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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-01-28

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

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

Friday, 28 January 2011 Issue No: 3706

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM cites 'more transparency, responsible measures' as antidote to Greek economic crisis
  • [02] PM's meetings at Davos forum
  • [03] PM speaks to CNN at Davos
  • [04] Gov't again rejects talk of debt restructuring
  • [05] Foreign minister meets Montenegrin leadership, stresses 'Agenda 2014'
  • [06] Deputy FM addrsses event on Holocaust Remembrance Day
  • [07] Law School building occupation continues as migrants mull proposal to move
  • [08] Migrants in Law School decide to stay put
  • [09] Athens University: Suitable building secured for relocation of migrants occupying Law School
  • [10] University seeks police aid to remove migrants in Law School building
  • [11] LAOS tables bill for abolition of university asylum
  • [12] Turkish frigate reported in Greek territorial waters
  • [13] IMF says Greece, Ireland and Portugal to continue fiscal restructuring
  • [14] Troika experts begin latest inspection of Greek economy
  • [15] EIB to support Greek SMEs with up to three billion euros
  • [16] President briefed by central bank chief
  • [17] Commission takes Greece, Finland, Malta to task over marine strategy legislation
  • [18] Pharmacists, doctors to strike next week
  • [19] Poll: Vast majority of citizens favor opening up of 'closed professions', markets
  • [20] Emporiki Bank signs 45-mln-euro sale, lease-back deal
  • [21] Stocks continue moving up
  • [22] ADEX closing report
  • [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [24] EU to take Greece to court over Lake Koroneia
  • [25] 'Cells of Fire' suspect with outstanding warrants arrested
  • [26] Arsonists target Zografou town hall, foreign fast-food restaurant in Ambelokipi
  • [27] Albanian migrants protest in Thessaloniki over Tirana deaths
  • [28] H1N1 toll rises to nine
  • [29] Marathon Association AIMS to set up headquarters in Athens
  • [30] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM cites 'more transparency, responsible measures' as antidote to Greek economic crisis

    DAVOS (ANA-MPA/V. Mourtis)

    The Greek problem is more a problem of governance and a lack of transparency, Prime Minister George Papandreou said here on Thursday.

    In his opening address during a discussion on economic reforms in the European Union, the Greek premier said a year ago people asked if Greece would default.

    "We took all measures with responsibility, we did our duty. We emphasised full transparency and already we are one of the most transparent countries in the world. We cut the deficit by 6.0 pct, resolved the pension problem and are opening up closed professions. But markets have not reacted yet," Papandreou said.

    He noted that financial system should be more transparent and added that the necessary tools are needed to calm markets.

    Commenting on the European Financial Support Fund (EFSF), Papandreou said it should be robust and flexible. Europe is currently debating financial governance, equality and common values, he said, adding that Europe was a large and peaceful project. "We want Europe to be a model of governance and green growth," he added.

    Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the eponymous World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos, Papandreou met with the forum's president and founder, Klaus Schwab. The latter reportedly praised the Greek PM and people's efforts over the recent period.

    Issues discussed included the 2011 forum and the Greek economy, with Papandreou also tabling a proposal for the holding of a European regional forum, possibly hosted in Greece.

    [02] PM's meetings at Davos forum

    DAVOS (ANA-MPA / V. Mourtis)

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou met here Thursday, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, with former US president Bill Clinton, former UNSG Kofi Annan and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.

    Talks between Papandreou and Clinton focused mainly on energy issues and "green development".

    [03] PM speaks to CNN at Davos

    DAVOS (ANA-MPA/V.Mourtis)

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou expressed his conviction that Greece would exit successfully from the current economic crisis and would become more competitive through structural reforms that are being implemented in the country.

    In an interview with the CNN on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum here, Papandreou also noted: "We are changing Greece for the better. We are making a better country. More competitive."

    He also ruled out a possible restructuring of the country's debt.

    "A restructuring of the existing debt is out of the question. It is not part of our plans," he also underlined.

    Regarding the Eurozone, the Greek premier said that member-states "should demonstrate fiscal responsibility...and if we have great debts or deficits we must handle them."

