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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-02-18

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

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

Thursday, 18 February 2010 Issue No: 3425

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM: 'We are ready to curb the deficits considerably'
  • [02] PM meets separately with Samaras, Karatzaferis
  • [03] Government spokesman on Papandreou-Samaras meeting
  • [04] ND leader launched stinging attack against government
  • [05] Karatzaferis on meeting with PM
  • [06] ND leader briefed by GSEE leadership
  • [07] ND leader arranges meeting with Barroso
  • [08] ND leader in Cyprus on Monday
  • [09] Obama keeping abreast of econ situation in Greece, EU
  • [10] Chrysohoidis on shootout: 'A crucial battle won at heavy cost'
  • [11] President's condolences on death of civilian in shootout in Vyronas
  • [12] Envoy: Greek position on Kosovo unchanged
  • [13] Gov't eyes boost in 4th CSF absorption rates
  • [14] Commission reaffirms readiness to support Greece if necessary
  • [15] Budget surplus of 574mln euros in Jan
  • [16] ND's Plakiotakis on OLP
  • [17] Stocks end moderately lower
  • [18] Greek bond market closing report
  • [19] ADEX closing report
  • [20] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [21] Banknotes Museum of Corfu: A sojourn through Greece's economic history
  • [22] Greece's migrants urged to join 24-hour boycott on March 1
  • [23] Police break up gang of foreign nationals holding man captive for ransom
  • [24] Suspicious object outside minister's office
  • [25] Suspects in Mylonas abduction on trial
  • [26] Cloudy, rainy on Thursday
  • [27] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM: 'We are ready to curb the deficits considerably'

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, addressing an informal cabinet session at the Maximos Mansion on Wednesday afternoon, stressed that "we are ready to turn a page, we are ready to curb the deficits considerably, placing at the same time the country on a course of growth, however we do not want to be a lightning rod for whatever profiteers who do not permit us to deal with the programme that the Europeans and we want to implement."

    The prime minister briefed the council on his contacts in Paris and Brussels that were concluded with a joint declaration of political support for Greece by the 27 heads of state and government.

    "We are not asking for money from others, we are not asking for money from Germans, Italians, French or whatever other taxpayers. We are asking for the necessary time to enable us to implement our programme which will secure for the country the credibility and the possibility to borrow with regular terms," Papandreou stressed.

    The prime minister also pointed out that "we want a serious evalualation of the existing stability, growth and reconstruction programme and not general and irresponsible talk of measures on what Greece needs and what not."

    "We are asking for support so that the easiness of profiteering and the degradation of the country with secret aims or not will stop," he said, adding at the same time that the problem is not exclusively Greek but a wider European one.

    Referring to the implementation of this programme, Papandreou said that checks at ministries will be monthly and with indexes which is something, as he said, that is taking place for the first time in the Greek state.

    The prime minister mentioned that Greece "is receiving blows continuously due to unreliability" and added that the Committee of independent experts from the government highlighted the size of the cover up of the deficit last year, as well as the size of the political problem that it created.

    "Our decision for a fact-finding committee on the economy does not have a revanchist logic," Papandreou underlined noting that "we want the country's new page to be built in the light and in truth and in addition that consensus required must be based on a state of law and not the concealment of the truth."

    [02] PM meets separately with Samaras, Karatzaferis

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday received main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras and Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) president in separate meetings at the Maximos Mansion in Athens.

    The course of the currently deficit-plagued Greek economy reportedly dominated the talks.

    Samaras did not make statements during his exit, but will reportedly do so later in the evening.

    After his meeting with the premier, Karatzaferis stated that "every discussion with the prime minister, despite whatever difficulties, is pleasant."

    [03] Government spokesman on Papandreou-Samaras meeting

    The government will not discuss, at least at the present phase, the issue regarding the taking of new economic measures. This is deduced by what Prime Minister George Papandreou told main opposition New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras during their meeting on Wednesday.

