|Saturday, 20 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-07-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 28 July 2011 Issue No: 3849
 PM: Major reforms must proceedPrime minister George Papandreou stressed on Wednesday that Greece must proceed with the major reforms planned, with the main target of creating a primary surplus in the economy so as to put an end to the bleeding from the deficits.
With the difficult decisions taken as the weapon and the conviction that those decisions will be implemented, the government achieved everything that the opposition was accusing it of not negotiating, and even more, Papandreou told his ruling PASOK party's parliamentary group.
Now, he said, the country must go ahead with the major reforms and with everything that had not been done in the previous decades, with the first target being the creation of a primary surplus in the economy.
Addressing an invitation to the "creative forces" of the country, Papandreou said that his government is moving forward "with all those who want to and can", adding that despite the protests the overwhelming majority of the Greek people want the government to succeed in its task.
The premier further expressed pride in his MPs, saying that they had done their patriotic duty towards the Greek people, disregarding threats and ridicule.
"We confirmed our participation in the core of the European Union," he said.
Papandreou also spoke of decisive decisions for the immediate and long-term future of the country, noting that Greece's borrowing needs for the coming period, servicing of the debt and the stability of the banking system and the citizens' deposits have been secured, in a reference to last week's eurozone summit decisions.
Papandreou said that with the summit decision the country took one more decisive step forward, but without this meaning that all the problems have been solved.
"We achieved much more than what the opposition was accusing us of not negotiating, and we will continue to negotiate to lift Greece up high where it deserves to be," he said, adding that after the summit decision "light has appeared at the end of the tunnel".
Papandreou said that Greece achieved things that were inconceivable just a few months earlier: resolution of the immediate problem of meeting its borrowing needs for the coming years, servicing of its debt, ensuring the stability of the banking system and security of deposits, and the EU's active participation in Greece's developmental effort.
With all the above, Greece remained in the core of the EU, with all that entails for the economy, society and the national issues, he said.
Today, he added, ideas were being advanced in Europe that had been voiced by the Greek government and which the conservatives in the Union had not been listening to.
Papandreou said that in essence a suis generis bond was being issued and that a common management of the eurozone economy was essentially beginning, while he expressed optimism that a tax on financial transactions would also be imposed soon.
Turning to the government's next steps, he said the era that Greece was living on borrowed money and the era of deficits have ended, and the target now was to zero the deficits and achieve budget surpluses.
Commenting on the premier's address to his parliamentary group, main opposition New Democracy (ND) press officer Yiannis Michelakis said that the people are tired of hearing Papandreou's ravings, adding that "after leading the country to the brink of collapse, he (the premier) is lying and insulting in order to save himself from collapse".
 PM outlines priorities and deadlines in letters to ministersIn letters sent to all government ministers on Wednesday, Prime Minister George Papandreou outlined both the priorities and deadlines that he intends them to work to until the end of August. The prime minister had also outlined his plans for each ministry during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, urging his government to pick up the pace in passing and implementing essential reforms.
The priority issues unveiled by Papandreou for each ministry were as follows:
- Administrative Reform and e-Governance
1. Finalising the uniform pay scale and ranking system for civil servants, including the new assessment and promotions system, to be worked out with the finance ministry.
