|Monday, 16 July 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-03-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 19 March 2010 Issue No: 3447
 PM tells Europarliament: Greece prefers European solutionsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/G. Milionis)
Prime minister George Papandreou stressed that Greece is not asking the EU for money, but rather for an "instrument" that can be used, if necessary, in statements to the European Parliament on Thursday morning in Brussels and in a later meeting with the Europarliament's Special (ad hoc) Committee on the Financial, Economic and Social Crisis (set up in October 2009) during the committee's "Public Hearing on European Economic Governance and EU tools for Economic and Social Recovery".
"When you have that 'instrument' in place, it is sufficient to stop the speculation and give the time required for the reforms to yield, given that the high cost of borrowing undermines both the measures taken by the Greek government and the prospects for development," Papandreou told the ad hoc Committee, while he also replied to questions from the Committee's MEP members.
Asked if Greece is seeking a political decision of support at next week's EU Summit, Papandreou said that, from his meeting on Wednesday with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, he is aware that the Commission is prepared to endorse a mechanism, adding that "we are expecting this from the Summit...not only Greece, but other member countries as well, as I surmise from the questions addressed to me today in the European Parliament".
He stressed that this is an opportunity for the eurozone that must not be missed.
European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek agreed with Papandreou's view, stressing that the entire situation also comprises, in tandem, a good opportunity for the eurozone to create mechanisms that will avert crises.
Addressing the Europarliament earlier, Papandreou reiterated that Greece is not asking for money but for the existence of a "mechanism in place" that may be used, if needed. He added that the ability of making use of a loan at the same borrowing interest as the other EU countries (as Greece has requested) would be "sufficient to ensure that the spreads will decline and "the speculators will go away and leave us alone".
Papandreou said that never before in Greece have so many measures been taken in such a short period of time, adding that the majority of the Greek people back the measures. However, he warned, the country's debt will not be reduced if Greece continues to borrow at steep interest rates, "and the sacrifices of the Greek people will be lost if the speculation continues".
The premier further noted that if Greece was not in the eurozone, these measures would have been asked by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), "which would not have asked for more", and stressed that "we are under a basically IMF (International Monetary Fund) program, whether its called that or not", but "we don't have, on the other hand, the facilities that the IMF would give", adding that "we don't want to be in a situation where we have the worst of the IMF...and none of the advantages of the euro".
Here, he said, is where the role of the EU comes in, which can say that it is able to replace the IMF.
"Otherwise, Greece has no choice but to resort to the IMF," Papandreou stressed.
The premier further explained that the measures on their own cannot take Greece out of the crisis, but that there will also be investments.
Replying to another question, Papandreou said that the penalisation and ousting of a member country from the eurozone would mean failure of the EU itself.
To another question, Papandreou ruled out any prospect of Greece defaulting, and also of the circulation of a national currency domestically in tandem with the euro, stressing that Greece prefers "European solutions".
 Rehn spokesman on IMF optionA spokesman for EU Commissioner Olli Rehn stressed here on Thursday that the fact that Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has not ruled out any alternative solution to deal with the country's debt crisis is both "reasonable and cautious".
Spokesman Amadeo Altafaj responded to press questions on the possibility of Greece seeking IMF assistance.
He added that it was only natural for the Greek premier, as the political leader who is responsible for his country's fate, not to rule out any possibility.
 Verhofstadt on Greece, economyBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The Chairman of the Liberals at the European Parliament and former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt termed statements by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the exit of member-states from the eurozone as "unacceptable and annoying".
Speaking in Paris on Thursday evening at the European think tank "Our Europe", - the text has been distributed in Brussels by the Liberals group-, Verhofstadt stressed that "above all these statements are inconceivable since the European solution will be the quickest and less expensive option," stressing that if the European Commission issues a loan for Greece this will not cost even a cent of the euro for anyone.
"Things are so simple but it appears that Mrs. Merkel does no longer desire European solutions," he said, further pointing out that he will continue to propose European solutions since, as he mentioned, he refuses to abandon European solidarity and refuses to abandon Greece.
 Austrian press report on Papandreou, GreeceVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
The Austrian newspaper "Der Standard, following a series of reports in the Austrian press in past weeks regarding developments on debt crisis Greece, published a "portrait" of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, written by its Athens correspondent.
The article details the scope of the severe economic problems facing the country and efforts by the Papandreou government, and the premier himself, to deal with them.
 Papariga: IMF and EU one and the sameCommunist Party of Greece Secretary General Aleka Papariga during her visit to a technical lyceum in the Perama district of Piraeus on Thursday, stressed: "As it has been confirmed in recent years, the dilemma of 'PASOK or New Democracy' is misleading and manufactured. The same holds true for the dilemma 'European Union or International Monetary Fund'."
Papariga added that the people must make a choice between"whether to support the parties of the plutocracy, or redeploy the working class-popular movement to block the government's new antisocial measures and open the way for radical change".
"Not a single euro to the plutocracy," she concluded.
 Karatzaferis calls for resort to IMFPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis on Thursday said he was in favour of Greece resorting to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to secure a loan on better terms and a lower interest rate.
Responding to reporters' questions, the right-wing leader said stressed that every day that Greece put off finding a final and existing solution to the country's economic woes would work against the country.
"And afterwards, we must have a talk from scratch with the EU about its behaviour, as this was expressed, especially by [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel," he added.
