|Friday, 23 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-04-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 28 April 2010 Issue No: 3479
 PM: Rebirth of Greece, now or neverPrime Minister George Papandreou said the time has come for the rebirth of Greece and that "it is now or never," while addressing a meeting of his ruling PASOK party's parliamentary group on Tuesday.
He expressed optimism that, if everyone pitched in, the country will succeed in exiting the difficult situation it is now in and he called on all Greek citizens, regardless of their political leanings, to join in that effort.
The premier said that he is personally determined to do everything necessary within the time required for the country's recovery and so that the Greek people may once again feel pride.
"Greece has a government with the volition to not back down a single step," Papandreou said, and called on everyone to stop focusing on the spreads and instead focus on the changes that must be made.
The EU support mechanism that Greece has resorted to will give the country the necessary time and space to make these changes, he said, giving assurances that his government does not fear the political cost because, above and beyond that cost is the contribution to the country.
The premier spoke of a new collective spirit that is necessary in Greek society, which must put aside the easy individualism in order for the battle to be won, a battle from which no political cadre has the right to abstain.
"It is the hour of truth, the moment that we must take decisions," Papandreou said, blaming the current situation on the policies of the past years.
On the talks currently taking place with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Papandreou said that the government will negotiate all the details of a program for the next three years, which would have been done at any rate in the context of the Stability and Development Program.
The government's decision is to protect the weak in society, "it is a commitment and an obligation," he added, and stressed the need for a "new alliance" of the "healthy productive forces of Greek society".
Papandreou continued that Greece is currently going through the most difficult times of the last decades, and is facing unprecedented challenges that concern not only the country itself but also Europe and the global economy.
"We have shouldered historic responsibilities and our policy decisions will be decisive," Papandreou said, adding that these are awaited by the international community, whose treatment of Greece has been a 'cold shower', while he also criticised the "irresponsible populists' who create an international climate against the country.
"We took over a Greece on the verge of collapse, and we will turn over a Greece that is strong, reliable, proud and viable," the prime minister said.
Taking the stand once again after several PASOK MPs and Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou had spoken, Papandreou voiced his concern over the size of the problems that had to be resolved in a very short space of time but stressed that resort to the support mechanism had not essentially changed the problems.
"The issue is what we will do in order to exit this vicious circle," he noted, adding that the only guarantee was for Greeks to make the changes needed themselves. Bringing in the IMF was a decision made by the European Union but Greece had found itself at the centre of the crisis due to its "own sins", he pointed out.
He also reiterated the government's determination to protect the weaker members of society and ensure that it was not always the small and meek who were asked to "foot the bill" while the strong and powerful were let off. Along these lines, he promised an end to tax exemptions for the rich and extra taxes for consumers along with changes to statements of means and assets.
Finally, he stressed the need to change Greece's political system into something that was better and fairer.
 FinMin: Exiting debt crisis a matter of nat'l survival"It is a matter of national survival," Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou reiterated Tuesday during an address to the ruling PASOK Parliamentary group, and in reference to the ongoing debt crisis.
"The time for decisions has come ... when you are in debt you are not free ... Figures mirror a picture of collapse for the country," he emphasised in a dramatic tone, underlining that the deficit could reach 14 pct, while a huge "credibility deficit" will take a long time to erase.
"The people have high expectations from the government and ask what it plans to do from now on, considering that they gave a mandate to PASOK to change everything," he said.
Papaconstantinou characterised the present juncture as a "sui generis situation", adding that the government would have taken more time with the reforms but there is no time available because of the massive pressures exerted by the international markets betting against Greece.
Referring to the support mechanism, he stressed that "it is a major conquest" and characterised as "irresponsible the critical voices that do not realize where we would have been today if it was not for the mechanism."
On the consultation currently underway with the EU-ECB-IMF "troika", he said it will lead to an extremely tough three-year programme, underlining that the most difficult fiscal adjustment ever attempted in the country will take place during that period of time.
Papaconstantinou stressed that Greece will be called to proceed with a number of structural reforms, on the implementation of which the country's financing will depend. "Consultations will most likely be completed next week," he stated.
