|Saturday, 17 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-05-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 26 May 2011 Issue No: 3796
 PM: 'It is Greece's responsibility to solve its crisis'PARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed here on Wednesday that "it is Greece's responsibility to solve its crisis", adding that "Greece is not a poor country" and "it has great possibilities, but it was mismanaged."
Addressing a roundtable at the Public Commemoration of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) 50th anniversary, Papandreou underlined that despite press reports, Greece had "impressive results in a year: it decreased the deficit by 5 percent and the primary deficit by 7.2 percent, while there are forecasts for a primary surplus in 2012, thanks to the drastic measures."
He also noted that in the first quarter of 2011 growth rates became positive, while over the past 5-6 months exports increased on a monthly basis and on an average of 35 percent.
The Greek prime minister went on to say that his government is continuing reforms for greater transparency, the pensioning issue, for a fairer tax system based on the so-called "Scandinavian" model. As regards the tax issue in particular, he said that "because it was unfair it created the culture of tax evasion in Greece."
The prime minister also referred to the report by the Brooklyn Institute that parallelises Greece with Chile. Papandreou said that the difference between the two countries is that Chile, after the dictatorship, acquired healthy infrastructures for the regulation and growth of its economy and created transparency.
"We did not do the same in Greece," he noted, pointing to to the Institute's assessments that through structural changes Greece could also save 4-8 percent of its GDP on an annual basis.
"The first thing we should also have done were the structural changes because in this way we would have solved the crisis and the problem of our debt," Papandreou added.
He underlined the speed with which monetary markets react in contrast to political decisions that are slow. The markets' speed is not necessarily bad, he said, "but when they overshadow the political system, there is a problem of democracy because it deeply undermines the feeling of trust of our citizens."
Lastly, he referred to inequalities inside countries as well as between countries, to the "tax paradises" and the "citizens' happiness rate" that must be taken into consideration by leaders.
Concluding his speech and referring to the press, economic analysts and all those that spread rumours, the Greek premier said:"Leave us alone, we know that we have problems, leave us alone to work."
Speaking after Papandreou's address, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria referred to the words of EU president Herman Van Rompuy who stated that he was considered a successful Finance minister because he decreased the deficit in Belgium by 6 percent of GDP in six years. Greece decreased its deficit by 5 percent in a year, Gurria added.
 PM briefs president; calls for 'realistic' proposals from opposition partiesPresident of Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received Prime Minister George Papandreou at the presidential mansion in Athens, a closely watched meeting a day after the former's consultations with political leaders.
After the meeting, Papandreou told reporters that he remains open to any good idea and proposal from other parties, as long as it is realistic, fair, effective and developmental.
The prime minister said that despite whatever gloomy predictions amid the current difficult juncture, sacrifices have not been in vain, adding that the government will continue its work with determination, while his priority remains a national consensus.
"The government is determined, and this is a guarantee for the people, to keep Greece within the European Union's hard core."
He declined to answer repeated press questions about the recently emerged issue of a possible referendum on the Memorandum or even the country's European outlook, a development mostly fueled by press speculation over the past week.
 Damanaki: Greece's eurozone membership at stakeBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)
Greece was jeopardising its continued membership of the eurozone unless the country agreed with the tough measures demanded by its EU-IMF creditors, Greek European Commissioner Maria Damanaki, responsible for maritime affairs and fisheries, warned on Wednesday.
"The greatest achievement of post-war Greece, the euro and the country's European course are at risk," Damanaki said, adding that the scenario for removing Greece from the euro area and the ways of bringing this about "are now on the table".
"I am obliged to speak openly. We have a historic responsi-bility to clearly see the dilemma: either we agree with our lenders to a programme of tough sacrifices with results, taking responsibility for our past, or we return to the drachma," she stressed.
 European Commission spokesman on Greece and eurozoneBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
European Commission press spokesman for economic issues Amadeu Altafaj, called on to comment on a statement made on Wednesday by Greek Commissioner Maria Damanaki, said that at the eurozone's Council of ministers, where all issues concerning the single currency are discussed, no member-state has raised to date an issue of Greece's exit, or of whatever other country, from the eurozone.
