|Thursday, 22 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-11-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 25 November 2010 Issue No: 3654
 PM calls for more flexible, development-friendly state"The state is the 'sick man' and will have to be transformed into a state of law, one that will exercise its executive powers and be flexible; facilitating development, innovation and entrepreneurship," Prime Minister George Papandreou emphasised on Wednesday.
Addressing newly elected regional authority heads, deputy governors and mayors during a two-day training seminar for the new local government authorities, he underlined that the target for the next two years will be cutting extravagant spending namely, reducing the size of the public sector.
The premier made a brief review of what happened in the past year focusing on the fact that the country came very close to bankruptcy and suspension of payments, stressing that the challenge with which the government was faced was to avoid those developments and, at the same time, turn the crisis into an opportunity for the implementation of reforms.
He said that the government tried to convince the country's partners and the wary markets that Greece should be supported and underlined that Greece won valuable time with the creation of the support mechanism.
Referring to developments in Ireland, he said that "the markets do not want to give breathing space even when the countries take the right measures," adding that "we were right when we insisted in the creation of a support mechanism and later in the creation of a European mechanism."
Still referring to the European developments, Papandreou underlined the importance of protecting political stability in the country, adding that the cooperation of all sides is necessary.
Referring to the past, he said that "common sense and measure were absent for decades" and spoke about the creation of "negative models by the politicians and the mass media." As regards the economy, he said that it was "introvert, standing on feet made of clay; many businesses were state-dependent instead of viable ones, while the state had become the trophy for self-seeking interests."
"The malignancy of the state was transmitted to the local government," he said, calling for the intensification of the reforms launched by the government last year.
Papandreou praised the Greek people for their efforts which resulted to the deficit being reduced 6 percentage points of the GDP, "a fact that fill us with self-confidence that we will meet the goals set for 2011."
As regards the reforms in the public sector, the premier referred to the public sector census, the implementation of meritocracy in hirings and the publicizing of decisions on the internet. He referred to the "Kallikratis" local government reform, saying that it is of major importance while underlining that it represents "the moral refoundation of the state."
Papandreou stated that the local government authorities will be responsible for the welfare, the coordination of all school units (private and public schools), the construction and operation of schools, the regional economic development and the implementation of a new developmental model.
 Interior minister on transition to KallikratisThe next three months will be crucial for starting the implementation of the Kallikratis plan for local government, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis said on Wednesday while attending a two-day seminar organised by the interior ministry to train the new local authority officials on the transition from the old local authorities to the new system.
Ragoussis said the transition will be completed in two weeks and highlighted changes under the new system, noting that 257 tenders concerning the Kallikratis plan were now underway and 1,200 electronic Citizens' Service Centres were being prepared.
The minister said that 24 decisions relating to the new municipalities were on the verge of being published in the government gazette, while 21 presidential decrees and 26 ministerial decisions would make up the regulatory framework for implementing Kallikratis.
Ragoussis announced that 4,500 of some 6,000 municipal enterprises will be abolished after the merger of municipalities to 325 but stressed that no one will be fired as a result.
"The transition period will have difficulties. There will also be some delays but these will be dealt with directly and not make us turn back," Ragoussis stressed. As an example, he pointed out that responsibility for the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds will be transferred to regional authorities from July 1, 2011 instead of the start of the year.
He also announced a new operational plan to transfer other responsibilities to first and second-tier local government, leaving the government an executive and supervisory role.
"It is wrong to conclude that there isn't the money for Kallikratis. But it is right to assume that there isn't money to waste," he stressed at another point, pointing out that the developmental programme 'Greece' will be financed chiefly from NSRF funds amounting to four billion euro that will chiefly support social and welfare structures.
 PM to chair cabinet meeting on ThursdayPrime Minister George Papandreou will chair a cabinet meeting on Thursday that will deal with growth issues, while Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou will be making an analytical briefing on developments in the economy.
Growth issues were also dealt with during Wednesday's meeting at the Maximos Mansion under Papandreou's chairmanship, with the most important focusing on the growth law, the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA), the handling and utilisation of the public sector's real estate, as well as the attraction of capital to Greece with the aim of invest-ments.
Cabinet sources termed Wednesday's meeting a "coordinating beginning" for growth and mentioned that the growth law is ready. On the question of the absorption of ESPA funds the sourves said that in 2011 the government will attempt to speed up the absorption of EU funds as much as possible.
 Spokesman defends gov't policy, cites coming draft bills on tax evasion"Ensuring that each portion of the loan will be received, is a challenge and also our goal," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis reiterated on Wednesday.
