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

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

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

Friday, 11 March 2011 Issue No: 3740

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Papandreou, French President Sarkozy discuss developments in North Africa, future of eurozone
  • [02] PM to 'Le Monde': We need the support of our European partners
  • [03] Rehn supports strengthening of EFSF's role
  • [04] Deputy FM Dollis meets with Libyan emissary ahead of urgent meet of EU foreign ministers on Libyan crisis
  • [05] Protest outside Libyan embassy against Gaddafi gov't
  • [06] Venizelos attends informal Defence Ministers summit in Brussels
  • [07] ND spokesman sharply criticises gov't on several fronts
  • [08] President Papoulias optimistic that Greece, Europe will find their pace once again soon
  • [09] Tsipras on Competitiveness Accord
  • [10] Turkish FM tours Kavala Old Quarter
  • [11] Turkish FM meets Thessaloniki mayor
  • [12] Government spokesman on Turkish FM's visit to Thrace
  • [13] PASOK leading ND by 6.5 pc, poll shows
  • [14] Efthymiou visiting Belgrade
  • [15] Controversial biodiversity draft law ratified
  • [16] Judges, prosecutors hold protest outside Supreme Court
  • [17] EU seeks better regulation of credit rating agencies
  • [18] Greece applies for issue of Diaspora Bond in US
  • [19] Gov't to hire financial advisers to evaluate its real estate property
  • [20] Central Athens retailers hit hard by crisis, ESEE reports
  • [21] Study details problem of illegal products, market
  • [22] Inflation up by 4.4pct in February
  • [23] Wholesale turnover index down 8.8 pct in Q4
  • [24] Stocks end flat on Thursday
  • [25] Greek bond market closing report
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [28] Parliament to provide 40,000 euros for families of the two slain policemen
  • [29] "Maria Callas and La Scala" exhibition opens at Megaron
  • [30] Greek ship held in Venezuela after drugs found
  • [31] Eight illegal migrants intercepted
  • [32] Fair on Friday
  • [33] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Papandreou, French President Sarkozy discuss developments in North Africa, future of eurozone

    PARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy received Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday afternoon in a very friendly climate. The meeting between the two leaders lasted for an hour and as Papandreou stated immediately afterwards they dealt with developments in North Africa, as well as the future of the eurozone.

    "We had the opportunity of exchanging views on two major issues. The one is the revolutionary changes in North Africa and what the EU can do at this moment towards the violence we are observing," Papandreou said to the Greek and foreign reporters immediately afterwards.

    "We also spoke of our contribution to the restructuring of many countries that are entering a process of democratisation which of course for us in Greece is of special importance. I believe that we have a common approach with France on this issue," the prime minister added.

    "The second issue is the crisis, the very big crisis I would say, and the negotiations on the issues of the eurozone that we shall have in Brussels tomorrow (Friday)," Papandreou explainerd. "We also have a common approach with France here on very many issues."

    Lastly, the prime minister stressed the support that the French people, President Sarkozy and the government have shown for the efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people. "The French have stood by our side and I would like to thank them for this," Papandreou concluded.

    [02] PM to 'Le Monde': We need the support of our European partners

    PARIS (ANA-MPA - O. Tsipira)

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday said lowering the interest rate and extending the maturity of European Union and IMF loans to Greece would be "decisive factors" to guarantee that the country was able to continue meeting its long-term objectives. He also warned against the prospect of restructuring Greek debt, saying that this could have dire consequences for Greece but also for Europe.

    "We are putting our house in order but we need the support of our European partners," Papandreou said in an interview published by the French newspaper "Le Monde" ahead of a Eurozone leaders meeting on Friday. If markets failed to respond to Greece's efforts, the EU would have to step in in order to assist Greece's efforts and stabilise the Euro zone, he added.

    "There are considerable margins to manoeuvre in order to relax the terms of the financial support programme," Papandreou said.

    The Greek premier arrived in Paris on Thursday for a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. Greek time.

