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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-07-15
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Friday, 15 July 2011 Issue No: 3838
 PM: Coming days critical for developments in Europe on Greek debtThe coming days will be particularly critical, prime minister George Papandreou told a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, referring to developments in Europe concerning the Greek debt.
He also noted that in the past few days Greece's partners in Europe "are speaking increasingly of and pressing for comprehensive solutions", as they are now "looking straight in the eye the truth" that the problem is not a Greek one by "a broader and structural problem for the future of the European countries".
In these conditions, Papandreou added, it is of particular importance to comprehend that "by doing our job, as Greece, with the greatest possible speed and efficiency, we are showing that Greece is moving in the orbit of sustainable development".
That, he added, "gives us also the ability to also face a Europe that many times, contrary to us, is slow and has difficulty in taking the required decisions".
Papandreou said that his government's target is to lighten as much as possible the burden carried today by the Greek people. The target is also to "go from a Greece of deficits to a Greece of production, creativity and surpluses", he added.
The premier called on his ministers to be in constant contact with the citizens, stand by their sides and keep them informed.
He further warned against allowing speculation by anyone, and of the importance of ┬źnot allowing anyone to play with words, purposely confusing, for example, the terminology used by the rating agencies in their technical ratings with painful situations for the real economy and the citizens, situations that we, with our actions and the sacrifices of the Greek people, succeeded in avoiding".
 Cabinet discusses debt crisis solutionsThe various possible solutions for tackling the Eurozone debt crisis were the central issue at a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday.
According to sources, the Greek government is striving for a solution that involves sustainable levels of debt in the long-term, smaller repayment costs and ensures the long-term stability of the income of Greek households.
The same sources noted that a European solution must ensure a long-term framework of stability and not respond by "putting out fires" whenever the crisis flares, noting that this was a mistake that European leaders made in their initial handling of the crisis.
On the other hand, the government is not inclined to underestimate the complexity of finding a solution, noting that the issue was dominating public debate in every EU member-state, the sources said.
They pointed out that the borrowing needs of Italy alone for 2011 amounted to 355 billion euro, which exceeded the total amount of Greece's debt, while Italy's total debt was equal to 25 percent of the total debt of the Eurozone and that of Greece, Portugal and Ireland combined was just 6 percent.
They added that more alternative proposals for an overall solution for the debt crisis in Greece and the Eurozone were now on the table, among them that of selective default. There had been extensive discussion of this at the cabinet meeting and an announcement could be expected from the finance ministry and Greek financial institutions with the day that will precisely define the meaning of this term and what it entails.
The sources said that the issue was brought to the negotiating table by some of Greece's EU partners and not Athens, noting that the agenda of talks was controlled more by the lenders than the borrowers.
The stance of main opposition New Democracy's leader Antonis Samaras on the issue was strongly criticised during the cabinet meeting, with ministers advising the government to focus on ND's response and seek to highlight its dangerous tactics, they said.
Once a solution was achieved on a European level, the government would seek political consensus concerning the final choices that it made, they added. They also noted the reform effort for a rapid and radical reduction of Greece's deficit must continue, regardless of the final European settlement.
Greece's problem was due to a combination of high debt and high deficits and unless the deficit is not reduced, the debt cannot be eradicated, they stressed, adding that a sustainable debt was not just a arithmetic figure but would open new prospects for growth in the country. They noted that the current deficit was 24 billion euro, of which 12.5 billion euro were interest payments and 11.5 billion euro were the deficit.
 PM interview with FTDBerlin (ANA-MPA/G. Pappas)
Greek prime minister George Papandreou said he is pressing the EU and the IMF to hasten decisions on a second support package for Greece, warning that "the atmosphere prevailing does not help us exit the crisis" and the delay in taking decisions was putting off investors, in an exclusive interview with the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) newspaper appearing on Thursday.
"This insecurity scares the investors. If we don't have a decision soon that the second (support) programme will safeguard Greece and that the country will be able to materialise its deep reforms, then the programme itself will be undermined," Papandreou warned.
The premier was positive on a plan by Greece's eurozone partners to buy back part of the debt from Greece itself with capital from the European Fiscal Stability Fund (EFSF) at 50 percent of the nominal value of the bonds. "We are open to all these ideas," he said, adding that "this idea could reduce for Greece the weight of the debt, and also facilitate the servicing of the debt."