    According to government spokesman George Petalotis, Papandreou told Samaras that the situation must be evaluated before any measures are taken, while on the issue of consensus raised due to the government's proposal on a factfinding committee being set up on the economy, the prime minister told Samaras that in any case the government is calling for consensus inside and outside Greece because, as he stressed, the recovery of the economy is a national issue, adding that history will judge all to what extent they contribute to the overcoming of the crisis.

    Moreover, according to what Petalotis said, the government appears to be insisting on the creation of a factfinding comittee on the economy. It also appears not to be accepting ND's proposal on the probing of the period from 1980 to date. Papandreou mentioned to his interlocutor that what happened recently (over the past years) has nothing to do with the past.

    Regarding what is being said about harm being caused to the country by the factfinding committee, Papandreou told Samaras that "harm is being done now with rumours and not with probing." He also stressed that there shall be full clarification with transparency and that, at last, there must be rules from now on.

    [04] ND leader launched stinging attack against government

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras launched on Wednesday evening a stinging attack against the government for its economic policy and its option to establish a fact-finding committee to probe responsibilities regarding the state of the country's economy.

    Addressing reporters at the party's headquarters after a meeting he had earlier in the day with Prime Minister George Papandreou, Samaras accused the premier of "doing everything in his power to break up the internal front" adding that in this way and in times of a world crisis the battle of the economy will not be won.

    "The government is lucky for having before it a responsible opposition which has offered it consensus on difficult issues," the ND leader noted, adding that "the (ruling) PASOK, however, is provoking and demands a fact-finding committee on the economy. Without caring about the image the country will project outside and about the consequences."

    "ND fears nothing. It has nothing to hide. Let everything come to light. But when we say everything we mean everything. Since 1981 (when PASOK came to office for the first time). We say 'yes' to the fact-finding committte, but they (the government) should consider the consequences," Samaras said.

    The ND leader further said "the country's immense debt which we are now paying back, has not been created during the past five years" (during ND's rule) adding: "The debt amounts today to 112 per cent of the GDP. In 2000, during PASOK's rule, the debt stood also at 112 per cent, when there was no world economic crisis."

    Referring to the consensus his party has offered, Samaras noted: "I have said that the consensus is virtue and not weakness. The government has taken it for weakness. It will now realise its mistake."

    The ND leader also launched an attack against Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, noting that "the real economy is being seriously harmed by dangerous and irresponsible statements, such as that made by the finance minister regarding the...Titanic!"

    Samaras proceeded to an overall criticism of the government's tactics saying: "In an economy which experiences a deep recession with zero investments, increased taxation brings about less income and results in great unemployment. It was this soaring of unemployment which I mainly wanted to prevent today, by proposing concrete measures and presenting proposals for the economy's strengthening without burdening the budget." He added that his party would be presenting on Thursday a package of concrete measures on the economy.

    During his meeting with the prime minister, Samaras also discussed developments in GreeK-Turkish relations.

    "I underlined to the prime minister that the Greek government should avoid slipping into a bilateral dialogue on all issues with Turkey, under tight timeframes (something which Ankara appears to be pursuing) and stick to the line defined and followed by all previous Greek governments since the restoration of Democracy until today," the main opposition leader concluded.

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras appeared concerned over developments in the economy and the monetary issue in particular, in relation to the European Union, in his meeting with Pime Minister George Papandreou at the Maximos Mansion on Wednesday.

    Samaras, according to reports, criticised "actions and omissions" of the government, while also briefing the prime minister on the meeting he will be having with European Commission President Barroso in Brussels on February 25.

    "I am going there to support Greece," Samaras told the prime minister and noted that the wager is for the European Union to lean towards Greek views.

    On the issue of measures to tackle the crisis, it was revealed that main opposition party leader insisted that it is a preferable that the government decides on them and takes them by March 16, provided that new measures are required, rather than being obliged on a series of measures imposed by Brussels.

    Lastly, it was also disclosed that the ND leader presented the prime minister with a package of development measures having a low or no monetary cost.

    [05] Karatzaferis on meeting with PM

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis expressed to Prime Minister George Papandreou his "concern over developments appearing on all fronts, particularly over the weariness of the Greek people."

