|Saturday, 17 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-02-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 15 February 2012 Issue No: 3998
 PM stresses 'historic importance' of Sunday vote for bailout planIn his opening speech to a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos underlined the historic importance of the vote in Parliament on Sunday night in favour of the new bailout plan and accompanying austerity measures.
"Voting for the economic programme is of crucial importance for the approval of the programme by the governments of Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund, for the political approval of the PSI process and for the preparation of the new loan agreement," Papademos told ministers.
The prime minister said that many crucial steps will have to be taken in the next few days and weeks until a final decision is made on whether to financially support the country at the beginning of March and on the new loan agreement.
For this reason, he added, finance minister Evangelos Venizelos and Labour Minister George Koutroumanis on Monday began work on the required actions that must be carried out in the framework of the new economic programme.
Papademos underlined that without these actions, the next steps for the approval of the programme by the IMF and Eurozone countries cannot be carried out.
He noted that, while the cabinet meeting in Athens was underway, there had also been a meeting of the Eurogroup Working Group to prepare for Wednesday's Eurogroup meeting in Brussels. For this reason, Papademos added, it was imperative to move "very quickly".
Papademos also briefed members of the government that he had accepted five of the six resignations submitted to him by ministers, alternate ministers and deputy ministers but had asked Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Makis Voridis to remain at his post.
Those leaving the government include Alternate Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou, Alternate Defence Minister George Georgiou, Deputy Labour and Social Insurance Minister Yiannis Koutsoukos, Deputy Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Adonis Georgiadis and Deputy Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Asterios Rondoulis.
Papademos also referred to Sunday night's violent rioting in central Athens and called the incidents "sad and unacceptable". He announced that a meeting with the ministers responsible will be held on Wednesday to examine the problems that have arisen as a result, including their economic repercussions, and to discuss ways in which such phenomena might be tackled more efficiently in the future.
 Cabinet considers detailed implementation of new economic programmeImplementation of the conditions for the application of agreements related to the new economic package was one of the two major issues discussed at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.
According to government sources, a list of actions will be prepared for each ministry so that the first "package" of conditions are implemented by Feb. 27, when the German Bundestag will convene to approve the latest loan contract between European creditors and Greece.
The final deadline for implementation of the second "package" of necessary actions is March 15, when approval of the loan contract by various EU countries' Parliaments concludes.
According to the same sources, the issue was raised at the Cabinet meeting of detailing measures to slash 300 million euros from various 'high-end' pensions.
There were also proposals regarding a unified pay scale for the public sector to be considered two months earlier.
The second major issue discussed was that of Sunday's repulsive violence in downtown Athens, as the government is considering compensation to property and business owners that sustained damage.
 Cabinet meeting approves bill on tackling piracyThe bill on the tackling of piracy on ocean-going ships was approved during Tuesday's cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
The bill determines the basic axes and procedures for permission to be granted for armed groups to board ships, what the seamen's rights are, when the use of weapons takes place, the prohibitions for Greek territory and the sanctions.
Importance is also placed explicitly in the frameworks of international organisations on the issue of handling the phenomenon, while terming the services provided by the armed groups preventive and defensive.
According to the bill, permission for services to be provided by armed guards is given following an appeal by the shipowner and must be done by persons having the corresponding certification and who are not below 21 years of age, do not have condemnatory decisions and do not constitute the ship's crew.
 Two committees on Sunday's incidents decided during cabinet meetingThe creation of two committees to probe the incidents in downtown Athens on Sunday has been decided, according to reports, by the cabinet meeting that was continuing on Tuesday evening.
The first, under Government Vice President Theodoros Pangalos, will convene on Wednesday morning and its report will be discussed, according to the same reports, at the meeting of the second committee under Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Wednesday afternoon.
 Gov't, 'troika' agree on cuts in supplementary pensionsThe Greek government appeared ready to proceed with cuts to supplementary pensions and certain sectors' primary pensions, following a meeting in Athens on Tuesday afternoon between a relevant labour ministry secretary general and a delegation representing the EC-ECB-IMF 'troika'.
The meeting reportedly focused on measures to save roughly 300 million euros, as part of permanent measures, via cuts in the social security system, a demand repeatedly tabled over the recent period by the country's European and international creditors.
According to reports, the two sides reached an agreement for 7 percent cuts in the primary social security payments allocated by the seamen's fund (NAT), and a 20 percent "haircut" in "higher-end" pensions paid out by so-called special funds, namely, the power company (PPC) employees' auxiliary pension, the fund for the telephony (OTE) utility's workforce and bank employees.
