|Monday, 22 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-02-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 29 February 2012 Issue No: 4009
 Parliament ratifies bill on pension cuts and other provisions of the MemorandumParliament ratified, late Tuesday night, a bill envisioning cuts in various primary and supplementary pensions, at the end of a relevant debate.
Out of the 283 deputies, 202 voted in favour of the bill, 80 against and one deputy voted present. 283 deputies in the 300-member chamber participated in the vote.
Voting in favour of the bill were New Democracy (ND) and PASOK parties, while the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) and various independent deputies voted against.
The bill is part of a set of commitments undertaken by the Greek government as part of the second Memorandum.
 Parliament begins debating draft bill on pension cutsThe debate on a draft bill that will slash some pensions by as much as 35 percent began in the Greek Parliament on Tuesday. The bill is being rushed through Parliament as 'urgent', using express procedures that greatly restrict the amount of time devoted to discussion of the measures.
It kicked off with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos in an all-out confrontation with the smaller opposition parties on both the right and left of the political spectrum, who disputed whether the envisioned pension cuts were constitutional and also queried the government's decision to table the bill as urgent.
On behalf of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the MP Nikos Karathanasopoulos submitted a request for a roll-call vote on the draft bill in principle and on its most important articles.
The bill envisions a 12 percent cut to the portion of all main pensions that exceeds 1,300 euro a month, a 7 percent reduction on the entire sum of NAT seamens' fund pensions and cuts ranging from 10-35 percent for all supplementary pensions exceeding 200 euro a month.
 Samaras in Parliament: 'End this 2 1/2-year miserable chapter'New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during debate on a closely watched draft bill regarding pension cuts, urged for an "end to the 'miserable chapter' of the past two-and-a-half-years and an open path for a popular mandate with elections."
Samaras again stepped up his sharp criticism of both PASOK party and the leftist parties, saying that "we are not all the same". He also sent a message to expelled ND deputies, defending his support of the latest bailout package.
He stressed the need for a government with heightened self-sufficiency, one which will proceed with radical changes and reforms that the country demands.
"We will take out, once and for all, the image of Greece in crisis and bring it to the front line of the struggle for the recovery of all Europe."
At the same time, he defended his party's strategic option to participate in the Papademos government and support the new loan contract, replying to criticism against him over the decision, noting the completely different circumstances of May 2010 with the current one, as he said.
He pointed out that with the current Memorandum agreement the country's debt is being given a "haircut", and the repayment period is being extended, something that reduces the risk of a eurozone exit and Greece's abandonment by its partners.
 FinMin Venizelos replies to ND leader SamarasGovernment Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, speaking Tuesday in Parliament during the debate on a draft regarding pension cuts and after the address by New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, attributed to him an "ungracious and fruitless effort for continous differentiation that leads nowhere."
Venizelos also termed the "proposal" by the Left "gloomy" and appealed to the citizens that "it is they who listen, evaluate and choose and who, although inconvenienced, will choose correctly."
Venizelos accused Samaras of being "the main representative of ambiguity" saying that he made two changes in his strategy, "he adopted the policy of PASOK and now he is turning, at last, to the Left with which he sailed together in his myopic criticism against the memorandum."
Venizelos further said "the ND president is not convincing. The deepest reason that our partners are doubtful is because they do not have confidence in what Mr. Samaras and ND say. The continuous backtrackings, the uncertainty and the change in strategy cannot secure the cocuntry's course."
Lastly, Venizelos made it clear that things are and shall be difficult. "Now we are obtaining on the one hand a secure framework but what is necessary is work, responsibility, seriousness, truth and consensus."
 LAOS party leader Karatzaferis on implementing billPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during the debate on the implementing law containing pensioning arrangements, criticised the two mainstream parties.
"You will find in the ballot box what you are voting for today. On the night of the elections PASOK and (New Democracy) ND will be obliged to apologise to the Greek people for the state to which they have led the country," Karatzaferis said.
 Cabinet decision on implementing wage cuts; Papoutsis resignation acceptedThe government has decided that new labour laws passed by Parliament will be implemented retroactively through an 'Act of Cabinet' and apply from February 14, sources said after a meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Tuesday.
During the meeting, the prime minister also accepted the resignation of Christos Papoutsis as Citizen Protection Minister and an announcement concerning his replacement is expected by the end of the week.
The cabinet meeting further discussed the 'selective default' rating given to Greece by Standard & Poors earlier the same day, stressing that this was 'expected' and had no impact on Greece's economy.
