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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-03-31

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

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

Thursday, 31 March 2011 Issue No: 3755

CONTENTS

  • [01] 'Arm yourselves with patience,' PM advises ministers
  • [02] PM to chair meetings in Parliament on Thursday
  • [03] PM to make address on innovation in Greek agriculture
  • [04] Gov't to present fiscal, development plan on April 15
  • [05] PM meeting with AKEL chief Kyprianou
  • [06] President receives Cyprus AKEL leader
  • [07] Visiting AKEL sg meets party leaders
  • [08] FM: Political solution to crisis in Libya
  • [09] Droutsas in Kastellorizo for tree-planting effort
  • [10] ND: Country heading in wrong direction
  • [11] Geroulanos receives European socialist deputies at Acropolis Museum
  • [12] PM meets Socialists Group president
  • [13] Gov't announces basic principles of 'new HS'
  • [14] President meeting with LA.O.S president
  • [15] FinMin: Disagreement with S&P, 'economy improving'
  • [16] S&P decision on Greece 'unjustified', Commission says
  • [17] FinMin on economic reforms
  • [18] Nikitiadis promotes Greek tourism in Finland
  • [19] Faliro regeneration project unveiled
  • [20] Credit expansion shrinks 0.3% in Feb.
  • [21] Private building activity down 23.7 pct in 2010
  • [22] Business briefs...
  • [23] Stocks end significantly lower
  • [24] Greek bond market closing report
  • [25] ADEX closing report
  • [26] Event against human trafficking; Dep. FM statements
  • [27] Car preferred by 46 percent of Greeks, Eurobarometer polls shows
  • [28] New Athens-based NGO on migration policy
  • [29] Two foreign nationals arrested, one wanted, in killing of missing Italian merchant in Maginisia
  • [30] Rainy on Thursday
  • [31] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [32] Leaders begin discussion on internal security issues Politics

  • [01] 'Arm yourselves with patience,' PM advises ministers

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday urged the members of his government to "arm themselves with patience and determination", stressing that the government was "running a marathon".

    Addressing a meeting of the cabinet, he said that he had personally armed himself with both these qualities and called on his ministers and deputy ministers to do the same and inspire the same attitude in the public.

    With a message of encouragement, the prime minister said that Greece was approaching the end of the recession but noted that this would not mean the end of the crisis or the problems.

    "It is an important step toward relief so that we can fight the battles from better positions," he added.

    Referring to public debate as conducted through the mass media, Papandreou stressed that there was a distortion of everything being said and done and noted that the government's work was the "only answer to the irrationality of public debate".

    Referring to the latest cut in Greece's credit rating by Standard & Poors and other credit rating agencies, Papandreou said these had swung from one extreme, that of blind confidence in toxic bonds, to the opposite extreme of blind pessimism, fear and panic. In the same way that their predictions about Greece had been proved wrong so far, so would they be proved wrong now, he said.

    He said the model for the country's governance was changing through the dialogue now taking place between members of the government and between the government and society. He noted that fiscal targets were arising that were at the same time developmental targets, linked to issues of fairness and welfare.

    "We are proceeding according to a plan, programme and assessment of our course," he said.

    On the issue public finances, Papandreou said the government had cut to the core of the problem and what needed to be done was a thorough overhaul, on the one hand, and a restriction of wasteful spending on the other.

    The prime minister said the changes needed were not easy to carry out because the government lacked the necessary technocratic services but expressed support for his ministers, saying that they were ready to make great changes and reforms, promising to stand by their side.

    [02] PM to chair meetings in Parliament on Thursday

    Prime Minister George Papandreou will be chairing meetings in Parliament on Thursday concerning state and institutional issues, as well as foreign policy, defence and citizen's protection.

    [03] PM to make address on innovation in Greek agriculture

    Prime Minister George Papandreou will address a conference of the Agricultural Development and Food ministry at noon on Thursday on the theme of "Greek Agriculture Innovating" at the "ATHINAIS" multiplex.

