|Tuesday, 12 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-11-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 24 November 2010 Issue No: 3653
 FinMin cites 10 major challenges facing Greece in 2011Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday outlined what he called the 10 most significant challenges facing the Greek economy in 2011, saying: "we have a lot of work ahead, we have structural reforms to ensure the sustainability of reducing deficits and viability of the country's public finances".
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister sounded "open" to a possibility of extending the repayment period of loans received by the 110-billion-euro support mechanism, although he stressed that no decision over an extension has been taken. Moreover, he dismissed speculation of additional loans from 2013 onwards.
Papaconstantinou stressed that Greece's aim was to return to capital markets in 2011, saying "we are doing our job. The rest will come in due time, depending on how things are going".
Additionally, Papaconstantinou categorically reassured that "there is no issue of dismissals in the public sector", saying that transfer of workers in the public sector would not be counted as new hirings. The Greek minister thanked his colleagues in government for their cooperation with the troika experts, while he criticised the opposition for its stance.
Amongst others, Papaconstantinou ticked off the 10 biggest challenges facing the economy in the coming year, including:
1. Better management and control of public spending with the appointment of economic supervisors to the most significant general government's agencies, drafting a medium-term fiscal strategic framework for the period 2012-2014 aimed at reducing the fiscal deficit from 17 billion euros to 6.4 billion euros.
2. Combating tax evasion via provisions envisioned in draft law on tax legislation, such as accelerating tax trials, restructuring the finance ministry and merging tax agencies.
3. Reducing public sector enterprises' deficits through the closure and merger of organisations. Loss-making enterprises will have to reduce their workforce but not with dismissals but with workers' transfers.
4. Reforming the public sector. The minister said 40,000 employees will leave the public sector in 2010 and around 8,000 new hirings will be made in 2011 with priority given to education, health and insurance. A new payroll system for the public sector will be operational by the end of 2011.
5. Cutting overspending in health.
6. Labour relations. A new draft bill will be presented by the end of the year giving business agreements more power over sector agreements within certain limits without hitting the minimum wage.
7. Opening up of closed professions. A draft bill will be approved in the first quarter of 2011.
8. Business environment-growth. An action plan to deregulate energy markets will be presented by the end of 2011.
9. Financial sector. Restructuring ATEbank (in the fourth quarter of 2010) and operational division of a Savings and Loans Fund (first quarter of 2011).
10. Better management of state real estate property-privatisations with the aim to raise 7.0 billion euros in the 2011-2013 period and at least 1.0 billion euros in 2011.
Papaconstantinou said Greece was and will continue to be in a volatile international environment with great difficulties resulting to fluctuations in bond yield spreads. He said that an updated memorandum will be signed with the troika within the next 10 days.
 EU-ECB-IMF 'troika': Greece meeting goalsRepresentatives of the EU-ECB-IMF "troika" on Tuesday morning emphasised here that the Greek government is more-or-less continuing to follow a closely watched economic readjustment programme, stressing that criteria with an end of September deadline have been met.
The eagerly expected press conference by the troika officials offered insight on how well Athens is meeting obligations under an EU-ECB-IMF memorandum signed in May to commence a 110-billion-euro bailout for the debt- and deficit-plagued east Mediterranean country.
Despite whatever challenges remaining, representatives referred to significant progress made so far in meeting goals, which have included drastic cuts in state spending and fiscal reform, a joint statement read.
In reference to all-important growth prospects for the Greek economy -- which is facing a negative growth prediction of roughly 4 percent for 2010 -- troika representatives echoed other European analysts and economists in saying that the economic downturn will be reversed at some point in 2011. Inflationary pressure from price hikes and operational costs are expected to abate, pointing the way for an improvement in competitiveness, they said.
Moreover, according to the joint press release, the reduction of the budget deficit by six percentage points is greater that the initial target. However, the lower than expected revenues from tax collection and the revised -- upwards -- figure for the 2009 deficit mean that additional efforts will be needed to meet the goal of a 7.5-percent deficit (as a percentage of GDP) for 2011, a development that was also confirmed by the Greek govern-ment.
Furthermore, the troika said new measures to expand the tax base and to curb overspending and waste in the public sector were agreed to with the Greek government, with an emphasis on the healthcare sector, loss-making state utilities and enterprises as well as much-needed reforms in the tax bureau and tax issue-related justice system.
 Troika: Greece must further promote structural reformsGreece needs to further promote structural reforms, the EU-ECB-IMF "troika" representatives added here on Tuesday, speaking to an eagerly watched press conference in Athens.
In a statement released after completion of a visit to Greece for a regular inspection of the country's economy and finances, the troika members announced that "structural reforms are necessary to improve the competitiveness of the Greek economy, reviving production and boosting employment."
They also noted that despite significant progress made to date in implementing reforms, especially reform of the social security system, the programme has reached a turning point.
Experts said that many of the reforms needed to transform Greece into a dynamic and export-oriented economy demand skillful planning and political will to overcome "vested interests".
"Challenges" cited for achieving such an "ambitious timetable" for reforms include:
- aligning wages to productivity at a business' level through the reform of collective labour bargaining systems and arbitration.
- opening up access to services, commerce and so-called 'closed professions'.
- releasing Greek industry's dynamism through reduced bureaucracy and removing bureaucratic hurdles in the market.
Speaking to reporters, Poul Thomsen, the representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and head of the troika team in Athens, said that next visit to Greece will come in March 2011 to assess implementation of the programme, adding that there would more and more specific conclusions over implementation of structural reforms currently underway.
