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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-02-03

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

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

Friday, 3 February 2012 Issue No: 3988

CONTENTS

  • [01] FinMin, Employment minister holding new meeting with troika heads
  • [02] Gov't spokesman: It's time for difficult decisions
  • [03] Papandreou urges PASOK MPs to support PSI, new loan agreements
  • [04] 'Until Sunday night we must win the wager of the next decade', FinMin Venizelos says
  • [05] Papandreou-Venizelos meeting concluded
  • [06] ND to Papandreou: You 'destroyed the country'
  • [07] Dem. Alliance leader calls for political agreement to avoid default
  • [08] Putin: Greece artificially deprived of means to reform its economy
  • [09] Archbishop issues appeal towards PM over economic depression, warns of social upheaval
  • [10] FM spokesman: Deterrent capability intact
  • [11] ELSTAT 'inflated' deficit figures prelim investigation file forwarded to parliament
  • [12] ND: inflated deficit case 'major political issue'
  • [13] ND demands withdrawal of clause on tenure of independent authority members
  • [14] ND's Tasoulas rules out delay in elections over ELSTAT case
  • [15] Twenty eight MPs raise German war reparations issue
  • [16] Draft law to speed up judicial process tabled
  • [17] Fiscal consolidation will lead to long-term growth, Commission says
  • [18] Deputy tourism minister meets with Izmir chamber chairman
  • [19] Thessaly Region eyeing Russian tourist market
  • [20] Yiannitsis addresses event on 'The euro and Greece'
  • [21] Hellenic Steel workers stage rally outside Labour Ministry
  • [22] Public hospital personnel demonstrate outside health ministry
  • [23] Pharmaceutical spending to fall to 2.88 bln euros this year
  • [24] Union: Unpaid electricity bills exceed 500,000
  • [25] Business Briefs
  • [26] Stocks end down on profit taking
  • [27] Greek bond market closing report
  • [28] ADEX closing report
  • [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [30] Australia's Day celebrated in Athens
  • [31] Grevena, with Valia Calda, candidate for Model Forest
  • [32] Advantages for tourism from use of Internet
  • [33] Horseracing Organisation head released after arrest for debts to state
  • [34] One among 15 detained for takeover of Athens Cultural Center sent to prosecutor
  • [35] Prosecutor again recommends release of Abbot Ephraim
  • [36] One-day seminar next week on illegal immigration issue
  • [37] Homicide of eldery man solved
  • [38] Drug labs uncovered, 1.5 kilos of cocaine confiscated, two arrested
  • [39] Woman arrested for throwing flour at visiting politicians in Kalamata
  • [40] Rainy on Friday
  • [41] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] FinMin, Employment minister holding new meeting with troika heads

    Government Vice Presidernt and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Employment Minister George Koutroumanis hold a new meeting on Thursday evening with the heads of the troika.

    The main topic of the discussions is the issue of the radical reversals in labour relations that the creditors are demanding (drastic decrease or even the abolition of the minimum and 13th-14th salary, sector contracts, auxiliary pensions, etc).

    If an agreement is reached in the meeting in question, it will also be brought to the attention of the meeting of party leaders supporting the government, for the parties to be committed towards the troika as well.

    [02] Gov't spokesman: It's time for difficult decisions

    "The country is on the verge of official bankruptcy and it's time to take tough decisions," Minister of State and government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said Thursday, speaking on private MEGA television station.

    Kapsis said that the final decisions will be taken at the joint meeting of the three political party leaders supporting prime minister Lucas Papademos' interim government, adding that the meeting will be held on Friday noon, although he did not rule out the possibility that the meeting could take place on Thursday evening.

    Referring to the salaries issue in the private sector, Kapsis said that the government has not stumbled up against a wall, adding that we must wait for the final outcome which, however, could entail some difficult decisions. "When the agreement is reached, it will not be without pain and cost," he warned, adding that the government believes that a prospective reduction of salaries could have very negative repercussions.

    Finally, said Kapsis, "we must decide whether we will remain adamant on our red lines or want to receive the new loan. If we say 'no' to the agreement, we will also have to say how we will proceed," he concluded.

    [03] Papandreou urges PASOK MPs to support PSI, new loan agreements

    PASOK party president and former prime minister George Papandreou on Thursday urged his MPs to vote in favour of the PSI bond swap and the new agreement for loans to Greece negotiated by the government, while addressing a meeting of PASOK's Parliamentary Group.

    Papandreou also had high praise for the effort being made by government vice-president and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos to ensure a successful outcome of the negotiations for PSI and the new loan agreement.

    PASOK's leader emphasised that the battle must be fought by everyone together, stressing that this was the only way that the EU summit decisions of October 26 would reach completion. He also stressed that this agreement was unique in world history, a major opportunity for the country that offered very significant protection.

    Citing statements by Institute of International Finance (IIF) chief Charles Dallara, Papandreou noted that no other country had ever had such a large debt written off nor received such massive loans.

    Talking about his choices as premier, Papandreou insisted that he had not made a mistake and that the October 26 agreement was a major gain for Greece. He had not given up the premiership because the PASOK government had failed but to ensure that the implementation of this agreement was not placed at risk, Papandreou said. He also noted that even those who had opposed the agreement at first were now working to support it.