The 20 percent figure is ostensibly aimed at pensions of more than 1,200 to 1,300 euros will be decreased, reports state, with savings in this category estimated at 100 million euros a year.
The remaining 200 million euros need to be found solely from decreases in supplementary pensions, a prospect that generated disagreements by the parties that back or backed the interim Papademos government up until last week.
The reductions will be 15 percent on average, although the ceiling has not been finalised as yet, namely, if reductions will be slapped on auxiliary pensions greater than 150, 200 or 300 euros.
The troika representatives reportedly requested and received relevant figures on the number of pension fund beneficiaries and the monthly payments they receive.
According to ministry officials, the measures will be agreed to by noon on Wednesday at the latest.
 Eurogroup to hold teleconference on WednesdayBRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Aroni)
The Eurogroup will ultimaterly convene on Wednesday through a teleconference and not with physical presence, due to "technical" issues that are pending, according to an announcement by Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker from Luxembourg on Tuesday.
In his announcement, the Eurogroup president expresses his satisfaction over the positive vote of the Greek Parliament on Greece's second support programme and stresses that during Tuesday's meeting of the economic experts of the eurozone's 17 Economy ministries (Eurogroup Working Group), it appeared that pending technical issues exist between Greece and the troika. Among these pending issues is the fiscal vacuum amounting to 325 million euros for 2012 and the viability analysis of the Greek debt.
Juncker further said that "I have not yet received the necessary political commitments by the leaders of the political parties supporting the Greek government for the programme's implementation. Consequently, I decided to convene the economic ministers at a meeting through a teleconference tomorrow (Wednesday), for us to discuss the pending issues and to prepare the scheduled meeting of the Eurogroup on Monday, February 20 2012."
 Austrian Chancellor on GreeceVIENNA (AMNA / D. Dimitrakoudis)
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann on Tuesday referred to what he called "incalculable consequences" for Europe in general, and Austria specifically, of a possible exit of Greece from the Eurozone, in statements before a Cabinet meetimg here.
"In difficult times we must contribute to stability and stabilisation," Faymann said, noting the interest shown by all sides to boost Greece's competitiveness, even if this concerns the years to come.
 Developmental measures must accompany austerity in Greece, Schulz saysBERLIN (AMNA - F. Karaviti)
Greece needs investments and a package to help promote growth, in addition to austerity measures, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in statements to the German newspaper "Rheinische Post" published on Tuesday.
Schulz warned that unless Greece was given the means to restore growth, the bailout funds it received would "evaporate" in the same way as previous bailout plans.
He criticised the European Union member-states' leadership for leading Greece into what he called a dead-end economic recession.
"Fiscal discipline is necessary, of course, but what we urgently need are investments that will give the population a real prospect for the future," he said, suggesting solar power, and extending the road, railroad and port network as possible investment prospects.
 PASOK president briefed by finmin, labour ministerPASOK President George Papandreou on Tuesday had a meeting with government vice-president and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos and Labour Minister George Koutroumanis in order to be briefed on labour and pensions issues, as well as a new labour ministry plan to avoid shutting down two state organisations involved in providing worker housing and social benefits, OEK and OEE, respectively.
Sources said the meeting will also discuss the 300-million-euro that need to be 'found' in order for the new economic programme to be finalised later on Tuesday.
 ND sharply critical of minister, univ. authorities in wake of destructive riotsNew Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras on Tuesday visited several police officers treated at an Athens-area military hospital for injuries sustained during Sunday's violent incidents in downtown Athens.
In a related development, the party stressed that those responsible for the violence should be prosecuted and called on the independent judiciary to launch an investigation into the clashes, especially on why the university asylum law, recently passed in Parliament, was not implemented. The latter statement revolves around numerous press reports this week alleging that self-styled anarchist youths and so-called "anti-state" activists took over the Athens Law School building in the days prior to Sunday, essentially turning it into a "battle HQ".
ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis pointed out that neither the citizen protection minister nor university authorities -- in this case the controversial rector of the specific law school -- want to assume their share of responsibility, despite evidence showing that the Law School building was used by hoodlums to manufacture makeshift firebombs, amongst others.
Mihelakis stressed that a specific statute on criminal acts committed on university grounds was not implemented, while university authorities did not take the necessary measures to protect the institution's property.
He also questioned the citizen protection minister's inaction, as he said, stressing that he did not order police to intervene even though he was aware of the fact that criminal acts were committed on Law School premises.
