|Sunday, 18 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-01-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 24 January 2012 Issue No: 3979
 Eurogroup meeting decides continuation of PSI talksBRUSSELS (AMNA/V.Demiris)
A Eurogroup meeting on Monday decided the continuation of talks between Greece and private bond holders towards achieving a final agreement over a PSI program. Greek Finance ministry sources, said here in Brussels, that the aim was a full implementation of October 26-27 decisions and noted that given the timetable of Greek state bond maturities, another target was that an official offer for PSI be presented by February 13. All relative issues will be resolved at a Eurogroup's working group or during a Eurogroup teleconference meeting.
The meeting also discussed an updated analysis of the sustainability of the Greek public debt, drafted by the EC/ECB/IMF troika, with the aim to ensuring that the country's debt would fall to 120 pct of GDP by 2020.
A crucial parameter is the growth rate of the Greek economy and the coupon interest of the new bonds. As envisaged in the October decision of the European Council, the Eurogroup linked the PSI program to a new support package for Greece (worth 130 billion euros added to the 110 billion euros of the initial program), which in turn was linked with the implementation progress and evaluation of the current program and the commitments taken by Greece for the new program.
Ministry sources said that the basic commitments were the preconditions for releasing the sum necessary for the PSI program, along with clear political commitments to be made by the three political parties participating in the current Greek government, not only for the current period, but for the period after the elections and the formation of a future government.
 FinMin: PSI taliks near completionGreek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said in Brussels on Monday that the government was near completion of its talks with private creditors for a haircut of the Greek debt.
"We have a very constructive cooperation with the private sector and we are ready to complete the entire process on time" regarding the PSI, Venizelos said before entering a Eurogroup meeting in the Belgian capital.
"We are acting always in agreement with our institutional partners," said Venizelos, who earlier had a one-on-one discussion with Eurogroup president and Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker in preparation for the meeting.
 Gov't spokesman rules out 'shipwreck' in Greek debt haircutGreek government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis expressed hope that "serious steps" will be made at a Eurogroup meeting later in the day to deal with issues concerning the 'haircut' of the Greek debt, speaking on state NET radio station on Monday morning, and ruled out any possibility of a "shipwreck", although acknowledging that matters still remain to be resolved.
On the issue of salaries in the private sector, Kapsis said that it must be treated with flexibility, adding that competitiveness was the major issue while also noting that "not all sectors of the economy face the same problem of competitiveness".
Kapsis further called on the social partners to seek to find a solution to the problem, noting that "there are no cost-free solutions", citing as an example a prospective reduction of social security contributions and the need to find corresponding revenues for the social security funds.
 Merkel says 'no need' for bridge loan for GreeceBERLIN (AMNA / F. Karaviti)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday referred to the thoughts for interim financing of Greece in case negotiations with private creditors for a debt swap will not be completed stressing that "the question of a bridge loan isn't on my agenda".
Merkel made the comments in a joint press conference with Belgian prime minister Elio Di Rupo after their meeting here, underlining that there is enough time until March to "work on a new Greece program".
"Germany is ready to pay its European Stability Mechanism (ESM) contribution," she said, adding that her country "always did what was necessary to rescue the euro. The issue is to create the ESM as soon as possible. The European Central Bank (ECB) has just contributed 500 billion euros to boost fluidity".
As regards the proposal made by Italian prime minister Mario Monti and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde to double the ESM funds, Merkel advised against rushing.
 ND does not support cutting wages by legislative act, Samaras assures GSEEDuring a meeting with the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) leadership on Monday, main opposition New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras offered them assurances that ND does not support a resolution of labour issues through an act of legislation cutting wages in the private sector.
"We will discuss measures for the competitiveness of the economy but not the reduction of wage costs. We asked Mr. Samaras that his party should not support an act of legislative content and he said that these issues are not resolved through legislative intervention and that he places his hopes in the dialogue between the social partners," GSEE President Yiannis Panagopoulos said after the meeting.
GSEE's president again underlined that the umbrella trade union group, which represents the majority of Greece's private-sector workers, is not prepared to discuss any reduction in wages, any freeze on pay maturation or the abolition of the 13th and 14th salaries.
