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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-02-26

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

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

Friday, 26 February 2010 Issue No: 3431

CONTENTS

  • [01] EU-IMF team winds up visit to Athens
  • [02] Rehn in Athens on Mon.
  • [03] PM Papandreou interviewed by Australian television
  • [04] German chancellor on Greek economy
  • [05] German statesman expresses confidence in PM Papandreou
  • [06] Foreign ministry: Greece seeking political, not financial support from EU
  • [07] EuroParliament Liberals propose public hearing on Greek crisis
  • [08] Fed. Chairman: crisis in Europe not just a fiscal issue
  • [09] PM Papandreou to meet President Obama in March
  • [10] Samaras meets with Commission president in Brussels
  • [11] LA.OS proposals for economy
  • [12] Palestinian Authority President Abbas in Athens
  • [13] Alternate FM confers with UN official on Cyprus issue
  • [14] UN mediator on FYROM name issue due in Athens Friday
  • [15] Athens on Nimetz visit, name issue talks
  • [16] EU Internal Affairs Council on illegal immigration
  • [17] Pangalos criticises Germany's attitude on Greek economic woes
  • [18] Parliament president meets with German envoy
  • [19] German Ambassador on recent articles in German press
  • [20] Gov't on stability programme; retirement age
  • [21] LAOS leader briefed by employment minister
  • [22] DM attends informal EU DM Council
  • [23] Dep. FM in Bucharest
  • [24] Alogoskoufis threatens legal action against German MEP
  • [25] Statement by EU's communist parties
  • [26] Diplomat Vyron Theodoropoulos passes away
  • [27] Eurostat says Greece to supply more information over swap operations
  • [28] Bill creating independent statistics service passed into law
  • [29] Wednesday's nationwide labor strike
  • [30] GSEE leader meets President Papoulias
  • [31] MIG, Aegean Airlines offer details of merger deal
  • [32] Energy cooperation the focus of Greek, Bulgarian ministers' meeting
  • [33] Gerekou on new strategy for development of Greek tourism
  • [34] Greek recycling industries form new association SEVIAN
  • [35] OTE says net profits down 32.9 pct in 2009
  • [36] Hellenic Petroleum says profits sharply up in 2009
  • [37] Ryanair flights to Rhodes, Kos
  • [38] Jumbo reports 10.87 pct fall in H1 profits
  • [39] Greek trade deficit down 27.4 pct in 2009
  • [40] Credit expansion slowed to 3.8 pct in Jan
  • [41] Stocks end 2.82% down
  • [42] Greek bond market closing report
  • [43] ADEX closing report
  • [44] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [45] New regulation on twin urban regeneration to be tabled soon
  • [46] Important archaeological finds at Knossos
  • [47] El Greco masterpiece in Thessaloniki
  • [48] Arcturos project to record brown bears' genetic code
  • [49] AIIC conference on interpreters for Greek entrepreneurship
  • [50] Fugitives arrested on Rhodes
  • [51] Police solve murder of Bangladeshi in Ilion
  • [52] Police intervene in attack at AUTH, administration building occupied
  • [53] Five arrests for minor incidents in Wednesday's strike demonstration
  • [54] Police preventive measures in Aghios Panteleimonas, Athens
  • [55] Three Bulgarian nationals arrested on burglary charges
  • [56] Cloudy, rainy on Friday
  • [57] US administration does not ascribe to Turkish positions
  • [58] US Secretary of State: We do not endorse Turkish positions on Cyprus
  • [59] Queen of Spain to visit Cyprus Politics

  • [01] EU-IMF team winds up visit to Athens

    A European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) team wound up a visit to Greece with meetings on Thursday with finance ministry, economy, competitiveness and shipping ministry, and employment and social security ministry officials.

    The EU-IMF team also met with officials of the Bank of Greece.

    According to sources, the team put emphasis on strict adherence to Greece's Stability and Growth Program, but expressed reservations on the Greek government's forecasts regarding the growth rate of the Greek economy.

    The Greek side presented specific data to the EU-IMF officials on the planned expenditure cutbacks and revenues.

    Specifically regarding the course of state revenues, it appears that the month of January has proved satisfactory, but the government's revenues targets are not expected to be met in February, resulting in a first quarter divergence from the target.

    A report will be submitted to the Commission, ECB and IMF based on the various proposals put forward by Greece and the visiting team.

    It is noted that the European Commission will convene on March 9 to discuss the Greek economy, while a visit to Greece by EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn is also upcoming.

    [02] Rehn in Athens on Mon.

    EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn will arrive in Athens on Monday for closely watched talks with the Greek government, including meetings with the ministers of finance, labour & social insurances and economy-competitiveness.

    According to reports, Rehn will be previously briefed by Commission officials over a visit this past week in Athens by a delegation of EU experts, who in turn, were briefed by Greek officials on the course of the now imperative Stability and Growth Programme, which Athens tabled with the Commission recently amid the ongoing deficit and debt refinancing crisis.

    Sources in Athens on Thursday emphasised that Commission experts, in talks with Greek ministry officials and at the Bank of Greece (BoG), expressed "fundamental objections" to projections by the Greek government over the growth rate and state revenue collection.

    Additionally, the same Commission experts reportedly noted that if the recently announced austerity measures do not meet projections, then additional measures, worth 3.6 to 4.8 billion euros, must be taken.

    Retirment age hikes and more flexibility in the Greek employment sector were also reportedly cited by the Commission experts.

    [03] PM Papandreou interviewed by Australian television

    MELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)

    The majority, some 60-70 percent, of the Greek people back the government's measures on the Greek economy, prime minister George Papandreou stressed on the Australian TV station ABC, in an interview ABC Europe correspondent in London Philip Williams that was broadcast Wednesday night on Tony Jones' "Lateline" information program. In the interview, Papandreou discusses his plans to deal with Greece's debt despite anti-reform protests.

    "We have come to a reckoning...a moment of reckoning, if you like, for Greece to make these changes, and it will be painful," the premier said, adding that the "people know that, but I think people are saying: Let's do it, let's get over with it".

    To a question on the protests to the austerity package and whether, in his "quiet moments" he has wished he'd lost the election, that this wasn't his problem, Papandreou replied: "Well, I have taken on problems...Whenever I have taken on, it so happens, in my political career, when I've taken on posts, they are usually during crises".

    "I am used to trouble," he added.

    Asked what the fundamental problem with the Greek economy is, Papandreou explained:

    "Yes, we do have first of all a home-grown problem, which was the mismanagement of our economy, particularly by the previous government - corruption, cronyism, clientele politics. A lot of money was wasted, basically, through these types of practices. So we need to make some real, deep structural changes, as, of course, dealing with the immediate problem of the deficit.

    To a question on the support sought by Greece from its European partners, the prime minister clarified: "Not by giving money to Greece. We're not asking for bailouts or handouts. We're saying we need to be able to borrow at the similar rate (as the other eurozone countries). So this is what would happen: they would - other countries would - help us in order to borrow at these rates, which are lower rates. So this is, I think, very credible ... a very credible response to the problems we are facing right now."

    To a comment that it's one thing to carry out an austerity problem such as that announced by the Greek government and "another thing to actually get the people to cooperate with that program", Papandreou responded:

    "Obviously, if the pain becomes too much there will be problems, but I believe that people understand that this - these changes must be done and we do have wide support. Even today, we have a public approval rating between 60 and 70 per cent."

    Asked if this surprised him "given the toughness of the cuts" (in salaries, benefits and spending), the premier replied in the affirmative, adding that "it's a positive surprise", and noting: "I would say that the spirit we have of unity and of determination today in Greece, I can only compare it to what we felt during the Olympics. Of course, that was a time of jubilation, but there was a real sense of unity."

