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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-05-19

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Thursday, 19 May 2011 Issue No: 3790


  • [01] Gov't selects advisers for privatisation of state entities
  • [02] ND leader addresses Economist conference
  • [03] Greek FinMin says economy moving on right track
  • [04] Employment minister addresses Economist con'f
  • [05] Top economists, officials address Greek debt issue during Economist con'f
  • [06] PM meets with top finance ministry officials
  • [07] Gov't on snap election scenarios; consensus
  • [08] Samaras response to Rehn call for 'consensus'
  • [09] KKE's Papariga: "Consensus between PASOK, ND exists but not evident'
  • [10] LA.O.S. leader on national consensus
  • [11] Tsipras lambasts PM
  • [12] Gov't rules out prospect of layoffs in public sector
  • [13] FM Droutsas on wikileaks reports
  • [14] DM briefs visiting US Congressional delegation
  • [15] Plans for five detention centres for migrants
  • [16] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew arrives in Kavala
  • [17] First Air China flight from Beijing touches down at Athens airport
  • [18] Deputy FM Kouvelis on prospects of widening Greek-Chinese relations
  • [19] Greek Shipyards need orders from navies of other countries to survive, DM says
  • [20] DM holds talks with Chinese NORINCO company vice president
  • [21] Federation of Hellenic Enterprises presents proposals to support business activity
  • [22] Greece loses ground in IMD's world competitiveness list
  • [23] Business Briefs
  • [24] Stocks end significantly lower
  • [25] Greek bond market closing report
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [28] President Papoulias receives International Olympic Academy President Isidoros Kouvelos
  • [29] Greece approves loan of 121 ancient artifacts for exhibition in NY
  • [30] Australian commemoration at Commonwealth cemetery on occasion of Battle of Crete anniversary
  • [31] Roger Waters in Athens with 'The Wall Live' on July 8-9
  • [32] Two policemen wounded in Pefki shooting incident
  • [33] Minor and man die, another child missing when dinghy carrying illegal migrants turns over
  • [34] Striking municipal workers protest in Thessaloniki
  • [35] Contraband cigarettes found aboard Togo-flag freighter that ran aground off Katakolo
  • [36] Rainy on Thursday
  • [37] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Gov't selects advisers for privatisation of state entities

    The decision was taken during an inter-ministerial meeting, part of now urgent efforts to speed-up the privatisations programme, the main ingredient of a Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework for 2012-2015, currently under discussion with the EC-ECB-IMF "troika", which cites revenues worth a whopping 50 billion euros from various privatisations and property sales.

    The government announced the selection of advisors for:

    OPAP: expanding a contract with the state and examining the possibility of selling the state's equity stake (Deutsche Bank AG London branch, National Bank of Greece).

    State lottery: contribution of the state's rights on state lotteries to a new company and exploiting the state's participation in the new company (Credit Suisse and Eurobank EFG Equities).

    Horse racing ODIE: examining the possibility of selling the state's equity stake in ODIE (Emporiki Bank and Credit Agricole).

    Hellenic Vehicle Industry (ELVO): examining the sale of the state's equity stake (Societe Generale-Geniki Finance).

    Hellenic Motorways: exploiting the state's rights on existing and future road networks (Ernst & Young, Rothschild & Sons Ltd, Barclays Bank plc).

    "South Kavala" natural gas field: examining the sale of the state's equity stake to a company along with the rights on the natural gas field (HSBC Bank Plc, EFG Eurobank Equities).

    Frequency Bandwidth: exploiting the state's rights on bandwidth (Analysis Mason Ltd, Aegis Systems Ltd).

    Real Estate Property: exploiting the state's rights on real estate assets by creating one or more enterprises (National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank, Investment Bank, Emporiki Bank, Piraeus Bank, Hellenic Postbank, Attica Bank and ATEbank. National Bank will be the coordinator).

    The government has already selected advisors for its ambitious privatization program which includes:

    Helliniko: exploiting the state's rights on the site of the former Athens international airport (Citigroup Global Markets Ltd, Piraeus Bank, Barcelona Strategical Urban Systems).

    Four Airbus A340 aircraft (Lazard)

    Hellenic Railways (PWC)

    DEPA (UBS, Rothschild and Alpha Bank)

    Hellenic Defense Systems (KMPG)

    Saving and Loans Fund (Lazard)

    Athens International Airport (BNP Paribas, National Bank)

    [02] ND leader addresses Economist conference

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, addressing the Economist's conference at an Athens seaside resort on Wednesday evening, gave a reply to European Union officials, terming as "improper intervention" their recent appeals for consensus among the political forces in Greece.

    "The country has a constitution, institutions and a government as well as an opposition and dignity. In any case, it appears that the tones are falling from Brussels on an improper intervention which does not fit neither with Europe nor with democracy. And, in any case, we do not negotiate the constitutional order of our country, we don't even discuss it. And on this, I am certain, all agree. I shall say nothing more on this, nor is it necessary."

