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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-02-11

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

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

Friday, 11 February 2011 Issue No: 3718

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM: Determination to carry on with reforms despite protests
  • [02] DM addresses Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations
  • [03] PM gives interview to electronic newspaper
  • [04] Gov't on healthcare sector reforms bill
  • [05] Doctors to continue strike on Friday
  • [06] Gov't dismisses snap election speculation
  • [07] FM Droutsas briefed by UN special advisor Downer on Cyprus issue
  • [08] FM to visit UN, Cyprus next week
  • [09] Spokesman on FM's contacts in Nicosia, London, UN
  • [10] Foreign ministry: meeting with Nimetz 'positive event'
  • [11] Athens on census in Albania; ethnic Greek minority
  • [12] Athens points to Turkish naval provocation
  • [13] Peacekeeping exercise held in Kilkis
  • [14] Canadian Ambassador visits Corinth
  • [15] State budget shows 155 million euros surplus in January
  • [16] Troika heads to address press conference on Friday
  • [17] Minister calls for 'flexibility' in labour relations
  • [18] Finance ministry to cross-check tax statements against funds transferred abroad
  • [19] Greek tourism anticipates double-digit increase in foreign visitors
  • [20] Increase in tourism to Greece due to crisis in Egypt
  • [21] Takovers involving Greek companies rise in 2010, Bloomberg reports
  • [22] Greek shipowners optimistic over major sector's prospects
  • [23] Draft bill ratifies act of law extending ban on foreclosure auctions
  • [24] National Bank president in Cyprus
  • [25] Piraeus Bank chairman: Mergers only if conditions ripe
  • [26] NGBI 500 index shows slight improvement in Jan.
  • [27] Unemployment at 13.9pct in Nov.
  • [28] Syndicated bond loan for OTE SA
  • [29] HSBC celebrates 30th year in Greece
  • [30] Diageo Hellas reports 38 pct drop in sales in second half 2010
  • [31] Greek inflation up 5.2pct in January
  • [32] Stocks sink 3.46% on Thur.
  • [33] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [34] Gender equality still an issue in the workplace, ombudsman reports
  • [35] Thessaloniki included in European CIVITAS Initiative
  • [36] 'Art & Fashion' Bazaar for SOS Children's Villages
  • [37] 2011 death toll from H1N1 reaches 45
  • [38] Transport stoppages Friday
  • [39] Freighter carrying contraband cigs intercepted
  • [40] Fair on Friday
  • [41] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [42] EP Committee calls on Turkey to withdraw troops from Cyprus Politics

  • [01] PM: Determination to carry on with reforms despite protests

    Prime minister George Papandreou stressed his determination to proceed with the necessary reforms and changes despite mobilisations and protests, in his closing address on Thursday to an event organised by the Foreign Ministry and the visiting Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations (CoP).

    "The Greek people are aware, even though these changes are truly painful, that these deep changes and reforms are necessary in order to create a viable economy and a country that is more secure," he emphasised.

    Papandreou briefed the Council of Presidents on the measures taken in Greece to overcome the crisis, expressing his conviction that the effort will succeed.

    He pointed to the first positive signs for the economy, such as the 38 percent rise in exports in 2008 and a 200 percent increase in tourist traffic from Israel.

    Papandreou also announced plans to organise a common session of the Greek and Israeli cabinets in Athens in April.

    Outlining proposals being discussed in Europe for tackling the debt crisis, he said the aim was to make Europe more competitive and more innovative by investing in innovation and the green development of infrastructure through the issue of a Eurobond.

    The premier also referred to the crisis in Egypt, stressing that stability in the region and its smooth restoration must be ensured, and that international law and the international treaties must be respected.

    He stressed in response to a question by CoP chairman Alan Solow that Greece and the EU wanted peace and a resolution of the problems, with states in the region respecting Israel's sovereignty and security.

    Papandreou also repeated a position in favour of establishing an independent and stable Palestinian state, saying that this would help enhance Israel's security.

    The Greek prime minister promised to continue efforts to reach an understanding with Russia's leadership on an exchange of files concerning the Jewish communities in Greece and Russia.

    The private seminar was also briefed by Greece's defence minister Evangelos Venizelos, Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis and Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos.

    [02] DM addresses Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations

    Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos, addressing the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations on Thursday, referred to the situation in the Middle East as a result of recent developments in Egypt, Greek-Turkish relations and the day-to-day situation in the Aegean, the way with which Greece conceives its participation in the European Union's Common Security and Defence Policy and NATO, the significance attributed by Greece to bilateral Greek-American defence cooperation and the prospects of the new Greece-Israel partnership strategy, as well as the framework of Greek defence policy.

    As regards Greece's relations with Turkey, the defence minister reiterated that Greece's basic policy is the establishment of relations of good neighbourliness and close cooperation and stressed the importance of both sides implementing Confidence Building Measures. All these always in light of International Law and the Law of the Sea in particular, as he mentioned specifically.

