|Monday, 16 October 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-02-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 15 February 2011 Issue No: 3721
 PM rules out early elections, sales of 'Greek land'Prime Minister George Papandreou once again ruled out all prospect of early elections as he emerged from a lengthy meeting at ruling PASOK's headquarters on Monday.
"I have made this clear 30 times. We will complete our four years. We have two and a half years left to complete our work," the prime minister stressed.
Referring to an announcement about plans to step up the privatisation programme and utilise state real estate, unveiled during the last press conference by EU-IMF officials in Athens, Papandreou stressed according to information obtained by the ANA-MPA that "there is no question of selling Greek land".
 50-bn-euro privatisations the government's decision, spokesman confirmsDespite sharp criticism of the "attitude" of European Union and International Monetary Fund officials during a press conference at the end of last week, government spokesman George Petalotis on Monday confirmed that the target for privatisation proceeds had been raised from an original 7 billion euro by 2013 to 50 billion euro by 2015. He stressed, however, that this was decision had been made by the government itself, not by the so-called EC-ECB-IMF 'troika'.
"The target set was indicative, there is no specific decision as to how this property will be exploited. The bar is raised high but we are the ones that raised it. It is high because the expectations that we have for the country's course are also high," Petalotis told reporters during the regular press briefing.
He rejected suggestions that the decision lacked legitimacy, noting that this was one of many targets set.
"The decision was ours and for this reason we said it clearly that the stance of the troika representatives was unacceptable," he added.
The spokesman also rejected suggestions that the government's response to the troika statements had been "delayed" and noted that in a subsequent 'troika' announcement and in talks with Prime Minister George Papandreou, they appeared to have "understood that they crossed the line".
Petalotis said the higher target for privatisations proceeds was "realistic" while stressing that it was "indicative rather than restricting", showing that the government was aiming at major structural changes in the exploitation of the country's wealth.
"We are not talking about selling things off but making use of them," he noted, adding that it was the government's duty to set about doing this immediately, based on a plan.
The spokesman pointed out that the Greek state did not currently even have a record of its substantial assets, which were languishing unused, and noted that procedures toward this end had already begun through decisions of the ministerial privatisations committee in December 2010.
He also quoted statements by the prime minister and other political leaders estimating that public property owned by the Greek state that might be economically exploited exceeded 270 billion euro.
Petalotis said the government did not intend to ask for the representatives of the EU and IMF in Greece to be changed nor to restrict their freedom to give press conferences but said that the finance ministry had repeatedly asked them to show more restraint when speaking to the press.
Prior to that, Petalotis had stressed that all political forces in Greece must understand that Greece's obligations under the Memorandum with the EU and IMF would end in 2013 but not the "national effort to reorganise the forces of the country," which he said would extend beyond the term of one government.
"It is a national obligation of us all in this period that there should be national understanding on a series of specific and important issues," he said.
An announcement by the trade union confederation General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) on Monday, however, said the government should declare troika representatives to be "unwelcome persons" and that both their proposals and the attitude in which they made them were rejected by workers and Greek society.
 ND on public property issueThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) party referred again to the public property utilisation issue accusing the IMF-ECB-EU "troika" representatives of "insulting" the Greek people with their stance.
ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis on Monday reminded that party leader Antonis Samaras said on July 7, 2010, during the presentation of the ND programme, that public property can be exploited and not be sold out.
He underlined that ND had suggested the exploitation of the public property to help the country get out of the memorandum and referring to the government plan he said that its purpose is to serve the memorandum and the country's creditors.
As regards the likelihood of snap elections, Mihelakis stated that ND is "not afraid and is ready for them at any time".
 Greek foreign minister arrives in CyprusNICOSIA (ANA-MPA - A. Viketos)
Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas arrived in Nicosia on Monday afternoon, where he is scheduled to meet Cyprus' entire political leadership and attend a working dinner on Monday night with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias.
"Greece will also stand by Cyprus with deeds. Greece and Cyprus are brothers," Droutsas said in statements on his arrival at Larnaca airport.
The Greek minister said that his visit to Cyprus was taking place in order to prepare the next moves by Athens and Nicosia on the Cyprus issue.
"Developments are in motion and demand that we deliberate continuously," he added.
 FM Droutsas has working dinner with Cyprus President ChristofiasNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)
Visiting Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, speaking after a working dinner with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, said "all of us united can face every challenge."
