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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-01-08

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 8 January 2010 Issue No: 3391


  • [01] FinMin: Gov't eyes major reforms
  • [02] Spanish PM calls on EU to support Greece
  • [03] ND's Samaras calls for talks on election law reform
  • [04] KKE, SYN on Samaras' initiative
  • [05] Interior minister on election law reform
  • [06] ND seeks debate on transparency
  • [07] Synaspismos political secretariat convenes
  • [08] Appellate judges' president to head investigation into Zagorianos
  • [09] Lavrentiadis elected new chairman of Proton Bank
  • [10] Aegean buys Verbeke Bunkering NV
  • [11] NEP Publications buys 12.53% in Pegasus Publications
  • [12] New Hilton hotel on Kos
  • [13] Jumbo reports 5.8 pct rise in H1 sales
  • [14] Stocks end 1.43% higher
  • [15] ADEX closing report
  • [16] Greek bond market closing report
  • [17] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [18] SAE expresses support to the Ecumenical Patriarchate
  • [19] Centre against juvenile delinquency to be established
  • [20] Terror suspect to testify on Friday
  • [21] Greek captain returns from Iran after 14-month detention
  • [22] Illegal betting shop raided
  • [23] Cloudy, unseasonally warm on Friday
  • [24] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] FinMin: Gov't eyes major reforms

    "The Stability and Growth Programme is in fact a programme for the reconstruction of the national economy," Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Thursday.

    Speaking to reporters, the minister said the government's updated Stability and Growth Programme will be submitted to the European Commission by the end of January and was expected to be approved by an ECOFIN Council on Feb. 16.

    He stressed that the programme highlights the government's will to promote major changes in public finances, in taxation, budget drafting and all the radical reforms promoted in the public sector and the economy's production model.

    Meanwhile, ministry officials were adamant that the government was not examining a hike in VAT rates, while stressing that the government also rejects calls for a freeze in civil servants' pay or abolition of the so-called "14th" monthly salary, paid as an end-of-the-year holiday bonus. Instead, they said the government was examining plans to offer incentives for the repatriation of capital, while he said plans were made to open the services market and liberalise so-called "closed professions".

    Greece's updated Stability and Growth Programme would include two scenarios over the country's public finances, a basic and a more pessimistic one. Under the basic scenario, the country's public debt will begin falling as of 2012.

    According to government spokesman George Petalotis, the envisaged three-year stability and growth programme will be made up of "fair measures of a permanent nature for restructuring the state, stimulating the economy, reducing the deficit and public debt".

    He predicted that the next three years would prove one of changes benefiting the average Greek, which would provide support to small and middle incomes.

    The spokesman went on to announce that the entire Cabinet will convene next Sunday afternoon in this framework, to discuss a draft bill being prepared by the interior ministry for a new "architecture" to regional and local government authorities.

    Regarding the meeting between a team of European Commission and European Central Bank officials with staff at the finance ministry in Athens earlier the same day, Petalotis said that this had been "very constructive" and said it had not been a form of "inspection" but a collaboration between the two sides.

    On the meeting with Economy, Competition and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli, the spokesman said the minister had focused on a series of initiatives designed to boost liquidity for businesses, support investment, improve competitiveness and make the Greek economy more outward-looking.

    [02] Spanish PM calls on EU to support Greece

    MADRID (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)

    Spanish Prime Minister and current European Union President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said here Thursday that the EU should demonstrate its solidarity towards Greece in handling its economic difficulties.

    Presenting to reporters the Spanish EU presidency's priorities, Zapatero expressed his belief that the EU Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Central Bank would support Greece by indicating the path that should be followed and the proper measures that should be taken in order to deal with its economic difficulties.

    [03] ND's Samaras calls for talks on election law reform

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) President Antonis Samaras addressed the issue of election law reform in letters sent to Prime Minister George Papandreou and the leaders of the political parties in parliament on Thursday.

    Samaras stated that "apparently, there is no agreement as regards election law reform" and called for cross-party consultation without preconditions.

    He underlined that such consultations will help "record possible agreements and unbridgeable disagreements, allowing the drawing up of a specific draft law based on mutually acceptable principles."

    The ND president added that there could be agreement on certain points, such as, cutting in size the very large electoral districts. He clarified, however, that suggestions for "two-speed" parliament deputies or the general adoption of one-seat electoral districts were not acceptable.

    [04] KKE, SYN on Samaras' initiative

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday expressed support for an election system based on simple proportional representation, responding to an earlier initiative by main opposition New Democracy (ND) President Antonis Samaras who called for a cross-party debate on the election law reform issue.

    Coalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN) expressed opposition to the adoption of an election law that will be based on the "German model" and underlined that simple proportional representation is the only electoral system that can reflect the political landscape.

    [05] Interior minister on election law reform

    Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis said Thursday that the government with its election law reform bill was aiming at an electoral system that "reinforces the autonomy of politics, the role and the prestige of deputies."

    Asked to comment on letters that main opposition New Democracy (ND) President Antonis Samaras had sent to Prime Minister George Papandreou and the leaders of the political parties in parliament earlier in the day regarding the issue of election law reform, Ragoussis added that the bill also aimed at an electoral system that would "contribute to cracking down black political money and corruption by restricting election expenditures," and safeguard the formation of stable governments.

    "Deliberations and exhaustive dialogue is a constituent part of the government's every legislative initiative," the minister concluded.

    [06] ND seeks debate on transparency

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has officially requested an off-the-agenda debate in Parliament on establishing transparency, in a letter sent to Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos on Thursday.

    In an announcement, ND noted that Samaras made a similar request during a meeting of the political party leaders chaired by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and that Prime Minister George Papandreou had assented to this at the time.

    ND has also asked that transparency be the first off-the-agenda debate held in Parliament during 2010.

    Samaras' proposal calls for the appointment of a special cross-party committee to look into all aspects of the issue and then propose legislative measures for promoting transparency before the end of the current Parliamentary session in June, so that they can start to be passed immediately and, if possible, with the agreement of all parties.

    In another announcement issued three days earlier, the main opposition party also indicated its agreement with the formation of Parliamentary investigating committees on all issues proposed by the ruling PASOK party, including that on the Vatopedi monastery land swaps, saying that it had nothing to fear from the investigation of past cases.

    [07] Synaspismos political secretariat convenes

    The Political Secretariat of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) convened on Thursday with talks focusing on this year's local government elections and the party's special congress.

    The meeting, which was also attended by the party's deputies, decided to promote a cooperation among leftist forces in view of local government elections, while it postponed, until the end of the month, a decision on holdoing a special congress.

    Party leader Alexis Tsipras said he was against cooperation between Synaspismos and the ruling PASOK party in the upcoming elections, including cooperation in large municipalities of the country.

    A statement issued after the meeting said that Synaspismos should work towards "overturning a climate of fiscal terrorism, fear and fatalism that is being cultivated so that harsh anti-social measures be promoted."

    [08] Appellate judges' president to head investigation into Zagorianos

    Court of Appeal Judges' president Christos Hasiotis has been unanimously appointed by the body's plenum to head the investigation into the conduct of the examining magistrate formerly in charge of the Siemens case in Greece, Nikos Zagorianos.

    Zagorianos has been accused of breach of duty and abuse of authority as regards his actions and omissions while handling an investigation into alleged kickbacks and bribes given by Siemens to Greek officials.

    A disciplinary council decision on whether Zagorianos will face disciplinary action on the same charges is still pending.

    Financial News

    Amendments on retirement of working mothers, list of medical drugs, voluntary retirement of Piraeus port employees

    An amendment sponsored by the ministry of labour and social insurance tabled in parliament on Thursday suggested that the gradual increase of the retirement age for working mothers of underage children will be postponed for a year until Jan. 1, 2011 "to have the issue examined in greater detail".

    The current provision suggested that beginning on Jan. 1, 2010 the retirement age limit would increase gradually for this category of employees from the 50th to the 55th year.

    A second amendment sponsored by the health ministry reintroduced the list of approved prescription drugs for social insurance funds aimed at putting an end to the unreasonable prescription of medical drugs.

    Also, Piraeus Port Authority SA employees can apply for voluntary retirement until Feb. 28, 2010, according to another amendment tabled in parliament. The cost for the voluntary retirement of the entire Piraeus Port Authority personnel is estimated to 12.8 million euros.

    [09] Lavrentiadis elected new chairman of Proton Bank

    Âusiness executive Lavrentis Lavrentiadis on Thursday was elected as the new chairman of the board of Proton Bank, following the resignation of three board members and their replacement on Jan. 4, 2010. Lavrentiadis recently bought more than 30 pct of Proton Bank's equity capital, paying roughly 70 million euros to Piraeus Bank group.

    [10] Aegean buys Verbeke Bunkering NV

    Aegean, a Greek maritime fuel supply company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, on Thursday announced the acquisition of Verbeke Bunkering NV for an undisclosed sum.

    Verbeke Bunkering is a leading fuel supplier in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) region, the second largest bunkering market in the world, with sales of around 3.5 million metric tons.

