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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-01-21

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

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

Thursday, 21 January 2010 Issue No: 3402

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Papandreou on government's major priorities
  • [02] Agriculture minister on farmers protests
  • [03] ND supports farmers' demands, opposes roadblocks
  • [04] Border roadblocks discussed over the phone by Borissov, Samaras
  • [05] Protesting farmers enter 7th day of roadblocks
  • [06] Spanish PM backs Papandreou government over Balkan issues
  • [07] Athens: fYRoM recourse to ICJ a political maneuver
  • [08] Initiative on Western Balkans
  • [09] Alt. FM to attend London con'f on Afghanistan
  • [10] Beglitis addresses OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation
  • [11] Deputy FM Kouvelis visits Kuwait
  • [12] Greek and French ministers on illegal immigration
  • [13] Interior minister meets with UNHCR Guterres
  • [14] Korean nat'l assembly speaker in Greece
  • [15] SYRIZA MPs reject replacement of Kouvelis as their spokesman
  • [16] Diamandouros re-elected as European Ombudsman
  • [17] Ecumenical Patriarch condemns Hania synagogue attack
  • [18] Ecumenical Patriarch meets with Alevi leaders
  • [19] Restoring economic credibility the top priority, Finmin says
  • [20] New draft tax bill unveiled
  • [21] Parliament passes bill on taxation on parental asset transfers, cigarettes, alcohol
  • [22] Environment minister holds talks with businessmen
  • [23] IMIC 2010 con'f in Athens next month
  • [24] Sifounakis at inauguration of Greek Internet Exchange (GRIX)
  • [25] Stocks plunge 3.39% on Wed.
  • [26] Sector indices ended as follows:
  • [27] ADEX closing report
  • [28] Bond market closing report
  • [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [30] Trial of policemen accused of shooting death of teen adjourned to Friday
  • [31] Court ruling on Zammit case expected on Wed.
  • [32] Sin-in protest in Athens over attacks on Copts in Egypt
  • [33] Police foil attempt to smuggle hashish via 'drug donkeys'
  • [34] Man arrested for robbery-kidnapping of Bangladeshi national
  • [35] Thessaloniki-area doctor arrested in connection to Russian mob killings
  • [36] Cloudy, rainy on Thursday
  • [37] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Papandreou on government's major priorities

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, addressing the informal cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon, that focused on planning at each ministry with Easter and June being the time limit, stressed that past problems exist that must be tackled.

    The prime minister called for the "collective definition" of the government's major priorities, saying in parallel that the Greek people are showing special maturity and realise that the big changes will take place now or never.

    He also urged the members of the government to proceed with their work with self-confidence, commitment and without panic.

    A special meeting was held on the farmers issue after the informal cabinet meeting, with the prime minister pointing out that the farmers problem concerns all of society and underlining the government's intention and efforts for deep changes on this issue.

    As regards the farmers demands, Papandreou said that most of them are more or less institutional and will be promoted through the dialogue that the government has called for. And which, as it was stressed, is open if the farmers themselves desire this.

    The prime minister also said that there is no reason for mobilisations and in parallel for this image of the country to be given abroad, since in addition there is a new government that contains these changes in its programme.

    He further said that it is an opportunity for farmers to utilise the new of the government and its intention for changes.

    In another development, Papandreou held a telephone conversation with his Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Borisov, who mentioned to him that apart from the general turmoil the small producers and stockbreeders of Bulgaria are burdened daily with the cost of three million euros.

    The Greek prime minister replied that an effort will be made through dialogue to end the blocking of road axes.

    [02] Agriculture minister on farmers protests

    Agriculture Minister Katerina Batzeli said on Wednesday that the government was dealing with the Greek farmers' problems "globally" and that the dialogue it proposed was "substantial, as it focuses on the country's farm issue."

    Protesting farmers have proceeded with road blockades in the country and closures of border crossings in northern Greece.

    Speaking to reporters after an informal cabinet meeting, Batzeli said "we understand the farmers' problems that were accumulated by the previous bad management, but what we do not understand is the manner through which they are trying to solve them."

    "The government and the citizens understand the difficult situation which should be dealt with logical arguments," she added.

    Farmers unmoved by gov't appeal to end road blocks

    Pointing to the complaints filed against Greece by Bulgaria for failing to meet its obligations to ensure the free movement of goods and persons in the EU, the spokesman underlined that all Greeks had to rise to meet the challenge of the times, regardless of whether their demands were fair or unfair, and end an upheaval that also reflected badly on the country abroad.

