|Wednesday, 25 April 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-12-17
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 17 December 2010 Issue No: 3671
 PM stresses need for EU summit to adopt important decisions for future of EuropeBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, arriving at the European Union Council's headquarters for a Union's summit, stressed the need for adopting "important decisions for the future of Europe" and for the European leaders to rise to the occasion.
Speaking to reporters, the prime minister said that Greece has assumed its responsibilities and continued by saying that what is important in the present phase is not what each country has done separately but what all the countries will do together.
 EU summit - Greek side satisfied with negotiationsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
The main issues dealt with by Prime Minister George Papandreou during his brief discussion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the sidelines of Thursday's summit in Brussels were, according to government sources, the operation of the eurozone's future support mechanism, the handling of the pressure by markets and the problems they create in euro countries and the negative reactions of credit rating firms.
The prime minister had similar talks with of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and the President of the European Union Herman Van Rompuy.
As regards his intervention during the summit, the prime minister stressed, according to the same sources, that the messages that the EU will send today must convince the markets that the countries of the euro are proceeding with decisive steps towards the stabilisation of their economies.
On the question of the future support mechanism, the prime minister stressed that the cooperation of the member-states of the eurozone is necessary so that it can function properly.
In general, the Greek side declared its satisfaction over the outcome of negotiations concerning the mechanism, the government sources said. They noted in parallel that the target is in the conclusions of the European Council a general and restrictive reference be made on which countries will be able to resort to the mechanism, avoiding the controversial expression of "ultimate solution" that Germany wanted to be added.
 PM Papandreou contacted European leaders ahead of SummitBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
Prime Minister George Papandreou had telephone communi-cation with European leaders on Wednesday evening ahead of the Dec. 16-17 EU Summit meeting here.
According to government sources, the premier spoke on the phone with European Council President Herman van Rompuy, European Central Bank (ECB) President Jean-Claude Trichet, Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, focusing on issues that will be discussed in the European Council meeting on Thursday.
 EU Summit opens Thursday in BrusselsA crucial EU summit opened in Lisbon on Thursday afternoon to discuss changes to the EU Treaty and the creation of a permament European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the EU Budget, with Greece represented by prime inister George Papandreou.
Briefing the cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Papandreou ascertained a general consensus during his discussions with opposition party leaders earlier in the day, 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 says days are crucial for Europe and GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, who had the opportunity of discussing the current developments both in his meeting with Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker and at the European People's Party (EPP) summit with the other European leaders, said here on Thursday that "the days are crucial for Europe and Greece."
On the question of Greece's economic state, the ND leader stressed his "ongoing concern for social cohesion," pointing out that the memorandum "is leading to an increase in the debt that refuels the deficit, creating great social reactions in this way."
Samaras conveyed the view to Juncker that he could not accept policies that "lead the Greek people to economic, and consequently, to social degradation."
"I have been calling for months for specific measures for the avoidance of a deep recession, measures for which the PASOK government is pretending not to hear," he said.
Samaras also noted that the extension of the payment of the memorandum's debt "is imperative because the contract's initial prediction was unrealistic.
However, as he stressed, possible additional terms would make the country's effort to decrease the deficit difficult. He further said that he had the opportunity of outlining his concern over the need for growth actions in the European Union, apart from efforts for fiscal discipline.
The ND leader also referred to the European Support Mechanism which, as he underlined, must rule out arrange-ments which will lead out of the international money markets the economically weaker countries such as Greece.
According to the ND leader, the Eurobonds will allow Greece to borrow surely and cheaply. He said he supported the issuing, at an initial stage, of European project bonds so that major infrastructure projects can be financed that will contribute to growth. He underlined that without growth actions the downhill trend and the crisis will not only continue in Greece but all over Europe as well.
 ND leader Samaras meets with Eurogroup's Jean Claude JunckerBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras met here with Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker and expressed the view that the austerity measures should not be prolonged to ensure economic growth in Greece and all the EU member-states.
The 50-minute meeting between Samaras and Juncker was held just before the start of the European People's Party (EPP) Summit.
