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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-03-18

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

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

Thursday, 18 March 2010 Issue No: 3446

CONTENTS

  • [01] Barroso says economic situation in Greece changes
  • [02] Government on taxation measures and IMF
  • [03] Alternate FM briefs Parliament com't
  • [04] ND accuses government of party bias, unfair taxes
  • [05] ND walks out of debate on bill for public-sector managers
  • [06] LA.OS leader: IMF recourse inevitable
  • [07] Cyprus President due in Athens on Thursday
  • [08] President receives congratulations on re-election at formal ceremony
  • [09] Parliament president proposes revision of Parliamentary rules
  • [10] US Assistant Secretary on Cyprus and Halki Seminary
  • [11] Turkish radars harass Coastguard helicopter
  • [12] Draft bill on deregulating services sector
  • [13] Programme to improve home energy efficiency unveiled
  • [14] Deputy Tourism Minister Gerekou inaugurates tourist exhibition in Moscow
  • [15] P. Petropoulos reports lower 2009 results
  • [16] Handful of regions to defy gas station strike
  • [17] Greek hotels to offer better prices to domestic visitors
  • [18] Stocks end 1.09% lower
  • [19] Greek bond market closing report
  • [20] ADEX closing report
  • [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [22] Cross-border Contact Center to open at Greek-Bulgarian frontier at Promachonas
  • [23] Letter on human rights by CoE commissioner
  • [24] Three identified as trade unionist's attackers
  • [25] Places of Exile, a look at the past through the photographer's lens today
  • [26] Athens Fringe Festival for second year in June
  • [27] Photography exhibition on New Yorkers in Athens
  • [28] 22 kilos of hashish confiscated
  • [29] Extended hours for Delphi archaeological site
  • [30] Baghdatis beats Federer in Indian Wells
  • [31] Cloudy on Thursday
  • [32] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Barroso says economic situation in Greece changes

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/G. Milionis)

    European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, speaking after his meeting with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou here on Wednesdaay afternoon, said that the economic situation in Greece has changed compared to what was happening a few weeks ago, due to the great efforts of the government and of Prime Minister George Papandreou, and the country is on the path enabling it to achieve the decrease in its deficit by 4 percentage units in 2010.

    Barroso said that there is no viable social prospect -for whatever country- with an increased public debt, while sending a message to the Greek people he said that the effort was necessary, not because Brussels wants it, Europe and the markets, but because their future is secured in this way.

    The Commission president said that the governments in the eurozone have agreed to help Greece in a clear way, if necessary, adding that the Commission is cooperating with these governments for the creation of the necessary mechanism.

    Barroso added that Papandreou had said that Greece did not need economic support at the moment, adding that the crisis required coordination with the eurozone and reiterating that the Greek prime minister was working day and night and the situation has started to improve.

    On his part, Papandreou said that Greece has fulfilled its obligations fully and stressed that the Stability and Growth Programme is ahead of the timetable since measures, whose taking had been predicted for May, have already been ratified, while reforms such as in social security have forged ahead.

    "We requested political support which was given, but at the same time we are borrowing with irrational interest rates and in this way a moral issue is also raised," Papandreou said, adding that "when you ask from one to cut back from his salary, whatever money is lost due to the interest rates."

    The Greek prime minister also said in his statements that all this crisis constitutes at the same time an opportunity for the eurozone as well.

    Replying to questions on Greece possibly resorting to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Papandreou said that Greece took difficult decisions, showing its credibility at the same time, adding that "if the issue is for us to borrow very expensively, there are possibilities which we do not rule out."

    "We would prefer a European solution and we expect that this solution will take place," Papandreou stressed.

    Replying to the same question, Barroso said that the governments of the eurozone have said that they would support Greece if needed, and reiterated that the Greek prime minister did not request such a thing adding that the Commission was ready to coordinate the corresponding mechanism.

    Barroso also said that the EU is cooperating with the IMF, while stressing determination for a solution in the European framework.

    Papandreou further said that with a European solution Greece will show that it is the first country that will create a stronger economic governance, something that would also help the coordination of the eurozone.