In statements to state-run television earlier on Thursday, LAOS's leader said he might propose that Greek consumers boycott German products in response to Germany's stance toward Greece's economic problems.
"Anyone buying German products is seriously harming Greece, in the sense that the meagre income that remains for Greeks is going outside of Greece and depriving our market of cash. They must, at last, understand that there is some form of pressure, since they do not understand that there is need," he said.
According to Karatzaferis, Greece was at war and his party was offering its support so that the country might weather the crisis.
He voiced objections to the taxation of Church property, however, saying he disagreed with the way that this was decided and would have like to see dialogue "to build things from scratch".
Referring to migration issues, the right-wing leader noted that Greece's active population was shrinking drastically in relation to the active population of migrants. He also noted that there was no reason to grant Greek nationality to Albanian nationals, since in a few years they would be able to live in Greece as EU member-state citizens and the creation of an additional 500,000 Greek citizens at a time of crisis would put extraordinary pressure on the unemployment fund.
 PM: tolerance for tax evaders at an endIt is everyone's patriotic duty to contribute to taxes based on their true ability to pay, Prime Minister George Papandreou underlined on Thursday, after a cabinet meeting held to discuss the new draft tax bill presented by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou.
He said the tax reforms outlined by the finance minister were a first, decisive step for the redistribution of income and an end to the favourable regime until recently enjoyed by a privileged few, with radical reforms to curb tax evasion.
The prime minister repeated that Greece is not asking and does not intend to ask for financial assistance from the European Union, nor from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and clarified that going to the IMF would be a choice of last resort.
Papandreou announced that the cabinet will meet again next Tuesday in order to take the final decisions regarding taxes, after the observations and proposals of cabinet members and PASOK MPs had been incorporated into the draft bill.
Commenting on his recent trips abroad and the results of the Eurogroup and ECOFIN councils in Brussels, Papandreou said the message emerging from these had been positive and that Greece expected the European Summit on March 25-26 to give a signal that confirmed Europe's support for Greece.
While in Brussels, he added, he had endeavoured to convey Greek positions and present a positive image of the country, showing that it was not inhabited by an irresponsible people but a population that makes decisions and sticks to them.
He had also stressed that the wager during the current crisis was to find the will and courage to put markets in the service of people and not the other way around, repeating once again that Greece only wants to be able to borrow on reasonable terms and not waste the efforts of the Greek people on loans with excessive interest.
The government was making radical changes and reforms in order to ensure a fair tax system and growth, so that Greece would never arrive at this point again, Papandreou underlined.
"Up until today, the tax system was a tool for reproducing and increasing social injustice. We are ending this cycle," he stressed, noting that all income will henceforth be taxed in the same way and that there would be radical changes to curb tax evasion.
He also underlined that tolerance for those who evaded taxes by those unable to hide their income had been exhausted.
Papandreou ended by pointing out that no other government in the recent history of the country had been obliged to make such important decisions and such radical changes in so short a space of time. He described the work taken on as "titanic" but expressed confidence that "we will succeed".
FinMin presents guidelines of new tax bill to parliamentary standing committees ahead of discussion at Inner Cabinet
Finance minister George Papaconstantinou presented the fundamental principles of the new tax bill to the relevant parliamentary standing committees on Economic Affairs and Production & Trade on Thursday morning, noting that it will change every aspect of the current taxation system in Greece.
The bill will be discussed at an Inner Cabinet meeting chaired by prime minister George Papandreou on Thursday afternoon, after which it will made public. The bill will then be put for approval before the Cabinet on Tuesday, after which it will be tabled in parliament for debate and vote.
Papaconstantinou said that the new bill respects the principles of justice, as everyone will contribute equally, has a redistributive nature, does not burden the low and middle income brackets, is efficient, simple and transparent.
"We listened to what society had to say. More than 15,000 citizens sent us their views on the website that had been set up on the tax bill, while 30 bodies in 10 working groups also participated in the public dialogue," the minister noted.
He said that the tax bill dared substantial changes and would achieve a redistribution of the tax burden without, however, resorting to those who feel that they are permanently shouldering the tax burden.
In his introductory statement, Papaconstantinou further noted that the bill introduces a new, fair taxation scale, will boost tax revenues, and will abolish unjust and irrational tax exemptions while at the same time regulating tax exemptions for vulnerable social groups. It will further introduce a new system of calculation of minimum income.
Papaconstantinou said that state revenues have already started to present an upward course in the first quarter of the year and were within the targets of Greece's Stability and Development program, attributing this development to the actions and initiatives that have been taken by the government.
He said the new tax bill would bring about a "big revolution" since it abolishes gratuitous privileges of the few at the expense of the many.
The new bill also provides for reorganisation of the Special Audit services, aimed at curbing tax evasion.
The bill, Papaconstantinou added, aims to create a just state that does not allow fraud and corruption to exist, even in the state itself.
 President briefed by FinMinPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday was briefed at the presidential mansion by FinMin George Papaconstantinou, with talks expectedly focusing on the ongoing debt crisis plaguing Greece and the government's measures aimed at solutions.
"Greece appeared that it can do things that haven't been done here for years," the minister said.
 ND leader Samaras visiting Thessaloniki, HalkidikiMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras arrived in Thessaloniki on Thursday afternoon and shortly after 7 p.m. visited the party's head office where he met with members of the party's Administrative Committee of the Thessaloniki porefecture.
