|Monday, 11 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-02-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 16 February 2011 Issue No: 3722
 PM: Legislation to prohibit sale or transfer of public landPrime minister George Papandreou on Tuesday announced that the government will take a legislative initiative in the next few days that will prohibit the sale or transfer of ownership of public land.
Addressing a greeting to the first meeting of the National Council on Life-Long Learning and connection with Employment, Papandreou added that he will ask all the political parties, through dialogue, to agree to such a legislative regulation and at a later time, with the revision of the Constitution, that this be contained in the Constitution as well.
Papandreou added that only Parliament will be given the authority to decide on the transfer of small expanses of land.
This, he said, is the government's reply to the current conjuncture but also in the long-term, and reiterated: "Our firm position is -- and I say this to everyone inside and outside the country who have not appreciated it -- that we are talking about exploitation of the state assets for development and for debt repayment. The term 'exploitation' should not be confused with the term 'sale'. Greece is not selling its land."
"Our obligation is to make deep-rooted changes and rid the country of dependence and Memorandums. No one is proud that, every so often, some gentlemen come and inspect our work," Papandreou said in an indirect reference to the EU-IMF troika's recent press conference in Athens and ensuing reactions.
 ND on PM's statement on public propertyThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Tuesday accused Prime Minister George Papandreou of "an attempt to mock and deceive the people", regarding the announcement of a legislative initiative prohibiting the sale of large expanses of public land.
ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis said in a statement "Papandreou himself in the loan contract he has signed, in article 14 paragraph 5, recognises for the country's debtors the right to proceed with the confiscation, not only of the public sector's private property, but also of state property set for serving a public purpose.
"Mr. Papandreou insists on handling crucial issues with communication fireworks," Mihelakis said.
 Finmin confirms privatisations goal, rules out sale of public landBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)
Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday confirmed that the government is planning an ambitious privatisation programme to raise 50 billion euro but stressed that this would not mean selling off public land.
He was speaking to reporters after a Eurogroup council meeting in Brussels that agreed to double funds available to a permanent eurozone bailout mechanism to 500 billion euro.
Referring to the need to reduce Greece's very high public debt, Papaconstantinou said that this would be achieved by generating primary surpluses and through higher growth rates resulting from the major structural changes being carried out by the government. In addition, a programme to privatise and make use of publicly owned real estate would raise 50 billion euro over the next four years that would be used to pay down debt.
He clarified, however, that this did not mean the sale of public land, such as beaches, mountains or forests.
"We are talking about exploiting assets that will generate revenue for the public sector and operate efficiently," he said.
The finance minister was highly critical of the stance adopted by main opposition New Democracy on the issue of privatisations, noting that ND leader Antonis Samaras had himself spoken of generating 50 billion euro from privatisations in two years within the framework of the memorandum.
Papaconstantinou said that both the European Commission and the European Central Bank had made a positive assessment of the government's efforts for fiscal and structural reforms. He stressed that this would allow the country to reduce its deficit from 17 billion euro at the end of 2011 to six billon euro at the end of 2014.
Concerning the Greek economy's recession in 2010, the minister admitted that this had been greater than expected but noted that the rate of recession had slowed in each quarter, from -1.9 percent in the first trimester to -1.4 percent in the last quarter, while exports had increased 8 percent in the last year.
He also welcomed Greece's successful three-month treasury bill auction on Tuesday, which raised 390 million euro at an average interest rate of 3.85 percent, down from 4.1 percent for the previous T-bill auction, while 60 percent of the interest was from foreign investors.
Commenting on the Eurogroup's decision on Monday, Papaconstantinou said that this should convince markets that Eurozone countries have the means to deal with possible problems. The Greek government would like the permanent bailout mechanism to have more funds and greater flexibility and better borrowing terms, he added.
He repeated that extending repayment of the 110 billion euros given to Greece would be part of a comprehensive solution for ensuring the stability of the euro and that the extension would concern harmonising the maturation of the Greek loans with those of Ireland.
European governments would have time to agree on a comprehensive solution before the EU summit in March, the minister added.
 PM on lifelong education, employmentPrime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday addressed the Lifelong Learning and Employment Council meeting at the ministry of education, underlining that the lifelong learning structures will aid in the country's change for the better.
