|Friday, 20 July 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-07-01
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 1 July 2010 Issue No: 3530
 PM defends gov't measures during debate on transparency billThe draft bill dubbed "Programme Clarity" prompted heated arguments when it was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, including an intervention by Prime Minister George Papandreou in defence of government measures that he said were imperative for rescuing the country.
"The common denominator in all that we do is transparency everywhere. All our choices are aimed at one goal, to permanently change Greece. To enable it to stand firmly on its feet and emerge from the crisis into which it was led by the old, bankrupt, untransparent and clientelist political system and, above all, to create prospects for it," Papandreou underlined.
The draft legislation tabled by Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis will make it mandatory for all acts by administrative and government organs to be posted on the Internet, in addition to existing forms of publications such as the government gazette, in a bid to boost transparency throughout the public sector.
It was strongly criticised by all the opposition parties, however, who accused the government of "communications games".
In his reply, Papandreou defended the measures that he claimed the government had been "forced" to take at an unprecedented rate because Greece was a "rudderless ship".
Commenting on statements by main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras that ND would "try to get rid" of the Memorandum signed in order for Greece to receive money under the EU-IMF bailout pacakge, Papandreou countered that ND was simply trying to forget its own "monumental" mistakes and inaction while in government, which had led to Greece being branded untrustworthy.
"You never showed the will to escape from our weaknesses, to determine the fate of the country ourselves. You were afraid. We have it, however, and we shoulder both the political cost and our responsibilities," the prime minister stressed.
Representatives of the opposition parties were strongly critical of the government, however, especially the harsh legislation it recently tabled on reforming Greece's pension system and rolling back entitlements for workers under labour law.
Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group speaker Alexis Tsipras accused the government of "completely demolishing labour and insurance rights" and dismissed the Programme Clarity bill as a 'communications gimmick', earning an angry response from Ragoussis who accused him of indulging in "blind confrontation" and refusing to back a bill that would bring absolute transparency in public administration.
ND criticised the government for blaming the country's current state on ND and also for bringing laws that ignored the Constitution.
 House votes "Programme Clarity" billThe Parliament endorsed on Wednesday evening the draft bill dubbed "Programme Clarity" and which was tabled by Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis.
The ruling PASOK, the main opposition New Democracy (ND) and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) parties voted in favour of the bill, while the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party voted against.
 Gov't tables fiscal management law in ParliamentThe government on Wednesday tabled in Parliament a draft law aimed at drastically the process for drafting, executing and monitoring state budgets, envisioning the institution of international standard fiscal rules and principles in the management of public monies.
The draft legislation introduces, among others, ministers' responsibility in drafting, monitoring and controlling budgets with the introduction of new management powers to the finance ministry and limiting ministries' ability to exceed budget credits without any consequences.
It also envisages creating an independent Parliament Budget Office to support the monitoring and execution of budgets and supporting fiscal targets. The Parliament will be able to intervene during discussion of state budgets and altering funds.
The tabling of the draft bill comes within the prescribed deadline cited in a signed memorandum between the Greek government and the "troika" -- Commission, ECB and IMF.
 PM chairs PASOK National Council on social security reformThe ruling PASOK Political Council, chaired on Tuesday by party leader and prime minister George Papandreou, discussed the government's social security bill with employment and social security minister Andreas Loverdos and unanimously approved a resolution stressing that PASOK and the government have the duty to proceed unwaveringly in the institution of regulations that will guarantee the viability and social adequacy of the public social security system, and particularly the ensurance pf pensions and consolidation of the social and social security rights of the young generation.
In this time of crisis for the working people and the country, the resolution said, "the challenge of growth and consolidating integrated social and social security structures is the immediate goal of PASOK and its government, opining that continuation of the dialogue between the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and employer federations for the signing of a framework agreement will "contribute decisively to the building of a climate of cooperation and will strengthen our collective effort to overcome the problems faced by the Greek economy and society".
"The decisions we take must be such as to shield the country not only from the crisis but also from possible developments in the future that we cannot know," Papandreou told the Council, stressing that "we need to look at the international climate in which we are living and in which we are obliged to act".
He reiterated that no political leadership would want to take the "difficult decisions that we are called on to take", adding that many these decisions "are not those that reflect us ideolo-gically".
He spoke of painful measures and great sacrifices required to tackle the debt and deficits that accumulated over many years and were burdened by other policies as well.
"Beyond the international crisis, beyond the debt and the deficit, the markets also hit out at us," Papandreou continued, "while, on the other hand, we did not have a model of a social state, nor a proper social security system, for a welfare system...The same with unemployment, which was 'solved' via the public sector. Nor was our economy competitive."
