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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-09-21

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Wednesday, 21 September 2011 Issue No: 3895

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greek FinMin, troika heads teleconference completed
  • [02] PM to chair government meeting on Wednesday on results of teleconferences with troika
  • [03] FinMin on Greece's participation in euro
  • [04] PM, Parliament president discuss developments in Germany and debt crisis
  • [05] DM assures President on battleworthiness of Greek Armed Forces
  • [06] FM holds talks on sidelines of UN General Assembly in NY
  • [07] ND leader meets with regional governors
  • [08] SYRIZA's head queries PM on extraordinary property surtax, labour reserve regime
  • [09] Gov't: Public sector staff reduced by 200,000 over past 2 years
  • [10] Further downsizing of public sector announced
  • [11] Police Force decreases expenditures by 28.2 million euros in past eight months
  • [12] Bill on referenda tabled in parliament
  • [13] ND opposed to referenda it says gov't is planning
  • [14] Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee to summon former ELSTAT board members
  • [15] Foreign ministry examining building assets abroad
  • [16] Administrative court justices asked to speed up processing of tax and customs cases
  • [17] Forum on Greece-Bulgaria cross-border cooperation in Kavala
  • [18] President receives exporters' association, praises jump in exports
  • [19] Agriculture ministry proclaims150 million euro programme for small businesses
  • [20] Greece raises 1.625 bln euros from 3-month T-bill auction
  • [21] HBA, BoG on money transfers flowing out of Greece
  • [22] DE.PA position vis-a-vis BOTAS claim detailed in Parliament
  • [23] Cost of household goods up 2.0 percent, consumer centre reports
  • [24] Protest rally against new measures in Athens on Wednesday
  • [25] All Athens public transport to strike on Thursday
  • [26] Business Briefs
  • [27] Greek stock market branch remains in developed market category
  • [28] Stocks again ease down on Tuesday
  • [29] Greek bond market closing report
  • [30] ADEX closing report
  • [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [32] Pupils stage protest outside parliament over textbook, teacher shortages
  • [33] Extortion ring uncovered in Thessaloniki, 28 arrests
  • [34] Archbishop of Athens and All Greece in Germany for medical examinations
  • [35] Research vessel arrives in northern Greece
  • [36] Seaman electrocuted on board hydrofoil
  • [37] Two arrested for abduction and procuring
  • [38] Forest fire breaks out near Hania, Crete
  • [39] Rainy on Wednesday
  • [40] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [41] President briefs UN chief on problems in Cyprus talks
  • [42] Government welcomes US stance on Cyprus' gas exploration
  • [43] Exploratory drilling to last until end of November, Government says Politics

  • [01] Greek FinMin, troika heads teleconference completed

    The tele-conference between Greek government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'troika' heads ended late Tuesday night.

    Reports said that an agreement was reached according to which the troika heads will arrive in Athens early next week in order to complete their control, which would allow the approval of the 6th tranche of the troika loan to Greece.

    Tuesday's teleconference began earlier on Tuesday night.

    The talks concerned the approval of the 6th tranche of the troika loan to Greece. On Tuesday morning, the troika's technical delegations collected from the State General Accounting Office the data requested during Monday night's discussion and it is considered possible that the two sides will finalise the measures that will secure the deficit's target.

    In the specific case, the heads of the troika are expected to come to Athens in early October with the aim of completing the evaluation of the Greek economy and the preparation of the relevant report to the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB).

    According to reports, the troika is requesting that the measures cover revenues by 1/3 and expenditures by 2/3. On the side of revenues, the same reports say that presented at the table of discussion were both the new decrease in the tax-free limit and the immediate equation of taxes for heating oil and diesel oil.

    On the side of expenditures, what are included, among other things, are the speedier implementation of the new salary scale in the public sector (with salary decreases), the extension of the labour reserve to the narrow public sector as well, the further decrease of auxiliary pensions, the closure of organisations in the public sector, the curbing, to the point of nullification, of bonuses, etc.

    [02] PM to chair government meeting on Wednesday on results of teleconferences with troika

    Prime Minister George Papandreou will chair a government meeting in Parliament at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

    According to reports, an evaluation will be made at the meeting of the results of contacts, through teleconferences, of government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos with the heads of the EC-ECB-IMF troika.

    [03] FinMin on Greece's participation in euro

    Government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday termed the country's participation in the eurozone an "irrevocable and fundamental national option, which the Greek people are protecting with their sacrifices, because they are aware how valuable it is", denying reports that the government is considering holding a referendum on Greece's participation in the euro.

    Venizelos also said that "Greece, due to its size, is not and nor can it ever become a focal problem of the eurozone. We are aware, however, that our fiscal indexes and our economic structures constitute a problem for the eurozone, which we are determined to handle definitely with the implementation of the programme and the fulfilment of our commitments."

    [04] PM, Parliament president discuss developments in Germany and debt crisis

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday had a half-hour meeting with Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos to discuss the latest political developments in Germany and their repercussions for the debt crisis in Greece.