    He said the government was in constant communication with the farmers to press for an end to their mobilisation, while the agriculture ministry had given them an "open invitation without conditions" to take part in dialogue for finding a permanent solution to their problems, with viable solutions rather than the "temporary fixes" that had been resorted to until now.

    He went on to praise the "excellent work" being done at the agriculture ministry and said the mobilisations had not caught the government by surprise because it was aware of the problems and was already working to resolve these.

    Asked if the government had a "plan B" for dealing with farmer protests, Petalotis stressed that the government's only plan was to hold dialogue and its appeal to farmers to take part in this.

    Farming union leaders, on their part, said that they were disappointed by the agriculture ministry's stance and stressed that no progress has been made on a series of fundamental demands, such as immediate measures to boost farming incomes, reduction of production costs and controls on the market.

    More tractors continued to arrive as reinforcements at road blocks throughout the country, including at border crossings with Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey, while a group of forestry workers also joined in protests by blocking the Asprovalta-Vrasna intersection.

    Those blockading the Promahonas border and customs post in Serres were visited by the Bulgarian consul Lachezar Ivanov on Wednesday morning, who tried to persuade them to open the border with Bulgaria without success.

    More amenable were farmers blocking the Corinth-Tripolis national road at the Sterna intersection, who decided to withdraw from the road block and continue with a different form of protest as of next Tuesday, when they intend to hold sit-ins at the regional authority headquarters of the Peloponnese in Tripolis and of western Greece in Patras.

    Still at the road block at the Evrotas River, which they are opening for a few minutes at a time at intervals to allow cars through, are orange growers in Laconia, southern Greece.

    Hope that a solution will soon be found that will restore unobstructed movement of goods was expressed in Athens by foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras when asked to comment on a letter sent to the European Commission by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov complaining about the border blockades by farmers.

    The spokesman emphasised the Greek side's concern that there should be unobstructed movement of goods and persons throughout Greek territory, without creating problems for neighbouring countries, and said that Athens was in constant communication with Bulgaria through inter-governmental contacts, EU councils and through their respective diplomatic services.

    [03] ND supports farmers' demands, opposes roadblocks

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras met Wednesday with the leaders of Greece's two largest farmers' umbrella federations PASEGES and SYDASE and was briefed on the problems faced by the sector and the demands of protesting farmers, who have set up roadblocks along the country's major highways for the 7th consecutive day.

    ND agricultural development 'shadow minister', Kozani MP George Kasapidis, who was also present at the meeting, said afterwards that ND considers the farmers' demands "fair" and called on the government to stand by the farmers and give immediate solutions, but clarified that the main opposition party objects to the closure of the roads and the problems caused to other social groups as a result.

    Kasapidis added that the agriculture issues are a top priority for Samaras and ND, stressing that the party will "stand by the farmers waging a battle for their survival".

    Noting that the farmers' roadblocks had been "spontaneous under the pressure of the problems that have been intensifying in recent years", Kasapidis reiterated that ND does not agree with the closure of the roads, thus causing problems to other social groups.

    ND transport and communications 'shadow minister' Stavros Kalafatis also called on the government to find a solution to the problems caused by the farmers' mobilisations, warning that the closure of the country's motorways will have adverse repercussions on the operation of businesses, the supply of the markets, and on the Greek economy in general.

    [04] Border roadblocks discussed over the phone by Borissov, Samaras

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov spoke by phone on Wednesday and discussed the problems faced by neighbouring Bulgaria as a result of the road blockades and closures of border crossings in northern Greece by protesting farmers.

    The Bulgarian prime minister called Samaras to reportedly thank him for the responsible position adopted by ND in handling the issue, according to reports.

    [05] Protesting farmers enter 7th day of roadblocks

    Protesting farmers entered their 7th day of mobilisations on Wednesday with stepped on roadblocks throughout the country in demand of solutions to chronic problems faced by the sector.

    A spokesman for the farmers' nationwide coordination body, Tryfon Arapoglou, said Wednesday that mobilisations will be escalated, with roadblocks spreading to diversion routes as well.

    Arapoglou said that farmers were discouraged by the Agricultural Development and Food ministry's stance, adding that no progress has been made in a series of fundamental institutional and financial demands such as immediate measures to boost farmers' incomes, reduction of production costs and controls on the market.