Papandreou criticised the preceding New Democracy (ND) government for engaging in a "central policy with the worst practices, from corruption to political favors to lack of transparency", while he also referred to the markets which "after 2008 were either extremely skittish or speculative, while there were also many who were 'speculating', compounded by the lack of a mechanism for intervention in the markets by the EU and internationally, which in turn deepened the crisis".
The premier added that if the intervention had taken place sooner "we could have had fewer repercussions as regards the immediate measures we had to take", and opined that the Greek citizens may tolerate these measures and make sacrifices provided order is put in the country, provided changes are made and the economy becomes viable, and provided there is prospect and justice.
"This is our wager," he stressed.
The goal, he continued, is to improve the country's fiscal finances and quickly exit from the Memorandum and surveillance of the economy, adding that PASOK had been the first to say this, and accused ND leader Antonis Samaras of "saying the same thing in order to conceal who brought us to surveillance".
 Coalition on social security, labour issue billsThe Political Secretariat of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party stressed in an announcement on Wednesday that "the government's bills on the social security issue and labour issues demolish social security and pensions, dissolve labour relations, impoverish pensioners and send young people to slavery and crudely violate constitutionally consolidated rights of working people."
It added that the bills "benefit and support private enterprises, insurance companies and our country's lenders."
The Coalition stressed that these bills must not pass and that it will do everything that it can.
 Court of Audit rules pension reforms unconstitutionalGreece's Court of Audit has once again found that measures proposed by the government for overhauling Greece's social insurance and pension system violate the Constitution. The court's plenum reached this conclusion in a session on Tuesday, when the media were participating in a 24-hour strike against the proposed reforms, when it examined a bill dealing exclusively with pensions in the public sector.
The Court of Audit had earlier rejected a draft bill dealing with the pensions overhaul for both the private and public sectors but had found that the coexistence of both in the same bill was not compatible with the Constitution. This resulted in a new draft bill being sent to the Court of Audit dealing only with the public sector, though most of its articles were the same as in the previous bill.
This was also found to violate the Constitution in several places, however, and one article was considered to violate the European Convention on Human Rights.
Among the articles found unconstitutional was one that greatly cut the amount of pension due to a widow/ widower when there was a great difference in age with the deceased spouse, while an article forbidding publi-sector pensioners from working in the private sector was judged both unconstitutional and contrary to the ECHR.
Also judged unconstitutional was an article allowing judges to retire after 25 years of work, regardless of the exising Constitu-tional retirement age limit from the judiciary, while it judged that certain articles needed to be rewritten and other clarified.
It also repeated observations concerning articles that had been found unconstitutional during its reading of the initial draft bill dealing with both private and public sectors.
 Gov't on Court of Audit ruling on pension reforms billGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Wednesday appeared sanguine that objections raised by the Court of Audit to sections of the government's proposed pension reforms, which it found were unconstitutional, could be easily dealt with.
"We take into account all observations, this is the judgement of the Court of Audit, but there is a specific framework in which we are obliged to act and this is what we are doing," Petalotis said when asked to comment on the Court of Audit's opinion.
"Let us not forget that the issues that arise in this social insurance bill are dozens, not hundreds. Therefore, if the other issues have been judged compatible with the Constitution, for there to be an unconstitutionality in one specific area is something that can be dealt with, and easily in fact," he stressed.
 Alt. FM addresses IFRI in ParisAlternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas addressed the French International Relations Institute (IFRI) in Paris on Tuesday night on the exercise of foreign policy in periods of economic crisis.
Addressing an audience of diplomats, experts and university professors, Droutsas outlined the case of Greece and the European Union.
He said that the reasons that had led to the present situation were not due to economic weakness on the part of Greece but to bad management in the past, noting that the EU-IMF support package for the Greek economy is a loan that will be repaid with interest and not a donation, and aims at backing the reforms in Greece.
He also stressed that Greek foreign policy is shouldering a special mission at this time, that of creating more opportunities for the country.
"Our foreign policy cannot be phobic or defensive, but on the contrary active and extrovert. I believe that, as the EU, we have more to gain if we once again pick up the trail of European history where we at some point put it down, before the vision of a large and united Europe begins to fade," Droutsas said.
In a truly globalised economic and political system, the winner is he who is more incorporated into that system, not the one who alienates himself from it, the alternate minister continued: "The opportunities are given to the one who dares and opens up, not to the one who closes in on himself. That is why we are taking initiatives ourselves, but also supporting the efforts of others that promote a climate of stability and prosperity in our wider region, including the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, the Black Sea and the Caucasus," he explained.