Papandreou underlined that "we need citizens that will participate in the structures ... the time has come to talk about the 'lifelong lesson' we are experiencing. The sooner we change our country, the quicker we'll get rid of memoranda. Change was necessary even if there were no deficits. We don't want to remain stagnant."
"We need an education system that will be linked with production. We need a flexible education system. If Greece is based on values will not depend on loans," he said, stressing that "we need a school that is open and human-centered and invest in the best we've got, the individual".
Papandreou reminded that he had served as deputy popular education minister and referring to "the lifelong lesson we live today", he said that "we should learn from it and not allow Greece to return to past dysfunctions that led the country to the situation it is today."
 PM to chair interministerial Committee meeting on WednesdayPrime Minister George Papandreou is expected to chair an interministerial Committee meeting at noon on Wednesday, in light of his visit to Thrace on Thursday and Friday.
One of the issues to be discussed during the meeting is that of immigration and illegal immigration, also in light of the placing of the fence at Evros.
The course of coooperation with Frontex will also be examined.
Gov't dismisses snap election rumors, abolition of private sector bonuses
"We are on the right track, we continue our course, we're change our country's image and reality and in any chance we get we'll continue to prove wrong all those who predict the worst," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said on Tuesday in answer to press questions over the possibility of snap elections.
Referring to the private sector, he said the abolition of the 13th and 14th salaries (half-salary Easter and summer vacation bonuses and full-salary Christmas bonus) is out of the question.
Petalotis pointed out that the results of the government's policy become more visible day by day, adding that those, in the country and abroad, who warned that getting the approval for the fourth loan installment would be difficult, were proven wrong.
 Droutsas urges Ankara to withdraw occupation forces after meeting KyprianouNICOSIA (ANA-MPA - A. Viketos)
After talks with his Cyprus counterpart Markos Kyprianou here on Tuesday, Greece's Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas again asked Ankara to immediately begin withdrawing its occupation forces from the island and "contribute sincerely to finding a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus issue." He stressed that such a course of action would help Turkey further its ambitions of joining the European Union.
The minister underlined that if Turkey sincerely desired a solution, it must accept that the root cause of the Cyprus problem was the invasion and military occupation of the island and withdraw its forces.
Droutsas reported that his talks with Kyprianou had centred mainly on the efforts underway to solve the Cyprus problem.
Asked about his meeting with UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon, Droutsas said that Athens expected the UN to be objective and maintain its 'good offices mission'. Expressing confidence in the UN secretary-general, the Greek foreign minister emphasised that the Greek Cypriot side and Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, in particular, had shown a very constructive attitude and very good proposals made in a constructive spirit.
"Unfortunately, we do not discern or find this same constructive spirit on the other side, the side of [Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu]," he added.
"Solving the Cyprus problem is the greatest challenge faced by the Cyprus Republic but at the same time it is a priority for Greek foreign policy and a wager for full normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations," Droutsas stressed.
He underlined Greece's support for the efforts of the Cyprus Republic and Christofias to end the Turkish occupation in the north of the island, in the framework of finding a mutually acceptable, fair, viable and functional solution.
Droutsas said such a solution must be based on UNSC resolutions, be fully compatible with EU rules and principles, without pressing deadlines or arbitration and should take the form of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, a single sovereignty, a single nationality and a single international identity.
Commenting on the recent protests by Turkish Cypriots and the reactions in Ankara, the Greek minister said these were a sign of a non-viable situation in which the Turkish-Cypriots were suffering when they could be enjoying the economic and social benefits of EU membership.
The recent events in Egypt and the possible repercussions in the Middle East also occupied Droutsas and Kyprianou, who discussed possible initiatives on a bilateral level or in the EU.
Kyprianou said that the meeting with Droutsas continued the work done during the Greek minister's meeting on Monday with Christofias, as well as touching on regional issues such as Egypt and matters relating to the EU.
Earlier on Tuesday, Droutsas also had meetings with Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker Marios Garoyian and the leaders of Cypriot political parties.
