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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-03-01

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

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

Tuesday, 1 March 2011 Issue No: 3732

CONTENTS

  • [01] Successful rescue operation for Greek nationals in Libya
  • [02] FM satisfied with mobilisation to evacuate foreign nat'ls from Libya
  • [03] President Papoulias meets with Dep. FM Dollis
  • [04] Papoutsis on illegal migration threat, upcoming visit to Turkey
  • [05] Event on 30 years of country's European course
  • [06] LAOS leader attacks gov't, PM over Memorandum
  • [07] Off-the-agenda debate on demographic problem postponed
  • [08] Noted composer Theodorakis details his 'Spitha' initiative to Thessaloniki audience
  • [09] National Bank rejects any aggressive moves
  • [10] Market watchdog focusing on banks' share trading
  • [11] Chryssohoidis at ISTAME event
  • [12] Birbili at Energy ministers council
  • [13] EIB pledges to continue funding of infrastructure projects in Greece
  • [14] Gov't measures against contribution evasion; lower work stamp threshold
  • [15] Sector work contracts awaiting labour minister's signature
  • [16] Culture minister visiting London
  • [17] Greek inflation slowed to 4.9 pct in Jan
  • [18] OTE announces measures to drastically cut costs
  • [19] Intracom Defense Electronics wins USD 2.2 mln contract for F-16 radar
  • [20] EFG Eurolife reports improved 2010 results
  • [21] J&P AVAX SA acquires 15% of Moreas SA
  • [22] Greek PPI up 7.3 pct in Jan
  • [23] Nights spent in Greek hotels down 2.3% in 2010, Eurostat
  • [24] Survey sees house prices in Athens decline
  • [25] Stocks end moderately lower
  • [26] Greek bond market closing report
  • [27] ADEX closing report
  • [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [29] Strong earthquake shakes southern Crete
  • [30] Protest 'archer' released after testimony to magistrate
  • [31] Drug probe nets 20 arrests on Rhodes
  • [32] Special Olympics athletes hosted in Alexandroupolis
  • [33] Highway giving way due to rain
  • [34] Rainy on Tuesday
  • [35] Traffic accidents up 3.7 percent in 2010, ELSTAT reports
  • [36] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [37] Leaders agree the talks will continue on the agreed UN basis Politics

  • [01] Successful rescue operation for Greek nationals in Libya

    All registered Greek nationals in Libya, roughly 270, as well as, many EU and third country nationals, have been transported to safety following a successful rescue operation organized by the Crisis Management Unit of the Greek foreign ministry.

    Speaking to a private radio station in Athens, opera-tion coordinator Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis on Monday underlined Greece's sucessful handling of the crisis and its assistance to other countries in getting their own nationals out, especially China.

    Three Hellenic Air Force transport aircraft and privately-owned ferryboats provided by Greek shipping companies participated in the rescue opera-tion that unfolded in five key Libyan cities, Tripoli, Sirte, Sabha, Benghazi and Gialo.

    Cooperation with the German foreign ministry was close in the last phase of the operation when two German transport aircraft carried foreign workers, among them Greeks and Cypriots, from a company construction site in Gialo.

    Dollis also referred to the transport of thousands of Chinese nationals from the strife-torn Libya to the southern Aegean island of Crete, underlining that the Chinese premier has expressed his gratitude to Prime Minister George Papandreou.

    [02] FM satisfied with mobilisation to evacuate foreign nat'ls from Libya

    Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Monday expressed his satisfaction over the recent successful operations to evacuate Greek and third country nationals from strife-plagued Libya.

    He also noted that the weekend airlift of foreign nationals from the desert town of Gialou by the German air force was a product of direct coordination with Berlin, as the plane landed in Souda Bay, Crete. The operation was discussed last week with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. The latter also expressed his appreciation to the Greek side during a phone conversation with his Greek counterpart on Sunday.

    Droutsas also warned of the dangers of a new wave of illegal immigration emanating from the troubled North Africa region, something he said Athens has underlined at the EU level. Along those lines, he said PM George Papandreou referred to the need for a revision of the Dublin II agreement during his visit last week to Berlin.

    [03] President Papoulias meets with Dep. FM Dollis

    Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Monday congratulated Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis on the successful operation launched for the return of Greek nationals from Libya.

