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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-03-22

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

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

Tuesday, 22 March 2011 Issue No: 3748

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM visits Syros, stresses necessity of reforms
  • [02] FM Droutsas on Greek, European positions on Libyan crisis
  • [03] Greece has 'balanced' position on Libya
  • [04] Gov't on Athens position vis-a-vis Libya conflict
  • [05] DM on Libyan situation: No danger of 'retaliation'
  • [06] ND party agrees with Greece's participation in Libya
  • [07] KKE critical of Libya situation
  • [08] SYRIZA, leftist groups hold rally in Thessaloniki against war in Libya
  • [09] ND leader Samaras to attend EPP Summit in Brussels
  • [10] Environment minister calls for nuclear plant stress tests
  • [11] Public hearing of Greece vs FYROM case begins at ICJ
  • [12] Sub kickbacks probe summons 37 individuals
  • [13] ND on armed forces personnel pay scale
  • [14] ELIAMEP event on developments in Mideast
  • [15] Daskalopoulos urges government to speed up reforms
  • [16] Greek current accounts deficit down 22.5% in Jan.
  • [17] Broadband access rising steadily in Greece
  • [18] Building materials' cost index up 4.2 pct in Feb
  • [19] Nikitiadis inaugurates 'Greek Week' in London
  • [20] Stocks end 1.28% higher
  • [21] Greek bond market closing report
  • [22] ADEX closing report
  • [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [24] Corinth Canal may need urgent work, experts warn
  • [25] World Poetry Day marked with tribute to Nobelist Elytis
  • [26] Illegal migrant arrests in NW Greece
  • [27] Primary school teachers strike on March 30
  • [28] Police find two warehouses of counterfeit goods in Athens
  • [29] Rainy on Tuesday
  • [30] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM visits Syros, stresses necessity of reforms

    Visiting the island of Syros on Monday, Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed that the government's reform programme was not being dictated by others but adopted because it was absolutely necessary for the country's future.

    "These major changes we are making, not with orders from above or outside, are fundamental for our survival," he said during an address at the Ermoupolis Arts Centre, at a meeting of bodies and organisations of the Southern Aegean islands.

    Papandreou visited Syros, the headquarters of the southern Aegean region, at the head of a government delegation.

    The prime minister underlined that the government's efforts aimed to transform the country from its present state of crisis and gloom and that he would fight for this goal at the March 24-25 summit where the decisions concerning Greece and a permanent European financial support mechanism would be ratified.

    According to Papandreou, the decisions were the culmination of a very difficult period, in which the self-denial of the Greek people had borne fruits. He stressed, however, that this was not the end of this effort by only a station along the way.

    Among others, the prime minister said that Greece's current problems were symptoms caused by many and complex causes and that the crisis had confirmed the need to make major changes.

    In a final address at the end of the meeting, he also noted that the painful measures taken by the government had arrested Greece's course toward defaulting on its debts, which would have been a great deal more catastrophic for the country and resulting in mass lay-offs, business closures and non-payment of salaries and pensions.

    "This was a very strong danger signal that if we can turn into an opportunity will be a historic course for the country to put an end to chronic problems," he said.

    Papandreou said the aim was to change the country's developmental model along the lines of the Scandinavian model, which combined competitiveness with quality of life, a high level of knowledge and technical expertise, flexibility and security.

    Referring to the problems faced by Syros and the Greek islands in general, the prime minister said they had to find ways to convert the 'weaknesses' and difficulties that beset islands into comparative advantages, promising the government's support in this effort.

    He pointed out that every islands had huge unexploited potential that could be cultivated, so that they could depend on their own strength rather than loans.

    The prime minister's visit to the island was not without incident, however. Groups of students in highschool and tertiary education turned up to protest against the government's policy while the meeting with Syros local government officials was taking place and there were clashes with police, who used tear gas to drive them off.

    Papandreou had begun his visit to the island by visiting the shipyard at Neorio and then visited the islands Chamber of Industry and Commerce, where he took part in a teleconference with the chambers of the other Cyclades islands.

    [02] FM Droutsas on Greek, European positions on Libyan crisis

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas reiterated here on Monday, following the conclusion of the EU's General Affairs Council whose main topic of discussion were developments in Libya, that "Greece is not participating in the military operations, but is providing facilities of a supportive nature to friendly or allied countries."

