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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-12-22

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Wednesday, 22 December 2010 Issue No: 3674

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM tells cabinet meeting series of bills concern great changes
  • [02] Government rules out early election, return to drachma
  • [03] Defence Minister denies problems with 'Papanikolis' submarine
  • [04] Navy welcomes submarine 'Papanikolis'
  • [05] Turkish aircrafts infringe Athens FIR
  • [06] Finmin represents government at Padoa-Schioppa funeral
  • [07] Samaras attends event organised by ONNED and child charity
  • [08] Cypriot spokesman: 'We do not negotiate our sovereign rights'
  • [09] Probe on former prosecutor Sanidas shelved
  • [10] Citizen Protection Minister Papoutsis visits new forensics building
  • [11] Bakoyannis asks for results of financial investigation of journalist Anastasiades
  • [12] Employment minister: 'Essential precondition for succees is consensus, development of strong social alliances'
  • [13] Draft bill for national hydrocarbons agency posted at opengov.gr
  • [14] Greek current accounts deficit down 2.8 pct in Jan-Oct
  • [15] All-day public transport strike on Wednesday
  • [16] New work stoppage by local administration employees on Wednesday
  • [17] Work stoppage on Wednesday
  • [18] Cost of Christmas dinner down 7.1 pct since last year, price observatory says
  • [19] Iraklio: European Commission's European Entrepreneurship Awards
  • [20] Foreign investors attracted by low valuations in Greek market
  • [21] Greek stocks recover slightly
  • [22] Greek bond market closing report
  • [23] ADEX closing report
  • [24] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [25] Ecumenical Patriarch attends inauguration of population exchange museum
  • [26] Actor Thanassis Veggos condition serious but stable
  • [27] Hostage situation at Vonitsa tax bureau
  • [28] Arms smugglers arrested in Athens and Ioannina
  • [29] Bank robbery in Nea Kallikratia, north Greece
  • [30] Burglars break into supermarket using climbing equipment
  • [31] Kavallieratos 'wind sculpture' at Benaki Museum from Wednesday
  • [32] Rainy on Wednesday
  • [33] Athens Newspaper Headlines Politics

  • [01] PM tells cabinet meeting series of bills concern great changes

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, addressing the cabinet meeting on Tuesday said, according to reports, that the government must complete the great bulk of legislative work soon, stressing in parallel that the monitoring of their implementation is equally important with the ratification of the laws.

    The cabinet authorised Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou to produce bills on the issues on which he briefed the cabinet meeting.

    The cabinet's agenda included three briefings by the Finance minister on issues concerning a) the utilisation of public property and the plan of action for privatisations and restructurings, b) the deregulation of closed professions and c) the regulation of the technical and chance games market.

    The agenda also included the discussion on the draft law on postal services and electronic communications and the draft law on the social economy and social entrepreneurship.

    The cabinet also discussed the draft law on boosting private investments for economic growth and the draft law on the creation of a National Entrepreneurship and Growth Fund.

    The Finance ministry with the bills, particularly for "closed professions", will set the "horizontal framework" and every minister will specialise in his sector. The prime minister underlined that a series of bills concern great changes and for this reason they must be explained and there should be consultation on them both with the agencies interested and with society.

    The relevant bills will be tabled, according to reports, around the end of January, early February and in the meantime there shall be consultation with the agencies concerned.

    It was stressed at the meeting, according to reports, that the consultation must be substantive and the briefing to cover both the agencies interested and the ministers whose duties include arrangements regarding "closed professions."

    Lastly, according always to reports, remarks were made at the cabinet meeting on the bill concerning environmental licensings that is subject to the Environment ministry's supervision.

    [02] Government rules out early election, return to drachma

    Greek government spokesman George Petalotis ruled out the prospect of early elections or a return to the drachma currency while speaking to the radio station 'Real FM' on Tuesday.

    "We are not discussing a return to the drachma, these are scenarios that neither touch nor concern us, not even in the theoretical planning we carry out, because there is no reason for it," he underlined.

    Petalotis also emphasised that there was no question of Greece exiting the eurozone or the EU and pointed out that the recent EU summit had taken important decisions to preserve the stability of the euro.