    On the question of Greek-Israeli relations, Venizelos pointed out that cooperation between the two countries must have the characteristics of a strategic cooperation, while referring to the Jewish tradition of Thessaloniki and the participation of the forces of the Air Force in the handling of the destructive wildfire in Israel last December.

    [03] PM gives interview to electronic newspaper

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking to the U.S. electronic newspaper "The Huffington Post", referred to his personal vision for the future of Greece.

    The prime minister stressed in particular the solidarity shown by the Greek people to his government, adding that the Greeks are currently facing the biggest crisis in past years and "it is understandable" for there to be protests.

    Papandreou also referred to the sectors where growth can be achieved and Greece to become a "regional hub," particularly to the green economy and technology, stressing that the country is in the "suitable position" to attract international investments.

    [04] Gov't on healthcare sector reforms bill

    "The law will be implemented in compliance with the timetables set", Health Minister Andreas Loverdos said on Thursday, speaking at a press conference one day after a watershed bill on health sector reforms passed a first test in Parliament.

    "The majority of people believe that something good is being done for them," Loverdos underlined, adding that "the healthcare system will work under better conditions" and that the "insured-physician distance is being reduced".

    The minister said new fees for 10,000 medical practices will be introduced by June and that as of April, the ministry will undertake the pricing of medicines, while the hospital management reforms will proceed.

    [05] Doctors to continue strike on Friday

    Hospital and private doctors have decided to extend their strike until Friday like their colleagues working for the IKA-ETAM social insurance fund. The decision was made on Thursday at the health ministry, which doctors have occupied since the start of the week.

    The doctors are striking against reforms to public health care introduced by an omnibus bill passed by Parliament on Wednesday.

    They have also decided to continue their occupation of the health ministry's lecture theatre until Friday, at which time they will hold a new general meeting to decide on further action.

    [06] Gov't dismisses snap election speculation

    Government spokesman George Petalotis said on Thursday "there is no question of elections being called. The national interest is leading us precisely to the contrary. The situation and the Greek citizens do not want experiments. Whoever wants elections can come forward and ask for them," while at the same time speaking of "scenarios that are coming from various places for the same political reasons."

    The spokesman further said the government's effort is focused on the creation of a Greece that will be changed and rid of the pathogenies of the past, while as regards consensus he said "we were calling for it from the very beginning even before the crisis heightened."

    [07] FM Droutsas briefed by UN special advisor Downer on Cyprus issue

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Thursday was briefed by the UN secretary general's special advisor on the Cyprus issue, Alexander Downer, on developments concerning the Cyprus problem. The briefing took place a few days ahead of the foreign minister's visit to Nicosia and New York scheduled for next week that will focus on the promotion of the Cyprus issue, which, according to the UN official, goes through a "critical phase".

    Exiting the foreign minister's office in Athens, Downer referred to the "dedication" displayed by the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots to continue the dialogue process at a more intensive pace, as it was established after Wednesday's meeting between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu. He also referred to the "extremely constructive" role played by the Greek government.

    The UN official also spoke about significant disagreements on certain aspects of the problem and also about disagreements that are being bridged, underlining that the good rapport between Christofias and Eroglu is contributing in a positive way to the entire process.

    [08] FM to visit UN, Cyprus next week

    Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas will meet in New York with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon next week, after a visit to Cyprus.

    Droutsas is due to meet with the UN chief on Friday, February 18, for talks focusing on the Cyprus issue ahead of Ban's submission of his report to the UN Security Council later in the month.

    The foreign minister will meet earlier Friday with Archbishop Demetrios of America.

    Earlier in the week, Droutsas will arrive in Cyprus on Monday for a two-day visit to Cyprus, on the heels of a scheduled meeting on Thursday in Athens with the UN secretary general's special advisor on the Cyprus issue, Alexander Downer.

    In Nicosia, Cyprus government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said the visit is in the context of the contacts and coordination between Athens and Nicosia, adding that developments in the Cyprus issue will be discussed, while views will be exchanged on the next steps.

    [09] Spokesman on FM's contacts in Nicosia, London, UN

    Developments in the Cyprus issue -- having as a background the Geneva talks last month -- a slow dialogue process and the imminent report by the UNSG to be submitted in late February will be the main issues in a series of contacts Droutsas will have in Cyprus and New York, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday, during a regular briefing of reporters.

    "We want Greece to be able to have its positions expressed clearly in order to be as helpful as possible," he stressed.

    Droutsas will be in Nicosia on Feb. 14 for meetings with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou. The next day will be in London for contacts with his British counterpart and David Miliband, the leader of the opposition. On Friday he will travel to New York, where he will meet with the UN secretary general, Archbishop Demetrios of America and representatives of the Greek-American community.

    Referring to the meeting with the UN secretary general, Delavekouras stressed that the UN and the international community play a "decisive" role in the Cyprus issue and that the process should be assisted in an objective manner to ensure that the necessary steps will be made.

