|Friday, 15 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-12-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 15 December 2010 Issue No: 3670
 Government Omnibus bill ratified in principleThe government's omnibus bill on the implementation of urgent measures for the Greek economy's support programme was ratified in principle with 156 votes in favour and 130 against, on Tuesday night.
The bill was ratified following a rollcall vote called for by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Popular Orthodox Rally party (LAOS).
 FinMin, Employment defend omnibus billFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during the debate on the omnibus bill, said that "the government is obtaining its legalising basis from the vote of the latest (local government)elections and the vote of confidence of its deputies and will be judged for what it enacts on the basis of what it received and what it delivers in the next elections."
Replying to criticism by the opposition, he stressed that the government is judged on the basis of what it does or tries to do, not on the basis of the political cost on each occasion, but public interest.
The finance minister admitted that an increase in VAT is coming from 11 to 13 percent, something that was achieved following negotiations so that it would not reach 23 percent, while it was reduced for medicines and tourist accommodation from 11 to 6.5 percent.
As regards public utilities and the changes being brought about, the minister said that "it was not possible for us to hide our heads in the sand again, when we have to face average salaries that offend the rest of the working people."
Her added that "it is a move of justice whih is trying to reduce the deficit of these businesses by 1.5 billion, when we have five loss-making public utilities in which salaries exceed revenues."
Employment Minister Louka Katseli said on her part that "our legalising basis is one alone: For the country not to go bankrupt, for us to be able to borrow 110 billion from the IMF and the European taxpayers over the next three years, for us to be able to pay pensions, salaries and for us to provide public services."
Katseli reiterated that the flexibility being brought into the labour market "exists in many other European countries," while the business contracts under the corresponding sector ones as well "strengthen the collective negotiations weakening the individual ones that are prevailing in the market today, where the working man is the weakest. We are coming to reverse this status, securing in parallel a minimum safety net, that of the sector contractr, and the collective labour contract."
 Opposition parties on omnibus billCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during the debate on the omnibus bill on labour issues, stressed that "in essence the war is starting now and working people will be realising all the more that the struggle that has on its flag how much the working people will lose has no meaning," adding that there can be no objective solution to the problems of the working class without a solution to the "problem of power."
Papariga accused the government of "slandering working people and of enacting knowingly that the memorandum will lead to an increase of the debt and of deficits."
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis made proposals on a different policy for the recovery of the Greek economy, accusing the government at the same time of "inability to handle the problems it is facing."
"I call on you to change policy and if you cannot, get up and leave. Because you are leading the country from decline to decline, it is a mistake, it is death, it is the country's memorial service," Karatzaferis said.
Also speaking during the debate, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras termed the omnibus bill a "bill of labour, national and social humiliation" and warned the deputies of the ruling PASOK party "that whoever believes that he can pull his tail out is mistaken."
Tsipras criticised the government and its ministers present, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and Employment Minister Louka Katseli, saying that they comprise a "government of surrendered that is carrying out without second thoughts and openly whatever is requested of them by the technocrats of the Troika."
 Deputy Evangelos Papachristos expelled from PASOK's Parliamentary GroupRuling PASOK Preveza deputy Evangelos Papachristos was expelled from the party's Parliamentary Group, following his decision to vote against in principle the omnibus bill on the urgent measures for the implementation of the Greek economy's support programme.
Shortly after the conclusion of the rollcall vote, Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos read a letter by Prime Minister and PASOK president George Papandreou which said that: "Deputy Evangelos Papachristos is expelled from PASOK's Parliamentary Group."
 PASOK MP on debateRuling PASOK MP Odysseas Voudouris on Monday informed the Parliament president that he will abstain from the debate by the legislature' plenum on the urgently tabled omnibus draft bill regarding cuts in the wider public sector.
Moreover, Voudouris, who is elected from Messinia prefecture in extreme SW Greece, cited his opposition to the urgent procedure following for tabling and debating the closely watched bill.
 PM addresses cabinet meetingPrime Minister George Papandreou, briefing the cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon, ascertained a general consensus during his discussions with opposition party leaders, mainly on European issues.