Samaras briefed Juncker on the state of Greek society, stressing the need for social cohesion which has been disrupted by the tough austerity measures implemented in the country.
The ND leader expressed his objection to private sector participation in the permanent stability mechanism of the Eurozone "on a case-by-case basis" as decided by the finance ministers on Nov. 28, and stressed that Eurozone problems should be solved within the EU. He also stated that he agrees with the reforms promoted in Europe, pointing out, however, that Greece should act accordingly if the reforms make its position in international markets difficult.
Samaras backed the issuance of Euro-bonds supporting the view expressed in the European Parliament by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who had suggested that major EU infrastructure projects could be funded through a Euro-bond.
SYRIZA's Tsipras: the government has no authority to consent to the creation of permanent mechanism of sanction
Opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras on Thursday stressed that "the government has no authority to consent to the creation of a permanent mechanism for the sanctioning of countries, thus putting societies in a permanent state of emergency. Furthermore, the government has no right to consent to the participation of the private sector in the mechanism, a position set as a precondition by the German side."
In a press conference on the occasion of the EU Summit meeting currently underway, Tsipras accused the government and Prime Minister George Papandreou of "lacking negotiation ability", pointing out that there is a deficit of policy and democracy.
The prime minister "goes to Brussels for the most crucial EU Summit meeting for our country, without a compass or target," he stated and requested a referendum as the only way to avert the catastrophic course.
The government should hold a referendum allowing the people to ratify the imminent amendments in the Treaty of Lisbon that concern the permanent mechanism, Tsipras stressed.
Tsipras expressed opposition to the preconditions set by the German side characterizing the mechanism as a mechanism of punishment for the countries that cannot meet the Stability Pact criteria.
 ND deputy Hatzidakis injured during labor demonstration on Wednesday in AthensTwenty three policemen were injured, one of them seriously, and main opposition New Democracy MP and former transport minister Costis Hatzidakis was attacked and injured, while 23 people were taken in for questioning and 10 others were arrested in clashes in downtown Athens during a demonstration held within the framework of the 24h nationwide general strike called by the two major trade union umbrella federations GSEE and ADEDY against the government's sweeping changes in labour relations and the new State Budget.
An Athens prosecutor ordered a preliminary investigation into the incident against Hatzidakis and has also asked the media for media footage in order to identify the assailants,
According to GSEE the strike in refineries, Piraeus port authority, shipyards and steel companies reached 100 percent, while it also put participation at 90 percent in banks, the Public Power Corporatin (PPC), Hellenic Telecommunication Organisation (OTE), Hellenic Post (ELTA) and the Water Supply Company.
Schools and public organisations remained closed while most domestic and international flights were cancelled. Hospitals worked with a security staff.
Scuffles were reported in front of the Greek parliament, the Propylae and other parts of Athens.
 Reactions to beating of ND MP in Wednesday's anti-austerity demonstrationMain opposition New Democracy (ND) MP and former transport minister Costis Hatzidakis, who was attacked and beaten by protesters on Wednesday during an anti-austerity demonstration in downtown Athens, stressed in a written statement that the circle of hatred and violence must come to end.
"I do not hate those who attacked me. However, all of us should realize that Greece cannot move forward with hatred and violence. We should give our best to overcome this major crisis," he stressed and thanked those who stood by him during and after the attack.
He made a special reference to the police officer appointed by the state to serve as his bodyguard and to the two civilians who were injured while trying to protect him.
Main opposition ND leader Antonis Samaras, who is in Brussels for the European People's Party (EPP) Summit meeting, had a telephone communication with a senior Greek Police officer and underlined that those responsible for the attack should be arrested and punished for their actions.
"The unacceptable beating of parliament deputy Hatzidakis, under no circumstances, can express a genuine popular indignation. On the contrary, it is used to defame the popular struggle and serves those who seek the submission of the people to the capitalist barbarism," underlined the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in a statement issued in response to the violent incident involving the ND deputy.
