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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-01-18

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

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

Tuesday, 18 January 2011 Issue No: 3697

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM: Big stake is to create different, better Greece
  • [02] PM urges foreign ministry to expect 'greater challenges ahead'
  • [03] PM Papandreou on smoking ban
  • [04] Samaras on EU/IMF loan repayment extension
  • [05] FM addresses general secretariat event
  • [06] President briefed on effort against nepotism, plagiarism in universities
  • [07] ND on PM's statements on civil servants
  • [08] Petalotis stresses government's determination to open closed professions
  • [09] Gov't: 'impunity will not be tolerated'
  • [10] Gov't on environment ministry draft law on buildable plots
  • [11] Interior Minister in London
  • [12] Government condemns incidents at Agios Panteleimonas
  • [13] Bulgarian minister on illegal migration problem, cooperation with Athens
  • [14] 'Omonia' 20th anniversary event in Dervitsiani
  • [15] Greek bond spread below 800 bps
  • [16] Fitch cuts ratings for Greek banks
  • [17] Credit conditions improved in 2010
  • [18] Tourism promotion policy detailed
  • [19] Austrian tourists optimistic over Greek visit in 2011
  • [20] GSEE, ADEDY work stoppage Thursday
  • [21] Strike may disrupt flights in Greece on Wednesday
  • [22] Pharmacists to close shops in opposition to sector liberalisation
  • [23] Lawyers' groups against liberalisation in sector
  • [24] Electricity demand down 0.2% in 2010
  • [25] Gas station owners protest at N. Greece border post over duty-free petrol
  • [26] Greek merchant fleet DWTs up in 2010
  • [27] Building activity down 24.7% in Jan-Oct
  • [28] Stocks end moderately up
  • [29] Greek bond market closing report
  • [30] ADEX closing report
  • [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [32] Trial of 'Conspiracy of Fire Cells' suspects opens
  • [33] Four suspects remanded in custody; German national released
  • [34] Search continues for missing migrants from capsized boat
  • [35] Sailing ban due to high winds
  • [36] Gunmen rob busload of Thessaloniki merchants en route to Istanbul
  • [37] Greek bulk carrier pirated in Somali Basin
  • [38] Istanbul mayor in Athens on Tues.
  • [39] Constantine Karamanlis statue unveiled in Thessaloniki
  • [40] Woman dies of H1N1 flu in Serres
  • [41] Teen arrested for animal torture after uploading footage on FB
  • [42] Police chase of vehicle carrying illegal migrants
  • [43] 2 arrested in forged documents ring
  • [44] Bags with unprocessed cannabis found
  • [45] Cloudy on Tuesday
  • [46] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM: Big stake is to create different, better Greece

    The country's big stake is to create a different and better Greece," prime minister George Papandreou stressed on Monday, adding that the government's response to this wager is "yes, Greece is changing, will change, and will always be changing", in a greeting to an Information and Communications General Secretariat event for heads of the Greek embassy abroad press offices and directors of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) offices abroad.

    Papandreou recalled that Greece had found itself at a "turning point" at which it had to decide whether to change or not.

    The premier explained that the dilemma concerned not only putting the country's fiscal finances in order which, he noted, was absolutely self-evident and was being achieved with sacrifices and efforts by all the Greeks, but also concerned combating the symptom.

    The present crisis is an opportunity, and it is also necessary to remedy the ailment, the epidemic and the disaster-mongering that the effort is in vain, that the Greeks are unable to shape their own fate and that "others will decide for us", he added.

    "We saved the country from the immediate danger, and it is in our hands to build the Greece of tomorrow with a plan," the premier said, adding that what is sought is "the creation of a radically new model in the direction of social freedom, lawfulness, creativity and progress, with a productive and viable economy, green growth, and a new people-oriented model of collective organisation and operation."

    "After the big battle we waged in 2010 to keep our country standing, in 2011 we are working with all our power to create this different Greece," Papandreou said, stressing that "we are now credible in what we are doing because we are doing what we say we will do".

    In 2010, he continued, Greece succeeded in not only drastically reducing the deficits of the past, but also, in the space of just a few months, it dared to make and is making big and historical changes.

    Papandreou said that the above surprise those who had mistakenly believed in the negative image of the country, stressing that "the true Greece awoke and shouldered its responsibilities".

    "We undertook the task of putting our house in order" and of definitively changing Greece, he added.

    Papandreou also spoke of Greece's long-standing problems, adding that "that Greece is now finished, regardless of how difficult and painful the transition was".

