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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-03-15

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

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

Thursday, 15 March 2012 Issue No: 4022

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greek cabinet approves new bailout loan agreement
  • [02] Papademos: 'We've reached end of a massive effort'; tasks still remain to be done
  • [03] Eurozone governments formally approve second bailout programme for Greece
  • [04] Barroso interview with AMNA WebTV
  • [05] PM receives visiting Cyprus House of Representatives president
  • [06] FM: Cyprus top foreign policy priority for Greece
  • [07] Parliament President Petsalnikos meets Cyprus House Speaker Omirou
  • [08] Kapsis meets with Commission Task Force chief, visiting foreign journalists
  • [09] Katseli, Kastanidis announce new political party
  • [10] PASOK party presidential candidate Venizelos to give press conference on Thursday
  • [11] Papariga: wager in elections is electorally powerful KKE
  • [12] SYRIZA leader meets Cyprus president
  • [13] Democratic Left leader on tour of Argolida
  • [14] Christodoulou testimony on 2009 deficit probe sparks controversy
  • [15] Environment Minister Papaconstantinou holds meeting with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos
  • [16] Minister, Athens mayor promise joint actions to reduce problems in central Athens
  • [17] PM: Condolences on Belgian school coach tragedy in Switzerland
  • [18] Alpha Bank pulls out of merger deal with Eurobank
  • [19] Eurobank rebukes Alpha Bank's decision to pull out of merger deal
  • [20] Development minister discusses implementation of major projects in Brussels
  • [21] Gov't reassures farmers over mortgage security
  • [22] SEV president to foreign reporters: Greek problem a European one too
  • [23] Infrastructures Minister Voridis announces extension of suburban railway to Lavrio
  • [24] New framework for public offerings of listed companies
  • [25] Media federation, bank employee unions resort to CoS
  • [26] Greeks working abroad to be exempt from presumed minimum income
  • [27] Bussiness Briefs
  • [28] Stocks end substantially higher
  • [29] ADEX closing report
  • [30] Dodoni Ancient Theatre restoration plan
  • [31] Greece 'guest country' at 21st Cairo International Childrens Film Festival
  • [32] Seven accused in Kallithea IKA fraud case remanded in custody
  • [33] Trio of suspected 'Pink Panther' jewelry store robbers arrested
  • [34] Man receives life sentence, plus 32 years, for rape-murder of infant daughter
  • [35] Chick Corea and Gary Burton to play in Athens
  • [36] Super League results
  • [37] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Greek cabinet approves new bailout loan agreement

    The Greek cabinet, in a session chaired by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, on Wednesday approved all acts of legislative content concerning the new agreement for bailout loans to Greece and the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).

    Sources said the meeting discussed the programme for voting on outstanding issues.

    The cabinet also decided to postpone promotions in the Armed Forces and Security Forces until the following July.

    [02] Papademos: 'We've reached end of a massive effort'; tasks still remain to be done

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Wednesday stressed, in his opening address at a Cabinet meeting, that "we are reaching the end of a massive effort" to secure the country's continued funding.

    Papademos also referred to Thursday's IMF meeting, assessing that it will take a positive decision on its participation in the second bailout package for the country, participation that will amount to 28 billion euros.

    The prime minister also termed as positive the upgrading of the country's credit rating by six notches by the Fitch credit rating firm.

    He stressed, however, that several tasks must still be done by the country in the coming weeks, namely, the taking of measures to fulfil commitments, as well as legislative bills that must be immediately ratified by Parliament.

    In reference to the upcoming March 25 Independence Day parades, he called on all Cabinet members to attend events.

    [03] Eurozone governments formally approve second bailout programme for Greece

    BRUSSELS (AMNA/V. Demiris)

    The eurozone member countries on Wednesday formally approved a 130 billion euro second bailout programme for Greece, following completion of all the required national and parliamentary procedures, Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker announced in a written statement issued in Brussels on Wednesday.

    Juncker also said that the eurozone member states have authorised the European Fiscal Stability Fund (EFSF) to release to Greece the first installment of the aid to Greece, totaling 39.4 billion euros, which will be disbursed in several tranches.

    According to sources, 25 billion of the 39.4 billion euros will be channeled to the recapitalisation of the Greek banks, while the remaining amount will be for the first three monthly installments for March-May.

    Juncker said that the second bailout programme constitutes "a unique opportunity for Greece that should not be missed" and urged the Greek authorities to continue demonstrating strong commitment for the implementation of the programme and to keep up the implementation momentum by rigorously pursuing the adjustment effort in the areas of fiscal consolidation, structural reforms and privatisation, which will enable the Greek economy to return to a sustainable track, which is in everyone's interests.