    Regarding references by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the expulsion of countries from the eurozone, the Greek prime minister made it clear that Greece will not leave the eurozone, nor for "legal" reasons, and in addition "because now we are putting the economy in order".

    Papandreou said that the creation of apparatuses that will be useful in the future for support, if necessary, should be discussed as well as the monitoring of economies, but stressed that this concerns the future and possibly requires changes in conditions which, as he said, are in favour of changes, expressing his satisfaction that on the occasion of Greece the opportunity is being given for the coordination of the eurozone but, lastly, stressing that "now we are discussing how Greece will advance towards a viable path."

    [02] Government on taxation measures and IMF

    The government is making decisions necessary for the sustainability of Greece's economy and reforming the tax system so as to curb rampant tax evasion, government spokesman George Petalotis said on Wednesday.

    "We are proceeding to reform the taxation plan of the country, on a fairer and more proportional basis, placing under the microscope the scourge of tax evasion, which truly wrongs honest citizens," Petalotis said.

    He also made it clear that the measures required every kind of business to install cash registers from this year, including petrol stations and taxi drivers. The spokesman defended the draft tax bill, saying that it achieved a high degree of social justice in spite of the difficult economic conditions in the country.

    Regarding regulations for lawyers and doctors, Petalotis said there was still an unresolved debate concerning whether these professions should be made to pay VAT, on a legal level and in terms of EU directives.

    He stressed that the government's initiatives both at home and abroad were preparing the way for Greece to achieve its targets, reduce the deficit and emerge from the present crisis.

    According to Petalotis, there was a shared sense among EU countries that Greece had done what it needed to do for achieving deficit targets.

    He stressed that Prime Minister George Papandreou and the government were pushing hard on the issue of greater economic governance on a European level and the need to create mechanisms that could fill the institutional gap in times of crisis, such as that now faced by Greece.

    The spokesman repeated that the government continued to refer to the IMF as one of the options that existed and appeared confident that the EU would realise the serious role that it played at such crucial moments and that 'Community solidarity' could not exist only in theory.

    He ruled out the possibility that Greece will go bankrupt and stressed that Greece would much prefer a solution within the framework of the EU. He said that the upcoming EU summit this month would be crucial date, at which Greece would see to what extent it had the political support that it hoped and expected for from its EU partners.

    In terms of the political cost of resorting to the IMF, Petalotis noted that the priority was to save the Greek economy and the public interest. Regarding the repercussions of such a move for the Eurozone, the spokesman admitted that these would not be good.

    [03] Alternate FM briefs Parliament com't

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Wednesday briefed members of Parliament's foreign and European relations committee on institutional reforms regarding the Lisbon Treaty, although he spoke extensively on the subject of Greece's ongoing debt crisis and efforts for a Pan-European stance.

    "It is now our partners' turn to provide Greece with specific support, with specific decisions and solidarity, as it (Greece) has implemented, far and above, what is necessary to deal with the economic crisis," he said.

    Additionally, he referred to a "deficit" in terms of a common EU political policy, as well as a lack of solidarity amongst EU member-states.

    "I had the opportunity to stress this point, about a lack of solidarity, during the meetings I had with many of my counterparts from EU member-states ... Greece, which is going through an economic crisis, can be the catalyst for a real EMU. It is an opportunity to implement all the changes both in the EU and our country," he added.

    [04] ND accuses government of party bias, unfair taxes

    In a stinging attack on the government on Wednesday, main opposition New Democracy spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos accused it of deviating onto a narrow path of party bigotry with its draft bill on the selection of state sector managerial staff.

    Panagiotopoulos said his party had walked out of Parliament during the debate on this bill because it discerned an effort by ruling PASOK for a party take over in the public sector and accused the government of "having learned nothing from PASOK's mistakes in the past."

    Commenting on a trip by ND leader Antonis Samaras to Brussels and his participation in a meeting of European People's Party (EPP) finance ministers, the spokesman stressed that Samaras had outlined his views and the various parameters of the problems in Greece and asked euro-area finance ministers to help find a solution within the framework of Europe.

    ND's leader has asked for guarantees so that Greece can borrow at a reasonable rate, the spokesman added.

    He announced that Samaras had been invited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to be one of the main speakers at the EPP summit on March 25.

