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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-02-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 16 February 2012 Issue No: 3999
 Greece has fulfilled all prior actions needed, FinMin saysFinance Minister Evaggelos Venizelos said late Wednesday night the Greek side presented in detail that the country has fulfilled all prior actions needed, such as offering political commitments, the Parliament approving the new programme and changes in the labor market, during a Eurozone finance ministers teleconference earlier in the evening.
All these are an answer that the programme will be continued after general elections, he said while addressing reporters at the end of the teleconference which lasted more than three hours.
Venizelos added that the Greek government has also finalized additional cuts, worth 325 million euros, to cover a "hole" in the programme.
The Greek minister added that eurogroup finance ministers also raised the issue of commitments by all political parties and social partners in Greece that the programme agreed with the EC/ECB/IMF troika would be continued after general elections in the country.
He added, however, that there was no issue of written commitments, but this comes up in order to ensure that the country "has continuity and consistency".
 Eurozone head Juncker says Monday's Eurogroup can decide on GreeceBRUSSELS (AMNA/V. Demiris)
Eurozone head Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his conviction that Monday's Eurogroup will be in a position to take all the necessary decisions for Greece, following the conclusion of the teleconference of euro member-states on Wednesday evening.
The Eurogroup president stresses in a written statement that certain clarifications are still needed regarding the specific mechanisms that will be anticipated for the strengthening of the survaillance of the programme's implementation and to ensure that priority is given to debt servicing.
Juncker underlines in his statement that this will strengthen the debt's viability.
Juncker mentions that during the teleconference "considerable progress" occurred on the pending issues regarding Greece's second programme. As he clarifies, the Eurogroup received "strong assurances from the leaders of the parties supporting the (Greek) government" and the troika completed and presented its analysis for the viability of Greece's public debt. Furthermore, he notes that the further technical processing that took place between Greece and the troika led to the detection of the necessary additional measures amounting to 325 million euros and to the shaping of a detailed list of prerequisite actions together with a timetable for their implementation.
 PASOK leader Papandreou addresses commitment letter to troikaPASOK party leader George Papandreou on Wednesday reaffirmed his commitment for the implementation of the programme agreed between the Lucas Papademos government and the troika, in a letter sent to the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Eurogroup.
The letter was made public by the party's Press Office.
According to the Papandreou letter, the commitment also refers to the case of PASOK assuming again the responsibility of the country's governance after the next elections.
Papandreou stresses in his letter that whatever future adjustment and "whatever new measures will be planned" must be in absolute accordance with the programme agreed and not jeopardise the achievement of its targets.
He also mentions that PASOK claims that the measures that are anticipated by the new agreement must be backed with others which will contribute to the Greek economy's longterm competitiveness. He proposes measures in particular for the reorganising of the business and labour environment, the restructuring of the system of training and lifelong learning and support measures that will create "a strong social protection net."
All these measures, as it is stressed, must be funded either through EU resources or through national resources "in a way that is compatible with the programme's targets".
As regards the banking sector, a framework is supported "for stronger reform and supervision" and for the recapitalisation plan it must aim "at safeguarding public interest" and at the same time "the business autonomy of banks" must be secured.
 Samaras sends letter of commitment to EC, Eurogroup, IMFNew Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Wednesday reaffirmed his commitment for full implementation of the Fiscal Stabilisation Programme for Greece, its targets and the policies it contains, in a letter sent to the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Eurogroup.
In the letter, Samaras commits to promoting competitiveness and grown and to support the radical structural changes in the labour, products and services markets as well as the denationalisations programme, to restore market confidence and fiscal sustainability while at the same time protecting the vulnerable population groups, and ensuring fiscal stability.
"We express our commitment for a speedy implementation of the fiscal strategy that includes the Private Sector Involvement (PSI) together with our European partners," the letter said, and assures the partners that if ND wins the next elections, it will remain devoted to the targets and fundamental polices of the programme as it is contained in the Memorandum.
Samaras reiterates, however, that he places great emphasis on recovery, so that state revenues will arise that will enable achievement of the targets.
The ND leader further states, as in his previous letter, that amendments may be needed that will guarantee the full implementation of the Programme, and reiterates his intention to bring such matters for discussion together with viable alternative policies, but strictly within the Programme framework, so that the achievement of the targets will not be put at risk.
 German government categorically denies desiring Greek defaultBERLIN (AMNA - F. Karaviti)
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Wednesday categorically denied rumours that the German side is pushing for a Greek default. The spokesman stressed that the German government has taken no such decision and that Germany is working with its partners to create a feasible process that will lead to an exit from the crisis.
Seibert stressed that this was the 'spirit' behind the bailout programme and the efforts for a significant reduction of Greece's debt involving the private sector.
Referring to the commitments demanded by Eurogroup member-states to release bailout funds, the spokesman stressed that the Greek political parties must give assurances that they will observe the commitments made after the elections.
"During the Eurogroup conference call, the number of signatures needed will be specified," he added.
The spokesman for the German finance ministry Martin Kotthaus also stressed that the largest Greek political parties must make a commitment to continue the reforms after the elections, noting that this was a condition for approving more bailout funds to Greece.
He stressed that Greece's EU partners had to be certain that the agreements would apply after the elections.
Kotthaus also repeated that the German government "will do everything possible to help Greece follow this path, if it wants to follow it".
