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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-02-17

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

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

Thursday, 17 February 2011 Issue No: 3723

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM holds meetings with associates, ministers in light of trips to Germany, Finland
  • [02] PM to chair cabinet meeting on Thursday
  • [03] FM Droutsas holds talks with British counterpart
  • [04] FM Droutsas gives interview to Bloomberg network on Middle East, illegal immigration
  • [05] Transport restructure bill passed by parliament after heated debate
  • [06] ND on salaries; public property, closed professions
  • [07] Clash between gov't, ND on public property exploitation issue
  • [08] ND party's new offices inaugurated
  • [09] KKE leader calls on people to 'do their own duty'
  • [10] DM armaments programmes' negotiations
  • [11] Dispute between Marfin Bank and Red Cross hospital discussed in Parliament
  • [12] German deputy Health minister visiting Greece
  • [13] Gov't on audits of NGOs' finances
  • [14] Russian mission carries out observation flight in Greece
  • [15] Russia denies press speculation of pull-out from Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project
  • [16] Greece waiting for Russia's decisions on pipeline, gov't says
  • [17] Putin' press office denies reports on Burgas-Alexandroupolis
  • [18] Shipping, bilateral economic ties to top minister's agenda in China
  • [19] EU asks Greece to change 'discriminatory' tax laws for capital abroad
  • [20] Commission calls for acceleration of "Digital Convergence" program by Greece
  • [21] Emphasis on 'special forms' of tourism
  • [22] Overdue loans to banks at 10 percent of overall loans in Sept. 2010
  • [23] Millennium Bank reports net losses in 2010
  • [24] State broadcaster ERT reports 50 mln euro surplus
  • [25] PPC trade union pledges to fight privatisation plans
  • [26] Regional bond spreads continue widening
  • [27] Helexpo to report 23% decline in 2010 turnover
  • [28] Stocks flat on Wed.
  • [29] Turnover up in Greek bond market in Jan.
  • [30] Greek bond market closing report
  • [31] ADEX closing report
  • [32] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [33] 'Megaron' planning tribute for 100 years since birth of Elytis
  • [34] Exhibition on art of the book
  • [35] President Papoulias receives Greek Culture Foundation president
  • [36] 4 smugglers arrested, 27 illegal migrants detained, in Thessaloniki and Patras
  • [37] Attica police bust ring trafficking women for sex
  • [38] Pilot program for 'bicycles on Metro'
  • [39] Rainy on Thursday
  • [40] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM holds meetings with associates, ministers in light of trips to Germany, Finland

    Consecutive and prolonged meetings with associates and ministers that Prime Minister George Papandreou chaired in Parliament have been concluded in light of his visits to Germany and Finland next week and Thrace for which he will be leaving on Thursday after the cabinet meeting.

    As regards the prime minister's trips abroad, government officials noted that Greece wants the upcoming European Union summit to succeed, clarifying that "success for our country is in principle the creation of the support mechanism on a permanent basis."

    The same circles noted that despite the complaisance that, wrongly in their view, prevails on the finding of a solution to the issues preoccupying the EU, the differences between countries are intense.

    Papandreou's visits to Germany and Finland are precisely part of the framework of discussions being developed in the EU, heightening with the summit on March 25.

    On the question of the prime minister's visit to Thrace, it is noteworthy that Papandreou has asked for "complete files" from ministers on a series of issues and consecutive meetings were held for the purpose of his briefing.

    [02] PM to chair cabinet meeting on Thursday

    Prime Minister George Papandreou will chair a cabinet meeting on Thursday morning that includes, among others, legislative initiatives on combatting tax evasion and the amendment of the law on ministerial responsibility. Immediately after the cabinet meeting, Papandreou will begin a two-day tour of Thrace, with Samothraki first, where he will be spending the night.

    At the end of the meeting, Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos will present the pilot programme "Upgrading of archaeological sites and museums services."

    [03] FM Droutsas holds talks with British counterpart

    LONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)

    The Foreign Ministers of Greece and Britain Dimitris Droutsas and William Haig held talks at the Foreign Office on Wednesday, focusing on the rapid and historic developments in the Middle East, the issue of Cyprus and Greek-Turkish relations.

    Great priority was placed on the developments in the Middle East and the Greek minister pointed out to his British counterpart that Greece, with the great tradition of the country in which Democracy was born, is able and willing to help the international efforts in the direction of the democratisation of the countries of the Middle East.

    Droutsas told the British Foreign secretary that Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has the idea, and will promote it as an initiative, for the creation in Greece of a "Democracy Centre", that will help the development of democracy in the Middle East and its operational programme will include the training and education of young politicians from the countries of the Middle East.

    In the discussion on Greek-Turkish relations, Droutsas mentioned to Haig Turkey's latest provocations, stressing that these actions cause great harm to Greece's efforts to establish good relations and a good climate with the neighbouring country.

