|Friday, 23 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-12-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 29 December 2011 Issue No: 3960
 Govt unveils 450-mln-euro project to expand Piraeus port, draw more cruise shipsDevelopment, Competitiveness & Shipping Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious investment plan aimed to boost sea cruise and the port of Piraeus by creating new jobs in the port.
The plan, budgeted at 450 million euros, envisages a project to expand the southern part of the port and the construction of a monorail within the port. Both projects are expected to begin in 2012 after launching separate tenders in the first half of the year.
"We will disengage funds from 'dead' projects and earmark them for new projects, which will begin shortly," Chryssohoidis said, adding that the projects will boost the cruise sector at the port of Piraeus.
The minister said the Piraeus Port Authority reported revenues totaling 360 million euros from sea cruises and noted that the ministry's aim is to double this figure in the coming years.
George Anomeritis, chairman of Piraeus Port Authority, said the port expected 800 cruise ships to arrive at the port next year.
The project to expand the passenger port will cost 230 million euros and will offer six new docking spots for cruise vessels, while the monorail system project will cost around 120 million euros. The monorail system will expand on double line track with a length of around five kilometres.
 PM Papademos chairs meeting on employment and social cohesionPrime Minister Lucas Papademos chaired a meeting at the Maximos Mansion on Wednesday afternoon, with the participation of government and other agencies, focusing on specific action to strengthen employment and support social cohesion.
According to a relevant government announcement, unemployment and the deep recession are undermining social cohesion and are harming the weaker social groups.
The announcement said that a final and viable solution to the problem of unemployment can be provided by growth, entrepreneurship and the restoration of an environment of economic stability.
The government and relevant agencies are making efforts focusing on two elements: (A) the promotion of active employment and training policies with the aim of strengthening employment and maintaining jobs and (B) supporting sensitive social groups and providing every possible support and care for disabled people and their families.
Participants in the meeting included Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, Government Vice President Theodoros Pangalos and Government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
 PM Papademos to chair cabinet meeting on ThursdayPrime Minister Lucas Papademos will chair a cabinet meeting in Parliament at 2 p.m. on Thursday, focusing on environmental protection issues and refuse management.
 Gov't spokesman: Elections after MarchThe Minister of State and government spokesman on Wednesday predicted that elections will come after March 2012, when negotiations for the PSI and a new bailout loan package for Greece have concluded.
Speaking to an Athens-based television station, spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said the election date is not exactly fixed, "but it is apparent that these negotiations will definitely continue until March ... After late March we'll be in an election period. Up until then, I just don't know."
Moreover, Kapsis, a well-known newspaper managing editor before he was appointed to the ministerial post, acknowledged that there is friction between the three parties backing the current Papademos interim government. He added, nevertheless, that the current political "experiment" in Greece has not been conducted before in the country, "therefore, it stands to reason that there will be friction. I believe we will overcome it, because we must overcome it."
Asked about the prospect of new austerity measures, Kapsis said such a development would arise only "because we have not done our job properly. It is significant to understand this ... at this moment there no such issue. I am not saying that it will not arise -- I cannot know this -- but at this moment, it (prospect of new austerity measures) does not exist."
Finally, he said the Papademos government is obliged to table a new tax bill, as long as the three parties (PASOK, ND, LA.O.S) agree to back the draft legislation.
 Marathon PASOK meeting; Venizelos says elections late AprilProcedures towards a wide-ranging internal party dialogue will begin in PASOK after the New Year, which however may not necessary include procedures for a new leader, a party spokesman said after a 12-hour meeting of PASOK's political council meeting on Tuesday morning.
The meeting lasted until 4 a.m.
PASOK spokesman Panos Beglitis avoided reference to the thorny leadership issue, merely citing a "probable change", which, as he noted, will occur as a result of previous proce-dures.
The up-until-recently ruling party will convene on January 4, during which embattled PASOK president George Papandreou will present a report on procedures to be followed.
More importantly, government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said it is impossible for him to continue negotiations for the PSI and a new loan agreement and at the same time participate in PASOK's internal procedures.
Venizelos predicted that negotiations will be completed within a four-month period, adding that in his opinion the date of early elections will not come before late April.
 ND insists on early election dateNew Democracy party insisted on Wednesday that early elections should be held in March 2012, regardless of whatever statements by PASOK party cadres over the recent period favoring a delay in the election process or dates after Easter (April 15, 2012).
