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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-12-08

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

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

Thursday, 8 December 2011 Issue No: 3947

CONTENTS

  • [01] Parliament passes 2012 budget
  • [02] PM: 2012 budget 'step towards exit from crisis'
  • [03] Papandreou: Full support for Papademos government
  • [04] Samaras: No disagreement with fiscal targets, but with across-the-board cutbacks
  • [05] Papariga calls for debt write-off
  • [06] LAOS leader predicts new coalition after next elections during budget debate
  • [07] SYRIZA's Tsipras urges freeze on debt repayment until economy recovers
  • [08] Finmin on budget, government's task
  • [09] Foreign minister meets Russian, Turkish counterparts at OSCE ministerial
  • [10] Deputy foreign minister in Germany, briefed on racist attack on Greek
  • [11] Cyprus president has telephone conversation with Greek premier
  • [12] KKE party submits question on consequences of crisis in education
  • [13] ADEDY labour union supports struggle of public media journalists
  • [14] AMNA work stoppages Wednesday through Friday
  • [15] Bulgaria pulls out of Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline
  • [16] Hydrocarbon exploitation to take years, minister says
  • [17] Infrastructures minister on mobile telephpony aerials
  • [18] Greek shipowners' new ship orders down in Jan-Oct
  • [19] Greek bank interest rates up in October
  • [20] Greek stocks end 1.06 pct higher
  • [21] Greek bond market closing report
  • [22] ADEX closing report
  • [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [24] DM Avramopoulos attends inauguration of exhibition at Onassis Cultural Centre
  • [25] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visits Vienna
  • [26] Arrests in Athens, Thessaloniki during Tuesday protests
  • [27] Kavala businessman released after arrest for debts to the state
  • [28] 'Help at Home' staff stage protest over budget cuts
  • [29] Metro strike called off after deal with management
  • [30] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Parliament passes 2012 budget

    Greece's parliament in the first hours of Wednesday passed the 2012 budget that encompasses further cutbacks in state expenditures and envisages a primary surplus of 1.1 percent of GDP.

    The budget was passed in the 300-member parliament with an overwhelming majority of 258 votes for and 41 against, backed by the three parties -- former ruling party PASOK, main opposition New Democracy (ND) and the smaller Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party) -- that are supporting the transitional government of prime minister Lucas Papademos.

    [02] PM: 2012 budget 'step towards exit from crisis'

    Transitional prime minister Lucas Papademos called the 2012 budget, which was passed in the first hours of Wednesday in parliament, a step towards exit from the crisis, consolidation of Greece's place in Europe and the creation of conditions for sustainable development, addressing the 300-member parliament on Tuesday ahead of the budget vote.

    He said that the exit from the crisis "will not be easy, and anyone who promises that is not providing services of national responsibility".

    "The economic crisis in our country is not a storm that will soon pass. It will have duration because it is the outcome of imbalances that have been aggravated over the years, it is the result of solutions that were postponed or that were never applied because it was considered that they would have a short-term political cost and despite the long-term benefit for the economy and society. This is why dealing with the consequences of mistakes and omissions will take time and will have a cost," Papademos warned.

    He said that the 2012 budget is a step towards exit from the crisis, since it "sets out ambitious but feasible targets and the macroeconomic conditions on which the budget is founded are reasonable and in line with the predications of all the international organisations".

    The first important aspect of the budget is the projection for a primary surplus next year, a "difficult but not unattainable target", in order to reverse the upward trend of the debt and to reduce it by 42 billion euros. "Achievement of this target, from 2011 to 2012, will require improvement of the primary surplus of the General Government by 6.8 billion euros, while in the two previous years, from 2009 to 2011, the accrued fiscal adjustment was approximately 20 billion euros", Papademos said.

    He added that this primary surplus was expected to arise both from an increase in tax revenues and the change in income tax, and from containment of state expenditures. Indeed, "with the assistance of the troika and particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) a bill has been drafted by the finance ministry that will be tabled in parliament for vote...it is a very significant step in the effort to clamp down on tax evasion, which must continue in the coming years as well".