"However, there is a continuous challenge before us to which we respond since day one, namely, to change the country and remedy decades-long malignancies, while trying to heal the serious wounds inflicted by the preceding New Democracy (ND) government which was really catastrophic for the country," he stressed.
Commenting on a statement made earlier by main opposition ND leader Antonis Samaras, he said that the ruling PASOK party "does not need crutches from the ND parliamentary group because it has the Greek people by its side".
Petalotis stated that the financially weaker citizens will not shoulder additional burdens, stressing that there will be no new salary and pension cuts and no new taxes.
He pointed out that the representatives of the ECB and European Commission and the IMF in statements made on Tuesday have recognised once again the notable progress made in a period of just a few months and pointed out that the government continues to meet its targets and speeds up all major reforms badly needed by the country.
Petalotis referred to reforms to be implemented soon that will put an end to the "pillaging" that went on in the sector of health.
He added that the government is seeking to ensure social cohesion through well-targeted programmes for the protection of vulnerable social groups.
The government spokesman announced that the ministries of finance and justice will table two draft laws in Parliament on December to be voted in January combating tax evasion through the reorganization of the tax collection mechanism, the improved services for taxpayers, the merger of tax bureaus characterized as unproductive and the overall restructuring of the ministry of finance, among others.
Responding to a relevant question, he denied that the "troika" representatives have complained about ministers "who do not cooperate".
As regards the prime minister's adviser Loukas Papadimos, he said that "he (Loukas Papadimos) participates in specific, extremely important missions, such as, the negotiation for the European support mechanism, in the creation of which, Greece has played a leading role."
 Parliament holds vote on bill to reduce state sectorThe Greek Parliament on Wednesday held a vote on the articles of a draft bill for the abolition or merger of 79 state-sector agencies and organisations, which were passed with the support of the majority PASOK party.
Main opposition New Democracy had supported the bill in principle but did not vote in favour of the article that abolished the state enterprise Agrogi S.A. and fired its permanent 266 employees.
During the debate Deputy Interior Minister George Dolios denied that the move was a harbinger of more dismissals of state-sector staff with permanent jobs, pointing out that the specific case concerned people hired without adhering to the required process just two days before the September general elections were announced in 2009.
The draft bill must now also be passed in its entirety in order to become law.
 Athens on EU-Turkey summit proposalAn EU-Turkey summit meeting as proposed by Athens would help "breathe new life" into the essentially stalled accession talks between Turkey and the EU, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras told reporters on Wednesday.
Given that the accession talks were progressing at a snail's pace and in light of Turkey's upcoming general elections in June, there was a need to examine the issues politically, overcoming bureaucratic and technical obstacles to see where the process was heading and what the problems were, he added.
"In reality, there are no more chapters [in the accession negotiations] to open. As long as Turkey fails to implement its obligations there is no accession process and this is not in the interests of either the country itself or the EU," Delavekouras said.
The Greek proposal essentially aimed at a "new Helsinki agreement" outlining specific obligations and times for their implementation across the entire range of accession issues with Turkey, he added.
Among the obstacles to the progress of EU-Turkey accession talks, Delavekouras listed the slow pace of reforms within Turkey, the country's continued refusal to recognise Cyprus or to allow Cypriot-flagged ships and aircraft access to its ports and airports but also an uncertainty about the final outcome of the process and whether it would lead to full accession.
"This is something we have to talk about clearly," the spokesman underlined, noting that Athens could not know how Turkey would respond but wanted to create conditions for a clear-cut dialogue that would give the process "flesh and bones and a political content", setting specific milestones for carrying out specific commitments.
An EU-Turkey summit would also give the leaders involved an opportunity to express their policies and once again commit to a vision for Turkey's full accession to the EU, he added.
The spokesman clarified that the existing structural framework for relations between the EU and Turkey - issues such as good neighbour relations, respect for minorities and religious freedoms, and the obligations towards Cyprus - would continue to be part of the terms for accession and would have to be observed.
Replying to questions, meanwhile, he denied that Athens and Ankara were close to an agreement on the Aegean and stressed that this could not happen before the Aegean continental shelf had been delineated.
Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas proposed the idea of an EU-Turkey summit in the summer or the autumn of 2011 while addressing the European Policy Center last week.
 FM spokesman: Provocations must end, fYRoM 'name solution' imperativeA Greek foreign ministry spokesman on Wednesday pointed directly at the lack of constructive dialogue by the leadership of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) to solve the nagging "name issue", noting characteristically that fYRoM Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, amongst others, at "every opportunity attacks Greece in a provocative way and burdens the UN framework procedure".
Speaking at a regular press briefing in Athens, spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras was responding to a question on whether the time is right for a meeting between the two sides with UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, and given that Milososki has reportedly responded in the affirmative.
