|Sunday, 19 August 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-02-09
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 9 February 2011 Issue No: 3716
 PM Papandreou meets with Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker"The euro is not at risk and will survive; and Greece will survive thanks to the euro," visiting Eurogroup chairman and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker stressed on Tuesday after talks with Prime Minister George Papandreou at Maximos Mansion, the government headquarters, in Athens.
Present in the meeting were Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas.
Juncker stated that the repayment period for the Greek debt must be extended and expressed Europe's full support to the efforts made by Greece, saying characteristically, that "everybody in Europe admires Greece except from a few idiots".
As regards the repayment of the Greek debt, Juncker said that the EU consensus has been ensured and expressed support to the programme implemented by the Greek government, adding that more measures will be adopted if the goals set are not fully met.
On the Competitiveness Pact discussion underway in Europe and due to culminate with the March 25 Summit meeting, Juncker said that a proposal has been made by Germany and France. Greece and Luxembourg are in favour of competitiveness but they were not satisfied with the latest Council meeting, he said, adding that the proposals made by Germany and France are being studied.
On his part, Prime Minister Papandreou referred to the issues discussed with the Eurogroup chairman while, as regards the European debt crisis, he said that Europe must make the necessary decisions soon.
He added that Greece wants a comprehensive solution to the issue and referring to the programme implemented by the government, he stressed that "we have received a mandate from the Greek people to proceed with major reforms and that's what we do".
"We were forced by the debt and the deficits to adopt extraordinary measures to salvage the country," the premier said, adding that now the goal set is to change the country. "We proceed with a series of changes that are unrelated with the extraordinary measures and the message sent is that Greece is on the right track and the Greek people should be optimistic about the future," he stressed.
The Greek prime minister thanked Juncker for the support he provided both as Luxembourg prime minister and the head of the Eurogroup for Greece's efforts to exit from the crisis.
"Greece has proved that it can assume its responsibilities and its efforts are based on the toils and sacrifices of the Greek people," Papandreou stressed.
The prime minister further said that the European debt crisis can also be handled as an opportunity for the coordination of economic governance.
Focusing on the issue of illegal immigration, Papandreou said that Luxembourg supports control efforts being made by Greece and added that during Tuesday's meeting the joint will of Greece and Luxembourg for further strengthening their relations both bilateral and in the framework of the EU was confirmed.
The prime minister expressed support for growth and competitiveness, saying that the latter has also to do with investments in the qualitative upgrading of infrastructures, while as regards the competitiveness accord he said "we have not seen it."
Juncker said he was interested how the Greek premier was considering developments in the broader region noting that "Greece is the European Union's expert on Balkan and Middle East issues."
 ND leader Samaras meets JunckerMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras met on Tuesday with visiting Eurogroup chairman and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker with talks focusing on the world economic crisis and its repercussions in Greece.
Samaras said after the meeting that he discussed with Juncker recent developments in Europe, adding that what is important is the solutions being proposed today. He said that he agreed with the Eurogroup chairman on the need for issuing a Eurobond, extending the repayment period of the Greek debt accompanied by a decrease in the interest rate as well as the need for growth.
 FinMin holds talks with Eurogroup presidentFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou held a meeting on Tuesday with visiting Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker. No statements were made afterwards, but according to reports the meeting focused on issues that will preoccupy the next Eurogroup and Ecofin councils, such as the issue of the resources of the European Monetary Stability Fund, the widening of its functioning and the Franco-German "Competitiveness Accord."
Finance ministry sources also revealed that Juncker was very supportive in all issues, while realising that decisions must be taken as soon as possible regarding the extension of the debt, the size of the support mechanism and flexibility for handling the debt crisis in the eurozone.
An initial discussion will be held at the Eurogroup and Ecofin councils on February 14, while final decisions will be taken in the March councils that will be ratified by the summit.
 PM to chair cabinet meeting on WednesdayGerman former alternate chancellor and former foreign minister Joschka Fischer, as well as architect Alexandros Tombazis, will be intervening at the beginning of Wednesday's cabinet meeting focusing on bioclimatic and ecological planning.
The other issues of the cabinet meeting, that will be chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou, will concern among others the bill on the reforming of the system regarding the awarding and implementation of studies and public works contracts.
The meeting will also be briefed by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on the middle-term fiscal strategy plan.
 PM meets former German FM FischerPrime Minister George Papandreou held a meeting at noon on Tuesday with former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, for whom he hosted a dinner at the Acropolis museum.
The meeting was private since the two men have a personal friendship ever since they were both foreign ministers in their countries.
Fischer is in Greece, at the invitation of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), to attend an event on the theme "Europe in crisis."