    As regards Greece, Papandreou said "we are achieving targets, and sometimes we exceed them. We have decreased the deficit by a clear 6 per cent, which is a great, a spectacular decrease."

    [04] Gov't again rejects talk of debt restructuring

    The government on Thursday again flatly dismissed speculation over a restructuring of the country's debt. Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis, speaking to reporters, said the government was only discussing an extension of a repayment period for the 110-billion-euro bailout by the EU-ECB-IMF "troika".

    "For the past 15 months, every day, there are comments on the Greek economy, comments initially referring to a default and we are proving that not only we have not default but we are creating the prospects to exiting the crisis," he said, adding that "based on this, we reject a restructuring of the debt. Our only discussion is extending the repayment period for the 110-bln-euro loan".

    [05] Foreign minister meets Montenegrin leadership, stresses 'Agenda 2014'

    PODGORICA (ANA-MPA - N. Melissova)

    During a visit to Montenegro on Thursday, Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas emphasised that the 'Agenda 2014' initiative for the European integration of the western Balkans was a strategic goal for Greece.

    "Our common European future brings our two countries and their peoples closer," Droutsas said during a round of meetings held in the Montenegrin capital one day before the start of the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) ministerial meeting on Friday.

    In joint statements with Montenegro's Foreign Minister Milan Rocen, Droutsas said that promoting Greece's 'Agenda 2014' initiative had already enhanced the European profile of western Balkan countries and he stressed that Montenegro, in particular, was seen as a "success story".

    He pointed out that the relatively new republic had already 'won' a visa for the EU, had signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement and had received the status of candidate country.

    Rocen emphasised that his country was progressing with the preparation of an Action Plan on the requirements demanded for its accession. He thanked Greece for its support of Montenegro's accession bid but also its assistance during recent floods.

    Asked about his meeting on Friday with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, Droutsas repeated that there was political will to find a solution in Athens and that "we have clearly stated our position on a name with a geographic determinant for use with all parties".

    He also pointed out that the Greek side, including Prime Minister George Papandreou, had several times initiated contacts with Skopje's leadership.

    "We want to see progress in the talks under the auspices of the United Nations and I once again call on Skopje to display a constructive spirit, to avoid actions and expressions that do not help Greece's sincere efforts," he added.

    After meeting Rocen, Droutsas had successive meetings with Montenegro's Prime Minister Igor Luksic, Parliament President Ranko Krivokapic and Montenegro's President Filip Vujanovic. Later on Thursday he was to address diplomats and senior civil servants of Montenegro.

    [06] Deputy FM addrsses event on Holocaust Remembrance Day

    Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis invited citizens on Thursday to fight for "open societies, for prosperous societies, for societies of freedom, equality, brotherhood and justice", while addressing an event on the occasion of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was organised at an Athens synagogue.

    "Without feelings of revenge, we must not forget this hideous part of world history," the minister said, adding "we must all unite our voice against anti-Semitism."

    [07] Law School building occupation continues as migrants mull proposal to move

    The 237 economic migrants occupying an Athens University Law School building were still there on Thursday afternoon, discussing a proposal by university authorities that they be moved to another suitable building in the centre of Athens to continue their hunger strike.

    Authorities are waiting for their decision before deciding what action to take, hoping to avoid the need to forcefully evict them from the building.

    The Initiative for Solidarity with Migrants' that helped bring the migrants to Athens from Crete and got them into the building will hold a meeting at 7:00, while stressing that the final decision on whether to agree to move will be made by the migrants themselves.

    An empty building meeting the necessary safety and hygiene standards was found with the assistance of non-governmental organisations late on Wednesday night and representatives of the migrants paid it a visit to check that it meets requirements. So far, however, the group has made no final decision on whether they are willing to move.

    Early on Thursday morning, Supreme Court Prosecutor Ioannis Tentes paid a visit to the Athens University Rector Theodosis Pelegrinis. After the meeting, the rector said he was anxious to avoid a violent evacuation of the building and Tentes stressed that law enforcement authorities could not intervene unless they were invited to enter the building by the university.

    On the side of the government, however, ministers stress that the situation must be brought to an end swiftly and they have repeatedly stressed that university authorities must apply the law and invite police to evacuate the building if the migrants refuse to leave.