 Opposition party reactions to Damaniaki's statements on Greece and eurozoneA statement by Greece's EU Commissioner Maria Damanaki referring to the country's remaining in the eurozone drew reaction from opposition parties.
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis said "it is a great mistake for some to want to turn an economic problem into a problem of institutions. Dilemmas such as 'inside or outside Europe' and 'inside or outside the euro' not only do not help, but create confusion and harm the country seriously."
The Coalition's press office also stressed in an announcement that "Mrs. Damanaki's statements today, which reproduce yesterday's (Tuesday) position of the SEV (Federation of Hellenic Enterprises) president, are part of a wider planning, taht aim at creating a climate of intimidation of the people and their trapping in false dilemmas. They want to conceal the criminal responsibilities of the government for its antipopular policy and to facilitate the looting of public property and of society."
 Gov't: 'Greece's future lies in the euro'Government spokesman George Petalotis on Wednesday ruled out scenarios that Greece might quit the Eurozone and return to the drachma, saying that such an outcome would be a "major blow" to the country.
Stressing that the country's future "lies in the euro", Petalotis said that the government was "making decisions and waging a battle" so that such scenarios would not prevail and lead to a lower standard of living for Greeks.
"The aim is to ensure the country's future in the eurozone," he underlined, adding that the only safe course for the country was to push through the decisions for the major changes that were needed and that it was not danger-mongering to say that the 5th installment of the loans to Greece was now at risk.
The spokesman insisted that there were margins for consensus between the political formces and that the demand for national understanding was even greater at this time. He stressed that Greece's political forces must in this way show, both at home and to their European partners, that they are aware of the critical situation of the country and responding to it.
According to Petalotis, the talks held between the political party leader and Prime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday seemed to indicate that these conditions existed, regardless of the statements made by each party leader afterward.
 Gov't: No to referendum, snap electionGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Wednesday stressed that there is no decision or thought to hold a referendum on a specific issue, adding that it is not a simple procedure.
"The prime minister has said that referendums could be considered where broad-based consensus and agreements are necessary," clarifying that neither the new measures nor last year's memorandum are issues that call for a referendum.
He characterised the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) president referendum proposal as interesting pointing out, however, that the government has a specific position on the issue.
He underlined that Greece has no referendum background, adding that there is no question of snap elections.
Petalotis also expressed the government's discontent stemming from the ongoing talk about new austerity measures.
He added that there will be no "horizontal cuts" in wages and pensions, stressing that the talk about an imminent "new taxation storm" is a form of terrorism targeting the public opinion that will have to be stopped. "We should wait for a while until the new measures are specified, particularly those concerning taxation," he stressed.
 SEV president: Referendum a 'dignified' solutionHellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) president Dimitris Daskalopoulos on Wednesday stressed that the country needs a national consensus, adding that "it would have been easier to achieve this last year when we sought financial assistance from our partners. A mere political party compromise consensus now is not enough because there is a lot at stake."
Speaking to an Athens private radio, he referred to his proposal for a referendum, saying that this option is a "politically healthy" and "dignified" solution considering the circumstances. The question is do we follow the path imposed by the country's European prospect or move on alone without the terms - we regard as annoying - imposed by the Europeans and also without their billions of euros."
Daskalopoulos said that "people should have been told since early last year about the gravity of the situation and the painful measures that were necessary for the country to be able to stand on its own feet".
 ND on snap elections; no to referendumMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis on Wednesday stressed that "snap elections" are welcomed, adding that "ND is ready anytime".
"We have presented a specific proposal with cost-effective measures which if implemented will lead the country out of the crisis," he said, adding that "it is the third proposal outlined within a year".
"From now on the government will have to assume its responsibility. We will not follow PASOK's example by doing what it did, namely, to pressure for elections. We are ready. Elections are welcomed if such a decision is made," Mihelakis stressed.
On the likelihood of a consensus for major and still pending reforms and privatisations, he repeated a comment by ND leader Antonis Samaras, namely, that "a few right moves in an overall mistake will not bring a solution".
"ND wants a new tax policy but it is met with the government's opposition," he added, stressing that "the opinion polls show that the people are in favour of a change in the policy mix".