    Another fundamental aspect of the budget is that, for the first time, it contains detailed figures on the wider public sector, as well as the advancement of the structural efforts and a speedier materialisation of the privatisations programme, both for increasing the state revenues and for boosting economic activity, due to improvement of the efficiency of the organisations slated for privatisation.

    Asked whether it is feasible for the Greek economy to exit from the recession anticipated in 2012 in an environment of increasing uncertainty and lukewarm economic activity, Papademos replied that there are significant positive indications that support the forecasts for economic recovery in 2013. These, he said, were the increase in exports and improved performance of export-oriented companies, a halt to reductions in salaries and pensions which, combined with a halt to increases in tax rates, result in stabilisation of income and consumption expenditure, and also to the major public works which "when they start up again and absorption of the NSRF (National Strategic Reference Framework) funds is accelerated, employment will be boosted and the investment climate will improve".

    In the context of that effort, the premier appealed for "substantial unity in the effort, which we must all make together", adding that "we do not have the luxury of grumbling or continuing with mutual accusations over the past, on who is to blame. Posterity will not forgive us if we abandon the battle for the future due to scuffling over the past. In essence, we are not under the monitorship of the troika, but of history itself".

    "Greece is and will remain a member of the united Europe and the eurozone, and we will not thoughtlessly lose this biggest post-war national achievement. But participation in the euro entails rules and obligations that we must meet with consistency, in order to enjoy the advantages of a global currency and be able to invoke European solidarity," Papademos concluded.

    [03] Papandreou: Full support for Papademos government

    PASOK leader and former prime minister George Papandreou voiced full support for the transitional Papademos government, during a parliamentary debate Tuesday on the 2012 state budget that was passed in the early hours of Wednesday with the votes of the three parties backing the transitional government under prime minister Papademos -- ND, PASOK and LAOS.

    Papandreou said that Papademos had been, for himself, the choice for continuation and safeguarding of the structural changes in Greece, while he warned that the continuous calls for and talk about elections only did harm to Greece, adding that it is necessary for the government to devote itself to its task and for the ministers to stop thinking about their electoral districts.

    He opined that the next general elections could result in a cooperation government, adding that the people demand politicians and political parties that put the wider interest above the narrow party interests.

    Papandreou further said that the current cooperation among the parties backing the transitional government is the "guarantee for the following day, whenever elections are held...Let's work together with a good disposition".

    The PASOK leader also spoke of Europe's total failure to deal with the systemic crisis due to its short-sighted stance, adding that the situation today in the eurozone comprises the failure of the conservative forces which, instead of putting a brake on the markets and the offshore companies, instead imposed an austerity programme on every member country.

    "We need to put our house in order, but the conservative Europe did not set development in motion. Conservative Europe failed, it cultivated fear, accused the peoples instead of treating the ailments. And I fear that it still has not realised it," Papandreou said.

    [04] Samaras: No disagreement with fiscal targets, but with across-the-board cutbacks

    New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras clarified that his party is neither a co-governance party nor an opposition party at this time, but the regulating factor of developments in Greece, speaking in parliament on Tuesday during the final session of a debate on the 2012 budget, which was passed in the early hours of Wednesday with the votes of the three parties backing the transitional government under prime minister Lucas Papademos -- ND, PASOK and LAOS.

    Samaras also reiterated that the Papademos government is transitional, and lashed out at the preceding PASOK government which, he said, fully isolated Greece and for a time created the immediate risk of the country being kicked out of the EU. He also was steadfast that general elections should be held in February 2012.

    "We are in a transition from the vicious circle of crisis and recession to the upright circle of recovery and growth. How this will be done will be decided by the Greek people, and only the Greek people. And very soon, in February, Samaras said.

    To those who wonder why the term of Papademos government should not be extended beyond the three-month transitional period agreed ahead of its formation, Samaras said, "we respond: because, simply, a government that has the legitimisation to push forward the difficult task from here on is required...The strong governments, with powerful mandates, are the ones that have made the big democratic leaps both in Greece and abroad, and not a mishmash of parties that mutually undermine each other".