The meeting to take place in Brussels on Wednesday between Papademos and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, which will focus on finding funds to promote growth and speed up the rate of investments, was another topic that occupied the meeting.
Regarding the cancellation of a Eurozone summit on March 2, the same sources noted that the purpose of the summit was to discuss the permanent support mechanism for the Eurozone and that this did not affect Greece, which was in a special mechanism already.
Finally, the ministers reaffirmed the government's determi-nation to push ahead with measures to increase the use of generic medication in Greece, noting that it was one of the commitments made by Greece under the new memorandum and an important way to cut spending without affecting public health.
 Gov't spokesman: New measures in June not "out of the blue""The fact that additional measures will be taken in June is not something out of the blue," government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said on private Mega television station on Tuesday, explaining that "the deficit must close, therefore additional measures will need to be taken".
He also said that the major challenge for the next government will be how the country will move on to a primary surplus.
Kapsis further said that layoffs in the public sector was a certainty, as has been agreed with the Troika, but added that the dismissals would be made after evaluation, noting that the measure comprises 15,000 layoffs in the wider public sector.
He also said that, according to estimates, the Greek economy will rev up sometime in 2013, noting that the country has one very difficult year ahead of it, but when the economy starts growing, things will improve.
 President Papoulias receives European Parliament presidentPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who is currently in Athens on a visit.
In talks with Schulz, Papoulias stressed that the austerity measures imposed on Greece for bailout loans were extremely hard on the poorer members of society, expressing doubts about Greece's ability to withstand more such measures.
Greeting Schulz as a "representative of the peoples of Europe," the president stressed that Greece had to be able to preserve its social cohesion.
Replying to Papoulias, Schulz noted that all of Europe were "in the same boat" and that he had decided to come to Athens on the day after the German Parliament approved the bailout loans to the country in order to talk about these problems with Greece's leadership.
 EuroParliament President meets PASOK party leaderVisiting European Parliament President Martin Schulz held a meeting in Athens on Tuesday with outgoing PASOK party leader George Papandreou, at Papandreou's office in Parliament.
During the meeting, Schulz underlined that Greece and its people needed solidarity and not words, adding that this was the reason why he had accepted the invitation to visit Greece and address its Parliament from Greek Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos.
Schulz noted that the approval of the latest bailout package for Greece did not provide a solution to the problem in itself, since the country also needed measures to boost growth and employment.
He noted that the conditions existed in Greece for investments in solar energy, tourism and trade and that the country could play the role of a commercial hub in the centre of the Mediterranean for trade with Africa.
He further underlined the need to activate European funding to help the young unemployed.
Papandreou thanked the European Parliament president for his support and the solidarity that he displayed toward the Greek people, both in his current role and in his previous capacity as head of the socialists in the European Parliament.
He particularly thanked Schulz for displaying a "strong political will to convert the European Parliament into a powerful institution of European unification, with more democracy and transparency".
 EP president Schulz addresses Greek MPsEuropean Parliament President Martin Schulz on Tuesday underlined the need for a growth plan for Greece, which will be based, however, on what he called "trust reserve" that only it (Greece) can create.
Addressing deputies in the old senate chamber in Parliament, Schulz said Greece should remain in the Eurozone, noting that the common European currency must be shielded in every way, while attacking those economic approaches that place priority to austeritry and fiscal discipline.
On the other hand, the EP president indicated that Greece is obliged to implement the extremely harsh commitments its government has undertaken as necessary. In response to criticism on the policies that accompany the two Memorandums, he reminded that that these decisions have been taken unanimously by the European governments and added that it would be an injustice to attack the German chancellor or the German finance ministry.
"Greece must remain in the Euro. This is for the interest of your country but for Europe's interest as well," Schulz told the Greek deputies.
"We must do everything to avert Euro's failure. In the antogonism between the continents, we will survive only as a strong continent through consensus, while as a divided continent we will sink into triviality," he noted.
"If we follow exclusively a policy of austerity, we will save money until the collapse. Fiscal wisdom is, of course, necessary in order to control the public debt, but a reduction of the debt should be balanced by initiatives aimed at growth: It is not right to always call on the weakest to bear the burden of the economic crisis. Europe is not a community of austerity, it is a community of solidarity," Schulz underlined.
The EP president also said he was in favour of taxing financial transactions, "so as to have those responsible for the crisis participating in the expenses deriving from it."
PASOK leader George Papandreou, New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) president George Karatzaferis also followed Schulz's address.
 PASOK leader speaks by phone with BarrosoPASOK leader and former prime minister George Papandreou held a telephone conversation with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday evening.
