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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-01-22

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

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

Saturday, 22 January 2011 Issue No: 3701

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greek PM urges 'single economic policy' for euro
  • [02] PM addresses event in Thessaloniki
  • [03] ND accuses PM of trying to 'mislead' voters regarding pensions
  • [04] ND lashes out at gov't for statements on pensions hikes; list of tax debtors
  • [05] FM on continental shelf delineation with Albania
  • [06] Droutsas attends reception with Arab League ambassadors
  • [07] ECHR condemns Belgium and Greece in asylum case, finds Dublin II incompatible with human rights convention
  • [08] Archbishop Ieronymos to visit Syria, Lebanon
  • [09] Minister outlines new development law
  • [10] Transport minister defends fare increases for public transport
  • [11] Daihatsu to terminate activities in Feb 2013
  • [12] Hospital acquisition proposal
  • [13] Registered unemployment up 4.18% in Oct.
  • [14] Building materials costs up 3.6% in Dec.
  • [15] More than 150 companies delisted from ASE since 1999
  • [16] Stocks up 6.27% in week
  • [17] Greek bond market closing report
  • [18] ADEX closing report
  • [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday
  • [20] Police dismantle human-trafficking ring behind Corfu shipwreck
  • [21] Last-ever train from Pyrgos to Kalamata on Sunday
  • [22] Free pap smears in context of European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week
  • [23] Movement against paying road tolls spreading to public transport
  • [24] One-year OASA travel cards on sale from Monday
  • [25] Half million euro heist in Patras
  • [26] Pollution behind Evrotas fish kills, local residents report
  • [27] Suspected parcel bomb actually contained reading lamp
  • [28] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Greek PM urges 'single economic policy' for euro

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday presented arguments in favour of establishing a unified economic policy within the European Union, during a speech made to a Euro50 Group working dinner held in Athens.

    "We are building something different in Greece. That is what Europe should do also, change things and take its fate into its own hands," Papandreou said during the meeting on the theme "Eurozone at a crossroads" taking place at the Megaron Concert Hall.

    The Greek premier said that the economic crisis that hit Europe had revealed the weaknesses of the euro, showing that the common currency lacked a "master" and had no common finance ministry behind it.

    He stressed the need for a strong model of economic governance in the EU in order to avert developments that, if allowed to unfold unchecked, would create irreparable problems. According to Papandreou, there had to be a shift toward a single economic policy for Europe and Greece was determined to support the "leap" that this would require.

    Papandreou repeated his proposals in favour of issuing a eurobond, saying that it would be a "shame for Europe not to have this powerful tool".

    The Greek prime minister said many people took a pessimistic view and considered Europe condemned to weakness and an inability to make decisions.

    "To those and their arguments Greece counters with its own route, showing that nothing is impossible and nothing is preordained," he added.

    He appeared confident that Europe would prove its critics wrong in the same way that Greece had proved wrong those that had written the country off the previous year.

    Among Greece's achievements in 2010, Papandreou pointed to a reduction of the deficit by six percent of GDP and said that this was one of the reasons by the Eurogroup had decided to extend the repayment period for the Greek loans, along with the progress made in fiscal policy and other changes.

    The Euro50 Group meeting was hosted in Athens by Labour and Social Insurance Minister Louka Katseli, who is a permanent member of the forum.

    [02] PM addresses event in Thessaloniki

    Optimism that the battle for a stable economic environment being waged in the EU will be won, with Greece o n the front line, was expressed by prime minister George Papandreou at a Regional Development Ministry event in Thessaloniki on Friday attended by representatives of the productive sectors.

    The creation of a stable economic environment will generate confidence and give answers to the business community's fears regarding investment risks, Papandreou said.

    On the calls for development, Papandreou put the question "what kind of development do we want?", and replied "not a return to the growth of the past that was state-dependent and found on unreturned loans or on subsidisation of doomed investments".

