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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-12-30

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

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

Wednesday, 30 December 2009 Issue No: 3385

CONTENTS

  • [01] Government proceeding with what it has announced, PM says
  • [02] ND on Parliamentary probes: we don't fear the truth
  • [03] Samaras appoints heads of ND party secretariats, advisors
  • [04] Beglitis visits Greek KFOR troops in Kosovo
  • [05] State services to work full day on New Year's Eve
  • [06] Eco-Greens propose 'rolling highway' to by-pass Tempi
  • [07] Greek PPI up 1.0 pct in November
  • [08] PPC presents new investment program
  • [09] Thousands of motorists hand over car registration plates
  • [10] Deadline for 2010 circulation fees sticker extended
  • [11] Road toll fee increase
  • [12] Stocks end moderately lower
  • [13] ADEX closing report
  • [14] Greek bond market closing report
  • [15] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [16] Greek ship seized by Somali pirates
  • [17] Efforts to bring back the bodies of "Aegean Wind" mariners
  • [18] Two groups jointly claim Athens bomb blast
  • [19] Protest rally outside Israeli embassy
  • [20] Dragon's Cave in Kastoria opens to visitors
  • [21] Cooperation Memorandum between Athens Municipality-Archdiocese
  • [22] Cloudy on Wednesday
  • [23] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

  • [01] Government proceeding with what it has announced, PM says

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking to reporters at the Maximos Mansion on Tuesday, stressed that the strategy for the economy will not change and the government will proceed on the basis of what it has announced.

    Papandreou said that he does not fear a rejection of the stability and growth programme which the government will be submitting to the European Union in January, adding that the Greek economic problem differs from that of other countries and expressed optimism that the government will succeed in its effort.

    The prime minister noted that Greece's problem is mainly due to the squandering of resources that were not directed towards growth, but to such programmes as the "stage" and to corruption.

    He also referred to the banks and pointed out that although they have been financed they did not channel the money to the real economy, but preferred to close some holes of their own and to fund very specific companies.

    He also said that inflation is no problem for Greece, while replying to a question on whether there is a case of VAT increasing, he said that no such suggestion has been put to him by the finance ministry.

    Papandreou replied to many questions on the delay in the appointment of secretary generals at ministries and replied that it is better for one to wait even for one year for some changes to take place in the country, that have not taken place over the past 200 years.

    On the question of the electoral law and disagreements being voiced, Papandreou said that he is willing to discuss every aspect of the issue and clarified that the next self-administration and regional elections will be held with the new electoral law and with "Kapodistrias 2."

    Also replying to a question on whether the small parties stand to lose if the German model is applied, the prime minister said that this is not true and if the small parties lose some seats in the single-seat constituencies they will win them, and probably more, in the regions.

    As regards the question of immigrants, Papandreou defended the arrangements being promoted by the Interior Ministry and on the question of whether the electorate will be distorted in this way, he replied that the electorate will not be distorted, it will simply change and that, in any case, all parties have the possibility, on an equal basis, to claim the vote of all the Greeks.

    [02] ND on Parliamentary probes: we don't fear the truth

    Main opposition New Democracy will participate in all Parliamentary investigation committees, regardless what these were about, the party's spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos stressed on Tuesday.

    "ND wants transparency everywhere, we need not fear the truth and reality, we want the truth to come out in all cases," the spokesman said.

    Panagiotopoulos also made it clear, however, that the main opposition would also do its best to frustrate "the apparent intention of the prime minister to use the whole process of investigation committees to divert the public's attention from the government's blatant inability to govern and produce any meaningful work."

    Regarding the Vatopedi monastery land swaps affair, the spokesman said that ND's general position in favour of investigating everything still applied but that there was an "asterisk" concerning this particular case because a Parliamentary investigation into the affair had already been conducted in the past with the participation of all parties.

    According to Panagiotopoulos, this committee had reached its conclusion in a legal fashion and this had been accepted by the majority of the Greek Parliament. If PASOK had new evidence concerning the case, then ND would attend in order to contribute to an investigation of the issue and the discovery of the truth, he added.

    At the end of the Parliamentary investigation into the Vatopedi case conducted in 2008, each of the parties participating had submitted separate reports listing their own conclusions, with the reports of the opposition parties included as annexes to that of the majority ruling party New Democracy. While the ND report had absolved ministers of criminal liability, though finding the "politically accountable", those of the opposition parties had called for further investigation into the affair to rule out criminal liability. This report was supported only by the ruling majority.

