|Monday, 19 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-04-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 30 April 2010 Issue No: 3481
 PM meets social partners, employers' reps"The country's social and production forces should unite to tackle the problems. We should work in such a way that the activities of the production and social sectors converge to the target set," Economic and Social Council of Greece (OKE) President Christos Polyzogopoulos stated on Thursday. He made the comment while exiting then government headquarters in Athens after attending a meeting of economic and social partners' representatives with Prime Minister George Papandreou.
Asked to comment on the private sector, he said it has its own rules but it is necessary to exist and be supported in order to absorb unemployment.
Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) President Nikos Angelopoulos maintained that the government should be supported in order to lead the country out of the crisis, underlining that this is a national goal. He stressed that even the painful measures should be supported and pointed out that politicians and citizens alike are equally responsible.
"The measures requested by the 'troika' (EU, ECB, IMF) are very tough but they supply us with time and funds thus allowing us to give a fight," National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) President Vassilis Korkidis stated after the meeting with the prime minister, adding that the country should create a new model of development.
He said that this will not happen overnight and stressed that "we should take advantage of the transitional phase to the fullest." He expressed opposition to a VAT increase.
"We will have a sufficient 'safety net' for the next three to four years which, however, we will have to pay for dearly and at the same time endure tough measures," Hellenic Confederation of Professionals Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) head Dimitris Asimakopoulos stated.
He also expressed opposition to any new VAT increase and to the abolition of the 13th and 14th salaries (Christmas and Easter-summer vacation bonuses).
Meanwhile, the umbrella trade union GSEE addressed a letter to Papandreou on Thursday requesting an urgent meeting in view of the developments as regards the consultations on the EU/IMF support mechanism.
Civil servants' union ADEDY general secretary Ilias Iliopoulos said "we are dealing with a 'finished story' that was discussed in our absence, as far as the public sector employees are concerned."
Iliopoulos cautioned that "cutting the 13th and the 14th salaries, as well as pensions, the freezing of the salaries for three years, the change in the indirect taxes factor and much more that have not been announced yet will place an additional burden on people's lives."
"The country is experiencing the toughest moment in its post-war history," GSEE president Yiannis Panagopoulos said, adding that "we are reacting because the policies followed are unilateral and unfair."
"We will try to limit the intensity of this attack," he said, adding that "we have already taken a taste of a very tough package of austerity measures that will lead to economic recession."
"In these crucial times we should support this necessary national effort," Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) President Dimitris Daskalopoulos said, adding that the country has the potential and "we have the will."
 PM addresses PASOK political councilPrime Minister and ruling PASOK President George Papandreou addressed his party's political council on Thursday saying that the immediate emergency measures taken by the government regarding the economy "constitute the strong bridge leading to great changes. To secure the life of every citizen, to secure that the growth will be dynamic in a more just society."
Papandreou said that the country was "in the vortex of a crisis which is in process and which we have never experienced before," pledging that "our efforts will bear fruit."
The prime minister added that his government was "waging the battle in order to achieve five targets simultaneously: Saving the country and protecting citizens; achieving a secure exit from the crisis; creating the necessary conditions for reforming the country's productive infrastructure; putting the country on the track towards a viable and green development and securing social justice."
"Past actions and criminal policies by the previous government force us, at present, to wage a battle for survival and we are called upon to take difficult and painful decisions...We will do whatever necessary in order to save the coumtry," Papandreou noted.
He said that discussions with European Union partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the activation of the support mechanism would be concluded in the coming days.
"We will leave behind us a period of justified insecurity and we shall make every effort in order to build a better future for us and our children," the premier concluded.
 Support mechanism deal ready in next few days, RehnBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn on Thursday said activation of a support mechanism for Greece was a matter of time, while he expressed his confidence that talks currently under way in Athens between Greek authorities, the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF will be completed in the next few days.
Speaking to reporters, Rehn said the talks envisaged a fiscal restructuring and structural reforms of major significance.
"Funding of Greece by Eurozone countries will be on the precondition of fiscal restructuring and structural reforms," Rehn said, adding that Greece must restore the viability of its public finances and put its economy on a growth track.
The EU Commissioner said this effort was not only for Greece, but for all Eurozone member-states and their citizens, adding that financial help to be given to Greece would be a significant breather to deal with debt problems in the EU.
 European Socialists urge immediate help for Greece, slam Merkel's 'ambiguity'BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
Party of European Socialists (PES) President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen on Thursday accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of mishandling the Greek debt crisis through her reluctance to commit to helping Greece and called her a "diminished European figure".
"The lack of a clear commitment and failure to follow-through from the German Chancellor has caused real hardship for the Greek people. It has caused the German taxpayer hardship, and ultimately, European Union hardship. After this failure of leadership, Ms. Merkel is a diminished European figure", Rasmussen, in a written declaration on the Greek and Euro-zone crisis.
Stressing that the principle of European solidarity is a financial and moral necessity, Rasmussen said the "the entire crisis was a series of false dawns and a chronicle of missed opportunities, now it is absolutely the time for action".