    In a meeting held at the Presidential Mansion in Athens, President Papoulias underlined that it was a difficult operation, a complex problem, and characterized the endeavour as "major success".

    On his part, Dollis referred to the difficulties of the operation and praised the foreign ministry and the Hellenic Air Force staff for their work.

    [04] Papoutsis on illegal migration threat, upcoming visit to Turkey

    Citizen's Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, referring to a meeting of Mediterranean EU interior and home ministers in Rome last week, stressed that constant contact and coordination was agreed to, along with joint sea patrols by EU member-states' coast guards and Frontex to stem the tide of a possible wave of illegal immigration towards the Union's south.

    The minister also touched on his visit to Turkey on Tuesday and closely watched talks with his Turkish counterpart, Turkey's interior minister.

    "The issues we have to discuss are the strengthening of cooperation in the sector of border security, dealing with the trafficking of illegal immigrants and of the rings that mainly traffic migrants and exploit their hope for better life, along with implementation of a bilateral protocol agreement regarding (migrants') re-admission," the minister said.

    Speaking at an EU council of ministers last week, Papoutsis said an EU-Turkey agreement on the readmission of illegal migrants was adopted, foreseeing Turkish participation in a joint European effort to combat illegal immigration.

    Referring to the situation at the western ports of Igoumenitsa and Patras due to the large numbers of illegal migrants camped out around the ports in hopes of stowing away aboard Italy-bound ferry boats, he said:

    "It is a situation that we are experiencing with heightened concern, given that Greece is obliged to observe very strict rules for guarding the EU borders, because it is our obligation towards the Schengen Pact and the European Union."

    He added that "if for whatever reason we appear flexible and allow migrants to leave by turning a 'blind eye', this will automatically mean Greece's expulsion from the Schengen Pact, something our people will not tolerate."

    As regards the 250-plus North African migrants on a hunger strike in central Athens, the minister said "it is absolutely reasonable for all of us to be concerned, because we must not forget that in our society what is most valuable of all is human life. From then on, however, there are laws of the country. Greece does not have the right nor does it intend to proceed with the mass legalisation of (illegal) migrants. It is not allowed by the legal and the European framework in which we are bound."

    [05] Event on 30 years of country's European course

    The European Commission's delegation in Athens organised an event at the Acropolis Museum on the 30 year's of Greece's European course, with commissioner Maria Damanaki, Alternate Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou and European Parliament vice president, Eurodeputy Stelios Lambrinidis.

    The Greek commissioner stressed in her address that for Greece "it is not permissible for it to live beyond its forces," adding that "when this truth becomes a personal truth of each of us, then we shall have won the game."

    Eurodeputy Lambrinidis (PASOK) said that "the entire EU lived above its possibilities," since "we used to consume more than we could, while other countries sold more than they used to."

    Xenoyiannakopoulou stressed on her part that the EU's crucial impending decision "must be an overall one, provide stability to the eurozone, adequacy of resources and flexibility in markets."

    [06] LAOS leader attacks gov't, PM over Memorandum

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis strongly criticised the government and the prime minister on Monday over the repercussions and impact of the Memorandum for EU-IMF loans.

    Speaking to the radio station Real FM, Karatzaferis also strenuously denied rumours that he was in secret talks with main opposition New Democracy about possible cooperation at the next elections. According to the rumours, LAOS may not run independently but form an alliance with ND.

    On whether such an alliance was possible, he said that it would depend on the timing of the elections and the conditions prevailing at that time. He forecast that the prime minister might well call elections before March 25 so that he might return from the EU with a "successful" outcome in terms of his goals and thus win.

    Defending his own initial support for the Memorandum, meanwhile, Karatzaferis said that the failure was not that of the Memorandum but of the prime minister.

    [07] Off-the-agenda debate on demographic problem postponed

    An off-the-agenda debate between party leaders on Greece's demographic problem and the difficulties faced by large families, originally scheduled to take place in Parliament on Monday afternoon, has been postponed because Prime Minister George Papandreou said he would be unable to attend due to a bad cold.

    The debate had been requested by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis.