On Friday morning, Samaras will travel to Halkidiki and at 10:30 he will address the conference of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), and then he will be visiting the Halkidiki Prefecture, the Municipality of Polygyros, the local Chamber of Commerce and a local ND group.
At 6 in the evening, he will be meeting in Thessaloniki with farmers unionists and at 9:30 he will be having a working dinner with representatives of production agencies.
Lastly, on Saturday morning, Samaras will address the party's preliminary congress at the Ioannis Vellidis convention centre.
 FM spokesman on FYROM: Greece continues with positive policy, but sees no reciprocationGreece is following a firm policy on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and sends a positive message of friendship and support to the neighboring people, but is disappointed by the lack of reciprocation on the part of FYROM, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras told a press briefing on Thursday.
"Unfortunately, we have yet to see reciprocation from the other side," he said, adding that "we want the government of Mr. Gruevski (FYROM prime minister) to come to the negotiation with a positive and constructive attitude. We believe that we could immediately reach a solution if the political will exists," the spokesman stressed.
He added that the two peoples can work together, and "I want to believe that there will be a change".
"To date, we have not seen any change but, on the contrary, we see a reticence which I fear will not be able to give the necessary impetus for continuation of the negotiations. Greece will continue with its policy of positive talk, positive initiatives, which we hope will create a more positive climate in our relations," Delavekouras stressed.
The spokesman further noted that prime minister George Papandreou, who also holds the foreign ministry portfolio, immediately after taking office had taken initiatives to meet with the FYROM prime minister on several occasions on the sidelines of fora where both leaders were in attendance, thus creating a "more positive climate for a sincere dialogue".
"The good will exists, on our side," he added.
 FM spokesman responds to press question on Turkish 'activity' in AegeanA foreign ministry spokesman on Thursday was asked about recent Turkish "activity" in the Aegean Sea, where he responded that the issue has been raised with the Turkish foreign ministry.
Speaking at a weekly press briefing, spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras noted that the "activity observed, mainly at sea, is definitely a cause of concern. Relevant statements have been made by the minister of defence and the alternate defence minister."
"We should look at the essence and overcome appearances ... at a time of efforts for the improvement of relations," he said in relation to Turkey's actions.
He also emphasised the fact that the Turkish military activity takes place during a period when talks held within the framework of a steering committee were completed in a good atmosphere, focusing on sectors such as transports, tourism, the economy, energy, environment, agriculture and natural disasters management.
Delavekouras said that "the alternate minister will visit Ankara in this spirit, most likely before the end of March."
 Former Irish PM FitzGerald on EU crisesFormer Irish prime minister and veteran political analyst Garret FitzGerald referred to what he called three interrelated crises that the European Union is currently facing, speaking during an event held by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) in Athens on Thursday.
FitzGerald said the EU was suffering, first of all, from a long-standing demographic problem that will bring the working people portion of society to the minimum levels of 7 percent in the next 20 years.
He noted that in the mid-1980s Denmark and Sweden, with special incentives, increased their birth rate by 25 percent, but under the present conditions it is difficult for similar incentives to be enacted. Because, as he said, it is the second crisis that the EU is facing and which is economic, that requires drastic reforms in many European countries, while it necessitates the restoration of confidence for society to spend money again.
Another crisis, according to FitzGerald concerns the urgent revision of the Stability and Growth Treaty that proved to be ineffective in the present crisis.
Lastly, he said it is extremely important that Europe recovers from its ills soon, since a strong Europe, one that has self confidence, can contribute decisively to a world of peace and justice in the 21st century.
 Karatzaferis-Mitsotakis meetingPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) leader George Karatzaferis is expected to meet with New Democracy honorary president and former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis on Friday at the latter's private office.
Karatzaferis is also scheduled to meet with former premier Costas Simitis next week at the latter's office in Parliament.
 Minister requests top Siemens case prosecutor's suspensionJustice Minister Haris Kastanidis, in a letter addressed to Supreme Court President Giorgos Kalamidas, on Thursday requested that examining magistrate Nikos Zagorianos, who was in charge of the Siemens kickbacks case, be temporarily suspended from his duties.
The justice minister underlined that Zagorianos should be on suspension until an irrevocable ruling on the accusations against him is issued. He added that Zagorianos is accused of serious criminal acts, allegedly committed as an examining magistrate while conducting the Siemens main investigation.
Zagorianos has been accused of breach of duty and abuse of authority as regards his actions and omissions while handling an investigation into alleged kickbacks and bribes given by Siemens Hellas to top Greek state officials.
 Greece, Abu Dhabi examine partnership prospectsGreece and Abu Dhabi are examining partnership prospects in renewable energy, shipping, culture and tourism, Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Luca Katseli said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, in the framework of the Hellenic & United Arab Emirates Business Forum in Athens, the Greek minister said government officials was having very important meetings with representatives of the Abu Dhabi government -a delegation of 15 officials- to examine partnership prospects in three sectors of great significance for the country. Katseli said Abu Dhabi was making big efforts to shift towards renewable energy sources, a strategy which was also the Greek government's priority in the framework of promoting green development in the country. The three sectors are ports, infrastructure and culture/tourism.
 Birbili, Saudi Arabia ambassador discuss boosting trade tiesEnvironment, energy and climate change minister Tina Birbili met with Saudi Arabian ambassador to Athens Saleh Moh'd Al-Ghamdi, whom she briefed on the authorities and priorities of her newly-formed ministry, and the emphasis it places on environmental protection and diversification of energy supply in the areas of oil, natural gas and renewable energy sources.