    On Thursday, Droutsas will be holding talks with British Deputy Foreign Minister David Leadington, responsible for the issues of southeastern Europe and NATO.

    [04] FM Droutsas gives interview to Bloomberg network on Middle East, illegal immigration

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, speaking to the Bloomberg television network during his visit to London on Wednesday, referred to the role that Greece and Europe can play regarding the Middle East's transition to democracy, as well as the problem of illegal immigrants that Greece is facing due to its geographical position.

    Droutsas said Greece has a unique position in the region and maintains longstanding traditional bonds of mutual understanding and respect with the Arab world.

    On the question of Europe's role, he said that at both political and economic level it is important and that the EU's relations with the Middle East must be strengthened.

    Lastly, concerning the problem of illegal immigration, he stressed that over 90 percent of illegal immigrants come to Europe through Greece, through the Greek-Turkish borders and underlined that it is not a Greek problem alone but a European one as well.

    "We are seeing the recent developments in Italy. Consequently, we must show solidarity at European level," he concluded.

    [05] Transport restructure bill passed by parliament after heated debate

    A transport ministry bill for restructuring urban transport in Athens was passed by parliament after midnight Tuesday after a heated debate between government and opposition parties.

    The bill, which prompted more than a month of strikes and work stoppages by mass transit employees, was passed with the votes of the ruling PASOK deputies and Independent MP Dora Bakoyannis, a former main opposition New Democracy (ND) minister.

    Earlier, public transport employees gathered outside parliament in central Syntagma Square from the early afternoon to demonstrate against the bill.

    The protestors remained outside parliament until after the bill was passed.

    Urban bus drivers went ahead, however, with a four-hour work stoppage from 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

    [06] ND on salaries; public property, closed professions

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party lashed out at the government on Tuesday, again referring to the issue of salary cuts in the period 2010-2011-- as presented by a Bank of Greece (BoG) -- report, while calling for responsible information on the government's intentions in the economy.

    As regards a hastily announced legislative initiative on the sale of public property, ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis said this is hypocritical, because "the loan contract signed by the government gives the right to our creditors to proceed with the sell-off of public property".

    Responding to a question on a commentary referring to the sell-off of public property, signed by ND leader Antonis Samaras' advisor Chrysanthos Lazaridis, he pointed out that Lazaridis' words were misinterpreted and clarified that the latter referred to the assessment of the public property in order to be utilised.

    Commenting on a press report suggesting that the liberalisation of the energy market leaves open the likelihood for Turkish companies to supply the Greek islands with electricity, he pointed out "the issue needs further investigation and ND MPs will submit a tabled question to Parliament".

    As regards media reports alleging that Russia will abandon the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project, he said the issue is very serious and requested official information.

    [07] Clash between gov't, ND on public property exploitation issue

    "The exploitation of public property for the purpose of collecting 50 billion euros is not a target set by the memorandum because it goes beyond the memorandum period, which ends in 2013," Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou stressed on Wednesday, speaking in parliament.

    Furthermore, he said such goals, even within the framework of the memorandum, "are not as binding as other goals such as, reducing the deficit to 17 billion euros by the end of 2011."

    Papaconstantinou's comment that on July 7, 2010 main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras urged the government to include the revenues from the exploitation of public property in the memorandum obligations prompted the response of ND, through its parliamentary spokesman Manolis Kefaloyiannis, who categorically denied that Samaras ever raised a memorandum issue.

    Meanwhile, main opposition New Democracy (ND) foreign affairs sector head Panos Panagiotopoulos appeared in favour of the exploitation of the public property, speaking to an Athens private radio.

    Panagiotopoulos stressed that ND never spoke about selling-off public property, "instead it spoke in favour of the exploitation of public property?by utilising all techniques and practices available internationally, including long-term leasing".

    He characterised the government's stance as hypocritical and troika's stance as unacceptable.

    [08] ND party's new offices inaugurated

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, speaking during the inauguration of the party's new offices in Syngrou avenue in Athens on Wednesday, accused the government of "being in confusion" and added that "the government of PASOK is in a deadlock, in confusion and it is not by chance that scenarios of elections are leaking out in the past days."

    Samaras further said "they are leaking them out themselves and denying them themselves. Yesterday Mr. (Prime Minister George) Papandreou ruled out an immediate resorting to elections, I am sorry but I can neither believe him nor trust him."

    The ND leader also referred to the issue arising with public property, saying "utilisation is one thing and a sellout and selling off is another."

    [09] KKE leader calls on people to 'do their own duty'

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, in a statement on Wednesday referring to the issue of public property, appealed to the people "to do their own duty" because "they must not lose time at all and search to find the differences between the sale and the sellout, the selling off and the 'utilisation', the deficits and the debt."

