|Wednesday, 11 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-02-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 24 February 2010 Issue No: 3430
 PM briefed on progress of Stability and Growth ProgrammeFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday briefed Prime Minister George Papandreou on the progress made in carrying out Greece's Stability and Growth Programme (SGP). Emerging from the meeting, he stressed that the government was determined to do everything necessary in order to achieve the programme's targets, stressing that the goal of reducing the public deficit by four percentage points in 2010 was "non-negotiable".
Asked if the government intended to take additional measures, Papaconstantinou only said that any decisions will be announced after Greece had concluded discussions with its European partners. In the meantime, he said talks with European Community inspectors currently in Greece were focused on achieving the SGP targets and possible problems that might arise in this effort.
Papaconstantinou said that Greece was currently on a positive course in terms of implementing the budget and keeping spending in check, while the discussion with Community officials was focused on what they termed 'dangers' and the government was trying to ensure that its policy had convinced its EU partners.
He explained that the measures taken by the government were based on specific economic indicators and that the risks increased as these indicators deteriorated, such as a deepening of the recession that led to corrections and new measures. He clarified that no announcement of new measures was expected before the end of the week.
The minister emphasised that Greece will be seeking unqualified political support at the next ECOFIN council, since the European Commission moved at quite a different pace from markets and the existence of a mechanism of EU support for Greece had to be made specific, even though Athens hoped that such support would not be needed.
Regarding the possibility of seeking aid from the International Monetary Fund, Papaconstantinou said that this was not Greece's intention but could not be ruled out.
 EU-IMF team's meetings in AthensA team of the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) met with the head of the finance ministry's Council of Economic Experts George Zanias on Tuesday.
The team, which arrived in Athens on Monday evening to review the course of implementation of Greece's Stability and Growth Program, met shortly after their arrival with Bank of Greece officials, while they will also meet with employment ministry officials during visit, which runs through Thursday.
The team will also examine the additional measures that have been announced by Prime Minister George Papandreou, and will prospectively recommend the adoption of more measures if deemed necessary for attaining the target of reducing the country's fiscal deficit by 4 percentage points of GDP by the end of the year.
The College of Commissioners (European Commission plenary) is due to convene on March 9 to discuss the Greek economy, while on March 15 the results so far of the measures already taken by the Greek government will be examined.
 IMF on EU team in AthensWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it has sent a staff member to Athens with the EU team that arrived in Greece on Monday to review the course of the Greek economy.
"At the request of the EU Commission and at the invitation of the Greek authorities, a Fund staff member is in Athens this week to provde assistance to an EU Commission team," an IMF official said in Washington.
 PM confers with defence ministerPrime minister George Papandreou conferred on Tuesday with defence minister Evangelos Venizelos and Minister of State Haris Pamboukis.
Venizelos told reporters afterwards that the discussion focused on his ministry's critical and open issues, including armaments and the future of the shipbuilding sector.
Naturally, he added, they also touched on the fiscal problem and the measures that need to be taken to exit the crisis and give a prospect to the Greek economy and the Greek citizen "who is prepared to contribute, but wants to know that a prospect and security exist, and which we want to give since we are asking in return for his assistance and support, which is painful because it means sacrifice".
 Parliamentary probe into state finances an 'obligation', gov't saysThe government has an obligation to provide the Greek people and its European partners with answers about what really happened and who is responsible for the state of Greece's public finances, government spokesman George Petalotis stressed on Tuesday regarding the government's proposal for a Parliamentary inquiry into the state's finances and statistics in 2004-2009.
"We do not cover up, we do not conceal, we do not hide; we tell the truth and demand the truth," the spokesman said, while noting that the Parliamentary inquiry was just one of the steps taken by the government to establish transparency in the functioning and structure of the state.
He also pointed to legislation modifying the operation of the Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection (ASEP), to make the statistics service an independent body, changes in the way that the judicial body selected its leadership and restoration of the self-administration of justice, as well as an upcoming bill on 'means of wealth' statements.
