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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-02-23

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

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

Wednesday, 23 February 2011 Issue No: 3728

CONTENTS

  • [01] Statements by Greek PM Papandreou and German Chancellor Merkel
  • [02] Statements by PM Papandreou's interlocutors in Berlin
  • [03] PM in Berlin, Helsinki ahead of crucial EU summit
  • [04] FinMin meets with German counterpart Schauble
  • [05] Athens poised to evacuate Greeks from Libya
  • [06] Merchant ship in Libya to pick up Greek evacuees
  • [07] Two passenger ships sail from Patra, heading to Libyan port
  • [08] Planes on standby to return Greeks from Libya
  • [09] Chinese nationals to be evacuated from Libya via Crete
  • [10] ND: Memorandum policy has reached total impasse
  • [11] Open invitation for environmental protection project proposals
  • [12] Dep. Minister meets with Israeli ministers
  • [13] Deputy FM in Kuwait on Friday
  • [14] Minister, football federation head discuss hooliganism problem
  • [15] Alternate Education minister in New York
  • [16] Former deputy minister joins 'Democratic Alliance' party
  • [17] Nationwide general labor strike on Wednesday
  • [18] Greece needs larger adjustments to convince markets, BoG
  • [19] Gov't VP urges insurance sector to consolidate
  • [20] KKE SG visits Alpha Bank
  • [21] State budget shows 165-mln-euro surplus in Jan.
  • [22] Frigoglass says net profits up 573% in 2010
  • [23] Consumer spending down sharply in Greece, Visa Europe
  • [24] Greece has second highest petrol prices in Europe
  • [25] Costs of state fleet of cars slashed in 2010, interior ministry reports
  • [26] Stocks end 2.93% down
  • [27] Greek bond market closing report
  • [28] ADEX closing report
  • [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [30] 100 illegal migrants rescued from sinking vessel
  • [31] 98 rescued migrants taken to Lefkada
  • [32] Rainy on Wednesday
  • [33] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [34] Government dismisses Bagis' statements as unacceptable Politics

  • [01] Statements by Greek PM Papandreou and German Chancellor Merkel

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA)

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking during a joint press conference here with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday afternoon, emphasised that "there is no question of a restructuring of the debt or of a 'haircut'."

    On her part, Merkel made it clear that the reform programme that Greece is following must continue to be implemented, while she clarified that more measures are not being requested.

    As regards the issue of an extension of the debt's repayment, Merkel said it is on the negotiating table as part of the total package concerning the settlement of the debt crisis in the Eurozone and is expected to be decided at an extraordinary European summit on March 25.

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday held a series of contacts here with the top leaders of German political parties.

    The prime minister's contacts began with the president of the Social Democratic (SPD) party, Siegmar Gabriel, followed with a meeting with the president of SPD's Parliamentary group and former foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

    The SPD's leadership expressed support for European governance and the enactment of the eurobond, according to a briefing by government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis for reporters.

    A meeting followed between the Greek prime minister and German Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor Guido Westerwelle, as well as with the co-chairs of the Alliance '90/Greens party, Cem Ozdemir and Claudia Roth.

    The prime minister is accompanied in Berlin by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis.

    Papandreou will be received by Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the afternoon. Statements to reporters by the two leaders are scheduled to follow, along with a reception at the chancellery.

    [02] Statements by PM Papandreou's interlocutors in Berlin

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/G. Pappas)

    Statements of support and recognition of efforts made by Greece to handle the debt crisis were made by both the president of the German Socialdemocrat (SPD) party's parliamentary group and former foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the president of the Greens Cem Ozdemir following their meetings here with Prime Minister George Papandreou, on Tuesday.

    "I expressed to the Greek prime minister my great respect for the difficult decisions he took and must take," Steinmeyer said adding that "I understand the difficult phase in which the Greek government is in today and that courage and insistence are required to succeed."

    He also reminded of the "difficult decisions" that the SPD also took in government during the past decade, pointing out that the results of that effort appeared with a five-year time lag.

    One of the two presidents of the Greens party Cem Ozdemir underlined the very friendly climate in his meeting with Papandreou. He assessed that the decrease in the debt must not be expected in the short term, but time will be required.