    She added that the aim of the people must be labour and popular power, only with such an aim can (the people) obstruct things from getting even worse.

    In another development, Papariga met on Wednesday with the union of Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE) employees, and expressed her radical opposition to every form of the bank's privatisation.

    The KKE leader said that privatisation of ATE also means that all the mortgaged agricultural land will pass into the hands of even stronger monopolistic groups, lead to the privatisation of cooperative organisations and "from this point of view we stand negatively before this development."

    [10] DM armaments programmes' negotiations

    Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday briefed the parliamentary special standing committee on armaments programmes and contracts as regards the course of negotiations on crucial armed forces contracts "based on the commitments undertaken by the preceding New Democracy government in the period 2007-2009, to ensure the continuation of the state and the country's reliability".

    The negotiations are held taking under consideration the real needs of the armed forces as defined by the national defence planning and the country's fiscal framework, a defence ministry statement stressed, adding that "during the negotiations are exercised direct or indirect pressures sometimes under the mask of allegedly journalistic interest".

    Venizelos also referred to the kickbacks for submarines issue, repeating that all aspects of the case will be investigated.

    He also announced that a new inter-state framework agreement on defence contracts is imminent between Greece and Russia.

    The defence minister briefed the committee on the course of the negotiations with France on a Hellenic Navy frigate programme and referred to government efforts to support the shipyards at Elefsina and Syros.

    [11] Dispute between Marfin Bank and Red Cross hospital discussed in Parliament

    Health Minister Andreas Loverdos on Wednesday assured Parliament's Social Affairs committee that the health ministry will do everything in its power to prevent the 'Henry Dunant' hospital in Athens from closing.

    The minister was addressing a special session of the committee devoted to the problems faced by the Athens-based hospital, known in Greek as the 'Errikos Dynan', which is owned and operated by the Hellenic Red Cross.

    The session was also addressed by Marfin Investment Group chairman Andreas Vgenopoulos, who answered to claims Errikos Dynan chairman Andreas Martinis that the hospital's financial problems were the result of Marfin Bank - part of the MIG group - choking off its funding after the hospital entered into a partnership with a rival of an MIG group company in the health sector.

    Loverdos said that he had asked Vgenopoulos to address the members of the committee so as to explore all possible ways of ensuring that the hospital stayed open, noting that this was more than just a business agreement since it affected hundreds of people in the health sector. He also promised that the health ministry will examine all possible solutions, including that of treating the hospital as belonging to the state sector.

    Vgenopoulos, on his part, said that Marfin Bank was terminating the contract for the loan to the hospital because it had failed to keep up with payments and had also not provided the bank with any evidence that it would be able to service its loans. Among such evidence, Vgenopoulos including that of having an financial report drawn up by chartered accountants, in line with international book-keeping standards.

    "If the bank had been dealing with an 'Errikos Dynan' capable of convincing that it had good management, which accepted inspection of its finances and had a business plan then there would be no problem, even now, in reaching a settlement," he said.

    Vgenopoulos stressed that the bank was now only interested in getting back the 82 million euro that it was owed and denied that there was any business dispute with Martinis or any desire to buy out the hospital.

    Vgenopoulos went on to question Red Cross ownership of the hospital, pointing out that 1.25 billion euro in tax-payer's money had gone toward its construction, while also accusing its management of flouting the law through its partnership with GAIA and of issuing invoices without VAT by exploiting its status as a charitable foundation.

    [12] German deputy Health minister visiting Greece

    The deputy Health ministers of Germany and Greece, Stefan Kapferer and Mihalis Timosidis, on Wednesday signed a Joint Intentions Declaration on the intensification of cooperation between the Health ministries of Greece and Germany.

    The Intentions Declaration concerns issues related to medical foundation administration, the procurement of hospital material, the pricing of medicines, the checking and prevention of illnesses, emergency medicine and cooperation on oncology issues.

    Kapferer, who is in Greece as of Wedesday at the invitation of his counterpart Timosidis, will visit the city of Ioannina on Thursday. During his visit, an Action Programme will be signed between the hospitals of Ioannina and Marburg.

    The Intentions Declaration also includes individual issues concerning the exchange of experience regarding the organising of the Public Health system, epidemic supervision, with an exchange of information and training on antimicrobe resilience and intrahospital infection issues.

    [13] Gov't on audits of NGOs' finances

    Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Wednesday commented on media reports focusing on state financing towards NGOs, charging that "when our government took office we found that Hellenic Aid managed funds allocated for NGOs in a way that was not only unclear but scandalous".

    "The evidence available is indisputable and if investigated by a prosecutor it will be made clear who used the funds of NGOs, in what way and for what purposes ...".

    Petalotis stated that as soon as the government took office decided to "freeze" all future developmental assistance programmes until an investigation was completed as regards past practices.