Papandreou said that his initiative to meet the party leaders was undertaken by him in order to brief them and to discuss important developments "first of all" at European level, due to the impending EU summit, as well as "crucial domestic issues."
The prime minister mentioned to the party leaders the three main elements which in his view must be handled at European level and which are:
A. Stabilisation, fiscal order and stabilisation.
B. The serious supervision and the regulation of the monetary system.
C. Growth as a basic ingredient of economic policy in the European Union.
For all these, as the prime minister said, there are objections by such countries as Germany. And he explained to the party leaders that for Greece to be able to have a voice, it must maintain and strengthen its reliability. Underlining that this effort is a national one.
Papandreou also commented on statements by main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras that he requested (the prime minister) approval and mutual guilt. "I neither requested the one nor the other," he stressed. He added that he requested the self-evident, the assumption of responsibility and participation in the effort. "As far as mutual guilt," the premier said, "this also necessitates guilt." He added that "it is known who has the responsibility that we have come to this point and the people have attributed it."
Focusing on the bill being ratified in Parliament on Tuesday night, Papandreou said that "it is another step for our country's change for the better."
 ND leader rejects consensus on government's economic policyMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras clearly rejected consensus on the economic policy followed by the government, during a meeting with prime minister George Papandreou on Tuesday at the Maximos Mansion.
Speaking to reporters from his office shortly after the 70-minute meeting, he said the talks were held in a good climate, and all current issues, the economy and foreign policy matters were discussed.
Samaras stressed that he will not consent to a course such as that being followed by the government, which is leading to unfair and pointless sacrifices without hope.
"I will not consent to that policy, because that would be complicity," Samaras said, adding that the prime minister was seeking from ND "approval of and complicity to decisions that the government has already taken".
The ND leader said he briefed Papandreou on his estimation that the government's economic policy was leading the citizens to despair and the society to dissolution, and called on the premier to change course.
He said that if PASOK was the main opposition party today, it would have "paralysed the country". Consequently, "I asked Mr. Papandreou to change course, to be himself the one who lends consent to development".
"There is no room for party egotims here. It is a matter of national survival," Samaras warned.
ND, he continued, has held an honest stance up to now, backing the measures that are in the right direction, but the country was currently in a labor Middle Ages, which his party will not accept.
Samaras said he also asked Papandreou to take "serious measures against tax evasion and corruption, given that the 'usual suspects', namely the law abiding citizens, the salary and pension earners, are the ones who are called on once again to shoulder the burden of the deficits and the debt".
He further noted that ND has asked for an off-the-agenda discussion in parliament o the national issues, and accused foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas of "outrageous views" on Turkey's EU accession course, the actions and statements of Turkish and FYROM officials and other foreign officials on the Cyprus issue, the status in the Aegean, the Exclusive Economic Zone, territorial waters, the FYROM name issue, "that give us the sense that the government is engaging in secret diplomacy".
 KKE leader after meeting with PM: The real war starts now"The real war starts now. The working people must realise that there are no solutions. Either they organise their counter-attack now or they bow their heads," Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga stressed on Tuesday after a meeting with prime minister George Papandreou.
In statements to the press, Papariga also stressed her full disagreement with the government's omnibus bill, which parliament is due to vote on under "urgent procedures" on Tuesday night, with respect to the sweeping changes it introduces to labor relations and in the public utilities and organisations (DEKO), but added that the issue was not discussed with the premier.
Besides, she added, the bill would be discussed in parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
Papariga explained that the purpose of the discussion with Papandreou was to be briefed on the items on the agenda of the EU Summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday and on developments in the crisis in Europe.
The KKE leader further stressed that it is "given" that there can be no consensus with the policies followed by the government.
To a question that the messages from the EU are pessimistic, Papariga anticipated that the crisis will perpetuate and that the antagonism in the context of the capitalist system will be aggravated.
Even of the crisis is overcome, the economy will not reach the GDP levels of before the crisis, which will leave Greece and Europe in shambles, while it will also open up a new, worse cycle of crisis, Papariga warned, added that the real struggle, the real war, begins now.