    "It is up to the entire society and not of one party alone," he said, adding that he agrees with the proposal on the enactment of eurobonds.

    [03] PM in Berlin, Helsinki ahead of crucial EU summit

    Greek prime minister George Papandreou is holding a series of crucial contacts with European leaders ahead of an extraordinary summit of eurozone leaders on March 11 and an EU summit on March 25 at which the final decisions are due to be taken on the support mechanism for the eurozone.

    Papandreou is due to meet on Tuesday with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, and on Wednesday with Finnish prime minister Mari Kiviniemi in Helsinki.

    Also, the leaders of the European Socialist Party grouping of the European Parliament will hold a summit in Athens on March 4.

    [04] FinMin meets with German counterpart Schauble

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA / G. Pappas)

    Issues concerning EU assistance and support to Greece, as well as the "euro protection mechanism" in view of crucial EU summits dominated a meeting here on Tuesday between Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstaninou and his German counterpart Wolfgang Schauble.

    The German side has not revealed its intentions as yet on certain aspects of the negotiations, in expectation of an overall solution that will include the support mechanism (temporary and permanent since 2013) and the Franco-German Competitiveness Pact aspirations. According to Greek government sources, this is an open negotiation in which progress is being made while the definitive solutions will be reached in the EU Summit meeting to take place on March 25-26, 2011.

    The German side appears to fully understanding the efforts made by Greece. However, the biggest problem observed in the negotiations concerns debt repurchase and defining the interest rates.

    An important domestic political factor for Germany is overcoming the objections raised by the Liberals in the government alliance, while any proposal made by the Merkel government will have to ensure a parliamentary majority considering that it will have to get the approval of the Bundestag.

    [05] Athens poised to evacuate Greeks from Libya

    Greece on Tuesday was on standby to evacuate Greek citizens from strife-torn Libya.

    Deputy foreign minister Dimitris Dollis said that the priority right now was to receive permission for overflights and landings in order to pick up the Greeks in Libya wishing to leave for Greece.

    Speaking on private television stations on Tuesday morning, Dollis, who holds the Greeks Abroad portfolio, said that the procedures for the flight permission have been set im motion by the defence ministry, while the planning was being made by the foreign ministry under his own supervision and that of ministry secretary general Ambassador Yannis-Alexis Zepos.

    Dollis put the number of Greeks in Libya at approximately 300, noting that the operation was made difficult by the fact that most of the Greeks were working in remote construction sites in the desert.

    "We are making every effort to contact as many people as possible, as well as the companies," Dollis said.

    He added that Greece was also in contact with other countries preparing evacuation operations in order to coordinate forces and provide mutual assistance in the evacuations.

    [06] Merchant ship in Libya to pick up Greek evacuees

    The merchant ship "Minerva Antonia" owned by the shipping firm "Minerva" sailed into the Libyan port of Ras Lanuf near the city of Surt on Tuesday in order to pick up Greek citizens being evacuated from the area.

    This was the first step in an evacuation operation being organised by the Greek foreign ministry, which contacted the shipping company seeking ways to get stranded Greeks out of the strife-torn country after encountering problems in its efforts to send two military transport planes that are now on standby to the country's four airports.

    The foreign ministry estimates that there are approximately 30 Greeks in the area of Ras Lanuf, which Greek authorities will try to contact in order to inform them about the ship's arrival so that they can be included in the list of passengers, if they wish.

    Because locating and contacting individuals in the area was exceptionally difficult, the ministry asked in an announcement that Greeks wishing to be evacuated contact the Greek embassy in Libya at the telephone numbers (0021) 821 336978, (0021) 821 338563 or alternatively the Crisis Management Unit at the Greek foreign ministry at the phone number (0030) 210 3681730.

    Greek authorities had earlier announced that two C-130 military transport planes were on standby at the Elefsina military airport, ready to take off for Libya as soon as the order arrived. They also stressed the difficulties caused by the intensely unstable situation in Libya, however, noting that they were having trouble organising permission to fly over the country and land the planes.