The Greek minister thanked the Cypriot president for the hospitality, termed their discussion "very constructive" and added that cooperation between Greece and Cyprus is continuous and very close.
 FM in London on Tuesday, NY on FridayGreek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas is due in London on Tuesday for a two-day formal visit.
While in London, Droutsas will meet with his British counterpart, foreign secretary William Hague. He is also scheduled to have talks with Minister for Europe and NATO David Liddington, opposition leader David Miliband, and to hold a press conference at the end of his contacts.
Droutsas will be in Nicosia on Monday for meetings with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and foreign minister Markos Kyprianou, while on Friday he will be in New York for talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon focusing on the Cyprus issue ahead of the UN chief's submission of his report to the UN Security Council later in the month.
 PM to visit Berlin, Helsinki next weekPrime Minister George Papandreou will be visiting Berlin and Helsinki next week, arriving in the German capital on February 21.
He is scheduled to meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel a week from Tuesday and will travel to Helsinki on February 23, for talks with the Finnish leadership.
Germany and Finland were the two countries that adopted the toughest stance on the issue of a Competitiveness Pact during the last EU summit meeting.
 PM to visit Thrace; PES meeting in AthensPrime Minister George Papandreou will visit the northeastern province of Thrace on Friday, it was announced on Monday following a meeting with ruling PASOK national council secretary Mihalis Karhimakis at the party's headquarters in Athens.
PASOK's national council is scheduled to convene on March 4, while the Party of European Socialists (PES) will meet later in the afternoon on that day at Athens' Concert Hall (Megaron).
The party's political council will meet one or two days ahead of the national council and a proposal will be tabled to hold the party's congress on Sept. 3 instead of June as it was originally planned.
Papandreou has requested that the party mechanisms should be fully activated, pointing out that the imminent congress signals the extroversion of PASOK's party organisations.
 PM telephone discussion with US secretary of state ClintonPrime minister George Papandreou had a late-night telephone discussion with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to discuss the developments in Egypt.
Clinton telephoned Papandreou, who outlined the prospects of the European Union but also Greece particularly to contribute constructively to the developments.
Papandreou also briefed Clinton on the EU-IMF troika delegation's visit to Athens, while Clinton reiterated the US support for the efforts being made by the Greek government and people.
 Samaras holds talks with Spanish Popular Party leaderMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras met in Madrid on Monday with the President of the Spanish opposition Popular Party Mariano Rajoy and, speaking afterwards, said "we agreed on the need for reforms, with emphasis on the curbing of public extravagance, on balanced budgets and, of course, on the defining of a common -at last- European Foreign Policy."
"Greece and Spain, under socialist governance today, are before great economic and social problems. Both our countries must find once again the path of economic growth, with the creation of jobs and with substantive measures for strengthening competitiveness," Samaras added.
The ND leader further said "we agreed with the leader of the Popular Party of Spain on the need for an overall and effective handling of the debt crisis in the countries of the Eurozone. And we agreed, mainly, on the need for Growth. Growth is the secret in the economy."
Samaras also said "we discussed the crucial developments in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East and on the challenges being created in the wider region," adding "we also discussed the intense problem of illegal immigration that has taken on uncontrolled dimensions."
 FM on illegal migration problem, FrontexThe joint operation "Poseidon", held in cooperation with EU border agency Frontex since 2006 for the protection of the external borders of Greece and the EU, will continue in 2011.
A document signed by Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, conveyed to Parliament in response to a question by main opposition New Democracy (ND) MP Theodoros Karaoglou on the problem of illegal migration, reminded that "operation 'Poseidon' is in underway at Greece's sea borders with Turkey and at the land borders with Albania and Turkey, as well as along the borders shared by Bulgaria and Turkey".
The foreign minister stressed that this is the largest joint operation coordinated by FRONTEX currently underway at European level and stated that is planned to continue on a permanent basis (throughout 2011) along Greece's sea and land borders with Turkey.
Droutsas underlined, however, that "the rapid increase recorded in 2010 in the number of illegal migrants coming from Turkey made necessary the adoption of additional measures to tackle the deteriorating situation."
The measures include the deployment of Frontex's Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITS) along Greece's land borders with Turkey between Nov. 2010 and March 3, 2011 following a request by the Greek government, and the construction of a fence in a section of the land borders shared by Greece and Turkey.