    "When we talk of stability, an important part is monetary stability and from there on there is European cohesion and other factors. The EU Summit but also the EU in general, even though there are many viewpoints and trends, I believe can protect this monetary stability today. Therefore, this is the framework we are moving in," he added.

    The spokesman revealed that Tuesday's cabinet meeting will discuss the lifting of current restrictions on gambling, pointing out that Greece was paying fines to the European Union on account of them while gambling was essentially taking place freely on the Internet.

    Petalotis said that the government's intention was to issue a form of licence for venues where regulated gambling might take place.

    "It will be fully regulated so that we don't have every neighbourhood overrun by fruit machines," he stressed.

    Concerning speculation about a return to the drachma, the spokesman stressed that the government's goal was unquestionably to remain in the eurozone.

    [03] Defence Minister denies problems with 'Papanikolis' submarine

    Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday dismissed an article posted on a website that questioned the adequacy of the submarine "Papanikolis", referring to it as "rubbish" during his address to Parliament's Armament and Contracts Special Committee.

    Venizelos stressed that the government will not succumb to what he called a "blackmailing system" and will initiate all the legal and necessary remedies.

    Concerning the 'Papanikolis' he said that the vessel was fully equipped and a "jewel" for the Greek navy, asserting that the articles in question aimed to undermine the submarine's prestige.

    Regarding the technical problems that arose during the vessel's maiden voyage from the shipyards in Norway to Greece, Venizelos described them as a "childhood illnesses" and underlined that the vessel was under a guarantee. He called the members of the committee to attend the submarine's reception ceremony and a briefing by the captain on the vessel's technical capacity and on the adverse weather conditions they faced during their journey.

    "We have a solid and trustworthy ship to show," he emphasised, pointing out that a delegation from the United Arab Emirates has been invited to the ceremony to be shown the submarine. "We would not have invited our future clients if we had the slightest doubt on the submarine's reliability," he stressed.

    [04] Navy welcomes submarine 'Papanikolis'

    The Greek Navy welcomed the submarine "Papanikolis" during a special event held at the Salamina naval base on Tuesday, in the presence of the Defence ministry's leadership.

    Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos reiterated that the Navy is requesting that the "Papanikolis" remain in the fleet's force, also stressing that the agreement for the new frigates will not be organised with terms that will be inferior to the agreement for the submarines.

    Addressing the new submarine's captain and crew, the minister expressed his satisfaction over the successful outcome of their mission and called on the Navy's leadership to have this mentioned in their individual files.

    [05] Turkish aircrafts infringe Athens FIR

    Eight Turkish F-16 fighter jets entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) north of the island of Chios at 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday without submitting flight plans, the Greek Armed Forces General Staff announced.

    At 11:10 a.m. the planes flew over the island of Fourni and three minutes later over the island of Agathonissi at a height of 10,000 ft and 24,000 ft respectively, before exiting the Athens FIR south of Samos at 11:14 a.m. Both islands are located in the northeastern Aegean.

    The Turkish aircraft were intercepted and identified by Greek air force planes, in accordance with international rules and standard practice.

    [06] Finmin represents government at Padoa-Schioppa funeral

    ROME (ANA-MPA - Th. Andreadis)

    Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou represented the Greek government at the funeral of Italian economist Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa held in Rome on Tuesday. The economist had been an advisor of current Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who had enlisted his help in Greece's efforts to overcome its current economic crisis.

    Padoa-Schioppa, a former Italian finance minister that was considered to be one of the architects of the euro, died as a result of a heart attack the previous Saturday while attending a dinner in Rome.

    Papaconstantinou was accompanied by the Greek ambassador to Rome Mihalis Kampanis and Vassilis Papadimitriou from the prime minister's office.

    [07] Samaras attends event organised by ONNED and child charity

    ?ain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras attended a Christmas event co-organised by the ND's youth group ONNED and the children's organisation "Hamogelo tou Paidiou" (Child's Smile) at Ermou street in downtown Athens.

    Samaras visited the pavilions and was briefed on the organi-sation's mission as well as ONNED's initiative to support a hostel for abused women and children called "Frontida".

    Congratulating ONNED and Child's Smile for their initiative, hee stressed "that it is very encouraging that in these difficult times for the Greek people, social solidarity and sensitivity remain alive."