During the telephone contact, which took place at Barroso's initiative, the two men discussed the need to break the "vicious circle" of a prevailing negative climate regarding Greece's prospects, sources said.
Barroso also referred to his meeting in Brussels on Wednesday with Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
 Commission president receives Greek labour leaderEuropean Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Commissioner T??????????A?????????L?szl? Andor, who is responsible for employment, social affairs and inclusion, on Tuesday received General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) president Yiannis Panagopoulos in Brussels.
According to reports, Barroso agreed on the need to take measures aimed at boosting growth in Greece, while Panagopoulos, insisted that the harsh measures, as he said, that are being implemented do not offer any prospect of economic recovery.
He also indicated to his interlocutors that the EC-ECB-IMF troika did not take into consideration a social partners agreement which is a European acquis.
 PASOK MPs promote Venizelos' candidacyRoughly 75 PASOK MPs have signed a text in support of government vice-president and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos' bid for the party leadership, it was announced on Tuesday.
PASOK MPs spearheading the initiative told AMNA that Venizelos will resign from his post in the government to announce his candidacy before a national party congress is held most likely on March 9 or 10.
The text underlined that Venizelos' candidacy is an expression of PASOK's need to be a party that engages in "self-criticism", one that has a progressive and European orientation, is realistic and does not resort to populist practices, sources said.
 KKE party leader Papariga addresses rally in ThessalonikiCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, addressing a party rally in a convention centre in the city of Thessaloniki on Tuesday, stressed that "if the people do not intimidate them, with a strong KKE, then the things will get worse" and claimed that the country's new loan contract includes debts and commitments for the next 30 years.
Referring to the EC/ECB/IMF troika, Papariga said it is attempting to intimidate the Greek people, whom she called on to observe such a stance in the Pareliamentary elections that the New Democracy (ND) and PASOK parties lose as much as they can and to say no to "disguises."
Papariga called on voters to back KKE, adopting its propsal for disengagement from the European Union, with a writeoff of the debt.
 Tsipras tables question in parliament on overdebted householdsCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) leader Alexis Tsipras called for partial or total write-off of the debts of overindebted households, workers and unemployed by the banks, in order to relieve them of the unbearable burdens imposed on them, in a current question tabled in parliament on Tuesday addressed to prime minister Lucas Papademos.
Tsipras, in the text of the question, said that in the last three years the number of mortgage and consumer loans that the borrowers are unable to service has tripled, and asked the government whether it intends to take steps so that the monthly repayment installments to all the banks will not exceed 30 percent of the individual or family revenues.
He also asked whether there will be a rationalisation of the interest rates which, for consumer loans especially, "exceed every regulatory limit".
 Bakoyannis cites smear campaign against her over husband's 1-mln-euro bank transferVeteran politician and former minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday told reporters that her husband, Isidoros Kouvelos, is the individual cited by a prosecutor as having transferred one million euros abroad in 2011, a case that generated intense press speculation here over the past two weeks.
Bakoyannis, who was expelled from the New Democracy party only to establish her own political formation (Democratic Alliance) in Parliament, sharply condemned the speculation, saying Kouvelos legally transferred the funds abroad for the purchase of a merchant vessel. She added that the money transferred from a Greek bank was initially generated from the liquidiation of stock market shares that Kouvelis owned in the United States.
Bakoyannis said the vesssel was purchased via a transaction in London.
Numerous and sharply negative press articles appeared in the country in reference to the prosecutor's allegation of a "political person who exported one million euros overseas", as speculation fell on current and past Parliament deputies.
"An entire sector is today being slandered. Some people are trying to hide those who really did transfer their money to Switzerland," Bakoyannis said, adding that the entire affair was aimed at her new political initiative.
 Amendment aims to cut state funding to political partiesPolitical parties will receive reduced state funding as provided by an amendment to be tabled in parliament on Tuesday.
Speaking to an Athens-based private television, PASOK general director Rovertos Spyropoulos stressed that part of the original funding will go to the banks to pay off the loans taken out by the political parties and the remaining amount will end up in party coffers.
 FM Dimas attends EU General Affairs CouncilBRUSSELS (AMNA/V. Demiris)
The European Union's General Affairs Council convened here on Tuesday and proposed the granting of candidate status to Serbia with the aim of the decision being taken by the 27 Europan leaders at the summit on Thursday.
