|Monday, 20 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-12-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 3 December 2010 Issue No: 3660
 Greek PM addresses European Socialists in WarsawWARSAW (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)
Greek Prime Minister and Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou said here on Thursday that "the Socialists propose new effective tools for handling the European crisis."
He was addressing the Party of European Socialists (PES) Council taking place in Warsaw on Thursday and Friday, just days before EU leaders convene to discuss a permanent crisis-resolution mechanism for the Eurozone.
Papandreou stressed that "the conservatives speak of an austerity policy, we of a policy of responsibility" while defining the main lines for "the future and prospects of modern socialdemocracy."
"The conservatives saw the crisis as a golden opportunity to weaken the social state, to reduce the labour rights that were achieved after tough struggles. It is our responsibility to safeguard them at all cost. We must help the millions of unemployed young Europeans who live in poverty," the Greek premier noted, adding that "rescuing banks at the expense of the poorer citizens is not only not viable economically, it is socially and morally unacceptable."
Referring to the Greek welfare state, he said that a rationalisation must take place for state expenditures to be cut wherever necessary. "We must respect the money of the taxpayers," he said but noted that the big expenditures in Greece were not for the poor. They were to serve special interests.
The Greek prime minister stressed that the problem was not an economic one but political, as was also proved for other European Union countries as well. A problem of democracy and "we socialdemocrats must restore the democratic and good governance."
He further said "the conservatives say that the solution is austerity. We Socialdemocrats must say no. You say economic austerity, we say democratic responsibility, equality and social justice."
"We reply with democratic responsibility, a responsible state of law and equality and responsibility for the environment. We have the solution for these in Europe," Papandreou stressed .
He reminded that inequality is a source of social woes and a fair taxation system is needed even more in periods of crisis. An effective social state is necessary.
He also said that tax evasion is estimated at one trillion euros a year in the EU.
Replying to the question of where will the money be got for the social state and growth proposed by the socialists, he spoke of the new tools that they are processing, with the first being the imposition of a Financial Transactions tax.
"We are promoting the idea of a European Financial Trans-actions Tax, that the European Parliament adopted with a big majority in October. We must now work for it to obtain practical implementation in the EU. We can combine the idea of the Eurobonds, green bonds, taxation for carbon dioxide," he added.
Papandreou denounced the conservative politicians of risking to split Europe up, now that it is necessary as a strong defence and as a democratic player in the world.
"Now that we need democratic global governance, rules of law and protection of human and social rights, they are exercising a policy of fear, because they fear change. They fear rules, because the free markets are more important for them than the fair game. And from the time that you enter the policy of fear and of the scapegoat, you undermine democracy, social cohesion, the essence of the EU," he concluded.
During the two-day meeting, the European Socialists will attempt to arrive at answers and proposals for tackling the European economic crisis.
During his address to the PES Council earlier on Thursday, PES President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen repeated a proposal made by Papandreou in the past for a financial transactions tax.
Rasmussen said the proposed tax, along with euro-bonds, should be used as a tool to finance a bailout mechanism that truly protected EU member-states from bankruptcy and described it as a "new tool for redistributing wealth in a globalised world".
He estimated that such a tax could raise up to 200 billion euro a year that could then be used to support employment and growth.
Analysing the crisis in Europe, Rasmussen stressed that no country and no leadership could make a difference on its own, while praising Greece's prime minister for his handling of the crisis in Greece:
"We have learned our lesson one more time: no one can do it alone. Even one under excellent leadership, like Greece under George Papandreou, cannot turn things around on its own. His honesty and courage facing crisis is inspiring. Unfortunately under Conservative leadership, this is not being mirrored at EU level," Rasmussen said.
The Council began on Thursday morning, with some changes of schedule caused by the delayed arrival of participants due to bad weather and extreme low temperatures in Warsaw.
Among those delayed was Papandreou, who arrived late in Poland after travelling from Astana in Kazakhstan, where he had attended the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit. The Greek premier will be addressing the PES Council on the future and prospects of the contemporary social democratic movement.
