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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-02-21

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Tuesday, 21 February 2012 Issue No: 4003


  • [01] New programme will boost confidence in Greek economy, PM tells Eurogroup ministers
  • [02] FinMin: Greece has fulfilled all the conditions for new economic package
  • [03] FinMin: Implementation of Oct. 26 decisions our goal
  • [04] Karatzaferis calls Venizelos not to engage himself for additional measures in June
  • [05] ND leader on Eurogroup meeting
  • [06] Leftist leader expresses opposition to imminent Eurogroup decisions
  • [07] French FinMin Baroin expresses optimism over Greek bailout agreement
  • [08] ND leader in Nicosia, meets with Cyprus President
  • [09] ND leader meets head of Cyprus' DISY party, emphasises importance of Greece-Cyprus relationship
  • [10] Samaras meets Cyprus House Speaker
  • [11] Cypriot minister informs Samaras on hydrocarbons second licensing round
  • [12] ELDYK members should be paid by Cyprus, DISY president suggests
  • [13] KKE SG addresses party meeting
  • [14] SYRIZA: 'Some Greeks are not so Greek. They are those that govern us'
  • [15] Nimetz due in Athens on Wednesday
  • [16] Two new LAOS MPs sworn in
  • [17] PASOK Political Council member resigns
  • [18] Portugal's Socialist leader sends letter to PASOK leader
  • [19] Health minister stresses need to crack down on prescription medication excesses
  • [20] Education minister announces reorganisation of Greek research sector
  • [21] Situation in Syria dominates Foromed conference
  • [22] Court of Audit rules latest round of pension cuts constitutional but queries backdated implementation
  • [23] Greek current accounts deficit down 8.3 pct in 2011
  • [24] Greece, Italy energy ministries issue joint statement on 'Southern Gas Corridor'
  • [25] EIB pledges more than 1.0 bln euros in funds to Greece
  • [26] Troika policy in Greece also an attack on collective bargaining in Germany, German umbrella trade union says
  • [27] Investigation into fake pensions ordered
  • [28] Global shipping facing difficult year, ICS president says
  • [29] Hellenic Foreign Trade Board to participate in food and beverage exhibitions in China and Brazil
  • [30] Tourism revenues up around 10% in 2011
  • [31] Bussiness Briefs
  • [32] Stocks end flat on Mon.
  • [33] Greek bond market closing report
  • [34] ADEX closing report
  • [35] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [36] Underwater archaeology: Four unknown shipwrecks discovered
  • [37] Additional flood prevention measures along Evros
  • [38] Three high-school students behind hacking of justice ministry website, police say
  • [39] Robbery in jewellery shop at Plaka
  • [40] Major heroin arrest in Ioannina
  • [41] Six arrests in scuffles outside Greek parliament
  • [42] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] New programme will boost confidence in Greek economy, PM tells Eurogroup ministers

    Implementation of the new economic programme, the new loan agreement and of PSI to reduce Greek debt will boost confidence and reduce the citizens' uncertainty about the prospects of the Greek economy, Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said in his address to a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels, according to sources.

    The Greek premier also said the new economic programme will help to restore the country's competitiveness.

    Concerning the political environment, Papademos pointed out that the new programme, despite the fact that it contained several difficult measures, had been approved by a large majority making up two thirds of the Greek Parliament and that both parties in the government supported the changes and reforms.

    According to the same sources, he also noted that the overwhelming majority of Greek citizens wants the country to remain within the euro.

    [02] FinMin: Greece has fulfilled all the conditions for new economic package

    BRUSSELS (AMNA/N. Drossos)

    Greece has fulfilled all the conditions for approval of a 130 million euro second EU/IMF bailout loan, Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Monday in Brussels ahead of a critical Eurogroup meeting, adding, however, that the negotiation was continuing.

    "Greece is going into today's critical Eurogroup meeting having fulfilled all the conditions that had been set out for approval of the new programme, a fundamental parameter of which is the PSI, in the context of the European Council decision of October 26-27, 2011," Venizelos said.

    He added that Greece has "acted on all the issues, including the agreement with the private sector, in accordance with the decisions and instructions of the eurozone bodies".

    This, he continued, was confirmed in the two previous meetings of the Eurogroup, but stressed that "up until the last minute the negotiation is continuing, technical problems are being put forward, individual parameters are being examined".

    He said that "preferences or priorities of institutional partners ore member-states influence the climate of the discussion", adding that "I believe that everything will be judged in the end on the basis of the October 26 decision and with the ultimate criterion being the principles governing the European venture".

    Venizelos expressed hope that "a long period of uncertainty that has not benefited either the Greek economy or the eurozone as a whole will end today".

    "Greece knows that what is important is that it sends clear-cut messages with decisions that are completed and implemented and with rules that are steadfast and are not altered every so often," he said.

    "The Greek people send to Europe the message that they have already made and will make the sacrifices needed for our country to regain its equal position in the European family, thus safeguarding the acquis of many decades. This, for the Greeks, is a matter of national dignity, but also a national strategic choice..." Venizelos concluded.

    [03] FinMin: Implementation of Oct. 26 decisions our goal

    "I'll do what's best to protect the country's interests within the framework of the agreement reached with our partners (already approved by majority vote in parliament) and the relevant unanimous decisions made by the cabinet; in close cooperation with the prime minister who is also in Brussels," government vice-president and FinMin Evangelos Venizelos emphasised on Monday.

    Responding to a letter addressed to him by Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) president George Karatzaferis, he said "our goal is to implement the Oct. 26, 2011 European Council decision," adding that "this is the main mission of the present government to which you gave a vote of confidence in November. This is the only complete and responsible national strategy."

