|Friday, 19 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-03-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 14 March 2012 Issue No: 4021
 ECOFIN adopts Greek economic adjustment programmeThe Council of Finance ministers on Tuesday adopted a decision adjusting fiscal consolidation measures required of Greece under the EU's excessive deficit procedure following an agreement reached between the Greek government and the Troika.
The decision paves the way for the disbursement of financial assistance under the second economic adjustment programme for Greece, enabling the Commission to sign a memorandum of understanding, on behalf of the member states, establishing the conditions for that assistance. The first disbursement must be made available before Greece's next payment obligations fall due on March 20.
The new programme is aimed at putting Greece's public debt ratio on a downward path reaching 120.5 percent of GDP by 2020. Provided policy conditionality is met on an ongoing basis, it will be financed until 2014 to a maximum of EUR 130 billion by the European Financial Stability Facility and the IMF. The programme will be accompanied by strengthened monitoring of the implementation of reforms in Greece.
The decision adopted maintains the 2014 deadline set for bringing Greece's government deficit below the EU's reference value of 3 percent of GDP. Amending decision 2011/734/EU, it adjusts the annual adjustment path set for achieving this target and the annual change that will be required in consolidated gross debt, as well as the timetable set for taking specific measures. Greece must report on a quarterly basis on measures taken.
More specifically, the decision calls for a primary deficit not exceeding 1 percent of GDP in 2012 and primary surpluses of at least 1.8 percent of GDP in 2013 and 4.5 percent of GDP in 2014. Following the debt exchange, these targets are consistent with overall deficit targets of 7.3 percent of GDP in 2012, 4.7 percent of GDP in 2013 and 2.2 percent of GDP in 2014.
On March 9, the Eurogroup confirmed that the necessary conditions are in place to launch the procedures required for approval of the EFSF's contribution to the financing of the second adjustment programme for Greece.
 Greece: Satisfaction on Eurogroup decisionsGreek deputy premier and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos expressed absolute satisfaction with the Eurogroup decisions on Greece, in statements to the press in Brussels late Monday after the conclusion of the eurozone finance ministers' meeting.
Venizelos said that 96 percent of private holders of Greek bonds will participate in the write-down of the Greek debt, while the remaining 4 percent holding bonds not issued under Greek law have until March 23 to state participation in the bond swap, adding that the Greek offer for the bond swap is exceptionally attractive and expressing certainty that the response will be substantial.
He further expressed satisfaction with the fact that on Tuesday alone "old bonds valued at 177 billion euros were cancelled and replaced by the new bonds of a value of 92 billion euros, which means that Greece will shed 105 billion euros in debt by early April".
The minister also said that the Greek banking system will be reinforced with an overall sum of 105 billion euros while, regarding the upcoming tranches of the new bailout loan over the next three months, he said that it has been agreed that 2.9 billion euros will be disbursed in March, 33. billion euros in April and 5.3 billion euros in May.
He also expressed satisfaction with the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) decision (pending formal approval on Thursday) to participate in the new programme for Greece with 28.5 billion euros, of which he said 8.5 billion euros will be disbursed after the conclusion of the programme.
Venizelos said that Greece's fundamental obligation from here on is implementation of the programme and the development of the Greek economy through boosting liquidity and promoting the structural changes, noting at the same time that the Greek economy is in a stage of being restarted.
 Eurogroup adopts second bailout loan to Greece, final approval on Wednesday at Eurozone Working GroupEurozone finance ministers late Monday adopted a 130 billion euros second bailout loan for Greece covering the period 2012 to end 2014, during a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels, with final approval scheduled for Wednesday at a meeting of the eurozone finance ministries' experts.
Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker told a press conference after the Eurogroup meeting that Greece has fulfilled the "prior actions" and that the participation in the PSI bond swap had been better than expected while, according to the latest Troika report Greece's debt-to-GDP ratio will decline to 117 percent in 2020, an improvement over the previously estimated 120.5 percent, from the current 160 percent.
"With the completion of the prior actions and the successful PSI operation, the new Greek programme is not only in its starting blocks but has been politically adopted tonight by the Eurogroup," Juncker announced after the Eurogroup meeting, adding that the bailout program is expected to be formally launched next Wednesday when the Eurozone Working Group (EWG) consisting of the deputies of the finance ministers will meet and check if all the international national procedures will have been fulfilled.
Juncker noted, however, that the final launch of the plan was pending a final decision to be taken by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Board on Thursday on IMF managing director Christine Lagarde's recommendation for a 28 billion euro contribution to the Greek bailout package to be extended over a period of four years, adding that the Eurogroup welcomes the proposal and that he himself was "quite confident that the decision will point in the right direction".