    As regards the course of the process, the pace of which is not satisfactory, he said the responsibility lies with the Turkish Cypriot side, which "reverts to older positions". The spokesman also called for "a clear commitment by Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on everything that has already been agreed upon".

    Finally, he called on the Turkish Cypriot side to "enter negotiations with willingness for progress".

    [10] Foreign ministry: meeting with Nimetz 'positive event'

    A meeting in New York between UN mediator in the name dispute Matthew Nimetz and the representatives of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was a "positive event," Greek foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

    In comments on the Wednesday night meeting, Delavekouras expressed confidence that the process to find a solution to the dispute between Athens and Skopje over FYROM's name will continue. He also expressed satisfaction over the recognition given by all sides to Greece's positive contribution through an initiative for direct talks between the prime ministers of the two countries.

    The spokesman said that no decisions had been made at present and repeated that Athens was willing and able to make rapid progress toward a final solution of the problem, urging FYROM's leadership to make the necessary steps that would allow this.

    He also repeated Athens' readiness to support FYROM's accession to the EU on condition that a solution to the name dispute was found.

    [11] Athens on census in Albania; ethnic Greek minority

    A foreign ministry spokesman on Thursday commented on the pending population census to be conducted in neighbouring Albania, noting that Athens views the ethnic Greek minority in Albania as a "bridge of friendship", a view that should be shared by Tirana as well.

    "Full respect of its rights (ethnic Greek minority) by the Albanian side constitutes a barometre for bilateral relations and a criterion for the country's European course," spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras added.

    He added that respect of the ethnic Greek minority's rights is included amongst the country's international obligations, and especially within the framework of Albania's European course, "... and not only in regions defined as minority zones".

    Delavekouras reminded that Greek-Albanian relations are of strategic importance for Athens and that "we will stand by Albania in the steps it will take toward the EU. Cooperation and dialogue are continuous and we should not look for reasons to blow situations out of proportion and create impressions".

    [12] Athens points to Turkish naval provocation

    "Actions that constitute provocations targeting Greece do not allow for the normalisation of the Greek-Turkish relations," foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras reminded on Thursday, in response to a question on the appearance of the Turkish corvette "Bodrum" in Greek territorial waters.

    A demarche will be lodged with the Turkish side as soon as a report on the incident is prepared by the Hellenic Navy general staff, he said, stressing that "on our part, we are doing everything necessary in terms of operations and diplomacy to guarantee our country's sovereign rights".

    Delavekouras pointed out that the warship is still in the Aegean, but currently in Turkish territorial waters, and concluded that Ankara should realise that such behaviours are unsuitable within the framework of good neighbourly relations -- and while the neighbouring country is on a European course.

    [13] Peacekeeping exercise held in Kilkis

    A military exercise by the Hellenic Army, code-named "Kallimachos", took place on Feb. 4 at the Koromila base in the township of Argyroupolis, in northern Kilkis prefecture. The exercise focused on "crowd evacuation", "conflict deterrence" and "feuding parties' control" simulations, military sources said Thursday.

    The exercise was held within the framework of training by the army's 71st airborne brigade, which participates in EU peace operations.

    The brigade forms the basis of HELBROC 4, an EU battlegroup comprised of units from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus. (ANA-MPA)

    [14] Canadian Ambassador visits Corinth

    Canadian Ambassador to Greece Renata Wielgosz, heading a delegation, paid a courtesy visit to Corinth Mayor Alexandros Pnevmatikos on Wednesday.

    The Mayor welcomed the Canadian delegation and briefed them on the problems and prospects of the new Corinth Municipality emerging from the recent Kallikratis public administration reform plan.

    The two sides examined prospects for cultural cooperation, as well as the trade and economic prospects emerging in the new environment, not only due to Corinth's major historical and archaeological importance but also the Greek community living and working in Canada.

    Wielgosz thanked the Mayor for his welcome and briefing, and toured the archaeological site of Ancient Corinth.

    She also spoke with local representatives, while later she addressed students at the Peloponnese University's faculty of Political Sciences and International Relations.

    Financial News

    [15] State budget shows 155 million euros surplus in January

    The state budget presented a surplus of 155 million euros in January 2011, from 578 million euros in the corresponding month in 2010, on a fiscal basis, according to temporary data regarding its implementation.

    The data was publicised by the Finance ministry which stressed that "predictions on the revenues and the expenditures on a monthly basis for the month of January that are included in the Opening Report for the 2011 Budget are being confirmed."

    Specifically, the regular budget's net revenues amounted to 5,080 million euros and show a 9.2 percent decrease that according to the Finance ministry is due to the non-repetition in Janauary this year of circulation rate receipts by 393 million euros that had taken place last year. And this is so because this year the same extension was not provided for the payment of rates.

    Another reason are the reduced revenues from the special contribution at profit-making businesses by 140 million euros compared to last year.