    Venizelos stressed that in his letter Karatzaferis refers to concerns and objections but does not suggest an alternative strategy.

    In his letter, the LA.O.S president urged Venizelos not to proceed with the adoption of new austerity measures in June, underlining that the escrow account and the country's supervision should not be decided in the Eurogroup meeting.

    [04] Karatzaferis calls Venizelos not to engage himself for additional measures in June

    In a letter on Monday to government vice president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis calls on him not to commit himself for new measures in June at Monday's Eurogroup meeting.

    The letter, which is also forwarded to President of Republic Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and the leaders of PASOK and New Democracy parties, Karatzaferis notes that his party believes that the "people's endurance has reached its limits and the government should not commit itself for new measures in June".

    Moreover, he says in his letter, "it is a national necessity that you do not accept our partners' vulgar humiliation of an escrow account and an increased supervision of Greece by the employees of the European institutions and International Monetary Fund (IMF)", while he also expresses fear that the combination of the burdensome debts, the inhuman measures and the humiliation of the Greek people and Greece is lead to a social explosion".

    Finally, Karatzaferis stressed that "the PASOK-ND govern-ment" bears huge responsibility for "any possible adverse development" in the long-term Greek interests at the Eurogroup meeting.

    [05] ND leader on Eurogroup meeting

    NICOSIA (AMNA/A.Viketos)

    New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras expressed reserved optimism over the results of a Eurogroup meeting on Monday in Brussels, to decide on on a rescue package for Greece.

    "There is nothing tangible yet, but there must be a final result, both for the Greek people and the economy," Samaras said during his meeting with the Speaker of the Cyprus House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou, here on Monday afternoon.

    Samaras is on a three-day visit to Cyprus at the invitation of the President of the Cypriot Democratic Rally Party Nicos Anastasiades.

    [06] Leftist leader expresses opposition to imminent Eurogroup decisions

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Monday said "the decisions expected to be made in the Eurogroup meeting will confirm the existence of an orchestrated plan designed to ensure that the painful and heavy loans the country is unable to pay off, will continue."

    In a press conference in the northern city of Serres, Tsipras said that the legislative reforms promoted by the government are unconstitutional, adding that "we are already in a state of default and we should stop hiding behind our finger. Our partners prepare the bankruptcy of our country to serve their own interests."

    Referring to the recent opinion polls, according to which, the party of the Democratic Left, led by Fotis Kouvelis, enjoys high approval ratings, Tsipras suggested cooperation of the leftist parties, underlining that "all the political parties of the Left should find common ground and lead the country out of the dead end."

    Responding to a question by AMNA, Tsipras did not rule out the likelihood of cooperation with independent or expelled MPs from PASOK or New Democracy (ND), stressing that he issues "an open invitation to all political and social forces".

    [07] French FinMin Baroin expresses optimism over Greek bailout agreement

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / M. Aroni)

    "All elements are in place for agreement on a bailout loan for Greece," French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said on Monday, ahead of the Eurogroup meeting.

    Baroin added that Greece knows what it has to do and so do its partners, stressing that there is still more to be done to stabilize the Eurozone.

    He also referred to the difficult social situation in Greece.

    [08] ND leader in Nicosia, meets with Cyprus President

    NICOSIA (AMNA/A. Viketos)

    Greece's New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, on a visit to Nicosia, met on Monday with Cyprus president Demetris Christofias, and said afterwards that the Cyprus issue remains a top priority of Greek foreign policy, and also that Greece must undertake initiatives for the determination of its own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

    After the one-hour meeting, Samaras said that despite the economic difficulties Greece is currently going through "the Cyprus issue remains, for us, a top issue in our foreign policy priorities".

    During the meeting, the two men discussed the Cyprus issue and the matter of natural gas exploration in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

    Samaras said he was closely following the developments regarding Cyprus' EEZ, and had an extensive discussion on this with President Christofias. "We believe that Greece should undertake corresponding specific initiatives, such as those undertaken with the recognition of (Cyprus') EEZ by the late (Cyprus) President Tassos Papadopoulos," Samaras said, adding that "this common denominator of the existence of underwater wealth" for the two countries "also shows the depth of a joint strategy that could be developed between Cyprus and Greece on these issues of the economy as well".

    The ND leader also said he had the pleasure of meeting with and exchanging views with the Cypriot president, noting that "we may be two separate state entities, but Greece and Cyprus belong to the same nation...and this makes the need to support the struggle of the Cypriot people even greater".

    He added that the Cyprus struggle "must be vindicated, for a viable, functional solution with one sovereignty, one international personality and, of course, termination of the foreign occupation".

    Samaras, in Cyprus on a three-day visit at the invitation of Democratic Rally party leader Nicos Anastasiades, will hold talks later Monday with his host, followed by separate meetings with the minister of commerce, the Archbishop of Cyprus and other officials, while on Monday night he will attend a dinner hosted by the Democratic Rally leader.

    [09] ND leader meets head of Cyprus' DISY party, emphasises importance of Greece-Cyprus relationship

    "The hours are crucial but I believe that the economic problems must strengthen and not dull patriotism," main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said in statements after his meeting with the head of Cyprus' centre-right Democracy Rally (DISY) party Nicos Anastasiades on Monday.

    Samaras expressed great satisfaction at the symbolism of his visit to Cyprus as main opposition leader of Greece at a time when Greece was facing such great problems.

