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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-04-12

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

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

Tuesday, 12 April 2011 Issue No: 3762

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greece unveils 'one-stop-shop' method for new business start-ups
  • [02] PM: Program has produced first positive results
  • [03] PM to hold consecutive meetings with ministers on Tuesday
  • [04] FM Droutsas holds talks with Egyptian PM, FM
  • [05] FM reiterates firm Greek position on non-use of nuclear energy for electricity production
  • [06] Government dismisses debt restructuring rumours
  • [07] Commission: Greek debt restructuring 'not an option'
  • [08] PASOK: Ad hoc committee subs probe only for Tsohatzopoulos
  • [09] Macedonia Regional governor to be temporarily removed following court ruling
  • [10] Samaras meeting with Psomiadis
  • [11] ND sharply raps gambling draft law
  • [12] KKE leader on economic crisis
  • [13] Government spokesman on ANA-MPA
  • [14] EcoGreens slam government over new inflation spike
  • [15] Latest US State Dept. report on human rights unveiled
  • [16] Hungarian nat'l day celebrated at Corinth Canal
  • [17] Deputy Employment minister holds talks with Palestinian Authority ambassador
  • [18] Minister Pamboukis in China
  • [19] Greek economy to return to growth in 2012, IMF
  • [20] Greece, Israel to sign tourism cooperation protocol
  • [21] Tax amnesty proceeds 1.3 bln euros, FinMin says
  • [22] Operation of 2 university hospitals suspended
  • [23] Pharmaceutical firms contest prescription medication list at Council of State
  • [24] Eurostat on oil, renewable energy sources consumption in EU
  • [25] General Accounting Office staff begin four-day strike on Tuesday
  • [26] Sales boosted during journalists' strike, Piraeus retailers claim
  • [27] Business briefs...
  • [28] Stocks end 2.57% down
  • [29] Greek bond market closing report
  • [30] ADEX closing report
  • [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [32] Papoulias to inaugurate Nebojsa Tower in Belgrade
  • [33] Papoulias attends WWII Roupel Fortress anniversary event
  • [34] Co-discoverer of double helix James Watson to speak in Greece
  • [35] 'Heracles to Alexander the Great' exhibition at Oxford
  • [36] Pirated Greek freighter released by Somali pirates
  • [37] Illegal migrant trafficker arrested near Xanthi, eight others detained
  • [38] Cloudy on Tuesday Politics

  • [01] Greece unveils 'one-stop-shop' method for new business start-ups

    Introduction of a one-stop-shop in starting up new businesses, via a general commercial register, is of national importance and rebukes a myth that Greek society cannot achieve major changes, Prime Minister George Papandreou underlined on Monday.

    Speaking during a visit to the Athens Chamber of Medium-to-Small Size Manufacturing Enterprises and a presentation of the new service, the Greek premier was briefed over its operation. He noted that the new service will boost transparency and reduce bureaucracy while it was liberating the huge forces of business activity to the benefit of the country.

    Chryssohoidis said the ministry's next goal was the licensing of enterprises, currently operating through the one-stop-shop method, while adding that the ministry will soon table a draft bill on the licensing of manufacturing enterprises within business regions and the certification of a series of technical professions.

    The new service cuts the time needed to start up a business from 19 days to one day, while costs are also reduced by 50-62 pct, the government said. The new service aims to significant improve the country's position in World Bank's Starting Business list, as Greece currently occupies a very disappointing 149th place at present.

    Papandreou forecast that the new electronic service will make Greece more attractive to investment, stressing that a large part of the responsibility in the operation of enterprises will be transferred to the business sector, with chambers emerging as stronger tools of entrepreneurship.

    He was accompanied by Regional Development & Compe-titiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis and the chamber president P. Ravanis

    [02] PM: Program has produced first positive results

    WARSAW(ANA-MPA/N. Lionakis)

    "Greece is devoted to its program and the first positive results have already appeared," prime minister George Papandreou said in Warsaw last Thursday after a meeting with his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk.

    "We are not swept up by the sirens of destruction we hear on occasion," Papandreou said, and noted the existence of "the substantial solidarity of the European Union in this area".

    On the developments in Portugal, Papandreou stressed that the EU "has decided to safeguard the euro with all means and wants to avert any rumors of imminent bankruptcies", and noted the creation of the support mechanism currently in place for Greece and Ireland.

    During a visit to the capital of Poland, which assumes the rotating EU presidency for the second half of 2011, Papandreou said that Europe is facing many challenges, from the situation in Libya to the crisis in the eurozone, which "indicates the need and abilities that Europe has to work collectively to tackle the major issues which we, as countries individually, would not be able to face".

    The two prime ministers discussed the situation in North Africa and the need to contribute to an integrated and coordinated European policy so as to assist the countries that are on a track of democratisation, but also to strengthen EU security.