He confirmed the possibility that European Commissioner for monetary affairs Joaquin Almunia might be called to testify in the Parliamentary investigation, noting that this was both legal, practically feasible and a very common practice.
"If the investigation committee considers that some member of the European Commission must be called, the Commission itself will send someone to brief the investigation committee," he noted.
He also noted that Parliament had an obligation to investigate, as part of the Parliamentary process, any case where there were indications or even proof that political figures had failed to act in the proper manner, after which point it was the job of the public prosecutor to take over if there was evidence of wrong-doing.
The spokesman also took questions regarding the cover on the latest issue of the German magazine 'Focus' - featuring the Venus de Milo making an obscene gesture and a headline describing Greeks as the "con-men of Europe" - and noted that this was "unworthy of comment" and exposed the entire country and all Greeks to ridicule.
The government's efforts were focused on precisely this kind of thing, so that Greece would no longer have to be subjected to that sort of humiliation from its European partners, either on the level of politicians or on the level of the mass media, so that they would never again deal with or display such behaviour toward Greece.
Commenting on an initiative taken by Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos, who demanded an explanation from the German ambassador about the article, Petalotis said the Petsalnikos was "expressing the opinion of the deputies of the Greek Parliament".
 ND to seek probe into state finances since 1981Main opposition New Democracy on Tuesday said it would seek to have a Parliamentary investigation into the handling of state finances going back to 1981, when the ruling PASOK party was first elected into government.
ND spokesman Panos Panagiotiopoulos said that the government had without warning rushed through its own proposal - which will focus the inquiry exclusively on the period of ND's governance in 2004-2009 - in an effort deliberately orchestrated to cloud and conceal the truth about how Greece's economic woes had come about.
"ND says yes to Parliamentary investigation committees from all quarters and directed at all quarters. It is afraid of nothing and wants to everything brought into the light but the truth cannot be sliced up, cannot be concealed, cannot be clouded. All the truth about developments in the Greek economy from 1981 until today. Nothing left in the dark," he underlined.
He called on PASOK to vote in favour of ND's proposal and warned that, otherwise, the prime minister would be "gravely exposed as leading and directing a massive operation to cover up the substantial responsibility borne by PASOK governments in the past." He repeated that Prime Minister George Papandreou had been a high-ranking member of the government of Costas Simitis and had therefore signed off on critical decisions concerning the economy in that capacity.
Asked why the ND government of 2004 had not set up an investigation committee of its own after the general state audit that it conducted after coming into power, Panagiotopoulos said that the results of the state audit had been ratified by the appropriate EU services but that ND had then chosen to focus on restoring proper fiscal policy rather than criminalising politics, which the current government had chosen as its focus.
Commenting on ND's reaction, government spokesman George Petalotis denied that the government's proposal was in any way vindictive or an attempt to divide society.
"It is the government's obligation to reverse the climate of unreliability created by ND," he stressed, calling for consensus on the part of all political forces, including the main opposition.
According to PASOK Parliamentary group secretary Christos Papoutsis, the ND's reaction revealed an "absolute panic" and showed that it was "terrified by the content of PASOK's proposal".
He also pointed out - in a comment also directed to those within PASOK that criticised the decision for a Parliamentary investigation that might generate additional embarrassing publicity for the country at this time - that the period that PASOK proposed to investigate was the specific period whose economic figures were strongly contested by the European Commission, which had in any case begun its own investigation into the figures supplied by ND during the past five years.
"We cannot remain idle. The Greek Parliament has no right to pretend that it doesn't understand what is happening, especially when it has been presented by the conclusions of an Independent Experts' Commission that show clear political responsibility for the mistaken handling of statistical figures," Papoutsis added.
Asked whether PASOK would agree to ND's proposal to extend the investigation before 2004, Papoutsis noted that it was not PASOK's job to agree.
"What is important is for ND to decide to tell the Greek people that the state audit it carried out in 2004 was a fiasco, a pretend-audit through which it manipulated the figures, on the basis of which it governed the country for five and half years," he pointed out.