In his intervention for Serbia, Greek Foreign Minister Stravros Dimas underlined that the time has come for the granting of a candidate country status to Serbia, stressing the progress achieved by this country in all sectors and the fullfillment, on its part, of the criteria set by the Eueropean Union. Dimas also said that the Serb people constitute an inseparable part of the European family and the decision for the granting of a candidate country status and the speedy starting of accession negotiations with Serbia will contribute decisively to stability and the consolidation of peace in the Balkans.
During the discussion on the preparation of the European Council, the Greek Foreign minister stressed the imperative need for the taking of measures with an immediate growth result, in parallel with the fulfillment of the targets of fiscal adjustment and macroeconomic cooperation. In light of the unfavourable predictions for growth in Europe in 2012, Dimas stressed the importance of the adoption of policies giving an impetus to employment and the confrontation of unemployment.
On the sidelines of the Council, the Greek delegation held a meeting with the delegation of Kosovo. At the meeting, the Greek minister expressed Greece's satisfaction over the recent agreements in the framework of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and stressed the need for the continuation of dialogue between the two sides.
 German war reparations issue discussed in ParliamentPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) president George Karatzaferis on Tuesday raised again the issue of the German war reparations claimed by Greece for atrocities committed by Nazi troops in WWII.
In a current question to the prime minister tabled in parliament, Karatzaferis underlined that the recent negative ruling issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, affecting the case of the south-central Greek village of Distomo, highlights the obvious responsibility that lies with the Greek governments and the justice ministers that have served in office until today. He also underlined that the activation of the Greek First Instance Court ruling on the confiscation of German property in Greece is imperative.
The judgment issued by the ICJ affects the case of the south-central Greek village of Distomo, where Nazi troops killed 214 civilians on June 10, 1944, one of the numerous instances of WWII atrocities in occupied Greece.
In a document forwarded to parliament on Tuesday, FM Stavros Dimas underlined that the Greek government will study the ICJ ruling issued on the case that concerned the confiscation of German property on Italian soil for reparations to be paid to victims of Distomo massacre. He underlined that the issue of German war reparations is still open and that Greece raises the issue regularly within the framework of bilateral meetings between senior government officials and competent ministries.
The document was forwarded to parliament in response to a question by PASOK MP Sifis Valirakis who requested that the parliament be briefed on Germany's wartime debts to Greece and the fashion in which interest rates will be calculated. He also queried the government on the moves it intends to make on the issue.
Meanwhile, in a document forwarded to parliament in response to a question tabled by leftis SYRIZA and independent MPs, Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou underlined that Greece will follow the early stages of a procedure launched with the European Court concerning Germany's legal immunity from being sued in foreign courts by victims of Nazi atrocities during World War II.
The justice minister clarified that the foreign and justice ministries will decide on Greece's participation in the court hearing that will take place later on.
 S&P downgrades Greece to 'Selective Default', with view to upgrade to CCC after PSI process is completedThe Standard & Poor's rating agency downgraded Greece's credit rating to SD (Selective Default) from CC late Monday, with a prospect of upgrading to CCC after completion of the PSI bond swap process in mid-March.
In an announcement, Standard & Poor's Ratings Service said that "it has lowered its 'CC' long-term and 'C' short-term sovereign credit ratings on the Hellenic Republic (Greece) to 'SD' (selective default)", while "our recovery rating of '4' on Greece's foreign-currency issue ratings is unchanged" and "our country transfer and convertibility (T&C) assessment for Greece, as for all other eurozone members, remains 'AAA'."
Explaining the decision, S&P said: "We lowered our sovereign credit ratings on Greece to 'SD' following the Greek government's retroactive insertion of collective action clauses (CACs) in the documentation of certain series of its sovereign debt on Feb. 23, 2012. The effect of a CAC is to bind all bondholders of a particular series to amended bond payment terms in the event that a predefined quorum of creditors has agreed to do so. In our opinion, Greece's retroactive insertion of CACs materially changes the original terms of the affected debt and constitutes the launch of what we consider to be a distressed debt restructuring. Under our criteria, either condition is grounds for us to lower our sovereign credit rating on Greece to 'SD' and our ratings on the affected debt issues to 'D'."
"As we have previously stated, we may view an issuer's unilateral change of the original terms and conditions of an obligation as a de facto restructuring and thus a default by Standard & Poor's published definition...Under our criteria, the definition of restructuring includes exchange offers featuring the issuance of new debt with less-favorable terms than those of the original issue without what we view to be adequate offsetting compensation. Such less-favorable terms could include a reduced principal amount, extended maturities, a lower coupon, a different payment currency, different legal characteristics that affect debt service, or effective subordination," S&P said.
