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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-01-09

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Saturday, 9 January 2010 Issue No: 3392


  • [01] Gov't to reinstate levy on parental property transfers; raises tobacco, alcohol taxes
  • [02] Gov't denies surprising public with reinstated inheritance, parental gift taxes
  • [03] KKE warns of 'tax raid'
  • [04] Gov't on pensions, election law reforms
  • [05] Anti-crime initiative discussed
  • [06] SYRIZA against both PASOK, ND election system proposals
  • [07] Tsipras in European Left meeting in Berlin
  • [08] German FM visits Patriarch Bartholomew
  • [09] Greek Americans condemn torching of Chania Synagogue
  • [10] Greek industrial production down 6.1 pct in November
  • [11] Greek exports down 15.3 pct in November 2009
  • [12] Car registrations down 18.4 pct in 2009
  • [13] Greek state bond yield up significantly in December
  • [14] Stocks end 0.76% higher
  • [15] ADEX closing report
  • [16] Greek bond market closing report
  • [17] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday
  • [18] Exhibition on Antikythera mechanism in Athens
  • [19] Survey on use of e-government services by Greeks
  • [20] Athens' centrepiece Christmas tree replanted at Mt. Pendeli
  • [21] 17 migrant smuggling deaths
  • [22] Three injured in armed robberies
  • [23] Police injure armed man; arrest for attempted rape
  • [24] Two injured in attempted robbery in Nafplio
  • [25] Terror suspect released under conditions
  • [26] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Gov't to reinstate levy on parental property transfers; raises tobacco, alcohol taxes

    A new tax regime for asset transfers from parents to their children - which will be finalised after completion of a so-called "social dialogue" over proposed changes to the country's tax system -- is foreseen in an amendment tabled in Parliament by the finance ministry late Thursday evening.

    The same amendment also envisages higher taxes on cigarettes and alcohol.

    The late-night amendment stipulates that tax on gifts or parental asset transfers will be calculated under an existing status but on temporary basis. Final settlement will be made under a new law, following deliberations between the government and so-called "social partners".

    A finance ministry statement, issued on Friday, referred to the current PASOK government's policy statement as well as comments by the prime minister - on Dec. 13 -- advocating a reinstitution of inheritance, gift and parental asset transfer taxes. The ministry press release also opined that the measure was fair.

    Under the amendment, tabled in Parliament, the government will raise the special consumption tax on cigarettes from 57.5 pct to 70 pct and on alcohol by 20 pct, a move aimed at reaching the average tax rates prevailing in the EU. The new taxes will be valid from Jan. 12 and Jan. 8, respectively.

    The ministry said it estimates that the measures will raise an additional 930 million euros annually from tobacco products, and around 70 million euros from alcohol.

    [02] Gov't denies surprising public with reinstated inheritance, parental gift taxes

    Government spokesman George Petalotis on Friday denied that the government had taken tax payers "by surprise" with the measures announced by the finance ministry regarding the taxation of parental gifts of assets, inheritances and other types of endowment.

    "We cannot say that we surprised anyone, given that it was one of PASOK's pre-election pledges to introduce a fairer taxation system. In this framework there will be a fairer taxation of inheritances, parental gifts and gifts," he said.

    On the government's decision to make this tax effective "retroactively", before the legislation had actually been passed, Petalotis cited a necessity for a "speedy process" to impose the new tax because it was envisaged in the budget and in the Stability Programme, while the draft bill legislating for it was not expected to be passed before mid-February.

    According to the spokesman, the decision was also prompted by an observed rush by those having large estates to transfer these to their children through parental gifts of assets before the changes announced by the government had been passed, which would have led to significantly reduced tax revenues.

    He also clarified that anyone carrying out these kind of transactions at present would pay a "temporary" sum calculated on the basis of current legislation and that the final settlement would be calculated on the basis of the new law arising through social dialogue.

    In an attack on the government over the proposed 'temporary' tax rate, main opposition New Democracy spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos said that it had "outdone its own bad self in sloppiness and improvisation" and introduced an amendment full of contradictions.

    He said ND was opposed to "tax raids" and urged the government to once again raise the tax-free allowance in order to protect small and middle incomes, warning that the current "patchwork" policy would result in further shrinking of economic activity, job losses and falling tax revenues.

    Instead of presenting a comprehensive plan for exiting the crisis, it was resorting to the "worst kind of Parliamentary practice of bringing surprise amendments," he added.