    Asked to comment on Moody's decision to once again cut Greece's credit rating, the Greek premier accused the rating agency of "completely overlooking" the reality of the situation and the significant sacrifices and changes made by Greece.

    "It is one more proof that Europe must decide on the adoption of rules for rating agencies," he added, stressing that Friday's meeting of Eurozone leaders and the EU summit on March 24-25 will be "one of the last chances for Europe to face up to the markets."

    "We must not fail. We have to take enough courageous and adequate measures in order to put an end to the cycle of instability and uncertainty. Markets have realised that this sort of failure could lead to a return of the crisis," he underlined.

    Concerning the 'Competitiveness Pact' proposed by France and Germany, Papandreou said that reducing the "competitiveness gap" and promoting economic convergence were important factors for growth but not an immediate answer to the crisis.

    "Improving competitiveness is just one component part of a much larger whole capable of dealing with the crisis. At this point, any other approach beyond a collective solution could proved inadequate," he emphasised.

    Among others, the Greek premier again urged European leaders to employ all instruments at their disposal to make the European Financial Stability Fund more flexible and to consider ideas such as a financial transactions tax or Euro-bonds.

    Papandreou ruled out the prospect of restructuring Greece's debt, making it clear that this was "not on Europe's agenda". He warned that such a scenario could have serious repercussions for the European banking system, lead to the collapse of Greek banks but also an "avalanche" of speculative attacks on a large number of other European countries. In addition, it would also inflict substantial financial damage on Greek pension funds that had invested heavily in state bonds.

    "It is a very heavy price to pay, if there is another alternative solution," he emphasised, pointing out that such an outcome would benefit neither Greece nor the European economy.

    Asked about the shortfall in state revenues, the Greek premier pointed out that an unprecedented reform programme had helped reduce Greece's public deficit by 6 percent of GDP in 2010, while the economy was expected to return to growth by the end of 2012. On the need for privatisations to pay down debt and the problems that arose when EU-IMF experts announced an ambitious expansion of the privatisations programme, Papandreou denied that there was "an issue of sovereignty" and said misunderstandings were "inevitable" when so many reforms were taking place in such a short space of time.

    [03] Rehn supports strengthening of EFSF's role

    STRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/N.Roussis)

    EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olii Rehn supports a strengthening of the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) and improving lending terms for European countries facing intense fiscal problems. In a written answer to a question made by PASOK Eurodeputy Annie Podemata, the EU Commissioner reassured that the EFSF will play a basic role in ensuring financial stability in the Eurozone and stressed that the European Commission fully supported the strengthening of the Fund to become more effective, credible and more flexible.

    Rehn said that the Fund's real lending ability should be raised to 440 billion euros, with a parallel increase of guarantees. The Commissioner stressed that the Commission supported a flexible and wider package of measures to support EFSF, "as it believes that greater flexibility in this sector will contribute in improving its effectiveness and offering answers adjusted to each member-state's situation". He noted that the Commission also supported efforts to improving lending terms by the Fund.

    [04] Deputy FM Dollis meets with Libyan emissary ahead of urgent meet of EU foreign ministers on Libyan crisis

    Greek deputy foreign minister Dimitris Dollis on Thursday received Libyan emissary Mohamed Tahir Siala, just hours ahead of an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on the situation in Libya.

    The meeting was held with agreement between foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas and EU High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy Baroness Catherine Ashton, so that "views would be heard" ahead of the EU foreign ministers' council, and was also attended by ministry secretary general Ioannis-Alexis Zepos.

    No statements were made to the press afterwards.

    Libyan emissaries had similar meetings in several other EU member states on Thursday.

    Diplomatic sources told ANA-MPA that Greece's position is that the bloodshed in Libya must stop immediately and that the international community must remain united and exercise pressure on the Libyan regime. In that direction, the role of the UN Security Council is mandatory and decisive, the sources added.