Replying to questions, Droutsas said that Greece wants Turkey to be a part of this because that way the neighbouring country will have a reason to proceed with reforms and enhance the democratisation of its system, but it is necessary that Turkey fulfills its obligations on respecting the principles of good neighborhood, international law, and the EU acquis.
"Participation in the EU means rights but also obligations," he stressed.
On the Cyprus issue, he stressed that the two communities need to be left to decide on their future without influence from foreign factors.
On the UN-mediated negotiations on the FYROM name issue, he called on the neighboring country to display a constructive and positive spirit and expressed optimism that a solution will not be long in coming.
To a question on the Greek economy, Droutsas said that the government has commenced an immense effort for fiscal streamlining, with the target of reducing the deficit from approximately 14 percent of GDP in 2009 to under 3 percent by 2014, and to begin reducing the debt:GDP ratio after 2013. Also, the deficit must be reduced by 5.5 percentage points in 2010, from 13.6 to 8.1 percent of GDP.
"It was necessary to take very harsh measures for the Greek society, for each and every Greek citizen, but we already have encouraging results: in the first five months of the year, the deficit was reduced by 40 percent compared with the same period last year, revenues increased, while expenditures have been substantially contained. We are therefore will within the targets we had set, even before the implementation begins of many of the new measures adopted by parliament," Droutsas stressed.
Asked if there was a possibility of Greece withdrawing from the euro currency, Droutsas said "that is absurd", echoing a similar statement by the French finance minister.
 Alt. FM's statements to French TV networkAlternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Wednesday underlined that the "Greek government is satisfied and optimistic" referring to the first months following the implementation of structural reforms in the country, speaking to "France 24" television network.
Referring to the social security reforms promoted by the government, he stressed that "the measures were unavoidable," adding that "the overwhelming majority of the people realise that reforms are necessary for the country."
On the Cyprus issue, Droutsas expressed certainty that a solution of the Cyprus problem can soon be reached, provided there is political will from all interested parties. He added that "Ankara should do what's necessary to reach a viable settlement on Cyprus guaranteeing that the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots alike will have a common future in the European Union."
Droutsas underlined that "the EU is open to Turkish membership if Turkey makes the necessary reforms and becomes a real European state."
 Government dismisses early election rumourGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Wednesday ruled out all possibility of early elections, denying a CNN report citing information about possible early polls.
"We unequivocally reject any such thought or scenario and believe that, if there is anyone that can and should ask for elections, then let them come out and do it," Petalotis said, adding that Greece "could do without" such theories and scenarios.
"The Greek people considers these to be luxuries that should not exist, even as thoughts," he added.
He also ruled out the likelihood of a reshuffle in the near future, stressing that there was no reason for one since the government was hard at work and dealing with problems collectively.
Parliament refers 5 former ND government ministers to House preliminary investigation commission in Vatopedi-Lake Vistonida scandal
The parliament plenary on Tuesday voted to refer to a parliamentary Preliminary Examination Committee five ministers of the former New Democracy government for implication in the controversial land swap between the Mt. Athos Monastery of Vatopedi and the state, in the case referring to Lake Vistonida and surrounding areas.
The plenary decided to refer five of the six ND former ministers proposed for referral by ruling PASOK, namely Evangelos Bassiakos, Petros Doukas, Alexandros Kontos, George Voulgarakis and Theodoros Roussopoulos, while it rejected referral of former ND minister Costas Kiltidis.
The vote came after completion of a parliamentary fact-finding commission's probe into the land swap, while the preliminary examination committee will investigate possible criminal liability of the five former ministers in the afair.
According to critics of a series of controversial deals, the state exchanged prime real estate holdings throughout Greece, including buildings in the Athens Olympic Village, for remote tracts of land where development is either restricted or prohibited, such as forestland, RAMSAR-protected areas around Lake Vistonida, and even archaeological sites.
This specific case concerns suspect land deals by the Vatopedi Monastery, where low-value property on the shores of Lake Vistonida was exchanged for prime pieces of public real estate in other parts of the country in transactions carried out by Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation which were approved by ministers.
 KKE leader speaks in PeristeriCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, speaking in the Athens district of Peristeri on Wednesday, stressed the need for the "rebirth and regrouping of the movement and the shaping of a social front from below upwards with terms of confrontation and reversal."
Papariga further said that "they are preparing a middle ages and Dachau dungeon for the younger ages", while not ruling out the possibility of "bloody military conflicts between the imperialist centres for restructuring in the imperialist pyramid."