"I cannot consider such statements on the progress of the procedure as being sincere, when with every opportunity he tries to portray Greece in a sinister light to his country's public opinion, in essence, he (Milososki) is undermining the negotiation process," the spokesman added. (ANA-MPA)
"This must stop and we must focus on the procedure within the framework of the UN," Delavekouras said, adding:
"We want the neighbouring country to be able to begin negotiations with the EU, even tomorrow if possible, and to become a member of NATO. It is in our strategic planning; for the establishment of stability in our region, but also because we are neighbours and we shall live together, and for this reason we must reach a solution on this issue as soon as possible. However, provocations must stop and we must participate in the process in a constructive way."
 Greek FM in Budapest on Thurs.VIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)
Greek Foreign Minister Droutsas will arrive here on Thursday for talks, in light of Hungary's assumption of the six-month rotating EU presidency as of Jan. 1, 2011.
The Greek FM will hold talks with his Hungarian counterpart Janos Martonyi, and will also meet with Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister and the head of the Parliamentary Hungary-Greece Friendship Group Zemjen Zsolt.
 German Chancellor praises Greek government's efforts f or country's exit from crisisBERLIN (ANA-MPA/G. Pappas)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking during the discussion at the Bundestag on the 2011 budget, praised the Greek government's efforts for the country's exit from the crisis.
As she said, these efforts were rewarded in the recent local government elections and pointed out that this meant that the people want things to be said as they are and that the want the necessary decisions to be taken.
According to the Chancellor, if Germany was the model of strict fiscal discipline, Greece was the example of what a country must do to return to the path of virtue, meaning fiscal stability.
 Samaras meets with ND-affiliated regional headsMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Wednesday met with the newly elected regional heads supported by his party, emphasising that "we told the government that without measures for development we will be lead to an impasse, and unfortunately, developments have vindicated us."
Regarding the recently enacted Kallikratis plan for municipal and regional mergers, under which the recent local government elections were held, Samaras said it was a hastily drawn up plan, without accompanying funding.
The ND leader also promised to hold regular meetings with regional heads, equivalent to governors, in a sense, as well as mayors elected with ND's support.
The meeting was held at the ND headquarters in Athens.
 ND calls on expelled, independent MPs to resign seatsMain opposition New Democracy (ND) deputy Giorgos Kontoyiannis on Wednesday formally announced that he was leaving the party but will remain in Parliament as an independent MP.
Kontoyiannis, who is elected from Ilia prefecture in southern Greece, had earlier attacked the party's leadership from Parliament's podium, charging that it has declined to "cooperate" with the government in "difficult hours for the country".
According to reports, Kontoyiannis will join the newly founded party headed by former foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis.
A relevant letter has already been forwarded to the Parliament president.
In a swift reaction to the development, main opposition ND leader Antonis Samaras charged that "Prime Minister George Papandreou is seeking crutches from others; few but very a willing group. This is happening openly in the last two days. Today, it occurred again without any pretence."
Samaras evaluated that ND rising election strength and PASOK slide caused the latter to seek out willing allies from other parties.
According to officials from ND, however, the decision was widely expected, as Kontoyiannis is viewed as a political ally of the former minister. Moreover, the main opposition party called on Kontoyiannis and another MP, Lefteris Avgenakis of Crete, to resign from their Parliament seats, given that they were elected on ND's ticket.
Avgenakis, also considered as a prime candidate to join Bakoyannis' new party, was essentially expelled from ND a day earlier.
 Pangalos to visit CyprusGovernment Vice-President Theodoros Pangalos departs for Cyprus on Thursday to represent Athens and the ruling PASOK party at the 21st conference of the ruling left-wing AKEL party, an official announcement stated on Wednesday.
During his stay in Nicosia, Pangalos will be received by President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and will hold a series of meetings with the island republic's political leaders.
 Democratic Alliance leader Bakoyannis visits CyprusNICOSIA (ANA-MPA / A. Viketos)
The solution of the Cyprus issue is a primary goal for Greece's newly founded Democratic Alliance, party president Dora Bakoyannis said here on Wednesday.
Speaking in a press conference, Bakoyannis underlined that her party will use all its powers in the effort for a fair and viable solution to the Cyprus issue, adding that her first visit to Cyprus as the president of the Democratic Alliance is both symbolic and substantive in nature.
She said that she was briefed in detail on the course of the negotiations with the Turkish Cypriots in separate meetings she had with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and the political party leaders.
On Turkey's EU course, she stated that the neighbouring country will have to fully accept and implement the European acquis, adding that it will have to respect Cyprus as it does with the rest of EU member states. Bakoyannis stressed that the EU should send a clear message "that full implementation of the European acquis will mean full accession."