He characterized May 19, as crucial day, because by then the text will have to be finalised, agreed upon and signed while the loan will have to be approved. He stated that there is no doubt that everything will be done on time.
Papanconstantinou stressed that there is no room for backing out, stressing that everything provided by the updated stability and development programme will be implemented.
"This is not an easy course because the government will have to lock horns with a lot of people and be unpleasant," he said.
"If we do everything we have promised to do, which is the reason why the Greek people have voted for us, in three years we will be proud of ourselves," he stated.
 FinMin briefs parliamentary committees on activation of EU support mechanismFinance minister George Papaconstantinou told parliament late Monday night that the new program being drafted by the government containing measures for fiscal streamlining will be tabled in the House for discussion, and called on all the political parties to "not hide behind slogans" and shoulder their responsibilities because the country needs not just simply a serious stability program but structural changes.
The new program and making changes in the fiscal management system is the government's choice, he said, adding that the three-year program being drafted will not be much different from the country's Stability Program. "What we are being asked for is a timetable and itemization of the structural changes," he said, briefing the parliament's standing economic affairs and trade committees on the activation of the EU support mechanism.
The finance minister stressed that Greece's request for activation of the support mechanism had been "an action of necessity and responsibility" because the situation in Greece, given the stance of the international markets, had reached a "marginal point".
He blamed the preceding New Democracy (ND) government of implementing a policy that had not contributed at all to competitiveness, while the country's credibility had reached rocked bottom while it had no prestige or alliance, thus becoming the "black sheep of Europe".
The Stability Program will become action, but time is needed, Papaconstantinou said, adding that unfortunately, however, the markets are not giving Greece time "because they are afraid, they still don't believe us".
"We, however, are here not to make ascertainments but to set out the problem and give solutions. One of these is to convince that this country is not an international fraud, nor does it want to live at others' expense. We opted for an aggressive program of fiscal policy, we need time," he added.
The government is not commencing negotiations from scratch, he explained, adding that what is being asked is further itemization of the targets for growth and reduction of the fiscal deficit over the next three years, and in the framework of the decisions that have been taken.
"I hope that no one ever finds himself in the position that Greece was in when we took office. And that no government has to face what we found in the first days we took over the government. We did not avoid the battle, though, we did not hide, we did not rig communications ruses, but instead formed working groups," he said.
On opposition criticism on the repercussions for Greece due to International Monetary Fund (IMF) involvement, Papacon-stantinou passed them off as fireworks for the sake of impressions.
"Much is being heard about the IMF. The size of the borrowing needs make the support solution mandatory. From the offset, we did not rule out anything. We fought hard for there to be a European solution. We achieved that despite the institutional gap that existed. The IMF, which participates with both resources and knowhow, adds credibility to the 3-year stability program, and we agreed that it will be achieved on the basis of a joint framework with the EU. We are at the stage of itemization of this program. We are negotiating the web of structural changes for reduction of the deficit over the coming years. We will continue to make efforts to have a viable realistic program, at the end of which the country will have healthy fiscal finances and a more competitive economy. Our goal is to improve our competitiveness without, however, pushing the weight of the adjustment onto the private sector salaries," the minister explained.
Reiterating that Greece's financing will be combined with a 3-year program containing specific commitments and a specific timetable, Papaconstantinou stressed that May 19 is a critical date for Greece because 9 billion euros in bonds mature on that date.
The borrowing needs have been ensured up until that date, but the conditions are prohibitive for new borrowing, while a unanimous decision is needed for activation of the support mechanism, he said, adding that "it would be totally irresponsible to want our country's problem solved without changing anything".
 S&P move does not reflect Greek economic fundamentals, FinMin saysA decision by Standard & Poor's to downgrade the country's credit rating was part of wider market moves that have affected many European periphery countries, Greece's Finance ministry said on Tuesday.
In an announcement, the ministry said the downgrade did not reflect the country's true fundamentals, nor its progress on its public finances, while the Greek banking system remained stable enjoying adequate liquidity. The Greek banking system continues to have the ability to raise funds from the European Central Bank.
The ministry announcement said that negotiations with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund over the implementation of a support mechanism for Greece were progressing smoothly and were expected to be completed in the next few days. Following completion of talks, the mechanism will be activated and the country will be able to continue servicing its borrowing obligations.
