|Monday, 23 April 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-02-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 12 February 2011 Issue No: 3719
 Troika: Further progress towards objectivesRepresentatives of the EC-ECB-IMF "troika" on Friday expressed an "overall assessment" that Greece's efforts at fiscal and financial stabilisation have made further progress towards its objectives, "while there have been delays in some areas".
The statement added, nevertheless, that the underlying fiscal and broader reforms "are being put in place".
Speaking at a later press conference in downtown Athens, the representatives of the EC-ECB-IMF 'troika' which will allocate a 110-billion-euro bailout for Greece more-or-less echoed their joint statement, while at the same time raising the target of a privatisation plan from an initial three billion euros to an eyebrow-raising 50 billion euros by 2015.
The statements on Friday also practically ensured that the 'troika' will dispense the fourth tranche of loans to Greece, valued at more than 15 billion euros.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) representative and veteran analyst Paul Thomsen said the ambitious target can be met via the privatisation of state-run listed and unlisted companies; state assets in banks and commercial real estate.
"Cutting waste in the public sector through privatisation is good for Greek citizens," he said, while indirectly referring to the sharp reactions in some quarters to reforms: "do not allow the few who are gaining from state property to delay the many who will gain from privatisation," he said.
In opening the press conference, European Commission representative Servaas Deroose echoed earlier predictions of a contraction of Greek GDP this year by 3 percent, while pointing to encouraging signs due to increased exports, while fiscal policy was on track with the deficit cut to just above 9 percent for 2010.
Both representatives referred at length to the need for the Greek government to push through with structural reforms as a way to stimulate economic growth and create jobs, with the emphasis -- a "fundamental acceleration" was cited -- in the coming period on liberalising so-called "closed professions", such as lawyers, engineers etc.
On his part, European Central Bank (ECB) Klaus Hasuch emphasised that Greek banks must now "move to a sustainable market-based model".
Hasuch added that domestic banks must now explore alliances both within and outside Greece and reduce operating costs while at the same time raising efficiency. He also said liquidity supplied by the ECB to Greek banks has had a major stabilising effect.
The entire statement read:
"Our overall assessment is that the program has made further progress toward its objectives. While there have been delays in some areas, the underlying fiscal and broader reforms necessary to deliver the program's medium-term objectives are being put in place. However, major reforms still need to be designed and implemented to build a critical mass necessary to secure fiscal sustainability and economic recovery.
"Regarding the outlook, the recession has to date been close to what was anticipated. Underlying inflation has remained low in the face of rising commodity prices. Downward movement of unit labor costs should support gains in competitiveness. Encouragingly, exports have performed well recently. We continue to expect the economy to stabilize late in 2011.
"In the fiscal area, against the sharp macro headwinds, the authorities delivered a 6 percent of GDP fiscal adjustment in 2010, reducing the deficit to about 9? percent of GDP. This is an impressive achievement, but some tensions were evident in budget implementation, in particular shortfalls in revenue collections, and problems with spending control. The program has been designed to address these problems, and the work is progressing.
"The government has begun to specify a medium-term budget strategy, which will define time-bound actions to realize the full fiscal adjustment through 2014. The reforms are complex and cover among other issues taxation, health, public employment, and state enterprise reforms. The government is appropriately allowing time for consultation with social partners before moving beyond the design phase to begin implementation. The government's full commitment to this complicated process of institutional change, not least determination to resist vested interests, will be critical to success.
"Concerning financing, the government continues to work toward securing a gradual return to bond markets at affordable interest rates. Strong program implementation, with financial support from the international community, remains key to achieving this. It is equally important that the government notably scales up its privatization program, and more generally realizes better returns from its extensive portfolio of assets. Work is proceeding to establish a comprehensive inventory of the government's real estate assets, and to define a phased action plan.
"As to the financial sector, tight liquidity and rising non-performing loans are putting strains on the banking system and credit is contracting. Encouragingly, private banks have recently enjoyed some success in raising capital. It is essential that the government makes progress in addressing the stability and efficiency of the banks under its control. The Eurosystem has been a key source of liquidity support for the system, and this is allowing banks to gradually move towards a sustainable medium-term funding model. The Financial Stability Fund is available to provide support to banks in the system, if needed.