    Samaras once again stressed the need for recovery measures, noting worrying developments in Europe, and warning that "even if everything that has not been done so far is done, such as the eurobond, strengthening of the EFSF and intervention by the European Central Bank, the danger will become generalised and recession will not be overcome".

    "There is a risk that what has already happened in Greece will happen in all of Europe. Wherever tough austerity has been imposed without parallel measures for recovery, the result has been aggravation of inflation. But if Europe enters into recession again, the deficits of all the member countries will rise and the debts will skyrocket. In such a case, there is the likelihood that even if an agreement is reached in Brussels (summit) that appears 'adequate' now, it will prove in a few months' time to be totally insufficient".

    Samaras further said that the measures contained in the 2012 budget had already been decided in the Medium-Term Programme and omnibus bill that have already been passed by parliament, noting that his party had from the start voiced its disagreement on many of those measures, which it had voted against at the time.

    "We do not disagree with the targets of the fiscal adjustment. We, however, reiterate our disagreement with the measures of across-the-board cutbacks and the consecutive additional tax burdens," the ND leader said, and set out three urgent priorities for the coming months: permanent settlement of the sustainability of the Greek debt with the voluntary haircut decided at the October 26 eurozone summit, ensurance of the recapitalisation of the banks and social security funds, and putting Greece on a recovery course.

    [05] Papariga calls for debt write-off

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga reiterated her call for a write-off of Greece's debt, during a debate on the 2012 budget on Tuesday in parliament.

    She also said that the Greek people should be on alert, even for "sudden developments", as there was a visible threat of a payments default.

    [06] LAOS leader predicts new coalition after next elections during budget debate

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis, president of one of the three parties participating in the government of Lucas Papademos, predicted that the next general elections in Greece will yield a coalition government and that European nations will be called to ratify the changes to European treaties planned by France and Germany through national referendums.

    Speaking in the Greek Parliament on Tuesday, during the last day of the debate on the 2012 state budget passed after midnight, Karatzaferis said the task of the present government was to "land the plane" so that a new captain might be chosen to get it into the air again.

    "On the day after the elections, the people's mandate will be that the burden be shared among more shoulders," he added, describing the current Papademos government as a "dress rehearsal" for what is to come.

    Among others, he proposed that the government again launch a public works programme as a stimulus for the economy and to create jobs.

    [07] SYRIZA's Tsipras urges freeze on debt repayment until economy recovers

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras twice urged the government to stop discussion on a haircut of Greece's debt and instead demand a complete moratorium on all interest and debt payments until a sustainable solution of the recovery of the Greek economy had been found.

    Speaking during the debate on the 2012 state budget on Tuesday, Tsipras also called for the abolition of measures that deepened the recession to an extent not seen since before WWII.

    "We are openly asking for a moratorium-freeze on the payment of interest and debts until there is growth," Tsipras said, adding that the budget was an exercise in neoliberal denial of the fact that the insane austerity policies that were not a cure for the disease but actually making the condition worse.

    [08] Finmin on budget, government's task

    Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos stressed that Greece must meet its obligations toward its European partners and noted that the distance separating "the preservation of entitlements and absolute doubt of the Greeks' standard of living in the case of the country's exit from the Eurozone, is unfortunately very small".

    Speaking during the budget debate on Tuesday night, Venizelos also stressed that the government had a very real task and negotiation ahead of it and asked that the parties support the government of Lucas Papademos and its finance ministry in conducting these negotiations.

    Referring to the upcoming EU summit, Venizelos stressed that Greece wanted at all costs to avoid a "two-speed Europe" divided into countries that had a competitiveness 'surplus' and those with a 'deficit', adding that the European structure would then lose its prospects and no longer contain the promise that the course to European integration should hold.

    [09] Foreign minister meets Russian, Turkish counterparts at OSCE ministerial

    VILNIUS (AMNA - T. Avgerinos)

    Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas had a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, held on the sidelines of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ministerial in Vilnius.