    [04] Barroso interview with AMNA WebTV

    The belief that the political party that will come to power after general elections in Greece will display "no irresponsibility" by questioning the new memorandum, was expressed by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, during an interview with AMNA WebTV on Wednesday.

    The European Commission president underlined the need to implement the support programme for the country and, for the time being, he ruled out the adoption of new measures.

    The interview is available on http://www.amna.gr/webtv.php?id=9689.

    Barroso underlined the importance of the implementation of the support programme for Greece and the cooperation of the European Commission with the government that will be elected by the Greek people, stressing that the programme's implementation by Greece is the next important step after the PSI.

    "The new programme has the government's and the Greek Parliament's approval. It was unanimously accepted by the Eurogroup, while, at the same time, we have the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)," he said. He stressed that "we have succeeded namely, Greece was successful. It was an effort led by Greece (the PSI) and was done the right way. Now, I believe that we have a more realistic scenario both medium-term and long-term speaking. The programme that has been signed will have to be implemented. It is an ambitious programme, very difficult, but the truth is that there was no alternative solution available. The only alternative solution would have been the country's default. Greece would have stopped all payments. It would have been a tragedy. It would mean the collapse of the Greek State. Now Greece will receive funding approved by the European Union for the years to come, while the structural reforms will make Greece more competitive."

    He pointed out that "in essence, this is the problem, namely, how Greece can become more competitive and manage revenues in such a way that the Greek state will function and distribute public goods that are necessary for the people."

    The European Commission president said that no new measures are necessary at the time. He added that "we will focus on the present measures. I do not think that it is right to talk about another programme every time we decide on a new programme. We should focus here on the present programme, which, I repeat, is fairly ambitious and difficult. We should be serious; Greece in the programme's implementation and the European Union in offering technical assistance to this end."

    As regards the imminent general elections in Greece, he said that he does not wish to talk about domestic policy issues. "We respect the people's vote. It is the Greeks who must elect their government. We will cooperate with the government that will be elected. But really, we do not think that any political party that might come to power will display the irresponsibility to question a programme that was so carefully negotiated and now is the only hope for Greece's future," he said.

    [05] PM receives visiting Cyprus House of Representatives president

    Visiting Cyprus House of Representatives president Yannakis Omirou was received on Wednesday by prime minister Lucas Papademos, who reaffirmed the Greek government's, people's and political parties' "full support" for the efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue.

    Speaking to reporters after the one-hour meeting, Omirou said he briefed the Greek prime minister on the developments, "or non-developments", in the Cyprus issue "in the sense that the Turkish intransigence and bad faith continue to obstruct the achievement of any progress whatsoever".

    Omirou said he briefed Papademos on the fact that the direct negotiations of the last 3 1/2 years have failed to break the impasse "because of this continuing and escalating Turkish intransigence", as well as on Turkey's "threats" with respect to the Republic of Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

    The two men also discussed Cyprus' upcoming assumption of the European Council in the second half of 2012.

    Also discussed during the meeting were economic issues, and Omirou expressed the Cyprus Republic's and Cypriot Hellenism's full support for Greece's efforts to overcome the economic crisis.

    Papademos was further briefed on the economic problems faced by Cyprus, and especially its credit system, with Omirou expressing hope and expectations that both countries will overcome the present economic difficulties and proceed on the path of growth, prosperity and the formulation of conditions of peace, stability and cooperation in the wider region where the two countries, as members of the EU, are the protagonists in achieving those targets.

    Asked whether they also discussed cooperation between the two countries with respect to energy deposits, Omirou assured that "it is beyond doubt" that the Cyprus House of Representatives is in favour of cooperation at all levels, including the energy sector, adding that there are substantial margins for a Greece-Cyprus strategic cooperation that will enhance the geopolitical and geostrategic prospects of both countries in the wider region.

    Omirou also said that the Greek prime minister expressed h is desire to visit Cyprus, noting that the Cypriot Hellenism will warmly welcome him.

    [06] FM: Cyprus top foreign policy priority for Greece

    The Cyprus issue is a top priority of Greece's foreign policy, Greek foreign minister Stavros Dimas said on Wednesday after a meeting with Cyprus House of Representatives president Yannakis Omirou.

    "We are aware of the problems faced by the Republic of Cyprus regarding statements by Turkish officials who are competing with each other in intransigence, and enable Mr. Eroglu (Turkish Cypriot leader) to be even more intransigent and create problems in the negotiations" for the island's reunification taking place under the UN, Dimas said in a brief statement before entering into talks with Omirou.

    Omirou, in turn, thanked the Greek government, political parties and people for their firm support in the Cypriot people's struggle to end the Turkish occupation of the northern part of the island republic and to achieve a democratic, functional and viable solution to the Cyprus issue in the framework of the principles of European and international law.

