|Monday, 19 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-01-31
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 31 January 2012 Issue No: 3985
 PM Pademos at EU Summit in BrusselsGreek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos took part on Monday in a European Union Summit in Brussels, which decided on a permanent rescue fund for the euro zone, while 25 of the 27 EU states also agreed on a pact for stricter budget discipline.
Pademos met on Sunday evening in Brussels with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.
 French president on Greek economyBRUSSELS (AMNA/V.Demiris)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said here on Moday night that ongoing negotiations for decreasing the Greek debt with the participation of the private sector were progressing in a "satisfactory manner and we hope that they will conclude definitely in a few days."
The French president, who was addressing reporters at the end of a European Union Summit, also said that Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos had the opportunity, during the Summit, to brief his European counterparts over the present state of the Greek economy.
Regarding speculations on placing Greece under the supervision of a special budget commissioner, Sarkozy said that reforming the Greek economy was an issue that concerned only Greeks, adding, however, that a procedure of supervision regarding the Greek economy was reasonable.
Papandreou: Each country should be responsible for its policies, otherwise democracy in all of Europe will be undermined
Each country should be responsible for its fiscal and other policies, otherwise democracy in all of Europe will be undermined, PASOK leader and former prime minister George Papandreou said on Monday in Brussels, asked to comment on a German proposal for the appointment of a special commissioner to monitor implementation of the Greek budget.
"I don't know if it is a German idea, it has been in the discussions for a while now. Either we move forward democratically and each country will be responsible for its fiscal and other policies or we will undermine the democracy in all of Europe," Papandreou said as he headed into a summit meeting of the European Socialist Party.
With respect to Greece, Papandreou said that "we are at a turning point, since we have done much, but we need to do even more".
"We have made an immense effort, and at this turning point it is necessary to reduce the weight of the debt via the PSI and a new strategy that will put Greece on a course of growth and security," he added.
Papandreou pointed out that Greece was a special case, adding that Europe has serous problems to deal with, such as what it will do to earn the confidence of the citizens and the markets, how it will deal with the profiteering of the CDS, and how it will regulate the operation of the rating firms.
"Something is not on the right path," he warned, noting that beyond the fiscal responsibilities and fiscal justice, there is also a real need for a new strategic growth and for the creation of jobs, which will render the EU more competitive in the global environment.
"We must take into consideration the emerging markets, and the EU must turn to the real economy," Papandreou concluded.
 PASOK leader in Israel on TuesdayPASOK leader and Socialist International (SI) president George Papandreou will be travelling to Israel on Tuesday where he will be addresing, the same day, the 12th political and economic "Herzilya Conference" forum.
Papandreou will also hold meetings with Israel's state and political leadership, as well as with Palestinian Authority officials.
 ND reiterates opposition to abolition of so-called '13th', '14th' salariesNew Democracy (ND) spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis on Monday underlined that a firm negotiation is necessary to change what he called recession-generating policies, pointing out that in a different case the country will be unable to exit the crisis.
Speaking to a private Athens-based television station, he said the proposals submitted by troika (EC-ECB-IMF) representatives do not include measures designed to boost development, and pointed out that if the country fails to be productive it will not be able to overcome the ongoing punishing crisis.
Referring to ND's opposition to the abolition of the so-called 13th and 14th salaries (half-salary Easter and summer vacation bonuses and a full-salary Christmas bonus), he said the recession will increase 3.5 percentage points in case they are abolished and every effort will be pointless.
As regards the lack of competitiveness, he underlined that it is unrelated with the wage cost and is the result of non-wage labour cost, taxation, energy cost and red tape.
 LA.O.S leader: 'deeper recession will lead country to collapse'Income reductions affecting a large part of the population will result in a deeper and irreversible recession that will lead the country to collapse, Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) president George Karatzaferis said on Monday.
He also lashed out at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying that "she is a lady with a fat wallet" and called on her to "realise that she can rule over individuals but cannot rule over institutions ... the European Parliament is an institution".
Speaking to public-run radio, Karatzaferis said that in a recent meeting chaired by the prime minister, the political party leaders found common ground to a large degree. He said that among the issues that caused great concern are the possible abolition of the so-called 13th and 14th salaries (half-salary Easter and summer vacation bonuses and a full-salary Christmas bonus), as well as the issues of the minimum wage and supplementary pensions.
Karatzaferis stated that prime minister Lucas Papademos was authorised to explain to Greece's creditors that these are extremely dangerous measures for the economy, adding that their implementation could intensify and speed up "a brewing uprising".
Karatzaferis called on the political party leaders participating in the present government to "control" their parliamentary groups, maintaining that there is a "resistance front" within PASOK, while in New Democracy (ND) "everyone dances to their own tune."
 Gov't spokesman: 'There will be agreement of the three parties and government'There would defintely be an agreement between the government and the three parties supporting it concerning how Greece must move forward at this time, government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said on Monday. He had been asked to comment on Sunday's meeting between the political party leaders chaired by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
"The 'uncrossable line' that was set was that we are all together in this affair. There will be an agreement of the three parties and the government as to how we will proceed. The problems are major but the issues at stake are also very important and the political system in Greece must show great seriousness in taking decisions," the spokesman said in statements to the private radio station 'Real'.