    At the end of the announcement, Panagiotopoulos also stressed that ND was not opposed to higher taxation of alcohol and cigarettes as a revenue-raising measure but strongly objected to a similar increase on fuel tax, warning that it would have "devastating consequences" for the economy.

    [03] KKE warns of 'tax raid'

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Friday lashed out at the government for its tax policy, calling on the working classes to engage in a "counter-attack", stressing that "only a counterattack launched by the workers and people can overcome obstacles."

    The KKE's political bureau underlined that "the people should not trust the government propaganda", warning that they will be faced with a "new tax raid".

    "The government declarations for fairer taxation on all incomes are the bait used to neutralize the popular counterattack," the KKE statement read.

    KKE also sharply criticised the stance adopted by GSEE and ADEDY labour unions.

    [04] Gov't on pensions, election law reforms

    Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Friday referred to protection of low and middle social strata as one of the government's election campaign pledges, in response to a press question on whether visiting EU officials suggested pension reductions.

    Petalotis stated that suggestions were made but the final form of the updated Stability and Growth Programme will be decided by the government.

    On election law reform, Petalotis referred to a relevant statement made on Thursday by Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis and stated that the government's election campaign pledge was to adopt an election law that will be fairer and more representative, consolidating the independence of politics.

    Commenting on the expressed objections of the opposition parties, Petalotis stated that "they can express their positions with the necessary measure of responsibility after a clear election law framework is formed."

    [05] Anti-crime initiative discussed

    Citizen Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Friday outlined the ministry's anti-crime initiatives, including the "neighborhood police officer" measure introduced last Monday, as well as the operation of what he described as "model police precincts" in districts with higher crime rates.

    Local problems were also discussed and proposals made aimed at tackling crime in the meeting he chaired at the ministry held with the participation of 47 greater Athens area mayors, including Athens Mayor and Central Union of Municipalities and Communities (KEDKE) President Nikitas Kaklamanis.

    Chrysohoidis said afterwards that the discussion focused on the triptych of "zero tolerance" vis-à-vis lawlessness, safe cities and neighborhoods, as well as closer cooperation between social institutions to deal effectively with the problem.

    Kaklamanis, who hails from main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, said Chrysohoidis' initiative was positive as long it has follow up, while he said he also agreed with the "ideological framework" set out by the minister.

    Deputy Health Minister Gennimata underlined that the government is displaying the political will to tackle the crime problem.

    [06] SYRIZA against both PASOK, ND election system proposals

    Ôhe head of the Radical Left Coalition's (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group, Alexis Tsipras, on Friday reiterated his small leftist party's support for a simple representational election system, while expressing opposition to proposals for election system reforms put forth by ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy.

    His statements were included in a letter to ND leader Antonis Samaras.

    [07] Tsipras in European Left meeting in Berlin

    Synaspismos leader Alexis Tsipras will take part in the Executive Board and Council of Chaipersons Meeting of the European Left that will be held in Berlin from January 8 to 10.

    Tsipras, who is heading, a party delegation, will address the presidents members of party members of European Left council on Saturday.

    [08] German FM visits Patriarch Bartholomew

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A.Kourkoulas)

    German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle met Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Fanar on Friday, at the conclusion of his visit to Turkey.

    Westerwelle, who was accompanied by the German ambassador to Turkey, was informed by the Patriarch of the situation regarding the Fanar.

    [09] Greek Americans condemn torching of Chania Synagogue


    The Greek American community expressed its "outrage at a recent act of anti-Semitism at the historic Chania Synagogue in Crete," in a statement issued in Chicago Thursday by the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) / USA Region coordinator.

    "The Greek American community is outraged at the recent act of anti-Semitism at the historic Chania Synagogue in Crete.We are deeply disturbed that such acts of terrorism happen in the 21st century Greece. We urge our fellow Greeks to look beyond religious and national differences and live peacefully in a democratic society. We also urge the Greek government to appeal to the public to reject hate crimes," the statement said.

    In addition, a statement issued in Washington on Wednesday by the Pancretan Association of America (PAA), said that Greek-Americans "castigate the arson attempt against the Chania Synagogue on January 5, 2010."

    "After the attempt, January 5, 2010, to torch to the ground the historic Chania Synagogue, in Crete, we Cretans in the United States, are outraged at all actions of anti-Semitism in Greece and all attempts to terrorize Greeks of Jewish faith," the statement said.

    "As an expression of our outrage at all actions against the Jewish Community in Greece we sign this statement and we appeal to all people of good will to voice their support in efforts to eradicate hatred and racism in Greece," the statement also read.