    The regular budget's expenditures are reduced by 2.5 percent. The first stage expenditures present a 2.6 percent decrease and interest 2.2 percent.

    [16] Troika heads to address press conference on Friday

    The heads of the troika are expected to present the initial results of the new check of the Greek economy, in the framework of the approval of an IMF-EU-ECB loan's fourth tranche, during a press conference on Friday.

    The officials of the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank focused, according to reports, in their contacts at the Finance ministry and the other ministries "involved" in the memorandum, on the need to speed up structural changes.

    According to the same reports, uncertainties in the troika's view are located in the expenditures of the wider region of Central Governance (hospitals, funds, etc.), the handling of tax evasion and the speeding up of privatisations.

    Finance ministry officials point out that the disbursement of the loan's fourth tranche is a foregone conclusion, while what is necessary is for the momentum in reforms not to be lost, many of which have already been enacted or have started being implemented.

    [17] Minister calls for 'flexibility' in labour relations

    Labour Minister Louka Katseli on Thursday urged for "flexibility and adjustment, instead of business closures", offering a direction over labour relations in the country.

    In a radio interview, the Greek minister stressed that "competitiveness will be not achieved through downgrading the living standards to the level of poverty", while nevertheless adding that certain sectors need to readjust labour costs to ensure job positions.

    She reiterated there will no more cuts in wages and pensions in the public sector, nor any more tax increases, while she stressed that business labour contracts "reinstating order" in the market.

    "The national challenge is to move forward and support the viability of enterprises. It is true that unemployment is rising, but I want to be optimistic that we will not reach the figures predicted in studies," she said.

    A priority was to support OAED - the Manpower Employment Organisation- combatting "informal labour" and social insurance contribution evasion.

    [18] Finance ministry to cross-check tax statements against funds transferred abroad

    The finance ministry on Thursday announced plans to check the tax statements of individuals transferring sums from Greece to banks abroad against the size of their bank deposits, in order to see the amount of their savings is justified by the annual income they declare.

    Information Systems General Secretary Diomedes Spinellis said that the finance ministry was now working with the Union of Greek Banks in order to obtain the details of individuals that withdrew their savings from Greek banks and sent them abroad.

    Spinellis said the cross-check did not target those whose with savings that could be justified by their declared income but only people declaring a minimal annual income while having large sums in the bank.

    He reported that 30 billion euro were withdrawn from Greek banks and transferred to banks abroad during 2010.

    [19] Greek tourism anticipates double-digit increase in foreign visitors

    The Greek tourism industry is anticipating a double-digit increase in foreign visitor arrivals this year, but the big wager remains whether this will translate into a corresponding rise in revenues capable of boosting the country's GDP.

    Institute of Tourism Research and Forecasting (ITEP) chairman Prof. Dionyssis Hionis told ANA-MPA that a 4.5 percent increase in tourism revenue is forecast for 2011, representing a 1pct increase in GDP, with all that entails for a rise in employment, although it is still early to make specific predictions.

    At this time, early bookings in hotels have posted a 3 percent increase over last year, although, he added, in the 'good years' for Greek tourism early bookings approached 25 percent

    Hionis also anticipated that the unrest in Egypt will also give a boost to the tourist wave to Greece, with tour operators already preparing for that.

    Hellenic Hotels Federation president Andreas Andreadis also anticipated a substantial increase in tourist arrivals of "a high single-digit or low double-digit" percentage. He added that early bookings from Britain have marked a 7-9 percent increase over last year, while interest was also high from such countries as Russia, France and Italy.

    [20] Increase in tourism to Greece due to crisis in Egypt

    GENEVA (ANA-MPA)

    The latest developments in Egypt are turning Swiss tourists to other Mediterranean countries, according to a report in Thursday's edition of the "Basler Zeitung" newspaper.

    Expected to benefit most are Spain and the Canary Islands in particular. Greece and Turkey as well are emerging as alternative destinations instead of Egypt. The Greek Tourism ministry is expecting an increase in tourist movement to Greece by 15 percent this year and the director of the Greek Tourist Organisation (EOT) in Geneva G. Kontoyiannopoulos is anticipating a 7 percent increase in Swiss tourists to Greece.

    [21] Takovers involving Greek companies rise in 2010, Bloomberg reports

    Takeovers involving Greek companies rose sharply to reach 7.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2010, up from 4.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2009, but were still much lower than the 28.2 billion U.S. dollars reached in 2008, according to a report by Bloomberg on Thursday.

    According to the Bloomberg report, investment bankers were gradually returning to Greece one year after the country was excluded from bond markets, lured by a reorganisation of the country's financial sector and the government's privatisations programme.

    It also cited a source within the Greek finance ministry saying that the government was in the process of hiring banks as consultants in 10 privatisations.