    "Now is a time of crisis, but again, there's a sense of this ... of wider approval, of, 'Let's move on, let's make these decisions, let's change this country'," Papandreou added.

    To a comment that its not just the Greek finances and institutions that the new prime minister says must change, Papandreou noting first that "you have lots of Greek restaurants, and of course a huge Greek community in Australia, and we have a Mediterranean and Greek diet which is considered one of the healthiest types of diets around the world", stressed that "We have to go back to that diet - reinvent it, if you like - because we have also moved into a fast food, uh... touristy kind of a diet. So these are areas where we need to change."

    Asked if he was talking about a fundamental restructure of society, the Greek premier replied "absolutely", stressing that "we'll move ahead and make this crisis an opportunity".

    Prime minister Papandreou's transcribed interview may be accessed online at http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2010/s2829504.htm

    [04] German chancellor on Greek economy

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/P. Stangos)

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel termed as dangerous for the euro, the fact of profiteering in money markets at the expense of Greece and other countries which found themselves in the whirlpool of the international monetary crisis in a "weak" moment and with unsolved structural problems, but expressed certainty that the euro will ultimately hold out.

    Speaking in an interview with the newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," the German chancellor avoided becoming specific on the issue of the way of supporting the efforts of the Greek government to implement the Stability Programme that it committed itself to follow, but expressed her "gratitude" because "the Greek prime minister, contrary to what used to take place in the past, revealed the real dimensions of the problems," and because "he declared his country's will to tidy up its finances and restore its competitiveness."

    According to Merkel, the consolidation of confidence in the euro in money markets will only be secured if in Greece and in other countries with high deficits the problem is tackled at its root.

    "Reliability in the money markets will depend on the extent that the scheduled for this year decrease in the deficit by four units will be implemented indeed," she said.

    She also expressed her "satisfaction" over the Greek government's willingness to cooperate with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the experts of the International Monetary Fund for an assessment of the course of the effort and, if necessary, to take additional measures.

    [05] German statesman expresses confidence in PM Papandreou

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/P. Stangos)

    Socialdemocrat (SPD) Parliamentary Group president Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday expressed his confidence in the person of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to tackle the economic crisis in Greece, underlining that "the continuation of the present situation endangers stability in Greece in its entirety."

    Steinmeier said in an interview with the newspaper "Handelsblatt" that "if there is one person whom I trust to implement the stability plans it is Prime Minister Papandreou."

    Steinmeier served as foreign minister in the "big coalition" of the parties of the Christian Union (CDU/CSU) and SPD over the 2005-2009 period.

    The socialdemocrat politician rejects talk of "Greece's dismissal from the eurozone," stressing the need and the importance of the implementation of the Stability Programme.

    "If this does not succeed then the euro and the eurozone will be placed in danger in their entirety," he said.

    [06] Foreign ministry: Greece seeking political, not financial support from EU

    Greece is making great efforts to regain its credibility, using as a vehicle the Stability and Growth Programme (SGP), which it will succeed in implementing under its own power. It is seeking political, not economic support from all its European partners and wishes that the positions expressed by the '27' be uniform and clearly express solidarity.

    This was stated by foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras when asked if the government is satisfied with the way that Germany is dealing with Greece's efforts to reduce fiscal problems.

    With a reminder that the SGP was accepted by all Greece's EU partners, he noted that there was a "common position by the '27' on the level of heads of state and government, in which they express full support for Greek efforts and confidence that our country can succeed".

    "We are seeking clear-cut political support and solidarity from our partners. We are in constant contact with all sides and we believe that the statements expressed by all our partners in the EU at this time must be uniform and clearly express this solidarity," Delavekouras stressed, adding that this is "a threat against the whole of the European economy and for this we need a uniform stance on our part".

    "We are not speaking about financial assistance, however. Greece did not ask for financial assistance, it has the SGP and it will carry this out successfully," he clarified.

    He said that the German government has supported the uniform line of the '27' on a level of heads of state and government. "The dialogue in continuous because the crisis is unfolding and has an impact on all of Europe. For this reason we want close cooperation with our partners and we have this," he said.

    Referring to a statement by the German ambassador, who was called by Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos about the negative press articles about Greece in German media, the spokesman said the ambassador had said 'the self-evident". In other words, that the press articles do not express Germany as a whole or the German people.

    He went on to underline that "we will not speak on such terms. We have serious problems to face and we are facing them. It is self-evident that such articles are unpleasant, in which reality is distorted, but the essence of the problem lies elsewhere."

    In terms of cooperation with German, he said that this is continuous and will continue on all levels, from that of the prime minister (who recently met his German counterpart) to that of officials.

    Asked whether Greece will seek war reparations from Germany, he answered that the "issue of war reparations is not linked in any way with the problem that we have to deal with today. We have to face an economic crisis and we must do this with the cooperation of all our partners and we must focus on this."

    He added that the issue of war reparations has not been finally settled and that Greece has not waived its demands concerning the same.

    [07] EuroParliament Liberals propose public hearing on Greek crisis

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)

    The head of the European Parliament's 'Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe' (ALDE) Guy Verhofstadt has called for a European Parliament initiative to investigate the causes of Greece's fiscal crisis, claiming that there was "contradictory information" on this score.

    Verhofstadt made the statement during a briefing given to MEPs on Wednesday regarding the results of the informal European Council of February 11, which had focused mainly on the economic situation in Greece.

    The former premier of Belgium proposed a public hearing of all bodies involved in the Greek crisis, ranging from representatives of the European Central Bank, the Eurogroup, European Commission and Eurostat to Greek authorities and investment banks.

    Verhofstadt went on to support a "European solution" to the Greek problem through the issue of Euro-bonds or the creation of a European Monetary Fund.

    He also pointed to a growing divergence between the Greek and German economies in recent years, stressing the need for specific economic tools for managing the Eurozone.

    "We have achieved monetary union but not real economic union," he emphasised.

    Verhofstadt's position was backed by the Greens - European Free Alliance, who stated that the anti-Greek nationalist attitude "was not helping at all".

    The leader of the European People's Party Joseph Daul questioned to what extent the crisis of the euro was due to the problems faced by Greece, given that other Eurozone members were also in dire economic straits.

    [08] Fed. Chairman: crisis in Europe not just a fiscal issue

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA - A. Ellis)

    In statements before the U.S. Congress on Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the crisis in Europe, with Greece and other countries within the euro with high levels of debt, was not just fiscal but also involved competitiveness issues.

    "There are very serious challenges there involving not only fiscal issues but competitiveness issues because of the single exchange rate," he said when asked about the possible impact on the U.S. of the crisis.

    "We have talked to the European Union leaders. They are obviously focused on getting this problem solved. They're working closely with Greece, which has proposed a substantial fiscal consolidation," he added, noting that the Federal Reserve was keeping an eye on the situation but that the Europeans appeared very focused on trying to get the problems under control.

    [09] PM Papandreou to meet President Obama in March

    Government spokesman George Petalotis said in Thursday that Prime Minister George Papandreou will be meeting US President Barack Obama in March. Petalotis said that the US president invited the Greek prime minister to visit the US on March 9, stressing that the exact date will be fixed through diplomatic channels.

    "In the very difficult conjuncture that we are in, such an inernational contact is very important," the spokesman added.

    [10] Samaras meets with Commission president in Brussels

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Thursday called for immediate support of the Greek economy "for the good of the eurozone itself", during a meeting in Brussels with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

    "I came to Brussels because I want to be of use to my country," Samaras told reporters after his meeting with Barroso.

    During the meeting, Samaras acknowledged that mistakes have been made "which must not be repeated", and proposed specific ways to solve the problem, such as the EU providing guarantees that it will not let Greece reach bankruptcy, either in the form of credit facilitation or in the form of guarantees that the Greek state bonds will continue to be accepted by the European Central Bank (ECB) until end 2011, or through a combination of the two.