 FM Droutsas to pay two-day visit to LondonLONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)
Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas will be meeting the leadership of the British Foreign Office and the Labour Party's new leader Ed Miliband during his two-day visit to London, which begins on Wednesday.
In parallel, the Greek minister has scheduled interviews with international television networks: the economic television network "Bloomberg", CNN and BBC radio.
At noon on Wednesday, Droutsas will be meeting his British counterpart William Haig, while earlier he will be having a working luncheon with the Greek General Director of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Efthymios Mitropoulos.
After meeting his British counterpart, Droutsas will meet the Labour Party's new leader Ed Miliband and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander.
On Thursday, the Greek minister will meet with British Deputy Foreign Minister responsible for issues of southeastern Europe and NATO.
 Public sector hiring requests 'at reasonable levels', ministry reportsDespite record numbers leaving in 2010, requests for the hiring of new staff in the broader public sector have remained "reasonable" at just 16,000, the interior ministry said on Tuesday. The number of requests is viewed by the ministry as 'manageable' and one that will not block the hiring system.
Based on the 5:1 ratio of departures to new hirings, the departure of 53,335 public-sector staff in 2010 allows the ministry to make 10,600 new appointments in 2011. Of these, only about 7,000 will be new hirings, with the rest of the positions filled through transfers from the broader public sector - including some 2,800 transfers from the Greek Railways (OSE) and the Athens public transport organisation OASA.
The greatest number of requests for new staff, almost 13,000 in total, were submitted by the health, education and citizens' protection ministries.
 Minister tones down penalties for fare-dodgingInfrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas on Tuesday tabled modifications to a draft bill for public transport reforms that will make non-payment of fares a minor offence that does not carry a jail sentence.
The minister finally agreed to proposals made by main opposition New Democracy and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) MPs, urging him to tone down an earlier harsher rule that made dodging the 1.4-euro ticket a misdemeanour.
As a minor offence, non-payment of tickets on Athens public transport will be punished by detention or a fine, while it will be prosecuted if a complaint is filed.
The minister also reworded an article in order to clarify that all companies in the Athens Public Transport Organisation OASA will be governed by the same rules as the public sector and state-sector agencies in terms of assignments and partnerships for use of their state-owned property.
Discussion on the draft bill is continuing and will be completed late on Tuesday night with a vote on the articles.
 Papoulias briefed on draft sports bill, tourismA draft law on professional sports, which will include clauses for the prevention of violence inside and outside sports venues, anti-doping measures, and national sports planning, will be ready soon, Deputy Culture & Tourism Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis said during his meeting with Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday.
In receiving Nikitiadis, Papoulias underlined that "sports fans should learn to be sports fans", while on his part, the deputy minister underlined that there is will for cooperation on behalf of football club representatives and the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO).
Papoulias requested to be briefed on developments in the tourism sector, adding that Belgium's new ambassador to Athens had told him, during an earlier presentation of his credentials, that roughly 500,000 tourists from his country visit Greece annually.
Nikitiadis responded that the goal is to increase that number, adding that Belgium is among the seven countries he will visit in the next five days. He also referred to cooperation between the culture and tourism ministry and the ministry of foreign affairs to facilitate the easier issuance of visas for citizens of Russia, China and India.
 Foreign ministry general secretary to visit EgyptForeign ministry general secretary Ioannis-Alexios Zepos is to visit Cairo on Wednesday in order to have a series of meetings concerning the recent developments in Egypt, the foreign ministry announced. Zepos is expected to conclude the visit on Friday.
According to the foreign ministry, his visit forms part of a policy of initiatives and active involvement by Greece in support of peace and stability in the region.
Greece was also among the countries that proposed a meeting of EU foreign ministers about events in Egypt, which was finally organised this coming Sunday by the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.
 3 new ambassadors present credentials; Palestinian envoy upgradedThe new ambassadors of Cuba, Belgium and Slovenia on Tuesday presented their credentials to President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, whereas the up-until-now head of the Palestinian diplomatic representation in Athens also presented credentials, following an upgrading of his position.
In terms of the Palestinian diplomatic representation, envoy Samir Abou Ghazaleh on Tuesday inaugurated the process of presenting credentials to the president of the republic instead of the foreign ministry, as was the case up until now.