    The meeting, held at the prime minister's office, was requested by Petsalnikos in order to brief Papandreou on the results of a round of contacts that he had with German MPs and other officials ahead of an official visit to Berlin by the prime minister.

    On Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. Petsalnikos is scheduled to meet 32 German reporters currently in Greece in order to brief them on the country's financial state and its political aspects so that they can convey an accurate picture back to Germany.

    [05] DM assures President on battleworthiness of Greek Armed Forces

    National defence minister Panos Beglitis on Tuesday assured President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias of the battleworthiness of the Greek Armed Forces.

    Beglitis added that the Greek people may be proud of their Armed Forces, adding that their sacrifices are not going to waste.

    "Despite the economic crisis, we maintain a high level of operational preparedness and efficiency in the Armed Forces," Beglitis said.

    Papoulias said he was pleased to hear that "because, as you say, the situation in the region is very sensitive".

    Beglitis briefed the President on matters falling under the jurisdiction of the defence ministry, with the focus on developments in the wider region and on the diplomatic and defence policy being followed by the government to deal with problems.

    "We cannot accept any discount in the sovereign rights of Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, and this message is clear to all," Beglitis told reporters after the meeting.

    Greece, he added, is working with its partners for peace in the region and the resolution of the problems in the most peaceful way.

    He reiterated that Greece wants good relations with Turkey, in the context of the rules of international law. "We don't want Turkey's isolation, but with its actions and attitude it is being led to self-isolation," Beglitis warned.

    The defence minister further assured Papoulias that the Armed Forces are at a high operational level and fully prepared to deal with any provocation.

    [06] FM holds talks on sidelines of UN General Assembly in NY

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    Greek foreign minister Stavros Lambrinidis had a series of meetings with his counterparts from several countries on Monday on the sidelines of the 66th UN General Assembly taking place in New York.

    The meetings mainly focused on issues concerning Greece but also the more general economic and political developments internationally.

    Lambrinidis met separate on Monday with the foreign ministers of Egypt Mohamed Kamel Amr, Kazakhstan Yerzhan Kazykhanov and Uruguay Louis Almagro.

    In his meeting with Amr, the two ministers discussed bilateral issues as well as the latest developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

    Lambrinidis also accepted an invitation from Amr to visit Egypt in the near future, tentatively sometime in the next two months. The desire of the two sides is that a Greek business mission will also participate in the visit for the purpose of exploring prospects for further cooperation in a number of sectors, including tourism, commerce, health and energy.

    The Greek minister further briefed Amr on the discussions in the EU for promoting its relations with the countries of the so-called Southern Neighborhood, and the two men agreed to continue the relevant consultations at bilateral level as well so as to pinpoint the sectors of cooperation that present the most significant prospects on the Egyptian side.

    On developments in the eastern Mediterranean, they discussed prospects arising for a reopening of the peace talks and progress in the relevant deliberations. Discussing the situation in the wider region, Lambrinidis briefed Amr on Turkey's recent moves and statements, which he said aggravate the climate of fluidity and insecurity in an exceptionally sensitive period.

    During the meeting with Almagro, the two ministers reaffirmed the excellent relations between Greece and Uruguay and their bilateral cooperation, especially in the field of shipping. They also discussed prospects for further enhancing relations between the EU and the Latin American countries.

    In a meeting with Kazykhanov, the Kazakhstan minister briefed Lambrinidis on his government's desire to attract European companies in the context of a wide-ranging investments and industrialisation programme.

    The two ministers also discussed prospects for cooperation between their countries in the energy sector, as well as matters of concern to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the helm of which Kazakhstan recently took over from Greece, and the prospects for liberalising the visa requirement.

    In all his talks, Lambrinidis briefed his counterparts on the ongoing FYROM name negotiations and developments in the Cyprus issue.

    [07] ND leader meets with regional governors

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Tuesday met with the country's regional governors at the party's headquarters in southern Athens, where he was briefed on the problems faced by the newly established local administration entities established with the mergers of prefectures.

    Referring to the Kallikratis local government reform, he stressed that ND had predicted correctly that there would be problems stemming from the sketchy implementation of the reform, adding that the entire endeavour is plagued with errors and ineffectiveness.

    "A true reversal in favour of the institutions of local government and in favour of the country's growth will only occur when regions beat central authority. Provided that we relieve the periphery of dependence and unnecessary bureaucracy. This is my promise," Samaras said.

    Samaras expressed concern for the lack of developmental policy and requested information on the problems faced by local societies. He called for an end to overlapping jurisdictions and underlined the need for a flexible regional financial programme.

    [08] SYRIZA's head queries PM on extraordinary property surtax, labour reserve regime

    Opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday addressed a tabled question to the prime minister concerning the extraordinary surtax on property.

    Tsipras called on the premier to respond whether "tax collection via electricity bills and the threat of cutting power to those who refuse to pay is a legal and ethical practice."