Coalition of the Left (SYN) condemned the attack, stressing in a statement that "such actions are condemnable and cannot diminish the glow of the massive strikes and demonstrations across Greece held in protest against the anti-popular measures adopted by the PASOK government".
Violence in downtown Athens erupted during a demonstration held within the framework of the 24-hour nationwide general strike called by the two major trade union umbrella federations GSEE and ADEDY against the government's sweeping changes in labour relations and the new State Budget.
 Ten led before prosecutor for clashes in downtown AthensTen individuals were led before a prosecutor on Thursday after being arrested during clashes in downtown Athens on Wednesday during a demonstration held within the framework of the 24-hour nationwide general strike. Three of them were minors and will be tried in a juvenile court.
Four of those arrested will be tried under the law providing harsher penalties for individuals that conceal their faces, such as by wearing hoods, and their case file has been forwarded to an examining magistrate. The four are charged, among others, with inflicting grievous bodily harm upon police officers. Two individuals will be tried for misdemeanours, while one was ordered released.
The charges filed by the prosecutor also include disturbing the peace and damage to private property.
 Parliament approves draft bill changing asylum lawsA draft bill harmonising Greece's system for processing asylum applications with Community legislation and setting up reception services for migrants was approved in principle by both main political parties in Parliament on Thursday.
Presenting the bill, Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis said that it was mainly humanitarian in focus and ended a mechanism for assessing asylum applications that had long been inexcusable and unreliable, acting as a "passport" for all kinds of migrants to enter Europe.
He also stressed that the new mechanism was not a plan for legalising migrants but simply a way to ensure that asylum was given to genuine refugees.
The draft bill establishes an Asylum Service that will be responsible for rapidly examining applications for asylum and a Refugee Authority that will examine such requests on a second level. It also creates a First Reception Service that will more efficiently handle third-country nationals that enter the country without permission.
The main problems that the bill seeks to address is the lack of a mechanism for quickly discovering the identity of undocumented migrants and identifying those that have genuine need of protection, the lack of time to collect adequate information about such people, a lack of information and advice to foreign nationals concerning their treatment and a lack of medical screening for migrants.
The draft bill was opposed by all the smaller opposition parties.
 New US envoy's first press briefingNew US ambassador to Greece Daniel Bennett Smith on Thursday held his first press briefing for local reporters, responding to a variety of questions dealing with the bruising economic crisis in Greece, bilateral relations and regional issues of heightened importance to Athens and Washington, as well as the "Wikileaks spectre" looming over America's foreign relations.
Smith referred at several times to the debt crisis and economic recession battering Greece, pointing to investments -- either FDIs or internal investment -- as imperative to jump-starting growth in the eastern Mediterranean nation.
"We do think that this government (Greek) is on the right path," he said, while emphasising the importance of restoring confidence in the country amongst international capital markets.
Nevertheless, the veteran US Foreign Service diplomat, speaking amid labour union strikes and mobilisations around the country, noted that "we recognise that this (austerity package) is also creating a lot of pain".
In fielding questions on the wider implications of the Greek crisis vis-?-vis the eurozone and even the single currency's viability, Bennett Smith reiterated that the eurozone is extremely important for America and its key allies within the eurozone.
As with previous US envoys to Greece over recent years, he pointed to increased bilateral and economic ties as a major goal of his tenure in the Greek capital.
Speaking to a handful of reporters at the ambassador's residence in central Athens, Smith echoed the official State Department position in decrying the mass circulation of tens of thousands of diplomatic cables initially composed by US diplomatic missions around the world.
"This was harmful to international as well as US interests ... What you see here (in the released cables) is a manifestation of US diplomacy. However, policy is made in Washington. The substance of these cables is US diplomats engaged in diplomacy," he said.
"From what we understand there will be (upcoming leaked) cables related to Greece and other countries," the US ambassador said, drawing a parallel to the "protection of sources" mantra held by journalists -- "...and we in the diplomatic corps feel very strongly about this".