    The Greek side listened to the positions of the Libyan regime for an exit from the crisis, which were conveyed by Siala, and will brief its EU partners at the emergency meeting later on Thursday that has been called by Ashton to discuss the developments in Libya and the wider region in preparation of an extraordinary EU summit on Friday, according to the same sources.

    They added that the positions set out in Athens by Siala did not differ from those voiced publicly by Muammar Gaddafi and other representatives of the Libyan regime.

    The sources further said that "true intentions" cannot be detected, and the positions presented will be assessed comprehensively by the EU foreign ministers' Council on External Affairs.

    Greece, the sources added, remains dedicated to the implementation of the UN Security Council's resolution.

    [05] Protest outside Libyan embassy against Gaddafi gov't

    A protest was held by Libyan nationals living in Greece outside the North African country's embassy in the Greek capital against the Gaddafi regime, while they also demanded the resignation of the Libyan envoy in the country.

    Protesters called on the Libyan ambassador to take a position on the conflict currently raging in the oil-rich country in the southern Mediterranean and recognise the temporary administration set up in eastern Libya, or otherwise, resign.

    [06] Venizelos attends informal Defence Ministers summit in Brussels

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is participating in the informal NATO Defence Ministers summit here, stressed the need for a clear message to be sent by the international community for a final and steadfast solution to be found in Libya, in accordance with the principles of democracy and state of law.

    Venizelos agreed to the North Atlantic Council (NAC) issuing two initial directives on humanitarian efforts and support for the weapons embargo in the framework of a relevant decision by the UN Security Council.

    Venizelos reminded Greece's contribution to evacuation operations that were carried out since the beginning of the Libyan crisis. He stressed that 24,000 people have been evacuated from Libya with Greek assistance (mainly with Greek ships).

    The Defence minister insisted on the need for the solution in Libya to be given naturally through the will of the Libyan people themselves, while pointing out that Greece, being a Mediterranean country and due to its geographical proximity realises very well the importance of the existence of strong regional support.

    [07] ND spokesman sharply criticises gov't on several fronts

    The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Thursday lashed out at Prime Minister George Papandreou personally, accusing him of "torpedoing the (political) consensus".

    ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis pointed out that the premier chose to criticise ND leader Antonis Samaras a day after their meeting and while there was a consensus on what he termed the "self-evident", namely, a debt repayment extension, Eurobonds, etc.

    Referring to the imminent EU summits, Mihelakis underlined the need to relax the terms of the Memorandum, pointing out that Samaras was the first to present specific debt management proposals.

    Mihelakis also reminded relevant statements made by European Commissioner Olli Rehn, stressing that "there is a positive framework".

    Moreover, he stressed that Papandreou had pressured IMF head Strauss-Kahn into accepting Greece's appeal for assistance while, at the same time, he (Papandreou) was condemning the IMF.

    Called to comment on the deprecatory statements made by Strauss-Kahn regarding Greece, he stressed that this is not the first time the country is led through the mud, adding that the government has left the country defenseless other times as well.

    Responding to a press question, Mihelakis rejected rumours on the likelihood of cooperation with opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S).

    Referring to the resignation of the ministry of finance general secretary, he said that it reveals the complete dissolution and inadequacy of the government's economic staff in the crucial sector of revenue collection.

    As regards the government's decision on the hunger-striking illegal migrants camped out at the Hypatia mansion in central Athens, he said that it was "humiliating" and that the ruling PASOK party "gave in to blackmail".

    Referring to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's visit to the Thrace province, Mihelakis criticized the foreign ministry's stance and repeated a relevant statement made by ND vice-president Dimitris Avramopoulos, who charged that the Turkish FM was "exceeding the limit and not contributing to the creation of rapprochement and a climate of cooperation".

    Mihelakis called on the foreign ministry to brief the responsible Parliamentary committee on all aspects of the Greek-Turkish relations, on the content of exploratory contacts in process and on their results.

    Finally, as regards the Greek government's refusal to condemn the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, he said that "probably the answer lies with the fact that he (Gaddafi) is a member of the Socialist family".