The Saudi Arabian delegation expressed strong interest in rekindling bilateral trade relations.
The Ambassador questioned the reasons for the reduction of the Greek presence in Saudi Arabia, where it had been a substantial and active one in the past.
He said that Saudi Arabia is greatly interested in further boosting the Greek presence in the country, noting the existence of immense business opportunities.
Birbili, in turn, reaffirmed Greece's interest in further strengthening those relations. She also noted the knowhow tht Greek companies have developed in such areas as waste-refuse management and rational management of water, and said that mutually beneficial prospects were arising in those sectors.
 Environment Minister holds talks with senior Abu Dhabi government officialsEnvironment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Tina Birbili held talks on Thursday with a delegation of senior government officials of Abu Dhabi that focused, among other things, on cooperation issues concerning Renewable Energy Sources and the repercussions of climatic change.
The cooperation framework between the two countries regards both the probing of possible investments opportunities of Abu Dhabi in the sector of Renewable Energy Sources in Greece and technology development issues at academic level, between the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and Greek universities and research centres.
 Gov't defends right to labour flexibility; joblessness forecastEmployment and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos, speaking on Thursday before a Parliamentary Committee on social affairs, predicted that unemployment will reach 12 pct at the end of March, based on National Statistical Service forecasts. He also underlined that employment (flexible forms, part time, rotating) rose to 6 and 6.5 pct, up from 5.8 pct in October.
Presenting the figures during debate on a labour relations draft bill proposed by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which was rejected by the committee, Loverdos added that unemployment reached 10.2 pct in Dec. 2009, while characterising the situation as "very difficult".
He also announced that a draft law to be tabled in Parliament before Easter (April 4) will regulate all flexible forms of labour.
Loverdos flatly rejected KKE's opposition to the flexible forms of employment, adding that the government's intent is to regulate and not to abolish them, pointing out that they are virtually imposed by the job market and are being sought by employees.
Referring to a surge of retirement applications in the public sector, the minister underlined that people who have established vested pension rights by 2013 will not be affected by the average retirement age increase, adding that those who will choose to stay on the job will be unaffected as well.
 Greek unemployment jumped to 10.3 pct in Q4Greek unemployment jumped to 10.3 pct in the fourth quarter of 2009, from 7.9 pct in the corresponding period in 2008, the National Statistical Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service said the number of unemployed people totaled 514,401 in the October-December period last year, up 121,733 from the same period in 2008, while the number of employed people totaled 4,476,806.
Unemployment was higher among less educated people, while Southern Aegean (13.2 pct), Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (12.2 pct) and Western Macedonia (12 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates among the country's regions. Northern Aegean (5.3 pct), Western Greece and the Peloponese (8.7 pct) recorded the lowest unemployment rates.
Unemployment among first-time job seekers totaled 25.8 pct of total unemployed people, while long-term unemployment accounted for 43.3 pct of total. The statistics service said 87 pct of unemployed people were seeking full-time employment, while part-time employment remained a low 6.2 pct.
 Deputy FM Kouvelis hold talks with UAE delegationDeputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis met on Thursday with a delegation of United Arab Emirates officials currently in Athens for the Greece-UAE Business Forum between Greece and UAE organised at the initiative of the two governments.
The purpose of the forum is to promote investments in ports, infrastructures, energy renewable sources and cooperation in the culture and tourism sectors.
 Transport ministry objects to flight suspensions by Aegean, OAThe relevant transport ministry has intervened following a decision by the two passenger airlines in Greece, Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air, to suspend a handful of scheduled flights, mainly to island destinations within the framework of a rescheduling of their itinerary.
Deputy Infrastructures, Transports and Networks Minister Nikos Sifounakis addressed a letter to Competition Commission President Dimitris Kiritsakis on Thursday, pointing out that shortly after the two carriers announced their intent to merge, they proceeded to suspend domestic flights despite their obligation to continue servicing specific routes.
Sifounakis requested the intervention of the competition commission within the framework of its capacity to ensure that until and if the planned merger is approved the two companies will operate independently without coordinating activities, in full compliance with obligations pursuant to competition rules and in accordance with article 101 and 102 of the Treaty of Lisbon and articles 1 and 2 of Law No. 703/77, a ministry statement noted.
 National Bank says profits down 37 pct in 2009National Bank Group on Thursday said its 2009 net profits totaled 971 million euros, down 37 pct compared with the previous year, while pre-provisions and tax profits totaled 2.6 billion euros, up 2.0 pct over the same period, underlining the stability of the group's business model even in periods of crisis, while it highlighted the significance of the geographical range of the group's revenues sources.
Net profits from activities in Greece totaled 398 million euros, down 57 pct from 2008, reflecting almost double provisions for bad debts to 618 million euros in 2009, from 322 million euros in 2008 and an extra tax charge of 49 million euros.
Finansbank's net profits grew 14 pct to 425 million euros last year, despite the fact that provisions more than doubled over the same period and a sharp economic recession in the neighboring country.
Net profits by units operating in Southeastern Europe totaled 100 million euros, although pre-tax and provision profits fell 5 pct to 298 million euros.