    "There are no margins for extending a situation that benefits neither the country nor anyone else," Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou said in Parliament on Thursday.

    The minister stressed that the entry of the migrants into the building was an "abuse and infringement of university asylum by a group of migrants that was led there and guided by specific organisations and political forces".

    She also stressed that a legal framework for dealing with such situations existed and had to be enforced.

    Diamantopoulou noted that the university's proposal that the migrants be moved to another building off the campus was positive, noting that the education ministry was awaiting an answer and that this had to be given soon.

    University authorities decided on Thursday to reopen the law school in an adjacent building, after initially closing it on grounds of health and safety when the migrants first moved in.

    The migrants are occupying an older building that was not currently being used for classes but was undergoing repairs and renovation. They arrived there on Sunday night from Crete and began a mass hunger-strike to demand legal residence status for themselves and all the roughly 400,000 illegal migrants currently estimated to be in Greece.

    [08] Migrants in Law School decide to stay put

    The economic migrants occupying an Athens University Law School building announced their decision not to move late on Thursday. The 237 migrants had been in a meeting throughout the day to discuss a proposal by university authorities that they be moved to a suitable building off campus, where they could continue a hunger strike to demand legal residence status.

    A representative of the "Solidarity Initiative" that assisted the migrants in their occupation of the building, Nikos Yiannopoulos, said they had decided not to move to another area because they did not consider that their occupation was inconveniencing anyone, since the building was not being used for classes, and that the other building suggested did not meet the health and safety requirements that had been agreed.

    Their refusal to move ends hopes for an easy resolution to the issue and may now force university authorities to ask for the assistance of police to forcibly remove them.

    [09] Athens University: Suitable building secured for relocation of migrants occupying Law School

    Athens University authorities in the early hours of Thursday announced that they have found a suitable building for the relocation of some 250 hunger-striking economic migrants without residence permits who have been occupying a Law School building in central Athens since Monday in demand of legalisation of all migrants in Greece.

    Following a series of consultations for "finding a peaceful solution" to the takeover by the illegal migrants of a Law School building that is currently closed for renovation, the Athens University's Council of Rectors announced: "Despite the adversities, we secured, today, a building that fulfills all the safety and health conditions, in the center of Athens, for the relocation of the migrants."

    "This solution was made possible with the cooperation and assistance of four non-governmental organisations (NGOs) -- the Red Cross, the Medecines du Monde, the Mental Health Regional Development Society and the Apostoli ('Mission', the Church of Greece's NGO) -- which will see to the settlement and support of the migrants in the new location," the announcement said, adding that Athens University will "guarantee the safe transport" of the migrants to the new location with its own means and with the assistance of the university community.

    The announcement further thanked the NGOs and "their contribution to resolving this acute problem".

    "The University is part of the solution, and this is what was sought from the outset," the announcement, issued just after midnight Wednesday, said, adding that "tomorrow (Thursday) morning, we expect the cooperation of the migrants for their smooth relocation to the new building".

    [10] University seeks police aid to remove migrants in Law School building

    The head of the first-instance court public prosecutors' office Eleni Raikou on Thursday received a request from Athens University authorities to allow the police to intervene in order to remove a group of migrants currently occupying an Athens University Law School building.

    The university's request was announced shortly after the 237 migrants in the building turned down the university's offer of alternative premises, off the campus, in which to hold a mass hunger strike to demand legal residence status for themselves and an estimated 400,000 illegal migrants currently living in Greece.

    After discussing the university proposal on Thursday, the migrants turned down the offer on the grounds that the building proposed did not meet their requirements. Buses sent by university rector Theodosis Pelegrinis to transport the migrants to the new premises finally departed empty.

    Among their objections was the fact that only the migrants could be in the building proposed and not the groups supporting their efforts, that the premises would be guarded by police and that this would lead to tensions and, thirdly, because the proposed solution was temporary and not permanent.

    Speaking from the occupied building, Pelegrinis stressed that every effort had been made to come to an understanding with the migrants and emphasised that the university building would be protected.