    [08] Cypriot spokesman: 'We do not negotiate our sovereign rights'

    "We do not in any case negotiate the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus but on the contrary we promote them," Cyprus Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou stressed in Athens on Tuesday while addressing Greek journalists.

    Stephanou said that "we also promote the issue of the chapter on energy in the framework of Turkey's accession negotiations, which primarily concerns the EU" making clear that "we have no intention of allowing the opening of the chapter if Turkey is not committed towards the EU that it will stop hindering the Republic of Cyprus from exercising its sovereign right to explore and exploit its undersea resources."

    He also termed as "constructive" a Greek proposal, which was expressed by Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, for the holding of an EU-Turkey summit next June.

    This Greek initiative is constructive and aims at giving a new impetus to EU-Turkish relations on the basis of the obligations undertaken by Turkey, Stephanou said.

    Stephanou noted that Turkey, which does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, creates problems at various levels, with regard to the Republic of Cyprus efforts to exercise its sovereign rights. He added that the Cyprus government abides by the international law, part of which is the Law of the Sea and tries to fully fulfill its sovereign rights, something that resulted in the agreement with Israel.

    Cyprus and Israel signed last week a bilateral agreement for the delineation of the Exclusive Economic Zone between the two countries.

    Referring to the Cyprus problem, Stephanou said that its settlement must be a product of compromise, based on the agreed basis for a bizonal, bicommunal federation as provided by the High Level Agreements and the UN resolutions.

    He said that Turkey has been following an undermining policy, which invests on stagnancy and supports positions for two peoples and two states, which are adopted by Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, while it continues the illegal settling, altering the demographic character of the Turkish Cypriots and encouraging the huge rise of investments in the occupied areas and with foreign funds, through the usurpation of Greek Cypriot properties.

    The Cypriot spokesman said that the Republic of Cyprus insists on the agreed basis for a solution providing for a bizonal, bicommunal federation, referring to the High Level agreements and the UN resolutions.

    Furthermore, he underlined that the Cyprus problem will be solved in the UN framework and that despite the fact that Turkey supports positions that do not abide by the bizonal, bicommunal federation, supporting a two-state solution, the Greek Cypriot side will have to remain consistent and denounce Turkey's positions, recalling UN resolutions and their content.

    Stephanou also noted that the Cypriot President ensured before the beginning of the negotiations that the basis of the settlement is a bizonal, bicommunal federation with a single sovereignty, citizenship and international personality and made clear that any discussions cannot take place outside the UN resolutions.

    Turkey, a country that aspires to become an EU member does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU members since May 2004.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.

    [09] Probe on former prosecutor Sanidas shelved

    Supreme Court Assistant Prosecutor Roussos Papadakis on Tuesday shelved a request filed by Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis to investigate whether Supreme Court former Prosecutor Georgios Sanidas was guilty of abuse of power in relation to the land swap case between the Vatopedi Monastery and the Greek State.

    Papadakis justified his decision by pointing out that there was no evidence against Sanidas as regards the Vatopedi case.

    Last September, Kastanidis had filed a request for an investi-gation on possible criminal liability on behalf of Sanidas when he was in charge of the investigation on the land swaps case.

    Two years ago, Sanidas had refused to forward the Vatopedi case file to parliament to investigate the likelihood of political liability despite the fact he had initiated an investigation on the case in response to relevant press reports that had brought it to light.

    The former prosecutor had backed his decision by maintaining that the references made to government ministers were vague and not supported by real facts and therefore could not be used as evidence strong enough to raise suspicions of ministerial liability.

    [10] Citizen Protection Minister Papoutsis visits new forensics building

    Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis on Tuesday visited the new building of the Greek Police (EL.AS) Forensic Investigation Division in Athens.

    During his visit to the 32,000 sqm, five-storey building featuring state-of-the-art crime labs, Papoutsis underlined that security is the citizens' right and the state's obligation toward them.

    [11] Bakoyannis asks for results of financial investigation of journalist Anastasiades

    Independent MP Dora Bakoyannis, leader of the recently formed Democratic Alliance party, on Tuesday tabled a question for Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou concerning the progress of inquiries into the sum of 5.2 million euro found in the accounts of TV journalist, presenter and publisher Themis Anastasiades.

