|Sunday, 20 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-02-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 12 February 2010 Issue No: 3421
 PM Papandreou says Greece will succeedBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/G. Milionis) Prime Minister George Papandreou, addressing a press conference at the end of the informal European Union summit on Thursday and referring to the EU leaders' agreement to assist Greece so that it can weather its current economic crisis, said that "our partners assessed and ascertained our will to change, we convinced following a great effort and it is necessary for us to continue. I declare that we shall succeed."
Asked what would be given in exchange for the "triple supervision" for the implementation of the Stability Programme on the part of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF and the taking of the necessary additional measures, Papandreou said that "the fact that they are supervising us today is the result of the policies of the past years and of the complete absence of credibility. We have no problem: The transparency for what we are doing and what we are implementing is the best reply to every one who may doubt that we have the will to implement what we have to implement, to take the decisions that we must take in order to achieve our goals."
Called on to clarify if the "supplementary measures apart from the Stability Programme will be imposed by the Commission, the ECB and the IMF, if we do not observe the programme or another wave shall follow within the Programme," the prime minister said that "the Commission with ECOFIN and the Eurogroup are responsible for the decisions, the others are assisting. Secondly, the Programme itself says that if along the way the goals are not achieved we are ready to take the necessary and additional measures."
Papandreou termed as important the decision of the EU and of the eurozone for coordinated action if necessary, to secure stability, while whatever decision, as he said, constitutes at the same time a clear message to the markets and to possible profiteers as well.
"We shall respond to the message proceeding with the necessary great reforms in our country and be certain that we shall succeed," he said.
"Our will is also expressed in the Stability, Growth and Reconstruction Programme and the additional measures that we took, while we shall do everything that is necessary to achieve our goals which are a decrease in the deficit by 4 units in 2010, the country's entry into a new growth model with the simultaneous protection of the weaker," he added.
The prime minister also mentioned that during the informal summit Europe's growth prospects were also discussed through the axes of innovation, education and digital society, the employment of skills and the combatting of poverty, and green growth with a viable economy at the same time.
Replying to whether the Greek government had requested the involvement of the IMF in Greece's "triple supervision", the prime minister said that "the Greek government has requested cooperation with the IMF on issues of a technical nature some time ago."
He added that "in similar crises the IMF has shown technical knowledge, outside the eurozone, which the eurozone does not have in similar crises, this technical knowledge is important, such as helping for example in administrative changes, to enable us to have a transparent and effective functioning of the budget" and pointed out that "we are willing and our cooperation with the IMF will be useful."
Replying to the question of "who in his morning meeting with (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy, (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel and (EU Council President Heman van) Rompuy had the idea of the IMF becoming involved and if this combination of European Central Bank-IMF concerns Greece only or is a more general measure for the eurozone," the prime minister said "two months ago I requested personally from (IMF president) Dominique Strauss Kahn technical support. We have entered a supervision procedure, I am not hiding this. In the way that we managed our finances, a part of our sovereignty is also removed, I have said this, and we must take this back, with our credibility, our programme and the contribution of each one in accordance with his capabilities."
The prime minister concluded by saying that "in doing our work we must be able to say as soon as possible that Greece is dominant of its own fortune and not under continuous and harsh supervision."
 EU leaders statement on GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
Following is the statement issued by European Union leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday at which they promised to support Greece.
"All euro area members must conduct sound national policies in line with the agreed rules. They have a shared responsibility for the economic and financial stability in the area.
"In this context, we fully support the efforts of the Greek government and their commitment to do whatever is necessary, including adopting additional measures to ensure that the ambitious targets set in the stability programme for 2010 and the following years are met.
"We call on the Greek government to implement all these measures in a rigorous and determined manner to effectively reduce the budgetary deficit by 4 percent in 2010.
"We invite the Ecofin Council to adopt at its meeting of the 16th of February the recommendations to Greece based on the Commission's proposal and the additional measures Greece has announced.
"The Commission will closely monitor the implementation of the recommendations in liaison with the ECB and will propose needed additional measures, drawing on the expertise of the IMF. A first assessment will be done in March.
"Euro area member states will take determined and coordinated action, if needed, to safeguard financial stability in the euro area as a whole. The Greek government has not requested any financial support."
 EU leaders pledge support for Greece during crisisBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris/ G. Milionis)
European Union leaders have agreed to assist Greece so that it can weather its current economic crisis, EU President Herman Van Rompuy announced on Thursday to reporters at the EU leaders' summit. He also clarified that the Greek government had not asked for financial assistance.
"We have a joint responsibility for the economic and monetary stability of the eurozone. In this context, we fully support the determination of the Greek government to do whatever is necessary, including the adoption of additional measures, in order to ensure that the ambitious targets included in the stability programme for 2010 and the following years are achieved," he said.