 LAOS says no to fact-finding commission on economyPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis announced on Tuesday that his party will not participate in the fact-finding commission on the economy that the government intends to set up, warning that setting up such a commission is inappropriate at the given time, since the issue is currently being investigated by prosecutors.
He also called on the government to abandon its moderate stance and demand from Germany the war reparations owed to Greece.
 ND leader appoints party officialsMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Tuesday announced the establishment of a council of elected officials that will be under the authority of the party's secretariat on local administration. The council members will be political figures elected to local administration posts, according to reports.
The ND leader also appointed three alternate sector secretaries and the head of the Constantinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy in Thessaloniki.
 Alternate Foreign Minister meets LAOS presidentAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Tuesday met with Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) president George Karatzaferis.
After the one hour and 20 minutes meeting, Droutsas said to reporters that he briefed Karatzaferis, within the framework of his briefings of political leaders on the latest developments in Cyprus issue, Greek -Turkish relations and the FYROM name issue. "I listened to his opinions, which I found interesting," said Droutsas.
On his part Karatzaferis stressed that he is closely watching the national issues. "The government is delicately handling the issues, and we are present," noted Karatzaferis.
 LAOS tables question on German war reparationsPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis on Tuesday tabled a current question in parliament calling on the government to demand the payment of war reparations by Germany, which he said exceed 10 billion euros.
In a question addressed to prime minister George Papandreou, Karatzaferis said that "at a time when the German government but also the German media are holding a reserved, and at times hostile, stance on the efforts of the Greek government for exiting the crisis, the issue of the payment of the German debts to our country remains open, given that all relevant efforts in the past proved hesitant and incomplete".
The LAOS leader stressed "the adverse economic conjuncture at which Greece is", and asked the prime minister "how and when he intends to proceed to a more determined demand of the legally vested debts".
 Tsipras tables question on civil service tenureCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday tabled a current question in parliament on "the consequences from the implementation of the extraordinary measures and the (government's) proposal for abolishing tenure (in the public sector)".
In the question addressed to prime minister George Papandreou, Tsipras speaks of "the harsh neoliberal policy of PASOK and (main opposition) ND, which the country's working people are paying".
He adds that the new harsh measures on the economy that the government has decided to take, with the agreement of Ecofin, "lead, among other things, to further deregulation of labor relations and suspension of the collective labor agreements".
The measures also "pave the way to a radical reduction of the personnel in public health, education and social welfare", Tsipras says, and asks the prime minister whether the statement by the government's vice-president Theodoros Pangalos stands that the government is mulling the abolition of tenure in the civil service.
He also asks whether information that a new package of measures will be introduced through legislative acts is true.
 Nimetz statement on NET ahead of Greece, FYROM visitGreece-FYROM relations are at a "critical crossroad", the UN secretary general's special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz said Tuesday in statements to Greek state television channel NET ahead of his visit to Athens and Skopje.
Nimetz also noted Greek prime minister George Papandreou's influence, with his initiatives in the region of the Western Balkans.
According to NET, Nimetz is bringing to the two capitals a package of ideas based on discussions with the two sides and earlier proposals he had made.
Nimetz said that the relations between the two countries were at a critical crossroad, and the international dimension of the issue has become very important. He expressed hope that the two countries will manifest leader abilities and creativity and make efforts so that progress may be achieved in his upcoming visit.
The UN mediator further said that the present Greek government has placed the name issue among the top items of its foreign policy agenda.
From the very beginning it put importance and the issue, and let him know that it was treating it with extreme seriousness, Nimetz continued.
He further said that the Greek prime minister has personal influence beyond the name issue, and in the wider region of the western Balkans as well, as a member of the European Union, with his 2014 Agenda and his initiatives in bilateral meetings.
 New legislation on transparency in effect for cases still pendingJustice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Haris Kastanidis stated Tuesday that the new law on transparency in the public sector, changes in the "means of wealth" statement and the favorable treatment of those helping to bring to justice corrupt civil servants will come into effect for cases that are still pending immediately upon its publication in the Government Gazette.