"We do not generally view CACs (to the extent that they are included in an original issuance) as changing a government's incentive to pay its obligations in full and on time. However, we believe that the retroactive insertion of CACs will diminish bondholders' bargaining power in an upcoming debt exchange. Indeed, Greece launched such an exchange offer on Feb. 24, 2012," it added.
"If the exchange is consummated (which we understand is scheduled to occur on or about March 12, 2012), we will likely consider the selective default to be cured and raise the sovereign credit rating on Greece to the 'CCC' category, reflecting our forward-looking assessment of Greece's creditworthiness. In this context, any potential upgrade to the 'CCC' category rating would inter alia reflect our view of Greece's uncertain economic growth prospects and still large government debt, even after the debt restructuring is concluded," the announcement added.
 Finance Ministry: S&P downgraded 'expected', had been pre-announcedThe Greek finance ministry said in an announcement on Monday that downgrading of Greece's credit rating to SD (selective default) by Standard & Poor's ratings agency had been "expected", adding that the downgrade has no impact in the Greek banking sector and its liquidity.
"As expected, S&P has proceeded to downgrade Greece to 'SD' and the list of PSI eligible securities to 'D' following the CAC legislation onto Greek Law Bonds and the launch of the large scale voluntary PSI offer," the ministry said.
"This move was pre-announced and all its consequences have been anticipated, planned for and addressed by the relevant decision of the European Council and the Eurogroup. The downgrade has no impact in the Greek banking sector as its liquidity effect has been addressed by the Bank of Greece, and consequently by the EFSF," it added.
"The Greek sovereign will remain in 'SD' rating while the PSI offer is open, and upon completion of the PSI the sovereign is expected to be re-rated upwards," the ministry announcement concluded.
 ECB temporarily suspends use of Greek debt bonds as collateral until completion of PSI bond swapsThe European Central Bank on Tuesday temporarily suspended the use of Greece bonds as collateral in Eurosystem monetary policy operations, until completion of the PSI bond swap in mid-March, following a downgrade of the Greek sovereign debt to 'selective default' by the ratings agency Standard & Poor's, with a view to upgrading to CCC after completion of the PSI process.
The ECB announcement said on Tuesday:
"The Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) has decided to temporarily suspend the eligibility of marketable debt instruments issued or fully guaranteed by the Hellenic Republic for use as collateral in Eurosystem monetary policy operations. This decision takes into account the rating of the Hellenic Republic as a result of the launch of the private sector involvement offer.
At the same time, the Governing Council decided that the liquidity needs of affected Eurosystem counterparties can be satisfied by the relevant national central banks, in line with relevant Eurosystem arrangements (emergency liquidity assistance).
Marketable debt instruments issued or fully guaranteed by the Hellenic Republic will become in principle eligible upon activation of the collateral enhancement scheme agreed by the Heads of State or Government of the euro area on 21 July 2011, and confirmed on 26 October 2011, together with a number of other measures aimed at assisting Greece in its adjustment programme. This is expected to take place by mid-March 2012."
 BoG to fully cover domestic bank liquidityGreece's central Bank of Greece (BoG) will fully cover the liquidity needs of the domestic banks, the BoG said on Tuesday following a European Central Bank (ECB) decision to temporarily suspend the use of Greek bonds as collateral after Standard & Poor's ratings agency formally announced an expected downgrade of the Greek sovereign debt to 'selective default'.
The ECB announced earlier Tuesday, following the downgrade by S&P to 'SD' (selective default), which impacts the bonds issued or guaranteed by the Greek state, that it is temporarily suspending the eligibility of the use of those debt instruments as collateral in Eurosystem monetary policy operations (i.e. refinancing of credit institutions).
The ECB clarified, however, the liquidity needs of the affected Eurosystem counterparties (banks) can be satisfied by the relevant national central banks via the relevant Eurosystem arrangements, namely the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA). It is noted that the ECB, via the ELA, has offered liquidity of 42.9 billion euros to the Greek banks, while the dependence of the Greek credit institutions on the ECB reached 73.4 billion euros in November 2011, the last month for which official figures are available.
The ECB further clarified that the suspension is temporary, and that it will start accepting those debt instruments again as collateral when the PSI bond swaps programme has been completed, around mid-March.
 Greek bank execs see no impact from downgrade to SDDomestic banking executives on Tuesday said a decision by the European Central Bank to temporarily suspend the use of Greek state bonds as collateral, after a same-day Standard & Poor's announced the downgrade of the country's sovereign debt to "selective default", will have no impact on banks' customers and especially borrowers.