    Financial News

    [10] Greek industrial production down 6.1 pct in November

    Greece's industrial production composite index fell 6.1 pct in November 2009, compared with the same month in 2008, after a decline of 8.6 pct recorded in November 2008, the National Statistical Service said on Friday.

    The statistics agency, in a report, attributed the decline to a 6.2 pct fall in manufacturing production, a 9.5 pct drop in mining production, a 4.4 pct fall in electricity production and a 7.4 pct decline in water production.

    The average industrial production index fell 9.4 pct in the January-November period, after a decline of 3.6 pct recorded in the previous 11-month period.

    [11] Greek exports down 15.3 pct in November 2009

    Greek exports fell 15.3 pct in November 2009 to 1.169 billion euros, from 1.380 billion euros in the same month in 2008, the National Statistical Service said on Friday.

    The statistics service, in a report on Greece's merchandise trade, said the value of imports totaled 3.628 billion euros in November, from 4.221 billion euros in 2008, for a decline of 14 pct.

    [12] Car registrations down 18.4 pct in 2009

    Car registrations (both new and used ones) dropped 18.4 pct in 2009, compared with the previous year, the National Statistical Service said on Friday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said car registrations totaled 283,413 last year. New motorcycle registrations totaled 73,115 units in 2009, from 102,774 in 2008, for a decline of 28.9 pct, after a decline of 1.1 pct recorded in 2008.

    [13] Greek state bond yield up significantly in December

    Greek state bond yields rose significantly in December 2009, particularly in the short-term category of the market, the Bank of Greece said on Friday.

    In a report on the Greek electronic secondary bond market, the central bank said the three-year benchmark bond yield rose by 94 basis points to 3.88 pct at the end of December, followed by the five-year benchmark bond (89 bps to 4.87 pct). In long-term bonds, the 30-year bond yield rose 39 basis points to 6.22 pct and the 10-year benchmark bond yiled rose 64 basis points to 5.69 pct. The yield curve fell significantly in December, with the yield spread between the 30- and the three-year bond falling to 233 bps from 288 bps a month earlier. The average monthly yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 226 basis points in December, from 156 in November.

    The three-year bond price fell to 100.85 points in December, from 102.96 a month earlier, the 10-year bond price dropped to 102.15 from 107.06 and the 30-year bond price fell to 78.05 from 82.59 points over the same period, respectively.

    Turnover in the market totaled 17.48 billion euros in December, down from 50.21 billion in November, but up from 5.45 billion in December 2008. Average daily turnover was 795 million euros, down from 2.39 billion in November. The three- and five-year bonds were the most heavily traded securities with a turnover of 7.9 billion euros, or 45 pct of total turnover.

    [14] Stocks end 0.76% higher

    Stocks continued moving higher for the third consecutive session this week, pushing the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange to 2,327.57 points. The index ended 0.76 pct higher in moderate turnover of 211.784 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 0.97 pct, the FTSE 40 index eased 0.06 pct and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.49 pct. The Telecommunications (2.11 pct) and Travel (1.86 pct) indexes scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Food/Beverage (1.0 pct) and Personal Products (0.75 pct) suffered losses.

    Lanakam (19.77 pct), Elfico (19.75 pct), Plias (11.11 pct), Texapret (10.0 pct) and Fashion Box (9.86 pct) were top gainers, while Nikas (9.62 pct), Eurobrokers (8.48 pct), Kathimerini (6.48 pct), Euroholdings (5.56 pct) and Livanis (5.62 pct) were top losers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 99 to 90 with another 51 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.35%

    Industrials: -0.26%

    Commercial: +0.20%

    Construction: +1.38%

    Media: +0.21%

    Oil & Gas: +0.15%

    Personal & Household: -0.75%

    Raw Materials: +1.77%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.86%

    Technology: +1.60%

    Telecoms: +2.11%

    Banks: +0.85%

    Food & Beverages: -1.00%

    Health: +1.14%

    Utilities: +0.56%

    Chemicals: +1.21%

    Financial Services: -0.27%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and EFG Eurobank Ergasias.

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

    Alpha Bank: 8.80

    ATEbank: 1.97

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.44

    HBC Coca Cola: 16.22

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.70

    National Bank of Greece: 20.12

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.60

    Intralot: 4.02

    OPAP: 15.80

    OTE: 10.67

    Bank of Piraeus: 8.41

    Titan: 22.68

    [15] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover at 75.206 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,464 contracts, worth 62.101 million euros, with 22,983 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,580 contracts worth 13.105 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,775), followed by Eurobank (958), OTE (1,422), Piraeus Bank (1,292), Alpha Bank (1,470), MIG (425), PPC (560), OPAP (572) and Marfin Popular Bank (393).