    The MP was once again raised the issue of press reports in January 2008 claiming that the sum of 5.2 million euro had been found in Anastasiades' bank account and that a further 1.1 million euro in cheques were being investigated by French customs authorities at the French-Swiss border. At the time, an inquiry into both cases had been launched by the Greek financial crimes unit and a public prosecutor in charge of investigating money laundering.

    Bakoyannis noted that nothing had been announced concerning the findings of these investigations and asked whether any violations of the law had been found and what collaboration with the other countries involved had revealed.

    She also asked whether any fines had been imposed in connection with the case or whether the sums were included in the tax dispute settlement process or the process of writing off debts "impossible to collect".

    Financial News

    [12] Employment minister: 'Essential precondition for succees is consensus, development of strong social alliances'

    Employment Minister Louka Katseli, addressing Parliament on Tuesday during the ongoing debate on the 2011 state budget, said that "the consensus and the development of strong social alliances is an essential precondition for us to succeed. Consensus and alliances on the self-evident, on reforms that we cannot and must not postpone today."

    The minister added that "what we are doing in this period, at individual and collective level, is to struggle. We are struggling to secure that businesses will continue to be viable. We are struggling to take our country out of this crisis. We are struggling to safeguard the social right to work and to a dignified level of living for our fellow citizens."

    The ministry's aims in the coming year is the preservation and creation of new jobs, the combatting of social exclusion, the social protection and support of vulnerable groups and the securing of dignified pensions, through the reshaping of the social security system, Katseli also said.

    [13] Draft bill for national hydrocarbons agency posted at opengov.gr

    Greece is estimated to have oil and gas reserves capable of covering up to one third of its fuel needs for the next 30 years, according to the introductory note of a draft bill posted for public debate at www.opengov.gr by the Greek environment and energy ministry on Tuesday.

    The draft legislation will create a national hydrocarbon agency to search for and extract Greek hydrocarbon reserves, which will take the form of a societe anonyme company owned entirely by the Greek state.

    The opening report notes that all research so far, even though incomplete, has confirmed the existence of fossil fuels reserves in Greece. The country's annual consumption of crude oil is currently at 120 million barrels and year and the ministry estimates that domestic reserves could produce up to 40 million barrels a year.

    The agency will oversee the search for fossil fuel reserves in Greece and will be in charge of managing the rights to search for and exploit oil and gas reserves in Greek territory.

    [14] Greek current accounts deficit down 2.8 pct in Jan-Oct

    Greece's current accounts deficit shrank further in the January-October period this year, approaching the annual target set by a memorandum signed with the troika, the Bank of Greece said on Tuesday. The central bank, in a monthly report, said the current accounts deficit fell 2.8 pct to 19.4 billion euros in the 10-month period this year, at 8.0 pct of the country's Gross Domestic Product, up from a 7.0 pct target set by the memorandum.

    The cut in the deficit reflected mainly developments in the country's trade balance as imports fell 12 pct and exports declined only 2.0 pct. The trade deficit fell by 1.095 billion euros in the January-October period reflecting mainly a 2.8 billion euros drop in the trade deficit excluding fuel and ships. More analytically, payments on imports excluding fuel and ships fell by 3.0 billion euros or 11.7 pct, while receipts from exports fell 2.2 pct or 212 million euros. Net payments on fuel imports rose 21.9 pct while net payments for ship purchases rose 11.4 pct.

    The services' surplus rose by 440 million euros despite a 7.0 pct decline in tourism foreign exchange revenues, reflecting a 15.5 pct rise in gross revenue from transport services.

    The incomes deficit grew 0.4 pct in the 10-month period, reflecting higher net payments on wages, while net payments on interest, dividends and earnings fell slightly.

    The current transfers' surplus fell by 955 million euros in the January-October period, while the capital transfers' surplus shrank to 751 million euros from 1.5 billion euros in the same period last year.

    The financial transactions balance recorded the liquidation of Greek state bonds by foreign investors (32.2 billion euros in the January-October period). Foreign direct investments recorded a net capital inflow of 1.2 billion euros (from a net inflow of 1.8 billion euros in 2009). Portfolio investments recorded a net outflow of 20.6 billion euros, from a net inflow of 24.3 billion euros last year.

