|Sunday, 21 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-06-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 11 June 2011 Issue No: 3810
 PM Papandreou calls for 'transcending party walls'Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday evening invited political parties to "transcend walls", while addressing the nation in a televised speech made at the Maximos Mansion on the Mid-term fiscal restructuring programme for 2012-2015 which was ratified by the cabinet on Thursday and tabled in Parliament the same day.
Papandreou said Greece's position will be stronger "if we go to the EU summit on June 23 and 24 with common positions" and called for proposals by all for the measures announced to become fairer and more effective.
He also said he is prepared to place in crucial crucial sectors people of common acceptance, while appearing optimistic over the country's exit from the crisis and the recession, emphasising that the political world's common stance will make the effort even more effective.
Underlining that "transcending party walls symbolises the necessary mood for change," Papandreou said that it constitutes proof of the country's seriousness towards its partners-creditors as well as towards its own effort.
Appealing once again for national consensus, Papandreou pointed out that "our decisions can have greater duration, can break resistance emanating from small or big interests that do not want us together. That do not want change."
"At the Ministerial Council yesterday (Thursay) we took a unanimous decision on the Mid-term Fiscal Strategy Programme. For the first time we have a systematic and detailed timetable for our economic policy," Papandreou said.
"And to this programme our plan comes to be added on, in which great changes are included. An integrated plan for our future. This plan is not the product of a bureaucratic process. It took place following systematic consultation and understanding processes with other parties, with the Parliamentary Group of (ruling) PASOK, with social partners. And it includes great changes everywhere," he added.
Papandreou further said the changes include changes in the political system, education, the functioning of public administration "so that we can build a workable state. In the welfare system, supporting the most vulnerable, the weaker, the unemployed. In growth, for the reform of our production model. The liberation of the healthy forces of our homeland."
The prime minister also said "for this reason I call once again on all, and until the vote, as well as after, during the implementation of this programme, to submit every useful proposal of theirs. Every fair proposal that will distribute even better the burdens of this crisis or whatever fruits of growth."
Papandreou went on to say that "we have before us a new, difficult, tough negotiation in the European Union. At the upcoming summit, at the end of June, I shall do my duty as always. For the best possible result."
He stressed that "I am fully aware of the difficulties, the anxiety that the Greek family is experiencing daily. The concern and insecurity. I also know that it is up to us to exit from the crisis."
Papandreou added that "we must make it the greatest opportunity for serious changes in our country. And we shall not abandon the struggle in the middle of the course. We shall exit from the crisis and we shall exit quicker and we shall enter growth more effectively as long as we work together, all the Greeks. Because I am well aware that we can succeed together. Fot the benefit of Greece. To guarantee the future of our children."
 ND leader Samaras on PM's addressMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras rejects the government's mid-term fiscal strategy programme and says that "the only rallying which is meaningful is for the correction of the mistake and the renegotiating of the memorandum."
In a statement issued immediately after Prime Minister George Papandreou's nationally televised address on Friday, Samaras said that "13 months after the ratification of the memorandum, the prime minister made an address today, to say the... same things he had said at the time."
He added that the country "is in the same deadlock and that the credibility of the government's economic policy has already been judged by its results."
He accused Papandreou of "not understanding the logic and the measures that we (ND) proposed for the restarting of the economy and is placing new taxes on the already big taxes, he is placing them on the same shoulders and he thinks that in this way he is making the big changes that the country needs."
Putting an end to any discussion on concensus before the ratification of the mid-term programme, Samaras said that "such a policy, which deepens the crisis, New Demcracy cannot countersign."
Lastly, the ND leader appeals to society stressing that "I am aware that Greek society is living with anxieties and uncertainty, I am aware that the Greeks want me to remain standing and to make the correct choices."
 KKE on PM's addressThe central committee of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Friday on Prime Minister George Papandreou's televised address, said that "a proclamation was not necessary for George Papandreou to call on (main opposition New Democracy) ND party, (Popular Orthodox Rally leader George) Karatzaferis, (Democratic Alliance party leader Dora) Bakoyiannis and the other wiling, to support him more openly in the war he is escalating against the people."
The announcement added that "his aim is to extort and deceive the people that their bankruptcy is taking place for their benefit and the benefit of the country", while KKE also called on the people to organise and reverse "their barbaric policy and the power of monopolies."
 Coalition on PM's addressThe left Coalition (SYN) party, commenting on Prime Minister George Papandreou's address on Friday, stressed that "the only consensus that is being given generously to the prime minister is that of the troika and of the bankers."
The Coalition reiterates that the prime minister "listens on a daily basis to the opinion of the Greek people in squares, streets and workplaces but pretends not to understand" and concludes that "as regards his appeal to patriotism, the prime minister is insulting its content when it takes place in the name of the policy of the memorandum."