    "That was the Greece that we hurt, and which hurt us, the Greece that undermined the future of our children and even our security, and we are leaving it behind," he said, adding that this reality has created a corresponding picture abroad.

    Papandreou further said that the crisis, albeit not in the dimensions it finally assumed, had been clearly coming, and the economy had not been viable, adding that "at a time when everything was changing, not only did we not take care to cover the distance and did not remedy the problems, but, instead, we aggravated the by missing out on opportunities and losing comparative advantages".

    This had led to a negative image of Greece and to the point of losing the confidence of its EURO partners and finding itself on the receiving end of provocations, obvious exaggerations to the point of racism, he said, noting, however, that "in all truth, we ourselves opened ourselves up to that, we had completely lost our credibility".

    Now, however, "we are changing Greece with every day that passes, we are steadily building a new reality for the Greeks", the premier said, but added that his own efforts and those of his ministers are not enough, given that "we are temporarily in these positions" and that "the strategy must have duration and exceed the political cycle of governments".

    Papandreou further stressed that nothing will be achieved if the attitude and operation of the state does not change. "The effort of the political leadership will be in vain if we do not utilise the human potential," he said, adding that the public sector is full of people who want and are able to contribute but who are either being isolated or whose ideas are not being heard.

    He called the civil servants the "key" to changing the attitude in the state, and their abilities the "wealth" that must be utilised.

    [02] PM urges foreign ministry to expect 'greater challenges ahead'

    Greece had a greatly improved and stronger image abroad as a result of the government's actions over the past year, Prime Minister George Papandreou told staff at the foreign ministry on Monday, during the cutting of the traditional New Year 'pita'.

    "Without you, this recovery of international credibility would not have been possible," he added.

    The prime minister said Greece's foreign ministry staff had proved itself in the past but stressed that even greater challenges lay ahead, since foreign policy issues were now intertwined with globalised matters such as the economy, the environment and major problems of humanity.

    He underlined that the foreign ministry staff would have a critical role to play in all this and promised to stand by them.

    The ceremony was also addressed by Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, who said the past year had been one filled with challenges but also successes.

    "We promoted a foreign policy with vision and realism, a health national pride with heightened prestige and credibility that we regained as a result of your work," he stressed.

    While the current economic crisis prevented the government from raising pay but instead imposed pay cuts, "it is within our power and our obligation to give every Greek citizen a better daily life, dignity, quality in public services in the sectors of health and education. You can be sure that the necessary changes will be made," he said.

    He promised a new organisational structure and modernisation, including the use of new technologies, within the foreign ministry that would allow it to be more effective.

    [03] PM Papandreou on smoking ban

    The issue of the ban on smoking was discussed during a meeting between Prime Minister George Papandreou and Health Minister Andreas Loverdos. According to authoritative reports, Papandreou made it clear that there is no question of the law being reconsidered or readjusted. According to the same reports, the prime minister did not accept any other version, except that of the full implementation of the law ratified by Parliament, without any deviation.

    The same issue, government sources said, was also discussed during the meeting Papandreou held with Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis, since one of the serious issues arising was the implementation of the "anti-smoking law."

    [04] Samaras on EU/IMF loan repayment extension

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Monday reiterated ND's position on the issue of extension of the repayment period for Greece's 110 billion euros EU/IMF support mechanism loan.

    "Our position is crystal clear. First, extension. Second, simultaneous reduction of the borrowing cost, namely the interest rate. Third, eurobonds," Samaras told waiting reporters upon arrival at the ND local offices in Thessaloniki for a meeting of the party's steering committee.

    [05] FM addresses general secretariat event

    "The dynamic foreign policy we are implementing creates opportunities," Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas stressed on Monday, addressing an Information and Communications General Secretariat event for the heads of Greek embassy press offices and National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) offices' directors abroad.

    "The government has put an end to inaction, conservatism, the 'known phobias' and the myths plaguing the Greek foreign policy in the past."

    As regards the Greek-Turkish relations, he underlined that "the government has tried to create conditions for their improvement" and pointed out that there is "no question of a joint exploitation of the Aegean", stressing that "the status in the Aegean is not changing".

    He also pointed out that Turkey's European course presupposes that certain necessary preconditions will have to be met first, adding that holding a conference on Turkey's EU accession course is being considered.

    He pointed out that the government has given Greece a voice and a role in the Balkans, the Black Sea and Caucasus, adding that the 2014 Agenda has given a boost to the EU accession course of the western Balkan states, adding that a Thessaloniki summit meeting with the Balkan countries is in the plans.

