|Wednesday, 21 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-03-09
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 9 March 2012 Issue No: 4017
 Gov't, bank execs: PSI participation surpassing 75 pctOnly a few hours before a stated deadline (20.00 GMT), participation of private creditors in the closely watched PSI process appears to cover more than 75 pct, confirming the scenario of a successful bond swap programme.
Greek finance ministry officials and bank executives predicted a positive outcome in the programme and stressed that participation of private investors in a voluntary bond swap process -- for bonds under the Greek law -- was expected to surpass 80 pct. Ministry and banking sources forecast that total participation in the PSI programe - for bonds under the Greek law - would reach 90 pct, while for the total of bonds eligible for "haircut" would reach 80 pct.
Such a development will cut the country's debt by 107 billion euros, paving the way for a new lending agreement totaling 130 billion euros to Greece.
The deadline ends at 22.00 local time. The roughly "107-billion-euro" that remained unanswered at press time was whether the Greek government will enact Collective Action Clauses (CACs). If the acceptance rate surpasses 88.5 pct, it is possible that the government will not have to enact CACs and avoid a credit event.
The results of the exchange are expected to be announced by the finance ministry in Athens at 08.00 local time (06.00 GMT) on Friday, followed by a Eurogroup teleconference to decide on the CACs issue.
The bond swap - for bonds under the Greek law - transaction will be made in March 12, while on March 14 a Euroworking group meeting is expected to approve a new lending programme for Greece and finalize the timetable of disbursement of the loan.
The first tranche is scheduled for March 20 in time to cover the maturity of a Greek bond, worth 14.5 billion euros. Bond swap transactions - for bonds under foreign law - will be made in early April.
 PM Papademos says successful completion of PSI considerable element of new economic programmePrime Minister Lucas Papadermos termed Thursday a very important day in his opening address at the cabinet meeting on Thursday, providing a briefing on the progress of procedures for the PSI (bonds swap) which, as he said, will be concluded at midnight.
Papademos stressed that the successful completion of the bonds swap constitutes a considerable element of the country's new economic programme, as well as of the second financial support package.
He also said that the greatest participation of the private sector is necessary for the targets of the new programme and of the second financial support package to be achieved. He added that a relatively limited participation percentage by private individuals will have repercussions on the implementation of Greece's economic programme and, in parallel, entails dangers for the private creditors and, in general, for the eurozone's fiscal stability.
The prime minister also stressed that Greece, with the support of its European partners, has shaped a suitable framework with considerable incentives for the bonds swap. "For this reason I look forward to the greatest participation of the private sector that will contribute decisively to the effort for the adjustment and recovery of our economy," the premier added.
He termed the PSI as being the third big step for the ratification and signing of the new loan contract.
 Cabinet meeting ends, but will decide on PSI on FridayA cabinet meeting ended on Thursday evening, during which Government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos made an initial briefing on the course of the PSI's implementation without going into details, however, since the relevant procedure is still open.
According to reports, Venizelos made a briefing during the discussion on the social security funds that did not accept to join the PSI. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos requested further clarifications and Labour Minister George Koutroumanis said that the social security funds were financed with a total of 154 billion euros by the state from 2008 to date.
The cabinet Council is expected to convene again on Friday to take final decisions on the PSI.
According to the same reports, Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Minister Makis Voridis raised the issue of the cases of abuse and the prime minister committed himself that a special government meeting will be taking place in the coming days in light of the March 25 National Day celebration.
 Cabinet meeting examines Siemens issueA cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Thursday afternoon discussed the issue of compensation by the Siemens company that will be brought to Parliament as a contract for ratification.
According to government sources, Siemens is requesting an "apology" officially for the behaviour of some of its officials in the past and commits itself to providing every assistance to the penal procedure, while accepting the appointment of a Commissioner on behalf of Greece.
The amount of compensation that the company will pay, according to a briefing provided by Government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos at the cabinet meeting, will amount to 170 million euros, 80 of which concern an offsetting of debts, while the remaining 90 will be provided to support programmes for the combatting of corruption, education and training, providing medical equipment at hospitals and for granting 100 scholarships through the State Scholarships Foundation.
The company also intends to proceed with an investment amounting to 100 million euros and the creation of 800 jobs and possibly with a second investment amounting to 60 million euros with the creation of 700 jobs since, as it mentioned, this move expresses Siemens's confidence in Greece.
Minister Kapsis and ND spokesman Mihelakis agree on elections after completion of Papademos government's mission
Minister of State and government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis and New Democracy party spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis, speaking at an event of the ND-affiliated youth group ONNED on the theme "Is there independence of the Press vis-a-vis the governments of Greece?", agreed to the position that "the (Lucas) Papademos government based itself on the agreement of the party leaders under the President of the Republic to fulfill a specific mission and the country will be led to elections after its completion."