Thomsen noted that structural changes and reforms, beyond what is envisaged in an economic adjustment programme, are necessary for the adjustment to be sustainable and for the Greek economy to become more competitive in the long term.
 Greek gov't to decide on reform of public sector, troika stressesInternational Monetary Fund (IMF) representative Poul Thomsen on Tuesday expressed his confidence that Greece will return to the markets to cover its borrowing needs and to repay the 110 billion euros in loans it received from a joint eurozone-IMF support mechanism.
Speaking to reporters in Athens, Thomsen nevertheless clarified that, in any case, alternative solutions exist, such as offering additional loans or extending the loan repayment period or even refinancing the loans, although no such decision has been taken.
Commenting on the Greek public sector and public sector enterprises, Thomsen and the EU-ECB-IMF troika officials ascertained that latter's workforce was excessive but that the troika did not ask for lay-offs.
The government will decide on how to implement a programme of a five-to-one ratio on new hirings (one hiring for five people leaving the public sector).
Servaas Deroouse, the EU representative, said improvements in the labour market will allow for greater flexibility without any consequences on minimum wages. Deroouse said cooperation between the troika and the Greek government was good and that a dialogue and views expressed led to the current agreement.
The troika officials said the country's financial system, although still under pressure, enjoyed adequate capital levels, while a Financial Stability Fund was currently available to offer additional support if necessary.
 IMF statement on recent Greek inspection, proposed measuresThe following statement was issued on Tuesday by the IMF headquarters in Washington regarding the recently completed inspection and talks by a EU-ECB-IMF "troika" team in Athens, and accompanying contacts and negotiations with members of the Greek government, opposition parties and social partners.
"Staff teams from the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited Athens during November 14-23 for the second review of the government's economic program, which is being supported by a EUR 80 billion loan from Euro area countries and a EUR 30 billion Stand-By Arrangement with the Fund.
"The objectives underpinning the program are to restore fiscal sustainability, safeguard financial sector stability, and boost competitiveness-to create the conditions for sustained growth and employment. Maintaining fairness in the program also remains of paramount concern and this will continue to guide the direction of policies in the period ahead.
"Our overall assessment is that the program remains broadly on track. The end-September quantitative criteria have all been met. While challenges remain, significant progress has been made, particularly in reducing the fiscal deficit.
"Regarding the outlook, the economy is expected to begin turning around in 2011. Wage and price inflation is beginning to moderate, setting the stage for improvements in competitiveness.
"In the fiscal area, the deficit reduction by 6 percent of GDP in 2010 is larger than the initially targeted change. At the same time, data revisions for 2009 and weaker-than-projected revenue collection mean that an extra effort will be needed to meet the deficit target of 7.5 percent of GDP in 2011, which the government has reaffirmed. New measures have been agreed to broaden tax bases and eliminate wasteful spending, particularly in the areas of:
? Health spending-which is inefficient relative to other euro zone countries;
? State enterprises-which are a heavy burden on the economy with perennial losses for Greek taxpayers; and
? Tax administration-which has instruments now coming into place to strengthen compliance.
The government's fiscal policy remains anchored in reducing the deficit to below 3 percent of GDP by 2014. The government's medium-term budget strategy paper, to be discussed in the next review, will specify time-bound action plans for crucial structural reforms needed to achieve the remaining fiscal adjustment, and to do so in a socially balanced way.
In the financial sector, the program has been effective in supporting stability. The activation of the EUR 25 billion expansion of the government program to guarantee bank bonds, which was adopted in August, will contribute to support the liquidity position of Greek banks. Some private banks have had some success recently in raising funding as well as capital in the markets. While the banking system remains under some pressure, capital is adequate and, as envisaged under the program, the Financial Stability Fund is now available to provide support, if needed. The government has analyzed options for banks under its control and devised a program to address their stability and efficiency. Banking and insurance supervision are also being strengthened.
"Structural reforms are needed to secure Greece's competitiveness, reinvigorate output, and increase employment. While significant progress has been made, with some landmark reforms-including pension reform-the program has now reached a critical juncture. Many of the reforms that are necessary to transform Greece into a dynamic and export-driven economy require skillful design and political resolve to overcome entrenched interests. The challenge now is to implement an ambitious schedule for these next-stage reforms, including:
? Aligning wages more closely with firm-level productivity, including through reform of arbitration and collective bargaining systems.
? Opening up access to services, trades, and professions.
? Unlocking the potential of Greek industries by cutting red tape and barriers to entry, and privatizing state assets.
"In summary: the reforms needed to return Greece to robust economic growth are underway, but developments to date also reveal that structural issues must be dealt with to make the adjustment sustainable. (ANA-MPA)
"Next Steps. Approval of the conclusion of the second review will allow the disbursement of EUR 9 billion (EUR 6.5 billion by the euro area Member States, and EUR 2.5 billion by the IMF). The mission for the next program review is scheduled for February, 2011," the statement concluded.
 PM chairs meeting on support for unemployed, social protectionPrime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday chaired a government meeting on action to promote social cohesion and protection, especially on health care for the unemployed.
Attending the meeting were Labour and Social Insurance Minister Louka Katseli, and Deputy Labour Minister George Koutroumanis, as well as Deputy Health and Social Solidarity Minister Mihalis Timosidis and the head of the Manpower Employment Organisation OAED Elias Kikilias.