    Another problem highlighted by the ministry was the fact that the Greeks in Libya are widely scattered and many of them located far from major urban centres, noting that some individuals were up to 350 kilometres away from the nearest of the country's four airports.

    An estimated 300 Greeks are thought to be in Libya at the moment, many of them employees of companies active in the country and currently at locations deep inside the desert.

    Coordinating the evacuation operation is Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis who explained that the problems were manifold and that the Greek government was currently having problems finding anyone in charge to talk to.

    In an e-mail sent to the ANA-MPA on Tuesday, meanwhile, 40 employees of the construction firm J&P sent a "desperate appeal" for action to get them out of the town of Faregh in Libya and allow them to go home. Those signing the letter included eleven Cypriots and eight Greeks but also six Britons, six Romanians, a German, a Croat and seven Serbs.

    [07] Two passenger ships sail from Patra, heading to Libyan port

    Two passenger ships sailed from the port of Patra, Western Greece, on Tuesday evening heading for a port in Libya to receive trapped European citizens.

    According to reports, the ships will take them either to a port in Crete or to a port in Malta and from there they will leave for their countries by air. According to the same reports, the two ships are expected to make repeated trips to carry as many citizens as possible.

    [08] Planes on standby to return Greeks from Libya

    Two C-130 military transport planes were on standby at the Elefsina military airport on Tuesday, ready to take off for Libya as soon as the order arrived to evacuate Greeks that were in that country. Greek authorities said efforts were underway to overcome difficulties caused by the intensely unstable situation in Libya, where local authorities had lost control.

    Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said that Greece's embassy in Libya was in touch with representatives of Greek communities in Benghazi and Tripoli and companies active in Libya. He said that the number of Greeks in the country was estimated at around 300.

    The Greek foreign ministry, with Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis in a coordinating role, was trying to solve two problems on Tuesday. One was that of obtaining permission to fly over Libya and land a plane and its crew, while the other was organising ways to collect Greek employees working for companies in Libya that were scattered throughout the desert in areas far from major urban centres.

    In radio and television interviews on Tuesday, Dollis explained that one concern was security but another was the fact that the Greeks in the country that needed to be evacuated were located anything up to 350 kilometres away from each of the country's four airports.

    "The greatest difficulty we have to face are the distances. We must find a way to get there and to bring them to the airports, this is what we are trying to do," he said. Another problem pointed out by the minister was the lack of any authority to talk to in Libya, noting that all discussion so far had been held with those in charge of Tripoli airport.

    According to the latest information reaching the ministry, none of the Greeks in the country have so far come to any harm.

    In an e-mail sent to the ANA-MPA, meanwhile, eleven Cypriots and eight Greeks working the construction firm J&P in Libya have asked to be evacuated and brought home. Their letter is also signed by six Britons, six Romanians, a German, a Croat and seven Serb employees of the company who said they were "desperately asking" that the necessary action be taken for them to leave the town of Faregh in Libya where they are located and go home.

    [09] Chinese nationals to be evacuated from Libya via Crete

    Roughly 13,000 Chinese working in Libya will return to their country via Crete, following a request by the Chinese government to Greece and Italy for the evacuation of nearly 40,000 Chinese nationals, workers and business people, stranded in the strife-torn North African country.

    According to reports, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has contacted the regional governor of Crete and requested the best possible accommodations and support services for the Chinese nationals.

    The evacuees are expected to arrive on the large southern Aegean island on Thursday and will be staying in local hotels until they are flown back to China aboard chartered planes that will take off from the airports of Irakleio and Hania.

    [10] ND: Memorandum policy has reached total impasse

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) on Tuesday accused the government of a "total impasse" in its "Memorandum policy", which ND said has been confirmed by the prime minister's need to hold deliberations abroad ahead of a crucial EU summit.

    ND press spokesman Yiannis Michelakis said during a regular press briefing that ND has consistently and clearly maintained the need for an overall European solution, adding that moves are necessary that will enable Greece to face its state debt problem without additional painful measures.

    ND, he said, considers extension of the support loan's repayment period "self-evident", adding that this was imposed also by reasons of equal treatment with Ireland.