    More tractors and other farm vehicles arrived on Wednesday to reinforce a roadblock at the Promahonas border in Serres prefecture, with the border crossing closed for the third consecutive day, resulting in kilometers-long queues of trucks and cars having formed on both sides of the border. Snowfall on Wednesday morning and a drop in temperatures have added to the drivers' tribulations.

    Farmers also continued a roadblock on the Serres-Thessaloniki national highway at the Strymonas intersection, although traffic was allowed to pass after noon in order to facilitate a Greek Cup soccer match between Panserraikos of Serres and PAOK of Thessaloniki scheduled for 5:00 p.m.

    Serres farmers have also blocked the Egnatia motorway in both lanes, two and from Kavala, at the Kerdyllia intersection, while they were also poised to block traffic on the old national highway and side roads for several hours later on Wednesday.

    Egnatia motorway remained closed for the 5th consecutive day at the Strymonas intersection and at the Chryssopoulis juncture.

    The Kavala-Xanthi old national highway opened to traffic on Tuesday afternoon, but the Kavala-Thessaloniki old national highway remained blocked by tractors.

    The Exochi border crossing and Customs in Drama was closed for several hours on Tuesday, while farmers were planning to block it again on Wednesday for several hours later Wednesday.

    Thessaloniki farmers were also boosting roadblocks at the Halkidona intersection, the Malgara toll post, and the Thessaloniki-Serres old national highway outside Liti.

    Halkidiki farmers have lined up tractors at the Triglia intersection, although traffic has not been disrupted, while the Doirani border crossing and the Evzoni border Customs remained open throughout the night. The Ormenio and Kipi border stations in Evros prefecture were also open, although farmers have lined up tractors at both sites.

    A new roadblock was set up Wednesday morning at the Eginio intersection and on the Elassonas provincial road, while the Nikaia intersection in Thessaloniki remained closed.

    In the Peloponnese, farmers have blocked the Corinth-Tripoli highway at the Sterna intersection for a second day, while a convoy of tractors of Laconia orange producers drove through the central streets of Sparta, headed for the city's entrance at the Evrotas River. Argolis orange growers were also holding a demonstration outside the Prefecture building in Nafplio, dumping crates of oranges in the courtyard, as representatives met with prefect Vassilis Sotiropoulos.

    Farmers on the island of Crete joined in the mobilisations of their mainland colleagues on Wednesday, temporarily blocking access to two public financial services in Chania in a warning move which will continue on Thursday, while continuation of action will depend on the outcome of a meeting in Athens on Wednesday afternoon by a delegation of local producers and local authorities with deputy agriculture minister Michalis Karchimakis. Farmers have been blocking the Hania-Rethymno national highway at the Megala Horafia intersection at regular intervals throughout Tuesday and Wednesday.

    [06] Spanish PM backs Papandreou government over Balkan issues

    PARIS (ANA-MPA - O. Tsipira)

    Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero on Wednesday underlined his confidence in the government of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and said that there was cooperation concerning the name issue with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), during a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to present the priorities of Spain's EU presidency.

    Zapatero had been asked whether he intended to undertake initiatives for EU enlargement in the Balkans and whether he would use his influence and good relations with the Greek government to push for a solution to the name dispute.

    Concerning enlargement, he noted that the European Council had repeatedly made decisions on this and that he fully supported the European prospects of the Balkans. He also noted that there were very close ties with the Greek government and that he personally had great confidence in the government of George Papandreou.

    "And, of course, we are also cooperating on the issue of [FYROM]. I hope that a solution is soon found, there is the intention on both sides, even though the matter presents great difficulties that stem from the past," he added.

    Asked his position concerning the Greek government's proposal - also supported by Bulgaria - for the accession of all western Balkan countries to the EU by 2014, the Spanish premier indicated that the idea deserved consideration.

    "I always insist that the Papandreou government has a focus that it is worth listening to and discussing. This position for the Balkans will be promoted during our presidency," he added.

    [07] Athens: fYRoM recourse to ICJ a political maneuver

    "The lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague was filed by fYRoM in 2008, and we immediately stressed that the motives behind this move were political rather than legal," foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras stated Wednesday during a regular weekly briefing at the ministry.

    Delavekouras answered a press question on the occasion of Greece's counter-memorial, filed in the court on Tuesday.

    He noted that "the suit was filed by the country that blatantly violates the (1995) Interim Agreement through continuous actions (provocations)."

    Delavekouras more-or-less pointed to domestic political motives as being behind the neighboring country's move, considering that the impression given was that the political leadership in Skopje chose to react in this way following a unanimous decision reached at a NATO summit in April 2008.