Kapsis noted that the negotiations concerning Greece's future were extremely difficult, while concerning the 13th and 14th salaries in the private sector, he expressed hope that the government partners would not have to make a decision on this issue.
 EP president dismisses notion of 'budget commissioner'BRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Aroni)
The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, commented negatively here on Monday over speculation that Germany has proposed to place Greece under the supervision of a special budget commissioner.
"Neither Germany, nor any other (EU) member-state nor anyone is allowed to give to the world the impression that Greece's national sovereignty is restricted, in the framework of the necessary measures that have to be taken in order to save the euro," Schulz told a press conference after meeting of the 27 EU leaders taking part in an informal Summit.
 Dem. Alliance leader strongly criticises German proposal for 'Greece Commissioner'Democratic Alliance party leader Dora Bakoyannis on Monday harshly criticised a German proposal calling for the appointment of a special Commissioner to monitor Greece's budget.
"A people can withstand many sacrifices. What they cannot stand are insults. It would be good, therefore, if they were a lot more serious and had a greater sense of responsibility when talking of decisions other than those they signed on October 26," Bakoyannis said in a 'message' to Berlin.
She also wished Prime Minister Lucas Papademos every success in the difficult negotiations ahead and urged Greek political party leaders to immediately contact their counterparts belonging to the same political spectrum in Europe, noting that her own Democratic Alliance party had already done so.
 FM Dimas to attend SEECP ministerial meeting in BelgradeForeign Minister Stavros Dimas will represent Greece at a Southeast Europe Economic Cooperation (SEECP) informal ministerial conference to take place on Monday in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, which holds the SEECP presidency until June 2012.
Dimas will have sideline meetings with his counterparts from Turkey, Croatia and Montenegro, while he will also hold talks at the Serbian foreign ministry with his Serb counterpart Vuk Jeremic.
The Greek foreign minister will also be received by Serbian president Boris Tadic, and meet with Patriarch Irineos of Serbia.
On Tuesday, Dimas will attend a luncheon with the presidim of the local Association of Greek enterprises.
 SYRIZA head testifies in 'secret funds' investigationRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Monday testified for two hours before deputy finance prosecutor Spyros Mouzakitis within the framework of an investigation into the so-called "secret funds" allocated to government ministries.
Mouzakitis was assigned the preliminary investigation into the case following news reports which alleged that "secret funds" allocated to various government ministries in the period 2004-2007 have gone more than 200 pct over budget, in certain cases exceeding 1,000 pct.
 Ministers stress role of IT in public administration, reducing state spendingAdministrative Reform and e-Governance Minister Dimitris Reppas on Monday stressed the need for radical change in public administration that he said would come through e-governance. He was addressing a meeting on the National Strategy for Electronic Governance held at the National Public Administration and Local Government Centre, which was also attended by Deputy Public Administration Minister Pantelis Tzortzakis.
In his own speech, Tzortzakis referred to the use of IT in a series of structural reforms that would help reduce the cost of public administration, such as the savings achieved in the state's pharmaceutical spending. He predicted the use of IT could lead to savings as large as 4-5 percent of GDP per year, as well as generating new sources of revenue by fighting tax evasion.
 Nat'l defence staff announcement on Turkish corvette's courseA Turkish corvette, identified as the "Bandirma", initially passed through international waters between the Greek islands of Kassos and Crete, then headed north of Crete and entered Greek territorial waters between the Cyclades islands of Milos and Folegandros at roughly 20:15, Greece's National Defense General Staff (GEEThA) said in an announcement on Monday.
The announcement said the warship then headed northward between the islands of Sifnos and Antiparos before exiting Greek territorial waters at 1:15 a.m. early Monday morning, sailing between the islands of Tinos and Mykonos. The vessel finally sailed towards the direction of the Asia Minor coast.
Reports stated that a Hellenic Navy frigate monitoed the Turkish vessel throughout the duration.
The Turkish corvette was in Lebanon for participation in the UN Uniful peacekeeping operation, from where it commenced its return to Izmir port.
 Justice ministry tables omnibus bill to speed up judicial process in ParliamentThe justice ministry on Monday tabled an omnibus bill designed to speed up the judicial process while ensuring a fair trial in Parliament.
The omnibus bill includes proposed measures for the issue of consensual divorces, extends the working day of the court by two hours, establishes a criminal appeals court with a single justice, restricts the number of times trials can be postponed or deferred and transfers a large number of cases now dealt with by the courts to justices of the peace.
Other innovations include the introduction of pilot 'express' trials at the Court of Audit, as well as the Council of State and activates several 'electronic' judicial proceedings using IT, as well as establishing a right to compensation by plaintiffs when Greek court delay in issuing rulings.
 Cyprus President Christofias attends PES leaders' conferenceBRUSSELS (AMNA/V.Demiris/CNA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias attended here on Monday the Party of European Socialists (PES) leaders' conference which discussed the current financial crisis and the major problem of unemployment in the EU, mainly among the young people.
