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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-03-12

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Saturday, 12 March 2011 Issue No: 3741


  • [01] Statements by PM following summit on situation in North Africa, Libya
  • [02] PM: Strong EU decisions needed on economy, Northern Africa
  • [03] Samaras: Three-tier strategy for exit from crisis
  • [04] FM on BBC: Violence in Libya must cease immediately
  • [05] Greece aids release of Dutch marines held in Libya
  • [06] Foreign minister sends message of support to Japanese counterpart
  • [07] Greek rescuers on stand-by after Japanese quake, tsunami
  • [08] Foreign Ministry spokesman on 'casus belli' by Turkey
  • [09] Alt. DM cites 'revisionist' policy by Turkey vis-a-vis Aegean status
  • [10] Biodiversity bill 'a great step forward', minister insists
  • [11] Proposed LAOS bill seeks to restrict rights of protest
  • [12] Egyptian army stops brawl among Egyptians on Greek ship
  • [13] Greek court rules works for British embassy security illegal
  • [14] Moody's: Greek Structured Finance Ratings Expected to Drop Below A3
  • [15] T-bill auction next week
  • [16] Culture, Tourism minister visiting Russia
  • [17] GNTO to close nine offices abroad
  • [18] New procurement system will plug health sector debts, minister predicts
  • [19] Budget deficit up 9.0% in Jan-Feb
  • [20] Greek exports up 25.8 pct in Jan
  • [21] Industrial production down 5.2 pct in Jan
  • [22] Greek bond prices drop in Feb.
  • [23] Transport turnover index down significantly in Q4
  • [24] Stocks end significantly up
  • [25] Greek bond market closing report
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday
  • [28] More antiquities revealed by Thessaloniki metro works
  • [29] Joint Greek-Hungarian research project focuses on Ottoman archive of Irakleio
  • [30] Corpse in suitcase found in trash bin at bus depot
  • [31] Population census on May 10-24
  • [32] Minister on latest pro football furor
  • [33] Fair on Saturday
  • [34] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Statements by PM following summit on situation in North Africa, Libya

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking after the conclusion of the European Union's extraordinary summit focusing on the situation in North Africa and Libya, said that the EU has shown a common stance and voice on the condemnation of the violence in Libya and of the country's regime and is taking decisions on reinforced sanction measures.

    The prime minister stressed in statements that the European leaders expressed their support for democratic changes in the wider region, as well as their will to stand by the peoples of the entire region and by their efforts for the implementation of visions for a democratic society, free and one of justice.

    According to Papandreou, the EU also stressed its readiness to support, with humanitarian aid, all the regions and in particular of the people of Libya as well as the refugees of other countries.

    As regards humanitarian aid in particular, the prime minister referred to Greece, which is playing a very important role with its efforts such as the transfer of 15,000 Chinese as well as many other foreign citizens from Libya.

    Referring to Friday's transfer of three Dutch citizens from Libya to Greece and then to Holland, Papandreou said that his Dutch counterpart conveyed to him with special emotion the thanks of all the Dutch people to the Greek government and the Greek people for this successful operation.

    Focusing on the decision by the "27" for there to be an overall plan by June on the handling of immigration and refugee waves, Papandreou stressed Greece's particular situation that receives 90 percent of illegal immigrants, who head for Europe from Greece, pointing out the assurances set out for specific policies.

    Lastly, the prime minister stressed the need for the countries on the front of these developments to be supported, noting that Greece constitutes a country of stability for Europe.

    Regarding the discussion that would follow between the European leaders on the crisis in the eurozone, Papandreou underlined that what is necessary with these decisions "is for us to stabilise the entire eurozone, and Greece together, and we shall wage this struggle now."

    [02] PM: Strong EU decisions needed on economy, Northern Africa

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Greece is at the center of the decisions that will be taken later in the day on the economic crisis in the eurozone and the situation in Northern Africa, Greek prime minister George Papandreou said on Friday in Brussels before going into an emergency EU summit on the situation in Libya.

    He added that Greece is doing everything possible on both fronts.

    "Regarding the economic crisis, Greece is on the right track with its programs, having taken painful measures, so as to render the economy viable," Papandreou said, stressing that "we now need strong European decisions to calm the markets".