"A necessary precondition to tackle the phenomenon is to strengthen cooperation with Turkey, which is the main country through which illegal migrants pass before crossing into Greece and the rest EU members," Droutsas stressed, reminding that "the Turkish side sees positively the prospect of the construction of the fence".
Droutsas stressed that Greece wishes a closer cooperation with Turkey based on the existing legal framework as regards the implementation of relevant agreements, adding that on bilateral level, Greece seeks the improvement of the implementation of the Bilateral Readmission Protocol through regular meetings of experts to address the weak points in the cooperation and proceed with a more effective implementation.
Specifically, in an effort to combat illegal migration, the port of Dikili, near Izmir, has been defined as readmission border point for illegal migrants as of Jan. 11, 2011 to facilitate the readmission process.
On European level, the completion of negotiations and the signing of the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement will benefit the Greek-Turkish and Euro-Turkish relations, Droutsas said, stressing that "this agreement should constitute a practical tool in combating and preventing illegal migration and be in compliance with the European standards".
He also underlined that Greece has firmly sought the signing of readmission agreements between the EU and third countries like Egypt, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iraq as provided by the Stockholm Programme, as well as, the immediate completion and signing of agreements currently under negotiation with Turkey, Algeria and Morocco.
"Greece also seeks the continuation of negotiations for bilateral readmission protocols with countries from which illegal migrants originate, such Bangladesh, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria," the foreign minister underlined.
 Gov't on media reports alleging kickbacks for subsGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Monday underlined that "the government's will for transparency in transactions is a given" while he declined to comment on media reports vis-?-vis the alleged involvement of an associate of former government minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos in the kickbacks allegations, stressing that "the government is not concerned".
Petalotis referred to a matter of justice, and pointed out that the government will facilitate justice if it can or has an obligation to in order to ensure that everything will be brought to light.
 Health ministry meeting on H1N1 outbreakA meeting to discuss the progress of an epidemic of H1N1 flu that has so far claimed 60 lives throughout Greece this year was held at the health ministry on Monday. In an announcement afterward, the ministry said it was monitoring developments carefully, noting that 208 had so far been treated in intensive care units for complications caused by the flu, with 110 patients still requiring hospitalisation.
Based on figures released so far, the virus was tending to strike those aged between 30-65 years of age and appeared to be harder on men, who made up 56 percent of those requiring ICU treatment as a result of the flu. Roughly 37 percent of those developing serious complications had previously been absolutely healthy and without any underlying problems.
They also noted that, of the 60 people that have so far lost their lives, none had been vaccinated against the flu.
Experts again stressed that the vaccination could be administered even at this stage and that the phenomenon was expected to peak at the end of this month. They estimate that the number of new cases will start to drop by the end of next week.
The highest number of cases has so far been in northern Greece, where the frequency is five per 100,000 residents, while in Attica the frequency is just 2.2 per 100,000 residents.
Doctors and the public were also advised not to wait until an H1N1 diagnosis is confirmed by laboratory tests in order to administer anti-viral drugs if a patient's symptoms point to H1N1.
They stressed that a very high fever without other symptoms should also be treated as grounds to suspect an H1N1 infection.
Concerning a possible shortage of ICUs, ministry officials said that the system was currently stretched to the limit but would be solved by enlisting use of military hospital ICUs and those of private clinics, if they were needed.
 Minister tables modifications to draft law on transportInfrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas on Monday tabled modifications to a draft law for public transport reforms in Attica, including measures restricting staff transfers.
The new measures provide free transport for the disabled and exclude engine drivers from planned staff transfers, while they also reduce the number of total staff transfers by 40 in the electric railway ISAP and by 10 in the Athens public transport organisation OASA.
It also transfers all social insurance debts owed by the public transport companies that are to be merged to the state budget and reduces the fee for registering the deeds from the sale of public transport organisation real estate to 1 percent instead of 5 percent.
 24-hour public transport strike in Athens on TuesdayAll public transport means in Athens will come to a halt on Tuesday due to a 24-hour strike announced by urban transport employees on the occasion of the ratification in Parliament on Tuesday of a government bill on transports.
Downtown Athens is also expected to be inaccessible for many hours on Tuesday, since the employees will be holding a protest rally outside Parliament as of noon, resulting in surrounding streets being closed.