    Following, the acquisition by Aegean, Verbeke Bunkering is expected to supply more than 1.0 million metric tons of maritime fuel per month. Under the deal, Aegean will acquire 18 vessels, of which nine are owned by Verbeke and the remaining nine are chartered, while Tony Vertommen will remain as chief executive officer of the company.

    [11] NEP Publications buys 12.53% in Pegasus Publications

    NEP Publications on Thursday said it purchased 5,873,564 shares, or 12.53 pct, of Pegasus Publications in a transaction completed on Dec. 21, 2009, along with voting rights.

    NEP Publications, owned by businessmen Lavrentis Lavrentiadis and P. Kyriakidis, has made a noteworthy expansion in the Greek media sector, buying majority or minority stakes in a number of daily newspapers, radio and internet sites.

    [12] New Hilton hotel on Kos

    Hilton Worldwide on Thursday announced the signing of a franchise agreement with Akti Helona SA for the operation of the Doubletree Hotel complex on the eastern Aegean island of Kos by the well-known hotel chain.

    The hotel is scheduled to begin operations in May 2010.

    Hilton Worldwide already operates the five-star Athens Hilton.

    Patrick Fitzgibbon, Hilton Worldwide's vice-president of development for Europe and Africa, referred to the agreement, noting that "Hilton Worldwide continues the exciting expansion of its hotels in Europe. Greece has strong tourism infrastructure and Kos is the second most popular island in the Dodecanese. The Greek hotel market is characterised by independent privately owned hotels and domestic hotel chains, although we believe that there are significant growth opportunities for all of our brands throughout the country".

    The Doubletree Hotel is located in the southeast coastline of Kos. It features 238 rooms, 15 suites, three villas, two restaurants and bars, spa and gym, private beach and a conference hall.

    [13] Jumbo reports 5.8 pct rise in H1 sales

    Jumbo Group on Thursday reported a 5.8-pct increase in sales in the first half of its current fiscal year (July 2009-June 2010), despite the fact that the group did not include the sale of gaming consoles in the Christmas holiday season, for the first time. Sales of such consoles accounted for around 11 pct of December's sales in the past.

    Jumbo Group said Cyprus reported double-digit growth rates, while in Bulgaria - its new shop opened in Plovdiv in November -- contributed by reporting double-digit growth rates in the first six month of the year.

    The Group plans to open more new shops in the next fiscal year, two in Bulgaria, one in Cyprus and another two in Greece.

    [14] Stocks end 1.43% higher

    Stocks ended significantly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market above the 2,300 level again. The index rose 1.43 pct to close at 2,310.11 points, with turnover rising further to 256.298 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index jumped 1.56 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 0.78 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.97 pct higher. The Oil (3.72 pct) and Insurance (3.32 pct) indexes scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Utilities (0.83 pct) and Chemicals (0.24 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 146 to 48 with another 48 issues unchanged. Elfico (19.12 pct), United Textiles (16.67 pct), Pairis (15.87 pct), Klonatex (12.5 pct) and Desmos (10.0 pct) were top gainers, while Plias (10 pct), Texapret (9.09 pct), Boutaris (8.33 pct), Kyriakoulis (7.84 pct) and Sound-Vision (7.14 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +3.32%

    Industrials: +1.13%

    Commercial: +2.43%

    Construction: +1.62%

    Media: +0.77%

    Oil & Gas: +3.72%

    Personal & Household: -0.22%

    Raw Materials: +2.22%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.51%

    Technology: +1.26%

    Telecoms: +0.67%

    Banks: +1.73%

    Food & Beverages: +2.01%

    Health: +0.44%

    Utilities: -0.83%

    Chemicals: -0.24%

    Financial Services: +2.65%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, MIG and Bank of Cyprus.

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

    Alpha Bank: 8.84

    ATEbank: 2.00

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.38

    HBC Coca Cola: 16.40

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.69

    National Bank of Greece: 19.60

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.55

    Intralot: 4.22

    OPAP: 15.35

    OTE: 10.45

    Bank of Piraeus: 8.45

    Titan: 21.91

    [15] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.29 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover a low 70.205 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,985 contracts, worth 59.134 million euros, with 20,938 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 13,583 contracts worth 11.071 million euros, with investment interest focusing on MIG's contracts (3,097), followed by Eurobank (535), OTE (328), OPAP (460), Piraeus Bank (1,648), National Bank (2,147), Alpha Bank (1,471), Marfin Popular Bank (462), Hellenic Postbank (454), ATEbank (553).

    [16] Greek bond market closing report

    Positive comments made by executives of Robeco Groep NV over increased interest for Greek state bonds, further improved climate in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, pushing the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds to 227 basis points, from 234 bps in the previous session. The Greek bond yielded 5.63 pct and the German Bund 3.36 pct.