Kapsis pointed out that "the media cannot prolong the life of the government since there is a specific agreement," while Mihelakis said "the Papademos government has resulted from an agreement of the party leaders, it has a specifc mission to carry out, that is the PSI and the loan agreement and in this sense it also has a specifc horizon. When it completes its mission the country will be led to elections."
 ND leader reiterates need for developmentNew Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras received on Thursday the heads of the country's professional Chambers.
During the meeting Samaras reiterated the need for development of the Greek economy. "We give priority to development. We said it from the beginning and they were mocking us, now everyone promotes it, meanwhile the climate even in Europe is changing," he said, according to sources.
Referring to the Chambers' presidents he told them that he wants them beside him to act as consultants.
According to sources, ND will support current president of Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) Constantinos Mihalos in the elections for the central union of Chambers
 PASOK press spokesman resignsPASOK party spokesman Panos Beglitis on Thursday announced his resignation from the post, speaking on a radio station.
Beglitis also said that he will support Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos' candidacy for the PASOK leadership.
Beglitis, speaking on a radio station, asked PASOK president George Papandreou to release him from his duties (as party spokesman), adding that although he deeply respects Christos Papoutsis, the other candidate for the PASOK presidency, he believes that Venizelos is the only solution for the helm of PASOK.
 Karatzaferis holds talks with SAE secretaryPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis met on Thursday with World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) secretary Dr. Olga Sarantopoulou to discuss matters pertaining to Greeks abroad.
During the talks, which were also attended by LAOS director of overseas Greeks affairs Evangelia Deska, the two sides discussed ways to activate the Greeks abroad in general, and particularly in the present crisis, upgrading the SAE's role in view of the upcoming amendment of Law 3480.2006 on the operation of the organisation, absentee voting, and taxation issues regarding the overseas Greece, on which Sarantopoulou had sent a letter to the Greek finance minister last October.
They further discussed the planned reorganisation of SAE, opportunities for the organisation's self-financing, and the operation of the SAE headquarters in Thessaloniki.
Karatzaferis said afterwards that immediate utilisation of the forces of the overseas Greeks is a national priority and duty of all the political forces of Greece.
Dr. Sarantopoulou will be holding similar meetings with the leaders of the other political parties.
 LA.O.S president announces 'social grocery' actionPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) President George Karatzaferis on Thursday announced that a "social grocery" will start operating soon next to the party's central offices in downtown Athens.
Karatzaferis stressed that the action will be inaugurated with the distribution of 200 tin cans of olive oil to people in need.
He also called on olive oil producers across the country to distribute their products for free to people without means.
 PSI will lead pension funds to collapse, SYRIZA leader saysCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday expressed reservations about whether the PSI debt haircut would succeed and also stressed that, even if it were successful, the result would be devastating for Greek pension funds.
"The main issue is that, even if this process is 100 percent successful, it will lead social insurance funds - in other words, the reserves of employees from the work of an entire lifetime - to collapse and at the same time give banks the option to recapitalise, in other words continue to receive social resources that they will never give to the real economy," he said.
Tsipras also warned people that more harsh austerity measures would be passed in June, with futher deep cuts to wages and pensions, because whatever money was available had gone to bankers to cover their own losses and that with the blessings of the Papademos government.
 Leftist party head files lawsuit against German tabloidRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday filed a lawsuit in a local court against the German tabloid "Bild", accusing it of a engaging in "targeted attack".
Tsipras' lawsuit underlined that the controversial press report, signed by Paul Ronzheimer, is aimed at penalising and demonising the left in Greece and SYRIZA, in particular, presenting its president as an "extremist" of "controversial reputation" and a "semi-criminal" who "openly supports violent anarchists" and is accused of being "one of them funding their groups that burned down 40 buildings in Athens".
 Italian parliament delegation in Athens in gesture of supportA three-member delegation of the bicameral Italian parliament was in Athens on Thursday in a gesture of support for Greece.
Italian Chamber of Deputies (lower House of the Italian parliament) president Gianfranco Fini took the initiative to send an official delegation to Greece to convey to the Hellenic Parliament and the Greek people the support and encouragement of the Italian parliament and people in this difficult moment for Greece.
The delegation, headed by parliament vice president Rocco Buttiglione, also includes chairperson of the parliamentary committee on the Implementation of the Schengen Agreement, Europol and Immigration Affairs Margherita Boniver, and parliamentary committee for European Union policies and the Schengen committee member Sandro Gozi.
The three Italian deputies were to have separate meetings on Thursday with Greek parliament president Filippos Petsalnikos, government vice president and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, chairperson of parliament's Standing Committee on Economic Affairs Vasso Papandreou, vice chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence Eftichis Damianakis, and New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras.
 FM receives Italian parliament delegationA three-member delegation of the bicameral Italian parliament that is visiting Greece on Thursday expressed the Italian people's solidarity during a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas.