"Against this background, we approved the launch of the second programme, pending the completion of the national procedures," he added, and hailed the new programme as an "unprecedented amount of official financing" that is being committed to securing Greece's future in the euro area, "which is without any doubt."
"Greece will be a member of the euro area whatever will happen," said Juncker, who cited a latest troika (EU, IMF and ECB) report forecasting that the successful debt swap will allow the Greek debt-to-GDP ratio to decline to 117 percent in 2020 which, he added, should be compared "to recent Council decisions aiming at reaching a level of 120.5 percent" from the current 160 percent of GDP.
It is a second opportunity for Greece that must not be lost, Juncker added.
European Commission vice president and commissioner for economic and monetary affairs and the euro, Olli Rehn, said that the agreement is a "new beginning for Greece", adding that Greece must devote itself to implementation of the new programme, adding that the success of the programme will depend on its implementation but also on political unity in Greece.
Juncker further said he had received assurances from Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos that there will be no kind of indemnity -- either direct or indirect - to physical entities in Greece holding Greek bonds, since that would create a precedent for other countries.
As for the escrow account, Juncker said that Greece has pledged to pass the relevant law through parliament in April, while the monitoring of the Greek programme will be conducted in a "partnership" among Greece, the Troika and the European Commission.
As for the disbursement of the tranches of the new loan, it was decided that this will be made in monthly instalments for the period March to May: 5.9 billion euros in March, 3.3 billion euros in April, and 5.3 billion euros in May.
Regarding the banks, European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) chief executive Klaus Regling said that 48 billion euros will be earmarked for the recapitalisation of the Greek banks.
 IMF to finalize its contribution to Greek support program on Thursday, FinMin saysAn IMF's board meeting on Thursday is expected to finalize its participation in a second bailout package for Greece, following a similar decision taken by a Eurogroup meeting on Monday, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said: "Following a successful completion of PSI, the approval of a new program by the Greek Parliament and the approval and signing of the biggest part of a package of lending contracts between Greece and the EFSF, a Eurogroup meeting finalized the funding form of a new program which is expected to be finalized by an IMF board meeting on Thursday".
Venizelos added that beyond the 130 billion euros of the new program, another 34.5 billion euros from the first program should be added to the Greek program along with another 8.2 billion euros of additional support by the IMF -which will be available for 2015- after the end of the official support program.
The Greek Finance minister said that in order to speed up the disbursement of the next tranche to Greece, the last lending contract must be approved and signed by Thursday.
 Barroso: Greece will achieve to proceed with reformsEuropean Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday expressed his certainty that Greece will succeed in making the necessary and agreed reforms in order to get back on a development course, during an address to the European parliament plenary.
The Commission president reassured that there is close cooperation between the European Commission and Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos and his staff in order for Greece to proceed immediately to facilitation of investments, provision of liquidity to small and medium enterprises and the creation of new jobs.
"We are discussing the issue with the European Investment Bank (EIB) in order to see under what conditions it can contribute to Greece's investment programme," said Barroso.
Finally, he announced that at the end of April, the European Commission and Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs and the euro Olli Rehn will release a report presenting the progress achieved in Greece.
 Van Rompuy: EC must assist Greece to enter into development courseEuropean Council President Herman Van Rompuy welcomed the progress achieved in Greece, in a special reference to the country during his presentation to the European Parliament on Tuesday of the outcome of the March 1-2 EU summit.
Moreover, he announced that the countries of the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would provide 130 billion euros in order Greece to cover 70 percent of its obligations to the banks and stressed that the European Commission must provide technical assistance to Greece for the country to enter a developmental course.
 PM Papademos to chair cabinet meeting on WednesdayPrime Minister Lucas Papademos will chair a cabinet meeting at 15:00 on Wednesday focusing on the ratification with a legislative act of the loan contract between the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the Hellenic Republic, meaning the new loan contract.
 Gov't sources: Date of elections not possible to be specifiedThe exact date of the early elections cannot be specified at this time, taking under consideration that some Memorandum issues are still outstanding and need to be settled, government sources said on Tuesday .
The same sources did not rule out the possibility of an omnibus bill containing these outstanding issues being drafted and submitted to the Cabinet for approval within the coming days.
Referring to Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos' resignation from his post, as he is slated to be elected to the PASOK party leadership this weekend, being the uncontested candidate, the same sources said that "If he wishes to resign, this will happen when he deems it appropriate".