Damages in Athens from Sunday riots estimated at more than one million euro, prosecutor's investigation ordered
The damages in downtown Athens from Sunday's riots are expected to exceed one million euros, Athens deputy mayor Andreas Varelas told AMNA on Tuesday, adding "it is like war".
Varelas, who is in constant contact with the local merchants' association, said that he was awaiting the final assessment of the damages, which were expected to exceed one million euros, adding that "I am deeply grieved, I live in and love this city, I am a third generation Athenian...this cannot go on".
Athens cannot take more closed shops, if more do close, the life of the city is in danger, he added.
Varelas further cited an instance in which the owner of the ASTY cinema paid money to vandals to keep them from gutting the building. "He was forced to pay them to keep them from vandalising the cinema. And when they entered from another entrance -- because they didn't know the cinema had two entrances, do you know what the told the owner: 'Ah, you've already paid us. We're leaving'. And that's how he saved his cinema from the looting," the deputy mayor said.
Meanwhile, Athens' chief prosecutor Eleni Raikou on Tuesday ordered a multi-level preliminary investigation into Sunday's rioting, with respect to: a) the extensive use of chemicals by riot police, which the Athens Medical Association has charged is hazardous to the public health; b) the circumstances under which veteran Leftist Manolis Glezos and internationally-acclaimed composer Mikis Theodorakis were injured as they prepared to enter the parliament building; c) charges by shopowners that before the arson attacks on their shops they were asked by some individuals to pay money so that they would not burn the properties; and d) the vandalisms in the center of Athens, including looting of shops, arson of buildings and destruction of public property.
 Culture ministry to finance repairs at Attikon and Apollon cinemasThe Culture and Tourism ministry will finance the study and the repairing of damage of the classical building housing the historic Attikon and Apollon cinemas, in central Athens.
Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos announced the ministry's decision during a cabinet meeting, on Tuesday.
The two cinemas were seriously damaged by fire during Sunday's violent riots in downtown Athens.
 Nationalities, ages of riot suspects announcedPolice on Monday announced that of the 79 suspects arrested on rioting and looting charges linked to the previous day's violence in central Athens, 53 are local residents, nine are Albanian nationals, while the rest of the arrested suspects include four Algerians, a Tunisian, one Mauritanian man, two Romanian nationals, two Poles, an Afghan, four Palestinians and one Iraqi.
Authorities did not specify whether the foreign nationals are considered illegal migrants or holders of legal residence permits or valid travel documents.
Moreover, three of those in custody are minors, aged between 14 and 17 years old; 41 suspects are aged from 19 to 29; 27 from 31 to 39 and eight suspects over the age of 40.
Of the 92 individuals detained for questioning, 68 are Greek citizens and 24 are foreign nationals -- two Armenians, three Albanians, a Pole, a Russian, seven Afghans, five Iranians, an Iraqi man, a Pakistani, an Algerian, one Kazakh and one man from Palestinian territories.
According to an AMNA dispatch on Monday, 93 buildings were totally destroyed or seriously damaged by fire during the rampages on Sunday evening, among them nine listed or historically significant buildings. At least 150 other sites were looted and damaged on Sunday afternoon and in the evening hours, when hoodlums attempted to disrupt large and peaceful protests against the latest bailout plan.
Some 103 police officers were injured along with a large number of citizens, who were taken to hospitals.
 Another 39 arrested in Athens clashes led before prosecutorAnother 39 people arrested in the early morning hours on Monday during violent clashes in downtown Athens were led before a prosecutor on Tuesday, in addition to 36 individuals arraigned on Monday.
Four are accused of attempted assault on police officers in combination with charges stemming from the law on hooded individuals. They are also accused of causing explosions, supply and possession of explosives and resisting authority, all felony charges.
The remaining of those arrested are faced with misdemeanor charges for obstructing peace, resisting authority, attempted assault, theft, unruliness and illegal weapon possession.
 Tourist agents' letter to ministers on the latest incidents in AthensThe Greek tourist agencies federation "HATTA" sent on Tuesday a letter to Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis and to Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos regarding the Feb.12 incidents in Athens, demanding the state's responsible response.
In its letter HATTA says that the defamation of the country is huge, particularly in a very sensitive period during which the pre-reservations for 2012 are underway, adding that the international community witnessed again not only the unbelievable images of the 'desecration' of the sacred rock of the Acropolis but also the widespread damages in the center of Athens and the authorities' delay in averting these repeating phenomena.
