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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-01-13

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

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

Friday, 13 January 2012 Issue No: 3972

CONTENTS

  • [01] Cabinet approves draft bill for fast-track investments, lifting cabotage
  • [02] PM Papademos says government's main target promotion of structural changes helping competitiveness
  • [03] Papademos meets with IIF chief
  • [04] PM to have second meeting with Dallara on Friday
  • [05] German FM Westerwelle due in Athens on Sunday
  • [06] PM Papademos holds talks with PASOK party leader Papandreou
  • [07] President to receive Papandreou on Friday
  • [08] Gov't spokesman on PSI developments
  • [09] IMF-ECB-EC troika mission due in Athens next week
  • [10] Altafaj statements
  • [11] Meeting between financial prosecutor, EU Task Force member postponed until Jan. 18
  • [12] Foreign minister holds meeting with Greek negotiator for FYROM name dispute
  • [13] Foreign ministry criticises Eroglu 'backtracking' at Greentree talks for Cyprus solution
  • [14] Samaras voices support for primary healthcare system
  • [15] ND party spokesman on PASOK party ministers
  • [16] Tzoumakas to run for PASOK leadership
  • [17] Members of PASOK local organization resign
  • [18] Leftist leader meets with technical chamber reps
  • [19] Securing fuel supply a factor in Iran sanctions, Athens says
  • [20] Greek officer assumes command of NATO response force's land component
  • [21] Cases against uniform public-sector pay scale filed at Council of State
  • [22] Minister on reducing overcrowding in Greek prisons
  • [23] FinMin optimistic on 'speedy and positive' outcome of PSI
  • [24] 2011 budget deficit lower than revised prediction, but higher than 2010, finance ministry says
  • [25] Greek fiscal deficit to be around 9.6 pct of GDP in 2011
  • [26] General gov't deficit at 22.816bln euro in 11-month period
  • [27] Greece-UAE business forum concluded; Qatar, Kuwait to follow
  • [28] Greek unemployment shoots to 18.2 pct in October 2011
  • [29] GSEE stresses failure of policy restricting cost of labour to stem joblessness
  • [30] Seven new metro stations to be ready in 15 months, minister promises
  • [31] Tsipras on rise in fees to 'special consultants' and banks in 2010
  • [32] Cases against uniform public-sector pay scale filed at Council of State
  • [33] GSEE strike on Monday in Attica prefecture
  • [34] ADEDY holds protest outside Parliament over labour reserve
  • [35] Import price index up 8.5 pct in Nov
  • [36] Business Briefs
  • [37] Stocks end moderately higher
  • [38] Bond market closing report
  • [39] ADEX closing report
  • [40] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [41] Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos to visit abbot Ephraim in his prison cell
  • [42] Human trafficking, prositition ring disbanded, 12 arrests
  • [43] Hashish bust in Thessaloniki
  • [44] Man drowns on Crete due to adverse weather conditions
  • [45] Foreign nat'l arrested as alleged leader of robbery ring
  • [46] Tree-planting by vols for new forest near Thessaloniki
  • [47] Fair on Friday
  • [48] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Cabinet approves draft bill for fast-track investments, lifting cabotage

    The Greek cabinet on Thursday approved a draft bill presented by the Develop-ment, Competitiveness and Shipping ministry that lowers the minimum limits for including proposed investments in the 'Fast Track' process, as well as fully lifting cabotage on Greek seas.

    The bill also included measures designed to cut down on the red tape and speed up investments.

    Development Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis said that the limits for including a project in the Fast-track process had been reduced from 250 million euro to 120 million euro, while investments in industry would henceforth only need a capital of about 15 million euro.

    It also calls for a single reception centre for investments at 'Invest in Greece' where applications will be replied within 60 days.

    The full deregulation of cabotage will completely liberalise the cruise market and allow cruise ships to embark from Greek ports.

    Other measures bring forward the deadlines for concluding archaeological investigation so as not to delay investment plans and reduce the bureaucracy involved in making exports, cutting this back from around 38 different documents to one-day approval.

    During its session the cabinet also decided that its next meeting in a week's time will discuss and approve an article whereby legislation for the liberalisation of a profession will automatically be implemented in practice once it is passed.

    Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos informed the cabinet that on Monday he will send a letter to each of the parties in order to begin talks on formulating a new taxation bill.

    [02] PM Papademos says government's main target promotion of structural changes helping competitiveness

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, addressing the cabinet meeting on Thursday, where the Development and Competi-tiveness ministry's bill was discussed, stressed that the govern-ment's main target is the promotion of structural changes which help the economy's competitiveness and growth.

    Papademos said that the bill contains considerable structural changes, some of which constitute obligations that the country assumed in the framework of the memorandum.

    Included among them are the simplification of loaning procedures for enterprises, the improvement of the status of strategic investments, the creation of Free Zones and Free Storehouses and the total lifting of the cabotage.

    Some of the structural changes included in the bill are the enactment of a control apparatus for the quality and security of industrial products and services, that also constitutes an obligation towards the relevant European Regulation. Moreover, it also constitutes a memorandum obligation that should have been completed in the fourth quarter of 2011.

    The simplification of procedures for exercising export activities. The proposed simplification of these activities also has substantive importance in itself and, in addition, it emanates from the memorandum's clauses, with the implementation horizon being the fourth quarter of 2011.

    The enactment of a new partnership model for the private capital company which is of particular importance for small and medium- size enterprises, as well as the total lifting of cabotage with the aim of strengthening cruises with the abolition of those arrangements that did not contribute substantively to the protection of public interest but, on the contrary, functioned preventatively for the development of the country's sea tourism.

    [03] Papademos meets with IIF chief

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos met on Thursday with Institute for International Finance (IIF) managing director Charles Dallara at the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters).

    Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos was also present at the meeting, which focused on the crucial issue of the progress in the PSI negotiations.

    According to sources, the agreement on the PSI is expected to be sealed within the next few days.

    Moreover, the same sources said that Papademos and Venizelos will meet anew with Dallara on Friday.

    [04] PM to have second meeting with Dallara on Friday

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos will have a second meeting with Institute of International Finance (IIF) managing director Charles Dallara on Friday, sources said.