    [03] Samaras appoints heads of ND party secretariats, advisors

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras appointed the heads of the party's 14 secretariats on Tuesday.

    Samaras also announced that former parliament vice-president Georgios Sourlas and former MP Dimitris Stamatis have been appointed as his advisors.

    [04] Beglitis visits Greek KFOR troops in Kosovo

    Alternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis on Tuesday visited the Greek force stationed in Kosovo, accompanied by Hellenic Army General Staff chief Lieutenant General Fragkoulis Fragkos, in order to convey the government's best wishes for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

    Beglitis first visited the headquarters of the KFOR multinational force, where he was briefed on its activities and developments in the region.

    His next stop was the "Megas Alexandros" army base in Mitrovica, where the 646 Mechanised infantry battalion is stationed, and then the army base "Rigas Ferraios" in Urosevac, to visit the 501 Mechanised Infantry Battalion.

    In statements during the visits, Beglitis praised the contribution made by the Greek battalions in the international peacekeeping force in efforts to consolidate peace, security and stability in Kosovo and the western Balkans as a whole.

    "Greece has a dynamic presence in international peacekeeping operations, respecting both its international and allied obligations but, above all, with an interest in defending its national interests in a region that has suffered grievously in the recent past," he stressed.

    Beglitis went on to say that Greece intended to continue participating in the peacekeeping force in Kosovo, in the framework of the UN mandate, in support of the fundamental religious and political rights of all the communities that made up Kosovo. He stressed that Greece's aim was to continue to be involved in peacekeeping missions where these were needed around the world because the government believed that the country protected its own interests best when it help ensure peace, security and stability, especially in geostrategically sensitive regions like the western Balkans.

    "In the framework of strengthening Greece's role in the Balkans, we do not rule out the possibility of boosting our presence in the region," he added, noting that keeping to the schedule for the gradual reduction of KFOR would depend on assessments of whether the situation in the region was normalising.

    The Greek delegation was unable to fit in a planned visit to a local monastery in order to meet Kosovo's bishop Artemios, due to lack of time before its return flight to Athens.

    [05] State services to work full day on New Year's Eve

    State services are to work a full day on New Year's Eve, rather than treat the day as a half-holiday, according to a circular issued by the interior ministry on Tuesday.

    In the past, it was normal for public-sector services to work only until 13:00 on December 31 but this year they will be required to stay open until 15:00, as on every other day.

    The ministry said the decision was taken because several state services have made December 31 the final date for several transactions with the public, such as making payments, submitting applications and supplying supporting documentation.

    [06] Eco-Greens propose 'rolling highway' to by-pass Tempi

    Members of the Ecologists-Greens party on Tuesday had a meeting with Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas and presented the idea of using the disused Greek railway lines in the Tempi Valley in order to build a "rolling highway" that might be used to carry buses and trucks past the blocked-off section of Greece's main north-south road axis.

    This would essentially consist of platforms on wheels that travel on the old OSE network and is suggested as a way of relieving the traffic burden caused by buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles on the smaller roads used in the diversions around the Tempi Valley, where a massive landslide blocked the road before the start of the holidays.

    Afterwards, Reppas said that he had instructed the railway company TRAINOSE to look into the idea and assess whether it was practical in terms of the time and cost involved. The minister noted, however, that the cost was not expected to be excessive.

    The minister noted that several alternatives had been put forward, including one by ship owners for a ferry service around the blocked road, and that the ministry was prepared to examine all of them if necessary.

    According to estimates so far, it will take roughly four months and possibly more for the national highway at Tempi to be fully restored.

    The civil engineers chamber also warned in a press conference on Tuesday that it will take many months to clear the road at Tempi, while there were three more points along the national highway where there is a high risk of landslides.

    Financial News

    [07] Greek PPI up 1.0 pct in November

    Greece's Producer's Price Index (measuring both the domestic and external markets) rose 1.0 pct in November this year, compared with the same month in 2008, after a decline of 0.3 pct recorded in November 2008, the National Statistical Service said on Tuesday.

    The statistics service, in a report, attributed the November increase to a 0.8 pct increase in the domestic market index and a 2.0 pct rise in the external market's price index. The Producer's Price Index rose 0.4 pct in November from October, after a decline of 4.1 pct recorded in November 2008. The 12-month average index, in the period from December 2008 to November 2009, however dropped 6.5 pct after an increase of 10.4 pct recorded in the previous 12-month period.