    "Greece has adopted a very responsible stance, approaches the judicial process underway with seriousness and has strong arguments with which it enters this process," the spokesman underlined, adding that the specific "process provides that in this phase the written part is confidential."

    The UN-mediated talks on the fYRoM "name issue" is also in progress, Delavekouras reminded, adding that "the representatives of fYRoM have sent no sign that they have a constructive attitude. We have sent out the message that we want a solution. It is up to Mr. (Nikola) Gruevski {the premier of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia} to make the necessary steps in order to reach a mutual compromise."

    [08] Initiative on Western Balkans

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    The hope that during Thursday's meeting in Athens between Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger and Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas specific aspects of the Initiative on the European Integration of the Western Balkans will be discussed and there shall be a joint document to their EU counterparts, was expressed in a discussion with the ANA-MPA in Vienna on Wednesday night by the Austrian Foreign Ministry's spokesman.

    Spindelegger will be holding talks with Droutsas in the Greek capital on Thursday evening and on Friday morning he will leave for Skopje.

    According to the Austrian official, such a document will be a kind of message to the chiefs of diplomacy of the rest of the EU member-states, as well as to the new chief representative of EU Foreign Policy.

    As the Austrian official mentioned, the aim of the Initiative is to give an impetus to the Western Balkans' rapprochement with the EU, since the two countries, Austria and Greece have common interests.

    [09] Alt. FM to attend London con'f on Afghanistan

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas will be in London on Jan. 28 to attend an international conference on Afghanistan.

    The meeting will be attended by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) foreign ministers, representatives of neighbouring countries, international organisations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

    Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras stated that it is not a meeting of donor countries and will not focus only on security issues. He clarified that participants will assess the efforts made so far by the international community, and ways of improved coordination.

    Greece's presence in the plagued region manifests through a military force and humanitarian assistance in the country.

    [10] Beglitis addresses OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA - D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Greece's Alternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis on Wednesday gave the opening speech at a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Forum for Security Cooperation, presenting the programme of the Greek chair.

    He emphasised that the Corfu Process and the OSCE foreign ministers' council held in Athens in December had given the Forum a primary role in promoting dialogue on European security issues. Implementing the decisions of the ministerial council was both a duty and a challenge, he added, while the goal was to improve the quality of dialogue on security by concentrating on key issues.

    The Greek minister noted that, based on the decisions in Athens, the Forum's weekly meetings in Vienna will also discuss confidence-building measures and security in relation to small arms and light weapons, codes of behaviour and OSCE mechanisms for crisis management.

    He stressed the fact that in more than 30 years, the OSCE had proved the only forum for promoting political dialogue, mutual understanding, bridging differences and enhancing cooperation.

    Greece took over the chair of the OSCE Forum on Security Cooperation for four months on January 1, 2010.

    [11] Deputy FM Kouvelis visits Kuwait

    KUWAIT (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis signed three cooperation agreements in Kuwait on behalf of the Greek government, in the framework of his visits to Gulf countries, that signal the warming of Greece's relations with the region and pave the way for new sectors of cooperation with emphasis on green growth.

    The deputy minister was received on Wednesday morning by the head of the state of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabber al-Sabah, to whom he delivered an invitation by President Karolos Papoulias to visit Greece.

    The invitation was accepted, indicating the political will at higher level for closer cooperation between the two countries.

    This desire was alco confirmed by the cordial climate in which the two politicians discussed a wide spectrum of issues, while Greece's responsible and friendly stance towards Kuwait during Iraq's invasion was also mentioned.

    The Greek side underlined the need for a mutual effort to handle climatic change, -one country is experiencing the repercussions of desertisation while the other is being threatened by it- as well as energy security, with a turn to renewable energy sources.

    Shortly before leaving for Qatar on Wednesday evening, Kouvelis visited the investments Authority of Kuwait, with whose director Bader al-Saad they discussed investments prospects on the part of Kuwait, including joint ventures for the creation of tourist units in Greece.

    [12] Greek and French ministers on illegal immigration

    The building of a strong Mediterranean front to tackle illegal immigration is the aim of the joint initiative undertaken by Citizen's Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis and French Minister of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Solidarity Development Eric Besson.

    Chrysohoidis and Besson addressed a joint letter to the European Union's Spanish presidency in which they call for the inclusion of the issue of illegal immigration in the next interministerial meeting's agenda.