    A fundamental issue on the European agenda is the need for a common migration policy with a coordinated, balanced and fair treatment of the matter, the Greek premier said.

    The two men also discussed the developments in Libya which, according to Papandreou, also underline the role of the countries in the region, while they further discussed Greece's initiative and thoughts for diplomatic and political initiatives to resolve the crisis in Libya.

    They further discussed the Balkan countries EU accession prospects, which Greece strongly backs, as well as EU-Turkey relations, in the context of which, Papandreou stressed, ?we always refer to a resolution of the Cyprus problem".

    Papandreou's discussions in Warsaw also focused on the issues concerning the Polish EU presidency.

    He said that the Greek government agrees with the priorities set out by the Polish presidency on matters such as fiscal prospects and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), as well as neighborhood and migration policies, while he also expressed satisfaction over the reaffirmation of the volition of the two countries to strengthen their cooperation in view of the Polish presidency but also in their bilateral relations.

    Tusk, in turn, described as very important the agreement between the two sides for equal treatment of the European policies, the northern and southern policies, and said he received frank support from Papandreou over the problems concerning the Mediterranean and the situation in North Africa, as well as the eastern partnership relations.

    Papandreou noted that a balance is needed between the eastern partnership pact, in other words relations with the eastern countries in the region, the EU and the South, stressing that these should not be seen antagonistically but should comprise common efforts "in order to formulate a good partnership relation and for us to contribute to the economic developments, as well as the backing of our common principles and values such as democratic procedures in those countries".

    The Greek premier was also received by the President of Poland.

    [03] PM to hold consecutive meetings with ministers on Tuesday

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, in the framework of the preparation of the Medium-Term Fiscal Stability Programme that will be announced by the government on April 15, will hold consecutive meetings on Tuesday with Health and Social Solidarity Minister Andreas Loverdos, Employment and Social Security Minister Louka Katseli and the alternate minister George Koutroumanis, Regional Development and Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis, Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas and Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Tina Birbili.

    The meetings will be held in the prime minister's office in Parliament.

    [04] FM Droutsas holds talks with Egyptian PM, FM

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas held talks in Cairo on Monday with Egyptian Prime Minister Isam Sharaf and his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Al-Arabi, focusing on bilateral issues between Greece and Egypt, regional developments, with emphasis on Libya and mainly how Greece can support Egypt during its transitional period, also following the Revolution on January 25.

    The meetings were held in an excellent climate, according to relevant diplomatic sources, while during his meeting with the Egyptian prime minister, Droutsas conveyed personal warm greetings from Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

    In a press conference given by the two foreign ministers after their meeting, the head of Egyptian diplomacy spoke of the longstanding relations between the two countries. He referred to longterm cooperation between Greece and Egypt and expressed gratitude to the Greek side for its contribution to the transfer of Egyptian citizens with Greek ships from Libya to Egypt, during the first days of the crisis that broke out in Libya.

    On his part, the Greek minister termed his talks with his counterpart and the Egyptian prime minister "extremely interesting", since an exchange of views took place on a series of main issues but mainly the possibility was provided for the two countries to proceed to the new phase of the very close relations between them, given that "Egypt remains an important partner in the region."

    The foreign minister also met with the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. Immediately afterwards, Droutsas reiterated Greece's steadfast position on the finding of a political solution to the crisis in Libya, for the solution to which the role that the Arab League can play is considerable.

    Droutsas also stressed Greece's steadfast close relations with the Arab countries with which it will continue to cooperate closely for the finding of a political solution in the normalisation of the crisis in Libya.

    In another development, the Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodoros II expressed "a big thank you to Greece, particularly in these difficult moments that the Alexandrian Church and Hellenism of the Country of the Nile is experiencing," during his meeting with Droutsas here on Monday afternoon.

    In parallel, in a meeting he had with the President of the Greek Community in Cairo Christos Kavalis, the Greek foreign minister said that he is by the side of the Greek community.

    [05] FM reiterates firm Greek position on non-use of nuclear energy for electricity production

    Foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas reaffirmed Greece's firm position on "the non-use of nuclear energy for electricity production" in Greece and that it is active on the issue of nuclear safety in its neighboring countries, in a document he sent to parliament in reply to a relevant question by ruling PASOK MPs Michalis Katrinis and Costas Kartalis.

    In the document, Droutsas stressed that the EU acquis (that has been founded on international contractual commitments on the use of nuclear energy) "is also binding on the countries in the accession process".

    He further affirmed that Greece as a rule intervenes in the framework of Turkey's accession negotiations and bilateral relations, and noted that the issue of nuclear safety has been entered in the negotiations framework of the candidate country in the chapter on the environment.

    Greece, Droutsas added, has already asked for a check of the security levels of the planned installations in Turkey (due to the seismicity of the region) and for harmonisation of the safety and security criteria and conditions with those set out by Euratom.