The sources further said they did not see it likely that prime minister Lucas Papademos will assume the finance ministry himself, in the event of Venizelos' resignation.
In the afternoon Prime Minister Lucas Papademos will meet with Transport, Infrastructures and Networks Minister Makis Voridis to discuss how to accelerate the restart of the major public works and possibly also the bill deregulating taxi services and other outstanding issues.
 Gov't spokesman calls on political forces to openly condemn violence"All political forces should adopt a clear position vis-?-vis actions that degrade democracy," government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said on Tuesday in response to a government decision, according to which, parades and events commemorating the March 25 national independence anniversary will be held as scheduled.
"We are witnessing the mobilisation of groups embracing extremist political practices and ideologies, and to deal with this phenomenon it is imperative to have a united democratic front," he said.
 ND leader meets with policemen federationNew Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras met on Tuesday with the head of the Hellenic Police Officers Federation at ND's offices in Athens.
Samaras called on the police officers to do their best to safeguard the citizens' security and pledged that after the general elections and as prime minister he will stand actively at their side.
The policemen's delegation briefed the ND leader on the problems that they face every day as well as the cutbacks in their income and the reduction in the expenditures.
The federation president Christos Fotopoulos admitted that, according to data, there has been an increase in crime, but noted that the police can no longer meet the citizens' needs as they should and quickly.
According to Fotopoulos there can be no 'discounts' in the citizens' right to protection, underlining the need for boosting the policemen's morale.
 Tsipras question in parliament on new Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework 2013-2016Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday tabled a current question in parliament, addressed to prime minister Lucas Papademos, on "The new Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework 2013-2016 and the additional austerity measures it contains", asking what will be the fiscal side-effects and also the impact on unemployment "from the proven and systematic inability of the Troika to credibly predict the development of the country's fiscal indicators".
Tsipras also asks to be informed on the assessments made by the 'co-governance' on the effects of the new austerity measures to be contained in the new Medium-Term framework on recession, given that "according to the most recent revised forecast by the Troika it (recession) will climb to 5 percent in 2012", and also its impact on unemployment.
He further asks whether the constant cutbacks in public investments will have a positive effect on the growth of the Greek economy and on meeting the country's social needs.
 SYRIZA Parliamentary Group president Tsipras on visit to CyprusThe latest developments in the Cyprus issue, the energy agenda and the situation in the wider region will be the focus of talks that Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group president Alexis Tsipras will be holding in Nicosia on Wednesday
Tsipras will be meeting Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and the leaders of the Cypriot parties.
Tsipras will be accompanied on his trip by SYRIZA Parliamentary representative Thodoros Dritsas, the head of SYN's European Policy Department Rena Dourou and the head of SYN's Foreign Policy Department Costas Isihos, as well as the director of the President Office Nikos Pappas.
 Democratic Left announces 'green shift' in policyDemocratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis on Tuesday announced the start of collaboration between his party and members of the green movement, stressing the need for a 'green shift' in politics and a meeting of the Left with environmentalism.
"We are the Left that has incorporated into its core the conviction that the left and ecology can comprise a policy innovation for the world and contemporary societies," Kouvelis said, noting that a green shift was a "mature possibility" for the economy that had broad acceptance in society.
In an event held at the Athens journalists' union building, Kouvelis and green politics activist Stavros Livadas ratified their cooperation with a "Memorandum on Ecology" proposed by Ilias Efthymiopoulos and Mihalis Modinos.
He said this would include "strong reformist and political initiatives for the climate, a new energy model, renewable energy sources, innovation within a modern framework for the organisation of space, natural resources and ecosystems".
According to Kouvelis, a joint course with forces from green politics could encourage and serve the type of reforms that the Democratic Left was seeking to promote.
Livadas, on his part, expressed his conviction that the collaboration between Leftist and green forces would prove "especially fertile" and was not opportunist due to the elections but based on common beliefs concerning how the country could exit from the crisis.
 Expelled former PASOK ministers to found new political partyFormer PASOK MPs Louka Katseli and Haris Kastanidis, two former ministers that were expelled from PASOK after they refused to vote in favour of the second Memorandum for loans to Greece, intend to announce the formation of a new political party at the Aigli conference centre in Zappion at noon on Wednesday.
The members of the new party, whose name, logo and founding declaration are to be unveiled on Wednesday, are initially expected to originate mainly from disenchanted former members of PASOK, including MPs expelled for not supporting the memorandum and loan agreement and old-guard PASOK members that had followed Gerassimos Arsenis to form the "Greek Socialist Party".