 PM: We will change Greece'Our aim is the continuous decrease of the deficits" stressed prime minister George Papandreou on Friday in parliament during the "Hour of the prime minister", responding to current questions tabled by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) president George Karatzaferis and Coalition of the Left parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras.
"Our fundamental goal is that we will not need increasingly more loans in order to survive," underlined Papandreou, adding: "This is my patriotic stance. No to creditors. We will change Greece'.
The premier said that the reduction of the deficit by 5 percent is a "record?, adding that "hope indeed exists that in 2012 we will have a primary surplus". He also referred to deep changes, such as the privatisations, adding that these would be carried out "always with transparency and always at the best prices".
Papandreou further said that emphasis will be placed on competitiveness, quality and exports, but also on education and health services.
"The greatest social injustice and counter-incentive to development is tax evasion" he reiterated, adding that "our aim is a wider political system that is trusted by the people. The debt will become manageable and we will proceed with changes in order for our economy to become viable," the premier stressed.
On the country's future, he said "We will change Greece. Not only will we have a different Greece but we will also have solved the huge issue of the debt for the next generations, for a Greece never again come under supervision.
 Karatzaferis: 'More taxes not the solution'Opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) party leader George Karatzaferis on Friday emphasised, from Parliament, that measures in the latest austerity and restructuring package announced by the government late on Thursday do not make the external debt more viable.
"...additional tax measures are not the solution," Karatzaferis said, speaking during debate on the mid-term fiscal strategic programme, as measures linked with the 110-billion-euro EC-ECB-IMF bailout package is called.
"We are not bankrupt, we have passed all the tests, every evaluation is positive. In a year and a half radical interventions have been implemented; the first signs of recovery have appeared, albeit faint, yet they exist. Everyone in Greece should avoid trampling the achievements and sacrifices of the Greek people," Papandreou added from the podium.
 PM, leftist leader clash in Parliament over Mid-term Fiscal Strategic ProgrammeCoalition of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Friday demanded that the government step down and that early general elections be called immediately, during a discussion of a current question he had tabled in parliament addressed to Prime Minister George Papandreou.
Tsipras accused Papandreou of "speaking with the voice of the creditors", and warned that the Memorandum policy was destroying the economy and the middle class.
"Why will you succeed today where you failed yesterday?" Tsipras asked, and charged that the tabling of the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework for vote in Parliament as a single article was an "unprecedented coercion of Parliament".
Responding, Papandreou blasted what he called the "conspiracy scenarios" that the country's creditors desire Greece's bankruptcy.
He warned of the risk of "a new division of the Greek society" if "the rabble becomes a tool in the hands of others", and accused SYRIZA of inciting many of the groups that have been publicly attacking PASOK cadres recently.
On the Memorandum, the premier said that "the treatment is unpleasant but necessary".
Papandreou further said that his government had succeeded in securing an extension to the EU-IMF loan repayment period and reduction of the loan's interest rate in the basic renegotiation of the terms of the 110 billion euros bailout loan, and added that "we will achieve still more".
As regards the privatizations, he stressed that the government maintains the control and participates in crucial infrastructures, stressing that privatization is not an end in itself but instead it is a vehicle to economic growth, know-how and new job positions.
On the Memorandum, the premier said that "the treatment is unpleasant but necessary".
Papandreou further said that his government had succeeded in securing an extension to the EC-ECB-IMF Memorandum loan repayment period and reduction of the loan's interest rate in the basic renegotiation of the terms of the 110 billion euros bailout loan, and added that "we will achieve still more".
 FinMin details latest tax hikes, reforms in Mid-term Fiscal Strategy FrameworkThe Greek government will soon present draft legislation towards merging and closing several public sector agencies, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Friday.
Presenting the government's Mid-term Fiscal Strategy Programme during a press conference, Papaconstantinou said the government will introduce a new payroll system for civil servants, one which features a three-year adjustment period for existing employees.
The FinMin said a plan to merge or close down public sector agencies would be reviewed on a quarterly basis and said that among other measures to be introduced in the public sector are a "labour reserve", while he left the door open for lay-offs in the public sector.
Papaconstantinou said an extra charge on incomes would be introduced from this year and will total 3 or 4.0 percent, while it will be applied throughout the mid-term programme. He noted, however, that the measure could be withdrawn earlier if alternative revenues arose, such as higher revenues from an effort to combat tax evasion.