    A group of 237 migrants lacking legal residence status were brought to Athens from Crete on Sunday and installed in the old Law School building, which is currently unused and undergoing renovation. Once inside, they announced the start of a mass hunger strike on Tuesday in order to demand legal residence for themselves and all the roughly 400,000 migrants currently living in Greece without residence permits. Another 50 migrants have also begun a hunger strike at the Thessaloniki Labour Centre.

    [11] LAOS tables bill for abolition of university asylum

    The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party on Thursday tabled a draft law in parliament for abolition of the university asylum.

    In a statement, LAOS leader George Karatzaferis called the university asylum "outdated", adding that the draft law was tabled in the context of a discussion in the House on revision of the Greek Constitution, but also prompted by the takeover earlier in the week of an Athens University Law School building by illegal migrants.

    [12] Turkish frigate reported in Greek territorial waters

    The armed forces' general staff on Thursday reported that a Turkish frigate, identified as the "Yildirim", entered Greek territorial waters between the central Aegean islands of Skyros and Evia in the early morning hours on Thursday.

    A military communiqu? stated that the warship sailed into Greek territorial waters between 2:13 a.m. and 3:01 a.m. before exiting into international waters in a southeasterly heading, sailing towards the southern Aegean.

    Two Hellenic Navy vessels had shadowed the frigate. According to reports, the Turkish vessel is headed to Lebanon to participate in a UN force (UNIFIL) in the country.

    In a later response, Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos reminded that similar incidents involving violations of Greek territorial waters have increased in the past two years, with Hellenic Navy vessels in all instances issuing standard international warnings.

    He also said the foreign ministry is briefed on such incidents in order to proceed with relevant diplomatic notes.

    Financial News

    [13] IMF says Greece, Ireland and Portugal to continue fiscal restructuring

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)

    Greece, Ireland and Portugal will continue a significant forward-clinching fiscal restructuring they are currently implementing, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a report published on Thursday.

    The IMF report stressed that these efforts will translate into significant improvements, reflecting mainly spending cuts, including wages and pensions in the public sector. The report also stressed that it expected "further progress in reducing the fiscal deficit in 2012" for all three countries, while it noted that large European economies would adopt a restrictive policy resulting to lower deficits.

    [14] Troika experts begin latest inspection of Greek economy

    ? "troika" group of experts on Thursday began their regular inspection of the Greek economy, ahead of a decision to approve payment of the fourth tranche of a loan, worth 15 billion euros, to the country next month.

    The troika experts visited the finance ministry and will visit the Hellenic Statistical Authority, the Bank of Greece and government ministries related with the memorandum.

    The troika heads are expected to arrive in Athens next Monday. The inspection will focus on ratifying a revised memorandum and specifying measures, worth 12.77 billion euros, needed for the period 2012-2014. These measures will be published in the next few weeks, as part of a Stability Programme to be submitted with the European Commission and to become a law of the state by the end of April.

    The government plans to cover one-third of the 12.77 billion euros from raising revenues and the two-thirds of the money from cutting spending.

    [15] EIB to support Greek SMEs with up to three billion euros

    The European Investment Bank (EIB), in cooperation with Greece's development and finance ministries, can lend around one billion euros annually to SMEs in Greece in the next three years, EIB vice-president Plutarhos Sakellaris said on Thursday.

    Addressing a seminar on "Financing business activity in the new Greek economy", he said that EIB, in cooperation with 10 Greek commercial banks, has offered funds totaling 1.3 billion euros to small enterprises in Greece since 2007, while more than 1,600 enterprises have been offered loans in the last two years. Sakellaris noted that EIB has widened the range of enterprises eligible for funding, to include enterprises with a workforce of up to 3,000.

    He stressed that a Jeremie programme, worth 250 million euros for Greece, has already signed a financing agreement with Alpha Bank and it is about to sign another with National Bank, worth 120 million euros. The Jeremie programme will offer more than 400 million euros to small- and medium-sized enterprises, with the majority of this money within the year.

    [16] President briefed by central bank chief

    The resolution of long-standing weaknesses and problems is a condition for the much-needed growth of the Greek economy, Bank of Greece governor George Provopoulos stressed on Thursday during a meeting with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.