According to the FTD article, Papandreou said that the matter of a partial inability of payment should be examined in detail. "Theoretically, this could last two weeks, or much longer, causing very great damage," he is quoted as saying.
Papandreou did not set out a date for Greece's return to the markets, saying it was Europe's and the IMF's turn to decide on a second bailout package for Greece. "The more decisively the message is given now that the problem is being dealt with, the quicker will we be able to return to the market," he said.
Papandreou also said that he intends to mobilise private companies in order to investigate the non payment of taxes and tax evasion in Greece.
"There are 14,000 people in Greece who, together, owe the state some 36 billion euros in taxes," the premier said, adding that the country's Finance Minister would now turn his attention to that group. "We may possibly assign that task to private companies, because it is our impression that the administrative machine cannot do it and has not proved particularly effective in this area," he said.
Acknowledging that the state machine was very bureaucratic and lacking in transparency, Papandreou noted that deep administrative reforms are need, with which existing mentalities must be radically changed.
 'No danger of default', finmin assures GreeksThere is no danger of a Greek default, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos assured the public while speaking in Parliament on Thursday.
He urged Greeks to heed only "reliable information" given by the government and warned opposition parties and especially main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras to "avoid playing with words" at this crucial time.
At the same time, he repeated his call to the main opposition to strive for national unity on the difficult measures that need to be enforced, noting that "a simple act of consensus could reduce the burden for citizens".
"It is a decision that is already taken; the new programme will go into effect so that everything will be finished before September 15, at which time Greece must receive the 6th tranche - or what is now the first tranche of the new Programme. We took the political decisions that the borrowing needs of the country will be covered and the political decision that the financing and liquidity needs of the Greek system will be covered. Playing with words at such crucial times must stop," he said.
The minister stressed that a battle was underway to stabilise and control the situation.
"The handling is delicate, is carried out according to a plan and will yield results. The term 'selective default' must not be translated into Greek in ways that are at the least populist," he warned.
"I call on the opposition to support the government and follow what we say with military precision, because the handling must be national and effective. And looking Greeks in the eyes, aware of their fears, I assure them that there is absolutely no problem with the Greek banking system. It is completely covered and secure in the framework of the euro-system of the European Central Bank and European central banks. The Bank of Greece operates as part of the euro-system and in the framework of the ECB's decision. There is aboslutely no problem in terms of security, liquidity and funding," he said.
 Finmin: 'No problem with Greek banking system'Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday offered his "official and unequivocal" assurance that the Greek banking system was not at risk, following the latest downgrade in Greece's credit rating by Fitch Ratings.
"There is no problem with the Greek banking system. It is absolutely covered and secure. There is not and will not be any problem of security and financing," he said in Parliament.
According to Venizelos, who earlier ruled out any prospect of default, the latest rating downgrade did not have any real impact on Greek banks, nor would the announcement of the stress test results for European banks under a scenario of extreme crisis on Friday.
"There is absolutely no problem. My assurance is institutional, official and unequivocal," he said.
He repeated that Greek banks were protected by mechanisms within the euro-system, that included Greece's central bank.
"If some people try to translate the term 'selective default' in a way that is populist, irresponsible and petty party political, I repeat that this is not a real situation, this is not a credit event, it is not default or bankruptcy or cessation of payments, it is a temporary rating of Greek bonds that instead of being at the grade CCC or DDD are at the rating SD (selective default) for a time," he said.
The minister particularly emphasised the importance of an appearance of unity between Greece's political parties, noting that the main opposition's assistance in the appointment of the members of the Privatisation Fund Admistrative Council was viewed by Eurogroup members as having equal significance as the attack on Italy.
"We are not leaving anything to chance. We are moving with safety and as we must. The support must be absolute, not without the right to criticism, not without party arguments. We are not asking parties to change their fundamental political platform but that there be phases where everything is done with unity, consistency and surgical precision. This is the phase we are going through," he added.
According to Venizelos, a positive attitude could also become a real economic event and the country could help itself through the proper behaviour and attitude.
"This is how we will win national cohesion and social justice. Because the citizens do not believe that balance and justice is ensured. And this will happen. We need a little time. A little vital time in order to do everything we have said in relation to the national taxation system, which will be the basis of the new model of growth," he said.
 Commission regrets Fitch decision to downgrade GreeceBrussels (ANA-MPA)
The European Commission on Thursday expressed regret over a decision by Fitch Ratings on Wednesday to downgrade Greece's credit rating to junk category.