    Concerning relations between Greece and Cyprus, he noted the need to create a national alliance that "transcends narrow political limits", making it clear that this alliance should also be built in the area of the economy.

    The relationship between the two countries had acquired great importance and also strategic depth, Samaras added.

    ND's leader emphasised the importance of what was happening with Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone, noting that this could happen with Greece's EEZ in the Aegean as well.

    On the issue of the Cyprus issue, Samaras said that Cyprus' upcoming EU presidency might be a good time to look at the involvement of the EU in its solution. He noted that the solution must address the concerns of the Greek-Cypriots and must not be unbalanced in favour of one side.

    "We need a solution that is functional, viable, with one sovereignty, one nationality and one international identity," ND's president added.

    DISY's president emphasised the significance of the day chosen by Samaras to visit Cyprus, at a time so crucial for Greece, and said their talks had focused on ways in which their two parties could help in dealing with the situation in Greece.

    He noted that they would both give battle at the European People's Party "if the unacceptable pressures exerted on Greece over the issue of the loan agreements continue".

    They also discussed developments related to energy issues and the strategic alliances being built in this area, agreeing to work closely together in this area and fully exploit the potential for cooperation with Israel and other eastern Mediterranean countries.

    Samaras is scheduled to have separate meetings later on Monday with Cyprus Minister of Commerce Praxoula Antoniadou, who is in charge of the energy portfolio, Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker Yiannakis Omirou, the head of the AKEL party Andros Kyprianou and Cyprus Archbishop Chrysostomos.

    [10] Samaras meets Cyprus House Speaker

    NICOSIA (AMNA/A.Viketos/CNA)

    Visiting Greece's New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras repeated the need for long term coordination between Greece and Cyprus for the handling of their national reserves in their Exclusive Economic Zones.

    Speaking after a meeting Monday with Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker Yiannakis Omirou, Samaras said "it is very important for both peoples to realize that a fortune is hiding in our waters which we must exploit for the benefit of Hellenism, both in Greece and Cyprus."

    The ND leader also sent a message of respect to all Cypriot political parties on behalf of all Greek parties because as he said "when we are here we speak as Greece and we stand by your side."

    Welcoming Samaras, Omirou said "this historic visit comes at a juncture for Greece and Hellenism, with the economic crisis and the critical moments which the Cyprus problem is going through", adding that it is also important, noting that this is a time which demands that all living and inexhaustible resources of Hellenism, in Greece and Cyprus and overseas Greeks, "to come together to face the imminent national dangers".

    On his part, Samaras sent a message of faith and alliance. "Faithful in the fair struggle of the people of Cyprus and alliance in the common effort and struggle both for the Cyprus problem and to achieve a strategically, harmonized, coordinated long term planning for the issues pertaining the EEZ", he added.

    "We believe, he added, in forging ties and we stand by common values and principles that make up Cyprus and Greece."

    Samaras was also received by Archbishop of Cyprus Chryssostomos and met with ruling left-wing AKEL party leader Andros Kyprianou. No statements were made after the meetings.

    [11] Cypriot minister informs Samaras on hydrocarbons second licensing round

    NICOSIA (ANA/A,Viketos/CNA)

    Visiting New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras was briefed on Monday by Cypriot Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Praxoula Antoniadou on the second round of licensing for the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone and the prospects opened by this sector both for the Eastern Mediterranean region and the EU.

    Samaras said that Greece should capitalise on its natural wealth, "of the natural gas existing in the Greek seas."

    "We must at all cost utilise this wealth, particularly at these difficult times for the economy," Samaras added.

    Antoniadou told reporters that her ministry received various clarifying questions from those interested in the second licensing round. She said that there are groups of technocrats who are drafting the answers to these questions which are then approved by the ministry's permanent secretary and are then posted on the ministry's website.

    The Cypriot minister noted that the second round will be concluded on May 11, 90 days after the announcement for the beginning of the second round.

    Houston-based "Noble Energy", completed last December an exploratory drilling off Cyprus' southern coast, and within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus. The company, who has a concession to explore for hydrocarbons in an offshore field, south of Cyprus, known as "Block 12", estimated gas reserves at 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet. "Block 12" field borders reserve-rich "Leviathan" in Israel's EEZ.

    Recently, Nicosia announced in the Official Journal of the EU a call for an international tender for off-shore hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation within the Republic's Economic Exclusive Zone, signaling the initiation of a second round of licensing.

    [12] ELDYK members should be paid by Cyprus, DISY president suggests

    NICOSIA (AMNA / A. Viketos)

    Democratic Rally (DISY) party president Nicos Anastassiades on Monday suggested that the Republic of Cyprus undertake the payment of the salaries of the members of the Greek armed forces stationed in Cyprus (ELDYK).

    Anastassiades stated after meeting with visiting New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras that he has submitted his proposal to Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, in a letter addressed to him.

    The president of DISY underlined that the annual budget for the EL.DYK officers' salaries amounts to roughly six million euros, adding that the payment of their salaries by Cyprus would be a "tangible proof of solidarity to Greece which experiences difficult times."

    He highlighted ELDYK's service and added that Cyprus contributes financially to the UN peacekeeping forces stationed on the island.

    [13] KKE SG addresses party meeting

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga told a party meeting on Monday that the next general elections "should lead the bourgeois system to a greater breach" and the people "must massively abandon the bourgeois parties."

    Referring to a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels to decide on a rescue package for Greece the same day, Papariga said "either with the Euro or the drachma the people will be bankrupt."

    "This dilemma may be a headache for the bourgeois class but it does not concern the people," she added.