Luis Prado Garcia, Mark Van Den Reeck and Robert Basej, of Cuba, Belgium and Slovenia, respectively, presented their credentials.
During the ceremony with Amb. Ghazaleh, Papoulias referred to the close relations between Greeks and Palestinians, reminding that Athens backs the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
On his part, Ghazaleh cited what he called the particular honour of being the first Palestinian ambassador to present credentials to a Greek president, noting that the "upgrading of the Palestinian diplomatic delegation by government of Mr. (George) Papandreou confirms the historic ties of affection and friendship between these two peoples."
He also thanked Greek leadership for the decision, which he said reinforces "Greece's position in favour of a Palestinians' just struggle for freedom, independence and peace."
A similar upgrade of diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority was recently decided by Spain, France, Portugal, Ireland and Norway.
 Joint training between navy, air force and French aircraft carrier unitsJoint training between units of the Greek navy and air force with units of the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle is being scheduled to take place in the sea region south of the Cyclades on February 17 and 18 during the aircraft carrier's passage from the Cretan Sea.
On the Greek side, the frigate "Hydra" and the missile boat "Pezopoulos" will be participating, as well as Mirage 2000, Mirage 2000-5 and F-16 aircraft.
Participating on the French side will be the frigates "Forbin" and "Cassard" and aircraft of the French aircraft carrier.
The joint training is part of wider cooperation between the two countries.
 BoG: Substantial progress made, more to be doneThe Bank of Greece (BoG) ascertained "substantial steps of progress" in tackling the country's immense debt and weak competitiveness, in its annual Monetary Policy Report for 2010-2011 which was submitted by the central bank chief George Provopoulos to the parliament president on Tuesday.
However, despite the progress observed, "there are still many things that need to be done", Provopoulos said, adding his belief that "we need to speed up the structural changes, to act faster and more decisively".
"In the current conditions that is the only safe way to bring economic growth to the country more quickly," the BoG governor said while submitted the report.
Parliament president Filippos Petsalnikos warned that "we must not become complacent", stressing that the rate and momentum of the changes must not slow down, "particularly the structural measures, which are necessary for our country to stand on its own feet once again".
Petsalnikos said parliament will study the report with due attention, and anticipated that the government and the entire political community, and above all the Greek people, will act towards the same goal, that Greece will never again find itself in a similar situation as recently.
 ND on BoG report; private sector wagesThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) party sharply attacked the government on Tuesday, criticising it for the economic policy it follows.
Referring to the annual Monetary Policy Report for 2010-2011, issued by the Bank of Greece (BoG), ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis underlined that "the fact that the economy has entered a vicious circle of recession is being confirmed".
"The BoG says what ND leader Antonis Samaras has been saying for months," Mihelakis stressed, adding that "the only way is development and changing the economic policy mix?The dead ends of the memorandum and the policy followed by the Papandreou government have paralyzed the economy. The sacrifices of the people go to waste and the future is ominous".
He also accused the government of lacking a plan, vision, hope and development prospect, stressing that it "sank Greece into recession, unemployment and austerity in no time".
As regards the exploitation of state real estate, Mihelakis called on the government to respond immediately if it intends to bring the issue up for discussion in a Cabinet meeting.
He also referred to the future of the private sector 13th and 14th salaries (half-salary Easter and summer vacation bonuses and a full-salary Christmas bonus), stressing that the explanations given by the competent government ministers leave room for any eventuality.
 Greek economy to shrink by 3% in 2011, BoGThe Greek economy will shrink by at least 3.0 pct, real wages will fall by 5.0 pct, unemployment will rise further and inflation will decline this year, the Bank of Greece (BoG) announced on Tuesday, in presenting its monetary policy report.
The latter was tabled in Parliament by BoG governor George Provopoulos.
The central bank recommends the government to intensify efforts towards fiscal consolidation, warning that a total solution to deal with a debt problem -- currently under discussion in the European Union -- does not justify complacency and relaxation of efforts. The central bank predicts a further worsening of a domestic credit institutions' loan portfolio quality and a zero or negative credit expansion growth rate for 2011. The report concludes that efforts made by the country could have a positive result.