    Third, he said, as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Greece is entitled to ask for information on and inspections of nuclear plants in neighboring countries, and also to take steps to avert the future use of outdated nuclear technology.

    Fourth, with respect to the Kozloduy nuclear plant, Droutsas reiterated that the Commission earmarked 550 million euros for upgrading of the reactors before Bulgaria's accession to the EU and another 300 euros after accession for the pause of operation, cleaning and management of the reactor's waste.

    The upgrading of the reactors was completed five years ago, he said, and the two reactors currently in operation have received licenses for up to 2017 and 2019 respectively.

    Fifth, based on the experience acquired from the Japan accident, the Greek government intends to undertake initiatives towards the neighboring countries, expressing its concerns with and opposition to the placement of nuclear facilities at a small distance from Greece, Droutsas' document added.

    [06] Government dismisses debt restructuring rumours

    Greek government spokesman George Petalotis once again dismissed rumours that Greece would default or restructure its debt on Monday, saying that these "belonged in the realm of fantasy".

    "Recent developments in Europe show the importance of the effort mounted by the Greek government to show that the debt crisis in Europe was not an exclusively Greek problem, but a European problem that had to be dealt with as such from the start," he pointed out. He underlined that the "persistent and systematic" effort made by Greece for the creation of a European support mechanism had been vindicated.

    Petalotis also dismissed scenarios of bank closures, elections and reshuffling that he said some quarters had circulated anonymously during the media strike from Thursday to Sunday.

    The spokesman turned his fire on main opposition New Democracy and other opposition parties in this context, accusing them of "playing a dangerous game" with statements that fuelled or even reproduced such speculation about Greece.

    The fact that the details concerning the mechanisms and an extension of repayment of debts by Greece had been settled at the March 11 European Summit, before the crisis in Portugal or the events in Libya and Japan, was another significant point in Greece's favour, he added.

    He also called on parties that "make an anti-Memorandum policy their banner" to explain what would have happened if Greece had not entered into the process.

    [07] Commission: Greek debt restructuring 'not an option'

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)

    The European Commission on Monday rejected speculation it was discussing any restructuring of the Greek debt.

    "No discussions have been made on the restructuring of the Greek debt," Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn, told reporters. He was answering questions over whether a possible restructuring of the Greek debt was discussed between the EU Commissioner, the president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, and the finance ministers of France and Germany, during a teleconference held in April 2.

    "A Greek debt restructuring is not an option," he said, adding that for Greece there is an economic plan, one approved by the EU, which is currently being implemented. He stressed that Rehn underlined the issue during a press conference in Hungary after an informal Ecofin meeting there.

    Altafaj again stressed that Olli Rehn is opposed to a restructuring of the Greek debt.

    "Commissioner Rehn is not participating in several discussions and in different frameworks for Greece," he said, adding that "There was no discussion over a restructuring of the Greek debt".

    Meanwhile, Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in comments to Bloomberg TV, said Greece might need more time to repay its bond holders and that this could happen with an extension of the repayment period, which will not be considered as default. "The adjustment programme ... is very painful and if an extension of repayment periods is something necessary for these policies to be effective, then this should be done," Gurria said.

    [08] PASOK: Ad hoc committee subs probe only for Tsohatzopoulos

    Recommendations for an ad hoc Parliamentary preliminary investigation committee to look into possible kickbacks surrounding a contract for the purchase of four German submarines by Greece concern only former defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, ruling PASOK's Parliamentary group press office clarified on Monday.

    The investigation file on possible bribes paid for the submarines contract was recently sent to Parliament by a public prosecutor that discovered indications of possible criminal actions on the part of the ministers involved.

    The public prosecutor also asked for an investigation into the role of ministers that succeeded Tsohatzopoulos in the defence ministry - Yiannos Papantoniou, Spilios Spiliotopoulos and Evangelos Meimarakis - because they did not contest or seek any modification of the initial contract. These will be investigated by the special standing committee for Armament Programs and Contracts, which has the same emergency powers for conducting a preliminary investigation as the Special Permanent Committee for Institutions and Transparency.

    [09] Macedonia Regional governor to be temporarily removed following court ruling

    Macedonia Regional Governor Panagiotis Psomiadis will be temporarily removed from his post following a Court of Appeals decision to uphold a suspended 12-month prison sentence imposed on him in Feb. 2009. A first instance court had found Psomiadis guilty of breach of duty.

    The outspoken Psomiadis, who was elected with main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, was brought to justice accused of reducing a fine imposed on a Thessaloniki gas station owner repeatedly caught to sell adulterated fuel.

    In early 2005, while serving as Thessaloniki prefect, Psomiadis reduced an 89,000-euro fine imposed by the preceding prefectural authority to 5,000 euros.