Mihelakis said any discussion about a memorandum referendum is incomprehensible at this particular time, adding that "if the government was really interested in the opinion of the Greek people, it would have held a referendum before voting in favour of the memorandum".
The ND spokesman strongly criticised the government for its willingness to consider now the ND "reserve labour" proposal, when a short while ago it totally opposed the measure.
 Troika officials hold meeting with ND economic staffA meeting between the economic staff of the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party with an EC/ECB/IMF team on Wednesday lasted for two and a half hours, focusing on a discussion of the Greek economy's current state while the aspects of the party's programme were also analysed.
The meeting that was held in a "good climate", according to a relevant ND announcement, was held at the troika's request, which wanted to discuss details as well as to assess the cost of the programme presented by ND leader Antonis Samaras at the Zappion Mansion recently.
 KKE leader addresses rally in LarissaCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, addressing a rally in the city of Larissa, central Greece, on Wednesday evening, stressed that "if the people succumb, they shall lose everything. When you step back the extortioners become audacious. Greece will exit from the crisis. The measures, however, that are ruining the working people, will remain."
Papariga, who began a two-day visit to Larissa, said that the extortionate dilemmas, whether from the industrialists or from the EU, on a referendum or elections, will increase as time passes and as their deadlocks escalate.
 LAOS leader proposes co-governancePopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis on Wednesday reiterated his proposal for an 'ecumenical' (all-party) government under Prime Minister George Papandreou with main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras as the alternate prime minister responsible for the economy, in order to implement the programme the latter recently presented at Zappeion, and with the participation of Democratic Alliance leader Dora Bakoyannis and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis, so as to deal with what he called the "advancing sui generis dictatorship of creditors" .
The LAOS leader, speaking on private radio station Real FM, warned that without ND's participation the effort will be useless, stressing that he would participate in an all-party government if asked.
 Tsipras calls for 'peaceful uprising' against corrupt political systemCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras called for a "generalised, peaceful uprising, a social front that will sweep away the political system of corruption and intertwined interests to demand social justice and solidarity".
Tsipras made the statement after a meeting with the local authority workers union federation POE-OTA.
SYRIZA's leader stressed that the staff in local government make a very significant social contribution and were neither "corrupted nor state-supported". Those answering the latter description had met on Tuesday with the prime minister and main opposition leader, he added, meaning the general assembly of the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV).
Tsipras also stressed that for the past year and a half, the pillars of democracy and the social contract were being pulled down - namely, social insurance, labour rights, state property, the welfare state and local government - without the people having been consulted.
 Unprecedented social media-fueled rallyNearly 30,000 protesters gathered in central Athens across from Parliament on Wednesday afternoon for a "sit down" rally mostly organised via social networking sites and patterned along the now famous 'Los Indignados' initiative in Spain.
The rally was organised without the involvement of trade unions, political parties and other organisations, rather it relied heavily on ordinary citizens, or "netizens", who learned about it from social media such as Facebook, Twitter and others.
A Facebook site set up by 'Aganaktismenoi sto Syntagma' ("Indignant at Syntagma"), a reference to the eponymous square in front of the Greek Parliament, had garnered more than 33,000 'likes' by the time the demonstration started at 6 p.m. (16.00 GMT).
Thousands, mostly young people flooded the city's main square, peacefully demonstrating their indignation at the austerity measures announced by the government, and, in general, over the ongoing economic and fiscal crisis in the country.
A similar initiative took place in other cities across Greece, with mostly young people in the northern city of Thessaloniki holding a peaceful rally in front of the White Tower on the city's seafront.
Organisers warned that the mobilisation would be peaceful and without banners or placards indicating whatever organised collective identity. They also warned that they will not accept "party participations and interventions."
Thousands of demonstrators also occupied the seafront boulevard in the early evening, holding a sit-down protest.
 Government vice president in SwitzerlandGENEVA (ANA-MPA)
Government vice president Theodoros Pangalos, speaking in Geneva at a rounbdtable discussion at the city's university on the theme of "Greece's 30 years in the EU: Account and Prospects", referred to the Greek crisis saying that the support Greece is receiving does not have the form of free aid, but interest-carrying loans and the probhlem consists of the combination of fiscal deficits and a high public debt.
