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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-02-07

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

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

Tuesday, 7 February 2012 Issue No: 3991

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Papadimos to resume negotiations with Troika
  • [02] PM's meeting with party leaders postponed until Tuesday
  • [03] PASOK: The danger is real
  • [04] PASOK spokesman criticises ND, LAOS stance
  • [05] ND party spokesman attacks PASOK party's leadership
  • [06] New Democracy party accuses state-run ERT of biased reporting, 'black propaganda'
  • [07] LAOS: In the middle of a big battle
  • [08] Papariga: There is no middle solution
  • [09] SYRIZA's Tsipras briefed by foreign minister
  • [10] SYRIZA's Tsipras calls for parliamentary briefing on Greece-Turkey exploratory contacts
  • [11] Visiting S&D Group leader Swoboda meets with PASOK leader Papandreou
  • [12] FinMin receives S&D Group leader
  • [13] S&D Group leader warns of dangers of Greek default
  • [14] Petsalnikos at German forum: 'Greeks don't need punishment but support'
  • [15] Health ministry pledges action to help new homeless
  • [16] Construction of Evros border fence begins
  • [17] Local government delegations to meet with interior minister on Wednesday
  • [18] Two protest rallies in Athens on Monday afternoon
  • [19] Financial prosecutor orders expansion of investigation into 'secret funds'
  • [20] Greek gov't seeks to cut spending by 1.3 bln euros this year
  • [21] Commission underlines significance of lower Greek minimum wage
  • [22] Administrative reform ministry on public-sector lay-offs, downsizing
  • [23] Positive messages for German investments in Greek tourism
  • [24] Greek-German forum on tourism concludes in Berlin
  • [25] Nationwide general strike on Tuesday
  • [26] Public hospital staff to participate in Tuesday's strike
  • [27] Business Briefs
  • [28] Greek stocks end sharply up on Monday
  • [29] Greek bond market closing report
  • [30] ADEX closing report
  • [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [32] Heavy rain in greater Athens area floods homes and shops
  • [33] State of alert in Evros as fears of flooding mount
  • [34] Drive to collect expired or unused pharmaceuticals in Greek households
  • [35] Trial for Oct. 28 military parade incidents postponed until March 1
  • [36] Small arms cache discovered north of Athens
  • [37] Homeless man living in his car found dead in Thessaloniki
  • [38] Three bodies of young Afghans found on Preveza-Igoumenitsa motorway
  • [39] Antiquities smuggling arrest on Crete
  • [40] Rainy on Tuesday
  • [41] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Papadimos to resume negotiations with Troika

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was due to resume tough negotiations with the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'troika' leaders late on Monday night to finalise the agreement on a second EU/IMF bailout loan to Greece.

    Earlier, the troika leaders met with Government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Labour and Social Security Minister George Koutroumanis, with talks focusing on the finalisation of the package of additional measures, amounting to 3.3 billion euros, that the troika is demanding for 2012.

    Special weight in the package is placed on radical changes in labour issues, with the troika demanding, among other things, the curbing of the minimum salary in the private sector by about 22 percent, the reduction of auxiliary pensions and the decrease of the lumpsum payment.

    Papademos had another meeting with the troika late Sunday night, which concluded at midnight, immediately after a meeting with Institute for International Finance (IIF) managing director Charles Dallara that was also attended by Venizelos and Koutroumanis.

    The talks with Dallara came on the heels of a five-hour meeting with the leaders of the three political parties backing and participating in his interim government that ended about 10:30 p.m.

    [02] PM's meeting with party leaders postponed until Tuesday

    A meeting between Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and the leaders of the three political parties supporting his interim government - PASOK leader George Papandreou, main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis - has been postponed until Tuesday.

    [03] PASOK: The danger is real

    "PASOK's principle is that nothing will be agreed (with the troika) if everything is not agreed on by the three leaders (of the parties supporting prime minister Lucas Papademos' interim government)," PASOK spokesman Panos Beglitis said in the early hours of Monday, following a party Political Council emergency meeting that began late Sunday night -- after a meeting between Papademos and the three leaders -- to discuss the proposals of the EU-IMF troika concerning a new economic programme, which Greece's creditors consider a prerequisite for further bailout loans.

    Beglitis said that PASOK will continue with the same sentiment of national responsibility that it had during its two years in government, and with avoiding the country's bankruptcy as the national goal.

    He said the danger is real, adding that Papademos has instructed the finance ministry and the State General Accounts Office to draft a note by Monday on the consequences for Greece if its European partners activate the so-called "Plan B", which means Greece's default, adding that beyond the petty political expediencies or easy criticism, chiefly by the parties of the traditional Left, the Greek people should know what the consequences would be of a default by the country and its possible ensuing exit from the eurozone and the euro.