    Referring to the fYRoM "name issue", he reiterated that Greece wants a name with a geographic qualifier for every use, adding that fYRoM's accession into NATO is impossible if the name issue is not resolved first. He also called on the neighbouring country's leadership to adopt a constructive stance.

    Finally, Droutsas referred to Greece's relations with Israel and the Arab world, while as regards the Cyprus issue, he repeated that a solution should be based on the UN Security Council decisions and the European acquis.

    [06] President briefed on effort against nepotism, plagiarism in universities

    Deputy Education Minister Yiannis Panaretos on Monday briefed President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on the ministry's efforts to deal with problems such as nepotism, lack of transparency and even plagiarism that have been observed in Greek universities.

    He said the government was trying to establish transparency, meritocracy and the same academic standards for research in universities that also apply abroad, noting that the effort had supporters but also some opposition within academic circles.

    The minister stressed that the efforts were not to universally downgrade academics but to restrict bad practices while promoting the good ones.

    "The Greek people and Greek tax payers pay that we may have free education and to support research and we have an obligation to make sure that the available funds, which are now fewer, are used in the best possible way," he said.

    The president showed great interest in the investigation, noting that this was an issue that was also among the priorities of the prime minister.

    [07] ND on PM's statements on civil servants

    The main opposition New Democracy party on Monday criticised the prime minister over the fact that he praises the civil servants, on the one hand, while government VP Theodoros Pangalos characterises them as "mutts", on the other hand, as it said.

    "Let Mr. Papandreou decide at some point: What he ultimately considers them" the statement read

    [08] Petalotis stresses government's determination to open closed professions

    Government spokesman George Petalotis on Monday stressed that the government was determined to go ahead with measures for opening closed professions, noting that reactions by those affected were only to be expected.

    The government expected all the groups involved to rise to the occasion during negotiations, he added, noting that restrictions on professions, where they existed, had to ensure a good-quality and affordable service to consumers.

    Concerning the falling-out between the health minister and pharmacists, who announced strikes during the coming week, the spokesman said the minister had made a strenuous effort to achieve consensus but that pharmacists had insisted on their positions.

    [09] Gov't: 'impunity will not be tolerated'

    "We are determined and adamant on the issue of impunity. Impunity cannot be tolerated by this government," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Monday stated and announced legislative initiatives aimed at changing the ministerial liability law. He also stated that a relevant clause in the Constitution will be amended within the framework of the Constitutional revision.

    Petalotis pointed out that "until then and within the framework of the Constitution there will be changes to make impunity a thing of the past particularly, where politicians are concerned" and, at the same time, he lashed out at the main opposition party of New Democracy (ND) as regards the Vatopedi land swap case.

    [10] Gov't on environment ministry draft law on buildable plots

    Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Monday merely responded that "a final text is under discussion", when asked whether the environment, energy and climate change ministry will sponsor a biodiversity draft law that sets a eyebrow-raising one-hectare minimum for construction in land tracts located within "Natura" protected regions.

    Petalotis said there is still a long way ahead, adding that proposals aimed at improving the draft law without changing its scope will be accepted.

    The one-hectare draft provision, amongst others, generated heated criticism by several ruling PASOK MPs, no less.

    [11] Interior Minister in London

    LONDON (ANA-MPA)

    Interior, Decentralisation and e-Governance Minister Yiannis Ragoussis met here on Monday with British Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, as the British side was briefed on reforms and measures being promoted by the Greek government for greater transparency in public administration.

    A proposal was made to the Greek minister for the holding, in early March, of an international symposium in Athens on the subject of transparency in public adimistration and electronic governance.

    Ragoussis accepted the proposal and invited his British counterpart to visit Athens on the occasion of the Wilton Park conference.

    [12] Government condemns incidents at Agios Panteleimonas

    Government spokesman George Petalotis on Monday condemned incidents that took place over the weekend at Agios Panteleimonas Square in Athens, during clashes between police and right-wing nationalist groups objecting to an anti-racism concert due to take place there.

    "All the things happening there are unacceptable," Petalotis stressed, adding that Agios Panteleimonas "has to stop being a forbidden zone for Athens residents".

    He said the government opposed "situations that cause tension within local communities and to people that because of the absence of a migration policy came and established themselves in the centre of Athens".

    The spokesman also underlined that the government was radically opposed to the creation of ghettos and had promised to stop tolerating them for the safety of the public and those that entered Greece illegally.

    [13] Bulgarian minister on illegal migration problem, cooperation with Athens

    SOFIA (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov)

    Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, speaking at a foreign press conference here on Monday, expressed satisfaction over what he called excellent cooperation between Greece and Bulgaria in the security sector.