    Omirou also stressed that "Greece is the Cypriot Hellenism's natural support in this difficult struggle, with a Turkey that is escalating its intransigence", and charged that Turkey's intransigence is reflected in the positions it is submitting, via Eroglu, in the direct negotiations.

    He further said that there is no justification at this time for convening a multilateral meeting on the Cyprus issue, given that there has been no convergence of views and positions so far.

    [07] Parliament President Petsalnikos meets Cyprus House Speaker Omirou

    Greek Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos expressed to visiting Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker Yannakis Omirou, in a meeting they held on Wednesday in the presence of the ambassador of Cyprus Josef Josef and the president of the Greek Parliament Foreign and Defence Committee Dinos Vrettos, "the continuous and steadfast solidarity of the Greek Parliament for the efforts made by Cyprus and the people of Cyprus for a solution to the Cyprus problem."

    Petsalnikos said "it is essential that the Turkish Cypriot leadership, but mainly the leadership of Turkey, realises the necessity for a solution to be found with the implementation of international law, the resolutions of the UN and of the acquis communautaire."

    Petsalnikos also expressed understanding and support for the efforts being made by the people of Cyprus to overcome problems being caused by the European and global economic crisis.

    On his part, Omirou termed the conjuncture for both Cyprus and Greece crucial, stressing that "we are before challenges, as well as opportunities."

    [08] Kapsis meets with Commission Task Force chief, visiting foreign journalists

    Minister of State and government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis met on Wednesday with European Commission Task Force for Greece chief Horst Reichenbach, and stated afterwards that "as a country, it is our duty to re-examine all our functions and procedures", adding that "the state, just like the private sector, must become more productive".

    Earlier, Kapsis met at the European Parliament's office in Athens with a group of 40 European journalists being hosted in the Greek capital.

    He said afterwards that the impression he had from his meeting with the representatives of the foreign media is that the climate for Greece was becoming more positive, and that there was understanding for the Greek problem, given that many countries have their own problems as well and they realise that beyond the individual problems of each country, there is a Europe-wide problem that we need to deal with.

    Kapsis said that invitations to foreign journalists will continue in order to brief them so that they may convey a more positive picture of Greece. "We need to change this image, which is not at all fair," he added.

    [09] Katseli, Kastanidis announce new political party

    Independent MPs and former PASOK ministers Louka Katseli and Haris Kastanidis on Wednesday announced the creation of a new political party, to be called "Social Agreement for Greece in Europe", during an event in downtown Athens.

    Among those attending the event were several Independent MPs who, like Katseli, were expelled from PASOK after defying the party's official policy line and voting against the Memorandum in its entirety or against disputed articles.

    The new party will be headed by Katselis, while Kastanidis will be the leader of its parliamentary group.

    [10] PASOK party presidential candidate Venizelos to give press conference on Thursday

    Finance Minister and candidate for the PASOK party's presidency Evangelos Venizelos, will be giving a press conference at the party's headquarters in Ippokratous street, central Athens, at 14:00 on Thursday.

    Meanwhile, sources close to Venizelos told AMNA that the electoral procedures for the election of the president of PASOK by the grassroots constitute at the same time an new opportunity for "PASOK to be found again."

    The same sources said that it is of great importance for "PASOK to be found again" and clarified that in such events, such as the electoral procedures from the grassroots, as is natural, discussions "open", and with this form political dialogue develops.

    [11] Papariga: wager in elections is electorally powerful KKE

    The wager in the upcoming elections was whether they would result in a strong government that would literally be a "streamroller" for the peoples' movement or whether they would result in an electorally powerful Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which could act as a vanguard of the peoples' movement and avert the worst measures, KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga said on Wednesday while addressing staff at the pharmaceutical company Boehringer-Ingelheim Hellas S.A.

    Papariga stressed that the more powerful the KKE became, the weaker the government would be, in a background of elections held at a time of crisis when all other political forces, whether they voted for the new loan agreement or didn't, admitted that they constitute a continuity of the current policy.

    According to KKE's leader, there was absolutely no possibility of negotiation "as long as one remains incorporated in the framework of the economy of monopolies and the EU".

    [12] SYRIZA leader meets Cyprus president

    NICOSIA (AMNA/A.Viketos)

    The possibilities for a viable solution to the Cyprus problem become fewer, due to the intransigence displayed by the Turkish Cypriot side and Ankara, visiting Greek Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary head Alexis Tsipras said here Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters after talks with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, Tsipras said he had a substantial briefing by the president regarding relations between Greece and Cyprus, the Cyprus issue and southeastern Mediterranean issues.