Italian parliament vice president Rocco Buttiglione, chairperson of the parliamentary committee on the Implementation of the Schengen Agreement, Europol and Immigration Affairs Margherita Boniver, and parliamentary committee for European Union policies and the Schengen committee member Sandro Gozi expressed Italy's solidarity to Greece's efforts and in parallel underlined that Italy is Greece's friend on which it can depend on, said Foreign Ministry's spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras.
In this framework the Italian officials noted that "they will stand by us because the Europeans united must give an answer to the crisis".
Bilateral and international issues were also discussed in the meeting.
 FM meets with Syrian National Coordination Commitee delegationGreek foreign minister Stavros Dimas met with a visiting three-member delegation of the Syrian National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change (NCC), headed by its spokesperson abroad Dr. Haitham Manna, a Paris-based author and human rights activist.
The meeting was held in the context of the international efforts for finding a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria, in which Greece is actively involved.
Dimas stressed during the meeting the need for an immediate ceasefire, protection of the unarmed citizens and the provision of humanitarian aid, and asked to be briefed on the efforts for understanding among the components of the Syrian opposition, and on the latest developments.
The Syrian opposition representatives expressed appreciation for Greece's stance, noting the long-standing bonds of friendship and mutual respect between the two peoples.
They also said that Greece has a strong presence in the region of the Middle East, and this was why the Greek stance is very important in the context of the efforts for a peaceful solution to the crisis.
 Foreign ministry deplores FYROM attacks on GreeceForeign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Thursday reiterated the Greek side's firm political will for a resolution of the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), while stressed that Skopje's attacks on Greece were continuing in spite of Greece's efforts.
He said that Athens attached great importance to stopping the negative propaganda against Greece in FYROM, which negatively influenced public opinion in the neighbouring country, proving that Skopje had no real will to find a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue.
"Both countries will benefit from such a solution," Delavekouras underlined, noting that both countries could then move toward the European Union with Greece as FYROM's partner, ally and friend.
"This is our common future and those now making negative statements in FYROM must come to realise this at some point," he added.
 FM spokesman on Greek-Albanian relations"We are closely following domestic developments in Albania and we are fully aware of the emerging political balance of power," foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras merely noted on Thursday, when asked to comment on the participation of two members of a political party representing the so-called Cham community in the Albanian government.
Speaking to reporters during a regular press briefing, Delavekouras stated that the composition of the Albanian government is a domestic issue, while adding that Athens expects from Tirana a confirmation, in a tangible way, of its dedication to the improvement of the Greek-Albanian relations.
"We wish to have good relations with Albania, however, mutual willingness and the tangible implementation of actions that will prove the presence of mutual respect between the two countries and boost bilateral cooperation, is a necessary precondition," the foreign ministry spokesman said. He added that "it is known that the PDIU party has expressed positions that undermine future prospects for stronger and more improved bilateral relations."
Delavekouras underlined that the protection of the rights of the ethnic Greek minority in the neighbouring country, included in obligations undertaken by Albania within the framework its EU accession course, and the settlement of pending issues in bilateral relations, are a top priority for Athens.
He also reminded that the Albanian government, through its prime minister, the foreign minister and other officials, has proclaimed that it wishes the further improvement of relations with Greece and the progress of its European course.
Finally, he said this position is mutual, and for years Greece has proven its support to Albania.
 Georganta testifies in Parliament probe of alleged 'inflated' deficitThe Parliamentary Committee investigating allegations that ELSTAT artificially inflated the public deficit for 2009 on Thursday heard testimony from the woman behind the allegations, former ELSTAT board member and econometrics professor Zoi Georganta.
In her testimony before the committee, Georganta insisted that the 2009 deficit had been deliberately inflated as much as possible, by the use of questionable methods, due to the intervention of ELSTAT board chairman Andreas Georgiou.
She asserted that the true size of the 2009 deficit was closer to 12.5 percent and could have been kept below 10 percent if appropriate measures had been taken promptly. Even with a deficit figure of 13.6 percent - the figure published by ELSTAT before Georgiou was placed in charge and before the spending of public utilities was included in general government spending - Georganta noted that the 5 percent reduction of the deficit in 2010 would have lowered the deficit to a single-digit figure - something that would have had a very positive impact on the market.
She accused Georgiou of adopting the strictest-possible methodology for recording the deficit out of the alternatives available, considering this obligatory, so that the deficit continued to fluctuate above the psychological barrier of 10 percent in 2010.
Asked whether she believed there was a "plan to inflate the deficit", Georganta said this was a possibility that needed to be explored and, according to sources, claimed that the politicians that had handled the affair were "either inexperienced, or incompetent, or perhaps some of them stood to gain".