Earlier in the day, S&P downgraded the country's bonds to junk status and said it was cutting ratings of four Greek banks.
 Alternate FM Droutsas meets German SPD delegationA Parliamentary delegation of the German SPD party met on Tuesday with Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, while SPD Deputy Angelika Swahl-Dieren said afterwards that the crisis does not concern Greece alone, it concerns the European Union and Germany, adding that "we are members of the Monetary Union and we must work together to overcome the crisis."
The German deputy said that "we are impressed by the seriousness with which Prime Minister George Papandreou is handling the situation and is implementing the reforms and we hope that he will have the widest possible acceptance from the people in the efforts that he has scheduled and which are very difficult."
Asked about the stance of Chancellor Angela Merkel on the implementation of the suport mechanism for the Greek economy, Dieren said that "the stance of the chancellor and the reservation that she has shown regarding support for Greece is not always understandable" and stressed that "it is in the benefit of all of us for the Monetary Union to remain stable."
 Support mechanism draws the people's opposition, according to opinion pollThe majority of the Greeks, or 60.9 pct, express opposition to Greece's recourse to the EU/IMF support mechanism, according to a nationwide telephone opinion poll conducted on behalf of Athens-based MEGA television station. A positive, rather positive stance was expressed by 31 pct, while 8.1 pct gave no response.
The IMF's involvement is seen negatively by 70.2 pct (positive, rather positive 23.2 pct, while 6.6 pct gave no response).
Based on the opinion poll held on April 22-26 on a sampling of 1,400 people, ruling PASOK leads main opposition New Democracy (ND) party with 9.6 pct. Specifically, if general elections were held now, PASOK would have been preferred by 30.6 pct, ND by 21 pct, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) by 8.9 pct, while the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) would have garnered 6.9 pct of the vote, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) 3.2 pct, Ecologist Greens 1.9 pct, other party 2 pct, blank vote 6.4 pct, while the undetermined vote is 19.1 pct.
Prime Minister George Papandreou is seen as most fit to govern by 45.5 pct of the respondents, followed by ND leader Antonis Samaras (26 pct), while 24.6 pct see none as being fit for the post of prime miniter.
The majority of the respondents (60.1 pct) believe that there is no social or political room for a new political party, while 37.3 pct responded "yes" or "rather yes".
The current government of PASOK is regarded as the best to bring the country out of the crisis by 31.9 pct of the respondents, a government supported by PASOK-ND-LAOS (31 pct), while 27 pct responded "none" when asked to give a spontaneous answer.
The overwhelming majority of the respondents (87.4 pct) believe that the measures announced by the government are not consistent with its election campaign pledges.
Finally, 54.3 pct of the respondents believe that the current state of the economy is a collective responsibility, while 20 pct blamed the previous government of ND, the previous PASOK governments (11.8 pct) and the present government 4.1 pct.
 President Papoulias receives UAE Foreign MinisterPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received on Tuesday at the Presidential Mansion United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdallah bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan.
In comments while welcoming the UAE Foreign Minister, Papoulias referred to the Greek economy for the first time since Greece's recourse to the EU support mechanism, noting that "Greece is going through a hard time for which we are not entirely responsible, but there are also other reasons and causes such as the 'speculation mania' of certain circles".
Nevertheless, he expressed his optimism that "we will win the battle", adding that this will happen "with many sacrifices, which will unfortunately be painful for the weaker".
He also referred to Dubai's recent economic problems stressing that "your neighborhood has experienced the speculators' bitter game, but you had the power and reserves to overcome it".
On his part, the UAE official expressed his satisfaction on the promotion of the economic cooperation between the two countries, with a special to the cooperation in the shipbuilding sector, adding that "we are happy that investment capital exists and will come to your country from ours, and that you are ready to receive these investments".
 President receives culture minister, briefed on ministry issuesPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos to discuss issues relating to his ministry, especially abroad, as well as upcoming celebrations marking the 2500th anniversary since the Battle of Marathon and violence in sports.