According to ND officials, during a recent meeting between Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and ND leader Antonis Samaras, no reference to a date was made, meaning that the initial agreement between the two leaders remains -- i.e. an election after conclusion of a deal on the PSI -- the Greek debt 'haircut' -- and a new bailout loan package with the EC-ECB-IMF 'troika'.
However, ND officials said the party understands that the Papademos government must complete its mission and that early elections should follow.
 Karatzaferis warns he may withdraw party from interim gov'tPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) party leader George Karatzaferis on Wednesday left open the possibility of his party's withdrawal from the interim Papademos government if a "hide-and-seek" situation within the government continues, as he said.
"If the other two (political party) partners do not come out in front, I very much fear that the entire effort will be mined. This will make me very skeptical as to how I will participate from now on," he added.
He also expressed support for a reshuffle with a new government formation that will be smaller and more flexible, while he criticised the New Democracy party, calling on it to clarify its position.
"ND must either enter and participate in the government actively, or be outside and 'play' the opposition. It cannot be both, however, at the same time," he said.
Referring to the remanding in custody of Vatopedi Monastery abbot Ephraim, the LA.O.S party leader said a Parliamentary committee convened on this issue twice and found nothing illegal, and for this reason it did not send anyone to a special court.
"According to Parliament there was no scandal. When the case was discovered initially, I was extremely aggressive for the case to be clarified and solved. However, studying and reading, I ascertained that we are dealing with an internal affair of the state," he said, adding that Ephraim cannot be considered a flight risk since he traveled to Russia recently and returned.
Referring to issues plaguing journalists employed by state media, the LA.O.S party leader expressed his opposition to their possible transformation into civil servants.
"Journalists are not civil servants; they work throughout the entire 24-hour period. They cannot be viewed as simple employees. It is a major mistake ... This harms freedom of the press seriously."
 Democratic Alliance assails parties participating in interim gov'tA Democratic Alliance party spokesman on Wednesday criticising the three parties backing in the interim Papademos government, charging that instead of supporting the government they are doing whatever possible to harm it.
"PASOK and its ministers' top priority is the leadership race in that party; New Democracy is playing with election date and the Popular Orthodox Rally insinuates that it will resign from the interim government if its tenure is not extended," the spokesman said.
 Athens responds to Russian criticism of Ephraim jailingA foreign ministry spokesman on Wednesday reiterated that "Greece does not accept reproaches on issue of respect of human rights," in response to a press question citing an earlier statement by the Russian foreign ministry over a Greek judicial ruling to remand in custody a Mt. Athos monastery abbot.
Vatopedi Abbot Ephraim was ordered jailed pending trial last week over several felony counts related to a controversial land-swap deal with the State that stretches back for a more than a decade.
The decision generated criticism in the country and abroad, most notably in Russia.
"Greece and Russia are linked by a deep relationship of friendship and understanding, one that is based on the common spiritual and cultural values of both countries. The two peoples, who participate in the common tradition of (Christian) Orthodoxy, which was passed on by Byzantium to Russia, have developed strong bonds between them...
"Greece is a state ruled by law, with a lengthy democratic tradition and respect for human rights, where there is an absolute respect for the independence of the judicial system and a clear distinction between powers. Greece does not accept reproaches over these issues," ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said, adding that Athens remains devoted to the continuous reinforcement and deepening of Greek-Russian ties.
Earlier, in an AMNA dispatch from Moscow, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich expressed his government's "deep concern" over the decision to jail Ephraim, charging that Greek judicial officials did not respect, in this case, decisions and recommendations by the European Court of Human Rights.
 FM Dimas holds telephone conversation with Turkish counterpartForeign Minister Stavros Dimas held a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday, stressing that for as long as the issue of the statements by former Turkish prime minister Mesut Yilmaz remains unexamined "it poisons public opinion and efforts for building confidence between the two peoples." The telephone call took place at the Turkish Foreign minister's initiative to invite Dimas to the annual conference of Turkish ambassadors that will continue in Adrianoupoli on Thursday.
Dimas, referring to the issue of the Yilmaz statements, told the Turkish minister that "the clarification of the issue will have a positive repercussion on our bilateral relations" and added that this issue "for as long as it remains unexamined, poisons public opinion and efforts for building confidence between the two peoples."
As regards the Adrianoupoli conference, the Greek minister expressed his interest in the meeting but, as he explained to Davutoglu, unfortunately he was not in a position to accept his invitation due to commitments that have been undertaken.
Lastly, the two ministers expressed the desire to meet in the near future, according to their programme.
 DM Avramopoulos visits checkpoints on Greek-Albanian bordersDefence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday visited the checkpoints of Molyvdoskepastou and Kakavia on the Greek-Albanian borders to express his best wishes to soldiers serving there.