The Parliamentary investigation was launched following allegations made to the press by Georganta in September 2011, who said that the country's public deficit for 2009 had been deliberately and artificially inflated in an attempt to pave the way for harsh austerity measures.
Greece's 2009 deficit was revised upward in November 2010, from 13.6 percent of GDP to 15.4 percent of GDP, making it the worst fiscal deficit in Europe. Georganta told Greek media that this was achieved by including the spending of several utilities under general government data, under German pressure.
Georganta went public with her allegations after ELSTAT's entire board, with the exception of Georgiou, were summarily dismissed by Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
 Main parties table joint amendment on settling party debts to banksThe two largest parties in Parliament, coalition partners PASOK and New Democracy, on Thursday jointly tabled an amendment that stipulates how political parties will pay off outstanding loans taken out against their future state funding. The amendment was attached as a rider to a draft bill regulating livestock breeding.
It provides that loans taken out by the end of 2011 will be paid off in fixed annual installments at an interest rate of four percent. The size of the installment is set at 20 percent of a party's annual regular state funding for debts less than 20 million euro and at 50 percent of their annual state funding for debts above this amount.
Under the amendment, the Greek state is required to pay each of the debt-holders the proportion of the "agreed interest-bearing installment" that is due to them, while the rest will go to the political parties involved.
It also stipulates that parties will not be able to hand over more than 50 percent of their regular annual funding in order to take out loans after January 1, 2012. A reference in the amendment to "writing off unpaid interest" was removed by the two parties later on Thursday.
The amendment was strongly criticised by Democratic Alliance leader Dora Bakoyannis, who noted that it was a "scandal" at a time when Greece was waiting anxiously to see whether the PSI debt haircut would work.
She noted that the amendment was essentially writing off the greater part of the debts owed by political parties to the banks, essentially shunting the burden onto tax-payers that would then have to foot the bill for the banks' recapitalisation.
"It is shameful and a direct attempt at a technically legal looting of public money. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has an obligation to react and clear up the issue with [ND leader Antonis Samaras, PASOK leader George Papandreou and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos], ruling out the prospect that his government will accept this scandalous measure," she said.
 Democratic Left party delegation discusses Palestinian issue with Palestinian Authority representativeA delegation of the Democratic Left party on Thursday discussed the latest developments on the Palestinian issue and the overall situation in the Arab world with Moustafa Azuz, on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
An announcement by the Democratic Left stressed that it expressed to Azuz its steadfast adherrence to the creation of an independent Palestinian state, its solidarity for the efforts of President Mahmud Abbas for the promotion of a solution to the Palestinian issue and the need for the Israeli settlements and hostilities of all kinds to freeze so that, in a status of peace, the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue can be resumed.
 Private teachers union demands Babiniotis resign from school owners' associationThe Federation of Private School Teachers (OIELE) on Thursday congratulated Prof. George Babiniotis on his appointment as the new minister for education. At the same time, it noted the conflict of interest between his new position and his role as board chairman of the Philekpaideftiki Society of the private Arsakio schools, as well as his involvement in the private school founders association SIEIE.
In consequence, it demanded that Babiniotis resign immediately from the SIEIE, especially, which had in recent months also threatened to take legal action against the leadership of the education ministry.
 Governor of E. Macedonia-Thrace region receives visiting Turkish envoyEastern Macedonia-Thrace Regional Governor Aris Yiannakidis on Thursday received Turkish ambassador to Athens Kerim Uras, who is currently on a courtesy visit to the northeastern city of Komotini.
They discussed issues concerning the region's development profile and the initiatives undertaken in the sector of economic cooperation and tourism.
Yiannakidis underlined that the Turkish ambassador can contribute to efforts for a joint and permanent solution to the Evros River flood problem via the inter-state level.
 Unemployment shoots to 21pct in Dec. 2011, unemployed exceed one millionUnemployment in Greece shot to 21.0 percent in December 2011, up sharply from 14.8 percent in the same month in 2010 and up marginally from 20.9 percent in the preceding month of November, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday.
ELSTAT, in a report, said that the unemployment rate in December 2011 was 21.0% compared to 14.8% in December 2010 and 20.9% in November 2011. The number of employed amounted to 3,899,319 persons. The number of unemployed amounted to 1,033,507 while the number of inactive to 4,424,562.
The number of employed decreased by 334,445 persons compared with December 2010 (a 7.9% rate of decrease) and by 1,950 persons compared with November 2011 (a 0.05% rate of decrease).
The number of unemployed increased by 299,862 persons (a 40.9% rate of increase) compared with December 2010 and by 3,920 persons compared with November 2011 (a 0.38% rate of increase).
Inactive persons -that is, persons that neither worked neither looked for a job- increased by 71,414 persons (a 1.6% rate of increase) compared with December 2010 and by 905 persons compared with November 2011 (a 0.02% rate of increase).