    Barroso stressed that the Greek government must proceed with determination with the measures, which he said everyone in the EU deemed necessary, and assured Samaras that the EU will manifest its solidarity towards Greece, ensuring the economic stability of the eurozone.

    Samaras further expressed the opinion that the EU must commit itself to specific, and not theoretical measures, otherwise the markets will not be reassured".

    He also warned that the prospect of recourse to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be "extremely dangerous and anti-European", stressing that the EU must act immediately and help Greece.

    [11] LA.OS proposals for economy

    Opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) President George Karatzaferis on Thursday outlined his party's proposals for the economy, maintaining that they can solve the ongoing cash flow and deficit problem.

    Karatzaferis also referred to recent criticism by the EU against Greece, underlining that "the deficit of other countries is much larger than ours, while our debt is smaller than the debts observed in half of the EU states."

    "A country's downfall is not associated with its deficit or debt but it is directly related to whether it has a strong production sector or not ... Greece has no production or growth ... the country's survival for a long period of time will be achieved through loans," he said, warning that "the situation will become extremely painful next year."

    Karatzaferis accused the governments of New Democracy (ND) and PASOK for what he called the destruction of the country's industry sector, blaming the policies followed since 1980.

    Additionally, he said the imposition of higher taxes and salary cuts are is measures and called on the government to ensure bank liquidity, suggesting the adoption of incentives to attract foreign investments. He also maintained that "the euro is under attack by the US dollar" and that Greece is "the victim of that war".

    Referring to the foreign policy followed by the government, Karatzaferis said the prime minister's trip to Russia was a "mistake" and expressed fears for a "hot incident" between Greece and Turkey.

    [12] Palestinian Authority President Abbas in Athens

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias met Thursday in Athens with visiting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

    The Palestinian leader briefed Papoulias on the contacts he had recently in Brussels and expressed satisfaction for the stance adopted by the EU as regards the Palestinian issue, characterising it as more advanced compared to that of the US administration.

    "We are expecting that the 'quartet' will adopt the European position, allowing us to materialise all these thoughts. We appreciate and respect the EU stance and there is no doubt that your support led the EU toward this direction, because Greece was always on our side," he said.

    Papoulias referred to the contribution of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to the efforts for the solution of the Middle East issue in his capacity as the president of Socialist International (SI) group.

    The Greek president also hosted a reception in honor of the Palestinian leader, where he reiterated Athens' support for a just solution to the Mideast problem.

    On his part, Abbas referred to the warm reception he has received every time he visits Greece, underlining that Palestinians do not see Greece as a foreign country.

    "For many years Greece stood by the Palestinian people. There was nothing we have asked that you did not provide. Many times our requests were met before we had the chance to make them ... The Palestinian people will never forget this noble stance and no doubt, when the Palestinian state is founded, your country will have a special place among the countries that will be invited to celebrate with us," he said.

    Earlier, PM Papandreou held a 45-minute meeting with Abbas at Maximos Mansion, the government headquarters, and afterwards escorted him on foot to the presidential mansion located a short distance away.

    In later statements, the government spokesman noted that "Greece has a role to play in the Middle East, and the visit by the president of the Palestinian Authority to Athens is a good opportunity to discuss the entire spectrum of the Mideast problem; conditions for a re-start to the peace dialogue as well as bilateral relations."

    [13] Alternate FM confers with UN official on Cyprus issue

    Alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas on Thursday discussed the course and prospects of the ongoing inter-communal negotiations in Cyprus with the UN secretary general's special advisor on the Cyprus issue, Alexander Downer, in the latter's first meeting with the new Greek government.

    Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras described the meeting as "useful" and stressed that the Greek side had the opportunity to reiterate that the process must continue smoothly and freely by the two sides, without 'manufactured timetables' being set.

    "The solution must be in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and totally respect the European acquis," Delavekouras stressed.

    Replying to questions, the spokesman said that the role of Greece and the role of Turkey in the process need to be clearly delineated.

    Greece, he said, is at the side of the Cypriot people and leadership, and its support is given, constant and non-negotiable, whereas Turkey's role is different, since "Turkey plays a decisive role with its occupation forces (on the island) and the degree of its influence".

    Turkey could, however, "release" the Turkish Cypriot leadership so that the latter itself could proceed in the negotiations, the spokesman added.

    He opined that, if Turkey so desired, a result could be forthcoming, "but this is a matter of political will".

    To another question, he denied that a trilateral conference between Greece, Turkey and the UK is planned.

    Downer, in turn, told reporters that Greece supports the ongoing process, while the UN "is doing everything it can to facilitate the talks".

    He said that the two leaders on Cyprus are currently discussing matters concerning the Cyprus economy and how it will function inside the EU.

    Next on the agenda will be matters concerning how a unified Cyprus will cooperate with the EU, whether there will be transitional arrangements for the Turkish Cypriots' full and form integration into the EU, and how a united Cyprus will function as a federal system, Downer added.

    The UN official said that both sides want the process to continue up until the 'elections' in the Turkish Cypriot sector, stressing that the momentum of the negotiations must be maintained.

    The challenge at this time is the reunification of Cyprus, of no longer seeing the dividing line that separates the island in two today, Downer concluded.

    [14] UN mediator on FYROM name issue due in Athens Friday

    The UN Secretary General's special mediator on the FYROM name issue, Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, is due in Athens on Friday for talks with the Greek government, following a similar visit to FYROM, which he wound up on Thursday in talks with FYROM prime minister Nikola Gruevski.

    In statements to the press after his meeting with Gruevski, Nimetz stressed that the main item of the negotiation process is the name issue.

    "From my viewpoint, the main issue of the talks is the country's name, as stipulated in the UN Resolutions and the Interim Agreement. All other matters that have arisen during the negotiations all these years should, I believe, be considered secondary," Nimetz said.

    The UN official also reiterated that he was not bringing any specific proposal on his current visits to Skopje and Athens, adding that, during his meetings with FYROM government officials he discerned a "constructive approach" to resolution of the name issue.

    He expressed hope that, based on the talks in Skopje and Athens, there can be an intensification of the process, which he said has slowed down in recent months, and see if the ability exists for resolving the name issue "which has been on the international agenda for a very long time".

    Nimetz further reiterated that the two sides have different positions on the name issue, adding that effort is needed by both sides in order to have a convergence of views.

    [15] Athens on Nimetz visit, name issue talks

    Greece is waiting to learn the results of a recent visit by UN envoy Matthew Nimetz's to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and hoping for a more constructive attitude on Skopje's part that will allow the two sides to proceed toward a solution of the name issue, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday.

    Commenting on Nimetz's imminent visit to Athens on Friday, immediately after the envoy's visit to Skopje, Delavekouras noted that this would be Nimetz's first contact with the new government led by George Papandreou.

    "He will have an opportunity to hear our views and to put the talks taking place at the United Nations on a proper basis," he said.

    The spokesman pointed to the efforts made by the prime minister to improve the climate between the two sides, adding that these "have not always met the response that we wanted".

    Athens was hoping for a less hard-line stance from FYROM premier Nikola Gruevski that would lead to a solution of the name issue and open that country's way to NATO and Europe, with Greece in the role of a friend in its efforts, Delavekouras stressed.

    The spokesman repeated that Greece had clear and unequivocal positions calling for a single name with a geographic determinant, to be used in all circumstances.

    "We want a geographic determinant because we cannot allow a part to represent the whole [of the geographic region of Macedonia, 51 percent of which is in Greece and the rest spread between FYROM and Bulgaria]," Delavekouras clarified, adding that Athens was concerned about Gruevski's insistence that he represented "all" of Macedonia.