    Turnover in the market totaled 744 million euros, of which 404 million were buy orders and the remaining 340 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 380 million euros.

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

    [17] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.441

    Pound sterling 0.906

    Danish kroner 7.500

    Swedish kroner 10.293

    Japanese yen 134.57

    Swiss franc 1.495

    Norwegian kroner 8.263

    Canadian dollar 1.490

    Australian dollar 1.573

    General News

    [18] SAE expresses support to the Ecumenical Patriarchate

    World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Stefanos Tamvakis expressed the organization's unreserved support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate in a private meeting he had with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul on Wednesday.

    During the meeting at Phanar, the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the SAE president stated that the Greeks worldwide make consistent efforts to safeguard the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to operate and carry out its mission, while ensuring that the Ecumenical Patriarch and the institution he represents enjoy continuous and substantive support.

    Tamvakis offered to the Ecumenical Patriarch a copy of a collector's SAE publication printed on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the death of Alexandrine poet Constantine P. Cavafy featuring his poem "Polis" translated into 33 languages.

    [19] Centre against juvenile delinquency to be established

    Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis on Thursday preannounced the establishment of a non-profit private law entity that will operate as a centre against juvenile delinquency, at a meeting at the Ombudsman's office.

    The meeting focused on the establishment of a national protection network for abused and abandoned children as well as under-age delinquents.

    Finally, according to a Justice Ministry announcement, the foundation of the autonomous entity will be accompanied by a reform of the juvenile correction law and the activation of new correctional measures.

    [20] Terror suspect to testify on Friday

    A 26-year-old man arrested on Tuesday and charged with participation in the terrorist group "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire" has been given an extension until Friday to prepare his testimony to the public prosecutor handling the case.

    According to police, the suspect's fingerprints were on a personal computer found in the group's safehouse in the Athens suburb of Halandri.

    On Feb. 5, the Court of Appeal Judges' plenum will appoint a new Court of Appeal magistrate to head the investigation on the terror group case and replace Court of Appeal Judges' President Dimitris Flegas who passed away on Dec. 30, 2009 from heart attack.

    [21] Greek captain returns from Iran after 14-month detention

    Greek captain Angelos Alexiou returned to Athens on Thursday after being detained for 14 months in Iran. His return to his family was arranged after concerted and systematic efforts on the part of the Greek government, with contacts on a political and official level with authorities in Iran.

    These had included a meeting between Prime Minister George Papandreou and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the Climate Change summit in Copenhagen.

    The Greek captain was met at Athens international airport by a representative of the foreign ministry.

    [22] Illegal betting shop raided

    Police in the coastal town of Volos on Thursday reported the arrest of two women charged with converting the coffee shop they owned into an illegal betting shop. Also detained were two men caught placing illegal bets.

    According to information obtained by the police, the two women had converted their traditional coffee shop in the town centre into an unlicensed betting establishment roughly three years ago.

    During the raid, they also confiscated four computers and a book listing players and significant sums earned in illegal bets. The four suspects arrested will appear before an examining magistrate on Thursday.

    Weather Forecast

    [23] Cloudy, unseasonally warm on Friday

    Strong southerly winds rising to a maximum of 9 Beaufort at sea and unseasonally high temperatures ranging between 10C and 23C are forecast on Friday, with high humidity and mist in several areas of the country and gradually increasing cloud cover. Cloudy in Athens, with temperatures from 14C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with morning mist and possibly rain later in the day and temperatures from 8C to 15C.

    [24] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The updated Stability and Development pact to be submitted to the EU, the social security issue and the increases in VAT being mulled by the government, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Increases in retirement age date for all women that were hired in the public sector after 1987".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Five billion euros surplus sought - Three-year instead of four-year Stability and Development program".

    AVRIANI: "25 billion euros in taxes, and 'hunger' for the next three years".

    CHORA: "Economic crisis will have dramatic repercussions on all sectors of economy".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Planned change of electoral law sets fire to parties".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Government finally decided to proceed with a 3-year instead of 4-year Stability and Development plan".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Hikes in VAT, wages decline - How the government will save 5 billion euros until 2012".

    ESTIA: "Frenzy prevails over collection of receipts".

    ETHNOS: "25 billion euros in 3 years - Adjustment accelerates".

    IMERISSIA: "Equalisation in retirement age (for men and women) with a three-year grace period in public sector".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Period of fiscal deficit reduction to 3 percent accelerates - Prime Minister sets harsher conditions for state's finances".

    TA NEA: "Brussels demands 7 percent reduction in wages".

    VRADYNI: "Semi-enclosed balconies (that have been fully enclosed without a building license) to be legalised".

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