    That growth model was a failure, he explained, because 75-80 percent was founded on consumption of imported products, he said, noting that his government is advancing a new growth model, that of green viable growth, which is founded on the country's comparative advantages and the quality of products and services.

    The PASOK government has a realistic plan for improving entrepreneurship and promoting innovation, the premier added.

    Papandreou called for ideas and proposals, given that the government's target is healthy entrepreneurship with permanent and stable jobs.

    On northern Greece more particularly, he said it has knowhow, experience and innovative enterprises, stressing that the government is seeking to enhance its extroversion and boost exports.

    The premier put great importance on clamping down on corruption and eliminating bureaucracy, noting that in every conversation he has abroad on investments, these two issues always come up.

    On the changes being promoted by the government, Papandreou reiterated that they are not being imposed on Greece by anyone, but "we are making them of our own accord", and added that the difficult situation the country is currently going through renders them even more imperative.

    The country must rid itself of the "vicious circle of disaster-mongering", and expressed certainty that the Greeks will, as they have done in the past, succeed once again at this difficult conjuncture.

    He recalled that from its first year in office the government put the weight on fiscal adjustment, and now the weight was shifting to changing everything that led to the crisis and to introducing a different growth model.

    Papandreou said the government would very much like to reduce the taxation on businesses, but the economic conjuncture does not allow it, adding that if tax evasion and contribution evasion is eliminated then taxation on and contributions of businesses will be reduced.

    The premier stressed that the government wishes to create a business-friendly environment free of corruption and bureaucracy.

    [03] ND accuses PM of trying to 'mislead' voters regarding pensions

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) on Friday accused Prime Minister George Papandreou of "continuing to mislead the Greek people" in response to the premier's statements concerning a possible future increase in pensions.

    ND's press office said the government had been stripped of credibility by the finance ministry's refusal to publish the list of those owing large sums of money to the state, backtracking on a promise made by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou in Parliament.

    Pointing out that Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Kouselas had announced that the list would not be made public in Parliament on Thursday, ND's economy sector head Ioannis Vroutsis said that the deputy minister had either defied his superior or Papaconstantinou had been lying all along.

    "The only thing that is certain is that the PASOK government is misleading the Greek people," he added.

    [04] ND lashes out at gov't for statements on pensions hikes; list of tax debtors

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Friday lashed out at the government, accusing it of "still treating the Greek people like fools", in response to statements on future pension increases made by Prime Minister George Papandreou.

    The ND economy sector head also stressed that the government is left exposed after the unwillingness displayed by the finance ministry to publish a list with the names of major tax debtors, contrary to a recent pledge in parliament by the FinMin, ND charged.

    [05] FM on continental shelf delineation with Albania

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, speaking in Parliament on Friday, referred to a Greek-Albanian agreement on the delineation of the continental shelf between the two neighbouring states in the Ionian Sea.

    "Everything was done in a proper and effective way so that Albania will proceed with ratification of the agreement on the delineation of the continental shelf. Its content is based on international law and the Law of the Sea, allowing for bilateral and broader cooperation. Of course, Greece's position is for it (agreement) to be put into effect as soon as possible," Droutsas said.

    He attributed the delay in ratification by Tirana to "Albanian domestic processes, which we ought to respect."

    Droutsas pointed out that the delineation of the continental shelf will strengthen bilateral cooperation even more and assist in the neighbouring country's EU accession course.

    Moreover, he flatly dismissed criticism that Greece is reluctant to proceed with the settlement due to Turkish threats.

    "The government's target is to delimitate the sea zones with all its neighbours. A serious and systematic work is being done on behalf of the ministry of foreign affairs, and I need to make it clear that it did not start today. The preceding government was also active in this field because this is a common goal," he stressed.

    "The process is difficult but necessary because by settling the issue we seek regional stability, and I don't mean our relations with Turkey".

    In a related development amid a flurry of recent press reports and speculation over mineral resources, particularly claims of oil and gas deposits in the Aegean, Droutsas merely pointed out that the issue needs to be studied seriously.