Leaders also discussed the issue of the draft Treaty for Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union which was to be examined Monday during the Informal European Council.
Christofias was invited for the first time by the PES to attend the conference "as the progressive leader of the next Presidency of the Council". In his intervention at the meeting, Christofias requested the support and cooperation of European Socialists during the Cypriot EU Presidency, in the second half of 2012, especially as regards social coherence issues.
"We believe," he noted, "that its is imperative, during the Cypriot Presidency, to spare no efforts with a view to pave the way for a sound dialogue aiming to build a European social model that will focus on the individual and his needs and will be based on the best practices and achievements of the most advanced EU member states in this field."
In this way, he added, "we will address social challenges and we will achieve the needed social coherence which constitutes a primary demand of European citizens."
Christofias had, on the sidelines of the conference, private meetings with President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and the Chairman of the PES Group at the European Parliament Hannes Swoboda.
The Cyprus President informed both Schulz and Swoboda about the results of his recent meeting on the Cyprus problem, at Greentree, New York. with UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.
Schulz and Swoboda expressed their unequivocal support to efforts made by the Cyprus President with a view to break the deadlock and find a solution to the Cyprus problem and accepted an invitation by Christofias to visit Cyprus soon, in view of the upcoming Cypriot EU Presidency.
Earlier, Christofias met with PES leader Sergei Stanishev.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. The latest round of UN-led negotiations has been underway since 2008 between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus with an aim to reunify the island under a federal roof.
 AMNA interview with AJC executive director David Harris"The Holocaust denier-in-chief is the president of Iran. This is shameful enough. What I find no less shameful, though, is how many countries are prepared to overlook or minimise his heinous words in the interest of 'solidarity' or business as usual," American Jewish Committee (AIC) executive director David Harris underlined in an interview with the ANA-MPA on Monday.
Harris spoke from Thessaloniki, where he arrived to participate in commemorative events in the city on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
"...one common denominator of Holocaust deniers is unquestionably a hatred of Jews," he said, adding: "why else deny the reality of perhaps the most documented genocide in human history?"
As regards the recent EU decision to impose sanctions on Iran, the AJC executive director said "the AJC has traveled the world, including Athens, to call attention to the growing Iranian threat". He added that "sanctions may cause some economic pinch in a struggling Europe, including Greece, but there are alternative energy suppliers today to minimise disruption. The cost of doing nothing in the long-run would, in any case, be much higher than acting now. For example, what would Greece do if Turkey decided it needed a bomb to match Iran's?"
As regards Arab-Israeli relations in the light of the recent developments in many Arab countries, like Egypt and Syria, he stated that "in the immediate future, prospects for advancing overall Arab-Israeli relations do not look promising, though the picture is not uniformly bleak."
He added that he is "quite pessimistic about Egypt's current direction" and does "not expect any miracles in Syria. Lebanon remains under the thumb of Hezbollah, and Gaza is in the hands of Hamas. Libya is not rushing to a stable democracy anytime soon. And so on. At the same time, in some other parts of the Arab world, links with Israel, including economic ties, are quietly developing."
He underlined that "acceptance of Israel and open relations require political courage in the Arab world, as the late Anwar Sadat of Egypt demonstrated," adding that "such courage is largely lacking at the moment."
He also said that the "AJC has long supported an independent Palestinian state living alongside Israel as a result of a negotiated outcome between Israelis and Palestinians," stressing that this is "the only conceivable realistic political deal".
Referring to the recipe that will lead to such a development, he said the most necessary element is "a Palestinian leader capable of telling his own people that the 63-year dream of eliminating Israel is over and compromise is the answer".
 Labour ministry, troika to resume talks on TuesdayThe leadership of Greece's labour ministry and representatives of the EU-IMF troika mission in Athens are due to meet on Tuesday morning to continue their talks concerning wage and labour reforms designed to boost Greece's competitiveness.
The demands made by the troika were discussed during Sunday's meeting between Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and the leaders of the three political parties supporting the government.
Labour Minister George Koutroumanis will be in charge of conveying the positions of the Greek side, which wants to preserve the 13th and 14th bonus wages as well as the minimum wage in the private sector. This is also the view agreed by the 'social partners' - the main employer and trade union organisations in the country - and the political parties.
The labour ministry's general secretary Anna Stratinaki and other staff had meetings with an expert delegation representing the troika on Sunday and Monday, with the labour ministry presenting projections concerning the cost of labour up to 2015 and estimates that a 10 percent reduction in social insurance contributions will have the same beneficial impact on competitiveness as the wage reductions sought by the troika without the negative impact on tax revenues.
The talks are also expected to cover a number of other issues, such as a reduction in supplementary pensions and changes in various labour regulations for those in banks and public utilities that troika experts consider increase the cost of labour.
 Development minister meets with Chinese national development officialGreece and China are examining enhancement of their bilateral cooperation in the sectors of shipping, shipbuilding and tourism, Greek development, competitiveness and shipping minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis said on Monday after a meeting with China's vice-minister of the national Development and Reform Commission Zhang Xiaoqiang.
Chryssohoidis said that the Chinese official expressed interest in Greece's denationalisations programme and reaffirmed that COSCO wants to expand its activities in Greece.