    [08] PPC presents new investment program

    Public Power Corporation, Greece's electricity utility, plans to increase investments in new mines and production units and to hiring around 2,300 workers, Arthuros Zervos, PPC's chairman and chief executive said on Tuesday.

    Presenting the corporation's investment program, Zervos predicted intensified competition in the electricity energy market and lower energy consumption because of the economic crisis and said that CO2 emissions would burden the corporation with 1.3 billion euros annually in 2013 and urged for a widespread dialogue on the issue warning that this burden could force PPC into bankruptcy or lead to higher electricity prices.

    Zervos said PPC was completing procedures to hire 2,300 workers, mainly technicians and announced that a tender for the 5th lignite energy unit in Ptolemais would be launched soon after an environmental study was completed.

    He noted that nine-month record profits this year were seasonal and stressed there was no room for complacency. Zervos reiterated that PPC's prices were the lowest in the EU-15 and among the lowest in the EU-25.

    [09] Thousands of motorists hand over car registration plates

    Thousands of motorists have been flocking to Tax Bureau offices over the past few days to hand over their automobiles' registration plates, thus withdrawing them from circulation and avoiding paying circulation fees for the year 2010. They are mostly owners of old technology cars or owners of more than one vehicle, who do not want to pay the new 'green' surcharges on such cars, which are considered highly polluting.

    The car owners wishing to hand over their license plates will have to submit a copy of the E9 income statement form and certify that they own a parking space where their car will be kept for as long as it will be out of circulation.

    [10] Deadline for 2010 circulation fees sticker extended

    The deadline for payment of car circulation fees for the year 2010, which originally expires on Dec. 31, 2009, has been extended until Jan. 15, 2010, the finance ministry announced on Tuesday. Fees for the 2010 circulation stickers can be paid in banks or Hellenic Post (ELTA) offices.

    During the extension period the car owners wishing to hand over their cars' license plates and car circulation permits can do so at their local Tax Bureau offices.

    A significant effort has been made by the ministry of finance and the ministry of environment, energy and climate change to reduce the fees paid by the owners of small and medium size cars. However, considerable fees are still being paid by certain vehicle categories like large, old technology cars despite the improvements made.

    The ministry of finance intends to reconsider the issue within the framework of the consultations for the tax system reform and proceed with corrective moves to be in effect for the 2011 circulation fees.

    [11] Road toll fee increase

    A ten-cent increase on road tolls will be in effect for all vehicle categories at the Rion-Antirion Bridge and the Elefsina-Corinth-Patras turnpike in southern Greece.

    The increase will be effective as of January 11, 2010.

    [12] Stocks end moderately lower

    Greek stocks ended moderately lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, with the composite index falling 0.56 pct to end at 2,196.03 points. Turnover remained a low 68.478 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 0.68 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.18 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.28 pct. The Health (1.18 pct) and Technology (0.92 pct) indexes were the only ones to record gains, while the Oil (3.33 pct) and Banks (1.21 pct) indexes suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 92 to 85 with another 52 issues unchanged.

    Tegopoulos (18 pct), Desmos (11.11 pct), Mevaco (9.82 pct), Lanacam (9.38 pct) and Minoan Lines (8.16 pct) were top gainers, while Vivere (10.0 pct), Unibios (9.52 pct), Elmec Sport (9.49 pct), Xylemporia (8.47 pct) and Vogatzoglou (8.33 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.37%

    Industrials: -0.81%

    Commercial: -0.72%

    Construction: +0.34%

    Media: +0.05%

    Oil & Gas: -3.33%

    Personal & Household: +0.40%

    Raw Materials: -1.00%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.55%

    Technology: +0.92%

    Telecoms: +0.58%

    Banks: -1.29%

    Food & Beverages: +0.88%

    Health: +1.18%

    Utilities: -0.35%

    Chemicals: -0.41%

    Financial Services: +0.76%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 8.31

    ATEbank: 1.89

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.50

    HBC Coca Cola: 16.16

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.77

    National Bank of Greece: 18.10

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.80

    Intralot: 4.10

    OPAP: 15.45

    OTE: 10.37

    Bank of Piraeus: 8.11

    Titan: 20.38

    [13] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.13 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover a low 33.458 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 5,215 contracts, worth 29.444 million euros, with 21,414 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 3,710 contracts, worth 4.014 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,416), followed by Eurobank (151), MIG (120), Piraeus Bank (293), GEK (201), Alpha Bank (251), Intralot (129), Mytilineos (111), Hellenic Postbank (132) and ATEbank (263).