    On Tuesday, Court of Appeals chief prosecutor Yiannis Sakellariou ordered an investigation into all NGOs financed by the state or EU since 1997.

    A first instance court prosecutor was assigned with the investigation of roughly 600 NGOs set up in the past 14 years, focusing on their activities, the funds they have received - either from the Greek state or from the EU - and the way the money was used.

    The chief prosecutor's decision was based on media reports and charges by a private individual alleging a total lack of monitoring into NGOs' financing.

    [14] Russian mission carries out observation flight in Greece

    A Russian mission carried out an observation flight in Greece on Wednesday with a specially prepared Antonov AN-30B aircraft, with a corresponding Greek delegation on board.

    The observation flight is part of the Open Skies Treaty, whose purpose is the promotion of the climate of trust and transparency between the countries participating, securing prospects of control and balance in conventional forces and activities.

    Financial News

    [15] Russia denies press speculation of pull-out from Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)

    Russia on Wednesday denied a flurry of press speculation earlier in the day that was planning to pull out of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and redirect the funds to other pipeline projects.

    Transneft spokesman Igor Dyomin told Russia's RIA-Novosti news agency that Russia is not withdrawing from the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline plan but will "minimise" its expenditure.

    "We do not intend to dissolve the project operator, we will work on cutting expenses," Dyomin told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday, following a flurry of Russian pull-out speculation earlier in the day prompted by a report in the Russian financial daily Vedomosti citing "sources close to the board of the project operator" in order to focus financing on the development of the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline that was also carried by Bloomberg.

    In a similar statement to Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, said that the shareholders of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline do not plan to shut down the project and redirect the funds to the second leg of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline system (ESPO-2).

    "The question of closing the (Burgas-Alexandroupolis) project is not on the agenda. No one is going to pump this volume of oil into the ESPO-2," he said.

    Dyomin said that a meeting of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis shareholders in Rome on Thursday will discuss the debts of Bulgaria and Greece under the project and consider the proposals for its further financing, noting that Bulgaria's debt to the project stands at 7.3 million euros, and that of Greece at 129 million euros.

    Dyomin further said that the shareholders' meeting also aims to resolve the problem of reducing the staff of the operator company Trans Balkan-Pipeline project to a minimum, minimize administrative costs, and transfer contractual relationships with contractors to a state that does not require regular payments.

    Transneft is one of the Russian partners in the Trans Balkan Pipeline consortium, together with Rosneft and Gazprom Neft.

    [16] Greece waiting for Russia's decisions on pipeline, gov't says

    Greek government spokesman George Petalotis on Wednesday said that Athens was waiting for the Russian side to announce its decisions concerning the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline before adopting an official stance on the issue. He had been asked to comment on press reports that Russia was pulling out of the project.

    Petalotis said the government was aware of the rumours but stressed that they did not originate from the Greek side but the Russians.

    "Therefore, we shall first wait and see what the Russian side decides, even though our positions are more or less given," he added.

    Speculation that the Russian side might pull out and redirect funds to other pipelines was set off by an article first appearing in the Russian financial daily Vedomosti on Wednesday, which cited sources "close to the board of the project operator". A spokesman for Transneft, one of the partners in the pipeline consortium, later told Russia's RIA-Novosti news agency that there were no plans to dissolve the project operator but only to minimise its expenses in a cost-cutting drive.

    [17] Putin' press office denies reports on Burgas-Alexandroupolis

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA / Th. Avgerinos)

    Russia does not intend to pull-out of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said here on Wednesday.

    "The information that Russia has lost interest in the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline or that it is preparing to pull-out of the project does not correspond to reality," Peskov told the Russian Interfax news agency.

    "Moscow remains steadfast on all agreements regarding this project and continues to fulfill all obligations it has undertaken," the spokesman added.

    Earlier in the day, a Transneft company spokesman, Igor Dyomin, denied a flurry of press speculation that Moscow was planning to abandon the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project and redirect financing to other pipeline projects.

    [18] Shipping, bilateral economic ties to top minister's agenda in China

    Maritime Affairs, Islands & Fisheries Minister Yiannis Diamantidis begins an official weeklong visit to China on Sunday for meetings with government officials, representatives of Chinese banks, maritime company executives and the president of the multinational Cosco group, Wei Jiafu.

    Diamantidis' closely watched visit aims to promote Greek ocean-going shipping interests in the world's second largest economy, prospects for more shipbuilding contracts in China as well as implementing bilateral cooperation foreseen in a relevant Sino-Greek memorandum -- including cooperation between ports and the countries' international organisations.

    According to the Greek embassy in Beijing's press and communications office, the minister will visit the Chinese capital between Feb. 20 and Feb. 24 and Shanghai between Feb. 24 and Feb. 26.