    In a statement made at the party's offices after meeting the prime minister at the Maximos Mansion on Wednesday, Karatzaferis said that he pointed out to Papandreou that from the moment that the judicial enquiry began on the issue of the National Statistical Service's data "there is no reason for the time being for us to resort to yet another fact-finding committee, giving in this way food to profiteers and aggressive pens of Europe and America against our country."

    [06] ND leader briefed by GSEE leadership

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras met on Wednesday with the presidium of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), in the context of a series of contacts with the country's social and economic agencies.

    The GSEE presidium briefed Samaras on their intiatiatives and views regarding incomes policy, labor relations and unemployment, and called for ND backing of the umbrella federation's efforts to help the low salary and wage earners, GSEE president Yiannis Panagopoulos told reporters afterwards.

    Regarding the ruling PASOK's proposal for setting up a fact-finding commission on the economy, Panagopoulos said that the Greek people demand moves that show that there is justice in Greece while, asked if he believes "some people will go to jail", he stressed that "prison is the highest dispensation of justice for those who have squandered the public money".

    ND alternate shadow minister on economic policy Christos Staikouras, who also attended the meeting, told reporters that the fact-finding commission must extend its investigation from 1980 onwards while, to a relevant question, opined that the prospect of harsher austerity measures "is visible".

    He added that it was being proven how great the need is for offset measures to boost the economy, noting that the cost of taking new, painful measures could not be counter-balanced with the creation of fact-finding commissions.

    "The government is engaging in a hunt for the guilty in order to conceal its own blame. We have no objection to a fact-finding commission for 1980 on, so as to see how the debts were created from then to the present, and for all of us to shoulder our responsiblities," Staikouras said.

    [07] ND leader arranges meeting with Barroso

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has telephoned European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and asked for a meeting in order to discuss the latest crucial developments concerning the Greek economy, Greece's relations with the European Commission and its relations with other Eurozone member-states.

    They agreed on a meeting next week on Thursday, 25 February, at Barroso's office in Brussels.

    [08] ND leader in Cyprus on Monday

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras begins an official visit to Cyprus on Monday, in his first visit to the island republic in his capacity as ND leader.

    Samaras will be received by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, and will also have separate meetings with the leaders of the parties represented in the Cypriot House of Representatives (unicameral parliament).

    The ND leader's talks will focus on the Cyprus issue and other topics of mutual interest.

    [09] Obama keeping abreast of econ situation in Greece, EU

    WASHINGTON/T. Ellis)

    US President Barack Obama is being kept abreast of the situation in the Greek economy by his advisors, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told a daily press briefing on Tuesday.

    "As part of the President's economic daily briefing today (Tuesday), (Treasury) Secretary (Timothy) Geithner and (National Economic Council) Director (Larry) Summers and (CEA-Council of Economic Advisors chairperson) Dr. (Christina) Romer all talked to the President about the situation in Europe and gave him an update on what was going on, on the challenges that the Greeks and the larger EU face," he said in response to a question on "how concerned" Obama was about the Greek debt crisis and if it has "risen to his level".

    "We have confidence, as they told the President, that the EU is capable of dealing with the situation," Gibbs added.

    Asked if Obama was "pleased with the European response right now from the Germans and the French", Gibbs said the US President was monitoring the situation, both through news reports and his advisors' briefings, adding that "I think all are in agreement that the EU is capable of solving this".

    [10] Chrysohoidis on shootout: 'A crucial battle won at heavy cost'

    Referring to the shoot-out between police and two suspected robbers that left one civilian dead and two police officers injured, Citizens' Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Wednesday stressed that it was a crucial battle won at a heavy cost.

    "We cannot talk of a success when we are mourning the loss of a life," he underlined in statements regarding the tragic outcome of the police stakeout in the east Athens district of Vyronas, in which the two suspects were eventually arrested but a 25-year-old passer-by, the father of an 18-month-old baby, was fatally injured when he was caught in the cross-fire between the suspects and police.

    Chrysohoidis said that an inquiry into the circumstances of the death had been launched by judicial authorities, which would determine whether there had been any negligence or blame on the part of authorities.