    Among other things, they mention in their letter that priority must be given to the situation in the Mediterranean, the eastern borders of the EU must not be ignored and special attention should be paid to prospects of cooperation with third countries of tramsit, particularly Libya and Turkey.

    The two ministers concluded their letter by saying that "we desire that the informal meeting of European ministers on immigration issues that will take place in Toledo on January 21 conclude with the production of an accurate road map for the implementation of the decisions of the European Council on the basis of proposals made by the European Commission."

    [13] Interior minister meets with UNHCR Guterres

    Interior minister Yannis Ragoussis met on Wednesday with visiting UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, and discussed Greece's migration policy and the changes to the Citizenship Code being advanced by the government.

    Guterres said the government's reforms were in a "positive direction", and opined that giving immigrants the right to vote in municipal elections, as planned by the government, will help the decentralisation process.

    The High Commissioner expressed satisfaction that Greece is examining the prospect of naturalisation and granting citizenship to migrants, aiming at their social integration. He noted that in his own country, Portugal, the 5-year requirement of migrants' undisrupted presence in the country as a condition for acquiring citizenship has been in effect for many years, and added that there was a trend at both European and international level towards making the 5-year requirement a uniform one.

    Ragoussis, in turn, described Guterres' contribution on matters concerning migration policy in Greece as "significant", adding that the country needs to proceed with changes that will create the conditions of security and equal integration of the legal economic migrants into the Greek society.

    [14] Korean nat'l assembly speaker in Greece

    Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos on Wednesday praised South Korea's stance on issues of particular interest to Greece, including the Cyprus problem, during his meeting in Athens with South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-O.

    Petsalnikos stressed that it is the first time that the speaker of South Korea's national assembly officially visits Greece, while he pointed out that Athens greatly appreciates Seoul's support and stance.

    In recognition of the South Korean assembly's effort for the continuous improvement and strengthening of bilateral relations, Kim was awarded the Gold Medal of the Hellenic Parliament, which bears the likeness of ancient Athenian statesman Pericles.

    The Parliament president also referred at length to the economic and political relations between the two countries.

    [15] SYRIZA MPs reject replacement of Kouvelis as their spokesman

    The Radical Left Coalition's (SYRIZA) parliamentary group on Wednesday unanimously rejected a proposal to discuss the replacement of its parliamentary spokesman, MP Fotis Kouvelis.

    The issue was raised on Tuesday evening when SYRIZA secretariat cadres demanded that Kouvelis be replaced for disagreeing with the political grouping's positions as regards the election of the president of the republic and the so-called "policy of alliances" to be followed in the upcoming local elections.

    [16] Diamandouros re-elected as European Ombudsman

    Incumbent European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros was re-elected to the post by a large majority for a third consecutive four-year term.

    Diamandouros received 340 votes out of 678, while the other two candidates, Belgium's Pierre-Yves Monette and Italy's Vittorio Bottoli, received 289 and 19 votes, respectively.

    Diamandouros was first elected to the post on April 1, 2003. He served as Greece's Ombudsman in the period 1998-2003.

    The European Ombudsman's office investigates mismanage-ment complaints against EU bodies and agencies.

    [17] Ecumenical Patriarch condemns Hania synagogue attack

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA /A. Kourkoulas)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Vartholomeos) sternly condemned the weekend arson attack at a historic synagogue in the Cretan port city of Hania, the second such incident within the past month.

    In a letter sent Wednesday to the president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), Moses Constantinis, Bartholomew condemned the attack "as well as every act of violence and terrorism, especially against places of worship."

    [18] Ecumenical Patriarch meets with Alevi leaders

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA / A. Kourkoulas)

    Leading members of the Alevi community on Wednesday noted here that "the large community of Alevis in Turkey is facing the same problems faced by the non-Muslim minorities and the Ecumenical Patriarchate."

    In a visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch, the chairman of the Ehli Beyt Association, Fermani Altun, said that "we do not see any of our problems having been solved, for years. They treat us as if we are third-class citizens. In social and political life, on issues of freedom of faith and implementation, they treat us worse than non-Muslim minorities."

    Altun declared his full support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and particularly for the reopening of the Halki school of Theology.

    "I do not understand why they do not allow the reopening of the school of theology, also, why they do not give legal status to our places of worship, the cem evi," he said.