Geroulanos afterward said they had the same views on all three issues, while he also commented on Monday's violence in Piraeus by seamen protesting against plans to lift cabotage, saying that such scenes "are greatly damaging for the country, damaging at a crucial time for the economy". He stressed that the government had from the first made it clear that it will hold a discussion on the issue of cabotage and that Monday's violence "was a very negative development".
He emphasised that tourism presented "a great opportunity that we have before us," one that could turn the climate around during the coming summer and become a source of growth.
Also on Tuesday, President Papoulias attended an event organised in the Presidential Mansion's gardens by the Hellenic Ornithological Society with the participation of school children as part of International Year of Biodiversity 2010 activities.
 Papandreou, Gruevski reiterate volition to solve 'name issue'SKOPJE (ANA-MPA / N. Frangopoulos)
The prime ministers of Greece and the neighbouring former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), George Papandreou and Nikola Gruevski, respectively, spoke by phone on Monday evening, according to a press release issued by the government here.
According to the Skopje government, both leaders discussed the current situation in the countries, the region, in general, regional cooperation and the challenges faced by both nations.
Gruevski informed Papandreou that he will not be able to attend an Economist conference in Athens at the end of April, with the latter expressing his understanding over the scheduling difficulty.
The press release added that both prime ministers confirmed their volition for a solution to the still unresolved "name issue" as soon as possible, along with a readiness by both sides to hold face-to-face talks and meetings in the future.
 Samaras to be declared honorary citizen of RhodesMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party President Antonis Samaras will be declared honorary citizen of Rhodes following a unanimous city council decision.
He will receive the distinction in a special ceremony to be held on Wednesday in Rhodes City Hall.
Samaras will visit the Dodecanese island to attend a ND party meeting on tourism.
 LAOS' Karatzaferis current question on Erdogan's visit to AthensOpposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) president George Karatzaferis requested on Tuesday to be briefed on the agenda of Prime Minister George Papandreou's talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in view of the latter's upcoming official visit to Athens.
In his current question to the prime minister, Karatzaferis pointed out that the Turkish prime minister, who will be accompanied by 10 government ministers who will have contacts with their Greek counterparts, is likely to make a "triumphant-style" tour of Thrace. The president of LAOS asks PM Papandreou if he will respond positively to such a request in case it is formally made by Erdogan.
 Tsipras proposes broad left-wing front on Labour DayCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday called for cooperation between left-wing parties and trade unions to create a broad popular front during this year's Labour Day events on May 1, in a letter sent to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the EcoGreens, the left-wing group ANTARSYA and the umbrella trade union organisations General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and civil servants' union ADEDY.
In the letter, Tsipras notes that the government's decision to resort to the EU-IMF support mechanism would bring the country's workforce up against an unprecedented attack that would undermine every right workers had fought for and won relating to the protection of labour, state insurance and the welfare state.The only way to stop this attack was a mass and dynamic expression of a social resistance movement, Tsipras added, noting that "in the face of a massive resistance movement, determined to defend its rights to work and a life with dignity, no government and no transnational organisation can impose its policies".
According to Tsipras, the Labour Day rallies were a first opportunity given the Left to send out a strong message from the working people against the attempt to relinquish control to the IMF technocrats.
 SYRIZA's Tsipras meets with private school educatorsRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday accused Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou of "violating everything agreed" in the dialogue with private school educators.
After meeting with private school teachers' union representatives, Tsipras stressed that the ministry of education has turned the private school teachers into private company employees in highly insecure labor conditions.
 ND Overseas Hellenism Secretary in U.S.Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party Overseas Hellenism Secretary and former deputy foreign minister Panayiotis Skandalakis, represented party leader Antonis Samaras at Hellenism's celebrations in the United States on the anniversary of Greece's national independence.
In a message to overseas Greeks, Skandalakis stressed that "today we must, in the difficult conjunctures that we are experiencing, take as as example the self-confidence of the heroes of 1821, their principles and values, the solidarity and the accord that laid the foundations for their victorious battles."
According to an announcement by the party, the former deputy minister held meetings with American officials, "reassuring the steadfast bonds between Greece and the United States."
He also had a cordial meeting with the Archbishop of North America Demetrius, with whom he discussed the presence of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States and the course of crucial challenges facing Greece, with emphasis on national issues.