    [08] President Papoulias optimistic that Greece, Europe will find their pace once again soon

    President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias, speaking during the ceremony on his awarding of an honourary doctorate by the International and European Studies Faculty of the Piraeus University, stressed the need for Europe to provide an overall, integrated reply to the crisis so as to convince citizens that the basic values and principles on which the EU was built remain topical and have a future.

    President Papoulias expressed support for a balance to be found between fiscal discipline and the support policies of growth and employment for the protection of "social" Europe, while speaking of a "dramatic delay" by Europe in the issuing of a eurobond that "would intercept the momentum of those centres that aim at sinking national economies to gain from the gambling on bankruptcy."

    He also warned of the risk from Europe's negligence not only of the prosperity of peoples being jeopardised but of the very undertaking of European integration as well.

    President Papoulias, however, was categorical in saying that "we must not transfer to others, third parties, the self-evident reponsibilities that our governments of the past decades have," a member of which, as he said, was he himself as well and added that the chronic structural weaknesses of the Greek economy must not be underestimated because "they are mainly to blame for the widening of the crisis and constitute an obstacle for recovery."

    Referring to the country's foreign policy, President Papoulias said that it is governed by the principles of respect for International Law, the ability for decisive and effective defence of national independence and of national interests and of action in the privileged environment of the large European family. With these principles, Greece can define, as he said, policy regarding both the Balkans, the European Union, the Mediterranean and Turkey as well as the emerging China, India, Brazil, Iran and Russia, as well as "the awakening and rising of the Arab peoples who are claiming freedom and democracy," immigration and climatic change.

    President Papoulias, however, appeared optimistic that both Greece and Europe will find their pace soon once again.

    [09] Tsipras on Competitiveness Accord

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alexis Tsipras, speaking in an interview with NET radio, expressed pessimism over Friday's extraordinary EU summit as well as the next on March 25, stressing that the Competitiveness Accord being promoted is even harsher than the existing memorandum.

    He added that if on the 25th of the month the government adopts the Competitiveness Accord then the Greek people will not have the right to decide on their fate "something that is extremely crucial."

    [10] Turkish FM tours Kavala Old Quarter

    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu continued his three-day visit to Greece with a stopover at the northeast port city of Kavala, where he arrived on Wednesday.

    The Turkish FM and his wife stayed at the historical Hotel Imaret in the Old City quarter, which was built between 1817 and 1821 by Muhammad Ali, considered by many as the founder of the modern Egyptian state.

    Accompanied by Anna Missirian-Tzouma, president of the Muhammad Ali Institute for the preservation of the oriental heritage, Davutoglu and his wife on Thursday visited the house where the future "wali" of Egypt was born in 1769, located in the Panaghia Peninsula.

    Davutoglu toured the house, which was fully restored by the institute within the framework of a bilateral agreement between Greece and Egypt. Both "Imaret" and the house of Muhammad Ali are the property of the Egyptian Vakufs Organization.

    Afterwards, the Turkish minister visited the Old Music building (Halil Bey mosque), built in mid 16th century. The old mosque was part of a building complex that included a Muslim seminary school. The buildings are restored and are currently used to host cultural events.

    [11] Turkish FM meets Thessaloniki mayor

    Visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking after meeting Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris on Thursday, stressed his optimism on the building of a "new Greek-Turkish friendship" and "a new Greek-Turkish axis," while underlining the "good climate in Greek-Turkish relations."

    The Turkish Foreign minister also said "we are experiencing a period of very great friendship between the two countries and we can raise these strong bridges of friendship between Thessaloniki and Istanbul and Thessaloniki and Izmir."

    Davutoglu further said that "in the past year the number of Turkish tourists in Thessaloniki has doubled, while it has trebled all over Greece" and stressed that he will support the appeal for a wider air, railway and coastal shipping linking of Thessaloniki with Istanbul and other cities in Turkey.