Bakoyannis stressed that her party backs all efforts made by Nicosia which is faced with an "impressive intransigence displayed on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots" and stated that the solution of the Cyprus issue will benefit everybody, the Cypriots, Greece, Turkey and the European Union.
 LA.OS leader receives Famagusta mayorPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party leader George Karatzaferis on Wednesday received visiting Famagusta Mayor Alexis Galanos at the party's headquarters in Athens.
During the meeting the two men discussed developments regarding the long-standing Cyprus issue and deliberations being held both on the island republic and within the framework of the European Union.
Famagusta essentially remains a ghosttown 36 years after the Turkish invasion and continued occupation of one-third of the EU member's territory.
 Court cases involving MPs land in ParliamentTwo criminal indictment were tabled in Parliament on Wednesday listing a current and former minister as defendants, as such legal actions against serving members of Parliament are the jurisdiction of the legislative body itself and not the independent judicial system, due to the Parliamentary immunity provision.
Specifically, current Alternate Environment Minister Nikos Sifounakis has been sued for libel by Marfin Investment Group (MIG) Andreas Vgenopoulos -- one of Greece's most influential corporate executives -- an issue dating to when Sifounakis served as deputy infrastructure, transport and networks Minister. Vgenopoulos claims he was slandered in the press and in Parliament by Sifounakis.
The other indictment involves former merchant marine minister Manolis Kefaloyannis and allegations that he furnished a coast guard vehicle, with a personal driver, to a close aide, while the former was minister.
 Presidential Decree on asylum published in Government GazetteThe Presidential Decree facilitating the speedier examination of tens of thousands of applications for the granting of asylum that are pending was published in the Government Gazette on Wednesday.
The Presidential Decree has a transitional and temporary validity since with a special law which is being promoted new permanent services will be created for the examination of asylum applications all over the country.
Asylum will be granted to persons fulfilling preconditions.
 PM to meet Archbishop of Canterbury Thurs.Prime Minister George Papandreou will be meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Thursday afternoon at the Maximos Mansion, an official announcement said on Wednesday.
 'Green economy' dominates talks between Dep. FM, UNEP headUN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP, Achim Steiner, on Wednesday reiterated that the "green economy" concept is part of efforts to view environmental protection from the perspective of economic opportunity, during his meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis.
Steiner is in Athens within the framework of the Greek BSEC Chairmanship and a ministerial meeting to take place in Thessaloniki on Friday.
"We are looking forward to cooperation with UNEP to build the backbone of green economy in the country," the Kouvelis stressed, underlining the UNEP head's heightened experience in the sector.
"In the United Nations we believe that the transition to a more energy efficient economy, less polluting, orientated toward new technologies, job positions, and development opportunities, should be part of the strategic management of the economic crisis that has been unfolding over the past three years," the UN official stated.
"The green economy is a priority not only due to the environmental conditions but also because it constitutes a unique opportunity for the Black Sea countries offering new developmental opportunities in the coming years," he added.
Meanwhile, in statements to the ANA-MPA, Steiner emphasised that "Greece is, in a way, faced with the problem of a relatively unproductive energy economy, one that depends on fossil fuels. However, it has the possibility, in the transition to a more 'green' economy, to turn this challenge into an opportunity: for new technologies, for greater energy performance, for new jobs, for new markets."
On Wednesday evening, Steiner spoke at the International Black Sea Studies Centre on the topic of "Towards a green economy: opportunities for the wider region of the Black Sea."
Commenting on the "Building the Future" programme, recently announced by the energy ministry, Steiner said it is a classic example of how a government policy can boost the attitude of markets and consumers.
"We have seen this with great success in many countries. I am mentioning, merely, an example on the other side of the Mediterranean, in Tunisia, and in other countries along the North African coast, where many countries brought into contact a power utility, a bank and households to replace their old electric water boilers with solar ones..."
 PPC reports pre-tax profits down 30.5% in Jan-SepPublic Power Corp. (PPC), Greece's electricity utility, on Wednesday reported a 30.5-pct decline in its consolidated pre-tax profits in the January-September period to 689.6 million euros, down from 992.8 million euros last year.
PPC said its after-tax earnings fell 29.9 pct to 520.2 million euros, while EBITDA eased 18.4 pct to 1.223.6 billion euros in the nine-month period.
Turnover totaled 4.468 billion euros, down 1.8 pct compared with the corresponding period last year.
