|Tuesday, 20 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-01-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 22 January 2010 Issue No: 3403
 PM: Historic chance to free country of burdensPrime Minister George Papandreou underlined on Thursday that "the country is amid an unprecedented crisis, which is the outcome of criminal policies exercised in previous years," speaking at an Economic and Social Policy Committee meeting.
He added that the government has a "historic duty to free the country from its burdens," adding that "there is no time to lose".
The prime minister said he called the committee to convene just a few days after the positive, in principal, reception with which the country's Updated Stability & Growth Programme was met on behalf of its EU partners, pointing out that the committee meeting sends out the message that "we are determined and want those changes to get underway immediately."
The Economic and Social Policy Committee and government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos will monitor the implementation of the stability programme.
Papandreou spoke of "unprecedented challenge", part of which is the immediate adoption of major reforms, stressing that the necessary measures will be taken with a sense of fairness and a special emphasis on the protection of small income earners and the middle class.
He underlined that the solution of the problems should be viable and not short-lived, pointing out that it is imperative to create new income, utilize the available resources, cut overspending in the public sector, restore transparency and trust in transactions and prove to taxpayers that their money are well-spent.
"The resetting of the economy will be achieved when the people realize the difference between yesterday and today in all sectors and when our work is measured in numbers and actions," Papandreou stressed.
 Pangalos reveals plan for closures and mergers of state enterprisesThe government plans to set in motion closures and mergers of dozens of state enterprises and public utility companies, government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos said on Thursday after the first session of the Economic and Social Policy Committee chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou.
Pangalos said that the meeting had primarily focused on carrying out the Stability, Development and Reconstruction Programme by adopting specific targets for individual ministries and drawing up a schedule for monitoring its progress.
He said the Committee will meet regularly for this purpose and that its next session would be in the first week in February.
The second issue discussed was a policy to re-examine the status of state enterprises and public utilities, some of which no longer had any reason to exist and should be closed, while others would be more efficient and cost-effective if they were merged.
"We are, of course, discussing a policy of reducing salaries for the president, board chairmen and board members [of these]," he added.
Asked about the envisaged size of such salary cuts, Pangalos noted that many such salaries were "scandalous" and would be cut to reasonable levels.
He said announcements about which state enterprises and public utilities will be merged or abolished will be made during the Committee's next session.
 Austrian FM meets PM, Alternate FM DroutsasAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and visiting Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger took an initiative on Thursday to address a joint letter to all their foreign minister counterparts of European Union member-states to promote the idea of the accession course of the Balkan countries with the year 2014 being the horizon.
"Our aim is for further joint moves to be made. Greece and Austria have common interests. Greece is in the centre of the region. Austria has a very rich past and history in the Balkans. The joint actions will substantively help the target of European accession," Droutsas said, expressing his thanks to his counterpart and the expectation that cooperation between the two countries will widen to other sectors as well.
Droutsas pointed out that it has been ascertained that the momentum of the course has been lost in the past years and that "2014 is an opportunity, it is a milestone date because 100 years will have passed since the beginning of World War I and we hope that the EU will assume its responsibilities and contribute decisively towards peace and stability in the region."
On his part, Spindelegger said that 2010 is a milestone year, a suitable date to try to overcome obstacles and exclusions and for the Balkans to come closer to the EU. He added that Greece has a valuable experience in Balkan issues, while Austria has ties with these countries and for this reason the two countries are suitable to bring the countries of the Balkans closer to the EU.
Referring to the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Droutsas said that Greece has made a specific proposal for a solution to the problem with the finding of a name with a geographic qualifier for all uses and has shown its positive intentions and expressed the hope that Skopje will show the same constructive intention and attitude.
Commenting on the same issue, the Austrian foreign minister said that this sensitive issue must be resolved and in order for there to be a solution they must come to a constructive dialogue with understanding.
Later on, Spindelegger also held a brief meeting with Prime Minister and Foreign Minister George Papandreou at the Maximos Mansion.
 Joint letter to EU by Greece, AustriaAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger stressed in a joint letter addressed to the European Union's Foreign minister Catherine Ashton and all their European counterparts that "Greece and Austria, neighbouring countries from the north and south to the countries of the Western Balkans, are observing the developments with special interest and note the progress achieved in past years, since these countries have adopted the European agenda. However, the political, economic and social problems remain and many doubts are being expressed about the European perspective of the Western Balkans."
The two ministers pointed out that a "new momentum is required now to make more effective the political messages that will be sent."
Greece and Austria, with their joint letter, welcomed the Spanish Presidency's intention to convene a high-level conference on the Western Balkans on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Zagreb Summit, while mentioning 2014 as the symbolic milestone for the path to the EU.
The text signed by the two ministers expresses the hope that 2010 will welcome specifically:
-The conclusion of negotiations with Croatia.
-A mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the name of FYROM, something that remains substantive, as well as the beginning of accession negotiations with FYROM.
-Progress by Serbia regarding its European expectations, including the defreezing of the ratification of the Association and Stabilisation Agreement.
-Specific progress for Kosovo.