    Papariga also underlined the KKE's proposal for "a people's power and a people's economy," reiterating the party's strategic position for an exit from the European Union.

    [14] SYRIZA: 'Some Greeks are not so Greek. They are those that govern us'

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Monday accused the heads of the Greek government and main political parties of being 'not so Greek' and of failing to protect the interests of the country against its creditors.

    "The Europeans might say that we are all Greeks, but some Greeks are not so Greek. They are those that govern us," Tsipras said in comments on the decisions that the Eurogroup is expected to make later on Monday.

    According to SYRIZA's Parliamentary group head, the arguments heard from the likes of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble were not new since they had first been heard from Greek officials and politicians like the current premier Lucas Papademos, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, PASOK leader George Papandreou and ND leader Antonis Samaras.

    "Now that the partners and creditors have secured themselves against a possible Greek default both financially and legally, with their decision today they are organising the default in such a way so that the entire weight lands on the Greek people, on Greek society, while they and the bankers are saved," he added.

    [15] Nimetz due in Athens on Wednesday

    The UN secretary general's personal envoy on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz is due in Athens on Wednesday in the context of his efforts for the finding of a solution to the name issue.

    Nimetz will arrive in Greece after a similar visit to Skopje.

    [16] Two new LAOS MPs sworn in

    Two members of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party were sworn in as Parliamentary deputies on Monday, to replace the two MPs Adonis Georgiadis and Makis Voridis that resigned and joined New Democracy. The new MPs are Christos Kalapotharakos and Manousos Doukakis.

    [17] PASOK Political Council member resigns

    PASOK Political Council member George Panagiotakopoulos on Monday tendered his resignation from the Council to PASOK president George Papandreou

    [18] Portugal's Socialist leader sends letter to PASOK leader

    Antonio Jose Seguro, leader of the Socialist party of Portugal sent a message of support and solidarity to Greek citizens in a letter addressed to PASOK President George Papandreou, it was announced on Monday.

    "The progressive forces of Portugal are following with concern and respect all efforts and sacrifices that have been imposed to Greek citizens," Seguro notes in his letter.

    Referring to Papandreou's term in office as prime minister until last November, Seguro's letter says: "You have deployed a remarkable effort for securing a comprehensive strategy to save Greece as well as the Eurozone. PASOK has put Greece's and Europe's interests above narrow party interests. I am sure that history will vindicate PASOK."

    [19] Health minister stresses need to crack down on prescription medication excesses

    Greece's Health Minister Andreas Loverdos on Monday underlined the ministry's determination to crack down on doctors prescribing too many drugs, announcing that 11 doctors would face disciplinary action for exceeding a limit of 500 prescriptions each.

    "Legality will be upheld, no doctor is beyond control," the minister said while presenting the urgent omnibus draft bill on health tabled in Parliament earlier the same day, stressing that the sanctions foreseen by law would be applied to 11 prescription-writing 'champions'.

    The minister also urged doctors to cooperate in fighting the problem of over-prescribing drugs, which he stressed were costing the Greek state some one billion euro.

    "That is the cost of the medication being thrown away by Greek households," Loverdos pointed out, vowing not to back down before doctors' protests on this issue and warning that he would take back a measure allowing them the freedom to prescribe the drugs of their choice if the over-prescription problems continued.

    On a switch to prescribing generic drugs, the minister noted that their use in Greece was much lower than in other countries at just 18.5 percent. He said the goal was to increase this to 50 percent, while pointing out that the goal in Germany was to increase the use of generic medication to above 50 percent, while the United Kingdom had set the goal at 80 percent.

    He did not rule out the possibility of forcing doctors to prescribe the chemical name or active ingredient of drugs, rather than their brand name, if over-prescribing continued, though he admitted the measure would be "extreme".

    The minister announced that free examinations for patients will now be available in the afternoons from National Organisation for the Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY) doctors, who will receive 10 euro per visit from EOPYY.

    Loverdos said that all the measures in the bill will become law on March 1, when the bill has been passed.

    Deputy Health Minister Markos Bolaris referred to a census of those receiving welfare benefits, saying that 85,000 had so far been registered but noting that there were problems with the problems in some municipalities. He stressed, however, that all recipients would be registered and no one eligible for welfare benefits would be denied them.

    [20] Education minister announces reorganisation of Greek research sector

    Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou on Monday announced a sweeping reorganisation of the country's state-sponsored research sector, whose 56 research institutes and sectors will be merged to just 31, in a draft bill to be tabled in Parliament.

    "The first phase of the reorganisation of the research network of the country, which concerns changes on a large scale and mergers of the research institutes and research centres of the General secretariat of Research and Technology, is being decided to be tabled in Parliament," the minister said.

    Diamantopoulou made the announcement during the 12th meeting of the National Council for Research and Technology (NCRT).

    According to the head of the NCRT, the process had begun the previous spring, starting with a systematic evaluation and making decisions to increase the efficiency of research centres, so that the entire research community had the opportunity to give their opinion.

    He said the policy for restructuring the sector had two phases, the first of which would be mergers of the existing institutions and the second involving more sweeping changes that will be based on the new law.

    In addition to mergers reducing the number of research institutes from 56 to 31, there will be a reduction of Academy of Athens research centres from a current 14 to just two.

    [21] Situation in Syria dominates Foromed conference

    ROME (AMNA/Th.Syggelakis)

    Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas took part here on Monday in the Mediterranean Forum's (Foromed) foreign ministers 16th conference.

    Also participating were the foreign ministers of France, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Malta and Portugal.