Parent turnover fell 2.9 pct to 4.454 billion euros, EBITDA was down 18.8 pct to 1.212 billion euros, pre-tax profits fell 31.5 pct to 677.5 million euros and after tax profits dropped 31 pct to 510.6 million euros.
Commenting on the results, Arthuros Zervos, PPC's chairman and chief executive, said the utility was facing significant changes ahead of both on the regulatory framework of the market and on its operation.
"Decisions recently taken by the state and those about to come in the framework of commitments undertaken by the Greek government, after signing a memorandum with the troika, are aimed at harmonising Greek policies with those of the European Union".
Zervos said PPC was taking necessary action to create subsidiary companies to help with the division of the utility's energy transport and distribution operations.
PPC said sales in the domestic retail market fell 2.2 pct, with revenues down 4.8 pct. Production, including electricity imports, covered 77.8 pct of total demand in the January-September period, down from 85.9 pct last year.
PPC said spending on liquid fuel, natural gas, energy purchases and CO2 emission rights accounted for 32.7 pct of total income in the January-September period, while spending on liquid fuel, natural gas and energy purchases rose 15.6 pct compared with the same period last year.
 ATEbank reports 117.2 mln euro loss in Jan-SepATEbank on Wednesday reported after-tax and minorities losses of 117.2 million euros in the January-September period, after profits of 82.4 million euros in the corresponding period last year.
The bank attributed the worsening of results to higher risk provisions, write-offs totaling 287.2 million euros and losses suffered in financial transactions in the first half of the year.
ATEbank will proceed with a share capital increase plan, worth 1.0 billion euros, with the support of its main shareholder, the Greek state, to boost its capital base. The new money will be used to buy out preferential shares owned by the Greek state and the rest to boost the group's basic supervisory capital.
Organic pre-provision earnings totaled 286.1 million euros in the nine-month period, up 37.4 pct from last year, reflecting 105.8 million euros earnings in the third quarter of the year. Net interest income grew 12.4 pct to 613.4 million euros in the nine-month period and a 6.4 pct rise in the quarter. Net commission income, however, fell to 47.9 million euros in the January-September period, from 57.8 million euros last year.
 Geniki Bank completes 340-mln-euro share capital increaseGeniki Bank on Wednesday announced the full coverage of a share capital increase plan worth 339,733,717 euros through the issuance of 106,499,598 new common nominal shares, of a nominal value of 3.19 euros each at an offering price of 3.19 euros per share.
The share capital increase offered three new shares for every one existing share to shareholders. Existing shareholders covered 54,03 pct of the issue (57,542,739 shares), while another 48,956,859 shares were offered to Societe Generale.
 Tax fines more than double in Jan-OctThe value of fines imposed by tax authorities in the January-October period soared by 136 pct, compared with the corresponding period last year, to reach 3.57 billion euros, up from 1.51 billion euros, an official report announced on Wednesday.
A report by SDOE, the force responsible for combating financial crime in Greece, said fines imposed for failure to pay VAT on workers' wages and other withholding taxes totaled 2.846 billion euros in the 10-month period, up from 1.077 billion euros last year.
The Greek government is intensifying efforts to raise tax revenues, and combat widespread and pervasive tax evasion, in an effort to achieve ambitious budget revenue goals.
 Thursday strike to disrupt public transport in AthensPublic transport services throughout the capital will be disrupted on Thursday as a result of strike action by staff participating in a three-hour work stoppage announced by the umbrella trade union organisation General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) between noon and 15:00.
Athens buses will not be running from the start of their shift until 7:00 and from 10:00 p.m. until the end of their shift. Trolley buses will not be running between noon and 15:00, while metro, tram and electric railway trains will stop between noon and 16:00.
For further information, passengers are advised to contact the Athens public transport organisation OASA at the number 185.
 Greek fuel market shrinks in 2009, reportGreece's petroleum product market shrank by 5.82 pct in 2009, based on volume of consumption, a survey by ICAP Group said on Wednesday.
The survey showed that consumption of fuel fell 1.0 pct last year, with the petrol market showing signs of stabilization (+0.2 pct), while heating oil consumption grew 7.6 pct and diesel oil fell 7.4 pct in the year. Liquid gas and industrial diesel consumption fell 5.2 pct and 20.1 pct, respectively, last year.
International market fuel (shipping and air fuel) fell 9.6 pct last year, with kerosene down 11.5 pct and ship diesel down 2.7 pct.
Fuel has the most significant position in the country's energy balance, with competition in the market focusing on distribution networks, servicing and pricing policy of each company.
The domestic oil product market essentially operates in three levels: refining, wholesale and retail, with demand for crude oil covered fully through imports. The two refiners supply around 45 wholesalers, of which 19 operate in the petrol, diesel oil and heating oil markets. Two multinationals left the country last year selling their businesses to Greek fuel companies.