Addressing the parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Administration, Public Order and Justice, Kastanidis stated that the specific initiative will be open to a public debate and that he will expect the proposals of politicians, political parties and jurists. The minister underlined that "a decisive path is being opened for the adoption of measures that guarantee transparency in the public sector."
Kastanidis also stated that the draft law on the election of the judicial leadership and the courts' self-administration is ready, adding that it is met with the rejection of the parties of the opposition, the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) not included.
 Alternate DM on rationalisation of ministry services functioning systemAlternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis referred on Tuesday to the "fair measures" being promoted by the Defence ministry's political leadership in the direction of rationalising the system for the functioning of the services of the ministry and General Staffs.
The minister added that they "will serve the human potential and will offset the difficulties that it is facing."
Moreover, he said that a study will be carried out to cover shortages of workers and technicians at military factories with staff that will move from Olympic Airways on the basis of existing agreements, while a decision will be taken for access to military hospitals and pharmacies.
 Nationwide strike on Wed.; ANA-MPA off-lineA 24-hour nationwide labour strike called for Wednesday is expected to generate problems with mass transports and bring the wider public sector to a standstill for most transactions with the public.
A statement issued by ADEDY, the civil servants' union, called on its members to participate in the strike together with the private sector unions, underlining that civil servants have become targets, being accused for Greece's double-digit budget deficit and the country's public debt.
"... public sector employees are the victims of an unfair policy characterised by painful measures such as a salary freeze, a 10-pct cut in benefits, freezing of hirings, layoffs, limitations imposed on their social insurance and pension rights, tax increases as well as abolition of the Easter and summer benefits."
Additionally, Athens News Agency-Macedonian Press Agency (ANA-MPA) services will not be available on Wednesday due to a 24-hour strike action.
The media strike is from 6 a.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday.
 Katseli addresses Euro-Med eventGreece has fallen to the 71st slot in the Competitiveness Index from 65th place just two years ago, economy minister Louka Katseli noted on Monday, addressing a Euro-Med event on the theme "Education in Protecting our Cultural Heritage for Secondary School Pupils - The role of the Polytechnics, Engineers and Industry".
"In other words, we are constantly losing shares in the international markets, because we're behind in the necessary connection of technology, innovation, knowledge and production," she said, warning that, "hidden behind the fiscal derailment is a growing productive deficit, which is reflected in the high deficit in the country's foreign transactions and the crisis in competitiveness".
Reversal of this course is a national wager, the minister said, adding that all the instruments at the country's disposal must be mobilised: public investments, the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), the investment law, state reinforcements and procurements, the public-private sector collaboration (SDIT), commercial policy and the institutional framework.
She reiterated that a policy of production restructuring is being materialised to meet the country's productive deficit, which is founded on five focal points: innovation and new technologies, education, green growth, boosting entrepreneurship, and extroversion.
These instruments, she continued, are being invested in strategic sectors in which Greece has a comparative advantage, such as the country's strategic geographical position at the crossroads of three continents, its natural environment, culture, and its human potential.
Regarding Greece's strategic position, Katseli noted particularly the sector of transports and energy, adding that the country was also situated in the midst of emerging economies and could serve as a springboard for exports, products, services and investments in a broader market extended to SE Europe, the Middle East, the Black Sea and North Africa.
With respect to nature and the environment, Katseli said it was not at all incidental that Greece is at the top of the list of countries attracting tourist and investment interest in this sector, adding that the country's island nature is significant for international investors, who know that they will have high yields.
Culture, also, is a substantial strategic tool for a developmental strategy, she continued.
Further, the human potential was also an important tool given that the Greeks work wonders wherever they find themselves "provided there is an institutional framework that is supportive, and not stifling," she added.
Addressing the same event, Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Constantine Michalos expressed conviction that, through quality education, the Greek youth will become the driving force for the country's development, noting that it was imperative today that new stimuli, educational interest and learning incentives be created.