    If the PSI was completed and the loan agreement signed, this would create the conditions that would allow the country to move forward, escape the danger, assuage the fears of the citizens and businesses and restore economic prosperity, he added.

    Papandreou was adamant on one point, which was that the shares issued during the recapitalisation of banks should be common shares with voting rights. According to PASOK's president, it was insupportable for citizens to be forced to make sacrifices when banks were not prepared to contribute to the effort to bring the country out of the crisis.

    Papandreou referred to "the great dilemma" that the PASOK government had to face, but that also exists today, stressing that it is a dilemma of "either painful measures or a different, alternative, and maybe disastrous policy."

    He stressed that the PASOK government "could have chosen not to assume its responsibilities but did not do this. It preferred to do its duty for the country not to be led to disaster. If it let things, the country would have gone bankrupt and then (New Democracy party) ND would have assumed the burden of responsibility. We preferred to avoid the country's default, the citizens to attribute their pain to us, but not to find themselves in the ruins. ND is discovering the problem now, under the weight of its participation in the government."

    Papandreou exercised strong criticism against opposition, as well as to conservative Europe, terming some of its options "ludicrous".

    Papandreou also referred to the country's "big challenges" over the coming period, which he named as: the tidying up of the economy, transparency in the public sector, combatting tax evasion, the serving of the citizen who is being inconvenienced and meritocracy in the public sector.

    Focusing on PASOK party issues, he said that unity round a platform both now and after the elections was essential. He, as he said, had mentioned what his personal intentions are and clarified that he intends to exercise his duties in full until the procedures that have been agreed are completed.

    [04] 'Until Sunday night we must win the wager of the next decade', FinMin Venizelos says

    Government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, addressing the PASOK party's Parliamentary Group on Thursday, stressed that "from today until Sunday night we must win the wager of the next decade, all are being judged now."

    Referring to ongoing talks regarding a Greek bonds swap (PSI), the Finance minister said that "the negotiation has in essence been concluded", however he also mentioned that there are some who are expecting to gain from possible failure.

    "If the PSI succeeds, then a big burden will leave the backs of the Greek people, because the unbearable public debt is that which decreases national sovereignty," the government vice president said, pointing out that "the debt will decrease by 100 billion euros, or by 47 units of GDP."

    Venizelos said that until the Eurogroup meeting that has been set for Monday, although the possibility exists of this date being changed, the terms of the participation of the country's partners and of the IMF must have been secured, of the so-called OSI (Official Sector Involvement) and the ECB, the national banks must be mobilised for this and the interest rate must be discussed.

    Venizelos also said that "we must convince 16 governments, the banks, the EFSF, the IMF and a series of countries that do not have a clear picture of Greece, such as Brazil, Japan, China, but that also do not know exactly what it means to lend a country 240 billion, which is a huge amount of money," adding that "the profiteers are waiting and the markets are pressuring."

    Lastly, the minister stressed that "the entire game is being played again from the beginning over these three days" and that what the people do not want is "for us to go to it again with lies, halfwords and beautifications."

    [05] Papandreou-Venizelos meeting concluded

    A meeting between PASOK leader George Papandreou and government vice president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on the negotiations for the PSI and the new loan agreement was held on Thursday.

    Venizelos briefed the PASOK leader on the latest developments and on the probable timetable for the completion of the agreements as well as the legislative actions that will follow.

    According to sources, no reference was made to the developments within the PASOK party.

    Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos was also present at the meeting.

    [06] ND to Papandreou: You 'destroyed the country'

    In a stinging reply to PASOK President George Papandreou and his address earlier to a PASOK's Parliamentary group on Thursday, main opposition New Democracy spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis accused the former premier of having "destroyed the country" during the two years he was in power.

    "Mr. Papandreou found the nerve to address the citizens that he and his government led to poverty, want and depression. He had the nerve to talk about (establishing) Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) when as premier he had ruled out all such thoughts," Mihelakis said.

    According to the ND spokesman, Papandreou attempted to appear "tough" but seemed to forget that he had governed Greece until recently, and that his own actions, "through secret paths", had led the country to the IMF and its currently dismal economic state.

    "All economic and social indicators, as a result of his policies, are today worse than in 2009. His policies were the cause that Greeks lost, in two years, everything that they had gained in the previous two decades," Mihelakis said.

    The spokesman accused the former premier of having imposed unfair sacrifices, wage and pension cuts and repeated taxation, thus leading the rates of business failures, unemployment and poverty to hitherto unprecedented levels. He also noted that Papandreou was the only former prime minister to have received a vote of confidence from his MPs in order to step down as premier.

    Accusing Papandreou of "having no shame", Mihelakis said the former premier had not only failed to apologise to Greeks for the dramatic moments they were living through "but with his swan song, has reached the point of feeling pride in all that he and his governments did at the expense of the country, the economy and our society".

    [07] Dem. Alliance leader calls for political agreement to avoid default

    Democratic Alliance party leader Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday appealed to the political leaders to reach an agreement with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos in order to avoid default, during a tour of Thessaloniki.

    "There must be agreement in the negotiations because if there no agreement between the political party leaders and the prime minister we will default. And if we default, this political leadership will have led three generations of Greeks to disaster," she underlined.