    [14] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market remained a low 100 million euros on Tuesday, of which 50 million euros were buy orders and another 50 were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 25 million euros.

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was 238 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.75 pct and the German Bund 3.37 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 0.99 pct, the three-month rate 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.47 pct.

    [15] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.454

    Pound sterling 0.909

    Danish kroner 7.501

    Swedish kroner 10.437

    Japanese yen 133.5

    Swiss franc 1.500

    Norwegian kroner 8.395

    Canadian dollar 1.511

    Australian dollar 1.619

    General News

    [16] Greek ship seized by Somali pirates

    Somali pirates seized the Greek-owned bulk carrier "Navios Apollon" late Monday night as it was sailing 240 nautical miles east-northeast of Seychelles, en route to India with a 19-member crew, the Greek Coast Guard said on Tuesday.

    The Panama-flag ultra-handymax vessel, owned by Angeliki Frangou's "Navios Maritime Partners", was seized by a group of approximately 10 armed pirates who approached the ship on at least two speedboats. The pirates boarded the vessel and immobilized the 18-member foreign crew and its Greek captain, at gunpoint.

    The Navios Apollon was heading from Florida, in the US, to a port in India loaded with fertilizer.

    In 2008, piracy attacks on ships worldwide numbered 293, while in the first nine months of 2009 alone the number was greatly increased.

    The London-based Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee (the 'Committee', as it is known) and other international shipowners' associations have called for an increase in the number of warships and patrols along the coasts of Africa, while the US recently submitted a proposal that shipowners cease all negotiations with pirates seeking ransoms for the pirated ships.

    [17] Efforts to bring back the bodies of "Aegean Wind" mariners

    The ministry of foreign affairs has launched coordinated efforts with the ministry of economy, competitiveness and shipping aimed at lifting the obstacles raised by health authorities in the Dutch Antilles blocking transportation to Greece of the remains of three Greek seamen who died on board the Greek bulk carrier "Aegean Wind".

    Health authorities in the Dutch Antilles have justified their decision on grounds of health and hygiene, claiming that the bodies are in an advanced state of decomposition.

    The freighter was towed to the port of Curacao in the Dutch Antilles on Monday, after the fire that broke out on board the vessel on Christmas Day while it was sailing 90 miles off the coast of Venezuela that claimed the lives of nine seamen.

    Armed robbers target jewelry store in Glyfada

    Police are looking for five men involved in a major jewelry store heist after arresting a sixth suspected member of the gang while he was making his getaway. The six men carried out an armed robbery at around noon on Tuesday, targeting a jewelry store in the popular shopping district of Glyfada, southeast Athens. The loot of the armed robbery was jewelry and watches worth roughly 1.5 million euros.

    The robbers fled the scene on motorcycles which they abandoned a short distance from the scene of the robbery. Five of them got away using a small truck and one drove off in a private car.

    Police have arrested an individual believed to be the sixth robber that fled using a private car. An investigation conducted in a specific region in Glyfada where, according to information, the rest of the suspects had taken refuge was unsuccessful.

    The arrested suspect is being questioned by police and a manhunt is in progress to locate the rest of the robbers.

    [18] Two groups jointly claim Athens bomb blast

    The "Conspiracy of Fire Cells" group has claimed the late-night home-made bomb attack targeting the Ethniki Asfalistiki insurance company building off Syngrou avenue, in a proclamation published on the internet late Monday night that is co-signed by a previously unknown group calling itself the "Renegade Terrorists' Group" (Andartiki Omada Terroriston).

    The makeshift bomb went off at 23:01 on Sunday night in the Athens district of Neos Kosmos. The explosion targeted the Ethniki Asfalistiki building on Galaxias Street off Syngrou Avenue, which houses a branch of National Bank of Greece on the ground floor. An unidentified caller telephoned the newspaper "Eleftherotypia" at 22:46 on Sunday and warned that the bomb would go off in the building within 15 minutes. There were no injuries as a result of the blast because the police managed to cordon off the area but there was extensive damage.

    A senior police official said in Tuesday that the proclamation is being scrutinized by the counter-terrorism squad, given that this was the first time that the Conspiracy of Fire Cells has claimed an attack with such a sophisticated explosive mechanism, although it was not disputed that the group was behind the attack.

    This, he added, coupled by the group's collaboration with the Renegade Terrorists' Group, launched a new era in terrorist activity.