    During their meeting on Tuesday, the two ministers expressed a mutual desire for "constructive work to promote the entirety of Greek-Russian relations," according to a Russian foreign ministry announcement released on Wednesday.

    Dimas and Lavrov exchanged views on issues of bilateral cooperation in a number of areas, including that of energy, and discussed European and international affairs, including the Cyprus issue and the Eastern Mediterranean.

    The Russian minister also held talks with Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis on issues related to the Cyprus problem on Tuesday.

    While in Vilnius, Dimas also met his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

    [10] Deputy foreign minister in Germany, briefed on racist attack on Greek

    MUNICH (AMNA - S. Aravopoulou)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis will wrap up a three-day visit to Germany on Wednesday night, during which he had a series of meetings with German officials.

    These included attending an international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn and a visit to Munich on Tuesday for talks with the Bavarian local officials, including a meeting with the Bavarian police chief focusing on the investigation into the racist attack on Greek national Theodoros Voulgaridis.

    On Wednesday, Dollis had a meeting with Federal and European Affairs Minister Emilia Muller.

    [11] Cyprus president has telephone conversation with Greek premier

    NICOSIA (AMNA/A.Viketos/CNA)

    \Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has briefed Cyprus President Demetris Christofias on the visit to Athens by American Vice President Joe Biden with regard to the Cyprus issue.

    According to an official press release issued here, President Christofias had a telephone conversation with the Greek Premier on Wednesday who also informed him about the debate on the budget at the Greek Parliament.

    President Christofias and Greek Premier Papademos reiterated the fraternal relations between their countries and agreed to continue the close coordination and the exchange of views between the governments of Cyprus and Greece.

    [12] KKE party submits question on consequences of crisis in education

    The Communist Party of Greece's (KKE) Parliamentary Group, headed by the party's Secretary General Aleka Papariga, has submitted a question for the Education minister on the government's policy regarding education.

    The question stresses that the policy applied "is worsening the life of the working class family and the question is raised how the consequences of the crisis in the sectors of education will be handled."

    [13] ADEDY labour union supports struggle of public media journalists

    The Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council's (ADEDY) Executive Committee expresses its support and solidarity for the struggle of working people in the public mass media, ERT, the AMNA and the municipal radio stations.

    In an announcement Wednesday, the Executive Committee supports the demands of journalists in the public mass media, who are continuing their strike action for the third week, stressing that their inclusion in the unified salary scale and the labour reserve creates objectively conditions for their manipulation by the government of the day.

    [14] AMNA work stoppages Wednesday through Friday

    Three daily work stoppages will be taking place at AMNA (ANA-MPA) on Wednesday through Friday, December 7-9, from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., from 14:00 to 18:00, and from 19:00 to midnight, against the government's measures of reserve labour and uniform salary scale, which also affect the news agency.

    During the work stoppages news items and information will not be broadcast by the Agency and the ANA-MPA website will not be updated.

    The ongoing stoppages and strikes come in protest to efforts by the government to institute a unified wage scale, initially foreseen for civil servants, on AMNA staff.

    Financial News

    [15] Bulgaria pulls out of Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline

    SOFIA (AMNA, BTA)

    The Bulgarian government on Wednesday announced that it was pulling out of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project, according to the Bulgarian news agency BTA.

    Sofia proposes that the agreement signed by Bulgaria, Greece and Russia in 2007 for the construction of the pipeline be terminated with mutual consent.

    [16] Hydrocarbon exploitation to take years, minister says

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Deputy Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Wednesday said that a government plan to exploit the country's hydrocarbon resources would take up to 20 years to deliver financial results and stressed that no one should try to deceive the Greek people by saying that the Greek state could raise several billion of euros in revenues from the exploitation of its hydrocarbon resources.

    Addressing a parliament commission, Maniatis said that the ministry will know in the next 12 months with precision, where and how many hydrocarbon lies in a field in southern Crete, while he reassured that sea tourism would not be affected by the project in the region. Referring on the three fields that the government plans to hold an international tender, the Greek minister said that a first estimate for the field in the Patras Gulf was 200 million barrels and stressed that the other two fields in Ioannina and Katakolo could offer greater surprises.