    Beglitis further said that PASOK leader and former prime minister George Papandreou will put to Papademos on Monday a proposal for the three party leaders to hold direct discussions with International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde, European Commission (EC) president Jose Manuel Barroso, economic and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn, European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi and German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble.

    He also said that the PASOK parliamentary group will be convened, given that the parliamentary groups of the three parties backing the interim government will "lift the big burden of the draft law".

    On the timetable within which decisions must be reached, Beglitis said that the draft law which will incorporate both the PSI and the new loan agreement, calculating also the 14 billion euros that will be needed to pay maturing state bonds in March, needs to be passed by parliament by February 15-16, the date when the official invitation to the private sector for participation in the voluntary bond swaps will be issued.

    Beglitis also noted that a one-day extension was achieved for completion of the entire process of the discussions, meaning that instead of Monday, the final decisions of the party leaders will be stipulated on Tuesday, the Eurogroup working group meeting will be held on Wednesday, and the joint Eurogroup-Ecofin meeting will take place on Thursday.

    [04] PASOK spokesman criticises ND, LAOS stance

    PASOK spokesman Panos Beglitis sternly attacked on Wednesday the stance of New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis.

    Speaking to a private television station, Beglitis said that it is not a correct stance to say that you negotiate and to engage in rhetoric on crucial issues while the negotiation is underway and estimated that room for improvement in labour issues exists.

    He also underlined that PASOK's opinion is that Lucas Papademos' government tenure should be extended and that general elections should not be held immediately after the new loan agreement, adding that "we recognise Lucas Papademos' jurisdiction to make a government reshuffle, to replace, change or switch ministers' positions.

    [05] ND party spokesman attacks PASOK party's leadership

    The New Democracy (ND) party on Monday sharply criticised the PASOK party's leadership, terming it "provocative and unrepenting", on the occasion of statements by PASOK spokesman Panos Beglitis regarding ongoing negotiations for a Greek bond swap (PSI) and a referendum proposal made last October by PASOK president and then prime minister George Papandreou.

    In a statement Monday, ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis spoke of "audacity that has no limits" and stressed that in PASOK "they are pretending that they forgot that with those adventurous plannings of theirs they brought the country a step before the exit from the euro."

    "ND denounces, again today, the PASOK government that it had never negotiated with the (EU/IMF) troika and never counterproposed alternative solutions," Mihelakis added.

    "In PASOK they are annoyed because with the insistence shown by (ND leader Antonis) Samaras, substantive negotiating is taking place for the first time and they are attempting with shameless lies to distort the truth. On the one hand they claim that the issue of the 13th and 14th salary has closed days ago and on the other they declare that they are harmonising themselves with ND's efforts," Mihelakis said, who termed PASOK's leadership "incorrigible."

    [06] New Democracy party accuses state-run ERT of biased reporting, 'black propaganda'

    Main opposition New Democracy on Monday said there was an urgent need for changes in the way that news coverage was run at the state broadcasting company ERT, accusing the present management of playing 'strange games' to mislead public opinion and of indulging in 'black propaganda'.

    ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis asserted that the PASOK party-appointed management of the state radio and television stations were "unable to ensure the self-evident," which was the objective and reliable reporting of the news.

    The spokesman said those behind such policies had overstepped all bounds, underlining that objective reporting from ERT was a public right and that the state television channel could not be allowed to operate as the tool of a party that was collapsing.

    [07] LAOS: In the middle of a big battle

    We are in the middle of a big battle and, at this time, things are developing satisfactorily, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis said in the early hours of Monday following a meeting with his party officials participating in prime minister Lucas Papademos' interim government and close associates, which was called immediately after Papademos concluded talks with the leaders of the three political parties backing his government.

    "A tough battle was waged by the government, with the backing of the party leaders. Mr Samaras (New Democracy leader Antonis) and (I) persisted on some aspects. The policy of equal-effectiveness measures that we proposed seems to be receiving a positive response," Karatzaferis said.

    He added that "it is a long night and the government is discussing with the troika, while we are discussing with the contacts we have in Brussels, Berlin and other European cities".

    Karatzaferis further said that the new loan agreement "cannot be carried out by those who failed the first time around", referring to the preceding PASOK government, and said that the ministers-MPs (from PASOK participating in the interim government) should be replaced by technocrats, stressing that LAOS "cannot agree to any processing of any programme if the PASOK ministers do not leave first".

    "The current (interim) government, which in its majority is comprised of PASOK ministers, cannot manage the (new EU-IMF bailout loan) agreement," he added.