    [04] Gov't to present fiscal, development plan on April 15

    The finance ministry will present, April 15, a draft bill envisaging fiscal and developmental measures aimed at ensuring fiscal stability this year, government officials told ANA-MPA on Wednesday.

    The issue was discussed during a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou.

    Specifically, the draft bill will include measures to promote privatisations, a medium-term plan of fiscal consolidation and fiscal corrections needed for 2011.

    According to government officials, the privatisation programme will specify the steps on annual basis, with the government remaining steadfast in its position of holding a strategic participation in basic infrastructure. The officials said that the tabling a privatisation plan does not mean an "automatic implementation" of the plan, but only on the right timing after recommendations made by privatisation consultants.

    The premier called on Cabinet ministers to maintain a single "front" on the issue and to avoid expressing different views.

    The Cabinet meeting also instructed state commissioners in commercial banks to access banks' information and to hold the right of veto on strategic decisions by banks.

    [05] PM meeting with AKEL chief Kyprianou

    The long-standing Cyprus issue, developments in the Arab world and energy-related issues on Wednesday dominated discussions here between Prime Minister George Papandreou and visiting Cyprus AKEL party secretary general Andros Kyprianou.

    After the meeting, which was held at the premier's office in Parliament, Kyprianou thanked the Greek prime minister for his support to the struggle of the Cypriot people for a solution and efforts by Cypriot President Demetris Christofias to this end.

    [06] President receives Cyprus AKEL leader

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias said on Wednesday that the "awakening of the Turkish Cypriots" and the plans for exploitation of Cyprus' natural resources were "auspicious" for the island republic, during a meeting in Athens with visiting Cyprus AKEL party leader Andros Kyprianou.

    Papoulias displayed special interest in Cyprus President Demetris Christofias' international contacts, noting that Christofias has succeeded in attracting the interest of very many sides on Cyprus and the Cyprus issue "and that is very positive".

    Unfortunately, however, there have been no specific results to date on the Cyprus problem, Papoulias added.

    On the protests by Turkish Cypriots against Ankara, Kyprianou noted that recently, five Turkish Cypriots who were heading the mobilisations in the occupied sector of the island went to Brussels together with an AKEL delegation recently and briefed the European Parliament.

    "The messages arising form their discussions were very encouraging. It was a cry of agony, as they themselves called it. They also want to fight with us for a solution to the Cyprus issue, because they realise that they are being lost as a community," Kyprianou added.

    [07] Visiting AKEL sg meets party leaders

    Ruling Cyprus left wing AKEL party Central Committee Secretary General Andros Kyprianou met on Wednesday with Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis. The meeting, according to statements by the two men, focused on developments on the issue of Cyprus, Turkey and the Middle East.

    Karatzaferis said that there is no question that the issue of Cyprus is in an extreme turning point and "there must be, at least, a wider agreed opinion on the further handlings."

    Kyprianou also met with Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) president Alexis Tsipras, who expressed SYRIZA's unwavering support for the efforts of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias for a just and viable solution to the issue of Cyprus.

    [08] FM: Political solution to crisis in Libya

    Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas stressed that Greece had from the outset insisted on finding a political solution to the crisis in Libya, in statements to the press after the conclusion of the London Conference on Libya held in the British capital on Tuesday, and underlined the significance of the attendance of the UN and NATO secretaries general and representatives of the Arab League.

    "There was broad international participation, 35 Foreign Ministers from allied and friendly countries. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was also here, and this was very important for us, because, as I always stress, we want all of these actions to be fully legitimized by the United Nations," Droutsas said during a press conference.

    He stressed that "the Conference once again sent a very strong message: That international legality must be respected; that UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 must be respected".

    "The main goal and the main message is, once again, an immediate ceasefire and a halt to the violence against the civilian population in Libya," Droutsas said, warning that "the military action cannot provide a long-term, sustainable solution".

    "Of primary importance - and this is a central pillar of Greece's policy - is respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Libya. The Libyan people must be given the chance to decide on their own about their future," Droutsas continued.

    "The provision of humanitarian assistance to Libya is an important matter. The EU can have a significant role here. I stressed that Greece - and Crete in particular - can play a substantial role," he underlined.