She also noted that the main cause of the crisis is the incurable illness of the capitalist system.
 President presents swords to Navy Cadets Academy graduatesPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday presented their swords to the new Sub-Lieutenants who graduated from the Navy Cadets Academy, during a ceremony at the Academy premises in Piraeus.
The traditional oath was taken by 35 new Sub-Lieutenants, among them three women and one Cadet each from Cameroon, Jordan, Syria, Bulgaria, Libya and Cyprus.
Since women were first allowed into the Academy in 2006, a total of 17 have graduated.
 SAE president: Diaspora Greeks eyeing Greece as 2010 holiday destinationPresident Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Stefanos Tamvakis at the presidential mansion in Athens.
According to reports, the SAE president expressed the volition of Diaspora Greeks to better support Greece by selecting the country as a holiday destination the summer.
 Turkish survey vessel spotted between Samothrace, ThraceA Turkish hydrographic survey vessel identified as the "Cesme" was spotted in a sea region between the northern Aegean island of Samothrace and the Thrace coastline apparently conducting geological research on Tuesday morning in international waters, the Greek national defence general staff announced.
In the mid afternoon, the vessel was northeast of the Greek island of Samothrace and some eight nautical miles south of the coastline. A Hellenic Navy gunboat was monitoring the vessel's course.
Meanwhile, main opposition New Democracy (ND) deputy and former minister Dimitris AvramÔpoulos on Wednesday called for a briefing of political party leaders over the development, charging that the Turkish research vessel is accompanied by two Turkish warships.
 Turkish hydrographic vessel returns to TurkeyAccording to the Navy General Staff, the Turkish hydrographic vessel "Cesme" that was conducting research in the sea region between Samothraki and Thrace in international waters, entered Turkish territorial waters at 16:00 and at 16:45 anchored in Enos.
 Greek-Russian company founded for South Stream natural gas pipelineThe National Natural Gas Manager S.A. (DESFA) and the Russian Gazprom company, that each participate with 50 percent, proceeded in Athens on Wednesday with the founding of South Stream Greece S.A., the company that will manage the Greek section of the South Stream natural gas pipeline in Greece.
The signing ceremony took place at the Environment, Energy and Climatic Change ministry in the presence of Minister Tina Birbili and Russian Ambassador to Athens Vladfimir I. Chkhikvishvili.
The South Stream pipeline will carry natural gas from the Russian Black Sea coast to the countries of southern Europe. The pipeline's carrying capacity will be 63 billion cubic metres of gas per year.
 Greece, Azerbaijan to launch talks for direct purchase of Azeri natgasGreece and Azerbaijan have agreed to commence negotiations for the direct supply of Azeri natural gas to Greece, it was made known on Wednesday.
The commencement of negotiations was agreed by Greece's Environment, Energy and Climate Change minister Tina Birbili and Azerbaijan's Energy minister Natig Aliyev on the sidelines of the 2010 Mediterranean Oil & Gas Conference, which was held in Athens.
A ministry announcement said the two sides agreed to further promote their bilateral relations in the natgas sector and also a framework for the direct purchase of natural gas from Azerbaijan, for which the companies DEPA (Greece's natgas corporation) and SOCAR will work together.
Addressing the conference, Birbili outlined the Greek government's plans for the South Stream, Turkey-Greece-Italy and Greece-Bulgaria natgas pipelines.
She further noted the developmental prospects created by the recent liberalisation of the natural gas market, stressing that the smooth function of the market and promotion of the expansion of the Revithoussa liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal's capacity provides an opportunity for new activities in the energy sector.
 Commission extension for Greek bank support measuresBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
The European Commission on Wednesday approved an extension, until Dec. 31, 2010, of a series of support measures taken by the Greek and Polish governments to aid domestic credit institutions.
Additionally, the Commission also extended bank guarantees instituted by the Netherlands and Slovenia.
In terms of Greece, the initial series of support measures were taken on Nov. 19, 2008 and granted subsequent extensions on Sept. 18, 2009 and Jan. 25, 2010.
The support measures consist of a recapitalisation scheme, a guarantee scheme and a bond loan scheme, according to the Commission.
 Ag minister discusses canned fruits ban with Argentine envoyAgriculture Minister Katerina Batzeli met on Wednesday with Argentine ambassador to Greece Jorge Alejandro Mastropietro for talks focusing on the recent difficulties faced by Greek canned peach exports to the large South American nation.
According to subsequent announcements, both countries enjoy excellent trade relations and do not wish to disrupt trade ties, a reference to a recent ban on canned peaches from Greece.