-An enhanced role for the EU in Bosnia-Herzegovina with the ultimate aim of European integration and a sincere commitment on the part of all leaders to establish workable state institutions in the country.
-Increased efforts by Albania and Montenegro in cooperation with the Commission, in the frameweork of the evaluation of their application for accession to the EU.
-The fulfillment of the remaining targets in the road maps in the direction of the gradual abolition of the entry visa by Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Droutsas and Spindelegger emphasised that the European Integration of the countries of the Western Balkans constitutes a priority and a guarantee for stability and for this reason the EU must encourage these countries to align themselves with the European principles and values.
 Farmer union movement needs overhaul, gov't stressesThe government was aware of the problems faced by farmers and had begun dealing with these from its first day in office, government spokesman George Petalotis said on Thursday regarding the ongoing road blocks by protesting farmers.
Listing the measures taken by the government for agriculture, he pointed to new legislation for changing the institutional framework governing the agricultural union movement, leading to its reorganisation and unification.
Petalotis said the proposal was now ready to present for discussion by the bodies directly involved and sought to establish a new union movement that would represent young farmers and agricultural production based on modern standards. He underlined that times had changed and that a "modern form of union organisation" was needed.
The spokesman also underlined the necessity for "fair dialogue without conditions" with farmers and that their contribution to a constructive solution of their long-standing problems was vital.
At the same time, he underlined that closing national and international highways was a form of protest that led nowhere and benefited no one, least of all the farmers themselves.
"For this reason, citizens are unable to understand and justify these mobilisations, with the result that this clouds the true message that our farmers want to send regarding their just demands, which we already recognise," he added.
The government continued to call farmers to participate in dialogue, Petalotis stressed and accused main opposition New Democracy of "hypocrisy" in that its leadership opposed the road blocks but its lower-ranking officials adopted quite a different attitude in practice.
Farmers in the eighth day of mobilisations continued to resist the government's appeals to suspend road blocks and border blockades, however, and the call to dialogue. Several major highways in northern Greece and Thessaly remained closed, as well as a number of border crossings.
One farmer unionist at the Nikaia road block indicated that members of his union might well travel to Athens for the start of what he called the "ostensible" dialogue with the government but not in order to take part but to demonstrate outside.
Farmers at road blocks in Thessaloniki met on Thursday with Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis and outlined their problems, while those at Nea Halkidona are expected to meet with Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga later in the day. Ruling PASOK Secretary Socrates Xinidis had a meeting with farmers in Florina prefecture, during a visit to western Macedonia.
Meanwhile, Bulgarian officials continue to press for action to end the farmer protests in Greece on Thursday, with a written question addressed to the European Commission by Bulgarian MEPs.
This noted that Greek farmers have repeatedly closed the borders with Bulgaria in recent years and asked what measures and action the European Commission was prepared to take in order to ensure the immediate implementation of Community regulations.
It also asked in what way the Commission was thinking of compensating Bulgaria and the Bulgarian citizens financially affected by the protests.
 Protesting farmers in 8th day of roadblocksFarmers continued to boost roadblocks throughout the country on Thursday as they entered their eighth day of mobilisations in demand of solutions to chronic problems.
More than 20 roadblocks have been set up with tractors at intersections along the national and provincial road networks and at border crossing stations.
In a good will gesture, farmers allowed traffic through the Promahonas border Customs for a half hour on Wednesday night, where kilometers-long queues of trucks and cars had developed on both sides of the border.
The main roadblocks were still in place on Thursday along the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway at the intersections at Kastro (Viotia), Thebes, Alamana, and Nikea (Larissa), and along the Egnatia motorway at the Chryssoupolis and Kerdyllia intersections.
Farmers in Thessaly have lined up tractors at the Platykampos and Melounas junctures, while Thessaloniki farmers have lined up tractors at the Malgara toll post and the Halkidona intersection, but without blocking traffic.
The Strymonikos intersection on the Serres-Thessaloniki national highway was open throughout the night, but farmers were blocking traffic at intervals on Thursday.
The intersections at Amfipolis and Chryssoupoli in Kavala and the Nikea intersection in Thessaly, as well as the Mikrothebes juncture remained blocked off on Thursday.
Tractors remained lined up in Halkidiki at the Triglia intersection, without disrupting traffic, while the Diorani border station and Evzoni Customs opened throughout the night.
Farmers were allowing only cars through the border station at Exochi in Drama prefecture, but obstructing trucks from passing.
Tractors were also lined up at the Ormenios and Kipi border stations in Evros prefecture, but without disrupting traffic.
Laconia orange producers withdrew late Wednesday night from their roadblock at the Evrotas River bridge, saying that their intention was not to cause problems to the citizens, but to find a solution to their problems.
Messinia prefecture farmers are due to hold a meeting on Thursday night in Chora village to decide on further actions, while farmers on Crete are currently blocking roads at intervals in "warning
 KKE leader visits farmers' blockade in HalkidonaCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga visited the farmers' blockade at Halkidona in Thessaloniki on Thursday and called on the government to "open its cards on the farmers' problems and to cease using the dialogue to disrupt their struggles."