Panagopoulos appealed to the political system to undertake its responsibility for the situation, which he said was the fault of governments but also employers that were trying to increase their profit margins by compressing wage costs "since despite the cutbacks the prices of products have not been reduced".
He also called on Prime Minister Lucas Papademos to stand up to the demands of the EU-IMF troika concerning wages, "since he knows that reducing wages does not increase competitiveness."
Asked whether the trade union was satisfied with ND's positions on the issue, Panagopoulos replied that "we received assurances that ND will not support the act of legislative content".
According to sources within ND, Samaras opposes reducing private-sector wages or the abolition of the 13th and 14th salaries given at holidays, considering that this would trigger a recession of the order of 3.5 percent of GDP and double recession forecasts to 7 percent.
ND's leader stressed that this was unprecedented and that no country had experienced six years of recession, not even during a period of war. Noting that even employers were asking for cuts in the private sector, he said it was bizarre that this was being raised as an issue.
Samaras stressed the need to boost the competitiveness of the Greek economy while pointing out that wage costs occupied the 17th place among factors affecting competitiveness in the country.
 ND spokesman on the government's term, salary issuesThe intervention made by New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras has salvaged the 13th and 14th salaries (half-salary Easter and summer vacation bonuses and full-salary Christmas bonus), ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis on Monday stressed.
Speaking to an Athens private radio station, he said that such measures are causing deeper recession because they deprive the market of cash, thus limiting consumption and therefore, take away state revenues in the form of taxes and VAT in addition to increasing unemployment.
As regards competitiveness, Mihelakis referred to labour cost reduction and pointed out that ND leader Samaras had presented a proposal on this in the party's "Zappeion I" economic programme. He also referred to Samaras' proposals for lower tax indexes, less bureaucracy and lower energy cost.
On whether there is an issue of a new signature by the government partners, he said that the commitments already undertaken are enough.
On the stance ND will adopt as regards allegations that the deficit was intentionally inflated, he said that "the available evidence will have to be examined in parliament".
Mihelakis commented on the proposal made by education minister Anna Diamantopoulou, who suggested that the term of the present government will have to be extended, saying that "those who make such suggestions are afraid of the election outcome."
 Layoffs and smaller public sector are not a solution, according to ADEDYThe civil servants' union ADEDY on Monday called on the government to abandon a policy promoting reduction of public sector organizations and layoffs, in response to recent statements made by administrative reform and e-governance minister Dimitris Reppas.
"The present conjuncture calls for a comprehensive reform plan that will lead to democratization, modernization and upgrading of the operation of the state mechanism for the benefit of the people and the country," ADEDY stressed.
The civil servant's union also called for a substantive dialogue with the public sector employees.
 Greek Communist Party MPs call for immediate electionsMembers of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Parliamentary group on Monday issued an announcement called for immediate general elections "so that the people can overcome any kind of barrier and support KKE".
The announcement notes that the three-party government set up by PASOK, New Democracy and the Popular Orthodox Rally, in full alignment with the EU-IMF troika and capital, were escalating their generalised attack on working people and seeking to slash wages, abolish the 13th and 14th salaries so as to reduce annual worker income by 15 percent, the maturation system for salaries, collective agreements and worker entitlements outlined within them, as well as the amount of contributions to social insurance funds.
According to KKE, big capital had for years been trying to bring about these changes and was now taking advantage of the crisis in order to place yet more the burden of the economic crisis on workers, lowering labour costs in order to increase the profits of capital.
 PM Papademos holds talks with Democratic Alliance party leaderDemocratic Alliance party president Dora Bakoyiannis requested from Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, during their meeting at the Maximos Mansion on Monday, that the government should insist in negotiating with the troika so that the necessary reforms and structural changes go ahead and not the 13th and 14th salary in the private sector to be cut or the minimum salary to be reduced.
Bakoyiannis stated after her 90-minute talks with the prime minister that she had the opportunity of outlining her party's positions and the proposals it has submitted for the participation of the ECB in the "haircut" and for the easing of social tension with the prolongation of the housing loans.