The Greek minister added that such excellent relations should not be undermined by "unilateral commercial measures serving only short-term goals ... however, in the long term, such actions can lead to a disruption of bilateral trade ties."
Athens had tabled the matter for discussion at the EU farm ministers' council in Brussels on Tuesday.
 New EL.STAT board appointedThe new president and members of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT) were approved by Parliament on Tuesday following a recommendation by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou.
Andreas Georgiou is the new EL.STAT president. Vice-president is Nikolaos Logothetis, while the two board members are Zoi Georganta and Andreas Filippou.
 Greek-Saudi Arabian conferenceThe further strengthening of bilateral relations between Greece and Saudi Arabia was stressed at the Greek-Saudi Arabian conference organised by the Arab-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce.
The president of the Arab-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce Badali Adar welcomed in his opening address the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Greece and the Saudi Arabian business delegation that visited the country.
He also referred to the close relations linking Greece and Saudi Arabia and the desire of Greece and the entire business world for the further strengthening of relations between them, particularly now in the middle of the economic crisis during which the opportunity for investments is given.
 Dep. tourism minister meets with SAE presidentDeputy Culture and Tourism Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis received on Wednesday World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Stefanos Tamvakis and discussed the initiatives undertaken by the Greeks abroad in support of tourism in Greece.
The deputy minister outlined the government's policy focusing on the implementation of a new tourism model and after the meeting, he departed for a three-day visit to Vienna and Berlin where he will have contacts with his counterparts, MPs, tour operators and representatives of Greek communities abroad.
 Greek banks' saving deposits down in MaySavers continued withdrawing money from Greek banks in May. The Bank of Greece, in its monthly report, said total saving deposits by enterprises and households fell to 220.05 billion euros at the end of May, from 237.98 billion euros in early 2010, for a decline of 7.5 pct.
The central bank said Greek households withdrew around 3.0 billion euros from financial institutions in May with their total saving deposits falling to 183.4 billion euros at the end of the first five months of the year, from 196.8 billion at the start of 2010, for a decline of 7.0 pct. Deposits by Greek enterprises also fell to 31.88 billion euros at the end of May from 36.3 billion euros in early 2010, for a decline of 12.3 pct.
 Aegean Airlines officially a member of Star AllianceAegean Airlines on Wednesday officially became the 28th star of the international airline alliance Star Alliance, which brings together 4,000 aircraft carrying around 600 million passengers worldwide.
The membership ceremony was held at Aegean Airlines' technical base facilities, in the Athens International Airport, at the presence of representatives from Star Alliance's 27 members. Addressing the ceremony, Jaan Albresht, Star Alliance's chief executive, praised Aegean's business spirit and competitiveness along with the excellence of its services. "Aegean is the flagship airline in Greece," he said.
Aegean Airlines' vice-chairman Eftihis Vasilakis praised the work of a strong group of shareholders which managed to upgrade all systems and services of the airline company. Commenting on a merger agreement signed with Olympic Air, Vasilakis said the agreement has not yet been approved by the Competition Commission.
 Ferry service between Limnos, CanakkaleISTANBUL (ANA-MPA)
A commercial route linking the seaport of Canakkale, Turkey with the Greek island of Limnos in the northeastern Aegean began operation on June 17 following the signing of a relevant protocol between the local prefectural authorities of the respective regions.
Ferries disembark from Canakkale at 19:00 on Thursdays and Fridays and from Limnos at 07:00 on Fridays and Saturdays. The voyage lasts two hours and 15 minutes.
 Retail sales turnover index down 0.4 pct in AprilThe turnover index in the retail sector fell 0.4 pct in April compared with the same month last year, after a decline of 14.2 pct recorded in April 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.
The statistics service also announced that the volume index in the retail sector dropped 5.8 pct in April, compared with the same month last year, after a decline of 15 pct recorded in April 2009. The statistics service attributed this decline to a 14.3 pct rise in pharmaceutical-cosmetics shops, a 4.3 pct decline in supermarkets, a 20.2 pct fall in department stores, a 20.9 pct drop in clothing-footwear and a 7.9 pct decline in furniture-electrical appliances.
 Car registrations down 54.1 pct in MayNew car registrations plunged 54.1 pct in May, compared with the same month last year, with the car market suffering more than any other commercial sector of the Greek economy, the Association of Car Importers and Dealers said on Wednesday.
The association said that a "free fall" in the car market this year would resuld to lower tax revenues for the state and urged the government to cooperate with the car sector which covers around 5.0 pct of regular budget revenues or even 10 pct if fuel tax was included.
