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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-05-24

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

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

Tuesday, 24 May 2011 Issue No: 3794

CONTENTS

  • [01] Government announces additional measures to cut fiscal deficit
  • [02] President Papoulias to receive PM Papandreou on Wednesday
  • [03] ND on consensus; won't support 'ongoing mistake'
  • [04] KKE: Protecting workers party's 'red line'
  • [05] New party calls for nat'l understanding to exit crisis
  • [06] FM interview ahead of Italy visit
  • [07] Education minister meets head of key Chinese science research foundation
  • [08] German, Hungarian diplomatic visits to Crete
  • [09] Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Austria honoured
  • [10] Gov't to lift restriction in more than 130 professions
  • [11] Commission: Greece needs to present measures on privatisations within days
  • [12] Commission approves ATEbank's restructuring plan
  • [13] Fitch Ratings cuts OTE's credit rating
  • [14] Fitch downgrades longterm credit rating of five Greek banks
  • [15] OLP and Cosco in agreement through 'Friendly Settlement'
  • [16] Investments amounting to 250 million euros in renewable energy sources in 2011
  • [17] Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce president on economy
  • [18] Current accounts deficit down 24.3% in Jan-Mar
  • [19] Capital transfers balance
  • [20] Financial account balance
  • [21] OPAP employees announce 24-hour strike
  • [22] NEL Lines seamen to continue strike
  • [23] Business Briefs
  • [24] Stocks at new 14-yr low
  • [25] Greek bond market closing report
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [28] First Afghan migrants go home using Voluntary Return
  • [29] Foreign nat'ls arrested for drug smuggling in NW Greece
  • [30] Tourist dies in Santorini rockslide
  • [31] Turkish yacht runs aground on rocky islet south of Paros island
  • [32] Blood donation at ANA for the creation of Blood Bank
  • [33] Contraband cigarettes
  • [34] Cloudy on Tuesday
  • [35] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [36] President vows to cooperate with new House
  • [37] Chief Returning Officer announces allocation of parliamentary seats Politics

  • [01] Government announces additional measures to cut fiscal deficit

    A cabinet meeting on Monday, chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou, reaffirmed its determination to continue with the fiscal consolidation programme by taking additional measures of over 6 billion Euro or 2.8% of GDP in order to achieve the 7.5% deficit target for 2011, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said in a statement.

    In the statement, the minister stressed that the detailed measures together with the full medium-term fiscal strategy aimed to bring the deficit close to 1% of GDP by 2015 will be announced once the ongoing current review of the programme by the EU/ECB/IMF team is concluded and after consultation with the other political parties.

    At the same time, the Cabinet decided to immediately proceed with the sale of stakes in OTE, Hellenic Postbank, the Athens and Thessaloniki ports, and the Thessaloniki water company in order to frontload its ambitious privatization programme. To accelerate the process, the creation of a Sovereign Wealth Fund composed of privatization and real estate assets was also decided.

    "Following the unprecedented reduction of the fiscal deficit by 5 percentage points in 2010, and the wave of structural reforms in pensions, the labour market, budget, tax and business environment, the government is determined to continue and accelerate the path of fiscal consolidation and structural reforms," Papaconstantinou noted.

    PM Papandreou

    The battle to save the country is continuing, and no cowardice can be forgiven in serving this patriotic duty, Prime Minister George Papandreou told the Cabinet meeting held to discuss the government's Medium-Term Economic Program.

    Last year, he said, "with the government's decisions and the Greek people's sacrifices, we averted bankruptcy and, just like a year ago, today we are taking the decisions needed to permanently avert the danger and to permanently change the country."

    "We averted the threat of the country's bankruptcy and placed the country on a track of streamlining and growth. Back-stepping is not allowed, we have a duty to the country and to the Greek people to ensure our future course," the premier added.

    Government spokesman

    On his part, government spokesman George Petalotis told reporters that initiatives will be included in the Medium-term Fiscal Framework for the decrease and more effective functioning of the public sector (decrease in employees and salary cost, merging and abolition of agencies, public utility restructuring, decrease in operational expenditures, decrease in defence expenditures), the better targeting of social expenditures and the rationalisation of health expenditures, the widening of the tax base and the combatting of tax evasion and contribution evasion.

    "Moreover, the supplementation of the Medium-term Fiscal Framework with a series of political initiatives to speed up major structural changes that bring investments, jobs and growth, and create the preconditions for speedier recovery and support for the more vulnerable social groups.

    "The Medium-term Fiscal Framework and the policies supplementing it constitute part of the "road map" for the exit from the crisis and the country's radical change," Petalotis said.

    "Therefore, the wider solidarity and social agreement possible on the targets it sets as well as the ways for us to achieve them is necessary.