Presenting the main points of the latest austerity, the Greek minister said:
- it raises existing living standards tax criteria, imposing an special tax on wealth, imposing higher taxes on beverages, lifting bank confidentiality for all persons with political or civil service, introducing an extra duty on financial transactions (the issue was currently examined in discussion with banks), imposing a special consumption tax on natural gas, introducing a 3.0-pct contribution against civil servants' salaries and a roughly similar tax on wages in the private sector and on self-employed incomes to support employment. The government will also introduce an extra tax charge on swimming pools, pleasure craft and large real estate holdings, along with a 10-pct increase vehicle car registration fees.
Papaconstantinou said the ministry will present a new taxation law in September, aimed at simplifying an existing law and introducing lower VAT rates and cutting corporate tax rate.
The Mid-term Framework will be voted in Parliament by the end of June, Papaconstantinou said, adding that these measures were necessary preconditions for the release of the fifth tranche of a 110-billion-euro loan agreed with the EU, the ECB and the IMF.
"The government has opted the hard way, regardless of any political cost," the FinMin said, adding that "either we fix the current situation, or this country has no future".
 ND bashes latest gov't planThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) party lashed out at the government on Friday, rejecting the medium-term programme unveiled by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou.
ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis stated that this is a tangible confession that the Memorandum policy has failed and described the measures announced by the government as unreliable, unfair and ineffective.
Mihelakis stressed that a new package of tough measures will be announced soon considering that the medium-term programme - which is characterized as unfair because it includes the imposition of horizontal taxation on those who already shoulder most of the burden - will fail.
ND stressed that the "new tax raid" manifests through the abolition of almost all tax exemptions, the imposition of a "poll tax" even on low incomes and the VAT and car registration fee increase, accusing the government of proceeding with further wage and pension cuts.
"The attack on the most vulnerable section of society has taken up horrifying dimensions while nothing is being done to reduce unemployment," Mihelakis stressed.
The ND spokesman left no room for a consensus accusing the government of seeking to table the medium-term programme for vote in Parliament as a single article.
"The government's 'all or nothing' attitude shows no will for consensus and confirms its already known blackmailing arrogance," he stressed.
 Bakoyannis calls for snap electionsFormer foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, who formed her own Democratic Alliance party after being expelled from main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, on Friday stressed that the country has been left rudderless and, in essence, the government has collapsed.
Bakoyannis said the new tax measures announced by the government are unfair and unreasonable.
Referring New Democracy (ND), she stressed that "it carries its illusions around Europe; European leaders are trying in vain to bring it back to earth."
Bakoyannis said neither of the two major parties can shoulder the burden of any re-negotiation of the Memorandum, or implementation of necessary changes and reforms.
"The only choice for the country is to hold elections now ... Immediate elections would overturn the political deadlock, leading to the necessary collaborations," Bakoyannis underlined.
 Democratic Left leader on Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy programmeDemocratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis on Friday said that the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy unveiled by the government "set the seal on the impasse created by government policy".
He said implementing the programme would lead to higher unemployment and deepen the recession, adding more horizontal cuts to wages and pensions and more taxes looting the income of the poorest social classes and honest tax-payers.
 German Parliament ratifies resolution on second aid package for GreeceBERLIN (ANA-MPA/G. Pappas)
The German Parliament ratified on Friday with a comfortable majority by the government coalition deputies the resolution on the second aid package for Greece. The resolution had been tabled by the Parliamentary groups of the three government parties CDU, CSU and FDP.
Addressing the Parliament, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble underlined the seriousness of the situation in Greece and Europe.
"The situation in Greece and Europe is serious," Schaeuble said.
An additional aid programme must be shaped for the country's funding hole to close, so that the next tranche can be paid in early July. Without the payment of the next tranche the immediate danger exists of a stop in payments with grave consequences and global risks due to the spreading of the crisis, he said.
 FM spokesman on Turkish president's statements"Greece will disappoint anyone who is hoping for or investing in a Greek bankruptcy," Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Friday, responding to questions prompted by statements attributed to Turkish president Abdullah Gul by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News.
"History has shown that it is a mistake to underestimate Greece," the foreign ministry spokesman added.
According to the English language Turkish daily, Gul told a group of minibus drivers near Istanbul, during an impromptu discussion, that: "As you know, we are going to European countries frequently. They really envy Turkey. Greece is about to go bankrupt. If someone's ability to pay is weak, they demand high interest. If the ability to pay is high, the interest demanded is low". He added that that was how it is with countries too, adding that Germany is concerned because "qualified Turkish-Germans are returning to Turkey these days".
 Foreign ministry denies 'Independent' report alleging secret Libya dealThe Greek foreign ministry on Friday denied a press report published in the UK-based newspaper "Independent", claiming that Greece was in secret talks with the Gaddafi regime in Libya.