"The current reluctance to act, particularly by the German Chancellor, contradicts the very principle upon which the EU was founded. It is a Conservative smoke signal to speculators that attacks on the euro-zone is acceptable. European citizens are tired of this cynical coded language. In a time of hardship people need principled leadership," Rasmussen's statement said.
Noting that the principle of European solidarity was a "financial and moral imperative", the European Socialist leader called for immediate financial assistance from the Euro-zone states to Greece.
 Papandreou meets Serbian PM Cvetkovic in AthensBilateral relations and Serbia's European prospects were the two main issues that Prime Minister George Papandreou discussed in Athens on Thursday with his visiting Serb counterpart Mirko Cvetkovic.
"Greece has steadfastly supported [Serbia's European prospects] from the first moment," Papandreou said after the meeting, adding that "Serbia must be made a member of the European family, a place that rightfully belongs to it, as soon as possible".
An important step in this direction was the move to grant Serbs visa-free travel to the EU, which was strongly supported by Greece, and the Serbian Parliament's apology for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, which Papandreou described as "brave".
They also spoke about economic cooperation issues, with special emphasis on tourism during the upcoming summer months.
"The long friendship of the two peoples is reflected in the frequent high-level visits but also in the great number of Serb citizens that visit our country each year for their holidays," Papandreou said.
The two prime ministers underlined Greece's leading role on Balkan issues in the EU, with its 'Agenda 2014' initiative that calls for the accession of western Balkan states into Europe by that year provided they meet the terms and conditions of EU entry, including that of good neighbour relations.
"Serbia is a strategic partner of Greece," Papandreou noted, stressing the country's important role for peace and prosperity in the region.
Papandreou and Cvetkovic referred to developments in Kosovo, which the Greek side is following closely. The Greek premier said that Athens gives priority in the region to stability, growth, improving living standards, respect for human rights and respect for monuments and cultural heritage.
"Our participation in Eulex, KFOR and the appointment of the head of the Liaison Office in Pristina, who is also mediator for the protection of the religious and cultural heritage of the Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo, proves our active dedication," he added.
Cvetkovic referred to the intense talks between Serbia and other Balkan countries on regional cooperation aiming at European integration, while thanking Greece for its support on the issue of Kosovo.
 ND leader addresses Economist conferenceMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras on Thursday accused the government of being resposnsible for the country's present economic crisis.
Addressing an Economist conference in Athens, Samaras said that the government was "wholly responsible, through its handlings after the October general elections, for the borrowing crisis the country is experiencing."
"International markets have lost their confidence in the Greek government and in its ability to handle the situation," the main opposition leader said, adding that "while other countries, both in and out of the European Union, also present high fiscal deficits and excessive public debts, only Greece has become the weak link, due to the government's wrong choices."
"Even high deficits, even high debts, even again a weak competitiveness, do not provoke great concerns if the government inspires confidence that it can make structural moves timely," he noted.
He also attributed responsibily to the European Union for not having at place a mechanism of support to countries that face problems.
"Europe is being forced to create hastily a mechanism of support to a member-state. And then it is forced to hastily resolve all institutional, legal and financial problems, with many hesitations on the part of some of its members," Samaras noted.
According to the ND leader, the problem of the Greek economy is due to the "extensive, unproductive public sector, which employs a personnel four times greater than the one needed in a modern state."
Explaining his opposition to the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) implication in supporting Greece, Samaras said he preferred a European solution. "We would have preferred a help to Greece coming from a strictly European framework. And because we consider that the conditions set by the IMF, are by rule pushing an economy deeper into the vicious circle of hard measures-deep recession-greater deficits-more hard measures-deeper recession etc."
 DM addresses Economist con'f; refers to defence spending cuts"The country will not compromise its goals as far as its external security and defence policy is concerned," Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Thursday, addressing the Economist conference in Athens.
Venizelos referred to the efforts made to reduce the operational costs of the ministry of defense by 25 pct compared to last year, the establishment of transparent procedures aimed at ensuring well-documented defense spending and the creation of a smaller more efficient army in accordance with modern standards.
Responding to a question on defence spending cuts, Venizelos referred to recent statements made by Turkish Minister of State Egemen Bagis and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who backed a mutual reduction of armaments.
Venizelos stressed, however, that such a move would be the result of consultations and not a unilateral initiative on behalf our side.
 LA.OS' Karatzaferis on economy, political systemOpposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) President George Karatzaferis, in a radio interview on Thursday, accused ruling PASOK party and main opposition New Democracy (ND) of being responsible for the massive economic crisis now plaguing Greece.
Referring to the economy, he said the IMF suggests spending cuts and tax increases while there is no word about development.
He predicted that the crisis will last a decade and underlined that the political world should join forces to deal with the crisis.
 FM spokesman on upcoming Erdogan visitTurkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Athens next month with delegation of 10 ministers aims at substantial deepening and expansion of the field of cooperation between Greece and Turkey as a basis for building the rapprochement between the two countries, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday during a regular press briefing.