    He also asked if the implementation of labour reserve measure and the layoffs in the public sector are legal and constitutional and what will be the consequences of this "cruel" policy, as he said, on social insurance funds, consumption and state revenues.

    [09] Gov't: Public sector staff reduced by 200,000 over past 2 years

    Deputy Minister of State Angelos Tolkas on Tuesday said labour costs have been reduced by 5 pct, adding that over the last two years 200,000 public sector employees ceased to be on the payroll one way or the other.

    Speaking in the state-run radio, he noted that "we are in a state of emergency. This is a reality we need to face. The government and the Greek people have achieved a great deal with many sacrifices. We'll do everything it takes to ensure implementation of the July 21 decision, which concern the country's financing and stability."

    [10] Further downsizing of public sector announced

    Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas addressed a letter to all the government ministers notifying them that the number of ministry directors must be reduced by 30 pct in an effort to further reduce public sector personnel, it was announced on Tuesday.

    The reform plan provides for the merger of ministry divisions and directorates and a corresponding reduction in the number supervisors, while the government is considering the abolition of services and permanent posts within the framework of the redundancy programme.

    [11] Police Force decreases expenditures by 28.2 million euros in past eight months

    The Police have achieved a decrease in expenditures amounting to 28.2 million euros over the past eight months, according to an announcement by the headquarters of the Greek Police Force (EL.AS).

    The announcement said that this is the result of an overall programme for the decrease of the annual budget of the Corps, while the reduction and rationalisation of expenditures of police services is being examined further "with the criterion of strengthening effective policing and the provision of high security services to the citizens."

    [12] Bill on referenda tabled in parliament

    An interior ministry bill concerning the "enhancement of direct and participational democracy through the conduction of a referendum" was tabled in parliament on Monday night, setting out the fundamental principles for the conduction of referenda in the framework of the Constitution.

    The bill provides for two types of referenda.

    The first category of referenda concerns critical national issues of foreign policy or defence and also all other matters concerning the country's economic, social and political life. This category requires a proposal by the government and approval by the absolute majority (151 votes) in the 300-member unicameral Greek parliament.

    The second type of referendum concerns bills that have already been passed by parliament that regulate serious social matters, with the exception of finances. This category requires a proposal by 2/5ths of parliament (120 votes) and approval by 3/5ths (180 votes) of the House.

    Not only political parties but also alliances of individuals, scientists, professionals or trade union organisations and every other social organisation of citizens may take part in the conduction of the referenda. Two Support Committees will be set up, one for and one against the subject of the referendum, with the above participating groups taking part in the committee representing their stance on the subject. Each committee will be allotted equal free time in the mass media to present their positions. The committees themselves will decide the distribution of the free time allotted to them among their own members.

    The participating groups/parties in the conduction of a referendum will not be allotted state funding, while a ceiling will also be set for their expenditure as well as for their financing from physical entities, and funding will be prohibited from owners or publishers of daily or periodical publications of nationwide or local circulation or from owners of radio or television stations. The financial management of the above groups/parties will be subject to rules of publicity and supervision by the relevant parliamentary Standing Committee.

    Further, the prohibitions concerning the public projection of messages provided in electoral legislation will also be in effect for the referenda.

    The outcome of the referenda of both categories will be binding on the government provided a specific percentage of the electoral body has voted. The percentage for a referendum on an already legislated bill must be 50 percent of the number of registered voters. As regards the referenda on critical national issues, the Cabinet has decided that the percentage will be set out during the processing of the draft law by the relevant parliamentary committee.

    [13] ND opposed to referenda it says gov't is planning

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) on Tuesday said it was totally opposed to the conduction of referenda it said the government was planning, accusing the government of "suspicious and panic-stricken methodisations".

    The statement, by ND press officer Yiannis Michelakis, came just a day after the interior ministry tabled in parliament a draft law, titled "enhancement of direct and participational democracy through the conduction of a referendum", that sets out procedures for calling and conducting two categories of referenda, one on "critical" national issues of foreign policy and defence and matters concerning the country's economic, social and political life, and the other on bills that have already been passed by parliament regulating serious social matters with the exception of finances.

    Michelakis linked what he termed the preparation of the referenda with the current economic conjuncture, adding that "the tabling of the bill at the time that the government is pre-announcing new painful measures reveals suspicious haste".

    He said that the bill "has no relation to any intention for enhancement of democracy nor is linked with the promotion of the necessary reforms, which we (ND) support", adding that the present conjuncture alone reveals that the bill is "fireworks aimed at disorienting the citizens from the huge everyday problems, the new tough measures being planned, the government's inefficiency and the impasses of the economic policy it is following".

    [14] Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee to summon former ELSTAT board members

    After hearing the testimony of ELSTAT board chairman Andreas Georgiou, the sole remaining ELSTAT board member still in office, the chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Economic Affairs Vasso Papandreou on Tuesday agreed to summon the rest of the former board to appear before the committee the following day.