"Structural reforms are making progress. Legislation covering aspects of the labor market, the liberalization of closed professions, health care reform, licensing, and the competition authority has either been passed, or soon will be. The authorities' focus must now be on implementing these laws, to make sure the new frameworks are effective as soon as possible. To secure economic recovery, early progress on structural reforms remains critical. The government must ensure that reforms are sufficiently ambitious and comprehensive to tackle the deep seated structural challenges facing Greece. The next steps will focus on, among other things, reviving the tourist industry, removing administrative barriers to exports, and strengthening public procurement.
"Next Steps. Approval of the conclusion of the third review will allow the disbursement of ? 15 billion (? 10.9 billion by the euro area Member States, and ? 4.1 billion by the IMF). The mission for the next program review is scheduled for May 2011."
 PM Papandreou: 'Egypt took a great step of Democracy today'Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, commenting on the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Friday, said that Egypt took a great step of Democracy.
"Hosni Mubarak's decision paves the way to the process of Egypt's democratisation. Egypt took a great step of Democracy today. It is, however, a time of national understanding. In a peaceful spirit and of pursuing great consensuses for the country's future," Papandreou said in a statement.
He added it will be a difficult, laborious process. "It must proceed with respect for the struggles and the expectations of the people. Of young people in particular who are playing a leading role and are envisaging a different country. With open processes, a representative dialogue and adherrence to a lofty purpose. The building of a strong and viable democratic system. The respect of ecumenical rights. The emergence of a new, strong and stable Egypt, that will constitute a model for the entire region through free and fair elections. For the Arab and moslem world."
Lastly, Papandreou said "Egypt is being reborn and in these crucial hours it needs responsible leaders who will struggle for the common good. Greece will stand in solidarity by the Egyptian people, while they are continuing their path towards Democracy. With the friendly neighbouring country and with the Egyptian people we are bound with strong and historical bonds. We are always prepared to contribute with respect to their democratic course that is starting today."
 Change in Egypt 'a reality', Papandreou stressesThe Greek government is monitoring events in Egypt carefully and with a sense of responsibility, Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed in Parliament on Friday. The Greek prime minister also urged Egypt's political leaders to rise to the occasion in order to avoid violence, warning that a clash with the people could have "disastrous consequences".
Papandreou noted that Egypt alone had to decide, while stressing the impact that a failure to restore stability and normality to the country would have on peace and security in the surrounding region.
"It is an urgent necessity for Egypt to find its way, to begin a open procedure with more freedom. The building of a new Egypt that is stronger and more democratic will act as a positive model of the Arab world. It will embrace the visions of the Arab and Moslem world," Papandreou said.
He also emphasised the need to avoid violence and for all sides to realise that change was already a reality.
"The road to the rebirth of Egypt, which has already begun and led people to Tahrir Square, has no return," the Greek premier added.
"The decisions of all the leaders of Egypt will be of huge importance and must be taken with complete awareness of their responsibility. Everyone has an obligation to rise to the occasion. They must reject both violence and the political games that are being played because a clash with the people could have disastrous consequences," Papandreou underlined and stressed that Greece would be at their side.
 PM Papandreou responds to LA.O.S' question on the European Competitiveness Pact; troika visit"Losing fundamental elements of our national sovereignty is out of the question. They are the reason I gave the battle and will give it again if necessary. We change things not to satisfy Brussels but to liberate Greece and get it over with," Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed speaking in Parliament on Friday.
The PM was categorical when challenged by opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) leader George Karatzaferis, who stated that during the EU Summit on March 25 the premier will be called to say if he will agree to cede Greece's national sovereignty as demanded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"Germany comes to impose its terms and take away our national sovereignty without having legal ground for this. This is unreal," Karatzaferis maintained.