    Droutsas noted that the conference decided on the setting up of a Contact Group, and stressed that "it is vital that the Arab countries, the countries in the region, also participate in this process", adding that Qatar has already offered to host the first meeting of the Contact Group.

    "We will see when that can be held. We don't have a clear timeframe, but I reckon that this meeting might be held by mid-April," he added.

    "The London Conference had three objectives: 1. The international community reaffirmed its commitment to the implementation of the UN Security Council's resolutions, and particularly with regard to an immediate ceasefire and stopping the violence against Libya's civilian population, 2. We committed ourselves, once again, to providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Libya, and 3. A political process was started for the 'day after', so that the Libyan people can take the future into their own hands," Droutsas elaborated.

    "These decisions faithfully reflect Greece's positions," the foreign minister said, and reiterated "the importance of UN Security Council legitimization, which was confirmed by the UN Secretary General's presence here at the Conference."

    "I also want to make the reminder that Greece and its prime minister underscored from the very outset the need to find a political solution to the Libyan crisis and for the future of the region. Greece has a voice in all the proceedings. It has a presence and will contribute by utilizing its relations with and influence in the region," Droutsas said.

    [09] Droutsas in Kastellorizo for tree-planting effort

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Wednesday took part in a reforestation drive organised by the municipality of Megisti and Greek expatriate organisations on the island of Kastellorizo, Greece's most remote island.

    During the event he underlined that "Kastellorizo is Greek territory, in the same way as Athens, Thrace, Macedonia, Mani, Crete and anyone that suggests anything else will have no luck."

    Addressing residents of the island, he stressed that there struggles in the furthest corner of Greece will not go to waste and that all must learn from this struggle and "stop turning against our own selves, separating Greeks into patriots and traitors that simply change roles every four years".

    Concerning Turkey's behaviour and the response of the Greek government, Droutsas said that neither Turkey's provocative behaviour nor the steadfast replies given by Greece to every such provocation had changed.

    Greece was not seeking to prevail through cries or slogans but through international law, international legality and its position in the international community, Droutsas said. "Greece's weapon is its determination to defend right through diplomacy and our armed forces," he added, warning that anyone seeking to divide those two bodies would only damage the country's ability and capability to defend its rights.

    The reforestation programme was the initiative of the Serres-based organisation "Society for the Study of Diaspora Hellenism" and the Greek-American foundation "Plant your Roots in Greece".

    [10] ND: Country heading in wrong direction

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) press spokesman Yiannis Michelakis on Wednesday reiterated a statement by ND shadow economy minister Christos Staikouras stressing the need for the immediate creation of an adequate regulatory framework for the operation of credit rating agencies and the establishment of a European credit rating agency, but added that the content of the evaluation by Standard & Poor's in its announcement on Tuesday that it was downgrading Greece's credit rating "is just one more confirmation that the country is heading in the wrong direction".

    According to Staikouras, the policy mix being followed by the government is leading the economy into vicious circles of recession and overindebtedness.

    He also accused the government of being unable to clamp down on tax evasion, boost revenues, contain expenditure and achieve the fiscal targets for both 2010 and 2011.

    Staikouras warned that the government will be forced into increasingly harsher and ineffective measures, and he reiterated ND's call for a change of the economic policy mix being followed.

    [11] Geroulanos receives European socialist deputies at Acropolis Museum

    Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos on Tuesday welcomed at the Acropolis Museum the group of Socialist European Parliament deputies headed by Martin Schulz and Stavros Lambrinidis.

    Geroulanos focused in his address on the need for the European deputies to cooperate to enable the process for issuing visas from countries considered extremely important markets for Greece and the development of its tourism more flexible and simple.

    The minister underlined the Greek effort for overcoming the crisis and returning to growth, with tourism and its cooperation with culture being the motive lever. In addition, he had the opportunity of attracting the European deputies' attention to the return of the Parthenon marbles.

    Gereoulanos said that "the Parthenon is the most prominent monument of humanity that exists and it is fragmented between Athens and the British Museum. I call on you to support our appeal for its reunification, not as friends of Greece but as socialists, as people who serve the values that the Parthenon represents. Freedom, equality and democracy."