Based on the two refineries' balance sheets, assets rose 10.78 pct in 2009, while sales fell 32.77 pct and gross earnings more than tripled. EBITDA jumped 124.7 pct.
The wholesale businesses' balance sheets unveiled a 4.17 pct decline in assets, a 21.75 pct rise in sales, and a 4.76 pct decline in gross earnings and a 31.7 pct drop in EBITDA.
 Hellenic Petroleum reports satisfactory nine-month resultsHellenic Petroleum on Wednesday reported improved nine-month results, with comparable operating earnings rising 8.0 pct to 388 million euros, from 360 million euros in 2009 and EBITDA unchanged around last year's levels.
The group said its nine-month performance was satisfactory given the current adverse economic situation, helped by a program of improving competitiveness which resulted to annual benefits of 120 million euros. Operating spending was down 5.0 pct in the January-September period, compared with the same period in 2009.
Third quarter net profits grew 16 pct to 72 million euros, burdened by an extra tax charge (33 million euros), foreign exchange fluctuations and higher financial spending.
Hellenic Petroleum is currently investing in upgrading its refineries in Elefsis and Thessaloniki.
 Stocks down at volatile sessionStocks edged lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The composite index of the market eased 0.04 pct to end at 1,450.81 points, with turnover at 109.190 million euros. Trading was nervous with the index falling as much as 1.12 pct to rise later during the session as much as 0.88 pct.
National Bank rebounded (1.07 pct), followed by Hellenic Petroleum (4.30 pct), Ellaktor (3.69 pct) and Jumbo (3.28 pct), while PPC (3.52 pct), Titan (1.94 pct) and MIG (1.69 pct) were top losers among blue chip stocks.
The Big Cap index rose 0.24 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 1.16 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.72 pct lower. The Oil (3.12 pct) and Banks (0.73 pct) sectors scored gains, while Media (3.48 pct) and Health (3.34 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 97 to 69 with another 49 issues unchanged. Maillis (10.53 pct), Karamolegkos (10 pct) and Teletypos (7.8 pct) were top gainers, while Vell Group (16.67 pct), Newsphone (12.82 pct) and Forthnet (11.90 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +3.12%
Personal & Household: +0.43%
Raw Materials: -0.15%
Travel & Leisure: -0.47%
Food & Beverages: -0.35%
Financial Services: -2.00%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.50
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.52
HBC Coca Cola: 19.41
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.58
National Bank of Greece: 6.63
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.97
Bank of Piraeus: 3.03
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.344
Pound sterling 0.850
Danish kroner 7.514
Swedish kroner 9.366
Japanese yen 112.17
Swiss franc 1.338
Norwegian kroner 8.209
Canadian dollar 1.366
Australian dollar 1.374
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.39 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 40.868 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,080 contracts worth 30.530 million euros, with 37,505 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 20,678 contracts worth 10.338 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (7,485), followed by Eurobank (1,500), MIG (1,100), OTE (2,083), PPC (434), Piraeus Bank (4,310), Alpha Bank (1,742), Cyprus Bank (353) and ATEbank (310).
 Culture ministry unveils programme to improve services at museums and sitesThe culture and tourism ministry on Wednesday outlined a plan to improve services at Greek museums and archaeological sites, especially in terms of disabled access and availability of water.
The new programme follows a study that revealing a lack of vital services in some 150 museums around the country, including some of the most important and most popular sites.
Perhaps the most striking example is the Athens Acropolis, where until recently there was no provisions for access to the disabled or the Temple of Olympian Zeus in the heart of the city, where visitors were unable to buy water.
Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos presented the planned improvements at the New Acropolis Museum on Wednesday, stressing that they would help increase visitors to the sites. Priority will be given to 10 sites that currently attract the greatest number of visitors and UNESCO monuments.
The ministry's strategic goal is to provide basic services everywhere and enhanced services at the most visited sites, while gradually upgrading services elsewhere. The process is envisaged taking place gradually in cooperation with other agencies involved in the tourism sector and without any increase in ticket prices.
Additional staff needs will be covered through transfers from other public-sector positions and by hiring seasonal staff, while the entire cost of the programme is not expected to exceed 20 million euro.
Basic services for each site will include informational leaflets, a canteen or beverage dispenser, toilets and parking lot. Desired services will include bilingual signs and labels on exhibits, disabled access (including toilets), a gift shop and printed catalogues and guides. More specialised services will include educational programmes, automated guide systems, computerised ticketing, and information leaflets in Braille, among others.