A Commission spokeswoman, speaking here to reporters, said the decision was "difficult for someone to comprehend" and stressed that recent decisions taken by the Eurozone and the International Monetary Fund proved that Greece has fulfilled all preconditions necessary for the release of the fifth tranche of an 110-billion-euro loan to the country.
 Foreign ministry: 'Implementing Ankara Protocol part of Turkey's obligations to EU'Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Thursday stressed that neighbouring Turkey's must implement the Ankara Protocol as part of its obligations toward the EU.
"Turkey must meet its obligations toward the European Union. The implementation of the Ankara Protocol is Turkey's obligation," Delavekouras stressed in statements to reporters.
He had been asked to comment on a statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu concerning Cyprus' upcoming EU presidency in the second half of 2012, which the Turkish minister said would create a stalemate on the Cyprus issue and a freeze in Euro-Turkish relations.
"Turkey is not in a position either to threaten or to blackmail: it has undertaken specific obligations toward the European Union and has an obligation to meet them," Delavekouras stressed.
Replying to questions, the spokesman said that Greece and Turkey were steadfast in desiring to hold a second meeting the Supreme Council of Greek-Turkish Cooperation but that not date for this had yet been set.
 Foreign ministry on upcoming Clinton visitTalks between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis during Clinton's visit to Greece on July 17-18 will cover all foreign policy issues but especially the situation in North Africa, the Middle East and Libya, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday.
Clinton is due to meet Lambrinidis on Sunday morning.
Delavekouras noted that the results of Friday's meeting of the Contact Group for Libya will be important concerning the Libya issue, while the meeting would also cover issues of Greek interest, such as developments in the Balkan region, the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo.
Other topics to be examined are the latest developments in the Cyprus issue and the course of negotiations for a solution, Greece's relations with Turkey and Turkey's EU accession progress and also the situation in the eurozone.
The spokesman noted that the visit was happening at a time when there was close cooperation and a very positive climate in Greek-US relations.
 Health minister holds meeting with predecessors, discusses primary healthcare policyHealth Minister Andreas Loverdos on Thursday had a second meeting with nine of his predecessors at the health ministry that focused on primary health care. The former ministers agreed that the changes that will go into effect at the start of September, when the National Organisation for the Provision of Healthcare Services goes into operation, should proceed. They also presented their own proposals.
Loverdos said that the institution of a family doctor now seemed outdated and stressed that another solution had to be found for primary healthcare, while forecasting that a merger of health and social insurance into one ministry would make the system more functional.
After the meeting, Loverdos said the meeting had served as a breakthrough in achieving consensus: "For the first time they treated me as health minister of Greece, not the government."
The present and former health minister agreed to hold another meeting to discuss the issue of drug abuse, where Loverdos said his aim was to have eliminated the current "shameful" waiting list for the methadone programme, which currently had a seven-year backlog. He explained that methadone would now be administered by hospitals able to handle up to 30 or 40 users.
 Minister: Open front against terrorismThe Greek State has an open front against terrorism, citizen protection minister Christos Papoutsis told parliament on Thursday, and reassured that "no brake" has been put on the investigation into the killing of Socrates Giolias, who was gunned down on July 19, 2010 outside his home in the Ilioupolis suburb of Athens and whose assassination was later claimed by the Revolutionaries' Sect terror group.
"The State has an open front against terrorism," Papoutsis said, adding that "no brake" has been put on the case of Giolias' killing, as charged by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis in a current question tabled in parliament.
Papoutsis said that the police and judicial authorities, the police counter-terrorism squad and the EYP (national information service) were working together, and all information was being assessed, double-checked and conveyed to justice. "The goal is to solve this terrorist act and the arrest of the perpetrators," the minister added.
Karatzaferis charged stalling in the investigation and called for acceleration of the procedures and light to be shed on the case.
 SYRIZA's Tsipras attends European Left meeting in RomeRome (ANA-MPA/Th.Aggelakis-Syggelakis)
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras arrived here on Thursday to participate in a Party of European Left meeting on the current European crisis.
"We will try, as European Left, to elaborate in detail the alternative proposal for an exit from the crisis," Tsipras told the ANA-MPA.
"It has become evident that in this public debate which has been taking place for the past year and a half, all proposals are simply recycling the problem, they transfer the burden of the crisis on the workers' and pensioners' shoulders, aiming only at saving banks and big capital," Tsipras added.