    "President Christofias has been working hard for a solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, which will give hopes as regards the future of the people of Cyprus," Tsipras said, adding that his party would continue providing support to President Christofias's efforts.

    The Greek political leader also said that he discussed with the Cypriot president the energy sector, noting that the existence of natural gas deposits in the island republic's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) should be a motive for peace and benefit the entire Cyprus people.

    Greece should follow the example of Cyprus and declare its own EEZ through agreements, Tsipras added.

    The SYRIZA leader also held meetings with Cypriot political parties' leaders.

    [13] Democratic Left leader on tour of Argolida

    Democratic Left party leader Fotis Kouvelis on Wednesday begun a tour of Argolida in the Peloponnese, stopping at local schools, hospitals and sports facilities in Argos and Nafplio.

    Among his stops was the Argos train station, where he noted that several millions had been invested in the city but the train still didn't reach as far as Argolida.

    In statements to the press at Nafplio's archaeological museum, Kouvelis predicted that the upcoming elections would result in a hung Parliament and noted that he did not oppose a coalition government in principle, provided this was based on agreement of policy.

    [14] Christodoulou testimony on 2009 deficit probe sparks controversy

    Following his testimony before a Parliamentary committee investigating allegations that Greece's 2009 deficit had been deliberately inflated, the head of the Organisation for the Management of Public Debt Petros Christodoulou on Wednesday said he would ask for the full transcript of his testimony to be published by Parliament because this had been "selectively fed and interpreted" in the media.

    Appearing before the committee on Tuesday, Christodoulou had suggested that the constant revision of Greece's 2009 deficit but also "unfortunate" and mistimed statements by then Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and Prime Minister

    George Papandreou were "key factors" that had led to Greece being unable to borrow from the markets in 2010.

    He also admitted under pressure from independent MP Panagiotis Kourouplis that markets had "freaked" after the Greek government started to talk about resorting to the International Monetary Fund unless it received help from Germany, in the wake of a successful auction for 10-year bonds in early 2010.

    Similarly, he said that Papaconstantinou's statement comparing the Greek economy with the "Titanic" had been "misguided" and that he himself had been "stunned" when, in a period when spreads had appeared to be settling down in April 2010, a month before Greece had to resort to the first package of bailout loans, he was informed that there would be another upward revision of the 2009 deficit.

    Christodoulou - who was appointed to the position by Papaconstantinou himself - nevertheless defended the deficit revisions as inevitable and suggested that the finance minister may not have had the "luxury" to postpone them because he was under close supervision and pressure from Eurostat.

    "As long as there is good faith, you can negotiate. When good faith is lost, the Europeans want to be twice and three times certain about the figures you are putting out. I tell you that at this time they have studied Greece more than any other country in the Eurozone," he said.

    He also noted that markets would not have been long fooled by Greek attempts to hide the extent of the problem because "cash never lies" and that markets were already aware that the 6 percent deficit figure predicted by the previous New Democracy government minister was way off the mark, since the country's borrowing had greatly exceeded this amount. Market pundits at the time, however, considered that this deficit did not exceed 10 percent.

    "After the first, second revision, it was clear that we were headed for the wall," he added.

    Questioned about the concealment of Greek debt through swaps engineered by Goldman Sachs in 2001, Christodoulou said that this had been allowed by the rules used in the EU at the time and that other Eurozone countries had also resorted to the similar methods.

    "It was simply a question of degree. They used the swaps or the 'dressing up' to achieve a sudden improvement in their figures and enter monetary union, but had in mind that they would have to gradually pull them 'out of the chest' and present the true figures. They at least presented enough debt that they were able to manage it. Greece did not present it, with the result that it built up and grew - and in the crisis of 2008-2009 could not be contained and hidden," he said.

    In the wake of press coverage of his testimony on Wednesday, Christodoulou said there had been "pressure" from members of the committee to convert his statements into "accusations" against the former finance minister.

    "The essence of my testimony concerned the way the 2009 deficit was recorded, for which I explained at length that the amount of new borrowing each year cannot be significantly greater than the size of the deficit announced at regular intervals, in public, as foreseen by Eurostat rules," he said in a statement.

    He also said that, in view of the potential damage to the interests of the country and its impact on public opinion that "selective references" to his testimony might have, he intended to request in writing that the full transcript from his testimony be released.

    [15] Environment Minister Papaconstantinou holds meeting with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister George Papaconstantinou and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos held a meeting in a good climate at the offices of the Archdiocese on Wednesday.

    It is believed that the meeting, which was kept secret since neither of the two notified reporters, is related to the conflict that has appeared between the ministry and the Church as a result of the latter's intention to create a photovoltaic park in the region of Penteli Monastery.