 GSEE warns that rising joblessness, lower benefits an 'explosive mixture'An increase in unemployment coupled with lower unemployment benefits were an "especially explosive mixture with unforeseeable social repercussions," the General Confe-deration of Employees of Greece (GSEE) said in an announcement on Thursday.
Commenting on unemployment figures released by ELSTAT, the trade union confederation predicted that joblessness would approach 25 percent within 2012 and stressed that the sacrifices being demanded of the Greek people in order to end the crisis were not working.
It repeated the need for immediate and effective developmental measures to boost employment and reduce joblessness, as well as generous measures to support the unemployed.
 Labour minister on measures to curb fraudulent pensionsThe Social Security Foundation's (IKA-ETAM) management has taken all legal measures to ensure that fraudulent pensions will be reclaimed and that similar welfare fraud will be prevented in the future, according to a document signed by Labour Minister George Koutroumanis forwarded to Parliament on Thursday, in response to a relevant question by a PASOK MP.
Koutroumanis stated that IKA-ETAM implements the measure of pensioner census on an annual basis in combination with crosschecking of death certificate information.
He also said that as of Nov. 1, 2011, pension money bank accounts that belonged to pension recipients who remained unaccounted for after a relevant deadline expired have been cancelled.
According to figures included in the labour ministry document, a total of 7,100 main pension and 2,249 supplementary pension recipients are still unaccounted for; 2,400 cases concern individuals that received both main and supplementary pensions.
 ECB again accepts Greek bonds as collateralThe European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday announced that it would start accepting again as collateral bonds issued or guaranteed by the Greek state, after it was informed over the activation of a plan to guarantee Greek bonds by the EFSF.
In an announcement, the ECB said these bonds would become acceptable for credit transactions in the Eurosystem until further notice.
The European Central Bank had announced two weeks ago, when Greece invited private creditors to accept a haircut on their bond holdings, it was temporarily suspending acceptance of Greek state bonds as collateral. EFSF's nominal value of guarantees on Greek bonds totals 35 billion euros.
 Greece still getting oil supplies from Iran, foreign ministry saysIran is continuing to supply Greece with oil as normal, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras told reporters on Thursday during the regular press briefing.
"If there is any change, this will be due to a unilateral decision by Iran, something that has not happened yet," he added.
He said that existing contracts will continue to be carried out until July 1 and that this would give sufficient time for Greece to seek alternative sources of oil.
"Greece is interested in having a secure supply, in other words to find alternative sources of supply and have the equivalent favourable financial terms in order for these procurements to take place. My understanding is that there is no issue concerning the secure supply of oil to the Greek market," he added.
Concerning the sanctions against Iran, Delavekouras said that these were not "an end in themselves but a tool that seeks to promote progress in the negotiations concerning Iran's nuclear programme, so as to restore the faith of the international community in Tehran".
 Finance ministry staff healthcare fund refuses to take part in PSIThe finance ministry staff insurance fund TEA-YPOIK on Thursday announced its decision to not participate in PSI, claiming that it was financially unable. The fund owns Greek state bonds with a nominal value of 2.7 million euro.
It operates as a private-sector legal entity and provides additional healthcare coverage to its members, topping up benefits provided by their main social insurance fund.
All the benefits paid out by the TEA-YPOIK have been suspended since the start of this year by order of its board.
 Prospect of Church of Greece investment in photovoltaics discussedThe Church of Greece will receive the 'green light' for the installation of a photovoltaic park on Mt. Penteli, overlooking the greater Athens from the north, only after presenting a positive environmental footprint, Environment, & Energy Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Thursday.
Papaconstantinou addressed a parliamentary committee that studies the draft law on the development of the site of the former airport at the Helliniko site in southern coastal Athens and the Helios photovoltaic project for the production and export of electricity.
He clarified that important issues, concerning real estate property ownership in Penteli, will have to be resolved, adding that he is not negative to the prospect of a Church of Greece investment in electricity production via photovoltaic systems.
Papaconstantinou stressed that the Church has not presented an official proposal yet, clarifying that there is only a suggestion for an investment concerning the installation of photovoltaics in an area surrounding the Monastery of Penteli coupled by a reforestation proposal.
 Attica Ventures completes four new investment projectsAttica Ventures completed four new investment projects, budgeted at 55 million euros, of which three are the building and operation of renewable energy sources, with a power capacity of 22 MW (14 MW windpower and 7 MW photovoltaic) in Arcadia and Ilia prefectures.
The company said the two photovoltaic projects, developed in cooperation with Solar Cells Hellas, have already connected with the electricity grid.
Attica Ventures is currently financing Antcor, a telecom network software producer, and has successfully participated in a series of exhibitions in Silicon Valley and in Europe.
 ETUC expresses concern over situation in GreeceBRUSSELS (AMNA/V. Demiris)
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) expresses its grave concern over the development of the situation in Greece and stresses that "the austerity programme is leading to a levelling that no people can accept."