The executives said the ECB clarified that Greek banks' funding needs in the framework of the Eurosystem would be covered by national central banks through an Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA). Through this mechanism, the ECB has offered credit worth 42.9 billion euros so far, raising Greek banks' dependence on the European Central Bank to 73.4 billion euros.
The executives stressed that Greek banks' liquidity problems will be gradually resolved with the completion of a PSI programme, strict adherence to measures and reforms envisaged in a new lending agreement and completion of a recapitalization process of Greek banks. All these combined will lead to the restoring of Greek economy's credibility, opening up the interbank market for Greek banks which has been frozen in the past two years since the crisis began.
ISDA to determine Wednesday on whether bond swap proposed by Greece to private investors triggers 'credit event'
The International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) will determine on Wednesday whether the bond swap proposed by Greece to private investors will trigger a "credit event", thus prompting the payment of CDS' (Credit Default Swaps) on the Greek debt, ISDA said in an announcement on Monday.
"The International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA), as secretary to the Determinations Committees (the DCs), today announced that a question relating to the Hellenic Republic has been submitted to the EMEA Determinations Committee. In accordance with the Determinations Committee process, the EMEA Determinations Committee will decide whether to accept the question for deliberation or reject it and this decision will be made by 5PM GMT on Wednesday, February 29, 2012," the ISDA announcement said.
The question of "Has a Restructuring Credit Event occurred with respect to Hellenic Republic?" was tabled with the ISDA by an Association member to the board, asking it to determine whether "the announcement of the passage by the Greek parliament of legislation that approves the implementation of an exchange offer and vote providing for collective action clauses ('CACs') that impose a 'haircut amounting to 53.5%' (MINFIN Announcement, 2.21.2012) that 'shall bind the entirety of the Bondholders (of eligible instruments)', constitutes a Restructuring Credit Event".
The member also claimed that there is unequal treatment of bondholders, as "the European Central Bank and National Central Banks benefited from 'a change in the ranking in priority of payment' as a result of the Hellenic Republic exclusively offering them the ability to exchange out of their 'eligible instruments' prior to the exchange and implementation of the CACs, thereby effectively 'causing the Subordination' of all remaining holders of eligible instruments".
 Gazprom Export director in Athens for talks energy ministry officialsGazprom Export director-general Alexander Medvedev, also a deputy chairman of Gazprom's board of executive directors, on Tuesday held a series of meetings on energy issues at Greece's Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry in Athens, holding talks with the minister George Papaconstantinou and the deputy minister Yiannis Maniatis.
The meeting with Papaconstantinou focused on supplying Greece with natural gas from Russia but also the government's privatisation programme, which includes a number of companies in the energy sector.
It was attended by Maniatis, general secretary for energy Kostas Mathioudakis, Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) CEO Haris Sahinidis and the chairman of Prometheus Gas Dimitris Kopelouzos, a company in which Gazprom is a partner.
Greece currently buys natural gas from Gazprom via a pipeline linked to the Romanian-Bulgarian gas networks. The contract is for the supply of 2.8 billion cubic metres of gas a year and expires in 2016.
An announcement issued by Gazprom said the meeting had also focused on the privatisation plans for the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and the Hellenic Gas Transmission System Operator SA (DESFA), as well as the "state of natural gas markets, with especial emphasis on the extremely increased demand for natural gas in Greece and deliveries during the winter season".
 Greek trade deficit shrinks 28.2pct in 2011Greece's trade balance deficit shrank by 28.2 percent in 2011, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Tuesday.
ELSTAT, in a report, said that the total value of imports-arrivals, excluding oil products, in December 2011 amounted to 2293.6 million euros (3013.5 million dollars) in comparison with 2910.8 million euros (3836.7 million dollars) in December 2010, recording a drop, in euros, of 21.2%.
The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding oil products, in December 2011 amounted to 1454.5 million euros (1922.6 million dollars) in comparison with 1456.8 million euros (1931.8 million dollars) in December 2010, recording a drop, in euros, of 0.2%.
The deficit of the trade balance, excluding oil products, in December 2011 amounted to 839.1 million euros (1090.9 million dollars) in comparison with 1454.0 million euros (1904.9 million dollars) in December 2010, recording a drop, in euros, of 42.3%.
The total value of imports-arrivals, excluding oil products, for the 12-month period from January to December 2011 amounted to 31888.2 million euros (44278.1 million dollars) in comparison with 36732.1 million euros (48633.4 million dollars) for the corresponding period of the year 2010 recording a drop, in euros, of 13.2%.