    Regarding Athens' stipulation that the name agreed should be used in all circumstances, he said this sought to end the current situation, in which the neighbouring country used every opportunity that arose to violate the agreed temporary name of FYROM.

    Asked about questions of nation and identity raised by Skopje, Delavekouras stressed that "the two countries had to arrive at a solution, as provided by the resolutions of the Security Council and the interim agreement, and we consider all this talk about identity to be a tool used by Gruevski to avoid negotiations".

    "At this time, the premier of FYROM is refusing to negotiate. He has used various excuses, at this time he is using the issue of identity," the spokesman said.

    Answering a question on whether perpetuating the name issue might lead to a destabilisation of neighbouring FYROM, Delavekouras noted that the current government in Skopje was very strong and in a position to reach a solution if it desired.

    "Instead, Mr. Gruevski has opted for non-solution, inertia, inactivity, has chosen to raise obstacles to the effort we are making to arrive at a solution," he said.

    [16] EU Internal Affairs Council on illegal immigration

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    The European Union's Council of Internal Affairs Ministers convened here on Thursday and one of the main issues on the agenda was illegal immigration. Greek positions were backed by Citizen's Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis.

    According to Chrysohoidis, the discussion focused on the issue of illegal immigration mainly in the eastern Mediterranean while it was stressed that "the problem of the eastern Mediterranean, the problem of southern Europe and of immigration pressures is a problem of all of Europe."

    During his intervention at the Council, the Greek minister said that he presented to his counterparts the problem in all its extent, giving specific information on how Greece is handling hundreds of thousands of people every year.

    "A problem that is difficult to manage politically, socially it is unbearable and from a humanitarian point of view unacceptable," he said.

    He added that Greece wants to handle people in a way that suits human dignity and the human dimension with respect for human rights, human freedoms and the international law on the rights of man.

    The minister also revealed that he has received an invitation from his Turkish counterpart to visit Turkey.

    [17] Pangalos criticises Germany's attitude on Greek economic woes

    LONDON(ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)

    Government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos criticised Germany's attitude on the Greek economic problem, stressing that Germany, during the Nazi occupation, "destroyed the Greek economy, taking all the money and gold at the Bank of Greece, without ever returning it", in a radio interview with the BBC's correspondent in Athens.

    Pangalos also said that today's political leaders cannot be compared in quality with the European leaders of the 1980s.

    "Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand would never have allowed today's economic crisis to happen," Pangalos told BBC.

    "What we see now, and perhaps over the coming days, is a mild situation. Besides, all the opinion polls show that the overwhelming majority of the Greek people back the measures being taken by the government," he said.

    Commenting on the level of the present-day political leaders of the European Union, Pangalos described it as "very, very poor", and stressed that the leaders of the 1980s, such as Mitterrand, Thatcher and Kohl, would not have allowed today's economic crisis.

    Pangalos accused Italy of inaccurate statistical data, and stressed that Germany should not criticise Greece because Germany had destroyed the Greek economy and massacred thousands of Greeks during the Nazi period. "They took quantities of gold from the Bank of Greece, they took the Greek money without ever returning it, and that is an issue that must be faced in the future," he continued.

    Pangalos' statements have received wide media coverage in Britain, which also report a statement by German foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke that "a discussion about the past is not helpful in solving today's problems".

    [18] Parliament president meets with German envoy

    Parliament president Philippos Petsalnikos and German ambassador to Greece Dr. Wolfgang Schultheiss met on Thursday in Athens, following insulting to Greece articles appearing recently in the German press, and took place in a climate of confidence and cooperation.

    "The German press is free to write whatever it wants and criticism is welcome," said Petsalnikos after the meeting, adding however that "many of those articles create an image which include untruths and inaccuracies".

    The president of the Greek parliament underlined that "in this framework, I have sent a relevant letter to 'Stern' magazine and I will do the same to other media If necessary".

    "We do not asking for money from the European Union and Germany, but for support and solidarity in order for our country to face the attack from speculators of the nternational markets," he said.

    On his part the German ambassador expressed his regret over the German press' articles, which as he stated create a feeling of insult, but added that these specific articles must not be confused with others that contain serious and corroborated information".

    According to Schultheiss "the confrontation in the mass media will not affect the good Greek-German relations". He also reassured that the German government supports the Greek government and has confidence in the latter's necessary structural course".

    [19] German Ambassador on recent articles in German press

    The ambassador of Germany in Athens Dr. Wolfgang Schultheiss in a statement on Thursday stressed that "the Embassy regrets the fact that recent articles published in the German press have offended and created a feeling of insult to the Greek public and media", adding that "I would like to make an appeal that the isolated voices in the German press are not confused with the differing German public opinion on Greece".

    "The conflict in the mass media does not reflect the good relations between Germany and Greece. The German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle clarified during his recent visit to Athens that Germany, as a partner and friend of Greece, strongly supports Greece, especially in the present circumstance," the German ambassador said, and also drew attention to the fact that the German government "has confidence in the Greek government's necessary structural course".

    [20] Gov't on stability programme; retirement age

    Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis referred to the implementation course of the updated stability programme, the government's intention to keep the pension age limit to the 65th year and the comments made by government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos as regards the German WWII reparations to Greece.

    Petalotis stated that the government is satisfied with the implementation course of the updated stability programme adding, however, that this is only the beginning. He pointed out that there are many risks involved in macroeconomic policy level as well as others related with possible mishaps or difficulties as regards the immediate implementation of certain goals. He added that the government is trying to minimize the risks ensuring that the programme will materialize within the set timetable.

    He stated that the adoption of additional measures is likely but always keeping in mind that the low income earners will be protected.

    Petalotis stated that "we have requested the EU's political support and minimum necessary time to materialize the stability programme," adding that "we have never asked for money from the European taxpayers."

    He rejected rumors of an imminent government reshuffle as being the response of the prime minister's discontent toward the economic staff.

    Responding to a question on the pension age limit, Petalotis stated that the government is not considering raising the limit over the age of 65. He pointed out, however, that the Greek public sector needs to be reformed and straightened up referring to the existence of countless of services and organizations that are counterproductive and unaffordable for the Greek citizens. He added that the civil servants will be utilized in such a way allowing their productivity to increase and pointed out that this can be done through public sector employee transfers.

    Referring to the comments made by government vice-president Pangalos as regards the German WWII reparations to Greece, Petalotis stated that the government's formal stance will be expressed by the prime minister who will respond to a current question in parliament on Friday.

    On the statements made by Pangalos concerning the current European leadership, Petalotis stated that "the EU integration is our common concern; it should be based on strong foundations, the EU bodies should operate properly, and this is a matter of individual contribution."

    Called to comment on the statements made by the German government spokesman, Petalotis said that "we should protect the good relations between the two peoples". He added that the statements made by the German Chancellor show that Germany has confidence in the Greek government and has underlined Greece's credibility.

    [21] LAOS leader briefed by employment minister

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis met on Thursday with employment minister Andreas Loverdos, who noted afterwards that Karatzaferis was the first party leader he has seen for discussion of matters falling under his ministry's competency.

    Loverdos said he briefed the LAOS leader on all issues concerning safety and welfare, and on the developments in those matters, given that, in this critical period, LAOS is taking part in the effort to restructure the social security system.

    Karatzaferis described the relevant measures being taken by the government as "realistic" and "moving in the right direction", adding that his party will continue to monitor the situation, with a sense of seriousness.

    [22] DM attends informal EU DM Council

    The European Union's informal Council of Defence Ministers convened in Majorca, Spain, on Wednesday and Thursday and focused, among other issues, on the EU's military missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Somalia, the European aid mission to Haiti, cooperation with third countries in the sector of joint defence and security policy and the prospects of the European Defence Organisation after the Lisbon Treaty.

