIMERINI: "The Greek economy in a vise - EU demands additional measures as international organisations' predictions are gloomy".
LOGOS: "FinMin Yannis Papathanassiou foresees: Unexpectd and unpleasant developments".
NIKI: "State television and radio corporation ERT giving out golden contracts - Spending of million of euros in the midst of an austerity period".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The peoples unwilling to pay for the crisis".
TA NEA: "Government patching the black hole by imposing triple surcharges, while denying specuation of new taxes".
TO VIMA: "Karamanlis is disappointed with the outcome of the EU Extraordinary Summit".
VRADYNI: "Green light for legalization of undeclared basements and partially enclosed balconies".
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