    [08] Papariga: There is no middle solution

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader warned on Monday that "there is no middle solution", because such cannot reverse the current situation in Greece and therefore only the "radical solution", namely the toppling of the government and the people's backing of the KKE for the people's authority is the correct choice.

    In that context, Papariga called for a mass turnout by the public in the protest demonstration being organised by the KKE later Monday and in Tuesday's nationwide general strike called by the country's two largest umbrella federations GSEE and ADEDY.

    In a statement prompted by the recent developments, she called on the people to work together with the KKE so as to "intimidate them (government and troika) with escalation of the mobilisations so that the new loan agreement and Memorandum will not be passed in parliament and the (interim) government will collapse".

    Papariga said that collapse of the current government is the first step but not enough, because the "system" has reserves.

    What is important, she elaborated, is to topple the class that is in power and for the people to opt for popular authority. Any other solution would only be a bitter recess, without popular conquests, and that was why the alternative proposal cannot be one of piecemeal proposals. Consequently, the proposal for popular authority is the only one that can deal with the crisis, she said.

    [09] SYRIZA's Tsipras briefed by foreign minister

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Monday had a meeting lasting four hours with Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas, during which they discussed Greek foreign policy, energy policy, EU issues and international affairs.

    Afterward, Dimas stressed that it was important to know SYRIZA's positions, proposals and views in detail, noting that foreign policy required the broadest possible consensus. He also thanked Tsipras for his party's cooperation on issues concerning the operation of the foreign ministry in Parliament.

    Tsipras expressed his satisfaction with the meeting, which he said was the first time he had received such an in-depth briefing on foreign policy issues, and stressed that Greece needed a radical geopolitical reorientation.

    He underlined that the major issue was that of Greece's national sovereignty that had, to a large extent, been lost in the last two years.

    According to SYRIZA's Parliamentary group leader, the three parties supporting the government were making a "show of negotiating" when they had, in fact, already agreed to the odious terms of the new agreements.

    "We are experiencing the painful consequences of a one-sided EuroAtlantic orientation and of joining the same axis as the United States and Israel," Tsipras underlined and called for a new, multidimensional foreign policy.

    Concerning the foreign ministry's confidential spending, Tsipras said it was inconceivable for these to increase at a time of general cutbacks in state spending, including the spending of the ministry, and he called for cross-party control of such spending.

    [10] SYRIZA's Tsipras calls for parliamentary briefing on Greece-Turkey exploratory contacts

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Monday requested that Parliament be briefed on the course and outcome of the exploratory contacts held between Greece and Turkey during the past decade.

    In comments he made after his meeting with foreign minister Stavros Dimas, Tsipras repeated that his party supports a name for fYRoM that will include a geographic qualifier and called on UN special envoy for the fYRoM name issue Matthew Nimetz to avoid putting forward any inflammatory proposals.

    [11] Visiting S&D Group leader Swoboda meets with PASOK leader Papandreou

    The president of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D Group) in the European Parliament, Hannes Swoboda, on Monday expressed complete confidence of Europe's socialists and social-democrats in Greece, and in the country'spotential to reform and exit the ongoing crisis.

    In his meeting with PASOK president George Papandreou at the New Acropolis Museum in Athens, he rejected any prospect of Greece's exodus from the eurozone, stressing that it would be disastrous for the country, the Eurozone and the European Union as a whole.

    "It is very important for all these people to see reality as regards Greece," he said, adding that Greece should be given time to complete the work it has started.

    [12] FinMin receives S&D Group leader

    Government vice-president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Monday received the newly elected president of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D Group) in the European Parliament, Hannes Swoboda, currently on a visit to Greece.

    Venizelos briefed him on the efforts made by Greece to complete the new loan agreement and the PSI, as well as, on the structural reforms introduced by the government.

    Swoboda invited the minister of finance to be the keynote speaker in a special S&D Group session and repeated that he supports efforts made by the Greek people to overcome the crisis.

    [13] S&D Group leader warns of dangers of Greek default

    VIENNA (AMNA - D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Following meetings held in Athens with PASOK President George Papandreou, Bank of Greece governor George Provopoulos and Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos earlier on Monday, the president of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D Group) in the European Parliament Hannes Swoboda warned of the disastrous consequences that a Greek default could have.

    Speaking to a local news agency, Swoboda underlined that if Greece's defaulted and left the Eurozone, this could be a disaster for both Greece and the Eurozone and, by extension, the European Union. He warned that such a departure would not return things to the state existing before a country entered the Eurozone, since interconnections and interactions between the member-states would be hard to sever and the entire EU would sustain a political and economic blow.