Commenting on the criticism for the frequent visits by the troika (IMF-ECB-EU) representatives, the inspections made and the implementation of tough measures demanded from Greece, the premier underlined that "lawlessness, overspending and mismanagement that goes back for years, are to blame for our country's dependence on the loan instalments and not the troika. Our efforts are aimed at ensuring that the country will not be in the same position again?We proceed with major reforms to make our country strong. And this is not easy."
PM Papandreou stressed that "no Greek citizen or parliament deputy feels proud to watch the troika representatives visiting the country every three months in order to check it and give the loan."
"Assuming our share of responsibility and not putting the blame on others is an act of patriotism. We did not run away like the Karamanlis government," he said, adding that "what we do for the country is imposed by our political consciousness and the Greek people's interest."
Responding to Karatzaferis, who stressed that Europe should guarantee Greece's borders so that the country will not have to pay for armaments, the premier stated that he raised "the defence issue the day it was decided that Greece will receive a loan" and defended the EU policy referring to the support offered to Greece stressing, however, that Europe will have to be more progressive.
"Europe stood by us and prevented the country's default. Furthermore, we received the largest loan ever, transcending the Maastricht terms. Losing our national sovereignty is out of the question. We can further promote our country's interests through a common union and a progressive Europe. We wish to cede authorities to a Europe that will operate through collective bodies functioning with one voice and through democratic procedures. We are not being threatened by European institutions. On the contrary, they give us the potential to resist and change. If Europe was not as conservative as it is there would be greater will to confront the huge inequalities and injustices," PM Papandreou underlined.
He also cited a statement on Europe made by Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker who said that "the baby is not born yet to give it a name".
 PM on road tolls: 'Lawlessness not the answer'The government is aware of the injustices created by the concession contracts for the construction of new national highways and examining ways of correcting these through a renegotiation of the contracts, Prime Minister George Papandreou said in Parliament on Friday. At the same time, he stressed that lawlessness and refusing to pay road tolls were not a solution.
The prime minister was replying to a question tabled by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras, who had referred to the "criminalisation of the civil disobedience movement over the road tolls".
Tsipras accused Papandreou of rushing to appease contractors in fear that they would turn against the government.
"We had to wait a year for the loan contract between the country and the IMF but just a handful of days after contractors convened, you rushed to turn into action their wish that the civil disobedience movement be criminalised," he noted.
Papandreou, in his reply, admitted that some 'interests' were still living off the contracts of the previous era but stressed that these would be the last because the government had set up an authority to ensure transparency in public contracts. He also stressed that the government was attempting to 'salvage' the bad contracts signed by the previous government so that the projects concerned might be carried out, while criticising the Left for encouraging people to act without regard for rules and law.
"There are contracts that are not to our liking. But they were signed by a Greek government and the Greek State has put its signature to them, with international companies. If the contracts lapse [the Greek state] will pay penalties and our country's credibility will be damaged," he added.
He agreed with Tsipras that the agreements were problematic, however, with citizens paying tolls for roads not yet built and local population paying "in ways not proportionate to their movements".
"We recognise this and are seeking solutions within the bounds of our legal and financial capabilities, in order to arrive at better solutions in the framework of renegotiations. But we will not accept that the solution is lawlessness," Papandreou stressed.
Civil disobedience to arbitrary and unfair rules was a "social right", Tsipras countered and stressed that the 'freeloaders' were those demanding tolls for projects in which they had made a minimal contribution.
"Society is in a marginal state. You will be sending citizens to jail for 2.5 euros at road tolls and 1.4 euros in public transport, when the cost of the fares for a wage earner will amount to one month's wages a year," Tsipras added, pointing out that the main parties had only days ago exonerated themselves completely for the Siemens scandal, even where there was proof that money had changed hands.
Replying, the prime minister said that the government was seeking a solution to protect low-income groups on the issue of public transport fares, to the extent possible, while trying to keep public transport in the state sector.
In an amendment tabled as a rider on Friday, the government has converted refusal to pay road tolls into a traffic violation that carries a fine of 200 euros and other penalties, while not paying fares on public transport has been made a misdemeanour offence.