    In his testimony before the Thessaloniki Court of Appeals, which ruled on the case last Thursday, Psomiadis maintained that he had "broken no law", adding that there was no fraudulence on his part, considering that he did not know the gas station owner personally.

    He also underlined that he moved within the law when he decided to reduce the fine adding that he acted in a humane manner taking under consideration the financial and health problems the gas station owner was facing at the time.

    Decentralized Administration of Macedonia-Thrace general secretary Thimios Sokos told ANA-MPA that as soon as the Court of Appeals ruling is forwards the ruling, he will proceed with the temporary suspension of Psomiadis, a decision that will have to be ratified by the ministry of the interior.

    Psomiadis is expected to bring his case to the Supreme Court.

    Commenting on the ruling, Psomiadis stressed: "I have never hidden my signature, never accepted bribes, never did favors and never hesitated to defend my beliefs. I reduced the penalty for violations that concerned 1,300 liters of adulterated fuel".

    Finally, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis, commenting on views expressed by ND, characterising the ruling on Psomiadis as a "coup", stressed that ND is distanced from reality "unless it believes that laws in our country can be applied only partially and on instances approved by it."

    [10] Samaras meeting with Psomiadis

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras on Friday morning will meet with Central Macedonia Governor Panagiotis Psomiadis.

    The meeting will take place at the airport of Thessaloniki before Samaras departs for his tour of Xanthi, Rodopi and Evros in the northeast province of Thrace.

    The two men had telephone communication twice in recent days following the court ruling against Psomiadis. ND expresses support to Psomiadis while at the same time refusing to comment on court decisions.

    [11] ND sharply raps gambling draft law

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis on Monday characterised the draft law on legal gambling as being "unprecedented in terms of sloppiness" and pointed out that his party is in favour of a strict institutional framework to regulate the sector.

    He also accused the government of drawing up a draft law totally different from the one it had presented in Parliament for debate.

    In an unrelated development, the ND spokesman declined to a comment on a court of appeals ruling that upheld a guilty verdict against Central Macedonia Regional Governor Panagiotis Psomiadis, stressing that ND respects the court decisions clarifying, however, that the party supports the latter.

    Referring to the ongoing submarine purchase furor, Mihelakis stated that ND will suggest setting up a preliminary examination committee to investigate the period between 1998 and 2002. He also stressed that ND will suggest that the investigation on the period from 2002 until today be undertaken by the Special Standing Committee on Armament Programs and Contracts.

    Commenting on the two historical hospitals, Eginitio and Aretaeio, at risk of suspending their operation, Mihelakis accused the ministries of education and health of amateurism and indifference.

    Finally, Mihelakis also announced that ND leader Antonis Samaras on Friday and Saturday will tour the prefectures of Xanthi, Rodopi and Evros in Thrace, northeast Greece.

    [12] KKE leader on economic crisis

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said here on Monday that the discontinuation of the operation of two important specialised university hospitals is an alarm bell for the people.

    Papariga said in a statement that much worse will come in the coming months and stressed that what is currently necessary is a counter-attack with all the political and social means.

    "Things can go no further, it will be too late if the people do not decide to reverse this situation," she said.

    Papariga is in Brussels to participate in the sessions of the paneuropean meeting of communist and labour parties in which 38 parties from 32 countries are taking part.

    [13] Government spokesman on ANA-MPA

    Deputy Interior Minister and government spokesman George Petalotis, speaking in Parliament on Monday and replying to a question by main opposition New Democracy party deputy Simos Kedikoglou, said that the ANA-MPA will be turned into a modern national agency that respects the money of the Greek people.

    He announced that an order has been given for a check to begin immediately by the Public Administration Inspectors Corps on the "big party that was taking place in the past years" at the ANA-MPA.

    "We received an Agency with a 1.5 million euros deficit for 2010 and debts to social security funds amounting to 1.8 million euros," he said.

    [14] EcoGreens slam government over new inflation spike

    Greece's Ecologists-Greens party on Monday strongly criticised the government's failure to rein in rising prices, demanding an explanation for a new hike in Greek inflation.

    EcoGreens spokesman Yiannis Paraskevopoulos pointed out that there was a further spike in Greek inflation, which was already among the highest in the Eurozone, at a time when wages and pensions were constantly decreasing and thousands were joining the ranks of the unemployed.

    "The Memorandum had talked of a contraction of not just wages but also the cost of living," he pointed out, noting that the government and the EU-IMF troika had an obligation to explain the failure of their policies to the ordinary citizens that had to pay the consequences.

    [15] Latest US State Dept. report on human rights unveiled

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)

    The US State Department on Monday unveiled its annual human rights report scrutinising every country and territory in the world, sans one, the United States.

