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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-03-30

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

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

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 Issue No: 3456

CONTENTS

  • [01] Investigation continues at scene of Patissia bomb, in which teen boy was killed
  • [02] Girl injured by bomb will probably lose sight, doctors say
  • [03] Political party reactions to deadly bomb explosion in Athens
  • [04] Gov't on EU Summit decision; economy
  • [05] ND: IMF solution a 'last resort'
  • [06] Papariga on measures adopted at EU summit
  • [07] Karatzaferis: EU deal only 'truce'
  • [08] Alternate FM on foreign relations, in TV interview
  • [09] Alternate FM sends message of condolences to Russian FM
  • [10] Tempi section of north-south highway to temporarily reopen Thursday
  • [11] Greek Air Force to assist search and rescue efforts in Morocco
  • [12] FinMin on taxation bill
  • [13] Greece launches 7-year bond issue
  • [14] Interview with Deputy Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou
  • [15] Greek trade deficit down 25.3 pct in Jan
  • [16] National Telecommunications and Post Offices Committee
  • [17] Piraeus Port reports higher turnover, losses in 2009
  • [18] Proton Bank returned to profit in 2009
  • [19] Consumer Ombudsman presents report to Parliament
  • [20] Croatia Airlines to launch direct flights to/from Athens
  • [21] Ellaktor reports mixed 2009 results
  • [22] OPAP unveils business strategy for 2010
  • [23] SingularLogic says turnover down, profits up in 2009
  • [24] Local government employees: Work stoppage on Tuesday
  • [25] Greek PPI up 6.7pct in February
  • [26] Taxi drivers to forego Easter bonus
  • [27] Stocks end 0.49% down
  • [28] Greek bond market closing report
  • [29] ADEX closing report
  • [30] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [31] Robbers fatally shoot PRO-PO dealer, injure mobile telephony shop owner in two hold-ups
  • [32] Thessaloniki police neutralise two explosive mechanisms at bank, toy store
  • [33] Athens mayor to deposit April salary in 'solidarity account'
  • [34] Greeks among Europe's 'couch potatos', EU poll shows
  • [35] Fair on Tuesday
  • [36] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [37] President attends Limnitis crossing point ceremony Politics

  • [01] Investigation continues at scene of Patissia bomb, in which teen boy was killed

    A bomb that exploded late Sunday in the Patissia district of Athens, killing an Aghani teenager and injuring his younger sister and mother, is believed by police to have been a time-bomb and similar to an explosive device that was found and neutralised by police in July 2009 outside the Consulate of Chile in Thessaloniki, which was claimed by the "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" terror group, according to initial estimates on Monday.

    The Thessaloniki time-bomb had been found in a bag outside the Consulate and was neutralised by bomb-disposal experts, following an anonymous warning call to a local police station on July 22.

    A 15-year-old boy was killed Sunday night when a bomb exploded outside a public building in the Athens district of Patissia late Sunday night, and his 10-year-old sister was seriously injured and their mother suffered superficial wounds. The family, Afghani nationals, are believed to have been searching the garbage bins for food and other items.

    Counter-terrorism police investigating the Patissia explosion continued scouring the site on Monday. According to information, the remains of the explosive device, described as a medium-power time bomb, were found in a metal cylinder, while they also collected fragments of the detonator and the outer shell of a battery, but no fragments of a clock have been found so far.

    Although the syndesmology is similar to that of the explosive device outside the Chilean Consulate, the evidence collected so far is not sufficient to connect the Patissia attack with a specific organisation.

    Citizens Protection minister Michalis Chryssohoidis, who rushed to the scene Sunday night, said that terrorism has shown its most abhorrent face, and pledged that the perpetrators will be found and brought to justice.

    According to latest reports by police, citing the mother, the girl found a travel bag next to a garbage bin and opened it up to see what it contained. The son, who approached the travel bag, saw a clock which he believed was broken and took the travel bag and threw it away, at which time the explosion occurred, dismembering the boy and injuring the girl.

    Police have cordoned off an extensive are around the explosion site, and counter-terrorism police and bomb disposal experts were still combing the area for evidence on Monday morning.

    Although there was no warning call for the explosion, which occurred at 10:41 p.m. outside the building housing the Hellenic Management Association (EEDE) on the corner of 1 Iakovaton Street and Ionias Avenue, police are investigating a possible link between the explosion outside the EEDE premises and a warning call several hours earlier, at 8:46 p.m., to private Alter television station that a bomb would explode in six minutes (at 8:52 p.m.) in Patissia at an "EBEE" building, according to announcements by police and the ministry.

    A police turned up no service with the initials "EBEE", while no explosion took place at or after the time claimed by the anonymous caller.

    Police are investigating the possibility that the anonymous caller had given mistaken details. They are also investigating the possibility that the call was unrelated to the actual explosion, in which case it is highly likely that the bomb had been planted just minutes before it was found by the migrant family before the perpetrators made a warning call. Several other possibilities are also being looked into.