    "The two countries are paying special attention to the handling of immigration pressure from the east towards the European Union," the Bulgarian minister said, pointing out that a handful of his country's border police units are participating in the Frontex programme.

    As regards Bulgaria, he cited 25-percent increase in 2010 in the number of illegal border crossings on Bulgaria's eastern frontier, saying 1,200 illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and other countries in Asia and Africa were intercepted.

    Bulgarian authorities believe that the increase necessitates increased security along the borders with Turkey, with the implementation of technical criteria envisioned in the Schengen pact by the end of March 2011, as well as with additional measures.

    One additional measure, according to Tsvetanov, is the installation of special scanners at the border Kapitan Andreevo border post for the detection of illegal immigrants hidden in vehicles.

    According to the Bulgarian minister, Sofia has proclaimed an international tender for the acquisition of the hi-tech scanning technology, which will be installed at Bulgaria's border crossings with non-EU members in the initial phase.

    Asked to comment on a plan by the Athens government for the construction of a security fence along a 12.8-kilometre stretch of the border with the Turkey in Evros prefecture, Tsvetanov reminded that "every country has the right to decide the most suitable measures for guarding its borders."

    [14] 'Omonia' 20th anniversary event in Dervitsiani

    A message by President of the Republic President Karolos Papoulias was read out on Sunday during an event marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment in Albania of the ethnic Greek minority organisation

    "Omonia". The event was held in the southern Albanian town Dervitsiani.

    The Greek government was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis, who conveyed Athens' support towards Omonia.

    "The Greek ethnic minority can and should become a bridge of friendship between the two peoples under the self-evident condition that solutions will be found to ensure that all rights are guaranteed, Dollis said, underlining that as a member of NATO, Albania is a Greek ally, adding: "...at the same time, it follows a European course, which enjoys Greece's support."

    Financial News

    [15] Greek bond spread below 800 bps

    Expectations that the European Union will agree on a request to extend the repayment period for Greece's loans from the EU and the IMF and an intervention by the European Central Bank in Eurozone state bond markets, helped push the Greek bond yield spread below the 800-level on Monday.

    According to Bloomberg figures, the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds fell to 784 basis points in midday trade, for the first time since October 29, in the Greek electronic secondary bond market. The Greek bond was yielding 10.87 pct and the German Bund 3.02 pct.

    [16] Fitch cuts ratings for Greek banks

    Fitch Ratings on Monday announced a decision to downgrade the credit ratings of Greece's major banks, following a decision on Friday to cut the country's state bond ratings.

    The decision to cut Greek banks' ratings was widely anticipated by the market.

    Fitch said it has cut the long-term ratings of National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank, Piraeus Bank and ATEbank to BB+ from BBB- and their short-term ratings to B from F3, while it maintained a negative outlook for their prospects.

    [17] Credit conditions improved in 2010

    Credit conditions in the Greek market improved last year as a deep recession restricted the issuing of new checks and bills, official figures showed on Monday.

    A report by Teiresias SA, the Greek market watchdog, said the value of bounced checks fell to 1.8 billion euros in 2010, down from 3.0 billion in 2009, while in volume they fell to 195,238 from 304,377 over the same period, respectively.

    Bounced checks totaled 17,116 in volume and 158.6 million euros in value in December down 7.28 pct and 9.36 pct compared with November, while they were down 3.79 pct and 8.89 pct compared with December 2009.

    Unpaid bills totaled 143,000 worth 229 million euros in 2010, down from 152,779 and 250 million euros in 2009, respectively. In December, unpaid bills totaled 13,581 in volume and 20.5 million euros in value, up 3.98 pct in volume and down 1.48 pct in value compared with November 2010, but down 4.85 pct and 9.88 pct compared with December 2009, respectively.

    [18] Tourism promotion policy detailed

    The hope that the tourism sector will spearhead a reversal of the crisis in Greece was expressed on Monday by Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, addressing an Information and Communications General Secretariat event for the heads of the Greek embassy press offices and the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) offices' directors abroad.

    Geroulanos requested that each (GNTO) office abroad collect statistical data and views from the tourism markets targeted by Greece for a well-organised tourism campaign and stressed that the internet should be the main tool in the tourism promotion campaign.

    Outlining the tourism ministry actions for the next three years he focused on the year-round tourism across Greece and stressed that traditional markets for Greece such as UK and Germany should continue to be targeted, also referring to other markets like the US and China and the potential created through the lifting of cabotage and the adoption of a new development law.

    [19] Austrian tourists optimistic over Greek visit in 2011

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)

    This year's International Travel Fair here, Ferien-Messe Wien, offered a more-or-less optimistic message for Greek tourism, with prospects of more tourist arrivals coming from Austria this year.