    Samaras also cut short the discussion on censensus, saying "nobody has the right to place his failure on someone else. We disagreeed with government policy since last year. We warned of its failure. And now that it has been proved that our criticism was correct, now that more and more are confessing this failure, shall we say 'yes' to the continuation of a mistake? I am obliged, as the opposition, to consent to the mistake? On what grounds?".

    He added that the opposition does not exist to consent to the government's mistakes but to formulate alternative solutions.

    Samaras further said that the basis for the country's exit from the crisis is the proposal he submitted, last week, at the Zappion Hall on the restarting of the Greek economy, that must be taken in its entirety to produce results and not fragmentally. He clarified, however, that "it will be lost in its entirety if it is not adopted in its entirety, if there is no restarting totally with a creative shock. However the government does not accept this. It accepts, as it says, 'some others'. What can we do with the 'others'".

    The ND leader said that Greece is in the eye of the global cyclone and a year after the implementation of the memorandum its position has worsened and added that "the main reason for the failure was the plan itself" and explained that the implementation of measures of harsh austerity with a decrease in public expenditures and an increase in taxes worsened the recession.

    "We are the first to want our country to avoid bankruptcy. The policy being applied today, however, is leading us to bankruptcy," Samaras said.

    He went on to say that the sacrifices of the Greek people were in vain and added that "with curbing measures amounting to 10.1% of GDP, last year, in 2010, the deficit decreased only by 2.6%. The rest were 'eaten' by the recession."

    Samaras also said the troika's predictions failed and stressed that "as an economist I must point out the problem of ineffectiveness. And as a politician I must warn of tensions that are boiling and of explosions that are in the making."

    The ND leader said all these constitue "economic gymnastics in futility. What else, at last, do they need to understand that what is being implemented in Greece is the mistaken recipe."

    Lastly, Samaras concluded that "the memorandum caused a deep and prolonged recession," adding that "the recession does not allow the curtbacks to appear in the deficit. The recession is not allowing the revenues to increase. The recession is not allowing the privatisations to take place, so that they will bring money to the state revenue office."

    [03] Greek FinMin says economy moving on right track

    Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Wednesday expressed his certainty that the country will continue moving on the right track, making the right choices even if the road ahead is difficult.

    Speaking during an Economist's conference in Athens, the Finance minister stressed that efforts made so far have offered the first signs and reiterated that the government will not abandon this effort.

    Papaconstantinou said that when a state organization was closing down or merging, there might by lay offs as well. "This is not our goal," he said, adding that efforts would be made to absorb personnel from closing or merging organizations, but only of the staff needed.

    He noted that the government would make a real evaluation of all public sector organizations before keeping those usefull for Greek citizens. Papaconstantinou underlined that there was no room for relaxing a fiscal effort, noting it was necessary to implement all interventions needed to bring the fiscal deficit to targets set. These interventions, worth 6.0 billion euros, will cover both spending cuts and raising revenues. These decisions are not easy, but will be fair and effective, Papaconstantinou said, while underlining that there would be not horizontal cuts in wages and pensions or any raise in VAT.

    Papaconstantinou said the public sector will lose 150,000 workers in the next few years as the government would minimize new hirings, cut contract workers and promote voluntary pension schemes.

    [04] Employment minister addresses Economist con'f

    Employment & Social Solidarity Minister Louka Katseli stressed that the exit from the ongoing economic crisis is not the task of one government, but the demand of all of society.

    She spoke during a conference on Wednesday entitled "In the aftermath of the global economic crisis: What's next?" organised by the Economist in Athens.

    "I do not understand those perceiving so-called reformist fatigues in the government," she said, adding that "never before has a government shown such determination and such a strong political will for changes to be promoted that should have been done decades ago."

    [05] Top economists, officials address Greek debt issue during Economist con'f

    The spectre of restructuring and whether Greece should resort to a 'haircut' were a common thread in addresses given on Wednesday at the Economist's 15th Roundtable with the government of Greece, held at Athens seaside resort, with strong opinions for and against expressed by the various speakers.

    Feelings on the issue ran high, as shown by European Central Bank executive board member J?rgen Stark who, when asked why the ECB opposed restructuring, sharply referred to a "recipe for catastrophe", while also citing "vested interests" and a "discussion triggered in London and New York".

    Stark was one of the strongest proponents of the view that Greece should "tough it out" and stick to painful efforts for structural reforms, asserting that this would ultimately "deliver the goods" in terms of regained competitiveness and upside growth.

    He also repeatedly insisted on the need for fiscal discipline in order to ensure the smooth functioning of economic and monetary union, especially for the EU periphery countries like Greece, Ireland and Portugal, which had run up a high public debt and deficit, stressing that "a loss of sovereignty was part of the reality of sharing in the benefits of a common currency."

    He warned, in response to questions, that any restructuring or rescheduling of the Greek debt, even on a voluntary basis, will undermine the collateral adequacy of Greek bonds and make continuation of liquidity provision to Greek banks by the ECB impossible.

    International Monetary Fund (IMF) Deputy Director Poul Thomsen addressed the question of whether the government's adjustment programme was working, concluding that the answer was 'yes', but with a question mark over how long.

