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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-03-02

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

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

Friday, 2 March 2012 Issue No: 4011

CONTENTS

  • [01] EU, Greece sign Memorandum for new loan agreement
  • [02] Eurogroup welcomes 'sufficient progress' made by Greece
  • [03] Greek FinMin welcomes Eurogroup's decision
  • [04] Greece waits for market's response, FinMin says
  • [05] ND's Samaras at EPP summit, meets with Merkel
  • [06] Samaras: Greece will succeed
  • [07] PASOK party leader Papandreou attending European Socialist Party session
  • [08] Papademos-Gruevski meeting in Brussels
  • [09] Parliament passes application law on health reforms
  • [10] Personnel, assets of abolished agencies transferred to OAED
  • [11] Parliament president replies to Bundestag counterpart
  • [12] Commission welcomes Greek commitment to ensure independent, reliable statistics
  • [13] Papoutsis announces candidacy for PASOK leadership
  • [14] Parliamentary investigation into 2009 deficit begins; next meeting on Tuesday
  • [15] Gov't announces heightened security measures for archaeological sites, museums
  • [16] ISDA: Credit event has not occurred in Greece
  • [17] Energy ministry tables draft bill for solar power programme, bio-fuels, Elliniko site
  • [18] Greece records biggest increase in EU unemployoment last year
  • [19] Greece cuts unemployment benefit by 22%
  • [20] Greek PMI falls to record low in Feb.
  • [21] Metro extension project to Piraeus pending
  • [22] Bussiness Briefs
  • [23] Stocks end moderately higher
  • [24] Greek bond market closing report
  • [25] ADEX closing report
  • [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [27] Hostage situation at Komotini factory; two women released
  • [28] Murder in cold blood in Athens
  • [29] No damage in Santorini ecosystem detected from Sea Diamond wreckage
  • [30] Municipality sounds alarm over conditions around 2 Athens campuses
  • [31] Large quantity of mephedrone seized, three arrests
  • [32] One hundred and five migrants repatriated
  • [33] Housekeeper and son rigged robbery of elderly woman
  • [34] Court acquits six accused of disrupting Oct. 28 parade in Thessaloniki
  • [35] One million in counterfeit euro tracked down in ongoing operation in Samos port
  • [36] Fair on Friday
  • [37] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] EU, Greece sign Memorandum for new loan agreement

    Greece and the European Union on Thursday signed a cooperation memorandum for a new loan programme for the country. The memorandum is also countersigned by the Bank of Greece (BoG) and binding letters by the leaders of New Democracy and PASOK parties to the Eurogroup president, which are attached to the deal.

    The agreement was signed by government Vice-President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and EU Commissioner Olli Rehn.

    Additionally, Venizelos signed, together with the head of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) Klaus Regling, the five crucial contracts for the implementation of the PSI. They are for:

    - The contract for the recapitalisation of Greek banks.

    - The contract for the guarantees provided by the EFSF to the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Eurosystem, for the provision of fluidity to Greek banks during the implementation of the PSI.

    -The contract for the 30 billion euros, with which the exchange of the bonds is financed by the official sector.

    -The contract for the coverage by the EFSF of the Greek public debt interest so far.

    -The contract for the joint financing formation between the official and private sector, that constitutes one of the crucial structural characteristics of the PSI.

    According to a relevant announcement by the finance ministry, the signing of these contracts sends a message to the private sector, the markets and the international community that the official sector supports Greece from every aspect and believes in the implementation of the decisions of Oct. 26 2011 and Feb. 21 2012.

    In a later statement, Venizelos expressed satisfaction over the decisions.

    He said the only thing remaining is the troika's written confirmation that Greece has done what is necessary, something which, as he said, will take place immediately after certain legislative acts recently ratified by Parliament are translated into English. He added that Athens had not heard good words for some time, something that occurred today. He also stressed that an offer to private bondholders is extremely inviting.

    [02] Eurogroup welcomes 'sufficient progress' made by Greece

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / V. Demiris)

    Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday welcomed an EC-ECB-IMF troika assessment that Greece has made sufficient progress.

    In a written statement, Juncker pointed out that "a few pending implementing acts should be completed shortly", adding that "all required legislation by the Parliament and the Ministerial Cabinet has been adopted".

    He underlined that the Eurozone "ministers note with satisfaction that Greece thereby undertook decisive and swift legislative action in the areas of fiscal consolidation, revenue administration, pension reform, financial sector regulation and supervision and growth-enhancing structural reforms.