 ND leader Samaras sharply criticises governmentMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, on the occasion of the decision by the Serres police director to ban farmers' gatherings near the Promahonas border checkpoint, sharply criticised the government over its agricultural and social policy.
Samaras, in an address in Parliament, referred to the "swelling of the indignation of the farmers' world," that is leading the government to "unprecedented methods of intimidation and suppression."
Samaras added "you have increased the cost of production, you have increased prices for agricultural electric power, you have increased VAT, you have increased the prices of fuel and you have increased contributions to ELGA."
The main opposition party leader also proceeded with an overall denunciation of government policy, stressing "it has joined the neoliberal myth that there shall be automatic growth, when everything becomes sand and earth, on a dissolved economy and society."
Samaras went on to say "just as we rejected the Memorandum-I, in the same way we also reject what is now taken for granted for the Memorandum-II, that will last much longer and will have much stricter policy commitments," adding "if you want consensus in asphyxiation, you must look for it elsewhere."
Replying, Agricultural Development Minister Costas Skandalidis rejected accusations by Samaras on "exorbitant authoritarianism", the "implementation of junta methods" and "mockery of the agricultural world."
Skandalidis also said "I have toured all of Greece three times in five months and we discussed everything. Where did Mr. Samaras see the uprising of the agricultural world, authoritarianism and 'junta methods'. Does this year have anything to do with the previous ones. Does it have anything to do with the farmers' demands at Promahonas, for even a 15 percent VAT return and the competely untaxed oil, that it would be impossible to be implemented by any government?"
 Israeli envoy: Greek-Israeli ties growing at unprecedented paceEconomic cooperation is at the core of Greek-Israeli relations, which are growing at an unprecedented pace and yielding tangible results that benefit both countries. Additionally, a joint cabinet meeting scheduled for the spring -- and focusing on the entire spectrum of bilateral relations-- is regarded as the next important step in bilateral relations.
In an interview with the ANA-MPA, Israeli ambassador to Greece Arye Mekel on Friday referred to Greek-Israeli rapprochement, marked by what he called the historic exchange of visits by the premiers of the two countries.
He referred to the growing cooperation in the sectors of tourism, innovative management methods in agriculture and the environment, and underlined that the Greek-Israeli relations have their own value and are not the result of a turn of events or developments.
The veteran diplomat expressed Israel's deep appreciation for the Greek government's contribution to the peace process in the Middle East, adding that cooperation for regional peace and stability will benefit both Greece and Israel.
He also referred to the recent flurry of visits by government ministers and other officials recorded in both countries.
Referring to a joint cabinet meeting by Greece and Israel, he said it will convene possibly in the spring -- focusing on sectors such as, the economy, tourism, defence, culture and energy and underlined that it is indicative of the importance attributed to cooperation by both countries.
As regards tourism, he said cooperation is excellent and pointed out that roughly 250,000 Israeli tourists visited Greece in 2010, corresponding to a 200-percent rise. He underlined that the goal is to record a further increase in 2011.
Referring to the general economic cooperation, he said that the Israeli government has presented to the Greek government proposals for more than 12 major joint projects in sectors like, tourism, agricultural development, Renewable Energy Sources (RES), water resources and waste management, space technology and investments.
On the Greek-Israeli relations, he pointed out that a new partnership launched by the two countries was long overdue and is not related with developments in the Turkish-Israeli relations.
As regards the steps the Israeli government is willing to make for the settlement of the Palestinian issue, he said that "Israel has proved that it is ready to make the necessary sacrifices for peace but, unfortunately, many of the proposals presented to the Palestinians in the past were rejected".
Finally, he underlined that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has openly expressed his support to a "two states solution", adding that the Greek government's support to the peace process is deeply appreciated.
 PM decides public funeral for Evert, expresses condolencesPrime Minister George Papandreou on Friday expressed his condolences to the family of former party leader Miltiades Evert, who died on Wednesday at the age of 72 after a prolonged bout of ill health. Evert had served as president of main opposition New Democracy in the 1990s and stepped down after his party's electoral defeat to PASOK.