Regional, bilateral issues
Regarding a bevy of long-standing issues topping Greece's foreign policy agenda, Smith said he was "encouraged by the dialogue" between Greece and Turkey and the reciprocating visits between Greek and Turkish leaders, "although I have no insight on how these (talks) are going."
On the Cyprus problem, he repeated that the "way out of this is a bi-zonal, bi-communal solution to a very difficult problem", while underlining that Washington stands both ready to assist and backs a "Cyprus-led process".
Farther a field, Bennett-Smith reiterated the State Department's standing and broad support for the Euro-Atlantic course of western Balkan states, while at the same time recognising that issues remain to be overcome, clarifying "and not only the name issue with Skopje".
The prospect of accession to Euro-Atlantic institutions by the western Balkan states, as he said, still acts as an incentive for them to make further reforms, and furthermore, is in both Greece's and Europe's interests.
Queried on increasingly close Greek-Israeli ties, Smith said his government views this as a positive development, and one that will allow Athens to play an even bigger role in the future.
Urban terrorism fight, illegal migration
The US envoy also praised local law enforcement for what he called a series of successes in the fight to eradicate urban terrorism cells in the country. Smith cited what he called a "remarkable job" by the Greek counter-terrorism squad on the heels of several high-profile arrests of alleged "anti-state" and self-styled anarchist terror suspects.
Finally, he said international and bilateral cooperation was extremely important in preventing the infiltration of would-be terrorists amongst the masses of illegal migrants attempting to enter Greece every year.
While he emphasised that the vast majority of such individuals are economic migrants, nevertheless "there is always a risk of people who have other reasons for crossing" to try and enter Greece.
He added that he was encouraged by the recent presence of Frontex on Greece's land border with Turkey, along the Evros River, and called on the rest of Europe to recognise that this is a European and not only a Greek problem.
The US envoy also called for stepped up cooperation between Greece and Turkey and even the EU and Turkey to stem the problem, which he said was essential to stopping the flow of illegal migrants from Turkey to Europe.
 PM convenes PASOK's Parliamentary Group for SaturdayPrime Minister George Papandreou has convened the ruling PASOK party's Parliamentary Group for a meeting at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The meeting will be held a few hours before the beginning of the discussion on the 2011 state budget at the Parliamentary plenum and a day after the conclusion of the European Union's summit in Brussels (Thursday 16 and Friday 17 December).
 Health minister presents action plan against cancerHealth Minister Andreas Loverdos on Thursday presented the ministry's national action plan against cancer in 2011-2015, which aims to heighten the public's awareness that cancer is now an often treatable disease.
The minister noted that World Health Organisation figures showed that more than 30 percent of cancers can be cured if they are caught early enough, while the weight of the plan will be on prevention and prompt diagnosis.
Speaking in Zappion, Loverdos said the priority was to reduce the population's exposure to known carcinogens and increase programmes for group and individual screening for specific types of cancer before symptoms were apparent.
The ministry also intends to take action to improve services and provide access to treatment for those diagnosed with cancer, including hospices for patients in the final stages and counselling and support services, etc.
 Court of Audit presents annual reportThe Greek state's Court of Audit on Wednesday presented its 2009 annual report to Parliament President Filippos Petsal-nikos.
"The role of the Court of Audit is decisive as regards transparency, good governance and the management of public money," Petsalnikos said receiving the report.
Court of Audit President Ioannis Karavokiris underlined that the agency's goal is to put an end to practices leading to transactions that are not transparent.
 Ambassadors of Greece, Italy and Turkey receive medal in TiranaTIRANA (ANA-MPA)
Albanian President Bamir Topi on Thursday awarded the "Medal of Gratitude" to Greece's Permanent Representative at NATO, Ambassador Thrasyvoulos Stamatopoulos and to the former Permanent Representatives of Italy and Turkey at NATO, Ambassadors Stefano Stefanini and Tacan Ilden for their contribution to Albania's accession to NATO.
Speaking during the ceremony at the Presidential Mansion, Topi expressed his gratitude to Greece, Italy and Turkey for the assistance and support they provided for Albania's efforts to join NATO and thanked the ambassadors in particular for their contribution to the successful conclusion of these efforts.