He also noted that "all realise that the crisis is a European one and it is not due to the lazy Greeks. The crisis is knocking at Italy's door, and if there is no substantial political solution through writing off the greater part of the debt then inevitably the Eurozone risks collapse."
Referring to the European Left's proposal for an exit from the crisis, Tsipras said that it was based on three axes, "the 'Europeanisation' of part of the debt, mainly through the European Central Bank, the selective writing off of part of the debt belonging to big banking groups and capital funds, and lastly a redistribution through an investments program."
 ND leading PASOK by 6 pct, poll showsThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) party is leading the ruling PASOK party by 6 per cent, according to a poll carried out by the Public Issue company and made public by the SKY private TV station on Thursday.
According to the poll, ND garners 32.5 per cent of respondents' preferences, followed by PASOK with 26.5 pct, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 11.5 pct., the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) 9 pct., the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party 7.5 pct. and the Ecologists Greens 3.5 pct. The Democratic Alliance garners 1.5 pct and the Democratic Left 2 pct.
According to the poll abstention obtains 38 pct.
 Eurostat: Greek inflation unchanged at 3.1pct in JuneGreek inflation remained unchanged at 3.1 percent in June compared to May, according to figures released on Thursday in Brussels by Eurostat.
During the same period, the Euro area annual inflation also remained unchaged, at 2.7 percent, in June compared to May, and the annual inflation for the entire EU was 3.1 percent in June, down from 3.2 percent in May, recording a monthly inflation rate of -0.1 percent.
More specifically, Greek annual inflation was unchanged at 3.1 percent in June against May, with the monthly inflation rate for June at 0.0 percent.
Euro area annual inflation was 2.7% in June 20112, unchanged compared to May. A year earlier the rate was 1.5%. Monthly inflation was 0.0% in June 2011.
EU annual inflation was 3.1% in June 2011, down from 3.2% in May. A year earlier the rate was 1.9%. Monthly inflation was -0.1% in June 2011.
Inflation in the EU Member States: In June 2011, the lowest annual rates were observed in Sweden (1.5%), Slovenia (1.6%) and the Czech Republic (1.9%), and the highest in Romania (8.0%), Estonia (4.9%) and Lithuania (4.8%).
Compared with May 2011, annual inflation fell in fourteen Member States, remained stable in six and rose in six.
The lowest 12-month averages 4 up to June 2011 were registered in Sweden (1.5%), the Czech Republic and the Netherlands (both 1.8%), and the highest in Romania (7.8%), Estonia (4.7%) and Greece (4.6%).
 Commission, gov't agree on revision of Community funds programmeBrussels (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
A revision and acceleration of a national plan for regional development will bring an economic benefit of around 14 billion euros to the country's real economy, under an agreement reached between EU Commission for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn and Greek Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis here on Thursday.
The package of measures agreed includes a positive fiscal impact on the current budget, worth 770 million euros, and savings worth 1.4 billion euros by 2013, as a result of a horizontal reduction of the national participation rate to 15 pct.
Additionally, the agreement offers the possibility to releasing 11 billion euros through a restart of five large road works, along with a program to support enterprises with direct liquidity, worth 500 million euros. Under the agreement, an increased technical assistance offered to the Plan will strengthen around 3,000 weak projects. Chryssohoidis, who holds the development, competitiveness & shipping portfolios, discussed a plan for a retrospective funding of affiliated programmes up to 100 pct from Community funds, with the aim to save around 4.8 billion euros from national coffers.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, he said funds from the plan were now available to the real economy, to enterprises and the work force.
"We have not won the war yet, but we have in our hands some clear, measurable benefits for the economy," Chryssohoidis said.
 Culture and Tourism minister visits MoscowMoscow (ANA-MPA/Th.Avgerinos)
Visiting Greek Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos met here on Thursday with Russian Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy Minister Vitaly Mutko, with talks focusing on bilateral relations in the sector of tourism.
"Our priority is 'responsible tourism' which respects the tourist and the United Nations Conference in Spain next September will deal with its development," Geroulanos told reporters after the talks.
The two ministers discussed the preparation of a common agenda regarding the UN's conference through the promotion of bilateral cooperation.
Mutko, on his part, said he was worried over the safety of Russian tourists in many countries, referring in particular to the recent poisoning of Russian citizens in Turkey. He also expressed the need for international cooperation aiming at the establishment of common criteria of safety for the protection of the tourists' lives and health.