 LA.OS opposition to public sector wage cutsPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) leader George Karatzaferis on Tuesday expressed his party's opposition to an omnibus draft bill submitted by the government that envisions drastic cuts in salaries and benefits of employees in state-run utilities and enterprises.
The LA.OS leader made the statement after his meeting with Prime Minister George Papandreou, saying the party "showed maturity" when it voted in favour of the memorandum in order to guarantee the payment of salaries and pensions.
"Now, however, wages are being slashed," he said.
 Leftist leader: 'We won't waste our time with meaningless handshakes'Opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) ?arliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras, who declined a meeting with PM George Papandreou on Tuesday within the framework of the latter' s contacts with political party leaders, underlined that "today is a day of shame for the Greek Parliament and all the MPs who will associate their names with this setback".
"We will be here in Parliament to give the fight against legislation that promotes social and labour humiliation. We do not waste our time with meaningless handshakes. We will be here to give a response based on arguments," he stressed.
Tsipras called on the people to "participate in massive numbers in Wednesday's nationwide strike to put an end to this policy that will turn us many years back."
 Gov't: consensus extremely important"The government has always believed - much more now in this difficult conjuncture - that consensus is extremely important and we will not stop requesting it in the course of this tough but highly promising effort for the country and society," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis stressed on Tuesday .
Referring to the meetings Prime Minister George Papandreou had with political party leaders the same day, he characterised them as "very useful", focusing on major domestic and foreign policy issues "ahead of the crucial EU Summit and the crisis we are experiencing".
Commenting on the stance of main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras, he stated that "(the ND leader) should consider the responsibility of his party in bringing the country to the current situation instead of interpreting as 'complicity' the active and substantive participation in this major national effort made by the government to salvage the country and bring economic recovery."
Petalotis said the government regulates labour relations focusing on the preservation of job positions and the protection of labour rights, while defending collective bargaining and the consensus of social partners.
He added that the government tackles tax evasion and rejected secret diplomacy allegations, stressing that "after many years, Greece has again its own voice, clear positions and prestige".
 FM on Turkish frigate in Aegean, EU General Affairs CouncilBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris-M. Spinthourakis)
Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, asked to comment on Turkey's action on Tuesday, said that "we have been briefed by the National Defence General Staff on the passage of the Turkish frigate from the strairts of Kafireas and we are waiting for the report by the relevant Navy General Staff to take all the necessary action."
Droutsas stressed that Turkey's specific action does not surprise Greece and, as he said, he had the opportunity of briefing his counterparts on the event at Tuesday's General Affairs Council.
According to the Greek foreign minister, Tuesday's event constitutes yet another weapon for Greece's arguments to show Turkey's violatory behaviour.
On the question of foreign policy and national issues, he said he will insist on the effort for consensus with all political forces and full cooperation with all of the country's political parties.
Droutsas also expressed satisfaction over the decisisons taken by the EU's General Affairs Council on the issue of enlargement and relations between the EU with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) and Turkey.
As regards fYRoM, the foreign minister expressed Greece's sincere wish for negotiations to begin for neighbouring country's accession to the EU, adding that as is also underlined in the Council's decisions on Tuesday fYRoM must maintain relations of good neighbourliness with all countries and solve the problem of the name through the negotiations that it is holding with Greece at the UN.
On the question of Turkey, he pointed to excellent cooperation between Greek and Cypriot diplomacy and expressed satisfaction over the fact that the Council's decisions on Turkey this year (issued following the committee's annual progress report) are considerably improved compared to last year.
 Turkish frigate in Aegean being monitored by Greek vesselsThe Turkish frigate "Salih Reis" was sailing in the early morning hours of Tuesday south of the Greek island of Rhodes, heading westwards towards the Cyclades islands, in international waters, a National Defence General Staff (GEETHA) announcement said.
The frigate then headed northwards, entering Greek national waters between Kea and Makronissos islands shortly afterwards, and later sailed through the Kafirea straits in a northeasterly direction in international waters, towards the central Aegean.