In a relevant announcement, the Confederation expresses its full solidarity with working people in Greece "who have been dealt a blow in an irreparable way, with job losses and decreases in their incomes" and denounces the policies that the EC/ECB/IMF troika is imposing.
According to ETUC, Greece "is being led to the deepest recession that in general can be compared with the recession observed in the period of the war in the region of 25-30 percent."
 PPC unpaid bills at 819 mln eurosPublic Power Corporation unpaid bills were 819 million euros on December 31, 2011, said a PPC announcement on Thursday.
 Bussiness Briefs-- A total of 2,374 businesses have terminated their operation, out of a total of 9,274 enterprises operating in the Attica region, a report by the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) stated on Thursday.
-- Greece's state budget cash deficit totaled 24.9 billion euros in 2011, while the budget presented a primary deficit of 7.736 billion euros over the same period, the fiscal policy general secretariat said on Thursday.
-- Wind Hellas on Thursday said its EBITDA totaled 152 million euros in 2011 as the mobile telephony operator reported a significant recovery in the second half of the year after suffering negative rates in the first six months of 2011.
-- Forthnet Group on Thursday said its 2011 revenues rose 1.4 pct to 415.584 million euros, while its EBITDA jumped 23.5 pct to 80.3 million euros, compared with the previous year.
 Stocks end sharply higher, fuelled by PSI expectationsIncreasing expectations over a successful outcome in a Greek bond swap programme fuelled buying interest for Greek stocks in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing share prices sharply higher. The composite index of the market jumped 3.18 pct to end at 768.90 points, with turnover remaining a disappointing low 63.502 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 2.78 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.64 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 2.24 pct. The Construction index was the only one to end lower, while Media (7.84 pct), Food (7.49 pct), Travel (3.51 pct) and Banks (2.37 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.
Coca Cola 3E (7.64 pct), Alpha Bank (5.16 pct), Viohalco (4.26 pct) and Motor Oil (4.08 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Titan (1.93 pct), Cyprus Bank (0.75 pct) and Marfin Popular Bank (0.66 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 98 to 54 with another 26 issues unchanged. Hatzioannou (21.15 pct), Neorio (20 pct) and HOL (19.80 pct) were top gainers, while Ilyda (21.88 pct), Boutaris (20 pct) and Perseus (19.92 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.22%
Personal & Household: +1.56%
Raw Materials: +3.20%
Travel & Leisure: +3.51%
Food & Beverages: +7.49%
Financial Services: +1.59%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Alpha Bank, National Bank, Eurobank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.63
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.33
HBC Coca Cola: 14.65
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.50
National Bank of Greece: 2.59
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.20
Bank of Piraeus: 0.48
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, in the last day before the Greek bond's withdrawal from the market (as a result of a PSI bond swap programme), with the Greek bond yielding 29.47 pct and the German Bund 1.78 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed to lower. The 12-month rate was 1.54 pct, the six-month rate 1.21 pct, the three-month rate 0.90 pct and the one-month rate 0.49 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 1.07 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising slightly to 37.837 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 14,518 contracts worth 22.662 million euros, with 26,973 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 91,249 contracts worth 14.174 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Cyprus Bank's contracts (23,203), followed by National Bank (23,153), MIG (7,058), OTE (1,373), PPC (1,345), Piraeus Bank (3,068), Alpha Bank (23,846), Mytilineos (978), OPAP (734), Marfin Popular Bank (3,235), GEK (991), Motor Oil (388) and Hellenic Exchanges (141).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.344
Pound sterling 0.851
Danish kroner 7.545
Swedish kroner 9.022
Japanese yen 109.8
Swiss franc 1.223
Norwegian kroner 7.532
Canadian dollar 1.337
Australian dollar 1.262
 'Antikythera Wreck' exhibition to open at Athens Archaeological MuseumAn exhibition entitled "The wreck of Antikythera - The ship, the treasures, the Mechanism", will open at the Archaeological Museum in Athens on April 5 and will run for a year
This is the first time that all the findings from the Antikythera wreck, dated between 60-50 BC, will be displayed together, while some of the items have never been displayed before.
Sometime before Easter 1900, Elias Stadiatis, a Greek sponge diver, discovered the wreck of an ancient cargo ship off Antikythera Island at a depth of 42 m (138 ft). Sponge divers retrieved several statues and other artifacts from the site. The Mechanism itself was discovered on May 17, 1901, when archaeologist Valerios Stais noticed that a piece of rock recovered from the site had a gear wheel embedded in it. Examination revealed that the "rock" was in fact a heavily encrusted and corroded mechanism that had survived the shipwreck in three main parts and dozens of smaller fragments. The device itself was surprisingly thin, about 33 cm (13 in) high, 17 cm (6.7 in) wide, and 9 cm (3.5 in) thick, made of bronze and originally mounted in a wooden frame. It was inscribed with a text of over 2,000 characters, many of which have only just recently been deciphered.