A foreign ministry announcement stressed that there was no truth to the report and noted that a meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Abu Dhabi on Thursday had made significant progress in terms of an ongoing discussion about using the Libyan regime's frozen assets to provide humanitarian aid, in accordance with the decisions of the UN Security Council.
It also repeated that Greece, along with its partners and allies, was actively participating in efforts to find a political solution to the Libyan crisis and had already declared its willingness to undertake initiatives to this end, including the provision of humanitarian aid to the Libyan people.
The "Independent" report claimed that the paper had seen an unsigned memorandum negotiated by a former diplomat close to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and members of the Gaddafi regime, in which the two sides agree to use 20 billion dollars of Libyan funds that are frozen abroad for a humanitarian aid operation that will benefit both sides in the civil war and pave the way for peace talks.
 Fule: Timing right for Athens, Skopje name issue solutionBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
European Commissioner for enlargement Stefan Fule said here on Friday that this could be the right time for Athens and Skopje to resolve their long-standing dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Fule was replying to questions asked during a press conference on Croatia's EU candidacy.
The Commissioner expressed hope that, after the successful conclusion of general elections in FYROM, the two sides might use the opportunity to find a solution.
Such a solution would open the way for the Commission to adopt a recommendation for the start of accession talks with FYROM, he added.
 Raid may yield further evidence for submarines kickbacks case, authorities sayGreek authorities on Friday revealed that a top-secret raid on a house in the Attica region of Kalyvia by a team of financial crimes squad (SDOE) officers accompanied by a public prosecutor may possibly yield additional, valuable information concerning an ongoing case of alleged corruption in a controversial arms contract for the purchase of submarines by the Greek Navy.
Acting on a tip-off from an unidentified informant, SDOE officers carried out the raid a few days earlier after receiving information that it important electronic files with valuable evidence concerning the case were hidden there.
The case is currently being investigated by judicial authorities for non-political individuals involved in organising the contract but also in Parliament, to investigate the role played by former defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos in having the contract approved.
A number of hard disks were confiscated during the raid and are currently being examined to determine whether they do contain the information alleged.
Sources said the house had been leased by a foreign national, who had been using it for the last 10 years. If the information proves valid, authorities will seek out the person renting the house to determine his connection to the case.
 KKE's head sees uncertain future for state-owned defence industryOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga on Friday stressed that the future of the Hellenic Aerospace Industry S.A. (HAI) is uncertain despite what she called its "great potential".
Speaking before company employees, she underlined that they lose wages and rights despite the company's potential while collaboration with contractors using cheap labour is on the rise.
Papariga underlined that such companies and entire sectors should become the property of society and be put to the service of an economic growth that will safeguard the interests of the people.
Her address came a day the state-run Hellenic Defence Systems (EAS) S.A. announced that it had posted staggering net losses of 142.3 million euros in 2010, compared with a net loss of 168.4 million euros.
 Athens Mayor condemns attack on municipal police officersAthens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis on Friday issued a statement condemning Thursday's attack against municipal police officers during a sweep aimed at removing "black market" street vendors from an area near the downtown law school building.
A municipal officer and a regualar police officer were slightly injured while a municipal police patrol car was damaged when attacked by street vendors, all foreign nationals.
"It should be made clear to everybody that the city cannot stand or tolerate hotbeds of lawlessness and delinquency," the mayor stated, adding that efforts against the "black market" will intensify in cooperation of the Greek Police (EL.AS) when necessary.
 Gov't tables Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework to generate 28.26 billion euros by 2015The Greek government late Thursday tabled in parliament a Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework for the economy envisaging a new round of severe austerity measures designed to bring in overall revenues of 28.259 billion euros by 2015, as well as a 50 billion euros privatisation program. The program will be put to vote in the 300-member unicameral parliament on June 28.
Tax measures are expected to generate 6.537 billion euros by the end of the current year, of which 700 million euros will be from cutbacks in the national Public Investments Program.
The Medium-Term fiscal framework program was tabled in parliament late Thursday after its discussion and finalisation earlier in the day during a lengthy Cabinet meeting.
The planning includes an extraordinary "solidarity contribution" by all taxpayers above a specific amount of declared income, which is not included in the main body of the medium-term program but will be contained in legislation on implementation of the program after deliberation is held on the precise percentage of the contribution vis-a-vis income and the income threshold which, according to sources, is initially planned for annual incomes of over 8,000 euros, and on the duration of its application.
The Medium-Term program hopes to raise nearly 28.3 billion euros, distributed over 2011-2015. The measures plan to generate: 6.5 billion euros, or 23.1 percent of the overall amount, in 2011; 6.8 billion euros, or 24 percent, in 2012; 5.2 billion euros, or 18.5 percent, in 2013; 5.4 billion euros, or 19.3 percent, in 2014; and 4.3 billion euros, or 15.1 percent, in 2015.