    According to Droutsas, the EU, with the decisions it took today, "is assuming a leading role in the humanitarian sector, in the framework of the resolution of the Security Council and in coordination with the UN's relevant bodies."

    What is of particular importance for Greece is the fact that the EU reiterated on Monday its solidarity to the member-states that are receiving large immigrational pressures. "It is a joint effort that will put to the test both our unity and our readiness," the foreign minister said, stressing the importance of the participation of Arab countries.

    The foreign minister further pointed to the "direct interests" that Greece has in the region, saying that from the developments "the security and the stability of our neighbourhood is being affected." He added that Greece's policy is dictated by self-evident principles of international and humanitarian law and that in the effort for the finding of a political-diplomatic solution to the crisis, Greece is at the disposal of the international community.

    Droutsas said that "it is disappointing that the Gaddafi regime replied to the demands of the Libyan people for change and democracy with weapons and force," stressing that the UN Security Council has adopted the resolution 1973 and that the international community demands an immediate ceasefire in Libya and the protection of civilians.

    Also referring to the meeting taking place on Libya at NATO level, Droutsas said that at the moment involvement is being discussed on the supervision of the weapons embargo, the imposition of a flight exclusion zone and humanitarian operations.

    The minister left for Berlin on Monday afternoon to address the German Parliament on economic developments. On the occasion of his visit to the German capital, Droutsas will meet his counterpart German minister Guido Westerwelle with developments in Libya being the main topic of the discussions.

    [03] Greece has 'balanced' position on Libya

    Greece is not taking part in operations of a military nature in Libya, but is providing facilitations of a support nature in line with the country's obligations deriving from the relevant UN Security Council resolution, Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas explained on Monday during an interview on a private television station, stressing that the country is holding a "balanced" position.

    The position was echoed by defence minister Evangelos Venizelos in a newspaper interview appearing on Monday.

    "Greece is not taking part in operations of a military nature, like the ones being carried out right now, and these are certainly not being carried out within the NATO framework, but we have said that our obligations deriving from the UN Security Council resolution and our contractual obligations are to meet the requests of our friends and allies for provision of facilitations of a support nature," Droutsas said.

    "There are UN Security Council resolutions. The aim of these resolutions is for there to be an end to the violence in Libya, for the violence aimed at the Libyan people themselves to be stopped," he added.

    The foreign minister further stressed that "there is of course the potential for parallel consultations via diplomatic channels".

    "We are leaving the channels of communication open, and we, as Greece have taken care to have our own channels, because we are a country in the immediate neighbourhood; we are a country with traditional relations of trust with the Arab world," he elaborated, adding that the Greek government "had a very clear line from the outset, in full coordination with the competent Ministries and Ministers, and this clear Greek position was expressed from the very outset both publicly and to our partners and allies."

    Replying to questions, Droutsas said that everyone following the developments could not but be worried, adding that the international community had no other choice than to send a decisive message to Muammar Gaddafi so that violence would cease in the region.

    He reiterated that the Greek government was examining the country's interests and acting with absolute respect to international law and the UN Security Council resolutions, stressing also that Greece is interested in "the following day" and is at the disposal of the international community to play an intermediary role if needed and it is asked to do so.

    Droutsas further said that the international community needs to ponder how it will deal with similar issues in the future.

    In an interview appearing in Monday's edition of TA NEA newspaper, defence minister Evangelos Venizelos also stressed that Greece was providing support facilitations to friend and ally countries, and was not taking part in the military operations "which are being conducted outside the framework of NATO".

    Venizelos said that Greece has stated to NATO, in the context of its own planning, the availability of the military base in Souda and auxiliary military airports in Aktion and Andravida and a frigate that is currently anchored between Crete and Libya and an airborne radar, as well as a search and rescue helicopter, in accordance with the country's international responsibilities.

    "Consequently, Greece is not participating, nor plans to participate, with Greek military aircraft" in the Libya operation, Venizelos stressed.

    [04] Gov't on Athens position vis-a-vis Libya conflict

    Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Monday reiterated that "we are not part of any alliance against Libya. We have specific positions, viewpoints and proposals, while our involvement has specific limits and axes considering that Greece adheres to UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and observes its contractual obligations toward the international organizations in which it is represented. Greece's participation is clearly supportive in nature."