 PM: Important decisions at OSCE summitASTANA (ANA-MPA/G. Milionis)
Prime minister George Papandreou said on Thursday that many important decisions are being taken at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, which ended later in the day.
Greece's presence in the OSCE is particularly significant, both in the chairmanship of the organisation and in the so-called 'troika (the preceding, current and next chairmanship), Papandreou added.
"We have succeeded in advancing very important decisions, such as the Corfu Process, which was definitive in creation a new perception of security in wider Europe, a perception that is not one of conflict but one of cooperation among not only the Europeans but also the players in the wider region," Papandreou said.
The Greek premier also spoke of an "important process since it led to NATO's decision to upgrade its relations with Russia, a very significant decision for the security of the citizens of so many countries".
At the same time, the country is also advancing its bilateral relations and, in this case, in a region that had been forgotten for Greece, but is of great significance to the country because it is a hub in the world energy map, Papandreou continued, adding that many possibilities also exist for collaborations, as well as the historical and cultural ties.
He further noted the prospects for cooperation in the fields of construction, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism, and stressed the friendly sentiments in Kazakhstan towards Hellenism and Greece.
"The result is positive and allows us to invest in the future of our relations," Papandreou stressed.
The Greek premier met on Thursday, on the sidelines of the OSCE summit, with Vatican prime minister Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
 PM to chair cabinet meeting on FridayPrime Minister George Papandreou will chair a cabinet meeting at noon on Friday.
High on the agenda of the meeting are five government bills.
 Parliament com't debate on state budgetThe discussion on the 2011 state budget opened in the parliamentary Committee on Economic Affairs on Thursday with Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou underlining that "the path we are following is a tough one, but it is the only one that will lead us somewhere because all the rest lead to a dead end".
"There is no room for petty politicking approaches, magical solutions and big words," he said, commenting on references made by the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party which has maintained that it can eliminate the country's debt in just 18 months.
The minister of finance called on the main opposition party to follow the example of the Conservatives in Portugal who voted in favour of the state budget prepared by the ruling socialists, stressing that the ND proposals for spending cuts, reduction of tax evasion and utilization of state-owned property are already part of the government policy.
Responding to criticism made by ND and opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) concerning the limited state revenues, Papaconstantinou stressed that this is due mainly to the widespread tax evasion.
Papaconstantinou underlined that the 2011 state budget includes initiatives aimed at boosting the economy such as, the reduction of VAT in hotel rates and medicine prices, reduced taxation on the non-distributed profits etc.
Ruling PASOK party rapporteur MP Nassos Alevras responding to the anti-memorandum comments made by ND, stated that "Greece is faced with a debt problem and not a memorandum problem".
On behalf of ND, MP Christos Staikouras stated that the budget presented is "out of contact with reality" and criticised the government policy, stressing that "recession is deep and still present".
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Nikos Karathanassopoulos stressed that "the fiscal crisis is directly linked with the international capitalist crisis", pointing out that "the myth, according to which the Euro-zone and the euro can protect economies, is collapsing".
LA.OS MP Makis Voridis accused the government of "inadequate fiscal adjustment", while Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MP Panagiotis Lafazanis stressed that "2010 was a tragic year and in 2011 we will live a nightmare".
 Samaras: 'Economic growth only exit from crisis'Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Thursday outlined his party's positions on all crucial issues, including the debt- and deficit-plagued Greek economy.
Speaking at a reception hosted in his honor by EU member-states' envoys in Athens, Samaras outlined his position on the memorandum, the reasons he called for his party to reject the plan during a Parliament vote, and his proposals for a new "economic policy mix", as he called it, stressing that "economic growth is the only way out of the crisis".
Samaras focused on the fact that the economic policy followed by the government is causing greater recession instead of reducing the deficit, while the debt increases uncontrollably.
As regards Greek-Turkish relations, the ND leader said the legal status of the Aegean, which is in compliance with international law and the Law of the Sea, should be respected.