 ND party expels Aristotelis PavlidisThe Ethics Committee of the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Tuesday proceeded with the expulsion of former minister Aristotelis Pavlidis.
The Committee convened under the chairmanship of its president Ioannis Tragakis, at the request of the party's president Antonis Samaras, who referred Pavlidis with the question of final explusion from the ND party.
The Committe decided unanimously that the reasons invoked by ND's president stand, that is "with his stance and behaviour in general, Mr. Pavlidis caused and is causing harm to the functioning of the party."
 BoG sees deeper Greek recession in 2010Greece is facing a deeper recession this year, Bank of Greece (BoG) Gov. George Provopoulos warned Tuesday, while he recommended a greater decrease in the fiscal deficit by the government.
Presenting the bank's annual report, the Greek central banker said the current crisis was unprecedented for the country after the World War II, while he stressed it could not be dealt with using previous eras' reasoning. Provopoulos predicted that GDP would shrink more than 2.0 pct this year, while the country's public debt could surpass 120 pct of GDP and the fiscal deficit 13.6 pct of GDP in 2009.
Provopoulos said that under such conditions employment could fall further, with the unemployment rate approaching 11 pct of the workforce. He acknowledged that negative developments in public finances and a crisis of confidence by markets have burdened the country's banking system, while he stressed that under these circumstances a government decision to request the activation of the eurozone-IMF support mechanism was a very positive development.
He said necessary reforms are extremely urgent, while the way out of the crisis will be long and hard.
"More and longer efforts will be needed by everyone. We cannot move any longer with past recipes," Provopoulos said.
The central bank stressed that markets continued focusing attention on the country's rising public debt and recommended that a bolder fiscal restructuring in the spending sector, so that the fiscal deficit could be cut by more than 5.0 pct of GDP. This adjustment is possible if the government moved with more determination and more rapidly towards cutting over-spending and merging or abolishing public sector agencies with no real production.
The Bank of Greece said spending cuts were the tool towards fiscal consolidation as any further rise in taxation would have very negative consequences on economic activity in the country.
Provopoulos believes a more rapid fiscal consolidation from this year could contribute in further cutting borrowing costs, with favourable effects for banks, enterprises and households' borrowing costs. The implementation of a medium-term strategy by Greek banks, including partnerships, was necessary for banks to adjust to new conditions.
Provopoulos said banks should maintain significant capital margins, above regulatory levels, creating adequate forecasts to cover credit risk, restructuring of operating spending and a flexible and prudent management of available sources of funding.
Healthy financial data, effective management of risk and creating larger and stronger groups were main preconditions to strengthen Greek banks, the central banker said, adding that a restructuring of the banking sector was inevitable in the medium-term.
 ECB VP Papademos optimistic over support mechanism talksBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
European Central Bank vice-president Lucas Papademos on Tuesday expressed confidence over the smooth completion of current negotiations between Greek authorities, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund over the terms to activate a support mechanism for the east Mediterranean country.
Addressing the European Parliament's economic and monetary affairs commission, Papademos underlined the large fiscal imbalances that a revision of the Greek fiscal deficit for 2009 brought to light, while he stressed that despite the Greek government's commitment to introduce austere fiscal measures for 2010, and the EU's decisions on March 25 and April 11, "market pressures have been maintained, and intensified recently".
The European central banker said it was very significant to specify - through a programme of policies currently drafted by the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF with Greek authorities - fiscal measures and structural reforms necessary to correct the country's fiscal imbalances and structural weaknesses.
Papademos said this was the way to ensure sustainability of public finances and to improve the country's competitiveness.
He attributed strong market pressures vis-à-vis Greece's ability to borrow primarily to "fiscal imbalances and doubts over the country's ability to refinance its debt".
 European Parliament budget control committee to convene in AthensBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Aroni)
The European Parliament's budget control committee will convene in Athens this year, on April 28-29, and will examine issues related to the programmes of the Structural Funds and the Solidarity Fund of the European Union, as well as issues concerning the recording and processing of statistical data by member-states.
Among the members of the delegation that will visit Athens is PASOK party Eurodeputy George Stavrakakis and German Eurodeputy of Greek origin George Hatzimarkakis from the Liberal Group.