The Association has already recommended a package of measures aimed at supporting -partly- the market by raising revenues and supporting employment. The success of these recommendations have been evident in several other European Union countries, such as introduction of "clever" taxation on cars. The Association expressed its opposition to any plans to further raising fuel taxes, saying Greece was already to third more expensive EU country in petrol taxes.
Employment in the Greek car market totals more than 90,000 people, with employment down around 10 pct in the period from November 2008 to March 2010.
 Road toll fee increase on Corinth-Tripolis national motorwayA ten-cent increase in road tolls enters into effect on Thursday, July 1, 2010 for all vehicle categories using the Corinth-Tripolis national motorway in southern Greece.
The new rates are due to a VAT increase from 21 percent to 23 percent.
The road toll rates will be in effect for all motorists including "Attiki Odos" motorway e-PASS holders.
 Stocks end flatGreek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, unable to hold on to early gains. The composite index of the market fell 0.01 pct to end at 1,434.22 points, after rising as much as 3.31 pct during the session. Turnover was a low 115.76 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 0.32 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.41 pct and the Small Cap index rose 0.79 pct. The Banks (3.24 pct) and Technology (1.97 pct) sectors scored gains, while Utilities (3.04 pct) and Raw Materials (2.64 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 98 to 79 with another 39 issues unchanged.
FHL Mermeren (19.19 pct), Lavipharm (11.48 pct) and Koumbas (10 pct) were top gainers, while Loulis (17.66 pct), Zenon (12.61 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farming (10.0 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.15%
Personal & Household: +0.60%
Raw Materials: -2.64%
Travel & Leisure: -1.94%
Food & Beverages: +3.24%
Financial Services: +0.35%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, DEH, OPAP and Coca Cola.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.04
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.78
HBC Coca Cola: 17.63
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.85
National Bank of Greece: 8.91
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.68
Bank of Piraeus: 3.49
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 790 basis points on Wednesday, from 807 bps the previous day, in the Greek electronic secondary bond market. The Greek bond yielded 10.47 pct and the German Bund 2.56 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 123 million euros, of which 73 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 50 million euros were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 32 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved slightly higher. The 12-month rate was 1.30 pct, the six-month rate 1.03 pct, the three-month 0.75 pct and the one-month rate 0.47 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.82 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 64.092 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 15,897 contracts worth 53.874 million euros with 28,262 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,673 contracts worth 10.218 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (7,399), followed by Eurobank (662), MIG (561), OTE (784), Piraeus Bank (572), Alpha Bank (1,962) and Marfin Popular Bank (299).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.236
Pound sterling 0.823
Danish kroner 7.508
Swedish kroner 9.602
Japanese yen 109.66
Swiss franc 1.338
Norwegian kroner 8.036
Canadian dollar 1.299
Australian dollar 1.451
 Eleven bodies washed up on banks of Evros RiverEleven bodies have been washed up on the banks of the Evros River in the last few days, authorities announced on Wednesday. Nine were found by fishermen during the last 48 hours, while two were found on Saturday.
The bodies belonged to six men and five women and were all found on the riverside between Dilofos and Marasio. They are believed to belong to a group of illegal immigrants that attempted to cross the border in a boat or dinghy that either sank or capsized.
All 11 were taken to Alexandroupolis hospital for an autopsy, while coroners estimate that they were each young individuals aged between 20 and 25 years old.
According to hospital authorities, meanwhile, the discovery of dead migrants has now become an almost daily occurrence and is stretching hospital resources to their limit, with the morgue now housing 17 unidentified bodies and facing a shortage of refrigerator space.
 Greek-German co-production 'Plato's Academy' shortlisted for 2010 LUX Prize for European CinemaA Greek-German co-production is among the 10 films that have been shortlisted for the European Parliament's LUX Prize for European Cinema 2010 in the framework of this year's European Fiml Festival in Brussels.
The objective of the prize, named after the unit of illuminance "lux" (Latin for 'light'), is to illuminate the public debate on European integration and facilitate the diffusion of European films in the EU.
The Greek-German co-production that has been shortlisted is Filippos Tsitos' "Akadimia Platonos" (Plato's Academy).