    During their meeting, Davutoglu raised the issue with Boutaris of the functioning of a mosque and a moslem cemetery. Boutaris explained that the issue of the mosque is up to the central administration and then, in his statements, reassured him publicly that he will do all that he can to facilitate the moslems "in the exercising of their religious duties and the creation of a cemetery that has been scheduled."

    Earlier, Davutoglu visited the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki where he was received by Turkish consul Hussein Oztemir. Davutoglu was given a guided tour of the historic building's premises where Kemal Ataturk lived and signed the visitors' register.

    [12] Government spokesman on Turkish FM's visit to Thrace

    Government spokesman George Petalotis, commenting on the visit to Thrace by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, said that "Greece is a hospitable country. And Mr. Davutoglu, just like every foreign visitor, is welcome all over the Greek state, from Evros to Kastelorizo."

    Petalotis added that "we hope that his experience, especially from his visit to Thrace, apart from pleasant, would also be instructive."

    [13] PASOK leading ND by 6.5 pc, poll shows

    The difference between the ruling PASOK party and the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party stands at 6.5 percent, according to a gallop by the Public Issue company which was presented by the "Sky" private television channel during the main news bulletin on Thursday.

    PASOK garners 35 percent of the vote, followed by ND with 28.5 pc, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 11, the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party 9, the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) 5, the Ecologists Greens 2.5, the Democratic Left 2.5 and the Democratic Alliance 2.

    Moreover, 71 percent of citizens believe that at the present stage it is not necessary for the government to proceed with early elections.

    [14] Efthymiou visiting Belgrade

    BELGRADE (ANA-MPA/N. Pelpas)

    PASOK party Parliamentary representative Petros Efthymiou is on a two-day working visit to Belgrade as of Wednesday in his capacity of President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

    Efthymiou met on Thursday with the president of Serbia's Parliament Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic with whom he signed a cooperation memorandum for the preparation of the OSCE's 20th Parliamentary Assembly plenum that will be held in the Serb capital in July.

    During the meeting, Efthymiou stressed the OSCE's important role in issues concerning security, economic cooperation, energy security, the defence of human rights and of a state of law.

    Efthymiou also met with Serbia's Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac. During the meeting positive assessments were made of reforms that took place in Serbia's armed forces, while Efthymiou hailed the efforts being made on the part of Belgrade for coooperation wilth the neighbours in the defence sector.

    [15] Controversial biodiversity draft law ratified

    An environment ministry-sponsored biodiversity draft law was ratified in Parliament on Thursday, setting a one-hectare minimum for construction in land tracts located within "Natura" programme protected regions, and effective as soon as the relevant law is published in the Government Gazette.

    However, a parcel of land of at least one acre in size (minimum 4,000 square metres) can still be issued a building license, even if it's within a Natura zone.

    A presidential decree on the construction of buildings outside town planning zones issued in 1985 provides that buildable lots should have a 25-meter-long fa?ade adjacent to a "public street" or a 45-meter-long fa?ade that is adjacent to international, national motorways, or provincial, municipal and community streets.

    A new presidential decree will have to be issued now to define the term "public street".

    [16] Judges, prosecutors hold protest outside Supreme Court

    A protest rally by the Association of Judges and Prosecutors was held outside the Supreme Court building in Athens on Thursday to express the group's opposition to what members charged is an attempt to "downgrade justice".

    Court justices nationwide, with the exception of those serving on the Council of State, participated in a three-hour work stoppage from noon until 3 p.m.

    The protesters demanded the establishment of a social insurance fund for state employees, pensions equal to those received by Parliament deputies and more appointments in the judiciary.

    Financial News

    [17] EU seeks better regulation of credit rating agencies

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)

    The European Commission will present before the end of summer a package of fundamental reforms aimed to better regulate the operation of credit rating agencies.

    In a joint statement on Thursday, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn and Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier, expressed their confidence over the positive results of actions taken by the Greek government in the framework of a reform program and underlined that Greece has achieved an impressive fiscal adjustment in 2010 and that it was on the right track towards completing all goals of a very ambitious program agreed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

    "The last few days highlight how important a more and better regulated environment for credit ratings are," the two commissioners said, adding that the aim of these reforms would be greater transparency in an over-consolidated sector, reducing over-reliance on ratings, improving ratings over public debt and dealing with remaining conflicts of interest".