However, the central bank warned of risks in implementing reforms, as they faced reactions. The report stressed that a part of the society persistently defends its vested interests based on a view that things could go on forever without any changes. The Bank of Greece underlined it was necessary to establish a view in the society that changes were not dictated by the memorandum but they were part of a great effort to reconstructing the Greek economy.
The central bank expects the economy to shrink by around 3.0 pct this year, without excluding a higher percentage of decline. The recession has hit consumption and particularly investments which fell 18 pct last year, significantly reducing the country's productive potential. The recession also pushed the unemployment rate to 12.5 pct of the workforce last year, with more than 100,000 job positions lost in the year. The central bank expects the unemployment rate to continue rising in 2011. Real average wages in the economy fell 9.0 pct last year and were projected to fall further, by around 5.0 pct in 2011 although stabilization was expected in 2012. The report projects a significant decline in the inflation rate to 2.2 pct this year, from 4.7 pct in 2010.
The central bank recommended government interventions to halt a rising public debt.
The first envisages faster fiscal consolidation efforts, focusing on combating tax-evasion and cutting public overspending. The central bank noted that structural reforms in the state must move forward with determination, supported by a wide consensus of the society. The bank also recommended a faster fiscal consolidation than the projections included in a medium-term action plan to be presented by the government in March (it envisages cutting the fiscal deficit to 2.6 pct of GDP in 2014).
It also recommends spending cuts by general government agencies and restructuring of loss-making public sector enterprises along with the closure of unnecessary public agencies. The central bank also calls for the adoption of numerical fiscal rules and noted that accelerating privatisations and efforts for a more efficient management of real estate property was crucial to cutting the country's public debt.
However, the central bank underlined that all the above would not be enough to hold a rising debt and stressed it was urgently needed to promote growth. The report recommends the implementation of wide-spread structural reforms such as flexibility in the labour market, upgrading education and creating competitive conditions in market through the opening up of closed professions.
The Bank of Greece said 2011 would be a year of "great and complex challenges" for the banking system, since banks were expected to face the consequences of rising non-performing loans and to gradually cut their dependence from European Central Bank's funding operations.
 Greece raises 390-mln-euros from three-month T-bill auctionGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bills issue raising at least 390 million euros from the market at a reduced interest.
Bids submitted totalled 1.5 billion euros, more than five times the asked sum. The average interest of the issue fell to 3.85 pct from 4.1 pct in the previous auction of three-month Treasury bills held in January.
 Greek economy shrank 4.5pct in 2010The Greek economy shrank by 4.5 pct in 2010 after a 6.6 pct decline in the country's Gross Domestic Product in the fourth quarter of the year, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.
The statistics service, in a report, attributed the dramatic decline of GDP in the fourth quarter mainly to a significant decline in final consumption spending, despite an improvement in the country's trade balance (lower imports, higher exports).
The statistics service said the economy shrank 0.7 pct in the first quarter of 2010, by 5.1 pct in the second, by 5.7 pct in the third and by 6.6 pct in the fourth quarter of the year, compared with the corresponding periods in 2009.
The Bank of Greece expects the economy to shrink by around 3.0 pct this year, although the Finance ministry expects a stabilization of the economy by mid-year and a return to growth rates in 2012.
Eurostat also reported that the Greek economy shrank by 6.6 pct in the fourth quarter of 2010. The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report published in Brussels, said the EU economy grew by 2.1 pct in the October-December period, while the Eurozone economy grew by 2.0 pct. Eurostat said Greece was the only Eurozone member state to suffer a recession in the fourth quarter of 2010, while only Greece and Romania (-0.5 pct) suffered a recession in the EU-27.
 Production from Prinos oil deposit increased by 50 percentThe production of the Prinos oil deposit in northern Greece, off the port city of Kavala, increased by 50 percent from 2,000 to 3,000 barrels per day, following the successful completion of PA-35 drilling, which is expected to produce reserves of 1.8 million barrels over the next four years, according to an announcement on Tuesday by Energean Oil & Gas, which has the exploitation rights.
The PA-35 drilling is part of the 'Prinos 5000' program that aims to increase overall daily production to 5,000 barrels and foresees investments of 20 million dollars in 2011.