"The problems of the small and medium-level farmers are problems of many years, they are well-known to all and a government, which indeed received the popular vote recently, must take a position on them. To say what it will satisfy and what it will not satisfy," Papariga said.
She also expressed support for the continuation of the farmers' labour action.
 President reiterates support for Cyprus in meeting with DISY leaderPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias reiterated Greece's support for Cypriot Hellenism, greeting visiting Cyprus Democratic Rally (DISY) leader Nikos Anastassiades at the presidential mansion on Thursday.
Papoulias said he was closely following the developments both on the domestic front and in the talks between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Ahmet Ali Talat.
"We are at your side. You give the direction, and we are with you in the front line of battle," the Greek President added.
Anastassiades noted that the climate he met with in Athens was auspicious, stressing that whenever Cyprus has sought assistance from Greece, it has always been forthcoming.
The DISY leader also expressed the Cypriot people's deep appreciation because, in the difficult hours, "our only selfless support has been that of Greece".
"That is why we achieved so much when we had the vision of a common strategy and cooperation. A classic example of that was the unattainable: Cyprus, with the Cyprus problem still unsolved, was able to join the European Union," he added.
 DISY leader meets with Greek political leadershipAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas met Thursday with Cyprus' Democratic Rally (DISY) leader Nikos Anastassiades currently on a visit to Athens.
Anastassiades stated afterwards that they speak the same language, sharing the same concern for the future and agree on the action that needs to be taken.
Anastassiades underlined that "the role the EU can play should be utilized more actively" when dealing with the "Turkish intransigence".
 Tsipras meets with DISY leaderRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group leader Alexis Tsipras met Thursday with Cyprus' Democratic Rally (DISY) President Nicos Anastasiades focusing on developments in the Cyprus issue and the prospects for the talks held between the two communities on the island under the UN auspices.
Tsipras expressed solidarity to the struggle of the Cypriot people, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, for the reunification of Cyprus within the framework of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation in compliance with the UN decisions and the European acquis.
Tsipras reiterated SYRIZA's support to the efforts for a solution through the talks between Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat despite the major difficulties stemming mainly from Ankara's stance. He also expressed support to the coordinated efforts of the political forces in Greece and Cyprus aimed at keeping the Cyprus issue "in the international front stage as an international and European problem."
 Parliament president meets Cyprus DISY party leaderParliament President Filippos Petsalnikos held talks on Thursday with the president of the Democratic Rally (DISY) party of Cyprus Nikos Anastasiades, expressing the active support of all parties in the Greek Parliament, for the effort to find a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue that will be based on UN resolutions, European principles and values and the implementation of the European acquis communautaire.
 Papoulias receives chairman of S.Korean parliamentPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received on Thursday the visiting speaker (chairman) of the South Korean National Assembly (parliament) Huyng-o Kim at the presidential mansion.
Papoulias welcomed the Korean official and referred to the historical bonds between the two countries.
"I am very happy to receive the chairman of the Korean parliament, of a friendly country with which we are connected by many and historical ties," said Papoulias.
On his part, Huyng-o Kim stated that it is an honor for him to be the first chairman of his country's parliament to visit Greece, reminding that 2010 is the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, adding that more than 10,000 Greek soldiers fought in that war.
 Citizen's Protection Minister in ToledoCitizen's Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis visited Toledo, Spain, where he participated in the informal council of European Union Justice and Interior ministers.
The couyncil focused on the problem of illegal immigration, organised crime and an exchange of information between countries on this issue.
Chrysohoidis said, among other things, that the authorities must safeguard human life, tackling illegal immigration.
"Greece manages every year hundreds of thousands of human lives in the process of immigration. Europe cannot be indifferent towards this reality. The key word is the word 'cooperation' and for this reason advanced cooperation among all is necessary," he said.
 Beglitis gives interview to ANA-MPAVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Greek Alternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis, who inaugurated the beginning of the Greek Presidency at the Cooperation Forum on Security Issue of the OSCE in the Austrian capital on Wednesday, stressed in an interview with the ANA-MPA in Vienna the need for Greece to emerge from its "narrow, regional" role and to promote other issues to be able to utilise the strategic added value.
"In order for us to have a positive contribution to the solving of our national issues, that are high on the agenda, it is necessary for us to create an agenda in foreign policy, on the issues of the National Defence Ministry, that will be wider, that will deal with other issues as well. We must also interest ourselves in other issues also, that preoccupy the world, peace, security, stability," Beglitis said.
 Parliament to decide on further scandal investigations next weekFive cases of suspected scandal that had been considered closed or not been investigated at all under the previous New Democracy government will once again be brought before the Greek Parliament from next Monday, based on proposals tabled by the ruling PASOK party.
The week opens with a debate before the plenum on a second Parliamentary probe into the Vatopedi Monastery land swaps, followed by a debate on Wednesday on setting up a Parliamentary investigation committee for the Siemens kickbacks affair.
These two investigations are to run parallel to each other and are expected to have run their course and presented their findings within six to seven weeks, Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos said.