    [16] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market slowed to 616 million euros on Friday, of which 416 million were buy orders and the remaining 200 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 195 million euros.

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 221 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.59 pct and the German Bund 3.38 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.

    [17] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.438

    Pound sterling 0.900

    Danish kroner 7.500

    Swedish kroner 10.307

    Japanese yen 134.43

    Swiss franc 1.493

    Norwegian kroner 8.234

    Canadian dollar 1.489

    Australian dollar 1.573

    General News

    [18] Exhibition on Antikythera mechanism in Athens

    An exhibition entitled "The mechanism of Antikythera - A tour of astronomy and ancient technology", referring to one of the most important technological objects of the ancient world, is on display at the National Research Institution in Athens in the framework of European research program "Hephaestus" (Hellenic Philosophy, History and Environmental Science Teaching Under Scrutiny).

    The visitors of the exhibition, which will run until January 25, will learn about the history of the mechanism and prevailing opinions on ancient astronomy and technology which are necessary for the understanding of the the function of the mechanism as well as 3D pictures from the interior of the mechanism via the use of modern technology.

    The Antikythera mechanism is believed to be an ancient mechanical calculator (also described as a "mechanical computer") designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was discovered in the Antikythera wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete, and has been dated to about 150-100 BC. Technological artifacts of similar complexity appeared a thousand years later.

    Sometime before Easter 1900, Elias Stadiatis, a Greek sponge diver, discovered the wreck of an ancient cargo ship off Antikythera Island at a depth of 42 m (138 ft). Sponge divers retrieved several statues and other artifacts from the site. The mechanism itself was discovered on May 17, 1901, when archaeologist Valerios Stais noticed that a piece of rock recovered from the site had a gear wheel embedded in it. Examination revealed that the "rock" was in fact a heavily encrusted and corroded mechanism that had survived the shipwreck in three main parts and dozens of smaller fragments. The device itself was surprisingly thin, about 33 cm (13 in) high, 17 cm (6.7 in) wide, and 9 cm (3.5 in) thick, made of bronze and originally mounted in a wooden frame. It was inscribed with a text of over 2,000 characters, many of which have only just recently been deciphered.

    [19] Survey on use of e-government services by Greeks

    Greeks are positively disposed to the idea of e-government but only make limited use of the electronic public-sector services available in practice, according to a survey conducted by the Observatory for the Greek Information Society.

    The survey released in December 2009 showed that 96 percent of those asked were positively disposed to the idea of using e-government services and recognised several potential benefits, including greater flexibility, cost savings and time savings. According to a survey conducted in 2008, however, only six percent of Greeks has carried out a completed transaction with the public sector over the Internet and only 19 percent had used e-government services in some way, either to obtain information or to download forms and documents.

    By contrast, 34 percent of Greeks used the Internet in that year for entertainment, communication or other purposes.

    Another finding of a survey carried out by the Observatory in 2007 was that public sector projects accounted for 10 percent of the information technology sector's turnover in Greece but that the resulting savings and benefits had often fallen far short of the investment made.

    The observatory noted that the disparity between readiness to use e-government services and their actual use was not confined to Greece only but found in a large number of European countries.

    The main reasons for the low penetration of e-government have so far been identified as a piecemeal approach adopted by public-sector bodies in developing services, the lack of interactivity between different bodies and systems, complex legal frameworks and administrative obstacles. The approach now is focused on making such services more user-friendly and better adapted to the general public's needs.

    [20] Athens' centrepiece Christmas tree replanted at Mt. Pendeli

    Athens' large and environmentally-friendly Christmas tree has been dismantled and the 250 small fir trees that formed it will be planted on the Pendeli mountain range on Sunday to help revive the wildfire-ravaged site, according to a press release by the municipality on Friday.

    "This year, Athens' Christmas tree was not only unique to Greece but to the whole of Europe. It was composed of 250 natural, small fir trees, which were not cut but removed with their roots intact and placed in pots. They were pieced together to form one beautiful Christmas tree, which both Athenians and city visitors admired during the holiday season," Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis said while viewing the proceedings at Syntagma Square.

    He also noted that the city is Athens demonstrates its environmental consciousness with action, "instead of words and shouts."

    The municipality is participating in the tree-planting organised by the Pendeliko Protection and Regeneration Association (SPAP) with the support of the Athens-based Skai media group.