    In statements to the state television station ET-3 based in northern Greece, she predicted that a recovery would begin after two-three difficult years provided that the country's political leadership "got minimally serious".

    "What is happening today is truly tragic. You have Mr. Papademos fighting for the PSI and the new loan agreement and 49 ministers sitting there," she added, urging the political leaders supporting the Papademos government to stop sending out mixed messages and to tell people the same things they said in meetings with the premier.

    During the second day of her visit to Thessaloniki, Bakoyannis visited Mihaniona and Pereas and is due to speak at an event organised by the city's Jewish community at 6:30 p.m.

    [08] Putin: Greece artificially deprived of means to reform its economy

    MOSCOW (AMNA - Th. Avgerinos)

    Greece was artificially deprived of the means to reform its economy, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday while addressing the 'Russia 2012' economic forum.

    "It was deprived of the ability to devalue its national currency, therefore it was deprived of the ability to increase liquidity since it did not have its own monetary centre," Putin noted.

    The Russian premier said that this left only one option, which was to increase competitiveness by directly decreasing social spending, since it was impossible to re-equip the economy, industry and the real economic sector without investments.

    "But to attract investments in this situation is also impossible," he pointed out.

    Putin added that many countries were facing similar difficulties and that "in Greece, they are not presently offering specific assistance from abroad".

    "The issue is not that Greeks don't want to or don't know how to work," he added, saying that the problems in Greece arose from a failure to adequately use the capabilities offered by high technology in order to make effective use of a labour force with high-level specialisation.

    The Russian premier agreed with economist Paul Krugman that the debt crisis sweeping countries and businesses was one of the characteristic examples of the second wave of the global economic crisis. He identified the second as the "imbalance of the financial sector, bloated and speculative, cut off from the real economy."

    He also stressed that not even one of the causes of the current financial shocks had been eradicated so far.

    [09] Archbishop issues appeal towards PM over economic depression, warns of social upheaval

    Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece on Thursday addressed a letter to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos voicing his strong concern about the situation the country, referring to the "despair", as he said, being experienced by the people who lose their jobs and homes.

    "The phenomenon of the homeless and the famished, a reminder of WWII conditions, has taken the dimensions of a nightmare," he underlined, adding that "the homeless increase by the thousands everyday, while small and medium-sized enterprises are forced to go out of business. Young people, the country's best minds, choose to emigrate, while our fathers are unable to live after the dramatic cuts in pensions. Family men, particularly, the poorest, those with many children, wage earners, are in despair due to repeated wage cuts and unbearable new taxes. The unprecedented tolerance of the Greek people is being exhausted, rage pushes fear aside and the risk of social upheaval cannot be ignored anymore by those who are in the position to give orders and those who execute their lethal recipes."

    The current head of the influential Greek Church, who rarely makes statements on non-spiritual and non-ecclesiastical issues, underlined that the situation will deteriorate further and stressed that "in these difficult and undoubtedly, crucial times, we should realise that every Greek home is plagued by insecurity, despair and depression, which unfortunately, have caused, and sadly enough, continues to cause the suicides of those unable to bear the ordeal of their families and the pain of their children."

    He warned that "it is obvious that the drama our country is experiencing will not end here but it could take up new uncontrollable dimensions."

    The Archbishop used uncharacteristically tough language to refer to new austerity measures, which are expected to be implemented, saying the country's national resources will be surrendered, stressing that the Greek people call for honest answers.

    "Even tougher, more painful and unfair measures are being demanded within the same ineffective and unsuccessful policy that is being followed. We are forced to have even larger dosages of a medicine that has proven to be deadly. We are being demanded to undertake commitments that do not solve the problem and only temporarily postpone the foretold death of our economy while, at the same time, we surrender our national sovereignty. They use as collateral our country's wealth and the wealth that we can recover from our land and our seas," the Archbishop stressed, adding that "the voices of the desperate, the voices of the Greek people, are being provocatively ignored in decision-making."

    The Archbishop underlined that Greece "will be able to make it if it will resist the blackmail that comes from abroad and rejects these deadly recipes ... the Greece of culture, history and traditions cannot be lost because a few believed that this is possible."

    [10] FM spokesman: Deterrent capability intact

    Greece maintains its deterrent capability intact, and wants to improve its relations with Turkey, but that is possible only in the context of international law, Greek foreign minister spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday, replying to questions during a regular press briefing on Greek defense expenditures and Greek-Turkish relations.

    He noted, however, that Turkish provocations continue, such as the resent sailing of a Turkish corvette off the Greek coasts, in violation of the relevant rules and regulations, adding that the ministry has instructed the Greek embassy in Ankara to lodge a relevant demarche with the Turkish authorities.

    [11] ELSTAT 'inflated' deficit figures prelim investigation file forwarded to parliament

    The case file of a preliminary investigation conducted by economic crimes prosecutor Grigoris Peponis in the case of alleged inflation of the 2009 Greek deficit figures by the then Hellenic Statistical Service ESYE (now the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority ELSTAT) was forwarded to parliament on Thursday.