    Greek Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos stressed the need for the best possible coordination to be achieved between the operations of the two organisations (EU and NATO) based on the principle of the institutional autonomy of each organisation.

    He also expressed support for the continuation of joint action that constitutes the foundation of the European Defence Organisation.

    On the sidelines of the Council, Venizelos exchanged views with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, his Turkish counterpart Mehmet Gonul, his French counterpart Herve Morin and his Polish colleague Bogdan Klich, who will be visiting Greece in a few weeks.

    [23] Dep. FM in Bucharest

    BUCHAREST (ANA-MPA / I. Rantu)

    Visiting Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis met here on Thursday with his Romanian counterpart Duru Koste, with talks focusing on economic cooperation between the two countries.

    According to a Romanian foreign ministry press release, the two deputy ministers also discussed an upcoming visit by Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi to Athens.

    [24] Alogoskoufis threatens legal action against German MEP

    Former FinMin George Alogoskoufis, according to an announcement by his office on Thursday, has instructed attorneys to file a lawsuit against German Eurodeputy Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, following what Alogoskoufis' office called "abusive remarks and his defamatory references in the mass media" by the MEP.

    [25] Statement by EU's communist parties

    A joint statement by communist parties in EU member-states on Thursday stressed that February's EU Summit signaled "a new, strong attack against the working classes and peoples of Europe."

    The joint statement was released in Athens by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

    The parties also noted that "the basis of the EU's strategy for an exit from the capitalist crisis is the imposition of massive changes in social security schemes; raising retirement age limits; drastic cuts in salaries, pensions and social benefits. This attack bears the seal of both liberals and social democrats, who supported and continue to support capital's options in carefree harmony with the EU's headquarters."

    "Communist Parties consider that the deficits and the public debt as well as the procedures of supervising economies of various member-states, among them Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, are used in order to ideologically terrorise workers all over Europe," the statement read.

    [26] Diplomat Vyron Theodoropoulos passes away

    Diplomat Vyron Theodoropoulos, who had a rich career as well as literary and academic activity, passed away at the age of 90 on Thursday. He was born in Athens and studied law at the Athens University and entered the diplomatic service in 1946.

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas expressed his grief and his profound condolences to the family of the deceased, stressing that "the news of the death of Vyron Theodoropoulos shocked all of us."

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party Foreign Policy rapporteur Dimitris Avramopoulos termed Theodoropoulos as "one of the most important personalities, who honoured Greece with their work and their contribution."

    Financial News

    [27] Eurostat says Greece to supply more information over swap operations

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)

    Eurostat on Thursday said it needed more data from Greece over transactions made in so-called swap products in 2001. In an information note on Greece, the EU executive's agency, said it was the first time that Greek authorities admitted the use of derivatives in 2001 and underlined that Eurostat would request the Greek authorities to supply, as soon as possible, all the information necessary for a complete evaluation and recording of this operation in the next Excessive Deficit Procedure notification in spring.

    Eurostat said Greece has informed community services that repayment of the debt began in 2004. In consequence, Eurostat will have to determine, in cooperation with Greek authorities, what will be the increase in government debt due to this specific swap operation from 2004 onwards.

    The EU statistics agency noted that when the European System of Accounts ESA 1995 was introduced in 1995, such practices were not common for EU member-states, therefore no specific account rules existed to cover swap transactions.

    More analytically, Eurostat said that Greek authorities failed to inform the community statistics agency over their swap operations and noted that during a Eurostat visit to Greece (September 15-19 2008) -after the setting of the statistical rules- Greek authorities declared that in Greece, government units were not allowed by law to engage in off-market financial derivatives.

    [28] Bill creating independent statistics service passed into law

    The Greek Parliament on Thursday passed a bill changing Greece's statistical system and making the national statistics service an independent body.

    The stormy session was marked by heated controversy between the government and main opposition regarding ruling PASOK's proposal for a Parliamentary investigation into the veracity of statistical figures produced by Greece in 2004-2009.

    Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Costas Markopoulos repeated that ND will propose to extend the investigation back to the year 1981, when PASOK was first voted into power, "when the downhill slide begun".

    "Our goal is to agree and to tell the people what went wrong with the economic strategies and to not repeat it. To see why, while governments were handling the Integrated Mediterranean Programmes and three Community Support Frameworks, the country made little progress," he stressed, urging PASOK to agree to "ND's grand investigative committeee, including in this its own small period of interest".

    [29] Wednesday's nationwide labor strike

    A nationwide labor strike was staged in Greece on Wednesday, called by the country's two largest umbrella federations GSEE and ADEDY in protest of the government's tough economic measures.

    Labor rallies were held in Athens, Thessaloniki and other large cities throughout the country, while according to unions participation in the strike was very large.

    The central rally in Athens was addressed by General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) president Yiannis Panagopoulos and Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) president Spyros Papaspyros, at the Pedion tou Areos park.

    Panagopoulos spoke of a "major political strike" and sharply criticised "the neoliberals of the markets, the Brussels bureaucrats and the sharks of the foreign rating firms", calling for coordination with the trade unions in the countries of the European south.

    He said that those who are responsible for the crisis should be made to pay for the crisis, namely those who evade taxes, evade making contributions to the social security funds.

    Addressing himself to employers' organisations, the GSEE leader stressed that the collective labor agreements "are a non-negotiable conquest of the trade unions".

    As for criticism towards him from the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the KKE-affiliated labor organisation PAME, which held their own separate rally in nearby Omonia Square, Panagopoulos accused them of attempting an organisational and operational break-up of the trade unions.

    Papaspyros, in turn, invited the working people to take their fates into their own hands, and called Greece's Stability Program a "stupidity program", calling on the union leaders to escalate their opposition to that policy.

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) was represented by a delegation headed by its secretary for trade union issues Yiannis Manolis, and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) was represented by a delegation headed by its parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras.

    He also warned that ADEDY will not allow the salary scale, labor and social security rights of the civil servants to be razed as a gift to the markets, charging that the EU policy undermined Greece's growth momentum.

    The Athens rally was also attended and addressed by European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) general secretary John Monks, who pledged the confederation's solidarity with the Greek workers, noting that the working people of Europe will not leave their Greek colleagues alone to face the risk of dissolution of the social fiber.

    Also attending the rally were representatives of European civil servant's federations.

    After the speeches, the protestors marched to parliament.

    [30] GSEE leader meets President Papoulias

    Meeting President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday, General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) President Yiannis Panagopoulos stressed that the current situation in Greece was "extremely difficult and critical".

    The head of Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation representing the private sector, Panagopoulos noted during his courtesy call on the president that Greece was under attack from the markets following an announcement by credit rating agencies of possible further cuts in the country's credit rating.

    "These are the same credit rating agencies that had given Lehman Brothers the highest credit rating shortly before its collapse," he pointed out, stressing that markets were made by people and could not be allowed to tyrannise them.

    Panagopoulos also presented the president to give the opening speech at the start of the GSEE conference that will take place in Halkidiki.

    [31] MIG, Aegean Airlines offer details of merger deal

    Marfin Investment Group (MIG) and Aegean Airlines on Thursday offered further details over the terms of their merger plan. In joint statements to the press, the two companies said their main shareholders -Vasilakis Group and Laskaridis Group (owners of 55.3 pct in Aegean Airlines) and Marfin Investment Group -owner of Olympic Air group- have signed a binding pre-agreement on the merger between Aegean Airlines, Olympic Air, Olympic Handling SA and Olympic Engineering SA.

    The remaining shareholders of Aegean Airlines (Konstantakopoulos Group, David G., Ioannou L. and Piraeus Bank -all members of Aegean Airlines' board) were informed over the negotiating agreement, they have been invited and were expected to participate in the deal.