    He also underlined that the agreements with the EU-IMF troika were important but should not be allowed to undermine the rights of the social partners, noting that the troika's proposals raised problems since they created an even deeper recession in the country, thus increasing the deficit and preventing an exit from the crisis.

    [14] Petsalnikos at German forum: 'Greeks don't need punishment but support'

    BERLIN (AMNA)

    The Greek people do not need punishment but support in their effort to overcome the crisis, Greek Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos said on Monday in an address to a Greek-German forum on tourism.

    "The Greek people are making huge sacrifices and do not need punishment for the mistakes of the past but support in the effort being made by Greece to emerge from the crisis," he said.

    Petsalnikos stressed that views heard in Germany that Greeks were lazy or not hard-working enough were "absolutely untrue" and pointed to figures collected by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to back up his claim.

    According to the OECD, he pointed out, Greeks worked longer than workers in other European countries, putting in 2,109 hours each year against 1,419 hours for Germans, 1,554 hours for the French, 1,778 hours for Italians, 1,663 hours for the Spanish and 1,714 hours for the Portuguese.

    He also dismissed the idea of appointing a commissioner to monitor the Greek budget, calling this "a most unfortunate idea" that offended the operation of democracy in Europe.

    "Above all we must respect the dignity of a country and an entire people," he added.

    [15] Health ministry pledges action to help new homeless

    Greece's health and welfare ministry on Monday promised to take targeted action to provide shelter for thousands of new homeless created as a result of the economic crisis.

    The ministry intends to give 400,000 euro to the Athens municipality and another 100,000 euro to the Thessaloniki municipality to find existing buildings capable of housing the 'new homeless'. Another 300,000 euro will be given to the Athens Archdiocese to support its soup kitchen initiative.

    In addition, Greek authorities have started to create a record of the homeless and set criteria by which someone may be considered homeless, as well as conducting surveys on the support structures that will be needed to house them. To this end, the ministry intends to use buildings in the centre of Athens.

    Municipalities have also begun to seek spaces where homeless people might receive temporary shelter at a very low cost, as low as three euro a day.

    [16] Construction of Evros border fence begins

    Construction of a fence along the Evros River on the Greek-Turkish border officially commenced on Monday, budgeted at 3,162.5 million euros, is due for completion in late August or early September.

    Citizens protection minister Christos Papoutsis declared the commencement of the construction of the fence in the Kastanies region, after earlier inaugurating the Border Surveillance Operational Center in the town of Nea Vyssa, where earlier a group of demonstrators protested against the construction of the fence and the Center.

    Inaugurating the Center, Papoutsis said that the fence is a project with a practical as well as a symbolic value, as it will discourage migrant-smugglers and illegal immigration as well as send a message that Greece is not a free-for-all. "We will not allow Greece to be turned into a transit country (of illegal migration) to the other countries of the European Union," he said, adding that Greece cannot endure more non-legal immigrants and that the government's actions aim at the tranquility and safety of the local population.

    Referring to reactions against the fence, he said its construction will go ahead, as it is a law of the state.

    On the new asylum law, Papoutsis said that all asylum-seekers entitled to asylum would receive it, while for the rest the message is clear, they should not attempt to illegally enter Greece because they will be either deported or voluntarily repatriated.

    Papoutsis said that the fence, a "project of cooperation between the Turkish and Greek authorities to deal with illegal immigration", will have 25 thermal cameras, while the Center would ensure the constant surveillance of the borders.

    He further said that an EU delegation headed by home affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom would visit the region in late February to check up on the use of the EU funding forthcoming for stemming non-legal immigration.

    Papoutsis referred extensively to Greece's initiatives to present the problem of non-legal immigration Europe-wide, as well as a series of infrastructure works carried out in the region, such as the construction of a building that will house the Ferres police station, budgeted at 1.7 million euros, repairs and renovations of migrant holding facilities in Evros, construction of a new police station in Didymoteichos, budgeted at 2.5 million euros, upgraded equipment for the police and other interventions.

    In 2011 alone, 54,974 non-legal immigrants crossed the Evros border into Greece.

    [17] Local government delegations to meet with interior minister on Wednesday

    Delegations representing the national union of regions ENPE and the municipalities' national union KEDE will meet on Wednesday with the leadership of the interior ministry focusing on the "Kallikratis II" draft law designed to settle pending issues of "Kallikratis" local government reform, it was announced on Monday.

    In a joint statement issued after their meeting last Friday with the ministry leadership, the presidents of ENPE and KEDE had expressed strong objections to a number of draft law articles regulating local government funding.