The minister further said that efforts are being made to simplify the visa procedures "which is an obligation of ours", while he also noted that there was a leap in Greek exports to China on 2010, which rose by 55.9 percent, whereas Chinese exports to Greece declined by 5.42 percent, reducing Greece's trade balance deficit vis-a-vis china by 7.35 percent to 2.7 billion euros against the preceding year.
Zhang, in turn, said that with the efforts of the two countries, the relations between the two people are very satisfactory and could improve further. "China will help the EU and Greece to overcome the economic crisis," he said, adding that more imports of Greek products will be made to China and that the government will encourage Chinese companies to invest in Greece.
He further noted that Chinese investments are made with respect for the environment and the laws of the other country, creating new jobs.
 Greek enterprises report 45.8-bln-euro loss last year, surveyGreek enterprises reported losses totaling 45.8 billion euros in the 12-month period from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, a survey by Icap Group showed on Monday.
The survey, conducted on the balance sheets of 943 enterprises, confirmed that private sector enterprises suffered another year of heavy losses. Specifically, sales fell 3.5 pct, while gross earnings dropped -13 pct in the 12-month period.
These negative developments, combined with high operating expenses led to a 71.6-pct decline in operating results. Icap said net results showed losses of 45.8 billion euros in 2011 after profits of 44.2 million euros in 2010. EBITDA fell 13.2 pct over the same period.
The survey showed that 45 pct of all companies in the survey reported losses, while 62 pct of all enterprises reported a decline in profits in 2011 compared with 2010.
The manufacturing sector was the only sector to report a relative improvement in its results. Sales of the 256 manufacturing companies in the survey grew 13.1 pct, while gross earnings fell 2.8 pct and EBITDA jumped 32.4 pct.
The commerce sector suffered from a deep economic crisis, with the 266 companies in the survey reporting an 11.2 pct decline in sales and a 9.9 pct fall in gross earnings. Pre-tax profits fell 23.8 pct to 9.2 million euros, while EBITDA dropped 20.7 pct.
The services sector showed a significant worsening of its results. The 357 companies in the survey reported a 9.8 pct decline in turnover, with gross earnings falling 58.5 pct. The sector reported a net loss of 141 million euros, almost double from the previous year.
Alpha Bank to hold shareholders' meeting to discuss PSI impact
Alpha Bank on Monday announced a decision to call for a new general shareholders' meeting in order to examine all developments related to a merger plan with Eurobank and stressed that the impact of ongoing PSI negotiations would be disproportionate over the figures of the two banks.
In an announcement released late on Monday, Alpha Bank said that a decision reached by a general shareholders' meeting in November 15, 2011, did not take in mind the impact of a PSI+ program, as both banks's managements mutually confirmed their inability to safely determine the impact of a PSI+ program at the time.
The bank said that following recent developments it decided to wait for the PSI program to be finalized and stressed that its impact would be disproportionate over the merging banks' figures. According to information from both banks in October, the merger plan was progressing according to an agreed timetable, without delays.
Late on Monday, the Athens Stock Exchange announced it was revoking an earlier decision over the suspension of trading in both banks' shares in the market.
 Bank credit to private sector - 3.2 pct in Dec.Bank credit to the private sector fell deeper into red in December 2011, with the annual growth rate of total credit granted to the domestic private sector decreasing to -3.2 percent in December 2011 (November 2011: -2.4 percent, December 2010: 0.0 percent), the Bank of Greece announced on Monday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that net flow of total credit to the domestic private sector was negative amounting to EUR 1.746 billion euros (December 2010: positive net flow of 244 million).
The net flow of credit to enterprises in December 2011 was negative, amounting to 1.422 billion (December 2010: positive net flow of 475 million) and the annual growth rate of credit decreased to -2.0 percent from -0.5 percent in November 2011 (December 2010: 1.1 percent). In particular, the annual growth rate of credit to non-financial enterprises decreased to -1.8 percent in December 2011 from -1.0 percent in the previous month, while the annual growth rate of credit to insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries, which includes significant intra-group transactions, decreased significantly to -5.2 percent in December 2011 from 10.0 percent in November 2011.
The net flow of credit to sole proprietors and unincorporated partnerships was zero in December 2011 (December 2010: positive net flow of 28 million euros) and the annual rate of change of credit stood at -6.6 percent in December 2011 from -6.5 percent in the previous month (December 2010: 0.3 percent).
The central bank said that in December 2011, the net flow of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions was negative, amounting to 324 million euros (December 2010: negative net flow of 259 million). As a result, the annual growth rate of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions stood at -3.9 percent in December 2011 from -3.8 percent, in November 2011 (December 2010: -1.2 percent).
 Prosecutor wraps up investigation into Proton Bank loans, expected to press chargesFirst-instance court public prosecutor Yiannis Dragatsis on Monday decided to wrap up his investigation into the suspect loans issued by Proton Bank to companies owned by the bank's major shareholder and CEO Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, without taking the suspect's testimony.
The prosecutor made the decision when Lavrentiadis failed to appear before him to testify on Monday after six successive deferments of his testimony.