    [08] Noted composer Theodorakis details his 'Spitha' initiative to Thessaloniki audience

    Noted Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis spoke in Thessaloniki on Sunday evening to an audience over his initiative to establish an independent citizens' movement throughout Greece and Cyprus, an alternative political iniative he has dubbed "Spitha", Greek for "spark".

    Theodorakis told the large gathering of supporters that in case of snap elections, he favours voters casting a blank vote, while noting that "Greeks' reaction towards the measures promoted by the (EC-ECB-IMF) 'troika' must feature elements of a popular liberation struggle." The octogenarian composer also sharply criticised both main political parties in the country.

    Financial News

    [09] National Bank rejects any aggressive moves

    The National Bank on Monday dismissed reports alleging it was considering an aggressive takeover bid for Alpha Bank, following the latter's rejection of a merger plan with National Bank. Apostolos Tamvakakis, the bank's chief executive, addressing an event in Athens, said aggressive moves were not in the culture of National Bank.

    "The essential thing is that Greek banks must present detailed report and to commit with the European Central Bank over ways to repay the liquidity offered by ECB. What is the way out of their dependence from ECB's help and from state guarantees. This is the new framework. It is here, in front of us. National Bank believes that the Greek credit system must take initiatives and to control its fate. To maintain its character as a strong regional force in Southeastern Europe, to maintain its wide network established in the wider region and not to sell its silverware. To protect the value of its shareholders, its workers and at the same time business activity in the country and to preserve its Greek origin," Tamvakakis said, adding that "decision centers must remain within the Greek borders. We deeply believe this is a matter of national importance".

    The Greek banker added that National Bank has already taken initiatives towards this goal, by implementing a giant share capital increase plan, raising more than 3.0 billion euros, and with a friendly merger offer to Alpha Bank seeking to take advantage of the synergies that such a deal would have created.

    Moody's Investors Service, in a report, said it expected National Bank to return with an aggressive move to buy Alpha Bank.

    [10] Market watchdog focusing on banks' share trading

    Greece's Capital Markets Commission is focusing on transactions made in the shares of National Bank and Alpha Bank in the period from January 18, when National Bank first approached the management of Alpha Bank to discuss a merger plan, until February 21, when the negotiations were announced to the public. During this period of confidential negotiations between the two banks, Alpha Bank's shares jumped 33 pct (from 3.78 euros on January 17 to 5.5 euros on February 21), while National Bank's shares rose 18 pct (from 6.44 euros to 7.6 euros over the same period, respectively), while the volume of trading in both shares more than quadrupled for Alpha Bank and more than tripled for National Bank.

    Alpha Bank finally rejected National Bank's merger proposal.

    [11] Chryssohoidis at ISTAME event

    Regional Development and Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis, speaking Monday at an event by the ISTAME foundation, referred to the plan on the country's new growth model, stressing that it concerns a big support package, over 10 billion euros, that strengthens liquidity in the market, provides incentives for private investments, restarts public infrastructures projects, boosts innovation, tourism, construction, light manufacturing, extroversion, youthful entrepreneurship.

    "With institutional reforms that simplify procedures assisting the businessman in practice. With new rules for competition that clarify the scene and protect the consumer," the minister added.

    [12] Birbili at Energy ministers council

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Tina Birbili, who jointly represented Greece at the European Union's Council of Energy Ministers with Deputy Minister Yiannis Maniatis, expressed support for an increase in the share of Renewable Energy Sources in energy consumption in Europe.

    In her address, the minister referred to the plan on the conclusions text, of the European Council on March 25, 2011, stressing the need for the EU to be able to meet the energy challenges that it will be called on to handle in the near future in a productive and competittve way and with low carbon dioxide emissions.

    Birbili further "supported the improvement of energy performance also through the enactment of binding targets, on conditions that will be agreed by the member-states," in parallel with "economic incentives that are being promoted both at national and European level."

    She reminded the need for the energy connection of all the EU's regions, with emphasis on the islands, whose energy potential in renewable energy sources must constitute an object of further utilisation.