Pangalos met in Bern with the country's President Micheline Calmy-Rey.
Pangalos spoke of the need for drastic measures to be taken for the deficit's decrease and the creation of first stage surpluses, of painful structural changes and the importance of production investments in the country.
 Canadian premier to visit GreeceOTTAWA (ANA-MPA - I. Fragouli)
The prime minister of Canada Stephen Harper is due to make an official visit to Greece on May 28-29, after a trip to France in order to attend the G8 summit.
While in Athens, Harper will meet Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to discuss bilateral, regional and global issues as well as trade transactions and investments between Greece and Canada. Their talks will also address financial and security issues.
During his visit, the Canadian premier is due to meet Greek business people and visit historic sites, as well as paying homage to the fallen at the village of Kalavryta during World War II.
In statements, Harper noted the strong bilateral relations between the two countries, which he said were further strengthened by a Greek-Canadian community that was more than 243,000 strong.
 DM Venizelos' clarifications on military exercises"The search and rescue exercise scheduled by the National Defence General Staff will take place. The postponement announced concerns the last phase of two Turkish exercises held in the greater region," Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos clarified on Wednesday.
Venizelos made the comment in parliament in response to a relevant question by opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) MP Kostas Aivaliotis.
 Corfu to host CoE meeting about migration on June 1-2The Greek island of Corfu will host a meeting of the Council of Europe (Coe) Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population on June 1-2, which will focus on migration flows to the southern shores of Europe.
Among others, the meeting will be attended by Citizen's Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, Deputy Labour Minister for migration issues Anna Dalara, Greek Parliament Vice-President Rodoula Zisi and the head of the Greek representation at the CoE Parliament Dinos Vrettos. Confirmation of attendance by Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis is still pending.
 Ecumenical Patriarch to carry out historic visit to IzmirEcumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is to carry out a historic visit to the city of Izmir between Friday and Sunday, during which he will lead a mass at the Church of the Entrance into the Temple of the Virgin Mother in Alacati on Saturday.
This will mark the first time that a Patriarch leads a mass in Alacati in 90 years, since the disastrous outcome of the Asia Minor war in 1922 that resulted in the expulsion of the majority of the area's sizeable Greek community during the population exchanges of the Lausanne Treaty.
The church had been converted to a mosque but recently stopped being used for that purpose and was officially declared a historic monument of Turkey and quickly restored, revealing many secrets.
 Greek economy to return to growth in 2012, OECD saysThe Greek economy will return to sustainable growth next year, helped by increasing demand from abroad, improving competitiveness and results from wide-spread reforms, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Wednesday.
In a report, the Paris-based organization said it expected the country's Gross Domestic Product to shrink by 2.9 pct this year and to grow by 0.6 pct in 2012. The OECD also forecasts that the fiscal deficit will fall to 7.5 pct of GDP in 2011 and to 6.5 pct of GDP in 2012, from 10.4 pct in 2010, while the unemployment rate will rise to 16 pct this year and to 16.4 pct in 2012. The inflation rate will slow to 2.6 pct in 2011 and to 0.7 pct next year, while the country's current accounts deficit will fall to 8.6 pct of GDP this year and to 7.2 pct in 2012, from 10.4 pct in 2010.
The report noted that there were risks in the country's course towards sustainable public finances and its return to economic growth. "Several things could move in a negative direction in the international environment, including a further loss of confidence or a significant weakening of exporting markets. The government can do little to affect these factors. It can, however, continue implementing a fiscal consolidation and structural reforms program. Any delay in these sector could damage credibility, worsening an already difficult situation," the report said.
The Organization stressed that the success of the Greek program depended mainly on "strict control of spending and further progress in dealing with tax evasion, combined with reforms to deal with chronic problems in fiscal management and labor and goods markets".
OECD, in its economic outlook report, noted that the public debts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal will not be sustainable if market interest rates remained at high levels for long. "Even if governments move towards achieving their fiscal goals, their finances will not be sustainable if market interest rates remained at their current levels for long," the Organisation said, adding there were three policy options in case these three countries failed to regain market confidence:
First, continuing funding from the EU and the IMF with interest rates much lower than market rates.