A total of one million barrels were produced from the region's deposits in 2010, while the target is to increase production by 50 percent to 1.5 million barrels in 2011.
The PA-35 drilling was inaugurated last December by energy deputy minister Yiannis Maniatias and took place at a depth of 2,327 meters, which was followed by the placement of the required equipment. Production commenced on February 11.
 Geniki Bank announces net losses of 403.5 mln euros in 2010Geniki Bank on Tuesday reported higher losses in 2010 compared with 2009, with net consolidated losses totaling 411 million euros, up from 109.5 million euros in the previous year. Losses at bank level totaled 403.5 million euros in 2010 from 107.6 million euros in 2009.
Operating revenues totaled 162.1 million euros, down 14.6 pct from the previous year, reflecting lower interest income as a result of a rise in non-performing loans. Operating expenses (excluding provisions) totaled 155.6 million euros, down 0.8 pct, while operating results (pre-provisions) totaled 6.5 million euros. A significant worsening of the country's economic environment negatively affected the bank's loan portfolio quality with bad debt provisions totaling 415.2 million euros, three times more than the previous year. Net loans totaled 3.5 billion euros, down 11.5 pct, while saving deposits and repos totaled 2.4 billion euros, down 11.5 pct over the same period.
Geniki Bank successfully completed a share capital increase plan raising 339.7 million euros, along with the issuance of preferred stock (convertible into common shares) raising 90 million euros.
 NTUA heads project for zero CO2 emissions buildingThe National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), also known as the Metsovian Polytechnic, will head a European research project involving a consortium of 18 major construction companies and institutions for the development of a building with a zero carbon footprint.
The Hydrogen 2 Sustainable Building is envisaged as an "intelligent, self-sustained and zero CO2 emission hybrid energy system" that integrates H2 technology with renewable energy systems.
The building will be designed to cover all its electricity needs from RES such as wind power or solar power, while any 'extra' green electricity generated will be used to hydrolyse water for the production and storage of H2 that can also be used to meet the building's energy needs.
Among others participating in the project is the Greek subsidiary of Schneider Electric, which will provide the research team with solutions and equipment for the energy management of the building. This will include 25 gauges of electricity production and consumption and checking the consumption balance through a specialised automated system.
 Joint ministerial decision for withdrawal of older vehiclesA joint ministerial decision issued on Tuesday for the withdrawal of older vehicles -- a "cash for clunker" variation -- is considered "life-sustaining" measure for the depressed retail car sales market, one of the biggest victims of the ongoing economic crisis.
So far, retailers have recorded a reduction of more than 50 pct in sales.
The decision concerns older vehicles with a circulation license issued before Dec. 31, 1998, to be replaced by new cars with an engine capacity of up to 2000cc.
The withdrawal should take place no later than Dec. 20, 2011 through the approved alternative management system for older vehicles (OTKZ).
 Bounced checks down in Jan.Credit conditions improved in the first month of 2011 as a deep economic recession is limiting credit transactions. The value of bounced checks totaled 172.3 million euros in January, up 8.6 pct compared with December but down 2.11 pct compared with January 2010, official figures showed on Tuesday. A monthly report by Teiresias SA, the market's watchdog, said that bounced checks totaled 17,851 in volume, up 4.29 pct from December and up 0.92 pct from January 2010.
The value of unpaid bills totaled 20.8 million euros in January, up 1.35 pct from December but down 23.84 pct from January 2010, while in volume unpaid bills totaled 12,713, down 6.39 pct from December and off 13.21 pct from the same month last year.
 Stocks end 1.35% downStocks resumed their downward trend at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, after Monday's advance, with the composite index of the market ending at 1,620.59 points, off 1.35 pct. Turnover was a steady 101.315 million euros. News of a deeper-than-expected economic recession in 2010 and a widening of Greek bonds' yield spreads, dampened sentiment in the market.