    [13] EIB pledges to continue funding of infrastructure projects in Greece

    European Investment Bank (EIB) will continue supporting the Greek economy in a difficult period for the country, Plutarhos Sakellaris, the bank's vice-president said on Monday. Speaking to reporters, during a news conference in Athens, Sakellaris said this year would be another crucial year for the Greek economy and noted that European Investment Bank pledged to continue supporting the country's real economy. "With innovative products and favourable interests we will support projects which will become the engine of growth," the Greek banker said. EIB's lending to Greece totaled an all-time high of 3.2 billion euros in 2010, up from 1.6 billion in 2009, 1.2 billion euros in 2008 and 755 million euros in 2007.

    Futures funding will include larger infrastructure projects, such as a new airport in Heraclion, Crete and expansion projects in the Thessaloniki metro and Attica Road. Energy projects will include energy production, such as an electricity production unit in Rhodes, with emphasis given to green energy projects, Sakellaris said, adding that energy projects will also include renewable energy sources, windpower and photovoltaic projects. EIB will also fund a wide range of smaller infrastructure projects -joint projects between public and private sector companies- in the fields of education, waste management, public administration and smaller energy projects.

    [14] Gov't measures against contribution evasion; lower work stamp threshold

    The reduction of social insurance contributions to a minimum 120 work stamps from 150 currently needed for the issuance of residence and work permit in Greece is being promoted by the labour ministry. In addition, at least 50 work stamps instead of 80 will be necessary for a worker to be entitled to free healthcare through the social insurance system.

    The move is made to help workers -- locals and immigrants alike -- to cope with crisis conditions, Alternate Labour Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis on Monday stated following a meeting he and Deputy Labour Minister Anna Dalara had with the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) leadership focusing on the migration issue.

    Koutroumanis stated that the aforementioned provisions will be included in the Labour Inspection Agency (SEPE) draft law to be tabled in parliament soon incorporating an EU directive and the imposition of fines on employers with uninsured employees.

    "The draft law in preparation will spearhead our policy against unregistered labour and contribution evasion," Deputy Labour Minister Anna Dalara stressed, adding that it was based on relevant discussions already held with migrant social organizations and the Ombudsman office.

    "Our efforts are focused on long-time employed migrants who are facing the risk of becoming marginalised," she stressed.

    Responding to a question on the hunger-striking illegal migrants at the Hypatia street building in downtown Athens, she stated that those qualifying will have their requests met. She also left open the likelihood of a six-month extension to the deportation procedure, adding, however, that such a decision can only be made by the citizen protection ministry.

    [15] Sector work contracts awaiting labour minister's signature

    Labour Minister Louka Katseli on Monday met with social partners and responding to a question on the pressures exerted by troika (IMF-ECB-EU) underlined that "the government and the social partners have stated their positions clearly" as far as individual sector work contracts are concerned.

    Referring to the roughly 40 sector work contracts waiting for her signature, Katseli stressed their signing is a matter of time in expectation of the appointment of a new ministry general secretary. The meeting also focused on the upgrading of the Supreme Labour Council's role to promote work peace and contribute to the normalization of relations between employers and employees.

    On their part, the social partners, Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), Hellenic Confederation of Professionals Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE), Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), and National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) backed the minister's positions in favour of the council's reform.

    It was underlined that healthy competition, as well as, companies and employees should be protected and that the sector work contracts will not abolished.

    In statements made after the meeting, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) leadership urged the workers to proceed with the signing of sector collective work contracts.

    [16] Culture minister visiting London

    LONDON (ANA-MPA - L. Tsirigotakis)

    Greece's Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos began a visit to London on Monday in order to promote Greece's tourism. He will have meetings with the UK's largest travel agencies and schedule press conference with the media. On Tuesday afternoon he is planning a press conference for Greek journalists in London.

    [17] Greek inflation slowed to 4.9 pct in Jan

    Greece's harmonized inflation rate was 4.9 pct in January 2011, up from a 2.3 pct figure recorded in January 2010, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday. The statistics service, in a report, said the harmonized consumer price index was down 1.0 pct in January from December 2010, after a decline of 0.8 pct recorded in the same period last year.

    In Brussels, Eurostat announced that Greek inflation slowed to 4.9 pct in January, from 5.2 pct in December 2010. The inflation rate rose to 2.3 pct in the Eurozone, from 2.2 pct in December, while in the EU-27 the inflation rate was 2.7 pct in January, unchanged from December 2010. Ireland (0.2 pct), Sweden (1.4 pct) recorded the lowest inflation rates, while Romania (7.0 pct), Estonia (5.1 pct) and Greece (4.9 pct) recorded the highest inflation rates in January.