    [22] Greek shipowners optimistic over major sector's prospects

    "Greek shipping asks for nothing more or nothing less than to remain productively linked with the homeland and undeterred to its difficult daily effort around the world," Theodoros Veniamis, president of the Greek Shipowners' Union, told an annual regular general assembly of the union.

    Veniamis said the current economic environment was transitional, stressing that 2010 was a year that did not allow complacency or any spectacular business initiatives because of a shrinking production and reduced sea transport, by 350 million tons.

    He added there were some signs of economic recovery, combined with strong growth in China, India and SE Asia in general.

    It is within this extremely fluid and volatile environment that Greek shipping managed to maintain its strength, to continue its fleet renewal and boost the national registry, he noted.

    He underlined that Greek shipping will always expect a reconstruction of the historic Merchant Marine ministry which will include management of the port police, while he also referred to problems facing the shipping industry such as attracting young people to the sea profession and upgrading nautical training.

    Veniamis said a meeting between the Union and Prime Minister George Papandreou was held in a positive climate and stressed that government pledges to create a maritime centre, upgrading the port of Piraeus and maritime training were confirming the shipping industry's expectations of securing state support in its work.

    [23] Draft bill ratifies act of law extending ban on foreclosure auctions

    A draft bill ratifying an act of legislation that suspended auctions by credit institutions and other creditors to recover debts of up to 200,000 euros was tabled in the Greek Parliament on Thursday.

    The act of legislation extended a ban that was due to expire at the end of 2010 for six months, until June 30, 2011. The auction ban was extended so that borrowers unable to service their loans due to the economic crisis would have an opportunity to seek the best possible settlement for their outstanding debts.

    The legislation gives over-indebted households the opportunity to take advantage of laws allowing them to reach an out-of-court settlement of their debts without pressing deadlines.

    [24] National Bank president in Cyprus

    NICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)

    President of the National Bank of Greece and of the Greek Banks Union Vassilis Rapanos said here on Thursday that "the crisis is an opportunity for the Greek economy to find its dynamism again and become a model of growth again," while ruling out the possibility of bankruptcy and assuring that "the achievements so far are considerable and the adjustments and reforms that took place in the past year have no precedent in the recent history of Greece."

    Rapanos was speaking on the theme of "The Greek Banking System and the economic crisis," at an event of the Cypriot Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    He said that a return to positive growth rates in Greece is expected as of 2012, lower however than those of the 1996-2007 period. He also said that low inflation is expected, about 2 percent which is the target of the ECB, while expected are a decrease in spreads, a considerable decrease in fiscal deficits and the creation of first stage surpluses, revenues from privatisations about 7 billion euros in the 2011-15 period (about 1 billion euros in 2011), a close watching by the troika of fiscal adjustment and a considerable decrease in real salaries, with a smaller repercussion on low incomes.

    [25] Piraeus Bank chairman: Mergers only if conditions ripe

    Piraeus Bank chairman Mihalis Sallas on Thursday expressed optimism over the course of the Greek economy and predicted positive European decisions regarding Eurozone member Greece in the near future.

    Addressing an event organised at the Athens Stock Exchange, on the occasion of the successful completion of a share capital increase plan by the bank, Sallas said all Greek banks will successfully pass a new round of stress tests.

    Moreover, he did not exclude any future mergers in the domestic banking sector, although he underlined that conditions must be "ripe" for such developments.

    He underlined the significance of the confidence showed by foreign investors in Piraeus Bank's recent share capital increase plan, proof international investment firms' positive view vis-?-vis the Greek banking sector.

    Sallas also said a recent round of successful share capital increases by other Greek banks was a vote of confidence for the sector.

    [26] NGBI 500 index shows slight improvement in Jan.

    The businesses in Northern Greece presented a slightly improved picture in January, according to the latest Northern Greece Business Index 500 (NGBI 500) survey, although the situation still does not inspire optimism for the future, as the index still remained at a negative 29 (-29) in the first month of the year from -34 in December 2010 and compared with -10 in January last year.

    The NGBI 500 statistical surveys are issued monthly by the 'Interview' surveys and polls company on a representative sampling of 500 businesses in Northern Greece. Thus the, albeit small, increase in the index results from the responses of the 500 businesses' representatives to a question on their condition in the next six months, as well as on their turnover compared with the preceding month.

    In the January survey, 56 percent of the reps stated the condition of their companies as "bad" (up from 50 percent in December 2010), while just 9 percent (down from 10 percent in Dec. 2010) described their situation as "good", and 35 percent (down from 40 percent in Dec. 2010) described their situation as "satisfactory".

    As for the coming six months, 16 percent anticipated an improvement in their condition (up from 9 percent in Dec. 2010), whereas 48 percent anticipated a deterioration (up from 55 percent in Dec. 2010), and 37 percent anticipated no change in their situation (up slightly from 36 percent in Dec. 2010).

    With respect to employment, just 4 percent of the respondents anticipated hiring in the following month (against 5 percent in Dec. 2010), a proportion that is considered exceptionally low, falling 2 percentage points lower than in October 2009.