A press conference concerning the new political initiative is scheduled to be held on Monday.
 Public-sector staff evaluation methods to be unveiled in March, ministry saysThe criteria and methodology to be used in an evaluation of public-sector staff will be unveiled within the month, once preparations for downsizing state organisations by 30 percent were completed, Administrative Reform and e-Goverment Minister Dimitris Reppas announced on Tuesday.
Reppas said that civil service units will be reduced from 5,427 at present to 3,567, thus making significant savings, simplifying transactions with the state sector and cutting down bureaucracy. He underlined that the reduction in state structures did not mean a reduction in the number of jobs.
Ministries to be exempted from the process of drawing up new organisational charts include those of foreign affairs, defence, citizen protection and the finance ministry.
Concerning the planned evaluation of staff, he underlined that this was a central reform that had never been carried out by the Greek state and would help solve many problems.
Answering questions on who would carry out the evaluation, Reppas said that cooperation with the French was extremely good but that there would not necessarily be a French member on every evaluation committee. He also said that there were no present plans to involve private companies and said that seminars would be offered for public-sector staff that will undertake to carry out evaluations.
Apart from the above, the government has a contractual obligation to fire 15,000 public-sector employees by the end of 2012 under the terms of the new loan agreement, after the evaluation has been carried out, and the public-sector workforce must be reduced by 150,000 by the end of 2015.
The minister also presented a code of the state's rights and obligations toward citizens, which he said would help improve relations between the citizen and the state, giving both sides a clear set of rules that would prevent abuse of authority by state employees.
He said this list of citizen's rights would soon be posted on the ministry website and also be printed by the National Printer and distributed to the public.
Also due within the month is a code of conduct for civil servants that will form part of the general plan for reforming the state sector.
 PM Papademos holds meeting with Infrastructures minister on major road axesPrime Minister Lucas Papademos held a meeting with Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Minister Makis Voridis on Tuesday, focusing on the issue of the resumption of the construction of the major road axes, for which awarding contracts have been signed with business groups and banks which have undertaken their financing and operation.
Speaking immediately afterwards, Voridis said the discussion was extensive since the prime minister's intention is for priority to be given to this complex procedure and projects to start being built once again as soon as possible and mainly, as he stressed, not to be intercepted during the upcoming election period.
Voridis was also asked about the deregulation of the taxi drivers profession and the opening of closed professions in general. As regards the taxis, he said that he is waiting for the troika's opinion on the proposal submitted by the ministry on the arrangement of the profession, while on the question of closed professions he said that they constitute a legislative priority for the government and a relevant initiative will be undertaken soon.
 Government Vice President Pangalos holds meetings with ambassadors of Iran and QatarGovernment Vice President Theodoros Pangalos held meetings with the ambassadors of Iran and Qatar in Athens on Monday.
According to relevant announcements issued by the office of the government vice president, Pangalos received the new ambassador of Iran in Athens Behrouz Behnam, in a meeting held in the framework of Behnam's contacts with the country's political leadership after the delivery of his credentials.
Moreover, in the framework of his regular courtesy contacts with officials of foreign countries in Greece, the government vice president also received the ambassador of Qatar in Athens Saleh Ibrahim Saad Al Kuwari on Monday as well.
The ambassador of Qatar delivered to Pangalos an invitation by the country's prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani for an official visit to Doha with the purpose of holding talks on the two countries' relations in their entirety.
 Education minister announces fine-tuning to new framework for universitiesEducation, Lifelong Learning and Religions Minister George Babiniotis on Tuesday announced plans for changes to "fine-tune" the present legislative framework for universities and technological educational institutes, while stressing the need to respect the current law for tertiary education in spite of any shortcomings this might have.
He made the announcement while talking to reporters after a meeting with the board of the Greek primary school teachers' union DOE, replying to questions concerning elections for the members of the governing boards of Thessaloniki's Aristotelian University and Patras university on Wednesday. A meeting with the high school teachers' union is due to take place within the week.
The university board elections are taking place against a background of controversy and opposition that have led to the elections at Athens' Panteion University and Ioannina University being postponed for the second time.
Babiniotis said that he planned to meet with university rectors on Friday to examine the problems and discuss possible solutions while stressing the need to respect the existing law.
Questioned about the upcoming student parades and the main parade marking the March 25 celebration of Greece's war of independence, Babiniotis said that he would personally feel bad if he were not present to honour those that fought to found the nation and expressed relief that the participation of the entire cabinet in the parades had been decided.