    [21] 17 migrant smuggling deaths

    A total of 17 bodies have been recovered from a sea region off extreme northeast Greece following what authorities believe was the New Year's Eve sinking of a vessel loaded with illegal migrants.

    Four bodies, including one of a toddler, were recovered on Friday after a fishing boat notified the coast guard. The bodies of 12 men, four women and the toddler have so far been located in the specific sea region of the Thrace Gulf, in a triangle comprised of the port city of Alexandroupolis and the islands of Thassos and Samothrace.

    Search efforts are continuing in the area.

    Greece is increasingly being targetted by migrant smugglers attempting to ferry mostly Third World migrants into the European Union member-state from neighbouring Turkey, an issue that has recently generated heated reaction from both Athens and the EU.

    [22] Three injured in armed robberies

    Three people were injured, and have been hospitalized, in a spate of robberies reported in the last 24 hours in Attica prefecture.

    Specifically, on Wednesday night two unidentified individuals rushed into a luxury craft spare parts shop in the southeastern Attica coastal town of Porto Rafti, hit the owner in the head and, threatening him at gunpoint, took of with an undetermined sum of money.

    In a separate incident, three armed robbers broke into the residence of a 30 year-old Albanian, hit him on the head and snatched his money.

    Late Wednesday night in the southwestern coastal district of Neo Faliro, near Athens, two motorists hit a 66-year-old woman and grabbed her handbag containing an undetermined sum of money.

    Moreover, on Wednesday afternoon a gunman threatened an employee of the Plaisio company in the Athens suburb of Kifissia and took from him a bag containing 45,000 euros.

    [23] Police injure armed man; arrest for attempted rape

    The crew of a police patrol car opened fire and injured an unidentified man armed with a rifle after he was spotted outside a Hellenic Post (ELTA) office in the district of Perea, Thessaloniki on Friday.

    The suspect was chased by two officers on patrol who opened fire and shot him in the legs when he pointed his gun at them.

    In a separate incident, a 46-year-old foreign national was arrested in Vrahati, Corinth, in southern Greece, accused of attempted rape. The suspect was arrested after the victim, a 23-year-old foreign woman who was his houseguest, reported the attempted assault to the police.

    [24] Two injured in attempted robbery in Nafplio

    Two employees were injured in the legs on Wednesday during an armed robbery at an industry's accounting office in the southeastern Greek city of Nafplio.

    Two unidentified individuals threatened the accounting department's employees with a gun and demanded that they give them the money in the office. The gunmen fired shots, resulting in the injury of two of the employees. The robbers finally left without taking any money, and escaped on a motorcycle that had been reported stolen on January 6 from Athens, heading in an unknown direction.

    The injured employees have been hospitalized in Argos general hospital.

    Police issued an all-points bulletin (APB) for the robbers, while Nafplio security police are conducting a preliminary investigation.

    [25] Terror suspect released under conditions

    A 26-year-old man arrested on Tuesday and charged with participation in the terrorist group "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire" was released under conditions on Friday, after giving his testimony to the public prosecutor handling the case.

    The man denied all charges against him.

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

    [26] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The EU and ECB experts delegation's visit to ministries and their briefing by the relevant ministers on the government's updated Stability and Development plan, and their positions and proposals, mostly dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Brussels pressingly demands reduction in pensions and freezing of salaries and hirings in public sector".

    APOGEVMATINI: "EU auditors demand shocking measures from ministers".

    AVGHI: "European delegation's initial order: Dismantle the social security system".

    AVRIANI: "Parliament employees receive 16 salaries per year".

    CHORA: "Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras says no to the (proposed) anti-popular electoral law".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Salaries, pensions and labour issues in the vise".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Auditors not satisfied by government's program".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Inheritance, parental gift and donation tax returns".

    ESTIA: «Government's policy on the wrong path - Additional taxes will lead to recession".

    ETHNOS: "Warning bells sound for five ministries - Heavy pressure from EU auditors".

    IMERISSIA: "EU auditors 'interrogate' ministers".

    KATHIMERINI: "Front opens in ruling PASOK party over the new electoral law'.

    LOGOS: "EU experts pressure over the social security system and demands for immediate solutions".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "EU demands convincing answers on the state's finances".

    NIKI: "Raid on our pockets".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The planned anti-popular measures require a response via a united popular battle".

    TA NEA: "Retrospective tax on parental gifts".

    TO VIMA: "What the auditors demand".

    VRADYNI: "The auditors thwarted the State Budget - Ministries' expenditures being put through the sieve".

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

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