The Russian minister also referred to the increased number of Russian tourists who choose Greece as their destination, a fact that confirms, as he said, the "historical and cultural ties between our two countries."
The two ministers' talks also focused on the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, with the Russian side expressing interest in bilateral cooperation during the preparations of the Games as well as during their holding.
Geroulanos pointed out to a considerable increase in the granting of visas at the Greek consulate in Moscow during the first half of 2011.
"This is a good sign, which shows that we will exhaust all possibilities of the Schengen agreement so as to allow Russians citizens who wish to visit Greece to be able to do it without difficulties," the Greek minister added.
 FinMin's omnibus bill tabledThe Finance Ministry's omnibus bill was tabled in Parliament on Thursday night.
The bill aims at tackling Greece's fiscal crisis, through consi-derable cuts in public spending. The bill also provides for the establishment of a special Department of Planning and Monito-ring the Economic Policy Programs' implementation, which will be directly supervised by the Finance minister.
 Energy minister addresses IOBE eventEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister George Papaconstantinou announced on Thursday the government's intention to adopt legislation for speeding up investments in off-shore wind parks and for exploiting solar energy.
Addressing an Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) event in Athens on "Long-term Energy Perspectives: The Challenges for the Energy Sector in Greece by the year 2050", Papaconstantinou also announced that a government proposal for long-term energy planning would be made public after the month of August and submitted for dialogue with the market's agencies.
The minister reiterated that consultations with the European Commission regarding the access of third parties to Greek lignite reserves would conclude in the coming weeks.
EIB loan to PPC for promoting energy security, efficiency in Greece
The European Investment Bank (EIB) on Thursday announced it was extending a 310 million euros loan to Greece's Public Power Corporation (PPC) for promoting energy security and efficiency in Greece.
"European Investment Bank is providing EUR 310 million to the Greek Public Power Corporation for promoting energy security and efficiency in Greece. The investment will add state-of-the-art, environment-friendly energy production and reinforced, extended and efficient electricity transmission and distribution networks throughout the country," and EIB announcement said.
The finance documentation was signed on Thursday at the EIB's office in Athens by EIB Vice-President Plutarchos Sakellaris and PPC Chairman and CEO Arthouros Zervos.
 Deutsche Telekom raises equity stake in OTE to 40pctDeutsche Telekom AG has raised its equity stake in the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) to 40 percent, following the completion of the purchase of a further 10 percent stake on July 11.
Deutsche Telekom now holds an equity stake of 40.00000008 percent, which translates to 196,060,156 shares, and the corresponding voting rights.
According to an announcement by the Athens Stock Exchange before the transaction, Deutsche Telekom held an equity stake of 30.0000002 percent, corresponding to 147,045,118 shares and the respective voting rights.
 Emporiki Bank CEO: 'This is Greece' campaign cites our commitment to countryEmporiki Bank CEO Alain Strub on Thursday reiterated that the Credit Agricole subsidiary in Greece will continue to wholeheartedly support the Greek economy in the current dire situation. Below is an interview the French executive, who is also the vice-chairman of Emporiki's board of directors, gave to the ANA-MPA.
1. You have recently presented your initiative "This is Greece" for the promotion of the Greek entrepreneurship. What is the rationale of this initiative?
The initiative "This is Greece" derives from Emporiki' s strong will to reveal and promote the hard working, innovative and extrovert side of the Greek entrepreneurship. As a banking institution, we know that this positive aspect of Greece remains very much present, even during the current very difficult period of time for the country and we believe it deserves to be looked at and to be brought forward, so as to help shift the prevailing negative climate both in Greece and abroad. The initiative "This is Greece" reaffirms Emporiki's firm commitment to keep standing by the side of Greek businesses and professionals, and it also demonstrates the confidence of our parent Group, Credit Agricole to the recovery prospects of the Greek economy.
2. What are the key pillars of your initiative?
Key pillar of our actions is the creation of a web blog (www.this-is-greece.gr) that hosts the entire initiative and serves as a 'hub' where the general public is invited to share their own real and daily life experiences from examples of the well-functioning sides of Greece today. The idea is that everyone can think and share at least one good example of a Greek company, no matter how large or small, a professional entity or individual, a school or academic institution, everywhere in Greece, where in fact things are done in the right way and stand out.