The Turkish frigate was being monitored by Greek vessels, the announcement added.
 Karatzaferis tables question on defence programmesPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) leader George Karatzaferis on Tuesday tabled a current question in parliament addressed to Prime Minister George Papandreou on the cuts in defence programmes.
Karatzaferis noted that the Armed Forces have been called on to bear the burden of the economic crisis and this has repercussions in the country's defence mostly because of the Turkish disputes.
"Until when will the answer to the country's economic problems be cutbacks in crucial defence programmes while other 'wounds' from which millions of euros are being lost, remain open? How will the country's deterrent capability remain at a high standard in the midst of this crisis?," Karatzaferis asked.
 Gov't on Frontex, illegal migrantsCitizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis on Tuesday decried the situation in the border region of Evros -- on the border with Turkey -- due to the continuing flow of illegal immigrants and smugglers attempting to enter Greek and EU territory.
"I feel ashamed as a Greek citizen for the situation in Evros ... Every day Greek borders are crossed by roughly 120-150 illegal migrants. This number is half of what it used to be until recently but it is still too large," he stressed.
Papoutsis addressed a Parliamentary committee on public administration, public order and justice, which discussed ratification of the agreement between Greece and Frontex.
Presenting the European dimension of the problem, Papoutsis said Greece is the target of strong criticism for the way it handles the illegal migration problem.
"Our European partners question the country's ability to meet its obligations stemming from the Schengen agreement ... After last spring's agreement between prime ministers Papandreou and Erdogan, Turkey has opened the readmission seaports and takes back the illegal migrants arrested in sea operations. This, however, led the migrant smugglers to use the land borders via Istanbul, and as a result, roughly 200-300 illegal migrants were crossing the Greek borders on a daily basis. This means, that an entire village was added to the country's population every day," he said, charging:
"This is a huge number. Presently, after the deployment of Frontex units, their numbers are smaller but the inflow of illegal migrants continues. Currently, we are between 120 and 150 individuals, which is an equally large number."
"The bottom line is that Greece cannot handle the situation anymore. Greek society has reached its limits. There is no infrastructure. At this moment we are unable to deal with the problem. We need infrastructure and infrastructure needs money. In addition, the agreement of local societies is necessary in order to accept and support new reception centres for illegal migrants," he stressed.
Papoutsis characterised the operation of the Frontex office in Piraeus as very important, and stressed that the effective and speedy processing of asylum applications coupled with international cooperation for the prosecution of migrant smugglers is the best way to prevent migrant inflow.
 Negotiation process not going as expected says Cyprus President ChristofiasDevelopments regarding the Cyprus problem are not going as expected, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said here on Tuesday, adding that the Republic of Cyprus bears no responsibility for this.
The Cypriot president was speaking during the ceremony where he was awarded the status of honorary graduate of Political Science and Public Administration of the Law, Economics and Political Sciences Department of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, which took place Tuesday afternoon.
Referring to the ongoing UN led negotiation process between himself and the leader of the T/c community Dervis Eroglu he stressed that it is up to Ankara to unlock the deadlock, noting however that this does not mean that he underestimates the ongoing dialogue, the only process which may lead to a solution.
"Turkey", he underlined "must be at last convinced to use her decisive role towards solving the Cyprus problem", adding that this would strengthen its accession process and the chances it has to become a full member of the EU.
"We managed to sufficiently clarify the basis of negotiations," he said, adding that for the first time the T/c side committed itself to one state, with a single sovereignty, a single nationality and a single international personality, whilst at the same time an arbitration free procedure without artificial time limits was ensured steering the procedure away from past dangers.
"We have entered the discussions in good will," he noted, "and we submit proposals within the framework of UN SC Resolutions," adding that the proposals are based on principles and are realistic at the same time.
The Turkish side, however, he said, is not as constructive, given that at a recent party congress Eroglu reaffirmed his support for "two states, two sovereignties, two people in Cyprus", a position on which the T/c leader stands firm whilst at the same time initiatives originating both from Eroglu and Turkey are being undertaken promoting the upgrading of the occupied areas.