    The transaction needs approval by competition authorities, with both companies expecting to get approval by EU agencies by September 30, 2010. This will be followed by two share capital increase plans and a merger of all activities of the two companies (expected to be completed within three to six months).

    Under the terms of the agreement, the equity capital of Olympic Air, Olympic Handling and Olympic Engineering will total 210 million euros, after completion of a scheduled share capital increase plan, worth 97.5 million euros, by MIG. Aegean Airlines will cover 50 pct of the share capital increase plan (48.5 million euros) in cash, while MIG will participate in an Aegean Airlines' share capital increase plan at a price of 6.2 euros per share. MIG will aquire a 26.6 pct equity stake in Aegean Airlines.

    [32] Energy cooperation the focus of Greek, Bulgarian ministers' meeting

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili met with visiting Bulgarian Deputy Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister Maya Hristova on Wednesday for talks on the adoption of strict environmental protection conditions relative to the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project.

    Birbili suggested a joint working group on energy also focus on renewable energy sources (RES) and energy saving issues.

    Hristova briefed the Greek side on the buyout, by the Bulgarian state, of a company that participated in the pipeline construction consortium. She pointed out that completion of an environmental study is of major importance for the promotion of the project.

    The meeting also focused on three energy projects that link the two countries, namely, the South Stream and Komotini-Haskovo natural gas pipelines and the Thessaloniki-Blagoevgrad high voltage line.

    As regards the Komotini-Haskovo north-south pipeline extension, Hristova underlined that the local people see the project positively, adding that the fact that she was appointed president of the Bulgarian BEH company will lead to the acceleration of relevant procedures.

    [33] Gerekou on new strategy for development of Greek tourism

    Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou referred to the new strategy for the development of Greek tourism at a conference held on Thursday on the theme "Greek-Russian Tourism & Property: Challenges & Opportunities for St Petersburg."

    On the issue of the issuing of visas that is currently required for visitors from Russia, Gerekou said that although there has been an improvement in past years, mainly on the multiplying of visa centres and the required issuing time - the problem still exists.

    For a country such as Russia, the three visa centres that Greece has there at the moment are surely not enough, she said mentioning that there shall be positive developments soon, since contacts and consultations with the Foreign Ministry are at an advanced level.

    [34] Greek recycling industries form new association SEVIAN

    A number of Greek industries involved in recycling and alternative energy production on Thursday announced that they were founding an association that will inform the public on recycling and energy issues, while also promoting their interests with the state.

    Members of the newly-formed Association of Greek Recycling and Energy Utilisation Industries (SEBIAN) include some of Greece's largest industrial groups. They are AGET Heracles, Titan, BEAL SA, BEKA SA, General Paper Recycling SA. Gioula Glass Industry SA, EP.AN. Halyvourgia Greece, Halyvourgiki, Cyclon Hellas, Ecomel, Greensteel, Polyeco SA, Sonoco Recycling and several others.

    Among their aims in creating the new association is to promote cooperation between Greek industry and scientific bodies and to create a network between businesses for the exploitation of their wastes.

    The provisional chairman of the foundation noted that the business people that have invested in the recycling of industrial and domestic wastes, as well as those that produce green energy from waste products, are the pioneers of a green economy.

    Among the association's first activities will be to organse four seminars on recycling-related issues, the first of which will take place on March 11.

    [35] OTE says net profits down 32.9 pct in 2009

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) Group on Thursday reported a 32.9 pct decline in its net profits last year to 404 million euros, from 601.8 million euros in 2008, with turnover falling 6.6 pct to 5.984 billion euros from 6.407 billion euros over the same period, respectively.

    The Group also reported net losses of 30.5 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2009, after profits of 100.1 million euros in 2008, reflecting the imposing of an extra tax charge of 113.1 million euros. Operating earnings totaled 185.6 million euros, down 8.5 pct compared with the fourth quarter of 2008, with operating spending down 7.1 pct to 1.024 billion euros. EBITDA fell 6.6 pct to 504.2 million euros, while EBITDA adjusted margin rose to 33.1 pct.

    OTE said group amortizations fell 5.9 pct to 315.1 million euros, while investments on fixed assets totaled 253.2 million euros, down 30 pct from 2008. Gross group borrowing fell 10.3 pct to 5.422 billion euros last year, while net borrowing was 4.553 billion euros, down 1.4 pct over the same period.

    OTE said adverse financial conditions, reduced consumption, increased competition and regulatory limitations were expected to affect this year's results.

    [36] Hellenic Petroleum says profits sharply up in 2009

    Hellenic Petroleum Group on Thursday said its net profits totaled 175 million euros in 2009, sharply up from 12 million euros in 2008, although comparable net profits fell to 150 million euros from 204 million euros, over the same period respectively.

    The group's board will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to pay a 0.30 euros per share dividend to shareholders (Hellenic Petroleum has already paid a pre-dividend of 0.15 euros per share).

    A move to acquire BP's petrol station network in Greece (the deal was completed in December) affected the Group's results. Commenting on the results, G. Kostopoulos, Hellenic Petroleum's chief executive said both the international and domestic environment remained difficult, while refinery markets were affected by the crisis in the third and fourth quarters, with refinery margins falling to the lowest levels in a decade, with demand for oil products declined. "However, operating profitability was satisfactory," he noted.

    [37] Ryanair flights to Rhodes, Kos

    The Dodecanese chamber of commerce on Thursday expressed satisfaction over a same-day announcement by Ryanair to commence direct flights from western Europe to Rhodes and Kos, the biggest and best-known holiday destinations in the SE Aegean island chain.

    Europe biggest discount air carrier said direct flights will begin within the next two months.

    [38] Jumbo reports 10.87 pct fall in H1 profits

    Jumbo Group on Thursday reported a 10.87 pct decline in after tax profits in the first half of the current financial year (July 2009-June 2010) to 49.38 million euros, from 55.40 million euros in the corresponding period in the previous year. The group attributed this development to the imposition of an extra tax charge of around 10 million euros.

    Jumbo, however, said sales rose 5.82 pct to 292.08 million euros, from 276 million euros in the previous year, with domestic sales growing at satisfactory levels, Cyprus and Bulgaria maintaining double growth figures.

    Gross earnings totaled 151.47 million euros, while gross earnings margin rose to 51.86 pct from 51.69 pct. EBITDA rose 7.20 pct to 84.42 million euros, while pre-tax profits rose by 9.33 pct to 76.76 million euros.

    Jumbo Group operates a branch network of 45 units, of which 41 in Greece, two in Cyprus and two in Bulgaria. The Group expects to open another unit in Greece this year and six more units in Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria next year.

    [39] Greek trade deficit down 27.4 pct in 2009

    Greece's trade defiicit fell 18.2 pct in December 2009, compared with the same month in the previous year, the National Statistical Service said on Thursday. The statistics service, in a report, said the trade deficit shrank to 1.886 billion euros in December, from 2.306 billion euros in December 2008, reflecting lower imports and a decline in exports. The value of import-arrivals totaled 3.112 billion euros in December, down 13.6 pct, while the value of exports-deliveries fell 5.5 pct to 1.226 billion euros, from 1.297 billion euros.

    The country's trade deficit totaled 29.939 billion euros last year, from 41.210 billion euros in 2008, for a decline of 27.4 pct. The value of imports fell 24.4 pct in 2009, while exports were dow 17.5 pct.

    [40] Credit expansion slowed to 3.8 pct in Jan

    Credit expansion slowed further in the country, with Greek enterprises' and households' debt to banks totaling 253.9 billion euros in January, from 253.4 billion euros in December 2009, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.

    The central bank, in a report, said net borrowing by enterprises and households totaled 229 million euros, for an annual growth rate of 3.8 pct, down from a 4.2 pct growth rate in December 2009. This development mainly reflects negative growth rates in lending to households (-144 million euros), while net borrowing by enterprises grew to 348 million euros, for an annual growth rate of 4.5 pct compared with January 2009 (down form 5.1 pct in December 2009).