    His statements came in response to a tabled question by opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) MP Vaitsis Apostolatos, who cited the lack of ratification by Tirana of the agreement, which was signed in April 2009.

    [06] Droutsas attends reception with Arab League ambassadors

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Friday attended a reception with ambassadors of Arab League member-states in Athens, hosted by the Lebanese ambassador at his residence.

    The foreign minister announced that he has addressed a letter to Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa requesting that Greece's ambassador to Cairo be accredited to the organisation, a move described as tangible proof of Athens' strong interest in forging closer relations with the Arab world.

    A special reference was made to the economy and the economic relations with the Arab countries.

    The discussion with the Arab ambassadors focused on all regional issues and recent developments in the wider Middle East region, Lebanon and Tunisia. On the Palestinian issue, Droutsas reiterated Athens' firm position in favour of a two-state solution that will co-exist in an environment of peace and security.

    [07] ECHR condemns Belgium and Greece in asylum case, finds Dublin II incompatible with human rights convention

    STRASBOURG (ANA-MPA - N. Roussis)

    The European Court of Human Rights has condemned both Greece and Belgium in a hearing on Friday for violating the human rights of an Afghan asylum seeker and attempting to extradite him without considering his application for asylum.

    The court's decision essentially judged that the provisions of the Dublin II treaty for asylum applicants - according to which they are returned to the EU member-state where they first entered the EU to have their application considered - to be contrary to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.

    The plaintiff had travelled through Iran and Turkey to reach Europe, first entering the European Union via Greece and finally arriving in Belgium where he applied for political asylum, saying his life would be at risk if he was returned to Afghanistan.

    In accordance with the provisions of the Dublin II treaty, Belgian authorities returned the applicant to Greece where he had first entered the EU. Greek authorities detained him for three days in very poor conditions in facilities adjacent to the Athens airport and then released him without examining his asylum application. He was then obliged to live on the streets without any means of supporting himself.

    Fearing arrest and deportation from Greece to Afghanistan, he appealed against his extradition to the ECHR on July 2, 2009 and the court ordered Greek authorities not to deport him until his case had been finally heard in Strasbourg.

    In March 2010 the court referred his case to an open hearing before the plenum in order to decide whether application of the Dublin II treaty for the readmission of asylum seekers was compatible with the Convention for Human Rights.

    The plaintiff accused Belgium and Greece of seeking to deport him without examining the reasons that forced him to leave Kabul and depriving him of the right to effectively appeal against the decision to deport him. He claimed that Greece had been ready to deport him, violating his right to life and clauses forbidding cruel or degrading treatment.

    The court condemned Greece for subjecting the plaintiff to cruel and degrading treatment because of the poor conditions of his detention as well as of violating his right to a fair and short trial, as well as the country's asylum system was judged inadequate.

    Greece was order to pay the plaintiff 1,000 euro in moral damages and 4,725 euro in court costs.

    In the same decision, Belgium was condemned for violating the plaintiff's right to life with its decision to deport him to Kabul and also his right to a fair and short trial. Belgium was required to pay the plaintiff 24,900 euro in damages and 7,350 euro in costs.

    [08] Archbishop Ieronymos to visit Syria, Lebanon

    Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece will pay an official visit to the Patriarchate of Antioch on Jan. 24-31.

    On Tuesday he will attend a litury at the Patriarchate's Cathedral of the Dormition and afterwards he and his entourage will visit local churches and monasteries.

    On Jan. 26, the Archbishop will visit Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, the country's Grand Mufti Ahmad Baderdeen Hassoun and the minister of education. In the afternoon of that day he will visit the Church of the Holy Cross in Damascus and afterwards he will visit the Greek embassy to attend a reception in his honor.

    On Jan. 27, he will depart for Lebanon where he will be received by Metropolitan Bishop Elias of Beirut. A doxology will be held at Beirut's Cathedral.