    Their presence was requested by MPs from main opposition New Democracy and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), who said the committee should evaluate the opinions of both side of the controversy within the independent statistical authority that led to six of the seven-member board being ousted by a decision of the finance minister.

    Some members of the former board have accused Georgiou of following Eurostat's orders and of artificially boosting the size of Greece's deficit using irregular procedures.

    The Committee's chair did not rule out the possibility of also summoning former finance minister George Papaconstantinou - currently serving as environment minister - if his presence was requested in writing by two fifths of MPs in accordance with Parliamentary regulations.

    Summoning Papaconstantinou was an idea proposed by SYRIZA, the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and met strong objections from PASOK MPs as an attempt to set up a premature examination committee.

    [15] Foreign ministry examining building assets abroad

    The foreign ministry, in collaboration with the Hellenic Public Real Estate Organisation (KED), is examining the ministry's list of building assets with the aim of the maximum benefit to the Greek state, minister Stavros Lambrinidis said in a document conveyed to parliament on Tuesday in reply to a current question by main opposition New Democracy (ND) shadow foreign minister Panos Panagiotopoulos concerning the exploitation of building properties abroad owned by the Greek state, such as embassies, consular authorities etc.

    Lambrinidis said that the foreign ministry's building assets programme is being examined for the most profitable exploitation of the building assets either with the housing of other Greek services in those properties in order to avoid expenditures for rents, or through the possible sale of real estate the cost of maintenance of which is disproportionate with respect to the existing needs.

    The minister added, however that an effort is being made so that whatever decision is taken will not be made under pressure but following a comparative examination of all the facts, and in the way most beneficial for the Greek state.

    In his question, Panagiotopoulos asked the ministry whether any decision has been taken for the sale of buildings abroad that currently house embassies, consulates, ambassadorial residences and other offices of diplomatic missions and, if so, a list of the real estate assets housing such diplomatic missions destined for sale and the recommendations on which those assets were decided, as well as the procedure with which the properties will be sold.

    [16] Administrative court justices asked to speed up processing of tax and customs cases

    The leadership of the justice ministry on Tuesday asked administrative court justices to speed up processing of tax and customs cases in order to increase the flow of revenue into state coffers.

    The request was made during a four-hour meeting between ministry officials and the administrative court judges to discuss ways of expediting court rulings by all administrative courts.

    On their part, the judges asked for legislation that will prevent the state from annulling decisions where the Council of State had already made a final ruling. They also suggested that the state waive its claim in hundreds of outstanding cases that had already been settled by a supreme court in order to decongest the courts.

    Justice Minister Miltiades Papaioannou agreed to the final request and agreed to confer with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who represents the Greek state in the country's courts.

    The meeting was also attended by Deputy Justice Minister George Petalotis and senior justice ministry officials.

    [17] Forum on Greece-Bulgaria cross-border cooperation in Kavala

    Improving coordination and boosting actions within the framework of bilateral cooperation between Greece and Bulgaria will dominate in the first-ever Forum of Greece-Bulgaria Cross-Border Cooperation, to take place in the northernport city of Kavala on Sept. 23-24.

    The forum is hosted by the Parliament's Greece-Bulgaria Friendship Group and the corresponding friendship group in the Bulgarian Parliament.

    Financial News

    [18] President receives exporters' association, praises jump in exports

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received the board of the Panhellenic Association of Exporters, praising Greek exporters as a "shining exception in a dark sky" for their success in raising Greek overall exports.

    The association's president Christina Sakellaridis noted that exports had pumped 12 billion euro into the Greek economy, without which the recession would be deeper by at least one percentage point.

    She noted that the increase in exports during the first seven months of 2011 had reached 10.7 percent, up from 10 percent for the entire year in 2011.

    According to an announcement by the exporters' association of northern Greece (SEBE), exports in the first half of 2011 had broken the 2007 record, having increased by 22.6 percent since that time, and Greece had regained 20th place among the 27 EU member-states in terms of the volume of exports.

    The country had slipped in the rankings in recent months due to a galloping increase in sales from Lithuania and Bulgaria.

    Based on an analysis of figures generated by Eurostat for the first half of 2011, exports of Greek goods increased 37 percent, as compared with 15.8 percent for European exports as a whole.

    The contribution of Greek exports to the 2011 GDP was estimated at 9.6 percent, or three percentage points higher than the same period the previous year.

    SEBE noted that industries with export capacity were successfully resisting the crisis but warned that this course could only continue if problems of liquidity - caused by the inability of Greek banks to lend money and an informal freeze on payments by the public sector - were resolved.

    [19] Agriculture ministry proclaims150 million euro programme for small businesses

    The Agricultural Development and Foods Minister on Tuesday proclaimed a 150-million-euro programme to support small manufacturing businesses using agricultural products, open to businesses with less than 750 employees or a turnover less than 200 million euro.

    The programme will support investments for the manufacturing and trade of agricultural products in the areas of meat, dairy, eggs and poultry, honey, livestock, cereals, oils, wine, groceries, flowers, animal feed, seeds and pharmaceutical or aromatic plants.