    Peponis, who was in charge of the investigation into allegations that Greece's state deficit for 2009 was intentionally inflated by the then government of George Papandreou, had earlier in the week asked Supreme Court (Areios Paghos) deputy prosecutor Nikolaos Pantelis to forward the file to parliament for further investigation, after completing his own preliminary examination of press reports containing accusations by former member of the ELSTAT board of directors Zoe Georganta that "the 2009 deficit was artificially inflated so as to make Greece appear as having the largest deficit in all of Europe" in order to justify tougher austerity measures, and suggesting involvement of political figures.

    In the case file, Peponis, citing the evidence collected (documents and testimonies), said that evidence has arisen pointing to possible criminal action by members of the preceding (PASOK) government. He also said that in most of the testimonies by a total 18 witnesses "explicit mention is made of an inflation and arbitrary determination of the fiscal deficit of 2009, and clearly also of the existence of responsibilities of the then prime minister (Papandreou), members of the then government and of the then ministers of finance".

    Environment minister George Papandreou, who was minister of finance in the PASOK government during the time in question, said in a statement that "the lack of credibility of the statistical figures of ESYE in the preceding years led the then government (PASOK) to proceed to render it independent", adding that "ELSTAT is an independent authority and its statistical figures have been ratified".

    Papaconstantinou also said that this is a good opportunity for parliament to also discuss the size of the deficit inherited by the then PASOK government (from its predecessor ND) and the conditions that formulated it. "I personally, and the government, will provide all the figures that exist so that the truth will stop being criminalised," Papaconstantinou added.

    [12] ND: inflated deficit case 'major political issue'

    Main opposition New Democracy on Thursday stressed that the case sent to Parliament concerning the alleged inflation of the 2009 public deficit by the independent statistical authority ELSTAT was a major political issue.

    ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis underlined that the decision to forward the case to Parliament vindicated ND's position in seeking a full investigation of the claims by MPs and the formation of the appropriate committee mandated by the Constitution.

    He asked that this take place immediately after the upcoming national elections, when the composition of Parliament would accurately reflect Greek society's wishes.

    Mihelakis also noted the promise made by ND leader Antonis Samaras to initiate a full investigation into the circumstances that led Greece to signing the Memorandum with its creditors, adding that the investigation into how the deficit figure became inflated would be a necessary complement to the broader investigation.

    [13] ND demands withdrawal of clause on tenure of independent authority members

    The New Democracy (ND) party on Thursday called for the immediate withdrawal of a clause on the termination of independent administrative authority members after six years in office. The clause is included in a draft law on the so-called "fair trial" concept submitted in Parliament, where ND has made it clear it will oppose the measure.

    ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis characterised the justice minister as "impenitent" and accused him of being out of touch with reality.

    He also accused PASOK of attempting to appoint new independent authority members for the next six years by taking advantage of the present Parliament composition, which does not reflect the political will of society, as he said.

    "ND will not vote in favour of the specific clause and demands its immediate withdrawal," the ND spokesman stressed.

    [14] ND's Tasoulas rules out delay in elections over ELSTAT case

    Main opposition New Democracy's Parliamentary Group secretary Costas Tasoulas on Thursday stressed that attempts to extend the life of the current Parliament by using the investigation into claims that ELSTAT had 'inflated' the 2009 deficit figure would be completely unacceptable.

    "Only a new Parliament that will be in accordance with popular sentiment can carry out this duty," Tasoulas underlined.

    He stressed that the country did not only need to emerge from the current crisis but also to find out why it had entered into the crisis in the first place, why it was led to an inability to borrow and who was responsible.

    [15] Twenty eight MPs raise German war reparations issue

    A proposal signed by 28 MPs of PASOK, New Democracy (ND), Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) and independent deputies has been tabled in Parliament requesting a discussion on issues concerning the so-called German occupation loan from Greece during WWII, as well as the issue of war reparations to victims of Nazi atrocities and stolen treasures from the country.

    In a letter addressed to the presidents of responsible parliamentary committees, the MPs requested that the issue should be discussed in the presence of the ministers of finance, foreign affairs, national defence and justice, as well as, representatives of all interested parties. They also called on Parliament to adopt a clear stance on this "crucial national issue".

    The 28 MPs underlined that in the Italian-German Fiscal Experts Conference in Rome in 1942, the Axis powers arbitrarily decided that occupied Greece, on the Allied side, was obligated to fund their military operations through a "loan".

    MPs stressed that the now unified German state owes WWII victor Greece roughly 54 billion euros before interest, underlining that Greece was the victim of unparallel cruelty inflicted by the Nazi forces during WWII.

    The MPs stressed that the injustice done to Greece is obvious, because it is the only country to which Germany has not paid reparations.

    [16] Draft law to speed up judicial process tabled

    A justice ministry-sponsored draft law unveiled on Thursday to a responsible Parliamentary committee introduces a number of interventions and in the clauses on access to different levels of justice, all aimed at the quicker and fairer administration of justice.

    A relevant draft law has won the consensus of New Democracy (ND), while the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) and Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) have expressed reservations. The Communist Party (KKE) has stated that it will vote against the draft law in its first reading.

    Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou said the draft law on the "fair trial" concept is a serious and crucial reform, as acknowledged by the troika (EC-ECB-IMF) representatives.