    Addressing Greek reporters, Dimas said the main issue at the conference was the situation in Syria, adding that all participants underlined the need for an immediate end to violence and to attacks against civilians. The Foromed foreign ministers also backed a return to democratic rule by supporting efforts deployed by the United Nations and the Arab League.

    It was also revealed that a meeting of around seventy "countries friends of Syria" will be held in Tunis on Friday.

    On the sidelines of the conference, Dimas held meetings with counterparts from Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

    [22] Court of Audit rules latest round of pension cuts constitutional but queries backdated implementation

    The Court of Audit has apparently given the latest round of pension cuts imposed by the government a 'clean bill of health', judging the measures themselves constitutional though querying their backdated implementation, which begins on January 1, 2012.

    The measures are contained in a draft bill that is due to be tabled in Parliament as urgent and call for a 12 percent cut in the portion of all main pensions that exceeds 1,300 euro and reductions ranging from 10-20 percent for supplementary pensions exceeding 200 euro. In addition, pensions paid by the seamens fund NAT will be reduced by 7 percent for the entire amount.

    The new measures are imposed in addition to previous rounds of cuts that have reduced some pensions by as much as 40 percent, as well as two special levies.

    Court of Audit justices ruled the measures constitutional almost unanimously, with just one justice voting against them on the grounds that the fourth consecutive reduction in pensions was undermining the constitutionally established social state.

    They noted, however, that the backdated implementation of the measures may cause a conflict with the First Additional Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Financial News

    [23] Greek current accounts deficit down 8.3 pct in 2011

    Greece's current accounts deficit widened to 2.2 billion euros in December 2011, up 354 million or 19.4 pct from the same month in 2010, the Bank of Greece announced on Monday.

    The central bank, in a monthly report, said that the trade deficit grew by 499 million euros in December, as a result of a substantial increase by ? 660 million in the net oil import bill, compared with the exceptionally low level of December 2010. The trade deficit excluding oil and ships shrank by ? 169 million, mainly owing to the decline in the import bill by 201 million euros or 8.8 percent, while the corresponding export receipts decreased (year-on-year), for the first time since mid-2010, by 33 million or 3.0 percent. Finally, net payments for purchases of ships remained roughly at December 2010 levels.

    The surplus of the services balance grew by 137 million euros mainly as a result of higher net transport receipts and developments in the "other" services balance, which showed a small surplus (compared with deficits in the month of December in past years). Finally, the travel services balance showed a deficit larger by 33 million euros year-on-year. In more detail, travel spending in Greece by non-residents fell by 4.9 percent, while travel spending abroad by residents fell by 15.8 percent. Gross transport receipts (chiefly from merchant shipping) remained virtually unchanged (-1.8 percent), but the corresponding payments dropped markedly (by 14.3 percent); as a result, net receipts grew by 13.1 percent.

    The income account deficit increased by 206 million euros, owing to the decline in net payments for interest, dividends and profits.

    Finally, the current transfers surplus grew by 214 million euros year-on-year, reflecting the rise by 133 million euros in general government net transfer receipts (chiefly from the EU). Concurrently, the "other sectors" (mainly emigrants' remittances) showed net transfer receipts of 30 million, against net payments of 52 million in December 2010.

    In 2011, the current account deficit fell by 1.9 billion euros or 8.3 percent year-on-year, to 21.1 billion. This chiefly reflects a substantial decline of 3.6 billion euros in the non-oil trade deficit and a rise in the surplus of the services balance (by 1.4 billion) and in the current transfers surplus (by 0.4 billion), which more than offset a large increase in the net oil import bill and a widening of the income account deficit.

    In more detail, the overall trade deficit shrank by 1.1 billion euros, as a result of a 3.2 billion euros (or 19.9 percent) decrease in the trade deficit excluding oil and ships and a 0.4 billion fall in net payments for purchases of ships. By contrast, the net oil import bill rose by 2.5 billion. It is particularly positive that receipts from exports of goods excluding oil and ships rose at a high rate (by 17.3 percent). However, the corresponding import bill registered a rather limited decline (only by 4.5 percent).

    The increase in the surplus of the services balance reflects higher net travel receipts and lower net payments for "other" services, which more than offset a contraction in net transport receipts. More specifically, travel spending by non-residents in Greece grew markedly (by 9.5 percent) year-on-year, while travel spending by residents abroad rose by only 5.4 percent. According to data from the Bank of Greece's border survey, in 2011 non-residents' arrivals rose at an average annual rate of 9.5 percent. During the same year, gross transport receipts (chiefly from merchant shipping) fell by 8.6 percent and the corresponding payments dropped by 11.3 percent; as a result, net receipts shrank by ? 400 million.

    The income account deficit rose by 923 million euros year-on-year, almost exclusively due to higher net payments for interest, dividends and profits (up by 10.3 percent).

    Finally, the current transfers balance showed a surplus of ? 579 million, up by ? 380 million compared with 2010. This development is due to the fact that general government net transfer receipts (mainly from the EU) rose by ? 441 million, offsetting by far the ? 61 million rise in net transfer payments of sectors other than general government (chiefly emigrants' remittances).

    Capital transfers balance

    In December 2011, the capital transfers balance showed a surplus of ? 0.8 billion, compared with a surplus of ? 1.2 billion in December 2010, reflecting a drop in net EU capital transfers to general government. (Capital transfers from the EU mainly include receipts from the Structural Funds - except for the European Social Fund - and the Cohesion Fund under the Community Support Framework.)