National Bank said loans grew by 8 pct last year to more than 71.5 billion euros, reflecting mainly credit expansion in Greece and Turkey, while loan portfolios in Southeastern Europe showed a small decline.
The bank's domestic loan portfolio grew 10 pct or by 4.5 billion euros, with mortgage loans rising 10 pct to more than 20.5 billion euros. Loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises jumped 25 pct to more than 5.0 billion euros, while consumer loans (including credit cards) grew 10 pct compared with 2008.
Saving deposits rose 3.0 pct last year.
Apostolos Tamvakakis, the bank's chief executive, commenting on the results said National Bank Group was entering a new era with high liquidity levels, capital adequacy and strong business potential. "Our actions will focus on refinancing of loans, containing spending and taking advantage of the group's dynamism internationally."
 Elinoil reports higher 2009 profitsElinoil on Thursday announced lower 2009 results, with consolidated turnover falling to 659.5 million euros last year, from 746.6 million euros in 2008, reflecting a significant decline in fuel prices as the volume of sales grew 4.0 pct despite adverse business conditions in the country.
Gross profits totaled 51 million euros in 2009, from 49.1 million in 2008, for an increase of 3.8 pct, while EBITDA grew 18.5 pct to 11.5 million euros.
Consolidated pre-tax and interest earnings jumped 29.4 pct to 7.0 million euros, while pre-tax earnings soared to 6.3 million euros in 2009, from 1.7 million euros in 2008 and consolidated after tax and minorities profits jumped to 4.7 million euros form 1.3 million euros, respectively.
Elinoil said it will seek shareholders approval on a plan to pay a 0.05 euros per share dividend to shareholders. The company expanded its branch network with an addition of 58 new petrol stations to a total of 573 stations around the country.
 Sprider Stores reports 4.37 mln euros loss in 2009Sprider Stores on Thursday reported consolidated after tax and minorities losses of 4.37 million euros in 2009, after profits of 13.4 million euros in 2008 and said consolidated turnover rose 6.4 pct to 163.882 million euros from 154.072 million euros over the same periods, respectively.
EBITDA dropped 55.3 pct to 13.154 million euros. Sprider Stores said investments totaled 15.751 million euros last year, covering the opening of 10 new shops in Greece, renovating one shop and recostructing two destroyed shops in Athens.
 Titan Group reports lower 2009 resultsTitan Group on Thursday said its 2009 turnover fell by 13.8 pct to 1.361 billion euros, compared with 2008, while EBITDA fell 13.2 pct to 330 million euros. Net profits, after tax and minorities, totaled 123 million euros last year, down 40.7 pct from 2008, while earnings per share fell to 1.52 euros, from 2.53 euros.
The group said comparable net profits fell 27.6 pct to 134.3 million euros and attributed its lower results to a prolonged and deep crisis of the construction sector in the United States, a recession in building activity in Greece and a steep fall in Southeast European markets. Demand rose only in Egypt.
EBITDA in Greece and western Europe totaled 128 million euros, down 24 pct, in the US, operating earnings fell 40 pct to 26 million euros, in Southeastern Europe EBITDA fell 30 pct to 74 million euros in the eastern Mediterranean EBITDA jumped 62 pct to 103 million euros.
Parent turnover fell 18 pct to 450.1 million euros, while EBITDA eased 20 pct to 119.5 million euros and net profits dropped 56 pct to 46.4 million euros. The group plans to pay a 0.18 euros per share dividend to shareholders, down from 0.42 euros in 2008.
 Crude Carriers Corp debuts in NYSEEvangelos Marinakis, chairman and chief executive of Crude Carriers Corp, accompanied by member of the board, rang the opening bell at the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, to celebrate the initial public offer of the company which was launched on March 12, 2010.
Crude Carriers Corp is a newly-founded tanker company, based on Marshall Islands, focusing on the transport of crude oil cargo.
 Civil engineers, academics announce 4-hour strike on FridayCivil engineers, geotechnical engineers, and academics at Greece's engineering and agricultural science universities are to hold a four-hour strike between 11:00 and 15:00 on Friday, in protest against the tax reforms announced by the government.
According to the head of the Technical Chamber of Greece Ioannis Alavanos, the tax policy unveiled by the government "pushes thousands of self-employed civil engineers into 700-euros generation" and would lead to a further massive reduction in construction activity. He pointed out that there had been a 29 percent reduction in the number of construction permits issued in 2009 and called for greater absorption of National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds for projects to boost development.
The academics participating in the strike have demands related to the recognition of parity between Greek and foreign degrees and the ranking of Greek degrees in general.
 Greek stocks end 3.35 pct downGreek stocks ended sharply lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, as uncertainty over the financial support of the country and higher bond spreads, led investors to massive sales. The composite index of the market fell 3.35 pct to end at 2,019.62 points, with turnover at 221.509 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index plunged 4.30 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.46 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index dropped 2.58 pct. The Banks (6.19 pct) and Financial Services (5.21 pct) sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Health (1.96 pct) and Utilities (0.49 pct) scored gains.