    "I think that the programme largely achieved what it set out to do but it will not remain on track without significant invigoration," he stressed.

    According to the high-ranking IMF official, the Greek government has achieved an impressive 7 percent adjustment and the economy was showing encouraging signs, such as lower inflation at constant tax rates, rising exports and lower unit labour costs.

    On the down side, he warned that from this point on there were "no more low-hanging fruit, only difficult structural reforms ahead." Pointing out that there were no more margins for "quick-fix" measures, like slashing wages or raising taxes, Thomsen stressed that structural reforms were lagging behind schedule and that they had to be reinvigorated or there would be no recovery.

    Replying to questions, Thomsen deflected criticism that the policies imposed as part of the EC-ECB-IMF programme had "killed" the market, emphasising that it was impossible to deal with a 15-percent public deficit without triggering a recession.

    He admitted that the IMF had miscalculated concerning the market's response to the programme, but he attributed this mainly to "external factors" such as continued doubts about the mechanism for periphery countries rather than problems with the Memorandum in itself.

    On the prospects of the closely watched Greek government privatisation programme, Thomsen took the view that it would generate a substantial change to Greece's debt sustainability if it succeeded.

    Criticism was also leveled against the Greek government on the level of implementing reforms and the credibility of its ambitious privatisation programme.

    Economist editor for western Europe Megan Greene described the Greek government as "long on legislation but not implementation", while she predicted that Greece will continue to miss public deficit targets.

    Painting a bleak picture of Greece's key economic figures, which she said was not offset by the small upturn in GDP growth during the first quarter of 2011, Greene seemed dubious about whether the country would actually achieve a 7.5-percent deficit reduction predicted by the IMF.

    She was equally uncertain about the feasibility of raising 50 billion euros through privatisations by 2015.

    In response to questions, she said the prospect was "not at all credible" and questioned whether it would be a "game-changer" in returning the country to solvency even if it was successful.

    Greene ruled out the prospect of a return to markets before the EU-IMF assistance package runs out, predicting that the most likely outcome would be a new bailout package, since restructuring before 2013 is unlikely and an exit from the euro would be a 'disaster' for Greece, as she reiterated.

    Main opposition New Democracy party's alternate head of the economy, Notis Mitarachis, levelled criticism against the government programme, which he said has failed to address the true sources of wasteful public spending. He stressed that ND was not opposed to the memorandum in principle and had supported more than half the measures the government had brought to Parliament but insisted that it had made the 'wrong cuts' rather than solving the problems.

    Asked whether ND would be prepared to consider a 'consensus pact' with the government along the lines of that achieved in Portugal, he answered that Greece was a democracy and that the main opposition party has a defined role within this while, noting that the real problem of consensus lay within the government itself.

    Among the most effective proponents of the view supporting a haircut sooner rather than later was INSEAD associate professor of finance Harald Hau, who emphasised the moral hazard issue, while he accused EU governments of placing tax-payers "before the firing squad" in the place of banks. Moreover, he asserted that debt restructuring was both inevitable and would be more painful for private investors once an estimated 50 percent of Greek debt had been transferred to sovereign debtors.

    The three-day conference took place at the Lagonissi resort southeast of Athens.

    [06] PM meets with top finance ministry officials

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday met with general secretary for taxation and customs affairs Giorgos Kapeleris and special secretary of the financial crimes squad SDOE Yiannis Diotis. The meeting was held in Parliament.

    [07] Gov't on snap election scenarios; consensus

    Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Wednesday ruled out the likelihood of snap elections, stressing that such scenarios come from those "trying to avoid assuming their share of responsibility".

    Commenting on statements made a day earlier by European Commissioner Olli Rehn, he underlined that "the necessary consensus for the country is a domestic issue and will not be imposed by a third party".

    Petalotis said the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party will be "accountable for its actions" unless it realises that reaching a consensus and displaying a measure of responsibility toward the Greek people is a matter of national importance.

    Petalotis said the prime minister is likely to invite political party leaders to a meeting to brief them on the Medium-term Stability Programme, adding that it is a standing invitation.

    The government spokesman clarified that the premier, speaking in the Economist conference on Tuesday, referred to transfers and retirements of public sector employees - based on the "one hiring for every five retirements" rule - and not to layoffs when he said that the number of public sector employees will be reduced by 150,000 by the end of 2015.

    "The government wishes to create a flexible state that will be to the service of the citizens," he said.

    Petalotis also confirmed ANA-MPA information that the State Legal Council, following orders by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, is seeking the assistance of a law firm in London to help in the amendment of the terms of the 110-billion-euro loan contract signed with the troika (IMF-EU-ECB).

    He denied that the law firm in question will contribute to drawing up "Memorandum 2" because there is no such memorandum.

    [08] Samaras response to Rehn call for 'consensus'

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras reiterated that his party will back measures that are good for the country, but will not support "mistaken policies that have failed in action and are leading the country to the deepest recession in recent decades".

    In a statement to Eleftheros Typos daily newspaper appearing on Wednesday, and regarding a call by EU economic and monetary affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn for the political parties' consensus to the Memorandum measures in order for the EU to disburse the following tranches of the 110 billion euro EU-IMF bailout loan, Samaras also stressed that Greece has a government and an opposition, and that the country's parliamentary democracy remains strong.