    The minister also announced a series of measures designed to increase police efficiency in tackling crime.

    Police chief Lt. Gen. Lefteris Economou said that the investigating officers had been taken by surprise because they had gone to the area only to ascertain whether there was a criminal hideout there. They also suspected that they were dealing with the same felons that had disarmed a police patrol in Maroussi the night before.

    "They only went to investigate whether there was a hide out but then the affair escalated automatically and rapidly and they could not wait for other police forces," Economou said.

    The two Albanians arrested by police on Tuesday were escaped convicts who had failed to return to Larisa prison after getting out on furlough. Chrysohoidis described them as extremely dangerous, while in their hideout police found 30 hand-grenades, Kalashnikov rifles, guns, bullets and large quantities of the powerful explosive TNT.

    Both men appeared before a public prosecutor on Wednesday, who pressed charges against them for a string of criminal offences and misdemeanours committed prior to the Vyronas incident.

    Among the charges is that of forming a criminal organisation, repeated counts of robbery, illegally possessing, using and carrying weapons, attempted homicide in relation to a robbery they committed in the coastal town of Nafplion, grand theft, escaping from prison and possession of weapons and explosives.

    Their lawyer Akis Kehagioglou said his clients expressed their grief over the death of the 25-year-old civilian and claimed that he did not die from their fire. They have confessed to the robberies and allege that the police officers in Vyronas opened fire on them without warning.

    They also assert that they lobbed the hand-grenades at a time when no civilians were in the area and saw the young man fall down shortly while later.

    The case file on the shoot-out in Vyronas has not yet been completed and had not been forwarded to the prosecutor on Wednesday.

    [11] President's condolences on death of civilian in shootout in Vyronas

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday issued a message of condolences over the death of a 25-year-old civilian during a shootout between police and bank robbers in the Vyronas district of Athens the previous evening.

    "I express my deep grief over the loss of an innocent fellow-citizen," Papoulias said, adding his support for the family of Nikollas Todi, an ethnic Greek from Albania.

    Todi was fatally wounded and two police officers were injured during a shoot-out on Tuesday afternoon in the east Athens district of Vyronas between police and two bank robbery suspects, identified as Albanian nationals.

    According to reports, the two suspects fled a police stakeout by lobbing hand grenades against the arresting officers in pursuit. One was caught and arrested immediately, while the second took refuge in a bakery, lobbing more hand grenades against pursuing police officers.

    Both suspects were subsequently arrested, while the injured were rushed to a nearby hospital, where Todi succumbed to his wounds.

    The two men threw at least five hand-grenades in total, of which only two or three exploded. Bomb disposal experts neutralised the remainder.

    Todi - a 25-year-old ethnic Greek from Albania who was working on a construction site - was caught in the cross-fire and sustained serious injuries that resulted in his death in hospital a few hours later.

    [12] Envoy: Greek position on Kosovo unchanged

    BELGRADE (ANA-MPA)

    Greece's ambassador to Serbia on Tuesday evening denied statements by the foreign minister of Kosovo claiming that Athens was ready to recognise the province's independence from Serbia.

    Speaking to the news agency Tanjug, Amb. Demosthenes Stoidis initially said that he was unaware of the source that Hiseni was quoting, while adding that "Greece's position on the Kosovo issue remains unchanged, and is based on respect of international law".

    Skender Hiseni was quoted by an Austrian daily (Der Standard), where he reportedly said Greece was "close" to recognising Kosovo's independence, which he linked to a pending decision by the International Court at The Hague.

    Financial News

    [13] Gov't eyes boost in 4th CSF absorption rates

    The government on Wednesday unveiled a plan aimed at boosting absorption rates from the 4th Community Support Framework (CSF) package this year to 15 pct.

    In presenting the plan, Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli said the plan had three basic targets: decentralisation, simplification and efficiency.

    She added that three new programmes would be added to the 4th CSF (culture, tourism and health) with a relative redistribution of existing funds.

    Under the decentralisation component, the ministry will introduce a "Business Programming Agreement" between government ministries and regional authorities to ensure a rapid handout of available funds, along with a progress report to be issued on a bimonthly basis.