    Petalotis stressed that "as regards the likelihood of reprisals we are not afraid of them, we are totally covered," citing a relevant response by Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

    Petalotis underlined that the government has proved that it possesses specific reflexes and an ideological axis as regards the peoples' self-determination" and cited a statement made by the Socialist International (SI) presiding board last Saturday in Athens.

    "In the Paris summit on Saturday, the prime minister tabled a proposal suggesting that all diplomatic methods by applied, including missions undertaken by state leaders, to ease the situation before the commencement of war operations. However, it was established that the Libyan regime lacks credibility ... the diplomatic route option should be kept open even now as stated by the prime minister".

    [05] DM on Libyan situation: No danger of 'retaliation'

    Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos was quoted in Athens on Monday as maintaining that "room for diplomatic initiatives" in Libya still exists, while he dismissed any noting that Greece may become a target for "retaliation".

    Venizelos was quoted in an interview published in the Athens daily "Ta Nea".

    Moreover, he echoed the government position of keeping Greece out of military operations against the Libyan government forces, while at the same time strictly respecting the country's commitments to the NATO alliance, should support be requested. In case of NATO involvement he cited Greece's commitment to provide infrastructure, but not warplanes.

    "As we have repeatedly said, Greece does not participate in the present military operations that are taking place outside the framework of NATO. Of course, Greece receives requests by friendly and Allied countries to facilitate them through the use of Souda Bay, on Crete, or through Greek airfields, for example Araxos (southwestern Greece) where aircraft from Belgium happened to be at for training purposes. Greece provides such facilitations of a supportive nature because it is obligated to do so, according to International Law, following the Resolution 1973 by the UN Security Council," he clarified.

    Asked about preventative measures undertaken by Athens amid the now expanded military situation in the wider region, he downplayed any possibility of a substantive threat:

    "Obviously all the necessary precautions have been taken. Neither the air-defence systems, nor the other weapons systems or the aircraft that the Libyan regime possesses can harm any Greek territory and the island of Crete, more specifically. The distance is such, that full security is ensured; and our frigate that patrols the (sea) area is equipped with full self-defence systems," he said, while referring to a Hellenic Navy warship between Crete and North Africa.

    [06] ND party agrees with Greece's participation in Libya

    Greece's main opposition New Democracy (ND) party agrees with the participation, as well as the way that has been chosen for the country to participate in the intervention in Libya, said the party's relevant sector chief Panos Panayiotopoulos.

    Speaking to the Flash radio station on Monday, he said that "I believe that Greece is rightly participating, on the other hand it is rightly keeping the necessary distance. Greece chose correctly and we must keep this, to participate helping, giving infrastructures, helping at the level of supervising the exclusion of the airspace, but not participating for example in bombing operations. We must take into consideration that these develpments as a matter of fact strengthen the strategic role of Greece and of Cyprus in the region. It will be good if the government attempts to shape different conditions for the country's image abroad, conditions that will also help us at the level of handling the economic crisis."

    Panayiotopoulos mentioned as an example the issue of illegal immigration, saying that "I am expecting from Mr. (Prime Minister George) Papandreou to raise at EU summit councils the issue of the new wave of illegal immigrants, that it is certain will result from the unrests in North Africa."

    [07] KKE critical of Libya situation

    Communist Party (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga sharply criticised the Greek government over the ongoing allied military operations against the Gaddafi regime in Libya, stressing that the country (Greece) has, unfortunately, provided too much in unfair wars and attacks, "and naturally continues this activity because it has not broken from that policy".

    Speaking to a private radio station on Monday morning, Papariga added that Greece could have taken advantage of the differences of opinion within NATO's ranks to obstruct, as she said, the process.

    Papariga said the attacks on the government forces in Libya have nothing to do with humanitarianism or democracy. "It is the oil in the region, the pipelines ... and it is not only Libya's oil, it is the fact that Libya was going to play a role, possibly a leading one, in Africa ... Libya is possibly a bridgehead for greater penetration in Africa. This is not a humanitarian intervention," she charged.

    [08] SYRIZA, leftist groups hold rally in Thessaloniki against war in Libya

    The Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) and leftist groups held a rally in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Monday evening against the war taking place in Libya.

    The demonstrators gathered at the Venizelos statue and then, holding banners and shouting slogans, marched through streets and then returned to their starting place where they dispersed peacefully.