According to the Medium-Term framework, the above will arise from: rationalisation of the salary expenditure (2.2 billion euros or 0.9 percent of GDP); reductions in operational expenditure (0.6 billion euros or 0.2 percent of GDP); abolitions and mergers of state agencies (0.8 billion euros or 0.3 percent of GDP); restructuring of the DEKO public utilities and organisations (1.3 billion euros or 0.6 percent of GDP); reduction of defence expenditures (0.6 billion euros or 0.2 percent of GDP); rationalisation of health spending (0.8 billion euros or 0.3 percent of GDP); rationalisation of medical/pharmaceutical expenditure (1 billion euros or 0.4 percent of GDP); reduction of social security expenditure and rationalisation of social spending (4.5 billion euros or 1.9 percent of GDP); improvement of social security organisations' revenues and clampdown on contribution-evasion (3 billion euros, or 1.3 percent of GDP); enhancement of tax compliance (3 billion euros or 1.2 percent of GDP); reduction in tax exemptions and increase in other tax revenues (6.1 billion euros or 2.7 percent of GDP); increase in local government revenues (1.4 billion euros or 0.6 percent of GDP); rationalisation of Public Investments Program (0.5 billion euros or 0.2 percent GDP); general measures (1.4 billion euros or 0.6 percent of GDP); and provisions (1.2 billion euros or 0.5 percent of GDP).
The measures for rationalisation of the salary expenditure are distributed as follows: 800 million euros in 2011, 660 million euros in 2012, 398 million euros in 2013, 246 million euros in 2014, and 71 million euros in 2015. They include limitation of public sector hiring to a ration of 1 hiring per 10 withdrawals this year and 1:5 in 2015; suspension of salary maturation raises; increase of working hours from 37.5 to 40 hours per week; reduction of expenditure for overtime, further reduction of remuneration for committees, reduction of number of contract employees (by 50 percent in 2011 and by 10 percent each over the following years of the program), and through the implementation of voluntary part-time employment in the public sector and unpaid leave.
The operational expenditure will be reduced through a 7 percent withholding in state operational spending, the implementation of an electronic procurements platform, and other steps.
The reduction of subsidies to agencies not designated as general government agencies concerns only 2011, and will save 291 million euros.
From the abolition and merger of state agencies, the state will save a further200 million euros this year, 89 million euros in 2012, 102 million euros in 2013, 70 million euros in 2014, and 19 million euros in 2015.
The restructuring of the so-called DEKO includes measures to boost the revenues of commuter services and other utilities and sate organisations, their restructuring, the sale of non-strategic activities, reduction of expenditure for personnel, cutback of the salary cost, sale of assets and reduction of operational expenses, and savings from abolitions and mergers.
The reduction in defence expenditure will arise from savings from the armaments program.
In the health sector, a special fee will be imposed on companies exempted from the non-smoking law (generating 40 million euros in 2011); increase in state hospitals' revenues through: a) special agreements for provision of services to private insurance companies, b) billing of foreign nationals (for care provided), and c) containment of services to the uninsured, while a new 'health charter' will be introduced, a central system of procurements will be created in the hospitals, and fixed prices will be set for medical services, while a National Primary Health Organisation will also be established.
For rationalisation of the medical/pharmaceutical expenditure, measures include expansion of the list of medicines not requiring prescription, a new pricing policy on medicines, and expansion of the electronic prescription system through checks on hand-written prescriptions.
As for the denationalisations and exploitation of state property program, the target is to generate 50 billion euros by 2015, of which 15 billion euros by the end of 2012.
 EU Commission on Greek debt talksThe European Commission on Friday reiterated its position that any plan to restructuring the Greek debt should include a voluntary consensus by private creditors and on the precondition that it will not become a credit event.
Speaking to reporters, here, Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, said that European officials were currently discussing something similar with the "Vienna Initiative".
Commenting on a Eurogroup finance ministers' teleconference, held on Wednesday, Altafaj said ministers exchanged views over the Greek debt, based on the conclusions of a fourth assessment by the troika over implementation of an economic adjustment programe by Greece.
The EU spokesman noted that the European Commission was examining ways under which private holders of Greek bonds could accept, voluntarily, to hold these assets. He added, however, that it was a "technically difficult" project, as it could be characterized as a credit event by markets and "that's what we want to avoid". Altafaj said at this particular period, "bridges were build between interested parties and the Eurozone member-states".
 Environment Minister discusses natgas pipelines with visiting U.S. officialEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili discussed developments concerning international energy agreements for natural gas pipelines with the Special Envoy of the U.S. Secretary of State for Eurasian Energy Richard Morningstar, who visited her in Athens on Friday with U.S. Ambassador in Greece Daniel Smith.