2. A plan for the merger of state-sector agencies and entities
3. Reforming the operation of the National Centre for Public Administration.
1. New legislation governing the holding of referendums
2. Changes to the system for declaring means and assets
3. The local authorities' overhaul plan
1. Preparing the government's positions for a national dialogue on a new taxation system
2. An action plan for tackling overdue debts to the state
3. Plans for a radical overhaul of tax collection mechanisms, including recourse to outsourcing
4. Action plan for eliminating trade in contraband fuel
- Development, Competitiveness and Shipping
1. Plan to accelerate and change NSRF financing, based on the negotiations underway with the EU
2. Preparation of a draft bill to remove obstacles to enterprise
3. Shipping policy (in collaboration with the defence ministry)
- Environment, Energy and Climate Change
1. Accelerating the issue of licences, especially for Renewable Energy Source investments) and a drastic reduction in the backlog of applications awaiting approval
2. Completing a draft law for changing environmental permit procedures
3. A final plan to regulate buildings lacking planning permission
4. A new plan for a landfill at Keratea
- Education, Life-long Learning and Religions
1. Completing tertiary education reforms
2. Planning for a smooth start of the new school year
3. Report on the pilot scheme introducing e-books in schools
- Infrastructure, Transport and Networks
1. Overcoming obstacles to the completion of five major highways
2. Implementing plans for reforming public transport agencies
- Labour and Social Insurance
1. Preparing a new comprehensive programme to combat unemployment and provide training/education of all types
2. Completing processes for e-prescription systems
3. Implementing plans to combat contribution evasion, especially for those owing large amounts
4. Effective screening of illegal migrants resident in Greece, in collaboration with the Citizen Protection, Interior and Health ministries
- Health and Social Solidarity
1. Promoting primary health care system reforms
2. Implementing the list of approved drugs and further reducing prices
3. Preparing a plan to increase the use of generic medication by hospitals
4. Finalising plans for hospital mergers
5. Action plan to reduce waiting lists at the OKANA drug rehab centres
- Agricultural Development and Foods
1. Plan to restructure farm production and change the farming balance of trade
2. Simplification of licence procedures for farming facilities
3. Methods to utilise agricultural land
4. Draw up plans for founding a farming executives school
Prepare and table a bill for fast-track justice in major cases of public interest
- Citizen Protection
1. Implement a plan for the centre of Athens
2. Set up migrant reception centres
3. Effective screening of illegal migrants resident in Greece, in collaboration with the labour, Interior and health ministries.
4. Improving the operation of the asylum system.
- Culture and Tourism
1. Carrying out a plan for cleaning up Greek professional football
2. Examining the merits of modifying the law on sea cruises, in collaboration with the development ministry
- Ministry of State
1. Plan to restructure state radio and television broadcasting
2. Plan for a legal legal framework for the mass media.
 PM appeals to striking taxi owners for dialoguePrime minister George Papandreou on Wednesday appealed to striking taxi owners to enter into dialogue with the government, so that the announced deregulation of the profession may proceed.
Papandreou said that the deregulation of all professions will be effected with rules, but also dialogues.
Particularly with respect to taxi owners, the premier said that his government will listen to every proposal made, in the context of the dialogue, which he said would be speedy, aiming at the upgrading of services in that specific sector.
Papandreou also called on taxi owners to take into account the repercussions their mobilisations have on many other sectors, while he accused opposition cadres of inciting the mobilisations, wagering on disaster.
 Striking taxi owners seek meeting with PMStriking taxi owners on Wednesday called for a meeting with prime minister George Papandreou in order to set out their demands and positions regarding the government's announced deregulation of the sector.
The call came just hours after Papandreou appealed to the owners for dialogue with the government, urging them to consider the repercussions of their ongoing strike, currently in its second week, on other sectors of the economy.
Attica taxi owners' federation SATA president Thymios Lymberopoulos opined that the premier's statement earlier in the day was "in our direction" and the federation therefore sent a fax to the prime minister's office seeking a meeting with him.
Lymberopoulos reiterated that the strike action is continuing, adding that the federation has turned to lawyers to look into the issue and file lawsuits against the transports ministry leadership in the event that minister Yiannis Ragoussis' proposals are adopted. He noted that such action had been taken in Ireland, and the taxi owners were vindicated.
The ministry, in turn, reiterated that the liberalisation of the sector will be implemented, and that its proposals will soon be made public.
The ministry called on taxi owners to call off their ongoing strike and enter into dialogue, but warned that it will not bow down to "guilds".
 ND blames PM, infrastructures minister for taxi sector deregulation reactionsThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Wednesday blamed Prime Minister George Papandreou and Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Yiannis Ragoussis for the taxi sector deregulation reactions.
Referring to Ragoussis's address in Tuesday's meeting of the ruling PASOK party parliamentary group committee (KTE) that discussed the issue, ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis said that it was confirmed that the government "lacks coordination, continuity and consistency".
Also, the main opposition party accused the premier of "distorting reality, insulting ND and acting as another Pontius Pilate" and called on him to assume its share of responsibility and take a stance on the taxi issue. ND called on the prime minister to abandon "the role of an observer who has no responsibility" and proceed with the liberalisation of the taxi sector "based on the rules already in effect in other European countries".
Mihelakis called on the striking taxi owners to refrain from blocking access to airports, seaports or national motorways, stressing that they should display social sensitivity as opposed to the government's ruthlessness.