    The budget for the subsidy applications ranges from 100,000 to five million euro for 80 percent of the funds available and 5-10 million euro for the remaining 20 percent of available funds. Applications can be submitted from October 7 and the last date is December 28.

    [20] Greece raises 1.625 bln euros from 3-month T-bill auction

    Greece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bills issue, raising 1.625 billion euros from the market at a slightly higher interest rate than the previous auction. The Public Debt Management Organization, in an announcement, said bids submitted totaled 3.550 billion euros, or 2.84 times more than the asked sum of 1.25 billion euros, while the interest rate was set at 4.56 pct, slightly up from 4.5 pct in the previous auction of 13-week Treasury bills on August 16.

    [21] HBA, BoG on money transfers flowing out of Greece

    Credit institutions observe existing legislation on the certification of the identity of their clients and request all necessary documents and data as stipulated by law, Hellenic Bank Association (HBA) general secretary Christos Gortsios underlined in a document forwarded to Parliament on Tuesday, in response to a question by a Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) MP.

    LAOS deputy Costas Aivaliotis referred to money transfers outside Greece and the sums the Greek economy loses, especially when it concerns money transfers by illegal migrants in Greece to third countries.

    A response by the Department for the Supervision of Credit and Financial Institutions of the Bank of Greece (BoG) also underlined that the supervision exercised by the Bank of Greece is "continuous and complete".

    [22] DE.PA position vis-a-vis BOTAS claim detailed in Parliament

    "Any references made by Turkey or others with regards to outstanding debts owed by the Public Gas Corp. S.A. (DE.PA) to Turkey's BOTAS constitute unrecognised unilateral assessments," DE.PA's management underlined in a document forwarded to Parliament on Tuesday in response to a question by opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) MPs.

    Party deputies Ioannis Korantis and Alekos Chryssantha-kopoulos referred to statements by Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, who alleged that DE.PA still owes BOTAS 300 million US dollars in unpaid rates for the transport of natural gas from Azerbaijan to Greece via Turkey.

    The DE.PA document underlined that "DE.PA and BOTAS are currently in negotiations seeking a fair and mutually acceptable agreement within a contractual framework. Based on the progress made until now it could be validly assessed that both parties will reach an agreement within a reasonable period of time, otherwise, the issue will be settled through arbitration as provided by the contract."

    The document underlined that until the procedure is completed "any references made by Turkey or others with regards outstanding debts owed by DE.PA to BOTAS constitute unrecognised unilateral assessments".

    DE.PA clarified that it does not accept all parameters of the readjustment of the natural gas price paid to BOTAS to supply Greece with natural gas, and referred to the background of the contract signed with BOTAS, reminding that on Dec. 23, 2003 DE.PA and BOTAS had signed a contract for the supply of natural gas originating from Azerbaijan. The contract provides that the natural gas be delivered at the Greek-Turkish borders.

    [23] Cost of household goods up 2.0 percent, consumer centre reports

    The cost of the 'basket of goods' for the average Greek household climbed 2.0 percent to reach 2,243.484 euro in August 2011, up from 2,206.62 euro in August 2010, the Greek Centre for Consumers (ELKEKA) said on Tuesday.

    The largest price hikes were for housing (8 percent), transport (4 percent) and Food (3 percent). The biggest reductions were in clothing and footwear (-11 percent).

    [24] Protest rally against new measures in Athens on Wednesday

    State entities and organisations that have been included in the labour reserve measure announced by the government have decided to hold a protest rally at Klafthmonos Square in central Athens, followed by a march to Parliament, on Wednesday.

    The decision was announced on Tuesday during a joint press conference held at the School Buildings Organisation by representatives of the union federations POSPERT (representing staff at the state broadcasting company ERT), EIN and POThA and the unions of the state organisation OSK, IGME, ODDY, EOMMEX, EThIAGE, OPEGEP, DIMITRA and HDIKA.

    Representatives of the unions criticised higher-level trade union bodies for failing to adequately support the demands of workers in state entities facing closure or merger, leading thousands of public-sector workers to redundancy and unemployment.

    A coordinating body for the various unions involved will hold its next meeting on Friday.

    [25] All Athens public transport to strike on Thursday

    A strike by all Athens public transport workers looks set to paralyse the Greek capital on Thursday, after buses and trolleys announced that they will join strike action by trains, metro and trams.

    The metro, ISAP electric railway, buses, trolleys, tram and the Proastiakos suburban railway and OSE railway trains will not run for 24 hours, leaving private vehicles and possibly taxis as the only option for commuters.

    The taxi owners association SATA, meanwhile, has not ruled out the possibility that they will also go on strike in protest against government plans for deregulation of the taxi sector.

    Labour representatives in each of the public transport companies will hold meetings on Thursday to decide on their further course of action and have not ruled out the possibility of escalating labour mobilisations.