Speaking in Parliament, Papandreou stressed that Evert had left his stamp on political life in the country through his presence and efforts.The prime minister has also decided that the funeral for Evert will be held at public expense. The funeral is scheduled to take place on Saturday at Athens' first cemetery.
 U.S. professor on NATO's new strategic doctrineProfessor of the Diplomatic Studies faculty of the famous U.S. Tufts University, Alan Henrikson, who is in Thessaloniki, participating in a forum on world security organised by the "Strategy International" institute, said he "sees" the future of the countries of the Western Balkans in NATO, but maybe not immediately.
"I can imagine, maybe not so immediately, but I believe that it is almost unavoidable, that the countries of the Western Balkans, if they desire it, will have a good opportunity of becoming members of the Alliance," he stated to the ANA-MPA.
Referring to NATO's new strategic doctrine, he said it is "a very open document. It gives a perspective to the countries of the Western Balkans," adding that this text, the product of many consultations, as he stressed, gives an "amazing opening to cooperations, not only with countries, but organisations as well beyond the region of NATO determined by the Treaty."
 ND leader holds meeting with UGS presidencyMain opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Friday held a meeting with the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) presidency, discussing issues concerning shipping and enterprise. The meeting was also attended by high-ranking ND officials, including ND's 'shadow' minister for shipping issues Yiannis Plakiotakis.
After the meeting, Plakiotakis said the main opposition was against the government's decision to separate the coast guard from mercantile shipping and would ensure their "reconnection" once in power.
"PASOK, through its policies, is depriving Greek ship owners of having a uniform and stable institutional framework. It is unjustifiably risking on of the pillars of our national economy, at a time when we are obliged to invest in our comparative advantages," Plakiotakis added.
 ND leader meets Union of Greek Banks directorateMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras met at the party's head offices on Friday with the directorate of the Union of Greek Banks and reiterated the need for strengthening the stability of the banking system and the liquidity of the Greek economy.
The conclusions of the ND leader's recent meetings with the President of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet and the President of Eurogroup Jean-Claude Juncker were discussed during the meeting.
 Fiscal policies, reforms need social support, BoG head says"The current crisis has proven that economic convergence in Europe was not an automatic procedure," Bank of Greece governor George Provopoulos said on Friday, inaugurating a conference organized by the central bank with the Oxford University.
The Greek central banker noted that consolidation policies and reforms needed the support of the society to move forward. Commenting on developments in Southeastern Europe, he underlined that because the region was going through a period of falling incomes and higher unemployment, changes promoted should be considered fair and effective, establishing a feeling that "short-term sacrifices were bearing fruit".
Provopoulos sounded optimistic over developments in Southeastern Europe, saying economies have stabilized and signs of recovery were visible in several countries. These countries suffered a heavy blow from an international crisis, with economic activity falling sharply and unemployment rising significantly. However, the inflow of foreign direct investments in the area could fall as investors remain cautious. This development could lead to lower economic growth compared with pre-crisis levels and noted that it was necessary to adopt a new growth plan based on exports.
Fiscal consolidation was a determining factor for sustainable growth in the region, the central banker said, although he stressed that fiscal consolidation should be accompanied by a more effective operation of the tax collect mechanism and a more efficient management of public spending.
Addressing the conference, Bob Traa, the head of IMF's mission in Greece, said the Greek government should first deal with the corruption problem in order to put the economy back on a growth track. He said the country should combat tax evasion and characterised as an achievement refoms already made in the pension system. He also urged for a reform of public sector enterprises.
 Capital Market Commissions asks listed companies to submit policy statementsGreece's Capital Market Commission on Friday announced that all companies listed on the Athens Stock Exchange must submit a corporate governance policy statement along with their annual report.
Each company must adopt a code of corporate governance, either among the generally accepted codes published abroad or in Greece or by defining its own detailed special rules and principles of corporate governance, and submit these to the Commission in writing by March 31.
 OTE completes 900-mln-euro bond loanHellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) will pubish its 2010 results on Friday 25, February, to be followed by a teleconference.