    The spokesman was also strongly critical of the tax measures unveiled by the government, talking of an "unprecedented tax raid" that targeted small-to-medium property ownership and the middle class, as well as the delay in bringing the tax bill to Parliament.

    [05] ND walks out of debate on bill for public-sector managers

    The interior ministry's bill on appointing managerial staff in the public sector was passed on Wednesday, following a stormy session in Parliament that culminated in a walk-out by main opposition New Democracy.

    The main opposition opposed the bill on the grounds that it opened the way for party bias in the appointment of senior public-sector staff. Among other accusations of political bias traded before the plenum was a barb that the present government had signed for the release from prison of drug dealers that were "friends" of PASOK, that drew an angry response from Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis, who demanded that this claim be retracted.

    The bill was finally voted on in principle and on individual articles by ruling PASOK and the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, after the addition of two amendments establishing a one-year transitional period until the special council for selecting managerial staff was set up and another concerning decisions by the premier.

    [06] LA.OS leader: IMF recourse inevitable

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) president George Karatzaferis on Wednesday again expressed his opinion that the country will eventually have to seek recourse to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), "because the system will not be able to deal with the crisis".

    He also opined that whatever conditions set out by the IMF will not be stricter than those set by the eurozone's major powers.

    "Up until now we have only received best wishes from Europe. Therefore, may we need to stop this policy, which he termed as masochistic.

    Finally, referring to internal developments in main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, Karatzaferis ridiculed any notion of a recent "catharsis", referring instead to governance by a "rabble".

    [07] Cyprus President due in Athens on Thursday

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias is due in Athens on Thursday for a four-day visit during which he will hold talks with prime minister George Papandreou, while he will also be awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Patras University in the western port city.

    Christofias, who will arrive in Athens from Larnaca International Airport on Thursday evening, will meet with Papandreou the following morning.

    Later Friday, Christofias will go to Patras where he will be presented with the title of Honorary Doctor of the Department of Primary Education of the University of Patras.

    On Saturday, he will return to Athens to inaugurate the new premises of the Embassy of Cyprus at Xenofontos Street and attend a reception.

    The Cypriot President will depart from Athens for Hania, Crete later in the afternoon to attend on Sunday a memorial and political service of Eleftherios and Sofoklis Venizelos where he will also give a speech.

    President Christofias will return to Cyprus on Sunday evening.

    [08] President receives congratulations on re-election at formal ceremony

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received the congratulations of Greek and foreign dignitaries on his re-election to the country's top office, during a formal ceremony on Wednesday at the Presidential Mansion.

    Prime minister George Papandreou, who is in Brussels, was represented by government vice president Theodoros Pangalos, while the President also received the congratulations of parliament president Philippos Petsalnikos, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) leader Alexis Tsipras, former Presidents Christos Sartzetakis and Costis Stefanopoulos, former prime ministers Constantine Mitsotakis and Ioannis Grivas, ministers, MPs, foreign ambassadors, and representatives of the country's military and Church leadership.

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga was absent from the ceremony due to unexpected circumstances, according to a party announcement.

    Replying to press questions after the ceremony, Papoulias expressed optimism for a positive outcome at the upcoming EU Summit with respect to the Greek Stabilisation and Development plan.

    Asked if he discerned political will among Greece's EU partners to set up a support mechanism for the country, Papoulias noted that, keeping abreast with the German press, he felt that such a will does exist.

    He stressed, however, that the problem is not just a Greek one, but a European problem that could sweep Greece and other member countries in its wake.

    [09] Parliament president proposes revision of Parliamentary rules

    Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos on Wednesday revealed plans to revise Parliament regulations, saying that this would seek to improve the quality of legislative production, ensure meaningful Parliamentary control and circumvent possible conflicts in Parliamentary procedure.

    He was speaking at a conference on the "Present and Future of the Greek Parliament; Constitutional and Political Dimensions".

    Petsalnikos said that Greek MPs were currently undergoing a period of crisis, in which the faith of citizens in politicians had been severely shaken and not always unjustly.

    "Citizens are expressing their discontent over incidents of corruption that are revealed at intervals," he said, noting the need to restore people's faith in their representatives.