 Gov't: "Greece is changing""Greece is changing; making a strong and well-coordinated effort. This is obvious to everybody and gradually acknowledged by even the most skeptical among foreign analysts," government spokesman George Petalotis said on Tuesday, stressing that the international markets "can see that we are not the problem anymore but part of the solution".
Petalotis referred to the six-month Treasury bills issue auctioned on Tuesday, stressing that the interest rate was satisfactory considering "the period we are going through". He also pointed out that the issue was 4.54 times oversubscribed and that foreign investors covered 80 pct of the auction.
"Once again we proved that stability, credibility and trust are restored as regards our economy," he underlined.
Petalotis stated that certain decisions were painful but necessary to allow the country to stand on its feet and pointed out that the government is trying to create a protection net for the financially weak and restore the income of the workers when conditions allow. He stressed that this can happen in a short period of time if we focus on the goals set and the implementation of major reforms.
Petalotis also underlined that inequality and privileges will not return.
"A European austerity plan is not up for discussion" and such plans are not being suggested, he stressed.
"Either way, we have already implemented tough measures and decisions to be able to continue to exist as a country," he said.
As regards the Greek deposits into Swiss banks made by tax-dodgers, he said that an effort is being made to cooperate with Switzerland on technical level to have access to such bank accounts, adding that during his visit to Davos the premier met with the Swiss President while FinMin Papaconstantinou has contacts with his Swiss counterpart.
Petalotis expressed satisfaction with the outcome of an opinion poll made public on Monday that showed ruling PASOK having a comfortable lead over main opposition New Democracy (ND).
Responding to a relevant question, Petalotis repeated that there will be no mass legalization of undocumented migrants and that each case is being processed separately in compliance with existing legislation.
 Petalotis condemns strikes and protests, ND stanceThe government was fighting a battle against all the bad elements from Greece's past and was the first that had the courage to stand up to the interests of confraternities representing a privileged few, government spokesman George Petalotis stressed on Tuesday. At the same time, he attacked the stance adopted by main opposition New Democracy.
"We have to consider what would have happened if we didn't today have the security and calm given us by the 110-billion-euro package," he emphasised, pointing out that the government had dared to make tough but essential decisions.
Petalotis emphasised that the greater part of the changes made by the government have been approved by the electorate but "do not have the approval of ND and the confraternities who find themselves put out of joint, those who oppose any real change being attempted in the country and those who invest in creating upheaval and chaotic situations."
Asked to comment on the strikes and reactions to the government's measures, Petalotis noted that these were to be expected when major upheavals and changes were happening but that those reacting did not form a single united front, since each group had different interests.
Regarding the protests by farmers, in particular, the spokesman said that participation in these was very small and strongly party influenced. He stressed that the government would not allow mobilisation by a very small number of farmers to obstruct traffic and close the borders.
He also dismissed the "I won't pay" movement objecting to higher road tolls and fare hikes in public transport, saying that they were not a movement but simply "freeloaders" who were making other people pay doubly for the things they refused to pay for.
Petalotis also pointed out that the government was currently reneogtiating the contracts for the road toll concessions signed by the ND government in 2007 so that the tolls charged would be significantly reduced.
He also stressed that 'I won't pay' was an attitude that did not become a democratic society and was anything but progressive in a time of crisis.
"We didn't need any 'I won't pay' movement to see that there was a problem with the road tolls, we raised the issue before anyone tried to create a so-called civil disobedience movement," he added, pointing out that the contracts with the consortiums had been signed by the Greek state and were binding for everyone until they were changed.
The spokesman also described this form of protest as "damaging" and noted that there were legal ways for people to protest.
He noted that the mobilisations against government measures came from people that wanted things to remain stagnant and that this coincided with ND's aims, which also didn't want anything to change.
Among others, he pointed to the visits by high-ranking ND officials to doctors occupying the health ministry and the lack of a clear condemnation of the strikes from the main opposition.
 No 'nasty surprises' in talks with EU-IMF inspectors, interior minister saysThere had been no "nasty surprises" for the public sector during his meeting on Tuesday with EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) inspectors, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis assured reporters.
The minister said the EU-IMF team had raised no objections to the changes announced by the government for reforming the public sector and denied rumours that they had asked for an increase in the ratio of departures to new hirings from 5:1 to 7:1.
He also denied rumours concerning further wage cuts in the public sector, saying that a reduction is the public-sector payroll would be achieved solely through the departure of employees and noting that 53,335 people left the public sector in 2010 alone.
Ragoussis said that their departure would allow the hiring of 10,500 new employees to the public sector that would include the 2,800 transfers from the Greek railways that were already underway.
He noted that requests for new staff from public sector agencies were currently at modest levels and thus no problems were expected to arise with the smooth operation of state services.
Among those that would be hired would be those that passed the exams set by the civil servants' selection board ASEP and those graduating from the Public Administration-Local Administration School, he added.