    The annual growth rate of lending to commerce, shipping and other sectors slowed further in January, while it was steady or slightly up in the remaining sectors of the economy. Credit expansion in the manufacturing sector was -2.9 pct in January from -3.5 pct in December 2009, in the commerce sector it was 3.2 pct and 4.2 pct, respectively, while in the construction sector credit expansion grew by 3.5 pct in January (2.7 pct in December) and in the shipping sector credit growth was 1.9 pct in January from 4.0 pct in December 2009. Credit expansion grew significantly in the sectors of tourism (8.2 pct), electricity-natural gas-water (14.5 pct) and communications-transport (25.8 pct).

    In the household sector, mortgage loans grew slightly, while consumer loans recorded negative growth. Households' debt totaled 119.5 billion euros in January from 119.6 billion in December 2009. Credit expansion in the households sector shrank to 2.9 pct in January, from 3.1 pct in December.

    [41] Stocks end 2.82% down

    Stocks ended sharply lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, hit by threats of further downgrades of the Greek economy by international credit rating firms and a consequent jump in the yield spread of Greek state bonds. The composite index of the market fell 2.82 pct to end at 1,872.53 points, with turnover a low 175.422 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 3.71 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.40 pct down and the FTSE 80 index ended 1.46 pct lower. The Food (1.25 pct) and Media (0.20 pct) scored gains, while Banks (4.92 pct) and Chemicals (4.27 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Maillis (14.29 pct), Vovos (11.83 pct), Tzirakian (9.76 pct) and Nexans (9.52 pct) were top gainers, while Neorio (19.57 pct), Allatini Ceramics (16.28 pct) and Klonatex (14.29 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 121 to 54 with another 52 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -2.97%

    Industrials: -1.11%

    Commercial: +0.06%

    Construction: -1.34%

    Media: +0.20%

    Oil & Gas: -1.42%

    Personal & Household: -2.05%

    Raw Materials: -3.76%

    Travel & Leisure: -3.15%

    Technology: -4.06%

    Telecoms: -3.48%

    Banks: -4.92%

    Food & Beverages: +1.25%

    Health: -0.41%

    Utilities: -1.12%

    Chemicals: -4.27%

    Financial Services: -4.06%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Coca Cola and Piraeus Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index

    closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 6.59

    ATEbank: 1.59

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.04

    HBC Coca Cola: 18.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.19

    National Bank of Greece: 13.18

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.50

    Intralot: 3.42

    OPAP: 14.90

    OTE: 8.59

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.90

    Titan: 17.48

    [42] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened sharply to 354 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.65 pct and the German Bund 3.11 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 759 million euros, of which 145 million were buy orders and the remaining 655 million euros were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond (August 8, 2015) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 279 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 0.99 pct, the three-month 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.

    [43] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.98 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 81.730 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 14,508 contracts, worth 67.525 million euros, with 34,459 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 16,127 contracts, worth 14.205 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Hellenic Telecoms' contracts (4,229), followed by Eurobank (1,025), MIG (488), PPC (422), Piraeus Bank (1,359), National Bank (4,075), Alpha Bank (1,757), Cyprus Bank (926) and Hellenic Postbank (178).

    [44] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

    Reference buying rates per euro released

    by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.359

    Pound sterling 0.887

    Danish kroner 7.502

    Swedish kroner 9.827

    Japanese yen 121.63

    Swiss franc 1.475

    Norwegian kroner 8.104

    Canadian dollar 1.439

    Australian dollar 1.530

    General News

    [45] New regulation on twin urban regeneration to be tabled soon

    A new regulation regarding the closely watched but still delayed twin urban regeneration project in central Athens will be tabled in Parliament soon, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili said Thursday.

    Birbili expressed opposition to a clause voted by the previous New Democracy (ND) government concerning the regeneration of two linked tracts of land -- on Alexandra Avenue and the run-down Votanikos district in Athens -- in relation to the construction of a new Panathinaikos sports complex in the latter.

    Briefing a relevant Parliament committee on the ministry's priorities regarding the so-called "historic centre of Athens", she emphasised the need for comprehensive planning in cooperation with all government ministries involved.

    Birbili focused on the problems faced by downgraded districts in downtown Athens, stressing that they are primarily social and not urban planning-related.

    The minister stated that small-scale interventions will be launched immediately while the study on the downgraded districts of Aghios Panteleimonas, Aghios Nikolaos and Acharnes will be completed within a month.

    Birbili also said a study for a pedestrian way along Vassilissis Olgas avenue -- in front of Zappeion Hall -- in connection with mass transports will be ready soon.

    [46] Important archaeological finds at Knossos

    Geophysical studies at Kefala Hill in the Knossos archaeological site on Crete island, have revealed findings of the most ancient farm houses in Greece, and perhaps in all of Europe, dating back between 7,000- 6,400 BC.

    The important finds were presented on Wednesday in Athens by the head of the British School in Athens and university professor Catherine Morgan at the school's open annual meeting held at the Archaeological Society building.

    The British school, in cooperation with Dutch scientists, have been conducting studies in the Knossos area since May 2009 for the charting and imaging of the archaeological and geological deposits with the use of state-of-the-art radars.

    Moreover, Morgan presented an annual review of the British School on the research progress on Keros island in the Cyclades complex, and especially at the Daskalio early Bronze Age settlement, at Kavos on the Ionian island of Corfu, in Thessaly region and on the islands of Kythera and Antikythera.

    [47] El Greco masterpiece in Thessaloniki

    One of the later masterpieces painted by Greek artist Domenicus Theotokopoulos - a Spanish Renaissance painter, sculptor and architect who was better known by the nickname El Greco - is to be exhibited at the Teloglion Foundation of Arts at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki for two months after March 8.

    The painting is a 57 x 79.3 cm oil on canvas of the "Coronation of the Virgin" and dates to what is considered the artist's mature creative period (1603-1605). El Greco painted this as a study for a similar composition commissioned for a chapel in a hospital near Toledo dedicated to the Virgin.

    It was acquired by the 'Alexandros S. Onassis' Foundation in 2008 and is temporarily housed in the National Gallery until the completion of the foundation's 'Home of Arts and Letters' on Syngrou Avenue, where it will eventually be placed on display on a permanent basis, alongside the other works in the Onassis Foundation collection.

    [48] Arcturos project to record brown bears' genetic code

    The non-governmental conservation group Arcturos, involved in protecting Greece's dwindling population of wild brown bears, on Thursday announced that it was launching a programme to record and monitor the bear's genome in Greece.

    A building for this purpose has been supplied by the Stavropolis municipality in the northern Greek prefecture of Xanthi, where scientific staff and the Greek and foreign volunteers working on the project will be housed.

    Under a cooperation memorandum signed with the municipality, Arcturos will also carry out research on the wild fauna of the area, focusing on bears, and activity designed to inform and sensitise the public, action to preserve rare domestic animals and plant varieties, actions to protect the highland forest areas and create footpaths and hiking routes for visitors in the area.

    [49] AIIC conference on interpreters for Greek entrepreneurship

    The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) is organizing its first conference on "Conference Interpreters and their role in promoting Greece, entrepreneurship and multilingualism on March 3 at the Hellenic American Union (HAU) in downtown Athens.

    Topics for discussion will include the importance of high-quality interpretation in political and economic diplomacy, enhancing Greece's visibility at international meetings and the strategic importance of the Greek language in International Organisations, particularly the E.U. whose policy on multilingualism favours a wider use of Greek.

    The conference will emphasise the benefits of employing professional interpreters in an international business context, in conference tourism, international trade fairs, etc.