 ND leader announces committee on revision of constitutionMain opoposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras announced on Thursday the creation of the committee that will process and present the party's proposals on the revision of the constitution. ND vice president Dimitris Avramopoulos was appointed committee president.
 Germany examines plan to extend loan repayment period for GreeceThe German government is examining a plan to extending loan repayment period for Greece. "We are examining whether a repayment period for Greece will be extended by seven years," a spokesman of the Economy ministry told ANA-MPA in Berlin.
"We have not yet reached any decision," the spokesman added. German Economy minister Reiner Bruderle said on Wednesday it was wrong to say Europe has agreed to extend a loan repayment period by seven years. "It is wrong to say this," Bruderle said, adding that European finance ministers expressed "an intention to examine" this issue.
 IMF general director in Greece next weekWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
International Monetary Fund (IMF) general director Dominique Strauss-Kahn will travel to Greece next week for contacts with the Greek government and other agencies, according to the Fund's External Relations Department director Caroline Atkinson, who was responding to a relevant question by the ANA during the regular press briefing.
Atkinson described as "very strong" the Greek economy's stabilisation programme, stressing that during the recent visit to Athens by the delegation of the Fund and the European Union, there was "very close cooperation" with the Greek authorities and assessed that in November's local government elections popular support was renewed for the difficult measures being taken by the government.
Lastly, she reiterated that the IMF is ready to examine next year the possibility of the prolongation of the period for the repayment of the loan to Greece.
In this frameweork, and invoking relevant statements by the head of the IMF's delegation for Greece Paul Thomsen, she underlined that there are possible moves that can be made, but avoided going into details, pointing out that the time was not appropriate.
 Alt. FM briefs parliamentary com't on upcoming European CouncilAlternate Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou briefed on Thursday the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs and the Special Standing Committee on European Affairs regarding developments in the European Union in view of the upcoming European Council on Dec. 16 and 17 underlining that Greece will continue to negotiate on all the crucial issues.
Xenogiannakopoulou put an emphasis on the problem of illegal migration stressing that "Greece is faced with a frightening inflow", underlining, at the same time, "the important role played by the presence of Frontex Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs) along the Greek borders" in reducing the migrant flow.
"In just a few days since their deployment the RABITs have managed to reduce the inflow of illegal migrants to Greece by 40 pct", Xenogiannakopoulou stated, adding that "Frontex has a multifaceted importance for Greece because it tackles illegal migration and, at the same time, protects our external borders".
The alternate FM also called on countries bordering Greece "to realise that their European course has our country's support but it is self-evident that they should cooperate and back the effort to form a controlled front against illegal migration".
 Papoulias visits defence ministryPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday was briefed by the political and military leadership of the defence ministry on issues concerning the armed forces.
After his visit to the ministry, Papoulias stated that his briefing was detailed, in depth and very important.
"The Hellenic Armed Forces, thanks to their readiness and high morale, can guarantee regional security and the safety of the Greek people, who have pinned all their hopes on their children in uniform," he said.
 PM Papandreou holds telephone conversation with Israeli counterpartPrime Minister George Papandreou held a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and expressed Greece's solidarity and readiness to help Israel's firefighting forces to extinguish the wildfire near Haifa, according to a relevant announcement by the Foreign Ministry.
Following relevant consultations between the two sides, the announcement said, the sending of four firefighting CANADAIR aircraft was agreed. The aircraft were to leave for Israel to join the Israeli forces' operational planning as soon as possible.
The Israeli authorities have revealed that at least 40 people have lost their lives so far and many more have been injured. The wildfire's fronts have not yet been placed under control.
 Four firefighting aircraft to leave for IsraelFour CL 415 firefighting aircraft were expected to depart at any moment on Friday night, from Elefsina airport for Israel to help in extinguishing the huge wildfire in Haifa.
The Greek firefighting services' response to the request by the Israeli Authorities for aid to be provided to handle the uncontrolled and lethal fire was immediate.