    On Jan. 28, the Archbishop will meet with the President of Lebanon and the Maronite Patriarch. He is also scheduled to meet with Armenian Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia.

    On Jan. 29, Archbishop Ieronymos will visit the University of Balamand and receive the institution's medal in a special ceremony.

    On Jan. 30, he will co-officiate in a doxology at the Patriarchate of Antioch Cathedral of the Dormition.

    Financial News

    [09] Minister outlines new development law

    Creating a new generation of entrepreneurs is a priority for the country, Regional Development & Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis said on Friday.

    Addressing an event held in Thessaloniki on a new development law introduced by the government, Chryssohoidis presented the prospects offered through the new legislation and noted that the government had a big plan for young entrepreneurs.

    "Our goal is the convince young people, around one million well educated and highly qualified, to begin new enterprises, to dare, to innovate creating a new generation of business people in the country," he said.

    Chryssohoidis also presented the main priorities of a new investment law, which are simplifying licensing procedures for manufacturing and industrial units, saying a new draft law will be tabled to Parliament on Monday.

    [10] Transport minister defends fare increases for public transport

    Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas justified the government's decision to substantially increase fares for urban public transport while speaking in Parliament on Friday, saying that the fare increases would help guarantee jobs and the state-owned nature of public transport.

    The minister was replying to a question tabled by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Alexis Tsipras about the rise in ticket prices on public transport and higher road tolls that had sparked a protest movement, with several drivers now refusing to pay tolls.

    In his reply, Reppas urged opposition parties to show "greater responsibility" in their rhetoric and stressed that "irresponsible criticism was not a political proposal".

    Concerning the higher fares for public transport that go into effect next month, he said this would help preserve jobs in Athens public transport organisations and keep them in the public sector.

    "This is, of course, also ensured through subsidies but this is a wager that we must win every day, if we want to have organisations that don't amass deficits," he added.

    Reppas said that the state had subsidised Athens public transport with 130 million euro in 2010 and had paid out direct subsidies amounting to 727 million euro from 2004 until 2009. In the same period their borrowing needs had burdened the state debt with an additional 2.3 billion euro, their accumulated debt amounted to 3.8 million euro and their payroll costs had increased 43 percent in that time.

    Tsipras countered by saying that the decisions taken by the government were proving "heartless and ineffective", while responsibility for the deficits lay with governments and overpriced procurements, not the employees or general public.

    He also pointed out that government ministries had built up huge debts with public transport organisations, which had then been forced to borrow at interest and amass debts.

    [11] Daihatsu to terminate activities in Feb 2013

    Daihatsu will terminate its vehicle sales business in Greece as of Feb. 1, 2013 after the Japanese car manufacturer announced it will terminate activities in the entire European market by January 2013.

    Following the decision, Agripan, a local importer and the Daihatsu representative in Greece for more than two decades, said it will continue offering maintenance and after-sales services to 60,000 Daihatsu vehicle owners.

    Daihatsu Industries said the main reason behind its decision to exit the European market is increasingly high model development costs (related to the euro/yen currency rate), anticipated burdens from CO2 emissions ceilings in the EU and dropping sales.

    [12] Hospital acquisition proposal

    The Athens Medical Centre S.A. on Thursday announced that it has submitted a proposal to the Greek Red Cross-affiliated Henry Dunant Foundation for acquisition of the Henry Dunant Hospital in Athens.

    Confidentiality will be fully observed while the procedure is in progress and investors will be updated on developments, according to a statement issued by the company.

    [13] Registered unemployment up 4.18% in Oct.

    The number of registered unemployed people rose 4.18 pct in December 2010 to 653,552, the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) announced on Friday.

    The southern Aegean (20.80 pct) region recorded the biggest percentage increase among the countries regions, which also recorded the highest rate in long-term unemployment (9.09 pct), followed by the northern Aegean region (8.6 pct).