    The central bank chief pointed out that "the more boldly and determinedly we act, the faster we will enter into development", adding that so long as those weaknesses exist "we cannot even imagine growth".

    Provopoulos noted that, during his recent meeting with the prime minister, he was pleased to ascertain that they shared the same views on what the prerequisites are and where the weight must be put to move ahead as quickly as possible.

    The President asked to be briefed on the condition of the Greek banks, with Provopoulos replying that they are facing major challenges after a tough year in 2010 due to the economic crisis.

    The BoG chief clarified, however, that in the case of Greece the banking sector has suffered from the state economic crisis, whereas in Ireland the banking sector created the problems for the government.

    "That is an additional reason why the issue of tackling the fiscal problem is an urgent one," he added.

    [17] Commission takes Greece, Finland, Malta to task over marine strategy legislation

    The European Commission on Thursday called on Greece, Finland and Malta to comply with EU legislating requiring the drafting of marine strategies for protection of their seas.

    According to a Commission announcement, the three countries have not informed the Commission on adoption by national legislation of an EU framework directive on marine strategy, which should have been completed by July 15, 2010.

    If the three countries fail to inform the Commission, in two months' time, of the measures they have taken to transfer the EU directive into the national legislation, otherwise the Commission, under standing EU procedures, may refer the cases to the European Court of Justice.

    [18] Pharmacists, doctors to strike next week

    Greece's pharmacists on Thursday said that they would continue strike action in support of their demands for changes to the government's bill for liberalising their profession, with the board of the Panhellenic Pharmacists Association due to meet on Monday to decide what form their action will take.

    Pharmacists consider that they have achieved a first victory during a hearing held on the issue in Parliament but also want to see changes made to the draft bill.

    "Chiefly we want to see withdrawn the articles that concern a reduction in the proportion of population [per pharmacy] and the opening of pharmacies at a range of 200m from prescription-writing centres, which will lead to the opening of thousands of new pharmacies, the exhausting opening on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday (75 hours a week) and the discount to social insurance funds. Points on which the minister appeared to insist," they indicated.

    As of February 1, pharmacies in Attica will stop filling out prescriptions on credit to those insured by the social insurance funds OPAD, TSAY, TAS, ISAP and the lawyers fund that have outstanding debts of several months.

    Pharmacists will be joined in strike action by doctors, who are rallying in opposition to the health ministry's draft bill for reforming the health system and demand that it be withdrawn.

    Medical associations and doctors' unions in both the private and public sectors held a joint press conference on Thursday to announce planned strikes in early February. Doctors at the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) clinics said they would begin nationwide 48-hour rolling strikes on Tuesday until Friday in protest against planned mergers of social insurance fund health care services, saying it would lead to worse health care and very poor conditions for doctors.

    Hospital doctors have declared a four-hour work stoppage from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. next Tuesday in order to attend a protest by doctors outside the health ministry.

    The head of the hospital doctors union EINAP Stathis Tsoukalis noted that the proposed bill would lower both the quantity and quality of health care services and violate collective agreements to the point of abolishing them. He stressed that if it was voted for doctors would only carry out the legal number of extra-hours shifts, four to six a month, and not agree to work more.

    Doctors in private diagnostic clinics also complained that they were on the verge of bankruptcy because social insurance funds had delayed payment for the services of doctors working on contract for periods of between eight and 24 months, amassing a total debt nearing one billion euro.

    [19] Poll: Vast majority of citizens favor opening up of 'closed professions', markets

    Greek citizens apparently support a government plan to liberalise so-called "closed professions" in the country, with the majority of believing that any opening up of professional sectors will benefit the economy, poll results showed on Thursday.

    The poll, conducted by Metron Analysis firm for the finance ministry, also showed that most Greeks did not support the idea of supermarkets allowed to sell gas or pharmaceutical products. Eighty-two pct of respondents said they acknowledged the term "closed professions", with 78 pct saying they are in favour of opening up these sectors, whereas 15 pct declared their opposition. No less than 75 pct of respondents said liberalising closed professions will benefit the economy, with 16 pct saying it will hurt the economy.

    The government has presented a draft bill to liberalise various professional sectors. The bill is expected to be debated in Parliament probably next week.