    The prime minister is also scheduled to speak at the Intercontinental Hotel during a New Year event organised on Friday by the Greek-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    [05] German FM Westerwelle due in Athens on Sunday

    BERLIN (AMNA/F.Karaviti)

    German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is expected in Athens on Sunday, reports said on Thursday.

    Westerwelle will be visiting Athens as special envoy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and will be holding talks with the Greek political leadership.

    [06] PM Papademos holds talks with PASOK party leader Papandreou

    The meeting between Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and PASOK party President George Papandreou, that was due to take place on Saturday morning, ultimately took place in Parliament on Thursday evening.

    Papandreou went to his office in Parliament in the evening, where Papademos already was, due to the cabinet meeting.

    The two men, according to reports, decided to have their meeting on Thursday, that had been scheduled in the framework of the meetings the prime minister is having with the leaders of parties supporting the government.

    According to an announcement by PASOK's press office:

    "During the meeting the prime minister and the President of PASOK exchanged views on developments internationally, in Europe and Greece, the country's priorities in the coming period, the support for the government's work in this direction, the course of negotiations on the implementtion of the PSI and the completion of the new programme."

    Papandreou also had the opportunity of meeting members of PASOK as well, including Citizen's Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis.

    It is reminded that Papandreou will be received by President Karolos Papoulias on Friday.

    [07] President to receive Papandreou on Friday

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias will receive PASOK president and former prime minister George Papandreou on Friday at one in the afternoon at the Presidential Mansion.

    [08] Gov't spokesman on PSI developments

    "The priority is not setting out red lines but to proceed with a serious negotiation on the programme that needs to be decided," government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said on Thursday, referring to the PSI negotiations speaking at private radio station Real FM.

    Kapsis estimated that very soon there will be developments with the PSI and predicted that the new loan agreement, which he called 'a survival condition for the economy' will be supported by the three parties that are backing and participating in the interim government.

    "We have the luxury of holding general elections right now and afterwards proceeding with the loan agreement," said Kapsis and insisted on the competitiveness issue, denying, however, that prime minister Lucas Papademos has preannounced a legislative intervention if agreement is not reached in the dialogue with the social partners over the private sector.

    "Competitiveness is our life, work does not exist without competitiveness and production. It is our national duty to become competitive because if we don't then we will have salaries such as those in Bulgaria. It is hypocrisy not to acknowledge the reality," he noted.

    Kapsis did not rule out the possibility of a government reshuffle, however, noting that it is at the prime minister's discretion, while he also intimated that the developments in PASOK party could impact the government's work.

    [09] IMF-ECB-EC troika mission due in Athens next week

    NEW YORK (AMNA - P. Panagiotou)

    The International Monetary Fund's 'troika' mission will return to Athens with its partners from the European Commission and European Central Bank to discuss economic developments next Tuesday, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice announced on Thursday.

    Rice said the talks would cover all issues but did not hazard any guess regarding their outcome nor the length of the troika mission's stay in Athens.

    He said the aim of current talks between Greece and private bondholders was to cut Greece's debt to GDP ratio to 120 percent by 2020.

    "It is an issue between Greece and its creditors and once they come to a formal agreement the Fund will evaluate whether it is consistent with the debt sustainability target," Rice added.

    He refused to comment on the results of recent meetings held by IMF General Manager Christine Lagarde in Europe.

    [10] Altafaj statements

    The European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'troika' will arrive in Athens on Tuesday, Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for EU monetary and economic affairs commissioner Ollie Rehn, announced in Brussels on Thursday.

    Questioned by reporters on the Greek government's negotiations with the troika and on the latest fiscal deficit figures for Greece, Altafaj said that the Commission is awaiting the troika's discussions in Athens next week to form a clearer picture both on the deficit and on the depth of the economic recession.

    "From the discussions we will be able to have a clearer picture of Greece's fiscal data," he said.

    [11] Meeting between financial prosecutor, EU Task Force member postponed until Jan. 18

    A planned meeting between Financial Prosecutor Grigoris Peponis and a member of the European Commission Task Force led by Horst Reichenbach has been postponed until January 18, with both sides citing a heavy workload.

    According to the Appeals Court, the new meeting will take place at the premises of the Areios Pagos Supreme Court.

    The meeting was scheduled in order to provide assistance on tackling tax evasion issues, which rank high on the agenda of the EU task force in Greece, as well as issues linked to the legalisation of income from illegal activities.

    [12] Foreign minister holds meeting with Greek negotiator for FYROM name dispute

    Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas on Thursday had a meeting on the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with Greece's negotiator Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, in view of his upcoming meetings with UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz next Monday and Tuesday in New York.

    Concerning Athens' expectations from the meetings with Nimetz, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said that the government considered the fact that the meeting was taking place a positive development, since it would activate the process at the United Nations and help it acquire momentum.

    He also expressed hope that there will be progress in the negotiations.

    Responding to questions concerning Skopje's lately dismissive attitudes toward the UN talks, Delavekouras noted a constant escalation of a negative stance from FYROM's leadership and pointed out that the entire international community had repeatedly urged the two sides to hold negotiations for a solution to the name issue in good faith, in accordance with the provisions of UN Security Council resolutions.

    "This is the steadfast will and desire of the Greek side, which is participating constructively in the negotiations with a view to arriving at a solution to the name issue as soon as possible," he underlined.

    "Unfortunately, we are seeing a stance that is anything but constructive for the progress of the process from the side of the neighbouring country," he added.

    Delavekouras accused FYROM's leadership of employing a policy of delaying tactics, urging them to "set aside attacks and actively showing a constructive stance at the negotiations".

    At the same time, he noted that Greece had in past years actively worked to encourage and support FYROM's accession to EuroAtlantic structures.

    "Supporting the stability of this country is a basic guideline of our policy, since FYROM is our immediate neighbour with whom we want good neighbour relations," he said.

    The spokesman also referred to an upcoming meeting of western Balkan foreign ministers scheduled to take place in Thessaloniki in February, as part of the policy announced by Greece to promote the EU accession prospects of Balkan countries and the preparationfor the EU summit with western Balkan countries scheduled to take place during the Greek EU presidency in 2014.

    Delavekouras stressed that Europe "must not be allowed to forget the western Balkans" and underlined that this was a key goal of the Greek side.

