|Friday, 23 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-05-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 25 May 2011 Issue No: 3795
 PM: 'Greece will be saved and will change'Prime Minister George Papandreou pledged on Tuesday that "Greece will be saved and shall change", while addressing the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises' (SEV) general assembly at the Megaron Concert Hall.
"For as long as I am here nothing else preoccupies me," the prime minister added.
Papandreou said the "chapter of changes" is not over, but is under way, and added that if the country collapses now "all the sacrifices will be in vain".
"We shall either wage the battle to the end, in order to enable funding to continue or we shall give the right (to others) to put Greece on the margins of the EU's hard core," he said.
Papandreou, who spoke hours after a round of talks with political party leaders, called for consensus and joint responsibility to pass "the promontory of the coming weeks," saying that a government cannot struggle alone with the "beasts" while being snipped at continuously, within the country, for petty-partisan reasons.
"I am open to whatever realistic proposal, provided it upgrades our credibility and achieves the targets we have set and that we have agreed with our partners," Papandreou said, referring to his meetings with party leaders on Tuesday.
"Consensus is not only a national necessity, but it is also feasible in practice," the prime minister said, outlining a series of issues in which there is a convergence of views between the government and the main opposition party.
Papandreou said the government has been trying for a year to promote reforms in the country, saving it in parallel from bankruptcy, which was considered certain by many a few months ago.
He acknowledged that there are difficulties, recession and restrictions, but stressed that "there is no other path" since "if we continued to exercise policy, as all did in the past, many of whom today are either protesting, we would not be able today to speak of policies, options, consensuses, an exit to markets when we will stand on our feet, because simply we would have collapsed totally."
The prime minister further said "we secured the loan of 110 billion euros that permits us today to still function as a state and not to have mourned situations that our mind cannot imagine."
Papandreou further said that for the country to exit from the crisis, the deeper causes that led to it must be reversed, meaning the mistaken practices and mentalities of the past, the chronic distortions and weaknesses of the economy, the way of organising society and the political system that led Greece to the verge of disaster.
"The concealment of the real fiscal situation was the coup de grace to a credibility of the country that had already sustained blows," he said.
Lastly, Papandreou said the government is not merely averting bankruptcy but is changing Greece, adding that this course is not over but is in its half way and expressed his conviction that with rallying and work by all the Greek people will be revived and will prosper once again.
 PM Papandreou meets party leadersPrime Minister George Papandreou met on Tuesday with political party leaders and stressed the need for the national goal of decreasing deficits and tackling the debt to be achieved.
Papandreou also stressed that understanding between the political forces constitutes proof of the country's responsibility and seriousness towards the international community.
The prime minister pointed out to his interlocutors that he is and remains "open" to "the discussion of every realistic proposal that is tabled and that contributes to the imple-mentation of the national goal."
Papandreou also referred to specific "points-proposals" on which, as he said, there could be a discussion with every party, on the basis of the proposals they have submitted.
 Samaras: No to consensus leading to con't mistakesMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Tuesday again rejected government overtures for his party's consensus to the government's economic policy, speaking immediately after the conclusion of a meeting with Prime Minister George Papandreou.
"I will not agree with the proven erroneous recipe of the (EC-ECB-IMF) Memorandum," he said point-blank, adding that the government is subjecting the people to new sacrifices without any prospect, "as past mistakes are merely being repeated."
"Society demands consensus in order to change (the country's) direction and not consensus at top level for us to remain stuck in the same impasse," he continued.
"I will not give such consensus," Samaras stressed.
The ND leader also noted the economic policy proposal he recently unveiled, the so-called Zappeion 2, warning that if a "creative shock" was not effected through reduction of taxes combined with containment of wasteful spending by the state and bold denationalisations of a developmental nature, there will be no restarting of the economy.
With the Zappeion 2, "I showed the way to restarting the economy and renegotiating the terms of the Memorandum," Samaras said, and accused the government of not daring to restart the economy and not even considering renegotiation.
The government, he added, is "repeating the same mistake, which exceeds the limits of the economy's and the Greek people's endurance", whereas ND remains opposed and is advancing the restarting of the economy as the only way to exit the crisis.
Samaras further criticised the measures being advanced by the government, accusing it of "burdening the economy with new taxes, thus paralyzing the very last productive vestige of the country, and bringing more recession, rather than smaller deficits".