    [20] Emporiki Bank signs 45-mln-euro sale, lease-back deal

    Emporiki Bank, a member of Credit Agricole Group, on Thursday announced the signing of an agreement with a Greek-American investor for the sale and lease-back of a portfolio of 14 of the bank's real estate properties around Greece, worth 45 million euros.

    A bank announcement said the deal, one of the largest such agreements in the local real estate market, was completed during a very difficult period for the Greek economy and the domestic property market, while it also creates conditions for further positive developments in the market, as the investor is interested in creating an investment vehicle in the local property market.

    The deal, the third signed by Emporiki Bank over the last two years, is part of a strategic plan to secure positive returns from its real estate portfolio.

    [21] Stocks continue moving up

    Stocks continued moving higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, although at a much slower pace, with buying activity focusing on blue chip stocks. The composite index of the market rose 0.14 pct to end at 1,570.05 points, off the day's highs of 1,583.01 points. Turnover was a low 122.195 million euros. The Big Cap index ended 0.01 pct higher, the Mid Cap index fell 0.50 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.63 pct down. Motor Oil (4.38 pct), OPAP (3.31 pct), PPC (2.68 pct) and Eurobank (2.44 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Cyprus Bank (3.16 pct), Hellenic Postbank (2.25 pct) and National Bank (1.48 pct) were top losers.

    The Chemicals (4.27 pct), Oil (3.05 pct) and Travel (2.96 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Media (4.03 pct) and Health (2.48 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 93 to 76 with another 56 issues unchanged. ANEK (13.46 pct), Alco (13.04 pct) and Vioter (12.5 pct) were top gainers, while Petzetakis (16.67 pct), Altec (12.5 pct) and Tzirakian (10 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: unchanged

    Industrials: +0.09%

    Commercial: -1.18%

    Construction: +1.18%

    Media: -4.03%

    Oil & Gas: +3.05%

    Personal & Household: -0.89%

    Raw Materials: -0.11

    Travel & Leisure: +2.96%

    Technology: +0.65%

    Telecoms: +0.41%

    Banks: -0.96%

    Food & Beverages: -1.51%

    Health: -2.48%

    Utilities: +2.44%

    Chemicals: +4.27%

    Financial Services: -1.02%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.13

    ATEbank: 0.74

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.89

    HBC Coca Cola: 21.70

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.84

    National Bank of Greece: 6.65

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.20

    OPAP: 15.29

    OTE: 7.43

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.63

    Titan: 16.20

    [22] ADEX closing report

    The March contract was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 39.310 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,767 contracts, worth 28.045 million euros, with 35,077 short positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 19,164 contracts worth 11.264 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,715), followed by Eurobank (1,743), OTE (1,096), PPC (1,550), Piraeus Bank (2,368), Alpha Bank (1,999), Mytilineos (475), Motor Oil (510) and Hellenic Postbank (529).

    [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.382

    Pound sterling 0.866

    Danish kroner 7.513

    Swedish kroner 8.916

    Japanese yen 114.81

    Swiss franc 1.304

    Norwegian kroner 7.986

    Canadian dollar 1.376

    Australian dollar 1.395

    General News

    [24] EU to take Greece to court over Lake Koroneia

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)

    The European Commission is referring Greece to the European Court of Justice for failing to protect Lake Koroneia, which is among the protected regions included in the Natura 2000 network.

    The case is being sent to court at the recommendation of European Commissioner for the environment Janez Potocnik.

    The Commission finds that Greece has failed to fulfil its obligations concerning the lake, in accordance with Community directives for habitats and birds, urban waste water treatment and discharges into water of dangerous substances.

    The announcement stressed that Lake Koroneia is an internationally important wetland that has been seriously affected by pollution and illegal water extraction, with serious consequences for the local fauna and flora.

    It also notes that a plan for the lake's rehabilitation, including actions partly funded by the EU, has made very slow progress.

    [25] 'Cells of Fire' suspect with outstanding warrants arrested

    A 23-year-old man arrested on Wednesday in Kifissia with two outstanding arrest warrants against him for participation in the "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire" urban terror group and in connection with a spate of parcel-bombs in November was led on Thursday before an examining magistrate.