    Michelakis warned the government to not attempt any 'communications fireworks', given that the extension of the repayment period has already been decided at the November 28 Eurogroup meeting.

    He further noted that ND leader Antonis Samaras has formally taken a stance in favor of the issue of a euro-bond, and has also called for a reduction of the interest rate.

    [11] Open invitation for environmental protection project proposals

    Environment minister Tina Birbili on Tuesday issued an open invitation for the submission of projects concerning environmental protection and facing the repercussions of climate change.

    The invitation paves the way for the disbursement of 6.6 million euros for the drafting of programs and studies for such projects.

    The proposals that will be submitted are expected to also meet the needs of the National Network for monitoring atmospheric quality, while they will also serve the needs of the planning, installation, equipment acquisition and operation of a network of stations measuring the parameters of atmospheric pollution.

    The programs and studies are in the context of Greece's relevant contractual obligations in the framework of the UN and the European Union.

    [12] Dep. Minister meets with Israeli ministers

    Deputy Environment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis met with Israeli National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau, responsible for energy issues, and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan within the framework of the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy 4th International Conference and Exhibition, held in the city of Eilat this week.

    Maniatis referred to the so-called "green development" model promoted by the Greek government as a solution to the economic crisis through economic investments and creation of new job positions.

    He also referred to the "Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative" undertaken by Prime Minister George Papandreou that promotes a viable model of development that will meet the climate change challenges.

    The meeting with Landau focused on the promotion of green energy, Renewable Energy Sources (RES), energy performance and energy saving. They also discussed issues concerning water management and desalinization.

    Environmental policy issues, such as, waste management, recycling and energy saving in industry dominated in the meeting with the environmental protection minister.

    During his visit to Israel, Maniatis also met with Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and visited the Holocaust Museum.

    Later on Tuesday, he will be in Saudi Arabia to represent Greece in the International Energy Forum (IEF) ministerial meeting in Riyadh that focuses on energy market regulation and oil market transparency.

    [13] Deputy FM in Kuwait on Friday

    Deputy foreign minister Spyros Kouvelis is due to visit Kuwait on Friday, where he will represent President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias at events marking the 50th anniversary of the country's independence and the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

    The deputy minister will take the opportunity to meet with government officials of the emirate, with which Greece has political and economic cooperation.

    Kouvelis had visited Kuwait in January 2010.

    [14] Minister, football federation head discuss hooliganism problem

    Culture & Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos on Tuesday met with Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) President Sofoklis Pilavios to discuss the problem of hooliganism in Greece, after the violence that marred Sunday's derby between Olympiacos Piraeus and Panathinaikos Athens.

    Geroulanos stressed that violence in sports should be tackled as a whole and briefed the EPO president on the relevant draft law set to be presented for public debate in March.

    On his part, Pilavios pledged that EPO will proceed with the amendment of its disciplinary code in June to make it stricter.

    "Our priority is to end the football championship in the best possible conditions," Geroulanos stressed, adding that "it is important to know that the state can take radical measures that can change the Greek football for ever. However, before getting there we should use every tool in our disposal to make sure that we can have the championship we deserve".

    In the next few days, Geroulanos will meet with Greek Organization of Football Prognostics (OPAP) S.A. CEO Yiannis Spanoudakis to discuss the inclusion of tougher clauses against violence in the sponsorship contracts signed with the state-run organisation, while Deputy Culture & Tourism Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis will meet on Wednesday with representatives of Olympiakos and Panathinaikos football clubs.

    [15] Alternate Education minister in New York

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    Alternate Education, Lifelong Learning and Religion Minister Fofi Yennimata appealed to expatriates, particularly the agencies and persons caring for Greek-language education overseas, for participating in the dialogue on the "big changes" taking place in the sector of education.

    Speaking on Tuesday morning (Greek time) at an open gathering held at the Cretan Home in Astoria, Yennimata said "there is political will and determination," stressing that "if we work collectively, we shall be able to reach a draft law for the next fifteen to twenty years."