    The results of crime lab tests are awaited to see if the syndesmology of the bomb is similar to that of others from recent explosions.

    The girl was rushed to a Children's Hospital in Athens.

    According to initial information collected by police, the migrant family went to the area every night, searching the garbage bins for food or other items.

    Citizens Protection Minister

    Citizens Protection Minister Michalis Chryssohoidis, who rushed to the scene, said that "terrorism has shown its most abhorrent face".

    "A young person lost his life from the death trap planted by terrorists. The murderers consider all of us, whether police, or immigrants, or any other citizen, enemies," he said.

    "The terrorists are against an entire society, but society, too, is against them. It is our duty that they be arrested and led to justice. Every time they carry out such actions they make mistakes, and bring us closer to their tracks. These actions denude them, and will reveal them," the minister added.

    [02] Girl injured by bomb will probably lose sight, doctors say

    The 11-year-old Afghan girl injured in the bomb blast that also killed her 15-year-old brother will have to undergo further surgery to save her eyes, according to the doctors treating her. They said the prognosis in terms of recovering her sight was poor.

    An announcement issued by the Aglaia Kyriakou children's hospital in Athens said that she had undergone eye surgery to remove metallic and other foreign objects embedded in her eyes, both of which were extensively damaged and had significant ruptures.

    The girl was admitted to the hospital with multiple injuries to her face, eyes, eyelids and lower limbs at roughly 11:00 on Sunday night, following the blast in the Athens district of Patissia. Doctors sutured all the open wounds and conducted tests and an MRI head scan, while the girl was intubated and placed on mechanical respiratory support at around 2:00 on Monday after two major episodes of vomiting.

    She was taken into surgery at 9:00 on Monday morning, where doctors sought to treat the injuries to her eyes, both of which proved to have suffered major damage and to contain a number of foreign bodies, not all of which could be removed without causing further damage.

    Also injured in the blast but less seriously was the mother of the two youngsters, aged 45.

    [03] Political party reactions to deadly bomb explosion in Athens

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) sector head Nikos Dendias on Monday issued a critical statement regarding the previous evening's bomb explosion in Athens' central Patissia district, an incident that resulted in the death of a 15-year-old foreign national and the injury of his mother and sister.

    Dendias underlined what he called the "huge deficit in public security" in the country.

    ND condemned the bomb attack and called on Citizen Protection Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis to take all necessary security measures.

    Dendias stressed that "the public security system is under collapse as proven by the surge of violent crime in the country and the latest bomb blast."

    The Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party also condemned the bomb attack, pointing out that "the nature of Sunday's bomb blast should prompt the Greek society's deep concern."

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) underlined in a statement that "Chryssohoidis once had stated that Athens is worse than Kabul when it comes to bombings and, unfortunately, he is proven right on a daily basis," pointing out that "the government appears unable to deal with the situation."

    A 15-year-old boy was killed when a bomb exploded outside a public building in the Athens district of Patissia late Sunday night, while his 11-year-old sister was seriously injured and their mother suffered superficial wounds.

    The family of Afghani nationals is believed to have been searching the garbage bins for food and other items when came across the makeshift bomb.

    [04] Gov't on EU Summit decision; economy

    Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Monday said an agreement reached by Euro-zone leaders as regards an economic assistance mechanism for threatened member-states was a "very important success", while he stressed that the government's goal is to avoid using the specific mechanism.

    "The decision was not a self-evident one and was not just handed to us but was the result of right strategic planning, persistent effort, tactical moves and tough negotiation," he said.

    "The decision signals a new era for Europe and Euro-zone ... the economic assistance mechanism and the European Central Bank (ECB) decision prove that Europe supports its currency and the member-states faced with serious economic problems," he added.

    Referring to the portfolios of deputy economy, competitiveness and shipping ministers, Athens-based Stavros Arnaoutakis and Thessaloniki-based Markos Bolaris, the government spokesman stated that Bolaris will formally assume his duties as soon as the Organization for the Development of Northern Greece will be established.

    As regards Greek press offices abroad, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Secretariat General of Communication, he said they will be integrated into the Greek embassies and diplomatic missions, while adding that the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) offices are in the process of restructuring.

    [05] ND: IMF solution a 'last resort'

    A main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman on Monday said party leader Antonis Samaras chaired a meeting of party sector heads that focused on the EU summit in Brussels and the European People's Party (EPP) meeting last week.

    Both session included deliberations on the Greek debt crisis and Euro-area defence mechanisms against bond market speculators.

    Spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos said the ND leader emphasised German Chancellor Angela Merkel's position that IMF-EU aid is a "last resort", while he sharply criticised Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, saying the latter's "threat" to ask for IMF assistance "boomeranged".

    Panagiotopoulos said ND insists that the country should stand on its own feet without having to resort to such a plan and should continue to seek "European solutions". He stated that whenever the IMF option was used it led economies into a deep recession.