 Excavation works on ancient shipwreck off Nea StyraExcavation works on a sunken vessel dated to the post Hellenistic era off the resort town of Nea Styra, in the southern Evoikos Gulf separating the mainland and large Evia (Euboea) island, were concluded for 2010.
The ancient vessel was loaded with amphorae, considered extremely interesting, as the cargo, along with wooden remnants. The latter's presence indicates that the vessel also transported high-value products, possibly sculptures in whole or in parts.
Amphorae Brindisi and vases filled with foods and wines, bronze and iron nails and small parts of copper statues of natural size, along with and two legs of a day-bed, were collected and lifted from the vessel.
The wreck was located in 2007 at a depth of 40 to 45 metres. Thirty-six divers, researchers, archaeologists, photographers, architects and other experts took part in the underwater excavation.
The research was organised by the Maritime Antiquities Ephorate and the Institute of Maritime Archaeological Research. Excavation works will continue and in 2011.
 Papoulias receives Mikis TheodorakisPresident of Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received noted Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis at the presidential mansion in Athens, ahead of a concert of the latter's works at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron).
Theodorakis presented Papoulias with an album released in Germany and dedicated to him for his 85th birthday.
 Suspected cocaine 'mule' arrested at Athens airportA 24-year-old Bulgarian woman suspected of being a cocaine "mule" was arrested upon her arrival at Athens' international airport by drugs squad officers acting on a tip-off. She was admitted to hospital where she later passed 40 latex-wrapped packages of cocaine weighing 441 grammes.
The arrest was made on Tuesday based on information about an attempt to import cocaine into the country. The woman was considered suspicious because she had originally set off from Sao Paolo in Brazil and arrived in Athens on a flight via Zurich.
Under questioning she admitted to swallowing the cocaine packages and was voluntarily admitted to hospital, where she passed the drugs under medical supervision.
Authorities also confiscated two mobile phones and the suspect was led before a public prosecutor on Wednesday.
 Robbers rip off ATM with wreckerUnknown individuals made off with an ATEbank ATM in the village of Akrolimni, Pella prefecture of northern Greece, by ripping away the cash machine from a wall with a wrecker truck.
According to police, eight suspects used a stolen a wrecker to steal the ATM, before transporting it to a rural area with a truck.
Unbeknownst to the perpetrators, however, the ATM only contained 1,860 euros.
 Two arrests of would-be arsonists in AthensTwo men, aged 25 and 26, were arrested in Athens' Peristeri district on Tuesday night when police stopped them because the motorcycle they were riding had no licence plates.
Police officers found in their possession materials used to make firebombs, including a container of flammable liquid, three empty beer bottles and a piece of cloth to serve as a fuse.
A search in their homes revealed a can with 20 litres of gasoline, among others.
During questioning the suspects admitted that they intended to launch firebomb attacks in downtown Athens.
The two are believed to be linked with the extreme right and more likely, their targets would have been places of worship like synagogues or mosques, police said.
 Incendiary device causes limited damage in office buildingLimited damage was caused by a late Tuesday night explosion of a home-made incendiary device, planted on the 4th floor of a building in downtown Athens where the offices of the Federation of Industries of Athens and Piraeus and the Hellenic-Chinese Chamber are housed.
The device was comprised of four gas canisters and the explosion and subsequent fire caused damage to the front doors of the offices.
A police investigation is underway.
 Foreign national sets man ablaze over economic differencesA 39-year-old Romanian national is wanted by police in the northern city of Kilkis on charges of attempting to burn alive a 59-year-old man after dowsing him with gasoline over an economic dispute, local authorities said on Wednesday.
The suspect attacked the victim in the latter's yard in the town of Platania and fled the scene after setting him on fire.
The victim was treated for burns in the chest, neck and right arm in the Kilkis Hospital.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe ten major changes recommended by the EU-ECB-IMF "troika" to overcome Greece's serious debt and deficit problems, and additional austerity measures for the period 2011-2014 mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Government seesaw on lay-off issue".
AVGHI: "They're eliminating vested rights and sinking country into the dark".
AVRIANI: "IMF chief calls Prime Minister George Papandreou to fire five ministers who disagree with Memorandum".
ELEFTHEROS: "Shocking revelation on economy and rescue proposals".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Sweeping changes in state health and public utilities and enterprises".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "12 tough reversals".
ESTIA: "Last chance for economy".
ETHNOS: "Cuts in salaries in private sector".
IMERISSIA: "3-month ordeal for 4th (bailout) installment".
KATHIMERINI: "Troika's 10 conditions for 4th tranche of loan".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Auditors propose deferred payment or extension of 110-billion-euro loan repayment period".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Common front now against government-troika's anti-popular war".