According to the committee's programme, on the first day of the meeting an exhange of views will be taking place on the management of the programmes of the Structural Funds and the Solidarity Fund of the EU and a discussion will follow on the implementation of the integrated management and control systems (IACS) in Greece.
The meeting will be attended, among others, by Agricultural Development and Food Minister Katerina Batzeli and Deputy Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Stavros Arnaoutakis.
 GSEE-ADEDY announce 24-hr strike on May 5Greece's two largest trade union organisations - the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union ADEDY - have announced a 24-hour strike on May 5, in protest against Greece's resort to the EU-IMF support mechanism and against an anticipated attack on "basic and fundamental social rights".
The demands presented by the unions were "that neoliberal extortion and demands of the European Commission, ECB and IMF 'troika' for the levelling of labour and income rights of workers be deflected and the rejection of 'insurance' recipes that are counter to the public and social nature of insurance, reduce pensions, increase retirement age and do not ensure the economic viability of the social insurance system. They also call for the immediate signing of a general collective labour agreement and sector labour agreements that will protect wages, worker rights and jobs through free collective negotiations.
After a meeting of GSEE's executive committee, GSEE President Yiannis Panagopoulos said that mass participation by working people in the strike and a large turnout at the rally would send a strong message of protest to the government and the EU-IMF experts, warning them against "neoliberal experiments on Greek society".
He stressed that the central message of the strike was "hands off workers in the private sector".
"The private sector does not produce deficits. The private sector's competitiveness is not made low by the cost of labour. The private sector is the only hope for producing wealth and sharing it fairly in this country," he stressed.
Regarding Greece's ailing social insurance system, Panagopoulos said that unions did not consider increasing the age of retirement and reducing pensions a solution because the system already had serious problems.
"The only way to find funds is to strike at 'black' undeclared employment and contribution evasion," GSEE's president stressed, while noting that the 13th and 14th salaries were "non-negotiable" and "established by the Constitution".
He also called on employer organisations to sign collective labour agreements now, in order to send a message that the private sector could not be drawn into the vice of fiscal restrictions.
GSEE's president said the May 5 strike was the unions' "first message" and would be immediately followed by more meetings to decide on further trade union action.
 ADEDY organises rally against resorting to support mechanismThe Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) organised a rally on Tuesday evening that started with a march from the university and reached the House of Parliament in Syntagma Square, in protest against the country resorting to the support mechanism.
An announcement by ADEDY said that "we working people will continue to escalate our struggle against the antipopular measures of the government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The crisis must not be paid for by the working people and society but by the haves."
 Primary school teachers strike over omnibus billPrimary school teachers are to hold four-hour strikes on April 28-30 and on May 3, according to an announcement made on Tuesday by the Primary Teachers' Union Federation of Greece (DOE). Their main demand is that the education ministry withdraw its draft omnibus bill changing requirements for the hiring of teachers in the private and public sector.
On April 29, teachers will also stage a protest rally at 18:00 and a march to Parliament.
DOE has also decided to call a 48-hour strike on May 4-5 and possibly one more 48-hour strike on the day when the education ministry's omnibus bill will be tabled and voted on in Parliament.
After May 7 there will be meetings of teacher associations that will aim to escalate their mobilisation, while on May 10 there will be a final decision by the presidents' general assembly.
 PPC seeks gradual increase of rates from 2011Public Power Corp. (PPC) chairman and chief executive Arthuros Zervos on Tuesday recommended a gradual increase of electricity prices from 2011, ahead of the abolition of free emission distribution rights in 2013, which was expected to raise power production costs.
Speaking to reporters, Zervos said he did not exclude a decision for an immediate deregulation of electricity prices, within the framework of an agreement with the EU and the IMF.
He said PPC was facing an increase of up to 25 pct in the cost of purchasing emission rights from 2013 (currently around 800 million euros annually) and cited IMF-recommended price cuts to boost the country's competitiveness.
He said PPC's new business plan would be ready by June and would focus on renewable energy sources to meet a national target of covering 40 pct of power production in the country by 2020.
Zervos said he was in favour of the state holding a 51-pct majority stake in the utility while he opposed the prospect of selling-off electricity production units.