The Big Cap index fell 1.79 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 0.31 pct and the Small Cap index fell 1.25 pct. Jumbo (1.86 pct) was the only blue chip stock to end higher, while PPC (4.0 pct), MIG (3.41 pct), Motor Oil (3.47 pct) and Cyprus Bank (3.36 pct) were major losers. The Technology (2.58 pct) and Commerce (0.74 pct) sectors scored gains, while Media (3.78 pct) and Utilities (3.02 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 105 to 68 with another 47 issues unchanged. Crown Hellas (38.81 pct), Atti-Kat (16.67 pct) and Ilyda (15.38 pct) were top gainers, while Unibios (12.5 pct), Attica Publications (9.72 pct) and Olympic Catering (9.62 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.75%
Personal & Household: +0.46%
Raw Materials: -2.00%
Travel & Leisure: -0.43%
Food & Beverages: -0.31%
Financial Services: -1.03%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Marfin Popular Bank and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.42
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.00
HBC Coca Cola: 20.53
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.45
National Bank of Greece: 7.30
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.30
Bank of Piraeus: 1.57
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 839 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.68 pct and the German Bund 3.29 pct. Turnover in the market rose to 87 million euros, of which 74 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 13 million euros were buy orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 14 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved slightly higher. The 12-month rate was 1.72 pct, the six-month rate was 1.35 pct, the three-month 1.09 pct and the one-month rate 0.91 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.361
Pound sterling 0.844
Danish kroner 7.516
Swedish kroner 8.795
Japanese yen 114.12
Swiss franc 1.322
Norwegian kroner 7.896
Canadian dollar 1.342
Australian dollar 1.361
 Thessaloniki mayor in IstanbulThessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris will travel to Istanbul on Wednesday where he will be received by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, while on Thursday he will inaugurate an exhibition by British painter and architect Doug Patterson.
The exhibition at the Patriarchate-affiliated Zografeion Lyceum, to run until March 8, will be inaugurated by Boutaris in his capacity as the Mount Athos Center chairman.
On display will be paintings of monastic communities, including Mount Athos and St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai.
Meanwhile, the municipality of Thessaloniki announced on Tuesday that the mayor's recent visit to Tel Aviv on Feb. 9-11 focused on making the city a more attractive tourism destination for Israeli visitors, while the issue of the return of Jewish community archives to Thessaloniki from Moscow was also raised.
It was also announced that the mayor of Tel Aviv will visit Thessaloniki in the near future, whereas Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem expressed a desire to establish a Sepulchre Exarchate in Thessaloniki.
On his part, Boutaris offered his support to the Organization of the Greek Survivors of the Holocaust, who have long lobbied to re-acquire Greek citizenship, which was lost when they left Greece to immigrate to Israel after WWII.
 Greeks work the longest hours in Europe, Wall Street reportsStereotypes about lazy southern Europeans and the industrious north were debunked in an article published by the Wall Street journal on Monday, which stressed that the problems of Europe's southern rim cannot be solved by getting people to work more.
Citing reliable Eurostat figures, the article noted that bailed-out Greeks in particular have the longest working week in Europe at an average of 42 hours, following closely by the Spanish and Portuguese with 39-hour weeks.
Among supposedly hard-working northerners, by contrast, the Dutch work just 31 hours a week on average while the Germans have a 36-hour week.
The problem, the article claims, is not that the workers in the South don't work hard enough but that their productivity is lower in relation to those in the north. Greeks produce less than 18.5 euros per work hour, the Spanish just 24.4 euros per hour and the Portuguese only 13.8 euros per hour. By contrast, the Dutch produce 39.5 euros per work hour and the Germans 38.7 euros per work hour.
The writer of the article said the difference lies in superior technology and infrastructure, rather than industry or even training, and suggests the solution to the problems is to attract multinationals with cutting edge technology.
 Riot police enter Korydallos to quell rampaging prisonersTwo platoons of MAT riot police monitored by a public prosecutor were called in to restore order to the 3rd wing of Korydallos prison in Athens on Tuesday, in order to restrain some 450 prisoners of Arab and Asian origins that were running rampage in the building.
A justice ministry announcement said the intervention of riot police was deemed necessary because the prisoners, many of whom are waiting to be deported back to their own countries, had caused extensive damage to the facilities of the wing, damaging railings, fencing and common rooms.
No one was injured during the police operation and the prisoners all returned to their cells.