He also thanked the three countries for their immediate response and contribution to the handling of the recent floods in northern Albania during which, as regards Greece, concerned the sending of helicopters, food and pharmaceuticals.
After receiving the medal, the ambassadors made brief addresses on the importance of Albania's accession to NATO and the support provided for Tirana by their countries.
 Finmin unveils economic policy plans for 2011 to MPsBriefing Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee on the revised Memorandum, Finance Minister George Papacon-stantinou on Thursday appeared confident that Greece would be succeed in overcoming the crisis.
In light of the crucial European Union summit and the events likely to follow in the next three months, Papaconstantinou appeared optimistic, saying that there was understanding from Greece's EU partners and because, as he said, "Europe had proved that even with some delay, it finally takes the decisions that must be taken".
He dismissed rumours of a return to the drachma and stressed that even referring to this possibility was harmful, underlining that bank deposits were "absolutely safe" since banks had weathered the storm and the state was in a position to help and support them.
Papaconstantinou informed MPs that the IMF board was due to convene on Friday in order to approve the disbursement of the third instalment of the loan to Greece, amounting to 2.5 billion euro, and that EU Parliaments were due to hold similar sessions soon.
He noted that the country had also far achieve both the fiscal and structural targets in the quarterly inspections, with another 178 such target actions to be met in the next trimester.
"In 2011 we are moving away from horizontal actions, such as wage cuts, and going toward targeted actions addressing the deficits of state companies, streamlining sections of the public sector, especially in health, and issues of tax administration and tax evasion," he said.
Among such target actions in 2011, he listed the management and control of public spending and stricter implementation of the 2011 budget, the appointment in the first quarter of financial inspectors for the most important entities of general government and the tabling by April of the new three-year fiscal framework for the directions and goals of the next three years.
Another goal was to tackle tax evasion and third to reduce the number of state organisations in order to save roughly 800 million euro through the abolition and merger of various state entities.
Concerning public-sector reforms, Papaconstantinou said that there will be a first report in the start of 2011 on a uniform pay scale for civil servants but refused to reveal any more details, saying that negotiations were still underway with the civil servants' union ADEDY. He did confirm, however, that there would be a different status for existing and newly hired civil servants.
Other planned actions will seek to address wasteful spending in the state health sector, new legislation to discourage undeclared labour and to give greater powers to labour inspectors.
Also in the first quarter of 2011, the government intends to tackle the opening of closed professions and services, reforms to state banking institutions and action to exploit state real property and assets through privatisations and sales.
The minister stressed that the envisaged programme would be an extremely difficult undertaking that demanded a fast, efficient and hard-working public administration in order to meet the deadlines.
The plans unveiled by the minister came under fire from both opposition MPs but also some of the ruling PASOK party, who stressed the need for a "fairer" distribution of burdens and address the public's sense that the measures were not only unjust but also ineffective.
 Eurostat: Greek. Inflation down in NovemberGreece's inflation fell to 4.8 percent in November from 5.2 percent in October, according to figures released by Eurostat on Thursday in Brussels on inflation in the euro area.
Inflation in the eurozone remained stable at 1.9 percent in November compared with October, while a year earlier the rate was 0.5 percent.
During the same period, inflation in the 27-member EU remained stable at 2.3 percent, while a year earlier the rate was 1.0 percent.
In November, the lowest inflation rates were in Ireland (-0.8 percent), Slovakia (1.0 percent) and The Netherlands (1.4 percent), while the highest rates were in Romania (7.7 percent), Estonia (5.0 percent) and in Greece (4.8 percent).
Inflation in November, compared with October, increased in 10 EU member states, remained stable in five member states, and fell in 12 member states.
 Unemployment rises to 12.4pct in Q3Unemployment in Greece rose to 12.4 percent in the third quarter of 2010, according to figures released Thursday by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).