    This will allow the Greek adjustment effort to regain momentum, which - together with a rigorous implementation of the agreed policy package for the new programme - constitutes the basis for putting the public finances and the economy of Greece back on a sustainable path. The Troika will finalise in the next few days the detailed assessment of the quality of the transposition of prior actions in Greek legislation. Against this background and in view of the completion of the relevant national procedures in Member States, Ministers authorise the EFSF to implement the Eurosystem collateral enhancement facility. This entails the provision by EFSF of a buyback scheme for the eligibility of marketable instruments issued or guaranteed by the Greek Government for use as collateral in Eurosystem monetary policy operations.

    Ministers also agreed on a backstop facility for the recapitalisation of Greek banks in case of financial stability concerns. In addition, Ministers authorise the issuance by EFSF of bonds to finance the euro area's contribution to the PSI exercise and the repayment of accrued interest on Greek government bonds. The Eurogroup, however, reiterates that a successful PSI operation with high participation and a final positive assessment of the complete set of prior actions are necessary conditions both for the disbursements of these EFSF bonds and for the second programme."

    The statement concludes that "the Eurogroup therefore looks forward to a high participation of private creditors in the debt exchange. Ministers are confident that the terms described in the Greek authorities' Invitation to holders of Greek government bonds include sufficient attractive and unique features that should appeal to private creditors and ensure the broadest participation."

    [03] Greek FinMin welcomes Eurogroup's decision

    BRUSSELS (AMNA/V.Demiris)

    Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday welcomed a Eurogroup's reaction to the Greek government's work.

    Speaking to reporters, here, the Greek minister said: "Greece has not listened any words of appraisal for long," adding that this did not mean "we can relax".

    Venizelos stressed that Thursday's decision was a message to the private sector for a Greek offer which is balanced and mutually beneficial. He noted it was necessary to have an almost "ecumenical participation" of private creditors in a bond swap programme (PSI) next week.

    [04] Greece waits for market's response, FinMin says

    "We are waiting for the response of the market following decisions reached at the previous Eurogroup meeting over a new support programme for Greece and the official launch of a PSI programme," Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Thursday.

    Speaking to reporters here ahead of a Eurogroup meeting, the minister said:

    "As you already know, an agreement has been reached over the form of a bond swap deal with the private sector and everyone realises very well that we have four very significant and attractive data: Co-funding, English law, a 'sweetener' (payment of 30 billion euros in cash) and the GDP clause. This is a very good, a unique offer. I am certain that the market realizes very well how clear is my message".

    [05] ND's Samaras at EPP summit, meets with Merkel

    BRUSSELS (AMNA/M.Aroni)

    New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras took part here on Thursday in a European People's Party (EPP) summit meeting. Earlier in the day, he held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker and EPP Europarliamentary group leader Joseph Daul.

    Speaking to reporters after the conclusion of his talks, Samaras said:

    "During the EPP's meeting as well as during my meetings with Chancellor Merker, Jean-Claude Juncker and Joseph Daul, I reiterated the need for (a) achieving the targets we agreed upon and have already voted for and (b) taking immediately measures for the economy's recovery and growth. Because, without growth neither the fiscal targets will be achieved nor will the debt become viable."

    The ND leader added that his discussions also focused on "concrete initiatives to achieve growth in order to contain recession and decrease unemployment, particularly among the young."

    "Concretely, to activate European funds (National Strategic Reference Framework), to utilise funds from the European Investment Bank, to establish a Greek Development Bank, to strengthen fluidity in the real economy, to finance small and medium enterprises and reinforce exports, to unblock, at last, the important infratructure works," Samaras added.

    "I also referred to the humane aspect of the crisis. A crisis which is not simply economic, as Greek citizens are being tested with an unprecedented harshness and social cohesion is threatened," the ND leader noted.

    "This negative climate must be reversed as soon as possible. So as to pass, as soon as possible, from a state of fear for the worse, to the economy's stabilisation and the restoration of the market's psychology. In order to have Greeks regaine hope. And this hope will be brought by the coming elections," Samaras concluded.

    Meeting with Merkel

    In his meeting with Chancellor Merkel, Samaras stressed the need for elections to be held in Greece in April.

    Samaras pointed out to the chancellor that elections are necessary in Greece for the easing of the tension prevailing in the country, while expressing concern that otherwise there shall be a rise of anti-European parties.

    The ND leader also told reporters that no mention was made on the part of his interlocutors of the issue of elections in Greece, nor in his private meetings with Merkel and Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker, nor during the EPP session.

    Referring in particular to the meeting with Merkel, that lasted for about an hour, Samaras said that it took place in a very positive climate. As he said, he made a brief analysis of the situation in Greece.

    Samaras also raised with the German Chancellor the issue of the declaration of the Exclusive Economic Zone that constitutes a source of energy for Greece and can bring revenues to the country.