A further three Parliamentary investigation committees are to be set up for the mobile phone tapping scandal of 2004-2005, the acquisition of the 'Germanos' chain by the state-controlled mobile phone operator Cosmote and the stock market scandal. These are expected to have completed their work before the start of the summer session of Parliament.
Replying to accusations that PASOK was using the scandals in order to divert attention away from the problems of the economy, Petsalnikos pointed out that the party leaders meeting under President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias had agreed that it was necessary to shed ample light on all the cases of scandal that had shocked public opinion in Greece.
In addition to the above, Parliament is also due to hold an election for the president of the republic in the first 10 days of February, based on the dictates of the Constitution, while a debate between the political party leaders in Parliament regarding transparency and dealing with corruption will begin on February 1, as requested by main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras.
 State. Dept. condemns arson attack on Hania synagogueWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
The US State Department was the latest institution this week to condemn a second arson attack against a historic Jewish synagogue in the Crete port-city of Hania, an incident that generated a firestorm of condemnation from within Greece as well as a high-profile denunciation by the Ecumenical Patriarch, among others.
"We strongly condemn the January 5 and January 16 arson attacks on the Etz-Hayyim Synagogue in the city of Chania on the island of Crete. The Synagogue dates back to the Middle Ages and is one of the last Jewish monuments on the island. An attack on the Etz-Hayyim Synagogue is an attack on Greece's history and heritage. The second attack caused severe damage to the Synagogue, destroying nearly 2,000 books and severely damaging the building's wooden roof," the State Department statement read, adding:
"This attack was clearly intended to intimidate and terrorize Greece's Jewish community and is only the latest of several incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism throughout Greece over the past few years. We applaud the Greek government for condemning these attacks and taking a strong stand against anti-Semitism and racism."
In a related development, the deputy director of the Israeli foreign ministry's western Europe desk, Naor Gilon, spoke with Greek ambassador to Israel Kyriakos Loukakis, expressing the Israeli government's concerns over the two recent attacks against the synagogue.
 EU asked to approve subsidised flights to Kozani, KastoriaInfrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas on Thursday announced his decision to include the cities of Kozani and Kastoria in the programme for subsidised air connections with Athens and had sent a request to the European Commission, asking that this go into effect from June 1 this year.
Once the proposal has been approved and published in the EU gazette, a tender will be held to choose the airline that will carry out the subsidised service. The ministry decision calls for two return flights a week with 60 seats for Kastoria and three return flights a week with 120 seats for Kozani throughout the year.
The cost of a benchmark one-way ticket in economy class is not to exceed 60 euros for the Athens-Kozani flight, 70 euros for Athens-Kastoria and 35 euros for Kozani-Kastoria.
 President Papoulias hosts reception for diplomatic corpsPresident Karolos Papoulias hosted the annual reception in honour of the diplomatic corps at the Presidential Mansion on Thursday evening.
The reception was attended by Prime Minister George Papandreou, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, National Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis, former President of the Republic Constantine Stephanopoulos, ND party Honourary President Constantine Mitsotakis, former foreign minister Dora Bakoyiannis and former Parliament president Dimitris Sioufas, as well as many ambassadors and representatives of diplomatic missions based in the country.
 FinMin at FT banking conference in AthensFinance minister George Papaconstantinou on Thursday expressed optimism on the course of the Greek economy, addressing an international conference in Athens on "The Future of Banking in Greece", organised by the Financial Times' magazine "The Banker" and Boussias Communications.
"I believe that, precisely because we are in this very difficult juncture for our economy, the policies that are being implemented today give prospects to the economy to leave behind its long-standing chronic problems," Papaconstantinou said, stressing that the PASOK government has no intention of backing down on its tough choices. "We have a very clear mandate for changes and reforms, always with social justice as the criterion. In this effort, the government has the support of a strong social base, which is very positive," he added.
Papaconstantinou referred extensively to the credibility problem the Greek economy faces on the international markets, stressing that "the goal of wiping out the credibility deficit is a priority for us, because otherwise all our other policies will be founded on shaky foundations; they will be moving in quicksand that could consume us".
He also outlined in extent the government's initiatives aimed at restoring credibility, putting emphasis on the bill to be tabled in parliament rendering the National Statistics Service (ESYE) an independent bureau, and on the creation of an independent Budget Audit Corps that will monitor the execution of the budget.
Papaconstantinou further stressed that the fiscal target of reducing the deficit to below 3 percent of GDP in the space of the next three years was a "tough but absolutely feasible" one.
On taxation policy, he said that more than 20,000 citizens had submitted exceptionally interesting observations and suggestions in the on-line public deliberation that recently closed.
He explained that the taxation bill currently being drafted will contain substantial changes to the corporate and individual auditing system, and introduce an across-the-board requirement for "source of wealth" statements and widening of the taxation base.
"We will strike out mercilessly at all those who burden and steal from the Greek taxpayer," the minister said, adding that the taxation bill will contain severe penalties "for those who persist in not shouldering their share of the tax burden".
In closing, Papaconstantinou stressed that "we will not allow this situation to continue".
"We are taking, and will take, all the measures necessary in order for our country to change course," he said.