    As regards a tax draft bill tabled by the government, the spokesman said it merely concentrates on tax collection measures, warning that it could "dry up the market".

    Along these lines, he said ND will vote against the draft law in principle but it will vote in favour of certain articles, including the provision concerning offshore companies.

    On the heated issue of taxing Church of Greece property, Panagiotopoulos said ND's position is clear, underlining that the Church should contribute to efforts aimed at overcoming the crisis.

    [06] Papariga on measures adopted at EU summit

    The dilemma posed by the government and other major parties about whether the sacrifices being made by working people would help overcome the crisis was "poisonous, but also nonexistent for working people", Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said during a press conference on Monday.

    The only certainty was that the measures taken at the EU summit would increase the profits of business groups and big capital, while workers will find themselves in a dire position, she added. She accused ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy of being the "pillars" of the European Union and capital. In reference to the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), meanwhile, she said that "those who believe the EU can change from the inside are essentially offering a ruse to give up radical struggle".

    Asked about the repercussions of not taking the measures adopted at the EU summit, Papariga said that this would have made things tougher for banks, which were facilitated by them, but that none of the measures announced sought to improve the position of the people.

    [07] Karatzaferis: EU deal only 'truce'

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) President George Karatzaferis stated on Monday that Athens is a "defenceless city".

    Referring to the issue of public safety, he stated that "it is unheard of to walk on the streets of Athens wondering when the next bomb will explode" and called on the citizen protection minister to make the citizens' security a priority.

    As regards the agreement reached in Brussels late last week, he stated that "Greece has won a truce and it is left to be seen whether it will translate into a success," adding that "it will be a success if we manage to borrow with a low interest rate."

    [08] Alternate FM on foreign relations, in TV interview

    Greece is determined to exercise an active policy with initiatives at all level, alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas stressed on Monday, speaking on state NET television on the economy, Greek-Turkish relations, FYROM and other current affairs. "This is the mandate that the Greek people have given us," he added.

    On Greek-Turkish relations, Droutsas said that his upcoming visit to Turkey, which will take place "very soon after Easter" and a planned visit by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Athens in late May or early June are both in the context of Greece's policy for improvement of its relations with Turkey.

    Regarding prime minister George Papandreou's meeting with Turkish minister for EU affairs Egemen Bagis on the sidelines of last week's EU Summit in Brussels, Droutsas said that there is a political leadership in Turkey that verbally expresses the political will to improve bilateral relations with Greece, but "beyond the words, we are also waiting to see actions".

    Greece, he added, "has the political will and we are taking the necessary steps to reach results, but step by step, and always with very careful preparation".

    To a question on recent Turkish violations in the Aegean, and asked at "what miles" are the Turkish jetfighters intercepted by Greek planes, Droutsas replied that the interceptions are made "there where should be for Greece to effectively safeguard its sovereign rights".

    On Papandreou's meeting with FYROM prime minister Nikola Gruevski, also on the Summit sidelines, Droutsas said it was the third such meeting to take place at the Greek side's initiative, and reiterated that Greece wants a solution (to the FYROM name issue) as soon as possible, noting that "we have stated our position on a name with a geographical qualification in effect for all purposes (ergo omnes), and now it is Skopje's turn to come to the UN-brokered negotiations with constructive thoughts".

    To another question on the possibility of "grey zones" in the support mechanism for the Greek economy decided by the eurozone leaders in Brussels just ahead of the Summit, Droutsas replied that it is necessary to "concentrate more on the substance and the success, so that the message sent to the international markets will remain crystal clear, and that we will show that we are the first who firmly believe in that decision".

    The reality is that the government has from the first moment approached the difficult state of the economy with systematic steps, the first being to regain the country's credibility, and culminating in the most recent, in which Greece succeeded, in the European Council, to convince its EU partners that what was being discussed was not only a Greek issue, but an issue of the entire eurozone.

    [09] Alternate FM sends message of condolences to Russian FM

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas addressed a letter of condolences to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday expressing Athens' deep regret for the suicide bomb attacks in Moscow's metro on Monday and the loss of life. Droutsas extended his condolences to the families of victims of what he called the heinous acts and expressed the support of the Greek people in these trying moments.

    [10] Tempi section of north-south highway to temporarily reopen Thursday

    Infrastructures, Transports and Networks minister Dimitris Reppas on Monday announced that the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway at the Tempi Valley intersection, along the Malliakos Gulf 'horseshoe' in north-central Greece, will temporarily reopen on Thursday, ahead of Orthodox Easter on Sunday.

    The Tempi section of the country's main north-south highway has been closed to traffic since December 17, 2009 following a massive landslide, which claimed the life of an Italian engineer who was project director of a bridge being constructed at the site while arriving to inspect damage caused by falling rocks.

    Traffic is currently being diverted along other routes.

    Reppas said that the Tempi intersection will open on Thursday, and remain in operation until the Sunday after Easter (April 11) to facilitate travelers.