    The four-day exhibition ended on Sunday, attracting around 120,000 visitors.

    Panagiotis Skordas, head of Greek Tourism Organisation's office in Austria, said around 450,000 Austrians visited Greece last year, with Austria ranking first among the country's tourist origin country as a percentage of its population (8.3 million).

    [20] GSEE, ADEDY work stoppage Thursday

    The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation representing the private sector, on Monday decided on a four-hour work stoppage between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Thursday for all contract staff in the public and private sectors.

    This will coincide with a work stoppage being held at the same time by permanent public-sector staff, announced by the civil servants' union federation ADEDY.

    At 9:00 a.m. on the same day, contract workers intend to hold a rally outside the Supreme Court while its plenum discusses a case concerning contract workers covering standing and long-term needs.

    In addition to Thursday's work stoppage, ADEDY has decided further labour action over the coming month, including a protest rally against high prices on Thursday, January 27 and a 24-hour public-sector strike on Thursday, February 10.

    ADEDY has urged public-sector staff to take part in a rally that will take place on January 18 at the Propylaea in protest against the changes to public transport.

    [21] Strike may disrupt flights in Greece on Wednesday

    A strike announced by the Civil Aviation Service staff union for next Wednesday may disrupt flights on that day, especially at regional airports. The strike is being held in protest against a draft bill tabled in Parliament to reorganise Greece's civil aviation service.

    The civil aviation staff union federation OSYPA has called a 24-hour strike this Wednesday, accusing the Infrastructure, Transport and Networks ministry that the draft bill undermines the CAS, leads to the dismissal of CAS staff and also privatises state airports.

    Whether the strike actually takes place will depend on a court ruling, however, since the management has asked that the strike be declared illegal.

    [22] Pharmacists to close shops in opposition to sector liberalisation

    A national pharmacists association on Monday called on pharmacists across Greece to participate in three successive 24-hour strikes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

    Successive 24-hour strikes will be held the same days next week. Local associations of pharmacists will meet in late January to decide on their further stance.

    Association president Theodoros Ambatzoglou told the ANA-MPA on Monday that "the dialogue with the ministry of health ended unsuccessfully because, in our opinion, it was lacking substance".

    Talks between Health Minister Andreas Loverdos and Greek pharmacists on legislation to open their profession ended in deadlock on Friday, with the two sides unable to reach agreement on the measures proposed by the government. The draft bill on the measures is due to be tabled in Parliament next Wednesday.

    Pharmacists are mostly against a proposed extension of work hours, liberalisation of pharmacy ownership provisions, a greater discount allocated to social insurance funds and any relaxation of population restrictions for opening a new pharmacy.

    [23] Lawyers' groups against liberalisation in sector

    Bar Associations in Greece on Monday called their members to participate in protest actions on Jan. 19, 20 and 21 against the government-sponsored liberalisation of their profession by abstaining from their duties, except from the Athens Bar Association, which will decide on its stance in a meeting on Jan. 19.

    The Bar Associations presidents' plenum decided to proceed with mobilisations after meeting at the justice ministry in the presence of minister Haris Kastanidis to discuss the draft law for the opening of their profession.

    The lawyers' representatives objected to several draft law provisions including the level of the legal fees and the lifting of geographic restrictions in law practices.

    [24] Electricity demand down 0.2% in 2010

    Demand for electricity fell to 2005 levels in 2010, following a decline in the last two years, reflecting an economic recession in the country, official figures showed on Monday.

    The only positive figure was that the 2010 rate of decline was significantly lower compared with the 2009 figure, with consumption of electricity by heavy industries showing signs of recovery. On the other hand, households and small enterprises continued cutting power consumption.

    A report by DESMHE, the power grid manager, showed that demand for electricity fell 0.2 pct in 2010 to 52,329 Giga W/h, after falling by as much as 5.56 pct in 2009.

    Demand by heavy industries grew 5.86 pct in 2010, while demand by households, small enterprises and farmers fell by 1.43 pct last year.

    DESMHE said electricity production by hydro-dam stations grew 35 pct last year; from other alternative energy sources 8.2 pct; from natural gas stations it grew by 10.5 pct. Conversely, it was down from oil by 93 pct, while lignite-fuelled power production fell by 10 pct.

    [25] Gas station owners protest at N. Greece border post over duty-free petrol

    Petrol station owners in Kilkis prefecture of extreme northern Greece on Monday held a "symbolic blockade" of the Evzoni border post on the frontier with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), in protest to a recent government decision to allow the reopening of duty-free stations at three border posts.