    OAED said 35.98 pct of registered unemployed were registered for a period of more than 12 months, while the remaining 64.02 pct were registered for a period of less than 12 months. The Attica region (greater Athens) accounted for 33.62 pct of unemployed people, followed by the central Macedonia region (20.74 pct).

    The number of people taking unemployment benefits totaled 277,904 in December, up 71,125 compared with November. The biggest number of unemployed people, receiving unemployment benefit was recorded in March 2010 (296,245).

    New hirings fell 11.42 pct in December compared with December 2009, while lay offs fell were down 5.92 pct compared with November.

    [14] Building materials costs up 3.6% in Dec.

    Costs for building materials rose 3.6 pct in December, for an average increase of 3.0 pct last year, the Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Friday. The index was up 1.0 pct in December 2009.

    The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development to a 41.8 pct increase in diesel oil, a 24.1 pct in steel pipes, a 12.8 pct in plastic pipes and a 3.3 pct in the price of bricks.

    The index was up 0.4 pct in December from November, after an increase of 0.3 pct in December 2009.

    The 12-month average index was up 3.0 pct last year after a decline of 0.7 pct recorded in the previous 12-month period.

    [15] More than 150 companies delisted from ASE since 1999

    More than 150 companies have delisted from the Athens Stock Exchange since 1999 for various reasons. A report by the Association of Listed Enterprises, based on 2009 figures, showed that 149 listed enterprises delisted from the market, with the number rising to 158 after the addition of the nine companies that left the bourse in 2010.

    The nine companies to exit the market in 2010 were Imako, Rainbow, Singular Logic, Omega Fund, Benroubi, AV Vassilopoulos, Lyberis Publications, ATE Insurance and Informer.

    Eight companies delisted in 2009: Piraeus Leasing, Ellatex, Rocas, Gener, Ergas, Grigoris Snacks, Multirama and ETMA, with another 12 in 2008: Elais, National Insurance, Cosmote, Active Investment, Pouliadis, Neohimiki, Kego, Unisystems, Everest, Terna, Blue Star and Allatini.

    The Athens Stock Exchange gained 90 enterprises in the booming years of 1999 and 2000, of which 69 companies are still listed in the bourse.

    The year 2006 was another milestone for the ASE with 41 enterprises delisted. The majority of delistings were the result of mergers or acquisitions (37), another 15 were delisted after a public offer and 42 because of a long-term absence from transactions, mostly due to serious financial problems.

    [16] Stocks up 6.27% in week

    Stocks ended moderately lower at the Athens Stock Exchange as investors took profits ahead of the weekend and after a sharp two-day advance of prices.

    The composite index ended 0.67 pct down at 1,536.58 points, for a net gain of 6.27 pct in the week. Turnover was an improved 164.8 million euros, with investment interest focusing on small and medium capitalization stocks.

    The Big Cap index fell 0.63 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.70 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 2.07 pct. The Health (9.67 pct) and Commerce (4.35 pct) scored gains, while Food (4.23 pct) and Travel (4.01 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Piraeus Bank (5.84 pct), Cyprus Bank (2.62 pct) and Alpha Bank (2.50 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while OPAP, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling and OTE were major losers.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 107 to 68 with another 51 issues unchanged. Mihaniki (20 pct), Klonatex (20 pct), Vell Group (15.38 pct) were top gainers, while Ideal (19.35 pct), CPI (16.67 pct) and Paperpack (16.48 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.51%

    Industrials: +2.73%

    Commercial: +4.35%

    Construction: -0.40%

    Media: +3.22%

    Oil & Gas: +1.20%

    Personal & Household: -0.18%

    Raw Materials: unchanged

    Travel & Leisure: -4.01%

    Technology: +3.39%

    Telecoms: -3.90%

    Banks: +1.26%

    Food & Beverages: -4.23%

    Health: +9.67%

    Utilities: -0.78%

    Chemicals: -0.26%

    Financial Services: +0.04%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.10

    ATEbank: 0.78

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.61

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.95

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.39

    National Bank of Greece: 6.89

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.06

    OPAP: 13.61

    OTE: 7.15

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.63

    Titan: 16.01

    [17] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 807 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.24 pct and the German Bund 3.17 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 16 million euros of which 14 million were buy orders and the remaining 2.0 million euros were sell orders. The six-month Treasury bill was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 6.0 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.57 pct, the six-month was 1.27 pct, the three-month 1.02 pct and the one-month rate 0.79 pct.