    [18] OTE announces measures to drastically cut costs

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Monday announced a package of measures aimed at drastically cutting operating costs and ensuring its viability, two days after reporting losses in the fourth quarter of 2010.

    The measures, to be implemented in two tranches - the first starting March 1 and the second on May 1- envisage raising work hours for staff, cutting over-time work, abolishing privileges and facilities and cutting 120 employees from mobile unit Cosmote's workforce.

    The measures aim to cut OTE's operating costs by 32 million euros annually, and are characterised as necessary because of the economic crisis and in order to strengthen the company as it faces intense competition and regulatory challenges.

    In an internal document sent to OTE's employees, Mihalis Tsamaz, chairman and chief executive of the group, painted a bleak picture of the situation due to the crisis, intense competition and stiffer regulation, resulting in a loss of more than 30,000 voice customers per month, a 10 pct decline in revenues and a 78.5-pct drop in profits last year.

    Tsamaz said there is an urgent need to cut labour costs, currently at 35.3 pct of revenues, to 766 million euros in 2010. He underlined the need for investments in new generation networks, new technologies and products. The announcement led to a strong reaction by the OTE union.

    [19] Intracom Defense Electronics wins USD 2.2 mln contract for F-16 radar

    Intracom Defense Electronics has been awarded a contract worth 2.2 million U.S. dollars to manufacture electronic modules of the AN/APG-68(V)9 radar used by F-16 fighter jets for Northrop Grumman. According to the company's announcement, the contract will run until September 2012. In the same agreement, there is provision for extending cooperation after the end of 2012 and an expansion of the project to 5.3 million U.S. dollars.

    [20] EFG Eurolife reports improved 2010 results

    EFG Eurolife Insurance on Monday said its premium production totaled 336.5 million euros last year, up 3.6 pct from 2009 and announced that pre-tax profits grew 4.3 pct to 65.5 million euros.

    Premium production of its life insurance business totaled 267.8 million euros in 2010, up 1.3 pct from 2009, while bancassurance activities grew 13.7 pct to 141.8 million euros. The life insurance business reported a pre-tax profit of 43.5 million euros, down 3.3 pct from 2009.

    The general insurance business reported a premium production of 68.8 million euros last year, up 13.6 pct from 2009, while pre-tax profits totaled 22 million euros, up 23.5 pct.

    EFG Eurolife said its equity capital more than covered the necessary credibility margins, reflecting the group's financial strength.

    [21] J&P AVAX SA acquires 15% of Moreas SA

    The construction firm J&P Avax SA announced in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday that it has acquired a 15 percent share of Moreas SA (which holds the concession to exploit the Corinth-Tripoli-Kalamata and the Klados Lefktro-Sparti highways). The company also gained a share in the consortium that has the contract to construct the highway.

    The total cost of acquiring the above shares was 25.6 million euro.

    [22] Greek PPI up 7.3 pct in Jan

    Greece's Producer Price Index in the industrial sector (measuring both the domestic and external markets) grew 7.3 pct in January this year, compared with the same month in 2010, after an increase of 5.8 pct recorded in January 2010, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.

    The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development to a 6.8 pct increase in the domestic market index and a 9.4 pct rise in the external market index. The producer price index rose 0.9 pct in January 2011 from December 2010, after an increase of 1.2 pct recorded in the corresponding period last year.

    [23] Nights spent in Greek hotels down 2.3% in 2010, Eurostat

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)

    Nights spent in Greek hotels fell 2.3 pct last year compared with 2009, Eurostat said on Monday. The EU executive's statistics service, in a report published here, said nights spent in the EU 27 grew 2.8 pct last year, after two years of declines.

    The report attributed the decline in hotel nights spent in Greece to lower demand by Greek residents (-10.8 pct), while demand by foreign tourists grew 0.8 pct. In 2010, 62.7 million nights spent in hotels, of which 16.4 million by Greek residents and 46.3 million by foreign residents. The biggest percentage decline in nights spent was recorded in January-April (-2.3 pct), followed by the May-August period (-1.8 pct) and the September-December period (-2.1 pct).