    Under the simplification and efficiency plans, the government will abolish all previous certification standards - introducing a new standard - along with all regional development organisations and an experts' commission of the ministry.

    The government also plans to approve funds from a Public Investments Programme to co-fund projects, while authorities will be able to update studies and accelerate public contract procedures.

    Katseli said the ministry aims to approve around 800-900 million euros worth of projects and actions each month this year, to reach a total of 10.3 billion euros in the Public Investments Programme in 2010.

    She said that the ministry has approved projects worth 2.289 billion euros in the period from January 1, 2009 to February 11, 2010, with around 1.5 billion euros worth of projects approved only in the last 40 days.

    More than 80 pct of funds (1.8 billion euros) have be earmarked for projects in regional Greece, while more than 25 pct (570 million euros) in direct subsidies to small- and medium-sized enterprises.

    Finally, she said the ministry plans to revise the investment legal framework in the country with a new draft bill to be tabled to Parliament in May, re-introducing a law on expropriation, which was introduced in the period before the Athens 2004 Olympic Games in an effort to accelerate investment projects.

    [14] Commission reaffirms readiness to support Greece if necessary

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)

    The European Commission on Wednesday reiterated its readiness to present, if necessary, a specific support framework for Greece with a coordinated and decisive action.

    Speaking to reporters, the spokesman of EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said the decision was taken during a regular weekly meeting of the Commission here, adding that the Commission has both the tools and mechanisms to ensure stability in the eurozone, if necessary, while it again reminded that Greece has not asked for financial support.

    The spokesman said Wednesday's meeting also decided that the EU's executive will closely monitor the implementation of the Greek government's programme to cut its fiscal deficit by four percentage points in 2010. It also noted that EU Commissioners reaffirmed that their priority was to respect rules covering the stability plan and the excessive deficit procedure.

    [15] Budget surplus of 574mln euros in Jan

    Greece's now eagerly watched regular budget net revenues rose 16.5 pct in January, while spending fell by 10.6 pct, resulting to a budget surplus of 574 million euros in the first month of the year after a deficit of 1.554 billion euros in the corresponding month in 2009, the finance ministry announced on Wednesday.

    The announcement added that the regular budget's net revenues totaled 5.592 billion euros in January, from 4.798 billion euros last year, an increase of 16.5 pct, which surpassed the budget's annual growth forecast of 10.8 pct.

    Spending totaled 4.976 billion euros, down 10.6 pct from last year, exceeding a budget annual forecast for a 2.6 pct reduction in the year. Primary spending fell 6.6 pct to 4.370 billion euros in January from 4.681 billion euros last year.

    The ministry said January's figures were boosted by the receipt of 691 million euros from the introduction of an extra "one-off" tax charge on major enterprises' profits for the year 2008 as well as to lower tax returns in the month.

    [16] ND's Plakiotakis on OLP

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party Commercial Shipping sector chief Yiannis Plakiotakis met on Wednesday with Cosco's head in Greece Cpt Li and general director Angelos Karacostas, accompanied by former Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) managing director Nikos Anastasopoulos.

    "It was an interesting and very informative meeting. The main topical axes of the discussion were the course of the implementation of the contract, the scheduling for the beginning of work on the two wharfs and the OLP and SEP (Cosco) agreements under way, regarding the way of cooperation of the two wharfs. The course of the implementation of the most beneficial contract for the Greek state was examined, which is not to change, despite what has been mentioned at times. The priority is its continuation without obstacles. Indeed, I was informed that, in the near future, a visit by Cosco President Cpt Wei to Greece will be taking place," the ND sector chief said.

    The Chinese state-run Cosco Pasific company won the tender to lease the management of Piraeus' port two main cargo terminals in June 2008, under the New Democracy government.

    [17] Stocks end moderately lower

    Stocks ended moderately lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, unable to hold on to initial significant gains. The composite index of the market ended 0.45 pct down at 1,858.49 points, with turnover falling to 149.690 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 0.53 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.58 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.50 pct. The Constructions (3.66 pct) and Food/Beverage (2.59 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Telecoms (3.25 pct) and Oil (2.03 pct) scored gains.