Avramopoulos was accompanied on his visit by Army General Staff chief Constantine Ziazias and the Commander of the 1st Army Constantine Ghinis.
Avramopoulos spoke of the need for unity, solidarity and unanimity among the Greeks, stressing that "we must keep the bonds of unity and solidarity among the Greek citizens strong and this passes from the unanimity, the national understanding that is so essential among the representatives of Greek society."
 Two top Appeals Court prosecutors submit resignationTwo high-profile appeals court prosecutors assigned economic crimes cases, Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis, submitted their resignations in writing on Wednesday.
The two top prosecutors submitted their resignation to the Supreme Court deputy prosecutor.
According to reports, the two judicial officials were dissatisfied with "interference" in their investigations and various obstacles, as they stated.
"We do not accept being prosecutors under restraint and under someone else's orders," the resignation letters reportedly stated.
 Labour ministry to begin talks with trade unions ahead of 'troika' arrivalLabour & Social Insurance Minister George Koutroumanis will begin a round of talks with trade unions next month ahead of the arrival of an EC-ECB-IMF 'troika' delegation on Jan. 16, 2012.
The talks will focus on ways to jointly agree on lowering labour costs, as recommended by the country's creditors.
Troika representatives have insisted that lower labour costs and boosting the labour force's mobility are an absolute way of improving economic competitiveness, attracting investments and reducing the unemployment problem in the long-term.
The Greek minister has already rejected calls for a lower minimum wage, saying such a move would be a "casus belli" with trade unions. The government, trade unions and creditors apparently agree that possibilities over a further cut in wages in the private sector have been exhausted. Wage losses in the private sector totaled 25 pct so far, while individual labour contracts and flexible employment forms are gradually dominating in the domestic market.
Figures released by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed that labour costs in Greece fell by 2.8 pct this year, the biggest percentage decline in the Eurozone, after falling by 5.0 pct in 2010.
The Paris-based organisation also said that productivity grew by 2.4 pct in the first quarter of 2011, after falling by an average 0.1 pct in the OECD and rising by 0.7 pct in the Eurozone.
The government and employment unions agree on the need to further cut social insurance contributions, with the minister already announcing a reduction in social insurance contributions to employers, starting March 1, 2012 along with efforts to find alternative ways of funding the pension system.
The Federation of Hellenic Industries - Greece's largest employers' union umbrella - is asking for greater mobility in the labour market, lifting restrictions in dismissals for enterprises hiring unemployed people through state subsidies and cutting corporate taxes.
On the other hand, GSEE - Greece's largest trade union umbrella - has warned it would resist any efforts to cut wages or facilitating more dismissals by enterprises.
 Meeting between FinMin, tax employee federation inconclusiveA meeting between Government Vice-President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos with the leadership of the union representing tax bureau officials, who called a two-day strike on Thursday and Friday, ended with no conclusive results.
Venizelos notified the union that the government will resort to the courts to have their strike declared illegal.
Union representatives, however, appear ready to proceed with the strike they have called.
 ASE suspends trading in PC Systems' sharesThe Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday announced a temporary suspension of trading in the shares of PC Systems SA following a company's decision to be placed under a court restructuring procedure.
 Stocks end flat on WednesdayStocks ended flat in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday as prices failed to hold their initial strong gains on lack of follow-through buying in the market.
The composite index rose 0.01 pct to end at 669.50 points, after rising as much as 2.46 pct during the session. Turnover remained a low 31.488 million euros. Traders said the market followed a negative turn of European markets after an initial short-term jump caused by a 50 pct cut in debt costs in an Italian short-term debt auction.
The Big Cap index fell 0.42 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.18 pct and the Small Cap index fell 0.78 pct. Ellaktor (2.59 pct), Folli Follie (2.53 pct) and OTE (1.90 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Marfin Popular Bank (6.55 pct), Cyprus Bank (5.61 pct) and Piraeus Bank (2.83 pct) were top losers.