 FinMin: Greece waging fight in eurozone for its survivalGreece is waging a fight in the eurozone for its survival, government vice president and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Wednesday, in statements to the press after being received by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
Venizelos said that Greece has fulfilled the greater part of its obligations, and that the final details will be elaborated before a eurogroup tele-conference begins at 6:00 in the afternoon.
He added, however, that the situation was sui generis, given that new terms and conditions are being constantly put forward "as forces in Europe are playing with fire because they believe that the decisions of October 27, 2010 will not be implemented".
"It therefore needs to be made clear that Greece will implement them, but also that the scenario of Greece finding itself out of Europe will not become reality," Venizelos said, adding that "we will do everything that needs to be done to preserve the social cohesion and so that uncontrollable situations will not prevail."
The finance minister further said that this was not the time for petty party and electoral calculations while, to a question whether one of the new demands was for extention of the interim government's tenure, he replied that "what is being asked is that there is certainty that Greece, the Greek state, will have continuity and that the commitments being undertaken will be adhered to by the next parliament as well".
"The two parties supporting the Papademos government must manifest a sense of responsibility, and hopefully more parties will follow suit in this effort," Venizelos said.
 FinMin: Greece 'at razor's edge'"Greece is at the razor's edge," government vice president and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Wednesday as he arrived at the Presidential Mansion for a meeting with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
"Greece is at the razor's edge, and we are trying to agree on even the final detail of the new loan programme for the country," Venizelos told Papoulias, and described the climate in Brussels vis-a-vis Greece as "bad".
"This is very hard. Many are fighting with fire, both at home and abroad, others with torches and others with matches. In every instance, the danger is big, and the quandary is sacrifices and cuts or national disaster," he added.
Venizelos said that "we must tell the entire truth to the Greek people about why we reached this point," adding that "unfortunately, there are many in the eurozone who no longer want us, and we need to convince them that we can succeed, for the coming generations, for our children".
 Gov't spokesman: As moment of new loan approaches, pressure increases for bigger commitments by GreeceAs the binding moment approaches when Europe will give Greece a 130 billion euro bailout loan, the clearer it becomes that there will be pressure for bigger commitments by Greece, minister of state and government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said on Wednesday.
The government, on its part, was proceeding to the materialisation of the commitments already undertaken and to the completion of the agreement, Kapsis said on private Radio 9 station.
Asked about the attitude in Europe regarding the Greek issue, Kapsis said it is evident that there are very many views at this time in Europe as to what the solution should be. "It is consequently clear that we must move forward, keeping in mind the real correlations of powers and the different expediencies that exist," he said.
He warned, however, against over-dramatising this. "They are real problems, real issues. We should not act in the belief that we can prospectively impose our own terms. There needs to be a balance, but we shouldn't over-dramatise it," Kapsis said.
The spokesman also said that there is no issue of a government reshuffle at this time, "but as you know, a reshuffle is the prerogative of the prime minister". He confirmed that resignations submitted by government members (alternate ministers Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou and George Georgiou and deputy ministers Yiannis Koutsoukos, Asterios Rontoulis and Adonis Georgiadis) have been accepted, while the resignation of infrastructures, transport and networks minister Makis Voridis "was not accepted, and therefore he remains in his post".
 President: 'I cannot accept my country being reviled by Schaeuble'In a strong reply to comments concerning the crisis in Greece made in recent days by a number of European officials, especially German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble, President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday stressed his displeasure at the tone adopted and the demands made of Greece.
"We all have an obligation to put our shoulder to the wheel in order to overcome the crisis. I cannot accept that my country should be reviled by Schaueble, I cannot accept this as a Greek," Papoulias said during a visit to the Greek defence ministry. He also urged the country's political class to prove itself worthy of its mission and to follow the example given by the military, underlining that saving Greece and its history was above all else.
 President of the Republic waives salaryPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday waived his salary, and asked Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, during a meeting between the two officials, to proceed with the procedures required...
 President visits defence ministry, notes high morale of armed forcesIn a visit to the Greek defence ministry on Wednesday, President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias noted the high morale and professionalism of the armed forces following an in-depth briefing from the ministry's political and military leadership.
In statements during the visit, Papoulias noted that the armed forces were a deterrent for all those thinking of attacking Greece's territorial integrity and that, as a part of society, Greece's military were also victims of the great economic crisis in the country.
He expressed hope that the crisis will be overcome and thus enable Greece to satisfy the just demands of the armed forces.
Welcoming Papoulias, Defence Minister Dimitris Avramo-poulos commented on the president's announcement that he wished to waive his presidential salary, saying it was touching and a message to Greek society.
 Samaras: 'elections immediately after PSI deal concluded'Replying to speculation about a possible delay of elections in Greece, main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Wednesday stressed that general elections will take place immediately after the agreements for a PSI bond swap were concluded.
"After the PSI we will have immediate elections in a climate of normality in order to avoid lack of governance, in order for there to be normality after the elections and to restore hope," he emphasised.
Samaras was speaking at an event for small and medium-sized businesses organised by ND, during which he stressed that his priorities were economic recovery, social cohesion and immediate polls "to elect a strong government with a fresh mandate and democratic legitimacy".
"I am saying these things to everyone, I say them to the creditors also," he noted, expressing confidence that ND would emerge victorious from the upcoming election.