Babiniotis also announced his intention to talk with teachers in schools concerning their concerns and problems, including the issue of evaluation, in spite of the limited time available at his disposal.
 New minister receives European Commission Task Force headThe reinstatement of programmes for the regeneration and upgrading of downtown Athens and the absorption of National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) funds, as soon as possible, within the framework of tight project implementation timetables, dominated in a meeting on Tuesday between new Development Minister Anna Diamantopoulou and Horst Reichenbach, head of the European Commission Task Force for Greece.
As regards ESPA, they discussed the progress made in 180 high priority projects and issues concerning the fluidity problem of small and medium size enterprises, as well as, the financing of national motorway projects with the involvement of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Commission.
As regards the business environment, they discussed the adoption of legislation that will lift any obstacles blocking entrepreneurship.
They also discussed issues concerning technical assistance by the OECD on public projects and the simplification of procedures (single window for exports) to facilitate and promote exports.
After the meeting, Diamantopoulou departed for Brussels where she will meet with Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn and Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn to discuss ESPA funding and ways to improve coordination between the European Commission and the ministry of development.
 Alternate FinMin Sahinidis holds meeting with EC task force head ReichenbachAlternate Finance Minister Filippos Sahinidis held a meeting Tuesday at the State General Accounting Office with the head of the European Commission Task Force for Greece Horst Reichenbach.
An exchange of views took pace during the meeting on issues of the Economic Policy Programme that are related to the General Accounting Office's obligations such as:
- The improvement of the public sector's economic management sector (commitments record, monthly fiscal references etc).
- The inspection of the expenditures of general governance.
The contribution of the task force at technical level for issues of the State General Accounting Office was also discussed.
 Minister: Tourism sector on a 'tight rope' this yearGreek tourism is "walking on a tight rope" this year, Culture & Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos said on Tuesday, noting that the tourism sector could face further problems if the country's image in international media remains negative.
Speaking to reporters, the minister referred to the recent international tourism fair in Berlin, saying there was a tide of negative publicity against Greece, while he stressed that early bookings from Germany were down 30 pct and 10 pct from the UK so far this year. These figures represent losses of around one million tourists for the country, he added.
Geroulanos said the ministry was preparing a strong response, aimed to reverse the negative climate by hiring two communications firms for the markets of Germany and UK.
He noted that there was enough time to change the situation and announced that Greek officials will begin joint ad programmes with large international tour operators.
A focus on new markets, such as Russia, Israel, China, will aim to counterbalance losses from traditional market-targets.
 Overdue debts to social insurance funds at 11 billion euroOverdue debts owed to Greek social insurance funds amount to 11 billion euro but only 7 billion euro of this amount can be collected, Labour Minister George Koutroumanis said on
Tuesday. There are an estimated 800,000 individual debtors owing social insurance contributions, the minister said, who noted that problems were arising in collecting contributions due to social insurance funds.
Referring to the Insurance Organization for the Self-Employed Professionals (OAEE), only 434,000 (54 pct) of its 807,870 registered members pay their contributions regularly, while as regards the farmers' fund OGA, an estimated 62 pct of its registered members meet their obligations.
Koutroumanis flatly rejected scenarios of further reductions on wages and pensions in the next two months adding, however, that the implementation of the fiscal adjustment programme will have to continue to avoid new economic measures in the future.
Referring to the losses suffered by the social insurance funds and the haircut of their assets invested in state bonds, he said that a legal clause will be activated providing for the transfer of state assets to the Social Insurance System Support Fund currently in the process of being established.
Koutroumanis stressed that the labour market picture is alarming considering that thousands of businesses are late with their payments and more than 400,000 employees receive their wages with delays of up to five months.
 Labour confederation calls on employers to respect collective labour agreementsGeneral Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) president Yiannis Panagopoulos, in a statement on Tuesday, called on employers organisations "to respect their signatures and collective labour agreements to enable the right of working people to be protected."
Commenting on the content of the circular issued by the Labour ministry on the implementation of the arrangements of the 2nd Memorandum on labour relations, Panagopoulos said that "it is strange to say the least at the time when the employers organisations are swearing that they do not want the collective labour agreements to be upset to have weapons in their hands with which the collective labour agreements are abolished, salaries are decreased, and structures are abolished such as the Mediation and Arbitration Organisation."
 Media sector funds to resort to courts over mandatory 'haircut'The media sector pension funds on Tuesday announced that they will resort to Greek and European courts against the Bank of Greece (BoG) and the Greek state, in response to the mandatory participation of their assets (invested in state bonds) in the state bond swap process, within the framework of the PSI programme.