    On the situation in Northern Africa, Papandreou said that Greece has been active in the humanitarian efforts for the evacuation of thousands of people from Libya, noting that "even today (Friday) we had a successful collaboration with The Netherlands for the evacuation of three Dutch citizens", referring to three Dutch marines who were released by the Libyan regime after nearly two weeks of captivity following the landing of a helicopter near Sirte without Libyan authorisation to evacuate Dutch citizens.

    The premier said that Greece will continue its efforts, but stressed that it is very important that the EU takes strong, historic, decisions both on the front of the economy and on the Northern Africa front, particularly regarding Libya.

    [03] Samaras: Three-tier strategy for exit from crisis

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras outlined his party's proposals for exiting the crisis and severely criticised the PASOK government of 'sinking the country into a vicious circle of recession' without a way out, and for opting for the Memorandum, during an address to the Society of Senior Business Executives on Thursday evening.

    Outlining ND's plan for "exiting the crisis through recovery and growth", Samaras said that first of all recession needs to be tackled with measures of zero or minimal fiscal cost.

    Second, measures are needed to ensure liquidity, with the priority on the state's payment of the money it owes to enterprises.

    Third, Samaras continued, a major tax reform is necessary, while the fourth step needed is gradual reduction of social security contributions, given that the non-salary employment cost in Greece is the main obstacle to competitiveness.

    The fifth step is to dare to go ahead with all the real structural changes that will disencumber the Greek economy and eliminate bureaucracy, while the sixth step is to boost entrepreneurship instead of punishing it.

    The seventh and final step is to introduce branch developmental programs, Samaras added.

    The ND leader said the above steps were indicative and outlined a three-tier strategy comprising a simultaneous tackling of the deficit and recession in order to truly and speedily reduce the deficit itself and to halt the devastating impetus of the deficits-debt that is out of control today.

    He said ND was not calling for a halt to the battle to contain the deficit, but that this should be attempted in a 'targeted' manner, not through "vertical" cutbacks and "horizontal" tax raids.

    [04] FM on BBC: Violence in Libya must cease immediately

    Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas said that Athens had given a "clear" message to Libyan emissary Mohamed Tahir Siala on Thursday in Athens that the violence in Libya must cease immediately, while he also stressed the need for the EU and the international community to take measures against the Gaddafi regime, during a BBC radio interview on Friday.

    Droutsas further called for dialogue with the rebel forces in Libya, but warned that recognition was "premature" at this stage.

    On Sialas' visit to Athens, Droutsas said it took place after agreement with EU High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy Baroness Catherine Ashton for the purpose of finding out the Gaddafi regime's intentions and to send a very clear message that the violence must cease immediately and that Libya must comply with the recent UN Security Council resolution.

    Droutsas said that Sialas reiterated Gaddafi's formal statements, noting that the emissary visited other countries in the Mediterranean as well for similar talks.

    He noted that there are indications that the Libyan regime has shown "a willingness" to talk with the rebels, "but we, as the EU and the international community, must take all the necessary measures so that everyone will understand, and the Gaddafi regime will realise, that the violence must stop immediately".

    "We have to be realists," he said, adding that at this time specific measures are necessary so that Gaddafi and his regime will realise that they must step down from authority.

    Droutsas expressed reservations, however, on recognition of the rebel forces holding Benghazi, warning that it was a bit early for such a step and elaborating that "we must first see who they are".

    "We should have contact with them, directly as the EU, and hold a dialogue with them, we need to get to know them better and then take the necessary steps," the Greek foreign minister said.

    He added that one of the issues that will be discussed at an emergency EU summit in Brussels is that of direct talks with the rebels in order to see precisely how the situation stands.

    [05] Greece aids release of Dutch marines held in Libya

    Three Dutch marines released by the Libyan regime after nearly two weeks captivity landed at Athens International Airport in a Greek Air Force C-130 plane at dawn on Friday. Their release was arranged with the assistance of Greece's Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis, acting on the orders of Prime Minister George Papandreou.

    Also on board the C-130 were Dollis himself and another 12 Greeks evacuated from violence-torn Libya.