Finally, Zervos said PPC would complete a programme for 1,600 new hirings - which began in 2007 - as the utility was exempted from a general freeze of hirings in the wider public sector.
 Stocks plunge 6%Stocks suffered a heavy blow on Tuesday with the composite index plunging to their lowest levels since March 24, 2009.
The index ended at 1,696.68 points, off 6.0 pct, with turnover rising to 335.676 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index lost 6.85 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 6.48 pct down and the FTSE 80 index fell 7.28 pct. All sectors moved down, with the Raw Materials (11.41 pct) and Banks (9.32 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 193 to 13 with another 26 issues unchanged. Vovos (22.35 pct), Dionic (20 pct), Sprider (19.67 pct) and Parnassos (18.84 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -3.44%
Personal & Household: -4.83%
Raw Materials: -11.41%
Travel & Leisure: -6.24%
Food & Beverages: -1.25%
Financial Services: -0.08%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.30
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.50
HBC Coca Cola: 19.71
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.04
National Bank of Greece: 10.00
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.13
Bank of Piraeus: 4.93
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to new record highs in the Greek electronic secondary bond market, at 664 basis points, from 642 bps the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 9.57 pct and the German Bund 2.93 pct. Turnover in the market shrank to 145 million euros, of which 140 million were sell orders and the remaining 5.0 million euros were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (June 19, 2020) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 85 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.95 pct, the three-month rate 0.64 pct and the one-month rate 0.40 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.35 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 101.313 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 20,274 contracts, worth 84.197 million euros, with 26,241 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 30,434 contracts worth 17.116 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (7,520), followed by Eurobank (2,181), MIG (6,095), OTE (2,596), Piraeus Bank (1,666), Alpha Bank (3,117), Marfin Popular Bank (1,559), Mytilineos (563), Cyprus Bank (677) and Hellenic Postbank (618).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.339
Pound sterling 0.873
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 9.653
Japanese yen 125.7
Swiss franc 1.446
Norwegian kroner 7.906
Canadian dollar 1.344
Australian dollar 1.451
 Exhibition of Proto-Design projects at Macedonian Museum of Contemporary ArtThe Thessaloniki Aristotle University's (AUTH) Faculty of Engineering, in collaboration with London's Architectural Association School of Architecture, is displaying an exhibition of student's projects of the Association's post-graduate program Design Research Laboratory (DRL) titled "AA DRL: Proto-Design at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art in the northern Greek capital. The exhibition will run through May 9.
The Proto-Design agenda investigates digital and material prototyping as the methodology as well as the primary design outcome of studio work.
Parametric modelling and coding systems are emphasised as the vehicles in this new field of experimentation on multiple, sequential and recursive prototypical systems and spaces. Far from heralding the end of the design project as a form of research, this new performance- driven approach aims for more specific design proposals concerned with concrete design problems. The iterative methodologies of the design studio are directed towards the investigation of new spatial, structural and material organisations, and to the formulation of new discourses on contemporary computation and materialisation in the disciplines of architecture and urbanism.
 Exhibition on 'Manuscripts in the libraries of the Czech Republic'The embassy of the Czech Republic in Greece and the Society of Friends of the Gennadios Library are organising an exhibition titled "Manuscripts in the libraries of the Czech Republic" which is being hosted in the Gennadios Library (Swedias 61, Athens).
The exhibition is part of celebrations marking the World Book&Copyrights Day in Athens.
The "Manuscripts in the libraries of the Czech Republic" exhibition presents the history of manuscripts from the 9th century until today in the framework of the cultural, historical and social development in the countries of Bohemia.
 Hios prefect: Abolish tourism visa for Turkish nationalsHios Prefect Polidoros Lambrinoudis has addressed a letter to Prime Minister George Papandreou requesting that the abolition of the visa requirement for Turkish nationals, citing the need to boost tourism arrivals from the neighbouring non-Schengen Pact country.
The prefect of the eastern Aegean island underlined that the recovery of the Greek economy is closely linked with the growth of the tourism sector, stressing that such a measure would boost tourist arrivals and benefit the local economy.