    The minister expressed satisfaction with the progress in the restoration works, noting that it is a complex project that, according to the relevant study, required interventions at 12 points.

    Of those, he added, the nine interventions have been completed, while the remaining three points do not present risk to motorists and their completion requires material that the contractor carrying out the project will take delivery of in 10-15 days.

    Reppas further announced that from Thursday to April 11, the toll stations along the Tempi stretch will not be in operation.

    [11] Greek Air Force to assist search and rescue efforts in Morocco

    The Greek Air Force has sent an eight-man search and rescue team to Rabat in Morocco to assist in the search for the Abu Dhabi royal still missing after last Friday's plane crash. A Greek Air Force C-27J transport plane carrying the team to Morocco took off from Elefsina air base at 15:56 on Monday.

    Financial News

    [12] FinMin on taxation bill

    Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, speaking during the discussion on the taxation bill at the Parliamentary Economic Committee on Monday, said that "we know that the citizens support us and we shall do everything possible not to disappoint them."

    The minister stressed that no European decision will replace the steadfast observance of the country's commitments, as they are registered in the Stability and Development Programme.

    The taxation bill was criticised by the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, as being basically counterproductive, while some deputies referred to its "socially unfair character, on which the Left mainly based its criticism.

    On the other hand, PASOK party rapporteur Andreas Makrypidis, as well as the ruling party's deputies, focused on the reforms being attempted by the bill to correct the socially unfair distortions of the taxation system.

    On the part of ND, Th. Karaoglou termed the bill "counterproductive, much lower than circustances," since "in periods of economic recession, the most targeted effort must be in the country's development sector. Unlike our party that presented 23 measures, unfortunately the bill intensifies the crisis even more and creates a negative psychology."

    Speaking for the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Angelos Tzekis underlined that "the reply of working people to the bill must be political and warlike": "Wealth is produced in Greece," the Communit party's rapporteur pointed out. "In the decade of 2000-2009 the working man has paid for the debt over 200 billion euros, while pofits for businesses exceeded 150 billion. It concerns looting of social wealth: The natural tax increased, while for businesses it fell from 40 percent to 25 percent."

    On the part of LAOS, Ilias Polatidis said that "the common feeling of justice is not being satisfied" and that from the bill, with some exceptions concerning youth entrepreneurship for example, "the development element is absent."

    [13] Greece launches 7-year bond issue

    The finance ministry on Monday launched a syndicated seven-year bond issue aiming to raise at least 5.0 billion euros.

    The book order for the issue was launched on Monday with Alpha Bank, Emporiki Bank, ING, Bank of America-ML and Societe Generale acting as the main underwriters of the bond issue, which has a maturity date of April 20, 2017.

    Primary dealers in the Greek electronic secondary bond market will also participate in the underwriting process of the seven-year benchmark bond.

    [14] Interview with Deputy Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou

    Greece may see tourist arrivals go up this year, provided there are events that generate positive rather than negative publicity, Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou claimed in an exclusive interview with the ANA-MPA on Monday.

    "It would, however, also be a victory if arrivals remained at last year's levels. At the same time, revenues will be a little lower, something that the market has realised," she added.

    The minister appealed to Greek media and businesses to join forces and focus on generating positive news stories about the country, such as the upcoming 2,500-year anniversary since the Battle of Marathon and the Classic Marathon Race, which could help bring Greece to the forefront of world news in a positive way.

    In her interview, Gerekou particularly emphasised the potential importance of the Russian tourist market for Greece and stressed that efforts were now being made to facilitate the issue of visas to Russians wanted to visit.

    "Russia is an unbelievably important market for Greece and one that we have essentially paid no attention to until today. The Russians discovered us by themselves. At a time when 2.8 million Russians are travelling to Turkey, only 250,000 visit Greece as a result of the complete lack of a targeted policy for attracting tourism from this country," she said.

    Gerekou said that Russians will now be able to obtain a visa within 24 or 48 hours from the four Visa Centers in that country, which would also serve as promotional centres for Greek tourism.

    "We can at last talk about positive developments through the issue of a Multi Visa (for six months, one, two, or even five years, depending), while it is my intention to issue a national Visa that is allowed within the frameworks of the Schengen treaty," the minister said.

    Similar measures will also be taken for Ukraine, she added, since only 40,000 Ukrainians of the eight or so million travelling abroad each year visited Greece.

    Gerekou appeared optimistic that tourist arrivals from Russia could rise as much as 40 or 50 percent, noting that Russian tour operators were already recording increases between 15 and 30 percent.

    "In fact, it is my belief that unless conditions change .... the eastern countries, Russia and the Balkans, may well be the medicine for the problems dogging Greece and our tourism during this year and offset any losses Greece may have from European countries," she said.

    Concerning spending on promotion, Gerekou said that the emphasis would be on giving reporters an opportunity to visit Greece and letting them see a different picture from the unflattering images of Greece projected in international media.