    It is characteristic, however, that both sides are reserved in providing information on the meeting and officials of both the archdiocese and the ministry merely stress the good climate in which the discussion took place.

    [16] Minister, Athens mayor promise joint actions to reduce problems in central Athens

    Citizen Protection Minister Mihalis Chyssohoidis on Wednesday met with Athens Mayor George Kaminis for talks centred on joint actions between the ministry and the municipality to reverse the tenuous situation in several parts of the Greek capital, due to increased crime and illicit street trade, linked directly to the increased congregation of illegal migrants -- most from Third World countries -- and heroin addicts.

    The measures discussed are designed to boost security and improve the quality of life of local residents.

    Chryssohoidis said serious solutions, complete and decisive, which will have immediate results, are necessary, adding that the historic city centre in Athens is close to breaking point, referring to districts that have been turned into "ghettos of prostitutes and drug addicts".

    Reference was again made -- as in previous such meetings over the past decade or so -- to stepped up law enforcement, joint police and municipality patrols and moving methadone centres away from the congested downtown area.

    On his part, the mayor of Athens stressed that they agreed that the city will have to be returned back to its people.

    [17] PM: Condolences on Belgian school coach tragedy in Switzerland

    Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos on Wednesday sent a telegram of condolences to his Belgian counterpart Elio Di

    Rupo over the coach crash in Switzerland which claimed the lives of at least 22 Belgian pupils and six adults returning from a school trip.

    "Please accept my frank condolences over the tragedy that hit your country, with the death of so many people, most of them youths. In these difficult hours, the Greek people are at your side and share in your mourning," Papademos said.

    Financial News

    [18] Alpha Bank pulls out of merger deal with Eurobank

    An ambitious merger plan between two of the largest Greek banks - the third attempt in the last 12 years - aimed at creating a banking sector "national champion", officially came to an end on Wednesday, after Alpha Bank announced a scrapping of a merger with Eurobank.

    Alpha cited the impact of a PSI programme on the two banks.

    The merger attempt began in early August 2011, when the two banks announced an agreement to merge, with the aim of creating one of the largest banks in SE Europe and the 25th largest in Europe, with the participation of Qatar.

    The new bank would have had assets totaling 150 billion euros, deposits totaling 80 billion euros, a branch network of more than 2,000 units and a customer base of more than eight million.

    The merger was approved by the two banks' general shareholders meetings and the Competition Commission, while the name of the new bank had been touted as "Alpha Eurobank".

    Cracks in the deal began appearing in late January 2012, when Alpha Bank announced that it would call a new general shareholders meeting to examine all developments related with its merger with Eurobank, in view of a pending PSI programme. At the same time, Eurobank insisted that it was in consultations with Alpha Bank to complete a merger as soon as possible and said there were no reasons to delay the deal.

    The previous two failed "mega mergers" in the Greek banking sector were between Alpha Bank and National Bank. The first in 2011 and the second in 2011.

    [19] Eurobank rebukes Alpha Bank's decision to pull out of merger deal

    Alpha Bank's intention to pull out from a merger deal with Eurobank will lead to a loss of "synergies worth more than four billion euros in current value", Eurobank said on Wednesday.

    In an announcement, Eurobank said Greek financial institutions were obliged to seek a large-scale capital base boost and stressed that Alpha Bank's reasoning does respond to current data.

    "In a very crucial period for the country and after a successful public debt restructuring effort, the banking system must rise to the occasion and respond to efforts towards the economy, shareholders and customers. A joint decision by Eurobank EFG and Alpha Bank to create the 23rd largest bank in Europe was taken based on the multiple benefits to both banks and the economy," Eurobank said.

    Eurobank said it adhered to the agreement reached by the two banks' boards and general shareholders' meetings, following a pattern of a series of successful mergers in the past and said it will wait for developments.

    "In any case, Eurobank continues its successful course and expands its operations under the same sense of responsibility, actively participating in collective efforts to reboot the economy and return to growth," the bank said.

    [20] Development minister discusses implementation of major projects in Brussels

    BRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Aroni)

    Speeding up the implementation of the major projects in Greece and the backing of small and medium-size enterprises was the focus of talks Greek Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Anna Diamantopoulou had with Economy Commisioner Olli Rehn and Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

    According to Diamantopoulou, the aim of the Greek side is on the one hand strengthening liquidity for the benefit of small and medium-size enterprises and on the other the implementation of the major investments projects to be unblocked (five big road networks, energy projects, etc) that have been frozen due to the lack of funding.

    "My brief visit to Brussels was completed today, where I met Commissioner Olli Rehn and Commissioner Johannes Hahn. The meetings were in the framework of the Greek government's next step after the PSI," she said after her meetings.