They discussed three pillars of action that will include full coverage of medical and hospital treatment for an estimated 400,000 unemployed in 2011. This coverage will be available to under-30s registered as unemployed, even if they have no social insurance contributions, while those aged 30 years must have at least two years' worth of social insurance contributions with IKA or the OAEE fund for the self-employed. The number of social insurance stamps required then increases by 100 days for each year after 30, up to a maximum of 3,000 days insurance.
The programme is also open to employees that have 50 days of social insurance contributions with any social insurance fund during 2010 (instead of the current 70 days).
Other action envisages comprehensive national programmes to support employment and social protection, a bill legislating for a new Social Economy Fund and action on social work. These will seek to create new jobs, help bring long-term unemployed, women, young people and socially vulnerable groups into the labour market, reduce social exclusion due to poverty and improve social services through e-governance procedures.
Government spokesman George Petalotis clarified that the measures will specifically prioritise areas with high rates of unemployment and that meetings were taking place at the European Union so that the 'Help at Home' programme might be co-financed by the EU in the current and following years in order to ensure its medium-term financial viability.
Following this meeting, Papandreou then chaired a meeting attended by his economic advisor Lucas Papademos, a former European Central Bank vice-president, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and Alternate Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou.
 PM holds meeting on European support mechanism negotiationsPrime Minister George Papandreou held a meeting in his office in Parliament on Tuesday with Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and Alternate Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou focusing, according to reports, on the allocation of roles of the relevant ministers and members of the government regarding negotiations for the European support mechanism, also in light of the upcoming European Union summit in December. The meeting was also attended by the prime minister's adviser Loukas Papademos.
According to the same reports, the government's position remains as regards the manner in which individuals and banks are participating in the European support mechanism.
 PM meets Christofias, stresses that relations with Turkey 'cannot be normalised' without Cyprus solutionIn a meeting at the Greek Parliament on Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and visiting Cyprus President Demetris Christofias exchanged views regarding the latest developments in the Cyprus issue and reaffirmed that this remained a top priority for Greek foreign policy.
"Without a solution of the Cyprus issue, there cannot be normalisation of relations between Greece and Turkey," the Greek premier emphasised afterward, underlining that Athens was steadfast in supporting the struggle to reunite the island.
The main focus of their talks was a meeting between Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in New York. Papandreou and Christofias both described the meeting as "useful and productive", while the Greek premier said Athens' supported Cyprus's positions calling for an honest compromise, without deadlines and arbitration.
Papandreou expressed hope that the Turkish-Cypriot side will display the necessary willingness to find a viable and functional solution that will end the illegal occupation and create a bizonal, bicommunal federation that was a single sovereign state with a single international identity, based on the rules and values of European Union's acquis communautaire.
Christofias thanked the Greek side for its "unselfish, complete and daily support", noting that this was not just expressed in periodic meetings but through a constant exchange of information and joint efforts for Cyprus's full independence and reunification.
Concerning the meeting with Ban and Eroglu, he stressed that this was not "trilateral" and said that the proposal made by Eroglu had not been accepted by either himself nor the UN Secretary General.
Christofias said that he repeated the Greek-Cypriot positions that the Cyprus issue was one of invasion and occupation and that the solution was a bizonal, bicommunal federation in the framework of UN resolutions and international law.
He also repeated his objections to any effort to impose deadlines on the process and denied that the upcoming invitation to the two sides to meet in Geneva was such a deadline, pointing out that there was no draft solution on which they had to agree or disagree.
The Cyprus president referred to Greece's support of Cypriot positions as "very precise" and said that the positions of the two sides were identical.
He did not appear optimistic about the prospects of finding a solution, however, given the hardline stance adopted by Eroglu on property issues and said that the Turkish Cypriot leader's actions appeared to be leading the talks to deadlock.
Christofias had earlier addressed the Greek Parliament.
 Cyprus President calls on Turkey to comply with UN resolutionsThe Cyprus problem will be solved when Turkey decides to comply with UN resolutions, international and European law, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias stressed on Tuesday while addressing the Greek Parliament during a special ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus.
Christofias noted that those in the international arena, including Cyprus' EU partners, who do not feel at ease because the Cyprus problem remains unsolved for so long, must turn to Turkey and exert their influence with a view to change Turkish policy and pave the way for a settlement.
The Cyprus president assured that the Greek Cypriot side will work until the end of January "hard and with good will to have positive results that will be presented to the UN Secretary General" at their planned meeting in Geneva.
He expressed the gratitude of the people of Cyprus to the government, the political leadership and the people of Greece "for the steadfast and comprehensive support they provide to Cyprus", and referred to the excellent bilateral relations, cooperation and coordination, assuring that Nicosia will continue working to enhance these ties.
He also said that the overthrow of democracy in Greece was devastating for Cyprus and Turkey took advantage of the opportunity provided to her by the Greek junta and its instruments in Cyprus and invaded Cyprus, causing death and destruction.
Christofias said that the secessionist action of the unilateral declaration of independence of the Turkish Cypriot regime in 1983 and the faits accomplis on the ground complicate the Cyprus problem even more and make its solution even more difficult.
Some players in the international community express concern about the absence of a solution in Cyprus, indicating they are tired of dealing with the Cyprus problem. "Those who express such views must ask themselves if they have done their utmost to contribute to a settlement" he added.
"The people of Cyprus want the problem solved. It will be solved when Turkey decides to comply with UN resolutions, international and European law," he pointed out.
"Those in the international community, including our EU partners, who feel uneasy because the Cyprus problem remains unsolved, must turn to
Turkey and exert their influence and pressure on Ankara to change its policy and pave the way towards a settlement. Instead of doing this, they show tolerance towards the occupier, encourage and support the unreasonable positions of the Turkish side and try to exert pressure on the Greek Cypriot side," he noted.