Van Rompuy said the EU leaders had asked the ECOFIN Council meeting on February 16 to adopt conclusions on Greece based on the recommendations of the European Commission and the additional measures taken by Greece.
The Greek government was asked to implement all these measures in a determined way so as to ensure that the country's deficit was reduced by 4 percent in 2010.
The EU president added that the Commission and the European Central Bank will closely monitor Greece's implementation of the recommendations and suggest additional measures based on the know-how of the International Monetary Fund, with a first assessment in March.
"Euro-area members will take determined and coordinated action if needed to safeguard the eurozone as a whole. The Greek government did not ask for any financial support," Van Rompuy added.
According to the Greek delegation at the summit, there was no pledge of a specific sum but there was political support.
"For the time being, Greece has achieved what it wanted, because we needed a message from the Eurozone to markets that backed the credibility of Greece and the measures taken by the government to reduce the deficit," a member of the Greek delegation said.
The European Council also discussed a draft statement to be approved by the European leaders, arising from a French-German initiative. This would outline an agreement forged in talks between Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou during a Thursday morning meeting.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker were also present.
 ND leader strongly criticises PM's statementsMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, in the wake of measures taken for the economy and European Union's support for Greece, criticised Prime Minister George Papandreou after the press conference he gave in Brussels on Thursday, while stressing that he considers it positive that European support shields Greek bonds from attacks by profiteers.
"Mr. Papandreou would do well not to remove any responsibilities from both the past PASOK governments, as well as his own unprecedented delaying for four months (since October)," Samaras said.
The ND leader also criticised the measures taken by Papandreou's PASOK government, stressing that "after delays, it is taking measures now only to curb the deficit and not to boost the market and it does not give the economy necessary "breathers" of support."
He further assessed that without strengthening measures the recession that will result will be very deep and the deficits will not decrease and added "our message to the government is: Take strengthening measures now."
Samaras pointed out that the problem is "for us to cut extravagances. Not to cut from vital needs. Unfortunately, the government appeared, initially at least, not to do this distinction. To level everything and to cut from everywhere."
Samaras also criticised the prime minister on another point in his statements: "The ease with which the prime minister- due to supervision- claims that a part of our sovereignty is being taken from us, is creating grave scepticism. Evidently, he does not realise the gravity and the consequences of his words."
 IMF statement on GreeceWASHINGTON (ANA/MPA)
Caroline Atkinson, Director of External Relations at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), issued the following statement in Washington on Thursday:
"We welcome the support for Greece from its EU partners, which, together with policy actions undertaken by the Greek authorities, are important new steps in response to the challenges the country faces. The Fund, as noted by the EU leaders, is prepared to offer expertise and support as necessary."
 Samaras: Cut state spendingMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Thursday addressed a meeting of the party's sector heads, where, referring to the government's recently measures to deal with the country's economic crisis, he stressed that "the prime minister has chosen the easy solution by laying the burden on taxpayers."
Samaras pointed out that state spending should be reduced and that the government should adopt measures in support of low-income earners and low-pension recipients. He also said new measures should be adopted to support SMEs and prevent unemployment from skyrocketing.
Referring to the opposition strategy followed by his party, Samaras stated that "when the government does not do its work we will suggest measures and solutions."
On the role each sector secretary should play, he said "we should be close to the people" and underlined that ND is being transformed into a "more radical" party. He also said a June 8 party congress will lead to a modern European party of the center-left open to society and the citizens.
 ND sector secretaries meet under party leader SamarasThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) sectoral secretariats committee met Thursday, chaired by party leader Antonis Samaras.
After the meeting at the ND main offices, party spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos stated that the ND leader underlined that the country is in a very difficult conjuncture and called on all the party cadres, MPs and sector secretaries to stand by the citizens.
 Alternate FM to brief ND leader Friday on foreign policyAlternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas will on Friday brief main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader on foreign policy.
The briefing will take place at 11:00 a.m. at the ND headquarters, according to a foreign ministry announcement.
 UN mediator on FYROM issue due in Athens late FebruaryThe UN secretary general's mediator on the FYROM name issue, Matthew Nimetz, will visit Greece in the last week of February, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras announced in Athens on Thursday.
Delavekouras underlined Greece's desire for proceeding to a solution of the name issue, a condition of which is FYROM's refraining from aggressive moves, and the neighboring country's "creative participation" in the dialogue with Greece.
A solution is feasible, he said, but it is a matter of Skopje's political volition, and added that a solution will "unblock" FYROM's Euro-Atlantic prospect.