    Regarding company turnover, 20 percent of the respondents noted an increase in January (14 percent in Dec. 2010), while 65 percent noted a decrease (61 percent in Dec. 2010), and 16 percent noted no change (25 percent in Dec. 2010).

    [27] Unemployment at 13.9pct in Nov.

    Unemployment in Greece was running at 13.9 percent in November 2010, according to figures released by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on Thursday.

    According to ELSTAT's Labor Force Survey, the unemployment rate in November 2010 was 13.9% compared to 10.6% in November 2009 and 13.5% in October 2010.

    The number of employed amounted to 4,307,054 persons while the number of unemployed amounted to 692,577 and the number of inactive to 4,320,927.

    The number of employed decreased by 157,176 persons compared with November 2009 (a 3.5% rate of decrease) and by 62,489 persons compared with October 2010 (a 1.4% rate of decrease).

    Unemployed increased by 160,624 persons (a 30.2% rate of increase) compared with November 2009 and by 8,530 persons compared with October 2010 (a 1.2% rate of increase).

    [28] Syndicated bond loan for OTE SA

    A syndicated bond loan of 900 million euros was signed on Thursday by a consortium of 16 banks, eight Greek and 8 international, for Hellenic Telecommunications Organization S.A. (OTE S.A.).

    The two-year loan will be used to refinance a considerable part of loans that expire in 2011 and cover general needs of the OTE Group.

    Eurobank EFG acting as exclusive organizer and coordinator set the minimum amount of the loan to 400 million euros but in cooperation with the rest of the participating banks the sum raised reached 1.075 billion euros.

    [29] HSBC celebrates 30th year in Greece

    HSBC Greece on Thursday announced its commitment to continue its presence in Greece.

    Richard Groves, chief executive of HSBC Greece, on the occasion of the bank's 30th year in Greece, said the celebration of the 30th year of operation here was a landmark for the bank, its customers and the country.

    "Although we continue to experience a difficult economic period in Greece, there are opportunities. Our commitment is to our customers, whom we will continue to service at the maximum of our capabilities".

    Groves said the bank will organise a series of celebrations during the year.

    HSCB Bank Plc began operations in Greece in 1982, when former Midland Bank opened its first branch in Piraeus. HSBC acquired Midland Bank in 1992.

    [30] Diageo Hellas reports 38 pct drop in sales in second half 2010

    Diageo Hellas on Thursday reported a 35 percent drop in sales volume and a 38 percent drop in net sales in its half-year report for the second half of 2010. It attributed the drop in sales to economic conditions, including lower disposable income due to the economic downturn and an 87 percent increase in excise duties.

    In an announcement, the company said that the negative price/mix was a result of the higher margin on trade declining at a faster rate than the off trade and prices of some brands being reduced to maintain affordability.

    As part of a large scotch market, Johnnie Walker was significantly impacted as was Dimple, which declined sharply, as deluxe scotch was impacted more severely. With its strong brand equity, Haig proved more robust and the brand gained share although volume again declined.

    Outside of the scotch category, net sales of all other spirits declined. Marketing spending was maintained as a percentage of net sales and therefore reduced by 38%.

    The same announcement said that economic weakness in a number of markets affected overall performance in Europe, with notable sales declines in Greece, Iberia and to some extent Ireland but good performance in Germany, Russia and Eastern Europe.

    [31] Greek inflation up 5.2pct in January

    Greek inflation rose by 5.2 percent in January this year, against rises of 5.2 percent in December 2010 and 2.4 percent in January 2009, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) announced on Thursday.

    According to ELSTAT, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in January 2011 compared with January 2010, increased by 5.2%. In January 2010, the annual rate of change of the CPI was 2.4%.

    The CPI in January 2011 compared with December 2010, decreased by 0.7%. In January 2010, the monthly rate of change of the CPI was also -0.7%.

    In the twelve-month period from February 2010 to January 2011 compared with the period from February 2009 to January 2010 the annual average rate of change of the CPI was 4.9%. The corresponding annual average rate of change of the CPI in the previous year (February 2009 to January 2010), was 1.3%

    [32] Stocks sink 3.46% on Thur.

    Stocks ended significantly lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index of the market falling distinctly under the 1,700 level. The index dropped 3.46 pct to end at 1,632.06 points, with turnover at 179.57 million euros.

    The Big Cap index lost 3.87 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 3.87 pct lower and the Small Cap index eased 2.72 pct.

    Only Media posted gains (2.95 pct), while Banks (5.19 pct) and Health (5.08 pct) and Raw Materials (4.62 pct) suffered the biggest losses. Broadly, advancers trailed decliners by 44 to 139 with another 39 issues unchanged

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.49%

    Industrials: -3.37%

    Commercial: -4.60%

    Construction: -3.89%

    Media: +2.95%

    Oil & Gas: -1.39%

    Personal & Household: -4.39%

    Raw Materials: -4.62%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.09%

    Technology: -1.22%

    Telecoms: -3.21%

    Banks: -5.19%

    Food & Beverages: -0.63%

    Health: -5.08%

    Utilities: -2.38%

    Chemicals: -3.40%

    Financial Services: -3.49%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Coca Cola 3E, Piraeus Bank and Marfin Popular Bank.