He accused Papandreou personally of "insisting on the same failed recipe in view of negotiations with the Troika" and of intimating at new tax "raids", new across-the-board cutbacks at the expense of those who have paid the price and can endure no more.
Outlining the main aspects of his own policy, Samaras noted that the basic "ingredient" of ND's proposal for restarting the economy is reduction of the tax rates, especially since the asphyxiation of the market is due to the government's policy of excessive taxation.
He further expressed reservations on even the possible points of convergence on the Medium-Term Program being drafted by the government.
"The only new element in the government's policy is the denationalisations, but in many instances they give the impression that they are heading to a sell-off without a developmental dimension and with meager results in a dilapidated stockmarket. We are in favor of denationalisations, but opposed to the hasty sell-off and to panic-stricken cash collecting measures," Samaras said.
Assessing the government's measures announced so far, Samaras said that isolated positive elements existed, such as the contracts for exploitation of the country's ports and airports -- which he said ND had proposed as early as December 2009 -- and Papandreou's seeming intention to adopt some other of the Zappeion 2 proposals, such as the repatriation of capital and reserve labor.
"But a few positive elements in an overall mistake do not provide a solution," he warned.
Samaras further charged that no one in the government, has to date, given an explanation as to why the recipe so far has failed and why no one is assuming the responsibility for the sacrifices that have gone to waste.
 Gov't open to proposals, sources say after PM's meeting with SamarasThe government believes that there are proposals on which common ground can be found, high-ranking government sources told ANA-MPA on Tuesday after a meeting between prime minister George Papandreou and main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras.
The sources said Papandreou told Samaras that his government is open to proposals for meeting the target of reducing the state deficit by 6.4 percentage points of GDP, which is a target that "must be achieved".
Papandreou further told Samaras that speculations and rumors of new taxes, VAT increases, etc., are not decisions but proposals that will be looked into in the framework of the discussion for drafting the Medium-Term Program, the sources said.
On denationalisations, Papandreou told Samaras that they will proceed quickly and with full transparency, the sources continued, and denied reports that the finance minister intended to invite the ND economic team for further discussion, but added that the government would be open to such a discussion.
 ND leader addresses SEV gen. assembly; outlines policyMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, addressing the annual general assembly of the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) on Tuesday, and hours after meeting Prime Minister George Papandreou, again emphasised:
"When we offered consensus to the government they replied with polemics. When we proposed measures to them in order to avoid the worse they replied to us with sarcasm. Today, when they are seeing that their path is leading to a deadlock, they are asking me for consent. To what?"
Speaking of a "memorandum Waterloo", Samaras pinpointed his intentions regarding the points in the Medium-term Fiscal Strategy Programme. He clarified that he will not agree to an increase in tax rates, while he said he would insist on the strategy of utilising the public sector's real estate.
As regards privatisations, the ND leader insisted on this strategy with a growth-oriented and not a solely revenue-generating attitude, stressing that he will not accept the sale of a share package of the Public Power Corp. amid a crashing stock exchange, without the breaking up of the state monopoly. At the same time he made it clear that he will deal a blow at the "peculiar privileges" that were abused by various unions in the public sector.
Referring to the government's tax policy, Samaras spoke of a "tax raid that froze everyone" and noted that he will not consent to this "disaster".
"We agree with the goals: The deficit should be decreased and eliminated. The debt should be checked and de-escalated. However, we do not agree with the recipe that they chose to do this; it was proved that we were right," he said, reminding that ND had disagreed with this policy "mix" before.
Lastly, Samaras focused on the basic axes of the policy he presented last week, which if implemented in its entirety, as he said, would take the country out of the crisis.
 EU/ECB/IMF team to meet ND officials on WednesdayMain opposition New Democracy (ND) officials responsible for economic issues will meet with a visiting EC/ECB/IMF team on Wednesday, it was announced on Tuesday.
The meeting, which was decided at the latter's request, will focus on measures proposed by ND leader Antonis Samaras a few days ago.
According to ND sources, "the move proves the seriousness of Antonis Samaras' proposals which, if implemented in their entirety, will be able to take the country out of the crisis soon."
 LA.O.S: "all political powers should share in the burden"Opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) president George Karatzaferis on Tuesday suggested that the political parties should share the burden of policies to exit the crisis, with clear albeit indirect participation in the government and its responsibilities.
Commenting after a meeting with the prime minister that lasted roughly 75 minutes, Karatzaferis said that his proposal was not rejected by the premier.