A press release said that Morningstar had confirmed the "special interest of the United States in the issue of energy security in Europe and the prominent role played by Greece".
During the meeting, Birbili stressed the importance of the Turkey-Greece-Italy (ITGI) pipeline for the supply of energy to the region of southeastern Europe. She also underlined regional aspects of this pipeline, apart from transporting gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe, with the construction of the Greek-Bulgarian pipeline.
They further discussed forecasts that the contribution of natural gas to international energy balances will increase after the accident in Japan and the impact this had on the prospects of nuclear power. Birbili also briefed Morningstar on the implementation of Community regulations for deregulating the Greek power and natural gas markets, in accordance with EU directives.
 Gov't, contractors reach agreement on cutting road tollsThe Greek government on Friday said it had successfully concluded talks with the contractors of the country's five largest national highways, paving the way for a reduction of road tolls.
The two sides reached a memorandum of cooperation and understanding envisaging completion of national road works, while representatives of the banks funding the projects also expressed their support for the projects.
Speaking to reporters, Infrastructure, Networks and Transportation Minister Dimitris Reppas said the final agreement would be completed by the end of July, with road tolls expected to be cut, by the end of summer, by 25-30 pct throughout the network and by 50 pct on sections under construction.
 Unions plan mobilisations against austerity measuresTrade unions appear determined to escalate protests against the medium-term programme sponsored by the government. The country's two largest trade union umbrella groups, GSEE, which represents the private sector as well as a handful of state-run utilities, and the civil servants' ADEDY have already called for a nationwide 24-hour strike on Wednesday, June 15.
In a joint meeting on Friday, the executive committees of GSEE and ADEDY decided to hold mobilizations across the country on June 21, the Pan-European trade unions action day. Industrial action and other mobilisations are planned to take place during the discussion and vote of the government-sponsored medium-term programme in parliament.
 Power utility union announces rolling 48-hour strikesThe Greek power utility's union GENOP on Friday announced its intention to launch a series of rolling 48-hour strikes in protest against plans to further privatise the Public Power Corporation (PPC).
The date for launching the strike action will be decided on Saturday, after a further meeting of the GENOP's board. The head of GENOP Nikos Fotopoulos clarified, however, that the strikes would start "several days" before June 28.
The Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy programme calls for the sale of 17 percent of PPC shares on the stock market or the sale of PPC assets such as power plants, while the state will retain control of its management.
The state sector currently controls 51 percent of PPC shares and the remaining 49 percent have already been sold on the stock market. The privatisation process is expected to be completed before the end of 2012.
 Wholesale turnover down 11.4pct in Q1Wholesale trade turnover dropped by 11.4 percent in the first quarter of 2011 year-on-year over the corresponding period last year, according to provisional figures released on Friday the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).
The Turnover Index in Wholesale Trade in the 1st quarter 2011 compared with the 1st quarter 2010 decreased by 11.4%. The index in the 1st quarter 2010 compared with the 1st quarter 2009 increased by 5.2%.
The Turnover Index in Wholesale Trade in the 1st quarter 2011 compared with the 4thquarter 2010 decreased by 11.8%. The index in the 1st quarter 2010 compared with the 4th quarter 2009 decreased by 8.4%.
 Building activity slumps in Feb.Building activity in Greece, n volume, slumped by 38.3 percent in February this year compared with the same month in 2010, according to the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) in a building activity survey released on Friday.
According to provisional data published by the Hellenic Statistical Authority, in February 2011 the total Building Activity (private-public), in the whole country - which is calculated on the basis of the number of issued building permits - amounted to 2,166. This figure corresponds to 387.7 thousand m2 of surface and 1,449.8 thousand m3 of volume, reflecting respectively a 37.5% decrease in the number of building permits, a 38.9% decrease in surface and a 38.3% decrease in volume, compared to the same month of 2010.
 Checks on Greek fruit and vegetables for E.Coli bacteria negativeChecks carried out on Greek fruit and vegetables on the E.Coli bacteria have produced negative results.
A relevant announcement by the Agricultural Development and Food ministry noted that checks were carried out, in cooperation with the Federation of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Exporters, on 80 samples of cucumbers and about 50 other products such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, leafy vegetables, potatoes and cherries from all the production regions of Greece, adding that the results for all the samples examined were negative.
 Motor Trade turnover plunges 42.9pct in Q1Turnover in the motor trades sector in Greece plunged 42.9 percent in the first quarter of the year against the same quarter in 2010, according to provisional figures released by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on Friday.
In a report, ELSTAT said that the Turnover Index for Motor Trades in the 1st quarter 2011 compared with the 1st quarter 2010 decreased by 42.9%. The index in the 1st quarter 2010 compared with the 1st quarter 2009 decreased by 7.3%.