    In 2010, 1.6 billion nights were spent in hotels and similar establishments in the EU27, an increase of 2.8% compared with 2009, after two successive annual declines of 0.3% in 2008 and 3.7% in 2009. In the EU27, the number of hotel nights spent by residents in their own country rose by 1.1% and hotel nights spent by non-residents grew by 5.1% in 2010. After the decrease in the number of hotel nights spent in the EU27 which began in the middle of 2008, peaked in January-April 2009 and then slowed down during the rest of 2009, there were first signs of a developing recovery in 2010. The number of hotel nights increased at an annual rate of 1.7% in January-April 2010 (compared with the same period of the previous year), of 2.6% in May-August and of 5.1% in September-December.

    These estimates, which include nights spent whether for business or leisure, come from a publication2 from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

    Highest increase in number of hotel nights in the Baltic countries and Malta

    Among the Member States, the highest numbers of nights spent in hotels in 2010 were recorded in Spain (268 million nights, +6.4% compared with 2009), Italy (245 mln, -0.8%), Germany (229 mln, +5.8%), France (196 mln,

    +2.4%) and the United Kingdom (166 mln, -2.1%). These five countries accounted for more than 70% of the total number of hotel nights spent in the EU27.

    The number of nights spent in hotels in 2010 increased in most Member States, except for Romania (-8.7%), Greece (-2.3%), the United Kingdom (-2.1%), Slovenia (-1.0%) and Italy (-0.8%). The largest increases were recorded in Estonia (+14.1%), Latvia (+11.6%), Lithuania (+11.1%) and Malta (+11.0%), and the smallest in Austria (+2.2%), France (+2.4%), Cyprus (+3.1%) and Hungary (+3.3%).

    Number of hotel nights spent by non-residents highest in Spain and Italy

    In 2010, non-residents accounted for 45% of the total number of nights spent in hotels in the EU27 compared with 55% for residents. Apart from the two Mediterranean islands, Malta (95%) and Cyprus (90%), the highest proportions of non-residents were registered in Estonia and Latvia (both 75%), Greece (74%), Austria (72%) and Bulgaria (70%). The lowest proportions of non-residents were recorded in Romania (18%), Germany (21%), Sweden (23%), Finland (27%) and Poland (30%).

    In 2010, the number of nights spent in hotels by non-residents rose in all Member States, with the largest increases in Estonia (+16.9%), Denmark (+14.9%) and the Netherlands (+13.4%). The highest numbers of hotel nights spent by non-residents were registered in Spain (155 mln, +8.9% compared with 2009), Italy (109 mln, +2.4%), France (66 mln, +3.0%), the United Kingdom (59 mln, +0.1%) and Austria (59 mln, +1.5%).

    The majority of Member States also recorded a growth in the number of hotel nights spent by residents in 2010, with the largest increases in Poland (+11.8%), Latvia (+11.7%), Lithuania (+10.5%) and Belgium (+10.4%). The highest numbers of nights spent by residents in hotels were observed in Germany (180 mln, +4.3% compared with 2009), Italy (135 mln, -3.2%), France (130 mln, +2.1%), Spain (113 mln, +3.1%) and the United Kingdom (107 mln, -3.4%).

    [24] Survey sees house prices in Athens decline

    A survey on house price trends around central Athens and the capital's northern suburbs, released by Eurobank Properties Services on Monday, indicates that prices have declined by anything up to 10 percent in most areas relative to 2009.

    The decline is even greater in the more expensive areas, where house prices have tended to converge with those of areas having similar qualities, so that prices in upmarket Kolonaki have plummeted 15 percent and those in Nea and Kato Kifissia by 13 percent.

    New developments are few and work on existing new buildings has slowed, with most buyers preferring older and smaller residences with lower purchase value compared with previous years.

    There is a limited number of new houses in central Athens and purchases are going through only when the asking price drops considerably. Demand for older apartments has also declined because there is less interest from economic migrants relative to previous years. In most parts of central Athens prices have dropped between 2 percent and 9 percent.

    There is still a large supply of unsold large houses in the northern suburbs, with prices falling most in Kifissia, Nea Erythraia, Geraka, Patima in Halandri, Nea Filothei in Marousi, Psyhiko and Filothei. Prices for newly built houses have declined between 4 percent and 10 percent in relation to 2009.