    [13] Foreign ministry criticises Eroglu 'backtracking' at Greentree talks for Cyprus solution

    Referring to the prospects for a solution to the Cyprus problem on Thursday, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said that there was little hope that the negotiations will achieve this goal when the Turkish-Cypriot side was constantly raising inelastic and backward positions.

    He said that there must be real progress on issues now being negotiated between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities, stressing that the Turkish-Cypriot side must change its stance "otherwise no one can be hopeful that we will obtain a result".

    "Eroglu's stance throughout this period, with the constant backtracking from agreements, does not permit optimism at this time," he said.

    Asked about Turkey's efforts to promote a multilateral conference after the Greentree talks, Delavekouras stressed that the process at the United Nations belongs to Cyprus. In other words, it is being carried out by the Cypriots for the Cypriots and only in this way can there be a viable solution."

    [14] Samaras voices support for primary healthcare system

    New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Thursday met with representatives of the country's medical associations, the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA-ETAM), state hospital doctors, dentists and pharmacists' associations, who briefed him on the situation in healthcare sector and related problems.

    Samaras said afterwards that "in the present moment, when the country and the people are experiencing the consequences of an unprecedented economic crisis, it is imperative that the Primary Healthcare System should operate based on clearly defined rules which, unfortunately, is not he case."

    He said that the recently launched Unified Primary Healthcare Organisation (EOPYY) operates without a complete framework, thus failing to guarantee the quality of the medical services provided. He underlined that the country and the people need a modern primary healthcare system that will not overspend and will operate with transparency, under strict rules and close supervision.

    [15] ND party spokesman on PASOK party ministers

    New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis criticised PASOK party ministers George Papaconstantinou and Mihalis Chryssohoidis for statements they made on Thursday.

    For Papaconstantinou he said that "he appears unrepentant for all that George Papandreou's governments did" and claims that "while all their assessments were disproved, while they themselves admit that they never negotiated, while it is being confirmed that the recipe they followed was a mistake, he insists on the mistake. And limits himself to innuendos on the effectiveness of colleagues of his."

    He also criticises Chryssohoidis that he was "a participant in all the options of the Papandreou government and jointly responsible for its inneffectiveness, admits directly that their policies led the country to disaster. He repeats that the Papandreou government collapsed under the weight of its failure, but refuses to assume his responsibilities, criticising others. The citizens see, hear and judge."

    [16] Tzoumakas to run for PASOK leadership

    Former minister and PASOK MP Stefanos Tzoumakas announced that he will be running as a candidate for the leadership of the PASOK party, during a press conference on Thursday.

    [17] Members of PASOK local organization resign

    The members of PASOK's local organization in the city of Tripolis, in southern Greece, announced their resignations on Thursday, expressing discontent over what they called "the weakening of the party's collective bodies," clarifying, however, that they will not leave the party.

    [18] Leftist leader meets with technical chamber reps

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras on Thursday met with Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE) representatives and expressed his understanding to their problems.

    Tsipras stressed that the civil engineering sector is on the brink of collapse and that the sector's professionals are literally "facing a firing squad", while "thousands of civil engineers nationwide have survival problems and are forced to look for a job abroad."

    He referred to the extraordinary increases in social security contributions the young engineers have to pay, particularly those who entered the profession after 1993, stressing that "the engineers' pension fund, that used to be one of the robust social security funds in the country, is now faced with collapse."

    [19] Securing fuel supply a factor in Iran sanctions, Athens says

    The European Union must carefully evaluate the impact that further sanctions on Iran will have on European economies, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras indicated on Thursday, in response to questions about Athens' stance on this issue.

    "For Greece it is extremely important we have secured the smooth supply of oil to the Greek market, as well as ensuring the equivalent funding terms. This is the framework in which our country will move during the discussion with our partners concerning the prospect of imposing further sanctions on Iran during the EU General Affairs Council on January 23," he said.

    He noted that the EU foreign ministers, in addition to discussing the sanctions, must carefully examine the impact of such a measure, noting that several EU countries currently imported significant quantities of oil from Iran.

    [20] Greek officer assumes command of NATO response force's land component

    Hellenic Army Lt.-Gen. Georgios Basiakoulis on Thursday assumed command of NATO's response force land component, during a handover ceremony in Thessaloniki, where he took over the command from a Turkish commander.

    The ceremony took place at NATO's deployable corps Greece (NDC-GR) headquarters and was attended by Greek Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and the general consuls of the United States and Turkey in Thessaloniki, amongst others.

    "You can understand that our country, as a member of the Atlantic alliance ... is particularly proud today to over the fact that this mission is assigned to a Greek command," Avramopoulos said.

    [21] Cases against uniform public-sector pay scale filed at Council of State

    Cases seeking the anullment of the uniform public-sector pay scale established by law in 2011 were tabled by 8,108 employees of the social insurance fund IKA-ETAM and 932 culture ministry employees and their unions on Thursday.

    They oppose the new salary scale and ranking system imposed under the new law for all employees in the broader public sector and in local authorities, saying that this contravenes a number of articles in the Greek Constitution and the rules of Community directives.

    Among others, they object to the sudden and violent reduction in pay that has disrupted family plans and budgeting, noting that several employees that had taken out housing loans and arranged for payment to be withheld from their salaries were now receiving no payment or actually owed money at the end of the month.

    They have asked that their petitions be discussed by the Supreme administrative court's plenum since the uniform pay scale is an issue of broader public interest.

    [22] Minister on reducing overcrowding in Greek prisons

    While supporting an amendment designed to reduce overcrowding in Greek prisons, Justice Minister Mihalis Papaioannou on Thursday announced the introduction of a new penal code that will include alternative penalties in order to avoid creating large prison populations.

    Objections to the proposed amendment were put forward from main opposition New Democracy and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, asking the minister that it be withdrawn as "provocative to Greek society".

    Financial News

    [23] FinMin optimistic on 'speedy and positive' outcome of PSI

    Greek government vice-president and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos expressed optimism that the PSI bond swaps programme will have a speedy and positive outcome, in a keynote address to an in-camera dinner Wednesday night at the close of the 1st Greece-UAE Business Forum 2012.

    In that framework, Venizelos is scheduled to meet with Institute for International Finance (IIF) managing director Charles Dallara and representative of the creditor countries participating in the PSI, on Thursday.