    Among the changes he proposed included a period of public debate before a bill was drafted, enriching bills with data that justified and supported the proposed measures, double reading of bills and avoiding abuse of provisions in the Constitution and Parliamentary regulations for passing emergency legislation, such as amendments.

    [10] US Assistant Secretary on Cyprus and Halki Seminary

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis/CNA)

    US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon has said that United States continues to encourage the negotiations held between the two communities in Cyprus under the auspices of the UN Secretary General.

    Speaking at the Brookings Institution, in Washington on Tuesday, he said that a regional issue where Turkey can play a productive role is Cyprus.

    "The United States continues to encourage the negotiations between the two communities under the auspices of the UN Secretary General. Turkey and Greece can also play constructive roles in helping the Cypriot parties toward a lasting solution to their differences", he said.

    Gordon said that the US commend both Cypriot leaders for their efforts and urge them to seize this window of opportunity to pursue negotiations leading to a settlement that reunifies Cyprus into a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation.

    He expressed the view that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent and "very constructive comments to the Cypriot press endorsing such a solution were very welcome and should help bring this outcome about".

    The US official noted that the US welcomes as well "the positive dynamic in the relationship between the Turkish and Greek Prime

    Ministers - something that Greek Prime Minister Papandreou, who was just on this stage, spoke about when he was in Washington last week".

    Referring to Turkey's EU course, he said that the United States continues to strongly support Turkish accession and urges Turkey to continue the democratic and political reforms necessary to complete the membership process.

    "Further progress on promoting human rights and religious freedom, including important steps like reopening the Halki Seminary, will move Turkey's EU prospects forward", he added.

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008 with a view to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.

    [11] Turkish radars harass Coastguard helicopter

    A Greek Coastguard helicopter was electronically harassed three times on Wednesday morning by Turkish radars, as it was carrying out an airborne patrol in the region between Symi and Farmakonissi islands in the context of the FRONTEX cooperation.

    The Dauphin-type helicopter, which was carrying out its first airborne monitoring mission, was flying at an altitude of 3,400 feet with the National Defence General Staff (GEETHA) aerial direction finder recorded three Turkish radar transmissions warning the helicopter's crew that it was allegedly flying inside the Turkish Flight Information Region (FIR), although at the time the helicopter was flying over the Datsa area, which is inside Greek airspace.

    According to the Harbor Corps headquarters, the foreign ministry was immediately informed of the incident.

    The helicopter returned to its base on the island of Cos shortly afterwards, at 9:34 a.m., after completing its patrol mission.

    The mission of the Dauphin, which had been grounded for several years, is chiefly round-the-clock surveillance , as it is equipped with a thermal camera.

    Financial News

    [12] Draft bill on deregulating services sector

    Greece's Finance ministry on Wednesday tabled in Parliament a draft bill aimed at adapting Greek legislation to community directives on the operation of the service sector in the Internal Market.

    A finance ministry announcement said the integration of the community directive offered the possibility for stronger growth in the services sector and creating new job positions.

    The draft bill also envisages the introduction of incentives to be offered to financial institutions in the country for exiting a government-sponsored program to support liquidity in the financial system during the crisis, as soon as conditions in the system allowed it. It also envisages extending deadlines of a program aimed to boost liquidity in the economy and expanding a ban on banks - participating in the program - to pay dividends to their shareholders.

    [13] Programme to improve home energy efficiency unveiled

    The environment ministry on Wednesday unveiled a programme for loans, subsidies and tax relief for home improvements to increase the energy efficiency of buildings.

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili said the programme is scheduled to begin in June and will have a total budget of 200 million euros. There are strict eligibility criteria for those seeking direct subsidies or loans with subsidised interest rates, which are only open to buildings used as a primary residence with construction permits issued before 1980 in areas with a zone price under 1500 euros per square metre, in addition to income criteria.

    Of more relevance to the majority of home-owners is the tax-relief offered for the cost of work to improve building energy efficiency, which is available regardless of income and zone prices. After consultation with the finance ministry, this has been increased to 30 percent (from 20 percent until recently) up to a limit of 2,500 euros (previously 700 euros).