    "In this framework, the prime minister has already invited the party leaders on Tuesday for the beginning of a procedure on the convergence of views that will be set out in the legislative texts that will be tabled in Parliament as well as the continuation of our country's support programme," the spokesman concluded.

    [02] President Papoulias to receive PM Papandreou on Wednesday

    Prime Minister George Papandreou will be received by President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday, according to an announcement from the Presidential Mansion.

    [03] ND on consensus; won't support 'ongoing mistake'

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis on Monday outlined ND leader Antonis Samaras' positions ahead of Tuesday's scheduled meeting with the prime minister.

    "The policy mix followed (by the government) is a mistake that still continues. We cannot say 'yes' to an ongoing mistake. The government wants to hide its ineffectiveness behind a consensus," Mihelakis stressed, expressing certainty that the memorandum was not negotiated enough with the EC-ECB-IMF troika.

    He used as an example the memorandum signed by Portugal, pointing out that it is aimed at less austerity and more reforms, while it includes measures recently unveiled by the ND leader.

    Mihelakis referred to comments made by IMF's acting managing director John Lipsky during the latter's meeting with MP Kyriakos Mitsotakis, when he noted that there were "serious delays in the promotion of the necessary structural changes and reforms".

    The ND spokesman rejected any prospect of layoffs in the public sector, stressing that the tenure status is constitutionally guaranteed. Commenting on statements made by government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos, who suggested that the medium-term programme should have the support of 180 MPs, Mihelakis spoke of "confusion within the government", stressing that the government is merely toying with the likelihood of snap elections.

    [04] KKE: Protecting workers party's 'red line'

    Opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga on Monday underlined that the "red line" drawn by her party is "salvaging the country", stressing that "there is chaos between our 'red line' and the prime minister's".

    Speaking in a press conference, Papariga said that a political and ideological terrorism is in progress targeting the people who are faced with the dilemma "give up everything or face suspension of payments".

    She also warned of a workers' "dark age", pointing out that any new investments will impose a "labour dark age" with very low wages and hordes of unemployed looking for work.

    As regards the KKE rejection to the premier's invitation to Tuesday's meeting with political party leaders, Papariga stressed that her party does not accept the dilemma "save Greece or lose everything".

    [05] New party calls for nat'l understanding to exit crisis

    The Democratic Alliance party, headed by MP Dora Bakoyannis, on Monday underlined that national understanding is necessary to lead the country out of the crisis.

    Party spokesman Yiannis Economou stressed that a mature political world is a precondition for this strategy, adding that this means that "everybody, the major political parties in particular, will have to leave petty-politicking approaches behind, as well as, their fixation on ineffective and unsuccessful policies".

    [06] FM interview ahead of Italy visit

    Greece and Italy enjoy excellent bilateral relations, Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas said Monday on Italian television, noting that the two countries belong to the same region, the Mediterranean, "which unites us and obliges us to have common policies in economic cooperation and environmental protection".

    In an interview with the Italian news station "Rainews24" ahead of his arrival in Rome on Tuesday and meeting with Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, Droutsas expressed conviction that the two countries' cooperation in the Balkans, and also regarding the developments in North Africa, will be enhanced.

    On joint actions concerning the illegal migration problem, Droutsas noted that the EU's external borders are in Greece, and therefore the country is shouldering an immense weight, that of the illegal migration in the entire EU, and stressed that "it is a European problem, and the moral obligation of all the countries of the EU, that must be jointly dealt with".

    Droutsas further said that the EU must become more active and present in the Arab region and provide decisive support. "Those who speak of Arab revolutions are right. We wish to see a democratic region, with democratic institutions. We want to see democracy flourishing, particularly for the young generations, which were the driving force of those revolutions," he added.

    On Libya, Droutsas stressed that Greece fully respects international law and the relevant UN Security Council resolution and, consequently, "it was clear that we would take part in the implementation of the Security Council resolutions".

    "We are doing so by providing our support, chiefly military bases on Crete," he said. "Now, however, it is clear that we are at a point at which we understand that the entire international community and realised that an end cannot be put to the Libyan crisis only with military means. It is necessary to exercise that pressure, but now we must the means for a political solution, and Greece is contributing towards a political solution with its ideas and initiatives. This is important, and the international community must act in a determined way, with conviction, in that direction," the Greek foreign minister stressed.

    [07] Education minister meets head of key Chinese science research foundation

    Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou had a meeting on Monday with Prof. Chen Yiyu, president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NFSC), who visited the minister with an NSFC delegation. The meeting was also attended by ministry general secretary for Research and Technology Costas Kokkinoplitis.

    The NSFC is the chief provider of funding for basic science research in China, while its budget for research programmes in 2011 came to 1.2 billion euro.

    The Chinese side expressed interest in strengthening ties between the two countries in the area of research.

    Diamantopoulou noted the importance of investing in research as a tool for exiting the crisis and described the framework of reforms and basic priorities in research, such as agriculture, renewable energy, IT, new materials and medicine.