    The demonstrators expressed their solidarity for the people of Libya and their disagreement with the military intervention and Greece's involvement in it in any way. Informative material was distributed during the march and stops were made outside the consulates of France and the United States.

    [09] ND leader Samaras to attend EPP Summit in Brussels

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras departs for Brussels on Monday afternoon to participate in a European People's Party (EPP) summit on Thursday.

    On Monday evening, he is scheduled to meet with European Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski, while afterwards he will meet with German MEP and budget committee member Reimer Boge.

    The ND leader will also meet with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme, the president the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, European Commissioner for financial programming and the budget Janusz Lewandowski and a number of EPP officials.

    The EPP Summit will be attended by 15 state and government leaders as well as by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman van Rompuy and European Parliament President Buzek.

    The economic crisis in Europe, the Greek problem, as well as, developments in the Arab world and the impact on the Mediterranean Basin and Greece considering the likelihood of a migrant inflow will dominate in the EPP summit to take place ahead of the EU Summit on Friday.

    [10] Environment minister calls for nuclear plant stress tests

    Greece's Environment Minister Tina Birbili on Monday demanded that all existing and future nuclear power facilities undergo stress tests, while presenting Greece's positions to an emergency meeting of the EU environment ministers' council.

    She focused particularly on neighbouring Bulgaria and Turkey, saying that countries in close proximity to the EU and the G20, especially countries like Turkey that hoped to ultimately join the EU, should participate in any discussion on nuclear power if they operated or were planning nuclear facilities.

    The council was held in Brussels on Monday to discuss the repercussions of the nuclear disaster in Japan and the recent crisis in Libya.

    Presenting Greece's positions, Birbili said that the EU should seek to ensure that all neighbouring countries signed current conventions on the safe handling of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste, consult with EURATOM and their neighbours concerning plans to build nuclear facilities, in accordance with a 1994 Vienna Convention and ensure that planned projects were fully compatible with the EIA directive calling for environmental impact studies.

    [11] Public hearing of Greece vs FYROM case begins at ICJ

    The public hearing of a suit against Greece brought by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) began at the International Court of Justice at The Hague on Monday. FYROM filed its suit in November 2008, claiming that Greece violated the 1995 Interim Agreement when it objected to NATO extending a membership invitation to FYROM at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008.

    The public hearings will continue until March 30 and be conducted in two rounds, during which both sides will have an opportunity to present their positions and legal arguments in detail.

    Greece's representatives before the court will be Ambassador George Savvaidis and foreign ministry legal advisor Maria Telalian, while FYROM will be represented by its foreign minister Antonio Milososki and Ambassador Dimitrov.

    The Greek side has also put together a strong legal team, made up of Greek and foreign experts in international law.

    The public hearings will be broadcast live through the international court's website www.icj-cij.org.

    The court itself will have a panel of 15 judges elected by the United Nations General Assembly and two ad hoc judges, one appointed by Greece and the other by FYROM.

    Greece's ad hoc judge will be Athens University professor Emmanuel Roucounas, while FYROM has appointed Budislav Vukas.

    The court is not expected to issue its ruling for several months.

    [12] Sub kickbacks probe summons 37 individuals

    A first instance court prosecutor's office will summon a total of 37 individuals to testify in the case concerning possible kickbacks paid by German companies in the purchase of submarines by Greece, it was announced on Monday. The summons will be issued on felony charges of breach of faith, bribery and money laundering.

    The suspects were identified based on evidence available to the prosecutor's office and on findings provided by the financial crimes squad SDOE. They are mostly defence ministry civilian personnel as well as military officers, members of committees set up for the purchase of the submarines and private citizens. Apparently all 37 were involved in the affair since 1998 -- when it was decided that the submarines be purchased through directly assigned contracts signed with the German companies HDW and Ferrostaal and Skaramangas Shipyards - and until 2002, when the initial contracts were amended to ensure offset benefits. The prosecutor's office continues the investigation for the period after 2002, while the likelihood to forward the case file to Parliament to investigate possible liability of MPs remains open.

    Based on the available evidence, the Greek state suffered millions of euros in damages as a result of the fact that contracts regarding offset benefits were not executed. According to statements forwarded by German judicial authorities to the prosecutor's office, a total of 55 million euros were used in so-called "useful payments" in Greece.