Erdogan and a delegation of 10 ministers are due for a two-day official visit to Athens on May 14-15, including the ministers of economy, foreign trade, European affairs, energy, transports, education, and the environment.
Replying to press questions, Delavekouras said that the itinerary has not yet been completed.
He said that the 10 Turkish ministers will arrive in Athens on the morning of Friday, May 14, and will have bilateral meetings with their Greek counterparts, while Erdogan will arrive that same afternoon, and will hold talks with the Greek political and state leadership.
The High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, the creation of which was decided during Droutsas' recent visit to Ankara and talks with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, will hold its first meeting in the afternoon of May 14, after the agreement formally setting up the Council is signed.
To another question, Delavekouras said that no visit to Thrace by Erdogan has been scheduled.
Erdogan will leave Greece at noon on Saturday, the foreign ministry spokesman added.
 FM spokesman on FYROM name issueGreece seeks the adoption of a name with a geographical qualification in effect for all purposes (ergo omnes) in the UN-mediated FYROM name negotiations, adding that the name "Republic of Northern Macedonia", provided the term is applicable ergo omnes, fulfills those conditions, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday during a regular press briefing.
Delavekouras said that a solution to the name issue is possible immediately, provided the necessary political volition exists.
He said that UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz has called on the Greek and FYROM negotiators to examine the point at which the talks are currently, "but it is rather premature to discuss the Nimetz proposal, at least given the present circumstances in the other side".
Delavekouras stressed that FYROM prime minister Nikola Gruevski holds the fate of his country and its Euiropean and Atlantic future, in his hands.
He further criticised the FYROM leadership for choosing to abuse its position as current chairman of the Council of Europe to promote its own positions.
 FM spokesman on Cyprus issueForeign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras described as important the consolidation of any progress and the framework achieved in that talks on the Cyprus issue, during a regular press briefing on Thursday.
He added, however, that recent statements by Dervis Eroglu, who won the recent illegal elections in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus, gave cause for concern, and called on Eroglu to take part in the Cyprus talks "with a constructive stance".
 Inquiry into NIS document leak, pricing scamThe Citizens' Protection ministry on Thursday announced that it is investigating the leak of classified and highly classified documents from the National Intelligence Service (EYP). The documents, which also included documents containing personal information about employees, were found in the possession of a NIS executive who had them illegally.
The ministry said that an inquiry is being conducted in the presence of a public prosecutor to determine how the documents came to be in his possession.
Internal inquiries under oath are also being carried out to determine how sensitive personal data relating to NIS staff was leaked to the Internet and why a private printer was given the job of printing ballots for the primary-level trade union bodies in the NIS, thus leaking information about the service, even though there is an internal printing office for this purpose.
Also underway is an inquiry by the financial crimes squad SDOE into the over-pricing of electronic equipment purchased by the NIS.
 Athens commends Tirana honor for fallen Greek WWII soldiersGreece on Thursday praised a recent Albanian initiative to honor the fallen Greek soldiers of the Greek-Italian war (1940-41), the first theatre of conflict in the Balkans during the Second World War.
Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras underlined that Greece has stood by Albania and wants the neighbouring country to proceed as rapidly as possible towards Euro-Atlantic structures.
 Cyprus President: Turkey has to allow a true federation in CyprusPresident of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias stressed on Thursday that Turkey has to prove that it respects the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus, which it violates since 1974, and to give the green light to the Turkish Cypriot leadership for a serious and effective negotiation to achieve a true federation.
Addressing the Round Table Discussion organised by The Economist in Athens, the Cyprus president said that it is imperative that Turkey abandons the communication tricks and proves in reality that it wants to solve the Cyprus problem.
Referring to the Cyprus talks, which began between himself and former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in September 2008, he said that "the progress reached was a result of convergence that we achieved in the chapter on governance and power sharing but also in the chapters on the economy and European issues".
"In all other aspects, even in those where we achieved convergence, significant disagreements and points of divergence were ascertained that require hard work to bridge", he pointed out.
President Christofias expressed the belief that in the eighteen months of the discussions with Talat the progress that was achieved could be greater, if the Turkish Cypriot community had adopted a different position.
"This would have been achieved had it been truly autonomous and not under guidance from Turkey, if it had a more constructive stance at the negotiating table and if it had worked hard to formulate the content of the solution in a consistent way on the basis of bizonal, bicommunal federation", he underlined.
Christofias stressed that the Turkish-Cypriot side cannot handle on its own the Cyprus problem and first and foremost take decisions on the solution of the problem without the consent and the respective decisions of Turkey.
"The role of Turkey in solving the Cyprus problem, as indicated in the Conclusions of the European Council of last December, is crucial," he recalled.
Reiterating that Cyprus supports the European perspective and the accession of Turkey to the EU, he said that this could not be a "carte blanche".
"The progress of its accession course is linked to the degree it fulfils its obligations. This is a position that Turkey must take into consideration and adapt its conduct accordingly," he pointed out.
President Christofias expressed his concern over the prospects for a solution after the change in the Turkish Cypriot leadership.