OTE announced it has reached an agreement with a consortium of eight Greek and eight foreign banks to issue a common bond loan, of a recycling credit totaling 900 million euros, to refinance an 1.5 billion euros loan maturing on Monday 14, February. Mihalis Tsamaz, chairman of the group, said the agreement highlighted market confidence in OTE to successfully deal with challenges in its operating and financial environment.
Economists and business executives said the loan was a vote of confidence towards OTE. The group's two-year credit default swap shrank spectacularly to 270 basis points from 550 bps. The two-year loan is carrying an option of extending for one more year and the interest was set at Euribor plus 500 points.
OTE said it will use 600 million to repay the bond loan and the remaining 300 milion euros will remain as reserves. OTE signed an 1.5 billion euros loan to finance the purchase of Cosmote's minority shares.
 60-mln-euro bond loan by Proton BankAthens-based Proton Bank on Friday announced the issuance of a 10-year 60-milion-euro bond loan, with a date of issue listed as Feb. 8, 2011.
The bank, as the issuer, has the right of early payment after five years of the date of issuance of the bonds, and following written approval by the Bank of Greece.
 Emporiki Bank reports 873.5 mln-euro loss in 2010Emporiki Bank, a member of Credit Agricole Group, on Friday reported net losses totaling 873.5 million euros in 2010, after net consolidated losses of 576.6 million euros in 2009.
The group said operating earnings, pre-provisions, grew 58.7 pct to 165.5 million euros, the highest percentage increase in the last two year. Net income totaled 768.6 million euros, reflecting a 20 pct increase in net interest revenues.
The bank's loan portfolio was stable at 22.6 billion euros last year, recording a 2.1 pct increase in business loans to 12.8 billion euros.
In the fourth quarter of 2010, net revenues grew 7.8 pct and operating expenses fell 3.3 pct. Provisions fell 24.7 pct compared with the previous quarter for a net loss of 128.6 million euros in the October-December period. Provisions fell to 195.2 million euros for a total of slightly above 1.0 billion euros in the year. Saving deposits totaled 11.6 billion euros, down 22.1 pct from 2009.
Alain Strub, vice-chairman of the board and chief executive of Emporiki Bank, commenting on the results said despite adverse economic conditions the bank will continue supporting Greek households and enterprises by offering loans and a safe banking environment.
 Industrial import price index up 6.6 pct in DecImport price index in the industrial sector rose 6.6 pct in December 2010, compared with the same month in 2009, after an increase of 6.3 pct recorded in the previous 12-month period, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Friday.
The statistics service, in a report, said the higher imported inflation mainly reflected higher oil prices. The import price index from Eurozone states was up 2.1 pct. while the import price index for non-Eurozone states was up 11 pct in December.
The index was up 1.7 pct in December from November 2010, while on average, the index grew 6.6 pct in the January-December 2010 period, compared with 2009.
 IKA-ETAM doctors back to work from MondayDoctors at IKA-ETAM, Greece's largest social security fund representing the vast majority of wage earners and pensioners, announced that they will suspend their strike and go back to work on Monday.
Their union POESYP IKA decided to suspend strike action during a meeting on Friday but asked that dialogue on reforms to the health sector continue.
IKA doctors intend to work together with other medical organisations and associations in order to file lawsuits asking the courts to effectively annul the omnibus bill on primary health care passed by the government earlier this week, in addition to other forms of action to be decided in coming days.
Their union additionally announced that IKA doctors will participate in a strike being held by the civil servants' union federation ADEDY and the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) on February 23.
Hospital doctors will also join the February 23 strike, while meetings will be held in all hospitals to decide on further action against the omnibus bill, including occupation of hospital cashier desks to prevent patients paying fees in order to be examined by state hospitals.
IKA doctors said they will also fight in courts to ensure 20-minute examination times for each patient so as not to put patients at risk and downgrade the role of IKA doctors.
 Motorcycle protest by public transport staffPublic transport workers carried out a motorcyle protest from the city centre to the transport ministry on Friday, to signal their opposition to the draft bill on public transport that will cut their wages and changed the terms of their employment.