On Monday urban transport employes carried out another mechanised rally and, in statements, trade unionists once again expressed their total opposition to the bill.
 President receives visiting Iranian VPPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received visiting Iranian Vice President for Cultural Heritage and Tourism Hamed Baqai at the presidential mansion in Athens on Monday.
Papoulias referred to his cooperation with former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, especially during the Yugoslav war, while Baqai conveyed Velayati's greetings, as the latter currently serves as foreign affairs advisor to Iran's supreme leader.
 Greece on right track, FinMin emphasisesBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
Greece is on the right track towards creating primary budget surpluses, and focusing primarily on structural reforms, economic recovery and boosting competitiveness, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Monday, ahead of a Eurogroup meeting here.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister also referred to the unprecedented reduction of the Greek fiscal deficit by six percentage points last year, while he expressed hope that progress will be made towards agreeing on a total package to bring stability in the Eurozone and to resolve current problems.
EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs Olli Rehn, told reporters that the Eurogroup meeting will discuss the Commission's proposals aimed at strengthening competitiveness in the euro zone.
 FinMin on Greek economic stabilisation programmeBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
The economic stabilisation programmes of Greece and Ireland were the issues preoccupying the first part of the euro countries' Finance ministers' conference, well-informed EU sources said in Brussels on Monday.
According to the same sources, both Commissioner Olli Rehn and European Central Bank governor Jean-Claude Trichet referred analytically to Greece and Ireland. As regards Greece in particular, they recognised that in 2010 all that is anticipated by the memorandum was implemented in a very satisfactory way and mentioned that legislative changes must be continued and implemented in 2011.
On the part of Greece, Finance Minister George Papacon-stantinou said, according to well-informed sources, that Greece will do all that is necessary for the absolute implementation of the memorandum and this, despite the internal reactions. He regretted that the opposition in Greece "is not playing a constructive role," pointing out at the same time that the Greek government has done all that is required and will continue along this logic.
According to the same sources, Papaconstantinou said that the statements by the Troika's representatives, in Athens on Friday, were "unfortunate" and expressed the hope that similar events will not be repeated. He clarified, however, that Greece will proceed with bold steps with the required privatisations and structural changes, stressing in parallel that if the decisions that will be taken at a eurozone level prove to be inadequate then the Greek efforts will also fall through.
On the question of the competitiveness accord that is being promoted, mainly by the German side, Papaconstantinou said, according to the same sources, that Greece has no special problems concerning its implementation and that many of the measures that are being discussed have already been implemented by the Greek side.
 Rehn says Greek government sole responsible for privatisationsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Aroni)
European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn said here on Monday evening that the "Greek government is the sole responsible for decisions regarding medium-term plans for privatisations in Greece."
Rehn was speaking at the end of a Eurogroup finance ministers meeting which ruled for a doubling of the lending capacity of a European Support Mechanism for the Eurozone from 250 billion euros to 500 billion.
As regards Greece, Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Trichet expressed full satisfaction for "the impressive results" of the Greek government's efforts regarding both the structural reforms and the decrease in its fiscal dficit.
 Greek-Chinese Chamber delegation holds talks with Shipping minister ahead of latter's visit to ChinaThe collaboration between Greek shipowners and Chinese shipyards was at the focus of a meeting between Maritime Affairs and Shipping Policy minister Yiannis Diamantidis and representatives of the Greek-Chinese Chamber on Monday, ahead of the minister's upcoming visit to China.
The Chamber delegation, which included representatives of member-companies who will be accompanying the minister to China, discussed with Diamantidis such matters as the lending terms of Chinese banks to Greek shipowners in the context of broader discussions recently underway, and stressed the need for the creation of a Greek Shipbuilding in China Special Fund with the collaboration of both sides.
The meeting also touched on matters concerning the logistics and more general issues of maritime and Greek shipping.
 Maritime Affairs minister leaving for China on SaturdayMaritime Affairs, Islands and Fisheries Minister Yiannis Diamantidis will be leaving for Beijing at noon on Saturday and will be holding meetings with representatives of Chinese banks, maritime company officials and the president of the Cosco group, Jiafu Wei.
The minister will be accompanied by about 20 shipowners and representatives of maritime companies, since the action plan includes the activation of funding by the biggest Chinese banks amounting to 5 billion dollars to the Greek shipowners for the building of ships of theirs in Chinese shipyards.