    Birbili said that up to 100,000 homes are expected to make use of the programme throughout the country, generating energy savings in excess of one billion kW. As an example, she said that a detached house of 100 square metres in northern Greece is expected to have savings in heating and cooling bills approaching 1,500 euros a year.

    Under the programme, home owners eligible for loans with subsidised interest rates are single-person households with an annual income of 30,000 euros or families with an annual income of 50,000 euros. The subsidy will be for 5 percentage points and the ministry is currently collaborating with banks to ensure that these loans are essentially interest-free.

    Direct subsidies will amount to 30 percent of the cost of the work done and eligibility will again depend on income criteria. For detached homes, the limit is 15,000 euros annual income for single-person households and 25,000 euros a year for families. For apartment buildings at least half the owners of the building must have either 30,000 euros annual income if they are single or 50,000 euros income for a family.

    The kind of work subsidised under the programme includes thermal insulation of the roof, shell and any rooftop structures, replacement of old boilers and burners with newer natural gas or oil burners, and the installation of double glazing, pipe insulation, shades and solar-powered water heaters.

    The ministry will set a maximum price for category of work and carry out inspections to avoid incidents of inflated invoices.

    Applications for funding under the programme will be submitted to banks and must be accompanied by an energy-efficiency inspection certificate that places the home into an energy category and recommends improvements. Applications will then be assessed by the ministry based on the degree of energy savings made.

    [14] Deputy Tourism Minister Gerekou inaugurates tourist exhibition in Moscow

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)

    Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou carried out the inauguration of the big Moscow tourist exhibition MITT-2010 on Wednesday, in which Greece is the theme country, together with representatives of the federal government and the Municipality of Moscow.

    "We are aiming at making Greece a destination for the whole year and not only for the summer months. And with this thought, we are creating continuously new 'reasons' for one to visit our country," Gerekou said in her address, terming the crisis "an opportunity that we have to turn a page towards the future."

    The deputy minister inaugurated the pavilion of the Greek Tourist Organisation EOT at the exhibition, stressing with her presence that "for this year in particular Greece constitutes for Russia an even more attractive destination.

    Referring to the visa issue, Gerekou said that very soon the Greek government will be in a position to announce specific facilities regarding the provision of visas, starting from the issuing of at least six-month visas to Russian citizens, according to the models of Spain.

    Many Russian travel agents specialising in Greece assess that initial bookings show an upward trend of up to 30 percent on average, a fact considered encouraging to stem last year's decrease in tourists from Russia and for the share secured by Greece from the Russian market to start recovering again.

    [15] P. Petropoulos reports lower 2009 results

    Petros Petropoulos AEBE on Wednesday reported a 54 pct fall in its after tax profits to 2.1 million euros in 2009, from 4.5 million euros in 2008 and said its EBITDA shrank to 5.4 million euros from 9.4 million euros over the same periods, respectively.

    Sales fell 26 pct to 83 million euros last year, while earnings per share -after taxes- were 0.30 euros per share. The company said its main markets suffered an average 35 pct drop.

    [16] Handful of regions to defy gas station strike

    A nationwide strike on Thursday by gas station owners will apparently not include vendors in Crete and the prefectures of Thessaloniki and Grevena, as the petrol station owners' federation appears divided in two. Meanwhile, taxi drivers in the greater Athens area are also set to hold a 24-hour strike on Thursday.

    A demand by both sectors, according to reports, is overturn a decision whereby petrol stations and taxi drivers will be obliged to issue receipts to customers.

    [17] Greek hotels to offer better prices to domestic visitors

    The Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers on Wednesday urged its members to adopt a flexible and attractive pricing policy towards the Greek visitor in order to sustain their viability, as Greek consumers were expected to significantly cut holiday spending this year.

    In a statement, the Federation said domestic tourism was a big challenge for the sector as it accounted for more than 20 pct of hotels' total income. "The aim is to offer Greek visitors the prices offered to foreign visitors," it stressed.

    The Federation also urged its members to avoid any general discount to tour operators in the form of early booking after March 2010, since tour operators' prices in the country's hotels have fallen to 2002-2003 levels. It also said that higher taxes would be absorbed by hotels and will not be rolled over to the final consumer. The Federation said bookings so far were down 10 pct compared with 2009, but noted that it expected this trend to gradually change during the year.