"We had a long discussion on the issue of the negotiations. One thing is clear: The Papademos government must proceed very quickly on both the reforms and the structural changes. The country needs these structural changes and in the negotiating with the troika as well, we must insist there and not with symbolisms, as is that of the minimum salary or the 13th and 14th salary," Bakoyiannis said.
 Former PM Simitis addresses event in BerlinBERLIN (AMNA/F.Karaviti)
Former Greek prime minister Costas Simitis defended, here on Monday, his government's policies in the early 2000's that led to Greece's entry into the EMU and the eurozone.
Addressing an event of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, organised by the German Greens, Simitis said claims that Greece entered the EMU without fulfilling preconditions "are groundless".
Referring to options made by the Greek government and the European Union in handling the economic crisis, Simitis termed as "unrealistic" the terms imposed for Greece's fiscal reform and spoke of a "politically fatal mistake" while referring to the fact that "those who had prepared the Memorandum have omitted linking targets to real developments, that is, recession."
The former prime minister noted that the Greek government should have negotiated more, should have presented its own proposals and should have signed only if it had secured conditions for growth
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, head of the European Greens at the European Parliament, also addressed the event.
 ELSTAT furore continues, as authority's head demands to testifyThe head of the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) Andreas Georgiou, the chairman and sole member of the statistical service's board that retained his position after an internal dispute between the members on whether the size of the deficit was being accurately portrayed, on Monday demanded that he be allowed to testify before any decision was made on whether the case concerning ELSTAT should be sent to Parliament.
Specifically, in a memorandum submitted to Supreme Court Prosecutor Ioannis Tentes, Georgiou underlined that prosecuting authorities must first hear his own testimony and that of the witnesses that he proposes before decided on how to handle the preliminary investigation conducted by Financial Prosecutor Grigoris Peponis into claims that the 2009 public deficit had been artificially inflated.
Peponis last week sent the case file to his superior, Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor Nikos Pantelis, with the recommendation that it be forwarded to Parliament in order to investigate the possible responsibility of former prime minister George Papandreou and his then finance minister George Papaconstantinou for the affair. Georgiou had been expecting to be called to testify as a suspect but the prosecutor decided that the case should be sent to Parliament before this happened.
Tentes announced that he would send the memorandum submitted by ELSTAT's chief to Pantelis on Tuesday and that the deputy prosecutor would then decide whether or not the file should be sent to Parliament.
In statements to the private Greek radio station Vima FM on Monday, meanwhile, the chief witness in the affair repeated accusations that Papaconstantinou and ministry general secretary Ilias Plaskovitis had been fully aware of the issue.
Econometrics professor Zoe Georganta repeated her conviction that the deficit figures were inflated under pressure from Eurostat and pointed to a visit made by a senior Eurostat official to Athens in mid-December and his meeting with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, surmising that the premier was asked to exert pressure on the Greek justice system to shelve the investigation into whether the deficit had been inflated.
According to Georganta, based on her own calculations the 2009 public deficit had been around 12 percent rather than the revised figure of 15 percent.
 Gov't rejects allegations by former EL.STAT board memberMinister of State and government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis on Monday said that the allegations made by former Hellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT) board member, econometrics professor Zoi Georganta according to which, prime minister Lucas Papademos met with the Eurostat director general Walter Radermacher in December, were "figments of her imagination".
"They are figments of imagination. Such a meeting never took place," Kapsis stressed.
 SYRIZA's Tsipras requests parliamentary committee hearing on financial prosecutors' allegationsCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Monday requested that the file of the investigation conducted by deputy Supreme Court prosecutor Fotis Makris into allegations made by two financial prosecutors of attempted intervention in their work - as well as a attempt to replace them by means of legislation - be tabled in parliament.
In a letter addressed to parliamentary Special Permanent Committee on Institutions and Transparency chairman Thanassis Tsouras, he demanded that the two financial prosecutors, Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis be called to testify in a committee hearing as soon as possible. He also asked that Parliament hear the testimony of their superiors, including their supervisor deputy prosecutor Nikolaos Pantelis, deputy prosecutor Fotis Makris assigned with the preliminary investigation into the case and Supreme Court prosecutor Ioannis Tentes.