Christofias underlined that "we are not a good receiver of pressure", stressing the need for respect of the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus as well as of the principles of international law, UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.
The Cyprus president acknowledged that a Cyprus settlement will be a compromise with our Turkish Cypriot compatriots but not with Turkey's occupation. He stressed that the settlement must provide for the withdrawal of Turkey's occupation troops, end the influx and presence of illegal Turkish settlers, terminate foreign dependency, restore the unity of the state, its institutions, unite the economy of the country and the people and safeguard human rights and the fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots. "Without all these, a functional and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem is inconceivable," he said.
Referring to the ongoing talks between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot side, under the UN aegis, with a view to reach a settlement, Christofias said that results so far "do not satisfy us", adding that there has been significant progress in some aspects of the Cyprus problem such as governance, economy and relations with the EU.
He added however that there is a big gap in the positions of the two sides in other aspects including the issues of property, territory, citizenship, immigration, asylum, foreigners, including illegal settlers, guarantees and security.
Christofias explained that, in spite of public statements to the contrary, proposals submitted at the talks by the Turkish Cypriot side are not in line with UN resolutions as Ankara and the Turkish Cypriot leadership promote the idea of two separate states with borders.
"We submit rational, moderate, feasible proposals which abide by the agreed framework, UN resolutions, international and European law, serve the goal of a federal solution and take into consideration not only the Greek Cypriots' interests but also those of the Turkish Cypriots," he said.
Referring to the three-tier proposals he has recently submitted at the talks, Christofias said that these aim at accelerating the pace of the talks, creating a new momentum, getting to a settlement the soonest possible and addressing problems the Turkish Cypriots have with the outside world.
Recalling that the response of the Turkish side was negative and that the international community welcomed the proposals, he thanked Greece and its Parliament for supporting the proposals.
Referring to last week"s meeting in New York with UN Secretary General and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, President Christofias said the UNSG assessed the course of the talks, and established that in the chapters of governance and power sharing, European issues and the economy significant progress had been achieved whereas serious divergences were established in some other important issues.
The Cyprus president said that he had proposed simultaneous discussion on property, territory and Turkish settlers, a move rejected by the Turkish Cypriot side which counter-proposed an international meeting to discuss all the aspects of the Cyprus issue.
The Greek Cypriot side, he explained, could not accept such a proposal, saying the two communities must first resolve internal aspects of the problem and then have an international conference convene.
Christofias said that the UNSG reiterated that the peace process belongs to the Cypriots and arbitration and tight timetables were not on the cards. He also agreed that there is a connection between the chapters and called on the leaders to intensify their talks with a view to achieve substantial convergences on all chapters.
He recalled that the UN Secretary General called them for a new meeting to reassess the situation at the end of January in Geneva.
He noted that Turkey must place the settlement of the Cyprus problem among its priorities and prove that its domestic problems do not constitute an obstacle to taking the necessary decisions for a just and viable settlement in Cyprus.
Christofias reiterated that Greece and Cyprus are in favour of Turkey's EU accession on condition that it will implement all its obligations deriving from its accession prospects.
"These obligations concern the implementation of the Ankara protocol, the resolution of the Cyprus problem, the termination of its offensive behaviour towards its neighbours and Turkey's democratization," he said.
The Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot side have been engaged in negotiations since September 2008 with a view to solve the problem of Cyprus divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
 ND expels MP from Parliamentary groupMain opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Tuesday expelled Iraklion MP Lefteris Avgenakis from the party's Parliamentary group in response to his statements to a radio station on Monday concerning the newly formed 'Democratic Alliance' party.
ND Secretary Andreas Lykourentzos announced that Samaras had also convened ND's ethics committee:
"Because there are clear signs that a plan is unfolding to cut off ND's upward course and support the PASOK government, President Antonis Samaras will adhere to the last to the mandate he received from the Greek people for a renewed, strong and responsible ND, without introspection and disorientation, dedicated to its great duty to contribute decisively to the country's exit from the crisis," he said.
The "Democratic Alliance" is the new party announced at the weekend by Samaras' former rival for the leadership of ND, Dora Bakoyannis.
 Karatzaferis again voices cause for nat'l 'salvation gov't'Opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) President George Karatzaferis on Tuesday repeated its stance in favour of an "all-party" government.
Speaking in a private television station, he stressed that the country's political system has to find better solutions than those recommended by the "troika", adding that all the healthy forces in the country should contribute to the effort undertaken.
Karatzaferis stated that "we have a duty to form an ecumenical and national salvation government" adding that "this cannot happen without the participation of main opposition New Democracy (ND)."
He said that there is no time left to waste adding that the renegotiation of our debt is necessary.
Referring to the newly founded party by former ND MP Dora Bakoyannis, he commented that all similar attempts made in the recent past were unsuccessful.
 Deputy minister on debt repayment, jobs in media sectorGreece will be facing worse problems in terms of public debt at the end of the Memorandum period and will have to extend its repayment of the loans, Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Tilemachos Hytiris predicted in an interview with ANT1 radio on Tuesday.
"At the end of the Memorandum, the numbers will be worse in terms of debt, not in terms of the deficit. Because the debt is growing there will be an extension, which means that the time will be extended in terms of its repayment. The time extension in itself does not mean controlled default," he said.