Lavrentiadis had sent counsel in his stead to seek a seventh deferment, even though talks between Lavrentiadis and the new Proton Bank for the return of 393 million euro to the bank had essentially fallen through.
The businessman had proposed to immediately return the sum of 50 million euro and the remainder of the sum in installments over a period of time. The proposed settlement was turned down by the new bank's management, however, and there was no agreement between the two sides.
As a result, the prosecutor decided to deny the request for any further deferment of Lavrentiadis' testimony and to close the file on the case without taking his testimony.
Dragatsis is now expected to produce a report on the findings of his investigation within the next few days and to propose criminal charges against Lavrentiadis for engineering the unsecured loans amounting to 700 million euro.
So far, Lavrentiadis has returned the sum of 51 million euro to the bank. He also faces a civil suit for 320 million euro from the old Proton Bank, corresponding to the outstanding sum that remains on its books after liquidation.
Both the old Proton Bank and the new Proton Bank have petitioned to be represented at the trial against Lavrentiadis as civil plaintiffs.
 Cross-party committee meeting on coastal shippingA cross-party committee meeting chaired by deputy development, competitiveness & shipping ministry Adonis Georgiadis on Monday focused on the problems faced by Greek shipping which threaten the sustainability of coastal shipping companies.
The meeting attended representatives of the shipping companies association SEEN while another meeting will be held on Friday with the participation of the Greek seamen federation PNO.
"The coastal shipping issue is a thorny one," Georgiadis stressed, adding that an honest effort is being made to solve lingering problems.
 Road consortiums announce hike in road tollsToll fees at the Elefsina and Isthmus toll posts will increase as of February 1, the Olympia Odos construction consortium announced on Monday.
The toll feels will rise to 3.20 euros from 3.10 euros for cars, to 8.10 euros from 7.90 euros for small trucks, and to 11.40 euros from 11.00 euros for articulated lorries, while fees for motorcycles will remain unchanged.
The consortium further said that there will be no increases in toll fees along the Corinth-Patras section, on which works have stopped, adding that the increases are provided for in its concession contract.
Highway construction consortiums for other main highways in Greece have also announced plans to raise road tolls as of February 1.
The new prices announced for the Athens-Thessaloniki highway were the following:
Afidnes toll posts - motorbikes 1.50 euro, cars 2.10 euro, trucks 5.30 euro, articulated lorries 7.40 euro;
Thiva toll posts - motorbikes 1.80 euro, cars 2.55 euro, trucks 6.45 euro, articulated lorries 9.00 euro;
Tragana toll posts - motorbikes 1.40 euro, cars 2.00 euro, trucks 5.00 euro, articulated lorries 7.00 euro;
Agia Triada toll posts - motorbikes 1.15 euro, cars 1.65 euro, trucks 4.15 euro, articulated lorries 5.80 euro;
On the Corinth-Kalamata highway in the Peloponnese, the MOREAS consortium has announced the following price hikes:
Spathovouni toll posts - motorbikes 1.80 euro, cars 2.50 euro, trucks 6.40 euro, articulated lorries 9.00 euro;
Nestani toll posts - motorbikes 1.70 euro, cars 2.40 euro, trucks 6.10 euro, articulated lorries 8.50 euro;
Manari bridge toll posts - motorbikes 1.30 euro, cars 1.90 euro, trucks 4.90 euro, articulated lorries 6.90 euro.
 Infant formula now on sale at all food outlets, based on new lawInfant formula for babies up to six months old can now be sold freely at all retail food outlets and not just in pharmacies, after the publication in the government gazette last week of a joint ministerial decision signed by Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis and Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, according to a ministry announcement on Monday.
The ministry noted that the price of infant formula for babies up to six months, which could previously only be sold by pharmacies, was significantly higher than the equivalent formula for older babies (6-12 months and one-year-plus) that were sold freely on the market.
Similar findings concerning the price of such products had also been reported in other EU countries.
 Business Briefs-- The Athens Stock Exchange and the Capital Markets Commission on Monday announced the temporary suspension of trading in Alpha Bank and Eurobank shares, citing lack of adequate information over a merger plan timetable between the two major Greece-based banks.
-- "Greek consumers have made a turn towards their homes, family and friends, boosting household consumption, searching for better prices and products. In this environment, the current economic crisis offers opportunities to those enterprises that will react by timely strengthening their position in the market," a report by Boston Consulting Group stated on Monday.
-- The Greek government will speed up its long-delayed privatisation programme and has already received investment interest for the betting pools monopoly OPAP and state lotteries, Yiannis Koukiadis, president of the fund containing state assets said on Monday.
-- A Hellenic Petroleum general shareholders' meeting approved a board plan to sell the Group's equity participation in DE.PA, the natgas provider.
-- Athens International Airport (AIA) has announced a special economic incentive for airline companies for the duration of the winter season.
 Stocks end moderately higherStocks ended moderately higher at the Athens Stock Exchange, overcoming nervousness created by an Alpha Bank's announcement that a timetable for its merger with Eurobank remained uncertain due to ongoing PSI negotiations.