    [18] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.98 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange, with turnover rising slightly to 64.544 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 14,192 contracts worth 50.891 million euros, with 33,018 short positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 39,618 contracts worth 13.654 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (15,606), followed by Eurobank (1,642), MIG (1,670), OTE (2,359), National Bank (5,172), Alpha Bank (2,666), Marfin Popular Bank (5,508), Mytilineos (708) and Hellenic Postbank (467).

    [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.362

    Pound sterling 0.855

    Danish kroner 7.512

    Swedish kroner 9.030

    Japanese yen 112.76

    Swiss franc 1.311

    Norwegian kroner 7.955

    Canadian dollar 1.358

    Australian dollar 1.377

    General News

    [20] Police dismantle human-trafficking ring behind Corfu shipwreck

    Authorities on Friday announced the dismantling an organised ring of human traffickers linked to a disastrous shipwreck off the island of Corfu, in which an unknown number of people are believed to have drowned. The ring was made up of at least seven individuals that charged hefty fees to transport illegal migrants to Italy and was dismantled in joint operations by the police and coast guard.

    Two Iraqis and one Moroccan national were arrested by Nikaia police based on a warrant issued by a public prosecutor on Corfu. The two Iraqis are believed to be the leaders of the ring and were responsible for the fatal journey using the aged wooden boat that sank on January 15, 30 nautical miles west of Corfu.

    An unknown number of illegal migrants were on board the vessel, of which 228 were rescued from the water by a passing freighter and returned to Corfu harbour, among them five women and 11 children. The survivors said that there were at least 260 people on board the boat but no bodies have been recovered by authorities so far.

    According to information collected by police, the migrant smugglers transported the migrants in trucks from Schisto, Lefkas and loaded them onto the wooden vessel bound for Italy.

    Also arrested in connection with the case were two Turks caught on Corfu, who had been sailing the shipwrecked boat, a 41-year-old Syrian national in Neos Kosmos and an Afghan national arrested by coast guard officers in Attica.

    [21] Last-ever train from Pyrgos to Kalamata on Sunday

    The last-ever Greek Railways Organisation (OSE) trains between the Peloponnese cities of Pyrgos and Kalamata will run this Sunday, after which the service is suspended until further notice.

    According to an announcement on Friday by train operators TRAINOSE, the following Monday will see the suspension of train services 1350, 1351, 1352 and 1353 that run on the Pyrgos-Kalamata-Pyrgos line.

    The decision to scrap the lines forms part of TRAINOSE's new policy for reforming OSE that calls for the suspension of lines running at a loss in order to reduce OSE's expenses.

    [22] Free pap smears in context of European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

    Free pap smears (Papanicolaou tests) will be available to all women in Greece from 15 years of age and up at the of country's state and university hospitals with gynecology clinics throughout the last week of January (24-31), it was announced on Friday.

    The program of the free screening throughout the country is being carried out in the framework of the National Action Plan against cancer and the 5th annual European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.

    Although early diagnosis is possible through pap smears, cervical cancer is the second most frequent form of cancer among the female population worldwide.

    [23] Movement against paying road tolls spreading to public transport

    A movement urging passengers on public transport to not pay tickets in protest against a recent sharp increase in fares, along similar lines as the movement urging non-payment of road tolls, emerged in Athens and Thessaloniki on Friday.

    Members of the citizens' movements "High Prices Stop" and "Passengers of Thessaloniki" on Friday held a symbolic sit-in on buses and urged passengers not to stamp their tickets, while similar demonstrations were held at the metro station in Syntagma and the ISAP station in Piraeus.