The ND leader asked for immediate compensation to the businesses that sustained damage during the recent riots in Athens, in order to prevent more businesses closing and more people being made unemployed.
ND's leader repeated his promise to "pull down the hoods" of the rioters and those responsible for the fires and looting, saying it was "unacceptable for a city to be delivered unprotected to vandals and criminals. Restoring order and legality is an absolute priority".
Concerning his decision to support the second bailout plan in spite of his opposition to the first, Samaras said the point had been reached where he could not let the country collapse. He noted that the haircut of Greek debt averted default and created conditions allowing growth, noting that in the first memorandum for the bailout plans there was no growth and the result of this policy was a recession of 6.8 percent of GDP in 2011.
"We have to cut the debt and turn the country away from the cliff," Samaras said, attacking previous PASOK governments for failing to negotiate the terms of the memorandum but simply signing whatever was placed before them.
According to ND's leader, following the 85 billion euro reduction of Greece's debt through PSI, it was possible to alleviate the recession and begin work on recovery.
 PASOK party leader Papandreou to chair Political Council on ThursdayPASOK party leader George Papandreou will chair a meeting of the party's Political Council at 4:30 on Thursday afternoon, according to an announcement on Wednesday, without the session's agenda being announced.
According to reports, however, issues expected to be discussed will include the procedures that will lead to the election of a new leadership, with March 18 being the most likely date.
The issue of the election of a president is returning among PASOK members through a different procedure and not that of an overall vote by members and friends.
The new Parliamentary reality is also expected to be dealt with, following the expulsion of the deputies who voted against the new loan contract, that resulted in PASOK losing absolute Parliamentary majority and the possibility of the creation of new political formations by the deputies expelled.
For the time being, however, it appears that there is no intention of reconsidering the whole issue.
 14 PASOK deputies call for country's national exit, growth and recovery plan from PMFourteen deputies of the PASOK party, in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, call for the prime minister's commitment to present "as of today the country's national exit, growth and recovery plan with substantive reforms".
The deputies are also calling for the plan's implementation to be assessed on a 15-day basis and to be presented to the deputies and the Greek people openly.
 KKE calls for abolition of MP pensionsThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday reiterated its proposal for abolition of parliamentary (MP) pensions, and called on President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias to adopt the relevant proposal, prompted by an announcement earlier in the day that the President himself has decided to waive his own presidential salary.
"Politicians are judged firstly by the position they take on the barbarous anti-popular measures and the crucial choices that are leading the people to squalor. They are judged on the position they take regarding those who threaten the people and blackmail them. If they accept or tolerate these, even if they waive their remuneration or salary, the only result is that they provide an alibi to the anti-popular measures," a KKE announcement said.
 KKE on President's decision to waive salary"Politicians are primarily judged by the position they adopt toward the barbarous, anti-popular measures and the crucial choices that are leading the people to destitution," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in an announcement on Wednesday.
The announcement was issued in response to reports that President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias has asked to waive his monthly salary as president.
KKE said that politicians were also judged from the position they adopted to those threatening the people and blackmailing them and asked that Papoulias adopt a KKE proposal for the abolition of MP pensions and other privileges.
 LAOS leader on expelled deputies: They lost their horientationPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis on Wednesday attributed former LAOS MPs Makis Voridis' and Adonis Georgiadis' decision to differentiate themselves from their party's line in the parliamentary vote on the new economic package for Greece, which resulted in their expulsion from the party, to a "loss of orientation, similar to that of military aircraft".
"The problems started when Voridis and Georgiadis became ministers," estimated Karatzaferis speaking on private television station "Antenna", adding that "people are affected, some speak of vertigo, that perhaps, their rapid rise imposed a different policy or their change of orientation".
Referring to the new memorandum passed in parliament on Sunday, the LAOS leader warned that "it has no prospect" and that the economic programme has no future, and called New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras to "not sign the letter" asked by the Eurogroup committing to implementation of the harsh austerity measures accompanying the memorandum.
"Greece will be saved only if they give us a five-year grace period during which we will not pay interest, after which we will pay 1 percent interest, the rate at which the European Central Bank lends to the banks," he said.
 Bakoyannis calls for clear message that Greece does not intend to leave euroDemocratic Alliance leader Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday stressed that the Greek government and political parties must send a clear message to "extremist circles in Europe" that Greece will not do them the favour of leaving the euro.
She also underlined that the political party leader "must understand that any delays in the things agreed will simply provide an alibi to such extreme circles".
Bakoyannis underlined that Greece must succeed and that Parliament sent a powerful message on Sunday, adding that the country "must seek out the alliances that exist in Europe today and are determined to help us".
 Head of European Socialists Hannes Swoboda attacks creditors' policies on GreeceVIENNA (AMNA - D. Dimitrakoudis)
The head of the socialists in the European Parliament, Austrian MEP Hannes Swoboda, on Wednesday attacked the stance adopted by Greece's EU-IMF creditors and said their demands were certain to make things even worse for the Greek people.
According to a report by the Austrian news agency APA from Strasbourg, the president of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats said in his address to the EuroParliament that the EU-IMF troika was to some extent blackmailing Greece into adopting austerity measures that slashed the population's purchasing power by cutting pensions and wages, thus deepening the recession, reducing tax revenues and also Greece's ability to pay off its debts.