    Venizelos noted, in his address, that the Greek government's discussions with the private sector on the PSI are at an advanced staged and at a very good point, and the government is ready for its next meeting with Dallara, adding that with the support of Greece's institutional partners the PSI scheme will be completed and will affirm the basic parameters and fundamental target of the October 26 EU summit for a sustainable debt in the long term, which will have been reduced by approximately 100 billion euros, or about 47 percent of the Greek GDP, and will be totally sustainable by 2010.

    Addressing the dinner, Venizelos said:

    "For over two and a half years Greece has been going through an acute phase of fiscal and financial crisis that keeps recycling itself internationally from 2008 onwards. Unfortunately, our country's poor fiscal condition, high public debt and high fiscal deficits crossed paths with the crisis in the financial sector as well as the crisis in the very model of growth, as is reflected by poor competitiveness -compared to EU standards- and the very high current account deficit.

    Since May 2010, Greek economy has been following a special adjustment and support program in collaboration with our European partners, the Euro Area, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The pillars of this adjustment program are:

    - the drastic reduction of the fiscal deficit aiming at having primary surpluses, and

    - the immediate and intensive implementation of structural reforms that will strengthen the Greek economy's competitiveness, liberalize the market, transform Greece into an investment-friendly country and enable it to use its major comparative advantages: its keystone position in very important sectors such as tourism and shipping, its primary sector and the strong intellectual capital.

    The main obstacle that always exists in the implementation of such adjustment programs is that the reduction of fiscal deficit on a very short period of time, and during a recession, recycles the problem itself and intensifies recession. This is our country's major problem: in 2009 we had a primary deficit of EUR24 billion and two years later, by 2011, we had it reduced by approximately EUR20 billion, in two years! But this process took place under conditions of cumulative and deep recession, which is now entering its fourth year and surpasses 15% of Greek GDP. So this also means high unemployment rates and a reduction in the liquidity levels, which leads to a need for radical changes in the Greek banking sector and for a brave recapitalization of Greek banks in order for them to enter strong to the new era.

    On the other hand, the structural reforms program is of vital importance and of an urgent need for the country.

    Despite the problems and the insecurity in Greece and the entire Euro Area, Greece is still one of the 30 largest economies in the world, in absolute numbers, a country with great growth potential, part of the European Union and the Euro Area's hard core and a country which has an irrevocable desire to remain faithful in its European prospect and status.

    Perhaps our main problem is the international and European environment of economic and financial uncertainty and insecurity. Unfortunately, while the Euro Area uses the second most powerful currency in the world and is the most powerful area of economic activity, it does not possess the institutional framework that would allow it to take prompt, final and convincing decisions. Europe, neither by itself nor in cooperation with the United States, ever managed to formulate the necessary institutions of global economic governance.

    In reality, what is taking place is an asymmetrical warfare between states, international organizations and the organized market entities on the one hand and the speculative aspects of the market on the other hand. That is why the European Union and the Euro Area in particular are forced to discuss over and over again the same topics, to confirm, complement and specify decisions that are taken at the highest political level possible but, in the end, those decisions are evaluated by the markets and their reactions.

    And this is reasonable, because now there is a structural relation based on the high borrowing needs of the states, and in this particular case of the Euro Area states. When the borrowing needs of the Euro Area member-states for 2012 exceed EUR1.6 trillion, it is only logical to have this asymmetrical relationship between countries and markets.

    In reality, history poses the exact same question that markets do: Right now, the European Union has a strong currency that needs institutions of political support, which can exercise complete monetary, fiscal and financial policies. Will it take then the next step in completing its integration process? That is the message conveyed by the last EU Council decision of December 9, 2011, through its new Fiscal Compact and through the need to boost the capacity of the Euro Area to intervene with the use of new financial mechanisms -such as EFSF now and ESM later- under a much more active and better-targeted cooperation between the Euro Area and the IMF.

    The Greek case has its own peculiarities, based on the fact that -apart from the common European problems, namely the common problem of the fiscal deficit- we also have to deal with a very high public debt that goes beyond the Euro Area's accepted levels and poses an historical burden for us.

    I would be much happier as Minister of Finance, if the question of the reduction of public debt had been addressed right from the start, during the first phase of the implementation of the Greek economy's fiscal adjustment program in the spring of 2010. But even now, at this late stage -following the interim decision of July 21 and after the final EU Council decision of October 26- we can proceed in a scheme that ensures the long-term viability and sustainability of the Greek public debt. This scheme limits Greek pubic debt at a level of 120 per cent of GDP until 2020, which is achievable by the double support and participation of the official and the private sectors - this is the famous PSI, the private sector involvement, on a voluntary basis.

    Our discussions with the private sector regarding the PSI scheme have advanced and are now at a very good point. We are ready for a next meeting, maybe tomorrow morning, with our friend, Charles Dallara, from IIF. I would like to think that with the support of our institutional partners, this scheme will be completed and will confirm the basic parameters and the keystone objective of the EU Council decision of October 26 for a sustainable public debt in the long run, which will have been reduced by about EUR100 billion, or 47 per cent of GDP, and will be absolutely sustainable by 2020.

    Of course, all that presupposes that we will successfully conclude our negotiations with our institutional partners -due to start on Monday- on the new support program of EUR130 billion for the Greek economy. Overall, the support program provided by our institutional partners reaches now EUR240 billion. This is the major, the most important support program in the world.

    Greece now has the political and social requirements that allow it to prove its determination and capacity to implement this program and remain faithful to the commitments that we have undertaken. This will affect the business environment. It transforms Greece into an investment-friendly country because the fundamental structural reforms that we promote concern, first, the tax and judicial systems.

    We want Greece to set a great example of a country respecting the rule of law; we want judicial institutions and institutions of mediation and arbitration to be efficient and to provide the necessary safety net to Greek and foreign business community and investors. Over the next few weeks we want to come up with a new, simple, fair, solid and easily understandable tax system, a competitive tax system that creates conditions for growth and social cohesion.

    We are well aware that those are two major problems for any investments, along with the need to lift bureaucratic obstacles and to have a normal functioning level of public administration which for us always remains a challenge. But I do believe that important steps are taken, steps that must be accelerated and be more decisive.