    [21] Gov't reassures farmers over mortgage security

    The government on Wednesday attempted to reassure farmers over their property assets under mortgage in ATEbank, saying the state supports the bank, along with other commercial banks in the country.

    Yiannis Drivelengas, the Agricultural Development Deputy Minister, speaking in Parliament, said farmers-customers of ATEbank should not worry over their mortgaged properties at the bank, stressing that there was no issue of privatising ATEbank - although he noted that the finance ministry was responsible for such decisions.

    Drivelengas was replying to questions by Parliament deputies over recent speculation over the future of loss-making ATEbank.

    [22] SEV president to foreign reporters: Greek problem a European one too

    Greece will adhere to commitments, as they were taken with an extended political consensus, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, the president of the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV), said on Wednesday, addressing 40 foreign journalists currently visiting Greece on an invitation by the European Commission's Athens liaison office.

    "I believe that this time Greece will adhere to its commitments ... The Greece problem, however, is a European one. Insistence on austerity policies is a dead-end policy for Europe and tough for its citizens. In order to escape this vicious cycle of recession we must focus on policies for development, which will offer new dynamism to European integration and the European vision and hope to its citizens," Daskalopoulos said.

    [23] Infrastructures Minister Voridis announces extension of suburban railway to Lavrio

    Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Minister Makis Voridis on Wednesday announced his ministry's intention to proceed with the extension of the suburban railway until Lavrio, southeastern Attica, which will link Athens and Kiato, in the Peloponnese, with the airport and a port.

    "The ministry's intention is for us to proceed from now on with the completion of initial studies and to include the plan for the extension of the suburban railway in the financing from the Inter-European Networks," Voridis said in reply to a relevant question and assessed that the initial studies can be completed in the next six months.

    He also said that, according to a study carried out, it is estimated that this extension will serve 300,000 people.

    [24] New framework for public offerings of listed companies

    Greece's capital market watchdog on Wednesday announced significant changes in the regulatory framework of public offerings, making it more difficult for listed companies to exit the market.

    Constantinos Botopoulos, the Capital Market Commission's president, said the Commission would recommend that the proposed exchange to minority shareholders should be based on transactions made in the last 12 months, instead of a six-month period currently prevailing, along with abolishing the possibility of submitting public offerings in cases of corporate transformations which resulted in shareholders receiving shares of non-listed enterprises.

    Botopoulos said a decision on a capital gains tax was still open and stressed that decisions would be taken in relation with a proposed pan-European tax on securities transactions. The Capital Market Commission and the Athens Stock Exchange, in a joint letter to the finance ministry have asked for a postponement of a decision to imposing a capital gains tax by at least until June 2012.

    He said that the Commission was drafting a new regulatory framework for the operation of investment vehicles, such as venture capital trusts, with the aim of listing in the Athens Stock Exchange, attracting investment interest from abroad and financing enterprises in the energy, tourism, infrastructure, exports and farm production sectors.

    Botopoulos left the door open for lifting a ban on short selling in July.

    [25] Media federation, bank employee unions resort to CoS

    The media umbrella federation POESY and three bank employee unions (Geniki, Attica, Marfin Egnatia) on Wednesday appealed to the Council of State (CoS), the highest administrative court, against a Cabinet act, which, in compliance with Memorandum II, abolishes employees' protection from layoffs.

    Their appeal also refers to the ensuing negative consequences of the Cabinet Act on the employees with the expiration of collective work contracts, abolition of the measure of arbitration in labour relations, a 22-pct reduction in the minimum wage, a 32-pct reduction in wages earned by people under the age of 25, etc.

    According to the appeal, articles 22 and 23 of the Constitution are being violated.

    [26] Greeks working abroad to be exempt from presumed minimum income

    Greeks that reside and have permanent jobs abroad are to be exempt from the presumed minimum income established for all Greek tax payers in a 2010 tax law, the finance ministry announced on Wednesday. The law has been amended with legislation attached to law 3943 passed in 2011.

    The change was made following letters of protest sent to the ministry by Greek employed in Germany, who were asked to pay additional tax for a 'presumed income' by the taxation office for Greeks abroad, in addition to income tax they had paid in Germany.

    Under the 2010 law, a single tax payer is assumed to have a minimum annual income of at least 3,000 euro, while that for a couple has been set at 5,000 euro. On this basis, Greeks living in Germany that had property in Greece or received rent from a property were required to pay tax on this minimum presumed income.

    [27] Bussiness Briefs

    -- A wave of employee firings, wage cuts and hiring freeze is expected to hit the domestic labour market in the next six months, a survey by the ALBA graduate business school at the Deree American college showed on Wednesday.

    -- ATEbank on Wednesday said India's Bommidala Enterprises Ltd. withdrew its offer to purchase 50.36 pct of shares in SEKAP SA, a tobacco products manufacturer and a subsidiary of the Greek bank.