Based on estimates presented to EU-IMF experts by Ragoussis, an estimated 200,000 public-sector employees will have left the public sector by the end of 2013.
Concerning the new uniform pay scale for the public sector that the government is currently working on, Ragoussis said the troika team had not requested that its implementation be hurried along. At the same time, he emphasised that this would be implemented as quickly as possible and without any transitional period.
According to the minister, the new system would be modern and fairer, correcting the injustices of the previous system and what he called "outrageous" benefits, so that people with the same qualifications and a similar position would receive the same wage, regardless of what service they worked in.
 Samaras urges 'shadow ministers' to be productiveMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Tuesday urged his 'shadow ministers' to be productive and have a fighting spirit, in the first meeting of the shadow cabinet since the 'reshuffle' announced by the party leader in early January.
Samaras said that such meetings will be held on a regular basis while, once a month, the party secretaries will also attend the sessions.
"It is our obligation to have a fighting spirit," Samaras said, and urged the ND officials to exercise fruitful and productive opposition, which is what the people demand.
Samaras further said that the ND policies will be decided collectively so that there will be a single policy line and coordination. "We must wage the battle united," he said, and called on them to wage the fight with modern ideas "that lead to the Greece we envision".
 ND leader Samaras met with representatives of medical associationsMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Tuesday met with representatives of six medical associations, in a meeting that he requested himself.
The ND president was briefed on their positions as regards the draft healthcare law currently discussed in parliament and outlined the positions of his party on the proposed legislation, which will be voted down by ND in its first reading.
 KKE leader discusses immigration with PMCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga met on Tuesday with Prime Minister George Papandreou and presented to him a series of proposals for handling the problem of immigration, which she termed "explosive".
Speaking after the meeting, Papariga expressed her absolute disagreement with government policy on the immigration issue, referred analytically to the humanitarian problem that has been created and noted that "wars and tyrannical regimes are the main causes of immigration waves".
Papariga stressed that serious side-effects may result through the way of handling the problem and called for an end to separation between legal and illegal immigrants.
A memorandum by KKE's Central Committee which Papariga delivered to the prime minister terms as explosive the situation created with immigrants due to the policy being applied.
KKE criticises the government, stressing that "tens of thousands of refugees who live, work and want to stay in our country are in a pending and hostage state of the pink card, fearing for their future, fearing-rightly- that with the new asylum system as well they will see their demands for asylum rejected with the same percentages, or similar, with the existing until today shameful 99 percentage."
 LAOS leader urges PM to reject Competitiveness PactPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis on urged prime minister George Papandreou to reject the Competitiveness Pact proposed by Germany and France during the recent special EU summit, warning that it would bring "life-long austerity" and even greater cuts in salaries and pensions, in a current question he tabled in parliament on Tuesday.
Karatzaferis said that the new political and economic framework for the eurozone's future, the enhancement of the resources of the support mechanism and the facilitation for the loan repayments would be accompanied by a heavy price, that of full concession of the national policies on taxation, labor relations, salaries and pensions to Brussels.
 Health minister on doctors' strike, new systemUp to 80 percent of the doctors collaborating with the civil servants' fund OPAD had agreed to also see IKA patients, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos told reporters on Tuesday. He also promised to iron out problems that had arisen with the 184 phone line for booking appointments with doctors.
Outlining the operation of the National Health Services Provision Organisation that will be established through the health care reforms being pushed through by the government, he stressed that those insured by IKA-ETAM would now have 26,000 doctors at their disposal instead of 7,000 as previously.
Loverdos said that the employment relationship between IKA-ETAM and the doctors employed there would not change, since they were salaried employees, and that they would not be working along the same lines as the doctors for OPAD and the self-employed workers' fund OAEE. He clarified that the ministry was calling on them to be paid based on population criteria and according to their productivity.
"I have asked them to begin dialogue again," he added, saying that he would probably have a meeting with striking doctors again on Thursday.
The minister went on to announce plans for a national health service website in which all the country's hospitals will be required to publish all financial transactions and activity, including purchase of supplies and prices, payroll costs, fees etc. He predicted that the act of making this information public would in itself lead to greater transparency and a reduction in prices, noting that military hospitals obtained their supplies at a lower price than state hospitals because their was transparency and control.
Meanwhile, thousands of appointments have been cancelled as doctors working with IKA-ETAM clinics and hospitals - who provide primary-level health care for the majority of Greece's salaried employees and pensioners - are continuing a series of rolling 24-hour strikes scheduled to last until the end of the week. Also on strike until Thursday are doctors at Greek hospitals.