    The three Dutch marines -- two men and a woman -- were arrested by the Libyan regime after landing a helicopter, without permission, near the port of Sirte in order to evacuate two Dutch citizens from Libya.

    The Greek government said on Thursday night that it had dispatched the C-130 to Libya to pick up the freed marines after agreement achieved during a meeting earlier in the day between Dollis and Muammar Gaddafi's emissary Mohamed Tahir Siala.

    Shortly after the marines' arrival in Athens, Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal telephoned his Greek counterpart Dimitris Droutsas to thank him for Greece's intercession in the case of the three Dutch marines and their safe evacuation to Athens with a Greek Airforce plane.

    "We managed to successfully negotiate the release of the three Dutch marines and we had the opportunity to bring another 12 people, Greeks and Libyan relatives, in an operation involving one C-130. Our country has once again succeeded in doing that which may others were unable to do," Dollis stressed in a televised interview on Friday morning.

    Dollis explained that the negotiations to free the three Dutch nationals had begun on Thursday morning and taken place on three levels simultaneously: with Prime Minister George Papandreou from Brussels, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas at the EU ministers' council and finally with Dollis himself, via his direct negotiations with Libyan officials.

    The deputy minister underlined the difficulties involved, saying that it was not simple to arrange the release of three individuals that had been held for so long and bring them safely back to Europe via Greece.

    Greece's aid was enlisted following high-level communication between the Hague and Athens, after which Papandreou instructed Dollis to investigate the possibility of the Dutch marines' release during the meeting with Siala.

    [06] Foreign minister sends message of support to Japanese counterpart

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Friday sent a message to his Japanese counterpart Takeaki Matsumoto, expressing the Greek people's sympathy and support for the Japanese following the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan earlier the same day.

    A foreign ministry announcement said that the Greek Embassy in Tokyo was currently trying to collect information about the fate of Greek citizens living in Japan, while there were no reports that Greeks were among the victims.

    Noting the damage to Japan's telecommunications networks and the large volume of traffic they were now having to cope with, the Greek foreign ministry advised those seeking information about friends and loved ones in Japan to contact the ministry's central service at the phone numbers: +30210 368 1730; +30210 368 1259.

    [07] Greek rescuers on stand-by after Japanese quake, tsunami

    The Hellenic Rescue Team is poised to send a team to Japan or any other country hit by the tsunami that ensued after a powerful undersea earthquake that hit the region early Friday, HRT members told ANA-MPA.

    The HRT, via the UN's international network of rescue teams, of which it is a member, is being kept up to date on the situation through the official international communication channels and has mobilised its rescue and medical units, which are on stand-by to leave immediately if assistance is requested.

    HRT member Alexandros Liamos said that team members and equipment are fully prepared, adding that the HRT was at this time collecting information and on stand-by because there was no clear picture yet of the precise conditions prevailing and the areas affected.

    [08] Foreign Ministry spokesman on 'casus belli' by Turkey

    Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras, referring to recent statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the existing "casus belli" by Turkey against Greece in the event the latter exercises the legal right of extending its territorial waters, said the Greek government remains steadfastly adherred to the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations, but a precondition for this and an obligation of Turkey is the lifting of the "casus belli."

    The Turkish National Assembly's resolution that contains the known "casus belli", "lies outside the limits of international legality and the Charter of the United Nations and is continuing to poison our bilateral relations and mortgages the European prospect of Turkey," the spokesman added.

    On the decision by the Greek Parliament that gives the government the right to exercise the right of extending territorial waters, he stressed that "it conserns the exercising of a legal right, in accordance with the international law of the sea, both the conventional and the customary," adding that "the correlation that is being attempted by the Foreign minister of Turkey is at least ill-timed."

    Lastly, Delavekouras stressed that "the problems will not be solved with moves of communication impressing, but with a hard effort, responsibility, sincerity, political will and investing in a common future of peace."

    In a related development, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party foreign affairs political responsibility spokesman Panios Panayiotopoulos said "the Foreign Ministry was very late and did not ultimately find the suitable words to condemn with the necessary strictness the unacceptable statements by Mr. Davutoglu on the 12 miles and the 'casus belli' between Greece and Turkey," adding that "the 'deafening silence' with which the government of PASOK is watching the overall activity of the Turkish Foreign Minister in our country and all the provocative things he said, creates a major political issue, to which the political leadership of the Foreign Ministry must give a reply, turning up at the relevant Parliamentary Committee as soon as possible, as ND has already requested."