    Lastly, according to Samaras, Merkel, intervening in the session of EPP leaders, acknowledged that the situation in Greece has improved, but noted that the recent period of calm must not lead to complacence.

    [06] Samaras: Greece will succeed

    BRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Spinthourakis)

    "Greece must walk on the path of fiscal stabilisation and structural reforms, but the developmental factor comes first," New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras said in Brussels on Thursday before going into a meeting of the European People's Party (EPP) grouping of the European parliament taking place ahead of Friday's EU summit.

    "Greece will succeed," he stressed.

    [07] PASOK party leader Papandreou attending European Socialist Party session

    BRUSSELS (AMNA)

    PASOK party leader George Papandreou, arriving at the European Socialist Party's session held here on the sidelines of the EU leaders' summit on Thursday, said "an integrated and Europeanwide strategy is necessary for growth, growth that will provide jobs for our youth, as well as for growth that is based on quality and not inequality."

    Papandreou added that "it is now becoming evident to conservative Europe that we cannnot exit from the crisis only with austerity measures" and that "we cannot compete with the rising markets on the basis of salaries. However, we can compete with them on the basis of the quality of our products."

    Referring to Greece, he said that "it has gone ahead with considerable structural reforms" and with the new very important package of changes and the European support "we shall pass to a much more stable situation."

    Greece can now invest "in its comparative advantages, in a competitive economy that will be based on quality, the quality of its farm products, on green energy, the high quality of its tourism, shipping, fisheries, its services," the PASOK leader further said and concluded by saying that "this is the kind of strategy that we need, not only for Greece, but for all of Europe."

    [08] Papademos-Gruevski meeting in Brussels

    BRUSSELS (AMNA)

    Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos met here on Thursday with his counterpart from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), Nikola Gruevski, on the sidelines of the European Council summit, as both sides expressed a political will for continued negotiations towards finding a mutually acceptable solution to the "name issue".

    According to an announcement issued by the Greek prime minister's press office in Athens, "the course of bilateral relations was discussed during the meeting and various aspects of the two countries' cooperation."

    On the issue of the name, in particular, it was stressed that "political will was expressed by both sides for a continuation of negotiations in the agreed framework of the United Nations, for a mutually acceptable solution to be achieved."

    [09] Parliament passes application law on health reforms

    Parliament in the first hours of Thursday passed the application law on labor health ministry measures and reforms, with 213 votes for, 58 against and 12 abstentions, thus completing the "prior actions" promised by Greece ahead of the upcoming EU summit.

    The Articles on the merger of the auxiliary pension funds, liberalisation of pharmacy working hours and introduction of generic medicines were passed by majority vote both in principle and by-article in a roll-call vote asked by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) parties.

    The bill was passed with the votes of PASOK and New Democracy (ND).

    [10] Personnel, assets of abolished agencies transferred to OAED

    All benefits and services provided by the abolished Workers' Housing Organisation (OEK) and the Workers' Benefits Organisation (OEE) will be maintained and will be transferred to the Manpower Employment Organization (OAED), according to a Cabinet act published in the Government Gazette.

    Speaking in Parliament, Labour Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis on Thursday said the resources and assets of both organisations, as well as their employees will also be transferred to OAED. A social policy special account will be set up in the Bank of Greece (BoG) to manage the resources of the merged organizations.

    Koutroumanis reassured OEK loan recipients, stressing that the funding of ongoing financing programmes will continue uninterrupted.

    [11] Parliament president replies to Bundestag counterpart

    Parliament president Filippos Petsalnikos explained that a relevant investigation to date has shown that no Greek MPs have transferred large sums of money abroad, in a letter of response to his German counterpart Norbert Lammert who had asked for clarifications on relevant media reports.

    Petsalnikos also clarified that the case that had been highly played in the media in recent days actually concerned the husband of a Greek MP who has his own private business activity, and that the remittance was made via that business.

    Petsalnikos further said in his letter of response that Greece appreciates the German Bundestag's (parliament) vote of support, adding that Lammert himself is "aware of the immense efforts being made by the Greek people", and noted the relevant bills passed by the Hellenic Parliament, such as the lifting of bank confidentiality and the fight against and criminalisation of tax evasion.

    The parliament president, speaking to reporters later, also denied press reports that some 15 MPs have transferred large sums of money abroad, adding that the procedure will be completed in the next few days for authorisation by the Greek MPs for the opening of bank accounts in Switzerland if required.

    [12] Commission welcomes Greek commitment to ensure independent, reliable statistics

    The European Commission on Thursday welcomed Greece's commitment to ensure independent and reliable statistics, in a press release issued in Brussels.