    Beyond fiscal adjustment and structural reforms, the support program has a third pillar, which is of great importance: the pillar of privatizations. We have established a special fund for privatizations that operates in cooperation with our institutional partners -the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund- and promotes a very drastic and bold privatization portfolio which at the same time is also a challenge for direct investment in Greece.

    This portfolio is about real estate and tourism, energy, ports, airports, transportation, as well as the state natural-gas company, for example.

    You had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Mr. Dimitropoulos, the CEO of this Fund. As the Minister in charge for this process, I can guarantee you that there is a simple, safe and secure institutional framework. For us, privatizations are not a divestment process but a method for changing the model for growth so that we can achieve a smaller, more flexible and more effective state and, at the same time, enhance competitiveness and the functioning of the market by enhancing, in reality, employment in our country.

    The period we are going through is full of challenges. For us, it is a defining period upon which depends the future of our country for the next generations. It is a period during which we are called to prove that the Greek nation maintains its historical capacities and virtues, it can face up dangers and turn them into opportunity.

    For us, Greece's close ties with the Arab world make up a solid parameter of our foreign and developmental policy. And this is not just rhetoric. I believe that this is a very attractive field for bilateral economic and political cooperation for our two countries.

    We fight to regain the lost ground of our national competitiveness and give Greece its economic dynamism and the place it deserves in history.

    In this effort that requires very tough sacrifices of the Greek people, we need international allies. Undoubtedly, we have found such allies in the face of our partners in the Euro Area and the European Union. But they are not enough. Our traditional and historic friends must come by our side too; and we will always be by their side. And those friends are in the Arab world.

    This is the message conveyed by the Greek government. This is a message conveyed by the Greek nation. A message that is clear, simple and honest."

    [24] 2011 budget deficit lower than revised prediction, but higher than 2010, finance ministry says

    The Greek budget deficit ended the year 2011 lower than its revised target, but higher than that of 2010, according to provisional figures announced on Thursday for the period January-December 2011 by the finance ministry.

    More specifically, the deficit of the State Budget for the 12-month period January-December 2011 stood at 21.638 billion euros, against a revised target of 21.712 billion euros set out in the 2012 Budget recently passed and a deficit of 21.457 billion euros for the corresponding period in 2010.

    Overall State Budget (Ordinary and Investment Budget) revenues, however, fell short of the 873 million euros target, while overall expenditures (Ordinary and Investment Budget) posted a 1.7 percent reduction against the corresponding period in 2010, and stood at 49.993 billion euros.

    The finance ministry, in a release, said:

    "According to the preliminary data available for the execution of the State Budget for the twelve months January - December 2011, on a fiscal basis, the deficit amounts to 21,638 million Euros compared to the new target of 21,712 million Euros set in the voted Budget for 2012. During the same period in 2010, the State Budget deficit amounted to 21,457 million Euros.

    Total State Budget revenues (Ordinary and Investment Budget) are 873 million Euros below the target, but total expenditures (Ordinary and Public Investment Budget) compensated for this revenue shortfall by amounting to 947 million Euros lower than the target.

    Specifically, on a twelve-month basis (January - December 2011), net revenues of the ordinary budget amounted to 49,993 million Euros, declining by 1.7% in comparison to the respective period of 2010. The revenue shortfall can be mainly attributed to lower withholding personal income tax receipts due to the more favourable tax treatment as a result of the new tax law and reduction in taxable income. The shortfall against the new target for the same period can be attributed to delays in the receipt of tax revenue deriving from the strikes, in 29 and 30th of December, of Tax & Payment Office's (DOY) employees', as well as the extension granted for the settlement of tax obligations until January 20th, 2012.

    Revenues from the Public Investment Budget increased by 23.9% or 735 million Euros vis--vis the corresponding twelve months of 2010, as well as compared to the target set for year-end 2011, by 443 million Euros.

    It should be noted that this report on the execution of the State Budget provides revenue data for the twelve months of 2011 on a cash basis. However, in line with Eurostat methodology, total annual revenues are measured on a national account basis and include receipts from the first two months of 2012 also. Equivalently, a share of the revenues for the first months of 2011 is included in the calculation on a national accounts basis of total annual 2010 revenues.

    Ordinary budget expenditures increased by 1,899 million Euros or 2.8% in the twelve months of 2011 on a year-on-year basis. This is mainly due to a significant increase in interest expenditures of 3,125 million Euros or 23.6% thus far in 2011 relative to 2010.

    On the contrary, State Budget primary expenditures (spending excluding interest) declined by 1.3% or 703 million Euros between January-December 2011 on a year-on-year basis, despite the increase in grants of 1,945 million Euros or 12.8% relative to 2010 for social insurance and health.

    The main recipients of the increased transfers were:

    - Social Security Funds with an increase of 1,232 million Euros, (in particular the Wage Earners Fund (IKA) with 1,446 million Euros, the Insurance Fund of the Self Employed (OAEE) with 70 million Euros and the Seamen Pension Fund (NAT) with 24 million Euros) due to shortfall in social security contributions;

    - The Greek Employment Organization (OAED) with an increase in transfers of 385 million Euros for unemployment benefits;

    - Hospitals with higher transfers of 558 million Euros (an additional 68 million Euros were disbursed for previous years' obligations settlement).

    Meanwhile, in January-December 2011, Public Investment Budget (P.I.B.) expenditures declined by 21.8% or 1,846 million Euros.

    Furthermore, it should be noted that the above data correspond to the execution only of the State Budget and thus do not reflect all fiscal data that are taken into account when measuring the General Government deficit according to the ESA95 (Eurostat) classification, which is the benchmark for the assessment of the Economic Adjustment Programme of Greece.

    [25] Greek fiscal deficit to be around 9.6 pct of GDP in 2011

    Greece's fiscal deficit is expected to reach 9.6 pct of GDP in 2011, close to budget targets for the year, offering a respite to the government ahead of tough negotiations with the troika over a second support package for Greece.

    This estimate is based on figures published on Thursday by the Finance ministry over budget execution in 2011, which showed that the general government's deficit will be below 10% of GDP, easing pressure over the need for additional fiscal consolidation measures.