    The ministry's intention to assign the management of National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) to the central government as provided in article 22 of the proposed draft law has prompted strong objections on behalf of local administration alleging that it is essentially deprived of any project planning potential.

    The local government authorities also protest against article 3 of the draft law concerning the establishment of advisory regional committees alleging that their operation is based on time-consuming and costly procedures that create more red tape.

    [18] Two protest rallies in Athens on Monday afternoon

    Two rallies and protest marches to Syntagma Square were held in heavy rain in Athens on Monday afternoon, organised by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) affiliated PAME group in Omonia Square and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) together with ANTARSYA on the Athens University campus, against the new measures being promoted by the government.

    Addressing PAME's rally in Omonia Square, KKE Secretary General Aleka Papariga stressed that "it is an excuse that the measures are being taken for the country to avoid default, on the contrary they shall lead the people to impoverishment to the benefit of plutocracy and capital."

    She said that the struggle must be intensified and the implementation of the measures must be prevented, stressing that the "struggle of the popular movement for the toppling of the government and the troika must be continuous."

    In their joint rally on the University campus and ensuing march to Parliament, the members of SYRIZA amd ANTARSYA shouted slogans against the new measures throughout the entire course towards Syntagma Square.

    [19] Financial prosecutor orders expansion of investigation into 'secret funds'

    Financial prosecutor Grigoris Peponis on Monday ordered the investigation into the foreign ministry secret funds to include the period after 2009 when George Papandreou and Dimitris Droutsas served as foreign ministers.

    The new order issued by prosecutor Peponis constitutes an expansion of the investigation already underway that concerns the period between 2004 and 2007 based on evidence presented by Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras when called to testify at the end of January.

    The relevant investigation was launched by the prosecutor last September after press reports alleging that "secret funds" allocated to various government ministries in the period 2004-2007 had gone more than 200 pct over budget, in certain cases exceeding 1,000 pct.

    Financial News

    [20] Greek gov't seeks to cut spending by 1.3 bln euros this year

    The Greek government is seeking ways to cut spending by 1.3 billion euros additionally this year in order to achieve a target of measures to cut spending by 1.5 pct of GDP (around 3.3 billion euros), demanded by the troika.

    The new measures, according to creditors, must cover losses in tax proceeds, both from an anticipated cut of minimum wage in the private sector and a higher-than-expected recession (the country's GDP is projected to shrink by more than 3.5 pct this year) in Greece. In parallel, an additional spending cut must replace any losses from social insurance contributions because of a lower minimum wage and higher unemployment.

    The issue was discussed during a meeting, held at the General Accounting Office, by Finance Alternate Minister Filippos Sahinidis with ministry officials and members of the troika's technical group. The government has already agreed to cut health spending by 1.1 billion euros, defense spending by 400 million euros and to save around 440 million euros from cutting subsidies to municipal authorities.

    [21] Commission underlines significance of lower Greek minimum wage

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Commission on Monday underlined the significance given to lowering minimum wages in Greece.

    Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for the Commission, told reporters here that the minimum wage level in countries like Spain or Portugal was lower compared with Greece.

    The spokesman denied that Europe was implementing "Ceausescu-type policies" -- a reference to the assassinated Romanian communist dictator -- by violently implementing a reduction of Greece's public debt, and stressed the competitiveness problems of the Greek economy.

    He noted that the current government in Greece was not a "technical government" and that it enjoys a huge Parliament majority, while he stressed that the Commission was not examining "any plans of Greece leaving the euro".

    Moreover, he said the Commission was concerned over any possible consequences of the Greek case in the Eurozone.

    Altafaj underlined that talks between Greece and its creditors, to avoid a default in March, were "already beyond set deadlines".

    "The truth is we are already beyond deadline ...at this stage the ball is in the Greek authorities' court," he said.

    [22] Administrative reform ministry on public-sector lay-offs, downsizing

    The government intends to lay off 15,000 broader public-sector workers and either abolish or downsize a number of public-sector agencies by the end of 2012, the Administrative Reform and e-Government ministry revealed on Monday.

    A statement by Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas underlined that the government was not in favour of 'blind' lay-offs using horizontal criteria and continued to support the need for an evaluation of the structures and staff in the public sector.

    He noted that the 15,000 lay-offs demanded by the troika the previous Friday would be dealt with in the framework of a restructuring process already begun by each ministry, within a framework set by the agreement of the three parties supporting the government.

    Reppas also repeated that the government's commitment to reduce the number of public-sector staff by 150,000 at the end of 2015 would be achieved in combination with creating a functional and effective state sector.

    According to ministry sources, the government had come under intense pressure from its EU-IMF creditors to reduce the size of the public sector as a condition for approving a new bailout package for Greece.