    [25] Stocks end moderately lower

    Stocks ended moderately lower at the Athens Stock Exchange, finding support in renewed buying interest for shares of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) and OPAP. The composite index of the market fell 0.40 pct to end at 1,576.86 points, after losing as much as 2.5 pct during the session. Turnover in the market totaled 137.487 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 0.93 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.68 pct and the Small Cap index dropped 2.21 pct. The Telecoms (3.33 pct), Travel (2.22 pct) and Food (1.84 pct) sectors scored gains, while Media (5.40 pct), Health (4.41 pct) and Technology (3.25 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Cyprus Bank (8.5 pct), OTE (3.33 pct), OPAP (2.58 pct) and Coca-Cola 3E (1.96 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while MIG (4.35 pct), Hellenic Postbank (4.23 pct) and Marfin Popular Bank (3.81 pct).

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 118 to 40 with another 43 issues unchanged. Elbisco (10 pct), Druckfarben (8.70 pct), Technical Publications (7.89 pct) were top gainers, while Euroholdings (16.67 pct), Paperpack (14.81 pct) and Envitec (10 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.05%

    Industrials: -0.78%

    Commercial: -0.41%

    Construction: -0.79%

    Media: -5.40%

    Oil & Gas: -0.89%

    Personal & Household: -0.06%

    Raw Materials: -2.89%

    Travel & Leisure: +2.22%

    Technology: -3.25%

    Telecoms: +3.33%

    Banks: -2.55%

    Food & Beverages: +1.84%

    Health: -4.41%

    Utilities: -1.63%

    Chemicals: -0.40%

    Financial Services: -1.34%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.80

    ATEbank: 0.77

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.21

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.74

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.41

    National Bank of Greece: 6.78

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.64

    OPAP: 15.13

    OTE: 7.45

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.65

    Titan: 16.25

    [26] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 870 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 868 bps on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.85 pct and the German Bund 3.15 pct.

    Turnover in the market was a low 30 million euros, while the three-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 6.0 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.76 pct, the six-month rate was 1.37 pct, the three-month was 1.09 pct and the one-month rate 0.86 pct.

    [27] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover remaining a low 45.019 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,215 contracts worth 32.532 million euros with 29,375 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 24,700 contracts worth 12.487 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,807), followed by Eurobank (1,099), MIG (934), OTE (2,220), Piraeus Bank (1,590), Alpha Bank (2,922), Marfin Popular Bank (3,312), Cyprus Bank (1,550), Hellenic Postbank (1,222), OPAP (758), Mytilineos (714) and Hellenic Petroleum (565).

    [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.394

    Pound sterling 0.859

    Danish kroner 7.516

    Swedish kroner 8.814

    Japanese yen 114.17

    Swiss franc 1.294

    Norwegian kroner 7.770

    Canadian dollar 1.364

    Australian dollar 1.371

    General News

    [29] Strong earthquake shakes southern Crete

    A strong earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale shook eastern and southern Crete on Monday morning at 9:49 a.m. The quake was felt throughout the region, especially around Ierapetra but also in the city of Iraklio.

    According to the Geodynamic Institute of the National Observatory in Athens and the Geophysics Laboratory at the Thessaloniki University, the epicentre of the quake was 368 kilometres south southeast of Athens and 25 kilometres southwest of Lasithi in the Ierapetra region. It follows an earlier earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale that occurred in roughly the same region on February 23.

    There were no reports of damages.

    [30] Protest 'archer' released after testimony to magistrate

    A man arrested during last week's protest march in Athens and charged with carrying an axe and a bow and arrows was released after testifying before an examining magistrate on Monday. Pictures of "The Archer", as he became known in the media, appeared in footage and photos of last Wednesday's strike rally and he faces criminal charges of attempted manslaughter.

    He was released on condition that he does not leave the country and is required to report to a police station at regular intervals.

    The suspect denied having an axe, saying that this had been "added" to the evidence supposedly confiscated on his person by police, and claimed that the bow was a fake and not capable of causing any harm. He also claimed that he had carried the bow for symbolic reasons.