The composite index of the market rose 0.59 pct to end at 750.04 points, rising as much as 3.12 pct and falling by 1.77 pct during the session. Turnover was a low 65.367 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 1.13 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.95 pct and the Small Cap index fell 1.76 pct. Banks (3.23 pct) and Food (2.81 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Chemicals (5.57 pct) and Telecoms (4.51 pct) suffered losses.
Piraeus Bank (7.60 pct), Hellenic Postbank (4.55 pct) and National Bank (3.0 pct) were top gainers, while OTE (4.51 pct) and Ellaktor (4.38 pct) were top losers among blue chip stocks.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 96 to 44 with another 25 issues unchanged. Vovos (20.14 pct), Attikat (20 pct) and GEKE (19.93 pct) were top gainers, while Pasal (19.68 pct), Q&R (19 pct) and Andromeda (18.87 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.98%
Personal & Household: -1.16%
Raw Materials: -0.92%
Travel & Leisure: -0.32%
Food & Beverages: +2.84%
Financial Services: -1.58%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Cyprus and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.24
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.66
HBC Coca Cola: 14.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.73
National Bank of Greece: 2.40
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.80
Bank of Piraeus: 0.54
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose slightly to 26.72 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 26.63 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 28.5 pct and the German Bund 1.78 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.76 pct, the six-month rate 1.42 pct, the three-month 1.13 pct and the one-month rate 0.72 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 1.26 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover shrinking to 24.712 million euros.
Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,463 contracts worth 16.152 million euros, with 25,671 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 47,546 contracts worth 8.560 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (19,207), followed by Cyprus Bank (4,518), OTE (731), PPC (547), OPAP (842), Piraeus Bank (4,566), Alpha Bank (13,801), Marfin Popular Bank (553), Hellenic Postbank (980) and Mytilineos (683).
 Foreign Exchange rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.330
Pound sterling 0.848
Danish kroner 7.545
Swedish kroner 9.033
Japanese yen 102.04
Swiss franc 1.222
Norwegian kroner 7.796
Canadian dollar 1.338
Australian dollar 1.261
 High winds disrupt maritime trafficHigh winds in Greece were causing disruptions in maritime traffic on Monday, according to port authorities.
Strong wind velocities caused the cancellation of ferry sailing on the Prinos-Kavala route, the morning catamaran routes from the port of Piraeus to the Ermioni and the islands of Poros, Hydra and Spetses, as well as ship sailings from Marmari to Rafina.
The National Meteorological Service (EMY) has forecast storm winds in the sea of Kythera and the northeastern Aegean, which will reach 9-10 Beaufort locally.
Travelers are advised to contact the local port authorities and their tourist agents before setting off for their journeys.
 Greek painter Papatheodorou-Valyrakis guest of honor at National Museum of Women in the Arts anniversary eventGreek painter Mina Papatheodorou-Valyrakis will be the guest of honor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington DC, at an event on February 3 marking the 25th anniversary of the museum's foundation, with her work titled "Double Ferrari Formula One".
Papatheodorou-Valyrakis' painting will be auctioned during the event, with the proceeds to be donated to the Legacy of Women in the Arts Endowment that financially supports the museum, which belongs to Formula 1, which is the signature theme of the artist's works.
The event, called "An Evening in Monte-Carlo", will be the inaugural celebration of the museum's 25th anniversary year, and many works of art and other items are being auctioned on-line with the aim or raising 50 million dollars.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts, founded in 1987, is the world's only museum solely dedicated exclusively to recognizing the contributions of women in the visual, performing, and literary arts. Since opening its doors in 1987, the museum has acquired a collection of more than 4,000 paintings, sculptures, works on paper and decorative art.
The Athens-born Papatheodorou-Valyrakis, who specialises in sports-related subjects, studied painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts under Prof. Yiannis Moralis, and received her PhD from the University of Florence in 1986. Her works are exhibited in the National Gallery in Athens, the Olympic Museum of Lausanne and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, while her works were used as official posters for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. She was named "Sport Artist of the Year" in 2002 by the United States Sport Academy, from among 65 international candidacies, for her work "Downhill Skier" that was the official poster of the 2002 Winter Olympics. In 2007 she was elected as a member of the International Board of the United States Sports Academy.
 3D screenings of Acropolis monuments at New Acropolis MuseumThe much photographed and videotaped monuments of Athens' Acropolis never cease to amaze visitors with their perfection and beauty, but how many people are aware of the "secrets" behind the unique Parthenon, the magnificent Propylae or the temples of the Erechtheion and Athena Nike?
As of this coming weekend, February 4-5, the monuments of the Sacred Hill will be revealed to visitors at the New Acropolis Museum through three-dimensional projections.
Every Saturday and Sunday a 10-minute film titled "The Acropolis in Antiquity", produced under the supervision of the Acropolis Monuments Preservation Service, will be screened in the Museum's first-floor Virtual Reality Hall.
The fill will present the Acropolis' unique monuments in three dimensions, while also providing useful information to help visitors understand these architectural sculptures.
There will be two projections daily on the weekends, at 11:00 a.m. in English and at 12:00 noon in Greek.