 Defence Minister Venizelos: "everything will be fully investigated""Everything will be fully investigated by Greek and German justice. There is evidence that needs to be investigated and already a thorough investigation is underway by the financial crimes squad SDOE," Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos said in parliament on Tuesday, referring to a "Der Spiegel" report on possible bribes in the purchase of four German submarines.
Venizelos did not rule out the likelihood that the Greek state would sue for damages if enough evidence is gathered to support a civil lawsuit, adding that there is criminal culpability if it is proved that bribes were received in Greece.
The defence minister made the statement in response to main opposition New Democracy (ND) MP Panos Kammenos who raised the issue during a discussion within the framework of a parliamentary committee meeting.
 PASOK leading ND by 5.1 pc, poll showsThe ruling PASOK party leads the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party by 5.1 percent, according to a GPO poll presented at midnight on Monday by the Mega Channel's "Anatropi" programme.
According to the poll, PASOK garners 25.2 percent, ND 20.1, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 8.5, the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) 6.2, the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) and the Democratic Alliance 2.9, the Ecologists Greens 2.6 and the Democratic Left 2.45.
The abstention rate reaches 13.5 percent, while the undecided account for 9.1.
As to the question of who is most suitable to be prime minister, George Papandreou receives 37.8 percent of the respondents' preferences and Antonis Samaras 23 percent, while the reply neither receives 39.2.
 Greece-Norway cooperation on environmental protectionCooperation between Greece and Norway on environmental protection issues was agreed Tuesday during a meeting between environment, energy and climate change deputy minister Thanos Moraitis and Norwegian ambassador in Athens Sverre Stub. Norway plans to finance innovative environmental programs, particularly regarding the protection of waters and in renewable energy sources.
The total funding to Greece is estimated at 63.4 billion euros for the period 2011-2014, of which 19 million euros will be earmarked for environmental protection projects.
 Talks on fYRoM 'name issue' at UN on Wed.NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P.Panayiotou)
United Nations Special Mediator on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (fYRoM) "name issue" Matthew Nimetz will be holding talks with the representatives of Greece and fYRoM at the UN's headquarters.
A UN secretariat spokesman told the ANA-MPA that a statement will be issued after the talks.
 UN SG's spokesman on fYRoM name issueNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The UN Secretary General's spokesman, Martin Nesirki, replying to a relevant question during Tuesday's press briefing, reiterated the recent reference made in Berlin by Ban Ki-moon to the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), terming the problem "extremely longlasting" and "difficult."
According to the spokesman, the international organisation's Secretary General called on both sides to face it with "good faith" and with the assistance of his special envoy, Matthew Nimetz, stressing that the Secretary General believes that it must be resolved because "it is not only an important bilateral issue, but affects the wider region."
 Turkish corvette in Greek national territorial watersThe Turkish corvette "BODRUM" that is sailing in the Aegean is under the surveillance of a Navy ship.
A relevant announcement by the National Defence General Staff said that "the Turkish corvete 'BODRUM" leaving Izmir, moved north of Chios and then west of Psara in international waters. It then followed a southwestern course and at about 19:30 within National Territorial Waters between Tinos-Mykonos. The corvette is continuing with a southerly course and is moving in the Cyclades (present position northwest of Paros with a southerly course). A Navy ship which is watching the Turkish vessel, is emitting internationally determined warning signals, during the corvette's sailing in the National Territorial Waters."
 Greek FinMin, troika continue round of talksGreek Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou on Tuesday met with the heads of a troika delegation, as part of a regular inspection of the Greek economy.
Finance ministry officials said the inspections focused on accelerating structuring reforms and noted that the country has secured payment of the fourth tranche of an IMF/EU loan. They also stressed that troika officials did not think there was a problem with pledges undertaken by the country, or timetables of implementing measures while they also did not particularly worry over fiscal consolidation. Their aim was to sustain a momentum on reforms.
Ministry sources said the troika underlined uncertainties in spending of the wider central government, combating tax evasion and speeding up privatizations. The ministry officials reiterated that there was no issue of abolishing payment of the 13th and 14th wages in the private sector and dismissed talk of plans to further raise VAT rates.
The officials said the government would seek a dialogue with political parties, economists and unions over focused actions, worth 12.77 billion euros, or 5.2 pct of the country's Gross Domestic Product, in the period 2012-2015, needed to save on spending and support growth. The aim is to have a primary budget surplus of 5.0 pct of GDP in 2015, the sources said.
 Greece raises 390 mln euros from six-month T-bill auctionGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a six-month Treasury bills issue, raising 390 million euros from the market at a lower interest than the previous issue.
A Finance ministry announcement said the issue was 4.54 times oversubscribed, with bids totalling 1.363 billion euros, while the interest was set at 4.64 pct, down from 4.9 pct in the previous auction of six-month Treasury bills in January.