In its regular Labor Force Survey, the statistics authority reported that in the 3rd Quarter of 2010 the number of employed amounted to 4,402,931 persons while the number of unemployed amounted to 621,938.
The unemployment rate was 12.4% compared with 11.8% in the previous quarter, and 9.3% in the corresponding quarter of 2009.
The number of employed persons decreased by 0.5% compared with the previous quarter, and by 3.0% compared with the 3rd quarter of 2009.
The number of unemployed persons increased by 4.7% compared with the previous quarter and by 33.7% compared with the 3rd quarter of 2009.
The unemployment rate for females (16.1%) is considerably higher than the unemployment rate for males (9.7%).
Bu age group, the highest unemployment rate is recorded among young people in the age group of 15-29 years (24.2%). For young females, the unemployment rate is 30.6%.
As regards the educational attainment level, the unemployment rate is higher among persons who have not attended school (19.3%), for those who have completed ISCED 5B programs (15.1%) and for those who did not completed ISCED 1 level programs (12.4%).
The lowest unemployment rates are observed among persons who have completed ISCED 5AS and ISCED 6 programs (7.5%), and among those who have completed ISCED 5A (9.4%).
The geographical areas with the highest unemployment rate are West Macedonia (14.8%) and Central Macedonia (13.5%). The lowest unemployment rates are observed in Ionian Islands (8.1%) and North Aegean (9.3%).
 ND vice-president meets with ESEE boardMain opposition New Democracy (ND) vice-president Stavros Dimas on Thursday met with the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) board, wrapping up the round of contacts he had with production sector representatives.
After the meeting, Dimas said that he outlined ND's views ahead of the state budget debate and was briefed on ESEE positions.
The ND vice-president stated that the message that needs to get across is that social peace and cohesion should be preserved to overcome the crisis.
ESEE President Vassilis Korkidis stated that 2011 is predicted to be even tougher for everybody adding that the size of the crisis is still unpredictable for the retail market.
 No. of retail employees down 1.4pct in Q3The number of persons employed in retail trade in Greece decreased by 1.4 percent in the third quarter of 2010, according to a report released on Wednesday by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).
According to ELSTAT, the Index of the Number of Persons Employed in Retail Trade decreased by 1.4% in the 3rd quarter 2010, compared with the 3rd quarter 2009. The index in the 3rd quarter 2009 recorded a decrease of 2.1 % compared with the 3rd quarter 2008.
The Index of Number of Persons Employed in the food sector, increased by 0,1% in the 3rd quarter 2010, compared with the 3rd quarter 2009. The index in the 3rd quarter 2009 recorded no change compared with the 3rd quarter 2008.
The Index of Number of Persons Employed in the non-food sector (excluding automotive fuel), decreased by 2.7% in the 3rd quarter 2010, compared with the 3rd quarter 2009. The index in the 3rd quarter 2009 recorded a decrease of 5.2% compared with the 3rd quarter 2008.
 Crucial decisions for Elliniko site, state-owned real propertyCrucial decisions to facilitate exploitation of real property owned by the state have been taken by the government's Committee for Restructuring and Privatisations. These include the creation of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called Ellinikon SA to manage the site of the former Athens airport at Elliniko and a new general secretariat at the finance ministry that will oversee management of the state-sector's real property. The decisions were made during a meeting on Wednesday.
Through the programme to exploit state-owned real property and privatisations, the government's economic team hope to ultimately raise seven billion euro in total and one billion euro in 2011.
The Ellinikon SPV will make use of recent fast-track processes for business start-ups and seeks to speed up development of the site of the former airport, which the government had originally promised to convert into a large metropolitan park. Despite repeated announcements, however, plans to make a park have been stalled by lack of funding and various schemes allowing part of the site to be developed for housing in order to finance the creation of a park have also been unveiled.
The most recent proposal by Catalan architect Jose A. Acebillo, during a visit to Athens at the invitation of Prime Minister George Papandreou, was that the site also be used to build housing for middle-income groups, such as business executives, in order to achieve the desired social mix, create a vibrant coastal neighbourhood on the Saronikos sea front, and generate funds to finance the project.