    Allatini Ceramics (19.67 pct), United Textiles (16.67 pct), Ionian Hotels (9.79 pct) and Bitros (9.72 pct) were top losers, while Hellenic Fish Farming (9.09 pct), European Credit (8.16 pct0 and Altec (7.14 pct) were top gainers.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 99 to 62 with another 64 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.34%

    Industrials: -1.08%

    Commercial: -0.07%

    Construction: -3.66%

    Media: -1.35%

    Oil & Gas: +2.03%

    Personal & Household: -0.51%

    Raw Materials: -0.33%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.02%

    Technology: -1.28%

    Telecoms: +3.25%

    Banks: -0.55%

    Food & Beverages: -2.59%

    Health: -1.20%

    Utilities: +1.54%

    Chemicals: -1.82%

    Financial Services: -1.76%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 6.37

    ATEbank: 1.57

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.98

    HBC Coca Cola: 16.11

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.27

    National Bank of Greece: 13.42

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.29

    Intralot: 3.40

    OPAP: 15.20

    OTE: 8.90

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.70

    Titan: 17.80

    [18] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly to 319 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 323 bps on Tuesday, with turnover falling to 810 million euros, of which 405 million were buy orders and the remaining 405 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 165 million euros. The 10-year Greek bond yielded 6.37 pct and the German Bund 3.18 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.09 pct, the six-month rate 0.96 pct, the three-month 0.66 pct and the one-month rate 0.42 pct.

    [19] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.31 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover shrinking to 62.546 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 11,300 contracts, worth 52.840 million euros, with 32,436 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,614 contracts worth 9.706 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,075), followed by Eurobank (1,057), MIG (690), OTE (2,081), Piraeus Bank (433), Alpha Bank (1,205), Cyprus Bank (600) and ATEbank (278).

    [20] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.383

    Pound sterling 0.875

    Danish kroner 7.503

    Swedish kroner 9.896

    Japanese yen 125.69

    Swiss franc 1.479

    Norwegian kroner 8.07

    Canadian dollar 1.442

    Australian dollar 1.531

    General News

    [21] Banknotes Museum of Corfu: A sojourn through Greece's economic history

    The Ionian island of Corfu, home of the mythical Phaiakes, or Phaeacians, one of a race of people inhabiting the island of Scheria (identified with present-day Corfu) visited by Odysseus on his way home from the Trojan War, is home to the Banknote Museum of Greece, the only one of its kind in Greece and one of the very few in the world, with a comprehensive and continuously expanding collection.

    The Banknotes Museum is housed on the first floor of the preserved building that was the first branch of the Ionian Bank (now Alpha Bank) in Corfu, and showcases a near-complete collection of Greek banknotes, from the very first ones circulated in 1822 to the last ones withdrawn in 2002 with the advent of the euro, sketches, essays and printing plates for various Greek banknotes, archive material (documents, accounting books, checks, photographs relating to the history of the Ionian Bank), and a complete series of the last issues of the national banknotes by the euro-zone member states before their replacement by the single currency, the euro, as well as a reproduction of the mondern manufacturing process of banknotes. The collection numbers more than 2,000 items.

    The building was designed by Corfiote architect Ioannis Chronis circa 1840, and the Museum was founded by the Ionian Bank in 1981. Ionian Bank merged with Alpha Bank in 2000 and three years later the Museum was closed for renovation, reopening in 2005 with an additional exhibit hall added showcasing "Ionian Bank Limited", which was a British venture and the first bank to operate in Greek territory.

    Museum curator and historian Aris Rapidis undertook the renovation and coordination of the radical reorganisation of the collection in accordance with the latest museological standards.

    The second floor of the building was configured into an exhibition hall in July 2007, with the purpose of hosting visual art exhibitions and other cultural events. The inaugural event was the exhibition ''Greek Costumes - Printed sources of the 16th-20th centuries'', jointly organised with the Benaki Museum.