The Antikythera Mechanism is believed to be an ancient mechanical calculator (also described as a "mechanical computer") designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was discovered in the Antikythera wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete, and has been dated to about 150-100 BC. Technological artifacts of similar complexity appeared a thousand years later.
 Visitors in museums up, revenues down in Nov. 2011The number of visitors to museums throughout Greece rose by 3.4 percent in November 2011, however revenues fell by 6.4 percent, compared with the same month in 2010, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday.
A similar picture appears in the archaeological sites around the country in November 2011, with an 26.8 percent rise in visitors and 6.9 percent decline in revenues during the same period.
ELSTAT also said that in the first eleven months of 2011, the number of visitors to museums fell 1.9 percent and revenues were down 5.2 percent against the same period in 2010, while visitors to archaeological sites rose by 17.6 percent and revenues were up by 7.4 percent.
 Baby boy born in helicopter, on way to hospitalA 33-year-old woman from the island of Sifnos on Thursday became the lucky mother of a newborn boy that was delivered on board a Super Puma Greek Air Force helicopter taking her to Athens to give birth in hospital. Both mother and son were reported to be in excellent health after their ordeal.
The helicopter had been ordered to take off from the 112 Battle Wing at Elefsina at dawn on Thursday, following a request made by the EKAB ambulance service, in order to emergency air-lift the pregnant woman from Sifnos to an Athens hospital.
At 7:18 a.m. the helicopter had taken off from Sifnos for Elefsina with the pregnant woman, a doctor and a midwife on board. During the flight, however, it changed course and headed for the nearest hospital on the island of Syros because the newborn was delivered while the helicopter was still in the air, flying eight nautical miles south of Syros at a height of 2,000 feet.
The helicopter landed on the island and the mother and baby were rushed to the local hospital.
The Air Force's 384 Search and Rescue Squadron on Thursday said it had 'adopted' the newborn as an honorary member, while the helicopter pilot is to be its godfather.
 Australian Embassy event for Women's DayOn the occasion of International Women's Day, the Australian Ambassador to Greece Jenny Bloomfield hosted a lunch for women leaders from politics, business, media, health, education, the arts, design, shipping, banking, communications and social work, to celebrate the achievements of women and girls.
The Australian Embassy in Athens will also support the girls' refuge centre 'Melissa', located in Thessaloniki, by equipping the centre with a computer lab, providing IT, education and development opportunities to vulnerable girls.
"International Women's Day is an occasion to celebrate the remarkable advances women have made towards equality, but also to contemplate what remains to be done", said Bloomfield.
"Investing in women and girls is an investment in each one of us, our families, our communities, and our economies. This is why in Australia the International Women's Day focus is Supporting Economic Empowerment for Women. It is also why the Australian Government has appointed Australia's first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, to focus on the particular rights and needs of women and girls."
"The role of women is even more critical during difficult economic times. On this International Women's Day, we would like to acknowledge the important work of all women within our communities - in politics, in business, in social work, in culture and the arts, in sports, and of course in our families. In every facet of society, women are making a difference and continuing the vital work that lies ahead."
 Two women taken hostage in hold-up; robbers escapeFour armed robbers that held up a post office branch in Agious Theodorous in Corinth managed to get away on Thursday afternoon after taking two women hostage.
The robbers arrived at the post office branch in two cars, leaving a driver in each car, while two armed men wearing hoods entered the post office, held up staff and customers and stole 2,000 euro.
Before they could get away, however, an employee managed to sound an alarm and a police patrol car arrived on the scene within minutes. Seeing the police outside, the two robbers took the branch supervisor and a cleaning lady hostage at gunpoint, boarding one of the waiting cars and driving off.
The police pursued at a safe distance but at some point lost sight of the robbers.
Some minutes later, they found the two women waiting at the side of the road where the robbers had left them, both unharmed. The stolen car used in the robbery was also found a short while later, abandoned near a Proastiako railway station and torched in order to destroy any forensic evidence.
All four robbers managed to get away in the second car, which had been following behind.
The police have now launched a manhunt to locate and arrest them.
 Alleged leader of gang of robbers charged with homicideA 31-year-old Albanian man was led before a Halkida examining magistrate on Thursday on charges of homicide and of leading a ruthless gang of robbers targeting elderly people. The suspect is accused of killing a 68-year-old man.
The gang was notable for using extraordinary violence and had terrorised old people in Attica, Evia, Viotia, Corfu and possibly other areas of Greece.
A Halkida public prosecutor had earlier charged the 31-year-old had with forming a criminal organisation, murder, robbery, grand theft, drug dealing and weapons violations.