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.49

    ATEbank: 0.76

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.10

    HBC Coca Cola: 21.29

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.42

    National Bank of Greece: 7.41

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.33

    OPAP: 15.53

    OTE: 7.84

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.56

    Titan: 15.38

    [33] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.371

    Pound sterling 0.854

    Danish kroner 7.515

    Swedish kroner 8.894

    Japanese yen 113.61

    Swiss franc 1.321

    Norwegian kroner 7.995

    Canadian dollar 1.368

    Australian dollar 1.366

    General News

    [34] Gender equality still an issue in the workplace, ombudsman reports

    There are still significant obstacles to promoting equal treatment of men and women in the workplace, both in the public and private sectors, according to the Greek ombudsman's special report on gender equality in the workplace released on Thursday.

    The report focused chiefly on gender equality issues relating to parental child-rearing leave in the public sector. This was chosen because of the large number of complaints received by the ombudsman and because the issue is receiving a lot of attention in Europe. The report called for a codification of the various systems regulating parental child-rearing leave, especially in services where it remained discriminatory toward men, to create a uniform system.

    It also noted a sharp increase in complaints of discriminatory treatment in the private sector relating to pregnancy and maternity leave, which rose from 15 percent to 27 percent. The report said that cooperation between the ombudsman's office and labour inspectors had improved significantly, leading to a correction of the discriminatory behaviour, including reversal of dismissals and the imposition of fines on offending employers.

    The ombudsman said implementation of a 2006 law on gender equality in employment was still lagging, with gender mainstreaming in public policy still in its infancy and neither public administration management nor civil courts fully acquainted with it.

    Also lacking was reliable statistical data on discrimination issues, while there are still discriminatory terms in job descriptions for appointments and in procedures giving access to professional qualifications and training.

    [35] Thessaloniki included in European CIVITAS Initiative

    The northern port city of Thessaloniki has become the first Greek city to participate in the CIVITAS Initiative for viable urban transports, receiving European financing through the four-month, 68,000-euro "Civitas Catalist" project undertaken by the Thessaloniki Urban Transport Authority (SASTH).

    The project will study what transport means (metro, light rail tram, monorail) is more suitable to link Macedonia International Airport with an under-construction metro station in Mikra, Kalamaria municipality.

    Fifty percent of the project, which was launched in early 2011 and scheduled to be completed in April, is financed by the European Commission.

    The CIVITAS Initiative helps cities to achieve a more sustainable, clean and energy efficient urban transport system by implementing and evaluating an ambitious, integrated set of technology and policy based measures.

    [36] 'Art & Fashion' Bazaar for SOS Children's Villages

    The Athens Metro operating company AMEL is organising a charity "Art & Fashion" Bazaar, the proceeds of which will be donated to the SOS Children's Villages of Greece.

    The three-day event, featuring works of artists and fashion designers, will run from February 13 to 15 at the Metro Syntagma Station's events hall, with free entry, from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., in the context of AMEL's Corporate Social Responsibility program.

    Participating artists include Nikoletta Antonopoulou, Dimitra Gounari, Tasos Dimou, Eva Divari, Costas Evangelatos, Dimitris Milonis, Georgia Bliatsou, Mary Samoli, Emilia Tsekoura and Alexandros Heretakis, while the fashion designers include Aslanis, Costas Faliakos by Christos Petridis, Vassilis Zoulias old Athens, Lena Katsanidou, Chara Lebessi, Loukia, Nikos-Takis, Markellos Nyktas, Timis Parissis, Smaragdi, Samantha Sotos, Daphne Valente, Veloudakis, and Yiorgos Eleftheriades.

    [37] 2011 death toll from H1N1 reaches 45

    The death toll as a result of the H1N1 flu virus reached 45 since the start of the year on Thursday, when another four deaths and 19 new cases were reported to the Centre for the Control and Prevention of Diseases.

    A total of 104 people are currently being treated in intensive care units after developing complications due to the disease.

    [38] Transport stoppages Friday

    Commuter transport will be disrupted on Friday, with work stoppages in bus, Metro, train and trolley service.

    Athens commuter bus employees have called a work stoppage from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., while four-hour stoppages have been announced from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. by trolley and tram employees, and Athens Metro and ISAP employees have called a stoppage from the beginning of the morning shift to 8:00 a.m.

    [39] Freighter carrying contraband cigs intercepted

    A freighter carrying 4,300 crates of contraband cigarettes (43 million packets) was detected in a sea region off the Saronic island of Hydra by coast guard officials.