 Arsonists target Corinth Mayor's homeA fire broke out in the early hours of Tuesday at the home of Corinth Mayor Alexandros Pvevmatikos, but no injuries were reported.
The fire broke out at 3:40 a.m., beginning from the basement, which is used as a garage and storage space, and spread quickly but was immediately extinguished by firefighters.
None of the 12 people living in the two-storey apartment complex were injured.
Pnevmatikos told ANA-MPA that traces of a plastic container containing gasoline were found outside the garage door.
Asked who could have placed the incendiary device, the mayor said "we have some thoughts, but I believe the matter will be solved in the preliminary investigation that will take place".
Pnevmatikos stressed, however, that "it is unacceptable that some quarters should want to settle accounts with the Mayor in this way, endangering the lives of even innocent children".
The mayor noted that his administration has been acting in the framework of equality of the citizens and justice, "and that is how we will continue, regardless whether some quarters wish to send messages to the mayor and the municipal authority...our municipal authority will not respond to such messages".
 Rainy on WednesdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 17C. Cloudy in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 5C to 14C. Cloudy with possible showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 8C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEconomic issues and speculations of early general elections were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Tuesday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "No panic over the H1N1 flu, but vigilance".
AVGHI: "Theatrics over the 50 billion euros looting".
AVRIANI: "Who will get the kickbacks for the 50 billion euros from the sell-off of the public property"?
ELEFTHEROS: "Rage from PASOK cadres".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Papandreou putting 'for sale sign' on 598 Greek islets".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "We discussed it, we agreed".
ESTIA: "We are blinded by the popularism".
ETHNOS: "Life raft for the retirement superannuation in the public sector".
IMERISSIA: "Double message to the markets - The 50 billion euros package is realistic".
KATHIMERINI: "The agony over the state debt and the 50 billion euros".
LOGOS: "Government backed up against the wall due to the troika".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The target remains for collecting the 50 billion euros".
NIKI: "The government's lost battle".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Organisation of the people - Counter-attack against the policy that is bringing the people to its knees".
TA NEA: "The 'bosses' (troika) insist: Find the 50 billion euros".
VRADYNI: "Everything about the sell-off and...Elections on the horizon".
 Marcoullis: Turkish embargo on Cyprus has impact on EUNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Communications and Works Minister Erato Kozakou Marcoullis has said that losses in Cyprus' economy as a result of Turkey's air and sea embargo against Cypriot flagged vessels amount to 138,5 million euro, accounting for 1,3 % of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
Addressing an international conference on transport, in Larnaca on Tuesday, Marcoullis said that the Turkish embargo has also many negative financial repercussions for the EU and its member states.
She noted that Turkey has imposed restrictions on 2800 vessels, owned by Cypriot or other EU companies which are registered in Cyprus, preventing them from docking at Turkish ports, and that has a huge cost for European interests.
She said that the Republic of Cyprus has focused its efforts on terminating these restrictions.
With regard to air transport, she said that Turkey creates problems to Cypriot air carriers by illegally restricting over-flights over its territory.
The minister stressed that this unacceptable Turkish policy violates the International Air Services Transit Agreement and the Chicago Convention of 1944, something that creates technical and huge financial problems for the Cypriot air carriers, since it makes them less attractive for certain destinations.
Turkey, whose troops occupy Cyprus' northern areas since they invaded in 1974, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member. In
April 1987 it imposed restrictions on Cypriot flagged vessels and in May 1997 Ankara issued new orders to extend the restrictions to include ships under a foreign flag which had any relation with the Republic of Cyprus.
The shipping industry records annual losses amounting to 100 m. euro. It is noted that 16% of the EU registered ships cannot dock at Turkish ports.
The Cyprus shipping register represents nearly 12% of the European registry and one quarter of the world's ship management is represented by Cyprus.
Several official EU documents outline Turkey's legal obligation to lift its embargo on Cypriot and EU shipping but so far Ankara has refused to meet its EU commitments.
The Cyprus ship registry today ranks tenth among international fleets and third in the EU. Cyprus is also a major ship management centre worldwide, with approximately 60 ship management companies operating on the island.
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