The LA.O.S president stressed that a "vague consensus is not enough", pointing out that "all political powers should take up part of the burden".
 SYRIZA leader: Stop the crime against the peopleCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras said Tuesday after a meeting with Prime Minister George Papandreou that "I did not go to discuss with George Papandreou about the looting of society but I went to tell him that he must not and he it is not legitimised to continue this crime against the people".
Tsipras added that the premier and the government have led the country to an unprecedented catastrophe, underlining that Papandreou lacked the courage to accept the failure and is seeking accomplices and not consensus. The best thing he can do for the country is to step down, Tsipras added.
The SYRIZA leader also stressed that the people must live with dignity, and called on the youth to follow the example of Spain's youth.
To a reporters' query on the possibility of early general elections, he said that if the government is willing to sell even the Acropolis, only the Greek people, and not Papandreou, are authorised to give the response.
 Bakoyannis: 'support for smaller state, no to higher taxes'After meeting Prime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday, Democratic Alliance party leader Dora Bakoyannis said her proposals to the premier had included a reduction in the number of MPs from 300 to 200, abolition of immunity from prosecution for MPs and joint negotiations by all political forces with the EU-ECB-IMF troika on changing taxation policy.
She said her discussion with the prime minister had examined the economy and the state of the country in depth, adding that Greece was now facing its most crucial moments.
Bakoyannis said her party agreed with the measures proposed by the government for reducing state-sector spending but did not agree on issues of taxation, calling for a different taxation policy "that does not wipe out Greeks, will bring in more revenue and be more effective".
"Together we must send a message that we are determined to win this fight, with an effective policy that will bring the country out of the crisis within a visible time horizon," she said.
The prime minister on Tuesday had a round of meetings with the leaders of political parties in Parliament, seeking their support and consensus for the package of measures unveiled by the government as part of its Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework.
 Democratic Alliance party to hold inaugural congress on May 27-29The Democratic Alliance party will be holding its inaugural congress at the Athens Olympic stadium's bicycle facility on May 27-29, with its main slogan being "reversal in practice."
On the first day of the congress, on Friday, representatives of other parties will be making addresses since all the party leaders have been invited. Foreign dignitaries and Democratic Alliance leader Dora Bakoyiannis will also be speaking.
The second day will focus on issues concerning the party's structure and political issues and on Sunday, the last day of the congress, addresses will be concluded and the election of the party's president and bodies will be taking place.
 Democratic Left leader proposes 'debt restructuring'Democratic Left party leader MP Fotis Kouvelis suggested in the meeting with the prime minister on Tuesday that the country should seek debt restructuring, coupled with the extension of the repayment period and interest rate reduction.
Kouvelis proposed drawing up a 20-billion-euro, five-year developmental programme that will be financed by the European Investment Bank (EIB), the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) and an investment bond issue.
"The Democratic Left believes that anything else does not constitute a response to the major problems," Kouvelis stated, adding that he will vote down the medium-term programme sponsored by the government. He also said that he disagreed with the prime minister on many issues and recommended that the policy exercised be changed.
 PM due in Paris for OECD anniversary eventsPARIS (ANA-MPA - O. Tsipira)
Prime Minister George Papandreou is due to arrive in Paris on Wednesday morning in order to attend events marking the 50th anniversary since the foundation of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Papandreou will be accompanied by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and Regional Development and Competiti-veness Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis.
The Greek premier will participate in a roundtable at the Public Commemoration of the OECD's 50th anniversary at around 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, as part of the OECD Forum 2011.
Later, on Wednesday evening, Papaconstantinou will take part in a debate organised by the Institut de Relations Internationales et Strategiques (IRIS), in collaboration with the Greek embassy press office, on "Greek Economic Crisis: the Foundations for a new Beginning". This meeting will be open to the public and will take place at the Maison de l'Europe in the central Paris district of Le Marais.
 FM Droutsas meets with Italian counterpartROME (ANA-MPA / Th. Andreadis-Syggelakis)
Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas met here on Tuesday with his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini.
Droutsas underlined that Italy "stood by Greece from the first moment", adding that Italy's confidence in Greece was underscored in the meetings he had in the Italian capital.
Responding to a question by ANA-MPA, FM Droutsas stressed that the Italian foreign minister underlined Italy's solidarity to Greece and the Greek people and added that "the efforts made by Greece in the past year are being acknowledged, namely the efforts made by the government and the Greek people, in particular".