"The victory of Dervis Eroglu, given his long-held divisive positions on the Cyprus problem, gave rise to a justified concern in the international community regarding the prospects of negotiations. We have to say that we are very much worried as well", he said.
Referring to the content of the letter Eroglu had sent to the UNSG, as well as his interviews and statements, he said they prove that Eroglu continues to maintain the same positions on the Cyprus problem, which are in direct conflict with the UN Resolutions on Cyprus as well as the 1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements.
He explained that Eroglu refers to the existence of "two peoples and two Republics" in Cyprus.
"But it is well-known that on the basis of the Treaty of Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus but also the 1960 Constitution, there is only one people in Cyprus consisting of two communities, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot. Besides, this is the reason why the High Level Agreements between the leaders of the two communities provide for bicommunal federation", he went on to add.
He recalled that the declaration by Turkey of an illegal state, the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, in the occupied part in November 1983, has been condemned by the UN Security Council Resolutions 541 and 550 as a secessionist act and has been considered as invalid and they call upon all states not to recognise the illegal status.
"The political equality to which the UN Resolutions refer and which Talat accepted, is the political equality of the two communities and not of two sovereign peoples, as Eroglou supports", Christofias said.
The Cypriot president noted that in Eroglu's statements there is no reference to bizonal, bicommunal federation which is the agreement between the two Cypriot communities, and it is also the UN position as well as the position of European Union's and other international organizations.
"Eroglu reiterates his position on co-operation of two separate different states. This is a model of loose confederation and not of a federation. A federation is a state, confederation is not even a state", he pointed out.
What is imperative, he said, is to reaffirm the agreed basis on which talks are carried out for the solution of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality as described in the respective UN Resolutions, on one state with one and only sovereignty, one nationality and one international identity. It is also imperative to continue the negotiations in the framework of the same procedure from the point they were interrupted.
"There is an essential reason for doing this and it is related to the solution sought. Reaffirmation of the basis of the solution will not allow any of the two sides, and especially Eroglu with his well-known divisive positions, to deviate from what both communities have agreed", he stressed.
He called upon the international community and the EU to assume their responsibilities and move towards the direction of Eroglu and Turkey and ask them to clarify their positions.
President Christofias said that the international aspects of the Cyprus problem also need to be solved, namely, the presence of Turkish troops that occupy, in violation of the international law, a large part of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus since 1974, the presence of tens of thousands of settlers that Turkey has illegally installed in the northern occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus, thus altering the demographic character of the country, the issues regarding security and guarantees which are unnecessary for a member state of the EU.
"A peaceful, reunified and prosperous Cyprus is my vision", he said, pledging that "I shall continue to dedicate all my efforts in order to make this vision a reality".
Concluding, the Cypriot President said that the reunified Federal Republic of Cyprus shall be the solid ground on which Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will build their common future and, at the same time, each community will be able to cultivate its distinct cultural, religious and linguistic identity.
 Culture and Tourism Minister to hold series of meeting in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and DubaiCulture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos will pay visits from May 1 to 4 to Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where he will hold a series of meetings focusing on the promotion of the Greece's development opportunities, the attraction of investments and the promotion of Greek tourism and culture.
On Saturday, May 1, Geroulanos will meet with Riyadh's Provicial Governor Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, head of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies Prince Turki Al Faisal, and Saudi Arabia's minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja, respectively.
On Sunday Geroulanos will head to Abu Dhabi, where he will stay until Tuesday.
On Monday he will hold talks with United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and of the Abu Dhabi Authority For Culture and Heritage Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, and with UAE Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development and Chairman of the National Council of Tourism and Antiquities (NCTA) Abdel Rahman Bin Mohammed Al Owais.
On Tuesday Geroulanos will go to Dubai to visit the "Arabian Travel Market" exhibition, and meet with Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing director general Khalid A. bin Sulayem and tour operators.
 Travel exhibition "15th Tourism Panorama" in AthensThe travel exhibition "15th Tourism Panorama" will open its doors to the public on Friday at the Zappeion Center's courtyard in Athens. Prefectures, municipalities and local administration organisations, together with travel agents and professionals, will provide information to visitors and offer attractive tourism packages.
This year's exhibition will present two new themes: "go green" and "go culture", focusing on viable development, agrotourism and alternative forms of tourism as well as new proposals for professionals and travellers.
The exhibition will also showcase the cultural heritage of the various regions of the country as well as presentations of local products and the products of farmers' co-operatives.
The exhibition will run until May 2.
 Deputy minister at Tourism PanoramaDeputy Culture and Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou referred to the potential of new digital services in tourism, while addressing the 15th Tourism Panorama exhibition on Thursday.
Among new digital services in the tourism sector she mentioned e-booking and social media marketing as new ways of handling the tourist product, stressing that these were being promoted by both the public and private sectors.
According to Gerekou, the new bywords at the ministry were the terms 'go-green' and 'go-culture', signifying the new prospects linked to green development in tourism and exploiting Greece's cultural heritage at the same time as respecting its environment.