    The two sides examined the potential for enhancing cooperation in areas of mutual interest for the research priorities of both countries, such as stepping up research staff exchanges and funding joint research programmes.

    On Tuesday, the Chinese delegation will be the presidents of research centres supervised by the General Secretariat for Research and Technology.

    [08] German, Hungarian diplomatic visits to Crete

    Tourism issues, the status of Cretan products in the vast German market and the "Kallikratis" local government reform were the issues that dominated a visit of German ambassador to Greece Roland Michael Wegener to the Hania regional authority on Crete on Monday.

    The ambassador's courtesy call was made during a visit to Hania on the occasion of the events marking the WWII Battle of Crete anniversary.

    Responding to a question on the declining numbers of German tourists visiting the major holiday island, he envoy that the "economic crisis is mainly responsible", adding that seamen's strikes at the port of Piraeus and elsewhere also played a negative role.

    Meanwhile, in a related development, the Hungarian embassy's commercial attach?, Akos Nemeth, referred to the potential of future cooperation between Crete-based and Hungarian businesses, during his meeting on Monday with Irakleio Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Nikitas Dolapsakis.

    [09] Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Austria honoured

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    The Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Austria-Exarch of Hungary and Central Europe Michael was given the award of the Order of Value of the Austrian Republic by Federal President Heinz Fischer on Monday.

    The awarding ceremony took place at the presidential mansion with the federal president praising the Orthodox prelate at the impressive event in the presence of many personalities of Austria's public life.

    The ceremony was attended, among others, by former Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Sch?ssel, Hungarian Deputy Religion and Culture Minister Tibor Faedor and Greek ambassador Panayiotis Zografos.

    Addressing the prelate, President Fischer stressed that Metropolitan Michael is one of the most important personalities of the Orthodox Church, who enjoys great respect and recognition not only in Austria but everywhere abroad as well.

    Financial News

    [10] Gov't to lift restriction in more than 130 professions

    Greece's finance ministry on Sunday announced the automatic abolition of all restriction vis-?-vis the access and operation of a long list of professions, valid as of July 2, 2011.

    The restrictions to be lifted cover the number of persons with access to a profession and various other criteria.

    What's more important is that following July 2, no administrative license will be needed to commence a non-specialised (physician, attorney) profession.

    The list of more than 130 "closed" professions include: beauticians, drama and dance school instructors, bakers, antiques dealers, insurance agents, insurance consultants, employment consultants, diagnostics centre staff, translators, divers, cameramen, driving school instructors, cab drivers, tourist bus drivers, newspaper stand owners, electricians, sound technicians, private school owners, tobacco sellers, gun manufacturers and sellers, hairdressers, private investigators, port workers, real estate agents, lifeguards, carpenters, financiers, opticians, auditors, movie/theatre director and even car mechanic.

    [11] Commission: Greece needs to present measures on privatisations within days

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni, M. Spinthourakis )

    Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for European Commissioner Olli Rehn, on Monday said Greece must present details of a 50-billion-euro privatisation plan within days. In a statement to the ANA-MPA, he also refuted a news agency's report claiming that Rehn, while speaking at a Vienna conference, had expressed doubts about Greece's ability to reach its privatisation target.

    According to Altafaj, the report was a "mistake of the news agency" and the Commissioner's view was precisely the opposite, namely that it was feasible for Greece to raise 50 billion euro through privatisations.

    Altafaj stressed, however, that Greek authorities must specify, within the next few days, a package of measures for 2011 and the coming years. The EU spokesman underlined the need to overcome political quarrels and to reach a consensus on the main targets of a consolidation program.

    He said that Greece must begin, in an effective way, to implement a privatization program worth 50 billion euros -announced three months ago- which could reduce the country's debt by 20 pct of GDP. He noted that Greek authorities must first make specific the measures, timetables and ways of implementing this privatization program, although he acknowledged it was a difficult task. He noted that the European Commission was ready to support Greek authorities in setting up a new privatization agency.

    Commenting on the time needed for a troika delegation to complete its assessment of the Greek program, the EU spokesman said "the mission will last as long as it takes," adding that the Commission was not yet in a position to have a full assessment of the program. Altafaj reiterated the need for political forces in Greece to reach a consensus on the main targets of the fiscal consolidation program.

    [12] Commission approves ATEbank's restructuring plan

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, the restructuring plan of Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE), judging it apt to restore the bank's long-term viability whilst ensuring it shares the burden of its restructuring and limits the distortions of competition. The plan involves a state recapitalisation of the bank of up to 1.144.5 billion euros as well as liquidity measures. The bank committed to reduce it its overall assets by 25 percent during the restructuring period and to improve its efficiency.

    Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquin Almunia said:

    "ATE's restructuring plan contains adequate measures to tackle the bank's weaknesses and minimise distortions of competition. It demonstrates that the bank can improve its profitability by focusing on core activities, improving its efficiency and adapting to sound market practices. This is also a positive result of our participation in the international macro-financial assistance programme for Greece."

    The Commission concluded that the restructuring plan submitted in April 2011 should allow ATE to return to long-term viability. It also contains sufficient measures to ensure that the bank's owners contribute adequately to the cost of restructuring and to limit the distortion of competition brought about by the state support. Therefore the plan fulfils the criteria of the Commission's Restructuring Communication for. The plan was also assessed in the context of the international macro-financial assistance program by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the EU, where Greece reaffirmed its commitment to fully implement the restructuring plan of ATE.

    ATE received State capital of 675 million euros in 2009 under the support measures for credit institutions in Greece. It also benefited from the Greek State guarantee and bond loan schemes. In April 2011, the bank announced a share capital increase of 1.259.5 billion euros of which up to 1.144.5 billion euros would be subscribed by the Greek State and at least 115 million euros would be subscribed by market investors and is fully underwritten by a syndicate of banks.

    ATE`s restructuring plan is based on the following main corner stones:

    (i) the improvement of the capital structure through the increase of 1.259.5 billion euros in its capital, representing a net increase of 584.5 million;

    (ii) the gradual reduction of the Group's total assets reaching at least 25 percent in 2013 (as compared to the bank's assets in 2009);

    (iii) a gradual reduction in its operating costs totalling 25 percent by 2013 (as compared to the bank's operating costs in 2009)

    (iv) a change in the risk management and credit approval process of the bank by strictly adhering to sound market practices.

    The reduction in the bank's assets will be reached mainly through sales, the run-off of certain securities portfolios and a reduction of total loan balances. The overall 25 percent of deleveraging is an important step for the bank in order to reduce its reliance on external funding and was also welcomed under the international macro-economic assistance. Moreover, the measure will significantly contribute to limiting distortions of competition in the Greek retail banking market.

    ATE is the fifth largest banking group in Greece.

    With assets totalling around ? 30 billion at the end of 2010, ATE has a market share of approximately 6 percent of the total assets of banks in Greece. The difficulties of ATE arose mainly from a poor asset quality (weighing on profitability and on solvency) and from a traditionally low pre-impairment profitability.

    [13] Fitch Ratings cuts OTE's credit rating

    Fitch Ratings on Monday cut Hallenic Telecommunications Organisation's (OTE) credit rating to BB from BBB-.

    OTE's downgrading follows Fitch Ratings decision on Friday to cut Greece's credit rating by three notches, to B+ from BB+.

    The credit rating agency said Monday's decision reflects the country's credit rating downgrading rather than OTE's recent negative results.

    [14] Fitch downgrades longterm credit rating of five Greek banks

    The Fitch Ratings firm proceeded on Monday with the downgrading of the longterm credit rating of five Greek banks. They are the National Bank, EFG Eurobank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank and ATEbank. The ratings of the five Greek banks bear the note (Rating Watch Negative - RWN).

    [15] OLP and Cosco in agreement through 'Friendly Settlement'

    The government is expected to proceed with an amendment of the contract towards the Chinese side, of the commercial terminal at the port since, according to reports, the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and Cosco appear to have reached an agreement, through a "Friendly Settlement", on changes in the operation of docks which due to the international economic conjuncture has also dealt a blow at sea transport.

    According to judicial circles, the demands of the two sides are expected to be submitted for approval to the Maritime Affairs, Islands and Fisheries ministry and the Finance ministry and if they are accepted an amendment will be prepared that will be tabled in Parliament for ratification.

    [16] Investments amounting to 250 million euros in renewable energy sources in 2011

    Investments in renewable energy sources have more than doubled in the past year and it is estimated that in 2011 investments that will take place will be in the region of 250 million euros, while in the depth of a decade, meaning until 2020, investments will reach 16 billion euros and, in addition, another 4-5 billion euros will be invested in transport and distribution networks.

    This was mentioned from the podium of the monthly board of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry by Deputy Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis, stressing that great importance is placed on investments in networks since every year Greece spends about 500 million euros for the electric power supply of unlinked islands.

    He reiterated that "there are serious indications that our country has investment utilisable deposits of oil and natural gas" and said that in the coming days an auction will be proclaimed for research in western Greece in land regions and the Ionian Sea as well as Crete, pointing out that it is the ministry's substantiated assessment that there shall be international investing interest.

    [17] Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce president on economy

    Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce President Yiannos Grammatidis said Monday that "a substantive redetermination of the terms of the memorandum is necessary."

    Grammatidis reiterated his position that today more than ever is the time for great decisions, not only for the government but for the country's political world in its entirety as well since, as he said, the opposition parties are being called on to promote the national instead of their narrow party interest ( because they are also judged, and maybe more strictly than the government) providing direct consensus to a government policy that will move in correct frameworks.