    [31] Drug probe nets 20 arrests on Rhodes

    A total of 20 individuals, 14 locals and four Albanian nationals, were arrested on the holiday island of Rhodes on Monday following a lengthy investigation into a drug trafficking network on the isle.

    Nineteen residences were also search, in the presence of prosecutors, during the operation, which uncovered an unspecified amount of heroin and cocaine, police said.

    The suspects ranged in ages from 26 to 71 years old.

    Authorities believe ring is masterminded by a gang of prison inmates.

    According to reports, suspects used the courtyard in front of the island's largest detoxification centre as a more-or-less outdoor "bazaar" to sell narcotics to users.

    [32] Special Olympics athletes hosted in Alexandroupolis

    A total of 380 athletes, 330 from Russia and 50 from Bulgaria, will be hosted in the northeast port city of Alexandroupolis on June 20-24, 2011 ahead of the opening of the Athens 2011 Special Olympics on June 25.

    Alexandroupolis is participating in the "Host Town Programme" (Polis Amphitrion).

    A total of 7,633 athletes from 185 countries, accompanied by roughly 40,000 family members and 2,500 coaches, have registered to compete in the Games.

    [33] Highway giving way due to rain

    The unrelenting rain of the past weeks has undermined the old Tripoli-Kalamata national highway to the point where it is in danger of subsiding and sliding down the slope at Derveni, local authorities reported on Monday.

    They said the phenomenon was being closely watched and road signs put up to warn drivers. The construction company building a new road for the region has been instructed to quickly create an access road so that, if the current highway subsides, the region of Messinia will not be cut off.

    Weather Forecast

    [34] Rainy on Tuesday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 2C and 17C. Cloudy in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 4C to 11C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 8C.

    [35] Traffic accidents up 3.7 percent in 2010, ELSTAT reports

    Road traffic accidents causing deaths and injuries increased by 3.7 percent in December 2010 relative to the same month in 2009, the Greek statistical authority ELSTAT reported on Monday.

    The total number of such accidents in the month came to 1,171 and resulted in 110 deaths (a 10 percent increase relative to 2009), 108 serious injuries (14.9 percent increase relative to 2009) and 1,291 lighter injuries (0.8 percent increase relative to 2009).

    [36] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Economic developments, reports of more austerity measures and changes in the wider public sector mostly dominated the headlines in the Monday edition of Athens' dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Clean-up of public sector, municipalities; 30 percent of institutional positions being abolished!"

    AVRIANI: "Fast ? crack with immediate return to drachma".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Sleaze by George (Papandreou, the PM), he had chained Greece (to IMF memorandum) before elections."

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Conclusive end to bonuses for civil servants".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Gov't: Cut salaries now by 20 percent".

    ESTIA: "Rudderless governance (in country)".

    ETHNOS: "Burning fuel prices for households, businesses".

    IMERISSIA: "ECB pressuring (Greek) banks for return of 35 billion euros".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Euro-zone's most crucial month ever begins".

    TA NEA: "Union demands property confiscation of business owners employing undeclared workers".

    VRADYNI: "Lay-offs in public sector and end to sector-wide collective bargaining agreements".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [37] Leaders agree the talks will continue on the agreed UN basis

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    "The direct negotiations are being conducted on the agreed basis of the UN", Cyprus President Demetris Christofias has stressed on Monday.

    Speaking at the Presidential Palace, on his return from the negotiations, at the Chief of Mission's residence in the United Nations Protected Area of Nicosia, Christofias said that along with Dervis Eroglu, they have clarified that they are talking about a federation and not a confederation, as regards the solution of the Cyprus problem.

    UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer, speaking after the meeting, said that the leaders had a good and long discussion Monday for around two and a half hours and it was a good opportunity for them to talk about a range of issues.

    "They did have a discussion about the basis of the negotiations and both leaders agreed that the talks would continue on the agreed United Nations basis", he said and added: "All chapters are being negotiated with the aim of increasing the points of convergence on the understanding that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

    Downer also said that the leaders discussed procedural issues and that it was agreed that the next meeting of the Representatives will be on Wednesday, March 2 and the next meeting of the leaders will be at 1600 on Friday, March 4. At the next meeting, he said, the leaders will be discussing governance and power-sharing.

    The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu are currently engaged in UN-led negotiations, with an aim to reunify the island.

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