    "The Constitution, institutions and dignity mandate that we remind, in every direction, that a government exists, the opposition exists, and the parliamentary democracy remains strong in this land called Greece".

    Even if, hypothetically speaking, ND counter-signed consensus in order for Greece to receive the 5th tranches of the loan, "can Mr. Olli Rehn sign for us that, with the same wrong policy the government is following, Greece will receive the 6th and 7th tranches of the loan?" Samaras asked.

    As for the shortfalls and failures of the government's economic policy, Samaras stressed that "ND is not to blame, nor has a lack of consensus obstructed them (PASOK government) from governing".

    Samaras further stressed that the detailed economic program recently unveiled by ND at Zappion sets out in a well-grounded way the framework for the Greek economy entering a track of recovery and fiscal streamlining.

    [09] KKE's Papariga: "Consensus between PASOK, ND exists but not evident'

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga on Wednesday said "ruling PASOK and the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party have already reached a consensus but it is not evident," adding that "those demanding a consensus simply want it to become more open".

    Speaking at a press conference in Thessaloniki, Papariga called the proposals for a government that will be made up of personalities as "opportunistic", adding that individuals without a political identity are "opportunists".

    She also accused both PASOK and ND of being largely responsible for the crisis, adding that they serve the interests of capitalist economy.

    On the likelihood of snap elections, she stressed that they can create the preconditions for a step forward or for two steps back.

    [10] LA.O.S. leader on national consensus

    Opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S.) leader George Karatzaferis on Wednesday called on the prime minister to immediately invite political parties to a dialogue aimed at reaching a national consensus.

    Speaking to a private Athens radio station, Karatzaferis said he is ready to enter a dialogue that can take place with the participation of Democratic Left leader and MP Fotis Kouvelis and Democratic Alliance head MP Dora Bakoyannis.

    [11] Tsipras lambasts PM

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader and Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday demanded that the government step down and call early general elections, while he also lambasted prime minister George Papandreou and appealed to the forces of the Left to join forces in a new coalition, addressing an event on unemployment organised by SYN on Wednesday.

    Tsipras said the country is facing a severe political crisis, noting that the crisis was primarily political, and secondarily economic, and launched a scathing attack on both current premier Papandreou and his predecessor (New Democracy) prime minister Costas Karamanlis, as well as current main opposition ND leader Antonis Samaras.

    Greece, he said, has been unlucky regarding its political leadership. which did not safeguard the national interests.

    Tsipras said that Papandreou is "so weak and frightened" that he can't face the problems on his own and is seeking help from Samaras "who stammers to the troika that he would do the same things, but does not want co-governance, but neither demands (early) elections and winks at the troika, and begs not to counter-sign the looting of the state wealth and property".

    He also called Papandreou "ruthless", having surpassed even Margaret Thatcher and Pinochet, and "will do everything the troika asks".

    Papandreou, Tsipras said, "has turned into the biggest disappointment of the post-dictatorship years".

    Tsipras said it is clear that the country needs a different government, a people-oriented factor, to determine the developments in order to "deal with this tragedy with daring and dignity" because not only does Papandreou lack the courage to admit his failure -- since he is not stepping down and calling early elections -- but he is becoming increasingly worse in his effort to hang on to power.

    [12] Gov't rules out prospect of layoffs in public sector

    Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis on Wednesday again ruled out imminent layoffs, stressing that "for the time being, there is no question of layoffs in the public sector including employees with a permanent status and those under open-ended work contracts".

    Speaking in Parliament during the e-government draft law discussion, he underlined that "on the contrary, the government has avoided a pressing dilemma to proceed with the layoffs of 200,000 public sector employees when soon after the 2009 elections it adopted drastic reductions in their number. This was achieved through the abolition of the STAGE contracts, the considerable reduction of contract workers and the local government administration mergers introduced by the "Kallikratis" local government reform programme."

    Ragoussis also stressed that 150,000 employees have retired during the recent period, while the clause "one hiring for five retirements" has brought a drastic payroll cost reduction, pointing out that there is no question of additional layoffs.

    "The new system is based on the principle that the strict evaluation of employees is necessary to counteract a long absence of meritocracy that stemmed from client relations practices that dominated in the past," he said.

    [13] FM Droutsas on wikileaks reports

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas reiterated on Wednesday that Greece does not "tolerate disputing, and there is no doubt on that, even for a palm of Greek territory", on the occasion of the publicising of US State Department reports in the wikileaks.

    "I consider as a matter of principle that the publicising of confidential diplomatic mail is condemnable and undermines the exercising of foreign policy. As regards the issue of Agathonissi and Farmakonissi, (in the Aegean) or whatever other place in Greek territory, I say once again in an emphatic way that we do not tolerate disputing and there is no doubt even for a palm of Greek territory. Our friends on the other side of the Aegean must put this in their minds well," Droutsas said in reply to a relevant question by the press in the framework of statements by him before his meeting on Wednesday with his Serb counterpart Vuk Jeremic.