    Financial News

    [19] Restoring economic credibility the top priority, Finmin says

    June will be a crucial month for restoring the Greek economy's credibility as the European Union is then scheduled to draft a report on the country's economy for the first six months of the year, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said June would a crucial month as the European Commission would have its first official assessment of economic developments in the country, after monitoring Greek statistics on a monthly basis in the meantime. Papaconstantinou said he briefed his counterparts in the Eurogroup and ECOFIN councils over government measures to restore economic credibility and for fiscal consolidation. He noted that the problem with Greek fiscal statistics did not only concern the operation of the National Statistical Service but was also a systemic problem, extending throughout the system of production and figures. Papaconstantinou said an independent commission - formed by representatives by the Bank of Greece, Hellenic Bank Association, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), Greece's largest trade union umbrella GSEE and KEPE - will sent a report on the country's statistics problem to the European Commission.

    The Greek minister stressed that the top priority of the government was to restore the country's credibility in international markets and expressed his satisfaction over the fact that his EU counterparts acknowledged that the Greek government was fully aware of the situation and it was determined to set the economy on a course of sustainable growth.

    Commenting on Greece's updated Stability and Growth program, Papaconstantinou said it was a three-year program aimed at cutting the country's fiscal deficit from 12.7 pct in 2009 to 2.8 pct at the end of 2012. The program will be assessed by the European Commission in the first week of February and by an ECOFIN council on February 16.

    [20] New draft tax bill unveiled

    A new draft tax bill - expected to be approved by Parliament in March - will cover all tax transactions retroactively from the beginning of the year, Finance Minister George Papacon-stantinou said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters, the minister said the government's final decisions on a new tax system were expected to be announced by end-January or early February.

    Papaconstantinou also said the country's fiscal deficit must be cut by two percentage points of GDP (around 5.0 billion euros) by June, according to the country's updated Stability and Growth Programme, and reiterated that the government was prepared to take additional action if any significant divergence from original goals would emerge. He categorically dismissed, however, that the government was examining plans to raise VAT rates or to impose additional taxes. The finance minister also said no decision has been taken as yet on imposing a tax to boost support to the country's pension system.

    Papaconstantinou said the finance ministry was planning to cover 50 pct of its annual borrowing needs (around 26 billion euros) in the second quarter of the year and predicted a gradual decline in yield spreads between Greek and German state bonds. The government was examining all alternative scenarios to ensure success of its borrowing programme, he said, adding that a plan to issue a "popular bond" was not excluded. Papaconstantinou also announced the beginning of a round of road shows in Asia and the US to discuss the possibility of issuing state bonds in other currencies than the euro.

    Commenting on a proposal by Sweden to impose a stability tax on banks, the Greek minister said the government was keen to discuss such a proposal on a European level, although the government did not have any such intention.

    [21] Parliament passes bill on taxation on parental asset transfers, cigarettes, alcohol

    The parliament plenary late Tuesday passed a bill on parental property and asset transfers and taxes on cigarettes and alcohol titled "Amendment of the Taxation Code on Inheritances, Parental (asset) transfers, and Winnings from Lotteries, and the National Customs Code" tabled by the Finance Ministry.

    The bill was passed with the votes of the ruling PASOK party MPs, while the opposition MPs voted against it.

    [22] Environment minister holds talks with businessmen

    Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Tina Birbili held talks on Wednesday with businessmen G. Vardinoyiannis and Evangelos Mytilineos. According to an official briefing, energy market issues were discussed.

    The Mytilineos groups and Motor Oil (Vardinoyiannis) have established a joint company with a 50-50 percent participation with the aim of importing and trading in Natural Gas in all its forms (LNG, CNG, etc).

    [23] IMIC 2010 con'f in Athens next month

    The 6th International Meetings and Incentives Conference (IMIC 2010) focusing on Creating and Managing Successful Products and Brands will take place at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) on Feb. 10-11.

    This year's conference will put an emphasis on the development of innovative products taking under consideration the available infrastructure.

    Foreign and Greek university professors and businesspeople have been invited to address the event.

    [24] Sifounakis at inauguration of Greek Internet Exchange (GRIX)

    Attending the official inauguration of Greece's new Internet exchange point GRIX on Wednesday, Deputy Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Nikos Sifounakis stressed that it would play an important role in the development of the Internet in the country.

    Developing the Internet was one of the most important tools for the country's technological and economic development, as well as the safest route for convergence with the digital progress being made in Europe and internationally, Sifounakis said. The Greek Internet Exchange (GR-IX) was infrastructure of decisive importance in this direction, he added.

    Its operation would help increase Internet connection speeds, while decreasing the cost of international connections for providers and improve the quality of internet services, he said.