Diamantidis on Monday cited what he called the significant presence of Greek shipping representatives in the group he will lead on an official visit to China.
Diamantidis was responding to a tabled question by main opposition New Democracy (ND) MP Yiannis Plakiotakis.
The minister said the purpose of the trip is to promote Greek ocean-going shipping interests in what is now the world's second largest economy, prospects for more shipbuilding contracts in China and implementing bilateral cooperation, as envisioned in a relevant Sino-Greek memorandum.
 Bank of Greece to present monetary policy report on TuesdayBank of Greece governor George Provopoulos on Tuesday will submit to Parliament the bank's report on monetary policy which focuses on progress of fiscal consolidation efforts and structural reforms.
The central bank, according to sources, will stress that the biggest challenge for the Greek economy is competitiveness and that will be a determine factor for economic recovery.
However, the report will note that the country's Gross Domestic Product will continue to shrink this year, although at a slower pace compared with last year. The GDP is projected to fall by at least 3.0 pct in 2011, without excluding a slightly bigger figure.
The central bank will recommend the continuation of efforts towards fiscal consolidation with more emphasis given on spending. The report will underline the need to boost efficiency of public spending and to abolish all unessecery public sector agencies, along with promoting a restructuring of public sector enterprises.
The bank will urge the government to emphasize more on growth by accelerating structural reforms. The central bank believes that the country can efficiently deal with rising public debt only through higher GDP growth, while it will recommend the implementation of a privatization program announced by the government along with a more efficient management of the state real estate property.
The Bank of Greece will underline that the banking system's capital adequacy is at satisfactory levels, strengthened after the successful completion of share capital increase plans by major banks. The bank, however, will note that credit expansion will remain at very low levels this year also.
 SEV president on Memorandum issueFederation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) President Dimitris Daskalopoulos spoke on Monday evening of "demagogues of the balcony and the sidewalk who are facilitating those who are betting on our country's bankruptcy so that they can buy it out at a disgraceful price."
Daskalopoulos warned that the country "is on a razor's edge" and proposed resistance "to those resisting the necessary changes with the Memorandum as an alibi."
The SEV leader also said "the rage of all those who are pretending to be struggling to...liberate the homeland from supposed foreign occupation is not convincing. Their selfishness and hypocrisy is fathomless. As if it depends on the 'foreigners' whether we shall stand on our feet or we shall go bankrupt. The problems are ours, and the responsibility of handling them is also ours. Neither the EU, nor the IMF, nor anyone will save us, ultimately, against our will."
 Greek budget records surplus in Jan., BoGThe central government reported a surplus of 352 million euros (cash flow) in January, the Bank of Greece announced on Monday, after a deficit of 818 million euros in the corresponding month last year.
The central bank, in a report, attributed this positive development to an increase of regular budget revenues to 4.9 billion euros, from 4.2 billion euros in 2010 (an increase of 16 pct) and lower budget spending, 4.2 billion euros this year from 4.3 billion euros in 2010, a decline of 3.0 pct.
The public investments programme recorded a deficit of 206 million euros in January, from a surplus of 129 million last year, while interest payment totaled 579 million euros, down from 590 million euros last year.
The Greek budget recorded a primary surplus of 924 million euros after a shortfall of 20 million euros in January 2010.
 EBEA chief warns: Econ policy mistaken, dangerousAthens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) president Costas Michalos on Monday said that the latest announcements by the troika heads in Athens "should convince even the last supporters of the economic policy being applied today that the country is following not only a mistaken but also a very dangerous course".
Michalos said that the economic policy is mistaken because "it does not lead to solutions but, instead, to impasses, it does not create hope but the necessity for more sacrifices and new injustices. He also said that the policy is dangerous because it not only increases recession and unemployment, but also widens and accelerates the dis-organisation of the country's productive fabric and distances growth even further, and also because social cohesion is being led to a break, given that the resilience of wide social strata is being depleted and the business community is being decimated.
The EBEA chief blamed the government for this course, noting that it is not only the troika that is responsible for the situation being created, but also those who accept groundless recommendations by parties that have no knowledge of the Greek reality while ignoring grounded proposals by the responsible consultants of the government such as the Chambers, which in fact are being systematically downgraded.
Michalos noted that the EBEA has repeatedly pointed out the mistakes and dangers, and is calling on the government to shoulder its responsibilities and realise that it is the government itself that should govern.