Tsipras underlined the need for "immediate and effective investigation into all cases that concern squandering of public funds and the likelihood of criminal actions committed by individuals with political power."
He underlined that "allegations concerning serious intervention in their work, made by the two financial prosecutors who were assigned the investigation of such cases, create unrelenting questions and intensify the sense of injustice, impunity, cover-up and preferential treatment in violation of the constitutionally guaranteed principle of equality before the law."
 Tsipras addresses rally in PeristeriRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group president Alexis Tsipras, addressing a rally in the Athens district of Peristeri on Monday evening, stressed that "the country urgently needs a turn" and primarily a "leftist turn" for the "unprecedented tragedy" that the working people and Greece are experiencing to be handled.
Tsipras outlined his proposal for the creation of a new power coalition with the left as the main body and this, as he said, must be done as soon as possible since "as time passes, the deadlocks of the policy of the memorandums become more visible."
As regards the government and the prime minister Lucas Papademos, Tsipras said that "they have assigned to Mr. Papademos to feed the recession with measures, until the total bankruptcy and the total sellout, that the new loan contract anticipates to the last detail, that they are preparing to bring to Parliament to ratify in the coming weeks."
He also claimed that the new loan contract, "apart from the tough measures, will anticipate the selling of public wealth, as well as the changing of law governing the Greek debt from the Greek to the English law that would mean the total disarming of our country's legal advantages and its ensuing delivery to the appetites of the creditors."
 Tsipras denouces poor state of 'Errikos Dunant' hospitalCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Monday denounced the "incon-ceivable" state of the Errikos Dunant hospital in Athens, after visiting the hospital and talking to staff.
Tsipras said the flagship hospital was now in the worst state in its history, with staff and doctors unpaid for four months at the same time that the high-powered managers brought in to allegedly save the hospital were failing in their task but raking in handsome fees.
He alleged that the deterioration of the hospital, which was built with help from the state, was part of a plan preceding the Memorandum to turn over its services entirely to the private sector.
Tsipras called on Health Minister Andreas Loverdos to say whether he would keep a promise to induct the Errikos Dunant hospital into the state health system (National Organisation for the Provision of Health Care Services EOPYY) and to outline his proposals for the hospital's continued operation.
 FYROM deputy FM to visit Greece to seek support for EU accession, according to Skopje mediaFYROM deputy prime-minister for European integration, Teuta Arifi, will be in Athens on Wednesday where she will meet with Greek government vice president Theodoros Pangalos, according to media in Skopje.
During the meeting, which will take place at Arifi's request, the FYROM official is expected to seek Greece's support for the country's accession to the EU.
 Minister on action against human trafficking, sexual exploitationCitizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis on Monday told Parliament that Greek law enforcement agencies had ascertained a total of 2,889 violations of laws on the prostitution of women and 481 violations concerning brothels between May and October 2011, arresting 669 people in total.
He was replying to a question tabled in Parliament by Popular Orthodox Rally MPs Athanasios Plevris and George Anatolakis concerning actions taken by the ministry to combat human trafficking and exploitation.
The minister noted that when the illegal prostitutes were foreign nationals, special action was taken to ensure their deportation as a priority, in addition to any penal sanctions. In cases involving HIV or AIDS sufferers, the Greek Police liaised with the appropriate health and welfare services to solve the problems that arose, he added.
 Greece raises voting share in IMFGreece raises its voting share in decision-making in the International Monetary Fund from 0.466 pct to 0.511 pct. The decision, approved by the IMF in December 2010, will be ratified by the Greek Parliament.
The changes will burden the state budget by 1.51 million euros. The extra spending will be covered with a interest rate-free loan from the Bank of Greece to the Greek state.
 Scepticism over repercussions of Iranian oil embargoScepticism is prevailing in the Greek fuel market over the repercussions of the imposition of an embargo on Iranian oil, as of July 1, since Greece is one of the European Union countries covering a considerable part of its needs in crude oil from Iran.