    The Athens Public Transport Organisation OASA warned that this movement, along with ordinary fare-dogding, could prove a significant hole in its revenues. OASA currently runs up a significant deficit and needs to be bailed out with state funds each year.

    Current figures show that on certain types of public transport, especially on buses, up to 40 percent of the passengers ride without paying for a ticket at all. This is especially true since the introduction of tickets giving unlimited travel for 90 minutes. Passengers frequently pass these on to strangers when they reach their destination, who can then use them without the fear of fines during an inspection.

    OASA said that the phenomenon will be dealt with by introducing more frequent inspections or by introduction of an electronic ticket, something that has been announced up to four times in the past five years but never implemented.

    The transport ministry has promised to organise a tender asking offers for the installation of an electronic ticket system next month and to pick a contractor by the end of this year using the method of public-private partnership.

    [24] One-year OASA travel cards on sale from Monday

    One-year travel cards will be on sale at the new revised prices from Monday January 24, the Athens public transport organisation OASA announced on Friday. These will include the 450-euro travel cards valid on all means of public transport in the Athens area (up to Koropi station on the airport line of the Proastiakos and metro), a 200-euro card giving unlimited travel on buses, trolleys and trams (except the airport express buses and the E22 bus from Varkiza to Saronida).

    The new one-year cards will be valid until January 31, 2012.

    [25] Half million euro heist in Patras

    A massive bank robbery was reported in the western port city of Patras, with the heist reportedly netting a whopping half million euros.

    According to reports, two robbers, wearing helmuts, busted a glass pane with sledge hammers and entered the back in the morning. The duo fled with the high-powered motorcycle. No other details were available.

    [26] Pollution behind Evrotas fish kills, local residents report

    Dead fish are being washed up along the Evrotas River in the past few days due to pollution of the water, local authority representatives from villages along the river in the region of Skala Lakonia said in a protest resolution on Friday.

    They complained that the river, which a main water supply for surrounding homes and farmland, part of the Natura network and whose delta is one of the last important wetlands in southern Greece, had been abandoned to its fate by authorities and was at risk from economic interests.

    "In the past few days we have once more become witnesses of the rape of the Evrotas ecosystem. Hundreds of fish are suffocating in the waters polluted by the wastes of oil presses and other polluting units," the resolution reported.

    They called for immediate action from the authorities to locate the units responsible for polluting the river and take measures for the protection of the river.

    [27] Suspected parcel bomb actually contained reading lamp

    Bomb disposal experts on Friday proceeded with a controlled explosion to neutralise a suspicious parcel detected at the regional development and competitiveness ministry building in Athens.

    A state of alert was called at the ministry building for roughly an hour, whereas it was later established that the package actually contained a reading lamp and not an explosive device.

    [28] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The Siemens scandal and economic issues were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Friday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "We'll be paying dearly even for aspirin".

    AVGHI: "The 'catharsis' by PASOK-ND a scandal - Agreement for cover-up in Siemens scandal".

    AVRIANI: "When you can retire and how".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Simitis (former PASOK prime minister) and eight ministers (PASOK and ND) implicated in Siemens scandal".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Green 'laundry' for 200 million euros in kickbacks".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Siemens scandal: Game with the names".

    ETHNOS: "New fiasco with the Siemens scandal reports".

    IMERISSIA: "Market 'sees' outlet from crisis - Athens Stock Exchange takes for granted solution to debt problem, posts rise".

    KATHIMERINI: "Political games with Siemens scandal".

    LOGOS: "Bargaining over report (parliamentary fact-finding commission's conclusions) on Siemens scandal".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Speculation of debt restructuring increases".

    NIKI: "Debt 'trim' locks in at 20 percent".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The blame in the Siemens scandal lies with PASOK, ND".

    TA NEA: "Kallikratis plan in the schools, with mergers".

    VRADYNI: "The state is the biggest debtor".

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