    In 2011, the capital transfers balance showed a surplus of ? 2.7 billion, compared with ? 2.1 billion in 2010. This almost exclusively reflects a rise in net EU capital transfers to general government. The overall transfers balance (current transfers plus capital transfers) recorded a surplus of ? 3.25 billion, up by ? 1.0 billion year-on-year, reflecting the above-mentioned positive development in EU capital transfers.

    Combined current account and capital transfers balance

    In December 2011, the combined current account and capital transfers balance (corresponding to the economy' s external financing requirements) showed a deficit of ? 1.4 billion, compared with a deficit of ? 0.6 billion in December 2011. In 2011, this balance showed a deficit of ? 18.4 billion, compared with ? 20.9 billion in 2010 (down by 12 percent), i.e. it decreased at a faster pace than the current account deficit.

    Financial account balance

    In December 2011, non-residents' direct investment in Greece showed a net inflow (increase) of ? 1.9 billion, compared with a net outflow of ? 10 million in December 2010. In 2011 direct investment showed a net inflow of 25 million euros, compared with a net outflow of 457 million in 2010. More specifically, non-residents' funds for direct investment in Greece registered a net inflow of 1.3 billion euros (against 0.3 billion in 2010) and mainly concerned the increase in the participation of foreign investors in the share capital of Emporiki Bank and Geniki Bank, while a net outflow of 1.3 billion euros was recorded under residents' direct investment abroad (compared with a net outflow of 0.7 billion in 2010).

    Also, in 2011 a net outflow of ? 17.3 billion was observed under portfolio investment (compared with a net outflow of ? 20.9 billion in 2010). Under "other" investment, a net inflow of 35.2 billion euros (compared with a net inflow of 42.5 billion in 2010) is mainly attributable to a ? 39.1 billion increase in the outstanding debt of the public and the private sector to non-residents. In particular, net general government borrowing came to 39.4 billion euros and gross general government borrowing under the support mechanism for the Greek economy came to 41.5 billion. At end-December 2011, Greece's reserve assets came to 5.4 billion euros.

    [24] Greece, Italy energy ministries issue joint statement on 'Southern Gas Corridor'

    The energy ministries of Greece and Italy on Monday issued a joint statement as regards the pipeline that will be selected to carry Azeri natural gas to Europe.

    The joint statement was made in response to reports, according to which, the ITGI (Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy) pipeline has been excluded as an alternative option in the implementation of the so-called "Southern Gas Corridor". The ITGI is a joint venture between Italy's Edison and the Greek provider DE.PA.

    In response to recent media reports, both energy ministries underlined that the issue is still open for them and reaffirmed their governments' support to the ITGI project as the most suitable for the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor.

    They underlined that the ITGI is the most advanced and mature project among the candidates.

    The joint statement concludes that negotiations should continue to study all alternative solutions for the opening of the Southern Corridor, adding that the ITGI pipeline contribution could be substantive.

    Sources told AMNA that the BP-led consortium developing the Shah Deniz gas field offshore Azerbaijan decided to eliminate the ITGI pipeline option after considering the prices offered by Edison and the risk associated with Greece. The same sources did not rule out changes in the ITGI shareholder composition and cooperation with the TAP (Turkey-Greece-Albania-Italy) pipeline.

    [25] EIB pledges more than 1.0 bln euros in funds to Greece

    The European Investment Bank (EIB) will continue supporting large and small investment plans in Greece, along with offering support programmes for SMEs, Plutarhos Sakellaris, the bank's vice-president said on Monday.

    Speaking to reporters here, Sakellaris said EIB's funding agreements this year were expected to surpass last year's level (1.0 billion euros), despite an economic crisis in the country.

    The European Investment Bank said money handouts to Greece totaled 2.0 billion euros in 2011. Sakellaris expressed his optimism that uncertainty over the course of the Greek economy will subside this year, allowing to focue more on boosting investments, while he pledged that EIB will rapidly and successfully implement its funding program for Greece.

    EIB is already examining several investment plans, such as large project in energy - production and distribution- including renewable energy sources (a photovoltaic park in Megalopoli) and of course in natural gas. The bank is also cooperating with the Greek banking system to fund small- and medium-sized enterprises in urban development in Thessaloniki, Veria and other cities. EIB will also support a wide range of small infrastructure projects in education, civil administration, environment and waste management.

    [26] Troika policy in Greece also an attack on collective bargaining in Germany, German umbrella trade union says

    The Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), an umbrella trade union organisation representing seven million German workers, on Monday urged the EU-IMF troika to re-examine its policies regarding Greece so as to encourage investments and modernisation.

    The trade union organisation also stressed that the virtual abolition of private-sector collective agreements in Greece was a "full-frontal assault on the autonomy of collective bargaining in Germany itself".

    "The economic and social situation in Greece is like a powder keg and at the same time proves the failure to handle the crisis under the leadership of Chancellor Merkel and French President Sarkozy," said DGB executive board member Claus Matecki.

    According to Matecki, in spite of the upheaval already caused by the 'orgies of austerity' in Greece, the troika were demanding even more austerity to approve more bailout loans and stressed that the further cuts were "unacceptable for the country and the people".

    He stressed that Greece needed a plan similar to the Marshall Plan that followed WWII in Germany in order to promote investments and modernisation in Greece, allowing it to finally build up its economy and emerge from the crisis.

    [27] Investigation into fake pensions ordered

    Financial prosecutor Grigoris Peponis on Monday announced a preliminary investigation into press allegations concerning millions of euros paid out in fraudulent pensions to thousands of individuals that do not meet the necessary criteria.