    It will also discuss professional standards and AIIC rules and questions pertaining to education and vocational training for interpreters.

    Keynote speakers will include Benoit Kremer, President of AIIC, Olga Cosmidou, Director-General of Interpretation and Conferences at the European Parliament, Ambassador Constantine Bitsios, Persephone Pouliou, representing the Directorate General for Interpretation at the European Commission and Panayotis Podimatas, Vice-President of the Hellenic Association of Professional Congress Organizers (HAPCO).

    Finally, the aim is to help draw up a strategy to promote the use of the Greek language and increase its appeal as a means of verbal communication, to support Greece's language-related and cultural industries (tourism, publishing, language teaching, terminology resources, Greek cinema, literature, etc.), thereby enhancing the nation's prestige.

    Entry is free of charge and simultaneous interpretation will be provided in French and Greek.

    [50] Fugitives arrested on Rhodes

    The two Albanian covicts who escaped from the a police station lock-up facility on the island of Rhodes after sawing off the bars of a bathroom window on February 9, were spotted in the house of a fellow Albanian in the village of Lardos. According to police the two men, aged 28 and 20, had in the last days been hiding in forestal areas.

    The two fugitives will be led on Thursday before the local prosecutor, while the man who hid them is wanted.

    [51] Police solve murder of Bangladeshi in Ilion

    Attica police announced on Thursday the arrest of four men from Bangladesh, who have been charged for the murder of a 22-year-old compatriot whose body was found on January 25 in a park at the western Athens suburb of Ilion.

    The four men, aged 26,45,40 and 42 -- two of whome were arrested in Athens and the other two in Manolada, Ileia prefecture, southern Greece -- said that they had financial differences with the victim and spotted him in Ilion, hit him and then strangled him with a scarf. They took him his cell phone and his documents to avoid being recognised, and afterwards transferred the body to the park and covered it with grass at the spot where it was discovered.

    The suspects were sent before a prosecutor.

    [52] Police intervene in attack at AUTH, administration building occupied

    Security police special forces intervened Wednesday night at Thessaloniki's Aristotle University (AUTH) after an attack by a group of non-university individuals who stormed the AUTH compound after destroying the campus' entrance gates.

    A group of some 30 individuals carrying a portable power generator and electric hack saws threatened the guard at the gate and destroyed the bars at the university's main entrance on Aghiou Dimitriou street, followed by the entrance on Egnatia street.

    The group attempted to enter the university's administration building, but was averted by the special forces and forced to retreat outside the campus. A second group, however, raided the administration building after the special forces left, and have occupied the building.

    AUTH rector Anastasios Manthos explained to ANA-MPA that intervention by security forces no longer requires a previous decision by the Deans' Council, given the existence of two unanimous decisions of the Senate (June 2008 and December 2009) which provide for immediate protection of the university's personnel and infrastructures by state forces if the latter are under threat or attack, and when destruction of university property is attempted.

    Manthos stressed that university asylum pertains to protection of the free dissemination of ideas, and not destruction.

    As for the take-over of the administration building, he explained that the act is a misdemeanor and thus no intervention is foreseen.

    [53] Five arrests for minor incidents in Wednesday's strike demonstration

    Five protesters were arrested during minor clashes in downtown Athens on Wednesday involving demonstrators participating in the nationwide 24-hour labor strike and police. Roughly 25,000 people participated in the protest march organized by public and private sector unions, ADEDY and GSEE, according to police figures.

    Teargas was used by police in response to the attacks launched by roughly 300 anti-establishment demonstrators, who had infiltrated the protest march armed with stones, wooden sticks and firebombs.

    The glass facades of a total of 13 stores were smashed and 5 bank ATMs were destroyed, while 23 police officers were injured and received first aid in nearby hospitals.

    [54] Police preventive measures in Aghios Panteleimonas, Athens

    Twenty nine people were briefly detained and one of them was arrested on Wednesday afternoon within the framework of police preventive action aimed at averting the likelihood of violence as a result of two demonstrations by opposing groups of people scheduled to take place at the same time in the district of Aghios Panteleimonas, downtown Athens.

    A demonstration was scheduled for 7 pm on Wednesday afternoon in Ameriki Square by members of a movement formed by local people in favor of a non-ghetto identity for the district, against the proposed draft law on migration and in favor of a referendum on the issue. An hour earlier, anti-establishment demonstrators were scheduled to hold a counterdemonstration.

    [55] Three Bulgarian nationals arrested on burglary charges

    Police in the northern Greek city of Xanthi have arrested three Bulgarian nationals, including one woman, on charges of burglary.

    The three are suspected of forming a ring of cat burglars that broke into people's homes, taking money, jewellery, electronic goods and other items of value.

    The 28-year-old Bulgarian woman and her two accomplices, aged 35 and 37, face charges for a series of break-ins in the prefectures of Xanthi, Serres, Thessaloniki and Thesprotia.

    A 29-year-old Greek national has also been charged with receiving the stolen goods.

    Weather Forecast

    [56] Cloudy, rainy on Friday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 18C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 18C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 15C.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [57] US administration does not ascribe to Turkish positions

    WASHINGTON (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday at the Senate that ''we strongly support the continuing negotiations under UN auspices for a bizonal, bicommunal resolution on Cyprus,'' and noted that the US did not ascribe to Turkish positions.

    Clinton was replying to a question by US Senator for New Jersey Robert Menendez concerning statements by US Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey in a newspaper interview that Turkey has ''security concerns on Cyprus''.

    She noted that the ''we have been heartened by some of the intense consultations'' between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot leadership, noting however that ''there is a long way to go.''

    ''And I think that, I can't speak for our Ambassador, but I assume that he was stating the opinion of the Turkish government. That is something that we do not ascribe to, because we want to see the entire Cyprus situation resolved, but we certainly understand that is the stated position of the Turkish government, not the American government,'' she added.

    [58] US Secretary of State: We do not endorse Turkish positions on Cyprus

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated again on Thursday that the views expressed by US Ambassador in Turkey regarding the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus reflect Turkish positions, adding that these positions are not adopted by the US government.

    Responding to a question by the Democrat Congressman of New York Michael McMahon, during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs

    Committee, Clinton said that "in regards to what the ambassador said, it's my understanding that he was reflecting the Turkish feeling, not that we endorse it, ascribe to it or support it".

    "But that what the Turkish position is. Whether you agree with it or not they view a continuing security interest," she added, noting that "we are working to support the UN process of mediation to try to get a resolution in Cyprus between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots".

    Clinton said that "some progress has been made", adding that "there have been intensive negotiations over the last six weeks, but a lot more needs to be done".

    US Ámbassador in Turkey had said that ''Turkey is a peaceful country, it doesn't invade its neighbors and it has security concerns in Cyprus.''

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008 with a view to reach a settlement of the question of Cyprus, divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.

    [59] Queen of Spain to visit Cyprus

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The Queen of Spain Sofia will visit Cyprus, at the initiative of Nicosia Municipality and the Pierides Foundation.

    She will attend the opening of the exhibition "Miro of Majocra" of the great Spanish artist Joan Miro at Nicosia Municipal Art Centre, on March 10 in the presence of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias.

    The exhibition is organized by Nicosia Municipal Art Centre, the Pierides Foundation, the Cultural Services of Education and Culture, the Pilar i

    Joan Miro Foundation of Mallorca and the Telloglio Institution and Fine Arts Foundation of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in cooperation with the Government of Spain, the Spanish Organization for the Promotion of Spanish Cultural Actions Abroad (SEACEX) and that support of Cyprus Tourist Organization and it will last until May 30.

    The exhibition is presented in the framework of the EU Spanish Presidency and the Spanish government is devoted on the 50th anniversary of the Republic of Cyprus.

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