Repercussions have already appeared with consumers in past days, as the increase in international fuel prices, in light of the embargo's imposition, combined with the strengthening of the dollar as against the euro, have resulted in the increase of retail prices as well.
The average price of unleaded oil has currently reached 1.705 euros per litre and has increased by almost 8 cents since mid-December. Heating oil (average price) is 1.01 euros from 95-97 cents in December.
Iran's share in the Hellenic Petroleum's (ELPE) procurements reaches 20 to 22 percent and has increased in the past months due to the economic crisis in the country as well.
According to a briefing provided for Greek market officials from Brussels, where the EU Foreign ministers convened on Monday, there shall be a focal intervention by the EU to secure the provision of crude oil for all member-states.
 Tourism industry will help in the recovery of Greek economy, Minister saysThe tourism industry can help in the recovery of the Greek economy, Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos said on Monday.
Addressing an event, organized by HATTA (the Association of tourism and travel agencies) to present the Eos Code, a new working tool for travel agencies, the Greek minister underlined that the country's participation in large international tourism fora, saying that Greece was recognized for its productive forces.
Geroulanos said the ministry was taking initiatives to change the Shengen visa status which, he said, raises hurdles in promoting tourism worldwide. He added that the ministry's policy priority was protecting the environment with the aim to achieve sustainable tourism growth.
 Proton Bank sues former CEO, shareholder Lavrentiadis and 12 othersProton Bank, currently under liquidation, on Monday filed a suit against former major shareholder and board chairman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis and 12 other people, accusing them of a series of criminal-level offences that include breach of faith, fraud, morally instigating and acting as accomplices in these offences and forming a criminal organisation.
The charges are also made against six members of the bank's board in 2010-2011 and six other shareholders or representatives of companies involved in questionable loans that forced the bank into liquidation.
The charges, filed with a first-instance court prosecutor, relate to unsafe loans approved by Proton Bank while it was Lavrentiadis' direction to companies owned by the 38-year-old businessman, without ensuring protection of the bank's interests. The total amount of the loans was about 700 million euro, of which 451 million euro remain outstanding even after liquidation.
The suit claims that upon acquiring 31.3 percent of the bank in December 2009, Lavrentiadis orchestrated a massive increase of credit expansion in the business portfolio, with the sums directed mainly at newly-formed domestic and offshore firms - some of them lacking any business activity - that were financed to buy sections of the firms Alapis and ELFE owned by Lavrentiadis.
The case will be handled by First-instance court prosecutor Ioannis Dragatsis, who is also conducting the investigation into the sum of the loans given to Lavrentiadis.
 Holiday bookings down significantly in early 2012Reservations for holiday packages in Greece are down significantly, with early gloomy messages coming from foreign markets puzzling the Greek hotel industry over tourism trends this year. Christina Tetradi, president of the hoteliers' association of Zakynthos, told AMNA that reservations were down 20 pct so far this year, compared with the corresponding period in 2010.
Tetradi, who recently visited large travel fairs abroad in Utrecht and Vienna, stressed that developments in Greece have created a very negative picture for the Greek tourist product abroad, and particularly developments over a PSI playing a vital role in reservation trends. "No tourist wants to visit a bankrupt country," Tetradi said.
Tourism industry officials noted that although it was still early to make any forecasts over tourism trends this year, they stressed that the economic situation in the country must be fully cleared. They added that most holiday package reservations would be made at the last minute creating problems both with the pricing and the budgets of Greek hotels.
 Business Briefs-- Greek competition authority on Monday approved a merger plan between Alpha Bank and Eurobank. A Competition Commission plenary meeting unanimously approved, on conditions, a request for a merger between the two banks, saying the plan did not raise serious doubts over its ability to significantly limit competition in the domestic banking sector.
-- Investments on housing fell significantly in the January-September period last year, hit by a deep economic recession in the country and creating a chain of negative reactions in a number of other sectors of the economy, a report by Alpha Bank said on Monday.
 Greek stocks jump 5.09 pctGreek stocks jumped more than 5.0 percent on the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday as investors continued to bank on a positive outcome in a Greek PSI program. The market extended its rally for the ninth consecutive session, rising 19.01 pct during this period. Bank shares remained at the focus of investment activity, supported by the view that any provisions resulting from a BlackRock report would be fully manageable by Greek banks.