    "We have a difficult road ahead to creating a positive investment climate," Maniatis said and reassured that research in all three regions with copper fields, worth an estimated 2.5 billion euros, will begin this month.

    [17] Infrastructures minister on mobile telephpony aerials

    An Infrastructures ministry draft law that will be tabled in Parliament soon provides legal coverage for two years for existing mobile telephony aerials and express prodecures for those to be installed henceforth.

    Speaking during a press conference on Wednesday, Minister Makis Voridis said that the bill's primary target is facilitating investments by mobile telephony companies, investments that are currently stagnating in the drawers of bureaucracy for up to three years.

    [18] Greek shipowners' new ship orders down in Jan-Oct

    Greek shipowners ordered 156 new vessels with a capacity of 12.79 dwt, worth 11 billion euros in the January-October period this year, data by brokerage firm Golden Destiny showed on Wednesday. The data showed that Greek shipowners' orders totaled 239 vessels with a capacity of 25.2 dwt last year. The brokerage firm attributed this decline in new ship orders to an overcapacity mainly in dry bulk and tanker vessels. Greek shipowners ordered only five new gas tankers last year, raising their orders to 22 in 2011. New containership orders totaled 46 this year, up from 15 in 2010, while tankers orders fell to 24 this year from 65 in 2010.

    [19] Greek bank interest rates up in October

    The overall average interest rates on both new deposits and new loans increased in October, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday. The central bank, in a report, said that the average interest rate on overnight deposits from households remained almost unchanged at 0.48% and the corresponding rate on deposits from non-financial corporations remained similarly unchanged at 0.44%. On the contrary, the average interest rate on deposits from households with an agreed maturity of up to 1 year, further increased by 13 basis points to 4.50%. As a result of all the above developments, the overall average interest rate on all new deposits increased by 7 basis points to 2.62%.

    In the case of loans, the average interest rate on consumer loans without a defined maturity (a category which includes credit card debt, open account loans and debit balances on current accounts) remained almost unchanged in October 2011 at 15.24%. The average interest rate on corporate loans without a defined maturity remained similarly unchanged at 7.92%, while the corresponding rate on loans to sole proprietors decreased by 8 basis points to 10.36%. The average interest rate on corporate loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year increased by 25 basis points to 7.90% for loans up to 250,000 euros, by 6 basis points to 6.85% for loans above 250,000 euros and up to 1 million, and by 16 basis points to 6.20% for loans above 1 million euros. Finally, the average interest rate on housing loans at a floating rate or with an initial fixation period of up to one year increased by 16 basis points to 4.65%. As a result, the overall average interest rate on all new loans further increased in October 2011 by 8 basis points to 7.03%.

    In October 2011 the overall average interest rates on outstanding amounts of all deposits and of all loans remained basically unchanged. In particular, in October 2011, the average interest rate on outstanding amounts of deposits from households with an agreed maturity of up to 2 years increased by 6 basis points to 4.17%, while the corresponding rate on deposits from non-financial corporations remained basically unchanged at 4.06%. The average interest rate on outstanding amounts of housing loans with over five years' maturity and the corresponding rate on corporate loans remained almost unchanged at 3.95% and 5.34% respectively, while the rate on loans to sole proprietors increased by 7 basis points to 6.44%.

    As a result, the overall average interest rate on all deposits (including overnight deposits) remained basically unchanged at 2.50% and the rate on all loans remained unchanged at 6.42%.

    [20] Greek stocks end 1.06 pct higher

    Greek stocks ended moderately higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday in what traders described as a technical rebound of the market. The composite index rose 1.06 pct to end at 686.20 points, with turnover remaining a low 30.484 million euros.