    [14] DM briefs visiting US Congressional delegation

    Defence Minister Venizelos on Wednesday met with a visiting four-member US Congressional delegation

    Venizelos briefed the US House of Representatives members on Greece's positions concerning regional issues, NATO's reorganisation, the situation in Libya and the Arab world in general, as well as the Greek military presence in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa region. They were also briefed on issues concerning the Greek economy and its prospects.

    The US Congressional delegation, which included Michael Turner (R-??), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Steve King (R-IA), was accompanied by US ambassador to Greece Daniel Bennett Smith.

    [15] Plans for five detention centres for migrants

    Citizen's Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis on Wednesday announced that the government's plans to set up five detention centres for migrants, where they will be held until there is a final decision on what should be done with them. He did not reveal where these five centres will be located.

    The minister also referred to the planned measures announced by Prime Minister George Papandreou at a recent cabinet meeting, which are to be carried out by the citizen's protection ministry in a bid to "reclaim" the centre of Athens and once again make the city centre accessible to all in conditions of safety. Papoutsis said that teasing out the details of these measures would be the next stage in the process.

    [16] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew arrives in Kavala

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was welcomed in the city of Kavala, northern Greece, by the local authorities and inhabitants on Wednesday.

    The Patriarch is visiting Kavala for the first time on the occasion of the celebration of the memory of the first Greek woman and European Christian Saint Lydia of Filippi who was christened in 56 AD by the Apostle of Nations Paul.

    The Ecumenical Patriarch arrived by air from Istanbul and was welcomed at Kavala airport on behalf of the government by Deputy Health Minister Mihalis Timosidis, the secretary general of the Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Aris Yiannakidis and the metropolitan of Filippi, Neapolis and Thasos Prokopios.

    Financial News

    [17] First Air China flight from Beijing touches down at Athens airport

    Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis and a Greek delegation returning from a trip to China were among passengers that arrived in Athens on flight CA961 from Beijing on Wednesday, the first flight in a resumed Air China service between Athens and Beijing.

    When it touched down at Athens airport, the Airbus 330 went through a water arch organised by airport authorities as a mark of welcome for the 95 Chinese passengers on board.

    During an inauguration ceremony, Kouvelis said the new flight link was a "bridge of friendship" between the two countries and revealed that an agreement to facilitate the issue of visas to Chinese citizens wishing to visit Greece was signed during his visit to Beijing.

    "The aim is to increase movement and contact between Greeks and Chinese in tourism, business and culture," he said.

    He expressed hope that in few months Greek authorities will be able to negotiate an increase in the number of flights between Greece and China, as well as the possibility of a direct flight without any intervening stops. The current flight service first stops at Munich before continuing to Greece.

    According to Chinese ambassador Luo Linquan, visiting the Acropolis and the Greek islands had become a "fashion" in China. He noted that 57.39 million Chinese had travelled abroad in 2010 and more than a million had visited Europe. Of these, just 10,000 had visited Greece, indicating the significant potential in this area.

    [18] Deputy FM Kouvelis on prospects of widening Greek-Chinese relations

    Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis referred to prospects of widening Greek-Chinese relations and Greece's will to constitute a popular destination for Chinese citizens, during his meeting on Wednesday with an eight-member delegation of the All-China Journalists Association (ACIA) that is visiting Greece for the 14th consecutive year with the purpose of a mutual briefing on issues of bilateral interest, as well as a briefing on the role played by Greece in the repatriation of thousands of Chinese citizens from Libya.

    Referring to his very recent visit to China, Kouvelis expressed enthusiasm over the possibilities of cooperation between Athens and Beijing, following the starting of the new Greece-China air link by the Air China airline company and the signing of a joint statement on providing facilities for the issuing of entry visas for Greek and Chinese citizens by the corresponding consular authorities of the two countries.

    As the Greek deputy minister stressed, the aim of the Greek side from the signing of the above agreement is a decrease in the time for issuing a visa to Chinese citizens and in parallel a decrease in the number of supporting documents for its issuing as well.

    [19] Greek Shipyards need orders from navies of other countries to survive, DM says

    Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos met on Wednesday with the president and managing director of Abu Dhabi Mar company Iskadar Saffa and the president of the Greek Shipyards SA (ENAE) board Boulos Hankas.

    "The Hellenic state realises that for ENAE's survival, orders by the Greek Navy are not enough, but orders from the Navies of other countries must also be promoted definitely, given that for the next 15 years, the ENAE cannot undertake works of a commercial character, according to the European Commission's known decision for the implementation of which, of course, clarifications are required," the defence minister stressed.

    The meeting was prompted by the latest developments at the Skaramangas Shipyards, following the denouncing by the German HDW company of the contract for the building of another two new 214 type submarines and the completion of the modernisation of the submarine "OKEANOS."

    Saffa briefed Venizelos on the problems created in his relations with the German side while also reiterating the wish of the group of companies he represents to continue its entrepreunerial presence in ENAE and in Greece in general.