The Cyprus government's multi-level foreign policy working in parallel with the negotiation process aims to help towards the achievement of a solution of the Cyprus problem, by activating the support of friendly states within and outside of the UN SC as "a safety clause for Cyprus", he said.
"Our vision," President Christofias said, "is to achieve a solution of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, embodied in a state with a single sovereignty, a single nationality and a single international personality, in which the human rights and basic freedoms of all citizens are respected."
"We wish for a solution based on international and European law, a free and prosperous country for all its citizens G/cs, T/cs, Maronites, Armenians and Latins," he said.
"Our vision is for a Cyprus which will be a bridge of joint understanding and creativity between different cultures, languages, religions and nationalities," he noted, adding that a reunited Cyprus has much to offer to the EU.
Turkey could make a realistic claim for full EU accession if such a solution was reached, he said, adding that it would also contribute to the creation of security and prosperity conditions in the greater area of the Southeastern Mediterranean.
Cyprus was de facto divided after the Turkish invasion of 1974. UN led negotiations are ongoing for the achievement of a comprehensive solution to the problem.
 Barrage of strikes, moblilisations on WednesdayProtests, strikes and moblisations against the government's planned changes to labor relations and in the public utilities and organisations (DEKO) will peak on Wednesday with a nationwide general strike called by the country's two largest umbrella federations, GSEE and ADEDY, representing the private and public sector respectively, although mobilisations will continue after the general strike.
Public transport came to a standstill in Athens on Tuesday in a 24-hour strike by employees in all mass transit organisations, who also held work stoppages on Sunday and Monday and are poised to call another 24-hour strike on Thursday, although on Wednesday buses and trolleys will run from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and the Athens Metro and ISAP urban train from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in order to carry people to and from a major protest rally to be staged by GSEE and ADEDY at the Pedion tou Areos Park in central Athens at 11:00 a.m.
Another protest rally was staged on Tuesday at central Syntagma Square shortly after noon, while GSEE and ADEDY also held a work stoppage the same day.
The strike and mobilisations on Wednesday will affect public transport, state hospitals and health services, airlines and coastal shipping, courts and banks, as well as the rail service (OSE) and the Proastiakos suburban railway, while taxi drivers have also called a four-hour work stoppage from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Taxi drivers also announced that they will not charge a Christmas bonus on fares this year, due to the economic crisis.
Buses in Thessaloniki will not be running on Wednesday, as urban transport employees have called a 24-hour strike.
There will also be a news blackout on Wednesday, as the journalists' unions throughout the country have called a 24-hour strike on Wednesday, and also a 48-hour strike on Friday and Saturday.
Wednesday's strike will also ground airplanes in both domestic and international routes as the Air Traffic Controllers and Civil Aviation Service (YPA) employees will also take part in the 24-hour strike.
Public transport employees in Athens are also poised to hold another 24-hour strike on Thursday, while the OSE and Proastiakos railways have already called a 24-hour strike that day.
The Social Security Foundation (IKA) medical offices and services will be closed all week, as doctors held a 48-hour strike on Monday and Tuesday and have called another 48-hour strike for Thursday and Friday, while IKA employees will take part in Wednesday's 24-hour general strike.
State hospitals will also not be running on Wednesday as National Health System (ESY) employees and hospital employees are taking part in the 24-hour strike.
The country's 14,500 dentists employed in the social security funds and hospitals, as well as dentists who have private practices, will be on strike Wednesday, while pharmacies throughout the country will also remain closed.
The federation of bank employees (OTOE) has called a 48-hour strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, as have the federations of Public Power Corporation (PPC) and Hellenic Telecommu-nications Organisation (OTE) employees.
Participation in the strike has also been called by the labor federations representing the Technical Chamber of Greece (engineers) and dock workers, while courts will also be closed on Wednesday as court employees will be on strike.
 Police, firemen and port employee unions hold protest rallyTrade unions of police, firemen and port employees held a nationwide protest rally in Athens on Tuesday afternoon on "the memorandum and the violent reversal of institutional and economic achievements."