He called for an "alternative troika" and stressed the need for a different path from that proposed by the "orthodox" troika, noting that assistance to Greece was also assistance for the Eurozone and the European Union.
 Government meeting on Sunday riotsA government meeting chaired by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was held Wednesday night and discussed Sunday's riots in central Athens.
 PM Papademos calls on fYRoM counterpart for meeting in early MarchGreek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos is proposing to Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) Prime Minister to meet him on the sidelines of the next European Council that will take place in early March.
The prime minister mentions in a letter that the meeting must take place "under the light" of the displaying of good faith on the part of the neighbouring country.
More specifically, in his letter made public on Wednesday and by which he replies to a corresponding letter by Gruevski, that was delivered to him by the vice president of the fYRoM government, the Greek premier stresses that:
"The issue of the name must be resolved through substantive negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations". He adds: "I encourage you to work in a constructive way for the achievement of this target."
Referring to the impending visit by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz to the region, the Greek prime minister points out that "it is expected to contribute to the procedure under way for a solution to the issue, on condition that both sides will display the necessary political will".
Papademos reassures Gruevski of Greece's steadfast commitment in favour of the continuation and strengthening of its longstanding policy for peace and stability in the region and the incorporation of all the countries of the Western Balkans in the Euroatlantic structures.
He also mentions that Greece will continue to promote the "Agenda 2014" and it will do this actively during the impending Greek Presidency of the EU's Council.
 No change in NATO position concerning FYROM, Alliance official saysSKOPJE (AMNA - N. Fragopoulos)
There is no change in NATO's position concerning the accession of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Acting Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Stefanie Babst said during a visit to FYROM's capital on Wednesday.
"NATO's position remains unchanged. We are adhering to the Bucharest decision. We would like the name issue to be solved between Athens and Skopje, followed by reviewing the possibility for FYROM's accession. NATO wants this issue settled", said Babst while addressing a regional conference.
She did not specify whether FYROM's accession would be included in the agenda at the upcoming Alliance summit taking place in Chicago in May, saying that this had not yet been finalised and that NATO enlargement would not be the only item to be discussed. Among the issues sure to be discussed was the strategy for the transition process in Afghanistan, where Skopje's contribution was expected since FYROM played a major role in the ISAF mission, Babst added.
 PM Papademos to hold meeting with NATO sg on ThursdayPrime Minister Lucas Papademos will hold a meeting with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Maximos Mansion at noon on Thursday, it was announced on Wednesday.
 Foreign minister meets federation representing Greek minority groups hailing from TurkeyForeign Minister Stavros Dimas on Wednesday met the presidency of the Global Federation of Constantinopolites, who briefed him on the federation's activities in Greece and abroad, including their efforts to bring attention to matters affecting the Greek diaspora and developments in Turkey to international organisations.
The federation represents some 30 associations around the world set up by members of the once large ethnic Greek minority originating in Istanbul, Turkey.
Dimas noted some positive steps that have been taken recently by the Turkish government on issues concerning the minority but also highlighted the problems that still remained to be addressed by the neighbouring country in order to correct past injustices suffered by the Greek community in Turkey.
He expressed the support of the Greek state and foreign ministry for the efforts and goals of the federation and the Greek minority in general, as well as the work done by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Fanar, Istanbul.
 PA OSCE President: Cyprus sets solid foundations for EU presidencyNICOSIA (AMNA/A.Viketos/CNA)
President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Greek deputy Petros Efthymiou, has expressed his willingness to contribute to the successful assumption of the presidency of the Council of the EU by Cyprus, which begins in July 2012.
Efthymiou, who between 2000-2004 served as Minister of Education in Greece, met Wednesday in Nicosia with Minister of Education and Culture Giorgos Demosthenous, in the framework of his three-day visit to the island.
In statements after the meeting, Efthymiou said that they discussed Cyprus' presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2012, noting that Cyprus has set solid foundations for the assumption of the presidency.
Europe is the common home for Cypriots and Greeks, he said, adding that a better future awaits the two peoples in their common European family.
He also expressed the conviction that Cyprus' presidency will be crowned with success and will give emphasis on educational issues in Europe.
In his statements, the Cypriot Minister said that they exchanged views on Greece's experiences as regards the assumption of the presidency of the Council.
During his visit, Efthymiou will be received by President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and meet Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Markoullis.
The Greek deputy also visited the ceasefire line that separates the southern government controlled part of the country from the northern Turkish occupied areas.
On Thursday, Efthymiou will meet the Committee of Relatives of Missing and Undeclared Persons, as well as members of the Cyprus delegation to the PA OSCE.
He will meet the President of the House of Representatives Yiannamis Omirou and attend the plenary session of the House.
Before his departure on Friday, he will visit the Mayor of the Turkish occupied town of Famagusta, Alexis Galanos at the Famagusta Cultural Centre in Dherynia.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the islandTs northern third.
 European Parliament president to address Greek Parliament on February 28European Parliament President Martin Schulz will be making an address to the Greek deputies on February 28.
A relevant invitation had been extended to Schulz by Greek Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos. The European Parliament president's address will be taking place in the Greek Parliament's Senate hall on February 28, 2012, at 7 in the afternoon.