 Government politically and morally weakened, SYRIZA saysThe Radical Left Coalition's (SYRIZA) Secretariat stressed in an announcement on Tuesday that Lucas Papademos's government was emerging from the events of the past days "politically and morally weakened".
SYRIZA's Secretariat "hails the hundreds of thousands of people who participated in the biggest rallies that ever took place in the country", adding that "the crowds of people, the full streets and squares, the sea of people in Syntagma square were those that broke the climate of the unbelievable government danger mongering, which exercised the greatest political pressure and changed the flow of developments completely."
According to the Secretariat, "it is being confirmed that Papademos is an appointed prime minister, in a government that is tottering, with a Parliament that is in complete disharmony with the popular will."
 SYRIZA's Tsipras criticises decision to shut down Worker Housing OrganisationCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday strongly criticised a decision to shut down the state agency Worker Housing Organisation (OEK), during a visit to OEK headquarters now occupied by its staff.
Tsipras called the decision "incomprehensible" given that its spending did not come from the state budget but from worker contributions.
He was particularly scathing in his attack on Labour Minister George Koutroumanis, calling him "minister of unemployment and social disintegration".
 Bakoyannis confirms contacts with expelled ND deputiesDemocratic Alliance party leader Dora Bakoyannis confirmed on Tuesday that her party has had contacts with several recently expelled New Democracy (ND) deputies.
"Of course I had contacts with them," she said, responding to a press question, adding:
"An endless discussion is underway throughout our political landscape. The political system is collapsing and it must be rebuilt with another rationale. I hope we received the message and we have learned it".
Bakoyannis also attacked ND leader Antonis Samaras, stressing that ND -- her former party and where she served as foreign minister -- is paying for its mistaken decisions over the past two-and-a-half years.
 Manolis announces 'parting of ways' with New DemocracyFormer MP and trade unionist Yiannis Manolis on Tuesday announced that he was quitting the New Democracy party due to his disagreement with a policy shift in favour of supporting the bailout programmes for Greece.
Manolis announced that in response to the dilemma raised by ND's leadership to "either vote and support the memorandum or our ways part and you are expelled," he had chosen a parting of ways.
"We remain steadfast on the road that the president laid down and we followed for two years. He chose another road, making a huge u-turn, expelling one third of the Parliamentary group and threatening the members that unless they make statements in support of the Memorandum they will not be included in ND election tickets," he added.
 Merkel meets fYRoM PM, urges solution to 'name issue'BERLIN (AMNA / F. Karaviti)
Following a meeting with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski here on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed support for the land-locked state's efforts to join the EU and NATO, while appealing to Athens and Skopje to continue negotiations to achieve a deal on the "name dispute".
"The issue of the name must be settled," she said, indicating that Skopje should definitely continue talks with Athens on a solution.
"In the European Union we are all used to compromises, otherwise the Union could not survive," the German chancellor added. She also said there is still a great deal that can be done in the one-time Yugoslav republic in the sector of justice and in terms of transparency.
However, she pointed out that "in the European Union no discounts can be made unless certain preconditions are met," adding that the settlement of the "name issue" is also a precondition for a membership in the bloc.
Gruevski said his government again intends to apply to join NATO at the next summit meeting in Chicago in May.
 Interior minister suggests reduction of state funding for partiesInterior Minister Tassos Yiannitsis on Tuesday submitted a memo to the Parliament's special permanent committee on institutions and transparency, with his proposals on the "necessary reforms that need to be made" in the funding of political parties to ensure absolute transparency.
He ruled out the likelihood of a legislative initiative on political money in the present parliament unless a parliamentary majority is ensured and characterized the reduction of state funding as a matter of "political morality" suggesting that it should be cut to 20 pct.
The interior minister said "state funding has to remain the main source of financing for political parties which, however, should take into serious consideration the current socio-economic situation and our fiscal potential. Specifically, they should consider that each social group has suffered serious sacrifices as a result of fiscal and other imbalances."
Yiannitsis clarified that the suggested reduction will bring the annual state funding down to 40 million euros compared with 54 million euros in 2011 and 48.8 million euros in 2010.
 EL.STAT president requests intervention of Supreme Court prosecutorHellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT) president Andreas Georgiou, in a memo addressed to Supreme Court prosecutor Ioannis Tentes on Tuesday, maintained that financial prosecutor Grigoris Peponis has refused to forward him copies of testimonies given within the framework of an investigation into allegations that Greece's state deficit for 2009 was intentionally inflated by the then PASOK government.