    [20] DM holds talks with Chinese NORINCO company vice president

    Prospects of Greek-Chinese cooperation in the defence industry sector, focusing on the Greek Defence Systems company, was discussed at Wednesday's meeting between Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos and the vice president of the Chinese state-run company NORINCO Zhao XiaoPeng.

    The NORINCO company replaced the Chinese deputy Defence Industry ministry.

    The meeting was attended on the Greek side by Alternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis and the relevant general directors, and on the Chinese side by officials of NORINCO and the defence attache of the Chinese embassy in Athens.

    [21] Federation of Hellenic Enterprises presents proposals to support business activity

    The Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEB) on Wednesday presented a package of proposals aimed at simplifying business environment in the country and noted that creation of a business-friendly environment was the necessary precondition to restarting the economy.

    Lifting of hurdles in business activity is also a target included in the memorandum signed between Greece and the EC/ECB/IMF. In this framework, SEB conducted a survey on the measures needed to boost certain sectors of the economy (food/beverage, pharmaceuticals, building materials, mining) and market operations (electronic billing and intra-group transactions).

    The proposals to reducing bureaucracy in the country included: simplifying of legislation, better coordination of agencies under a central supervisory agency, regular and objective inspections in markets and creating single electronic data bases for quantity and quality figures.

    On a sector basis, the proposals included:

    Food/Beverage: better organizing and coordinating inspections, creating a business register and developing an integrated crisis management system.

    Pharmaceuticals: modernizing operations of EOF -the market's watchdog- accelerating procedures to approving new pharmaceutical products and simplifying procedures of price setting.

    Building/Construction: harmonizing Greek law with European rules.

    Mining: Introducing a new framework on environmental protection, creating a one-stop-shop for environmental licensing.

    Electronic invoicing: updating and completing the tax legislation on electronic invoices, offering tax and financial incentives.

    Intragroup transactions: measures to lift red tape burden on intragroup transactions.

    [22] Greece loses ground in IMD's world competitiveness list

    Greece lost further ground in the global list of competitiveness of the Institute for Management Development (IMD) this year, ranking 56th among 59 countries, ahead of Ukraine, Croatia and Venezuela.

    This sharp fall reflects the country's economic condition in 2010 as a result of the implementation of a memorandum, a fiscal consolidation effort and the absence of fundamental growth measures.

    Presenting the report, Nikolaos Pentzos, president of the Federation Northern Greece Industries (SBBE) said Greece lost 10 positions in the economic efficiency category ranking one place ahead of Venezuela at the bottom.

    In the government efficiency category, Greece ranked 54th (56th in 2009), ahead of Argentina, Venezuela and Ukraine. The country lost eight places in the business efficiency category, ranking 53rd, ahead of Russia, Ukraine, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Venezuela and Croatia. However, Greece gained one position, ranking 32nd in the infrastructure category.

    In the international list, Hong Kong, the US and Singapore led the table for 2011, followed by Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Canada, Qatar, Australia and Germany.

    Pentzos said the message of this year's list to the government was to urgently take measures to boost growth, helping businesses and the country to exit the crisis sooner. He also presented the Federation's proposals, which were submitted to the Prime Minister in a memorandum. These included:

    -boosting liquidity of enterprises, subsidizing labor and not unemployment by cutting employers' social insurance contributions by 25 pct, promoting export activity by subsidizing employers' social insurance contributions by 30 pct for export-oriented businesses for a period of five years, restructuring a bank check system and lowering taxes on real estate property transactions.

    [23] Business Briefs

    -- The number of unemployed people registered at the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) fell 1.4 pct in April to 704,818, compared with March, while including unemployed people not searching for job, this number totaled 815, 927 from 854,927 over the same period, respectively.

    -- Mytilineos Group on Wednesday said turnover jumped 62 pct in the first quarter of the year, compared with the same period in 2010, reflecting strong demand in international markets and continuing works by its subsidiary METKA abroad.

    -- International Life on Wednesday reported after tax profits of 1.5 million euros in the first quarter of 2011, exceeding expectations, while premium production totaled 11 million euros in the January-March period, up 6.0 pct compared with the same period last year.

    -- Motodynamic Group announced a loss of 1.03 million euros, after tax and minorities, in the first quarter of 2011, after a loss of 443,000 euros in the corresponding period last year.

    [24] Stocks end significantly lower

    Stocks quickly erased Tuesday's gains, ending with significant losses in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The composite index fell 1.39 pct to end at 1,328.10 points, after rising as much as 1.77 pct in intra-day trading. Turnover improved significantly totaling 108.36 million euros.

    The Big Cap index fell 1.73 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.12 pct higher and the Small Cap index edged 0.09 pct up. Ellaktor (2.77 pct), Mytilineos (1.17 pct) and Piraeus Bank (0.97 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Viohalco (4.20 pct), Marfin Popular Bank (4.11 pct), Alpha Bank (3.56 pct) and ATEbank (3.64 pct) were major losers.