    The minister, who gave a press conference to the expatriate media at Greece's Press and Communication office in New York earlier, referred at length and replied to many questions on the 10-point text of principles prepared by the Ministry and concerning the Greek-language education of overseas Greeks. She called on expatriates to take part in the dialogue by March 11, pointing out that the aim is for the draft law to be tabled in Parliament in May, while a transitional stage will also be anticipated, in accordance with the proposals that the education coordinators and expatriate agencies will be sending as well.

    [16] Former deputy minister joins 'Democratic Alliance' party

    Former deputy education minister under the previous New Democracy government and one-time MP for Piraeus George Kalos on Tuesday announced his decision to join the 'Democratic Alliance party led by independent MP Dora Bakoyannis.

    Bakoyannis formed her own party after she was ousted from ND for defying the party's policy of opposing the memorandum for EU-IMF loans.

    Meeting Kalos on Tuesday morning, Bakoyannis expressed her satisfaction with his decision to join Democratic Alliance and put him in charge of culture.

    Another new 'recruit' to the party was the former deputy prefect for Magnesia Elena Antonopoulou, who has been put in charge of migration policy.

    Financial News

    [17] Nationwide general labor strike on Wednesday

    A nationwide general labor strike has been called on Wednesday by the country's two largest umbrella labor federations GSEE and ADEDY, representing the private and public sector respectively, while two protest demonstrations will be held in downtown Athens that same day, at the Pedion tou Areos Park and in Omonia Square.

    Strikers on Wednesday include civil servants, public utilities and organisations (DEKO) employees, private sector employees, the mass media, doctors, state hospital employees, urban bus and trolley employees and seamen.

    Buses and trolleys will not be operating on Wednesday, while the Athens and Metro will be running regularly. The ISAP urban trains will operate from 9am to 5 pm to enable strikers to take part in the demonstrations and marches in Athens, according to an ISAP employees' union announcement.

    Ships will remain anchored in port throughout the country as the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) has announced participation in Wednesday's strike.

    Also, air traffic will come to a halt from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday due to a work-stoppage by Air Traffic Controllers.

    [18] Greece needs larger adjustments to convince markets, BoG

    Greece will have to make adjustments larger than the ones envisaged in the memorandum signed with the EU and the IMF in order to convince markets over its determination to cut its public debt, Bank of Greece's governor George Provopoulos said on Tuesday.

    Speaking in Parliament, presenting the bank's annual report on monetary policy for the period 2010-2011 to a parliamentary commission, the central banker said the return of the country (and of the banking system) to international credit markets was facing hurdles because of the country's upward dynamism of its public debt, a problem that cannot be resolved with the memorandum or a restructuring of the debt -with the latter being a "catastrophic option".

    "We have to bite the bullet, and solve the problem on our own," Provopoulos said and recommended the urgent beginning of an effort to record all public real estate property and its exploitation. He stressed that a government-set goal of raising 50 billion euros was a difficult but feasible target, adding he would raise this figure further. He also recommended focusing on the country's growth potential, further cutting wage costs but not through horizontal cuts.

    Provopoulos said he supported mergers between Greek banks, saying they would present losses this year as the European Central Bank was gradually lifting its liquidity support measures. "It is certain that we will have to look towards attracting foreign capital," the central banker said.

    [19] Gov't VP urges insurance sector to consolidate

    Government vice-president and high-ranking PASOK cadre Theodoros Pangalos on Tuesday expressed his dissatisfaction over the failed merger proposal extended by National Bank for rival Alpha Bank.

    Addressing the annual regular general assembly of the Association of Insurance Companies of Greece, Pangalos said the insurance sector should not consider the failed merger bid in the banking sector, urging insurance companies to move forward with mergers in order to strengthen their financial status.

    "You don't have to maintain the traditional model of enterprises, you must try new forms of opening up the market and attracting capital towards boosting saving in the country," he said.

    Pangalos expressed his optimism over the outlook in the insurance sector, while he stressed that although he supported the three-party funding of the public pension system, insurance companies could have an increased role in covering peoples' needs. He underlined the significance of promoting new composite products and the necessity of a strict supervision system.

    G. Kotsalos, president of the association, emphasised that measures promoted by the government would not result to higher capital inflows in the sector and stressed that the political stance towards private insurance business could undermine enterprises' capital adequacy ratios. The sector does not agree with a government effort to freeze life insurance premiums, he noted.