    The minister also referred to her visit to Germany, saying that the government team had managed to reverse the very negative climate against Greece by the end of their visit, as reflected by articles in the German press, joint statements with German ministers and a rise in bookings.

    She stressed that Greece's tourist product had not changed as a result of the economic crisis and that the country was more ready than ever to welcome visitors. "Neither the 6,000 islands have been lost, nor the 15,000 kilometres of coastline, nor the amazing interior nor the history or culture of Greece," Gerekou underlined.

    Questioned about pressure from cruise-ship operators for the lifting of cabotage laws, Gerekou underlined that this was a very serious issue.

    "We must try and solve this as soon as possible. Especially at a time when the economic measures are very painful, we cannot bear to lose more than one billion euros a year from tourism due to cabotage. Greece can and must take the lead in cruises," she underlined.

    She said that those involved in the cruise market were seeking a resolution of the issue by May so that they would be able to prepare for the 2011 season.

    Regarding the upcoming Easter holiday, Gerekou said the climate was good but that the holiday had come early and this affected arrivals from abroad, while the national hoteliers union had advised its members to reduce prices. She advised those in the tourist industry to restrain prices and try to ensure that those travelling independently could find prices comparable to those who booked via a tour operator.

    She announced that the ministry will hold tenders after Easter for the new advertising campaign in 2011 and had already prepared the updated website www.visitgreece.gr with 4,000 articles on Greece that aimed to become one of the best sites in Europe.

    [15] Greek trade deficit down 25.3 pct in Jan

    The value of import-arrivals in Greece fell 18.2 pct to 2.867 billion euros in January this year, from 3.5 billion euros in the corresponding month in 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.

    The statistics agency, in a report, also said the value of export-deliveries rose 0.9 pct to 960 million euros from 951.6 million euros last year.

    The country's trade deficit fell 25.3 pct in January to 1.907 billion euros, from 2.553 billion euros in January 2009.

    The figures cover only merchandise trade transactions (excluding services).

    [16] National Telecommunications and Post Offices Committee

    The National Telecommunications and Post Offices Committee (EETT) has given its approval for the upgrading by the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) of wholesale broadband access speeds, following the completion of the public consultation process that raised the issue.

    An announcement by the Committee stresses that after "an absolutely transparent and extremely brief public consultation, the Independent Authority gave its approval," adding that the "process followed showed the advantages of public consultation, concerning both publicity and time, for important issues that can influence the electronic communications market."

    The announcement also said that the Committee will proceed with an examination of the existing retail offer packages of OTE, that are affected by the upgrading of the speeds.

    [17] Piraeus Port reports higher turnover, losses in 2009

    Piraeus Port Authority on Monday reported a 10.72 pct increase in its 2009 turnover to 128.48 million euros from 116.04 million euros in 2008 despite lower reporting lower revenues by its cargo activities (the management was transferred to a Chinese company in the last three months of the year) and its car terminal operations. Other activities, however, reported a 9.4 pct rise in revenues reflecting increased ship repairing and maintenance operations, although passenger traffic was almost unchanged from 2008 levels.

    The organization said revenues from its contract with Cosco Pacific Ltd totaled 16.73 million euros.

    Operating expenses rose to 110.49 million euros, up 10.95 pct from 2008 reflecting higher personnel costs. Fixed assets amortizations rose 1.78 pct to 10.42 million euros, while extra expenses jumped to 45.64 million euros (boosted by a voluntary retirement program).

    Piraeus Port Authority announced pre-tax losses of 38.33 million euros, after earnings of 8.91 million euros in 2008, while net after tax losses totaled 33.56 million euros in 2009, from earnings of 5.59 million euros the previous year.

    [18] Proton Bank returned to profit in 2009

    Proton Bank on Monday announced its return to profitability in 2009, with net profits of 13.4 million euros, after losses of 61.8 million euros in the previous year. The bank said its operating income soared 185.05 percent to 116.8 million euros, while pre-tax and provisions earnings totaled 63.74 million euros, after losses of 16.90 million euros in 2008. Saving deposits grew 57.53 pct to 1.446 billion euros last year, from 918 million euros in 2008, while the loans to savings ratio fell to 89.30 pct from 133.37 pct over the same periods respectively.

    [19] Consumer Ombudsman presents report to Parliament

    Consumer Ombudsman Evangelos Zerveas on Monday presented his authority's report for period from June to December 2009 to Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos.

    Receiving the report, Petsalnikos stressed that Greece needed to make changes that would counter the phenomenon of over-pricing, especially during a crucial period for the economy in which households were up against financial strain.

    Zerveas said that the authority he headed up was now 'mature' and helped establish relations of trust between consumers and retailers, with eight in 10 complaints referred to the ombudsman settled in favour of consumers.

    [20] Croatia Airlines to launch direct flights to/from Athens

    ZAGREB (ANA-MPA/E. Sofianou)

    Croatia Airlines, the Croatian national carrier, will launch a direct flight to and from Athens in its network of European destinations on June 1.