    [12] PM meets Socialists Group president

    Prime Minister and Socialist International president George Papandreou on Tuesday evening held a private meeting with the president of the Socialist group Martin Schulz, following the conclusion of a relevant political conference in Athens.

    [13] Gov't announces basic principles of 'new HS'

    The basic principles of the "new Lyceum" (high school) were announced by Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou on Wednesday, with changes including the discouragement of rote learning (memorisation) in the education process, attempting to make the ubiquitous tutorial schools obsolete and more free time for extra-curricular activities.

    The changes will be introduced gradually beginning in September in the ninth grade.

    Diamantopoulou stressed that the first year in high school will offer a general education background and will function as a 'bridge' between high school and junior high school.

    [14] President meeting with LA.O.S president

    President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday met with opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) President George Karatzaferis.

    After the meeting Karatzaferis stated that he suggested to the president to have a "greater involvement in public life," adding that he has "the prestige, the seriousness and the general acceptance to promote developments".

    He pointed out that Papoulias knows what initiatives need to be undertaken.

    Financial News

    [15] FinMin: Disagreement with S&P, 'economy improving'

    Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou on Wed-nesday openly disagreed with Standard & Poor's rating agency's downgrade of the country's credit rating a day earlier, noting that the state of the economy was improving quarter by quarter.

    Greece had found itself in the deepest point of the recession in the last quarter of 2010 but since then, quarter by quarter, the situation has been improving and recession was becoming shallower, Papaconstantinou said, stressing that this sentiment of the Greek government was not founded on hope but on real figures.

    The finance minister cited as examples the substantial increases in exports of 25-40 percent in the past four months, particularly in exports of farm products and aluminum, and noted that Greek entrepreneurs are making an immense effort to find foreign markets, and are succeeding.

    He said that the processing and retain trade sectors have also begun moving positively.

    "It is too early to say that we have emerged from the recession, but recovery has slowly begun, and he will have a positive outcome by the end of the year," Papaconstantinou anticipated.

    He reiterated that Greece will return to the markets next year, in line with its program, while he also described as a "breather" for the country the extension of the repayment period for Greece's 110 billion euros EU/IMF bailout loan and the reduction in the interest rate.

    The finance minister admitted that there have been delays, but noted that "if we had a perfect public administration, we would not be in this situation".

    On the situation in the public utilities and state organisations (DEKO), Papaconstantinou noted that the latest figures available indicate a substantial reduction in the deficits of about 25 percent, but added that "we have a long way ahead of us".

    Regarding the denationalisations program, the minister said it comprised serious decisions, which would be put to public deliberation, while he also announced that the detailed program will be unveiled in mid-April together with the way in which the government intends to act in the direction of exploitation of the country's properties.

    [16] S&P decision on Greece 'unjustified', Commission says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)

    A decision by Standard & Poor's (S&P) to downgrade Greece's credit rating by two notches was "one-sided and unjustified", Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for EU Commissioner Olli Rehn said here on Wednesday, while he reiterated the Commission's confidence on the course of the Greek economy.

    Commenting on S&P's decision to downgrade Greece's credit rating to BB- from BB+, Altafaj reminded that the Commission and the International Monetary Fund, in cooperation with the European Central Bank, were assessing progress made by the Greek economy on a quarterly basis, "with objectivity and transparency" and noted that Greece was implementing an economic restructuring programme.

    Based on this, the Commission has no reason to believe that the Greek economy was sliding.

    "We do not share S&P's assessment," the EU spokesman stated, adding that Greek data was fully credible after Eurostat withdrew all reservations over the quality of the supplied figures and statistics. He also underlined the impeccable cooperation of the semi-autonomous Hellenic Statistical Authority with the Commission's services.

    Altafaj also expressed the Commission's satisfaction for the Greek government's "ambitious efforts" towards promoting privatisations to ensuring the viability of state budgets in the future. He reiterated that Michel Barnier, EU Commissioner for internal market affairs, will present - before the end of summer - the EU executive's final proposals to regulate credit rating agencies.