    Several Greek shipowners and representatives of maritime companies will accompany Diamantidis on the trip.

    [19] EU asks Greece to change 'discriminatory' tax laws for capital abroad

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Commission on Wednesday officially requested that Greece change tax laws providing incentives for Greeks with deposits abroad to repatriate their money, saying that these discriminate against those with capital abroad.

    In the framework of a Greek tax amnesty, Greek tax payers that voluntarily declare funds abroad can benefit for a temporary tax amnesty and if they transfer those funds to a bank account in Greece for a period for at least one year, they are only required to pay 5 percent tax on these funds, while the tax rate for funds that are deposited abroad is 8 percent.

    The Commission considers that the discriminatory treatment is not compatible with the principles for the free movement of services and capital provided for under the EU Treaty and the European Economic Area agreement.

    [20] Commission calls for acceleration of "Digital Convergence" program by Greece

    The European Commission urged Greece to intensify and accelerate the implementation of a "Digital Convergence" program in the public and private sectors. EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn in a meeting with Greek Regional Development and Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chrysoholidis in Brussels on Wednesday underlined the necessity of speeding up the program and stressed the significance of accelerating the implementation of programs aimed at supporting business activity and allowing small- and medium-sized enterprises more access to funding through a new investment legislation.

    The meeting agreed the beginning of a procedure to revising Greece's Fourth Community Support Framework program, adapting more to the country's current needs, while the commissioner also underlined the need to adhere to rules over public works. The Greek minister pledged that all necessary measures would be taken to time resolve the problem.

    Commissioner Hahn stressed that the set up of a special fund and the adoption of modern financial tools -for the support of SMEs- were significant for the start of a new effort and a new philosophy on improving management of national and community funds. The two men agreed to terminate all non-focused policies of horizontal state subsidies to enterprises.

    [21] Emphasis on 'special forms' of tourism

    Greece's culture and tourism ministry will table a series of new draft laws in Parliament aimed at promoting special forms of tourism in the country, simplifying licensing procedures for hotels and setting up a special department offering information and services to investors.

    In a written report to Parliament, Culture and Tourism Deputy Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis stressed that the ministry's priority was creating a positive investment climate and establishing investment safety through a simplified and transparent framework of licensing tourism investments which will also protect the natural and cultural heritage of the country and will safeguard public interest.

    The new department, designed by the ministry, will be responsible for receiving investment plans based on a series of criteria, so that evaluation and coordination of all ministry actions would be made by one agency (one stop shop).

    Nikitiadis reminded the government's two other initiatives, lower VAT rates for hotels and a new legislation on large investment plans (fast track investments) - were recently ratified in Parliament.

    He also reassured that all ministry agencies have begun a series of contacts with interested parties ahead of revising a regulatory framework, promoting measures and incentives and abolishing any hurdles remaining.

    A plan to promote special forms of tourism foresees favourable conditions for agro-tourism, spas and health tourism. The government has also earmarked 20 million euros, via the 4th Community Support Framework programme, to support alternative forms of tourism.

    [22] Overdue loans to banks at 10 percent of overall loans in Sept. 2010

    Overdue loans are on a constant rise with respect to both consumer and mortgage loans as well as business loans, according to the figures contained in the Bank of Greece's (BoG) Monetary Policy report released on Tuesday, while the report also predicted zero or negative growth rates in lending to households due to the economic crisis, which has affected both consumers, resulting in reduced demand, and banks, resulting in restricted liquidity for loan extension.

    According to the report, the ratio of overdue loans against overall loans rose sharply to 10 percent of the total loans in September 2010 from 7.7 percent in December 2009.

    The worst picture is in consumer credit, with overdue loans reaching 18.4 percent in September 2010 from 13.4 percent in December 2009, while the percentage of overdue climbing to over 20 percent in several individual banks.

    Overdue mortgage loans rose to 9.7 percent in September 2010 from 7.4 percent in December 2009, while overdue business loans rose to 8.5 percent in September 2010 from 6.7 percent in December 2009.

    [23] Millennium Bank reports net losses in 2010

    Millennium Bank on Wednesday reported a 3.0-pct increase in its pre-tax operating earnings (excluding provisions and financial results) to 35 million euros last year from its operations in Greece.

    The bank said it attracted 23,000 new customers in 2010 to a total of more than 563,000 and announced that saving deposits totaled 3.1 billion euros.

    Provisions for bad debt totaled 56.6 million euros, up 129 pct compared with 2009, while operating spending was unchanged at 2009 levels. Millennium Bank reported net losses of 16 million euros in 2010, after earnings of 9.0 million euros in the previous year.

    Rui Coimbra, Millennium Bank's chief executive, commenting on the results said the bank completed 10 years of successful operations in Greece and stressed that the bank completed a restructuring of its corporate governance model, based on international practices, reorganizing its network focusing more on retail banking and further enhancing risk management.