    After the two warrants are executed, the suspect, identified as Michalis Nikolopoulos, will also be taken before a prosecutor to be charged for arms possession, given that police found a pistol and a handgrenade in his possession at the time of his arrest.

    [26] Arsonists target Zografou town hall, foreign fast-food restaurant in Ambelokipi

    Two arson attacks against a foreign fast-food restaurant in Ambelokipi and the Zografou town hall, both Athens districts, took place in the early hours of Thursday, causing damage but no injuries.

    The first attack occurred at 3:10 a.m., when a home-made incendiary device comprising eight small propane canisters exploded outside a McDonald's restaurant in Ambelokipi, causing material damage to the restaurant's glass facade and an advertising post.

    The ensuing fire was extinguished by firefighters who rushed to the scene.

    Some 20 minutes later, an identical device exploded outside the back entrance of the Zografou town hall causing a fire and breaking the building's glass facade. According to the fire brigade, which quickly extinguished the fire, five of the eight small propane canisters exploded.

    [27] Albanian migrants protest in Thessaloniki over Tirana deaths

    Albanian migrants working in northern Greece on Thursday held a demonstration in Thessaloniki to protest against the killing of three people in clashes with police during an anti-government protest in Tirana, as well as the policies of Sali Berisha's government in Albania.

    The migrants congregated in front of the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos in the centre of the city and then marched to the Albanian consulate, waving Greek and Albanian flags and holding up banners with photographs of the victims and messages such as "No more blood on the streets" or "Government of murderers".

    Organisers of the demonstration stressed that it was a peaceful protest that wanted the political issue in Albania to be solved in a peaceful way.

    "We are protesting over the way that our country is being run by the prime minister Sali Berisha and ask for something simple: if someone is unable to govern properly, they should leave. Allow someone else to govern better," a spokesman said.

    [28] H1N1 toll rises to nine

    One more person died as a result of the H1N1 flu virus on Thursday, raising the death toll in Greece to nine this year.

    The centre for the control and prevention of diseases KEELPNO reported that another seven people have been admitted to intensive care units in hospital with symptoms of the flu, bringing the total in ICUs to 33.

    Since the start of the year until today, a total of 61 people have been admitted to ICUs with H1N1 infections, of which nine have died and 19 have been discharged or returned to an ordinary hospital ward.

    Sports

    [29] Marathon Association AIMS to set up headquarters in Athens

    The headquarters of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) is to be transferred to Athens, following a Memorandum of Cooperation signed on Thursday by Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos and AIMS President Paco Borao.

    The move will link Athens with the Marathon race movement and make it the world capital of Marathons.

    Under the Memorandum, AIMS will be responsible for promoting Greece and a tourism destination in all the games given under its aegis throughout the world.

    In return the Greek state has an obligation to provide space for the new headquarters to be established, using part of the state-sector's real estate assets for this purpose. It will also provide its offices with two staff for secretarial support.

    The cooperation memorandum has a five-year duration, the same as the contract for the office space provided, while the sponsorship agreement is for three years.

    [30] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The takeover of an Athens University Law School building in central Athens by illegal migrants and the new tax bill were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Retirement from 52 or 55 years of age, under conditions, in the public sector".

    AVGHI: "Blatant blackmail on university, migrants".

    AVRIANI: "All those who governed the country and led to the disaster should be in prison, instead of statues being made in their honor".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Reductions in salaries in Greece demanded by...Germany".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Surprise regulation on retirement age".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Overnight bargaining for the (residency) permit of shame".

    ESTIA: "Tax legislation: 223 pages full of taxes".

    ETHNOS: "The new retirement ages in the public sector".

    IMERISSIA: "Three steps back on tax evasion penalties".

    KATHIMERINI: "Solution after the outcry".

    LOGOS: "Finally, let's function as a state".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "New tax bill without strict penalties".

    NIKI: "They're searching for an alibi to abolish the university asylum".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Dangerous plans against migrants and university asylum".

    TA NEA: "Withdrawal or raid - Overnight thriller at Law School".

    VRADYNI: "Adverse retirement regulations for mothers of minors".

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