    [17] FinMin on economic reforms

    Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, addressing Wed-nesday the meeting of the European Parliament's Socialists and Democrats group, stressed that the recent decisions at European Union level regarding both the fiscal framework and the competitiveness accord are in the positive direction, but they are not adequate enough however to activate the necessary growth rates, while referring to the crisis at international and European level, he pointed out that "we have not learned from its causes".

    Focusing on Greece, the Finance minister said that steps were taken and reforms were done over the past months that should have taken place regardless of the Memorandum, such as the opening of closed professions, the reforming of the social security system, etc.

    "Our target is the return to markets," Papaconstantinou said, referring to 2012.

    "We are proceeding with the implementation of the adjustment programme in the best possible way and we have succeeded in keeping society on our side despite the reactions, because we have convinced that the reforms are to the benefit of our country and society. The path we chose is difficult, but responsible," the minister said, stressing that the country last year before joining the Support Mechanism had come close to bankruptcy.

    Referring to the ratings firms and Tuesday's decision, he said that they do not take into consideration among others the strict judgement and assessment that Greece receives from the EU, the IMF and the ECB that takes place at regular intervals.

    [18] Nikitiadis promotes Greek tourism in Finland

    Culture & Tourism Deputy Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis completed a visit to Finland this week on the occasion of a two-day tourism promotion event, organised by the National Tourism Organization in cooperation with several Greek island destinations popular to Finnish visitors.

    During this stay in Helsinki, the Greek minister met with Finland's largest tour operators and airline officials, as he presented the Greek government's new strategy on tourism.

    A promotional event was also organised at Helsinki's largest shopping centre, Kammpi, in cooperation with local government authorities of Rhodes, Kos, Leros and Hania, Crete.

    Finally, Nikitiadis met with his Finnish counterpart Jaakko Lehtonen and presented Greece's initiative to host an informal tourism ministers' council on Rhodes next June in order to discuss ways of facilitating easier entry visa procedures for Russian citizens.

    The Greek minister invited Lehtonen to visit Athens and the New Acropolis Museum.

    [19] Faliro regeneration project unveiled

    The entire Faliro waterfront region, from the Peace and Friendship Stadium to the Kifissos River estuary in southern coastal Athens, will be fundamentally changed as envisioned by architect Renzo Piano, the author of a three-million-euro study sponsored by Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The masterplan of the endeavour was presented to Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday.

    The major urban regeneration project will turn a 76-hectare tract of land into a park, which combined with the old racehorse track will cover a total of 100 hectares.

    [20] Credit expansion shrinks 0.3% in Feb.

    Credit expansion shrank further in February, with the annual growth rate of total credit granted to the domestic private sector deccelerating further to -0.3 percent in February 2011, from -0.2 percent in January 2011 and 0.0 percent in December 2010, the Bank of Greece announced on Wednesday.The central bank, in a monthly report, said net flow of total credit to the domestic private sector was positive amounting to 122 million euros in February.

    The net flow of credit to enterprises in February 2011 was positive, amounting to 278 million euros (February 2010: positive net flow of 458 million) and the annual growth rate of credit stood at 0.9 percent (January 2011: 1.0 percent, December 2010: 1.1 percent).

    The net flow of loans to sole proprietors (professionals, farmers and unincorporated businesses) was marginal negative, amounting to minus 16 million euros in February 2011, and its annual rate of change decreased in comparison with the previous month (February 2011: 0.0 percent, January 2011: 0.2 percent).

    The net flow of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions in February 2011 was negative, amounting to minus 140 million euros (February 2010: positive net flow of 117 million).

    [21] Private building activity down 23.7 pct in 2010

    Building activity in the private sector dropped 8.6 pct in December 2010, for a decline of 23.7 pct in the year, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.

    Market sources said a recession in the building sector resulted to slower economic growth and employment in the country.

    The statistics service said the size of private building activity totaled 5,106 building permits, up 2.8 pct in December compared with the same month in 2009. In the January-December period, building activity in the private sector fell 10.9 pct (measured on building permits) and by 23.7 pct in volume, compared with the same period in 2009.