    Coimbra said the bank will continue this strategy this year.

    [24] State broadcaster ERT reports 50 mln euro surplus

    Greece's state broadcaster ERT will have a budget surplus of 50 million euro in the current year and is expected to eliminate all its accumulated debts by the year 2014, the company's board chairman Thanassis Papageorgiou claimed on Wednesday. He was speaking at the 27th regular meeting of ERT's staff union POSPERT.

    Papageorgiou said that all talk of downsizing ERT was without basis and noted that these proposals were not based on Eurostat reports nor took into account the official financial figures given by ERT's management.

    He stressed that the licence fee levied in favour of ERT was "vital" for the broadcaster and was among the lowest in Europe, while roughly one third was directly or indirectly returned to the state.

    Reporting on a cost-cutting drive within ERT, he said this focused mainly on restricting payroll spending and cutting back on waste, while there was a significant reduction in the budget for external productions.

    [25] PPC trade union pledges to fight privatisation plans

    The Public Power Corporation workers' union GENOP-DEH on Wednesday announced the launch of a struggle to prevent any further privatisation of the PPC through the sale of additional shares or by handing over the company's management to private interests.

    With the slogan "We are not selling and are not for sale," GENOP-DEH reiterated its disagreement with any move toward privatising the national electricity provider, saying that this would "lead with mathematical accuracy to the Greek people having to pay three times as much" for their power.

    The union also stressed that all of the PPC's infrastructure, property assets and resources such as its 'underground wealth, lignite and water in its dams' were the property of the Greek people and must on no account be included in the government's planned sales.

    [26] Regional bond spreads continue widening

    Hurdles facing the European Union in its efforts to reach a comprehensive solution for Europe's debt problem is negatively affecting Eurozone's regional bond markets.

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further in early trade on Wednesday, to reach 860 basis points, after falling below 760 bps two weeks ago. News of a deeper than expected economic recession in Greece also affected bond spreads.

    In Portugal, the 10-year yield spread reached 422 basis points and in Spain 220 bps, after falling below the 400 and 200 levels two weeks ago, respectively.

    Portugal's Finance Minister Fernando Texeira Dos Santos criticised the EU for its delay in reaching a comprehensive agreement on Europe's debt problem, while Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, stressed that "challenges are great and that it would not be enough just to reach expectations but to surpass them in order to offer a convincing answer".

    [27] Helexpo to report 23% decline in 2010 turnover

    Helexpo SA suffered a 23-pct decline in turnover to 18 million euros and will report small operating losses for the year 2010, Paris Mavridis, chairman and chief executive of the company said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters during a news conference to present the Infacoma, Marmin Stone and Energy Tech trade fairs, Mavridis said:

    "A 16-pct cut in operating expenses helped Helexpo in reducing its operating losses," adding that a heavy burden of leasing costs paid to the affiliated company, Thessaloniki International Fair, for the use the fair's facilities had a negative effect on the company's results. The 2010 leasing cost totaled 5.123 million euros, he said adding that the two companies have resort to courts over a difference covering the leasing cost for the period 1999-2009.

    Mavridis said the first half of 2011 will be a continuation of 2010, but stressed that a strengthening of the company's activities in Athens in the second half would improve the picture. Helexpo organised one fair in Athens until 2010, it organised two fairs last year and plans to organize a total of five fairs this year (New Baby, Summer Holidays and Biologica).

    [28] Stocks flat on Wed.

    Stocks ended flat at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday as investors remained on the sidelines awaiting more news and incentives.

    The composite index ended 0.10 pct down at 1,618.98 points, with turnover shrinking further to 74.289 million euros. The Big Cap index eased 0.18 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.21 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.73 pct. MIG (3.53 pct), PPC (1.67 pct) and Cyprus Bank (1.27 pct) were major gainers among blue chip stocks, while ATEbank (3.75 pct), Ellaktor (3.05 pct) and Viohalco (2.46 pct) were major losers.

    The Media (2.37 pct) and Utilities (1.86 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Industrial Products (1.20 pct) and Telecoms (0.68 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 85 to 69 with another 59 issues unchanged. Epilektos (18.6 pct), Ilyda (15.56 pct) and Compucon (14.29 pct) were top gainers and Ideal (9.20 pct), Kordellos Bros (8.70 pct) and Boutaris (8.33 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.53%

    Industrials: -1.20%

    Commercial: -0.39%

    Construction: -0.04%

    Media: +2.37%

    Oil & Gas: -0.42%

    Personal & Household: +1.11%

    Raw Materials: +0.80%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.09%

    Technology: +0.49%

    Telecoms: -0.68%

    Banks: -0.36%

    Food & Beverages: -0.30%

    Health: +0.28%

    Utilities: +1.86%

    Chemicals: -0.36%

    Financial Services: +1.65%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and OTE.