The conference is under the auspices of the Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping ministry
 Joint effort to support real economy, Katseli tells bankersGreek banks entered the crisis from an advantageous position, enjoying high capital adequacy and liquidity ratios while they have been supported by the Greek state during the crisis, Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Luca Katseli told a Financial Times' conference in Athens.
The Greek minister stressed it was time that the government and the banking system work in coordination to support the real economy and together to develop new funding models, opening new markets and expanding their presence in Southeastern Europe.
The key to Greek banks' competitiveness is upgrading internal banking supervision systems, control and risk management, Katseli said, while she referred to the creation of a Refinancing Fund, currently under formation, to ensure liquidity in the country's real economy.
Commenting on the government's growth program, the minister said it was a road map for the reconstruction of the country. The Public Investments Program totals 10.3 billion euros for the year, or 4.2 pct of GDP, with the aim to gradually rise to 5.0 pct of GDP in 2013, she said. Katseli said the government was changing a regulatory framework to contain the high cost of investments in the country, by simplifying set up, licensing and operation procedures of enterprises.
 BOG vice-gov: Greek banks maintain profitability despite crisisGreek banks have managed to maintain their profitability, although profits fell significantly in the past year, despite the effects of an international crisis, Eleni Dendrinou-Louri, vice-governor of the Bank of Greece, said on Thursday during a Financial Times' conference here, focusing on the future of the Greek banking system.
In her address, Louri underlined that Greek banks' liquidity levels were better off compared with other European countries, with the help of a state support program, while he expressed her optimism that liquidity will return to pre-crisis levels. She stressed, however, that difficulties still remained, adding the country's fiscal situation, and said banks should be very careful, maintain significant capital margins and adequate liquidity, while they should strengthen their risk management culture.
A reform of the banking regulatory framework was currently underway in a European level, integrating all significant lessons learned from recent developments, the Greek central banker said, underlining the significance of these changes as priorities for financial organizations.
Mario Nava, head of Unit Banking & Financial Conglomerates of the European Commission stressed the need for drafting a new more effective regulatory framework, emphasizing on the impact of banks operations in the economy and society.
Miranda Xafa, senior Investment Strategist & member of the advisory board, IJPartners, said the financial system has been affected by the crisis and stressed that soon banks must seek funding from capital markets as the ECB was gradually withdrawing support measures.
Gkikas-Hardouvelis, chief economist and head of research Eurobank EFG, underlined that the crisis highlighted the long-term problems of competitiveness and lack of fiscal discipline in the country, but noted that credit rating firms were exaggerating in their reports over the Greek economy. He predicted that 2010 would be a year of light recovery, with unemployment and bad debt problems still at the forefront.
Thanassis Panopoulos, Principal in PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the crisis highlighted the need the design new strategies introducing a new approach towards customers. "Banks must turn their investments to exploiting information over their customers", he said.
 Employers' union urges for a new social contract with workersReal pay increases were large in the past two years, but now priority must given to rising unemployment and improving economic competitiveness. That was the message sent by the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises -Greece's largest employers' union- to a round of negotiations over a new collective labour agreement.
The Federation stressed that time was running out to dealing with current problems and noted that the vast majority of workers was employed in enterprises currently suffering, while it predicted it would be difficult to exit the recession.
The Federation said that real wages rose by 29 pct in the period from 1993 to 2009, while the previous collective agreement (2008-2009) raised lower wages' purchasing power by 7.41 pct. It also said that lower wages in Greece, as a percentage of per capita income, was equivalent to the average level of the six richest EU states, with much greater competitiveness.
The Federation recalled the example of the '80s, when workers enjoyed excessive pay rises, to be followed by a decade of falling real wages, and warned of a similar risk today. The report painted the outlook of the real economy with dark colours, with demand expected to fall further, reduced credit growth, higher financial costs, while enterprises also faced widening losses or reduced earnings. It also said that fiscal consolidation will be a result of a gradual rise in taxes and social contributions. The unemployment rate is projected to rise to 10.2 pct this year to 11 pct in 2011, while employment is expected to fall by 0.8 pct and 0.2 pct, respectively.
For this reasons, the Federation urged for the signing of a social contract to combat unemployment, help in the transition to a new growth model, encouraging new job creation and facilitating innovative, healthy and profitable business activity.
 Tsipras with laid-off OA contract workersRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras, referring to dismissed contract workers of the Olympic Air company, with whom he met on Thursday during a symbolic takeover of the transport ministry, called on the government to accept their demand to join a legislative initiative regarding a transfer framework, so that "they will continue to work with dignity," as he said.
 Study: Tourism rebound in 2010Greek tourism will recover this year, with tourist arrivals expected to rise by 8.6 pct, compared with 2009, a survey by the Academy of Tourism Research and Studies (ATEM) stated on Thursday.
In its six-month report, ATEM projects that foreign tourists visiting Greece will reach 15.5 million in 2010, on the condition that the world's economy manages to exit the ongoing crisis, the price of oil hovers at around 80 US dollar per barrel and the euro/US dollar rate remains at around 1.45.
The group, however, said that its worse scenario envisaged a 1.7-pct growth in tourist arrivals this year, with the price of a barrel of oil at around 110 US dollar per barrel and the euro/US dollar rate at roughly 1.55.