    He said that Greece has been sentenced by the European Court of Justice in 360 cases for unjustified delays in the administration of justice, underlining that in one instance the country was sentenced because a court ruling was delayed for no less than 27 years.

    As regards a draft law envisioning the decriminalisation of certain controlled substances, he said it will be tabled in Parliament after relevant instructions are given by the prime minister, and with the agreement of the leaders of PASOK, ND and LA.O.S parties.

    Financial News

    [17] Fiscal consolidation will lead to long-term growth, Commission says

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / M. Aroni)

    "Fiscal consolidation has short-term negative consequences," a European Commission spokeswoman said here on Thursday, adding however, that in the long-term such fiscal restructuring efforts will led to economic growth.

    Chantal Hughes, speaking to reporters, said efforts towards fiscal consolidation, in the long-term offer credibility to a country's economy, ensuring its return to growth rates.

    She was commenting on statements by IMF official Poul Thomsen regarding the efficiency of an economic policy implemented so far in Greece.

    The spokeswoman stressed that a part of a package of measures implemented in Greece was aimed at boosting growth and returning the economy to a sustainable situation in the long-term. Hughes said a Eurogroup meeting next week to discuss Greece has not yet been confirmed.

    [18] Deputy tourism minister meets with Izmir chamber chairman

    Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis on Thursday met with Izmir Chamber of Commerce chairman Ekrem Demirtas, focusing on the Greek-Turkish economic relations with an emphasis on the sectors of business and tourism.

    Nikitiadis underlined the heightened prospects for closer bilateral cooperation in the sea cruise sector, which can play a leading role in economic growth.

    Operation of so-called "visa centers", to be established in March in a handful of sites in west Turkey, are expected to facilitate visa issuance for non-EU tourists (Turkish, Russian, Ukrainian nationals etc.)wishing to visit Greece's eastern Aegean islands.

    [19] Thessaly Region eyeing Russian tourist market

    Thessaly regional governor Costas Agorastos and the president of the Union of Hoteliers of Magnissia Costas Leventis held talks with the deputy director of the Solvex tourist organisation Katerina Aizerman and associates of hers, focusing on actions aimed at the Russian tourist market.

    According to reports, the meeting was based on the preparation of integrated action concerning the presentation of the Thessaly tourist product at a special event the Thessaly Region will be organising in Moscow on February 21. The event will be attended by over 60 tourist offices of Solvex's network, while many tourist agencies and businessmen who are active in the tourist sector have been invited to participate.

    [20] Yiannitsis addresses event on 'The euro and Greece'

    Interior Minister Tassos Yiannitsis on Thursday suggested that a process of "Schumpeterian creative destruction" should predominate in Greece, while addressing an event organised by the Progressive Policy Research Centre on "The euro and Greece: dilemmas and choices".

    Yiannitsis said that the policy of punishment imposed on Greece in 2010 was now past, moving on to policies seeking a more comprehensive and stable solution.

    He said the current crisis demanded a composite strategy since it was not a classic demand crisis but a "structural crisis" that had to be addressed through a process of structural changes to the productive and institutional system to restore growth.

    Yiannitsis noted that the dilemma at this time was whether to stay in the euro and pay for the mistakes of the past in order to preserve the benefits of participating in the second largest global monetary and economic union or whether to abandon the euro, with multiple costs, and begin a journey toward the unknown.

    [21] Hellenic Steel workers stage rally outside Labour Ministry

    Workers of the Hellenic Halyvourgia steel industry staged a rally outside the Labour Ministry in Athens on Thursday, while a 10-member delegation was holding talks with Deputy Labour Minister Yiannis Koutsoukos.

    The Halyvourgia workers have been on strike for are for more than 90 days in protest of the 65 layoffs in the company and the cutbacks in their salaries.

    On January 4, a meeting was held at the Labour Ministry between the company, representatives of the workers and the deputy Minister but was inconclusive as the company administration and the workers remained unwavering on their positions.

    [22] Public hospital personnel demonstrate outside health ministry

    Public hospital medical doctors and personnel on Thursday participated in a rally outside the health ministry building, within the framework of a three-hour work stoppage in protest to the government's policy in the sector of health.

    The demonstrators salary hikes, immediate inclusion in so-called "heavy and hazardous" professions and the adequate financing of public hospitals to ensure what they called their safe operation in 2012.

    [23] Pharmaceutical spending to fall to 2.88 bln euros this year

    State pharmaceutical spending will be no less than 2.88 billion euros this year, despite a demand by the EC-ECB-IMF "troika" to cut spending to 2.1 billion euros (1.0 pct of GDP), Health Minister Andreas Loverdos said on Thursday, speaking during a meeting with pharmaceutical industry and medical representatives.

    The minister said the ministry would like pharmaceutical spending to be around 3.1 billion euros in 2012 and noted that a compromise was reached with the 'troika'. Pharmaceutical spending totaled 4.1 billion euros in 2011, surpassing a budget target of 3.8 billion euros.

    Representatives of the pharmaceutical industry said their businesses could not afford any more pressure, saying the government decision was not only eating away at their profit margin but at their capital as well.

    [24] Union: Unpaid electricity bills exceed 500,000

    Unpaid electricity bills beyond 80 days, which include an extraordinary real estate surcharge, now exceed 500,000, according to the union representing state-run power company (PPC) employees.