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.40

    ATEbank: 0.77

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.20

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.45

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.37

    National Bank of Greece: 7.25

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.24

    OPAP: 15.95

    OTE: 7.35

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.56

    Titan: 15.85

    [29] Turnover up in Greek bond market in Jan.

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market grew significantly in January totaling 707 million euros, from 268 million euros in December, although it was down from 21.1 billion euros in January 2010, the Bank of Greece announced on Wednesday.

    Government bond performance was mixed on international markets in January, the central bank said in a monthly report. In the US, long-term bond prices fell and yields rose while short-term bonds recorded small gains. In the euro area, German and French government bonds recorded significant losses, with short-term yields reaching the highest levels seen during the past two years. In addition, in the so-called "peripheral" euro area markets, prices fell and yields rose slightly, with the exception of Greece, where strong gains were reported along the whole maturity spectrum.

    On the electronic secondary securities market for Greek government bonds (HDAT), prices rose and yields fell considerably during January. Specifically, the 3-year benchmark bond yield fell by 113 basis points (bps), to 13.20%, at the end of January, the 10-year benchmark bond yield fell by 112 bps, to 11.43% and the 30-year benchmark bond yield by 68 bps to 8.64%. As a result, the yield curve flattened while remaining inverted, with the difference between the 30- and the 3-year bond yields reaching -456 bps at the end of January from -501 bps at the end of December, the central bank said.

    The spread between the Greek and the German 10-year bond yields declined significantly to an average of 867 bps in January compared with 906 bps in December.

    As for government benchmark bond prices, the 3-year bond price rose to 83.78 at the end of January from 81.37 at the end of December, the 10-year bond price to 70.97 from 66.01 and the 30-year bond price to 57.20 from 52.91.

    Trading volume on HDAT in January rose to EUR 707 million, compared with EUR 268 million in the previous month and EUR 21.1 billion in January 2010. The daily average turnover was EUR 35.4 million in January compared with EUR 11.7 million during the previous month. The most actively traded bond during the month was the 10-year benchmark with EUR 115 million worth of transactions, followed by the 5-year benchmark with EUR 91 million. Buying interest in HDAT intensified in January. ?f the 661 orders executed,  buy orders represented 57% and  sell orders represented 43%.

    [30] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 868 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 839 bps the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 11.80 pct and the German Bund 3.22 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 59 million euros, of which 14 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 45 million were buy orders. The seven-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 22 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. 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.

    [31] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.24 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover a low 22.711 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,580 contracts worth 17.220 million euros, with 32,092 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,854 contracts, worth 5.491 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,570), followed by Eurobank (740), MIG (1,295), OTE (1,018), Piraeus Bank (1,590), Alpha Bank (1,008), Marfin Popular Bank (894), Hellenic Postbank (315) and ATEbank (295).

    [32] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.361

    Pound sterling 0.848

    Danish kroner 7.516

    Swedish kroner 8.802

    Japanese yen 114.02

    Swiss franc 1.317

    Norwegian kroner 7.890

    Canadian dollar 1.343

    Australian dollar 1.361

    General News

    [33] 'Megaron' planning tribute for 100 years since birth of Elytis

    The Athens Concert Hall or 'Megaron' will organise an international conference and two nights of poetry and music in order to mark the 100th anniversary since the birth of Nobel laureate poet Odysseas Elytis. The events have been organised in collaboration with the poet's partner, Ioulita Iliopoulou.

    The plans were unveiled during a press conference given by the president of the concert hall Ioannis Manos on Wednesday.

    The year 2011 has been declared 'Elytis Year' by Greece's culture and tourism ministry, while the concert hall is just one of several foundations planning tributes to the great poet.

    The conference "Odysseas Elytis: The 20th century in the poetry of Elytis. The poetry of Elytis in the 21st century" will be held on October 31 until November 1, exploring new approaches in the interpretation of his work.

    On the anniversary of the poet's birth on November 2 and on the following day, November 3 there will be nights of poetry reading set to music composed by Georgios Kouroupos.

    [34] Exhibition on art of the book

    The Museum of Cycladic Art hosted school of fine arts graphic design studio exhibition entitled: The Art of the Book at the Athens School of Fine Arts, to run until May 1, 2011.

    Imaginative books by students are presented on a large-scale book-installation.

    The show also includes a section dedicated to the history of the Studio, presenting the Ten White Lekythoi (1956), the most perfect book in the history of Greek artistic printing, and the fruit of many years of hard work on the part of Yannis Kefallinos, the founder of the Studio, and his students.

    [35] President Papoulias receives Greek Culture Foundation president

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received the President of the Greek Culture Foundation Professor George Bambiniotis at the Presidential Mansion at noon on Wednesday.