    The Banknotes Museum contains historical material pertaining to the history of the Ionian Bank and a complete series of the last issues of the national banknotes of the eurozone states prior to replacement by the euro. The manufacturing process of banknotes is included among the exhibits as well as the method of adding a watermark, while a workshop details the metal plate engraving process.

    The Banknotes Museum's collection is considered one of the most complete of its kind in the world, and includes the first treasury bonds issued by the newly-liberated Greek State in 1822 up until the replacement of the national currency, the drachma, by the euro in 2002.

    The exhibits include some rare specimens of Greek currency, including the 1860 "colonata".

    One of the rarest banknotes on exhibit is one depicting the Byzantine church of Aghia Sophia in Constantinople, designed in 1920, without the Ottoman minarets, but it was never circulated since the Asia Minor disaster occurred only a few years later.

    Also on display are the first banknotes issued by the first Governor of Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias, featuring a rose colored phoenix on a white background, while the collection also contains the pre-Kapodistrias treasury bonds issued by the provisional Greek government in "grossia" (or pisters).

    With the establishment of the National Bank of Greece in 1841, the ancient drachma once again became the official currency of Greece. On display are the first banknotes printed by the British printing houses Perkins Bacon and Bradbury Wilkins, followed by the American Banknote Company that succeeded the British at the turn of the century, which printed Greek banknotes up to about 1982, when the Bnak of Greece undertook the printing of the country's currency.

    Rare art deco style banknotes, printed in France, some featuring Hermes, allegorically depict the continuity of the Greek currence and commerce from antiquity to the 1930s, while the exhibition further includes banknotes issued during WWII by the occupying Axis forces, and banknotes issued by the provisional "mountain government", which was valued against the equivalent value of kilograms of wheat.

    Another highlight is the 100 billion drachma banknote issued during the hyperinflation year of 1944, which remains the highest banknote denomination in Greece. After the hyperinflation ended, its value fell to just 2 drachma.

    [22] Greece's migrants urged to join 24-hour boycott on March 1

    Greece's migrants have been invited to join in with a grass-roots initiative begun in France called "A day without migrants - 24 hours without us" that is scheduled to take place in several European countries on March 1, 2010. In a press conference held in Athens on Wednesday, organisers for Greece explained that this would not entail marches or protests, nor even strikes, but simply a boycott of all economic activity by migrants on that day.

    According to one of the group's founding members, they are not affiliated to any political party and began life as a street movement, for ordinary people, acting via Facebook in Paris. There are now more than 30 local committees in the largest French cities and it has also spread to Italy, Spain and Greece, while they also expects participation in Germany and Belgium on March 1.

    The group now has its own website (http://www.lajourneesansimmigres.org/fr), where it has put up its manifesto, as well as several facebook groups, blogs and a forum.

    The March 1 date was chosen to coincide with the introduction in France of what migrant communities view as a highly punitive law governing the entry, residence and asylum rights for foreigners, that was passed in 2005.

    In France, the movement has called on migrants to stay home from work, attend rallies and boycott all economic activity for that day.

    According to journalist Nikos Ago, who is a member of the organising committee for the movement in Greece, there will be no rallies or marches in Greece and people would turn up for work as usual, but migrants and Greeks will be encouraged to avoid shopping or spending money on that day, shunning their role as consumers.

    The movement will also organise various events, to be announced, in Thessaloniki, Athens and Kozani and hold a public debate at the bookshop Ianos.

    [23] Police break up gang of foreign nationals holding man captive for ransom

    Thessaloniki police late Tuesday broke up a gang of Pakistani nationals who were holding captive a 24-year-old fellow national in demand of ransom, it was made known on Wednesday.

    Three of the four gang members were arrested in a coordinated operation between the Thessaloniki security police's crimes against life division and the Athens security police branch in the Peristeri district.

    According to the Thessaloniki general police directorate, the gang comprised four Pakistani nationals aged 24-30, who took the 24-year-old Pakistani's documents and personal effects and held him captive in a shack in Diavata, Thessaloniki. The gang grabbed the captive last week while he was en route from Athens for work in northern Greece.