    The union, GENOP, said the figures mean that the consumers in question face the risk of disconnection (unless they are included in the so-called sensitive social groups, and thereby excluded).

    GENOP's representatives called on the government "to rid PPC and consumers from the surcharge and the extortion being exercised on them."

    [25] Business Briefs

    -- ATEbank on Thursday said its restructuring programme, aimed at restructuring its loans portfolio, modernising its operating structure and ensuring sustainable financial viability, was progressing without any deviations, and was already producing results.

    -- Consumption of alcoholic beverages has fell steadily in the last few years, with the domestic market recording the highest decline rate in 2010, a report by ICAP stated on Thursday.

    [26] Stocks end down on profit taking

    Stocks ended moderately lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, as sellers took the upper hand in the market. The composite index fell 0.46 pct to end at 792.44 points, off the day's lows of 770.20 points. Turnover was a moderate 89.950 million euros.

    The Big Cap index fell 0.97 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 0.77 pct and the Small Cap index ended 1.41 pct higher. MIG (10.22 pct), Folli Follie (9.15 pct) and Titan (2.5 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (8.69 pct), Cyprus Bank (6.59 pct), Eurobank (4.47 pct) and Marfin Popular Bank (3.11 pct) were top losers.

    The Health (12.56 pct), Commerce (8.95 pct) and Financial Services (6.42 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Chemicals (3.07 pct), Banks (2.68 pct) and Travel (2.44 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 90 t 79 with another 24 issues unchanged. Ilyda (29.02 pct), Avenir (28.28 pct) and Attica Holdings (20 pct) were top gainers, while Olympic Catering (19.47 pct), Elfico (19.65 pct) and Elbisco (18.57 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -0.85%

    Commercial: +8.95%

    Construction: +2.70%

    Oil & Gas: -0.29%

    Personal & Household: -0.40%

    Raw Materials: +1.10%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.44%

    Technology: +4.06%

    Telecoms: -0.35%

    Banks: -2.68%

    Food & Beverages: -0.12%

    Health: +12.56%

    Utilities: -0.13%

    Chemicals: -3.07%

    Financial Services: +6.42%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, HBC Coca Cola, and Bank of Piraeus.

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.62

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.83

    HBC Coca Cola: 13.99

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.76

    National Bank of Greece: 2.81

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.90

    OPAP: 7.40

    OTE: 2.89

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.62

    Titan: 13.10

    [27] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 27.14 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market, with the Greek bond yielding 28.98 pct and the German Bund 1.86 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.73 pct, the six-month rate 1.40 pct, the three-month 1.10 pct and the one-month rate 0.69 pct.

    [28] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.30 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 33.383 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,357 contracts worth 17.152 million euros, with 25,032 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 79,626 contracts worth 16.231 million with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (35,244), followed by Cyprus Bank (4,475), MIG (2,125), PPC (1,297), OPAP (1,189), Piraeus Bank (7,997), Alpha Bank (22,440), Hellenic Postbank (1,093), ATEbank (660), GEK (737), Mytilineos (725) and OTE (440).

    [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.329

    Pound sterling 0.840

    Danish kroner 7.545

    Swedish kroner 8.989

    Japanese yen 101.15

    Swiss franc 1.222

    Norwegian kroner 7.762

    Canadian dollar 1.329

    Australian dollar 1.243

    General News

    [30] Australia's Day celebrated in Athens

    On the occasion of Australia Day, the Australian ambassador to Greece Jenny Bloomfield hosted a reception on Wednesday night at the Sarogleion Megharon in Athens.

    The guests were given tours of two exhibitions that highlight Greece and Australia's common past, their common struggle for freedom and democracy during the two World Wars as well as the Greek migrants' significant contribution to their new country, Australia. The year 2012 marks the 60th anniversary of the post-war immigration from Greece to Australia.

    Alternate National Defence Minister Georgios Georgiou, Deputy Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Adonis Georgiadis, members of the Greek parliament, diplomats and armed forces officials attended the event.

    In her address, the Australian ambassador referred to the unbreakable bonds between the two countries.

    "These bonds are felt especially keenly as Greece confronts difficult economic times. During these times, Australia stands by Greece and is prepared to help in any way we can. We are certain that Greece will succeed and will emerge from the crisis even stronger than before," the envoy said.

    [31] Grevena, with Valia Calda, candidate for Model Forest

    The municipality of Grevena, in Western Macedonia, has recently submitted its candidacy for joining the International Model Forests Network (IMFN), for the designation of the Valia Kalda National Park, also known as the Pindos National Park, as a 'Model Forest'.

    Valia Kalda is a major forest wealth for Greece, and its inclusion on the map of the IMFN will be a boost to its sustainable management.

    Grevena municipality fulfills all the conditions required for designation as a Model Forest, given that the forest covers 45 percent of the municipality's expanse, is easily accessible from the Egnatia motorway, and contains the National Forest and the Vassilitsa ski center, while it also has a developed forestry, produces non-forest products such as the region's famed mushrooms, organic farming and animal breeding, and numerous tourist resorts, forester Dimitris Tsimplinas

    Valia Kalda is an isolated mountainous area in the northeastern part of the Pindos mountain range. Established as a national park in 1966 and considered one of the most important protected areas for the maintenance of mountainous biodiversity and ecosystem integrity at national level, the park's core zone covers the greatest part of the Valia Kalda valley and the slopes of the surrounding peaks.