 Athens FIR infringements by Turkish jetfightersSix Turkish F-16 fighter planes infringed the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) in two instances on Wednesday, the National Defence General Staff (GEETHA) said.
It said that two Turkish F-16 military jets flew over the Greek island of Agathonissi at an altitude of 3,700 feet at 11:46 a.m.
Earlier, at 11:13 a.m., four Turkish fighter planes entered the Athens FIR southeast of the Greek island of Rhodes without submitting flight plans.
In one instance the infringement developed into a violation of the rules of air traffic circulation.
All the Turkish military planes were reconnoitered and intercepted by Greek fighter planes.
 Elections for governing boards prevented in four Greek universitiesElections for a new governing board scheduled to be held on Wednesday in four Greek universities were prevented, in what was seen as a blow to the educational reform bill passed by Parliament last August.
The elections scheduled to be held at Thessaloniki's Aristotelian University, Ioannina University, Thessaly University and the University of the Peloponnese did not take place due to protesting students. In Thessaly, groups of students actually took over the rooms were the ballot boxes were set up and prevented professors from entering.
In the other three universities, the elections were postponed after it became clear that they could not be held without problems.
In statements on the private television station SKAI on Wednesday morning, Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou accused the rectors at Thessaloniki and Athens universities of opposing the new law on tertiary education and of having missed no opportunity to say that it would not be implemented.
"There will be no minister in any government who will do a rector the favour of backing down on a law supported by four fifths of Parliament. All those that decided on Wednesday that the law will not be implemented have a grave responsibility toward their students. As long as the change in management does not proceed, there will be no funding. This will happen independently of who is in charge of the ministry," she stressed.
A Thessalonik first-instance court prosecutor on Wednesday ordered the start of a preliminary investigation into the events that led to the elections at Thessaloniki's Aristotelian University being postponed until Friday, including a protest sit-in by students at the university's Law School building.
 New Greek ambassador to SofiaSOFIA (AMNA / B. Borisov)
Greece's new ambassador to Bulgaria Thrassyvoulos Stamato-poulos presented his credentials to Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev in a formal ceremony held here on Wednesday.
Until recently ambassador Stamatopoulos was Greece's permanent representative to NATO.
 Commission hopes Greek deal will be reached soonest possibleBRUSSELS (AMNA/Maria Aroni)
A European Commission spokesman on Wednesday expressed hope that a second bailout programe for Greece will be reached the soonest possible in the Eurogroup, saying that a necessary precondition was that Athens offered assurances over covering a 320 million euro "hole" in the pension system and written commitments by political leaders in Greece.
Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, speaking to reporters here, stressed it was imperative to begin a procedure of settlement between Greece and private bondholders, a PSI program. He reiterated the Eurogroup's position that Greece must remain part of the Eurozone, although he noted that this solidarity was a two-way relation and that Greece must fulfill all preconditions set. Altafaj said the country's major problem was its reduced competitiveness and warned that the consequences of a Greek default would be catastrophic not only for the country but for the Eurozone and the EU as well.
 Eurozone economy shrank 0.3 pct in Q4, EurostatThe Eurozone economy shrank by 0.3 pct in the fourth quarter of 2011, after a 0.1 pct growth rate in the third quarter, Eurostat said on Wednesday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report, also said that the EU-27 economic shrank 0.3 pct in the same period, after an increase of 0.3 pct in the third quarter.
Eurostat said the majority of Eurozone and EU states reported negative growth rates in the October-December period and warned over the danger of a recession (technically, a recession is determined by two successive negative GDP growth rates).
On an annual basis, Eurozone's GDP rose 0.7 pct in the last quarter of 2011, while in the EU-27 the GDP grew 0.9 pct. Throughout 2011, Eurozone's GDP grew by 1.5 pct and in the EU-27 1.6 pct.
Greece recorded the worst performance, with its GDP shrinking 7.0 pct on an annual basis, followed by Portugal (-2.7 pct), Holland (0.7 pct), Italy (0.5 pct) and Cyprus (0.5 pct).
 Greek energy grid in state of emergencyGreece's energy grid was placed in a state of emergency at midnight Tuesday, due to a major deficiency in natural gas in the wider Balkan region resulting from a heavy winter and jump in demand for natural gas and electricity.
Greek environment, energy and climate change minister George Papaconstantinou assured parliament on Wednesday that the ministry is in complete coordination and was taking all the necessary steps to ensure the smooth supply of natural gas in the country, replying to a current question on the emergency situation in the energy market in the wider region of the Balkans.
The ministry intends to put in place emergency measures as of midnight Wednesday, including a ban on export of electricity from Greece, "with the exception of cases of verified transit in the event of inability to supply the domestic consumption of electrical energy".
At the same time, the Electrical Energy Transport System Managing authority, in an announcement on Wednesday, put the deficient production at 3GW and that a state of alert has been put in force as of Wednesday.
The energy sufficiency problems have arisen as a result of the discontinuation of electricity exports to Greece by Bulgaria (since Friday) and FYROM (since Monday), the limited operation of hydroelectric units in order to conserve water reserves, which are already low, for the summer, problems in the country's supply with natural gas from the pipeline via Turkey, and low temperatures in the country resulting in increased energy demand for heating given that consumers have turned to air conditioners and heaters rather than central heating due to high heating oil prices.