In addition, Emporiki Bank funded the production of a video entitled "This is Greece: Thinking differently, acting differently", showcasing indicative real life examples of Greek businesspeople and businesses, who even today, keep growing both inside and outside Greece, keep adding value to their products and services, keep promoting innovative, forward looking business thinking and practices, keep securing and creating job positions.
I want to make it clear that this is not about advertising, this is about making a choice to focus on the existing positive examples rather than the, also existing, negative ones.
3. Do you think that Greek entrepreneurship can contribute to the country's exit from the crisis and to a reboot of the growth procedure?
Not only can it contribute but it can be the leading factor to the recovery of the Greek economy. The sound, innovative, productive businesses are the ones that can add true value to the country's resources and secure job positions, thus contributing to economic growth. Of course it is imperative for Greek companies to attract further investments and become even more extrovert. I am confident that even in this very challenging economic environment there are good investment and business - making opportunities.
4. How does Emporiki Bank, as a member of the largest banking Group in France, view its presence in Greece, at a time when the country is challenged by this unprecedented economic crisis?
Emporiki Bank has made the strategic decision to stand by the side of Greek households, professionals and businesses, and with the strength of Credit Agricole, it is both able and willing to provide them with substantial liquidity and real solutions to their real needs.
With regards to businesses, we have recently launched a series of business financing products, which provide solid alternatives, tailor-made for small businesses and professionals, helping the true backbone of Greece's economy. Moreover, at this difficult time, we chose to continue investing in our branch network and our people, so as to keep improving, not only our products but also the services that we provide to our customers.
In addition to that, especially nowadays, we want to go beyond the offering of merely banking products and services, and this is one of the main reasons that we initiated "This is Greece". We want to contribute in shifting the domestic and international focus from the negative to the positive aspects of Greece and we see many of the country's entrepreneurial resources as the 'ambassadors' of this effort.
Therefore, and notwithstanding the extreme difficulties of the current environment, we in Emporiki still see healthy growth opportunities in the market and we maintain confidence in the recovery potential of the Greek economy.
5. It is true that Emporiki is one of the few banks in Greece today that continue providing loans, at a time when financing has been comatose. How do you secure your money?
In this turbulent and increasingly complex environment, we cannot ignore our institutional - next to our business- role as a bank. Emporiki and Credit Agricole are both willing and able to continue supporting the Greek economy and we have a duty to support our customers and help them successfully cope with the crisis.
Of course, we will continue to do so by maintaining our well-defined risk management policy, which has enabled us to shield the quality of our new loans portfolio and to continue delivering our commitment to finance the Greek economy.
6. How optimistic are you personally about the Greek economy?
It is true that the Greek economy and society are facing one of the biggest challenges of contemporary history. Although assessments and forecasts cannot be safely made in this environment, I am confident that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that Greece has the potential to override the crisis, provided of course that necessary structural reforms will allow the country to regain its competitiveness and that the sound Greek entrepreneurship will have all the support it can get, in order to lead healthy economic growth in the future.
 Larco returns to profitabilityLarco, a state-controlled metals industry, on Thursday reported a significant improvement in its 2010 results and made positive forecasts for the current year. The company returned to full production capacity in the second half of 2010, with sales soaring ... pct to ... million euros. To read the entire article please call the ANA-MPA subscription department at 2106400560.
 Annual summer sales begin ion FridayThe annual summer sales season debuts throughout Greece on Friday, with the National Confederation of Greek Trade (ESEE) promising the "biggest discounts in recent years" and urging shoppers to take advantage of the reduced prices.
The annual summer sales, which will run through August 31, provide consumers with the opportunity of purchasing products at discounted prices, with reductions reaching as much as 70 percent off the original prices.
Shop owners are looking to the sales to generate much-needed revenues, which have dropped sharply in recent months as a result of austerity measures that have caused shoppers to restrict purchases to the bare necessities.
 Stocks end slightly lowerStocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, extending a declining trend for the eighth consecutive session as a recovery effort failed to materialise. The market remains nervous after Fitch downgraded the country to junk category. The composite index of the market fell 0.18 pct to end at 1,188.19 points with turnover remaining a low 74.248 million euros.
The Big Cap index eased 0.50 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.36 pct lower and the Small Cap index ended 0.45 pct down. PPC (3.89 pct), Viohalco (1.19 pct) and National Bank (1.16 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Marfin Popular Bank (6.0 pct), Cyprus (4.94 pct) and Motor Oil (4.39 pct) were top losers.