    [13] ND on armed forces personnel pay scale

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Monday called on relevant government ministers to clarify what they intent to do on the issue of remuneration for armed forces personnel.

    Meanwhile, ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis rejected as "nonsense" press reports alleging that ND leader Antonis Samaras will set age criteria for the party candidates in the next general elections.

    [14] ELIAMEP event on developments in Mideast

    A panel discussion entitled "Developments in the Middle East - Greece's Position" will be hosted by Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) on Tuesday.

    The event will be held at the foreign ministry amphitheatre with the participation of academics Alexandros Koutsis, Sotiris Roussos, ELIAMEP general director Thanos Dokos and ELIAMEP researcher Evangelos Venetis.

    ANA-MPA Managing Director Nicholas Voulelis coordinate the discussion.

    Financial News

    [15] Daskalopoulos urges government to speed up reforms

    Dimitris Daskalopoulos, president of the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises -Greece's largest employers' union- on Monday urged the government to speed up reforms in the public sector, to open up markets and to make a more efficient management of the state's real estate property, saying the decisions taken in an EU Summit in March 11 offered the country more time.

    "This is a last chance to make a new start. If we continue stalling, Europe and the markets will turn their back to us," Daskalopoulos told during an event organized by the Federation to present a corporate governance code for listed enterprises.

    "There are no more limits for discounts. The crisis is not manageable with half jobs and the public does not want half talk anymore," he said, adding that complacency would be the fatal mistake at this point.

    The head of the employers' group said the country was currently at the most crucial cross-road of the crisis and the government needed to prove if it had the will and the ability to begin a fight with the hard core of the state. He said that the state might be bankrupt but the economy and the society continued to be fed by the state, while he stressed that unless the state was limited the country would continue to produce deficits and debts, with high inflation and unemployment, higher taxes with no economic growth.

    [16] Greek current accounts deficit down 22.5% in Jan.

    Greece's current accounts deficit fell to 2.8 billion euros in January, down 22.5 pct compared with the same month last year, reflecting a large surplus in the current accounts balance, despite a widening of the trade balance by 185 million euros because of higher oil prices, the Bank of Greece announced on Monday.

    The central bank, in a monthly report, said foreign investors continued fleeing the Greek state bond market in the first month of 2011, with capital outflows totaling 1.1 billion euros. Net capital outflow totaled 926 million euros, after a net capital inflow of 926 million euros in the same month last year.

    The trade deficit totaled 365 million euros in January, from 320 million euros in the same month last year, reflecting higher spending on fuel imports (up 598 million euros), while net payments for ship purchases fell by 36 million euros. Spending on imports fell by 10.9 pct in January, while export revenues grew 14.1 pct in the month.

    The services balance recorded a 44.4 million euros rise in surplus, reflecting lower net payments for other services (including travel services), while net revenues from transport services fell by 37 million euros. The incomes deficit grew by 8.0 million euros reflecting higher net payments on payrolls, while the current transfers balance recorded a surplus of 689 million euros in January, after a deficit in January 2010, and the capital transfers balance recorded a deficit of 12.5 million euros after a surplus of 32 million euros last year.

    Foreign direct investments recorded a net inflow of 45 million euros after an outflow of 37 million euros in 2010.

    [17] Broadband access rising steadily in Greece

    Broadband service access in Greece reached 19.9 pct of the population at the end of 2010, namely, 2,252,653 connections, the National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) announced on Monday.

    EETT, in a report, stressed that despite the fact that broadband access grew by 2.9 lines per 100 inhabitants (down from 3.58 in the previous year), Greece was the second most rapidly growing European state in mid-2010, with a growth rate double the European average. The country also improved its position in the European market, rising to the 22nd place, while it could gain another two positions by the end of the year if it continued with the same growth rates.

    The number of active subscribers of 3G services was almost unchanged from the previous quarter, totaling 2,786,540 for an access rate of 24.6 pct.

    [18] Building materials' cost index up 4.2 pct in Feb

    Building materials' cost index rose 4.2 pct in February, compared with the same month last year, after an increase of 1.8 pct recorded in February 2010, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said the building materials' cost index rose 3.4 pct on average in the 12-month period from February 2010 to February 2011, after a decline of 0.9 pct recorded in the previous 12-month period.