The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding oil products, for the 12-month period from January to December 2011 amounted to 16014.8 million euros (22350.3 million dollars) in comparison with 14638.8 million euros (19472.7 million dollars) for the corresponding period of the year 2010, recording an increase, in euros, of 9.4%.
The deficit of the Trade Balance, excluding oil products, for the 12-month period from January to December 2011 amounted to 15873.4 million euros (21927.8 million dollars) in comparison with 22093.3 million euros (29160.7 million dollars) for the corresponding period of the year 2010, recording a drop, in euros, of 28.2%.
 New, simpler building permit procedures in effect from March 1The new and much-simplified procedure for issuing building permits will go into effect from this Thursday, greatly cutting down on the red tape involved.
Under the new procedure, applications for a permit will be submitted to a municipal building service, accompanied by a town planning order and the building plan, as well as proof that the necessary payments have been made. If these are in order, a 'construction approval' will be issued within just five days and will apply for one year for buildings up to 2,000 square metres or two years for buildings larger than 2,000 square metres.
The interested party then submits the other necessary documentation, such as architectural plans, civil engineer's plans, electrical wiring etc. The Building Service checks to see that the application file is complete and all the necessary studies have been carried out and then issues a building permit within two days.
Full responsibility for the quality of the surveys and plans is borne by those carrying them out, so that the Building Service no longer has to carry out in-depth checks of each document.
The municipal building services will not be in charge of checking that constructions are in line with the plans, a task that will be assigned to an independent body of building inspectors.
The ministry will start accepting applications from anyone wishing to acquire a building inspector's permit and join their local register from March 1 and the examinations for acquiring the inspector's permits will begin on March 12.
 Bussiness Briefs-- Investment activity in the manufacturing sector is expected to fall by 5.6 pct this year, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) announced on Tuesday.
-- CPI Computers on Tuesday reported net after-tax losses of 389,000 euros in the first half of the fiscal year (July 2011-June 2012), after losses of 368,000 euros in the corresponding period in the previous year.
-- Fourlis Group on Tuesday said its net after-tax profits totaled 2.3 million euros in 2011, down from 14.7 million euros in the previous year, while earnings per share eased to 0.05 euros from 0.29 euros over the same periods, respectively.
 Stocks end 3.01% downStocks ended significantly lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
Market sentiment was undermined by a S&P decision to downgrade Greece to "selective default" following the country's official announcement of a PSI invitation to bondholders, although this development was expected by the market. Bank shares were at the epicenter of selling on speculation that the government was examining a "haircut" on all loans. The composite index dropped 3.01 pct to end at 727.14 points, with turnover remaining a low 50.203 million euros.
The Big Cap index dropped 3.95 pct, the Mid Cap index fell 4.75 pct and the Small Cap index ended 2.82 pct lower. The Food (0.99 pct) and Telecoms (0.42 pct) sectors were the only ones to record gains, while Banks (7.84 pct), Raw Materials (6.88 pct) and Health (6.68 pct) suffered losses.
Coca Cole 3E (1.14 pct) and OTE (0.42 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to end higher, while Piraeus Bank (11.38 pct), Alpha Bank (10.22 pct), Eurobank (9.43 pct), Marfin Popular Bank (9.36 pct) and Hellenic Postbank (8.75 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 122 to 42 with another 17 issues unchanged.
Tegopoulos (20 pct), Perseus (19.87 pct) and HOL (19.80 pct) were top gainers, while Unibios (27.59 pct), Audiovisual (25.52 pct) and Alapis (20 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -3.30%
Personal & Household: -3.14%
Raw Materials: -6.88%
Travel & Leisure: -1.26%
Food & Beverages: +0.99%
Financial Services: -5.71%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, National Bank, Alpha Bank and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.23
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.37
HBC Coca Cola: 14.20
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.48
National Bank of Greece: 2.24
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.96
Bank of Piraeus: 0.44
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 28.49 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 30.27 pct and the German Bund 1.78 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. the 12-month rate was 1.64 pct, the six-month rate eased to 1.31 pct, the three-month rate was 1.02 pct and the one-month rate 0.59 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.32 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover remaining a low 15.472 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,846 contracts worth 10.098 million euros, with 26,389 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 32,419 contracts worth 5.374 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (12,757), followed by Cyprus Bank (5,265), PPC (924), OPAP (968), Piraeus Bank (1,664), National Bank (8,711), Marfin Popular Bank (442), Hellenic Postbank (393), GEK (151) and Mytilineos (304).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.365
Pound sterling 0.860
Danish kroner 7.547
Swedish kroner 8.959
Japanese yen 110.02
Swiss franc 1.223
Norwegian kroner 7.592
Canadian dollar 1.359
Australian dollar 1.267
 Doctors to hold 24-hour, nationwide strike on WednesdayState hospital and private doctors will hold a 24-hour, nationwide strike on Wednesday in protest against a draft law implementing measures concerning the national health system, including measures designed to increase use of generic medication and prevent doctors from prescribing drugs based on their brand name.