    The two commissioners also noted that the European Commission was examining similar measures taken in the US.

    [18] Greece applies for issue of Diaspora Bond in US

    Greece has submitted an application to the US Capital Markets Regulation Committee for the issuance of bonds addressed to the wider investor public, according to the head of Greece's Public Debt Management Organisation Petros Christodoulou, in a statement to Reuters news agency.

    The bond issue has been set at 3 billion dollars (2.15 billion euros), and approval by the Committee is awaited, Christodoulou said.

    Following approval by the Committee, Greece may proceed with the issue of the so-called Diaspora bonds when it sees fit.

    A senior government official cited by Reuters said the government has not yet decided when the bonds will be issued, or their duration.

    The intention to issue Diaspora bonds had been announced by finance minister George Papaconstantinou in the autumn of 2010, with the aim of drawing capital from the large Greek community abroad.

    Christodoulou said there are plans to issue such bonds to Greeks in Australia as well, but no relevant application has yet been submitted to Australian authorities.

    [19] Gov't to hire financial advisers to evaluate its real estate property

    The Greek government is at the process of hiring special financial advisers to record and evaluating the state's real estate property, to rapidly achieve a better management of these assets, Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou said on Thursday. In a written response to a question made by main opposition ND deputy Nikos Nikolopoulos in Parliament, Papakonstantinou said the government has adopted a transparent procedure and was using the most updated techniques in a process of recording the state's real estate property.

    [20] Central Athens retailers hit hard by crisis, ESEE reports

    Retail shops in Athens have been hard hit by the economic crisis but especially in the city centre, where 23.4 percent of businesses had folded in the first week of March, the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) revealed in a report on Thursday. The rate of business closures had risen sharply compared with six months ago, from 17 percent in August 2010.

    Indicatively, one in three shops (33.8 percent) have recently closed along Stadiou Street, one of the city's smartest shopping high streets, while roughly one quarter of shops closed on nearby Akadimias (24.6 percent) and pedestrianised Ermou (24.3 percent), the city's best-known and busiest shopping street.

    Local shopping districts appeared more resistant to the pressures of the crisis but here again, shop closures were high relative to previous years. The rate of business closures along Patission Street, for example, was 20.6 percent overall but in some sections of the street rose as high as 30 percent.

    In suburbs like Nea Ionia and Maroussi, the rate was relatively low at 17.8 percent, while in Kifissia it climbed to 21 percent from 12 percent six months earlier and in Halandri to 22 percent.

    ESEE stressed the adverse impact of such business closures, especially on levels of unemployment. In previous reports the confederation had warned that up to 100,000 jobs in the retail sector might be lost, a prediction that appeared to be borne out by a surge in unemployment figures for December to 14.8 percent.

    The ESEE survey was conducted between February 25 and March 7, examining the main shopping high streets in the centre of Athens, Kolonaki, Kallithea, Maroussi, Nea Ionia, Kifissia, Halandri and Piraeus.

    [21] Study details problem of illegal products, market

    Twenty percent of illegal products in the European Union are confiscated in Greece, according to figures for 2009, when the volume of imports in Greece accounted for 1.7 pct of total imports in the EU, a survey by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) revealed on Thursday.

    Presenting the survey, EBEA president Costas Mihalos said the chamber has repeatedly warned over the negative effects of a rising illegal commerce in the country and has recommended specific measures and actions to combat this rising phenomenon.

    According to the survey, the number of illegal products confiscated in the EU more than quadrupled in the 1999-2009 period, from 25 million products to almost 118 million euros, with the number of confiscated products peaking in 2008 (179 million).

    [22] Inflation up by 4.4pct in February

    Greek inflation rose by 4.4 percent in February year-on-year against February 2010, according to figures released on Thursday by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

    The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in February 2011 compared with February 2010, increased by 4.4%. In February 2010, the annual rate of change of the CPI was 2.8%.