Ellinikon SA will be in charge of management and the hiring of financial and technical consultants for utilising the site.
The envisaged General Secretariat for the Utilisation of State Real Property will have the oversight of real estate services, national bequests and utilising the real property of state-sector legal entities. Its creation will put the finance ministry in charge of supervising state property and diminish the role of various management bodies at other ministries.
This paves the way for creating a larger Real Estate Investment Company that will be big enough to become a public listed company on the Athens bourse when financial conditions allow.
The aim is to record and pool existing state-owned properties currently managed by different public-sector bodies in order to create a strong portfolio of real estate and attempt to exploit this.
For example, there are currently valuable tracts of land owned by the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation at Gournes, Iraklio, the land occupied by the construction team for the Rio-Antirrio bridge in Antirrio, the Vorra ski resort, Prasonisi on Rhodes and Afantou. The Hellenic Tourism Development Company, meanwhile, owns the Mont Parnes casino, parts of Elliniko and Afantou, the Anavyssos salt flats, Skotina and the Vouliagmeni tourist harbour.
 More public transport strikes on FridayPublic transport staff are planning further strike action in the form of work stoppages on Friday, in protest against the government's plans to change the organisational and staff structure of public transport bodies, with pay cuts and involuntary transfers.
There will be no metro, eletric railway (ISAP), trams or trolley buses running between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Friday, while the Greek railways and Proastiakos trains will not be running between noon and 4:00 p.m.
Buses will be running normally throughout the day.
Public transport staff unions are also preparing for further strike action next Monday, with a final decision due to be made on Friday.
 ELPE company in joint venture with Vegas Oil & Gas S.A. companyThe Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) S.A. company is transferring part of its rights in oil research and production in the West Obayed region in the Western Desert of Egypt to the Vegas Oil & Gas S.A. company.
The two companies will create a joint venture (Vegas 70 percent - ELPE 30 percent), whose management will be undertaken by Vegas. The joint venture's immediate plans include the continuation of research work in the West Obayed region with the carrying out of at least two more drilling operations until June 2012.
 Tourist arrivals at 2009 levelsTourist arrivals in the 11-month period this year are at the same levels as the corresponding period in 2009, according to provisional figures from Greece's 13 international airports, which account for approximately 95 percent of total arrivals of foreign visitors by airline, and 72 percent of overall arrivals of foreign visitors.
According to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) for January-November 2010 a total of 10,439,131 tourist arrivals were recorded at the Greek airports, marking a 0.49 percent decline over the same period in 2009.
 Bourse ends marginally higher after slow sessionThe Athens Stock Exchange index ended slightly higher after a lacklustre session on Thursday, closing 0.16 percent higher at 1,487.39 points and turnover at 68.635 million euro.
The Big Cap index rose 0.18 pct, the Mid Cap index was marginally up 0.02 pct and the Small Cap index rose 0.81 pct.
The biggest gains during the session were posted by Commercial (+3.72 pct), Media (+1.99 pct) and Utilities (+1.23 pct) while the biggest losses were in Telecoms (-2.88 pct) and Personal and Household Goods (-0.80 pct).
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 73 to 66 with another 64 issues remaining unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.27%
Personal & Household: -0.80%
Raw Materials: +0.63%
Travel & Leisure: +0.73%
Food & Beverages: -0.03%
Financial Services: -0.28%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.44
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.50
HBC Coca Cola: 19.55
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.81
National Bank of Greece: 6.88
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.26
Bank of Piraeus: 3.56
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 130.298 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 21,232 contracts worth 74.974 million euros, with 34,890 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 98,527 contracts worth 55.324 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (49,183) followed by National Bank (11,864), MIG (7,138), Alpha Bank (4,349), Piraeus Bank (4,191), GEK (2,935), Marfin Popular Bank (2,749), Atebank (2,545), Mytilineos (2,230) and Eurobank (1,613).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.334
Pound sterling 0.854
Danish kroner 7.509
Swedish kroner 9.110
Japanese yen 112.17
Swiss franc 1.295
Norwegian kroner 7.958
Canadian dollar 1.340
Australian dollar 1.348
 Major problems in Northern Greece due to heavy snowfallHeavy snowfall has been reported in the prefectures of Eastern Macedonia as well as in Xanthi prefecture, northeastern Greece. Vehicles travelling on the Egnatia highway, the road connecting the breadth of Greece, were ordered to use snowchains on several parts of the highway. Graders are working all along Egnatia in order to keep the motorway open.