 Credit expansion rate slows further in MarchNet funding to Greek enterprises and households turned negative in March, the Bank of Greece announced on Thursday.
In a monthly report, the central bank said net funding flow was -565 million euros, to a total debt of enterprises and households of 254.8 billion euros. The annual growth rate of credit expansion in the country slowed further to 3.5 pct in March, down from 3.9 pct in February.
Specifically, net funding to domestic enterprises was a negative 639 million euros for annual growth rate of 4.3 pct in March, from 4.9 pct in February. Total debt to banks was 135.1 billion euros at the end of the first quarter of 2010. Credit expansion grew faster in the agriculture and tourism sectors, while it slowed or remained almost unchanged in all other sectors of the economy.
Credit expansion in the manufacturing sector remained negative (-1.3 pct in March, -3.0 pct in February), while the commerce sectors managed to maintain a positive growth rate (0.5 pct in March, 1.6 pct in February). Other Financial Institutions (8.5 pct) and Tourism (8.2 pct) recorded high annual growth rates in March.
Households' debt to banks totaled 119.6 billion euros, with net funding flow remaining a positive 74 million euros in March. Credit expansion growth was 2.7 pct in March, unchanged from February, but down from 3.1 pct in December 2009. Consumer loans recorded a negative flow of 105 million euros, with the annual growth rate at 1.0 pct, unchanged from February.
 Greek cooperative banks report improved Q1 resultsGreek cooperative banks reported improved results for the first quarter of 2010, compared with the same period in 2009, despite difficult conditions in the Greek economy.
Nikos Myrtakis, president of the Association of Cooperative Banks of Greece, said assets rose 8.3 pct to 4.354 billion euros, loans rose 11.2 pct to 3.447 billion euros and saving deposits rose 6.5 pct to 3.455 billion euros in the January-March period.
Equity capital rose 9.3 pct to 559 million euros, while pre-tax earnings jumped 55.5 pct to 16.4 million euros. Myrtakis said the association operated a branch network of 230 units around the country.
 Labour Day strikes in public transportStrikes by Athens public transport staff will mark the Labour Day celebrations on May 1, with early morning work stoppages by buses, the electric railway and the metro and full-day strikes by OSE trains and the Proastiakos railway.
Specifically, staff on the ETHEL buses, trolley buses, metro, ISAP electric railway and the tram will only strike from the start of their shift until 7:00 in the morning on Saturday, meaning that they will work essentially as normal throughout the rest of the day.
More seriously affected will be commuters using Greek Railways (OSE) trains throughout the country and the Proastiakos line, where there will be a 24-hour strike starting at midnight, meaning that later services on April 30 will also be affected.
 Lawyers strike on May 5The Coordinating Committee of Greek bar associations on Thursday announced that all lawyers throughout the country will abstain from their duties on May 5, 2010 - the same day as a strike called by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) - in protest over the state of Greek justice and the backlog of cases in courts.
"The state of Justice is deteriorating, cases are being given trial dates in 2012 and 2013 and the number of cases concluded each day is constantly being reduced and does not exceed four on average, while there are thousands of court decisions that are not yet written up," an announcement notes, saying the situation amounted to a refusal to administer justice.
Bar associations also object to what they called the systematic undermining of their profession as an institution.
 Shops to close on May 5 in protest actionThe two main associations representing retail traders and small businesses in Greece - the traders and artisans confederation GSEBEE and the National Confederation of Commerce (ESEE) - on Thursday announced that they were calling for the closure of shops and businesses after 12:30 next Wednesday.
The two organisations said that they would participate in this way in strike action decided on that day by Greece's largest umbrella trade union for private-sector workers, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), in protest against government austerity measures.
"From the moment that the overwhelming majority of (Organisation for the Insurance of Freelance Professionals) OAEE pensioners lives on starvation pensions and our organisation is threatened with collapse, from the moment that the majority of self-employed, small and middle-sized professionals, traders and artisans are waging a rather unequal battle to keep their businesses afloat and the jobs in these, at a time when the number of those struggling to meet their daily obligations is rising, the 'recommendations and demands' of the observers for further austerity measures can only cause indignation," they say in an announcement.
The SMEs call for measures to reinforce the social state and social insurance system, rather than further downgrading this and a development plan in which small businesses will play a key role along with a growth model that generates economic stability, wealth and prospects for all while sharing burdens and benefits fairly.
They also stress that owners of small and medium-sized businesses have no social "safety net" when they fail, while their insurance organisation is the least privileged in the country.
 Greece raises VAT for use of sports facilities to 21 pctGreece's Finance ministry on Thursday announced its has raised a VAT level for the use of sports facilities to 21 pct, from April 23. In a circular, the finance ministry said the new VAT covered all use of sports facilities for training of sports events in swimming, track, tennis, bowling, basket ball, football, etc. The circular also said that tele-heating services would be included in the low VAT level of 10 pct.