    The CPI in February 2011 compared with January 2011 decreased by 1.3%. In February 2010, the monthly rate of change of the CPI was -0.5%.

    In the twelve-month period from March 2010 to February 2011 compared with the period from March 2009 to February 2010 the annual average rate of change of the CPI was 5.1%. The corresponding annual average rate of change of the CPI in the previous year (March 2009 to February 2010), was 1.4%.

    The Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) in February 2011 compared with February 2010, increased by 4.2%. In February 2010, the annual rate of change of the HICP was 2.9%.

    The HICP in February 2011 compared with the preceding month of January 2011, decreased by 1.3%. In February 2010, the monthly rate of change of the HICP was -0.6%.

    In the twelve-month period from March 2010 to February 2011 compared with the period from March 2009 to February 2010, the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 5.0%. The previous year, in the corresponding twelve - month period, the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 1.5%.

    [23] Wholesale turnover index down 8.8 pct in Q4

    Greece's wholesale turnover index fell 8.8 pct in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared with the same period in 2009, after a decline of 4.1 pct recorded in the fourth quarter of 2009, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said the wholesale turnover index grew 11.6 pct in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with the third quarter of 2010, after an increase of 4.5 pct recorded in the same period in 2009.

    [24] Stocks end flat on Thursday

    Stocks ended flat in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday with investors remaining on the sidelines on the eve of a crucial EU Summit. The composite index rose 0.25 pct to end at 1,544.88 points, with turnover remaining a low 74.781 million euros. The Big Cap index rose 0.40 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.20 pct and the Small Cap index fell 0.04 pct. PPC (4.23 pct), Cyprus Bank (2.76 pct), Hellenic Postbank (2.19 pct), Mytilineos (2.16 pct) and Eurobank (1.56 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while MIG (2.56 pct), Alpha Bank (1.67 pct) and Piraeus Bank (1.40 pct) were major losers.

    The Utilities (3.12 pct) and Media (2.42 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Health (3.50 pct) and Financial Services (2.23 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 86 to 71 with another 48 issues unchanged. Atti-kat (16.67 pct), Klonatex (14.29 pct) and Dromeas (12.5 pct) were top gainers, while Alter (18.33 pct), Vivere (14.29 pct) and Neorio (13.04 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.64%

    Industrials: +0.38%

    Commercial: +0.40%

    Construction: +0.57%

    Media: +2.42

    Oil & Gas: -0.24%

    Personal & Household: +0.20%

    Raw Materials: +1.68%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.06%

    Technology: -0.35%

    Telecoms: +0.80%

    Banks: +0.45%

    Food & Beverages: -0.86%

    Health: -3.50%

    Utilities: +3.12%

    Chemicals: -1.06%

    Financial Services: -2.23%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.72

    ATEbank: 0.74

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.59

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.70

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.26

    National Bank of Greece: 6.28

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.55

    OPAP: 15.45

    OTE: 7.60

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.41

    Titan: 17.50

    [25] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 940 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 957 bps on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.63 pct and the German Bund 3.23 pct. Turnover in the market was an improved 101 million euros, of which 73 million were sell orders and the remaining 28 million euros were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 42 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.94 pct, the six-month rate 1.49 pct, the three-month rate 1.17 pct and the one-month rate 0.89 pct.

    [26] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.69 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising slightly to 52.504 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,682 contracts worth 37.593 million euros, with 29,750 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 32,610 contracts worth 14.911 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,170), followed by Eurobank (814), MIG (3,879), OTE (3,783), PPC (3,259), Piraeus Bank (2,446), Hellenic Exchanges (4,184), GEK (4,197), Alpha Bank (2,649), Marfin Popular Bank (3,508) and Mytilineos (606).