 Piraeus Port to participate in logistics project tenderThe Piraeus Port Authority on Monday announced a board decision to participate in an international tender for a logistics centre in the Thriasio industrial district, west of Athens, to be held Feb. 28.
Based on the board decision, PPA chairman George Anomeritis, accompanied by other two board members, will represent the port authority in talks.
The Piraeus Port Authority will participate with an equity stake of 15 pct in the tender, a percentage likely to reach 20 pct. Th port is interested in the project since the logistics centre in Thriasio would be linked with the Ikonio pier via a rail link, offering more combined transport services. Chinese multinational Cosco initially expressed interest in participating in the project.
The port's board also announced a decision to transform and broaden the activities of Logistics OLP SA into a combined transport and port tourism services management company, aimed at upgrading infrastructure and cruise ship services throughout the country's ports. The port authority will boost the company's capital and its human resources.
 Intracom Telecom signs new contract in PakistanIntracom Telecom, a member of Sitronics Group, announced the signing of a new contract with PTCL - Pakistan's largest telecoms operator and a subsidiary of Etisalat - for the suppy of the wireless broadband system WiBAS.
The new contract is a result of the cooperation between the two companies, which started in 2010. WiBAS is billed as a comprehensive solution for broadband services. The new system will cover the city of Lahore, initially.
 ELSTAT: Drink production down in 2010 for 3rd consecutive yearThe Greek beverage manufacturing sector posted a decline for the third consecutive year in 2010, according to the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on Monday.
ELSTAT said production fell by 8 percent last year, mostly affecting soft drinks and beer, which comprise the largest proportion of the domestic drinks production while, for the first time in many years, bottled water production also posted a drop.
The statistical service said that the above declines reflect cutbacks in Greek household's spending and the reduced revenues from tourism.
Total beverage production in 2010 dropped by 7.8 percent against 2009, and by 3.9 percent in comparison with 2005. The decline in 2009 against 2008 was 4.8 percent.
The volume of production posted a decline in all five sub-categories of the beverage branch in 2010 against 2009.
More specifically, by sub-category, production of mineral and carbonated water fell by 0.9 percent, production of soft drinks and non-alcoholic beverages by 11.3 percent, distilled alcoholic drinks (ouzo, tsipouro, brandy, liqueur) by 0.6 percent, beer by 7.5 percent, and wine by 8.2 percent.
Drink production, according to a 2005 survey by ELSTAT, accounts for 6 percent of the overall Greek manufacturing industry.
 Hygeia Group sells equity participation in Turkey investmentAthens-based Hygeia Group on Monday announced it was selling its 50-pct equity stake in Genesis Holding SA - owner of four hospitals of the Safak Group in Turkey -- as part of a de-investment plan of its activities in Turkey.
Hygeia Group said the sale will release guarantees worth 15 million euros offered to finance the company and its subsidiaries while it also cuts the Group's bank debt. The move will also lift a burden on the group's results as the investment contributed around 7.0 million euros in losses last year.
Commenting on the move, Rita Souvatzoglou, chief executive of Hygeia Group, said a restructuring of the group's investment portfolio was a strategic option in order to retain ownership and management throughout its hospitals.
 Air China to be 'landing' in Greece as of MayThe starting of flights to Greece by the Air China airline company was the main issue discussed by Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister George Nikitiadis with the company's representatives, in Beijing.
It was discussed during the meeting that the company's first flight will take place on May 11 and Nikitiadis welcomed this development and told the company's representatives that he will contribute to facilitating their activation.
The deputy minister also expressed his assessment that very soon Greece's air link with China will multiply and instead of two flights a week and via Munich it will be taking place directly and on a daily basis.
 Dining, sleeping car service cancelled by rail operatorRail operator Trainose S.A. announced the cancellation of the dining and sleeping car service for Hellenic Rail (OSE) trains as of March 1, 2011 after the expiration of a contract with a catering service provider on Feb. 28, 2011.
The sleeping wagons were available in overnight trains servicing the Athens-Thessaloniki, Athens-Sofia and Thessaloniki-Istanbul routes.
Speaking in Parliament in response to a relevant question tabled by Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MP Panagiotis Lafazanis, Deputy Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Spyros Vougias on Monday said that "Trainose S.A. made the decision within the framework of efforts aimed at eliminating deficits, while maintaining the best possible quality in the services offered to passengers".