Droutsas presented to his counterpart the deficit figures showing that it was reduced by 5 percentage points in the past year, as well as, the reforms made in the social insurance system and local government pointing out, however, that "we still have a long way to go".
He also referred to the outcome of Monday's cabinet meeting in Athens and the promotion of the medium-term stability programme and planned privatizations, underlining that Italian companies have expressed interest in investing in Greece.
Greek experts will visit Italy very soon to present investment opportunities to Italian companies. "This is a very important result and message coming from the meeting. It is a tangible proof of Italy's confidence in Greece, its economy and its potential," Droutsas stated.
The two foreign ministers also discussed developments in North Africa, the crisis in Libya in particular, an issue on which Athens and Rome are closely cooperating.
On illegal migration, Droutsas said "the European Council in June will discuss the EU political approach on the issue. It is important to take advantage of this opportunity so that the concerns shared by Greece and Italy will be conveyed to the other EU partners focusing on the need for tangible European solidarity and shared responsibility".
Droutsas and Frattini also referred to Turkey's EU accession prospects sharing the position that Turkey should become a full EU member.
FM Droutsas underlined "the self-evident", namely, that "Turkey first will have to meet all its obligations toward the EU and its member-states".
He said that as regards the visa issuance, "Greece has a direct interest in facilitating the Turkish citizens wishing to travel to Europe. Rome and Athens share a common policy line on the issue".
Referring to the Greek EU Presidency in the first half of 2014, Droutsas said that "the goal is to organize a summit meeting with the Western Balkan countries, like the 2003 meeting in Thessaloniki," to draw up a "road map" for the accession of the Western Balkan countries into the EU.
As regards the energy sector, the two countries reaffirmed their support to the ITGI pipeline.
After the meeting with the Italian foreign minister, Droutsas met with Italian Chamber of Deputies Chairman Gianfranco Fini and Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Lamberto Dini.
 Foreign ministry spokesman on Ankara's irritation regarding Pontians' genocide memory eventsThe Greek Foreign ministry responded on Tuesday to an announcement by the Turkish Foreign ministry expressing Ankara's irritation over events in memory of the Pontians' genocide.
"May 19 is a day of memory. It is a day of mourning engraved in the soul of Hellenism. History is not written off, nor is it rewritten with announcements. We respect it. It constitutes an adviser for us to build a future of peace," Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said.
 Turkish aircraft violate national air spaceAccording to press reports, 14 Turkish aircraft entered the Athens FIR on Tuesday without submitting flight plans. Two infringements of air traffic regulations in the Athens FIR were recorded that developed into 9 violations of national air space in the region of the Central Aegean.
The Turkish aircraft were recognised and intercepted by corresponding Greek fighter jets. Six Turkish aircraft were armed.
It is noteworthy that a delegation of the Greek National Defence General Staff is visiting Turkey as of Tuesday with the aim of discussing the activity programme for 2012, in the framework of confidence building measures between the two countries. The visit will be concluded on May 27.
 FinMin: Without 5th tranche, Greece would default on paymentsWithout the disbursement of the 5th tranche of the EU-IMF support loan, Greece would default on payments, finance minister George Papaconstantinou warned late Monday night on a private television station, adding that salaries and pensions could not be paid and the country would 'pull down the shutters', but stressed that he has no doubt that the 5th tranche will be forthcoming.
Speaking on private SKAI tv channel, Papaconstantinou explained that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cannot disburse its part of the loan to Greece without guarantees from Europe that in 2012 Greece will have the support of its EU partners.
He added that he has no doubt that both the 5th tranche and ensurance for the future would be given.
Asked what would happen if the negotiations (for political consensus on the economy) reach a dead end and the country is obliged to hold early general elections, Papaconstantinou warned that (early) elections would be catastrophic for the country, but added that "in a democracy, there are no impasses".
To another question, he said that the Medium-Term Program will be voted through parliament with a simple majority, and not a reinforced majority of 180 votes in the 300-member House.
He further said that the government was mulling changes and reductions to the 12,000 euros tax-free ceiling. "We are examining some scenarios, we are looking at some changes and reductions, and exceptions of certain population groups such as pensioners," he said.
 Commission welcomes package of measures announced by Greek governmentBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
The European Commission on Tuesday welcomed the announcement by the Greek government of additional measures towards cutting the country's fiscal deficit to 7.5 pct of GDP this year, along with measures to speed-up a privatisations programme.
Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, expressed the Commission's satisfaction, saying the Greek government offered significant and detailed elements of its programme, confirming authorities' determination.
He insisted, however, on the need to promote a privatisations programme immediately, and stressed that a detailed assessment of measures announced by the government would be made after the completion of an EC-ECB-IMF troika visit to Athens.
Speaking during a regular press briefing here, Altafaj said the Commission will discuss with Greek authorities a plan to set up a state agency with the task of monitoring the course of the privatization programme. The EU spokesman categorically dismissed speculation that measures announced by the Greek government were inadequate.
 Federation of Hellenic Enterprises president on economic crisisFederation of Hellenic Enterprises president Dimitris Daskalopoulos, addressing the Federation's general assembly session on Tuesday, proposed the holding of a referendum on the question of whether Greece is proceeding along the path imposed by the country's European perspective or is pulling out and proceeding alone.
"This is the deepest national challenge, because if we fail we will inevitably be placing ourselves outside the European orbit. A referendum will provide society in its entirety in the most direct way with the possibility of assuming its responsibilities. The people must be given the possibility to speak now. The situation is not only deadlocked, it is marginal for our very national existence," he said.
The Federation's president stressed that after a year in which the country experienced a painful course, the conviction is widespread that Greece is at the same point from where it started, a step away from the cliff.
"The sacrifices do not appear to have succeeded. The crisis remains without a visible exit. We are continuing to sink, while we are supposedly struggling to change," Daskalopoulos said, adding that "the silent majority is in complete confusion over today, in absolute uncertainty over tomorrow, unwilling or unable to contribute to whatever effort."
 ADEDY announces protest against cuts on Saturday, June 4The civil servants' union federation ADEDY on Tuesday announced a protest rally against the new measures announced by the government at Klathmonos Square in central Athens, at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 4.
"The new tide of cuts, tax hikes, privatisations, dismissals and restriction of insurance rights reduces the living standards of all by 20 percent and leads the economy and the country into new dead ends," an announcement by ADEDY's executive committee said.
The union federation noted that public-sector staff face an "unbearable and desperate situation" with further wage cuts, reduction of their lump sum on retirement, an increase in their working week to 40 hours and imminent cuts in supplementary pensions, putting particular pressure on the thousands of households that depended on a public-sector wage or pensions and had one or more unemployed members.
 Acheloos river diversion case begins before ECJBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Spinthourakis)
Discussion on the Acheloos River diversion project began before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Tuesday, based on a request sent by Greece's supreme administrative court, the Council of State.
The CoS has asked the European court to interpret EU directives on the management of water resources, especially the management of river basins, that pertain to numerous cases brought before the CoS objecting to the ambitious project to irrigate the water-hungry Thessaly plain.
The project has been on hold by order of the CoS since February 2010, when the court agreed with the claims of environmental groups and local authorities that the diversion would cause irreparable harm to the ecosystem of Greece's second-longest river, lead to further degeneration of landscapes and have a negative impact on water levels.
During Tuesday's hearing, the court was briefed on the current situation and background of the case and the next discussion will be held in September 2011.
 Environment ministry unveils 'Green Island' and 'Green Village' programmesThe environment ministry on Tuesday unveiled its 'Green Island' and 'Green Village' programmes, saying that the target was for the selection of eligible communities and signature of contracts to be concluded by the end of November.
A pilot 'Greek Island' programme is already underway on the small island of Aghios Efstratios, with the islet of Lipsous considered the next likely candidate. Earmarked for the 'Green Village' programme is a village in the mountains of Arta.
An official invitation for applications will be announced at the end of June and the communities interested are expected to submit their bid portfolios by the end of September. This will be followed by evaluation and the signature of contracts.
The programme is funded by the National Strategic Reference Framework and has a total budget of 50 million euros for four years. Its aim is to reduce the eligible communities' reliance on fossil fuels and reduce their carbon emissions to effectively zero.
This will be achieved by employing a combination of available technology and techniques for renewable energy sources (power generation from wind and solar energy), energy storage and hydrogen production, smart networks, energy-efficient buildings, electricity-powered transport and others to create communities that generate minimal CO2 and thus generate opportunities for green economic activity and investments.
It chiefly targets small communities of 500 to 800 residents, with potential access to a usable source of renewable energy, strong community support for the project and previous experience.