    The full text of the Commission press release follows:

    "The Commission has adopted a Decision approving Greece's Commitment on Confidence in Statistics, which was endorsed by the Greek Parliament and signed by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos. The Communication 'Towards robust quality management for European Statistics' adopted by the Com-mission in April 2011, outlined the need to improve the governance of European statistics and invited all Member States to sign up to 'Commitments on Confidence in Statistics'. The Greek commitment is the first one signed by a Member State. The Commission also intends to propose an amendment to the EU Regulation on Statistics, requiring all Member States to sign similar Commitments on Confidence in the future.

    In its Commitment, the Greek government makes a number of pledges with a view to ensuring that statistics is reliable, credible and independently compiled. These include ensuring that Greek statistics meet European and international quality standards and defending the professional independence of the Greek statistical authority (ELSTAT). An annex to the Commitment lists areas for improvement, which are due to be incorporated into the Greek Statistical Law before the end of March. An independent statistical advisory board will be created to oversee the implementation of the European Statistics Code of Practice by the Greek statistical system.

    Today's Decision takes note of the progress that has been made in improving the quality and reliability of Greek statistics since 2010, thanks, amongst other things, to a joint ELSTAT/Eurostat statistical action plan. On behalf of the Commission, Algirdas Semeta, European Commissioner responsible for statistics, has counter-signed the Greek Commitment on Confidence.

    At this occasion, Commissioner Semeta said: "Reliable statistics are essential for governments, businesses, citizens and the markets to take informed and rational decisions. Credible statistics are the basis for public trust in economic policies and programmes. I welcome Greece's commitment to quality statistics, and will support all work to ensure that Greek data is of the highest quality possible."

    The Commission will continue to give technical support to Greece in the area of statistics, and will monitor the implementation of the Commitment on Confidence."

    [13] Papoutsis announces candidacy for PASOK leadership

    PASOK MP and former minister Christos Papoutsis on Thursday formally announced that he will run for the party presidency, in an upcoming internal election to replace resigned premier and outgoing party president George Papandreou.

    He underlined that he "envisions a PASOK" with a "sense of responsibility and firm European orientation ... a strong, democratic and patriotic movement ... the main pillar of the center-left".

    Papoutsis pointed out that the country, in the midst of a crushing economic and debt crisis since 2009, is at a turning point and has to regain its credibility and safeguard its place in Europe.

    He stressed that progressive reforms in the economy and society are necessary and underlined that strong institutions and political parties are imperative, as well as, determined politicians to guarantee the autonomy of politics and the substance of democracy.

    [14] Parliamentary investigation into 2009 deficit begins; next meeting on Tuesday

    A Parliamentary examination committee set up to investigate allegations that Greece's statistical authority ELSTAT artificially inflated the public deficit figures for 2009 had its first meeting on Thursday, electing its chair and the list of witnesses that will be called. Afterwards, it was announced that the committee will next meet on Tuesday.

    The committee intends to initially call 11 witnesses, including the last two chairmen of ELSTAT, the last two finance ministry general secretaries, ELSTAT's deputy chairman and former ELSTAT board member Zoi Georganta, the econometrics professor that has disputed the accuracy of ELSTAT's figures and methods.

    Other witnesses will be the last two general secretaries for fiscal policy at the finance ministry and the last three presidents of the Financial Experts Corps.

    Political figures that will be asked to testify toward the end of the proceedings will be three former finance ministers, among them former ND ministers George Alogoskoufis and Yiannis Papathanassiou and also George Papaconstantinou, two deputy finance ministers, two former labour and health ministers, and possibly European Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs at that time, Joaquin Almunia. The committee may also ask the heads of the European statistics agency Eurostat to be called.

    The Parliamentary examination committee will have 14 members, while main opposition New Democracy and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) have refused to participate. The PASOK party has eight members on the committee, while the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party each have one. The remaining four members are all independent MPs.

    In statements to reporters after the first meeting, the representative for SYRIZA on the committee Dimitris Papa-dimoulis noted that its result was more-or-less "predetermined".

    "The one-sided composition of the committee, PASOK's obvious motives and the extremely tight deadlines predetermine the result of its work. I have grave reservations about whether I can make a meaningful contribution," he said.

    The committee is due to complete its investigation and publish its findings by March 23.

    [15] Gov't announces heightened security measures for archaeological sites, museums

    Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos on Thursday announced that the country's museums will be guarded by a special security team comprising culture ministry employees and selected Greek Police (EL.AS) officers with special training in Olympic Games' security.

    Briefing the parliamentary standing committee on cultural and educational affairs on the protection of museums and archaeological sites, Geroulanos said the joint security team has already agreed on a package of immediate and medium-term measures.