    In its report on Greece -- beyond the same material found in the 2009 report -- the authors pointed to several instances of alleged abuse of illegal aliens and Roma (gypsies) by police and security authorities in the country. Moreover, extensive use of allegations, claims and reports by various NGOs, supporters of illegal immigrants, human rights advocates and local media dispatches were quoted in the State Department document.

    According to the State Department's website, the "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are submitted annually by the U.S. Department of State to the U.S. Congress."

    [16] Hungarian nat'l day celebrated at Corinth Canal

    Hungary's National Day was commemorated in Greece at the Corinth Canal on Sunday, within the framework of the Hungarian EU Presidency.

    Roughly 250 people attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the monument honouring the two pioneering Hungarian engineers, Istv?n T?rr and B?la Gerster, who oversaw the construction of the Canal at the end of the 19th century.

    Hungarian ambassador to Greece J?zsef T?th spoke at the ceremony, which was attended by local government officials and the management of the company that operates the Canal (A.E.DI.K).

    The event was organised by the Hungarian embassy in Greece and the Canal's operator, in cooperation with the municipality of Loutraki and the Club Hotel Casino Loutraki. (ANA-MPA)

    [17] Deputy Employment minister holds talks with Palestinian Authority ambassador

    Deputy Employment and Social Security Minister Anna Dalara on Monday discussed issues concerning employment, immigration and the granting of asylum with Palestinian Authority Ambassador Samir Abou Ghazaleh.

    Dalara referred to the new legislative framework on providing asylum as well as to the considerable progress that has taken place with regard to the incorporation policies of immigrants living and working in the country over a long period of time.

    On his part, the Palestinian Ambassador expressed his concern over the fact that many of those applying for asylum declare Palestinian origin, without being, something that creates a negative image in Greek society.

    Financial News

    [18] Minister Pamboukis in China

    Minister of State Haris Pamboukis on Monday began an official visit to China for talks with high-ranking state officials and business executives.

    Pamboukis began his official visit with a meeting in Beijing with COSCO president and managing director Capt. Wei Jiafou, followed by a meeting with the president of the China Industrial Overseas Development and Planning Association, Fan Chunyong.

    On Tuesday, the Greek minister is scheduled to meet with China's vice foreign minister for policy planning Zhang Zhijun, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) chairman Zhang Ping, Commerce vice-minister Jiang Yaoping, and China Investment Corp. president Lou Jiwai.

    On Wednesday he will have meetings with vice foreign minister for Europe Fu Ying, State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) vice-chairwoman Huang Danhua, and China Development Bank chairman Jian Chaoliang, while on Thursday he will have talks with Chinese vice-premier Li Keqiang.

    [19] Greek economy to return to growth in 2012, IMF

    The Greek economy is expected to return into positive territory in 2012, after growth bottomed out in late 2010, the International Monetary Fund stated on Monday.

    In its world economic outlook report, the IMF said that macroeconomic and fiscal projections for 2011 and the medium-term are consistent with the policies that the IMF has agreed to support in the context of the stand-by agreement. Fiscal projections assume a strong front-loaded fiscal adjustment, which already began in 2010 and will be followed by further measures in 2011-2013.

    The IMF stressed that current account deficit remained excessively high in Greece, at 10.4% of GDP in 2010, however it noted there were signs of a turnaround as exports started contributing to the adjustment in 2010. Wage moderation has played a relatively modest role in Greece last year, while a number of policies can contribute to the remaining adjustments that will be required and many are already being implemented in the country. The policies include measures on both the supply side and the demand side of the economy.

    The International Monetary Fund projects that real GDP in Greece shrank 4.5 pct in 2010, it will shrink by 3.0 pct this year and will grow by 1.1 pct in 2012. The inflation rate is projected to steadily decline from 4.7 pct in 2010, to 2.5 pct this year and to 0.5 pct in 2012, while the country's current accounts balance is projected to fall from -10.4 pct of GDP in 2010, to -8.2 pct in 2011 and -7.1 pct next year. The unemployment rate, however, is expected to continue rising from 12.5 pct in 2010, to 14.8 pct in 2011 and to 15 pct in 2012.

    [20] Greece, Israel to sign tourism cooperation protocol

    Israeli tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov is currently on a visit to Greece at the invitation of Greece's culture and tourism minister Pavlos Geroulanos, in a follow-up to talks between the two ministers in Tel Aviv.

    On Sunday, Misezhnikov toured Athens, including the Acropolis archaeological site and the New Acropolis Museum, while on Monday he is scheduled to sign a protocol of cooperation with Geroulanos for further enhancing tourism ties between the two countries.

    Tourist arrivals from Israel last year increased by 57 percent compared with 2009, while arrivals in January rose by 18 percent and in February by 33 percent.