 PM to chair cabinet meeting on ThursdayPrime Minister George Papandreou will chair a cabinet meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss a number of draft bills being prepared by the government and a variety of measures and pending issues.
These will include a briefing by Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on progress in restructuring broader state-sector entities and organisations and the decisions made concerning privatisations and the presentation by Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou of a draft bill to accelerate the processing by justice of cases involving state-sector corruption or graft and cases of major public interest.
The cabinet will also discuss an education ministry draft bill on the 'New School', plans for an auxiliary coast guard force, improvements to public administration, the selection of justices for empty positions in the Council of State and Supreme Court and be briefed by Health Minister Andreas Loverdos on issues concerning his ministry.
The prime minister is due to speak at a seminar for Greek ambassadors at the foreign ministry at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday.
 Inner Cabinet meeting on ThursdayMaterialisation of the government's work will be at the focus of an Inner Cabinet meeting on Thursday morning to be chaired by prime minister George Papandreou, while he will also convene a Cabinet meeting at noon on the mergers of public sector organisations and 'fast-track' justice.
 FM Lambrinidis briefs parliament committee on defence and foreign affairsForeign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis on Wednesday categorically denied that Greece had ever discussed the status of Aegean islands with Turkey or that the two sides were close to signing an agreement, stressing that the exploratory contacts focused exclusively on the continental shelf issue.
Briefing Parliament's Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs concerning on his positions and the strategy he intends to adopt as Greece's foreign minister, Lambrinidis sent strong messages to Turkey, fYRoM and Albania.
He repeatedly spoke about the need for consensus, stressing that Greek diplomats and Greeks living abroad should work together to change Greece's undeserved image into the image of a country that is dynamic, coordinated and has a long-term plan. To this end, the prime minister on Thursday is scheduled to address a conference held with the participation of all Greek diplomats.
"We are engaged in exploratory contacts with Turkey on the continental shelf issue. There are no negotiations on the status of the Aegean islands or any contract, not even on a theoretical level. The exploratory contacts continue, they are in progress but nothing of what is rumored is true. There will be an immediate briefing as soon as we are close to an agreement," Lambrinidis said, adding that "we proceed with self-confidence. We are not afraid. Normalization is beneficial to both countries. Turkey's attitude has not changed. The exploratory contacts continue at an intense pace. There is still a lot that needs to be done."
As regards Turkey's stance on the Cyprus issue, Lambrinidis stressed that "Turkey holds the key to a solution. The Turkish occupation forces should leave the island immediately, definitively and forever. The Turkish prime minister's statements are in conflict with UN decisions and undermine the efforts. Turkey should be aware that when it knocks on the door of Europe it is clear to everybody that it should become more European."
"The Cyprus issue is at the top of the Greek government's agenda," he said, adding that it supports all efforts for the island's reunification in accordance with the UN decisions and the European acquis. The solution to the Cyprus issue should be decided by the Cypriots for the Cypriots."
The foreign minister referred to the issue of Halki, stressing that based on the discussions he had with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew it appears that certain encouraging steps have been made on behalf of Turkey. He added that he does not regard them as being enough but, nonetheless, they show a change of attitude and disposition and that is positive.
Referring to fYRoM, Lambrinidis stated that "Prime Minister-designate Nikola Gruevski is trapped in his own intransigence, keeping hostage his country's European future. He should realise that the time has come to write history for his country and not to rewrite our own. This is a unanimous call by all countries. We want a solution with a geographic qualifier for all uses. Greece is determined to move on but we see no positive signs at this point. We hope that our neighbours will change attitude."
As regards Albania, he said that it "knows very well that the violation of its obligations affects its European prospect and interests. The rise of nationalism in the neighbouring country creates reasonable concerns. The state the ethnic Greek minority serves as a barometer for our relations and this has been made very clear".
Lambrinidis rejected press reports attributing the postponement of his visit to Russia to bad bilateral relations, stressing that in a telephone communication with his Russian counterpart they reaffirmed that the contacts of the two countries will proceed intensively and constructively to create a new strategic relation.
"The Russians are interested in the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline and are aware that the problems that have arisen do not come from us but from Bulgaria that has raised a number of obstacles," he added.
On the Balkan region, he stated that the 2014 Agenda has set the ambitious and feasible goal to reach an agreement on a "road map" for the Balkan states' EU accession.