    [19] Protest rally outside Israeli embassy

    A protest rally was held outside the Israeli embassy in Athens on Tuesday afternoon on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Israeli air strike in Gaza.

    With "Hands off Gaza" and "Freedom for Palestine" as their main slogans, the demonstrators denounced "the policies of the governments of Israel, the United States, Egypt and Greece."

    The demonstrators demanded an end to acts of violence against the Palestinians by the Israelis in Gaza, the lifting of the region's blockading and the end of Israeli occupation in Palestine and the creation of an independent Palestinian state on the borders of 1967.

    [20] Dragon's Cave in Kastoria opens to visitors

    The Dragon's Cave in Kastoria, northwestern Greece, a site of exceptional natural beauty and boasting one of the most sophisticated air recycling and climate maintenace systems, is open to the public after a two-year project to make the site accessible to visitors, with the formal inauguration taking place on Tuesday.

    The opening to the cave, which is situated close to Lake Kastoria and was discovered in 1940 by three local residents, has the shape of a dragon's mouth, thus the name.

    According to local legends, a dragon guarded the cave and spurted flams from its mouth when anyone dared to approach it.

    Tourist corridors have been constructed, while stalactite- and stalagmite-friendly lighting has been installed, and measures have also been taken to protect the cave's rare flora.

    It is the only Cave in Greece with fresh-water lakes, given the proximity of Lake Kastoria.

    Bones of cave bears have been discovered in the cave, dating back 10,000 years.

    There are an estimated 10,000 recorded caves throughout Greece, and the Dragon's Cave is now among the country's 12 caves open to visitors. The Greek caves that are currently open to visitors are Petralona Cave in Halkidiki, Perama Cave in Ioannina, Alistrati Cave in Serres, Dyros Cave, Mara Cave in Drama, Dikteou Androu Cave in Crete, Mellisanthi Cave in Cephalonia, Pramaton Cave in Ioannina, Aghios Georgios Cave in Kilkis, Sykia Cave in Chios, Katsias Cave in Tripolis, and Vathi Cave.

    [21] Cooperation Memorandum between Athens Municipality-Archdiocese

    A Cooperation Memorandum between the Athens Municipality and the Athens Archdiocese was signed at the Town Hall on Tuesday, with the aim of tackling the problems of sensitive social groups at the level of public legal entities, parishes and municipal districts.

    The Memorandum bears the signatures of Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis.

    "Society demands and needs alliances to tackle the major social problems. Last year, you honoured us with your presence at the inauguration of the Social Pharmacy and the Athens Agora," Kaklamanis said in his address.

    The Memorandum focuses on the enactment and determining of a cooperation framework between the Holy Athens Archdiocese and the Athens Municipality for the development of joint action and the implementation of joint programmes in the Social Welfare sector.

    Weather Forecast

    [22] Cloudy on Wednesday

    Cloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 1C and 20C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 6C to 14C.

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

    The vehicle circulation fees, the drafting of the updated Stability and Growth program for submission to the EU, and changes in taxation and social security were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Tuesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "6 changes to pensions, social security, as of New Year".

    APOGEVMATINI: "10 billion euros debt suffocating the Greeks - Credit cards in circulation estimated at 11 million".

    AVGHI: "Cutbacks on tax-free ceiling, raid on incomes".

    AVRIANI: "30 percent dive in shops' turnover".

    CHORA: "The social security funds in the red - State revenues plunged over the last 60 days".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Six painful changes in social security as of January 1, independent of the social security reform being advanced".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Rage over the vehicle circulation fees - Unbelievable injustices and inconvenience at the Tax Bureau offices with the 'green' sur-taxes".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "50 percent reduction of tax-free ceiling on the deliberations table".

    ESTIA: "Why tax evasion is rampant - The government's measures are in the wrong direction".

    ETHNOS: "Warning bell for 2009 incomes as well".

    IMERISSIA: "European Commission plan - EU team in Athens for the measures".

    KATHIMERINI: "Second line of defense as well, for the deficit".

    LOGOS: "Government vigilance...against new flu and crisis".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Extension and changes for the investment law".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Uniform and universal public health system - The 'accessible' and 'quality' public health a ploy by the government".

    TA NEA: "Thousands of private car owners at an impasse - 'I won't pay (the circulation fees), take my license plates (withdrawal of vehicles from circulation)".

    TO VIMA: "How the citizens are voting on the Internet regarding the taxes".

    VRADYNI: "Uprising over the sur-taxes on (old, polluting) cars".

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


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