    The vessel, with a crew of six Ukrainian seamen, had reportedly sailed from Turkey and was heading for Albania. The vessel was led to the port of Nafplio.

    Weather Forecast

    [40] Fair on Friday

    Fair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -3C and 17C. Fair in Athens, with light winds and temperatures ranging from 4C to 16C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -1C to 13C.

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

    Economic issues and the repercussions of austerity on the market were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Thursday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Huge sums being spent, in midst of deep economic crisis, to maintain an entire 'army' of former and current 'fathers of the nation'."

    AVGHI: "Papandreou blackmailing for consensus, toying with (early general) elections".

    AVRIANI: "The age at which you may retire".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Government fears uprising on February 23, the day of the general nationwide labor strike and rallies".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Papandreou made the 'Death of a Salesman' a reality".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "They're setting up (early general) elections (in the spring of 2011) to conceal the New Memorandum".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Scissoring of 980 tax exemptions".

    ESTIA: "The current Constitution is outdated".

    ETHNOS: "Passport for retirement with 11,000 euros".

    IMERISSIA: "Athens Stock Exchange 'sees' new record highs - Foreign investors consider solution of debt a given fact".

    KATHIMERINI: "Papandreou seeking consensus for 'New Memorandum' up to 2015".

    LOGOS: "Loverdos charges 'parliament of the guilds' after opposition attack over the controversial health bill".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "19 billion euros being sought in 'battle of the deficit'."

    NIKI: "320,000 jobs in jeopardy".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The people should default on payments - KKE leader Aleka Papariga's press conference on recent special EU summit".

    TA NEA: "End to cash in transactions (of over 3,000 euros)".

    VRADYNI: "The marking sending out SOS".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [42] EP Committee calls on Turkey to withdraw troops from Cyprus

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) called on Turkey on Thursday "to actively support the ongoing negotiations, to contribute in concrete terms to the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue and to facilitate a suitable climate for negotiations by immediately starting to withdraw its forces from Cyprus".

    With 51 votes for, five against and three abstentions MEPs voted on the amendments and motion for a resolution on Turkey's progress report 2010 as submitted by Dutch EPP MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten.

    The resolution "strongly urges the two communities in Cyprus to work intensively as asked for by the SG of the UN to capitalize on the progress already made in the negotiations in order to reach a sustainable solution, in line with relevant UNSC resolutions'', promoting in particular Resolution 550 (1984) and the principles on which the EU is founded, to the benefit of the Cypriot citizens, the EU and Turkey.

    UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984) considers any attempts to settle any part of the Turkish occupied town of Varosha (the fenced off area of Famagusta) by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the UN.

    Famagusta was captured by the advancing Turkish troops during the second phase of the Turkish invasion, in mid August 1974. Since then, it has remained sealed off, under the control of the Turkish military.

    Two amendments submitted by Cypriot S&D MEP Koulis Mavronikolas and S&D Vice Chairman Hannes Swoboda and Cypriot EPP MEP Eleni Theocharous and German EPP MEP Renate Sommer which call on Turkey to end the illegal settling of the occupied areas of Cyprus were also approved.

    The report "encourages Turkey to intensify its support for the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, in particular by facilitating its access to military zones in the north" with the addition of another amendment submitted by Cypriot S&D MEP Antigoni Papadopoulou asking for Turkey's contribution in the procedure by providing the Committee access to its records.

    In addition the AFET report "deplores the fact that the Additional Protocol to the EC Turkey Association Agreement has still not been implemented by Turkey, which continues to affect the process of negotiations" and "calls on the government to fully implement it".

    The report is expected to be discussed in the Plenary of the European Parliament in March and new amendments are also likely to be submitted in the meantime.

    According to an official European Parliament Press release "among the key remaining challenges, MEPs list the worrying deterioration of press freedom, which is leading to self-censorship of national media and internet sites, and criminal prosecution of journalists denouncing human rights violations, the situation of women and rising rates of honour killings and forced marriages" and "the lack of protection of religious minorities".

    The wording and specific demands of the text were according to the Press release "hammered out in tough negotiations among Parliament's political groups" as "just minutes before the vote, the EPP group agreed to withdraw an amendment calling on EU institutions to ''study the possibility'' of establishing a ''privileged partnership'' with Turkey, as an alternative to full EU membership. In exchange, AFET "rejected several amendments by the S&D group that would have explicitly mentioned the ''common goal of full EU membership'' for Turkey, or called upon Member States to take an ''open and constructive'' approach to it.

    Instead, the same wording as last year is used, describing the opening of Turkey's accession negotiations in 2005 as the ''starting point for a long-lasting and open-ended process''.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. As a result of the invasion, 1619 Greek Cypriots were listed as missing, most of whom soldiers or reservists, who were captured in the battlefield. The number of Turkish Cypriots missing since 1974 and 1963/64 stands at 503.

    President of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu are currently engaged in UN-led negotiations with an aim to reunify the island under a federal roof.

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