    Referring to the recent robbery in the Archaeological Museum in Olympia, Geroulanos stated that it was a "very serious blow" and expressed certainty that those responsible will suffer the consequences.

    Financial News

    [16] ISDA: Credit event has not occurred in Greece

    The International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) said on Thursday that a "credit event" has not occurred in Greece, in unanimous decisions on two questions submitted to the ISDA's Determinations Committee.

    [17] Energy ministry tables draft bill for solar power programme, bio-fuels, Elliniko site

    Greece's environment, energy and climate change ministry on Thursday tabled a draft bill in Parliament on the 'Helios' solar power programme, regulation of bio-fuels and exploiting the site of the former airport at Helliniko.

    The bill outlines the terms for building and the acceptable uses of land at the Helliniko site, as well as converting the expanse to a metropolitan recreational park that also incorporates the coastal zone at Agios Kosmas.

    It envisions that open public green spaces will make up 40 percent of the site, private open green spaces another 20 percent, while another 20 percent is set aside for construction and a further 20 percent for roads. The park must cover an expanse of at least 200 hectares and the town planning rules allow the construction of high-rise buildings.

    According to the ministry, the draft bill seeks to use the land in ways that serve and promote developmental, financial and social targets, such as attracting investment, creating new jobs and boosting the city's international prestige and appeal, especially as a tourist destination.

    "Especially in the sector of tourism, by exploiting the advantages of the Attica basin climate, the new pole of attraction can redefine Athens as a year-round tourism destination. This will result in an increase in jobs and turnover for many service sectors in many areas of Athens," a ministry announcement said.

    The 'Helios' programme for the installation of photovoltaic panels in Greece and the export of solar power to other European countries calls for the installation of up to 10 GigaWatts of photovoltaic power generators and greater links between the electricity grids of Greece and other countries in Europe.

    The government's goal is to use the revenue from selling solar energy to pay down public debt and it has already started to record the sites available for installing photovoltaic parks.

    In statements while tabling the draft bill on Thursday, Environment Minister George Papaconstantinou stressed that Greece needed major developmental programmes that created investment opportunities and could generate jobs and wealth by using the country's comparative advantages.

    [18] Greece records biggest increase in EU unemployoment last year

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / M. Aroni)

    Greece recorded the biggest unemployment increase in the European Union last year, with the unemployment rate rising from 14.1 pct in November 2010 to 19.9 pct in November 2011 (19.4 pct in October 2011), Eurostat announced on Thursday.

    The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report, said that unemployment among young people (aged less than 25 years) reached 48.1 pct, ranking Greece second in the EU following Spain (49 pct). Unemployment among women rose to 23.1 pct and among men to 17.6 pct in November.

    The unemployment rate in the Eurozone was 10.5 pct and in the EU 10 pct in November. In the EU-27, unemployment among young people was 22.3 pct, in women 10.1 pct and in men 9.9 pct. In the Eurozone, these rates were 21.5 pct, 10.8 pct and 10.3 pct, respectively.

    Austria (4.0 pct), Holand (5.0 pct) and Luxembourg (5.1 pct) recorded the lowest unemployment rates, while Spain (23.3 pct), Greece 19.9 pct), Portugal and Ireland (14.8 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates.

    [19] Greece cuts unemployment benefit by 22%

    The government on Thursday announced a 22-pct reduction in all benefits paid by the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED), including the unemployment benefit.

    The finance and labour ministers signed a joint ministerial decision cutting the benefits. Ministry sources told AMNA that the decision was necessary ahead of a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels, which will discuss ratification of a new bailout programme for Greece and a new lending agreement worth 130 billion euros.

    Under the ministerial decision, the primary unemployment benefit will total 359 euros per month. Cuts in other categories of social benefits will be examined in a meeting between the finance and Labor ministers with the troika in the next few days.

    [20] Greek PMI falls to record low in Feb.

    Greece's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to a new record low in February to 37.7 points the lowest figure ever recorded in May 1999 when figures began published. Buying activity fell at the faster rate ever recorded, while enterprises found more hurdles in accessing capital, job losses were significant and working hours continued falling.

    The factors behind this rapid worsening of operating conditions in February were cuts in production and new orders, the biggest recorded in the 13 years of the report. Sales goods fell both in domestic and external markets, new export orders fell for the sixth consecutive month and at the faster rate recorded since May 2010.

    Lower working hours cut production levels in February, while job losses were the highest recorded since March 2009. Finally, supply inventories fell significantly in February.

    The PMI index measures business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing sector while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.

    [21] Metro extension project to Piraeus pending

    The construction of a metro Line 3 extension, the "Haidari-Piraeus Section", will be launched shortly, according to a contract signed on Thursday between Attiko Metro S.A. and consortium of contractors.