According to the Panhellenic Medical Association, the only goal of the government's policy was to cut spending on health at all costs, without regard for the consequences to patients.
Hospital doctors also strongly object to "monstrous measures" that they say will abolish 50 hospitals and cut their pay for night duty and holiday shifts by 17 percent.
The strike will be joined by the Athens Medical Association, while an emergency meeting of all doctors will be held at the President Hotel in Athens at 10:30 on Wednesday to discuss the new measures, followed by a march to Parliament.
Doctors will also be joining other professionals, including lawyers and civil engineers, at a rally organised with the umbrella trade union organisations General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union ADEDY at Syntagma Square on Tuesday evening, which will also feature a concert by Manolis Mitsias playing music by Greek 'epic' composer Mikis Theodorakis.
Joining in Wednesday's strike with a three-hour work stoppage from noon to 3:00 p.m. is the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees (POEDHN), which intends to present a demarche to the offices of the European Union on Vassilisis Sofias at 1:30 p.m.
 Uniformed police, firemen and port officials hold protest rallyUniformed police, firemen and port officials carried out a protest rally in Kolokotroni Square and a march to the Finance ministry and to Parliament on Tuesday, protesting cuts in their salaries anticipated by the new memorandum.
Speaking to the AMNA, an official said that "if new cuts in salaries are made, they will lead the policemen to impoverishment, degrading the security forces absolutely," adding that, in a year, policemen have already had a loss of over 40 percent in their income and that "we shall resist the government and the troika so that the new measures shall not pass."
 Defendants in unstructured bonds affair unanimously acquittedAll sixteen defendants in the first instance trial concerning the case of the unstructured bonds sold to state pension funds in the period 2001-2007 were unanimously acquitted, according to a court ruling issued on Tuesday.
The trial at the Criminal Court of Appeals was launched last June and concerned the fixed rate bonds issue bought by the managements of six social insurance funds. Defendants in the case were 11 board members of the funds in question and the representatives of four brokerage firms involved in the transactions.
The arrangement that was brokered by the government attracted heavy criticism from the people and the opposition parties, reacting to the fact that the bonds were bought by state pension funds at very high prices.
The case file was prepared after the so-called "structured bonds scandal" came to light that concerned the 2007 period, prompting an investigation into earlier transactions involving social insurance funds.
The 11 state officials that were led to justice were accused of breach of faith, while the stockbroker firms' representatives were accused of instigating the crime and of money-laundering.
 First Orthodox schools in Sierra Leone inauguratedPatriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa inaugurated the first Christian Orthodox school in the previously civil war-ravaged west African state of Sierra Leone, it was announced on Tuesday. The school, with a capacity of 1,800 pupils, is located in the courtyard of St. Eleftherios Cathedral in the centre of the capital city of Freetown.
The Patriarch also inaugurated the pedagogical institute of the Archdiocese and the country's first school of journalism.
In a meeting with government officials, Theodoros discussed regional and public health issues focusing on combating diseases, such as AIDS and malaria.
 Cloudy on WednesdayCloudy and showery weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 5C and 11C. Cloudy with rain or sleet in Athens, with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 0C to 9C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -1C to 5C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe cuts to salaries and pensions, plans to reduce mortgage and consumer loan installments, prime minister Lucas Papademos' extraordinary meeting with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Wednesday and express arrangements for debts to the Tax Bureau were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Tuesday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Legislative arrangement for mortgage and consumer loans".
AVRIANI: "Juncker (Eurogroup president) torpedoes elections".
DIMOKRATIA: "German 'parashooters' in the Tax Bureau offices".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Express arrangements for debts to Tax Bureau".
ESTIA: "Revolution in taxation system".
ETHNOS: "160 experienced German financial services staff to take up key posts in Greek taxation mechanism".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Papademos-Barroso meeting on 'forgotten' EU developmental funds for immediate channeling of 11.2 billion euros including a small national participation".
TA NEA: "They were planning to send us to the IMF as early as June 2009".
VRADYNI: "What the government is planning".
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