    The investigation, to be conducted by alternate financial prosecutor Spyros Mouzakitis, will focus on roughly 20,000 pensions paid out under alleged illegal pretenses, resulting to huge losses for social security funds.

    Labour Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis had stated recently that the pension funds have paid out 120 million euros in fraudulent pensions.

    Individuals who received the illegitimate pensions will be called to testify, as well as, pension fund employees who approved and paid the fraudulent pensions facing felony charges for fraud and breach of faith.

    [28] Global shipping facing difficult year, ICS president says

    The impact of an economic crisis on shipping, combating piracy at sea and shipbuilding programmes related with funding squeezes are the main topics of a global conference on shipping, held in Athens on Monday.

    The conference, held under the auspices of International Chamber of Shipping, the International Shipping Foundation and the Greek development, competitiveness and shipping ministry, brought together shipowners unions' presidents from three continents and nine countries, Greek shipowners, experts and analysts of the industry.

    Spyros Polemis, president of the International Chamber of Shipping, addressing the conference said 2012 would be a difficult year for shipping because of a global turbulence as a result of an international crisis and a shrinking global trade.

    He stressed that many shipowners have placed several new ship orders, but a moratorium was necessary to combat with oversupply conditions. "We have many ships but few cargo," Polemis said, adding that China wanted to transfer 50 pct of its cargo to Chinese ships.

    He noted that the sinking of the sea-cruise vessel Concordia in Italy will have an effect on all ship operators and stressed that bankers must support shipping companies facing problems.

    Piracy was a top priority Polemis said, adding that around 200 seamen were currently held hostage by sea pirates around the world.

    Nikolaos Litinas, secretary-general of the ministry, said the government is making efforts towards the development of marine training and supporting the coastal shipping sector.

    Yiannis Lyras, a member of the board of the Hellenic Shipowners Association, said overborrowing created credibility problems in the country, while said that a current policy on the taxation of ships was introduced in 1929.

    [29] Hellenic Foreign Trade Board to participate in food and beverage exhibitions in China and Brazil

    The Hellenic Foreign Trade Board will participate in the International Food and Beverages international exhibitions SIAL CHINA and SIAL BRAZIL, an announcement said on Monday.

    The SIAL CHINA exhibition will be held 9-11 May 2012 at the Shanghai New International Expo Center facilities and has been organised annually in the last thirteen years.

    The international exhibition SIAL BRAZIL will take place 25-28 June 2012 at the EXPO Center Norte Sao Paulo in Brazil. This exhibition will be held for the first time and is expected to attract a large number of visitors and experts from Brazil and Latin America.

    [30] Tourism revenues up around 10% in 2011

    Tourism revenues grew by around 10 pct last year, confirming the industry's forecasts for the year.

    The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), in a report published on Monday, said tourism revenues grew by 9.45 pct last year to 10.519 billion euros, up from 9.611 billion euros in 2010.

    SETE said the contribution of tourism to the country's Gross Domestic Product was expected to surpass 20 pct, reaching 50 billion euros and accounting for around 44 pct of new job positions for the next decade in the country.

    Tourism enterprises said Greece will be able to service 20 million arrivals by 2014, a figure 20 pct up compared with last year's record of 16.5 million arrivals.

    [31] Bussiness Briefs

    -- The new orders index in the industrial sector fell 9.4 pct in December 2011 after a decline of 1.6 pct recorded in December 2010, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.

    -- The turnover index in the industrial sector grew 2.3 pct in December, for an average growth rate of 6.9 pct in 2011, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.

    -- ATEbank on Monday said it secured 27.6 million euros from the sale of its equity stakes in SEKAP SA and ELBIZ SA, which were announced last week.

    [32] Stocks end flat on Mon.

    Stocks ended flat on Monday as the market awaited news from a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels over a second bailout programme for Greece.

    The composite index of the market rose 0.18 pt to end at 825.75 points, off the day's highs of 847.63 points. Turnover was an improved 98.008 million euros.

    The Big Cap index rose 0.42 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.31 pct lower and the Small Cap index rose 0.87 pct. Hellenic Postbank (7.61 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (4.0 pct), PPC (3.07 pct), OPAP (2.94 pct) and Eurobank (2.27 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Coca Cola 3E (2.57 pct), OTE (2.21 pct) and Mytilineos (1.89 pct) were top losers.

    The Health (5.11 pct), Travel (2.79 pct) and Utilities (1.95 pct) sectors scored gains, while the Food (2.46 pct) and Telecoms (2.21 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 94 to 80 with another 25 issues unchanged. Parnassos (29.94 pct), Hatzioannou (28.57 pct) and Alapis (20 pct) were top gainers, while Mathios (27.05 pct), Motodynamic (22.49 pct) and Tegopoulos (19.72 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +0.43%

    Commercial: +1.49%

    Construction: +0.30%

    Oil & Gas: +2.64%

    Personal & Household: +0.98%

    Raw Materials: -1.85%

    Travel & Leisure: +2.79%

    Technology: -1.31%

    Telecoms: -2.21%

    Banks: +0.63%

    Food & Beverages: -2.46%

    Health: +5.11%

    Utilities: +1.95%

    Chemicals: +1.71%

    Financial Services: -0.04%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.81

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.03

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.80

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.24

    National Bank of Greece: 2.96

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.35

    OPAP: 7.00

    OTE: 2.65

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.65

    Titan: 14.75

    [33] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 27.72 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday from 28.38 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 29.77 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.95 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate eased to 1.65 pct, the six-month rate fell to 1.32 pct, the three-month was unchanged at 1.03 pct and the one-month rate fell to 0.60 pct.