 Credit Agricole proposes acquisition of further 4pct stake in subsidiary Emporiki BankThe Credit Agricole Group on Tuesday submitted to the Capital Market Commission a plan for holding a voluntary public proposal for acquisition of the remaining 4 percent share stake in its Greek subsidiary Emporiki Bank.
The proposal is for 1.76 euros per share, which represents a premium of approximately 30 percent.
Credit Agricole currently holds some 91 percent of Emporiki's shares and, exclusively for the purposes of the Public Proposal, is acting in coordination with the 5 percent shareholder Sacam, as required under Greek law.
Credit Agricole said in an announcement that, with this move, it reaffirms its commitment to its subsidiary Emporiki.
 New direct flights from European cities to the Ionian islandsLauda Air, subsidiary of Austrian Airlines, inagurated on Monday a seasonal direct airlink connecting Vienna with Corfu airport with two flights weekly. The air link will run through 24 September. Moreover three other flights are scheduled that will link Corfu with Salzburg, Linz and Graz.
According to the airline's summer programme, flights will be held every week to the Ionian islands of Zakynthos and Lefkada.
Moreover, the Hungarian airline Malev will shortly inaugurated direct flights, five per week, from Budapest to Corfu.
Ryanair will also inaugurate, for the first time, direct flights from Britain to Corfu. The link will open in a month and will run until October.
 Business Briefs-- Alpha Bank Group on Tuesday said net profits totaled 10.5 million euros in the first quarter of 2011, down 79.6 pct compared with the same period last year, while pre-tax and provision profits totaled 278.2 million euros, up 4.7 pct compared with 2010, reflecting progress in a cost-cutting programme and increased revenues from financial transactions.
-- Attica Bank on Tuesday reported a pre-tax loss of 2.2 million euros in the first quarter of the year, after profits of 1.5 million euros in the corresponding period in 2010, while adding that after-tax losses totaled 3.2 million euros from profits of 194,000 euros over the same periods, respectively.
-- The price of unleaded gas in Greece is the second highest in Europe after the Netherlands, while as regards the price of diesel, Greece is the most expensive country, the Hellenic Automobile and Touring Club (EL.PA) announced on Tuesday.
-- A total of 400 Greek enterprises have paid a total of 2.0 million euros in compensation and expenses for legitimising illegal computer software, a record sum for Greece, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) said on Tuesday.
-- The Piraeus Port Authority (OLP), the listed operator of Greece's largest port, on Tuesday said after tax losses totaled 2.92 million euros in the first quarter of 2011, after profits of 1.73 million euros in the same period last year.
-- The two largest industrial and medical gas suppliers in Greece - owned by French and German multinationals, respectively - reported a strong increase in profitability last year.
 Stocks flat on Tues.Stocks ended flat in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, unable to hold on to their initial strong gains. Traders said the market reacted positively to the announcement of an ambitious privatization program by the government.
The composite index of the market rose 0.13 pct to end at 1,281.72 points, after rising as much as 2.83 pct during the session. Turnover, however, remained a low 78.883 million euros. The Big Cap index rose 0.40 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.26 pct higher and the Small Cap index ended 1.85 pct up. Hellenic Postbank (4.98 pct), OTE (4.31 pct), Cyprus Bank (3.33 pct) and ATEbank (2.08 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while PPC (2.38 pct), MIG (1.85 pct) and Alpha Bank (1.80 pct) were top losers.
The Telecoms (4.31 pct) and Personal Products (2.07 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Insurance (3.38 pct) and Utilities (1.91 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 72 to 58 with another 52 issues unchanged. Emporiki Bank (35.16 pct), Vovos (18.82 pct) and Attica Bank (12.2 pct) were top gainers, while Demetriou (10 pct), Nexans (10 pct) and Ilyda (9.68 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.21%
Personal & Household: +2.07%
Raw Materials: -0.03%
Travel & Leisure: -1.27%
Food & Beverages: -0.49%
Financial Services: -0.79%
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: 3.27
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.25
HBC Coca Cola: 16.91
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.69
National Bank of Greece: 4.56
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.22
Bank of Piraeus: 1.01
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 13.58 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 14.02 pct the previous day, as the market reacted positively to the announcement of a Medium-term Fiscal Strategy Framework by the Greek government. The Greek bond yielded 16.63 pct and the German Bund 3.05 pct.