The head of Greece's Public Debt Management Organisation Petros Christodoulou said foreign investors covered 80 pct of Tuesday's auction, up from 37 pct of the previous auction, evidence of increased confidence in the Greek economy.
In comments made to Reuters, Christodoulou said the country was receiving positive messages from the market for the second month in a row.
Greece will auction a three-month Treasury bills issue next Tuesday.
 Streamlining state procurements will save 100 million euros annuallyThe Regional Development and Competitiveness Ministry aims to reduce public sector spending by 100 million euros annually through a series of initiatives being taken to streamline the state procurements system, deputy minister Dinos Rovlias told a press conference on Tuesday.
He said that the government is clamping down on the "closed network of state supplies" and the "suspicious supplies cases are taking the road to justice", adding that the government is determined to tackle every source of waste and corruption in the area of state supplies.
Rovlias explained that the single procurements program has amounted to between 1 and 2.5 billion euros over the past three years, noting that one of the fundamental problems ascertained was lengthy delays in tenders, some of which are still pending since 2001. He further noted inadequacy in the tenders themselves, given that in the period 2008-2010, in half the tender files opened, only one offer had been submitted in 61 cases and only two offers in 78 cases.
Further, instances have been traced and have been halted of applications for "luxury" supplies, in a bid to reduce the budget, citing as an example a request by the City of Athens for Christmas tree lights budgeted at some 300,000 euros.
Measures being taken include detailed study of every new application and prohibition of changes to the technical and other specifications or other contractual conditions after the procurement has been assigned.
 Finance ministry rejects press reports on Greek deposits of billions of euros into Swiss banksA report in "Der Spiegel" alleging that Greek deposits into Swiss banks are estimated at roughly 600 billion euros was rejected as an "exaggeration" by a Greek finance ministry general secretary on Tuesday.
Speaking on an Athens radio station, the finance ministry official stressed that the deposits into Greek banks are roughly 230 billion euros, while the Greek deposits into Swiss banks are no more than 150 billion euros, underlining that upon deposit the money had been checked to ensure that it was not illegally made.
 Magriotis presents Greek positions on Intereuropean Transport NetworkVIENNA (ANA-MPA) - D. Dimitrakoudis)
Greek Deputy Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Minister Yiannis Magriotis, addressing the informal Council of European Union Transport Ministers in Budapest on Tuesday, whose theme was the continuation of the effort for the completion of the IntereuropeanTransport Network, stressed the importance for the Intereuropean Transport Network its parts in Greek territory have and for whose completion, as he said, every effort must be made.
The Greek deputy minister pointed out that the current economic crisis in many EU member-states cannot be an obstacle for the longterm EU plans whose target is the strategic completion of the European space, adding at the same time the need for securing necessary resources for the Network's completion with the participation of all the EU financing funds that have contributed successfully to date to the completion of considerable transport projects with a Europeanwide dimension.
He also referred to the effort to implement the Intereuropean Transport Network that started from the beginning of the 90s, stressing that the network constitutes a cornerstone for European Integration and contributes to the smooth functioning of the internal market and the strengthening of economic and social cohesion.
 Consortiums considering limited reduction in road tollsRepresentatives of the consortiums constructing five major roads in exchange for the right to charge tolls on Tuesday said they were willing to consider lowering tolls on sections of the roads that were still under construction. They were not willing to commit, however, to the 50 percent reduction announced earlier by Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yiannis Magriotis.
"It is a matter of the overall negotiation," they said during a press conference on Tuesday, while strongly attacking the increasing number of people currently refusing to pay road tolls at all. They revealed that they have asked the ministry to make refusal to pay tolls a traffic violation, as well as a misdemeanour offence.
They pointed out that one in 10 private cars and up to 30 percent of trucks are currently refusing to pay the tolls at the Afidnes toll post, in particular.
According to consortiums, one of their demands in exchange for lowering tolls is an extension of the period of the concession.
The five companies also stressed that they have no profits as yet from the projects they have carried out, while the money being earned from tolls is very small relative to the sums invested. They also noted that banks have 'frozen' the funding for certain consortiums and that the flow of cars is much lower due to the economic crisis.
All five of the roads under construction are currently behind schedule, by an estimated two years for the Corinth-Pyrgos-Tsakona road and similar periods of time for the Antirrio-Ioannina and Lamia-Egnatia roads. A delay of approximately one year is expected at the Maliakos-Kleidi section of the national highway, while the Corinth-Kalamata road in the Peloponnese will be delivered on time and the road to Sparti will delay by roughly a year.
All the consortiums attributed the delays to snags in the necessary land expropriations but stressed that they would not pull out but stay and complete the projects. They underlined, however, that the tolls were the "oxygen" for completing the roads.