    [15] All-day public transport strike on Wednesday

    Workers in public transport will hold a 24-hour strike on Wednesday, continuing a week of strike action in protest against wage cuts and staff transfers planned by the government. Responding to appeals from Athens' shop owners, however, they agreed to ease planned strikes on Thursday and Friday in order to allow the public to do their Christmas shopping.

    In the meantime, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks ministry general secretary Haris Tsiokas said the ministry was mulling the possibility of a civil mobilisation order if strike action escalated further.

    No form of public transport will be operating in Athens on Wednesday, while there is also a strike by the Greek Railways Organisation (OSE) that will affect train services throughout the country - including some services that depart on Tuesday but arrive at their destination on Wednesday.

    On Thursday the buses will operate between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. while the metro, electric railway and tram have cancelled a 24-hour strike and will instead run between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. to allow shoppers access to the city centre and markets.

    All strike action on Christmas Eve has been called off except a work stoppage by buses during the middle of the day when the workers will hold a general meeting.

    [16] New work stoppage by local administration employees on Wednesday

    Local administration employees will abstain from their duties from 11 in the morning until the end of their shift on Wednesday, following a decision by the POE-OTA union to call a four-hour nationwide work stoppage, demanding the "defending of basic labour and economic rights that are being disputed and reversed by the policies being exercised."

    The new work stoppage is expected to worsen the problem of accumulated garbage in the capital's neighbourhoods over the past 20 days.

    For the time being, however, Athens continues to be "stifled" by garbage and the festive atmosphere does not appear to be daunting employees in the cleanliness sector.

    [17] Work stoppage on Wednesday

    The two major umbrella trade union groups GSEE and ADEDY have called a three hour work stoppage in Attica prefecture on Wednesday between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. so that workers can take part in a protest rally at Syntagma square in downtown Athens at 1:00 p.m..

    The unions protested against the harsh economic measures while a GSEE announcement released on Tuesday stated that the unions will continue and escalate their action and struggles as long as the cruel and unjust policies continue.

    [18] Cost of Christmas dinner down 7.1 pct since last year, price observatory says

    The cost of Christmas dinner will be 7.10 percent cheaper this year compared with the same time last year, according to data released on Tuesday by the price observatory at the regional development and competitiveness ministry.

    A ministry announcement said that a Christmas dinner for six people will cost an estimated 137.76 euro on average in 2010, down from 148.29 euro for the same items bought on the same day (December 16) in 2009.

    Prices were lower for meats such as turkey (14.75 pct), pork (4.15 pct) and lamb (up 6.75 pct), as well as several kinds of vegetables and seasonal sweets and cakes.

    According to the ministry, the market was well stocked with goods and competition was working well, helping to keep prices low.

    [19] Iraklio: European Commission's European Entrepreneurship Awards

    The Iraklio Prefectural Local Administration has been chosen by the Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping ministry as Greece's national representative at the European Commission's European Entrepreneurship Awards for the promotion policies of Cretan products and the support of the farming sector at international level.

    The Iraklio Prefecture will represent Greece in May in the awards category "Support for the internationalisation of businesses" which concerns the rewarding of policies that encourage businesses to benefit from the opportunities offered by markets both inside and outside the European Union.

    [20] Foreign investors attracted by low valuations in Greek market

    Low valuations currently prevailing in the Greek stock market are attracting foreign institutional investors' interest, Socrates Lazaridis, president of the Athens Stock Exchange, said on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters, Lazaridis sounded confident that the Greek stock market would remain among FTSE's developed markets list.

    The head of the Athens Stock Exchange said that the Greek market was currently under the microscope of foreign investors because of cheap valuations in the market, a trend which was evident during a series of meetings held by Lazaridis in his recent visit in New York.

    ASE's president stressed that a next round of privatizations planned by the government would help in boosting liquidity in the Greek capital market during the 2011-2013 period. Lazaridis noted that the Greek market would not face any problems during the next semi-annual review of the market by FTSE Group, as the Athens Stock Exchange was fulfilling all criteria to remain among the world's developed markets.