The suspect was arrested on Tuesday afternoon during a police raid conducted by Halkida security police and the counter-terrorism squad at his residence in the suburb of Penteli. An investigation showed that he had shot and killed a 68-year-old robbery victim on January 22, on the Avlida coast.
The victim was staying at a friend's holiday home with his wife when he heard a noise and went to investigate. He saw three thieves and shot in the air with a hunting shotgun to frighten them but the 31-year-old returned fire with a Kalashnikov, killing him without hesitation.
An inquiry by the Halkida police showed that the gang had committed 22 armed robberies targeting homes in the last four months, as well as four grand thefts.
The suspect was living in the house in Penteli with a 60-year-old Greek man who is now being sought by police after they found 71 kilos of cannabis, divided up into smaller bags, during their raid on the property.
The police investigation also revealed that the criminal gang led by the 31-year-old had a hierarchical structure and organisation, with an unknown number of members that worked together in varying combinations and with fixed roles each time.
Their favoured method was to pick houses in remote and isolated areas, where there were few pedestrians and cars passing by, and whose occupants were either elderly or middle aged and therefore less likely to put up any resistance. They were noted for particular brutality in their attacks, which involved the use of knives, carpentry tools and other sharp objects in addition to fire arms. In several instances they are suspected of deliberately making their presence known on a property, so that the occupants would come out and investigate and they could immobilise and rob them.
They are believed to have stolen about 25,000 euro in cash during these robberies, in addition to cell phones, three hunting shotguns, jewellery, electronic devices and electrical appliances, watches, clothing and other items. In at least four cases, they also stole the victim's car in order to facilitate their escape.
During the raid on the suspect's house in Penteli, in addition to the drugs, police also found a hand-gun with a clip and eight bullets, 3,150 euro, an air-gun, brass knuckles, a large number of electronic and eletrical devices, several full-face masks, gloves and two cars owned by the suspect.
Due to the large quantity of drugs found, police are also examining the possibility that the gang may have been involved in drug dealing.
 Three foreign nationals arrested, one wanted, in IKA 'tax rebate' scamThree Romanian nationals were arrested and a fourth was wanted for computer fraud involving bogus e-mails sent to state Social Security Foundation (IKA) insured individuals that they were entitled to tax rebates, in order to gain access to their bank, credit card and other personal data, the Greek police announced on Thursday.
Police electronic crimes division officers said that they traced the bogus e-mails, which appeared to have been sent by IKA, to four Romanian nationals, three of whom -- two men aged 26 and 25 and a 21-year-old woman -- were arrested, while a fourth accomplice, a male, was wanted.
The announcement came just three days after the scam e-mails appeared.
According to police, the suspects had sent thousands of such e-mails to internet users, using the bogus sender address "firstname.lastname@example.org", in an effort to phish their personal data, including bank account numbers and credit card details.
Although police had issued a warning to the public on the scam, the suspects managed to phish the credit card details of three individuals and used them to make on-line purchases.
Police set up a surveillance on Tuesday at an e-shop outlet in Athens where an order was made with the credit card of one of the phished accounts, where they arrested the 26-year-old man. The second man and the women were located and arrested afterwards, while the fourth accomplice was still at large.
A search of the 26-year-old's house turned up two laptops, five hard disc drives and notebooks with handwritten notes, all of which were confiscated. The laptops and hard discs have been sent to the police crime lab for examination.
The detainees, who face charges of multiple counts of computer fraud and setting up and participation in a criminal organisation, will be taken before a public prosecutor later on Thursday.
Police also said that the 26-year-old has been arrested in the past in Greece for several counts of fraud, and is also wanted by the Romanian authorities for the same crimes, while a court ruling was outstanding against the woman on prostitution charges.
Police also informed the public once again that state organisations or agencies do not request personal information, such as credit card, identity and bank account numbers, via e-mail.
 Archimandrite accused of sexual abuse of minorsAn Archmandrite was arrested at Aharnes, wider Athens, on Thursday for sexual abuse of minors.
In his possession police found pornographic material material involving minors and homosexuals.
The suspect will be sent before a prosecutor
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 3C and 20C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens, with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 18C. Cloudy and rainy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 8C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe ongoing negotiations for the PSI, the taxes on real estate and speculation of new austerity measures after the elections, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) will give account to the Europarliament".
AVGHI: "Six social security funds react against their strangulation".
AVRIANI: "Unpaid PASOK party employees block offices in Athens".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Government, ahead of elections, gives raises to a small number of civil servants".
ESTIA: "All of Greece waiting on lines".
ETHNOS: "The tax burden for real estate gets heavier".
IMERISSIA: "Zero hour for the PSI - Everyone now certain of success".
KATHIMERINI: "The crucial 24 hours for the PSI".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Agony 'at the finish line' for the PSI's success".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Women, organise yourselves and demand your rights".
TA NEA: "Brussels Commissioners in all Greek ministries".
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