The protest began in Omonia Square at around noon, with the motorcyclists driving up Stadiou street - many of them carrying black flags - making a brief stop outside Parliament and then driving to the infrastructure, transport and networks ministry to arrive at around 1:00 p.m.
Other public transport workers joined them at the ministry, while trucks that have been parked outside the ministry for several days now began to honk their horns.
Trade unionists for the public transport sector said that strike action by their members will continue next week. Bus drivers, in particular, have announced plans for a 24-hour strike on the day the draft bill is voted on in Parliament, possibly next Tuesday, and five-hour work stoppage between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the following day to decide their next course of action.
 Aegean Airlines reports negative 2010 resultsAegean Airlines on Friday announced a 5.0 pct decline in its 2010 passenger traffic, hit by an economic crisis in the country. The Greek airline company said passenger traffic totaled 6.23 million in 2010, with domestic traffic down 16 pct to 3.17 million, although international traffic rose 9.0 pct to 3.06 million passengers.
Turnover totaled 590 million euros, resulting in a net loss of 22-24 million euros, including an extra tax charge of 8.0 million euros.
Aegean Airlines announced a reduction of its fleet and its capacity, particularly in domestic flights, a move combined with new systems introduced because of its entry to Star Alliance helped in limiting costs. The airline company it expected additional benefits by operating a fleet exclusively of Airbus A320 aircraft.
The company said initial signs over this year's tourism season were positive but estimated it would report losses for the current year.
 Greek stocks end 0.62 pct downGreek stocks ended lower in the last trading session of the week in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index of the market fell 0.62 pct to end at 1,621.90 points. The index fell as much as 1.71 pct early in the session, to recover gradually, showing gains of 0.63 pct, after the announcement by the troika that the government would have to raise 50 billion euros from privatizations by 2015. The index ended the week with a net loss of 2.39 pct, the first negative week after a four-week rally. Turnover was 124.89 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 0.59 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.17 pct down and the Small Cap index rose 1.56 pct. ATEbank (11.84 pct), Hellenic Postbank (9.27 pct), Ellaktor (4.47 pct) and MIG (3.53 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Coca-Cola 3E (3.95 pct), OTE (3.57 pct) and Alpha Bank (2.90 pct) were top losers.
The Unitilies (2.64 pct) and Financial Services (2.21 pct) sectors scored gains, while the Food (3.80 pct) and Telecoms (3.57 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 85 to 77 with another 49 issues unchanged. Edrasi (14.29 pct), ATEbank (11.84 pct) and Hellenic Postbank (9.27 pct) were top gainers, while Altec (12.5 pct), Unibios (11.11 pct) and TBank (10.34 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.43%
Personal & Household: -0.05%
Raw Materials: +0.60%
Travel & Leisure: +0.39%
Food & Beverages: -3.80%
Financial Services: +2.21%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.36
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.40
HBC Coca Cola: 20.45
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.42
National Bank of Greece: 7.37
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.35
Bank of Piraeus: 1.56
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds moved slightly higher to 810 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Friday, from 808 bps on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.37 pct and the German Bund 3.27 pct. Turnover in the market remained a low 63 million euros, of which 51 million were sell orders and the remaining 12 million euros were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 14 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.71 pct, the six-month rate as 1.365 pct, the three-month 1.09 pct and the one-month rate 0.91 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover at 54.983 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,767 contracts worth 40.596 million euros, with 32,027 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 38,183 contracts worth 14.387 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (8,365), followed by Eurobank (3,454), MIG (2,257), OTE (2,148), PPC (821), National Bank (6,758), Alpha Bank (2,700), Cyprus Bank (403) and Hellenic Postbank (1,366).
 Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.363
Pound sterling 0.852
Danish kroner 7.516
Swedish kroner 8.872
Japanese yen 113.91
Swiss franc 1.326
Norwegian kroner 7.993
Canadian dollar 1.357
Australian dollar 1.365
 Captive Greek seaman releasedA Greek ship's engineer taken captive by armed youths in Onne, Nigeria has been released unharmed, the shipping firm "Trinto Shipping Maritime" announced on Friday. Both the Greek first engineer and the Ukrainian captain of the St. Vincent-flagged freighter "Perseus", both of whom were taken hostage during an attack on January 26, were reported to be in good health.