 Matthew Nimetz in Athens on February 26NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
UN Mediator Matthew Nimetz will be in Athens on February 26.
According to an announcement by a UN Secretariat spokesperson, "following an invitation by the governments of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), the personal envoy of the Secretary General regarding the issue of the name, Matthew Nimetz, will be travelling to the region later this month. Ambassador Nimetz will be meeting with officials in Skopje on February 23 and 24 and with officials in Athens on February 26."
 FM spokesman on EU candidate reportsThe Greek government deeply respects and records the work of the European Parliament, but all the candidate EU members also have the obligation of showing the same respect, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday, asked during a regular press briefing to comment on the reports adopted by the Europarliament on the candidate states.
Delavekouras also stressed that FYROM and Turkey must fulfill all the conditions set out by the EU for membership.
 FM spokesman on Greek-Turkish steering committeeThe Greek government is working for the speediest possible preparation of the work of the Steering Committee on Greek-Turkish affairs, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday.
After the Committee meets, a visit to Turkey will be scheduled by alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas.
 Environment minister unveils reforestation programme for AtticaEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili on Thursday announced the immediate launch of a four-year reforestation programme for burnt areas in eastern Attica where the natural regeneration of forests was no longer considered possible.
The minister also announced the creation of a Green Fund to finance environmental policy, replacing the existing frame-work.
Birbili said the programme envisioned the reforestation of 10,000 hectares within Attica over four years, at an estimated cost of 45 million euros for which the funds were already secured. Deputy Environment Minister Thanos Moraitis said that work will begin next week in areas burnt twice or three times by forest fires.
They said the ministry aimed to complete a round of contacts with private enterprises and non-governmental organisations that had also launched independent reforestation projects in Attica by March 21st - to coincide with World Forestry Day. This would culminate in a historically symbolic initiative on fire-scarred Mount Penteli on March 21-22 organised by an 'alliance' made up of the state, businesses, NGOs and citizens.
Birbili said the ministry would be able to release the necessary funds from Friday, using 260 million euros in the Special Fund for Implementing Regulatory and Town Plans. Both this and the Special Forests Agency will be replaced by the new Green Fund.
For the remainder of Greece, she said a revision of the Alexandros Baltatzis programme - which provided for actions regarding forests - would allow specific action to be decided by end February.
The minister stressed the need to complete negotiations with businesses by March 21, since a large part of the project will be undertaken by contractors. In addition to planting and watering, the ministry intends to also ensure the work includes guarding the reforested areas and was in talks with the Citizens Protection Ministry to discuss the use of rural police for this work.
Birbili said the planting would be carried out on the basis of studies commissioned by regional authorities, 80 percent of which had been completed for the 10,000 hectares in Attica, and that the trees would not be exclusively pines but also other species that existed in Attica previously.
Regarding the draft bill scrapping previous funds and bodies in order to set up a Green Policy Council and the new 'Green Fund', Birbili said that this sought to clear up the previously untransparent and confused regime, which was prone to abuse and jobbery. The new Council will include representatives of social bodies and civil society and be charged with making specific the priorities of environmental strategy and approving planned funding programmes by the Green Fund.
Regarding the projects being funded by the previous regime, the minister said that those for which the first installment had already been paid would completed and the rest put to tender again.
Birbili went on to outline the aims of a recycling bill, saying this would link the fees charged to local authorities for disposing wastes with the amounts deposited, so as to give municipalities a financial incentive to promote recycling and waste reduction.
 Parliament spending cuts of 20 mln euros announcedParliament President Filippos Petsalnikos on Thursday aannounced reductions in the salaries of MPs and Parliament employees as well as spending cuts amounting to 20 million euros, all within the framework of recent measures to tackle the country's fiscal deficit.
The measures include a 10-pct reduction in approved expenditures for the Parliament president, a 5-pct cut in the monthly salaries of MPs, a 10-pct reduction in office and other expenditures and 15-pct reduction in sums granted as remuneration for their participation in Parliament committees.
Petsalnikos said monthly reduction in MPs' salaries will be close to 800 euros, resulting in savings of 3.36 million euros.
The measures concerning Parliament employees include a 10-pct reduction in overtime and other expenditures, a 10-pct cut in extraordinary benefits of up to 1,000 euros and 15 pct cuts for benefits higher than 1,000 euros.
Salary hikes have been postponed, while all tax measures announced for the public sector will be into effect for the Parliament as well.
The amount saved for 2010 will be roughly six million euros.
The 2010 Parliament budget presented last November included funding cuts of four million euros, while the Parliament had returned the sum of 3.5 million euros to the General Accounting Office before the end of 2009.