 Greek PPI up 8.7 pct in MarchGreece's Producer's Price composite index in the industrial sector (measuring both the domestic and external markets) jumped 8.7 pct in March, compared with the same month last year, after a decline of 7.3 pct recorded in March 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics agency attributed the rise to a 7.9 pct increase in the domestic market producer's price index and an 11.6 pct rise in the external market index. The PPI rose 1.4 pct in March from February 2010.
 Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling reports spectacular Q1 resutsCoca-Cola Hellenic Bottling on Thursday reported a 26 pct increase in its comparable operating earnings to 52 million euros in the first quarter of 2010, compared with the corresponding period last year.
Comparable net earnings totaled 25 million euros in the January-March period, from 7.0 million euros last year, while net cash flows totaled 65 million euros, up 56 million euros compared with the same period in 2009. The volume of sales totaled 431 million boxes, down 2.0 pct from 2009, while net revenue from sales was 1.377 billion euros, unchanged from last year.
Doros Konstantinou, chief executive of Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling, commenting on the results said the company's profitability improved in the first quarter reflecting benefits from the implementation of cost-cutting measures last year, combined with the positive impact of foreign currency fluctuations in several markets. He said the company saw encouraging signs of economic stability in emerging and developing markets, although the company remained cautious.
 Stocks rebound strongly, 7.14%Stocks staged a spectacular recovery in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, reflecting investors' confidence over a timely activation of an EU/IMF support mechanism for Greece. Buying interest focused on bank shares. The composite index soared 7.14 pct to end at 1,829 points, with turnover a strong 357.657 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index jumped 8.83 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 5.99 pct and the FTSE 80 index rose 6.76 pct. All sectors moved upwards, with the Banks (13.08 pct) and Financial Services (10.14 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 188 to 27 with another 24 issues unchanged.
Geniki Bank (29.79 pct), Vovos (20.51 pct), Aspis Bank (19.05 pct), Proton Bank (18 pct) and ATEbank (17.80 pct) were top gainers, while Akritas (13.43 pct), Compucon (11.11 pct), Elfico (9.21 pct) and Texapret (9.09 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +7.41%
Personal & Household: +3.81%
Raw Materials: +9.36%
Travel & Leisure: +2.55%
Food & Beverages: +0.89%
Financial Services: +10.14%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.95
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.55
HBC Coca Cola: 19.65
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.80
National Bank of Greece: 12.00
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.07
Bank of Piraeus: 5.54
 Greek bond market closing reportThe Greek electronic secondary bond market remained frozen for the second consecutive session on Thursday, with no transactions made during the day. Bank of Greece officials said he expected the market to return to normal operations from Monday.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.95 pct, the three-month 0.64 pct and the one-month rate 0.40 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a reduced discount (-0.71 pct) in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 134.278 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 24,912 contracts worth 108.180 million euros, with 33,875 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 32,679 contracts worth 26.098 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (12,677), followed by Eurobank (1,477), MIG (1,434), OTE (1,592), PPC (1,514), Piraeus Bank (1,942), GEK (831), Alpha Bank (4,053), Marfin Popular Bank (2,107), Mytilineos (1,036) and Hellenic Postbank (603).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.336
Pound sterling 0.874
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 9.703
Japanese yen 125.76
Swiss franc 1.446
Norwegian kroner 7.905
Canadian dollar 1.339
Australian dollar 1.438
 Interview with archaeologist Dr. Stephen G Miller: British Museum no longer has any excuse to keep Parthenon MarblesHe arrived in Greece in the '70s as a young archaeologist aspiring to bring to light the kingdom of legendary Ulysses or, at least, the palaces of King Phillip of Macedon. Destiny, however, and the University of California at Berkeley, led Dr. Stephen G. Miller to Nemea in the Peloponnese, southern Greece, where he unearthed the ancient stadium of the Nemean Panhellenic Games.
In an interview with ANA-MPA's "Greek Diaspora" magazine, Miller said the excavation was carried out very cautiously, and frequently with bare hands.
"The first time I visited Greece I felt a sense of national identity," he said, adding: "I felt that I've always belonged here and will belong here forever."
Dr. Miler recently spent nine months at the site, despite the fact that he is no longer the director of the excavations. Moreover, he has played a decisive role in the revival of the Nemean Games in their ancient form. Participating athletes are obligated to wear attire similar to those worn by their fellow athletes during antiquity.
"I believe that this re-enactment and revival of the ancient Nemean Games makes us all feel a part of this magnificent Greek history," he says.
Referring to propaganda attempts following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia to cast doubt on the Hellenic nature of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia, he said the ancient Greeks of the 7th century BC considered the Macedons as fellow Hellenes, adding that "their Greek identity is obvious given that the inscriptions of the ancient Macedons were written in Greek".
Furthermore, based on the archaeological findings, the Macedonians participated in the Games of Nemea as one of the Greek tribes and this is an indisputable fact.
Turning to another subject, he said the New Acropolis Museum is exceptional, and stressed that the British Museum no longer has any excuse to keep in London the Parthenon Marbles, "the epitome of ancient perfection, the cornerstone of Western civilisation, of beauty and symmetry."
"If my hand was missing, wouldn't I ask for it back? The answer is self-evident," he continued.