The Authority has called on natgas-powered electricity production units to restrict consumption of natural gas, which affects electricity production, until two cargoes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) expected in the next few days arrive at the LNG station in Revithoussa.
 Draft law on Helios photovoltaic project to be tabled soonA draft law on the Helios photovoltaic project for the production and export of electricity will be tabled in parliament within the next few weeks, environment, energy & climate change minister George Papaconstantinou announced on Wednesday after meeting with European Commission's JRC Institute for Energy director Giovanni De Santi.
The meeting focused on facilitating the Helios project by defining optimal locations for photovoltaic parks and energy transport lines to create an electricity supply corridor from southeast to central Europe.
Papaconstantinou stated "investments that will reinforce the production basis and create new jobs are a precondition for economic growth offering new prospects to the country and the people." He added that the Helios project is placed within this framework and enjoys the strong support of the EU.
The JRC Institute for Energy director stressed that major innovative projects with a clearly European dimension are important to the EU targets for a low-carbon economy, adding that such projects help in meeting the 2020 RES goals.
 Greek gov't speeds up Piraeus port privatization proceduresThe Greek state on Wednesday transferred 5,775,000 shares of Piraeus Port Organization (OLP), or 23.1 pct of the company's equity capital, along with an equal number of voting rights, to the Private Property State Fund SA, as part of a plan to speed up a government's privatization program.
Following the transaction, the Greek state now owns 51.04 pct in Piraeus Port Organization.
The Greek state on Wednesday announced the completion of an off-the-market transaction transferring 82,831,553 shares (or 27.10 pct) of its equity stake in Hellenic Petroleum to the Private Property State Fund on February 10.
A company announcement said the state has transferred the total of 108,430,304 shares (or 35.477 pct) of its equity stake in Hellenic Petroleum, while it retain all voting rights in the company.
 Manufacturing sector suffering heavily from economic crisis, surveyA 25 pct of factories operating in Greece in 2008 fell victim of a financial and fiscal crisis in the 2009-2011 period, when manufacturing production fell by 23.7 pct, a survey based on data released by Hellenic Statistical Authority showed on Wednesday.
Only a few industrial sectors managed to resist, with a controlled decline, the consequences of a deep recession in the three-year period. More analytically:
Production in the food sector fell 10.6 pct in the 2009-2011 period (accounting for 18.2 pct of total industrial production in the country), in the beverage sector production fell 20.2 pct (6.0 pct of total production), production in the tobacco sector declined by 11.2 pct (1.9 pct), in the textile sector production dropped 55.3 pct (3.1 pct), in the clothing sector production plunged 56.3 pct (3.4 pct) and in the leather/footwear sector production dropped 53.9 pct). Production in the wood processing sector fell 18.2 pct (1.2 pct), in the paper sector production fell 14.2 pct), in the printing sector production dropped 42.6 pct), in the petrol products sector production eased 9.8 pct (11.3 pct), while in the chemicals sector production fell 17.4 pct (5.3 pct).
Production in the non-metal minerals sector dropped 58.3 pct (10.3 pct) and in the base metals sector production fell 2.2 pct (8.0 pct). The pharmaceutical sector reported a 20.4 pct increase in production helped by strong exports. From the 24 industrial sectors in the country, 16 reported a decline in production of more than 20 pct in the 2009-2011 period.
Job losses in the manufacturing sector totaled 22.8 pct in the 2008-2011 period, with the non-metal minerals (31.6 pct), textiles (65.9 pct), clothing (39.6 pct), leather/footwear (53.8 pct), printing (49.6 pct), electronics/optics (61.8 pct) and machinery (23.7 pct) recording the biggest percentage declines in that period.
 Issuance of Diaspora bonds postponed"Due to the high level of insecurity and the considerably deteriorating situation observed in the capital markets our registration with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the issuance of Diaspora bonds is postponed," alternate finance minister Filippos Sahinidis on Wednesday clarified in a document forwarded to parliament.
The document was in response to a question tabled by Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) MP Kiriakos Velopoulos, who underlined that the intention to issue Diaspora bonds had been announced back in the autumn of 2010 by the then finance minister George Papaconstantinou with the aim of drawing capital from the large Greek community abroad.
Velopoulos requested to be briefed on the case and whether a relevant application has been submitted for the issuance of Diaspora bonds in Australia.
 Coca Cola Hellenic Bottling reports lower 2011 profitsCoca Cola Hellenic Bottling on Wednesday reported a 27 pct decline in its 2011 earnings, reflecting austerity policies that hit consumption in Greece and Italy and higher costs of raw materials.
The company said net comparable profits totaled 330 million euros in 2011, from 453 million euros in 2010, with net revenues rising 1.0 pct and the volume of sales falling by 1.0 pct (reflecting a 2.0 pct rise in developing countries and a 3.0 pct decline in developed countries and a 1.0 pct fall in emerging markets).
Coca Cola Hellenic Bottling said its investment program will total 1.45 billion euros in the 2012-2014 period, while free cash flow are projected to reach 1.5 billion euros over the same period.
"Despite adverse conditions in most of our markets, net revenues per box, in neutral exchange rate, rose 4.0 pct in 2011," Dimitris Lois, chief executive of the company said.
 Bussiness Briefs-- Greek state on Wednesday transferred 5,775,000 shares of Piraeus Port Organization (OLP), or 23.1 pct of the company's equity capital, along with an equal number of voting rights, to the Private Property State Fund SA, as part of a plan to speed up a government's privatization program.