    [19] Nikitiadis inaugurates 'Greek Week' in London

    LONDON (ANA-MPA / L. Tsirigotakis)

    Deputy Culture & Tourism Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis on Monday inaugurated the "Greek Week" event at the Westfield commercial centre here.

    Westfield is considered one of the biggest commercial centres in the world, receiving around 750,000 visitors every day.

    [20] Stocks end 1.28% higher

    Stocks moved higher during the first trading session of the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, following a similar pattern in other international markets. The composite index rose 1.28 pct to end at 1,614.13 points, after rising as much as 2.36 pct during the day. Buying activity focused on OTE's shares which ended 5.78 pct higher amid speculation that the government was mulling the sale of an additional 10 pct of OTE's equity stake to Deutsche Telekom. Turnover soared to 219.693 million euros.

    The Big Cap index rose 1.12 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.54 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.33 pct. The Telecommunications (5.78 pct), Oil (2.99 pct) and Constructions (2.78 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains, while Travel (1.65 pct) and Financial Services (0.45 pct) suffered losses.

    Ellaktor (4.52 pct), Motor Oil (3.17 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (2.89 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while OPAP (1.88 pct) and MIG (1.18 pct) were major losers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 97 to 51 with another 59 issues unchanged. Elfico (17.86 pct), Alter (16.67 pct) and Attikat (16.67 pct) were top gainers, while Allatini Ceramics (14.29 pct), Druckfarben (9.62 pct) and Karamolegos (9.46 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.75%

    Industrials: +1.28%

    Commercial: +0.03%

    Construction: +2.78%

    Media: +0.29%

    Oil & Gas: +2.99%

    Personal & Household: +1.32%

    Raw Materials: +1.17%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.65%

    Technology: +2.78%

    Telecoms: +5.78%

    Banks: +0.81%

    Food & Beverages: +0.54%

    Health: +0.12%

    Utilities: +2.44%

    Chemicals: Unchanged

    Financial Services: -0.45%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were Crown Hellas Can, OTE, National Bank and OPAP.

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

    Alpha Bank: 5.33

    ATEbank: 0.80

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.25

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.10

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.47

    National Bank of Greece: 6.90

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.14

    OPAP: 15.70

    OTE: 8.24

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.56

    Titan: 16.65

    [21] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 902 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday, after falling below the 900 level during the day, with the Greek bond yielding 12.25 pct and the German Bund 3.23 pct.

    Turnover in the market was a slightly improved 82 million euros, of which 49 million were sell orders and the remaining 33 million euros were buy orders. The six-month Treasury bill 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 1.93 pct, the six-month rate 1.48 pct, the three-month 1.17 pct and the one-month rate 0.89 pct.

    [22] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.62 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover shrinking to 20.457 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,408 contracts worth 25.423 million euros, with 25,423 short positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,799 contracts worth 7.648 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (3,097), followed by Eurobank (479), PPC (454), Piraeus Bank (919), National Bank (3,014), Alpha Bank (1,897), Mytilineos (726), Cyprus Bank (705), ATEbank (427) and Hellenic Postbank (340).

    [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.430

    Pound sterling 0.878

    Danish kroner 7.516

    Swedish kroner 8.971

    Japanese yen 115.96

    Swiss franc 1.293

    Norwegian kroner 7.942

    Canadian dollar 1.397

    Australian dollar 1.422

    General News

    [24] Corinth Canal may need urgent work, experts warn

    The safety of the Corinth Canal was raised as an issue in Parliament on Monday, with experts warning that the stability of the sides of the canal must urgently be assessed and work carried out immediately to minimise the possibility of rockfalls and landslides.

    In a letter read out in Parliament in response to a question tabled by PASOK MP Angelos Manolakis, the chairman of the Corinth Canal Company AEDIK Athanasios Malerbas noted that the canal was now 120 years old and that the risk its safety would be compromised was "ever-present".

    The MP's question concerned the increasing frequency of landslides and rock falls in the canal in recent years, and whether the necessary maintenance work had been carried out.

    "No construction is safe over time," Malerbas said in his letter, pointing out that the stability parameters of the canal were steadily deteriorating over time.

    The first priority was to assess the stability of the sides of the canal and then deal with any unstable sections found, he said. He warned, however, that delays in dealing with the problems could lead to levels of deterioration that could not later be reversed.