    The strike was a reaction to the government's announcement of the labour reserve measure that will send some 50,000 public-sector workers home on half-pay, with only a scant possibility of another job in the public sector and the prospect of unemployment at the end of the year.

    [26] Business Briefs

    -- The tourism sector's contribution to Greece's GDP in 2021 could exceed 1/5 based on a study conducted by McKinsley & Co, a management consulting firm, on behalf of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) and the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA), it was announced on Tuesday.

    -- A draft merger agreement of Alpha Bank, via the absorption of Eurobank EFG, was approved by their respective boards at separate respective meetings on Tuesday. The newly merged bank will have approximately 2,300 branches and 150 billion euros in assets, ranking 23rd in size in the Eurozone.

    [27] Greek stock market branch remains in developed market category

    The Greek stock market branch remains in the category of the developed markets, according to an announcement by the British FTSE Group firm on Tuesday, although stock market officials expected the downgrading of the stock market in rising markets.

    The FTSE firm announced that it will evaluate the Greek stock market branch again in March 2012.

    [28] Stocks again ease down on Tuesday

    Stocks ended lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday despite an upward trend in other European markets, which ignored a downgrade of the Italian economy by S&P.

    The composite index of the market fell 0.71 pct to end at 844.19 points. Turnover were only 45.792 million euros.

    The Big Cap index fell 0.72 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.28 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.28 pct higher.

    The Insurance (6.98 pct) Travel (6.83 pct) and Construction (2.00 pct) sectors scored gains, while Utilities (-4.47 pct), Commerce (-3.42 pct) and Foodstuffs (2.38 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage gains of the day. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 77 to 54 with another 63 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +6.98%

    Industrials: +0.37%

    Commercial: -3.42%

    Construction: +2.00%

    Oil & Gas: -0.55%

    Personal & Household: -0.65%

    Raw Materials: +0.07%

    Travel & Leisure: +6.83%

    Technology: +0.60%

    Telecoms: -2.86%

    Banks: -1.85%

    Food & Beverages: -2.38%

    Health: +0.16%

    Utilities: -4.47%

    Chemicals: -0.60%

    Financial Services: -0.50%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Bank of Cyprus and EFG Eurobank Ergasias.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 1.57

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.97

    HBC Coca Cola: 12.67

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.92

    National Bank of Greece: 3.08

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.11

    OPAP: 8.00

    OTE: 3.40

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.58

    Titan: 12.00

    [29] Greek bond market closing report

    The Greek electronic secondary bond market remained inactive for one more day on Tuesday, with the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds remaining at 16.2 pct.

    According to Bank of Greece's data, the Greek bond yielded 17.99 pct and the German Bund 1.79 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 2.06 pct, the six-month rate 1.73 pct, the three-month 1.52 pct and the one-month rate 1.34 pct.

    [30] ADEX closing report

    The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 18.247 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,322 contracts worth 14.961 million euros, with 21,711 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 15,306 contracts worth 3.286 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (6,101), followed by National Bank (4,267), OTE (674), OPAP (651), Eurobank (651), Alpha Bank (514), Cyprus Bank (468), PPC (321), Marfin Popular Bank (280) and ATEbank (255).

    [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.391

    Pound sterling 0.885

    Danish kroner 7.558

    Swedish kroner 9.256

    Japanese yen 106.49

    Swiss franc 1.224

    Norwegian kroner 7.877

    Canadian dollar 1.378

    Australian dollar 1.353

    General News

    [32] Pupils stage protest outside parliament over textbook, teacher shortages

    Pupils from primary and secondary schools from all over Athens rallied in downtown Omonia Square followed by a march to parliament in Syntagma Square on Tuesday, protesting on shortages in school textbooks and teachers.

    The pupils threw down DVDs containing access numbers to the school material from the education ministry website that have been given out to them in lieu of textbooks, before departing.

    Public primary school teachers have called a 24-hour strike for Thursday, while secondary school teachers will be staging 3-hour work stoppages, also in protest of the shortages in the schools.

    Public school teachers will also stage a rally in downtown Athens on Thursday.

    Representatives of pupils' organizations are due to meet on Saturday to decide their next steps, as pupils, particularly in the provinces, have begun staging takeovers of their schools.

    [33] Extortion ring uncovered in Thessaloniki, 28 arrests

    At least 28 people were arrested as alleged members of an extensive ring of extortionists active in Thessaloniki and other areas of northern Greece targeting mainly nightclub owners and businessmen, during a massive operation by Thessaloniki security police late Monday night.

    During the operation, police searches of suspects' houses initially in Thessaloniki, Serres and Halkidiki, where they found large sums of cash, weapons and narcotics.

    The suspects were initially remanded for questioning, and arrested afterwards.

    Investigations were continuing and more arrests could likely be expected, police said.

    According to early information, the ring members targeted mainly Thessaloniki-based nightclub owners, from whom they extorted 'protection' money, as well as businessmen and private individuals, forcing the victims to borrow money from them at loanshark rates.

    It is estimated that more than 50 people have fallen victim to the ring.