    Lazaridis said a new system, X-Net, would begin operating from early 2011, allowing electronic transactions between mature markets in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean, and noted that 23 companies have already expressed interest, while he expressed his concern over the fact that investors focused their buying interest in just a few blue chip stocks, with only five blue chip stocks accounting for 57 pct of total transactions in the market.

    [21] Greek stocks recover slightly

    Greek stocks recovered slightly in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday after Monday's sharp decline. The composite index of the market rose 0.65 pct to end at 1,459.24 points, with turnover remaining a low 72.090 million euros.

    Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (2.24 pct), PPC (2.13 pct), OPAP (1.59 pct) and OTE (1.25 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Hellenic Postbank (4.37 pct), Eurobank (3.77 pct) and MIG (2.70 pct) were top losers. The Big Cap index rose 0.38 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.04 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.11 pct.

    The Food (2.22 pct) and Utilities (1.74 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Commerce (3.28 pct) and Media (1.80 pct) were top losers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 85 to 72 with another 51 issues unchanged.

    NEL (16 pct), ANEK (14.29 pct), Unibios (12.5 pct) and Tegopoulos (9.68 pct) were top gainers, while Sanyo Hellas (20 pct), Altec (12.5 pct) and Edrasi (11.11 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.56%

    Industrials: -0.14%

    Commercial: -3.28%

    Construction: +0.53%

    Media: -1.80%

    Oil & Gas: +0.77%

    Personal & Household: +0.06%

    Raw Materials: -1.00%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.47%

    Technology: +0.73%

    Telecoms: +1.25%

    Banks: -0.41%

    Food & Beverages: +2.22%

    Health: +0.09%

    Utilities: +1.74%

    Chemicals: +1.37%

    Financial Services: -1.15%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and Eurobank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 4.10

    ATEbank: 0.75

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.49

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.04

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.81

    National Bank of Greece: 6.54

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.08

    OPAP: 12.80

    OTE: 6.48

    Bank of Piraeus: 3.70

    Titan: 16.00

    [22] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened again to 916 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 903 bps on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.03 pct and the German Bund 2.97 pct. Turnover in the market was a disappointing 6.0 million euros, of which 4.0 million were buy orders and the remaining 2.0 million euros were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 2.0 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely 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 0.83 pct.

    [23] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE index was trading at a discount of 1.38 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover shrinking to 21.002 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,313 contracts worth 14.624 million euros, with 24,292 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,892 contracts worth 6.379 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,075), followed by Eurobank (1,037), OTE (677), Piraeus Bank (1,231), Alpha Bank (1,442), Hellenic Postbank (315) and ATEbank (113).

    [24] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.326

    Pound sterling 0.857

    Danish kroner 7.510

    Swedish kroner 9.051

    Japanese yen 110.88

    Swiss franc 1.271

    Norwegian kroner 7.924

    Canadian dollar 1.351

    Australian dollar 1.328

    General News

    [25] Ecumenical Patriarch attends inauguration of population exchange museum

    ANKARA (ANA-MPA / A. Ambatzis)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew attended the inauguration of the population exchange museum opened in Istanbul's Catalca municipality by the Foundation of Lausanne Treaty Emigrants, the local municipality and the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Organization. It was opened on Monday, 87 years after the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in Jan. 30, 1923 for the population exchange between Greece and Turkey)

    "We have shared the same pains," the Ecumenical Patriarch stated characteristically, stressing that "now the time has come for peace and calm between the two peoples."

    On display in the museum are historical documents and objects that belonged to Turks who had to leave northern Greece. Memorabilia that belonged to Greeks who left their homes in Turkey will be added to the museum in Jan. 2011.

    The inauguration ceremony was also attended by two descendents of Greek refugees from Asia Minor, who came especially for the occasion from the city of Ptolemaida, northwest Greece, and a UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative.

    [26] Actor Thanassis Veggos condition serious but stable

    Actor Thanassis Veggos, one of Greece's best loved comedians and film actors, was still being treated in an intensive care unit in Athens' Erythros Stavros Hospital on Tuesday, after undergoing surgery to remove a haematoma in the brain.

    According to the hospital's chief the actor's condition is stable but critical, while a clearer picture of the patient's condition is expected to emerge within the next 48 hours.