    [21] Tax amnesty proceeds 1.3 bln euros, FinMin says

    Greek state's proceeds from a scheme offering tax amnesty to self-employed taxpayers totaled 1.3 billion euros last year, of which 717 million euros were paid through commercial banks, Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou said on Monday.

    In a writter answer to Parliament, the Finance minister said tax agencies sent a total of 1,407,035 notifications to taxpayers of which 419,399 were accepted through banks in the months of November and December 2010. Papakonstantinou also said that a TAXISnet system was currently operating at a capacity rate of more than 98.5 pct.

    [22] Operation of 2 university hospitals suspended

    "All necessary moves have been made to ensure that the first installments of the budget approved for the two university hospitals -- Aretaeio and Eginitio -- will be available and that their operating costs will be reduced. The approval of the 2011 budget will soon be published in the Government Gazette," a ministry of education statement underlined on Monday in response to a decision reached by the hospital boards to suspend the institutions' operation.

    A request for the payment of back salaries (Jan.-April 2011) has also been made to the General Accounting Office that corresponds to 28 pct of the budget approved for the two hospitals, according to the ministry of education.

    The boards of Aretaeio and Eginitio Hospitals had decided in a meeting on April 7, held in the presence of the university authorities and the chairman of the Medical School, to suspend their full operation while continuing the operation of the outpatient clinics, citing lack of funds that led to shortages in pharmaceuticals and hospital material.

    According to an announcement issued after the meeting, the decision was reached because "the safe hospitalization of patients is at risk," clarifying that the hospital staff will treat only emergencies.

    Speaking to a private radio in Athens, a representative of Eginitio Hospital Staff Union stressed that the hospital was forced to suspend its operation to avoid putting the health of the Greek people at risk, adding that the operation of the Medical School is also at risk considering that 80 pct of all medical students are trained there.

    Commenting on the developments, Communist Party (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga on Monday stated from Brussels that "the suspension of the operation of the two very important highly specialized university hospitals sets off an alarm for the people" and warned that in the next few months, the situation will be even worse.

    Papariga is in Brussels for the pan-European meeting of communist and labour parties.

    [23] Pharmaceutical firms contest prescription medication list at Council of State

    The Greek association of pharmaceutical firms SFEE on Monday announced that it had filed a petition at the Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, seeking the annulment of a joint ministerial decree outlining criteria for the approved list of prescription medication for state social insurance funds.

    According to an SFEE announcement, the criteria established in the ministerial decree were unclear, subjective and conducive to unfair competition, resulting in a lack of transparency and a hostile climate.

    The association has counter-proposed a set of criteria that would give patients access to all medicines while also cutting costs for social insurance funds. It stressed that the only way to effect savings was to fully computerise the health system.

    [24] Eurostat on oil, renewable energy sources consumption in EU

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    Oil represents over half of energy consumption in Greece (55 percent), while the consumption percentage from renewable energy sources amounts to only 6.1 percent, according to data publicised by Eurostat on Monday.

    According to Eurostat's data, the highest percentages of oil consumption in the EU are in Malta (100 pc), Cyprus (96), Luxembourg (63), Greece (55), Ireland (52) and Portugal (50 pc).

    Last in the consumption of renewable energy sources (hydroelectric, aeolian, biomass, geothermal and solar) are Latvia (36 pc), Sweden (34), Austria (27) and Finland (23 pc).

    [25] General Accounting Office staff begin four-day strike on Tuesday

    Staff at Greece's General Accounting Office have announced a four-day strike beginning on Tuesday, in opposition to the removal of authority over certain functions from GAO services and cuts to their fund finances. A meeting with Deputy Finance Minister Philippos Sahinidis is pending, however, to discuss their demands.

    The four-day strike, if it takes place, is expected to block payment of Easter benefits to pensioners and public-sector staff, as well as payment of public-sector salaries since there will be no one to sign payment orders to banks.

    [26] Sales boosted during journalists' strike, Piraeus retailers claim

    The four-day journalists' strike over the previous weekend was a "breath of fresh air" for retail sales, according to an announcement by the Piraeus Merchants Association on Monday.

    The association asserted that the four-day break from the news helped boost consumers' spirits and made them were more willing to splash out on shopping.

    The announcement said the strike had given people a "rest" from worry about impending "economic Armageddon" and urged journalists to "continue their valuable work in reporting events but without unnecessary and incomprehensible exaggerations, which unfortunately lead consumers to pessimism and restraint that benefits no one".

    [27] Business briefs...

    -- The Greek government is examining the introduction of a single payroll system in public sector enterprises, a move aimed at rationalizing wages and facilitating the restructuring and reduction of spending by public sector enterprises and organisations, which total 800 million euros this year, finance ministry officials said Monday.

    The ministry said there were significant margins to cut operating costs in the wider public sector, particularly in operating spending (rents, mobile telephony, cars, recyclables etc), adding that leases paid by public sector enterprises totaled 30 million euros annually.