    Kotsalos said total premium production was 5.25 million euros last year, while compensation paid to contract owners totaled 2.8 million euros and investments totaled 12.5 million euros. He stressed that total premiums reached 2.2 pct of the country's Gross Domestic product, down from 8.0 pct of the European average, reflecting lack of tax incentives, low acceptance by the public and supervision problems in the past.

    [20] KKE SG visits Alpha Bank

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, referring on Tuesday to the issue of the failed merger between Alpha Bank and the National Bank, said "it is a law of the capitalist system, not only in a period of crisis, but also without there being a crisis, for the concenration of the forces of capital to take place."

    Papariga, who carried out a visit to Alpha Bank, said "merger is a law of the capitalist system, it also has inside it the element of destruction, the aggravation and the worsening of the position of a very large part of the workers and employees and of a considerable part, a large part of the small and medium-size enterprises. Both go together. For as long as wealth is accumulated in fewer hands, the problems will be intensified."

    She went on to say "I am saying this because we are hearing these days that if the National Bank merges with Alpha Bank this is very good for the national economy. It is good for the national economy of the capitalists. It will not mean anything positive and good for working people."

    [21] State budget shows 165-mln-euro surplus in Jan.

    The Greek state budget showed a surplus of 165 million euros in January 2011, down from a surplus of 578 million euros in the same month last year, the finance ministry announced on Tuesday.

    In a report, the ministry said January figures confirmed its forecasts over the trend of proceeds and spending for the month, as included in the budget report for 2011. Net regular budget revenues fell 9 pct, reflecting the no-repeat of car registration duties by 393 million euros (last year the government offered a one-month extension) and lower extra tax charge on profitable enterprises (by 551 million euros).

    Regular budget spending fell 2.5 pct, with primary spending down 2.6 pct and spending on interest falling 2.2 pct. Public Investment Program's revenues were down 63.3 pct and spending fell 14.7 pct in January. The figures cover only execution of state budget and not total fiscal figures.

    [22] Frigoglass says net profits up 573% in 2010

    Frigoglass on Tuesday reported a spectacular 573-pct increase in its 2010 net profits to 20.5 million euros, up from 3.0 million euros in the previous year, reflecting a recovery in east European markets.

    The company said operating earnings rose 67.7 pct to 49.3 million euros, reflecting the positive outcome of operating leverage, which was partly counterbalanced by the beginning of operations in the United States and higher provisions for guarantees and new product services in the fourth quarter of 2010.

    Consolidated sales grew 31.9 pct to 457.2 million euros last year, after an increase of 17.8 pct in the fourth quarter.

    Petros Diamantidis, chief executive of Frigoglass, commenting on the results, said the company managed to report strong results despite adverse economic conditions, "confirming our strategy, efficiency and the success of a restructuring programme implemented early during the economic crisis".

    [23] Consumer spending down sharply in Greece, Visa Europe

    Consumer spending is down sharply in Greece, a report by Visa Europe showed on Tuesday.

    A European Barometer on Consumer Spending said that consumer spending in the EU rose 0.8 pct in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared with the same period in 2009, but was down 1.2 pct compared with the third quarter of 2010, reflecting limited economic recovery in the European Union. It was the fifth consecutive quarter of growth in the EU. The barometer is based on real spending.

    East European states, including Poland, Latvia and Estonia showed a big increase in consumer spending, while Greece and Ireland recorded a steep fall.

    Spending through Visa cards totaled 253 billion euros in the fourth quarter of 2010, up 17.2 pct from the same period in 2009, with average volume of transactions falling to 50.1 euros.

    [24] Greece has second highest petrol prices in Europe

    Greece has the second highest prices in unleaded petrol and diesel oil in Europe in February, with the average prices for both products remaining unchanged, compared with January, to 1.593 euros per litre and 1.391 euros per litre, respectively, the Greek automobile touring club (EL.PA) said on Tuesday.