The 54-year-old Greek engineer has been taken to a Nigerian naval base for a medical check-up and is expected to be back in Greece by Sunday.
The ship was attacked by a group of about 10 youths aged between 15 and 16 years old carrying heavy weapons. During the attack, two Egyptian sailors on the vessel were injured in the legs by gunfire.
The ship had a crew of 15, the majority of them Egyptians, and was anchored 12 miles from the port of Onne in order to take on a load of fertiliser.
The armed youths reached the "Perseus" on a boat and forced the crew to hand over their mobile phones, the ship's computer, food and money.
 250,000 taken in armed robberyFour men armed with Kalashnikovs managed to get away with 250,000 euros in the robbery of a National Bank of Greece branch in Aspra Spitia, Viotia on Friday morning.
The culprits arrived at the bank at 8:00 a.m. in a white van that had been stolen two days ago from the Athens district of Moschato. Two men broke into the side entrance of the bank using sledge hammers and held the staff at gunpoint, forcing them to open the ATM machine containing 150,000 euros.
They then grabbed another 100,000 euros from the tills and climbed into the van in order to drive away. Not long after, however, the van stalled due to engine problems and the robbers stopped an oncoming Fiat Punto, forced the two young women inside to get out and used it to make their getaway.
The Fiat was found abandoned about 1.5 kilometres from the robbery and the culprits are being sought.
 Athens Bar Association occupied by protesting lawyersSome 200 lawyers from Athens and other areas of Greece staged a symbolic occupation of the Athens Bar Association building on Friday afternoon, to protest against draft legislation that to liberalise the legal profession. They were also protesting against a decision of the Athens Bar to not participate in protest action against the bill decided last Sunday by the presidents of national bar associations.
The majority of the lawyers occupying the building departed later on Friday afternoon, leaving just 30 Athens-based lawyers in the building.
Earlier, presidents of bar associations throughout Greece had gathered at Syntagma Square and marched to Parliament, meeting Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos and the MP Markos Bolaris.
 Slight earth tremor in Nafpaktos regionAn earth tremor was felt at 8 on Friday night in Patra, Nafpaktos, Messolonghi and other regions in Western Greece.
According to the Geodynamic Institute of the Athens National Observatory, the earthquake measured 4 points on the Richter scale, while its epicentre was located three kilometres west, southwest of Nafpaktos.
 Local authority staff union plans occupation of town halls on Feb. 22The local authority staff union federation POE-OTA on Friday announced its plan to stage a symbolic occupation of all town halls around the country on February 22, as part of a series of mobilisations against the policies being imposed by the government and EU-IMF troika.
The occupation will last three hours, beginning at 10:00 a.m. and ending at 1:00 p.m.
 Fair on SaturdayFair weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 18C. Fair in Athens, with westerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 4C to 18C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 1C to 15C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceRising inflation, unemployment and the government's clash with the 'I won't pay' movement were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Friday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Government the pace-setter for 'I won't pay'!".
AVGHI: "Society derailed with 70,000 unemployed, 5.2 percent inflation".
AVRIANI: "Occupation-style soup kitchens in troika's Athens".
DEMOKRATIA: "Secret funds for [PM George Papandreou's] court"
ELEFTHEROS: "Maximou (PM's office) begging for consensus, using threat of elections".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Killer flare up of H1N1 flu also affecting healthy groups".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The 343 'closed shops' that are changing".
ESTIA: "Chinks of optimism".
ETHNOS: "Goldmine scam with generic drugs".
IMERISSIA: "Means and assets check for 30 billion euro. Checks on deposits abroad".
KATHIMERINI: "Mubarak extends the deadlock".
LOGOS: "Unemployment and inflation rising".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Troika insistently asking for company contracts".
NIKI: "Everything rests on tourism".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Nationwide disobedience action against anti-popular policy".
TA NEA: "Head on collision over road tolls and fares".
VRADYNI: "Suppression of 'I won't pay'".
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