    [18] Stocks end 1.09% lower

    Stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 2,100 level. The index fell 1.09 pct to end at 2,089.71 points, with turnover rising to 231.347 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 1.68 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.22 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.86 pct off. The Food (3.24 pct) and Utilities (2.78 pct) sectors scored gains, while Health (6.15 pct) and Telecommunications (3.83 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Q&R (10 pct), Alsinco (9.76 pct), Galaxidi (8.57 pct), Spider (8.33 pct) and Alma-Atermon (7.69 pct) were top gainers, while Technical Publications (16.33 pct), Xylemporia (10 pct), Yalco (9.76 pct) and Alapis (8.51 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 102 to 72 with another 60 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.61%

    Industrials: -0.25%

    Commercial: +0.08%

    Construction: -2.18%

    Media: +0.68%

    Oil & Gas: -0.60%

    Personal & Household: -0.25%

    Raw Materials: -0.73%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.08%

    Technology: -0.06%

    Telecoms: -3.83%

    Banks: -2.59%

    Food & Beverages: +3.24%

    Health: -6.15%

    Utilities: +3.78%

    Chemicals: -1.00%

    Financial Services: -1.37%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 7.08

    ATEbank: 1.68

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.98

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.05

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.35

    National Bank of Greece: 15.63

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.51

    Intralot: 3.45

    OPAP: 16.83

    OTE: 9.04

    Bank of Piraeus: 6.42

    Titan: 19.77

    [19] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 302 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.12 pct and the German Bund 3.10 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 1.489 billion euors, of which 793 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 696 million were sell orders. The five-year bond (August 20, 2015) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 455 million euros.

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

    [20] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.25 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 244.718 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 42,086 contracts worth 220.534 million euros, with 36,514 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 33,245 contracts worth 24.189 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,087), followed by Eurobank (1,916), MIG (2,777), OTE (2,385), Piraeus Bank (2,633), Hellenic Bottling (1,198), Alpha Bank (2,834), Intracom (3,488), Marfin Popular Bank (3,827), Hellenic Postbank (978) and ATEbank (932).

    [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.386

    Pound sterling 0.903

    Danish kroner 7.500

    Swedish kroner 9.818

    Japanese yen 125.43

    Swiss franc 1.462

    Norwegian kroner 8.074

    Canadian dollar 1.401

    Australian dollar 1.501

    General News

    [22] Cross-border Contact Center to open at Greek-Bulgarian frontier at Promachonas

    A cross-border Contact Center, a pioneer service of the police forces of Greece and Bulgaria, will be inaugurated on Friday at the Promachonas border station in Serres, opposite the Kulata border station on the Bulgarian side.

    The inter-state cross-border agreement for the establishment of a joint Contact Center with shared facilities on the Greek side of the border for a "one-stop border control" was signed in April 2008 by then deputy interior minister Panayiotis Hinofotis with then Bulgarian interior minister Mihail Mikov in Sofia, at the meeting of SEECP justice and internal affairs ministers, aimed at the creation of a joint contact center for the coordination of crime-fighting actions and the conduction of joint border controls.

    The Contact Center is housed at Promachonas, where police and customs officials from both countries will cooperate on a 24-hour basis and exchange information on such issues as illegal migration, smuggling, people trafficking, narcotics and weapons trafficking, money and travel document forgery, and stolen vehicles smuggling.

    The purpose of the pioneer Contact Center is chiefly to curb cross-border crime, which has increased sharply in recent years following the facilitation of border crossing with the simple display of a police identity card.

    The inauguration will be attended by citizens' protection minister Michalis Chryssohoidis, while the Bulgarian interior minister is also expected to attend.

    [23] Letter on human rights by CoE commissioner

    Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg referred to a new "approach" to hospitality for migrants in Greece.

    The commissioner made the ascertainment in a letter addressed to Citizens Protection Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis, with whom he met and held talks with at the Council of Europe last month, talks dealing with the protection of human rights in Greece.