    Bambiniotis briefed President Papoulias on the Foundation's planning and activity in the Balkans, Berlin, Alexandria and Australia.

    President Papoulias congratulated him and urged him to have the Foundation's work continued.

    [36] 4 smugglers arrested, 27 illegal migrants detained, in Thessaloniki and Patras

    Four migrant smugglers were arrested and 27 illegal immigrants were intercepted in two separate incidents on Wednesday in Thessaloniki and the port of Patras.

    Three migrant runners, aged 32, 39 and 54, were arrested by police in Xirokrini, Thessaloniki as they attempted to transport nine illegal migrants, including two children, to Athens.

    The three detainees had picked up the migrants from a farming area outside Soufli, in Evros region, and boarded them on a truck to transport them to Athens, with a stopover in Thessaloniki.

    The money paid by the migrants for the transport was not yet know, while police were also investigating the participation of more individuals in the case.

    In a second incident, the 25-year-old driver of a truck was arrested in the western port of Patras after 18 migrants lacking documents were found hidden in the semi-pickup truck as it prepared to board an Italy-bound ferry.

    Police said the truck bore stolen license plates, while the driver's license was forged.

    [37] Attica police bust ring trafficking women for sex

    The Attica Security human-trafficking department on Wednesday said it had bust a ring involved in the trafficking and brutal sexual exploitation of women. The ring's victims were women from Romania, who were beaten, raped, forced to take drugs and made to work as prostitutes.

    In an operation in central Athens, police arrested five Romanian men and three Greek women on charges of participating in a criminal organisation, human-trafficking, abduction, rape, possession of narcotics and other offences.

    Their activities were exposed by a young Romanian woman that managed to escape from their clutches and report them to the police.

    A police investigation revealed that the group recruited young women from Romania, usually in dire financial straits, by promising them work as cleaners. When they arrived in Greece, however, they were locked into an apartment in the centre of Athens and mercilessly beaten, raped and forced to take drugs. Afterward, they were made to work as prostitutes in three brothels owned by a Greek national, who withheld all the money they made.

    Police raided the apartment and found members of the organisation and their leader, who had arrived two days earlier. In collaboration with Romanian authorities, they are now looking for the members of the ring used to recruit girls in Romania.

    Authorities found three women in the apartment during the raid and these, along with the girl that escaped and was already in police custody, are now staying at a hostel until procedures to have them declared victims of human trafficking are complete and they are able to return to their country.

    In addition to the women, police found and confiscated a luxury vehicle, the sum of 3,800 euros and a small quantity of cocaine in the possession of those arrested, who were led before a public prosecutor on Wednesday.

    [38] Pilot program for 'bicycles on Metro'

    A pilot program under which commuters may transport their bicycles in the Athens Metro trains begins on March 1.

    More specifically, just two bicycles will be allowed in the last train cabin on Wednesday's from 6:00 p.m. to the end of the metro service, and on Sunday's from 12:00 noon to the end of the service.

    The duration of the pilot program is four months.

    At the end of June the functionality of the measure will be examined.

    "The action will be safeguarded, advertised and promoted by the bicycle commuters themselves. I believe it will be good for everyone in order to encourage commuting by bicycle and to enhance the joy of commuting by Metro," deputy infrastructures minister Spyros Vougias said, stressing that the government is interested in combined transports.

    He expressed certainty that the pilot program will go well, adding that it may be extended to more off-peak hours and days.

    Weather Forecast

    [39] Rainy on Thursday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 19C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with southerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 18C. Cloudy with local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 6C to 12C.

    [40] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Economic issues and the Bank of Greece's monetary report were the main front-page items in Athens' newspapers on Wednesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Salvation proposals by Bank of Greece".

    AVGHI: "Wild recession".

    AVRIANI: "Farewell and...happy bankruptcy - Early general elections".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Ministers running to save themselves from the citizens".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "They 'implanted' the H1N2 virus in the seasonal flu vaccinations".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Reductions in the Armed Forces benefits".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Electricity from Turkey for Greek islands - Troika demand for deregulation of energy market".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Children in wooden 'cages' with only a mattress".

    ESTIA: "Growth being undermined".

    ETHNOS: "Unrest in PASOK over the sell-offs".

    IMERISSIA: "Recession at terrifying -6.6 percent, salaries -9 percent, unemployment at 12.5 percent".

    KATHIMERINI: "Recession, without exit plan".

    LOGOS: "Prohibition of sale of public land, with legislation".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Greek economy 'sinking' into recession".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The people being brought to their knees, the popular movement being crushed".

    TA NEA: "The 'family silver' on a...slow track".

    VRADYNI: "This is where the money went, Mr. Prime Minister - Even the most incredible NGOs were financed by foreign ministry funds when the foreign minister was...George Papandreou".

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