    The new destination will link the two capitals -- Zagreb and Athens -- three times a week.

    The three weekly flights, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, will be carried out by 132-seat capacity Airbus 319 and 162-seat capacity Airbus 320 aircraft.

    "On 1st June of this year, for the first time in the history of our company, regular international flights between Zagreb and Athens will be introduced, "a Croatia Airlines announcement said.

    The aircraft will leave Zagreb at 15:25 and arrive in Athens at 17:15. Departure from Athens will be at 18:05 and arrival in Zagreb at 20:05. Return tickets Zagreb - Athens and vice versa will be available for purchase as of 23rd March on the airline's internet site, with prices starting at EUR 139 (airport taxes and Ticket Service Charge - TSC, included), as well as at the company's other points of sale and at its business partners' points of sale.

    "The expansion of the destination network in southeast Europe is in line with Croatia Airlines' development plans which include the boosting of its position as a regional leader. Apart from Athens, the Croatian national airline already has a developed flight network in southeast Europe, namely from Zagreb to Sarajevo (two flights a day), Pritina (seven flights a week), Podgorica (three flights a week) and Skoplje (every day of the week), as well as the daily Zagreb - Istanbul flight in cooperation with Turkish Airlines," the announcement added.

    "Croatia Airlines expects that the introduction of the Zagreb - Athens flight will strengthen the company's position within the Star Alliance Group and promote the company as a global product whose passengers are offered the greatest airline alliance in the world. The Star Alliance members currently offer more than 19,739 daily flights to 1,077 destinations in 175 countries. We would like to point out once again that Croatia Airlines became a full member of the Star Alliance this year," the announcement concluded.

    [21] Ellaktor reports mixed 2009 results

    Ellaktor on Monday reported an 18.6-pct increase in its consolidated turnover to 2.268 billion euros last year, from 1.913 billion euros in 2008 and said consolidated pre-tax profits totaled 172.2 million euros, from 174.7 million euros, down 1.4 pct.

    Pre-tax and interest earnings rose 6.7 pct to 232.9 million euros in 2009, while EBITDA rose 8.1 pct to 335.3 million euros and after tax and minorities earnings dropped 31.5 pct to 64.9 million euros (hit by an extra tax charge).

    The construction sector reported a 21.7 pct increase in its turnover to 1.784 billion euros last year, of which 67 pct from domestic operations and 33 pct from international operations.

    The concessions sector reported a 10.2 pct increase in turnover to 323.5 million euros, while the environment sector reported a 10.6 pct increase in turnover to 119.4 million euros last year. The windpower park sector said turnover soared 110 pct to 14.3 million euros, while the property development sector reported an 80 pct drop in revenues to 4.5 million euros.

    Parent turnover was 400,000 euros, down 83.3 pct from 2008.

    Ellaktor said its board will seek a shareholders' approval to a plan to pay a 0.10 euros per share dividend to shareholders.

    [22] OPAP unveils business strategy for 2010

    OPAP SA, Greece's state-run lottery and gaming organisation, on Monday unveiled its business strategy for the current year, which it said will focus on four main axes.

    Presenting the plan, Haris Stamatopoulos, the chairman of the board, and Yiannis Spanoudakis, its chief executive, said the strategy would focus on ensuring OPAP's monopoly in Greece, based on an agreement signed with the Greek state and in the aftermath of a positive decision by the European Court of Justice, as well as what it called combating illegal betting in the country.

    OPAP announced that it would start preparations for the expansion of its activities with new games in the domestic market, while it would also adopt a more efficient way in promotion costs.

    The company will also seek to expand in Europe and in sectors with a comparative advantage. Commenting on a cooperation between OPAP and Athens-based Intralot, it biggest supplier, Spanoudakis said OPAP would seek only a partial renewal of bilateral cooperation.

    [23] SingularLogic says turnover down, profits up in 2009

    SingularLogic Group on Monday said consolidated pre-tax earnings totaled 13.4 million euros in 2009, up from 11.5 million euros in 2008.

    Consolidated EBITDA rose 8.4 pct to 18.4 million euros last year, from 17 million euros in 2008, while after tax and minorities earnings improved by 1.2 million euros to 9.8 million euros.

    Consolidated turnover, however, fell 2.9 pct to 103.9 million euros.

    [24] Local government employees: Work stoppage on Tuesday

    Local government (OTA) employees will stage a 4-hour work stoppage on Tuesday, starting at 11:00 a.m. and up to the end of the shift (3:00 p.m.), the employee unions' nationwide umbrella federation POE-OTA announced on Monday.

    At noon on Tuesday, the striking OTA employees will hold a protest rally outside the Federation offices in Athens, from where they will march to the Interior Ministry.

    Local government employees are demanding substantial pay raises, a "fair and efficient" taxation system, enhancement of the public sector and the social character of social security, the signing of collective labor agreements, and permanent, full-time employment, among other demands.