    -- DESFA, the natural gas system operator, on Wednesday announced plans to begin the supply of several islands and remote regions of the country with natural gas through small LNG vessels.

    -- Ionian Hotel Enterprises on Wednesday reported after tax losses of 2.2 million euros in 2011, after profits of 1.8 million euros in the previous year.

    [28] Stocks end substantially higher

    Stocks ended substantially higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday as the market reacted positively to a decision by Fitch to upgrade the country by six notches to B- on Tuesday.

    The composite index of the market rose 1.35 pct to end at 744.77 points, off the day's highs of 754.27 points, despite heavy losses suffered by bank shares in the aftermath of a decision by Alpha Bank to pull out from a merger plan with Eurobank. Turnover was a low 62.061 million euros.

    The Big Cap index rose 0.47 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.03 pct higher and the Small Cap index fell 0.45 pct. The Food (6.24 pct) and Telecoms (5.04 pct) were top gainers, while Banks (2.21 pct), Financial Services (0.80 pct) were top losers. Coca Cola 3E (6.40 pct), OTE (5.04 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (1.91 pct) and Viohalco (1.83 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Hellenic Postbank (4.41 pct), Piraeus Bank (4.03 pct), Ellaktor (3.20 pct) and Eurobank (3.0 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 78 to 58 with another 37 issues unchanged. Alpha Trust (21.94 pct), HOL (19.8 pct) and Attica Holdings (19.44 pct) were top gainers, while Kreka (17.78 pct), Sanyo Hellas (17.14 pct) and Yalco (14.18 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +0.78%

    Commercial: -0.61%

    Construction: -0.25%

    Media: +3.07%

    Oil & Gas: +1.45%

    Personal & Household: +0.31%

    Raw Materials: -0.24%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.50%

    Technology: +0.75%

    Telecoms: +5.04%

    Banks: -2.21%

    Food & Beverages: +6.24%

    Health: +0.13%

    Utilities: +1.12%

    Chemicals: +0.24%

    Financial Services: -0.80%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.38

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.21

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.80

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.34

    National Bank of Greece: 2.24

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.97

    OPAP: 7.04

    OTE: 2.50

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.41

    Titan: 13.66

    [29] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.58 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising slightly to 56.722 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 13,355 contracts worth 20.036 million euros, with 23,150 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 215,524 contracts worth 36.686 million euros, with investment interest focusing on GEK's contracts (61,239), followed by National Bank (34,608), Cyprus Bank (14,130), MIG (1,699), OTE (48,810), PPC (3,038), OPAP (2,582), Piraeus Bank (11,023), Alpha Bank (27,358), Marfin Popular Bank (2,704), Mytilineos (1,047), Hellenic Postbank (2,258), ATEbank (948), Ellaktor (750) and Intralot (1,465).

    General News

    [30] Dodoni Ancient Theatre restoration plan

    One of the largest ancient theatres is that of Dodoni, the restoration of which has been mulled by the Culture Ministry for many decades. It is a fact that the Dodoni Theatre, near Ioannina in northwestern Greece, which was built in the 3rd century B.C., has suffered a large number of alterations as well as natural damages that have altered its initial form, with the main contributors being the extreme weather conditions prevailing in the area and changes made to the monument during the Roman era, in which the theatre was converted into an arena, as well as restorations made in 1960 which gave shape once again to the devastated monument, but not always in the best way. Moreover its opening to public and operation for approximately three decades added extra problems to the already existing ones.

    However, since 2002, the monument has been closed to spectators, and after a plethora of studies, autopsies and recommendations for solutions to the major problem faced in restoring the Theatre, mainly the fragile ancient material, the Theatre is now undergoing restoration with the 'blessings' of the Central Archaeological Council, which gave the thumbs up for the project after inspecting the work carried out on one section of the Theater in a pilot stage.

    [31] Greece 'guest country' at 21st Cairo International Childrens Film Festival

    The 21st annual Cairo International Children's Film Festival opens at the Cairo Opera House on March 23, with Greece as the guest country of honour and the participation of 60 countries.

    The guest personality at this year's Festival, which runs through March 30, is renowned Greek sociologist, children's books author and criminology professor at Reading University, Dr. Eugene Trivizas.

    The opening ceremony will take place on March 23 at the Cairo Opera House's main hall.

    The competition section of the Festival contains 30 feature films for children up to 14 years of age (fiction), 30 short documentary and educational films and 55 cartoon films from around the world produced in the last two years.

    Greek film screenings will include "The Child and the Tree" by Panagiotis Reppas and Eugene Trivizas, "The Children are Not Playing" by Angeli Andrikopoulou and Argyris Tsepelikas, and "The Village" by Stelios Polychronakis.