According to the minister, however, the state sector will be smaller and no longer resemble the swollen public sector with which Greeks had been hitherto accustomed, while it would be much harder for someone to get a job in broader public sector.
Hytiris also noted the need for measures concerning jobs in the media, adding that the EU-IMF troika had not demanded cuts in the state-run broadcaster ERT, which he stressed did not operate at a loss, or in other state media.
He said that measures would soon be introduced to address the issue of unemployment among journalists, such as introducing an unemployment benefit, and to eradicate phenomena where journalists held multiple jobs.
Hytiris underlined the need to protect journalists and freedom of information in general, whether from the private or state-sector media, and predicted that more journalists would find themselves out of a job in the future as a result of the crisis.
"Every voice fewer in the area of the media is one voice less in the area of democracy," he underlined.
 Deputy FM Kouvelis holds talks with U.S. ambassadorFurther cooperation between Greece and the United States on economic and commercial issues was the focus of talks held on Tuesday between Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis and newly-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Greece Daniel Bennet-Smith.
Special emphasis was given, according to a relevant announcement, to the sectors of energy, renewable energy sources, environmental protection, tourism, the promotion of Greek products in U.S. markets and the protection of Origin Name Products and Geographical Indication in the U.S. market.
Also discussed during the meeting was progress in cooperation between the Greek Development Cooperation Service-Hellenic Aid with the corresponding one in the U.S.-USAID, while the Greek deputy minister, through the ambassador, addressed an invitation to his U.S. counterpart and joint president at the Economic and Commercial Cooperation Committee Jose Fernandez for the next Committee meeting to be convened in Athens in the coming months.
Lastly, the two men also discussed prospects emerging due to the Greek initiative "the Black Sea is becoming green" in the framework of the Greek presidency of the OSEP.
 Council of State hearing on anti-Memorandum suits beginsThe hearing of civil suits seeking the cancellation of the Memorandum as unconstitutional began before the Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, on Tuesday afternoon.
Due to the number of lawyers arguing the case, the hearing is expected to continue until late on Tuesday night.
Suits against the Memorandum have been brought by the Athens Bar Association, regional bar associations and the trade unions, including the civil servants' union federation ADEDY and the Athens journalists' union ESHEA, pensioners' associations and other bodies.
They argue that the Memorandum and its provisions are unconstitutional, illegal and counter to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Two CoS councillors will argue the case in favour of the Memorandum, defending it as constitutional and asking that the suits be dismissed.
 Council of State Plenum discusses appeals against memorandumAppeals filed by the Athens Bar Association and other regional bar associations, the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), pensioners, etc who are calling for the annulment of the Troika memorandum, as being unconstitu-tional and contrary to the European Human Rights Convention, with which cutbacks were made in wages and pensions in the public and wider public sector, were discussed before the Council of State Plenum in a marathon session lasting from 3 p.m. to about 10 on Tuesday night. The court reserved judgement.
 Hellenic Navy chief on visit to TurkeyANKARA (ANA-MPA - A. Abatzis)
The head of the Hellenic Navy General Staff Vice Admiral Dimitrios Elefsiniotis on Tuesday met Turkish Naval Forces Commander Admiral Esref Ugur Yigit during an official visit to Ankara.
In statements after the meeting, the Greek Navy chief termed Admiral Yigit a "friend" and underlined that such meetings were important for improving relations and to show that confidence building measures between the two countries were not just "on paper".
 Foreign Ministry spokesman on incident in South KoreaThe Greek Foreign Ministry expressed grave concern following the escalation of tension between North and South Korea, and "unequivocalay condemned North Korea's aggressive attitude".
Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras in a statement Tuesday stressed that Greece "is watching with concern the latest developments in the Korean peninsula and the aggressive attitude of North Korea that, according to reports, caused the loss of human lives in South Korea."
"Greece unequivocally condemns this act which undermines the region's peace and stability," Delavekouras said and also welcomed the efforts of the President of South Korea for a de-escalation of the crisis and called on the North Korean government to respond accordingly.
 Commission satisfaction with Greek econ convergenceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
The European Commission on Tuesday expressed satisfaction over progress of implementing an economic convergence programme by Greece.
During a regular press briefing here, Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs Olli Rehn, said the Greek programme was, in general, moving on the right track, while he stressed that all quantitive targets set by the end of September have been met.
The EU spokesman also said that a reduction of the country's fiscal deficit by six percentage points, from 15.4 pct of GDP to 9.4 pct of GDP this year, exceeded initial targets.
Commenting on the procedure to be followed, Altafaj said the Commission will adopt the recommendations included in a troika report before Eurozone member-states approve the pending disbursement of a third loan tranche to Greece, worth 9.0 billion euros.
 Gov't closes 2 state-run companiesA top inter-ministerial committee, headed by government Vice President Theodoros Pangalos, on Tuesday announced the abolition of two state-run societe anonyme companies, namely, the agriculture sector-related Agroktima and the culture ministry-affiliated Organisation for the Promotion of Hellenic Civilisation (OPEP), part of closely watched efforts to drastically cut state spending in Greece's cavernous wider public sector.
 Tsipras tables question on updated MemorandumRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday tabled a question in Parliament referring to what he called a "total failure of measures" of the EU-ECB-IMF Memorandum, as well as what he claimed is the government's "inability to meet some of the targets it has set."
"...The failure of the measures of the first Memorandum and the updated one is obvious, not only by its tragic consequences on the economy but also by the government's inadequacy to meet any of the targets set," Tsipras said.