    The Big Cap index rose 1.06 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.12 pct higher and the Small Cap index fell 1.70 pct. Marfin Popular Bank (3.67 pct), Coca Cola 3E (2.58 pct), Mytilineos (2.56 pct), Motor Oil (2.44 pct) and Piraeus Bank (2.36 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank (3.20 pct), Alpha Bank (3.19 pct), Ellaktor (2.59 pct) and Folli Follie (2.44 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: unchanged

    Industrial products and services: +0.30%

    Commerce: -2.38%

    Constructions/Materials: +0.94%

    Oil/Gas: +2.22%

    Personal Products: +0.84%

    Raw Materials: +1.49%

    Travel: +0.69%

    Technology: -1.35%

    Telecoms: +1.30%

    Banks: +0.26%

    Food/Beverage: +2.54%

    Health: -0.16%

    Utilities: +0.31%

    Chemicals: -1.76%

    Financial Services: +1.95%

    Broadly, advancers and decliners were evenly distributed while another 29 issues remained unchanged. CPI (29.76 pct), Space Hellas (26.09 pct) and Neorio (20 pct) were top gainers, while Alsinco (29.29 pct), Marak Electronics (20 pct) and HOL (18.99 pct) were top losers.

    Piraeus Bank, Cyprus Bank and Marfin Popular Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day. The market's capitalization rose to 27.082 billion euros.

    Blue chip stocks ended as follows:

    ALPHA BANK: 0.61

    FOLLI-FOLLIE: 7.20

    VIOHALCO: 3.12

    ELLAKTOR: 1.13

    PPC: 4.24

    COCA COLA: 11.95

    HELLENIC PETROLEUM: 6.37

    NATIONAL BANK: 1.87

    EUROBANK: 0.42

    CYPRUS BANK: 0.52

    JUMBO: 3.82

    HELLENIC POSTBANK: 0.54

    MYTILINEOS: 3.20

    MOTOR OIL: 6.30

    OPAP: 6.75

    OTE: 3.11

    PIRAEUS BANK: 0.30

    TITAN: 11.65

    MARFIN POPULAR BANK: 0.25

    MARFIN INVESTMENT GROUP: 0.45

    [21] Greek bond market closing report

    Greek bond spreads widened further in the domestic electronic secondary bond market with the 10-year bond yield rising to 28.98 pct and the German Bund yielding 2.06 pct on Wednesday. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate was 2.03 pct, the six-month rate 1.70 pct, the three-month 1.47 pct and the one-month rate 1.20 pct.

    [22] ADEX closing report

    The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover shrinking to 7.966 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 1,816 contracts worth 2.438 million euros, with 20,015 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 58,010 contracts worth 5.528 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (18,286), followed by Eurobank (466), MIG (422), OTE (3,106), PPC (1,077), OPAP (472), GEK (7,430), National Bank (8,338), Alpha Bank (4,363), Cyprus Bank (2,352), Hellenic Postbank (5,230) and ATEbank (5,219).

    [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.357

    Pound sterling 0.870

    Danish kroner 7.546

    Swedish kroner 9.150

    Japanese yen 105.55

    Swiss franc 1.259

    Norwegian kroner 7.808

    Canadian dollar 1.372

    Australian dollar 1.323

    General News

    [24] DM Avramopoulos attends inauguration of exhibition at Onassis Cultural Centre

    NEW YORK (AMNA / P. Panagiotou)

    Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday addressed the formal opening of the exhibition entitled "Transition to Christianity: Art of Late Antiquity, 3rd-7th Century AD" hosted at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Manhattan.

    Avramopoulos referred to the notable contribution of Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (USA) to the promotion of ancient and contemporary Greek culture, underlining that "our cultural heritage is the best weapon that can be used for Greece's defence."

    He stressed that the specific initiative undertaken by the Onassis Foundation proves again that "we can escape from misery and introversion by highlighting Greece's real image."

    The minister of defence also stressed that through the exhibition an optimistic message is sent that "Greece will be able to make it", underlining that the contribution of the Greek diaspora is unfailing.