 New Hellenic Postbank president outlines goalsHellenic Postbank's strategy is to become a "tool" for Greek economy growth as well as to support its customer base, the bank's new president, Kleon Papadopoulos, said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since taking over his post, Papadopoulos said Hellenic Postbank aimed at boosting activities in "green" growth programmes, emphasising in retail banking, including small- and medium-sized enterprises.
The bank's comparative advantage was its strong customer base in savings accounts, with more than 2.0 million depositors, the banker said, adding that Hellenic Postbank currently operates a branch network of 144 units in 64 cities around Greece, employing around 2,400 employees.
 Greek support to Hungarian projects in AfghanistanVIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)
Greece will finance developmental projects in Afghanistan with the sum of 300,000 euros through two non-governmental organizations in Hungary. According to an ANA-MPA despatch from Vienna on Thursday, the agreement in support of the Hungarian Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) was signed at the Hungarian foreign ministry in the presence of Greece's ambassador to Budapest Spyridon Georgiles.
Greece's contribution to the Hungarian initiatives in Afghanistan was praised by Hungarian Senior State Secretary Vilmos Sambo.
Following the signing of the agreement for the execution of projects in the sectors of education, health and gender equality, he pointed out that the specific cooperation can set up an example for other countries.
On his part, the Greek ambassador stressed that the excellent bilateral relations led the Greek government to the decision to participate in the Hungarian projects in Afghanistan and pointed out that Greece also supports efforts made by Lithuania.
 Stocks down in volatile tradingStocks ended slightly lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, as technical buying offered support to the market during the late hours of trading. The composite index fell 0.81 pct to end at 2,013.90 points, after falling as low as 1,954.44 points during the session. Turnover was a strong 312.376 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index fell 0.69 pct, the FTSE 40 index dropped 2.14 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 2.21 pct down.
The Travel and Telecommunications sectors scored gains (4.01 pct and 2.07 pct, respectively), while Health (3.22 pct) and Technology (3.13 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 182 to 33 with another 27 issues unchanged. Paperpack (16.67 pct), Crown Hellas Can (9.78 pct), FHL Mermeren (8.43 pct0 and Interinvest (5.95 pct) were top gainers, while Elfico (18.58 pct), Texapret (16.67 pct), Mevaco (16.67 pct) and Progressive (13.64 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.69%
Personal & Household: -2.95%
Raw Materials: -2.18%
Travel & Leisure: +4.01%
Food & Beverages: -1.21%
Financial Services: +1.15%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 6.90
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.30
HBC Coca Cola: 16.10
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.50
National Bank of Greece: 15.88
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.36
Bank of Piraeus: 6.29
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.42 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising further to 137.339 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 23,483 contracts worth 117.098 million euros, with 25,637 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 22,102 contracts worth 20.241 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (7,120), followed by Eurobank (1,754), MIG (578), OTE (689), OPAP (771), Piraeus Bank (1,272), GEK (1,378), Alpha Bank (2,593), Marfin Popular Bank (1,974) and Cyprus Bank (1,087).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 291 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 294 bps on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.16 pct and the German Bund 3.25 pct.
Turnover in the market shrank to 875 million euros of which 420 million were buy orders and the remaining 455 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 205 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 0.67 pct and the one-month rate 0.43 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.417
Pound sterling 0.876
Danish kroner 7.502
Swedish kroner 10.218
Japanese yen 130.17
Swiss franc 1.484
Norwegian kroner 8.210
Canadian dollar 1.485
Australian dollar 1.558
 Man charged with Australian tourist's death sentenced to 22 1/2 yearsA former bounder at a Mykonos club on Thursday was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison for the 2008 killing of a 20-year-old Australian tourist, a ruling handed down by a court on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos.
The court commuted an intentional homicide charge against Marios-Sosipatros Antonopoulos, a bouncer at the now defunct "Tropicana" club at the time, of the fatal incident, to a charge of lethal bodily harm that resulted in the death of Doujon Zammit outside the nightclub.
It also sentenced two other defendants to eight years and three months imprisonment, and to 7 1/2 years imprisonment, respectively.
The trial began on the island of Lesvos on January 14 after Greece's Supreme Court on December 8 rejected an appeal by the criminal case defendant against a lower appeals court ruling indicting him on intentional homicide charges in the death of Zammit.
Present in court were the victim's father Oliver and mother Rose and his two brothers, who flew to Greece for the trial, together with Costas Gribilas, who received Doujon's heart in a transplant after the parents donated the young man's organs after he was declared clinically brain dead.
The Zammit family has endeared itself to the Greek public, apart from the compassion for the unprovoked loss of their son, with their decision to donate Doujon's organs for transplant. Gribilas, who received Doujon's heart, postponed his honeymoon to be at the Zammit family's side during the trial. He recently married his sweetheart Poppy in Sydney, with Oliver Zammit standing as his best man.
 Incendiary device disarmed by coast guard bomb squad in PiraeusAn incendiary device planted under the car of a Piraeus Port Organisation employee at the Neo Ikonio container terminal was disarmed with a controlled explosion by coast guard bomb disposal experts on Thursday. The device had been attached to the car's chassis using a small magnet.