    AEDIK called for work to "lighten" the sides of the canal and noted that after 120 years of the canal's constant operation, earthquakes and explosions, it was necessary to be constantly on guard against "unpleasant developments".

    The company also revealed its intention to sue the previous concession-holder operating the canal, Periandros SA, for neglecting the canal's maintenance and poor operating methods.

    [25] World Poetry Day marked with tribute to Nobelist Elytis

    World Poetry Day on Monday will be marked with a tribute to Greece's Nobel Literature Prize laureate Odysseas Elytis (1979), as 2011 has been declared 'Elytis Year' by Greece's culture and tourism ministry.

    March 21 was declared World Poetry Day by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in 1999 for the purpose of promoting the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world, and to "give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements".

    Poetry nights with readings of works by Elytis are being organised on Monday by the National Center for Books (EKEBI) in collaboration with the Society of Writers, at several bookshops in Athens and Thessaloniki.

    The Megaron-Athens Concert Hall will mark the day with readings of ancient Greek poetry dedicated to love by Sappho, Archilochos, Meleagros, Krinagoras and others, and a concert of love poetry set to music by celebrated Greek composers such as Manos Hatzidakis, Yannis Spanos, Eleni Karaindrou and others.

    Also, the Hellenic American Union (HAU) in Athens is organising an open discussion on Homer's works on Monday evening.

    [26] Illegal migrant arrests in NW Greece

    Thirteen illegal migrants of Asian origin were detained in the Iliokali district of northwest Ioannina prefecture after they were found wandering in the area, police said on Monday. All of them are set to be deported.

    In a separate incident at the western port of Igoumenitsa, extreme NW Greece, another four illegal migrants, also of Asian origin, were discovered by port authority officers hiding inside a truck waiting to board an Italy-bound ferry boat. The truck driver was reportedly unaware of their presence.

    [27] Primary school teachers strike on March 30

    The primary school teachers union DOE has announced a 24-hour strike on March 30, joining a strike by the highschool teachers' union OLME and other unions.

    In an announcement, DOE said the strike was being held in protest against the government's plans for the 'New School' and the closure or merger of roughly 1,200 schools around the country, a new wage-scale that would link wages with productivity, better funding for the teachers' state health service provider and other demands.

    [28] Police find two warehouses of counterfeit goods in Athens

    Police authorities on Monday reported the discovery of two warehouses filled with counterfeit brand-name clothes and watches in the central Athens district of Kerameikos. Both warehouses were underground basements on Akadimou street, measuring 100 square metres and 250 square metres, respectively.

    The two warehouses were discovered during an operation begun by police and the Athens municipality on Monday morning to combat the trade in pirate goods in the city centre.

    Authorities are now in the process of taking an inventory of the goods found.

    A police announcement noted that nine warehouses and one multi-storey building on Pireos Street filled with fake goods have so far been discovered in Athens. The estimated value of the goods they contained exceeded 30 million euro.

    Some of the fake goods confiscated have already been destroyed, while in other cases, where the volume of goods found was larger, authorities are still taking an inventory.

    In addition to the goods found in warehouses, police said they had confiscated a total of 663,400 counterfeit goods in 2,164 incidents during 2010. These included household goods, clothing and footwear, fashion accessories, glasses, CDs and DVDs, postcards, lighters and an assortment of other goods.

    Weather Forecast

    [29] Rainy on Tuesday

    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 with possible local showers in Athens, with northerly 5-8 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 13C. Cloudy and showery in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 7C to 12C.

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

    The 'Odyssey Dawn' airborne operation by Western forces against Libya and economic issues dominated the front pages in Athens' dailies on Monday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Europe and America vs. Gaddafi".

    AVRIANI: "Green light from Merkel for controlled bankruptcy".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Hot money to friends and...acquaintances".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Massacre of unarmed civilians in Libya, Gaddafi out of the line of fire".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "10-day plan for elimination of Gaddafi".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Odyssey of bombings".

    ESTIA: "Global realignments".

    ETHNOS: "War 'Odyssey' in the Mediterranean".

    IMERISSIA: "Storm of measures to raise 7 billion euros - Hospitals being closed, tax exemptions being cut".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Denationalisations program on a tightrope".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Greece must remain out of the war - The killer imperialists massacring the people of Libya".

    TA NEA: "Merciless bombings".

    VRADYNI: "Zero Hour for Gaddafi".

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