Traffic problems have also been reported on the Kavala-Drama national highway where snowchains are mandatory.
According to the local authorities all schools in the area are to remain closed on Thursday
 Authorities intercept 157 migrants trying to get to ItalyGreek authorities on Thursday intercepted 157 illegal migrants on beaches in Pylos and Methoni, in western Greece. The migrants, among them women and young children, had come there intending to board ships heading for Italy and had mostly been illegally resident in Greece.
Fifty-six were found on board a yacht in Finikounda and arrested, while 27 that were underage were later released. The captain of the boat was a Greek that abandoned the vessel when the inspection started and has not yet been found.
The migrants under arrest are now being held on the premises of a private shop and one woman in an advanced state of pregnancy has been taken to Kalamata General Hospital.
A further 102 migrants were found on a beach in Methoni, having arrived there in a coach supplied by an organised ring of migrant traffickers for a fee. They had been left on the beach in order to board a boat heading for Italy.
 Violent clashes between migrants in PatrasOne person was injured during clashes between groups of foreign migrants in the port city of Patras on Thursday afternoon. The foreign nationals started fighting near the port, throwing stones at each other, and one of them was injured.
Police that rushed to the scene managed to contain the violence and the injured man taken to hospital. Police forces have remained in the area to prevent another flare-up of violence.
 Acropolis Rally placed under the auspices of culture and tourism ministryDeputy Culture and Tourism Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis on Thursday stated that the Acropolis Rally will be placed under the ministry's auspices and underlined its role in promoting Greek tourism due to the international interest it attracts.
Speaking in a press conference hosted by the Acropolis Rally organizing committee, Nikitiadis stated that the culture and tourism ministry will support the endeavour in the future and stressed that the rally, which was cancelled this year, will have positive results for Greek tourism being part of the "Greece every week" tourism promotion programme.
 Foreign national arrested for drug dealingAn Iraqi national was arrested on Thursday in Neapolis, Laconia prefecture, southern Greece charged with drug dealing.
A police officer posing as a buyer spoke on the phone with the suspect and agreed to buy half a kilo of hashish for 800 euros.
Police found 337 grams of cannabis, 5.4 grams of hashish and 435 euros deriving from drug dealing in the suspect's possession.
The Iraqi also turned over to the policemen 321 grams of hashish which he had hidden in his residence in Neapolis.
The man will be sent before the Gytheion prosecutor.
 Antiquity smugglers arrested in SpartaThree Bulgarian nationals were arrested in Sparta for antiquities smuggling on Thursday by police, acting on a tip-off.
A police officer posing a buyer interested in ancient coins contacted one of the suspects, who asked for 60,000 euros cash to sell him the coins. At a meeting arranged between them, the foreign national arrived with two other compatriots, who were also arrested.
Police confiscated six ancient coins, two made of copper dated back to the Byzantine era (approximately 4th century A.D.), two dated back to the Late Roman period (3rd century A.D.), a copper coin dated back to the Roman period and another cooper one, possibly Turkish, dated back to 1600 A.D.).
The suspects will be led before the Sparta prosecutor while the coins will be sent to the Antiquities Service for examination.
 Man arrested with five kilos heroinPolice on Thursday announced the arrest of 39-year-old foreign national caught with 5.2 kilos of heroin in his possession. The man was arrested following a police operation along the Greek-Albanian border near Kastoria, in northern Greece.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -9C and 18C. Local showers in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 2C to 12C. Slight snowfall in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -3C to 2C.
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