    Similar mobilisations are being considered by petrol station owners in Ioannina prefecture and Evros prefecture, which border with opposite Albanian and Turkish territories, respectively.

    Duty-free gas at border stations costs significantly less than gasoline sold at regular stations.

    [26] Greek merchant fleet DWTs up in 2010

    The Greek merchant fleet shrank by 0.7 pct in November 2010 compared with the same month in 2009, after an increase of 1.5 pct recorded in the previous 12-month period, the Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Monday. The fleet numbered 2,100 vessels with a gross tonnage of 42,985,248 dwt, up 3.7 pct compared with November 2009.

    [27] Building activity down 24.7% in Jan-Oct

    Private building activity fell 22 pct in October 2010, for a decline of 24.7 pct in the January-October period, the Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Monday.

    In a report, the statistics service said the volume of private building activity in the country totaled 3,951 new permits in October 2010, down 16.1 pct compared with the corresponding period in 2009, while volume was down 22 pct. Only three regions recorded an increase in building volume: the Ionian Islands (41.4 pct); Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (37.4 pct) and Western Macedonia (4.5 pct), while Thessaly (44.9 pct), Central Macedonia (40.8 pct), Crete (35.8 pct), Western Greece (34.3 pct) and Central Greece (32 pct) recorded the biggest percentage declines.

    Building activity was down 11.3 pct in permits and 24.7 pct in volume in the 10-month period from January to October. Building activity fell throughout the country, with Attica (34.1 pct), Central Greece (29.7 pct), Western Greece (27.1 pct), Crete (25.4 pct) and Epirus (24.2 pct) recording the biggest percentage declines of the year.

    [28] Stocks end moderately up

    Stocks ended moderately higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, extending last week's significant gains.

    The market largely ignored a decision by Fitch Ratings on Friday to downgrade the country's credit rating as the move has been largely discounted by investors. The composite index of the market rose 0.88 pct to end at 1,458.65 points, with turnover a low 80.419 million euros.

    ATEbank (6.85 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (4.64 pct), OTE (2.79 pct), Jumbo (2.80 pct) and Cyprus Bank (2.66 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (4.91 pct), Hellenic Postbank (1.65 pct) and National Bank (1.53 pct) were top losers. The Big Cap index rose 0.16 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.65 pct lower and the Small Cap index ended 2.08 pct up.

    The Commerce (6.41 pct), Oil (2.96 pct) and Telecoms (2.79 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Financial Services (1.06 pct) and Bank (0.92 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 114 to 53 with another 58 issues unchanged.

    Korinth Pipes (19.4 pct), Altec (14.29 pct), ETEM (13.51 pct) were top gainers, while Mouzakis (16 pct), Tzirakian (9.52 pct) and Yalco (9.38 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: Unchanged

    Industrials: +2.54%

    Commercial: +6.41%

    Construction: +0.94%

    Media: +1.06%

    Oil & Gas: +2.96%

    Personal & Household: +1.74%

    Raw Materials: +2.39%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.33%

    Technology: +2.00%

    Telecoms: +2.79%

    Banks: -0.92%

    Food & Beverages: +2.16%

    Health: +1.67%

    Utilities: -0.09%

    Chemicals: +1.55%

    Financial Services: -1.06%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, DEH and OPAP.

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

    Alpha Bank: 3.80

    ATEbank: 0.78

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.88

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.30

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.09

    National Bank of Greece: 6.45

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.76

    OPAP: 13.25

    OTE: 6.99

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.55

    Titan: 16.15

    [29] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds fell below the 800 level in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday reflecting improved conditions in Eurozone bond markets. The spread ended 806 basis points, after falling as low as 784 bps during the day, with the Greek bond yielding 11.09 pct and the German Bund 3.03 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 12 million euros which was equally distributed among sell and buy orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.50 pct, the six-month rate was 1.22 pct, the three-month 0.9 pct and the one-month rate 0.75 pct.

    [30] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.19 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover a low 26.915 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,036 contracts worth 20.410 million euros, with 30,788 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 13,136 contracts worth 6.505 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,895), followed by Eurobank (804), MIG (489), OTE (353), PPC (382), Piraeus Bank (1,903), Alpha Bank (1,057), Mytilineos (591), Cyprus Bank (464) and ATEbank (523).

    [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.341

    Pound sterling 0.842

    Danish kroner 7.509

    Swedish kroner 8.987

    Japanese yen 110.79

    Swiss franc 1.295

    Norwegian kroner 7.848

    Canadian dollar 1.324

    Australian dollar 1.347

    General News

    [32] Trial of 'Conspiracy of Fire Cells' suspects opens

    The trial of nine suspected members of the "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire" urban terrorist group opened Monday morning in an Athens tribunal court.