    [09] Alt. DM cites 'revisionist' policy by Turkey vis-a-vis Aegean status

    Alternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis reiterated on Friday, speaking in Larissa, that neighbouring Turkey's "revisionist" position vis-?-vis the status of the Aegean is well known.

    "However, this (position) is far removed from respect of International Law and international treaties, which our country insists on in order to protect our sovereign rights," he said.

    Speaking days after a high-profile and well-received visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to Greece, Beglitis nevertheless added:

    "Geography, international treaties and International Law form the conditions in the eastern Mediterranean region, and Greece defended, defends and will defend its rights, always on the basis of international law.

    Moreover, he said these rights, as emanating from International Law, obviously include the isle of Kastellorizo.

    [10] Biodiversity bill 'a great step forward', minister insists

    Despite significantly watered down restrictions concerning building in Natura zones, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili on Friday described the bill on protecting biodiversity that was finally passed by Parliament as a "great step forward in protecting these areas".

    In statements to the local radio station Real FM, the minister admitted to having "mixed feelings" about the reactions to her original bill, which finally forced her to make major concessions in order to get it through Parliament. The original version of the draft bill would have banned all building in Natura zones on plots of land less than one hectare, a restriction that was rejected by the majority of ruling party MPs as overly strict. After a series of compromise proposals, the law finally passed essentially retains the 0.4-hectare building limit for all land parcels currently in existence.

    Nevertheless, the minister was confident when speaking in Parliament that the new law will help address issues of unlawful development and environmental degradation throughout Greece, noting that 60 percent of complaints concern areas within Natura networks.

    According to figures submitted to Parliament, 50 percent of cases are related to intervention in wetlands due to housing development, 18 percent are reports of threatened bird life and 18 percent degradation of ecosystems.

    She said the bill outlined a legal framework that could effectively protect biodiversity and also brought the legislation up to date, harmonising this with European legislation and incorporating laws for the protection of forests from the Forest Code, as well as regulating all types of activity in Natura areas.

    "The new legal framework will be Greece's tool for the protection of its fauna, flora and its habitats, combined always with the sustainable development of local communities," she stressed, noting that it would add as a foundation for "building an innovative and transparency policy for managing and protecting biodiversity".

    In an interview with 'Real FM', meanwhile, she also referred to plans for the old Athens airport site at Elliniko and stressed that this was currently the largest single plot of land in Europe.

    "We have to make use of this for our national economy, not as a one-off source of income," she said, noting that the site should have uses that would attract people and make it viable in the long term.

    [11] Proposed LAOS bill seeks to restrict rights of protest

    The right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party on Friday tabled a draft bill in Parliament that seeks to restrict peoples' rights to freely gather and demonstrate or hold marches, ostensibly in order to prevent these rights from being abused.

    According to LAOS, these rights were currently being exercised abusively and in ways that were in violation of other provisions of the Constitution, which called for the protection of professional freedom and the free participation of citizens in the economic and social life of the country, as well as the right to move freely and without restrictions throughout the country or the right to employment.

    [12] Egyptian army stops brawl among Egyptians on Greek ship

    A brawl that broke out among Egyptian nationals being taken from Libya to Alexandria on board the Greek ship "Eleftherios Venizelos" ended with the intervention of the Egyptian Army on Friday, which came aboard and arrested those responsible.

    Diplomatic sources said the incident occurred while the ship was carrying 2,130 Egyptian nationals in Libya back to their own country. Apparently sparked off by some minor incident, the violence soon spread aboard the vessel while there were also reports of gunfire. So far, there has been no information on whether anyone was killed or injured.

    The ship had been chartered to transport the Egyptians by the International Migration Organisation.

    [13] Greek court rules works for British embassy security illegal

    Greece's Council of State, the country's supreme administrative court, on Friday ruled that works carried out on the street outside the British Embassy in Athens to improve security were illegal, since permission was given by an authority not competent to provide it.