    The Chemicals (1.30 pct) and Raw Materials (1.04 pct) sectors scored gains, while Food (3.26 pct) and Financial Services (1.73 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 78 to 59 with another 49 issues unchanged. Altec (20 pct), Tegopoulos (18.75 pct) and Electronic Athens (14.81 pct) were top gainers, while Ridenco (14.29 pct), Kordellos Bros (8.82 pct) and Olympic Catering (8.11 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: Unchanged

    Industrials: -1.09%

    Commercial: -0.48%

    Construction: -1.30%

    Media: Unchanged

    Oil & Gas: -0.12%

    Personal & Household: -0.05%

    Raw Materials: +1.04%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.92%

    Technology: -0.51%

    Telecoms: +0.86%

    Banks: -2.39%

    Food & Beverages: -3.26%

    Health: -0.40%

    Utilities: -0.87%

    Chemicals: +1.30%

    Financial Services: -1.73%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 3.52

    ATEbank: 0.53

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.30

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.39

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.13

    National Bank of Greece: 4.76

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.34

    OPAP: 13.38

    OTE: 7.03

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.04

    Titan: 17.06

    [25] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened significantly to 12.65 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 15.75 pct and the German Bund 3.10 pct. Turnover in the market improved slightly to 33 million euros of which 30 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 3.0 million were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security of the day with a turnover of 28 million euros. In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 2.15 pct, the six-month rate 1.71 pct, the three-month 1.43 pct and the one-month rate 1.24 pct.

    [26] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.02 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 56.890 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 15,945 contracts worth 47.953 million euros, with 35,399 short positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 20,933 contracts worth 8.936 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (7,887), followed by Eurobank (1,397), OTE (922), PPC (1,081), Alpha Bank (3,403), Marfin Popular Bank (1,203), ATEbank (1,319), Hellenic Postbank (912) and Cyprus Bank (689).

    [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.444

    Pound sterling 0.893

    Danish kroner 7.569

    Swedish kroner 9.118

    Japanese yen 117.18

    Swiss franc 1.273

    Norwegian kroner 8.055

    Canadian dollar 1.406

    Australian dollar 1.364

    General News

    [28] President Papoulias receives International Olympic Academy President Isidoros Kouvelos

    The activities of the International Olympic Academy and the celebration of the 50th anniversary of its operation at the Pnyx, opposite the Acropolis, in the summer, in the presence of Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, was the focus of the briefing given to President Karolos Papoulias by the Acedmy's President Isidoros Kouvelos on Wednesday.

    Kouvelos referred to the Acedemy's educational programmes, stressing that "the phenomenon of violence is combatted only with education" and spoke of considerable work which, although acknowledged internationally, remains unkown in Greece.

    During his visit, Kouvelos invited the President of the Republic to honour the celebration event at the Pnyx with his presence.

    [29] Greece approves loan of 121 ancient artifacts for exhibition in NY

    Greece's archaeological service has approved the temporary loan of 121 ancient Greek artifacts from collections in regional archaeological services and Greek museums to the Onassis Cultural Center in New York for an exhibition entitled "Transition: from the Ancient to Byzantine World".

    The loan - extending from December 6, 2011 until May 21, 2012 - was approved during a meeting of Greece's Central Archaeological Council on Tuesday. The exhibition will be housed in the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation's Olympic Tower and run from early December until May 14, 2012.

    Also approved was the loan of 11 items from the collections of the Benaki Museum in Athens, one item from the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens and five items from the Stamatia Tsolozidi-Zisiadi collection, which are to be loaned from November 1, 2011 until May 30, 2012.

    The exhibition's theme will be the transition from late antiquity to the Byzantine era, covering the period up until the end of the early Byzantine period in the 7th century A.D.

    The antiquities loaned from state museums will include 15 artifacts from the National Archaeological Museum, 25 from the Byzantine and Christian Museum, 19 from the Numismatic Museum, nine from the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum and four from the Acropolis Museum.

    [30] Australian commemoration at Commonwealth cemetery on occasion of Battle of Crete anniversary

    Members of Australia's Federation Guard (AFG) led a ceremony at the Phaleron (Faliro) Commonwealth War Cemetery in southern coastal Athens on Wednesday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Greece and Crete.

    Present at the ceremony were six Australian veterans of the specific WWII conflict, officials from the departments of veterans' affairs and defence, and Australian Parliament member Steve Georganas, who is of Greek heritage.

    The Commanding Officer of the AFG contingent Lt. Luke Haitas later commented on the solemn ceremony.

    "The commemoration went well and it was quite emotional for both the soldiers and the veterans," he said, adding: "I'm very proud of the Guard in conducting what was a dignified and solemn ceremony to remember those Australians that died defending Greece during the German invasion. Being of Greek heritage, with my family fighting in WWII, as well as being an Australian Army Officer, the ceremony was very moving for me - it emphasised the strong bond between the two nations."

    There are currently 2,029 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery.

    Australia's Federation Guard is an ADF unit, comprised of members from the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force, which provides ceremonial support for the Australian Commonwealth.

    [31] Roger Waters in Athens with 'The Wall Live' on July 8-9

    Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters will bring 'The Wall Live' concert tour to Athens for two nights on July 8-9, at the city's OAKA indoor basketball stadium.