The Financial Services (3.5 pct), Industrial Products (0.64 pct) and Technology (0.48 pct) scored gains, while Health (3.77 pct), Chemicals (2.77 pct) and financial Services (2.63 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 80 to 48 with another 49 issues unchanged. G.E. Demetriou (16.67 pct), MIG Real Estate (10 pct) and Pegasus (9.09 pct) were top gainers, while TBank (20 pct), Unibios (16.67 pct) and Imperio (15.79 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.82%
Personal & Household: -0.54%
Raw Materials: -0.88%
Travel & Leisure: +0.44%
Food & Beverages: -0.03%
Financial Services: -2.63%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Coca Cola 3E, Eurobank and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 2.97
Public Power Corp (PPC): 9.09
HBC Coca Cola: 18.65
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.20
National Bank of Greece: 4.36
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 2.74
Bank of Piraeus: 0.88
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 14.13 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 14.10 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 16.86 pct and the German Bund 2.73 pct. Turnover in the market remained a low 6.0 million euros, of which 4.0 million were sell orders and the remaining 2.0 million euros were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 4.0 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate was unchanged at 2.17 pct, the six-month rate also unchanged at 1.81 pct, the three-month rate was 1.60 pct and the three-month rate rose to 1.45 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.64 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 25.045 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,371 contracts worth 18.960 million euros, with 29,899 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 26,229 contracts worth 6.085 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (5,127), followed by Eurobank (2,466), MIG (791), PPC (949), National Bank (3,672), Alpha Bank (3,468), Marfin Popular Bank (1,639), Cyprus Bank (1,497) and ATEbank (4,700).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.441
Pound sterling 0.894
Danish kroner 7.569
Swedish kroner 9.335
Japanese yen 113.92
Swiss franc 1.174
Norwegian kroner 7.955
Canadian dollar 1.380
Australian dollar 1.34
 Four US highschool students admitted to hospital for gastrointestinal symptomsFour highschool students from the state of Pennsylvania, in the US, are being treated at the university hospital in the western port city of Patras with symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders.
A group of 27 students were taken to the Aghios Andreas hospital in Patras on Wednesday night after developing gastrointestinal symptoms just before boarding a ferry for Italy.
The students were given first aid treatment, and 23 of them were released, while the other four were admitted to hospital.
Hospital deputy director Dimitris Lygouras told ANA-MPA that samples have been sent to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) to determine what caused the group outbreak of the symptoms.
The students are members of a 44-person group touring Western Greece. The rest of the group is being hosted at a Patras hotel.
 Bank robber demands money to feed his childrenAn unknown individual wearing a helmet and holding a gun entered a Commercial Bank of Greece branch in the city of Rhodes on Rhodes island on Thursday and demanded from the teller to give him 2,700 euros. The man said he wanted the money to feed his children.
Afterwards the perpetrator escaped on a motorbike.
Police are conducting an investigation.
 Antiquity smuggler arrestedA 48-year-old man from Florina, northwestern Greece was arrested on Thursday charged with antiquity smuggling.
The suspect, while driving his car near Vassiliada village in Kastoria prefecture, met up with a police roadblock. A search of his car and later of his house in Florina revealed a large number of Roman and Byzantine era coins, other antiquities and photos believed to indicate locations where antiquities are buried.
Specifically, police found and confiscated 81 ancient coins, two marble statues from the Hellenistic period, the head from a female statuette, two copper rings, a lecythus, a medal, six clay seals, four copper brooches, two metal detectors, one perfume container, two USB flash drives and eight photographs of probable sites of antiquities.
 Police arrest Ivory Coast national for forging documentsPolice on Thursday announced the arrest of a 32-year-old man from the Ivory Coast who had set up a workshop forging fake passports and other documents in his apartment in the Athens district of Kypseli.
The man was charged with repeated counts of forgery as a profession and insubordination.
During a Wednesday raid on his apartment, authorities found and confiscated 108 passports of various countries, 12 French ID cards, a Belgian ID card, 13 Belgian driving licences, three French driving licences and one Spanish driving licence, 31 French permanent residence application cards, six decisions of the General Secretariat of the Attica Region, nine Greek residence permits and a host of other documents, official visa stamps, plastic cases for travel documents and hundreds of passport-style photographs.
The suspect has been led before an Athens public prosecutor.