 E-commerce in Greece soars by 75% in 2010E-commerce turnover in Greece is expected to total 1.4 billion euros this year, up 75 pct from 2009, with the annual average purchase from an on-line shop totaling 1,500 euros, a survey on e-commerce announced on Tuesday.
The survey, conducted on 1,106 on-line Greek consumers during the September-October period by ELTRUN, the e-commerce laboratory of the Athens Economics University, described the typical Greek on-line retailer as a heavy internet user, with 37 pct of users surfing through the Internet more than 30 hours per week. On-line consumers also used other social network media, such as Facebook (42 pct), blogs (31 pct), chat/instant messaging (21 pct) and forums (23 pct).
On-line consumers' purchases focused mainly on IT goods (63 pct), electronic items (50 pct), travel tickets (42 pct), hotel reservations (32 pct), books (32), home and electrical appliances (26 pct), clothing/footwear (21 pct) and cosmetics (10 pct).
Fifty pct of internet users surveyed completed e-banking transactions, another 42 pct searched for information on daily offers, 16 pct participated in on-line auctions and another 16 pct viewed real estate property.
Analysts said the Greek market was a mature B2C market, with 51 pct of consumers completing more than five purchases in the first half of 2010.
The e-gambling sector is a small but emerging market, with 31 pct of Greeks users making internet transactions participating in e-gambling operations in the first half of the year, a market estimated at around 300 million euros.
 Greek-Egyptian economic cooperation protocol signedEconomic and trade relations between Greece and Egypt are revived with a protocol of cooperation agreed to by a joint Greek-Egyptian inter-ministerial committee, and signed on Tuesday by Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis and Egyptian Deputy Minister of State Mustafa Abdou Mohamad Eisa.
Kouvelis noted that Egypt is an important partner and a historic friend, as well as a country where ethnic Greeks have had a tremendous economic and cultural history.
The signing of the protocol brings to a conclusion the bilateral proceedings of the committee for cooperation in the sectors of investments, tourism, energy (natural gas, petroleum, renewable energy sources), construction, new technologies (IT, telecommunications), environment; management of water resources and wastewater; and education and science.
Three separate protocols will also be signed between corresponding sectors concerning agricultural production, scientific cooperation in agricultural production and construction, aimed to achieve a stronger presence of Greece-based construction companies in Egypt.
The Greece-Egypt Business Council is scheduled to meet in Athens before the end of the year.
 Athens Convention Bureau at Barcelona convention expoThe Athens Convention Bureau (ACB), a City of Athens agency aimed at promoting the Greek capital as a convention destination, will participate in the global Meetings & Incentive Exhibition (MICE) to take place in Barcelona on Nov. 30-Dec. 2.
The Athens Meeting Planner's Guide, the City of Athens first official convention guide, will be distributed to the visitors of the Greek pavilion. The guide is also available in an electronic form at "http://www.athensconventionbureau.gr"
 Gov't wants explanation for loan given by PPC to employees' unionThe environment, energy and climate change ministry on Tuesday called for written explanations by the Public Power Corp. (PPC) as regards information concerning an alleged five-year, 500,000-euro loan given by the state-run utility to the union representing PPC employees (GENOP-DEH).
According to information, in case the union cannot repay the loan the sum will be deducted from future collective work contracts, amounting to 480,000 euros. The initial decision was not posted on the PPC website.
 Alpha Bank reports lower nine-month resultsAlpha Bank on Tuesday reported a 60 pct drop in its net profits to 137.7 million euros in the nine-month period from January to October this year compared with the same period in 2009, while including an extra tax charge of 61.9 million euros net profits totaled 75.5 million euros.
The bank said net interest income totaled 1.373 billion euros, up 5.2 pct, while net interest margin rose to 2.7 pct this year from 2.5 pct in the nine-month last year.
Net commission income fell 11 pct to 255.3 million euros, reflecting lower lending and transactions. Operating cost fell 1.8 pct to 853.7 million euros, reflecting a restructuring of spending, while general expenses fell 3.8 pct to 369.9 million euros.
Operating cost in Greece fell 2.7 pct to 621.9 million euros, while in Southeastern Europe operating cost widened by 1.9 pct to 226.5 million euros. The region contributed 23 pct to the group's pre-tax earnings and by 21 pct to its lending portfolio.
"Greece makes significant efforts to return to the road of stability and growth," the bank's chairman I. Kostopoulos said, adding that "in this difficult conjucture, we showed our strong business potential supporting our customers and our investments in Southeastern Europe, a region of vital significance for our future development".
 Titan SA reports lower 9-month resultsTitan SA on Tuesday reported a 5.2-pct decline in its net profits after minorities and taxes to 98.3 million euros in the nine-month period from January to October 2010, compared with the same period last year. Consolidated turnover totaled 1.028 billion euros, down 1.7 pct from 2009, while EBITDA rose 0.9 pct to 260.3 million euros.
The group said a geographical expansion of its activities was a decisive factor for the nine-month results, with activities in eastern Mediterranean and SE Europe counter-balancing losses in Greece and the US market.
Turnover was down 4.1 pct in the third quarter, while EBITDA rose 2.1 pct and net earnings dropped 32.1 pct reflecting heavier amortizations, financial expenses and foreign currency changes.
Parent net profits totaled 23.9 million euros, down 41.5 pct from the same period in 2009. The company said its results have been burdened by an extra tax charge worth 7.9 million euros. Turnover totaled 286.6 million euros, down 15.6 pct from last year, while EBITDA fell 25.7 pct to 65.8 million euros.