    The embassy paid to install barriers and also reduced the width of Plutarchou Street to roughly half, leaving only one lane outside the embassy, obtaining permission to do this from the central Athens municipality.

    According to the court, permission for the works should properly have been obtained from the ministries of Environment, Town Planning and Public Works, Transport and Communications and Public Order. It therefore ruled that the decision made by the Athens municipal council be revoked as invalid since it was given by an authority not competent to provide it.

    The case against the decision had been filed by a lawyer, formerly a justice ministry general secretary, with an office on Plutarchou Street, an archmandrite representing the Agios Nikolaos Church next to the Embassy and the company "Athens Car Parking".

    Financial News

    [14] Moody's: Greek Structured Finance Ratings Expected to Drop Below A3

    Moody's on Friday released an updated analysis of Greek structured finance transactions, noting that it does not expect such transactions to retain or achieve ratings of A3 (sf) or higher.

    The statement follows its downgrades of Greece's government bond ratings by three notches to B1 on Monday and of six Greek banks on Wednesday to ratings of Ba3 or lower.

    Moody's placed or maintained all existing structured finance ratings in Greece on review for a downgrade in December 2010.

    Regardless of the structural features or the amount of credit enhancement in place, structured finance transactions are not immune to the risk of certain high severity events. These events include a severe macro-economic decline and a deterioration in a sovereign or local banks' creditworthiness. Severe macro-economic decline disrupts asset performance. The deterioration of the banking system leads to operational risk from the potential disruption of the performance of key transaction parties, such as banks that act as servicers, according to a Moody's announcement.

    [15] T-bill auction next week

    Greece will auction a scheduled three-month Treasury bills issue on Tuesday, 15 March.

    The auction is for a regularly scheduled T-bill issue, the head of Greece's Public Debt Management Organisation Petros Christodoulou said in a statement to Reuters news agency, given that liquidity was adequate at this time, and therefore "there is no need to proceed with an issue of interest-bearing treasury bills next week".

    Christodoulou further said that Greece will return to the markets in April with the next issue of Treasury bills.

    [16] Culture, Tourism minister visiting Russia

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)

    Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, addressing a press conference in Moscow on Friday, said that the number of Russian tourists visiting Greece last year amounted to half a million and the government is looking forward to their increase as a result of the widening of facilities in the issuing of visas and the further systematic promotion of the country in the Russian market.

    "As it is known, we had an increase in 2010 of 55 percent in the issuing of visas from Russia, while the number of arrivals at airports increased from about 250,000 in 2009 to half a million in 2010," Geroulanos said.

    The minister added that "as regards Russian claims in the European Union concerning the visa, Russia has Greece as its ally" and that "the facilitating of the visits of Russian citizens to the EU must be a focal political direction."

    Moreover, he announced that in the coming months three more visa centres will operate in the Russian cities of Kazan, Samara and Krasnajarsk, while the possibility is also being examined for overcoming relevant bureaucracy so that some big Russian tour operators working systematically with Greece can function as visa centres.

    Replying to relevant questions by Russian and foreign reporters, Geroulanos said that Greek tourist enterprises have reduced their prices last year by 5 percent and their cost decreased by a further 4.5 percent this year following the decision by the Greek government to reduce VAT while the cost at Greek airports dropped further, a fact of interest for countries neighbouring the EU in particular, such as Russia and Israel.

    [17] GNTO to close nine offices abroad

    The Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) has begun an ambitious restructuring plan of its operations abroad, which envisages the closing of nine offices in international markets in a move aimed at saving funds to finance new promotion actions of Greek tourism.

    Under the plan, the restructuring will burden the state budget with 1.6 million euros to pay for compensation of personnel and relocation expenses. GNTO will close its offices in Toronto, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Zurich, Rome, Shanghai, Copenhagen and Helsinki.

    Culture and Tourism Deputy Minister George Nikitiadis has said it is the first time that an integrated promotion strategy for Greek tourism was followed by Greek National Tourism Organization's offices abroad. Nikitiadis hopes that GNTO's offices, under their new organizing structure, will contribute in reversing a climate towards Greece.