 Greek stocks end 5.11 pct lowerGreek stocks suffered heavy losses in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, hit by reports over a delay in parts of even all of the second bailout programe for Greece until after the general elections in the country. Bank shares were particularly hit by a wave of selling. The composite index of the market dropped 5.11 pct to end below the 800 level, at 776.28 points, with turnover remaining a low 74.178 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 6.95 pct, the Mid Cap index dropped 6.12 pct and the Small Cap index fell 5.29 pct. The Food (1.29 pct) sector was the only one to end higher, while banks (11.12 pct), Financial Services (9.35 pct) and Raw Materials (7.84 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Viohalco (2.58 pct) and Coca Cola 3E (1.38 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to move higher, while Eurobank (16.24 pct), Piraeus Bank (14.48 pct), Alpha Bank (14.20 pct) and Hellenic Postbank (13.48 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 115 to 47 with another 17 issues unchanged. Elbisco (19.81 pct), HOL (19.80 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farms (18.97 pct) were top gainers, while Zampa (26.88 pct), Avenir (23.91 pct) and Olympic Catering (20 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.93%
Personal & Household: -2.71%
Raw Materials: -7.84%
Travel & Leisure: -6.63%
Food & Beverages: +1.29%
Financial Services: -9.35%
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: 1.45
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.80
HBC Coca Cola: 14.70
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.96
National Bank of Greece: 2.54
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.98
Bank of Piraeus: 0.51
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 28.30 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 29.91 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 30.16 pct and the German Bund 1.86 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate fell to 1.67 pct, the six-month rate was unchanged at 1.34 pct, the three-month also unchanged at 1.05 pct and the one-month rate eased to 0.62 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 26.812 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,903 contracts worth 14.780 million euros, with 30,925 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 57,504 contracts worth 12.033 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (20,262), followed by Cyprus Bank (1,811), MIG (1,043), OTE (1,058), PPC (1,792), OPAP (1,351), Piraeus Bank (6,056), National Bank (18,179), Mytilineos (2,079), Hellenic Postbank (1,214), GEK (920), Hellenic Petroleum (335), Ellaktor (268) and Motor Oil (126).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.328
Pound sterling 0.847
Danish kroner 7.543
Swedish kroner 8.917
Japanese yen 104.27
Swiss franc 1.225
Norwegian kroner 7.641
Canadian dollar 1.324
Australian dollar 1.237
 European Translation Centre for Literature and Human Science to closeThe European Translation Centre for Literature and Human Science (EKEMEL) is being shut down, following a decision of the centre's general assembly on Wednesday.
In the past two years, the EKEMEL has been meeting its obligations to its students and partners, in the context of its varied activities, from money coming from literary translation prizes it has received, from conferences organised and from its collaborations with universities and organisations abroad.
EKEMEL director Eleni Zerva sent a letter of thanks to all those who supported the center's activities.
"Many organisations are closing or preparing to close. We live in a country no where theater, education and seminars are considered a luxury. In no instance would we want to understate the difficulties of the present era," Zerva said in her letter.
Although the centre is closing, not all of its activities will be suspended. "The Center was a place of concentration of the people of the profession and the dynamic of translation in Greece is not dependent on the closure of one organisation," Zerva said, adding that the periodical Apiliotis will carry on with its activities, while the activities already planned by the Center that are related to collaborations will be carried out.
The EKEMEL is subsidised by the culture and tourism ministry, the European Commission and the Greek Collecting Society for Literary Works (OSDEL).
One of EKEMEL's aims was to nurture a new generation of translators and to help improve the quality of literary translation and of texts relating to the Human Sciences, through a series of courses that place particular emphasis on translation practice and on the transmission of experience by established translators. In that context EKEMEL ran workshops for translation from English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Russian, Turkish, Arabic into Greek and vice versa, and was planning to expand with other languages.
 Contemporary art festival from the Arab world in AthensNotable representatives of contemporary art in Arab countries will be hosted at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens on March 7-11 within the framework of the Meeting Point 6: Contemporary Art Festival from the Arab World.
Performing artists from Cairo, Damascus, Tunis, Amman, Beirut, London and Paris will participate in the festival that has already toured capital cities in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Brussels and Berlin.
 Large cannabis bust in Antirio, south GreeceCoastguard officers intercepted a speedboat carrying roughly a ton of cannabis during a major operation on Wednesday conducted in the sea region of Patraikos Bay in south Greece.
The 11-meters-long, two-engine speedboat, initially located at the sea region off the Greek-Albanian borders, was intercepted at Riza beach at Antirion following a chase. Its driver, a member of an international ring that had imported the cannabis from Albania, managed to escape.
Authorities arrested the driver of a truck found parked near the Rion-Antirion Bridge waiting to pick up the drugs and help in the refuelling of the speedboat.
 Couple threatens suicide in fear of unemploymentA couple, both employees of the Labour Housing Organisation (OEK) that has been designated for closure, on Wednesday threatened to jump off the second storey of the organisation's building in downtown Athens.
Fire Brigade, police and a special negotiator are currently on the spot, and persuaded the man not to jump. The negotiation is still underway with the woman.
According to initial information the couple decided to commit suicide in fear of unemployment after a government decision to close down the organisation.