    -- Bank of Cyprus will continue investing in Greece, expanding its branch network and supporting its staff during a difficult period for the country, Andreas Eliadis, the bank's chief executive said on Monday. Addressing an event organised with the Athens University of Economics - with guest speaker Christopher Pissaridis, the Nobel winner and professor of London School of Economics - Eliadis said the current period demands a right evaluation of facts and changes currently witnessed and those anticipated, to draw conclusions from the past and to look with dynamism into the future.

    -- The central government's deficit dropped 25 pct to 4.25 billion euros in the first three months of 2011, down from 5.6 billion euros in the same period in 2010, the Bank of Greece announced on Monday.

    -- Greek exports jumped 35.2 pct in February to 1.433 billion euros, up from 1.06 billion euros in the same month last year, an analysis by the Panhellenic Federation of Exporters - based on Hellenic Statistical Authority's figures - revealed on Monday. The report said Greek exports - measured in US dollars - were up 34.8 pct to 1.9555 billion euros in February, after an increase of 39.9 pct in January 2011.

    -- The Lambrakis Press Organisation on Monday announced it has sold a 36-pct equity stake in Eurostar SA - which manages Travel Plan travel agency - to Express Holidays SA. for around three million euros. Following the transaction, Lambrakis Press will hold a 15-pct stake in Eurostar's equity capital.

    [28] Stocks end 2.57% down

    Stocks continued moving lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 1,500 level. Bank shares were at the focus of selling activity. The composite index dropped 2.57 pct to end at 1,491.83 points, with turnover shrinking to a low 74.049 million euros. The Big Cap index plunged 3.14 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.36 pct down and the Small Cap index dropped 3.22 pct.

    The Industrial Products (0.35 pct), Commerce (0.34 pct) and Travel (0.13 pct) sectors scored gains, while Media (7.05 pct), Banks (4.37 pct) and Health (4.48 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Viohalco (0.96 pct), OPAP (0.27 pct) and Jumbo (0.20 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while ATEbank (6.78 pct), Eurobank (6.12 pct), Hellenic Postbank (5.41 pct) and Piraeus Bank (5.04 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 126 to 36 with another 42 issues unchanged. Hatzioannou (14.29 pct), CPI (14.29 pct) and Hatzikranioti (9.33 pct) were top gainers, while Edrasi (20 pct), Mihaniki (18.52 pct) and Spider (12.5 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.64%

    Industrials: +0.35%

    Commercial: +0.34%

    Construction: -2.89%

    Media: -7.05%

    Oil & Gas: -1.76%

    Personal & Household: -0.49%

    Raw Materials: -2.59%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.13%

    Technology: -2.00%

    Telecoms: -3.23%

    Banks: -4.37%

    Food & Beverages: -2.66%

    Health: -4.48%

    Utilities: -2.52%

    Chemicals: -0.83%

    Financial Services: -3.60%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Coca Cola3E, OPAP and OTE.

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.43

    ATEbank: 0.55

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.72

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.19

    National Bank of Greece: 6.04

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.14

    OPAP: 14.79

    OTE: 7.50

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.32

    Titan: 17.10

    [29] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 942 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 930 bps on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.9 pct and the German Bund 3.48 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 34 million euros, of which 32 million were sell orders and the remaining 2.0 million euros were buy orders. The 12-month Treasury bill was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 12 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved higher. The 12-month rate was 2.01 pct, the six-month rate was 1.61 pct, the three-month 1.31 pct and the one-month rate 1.11 pct.

    [30] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of -0.96 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover shrinking to 28.555 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,974 contracts worth 23.651 million euros, with 27,527 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,378 contracts worth 4.904 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,738), followed by Eurobank (1,093), OTE (576), Piraeus Bank (816), Alpha Bank (1,097), Intracom (1,260), Marfin Popular Bank (761), Hellenic Postbank (364) and ATEbank (945).

    [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.454

    Pound sterling 0.890

    Danish kroner 7.517

    Swedish kroner 9.084

    Japanese yen 123.24

    Swiss franc 1.323

    Norwegian kroner 7.875

    Canadian dollar 1.392

    Australian dollar 1.381

    General News

    [32] Papoulias to inaugurate Nebojsa Tower in Belgrade

    BELGRADE (ANA-MPA - N. Pelpas)

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Serb President Boris Tadic will jointly inaugurate the landmark Nebojsa Tower in Belgrade on April 29, where Greek independence struggle hero Rigas Velestinlis (also known as Ferraios) was put to death by Ottoman Turkish authorities in 1798.

    Nebojsa Tower has recently undergone renovation that was funded by Greece and the municipality of Belgrade. The restoration work was carried out over two years and cost 1.8 million euros. The Greek state, via the Greek foreign ministry international developmental aid service 'Hellenic Aid' has paid 1.38 million euro toward the project.