For groups over 10 persons, reservations are required by phone, by calling the Museum Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at 210-9000903.
The 3D screenings are part of the new, enhanced "A Day at the Acropolis Museum" programme.
Search for 9-year-old girl, grandfather missing after overturn of migrant-smuggling boat in Evros River, continues on Monday
A search and rescue operation for a 9-year-old girl and her 55-year-old grandfather, who were declared missing on Sunday after a boat they were on overturned in the freezing waters of the Evros River, in an effort by migrant-runners to smuggle non-legal migrants from Turkey to Greece, was inconclusive as at noon Monday, rescuers told AMNA.
The search resumed at first light of day on Monday on land and sea around the Orestiada region, but efforts were hampered by very low temperatures in the region, which plunged to minus 8 (-8) degrees centigrade.
Meanwhile, another nine illegal migrants on board the same boat who were rescued by police on Sunday were reported to be well in health. Eight were taken to Didymoteicho Hospital on Sunday suffering from hypothermia, while the 9th, a four-year-old boy, was transferred to and hospitalised at Alexandroupolis hospital, where he underwent examinations and was found to be well in health.
 Police arrest foreign driver of overturned van in which five non-legal migrants were killedPolice announced early Monday that they have arrested the driver of a van that veered off a winding mountain road and overturned on a stretch of the Astakos Mytikas motorway in western mainland Greece on Friday in which five would-be migrants were killed and 10 others were injured.
The van was carrying 48 illegal migrants.
The driver was identified as a 44-year-old Bulgarian, who had been detained on Sunday on suspicion of being the van's driver, and is charged with homicide due to negligence, illegal transport of non-legal migrants, exposure of humans to danger, theft and acceptance of products of crime.
Police are also seeking two more foreign nationals, a Russian and an Arab, who were in another vehicle ahead of the van acting as lookouts.
According to police, the three migrant smugglers picked up the 48 non-legal migrants in Athens in order to transport them to Italy, for a price of 3,000 euros from each migrant.
 Foreign migrant-smuggler arrested, 26 non-legals detained in N. GreeceA 47-year-old Georgian national was arrested and 26 non-legal migrants were detained near Malgara, Thessaloniki on Sunday after police found the illegal migrants crowded in the back of the Georgian's truck.
The driver, believed to be a member of a migrant-smuggling ring, had hidden the 26 non-legal migrants -- from Afghanistan and Pakistan -- behind a shipment of metal ores on behalf of a company headquartered abroad.
The final destination of the non-legal migrants was Germany, and they had paid for the transport the sum of 1,000 euros each to a Kurdish national, who is wanted by police.
 Vatopedi abbot Ephraim files petition for conditional releaseMt. Athos Vatopedi Monastery abbot Ephraim, held in custody as a suspects in the controversial land swap case involving the Greek state and the monastery, on Monday filed a petition requesting to be released, citing health reasons.
He also repeated that he is innocent of the accusations against him.
Abbot Ephraim has been in custody since Dec. 23, 2011 following a ruling by the Council of Court of Appeals Judges that intervened to settle a disagreement between the examining judge and the responsible prosecutor on whether he should be held on remand pending trial.
 More than 220 kilos of cannabis found in apartment in Aghios Panteleimonas districtMore than 220 kilos of cannabis were found by police narcotics squad officers during a raid on an apartment in the Aghios Panteleimonas district of Athens on Monday night, and the Albanian tenant was wanted.
Police found 228.24 kilograms of hashish in the apartment, which has been rented to a 29-year-old Albanian national who was not at home at the time of the police operation and is wanted.
Police also found and confiscated two precision scales and a cell phone.
 Korydallos, Halkida prisons closed due to overcrowding for first time in their historyFor the first time in the history of the Greek state, the Korydallos and Halkida prisons have closed their doors and refused to take any more inmates due to desperate overcrowding.
The governors of the two prisons have sent a letter notifying the justice ministry and prosecuting authorities that the two correctional facilities are full to capacity and they have refused to accept more inmates.
The decision has created chaos in police jails throughout Athens and Halkida, as well as in the prison transfers department, as prisoners are piling up in holding cells. Similar problems are expected to arise in several courts where convicts and remand prisoners cannot be tranferred to prison, leading to trials being postponed and several offences becoming statute-barred as a result.
According to the Korydallos prison governor, there were 2,345 inmates incarcerated in Korydallos on January 27 even though the prison was actually designed for no more than 800, making it impossible to accept any more.
The governor in the Halkida correctional facility also underlined that the state of the prison was 'tragic' and the overcrowding so great that the only place left to put new arrivals was in the toilets. He warned that prison was a 'powder keg' ready to explode with unforeseeable consequences.
"We beg, therefore, that you take the above into account and do not incarcerate any more inmates in the above correctional facility. We cannot take any more prisoners. There is not an inch of empty space to put them," the governor wrote.
The number of inmates in prisons throughout the country is now at 12,703 and is the largest in the history of the Greek state, while the entire prison system's capacity is for no more than 9,300.
The justice ministry is due to propose measures to relieve prison overcrowding in Parliament on Tuesday.