 Two foreign nationals arrested on drug dealing chargesHania (western Crete) police announced on Tuesday the arrest of two Albanian nationals for drug dealing following a tip-off. The suspects, aged 26 and 29, were arrested on Monday while attempting to remove four kilos of hashish from a hideout in a farming region.
Police also found and confiscated two cell phones in their possession. The two suspects resisted arrest and attempted to escape.
 Cloudy on WednesdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 8C and 25C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 4-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 14C to 21C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 21C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe acceleration of negotiations on Greece's EU-IMF loan and the new austerity measures demanded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in order to agree to the activation of the support mechanism, and speculation of a barrage of lay-offs in the public sector and salary cutbacks in the private sector, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Hundreds of public services to be abolished or merged - The draft bill is ready".
APOGEVMATINI: "They're dismantling even the public health system - IMF demands drastic cutbacks in expenditures in health sector and the closing of hospitals".
AVGHI: "They opened the way for lay-offs in the public sector - Initially, 75 public sector organisations will be abolished".
AVRIANI: "Air force pilots on strike - The economic crisis gives rise to dangerous signs of disintegration".
ELEFTHEROS: "Reactions over IMF set fire to Maximos mansion (government headquarters) - Ruling PASOK cadres and MPs in an uproar".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The first lay-offs in the public sector - 'Pogrom' due to mergers and abolition of 75 public organisations".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "We will give you money but you will bleed - Merkel: Additional austerity measures are necessary for a three-year period".
ESTIA: "Immediate activation of the support mechanism is the last ditch opportunity for Greece".
ETHNOS: "The list with the shut-downs in the public sector - Which entities will be abolished and which will be merged".
IMERISSIA: "Assistance under harsh conditions - Alarm in EU - Fear of a domino effect".
KATHIMERINI: "Merkel: Yes to assistance, but with more measures - The spread sets new record - The agreement with IMF will 'close' before the weekend".
LOGOS: "Grey Monday for Greek economy under the pressure of EU, IMF and spreads".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "New three-year austerity package in the final stretch".
NIKI: "Experts offer us advice on our investments - Hints on how to protect our savings".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary general Aleka Papariga's press conference: The road to people's development is more timely than ever".
TA NEA: "Two salaries will be sacrificed for Merkel's sake - She insists on harsher measures in order to give her consent".
TO VIMA: "Dangerous games on Greece's back - The pressure for austerity at the limits of social endurance".
VRADYNI: "Merkel asks for more blood - Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou preannounced a new three-year austerity programme".
 President: Open dialogue and good climate at National CouncilNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias said Tuesday that an open dialogue is taking place at the meeting of the National Council, the top advisory body to the President for the handling of the Cyprus problem.
The National Council, which is composed of two members from all parliamentary parties, entered Tuesday its second day of session to continue discussion on the latest developments of the Cyprus problem and the prospects for a settlement. Discussion will resume Wednesday and Thursday.
The meeting comes in the wake of the ''election'' of Dervis Eroglu as the new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.
Replying to questions after the conclusions of Tuesday's meeting, President Christofias said that an open dialogue is taking place, adding that "the climate is good".
"There is an open dialogue, we will continue the dialogue and I am at the disposal of the members of the National Council. I have my views, I also have the mandate of the people to govern and handle the Cyprus problem. We should bear this in mind as well," he pointed out.
The President expressed his readiness for a constructive dialogue in the framework of the National Council.
"I am more than ready for a constructive dialogue", President Christofias stressed.
Asked whether a meeting was set between him and the new Turkish Cypriot leader, he replied "not yet".
On Monday, the Democratic Party (DIKO), the Movement of Social Democrats EDEK, the European Party (EVROKO) and the Cyprus Greens, presented their views and positions on the latest developments in the Cyprus issue.
On Tuesday, the left wing ruling party AKEL, and the right wing opposition party Democratic Rally (DISY), presented their positions.
On Wednesday, the Attorney-General will inform members on the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights on the so-called property commission in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus.
President Christofias and former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began on September 2008 UN-led talks for a mutually agreed settlement to the problem of Cyprus, divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The process was interrupted on March 30 ahead of the so-called ''elections'' in the Turkish occupied territories.
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