The four aircraft will be making a stopover on the island of Rhodes for refuelling and will be in Haifa at six in the morning to participate in the firefighting process.
 Frontex presence has slowed migrant flow at Greek border, minister saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
The presence of Frontex forces along the Greek-Turkish land border has helped reduce the pressure from illegal migration in that region, Greece's Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis told his EU counterparts on Thursday.
Addressing the EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers' council, Papoutsis cited the European Commission's report on protecting the EU's external borders and preventing illegal migration and stressed that the observed reduction in migration flow after the deployment of the EU border agency's Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs) in Evros was significant.
Papoutsis said that these first positive indications had to become more firmly entrenched and for this reason asked the Commission to speed up a series of initiatives to discourage undocumented migrants from entering the EU.
Among these he listed the signature of a European Re-admission Treaty with Turkey, stressing that Greece's neighbour must fully respect the European acquis, the principles of the EU and the interests of the other member-states.
He also called for implementation of the Re-admission Agreement with Pakistan and said the EU needed to exert political pressure on migrant origin and transit countries to reduce the flow of undocumented migrants entering Europe.
Papoutsis pointed out that Greece was already implementing its national action plan for reforming the country's system for asylum and migration management, in order to deal with the emergency situation created by massive illegal migration pressures it currently faced.
He also expressed support for the efforts of the Belgian EU presidency to create a single European asylum system, while stressing the necessity to revise the "Dublin II" regulation for the return of migrants to the country of entry, which in its current form placed a disproportionately large burden upon Greece.
Greece had neither the infrastructure nor the resources that would allow it to cope single-handedly with the shared European problem of preventing illegal migration, Papoutsis underlined. He called for specific and immediate cooperation on this between EU member-states, noting that it required better coordination, strong political will and real solidarity.
Otherwise, the minister warned, the security of European citizens and cohesion of European society was at stake.
 Deputy FM: War reparations issue remains openDeputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis, replying to a tabled question in Parliament by a Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP, emphasised that "no government, nor we, have resigned from our demands, both regarding the occupation loan and the wartime reparations from Germany."
He added that "we retain the right of actions to enable us to achieve the best solution possible."
On his part, KKE deputy Spyros Halvatzis replied that "no government wished to claim either the compulsory occupation loan or Germany's debts for the atrocities of the war and the occupation."
 Athens Medical Association to file suit against all-day hospitalsThe Athens Medical Association on Thursday announced that it intends to contest a health ministry decision extending state hospital operating hours in the courts by filing a suit asking that it be declared unconstitutional.
The Medical Association expressed strong objections to the decision to have hospitals working in the evenings, saying that this would encourage the black economy and graft within the national health system, sharply increased the operating costs of hospitals and lead private surgeries and diagnostic centres to close.
On Wednesday the health ministry announced that 25 of the largest state hospitals around the country will begin operating throughout the day, with clinics operating both in the mornings and from late afternoon until 10:00 p.m. initially. Later, they will also offer diagnostic tests, treatments and surgery in the evenings.
 Mayor infrastructure projects dominate talks between gov't, EIB VPInfrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas on Thursday underlined that "the assistance offered at this specific time by the European Investment Bank (EIB) is very useful and contributes to development which is a prerequisite for overcoming the crisis".
Reppas made the comment after a meeting with EIB Vice-President Plutarchos Sakellaris, during which he requested EIB assistance for an ambitious 500-million-euro public works programme focusing on road safety and interventions across the national motorway network. A total of 750 million euros have already been earmarked for the Patras-Athens-Thessaloniki railway.
Sakellaris said the EIB will finance projects in Greece that will help pull the country out of the crisis. Other projects to receive EIB financing are the metro extension in Athens and Thessaloniki and the airport at Kasteli, Crete.