    Hammarberg praised Chryssohoidis's will to promote substantive changes, as he said, in the protection of human rights and stressed that the first steps are being taken for the fair and speedy procedure for providing asylum.

    On March 18, Chryssohoidis will be presenting to Europol director Rob Wayne Right the Citizen's Protection ministry's new anticriminal policy and will be discussing the new framework of cooperation with Europol on combatting organised crime and illegal immigration.

    [24] Three identified as trade unionist's attackers

    Police on Wednesday announced that they have identified three men that attacked trade unionist Yiannis Panagopoulos - the president of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) - during a protest rally outside Parliament on March 5.

    Panagopoulos, who leads the country's largest umbrella trade union federation representing private-sector workers, had yoghurts flung at him and then came to blows with men that emerged from the crowd during the rally.

    Authorities said that they have positively identified two private-sector employees aged 33 and 37, respectively, and a 32-year-old student for the attack. All three have a history of prior arrests for violence during demonstrations.

    The three men were identified from video footage recording the attack on the trade unionist and recognised as the culprits by Panagopoulos.

    Charges have been drawn up against them and sent to a public prosecutor.

    [25] Places of Exile, a look at the past through the photographer's lens today

    A look at the past, through a collection of haunting present-day photographs of the sites of exile for political prisoners during the 20th century in Greece, have been captured by the camera lenses of photo-journalists Orestis Panagiotou and Leonidas Dimakopoulos in a book titled "Places of Exile - A Glance Today" that has just been released.

    The photo essay, published by Alexandria publications, is a poignant journey in tribute to the tribulations suffered by political exiles in the wastelands of humanity in the troubled years of the 1950s, after the civil war in Greece, and in the late 1960s and early 1970s during the military junta.

    Panagiotou and Dimakopoulos spent five years photographing these barren Places of Exile where political prisoners were exiled, tortured and executed, such as Gyaros, Makronissos, the prisons of Egina, Corfu, Leros, Ai Stratis and Ikaria islands.

    The sojourn was a singular pilgrimage "to a different Aegean, there where our fathers and forefathers lived the best and the most tortured years of their lives, places haunted by their cries, their agony, their dreams, nostalgia, and those who were left behind", as the photo-journalists say in their prologue.

    The 139-page book contains 90 haunting photographs, accompanied by explanatory texts.

    Professor of Architecture Stavros Stavridis writes: "In this silent theater, on this suspended stage where nothing takes place, the drama is played of exile and imprisonment as that which they actually are. A devastation, a suspension of time, a condition of banishment and exilement which, for many, became an entire life. Before the past is lost, we must ponder on it. These photographs invite us to look, and to think. Not because we need to finally be done with it. But because knowledge and cognition are needed to provide us with a thinking that delves deeper and deeper to there where real people lived real lives".

    The book was presented Monday evening at the Museum of Democratic Resistance against the Dictatorship in Athens, formerly the EAT-ESA museum, in the building that once housed the Greek Military Police's (ESA) Special Interrogation Unit (EAT).

    [26] Athens Fringe Festival for second year in June

    Athens' own Fringe Festival, modeled after that of Edinburgh, is set to kick off in the Technopolis arts centre in Gazi on June 16-20 for the second consecutive year with the banner "Athens Belongs to Us".

    The head of organisers Synthesis, George Neris, stressed that the aim of the festival was to bring together artists and marginal groups, whether professional or amateurs, a chance to present their work.

    "The organisation works like a connective network for all creative cells in the city," Neris said.

    The previous summer, the first Fringe Festival had featured 180 groups and a total of 800 artists and activists that attracted large audiences at 10 euros a ticket, of which 20 percent was paid to the artists.

    Already signed up for this year's festival are a street opera troupe performing Carmen and La Traviata, a workshop making hand-made books from recycled paper and a school theatre competition. The full programme will feature bar poets, concerts in galleries, dance lessons, juggling, photography and film festivals and a White Night in Athens shops.

    The Fringe Festival is taking place under the aegis of the culture and tourism ministry, the foreign ministry and the Athens Municipality, which is also providing the Technopolis arts centre.