Second, extending the maturity of existing debt for a very long period of time combined with lower interest rates.
Third, a wide-spread restructuring of debt.
 Rehn: Voluntary extension of Greek debt maturities may be an optionEU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn on Wednesday said maturities on Greek debt could be extended on a voluntary basis, on the condition that it this would not create a "credit event".
Speaking during a news conference in Vienna, the EU Commissioner said that "while debt restructuring is not on the table, a Vienna-type initiative that aims at retaining the exposure of private investors, banks and other financial institutions to Greece could also be pursued.
"In this context of the Vienna-type initiative we have said that a voluntary extension of loan maturities, so-called reprofiling or rescheduling on a voluntary basis, could also be examined on the condition that it would not create a credit event," Rehn said.
He noted however, it was still important for Greece to step up fiscal consolidation and implement its privatization programme.
 Athens Chamber on government measuresThe Self-Employed Professionals Chamber of Athens, in an announcement on Wednesday, expressed strong protest over "the announcement of new tax measures that the government intends to impose, sinking the country's economy irreversibly."
The announcement said that the transfer of products and services to the high VAT rate, further increases in Special Consumption Taxes, the imposition of a Special Consumption Tax on bottled water and refreshments, the decrease-abolition of tax-free amounts, the imposition of special contributions and the working people's salary cutbacks, can only have disastrous consequences, since they demolish the purchasing power of millions of Greeks without determining a growth procedure.
It further noted that "over a year of the memorandum's imposition we see that the measures taken have led to a wrong direction," adding that what is necessary for the current deadlock to be overcome is a stable economic environment in which the necessary investments will be carried out that will lead to the economy's recovery.
 Greek manufacturing production hit by economic recessionGreece's non-metal minerals industry is suffering from a steep fall in demand and was currently operating in conditions similar to the early 1960s, industry officials told ANA-MPA. The non-metal minerals industry is fully dependent on building activity and construction activity in general and has suffered most compared with other sectors of Greek industry. Production in the January-March period dropped 24.5 compared with the 2005 levels. Hellenic Statistical Authority said production volume was down 27.7 pct in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the corresponding period in 2010.
Enterprises in the cement, bricks and other building materials category have cut their production capacity to record lows, hit by falling demand, while exports help only to raise liquidity and maintain operation of their production units.
Clothing enterprises cut production levels by 30.4 pct in the first quarter of 2011, compared with the same period last year, as record-high levels of cotton prices combined with an economic recession in the country put more pressure on the sector's international competitiveness.
Ten out of a total 24 sectors of Greek manufacturing reported production decline of more than 15 pct in the first three months of the year, with industry executives expecting more hits during the year.
Production in the transport equipment sector fell 19.9 pct in the first quarter, furniture production was down 19.8 pct, printing and data reproducing was down 19.3 pct, textiles fell 18.7 pct, leather and footwear production fell 15.8 pct, oil products production fell 15.2 pct after recording a significant increase in production volumes last year.
 Ferry ticket price decrease ratified in ParliamentThe regulation introduced by the Maritime Affairs ministry on the abolition of duties and rights in favour of third parties for tickets for passengers and vehicles using coastal shipping ships has been ratified in Parliament.
According to Maritime Affairs Minister Yiannis Diamantidis, the regulation will have an immediate affect on coastal shipping passengers, since fares will decrease by over 10 percent.
Backing the regulation, that was submitted and ratified by the Plenum, as an amendment in the Defence ministry's bill on public contracts for procurements, projects and services, Diamantidis also spoke of the satisfaction of a steadfast demand by all the coastal shipping unions and the rest of the Shipping agencies.
The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party voted in favour and so did the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party.
 Aegean Airlines launches frequent direct flights to Paris, Tel AvivAegean Airlines will offer direct flights from the port city of Thessaloniki, northern Greece, to Paris and Tel Aviv beginning in June in addition to the recently launched direct flights to Moscow, it was announced on Wednesday.