    The 660-million-euro, 7.6 kilometers-long project, features six stations and will be ready in 2017. Line 3 will link the municipalities of Aghia Varvara, Korydallos and Nikea with Piraeus' Dimotiko Theatro station serving up to 132,000 commuters on a daily basis.

    Infrastructure Minister Makis Voridis underlined that efforts focus on the acceleration of major public works that will contribute decisively to the economic growth much needed by the country. He also announced that within the next 15 days a long-delayed agreement will be signed with German multinational Siemens -- a "veteran" of various previous major projects in Greece -- to undertake the installation of the signaling system in seven metro stations.

    [22] Bussiness Briefs

    -- Greece's central government cash balance showed a surplus of 865 million euro in January, compared with a surplus of 352 million euro in 2011, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.

    -- "Vodafone is not affected by the very difficult economic situation in Greece and will continue to invest in the country, supporting the economy and offering innovative products and services to subscribers to the benefit of customers, workers and its partners," Vittorio Colao, the chief executive of Vodafone group, said during a working visit to Athens on Thursdsay.

    -- Titan Group on Thursday reported an 89-pct decline in its net -after tax provisions and minorities- profits last year. Specifically, consolidated turnover totaled 1.091 billion euros, down 19 pct from 2010, while EBITDA fell by 23 pct to 243 million euros.

    [23] Stocks end moderately higher

    Stocks ended moderately higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, as a ISDA decision saying that there was no credit event in Greece, which will not trigger payment of so-called CDSs, encouraged sentiment in the market and reversed an early decline of prices.

    The composite index of the market rose 0.57 pct to end at 747.85 points, with turnover remaining a disappointing low 54.677 million euros.

    The Big Cap index rose 0.24 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 2.08 pct and the Small Cap index ended 2.02 pct higher. Personal Products (2.0 pct), Oil (1.96 pct) and Utilities (1.85 pct) were top gainers, while Financial Services (3.32 pct), Chemicals (2.09 pct) and Commerce (1.66 pct) suffered losses.

    Ellaktor (5.88 pct), Marfin Popular Bank (4.22 pct), National Bank (2.13 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (2.0 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains among blue chip stocks, while MIG (6.75 pct), Cyprus Bank (4.62 pct), Eurobank (2.91 pct) and Hellenic Postbank (2.62 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 92 to 55 with another 24 issues unchanged. Selonda (21.15 pct), Atti-kat (20 pct) and Altec (20 pct) were top gainers, while Sato (19.30 pct), Compucon (17.65 pct0 and Imperio (16.67 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +0.89%

    Commercial: -1.66%

    Construction: +1.67%

    Oil & Gas: +1.96%

    Personal & Household: +2.00%

    Raw Materials: +0.04%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.16%

    Technology: +0.02%

    Telecoms: -1.68%

    Banks: +0.08%

    Food & Beverages: +1.25%

    Health: -0.63%

    Utilities: +1.83%

    Chemicals: -2.09%

    Financial Services: -3.32%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.33

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.56

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.26

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.61

    National Bank of Greece: 2.40

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.00

    OPAP: 6.71

    OTE: 2.34

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.47

    Titan: 15.10

    [24] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was unchanged at 28.73 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 30.59 pct and the German Bund 1.86 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate was 1.59 pct, the six-month rate 1.26 pct, the three-month 0.96 pct and the one-month rate 0.54 pct.

    [25] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.64 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 16.329 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,250 contracts worth 9.519 million euros, with 25,733 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 42,962 contracts, worth 6.809 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (15,820), followed by Cyprus Bank (7,934), MIG (1,600), OTE (2,240), PPC (796), Piraeus Bank (3,759), National Bank (5,013), Marfin Popular Bank (2,843), Hellenic Postbank (1,151), GEK (372), Ellaktor (338), OPAP (330) and Mytilineos (196).

    [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.351

    Pound sterling 0.847

    Danish kroner 7.546

    Swedish kroner 8.945

    Japanese yen 109.57

    Swiss franc 1.223

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    General News

    [27] Hostage situation at Komotini factory; two women released

    A strong police force had surrounded the HELESI PLC garbage bin factory in Komotini's industrial zone on Thursday evening, where a 50-year-old gunman was still holding two men hostage. A coordinated police operation in the afternoon had successfully evacuated two women employees, who had hidden themselves in one of the factory store rooms.

    A public prosecutor had also arrived on the scene, as well as men from the Special Counter Terrorism Unit, alongside police negotiators trying to persuade the gunman to release the hostages and surrender.