The composite index of the market jumped 5.09 pct to end at 744.26 points, with turnover at 60.418 million euros. The Big Cap index rose 5.90 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 6.12 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 4.96 pct. The Commerce index was the only one to end lower (-0.19 pct), while Banks (9.27 pct), Telecoms (7.42 pct) and Financial Services (7.07 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day. Folli Follie (-0.28 pct) was the only blue chip stock to end lower, while Eurobank (22.77 pct), Alpha Bank (15.64 pct), Hellenic Postbank (11.13 pct) and National Bank (10.58 pct) scored the biggest gains.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 134 to 35 with another 21 issues unchanged. Nakas (30 pct), Ilida (29.71 pct) and CPI (29.69 pct) were top gainers, while Athens Electronic (20 pct), Imperio (18.42 pct) and Progressive (17.53 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.43%
Personal & Household: +1.42%
Raw Materials: +4.42%
Travel & Leisure: +5.49%
Food & Beverages: +4.77%
Financial Services: +7.07%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.77
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.56
HBC Coca Cola: 15.45
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.00
National Bank of Greece: 2.09
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.55
Bank of Piraeus: 0.32
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 25.79 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 25.92 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 27.76 pct and the German Bund 1.97 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 1.79 pct, the six-month rate 1.46 pct, the three-month rate 1.16 pct and the one-month rate 0.76 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.32 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover rising to 25.237 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 11,556 contracts worth 16.518 million euros, with 22,552 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 55,896 contracts worth 8.719 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (23,419), followed by GEK (450), MIG (1,904), OTE (924), PPC (1,899), Piraeus Bank (2,012), Alpha Bank (12,568), Marfin Popular Bank (5,267), Mytilineos (1,136), Cyprus Bank (2,995), Hellenic Postbank (389) and Hellenic Exchanges (561).
 Foreign Exchange rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.321
Pound sterling 0.848
Danish kroner 7.547
Swedish kroner 8.910
Japanese yen 101.06
Swiss franc 1.224
Norwegian kroner 7.779
Canadian dollar 1.332
Australian dollar 1.251
 World Snow Day marked in Greece for first timeVisitors were treated to a day of discovery of dozens of ways to enjoy the snow at ski resorts in northern Greece on Sunday in the context of World Day of Snow designated by the International Ski Federation (FIS) on January 22 each year.
This year's theme was "Bring Children to the Snow, and was the first year that World Snow Day was marked by ski resorts in Greece.
World Snow Day, which was introduced in 2007, saw Greeks thronging to ski resorts to enjoy various happenings on the snow, to the background of music, while ski clubs, instructors and athletes were on hand to give advice.
Visitors made snow structures, including snowmen and igloos, while children also enjoyed supervised sledding and skiing and other games with the snow.
A recent cold front has turned Greece's ski resorts white, promising many hours of enjoyment for young and old alike.
 Per Kirkeby exhibition at Byzantine and Christian Museum in FebruaryThe Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens will host the first-ever display of works by Danish artist Per Kirkeby in Greece, with an exhibition of 29 works by the artist that opens its doors on February 1.
A painter, sculptor, writer and poet, Byzantine art formed part of Kirkeby's inspiration that he incorporated into his art in a very personal way.
Born in Copenhagen in 1938, he is considered one of Denmark's most important neo-expressionist painters and a knowledge of Byzantine art is indispensable in understanding his work and its underlying references.
His work has been shown at major museums and galleries around the world, including the Tate Modern, the Musee National d'Art Contemporain - Centre George Pompidou and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. An exhibition of his works has also been on display at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels since early 2012.
The Athens exhibition is entitled "A creative dialogue with Byzantine Art" and will be inaugurated on February 1 at 7:30 p.m.
 Poet Dinos Christianopoulos snubs state awardRenowned Thessalonian poet Dinos Christianopoulos turned his back on a Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed upon him by the ministry of culture, citing an excerpt from his work "Enantion" (1979) in comments he made to AMNA on Monday.