    [34] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover remaining a low 20.857 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,936 contracts worth 14.032 million euros, with 30,920 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 46,906 contracts worth 6.826 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (19,926), followed by Cyprus Bank (3,934), MIG (477), OTE (986), PPC (973), OPAP (684), Piraeus Bank (3,255), National Bank (12,116), Marfin Popular Bank (1,779), Mytilineos (670), Hellenic Postbank (997), GEK (222) and Ellaktor (234).

    [35] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.346

    Pound sterling 0.848

    Danish kroner 7.545

    Swedish kroner 8.943

    Japanese yen 107.05

    Swiss franc 1.225

    Norwegian kroner 7.600

    Canadian dollar 1.335

    Australian dollar 1.248

    General News

    [36] Underwater archaeology: Four unknown shipwrecks discovered

    Four previously unknown shipwrecks have been discovered some 30 kilometers off the bay of Heraklion, Crete, and south and east of the islet Dia (off the northern coast of Crete, 7 nautical miles north of Heraklion) in recent underwater exploration conducted by the culture and tourism ministry's Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities.

    The exploration was conducted to locate and record underwater antiquities in the wider area of the bay of Heraklion, as well as the gulf of Yera of Lesvos island and the island of Tilos.

    The new finds comprise two Roman era shipwrecks, one containing 1st and 2nd Cretan amphorae and the other containing 5th-7th century Post-Roman era amphorae, and two shipwrecks containing Byzantine amphorae, dated from the 8th-9th century and later.

    The finds in the shipwrecks were documented and raised from the seabed for further analysis.

    Three more recent shipwrecks were also discovered, as well as four other areas with archaeological material of various eras and origin which, due to their immense research interest, will be further explored in 2012 by the Ephorate.

    [37] Additional flood prevention measures along Evros

    The increased risk that the Evros River will again overflow its banks in the next few days led to additional precautionary measures on Monday.

    The greater Evros River region will remain on high flood alert while all municipalities in the region will have to submit evacuation plans in case of an emergency. Maintenance works will also be conducted in levees that have suffered damages, while the operation of water level monitoring stations will be restored as soon as weather conditions allow.

    The local civil protection authorities met following a warning conveyed by Bulgarian deputy foreign minister Dimitar Tsanchev to the Greek ambassador to Sofia.

    Bulgarian authorities have warned that the gradual increase in temperatures forecast for the next few days will lead to rapid snow melting and as a result huge volumes of water will flow into the dams of Kardzhali, Studen Kladenets and Ivaylovgrad, which could be at risk of bursting.

    [38] Three high-school students behind hacking of justice ministry website, police say

    The Greek police electronic crime department on Monday announced that they had tracked down the hackers that hijacked the Greek justice ministry's website on February 2, naming three highschool students as their main suspects.

    Authorities have already arrested an 18-year-old in Athens and are drawing up charges against two teenagers aged 16 and 17 years old, respectively. They said the three were part of a group using the pseudonym 'Greek Hacking Scene (GHS) that had accepted responsibility for the attack on the ministry's site in a message saying that they represented 'Anonymous'.

    The same group was also responsible for attacking other state websites, including that belonging to the police, the prime minister, the citizen protection ministry and others on the night that Parliament was voting on whether to accept the new Memorandum for loans to Greece, on February 12.

    The three suspects also had their own personal codenames, such as 'delirium', 'nikpa' and 'extasy'.

    In raids on the homes of the three teens, in the presence of a public prosecutor, authorities confiscated 12 computer hard drives and three laptops. The evidence will be sent to a laboratory for digital analysis to determine how many and which websites they have attacked in Greece. Posting on the Internet, the three have bragged about hacking into dozens of websites.

    The evidence collected in the case has been submitted to the Athens first-instance court prosecutor while the investigation by the electronic crimes squad is continuing to find other members of the group.

    [39] Robbery in jewellery shop at Plaka

    Burglars late Sunday emptied a jewelry shop in the old Athens district of Plaka. The burglars initially broke into a tourist souvenir shop and afterwards opened a hole in the connecting wall with the jewelry shop, from which they took jewelry of unknown value.

    Police are investigating the case

    [40] Major heroin arrest in Ioannina

    A 26-year-old local man was arrested in Ioannina, northwest Greece, on drug trafficking charges, it was announced on Monday.

    The suspect was arrested while delivering 550 grams of heroin to an undercover police officer, who had made the relevant arrangements with an Albanian national over the phone.

    An investigation is underway for the arrest of the foreign national, believed to be a member of a large drug trafficking ring active in the greater Athens region and across the country.

    [41] Six arrests in scuffles outside Greek parliament

    Six persons were arrested and 129 were taken in for questioning on Sunday during clashes in Syntagma Square in front of the Greek parliament.

    The six arrestees will be sent before an Athens prosecutor while the detainees were released.

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

    The Eurogroup meeting on Monday as well as the new measures for pensions, salaries and social security funds, mostly dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "We are all Greeks".

    AVRIANI: "Retirement at the age of 67 foreseen by the new bill on social security that will be voted in June".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Civil servants two months without salaries".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Storm after the agreement's 'sunshine'."

    ESTIA: "Restart of the Economy".

    ETHNOS: "3 percent layoffs in every ministry".

    IMERISSIA: "Everything will be judged on Monday - Critical battle in Brussels for the new bailout loan".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Greece's new support to be sealed at the Eurogroup meeting".

    TA NEA: "Agony...over the 230 billion euros and struggle for the exchanges".

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