    [25] Stocks plunge 3.39% on Wed.

    Stocks ended sharply lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, hit by a significant widening of the yield spread in the Greek state bond market. The composite index dropped 3.39 pct to end at 2,030.28 points, with turnover a moderate 231.706 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index plunged 3.95 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.49 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index fell 1.70 pct. With the exception of the Telecommunications index, which ended 0.79 pct higher, all other indices lost ground. The Banks (5.07 pct) and Raw Materials (5.06 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 159 to 36 with another 38 issues unchanged.

    Plias (9.09 pct), Hellenic Fish Farms (9.09 pct), FHL Mermeren (8.40 pct) and Technical Publications (7.89 pct) were top gainers, while Envitec (19.87 pct), Lanakam (19.09 pct), Elfico (18.12 pct) and Klonatex (12.50 pct) were top losers.

    [26] Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -4.31%

    Industrials: -4.17%

    Commercial: -2.92%

    Construction: -4.05%

    Media: -1.29%

    Oil & Gas: -2.67%

    Personal & Household: -2.19%

    Raw Materials: -5.06%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.56%

    Technology: -3.32%

    Telecoms: +0.79%

    Banks: -5.07%

    Food & Beverages: -0.64%

    Health: -1.81%

    Utilities: -3.46%

    Chemicals: -1.47%

    Financial Services: -4.06%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 6.71

    ATEbank: 1.70

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.18

    HBC Coca Cola: 16.30

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.59

    National Bank of Greece: 16.26

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.73

    Intralot: 3.51

    OPAP: 14.57

    OTE: 10.17

    Bank of Piraeus: 6.50

    Titan: 19.08

    [27] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover an improved 100.817 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 16,923 contracts worth 87.545 million euros, with 25,556 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,357 contracts worth 13.272 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,336), followed by Eurobank (996), MIG (479), OTE (1,073), Piraeus Bank (2,500), GEK (524), Alpha Bank (1,768), Marfin Popular Bank (500), Cyprus Bank (383) and ATEbank (333).

    [28] Bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened sharply to 292 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 269 bps the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 6.18 pct and the German Bund 3.24 pct.

    Turnover in the market totaled 1.484 billion euros, of which 510 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 974 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 555 million euros.

    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 0.67 pct and the one-month rate 0.43 pct.

    [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.424

    Pound sterling 0.876

    Danish kroner 7.501

    Swedish kroner 10.197

    Japanese yen 129.68

    Swiss franc 1.488

    Norwegian kroner 8.198

    Canadian dollar 1.488

    Australian dollar 1.559

    General News

    [30] Trial of policemen accused of shooting death of teen adjourned to Friday

    The trial of two special guards charged in the killing of a 15-year-old pupil in the Exarhia district of Athens during an incident was adjourned to Friday shortly after it opened on Wednesday in the city of Amfissa, central Greece.

    Police officers Epaminondas Korkoneas and Vassilis Saraliotis are standing trial for the shooting death of pupil Alexis Grigoropoulos on the night of December 6, 2008 during an incident in Exarhia that sparked an unprecedented month of urban rioting in Athens and in major cities across the country.

    Korkoneas, a 37-year-old father of three, faces charges of intentional homicide with possible malice and illegal use of a weapon, while his 32-year-old partner Saraliotis is charged with complicity.

    Petitions for a few days' postponement of the trial were submitted by both Korkonea's defense team and by the prosecution on behalf of the slain teenager's family.

    Korkoneas is represented by high-profile criminal lawyer Alexis Kouyas, an associate of whom stated in court that the defense attorney is unable to attend the procedure as he is appearing at another important trial on the island of Lesvos.

    Kouyas is the prosecution attorney in the appeal trial of a former bouncer at a club on the island of Mykonos who charged with intentional homicide in the death of 20-year-old Australian tourist Doujon Zammit outside the nightclub n late July 2008, and is due to present his argument in court on Wednesday.

    On the part of the teen's family, attorneys Alexandros Katsantonis and Christos Mylonopoulos submitted a similar petition given that Grigoropoulos' maternal grandmother, Haiti Tsalikian, was in hospital with complications following surgery. Through their lawyers, the teen's mother and sister asked for a few days' postponement so as to be at the grandmother's side and later testify at the trial.

    [31] Court ruling on Zammit case expected on Wed.

    A court ruling in the homicide case stemming from the death of 20-year-old Australian tourist Doujon Zammit is expected late on Wednesday evening. The trial for Zammit's beating death, which generated international media coverage, is being held on the eastern island of Lesvos.