    [25] Greek PPI up 6.7pct in February

    Greece's Producer's Price Index (PPI) in the industrial sector (measuring both the domestic and external markets) rose 6.7 pct in February this year, compared with the same month in 2008, after a decline of 5.8 pct recorded in February 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.

    The statistics agency, in a report, attributed the 6.7 pct rise in the index to a 6.2 pct increase in the domestic market index and an 8.7 pct rise in the external market index.

    The producer's price index rose 0.3 pct in February from January 2010.

    [26] Taxi drivers to forego Easter bonus

    The Panhellenic Taxi Owners Federation has announced a decision to this year forego the customary Easter bonus ordinarily added on to taxi fares during the holiday period, seeking to keep fares low in response to the economic crisis. The decision was accepted by the infrastructure, transport and networks ministry, which said it was a positive development.

    [27] Stocks end 0.49% down

    Stocks ended moderately lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, unable to hold on to their initial gains. The composite index of the market fell 0.49 pct to end at 2,137.37 points, with turnover a low 140.619 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 0.92 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.24 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.08 pct. Technology (2.11 pct) and Travel (2.0 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while the Food (1.88 pct) and Health (1.34 pct) sectors scored gains.

    FHL Kyriakidis (19.32 pct), Boutaris (10 pct), GEKE (9.84 pct) and Cardico (9.38 pct) were top gainers, while Elfico (10 pct), Interfish (9.09 pct) and Ideal (7.87 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 90 to 84 with another 50 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.41%

    Industrials: -1.83%

    Commercial: -0.34%

    Construction: +0.32%

    Media: -0.25%

    Oil & Gas: -0.16%

    Personal & Household: +0.78%

    Raw Materials: +0.18%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.00%

    Technology: -2.11%

    Telecoms: +0.65%

    Banks: -1.37%

    Food & Beverages: +1.88%

    Health: +1.34%

    Utilities: -0.32%

    Chemicals: -1.13%

    Financial Services: -1.76%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 7.40

    ATEbank: 1.60

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.30

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.79

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.45

    National Bank of Greece: 15.81

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.12

    Intralot: 3.52

    OPAP: 16.40

    OTE: 9.31

    Bank of Piraeus: 6.86

    Titan: 19.80

    [28] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 318 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.30 pct and the German Bund 3.12 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 1.195 billion euros, of which 360 million were buy orders and the remaining 835 million euros were sell orders. The three-year bond (March 20, 2012) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 335 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.

    [29] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.03 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover a low 53.818 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,377 contracts worth 44.713 million euros, with 23,350 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,183 contracts worth 9.105 million euros with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,314), followed by Eurobank (606), MIG (378), OPAP (326), Piraeus Bank (759), Alpha Bank (903), Marfin Popular Bank (671), Cyprus Bank (654) and Mytilineos (371).

    [30] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.357

    Pound sterling 0.906

    Danish kroner 7.501

    Swedish kroner 9.854

    Japanese yen 125.75

    Swiss franc 1.444

    Norwegian kroner 8.131

    Canadian dollar 1.386

    Australian dollar 1.485

    General News

    [31] Robbers fatally shoot PRO-PO dealer, injure mobile telephony shop owner in two hold-ups

    A PRO-PO football pool betting agency owner was fatally injured during an armed robbery Monday morning in the Patissia district of Athens, only minutes after what police believe to be the same gang shot and injured a nearby mobile telephony shop owner.

    In the first incident, the owner of mobile telephony shop -- initially believed to have been the owner of an adjacent jewelry shop -- was shot and injured by two armed robbers wearing hoods in a hold-up shortly after 10:00 a.m. in Patissia, and the gunmen cell phones of an as yet unknown value.

    The gunmen were chased by the shop's employee, a young Afghani national, as they fled, whom they shot and wounded outside the adjacent jewelry store. The employee was rushed to hospital and was not in a life-threatening condition.

    A few minutes later, at 10:30 a.m., a 55-year-old PRO-PO agency owner a short distance away from the first incident was shot and seriously wounded in the back by two armed men, who took off with an unknown amount of cash.

    The PRO-PO dealer died in the ambulance en route to a hospital.

    Police, who believe the same robbers are responsible for both incidents, have launched a manhunt for the gunmen.

    [32] Thessaloniki police neutralise two explosive mechanisms at bank, toy store

    The Thessaloniki Police bomb disposals squad neutralised explosive devices at two targets in the early hours of MOnday.

    Police were alerted at 3:55 a.m. that two suspicious sacks had been spotted outside a toy store chain outlet and outside a bank in the Evosmos district.

    Police neutralised the two suspicious sacks with contained explosions.

    It was revealed afterwards that both sacks contained explosive mechanisms.