The foreign minister also praised the personality of Manolis Glezos -- a WWII resistance hero and chairman of the National Council for the Claiming of German Debts, who had briefed earlier the parliamentary committee on the progress made -- and stressed that the Greek government will support his efforts.
 Tsipras says government 'must go'Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday called on the government to step down.
"It is what the entire society demands. The government must go," Tsipras told supporters in the city of Kalamata, in the Peloponnese.
Referring to last week's decisions taken by a Eurozone summit on Greece's debt, Tsipras said they were "a breath for the country's borrowers, the international profiteers, the government and the overdebted private banks and not for the people."
As regards the Left's alternate plan, the Syriza leader said that it proposed an "aggressive restructuring of the debt and an agressive tackling of the debt crisis in Greece and Europe, growth for the people and not the capital, taxing the rich and redistribution, supporting the weaker incomes, a growth plan based on stable and permanent employment and on investments."
 Troika technical team in AthensAn EU-IMF technical team begins on Wednesday a new review of the Greek economy, with the focus on progress in execution of the budget (revenues and expenditures), materialisation of the Medium-Term Fiscal Programme and denationalisations, ahead of the arrival on August 16 of the European Commission (EC), European Investment Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'troika' heads.
Following the review, the troika will draft its new report ahead of the disbursement of an 8 billion euros tranche of financing to Greece which, according to the Athens government, will be the first tranche of the new 109 billion euros support programme for the country decided at last week's eurozone summit in Brussels.
 Former minister resorts to ECHR over bribery, money-laundering chargesFormer defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos will have recourse to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the Greek Parliament's decision to make him stand trial on charges of bribery and money-laundering , his attorneys announced in a press conference on Wednesday.
The Greek Parliament's plenary session decided in a secret ballot earlier in the month that the former PASOK minister should face charges of accepting bribes and money-laundering. The MPs accepted the findings of a preliminary examination committee that investigated the German submarine case, focusing on whether Tsohatzopoulos had received kickbacks in order to back a controversial contract for the purchase of four German submarines for the Hellenic Navy while he was defence minister.
According to his lawyers, Tsohatzopoulos sought recourse to the ECHR on the grounds that the presumption of innocence was violated in his case by statements made by two members of the special parliamentary committee -- MPs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis and Argyris Dinopoulos -- before its findings were issued.
An ECHR ruling on Tsohatzopoulos' recourse is expected in roughly two years, according to his attorneys.
 Government announces plan for seismic research in Ionian Sea, southern CreteGreece will soon launch an international tender for firms interested in conducting seismic research in the waters of the Ionian Sea and southern Crete Deputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis announced in Parliament on Wednesday. Based on the results of these surveys, the country should have a good idea of its available oil and gas reserves in approximately a year's time, he explained.
"Essentially, we will know our potential in about a year from today when the collection and interpretation of the seismic data is complete," he said, adding that this information will be given to the Greek state but also to oil companies.
"In this way, the cost of seismic research is shared among more clients," he said, adding that the Greek state would also benefit from participation in the profits arising from the sale of the research data.
 Greece and Germany intensify efforts towards closer business cooperationGreece and Germany on Wednesday reaffirmed their interest in promoting business cooperation between the two countries, during a telephone conversation between Greek Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis and his German counterpart Philip Roesler, who is expected to pay an official visit to Athens after August 15, as head of a group of experts and German businessmen.
The telephone call, followed a conference between 30 business groups held in Berlin. A ministry statement said the German private sector's investment interest in Greece was real and strong and was focusing on sectors such as improving business environment, promoting foreign direct investments in energy, tourism, waste management, telecoms and infrastructure, boosting liquidity and finding alternative sources of funding for small and medium sized enterprises.
The Greek minister called for the active participation and support of the European Investment Bank in funding the country's real economy, while the German minister pledged that a group of German experts and officials from KfW, the German investment bank, were examining the possibility of offering know-how to the Greek government over the set up of a Greek investment bank.
"Today's conference of business groups in Berlin, under German Economy Minister, proves that a strong alliance for growth is developing between Greece and Germany, step-by-step. Enhancing bilateral economic cooperation is of strategic importance, not only to overcome the economic crisis, but mainly to build a new healthy and sustainable growth model," Chryssohoidis said in a statement.