 Parliamentary com't probing Vatopedi land swap case calls witnessesThe first witnesses to appear next Tuesday before a Parliamentary fact-finding committee to probe the land swap between the Vatopedi Monastery and the state will be Legal Council of State President Alexandros Tzeferakos, along with vice-president Dimitrios Anastassopoulos and other three council members.
All of them had issued opinions on the necessary moves that must be taken for the return of state-owned property that was swapped with the Vatopedi Monastery, one of the landmark monasteries of the Mt. Athos monastic community.
The committee also decided that law professor Mihalis Stathopoulos, a former justice minister in the Simitis government, will testify on Thursday, while finance ministry Special Audit Service head Ioannis Kapeleris will testify on Wednesday.
The committee's members decided to request the opening of bank accounts, loan contracts and stock exchange transactions conducted by the Vatopedi Monastery between 1998 and 2008. A similar investigation will also focus the then Vatopedi abbot Ephraim, and other three monks, the Papista Group land development companies, and six offshore companies.
 Army air force receives 12 new Apache assault helicoptersThe 12 new Apache AH 64 D HA assault helicopters were joined to the army's air force during a special ceremony held in Pachi, western Attica, on Thursday, in the presence of National Defence General Staff chief Ioannis Yiangos and Army General Staff chief Frangoulis Frangos.
The two leaders were briefed on the new helicopters' capabilities and then watched a spectacular air display. The Armed Forces military leadership congratulated each of the helicopters' crews, as well as the technical staff.
The event was also attended by defence attaches of foreign countries, representatives of the army air force department and representatives of the manufacturing company.
 Dep. FM outlines Athens' economic diplomacyDeputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis on Thursday outlined Athens' 2010 economic diplomacy action plan before business representatives, while calling on the business community to support what he called an "extroversion" of the Greek economy.
"Approaching new markets in a systematic way is very important to boost entrepreneurship in Greece and subsequently development and employment in a period when the local production sector is being tested by the global economic crisis and shrinking markets," Kouvelis stressed, referring to the crucial role of economic diplomacy in this economic conjuncture.
Referring to the establishment of joint ministerial committees for the improvement of an institutional framework of cooperation, he stated that among the priorities are to set up such committees in 2010 with Russia, the United States, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Kuwait, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
The Greek presidency of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC), to be launched on June 1, is "a very good opportunity" for the development of cooperation with the Black Sea countries, Kouvelis added, pointing out that Greece will seek to promote the sector of energy, including the renewable energy sources (RES).
Kouvelis stressed that the Hellenic Plan for the Reconstruction of the Balkans (HiPERB) is also a useful development tool with a "political dimension", showing that Greece is spearheading the Balkan states toward 2014 and European integration.
Kouvelis also said business missions to Russia, China, Egypt, the United States, the Gulf States, Libya and South Africa, are being planned to take place before the end of the year.
 Sea Tourism Committee convenes for first timeThe Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping ministry's Sea Tourism Committee convened for its first session on Thursday with the participation of 23 relevant agencies.
The framework and the orientations of the policy to be followed by Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli on Sea Tourism were discussed during the session. It was agreed that next week all the agencies involved will be submitting their proposals to the Committee's president, George Roidis.
On Friday, February 19, the Committee will be convening for the second time to enable solutions to the sector's problems to be scheduled immediately and with speedy steps.
 Greek unemployment jumped to 10.6 pct in NovGreek unemployment jumped to 10.6 pct in November 2009, from 7.8 pct in November 2008, the National Statistical Service said on Thursday. The number of unemployed people totaled 531,953 in the month, up by 146,965 compared with November 2008 and up by 40,814 compared with October 2009, while the number of employed people totaled 4,464,230, down 2 pct from November 2008 and 0.9 pct compared with October 2009.
Unemployment among women jumped to 13.3 pct in November, from 11.6 pct in November 2008, while among men the unemployment rate was 8.8 pct, from 5.2 pct. Unemployment was higher in the regions of southern Aegean (17.8 pct), western Macedonia (14.3 pct) and eastern Macedonia-Thrace (14.2 pct), while the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in nothern Aegean (5.9 pct), Peloponese (7.6 pct) and western Greece (7.9 pct).
 Econ crisis discussed at event hosted by Greek-Israeli Chamber"The economic crisis phenomenon has not been fully interpreted yet because it is still in progress," Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sahinidis underlined on Thursday, at a working luncheon hosted by the Greek-Israeli Chamber of Commerce and Technology in Athens.
Speaking at the event, Sahinidis said Greece is faced with a credibility deficit despite the fact that it is taking all necessary measures to get out of the crisis, while he underlined that in previous years no structural reforms were implemented and no necessary measures taken.