    [33] Athens mayor to deposit April salary in 'solidarity account'

    Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis has responded to a written request from Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos, appealing for local government participation in the national effort to reduce the public debt, by instructing the deputy mayor for finance to deposit the mayor's salary for the month of April in the national "solidarity account".

    [34] Greeks among Europe's 'couch potatos', EU poll shows

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)

    Greeks are among the European populations that exercise the least in the 27 European Union countries, according to the findings of a Eurobarometer polls released in Brussels on Monday.

    Only three percent of Greeks, Italians and Bulgarians exercise regularly, the poll found. Another 15 percent of Greeks state that they exercise "fairly often", 15 percent "rarely" and 67 percent "never".

    Similarly high rates for people that never exercise at all are seen in Bulgaria (58 percent), Portugal and Italy (55 percent). The lowest percentages for people that never exercise at all are found in northern countries, such as Sweden (6 percent), Finland (7 percent) and Denmark (18 percent). The European Union average is 39 percent.

    Of those that do exercise, 63 percent of Greeks state that they take their exercise somewhere between their home, school, workplace or shops (31 percent EU average), while 27 percent exercise in a park or outside in nature (48 percent EU average) and 13 percent in a gym (11 percent in the EU).

    Only 13 percent of Greeks are members of some gym, sports club or club where they can also do sports, as compared to the EU average of 25 percent.

    On the main reason why they do not exercise more, 51 percent of Greeks cite a lack of time as the chief cause, with the Community average standing at 45 percent for this response.

    Weather Forecast

    [35] Fair on Tuesday

    Fair weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 22C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with southerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 22C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 20C.

    [36] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    State borrowing on the international markets with the flotation of a 5 billion euros bond this week and a bomb explosion that killed a 15-year-old Afghani boy in Patissia were the main front-page items on Monday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Five billion euros loan, with Greek state bonds".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Tragedy - Bomb dismembers teen Afghani trash picker".

    AVRIANI: "They kill with axes, rob with kalashnikovs - Explosion in crime terrorises the public".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Random attack with one death and injury of young girl and mother - Terrorist attack in Patissia".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Bomb kills immigrant - His sister seriously injured, his mother lightly injured".

    ESTIA: "Europe becoming weaker - The train's cars are derailing".

    ETHNOS: "Ugly night - Bomb explosion kills 15-year-old - Unbelievable thriller in Patissia with terror-accident".

    IMERISSIA: "Agony over loan/breather - The 28 billion euros package again on the table".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Critical test with 5 billion euros in state borrowing - First flotation of state bonds after the (EU) 'support package'."

    TA NEA: "Bomb and blood with terrorist seal in Patissia".

    VRADYNI: "They're 'exorcising' the new measures - New painful changes to social security and labor relations".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [37] President attends Limnitis crossing point ceremony

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    President Demetris Christofias has congratulated residents of the Limnitis area, their community leaders and organised groups, which advocated the opening of a crossing point at Limnitis, on their efforts to achieve this goal.

    Speaking at a ceremony which took place today on Limnitis road, on the northwest, to mark the start of construction work, President Christofias said "we have been through many difficulties and it is very wrong to dismiss all these past efforts."

    "As we say in Greek 'one thing at a time', we move slowly to achieve this goal, to open the Limnitis crossing point, to facilitate the life of the people in this area. As far as I am concerned, this is a service to the people," he said, referring to the planned crossing point to facilitate movement to and from the island's northern Turkish occupied areas.

    The president wished that soon this road will be used without any roadblocks, once the Cyprus problem is resolved and the country is reunited.

    Present at the event were among others, Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, UNSGs Special Advisor to Cyprus Alexander Downer, US Ambassador to Nicosia Frank C. Urbancic and representatives of the European Commission's Representation to Cyprus.

    President Christofias described the project as a great step for the people of the area and stressed that the goal remains the same, that is a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem.

    The president wished Talat "every success" in next month's "elections" among the Turkish Cypriot community, saying that he would like to see him at the negotiating table after the April 18 "elections".

    Replying to questions, the president said that at Tuesday's meeting with Talat, he will discuss the possibility of issuing a joint statement at the conclusion of this round of direct talks he is engaged in with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.

    Christofias also said that the issue will be discussed at the National Council, comprising parliamentary parties, before any decision is taken on the matter.

    "There is no commitment on our side on this," he pointed out.

    Speeches were also made by Acting Director of DG Enlargement of the European Commission Axel Wallden, US Ambassador to Nicosia and UN Special Advisor for Cyprus.

    Construction work on the Limnitis road will allow civilian traffic to flow again through the buffer zone running across the area. The opening will facilitate movement of members of both communities in the area, cutting travel time to Nicosia for many area residents dramatically.

    The project involves the upgrading of the road, a section of 2.2 km located in the buffer zone and another section of about 4.5 km outside of it.

    According to UNFICYP, when the road is opened later this year, the Limnitis crossing point will be the seventh such gateway facilitating movement between the two communities in Cyprus.

    Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The leaders of the two communities have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunify the island.

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