It is necessary to provide the Greek youth with the ability to get to know, essentially and not only through books, the history and tradition of Greece and to give them the opportunity to link the past with the present, Michalos said.
The country owes it to the youth to invest in the young generation through innovative approaches, pioneer educational methods, and modern tools, he added.
 Gov't cites formation of Development FundEconomy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli on Tuesday announced a plan to establish a Hellenic Development Fund aimed at exploiting investment opportunities in the Greek economy.
Addressing a conference entitled "Access to capital today-waiting for recovery", organised by Capital Link in Athens, the Greek minister also underlined the significance of the shipping industry in efforts current made for the recovery of the economy, Katseli stressed that ministry priorities are to attract young people in the shipping industry and to upgrade maritime education in the country.
 Gov't on Aegean-OA merger; tender for remote air routes"It is self-evident that both the European and the Greek Competition Commissions, in accordance with the legal procedures into effect, will consider all aspects of the merger agreement to ensure that fair competition conditions are guaranteed," Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli said Tuesday.
Commenting on the merger of Aegean Airlines and recently privatised Olympic Air announced on Monday, Katseli stated that "what's important for consumers and the national economy is to ensure that air transportation and services are performed smoothly; that ticket prices remain reasonable and that job positions are protected ... We are closely watching announcements on the merger agreement between Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air," she added.
Aegean Airlines participated in a tender launched by the Greek state and submitted offers for the operation of scheduled air services in 11 routes in accordance with public service obligations concerning unprofitable routes, mostly island destinations, for the period April 1, 2010 until March 31, 2012.
 Nationwide strike in public, private sectors on Feb. 24A 24-hour nationwide labor strike called for Wednesday, Feb. 24 is expected to bring the country to a standstill, with the participation of both the public and private sectors.
A statement issued by ADEDY, the civil servants' union, called on its members to participate in the strike action together with the private-sector unions and underlined that public-sector employees have become targets, who stand accused of being largely responsible for the deficits and debt the country is faced with.
ADEDY stressed that those who are truly responsible for the crisis, namely the banks, businessmen and the financially strong enjoy immunity and even now they take advantage of the crisis to preserve and further increase their profits.
The statement mentioned that "the public sector employees are the victims of an unfair policy characterized by painful measures such as freezing of salaries, 10 pct benefit cuts, freezing of hirings, layoffs, limitations imposed on their social insurance and pension rights, tax increases as well as abolition of the Easter and summer benefits."
 Thessaloniki lawyers to join Wednesday strikeThe Thessaloniki Bar Association on Tuesday announced that lawyers in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki will join a 24-hour nationwide strike declared by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union ADEDY for Wednesday, refusing to appear in court throughout the day.
The bar association demanded guarantees for all pensions, generous funding for the social insurance system and the abolition of any discrimination between 'older' and 'new' insured.
 EFJ backs media strike in GreeceThe European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), on Tuesday announced its full support for the a strike by journalists in Greece on Wednesday, who will take part in a 24-hour nationwide strike organised by the country's trade unions.
"As the country is going through a terrible financial and economic crisis, Greek journalists and media workers are put under pressure, but they should not suffer from a situation which they are not responsible for," said EFJ President Arne Konig. "All over Europe we see social standards attacked in the name of the crisis, but unions will oppose this and fight for justice and for the truth: we do not accept that workers should be made scapegoats of the financial crisis".
The EFJ represents more than 250,000 journalists in more than 30 countries worldwide.
 Deputy Environment minister on promotion of pipelinesDeputy Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis, addressing an event of the Energy Institute of Southeastern Europe on Tuesday evening, announced that the government will be taking a series of initiatives in the coming days in the framework of energy diplomacy on promoting pipelines that are being planned through Greece.
A meeting will be held at the ministry on Wednesday with the Deputy Energy Minister of Bulgaria Maya Hristova on the Greece-Bulgaria (Komotini-Haskovo) natural gas pipeline, while in addition:
-The bill on expropriations related to the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline is at the signatures stage.
-The Ministerial Council's Decree on the restructuring of the negotiating committee with the international company for the construction of the oil pipeline will be signed in the next few days, and maybe this week.