The other nine shortlisted films are: Szabolcs Hajdu's "Bibliotheque Pascal" (Hungary, Germany, UK, Romania); Feo Aladag's "Die Fremde" ("When We Leave", Germany); Olivier Masset-Depasse's "Illegal" (Belgium); Sharunas Bartas' "Indigene d'Eurasie" ("Eastern Drift", Lithuania, France, UK); Luca Guadagnino's "Io sono l'amore" ("I Am Love", Italy); Pietro Marcello's "La bocca del lupo" ("The Mouth of the Wolf", Italy); Jessica Hausner's "Lourdes" (Austria, France, Germany); Calin Peter Netzer's "Medalia de onoare" ("Medal of Honour", Germany, Romania); and "R" by Tobias Lindholm and Michael Noer (Denmark).
The LUX Prize consistrs of assistance in kind in the form of subtitling and video-to-film transfer (kinescopage) of the winning film in the 23 official EU languages.
The European Parliament is a champion - and a symbol - of cultural diversity. Its very make-up reflects Europe's multiplicity of cultures and languages. With 736 seats, the European Parliament is the world's largest international parliamentary body. It is also the most diverse: its Members represent the people of the European Union's 27 Member States; 23 languages are spoken in the Parliament, not to mention the regional and minority languages of the Union. The Parliament, whose legislative powers are steadily increasing, shares the Union's motto, 'Unity in Diversity'. Intercultural dialogue and freedom of thought, which have inspired and underpinned the history of European cinema, are two of its most cherished causes.
Cinema lies at the heart of the European cultural model. It is emblematic of the cultural exception dispute between the European Union and the United States. Cinema is also a medium that is accessible to a very large number of people of all ages. Marrying sound and image, it has always been a medium that appeals to the individual at an emotional rather than a cognitive level. At a time when text as a medium is at a crossroads, cinema is the ideal vehicle for communication - or reflection - on Europe and its future.
The aims of the LUX prize are th shed a different light on the European public debate and facilitate circulation of European films.
One of the main criteria in selecting the films short-listed for the LUX Prize is their success in showing the process of building Europe in a different light. As the European Union works on a new treaty, the artistic and narrative quality of the winning film will give the audience a glimpse of a submerged dimension of the European venture - the individual, perhaps the intimate, dimension.
Breaking through the language barrier that prevents films from moving around the European Union is the other major objective of the LUX Prize. It will give a powerful circulation boost to a cinematic work within the common market and will ultimately add to Europe's cinematographic and cultural wealth.
Awarded by the Members of the European Parliament, the LUX Prize honours a work which illustrates particularly well the universal nature of European values, cultural diversity and the European integration process.
A trophy is presented to the winner by the President of the European Parliament in the presence of the 735 other members of the Assembly and representatives of the three finalists.
LUX is the Latin word for light. The concept underlying the logo of the LUX Prize is the Tower of Babel, understood in a positive sense as a tower which, because it has the richness of diversity as its foundation, does not collapse. Like the European Parliament, it symbolises linguistic plurality and cultural diversity brought together in one and the same place and with one and the same ambition.
 Road accidents statistics for April 2010The number of road accidents throughout Greece rose by 4.4 percent in April 2010, compared with the corresponding month in 2009, according to figures released by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT) on Wednesday.
According to the statistics, 95 people lost their lives, 134 suffered serious injury and another 1,396 were lightly injured in a total of 1,283 road accidents throughout the country in April 2010 compared to 1,229 in April 2009.
In comparison with the corresponding figures for April 2009, the number of road accident-related deaths dropped 20.2 percent, while there was a 5.6 percent decline in serious injuries and a 1.5 percent drop in light injuries.
 Athens 'Freeday': Weekly night-time bicycle outingsWhat started out two-and-a-half years ago out as a weekly rendezvous among a handful of friends on Friday nights for a relaxing bicycle outing around Athens gradually attracted an increasing number of friends and, in recent months, after one of the excursionists had the idea of posting the outings on Facebook, the bicyclers have snowballed to more than 4,000 and the number continues to grow.
The idea began in February 2008 when the five friends decided to combine exercise with recreation, and got together, took out their beloved bicycles, and embarked on a series of "different" tours of Athens.
Soon, the five bikers became 10, by summer they became 100, and the following summer (2009), they had reached 600.
But after one of the original five friends had the idea of posting the excursions on Facebook, the number snowballed to more than 4,000 and the outings also grew in destinations, covering an increasingly greater area and exceeding the strict borders of Athens proper.
The outings, dubbed as "Freeday" on Facebook, have turned into a weekly social event, with people of different ages and backgrounds from all parts of the greater Athens area meeting and making new friends and sharing their love of bicycling and their desire to escape from the daily monotony and discover a different face of the city they live in.
The bikers start gathering at the designated spot, a different one each time, at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, and set off for their weekly adventure at 10:00. The outing usually lasts a few hours, but some of the more avid excursionists continue throughout the night, taking in the sunrise at a different location each time.