    With an elevation range from 1,076 to 2,177 meters, the National Park is characterised by dense forests of European black pine (Pinus nigra) and common beech (Fagus sylvatica) trees (in the park's lower and middle altitudes) -- some of which are more than 700 years old -- rocky ridges, several peaks over 2,000 meters altitude, rapid streams and mountain lakes. At higher altitudes, Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii) woodland is dominant.

    A total of 415 plant types and mushroom species are recorded in the area. A number of local flower types are considered endemic to the Balkans, such as Dianthus deltoides and Allium breviradum, while many endemic plants of central and northern Greece also grow in the park, such as Centaurea vlachorum, as well as rare species such as Minuartia baldaci, Bornmuellera tymphaea, Viola dukadjinica and Silene pindicola.

    The area belongs to the wider Pindos Mountains mixed forests ecoregion and belongs to the Natura 2000 ecological network of protected areas, and is one of the three places in Greece that hosts a population of Eurasian brown bears (Ursus arctos arctos), which is a conservation priority species, and the region itself is also called "bear park".

    Other mammals that live in the park are lynxes, deer and wild cats, while wolves, beech martens, wild boars and red squirrels are also found in the area all year round. Additionally, the Balkan Chamois, a Balkan endemic species, is found on the steep and rocky parts of the park and in the beech forests.

    The three small rivers crossing the area of the park have very clear water and are the well conserved habitat of the otter, while up to five types of bat have been reported, the most common being niktovatis (Nyctalys noctula.

    The forest further provides shelter for more than 80 species of birds, including 10 types of rare bird species such as the Eastern imperial eagle, the Golden eagle, the Levant sparrohawk and the Lanner falcon, indicating the ornithological importance of the area. Other rare birds found in the park are the shore lark (Eremophilla alpestris) and the Lanius excubitor, which migrates from Africa in the summer.

    Finally, the dense and mature forests host eight types of woodpecker, including the White-backed Woodpecker, the Middle Spotted Woodpecker, the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker and the Black Woodpecker.

    The International Model Forest Network (MIEN) is a voluntary association of partners from around the world working toward a common goal- the sustainable management of forest-based landscapes and natural resources. It is comprised of all member Model Forests.

    Model Forests don't just happen by themselves. They involve complex relationships between people, communities, industries, governments, non-governmental organizations and other groups. Someone has to inform and assist the various stakeholders and support interactions among potential partners. That's the rationale behind the IMFN. It is a global community of practice that converts the collective experience and lessons learned from member Model Forests into services that help new ventures begin and existing ones grow.

    The IMFN's vision is to support, through Model Forests, the management of the world's forest resources in a sustainable manner, reflecting environmental and socio-economic issues from the perspective of local needs and global concerns. The primary goal of the IMFN is to establish a global network of Model Forests that will represent most of the major forest ecosystems of the world. We also strive to ensure that all partners, regardless of political or economic status, can contribute to, and share in, the benefits of the Network as they work toward the sustainable management of forest-based landscapes.

    It's three key objectives are: To foster international cooperation and exchange of ideas relating to the working concept of sustainable forest management; To support international cooperation in critical aspects of forest science and social science that underlie the search for new models of forest management; and To support ongoing international discussions on the criteria and principles of sustainable development.

    As a long-term goal, the Network will serve as a foundation for international cooperation on the sustainable development of forest landscapes and natural resources all over the globe. Participating Model Forests will share their knowledge and encourage large parts of the world's forested areas to undertake management and conservation methods that ensure their continuous benefits for humanity.

    [32] Advantages for tourism from use of Internet

    Tourism experts highlighted the advantages resulting for the sector of tourism from the use of the Internet, at a special event organised by the Google company in Greece and which was attended by Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos.

    It was stressed that the revenues from online tourism amount to one trillion dollars, at a time when eight out of 10 travellers are given information through the Internet, starting from search apparatuses to find the information they want.

    Geroulanos stressed in his address that the development of healthy and extroversive entrepreneurship is an essential precondition for the economy to return to positive growth rates.

    [33] Horseracing Organisation head released after arrest for debts to state

    The CEO of the Hellenic Horseracing Organisation (ODIE) Alexandros Zaharis was released with restrictions on his movements after appearing before an examining magistrate on Thursday to face charges of unpaid debts to the state reaching 84 million euro.

    Zaharis was forbidden to leave the country and required to report to a police station at regular intervals, while the examining magistrate and prosecutor agreed to impose a 30-day deadline for ODIE to reach a settlement of its debt in the form of capitalisation.

    In his testimony to the magistrate, Zaharis claimed that the greater part of the debt was the result of a bank loan taken out to construct the horseracing track at Markopoulos, in which the Greek State was guarantor.

    The sum had been paid off by the public sector until 2010 but in 2007 it was registered to ODIE, which meant that the company was unable to meet its obligations.

    Based on figures concerning ODIE's finances, of its total obligations amounting to 242 million euro, 131 million euro are for bank loans. The majority of these were taken out with the state's guarantee in order to move the horseracing track from Faliro to Markopoulo.