 Greek gov't appoints advisers for PSI programThe Greek government on Wednesday announced it has appointed BNP-Paribas, Deutsche Bank and HSBC as co-underwriters in the implementation of PSI (private sector involvement in a voluntary bond swap scheme), an agreement to re-invest in Greek state bonds and a bond buyback program agreed in a recent EU Summit. A finance ministry statement also said that Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP law firm was appointed as legal advisor and Lazard Freres as financial advisor of the Greek state.
 Greece must move beyond program targets, Provopoulos says"A second support package offers a breathing space and we must take advantage, not only to achieve the targets of the program but to go beyond them. And of course we can do it, since this will improve market sentiment," George Provopoulos, Bank of Greece's governor told Bloomberg on Wednesday.
The central banker noted that time would be need for Greece to overcome its problems, adding that "our European partners did what it is necessary. The ball is on our side now and we have to work hard".
Provopoulos noted that if Greece adhere to its adjustment program strictly and consistently, the country could return to market sooner. The central banker estimated return to positive growth rates from 2012, less than 1.0 pct, and above 2.0 pct from 2013.
Commenting on the banking system, Provopoulos said "it is not the source of the crisis, but instead a victim of a fiscal crisis in the country". He added that the decision taken in an EU Summit improved sentiment in the market and said that saving deposits have started to rise in the last few days.
 Labour market trends worsening in Greece, ALBA reportsOne in three Greek enterprises plans to downsize its workforce, one in two will not increase wages in the next 12 months and one in five enterprises will cut workers' wages, a report by ALBA Graduate Business School showed on Wednesday.
The report on labour market trends for the second half of 2011 showed that 63.2 pct of Greek enterprises have been affected dramatically by the current economic crisis, while 6.4 pct were examining the relocation of a part or the whole of the company abroad. A trend for attracting new workers in the sectors of services, pharmaceuticals, construction and manufacturing recorded a rise, while employment trends in the tourism sector recorded a decline as the number of people opting for voluntary retirement was rising.
The labor market trend index remained at low levels for the second half of 2011, but relatively stable compared with the previous six-month period. However, the index remained below the 100 level for the sixth consecutive six-month period.
The report said that from a total 208 enterprises participating in survey, 51.1 pct are Greek and 48.9 pct multinational. The majority of enterprises are private and operate in the Attica region, with18.3 pct coming from the manufacturing sector, 19.7 pct from the services sector and 20.6 pct from commerce.
 Measures legalising buildings without planning permission by Aug. 28Environment Minister George Papaconstantinou on Wednesday said that he is open to discussing changes in a draft bill that will allow owners to obtain legal status for the numerous buildings throughout Greece that lack planning permission, particularly as regards the criteria that will be used and the size of the fines that will have to be paid. The draft bill will be tabled in Parliament on Thursday and will be passed into law by Aug. 28.
Papaconstantinou underlined that the ministry is trying to find the "golden mean" on this thorny issue, stressing that it is a difficult task that balances between managing reality and introducing a just settlement.
He promised that the issue will be settled in a way that will satisfy the society's sense of justice, address the objections raised by the Council of State -- Greece's supreme administrative court -- and ensure that the state will collect revenues.
Papaconstantinou made it clear that all illegal buildings situated in forests, seashores, riverbeds or archaeological sites will be excluded from the settlement. He also underlined that terms included in the draft bill concerning the sale of real estate are designed to prevent a new generation of illegally constructed buildings.
 Dentists strike on ThursdayThe Hellenic Federation of Dentistry has announced a nationwide strike by dentists throughout the country on Thursday, in protest against a government amendment that they say presages the liberalisation of their profession. The heads of local dentists' associations will meet in Athens on the same day.
The decision followed a meeting two weeks earlier with Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, who failed to reassure dentists concerning the government's intentions. This was followed by press reports the previous week that measures affecting dentists had been included in an finance ministry omnibus bill, even though talks with the health ministry were technically still in progress.
 Civil aviation union calls off planned strikesThe Civil Aviation Authority union federation OSYPA, which also represents Greece's air-traffic controllers, on Wednesday called off planned strike action announced the previous day as a gesture of good will towards the government.
The union federation had earlier received assurances from Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Yiannis Ragoussis that the ministry would release funds to pay its members some four months of unpaid backpay for night shifts and holidays. The ministry also promised to release the equivalent funds in October, after the summer season.
OSYPA had announced daily work stoppages throughout August, in the heart of the tourism season, as well as 24-hour strikes on all Sundays and the August 15 bank holiday. The action was expected to disrupt flights to the country's peripheral airports.