    He added that "the continuing sterile political confrontation regarding the terms and the preconditions for providing consensus, combined with useless talk of elections intensify the climate of polular uncertainty and confusion and make the country's position towards its creditors, its partners and the markets more difficult."

    Grammatidis stressed that the government must present an integrated plan of privatisations and completion of structural reforms with summary procedures and a specific and binding timetable so as to contribute to the strengthening of the economy's competitiveness.

    Lastly, he said that the country's business world remains concerned but in parallel prepared to contribute dynamically to a substantive and developmental proposal for the country's salvation.

    [18] Current accounts deficit down 24.3% in Jan-Mar

    Greece's current accounts deficit shrank by 24.3 pct in the first quarter of 2011, compared with the same period last year, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.

    The central bank, in a monthly report, said that in March 2011, the current account deficit decreased to 2.604 billion euros, down from 2.951 billion in March 2010. The reduction in the deficit reflects a considerable improvement in the trade balance, which more than offset an increase in the income account deficit and the deficit of the current transfers balance and a decline in the surplus of the services balance.

    The improvement in the trade deficit reflects the continuing rebound in receipts from exports of goods excluding oil and ships, which grew by 17.0 percent, as well as a decrease in the corresponding import bill (down by 9.5 percent year-on-year). In addition, the net import bill for both oil and ships declined.

    The surplus of the services balance contracted, as a result of lower net transport receipts and higher net payments for "other" services. By contrast, net travel receipts rose, although they were low (29 million euros in March 2011, in comparison with 7 million euros in March 2010). Gross transport receipts (mainly from merchant shipping) fell by 18.7 percent, while the corresponding payments declined by 22.3 percent.

    The income account deficit widened by 252 million euros or 41.6 percent, almost exclusively due to a rise in net payments for interest, dividends and profits by 247 million (the largest part of which concerned interest payments on loans granted under the support mechanism for the Greek economy).

    Finally, the current transfers balance showed a deficit of 122 million euros, compared with a deficit of 87 million in March 2010, chiefly as a result of increased net general government payments.

    In the January-March 2011 period, the current account deficit fell by 2.4 billion euros or 24.3 percent year-on-year, to 7.3 billion. This development reflects primarily a large increase of 2.0 billion euros in current transfer receipts to the general government sector (mainly from the EU) and, secondarily, a 0.6 billion euros decline in the import bill excluding oil and ships, as well as a 0.4 billion euros rise in the corresponding export receipts.

    In particular, the overall trade deficit shrank by 612 million euros, as a result of a 1.051 billion decrease in the trade deficit excluding oil and ships and a 196 million fall in net payments for purchases of ships, which more than offset a 635 million rise in the net oil import bill. It should be noted that receipts from exports of goods excluding oil and ships rose by 16.2 percent, while the corresponding import bill declined by 8.8 percent.

    The 48 million-euro decrease in the surplus of the services balance reflects lower net transport receipts, which were partly offset by lower net payments for "other" services, while net travel payments did not show any remarkable change. Travel spending in Greece by non-residents grew by 4.7 percent in comparison with the first quarter of 2010 (non-residents' arrivals rose by 13.1 percent during the same period), while travel spending abroad by residents of Greece rose by 4.0 percent. As a result, net travel payments fell marginally (by 1.6 million).

    The income account deficit rose by 182 million year-on-year, almost exclusively due to higher net payments for interest, dividends and profits (up by 9.0 percent).

    Finally, the current transfers balance showed a surplus of 1.235 billion, compared with a deficit of 737 million in the corresponding period of 2010, mainly as a result of an increase in EU transfers to general government which concerned direct aid and subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy.

    [19] Capital transfers balance

    In March 2011, the capital transfers balance showed a deficit of 14 million euros, compared with a surplus of 22 million in March 2010. In the January-March 2011 period, the capital transfers balance showed a surplus of 312 million euros, compared with 148 million in the corresponding quarter of 2010.

    [20] Financial account balance

    In March 2011, non-residents' direct investment in Greece showed a net outflow of 62 million euros, without any remarkable transactions. Under portfolio investment, a net outflow of 5.9 billion euros was recorded.

    Under "other" investment, a net inflow of 9.2 billion euros was recorded, which is mainly attributable to a net 14.7 billion increase in the outstanding debt of the public and the private sector to non.

    In the January-March 2011 period, direct investment showed a net outflow of 311 million euros.

    At end-March 2011, Greece's reserve assets stood at 4.6 billion euros.

    [21] OPAP employees announce 24-hour strike

    Employees of OPAP S.A., the state-run betting and lottery pools, on Monday announced that they will hold a 24-hour warning strike on Wednesday in protest to the government's plans to sell off the state-owned company shares to private investors, as they charged.