The Aegean Airlines' flights from Thessaloniki's Macedonia Airport to Moscow are scheduled for four to six times a week. The airline will fly to Paris three times a week and twice a week to Tel Aviv.
 Business Briefs-- Vianex, a Greek pharmaceutical company, on Wednesday said pre-tax profits totaled 19 million euros in the 2010, down 70 pct from the previous year, reflecting the sale of Greek state bonds with a 22-pct haircut.
-- Watson - a US pharmaceutical industry - acquired the Greek pharmaceutical company Specifar for 562 million US dollars.
-- ATEbank on Wednesday reported after-tax and minorities losses of 29.5 million euros in the first quarter of 2011, up from losses of 320.8 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2010 and losses of 37.4 million euros in the same period last year.
-- Greece's Emporiki Bank on Wednesday announced the launch of a new application allowing its clients to perform a series of banking transactions using their iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad devices.
-- Ionian Hotels Enterprises on Wednesday reported a loss of 400,000 euros in the first quarter of 2011, after net losses of 100,000 euros in the corresponding period last year.
 Stocks move moderately upStocks ended moderately higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, reflecting improved buying interest for bank shares. The composite index rose 0.62 pct to end at 1,289.63points, with turnover at 87.645 million euros. The Big Cap index rose 1.10 pct, the Mid Cap index fell 0.15 pct and the Small Cap index rose 0.16 pct.
Ellaktor (9.13 pct), Alpha Bank (5.81 pct), Viohalco (3.33 pct) and Marfin Popular Bank (3.17 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while ATEbank (4.08 pct), PPC (2.63 pct) and OTE (1.33 pct) were top losers.
The Banks (2.03 pct) and Construction (1.46 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Utilities (2.28 pct) and Telecommunications (1.33 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 75 to 59 with another 51 issues unchanged. Vovos (13.86 pct), Geniki Bank (13.45 pct) and Imperio (11.76 pct) were top gainers, while Fieratex (17.65 pct), Ridenco (16.67 pct) and Alsinco (11.54 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: Unchanged
Personal & Household: +0.56%
Raw Materials: +1.04%
Travel & Leisure: +0.95%
Food & Beverages: +0.53%
Financial Services: -0.46%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, National Bank, Eurobank and DEH.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 3.46
Public Power Corp (PPC): 9.98
HBC Coca Cola: 17.02
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.64
National Bank of Greece: 4.62
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.26
Bank of Piraeus: 1.02
 Greek bond market closing reportUncertainty over developments in the Greek debt crisis kept yield spreads under pressure in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 13.77 pct, from 13.58 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 16.79 pct and the German Bund 3.02 pct. Turnover in the market was an extremely low 14 million euros, of which 11 million were sell orders and the remaining 3.0 million euros were buy orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 13 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 2.14 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 -0.91 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 27.044 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,565 contracts worth 21.642 million euros, with 38,035 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 13,741 contracts worth 5.402 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,886), followed by Eurobank (994), MIG (1,174), PPC (579), OPAP (694), Piraeus Bank (2,240), Alpha Bank (582), Marfin Popular Bank (402), Hellenic Postbank (331) and ATEbank (572).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.428
Pound sterling 0.880
Danish kroner 7.568
Swedish kroner 9.048
Japanese yen 117.2
Swiss franc 1.250
Norwegian kroner 7.941
Canadian dollar 1.397
Australian dollar 1.36
 Greeks cutting back on smoking, figures showThere are clear signs that Greeks have started smoking significantly less, the head of the National Coordinating Committee for the Control of Smoking Panagiotis Behrakis said on Wednesday. He was speaking during a press conference held in view of World No Tobacco Day on May 31.
According to figures presented by Behrakis concerning the past four years, rates of smoking had fallen by 10.8 percent in that time, while more careful examination showed that the largest reduction in smoking rates was in younger age groups.
There was also a 6.3 percent reduction in annual tobacco consumption in Greece after 2007, with the total number of cigarettes bought throughout the country falling from 3.1 billion in 2007 to 2.48 billion at present. The reduction in cigarettes consumed during the last year, in particular, was nearly 15 percent.