    [22] Business briefs...

    -- ATEbank on Wednesday announced lower losses and provisions last year, with after tax and minorities losses totaling 438.1 million euros, down from 451.7 million euros in 2009, while provisions fell 26.8 pct to 604 million euros in 2010, down from 825.3 million euros in 2009. The bank's board will seek shareholders' approval to a share capital increase plan, worth 1.26 billion euros.

    -- Vivartia Group on Wednesday reported a loss of 191.2 million euros for 2010. Greece's largest food industry group said sales fell to 1.08 billion euros, from 1.46 billion euros in 2009 (which included results by Chipita). EBITDA totaled 20.77 million euros, while EBIT showed a loss of 34.82 million euros.

    -- Alumil Group, a Greek-listed aluminium product manufacturer, on Wednesday reported a drastic cut in its losses to 1.60 million euros in 2010, from 9.37 million euros in 2009, a decline of 83 pct.

    -- ELGEKA on Wednesday said its consolidated turnover rose 11.1 pct to 352.7 million euros in 2010, from 317.6 million euros in the previous year. Consolidated EBITDA fell 7.1 pct to 12.8 million euros.

    -- The Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday announced the temporary suspension of trading of Alter TV shares in the market. The decision was taken because the listed company was expected to delay publishing its annual results due to a strike mobilisation by its work force.

    -- Thessaloniki Water and Drainage SA on Wednesday said its turnover fell 8.0 pct to 71.182 million euros in 2010, from 77.376 million euros in the previous year, while its pre-tax profits eased 5.5 pct to 20.878 million euros from 22.093 million euros over the same period, respectively.

    [23] Stocks end significantly lower

    Stocks suffered significant losses for the second consecutive session at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, remaining under pressure after S&P's downgrade the country's credit rating by two notches on Tuesday. A warning by Fitch over a possible new downgrade was an additional negative factor in the market. The composite index fell 1.34 pct to end at 1,558.57 points, with turnover remaining at 111.77 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 1.78 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.55 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.38 pct down.

    Cyprus Bank (3.17 pct), PPC (1.82 pct) and Hellenic Postbank (0.89 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks while Alpha Bank (5.25 pct), OPAP (4.22 pct), Viohalco (4.14 pct) and Piraeus Bank (3.40 pct) were top losers.

    Utilities (1.42 pct), Health (1.05 pct) and Financial Services (0.72 pct) scored gains, while Travel (4.04 pct), Telecoms (2.44 pct), Raw Materials (2.21 pct) and Banks (2.07 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 88 to 60 with another 54 issues unchanged. AXON Holdings (15.48 pct), Alpha Trust (9.89 pct) and Electroniki Athens (9.52 pct) were top gainers, while Euromedica (17.10 pct), Lazaridis (9.76 pct) and Nutriart (9.52 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.51%

    Industrials: -1.57%

    Commercial: +0.30%

    Construction: -1.05%

    Media: -0.93%

    Oil & Gas: -0.04%

    Personal & Household: -1.55%

    Raw Materials: -2.21%

    Travel & Leisure: -4.04%

    Technology: -1.21%

    Telecoms: -2.44%

    Banks: -2.07%

    Food & Beverages: +0.66%

    Health: +1.05%

    Utilities: +1.42%

    Chemicals: Unchanged

    Financial Services: +0.72%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.69

    ATEbank: 0.74

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.31

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.19

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.45

    National Bank of Greece: 6.28

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.48

    OPAP: 15.90

    OTE: 8.00

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.42

    Titan: 17.60

    [24] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 940 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.79 pct and the German Bund 3.38 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 13 million euros of which 10 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 3.0 million were buy orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 2.0 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved slightly higher. The 12-month rate was 1.99 pct, the six-month rate 1.54 pct, the three-month rate 1.23 pct and the one-month rate 0.96 pct.