    Thessaloniki security police are expected to make announcements on the case on Tuesday.

    Police sources said the ring is unrelated to another large extortion and loansharking ring uncovered several months ago, again in Thessaloniki, for similar activities. The 'brains' of the first ring, which numbered 22 members, had 'loaned' 514,000 euros to the local Iraklis soccer club in exchange for the revenues from the team's TV rights.

    [34] Archbishop of Athens and All Greece in Germany for medical examinations

    Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece will be making a trip to Germany for medical examinations, it was announced on Tuesday by the Athens Archdiocese.

    According to ANA-MPA sources the Archbishop has been suffering lately from a urinary tract infection and persistent fever.

    [35] Research vessel arrives in northern Greece

    The oceanographic research vessel of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) arrived at the port of Stavros in northern Greece to carry out research focusing on the environmental condition of the Strimonikos Bay and nearby coastlines, it was announced on Tuesday.

    The vessel was dispatched to the region following a request by the municipality of Volvi in an effort to upgrade the region environmentally and as a tourist destination.

    [36] Seaman electrocuted on board hydrofoil

    A 43-year-old first engine-driver on board a hydrofoil docked at Piraeus was electrocuted shortly before the ship was due to depart for the island of Aegina on Tuesday.

    The cause of the accident has not yet been determined, while the captain and first engineer of the vessel have been arrested and will be led before a Piraeus Misdemeanours court prosecutor.

    An investigation is being carried out by the coast guard, which has ordered a formal internal inquiry.

    [37] Two arrested for abduction and procuring

    Two Bulgarian nationals (a 42-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman) have been arrested for abduction and procuring in an apartment building in the region of Omonia Square in Athens on Sunday, where they were holding a 28-year old fellow countrywoman with the aim of forcing her into prostitution.

    Police detected the apartment and the offenders following a report by the woman herself. Investigations revealed that another Bulgarian had "recruited" the woman in her country and, promising legal employment in Greece, took her to an apartment in downtown Athens where he held her illegally, with the purpose of her sexual exploitation.

    Many mobile phones and money were also found in the apartment and confiscated.

    [38] Forest fire breaks out near Hania, Crete

    A forest fire began on Tuesday afternoon at Sirikari, in the Kissamos municipality in Hania, Crete. The fire, which started between the settlements Sineniana and Lousakia, is burning in an inaccessible location with little or no road access.

    Nine fire-engines, 17 firemen and a team of fire-fighters on foot are attempting to put out the blaze, assisted by a water-bombing helicopter.

    Neither of the villages is at risk from the fire, which is currently burning forest and pasture.

    Weather Forecast

    [39] Rainy on Wednesday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 16C and 29C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with westerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 21C to 27C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 19C to 23C.

    [40] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Finance minister Evangelos Venizelos' tele-conference with the troika and anticipated new austerity measures dominated the front-page headlines in Athens' dailies on Tuesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Black future for 900 state agencies and their 70,000 employees - Government turns over their fate to the troika".

    AVGHI: "Government falling, and terrorising the people".

    AVRIANI: "Let's get rid off the troika and return to the drachma".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Mania - All night long the government vice president (and finance minister Venizelos) and troika were 'executing' the Greek society".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Scenery of terror with layoffs and salary reductions".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Tele-execution".

    ESTIA: "Race for the salvation".

    ETHNOS: "Cut 2 billion euros from salaries and pensions and with layoffs".

    IMERISSIA: "Heading towards agreement with the troika".

    KATHIMERINI: "Nervous breakdown in the government due to layoffs and new reductions in salaries, pensions".

    LOGOS: "Troika insists on reduction of number of civil servants".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Troika demands drastic reduction of public sector".

    NIKI: "1 percent contribution on all bank deposits".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Rise up - Everyone rally at Syntagma Square on Wednesday, at 7pm, against the surtaxes".

    TA NEA: "800,000 civil servants are hostages".

    VRADYNI: "New reduction in pensions".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [41] President briefs UN chief on problems in Cyprus talks

    UNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has pointed out to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon the difficulties in the negotiating process to solve the Cyprus problem, due to the withdrawal of the Turkish side from points that had been agreed on by former leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat.

    Speaking after a meeting at UN headquarters in New York with the UN Secretary General late Monday night, President Christofias said his assessment of the course of the talks was not the best and noted that he would be raising the issue during his address at the UN General Assembly.

    President Christofias said there was still hope that ''some sides will change their stance and there will be more convergences'' before the meeting of the leaders of the two communities with the UN Secretary General in late October.

    He pointed out that convergences so far were on issues of secondary importance, and that there were serious divergences, adding that the UN chief indicated a willingness to intervene in the direction of correcting certain attitudes, if possible. President Christofias said he raised the Turkish threats concerning Cyprus' explorations for hydrocarbons in its exclusive economic zone, noting that the UN chief promised to talk with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    ''The position of the Republic of Cyprus is clear. We will continue. It is the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to explore and hopefully hydrocarbons will be found. Our Turkish Cypriot compatriots have nothing to lose, indeed they have much to gain, and this must be understood by Turkey and Mr. Eroglu,'' the President said.