    [18] New procurement system will plug health sector debts, minister predicts

    The new system for purchasing medical supplies and pharmaceuticals will help save some 400 million euros a year and thus 'plug' the yawning hole in the state health sector's finances, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos told Parliament on Friday.

    He was replying to a question by PASOK MP who claimed that the Greek health system was a "world champion" in terms of corruption, with an overall deficit exceeding 4.8 billion euro.

    The minister disagreed that high procurement costs and corruption were at the root of the problem, stressing that corruption thrived and was protected "where there is mismanagement". According to the Loverdos, the problem arose because annual costs were not paid promptly but only after five to six years, so that over-pricing appeared "reasonable".

    [19] Budget deficit up 9.0% in Jan-Feb

    The Greek government on Friday reported a budget deficit of 1.028 billion euros in the January-February period this year, up 9.0 pct compared with a deficit of 944 million euros recorded in the corresponding period last year. This year's budget envisages a 3.9-pct decline in the budget deficit.

    A finance ministry report said net revenues totaled 7.943 billion euros in the first two months of 2011, down 9.2 pct from the same period last year, in contrast with a budget provision for an annual growth rate of 8.5 pct.

    The ministry attributed the decline in budget revenues to "technical reasons". The ministry had offered an extension in paying for car registration duties last year, while an extra tax charge on profitable enterprises raised 99 million euros less than in 2010, while lower revenues from withholding income tax in the January-February period were also reported.

    Budget spending was up 3.3 pct in the first two months of the year, down from a budget provision for an annual growth rate of 6.6 pct.

    The Public Investments Programme recorded a 356.4-pct jump in revenues and a 67.9-pct decline in spending. The finance ministry, in an announcement, said the figures covered only budget execution figures and not fiscal data for the general government's deficit, criterion for evaluating progress of an Economic Policy Programme in Greece.

    [20] Greek exports up 25.8 pct in Jan

    Greece's merchandise trade improved further in January, with exports rising more and imports falling as demand continued to be hit by a deep economic recession in the country.

    The value of export-deliveries - excluding oil -- totaled 1.141 billion euros in January, from 907 million euros in the same month last year, for an increase of 25.8 pct, Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Friday. The statistics service, in a monthly report, said that the value of export-deliveries - including oil - totaled 1.389 billion euros, from 992.9 million euros last year, for an increase of 39.9 pct.

    On other hand, the value of import-arrivals - excluding oil - totaled 2.627 billion euros, down 13.9 pct from January 2010, while including oil the value of imports fell to 3.677 billion euros, from 3.875 billion euros in the same month in 2010.

    [21] Industrial production down 5.2 pct in Jan

    Industrial production fell 5.2 pct in January, reflecting a 4.5 pct decline in manufacturing production, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Friday. The statistics service, in a report, said the industrial production composite index fell 5.2 pct in the first month of 2011, compared with the same month last year, after recording a 3.9 pct decline in January 2010. The statistics service attributed this development to a 0.1 pct rise in mining production, a 4.5 pct decline in manufacturing production (32.7 pct drop in leather-footwear, 14.3 pct decline in oil products, 19.9 pct fall in textiles, 11.1 pct decline in clothing and 10.1 pct fall in furniture). The electricity production index fell 8.2 pct and the water production index eased 4.8 pct.

    [22] Greek bond prices drop in Feb.

    Greek state bond prices drop in February, while yields rose markedly in the same month, the Bank of Greece announced on Friday.

    In a monthly report, the central bank said turnover in the domestic electronic secondary bond market rose to 847 million euros in February, from 707 million in January, while bond prices fell across Europe, but mostly in Portugal and Greece.

    The three-year benchmark bond price fell to 82.56 basis points in February, with the yield rising to 14.27 pct, while the five-year bond yielded 14.02 pct. The 10-year benchmark bond price fell to 69.52 pct with the yield rising to 11.79 pct. The 30-year bond yield rose to 8.84 pct last month. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 862 basis points in February, from 837 bps in January.

    [23] Transport turnover index down significantly in Q4

    The turnover index in the transport sector plunged in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared with the same period in the previous year, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Friday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said the sea transport turnover index fell 7.8 pct in the October-December period, after an 18.7 pct drop in the same period in 2009, the air transport index eased 3.7 pct after a 21.2 pct drop over the same periods, respectively and the logistics turnover index fell 14.5 pct in the fourth quarter of 2010 after a decline of 7.5 pct in the corresponding period in 2009. The travel and tourism turnover index plunged 40.8 pct in the October-December period, after a 16.2 pct drop in the same period last year.