 SEV defends redtape-busting proposals, union replyFederation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) President Dimitris Daskalopoulos on Thursday reacted to criticism by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the country's largest umbrella trade union, over a "laundry list" of SEV proposals presented a day earlier -- proposals aimed at eliminating numerous and often arcane obstacles to entrepreneurship in the country.
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference hosted by the Hellenic Management Association (HMA), Daskalopoulos reiterated that GSEE leadership was present at Wednesday's meeting, held with so-called "social partners" at SEV's offices, noting, in fact, that negotiations with GSEE representatives lasted for six hours.
The comment came hours after GSEE President Yiannis Panagopoulos flatly denied reports of an agreement between GSEE and employers for a reduction in private sector wages, calling reports "fabricated" and an "orchestrated vileness that serves the interests of employers' circles". Moreover, he GSEE's demand for collective labour agreements and their universal application and extension.
On his part, Daskalopoulos said that while no agreement reached, a discussion with social partners was held regarding an agreement that will consolidate the flexibility and validity of collective work contracts.
Moreover, Daskalopoulos downgraded the proposals concerning a 6-day work week and overtime work, by saying that of the 250 impediments to entrepreneurship, recorded by SEV, "those who are fervent supporters of stagnation chose to focus on one or two technical-economic points of a lesser importance, maintaining that allegedly the (SEV) proposals were suggesting abolition of the eight-hour-day / five-day work week."
The SEV president spoke of slander, misquoting, and an effort to manipulate public opinion.
He also stressed that reactions expressed "voice certain interests", and stereotypes that prefer to turn a blind eye to reality and condemn the people to indigence in order to preserve their own privileges.
Finally, he underlined that the need for change has become obvious but lacks political and social momentum due to the numerous and deeply-rooted interests that give a fight to keep things unchanged in order to preserve their political, "closed-shop", or individual privileges.
 Financial crimes squad hands out fines worth 4 billion euroFines in excess of four billion euro have been written out in 2010 by financial crimes squad (SDOE) inspectors for tax offences and violations brought to light until the end of November, the head of SDOE Yiannis Kapeleris said on Thursday.
Among those fined were owners of luxury leisure craft, high-profile doctors with millions in their bank accounts and miniscule declared incomes, shipyards in Perama but also fashion houses.
Those being investigated include 2,250 doctors whose declared incomes are incompatible with the size of their bank account deposits. In one such case, the doctor involved had a total declared income of 206,000 euro but his bank accounts in Greece and abroad contained deposits amounting to 6.3 million euro. In several such cases, the deposits have been seized.
Three fashion houses have been fined after inspectors gained access to their bank account records and found undeclared sums exceeding 1.2 million a year, even though their average annual declared income was around 40,000 euro.
SDOE officers are also investigating 299 leisure craft owners who had declared their boats as professional craft in order to avoid tax, confiscating the boats while the investigation is underway. One such owner, for example, had to pay 2.5 million euro in tax in order to convert his licence from professional use to private use. Just in October, inspections that resulted in the conversion of leisure craft licences have brought 15 million euro into state coffers.
In the Perama shipyard zone, meanwhile, the financial crimes squad is now investigating 1,500 businesses that are suspected of flouting VAT exemption rules and carrying out ship repairs that are not declared in any way.
 Greece to screen foreign vehicles for unpaid finesBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Spinthourakis)
Greece intends to set up checkpoints at its borders to catch residents of foreign countries that attempt to leave without paying outstanding fines for serious traffic code violations, Greece's Deputy Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Spyros Vougias informed the EU transport minister's council on Thursday.
The meeting was discussing the payment of traffic tickets by European citizens driving through countries that are not their permanent place of residence. The ministers agreed that fines for serious offences - such as speeding, going through red lights or not wearing a seatbelt - the country where the offender is normally resident will take action to collect and deliver the fine to the country where the offence occurred.
As a country with mainly non-EU neighbours, however, Greece has opted to screen vehicles with foreign licence plates for outstanding fines at its border.
The Council also agreed on the need to step up security in air transport after the recent incidents involving parcel-bombs delivered by post and courier services.