ETAP-MME (formerly TSPEATh) pension fund president Kostas Tsouparopoulos and Insurance and Healthcare Benefit Organisation (EDOEAP) president Eleni Spanopoulou underlined in a meeting held at the Athens Journalists' Union (ESIEA) that the media funds were forced to deposit most of their assets in the BoG and they were never briefed on the investments selected by the central bank.
Referring to TSPEATh's assets, estimated to two billion euros, 400 million euros had to be included in the state bond swap, while 1.650 billion euros deposited in the BoG underwent a mandatory haircut. According to the president of EDOEAP, the sum that is left following the haircut of the fund's assets, amounting to 180 million euros, will last no more than five years based on present payments made by the fund for benefits, pensions and retirement package lump sums.
 Greek per capita GDP at 94.3 percent of EU average in 2009, Eurostat report showsGreece's per capita GDP in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) for the year 2009 came to 94.3 percent of the European Union average based on data released by the European statistical agency Eurostat on Tuesday. These figures reflect economic performance before the start of the debt crisis in late 2009 and the subsequent imposition of wage and pension cuts.
Based on these figures, per capita GDP in four of the 13 Greek regions was under 75 percent of the EU average. These were Epirus (65.3 percent), Western Greece (65.8 percent), Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (70.1 percent) and Thessaly (72.4 percent).
The highest levels of per capital GDP were in Attica (123.9 percent of EU average) and the Southern Aegean (114 percent), followed by Central Greece (87.3 percent), Western Macedonia (86.3 percent), Crete (84.6 percent), the Ionian Islands (81.4 percent), Northern Aegean (76.4 percent), Peloponnese (76.1 percent) and Central Macedonia (76 percent).
In the 27 EU countries, per capital GDP in 2009 ranged from just 27 percent of the EU average in Severozapaden, Bulgaria to a peak of 332 percent of the EU average in Inner London, UK.
The poorest EU regions with the lowest per capital GDP were in Bulgaria and Romania, followed by five regions in Poland and four in Hungary.
The regions with the top per capita GDP in the EU were Inner London (332 percent), Luxembourg (266 percent), Brussels (223 percent), Hamburg (188 percent) and Bratislavsky kraj in Slovakia (178 percent).
Based on Eurostat estimates, per capita GDP in PPS for the 17 Euro-area countries in 2009 was 109 percent of the EU27 average.
 Greece's Numismatic Programme for 2012 announcedThe finance ministry's General Accounting Office (GAO) on Tuesday announced Greece's Numismatic Programme for 2012.
The new numismatic products to be introduced this year are:
- A Collectors' blister skin pack with a 2-euro Commemorative Coin issued to celebrate the "10 years of the Euro" (2002-2012).
- Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) sets of Greek Euro Coins, containing all eight denominations, dedicated to "The island of Santorini" which has been selected to be the winner in a public web voting competition organized by the Travel & Leisure NY, concerning the best island in the world for 2011.
- Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) sets of Greek Euro Coins, comprised of all eight denominations, as well as of one silver collector coin (triptych), dedicated to the famous Greek Doctor George Papanikolaou, commemorated on the 50th anniversary of his death.
- A Gold Collector Coin, with the face value of 100? , having two themes: either the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Liberation of the City of Thessaloniki or the Outbreak of the Balkan Wars.
- A Mini Gold Collector Coin, with the face value of 50? dedicated to the Archaeological Site of Pella (Macedonia).
- A Silver Collector Coin, with the face value of 10? dedicated to the "Hellenic Culture & Civilization".
- Proof Coin Sets especially for collectors, in limited edition.
The above numismatic products will be distributed by the Bank of Greece and its branches all over the country.
All relevant details concerning specific dates of issue, full description of each product, terms of sale etc, will be disclosed in separate Ministry Announcements to follow.
 Telecoms, IT sentiment index down slightly in Q4 2011The economic sentiment index in the telecommunications and IT sector eased slightly to 65.3 points in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with the previous quarter, but fell significantly compared with the average rate of 2011 (73.1 points), the Institute of Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) announced on Tuesday.
The index is significantly down compared with the long-term average of the 2000-2011 period (113.6 points), hit by a deep economic recession and a crisis which has hit most sectors of the domestic economy.
Business expectations in the Telecoms and IT services sector eased slightly in the fourth quarter of 2011 from the third quarter, while business expectations in the Telecoms and IT retail sector grew afresh to 69.4 points from 65.4 over the same periods, respectively.