For the record, the EL.STAT president had been summonsed to testify within the framework of the investigation into the case but has not appeared before the authorities yet. The case file, as far as the political figures involved are concerned, has already been forwarded to parliament, while a preliminary investigation is still underway for non political figures.
The EL.STAT president calls on prosecutor Tentes to order Peponis to forward him copies of additional testimonies given by witnesses on the controversial case and requests adequate time to present explanations that will lead to the conclusion of the preliminary investigation.
 MPs request BlackRock audit to be forwarded to ParliamentForty-four PASOK MPs on Tuesday signed a petition addressed to the minister of finance requesting that the Bank of Greece (BoG) governor forward to Parliament the findings of a BlackRock Solutions asset manager report on the Greek banking system.
The MPs requested that Parliament be briefed on the method followed to extract the results, as well as, on the findings of the BlackRock audit of bank subsidiaries outside Greece, their societe anonymes or offshore companies.
They also called on the minister to submit the findings of the audit conducted for every bank separately, as well as figures on the quality of the loans per category.
 File on financial prosecutors' resignation to ParliamentThe file on the investigation concerning the resignations of financial prosecutors Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis, who had reported attempts to interfere with their work, was received by Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee Chairman Thanassis Tsouras on Tuesday.
The file on the investigation conducted by Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor Fotis Makris, who had decided to shelve the prosecutors' accusations, had been requested from the justice ministry by Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee following a unanimous vote.
 Greek recession at 6.8pct in 2011The Greek economy was in deep recession in 2011, running at an annual rate of 6.8 percent, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Tuesday.
ELSTAT, in flash estimates, said that the recession averaged out at 6.8 percent for the year after GDP plunged by 7 percent in the fourth quarter of the year, 5.0 percent in the third quarter, 7.3 percent second quarter, and 8 percent in the first quarter of 2011.
More specifically, ELSTAT said that available non-seasonally-adjusted data indicate that, in the 4th quarter of 2011, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at constant prices of year 2005 decreased by 7.0% in comparison with the 4th quarter of 2010.
The dramatic deterioration in the Greek economy is mainly attributed to a veritable 'freeze' in private and public investments, and to a drastic decline in consumption demand, while an increase in exports and reduction in imports provided a small counter-balance.
The Greek finance ministry had initially predicted recession at 2.8 percent for 2012, but the forecasts now anticipate a more than 3.5 percent decline in growth, resulting in a cumulative recession of 4-5 percent for 2012-2013.
Greece is currently in its 5th year of recession, given GDP declines of 0.15 percent in 2008, 3.3 percent in 2009, 3.4 percent in 2010, and 6.8 percent in 2011.
 EU Energy Ministers Council convenes in BrusselsBRUSSELS (AMNA/V. Demiris)
The draft regulation on inter-European energy infrastructures and the EU directive on energy performance were the main issues at the European Union's Energy Ministers Counil here on Tuesday. The Greek positions were backed by Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister George Papacon-stantinou.
As regards the draft regulation on inter-European energy infrastructures, Papaconstantinou stressed that Greece supports this initiative, since from the project proposals that will be shaped Greece can benefit in a multiple way, including the facilitation of the export of energy from renewable sources that are being promoted with the "Ilios" plan.
On the question of the directive on energy performance, the minister pointed out that in Greece many conservation projects are already being financed and implemented in private buildings and in the public sector and it is very important that this policy is being promoted at European level as well. He said that "it constitutes an exclusively growth sector for our economy, both because we are interested in growth and the dissemination of new energy performance technologies for the protection of the environment and the reduction of the repercussions of climatic change and because it helps the revival of the construction and building branch in our country."
The minister held a private meeting on the sidelines of the Council with Energy commissioner G?nther Oettinger, whom he briefed on the progress and the legislative initiatives that the Greek government is preparing for the promotion of the "Ilios" plan. They also exchanged views on the next steps by Greece and the European Commission on the shaping of the energy exporting from renewable sources framework in the EU.
 Employers' federation: Growth the only antidote to crisisThe Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEB) on Tuesday said that its members "are working to protect their employees' incomes and give priority to safeguarding jobs, seeking other ways to improve productivity and lower costs".
A resolution approved by the Federation's general council, which convened on Tuesday to assess prospects created by a new memorandum, particularly over labour relations and lower wages, stressed that Greek enterprises "were fighting to adjust to current conditions and to survive the crisis in understanding with workers and within the legal framework".