OSYPA has called off all strike action in anticipation that the minister will deliver on his promises to pay its members the money owed them.
 Greek stocks continue losing groundGreek stocks continued moving lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, for the third consecutive session this week, although at a slower pace. The composite index of the market eased 0.51 pct to end at 1,226.92 points, off the day's lows of 1,218.11 points. Investors remained on the sidelines ahead of a first meeting on Thursday between the Greek government and IIF officials over agreeing on the terms of private investors' participation in a Greek bond swap program. Turnover was a low 64 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 0.52 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.27 pct higher and the Small Cap index fell 0.48 pct. Ellaktor (3.42 pct), Mytilineos (2.5 pct) and National Bank (1.64 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while PPC (6.14 pct), OTE (3.67 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (3.39 pct) and Viohalco (3.23 pct) were top losers.
The Utilities (5.48 pct) and Telecoms (3.67 pct) sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Chemicals (3.40 pct) and Raw Materials (2.28 pct) scored gains. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 68 to 57 with another 48 issues unchanged. General Trade (13.04 pct), Kordellou Bros (10 pct) and Yalco (10 pct) were top gainers, while Medicon (9.77 pct), Dromeas (7.69 pct) and Epilektos (7.50 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.34%
Personal & Household: -0.68%
Raw Materials: +2.28%
Travel & Leisure: -1.03%
Food & Beverages: +1.56%
Financial Services: -1.34%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Bank of Piraeus, Alpha Bank and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 3.17
Public Power Corp (PPC): 8.87
HBC Coca Cola: 18.44
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.27
National Bank of Greece: 4.96
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 2.83
Bank of Piraeus: 0.93
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.38 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover shrinking to 28.141 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,444 contracts worth 20.113 million euros, with 29,816 short positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 23,034 contracts, worth 8.028 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,041), followed by Eurobank (1,972), PPC (822), Piraeus Bank (3,762), Alpha Bank (2,297), Cyprus Bank (1,291), ATEbank (3,030), Mytilineos (461) and OTE (367).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.466
Pound sterling 0.896
Danish kroner 7.564
Swedish kroner 9.199
Japanese yen 114.15
Swiss franc 1.176
Norwegian kroner 7.877
Canadian dollar 1.382
Australian dollar 1.328
 West Nile virus infection case reported in GreeceThe first case of West Nile virus (WNV) infection during 2011 was described as mild encephalitis by Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) experts in announcements on Wednesday. The West Nile virus-caused encephalitis was identified in Thessaloniki's Aristotle University (AUTH) Microbiology Laboratory and was diagnosed in an adult patient from the central city of Karditsa.
The patient is currently being treated at Larissa Hospital and his condition is improving, an AUTH Centre for Reference and Research on Arboviruses expert told ANA-MPA.
A KEELPNO team will visit Thessaly in central Greece to brief local people on protection measures. According to KEELPNO, more West Nile virus cases are expected in Greece during the summer, underlining that West Nile virus infection cases have been reported in other European countries as well.
The first West Nile virus epidemic in Greece was last summer with 262 cases reported, 191 of which had central nervous system manifestations, while 37 of the patients died.
The virus has been known for many years and the main route of human infection is through the bite of an infected mosquito. The infection caused is mild and most of the time asymptomatic with the elderly being more at risk of a central nervous system infection which, however, is easily curable, according to scientists.
 Athens public transport body to change airport bus routesThe Athens Urban Transport Organisation (OASA) on Wednesday announced a number of changes to bus routes serving Athens' 'Eleftherios Venizelos' International Airport beginning on Aug. 1, designed to better serve commuters travelling between the airport, the seaport of Piraeus and the intercity bus terminals.
Buses servicing the routes mentioned will now run on a 24-hour basis, while the route of buses X95, X93 and X96 have been extended between the hours of 00:30 a.m. and 05:30 a.m. in order to take passengers to Piraeus port or bus stations.
Specifically, the X95 bus that normally runs between Syntagma Square and the Airport will at night also link Syntagma Square with the seaport of Piraeus (Karaiskaki Square). The X93 bus (Kifissos intercity bus terminal- Athens Airport) will link both destinations with the seaport of Piraeus (Karaiskaki Square).
As of Wed., July 27, the X96 bus (Piraeus-Athens Airport Express) will run on a 24-hour basis via Posidonos Avenue and Varis Avenue and will serve passengers to/from the seaport of Piraeus-Athens Airport.