Business expectations in the Telecoms and IT industrial sector fell significantly to 58.4 points in the fourth quarter of 2011 from 65.2 points in the third quarter of the same year.
 Bussiness Briefs-- Greek employers remained pessimistic over developments in the domestic labour market in the next three months, a survey by the firm Manpower showed on Tuesday. The survey, however, offered some positive signs, such as the fact that 68 pct of employers intended to maintain their workforce in the next quarter, while only 8.0 pct said they intended to raise their workers' numbers and 19 pct said they expected a decline in their workforce.
-- Public Power Corp. (PPC) expects a significant recovery of revenues from the sale of electricity this year, boosted by increases in power bills and the return to PPC of a large portion of clients previously belonging to Energa and Hellas Power -- two power operators that terminated their operations at the end of 2011.
 Greek stocks edge higherStocks edged higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, after a two-day decline which pushed the market 4.5 pct lower. The composite index rose 0.13 pct to end at 734.88 points, reflecting a recovery in bank shares after an 11.3 pct plunge in the previous two sessions. Turnover, however, remained a disappointing low 46.333 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 0.07 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.03 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.94 pct higher. Alpha Bank (5.19 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (2.75 pct) and Eurobank (2.04 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Hellenic Postbank (4.23 pct), OTE (2.06 pct) and PPC (1.86 pct) were top losers.
The Health (1.97 pct), Oil (1.52 pct) and Construction (1.28 pct) sectors moved higher, while Telecoms (2.06 pct), Utilities (1.61 pct) and Travel (1.53 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 85 to 62 with another 27 issues unchanged. Hatzioannou (30 pct), Naftemporiki (26.15 pct) and HOL (19.8 pct) were top gainers, while Euroholdings (19.67 pct), Perseus (19.66 pct) and Alpha Trust (18.42 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.52%
Personal & Household: -0.04%
Raw Materials: +0.06%
Travel & Leisure: -1.53%
Food & Beverages: -0.01%
Financial Services: +0.55%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.42
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.16
HBC Coca Cola: 13.91
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.24
National Bank of Greece: 2.29
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.00
Bank of Piraeus: 0.42
 Greek bond market closing reportGreek bond prices remained under pressure for the second consecutive session in the domestic electronic secondary bond market, with the 11-year new bond price falling to 26.5 pct of its nominal value on Tuesday. The Greek bond yielded 19.15 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates fell slightly. The 12-month rate eased to 1.51 pct, the six-month rate fell to 1.18 pct, the three-month rate eased to 0.87 pct and the one-month rate fell to 0.47 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.84 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 53.992 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 24,243 contracts worth 35.820 million euros, with 24,690 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 116,008 contracts worth 18.109 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (30,019), followed by MIG (7,105), OTE (6,462), PPC (859), OPAP (1,503), GEK (10,884), National Bank (26,624), Piraeus Bank (3,887), Marfin Popular Bank (2,595), Intralot (739), Mytilineos (2,255), Cyprus Bank (16,314), Motor Oil (2,484), Hellenic Postbank (2,681) and ATEbank (322).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.325
Pound sterling 0.848
Danish kroner 7.546
Swedish kroner 9.022
Japanese yen 109.65
Swiss franc 1.224
Norwegian kroner 7.563
Canadian dollar 1.314
Australian dollar 1.263
 Special police squad prevents scores of intended suicidesThe Electronic Crimes Squad said it has prevented 402 suicides of individuals that had revealed their intention to end their lives to chat-room visitors on the internet, according to figures forwarded to parliament by the citizen protection ministry, it was announced on Tuesday.
The document, bearing the signature of former citizen protection minister Christos Papoutsis, was forwarded to Parliament in response to a question by PASOK MP Giorgos Arvanitidis, on the phenomenon of internet addiction observed among the young people.
 Development ministry employees arrested on bribery, extortion chargersTwo development ministry employees face felony charges for bribery and extortion after being arrested while receiving 120,000 euros in marked banknotes from a businessman seeking to have approved funds released, it was announced on Tuesday.
The names of the defendants, Konstantinos Loakos and Konstantinos Kazazakis, were publicised following a decision by a relevant prosecutor assigned the case.
According to the indictment, the ministry of development had approved 4.7 million euros for the plaintiff's business, however, the two defendants allegedly blocked procedures in order to blackmail for bribes.
They were arrested at Keramikos metro station in downtown Athens while receiving the money from the businessman, who had already filed a complaint with the organised crime squad.