    The exhibition will be on view until May 21, 2012, bringing together more than 170 exceptional objects on loan from Greek museums, as well as museums in Cyprus and the United States. Incorporating many outstanding works of art that have never before been seen outside Greece, as well as recently discovered works that are being exhibited for the first time anywhere, Transition to Christianity reveals a period of extraordinary and perhaps unexpected creativity in the Greek world of Late Antiquity.

    The extraordinary objects in the exhibition represent a wide range of media and functions: mosaics, paintings, sculptures, architectural elements, inscriptions, coins, liturgical objects, jewelry and domestic furnishings. Together, they reveal the creative ferment of the world of Late Antiquity, when a new society, religion and material culture were gradually replacing the old.

    [25] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visits Vienna

    VIENNA (AMNA / D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be on a four-day visit here beginning on Thursday.

    Bartholomew will be the keynote speaker at the World Policy Conference and on Sunday he will officiate mass at the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

    [26] Arrests in Athens, Thessaloniki during Tuesday protests

    Police made 21 arrests and detained 46 people during protests held in Athens to mark the third anniversary since teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot by a police special guard in Exarhia, on December 6, 2008.

    The protests, held on Tuesday, led to violent scenes and the familiar pitched battles between riot police and protestors wielding chunks of broken marble in Syntagma Square and the streets outside the Greek Parliament.

    At least 10 of those arrested were minors, aged between 14-17 years old, while nine were between the ages of 19 and 29.

    Thirteen will be charged on Wednesday for a variety of offences, ranging from disturbing the peace and causing bodily harm to resisting arrest and lobbing petrol bombs.

    The incidents also led to damage to surrounding businesses, including two shops, a bank branch and damage to public property, such as bus stops, pavements. One clothes shop was also looted.

    They also resulted in the injury of 27 police officers.

    Violence also marked protests in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, where police made seven arrests, of suspects aged 18 to 33 years old.

    [27] Kavala businessman released after arrest for debts to the state

    Managing Director of Kavala Oil S.A. and local basketball team president Kostas Papaconstantinou on Wednesday was released without restrictions a day after being arrested in the northeast port city of Kavala by Financial Crime Squad (SDOE) officers for debts to the state amounting to roughly 730,000 euros.

    Papaconstantinou told reporters after his release that his arrest was wrongful considering that SDOE had not been informed that he had already settled his outstanding debt.

    [28] 'Help at Home' staff stage protest over budget cuts

    Roughly 200 workers in the 'Help at Home' programme held a protest rally outside the interior ministry on Wednesday, protesting against the government's economic policy and asking that it continue to fund their work through the state budget via local authorities and protect jobs until the programme is finally made part of the National Strategic Reference Framework.

    The welfare programme provides at-home assistance to the elderly that cannot fully take care of themselves entirely independently but do not need institutionalized care.

    [29] Metro strike called off after deal with management

    Plans for a 48-hour Athens metro strike were called off late on Wednesday, following a deal struck by management and representatives of the metro workers' union.

    Following the deal, the metro will run as normal on Thursday and Friday.

    [30] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The passing of the 2012 budget, the upcoming EU summit on Thursday and Friday, and Standard and Poor's warning of a downgrading of the eurozone countries and the EFSF were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Wednesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Unregulated dismissals in DEKO (public utilities and state organisations) and banks".

    AVGHI: "Europe in trenches".

    DEMOKRATIA: "180,000 euros to...George's (PASOK leader and former prime minister Papandreou) friend".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "250,000 public sector pensioners left without healthcare".

    ESTIA: "The collapse of the state revenues".

    ETHNOS: "Competition for hiring of teachers hanging in mid-air".

    IMERISSIA: "Crash in the social security funds".

    KATHIMERINI: "European Commission president Barroso (to Greece): You will find yourselves outside the eurozone..."

    LOGOS: "Standard and Poor's threatens Europe".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Stabilisation and growth the targets of the 2012 budget".

    NIKI: "3,000 municipal employees on the road to reserve labour".

    TA NEA: "Black hole (in state revenues) brings new haircut to pensions".

    VRADYNI: "Arrangements for unemployed, large families and people with disabilities".

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: ILIAS MATSIKAS


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