Turnover in the market was a low 36 million euros, of which 27 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 9.0 million euros were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 14 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 rate 1.43 pct and the one-month rate 1.24 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.22 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover remaining a low 29.676 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,969 contracts worth 22.968 million euros, with 38,035 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 16,708 contracts worth 6.708 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,092), followed by Eurobank (1,137), OTE (2,285), PPC (395), OPAP (373), Piraeus Bank (382), GEK (266), Alpha Bank (1,473), Ellaktor (261), Cyprus Bank (429), Hellenic Postbank (1,423) and ATEbank (2,442).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.43
Pound sterling 0.885
Danish kroner 7.568
Swedish kroner 9.053
Japanese yen 117.18
Swiss franc 1.259
Norwegian kroner 7.956
Canadian dollar 1.398
Australian dollar 1.352
 Geroulanos hails joint exhibition of Sabanci, Cycladic Art museumsISTANBUL (ANA-MPA)
Greek Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos hailed the first major collaboration between Greek and Turkish museums while attending the opening of the exhibition "Across" at Turkey's Sakip Sabanci Museum.
The exhibition, organised with the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, opened its doors to the public on Monday. It includes archaeological finds from the Cyclades islands and the Asia Minor coast stretching right back to the early Bronze age.
One of the main issues addressed were trade transactions between the two sides of the Aegean.
Among those addressing guests at the opening were Geroulanos and his Turkish counterpart Ertugrul Gunay.
 Details of Special Olympics ceremonies unveiledPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias will officially declare the opening of the "Athens 2011" Special Olympics on June 25, at the Panathenian Stadium in central Athens. This was announced on Tuesday by the head of the Special Olympics organising committee Joanna Despotopoulou, who also unveiled details of the opening and closing ceremonies, overseen by Fokas Evangelinos.
The opening ceremony will feature a greeting by Prime Minister George Papandreou and Special Olympics International Chairman Dr. Timothy Shriver, while several heads of state, ministers, athletes and celebrities will be among the guests on the opening night.
Soul music legend Stevie Wonder and his band will be in charge of the music at the opening ceremony, while tenor Vittorio Grigolo and Greek singer Alkistis Protopsalti will perform a song specially written for the Athens Games by composer Stefanos Korkolis, which will be broadcast live for the first time. Presenters during the ceremony will be George Kapoutzidis and Maria Menounos.
Despotopoulou noted that both the opening and closing ceremonies had been designed "with a sense of moderation" and that they were the only events during the Special Olympics where one needed a ticket to attend, inviting all to attend and contribute to the Special Olympics movement.
 ECHR finds Greece guilty of violating right to presumed innocence in Konstas caseThe European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday unanimously found Greece guilty of violating the right of former Panteion University president Dimitris Konstas to be presumed innocent until found guilty, as well as his right to an effective remedy, as laid out in the European Convention of Human Rights.
A former ambassador, minister and university professor, Konstas was found guilty of misappropriating university funds by a first-instance court and initially sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. A final verdict on his case is still pending before the Athens Court of Appeals.
The ECHR verdict against Greece was based on public statements made by the country's former prime minister Costas Karamanlis and two ministers in his government at the time, Sotiris Hatzigakis and Petros Doukas. These had referred to the former professor's "indisputable guilt" in the Panteion embezzlement case.
The decision, which was not final, ordered Greece to pay Konstas 12,000 euro in compensation for moral damages and 10,000 euro in court costs. The court noted that representatives of the state had an obligation to show particular restraint and to not state that a person was guilty before he had been proved guilty according to the law. They also found that this discretion had to be extended to appeal proceedings, even if someone had been found guilty at first instance.
Concerning the statements of Sotiris Hatzigakis, who had been justice minister at the time, the court found that these seemed to have prejudged the pending decision of the higher-level court, encouraging the Court of Appeal to uphold the judgement of the lower court.
 Kidnapped doctor set free after ransom paidA 67 year-old cardiologist from Athens was kidnapped on Sunday afternoon from his holiday home in Stamata, Attica prefecture, and was released after his family paid a ransom to the abductors, police revealed on Tuesday.
The kidnappers had initially asked for 2 million euros in ransom, but after negotiations the family paid an unknown sum, and the doctor was released on Monday afternoon.
Attica security police are conducting an investigation.
 Murder suspect arrestedJealousy was, according to police, the motive for the murder of a 29-year-old Greek a year ago on the 40th km of the Athens-Sounio highway near Koropi, northeastern Attica.