 Union to decide fate of ongoing garbage strikeThe executive committee of the union representing municipal workers in Greece (POE-OTA) will convene on Tuesday in order to decide whether to continue an ongoing strike.
Garbage pickup has been suspended in most major municipalities due to the strike.
 Seamen's union extends strike?he Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) on Tuesday decided to continue its ongoing strike for another 48 hours.
PNO demands the signing of a new collective bargaining agreement for seamen working in ferries and freighters up to 500 DWTs, as well as the safeguarding Greek dockworkers' jobs, amongst others.
 POE-OTA calls off strike following negotiations with deputy Interior ministerThe strike called by the POE-OTA union has been suspended following negotiations held with Deputy Interior Minister George Dolios in a special meeting they had with him at noon on Tuesday.
The deputy minister promised that as of January 1, 2011 an integrated framework of wages and employment will be determined for employees in municipal enterprises. Moreover, the sector's collective labour agreement will be signed immediately, that was one of the strikers' main demands.
Consequently, the collection of garbage will begin as of Tuesday evening.
 Stocks continue moving lowerStocks ended moderately lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, as a same-day attempt to support the market failed to materialise.
National Bank's shares suffered losses, while OTE and OPAP offered support to the market. The composite index eased 0.61 pct to end at 1,451.45 points, with turnover an improved 113.701 million euros. OTE (2.62 pct), OPAP (2.48 pct) and Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (0.36 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while MIG (4.84 pct), National Bank (3.39 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (2.73 pct) were top losers.
The Big Cap index eased 0.87 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.98 pct lower and the Small Cap index eased 0.44 pct. The Technology (2.81 pct) and Telecoms (2.62 pct) sectors scored gains, while Media (4.09 pct) and Financial Services (3.98 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 104 to 50 with another 47 issues unchanged.
Forthnet (16.67 pct), Galaxidi (10.0 pct) and Pairis (9.62 pct) were top gainers, while Voyatzoglou (18.11 pct), Altec (16.67 pct) and Vell Group (14.29 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.46%
Personal & Household: -0.61%
Raw Materials: -0.55%
Travel & Leisure: +2.15%
Food & Beverages: +0.34%
Financial Services: -3.98%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.53
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.94
HBC Coca Cola: 19.47
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.35
National Bank of Greece: 6.56
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.89
Bank of Piraeus: 3.08
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -2.84 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover a low 39.556 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,185 contracts worth 30.870 million euros. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,960 contracts worth 8.686 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,514), followed by Eurobank (772), MIG (2,149), OTE (2,023), Piraeus Bank (2,016), Alpha Bank (1,514), Marfin Popular Bank (950), Cyprus Bank (530), Hellenic Postbank (468) and ATEbank (675).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.360
Pound sterling 0.854
Danish kroner 7.514
Swedish kroner 9.461
Japanese yen 113.4
Swiss franc 1.344
Norwegian kroner 8.272
Canadian dollar 1.390
Australian dollar 1.389
 Parcel bombs sent by 'SPF' terror group say jailed suspectsTwo suspects currently being held for a clutch of low-intensity parcel bombs targeting foreign embassies in Greece and a handful of foreign leaders abroad have claimed in a letter that they are members of the urban guerrilla group 'Conspiracy of Cells of Fire' (SPF), authorities said on Tuesday.
Following the letter sent by Panagiotis Argyros and Gerassimos Tsakalos, both of whom are currently being held on remand, the case file on the parcel bombs is to be forwarded to the appeals court and assigned to magistrates that handle investigations into terrorism.
Up until now, no group had claimed responsibility for the parcel bombs and the case had remained with a first-instance court magistrate.
In the letter published in an Internet website, the two prisoners clearly state that they are members of SPF and say that they "regret nothing and support all the proclamations and actions of our organisation, including those that will be carried out from now on that make us and will make us proud".
The case will probably now be assigned to two appeals magistrates currently in charge of the investigation into the SPF and 'Revolutionary Struggle' terror groups.
Argyros and Tsakalos currently face charges for participation in a terrorist organisation, conspiracy to commit terrorist actions, supplying, producing and possessing explosives and bombs, and causing explosions. Specifically, they are charged with sending two parcel bombs to the embassy of Mexico in Athens and the headquarters of Eurojust in the Hague, while they were caught in possession of parcel-bombs addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Belgian Embassy in Athens.
In addition to Argyros and Tsakalos, a further 13 suspected members of SPF have been identified and face charges based on evidence found at the group's safehouse in Halandri and in three other bomb attacks by the group. Their trial before a Three-member Criminal Appeals Court has been set for January 17.
Argyros was also accused in connection with the evidence found in Halandri, while among six people being sought by authorities was the brother of Gerassimos Tsakalos, Christos Tsakalos. The owner of the Halandri apartment Harilaos Hatzimihelakis, among those being held on remand pending the January 17 trial, has claimed political responsibility for SPF in a letter sent to a website in which he names Gerassimos Tsakalos and Argyros as "comrade urban guerrillas".
 Four migrants found dead in abandoned truck trailerFour undocumented migrants, believed to be Iranian nationals, were found dead in an abandoned truck trailer found in the Amfilochia region on Tuesday. The tragedy was discovered after police examined the trailer, which had been left without a tractor, considering its presence suspicious.
In the interior of the trailer were wooden boxes, one of which contained the four dead foreign nationals, while the others were empty and may possibly have also hidden undocumented migrants that escaped by some unknown means.
The trailer had Italian licence plates and is believed to have been heading for Patras in order to board a ship to Italy.