    [25] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at 0.74 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover a low 35.021 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,199 contracts worth 25.671 million euros, with 26,301 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 17,791 contracts worth 9.350 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,651), followed by Eurobank (1,085), OTE (1,607), PPC (951), Piraeus Bank (2,599), Alpha Bank (2,778), Ellaktor (355), Mytilineos (268), Cyprus Bank (489) and ATEbank (585).

    General News

    [26] Event against human trafficking; Dep. FM statements

    A special event aimed at raising public awareness on the problem of human trafficking was sponsored on Wednesday by the foreign ministry, the embassy of Canada and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

    The event centred on the award-winning Canadian film-documentary "Sex Slaves", which records --through hidden cameras -- the efforts by a Ukrainian man to rescue his wife, a victim of human trafficking.

    Addressing the event, Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis stressed that the goal set is to collect as many signatures as possible by well-known personalities in support of a declaration of principles against modern slavery.

    Referring to the work performed by the Greek state, Kouvelis said the number of criminal charges filed in 2010 recorded a 65-pct increase, compared to 2009, while court-issued convictions rose 52 pct and assistance and protection provided to court identified victims increased 60 pct.

    [27] Car preferred by 46 percent of Greeks, Eurobarometer polls shows

    The car is the preferred mode of transport for 46 percent of Greeks as opposed to 53 percent of Europeans in the EU27, according to a Eurobarometer poll released in March. Another 25 percent of Greeks opt for public transport, 13 percent walk, 7 percent use a motorbike (compared with 2 percent in the EU27 on average) and just 3 percent cycle.

    In the EU27 countries as a whole, 22 percent mainly use public transport, 13 percent walk, 7 percent cycle and just 2 percent use a motorbike.

    Men are the most attached to their cars as their main means of transport (59 percent) while women are more likely to use public transport or to walk.

    Support for replacing existing car charges with "pay-as-you-drive" schemes that took into account the actual use of a car, roughly half of European citizens broadly agreed with such changes and 16 percent strongly agreed, while 20 percent replied 'don't know/no answer'.

    In Greece, 57 percent supported a change in current car charges, with 19 percent agreeing strongly and only 11 percent disagreeing strongly, while 15 percent were unwilling or unable to reply. Support for a change was strongest in Luxembourg (71 percent), Italy (68 percent) and Holland (64 percent), followed by Cyprus (61 percent) where 89 percent of residents prefer motorised transport such as cars and motorbikes.

    Asked what compromises they would be prepared to accept in their cars in order to reduce emissions, 68 percent of Europeans said they would be prepared to driver at lower speeds, 62 percent would be prepared to reduce their car's size for the same reason.

    Greeks ranked third at 81 percent, after Cypriots and Luxembourgians, in agreeing to sacrifice car speed in order to reduce emissions, first at 81 percent in agreeing to reduce car size, third at 70 percent on distance before having to refuel/recharge the car and third at 63 percent in agreeing with an increase in car purchase price.

    Reasons given by European car users for not using public transport were the lack of connections (72 percent), that public transport was not as convenient as the car (71 percent), low frequency of services (64 percent), that it was 'unreliable' (54 percent), too expensive (50 percent), a lack of information on services (49 percent) and over security concerns (40 percent).

    Reasons given by Greek car users for not using public transport included low frequency of services (82 percent), no connections (77 percent), greater convenience of the car (75 percent), lack of information on services (73 percent), unreliability (64 percent), security concerns (53 percent) and that public transport was too expensive (55 percent).

    Greeks are also Europe's biggest fans of a single ticket covering all means of public transport at 84 percent, following by the Spanish, Cypriots, Luxembourgians and Italians.

    [28] New Athens-based NGO on migration policy

    A newly formed NGO, the Hellenic Migration Policy Institute (I.ME.PO), was established in Athens this month by education administrator Alexandros Zavos, the former high-profile president of the previously state-run and now defunct entity of the same name.

    According to a press release on Wednesday, I.ME.PO's charter, now in its NGO form, refers to the "... briefing of Greek society on all aspects of the migration phenomenon through a realistic approach, one that takes into consideration real data, international developments and policies implemented internationally..."