 More than 1,000 decorative eggs on display in KateriniA special collection of roughly 1,000 decorative eggs ornamented with rare techniques for glass and metal will be on display at the Holy Metropolis building in the northern city of Katerini marking the 100th anniversary of its liberation, it was announced on Tuesday.
The collection which includes handmade decorative eggs from different parts of the world representing different eras was started 35 years ago by its owner economics professor Harikleia Andrika-Kardara.
The exhibition will be inaugurated on March 15 and be open for the public until May 10.
 Two arrested for debts to state in northern GreeceAuthorities in northern Greece on Tuesday announced two arrests for outstanding debts to the state, carried out in the last 24 hours.
The first concerned a 57-year-old hotel owner from Didymotichos, in the extreme northeast of the country, with outstanding debts of 1,289,183.51 euro.
The second arrest was for a 47-year-old catering firm owner in Alexandroupolis, who had failed to pay 33,512.25 euro in VAT in the first half of 2011.
The two men will go before public prosecutors in Orestiada and Alexandroupolis, respectively.
 Four arrested in Preveza region with large quantities of drugsThree men and a woman, aged 36, 45, 35 and 31, were arrested at Archangelos in Preveza, western Greece, for carrying in two cars a large quantity of drugs having a total weight of 219 kilos, contained in 194 packages, that they had received from Albanian associates of theirs at the Greek-Albanian borders.
The cars' two drivers did not stop when signalled by police and sped away. A pursuit followed and the police ultimately stopped the vehicles in Flamboura in Preveza. A search of the first car, that was driven by the 36-year-old and had the woman as a co-driver, revealed 98 packages containing cannabis weighing 105 kilos and 300 grams. The second car, driven by the 45-year-old and also having the 35-year-old on board, was also found to have 96 packages of cannabis weighing 113 kilos and 700 grams.
The drugs and the cars, as well as seven mobile phones were confiscated.
 Drug dealing arrests in AthensA local man and a Russian woman were arrested on Monday in the Athens district of Kallithea for drug dealing.
Police found in the possession of the 47-year-old man and the 34-year-old woman 18.7 kilos of cannabis, a handgun, 17 cartridges, 2,650 euros in cash , three precision scales, two mobile phones and a car, all of which were confiscated.
The suspects will be sent before an Athens prosecutor.
 Freighter runs aground off Lavrio portThe Panama-flagged freighter "Aghios Nikolaos" was reported on Tuesday to have run aground off the port of Lavrio, southeastern Athens region.
The vessel, with a 24-member crew, was empty of cargo and was probably carried away by the gusty winds that prevailed in the area.
Two tug boats are on their way to the spot.
The vessel was not reported to be taking on water.
 Fire in vessel in Piraeus portA fireman was slightly injured in a fire that broke out late Monday on the US-flagged ro-ro vessel "Alliance Norfolk", which was docked in Piraeus port.
The 23-member crew and five passengers are all well and safe.
According to initial reports the fire broke out on a car deck under unknown circumstances.
The fire was put out early Tuesday, but the ship has been prohibited from sailing pending inspection.
The ship, destined for Saudi Arabia, had docked in Piraeus port for an insurance inspection.
 Sit-in at Development MinistryDevelopment, Competitiveness and Shipping Ministry employees on Tuesday were staging a sit-in at the ministry's building.
The employees are protesting the government's plans to abolish organisations and public services as well as cuts in staff and transfers.
 Cloudy on WednesdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -3C and 16C. Cloudy in Athens, with northerly 5-8 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 5C to 14C. Fair in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 12C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe changes in salaries and labour agreements, the expensiveness of household products and the plan for development to be met, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Upside down everything in salaries, labour contracts, lump sums, benefits..".
AVGHI: "The Left claims the authority".
AVRIANI: "30 percent reductions in retirement benefit with the aim of full abolition".
DIMOKRATIA: "Shock and awe over the salaries".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Forced haircut for 11,000 small investors".
ESTIA: "Populism dissolved the country".
ETHNOS: "Salaries: The huge massacre in the private sector begins".
IMERISSIA: "Triple plan for progress".
KATHIMERINI: "Small bond-holders to be left without compensation".
LOGOS: "Salaries 'pocket money' in private sector".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "New Greek bonds were badly received by markets".
RIZOSPASTIS: "PASOK-New Democracy co-governance puts a gravestone on the collective labour agreements".
TA NEA: "The changes in salaries and labour agreements in the private sector".
VRADYNI: "End to tenure in public sector and salaries' reduction in private sector".
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