The demonstrators expressed their reaction to the new austerity measures with banners reading "enough with cutbacks. Your profits are costing human lives", "reversal of austerity policy, cutbacks and of the permanent decrease of salaries and pensions".
 Commission approves 6-mo. extension to Greek bank liquidity programmeBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
The European Commission on Tuesday approved a six-month extension until June 2011 of a scheme for the recapitalisation of credit institutions in Greece by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (FSF).
The extension was necessary to handle the serious upsets in the Greek economy and therefore, is compatible with article 107 paragraph 3b of the EU Treaty, according to the European Commission decision.
The Fund's 10 billion euro capital is part of the euro-area/IMF financial assistance to the country. The creation of the Financial Stability Fund is provided for in the May 3rd Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Specific Economic Policy Conditionality between the Greek Government, the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
 Deregulation of courier sector draft lawA draft law foreseeing the complete deregulation of the courier service sector by 2013 is expected to be tabled in Parliament in February 2011. The bill was discussed on Tuesday during a meeting chaired by Deputy Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Spyros Vougias.
The draft law, pursuant to a 2008 EU Directive deregulating the currier service sector for parcels, letters and etc that weigh less than 50 grams, affects the bulk of correspondence handled by postal service, considering that a deregulation is already in effect for correspondence weighing more than 50 grams.
Until 2013, when the sector's deregulation is completed, the under-50 grams correspondence will be handled by Hellenic Post (EL.TA).
 Conference on social insuranceThe Economist's 2nd Social Insurance Conference titled "The insurance reform in Greece: will it succeed?" will be taking place on December 20 under the auspices of the Employment and Social Solidarity ministry and will focus on the fiscal result, labour consequences and the degree of the implementation of social reform in Greece.
The main pylon of government policy and particularly the controversial point between the country's political and social forces, is the package of changes in social insurance, and will constitute the topic of recommendations by important and specialised speakers.
The political framework of reform, in the midst of rapid developments on the labour scene, will be produced during the official luncheon by the Employment and Social Solidarity Minister Louka Katseli, while the course of the implementation of changes will be outlined by Deputy Employment and Social Solidarity Minister George Koutroumanis.
 Stocks end slightly upStocks ended moderately up on the Athens bourse on Tuesday. The General Share Price Index closed 0.13 percent up at 1,501.40 points, with turnover at 73.295 million euro.
The Big Cap index increased 0.63 pct, the Mid Cap index was down 1.55 pct and the Small Cap index dropped by 0.47 pct.
The biggest gains during the session were posted by Banks (+1.37 pct) and Construction (+0.60 pct) while the biggest losses were in Health (-9.89 pct) and Telecommunications (-1.66 pct).
Broadly, decliners led by 78 to advancers (68) with another 65 issues remaining unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.70%
Personal & Household: -1.36%
Raw Materials: -0.68%
Travel & Leisure: +0.50%
Food & Beverages: +0.13%
Financial Services: -0.20%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Piraeus Bank and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.46
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.46
HBC Coca Cola: 19.83
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.70
National Bank of Greece: 6.95
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.37
Bank of Piraeus: 3.45
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bond increased on Tuesday to 881 basic points from 827 on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.79 pct and the German Bund 2.98 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 2 million euros, wholly sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates remained unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.53 pct, the six-month rate was 1.25 pct, the three-month 1.02 pct and the one-month rate 0.81 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 144.115 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 26,876 contracts worth 95.340 million euros, with 36,668 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 156,753 contracts worth 48.775 million euros, with investment interest focusing on GEK's contracts (110,816) followed by MIG (8,623), National Bank (7,808), Marfin Popular Bank (4,157), Alpha Bank (4,017), OTE (3,578), Intracom (3,021), Piraeus Bank (2,739) and Hellenic Postbank (2,352).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.354
Pound sterling 0.855
Danish kroner 7.513
Swedish kroner 9.201
Japanese yen 112.52
Swiss franc 1.301
Norwegian kroner 7.959
Canadian dollar 1.363
Australian dollar 1.354
 Papoulias with reps of large-member familiesPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday met with representatives of the national federation of large member families (four children or more), who paid him an official visit at the presidential mansion.