    In a report, EL.PA said Greece trailed the Netherlands (1.657) in second place, with Belgium (1.559), Portugal (1.511), Finland (1.489), France (1.483), Italy (1.472) and Germany (1.476) recording the highest average prices for unleaded petrol. Byelorussia (0.783), Luxembourg (1.253), Spain (1.28) and Austria (1.296) recorded the lowest prices.

    In diesel oil prices, Greece also ranked second behind Ireland (1.399), and was followed by Belgium (1.386), Portugal (1.369) and Germany (1.354), while Byelorussia (0.624), Andorra (1.032) and Luxembourg (1.148) recorded the lowest prices in Europe.

    [25] Costs of state fleet of cars slashed in 2010, interior ministry reports

    Maintenance and running costs for the fleet of vehicles managed by the interior ministry were reduced by 72 percent or roughly 765,000 euro in 2010, the ministry announced on Tuesday.

    Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis on Tuesday released figures for 2010 showing reduced spending on fuel, spare parts and repairs on the cars used by members of the government and other state functionaries.

    These showed that petrol consumption was reduced from 389,289 litres in 2009 to just 128,020 in 2010, representing a reduction of 67.1 percent. Costs for spare parts and repairs were reduced even more, from 677,184 euro in 2009 to 173,600 euro in 2010, a reduction of 74.3 percent.

    [26] Stocks end 2.93% down

    Stocks remained under strong selling pressure for the second consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, with news of a failed merger attempt between National Bank and Alpha Bank negatively affecting sentiment in the market. Turbulence in international markets caused by developments in Libya also affected the market. The composite index fell 2.93 pct to end at 1,619.36 points, with turnover a moderate 134.095 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 3.16 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.18 pct down and the Small Cap index fell 3.35 pct. Hellenic Postbank (5.95 pct), Marfin Popular Bank (5.31 pct), PPC (5.06 pct), Cyprus Bank (4.79 pct) and Eurobank (4.17 pct) were top losers among blue chip stocks. National Bank's share fell 2.11 pct and Alpha Bank's share ended 2.58 pct down.

    Only the Commerce sector ended higher (0.45 pct), while Utilities (4.94 pct), Health (4.77 pct) and Raw Materials (4.44 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 146 to 35 with another 31 issues unchanged. Alsinco (10 pct), Attica Publications (10 pct) and Lanakam (8.33 pct) were top gainers, while Neorio Shipyards (14.29 pct), Unibios (12.5 pct) and TBank (11.11 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.53%

    Industrials: -2.12%

    Commercial: +0.45%

    Construction: -2.01%

    Media: -1.51%

    Oil & Gas: -2.07%

    Personal & Household: -2.24%

    Raw Materials: -4.44%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.58%

    Technology: -3.50%

    Telecoms: -2.56%

    Banks: -3.37%

    Food & Beverages: -3.10%

    Health: -4.77%

    Utilities: -4.94%

    Chemicals: -3.19%

    Financial Services: -3.71%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.90

    ATEbank: 0.81

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.19

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.30

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.39

    National Bank of Greece: 7.44

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.60

    OPAP: 15.25

    OTE: 7.24

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.62

    Titan: 15.90

    [27] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 850 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.65 pct and the German Bund 3.15 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 26 million euros, of which 25 million were sell orders and only 1.0 million euros were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 17 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.73 pct, the six-month rate 1.36 pct, the three-month 1.082 pct and the one-month rate 0.86 pct.

    [28] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at 0.40 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover at 69.493 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 15,178 contracts, worth 57.325 million euros, with 30,728 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 24,292 contracts worth 12.168 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (4,720), followed by Eurobank (2,219), MIG (717), OTE (1,116), PPC (807), Piraeus Bank (3,377), National Bank (4,583), Marfin Popular Bank (1,287), Mytilineos (1,330), Cyprus Bank (681) and Hellenic Postbank (1,156).

    [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.377

    Pound sterling 0.852

    Danish kroner 7.515

    Swedish kroner 8.857

    Japanese yen 114.54

    Swiss franc 1.294

    Norwegian kroner 7.813

    Canadian dollar 1.359

    Australian dollar 1.374

    General News

    [30] 100 illegal migrants rescued from sinking vessel

    A group of 100 illegal migrants and three migrant-runners were rescued from a semi-capsized sailboat south of the island of Lefkada late Monday by Greek coast guard vessels and nearby fishing boats.