    The proceedings for nine of a total of 13 suspects arrested for participation in the terror group opened under stringent security and a strong police contingent on hand at the Korydallos high-security prison near Piraeus.

    Six of the defendants facing trial on Monday have been remanded in custody pending trial, while the other three were out with restrictive conditions pending trial, including prohibition of leaving the country.

    A total of 13 defendants face numerous felony charges linked to three bomb attacks, specifically ones targeting the offices of current labour minister Louka Katseli (before she assumed the government post), former interior minister Panagiotis Hinofotis and the Macedonia-Thrace ministry offices.

    [33] Four suspects remanded in custody; German national released

    Four of the individuals arrested last Thursday on terrorism-related charges were remanded in custody after testifying before an examining magistrate on Monday.

    The four are Dimitrios Fessas, Dimitrios Dimtsiadis and Haralambos Stylianidis, all 23-years-old, and Socratis Tzifkas, 21.

    A 27-year-old German woman who also testified in the same case was released after the examining magistrate and the prosecutor could not agree on whether she should remain in custody. The issue will be resolved through a ruling by the First Instance Court Judges' Council to be issued within the next few days.

    The five face felony charges of participating in a terrorist group, committing terrorist acts and aggravated arms possession.

    [34] Search continues for missing migrants from capsized boat

    Greek coast guard units, aided by air force planes, were continuing for the second day on Monday a search operation in the sea region west of the Ionian island of Corfu for survivors of a wooden vessel that sank while ferrying more than 250 Afghan illegal immigrants towards Italy.

    The incident occurred on Sunday morning some 30 nautical miles west of Corfu.

    Port authorities had initially said that 22 people on the 30-metre vessel were still missing, while 232 survivors were picked up by the passing Dutch-flagged freighter "Momentum Scan" on Sunday and transported to the port of Corfu.

    Thirty of the rescued Afghan migrants suffered minor injuries due to adverse weather conditions in the area and were taken to the island's hospital for first aid treatment.

    The search and rescue operation for the missing migrants was continuing full swing on Monday afternoon, with the participation of vessels sailing in the vicinity, a Super Puma all-weather military helicopter and a deep-sea vessel.

    A total of 230 migrants -- 214 men, five women and 11 children -- all from Afghanistan, were rescued by the "Momentum Scan", as well as two Turkish migrant- smugglers.

    The migrants told authorities that a total of 263 people were on board the vessel that capsized, which means that the number of missing could rise to 31.

    [35] Sailing ban due to high winds

    A sailing ban in the ports of Piraeus, Lavrio and Rafina remained in place for a second day on Monday due to storm-force winds of up to 8 Beaufort velocity in Greece.

    The only routes being conducted on Tuesday were in the Argosaronic Gulf, for ferries headed to the island of Aegina.

    The Maritime Affairs, Islands and Fishing ministry recommended that passengers should first contact the local port authorities to be briefed on the sailing status.

    [36] Gunmen rob busload of Thessaloniki merchants en route to Istanbul

    A busload of 40 merchants from Thessaloniki traveling to Istanbul were held up by armed robbers outside Xanthi in the first hours of Monday, police said.

    They said that two men flagged down the bus and, wielding a hand grenade, forced the driver to take the bus to a remote spot where two more accomplices armed with Kalashnikov rifles and with their faces covered also boarded the bus.

    The gunmen took cash and jewelry from the passengers, and escaped the scene in a small truck.

    The incident took place at 1:40 a.m.

    The merchants were giving statements to the Xanthi security police.

    [37] Greek bulk carrier pirated in Somali Basin

    A Greek-owned, Cyprus-flatted bulk carrier was hijacked by Somali pirates some 500 nautical miles off Oman, in the Somali Basin, in the early hours of Monday, the EU's Naval Force in Somalia (EUNAVFOR) said.

    According to a EUNAVFOR release: 'In the early hours of Monday 17 January, the bulk carrier MV EAGLE was attacked and pirated by a single skiff, with pirates firing small arms and a Rocket Propelled Grenade before boarding the vessel. The attack occurred in the Gulf of Aden, 490 nautical miles South West of Salaam, Oman."

    The EU's anti-piracy force also said that there has been no contact with the ship, "the MV Eagle," since the attack.