 Greece in grip of strikesA difficult week lies ahead for commuters but also those in need of a doctor or medicines as strikes continue throughout Greece, with various groups protesting against reforms proposed by the government.
All Athens public transport staff will hold work stoppages on Wednesday to protest against the draft bill concerning public transport and signal their displeasure to managements that are resorting to the courts to have their strikes declared illegal.
In an unprecedented move on Tuesday, protestors descended on the Athens metro headquarters and bricked up the office of its CEO as a symbolic gesture.
During a general assembly, meanwhile, metro workers decided to hold a four-hour work stoppage from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday in order to join a march being organised by striking doctors.
Workers in the electric railway ISAP have also decided a work stoppage from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. while the buses will not be working between 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and trolley buses between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Others on strike are IKA-ETAM doctors, who are holding a series of rolling 24-hour strikes until Friday, hospital doctors throughout the country that are on strike until Thursday, pharmacists that will be until Wednesday and lawyers, who are continuing to refuse court appearances.
A work stoppage has also been declared on Thursday by the civil servants' union federation ADEDY.
 Civil servants' work-stoppage announced for ThursdayThe civil servants' union federation ADEDY on Tuesday announced a work-stoppage for Thursday, Feb. 10 ahead of the nationwide general strike called for Feb. 23 within the framework of the mobilizations aimed at safeguarding auxiliary pensions.
ADEDY accused the government of targeting the civil servants' auxiliary pension rights after the attack already launched against their primary pensions and social insurance rights and demanded the immediate financing of the Civil Servants Welfare Fund (TPDY) and auxiliary funds.
 EFG Eurobank approves merger plan with DIASAn EFG Eurobank Ergasias general shareholders' meeting on Tuesday widely approved a merger plan with DIAS Portfolio Investment SA, through the absorption of the latter.
The plan was approved by 93.37 pct of shareholders. They also approved a change in the exchange ratio to 5.3 shares of DIAS for one new share of Eurobank EFG. The new exchange ratio was decided after a recommendation of EFG Consolidated Holdings SA -in which Eurobank EFG holds a 43.6 pct equity stake- after taking in consideration changes in market conditions. The merger plan is expected to be completed in a period of two months.
 OPAP launches tender for IT providerOPAP, Greece's lottery and betting monopoly, on Tuesday announced the start of a tender procedure to select a new IT provider, for the supply, installation and operation of all necessary equipment for a new operational system for OPAP's range of games, along with offering pre-emptive and correctional maintenance and technical support.
Candidates will have 33 days to apply in the tender. OPAP picked Deloitte and Touches as IT tender adviser. The organization aims to complete the tender procedure by the end of June or July 2011. Picking new IT provider is crucial to OPAP's effort to expand in videolotto and internet betting.
 Home prices to fall 15 pct in next two years, FitchHome prices in Greece are expected to fall by 15 pct in the next two years, Fitch Ratings said on Tuesday.
The credit rating agency, in a report, said higher interbank rates and fiscal consolidation measures would raise the percentage of borrowers who would be unable to repay their mortgage loans.
"It seems that rising number of borrowers delaying payment of their mortgage loans will end up in a higher number of non-performing loans," Fitch said in the report.
 Summer Holidays Expo to be held in Athens in MayThe international trade fair Summer Holidays Expo will be held in Athens for the first time this year, after four consecutive years at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in the northern Greek capital. This year's fair will take place at the Helexpo Palace exhibition center in Athens, from May 20 to 22.
 Greek stocks resume upward trendGreek stocks resumed their upward trend following a two-day decline in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The composite index of the market rose 0.98 pct to end at 1,669.82 points, with turnover rising slightly to 134.433 million euros. The Big Cap index ended 1.11 pct higher, the Mid Cap index jumped 3.52 pct and the Small Cap index rose 2.26 pct.
MIG (5.63 pct), Mytilineos (4.97 pct) and Jumbo (3.85 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while OPAP (3.02 pct), Piraeus Bank (1.22 pct) and Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (1.19 pct) were top losers.
The Media (8.62 pct), Commerce (6.94 pct) and Financial Services (5.34 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Travel (2.62 pct) and Food (1.12 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 122 to 53 with another 38 issues unchanged. Bitros (18.75 pct), Imperio (15.38 pct) and Kordellos Bros (14.29 pct) were top gainers, while Edrasi (12.5 pct), Varveressos (17.6 pct) and Koubas (10 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.04%
Personal & Household: +4.40%
Raw Materials: +3.79%
Travel & Leisure: -2.62%
Food & Beverages: -1.12%
Financial Services: +5.34%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, DEH and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.66
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.86
HBC Coca Cola: 21.66
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.53
National Bank of Greece: 7.70
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.66
Bank of Piraeus: 1.62
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.374
Pound sterling 0.855
Danish kroner 7.514
Swedish kroner 8.841
Japanese yen 112.99
Swiss franc 1.313
Norwegian kroner 7.921
Canadian dollar 1.361
Australian dollar 1.356
 Greek bond market closing reportGreek bond yields surpassed the 11 pct level after the previous two week's reprieve, as uncertainties over the details of a plan to rescuing over-indebted states such as Greece and the role of a European Financial Stability Fund, undermined sentiment in the Greek bond market. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 789 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market from 772 bps the previous day. The Greek bond yielded 11.13 pct and the German Bund 3.24 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 40 million euros, of which 39 million were sell orders and the remaining 1.0 million euros were buy orders.