 Hot and drySunny weather and high temperatures are forecast throughout Greece on Friday. Temperatures will range from 19C to 39C, with higher temperatures on the mainland. Winds will blow mostly from northerly directions, ranging from 2-6 Beaufort. Sunny in Athens, with temperatures between 26C and 37C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 23C to 36C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe debt crisis and the possibility of a selective bankruptcy, the new support package, deliberations in Athens and Europe for an immediate solution to the crisis and the seizure measure for outstanding debts to social security funds, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "15 days and 1,001 euros to set up a company".
AVGHI: "Fireworks - Prime Minister George Papandreou playing with fire".
AVRIANI: "Imbeciles and incompetents govern Europe and have led it to the edge of the cliff".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Surgery of the debt, with the government as a simple observer".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "First 'shampooing', then 'haircut'."
ESTIA: "Disastrous decision for Greece".
ETHNOS: "Frenzy over the debt crisis".
IMERISSIA: "Selective bankruptcy solutions being weighed".
KATHIMERINI: "IMF predicts debt will skyrocket".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "IMF will finance the new support package, too".
TA NEA: "Property seizure for debt to social security funds begins".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Axe on auxiliary pensions, 'heavy and hazardous' benefits and the lump sum retirement superannuity".
VRADYNI: "Bankruptcy of the Memorandum".
 President Christofias promises full investigation of blast tragedyNicosia (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic Demetris Christofias announced during a televised address to the nation on Thursday, the appointment of a single-member inquiry committee, to investigate events which led to the deadly explosion in the Naval Base ''Evangelos Florakis'', on Monday.
The Committee will be headed by lawyer Polis Polyviou and it will be charged with the task of investigating the causes of the incident, pointing to those who should be held accountable for the explosion.
After conveying his personal and the government's condolences to family members and relatives of the twelve blast victims, President Christofias assured that those who are responsible will be held accountable, ''from the lowest to the highest level'', and called the public to remain ''calm and sober''.
President Christofias began his address, by saying that he was speaking to the people, during difficult times, while the victims of the Naval Base tragedy were still being buried.
''It is the demand of all of us to fully investigate the circumstances and the causes of this tragedy'', the president noted.
Announcing Polyviou's appointment, President Christofias underlined that his task will be to ''quickly and swiftly investigate every single aspect'' of the deadly blast.
He also noted that the Police will be investigating potential criminal responsibilities, under the supervision of the Attorney General of the Republic.
A full investigation, he continued, will reinstate the public's confidence towards the state and its institutions, which suffered a blow.
President Christofias called for collective work by all involved, by showing confidence towards state institutions.
Moreover, the president was critical in his address towards a small group of ''nationalists and ultra-rightists'', who undermined recent peaceful demonstrations of people, held outside the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, by trying to ''take advantage of human suffering'' and ''venturing to set the Presidential Palace aflame''.
Saying that such incidents are reminiscent of the 1974 events outside the Presidential Palace, during the coup and the Turkish invasion and occupation, the president added that the consolidation of order is a collective responsibility.
Continuing his address, President Christofias noted that the government has already asked for help from the EU, in the framework of member states' display of solidarity, to address needs after the blast. He added that government services are already working in order to repair damages.
Moreover, the president said that he understands people's anger and grief and added that all should remain calm and try to look ahead, to the continuation of the Cyprus negotiations and the Presidency of the EU Council, in the second half of 2012.
''The Cyprus negotiations and the EU Presidency are not an alibi for the situation in front of us and the ensuing responsibilities'' the president noted.
President Christofias concluded his televised address by saying that the government will continue its efforts concerning all aspects of the state's administration and will wait for the results of the investigation before referring again to the people.
 Cyprus talks to continue on TuesdayNicosia (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu will hold a new meeting on Tuesday, July 19th in the context of UN-led direct talks to solve the Cyprus problem.
According to an UNFICYP press release the meeting will take place at 10.00 local time at the residence of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Liza Buttenheim, in the UN-protected area of the Nicosia airport.
Cyprus was divided when Turkey invaded in 1974. UN led negotiations have been ongoing since 2008 between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, in an effort to reunite the island under a federal roof.
President Christofias and Eroglu met with UN SG Ban Ki-moon on July 7th in Geneva and according to Ban's statement after the meeting they agreed to enter into an intensive period of negotiations on the core issues of Cyprus problem when they return to the island.
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