 Canadian Int'l Trade minister to head mission to Greece, TurkeyMONTREAL (ANA-MPA/I. Fragouli)
Canada's minister of international trade Peter Van Loan will head a group of Canadian businesspersons on a commercial and investment mission to Greece and Turkey next week to discuss prospects for investments in the two countries.
Van Loan will visit Istanbul and Ankara from December 6 to 8, followed by Athens from December 9 to 10.
A key focus of the visit is to promote Canadian expertise and advance Canada's business ties with Greece and Turkey, according to Van Loan.
The mission will focus on the sectors of agriculture, agri-food, aerospace and defence, clean energy, the environment, mining, and information and communications technologies.
 Gov't pledges to support sea cruise sector following cabotage's axingCulture and Tourism Deputy Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis on Thursday presented what he called the country's significant prospects in sea cruise and investments in Greek ports, following the long-sought abolition of cabotage by the government.
Addressing the 8th Seatrade Med world congress in Cannes, the Greek minister presented developments in the local tourism sector, and particularly changes and prospects of sea cruises, as a form of incoming tourism, developing fly/cruise packages to regional airports and offering specialized facilities and services for sea tourism. Nikitiadis met with the heads of sea cruise industry, such as Manfredi Lefebvre d' Olivio (chairman of SilverSea Cruises) and president of the European Sea Cruise Council, Tim Marking, secretary-general of the Council, Giovanni Spadoni, chairman of Med Cruise, the Association of Mediterranean Sea Cruise Ports (including more than 70 ports).
The minister told sea cruise executives that Greece will support the industry through a new fast track investments law.
 Greek economy shrank 4.5 pct in Q3The Greek economy shrank by 4.5 pct in the third quarter of 2010, compared with the corresponding period last year, Eurostat said on Thursday.
The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report, said Eurozone economy grew 1.9 pct and the EU-27 economy grew by 2.2 pct in the July-September period.
Eurostat said Greece was the only Eurozone state to record a recession in the third quarter of the year, while only two EU member-states recorded recession in the same period (Greece and Romania).
Greece's Gross Domestic Product fell by 1.1 pct in the third quarter compared with the second quarter of 2010, while in the Eurozone and the EU-27 GDP grew by 0.4 pct and 0.5 pct, respectively.
 ATEbank to proceed with one-bln-euro share capital increaseATEbank will proceed with a share capital increase plan in late January or early February, Theodoros Pantalakis, the bank's chairman, said on Thursday.
Speaking to an Athens radio station, Pantalakis said consultations are underway with underwriters and consultants of the plan, while he noted that the share capital increase, totaling one billion euros, has already been approved by the EU-ECB-IMF "troika" and European authorities.
The Greek banker said ATEbank will use 675 million euros of the new money to repay preference shares owned by the state, while the remaining money will be used to deal with issues resulted from stress tests. Pantalakis also left the open the possibility of a merger between ATEbank and the loans arm of the Treasury and Loans Fund.
He also confirmed that the "troika" has recommended cuts between 25-28 pct in operating costs, something that could lead to decreases its salaries and the sell-off of subsidiaries or affiliates not related with the financial sector, in order to release more capital and create better conditions for sustainable growth.
On his part, Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sahinidis earlier told reporters that the government was not considering the closure of ATEbank, as he reiterated that the Greek state will participate in a forthcoming share capital increase scheme by the bank.
 Metro station in Aghia Paraskevi to be ready by year-endThe Athens Metro's new station in the northern suburb of Aghia Paraskevi will be completed by the end of the year, Attiko Metro S.A. chief Christos Tsitouros announced on Thursday during a visit to the construction site with European Investment Bank (EIB) vice-president Plutarchos Sakellaris.
Sakellaris, in turn, said that the EIB will continu to co-finance projects such as the Athens and Thessaloniki Metros.