The mechanism was made of four cellphone batteries, a cellphone circuit board, a Sim card and a sponge. It was spotted by a port employee that alerted the local coast guard. Coast guard bomb disposal experts that examined the mechanism decided that it was not very powerful and opted to disarm it on the spot using a controlled explosion. The remains were then sent to Greek Police laboratories.
Coast guard officers think that the device was probably planted by someone that had personal differences with the owner of the car.
 Vice squad arrests members of international prostitution ringThe Attica Security police vice squad on Thursday reported the arrest of two young women aged 20 and 21 years old as suspected members of an international prostitution ring.
The girls were foreign nationals, one Lithuanian and the second Hungarian, and both also worked as models.
Police said the ring arranged appointments for sexual services throughout the world for young women from Eastern European countries, asking fees ranging from 250 to 1000 euros.
Responding to one of the advertisements on the Internet, vice squad officers booked an appointment with the two women in a central Athens hotel and arrested them after they accepted the marked notes given to them as payment.
The two women told police that they had never met the people that employed them and that these headed an international ring with bases in London, Moscow, Prague and Amsterdam. The money they received was paid into different bank accounts every time.
In their possession, police found 1,550 euros and hand-written notes listing e-mails and telephone numbers of clients, as well as the addresses and telephones of various European hotels.
The two women were led before a public prosecutor on Thursday.
 Group assumes responsibility for bomb attackA proclamation assuming responsibility for the bomb attack at the General Press Secretariat on Friday, January 15, 2010, has appeared in a website in the Internet.
Responsibility is assumed by the "Revolutionary Organisation 6 December", that also assumes responsibility for the bullets sent on December 2008 after the killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, to lawyer Alexis Kouyias and journalist Yiannis Pretenteris.
According to a senior Police officer, they believe that the proclamation is genuine and it is being examined with great seriousness.
 Rallies in support of migrants on Jan. 26Rallies in support of granting Greek nationality to the children of all migrants in Greece, irrespective of whether their parents are legal or illegal immigrants, and calling for the legalisation of migrants living in the country, have been organised by leftist and anti-racist groups and organisations in several cities throughout Greece on January 26.
The rally in Athens will take place in Omonia Square at 6:00 pm, while similar rallies will take place in Thessaloniki, Patras, Ioannina, Rethymno, Chania and Iraklio.
 Drug arrestsFour people were arrested on drug dealing charges in two separate incidents in Veria and Corinth over the last 24 hours, it was made known on Thursday.
The Coast guard, in a coordinated operation, arrested two foreign nationals on Wednesday night in the region of Patrida near the northern Greek city of Veria for drug dealing. Officers found in their possession and confiscated 17.9 kilos of cannabis.
On Thursday morning, a 23-year-old foreign national and a 17-year-old woman were arrested in Velo, Corinth prefecture, southern Greece, for drug dealing in a coordinated operation by Xylokastro police. The two were arrested in the act while attempting to sell a quantity of cannabis to an undercover policeman posing as a buyer. A police search turned up seven kilos of hashish, 40 euros in cash and three mobile phones, all of which were confiscated.
Xylokastro police are conducting a preliminary examination, while the two suspects will be sent before a Corinth prosecutor.
 Arsonists target ND office in ThessalonikiA home-made incendiary device exploded before dawn on Thursday at a main opposition New Democracy (ND) local office in the Thessaloniki (northern Greece) district of Ampelokipi, causing minor material damage.
According to the Fire Brigade the 3:15 a.m. explosion, caused by propane canisters, shattered windows.
 Teacher charged with possession of child pornA 40-year-old school teacher arrested for possession of child pornography was led before a public prosecutor in Thessaloniki on Thursday.
The prosecutor filed criminal degree charges against him for possession of child pornography and referred him to an examining magistrate.
The 40-year-old was arrested on Wednesday by electronic crimes squad officers that tracked an electronic trace to his house in Agios Pavlos, Thessaloniki, where they discovered more than 3,000 files of pornographic material stored on discs, hard discs and a computer.
The education ministry announced that it had launched an internal inquiry and that the teacher would be suspended from teaching work until this had concluded.
 Two caught for dealing in countefeit bank notesAttica Security Police on Thursday said they had arrested two Albanian nationals aged 26 and 43 years old for possession and selling counterfeit money. The two were caught on Wednesday afternoon in the Athens district of Nea Ionia.
The two were arrested just as they attempted to sell 425 fake 20-euro notes with the nominal value of 8,500 euros for the sum of 2,500 euros.
Police said that the pair had been dealing in large quantities of counterfeit notes in Athens over the past six months, which they were selling for roughly one third its nominal value.
They were led before a public prosecutor on Thursday.
 4.2R quake jolts western GreeceA light earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale jolted the areas of western Greece and the Ionian islands on Thursday.
According to the Athens National Observatory's Geodynamic Institute, the quake was recorded shortly before noon at a distance of 250 kilometers west of Athens, with its epicenter in the sea region east of the Ionian island of Cephallonia.