    The lay offs are expected to arise through the abolition of public-sector organisation now operating at a loss, with staff automatically made redundant once a broader public sector organisation was abolished unless they could be transferred to the civil service. The staff reductions will concern all ministries, including armed forces personnel and teachers, and all broader public sector organisations, public utilities etc.

    Ministry officials insisted that staff evaluation was a political choice that would go ahead because it was useful and necessary, in order to rationalise the public sector by relating the needs of services with the available human resources.

    In the meantime, local government spending cuts of 440 million euro demanded by the troika are expected to lead to the firing of local authority workers, while action to hand over sanitation contracts to the private sector will begin in March.

    They will also result in cutting welfare benefits by 100 million euro, the restriction of spending on councillors pay by 50 million euro, a reduction of contract workers from 18,000 to 6,000 hired on a seasonal basis (leading to savings of 100 million euro) and a 50-million-euro reduction in local authority rates.

    [23] Positive messages for German investments in Greek tourism

    Deputy culture and tourism minister Giorgos Nikitiadis coordinated the Hellenic German Forum on tourism held on Monday at the German Bundestag in Berlin.

    The meeting produced positive messages as regards German interest in investing in the Greek tourism sector.

    Participants decided the establishment of two working groups comprising representatives of the Greek National Tourism Organization (EOT) and private entrepreneurs that will focus on the promotion of the tourism sector while seeking new tourism destinations.

    The forum was held under the auspices of the presidents of the Greek and the German national parliaments, coorganized by the Bundestag tourism committee and the Greek embassy in Berlin.

    [24] Greek-German forum on tourism concludes in Berlin

    BERLIN (AMNA/F.Karaviti)

    A Greek-German forum on tourism was successfully held at the German Bundestag on Monday evening, promising the reinforcemeet of cooperation between the two countries in the tourism industry.

    The forum was jointly organised by the Buntestag's Tourism Committee and Greece's embassy in Berlin, in the framework of the Greek-German partnership relation, and was held under the auspices of Greek Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos and president of the German Bundestag Norbert Lamert.

    [25] Nationwide general strike on Tuesday

    A nationwide general strike has been called on Tuesday by the country's two major umbrella federations representing the private and public sector, ADEDY and GSEE respectively, "in the face of the storm of new measures being advanced by the co-governance and the troika".

    The two umbrella federations have also called on all working people to take part in a protest demonstration in Athens' downtown Syntagma Square, while the ADEDY (civil servants' supreme administrative council) executive committee will meet again on Thursday to decide "further escalation of the struggle".

    In a press statement, ADEDY said that the agreement of the leaders of the three political parties backing prime minister Lucas Papademos' interim government "with the co-governance and the troika for the taking of new painful measures, aiming at the reduction of the salary and non-salary cost, the abolition of even the minimum wage in the private sector, the new reduction in auxiliary pensions and the one-off retirement benefit, layoffs of employees in the core and wider public sector, and further reduction in state expenditures that will deprive the public services (chiefly the health and education sectors) of resources intensifies the vicious circle of recession -- which was nurtured the past two years by the consecutive Memorandums -- and is leading the Greek society to desperation".

    It said that the Memorandum policy being exercised "is leading with mathematical precision to the ruin of the Greek economy and the destruction of the Greek society, turning working people into pariahs, the unemployed and pensioners into poverty-stricken paupers, and deprives the youth of any hope for a positive prospect. This policy has for some time already exhausted the endurances of the Greek society and must be reversed at all cost".

    The ADEDY executive committee called on all working people, pensioners, unemployed, youth and all those affected by the Memorandum police to make their dynamic presence in the strike demonstrations that will be held on Tuesday in the periphery as well as at the main strike demonstration in Athens, to be held at 11:00 a.m. in Syntagma Square in the context of the ADEDY-GSEE strike.

    Tuesday's general strike "is the first strike of a new struggle that will escalate and intensify against the new loan agreement of the co-governance and the troika, which is leading the people to catastrophe", ADEDY concluded.

    The public transport workers will participate in the 24-hour strike and fixed line public transport, meaning the metro, tram, electric railway, will run only from 10:00 a.m. until 17:00 p.m. to carry demonstrators wishing to take part in the protest rally in downtown Athens scheduled for 11:00 a.m. by GSEE and ADEDY.

    Hellenic Railways (OSE) and Proastiakos trains will not run on Tuesday.

    Buses will run as scheduled from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., trolleys from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.

    The primary school teachers union and the high school teachers' union announced their participation in the 24-hour strike on Tuesday.