 Third prison refusing further inmates due to overcrowding, four more on the verge of closingA third prison, after those of Korydallos and Halkida, on Monday sent a letter to the justice ministry saying that it will be unable to accept any more inmates due to overcrowding.
The latest prison to close its gates to new prisoners is that of Tripolis, designed for 65 inmates and currently holding 180.
Meanwhile, another four prison governors have informed the justice ministry that they are close to capacity and already suffering from acute overcrowding. These include the correctional facilities at Thessaloniki, Malgara, Grevena and Nafplion.
 Police crack murder of elderly woman, say robbery was motiveThe police Crimes Against Life department on Monday said it had solved the murder of a 76-year-old woman killed in her apartment in Perissos last July, naming three suspects and identifying robbery as the motive.
According to investigating officers, the elderly woman was killed by three foreign nationals, a 30-year-old Indian man and two Albanian men aged 35 and 36, respectively. The three had broken into the woman's apartment and removed various valuables, including the sum of 1,500 euro.
When they were surprised by the victim during the robbery, however, they tied and gagged her using fabric and adhesive tape, which led to her death.
The 30-year-old Indian will be led before an Athens Misdemeanours Court prosecutor on Monday, while police are still seeking the other two suspects in the case.
 Two arrested in contraband cigarettes bustA large quantity of contraband cigarettes destined for Italy was blocked by port authorities in the port of Igoumenitsa on Monday.
Some 2,600 cartons of contraband cigarettes were found hidden in a secret compartment in a semi-truck with Bulgarian license plates.
The driver and passenger of the vehicle were arrested, while the truck and cigarettes were seized.
 Gavalas remanded in custody for non-payment of VATAn Athens examining magistrate on Monday ordered that businessman Lakis Gavalas, 60, be remanded in custody pending trial for criminal-level charges of not paying VAT.
The high-profile fashion celebrity has now been arrested three times on charges of unpaid debts to the state, with the latest arrest carried out immediately after his trial before a police court for unpaid debts amounting to 7.5 million euro was postponed.
Monday was the first time that Gavalas was faced with criminal-level charges relating to his debts to the state. The charges concern an outstanding sum of 145,000 euro that Gavalas owes for non-payment of VAT in 2011. The debt concerns a company owned by Gavalas that has not been included in bankruptcy proceedings initiated by Lakis Gavalas SA earlier this year.
The magistrate rejected Gavalas' attempt to arrive at a settlement to repay the debt on Monday, noting that since the case had already gone before a magistrate the entire sum due would have to be paid.
 Two arrested for debts to state in ThessalonikiTwo Thessaloniki-based business men were arrested for overdue debts to the state on Monday.
The first case concerned the 67-year-old CEO of the concrete manufacturer 'Nikos Kamatakis ATEE', who came in of his own accord to the Polygyros police station earlier the same morning and was arrested.
His company's debts to the state are in the region of 604,695 euro and it was included in a list of companies and individuals with large debts to the state that was recently published by the finance ministry. The company sought to benefit from the facilities provided under a 1990 bankruptcy law in the past but its petition was rejected.
The second arrest was of a 58-year-old owner of a cloth-dying workshop called "Karagiannis and Co" with outstanding debts amounting to 1,231,440 euro. The owner also had an out-standing arrest warrant for tax evasion and eight convictions for tax-evasion, failure to pay employer contributions, slander and suing on false pretences for which he had been sentenced to serve 28 months in prison and pay a fine of 4,300 euro.
The two men arrested were led before the appropriate misdemeanours court prosecutors.
 Three arrests for overdue debts to stateGreek authorities on Monday reported three arrests for overdue debts to the state, two in the port city of Patras and one in the nearby town of Thermos in Aitoloakarnania.
The arrest in Aitoloakarnania was of a 31-year-old man owning more than 7.4 million euro to the state.
The two arrests in Patras were of a 55-year-old man with outstanding debts of 650,000 euro and a 27-year-old with debts exceeding 280,000 euro.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime Minister Lucas Papademos' meeting on Sunday with the leaders of the three political parties (PASOK, New Democracy and LAOS) backing his interim government, the negotiations for the PSI and a second EU-IMF bailout loan agreement, Monday's EU summit in Brussels and reactions to a German proposal for the appointment of a special commissioner to monitor implementation of the Greek budget were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Monday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Obligatory agreement of the three leaders for the new Memorandum".
AVRIANI: "Merkel (German chancellor) wants to turn Greece into a German colony with an appointed 'eparch'."
DIMOKRATIA: "Blood and tears".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Order for veto to troika's demands".
ESTIA: "The fatal Davos (World Economic Forum) for Greece - Unbelievable mistakes by (PASOK leader and former prime minister George) Papandreou".
ETHNOS: "The salaries are in the hands of Papademos".
IMERISSIA: "Wavering 'battle' for loan and PSI".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Negotiations at the extremes for the new loan agreement".
TA NEA: "Papademos and party leaders: three 'no' - Nein to the plan for commissioner, Nein to abolition of 13th and 14th salaries (holiday and vacation bonuses), Nein to reduction of minimum salary".
VRADYNI: "Write-off of debts from credit cards due to loansharking interest rates".
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