"The result of this was that the global crisis played the role of a magnifying glass for Greece's problems," Sahinidis said.
Former Israeli deputy minister Yossi Beilin also addressed the event, focusing on the economic situation of Israel after 1973.
Beilin is known as the "architect" of the Oslo accords for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the 1990s.
The event was held in the presence of Israeli ambassador to Greece Ali Yahya.
 Tunisian embassy event ahead of 'Lingerie Med' exhibitionThe Tunisian ambassador in Greece will organise a working session at the embassy in Athens on Feb. 17 in order to boost bilateral economic relations between Tunisia and Greece in view of the inaugural Undergarments and Bathing Suits Exhibition "Lingerie Med", scheduled to take place in Tunis on April 15-17.
Greek entrepreneurs active in the textiles and undergarments sector will be invited to the session.
The holding of the exhibition follows a Tunisian-Greek cooperation conference in the textiles sector, held last December.
Along those lines, Greece will be the first 'honored country' at the exhibition.
The Tunisian embassy has also invited Samir bin Abdallah, president of a relevant Tunisian garments chamber, to the event.
 Import price index up 6.3 pct in DecGreece's import price index in the industrial sector rose 6.3 pct in December 2009, after a decline of 2.0 pct recorded in December 2008, the National Statistical Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said the import price index fell 1.8 pct on average last year, after an increase of 7.1 pct in the previous 12-month period. The agency attributed the 6.3 pct rise in the index to a 0.7 pct increase in import prices from Eurozone countries and a 12.5 pct rise in import prices from countries outside Eurozone.
 OA, Aegean in partnership talksOlympic Air and Aegean Airlines SA on Thursday confirmed partnership talks between their main shareholders, although both companies said there was "nothing concrete" to be announced so far. In a statement to the Athens Stock Exchange, Marfin Investment Group (MIG), commenting on press reports, confirmed the talks with Aegean Airlines over a future partnership.
The two airline companies around about equally sized, based on the size of their aircraft fleet, passenger traffic numbers and network and both are significant regional air carrier players.
 Greek hotels announce 5% cut in minimum pricesThe Hellenic Chamber of Hotels on Thursday announced a 5-pct cut in minimum hotel prices for 2010, offering a clear direction over this year's pricing policy by Greek hotels, as they try to attract more holiday-makers amid a prolonged crisis in the European and Mediterranean tourism sector, and without undermining the level and composition of offered services.
The new board of Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, in its second meeting, said it was sending a clear message to the country's major tourism market-sources, that Greece was containing prices of its tourism services to rational levels, fully compatible with the value of offered services.
 Stocks edge lower on Thurs.Stocks edged lower after a two-day rally in the Athens Stock Exchange, as sellers took over in the market. The composite index fell 0.03 pct to end at 1,940.31 points, moving in a wide range of between 1,919 and 1,982 points.
Turnover was a moderate 225.917 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index fell 0.71 pct, the FTSE 40 index eased 0.59 pct and the FTSE 80 index fell 1.12 pct. The Food/Beverage (4.91 pct) and Chemicals (2.71 pct) sectors scored gains, while Telecoms (2.80 pct) and Personal Products (1.72 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Neorio (19.05 pct), Klonatex (14.29 pct), Thrace Plastics (12.33 pct) and Lyberis Publications (9.62 pct) were top gainers, while Ippotour (8.70 pct), Xylemporia (7.69 pct) and Medicon (7.49 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 104 to 84 with another 49 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.45%
Personal & Household: -1.72%
Raw Materials: +2.36%
Travel & Leisure: -0.42%
Food & Beverages: +4.91%
Financial Services: -0.13%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 6.76
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.06
HBC Coca Cola: 16.92
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.45
National Bank of Greece: 14.45
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.89
Bank of Piraeus: 5.97
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds fell further to 271 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 5.94 pct and the German Bund 3.23 pct. Turnover in the market jumped to 1.968 billion euros, of which 974 million were buy orders and the remaining 994 million were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond (August 8, 2015) was the most heavily traded security of the day with a turnover of 721 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.96 pct, the three-month rate 0.66 pct and the one-month rate 0.42 pct.
 ADEX closing reprtThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a -0.63 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 97.172 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 16,453 contracts, worth 80.093 million euros with 32,112 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 20,818 contracts worth 17.084 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,066), followed by Eurobank (1,445), MIG (3,869), OTE (2,122), Piraeus Bank (1,690), Alpha Bank (2,212), Cyprus Bank (512) and Hellenic Postbank (316).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.382
Pound sterling 0.884
Danish kroner 7.504
Swedish kroner 10.039
Japanese yen 124.01
Swiss franc 1.478
Norwegian kroner 8.162
Canadian dollar 1.461
Australian dollar 1.557
 Eight bodies, believed to be economic refugees from shipwreck in Turkish waters, recovered off Samos by Greek CoastguardThe bodies of eight persons, believed to be economic refugees, were recovered on Thursday by coast guard officers in the region of Potokakios on the eastern Aegean island of Samos.