    The tower will serve as a museum exhibit site featuring exhibits related to the life and work of Rigas Feraios and also to the Serbs own struggle for independence from Ottoman rule. The second storey of the four-storey tower will be devoted to Feraios and the Greek revolution.

    Other exhibits will focus the tower's use as a prison at the end of the 18th and the start of the 19th centuries.

    Nejbosa Tower is a medieval structure built by Hungarians on the ruins of an older Roman tower dating from the 1st century A.D. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times in its history. Rigas Feraios was imprisoned there for roughly seven months before he was put to death by Turks, becoming one of the first martyrs of Greece's struggle for independence.

    [33] Papoulias attends WWII Roupel Fortress anniversary event

    President Karolos Papoulias on Sunday attended a memorial service on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the WWII battle at the Roupel Fortress, on the Greek-Bulgarian frontier.

    The Greek president laid a wreath at the Roupel Monument and greeted one of the survivors of the battle, who was present in the ceremony and was honored for his valour.

    Afterwards, he attended a luncheon given in his honor at Timios Prodromos Monastery hosted by Metropolitan Makarios of Sidirokastro. he government was represented by Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

    [34] Co-discoverer of double helix James Watson to speak in Greece

    One of the men credited with unlocking the secrets of the now-familiar 'double helix' structure of DNA, Prof. James Watson, is due to be the central speaker at the 12th Conference of Medical Chemistry organised by Patras University that begins on Monday and runs until April 15.

    Watson is due to deliver a lecture on "Discovering the Double Helix of DNA" on April 14, while on the previous day there will be an event in his honour held by the university and the mayor of the port city of Patras in the west Peloponnese.

    On April 15, Watson will be a guest of the 'Democritus' research centre in Athens, where he will speak on the topic of DNA and the potential for using human genome mapping to cure cancer.

    Watson, along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for unlocking the double-helix structure of DNA, widely seen as one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time. The scientific paper co-authored by Watson and Crick, who worked together at Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory, was published in "Nature" in 1953 and opened the way for radical developments in genetics, medicine and biotechnology.

    [35] 'Heracles to Alexander the Great' exhibition at Oxford

    A major exhibition entitled "Heracles to Alexander the Great: Treasures from the Royal Capital o Macedon, a Hellenic Kingdom in the Age of Democracy", is currently running at Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Britain's oldest museum.

    This major exhibition showcasse the treasures of Aegae, the royal capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedon.

    More than 500 extraordinary new discoveries from the royal tombs of Aegae are on display for the very first time at the Ashmolean. These magnificent objects trace the rise of power of the governing Temenids, descendants of mythical Heracles (Hercules) and the ruling dynasty of Alexander the Great, and focus on the roles of the kings and queens, and their immediate court, according to the museum.

    Aegae was unknown before its discovery at the modern village of Vergina, in northern Greece, 30 years ago. Since then, excavations have revealed a startling wealth of objects, from intricately crafted gold jewellery to glass perfume bottles and clay busts. This exhibition will feature the reconstruction of four burial tombs, displaying the recent finds of gold and silver treasure for the first time anywhere in the world, the Ashmolean added.

    The main goal of the exhibition is to promote the evolution of the Macedonian kingdom and the era of Alexander the Great.

    The exhibition is co-organised with theGreek ministry of culture and tourism and the 17th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. he exhibition will run through August 29.

    [36] Pirated Greek freighter released by Somali pirates

    The Greek tanker "MV Irene SL", which had been pirated by Somali pirates on February 9, was released from pirate control on Thursday, the EUNAVFOR announced.

    The Greek-owned and Greek-flagged VLCC (very large crude carrier) "Irene SL" was pirated on February 9 approximately 350 nautical miles southeast of Muscat in the North Arabian Sea, carrying a load of 266 tons for oil products from the Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico.

    The 25 crew members -- from Greece, Georgia and the Philippines -- are all safe and in good health, and the vessel was headed to afe port in Durban, S. Africa.

    [37] Illegal migrant trafficker arrested near Xanthi, eight others detained

    Kotyli border police on Monday arrested a 42-year-old Syrian national on the Xanthi-Kavala stretch of the Egnatia highway, who was driving a stolen truck belonging to an Athens-based movers' company with five illegal migrants on board.

    The Syrian, who had requested political asylum from Greece, was arrested after a chase during which a traffic accident occured, and the five illegal migrants, citizens of Afghanistan and Pakistan, were detained.

    Also, another three migrants from Iraq were detained in a private car who were acting as 'scouts' for the truck driver for possible police checks along the way.

    Weather Forecast

    [38] Cloudy on Tuesday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 4-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 3C and 23C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with southerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 21C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 7C to 20C.

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