The resolution added that "the signing of a new lending agreement opens a window of opportunity to retain our European prospect," although it noted that the future could not be ensured with loans.
"Growth in the only antidote to the crisis. And development will come only from our own forces, our decisions, our actions. Now or never, is the time of big, decisive changes in the economy and the society".
SEB said its members account for more than 2/3 of total tax revenues, employing more than 50 pct of workers in the private sector and cover more than 55 pct of IKA revenues.
 ETUC stands by GSEE labour confederationVisiting General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Bernadette S?gol, met on Tuesday with General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) president Yiannis Panagopoulos and stressed that "the programme being implemented in Greece does not offer prospects of recovery and does not guarantee the future of the Greek people."
According to an announcement by GSEE, Segol expressed during the meeting "her grave concern over the flagrant lack of respect in the agreement between the social partners" and in general over the exercising of "non-viable policies that do not strengthen competitiveness and raise serious issues regarding the respect for the fundamental principles and values of the European Union."
 Greece raises 1.3 bln euros from 3-mo. T-bill auctionGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bills issue, raising 1.3 billion euros from the market at a lower interest rate of 4.61 pct.
The Public Debt Management Organization, in an announcement, said the issue was 2.7 times oversubscribed, with bids submitted totaling 2.7 billion euros. The auction was made through the market's primary dealers with settlement date Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. The organization will accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, Feb. 16.
 Initiative to boost farm exports to RussiaAgricultural Development & Foods Minister Costas Skandalidis on Tuesday announced a decision to activate a Greek-Russian working group, aimed at promoting bilateral relations in the farm sector ahead of an upcoming interministerial commission meeting.
Speaking to reporters during a ProdExpo food and farm produce trade fair, Skandalidis said "23 pct of Greek exports to Russia are farm products, vegetables, fisheries, dairies, olive oil, olives, wine, with Greece recording a trade deficit as the country imported more products from Russia, mostly wheat".
The minister, however, noted that Greece was recording a significant increase in exports in the last few years and stressed that as part of efforts to boost exports, the government has asked for an improvement of duties on Greek products, while the Winter Olympic Games in 2014 in Russia will highlight the so-called "Mediterranean diet".
Skandalidis underlined the need to certify Greek companies and pledged government actions to overcome bureaucracy.
 Turkish consul general in HalkidikiThe mayor of the northern city of Polygyros, in verdant Halkidiki peninsula, on Tuesday received Turkish consul general to Thessaloniki Tugrul Biltekin, who voiced his country's interest in tourism investments in the region of Halkidiki, a well-known tourism destination.
On his part, Polygyros Mayor Asterios Zografos underlined that a specific proposal will be ready soon, focusing on the joint implementation of an action plan.
 Business Briefs-- TrainOSE, the state-run rail operator in Greece, on Tuesday reported a spectacular 82-pct decline in its annual deficit last year to 33 million euros, down from 187 million euros in 2010.
 Stocks end lower on profit takingStocks ended lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday as investors took profits following Monday's sharp advance. The composite index of the market fell 1.95 pct to end at 818.10 points, off the day's lows of 814.12 points. Turnover was a low 60.847 million euros.
The Big Cap index dropped 1.81 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.68 pct lower and the Small Cap index eased 0.24 pct. The Commerce (2.15 pct), Constructions (1.67 pct), Oil (1.29 pct) and Chemicals (0.33 pct) sectors scored gains, while the Food (5.69 pct), Industrial Products (3.47 pct) and Health (2.95 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Eurobank (4.46 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (2.72 pct), Titan (2.60 pct) and Folli Follie (2.15 pct) were top gainers, while Viohalco (5.93 pct), Coca Cola 3E (5.84 pct), Piraeus Bank (4.49 pct) and Hellenic Postbank (3.37 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 97 to 66 with another 22 issues unchanged. Audiovisual (23.61 pct), HOL (19.80 pct) and Euroholdings (19.64 pct) were top gainers, while Ilyda (27.03 pct), Compucon (19.72 pct) and Koumbas Holdings (19.63 pct) were top losers
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.29%
Personal & Household: -0.62%
Raw Materials: -0.99%
Travel & Leisure: -2.01%
Food & Beverages: -5.69%
Financial Services: -1.20%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, EFG Eurobank Ergasias and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.69
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.17
HBC Coca Cola: 14.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.04
National Bank of Greece: 2.84
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.17
Bank of Piraeus: 0.60
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 29.91 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 28.91 pct and the German Bund 1.90 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 1.68 pct, the six-month rate 1.35 pct, the three-month rate 1.05 pct and the one-month rate 0.62 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.45 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover shrinking to 17.397 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,609 contracts worth 9.682 million euros, with 30,925 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 36,334 contracts worth 7.715 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (14,200), followed by Cyprus Bank (1,456), MIG (420), OTE (370), PPC (715), Piraeus Bank (4,467), OPAP (414), National Bank (12,104), Mytilineos (421), Hellenic Postbank (366) and GEK (205).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.336
Pound sterling 0.850
Danish kroner 7.544
Swedish kroner 8.913
Japanese yen 104.39
Swiss franc 1.225
Norwegian kroner 7.648
Canadian dollar 1.335
Australian dollar 1.248
 U.S. firms express interest in ultra-lightweight plane designed by Florina policemanSeveral U.S. firms have expressed an interest in a design for an ultra-lightweight aluminium aircraft developed by a police man and amateur flying enthusiast in the northern Greek city of Florina, who has successfully built two fully functioning planes.