Technical Publications (9.76 pct), Kathimerini (5.70 pct), Alapis (4.65 pct) were top gainers, while CPI (20 pct), Electroniki (13.55 pct) and Altec (11.11 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 173 to 18 with another 39 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.44%
Personal & Household: -3.15%
Raw Materials: -3.93%
Travel & Leisure: -3.35%
Food & Beverages: -0.30%
Financial Services: -5.21%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and Coca Cola.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 6.40
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.10
HBC Coca Cola: 20.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.38
National Bank of Greece: 14.70
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.05
Bank of Piraeus: 6.08
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 312 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.24 pct and the German Bund 3.12 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 1.192 billion euros, of which 330 million were buy orders and the remaining 862 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 290 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 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.50 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 198.563 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 26,598 contracts worth 132.803 million euros with 36,131 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 96,250 contracts worth 65.760 million euros, with investment interest focusing on GEK's contracts (45,738), followed by Eurobank (2,766), MIG (4,970), OTE (6,258), PPC (1,577), Piraeus Bank (3,053), Hellenic Bottling (1,531), National Bank (12,376), Alpha Bank (3,884), Intracom (1,436), Marfin Popular Bank (1,952), Intralot (1,424), Mytilineos (1,958), Cyprus Bank (1,072), Hellenic Postbank (2,470) and ATEbank (1,459).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.376
Pound sterling 0.901
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 9.802
Japanese yen 124.32
Swiss franc 1.459
Norwegian kroner 8.063
Canadian dollar 1.391
Australian dollar 1.494
 Report on Tempi landslide blames rains and work on tunnelThe expert report on last December's massive and fatal landslide at Tempi pass was presented on Thursday and has placed the blame on the geology of the region, heavy rains but also the subterranean explosions during work to build a tunnel through the mountain for the new national highway.
Experts said the pressures exerted by vibrations from the explosions, coupled with additional erosion caused by the rain, had further destabilised an already unstable geological landscape and resulted in the landslide of massive rocks that killed the Italian director of the new national highway (NEO) project.
In a press conference at the Greek Technical Chamber, experts stressed that the specific stretch of road was already dangerous.
"Since 1997, 35 road accidents have been officially recorded at Tempi that resulted from landslides, something that illustrates the dangerousness of the area," said committee member Spyros Kavounidis, a ground engineer.
He underlined that a degree of danger would persist in the area even after work to remove loose material and raise protective mesh on the slopes flanking the road. Once the section of the road at Tempi was again opened to traffic and until work to dig the tunnel was completed, authorities will have to impose a minimum speed limit and parking bans on that section, ensure that vehicles observe safe minimum distances, arrange regular police surveillance, daily inspections and possible closures of the road in emergency conditions.
The report concluded that the best solution in safety terms would be to erect sturdy, slanted canopies at specific locations along the national road, which would "dramatically increase safety in the Tempi region".
 Metropolitan of Austria honoured by Hungarian ministryVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D.Dimitrakoudis)
Orthodox Metropolitan of Austria and the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Exarch of Hungary and Middle Europe Michael, was honoured by Hungary's education and culture ministry for his contribution in preserving Greek cultural heritage in the country.
The Metropolitan was given a diploma/award by the Chairman of the Cultural Committee of the Hungarian Parliament on behalf of Education and Culture Minister István Hiller, during an event held at the cultural centre of the historic "Nikos Beloyannis" village, in the south of Budapest.
Present at the event was the Greek military attache who conveyed Ambassador Spyridon Georgile's greetings.
 'Journey to Greece' programme enters 5th year in a partnership with NHSThe "Journey to Greece" programme offered by AHEPA in collaboration with the University of Indianapolis in Athens entered its fifth consecutive year in 2010, with sponsorship by the National Hellenic Society.
Journey to Greece 2010's first session begins on July 3 and ends on July 16; the second session starts July 10 and ends Aug 6.
The programme combines classes in Greek studies with excursions to places of interest. Since the majority of students are Greek-Americans, the "Journey" holds a particular significance for them as they return to their ancestral home. Moreover, each year participating students have been invited to visit the US embassy in Athens and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
The University of Indianapolis has worked with AHEPA to offer the programme since 2006.
The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the largest association of Greek Americans and philhellenes in the world, is well known for its work in philanthropy, education and promotion of Hellenism.
The National Hellenic Society, whose mission is to celebrate Hellenic heritage by sponsoring and organising programmes and activities that promote and preserve the values and ideals of Hellenic culture, first became involved in the Journey programme to Greece in 2009, offering sponsorship for the students' pilgrimage to visit Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
This year the NHS is providing funding for an educational cruise in the Aegean, which will take students to several places of historical interest.
More information can be found at http://www.ahepa.org/journey and http://www.uindy.gr
 New Hellenic museum in ChicagoA new National Hellenic Museum in Chicago will be ready in 2011 to replace the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center founded in 1983.
According to the "Chicago Tribune" newspaper, the museum will house 180 oral histories of Greek-Americans and thousands of artifacts, ranging from ancient Greek pottery to clothing worn by the first Greek migrants to the New World.
The US$25-million, three-storey 40,000 square-foot building is located on the northeast corner of Halsted and Van Buren streets.
 Int'l day against racism eventsThe International Day against Racism on March 21 will be celebrated with three-day special events organised by schools, youth movements and human rights organisations in Greece.
On March 19, events against racism will be held during teaching hours in schools nationwide following a request by the secondary education teachers union (OLME).
The UN General Assembly has declared March 21 the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, commemorating the March 21, 1960 massacre of 70 black students who were killed by police during a demonstration against Apartheid in the South African township of Sharpeville.
 Incendiary device at Culture Ministry branch causes minor damageA home-made incendiary device exploded outside the entrance of a Culture Ministry branch in the Exarchia district of downtown Athens at dawn on Thursday.