    Commenting on Monday's meeting between Ban and Christofias, the UN stated that the Secretary General encouraged President Christofias to continue the efforts to increase convergences on all chapters under negotiation and reiterated his expectation that the sides will move the process forward during the current intensified phase of discussions, prior to his next meeting with both leaders at the end of October.

    President Christofias wrapped up his schedule on Monday with a dinner hosted by the Cyprus Federation of America.

    On Tuesday, he was to meet the editorial committee of Wall Street Journal, participate in a high level meeting on Libya which has been convened by the UN chief, meet Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov and attend a dinner hosted by Archbishop of America Demetrios.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu are currently engaged in UN-led negotiations with an aim to reunify the island.

    [42] Government welcomes US stance on Cyprus' gas exploration

    UNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Government Spokesman Stefanos Stefanou has hailed as "very important" a statement by the State Department that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told her Turkish counterpart that the United States supports Cyprus's right to exploit its energy resources.

    Clinton also said that the search for natural gas or oil, off Cyprus' coast, in the country's exclusive economic zone, does not undermine or interfere with the UN-led peace talks aiming at a political settlement in Cyprus.

    Asked to comment on the specific remark, Stefanou said it was a ''very important statement,'' noting three points.

    ''The first is that the US make it clear that they respect and recognize the right of Cyprus to investigate and exploit its own natural wealth, a self-evident sovereign right. The second is that they disassociate this right from the solution of the Cyprus problem. And the third is that with this statement the US supports the ongoing process to solve the Cyprus problem,'' he said.

    Stefanou reiterated President Christofias' position that a solution to the Cyprus problem would benefit everyone, the Turkish Cypriots as well.

    He also pointed out that the Cypriot President as the leader of the Greek Cypriot community ''does his utmost through the current intensive negotiating process, to find new convergences so as to reach an agreed solution to the Cyprus problem.''

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among other issues, discussed Monday the Cyprus question with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

    In a media briefing a State Department Official said that "the Secretary reiterated our commitment to the Cyprus settlement, to the current UN talks - direct talks that are underway under UN auspices".

    He added that "there are issues regarding energy development, gas exploration".

    "The United States supports Cyprus's right to explore for energy, it doesn't believe that should undermine or interfere with the talks and agrees with all of those who believe that the best way to sort out the question of energy and economic development is through a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem", he pointed out.

    Asked whether Clinton made that view clear to Davutoglu, the Senior Official said that she was clear on how the United States sees the situation.

    [43] Exploratory drilling to last until end of November, Government says

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Deputy Government Spokesman Christos Christofides said on Tuesday that the drilling process for hydrocarbons by American company Noble Energy International has been started, adding that this work is exploratory and it is estimated to last two and a half months.

    He also noted that the Cyprus government closely monitors the situation and has taken all necessary actions in order to secure that the procedure will continue without obstructions.

    Speaking to the press, Christofides said that the drilling process by Noble Energy has started on the basis of the agreement with the Republic of Cyprus, explaining that "this first phase is exploratory and it is likely to last about two and a half months".

    "A second round of exploration will follow, lasting several months and it will give us a clear picture on the size and the quality of the deposit", he added.

    Christofides also underlined that Cyprus government has handled the issues of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the process of exploration of hydrocarbons with "seriousness, determination, confidentiality and composure and it will carry on the same way".

    He also said that our attempts to exploit hydrocarbons from our EEZ have the support of the international community and he expressed Cyprus' gratitude towards EU and all those countries which have supported our sovereign right to explore and exploit our resources.

    "President of the Republic and the government will carry on with their initiatives on the international arena in order to develop a 'shield' of foreign support to our attempts", he said.

    The deputy spokesman also said that Greek Cypriot side is working for the solution of the Cyprus problem as soon as possible, on the agreed basis.

    "A solution to the Cyprus problem will enable Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to enjoy all the potential benefits from the exploitation of our natural resources in security and prosperity", he noted.

    Christofides also said that there are great challenges before us, noting that both the political parties and the people must remain united in order for our goals to be achieved.

    Houston-based company Noble Energy began drilling procedures on Sunday evening, to explore and exploit the country's sub-sea natural resources.

    Cyprus has signed an agreement to delineate the exclusive economic zone with Egypt and Israel with a view to exploit any possible natural gas and oil reserves. A similar agreement was signed with Lebanon but the Lebanese Parliament has not yet ratified it.

    Turkey has warned that it could deploy warships in the Eastern Mediterranean in response to moves by the Republic of Cyprus to carry out exploratory drilling for natural gas or oil. Ankara has also said it may sign a "bilateral agreement" with the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime, if these plans go ahead. Nicosia has pointed out that the Republic is doing nothing more than exercising its sovereign rights as a nation.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu are currently engaged in UN-led negotiations with an aim to reunify the island.

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