-Following the visit to Moscow by Prime Minister George Papandreou, the signing is expected of the charter of the company for the South Stream natural gas pipeline, in which there shall be "high representation" by Russia, according to the deputy minister.
Maniatis also said that the government will activate the bilateral energy relations with Gulf countries, and with Qatar in particular for the procurement of natural gas.
 Fitch cuts rating on Greece's four largest banksFitch, the international credit rating agency, on Tuesday said it was downgrading the ratings of Greece's four largest banks while it was keeping the outlook negative, signaling further downgrades in the future.
In an announcement, Fitch Ratings said it downgraded National Bank, Alpha Bank, EFG Eurobank and Piraeus Bank to BBB, down from BBB+.
Fitch said its action reflected a view that Greek banks' weakening asset quality and profitability could be further pressured because of a considerable fiscal adjustment programme in the country.
The credit rating agency said concerns over Greece's public finances had constrained banks' access to wholesale and to interbank markets at reasonable prices and as a result Greek banks continued to rely on European Central Bank funding. Fitch, however, stressed that Greek banks continued to be primarily funded by customer deposits, which account for about 86 pct of gross loans on average for the five largest lenders.
 Ukrainian ambassador meets deputy tourism ministerUkrainian ambassador to Greece Valerii Trybukh raised the issue of widening the right of granting D type visas, without the right of entry to other European countries of the Schengen zone, to facilitate the entry of Ukrainian travellers to Greece, during his meeting with Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou on Tuesday.
Both sides stressed the intention and possibility that exists for the development of cooperation on issues of tourism, based on a new relation of trust.
The deputy minister underlined the need for the signing of a cooperation memorandum between the two countries that will lay the foundations for joint action and initiatives in the tourism sector.
 Plan to promote Greek gastronomy as tourist attractionGreece should focus on promoting gastronomy as an additional tourism attraction in the next five years, by investing around 400,000 in marketing actions, the country's Federation of Tourism Enterprises (SETE) said on Tuesday.
The plan was presented during a news conference as part of a SETE initiative to upgrade the quality and enriching the country's portfolio in tourism services and products. SETE said a precondition to promoting Greek gastronomy abroad was including gastronomy in the portfolio of Greek tourism and adopting full employment of a group of professionals in the field.
SETE also called for the transformation of Hellenic Tourism Organisation to a marketing organization for Greek tourism.
 Bourse session took place as usual, despite blocking of entrance by PAME protestorsThe Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) trading session took place normally on Tuesday, despite the blocking of the ASE's entrance by members of a Communist Party-affiliated union, a senior bourse official said just before trading was due to begin before noon.
The official explained that apart from the front entrance that was blocked by the protestors, there is an alternate point of access to the bourse building.
Members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) affiliated PAME trade union on Tuesday morning blocked the entrances to the Athens Stock Exchange in a bid to prevent the commencement of trading at Greece's bourse.
Reports from the scene point to 250 to 300 protesters outside the stock exchange building. The aim of the mobilisation, according to PAME,is to "show the auditors of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) where the Greek people's money really is".
A Commission-ECB-IMF team arrived in Athens on Monday evening.
 Gov't on bourse blocking; econ measures speculation"This is an old practice and tactic that leads nowhere," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis stated on Tuesday commenting on the blocking of the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) entrance by members of Communist Party of Greece (KKE) affiliated trade union movement PAME.
Petalotis stated that everybody has the right to mobilisations and strikes stressing, however, that "we are all judged by our behavior in these very difficult moments and the stance we adopt in the effort to overcome the major crisis the country is faced with."
Earlier on Tuesday, members of PAME had blocked the entrances to the Athens Stock Exchange in a bid to prevent the commencement of trading at Greece's bourse protesting against the arrival of a European Commission-ECB-IMF team in Athens on Monday evening.
Referring to repeated and extensive media reports on alleged economic measures the government intends to adopt, Petalotis stated that such reports "cause panic among the people," adding that "most of the time, many of the reports in question are unfounded."