 Plaisio Computers to boost activities in BulgariaPlaisio Computers on Monday said it will proceed with a share capital increase of its subsidiary in Bulgaria, Plesio Computers JSC.
Under the plan, Plesio Computers JSC will raise its share capital by around 850,000 euros through cash and the issuing of 195,583 new shares at an offering price of 8.5 leva each. The share capital increase plan, which will be covered fully by the parent company, aims at further strengthening its activities in the Bulgarian market.
 Stocks end 1.28% higherStocks ended higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, with the composite index of the market rising 1.28 pct to end at 1,642.70 points.
Turnover in the market was a disappointing 95.761 million euros. The Big Cap index ended 1.39 pct up, the Mid Cap index rose 0.80 pct and the Small Cap index eased 0.57 pct. The Raw Materials (3.97 pct) and Chemicals (2.92 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Technology (1.94 pct) and Insurance (1.51 pct) suffered losses.
Mytilineos (5.70 pct), Alpha Bank (3.21 pct), OPAP (2.96 pct) and Titan (2.87 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while ATEbank (3.53 pct) and Hellenic Postbank (1.75 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 93 to 71 with another 52 issues unchanged. Kyriakoulis Yachts (16.28 pct), Alumil (10.45 pct) and Logismos (9.33 pct) were top gainers, while Elfico (18.75 pct), Attik-Kat (14.29 pct) and Mohlos (9.09 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.97%
Personal & Household: +2.78%
Raw Materials: +3.97%
Travel & Leisure: +2.64%
Food & Beverages: +0.69%
Financial Services: +0.35%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Marfin Popular Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.50
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.50
HBC Coca Cola: 20.60
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.51
National Bank of Greece: 7.48
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.39
Bank of Piraeus: 1.59
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 825 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 810 bps on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.55 pct and the German Bund 3.28 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 33 million euros, of which 29 million were sell orders and the remaining 4.0 million euros were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 13 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.716 pct, the six-month rate 1.35 pct, the three-month rate was 1.09 pct and the one-month rate 0.91 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.46 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover remaining a low 36.048 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,737 contracts worth 25.713 million euros, with 32,044 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 22,295 contracts worth 10.335 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,376), followed by Eurobank (1,464), MIG (693), OTE (2,253), Piraeus Bank (1,567), Alpha Bank (1,857), Marfin Popular Bank (5,340), Mytilineos (929) and Hellenic Postbank (523).
 Foreign Exchange rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.354
Pound sterling 0.846
Danish kroner 7.516
Swedish kroner 8.826
Japanese yen 113.05
Swiss franc 1.317
Norwegian kroner 7.94
Canadian dollar 1.338
Australian dollar 1.353
 Valentine's Day celebrated in Greece amidst economic crisisAlthough a fairly recent 'holiday' in Greece, Valentine's Day is increasingly celebrated throughout the country, especially among teenagers and young adults.
After the Christmas/New Year holiday, the February 14 St. Valentine's Day is the next opportunity awaited by shop owners to drum up business each year, especially in this period of economic crisis.
The crisis, however, appears to have also hit the Valentine's Day holiday market this year, with sweethearts turning increasingly to inexpensive, alternative ways of sending messages to their loved ones, such as greeting cards, dedications on radio stations, cell phone text messages, and a single bud rose or a small bouquet of wildflowers.
But the Valentine's Day holiday is also an opportunity to send a tangible gift of love to children in need.
The 'Floga' Association of Parents of Children suffering from neoplasmatic diseases has organised a five-digit telephone number, 19454, where one can send a message of love, from Monday (February 14) through Sunday (February 20), at a minimal cost, the proceeds of which will help finance the association's activities for children suffering from cancer.
The campaign, titled "All Children have the right to proper medical, mental and social care", coincide with Tuesday's International Childhood Cancer Day.
Each SMS message sent by cell phone via phone number 19454 throughout the week, costing 1.23 euros, will give 1 euro to Floga for its programs, which include the operation of an ultra-modern hostel for the accommodation for children from the periphery who are hospitalised in the oncology clinics of Athens' Children's Hospitals, home care for suffering children, psychological support for the child patients and their parents, the operation of a school for the children in the hostel, and state-of-the-art technological infrastructures at the hospitals via sponsorships.