    The Finance ministry is optimistic that if revenues from the first two months of 2012 -certified in 2011- were included in budget figures, the fiscal deficit would be set below 10 pct of GDP, after reaching 10.6 pct of GDP in 2010. Ministry officials, however, stressed that negotiations with the troika -starting next week- would be crucial in order to reach an agreement over a second support package for the country with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The measures to be agreed, will cover the period from 2013 to 2015 and will focus on cutting spending and promoting structural changes (mainly in the labor market) in order to boost the country's economic competitiveness.

    A precondition to reach a new agreement is to complete negotiations with private investors over a 50 pct haircut of Greek bonds in order to ensure the sustainability of the Greek debt. Charles Dallara, the head of the International Institute of Finance (IIF), currently visiting Athens, met this morning with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos. Ministry sources said the meeting was held in a very good climate and expressed their optimism that a deal is expected soon over the terms of the PSI program. Another meeting is scheduled for Friday.

    Negotiations with private bondholders and the troika must be completed soon in order to finalize details of a new support package for Greece in time to cover the maturity of Greek bonds worth 14.5 billion euros in March 15.

    The Greek problem is expected to be discussed at an EU Summit on January 29 in Brussels. The summit is expected to discuss a proposal to raise the total sum earmarked for Greece beyond the 130 billion euros envisaged in the December 9 agreement. The issue was discussed during a meeting between IMF's head Christine Lagarde and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin as the IMF believes that a 50 pct cut in Greek bonds must be accompanied with a bigger financial aid package for Greece.

    Alternate Finance Minister Philippos Sahinidis, in a radio interview on Thursday, said that Greece would need more funds from its European partners only if the private sector's participation in a PSI program was not adequate.

    [26] General gov't deficit at 22.816bln euro in 11-month period

    The general government deficit fell to 22.816 billion euros in the 11-month period January-November 2011, from 23.145 billion euros in the 10-month period January-October, thus reducing the general government primary deficit to 6.640 billion euros in the 11-month period from 7.317 billion euros in the 10-month period.

    According to figures released Wednesday night by the finance ministry, the overdue debts of all state agencies fell to 6.626 billion euros in the 11-month period from 6.700 billion euros in the 10-month period.

    Of the 6.626 billion euros, 1.647 billion concern state hospitals' outstanding debts and 2.845 billion concern the Social Security Organisations, of which in turn 1.140 billion are debts to the Civil Servants' Welfare Fund.

    Finally, overdue debts of ministries amount to 964.3 million euros, and local government organisations' debts to 939.8 million euros.

    [27] Greece-UAE business forum concluded; Qatar, Kuwait to follow

    Government Vice-President Theodoros Pangalos on Thursday underlined that the Greece-UAE Business Forum, held at the seaside Athens resort of Lagonissi, focused on cooperation in the sectors of energy, aluminium production, real estate, fish farming and possible privatisations.

    A total of 50 international business and investment groups from the UAE and 130 local businesses participated in the two-day event.

    Pangalos announced that a forum will be held next week with representatives from Qatar and later with Kuwait.

    The head of the UAE delegation, Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan stressed that the high-level representation of his country at the Lagonissi forum constitutes a "commitment" to the efforts made aimed at strengthening bilateral economic cooperation.

    Pangalos underlined that the roughly 200 separate business meetings that took place are tangible proof of the UAE's interest, especially a round table discussion on the aluminium industry, a sector with hightened investment interest for the UAE.

    Referring to concerns expressed by the UAE delegation as regards the credibility of the single European currency and Greece's future in the eurozone, Pangalos emphasised that the majority of the Greek people back the country's continued eurozone membership, adding that Europe cannot allow itself the luxury of "destroying" the euro currency system.

    On prospects of the crisis-battered Greek economy, Pangalos predicted that the recession rate will ease considerably in 2012 and that by next year economic growth will be on the positive side.

    [28] Greek unemployment shoots to 18.2 pct in October 2011

    Greek unemployment shot to 18.2 percent in October 2011, year on year, from 13.5 percent in October 2010, and from 17.5 percent in the preceding month of September, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday.

    ELSTAT, in a Labour Force Survey, said that the unemployment rate in October 2011 was 18.2% compared to 13.5% in October 2010 and 17.5% in September 2011. The number of employed amounted to 4,065,775 persons while the number of unemployed amounted to 903,525 and the number of inactive to 4,382,356.

    The number of employed decreased by 303,768 persons compared with October 2010 (a 7.0% rate of decrease) and increased by 14,666 persons compared with September 2011 (a 0.4% rate of increase).

    Unemployed increased by 219,478 persons (a 32.1% rate of increase) compared with October 2010 and by 45,869 persons compared with September 2011 (a 5.3% rate of increase).

    Inactive persons -that is, persons that neither worked nor looked for a job- increased by 118,605 persons (a 2.8% rate of increase) compared with October 2010 and decreased by 57,694 persons compared with September 2011 (a 1.3% rate of decrease).

    With respect to age, the highest unemployment rate was among youths in the 15-24 bracket (45.5 percent in October 2011 from 34.6 percent in October 2010), followed by the 25-34 bracket (25.3 percent from 18.3 percent), the 35-44 bracket (14.4 percent from 11.5 percent) and the 45-54 age bracket (13.1 percent from 9.3 percent).

    Gender-wise, women were the hardest hit, with unemployment among women rising to 21.3 percent in October 2011 from 17.6 percent in October 2010, while the rate among men rose to 15.9 percent from 10.6 percent in the same period.

    By geographical location, the highest unemployment rate was in central mainland (Sterea) Greece with 23.3 percent in October 2011 from 14.3 percent in October 2010, followed by central Macedonia (19.7 percent from 14.8 percent), Attica -- where two-thirds of the country's population lives (19.2 percent from 13.9 percent), and Thessaly (18.5 percent from 10.6 percent).

    Single-digit unemployment was posted only on the Ionian Islands (9.1 percent in October 2011 from 11.3 percent in October 2010) and the southern Aegean (9.7 percent from 14.5 percent).

    [29] GSEE stresses failure of policy restricting cost of labour to stem joblessness

    Neither the individual contracts nor pay cuts and reduced work hours imposed by many employers had done anything to stop a rise in unemployment levels, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) pointed out on Thursday, after Hellenic Statistical Authority announced that unemployment rates had climbed to 18.2 percent in October.

    Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation representing the private sector, GSEE called for immediate measures to boost employment, growth and the real economy as the only way to stem the tide of joblessness.

    In its announcement, the trade union organisation said the figures for unemployment revealed the tragic results of the EU-IMF Memorandum policies and stressed that measures that sought only to restrict the cost of wages "were not only failing to deal with the problems of recession and unemployment but, on the contrary, putting more and more people on the dole".

    [30] Seven new metro stations to be ready in 15 months, minister promises

    Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Makis Voridis on Thursday announced that the government intends to speed up completion of the seven new metro stations now under construction, delivering them for use in 15 months instead of roughly two years, during a meeting with mayors from each of the areas where the new stations are located.

    The new stations include those of Haidari on line 3, Peristeri and Anthoupoli on the western extension of line 2 and Ilioupolis, Alimos, Argyroupolis and Elliniko on the southern extension.

    Voridis said the construction of the stations was virtually complete and all that remained to be done was to install the signalling system. He said that the ratification of a contract with the company Siemens for the signalling system along the extensions of the metro would be discussed in Parliament next week, followed by its signature for the completion of the work.

    The minister said that the finished project is expected to be delivered in 15 months, instead of the 23.5 months originally envisaged in the contract.

    According to Attiko Metro's management, once Parliament approved the contract the new stations would be ready for use in 15 months at the latest. They are expected to serve 160,000 new commuters and reduce the number of cars on the roads of Athens by 30,000 dach day, reducing CO2 emissions by 130 tonnes and bringing in 65 million euro in revenues.

    In addition to the above seven stations, further metro extensions are planned on the Haidari-Piraeus section, with new stations in Agia Varvara, Korydallos, Nikaia, Maniatika, Piraeus and the Municipal Theatre.

    [31] Tsipras on rise in fees to 'special consultants' and banks in 2010

    In a question tabled in Parliament on Thursday, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras asked Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos to explain why the fees and commission paid to banks and "special consultants" had jumped 152.97 percent during the state accounts submitted for 2010.

    Tsipras noted that payments for staff salaries were 13.8 percent reduced relative to the forecasts for 2010 but those for "expert services" were 56.3 percent higher than those foreseen in the state budget.

    He asked to be briefed on which banking institutions had signed contracts with the state, as well as the type, terms and conditions for the contracts offered, whether proper procedures for checking the legality of the proposed spending had been followed and whether the contracts had been checked by the Court of Audit.

    [32] Cases against uniform public-sector pay scale filed at Council of State

    Cases seeking the anullment of the uniform public-sector pay scale established by law in 2011 were tabled by 8,108 employees of the social insurance fund IKA-ETAM and 932 culture ministry employees and their unions on Thursday.

    They oppose the new salary scale and ranking system imposed under the new law for all employees in the broader public sector and in local authorities, saying that this contravenes a number of articles in the Greek Constitution and the rules of Community directives.

    Among others, they object to the sudden and violent reduction in pay that has disrupted family plans and budgeting, noting that several employees that had taken out housing loans and arranged for payment to be withheld from their salaries were now receiving no payment or actually owed money at the end of the month.

    They have asked that their petitions be discussed by the Supreme administrative court's plenum since the uniform pay scale is an issue of broader public interest.

    [33] GSEE strike on Monday in Attica prefecture

    The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the umbrella labour federation representing the private sector, has called a labour strike throughout the greater Athens region (Attica prefecture) for Monday, January 17, and on workers to take part in a protest demonstration in central Klafthmonos Square called by the prefecture's Labour Centers.

    GSEE, in an announcement, said that the mobilisations must send a "strong message to the government, the troika and the employers, who are drafting new, even harsher, anti-labour measures, through interventions on and abolitions of Collective Labour Agreements".

    [34] ADEDY holds protest outside Parliament over labour reserve

    The civil servants' union federation ADEDY on Thursday held a protest against the now abandoned labour reserve measure and public-sector lay-offs outside Parliament, which ended with the presentation of a resolution to Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos and party representatives.

    The resolution asks the government to include the state-sector organisations that are to be abolished or merged to be included in an amendment to be discussed in Parliament on Friday granting "Themis Construction" an extension until June 31 to present an organisational plan that will be used to assessed staff.

    [35] Import price index up 8.5 pct in Nov

    Greece's import price index in the industrial sector grew 8.5 pct in November 2011, compared with the same month last year, after an increase of 4.6 pct recorded in November 2010, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.

    The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development in the so-called imported inflation to higher fuel prices and to a 1.0 pct rise in the import price index from Eurozone countries and a 15.5 pct jump in the import price index from other countries.

    The index was up 1.0 pct in November from October, after an increase of 1.2 pct recorded in the same period last year.

    [36] Business Briefs

    -- "Creating a business-friendly environment for new and healthy investments is a precondition for the survival of Greek business activity of the Greek economy," Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis said on Thursday.

    -- Public Power Corp. (PPC) and Silcio Group on Thursday signed a memorandum of strategic partnership for the creation of a joint company, which will offer, through a national franchising network, integrated photovoltaic system solutions, energy services, energy saving products and customer services.

    -- Savings and lending interest rates rose further in November, the Bank of Greece announced on Thursday. The central bank, in a report, said saving deposit interest rates grew by 0.12 pct in the month to 4.62 pct, with the average interest rates in bank deposits rising to 2.68 pct.

    -- Folli Follie Group on Thursday announced it has reached a commercial agreement with Procter & Gamble Prestige aimed at expanding its beauty and cosmetics activities in Greece.

    -- The Irish low budget carrier Ryanair on Thursday announced that as of spring 2012 low cost international flights, via Thessaloniki in northern Greece, will increase to 10, to service three new routes, namely, to/from Paphos (Cyprus), Barcelona's Girona Airport (Spain) and Bologna (Italy).

    [37] Stocks end moderately higher

    Stocks continued moving higher, for the second consecutive session, at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday. Market sentiment was encouraged by hopes of a positive outcome in negotiations over a PSI program between Greek authorities and private bondholders, with buying focusing on bank shares.

    The composite index of the market rose 0.49 pct to end at 632.19 points, off the day's highs of 2.21 pct. Turnover was a low 32.431 million euros.