 Coast guard intercepts vessel transporting 400 kilos cannabisA Greek coast guard vessel patrolling seas around the islet of Prasoudi, near the northwestern Greek port of Igoumenitsa, on Wednesday intercepted a vessel carrying 400 kilos of cannabis.
The drugs were divided into four packages and coast guard boats from Igoumenitsa and Corfu launched a search in surrounding waters for a ship that most likely unloaded the drugs onto the smaller boat but failed to locate another vessel.
The drugs were taken to the Igoumenitsa port authority.
 Six foreign nationals arrested for holding 63 fellow nationals captive for ransomPolice in Komotini, northern Greece, on Wednesday arrested six Pakistani nationals on charges of kidnapping fellow Pakistanis to extort ransom money from their relatives.
Police raided a house in the village of Aratos, Rodopi prefecture, and arrested six Pakistanis aged from 17 to 39, who were holding 63 other Pakistanis captive for ransom, and freed the captives.
An investigation initially turned up that the gang initially picked up Pakistani nationals from the Evros region who had police documentation allowing them to leave Greece in a space of 30 days. The gang members would then take the documentation from the Pakistani nationals and lock them up in the house in Aratos where they held them captive through the use of force and threats.
The next move by the gang was to contact the captives' relatives and ask for ransom to release them.
The six detainees will appear before a Rodopi prosecutor.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDisagreement in the ruling PASOK parliamentary group on the issue of deregulation of the taxi profession and the deadlines for the Medium-Term fiscal programme were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Wednesday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Ragoussis (transport minister) should resign!"
AVGHI: "He (prime minister) is celebrating by himself on the results of the recent eurozone summit".
AVRIANI: "Take back the shameful law".
DIMOKRATIA: "The truth they're concealing about the debt".
ELEFTHEROS: "The burning 'arrangement' for the unlicensed buildings".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Half-price 'arrangement' (legalisation) for unlicensed buildings, for 40 years".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Transfer (of proprietorship of unlicensed building) with double statement".
ESTIA: "The 'umbilical cord' with the state".
ETHNOS: "What you must pay to...save your unlicensed building".
IMERISSIA: "The plan for the Ellinikon (former Athens international airport) tract of land".
KATHIMERINI: "The taxis dividing PASOK".
LOGOS: "aTAXIa in the government".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The final arrangements for 'saving' unlicensed buildings".
NIKI: "Big Business and blue and white (colors of Greek flag) background".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Back the KKE for safeguarding and expansion of list of 'heavy and hazardous' occupations".
TA NEA: "What you will pay to save it (unlicensed structure)".
VRADYNI: "Arrangement of unlicensed building for up to 40 years"
 President receives resignations of DIKO ministersNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Two Ministers, belonging to the government coalition partner Democratic Party (DIKO), have handed in their resignations, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou told CNA on Wednesday.
The Ministers of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Antonis Paschalides and Health Christos Patsalides submitted their resignations to the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias, following a party decision earlier on Wednesday.
The president, who called a Cabinet meeting for Thursday morning, said he will ask for the resignation of all his ministers.
''We received the letters of resignation by the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism and the Minister of Health,'' Stephanou told CNA.
He explained that Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou, who also belongs to DIKO, did not send a letter of resignation Thursday as he resigned last week, following a massive explosion of munitions which killed 13 people and injured dozens, in addition to destroying the island's biggest power plant. Kyprianou only serves as caretaker minister until a successor is appointed.
The Democratic Party, which earlier Thursday called on its ministers to submit their resignations, participates in the 11-member government of Demetris Christofias with three ministers.
Earlier Thursday, DIKO Spokesman Fotis Fotiou announced that party President Marios Garoyian asked the party ministers to submit their resignations to the President of the Republic in a bid to ''facilitate and expedite decision-making and the taking of initiatives.'' Last Friday Garoyian announced ''five steps'' to help the government make a new start, following the massive explosion at the ''Evaggelos Florakis'' naval base which killed 13 persons.
In a written statement, Stephanou said the president will convene an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers on Thursday to ask all ministers to tender in their resignations.
''The President is ready to meet with the President of DIKO to discuss the issues he raises,'' Stephanou notes, adding however that coalition partner DIKO should discuss these issues before announcing them publicly.
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