    [26] Public hospital staff to participate in Tuesday's strike

    Public hospitals nationwide will operate with skeleton staff on Tuesday after the decision of doctors and nurses unions to join the 24-hour strike called by the country's largest umbrella trade unions, GSEE and ADEDY, representing the private and public sector respectively.

    A statement issued by public hospital staff underlined that the unfair and anti-popular policy implemented, which preys on salaries and pensions and tears down labour relations, should be overturned.

    [27] Business Briefs

    -- Economic sentiment in Greece eased to 74.9 points in January, down from 75.7 points in December 2011, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) announced on Monday.

    -- Eurobank EFG on Monday said any possible inclusion of loans/bonds to public sector enterprises in a PSI+ programme will have only limited impact on its capital.

    -- Building activity volume in the private sector dropped 49.9 pct in October 2011, for a decline of 36.9 pct in the January-October period, the Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Monday.

    [28] Greek stocks end sharply up on Monday

    Greek stocks resumed their upward trend in the first trading session of the week in the Athens Stock Exchange, with the composite index rising sharply after a sharp correction on Friday. The index jumped 3.0 pct to end at 785 points, while turnover remained a low 75.109 million euros. Traders said bank shares were at the focus of buying activity after reports that political leaders agreed on a recapitalization plan with non-voting shares, while the market also discounted an agreement in talks with the troika as well.

    The Big Cap index jumped 4.79 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.20 pct and the Small Cap index fell 2.03 pct. Banks (10.96 pct), Food (4.89 pct) and Financial Services (3.87 pct) were top gainers while Utilities (3.44 pct) and Oil (1.76 pct) suffered losses. Alpha Bank (19.7 pct), Piraeus Bank (17.76 pct), Hellenic Postbank (15.20 pct), National Bank (11.37 pct) and Eurobank (9.47 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while PPC (5.03 pct), Motor Oil (2.95 pct) and Ellaktor (2.94 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 91 to 70 with another 15 issues unchanged. Ilyda (29.58 pct), Mathios (20.1 pct) and Lambrakis Press (20 pct) were top gainers, while Avenir (21.8 pct), Teletypos (20 pct) and Mohlos (19.92 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -1.36%

    Commercial: -0.81%

    Construction: +0.65%

    Oil & Gas: -1.76%

    Personal & Household: -1.45%

    Raw Materials: +0.93%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.09%

    Technology: -0.89%

    Telecoms: -1.75%

    Banks: +10.96%

    Food & Beverages: +4.89%

    Health: +1.77%

    Utilities: -3.44%

    Chemicals: -0.79%

    Financial Services: +3.87%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and EFG Eurobank Ergasias.

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.58

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.59

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.70

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.69

    National Bank of Greece: 2.84

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.81

    OPAP: 7.28

    OTE: 2.80

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.59

    Titan: 13.18

    [29] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly to 27.07 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 27.14 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 28.96 pct and the German Bund 1.89 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 1.72 pct, the six-month rate 1.39 pct, the three-month 1.09 pct and the one-month rate 0.67 pct.

    [30] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 2.74 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover remaining a low 32.528 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 13,118 contracts worth 21.365 million euros, with 24,680 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 59,111 contracts worth 11.162 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (23,472), followed by National Bank (17,043), Cyprus Bank (5,188), MIG (865), OTE (609), PPC (1,051), OPAP (1,228), Piraeus Bak (6,336), Mytilineos (668), Hellenic Postbank (220), ATEbank (222) and GEK (1,444).

    [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.323

    Pound sterling 0.840

    Danish kroner 7.545

    Swedish kroner 8.934

    Japanese yen 101.47

    Swiss franc 1.224

    Norwegian kroner 7.706

    Canadian dollar 1.321

    Australian dollar 1.237

    General News

    [32] Heavy rain in greater Athens area floods homes and shops

    The Fire Brigade received more than 150 calls as a result of heavy rainfall in the greater Athens area on Monday afternoon.

    More specifically, 20 calls concerned flooded homes and shops and 136 the removal of fallen trees and objects from streets that created problems for traffic.

    The calls for help came from Piraeus, Korydallos, Moschato, Kallithea, Vyronas, Pangrati and the wider region of downtown Athens. Traffic confusion was also created in many streets due to traffic lights failing to function.

    Athens municipality services are in a state of readiness, following a decision taken by mayor George Kaminis, to handle problems created by the heavy rain.

    Ten mixed Athens municipality crews, in coordination with the relevant authorities, were monitoring neighbourhoods in the seven municipal regions, recording needs and remedying possible problems.

    Residents of the municipality who are in need of help in cases of flooded buildings, fallen tree cutting and blocked drainage pipes can dial 1960 round-the-clock.