Authorities believe the bodies were from a shipwreck reported on Wednesday night by one of a group 10-12 passengers of a plastic boat that overturned in the area, inside Turkish national waters.
A man was spotted and picked up by a Georgia-flagged merchant ship that was sailing in the vicinity at the time.
As soon as the survivor was brought on board the merchant ship, he said that he, together with 10-12 other fellow nationals, had been in a plastic boat that overturned due to adverse weather conditions.
An alert was immediately issued and a Super Puma all-weather helicopter took off to scour the area for possible survivors. Gale force winds of 9 beaufort, though, did not allow coast guard boats to join in the search.
However, Coast guard officers were scouring the coast throughout the night, and in the morning spotted five bodies. Three more bodies were found in the same area later in the morning. Among the victims are a woman and a young girl.
The search was continuing on Thursday, and port authorities did not rule out the prospect that the number of people originally on the plastic boat is smaller, or that the victims were from a different incident in the same region.
The survivor was taken by the merchant ship to the Turkish port of Kusadasi.
Brown bears in Greece fell into hibernation this year one month later than usual due to unseasonably warm temperatures, says Arcturos
Unseasonably warm temperatures in Greece this year have resulted in the brown bears living in the wild falling into winter hibernation a month later than usual. Wild bears this year started going into hibernation in mid-January, whereas bears in captivity went into hibernation in mid-December, according to the Arcturos non-profit wildlife protection organisation.
Winter hibernation is crucial for the bear, as it protects the animal from the lack of food in nature caused by adverse weather conditions and, in addition, during the two-month hibernation period the female gives birth to one-two, and more rarely three, cubs, which are born blind and without fur and weigh just 350-400 grams, Arcturos' Vasso Petridou told ANA-MPA.
Brown bears dig dens for winter hibernation, often holing up in a suitable hillside. Females, or she-bears, den while pregnant and give birth during this winter rest, usually to a pair of cubs. Brown bear cubs nurse on their mother's milk until spring and stay with her for some two and a half years-so females only reproduce once every three years.
Bears will hibernate when food is scarce and the temperature is too cold. They can sleep for months without eating, drinking, or urinating. They will usually make a den in a cave or under a fallen tree and cover themselves with leaves and other brush. Mother bears will awaken to give birth, typically in mid to late January, and take excellent care of the cubs in the den.
What bears do is actually called "winter lethargy". According to scientists, "true hibernation" is an inactive sleep-like state some animals enter into during the winter. During hibernation, body temperature is lower than normal. Heart beat and breathing slow down tremendously.
Bears only experience small changes in heart rate, metabolic processes and body temperature, heart rate only drops from forty to seventy beats per minute down to eight to twelve beats per minute and metabolism only drops by half, whereas a ground squirrel, for example, when going into "true hibernation", its body temperature may drop to the freezing point (32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius) or slightly below. During the period of dormancy, a bear's temperature drops less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit from a normal temperature of 99 degrees Fahrenheit.
 Promachonas closed to all vehiclesProtesting farmers blocking the Promachonas border post, at midnight Thursday allowed for a few hours the passage of trucks to and from Bulgaria. The subzero temperatures and the continuous rainfall in the area were instrumental in the farmers' to temporarily open the roadblock to allow the truck drivers, who had been waiting for over three days, to cross the border.
The border was afterwards closed again to all vehicles by the farmers, who warned that they will harden their stance.
Promachonas border post is the last remaining farmers' roadblock in Greece, and was in place on Thursday for the 24th consecutive day.
 Policeman injured in attack by youthsA police officer was injured during a fracas between a group of youths and two Z-team motorcycle police at 15:15 on Thursday, at the corner of Mavromattaion and Antoniadi streets near Athens' Economic University in central Athens.
The two police officers were responding to a call concerning an attempted auto theft at the time. When they arrived at their destination, a group of 10 individuals wearing helmets launched a surprise attack against them using stones and other objects. A stone hit one of the officers on the head, just after he had taken off his own helmet.
The culprits then fled and the injured officer was taken to the 401 military hospital, where he is being treated and out of danger.
The alleged car thief the two policemen had been called to intercept turned out to be the owner of the vehicle, who had lost his keys and was trying to break into the car using a screw-driver and had been reported by concerned citizens.
Police are now seeking those responsible for the attack against their colleagues.