 Stocks end slightly downStocks ended slightly lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, unable to hold on to their early strong gains. The composite index of the market eased 0.02 pct to end at 1,474.05 points, with turnover rising further to 151.317 million euros. Trading was nervous as the market reacted negatively to the announcements made by ECB's president Jean Claude Trichet over extending the bank's liquidity support programs.
The Big Cap index fell 0.13 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.07 pct up and the Small Cap index eased 0.24 pct. ATEbank (25.37 pct), Titan (6.68 pct) and OTE (5.64 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Alpha Bank (4.70 pct), Eurobank (3.27 pct) and National Bank (2.83 pct) suffered losses.
The Insurance (6.44 pct), Telecoms (5.64 pct) and Constructions (3.88 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains, while Health (2.0 pct) and Banks (1.82 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 98 to 58 with another 71 issues unchanged. ATEbank (25.37 pct), Hellenic Sugar (14.71 pct) and Aspis Bank (13.04 pct) were top gainers, while Douros (19.83 pct), Motodynamiki (9.46 pct) and Haidemenos (9.24 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.60%
Personal & Household: +0.24%
Raw Materials: +1.16%
Travel & Leisure: +0.18%
Food & Beverages: +0.13%
Financial Services: -0.81%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, OTE and DEH.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.46
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.88
HBC Coca Cola: 19.90
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.72
National Bank of Greece: 6.86
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.14
Bank of Piraeus: 3.00
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.53 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover an improved 98.188 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 16,092 contracts worth 56.530 million euros, with 34,907 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 42,962 contracts worth 41.658 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (12,570), followed by Eurobank (3,268), MIG (5,664), OTE (2,472), PPC (852), Piraeus Bank (3,373), Alpha Bank (2,901), Cyprus Bank (1,053), Hellenic Postbank (2,097) and ATEbank (5,212).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.326
Pound sterling 0.851
Danish kroner 7.511
Swedish kroner 9.226
Japanese yen 111.86
Swiss franc 1.326
Norwegian kroner 8.124
Canadian dollar 1.339
Australian dollar 1.372
 Sculptures of Stoa of Attalos in ancient Agora to be showcasedThe magnificent sculptures of the Stoa of Attalos in the Ancient Agora in central Athens will be showcased in the upper floor of the two-storey 159 BC structure, which will reopen to the public after remaining closed for three decades.
Dozens of stone antiquities will be put back on display, together with a plethora of antiquities that have not been previously exhibited.
The 1,440 square meter upper floor has up to now served as a storage space for artifacts, archives and offices of the American School of Classical Studies that is conducting excavations in the area.
The Finance Ministry has approved a joint proposal by the School and the First Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities for showcasing the rich antiquities of the site in a more 'museum-like' concept, which was also endorsed by the Council of Museums.
A total of 56 stone-made antiquities will be on display again, while the exhibition will also be enriched with ancient findings never exhibited before.
The study for the rearrangement of the exhibits takes place within the framework of the project called "Reviving the Ancient Agora, the place where Democracy was born".
The proposal suggested that the presentation of sculptures takes place in thematic sections and chronological succession allowing the visitors to witness the evolution of sculptural art during the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman Times highlighting the course from the Ancient Greek idealism to the Roman realism.
The Stoa of Attalos houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora. Its exhibits are mostly connected with the Athenian democracy.
 17 arrests in women trafficking caseSeventeen people have been arrested and another 160 taken in for questioning by police in several parts of the country, in an investigation into one of the biggest trafficking rings of women, mainly from Russia, who were forced to work in nightclubs and as prostitutes, police said on Thursday.
A major coordinated operation was launched by police in Athens, Lamia, Volos, Larissa, Thessaloniki, Florina and other cities in Greece while, in collaboration with the Russian authorities, an investigation was also being conducted in Russia.
A Greek Police (ELAS) officer told ANA-MPA that the ring controlled approximately 80 percent of the women from eastern European countries exploited by white slave traders in Greece.
The mastermind of the ring is believed to be a 40-year-old owner of a chain of bakeries and nightclubs, who had been arrested in a similar major case in November 2008 but was released a year ago after the expiry of the remand period.