According to Floga and the Lampsi Association of Northern Greece of Parents of Children suffering from Malignant Diseases, 250,000 children are diagnosed with cancer throughout the world each year, of which only 20 percent have access to proper medical care. Approximately 80 percent of the suffering children come from developing countries, where the ability does not exist for early diagnosis and proper treatment.
More than 150,000 cancer-related children's deaths could be avoided each year if the children had access to early diagnosis and treatment.
In Greece, an estimated 280-300 children are diagnosed with cancer each year.
According to the two associations, medical progress has resulted in 70 percent of the children with access to specialised treatment being cured.
For cancer, there is no prevention, just early diagnosis, the Associations told ANA-MPA.
The two associations, in a statement, appeal to the public to support the fight against childhood cancer. "Children have the right to proper medical care, regardless of nationality or their social or financial situation".
 Crisis brings Valentine's Day discounts, special offersThe economic crisis has resulted in a major cutback in spending overall, and in holiday gifting, not only in Greece but worldwide.
This year, travel agencies, restaurants, florists and gift shops in Greece are offering Valentine's Day discounts and special packages, such as romantic dinners for two or two-day getaways for sweethearts, while sweet shops' windows are filled with heart-shaped cakes and confectionaries at affordable prices, and florists are offering special Valentine's Day specials on flowers.
The hardest-hit from the crisis, however, are jewelry shops, for which gone are the days when lovers would go all out for a gold or silver memento of their devotion.
 KKE youth organisation campaign against drug useThe opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) youth organisation KNE continued its nationwide campaign against drug use with events and discussions around the country, part of efforts to raise public awareness on substance abuse.
Under the slogan "Live a whole life not in doses. Say 'no' to drugs", the youth organisation expressed opposition to the legalisation of the so-called "soft drugs", while they accused the EU and the government of making "dangerous choices" with "the reduction of funding for programmes against substance addiction".
 Rainy on TuesdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 17C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 15C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 11C.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe economy and EU-IMF troika inspectors' visit, and speculation of early general elections were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Monday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The 'smart fabrics' will save the economy - Fabrics that catch the sun's rays, creating energy through clothing, handbags, shade tents, and power electrical devices and appliances".
AVRIANI: "George (PM Papandreou) 'escaping' with (early general) elections".
ELEFTHEROS: "After the humiliation of the Greeks, Papandreou feigns 'resistance'."
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Theatrics with 'troikan' war - Government does not deny the sell-off of the country".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Tragi-comedy - The 'for sale sign' of the state assets for 50 billion euros has already been agreed".
ESTIA: "The state property a source of wasteful spending".
ETHNOS: "Regret from troika after the storm".
IMERISSIA: "The market at the troika's cutting edge".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Government seeking new balances with the troika".
TA NEA: " 'Family Silver S.A. - What they are, how much they are worth, and how they will be exploited".
VRADYNI: "Elections to overcome the sell-out".
 Washington supports Cypriot-led negotiations, US official saysNEW YORK (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Nicholas Emiliou on Monday held a meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg in Washington, whom he briefed on the latest developments regarding the Cyprus issue.
Bilateral relations were also discussed at the meeting, which was attended by Deputy Assistant Secretary Tina Kaidanow and Cyprus' Ambassador in Washington Pavlos Anastasiades.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, which lasted less than an hour, Emiliou said that "Washington supports that all core issues should be discussed at the negotiations, in order to avoid any deadlines."
Steinberg also expressed his support for Cypriot-led negotiations.
Emiliou said that during the meeting he referred to Greek Cypriot efforts to solve the Cyprus issue and its constructive stance during the negotiations, and he underlined that the Turkish Cypriot side should also show good will.
Diplomatic sources told CNA that there is an overall satisfaction for the results of the meeting with the US Deputy Secretary. The same sources said that the Cyprus problem is always discussed during meetings top US officials hold with Turkish officials and encourage them to show a positive stance in the negotiations.
Later on Monday, Emiliou was to meet with Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
On Tuesday Emiliou will hold meetings, inter-alia, with William Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council.
He will also address a conference organised by the Committee for Hellenic Affairs at the House of Representatives.
In New York, Ambassador Emiliou will have meetings with the Secretariat of the United Nations, the Ambassadors of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, the President of the American Jewish Committee David Harris and overseas Cypriot organisations.
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu are currently engaged in UN-led negotiations with an aim to reunify the island, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion, under a federal roof.
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