He pointed out that the government gives great thought to its decisions always taking under consideration the public interest.
Reiterating the prime minister's position, Petalotis stated that "unfortunately, many times we are forced to take certain painful measures because we have to save the country."
 Stocks end 1.77% downStocks ended significantly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, ending a three-day rally of prices. The composite index of the market fell 1.77 pct to end at 1,922.69 points, with turnover remaining a low 158.725 million euros. The FTSE 20 index fell 2.40 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.38 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.72 pct.
The Food (3.48 pct) and Insurance (1.73 pct) sectors scored gains, while Telecoms (5.81 pct) and Utilities (4.40 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Hellenic Fish Farming (9.09 pct), Elfico (7.78 pct), FHL Mermeren (7.76 pct) and Alma Atermon (7.69 pct) were top gainers, while Karamolegos (9.78 pct), Medicon Hellas (9.77 pct), Karelias (9.60 pct) and Praxitelio (9.30 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 114 to 55 with another 55 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.93%
Personal & Household: -0.60%
Raw Materials: -2.31%
Travel & Leisure: +0.69%
Food & Beverages: +3.48%
Financial Services: -3.45%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, DEH, OTE and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 6.84
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.36
HBC Coca Cola: 17.94
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.26
National Bank of Greece: 14.10
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.70
Bank of Piraeus: 6.00
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened significantly to 342 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.58 pct and the German Bund 3.16 pct. Turnover in the market shrank to 370 million euros, of which 40 million were buy orders and the remaining 330 million euros were sell orders. The five-year bond (August 20, 2015), was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 85 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved higher. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month 0.99 pct, the three-month rate 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.95 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising slightly to 86.977 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 15,042 contracts, worth 71.940 million euros, with 33,716 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,565 contracts, worth 15.037 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,132), followed by Eurobank (967), MIG (822), OTE (3,957), PPC (712), Piraeus Bank (984), Alpha Bank (1,654), Marfin Popular Bank (3,052) and Cyprus Bank (365).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.368
Pound sterling 0.887
Danish kroner 7.502
Swedish kroner 9.869
Japanese yen 124.18
Swiss franc 1.478
Norwegian kroner 8.085
Canadian dollar 1.428
Australian dollar 1.519
 Athens exhibition of 5 noted Istanbul artistsAn art exhibition featuring the works of five noted Istanbul-based artists will debut at a downtown Athens gallery, beginning on Thursday.
The exhibition, entitled "From Istanbul they come", will include paintings, photographs, sculptures, constructions and slides.
Works by Turkish artists Haluk Akakce, Hussein Chalayan, the duo of Yasemin Baydar and Birol Derim, known as "mentalklinik", and Arslan Sukan will be on disply.
The exhibition, in cooperation with the Pantheon cultural society, will run from Thursday, Feb. 25, to March 27, at the Kappatos Gallery in the Monastiraki district -- 12, Athinas St.
The event is supported by the consulate general of Turkey in Athens-Piraeus.
 Exhibition of oils by Katerina Marouda in BerneGENEVA (ANA-MPA)
An exhibition of 30 oil paintings by Greek artist Katerina Marouda, in which the female form is the dominant theme, has opened at the 'Toni Mueller' art gallery in Berne, running from February 11 until March 6.
Swiss art historian Katharina Butikofer spoke at the opening of the exhibition, praising the "strength and energy" in Marouda's painting and the rich array of colour shades it uses.
 ECHR accepts appeal by Istanbul GreeksPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday unanimously accepted an appeal by Ekaterini Agnidi and her daughter Evridiki against Turkey on the issue of the recognition of the property left to them as an inherittance by the deceased husband and father Apostolos Agnidis.
The appelants have been born in 1912 and 1937 and live in Istanbul.
In March, 1994, Turkey's judicial authorities annuled the inherittance recognised for the two women with the explanation that Apostolos Agnidis, who died in 1987, had not left a will.