Papoulias expressed his support for the federation's "just demands", as he said, adding that he believes relevant ministers will comprehend the problems faced by large-member families in the country.
On their part, representatives decried the decreases in benefits earmarked for eligible families in a country with a severe demographic problem.
 Joint Greek-Turkish disaster response exercise in AthensSearch and rescue teams from Greece and Turkey on Tuesday held joint exercises focusing on detecting and rescuing earthquake victims trapped under collapsed buildings.
The exercise, under the coordination of the general secretariat for civil protection, took place at an abandoned factory building in the greater Athens region, in the presence of Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis.
Papoutsis stressed that this was the first joint Greek-Turkish search and rescue exercise, adding that it is a political initiative that has the warm support of Greek leadership.
The joint exercise was held within the framework of the implementation of a protocol signed in Nov. 2001 between the two countries, aimed at setting up a joint standby disaster response Unit (JHET-SDRU) and a memorandum signed between the United Nations, Greece and Turkey in Sept. 2002.
 Fire damages historic monastery in SerresThe13th century Byzantine nunnery of Aghios (St.) Prodromos, located a few kilometers east of the city of Serres in northeastern Greece, suffered serious damage from a fire reportedly caused by sparks from a wood burning stove.
The fire started on Monday afternoon at the 19th century guest house, which was seriously damaged, although the nuns were able to save the relics and rare icons on display.
The inclement weather conditions in the area delayed the arrival of firefighting forces which, assisted by local people and the nuns, managed to put the fire under control, keeping the flames away from the old nunnery building and its rare icons, the monastic complex's new wings and the nuns' cells.
The nunnery was built on the foothills of Mt. Menikio in 1270-1275. Its icons are dated to the 14th century while its murals were painted in 1630. Hundreds of priceless manuscripts and relics were looted during WWI by the Bulgarian army between 1913 and 1917, while a priceless 14th century icon, stolen in 1973, was returned to the nunnery two years ago.
 Three PPC employees injured in labor accidentThree people were injured at an explosion on Tuesday at a Public Power Corporation substation in the eastern Attica coastal town of Lavrio.
According to police's initial estimations, a machine the installation exploded, spewing off metal shards that injured the three employees in the eyes.
The three men were rushed to a nearby hospital for first aid treatment.
 Rainy on WednesdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -8C and 14C. Rainy in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 1C to 12C. Cloudy with sleet in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -3C to 4C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceReactions to the omnibus bill containing changes to labor relations, cuts in DEKO (public utilities and organisations) salaries and taxation changes to be voted on in parliament on Tuesday, and worker mobilisations, were the main front-page items in Tuesday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Week of exhausting strikes begins".
AVGHI: "Strike blockade against the 'coup' (upset of labor relations and worker remuneration via the omnibus bill)".
AVRIANI: "Theatrics by PASOK deputies - Rebels in the (parliamentary) committees...lambs in the voting".
ELEFTHEROS: "George (prime minister Papandreou) fears 'mutiny' by (14) PASOK MPs in parliament (in vote on omnibus bill)".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Government writing off 24 billion euros in debts of 'sharks', while milking the last euros from the salary earners".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Uprooting of remuneration...outcry (by PASOK MPs) against ministers".
ESTIA: "Who destroyed the public sector".
ETHNOS: "Crash test for government in parliament".
IMERISSIA: "Critical battle for the reforms".
KATHIMERINI: "Government undergoing stress test".
LOGOS: "Volley of fire against omnibus bill by PASOK deputies, too".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The changes to labor relations give rise to tension".
NIKI: "Mutiny against omnibus bill".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Alert: Everyone take part in tomorrow's (Wednesday's) strike against the policy of the monopolies".
TA NEA: "Papandreou-Samaras meeting today (Tuesday) and...they are united by the (changes to the) DEKO".
VRADYNI: "The 'trap' of consensus".
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