Police announced on Tuesday that they have solved the case, explaining that the assailant and his accomplices -- two young Albanian men and a 23-year-old Albanian woman -- had set up an ambush for the victim near Koropi. The suspect is a 26-year-old Albanian who had suspicions that his former girlfriend was in a relationship with the victim. The suspect, aided by the 23-year-old woman, created a fake profile on Facebook to lure the victim to a remote area. The woman persuaded the victim to meet her at the chosen spot, was shot several times by the suspect, resulting in his death.
Police spotted the 26 year-old Albanian on Sunday on Alimos beach. The suspect jumped into the see to escape when he spotted the policemen. The police officers followed him and finally arrested him.
The suspect will be led on Tuesday before a prosecutor
 Electric rail line closed between May 28 and June 6The Athens Piraeus Electric Railway (ISAP) line from Monastiraki station to the Ano Patissia station in central Athens will be out of service between Saturday, May 28 and Monday, June 6 due to renovation works, it was announced on Tuesday.
Commuters can use Metro lines 2 and 3 from Monastiraki to Attiki and transfer to X8 bus from Attiki to Ano Patissia.
The Omonia and Victoria stations will open on Tuesday, June 7.
 Fake loan scam offices detectedThe case of no less than 300 alleged scam offices offering bogus loans were referred to a relevant prosecutor on Tuesday by the Consumer Ombudsman who acted on complaints filed by defrauded consumers.
The alleged fraudulent "loan offices" promised immediate loans of up to 150,000 euros through ads in the press and emails, claiming that no collateral was necessary and that consumers only needed to have a credit card regardless of its limit.
The electronic crime squad is working on the identification of the mobile phone numbers given out by the offices, considering that there is no other trace available that could lead to the "loan offices". An investigation is underway on whether bank employees were also involved in the scam.
 Fugitive arrested by police in PeristeriPolice on Tuesday reported a successful operation to recapture an armed suspect on the run from the law, who was tracked down to a house in the west Athens district of Peristeri. The occupant of the house surrendered and is now in police custody.
Authorities have not released details of the man's identity, though sources have revealed that he is an Albanian fugitive who is being questioned in connection with a series of armed robberies and other crimes. They also report that various weapons, such as Kalashnikov rifles, hand-grenades and other weaponry, were found during the raid on the house.
 Two arrested in heroin bustPolice seized almost 224 grams of heroin and arrested two men in a major drug bust in Sparta on Tuesday.
Sparta security police, in a coordinated operation, arrested a 28-year-old Greek man after a minor quantity of heroin was found in his car, while a search of the detainee's house turned up used syringes with traces of heroin, a knife and a jackknife, all of which were confiscated.
During questioning, the man turned over to police the details of a 35-year-old Albanian national from whom he had purchased the heroin.
Police later arrested the Albanian outside his house in Kokkinorachi, Sparta, and a search of the house turned up a total of 223.9 grams of heroin in two packages, and 145 euros in cash, which were confiscated.
The two arrestees are due to appear later in the day before the Sparta prosecutor.
 Unlicensed masseurs arrested at local beaches near HaniaFour foreign nationals were arrested at Platania municipality beach, near Hania on the southern Aegean island of Crete, for exercising the masseur profession without a license, island authorities announced on Tuesday.
The four, all Chinese nationals aged 31, 43 and two of them 48, were arrested while giving massages to beachgoers for a fee without having the necessary masseur license that would have allowed them to exercise the profession.
A total of 25 foreign nationals have been arrested recently at local beaches on similar charges.
 Cloudy on WednesdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 12C and 30C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 15C to 30C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 15C to 27C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceMonday's Cabinet meeting and decisions on the privatisations, new taxes and Prime Minister George Papandreou's meetings on Tuesday with the political leaders, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "All for sale immediately: TT-PostBank, Piraeus Port Authority S.A. (OLP), Public Power Corporation (PPC), Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE)".
AVGHI: "For sale: Call Troika for further information".
AVRIANI: "Greece for sale".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Papandreou's swan song: Pension of squalor and total sell-off ".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The looting of a nation".
ETHNOS: "Shock and awe in the Greek people's lives".
IMERISSIA: "Sweeping privatisations".
KATHIMERINI: "Harsh decisions at the last minute (refers to speculation of early elections)".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Perpetuating tax storm and sell-off of state properties".
?? ???: "New measures, same recipe...Taxes, surcharges, cutbacks in salaries and pensions".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist party's 'red line' is Greece and the people's salvation".
VRADYNI: "Blood and land for the 5th installment".
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