    The hostage-taker, identified as a former employee of the company, had earlier shot and injured two people at the factory, who were admitted to Komotini's general hospital. According to the doctors in charge, their condition was not life-threatening. A third man was also taken to hospital with minor injuries and released after receiving first aid.

    The injured men were identified as a major shareholder of the company, who had been hit in the chest area, and a Bulgarian factory worker that was shot in the right thigh.

    According to information gathered by police, the gunman is a father of two that was fired from his job at the factory's distribution department eight months earlier. He turned up at factory premises with a shotgun at 1:15 p.m. on Thursday and started shooting indiscriminately, demanding his job back and claiming that the owner had repeatedly promised to hire him again.

    [28] Murder in cold blood in Athens

    Armed robbers killed in cold blood early Thursday a 54-year-old kiosk tenant in Peristeri, greater Athens. The victim, father of two children, was shot in the head as the robbers demanded that he give them the cash in the register. According to first estimations the victim reacted and the robbers shot him, took the cash and fled.

    The man, who had rented the kiosk together with his wife, usually worked the night shift.

    Police are investigating the case.

    [29] No damage in Santorini ecosystem detected from Sea Diamond wreckage

    The impact of the 'Sea Diamond' wreck on the marine ecosystem in Santorini is negligible, according to a report released by the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research on Thursday. The report was based on research conducted in 2012, in the fifth such annual report.

    This found that there were no problems caused by the leak of fuel from the sunken ship and that the quality of the sea water -- which is used by the desalination unit in Oia to produce drinking water -- is excellent, while marine life in the area was healthy and fish that were fished near the wreck were safe for consumption and their concentration in heavy metals was found to be comparable to that of fish from all over Greece.

    Further, the concentration of heavy metals in the sea was found also found to be the same as those traced in the open sea.

    It is also noted that the approximately 450 tons of fuel that leaked into the sea after the Sea Diamond sank was cleaned up by a private company, with the bill footed by the owner company at a cost of 6 million dollars, while a floating barrier that has been placed in the area of the wreck is monitored daily by a pollution-control vessel staffed by specialised personnel, again at the shipowning company's expense.

    The annual inspections and reports were assigned to the Centre by the former Merchant Marine Ministry via a Presidential Decree in November 2002, with the cost covered by the shipowning company.

    The cruise liner "Sea Diamond", owned by Louis Hellenic Cruises, sank on April 6, 2007, a day after ramming into a reef and developing a list while sailing half a nautical mile from the Aegean island of Santorini in the Cyclades, with 1,195 passengers and 391 crew on board, who were safely evacuated with the exception of a French man and his teenage daughter, who were reported missing and presumed dead.

    Experts later attributed the accident to a faulty map of the area by the hydrographic service that showed the reef to be located 57 meters from the coast and at a depth of 18-22 meters, whereas the reef in actuality was located 131 meters from the coast at a depth of just 5 meters, and the Sea Diamond's captain was subsequently acquitted of causing the accident.

    [30] Municipality sounds alarm over conditions around 2 Athens campuses

    The need for a permanent presence of special police units in certain areas of downtown Athens surrounding the Athens Law School and the University of Economics and Business (ASOEE) campuses, is underlined in a City of Athens document forwarded to Parliament on Thursday, stressing that the so-called "university asylum" is being abused.

    The document, forwarded to Parliament in response to a question addressed to the ministry of interior by New Democracy (ND) MP Olga Kefaloyanni, describes conditions of lawlessness in the specific region, citing attacks on municipal police officers on duty launched by groups of people who are not members of faculties or student bodies.

    "Organized groups of people who do not belong to the university community use violence to stop routine checks conducted by municipal police officers. They also provide protection to illegal immigrant street vendors who unlawfully take advantage of the university asylum," the document underlined. It is stressed that the region is infested with drug addicts who engage in criminal activities, such as, attacks on passersby and stickups.

    According to information included in the document, a total of 4,705 counterfeit brand name items were confiscated in just one day when police raided an illegal warehouse near the ASOEE building.

    In 2011, a total of 897,924 counterfeit brand name items were confiscated in Athens, 789,333 of which were seized in downtown areas.

    The specific areas have been plagued by the congregation of foreign nationals hawking fake desinger goods, drug users and loiterors.

    [31] Large quantity of mephedrone seized, three arrests

    Three young men were arrested in Thessaloniki on Thursday after a large quantity of the synthetic narcotic mephedrone, dubbed by users as the "poor man's cocaine", was found in their possession.

    According to a police announcement, Kilkis police, who had information on the activity of the young men, finally located them in Thessaloniki and initially found in their possession a total of 2.262 kilos of mephedrone, which has caused several deaths in Europe, as well as quantities of other so-called "new generation drug".

    Police said this was the largest quantity of mephedrone to be seized by authorities in northern Greece.