    A former bouncer is accused of intentional homicide in Zammit's death on the island of Mykonos in July 2008.

    [32] Sin-in protest in Athens over attacks on Copts in Egypt

    A sit-in demonstration will be held on Thursday afternoon in Athens' Syntagma Square to protest against the killing of six Coptic Christians in Egypt. A hit-and-run attack took place on Jan. 6, Christmas Eve for the Coptic Church, when armed men opened fire from their cars in the town of Naga Hammadi in the southern part of the country.

    [33] Police foil attempt to smuggle hashish via 'drug donkeys'

    Border guards in Kalovrissi, near Konitsa in extreme NW Greece, apparently foiled an attempt by an unidentified individual to smuggle 103 kilos of unprocessed cannabis into Greece from Albania.

    The drugs, loaded onto two donkeys, were confiscated but the suspect managed to escape by crossing the border with Albania. A search is underway for the suspect, conducted in cooperation with Albanian police.

    [34] Man arrested for robbery-kidnapping of Bangladeshi national

    Thessaloniki police on Wednesday reported the arrest of a 30-year-old Bangladeshi man charged with the robbery and abduction of a 32-year-old Bangladeshi national in Athens.

    Police said the victim had travelled to Athens from Thessaloniki by train, where he met and was attacked by four of his compatriots, who held him at knife-point and forced him to hand over 2,500 euros. He was then bundled into a car and taken to a house in an unknown location in Attica, where he was held against his will.

    The kidnappers then contacted the victim's family in Bangladesh, demanding that they pay a ransom to their accomplices in that country in order to release him. Once the ransom was paid, however, they continued to hold him and demanded more money.

    Five days after his capture, the 32-year-old managed to escape and reported his abduction to the Vouliagmeni police station. A police operation resulted in the arrest of the 30-year-old in Thessaloniki as one of the suspected kidnappers. He will be led before a public prosecutor in Athens.

    [35] Thessaloniki-area doctor arrested in connection to Russian mob killings

    A 55-year-old physicians was arrested at his house in Thessaloniki on Wednesday morning on a Russian court warrant against him.

    Iraklis Savvidis, who lives and works in Thessaloniki, is accused of moral complicity in the homicides of two Russian businessmen in 2008, two murders attributed to criminal gangs.

    The suspect will be extradited to Russia.

    Weather Forecast

    [36] Cloudy, rainy on Thursday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -4C and 15C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with southerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 2C to 12C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 7C.

    [37] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Ecofin's initial approval of the Stability and Growth plan, Brussels' pressure and the bi-monthly monitoring of the country's fiscal affairs beginning from March, the escalation farmers protests, the citizenship issue for migrants, and the radical changes to the existing taxation system, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Main opposition New Democracy (ND) will set up a 'household budget' observatory".

    APOGEVMATINI: "PASOK MPs and Ombudsman set 'roadblocks' on migrants' citizenship issue".

    AVGHI: "Twenty-three members of SYRIZA's (Coalition of the Radical Left parliamentary alliance) Secretariat call for the resignation of the parliamentary group's spokesman Fotis Kouvelis".

    AVRIANI: "Olympic Airways (the former national carrier which was recently privatised) owes to the state social security Fund (IKA) 660 million euros (from the time that it was state-owned)".

    CHORA: "Athens to pass exams every quarter".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Taxes, via a devious way, for workers and pensioners".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Tax Bureau offices to be abolished - Will be replaced by Citizens' Tax Service Centers".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Alert over the farmers' roadblocks - Government apprehensive - Inner Cabinet to meet on Wednesday".

    ESTIA: "The (October) general elections hurt the country - They led to fiscal derailment".

    ETHNOS: "Household employees to be paid with coupons".

    IMERISSIA: "Changes in Tax Bureau offices"

    KATHIMERINI: "Expensive borrowing due to distrust".

    LOGOS: "Farmers escalate mobilisations".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "EU will every month monitor the course of the new measures".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Domestic agricultural production to feed the people".

    TA NEA: "Hike in Loan and credit card payment installations - Banks preparing increases in interest rates".

    TO VIMA: "This is the man who is playing games with Greece and euro - The 'John Paulson Hedge Fund' manager John Paulson and the London-based 'speculation' operation".

    VRADYNI: "2 percent surtax on real estate and incomes - New permanent 'extraordinary' tax on the pretext of the social security issue".

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