    He said ODIE had failed to pay taxes due because the sums were needed to cover running costs of the organisation, such as staff salaries.

    [34] One among 15 detained for takeover of Athens Cultural Center sent to prosecutor

    One of the 15 individuals detained on Wednesday during a takeover of the canteen of the Athens municipality's Culture Center will be sent before a prosecutor because court decisions' against him were pending.

    The other 14 were released late Wednesday after the completion of the case files following a prosecutor's order.

    The takeover was staged on Wednesday by a group of individuals in order to give shelter to homeless.

    Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis initially filed suit against the group, but later withdrew it.

    Police however, acting ex-officio, arrested the 15.

    [35] Prosecutor again recommends release of Abbot Ephraim

    The appeals court public prosecutor in the Vatopedi monastery case has recommended the release of Abbot Ephraim, who is now being held in prison on remand, urging examining magistrate Irene Kalou to grant the abbot's request for release on health grounds.

    The prosecutor suggested that the abbot be released from jail but with restrictions on his movements.

    Ephraim was remanded in custody on December 23 by order of the appeals justices' council, which was called to resolve differences of opinion between the prosecutor and examining magistrate on the issue.

    At the time, the prosecutor had again recommended that Ephraim be set free after posting a 200,000-euro bail, that he be forbidden to leave the country and required to report to a police station at regular intervals.

    [36] One-day seminar next week on illegal immigration issue

    A one-day seminar on the timely and increasingly burning issue of immigration and illegal immigration, entitled "Immigration File: Myths and Reality", will be held on Monday at a central Athens hotel.

    Amongst others, New Democracy (ND) party MEP Costas Poupakis, a former top trade unionist, will speak on the problem of illegal immigration within the EU as a whole, as well as its repercussions on labour relations in the Union.

    MEP Georgios Papanikolaou will detail the prospects of revising the Dublin II treaty, as well as the legal dimensions of the problem, while Athens-based educator Eleni Papadopoulou will refer to the effects of illegal immigration on Greek society.

    Finally, former MEP Manolis Angelakas, who serves as ND's alternate shadow minister for health, will focus on the effects of illegal immigration in Athens, along with proposals for a resolution of whatever problems.

    A discussion is set to follow.

    [37] Homicide of eldery man solved

    A 32-year-old Georgian was arrested on Thursday, charged with the homicide of an 89-year-old man on 15 January 2012 in the Athens district of Aghios Panteleimonas.

    During the interrogation the suspect said that he opened the victim's apartment with a phone card and took British gold sovereigns, jewellery, an old pistol and 3,500 euros in cash.

    The elderly man resisted and the suspect immobilised him, hit him on the face and the head and shut his mouth with tape and a piece of fabric, resulting in his death from suffocation.

    The suspect will be sent before an Athens prosecutor. Police are investigating the suspect's possible involvement in other criminal actions.

    [38] Drug labs uncovered, 1.5 kilos of cocaine confiscated, two arrested

    Police on Wednesday afternoon located two apartments in the wider Athens region that were turned into cocaine labs. Two Albanian nationals were arrested during the operation and one kilo and 789 grams of cocaine were confiscated.

    Police also found 10 kilos and 430 grams of powder of unknown substance that was used to adulterate the cocaine, 6,110 euros in cash, two precision scales, three cell phones and adulteration and packaging equipment, which were also seized.

    The suspects will be sent before an Athens prosecutor.

    [39] Woman arrested for throwing flour at visiting politicians in Kalamata

    A young woman was arrested and taken to the Kalamata police station on Thursday after she threw flour at a group of politicians visiting the coastal city for an annual religious event, among them Alternate Defence Minister Georgios Georgiou.

    The incident occurred during the parading of a Virgin Mary icon, the city's patron saint, through the streets of the city.

    The politicians attending the ceremony, including MP and former minister Costas Markopoulos, local MP Yiannis Lambropoulos and a number of local government officials found themselves booed and jeered by citizens, among them the young contract worker that threw flour at them.

    Weather forecast

    [40] Rainy on Friday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -8C and 15C. Cloudy and showery in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 2C to 12C. Cloudy with periodic snowfall or sleet in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -5C to 2C.

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

    The serious decisions that the leaders of the three parties backing prime minister Lucas Papademos' interim government (George Papandreou-PASOK, Antonis Samaras-ND, George Karatzaferis-LAOS) must take, the negotiations for the PSI and the new measures as well as the changes to the university entry exams, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "One million undeclared workers".

    AVGHI: "Execution in the next five days".

    AVRIANI: "End to nepotism in PASOK, too".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The new university entry exams system sets fire to High Schools".

    ESTIA: "The responsible for the unemployment".

    ETHNOS: "Everything changes in University entry exams".

    IMERISSIA: "The three leaders' huge dilemma".

    KATHIMERINI: "The difficult hour of the joint decision".

    LOGOS: "Sign of convergence under the troika's eye".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Government awaiting troika's orders".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Rally in Athens on Thursday against the legalisation of narcotics".

    TA NEA: "Everything changing in university entry exams".

    VRADYNI: "The procedure for construction interventions in buildings lacking permits".

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