The explosion and ensuing fire caused minor damage to the door.
 Chinese provincial delegation visits Dodecannese PrefectureA delegation from China's Anhui province, headed by international relations official Xiang Changming on Thursday visited the Dodecannese Prefecture and held a meeting with vice prefect Fotis Hatzidiakos.
The visit is a continuation of contacts between the two sides that have taken place in past years, with the direct aim of twinning of the two provinces, inaugurating bilateral cooperation mainly in the tourist sector.
The intentions of the officials from the Anhui province and the Dodecannese Prefecture were sealed with the signing of a cooperation and actions account protocol for the twinning by Hatzidiakos and Changming.
 Fair on FridayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 18C. Fair in Athens, with light winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 18C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 15C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime Minister George Papandreou's meeting on Wednesday with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels and political support for Greece, Germany's tough stance on Greece, the new tax bill and the changes regarding the acquisition of a first residence, and Environment Minister Tina Birbili's announcement of a home energy efficiency improvement plan, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Ruling PASOK party sets up a partisan state".
APOGEVMATINI: "Et tu, Angela? German chancellor Angela Merkel indirectly threatened Greece with expulsion from the EMU if the deficit and the debt are not reduced".
AVGHI: "Labour union umbrella federation GSEE on the crisis - Citizens demand strikes and dynamic confrontation with the government".
AVRIANI: "Our... friends and... allies abandoned us! Merkel preannounced Greece's expulsion from EMU and ruled out the possibility of economic support".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Tax shock on first residence and small and medium size incomes".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Germany's refusal to support Greece's rescue plan gives rise to reactions by EU and France".
ESTIA: "We are heading towards an impasse - Continuing borrowing is not the solution".
ETHNOS: "Additional taxes for the first house - Radical tax changes in real estate conveyances".
IMERISSIA: "EU's manoeuvre/safety belt for Greece - Ultimate effort to reach an agreement".
KATHIMERINI: "The expenditure in medicines is outrageous and manipulated".
LOGOS: "Barroso pointed at a European solution but.....Prime Minister George Papandreou left all possibilities open!".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Germany 'freezes' EU's support to Greece".
NIKI: "For our nation's honour and pride ...to the IMF - Enough with Merkel's other European allies' provocations".
RIZOSPASTIS: "New blow against collective labor agreements and social security".
TA NEA: "Tax even on the first home - The new tax bill will be discussed on Wednesday at the Inner Cabinet meeting".
TO VIMA: "The new taxation bill will be harsher".
VRADYNI: "Chaos prevails in labour market - Violation of workers rights".
 President proposes conference to settle international aspects of Cyprus problemNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias has said that the Greek Cypriot side is proposing an international conference for the Cyprus problem that will aim at the discussion and solution of the Cyprus problem's international aspects which are related to illegal presence of occupation troops, thousands of illegal settlers, the guarantees and security on the island in general.
President Christofias said that the conference would be attended by UN Security Council permanent members, the EU, Greece, Turkey, the Republic of Cyprus and representatives of the two communities in Cyprus.
In his introductory remarks, during a televised press conference at the Presidential Palace, Christofias called on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to respond to the proposal of the Greek Cypriot side if he does not aim just to create impressions with his proposal for an international conference.
Christofias noted that if there is no settlement of the Cyprus problem by the end of his term in office then he will not seek reelection, noting that this will be his first and last term in office.
President Christofias stressed that it would be a "fatal mistake" and a gift to the Turkish side, "if we were to abandon the goal for a bizonal bicommunal federation."
He described as a mistake the possibility of abandoning bicommunal dialogue with the excuse that "it degrades the Cyprus problem from a problem of invasion and occupation to a bicommunal problem."
Christofias underlined that the Greek Cypriot side will continue the ongoing peace talks for a political settlement on the basis of the principle "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."
He said that it has been agreed that negotiations will lead to a mutually accepted settlement that will be put before the two communities for approval at simultaneous and separate referenda. "We have convinced the international community that the ownership of the process belongs to Cypriots and in this way we have ruled out the possibility for the imposition of artificial deadlines and arbitration, as well as the imposition of plans from abroad."
"We have agreed with the UN Secretary General that the UN role will be to facilitate the negotiations, something that has been endorsed by the UN Security Council," he added.
Christofias noted that that the settlement providing for bizonal, bicommunal federation "is a painful compromise that was accepted by our side to terminate occupation and avert the division of our homeland."
He added that the strategic goal of the bizonal, bicommunal federation and the bicommunal dialogue aiming to solve the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem, have been adopted in many UN resolutions.
Christofias stressed that "we will continue negotiations based on the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."
He added that the Cyprus problem is an international problem, a problem of invasion, occupation and illegal settling and the Turkey's responsibilities are clear.
As regards the issue of the rotating presidency, Christofias said that any effort to abandon it, it would fail and reach a deadlock and the Greek Cypriot side would be blamed as bearing the responsibility for that.
He also expressed the belief that the proposal on the executive submitted by the Greek Cypriot side constitutes an improvement of previous proposals.
He noted that ''with our proposal the President and the Vice-President will be elected directly by the people through a joint voting process and they will appoint the members of the Ministerial Council.''
He said government efforts, acting in concert with Greece, apart from addressing the EU and the UN Security Council, continuously highlight the violation of international law and the UN Charter by Turkey, the need for the international community to move in the direction of Turkey in order to persuade it to change its stance.