He stated that isolated sculptures such as the Aphrodite of Milos (Venus di Milo) or the Nike of Samothrace would continue to be on display at the Louvre, or other such artifacts in museums throughout the world, in order to showcase the perfection of the ancient Greek spirit.
"But the Parthenon Marbles must be returned to their home, to be housed in the New Acropolis Museum, to complete their historic whole," he added.
 Three 'Revolutionary Struggle' terrorist group suspects admit involvement in letter to newspaperThree of the six people arrested and charged with involvement in the Revolutionary Struggle terrorist group in a coordinated police swoop on April 11 have admitted participation in the group in a letter to the weekly newspaper "Pontiki" appearing on Thursday.
The letter, signed by Panagiota (Pola) Roupa, her husband Nikos Maziotis and Constantine Gournas, also says that Lambros Fountas, a 35-year-old biologist who was killed in a shootout with police in the Dafni district of Athens, was one of their "comrades" in the group.
In the letter, the three suspects -- who together with the other three detainees have been jailed pending trial -- say they are "proud" of their group, adding that "the struggle will continue".
"They will not be done with us easily," the letter says, charging that "it is not we who are the terrorists, but the Authority".
The three suspects called prime minister George Papandreou and citizens protection minister Michalis Chryssohoidis "terrorists" and, listing the Revolutionary Struggle's actions one-by-one, said they were not "acts of terrorism of the people who, in their majority, approve them".
The letter further includes an extensive reference to the economic crisis and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the present situation in Greece, adding that the "objective conditions" are "ripe for revolution", and what remains is for "the subjective conditions to ripen" as well.
 DNA testing ordered on terror suspectsAn Athens first instance magistrate has ordered six suspects arrested recently and linked with the "Revolutionary Struggle" terror gang to submit to DNA testing.
The decision was issued in order to cross-check DNA samples taken by authorities at several residences and sites suspected of being used by the ultra-leftist terrorist group.
Meanwhile, a plenum of appellate justices convened on Thursday and assigned the investigation into the terrorist group to special appellate-level magistrates Dimitris Mokkas and Konstantinos Baltas.
 Hooded individuals storm deputy minister's political office in ExarchiaFive individuals, armed with hammers and wearing hoods over their heads, stormed into the political office of Deputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Thanos Moraitis in the district of Exarchia, Athens, at midday on Thursday.
The assailants fled the scene after slightly injuring an employee and causing extensive material damage to the deputy minister's office who was absent at the time.
A police investigation is underway for the arrest of the suspects.
 Armoured car transferring money robbed in TripolisA private security company armoured car transferring money on behalf of the Bank of Greece was held up in the city of Tripolis, southern Greece, on Thursday morning and the robbers made off with 500,000 euros.
The three armed robbers, who were riding motorcycles and wore helmets covering their faces, opened fire on the armoured car and injured one of the three private security officers after hitting him over the head with a gun butt before snatching 5 bags containing half a million euros. A manhunt is underway in the prefecture of Arcadia for their arrest.
The private security officers had undertaken to transfer a total of thirteen bags with 1,150,000 euros from the Bank of Greece branch in Tripolis to Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE) branches in the cities of Argos, Astros and Megalopolis.
The robbery took place while the security personnel were unloading some of the bags with the money to a second armoured car.
 'High life' gives away alleged bank robberA Greek Post Office (EL.TA) employee was arrested and charged with planning and organising a major heist of roughly three million euros last January in Petralona district of central Athens targeting an armoured car at the moment it was transferring cash bags, police said Thursday.
Authorities in Athens and the western port city of Patras arrested the 36-year-old in Patras on Sunday, attracted by a bevy of luxury cars the man purchased and his extravagant lifestyle.
The first suspect reportedly pointed to a 32-year-old EL.TA employee as the mastermind of the robbery, who was an armed guard in the armoured car that was robbed. A third man is still wanted in the case.
Two robbers, both in police uniform, shot the 32-year-old during the attack, in order to divert suspicion away from him, snatched the money and fled, according to reports.
Police found in the possession of the 36-year-old a total of 85,000 euros, while another 100,000 euros were found in a bank safe deposit box. A luxury car he had bought with robbery money was also seized. The suspect had been accused many times in the past of robberies and other crimes and had received a 25-year-sentence but in 2007 was released from prison on conditions.
The 32-year-old ELTA employee was arrested on Wednesday. A luxury SUV and other two cars found in his possession were seized.
A police investigation is underway to locate the rest of the stolen money and arrest the third suspect.
 Contraband cigarettes confiscatedA large quantity of contraband cigarettes, corresponding to roughly 1.7 million euros in unpaid tariffs and taxes, was discovered and seized on Thursday morning by the Attica prefecture financial crimes squad (SDOE).
Roughly 505,000 packs of contraband foreign brand cigarettes were confiscated after a search in a container that had arrived in the Port of Piraeus on April 9 from Malaysia. According to the accompanying documents, the container contained office lamps.
A Cypriot national is wanted by police in connection to the case.