 Cloudy, rainy on FridayCloudy and rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 18C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with southerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 16C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 11C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime Minister George Papandreou's meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris and the latter's backing for a rescue of the Greek economy, the crucial EU Summit in Brussels on Thursday at which France and Germany are expected to propose a rescue plan for the Greek economy, the changes in the taxation system and the minimum amount of receipts required to secure the tax-free ceiling, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Main opposition New Democracy (ND): "Government's measures drying up the market".
APOGEVMATINI: "Average pension reduced by up to 500 euros - Which categories of insured citizens will be affected by the new system".
AVGHI: "Germany's and France's support under conditions - Berlin and Paris assume responsibility to rescue the Greek economy on condition of harsh political and economic terms".
AVRIANI: "We 'bribed' them and now we relax - We bought six frigates from France and 30 Eurofighters from Germany to obtain their support".
CHORA: "Dim light in the 'City of Light' - Sarkozy's political support for the rescue of the economy".
ELEFTHEROS: "Three provisions curtail pensions".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "How much money we will lose with the new measures - Who are affected by the abolition of the special reduced taxation of non-salary revenues from benefits".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The secrets of the receipts - Taxation: Who will lose and gain, and how much".
ESTIA: "Finishing blow to the economy - The taxes will intensify the recession".
ETHNOS: "Receipts nibbling away at the tax reliefs".
IMERISSIA: "French-German life jacket - Rescue plan with strict conditions".
KATHIMERINI: "Dramatic deliberations on the rescue".
LOGOS: "Thriller over the European aid ...to the Greek economy".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "European solutions for the Greek problems".
NIKI: "Cartel comprising 30 companies preying on the country".
TA NEA: "Secret tax for the medium incomes - How the receipts chisel away the tax-free amount".
TO VIMA: "Up to 1,200 euros penalties for fewer receipts! - Traps for low incomes and couples".
VRADYNI: "Ray of optimism - Europe's support plan for Greece".
 Spokesman: EP resolution a clear message to AnkaraNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The European Parliament's resolution on Turkey's progress report for 2009, which was approved Wednesday, constitutes a clear message to Ankara to immediately implement its obligations which concern the Republic of Cyprus.
This was stated Thursday by Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou, noting that the EP's resolution is the most powerful one which Cyprus has achieved lately.
The resolution, he said, is one more political tool for the Greek Cypriot side in the struggle for the achievement of a solution in Cyprus that would end the Turkish occupation and reunify Cyprus and its people.
"The resolution underlines the need for Turkey's active support for the achievement of an overall settlement of the Cyprus problem. Basically, the European Parliament urges Turkey to contribute actively to the solution of the Cyprus problem, reviewing its Cyprus policy so far", he underlined.
It is clear, he said, "that the EP gives a strong message to Turkey: Smooth continuation of its EU accession negotiations and membership mean meeting its obligations and solving the Cyprus problem".
The EP, he said, deplores the non-implementation of the Additional Protocol to the EC-Turkey Association Agreement for the fourth consecutive year and warns that failure to implement fully and without delay, in a non discriminatory way, the Additional Protocol to the EC-Turkey Association Agreement could seriously affect its accession negotiations.
Moreover, Stephanou said, the EP calls on the Turkish government to contribute in concrete terms to the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue, based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation, in line with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the principles on which the EU is founded.
Replying to questions he said that the resolution includes some negative points but he described them as "not that important".
"What we want to say, is that the resolution is the most powerful resolution we have had at least in the last few years", he noted.
Asked whether the government would use that resolution at the negotiating table for the Cyprus talks, he said that the resolution would help the Greek Cypriot side to better promote its positions.
Invited to comment on Turkish Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bagis' statements on the issue, Stephanou said that Bagis' reaction shows that Turkey is disturbed by such developments and has to realize that it has to meet its obligations, including the solution of the Cyprus problem, in order to continue with its EU accession course.
Regarding the EU-Turkey negotiating chapter on energy, he said that the position of the government of Cyprus is that that chapter will not open unless Turkey commits itself to stop harassing ship and allow the Republic of Cyprus to continue unhampered its research for hydrocarbon reserves in its Exclusive Economic Zone.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and since then occupy its northern third. The Republic of Cyprus entered the EU in May 2004. Ongoing UN led peace talks between Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began in September 2008 with an aim to reunify the island.
 Spokesman: President continues efforts for Cyprus solutionNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias continues his efforts to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem always with consistency on principles, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said here on Thursday.
Asked whether Social Democrats Movement EDEK's withdrawal from the government coalition would cause problems at the negotiating table for a Cyprus solution, Stephanou said that the president continues his efforts for a Cyprus solution with consistency on principles, bearing in mind the mandate he has from the people.