    The newly formed NGO (www.imepo.org) also cited an intent to organise scientific conferences in Greece and abroad on migration issues -- as the phenomenon has shot to the limelight in Greece and other affected southern European countries in recent years.

    Besides Zavos, the other 10 members of the 11-member board of directors include mostly noted academics.

    [29] Two foreign nationals arrested, one wanted, in killing of missing Italian merchant in Maginisia

    Two Bulgarian nationals were arrested by police in Magnisia prefecture on Tuesday night, charged with the killing of a 65-year-old Italian merchant who has been missing for five months. A third Bulgarian national was wanted in the same case.

    According to police, a search of the residence of one of the suspects in the village of Sourpi turned up objects belonging to the Italian merchant and part of his merchandise.

    During the preliminary investigation the two Bulgarians, aged 42 and 37, admitted to the killing, saying they had acted together with the 29-year old Bulgarian who is wanted by police.

    They said that in the afternoon of October 2010, on the pretext of a planned purchase of agricultural tools, they had led the merchant to the mountain region of Stavros where they beat and stoned him to steal objects of value, and then dumped the body in a nearby hillside.

    They hid the stolen goods in shrubbery, as well as the victim's car, which was discovered a few days later.

    Police said the morphology of the terrain was hampering the ongoing search for the merchant's corpse.

    Weather Forecast

    [30] Rainy on Thursday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 21C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 17C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 16C.

    [31] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The rises in the Greek deficit and debt, Standard & Poor's downgrading of Greece by two notches and strikes in the health and education sector were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Wednesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The changes in secondary education".

    AVGHI: "Education, health, resistance".

    AVRIANI: "Greek debt reaches 700 billion euros - Politicians concealing the truth and fooling the people".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Meetings/theatrics by Papandreou - Lies and mutinies by ministers".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Samaras' outburst against government and 'underground' scenarios".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Mergers of institutions of higher education".

    ESTIA: "Low taxes would generate higher revenues"

    ETHNOS: "Stop to funding for 405 state organisations that have not submitted balance sheets to State Accounts office".

    IMERISSIA: "Double slap from Standard & Poor's - Greece to remain in European support mechanism after 2013".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Downgrading that points the way to the support mechanism after 2013".

    KATHIMERINI: "Downgrading with harsh message".

    LOGOS: "S&P did not 'see' the recovery".

    NIKI: "The PPC (Public Power Corporation) in...package deal".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Health-Education for the people and not for profit".

    TA NEA: "Keratea another Libya".

    VRADYNI: "The people's sacrifices going to waste".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [32] Leaders begin discussion on internal security issues

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The discussion on the internal aspects of security matters has begun at the negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem, while discussion on a census in both communities is at a relative stalemate, President Demetris Christofias has said.

    Speaking after Wednesday's talks at the UN Protected area in Nicosia, President Christofias stated that the Greek Cypriot side has submitted its own positions and a proposal which the Turkish Cypriot side promised to study, adding that Turkish Cypriot leader, Dervis Eroglu also outlined his position on the internal aspects of security.

    At their next meeting on Wednesday, April 6 they will comment on each others positions, he noted.

    Replying to questions, the president explained that security concerns relate to the police force, of a federal Cyprus, the participation of both communities in the federal police force, federal police units, matters they will police, their responsibilities and such matters.

    "It's a pretty broad issue and will take up a lot of discussion," he pointed out.

    Asked about the issue of a census in both communities and recent statements by Eroglu on this, President Christofias said that "there is a relative stalemate on this issue", because the Turkish Cypriot leader highlights the so-called statehood of the illegal regime in the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus.

    The Greek Cypriot side has submitted a precise proposal for a census in both communities that will be monitored by international organizations, led by the United Nations, he stressed.

    President Christofias added that he has not had any contact with the UNSG, noting that it is up to the Secretary General to assume this initiative. "I am waiting for his call. Any time the Secretary General wants to speak to me I will be very happy to do so," he said.

    During the next few days they will be in touch and the possibility of a new tripartite meeting in April will be clarified, the president added.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third. The leaders of the two communities are currently engaged in UN-sponsored talks to find a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus issue.

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