Also based on total consumption figures, the number of cigarettes consumed per capita - for both smokers and non-smokers - appears to have declined steadily by 3 percent on an annual basis.
Members of the government present at the press conference referred to problems with inspections for the enforcement of tough anti-smoking legislation, while noting that this was 'on a good road', and underlined their commitment to fight smoking as the number one threat to public health.
 Illegal migrants accused of central Athens murder remanded in custodyThe two Afghan illegal migrants charged with the murder of 44-year-old father of two Manolis Kantaris, who was stabbed to death outside his home in central Athens on May 10, were remanded in custody on Wednesday.
The two suspects, aged 27 and 20 years old, denied being guilty for the murder in their testimony before the examining magistrate, claiming that a third suspect, a Pakistani who is still at large, was the one that stabbed the victim and took his video camera.
They have also denied knowing the Pakistani man's intentions in advance after he found and followed the "Greek that had a bag on his shoulder". They also claim to have been intoxicated at the time after drinking a large number of beers. The 20-year-old denied knowing the Pakistani man before that time and both claim that after the incident they went home to bed.
The 27-year-old told police that he had been illegally resident in Greece for roughly a year, while the 20-year-old for approximately six months.
Kantaris was stabbed and killed for his video camera by the three men after exiting his building in the early hours of the morning in order to fetch his car, so that he could drive his pregnant wife to hospital to give birth to their second child.
 British tourist turns in to police briefcase with 30,000 euros found in streetA British tourist found on the island of Corfu a briefcase containing 30,000 euros in cash and turned it in to police, authorities said on Wednesday.
Police said the tourist, a 59-year-old woman, found the briefcase on the side of the street as she left a shop on Tuesday afternoon, and could not believe her eyes when she saw that it contained the cash.
She immediately turned the briefcase in to the local police station.
Police found that the briefcase contained, in addition to the money, several bank deposit booklets and personal documents identifying the owner, who arrived shortly afterwards at the police station in a state of panic.
The briefcase owner was an employee of a company, and he told police that the money was destined to pay the employees' salaries.
 Embezzlement uncovered at Larissa bankA high-ranking official of a Piraeus Bank branch in Larissa is being investigated by internal auditors for the embezzlement of an estimated 3 million euros from 30 closed accounts.
According to bank sources, the official was believed to have been regularly drawing various sums of money from the closed accounts of 30 customers.
The case came to light when one of the customers found suspicious transactions in his account.
The internal audit, which is continuing, led to the bank official, while the bank returned the withdrawn money to the customers' accounts.
The official will face prosecution on embezzlement charges.
 Super League playoff resultsPanathinaikos Athens beat AEK Athens 2-0 away and PAOK Thessaloniki thrashed Olympiakos Volos 5-1 at home in Super League playoff games on Wednesday evening.
Standings after six weeks of play:
Panathinaikos 13 points
Olympiakos V. 6
 Rainy on ThursdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 11C and 28C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 15C to 27C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 15C to 26C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceA pending batch of new austerity measures and press speculation over their effect on wage-earners and pensioners and the fall-out from the PM's contacts with political party leaders mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Political leaders do not offer consensus".
AVGHI: "Democracy now!"
AVRIANI: "Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) leader George Karatzaferis calls for co-governance".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Prime Minister George Papandreou seeks life vest".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Cuts in salaries, benefits and pensions".
ESTIA: "We're heading towards impasse".
ETHNOS: "The hemorhagging of salaries, pensions and lump sums".
IMERISSIA: "Markets anticipate actions".
KATHIMERINI: "Referendum now on the table".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Consensus for labour 'reserves' in public sector".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Horrible measures must not pass".
TA NEA: "Tax measures divide them (political leaders)".
VRADYNI: "How much will civil servants, pensioners pay".
 Australian PM: Solution in Cyprus must be based on UNSC resolutionsNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Australia recognises the Republic of Cyprus as the only legitimate authority on the island and commends Cypriot President Demetris Christofias's efforts in reaching a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem.
In a joint communique issued after a meeting held in Canberra between Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, who is paying an official visit to Australia, it is stressed that they expressed their support for a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
According to an official press release on Wednesday, in the joint communique it is stated that Prime Minister Julia Gillard welcomed President Demetris Christofias to Australia on his first visit to Australia since his election in February 2008.