    A dedication to Greek children's cinema will be held in the contest of the Festival, with a selection of 11 of the best Greek films for children of the last few years to be screened at several venues in the Egyptian capital, in collaboration with the Greek Center for Cinema, while workshops for children will also be held.

    While in Cairo for the Festival, Trivizas will meet with pupils of the local Greek Schools at a special event.

    [32] Seven accused in Kallithea IKA fraud case remanded in custody

    The seven accused of an extensive case of benefits fraud at the Kallithea branch of the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) were remanded in custody after appearing before the 4th examining magistrate on Wednesday.

    They included five women employed at the IKA branch and two of their husbands, who are up on criminal charges connected to the case. The women have apparently pleaded guilty to at least some of the charges against them and, according to sources, have offered to return some of the sums fraudulently taken from IKA.

    The two husbands denied all knowledge of the activities of their spouse.

    [33] Trio of suspected 'Pink Panther' jewelry store robbers arrested

    The two Serb nationals, 20 and 36, arrested two days ago in the south-central Athens district of Kallithea after a shootout with police are alleged members of the notorious jewelry store robbers known as "Pink Panthers", police said on Wednesday.

    The criminal ring is reportedly behind a series of armed robberies across Europe.

    According to authorities, the two were preparing a jewelry store heist when they were spotted and subsequently arrested following a shoot-out, in which one motorcycle officer was slightly injured.

    Police recovered a loaded handgun, a wig, a pair of handcuffs, tape and a fake passport from the suspect.

    A 43-year-old Serbian woman, also an alleged gang member, was arrested in a Holargos district shortly afterwards. Police found and seized another loaded weapon, pepper spray can, burglary tools, jewelry and forged travel documents.

    The 36-year-old man and the woman were wanted by police since last November after the arrest in Athens of other suspects accused of store robberies across Athens.

    [34] Man receives life sentence, plus 32 years, for rape-murder of infant daughter

    A 25-year-old man was handed down a life sentence, along with an additional 32 years, by a Thessaloniki court on Wednesday, after being found guilty of raping and killing his one-and-a-half year-old daughter last March.

    The heinous crime were committed in the presence of his three-year-old daughter in a shack he shared with his wife and four children, located in the gypsy settlement near Halastra, some 20 kilometres west of Thessaloniki.

    According to evidence presented in court, he attacked the baby girl when she accidentally dropped a heroin fix he was about to use on the floor. During the trial he maintained that he had no recollection of his actions.

    [35] Chick Corea and Gary Burton to play in Athens

    Living jazz 'legends' Chick Corea and Gary Burton are due to appear in Athens for a single night on Thursday, playing at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron Mousikis).

    The concert is part of the Corea/Burton 'Duets' tour, presenting material from their new album "Hot House" and their unique takes on standards by composers from Kurt Weill and Antonio Carlos Jobim to Thelonious Monk to Lennon & McCartney.

    Soccer

    [36] Super League results

    Atromitos Athens beat Doxa Drama 1-0 away and Levadiakos Livadia drew 1-1 at home with PAS Yiannina in games played for the Super League on Wednesday, that had been postponed in the past.

    Standings after 24 weeks of play:

    1. Olympiacos 58 points

    2.Panathinaikos 54

    3. Atromitos 43

    4. PAOK 42

    5. AEK 41

    6. Asteras 37

    7. OFI 33

    8. Aris 33

    9. Xanthi 29

    10. Panionios 26

    11. Levadiakos 26

    12. PAS Yiannina 25

    13. Panetolikos 24

    14. Kerkyra 24

    15. Ergotelis 23

    16. Doxa 15

    Weather forecast

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

    The debts to social security funds, Greece's upgrading by Fitch, the new austerity measures to be applied from June and the plan for the civil servants' retirement benefit, mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "71,437 unemployed to be hired in Municipalities, Legal Entities, etc".

    AVGHI: "The end of salaries".

    AVRIANI: "Shocking measures foreseen in the 11 billion euro new support package".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Death clause for pensions".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Testimony burns former prime minister George Papandreou and former Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou".

    ESTIA: "Not an example to be followed".

    ETHNOS: "Looting without end of social security funds".

    IMERISSIA: "First upgrading - Fitch makes spectacular move".

    KATHIMERINI: "11 billion euros in unpaid contributions to social security funds ".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Two-decade austerity programmes".

    NIKI: "Which tax allowances will be abolished".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Alarm over the labour agreements - Organisation of battle with strikes".

    TA NEA: "Retirement benefit in installments, or through offset of loans for borrowers".

    VRADYNI: "Retirement benefit in installments".

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