    The gang then contacted the captive's mother and sister in Pakistan, demanding 10,000 euros for his release, instructing that they deposit the money in a bank abroad.

    The captive managed to escape however, and was spotted by a police patrol car in nearby Oreokastro, and informed the police of the situation.

    Police then raided the shack, where they found and arrested three of the gang members, as well as several pistols, 30 hunting rifles and ammunition, which were confiscated. The fourth gang member is wanted.

    [24] Suspicious object outside minister's office

    A suspicious object was found outside the political office of Citizen's Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis, located in the Athens district of Peristeri, on Wednesday evening.

    Police cordoned off Thivon motorway as a precaution, while bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion on the object, whose remains will be taken to the Criminal Service laboratories for examination.

    It is not yet clear whether the object was some device or something irrelevant which has nothing to do with an act of terrorism.

    [25] Suspects in Mylonas abduction on trial

    The trial of 11 defendants charged in the kidnapping of northern Greek industrialist Georgios Mylonas began in a Thessaloniki appellate courtroom under tight security measures on Tuesday afternoon, only to be postponed almost immediately due to a scheduling problem for one of the defence counsels.

    Eleven people stand accused of the June 2008 kidnapping, in which fugitive Vassilis Paleokostas is the alleged mastermind. The accused face a total of seven criminal charges and 17 misdemeanours.

    The main suspects for the kidnapping are Vassilis Paleokostas, Vangelis Chryssohoidis, Polykarpos Georgiadis and Asimakis Lazaridis.

    Mylonas was held for 15 days and released after his family paid a ransom of 10.8 million euros, only half of which have been retrieved so far.

    Weather Forecast

    [26] Cloudy, rainy on Thursday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 5C and 21C. Fair in Athens, with westerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 8C to 19C. Cloudy with possible showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 16C.

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

    EU pressure on Greece for additional austerity measures, the announcement of the establishment of a fact-finding commission on the economy, prime minister George Papandreou's talks in Moscow and a bloody clash between police and bank robbers in Vyronas in which a citizen was killed were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Wednesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Athens a second 'Chicago' - Plethora of unbelievable crimes and robberies".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Deadly battle with Albanian (bank) robbers - The perpetrators were the same ones who grabbed the weaponry of a police patrol car crew Monday night in Maroussi".

    AVGHI: "Death blow instead of support measures".

    AVRIANI: "Foreign banks 'cutting' credit to Greek merchants and industrialists".

    CHORA: "Brussels will decide for Greece in absentia - The economy under stifling surveillance".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Two resounding slaps for George (prime minister Papandreou) from Moscow - Putin and Medvedev in aggressive mood".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The country is collapsing and the government is setting up fact-finding commissions".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Burning fact-finding commission on the economy, to see who skyrocketed deficits and budgets".

    ESTIA: "Political bravery necessary - The prime minister spoke frankly".

    ETHNOS: "The fiasco ended in tragedy - Double miss by police, resulting in an innocent victim".

    IMERISSIA: "Additional measures for (collection of) 3 billion euros - EU: Reduce the deficit by 5.25 percentage points this year".

    KATHIMERINI: "EU calls for new measures with or without Greece's consent by March 16".

    LOGOS: "The '14th salary' (half-salary Easter and summer holiday bonuses) the target - Stifling pressure on Greece - Papaconstantinou (finance minister) left the possibility open".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "EU calls for imposition of new taxes and reduction of expenditures".

    NIKI: "Catharsis here and now - The crime against the economy has a name".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Popular insubordination now to EU, government, plutocracy - Ecofin decided new, heavier anti-labor measures".

    TA NEA: "New ultimatum: Dismissals in public sector - Cut in the '13th salary' (full-salary Christmas bonus) as well - Brussels demands even tougher measures".

    TO VIMA: "Karamanlis (preceding ND prime minister) and Alogoskoufis (economy and finance minister in preceding ND government) face the 'bench' over the shipwreck - Fact-finding commission on the economy".

    VRADYNI: "Pensions, benefits up in the air - Major social security Funds in the 'red'."

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