Stephanou was invited to comment on the letter sent Monday by the leader of the Group of Socialist and Democrats in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, to the leader of the Social Democrats Movement EDEK, Yiannakis Omirou, urging him to reconsider his intention to withdraw from the government coalition, as such move could cause destabilization in Cyprus during this crucial period of the Cyprus talks.
"I would not like to comment on that. But given the opportunity, I would like to express the gratitude of Cyprus and the government towards the Socialists Group at the European Parliament as well as towards Martin Schulz to the efforts we make to reach a solution".
Asked whether there is destabilization as regards the Cyprus talks after EDEK's withdrawal from the government, as Schulz had warned in his letter to Omirou, Stephanou said that the government wants to see all political forces, especially those which support the government and the president, to be supportive.
Asked when the next meetings between the two leaders will take place, he said that the exact dates will be announced at a later stage.
Invited to comment on Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat's statement that the Karpasia area, which is now under Turkish occupation, will not be returned, but Greek Cypriots could go there after a solution is reached and live in four villages in the area, Stephanou said that the various issues, which concern the basic aspects of the Cyprus problem, like territory, are on the negotiating table.
He added that the Greek Cypriot side discusses about all aspects and makes its utmost to achieve an overall solution in Cyprus.
The solution, he concluded, must address the basic concerns of the Greek Cypriots and all Cypriots in total and must be just, under the circumstances, viable and functional.
Monday evening, EDEK's Central Committee decided to withdraw from the government coalition, citing ''total disagreement'' with President Christofias' strategy on the Cyprus problem.
 Schulz to meet leaders in CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The leader of the Group of Socialist and Democrats in the European Parliament Martin Schulz announced on Thursday that he intends to visit Cyprus soon, to meet the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities and to express the support of the S & D Group of the EP for their commitment and courage to find a solution in the Cyprus problem.
Schulz made "a strong appeal to both President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, to continue and, where possible, further intensify their efforts to achieve a negotiated solution for the Cyprus problem".
"Finding a solution to the Cyprus problem is of the greatest importance, not only for the people of Cyprus but also for the stability and the peaceful development of the whole of the European continent", said Schulz according to a written statement of his group.
At the same time he expressed his group's satisfaction with the progress achieved so far by the two leaders during the intensified negotiations of the last month.
"We want to appeal to them to actively carry on with these negotiations and arrive at a comprehensive settlement for all outstanding issues on the shortest possible time", he said.
Schulz urged all members of the international community and in particular all institutions of the EU to give their fullest support to the work of the two leaders to finally arrive at a solution for the Cyprus problem.
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008 with a view to find a political settlement that will reunite the country, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
 Archbishop of Karelia deplores destruction of Cyprus' religious heritageNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland Leon has described the destruction of Cyprus' religious and cultural heritage in the island's northern Turkish occupied areas as inhumane and regrettable.
He also expressed hope that Europe must understand that it is impossible to have part of its European territory under occupation.
Speaking during a press conference here on Thursday, Leon, who is paying an official visit here at the invitation of Archbishop Chrysostomos II, said that he is well aware of the problem of the destruction of Cyprus' heritage in the occupied areas, noting that it is inconceivable that this is happening.
''We know that they have destroyed archaeological buildings, that they have stolen works of art, sold some of them abroad, icons or mosaics have somehow come back to the Church of Cyprus,'' he said.
Of course such destruction is regrettable and inhumane, he added. Asked about his position as regards the Cyprus problem, the Archbishop said that when talking about the problem one must also discuss its solution. "If the solution was easy, they would have found it," he added, noting that the problem exists for 36 years and no one can say for how many more years it will exist.
He said that talks on this issue must continue and expressed hope that the EU will be able to understand the seriousness of this problem and Europe as a family will be able to understand that it is impossible part of it to be occupied.
The Archbishop noted that there needs to be hope, adding that ''we need to work on it'', to have talks on the matter and to take into account the different views.
He expressed hope that Cyprus and Turkey will not be left alone and will receive the international help needed.
Archbishop Leon expressed satisfaction with his visit to Cyprus and thanked Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who invited him to the island after his official visit to Finland.
He said that during his contacts on the island, he discussed the Cyprus issue and issues regarding the Orthodox Church worldwide and locally.
He said he greatly appreciates the good relationship between the Finnish and the Cypriot Churches. He added that the autonomous Finnish Orthodox Church is growing and participates in all religious conferences.
The Archbishop said that the Finnish Orthodox Church has very good relations with the Finnish state, the government and the Parliament.
Referring to the missionary task of the Finnish Orthodox Church, he said that this is mainly taking place in Africa and generally to places where disasters occur, as in Haiti recently.
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