"I will not appear at the event and will not lay my hands on the prize. I do not want their prizes or their money," said the 81-year-old poet.
"I am against honorary distinctions regardless of where they come from. Wanting to be distinguished above others is the lowest ambition of all; the hideous motto "prevail over others" passed on to us by the ancient Greeks. I am against awards because they diminish human dignity...," Christianopoulos wrote in his work "Enantion".
The responsible culture ministry committee announced earlier on Monday that the State Literature Prizes for 2011 were awarded to Dinos Christianopoulos, Thomas Korovinis, Giorgos Markopoulos and Christos Economou.
 Stavros Niarchos Foundation to donate up to 100 million euro to non-profit organisationsThe Stavros Niarchos Foundation on Monday decided that it will pay out up to 100 million euro in grants to support non-profit organisations over the next three years.
The Foundation's board also decided to renew a grant of 1.5 million euro for a series of pilot programmes designed to tackle rising welfare needs in Greece created by the economic crisis, with a view to "alleviating the very unfavourable repercussions of the deepening crisis".
"The crisis is rapidly overturning entire decades of economic growth," said board chairman Andreas Drakopoulos concerning the decision, emphasising that the Stavros Niarchos Foundation's commitment to those having the greatest need was also a "promise to future generations".
"We are not only seeking to provide immediate relief by funding social welfare and healthcare programmes but at the same time to invest in educational programmes that will contribute to ensuring that the current crisis does not condemn the next generations. We hope that today's announcement will be an incentive for many other organisations and private individuals that can and should help," he stressed.
He noted that the foundation had already received offers from many private individuals expressing an interest in "jointly investing" in this effort for Greece's future.
 Manos Hatzidakis musical soirees at Acropolis MuseumMusical soirees featuring the work of Greek composers Manos Hatzidakis are to be held at the Acropolis Museum on Thursday evenings throughout February, as part of the museum's "One Day at the Acropolis Museum" programme.
The performances, organised in collaboration with the Athens municipality's Technopolis organisation, will take place at 5:00 p.m. on February 2, 9, 16 and 23, on the second-floor terrace of the museum, with a view of the Archaic Sculpture gallery.
 Non-resident arrivals up 10.4pct in Jan-Sept 2011Non-resident arrivals from abroad rose by 10.4 percent in the nine-month period January to September 2011, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Monday.
According to the Border Statistical Survey conducted by the Bank of Greece, in the period January-September of 2011, arrivals of non-residents from abroad increased by 10.4%, as compared with the same period of the year 2010.
More specifically, arrivals from Europe, which account for the majority of arrivals of non-residents to Greece (90.0%), registered an increase of 11.2% in Jan-September 2011 as compared with the same period of 2010, while arrivals from the Member States of the European Union recorded an increase of 5.6%. Arrivals from Portugal (89.9%), Albania (75.9%), Russia (58.0%), Luxemburg (52.6%), France (35.9%) and Belgium (32.3%), showed a significant increase. On the other hand, a significant decrease of arrivals was observed in the cases of Cyprus (21.8%) and Austria (9.8%).
As regards to the distribution of arrivals by country of origin, the largest number of arrivals came from Germany (13.1%), the United Kingdom (10.4%) and France (7.3%).
The analysis of the data by means of transportation and by point of entry shows that most arrivals are by air, while airports with the largest proportion of traffic to be those of Athens (Eleftherios Venizelos, 17.7%), Iraklio (Crete, 13.3%) and Rhodes (10.7%).
 Pharmacies closed on Tuesday afternoonPharmacies will be closed on Tuesday afternoon as the board of the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Society decided to call a work stoppage for pharmacies during the afternoon working hours, when the discussion on the amendment on the "deregulation" of the pharmacies' working hours will be taking place in Parliament.
Pharmacists stress in an announcement that with this amendment "every sense of security in providing medicines by tired pharmacists is sidestepped, there are no working hours nor day and night work lists."
 Leaders of four loan shark gangs remanded in custodyThe leaders of the four criminal gangs running loan-shark, extortion, fraud and money-laundering rackets on Monday completed their testimonies before an examining judge in Thessaloniki and were led to prison pending trial.