    A statement issued by OPAP employees underlined that they will "firmly resist the unreasonable selling off of productive public property", stressing that "such moves are against national interests and to the detriment of the Greek citizens".

    [22] NEL Lines seamen to continue strike

    Seamen working on the NEL Lines' ships "Aqua Hercules" (formerly Ropax 1) and "Olympus" are to continue labour action, according to sources within a meeting of the Nationwide Seamen's Federation (PNO) executive committee on Monday.

    PNO has also decided to send an solicitor's letter to the NEL Lines to demand that they hire more sailors on the crew of the two ships, in accordance with collective agreements and social insurance requirements.

    Some 50 seamen remain at the port of Corinth and are preventing loading of the "Olympus".

    Trade union sources say the sailors are also protesting against the maritime affairs ministry's decision to abolish a tariff paid to their sailors' pension fund NAT, on the grounds that their pension fund was thus losing large sums of money. They also say the ministry intends to abolish 10-month mandatory employment for sailors.

    The maritime affairs ministry had tabled legislation in Parliament that abolishes charges for third parties on ferry tickets in order to make these cheaper. This included a fee insuring passengers and vehicles that was paid to NAT to cover risk of naval accidents, which amount to 6.5 percent of the ticket price without VAT.

    [23] Business Briefs

    -- The business environment in Greece worsened in 2010 as a result of the dire economic and fiscal crisis, an ICAP Group survey showed on Monday, with the credibility of Greek enterprises falling steadily last year.

    The survey, based on a sample of 215,548 enterprises in the manufacturing, commercial and services sectors.

    -- OPAP -- Greece's state lottery and betting operator -- on Monday said its net profits totaled 166.9 million euros in the first quarter of 2011, down from 192.2 million euros in the same period last year, a decline of 13.2 pct.

    -- The Greek state budget deficit totaled 7.246 billion euros in the January-April period, up from a target of 6.924 billion euros and from a deficit figure of 6.371 billion euros in the corresponding period last year, the finance ministry stated on Monday.

    [24] Stocks at new 14-yr low

    Stocks ended with new 14-year lows at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, hit by speculation of a new downgrade of the country's credit rating, this time by Moody's Investors Service.

    The composite index of the market dropped 1.33 pct to end at 1,280.10 points, with turnover remaining a low 74.309 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 1.5 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.33 pct and the Small Cap index dropped 2.23 pct. PPC (2.84 pct), Hellenic Postbank (2.55 pct) and Motor Oil (1.14 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while ATEbank (5.88 pct), Ellaktor (4.71 pct), MIG (3.57 pct) and National Bank (3.0 pct) were top losers.

    The Health (4.56 pct), Financial Services (3.25 pct), Chemicals (2.83 pct) and Telecoms (2.55 pct) sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Utilities (2.15 pct) and Oil (0.61 pct) scored gains.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 102 to 30 with another 46 issues unchanged.

    Tegopoulos (15 pct), Demetriou (11.11 pct) and Byte Computer (7.84 pct) were top gainers, while Vovos (17.48 pct), Entersoft (10 pct) and Intrakat (9.41 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.66%

    Industrials: -1.01%

    Commercial: -0.03%

    Construction: -1.57%

    Media: Unchanged

    Oil & Gas: +0.61%

    Personal & Household: -0.04%

    Raw Materials: -1.66%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.04%

    Technology: -0.28%

    Telecoms: -2.55%

    Banks: -2.05%

    Food & Beverages: -1.89%

    Health: -4.56%

    Utilities: +2.15%

    Chemicals: -2.83%

    Financial Services: -3.25%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and Coca Cola 3E.

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

    Alpha Bank: 3.33

    ATEbank: 0.48

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.50

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.78

    National Bank of Greece: 4.53

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.18

    OPAP: 12.70

    OTE: 6.49

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.01

    Titan: 16.66

    [25] Greek bond market closing report

    Markets continued their pressure on Eurozone's regional debt despite soothing words by European Central Bank officials and a pledge by the Greek government to promote an ambitious 50-bln-euro privatization program. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 14.02 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 13.57 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 17.04 pct and the German Bund 3.02 pct. Turnover in the market remained a low 41 million euros, of which 31 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 10 million were buy orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 18 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 -1.92 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover shrinking to 27.479 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,668 contracts worth 21.735 million euros, with 37,644 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 15,610 contracts worth 5.744 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,115), followed by Eurobank (738), OTE (1,058), Piraeus Bank (1,654), Apha Bank (1,139), Marfin Popular Bank (517), Intracom (416), Cyprus Bank (543), Hellenic Postbank (1,577) and ATEbank (1,164).