    The land and pipeline turnover index fell 32.3 pct in 2010 after a decline of 2.1 pct in the fourth quarter of 2009.

    [24] Stocks end significantly up

    Stocks ended significantly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday as the market eyed positive developments for Greece in an EU Summit in Brussels, ignoring a negative trend in international markets.

    Buying activity focused on bank shares.

    The composite index of the market rose 2.33 pct to end at 1,580.90 points, with turnover rising to 109.177 million euros. The Big Cap index jumped 2.71 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 1.68 pct and the Small Cap index ended 3.12 pct higher. The Media (7.5 pct), Financial Services (5.45 pct) and Banks (3.58 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day. ATEbank (5.41 pct), MIG (5.26 pct), Hellenic Postbank (4.60 pct), Alpha Bank (4.24 pct) and National Bank (3.82 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while only Jumbo (0.17 pct) ended lower.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 118 to 44 with another 55 issues unchanged. Lambrakis Press (14.89 pct), Mevaco (10 pct), Sanyo Hellas (10 pct) and Envitec (9.52 pct) were top gainers, while Atlantic (20 pct), Allatini Ceramics (13.95 pct), Vivere (13.33 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farms (11.11 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.61%

    Industrials: +1.96%

    Commercial: +1.66%

    Construction: +0.68%

    Media: +7.50%

    Oil & Gas: +1.82%

    Personal & Household: +0.10%

    Raw Materials: +3.21%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.11%

    Technology: +3.68%

    Telecoms: +2.37%

    Banks: +3.58%

    Food & Beverages: +1.93%

    Health: +1.45%

    Utilities: +2.26%

    Chemicals: +2.52%

    Financial Services: +5.45%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.92

    ATEbank: 0.78

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.89

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.09

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.38

    National Bank of Greece: 6.52

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.68

    OPAP: 15.64

    OTE: 7.78

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.46

    Titan: 17.54

    [25] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 953 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Friday, from 940 bps on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.73% and the German Bund 3.20 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 77 million euros, of which 58 million were sell orders and the remaining 19 million euros were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 13 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 small premium (0.11 pct) in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover rising slightly to 67.145 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 14,572 contracts worth 52.952 million euros, with 32,815 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 35,318 contracts worth 14.193 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (7,231), followed by Eurobank (1,389), MIG (2,149), OTE (2,250), PPC (970), GEK (556), National Bank (6,135), Alpha Bank (3,903), Marfin Popular Bank (4,116), Mytilineos (1,618), Cyprus Bank (1,873), Hellenic Postbank (1,000) and Metka (472).

    [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.388

    Pound sterling 0.868

    Danish kroner 7.517

    Swedish kroner 8.883

    Japanese yen 114.15

    Swiss franc 1.294

    Norwegian kroner 7.867

    Canadian dollar 1.359

    Australian dollar 1.387

    General News

    [28] More antiquities revealed by Thessaloniki metro works

    A 4th-century A.D. chapel that may be the oldest Christian church in Thessaloniki was discovered by archaeologists beneath an early Christian basilica, itself unearthed during construction of the Sintrivani metro station in the northern Greek city.

    Among the highlights of the find was the mosaic floor uncovered when structures of the later basilica were removed. This was showed a white field with a clematis theme, dominated by a phoenix with a halo and 13 rays in the centre. On either side are a number of birds, of which seven still survive, two of the right and five on the left.

    Archaeologist surmise that there were originally 12 birds, six on either side of the phoenix, and that the picture allegorically represents Christ and the 12 apostles. The mosaic is unique in Thessaloniki and is dated sometime toward the end of the 4th and start of the 5th centuries A.D.

    The small, one-room church was converted into a larger basilica in the 5th century, paved in marble, its naves separated by collonades and its walls decorated with marble panels and murals. In the 7th century the church suffered extensive damage and was poorly renovated, while it was finally abandoned in the 8th to 9th century.