The Commerce (2.46 pct), Telecoms (1.90 pct) and Food (1.70 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Banks (2.34 pct) and Oil (1.81 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 86 to 74 while another 27 issues remained unchanged. Pasal (29.46 pct), Ideal (27.38 pct) and MIG Real Estate (25.76 pct) were top gainers, while Naftemporiki (29.89 pct), Tzirakian (29.60 pct) and PC Systems (27.27 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.81%
Personal & Household: +1.31%
Raw Materials: -0.78%
Travel & Leisure: -0.24%
Food & Beverages: +1.70%
Financial Services: -1.69%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Bank of Cyprus and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.52
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.66
HBC Coca Cola: 13.12
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.35
National Bank of Greece: 1.62
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.35
Bank of Piraeus: 0.24
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 1.36 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 8.667 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,271 contracts worth 5.583 million euros, with 16,058 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 21,978 contracts worth 3.084 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (9,917), followed by OTE (675), Piraeus Bank (631), Cyprus Bank (3,021), Alpha Bank (3,646), Marfin Popular Bank (1,029), Mytilineos (1,058), Hellenic Postbank (317) and ATEbank (210).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.327
Pound sterling 0.846
Danish kroner 7.547
Swedish kroner 9.103
Japanese yen 103.03
Swiss franc 1.237
Norwegian kroner 7.916
Canadian dollar 1.346
Australian dollar 1.301
 Freighter sinks near Samos, no pollution reportedA Turkish-flagged freighter loaded with fertilizer sank on Tuesday roughly 18 nautical miles northwest of the eastern Aegean island of Samos.
The 12 crew-members were picked up by a Turkish vessel sailing nearby the previous day.
The vessel was identified as the "Dogu Haslaman" and was sailing from Ukraine to Israel.
A Hellenic Navy warship remained at the scene, monitoring the entire operation, as the incident took place within the Athens FIR area for search and rescue missions.
No pollution or an oil slick was reported.
 Two separate counterfeiting cases reportedA pair of Bulgarian nationals was charged with possession of counterfeit banknotes in the northeast border city of Alexandroupolis this week.
A search of the car of the 30-year-old man and his 35-year-old female companion revealed four counterfeit 50-euro banknotes and one 100-euro bill. The latter were confiscated, while more bills found in the car were sent for an expert inspection.
In a similar but separate case, three Albanians nationals and an 18-year-old resident of the Ionian island of Corfu were arrested on charges of manufacturing counterfeit banknotes on Tuesday.
The Albanian men, in their early 20s, were reportedly supplied the forged bills by the other Albanian, aged 17, who in turn procured the forged bills from the local Corfu resident.
A search of the latter's apartment revealed a cutting-edge PC, scanner and a printer allegedly used to manufacture the counterfeit money.
 Mainalo ski resort opens on New Year's DayThe ski resort at Mt. Mainalo, in the central Peloponnese, will open to public on Sunday. The resort is located some 30 kilometres from the nearby town of Tripolis, and 160 kilometres southwest of Athens.
The resort offers three pistes for adults and one children's lift as well as a restaurant/bar and ski rentals.
On New Year's Day the municipality of Tripolis will organise a special event for skiers and visitors, which will include night skiing and other events.
 University dorms, hostels status receive 6-month extensionAlternate Education Minister Constantine Arvanitopoulos on Wednesday cited what he called a solution to the issue of student dormitories and the pending transfer of their management to universities themselves instead of the soon-to-be-abolished National Youth Foundation (EIN).
The universities' leaderships reacted against the student hostels' transfer, claiming a lack of adequate funding.
The alternate minister, in a meeting with the rectors of the Athens University and the Athens Polytechnic, discussed the issue at length and according to reports offered a six-month extension (until August 2012) for the assumption of student housing by the universities, while the National Youth Foundation will continue exercise control until then, with heightened monitoring by universities and the education ministry.
The universities would also absorb the staff of student hostels and dormitories.
 Super League resultsTwo games played for the Super League on Wednesday, that had been postponed in the past, had the following results: OFI Crete-Levadiakos Livadia 0-1 and Aris Thessaloniki-Doxa Drama 2-0.
 Cloudy on ThursdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 2-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 16C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 4C to 13C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -2C to 9C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePASOK's 12-hour political council meeting and incentives for payment of past dues to the state mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Slashes to civil servants' 15 special pay scales".
AVGHI: "The three 'Magi' ate the Christmas 'presents'."
DIMOKRATIA: "Reactions against jailing of Abbot Ephraim".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "George Papandreou plays with his 'successors' in PASOK".
ESTIA: "Bureaucracy plagues sale of four Olympic Air aircraft".
ETHNOS: "Leadership issue in PASOK".
IMERISSIA: "Three incentives over payment of debts".
KATHIMERINI: "PASOK on a tight rope".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "State coffers in the red".
RIZOSPASTIS: "NATO bridgehead from east Mediterranean to Gulf."
TA NEA: "Swords drawn in PASOK".
VRADYNI: "New work age limits for pensions in public, private sector".
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