    "The MV EAGLE, which is Cypriot flagged and Greek owned, has a deadweight of 52,163 tonnes and a crew of 24 Filipinos and was on passage from Aqabar (Jordan) to Paradip (India) when it was attacked," EUNAVFOR said, adding that "there is no information concerning the condition of the crew".

    EUNAVFOR is monitoring the situation.

    [38] Istanbul mayor in Athens on Tues.

    Athens Mayor George Kaminis will receive his Istanbul Kadir Topbas at the Athens City Hall on Kotzia Square on Tuesday morning.

    Mayor Topbas is heading a city of Istanbul delegation visiting Athens within the framework of cooperation between the two major municipalities.

    [39] Constantine Karamanlis statue unveiled in Thessaloniki

    The statue of the late statesman Constantine Karamanlis, the founder of the New Democracy (ND) party, was unveiled at Thessaloniki's seafront promenade on Monday.

    Speaking at the ceremony, main opposition ND leader Antonis Samaras referred to Karamanlis' work and legacy, underlining that "Constantine Karamanlis started out as an innovative statesman, then became a leader of the nation and today is a symbol," he said.

    Representing the government, Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos pointed out that aside from being a symbol of unity, Constantine Karamanlis was the leader of the main opposition party for decades.

    "Karamanlis knew that when the democratic political culture is not honoured and built then the consequences will burden the country," Venizelos stated, adding that the place where the statue was erected is permanent.

    Controversy had flared recently over the placement of the statue at the city's seafront promenade with the new mayor objecting to the location selected by the preceding mayor.

    [40] Woman dies of H1N1 flu in Serres

    A 54-year-old woman died at the Serres General Hospital on Monday as a result of infection with the H1N1 flu virus.

    The woman had been in hospital for the last 10 days and the head of the hospital confirmed that her death was caused exclusively by the virus.

    [41] Teen arrested for animal torture after uploading footage on FB

    A 17-year-old pupil has been arrested in Trikala for torturing pet animals and uploading the videos and photographs on the Facebook social utility, police said on Monday.

    The highschool pupil faces animal cruelty charges.

    The case came to the attention of the police after internet users and animal rights groups in Greece and abroad sent e-mails protesting the videos and photographs, and the police electronics crime discovered the suspect's profile and uploads on Facebook.

    The police electronic crimes squad, through international collaboration, sought the assistance of the website's administrators and thus found the perpetrator's digital traces, which led to his home in Trikala.

    Police stormed the hose on Sunday and seized a PC hard drive containing video footage and photographs of the pet tortures.

    The relevant case file has been forwarded to the public prosecutor's office in Athens.

    [42] Police chase of vehicle carrying illegal migrants

    Thessaloniki police chased a car carrying 13 illegal migrants in the early hours of Monday.

    During the chase, the vehicle crashed into a patrol car near Derveni and sped off.

    Police managed to intercept the vehicle at the Halastra turn-off, where they found 13 illegal migrants inside.

    The case is being investigated by local police.

    [43] 2 arrested in forged documents ring

    Police arrested two foreign nationals on Monday on charges of running a major forged documents ring for illegal immigrants.

    According to reports, an apartment in the Athens district of Zografou turned up forged documents prepared by two Albanian nationals aged 39 and 47, while another Albanian is being sought.

    A search of the residence turned up seals of Greek and foreign services, as well as of Greek police services. Also found were fake ID cards and passports, special expatriate Greek ID cards, Greek and foreign driving licenses, residence permits, 52 blank certificates for residence permits, stamps of the Greek police and Albanian authorities, photos, tools for the creation of forged documents, passport photocopies and three PCs.

    [44] Bags with unprocessed cannabis found

    Police patrolling in the region of Sagiada in Thesprotia prefecture discovered four travel bags hidden in the bushes containing 110 kilos of unprocessed cannabis.

    Police placed the location under discreet surveillance but no one appeared to collect the drugs, which were later confiscated.

    Weather Forecast

    [45] Cloudy on Tuesday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 17C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 8C to 15C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 12C.

    [46] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Economic and labor issues were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Monday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The 'Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire' intended to target eponymous and not judges".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Karatzaferis-Samaras discussions".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Retroactive cuts to auxiliary pensions".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Two in three workers losing the 'heavy and hazardous' work benefit".

    ESTIA: "New bankruptcy speculations".

    ETHNOS: "Who will retain the 'heavy and hazardous' work benefit".

    IMERISSIA: "Critical Eurogroup meeting".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "New, painful measures brought by extension of the loan repayment period".

    TA NEA: "MPs mutiny on environment ministry biodiversity bill for construction in Natura protected areas a headache for PASOK".

    VRADYNI: "Extension of the Memorandum, too".

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