    The distressed sailboat was spotted by a nearby tanker on Monday evening and the Marine Affairs and Islands ministry's operations center was immediately alerted.

    The vessel was found just off of Lefkada semi-capsized and taking on water.

    The migrants were taken to the island's medical center for precautionary reasons, where they were given food and water.

    The three migrant-smugglers were taken into custody and were being held at the Lefkada port authority.

    [31] 98 rescued migrants taken to Lefkada

    The 98 illegal migrants rescued from a sinking vessel off the coast of Lefkada, including 11 women and 39 children, were being temporarily housed in the Lefkada municipality youth centre on Tuesday.

    The island's coast guard mounted a rescue operation after receiving a call from someone claiming to be on board the vessel and it was eventually found 20 nautical miles to the west of Lefkada, half sunken and taking on water. The migrants on board were from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

    Greek authorities also found three migrant traffickers on board the vessel, who are being held in custody by the Lefkada coast guard.

    After the call on Monday, the Marine Affairs and Islands ministry's operations center was immediately alerted and a rescue operation mounted that included seven coast guard vessels and nearby ships. The sinking vessel was finally spotted by a tanker and the migrants collected by two fishing boats.

    Seven have been taken to Lefkada hospital as a precaution and they have all been issued food and clothing.

    Weather Forecast

    [32] Rainy on Wednesday

    Rainy 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 1C and 17C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 7C to 14C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 4C to 8C.

    [33] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Economic and taxation issues, and the violence in Libya were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Tuesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "All of PASOK 'numb' after revelation that Papandreou brought the IMF to Greece".

    AVGHI: "Admission of collusion with IMF".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Ten adverse changes to military officers' benefits".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "They're cutting the benefits received by the families of soldiers killed while on duty".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Bank deposits to be seized of those who do not pay VAT revenues to the state".

    ESTIA: "Statism returning".

    ETHNOS: "Gaddafi bombing Libya - International shock caused by Gaddafi airforce's bombing of Libyan capital".

    IMERISSIA: "Banks take up battle positions".

    KATHIMERINI: "Gaddafi sank Libya in blood".

    LOGOS: "End of sales period, opening of bankruptcies".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Penalisation of tax evasion".

    NIKI: "The secret that National Bank of Greece is 'hiding'."

    RIZOSPASTIS: "General strike tomorrow".

    TA NEA: "Taxes and other debts of the State to companies and professionals will be counterbalanced with the taxes the latter must pay to the state".

    VRADYNI: "The state will pay (its debts to public sector or private companies) with bonds".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [34] Government dismisses Bagis' statements as unacceptable

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou stated Monday that the goal of the negotiations is to find a Cyprus settlement that will end Turkey's occupation and reunite the land and its people.

    Stephanou affirmed moreover that this effort will continue, in accordance with UN resolutions, the principles of international and European law and the High Level Agreements of 1977 and 1979, which provide for a bizonal bicommunal federation.

    Commenting on recent statements by Turkish State Minister Egemen Bagis, Stephanou said that they repeat in essence previous unacceptable positions, which are in conflict with UN resolutions and the decisions of the EU, which Turkey wants to join.

    There is one state in Cyprus, the Republic of Cyprus and there exists only the Cypriot people, comprising the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, Stephanou stressed.

    Moreover, he said that Turkey's secessionist act to declare an illegal break-away state in Cyprus has been condemned by the UN Security Council.

    He also noted that Turkey cannot continue its illegal behavior, occupying Cyprus and trying at the same time to upgrade the structures and institutions of the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime.

    Stephanou finally remarked that in an earlier statement, Bagis had said that Turkey will not abandon Cyprus and its kindred (the Turkish Cypriots).

    Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has recently put things in a different way, Stephanou added, recalling a statement by the Turkish Premier, saying that Turkey is in Cyprus in pursuit of its strategic interests.

    Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. Peace talks are currently underway to find a negotiated settlement that will reunite the country, under a federal roof.

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: ILIAS MATSIKAS


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