    The worldwide tour was designed and created by Waters to mark the 30th anniversary since Pink Floyd released their block-buster album "The Wall" and will be his last after the "Dark Side of the Moon" tour in 2007-2008 that also passed through Greece.

    The 'Wall Live' tour began last September in Toronto and has already racked by 56 tour dates in North America. It is now on its European leg, which began last March, with a total of 62 appearances scheduled on the programme. Waters has also expressed a desire to extend the tour to other areas, including Latin America.

    The show is considered comparable to performances by Pink Floyd in 1980 but also the all-star concert held in July 1990 to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. The central element is a real wall about 74 metres long and 11 metres high which is built during the first half of the show to be demolished shortly before the end.

    One of the big surprises of the July 8 concert is that the specific show will be among the few that will be recorded for release as a video. For this reason, the audience are forbidden from bringing cameras or cell-phones with them, or they will be denied entrance into the stadium. The only other performances that will be recorded on the tour are the ones at the O2 in London.

    Tickets for the show can be obtained at Ticket House in Athens (42 Panepistimiou Street Arcade) and Music Land in Thessaloniki (102 Mitropoleos Street).

    Prices will range from 55 euros in the upper tier, 65 euro in the arena, 88 euros in the lower tier and 145 euros in the VIP area.

    [32] Two policemen wounded in Pefki shooting incident

    Two policemen were wounded after being shot by unidentified persons outside the Cultural Centre in the Athens suburb of Pefki.

    The incident occurred on Wednesday evening after a call was received by the Emergency Police's centre that an incident was under way and after a patrol car went to the region. When the police arrived at the scene and got out of their vehicle they were shot, according to initial reports.

    According to the same reports, the two policemen were wounded slightly, while a citizen was also wounded by a shot.

    [33] Minor and man die, another child missing when dinghy carrying illegal migrants turns over

    A man and an eight year old child drowned while another child was missing in the sea off Nikopolis, Preveza, northwestern Greece on Wednesday, when a dinghy carrying 24 illegal migrants overturned in the water.

    A Preveza port authority patrol boat spotted the distressed dinghy and picked up the migrants from the sea.

    Divers are currently searching the area to locate the missing child which, according to information, is the twin brother of the drowned 8-year-old.

    The migrant trafficker, a 51 year-old Greek, has been arrested, while the illegal migrants will be sheltered in the old town hall of Zalogos.

    [34] Striking municipal workers protest in Thessaloniki

    Municipal workers participating in a nationwide 24-hour strike called by their union, POE-OTA, held a demonstration in downtown Thessaloniki on Wednesday, protesting against a draft law that introduces increased work hours and employee transfers, among others.

    A work-stoppage from 11:30 a.m. until the end of the shift was called in greater Athens area by public sector trade union ADEDY.

    [35] Contraband cigarettes found aboard Togo-flag freighter that ran aground off Katakolo

    Contraband cigarettes were discovered on board a Togo-flagged freighter ship that ran aground in sandy shallows and developed a list off Thines beach in Katakolo on Tuesday, coast guard sources said on Wednesday.

    The freighter "Shenyang I", with a six-member crew on board, developed a list on Tuesday afternoon very close to the shores of Thines, in western Ilia prefecture, and developed a list.

    A search of the vessel revealed approximately 120 boxes of contraband cigarettes.

    The ship's captain told the coast guard that the vessel had set sail from Montenegro without cargo, en route to Turkey.

    The vessel was guarded throughout the night by the Coast Guard, and a preliminary investigation and questioning of the crew will be launched as soon as the freighter is detached and led to port.

    Coast guard sources told ANA-MPA that the assistance of a tugboat had initially been requested, but the tug was unable to approach the freighter due to the risk of the tug running aground also.

    The assistance of large fishing boats will possibly be sought to help detach the freighter, the sources added.

    Weather Forecast

    [36] Rainy on Thursday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 8C and 25C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 12C to 22C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 12C to 22C.

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

    The Eurogroup's demand for political parties' consensus in order to offer new loan, and the developments in government's deliberations with the Troika, mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "New pogrom against civil servants..."

    AVGHI: "Government being dragged to early general elections".

    AVRIANI: "Antonis (Samaras, main opposition New Democracy leader) be careful, do not commit (political) suicide".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The four-year devastation plan".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Samaras' 'no' to Brussels' blackmail".

    ESTIA: "The government is inadequate".

    ETHNOS: "The list of state hospitals to be merged".

    IMERISSIA: "Troika's three conditions: Supervisors, privatisations and lay-offs".

    KATHIMERINI: "Eurogroup president Jean Claude Juncker's bomb on the debt".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Restructure proposal and demand for consensus".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "An anti-popular consensus is underway to save the plutocracy from the crisis'.

    TA NEA: "Eurogames with the consensus".

    VRADYNI: Workers Housing Organisation (OEK) freeze on loans.

    The Greek government on Wednesday said it has selected advisors for an anxiously awaited privatisation programme for a bevy organisations and entities in which that Greek state holds rights or an equity stake, along with the state's vast property holdings.

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