    According to archaeologist Melina Paisidou, who announced the find at the 24th Meeting for Archaeological Work in Macedonia and Thrace, the church's position and very early age, as well as its duration and renovations, place it among the most important Early Christian churches of the city and its foundation may well be linked with one of the city's martyrs. She said that a site north of the school of theology was being considered in order to transfer the monument.

    Other finds unearthed during construction of the metro include a richly carved Roman-era marble sarcophagus and the base of what was probably a storage area.

    [29] Joint Greek-Hungarian research project focuses on Ottoman archive of Irakleio

    An event organised by the Hungarian embassy in Greece and the Athens-based Panteion university this week presented the latest findings of a joint research programme into the Ottoman archive housed at the Vikelaia municipal library in Irakleio, Crete.

    Hungarian Ambassador J?zsef T?th greeted participants at Panteion's main auditorium and emphasised that the current Hungarian EU Presidency strives for closer cooperation amongst the peoples of south-eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.

    According to the envoy, a priority of the Hungarian EU Presidency is to maintain the impetus of the EU enlargement process and to increase interactions and partnership with Turkey.

    A member of Parliament from Irakleio and the Deputy Mayor of the port city, as well as high ranking diplomats of the Greek foreign ministry were also present.

    Prof. Elizabeth Zachariadou and Prof. Gy?rgy Hazai, the two leading researchers in the project from Greece and from Hungary, respectively, briefed the audience over the specifics of the project and praised their good cooperation over the past years.

    [30] Corpse in suitcase found in trash bin at bus depot

    The corpse of a man was discovered on Friday morning inside a suitcase thrown into a trash bin at the Larissis station bus depot in Athens.

    The discovery was made by a ragpicker who was searching through the garbage and found the suitcase with the corpse inside.

    The ragpicker alerted police, who are conducting an on-the-spot investigation, while a coroner has also been called in.

    [31] Population census on May 10-24

    A 2011 population census will be conducted in Greece on 10-24 May, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) announced on Thursday. ELSTAT said that further details about how the census will be conducted will be released in the next few weeks.


    [32] Minister on latest pro football furor

    Greek Culture & Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos on Friday commented on the latest furor plaguing the professional football league (Super League) in the country, promising to take measures in collaboration with the Hellenic Football Association (EPO), which oversees the sport in the country.

    Geroulanos, whose portfolio includes pro sports leagues and the lucrative football and lottery pools organisation (OPAP), spoke from Moscow days after one high-profile attorney and team owner accused another of manipulating the process to select referees for certain games.

    The minister directly mentioned that one of the means at the disposal of the ministry is state-controlled funding towards specific clubs and football federations, "in accordance with the decision to be taken by EPO," he said.

    Weather Forecast

    [33] Fair on Saturday

    Fair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 2-4 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 18C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 2-3 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 17C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 15C.

    [34] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The economy and other economic issues, and Friday's informal eurogroup summit in Brussels were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Friday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "More than 20 percent of shops central commercial streets in Attica, have gone out of business".

    AVGHI: "Left-wing proposal for the debt and the crisis".

    AVRIANI: "Merkel sending us to Auschwitz".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Papandreou's murky bargaining with Gaddafi".

    ELEFTHEROS: "The biggest arguing in the government in the most critical hours".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Domino of resignations in Papaconstantinou's (finance minister) staff".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Merkel: We'll help if you sell (state assets)".

    ESTIA: "The truth is being concealed".

    ETHNOS: "New settlement for 300,000 debtors to social security funds".

    IMERISSIA: "Two 'yes', one 'no', from Merkel - Intense behind the scenes just before the EU and eurogroup summit".

    KATHIMERINI: "Merkel demands guarantees".

    LOGOS: "1 in 3 shops on Stadiou street (in downtown Athens' commercial district) have closed".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Merkel opens the door to the Greek 'package'".

    NIKI: "Agreement 'locked in' for solution with Greek colors".

    PARASKEVI+13 (weekly): "We've given all we had".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Abolition of the only state child-surgery center in Greece".

    TA NEA: "Arrangement-breather for debts to social security funds".

    VRADYNI: "Freeze on auctions and seizures (of assets) to end of 2012 for debts to social security funds".

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