Among those remanded in custody was the 58-year-old businessman accused of being the leader of the most powerful of the four interlinked criminal organizations that were dismantled last week. All six defendants that testified before the examining judges on Monday were led to prison pending trial.
A total of 53 individuals were arrested in relation with the case. Thirty four of them were remanded in custody and 19 were released on conditions and after posting bail of up to 300,000 euros.
 Police dismantle Peloponnese gang stealing PPC power transformersPolice on Monday said they had successfully dismantled a gang operating in the regions of Achaia and Ileia prefecture that had stolen 47 power transformers from the Public Power Corporation's grid, causing an estimated 370,000 euro in damages.
Eight people have been arrested in connection with the gang's activities so far, while another three are being sought.
The arrests were made using information acquired by police about the gang's activities, which led arresting officers to locate a vehicle used by the gang in Kato Achaia with two power transformers and three foreign nationals on board.
A second car with another five foreign nationals was found nearby, while a search of the vehicle revealed plastic cable casings from the stolen transformers, tools and traces of the chemical oil contained in transformers on a plastic bag.
In a subsequent search of the surrounding area, they also discovered six bobbins weighing 360 kilogrammes removed by the culprits.
Police said the gang located the power transformers in remote locations and then stripped them of any components and wiring they contained, which is usually high-grade copper with good conductivity that sells for particularly high prices.
 Bodies of couple found in dump sitePolice on Monday attributed the death of a couple which was found buried in a dump site in a farming area in Analipsi, Langadas prefecture, northern Greece, to foul play.
According to police, the initial finds by the medical examiner revealed that the man bore wounds in the head, probably from a gun, and the chest. The woman's body, which had been partially consumed by dogs, also bore wounds on the body.
An autopsy is expected to reveal the time and precise cause of death.
The bodies of the unidentified couple were found on Saturday morning by a local man.
 Woman stabs mother in- law to deathA 32-year-old woman killed on Monday her 59 year-old mother in-law in Kallithea, Halkidiki, northern Greece.
According to police the perpetrator, who was later arrested, had an argument with the victim and afterwards stabbed her in several parts of her body, resulting her fatal injury.
The investigation revealed that the motive was personal differences.
 Large quantity of contraband cigarettes confiscatedEmployees of the Attica Economic Crime Squad's Drug Department achieved a considerable success on Friday morning, in cooperation with the Piraeus Fifth Customs service, in the effort to combat smuggling and tax evasion.
According to an announcement, following information received by the service from the British authorities, they were led to the detection and confiscation at the port of Piraeus of large quantities of tobacco products in two crates, that were coming from Malaysia, with plastic products and home decoration items declared in the cargo documents.
An ensuing search revealed that the first crate contained 1,000 boxes, meaning 10 million cigarettes of the JACK MAN brand, while the second contained 1,031 boxes, that is 10,310,000 cigarettes of the Walton brand.
The service is continuing investigations to locate the recipients, whose particulars in the cargo documents are forged.
 Company manager arrested in Athens for debts to the stateArrests of businessmen with debts to the state continue nationwide.
A 50-year-old manager of a company located in Athens' Halandri district was arrested on Monday by the Financial Police for debts to the state amounting to 2,923,767.60 euros.
The suspect will be led before a prosecutor on Tuesday.
 Rainy on TuesdayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 0C and 16C. Rainy in Athens, with southerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 15C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 1C to 9C.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe list with the names of the major state debtors released by the finance ministry, the troika's (European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund) demand for additional austerity measures, interventions and cutbacks in salaries in the private sector as well as in auxiliary pensions, and labour relations mostly dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "80,000 layoffs in public sector on the verge".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The list with the names of 4,151 major debtors to the state was much ado about nothing".
ESTIA: "Politicians must answer for their actions".
ETHNOS: "These are the 4,151 major state debtors".
IMERISSIA: "Zero hour for the PSI".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Package of painful measures via express procedures".
TA NEA: "Public sector: All civil servants will go through evaluations".
VRADYNI: "Arrangements for illegal buildings".
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