A coroner has been sent to the scene to determine the cause of death for the four bodies found, with authorities considering suffocation the most likely possibility. Police have also launched an investigation.
 Attica police dismantle migrant-trafficking ringA migrant-trafficking ring operating in the southeast Attica region of Koropi and transporting undocumented migrants from Greece to Italy was dismantled by SE Attica Security police and the Vari police station, authorities announced on Tuesday.
The main suspects are three Afghan migrants arrested by police on the 33rd kilometre of the Athens-Sounion road on Sunday afternoon, who are accused of participating in a criminal organisation involving in trafficking migrants. Another 27 Afghan migrants, among them seven minors, are accused of attempting to illegally exit the country.
Police say the three suspected traffickers systematically smuggled other migrants, mainly Afghan nationals, out of the country by transporting them to coastal locations in Attica where they were picked up in boats and taken to Italy. Each migrant thus smuggled out of Greece was asked to pay 4,000 euro for their passage.
The three men arrested had in their possession three private cars that they used to transport the 27 illegal migrants, three mobile phones, 1122 euro and 186 U.S. dollars.
They were led before a public prosecutor.
 Palestinian Youth Orchestra at Athens Concert Hall on Sun.The Palestinian Youth Orchestra (PYO), comprised of 50 young musicians from the Palestinian self-rule areas and the Palestinian Diaspora will give a concert at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) on Sunday, on the eve of the unofficial international day of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The PYO is directed by British conductor Sian Edwards, and will perform classical, jazz and contemporary, innovative Arab compositions as well as songs accompanied by traditional oriental music instruments.
The performance will be held within the framework of the Athens Concert Hall's "special appearances" programme, and will feature works by Joseph Haydn, Marcel Khalife, Rahbani Brothers, Samih Shqeir, John Bisharat, Ahmad Al-Khatib, Issa Bulos, George Gershwin and others.
The PYO is the flagship orchestra of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. It was created in 2004 with the vision of bringing together young Palestinian musicians from around the world. The orchestra's members are renewed constantly, considering that its musicians are between the ages of 14 and 26.
The performance will mark its first appearance in Greece.
The four Greek musicians that will collaborate with the orchestra in the Athens concert have participated in the summer seminar in Jordan and in a concert given in Amman, within the framework of the Jordan Festival.
The main sponsor for the event is the Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC).
 'Nudity in Cinema' festival this month in AthensNagisa Oshima's "Empire of Passion", Federico Fellini's "City of Women", Miklos Jancso's "Private vices, public pleasures", "Malicia", starring Laura Antonelli, as well as Greek director Nikos Koundouros' "Bordello" will be among the 25 films selected to be screened in film festival "Empire of the Flesh -- Nudity in Cinema" -- set to take place in Athens between Nov. 25 and Dec. 1.
Movies once dismissed as being of "lesser artistic quality", or one that were heavily censored when they first appeared on the "big screen" because of "extreme" content, such as "The Story of O" by Jaeckin Just and Tinto Brass' "Caligula", will be shown in their uncut versions.
The films were selected by publisher and writer Yiannis Soldatos and the festival was inspired by his recently published book on the subject of nudity in cinema. (ANA-MPA)
 Film director, activist Iara Lee in AthensNoted New York-based Korean Brazilian film director and activist, Iara Lee, will be in Athens for the screening of her film "Cultures of Resistance".
She will also participate in a discussion on the topic of "resistance movements worldwide" and her experience on board the Mavi Marmara vessel.
The event is organised by the International Network in Solidarity with the Palestinian Popular Resistance in cooperation with the Palestinian association Al-Awda.
Screenings of her film will also take place in Thessaloniki and other cities.
Lee shot footage aboard the Mavi Marmara, the lead vessel in the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla", during a raid on the vessel by Israeli commandos last May.
 Firebomb attack on Hotel CaravelA makeshift incendiary device made with gas canisters and petrol exploded in the early hours of Tuesday morning outside the Hotel Caravel in Kaisariani.
Unidentified individuals planted the device in the rear entrance of the hotel on Efroniou Street, causing damage to the glass door but no injuries.
The device was made of two gas canisters, a can of petrol, fire-lighters and flares.
An inquiry into the incident has been launched by the police.
 Rainy on WednesdayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 2-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 22C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens, with southerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 18C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 17C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceA press conference by the EC-ECB-IMF 'troika' repre-sentatives on Tuesday morning regarding the recently updated memorandum, the prospect of mandatory transfers in public sector, and the changes in collective labour sector agreements mostly dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers. (ANA-MPA)
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Big Brother arrives! End to (old police-issued) identity card as of 2011".
AVGHI: "Troika ends collective (labour sector) agreements".
AVRIANI: "We should call the Chinese".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Farewell to collective bargaining agreements as we knew them".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "45,000 lay-offs in public sector pending".
ESTIA: "Ireland crisis affecting us".
ETHNOS: "Abolition of collective labour agreements'.
IMERISSIA: "Crucial (economic, labour sector) changes sealed".
KATHIMERINI: "Severe conditions and ultimatum (by 'troika')".
LOGOS: "Yes to (civil servants') transfers - No to hirings".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Arrangement with troika over collective labour agreements and lay-offs".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Full speed ahead towards salaries' cuts".
TA NEA: "(EU-ECB-IMF) Memorandum No. 3 -What was decided".
TO VIMA: "Memorandum No. 3 for salaries, hirings and (loss-making) public utilities and enterprises".
VRADYNI: "Up to 20 percent decrease in salaries".
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