 Cloudy, rainy on FridayCloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 4-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -5C and 15C. Cloudy and showery in Athens, with northerly 5-8 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 1C to 10C. Cloudy with sleet in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 1C to 4C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe escalation of protesting farmers' roadblocks, contribu-tion evasion and changes in the taxation system, the problems faced by social security funds, the changes in university entry exams, Greek-Turkish relations and the government's next steps following the EU's initial approval of the Stability and Growth plan, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Six changes in university entry exams".
APOGEVMATINI: "Depositors withdrew 3.3 billion euros from banks (in October and November 2009)
AVGHI: "Farmers, do not protest: The country is in danger!".
AVRIANI: "Twenty-nine Turkish general had attempted to set up a war scenario with Greece to topple Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan".
CHORA: "Employment Minister Andreas Loverdos accuses public sector of contribution evasion".
ELEFTHEROS: "Turkish generals were planning a provocation in the Aegean and Thrace!".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "150,000 civil servants will lose a month's salary - Cutbacks in benefits and retroactive taxation".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Pressure from the EU, profiteering on the markets, and the government announces the second package ahead of the ... first package (of measures)".
ESTIA: "Government anticipates revenues that are dubious".
ETHNOS: "Taxes and civil servants' income regulations will be effective from Jan.1".
IMERISSIA: "Pressures escalate - Spread at 302 - 3.39 plunge on Athens Stock Exchange".
KATHIMERINI: "Shocking report on the 'hidden' debt - Independent committee ascertains that dozens of billions of euros from debts and guarantees are not included in the official reports".
LOGOS: "Prosecutors 'block' farmers - Bulgaria demands ten million euros in compensation!"
NAFTEMPORIKI: "2009 debt 'sealed in' at 12.8 percent".
NIKI: " The 'gravediggers' of the social security system ".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Farmers' roadblock in Nikaia calls on the roadblocks throughout the rest of the country for a united coordinated action in demand of the farmers' just rights".
TA NEA: "Up to 400 euros reduction in civil servants' salaries".
TO VIMA: "Retroactive austerity including cutbacks in salaries and tax hikes in effect from Jan. 1, 2010".
VRADYNI: "The country's administration officially passes into the hands of EU auditors".
 EU ready to assist Cyprus solution efforts, says Van RompuyNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The EU stands ready to provide all the advice and support possible to find a solution, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said here on Thursday.
Van Rompuy's remarks came as Cyprus President Demetris Christofias requested from the EU President the assistance of the EU to the ongoing efforts to bring about a solution to the Cyprus problem.
The EU President, who visited Cyprus in the framework of the preparation of the Informal EU Summit in February, had a working lunch with President Christofias who briefed him on the latest developments regarding the UN-led talks for a Cyprus settlement, as well as the recent proposals submitted by the Turkish Cypriot side at the negotiating table which have been branded by the Greek Cypriot side as ''unacceptable'' and as ''way off the agreed basis'' for the solution of the Cyprus problem.
''I asked Mr Van Rompuy the EU to support the Republic of Cyprus in its effort (for a solution), pointing out that the content of the solution should respect the human rights and be based on the acquis communautaire, the principles and values of the EU,'' Christofias said during a press conference with Van Rompuy.
President Christofias reiterated the Greek Cypriot side's will for the finding of a just, viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem as soon as possible on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
''The basis to which I am referring to is that of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality as defined by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions for a single state a single sovereignty, one international personality and one nationality,'' Christofias pointed out.
He also noted that ''we have the will and patience to continue this effort,'' pointing out however that ''a possible effort to impose timeframes and pressures will not contribute to the achievement of a solution, but on the contrary will lead to the opposite result.''
In his remarks, Van Rompuy said that the settlement of the Cyprus issue is important for the European Union as well, as ''it is about ending divisions in Europe and about stability in the region.''
''A comprehensive, just and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue, in line with UN Security Council resolutions, would not only allow unification of Cyprus but also send a strong positive signal to the whole region,'' he added.
Van Rompuy commended the leaders of the two communities ''on the island for the framework they have established in the talks, and for their courageous efforts and strong and unabated commitment to work towards a solution.''
Recalling his personal experience, as former Prime Minister of Belgium, Van Rompuy said he is aware of ''how challenging it is to overcome the divisions of the past and build a new common future.''
''We are fully aware that difficult issues are being discussed, but the expectation is high. We are convinced that all involved will take up their responsibilities in order to achieve the goal of reunification. The time is now ripe for courageous and forward-looking decisions for the benefit of all Cypriots,'' he underlined.
Noting that the negotiations take place under the auspices of the United Nations and are Cypriot led, Van Rompuy added that the EU is following the process very attentively, and recalled ''our readiness to provide all the advice and support possible to find a solution.''
President Christofias and Van Rompuy also discussed issues concerning the financial crisis, climate change, asylum and illegal immigration and the future of Europe.
Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began UN-led direct negotiations with a view to achieve a solution to the problem of Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. After two rounds of talks, they held the first round of three-day intensive negotiations followed by a new round of intensive talks on January 25, 26 and 27.
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