    [27] Photography exhibition on New Yorkers in Athens

    A photography exhibition entitled 'Hope, Dreams and Hard Times' and based on the work of Greek photographer Alexandros Lambrovasilis and journalist Achilleas Peklaris in New York will open at the Benaki Museum on Pireos Street on March 24.

    The exhibition features the portraits of 150 New Yorkers of different racial, social and professional backgrounds, along with interviews taken by Peklaris asking their opinion on three different issues: the election of the first African American president, the economic collapse and New York in the wake of the attack of September 11, 2001.

    In putting together the exhibit, Lambrovasilis and Peklaris strove to reflect the city's demographic profile, choosing a variety of professions and lifestyles and a sample that is 35 percent Caucasian, 27 percent Latin American, 25 percent African American and 13 percent Asian.

    The exhibition will run until April 18.

    [28] 22 kilos of hashish confiscated

    Three foreign nationals were arrested on Wednesday in Thessaloniki, in possession of 22 kilos of hashish. According to Thessaloniki police, the two 22-year-old Albanians and the 28-year-old Albanian intended to sell the hashish to drug addicts.

    [29] Extended hours for Delphi archaeological site

    The archaeological site of Delphi will be open daily from 7:30am to 7:00 pm. The extended hours will be in effect until April 30.

    The Delphi Museum is open daily from 8:30am to 3:00pm.

    Tennis

    [30] Baghdatis beats Federer in Indian Wells

    Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus early Wednesday (Greek time) beat world top-ranked Roger Federer of Switzerland 2-1 sets in the third round of the first tennis tournament of the Masters 1000 series in Indian Wells, California. It was Baghdatis first victory over the reigning Federer in seven meetings.

    Baghdatis, who ranks 33rd in the world, lost the first set 7-5, but bounced back with a 7-5 win in the second set and won the third set 7-6 and 7-4 in the tie break, in a match that lasted two hours and twenty two minutes, in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.

    Following his upset win against the 16-time Grand Slam winner Federer, Marcos Baghdatis will next play with no. 23 in the world Tommy Robredo in the fourth round of the tournament.

    This was Federer's second loss in 13 matches this year, in his first tournament since winning his 16th Grand Slam title at the Australia Open in January.

    Weather Forecast

    [31] Cloudy on Thursday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 0C and 17C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 5C to 16C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 14C.

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

    The Eurogroup and Ecofin meetings and the issue of economic support to Greece through voluntary bilateral lending by the eurozone member states, the possibility of the government resorting to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the changes in the new tax bill tabled in parliament, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The new social security system arrives, amidst mass retirements by civil servants".

    APOGEVMATINI: "250,000 employees in public sector submit retirement applications - The new social security reform is the cause for the mass exodus".

    AVGHI: "Government is begging the EU and toying with the IMF - It is doubtful whether Euro-assistance to Greece will be decided at next week's EU Summit ".

    AVRIANI: "Ultimatum to Brussels for help - The loan 'soap opera' and the mockery will end soon".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Panic! 250,000 civil servants take early retirement - Mass exodus from public sector and DEKO (Public Utilities and organisations) due to social security reform".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "In the IMF's grips...after Prime Minister George Papandreou's 'triumph' in Europe and the US - Stabs in the back was the result of Papandreou's tour".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "George (Papandreou) raises IMF banner ".

    ESTIA: "The new taxes are preposterous".

    ETHNOS: "Hasty changes to social security system - Brussels' pressure for immediate equalisation in retirement ages (for women and men)".

    IMERISSIA: "Cheap loan or else we will go to the IMF - Tough bargaining over the support conditions".

    KATHIMERINI: "The new presumed proof of living status will be discussed on Thursday at the Inner Cabinet meeting".

    LOGOS: "Full speed ahead to the IMF - Papandreou revealed that he has had contacts".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Tough bargaining over the support, with the IMF the trump card".

    NIKI: "Papandreou and government officials leave all prospects open - IMF on the horizon".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Financing from EU or IMF is robbery against the people".

    TA NEA: "The new proof of living standards - What the new tax bill foresees".

    TO VIMA: "Presumed proof of living status on everything -700,000 professionals targeted".

    VRADYNI: "Panic in public sector - The measures force 250,000 civil servants to take early retirement".

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