    The Big Cap index rose 1.15 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.72 pct higher and the Small Cap index jumped 2.10 pct. The Technology (6.36 pct), Health (4.34 pct) and Banks (3.51 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Raw Materials (1.85 pct) and Food (1.52 pct) suffered losses. MIG (9.14 pct), Hellenic Postbank (6.23 pct), Piraeus Bank (4.39 pct) and National Bank (4.38 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Mytilineos (3.33 pct), PPC (2.33 pct) and Coca Cola 3E (1.50 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 101 to 53 with another 22 issues unchanged. Paperpack (29.87 pct), Spider (27.78 pct) and Alsinco (26.47 pct) were top gainers, while Unibios (25 pct), Elbisco Holdings (19.87 pct) and Creta Farm (16.67 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +0.34%

    Commercial: -1.29%

    Construction: +3.06%

    Oil & Gas: +0.81%

    Personal & Household: +0.03%

    Raw Materials: -1.85%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.48%

    Technology: +6.36%

    Telecoms: +0.73%

    Banks: +3.51%

    Food & Beverages: -1.52%

    Health: +4.34%

    Utilities: -1.42%

    Chemicals: -0.84%

    Financial Services: +3.82%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP and Coca Cola 3E.

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.45

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.36

    HBC Coca Cola: 12.50

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.91

    National Bank of Greece: 1.43

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.31

    OPAP: 6.27

    OTE: 2.76

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.24

    Titan: 11.57

    [38] Bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 26.51 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 26.83 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 28.34 pct and the German Bund 1.83 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 1.84 pct, the six-month rate 1.53 pct, the three-month 1.24 pct and the one-month rate 0.86 pct.

    [39] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.65 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover a low 11.839 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,010 contracts worth 8.566 million euros, with 17,175 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 22,232 contracts worth 3.273 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (15,610), followed by Cyprus Bank (510), MIG (138), OTE (485), PPC (471), OPAP (442), Piraeus Bank (515), Alpha Bank (2,456), Marfin Popular Bank (345), Mytilineos (293), Motor Oil (141), Hellenic Postbank (203), ATEbank (198) and Hellenic Exchanges (70).

    [40] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.292

    Pound sterling 0.843

    Danish kroner 7.548

    Swedish kroner 8.984

    Japanese yen 99.39

    Swiss franc 1.229

    Norwegian kroner 7.792

    Canadian dollar 1.314

    Australian dollar 1.248

    General News

    [41] Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos to visit abbot Ephraim in his prison cell

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos will visit Vatopedi Monastery abbot Ephraim in his cell at Korydallos.

    The Permanent Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, that discussed the issue for two days, finally decided to issue officially an announcement in support of the abbot.

    In its decision the Synod stresses the time in which Ephraim was remanded in custody, meaning in the Christmas holidays, adding that the holy conventions of Mount Athos were violated.

    The announcement continues expressing, together with the people, as it points out, the sympathy of the members of the Holy Synod for the abbot and at the same time expresses the wish and hope, as it notes, that the possibility of his release will be reconsidered soon.

    [42] Human trafficking, prositition ring disbanded, 12 arrests

    A human trafficking ring forcing women from Balkan countries, among them five minors, was disbanded by the Attica Police and 12 ring members were arrested, it was announced on Thursday, in the context of Greek police cooperation with the Romanian authorities,

    Police pinpointed a hotel in central Athens frequented daily by young foreign women, who would pick up customers from the hotel's cafeteria and take them up to the hotel's rooms.

    During a police operation, the Albanian administrator of the hotel, four Greek nationals, and two foreign nationals working as waiters were arrested, as well as the hotel's Greek owner and four Romanian nationals.

    Also, 15 women -- 12 Romanian nationals and three Albanian nationals -- have been charged with prostitution, including five teenage girls aged 15 and 16.

    The five minors were taken into protection by the police human trafficking squad and will be hosted at a hostel of the National Center for Social Solidarity, and a petition for their designation as victims of human trafficking will be submitted to an Athens prosecutor.

    [43] Hashish bust in Thessaloniki

    A 32-year old-man was arrested on Thursday at Dendropo-tamos near Thessaloniki, northern Greece, charged with drug dealing.

    Police found in his car 21 packages containing approximately 21 kilos of hashish.

    The suspect will be sent before a Thessaloniki prosecutor.

    [44] Man drowns on Crete due to adverse weather conditions

    man drowned in Iraklion, on Crete island, when his car was swept away by the high waters of a river at Avli Pediados due to torrential rain and strong winds.

    A rescue team rushed to the area and found the car, but without the driver inside. Rescuers subsequently found the body of the man after a thorough search of the area.

    [45] Foreign nat'l arrested as alleged leader of robbery ring

    A 33-year-old Albanian national was arrested on Thursday and accused of being the leader of an eight-member gang allegedly involved in a total of 15 robberies and break-ins in the greater Athens area and the large island of Evia. An investigation is underway for the arrest of the rest of the suspects

    [46] Tree-planting by vols for new forest near Thessaloniki

    An 18-hectare forest of 30,000 trees is planned for the community of Triadi, east of Thessaloniki, within the framework of an initiative undertaken by the central Macedonia reforestation directorate, it was announced on Thursday.

    A total of 2,000 samplings will be planted on Sunday in the first tree-planting in the region.

    Weather forecast

    [47] Fair on Friday

    Fair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -6C and 16C. Fair in Athens, with variable 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 13C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -3C to 11C.

    [48] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The negotiations on the PSI and the evaluation of civil servants, the arrangement for the settlement of overdue debts to the State and the tax reversals contained in the finance ministry's omnibus bill, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Layoffs in Public Utilities and Organisations (DEKO), salary freeze and abolition of bonuses".

    AVGHI: "This is the 'country's rescue'!".

    AVRIANI: "SOS over irregular default".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Bankruptcy exercise at the Finance Ministry".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Triple scandal with state property sell-off".

    ESTIA: "Credibility must be re-established".

    ETHNOS: "French experts will evaluate Greek civil servants".

    IMERISSIA: "900,000 professional in a tax vortex".

    KATHIMERINI: "Difficulties also in the behind the scenes for the PSI+".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "The omnibus bill hides tax 'reversals'."

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Strike on Thursday in the city of Volos in support of the Greek Steel Industry's striking workers".

    TA NEA: "Plan B for Greece".

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