TA NEA: "10 orders for next 100 days".
TO VIMA: "Three burning months with 10 huge reversals".
VRADYNI: "Crash in society".
 Downer: Leaders to meet with UNSG in Geneva 25 or 26 of JanuaryNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
UN Secretary General's Special Advisor for Cyprus Alexander Downer has announced that the Secretary General will meet again with the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus on the 25th or 26th of January in Geneva.
Downer, who was received Wednesday by President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias, said that at the Geneva meeting, Ban Ki-moon will want to continue to ensure that the momentum at the Cyprus talks is maintained.
He said that his meeting with President Christofias focused on working out the program for the next few weeks, saying that the leaders' representatives will prepare the work and the leaders will meet to review that work.
Downer was also invited to comment on Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu's statement after the New York tripartite meeting that the territory and property issues are two different aspects that can not be linked.
The UN official refrained from getting into details regarding the UN meeting saying it was a private discussion and those issues are sensitive political issues for both sides.
Recalling that the UNSG explained that he wanted the content of the meeting to remain private, he said that from the SG's statement all aspects of the Cyprus talks were discussed in New York.
"From the Secretary General's statement all of the negotiation was discussed, all of the chapters and key issues were discussed and some work will be done between now and the 25th or 26th of January when the SG will meet again with the leaders in Geneva", Downer said.
Replying to questions whether the meeting in Geneva could be considered as arbitration, he said that "the SG has always said that this was a Cypriot led and Cypriot run process and the UN helps with the process but we are not planning to be arbitrators in this process".
The UN, he went on to say, have always said that the process needs momentum, adding that "we have been through a period recently when it hasn't had a good momentum".
Downer noted that the UNSG has managed successfully, during the New York tripartite meeting, to inject some new momentum into the process.
"I think he has very successfully done that and this meeting in January is about maintaining that momentum. It is not about saying every thing has to be agreed by the end of January. What we say is that this process needs to be moving forward and fairly rapidly", he explained.
Downer continued by saying that the UNSG has played an important role during the New York meeting last week, since he succeeded in giving the process some new momentum.
"And he will want to continue to ensure that that momentum is maintained when he meets again with the leaders in January. But that isn't to say that he is an arbitrator", he concluded.
The Cyprus talks between the two communities in Cyprus, under UN auspices, began in September 2008 with a view to find a negotiated settlement to reunite the island, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
 Cyprus objects to artificial timeframes, FM saysLONDON (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou has said that the Greek Cypriot side rejects artificial timeframes, in the current negotiating process to find a political settlement in Cyprus.
Addressing the Parliamentary Group on Cyprus, at the House of Commons, he said that Turkey now says it wants to impose time limits on the peace process and wondered what might follow after such timeframes.
Kyprianou presented an overview of the course of the talks and emphasized that the Greek Cypriot side wants -more than anybody else- a successful conclusion of the current negotiations.
To achieve this, he pointed out, Turkey which holds the key to the solution must make a positive contribution.
The Cypriot foreign minister also referred to recent proposals Cyprus President Demetris Christofias has put forward at the talks, stressing the correlation between different issues such as property, territory and the issue of illegal Turkish settlers, who have flooded Cyprus' northern Turkish occupied areas.
He also talked about the link between the proposal to open the Turkish occupied port of Famagusta and the start of direct trade through this port with the EU, in such a way that will not infringe on the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.
President Christofias proposed earlier this year to have simultaneous discussions on property, territory and the issue of Turkish settlers to accelerate the pace of the talks, to operate the port of Famagusta under EU auspices -jointly by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots- and to convene an international conference on the question of Cyprus once an agreement on the internal aspects of the problem is within reach.
Speaking about the property issue, the foreign minister pointed out that federation does not provide for a majority of population and property, in a way that would allow foreigners to buy property in Cyprus but would restrict such a right for Greek Cypriots wishing to purchase property in the northern Turkish Cypriot administered part of a future federal Cyprus and for Turkish Cypriots wanting to do the same in the southern Greek Cypriot administered part of the country.
Asked about judicial decisions in relation to the property issue, Kyprianou said that court decisions should be taken into account but the solution must be a political one.
Replying to another question on Turkey's EU aspirations, Kyprianou noted that the country's accession negotiations can be used as leverage on Ankara to contribute to a solution in Cyprus.
''We want a European Turkey, not just a Turkey a member of the Union,'' he stressed.
Nicosia has repeatedly said that it supports Turkey's accession, provided it meets all the necessary requirements and it meets its EU obligations, including those relating to Cyprus.
The Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides have been engaged in negotiations since September 2008 with a view to solving the problem of Cyprus divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
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