The two leaders agreed the bedrock of relations between Australia and Cyprus is shared values and close people to people links.
Prime Minister Gillard acknowledged the important contribution the vibrant Cypriot community has made to the diversity of Australian life.
It is noted that Cypriot-born migrants and their families in Australia number over 80,000, the second largest Cypriot community outside Cyprus.
The leaders went on to discuss progress on the Cyprus issue and expressed their support for a just and lasting settlement, in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, which reunifies Cyprus in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
''This settlement must be based on a single sovereignty, a single international personality and a single citizenship'', it is stressed.
Moreover, Prime Minister Gillard reaffirmed Australian support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus.
''Australia recognises the Republic of Cyprus as the only legitimate authority on the island. Welcoming progress so far, the Prime Minister commended President Christofias's efforts and underlined the importance of achieving a comprehensive solution'', the joint communique says.
President Christofias recorded his appreciation for Australia's long standing and active interest in efforts to facilitate a peaceful settlement to the Cyprus issue and for its involvement in the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
It is noted that Australian Federal Police officers have operated in Cyprus as part of this force continuously since 1964, while this year marks the arrival of the 100th Australian Police contingent at UNFICYP.
Prime Minister Gillard said Australia's commitment to the people of Cyprus remained undiminished.
In the joint communique it is said that Australia has maintained a Special Representative for Cyprus since 1998 who follows developments in Cyprus closely and works to encourage support within the Australian Cypriot community for a settlement to the problem.
The Australian Government supports community-focused initiatives such as the Cyprus Academic Dialogue.
The President and Prime Minister agreed to continue to facilitate and encourage reciprocal visits and to explore further cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
They also noted strong cultural and educational links between Australia and Cyprus and said that cooperation was particularly strong in the area of antiquities and archaeology, with Australian archaeologists working on the island of Cyprus since the 1930s.
It is added that there are significant exchanges at the undergraduate and postgraduate level between universities in Australia and Cyprus.
Prime Minister Gillard conveyed her appreciation for the generous contribution by Cyprus to the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Appeal and updated the President on reconstruction efforts.
The leaders noted the challenges both countries faced with fires and welcomed the deepening exchange between the Cypriot and Victorian fire and emergency services. It is noted that a visit by the Cyprus Fire Department is foreseen later this year.
President Christofias expressed his sympathy for the victims of more recent disasters in Australia, including Cyclone Yasi, flooding in the eastern states, and bushfires in Western Australia and it is noted that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus has made a donation towards the restoration of the Cyprus community building in Brisbane.
Prime Minister Gillard congratulated Cyprus on its forthcoming and inaugural EU Presidency and outlined Australian priorities in its relations with the EU and said that Australia attaches great importance to concluding an Australia-EU Framework Agreement.
The President affirmed Cyprus's support for the Agreement, which was both timely and appropriate.
President Christofias welcomed Australia's active participation and strong engagement in a range of UN and other multilateral bodies.
''Australia and Cyprus both strongly support reform of the UN Security Council and its working methods to better reflect the modern world and ensure it is accessible to small and middle-sized countries. As nations with significant shipping interests, Australia and Cyprus strongly support the work of the International Maritime Organization and value our cooperation on issues such as protection of the marine environment and maritime security'', it is said.
The Prime Minister and President discussed the challenges each country faced from irregular migration and people smuggling.
President Christofias detailed to Prime Minister Gillard new EU initiatives to address this problem, while the Prime Minister updated the President on Australia's proposal for a Regional Cooperation Framework.
The two leaders noted people smuggling was a global problem that required a comprehensive solution and agreed to continue to share lessons learnt in addressing it.
As active members of the Commonwealth, the President and Prime Minister agreed to work closely together in the lead-up to Australia's hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth in October.
The meeting will provide a good opportunity to discuss global issues of mutual concern, including sustainable development, food security and climate change.
The two leaders underscored the importance of institutional reform in furthering the Commonwealth?s effectiveness and influence.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Talks are currently underway between the leaders of the two communities to reunify the island.
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