 Mayor of Athens to run for re-electionAthens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Wednesday evening announced his candidacy for re-election in the next municipal elections, during an event at the Megaron-Athens Concert Hall.
Kaklamanis, who is affiliated with main opposition New Democracy (ND), made the announcement ahead of ND's official announcement of the candidacies it will be backing.
 Judicial inquiry into 'suspect' football gamesA Supreme Court prosecutor on Thursday ordered local public prosecutors to carry out inquiries into suspicions that matches in the Greek football tournament may have been 'fixed', acting on a list tabled in Parliament by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) MP Athanassios Plevris of 27 games judged 'slightly suspect' to 'highly corrupt' in a UEFA report.
Public prosecutors are expected to start calling club officials and players of the teams involved to testify during the coming week.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel's and IMF chief Dominique Strauss -Kahn's statements on the immediate activation of the support mechanism after their talks in Berlin, and the reforms and the changes to local administration contained in the "Kallikratis" plan, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' headlines.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Kallikratis plan brings 100,000 lay-offs - Lengthy Inner Cabinet meeting".
APOGEVMATINI: "The new municipalities throughout Greece".
AVGHI: "They are taking everything".
AVRIANI: "The 'arsonists' are playing fireman!!!"
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "IMF storm in private sector, too".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The maps with the 333 (new, larger municipalities - Kallikratis: Everything changing in the country's structure".
ESTIA: "Europe is heading towards collapse - Her leaders have huge responsibility".
ETHNOS: "Harsh measures contained in the agreement with the EU-ECB-IMF".
IMERISSIA: "120 billion euros rescue package - The economic assistance deal was sealed in Berlin".
KATHIMERINI: "120 billion euros for three tough years".
LOGOS: "Final countdown for ...the new package of measures - Acceleration of procedures decided by Merkel and Strauss-Kahn".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Berlin makes positive turn-about on the 120 billion euros support".
NIKI: "Vicious circle! - Six bitter answers regarding our bank deposits".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Working classes' uprising on Labour Day at the PAME (Labour union affiliated to Communist Party) demonstrations staged throughout the country".
TA NEA: "Painful rescue - The fear of a domino effect persuaded Merkel, who is offering us...".
TO VIMA: "120 billion euros breather - Salaries before the firing squad".
VRADYNI: "Now they are in a hurry - Merkel calls for acceleration of the activation of the support mechanism".
 House Plenary approves the financial aid to GreeceNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Plenary of the House of Representatives approved on Thursday the bill for the financial aid of 60,6 million Euro to Greece.
The relevant bill was submitted on Thursday before the House Plenary, it was declared as urgent, and was examined by the Parliamentary
Committee on Financial and Budgetary Affairs at the presence of Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis and the Director General of the Ministry the same day.
During the afternoon session of the Plenary, Stavrakis and Members of the House noted that the Cyprus financial aid to Greece may increase, if the final amount of the aid from the Eurozone changes.
The leaders of the EU member states of the Eurozone decided on March 25, 2010, to take effective and coordinated measures to protect the financial stability of Eurozone, if needed.
On the basis of that decision, the leaders decided that in the case the aid to Greece from the markets is inadequate, a coordinated support from all the members of the Eurozone, along with the International Monetary Fund, should be provided.
The support will be given to Greece in the form of coordinated bilateral loans, which will be gathered by the European Commission and will be converted to a unified loan that will be given to Greece under very tough conditions.
Cyprus' contribution is estimated to 60.6 million Euro with the overall aid from the Eurozone states to be around 30 billion Euro.
Based on today's data, the fixed interest of the three-year loan will be around 5%.
According to the report of the Finance Parliamentary Committee, the Finance Minister stated that the details of the final plan for the financial support to Greece by the Eurozone member states have not yet been confirmed.
Finance Minister: Cyprus' share to Greek bailout may rise to 180 mln
Cyprus' contribution to the EU-IMF rescue plan for Greece will possibly rise up to 180 million euro, Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis said, as reports raise the final amount of the EU aid package to Greece to 90 billion euro.
Speaking to the press after an urgent meeting of the Parliamentary Committee of Financial and Budgetary Affairs to debate the bill for a
61 million euro aid to Greece, Stavrakis said that Cyprus has an obligation to contribute 2 per mille of the total amount of the EU rescue plan for Greece, adding that the final amount still remains fluid.
Noting that the initial amount of the rescue plan was at 30 billion euro, Stavrakis added that ''it seems that the total amount which may be necessary is much larger'' and recalled press reports raising the final amount to 90 billion.
He noted that if the total amount will reach 90 billion, Cyprus' contribution would be 180 million.
Asked on the impact of the loan to Greece on the Cypriot economy, Stavrakis said that this amount does not affect the budget deficit, adding that the loan will increase the public debt.
''Surely (the loan) increases public debt because we will also have to borrow or use our liquid assets to lend Greece and therefore there will be a small increase of the public debt,'' he pointed out.
Stavrakis explained that in case the whole amount of 180 million will be disbursed, Cyprus public debt would rise by one percentage point from 55% today to 56%.
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