    [33] State of alert in Evros as fears of flooding mount

    Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Region authorities and municipalities around the Evros River were in a state of alert on Monday, as fears that the river will flood its banks began to mount.

    Large volumes of water are expected to enter the river in the next few hours, swollen by intense rainfall in southern Bulgaria over the last few days and high temperatures leading to an over-rapid thaw.

    Local residents and farmers have been warned to take machinery and animals away from possible flood zones.

    According to reports from southeast Bulgaria, six people have died and 10 people are missing as a result of flooding that caused a dam to burst, a bridge to collapse and several villages to become inundated by water.

    [34] Drive to collect expired or unused pharmaceuticals in Greek households

    A drive to collect and ensure proper disposal of large quantities of pharmaceuticals that are currently languishing unused in Greek households was announced by the health ministry on Monday.

    According to the ministry, four in 10 Greek households is currently sitting on quantities of unused drugs, many of them past their expiration date, with an estimated total value that may exceed one billion euro.

    Working in collaboration with the National Pharmaceuticals Organisation and the Panhellenic Pharmacists Association, the ministry intends to put up 12,000 special bins at pharmacies throughout the country in March, where people can deposit medicines they no longer need.

    The quantities of drugs that are collected will then be taken to the Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Technology, which will undertake to send them to specialised disposal centres abroad where they will be neutralised and burned.

    The ministry's goal is to create a similar unit for destroying expired pharmaceuticals in Greece.

    [35] Trial for Oct. 28 military parade incidents postponed until March 1

    The trial of six defendants accused in connection with the incidents that led to the cancellation of the October 28 annual military parade in Thessaloniki, due to begin on Monday, has been postponed until March 1.

    The six defendants are among 17 accused of participating in the incidents that forced President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and other dignitaries to depart and led to the cancellation of the parade.

    Among the six was a police officer who was charged with failing to take appropriate action to stop those responsible for the incidents, even though he was present at the time, and failing to make any arrests.

    The accused were identified exclusively through audiovisual material recorded during the incidents.

    [36] Small arms cache discovered north of Athens

    Two bags containing firearms and cartridges were found abandoned in a remote region along the Penteli-Nea Makri ring road, it was announced on Monday.

    Police discovered a "Kalashnikov"-type assault rifle, a Tokarev handgun and a number of cartridges on Sunday morning. The guns are being processed at the police crime lab, while an investigation is underway to identify the owners.

    [37] Homeless man living in his car found dead in Thessaloniki

    A 76-year-old homeless Thessaloniki man was found dead in his car, in which he had been living for the past several years, police said on Monday.

    The dead man was discovered on Sunday in his parked car in the Analipsi district of Thessaloniki by passers-by.

    Police said that patrolling officers had in the past few days repeatedly urged the man to take shelter in a local hostel for the homeless due to the adverse weather conditions, but he had refused.

    The man's death is tentatively attributed to natural causes, but the precise cause will be determined after an autopsy is conducted.

    [38] Three bodies of young Afghans found on Preveza-Igoumenitsa motorway

    A motorist found on Monday afternoon three bodies belonging to young Afghans on the Preveza-Igoumenitsa motorway, northwestern Greece, a short way after the Parga intersection.

    He notified the police, while a coroner is also expected to arrive to shed light on the case, who are examining all possibilities and even of them having died of asphyxiation in some truck.

    [39] Antiquities smuggling arrest on Crete

    A 48-year-old man was arrested on Monday after a coordinated police operation on the island of Crete, charged antiquities smuggling and drug possession.

    A raid of his house revealed two ancient clay pots, parts from amphorae and other antiquities as well as a small quantity of cannabis.

    The suspect was sent before a local prosecutor.

    Weather forecast

    [40] Rainy on Tuesday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 5-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 3C and 15C. Cloudy and showery in Athens, with southerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 7C to 13C. Cloudy with periodic snowfall in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 1C to 3C.

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

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos' meeting with the political leaders (PASOK, New Democracy, LAOS) supporting his interim government and the tough negotiations with the troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "They impose poverty in Greece".

    AVRIANI: "Antonis (Samaras, ND leader) hold on, do not surrender to the blackmail".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Endless night".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The 13th and 14th salaries (holiday and vacation bonuses in private sector) saved, battle for the auxiliary pensions".

    ESTIA: "No to everything without proposals".

    ETHNOS: "Pre-agreement with the leaders' seal".

    IMERISSIA: "Agreement with pain - All to be judged on Monday at a new meeting".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Threats and ultimatum without final agreement".

    TA NEA: "Close to agreement - What we sacrifice, what we save".

    VRADYNI: "They cut salaries and auxiliary pensions, main pensions to follow".

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