The president said that in his first two years in office - he was elected in February 2008 - he has made 48 trips abroad, which focused on the question of Cyprus as well as bilateral relations with the countries he has visited.
The best way to confront Turkish tactics is to continue efforts for a solution in Cyprus as soon as possible, he stressed.
President Christofias said that the Greek Cypriot side has proved in deeds that it means what it says about a solution as soon as possible and added that the international community credits the Greek Cypriot side with sincerity and will to find a solution.
Referring to the current negotiations he is engaged in with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, the president said they have not yielded the results the Greek Cypriot side had anticipated, which is convergence in all the aspects of the Cyprus question that it wanted.
He explained that 20 meetings were taken up with the issue of governance and power-sharing, 18 on the issue of property, seven on citizenship, immigration and the illegal Turkish settlers in northern Turkish occupied areas, seven on the economy, six on territory, three on the EU, three on security and guarantees and four on other issues.
President Christofias pointed out that the content of proposals tabled at the negotiations is important and not the regular convening of meetings.
The lack of more progress is due to divergence of views between the two sides and not because there were no more meetings than the ones that have already taken place, he explained.
The president said his thoughts and efforts are guided by no other consideration than his concern for a just, viable and functional solution as soon as possible.
The president dismissed criticism from the opposition that he has made concessions at the negotiating table, saying that rotating presidency had been a topic of discussion by previous governments.
Furthermore, he explained that the number of illegal Turkish settlers, now in occupied Cyprus, who will stay on the island for humanitarian reasons after a solution, has also been discussed in the past.
President Christofias stressed that he has not submitted anything completely new at the talks, noting that his proposals are based on previous proposals submitted by the Greek Cypriot side and are improvements on what has been tabled in the past.
On the domestic front, he said nobody can be pleased with the situation and pointed to the need for unity, which will support the negotiator of the Greek Cypriot side.
Christofias and Talat have been engaged in direct talks, under UN auspices, since September 2008 with a view to finding a negotiated settlement to reunite the country.
 President: Erdogan's statements will be put to the testPresident of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias said that the recent statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the Cyprus issue will be put to the test and expressed the wish that Ankara changes its stance on Cyprus.
Replying to questions Thursday during his televised press conference for his two years in office, President Christofias was invited to say whether he believes that Turkey has changed its stance and has adopted a more positive approach for the solution of the Cyprus problem.
"We will see. We have patience and we believe that the declaration of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be put to the test", he noted.
President Christofias went on to add that "we have every right to be cautious bearing in mind Turkey's course on these issues. I wish he means what he says and he proves it in deed. We want that very much".
Replying to an other question he said that the international community wants to help Turkey with its wider goals for democratisation and for the promotion of its European course.
At the same time, he continued, the international community warns Turkey that if it does not solve the Cyprus problem, it will be faced with this problem that will prove to be an obstacle for the implementation of the Turkish goals.
He also said that he would give a press conference to Turkish Cypriot and Turkish journalists to inform Turkish Cypriots "about all issues which are of mutual concern to us".
Asked whether a change in the political scene in Cyprus' occupied areas - after the so-called elections in the occupied areas in April-would reverse all that has been achieved so far at the negotiations, President Christofias said ''of course this is possible'' adding that not all Turkish Cypriot politicians act in the same way.
He said that the game is played by Ankara but ''if your interlocutor agrees with you that the state must be a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, as described by UN resolutions, that it will be a united state with one and single and undivided sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality is one thing, while if you have an interlocutor who is committed to work for two states, that would be sovereign and would reach an agreement for cooperation between them is different''.
Furthermore he stressed that ''the continuation and consolidation of the division is detrimental.''
President Christofias also said that it will be difficult to reach a settlement but it would be more difficult to implement it.
He expressed the view that if the existing situation continues, ''we will end up with a clearly Turkish state in the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus and a mixed state in the government controlled areas, as Cyprus is an EU member state and Turkish Cypriot citizens living in the occupied areas can come and live in the government controlled areas."
He added that ''if things stay like they are now and if division will be the settlement, this will be detrimental and we have to acknowledge this.''
''We will not have a Greek state as some people believe but we will have a mixed state on this side and a clearly Turkish state on the other side'', he noted.
Invited to say whether the Greek Cypriot side should have accepted the UN envisaged Annan plan for a solution of the Cyprus problem in April 2004, he said "of course not", adding that the new solution plan that the Greek Cypriot side pursues will be better than the Annan plan.
President Christofias expressed his gratitude towards the Spanish EU rotating Presidency especially the Spanish Prime Minister and the Spanish Foreign Minister for their vivid interest regarding the Cyprus problem and for their wish to see it solved.
Asked if there is any initiative on behalf of the Spanish EU Presidency regarding the Cyprus problem, he said that if there was any concrete initiative, the Spanish foreign minister would have announced it.
Asked whether he would change his position regarding the rotating presidency in the framework of the governance and power sharing chapter which is under discussion at the Cyprus talks, he said that he has this right but noted that "I have given no promise to no political party that I will change my position regarding the rotating presidency".
"No, I do not intend to withdraw our proposal", he said noting that if he withdraws his proposal, then the Greek Cypriot side will appear to be unreliable and "that would be suicide".
He added that he would begin a campaign to explain his position on the matter.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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