    [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.423

    Pound sterling 0.882

    Danish kroner 7.567

    Swedish kroner 9.049

    Japanese yen 116.4

    Swiss franc 1.256

    Norwegian kroner 7.965

    Canadian dollar 1.393

    Australian dollar 1.353

    General News

    [28] First Afghan migrants go home using Voluntary Return

    The first planeful of Afghan illegal migrants that have signed up for the government's Voluntary Return programme departed from Athens' 'Eleftherios Venizelos' international airport on Monday, a few months after the repatriation programme was first launched.

    On board the Gulf Air charter flight were 40 migrants from Afghanistan who had opted to return to their home country. The plane will make a stop in Bahrain, where another aircraft will pick them up in order to take them to their final destination.

    Illegal migrants signing up for the voluntary return programme receive the price of their airline ticket and 300 euro each.

    Their return is assisted by representatives of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that accept their applications and police officers stationed at the airport for this purpose.

    According to police, the plane's departure marks the start of the second phase of the voluntary return programme. Another 500 foreigners are expected to make use of this programme in order to return to their countries by the end of June.

    Another 586 illegal migrants have already been returned to their country of origin during the first phase of the programme.

    The programme receives 75 percent of its funding from the European Return Fund and the remaining 25 percent from national funds, while the funds are administrated by the Greek police.

    [29] Foreign nat'ls arrested for drug smuggling in NW Greece

    A 28-year-old Bulgarian national and a 32-year-old Albanian were arrested on Monday evening at the Sagiada site in extreme NW Thesprotia prefecture and charged with drug smuggling.

    According to reports, authorities detected a small van and a car moving suspiciously on a provincial roadway before a brief police chase caused the suspects van to veer off the road.

    Police found a total 218 kilos of hashish in the vehicle. An accomplice acting as a precursor in another vehicle was arrested in a nearby village.

    The suspects will be led before a local prosecutor.

    [30] Tourist dies in Santorini rockslide

    A US tourist was killed and four other people, all foreign tourists, were injured on Monday afternoon by a rockslide on the renowned holiday isle of Santorini.

    According to initial reports, the tourists were riding mule-back from the traditional cliff-hanging village of Oia to the tiny harbour of Armeni, on the island's northern-most coast. The 52-year-old US tourist and the mule he was riding were hit by falling boulders and ended up to the small seaport at the bottom of a cliff, some 200 metres below.

    The victim's wife, 49, his daughter, 22, and two female tourists, both Mexican nationals in their mid 20s, were slightly injured before being rushed to the local health clinic in the island's capital.

    The badly dismembered body of the victim has been recovered by rescue teams, according to reports.

    [31] Turkish yacht runs aground on rocky islet south of Paros island

    The 16 people on board the Turkish-flag yacht Richmond 6 that ran aground on the rocky islet of Tsimintiri, south of the island of Paros, are in good health.

    The yacht's four-member crew refused aid from the Greek authorities and freed itself with its own means. The yacht reached the port of Paros where its sailing was prohibited until the damage is repaired.

    [32] Blood donation at ANA for the creation of Blood Bank

    Employees of the Athens News Agency (ANA) showed great willingness to donate blood for the creation of a Blood Bank.

    A mobile blood donation unit from the NIMTS hospital arrived at the agency on Monday morning and gave all interested the possibility to come closer to blood donation and for many of them to become blood donors for the first time.

    [33] Contraband cigarettes

    Port authorities in Igoumenitsa on Monday discovered a large stash of contraband cigarettes hidden in a truck on board a car ferry heading for Italy.

    A total of 360,750 cartons of cigarettes were found hidden among crates of pie dough, and the loss of tax revenue to the Greek state is estimated at 1.151 million euros.

    The truck driver was arrested and was due to appear before a local prosecutor, while the contraband was seized.

    Weather Forecast

    [34] Cloudy on Tuesday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 2-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 12C and 29C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 15C to 28C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 15C to 28C.

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

    Speculation of new harsh tax measures and a civil servants' voluntary early retirement program and Prime Minister George Papandreou's meetings with the political leaders on Tuesday, dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Papandreou's meetings with political leaders except Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga".

    AVRIANI: "The admission of bankruptcy brought panic to the people and anxiety to markets".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Cutbacks in salaries via Tax Bureau as of July 1".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Voluntary early retirement in public sector".

    ESTIA: "New taxes on real estate - The rulers have gone mad".

    ETHNOS: "New bombs with receipts, VAT, tax-free ceiling".

    IMERISSIA: "Storm of new taxes- Tax-free ceiling at 6,000 euros - Extraordinary contribution".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Days of harsh measures and crucial decisions".

    TA NEA: "Troika holds its gun under the table".

    VRADYNI: "Government activates the transfer of the 'Building Co-efficient'.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [36] President vows to cooperate with new House

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    President of the Republic Demetris Christofias pledged on Monday to work for dialogue and closer cooperation with the House of Representatives.