Announcements will be forthcoming from the Attica Security Police upon completion of the preliminary investigation.
 Foreign nationals arrested in major drug bustThree Albanian nationals were arrested on Thursday on drug smuggling charged related to an ongoing investigation into a ring suspected to funneling major quantities of narcotics into the greater Athens area.
The suspects, two men aged 33 and 25, and a 25-year-old woman were arrested in the upscale northern Athens district of Ekali after nearly 28 kilos of hashish, more than 1.6 kilos of heroin and 593 grams were found on their possession.
Moreover, the suspects were allegedly armed, carrying two handguns, along with precision scales and 3,000 euros in cash.
 Drug arrests in ThessalonikiMore than three kilograms of heroin were seized and two drug dealers were arrested in separate incidents in Thessaloniki on Wednesday, police said.
In the first instance, a 36-year-old man was arrested after police find 1.232 kilograms of heroin in a house he was using as a storage space in Evosmo. Police also seized a pistol, a precision scale and 200 euros in cash found in the man's possession.
In a second incident, police arrested a 20-year-old Albanian national in Menemeni for possession of 2.42 kilograms of heroin.
The two detainees were taken before a local prosecutor.
 Students clash with police during protest, four lightly injuredPolice and protestors clashed during a student protest rally organised by mainly far-left groups on Thursday outside Parliament. Four of the protestors were slightly injured during the scuffles and five people were detained and brought into police headquarters.
A few hundred students took part in the rally and march to Parliament, shouting slogans against the EU-IMF memorandum and education ministry proposals for reforming universities. As the march was going past Parliament, a group of protestors attempted to break through the riot police cordon outside but were driven back. Some clashed with MAT riot police, leading to the injury of four protestors.
 OAEE fund employee taken hostage by enraged manA female employee at the self-employed workers' social insurance fund OAEE was taken hostage on Thursday morning by a man insured with OAEE, who doused her with petrol and threatened to set her on fire.
The man, enraged at what he considered an unacceptable delay in processing his application for a pension, entered the OAEE offices on the corner of Patission and Tsiler Streets at 9:30 a.m. and headed up to the third floor where the woman's desk was. He then tied her up with wire, doused her with petrol and threatened to set her alight.
He was arrested before he could carry out his threat, however, and is now being held at the Patissia police station.
 Explosive device at music hall in AlimosAn explosive device was detonated at the music hall THEA in Posidonos avenue in the Athens district of Alimos which is not operating, at 10:14 on Thursday night.
According to initial information provided by police, the device had been placed outside a storehouse of the music hall that sustained material damage.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 4-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 10C and 25C. Cloudy in Athens, with southerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 16C to 22C. Rainy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 15C to 21C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe economy and a SEB (Federation of Hellenic Enterprises) proposal for flexible labor were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Thursday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Mikis Theodorakis announces establishment of 'Spitha' Movement of Independent Citizens".
AVGHI: "Cutbacks in state spending on education closes schools".
AVRIANI: "They're crushing salaries, abolishing the five-day working week and collective labor agreements".
ELEFTHEROS: "Sweeping upsets in salaries, overtime and working hours".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Bomb explodes in private sector, too - 12 percent cuts in salaries, and elastic working hours".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Salary 'haircuts' without layoffs".
ESTIA: "The taxes destroyed the economy".
ETHNOS: "Shock-recipe for labor relations from SEB (Federation of Hellenic Enterprises)".
IMERISSIA: "Alert in Europe - Fear of spread of debt crisis".
KATHIMERINI: "The fear of a domino effect brings US capital to back the EU".
LOGOS: "Upset of labor relations".
NIKI: "The industrialists' demands are provocative".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Improved third quarter for listed companies".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The big-time industrialists demand cheap labor and workout without set working hours".
TA NEA: "Tough bargaining on the salaries".
VRADYNI: "12 percent reduction in salaries in the private sector".
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