The six-month Treasury bill was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 15 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.68 pct, the six-month rate 1.33 pct, the three-month 1.07 pct and the one-month rate 0.90 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover easing to 33.773 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,087 contracts worth 23.701 million euros, with 33,140 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 22,386 contracts worth 10.072 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,737), followed by Eurobank (980), OTE (1,734), PPC (880), Piraeus Bank (2,260), Alpha Bank (1,733), Intracom (1,817), Marfin Popular Bank (4,387), Hellenic Postbank (600), Cyprus Bank (557), GEK (508) and MIG (378).
 Replica 17th century Spanish galleon 'Andalucia' sails through Corinth CanalThe Spanish "Galeon Andalucia", a replica of the 17th century Spanish galleons, sailed through the Corinth Canal on Monday.
The 51-meter-long travelling museum, created by Spain's Nao Victoria Foundation, makes use of ancient seafaring techniques with very minimal modern technology and virtually no fuel.
The Gale?n Andaluc?a is a project conceived and developed by Fundaci?n Nao Victoria, an entity which came into being to preserve the only replica of the vessel that gave name to the Foundation, the Nao Victoria. which was the first vessel to circumnavigate the world, commanded by Captain Juan Sebastian el Cano, in the 16th Century.
Built to 'reminisce' the trade path of the Spanish Galleon era, the "Andalucia" is an exact replica of the 17th century galleon ships from Spain that plied the Manila-Acapulco trade route, while even the furniture and decor were specially designed to keep the 17th century feel of the ship.
The 51-meter galleon replica was built by the Nao Victoria Foundation to serve as a travelling exhibit of Spanish civilization and culture.
Galleon Andalucia is mainly made of oak wood. It has 6 decks and 3 masts which support the manoeuvring of its 7 sails. The ship relies heavily on wind power and ancient navigational techniques during its voyages.
On the upper deck is a pair of huge anchors perched on each side of the ship, with each anchor weighing 1,450 kilograms.
Perched on the main deck is the main mast and replica cannons lined along the sides of the galleon.
The captain's steering wheel and other navigational equipment, such as the ship's compass, are on the upper navigational deck.
While sailing, Galleon Andalucia can develop a speed of 5 knots (about 10 kilometers) per hour.
 H1N1 flu fatalities increase to 36Another two people lost their lives from H1N1 flu on Tuesday, raising the total number of fatalities in Greece to 36, while 10 new cases were announced. According to data by the Disease Prevention Centre, 156 people have been treated in intensive care units since the beginning of the year due to serious complications from the H1N1 flu virus, 82 of whom are remaining for treatment.
 Staggering 97.4 pct of students wants changes in tertiary educationA staggering 97.4 percent of students would like to see changes in Greece's tertiary education system, according to a survey carried out by the education ministry concerning the changes that it has proposed.
The survey was conducted nationwide using a sample of 1002 people, of which 400 were tertiary education students and 445 were parents of children in high school.
In addition to the 97.4 percent calling for immediate change in universities and technological colleges (TEI), 79.8 percent of students said that higher education reforms had to continue, regardless of the reactions.
Another 61.7 percent believes that the changes the government is considering will finally only be partially implemented, while 18.7 percent does not believe they will be implemented at all. Of those asked, 42.1 percent believe they are well informed about the government's proposals.
The biggest problem faced by universities are poor facilities and technical infrastructure according to 26.5 percent of students, while 60 percent is only in favour of occupations as a protest of last resort, when students rights are threatened.
Low turnout in student elections is attributed by 54.3 percent to young people's disillusionment with politics and political parties.
The survey was funded by the 'Education and Life-long Learning' Operational Programme Application Technical Support and the European Social Fund.
 Kiosk owner killed, pharmacist injured in two hold-upsA 45-year-old kiosk owner was gunned down in the early hours of Tuesday in the Ano Liossia district of Athens by robbers wielding a Kalashnikov rifle.
Police immediately launched a manhunt for the gunmen, who were still at large at noon on Tuesday.