    The president also pointed out that the day after the elections finds the people of Cyprus facing the same serious challenges that existed prior to the elections.

    In a written statement issued after Sunday's parliamentary elections, President Christofias expresses regret at the high percentage of abstention, saying this is not a "healthy phenomenon in the country's political system."

    The main opposition party, the right wing Democratic Rally (DISY), topped the polls in Sunday's parliamentary elections, gaining 138,614 votes and a comfortable lead of 34.27% against the ruling left wing AKEL party, which rallied in second position with 132,163 votes and 32.67%. Both parties increased their share of the vote, compared with the corresponding percentage in the 2006 parliamentary elections.

    The biggest upset of the night was the number of abstentions, reaching 113,282 or 21.32%, an unprecedented figure in parliamentary elections.

    "The day after the parliamentary elections finds the people facing the same serious challenges that existed prior to the voting," President Christofias said, adding that the Cyprus problem is the primary issue which due to the protracted Turkish attitude, continues to remain unresolved.

    "We will continue the great effort to solve the Cyprus issue, always with consistency to principles and showing the necessary realism. We will continue the effort to build the necessary unity on the internal front and to have dialogue and consensus, irrespective of the differences that exist with the political forces", he added.

    President Christofias said that dialogue and consensus is necessary to deal with the problems of the Cypriot economy. Many of these were caused by the global economic recession and others that ensued after the crisis have been troubling the economy for years.

    "We hope there is a response to our call for dialogue and cooperation, leaving behind the climate of intense confrontation and nihilism that characterized the pre-election campaign", the president stressed.

    He said the government is determined to continue efforts towards fiscal consolidation, adding that to handle the consequences of the crisis, "everyone should be willing to undertake the cost apportioned to their capabilities". The government, he added, is determined to continue with changes in society, opening new horizons and prospects for Cyprus and its people.

    In this difficult task, the House of Representatives is a fundamental partner, President Christofias said, adding "we will work to develop dialogue and achieve closer and smooth cooperation between the government and the House, a very important element in the proper functioning of the state and we shall implement policies that will benefit society and the country".

    The president congratulated all those who have contributed to the excellent conduct of the parliamentary elections. "People went to the polls without any problems and once again proved that democracy on the island is at very high levels," he added.

    The president congratulated the parties that secured seats at the House and all those elected, sending special congratulations to the parties that have increased their share of the vote.

    The president went on to add that "these elections, unfortunately, have designated another winner, abstention. The high percentage of abstentions, by Cyprus' standards, is something that should concern everybody".

    He pointed out that "abstention from elections is not a healthy phenomenon for the political system. It sends messages which we all have a duty to analyse and interpret. The responsibility to correct the situation belongs, primarily, to the political forces, the Executive and Legislative. Collectively and specifically, the abstention phenomenon should be addressed with the aim to persuade citizens that through organized participation in the political life, there can be solutions to the problems and prospects for the people and the country."

    This can be achieved, he added, "without becoming populist, radical or fanatical and through dialogue, consensus and mutual respect, without exultations and nihilism" and maintaining a "sense of responsibility for the public interest".

    Examining the abstention phenomenon, President Christofias said we should all look into the quality of the political speech and the role of the means which the political forces use to get their messages across to the people.

    Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. President Christofias is engaged in peace talks with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Dervis Eroglu to find a negotiated settlement that would reunite the country under a federal roof.

    [37] Chief Returning Officer announces allocation of parliamentary seats

    Chief Returning Officer Lazaros Savvides announced, in the early hours of Monday, the allocation of parliamentary seats in the new House of Representatives, following Sunday's poll.

    Speaking to the press, he also said he would declare the new members of Parliament on Monday at 1300 local time (10.00 GMT).

    Announcing the final allocation of seats per political party and district, Savvides said that the Democratic Rally (DISY) won 20 seats, AKEL 19, the Democratic Party (DIKO) nine, the Social Democrats Movement EDEK five, the European Movement (EVROKO) two seats and the Ecologists- Environmentalists Movement one seat.

    The Democratic Rally, he said, has seven seats in Nicosia, four in Famagusta and four in Limassol, three in Larnaca, one in Kyrenia and one in Paphos, totaling 20 seats.

    Savvides said AKEL has six seats in Nicosia, one in Kyrenia, four in Famagusta, two in Larnaca, five in Limassol and one in Paphos, totaling 19 seats.

    The Democratic Party has three seats in Nicosia, two in Limassol and one in each of the following districts Famagusta, Kyrenia, Larnaca and Paphos, totaling nine seats.

    EDEK, said Savvides, has won two seats in Nicosia and one in the following districts, Famagusta, Limassol and Paphos, a total of five seats.

    EVROKO, he added, will have one seat in Nicosia and one in Famagusta.

    The Ecologists-Environmentalists Movement has one seat in Nicosia.

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