The Turnover Index for Motor Trades in the 1st quarter 2011 compared with the 4th quarter 2010 decreased by 4.5%. The index in the 1st quarter 2010 compared with the 4th quarter 2009 decreased by 8.7%.
The Turnover Index for Sale of Motor Vehicles in the 1st quarter 2011 compared with the 1st quarter 2010 decreased by 48.7%. The index in the 1st quarter 2010 compared with the 1st quarter 2009 decreased by 8.4%.
The Turnover Index for Sale of Motor Vehicles in the 1st quarter 2011 compared with the 4th quarter 2010 decreased by 1.2%. The index in the 1st quarter 2010 compared with the 4th quarter 2009 decreased by 4.8%.
 Business Briefs-- An Athens Water & Sewerage (EYDAP) general shareholders' meeting on Friday approved a board decision to pay a 0.04-euro per share dividend to shareholders, double last year's dividend.
 Stocks down 6.09% in weekStocks resumed their downward trend in the last trading session of the week in the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday, unable to hold on to their early gains. The composite index of the market fell 0.81 pct to 1,279.01 points after rising as much as 1.3 pct during the session, while turnover remained a low 73.159 million euros. The index was down 6.09 pct in the week.
The Big Cap index fell 1.12 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 0.25 pct and the Small Cap index ended 1.14 pct higher. MIG (3.39 pct), Ellaktor (2.19 pct) and Marfin Popular bank (1.61 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while ATEbank (4.31 pct), Alpha Bank (3.67 pct) and National Bank (3.06 pct) were top losers.
The Technology (3.71 pct) and Financial Services (1.81 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (2.04 pct) and Raw Materials (1.23 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 69 to 50 with another 66 issues unchanged. CPI (9.09 pct), Loulis Mills (8.43 pct) and Kathimerini (8.16 pct) were top gainers, while Spider (11.76 pct), Profile (11.36 pct) and Mouzakis (10 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.14%
Personal & Household: -0.01%
Raw Materials: -1.23%
Travel & Leisure: -0.82%
Food & Beverages: -0.45%
Financial Services: +1.81%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Jumbo, OPAP and EYDAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 3.15
Public Power Corp (PPC): 9.60
HBC Coca Cola: 17.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.55
National Bank of Greece: 4.75
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.01
Bank of Piraeus: 1.01
 Greek bond market closing reportA debate in Europe over resolving Greece's debt crisis maintained pressure on Greek state bonds on Friday. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 13.66 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market, from 13.60 pct on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 16.63 pct and the German Bund 2.97 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 22 million euros, of which 18 million were sell orders and the remaining 4.0 million euros were buy orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 10 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 2.14 pct, the six-month rate 1.73 pct, the three-month rate 1.46 pct and the one-month rate 1.25 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.15 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover improving slightly to 43.181 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 12,414 contracts worth 34.966 million euros, with 36,372 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 22,606 contracts worth 8.215 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,414), followed by Eurobank (2,384), OTE (2,610), MIG (493), Piraeus Bank (1,068), GEK (892), Alpha Bank (2,021), Marfin Popular Bank (623), Mytilineos (598), ATEbank (4,071) and Cyprus Bank (238).
 Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.470
Pound sterling 0.901
Danish kroner 7.569
Swedish kroner 9.224
Japanese yen 117.74
Swiss franc 1.237
Norwegian kroner 7.973
Canadian dollar 1.428
Australian dollar 1.384
 Acropolis Museum celebrates 2nd anniversaryThe New Acropolis Museum will remain open to the public from 8 in the morning until midnight on Monday, 20 June, to celebrate the museum's second anniversary. The Museum's restaurant will also remain open. The ticket price will be reduced and will cost 3 euros.
Moreover, the Municipality of Athens Symphony Orchestra at nine in the evening will perform works by Strauss, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky and Piazzola for visitors. The concert is free for all.
 Nafplio classical music festival opens June 17The international classical music festival of Nafplio, southeastern Greece, is celebrating this June its 20th anniversary.
Despite the economic crisis the festival, from June 17 to June 26, will host noted artists from all over the world.
The Nafplio classical music festival is the most important cultural event in the Peloponnese.
 Culture and Tourism ministry on death of writer Patrick Leigh FermorThe Culture and Tourism ministry's political leadership expressed profound sadness over the death of British travel literature writer Patrick Leigh Fermor.
The message of condolences stresses among other things that "Patrick Leigh Fermor loved Greece like his second country. From the time of the Second World War, when he participated actively in the struggle of the rebels in Crete against the German conquerors until today when his death, Fermor did not stop for even a moment to inspire and move with his literary talent, his moral integrity, his love for life, his struggles for humanitarian values. Greece, the clountry that he chose to live and create, bids farewell today to one of the most notable ambassadors of its culture all over the world."