 Two killed in hang glider crashTwo people were killed on Tuesday night when their hang glider, for reasons as yet unknown, crashed in the area of Egio, Achaia prefecture during a training flight.
The two were identified as the hang glider's 50-year-old pilot/trainer and a 17-year-old highschool pupil.
The 50-year-old man was an experienced hang glider pilot and president of the Egio Flying Club, while the teenager had just begun lessons.
An investigation was launched into the causes of the accident.
 Teen gang arrested for 22 burglariesPolice on Wednesday reported the arrest of a gang of four young Albanians, including two teens aged 15 and 16, a 19-year-old and one aged 23, for a string of 22 burglaries targeting shops throughout Attica.
The four were arrested on Sunday afternoon in Galatsi and Neos Kosmos and accused of setting up a criminal organisation and repeated counts of theft. More of their accomplices are now being sought.
According to police, they are responsible for a series of night-time burglaries in which they either shattered the locks or broke the glass doors of shops, taking money, electronic goods, mobile phones and other items that they then sold for a profit.
Under questioning they admitted to breaking into shops in the areas of Alimos, Ilioupolis, Argyropoulis, Patission and Galatsi during the past six months. Police also searched their homes, where they found several of the stolen goods and transferred them to the SE Attica security headquarters so that they might be returned to their rightful owners.
All four were led before an Athens prosecutor.
 Public prosecutor files request to close Kuneva casePublic prosecutor Ioannis Sakkas on Wednesday filed a request with the Misdemeanours' Court Justices Council, asking that the case on the acid attack against trade unionist Konstantina Kuneva be finallly closed unsolved.
The prosecutor asked that the case be filed as one "against unknown perpetrators" since the investigation has not turned up any evidence concerning who was responsible for the attack on the trade unionist nearly two years ago, on December 22, 2008 in Petralona.
As a result of the attack, in which acid was poured over her face and torso, the former trade unionist in the Athens unions of cleaners and domestic staff was left permanently disfigured and seriously disabled, with severe health problems that required lengthy hospital treatment and multiple surgeries.
The two lawyers representing Kuneva in a civil suit concerning the case, however, reacted to the public prosecutor's proposal by pointing to deficiencies in the way the investigation had been conducted and calling for the prosecutor's evidence file to be joined with the ongoing police investigation into the issue and for the examination to "continue with a new momentum".
 Two arrested for drug-dealing in PeristeriTwo men aged 35 and 45 years old, respectively, were led before an Athens public prosecutor on Wednesday on charges of drug dealing. They had been arrested by police in the west Athens district of Peristeri on Tuesday night with 820 grammes of heroin, 260 grammes of cocaine, 340 grammes of cannabis, a loaded gun, two cell phones and two electronic precision scales in their possession.
 Cloudy on ThursdayCloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 14C and 32C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 19C to 31C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 19C to 30C.
 EU's Fule: freezing of Turkey's chapters linked to Ankara's obligationsBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said on Wednesday that the freezing of some of the EU-Turkey accession negotiation chapters is an EU decision and cannot be linked to the Cyprus problem.
In statements after the EU decision to open one more negotiation chapter, namely the chapter on Food Safety, Veterinary and Phyto-sanitary policy, Fule said that the freezing of some of the negotiating chapters, in Turkey's membership talks, is an EU decision and can by no means be linked to the Cyprus problem.
This, he pointed out, is linked to Ankara's obligation to implement the Ankara Protocol.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose country holds the current EU Presidency, replying to questions on the Cyprus problem, said he is not pessimistic as regards the prospects of a Cyprus solution, expressing the view that progress has been achieved at the Cyprus talks.
In his statements, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu talked about the lifting of the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, saying that the Turkish Cypriot community voted in favor of a UN-proposed solution plan (the Annan plan) in the April 2004 referendum.
Referring to the ongoing UN-led Cyprus talks, he recalled that UNSG's Special Advisor for Cyprus, Alexander Downer, has asked for more progress to be achieved by November.
Replying to questions, Davutoglu said he does not worry that the EU will not open "more negotiating chapters with Turkey due to Cyprus, since nobody can accuse Turkey of not doing everything possible for a solution of the Cyprus problem".
Turkey, whose troops occupy Cyprus' northern part since they invaded in 1974, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member since 2004. Ankara has failed so far to meet its obligations emanating from its EU accession course, in spite of repeated calls from Brussles.
Peace talks are currently underway in Cyprus to find a negotiated settlement to reunite the country.
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS