|Saturday, 21 July 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-02-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 10 February 2011 Issue No: 3717
 PM: Changes were essential, even without debt crisisEven if Greece had no debt or deficit problem, the radical changes made by the government would have been necessary to avoid debts and deficits in the future, Prime Minister George Papandreou told a meeting of his cabinet on Wednesday.
"The emergency measures that we took last year were essential and their aim was to save the country," he emphasised in a review of the government's course until now.
Papandreou said that PASOK had sought power in order to make major changes and that its policies sought to create the conditions to change people's lives for the better.
"We want Greece to be open and fair and economically strong and stable," he added, noting that the changes to economic policy, the state, health, the labour market and education were "self-evident" and should have been made years ago.
The prime minister urged a final break with clientelist politics and asserted that the vast majority of the electorate support the effort for change.
"Everyone, regardless of what they voted for, wants the country to change," he said, noting that anyone doubting the government's legitimacy need look no further than the answer given by voters during the local government elections.
Papandreou referred to what he called Greece's "significant successes" - citing the negotiations in Europe where he said Greece was now "an active part of the solution" and noting that a battle of weeks or months lay ahead for an overall solution to the debt issue.
He said that an overall solution for debt should be based on three pillars: fiscal discipline and sound economic management by individual member-states, transparency in financial markets and economic growth.
Europe's answer to the debt crisis fell in the first category, Papandreou asserted, noting that the common currency had also shown up certain imperfections. Among these he listed the alternation from too easy access to credit from the markets, which was then directed toward projects that were not particularly helpful, and the extreme difficulty in accessing markets recently experienced by Greece.
On the issue of transparency in the financial system, the prime minister said the aim was to regain trust and facilitate liquidity and the need to resolve the issues arising with the various tax havens around the world, among them Switzerland. He also noted the need to look into the issue of credit rating agencies.
On boosting growth, Papandreou said that cost of labour was not a central factor and pointed to the need to improve quality and competitiveness through better infrastructure, unification of European networks in energy, electricity and broadband and on facilitating the internal market through e-commerce.
Commenting on an EU Competitiveness Pact proposed by France and Germany, Papandreou said that this needed to be discussed and that it must not stand in the way of EU decision making.
 Greek success will contribute to European security and economic success, former German FM saysGerman former foreign minister Joschka Fischer, addressing a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, said "we are living in a neighbourhood entailing many challenges. This means that the success of your country will also contribute to European security and economic success, elements that are interactive."
Fischer was invited by Prime Minister George Papandreou to attend and address the cabinet.
Additionally, the German former foreign minister expressed the hope that "we shall pass this crisis together and I hope that the friendly ties between our two countries will return to the level they were. Mild relations, traditional friendship and I hope that Greece will proceed to a new growth model, to a green future."
Fischer also said that the European values are based on the unique history and tradition of Greece, "which all share and it is very important for us to realise the importance of the EU and the fundamental values of a state of law and welfare."
"We realise the consequences of the crisis, the crisis is not a crisis of Greece only but a paneuropean crisis and if one turns his gaze to the southern shores of the Mediterranean he shall see the repercussions of the crisis that have been transferred to the Arab world," Fischer assessed.
Asked to comment on a question by Papandreou on the importance of green growth for jobs in Germany, Fischer termed it a "source for the creation of jobs" and stressed that the jobs of tomorrow will be based on the new green technologies.
"I hope that the Greek government as well will realise that we have to do with a wonderful opportunity in the European South, primarily when the crisis will have passed and the country will be called on to implement its growth model," he concluded.
Distinguished architect Alexandros Tombazis, addressing the cabinet meeting on the bioclimatic and ecological planning of constructions, said "what we can do are so many and what is amazing is that many of these are very simple and could change our planet."
On his part, Papandreou said "the importance of green growth and of the 'green' home does not have only ecological repercussions but economic and social as well," adding that "it is a question of decision and political will that this government has proved."
Bidding Fischer farewell, the prime minister said that he will be visiting Germany "soon" and thanked him "both for the wishes for Greece and Greek-German relations."
 Health bill ratified in principleThe bill on structural changes in the Health system was ratified in principle with a majority on Wednesday. The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) voted against.
The discussion on the draft law at the Plenum is continuing on its articles and is expected to be concluded after midnight.
 Health minister defends watershed draft billA message that "hope emerges from the crisis" and that "Greece is getting stronger" was conveyed by Health Minister Andreas Loverdos on Wednesday, who spoke in Parliament during the debate on a draft law introducing major reforms in the health sector.
Loverdos said voting of the draft law, later on Wednesday, will be a landmark day because "a goal set 27 years ago is finally met by making primary healthcare a reality ... When the state knows what it has to do and is being stopped by trade unions it is an unacceptable situation," he stated, adding that "the essence of the Constitution is now being restored".
Loverdos pointed out that the health sector is not a "Gordian knot" and things can change "not automatically, but soon".
On the implementation of the goal set, Loverdos that three dates are critical; today's voting of the draft law, the introduction of health system online services on March 1 and the hospital mergers and institution of a new admission system on June 30.
Referring to the reaction of the opposition to the draft law, he said that "when the withdrawal of a draft law is being requested on the grounds of being offhand it means that there are no real arguments against it".
As regards the strike mobilizations, he reiterated that they are being instigated by trade union interests, while on the hospital doctors' strike he said that participation was less than 2.5 pct because they realized that the health ministry proposals are on the right direction.
Loverdos referred to the reform in the civil servants' insurance fund OPAD, the pricing of medicine by the health ministry, the introduction of new fees for 10,000 medical practices and the hospital management reform.
He rejected allegations on inadequate dialogue stressing that 33 scientific organizations have participated in it.
As regards the reactions to the regulation concerning hospital procurements, he challenged the argument that "procurements will be privatised", stressing that those reacting most to the new regulations are the suppliers themselves.
 Doctors hold protest rally, march to ParliamentHealth sector unions held a rally outside the health ministry on Wednesday, followed by a march to Parliament in order to protest against an omnibus bill for health sector reforms that is to be voted on by Greek MPs on Wednesday night.
Participating in the rally were the Hellenic Medical Asso-ciation, the Federation of Hospital Doctors Unions of Greece, the Athens-Piraeus Hospital Doctors Union, the nationwide IKA-ETAM health staff union federation and the nationwide pharmacists association. They were also joined by striking public transport workers and teachers.
A delegation of doctors presented a resolution outlining their objections to Parliament, after which striking doctors will return to the health ministry on Wednesday afternoon for a general meeting to decide their next course of action. Their representatives said that doctors were determined to continue mobilising even after the bill is passed.
Hospital doctors said they will not cut short a strike that will include Thursday, while IKA doctors are continuing strike action until Friday.
In the meantime, the country's hospitals, health centres, ambulance service, hospices and welfare services will be operating with a skeleton staff from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Thursday when the national federation of state hospital staff has called work stoppage. They are demanding higher funding and improvements to the national health service that will give the public free access to health care services, the hiring of necessary permanent staff, a new single wage scale with substantial wage increases, a doubling of pay for holidays and night shifts and inclusion in the heavy and hazardous labour categories.
Also planned are protests against an increase in the fee for hospital out-patient visits to five euros that will include the symbolic closure of cashier desks in hospitals and free examination of patients from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.
According to government regional health authorities, however, nationwide participation in the strike by doctors in hospitals and health centres was just 2.4 percent, while in Attica it was just 2.2 percent.
 Costs slashed by e-prescription system, OAEE fund chief reportsThe pilot introduction of an e-prescription system has slashed spending on pharmaceuticals at the OAEE social insurance fund for the self-employed by roughly 70 percent, OAEE governor Gerassimos Voudouris told a Parliamentary committee on Wednesday. He also noted that, for the first time in several years, the fund would have a surplus of some 30 million euro.
Until the introduction of the system in October 2010, doctors collaborating with OAEE had been writing out roughly 300,000 prescriptions a month with an average monthly cost of 25 million euros, Voudouris said. Between October and December 2010, by contrast, spending on pharmaceuticals had dropped by 73.4 percent relative to the same period in 2008 and a reduction in prescription medication had resulted in a 70 percent reduction in the sums received by big pharmaceutical companies.
As examples, Voudouris cited the discovery through the system of 15 doctors that in the space of just two months had written out more than 150,000 prescriptions each - leading to the launch of an administrative inquiry - or the slashing of sums received by a specific pharmaceutical company from 16 million euro in 2008 to just five million euro in 2011.
The fund chief also announced planned changes to the administrative organisation of OAEE, starting with the pilot operation of the first centre using the new organisational plan in Pireos Street, in order to reduce operational costs.
Another major problem faced by the fund, according to Voudouris, was non-payment of contributions that had led to OAEE being owed three billion euro. He stressed this was not entirely linked to the economic crisis, since at least 300,000 of those that had not paid had been debtors in excess of five years, before the crisis began.
Voudouris noted that roughly one third of this amount would be almost impossible to collect, since the individuals involved had ceased business activity, but that left two billion that could be collected at short order.
He was upbeat about OAEE's future prospects, noting that those insured by OAEE were mostly below 50 years old, giving the fund room to manoeuvre and adapt, and that 570,000 of its 800,000 members had paid up their contributions for this year, creating the 30 million euro budget surplus.
 Samaras meets Trichet in FrankfurtFRANKFURT (ANA-MPA)
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras held talks here on Wednesday with European Central Bank (ECB) President Jean-Claude Trichet focusing on efforts for Greece's exit from the economic crisis.
According to reports, Samaras referred to all issues regarding current talks in the European Union on the debt crisis. As regards Greece, the ND leader spoke of the extension of the repayment period for the debt of an IMF-EU 110 billion euros and the decrease in its interest rate.
Samaras underlined to Trichet that his proposals would relieve Greek economy, but that a permanent solution would be comimg from the issuing of a eurobond and, mainly, from measures for the recovery of the Greek economy.
The ND leader also underlined to the ECB president that a vicious circle of recession has been established, which limits the effectiveness of adjustment measures as well as the vicious circle of overindebting which creates persisting deficits, as the debt increases.
"These are the Memorandum's impasses which must be broken through a different mixture of economic policy," Samaras noted.
 KKE leader: Gov't intends to raise retirement age, taxesCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Wednesday accused the government of planning to raise the retirement age to 67 for all classes of employees, as well as further tax hikes and further erosion of worker rights through company contracts.
Referring to the debt crisis and the Competitiveness Pact proposed in the European Union, Papariga stressed that workers should forget the first since they owed nothing and noted that negotiations between European governments did not aim to defend labour entitlements but were, conversely, an agreement to attack the working class.
She stressed the need for organised struggle but underlined that events like the violence in December 2008 were not a 'landmark' for KKE and expressed fears of deliberate provocation in order to implicate the workers' struggle, pointing out that participation in protests had fallen after three people were killed in the 'Marfin' bank fire set during an otherwise peaceful rally last year.
She also criticised the government's stance towards people who were refusing to pay road tolls or public transport tickets as a form of protest against fare increases, noting that the government had itself initiated an cessation of payments to people by cutting back on unemployment benefits, increasing hospital fees and reducing state funding etc.
Commenting on agreements to extend repayment of Greece's loans to the EU and IMF, Papariga said the government would try to present this as a negotiating success but in reality the cost of servicing the debt would be passed on to working people that were not responsible for it.
 Germany's Fischer stresses Europe's 'common future' at ELIAMEP eventA call to use the crisis as an opportunity for European integration was made by former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer on Tuesday evening during his speech as guest speaker at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy's (ELIAMEP) annual lecture on "Europe in crisis".
"Either Europe will have a common future or it will have no future," Fischer stressed, noting that the EU was currently living through what the Chinese called "interesting times".
He noted that failure to address the crisis will be disastrous for all of Europe and not just one country, while he called the German-Frence proposal for economic governance "an important step forward".
Fischer said that the European Union had been a very successful enterprise and warned against overlooking what it had achieved so far. He noted that Europe was a "act in progress" and that the next generation would move to even closer cooperation.
About Greece, he said it would be a "fatal error" to consider that the country's problems were strictly its own affair.
"Our common future is Europe. We have a common fate. Let us work together for growth," he stressed.
 UN chief urges solution to name dispute, Cyprus issueNEW YORK (ANA-MPA - P. Panagiotou)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has expressed hope that a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will be found, ahead of talks on Wednesday between representatives of Greece and FYROM mediated by UN envoy Matthew Nimetz.
The UN chief made the statement on Tuesday, after briefing the UN Security Council on the results of his recent tour of Europe and Africa. Responding to questions about the meeting with Nimetz, he said that the envoy was continuing talks to find a solution.
He urged the leaders of both countries to resolve the issue of the name as soon as possible so that FYROM, in particular, might be able to progress toward accession of NATO and the European Union.
"There are many important issues that must be dealt with as soon as possible for peace and security in the region," he added.
The UN Secretary General also expressed an intention to meet again with the leaders of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities on Cyprus but did not specify when and where, indicating that this would depend on the results of the meetings being held in Cyprus by the UN special envoy for Cyprus Alexander Downer.
The precise time, the daily agenda and the location are to be decided since Alexander Downer is continuing to evaluate the situation on the ground, he said.
Ban Ki Moon called on the two leaders on Cyprus to intensify negotiations so that they might bridge their differences. Concerning the meeting held in Geneva, he said that Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot community leader Dervis Eroglu had outlined some of their differences, while adding that "more work needs to be done".
Asked whether he was satisfied with the point reached in the negotiations so far, the UNSG stressed that he will be satisfied "when the two leaders agree on all the fundamental issues".
He indicated his satisfaction, however, with a commitment by Christofias and Eroglu to deal with all the issues through negotiations.
 Greece, fYRoM reps meet in New YorkNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
UN special envoy on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) "name issue" Matthew Nimetz said here on Wednesday that the two sides "expressed their disposition" to continue talks for the finding of a solution the issue.
Nimetz was speaking to reporters after talks he held with representatives of Greece and fYRoM. Greek representative Adamantions Vassilakis said that the Greek positions were known and thare was no need to be repeated.
Solow comments on Egypt during Thessaloniki visit
Alan Solow, chairperson of the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organisations, stressed during a visit to the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Wednesday that the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt had to emerge unscathed from the turmoil in Egypt over the past two weeks.
Visiting at the head of a large delegation of American Jewish Organisations, Solow underlined that every time there was instability in the region, there was a possibility that difficulties may arise.
He also stressed that if the 1979 peace treaty should change, this would not just affect Israel but also the United States.
Solow also warned that a rising role for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian politics would not be good for the peace treaty or the peace process in general.
The Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organisations is currently carrying out its annual trip to Israel, which is usually preceded by a visit to a different country each year. The city of Thessaloniki was chosen for this year because of its historic Jewish community stretching back several centuries.
Their next stop will be Athens, where they will meet with the country's state and political leadership in order, according to Solow, "to better understand the situation that Greece faces both in terms of its economy and its international relations".
He also noted that relations between Israel and Greece were "on an upward trajectory" and said that one of the aims of the visit was to further promote Greece's relations with both the U.S. and with Israel.
 President Papoulias meets reps of American Jewish OrganisationsPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias met on Wednesday with the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organisations and urged them to support Greece's effort and take advantage of the new developments being created in the country and the wider region.
He also expressed optimism over the widening of cooperation and the strengthening of relations between Greece and Israel.
"Take with you on leaving Greece the image of a country that is toiling to overcome the current economic crisis and of a hospitable place that is being modernised and can constitute a point of reference for various personal and collective creative activities," he said.
President Papoulias assured that Greece does not tolerate cases of antisemitism and intolerance and referred to the ccountry's efforts for peace in the region, criticising the stance of Turkey and its non-compliance with the principles of the EU.
"Greece shall not tolerate a fictitious accession process in which Turkey will be taking gradually from the EU all that it wants, without the fulfilment of its obligations towards the EU," he said.
 Former ND leader Miltiades Evert passes awayFormer main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader, former minister and former Athens mayor Miltiades Evert passed away on Wednesday at the age of 72.
The regrettable news was announced in Parliament by Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, also expressing his condolences to his family. ND Parliamentary representative Costas Marko-poulos also expressed his condolences.
 PM, Samaras on passing of former ND leader EvertPrime Minister George Papandreou expressed his sadness over the passing of former New Democracy (ND) party leader Miltiades Evert, terming him a "militant politician who struggled with vigour for his ideas and principles."
Papandreou added that "his presence in the country's public life was intense and decisive. It constituted one of the basic and steadfast elements of the conservative party."
Main opposition ND leader Antonis Samaras in a statement from Frankfurt said that "Greece became poorer today," adding that "I was just informed, in Frankfurt where I am, of the sad news of the death of Miltiades Evert, former President of New Democracy. A fighter for the party, the country, Democracy. Because Evert was this above all: A fighter. The warm condolences of all of us to his family."
Health and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos expressed warm condolences on behalf of the government over the passing of Miltiades Evert.
Condolences were also expressed by Parliamentary representatives of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) as well as by independent deputy Nikos Tsoukalis.
 FinMin on 'Middle Term Fiscal Strategy Plan'Finance Minister George Paspaconstantinou, according to reports, stressed at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, where he provided a briefing on the "Middle Term Fiscal Strategy Plan", that the main target is for the deficit to decrease from 17 billion euros that it will be at the end of 2011 to three bilion euros about the end of 2015.
The Finance minister also said that the Memorandum will end in 2013, the government wants to plan moves after this as well, so that with the creation of the first stage surplus the decrease in the debt to begin as of 2014. According to the same reports, Papaconstantinou mentioned that the decrease in the deficit will be apportioned so that 2/3 of the target shall be achieved through the curbing of expenditures and the 1/3 through an increase in revenues, while ruling out salary and pension cutbacks and an increase in VAT.
The "Middle Term Fiscal Strategy Plan" will take on the form of a law with the relevant bill coming to Parliament in May and being ratified by June, while as the minister said a similar three-year programme will be coming to Parliament every summer that will be updated.
 Reforms in regional Eurozone to strengthen euro, EFSF headBERLIN (ANA-MPA/G.Pappas)
The head of European Financial Stability Fund, Claus Reglig, expects that reforms currently underway in Greece, Ireland and Portugal will strengthen the euro currency. "Markets are evaluating more positively the euro in recent weeks," Reglig said in an article in the German financial newspaper Handelsblatt, adding that markets "are taking more seriously" the fact that European leaders will not allow the break-up of the monetary union.
A future, permanent crisis management mechanism, which will take over from EFSF from 2013 onwards, will include a clause for the participation of private creditors in debt restructuring procedures. "Credits by EFSF and ESM to Eurozone states in a difficult position will be offered under strict economic and political terms," he said, adding that these credits must be repaid.
Reglig said it was necessary to return to "the vision of the euro founders" that states with effective economic, labor and social policy will set the direction of the monetary union. He added that "if this would lead to permanent reforms in national level - as currently in Greece, Ireland and Portugal and other euro zone states - then the euro and the Eurozone will come out stronger from the crisis".
 BoG: Greek banks' lending/deposit interest up in 2010Greek banks' lending and deposit interest rates rose last year, with the exception of the five-year fixed rate mortgage loan, which fell by 0.65 pct, the Bank of Greece announced on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a report, said saving deposits rates rose significantly, with time deposit rates up to 12 months rising to 3.68 pct in December 2010, from 2.10 pct in December 2009. Lending rates rose last year, with interest on consumer loans rising to 14.40 pct in December from 14.08 pct a year earlier and business loans rising to 6.79 pct from 5.81 pct over the same period, respectively.
The fluctuating interest on mortgage loans rose slightly to 3.65 pct from 3.08 pct.
 IOBE head: Country will change for the better if gov't withstands pressureThe head of the Athens-based Foundation for Economic & Industrial Research (IOBE) director Yannis Stournaras on Wednesday expressed his conviction that the country will be completely changed for the better in a year, "if the government can withstand pressure and if Europe proceeds with a debt relief mechanism".
Speaking to an Athens radio station, Stournaras said such a mechanism will allow Greece to implement necessary reforms without markets' pressure.
"I do not share the views of certain people here in Greece, who consider that we'll be saved if the mechanism is created; that public debt will be reduced. No, this is not the case. This mechanism will simply be a mechanism for recycling surpluses from surplus countries to deficit-plagued countries, and will merely rescue us for a year," he said.
 Gov't on steps to combat tax evasionJustice Minister Haris Kastanidis on Wednesday referred to new regulations foreseeing stricter penalties for tax-evasion, stressing that "the justice ministry has reworded the regulations in question and they have already been forwarded to the minister of finance".
Speaking to an Athens radio station, Kastanidis underlined that the role of the economic prosecutor will be supervisory, but with the power of intervention.
He added that the economic prosecutor's office will be held by a Court of Appeals prosecutor or deputy prosecutor and will be assisted by first instance court prosecutors and a special office of experts based in the first instance court prosecutor's office in Athens and Thessaloniki. The overall supervision will be assumed by the Supreme Court deputy prosecutor.
 No cash payments for purchases exceeding 1,500 eurosA measure included in the latest tax law, according to which all purchases exceeding 1,500 euros by private individuals will be made through credit cards, debit cards or certified checks, will be effective as of April 1, it was announced on Wednesday.
The new tax law also provides that in case of companies or professionals, the measure will be effective for transactions above the 3,000-euro threshold.
The announcement was made by a finance ministry general secretary, who spoke to public television.
 'Saving at home' programme presented at cabinet meetingDeputy Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis announced the overall replanning and simplification of building regulations aimed at facilitating energy shielding interventions in the framework of the "I save at home" programme, during the presentation of the programme at Wednesday's cabinet meeting.
As he said, a special work group has already been created for this purpose. The ultimate aim, also based on the proposals of the Federation of Real Estate Owners, is for bureaucracy to be limited and interventions for the saving of energy in buildings to be facilitated. The Energy and Climatic Change ministry has also created a support group for handling day-to-day problems appearing during the programme's implementation.
Maniatis made an analytical presentation of the programme's characteristics, that is already "running" as of February 1 and will remain open until the end of March.
The deputy minister stressed among others that Greece is presenting three times greater energy consumption for the heating of homes than Finland under homogenised climatic conditions, while the expense for the import of heating oil reaches two billion euros a year. Therefore, saving in the region of 20-25 percent in heating by thermoisolation actions means saving about 500 million euros every year.
 Greek SMEs pessimistic over futureMore than one in four businesses considers the prospect of terminating its business activity by mid-2012 as highly likely, while given a further worsening of business expectations over liquidity and investments, a "battle" is raging in terms of redistribution of turnover, a survey on small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) stated on Wednesday.
The survey, conducted by the Institute of Small Enterprises of GSEBEE -- the association representing SMEs -- in cooperation with MARC, was presented by GSEBEE president D. Asimakopoulos. The survey was based on a sample of 1,200 SMEs over the period January 24-31.
Presenting the survey, Asimakopoulos said a clearer picture of the market will be available after the Easter holidays, while MARC chief executive N. Gerakis stressed that several enterprises have "burned their fat and are now proceeding with lay-offs or closures, thereby eating their flesh".
Conditions changed dramatically in the last six months, Asimakopoulos said, adding that a previous survey in July had shown that businesses expected business closures totaling 170,000 by the end of 2011, while the latest survey raised this figure to 225,000 closings. Another 220,000 SMEs said they would probably terminate their business activity.
Under such a scenario, a total of 320,000 jobs would be at risk.
GSEBEE said turnover was down 30 pct on average in 2010, while around 30 pct of SMEs delayed their payments and 40-pct faced problems in meeting their payroll. Another 30 pct said they were forced to cut working hours.
SMEs said they faced problems in accessing bank funds.
More worrying was the figure of 41.3 pct of business people citing default as unavoidable, a view undermining investments.
GSEBEE urged the government to re-examine the prospect of cutting VAT in public sector enterprises, greater flexibility in the payment of social insurance contributions and a more favourable status in commercial real estate property.
 Greek exports up 8.3 pct in 2010Greek exports grew 8.3 pct on average in 2010, while imports dropped 20.9 pct in the 12-month period from January to December 2010, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.
The statistics service report said the value of import-arrivals totaled 2.985 billion euros in December last year, from 3.431 billion euros in 2009, for a decline of 13 pct, while the value of imports in the 12-month period form January to December 2010 dropped 20.9 pct from 2009.
The value of export-deliveries totaled 1.537 billion euros in December, up 21.6 pct from the same month in 2009, with the value of exports rising 8.3 pct in the January-December 2010 period, compared with the same period in the previous year.
 Industrial production down 5.2 pct in DecIndustrial production fell 5.2 pct in December 2010 for an average decline of 5.7 pct last year, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said the industrial production index fell 5.2 pct from December 2009, after a decline of 6.2 pct recorded in the previous 12-month period. The statistics service attributed the 5.2 pct decline of the index to a 7.8 pct drop in mining production, a 4.0 pct decline in manufacturing - reflecting a 21.6 pct fall in textiles, a 27.5 pct drop in clothing, a 17.2 pct fall in mining and a 40.3 pct drop in transport equipment - an 8.8 pct fall in electricity production and a 0.9 pct decline in water production in December.
 OTE announces dissolution of real estate subsidiaryOTE Properties, a subsidiary of Hellenic Telecoms (OTE) Estate, will be liquidated, according to a decision taken at a general shareholders' assembly of the listed telecoms company.
OTE Properties, established to manage property investments of the formerly state-run telephony company, was awarded an operating license in June 2008 by the Athens Stock Exchange, with a deadline of Oct. 7, 2011 to float its shares on the bourse.
The parent company, in an announcement, cited the current financial and economic climate, plagued by a lack of liquidity and lack of investors' interest, along with a surplus of commercial properties, as impeding the development of real estate companies and investments.
 Piraeus Bank to issue 1.25-bln-euro covered bond issuePiraeus Bank on Wednesday announced a plan to issue a 1.25-billion-euro covered bond issue, as part of a plan to further boost its liquidity.
The bond issue will have a maturity of three years, with an option to extend for another 10 years, carrying an interest of one-month Euribor plus 100 basis points. The issue was rated A- by Fitch Ratings and will be traded in the Luxembourg Stock Exchange.
Piraeus Bank has announced plans to issue covered bonds worth 3.0 billion euros. Barclays Capital will act as adviser to the issue.
 Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling reports higher 2010 resultsCoca-Cola Hellenic Bottling on Wednesday announced an 8.0 pct increase in its comparable net profits to 450 million euros in 2010, compared with the previous year, while comparable earnings per share totaled 1.24 euros, up 9.0 pct over the same period.
Volume of sales totaled 2.100 million boxes, up 1.0 pct from 2009, while net turnover was 6.794 billion euros, up 4.0 pct. Comparable operating earnings totaled 682 million euros last year, up 5.0 pct from 2009, while net cash flow totaled 549 million euros.
Fourth quarter net earnings totaled 33 million euros, while earnings per share were 0.09 euros, both figures sharply up compared with the same period in 2009. The volume of sales totaled 481 million boxes, with turnover rising 7.0 pct to 1.495 billion euros, while operating earnings grew 1.0 pct to 61 million euros.
Commenting on the resuls, Doros Konstantinou, chief executive of the group, said that Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling recorded a significant performance last year despite adverse economic conditions prevailed in most countries with established activities. He expressed his optimism for this year's results, based on signs of economic recovery in the main markets.
 Lesvos Maritime Company announces cooperation with Turkish companyThe Lesvos SA Maritime Company announced on Wednesday the creation of a joint investment consortium IDO Marmara EGE, in cooperation with the Turkish Rhea Girisim Sermayesi Yatirim Ortakligi AS company.
According to a relevant announcement, the purpose of the cooperation is the joint participation in the auction proclaimed by the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul on January 7 2011 and concerning the privatisation of 100 percent of the shares of the IDO Istanbul Deniz Otobusleri Sanayi ve Ticaret AS company.
 ASE gains more than 22% in 2011 rallyShare prices' gains surpassed 100 pct during a rally at the Athens Stock Exchange this year, which pushed the composite index of the market from a low of 1,370 to around 1,700 points currently.
The Greek bourse apparently surprised even the most optimistic portfolios, which expected a correction in the market, as the composite index recovered losses of the previous five months, establishing a more positive climate in the market.
The composite index moved up for four weeks in a row, for a net gain of 21.54 pct, with the Big Cap index rising 22.06 pct, the Mid Cap index up 14.99 pct and the Small Cap index rising 22.41 pct.
Cyprus Bank (45.92 pct), Ellaktor (31.37 pct), Mytilineos (31.34 pct), Eurobank (30.27 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (30.27 pct), Viohalco (29.53 pct), National Bank (28.76 pct), Alpha Bank (27.26 pct) and Motor Oil (25.07 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks. Among medium-capitalization stocks, Korinth Pipes (64.18 pct), Halcor (56.67 pct), Mihaniki (51.52 pct), Proton Bank (50 pct) and Elval (41.35 pct) were top gainers, while among small caps, Intrakat (125.42 pct), ETEM (103.03 pct), Alko (85.29 pct) and Vioter (75 pct) were top gainers.
On the other hand, Pegasus (20.9 pct), Tegopoulos (17.14 pct) and Edrasi (12.5 pct) were major losers.
 Stocks end 1.24% higherStocks ended significantly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with the composite index of the market flirting with the 1,700 level. The index rose 1.24 pct to end at 1,690.58 points, with turnover rising to 164.135 million euros.
The Big Cap index jumped 1.58 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.09 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 2.98 pct. MIG (20 pct), Mytilineos (4.92 pct) and PPC (4.05 pct) were major gainers among blue chip stocks, while ATEbank (1.25 pct) and Coca-Cola 3E (1.20 pct) were top losers.
The Financial Services (13.59 pct), Health (10.26 pct) and Media (5.06 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Insurance (2.89 pct) and Food (1.06 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 128 to 46 with another 44 issues unchanged. MIG (20 pct), Paperpack (16.67 pct) and Intrakat (15.79 pct) were top gainers, while Elbisco (12.5 pct), Hellenic Textiles (9.09 pct) and FHL Mermeren (8.85 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.27%
Personal & Household: +2.41%
Raw Materials: +3.84%
Travel & Leisure: +2.66%
Food & Beverages: -1.06%
Financial Services: +13.59%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Coca Cola 3E, Alpha Bank and Marfin Popular Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.80
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.34
HBC Coca Cola: 21.40
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.53
National Bank of Greece: 7.76
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.76
Bank of Piraeus: 1.64
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.20 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 41.169 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,897 contracts worth 27.174 million euros, with 33,048 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 41,332 contracts worth 13.995 million euros, with investment interest focusing on MIG's contracts (8,995), followed by Eurobank (2,350), OTE (1,705), PPC (927), Piraeus Bank (8,710), National Bank (4,930), Alpha Bank (2,705), Marfin Popular Bank (6,842), Mytilineos (926), Cyprus Bank (893) and Hellenic Postbank (613).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.375
Pound sterling 0.856
Danish kroner 7.515
Swedish kroner 8.858
Japanese yen 113.55
Swiss franc 1.325
Norwegian kroner 7.931
Canadian dollar 1.368
Australian dollar 1.361
 Lecture on prospects in Greek-Turkish relationsThe annual circle of lectures hosted by the faculty of communication & media studies at the University of Athens on Tuesday focused on Greek-Turkish relations and their prospects.
Guest speakers included Turkish professors Sevda Alankus, the dean of the Izmir University's faculty of economics, as well as Defne Ozonur Cologlu, an assistant professor at Yeditepe University, who addressed the event on the issue of journalism as a tool for peace.
Both academics underlined that objectivity when presenting the facts, a careful use of language and creating opportunities for greater social understanding, can become an option for journalists and publishers wishing to promote peace.
ANA-MPA Managing Director Nicholas Voulelis referred to myths and stereotypes, as he said, that still prevail in several media outlets in Greece, ones that influence and shape public opinion.
He also referred to the views expressed by the media and political parties, as regards the recent meetings of the leaders of Greece and Turkey in Athens and Erzurum, stressing that they reflect two schools of thought, a nationalist-defence oriented one and a positive-realistic view.
 Keratea residents protesting planned landfill clash again with policeIncidents broke out yet again Tuesday night in Keratea, eastern Attica, between riot police and residents in continuing protests against the construction of a landfill in their district, with at least five people arrested and riot police resorting to teargas.
Five people were arrested in police raids on four homes, charged with participation in the violence, and are due to be led before a public prosecutor on Wednesday.
Three more persons were taken in for questioning, while several protestors and police were injured in the incidents.
The violence erupted when hundreds of protesting residents attacked the MAT riot police forces on Lavriou Avenue, where locals have set up a roadblock.
Riot police used teargas to disperse the protestors, while homemade firebombs and rocks were thrown against police and at the local police station, breaking several windows.
Police made extensive use of teargas on a handful of occasions, before calm was restored about an hour after midnight.
 'No pay' movement reps claim politically motivated prosecutionMembers of the now infamous "I won't pay" movement, which urging motorists not to pay road tolls in the greater Athens area, gave a press conference on Wednesday, terming their prosecution as being "political and ideological" in nature.
They insisted that their initiative is fair, underlining that the people who refuse to pay road tolls cannot be prosecuted because there is no crime for which they are accused. They also claimed that consortia holding national motorway concessions are faced with a legal dead end.
 Central Macedonia region authority picketed by unpaid coach ownersThe Central Macedonia Region authority was picketed on Wednesday by the owners of private coaches used to transport children from villages to schools in Thessaloniki. The coach drivers are protesting because they have not been paid for their services for the previous year, while the regional authority has signed no contracts with them for the current year.
Protesting alongside the coach owners and drivers, who had cordoned off the building using 100 coaches, were parents whose children were unable to go to school after unpaid coach owners discontinued the service starting on Wednesday.
The coach owners demanded that the finance ministry intervene to iron out procedural issues that were delaying payment for 2010 and also legislative measures from the interior and education ministries.
The problem that has arisen affects some 7,000 school children in the Thessaloniki prefecture and a further 4,000 children in Halkidiki.
 German terrorism suspect remanded in custodyMisdemeanours Court Justices on Wednesday ordered that 27-year-old German national Marie Fee Meyer be remanded in custody until she is tried on charges of belonging to a terrorist group. The public prosecutor in the case had recommended that Meyer be kept in custody, judging a likely flight risk.
The 27-year-old has denied any involvement in terrorist activity though she has admitted involvement with the anarchist, anti-establishment movement in her testimony to the 19th Examining Magistrate on January 17.
The examining magistrate and public prosecutor had disagreed over whether she should be remanded in custody so her case was referred to the Misdemeanour Justices Council.
 Special guard arrested for shooting cafe ownerA 24-year-old Greek Police special guard serving at the Syntagma police station was arrested at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday after he shot and injured the owner of a cafe in Pagrati where he had earlier got into a fight with other customers.
The police guard, who was drunk at the time of the shooting, was taken to the Pagrati police station and led before a public prosecutor on Wednesday morning to be charged with violating laws on firearms and causing grievous bodily harm.
The 24-year-old was off duty at the time of the incident and got into an argument while drinking. The owner then tried to escort him from the premises in order to stop the fight but, under unknown circumstances, the special guard fired on him with his service revolver and injured the 37-year-old man in the leg.
The chief of police has ordered an internal inquiry into the incident and had him suspended from duty.
 Man stabbed and killed by two assailantsTwo foreign nationals stabbed and killed a Romanian man for unknown reasons in Agia Triada in Midea, afterwards fleeing the scene and heading off in an unknown direction. The incident occurred on Tuesday evening.
Nafplion security police have launched an investigation and have issued a bulletin calling for the location and arrest of the two men that carried out the homicide.
 Greek-owned ship victim of piracyThe Greek-owned tanker "Irene" was taken over by pirates on Wednesday, while sailing 200 nautical miles off the coast of Oman. The ship had a crew of 25, among them seven Greeks.
The "Irene" was carrying a cargo of crude oil and had disembarked from Kuwait heading for the Gulf of Mexico. Apart from the seven Greek sailors, its crew consisted of 17 Filipinos and one Georgian national.
The shipping company that owns the vessel said that it currently had no contact with the ship.
 Cloudy on ThursdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -3C and 19C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 15C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -1C to 12C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe government's deliberations with the visiting EU/IMF troika and the Greek and EU economies were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Wednesday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "80 percent of the people don't know what the strikers are demanding".
AVGHI: "Stop to the toll rates of collusion".
AVRIANI: "Burning DVDs (on immense scandal involving top economic official) in Karatzaferis' hands".
ELEFTHEROS: "Karatzaferis to Samaras: Together we can beat PASOK and Papandreou (in elections)".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Hirings and salary reductions in public sector 'locked in'."
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The 36 bonuses being abolished".
ESTIA: "Hypocrisy over the Memorandum".
ETHNOS: "Double reduction in automobile prices".
IMERISSIA: "Merkel's five conditions - The commitments for settlement of the debt".
KATHIMERINI: "30 percent reduction in public sector 'prime' remuneration".
LOGOS: "Major inconvenience for IKA insured".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Small extension of time for package of new measures".
NIKI: "The big upset".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Relief measures for migrants".
TA NEA: "Stick and carrot".
VRADYNI: "They're toying with our limits".
 Leaders decide to intensify direct talksNICOSIA (CNA/ANA)
The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, have decided to intensify the process of the direct negotiations over the next few weeks.
The two leaders met on Wednesday at the Chief of Missions residence, in the United Nations Protected Area of Nicosia and it was the first after their meeting with the UN Secretary General in the Swiss city of Geneva, on January 26.
Speaking after Wednesday's meeting, Special Representative of the UN SG Alexander Downer said that the two leaders had a good discussion about the procedures, about the way forward.
"What they've decided, consistent with the discussions with the Secretary-General, was that they would intensify the process over the next few weeks. That will involve the leaders meeting once a week, typically on a Wednesday", he said, adding that the plan is for them to meet at 10 o'clock on Wednesday mornings every week.
He however noted that there is an exception next week for technical reasons, and the meeting will be held on Thursday, February 17, instead of Wednesday.
Downer also said that the Representatives of the two leaders will be meeting twice a week in a more intensive format than has been the case in the past as well.
Asked on which chapters the leaders will continue their discussions, Downer said that they will have more to say about that during the course of next week.
Replying to a question on the duration of this round of intensive talks, he said that we will have to wait and see. "As you know, the Secretary-General wants to meet the leaders again soon. No particular time has been decided at this stage for that meeting. So there'll be some discussions about scheduling, and a time, and of course a location, will be chosen for that meeting. But there's no decision about that at this stage", he noted.
Finally, asked what is forcing the intensification of these talks, UN SG's Special Adviser said that Ban Ki-moon discussed this issue with the leaders and they all agreed that it would be valuable to intensify the talks and to keep the momentum going in the process.
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 bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
On his return to the Presidential Palace after his meeting with Eroglu, President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias said that they discussed their recent meeting in Geneva with the UN Secretary General and agreed to continue their talks on fundamental issues from where they left off.
President Christofias pointed out that it was necessary to reaffirm all that has so far been agreed on, adding that the talks would be intensified and that the aides would be meeting twice a week to discuss pending issues.
Asked if there was hope that the Turkish Cypriot side would be accepting the linking of the chapters of territory and property, President Christofias said there was always hope and that ''we insist on our position.''
Replying to other questions, President Christofias said that the basis of the talks was clear and was recorded in UN minutes, adding that ''we want to clarify this with the new leader,'' namely Eroglu.
Regarding the forthcoming elections in Turkey and asked how these would affect the talks, President Christofias said that there were also parliamentary elections coming up in Cyprus and that he was ready to negotiate up to the eve of the elections and continue afterwards.
''We will see if Turkey is ready,'' he said, adding that it would be wrong to request that the talks are postponed until after the elections.
Asked if Eroglu was questioning significant elements of what had been agreed on with former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, President Christofias said ''he is a new leader and I want to know how he is really thinking on all issues.''
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