    Subsequent searches of the homes of the suspects, aged 23, 23 and 25, turned up 3.9 grams of ketamine, a quantity of LSD, 236 pills of an unknown substance, two plastic vials of an unknown liquid substance totaling 37.53 grams, two precision scales and 3,050 euros in cash presumed to come from drug sales, all of which were seized.

    Police believe the three suspects belong to a ring dealing in illegal stimulant substances.

    Mephedrone is a synthetic stimulant that comes in the form of tablets or powder, which users can swallow, snort or inject, producing similar effects to amphetamines and cocaine. Highly popular among clubbers, its combination with alcohol can be fatal.

    [32] One hundred and five migrants repatriated

    One hundred and five illegal migrants on Wednesday were sent back to their countries of origin within the repatriation operation against illegal migration.

    Specifically, one Chinese, one Moroccan, one Kazakh, one French, one Iraqi-Italian citizen, one Sudanese, twenty five Bangladeshis, forty nine Pakistanis and twenty five Afghanis left from Athens International Airport for the home countries.

    [33] Housekeeper and son rigged robbery of elderly woman

    A housekeeper and her son have been arrested for rigging a robbery against a 73-year-old woman in Thessaloniki, police said on Thursday.

    According to police a man wearing a full-face hood broke in the elderly woman's house and threatened the 48-year-old housekeeper and the elderly woman with a knife. Afterwards he took an envelope containing 6,000 euros from a bookcase.

    During interrogation the 24-year-old man admitted to being the housekeeper's son and said that they jointly staged the robbery.

    Both suspects were arrested and will be sent before a Thessaloniki prosecutor.

    [34] Court acquits six accused of disrupting Oct. 28 parade in Thessaloniki

    A Thessaloniki Misdemeanours' Court on Thursday acquitted all six defendants accused of disrupting the October 28 'OXI' day parade in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki and forcing President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias to depart before it took place.

    The six admitted to having protested against the government's economic policy during the parade, while four that were also supporters of the PAOK football club admitted to protesting at their team's demotion from the premier league. They all denied charges of having insulted the president, however, or of having prevented the passage of a group of officer cadets that attempted to parade.

    The court also ruled that the charges against a police officer for not making arrests during the incidents should be dropped because, given the large number of protestors at the parade, making arrests would have been practically impossible.

    Another 11 suspects stand accused of using illegal violence in relation to the same incidents, the majority of them trade unionists. The case against them was separated and is now being handled by a Misdemeanours court deputy prosecutor.

    All of the accused were identified by authorities using audiovisual material.

    [35] One million in counterfeit euro tracked down in ongoing operation in Samos port

    Port authorities on the island of Samos, in an ongoing operation launched on Thursday, have intercepted a batch of counterfeit bills with a total nominal value of nearly one million euro. The forged notes were predominately in denominations of 50, 100 and 500 euros.

    They were found in the luggage of a 26-year-old New Guinea national that disembarked from the ferry "Ierapetra", during random spot-checks by Samos coast guard officers. Only some of the notes, with a total face 'value' of 108,000 euro, were ready to go into circulation. The remainder of the notes - totalling roughly 890,000 euro - needed further processing in order to pass as genuine.

    The 26-year-old foreign national was a former resident on Samos, who had taken a house near the centre of the main town. Authorities have now brought a number of people in for questioning in connection with the case and are following up leads that might help them locate the workshop where the suspect and his accomplices printed the forged notes.

    The investigation is continuing in order to reveal other members of the counterfeiting ring and whether these are linked to other criminal activities.

    There have been several incidents involving counterfeit bills on Samos in the past but these have always in much smaller quantities.

    Weather forecast

    [36] Fair on Friday

    Fair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -10C and 16C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 15C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -1C to 13C.

    [37] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos' meeting with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso focusing on the efforts for liquidity as well as the plans for bank borrowers and the ratification of the Health Ministry's application law, mostly dominated the headlines in Athens' newspapers on Thursday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Labour contracts of indefinite duration to be abolished".

    AVGHI: "Skyscrapers on burned land!".

    AVRIANI: "The Russians are coming".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Two changes 'aspirins' for the borrowers".

    ESTIA: "Society reacts to streamlining".

    ETHNOS: "Movement for cheap food".

    IMERISSIA: "Russians' siege on banks and energy".

    KATHIMERINI: "Immediate inflow of EU funds for infrastructures and small and medium size enterprises".

    LOGOS: "EU presses for supervision, but...".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Impasse in revenues brings new burdens".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Fight back against the harsh measures in Health, Medicine, Social Welfare".

    TA NEA: "Money exists! 25 billion euros in the 'freezer'."

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