 Police announce arrest of migrant traffickers, 17 illegal migrantsIllegal migration squad police in Alexandroupolis have dismantled a ring involved in the trafficking of migrants from Turkey to Greece, Greek authorities announced on Friday.
Two alleged migrant traffickers and 14 illegal migrants were arrested while traversing the Evros River delta in a boat, among them two children. The arrest was made when the boat came ashore on Greek territory.
Each of the migrants claimed to have paid 3,000 euro for their passage to the ring, which operated in both Turkey and Greece.
Police also arrested another three illegal immigrants in the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis, who attempted to display fake documents showing that they were asylum applicants. They later admitted that they had crossed illegally into the country via the Evros River and had bought the fake documents from a Turkish trafficker for the sum of 3,000 euro each.
All those arrested are to go before an Alexandropoulis public prosecutor.
 Cloudy on SaturdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 15C and 31C. Fair in Athens, with westerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 18C to 30C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 17C to 29C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe Cabinet's approval of the mid-term fiscal programme and the measures it foresees, dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Storm in ruling PASOK's Political Council meeting".
AVGHI: "The final blow"
AVRIANI: "They unanimously voted the new memorandum of shame and penury".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Taxes, cutbacks and express sell-off of state property".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "4-year 'tax collection' nightmare".
ESTIA: "Delusions over the mid-term programme".
ETHNOS: "The government has cast the die".
IMERISSIA: "New tax wave everywhere".
KATHIMERINI: "The battle on the new measures now transferred to parliament".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Fierce tax attack against economic development".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Rise up in order to stop the new slaughtering measures".
TA NEA: "Blood and tears of more than 100 billion euros".
VRADYNI: "Final blow to salary earners and pensioners".
 Russian official: An international conference must deal with the external issuesNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Russian Federation believes that an international conference on the Cyprus problem must deal with the external issues and not with the domestic issues of the state, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Vladimir Titov said on Friday after being received by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias.
Titov said that he had very fruitful and open discussions with President Christofias on issues regarding bilateral cooperation and some regional and international issues as well. ''My visit is a kind of a follow up of those decisions which were taken during the state visit of our President to Cyprus last year'', he noted.
To a remark that some members of the international community, including Turkey want to change the negotiating process and have an international conference for the Cyprus problem and asked about the Russian position on this issue, Titov said ''the position of the Russian Federation is that any international conference must deal with the external issues and not with the domestic issues of a certain state.''
Asked if he discussed with Christofias the issue of oil explorations in the Mediterranean sea, Titov said they just discussed it ''in a way that we have some plans as far as energy cooperation is concerned. But it wasn't discussed in some further details,'' he added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. UN-backed peace talks began in September 2008 to find a negotiated settlement that will reunite the island under a federal roof.
 UNSC will urge leaders to reach convergences ahead of Geneva meetingUNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
UN Security Council five Permanent members have agreed on a draft resolution for the renewal of United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) mandate, that has been handed over to the rest members of the Security Council. The resolution is expected to be adopted during an open meeting on June 13.
According to the draft resolution, the UN Security Council calls on the two leaders in Cyprus, namely Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu to reach convergences on the pending core issues of the Cyprus problem, ahead of their meeting with UNSG in Geneva on July 7.
The Council also calls on the leaders to work on maintaining the momentum of the talks and engage in the talks in an open and constructive manner.
The UNSC welcomes the progress made so far in the fully fledged negotiations and the prospect of further progress in the near future towards a comprehensive and viable settlement.
The Security Council also urges the leaders to work for the improvement of the atmosphere in the peace talks and for the implementation of confidence-building measures and looks forward to an agreement on and implementation of further such steps, including the opening of other crossing points.
The Security Council welcomes the Secreaty General's report on the mission of his good offices in Cyprus and reaffirms all its relevant resolutions on Cyprus, in particular resolution 1251 (1999) of 29 June 1999.
It also calls on the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkish forces to restore the military status quo in Strovilia, which existed prior to 30 June 2000.
Furthermore, and with regards to the missing persons in Cyprus, the SC calls on all sides to be more receptive in facilitating the process of exhumations all over the island, including military areas in the north.
Cyprus' Permanent Representative to the UN is expected to give the Republic's consensus on the presence of the UNFICYP on the island.
UN-backed peace talks began in September 2008 to find a negotiated settlement that would reunite Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island.
UNFICYP arrived in Cyprus in March 1964 after inter-communal fighting broke out. The mandate of the force is renewed every six months by the Security Council.
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