The gunmen attempted to hold-up the kiosk owner at about 1:30 a.m., but the victim resisted and fired at them with a hunting rifle. The gunmen retaliated and fired nine shots against the victim, injuring him fatally, before speeding off in a blue car that later proved to be stolen.
The car was spotted at dawn Tuesday and was chased by police patrol cars and motorcycles, but the gunmen abandoned the car and escaped on foot.
Police surmise that robbery was the motive, since all money had been removed from the kiosk, while police also found cell phone cards and cigarettes scattered in the vicinity.
Earlier, two gunmen stormed a pharmacy in Maroussi on Monday night and injured the pharmacist lightly in the shoulder during their escape. The pharmacist's mother, who was in the pharmacy at the time of the hold-up, grabbed one of the robbers and pulled off his mask, while the son gave chase to the gunmen outside, where one of the gunmen shot him twice before escaping.
 Albanian police seize a ton of marijuana destined for GreeceTIRANA (ANA-MPA / I. Patso)
Albanian police on Tuesday announced the seizure of a ton of marijuana before it was brought across the borders into Greece. A 41-year-old man from the city of Tepelene was arrested for drug trafficking.
According to information released by Albanian authorities, the drugs came from the village of Lazarat, roughly 20 km away from the Greek-Albanian borders.
Arrest warrants have been issued for another three individuals.
The 41-year-old was arrested roughly 2 km from the borders, after being under police surveillance for a week.
 Two injured in migrants' clash in PatrasTwo people were injured in a clash among migrants in the early hours of Tuesday near the western port of Patras.
Two migrants were injured when the clash broke out, for reasons as yet unknown, in the vicinity of the inter-state buses station. According to eyewitness accounts, some of the migrants involved used sharp objects during the clash.
Police who rushed to the scene dispersed the migrants.
The two injured men were taken to the local university hospital.
 Baby trafficking ring arrested in Greece and BulgariaKavala Police in northeast Greece are close to dismantling a baby trafficking ring after the arrest at the Xanthi Hospital Obstetrics Clinic on Monday of a young woman and another three individuals who attempted to sell her infant a few hours after it was born for the sum of 14,000 euros.
Acting on a tip-off, undercover police officers posed as a couple seeking to adopt a child and a few weeks ago contacted three individuals involved in baby trafficking, a local man living in Xanthi, a pregnant young woman from Bulgaria and a Bulgarian man who acted as a middleman.
The undercover police officers expressed a desire to adopt the child the young woman was bearing and when she was admitted to the hospital to give birth she was paid with 14,000 euros in marked bills.
The investigation continues.
 Arsonists target police canteenUnidentified persons threw a home-made fire-bomb (molotov cocktail) at a police station canteen in Keratea in the first hours of Tuesday.
The ensuing fire caused material damage but no injuries, and was put out by the Fire Brigade.
 Fair on WednesdayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 18C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 18C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 1C to 15C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEconomic issues and the government's deliberations with the visiting EU/IMF 'troika' inspectors were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Tuesday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Legalisation of 800,000 unlicensed buildings".
AVGHI: "They're 'sweeping away' the branch labor contracts".
AVRIANI: "Government and 'guilds' bring the people to despair".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Government: 'Yes to all' to troika demands for new cuts in salaries, pensions".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Guide to survival in IKA (state Social Security Foundation) chaos".
ESTIA: "Restructuring from scratch".
ETHNOS: "War with troika over the (private sector) salaries".
IMERISSIA: "Crash test for stockmarket - T-bill issue interest rate the 'key'."
KATHIMERINI: "Tension points multiplying".
LOGOS: "Health system in intensive care..."
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Tax audits with objective criteria being planned".
NIKI: "Defence line for private sector bonuses".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Resistance to the policy that wants the patients to be customers".
TA NEA: "Point system for professionals".
VRADYNI: "Putting the working people through the grinder".
 First meeting between leaders after Geneva WednesdayNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu are meeting on Wednesday morning, in the framework of direct negotiations for a Cyprus solution.
The meeting will take place at 10.00 at the Chief of Missions residence, in the United Nations Protected Area of Nicosia and it is the first after the meeting of the leaders of the two communities with the UN Secretary General in the Swiss city of Geneva, on January 26.
The Special Representative of the UN SG Alexander Downer said Monday to the press that, during the forthcoming meeting, the course of negotiations will be further discussed, in light of the Geneva meeting.
The UN SG Ban Ki-moon had stated in Geneva that the two sides agreed to intensify negotiations, conducting additional meetings in the next weeks.
He also said that he will be at their disposal soon, to review progress and to encourage both sides to bridge their differences.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
Peace talks are currently underway between President Demetris Christofias and Eroglu. The objective of the talks is to find a negotiated settlement, acceptable to both communities, based on UN resolutions, the acquis communautaire and past agreements that provide for a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
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