George Iliopoulos was unable to afford his own plane on a policeman's salary but got the idea of building one using the materials at hand during a visit to specialist stores in Canada.
His first prototype was built almost entirely of recycled wood, using old furniture, a wheelchair and a car engine. This first plane was name the 'Lygkistis' and for a while he thought he would not repeat the attempt in his lifetime.
It was not long, however, before he was back to the drawing board designing his second aircraft, initially using printing press plates, on a scale of 1:6. When this design actually flew, Iliopoulos reported that he nearly had a heart attack.
There followed a process of painstaking work and 3,000 modifications of the original design to build the craft on a normal scale out of aircraft-grade aluminium before 'Archon', Iliopoulos' second plane, took to the skies.
'Archon' is an ultra-light aircraft that looks similar to a fighter plane and, according to Iliopoulos, he has received a number of e-mails from U.S. firms interested in exploiting the design commercially.
 Greek wetlands important habitats for CormorantsCormorants (Phalacrocorax) are regular visitors to the regions of East Macedonia-Thrace and Central Macedonia, which are important wintering sites for them but also host resident populations.
The East Macedonia-Thrace National Park contains the Ramsar-protected wetlands of the Lake Nestos delta, Lake Vistonida, Lake Ismarida (Ismaris, or Mitrikou) and adjoining lagoons, and the wider region, and covers an expanse of approximately 726,000 stremma (181,500 acres), which host wintering and resident populations of the endangered Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax Pygmeus), the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and the European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis).
In fact, Greece is the only EU member where Pygmy Cormorants breed, while the most important wintering areas in Greece are the large wetlands of Thrace and Macedonia.
Greece has 10 sites designated under Ramsar as "Wetlands of International Importance", among them the "Nestos delta and adjoining lagoons" and "Lake Vistonis, Porto Lagos, Lake Ismaris and adjoining lagoons" in east Macedonia-Thrace, and artificial Lake Kerkini in central Macedonia, all of which are important wintering habitats for passing and biotopes for resident cormorants.
The "Lake Vistonis, Porto Lagos, Lake Ismaris and adjoining lagoons" site (Ramsar site no. 55) encompasses two previously separate Ramsar sites (Lake Vistonis and Lake Mitrou) which were later merged to form the current site, which includes a wetland complex, encompassing a coastal lake (Vistonis), the Porto Lagos saline lagoon, six shallow saltwater adjoining lagoons separated from the sea by a sandy beach, and a freshwater shallow lake (Ismaris). The coastal lagoons are fringed by saltmarsh, extensive mudflats, reedbeds and scrub, and freshwater marsh. The area is important for breeding birds, and large numbers of various species of waterbirds occur in winter. This is a wintering habitat for the Pygmy Cormorant and the Great Cormorant, while Lake Ismaris, the only freshwater lake in Thrace, hosts a resident colony of Pygmy Cormorant.
The "Nestos delta and adjoining lagoons" site (Ramsar site no. 56), is an extensive delta complex, including saltmarshes, freshwater lakes supporting nationally rare plant species, coastal lagoons, a dune system, and the largest remaining area of riparian forest in Greece. The delta is the most important breeding site in Europe for about 40 pairs of plover and supports various species of nesting and up to 50,000 wintering birds, including four pairs of the globally threatened sea eagle Haliaetus albicilla. It is a wintering site for the Pygmy Cormorant and the Great Cormorant, and hosts resident colonies of the Pygmy Cormorant and the European Shag.
The "Artificial lake Kerkini" (Ramsar site no. 58) near the border between Greece, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia, is a nutrient-rich, freshwater reservoir in an alluvial plain between mountain massifs, supporting extensive beds of floating vegetation and subject to wide variations in water level. The site includes mudflats, seasonally flooded forest, and sand banks, and supports the largest mixed nesting colony of waterbirds in Greece. Numerous species of waterbirds occur in winter and during spring and autumn migration periods, including several globally threatened or endangered species. It is a wintering site for the Pygmy Cormorant and the Great Cormorant and also hosts resident populations of both.
 Jewellery store robbery in Nea Peramos leads to police officer's serious woundingA police officer was seriously wounded in the stomach and a civilian slightly during an armed robbery at a jewellery store in Nea Peramos, western Attica, at 6 on Tuesday afternoon.
Five unidentified persons armed with assault rifles entered the jewellery store and seized money and jewellery.
The jewellery store is situated near the Nea Peramos police station and for this reason one of the police officers went to the scene of the robbery. Then, during their getaway the perpetrators opened fire with the rifles, resulting in the police officer being wounded in the stomach. A ricocheting bullet also slightly wounded a civilian passing by.
The police officer was taken to the Thriasio Hospital in Elefsina where he was undergoing surgery later in the evening.
 Athens lawyers extend strike until end of monthThe Athens Bar Association on Tuesday voted to extend a strike by lawyers, who are abstaining from all court appearances, until the end of this month. The strike was due to end on Wednesday.
Participants voted against a second proposal to extend the strike by just five days instead of two weeks and had earlier rejected a proposal that lawyers abstain from cases concerning the public sector and banks.
 5.1 quake at the sea region of HalkidikiA moderate earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale was recorded at 3:34 on Tuesday morning in the sea region off the Halkidiki peninsula.
According to the Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki's Geophysics Laboratory, the quake struck at 110 km southeast of Thessaloniki with its epicentre in the sea region 24km west of the Athos leg of the peninsula.
No damage was reported.
 Moderate earthquake shakes island of ZakynthosAn earthquake measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale shook the Ionian island of Zakynthos at 3:21 p.m. on Tuesday.
The epicentre of the quake was located beneath the sea at a distance of 12 kilometres west-southwest of the island and 261 kilometres west of Athens.
 Arrests for debt to stateThree arrests for debts to the state were announced by Greek authorities on Tuesday, one in the Koropi district in Attica and two in the city of Ioannina.
An 84-year-old former owner of a restaurant that was no longer in business was arrested in Koropi for debts amounting to 307,775.76 euro and then released.
The two arrests in Ioannina were of two business men aged 52 and 28 years old, respectively, the manager and partner in a business selling construction materials, were arrested for business debts amounting to 321,423.82 euro.
The two were led before an Ioannina public prosecutor.
 Cocaine bust at Athens airportA 32-year-old Lithuanian man was arrested on his arrival at Athens' international airport when he was caught smuggling 1.150 kilos of cocaine into the country. The arrest was made by Attica security drugs squad officers on Monday afternoon.
The drugs were in two plastic bags tied to his calves and carefully hidden by his socks and trousers.
The suspect had brought the drugs in from Sao Paolo in Brazil via Zurich and intended to give them to west African drug dealers operating in Athens. He will be led before an Athens Misdemeanours Court prosecutor on Tuesday.
 Cloudy on WednesdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -4C and 14C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 4C to 11C. Cloudy with possible sleet in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -2C to 5C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe immeasurable damages in Athens from the fires and the looting by hooded individuals, the decisions and commitments that must be processed in order for the new installment of the bailout loan to disbursed, the turmoil in the political parties after the expulsion of a large number of deputies, mostly dominated the headlines on Tuesday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Elections the next step".
AVGHI: "PASOK, ND (New Democracy) in shambles".
DIMOKRATIA: "The explosion brings elections".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Elections in April following a series of painful measures".
ESTIA: "Immense damage to the economy".
ETHNOS: "Political parties counting their wounds - Shock and awe from the 'wild' night in the parties and the streets of Athens".
IMERISSIA: "Race for the memorandum".
KATHIMERINI: "Athens picking up its pieces".
LOGOS: "'Haircut' for the three parties...".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Brussels awaiting the political leaders' signatures".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The 'no' to anti-labour measures must become a 'no' to the monopolies' dictatorship".
TA NEA: "The law of the hoods".
VRADYNI: "Abolition of loans for medical purposes".
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