 Double murder in Viotia; suspect is wanted by policeA local elderly woman and her housemaid, a Georgian national, were the victims of a double murder in the village of Platanaki, Viotia Prefecture in central Greece.
The bodies of the 80-year-old and her 52-year-old maid were discovered on Monday afternoon. The elderly woman was found strangled near her bed with a rope around her neck, while the maid was in the basement of the house butchered to death.
The bodies were discovered by a neighbor who looked for the two following a request by the elderly woman's son who lives in the nearby city of Thebes and could not reach his mother on the phone.
Police are focusing on the likelihood of a robbery that turned bloody considering that the sum of roughly 2,000 euros is missing from the house.
A 23-year-old Pakistani national, who used to live in the area, is wanted by police as a suspect.
 Foreign national killed in Argos the victim of homicide, police sayA foreign national found dead in the town of Argos, in the northeast Peloponnese, was the victim of murder, police announced on Tuesday.
Initially, the body had not shown signs of a violent death but the autopsy revealed that the dead man's death was caused by the breaking of his ribs, one of which punctured his lung. A police investigation then revealed that the man had been involved in an argument with a Greek, who had struck him several times with his fists.
The suspect, who was already in custody for other offences, confessed to his actions and was led before a Nafplion public prosecutor, who charged him with intentional homicide.
 Man found murdered near ThessalonikiÁ 35 year-old man was found murdered on Tuesday in a remote area west of Thessaloniki. The unidentified man was shot on the head and the back. Police are conducting an investigation into the circumstances of and motives behind the murder.
 Assumption of responsibility for bomb attackThe "People's Will" group assumed on Tuesday responsibility for the bomb attack on the political office of Citizen's Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis in the Athens district of Peristeri last week.
The group explains the reasons for the attack in a proclamation it sent to the weekly newspaper "To Pontiki" that will be published on Wednesday.
 Tree-planting at Marathon Museum siteEmployees of the US embassy in Athens will participate in a tree-planting effort, along with the municipality of Marathon and the NGO Greenbelt, at the Marathon Museum archaeological site on March 4.
Volunteers will subsequently be given a guided tour of the Vranas site.
 Cloudy, rainy on WednesdayCloudy and rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 2C and 20C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with southerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 14C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe tough additional measures the government intends to take under the pressure of the EU aiming to curtail the fiscal deficit and a European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Montary Fund (IMF) team that is currently in Athens to collect data on the Greek economy's progress, the merger of Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines, and the abolition of tenure in the public sector, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "End to tenure in public sector".
APOGEVMATINI: "Airline giant - Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines merger agreement finalised".
AVGHI: "Government vice president Theodoros Pangalos' revealing statement on tenure in the public sector".
AVRIANI: "Olympic Air becomes a giant airline after its merger with Aegean Airlines - Olympic Air president Andreas Vgenopoulos' bold initiative (in the midst of the crisis) shows the way for mergers in banks, shipping, tourism, construction and industries".
CHORA: "Wedding in the air - Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines in common flight".
ELEFTHEROS: "Pangalos proposes abolition of tenure in public sector".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Pangalos brings up issue of abolition of tenure in public sector".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Heavier penalties for politicians who have stakes in offshore companies - State corruption targetted".
ESTIA: "The national 'rip-off' continues".
ETHNOS: "Strict law against corruption - Politicians with holdings in offshore companies will be stripped of their parliamentary seat".
IMERISSIA: "Olympic and Aegean's wedding".
KATHIMERINI: "First major business agreement due to the crisis, between Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines".
LOGOS: "Final countdown.... for announcement of new measures".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Olympic Air-Aegean major deal closed".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Rise up with PAME (Communist party affiliated labour organisation) in Wednesday's strike - Shut the mouths of those who talk about consensus on the anti-social measures".
TA NEA: "Seizure of assets of politicians and civil servants involved in offshore companies - Severe law against corruption".
TO VIMA: "Brussels' ultimatum: "Make 7 percent cutbacks in salaries".
VRADYNI: "EU, ECB and IMF team decide on the measures".
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