    [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.392

    Pound sterling 0.863

    Danish kroner 7.517

    Swedish kroner 8.882

    Japanese yen 115.7

    Swiss franc 1.301

    Norwegian kroner 7.844

    Canadian dollar 1.352

    Australian dollar 1.389

    General News

    [28] Parliament to provide 40,000 euros for families of the two slain policemen

    The Greek Parliament will provide financial support amounting to 20,000 euros for each family of the two special guards of the "DIAS" Group who were murdered by ruthless criminals on March 1.

    They are the families of Ioannis Evangelinelis and George Skyloyiannis.

    A relevant proposal was made by Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos and was accepted by the Parliament's Conference of Presidents, stressing that the two unfortunate young people sacrificed their lives for the security and the protection of the citizens.

    [29] "Maria Callas and La Scala" exhibition opens at Megaron

    An exhibition of rare costumes worn by world-renowned Greek opera diva Maria Callas and her historical appearances at the La Scala opera house in Milan has opened in the ground-floor foyer of the Megaron-Athens Concert Hall, parallel to performances at the Megaron of Donizetti's opera "Maria Stuarda", which premiered at the Teatro La Scala in December 1835.

    Titled "Maria Callas and La Scala", the exhibition features 20 unforgettable costumes worn by Callas at her La Scala appearances, which are being exhibited outside Italy for the first time, as well as photographs and audiovisual material, including original recordings, from Callas' performances at La Scala.

    The exhibition, which was inaugurated by Greece's President of the Republic on Wednesday night, will run through May 8 and is open to the public from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

    [30] Greek ship held in Venezuela after drugs found

    The Greek-flagged tanker "Maria L" and all its crew were being held by authorities in Puerto Jose, Venezuela on Thursday after 353 packages containing 417.6 kilos of drugs were found attached to the bottom of its hull by divers. The divers' inspection was demanded by the port's authorities and conducted with the permission of the ship owner. The ship has a crew of 20, of which 12 are Greeks.

    The shipping firm involved has informed authorities in Greece about the discovery of the drugs, while noting that attaching something to a ship's hull in the specific position requires a diver with specialised skills.

    The inspection was carried out after the ship had loaded its cargo, an oil refinery by-product being transported to Terneuzen in Holland and then Immingham in the United Kingdom.

    The Greek Maritime Affairs ministry has asked for the assistance of the foreign ministry in order to provide the Greek seamen on board the vessel with any assistance they need via Greek consular authorities in Venezuela.

    [31] Eight illegal migrants intercepted

    The Coast Guard intercepted eight illegal migrants aboard a small craft southwest of the Ionian island of Corfu, it was announced on Thursday.

    Two migrant smugglers managed to flee on board a second vessel. According to the would-be migrants, they had set sail from the southern coasts of Corfu destined for Italy.

    Weather Forecast

    [32] Fair on Friday

    Fair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -4C and 16C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 1C to 13C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -2C to 12C.

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

    The unemployment rate's climb to an unprecedented 14.8 percent and economic issues were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Thursday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The government 'legalising' the 300" hunger-striking migrants.

    AVGHI: "Memorandum of unemployment".

    AVRIANI: "Finance ministry in state of dissolution - Resignation of ministry secretary general Dimitris Georgakopoulos".

    ELEFTHEROS: "The government a madhouse - Papandreou 'barefoot' in Europe".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Papaconstantinou (finance minister), Ragoussis (interior minister) go bankrupt".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Burning tapes on soccer".

    ESTIA: "The politicians destroying the economy".

    ETHNOS: "PhD 'factory' for...8.000 euros".

    IMERISSIA: "Reform fatigue - Developments in Athens worry EU, IMF".

    KATHIMERINI: "Rehn pressing for speedier reduction of deficit".

    LOGOS: "Unemployment at 14.8 percent - Shock and Awe".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Safety net for companies against the wave of bankruptcies".

    NIKI: "Loophole for 92,000 hirings".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "They're fooling the unemployed with the 'social enterprises'."

    TA NEA: "The tapes of the corruption in soccer".

    VRADYNI: "Programs 'aspirins' for unemployment".

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