 Leading member of int'l migrant smuggling ring wanted by French police arrested in AthensA 22-year-old Afghan national, a leading member of an international migrant smuggling ring who was wanted by authorities in France, was arrested in Athens during a coordinated operation conducted by Austrian, Belgian, French, German, Greek, Italian and UK police, it was announced on Wednesday.
The suspect was involved in transporting illegal migrants to EU countries in an operation that yielded profits of tens of millions of euros, according to a European arrest warrant pending against him.
The international migrant smuggling ring was made up of Afghans and Kurds and operated from Greece and France transporting illegal migrants to Denmark, the UK and Belgium using private trucks. Each illegal migrant paid 3,000 euros to the ring members and since late 2010 the turnover from the illegal activity is estimated to 80 million euros, according to the French authorities.
 Abbot Ephraim again applies for release from custodyAbbot Ephraim of the Vatopedi Monastery, currently jailed on remand pending the conclusion of an investigation concerning a series of suspect land swaps between the monastery and the state, on Wednesday filed a second request for his release from custody.
The new application was made to the appeals justices' council on health grounds and reasons relating to the charges against him.
A similar request submitted a few days ago was rejected by the examining magistrate investigating the case Irene Kalou.
The magistrate has now completed a three-year investigation concerning the land swaps and is due to send the file containing the evidence and testimony to an appeals court public prosecutor, who will decide whether the 32 suspects in the case should stand trial.
 Large quantities of dangerous anabolic steroids seized in AthensFinancial crimes police SDOE and drug squad officers in Athens seized large quantities of dangerous anabolic steroids and arrested a 44-year-old local man who was involved in similar cases in the past, it was announced on Wednesday.
The suspect imported by mail large quantities of anabolic steroids from Malaysia and Thailand using a fake Slovenian identity and sold them illegally over the internet to individuals in EU countries, mainly Germany, Austria and Spain.
Police confiscated 108,600 anabolic steroid tablets, 2,100 doses in injectable form, 755 gel tubes and a small amount of cash, while the suspect's bank accounts are under investigation.
 Three arrests for possession of hardcore child porn materialThree people, including a 47-year-old senior Navy officer, were arrested in various parts of Athens on Wednesday for possessing a large bulk of child porn material.
The other two persons arrested were a 34-year-old and a 54-year-old, who posessed hardcore child porn material.
According to the police, the revelation of the hardcore porn material found took pace in the framework of the preventive action of the Electronic Crime Prosecution service to crack down on the phenomenon of child porn.
 ISAP employee turns over lost bag containing 'small fortune'A lost bag containing a small fortune in cash and cheques was found and turned over to the authorities by an ISAP electric train employee on Wednesday, after it was forgotten by its owner at the Nea Ionia station.
The bag containing 18,000 euro in cash, another 60,000 euro in cheques and various personal documents and items was found by a ticket office clerk and turned over to the company running ISAP trains, STASY SA.
The company then turned the bag over to the Omonia police station, which has launched a search to find its owner.
STASY SA announced that it intends to reward the employee that found the bag for her integrity and honesty and "giving a lesson in humanity".
 New arrest for debts to stateA car repair shop manager was arrested on Tuesday in Aghioi Anargyroi, wider Athens region, for overdue debts to the state.
According to police the detainee owes 1,224,742 euros and was sent before an Athens prosecutor.
 Super League resultsLevadiakos Livadia beat Panetolikos Agrinio 2-0 at home and Kerkyra subdued Doxa Drama 1-0 away in games played for the Super League on Wednesday, that had been postponed in the past.
Standings after 21 weeks of play:
1. Panathinaikos 51 points
2. Olympiacos 49
3. PAOK 38
4. AEK 37
5. OFI 32
6. Atromitos 31 (20 games)
7. Xanthi 29
8. Aris 29
9. Asteras 28
10. Panionios 23
11. Ergotelis 23
12. Levadiakos 19 (19 games)
13. PAS Yiannina 18 (19 games)
14. Panetolikos 18
15. Kerkyra 15 (20 games)
16. Doxa 12 (19 games)
 Rainy on ThursdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 14C. Cloudy with local showers or sleet in Athens, with northerly 3-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 11C. Cloudy with sleet or snow in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -1C to 6C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe postponement of the extraordinary Eurogroup meeting and the reductions in pension and special salary scales, mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "What is happening in New Democracy (ND)".
AVGHI: "Series of extortions and measures".
AVRIANI: "ND leader Antonis Samaras' bold initiative to make an overture to the Right and the Left"
DIMOKRATIA: "Bomb to special payscales too".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA (striking employees' special edition): "Dissolution in the political system and the social fabric".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "They (Europe) seeking 'petty reason' for bankruptcy".
ESTIA: "They are getting ready to kick us out ".
ETHNOS: "Express reduction to special payscales".
IMERISSIA: "New round of pressure - Eurogroup postponed for Monday".
KATHIMERINI: "Greece running out of time".
LOGOS:" The reductions in main and auxiliary pensions".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Harsh show of power with the postponement of the Eurogroup meeting".
RIZOSPASTIS: "New cutbacks in pensions and medical care".
TA NEA: "PPC, Hellenic Telecoms, Banks: Pensions 20 percent down".
VRADYNI: "They (government) cuts again pensions and special payscales".
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