    The 83-year-old actor fell over in his house and hit his head on Thursday. He was rushed to hospital on the Friday where doctors diagnosed a haematoma and carried out surgery.

    [27] Hostage situation at Vonitsa tax bureau

    A hostage situation in the town of Vonitsa, central Greece, ended in early afternoon on Tuesday, with the arrest of a 47-year-old armed man who had stormed the local tax bureau offices a few hours earlier and held hostage a 55-year-old employee at gunpoint.

    A police negotiator, called to the scene to convince the suspect to give himself in, was rushed to hospital with a slight injury to his thigh inflicted by the suspect, who opened fire and shot him during the police operation.

    [28] Arms smugglers arrested in Athens and Ioannina

    Three Albanian nationals, aged 18, 20 and 36 years old, respectively, and two locals, a 48-year-old woman and 45-year-old man, have been arrested for illegally trading in arms, law enforcement authorities announced on Tuesday. The five arrests were made following a coordinated police operation in Ioannina, northwest Greece and Acharnes, in the greater Athens region.

    The police operation was mounted following a tip off that the suspects were engaging in smuggling guns, bullets and hand grenades into Greece from the neighboring Albania.

    In the possession of the suspects, police foundp and seized four army shotguns, a machinegun, two AK-47s and a double-barreled gun, 25 hand grenades, and 297 bullets of various calibers. All the suspects were led before an Athens prosecutor while a police investigation continues for the arrest of more ring members.

    [29] Bank robbery in Nea Kallikratia, north Greece

    Two unidentified armed robbers on Tuesday stormed an ATEbank branch in Nea Kallikratia, Chalkidi Prefecture in northern Greece and made off with 15,000 euros.

    On their way out, they also stole a handbag from a customer and got away on a motorcycle.

    [30] Burglars break into supermarket using climbing equipment

    Unidentified burglars made off with 73,000 euros after breaking into a supermarket in Aridea, Pella Prefecture in northern Greece, using a mountaineering rope, police said.

    The burglars cut through the store's metal roof in the early morning hours on Tuesday and descended inside using the rope. They removed the money from a safe which they opened using a metal cutter.

    [31] Kavallieratos 'wind sculpture' at Benaki Museum from Wednesday

    The 'wind sculpture' created by Stratos Kavallieratos will be installed and light up the roof of Athens' Benaki Museum as of Wednesday, along Koumbari and Vassilisis Sofias streets.

    The 'sculpture' consists of 21 wooden structures equipped with mini-generators and propellers that use wind power to light up an array of miniature coloured light bulbs, creating an interplay of light and movement that is constantly changing depending on the direction and intensity of the wind.

    At night when the component structures of the sculpture are no longer visible, all that remains is a multi-coloured, rotating disc of light.

    Kavallieratos started experimenting with wind generators and photovoltaics on Anafi, initially out of an interest in the use of green, alternative energy sources, but since 2000 his experiments evolved into an unexpected artistic 'game'.

    "It is a strange and unpredictable art form that does not allow you to get bored," the artist said in comments on his sculpture, pointing out that the eye was drawn to the coloured circles "until it is entranced".

    Weather Forecast

    [32] Rainy on Wednesday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 2C and 20C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with variable 2-3 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 18C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 14C.

    [33] Athens Newspaper Headlines

    The government's surprise announcement of a decrease in the level of social security contributions, a rise in unemployment, ongoing strikes in the mass transit sector in and around Athens and retail market conditions ahead of the holidays mostly dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Internal transfers between public sector agencies launched".

    AVGHI: "Explosion in lay-offs".

    AVRIANI: "Greece's exit from eurozone".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Alarm bell sounds for private insurance companies".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "We will shut down the state if you open closed professions"

    ESTIA: "Christmas with strikes".

    ETHNOS: "Markets in despair - Dramatic fall in turnover".

    IMERISSIA: "Up to 25 percent cuts in social security contributions".

    KATHIMERINI: "Market in strikes' vortex".

    LOGOS: "Merchants make dramatic plea".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Accounting books code to be permanently abolished in 2012".

    NIKI: "2,000 employees fired every day".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "New bombshell against social security".

    TA NEA: "Queuing up for transfers".

    VRADYNI: "State assets up for sale".

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